Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/28/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/27/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, 26 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/26/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/25/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/24/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, 23 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/23/2011

  • IT IS 40 years since American computer engineer Ray Tomlinson put the @ into email addresses, triggering a communications revolution that would forever change the way we correspond. Yet email now faces a mid-life crisis as young people turn to newer forms of communication, such as Facebook and Twitter.

  • Are you ready to bring social networking to your classroom? If you’re looking to make your classroom more relevant, connected, and meaningful to your students, it’s the best place to start. Study after study has confirmed the benefits of networking

    tags: classroom social media

  • It means my classroom is a place where my students spend time piecing together what they have learned, critically evaluating its larger purpose, and reflecting on their own learning. It also means my students don’t acquire knowledge just for the sake of acquiring it. They need to do something with it — that’s where “project-based” comes into play.

    tags: english edtech web2.0 technology education tools literacy

  • Since the earliest days of Google Earth, many have viewed it as an amazing tool to use in the classroom - and they're right! We first showed some educational uses for Google Earth more than five years ago, and since then we've seen great uses from Duke University and StrataLogica, among others.

    tags: google earth Google_Earth

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

My Daily Bookmarks 12/22/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Thomas The Tankengine and #pencilchat - is it ok if you don't notice change?

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by dullhunk

So I was sitting there on a Sunday morning as tired as could be.  Miss 2 hasn't quite grasped onto the concept of weekend sleep in's yet.  I was up at 5:30am and feeling pretty tired.  It was around 9:30am and Thomas The Tankengine came onto ABC4Kids.  My two kids love this channel and it is an easy way for them to be entertained and be quiet.  Mr 5 was into Thomas a little bit when he was younger but I think that I enjoyed it more.  I used to love model trains when I was a kid and think that this is the reason that I loved watching the Fat Controller order those naughty trains around.  But this morning, something blew my mind: Thomas started talking......then the Fat Controller did as well!  This was anarchy!  What the heck was going on?  I asked "How long has this been going on for? Thomas shouldn't talk!"  Mr 5 responded with "He talks now daddy sometimes."  I didn't like this answer and it actually made me feel very uncomfortable.  I liked Thomas how I liked him.  Why did the change him?  Were they changing him for change sake or was there a good reason behind it? 

On Friday evening, as I was laying in bed, my twitter stream started to get taken over by something called #pencilchat.  At first, I was very confused.  Why were all of these people who I respected and followed to help increase my digital pedagogy going on about pencils?  After about five minutes, I realsied that it was humorous and people were taking the 'micky' out of stuff.  I then searched the tag and was amazed to find the volume of tweets being contributed around the world on this topic.  Educators were going off.  It was actually trending worldwide for a long time and it was a constant source of humour for me over the weekend.
So by now you are problary wondering what the heck I am going on about.  #pencilchat started as a humours annecdote which went viral.  Whilst people were happy sharing jokes etc, after about 18 hours, I came to a realisation - educators around the world are frustrated about the speed of change that is occuring.  Then this morning after my Thomas episode, I thought to myself "Does it really matter if a change occurs and you don't notice it?"  Thomas is still on the Island of Soundur and doing great, and my personal preferences towards the old Thomas shouldn't matter.  He is happy and content with his change.  I was upset at first because I felt that I was out of the loop in regards to the change.  Nobody asked me from BBC my opinion on this change.

Then I started to think about my pedagogy and how it how changed.  Some things have been a massive change whilst others I haven't even noticed.  I am happy and hopefully doing a great job.  This should be the main thing - I shouldn't be stressing about the fact that I didn't notice change occurring   

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Relationships with students in a student driven learning environment

Every year at McDowall at this time, past student come back and visit.  It is not a compulsory thing but it is a bit of a tradition that has grown over the years.  This is my third year at McDowall and in the past week, I have had 12 emails from students telling me that they are on holidays and can't come in and 10 student visits so far.  The kids think that they are pretty cool and it is always great to see them.

This morning, I had a visit from two of my girls from my class from last year.  These two girls are really good kids and generally achieve pretty good academic results.  They will not be brain surgeons when they grow up but they will be productive members of society.  In short, they are great girls who I enjoyed working with last year - the sort of kids who make it worth getting up in the morning when you feel awful.

So they organised a time with me earlier in the week and they snuck into the room this morning.  I didn't notice them and was pleased to see that they had grown into terrific young ladies.  After I got the kids started  on something, I had a really good conversation with them.  They both are going to the same high school (I won't mention the name but it is not an EQ school) and when we got talking, they had some interesting observations.  The thing that stuck with me the most was this statement "Mr Proud, you took an interest in us and tried to cater to our needs," said one of them.  When I asked them to explain what they meant by that, there response was just as fantastic "You always tell us to make the most of everyday because you will never ever have it again.  I feel that some of my teachers don't make the most of everyday.  We have to learn the way that they want to teach because it is easy for them." I then went on to explain that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and I got cut off "You always said it was all about us and our needs.."  I didn't really have an answer for that because I agreed with her 100%

So how can we continue to foster relationships with students?  I feel that it is not hard to take an interest in your kids.  You will notice that I often refer to my students as my kids.  I do this on purpose.  I truly do believe that they are my responsibility and I try and treat them the way that I would like my own little terrors to be treated.  But why do kids feel such a disconnect with teachers?  Is it our fault or should we blame the easy target - the child? Do we have to be more aware of this in the 21st century?  I am not sure about the answer to that one.

