School’s out Friday

I’m off to a wedding tomorrow, and I’d love it if it went something like Brian and Eileen’s Wedding Music Video. What a great way to remember such a special day. Better reliving the day watching something like this rather than a two hour extravaganza of the whole box and dice.

Before the wedding though, I’m off to work to await delivery of a custom built piece of furniture that will (hopefully) be the signature piece of our new library. I hope it looks as good as I’m expecting it to, because I’ve built it up to such an extent amongst staff and students that it’s going to be a massive letdown if it doesn’t live up to expectations!! According to the furniture supplier, it’s pretty specky, so look for a post on Monday with pictures so you can make up your own mind.

Enjoy your weekend. Hope there’s something special in it for you. : )

CPL workshop – all systems go!

A couple of years ago, I would speak at staff meetings and I could see eyes raising and people looking at one another with that, ‘here she goes again’, body language happening. Experiences like that have made me wary of staff presentations. In fact, I’m more comfortable presenting to a room of 200 strangers than I am with the people I work with on a day to day basis.

Yesterday I ran a whole day workshop at my school for Toorak College’s Continuous Professional Learning Seminar series, and the majority of participants were people I work with. I was more than a little anxious I have to admit. Firstly, it was a whole day, and that’s a whole lot more daunting than a one hour presentation, and secondly, I was putting my ideas out there to people who I found my most difficult audience.

Well, I’m pleased to say, my fears were unfounded. It was a really great day. I had plenty of content to keep the day humming along nicely; too much in fact. We were racing a bit towards the end! I’m pretty chuffed to know I can single-handedly lead a successful workshop, and hope I get the opportunity to do it again. Best of all, my audience was responsive and open. Open to ideas, open to thinking about social media as something that we need to explore in our classrooms. It was affirming for me. I feel so much more positive about enacting change in our classrooms and working cooperatively with staff who want to see how they can reinvent their practice to suit the times we are living in.

And that’s what’s made the change I think. The time we are living in. Social media is far more pervasive in our lives than it was three years ago. I joined Twitter three years ago; I was making connections and could see then the powerful communication device it was for sharing and learning. I’d speak about it in glowing (evangelical?) terms to people I worked with, and I could see they just didn’t understand. To them, it was a time waster, a place where people told one another what they’d eaten for breakfast.

Today, Twitter is mainstream. It’s referenced on news bulletins, popular morning TV news programs share reporters’ Twitter user names and they use hashtags to encourage online conversations around a topic. Yesterday, we talked at length about Twitter, and visited hashtag results pages for Libya and Christchurch, where we could see aggregated tweets giving us real time information. Some participants joined up, and I hope they make efforts to follow people and make connections that will inform their teaching practice. I know that every day Twitter takes me to places that extend my learning and I would never have located those places without its help.

It’s this pervasiveness of new media in our lives that made all the difference yesterday. Now it’s important to understand new technologies and people are ready to listen. To those of you reading this who have been immersed for some time and have felt discouraged in your schools, I think we are seeing the tide turning.  Social media is mainstream, and our skills are necessary. We can lead others and we need to do so.

Lord David Puttnam delivers a message everyone needs to hear

I’m delivering a whole day workshop at my school tomorrow, and I’m starting the day with the words of Lord David Puttnam, delivered at Learning without Frontiers in late January. David is a former independent film producer with many award winning films including Chariots of Fire, Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and the Memphis Belle. Since 1998, he has focused his work on education and the environment. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to show the entire video, but I hope participants will take the time to watch it for themselves later. David delivers, in 24 minutes, a message that all educators and education administrators should hear. We can’t afford to ignore the technological shifts happening around us; we must find ways to professionally develop our teaching workforce, and reward teachers who are leading the way.

Sometimes it’s hard leading change. Especially when others around you don’t see things in the same way. Watching this has renewed my energy levels, and made my resolve stronger. Watch it with my highest recommendation.

ViewPure – your saving grace

I don’t very often find myself writing about new tools much anymore, but this one is worthy of a post, simply because it is going to make some teachers’ lives so much easier.

ViewPure promotes itself as;

“Pure video viewing – Watch YouTube videos without comments, suggestions, or the ‘other’ things.”

