School’s out Friday

George Couras sent our a tweet this week to this Google Chrome video. It’s the embodiment of what the Web allows; the crowdsourcing of material inspired by someone who has the ability to inspire and motivate people to create content. In this case it’s Lady Gaga, someone who understands that you don’t need record companies to spend millions of dollars promoting your material now. If you’re smart, you engage your audience, you talk to them through channels of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and you make them feel like they matter to you. Your fans feel like they have a personal connection to you, and they promote your product and make you a superstar in the process. Lady Gaga gets this. So does Justin Beiber, and from the Black Eyed Peas. If you’re an aspiring musician, you better start understanding how social media works, because if you’re going to make it big, you need to find and talk to your audience, and get them to do the promotion that record companies did in the past.

How clever of Google to link with Lady Gaga to promote their products. They are a company working very hard right now to crowdsource users to promote Google+, their new social network going up against the monolith that is Facebook. I wrote a post earlier this week talking of how I don’t think I can manage another social network. It took all of two days for me to succumb to the lure of Google+.

Pathetic, isn’t it.

I still don’t think there is room in my life for another social network, but I have to say there are some things about Google+ that I do like. The circles feature, where you group people into categories, is something I like. You can post content in your stream to specific circles and I like the perceived element of control that appears to come with that. I tried out Google Hangouts with a group including Joyce Valenza, Judy O’Connell, Cathy Jo Nelson, Linda Nitsche, Rob Darrow and Chris Betcher the other morning(see screenshot below). It worked really seamlessly. We could all see and hear one another – there was very little lag and you could conduct a conversation just like you were hanging out with this group in any social setting. No-one had to pick up the microphone like you do in Elluminate; it was a much more natural experience. There are so many possibilities here for education. If you can create circles for specific groups of students, you eliminate the problems that come with sharing content across all of your social groupings. Can you imagine end of year revision before VCE exams taking place in a Google hangout? I can. At the moment, there is no ability to upload a presentation or share a screen, and it’s limited to 10 people. If they work on it though, this presents a real challenge to a company like Blackboard that recently acquired Elluminate.

Thank goodness Google released Google+ while we are on school holidays here in Australia. It’s given me a bit of room to play. Next Wednesday, I leave for Port Douglas with my family on a much needed holiday. While I have no doubt I will check into my networks, I intend to do the right thing by my husband and kids and focus on them. There may not even be a School’s out Friday posting next week!

(And just for a bit of sheer indulgence, take a look at Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera singing ‘Moves like Jagger’, my favourite song right now.)

Have a great weekend. I’ll try not to play too much with Google+!

School’s out Friday

I first saw this video awhile ago on Chris Betcher’s blog. I’ve never been able to locate it on YouTube and was happy when a colleague sent me the link yesterday and said, “You will love this”. I do too.

I know there are thousands upon thousands of people out there with a deep attachment to the printed book, but I’m not one of them. I do have a deep attachment to attaining information, and I really don’t mind if that information comes from a printed book or a website. And despite what Nicholas Carr might say, I love the fact that a website can pull me in so many different directions and lead me to something I hadn’t even realised I might be interested in. So when I see these kids with their mockumentary take on the book, I’m with them all the way.

I’ve been laid up this week with a viral malady that robbed me of my voice yesterday. That, combined with some hideously awful weather here in Melbourne, have made for a grim week of sorts. I’m looking forward to reinstated vocal chords and some cheery sunshine in the coming days. Hopefully they’ll both be here sooner rather than later. Right now, I’m listening to some serious hail pelting down on our roof, so it’s not looking all that promising!

Hope your weekend treats you well. Enjoy whatever comes your way. : )

Learning with the New South Welshmen (and women) at the AIS ICT Technology Integration Conference

My mind has been buzzing after attending the AIS Technology Integration Conference 2010 last week. The conference had around 200 participants; a really nice number. There are opportunities for discussions and connections to be made when you aren’t overwhelmed by huge numbers. Maybe it felt good to me because my Keynote was over early (great relief!) and was received well. If I’d tanked maybe I’d have been less positive!!

