School’s out Friday

Now, if you’re not a Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or any other social network user you might not have any clue what Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake are going on about in the video above. If you do use a social network where hashtags are a common form of curating ideas around a theme or conference experience, or expressing an opinion or statement about how you’re feeling, then you’ll be smiling and possibly laughing along as you watch.

The hashtag is an artform in itself. Don’t use it, and you may struggle to find the tweets you’ve shared, overuse it, and what you tweet is in danger of being lost in a form of hashtag hell. New York magazine has identified seven kinds of hashtag abusers, and the first on their list is the kind that I think delivers you into hashtag hell. Here’s their description;

1. The Hashtag Stuffer

The most common form of hashtag abuse. The Stuffer is incapable of simply sharing a photo of his July Fourth fireworks; he festoons it with #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches! (Not an exaggeration. A quick search of #fireworks took me here.) Sometimes #he hashtags random #words in sentences.

So, lesson for you all out there. Avoid at all costs the temptation to become the Hashtag Stuffer. Your tweets will become those that are passed over in the stream, avoided at all costs because you can’t see the words for the invasion of hashtags polluting them.

Enjoy your weekend. Grand Final day here in Melbourne tomorrow, and my team are contenders. Go Hawks! 🙂


School’s out Friday

I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched this at least 5 times already, and I don’t think it’s something I’ll tire of easily. Who hasn’t wondered what the world looks like from a bird’s perspective and secretly desired to soar at speeds like this through landscapes?

I thought it apt to share this video tonight, when teachers in Victoria and other states of Australia embark upon a two week break. The first Friday night of any holiday period feels like flight. You’re unemcumbered from responsibility, the days are stretching out before you, you’re literally soaring with the possibilities of what could unfold within the next two weeks.

Of course, for many teachers, the holiday period is peppered with correction, preparation and sometimes professional development. All three of those will be features of my break, and I’ll be presenting as well at the Google Summit in Melbourne at Yarra Valley Grammar on the 3rd and 4th of October. My session abstract is as follows;

Chromebooks are changing the face of computing in classrooms across the world. Find out how Chromebooks work, why they are a viable and equitable option for 1:1 deployments, how they can be managed in the Chromebook console of Google Apps, how the Chrome Web store works and why you might consider a Chromebook vs a Mac or PC option.

I’ll be presenting on the Friday, which coincidentally, just happens to be my birthday. Hope there’s cake at the conference – it’s no birthday without cake!

Have a great weekend. Soar to great heights. 🙂

Anticipating the future

I gave myself the luxury of dedicating 30 minutes of my day to watching this video from Valerie Hannon from the Innovation Unit in the UK. It was delivered here in Australia at the AITSL Professional Practices Symposium. My suggestion is that you do the same, and after that, share it with educators you know so that we can continue the discussions around reconceptualising what it is we do to create engaging learning environments for the students we teach.

After using Project Based Learning methods in my classes this year and last, I’m in deep agreement with Valerie that this is the kind of pedagogical practice that needs to become more commonplace in schools today. I’ve seen my students challenged by imposing tasks, and watched them use collaborative techniques and creativity to produce results that often exceed their own expectations. I decided to give my students an individual learning task recently and was very surprised to have many of them say they would like to do more PBL work because they’ve enjoyed the dynamics of working this way. I’m going to have them analyse the differences between the individual task work and their PBL experiences later this week and am very interested to see what they’ll be saying. Hopefully they’ll agree to me sharing some of their reflections here.

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(image accessible here)

Valerie elaborates on this diagram in the video at around the 20 minute mark (if you’re impatient!). I think it presents interesting ideas about approaches to learning and teaching that would be worthy of staff discussion. For some, ideas like this are very challenging. They present a very different approach from ‘traditional’ classroom instruction and requires heavy investment from teachers to change up their practice and rethink assessment. To gain a better understanding of Project Based Learning, I’d recommend you take a look at the Innovation Unit publication, ‘Work that Matters: the teacher’s guide to project based learning‘. The guide grew from a partnership between the High Tech High Schools in San Diego, California and the Learning Futures project in England. It’s very thorough and will give you some very good insight into what Project Based Learning looks like in classrooms.

We’ve been looking at the draft Technologies curriculum from ACARA for the Australian Curriculum. My reading of it sings Project Based Learning approaches to meld the related subjects of Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies. I’d love to hear from educators who are looking at this draft document to see how they are envisioning delivering this in their schools. Feel free to leave comments (a bit of a rarity in the blogging world today I have to say!) to extend the conversation.

School’s out Friday

I will be sharing this with my students next week. I teach girls, and what Sarah Kay has to say to them here may not translate so well at their delicate age, but maybe it will plant a seed and when they need it one day they will return to it. I hope so, because there is a powerful and important message in the words she speaks.

My students have watched a lot of spoken word poetry performances this year, largely because I want them to appreciate the power of language and performance when they combine so beautifully to create something that moves you into a space you weren’t occupying before you entered the world of the poet. One of my new students this term asked me if I’d seen Shane Koyczan‘s ‘The Crickets Have Arthritis‘ and I confessed I hadn’t. I went home that night and read it from his blog and was moved by the words on the page. The next day we listened to it in class, and for seven minutes, there was no sound other than the transcendent quality of Shane’s voice. When it finished, the silence continued as we appreciated the story that had unfolded and the profound impact it had on us all. Here it is. Maybe it will move you as much as it moved us.

Have a lovely weekend. Make the most of all life offers.  🙂


School’s out Friday

I love it when I read something that introduces me to an idea and terminology that help me to articulate thinking. For years now, harking back to childhood really, I’ve been fascinated with things that creep me out. Yes, a strange thing to admit, but I spent a lot of time reading ghost stories as a child and went on to become a prolific reader of Stephen King novels as a young adult. I remember Moira Robinson (wife of Phil Robinson, my employer for many years at Robinson’s Bookshop) quizzing me as to my fascination with horror novels. I qualified my addiction by stating that Stephen King was an accomplished writer ( IT, The Stand and The Shining along with many of his short stories still hold up) and that it was easier to control the fear when you’re reading it and not viewing it.

I’ve never been comfortable viewing ‘creepy’ movies or images. I’ve always found the visuals stay with me for longer than the written word. Tonight I came across the idea of the ‘Uncanny Valley‘ and was amazed, given my information junkie disposition,  that I’d never heard of it before. Here’s Wikipedia’s take on what it means;

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. Examples can be found in the fields of robotics,[1]3Dcomputer animation,[2][3] and in medical fields such as burn reconstruction, infectious diseases, neurological conditions, and plastic surgery.[4] The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a functionof a subject’s aesthetic acceptability.

Wpdms fh uncanny valley 3
Wpdms fh uncanny valley 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my reading tonight about it (because yes, once I’d got wind of it I had to read everything I could find) sees many discussing animated films and how some of them dwell in the ‘Uncanny Valley’ with characters who suffer from the dead eyes effect and are almost zombie like. One that cops a lot of criticism is ‘The Polar Express‘. I have to admit, it’s an animated movie that has never sat well with me. The characters didn’t look quite right, and reading the theories behind the ‘Uncanny Valley’ seem to help explain why I found it unsettling.

Anyway, it’s certainly whiled a Friday night away for me. Off to bed now, and off to the polling booth in the morning for voting in the Australian Federal Election. Will we be in for a shock result, or the trouncing everyone’s expecting and Rupert Murdoch is hoping for.  All will be apparent tomorrow night!