Friday, 28 March 2008

What to write?

It has been a sad few weeks since my last post. The situation with Al Upton and his mini-legends drags on and because we are in holidays, little has been resolved. In a skype conversation with Al and Sue Waters and Anne Murchison, he was understandably dispirited. It is such a blow to someone who is a devoted professional, such a slight to his good judgement of what is safe and appropriate for his students- in consultation with parents that it is.What concerns me greatly is that Al should not be the pinup boy for this cause. There are so many of us attempting to wrestle with the new technology, with a new way of seeing ourselves as educators that Al should not be bearing the brunt of all this considerable backlash in the light of the hysteria generated by the media about fears of 'The Internet'.I know if it were me facing such a questioning of my judgement, I would have given up and run-I am not of the same strong stuff as Al, but it is an issue that has to be dealt with and government departments and schools and parents cannot hide their heads in the sand and hope it will go away. It won't.
The picture I have added to this post is my attempt to finally respond to the Passion Quilt meme started by Miguel Guhlin.
What is my passion in teaching? To help students to find their own voice in writing and to glow with pride and happiness when they write.The lights are on in so many classes, students are starting to be heard, but it is decisions like that of the Sth Australian dept of Education that make it seem a very distant possibility to have classes where students can raise their voices beyond the small pond of the class and doing busy work for the teacher, to actually engage in writing for real authentic tasks to a wide audience.
It is interesting that when I started to write this post, I felt I had little of value to say. I have been reading some of the blogs mentioned in Clay Burell's post about favorite blogs and felt I had so much to learn and nothing to add to the discussions which are flowing past me on twitter all the time. Maybe I have little of great academic worth to contribute, but I feel better for exploring what has made me feel so down all week.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

21st century Learners? 21st century Teachers ?

This seems to be a video collecting day! This one I found on the Classroom 2.0 site and follows on from the 'Did you Know?'one. I will show this at a staff meeting too if I can. Thanks to Adeline Silva who posted the video.

Digital Literacy education - something to think about

A really thought provoking video about digital literacy and it claims we are actually ahead of the game here in Australia ! Fantastic. Thanks to for such a great discussion starter.

Friday, 14 March 2008

The train moves on....

I haven't been at the keyboard blogging for a while but that doesn't mean things aren't happening. Sometimes I have a whole set of things on the go that come together at a certain time and it is time to write. This has been a positive week in many ways .
My year 8 bloggers are all writing more confidently and in a more sustained way and bubbling with enthusiasm when we have a blogging lesson. Many are doing lots of extra entries at home and are really proud of their blogs.I am trying to make it fun and they are able to have some input into what the posts are about. As time passes hopefully the tasks will involve deeper thinking and reflection and exploration of ideas, but for now confidence is building!
Unfortunately there has been some disappointing news; one student had his blog hacked by someone who knew his password. I found the damage and dumped the blog and we were able to find who did it and deal with them. It was initially a moment of disappointment for me and the student involved, but also a 'teachable moment' where he realised the importance of a unique password for the blog. As he is the most techno-savvy student in the class, it was interesting for him to see how he was opening himself up to problems with some of his silly mates. He now has a new blog and we move on, but we had a good class discussion on the issue.
On another continent however a teacher has lost his job for having a link to a personal blog on the class blog. He had to resign and this has been a great concern and disappointment among twitterers this week.The reactions of his students were really heartfelt and I hope that he can move on and see it as a learning experience too ,no matter how hurt and bruised he may feel at the moment.
As I write, a teacher in Adelaide Australia, Al Upton,has been instructed by his department to shut down his student blogs after organising to have adult educator bloggers - including me- be mentors and readers of their blogs. He is shattered and the discussion and dismay on twitter is quite powerful and disturbing.This new technology is not going to go away, and this teacher is trying to teach these kids how to live in the tech-rich world safely but instead of being recognised for his pioneering efforts , he is pilloried. Change comes so slowly and at times it is almost imperceptible, but I believe it does happen- it must.
On a happier note my network continues to build and the screencast above is from a trial session of Twiddla. I have enrolled for the Constructivist conference in San Antonio before NECC and have paid my deposit for the trip. On Wednesday I hope to go to a conference /demo session at Coburg Senior Secondary college to see a fully linked school using macs and lots of integrated software. I will take photos.I am also going to the ICTEV annual conference which should be really interesting as it is all about success stories using IT.
The final thing I want to reflect on is a post by Tom Barrett about his use of twitter to tech the idea of probability to grade 5's in Wales. His post about his lesson on a global scale just blew me away and I have been trying to explain it to others all day, with many bored or confused expressions on peoples faces in response. Ah well the train goes on. I WILL keep trying.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The teachers are really sitting in the desks in front of me