What I was impressed with most of all was the energy that was palpable amongst the educators present. It felt quite similar at the Leading a Digital School Conference here in Melbourne recently. It just might be that there’s a growing acceptance that we really do need to accept that new technologies are becoming ingrained in the way we and our students lead our lives, and we need to respond by integrating new ideas into the way we teach.

Some useful takeaways. If you’re a music teacher, you must take a look at the work being done by Samuel Wright. He writes a blog called Wright-stuff music, and it’s a plethora of resources that any music teacher or student would find useful I’m figuring. I attended a session run by Samuel where he took us through some of the resources on his blog. I was so impressed by his passion for what he does; if a child of mine was in a class run by Samuel I’d be a very happy parent indeed. Do yourself a favour and visit to see what Samuel is up to.

Therese Kenny ran a really informative session about Overdrive, a download solution for Audiobook and ebook content that is used widely in public libraries. Loreto Normanhurst are the first Australian school to take it on board, and Therese and the team have done us all a favour by potentially ironing out some of the problems so that any of us who run school libraries might be able to embark on the journey with more confidence. Overdrive is something that I am seriously looking at for the 2011 school year. I don’t know if it’s the solution I think is possible, but right now it represents what is available. I think we need to explore it. I don’t want to embark on something that potentially might not be the way to go, but I do want to see how students will react to downloading files and using them on their own devices. I don’t think the solution to ebooks lies in purchasing multiple kindles or iPads for borrowing. It lies in being able to lend out encrypted files that will disappear off a device after a set borrowing period. Overdrive does this. Until we are able to download files as a matter of course from publishers, we are going to have to do it through hosted sites like Overdrive. Therese has very kindly allowed me to embed her slideshare presentation here. It’s very thorough; an enormous help to all Australian Teacher Librarians who are contemplating what to do. Thank you so much Therese and Loreto Normanhurst for your generosity in sharing with us all.

June Wall presented a session about embedding digital literacy in the curriculum. She outlined the process her team at St Ignatius Riverview has gone through to determine a model that they feel will enable them to make technology integration meaningful in their curriculum. It’s something my library staff and I are working through as well at the moment. I was interested in some ideas being shared by Martin Levins. Martin was discussing the SAMR model, the process of the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition method of evaulating learning experiences. A Google Doc was worked on in a Sandpit session on the Thursday. It’s worth looking at. It models how we can look at existing curriculum and reshape it to integrate technology, and make the learning more interesting and challenging for the students we teach. This is something we are going to be looking at for next year. This is challenging work for many of us, not necessarily because we don’t know how to do it, but because we need to move people along with us who may be uncomfortable with change. (Thanks Martin for sharing this work; I was running a Twitter session for teachers new to the idea of it and was unable to attend the session. I have found the Google Doc and your SAMR page on the wiki very helpful)

Jeff Utecht delivered an inspiring Keynote on the second day. Jeff moves around and his enthusiasm is infectious. He had us working on Google Docs, in a backchannel chat, sourcing pics from flickr and tweeting out through Twitter. He demonstrated how you can use these tools in your classroom to focus kids and ensure detailed archives of sessions are kept. Jeff also had us stopping at intervals for chat time, so that we could process some of the ideas being presented with the people around us. You can access the audio of his presentation from his page on the wiki. Do so. (I have to admit to getting a real kick to be able to be on the same bill as Jeff as a Keynoter. Jeff really inspired me in my early days of blogging when I would tune into SOS Podcast for inspiration.)

The Sandpit sessions on the second day meant that people could immerse themselves in something that interested them and get a handle on it in the hope that it will become something they could take back to their schools. Take a look at some of the pages created by participants. You can see the learning that was taking place. As I said earlier, I ran a session for some teachers who wanted to understand Twitter. I hope to see them become active contributors and participants in that vital network.

John Clear, Melanie Hughes, Pauline Lewis and members of the organising committee did a wonderful job of bringing this conference together and ensuring it ran smoothly. I so enjoyed getting to catch up with Chris Betcher and June Wall, and to finally meet Mira Danon-Baird,  Carmel Galvin, and Henrietta Miller. Thanks go to Colin who got me to the conference each morning!

ACEC 2010 reflection

It’s been a very busy school holiday period for me. The Australian Computers in Education Conference was held at the Exhibition Centre here in Melbourne and I had three presentations to deliver, one each day of the conference. No rest for the wicked!

