Leading to some light…

Helen, my very close friend, gave me this plaque as a Christmas present. She said the words here reminded her of me. Can you guess already that my eyes were watering as I read what is written there? To think that she connected this message to the work I try and do touched my heart. It’s a wonderful reminder I will carry with me through 2012. If my words can help others then maybe I need to devote more time to this space in this coming year. Let’s see how that pans out shall we!

What’s been really lovely about the start of 2012 is a reunion being held in a Flickr group of some of the members of the 2008/9 International PLP cohort. Back in 2008, we participated in a 31 day photo challenge, led by our Group Leader Darren Kuropatwa who hails from Canada. Darren has organised the activity again, and joining him are Hiram Cuevas, Susan Carter Morgan, Melanie Hutchinson, Alex Ragone, Derek Willard, Carey Pohanka and myself. We are trying to post a photo a day (the above photo is my contribution for today) and already I am enjoying insights into my online friend’s lives. It’s fascinating when I realise that since we first participated in that PLP group I have met Susan, Melanie, Alex and Carey face to face. It really is amazing the experiences I have had since starting this blog.

This was Melanie Hutchinson’s first picture for 2012 in the Flickr group. It’s a road in the Catskill mountains, and Melanie described it like this, “…leading to some light- just like 2012 stretching ahead.”

It’s how I feel about 2012. I feel like I am moving into light, after being in a couple of dark patches over the last couple of years. It’s affirming. I feel positive about the future, both in a personal and professional sense. If you haven’t noticed, we’re in an even year  – in my book, they’re the good ones. There’s no Mayan calendar apocalyptic doom and gloom in my outlook. I hope you’re feeling the same way.

New at Voices from the Learning Revolution – Evolution of an Information Junkie

My latest post over at the PLP Voices from the Learning Revolution blog is, ‘Evolution of an Information Junkie‘.

It’s a bit of a reworking of a post originally written here under the title of ‘Divided Attention Disorder – I think I’ve always had it.’ I’m really pleased the piece is getting another airing in the Voices space. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I write pieces I am particularly proud of. I like a turn of phrase I’ve used, the flavor of the writing, the message it conveys. This piece was one of those. I’d always hoped it had received more attention than it got initially, because I think it deserved it.

How things have changed. Three years ago I would never have had the courage to be so bold as to write the paragraph you’ve just read. I didn’t think I was a writer really.

I do now.

How powerful this tiny blog, this vehicle for communication, has been for me. I’m so glad I had the guts to give it a go.

Voices from the Learning Revolution

I feel honoured to have been asked to write for the new ‘Voices from the Learning Revolution‘ blog. It’s contained within the Powerful Learning Practice site and has contributors who range from the very experienced to those who are just starting to work with new media in their classrooms.

Voices from the Learning Revolution

Voices from the Learning Revolution

From the site comes this introduction to the contributing voices:

Dolores Gende has been teaching science and math for over 28 years in the U.S, Mexico, Belgium, and the Netherlands Antilles. She is the Director of Instructional Technology at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas where she also teaches Honors Physics. Her award-winning AP Physics website serves as an important reference tool for teachers all over the world. Dolores is a member of The College Boards’ AP Physics Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee, presents at national and international conferences and leads week-long summer institutes for new and experienced physics teachers.

As a district assistant superintendent (West Clermont Schools, PA), M.E. Steele-Pierce works at the intersection of policy and practice where, she says, it’s all personal. She’s an alum of the Harvard Change Leadership Group and is currently learning with the PLP Network. She’s interested in how individuals and systems change. Home is Cincinnati OH where she finds balance in books, film, arts, and slow food. When she was recently called a bureaucrat, she countered, “a creative bureaucrat.”

Ed Allen is a high school teacher and administrator in the Philadelphia area. He firmly believes that learning needs to be networked. He has also been involved in arts education for many years and believes that the arts are critical in schools. Ed blogs at http://imagineteach.org

Bud Hunt

Bud Hunt is an instructional technologist for the St. Vrain Valley School District in northern Colorado. Formerly, he taught high school language arts and journalism at Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Colorado. He is a teacher-consultant with the Colorado State University Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, a group working to improve the teaching of writing in schools via regular and meaningful professional development. Bud is a co-founder of Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation. He reads, writes, and worries about the future of reading and writing and teaching and learning at http://www.budtheteacher.com.