Do bloggers have a responsibility to respond to comments?

This is an interesting topic that I have been struggling to get my head around properly lately.  As somebody who is on a blogging crusade, I love it when people comment on my blogs but I rarely write anything in reply back to them.  My thoughts are that this is a very inequitable system.  A reader has taken the time to leave a comment and I feel that if I don't give them the time to respond to their comment, I am actually undervaluing there contribution to my learning.  I have blogged about this before but still I continue to struggle with it.  The more I think about it, the angrier I get with myself.  It is actually very disrespectful to not even take the time to thank a person who has left a comment with an acknowledgement of thanks or a response.  By responding to a comment, we can continue to add value to the post and a possibility of discussion could continue on and thoughts / ideas could be fostered.

Am I totally off base with this?  Would love to hear your thoughts and I promise to respond!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Does technology really empower learners to journey beyond just content?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Subspace

The other day, I had our parent meeting for next years year seven students who will be entering the 1-1 laptop program here at McDowall State School.  My awesome (I better suck up just in case he ever reads this!) deputy principal stood up and talked a lot about the administration side of the program.  Parents had lots of issues with insurance, bags, transport etc.  Whilst these issues are of vital importance, it isn't exactly the most riveting and stimulating thing to engage with.

I then stood up and spoke to the parents about various things and one of the statements that I made is that technology is a vehicle that allows students to explore concepts deeply and think creatively.  It goes beyond the surface of learning and enables and empowers learners to go beyond the content and explore it in detail.  But does it really or am I just living in a fantasy world?

I think that in my classroom, it certainly does.  My kids are active participants in the learning cycle and not just passive recipients of information or 'I don't know' people.  They enquire, they explore, they think and they create.  I use technology as a tool that empowers my learners.  They go beyond the content and remix and add value.  But what concerns me is when I see educators just using technology as a replacement for doing what they have always done.  If you just 'word process' something instead of writing it, how is that enriching the lives of the students under your direction?  Sure it will keep them quiet and make your life a lot easier but why have you bothered.  It will make things look pretty (something that I am awful at) and they won't get sore wrists from copying copious amounts of notes from the board but is that enough?

I really think that we are on the cusp of change here in education.  I am sick and tired about hearing about 21st century learners needing 21st century methods.  We are almost 12% of the way through the 21st century.  It is time to change our pedagogy and inspire others do so as well.  If you are not keen to change and be inspired, you should go and work in a fish and chip shop!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Audacious Audacity.....It really Is Awesome!

Anything that is free is the right price for me.  Audacity is a great tool that I use regularly in my classroom to help my students gain an understanding of a certain concept or have them demonstrate what they know about a particular topic.  Here is a great video which gives you an overview of the basic functionality of this tool

So how have I used it in my classroom.  Before I went 1-1 (and I need to get back to this as well) I used to create a series of podcasts on particular topics that we were covering in class.  I would have the kids download the podcasts onto their devices and bring them into class when required.  It was a fantastic experience that the students certainly enjoyed.  One of the best ideas was one that one of my students implemented this year.  As I was explaining something, they were recording the audio of what I was saying.  Her logic was that she knew that she didn't understand this concept and she could go back later and look at her notes along with my audio.  It was a pretty impressive effort for a twelve year old kid.  I have also used Audacity to slice together our class radio show.  We had authentic audiences from all around the globe and the kids really looked forward to producing it each week.  After about week 2, I stepped back and left the totally production up to the students.  This is something that I want to dedicate more time to next year as well.

Overall, Audacity is a simple to use tool that gets the job done.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Robot Disco.....Saturday night fever!

As I have blogged about previously, one of the learning experiences that my students are undertaking is having a robot move to a specific piece of music within certain parameters.  In short, it is a robot disco.  The kids had a free choice to pick whatever piece of music that they wanted.

They started with some direction from the fabulous Nicola Flannagan and they have been cruising ever since.  I have never had any experience with robotics and it is a learning experience for me. Our school has some older robotics gear.  After some setbacks at the start (eg the old software wouldn't run on Windows 7) we have faced most issues head on and overcome them.

I will attempt to share some of the videos from the disco later on in the week.  Has it been a valuable learning experience?  My word is has.  The kids are forced to think mathematically, logically and creatively to solve problems.  As they face problems, they are required to work collaboratively to solve problems as I have absolutely no knowledge of how to solve the problems.  We basically said "Here is the gear kids, here is the task, go crazy!"  So far this strategy has been going well.  But the key question to ask is why is this strategy working?  I think that the answer is that the kids know that they have no 'back up plan' in myself.  I can't solve any problems as I don't have the knowledge to help them.  Watching the different learners use each others strengths has been insightful for me but I truly feel that the kids realise that I have no clue what I am doing and therefore they have to rely on each other to be creative and solve problems.

