The one off lesson – what to do?

We’re nearing the end of our school year. Reports are written, exams are underway, assessment tasks are all done. What do you do that’s meaningful in a lesson when your students are in switched off mode?

Today, I was inspired by the morning news. I listened as a prominent Sydney broadcaster made disparaging comments about Julian Assange and the Wikileaks release of incriminating data damaging to the US administration. It got me thinking. What did my students know about this and what would we be able to find out if we spent some time investigating those terms?

Using old fashioned media, a whiteboard and whiteboard marker, I wrote Julian Assange and Wikileaks on the board. I asked the students to open their laptops and, in the next ten minutes, endeavour to locate as much information as they could about them. I told them that this is what assessment in the future may look like. They’ll be assessed on the quality of information they can locate, the authoritative nature of it, their ability to analyse what they have found, and then create meaning from it. Giving them a time frame had them beavering away. Some were on the Wikileaks site, some were on YouTube watching videos about Julian Assange and his association with Wikileaks, others were using Wikipedia. Despite me telling them earlier in the year to use delicious or Twitter for search, none were doing this.

After the ten minutes were up they shared their findings with me and I wrote their answers on the board. Yes, old fashioned tech once again. If I were thinking, I could have used a Google Doc that I could have shared with them, or even better still, I could have had them adding to it as they went. Sometimes you think after the fact, and sometimes working the old fashioned way is just fine. Today, it was just fine.

They’d found an enormous amount of detail, especially about Julian Assange. We didn’t spend any time discussing the sources of their information because conversation was flowing and there was interest in the detail they’d found. They were contemplating the nature of the Wikileaks site and some of the controversy surrounding Julian Assange. After 10 minutes or so of discussion I asked them to consider their position on the Wikileaks site and whether it not they thought it was ‘right’ for the site to publish ‘sensitive’ information. Those who thought the site had the right to publish I asked to stand on one side of the room, and those who thought they should desist went to the other side. The fence sitters sat in the middle.I then told them they had 5 minutes to formulate an argument for their position that they would present to the fence sitters who would decide where to give their allegiance.

The supporters were vocal and generating lots of arguments, the objectors less so. When it came time to present their cases, the fencesitters overwhelmingly sided with the supporters. And that was it. Lesson over.

I think it was worthwhile. We explored a topical issue, we know a lot more now than we did this morning. We thought about our position and made considered decisions regarding this, and I’m pretty sure the majority of those students would have made links to what they did today with some of the reports they might have seen tonight on the evening news. A tad better than the ‘let’s show a video’ tactic that sometimes rears its ugly head at this time of year. I think so anyway. : )


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!

Flickrstorm – easy search for creative commons photos

Tonight I’ve been sourcing a picture to use for a slide that is going towards a collaborative presentation stemming from our Powerful Learning Practice cohort.  Darren Kuropatwa, our community leader, got the ball rolling (excuse the pun!), for Presentation Tennis.  We’re creating a slide deck using google docs (their presentation option) and creating contrasting slides to represent “Teaching well”. When it’s completed it will be uploaded to slideshare and part two of the challenge will begin. One of the challenges is to find images with a creative commons licence that can be used  giving attribution to the creator.

For my effort tonight I went to Flickrstorm. This is a great site for finding quality images that can be used legally giving attribution to the creator. When you reach the site click on ‘advanced’ and a drop down box enables that gives you options for creative commons pictures and the different licences they hold. See below screenshot;


David Jakes has a really helpful wiki where he explains many new technologies.  He speaks of flickrstorm when he is presenting about digital storytelling.  I’m sure you would find information about flickrstorm there if you were looking for more detail. David has recorded a screencast that is available on TeacherTube. It won’t embed here so you’ll have to click the link to view it.

And just for the record, here is the slide I created tonight.


(Day 108-365 Year 2 by flickrstorm user thp365 )

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