Ann S. Michaelsen is a teacher and administrator at Sandvika High School in Oslo Norway. She has promoted the use of computers in school since 2002, working on the county level to implement the Skillsoft LMS in our 34 schools. Sandvika was Norway’s 2009 Pathfinder school in the global Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forums, and Ann presented at the same event in South Africa 2010. She is an active writer of the blog Teaching English Using Web 2.0 where she offers advice to fellow educators.

Renee Hawkins is a 4th/5th grade teacher and Director of Instructional Technology at Garrison Forest School, a nursery-to-grade 12 girls’ school near Baltimore, MD, and co-author of the blog, The Flying Trapeze. A teacher for 28 years, she has taught in the US and Japan and currently lives with her husband in Baltimore County.

Shelley Wright is a teacher/education blogger who lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. She teaches high school English, Science and technology. Her passion in education is social justice, global education and helping her students make the world a better place. She blogs in Wright’s Room.

Lyn Hilt is an elementary school principal and technology integrator/coach. She believes in learner-centered, passion-driven educational experiences, and seeks to model for her students and staff the power of connected learning. Her thoughts on learning can be found on The Principal’s Posts and Connected Principals. She lives in Pennsylvania, has enjoyed many world travels, and encourages everyone to adopt a greyhound or two.

Jenny Luca is a Teacher-Librarian from Melbourne, Australia who is passionate about exploring the potential of new technologies in educational settings. She writes a blog called ‘Lucacept – intercepting the Web’ and has presented at conferences in Australia and internationally. Follow Jenny on Twitter @jennyluca

Jennifer M. Jones is an young educator and scholar. She has been in education for four years, teaching secondary students. Jennifer lives in Texas and teaches in at large public high school in the Bryan Independent School District, where she pursues learning and educating with enthusiasm.

 

School’s out Friday

I haven’t written a post in a week. Did anyone notice?

It’s not that there haven’t been things to write about. I’ve been busy getting our PLP video organised and was hit with a head cold that didn’t stop me going to work, but it did slow me down once I’d got home in the evenings. Just did not have any extra energy to get to this blog.

Tonight I’ve been out to dinner with Sheryl Nussbaum Beach  and her lovely daughter Grace, Will Richardson and a variety of other people including Tania Sheko, Mary Manning, Andrew Hiskins, Rhonda Powling, Marie Salinger and Leonie Dyason. It was a really nice evening where we were able to reflect on our PLP experiences and enjoy good conversation. Andrew Hiskins referred to the above Rowan Atkinson video during a discussion we were having about Libraries. I’d never seen it so I did enjoy a laugh when I got home.

I need to get back to posting and I will be uploading Toorak College’s PLP video over the weekend. For now, time for sleep!

Enjoy your weekend and whatever it brings.  

 

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Network Literacy – the next big thing

I said I’d get back here to reflect on my presentation at the Perspectives on Learning V.2 SLAV conference and our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) face to face meeting at Toorak College on Tuesday. The week’s been a long one and the exhaustion factor has been high. Hence my slow return!

First up, I’m pretty sure my presentation went well. I received positive feedback and that’s the best you can hope to achieve really! I was really pleased with the slides and as is usual for me, once I start I find it hard to stop. I need to work out how to deliver a presentation in 50 mins rather than an hour so I can field questions at the end. I embedded the presentation here last Monday so  track back to then and you’ll find it if you want to see it.

Our PLP meeting was a wonderful opportunity to share our thinking, projects and ideas for how we continue to change practice in our schools. When you’re hosting the event it’s hard to get perspective on how it’s all going, but my feeling was that it was a positive day that had benefit for those attending. Will Richardson had timely advice for us all and it was a fantastic opportunity to gain from his experience.      

On the Monday night before the meeting we went out to dinner with some of the PLP teams. On arrival, one of the team members said to me something that went like this;

“So, Jenny, what’s the next big thing? It seems like we’ve been talking about these things for the last six months, what’s the next new thing coming along?”

