School’s out Friday

This video is one I really must find a way of integrating into some teachable moment this year. I’ve no doubt there will be a myriad of opportunities that will present themselves. Teachable moments aren’t restricted to school – last night I took great delight in responding to my son’s complaints with the ‘First world problem’ retort. I love that look you get when they realise you’ve adopted the language they use, especially when it’s so pertinent to the pettiness of whatever it is they’re going on about!

The link to the video was shared in the Twitter stream coming out from the Google Apps for Education summit (GAFE summit) that was held at MLC in Sydney over the last couple of days. There were some very useful tips shared that you can find by searching #gafesummit on Twitter. The educators who presented have very generously shared their presentations and they can be accessed from this link. Yet another example of the sharing nature of educators who have learning at the forefront of their thinking and want to make sure that others can benefit, even if they weren’t present. I very much appreciate your efforts. 🙂

I returned to work this week as part of my new role at my school. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but I’m back in the swing of things now and looking forward to a sleep in tomorrow morning. The weather’s looking good, so I’ll be finding some time to relax in the sun. I hope you find some time to do the same. 🙂

School’s out Friday

Indulge me for a moment this Friday. One of my favourite memories from my visit to Italy last year with students from my school, was spending a day at Pisa visiting The Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), where you will find the infamous Leaning Tower, the cathedral, the Baptistry and the cemetery. This video is like being there all over again, from the train ride through to the magnificent sights – the only thing missing is the exceptional gelato we experienced in the town centre.

And where did I come across this video? Why, at a new site on offer from Google, World Wonders Project. The project aims to bring to life wonders of the modern and ancient world. Here’s what they have to say on their Education page within the site:

The World Wonders Project is a valuable resource for students and scholars who can now virtually discover some of the most famous sites on earth. The project offers an innovative way to teach history and geography to students of primary and secondary schools all over the world.

Educational resource packs are available for Secondary history and geography classes.

Now take a look at how they did it.

It’s moments like these when I love what Google are doing. Giving people the opportunity to have a virtual immersive experience in locations that many will never have the opportunity to physically visit is an altruistic act. It’s one of the ways the web is a leveler – for those with Internet access of course!

Have a great weekend. I’ll be putting together my ISTE presentation, and giving more thought to the TEDxMelbourne Education Leadership talk. Hamish Curry sent out a tweet tonight saying the event is now fully booked -apparently in record time for them!

Enjoy whatever comes your way. Find some time for good friends, good food and maybe a drop of good wine into the mix. 🙂

School’s out Friday

You can thank my YouTube surfing son for this week’s School’s out Friday video. It’s the Google+ Rap, and Funnyz certainly does a pretty good job selling it for Google. I do wonder though, if he’s also having a bit of a swing at it too with the inclusion of the interviews with people who have no idea what it is!

Google+ is certainly not on the tip of everyone’s tongue right now, but it does have the potential to be a very influential network. Right now, I scan it everyday, but I’m not posting much at all. Nor are many others in my circles I might add. I’m still finding that twitter is my network of choice. It’s high frequency sharing of information, and that’s where my life’s at right now. I’m pressed for time, and dipping in and out of a network is all I can afford during the working week. Google+ is more like longform journalism; the stream can be quite thoughtful, and the discussion requires more thinking. That’s obviously not a criticism, in fact, it’s a compliment. It’s the kind of thinking network I’d like to spend more time in, but the pace of life dictates otherwise right now.

The end of yet another busy week brings with it the promise of a quieter weekend. The sun looks like it will be shining in Melbourne this weekend, and this makes me a very happy woman.

I hope the sun shines on you this weekend, wherever it is you are in the world. Enjoy. : )

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 Will.i.am 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+!

How many networks can a regular person maintain?

I think I fall into the category of regular person.

Married, two kids, full time job.

So, as a regular person, just how many social networks can I maintain?

In my case, not many. In fact, I’d say I can only really manage one effectively.