It’s always great being able to attend conferences like this where people from your online networks congregate. Talking in sentences longer than 140 characters can be a lot more meaningful! I was looking forward to hearing keynotes from Alan November and Gary Stager. I’ve heard Gary before and knew he would stir up some debate, and he didn’t disappoint. Gary has been visiting Melbourne for over 20 years and was here when MLC became the first school  to go 1:1 with laptops. Gary was (I think) asking the audience to look to the examples from the past and learn from them rather than try to reinvent all the time. While I think there’s some benefit in doing that, the means by which we can use technology for learning purposes has come a long way in the last few years, and some recent examples would have been beneficial for the audience. I found myself agreeing with Gary, but he lost me momentarily when he launched into an attack on Twitter, something I’ve heard him do before. He doesn’t see the value in using it for networking purposes and obviously, I hold an opposing view. And I was running a session called ‘The What, Why and How of Twitter‘, that afternoon! Gary made some contentious statements, one of which suggested that our Government obviously doesn’t like teachers very much. There were some audible mutterings of disagreement re that one around me, but I talked to others later who thought that was perfectly valid. Gary’s keynote was recorded by the amazing Steve Collis, who helped people participate virtually by ustreaming his own sessions and the sessions he attended. Visit his ustream channel to check out Gary’s keynote and formulate your own opinion. Gary has written a post about Steve Costa, who was instrumental in the launch of the first laptop program in the world at MLC (Methodist Ladies College). It is a very complimentary piece recognising Steve’s efforts and I would encourage you all to read it.

I have to say I was expecting more from Alan November’s session. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he asked if we knew about Ferris Bueller! (My Twitter comment was ‘Yes Alan. We know Ferris Bueller. We are part of the modern world.’ Honestly!) I’m not referring to the content, but the level of preparedness. Alan’s keynote felt under prepared from my perspective. Keynote presenters get paid a significant amount of money, a whole lot more than the nothing I was paid for three presentations, and, I was expected to pay to attend the conference. (Not even a free conference dinner was coming the way of any people who generously offered to present. Thanks to the Independent School’s Victoria (ISV), I was able to access a grant to go.) Alan hadn’t pre-loaded videos from Youtube, we had to watch as he leaned over the lecturn and did search on the fly. Sorry, but I want to see a keynoter who has thoughtfully prepared a presentation for an audience who have outlaid significant money to attend. Even preloading these videos saves valuable time when you are trying to make a point. Alan was making some good points about the value of providing meaningful feedback to students and was referring to the research of New Zealander, John Hattie. Alan believes that the use of technology can assist in providing immediate quality feedback, using devices like clickers that enable you to monitor student understanding of key concepts. I’ve never used polling software in my classes, preferring instead to work at getting the climate of the classroom right to encourage the sharing of ideas, but maybe it’s worth trying. Alan spoke at length about the need to teach our students search skills that will enable them to dig deep into the Web and extract returns that are meaningful. I hope people in the audience were listening and go back and utilise the skills of Teacher-Librarians to assist them with this. Alan did relay a positive message, and that’s important, to me anyway. I want to come away from a conference feeling inspired to try new things, and I think Alan did that for some people.

I went to Greg Gebhart’s session about Cybersafety. Greg definitely knows his stuff; any presentation I’ve seen him deliver is full of detail and helpful advice. I do wish that he would include some reference to working actively with new technologies so that we can embed digital safety lessons into classroom practice by modeling safe and ethical use. That’s a message educators need to hear. Greg was telling us how ACMA has recently employed more people to help with free internet safety sessions for schools. There’s a definite need for this, but I think the need far outweighs the manpower ACMA can provide. It’s going to have to be educators who take on this work in their schools. I’d like to see ACMA providing slideshows on their site that educators can access to assist them with the transfer of the digital safety message.

