Connections take time

So, it’s school holidays. You’d think I’d be posting like a mad woman wouldn’t you -making up for all of the time I couldn’t post because work was getting in the way.

Well. I haven’t been. I’ve been busy making connections.

Working together 2 make a difference has attracted a reasonable size community of educators but we would like to see some connective activity happen between the members. Mike Poluk has agreed to take on some of the administrative role in the Ning to support Angela Stockman and myself.  Right now the space has had a bit of a revamp and Angela has added some groups to see if we can get more connections happening. Laura Stockman has added a 25 days to make a difference group; setting us all the challenge to see what we can achieve in 25 days with random acts of kindness. Nice.  Take a visit and see if you can join us. It’s a very positive space and the people who are active there are very genuine about what it is they are doing.

I’ve also been connecting with the gym again! This is twofold; it’s also a means of connecting with my daughter as we have joined together. Both of us were in agony yesterday after a Pump class, but we headed out to do battle with the treadmills and bikes. I figure my headspace needs the benefits that physical activity can bring, and my body space could do with the paring down that physical activity can bring!

I’ve also been commenting on a few posts. Take a look at Dennis Harter’s post on U Tech Tips about “Is the term 21st Century out of date?” Dennis talks about ‘buy -in’ and the need for it to happen if we are to see real change occur in teacher’s adopting new techologies for learning purposes.  Interesting post and comment feed -worth reading.

By far the post that has taken up quite a bit of time is Wes Fryer’s post about the NSW deployment of Netbooks. I left a comment that made a bit of a sweeping generalisation in the first line about the lack of professional development supporting the rollout. Yes, it was a sweeping generalisation, I admit it, and Ben Jones picked me up on it.  I’ll paste our thread in here rather than reinvent the wheel trying to explain it all. Best to get you to follow Ben’s links and make your mind up about where it’s all heading.

Me:

Unfortunately, little to no thought has gone into the professional development necessary to ensure that the teachers of NSW (and other States of Australia that are seeing netbooks rolled out into classrooms)are adequately prepared to use them to their full potential in classrooms. Hardware is part of the solution, but ensuring our teachers feel confident in the effective and meaningful use of the hardware is the vital key to the success of this rollout. No keys apparent as yet!

Ben:

Jim/Jenny
Yes on the limited information you have read you would be correct the focus is on the technology however please read the full information:
– Curriculum Support & Professional Learning Materials: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/index.htm
– Professional Learning support for Leaders: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html
– Digital Learning objects custom for the laptops: http://www.tale.edu.au/tale/live/global/DERNSW/laptops.jsp? (there is 1000’s of other digital learning objects in TaLe but you need to be a DETNSW teacher to log in)
– 6m Direct to schools for action learning projects, relief and professional learning specific to DERNSW (this is in addition to existing PL budgets) for the 09/10 year
– 2.3m to Regions to support schools for the 09/10 year
– First roll out of teacher laptops was as far away from students laptops as we could possibly make it (without federal political imperative would have been longer) with a another teacher roll out this year.

The program delivering this is lead by a School Educational Director and comprised of Principals, Head Teachers and Teachers working very closely with IT. It goes without saying we have a very strong focus on teaching and learning.

For an educational perspective watch this: http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Cli/Download.aspx?resID=9186&v=1&preview=true

Ben

Me:

@Ben Thanks for posting the links to the work being done by the NSW Govt. I’ve taken a look and can see that a lot of time and effort has gone into this. My concern is that teachers aren’t learning how to develop Personal Learning Networks for themselves and making the connections with other educators who are on the same learning curve. To me, understanding the full potential of learning with laptops is understanding the connective environment that is enabled with this tool. It’s the people behind the screens who make learning interesting, and connecting with other educators and students can lead to very powerful learning opportunities. I may not have stumbled on it, but I didn’t see any reference or link to networks of educators like ‘The Future of Education Ning’ ‘Classroom 2.0 Ning’ The English Companion Ning’ etc or reference to Australian classroom practitioners who are writing about what they are doing in their classrooms to make experiences like this happen. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) We need our teachers to be able to find people they can talk to. They can do this by engaging in discussion threads on nings or leaving comments on blogs. They can experience the effectiveness of learning this way first hand if they realise these networks exist. It may well be they will have to be led to them. If they begin to understand they can learn this way then we will see teachers begin to understand how they can make opportunities like this possible for the students they teach.

Ben:

Jenny/Jim
You both raise similar issues, the PLNs both virtually and physically are being setup by the regions (we are 540+ schools across 801600sq/km this is not easily done centrally). The 10 regions are setting up networks and online collaboration spaces (mostly using Sharepoint or similar). The regions are running a variety of programs including KLA workshops, action learning projects, light house schools, technology leaders, etc. As in other big education systems around the world teachers use the tools available to them to develop their networks as they see fit.