My answer went something like this;

“I don’t think there is any ‘next big thing’. I think the next big thing is how we use these tools to get our students connected. It’s how we get them to start making the connections with others out there.”

What I’ve realised is what I’m talking about is what Will Richardson calls ‘Network Literacy’. This to me represents the biggest shift our schools need to take if we are going to make inroads for the students we teach. Will’s presentation on Monday struck many chords for me and reshaped my thinking about the next steps I need to take in my school.

Will defines Network Literacy as;

The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways.”

He says we need to help students identify their passions and then immerse them in ‘passion based’ learning environments where they can then pursue their interests in Personal Learning Networks.  He references the work of John Seeley Brown when he discusses this.  

We have been learning the tools and have embedded some of them into practice, now we need to start assisting our students to reach out and create learning opportunities themselves. How they do is the tricky part for us as educators because we need to have a handle on it first if we are to guide them well.

Will asked educators to consider these questions in his presentation on Monday;

Am I “network literate”?

Am I “Googled well”?

Am I learning with others “out there”?

Am I a “mobile learner”?

Am I reading and writing differently?

Am I collaborating, co-constructing and collectively acting with others?

Am I a learner first, teacher second?

I can confidently answer ‘Yes’ to six of the seven questions. I’ve got to  master mobile technologies – this is an area I’m  not confident with yet.

The real question is ‘How many of our teachers can answer in the affirmative to the questions Will posed?’ And that is the dilemma facing our schools. How do we bring teachers with us and how do we do this on the scale that is necessary? I don’t know the answer to that question, I know that PLP goes someway towards it, but I do know that I have to start making inroads with the students I teach.

This means teaching them how to write in a hypertext environment. It means lobbying for an elective called Passion Based Learning where I help students understand how they can become self directed learners. It means working with my school and changing thinking about transparency for student writing and allowing our kids to connect with other teachers and learners outside the walls of our school.

It means lots of hard work and an understanding that change takes time. We can’t expect to see things happen overnight. Small steps are important ones and these may have to be the steps taken to have the shift take place.

Thanks Will for helping shape my thinking and helping me define the next steps.

So, how’s that ning going?

Some of you who have been reading here would be aware that I started a ning for the Year 9 English students at my school. When I started I told you I’d be checking in every now and then with a progress report.

So, here goes.

All told I’m pretty happy with the progress. Very nearly the entire year level is signed up; we’ve had hiccups with one class but they should be resolved next week. The students don’t all contribute, but we have some active users and some of them have continued to start forum topics with no prompting from staff members. 

One of the most popular forum topics relates to the novel Twilight. One of our teachers started it and it’s been popular with a wide range of students. It’s certainly been a means of forming the community. I like the fact that the students can see that we as staff can relate to their reading interests.

Certainly the staff involved have adopted it and are embedding it into their practice. When we meet as a team we discuss how we can use the ning to support our learning outcomes. In the coming weeks we intend to upload our issues topics as forum discussions and will encourage our students to post their opinions. We can see that this will offer students access to opposing points of view and will probably assist those students who are struggling with ideas.

Having YouTube videos easily accessible in the ning has been wonderful for just in time teaching moments. When we were discussing teenage pregnancy (a feature of our novel study of Bye, Beautiful)  I was able to flick into the videos page in the ning and show relevant videos that demonstrated the thinking of 1960’s Australia. I’ve been locating some music video clips that relate to Romeo and Juliet in preparation for our text study next term. You can see how many views each video has had which is useful in tracking student use of the ning. It’s clear that students have accessed these videos out of class time which is really pleasing.

The students like the fact that they have their own pages and can change their profiles. Latest activity in the ning often indicates they are leaving one another messages or updating their profile. I like the fact that you can open a student’s page and see where they have made input into the ning. I’m figuring this is going to be useful to use in parent conferences.

Just having an opportunity to read some of their reflections from across classrooms is very powerful. The fact that I can comment of the reflection of a student I don’t teach is wonderful I think. I’m able to support my colleagues and that student to understand that teaching can be available to you from others in spaces like this; you aren’t restricted to the one classroom, one teacher notion that pervades most school systems.