So how can I create more opportunities where I don't know 'diddly squat' about something and put the kids totally in charge of the learning journey?  It is an interesting notion and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

An amazing experience.....

As we wind down towards the end of the school year here at McDowall SS, we are all get a bit tired and ready for a holiday.  I am looking forward to visiting my holiday location.  We leave on the first Wednesday of our break and it should be fantastic.  As a year seven teacher, this is the most challenging time of the year.  The kids are already in 'I am to cool for primary school, get me out of here' mode.  I have never had huge problems but their behavior and work ethic slackens off a little bit.  If I am being truthful with myself, my effort kind of does as well.

Last night we had our 1-1 laptop meeting for next year and to be honest I arrived this morning feeling very flat and over things.  The weather here in BrisVegas is disgusting at the moment and I have been sleeping very poorly (I would use a stronger word but I am a very formal person and don't want to upset anybody)  I had a visit from one of my students from two years ago and she was collecting some work that she had done in the past that she wanted to use for an assignment.  We had been communicating back and forth about how she was going to get it.  She ended up just coming in and it was great to see her.  She was a fantastic kid, who just makes the world that she lives in a better place by her demeanor.  She came in at around 8:05am and left by 8:15am

So after 8:15am my crew starts to wander into the classroom.  As per normal I get the usual 'Good Mornings' etc and I usually can tune into conversations about Glee, homework, the latest playground gossip and who is going out with whom.  I usually ignore most of it, especially my boys talking about Minecraft.  Then I started to hear a conversation that one of my boys was having about something that he did last night and everybody was crowding around his machine.  This intrigued me because he is a pretty good kid and I hoped that he wasn't doing anything stupid.

Stealthily (or as stealthily as a 190cm 100kg man could be) I snuck up and crossed my fingers that they weren't doing anything dumb. As I glanced over their shoulders, I noticed that they were looking at Wikipedia.  My first thought was that it would be something like this but I was really surprised to find out that it wasn't.  Last night, one of my students created a Wikipedia page from scratch for our school.  When I asked him why he did it, his answer almost floored me "Mr Proud you are always going on about us adding value to the world and I was bored.  I thought that this would leave something of me behind that our school can use for ever and others can build upon and change."  It just totally blew me away!  I then started to look at the structure of the page.  "How did you come up with the structure?" I asked.  "I just looked at other schools pages and used their template," he responded.  Wow!  Then I noticed something that concerned me and it put me in a very awkward spot.  He had put the names of students who had leadership positions on the page.  Whilst this wasn't a huge deal, I was still a bit concerned as he didn't have parent permission.  When I mentioned this to him he response was just as awesome - "No problems Mr Proud, I will delete and edit them now!"

So that is how one student made my day.  Whilst it wasn't overly 'wizz bang fancy' like some of the other things that we have produced during the year, it is the one that I think has made the biggest impact on me.  Alan November would be very proud!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fakebook - I thought it was going to be awesome....

As I have blogged about many times before, I feel that having learners engaged in the learning process is an extremely important part of the learning process.  A happy and motivated learner will generally try and strive to achieve to their full potential.  When I stumbled upon Fakebook, I thought that some of my prayers had been answered.  Here was a tool that looked and felt like a tool that they were all familiar with and was easy to use.  An added bonus was it got through the filters and we were all set to go.

We were reading The Hobbit and the kids were really enjoying it.  We are still going (it is a huge book) and we will battle to get it finished by the 9th of December - the end of our school year.  My initial plan was to have the kids update their character profile after every period of reading the novel. Some thoughts on this task:

- The kids really enjoyed using the tool and found it quite simple due to its nativity to them.

- When I tried to get multiple kids on the tool at any one time, the server seemed to struggle.  I am not sure if that is a problem at my end.

- A lot of kids had trouble with their passwords.  They would update their profile and spend a lot of time doing it.  When it came time to save it, something would fail and all of the work that they had done was lost.

Overall I must admit to being a little bit underwhelmed.  I had grand hopes that this was going to be a very authentic and engaging experience for my kids and in some respects, it was.  I really enjoyed seeing how excited that the kids got by undertaking the task but the amount of setbacks dampened their attitude towards it.  The tool is free and that is always a bonus.  Would I use the tool again.......maybe or I would search for something very similar to it.  It is a great way to get the kids reflecting upon what they have read and I could see many cross curricula benefits in using it outside of novel studies.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

What does it mean to be literate in these times of abundance? #change11

In a blog post entitled A New Definition Of Literacy In An Age of Abundance  explore some interesting ideas.  One of these notions is a definition of what literacy is in the 21st century.  They state:

 “A person is literate when s/he can take part in, critique, deconstruct, interrupt and shape the dominant discourses and narratives in his or her local and in global contexts”.
Now I love it when academic folk bring in big words like dominant discourses.  It make me feel very inferior and very dumb, but I did enjoy reading the post.  I think I agree with the part of the quote about global contexts.  Having an understanding of the wider global community is an essential skill that a 21st century learner must possess in my opinion due to the connected nature of our environment in 2011.