It does just that. Look at the following screenshot to see what it looks like in action;

Our school permits access to YouTube, and teaching secondary students about the nature of content that appears on sites like this is part of our Digital Literacy teaching in my opinion. I do know that many schools block YouTube because of the potentially controversial content that can be found there, and many Primary School teachers would probably be quite uncomfortable with the related video content that appears, some of which has seemingly no relation to the educationally appropriate video you have just watched.

This is where ViewPure will be so useful. If you are a teacher wanting to use the video, but you don’t necessarily want to download a copy, just open up ViewPure in a new tab and enter the url of the video you want purified! The site has ads on it,  and the one I’m looking at at the moment is for Russian girls looking for you! Rest assured, your purified video sits in a window by itself, and is safe for your class to view.

Pretty handy little web app in my opinion. Hope it doesn’t disappear anytime soon.

School’s out Friday

Aaahhh…. another joyous flash mob moment to lighten our hearts and remind us all that good exists in our world. This time, two schools joined together for a flash mob performance to deliver the message of acceptance in honour of International Anti-Bullying day. Very nicely done.

It’s the end of another busy week, one that saw our Year 7 students working on a wiki and embedding their Google My Map creations into it. They get it. They just need to be shown once, and off they go, ready to figure it out and make it work. It’s so confirming for me. Seeing them embrace the task (connected to their geography curriculum) and enjoying the work involved helps everyone to understand the need to adopt new technology and make it part of our school curriculum. When I canvassed the classes about how they and their family find their way to places it was overwhelmingly Google Maps and Navman GPS locators. No-one mentioned a paper street directory such as a Melways (a very Melbourne book of street maps). They really loved understanding Google My Maps and learning how to emded HTML code to enable pictures and video to appear. The following video from Google was really helpful, and even showed me a thiing or two I was unaware of.

This weekend I intend to spend a bit of time following the 21st Century Learning Conference from Hong Kong. The hashtag on Twitter, #21CLHK will help update me as to what’s happening. It’s not as good as being there, but it’s probably the next best thing. Already I’m gearing up to watch Stephen Heppell’s keynote, that has been loaded onto the conference site already. I can share it with you!

Have a great weekend. Get some sleep. It’s what I’m aiming for!




Divided Attention Disorder – I think I’ve always had it.

I read an article written by Colm O’Regan tonight about Divided Attention Disorder. It was yet another one of those articles talking about how our brains are possibly changing as a result of our use of online information. We’ve heard similar arguments from Nicholas Carr, who wrote the article ‘Is Google making us stupid?‘ and has gone onto pen, ‘The Shallows‘. (It’s worth noting I think, that Nicholas is making a pretty penny cashing in on this message.) Colm’s description of the way he works sounds very much like me;

My Internet browser has 24 tabs open. Among them are three separate attempts to reply to the same e-mail. My online banking session has timed out, and in the corner of my screen a Twitter feed is a never-ending scroll of news and links. Which I click. And click.

People who work with me and students I teach are often incredulous at how many tabs I have open at any one time. It’s of no consequence to me; I know what’s there and why I have them open.  This is how I live now, and I’m perfectly comfortable with it. I don’t think my brain is being affected in any way. In fact, if I analyse my information seeking ways from the past, this is just part of the natural evolutionary process as I see it.

You see, I’ve always been an information junkie. When I was a young child, reading was my passion. I consumed books from my school library, and if I could get my hands on a copy of the Reader’s Digest, I was in heaven. I loved anything, television media included, that provided me with knowledge, any detail that helped me piece together the workings of the world. I would latch onto a topic, and explore it as best I could, with the resources I had at hand. Very often I was limited by the constraints of the age I was living in. If you were obsessed with ghostly phenomena in the late 1970’s, it was what was on your local library’s shelves that had to get you through.

I haven’t changed. I’m still an information junkie. What has changed is the world I’m living in, and the fact that the information is at my fingertips 24/7, if I choose to use a computing device and pay for an internet connection. Do I read books as much as I used to? No, I don’t. Do I think I need to? Only if they’re worth reading and can provide me with more than what I can access for free from online sources. Is my attention span different? Possibly. But once again, it’s the quality of the information that keeps me reading. If something is good, I’ll devote the time to reading it through. If it contains a hyperlink that has me wondering, I may leave the original source and investigate where it leads me. For me, this has become natural. Yes, I function differently to how I did five years ago, but it’s part of the evolutionary path an information junkie follows I figure.