Certainly the flurry of activity that was evident in the early stages has slowed down. You have to work a ning. You need to be adding new content all the time to keep it fresh. But I think we’ve seen adoption. In the last couple of weeks I’ve heard the word ning used at a school assembly and the Principal referred to it in his newsletter item for our school community. How many schools out there would be using this term – not a whole lot I’m betting.

I presented our Yr 9 ning to our English faculty this week and was excited today to hear today that our Yr 12 teachers have started a ning for their English students. A staff member told me how impressed they were with what was happening at Yr 9 and how they thought the discussions that can be generated in  ning would be helpful for the students. I was thrilled -this was exactly the message I was hoping to convey in my presentation. The fact that adoption is spreading is testament to our involvement in PLP (Powerful Learning Practice). I truly believe we would not be making the leaps that we are without the impetus this program provides.

I’m hopeful that we are going to have one of our PLP cohort schools involved in our ning. The school is a boy’s school from the United States and we have invited them to join our ning to engage in forum discussions with our girls. This is a means of bringing male voice into our school – we are an all girl’s school, and while I believe there are advantages to single sex education, I do think exposure to  a male viewpoint is important.  Having them join the ning will be a means of addressing this issue for both of our schools. The girls are certainly excited about this possibility so I hope it pans out for us.      

Do I think it’s been worth implementing?

Absolutely. No question. And I think my students would agree. I do feel a real sense of community, a feeling that we are in this together and we are there to help to one another out. There’s no doubt it’s not the forum for everyone, but it certainly is a powerful tool and one that I feel is worth the investment of time.

Gone Skypin’

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Wow. We had an amazing couple of days last week at my school using Skype to connect our students to the world.

First stop was Buffalo, New York, when Laura Stockman skyped into our Grade 5 class. They were learning about her good works because they have been doing some themselves . Our Junior School last week raised $2,700 to help victims of the bushfires. I was just going to refer to Laura’s site and Working together 2 make a difference, but Angela Stockman was on Twitter and suggested that Laura could Skype in.

The Grade 5 students were amazed that someone from New York State was looking at them and answering their questions. It has given them a real boost as they think about what they may be able to do to make a difference. Glenn, their teacher was thrilled and went on to discuss it with his staff at their staff meeting.

Stop 2. Hiram Cuevas organised for his school, St. Christopher’s in Virginia, to Skype with our students and staff about the bushfire situation here in Victoria. This was initiated because St. Christopher’s has committed to doing something in response to the crisis. We set up the call and arranged for student and staff representatives to take part with both of us using webcams to enable us to see one another. It was a great connection (thank goodness!) and a very powerful half an hour that we spent together. Hiram wanted his students to have a connection with people living in the State of Victoria so that his students could have some sense of the tragedy.  Our school receptionist, Chantal, lost a house in the Kinglake fire and was able to convey her sense of loss and resulting experiences.

Hiram ustreamed the session and apparently we had 71 viewers at one stage. Amazing. All parties benefited enormously from this connection. Our staff and students were touched by the care and compassion reaching our from a school thousands of miles away. Hiram’s school is a member of our international PLP cohort; the learning is proving to be a rich experience for us all.

Stop 3: Same day, different time. Amanda Ritter organised for our students to participate in Matt Montagne’s student run podcast, Gator Radio. Matt put out a call on Twitter for Australian schools who could skype in for a question/answer session about the Victorian Bushfires.  Our students were thrilled to be ‘on air’ and were marvelling at the end of the day about how great these experiences were.

Next stop is Tuesday morning for me. I’m skyping into Lisa Parisi’s Global Awareness Club. This is a group of Grade 5 students and the question I’m dealing with is ‘Why is it important to have a global perspective?’ or words to that effect. I’m looking forward to it.

Skype is such a powerful tool for making connections. With a webcam you can really enable your students to feel like they’re somewhere else. Who knows how this kind of connective experience will look in the future? Something like Cisco’s Telepresence technology could really make us feel like we are in the same room. I’d love to give that a go. If you’re listening Cisco, I’m willing and able and I bet I could line a few students up who’d be in like a shot too!

    

 

  

   

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