Another reason that I enjoyed reading this post was the following statement that they made:

Are we merely content to teach students how to navigate the internet and Web 2.0 programs, or should we be teaching them to think critically about the limitations and hidden agendas?
Now we are starting to get something that I am passionate about.  There is to much focus in education put on the tool and not enough on the pedagogy that drives decisions.  As I say to my kids all of the time, It is not about the bling bling, it is about the learning sting! I think that as educators we need to have a more broad sweeping approach to 'doing techy stuff'.  But the key question that I think we need to get our students doing is asking themselves about the tools that they are using and why they are using them.  I feel that there needs to be more focus put on the decisions and thought processes behind it.  Until as a education universe we are not at this point, I feel that we will be paddling upstream quickly with no paddle.  Learners need to be empowered to makes and therefore improve their ability to make decisions.

So what does it mean to be literate in these times of abundance?  I feel that being literate in the 21st century requires students to be active participants in their learning cycle and critical analysiers of information due to the information overload that our students experience on a daily basis.  The ability to synthesis and ask questions is almost becoming a lost art form.  In my humble opinion, this is critical to students in the 21st century and the quicker that we grasp onto this concept, the better off our students will be.

A cheat post!

I just thought today I would share the presentation that I am giving to our parents on Wednesday night in regards to our 1-1 laptop program.

Is a lack of ICT skills an excuse for not embracing digital pedagogy?

This morning whilst I was procrastinating and trying to avoid writing report cards, I was engaged in a conversation via Twitter.  An interesting tweet from Ricky Pryce came across my stream.  He stated:

@ashleyproud there is pedagogy and ict skills can't have one with out the other and some people have neither
This really got me thinking.  I obviously agree with the second part of the tweet which stated that some people have neither in regards to digital pedagogy and ict skills.  But the first part got me thinking.  For a long time teachers have leaned on this crutch which is 'I can't DO ICT so therefore my kids can't use it either' thing.  It really annoys me.

But the key question is this - Can I have a culture of embracing digital pedagogy if I don't have the skills? My first thought was yes you can.  I embrace various digital tools / mediums within my classroom to empower my learners that I have no clue (and to be honest no desire) how to use.  But I guess that goes along with my beliefs about teaching: The learner is the most important thing in the journey and they should be able to embrace mediums that suit their learning needs.  But the more I thought about the initial question, the more confused I became.

I just don't know about this one.  I would love to hear your thoughts about it.  This one has really stumped me.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The ability to synthesis and question information: are we on the right track? #change11

As a part of my journey in Change11, I posted a blog post entitled Learning in a time of abundance.  Obviously the theme for this week is learning in a time of abundance and it was a reflective post on my thoughts on what I hope to get out of it.  Since I am the master of self promotion, I tweeted it out to my PLN and got an interesting response from GEvangelista.  Her response (I think it is a her) was:

 Some good points- over-abundence is an understatement! The ability 2 synthesise & question info is almost a lost art.
That got me thinking.  Obviously the part about the over abundance of information and information overload is something that we need to help our learners with but it caused me time to pause and reflect about the second part of our tweet.  I always say to my kids that the biggest thing that I want them to get out of their year with me is the ability to think and question.  But am I doing a good enough job?  Am I fostering questioning and inquiring enough within my learning environment?  Like all educators, I am sure that I could do a better job but overall I think that I do a reasonable job encouraging the inquiry process of learning.  I do it by actively having my students participate in the learning process.  They are not passive recipients of content and I do not accept students not justifying their opinions / answers.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Kids writing criteria sheets is entertaining

I have been experimenting this year with something that is not overly revolutionary but still very important especially in my context.  At the beginning of the year, I would let the kids know what they are going to be assessed on and when the piece of work is due.  We would then collaboratively write the criteria sheet together and they would decide on what was important from the task and what they should be marked on.  Of course I would lead them in the direction that I wanted it to go.

Then as the year has progressed, I have actually empowered the students to write their own criteria sheets.  It is interesting to see what the students think is important and how they interpret the task.  Some of the language that the students use is hilarious.  One of my boys for his role play for an A made a statement 'The absolute maximum amount of creativity is used and no more is possible'  He was very pleased with this statement but it did make me giggle.