An internal Blog tool is under trial now and will be rolled to all teachers and students that includes a media library and is integrated with our active directories so students and teachers can be added with ease. Following this roll out (a lot quicker as all the hardwork will be done) is a Wiki tool and an online collaboration tool similar to Google Docs called eBackpack giving students cloud based storage. (more info: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/strat_direction/schools/ccp/index.htm)

For more detail on specific laptop pedagogy (the https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html is more focused at the school leadership level) this http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/leading_my_faculty/index.htm is a really powerful resource that focuses on the needs of key learning areas at the Teacher and Head Teacher Level.

Me:

@Ben Based on my experiences with Sharepoint, I’m figuring that hosting blogs and wikis in there will mean they are of a walled garden variety; locked to members only? This approach (if that is how it is going to work, and please, correct me if I am mistaken)goes against the kind of thinking displayed by thinkers like Stephen Heppell and Mark Pesce, both who feature as links for teachers to listen to in the NSWDET links you have posted. Where’s the opportunity for a global audience?

Ben hasn’t had the opportunity to reply as yet so I may find myself better informed tomorrow. If so, I will update this post. It’s an interesting discussion, and there are other comments in the thread on Wes Fryer’s post that you should take a look at.

So, that’s what’s been occupying my time. Connecting does take time, but the learning that happens fires those brain neurons.

Working together 2 make a difference finds its way into print

Buffalo_News_Life_-_Newspaper_article

What a nice surprise greeeted me via Skype this morning. Angela Stockman sent me the link to the above newspaper article about her daughter Laura and Working together 2 make a difference.

It was written by Sarah Hanson, a freshman at Alden High who is a member of the site. Sarah has captured the motivation of the site very well in her article and I want to thank her for identifying it as something worthy of sharing with a wider audience. My students are going to be thrilled to see some of their comments highlighted in the article.

Mike Fisher created a Wordle of the article and noted that it captured the intentions of the site really well in its representation. I couldn’t agree more.

Wordle_working_together_2_make_a_difference

If there is something that I hope is lasting from my foray into this online world, then I hope it is Working together 2 make a difference. I like the space; it is welcoming, supportive and has good intentions. If you haven’t been there, please visit and consider joining. You’ll find there passionate educators who have a desire to impart the value of service learning to their students.

Thank you Sarah for giving Working together 2 make a difference a profile that’s a little higher than what it had yesterday. It is very much appreciated.

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Why Ning needs an ad free education platform.

I love Ning. I really do.

I’m just not all that happy with them right now.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I started a Ning for our Yr 9 English classes in February this year. It’s been fantastic. A true learning community has formed and it’s become embedded into the fabric of our Yr 9 curriculum. I’m loving the engagement that is possible and the way I can connect with students who aren’t in my actual class. Just tonight I was showing it to parents at our Parent Teacher night. All were impressed and could see the benefits to student learning that this environment promoted. I asked Ning to remove the ads before the students had even joined and they were happy to oblige.

I also help to run Working together 2 make a difference, a Ning site that encourages educators to come together to share their experiences with service learning projects. Once again, I asked Ning to remove the ads and once again, they were happy to oblige.

Last week I had a moment to savour. Yr 9 students who actively engage in our English Ning came to see me to see if I could help them set up a Ning for their Sleepout 4 Schools initiative. They’d figured out that Ning was the best platform for them to engage the wider community in what they are doing.  Sleepout 4 Schools is a school project involving our Yr 9 students; they are holding a fundraiser for our school community on May 22nd in an attempt to raise some money for Daraja Academy and the Bal Ashram in India. The students are working very hard to plan an evening where we will sleepover at school, have fun, skype with Mark Lukach hopefully and raise some money that will help to make a difference.

We set the Ning up. They are working as administrators of the Ning as well and are excited about the possibilities. They are trying to engage other surrounding schools in this service learning and are using the Ning as a tool for connecting. I asked Ning to take the ads off.

They didn’t oblige.   

And so began the email process of me asking (begging really) and them denying.  Our most recent email correspondance saw me ask this;

 Dear Ning team,

Sorry to continue to dispute this, but it is a direct part of our program and is a vital ingredient in the teaching of our students. We are endeavouring to have our students create positive digital footprints for themselves in safe and ethical ways. Having ads that display free video chats for girls is not what I feel is a good advertisement encouraging safe and ethical use. If you look at the domain names of the members they are all students from our school. We are trying to encourage global involvement with other schools to have them participate as well.

Can I please ask you to reconsider once again.

