We need some support!

 Anne Mirtschin, a teacher at Hawkesdale P12 College, in country western Victoria, Australia, has just posted about another Australian Blog closure. It seems that an early childhood centre blog has been asked to close due to photographic content being in the public domain. This comes a week or so after Al Upton’s mini-legends were shut down in Adelaide. Anne makes some very apt comments re our responsibities as educators to have our students learn to become effective digital citizens;

“will we continue to ’see the world through the eyes of predators and other minority unsavoury characters’ and force our students to learn independently the traps that may be out there waiting for them, or will we stand up and fight for our children and students, and teach them how to live in a rich and rewarding global world giving, them the knowlegde and ‘know-how’  for avoiding, protecting from and dealing with such ill-characters, should the need arise. Many of our students are already using these web2.0 tools at home and we must prepare and instruct them for this world that they live in and for future digital citizenship that they will all experience in the future.”

I agree with your sentiments entirely Anne. I teach in the secondary sector and there is no doubt that our students are actively engaged and already have an online presence. Isn’t it better that we guide our students and help them learn to navigate this digital climate in a safe and responsible manner? I can, however, understand concerns parents and teaching bodies have about the use of student images and full names online, particularly in the pre-teen years.

This is why I think it would be great to be supported by our State Governments and teaching associations. Perhaps it is now obvious that the need has arisen for policy statements that schools could have access to to support them in their endeavours to create these type of rich learning experiences for our students. I think that’s what’s needed – support from higher bodies that would then give schools and individual teachers the confidence to move forward with teaching strategies reflective of our 21st century world.

What’s really interesting is how international schools address blogging. I’ve been in talks with a teacher from Shanghai – at their school no parent permission forms for blogging exist. According to the teacher I’ve been talking to, the parents see the value of blogging from how their children interact with their blogs and they enjoy being able to have access and insight into what their children are doing. This was a recent discussion point on SOS podcast with Jeff Utecht who works at the Shanghai school I’ve referred to. Hopefully here in Australia we will start to hear more of the success stories with no more closures. 

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. 

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.