Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Farewell Mr Benham

Our principal of the past ten years retires in 2 days time after 40 years of service to Public Education.
Here is a small tribute that some of the students, staff and I put together.

The show was created in PowerPoint and was embedded using zoho. With zoho it's as easy as uploading and embedding. Podcasts were recorded using audacity, and are hosted at OurMedia

Nothing quite like a retirement to bring a team together.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cool New T Shirt

When Darren Draper said that he'd left a box of t-shirts at the doorway of the main building on ISTE island, I just had to go inworld as soon as I returned from work and grab one "before someone stole the box". (Daren's words)

Whilst I was expecting to get a t-shirt, I wasn't expecting to meet such a range of friendly folk attending the NECC conference in Atlanta though. Had a wonderful time listening to conference highlights from the participants. sounds exciting, though a bit overwhelming...and there are still 2 more days to go.

I made some great new friends. I'll certainly be visiting more regularly.

I live in a relatively remote part of NSW Australia and Second Life provides me with a real, and achievable way to connect with others.

Thanks Darren.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reconstruction of Learning Experiences

As a smart, clever, literate educator reading this blog, you, like me, are actively trying to reconstruct the learning experiences of students to equip them for a digital, flat future. Why else would you read this?

I heard something this week that disturbed me, and will probably disturb you as well.

A teacher had taken some seven year old computers out of 15 months of storage ("too old for the network, need to be thrown out"...said the tech guy). So rather than throw them out, the teacher (with permission) reformatted them, installed some freeware/open source programs suited to the subject being taught, put them into a cluster in the back corner of the room and put the students to productive work.

Sure they weren't on the network, and there was no Internet. If the students wanted to save work, then it had to be to a usb flash memory drive. But they were productive! They were engaged. The students loved it, the teacher loved it, the other faculty staff found the idea so interesting that some of them took old computers out of storage and did similar things.

It lasted almost one week. Old structures and mechanisms don't take lightly to change. The machines were taken back, and were made ready to go into a lab. (Strangely they were now good enough for the task.)

So whilst some of us move forward, and engage the kids with whatever means (support, technology, funding) are at our disposal, it appears that some teachers still face a mentality that wants to put control back into the domain of the "keeper of the keys" (or the digital Taliban if you will).

It's almost as if there are forces at work to actively stop the sort of engagement that Greg Whitby (winner of the bulletin smart 100 award) talks about.

From Greg:

we're not saying every child needs only a computer to learn: come in, open up it's laptop time … They still need time with real people, to learn gross motor skills, and to use a pen and pencil, and to read, or to sit in a corner with a book or outside under a tree, and interact with teachers, as a socialising agent.

"But they need time to work in cyberspace. The traditional response has been to put technology into a computer lab, but it clearly doesn't meet their needs, because then you are deconstructing their learning experience, and it's artificial."

Greg Blogs at BlueYonder and will be speaking at the NSW Computer Education Group annual conference on July 1st and 2nd

Did You Know? 2.0

Karl Fisch (assisted by Scott Mcleod and Xplane) has posted the reworked "Did You Know" presentation at YouTube. In my opinion this is a much better version than the original.
The beautiful but unobtrusive design allows the ideas embedded in the presentation to come to a much greater prominence over the glitz and flash that most presentations have a tendency to become.
Well done to those involved in its production. It's a piece that I'll be using not just to share the idea, but as an example of effective presentation style.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A laptop for every student?

Well! There's a suggestion! Scott at Dangerously Irrelevant has costed out what percentage of the US GDP would be required to provide a laptop to every teacher and student.

Does every student need a laptop?
Would classrooms be more relevant if every student had a laptop?
Would trading in paints, brushes, glue, scissors , sporting equipment and even musical instruments, for laptops make classrooms more (or less) relevant?
At what age would a student recieve one? The requirements for year 1 are very different to year 12.
Could the money be spent more productively elsewhere? (Building maintenance, paints, brushes, transport, health, water resource management, rollout of infrastructure.)

Speaking of infrastructure...would the current infrastructure that's already in place cope with such a massive hit?

Thanks Scott. As always, you got me thinking.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Netvibes trumps Pageflakes!!

In reponse to last nights post on the race to be voted the best reader/aggregator in the webware 100 awards, I learned today that netvibes beat the others in the category. Firefox won best browser, followed by Opera, then IE7, followed by netvibes (not a browser but an aggregator).

If you havent checked out netvibes, then now is probably a great time to do so. If you have ditched netvibes in preference for another reader/aggregator, then I'd love to know why. Let me know why you dont use netvibes.

(Oh and by the way...Google Reader came in at fifth place).

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's your Favourite Web App? Webware100 Awards

Tonight's the night folks! announces the winners of the top 100 webware awards.
What are the best 100 Web 2.0 sites and services?

The categories are:
Browsing, Communications , Community, Data, Entertainment , Media, Mobile, Productivity, Publishing, and Reference.

Of particular interest to me (but by no means the only interest) is the "Browsing" category. Here we have a contest between google reader, bloglines, netvibes, pageflakes and yahoo pipes. It will be interesting to see what the community chooses as their number one. I use netvibes as my homepage, have tried bloglines and google reader, (then went back to netvibes). Have not tried pageflakes though. Netvibes suits me, so why change?

As I type, the winners have not been announced, but it's only moments away. So check out the list, browse through the winners, and let me know what you (or your students) think.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Our Wondrous Journey Begins

There has been some great discussion amongst my colleagues over the last few days regarding moving ahead and engaging students with rich tasks, that promote higher thinking skills, in a 21st century context. Darren's video has helped immensely, (thanks Darren). The best part of the discussion has been the creation of a lesson sharing wiki.