 

Reply from Ning was this;  

 

 

Dear Jenny,

 

 

Thanks for the follow-up. Once again, while we definitely respect what you’re doing, this simply isn’t covered by what our program is offering. You’re still welcome to purchase the Go Ad-Free premium service, and you can find more details here: 

http://help.ning.com/cgi-bin/ning.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=3547&p_created=1233612091 

Best, 

 

The Ning Team 

 

 Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to understand how Sleepout for Schools differs from the intentions of the Yr 9 English Ning and Working together 2 make a difference. It’s a school project, set up by and for students. It’s about EDUCATION.    

Wikispaces and other Wiki creation companies are friendly to K – 12 education. You don’t have to request that ads be removed; they trust that if you tick that box saying it’s for K – 12 use it will be and a Wiki is provided ad free.   

Ning is offering an amazing platform that can be utilised so well in education. Please, those of you making decisions at Ning, think about offering a service for education that will encourage users to explore its potential. We need an ad free service; one that won’t expose students to inappropriate ads that make it hard for us to justify the use of what is an excellent resource in school settings.  

 

 

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Spreading the word to stop the word.

Retarded.

It’s a word with strong connotations.

I used to hear that word a lot when I was a kid. At school you’d hear it bandied around. “You’re retarded”, was something I remember people flipantly directing at team members when playing sport.

I don’t hear it so much now, but I’m not ten or twelve and hooning around a school playground. The Special Olympics organisation don’t like the word and have designated March 31st as ‘Spread the word to stop the word’ day. You can visit the site they have set up for this purpose and pledge your support.     

I know that I have certainly impressed upon my children the importance of recognising difference and respecting the feelings of others. I do the same with the children I teach. If you write a blog, get a post up today in support of this cause and do something to help eliminate  the use of the ‘R’ word.  

Laura Stockman is running a blog carnival today in support of this cause. If you do write a post, visit her blog and leave a comment letting her know that you have helped out.

Daraja Academy opens its doors

Mark Lukach edited this video showing the students from Daraja Academy in Kenya. He wanted to capture the energy of the school and i think he’s done a great job doing that. The school opened its doors three weeks ago to 26 girls from Kenya who otherwise would not have received an education. Congratulations go to Jason and Jennie Doherty who packed up everything in San Francisco and moved to Kenya to help realise this dream.

This is one of the reasons our Year 9 students are excited about starting planning for Sleepout for Schools, an idea they have cultivated to help raise money to support Girl’s education in Kenya and India. Watch the video and I’m sure you will see good reason for involvement in supporting such a cause. They are planning a sleepout at our school on May 22nd and participants will be seeking sponsorship with the aim of raising money to support a worthy cause like Daraja.

On that note, think about joining with us. We would love to see other schools collaborate with us, Mark Luckach’s school in San Francisco and Daraja Academy in Kenya. Daraja means bridge, and this is all about building bridges of support. Come and form part of that bridge with us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Daraja Academy opens its doors“, posted with vodpod

 

Sleepout for Schools

We had a great meeting with some of our Yr 9 students during the week to see if there was enough interest to get a fundraising activity organised to support Daraja Academy in Kenya (see Mark Lukach’s page here and blog posts as well as Jabiz Raisdana’s) and the Bal Ashram in India.

(View of the Daraja Academy campus)

Well support there is! Our students were enthusiastic and buzzing with ideas. What they’ve decided to do is to hold a Sleepout for Schools. The night will be Friday May 22nd. The idea is to sleep overnight at school and seek sponsorship for doing so. On the night it’s anticipated we will run some activities for both parents and students that will probably have a fundraising component too.

We’d love to see other school communities get involved. If they do, we would love to Skype with them so that we can gain an appreciation of what could be the global nature of this effort. If you want to get involved post a comment here and we’ll start making some connections. Join Working together 2 make a difference and you can post your experiences there.  This could be exciting for all of us.

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School’s out Friday

This is ‘Lost Generation’, and it was second place getter in the ARRP U@50 competition. According to its creator, it is based on the Argentinian Political Advertisement “The Truth” by RECREAR.     

My friend Nina discovered it a couple of weeks ago and uploaded it to Working together 2 make a difference. (Which, by the way, is starting to take off. I am really excited by the activity and service learning projects that are forming there. Please take a look and get involved if you think it might be good for your students.)

This week my husband dicovered it and suggested it for School’s out Friday. It’s very clever, and excellent for class discussion I think. I’ve uploaded it to our Yr 9 ning  and am hoping to use it in class next week. Those of you who teach young people will know, like I do, that they majority of them reflect the representation depicted in the second stage of the video. 

While you’re at it, check out Nina’s blog. She’s two months in, has received a swag of hits and is making connections for her prep students. All really good stuff.

 Hope the weekend treats you well.

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