But in all seriousness, when using the kids criteria sheets to mark their work, it is an easy process.  They have usually made it so clear in their statements that there is no grey areas.  It has been a pleasing experiment to undertake with my students and one that I will be continuing on with in the future. But how can we foster this creativity and engagement with students more easily?  Is ACARA going to bring an end to my experiment in student lead negotiation of criteria?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Learning in a time of abundance #change11

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by magnusfranklin

I will admit to being very slack with my learning in the MOOC that I am undertaking entitled Change11.  Everyday I check my email and sometimes I will think "Geez that is very academic and well above me" and other times I think "This is pointless to my context"  The beauty of Change11 is the ability to 'dip in' and 'dip out' as you needed.  There is no need to work through the course in a liner fashion and when I saw the title of this weeks theme, I must admit to being intrigued.

The theme for this week is titled 'Learning in a time of abudance'  After reading the initial article sent out for this week, it got me thinking about some of the things that Eric Duval introduced to the community.  One statement that Eric made really resonated with me.  It was when he talked about 'filter failure'.  My simple man definition of this would be the lack of inappropriate or non existent ways of catching information as it passes through your learning stream.  The ability to set proper filters to catch the information or find out 'stuff' is an important skill that all 21st century learners need.

My good friend Rod Lucier talked about this on a recent episode of The Edtechcrew.  I have always been a big fan of Rod's and I encourage you to go and check out some of his work on how he filters his information.

Students truly do have an abundance of information / expertise at their disposal.  I truly feel that the ability of teachers to facilitate this process is one of the most important things to educating our students on becoming digitally literate citizens.  I also worry that kids inability to filter information can lead to failure as well due to the abundance of information at their fingertips.  Teaching students the appropriate way to access / source information is extremely important.  Another important notion is getting them to understand what is a relevant source and appropriate and what is not.  Young learners find this process extremely difficult.  I eagerly look forward to learning more about this concept from the community this week.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

17 signs your classroom is behind the times - a sarcastic approach

If you are serious about being a lifelong learner and you don't already subscribe to it, do yourself a favor and subscribe to Stephen Downes newsletter called Oldaily.  I love the fact that every day I get some interesting education related content delivered straight to my email inbox every morning.  I also enjoy the fact that Stephen takes the time to annotate these articles / bookmarks with his thoughts.

I usually try and check them out everyday.  Today, like most days, I was about five days behind.  Sometimes some of the content can be very 'academicy' but generally speaking I can find something that sparks my interest. One item that sparked my interest today was entitled 17 signs your classroom is behind the times.  The article goes on to articulate 17 ways (obviously!) that you can measure if your classroom is behind the times.  I read the list with interest and thought it was a decent article worthy of some thoughts.  I will outline each thought and respond accordingly with my own interpretations.  

1. Your students turn in their homework on printed paper....instead of digitally.
Well there is one of my favorite things to consider.  My students generally complete a mixture of digitally and 'paper' based homework.  Does this mean that my classroom is behind the times?  Isn't it about the best tool for the job?

2. For poster assignments, your students need glue, construction paper and scissors...instead of using an online tool like Glogster.
Working within a 1-1 environment, one of the hardest things is trying to get the balance right.  As stated above, there is a time and place for both.  There is nothing worse than having all the 'bells and whistles' and poor pedagogy behind it.  

3. You still have chalk.  Or a Dry Eraser.
Now I am not exactly sure what a dry eraser is but up until two years ago I still had a 'blackboard'.  I am not saying that I loved it but it still was an effective medium that I used to communicate meaning.  Does that mean that I am not up to date?

4. You try to pull up a web resource on your computer to show the class and you receive a 'This website is blocked' message
Um...I regularly get these messages.  I don't understand how this point makes me behind the times.

5. You cross your fingers every time you try to connect to the network and access the internet.
Nope I don't do this one.  I am lucky that we have pretty good conectivity at my location and I can always access the network or fix issues if they come up.

6. You don't get interrupted by a cell phone ring, text message or tweet alert at some point during the school year.
My kids have to put their phones into a mobile phone box which lives on my desk.  It is not unusual to hear them going off.  I actually saw some of them pull them out today to listen to music.

7. You spend more time lecturing students .... rather than getting them collaborating and learning from each other.
I actually spend very little time lecturing my kids but sometimes I think that there is a place for the 'passment' of content / knowledge.  I very rarely do this.

8. You have a set of Encyclopedias
Well I certainly don't have a set of encyclopedias.  Our school has a set in the library.  I have seen them being used a couple of times due to the fact that they are a dead source of information.

9. You consider using a PowerPoint presentation as satisfying the need to integrate technology in the classroom.
Ah of my favorite topics to explore.  PowerPoint does have a place and a time but it is not the be all and end all of everything.

10. You create more content than your student do.
Nope.  I am huge into this notion.  My motto that I preach is that I want my kids to be active participants in the learning cycle not just passive recipients of information.

11. Your students aren't teaching you something new (likely about technology) at least once a day.
I am constantly amazed by the work that my kids do and the ways that they do.  They are constantly educating me and inspiring me.

12. You don't have a classroom website or blog to post class information, homework assignments and parent information online.
Another big tick for me.  I have been doing this for years and years.

13. You don't have a classroom set of computers, netbooks, ipads or other devices for group work.
I am fortunate enough to work in a 1-1 classroom.

