Skype to the rescue.

Launch day for Project Global Cooling.

Was I nervous?

Yes.

Did I fear a breakdown of Technology?

Yes.  

Was all the worry warranted?

No!

Pleased to report all was successful. Bill Farren’s video ‘Did you ever wonder?‘ set the scene and got our student’s thinking. Our Skype calls worked, a bit of break up but nothing drastic. Chris, a teacher from Lindsea’s school Skyped in as well on a webcam – the kids loved seeing him – you could see they were impressed with what was happening. Clay Burell joined us along with Patrick from his school. Lindsea then joined us with a webcam and you could sense the instant recognition from our students – they connected with her Skyping from her bedroom. Some students asked questions – Lindsea could see them thanks to my fantastic AV guy who went out of his way today to make all of this work. Thought we might be losing them towards the end but was surprised by the interest coming my way from the kids who can’t make our follow up meeting tomorrow. 

Left today feeling energised and positive about tomorrow. Can’t wait to see where the meeting will take us. Our kids were expressing their frustration today with adults who talk about making changes to improve sustainability but then nothing happens. Today we’ve given them an opportunity to make change – I hope they rise to the challenge. 

Just finished listening to and participating in the backchannel of Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcast (even if I couldn’t figure out how to change my Ustream number to my name, despite another listener trying to help me. I am still new to all this stuff!).  Really interesting discussion about how we connect. Recommend that you listen to the podcast when he posts it. 

World Wide Telescope – Science teachers take note

This is from TED talks and has just been posted. It’s the first view of the World Wide telescope, a product of Microsoft, that is going to be available as a free download at the website worldwidetelescope.org in the Northern Spring of this year. Very interesting that Microsoft is offering it as a free download – this is why according to their FAQ page;

“Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe as never before.”

Roy Gould, a researcher at the Harvard Centre for Astrophysics, thinks it’s truly transformative, enabling you to experience and tour the universe. You can create your own tours of the universe and share them with friends and they’re interactive- imagine all the possibilities this presents for classrooms and learning about astronomy – why wasn’t this around when I was a kid? I may have been an astronomer now if it had have been. I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky – I love to lose myself in it and contemplate my place in the world. This is going to be wonderful and I can’t wait to play and share it with my kids. Thanks to Jeff Utecht for the heads up to this from a Twitter post. 

SOS Podcast – make sure you tune in next week.

SOS 

I’ve just finished listening to Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcast. You can access it Thursday nights at 7.00pm Shanghai time. (10.00pm Australian time) It’s kind of nice to hear the voices to the names you’ve been reading. I came in late but gained something out of their conversation about shifting teachers with new technology. It’s a great vehicle for transferring knowledge. Next week’s topic of discussion is ‘How to Connect’ and Kim Cofino is going to be joining Jeff.

Some good things happened today. We made a start in our planning to join Project Global Cooling and are hoping to have Lindsea join us via Skype for our launch. It’s going to be a bit of work but what great work it will be – the kind of empowering work that energises you and doesn’t deflate you.  Remind me I wrote this in a few weeks time!

 The other good thing was that I introduced a group of students to VoiceThread today. I’ve been hearing about it a lot and thought I better check it out. According to the VoiceThread site, this is what a VoiceThread is;

“A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways – using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.”

This is a class I take just once a week where I introduce them to new web tools. We looked at some examples and they then had a go at creating one. They really liked the idea that you can draw in the image you are talking about and they could suggest classroom uses for Voicethread. It was the kind of conversation you wish other teachers were listening to. Here was a group of students who could see uses for it in Science, Art, Humanities etc. I’m going to use it with my Year 7 class – I’m going to get them to upload a photo of themself as a young child and have their family members record their memories of that moment. Should be a good test of how it works.  VoiceThread have just launched a new web-based collaborative network called Ed.VoiceThread. They promote it as being simple, powerful and safe. Check out the blog on their site and watch their explanatory VoiceThread – it looks good. This community is specifically designed for K-12 educators and students. I’m going to talk to the Elibrarian I work with about subscribing our school tomorrow. This should help our teachers feel comfortable about using it as a learning tool. 

Are you a 21st Century teacher?

21st Century Teacher21st Century Teacher

Jeff Utecht has a blog called The Thinking Stick which is where he posted this picture of what makes a well rounded teacher in the 21st Century.  On this blog you can also find a link to a PDF called Planning for 21st Century Technologies which outlines what he thinks schools need to do to respond to our changing digital world. I found this an enlightening read, and was pleased to see that he identified the need for schools to have what he called a Literacy/Media Specialist;

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Hopefully I’m well placed to fulfill this need in my school. And, I might note, he’s absolutely right – our students are today engaging with information in digital form as their first port of call before they resort to a print option. This is just a fact of life and we need to be able to guide our students and help them learn the skills they need to be effective learners in this world.

Jeff also talks of the need to have a Web based portal where everything you need was just a click away. He says he hasn’t seen anything yet that can do this. I’m wondering if he’s seen Scholaris Learning Gateway, a system our school is working with.

Scholaris International’s flagship product “Scholaris Learning Gateway” provides an enriched and stimulating student centric learning environment, transforming education for the 21st century.  Scholaris allows;

  • Students have their own rich and engaging digital learning environment which is accessible anywhere anytime, where they can share, communicate, collaborate and complete assignments and activities.
  • Teachers are provided with a unified interface of applications, tools and student centric data allowing them to tailor an actionable curriculum for the student’s individual needs. Teachers are also able to communicate, collaborate and share content, curriculum, lessons and learning objects thereby fostering the use of best practise.
  • Parents have simple and seamless access to information, such as their child’s academic performance, attendance, workload, events and news enabling a richer engagement with their child’s learning and their school community.

I think it can do all of the things Jeff talks about in his PDF.   We’re hoping it will be the portal through which many of us can become the 21st Century teachers we need to be.