At the moment, the network I maintain is Twitter. Aside from this blog, it’s where I share my thinking and try and spread what I learn to others. It’s where I learn from others. It’s where I spend quite a bit of time, much to the chagrin of my family on more than the odd occasion. And it’s not what I’d describe as a social network, I use it for professional learning. (but really, the lines are blurring there – professional is becoming social. Let’s face it, I spend quite a bit of time there.)

So, when Google announced their new social network, Google+, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down with excitement. When Google Buzz was announced, I was super keen to get on the bus. But the gloss of the new has worn off. I don’t have a Google+ invite, and nor do I want one just yet. I’m happy for everyone else to figure out how it works (thanks Doug Peterson : )), and save me all the time and commitment I’d need to put into working out the kinks. If I find a large number of my network moving to the space, then I expect I’ll move there too. It’s the nature of networks; you move to where the people you interact with are.

I don’t know how I’ll manage if Twitter and Google+ co-exist and they both are significant. I really can’t afford to spend any more time online. If I do, then I think my husband will seriously consider shutting down internet access to our home. If they integrate, then I stand a chance.

What about you? Are you able to successfully maintain more than one social/professional network? Did Google+ fill you with elation, or dread?

Helping students with current issues research

One of the things I really do appreciate in my school is the willingness of our English teachers to recognise the skill set of Teacher-Librarians. Over the last few weeks my staff and I have worked closely with Year 11 and 12 teachers and students, and have shared information about how best to utilise Library online resources and the internet to help them with research on a current issue for VCE Oral Presentations.

Today I ran a session with our Yr 10 students to help them begin a persuasive essay task. We covered similar ground to that run through with the Year 11 and 12 students in recent weeks, and I’m hoping it will hold them in good stead as they tackle the research needed to formulate a strong argument for a persuasive essay. I thought I’d run through some of the things I covered, and hope some of you out there might find it useful.

1. Echo online – newspaper indexes and media issues outlines.
This is a truly invaluable resource for Victorian students. A Victorian school subscription to the Echo Education Services site is $355.00. In my opinion, it’s the best $355.00 we spend all year. I’m not sure if other States use it too, but the work done here in the media issues outlines part of the database is extraordinary. The lady who does the work is a VCE English teacher, and she trawls the daily newspapers looking for what might be the current issues that a VCE English student would want to explore for their oral presentation or language analysis task. When she’s identified an issue, she puts together an outline that includes background information, arguments for, arguments against and further implications. She also provides pages of web links and documents and links to the newspaper articles she has used to provide her outlines of whatever the issue in question is. It’s incredibly helpful, particularly for those students who just can’t figure out how you would go about analysing an issue. It gives them an entry point and the confidence they need to explore the source material to form conclusions for themselves.

The other part of this database is the newspaper index. Students can enter their search term and results are provided for relevant articles published in our daily papers. These results aren’t hyperlinked; the students would either have to source the original print copy or search a newspaper database to find the article. I point my students to Newsbank.

2. Newsbank This is a database where students can search Australian newspapers. They have to be conscious of the search terms they use, and often need to refine their search to pull in the content they need. One of the disadvantages of the site is that it provides the text of the articles only. None of the pictorial detail that often accompanies a newspaper article is available, and the text can look pretty dry to a 15 year old. We made a decision this year to stop archiving 6 months of back issues of newspapers, largely because we have noticed a decline in the demand for use, the fact that it involves a large amount of dedicated staff time doing this work, and the understanding that our move into a new building meant we were looking towards the future of collection development rather than what we could see as a process from the past. For this reason, we have subscribed to digital archives (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper) of daily newspapers.

3. Digital subscriptions to newspapers (true to print eg: as they appear in the printed version of the paper). We have a 5 user concurrent subscription to ‘The Age’ archive and a license for 50 users to access the ‘Herald-Sun‘ and ‘The Australian‘. They come at considerable cost, and it’s not easy for students to get access. We have to share the common user name and password to all staff and students for the 5 user concurrent license to ‘The Age’. This means 5 users at a time can access the site and another user will have to wait until someone logs out to get access. With the 50 user license for the Herald Sun, we have to register individual emails to each license. This means we have had to use staff emails, and we share these with students with the common password so they can get access. It isn’t ideal. I don’t think our newspaper industry has really got their act together at this stage to accomodate the needs of schools. As more schools take up options like this I’m hoping they will come up with a more user friendly method to gain access.