14. You don't find at least one thing to call the IT department about every week.
I never call on our technician on a weekly basis.  Most problems I can solve myself very easily.

15. A student has never requested to complete a project using a new digital tool you have never heard of.
Most of the most innovative things that my kids come up with is mashing up tools that they find together.

16. You have never used or heard of: Collaborize Classroom, Prezi, Evernote, Glogster, MyFakeWall,, Storybird, JayCut, Wordle, or Tiki-Toci
Yes: Prezi, Evernote, Glogster, MyFakeWall,, Storybird, Wordle.  No: JayCut, Tiki-Toci

Number 17 was some blatant advertisement for a conference.

The tone that Stephen talked about this list in his email was a bit condescending and I totally understand why. I am not overly sure of the purpose of posts like these.  What do they achieve?  Yes I do most things on this list but not all of them.  Does that mean that I am not educating my students well for the future?  I certainly hope not.  This was a bit of a rant but I get sick and tired of people saying that if you don't do X you are not doing a good job.

17.)  You've never attended a FREE SimpleK12 webinar or joined the Teacher Learning Community

Monday, 14 November 2011

Karate and lessons we can learn as educators

Four weeks ago a door to door salesman came to our door. After pulling my stupid golden retriever away from him as he entered the gate, I thought to myself "What the heck does this guy want?" He wasn't obviously selling a product. I can usually pick those ones. I was suprised to find out that he was advertising our local karate club and looking for people to sign on.

Mr 5 in our home is a very eager lad. He missed out on Prep this year by 26 days. He loves being active and we were keen to sign him up when we found out one of his mates goes as well. So off we went four weeks ago not knowing exactly what to expect. I was plesantly suprised with some of the lessons that my child learnt. My highlights were:

- At the start of each lesson the whole class takes some time to reflect quietly at the start. My child has responded well to this.  It allows him to focus on the task ahead.

- Learning together. In his class the majority of students are children but there are some adults. They are all treated as equals.

- Ability modelling. Students learn from each other and encourage and model for each other. My boy is in the lowest group but still gets techniques modelled by other students.

- Routines and traditions. Every class starts and finishes the same way. They also respect traditions that have obviously been developed throughout time.

So as I blogged about this yesterday (most of this post was done on my phone using the blogger app) I started to think about what we do as educators and can we take some of the activities that my boy does at karate in our classrooms.  I personally do focussing activities at the start of each session.  At the start of the day, it is going through what we are going to be doing during the day.  After break, it is some type of settling activity.  This quiet personal reflection time allows the child to calm down and focus on the task that is coming up.  I think that routines are something that makes an educators life easier.  If you have rotuines set up in your classroom and the students know what is expected, your life and more importantly, the students life will be a lot easier.  One thing that I don't think we do enough in education is learning together.  We don't model lifelong learning skills enough as educators.  I feel that by undertaking courses such as Change11 (which is going to form the basis of my next blog post) students can see educators as learners as opposed to just teachers.  But how do we share with our students the fact that we are learning?  At karate yesterday, Sensei Chris told the students that he was going to a competition in Sydney on the weekend and in the previous weeks, he has been at weekend workshops. Whilst this didn't affect my son (he was to busy busting to find out if he got a certificate to pay attention) it reassured parents that the person in charge of the class is doing everything possible to be the best instructor that he possibly can be.

So I would love to hear your thoughts on the following two questions - Firstly: how do we foster a culture of lifelong learning amongst teachers and secondly, how do we share our passion for lifelong learning with our students?

Enjoy the video

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Books are a dead source of information!

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by i_gallagher 

There is a title to a blog that I am sure is not going to impress everybody and I hope that I can elaborate on it elegantly in the following blog posts.  By dead source, I do not mean that we should not have traditional books anymore.  By dead source, I mean that once the words on the page are published, that is it.  There is no changing no collaborating, no editing.  It is the 'be all' and 'end all' of information.  There is no way of changing it and no way of adding value to it.

As you are all aware from previous blog posts, I am a podcasting tragic.  I love it when my lovely wife says to me 'Ashley I need you to drive down to the shops and get....'  My first thought in my head is always 'Yes!  More time to listen to my podcasts'  It is not easy being me, but somebody has to!  Anyway, one of my favourites is TWIG: This Week in Google.  I always find that I am a week behind because my feed banks up and I can never keep up to date.  In episode 118, Jeff Jarvis discusses his new book Private Parts and the irony of the book.  The book is all about his life in public and he is sharing it in the least social means possible: traditional print media.  As I was listening to it (and I encourage you to do so if you haven't already) I thought more and more about education of course and the traditional textbook.