It’s not for everyone. I had a conversation with a close friend last night about this very thing. We are different. She has no desire to spend hours looking at a computer screen and is content with the way she lives her life. I respect that. Do I think her life may change as more and more of how we access information transfers to the Web? Yes, I do. Will she be like me? I doubt it.

She’s not an information junkie you see, we’re a breed all our own.

School’s out Friday

Apologies for this one! I’m not a huge Twilight fan, but I have been watching it on television for the last hour and a half or so, and was struggling to find a video for this week’s School’s out Friday. Hence, the literal version of the Eclipse trailer. I promise I’ll try harder next week. : )

I’m a tad disappointed right now (alright, more than a tad I’ll admit!), having found out today that I wasn’t accepted into the Google Teacher Academy being held in Sydney in April. I thought I had a lot to offer, but Google obviously thinks otherwise! Henrietta Miller didn’t get in either, and has written a great post tonight about disappointment and it’s offshoot, resilience. I’ve got plenty of that in store, so I’ll move on and do what I do do best; share my knowledge with all of you through this blog. : )

Have a great weekend. Find some sunshine.


Revisiting the Digital Footprint message

Today, I delivered a presentation to our Year 11 students about how they conduct themselves in online spaces, to ensure their safety and to cultivate a positive digital footprint. I delivered a similar presentation to this same cohort in May last year, and I thought I might be flogging a dead horse. I was wrong.

They listened intently, asked serious and thoughtful questions, and even provided examples themselves of people who had had reputations damaged due to poor understanding of the magnification of information shared in social networks today. I thought I’d fall short with information and have to fill time, but I was struggling to get through what I wanted to cover.

One of the things I wanted to cover was Facebook’s places feature. My guess would be that the majority of them weren’t using it, and had no idea that their friends could check them into locations unless they disabled the feature in their privacy settings. I used the following lifehacker video to demonstrate what they needed to do in Facebook to opt out of the feature. It helped me too. I lead a very transparent life, but I don’t want to use the places feature and I don’t want to be checked into places by friends in my network. It’s not a straightforward process. You have to find the customise button and find the page where the settings need changing. The lifehacker video explained it very clearly and I followed those instructions to meet my requirements. The students watched it intently, and it’s my guess a number of them will be looking at their privacy settings tonight.

It was nice to receive words of thanks and a round of applause at the end of the session. It’s made it very clear to me that these messages need repeating and reinforcement in our teaching practices.

Toorak Continuous Professional Learning Seminar

I work at Toorak College, an all girls’ school in Mt.Eliza. One of the initiatives being driven here at the moment is the growth of a professional learning network for both the teachers within our school, and those further afield.

Continuous Professional Learning is an online network for our teachers (powered by Ning), and other teachers who are keen to join and share their insights about issues related to our profession. Coupled with this is a series of seminar workshops that will be run at Toorak College throughout the year. The first of these sessions is being run by yours truly (that would be me!).  Toorak College is an hour from central Melbourne, and we are hoping to provide educators from the South Eastern suburbs with professional learning opportunities closer to home. If you are a teacher from Melbourne, and know some teachers who would benefit from the workshop I am offering, please direct them to the site and download the flyer.

Sounds like a bit of an ad really, doesn’t it? It’s a departure from what I usually post about, but it is an exciting development at my school and I am hopeful that anyone who chooses to attend my workshop will leave with more knowledge than they started with! Hopefully they’ll have some strategies for their own personal learning and how they make it happen in their classrooms.

If you want to explore the CPL community, join the site and share your ideas. We’d welcome your presence. : )

Digital trends to watch

Steve Rubel and David Armano put together this presentation that they then shared on Slideshare. It’s designed for business, but if you look at it with your education hat on, you will see there are lessons here for how we approach the use of mobile devices and tablets, how we support the thought leaders who are trying to make change happen, and how we use social tools and transmedia to make connections with our parent and wider teacher communities.

Looking outside the education sphere and listening to how business is responding to the way the world works now, is one way to further your understanding of digital media. We send our students out into that world of work; listening to what it thinks is important is a way to help us prepare them for what they will face when they get there.