On top of this came a presentation that was shown today to a group of ICT leaders in my state. The discussion has begun. It will be interesting to see where we can take it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quintura for Kids

Yahooligan used to be a favourite of mine, but has become a real mess lately. (Advertising, junk, too many distractions). It's even been blocked by my Education Department.

Quintura for Kids is a neat looking search engine, and it's kid friendly. Takes a bit of practice (view the demo) but I intend working with this next week with a few of my classes, so will keep you informed as to how it goes.

Unfortunately I couldnt get it to work in flock or firefox. I keep getting a "please wait" message, Internet explorer 7 was fine though. I searched for a solution to this, but found none, so maybe its just me. If you get it to work in mozilla can you let me know?

Thanks to Ben at The Tech Savvy Educator for the pointer.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Will it all come to a grinding halt?

Three things happened that grabbed my attention this week. They all had a common thread.

First: Jane Nicholls @ *** ICT U Can! posted a clip where she introduced flixn.

Great stuff (again) Jane. Lots of educational and real world application.

Second: A good friend posted me a link to Blaise Aguera demonstrating Photosynth. Amazing stuff, and well worth viewing. My friend said he can't wait until this is everyday life.

Third: I spoke with some colleagues who earlier in the week had successfully trialled an inter school video chat. One beach side school showed off their beach to another beach side school, (1200 km apart) and they both shared their beaches with a school at Broken Hill, (on the fringe of the Great Australian Outback). About 1500 km from both. Check out the map here

So what's this common thread?

Well, as I type this, there is a debate happening in Australia regarding the necessity (or not, sadly) of a roll out of greater broadband services to our nation. (It's an election year in Australia). We currently have some government members stating that there is really no great need for faster internet. This is from the country that has the dubious distinction of having our (ex) Minister for Communications, Information Technology and The Arts, being called the World's biggest Luddite , by the The Register.

Innovators are currently reaping the benefits of a relatively untrafficked network. The unfortunate thing is that as more and more people adopt the technology and put it to productive use, then the network will groan and strain and ultimately fail under the load of the extra traffic. How will your LAN cope? What about your WAN? Is it able to cope with the exaflood?

Readers of this blog are innovators and pioneers in their respective fields. The technologies we are creating, discovering and putting to productive use are mostly dependant upon fast connection speeds and high volume data throughput. As educators our goal is to promote change in thinking. As the following diagram (from Going Virtual: Technology and the Future of Academic Libraries) shows, there can be no change or move towards a 21st century paradigm unless we have a reliable technological base.

What will happen to your local networks when every family in your district/region/state starts using flixen at the same rate as email. What about flixn spam?
Will members of your family be able to simultaneously be involved in an immersive high bandwidth experience like second life? What happens to video chat between schools when every student wants to share, rather than just one teacher?

Is your network (remember, the internet is just a network of networks)going to cope or break?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Podcast is Go

Enough testing.
The first podcast on Mullum Writers is published (cast?)

Check out Zac's podcast here.

I thought that my initial post was satisfactory, but I wasnt happy with the visitor having to click a link and then have a new page open with a player, (eg firefox/flock opens a new page and you get to watch the quicktime bar as you listen.) My students and I want visitors to enjoy the artwork and read along as they listen.

When I'm not satisified, then I usually don't rest until I am, so rather than lose sleep tonight wondering how to fix it, I spent some time digging up and applying a great hack that lets you use the word press player within blogger.

Basically you'll need some webspace to store the java code and the flash script. As a blogger user I had a googlepages account. I find that googlepages is great for storing widgets, pics and stuff that I need to reference later.

Paste a script to reference your java and swf files into the head of your blogger template.

Then you paste a script into the post and add the url of your hosted audio file.
The result, I feel, is worth the effort. If anyone has a better solution then I'm all ears.

My next challenge is to setup a "recording studio" in the school that can be utilised during quiet moments. Quentin posted a fantastic site in response to my last post, so I'll be studying up on ways to make the 'casts more enjoyable.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Podcast Test No 1

Inspired by Jane Nicholls, and helped by a wonderful tutorial on podcasting for beginners, I present you with my first podcast. Enjoy :-)

Click here to listen to podcast test number 1

Next task, a podcast feed, and of course, some real content.

Update: The player below works so much better than my first attempt at clicking on a link. Has anyone else done this in blogger?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Daughter2.0 (What good are libraries?)

Was reading a post today by George Siemans at elearnspace regarding the future of libraries.

....this presentation doesn't say anything new for those familiar with the changes in technology and the context of knowledge. It does, however, present those changes from the perspective of libraries. In the process it provides some interesting statistics and observations (89% of college students begin their research with a search engine vs 2% in libraries,......


Thanks George...Interesting but not surprising.

Being a rather cool and damp Sunday afternoon here, I have my 10 yr old daughter beside me, spread out on the carpet, tapping away on our our old Toshiba laptop and buying some clothes for her penguin at clubpenguin.

"Hey Daughter!" I ask. "If you needed to know something that you didn't already know, where would you go to find out?"

Without pause or hesitation she turned her head and looked at me (one hand still on the keyboard) and replied "Google! Why?"

"Oh just interested" I answer."What is the library useful for?"

"What? The club penguin library?"

"No the town library."


"What do you use the library for in club penguin? "

"Well you can read other members' writing, and you can play mancala against other players."

So through the eyes of a ten yr old Aussie girl, our town library is irrelevant, yet an online multi player library contains stories, games and fellowship.

I'd imagine that the cleverer libraries in our culture would have to look at fostering a sense of online community as an addition to their local community if they were to survive.

On a side note: I read out to my wife the figures on how only 2% of college students use libraries to begin research. She had just interrupted her guitar rendition of Cavatina in order to make us all a pot of tea. (Don't you just love cool damp Sundays?)

Her response? "Do people still use libraries?"