Now the traditional textbook caters for one type of learner and is big and clunky and heavy.  The traditional textbook is usually factually correct (at time of print) professional and very text heavy.  Back in my day at high school, the traditional text book was like a big brick of information.  It was heavy in weight and heavy going.  I always remember my biology textbook.  Biology was a subject that I struggled with (due to a lack of interest and maturity on my part) and the textbook used to bore me to death.  There would be a ‘chunk’ of information (90% text and some pictures) and at the end some questions.  Iit was used as the ‘bible’ for our subject.  Everything we needed to know about biology was located in it and we used it to pass exams.  If I remember correctly, I wasn’t encouraged to think and would definitely not question the knowledge being shared with me.  It was a one way medium of communication.  If I didn’t get it, I was up the creek without a paddle.

In TWIG, Jeff explores the notion of authors writing texts that audiences need / want.  He went on to discuss the various ways we can do this and once again my mind wondered to the question: How can we make dynamic ‘textbooks’ to cater for the needs of 21st century learners?  The point of this blog post is not to discuss the need or value of the textbook, but how to recreate and reshape what we already do to meet the needs of our learners.  The most obvious tool that comes to mind would be the use of a wiki that can be edited by the teacher and provide dynamic content for the students undertaking the subject.  I think that there has to be a balance between student created content and student delivered content.  By that I mean, kids just need to be delivered content sometimes.  Once the content has been delivered to them in a manner that they are comfortable with, the assessment parameters will dictate how they will demonstrate their knowledge of concepts explored.  My biggest concern with the rollout of 1-1 in high schools is the delivery of curriculum.  I have heard examples of textbooks and worksheets being scanned into PDF format and delivered digitally to the students.  Are you serious? 

I would love to hear from our leaders out there - teachers!  How do you get the balance right?  What mediums do you employ to deliver content to your students?  Are they open places that can be shared?  

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Australian Stock Exchange and the impact it has had on my students.

In previous blog posts, I have explored the notion of providing as many authentic learning experiences as possible for my kids.  I must admit that I am a little bit over teaching / exploring concepts that have no relevance to the world that my kids live in.  Whilst I realize that academic concepts sometimes need to be explored 'just because' it doesn't mean that I have to like it.

Over the past three years, I have had my students undertake a mathematical investigation using data collected from the Australian Stock Exchange.  My kids are given a fictional amount of money and are required to investigate some companies that they can possibly invest their money in.  Mathematical concepts that are explore include: percentage, graphing, profit / loss and data.

In 2010 and 2009, it was reasonably successful but I was looking for something more authentic and more engaging.  Earlier this year, I found out that the ASX hosts a student game that runs twice a year.  After investigating it further, I realised that this is what I was looking for and I signed the kids up.  The game gives students $50 000 and the use real time data and trading scenarios / costs. The game ran for ten weeks and allowed me to easily track student progress very easily.

Each student was required to report back to the company directors of McDowall Millionaires.  They had to produce a report at the beginning, half way through and at the end.  Whilst a lot of them did not make a lot of money due to the downturn in the market, the enthusiasm they demonstrated for the task was infectious.  The market opened at 10am Brisbane time and I would see kids start looking at each other from around 9:45 wondering who was going to ask Mr Proud if they can log on and check out their portfolios.  Even though the game is finished now, I still catch them sneaking a look at their stock.  It has been infectious.

So what lessons have I learnt from this activity?  It reinforced the notion that I already knew - when students can see a purpose to the world that they live in, they enjoy learning and are more engaged.  I have actually had a number of parents comment to me that this was one of the most powerful learning experiences that their children have ever undertaken.  I just hope with the new ACARA curriculum next year that we continue to provide students with 'real world' experiences and don't loose sight on what is important: the lifelong learning that students undertake to make the world that they live in make sense.  

Jellycam....a cool tool with lots of practical uses.

As I stated in my previous blog post, some of my kids have been exploring the use of a tool called Jellycam.  The easiness of its interface makes it an attractive tool for both students and teachers alike.  Below is a video explaining 'how to' use this tool.  I found this video helpful, so hopefully you will as well.

So obviously this tool helps you make stop motion animations of situations and I won't attempt to outline all of the possible ways that you could use this tool in your classroom but I will share some of my more loopy ideas.  They are:

  • Set it up in the front of your classroom at the start of the day and set it to take a photo every five seconds or so.  At the end of the day, create a video from your photos and you have a stop motion animation of you entire day in the classroom from a particular perspective.
  • Obviously science and change leads itself well towards this tool.
  • Building upon my love of handwriting, use it (not sure if it would work) to create an animation of student handwriting.  Does this have any place in the crowded curriculum? Not really but it would be fun.
  • We have all seen those drawing stop motion animations.  Kids would love using this tool for that.
I am sure that you have a million other possible ideas and I would love to hear about them.  Please leave me a comment with your ideas.  By sharing our ideas, the community of we is strengthened and the community of me is also empowered.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Some of the awesome stuff that my kids are doing

As we once again wind down to the end of another strenuous and sometimes tedious school year and I realized that this blog has gone away from my sharing of pedagogy mantra to more the 'Philosophy of Education According To Ashley' theme.  Whilst it has been fun undertaking blog posts in this way, I think that I am going to get back to having the right mixture and dedicate more time to sharing what my kids are doing and why they are doing it.