John Burns is a iPhone (probably now iPad too!) app developer who shared with us his methods for getting an app created and into the Apple App store. Wow – what an experience listening to what he’s done. John created the ‘Measure it’ app, that featured on an Apple ad on TV. I purchased that app because of that ad!! This presentation made me think- it really did. Firstly, it got me thinking of the need to teach our students the basics of coding so that they aren’t intimidated and can venture into creative work like this. (Gary Stager delivers the message about the importance of teaching code too.) Secondly, it made me think of what I could have been putting my energy into these last couple of years or so! Maybe I’d be rolling in it if I’d invested in me instead of sharing my knowledge with everyone through here! Maybe; but would I be happy? I’d love to answer ‘no’, but the answer just might be ‘yes’.  ; ) Check out John’s very helpful site where he linked to many of the sites he uses to assist him in the process of app development. (if you’re on a Mac, he recommended you view the page in Safari).

It was great to see Chris Betcher delivering a keynote (Yay – an Australian on the stage for a keynote. All too often a rarity in this country!). Chris left the audience with a positive take on the changes occurring and how all educators can become involved through participation in learning networks.

Judy O’Connell’s presentation ‘Content used to be King’, was supported with an excellent slide presentation that she has kindly shared on slideshare. I’m embedding it here in the hope that you look at it and follow some of the links that take you to other search alternatives you can use with your students. Judy’s discussion about the semantic web and the potential it holds for the way we interact with the Web was insightful. Thanks for an excellent presentation Judy.

I presented three sessions. One each day. Like I said, no rest for the wicked! All three can be accessed on the wiki I maintain that supports any work I’m doing. You can find it here. The presentations were ‘Virtual Learning Communities – Time to get connected‘, ‘The What, How and Why of Twitter‘, and ‘Creating a Virtual Learning Community using Ning‘. I’ll try and embed the presentations in this blog the coming days. I just can’t believe how long already it’s taken me to get this post written – that’s what happens when you catch your breath on the weekend after a conference and head back into the first week of school and the business of working full time.

The end of the conference brought with it a very pleasant surprise for me. I was one of the recipients of the inaugural ACCE Australasian Education Media awards. Chris Betcher was also awarded this honour. ACCE’s purpose behind creating this award was to acknowledge the contribution of Australasian educators who support the learning community through blogs, wikis, podcasts, forums, mailing lists, virtual communities and other internet resources. I’m extremely honoured to be the recipient of this award. It means so much to me to have the work I’ve been doing to share my learning with others recognised. I do try very hard to support educators and to be encouraging of people who are new to technology and what it has to offer us as classroom practitioners. My thanks go to the Australian Council for Computers in Education for acknowledging the work of educators who share what they do for the love of it, and the desire to see teaching and learning practices reflect the world we are living in.

What does free mean?

Free, in terms of this blog, means giving away knowledge. I’m quite comfortable with that, because I think the return I get is worth it. The return is not monetary, it’s a return measured by connections and personal growth. But I have to admit to thinking thoughts that are monetary in nature. I’ve realised I have accumulated a considerable amount of knowledge, and that knowledge is now probably worth something in the world beyond teaching.

Over the course of the year I’ve found myself in conversation with people outside the field of education and many of them are fascinated by the skills I’ve acquired. They can see how they are applicable to the business world they inhabit. I’ve shown parents the ning environment we’ve created for Year 9 and you can see the lights switching on in the heads of some parents associated with business. One man quizzed me at length and was going to home to check it out to see how he could apply it to his work situation. I have a relation who can’t believe I’m not exploiting this environment and incorporating ads and the like on this blog.

I’m not doing that because credibility means something to me. Monetising this blog seems to me to be a corruption of the intentions behind it. I suppose it’s because being a teacher is one of those jobs where you are putting others before you; your intentions are to disemminate information and help others. Chris Betcher has written a post recently about the requests he’s been receiving from authors, online companies etc. to promote their wares by linking to them or discussing what they do in a post. I get those requests too; I just ignore them and don’t reply.

Right now, I think it’s vitally important that we as teachers prepare the students we teach adequately for the world of work they will be inhabiting. This world of work is starting to use the tools we are exploring in classrooms. I want my own kids prepared and I want the teachers who have them in their care to be on top of new ways of doing things. So I’ll keep sharing my knowlege and hope it makes a dent in the thinking of others.

But that doesn’t mean monetising my knowledge hasn’t crossed my mind and will no doubt continue to do so. It’s a given that investing time learning, in the time you spend away from work, has it’s costs. Just ask any family member living with a hyper connected blogger. Free means time away from loved ones, and maybe they are costs worthy of reimbursement.

