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 Take a look at Dennis Harter’s post on U Tech Tips about “Is the term 21st Century out of date?”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.

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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