Write rhymes – students of English rejoice!

Do you remember when you were at school and you were given the task of writing a poem that rhymed? Do you remember the agony of not being able to find the word you needed? Well, students in the 21st century need worry no more thanks to Write Rhymes, a handy new tool that will find the rhyming word you need in your hour of need.  

All you need to do is type in the text you’ve come up with, press alt and click on the word that you need rhymed. Write rhymes will come up with alternatives for you to consider. Dead simple. Yet another reason why we as educators need to come up with high order thinking tasks that are going to extend our students thinking. Tools are becoming available to do the thinking for our students.  They will find them. We need to be rethinking our classroom practice to foster thinking tasks that require more than highlighting a word and having the answer magically appear! There’s the challenge; we must rise to it.  

That’s not to say I won’t be using Write Rhymes as a tool in my classroom this year. Teaching our students how to find these time saving devices is another skill entirely. To improve their digital literacy skills they need to be taught how to find tools that will make their lives easier -that’s smart too. As my husband always says to me, ‘You have to work smarter, not harder Jen.’ Advice I don’t always manage I have to admit, but an essential digital literacy skill that our students should be learning as we move into the 21st Century.

Telepresence – is this the future for presentations and maybe education too?

I came across this fascinating presentation via Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen blog.  If you’re not reading Garr yet you should be. He’s coming to Sydney in a couple of weeks and I’m hoping to get there to soak up his Zen advice about presenting and engaging your audience.

The video is a Cisco presentation held in Bangalore, India. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, has Marthin De Beer, Senior Vice President of the Emerging Technology group,  appear on stage using Telepresence. Marthin was in San Jose at the time and appeared on stage as a holographic image. It’s very effective and opens our eyes to the potential use of technology like this. It would enable us to have face to face conversations, interacting as we would do in any real life situation except for the ability to physically touch the participant.

The Human Productivity Lab explains how they did it;

The Musion display technology is similar to the tech that telepresence provider Digital Video Enterprises uses for their seamless tele-immersion room.  A sheet of Musion’s patented, transparent Eye-liner foil is stretched across the stage.  The ultra high-definition image of Marthin De Beer and Chuck Stucki are captured in San Jose and the images of the virtual humans are then transported over the Human Network to be displayed in Bangalore.

Imagine the impact on conference participation. Keynote speakers wouldn’t have to jump on planes and travel halfway around the world. You’d just need a venue and your session leaders could particpate using telepresence. I’m going to be watching the NECC conference with interest; I’m not going, but I’m sure that I’m going to feel like a part of the event with participants ustreaming, live blogging, posting detail on Wikis and tweeting what they’re learning to their networks. In years to come will we even have to go to conferences like NECC, or will we be able to have a virtual presence using these new and innovative technologies?

There is a longer version of the Cisco Telepresence presentation that you can watch here.  John and Marthin talk of how this technology is going to transform business and the length of time it will take to get product to market. They also refer to the use of Wikis as a mass collaboration platform to enable creativity and innovation. Cisco has an internal ideas wiki that has apparantly led to new innovations taking root. 

Watching this has cemented my belief that it is necessary to empower our students with an understanding of these networking tools. We have many wikis in operation at our school now across many year levels. They’re still a new idea for many and some work better than others, but I think it’s essential that our students learn the nature of them and how to utilise them to best effect to benefit all. This is the business model they will be walking into when they enter their working life. Surely they are going to be a step ahead of the pack if they have exposure during their formative years.

Isn’t it our job as educators to prepare them for the future? We need to be making sure our schools are shifting into this 21st century. Let’s use the tools they are going to find when they start their working life. Let’s make school relevant.