The friend, the presenter, the bridge and the blogger!

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I was excited about visiting Sydney to see Garr Reynolds present his ideas about presentation techniques. Well, that visit was this last weekend and I wanted to give you a rundown about the great opportunity it was and the fact that it led to other wonderful experiences.

The friend.

First things first. I have to thank my great friend Helen who was kind enough to accompany me on the trip. Helen has been a close friend of mine for many years now; she knows me well and is a tremendous support to me. She always knows when I am in need of support and has been a rock. I’m deeply grateful to her for agreeing to join me. We had a wonderful time together. Really good friends are hard to find; Helen, please know how much I value you.

The presenter.

Garr Reynolds was presenting at the Wesley Conference Centre in Pitt Street. Step Two designs had organised the presentation and I was very keen to attend. I’ve been reading Garr’s Presentation Zen blog and have watched his Authors at Google talk. His ideas make sense to me and I’ve tried to apply them to presentations I’ve made. I wanted to see if he had more to share in a ‘live’ presentation.

The conference room was packed. A sold out presentation. Garr looked relaxed and was an at ease presenter. Exactly the kind of message he sends out about how to present effectively. Early in the presentation he showed a slide with pictures of people reading his book ‘Presentation Zen’ in different locations. A woman from the audience yelled out ‘that’s me’ and Garr asked ‘Are you the teacher?’ She replied, ‘no’ and I piped up, ‘I’m the teacher’. Garr said, ‘Is that you Jenny?’ I couldn’t believe he had remembered who I was! What a moment for a low profile blogger like me. He had us talk to other conference participants on a couple of occasions and each time people started the conversations with, ‘So you’re the teacher…’ The audience seemed to be more the corporate set – I think I was probably the only secondary school teacher there! 

What were the things I took away with me from Garr’s presentation? The idea that story is central to any presentation; story connects you to your audience and will help hold their attention. Eliminate wherever possible too much text on slides – don’t follow the templates provided in PowerPoint as a guide. Probably the strongest message was to follow doh – meaning ‘the way’ and not the Homer Simpson variety of d’oh. Garr’s doh is to follow these three principles for presentation;




Take a look at any presentation Garr has made and these principles are obvious. I need to take note of restraint- was too tempted by the cool transitions in SlideRocket and used them too frequently. Will take note of this advice for future presentations.  

Garr spoke of books he’s read that have had influence on his ideas. These included ‘The McKinsey Mind’‘Rules for Revolutionaries’ by Guy Kawasaki, ‘Word of Mouth Marketing’ by Andy Sernowitz, ‘Multi Media Learning’ by Richard E Mayer, ‘Brain Rules’ by Dr. John Medina and ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath. Brain Rules is sitting on my bedside table as we speak and I must get to the Heath Bros. book -that’s the second or third reference I’ve heard of late to that book- a sign I should be reading it!   

Garr was kind enough to speak with me at the end of the event and was obliging enough to have a photo taken with me. I was very pleased that I had made the effort to get to Sydney to hear him speak. Even though you can glean a vast amount of info from the Web, nothing beats human face to face interaction.

The Bridge

My last visit to Sydney was seven years ago with another good friend. She chose to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge while we were there, but I didn’t do it. I was scared of heights and felt it was something I wouldn’t be able to do. This time I decided to have a go at it. My Mum encouraged me; she felt I’d get something from it that I need at the moment. I’m still scared of heights, but I did some pretty serious climbing up a very steep mountain in China last year and thought I’d be able to do it. So I plucked up the resolve and booked myself in for a bridge climb.

I had an 8.55 booking so set off from the hotel at 8.20 to walk to Cumberland Street at the base of the bridge. I must have walked at least a kilometre when I realised I was heading in the wrong direction! Thank goodness for the constant supply of Sydney buses – got to Circular Quay and ran to Cumberland Street – a sight in itself! Was puffed and anxious when I got there. 10 of us had lined up for the 8.55 climb – families and couples and another solo traveller – a lovely lady named Sheila – we encouraged one another. It takes an age to get ready for a climb; you have to gear up in all manner of things and everything needs to be attached to you – there can be no possibility of anything falling off that bridge.  You do some preliminary training! and then set off. You’re tethered at all times so there’s no possibilty of stubling over the edge.