4. The Age Education Resource Centre  Every week, in its Monday edition, The Age publishes ‘Issues in the News‘. They analyse a current issue and write their copy for a secondary school audience. It’s a great resource, and contains links to source material used to compile their summation. You can access their archive of issues they have covered

5. Google News – One of the reasons many of our students are not accessing print newspapers is because they are searching for newspaper content online through Google. I always find it interesting that students are surprised to realise a search engine like Google has many parts, and they need to look to the toolbar at the top of the screen to find these options. They seem to have eyes only for the search box in the centre of the screen! We’ve been introducing our students to Google News and showing them that they can search for newspaper articles from other countries to assist them in gaining perspectives from other cultures. We’ve also focused on the advanced search function and showing students how they can narrow a search using some of the parameters there.

6. Google Realtime search I suspect many people are unaware of Google’s Realtime search option. You can use Realtime search to do exactly what it says – search in real time. What you are accessing are Twitter feeds about the search term you’ve entered. The great thing about Twitter is that many people are sharing links about topics that are issues in the news. It’s there where you will find up to date (real time!) coverage of an event. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it can be the most invaluable source of information. If you don’t have an account and a network of fabulous contacts, then this is a good option for trying to find out what people are saying and sharing about topics of interest to you. Try it for yourself and see what I mean.

 

7. TED: ideas worth spreading Many of our students are required to put together oral presentations for their English course of study. I’ve read many times that speaking in public is one of the highest ranked fears of many people. You can often tell that as you watch some students sweat it out beforehand and stumble through oral presentations. They need to see people speaking in front of audiences and take note of effective techniques that can hold the interest of a group of people. The TED site is the perfect vehicle for getting students to analyse what makes for an effective presentation. The bonus is, the talks are so interesting and inspiring, they are bound to learn many other things in the process. I used the start of Eli Pariser’s talk about the ‘filter bubble’ and it certainly sparked a lot of interest. Students are concerned about what big corporations like Google are doing with their data, and many students asked how his name was spelt so they could watch this presentation in full after class.

I’m happy to report, this presentation was met with a round of applause from the students, on more than one occasion. Issues research can be daunting for many a student, and they value being shown a way forward. If you have other resources you use that you find helpful for student use, please leave a comment and extend the learning for all of us. : )

10 minutes well spent

If you ever find yourself a spare ten minutes or so, you should do yourself a favour and check out the TED: Ideas worth spreading site. I do so on a regular basis, most often when I’m in bed browsing on my iPad before I head off to sleep. Last night I watched two very different stories being told, both of which led me to think, to contemplate, to reassess.

Watch both of them. They’re worth the investment. The first is the story of two very remarkable women, both marred by the tragedy of 9/11. They come from what some would see as opposing backgrounds, but they share the common thread of motherhood. Both have suffered, and both find comfort from the other. Their story is a lesson in tolerance, forgiveness and empathy for us all, and is one we should be sharing with the students we teach.

The other is a world apart, but it deals with something not apparent to all, but something that will definitely affect us all. Eli Pariser is the author of “The Filter Bubble,” and in this talk he explains how personalized search might be narrowing our worldview. Eli explains how web services that know what we like and direct results to us that meet our likes, are allowing us to get trapped in a “filter bubble.” The filter bubble prevents us from exposure to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Here’s another lesson for not just the adults in the room, our students need this kind of understanding if they are to become architects of their digital lives. After watching this, it’s apparent that personalised search, where organisations are making decisions about what we view, is dangerous territory indeed. Dangerous territory that can lead to lack of tolerance, an inability to forgive, and a decided lack of empathy. There’s the link you need to make these two talks some of the best learning that could take place in a classroom this week.

TED: Ideas worth spreading. Never a truer phrase was uttered. Spread away.