Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A key to getting things going

Me being starstruck at NECC with Kevin Honeycutt

Kevin's Keychain -what a great idea!!

Finally school has finished on what could only be described as a year of real ups and downs for me and the school. We have been going through a huge rebuilding and re-organisation programme at my school and the last few weeks of school were incredibly difficult with effectively only one third of the school available for use. The projects are huge and we are starting to see the finished product as we pack our bags for the long break.

In this climate of change, many find the process unnerving and the usual shedding of staff, non renewal of contracts, interviews, departures has really taken it toll on staff morale. The last week has been an attempt to heal some of this and look towards next year with hope. Meetings, planning and general unwinding have been a major part of the last week of school.

My year's highlight would have to be NECC and though the school has not asked me to present about my trip, I want to do something to create change. With so many other things happening it has not really been given a time on the school calendar, but with the reality of lots more computers in the school next year and my job as the head of curriculum for year 8, this was an opportunity to do some training of staff. I offered the opportunity to staff to come and have a sandpit session and try some new tools and said the session was voluntary.

The humour that has been required to survive around school lately was really needed on the day- the door the library was blocked by huge cranes lifting out classrooms and we had to enter by a back entrance. The whole session was one I had thought about for quite a while. I was extremely nervous about it - people feel so confronted by tec hnology and I didn't want to add to the problem.
I had been inspired by Kevin Honeycutt's presentation at NECC where he had used the simple prop of a keychain with a tag for each application or software that he covered in an inservice. These tags are laminated and have the link and a note about what the software is for on the back. They can go on the keyring he provides and the collection can be neverending- just like the learning involved. As Kevin says,'Teacher's love to collect things and if they are laminated they don't throw them out'.

This all sounded fine and then on a WOW 2.0 interview Kevin provided a link to his template and I downloaded it. Many of the apps on his template are great but some I wasn't going to use and some I would use weren't on there. So I had to learn Excel very fast and created seven new tags. These then had to be printed and stuck together, cut out and laminated. I found some cheap carabiners for them to use as the holders and after many hours of cutting and hole punching I took my self doubt and my packets of tags to the classroom. My dear friend Pam came along to help and although there were only eight staff who took up the offer, it was a great start to learning for me - how to deal with all the usual issues with adult learners - and for them.

I started with showing them 'Did You Know' and 'Pay Attention' on Teacher tube and then got them to make and account and favourite those two vids. Most had never done any of these things! I showed them where the embed codes were and said we would use these later.

Then we had a look at 'Searchme' a really beautiful visual search engine and Silobreaker which is a topic based news aggregator. After we had done these three I gave out the first sets of tags and instead of guffaws I had lots of delight and wows ! Those who had been taking notes relaxed and started to explore because they knew they could come back late and find what they wanted.

We moved on to getting a gmail account and some had done Google docs with me and I showed those who hadn't what it could do. Then we started individual blogs using blogger- none had done any of this before. First entry included uploading a photo . Then for the second entry they had to find a video on their subject area from teacher tube and get the embed code and upload it.

This process was about where we had a break. After the break I showed them Voicethread and got some started on that and also Animoto. By the end of the morning all had a blog and were happily blogging, embedding and uploading away. Several were starting to produce their own content. Most had eight new tags for their keyrings and could say they felt confident to do this on their own. My challenge to them was to ask them to be my assistants when I did this with the whole staff and most said they could!

So my reflections
- the small group was a blessing and having Pam and tech support person Euan Bradley as helpers was essential.
- the keytags idea really works! People are grateful for something given to them and the fact it is a handy prompt to remember the learning and to show what they did is fantastic
- this was a tricky group - almost minimal users and mostly older women, but they came and tried and were telling me what they had done next day. They were supporting each other and it was fun!
- the sandpit idea was good -come along and try at your own speed
- my main focus was 'How could you use this in your classes?' We could have done more apps but the conversations around this question were fantastic and for a group of tired out folk who just wanted to rest- I take my hat off to their professionalism and enthusiasm.
What Next?
Do it again with the next who are willing to come. The videos set the tone and focused people's minds on the task,
Have help to answer the questions.
Make lots of keytags- people want their one!!!
Go on to wikispaces,nings, social bookmarking , google readers, twitter- maybe an in-school one using yammer?, using the flip videos to create content themselves, movie maker ...
My list will go on and perhaps a wiki of what we do would be good- something like the 23 things site as challenge with lots of support and a list of go-to people for support... I am on a roll here!

Looks like I will be making lots of keytags ... thanks Kevin!!!

Here is the link for the template again -http://iconnectilearn.ning.com/forum/topics /2084620:Topic:6146 Please note you have to be a member of Ning to enter this site and the template is available in pdf , excel and numbers formats

Sunday, 14 December 2008

How does our role as teacher change?