What an amazing experience. I didn’t suffer any effects of vertigo like I thought I would. I felt pretty safe and just loved taking in the incredible views. It was a perfect winter’s day -blue sky and not a hint of wind. Ed, our guide for the climb, told us that they climb even in high winds. Can’t say I’d be too keen on getting up there in conditions like that. It was an empowering experience and I’m proud of myself for having a go at something that I didn’t think I could do.

The blogger.     

To cap off a great day we met up with Chris Betcher in the afternoon. I first heard Chris talking in one of Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcasts, and I was impressed with his depth of knowledge. I kept seeing betchaboy appear on Twitter and in blog comments so checked out his blog. It became pretty evident that this was a guy who knew what he was talking about. Chris has been participating in the Oz/NZ educators flash meetings and we’ve had an opportunity to see and hear one another via that medium. We made some tentative plans to catch up and I’m so glad that Chris took some time out to catch up.

We met on George Street. I was betting that Chris would be wearing a long sleeved white T-Shirt and jeans. Wrong. Black short sleeved T-Shirt and camoflague pants! Always hard to identify someone when you haven’t met them face to face before but Chris was easily spotted. He looked like he does in our flash meetings and was tall as I had assumed he would be. The conversation flowed naturally from the start. At Chris’ suggestion we went to the Apple store to check things out. Chris and I were heavily engaged in conversation and it was up to Helen to do the shopping!

We moved on to a coffee shop and discussed all myriad of techhy bloggy things! I had a great time; it’s wonderful being able to share ideas with someone who ‘gets’ the things I go on about. My friends are fantastic and tolerant, but I think they get a bit bored when I start talking widgets and wikis. Chris has a wealth of knowledge and such enthusiasm; the time flew too fast. He’s coming to Melbourne in August for a IWB conference so a catch up is essential.

What a wonderful three and and half days Helen and I shared. Offline for most of it, but online in terms of connections to the world we live in.  


NECC – it’s all about conversation (even at 1.00am!)

Last night I wasn’t going to tune in to the NECC buzz. I was tired and knew I was taking to my kids out in the morning to meet up with friends. But a tweet from Will Richardson alerted me to a ustream of Konrad Glogawski’s session about blogging communities and I couldn’t resist tuning in.

While it was exciting being able to see and hear Konrad’s presentation – I still marvel at just what is possible these days! – what was most exciting was the vigorous and thought provoking discussion in the ustream chat. Follow this link to check it out. It was wonderful being able to share ideas with educators from all over the globe. Teacherman 79 has written a post about the experience. Thanks very much Will for enabling this opportunity for those of us not in attendance.  

Interestingly enough, I’ve read a post by Chris Betcher (Betchaboy) tonight that has made me think – always a good thing! It’s called Going Live vs Doing Life and I find myself agreeing with Chris’ sentiments. The gist of what he is saying is that perhaps we need to be thinking about immersing ourselves and appreciating the real life experiences we are having rather than focusing on how we disseminate the experience to the world. Probably best to block quote from Chris’ post;

I could be completely wrong, and maybe some of the Twitterers will leave a comment about how they deal with the whole mobile tweeting thing, but I always find that in order to tweet about what I’m doing I have to mentally stop doing it. To me, it’s more than just multitasking, it’s about mental timeslicing and taking your attention off the here-and-now of what’s actually taking place around you in order to tell the Twitterverse about what’s going on around you. This is not meant to be a criticism, and I’m glad that people do it so that others who wish they were there can get an insight into what’s going on, but I hope that folks find the balancing point between actually living the event and spending all their energy helping the event “go live”.

I know that I find it hard to do the mental timeslicing that Chris refers to. Even last night when I was participating in the discussion I had to focus on what I wanted to say and lost some of the thread of Konrad’s presentation and even the chat. I think John Medina talks about the difficulties of trying to multitask in his book Brain Rules. I have a copy of it but haven’t found the time to read it (surprise, surprise, seeing as I’ve been up till all hours of late!!) – I must make this a priority!

Regardless, I’m very thankful to everyone in Texas at the moment who are making genuine efforts to share knowledge through this community. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- this is without doubt the best staffroom I’ve ever been a part of!