I have been lucky enough to work with the fantastic Megan Stace this semester and she had an awesome idea that I shared with you in a previous blog post.  In a nutshell, kids had to use cardboard to create a chair that needs to hold a weight of 60kg for a substantial period of time.  The trick is that the chair must not be joined by any adhesive items (eg glue, sticky tape) and the aesthetics will be assessed as well.  As a part of the design process, we threw it over to the kids.  We explained what we wanted to see and left it up to them on how they wanted to show it to us.  It has been an interesting experiment.  My class is 1-1 whilst the class next door isn't. A number of them have used Jellycam to create a stop motion animation of their design process.  I will attempt to get parent permission to share the videos that the kids have created.

They have really enjoyed it.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The community of we!

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Toban Black

A while ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Do we have a professional obligation to share? In this post I stated (and it is pretty sad that I am quoting myself) that:

People who know me know that I love to hear stories. I love it when somebody shares something that they are doing in their classroom. Even if I don’t think it ‘adds value’ to my life, it is still fun to hear. I am also an ‘idea manipulator’. I will see or hear about an idea that somebody else is implementing with their kids and modify it to suit my needs.
The whole post (which was pretty bland to be honest) explored the notion of sharing, but I want to talk about what I mean by an 'idea manipulator'.  As discussed last week, I had an in depth conversation with my principal about various issues and he talked about this philosophy of idea manipulation.  The world is such a connected place and I can easily access knowledge / expertise of somebody else at a very quick pace.  If I don't know how to teaching something, or I think that somebody else can explain it better, I have the power to find that knowledge somewhere.

Whilst I don't think that anybody could argue that educators have a moral obligation to share, do we do it enough?  When I attend conferences now, I am not really interested to much in the 'how to' sessions.  If it is a presenter (such as Mark Staines who is coming to my school on Thursday afternoon to do a session on digital storytelling) I will go to help develop my practice but as a general rule of thumb, I avoid these sessions like the plague.  Unfortunately there is still a huge need to deliver 'how to' sessions and I find myself delivering these type of sessions whenever I give PD.  What I am really interested in is exploring people's pedagogy - what worked for them, why did it work, what failed, what they would do differently.

So how can we foster and encourage more people to contribute to the community of we?  Obviously blogging is one way.  I am on a bit of a blogging crusade at the moment and I am glad that I am.  Another way is writing for a professional journal.  Beryl Exley recently delivered a series of literacy PD sessions to our staff.  After discussions with her, she has asked me to write a series of articles for different journals.  At first, I wasn't so sure.  But upon further reflection, I thought 'What the heck.....I blog and share anyway!'  Another method is email.  If I see a good link or hear about it, I share it as widely as I can.  Like most staff, we have a generic email address that sends messages to all members of staff.  I use this to 'flick on' any things that come across my stream.

But what I really want it to get inspired by other peoples ideas and manipulate them to suit my own purposes. If I am not a connected educator, there is no way that I can possibly do this and therefore am doing a dis justice to the students under my care.

Nothing like handwriting to stimulate passion from teachers - a response to my blog post

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by avrdreamer

Yesterday when the video that I used to help stimulated my thoughts came across my stream, I didn't know that it would cause so much discussion.  For those who don't know what I am talking about, the article that I am talking about can be found here.  I certainly didn't set out to shake things up as much as I have but since people have added their thoughts to mine, I think that I should take the time to correctly articulate a response.

Robyn Royan was the person who I feel had the strongest opinions expressed in the comment stream.  I feel that her comment was very relevant and I would like to take some time to respond to it.  She stated "Would that be the worst hand writer in the world? (Hope they teach grammar) Let's hope that he learns to write for the fine motor skills and the thrill of having a thought and expressing it without tapping and batteries and electricity. Hope you take him camping with no technology and encourage him to record the best parts through words and art in a journal. Hope he learns to write so he can pen a special card to his partner, child, grandchild, or fill in an autograph book with a special message." It is great to see that people can use blog comments to express an opinion and add value to a discussion.  Whilst I take on board what Robyn has stated (particularly about my poor grammar from a rushed blog post) some of the other points need clarification.  At no time did I not say that handwriting should disappear from the learning process.  I actually said that the major point (in my humble opinion) of writing is to communicate meaning.  I think that Robyn will be happy to know that my child is a very happy young man who has already experienced some of the things that she outlines.  He constantly is looking for ways to express his opinion on things in his journal and loves using it to write basic stories.  His fine motor skills are fine and just the other day, he came home from his grandparents house with a card that he has created for his kindy teacher.  My child also express his thoughts in feelings in many different ways.  He enjoys drama and interacting with his peers in different role playing experiences.  I hope that his education can be rounded and as exciting as it possibly can be.

I love living in a connected world where people are free to express their professional opinions in a productive way.  It stimulates discussion and challenges peoples thoughts.  If we all agreed on everything, the world would not be a pretty dull place.