Thanks to Ali Hall who had noted this video by John Travers about the notation of students work using a bookmarking service such as Diigo.I love Diigo as it combines the best of many other tools on one site but I am not so sure about the kind of use John is describing is one I would rush into with high school students, probably more with tertiary ones. To me the business of commenting on blogs is still hard- I am forever wishing I was better at commenting and being able to write reflective and useful points, but my brain struggles to think of anything apart from the mundane in response to blogs and I feel I let the kids down in this area. This video seems however to make the commenting process even more separated from the personal relationship which the classroom provides. Blogging is a step away from the personal, but also opens up the process to peers in the class and others outside. This idea as shown in the video to me seems something maybe appropriate for senior classes or tertiary work. What do you think?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

City of Books

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

Found this piece of amazing creativity through Skelta 63. This one is authored by 4th Estate , but the videos there on the site are quite delightful.Here is another one by college humour, the group which made Font conference that i posted earlier. This is so clever , especially if you are an ex(almost) windows user like me

Thursday, 11 December 2008

My Wordle

Frances Baker's Wordle

My daughter has a blog about film and fashion and life and so I thought I would show her wordle . She thought it was interesting that the words were emphasised but it wasn't 'cool' enough for her so here it is.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

All about the people

The most exciting thing that has happened to me in awhile has been that Judy O'Connell has nominated my blog for the Eddies as a Best New Blog. Unfortunately I didn't make the final list, but just being nominated was such a boost. I have been thinking what I wanted to write about to respond to this and I have tried to start a post several times. Blogging less lately and mostly just putting up new gadgets or sites makes me feel that perhaps I am not really blogging in the sense that Will Richardson has challenged us about on the PLP project- sorry can't link to this one it is a private ning. I seem to just be collecting ideas and information. The more thoughtful and detailed posts I see on the other nominees blogs are so powerful and make me think- 'gee I wish I could put the ideas together like that'.

But really that isn't who I am and if I did an analysis of my site using typelizer I think it would reflect the kind of connector and accumulator I am. I connect- ideas , people whatever. Not on a grand scale, but a colleague says she is always so amazed how I see the Big Picture on things and I guess I have to honest that I am happiest skipping from new idea to new idea and thinking how I could apply it or passing it on to someone at school or nowadays to my PLN using delicious or diigo. It is those connections that have me glued to my computer in a way that nothing else has absorbed me and made me feel like I am growing more than I have for a long time.

Why am I writing this? Two social gatherings and one flashmeeting have made me realise how vital and exciting these links are when you actually meet the people to whom you have connected for some time. A Blogger's feast at Southbank last week gave me the chance to meet some people I have only known online and it was soo exciting. As I tried to explain in the OZ/NZ flashmeeting tonight, you don't have to go through the usual social niceties- you are already friends and the time f2f is so precious that you value every moment. At the same table we had people from four different states of Australia-all behaving as friends who just hadn't caught up for awhile. Magic!!

On Saturday I had a blogger's Lunch at my house for edubloggers- a bit nerve wracking as it wasn't very clear from all the yes/no/maybe tweets that came in for a week beforehand how many I would be catering for. But the sun shone, the garden looked beautiful and the folks arrived. The previous post has a slideshow of the photo session and we had skype and a ustream going for awhile, but the fun was in the people. The range of experience and interest in the group was huge- I haven't done links as there are too many, but we were all laughing about the things we do that we wouldn't necessarily tell other non-bloggers. Maybe it was AA for bloggers, but the conversations were great - even from teachers who had just finished the gruelling report writing marathon.

Yes the PLN gives me ideas, gives me support, gives me the drive to keep trying and keep learning. The nomination is lovely, but the people are the centre of this - not computers or software, - people trying to make sense of the world and to try to be better helpers for young people whose future world starts now.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A Lunch of edubloggers...... Dec O8

Sue Waters comes to Melbourne so a lunch is held!! Four seasons in a day - crazy weather but great company and a lovely time.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Glogster and Capzle - two really top tools!!

Jo McLeay sent out a plurk saying she was looking at Glogster for Education. I have a look at Glogster before and felt it wasn't really something I could make use of, but on the main page was a link to these glogs about Schindler's List from a New Zealand school's wiki. Thanks to the great teachers at Katikati College. Can I make use of these? You bet !! What a sensational way of engaging students for ways of reading text!! Lenva Shearing is using them with her kids at Bucklands Beach and I will definitely be doing the same!

The second really fascinating and highly useable site that I have found through my PLN lately is Capzle It is an absolute treasure trove of ideas for presentation- reminds me a bit of Searchme and some of the time line creating products that have been around lately. Capzle is terrific- combines all sorts of media and provides a medium to link a wide range of forms of information into a very smooth whole. Thanks Tanya Sheko for the blog post!