So here I am sitting reading blogs that my year eight students are doing and one - Penny- happens to mention she has done some videos and posted them on Youtube. Ok, Lets have a look and there they are - a whole series of 'Vegetable Patch' shorts that are gradually more and more skilled and technically amazing.This one is the Christmas Edition and she is apparently working on a new series with limpets. She is such a talent- she should be teaching the class and I think that I will suggest it to her if she is interested. Please go and have a look at what she is doing - she is pigeonsrcool - well I think young Penny at 14 years old is already very very cool.Go Penny!!!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A mix of bits and bobs that make a geek?

Thanks to Paul Harrington I found this great example of collaborative work explaining and demonstrating Google Docs. Yes i know I am way behind with this one as it was done last year, but as they say , it is just in time learning for me and I am ready to try it out. Jo Mcleay and I have discussed creating a doc which has a repository of our ideas for blog posts for our classes.We both have year 8 classes and Jo and my colleague Pam both have Year7 ones and we are at two different schools, so it is a way for Jo to teach Pam and I.We are all using 21 classes as our platform this year as it seems to have less issues with my school firewalls than Edublogs does.
I started two weeks ago and now everyone is registered and it is going sooo well! All the research and writing about blogging is playing out before my eyes. The class is having a ball and many are starting to realise they have a voice and even the really nerdy boys are writing to me about their games world. I have some serious World of Warcraft addicts in the class, but they are happily writing detailed explanations of their games for me as well as the four posts I have requested. I am suggesting some posts and asking for their ideas as well. Some have played with 'Rockyou" and Animoto others with Imagechef doing mashups. They have written poetry, told jokes,commented thoughtfully and I am having to keep up with the increasing flow of entries for approval- which is really no effort at all- it is a joy! I keep trying to show my colleagues but they are all so busy that it seems an imposition on their time.I have been asked to run a follow up class on blogging after the one I mentioned in a recent post so maybe I'll be able to get some people having a go. Pam is interested and brave enough to actually try it with her Year 10 class as reflective journals on 'To Kill A Mockingbird'- go Pam!

After struggling to manage with a computer with no video card, I dropped an exercise book on my keyboard and the 'i' and 'o' keys popped off. This made for an entertaining weekend of incomprehensible and amusing - at times- tweets. The serviceman was called finally- I would have to do without it for an hour!!!- and he found a crack in the baseboard. The keys were fixed and he returned the next day with a new motherboard and a baseboard. This gives me an almost new computer I guess which is great and I am getting more RAM and a good webcam this weekend from our brilliant IT techy at school. The point of this is that the above photo is my old motherboard- I took the photo with the camera in my phone and emailed it to myself. Sounds ho hum I know but a first for me and I loved seeing all the insides of the computer and the serviceman was very patient explaining the bits to me. Only small amounts of cat hair had actually got in- bad luck Max and Nikki.

My third WOW of the week as the gals would say on their podcast is an off the cuff trial of Tokbox. Jo has blogged about it but a six person video and sound feed done from a couple of call out tweets is pretty impressive. Certainly the bandwidth was a problem as we added people, but it was wonderful to see faces, hear voices and generally have a play with new apps. The screencast - another new thing I am mastering slowly- is of four of us using it. No whiteboard or chat room, but real people, real voices real time and three states and NZ as well. Not Bad for a late Sunday night bit of fun!!!