Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blogging with 6 and 7 year olds.

Rachel Boyd has an awesome presentation at teacher tube on blogging with young children.

Well done Rachel, it's inspirational.

Preparing the natives for The Age of Innovation. (The exaflood cometh)

Perhaps its just the way with innovators. What they seem to harp on about (try to communicate) doesn't make much sense to a critical mass until a few years down the track. By then, a few leaders have adopted the ideas, and begin to market the benefits to the broader community.

This speech by Bruce Mehlman (an innovator) from 2003, is 4 years old now.

Mehlman makes three points that resonate with my current situation.

First, we must recognize that technologies only benefit society when we use them wisely. Technology can enable us to improve our lives and make the world a safer, more abundant, and more equitable place. Or it can exacerbate problems. For example, encryption technologies that protect our privacy also conceal terrorist communications. The Internet lets children in Alaska visit the Smithsonian or take virtual courses at MIT, but it also gives them access to pornography, hate speech and instructions on building a pipe bomb. Digital literacy will never substitute for good parenting and effective teaching, and any effort to define and promote digital literacy must reinforce their unique and vital roles.

Second, we must remember that digital literacy is more than having Internet access and broader than technical proficiency. It's also about learning digital rights and wrongs. Respecting intellectual property rights, practicing security as second nature, and valuing others' privacy are all going to be critical to a functionally literate information society.

Last, we need to all remember the power of Metcalf's law. This principle states that the value of a network increases exponentially as more people connect. While there is zero value having the only telephone on Earth - after all there's no one to call - going from 100 to 1000 users increases the value of the network by more than a factor of 10. As we look to apply digital technologies to the challenges of the 21st century, we must join together with leaders around the world, so the rising tide of innovation can lift all boats. We will all be better off - as businesses, as nations and as citizens of the world - when 6 billion people are online, instead of the 655 million who have logged on so far.

So from my perspective, (as a classroom teacher in a part of the world that has only recently connected to affordable IT infrastructure), the speech (though four years old) is not only relevant but actually very applicable. The people I live with and work with are only now beginning to discover the power of the read/write web, and the network itself (connectivism).

With this in mind, take a look at what Mehlman is speaking about today. The exaflood!

Is your community ready?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Podcast Research - Help Required

This request from Jane

Hi all

I am currently undertaking research looking at the question: In what ways does podcasting enhance oral literacies?I have been gathering data in my own context but I would love to hear what other teachers have found when using podcasting in their classroom programme and add voices from further a field into my final write up.

I am intersted in authenticity: * Audience * Context * Purpose * Self confidence

If you could provide an example of your students demonstrating any of these things I would love to hear about it and incorporate it into my study. Please leave me a comment on my blog including the country that you are commenting from. Please could you include this request on your blogs with a link to this post, I would love to get as much information as possible. It will be great to have a piece of research that says - This is worthwhile doing, and this is why.


*** ICT U Can!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Time4 Online

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has a fantastic keynote presentation at the Time4 Online Conference. Its well worth checking out.

Thanks Sheryl, wonderful keynote. I get the feeling though that you are speaking to the converted.

We (your fellow conference participants) can master the stuff. We can join in online.

But it's many of our colleagues I'm concerned with. The reaction to a presentation like yours (in my experience) is that it divides the audience into those that "get it" and go off and bring their students into the global discussion, and those that find it "scary", which results in a fear of the changes, often leading to a withdrawal. (Machines are unplugged, networks are dismantled, students are disengaged).

It's less scary that way, and a sense of control can be regained.

This situation is sad. It's what I find really scary.

How can this reaction be overcome? At a class/school/region/state or national level?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Children, blogging and safety.

Karen Mann at Web2Wanderings has a post regarding issues of internet safety when it comes to young children. (Lets say K-6)

My understanding is that blogs can be moderated if set up that way and therefore before any item is published the teacher could have the final approval. I guess I will have to follow up on this under the NSW system. If you have come across similar restrictions, please let me know.

Its a tough one Karen. I have had a students' blog blocked by my organisation.
I complained, (well actually I requested an unblock), and I got a sympathetic hearing by a well informed senior administrator, (yes...they do exist), and the blog was unblocked very shortly afterwards.

I did have to make some modifications though.
  1. Parents need to be aware of their child's participation (publication).
  2. No child is to be identified. We limit names to first names only. Though it has been suggested that we may need to consider using only initials. (Overkill, or good sense?)
  3. All comments are to be moderated.
Pretty easy to do, and very sensible when you consider the unsettling implications of some alternate scenarios.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

ClustrMaps... (be careful)

Do you archive your ClustrMap(s) monthly, yearly, or even daily?

Alot of blogs you read these days have that wonderful little map in the sidebar that provides an interesting count of the visitors to your site. Its called a ClustrMap, and it's a great way to promote interest in a site.

We use a ClustrMap at Mullumwriters. When the children are published they go home and email a link to a relative or friend somewhere in the world, and then watch the ClustrMap update a day or two later. Its fun, interactive, engaging, and might even be "educational" (But I'd never tell them that.)

There are some things you'll need to watch though. Here at 21st Century Skills, I decided to set the map to archive every month. I had hoped to gather a monthly snapshot of the map and then turn it into a gif animation (or flash, or widget of choice), and watch the map slowly turn red.

Great idea huh? Well, yes and no!

Yes the map did archive, you can see the last month in the top right of this post. What I wasn't aware of though, was that once archived, the counter resets, and your map goes back to a blank slate (so to say). Here on the right is an image of my new map after 1 night.

What a suprise! I lost my running totals. My map is back to square one. Of course, I can always click through the map and look at the archive at anytime to reassure myself that "once upon a time" people read my blog, but it's kinda nice to see the map slowly turning red.

So here is the question.

Do I keep archiving each month and generate a nice morphing animation over the next few months, or do I wait until the forced reset that ClustrMaps impose each year?

Love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pay Attention (Directors Cut)

Daren Draper informs us that June 7 is the worldwide release date for "Pay Attention 2.0".

Thanks Daren, I for one will eagerly await the release.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Quentin D'Souza at Toondoo

Congratulations Quentin!

Not only do we have proof that administrators can blog, (if one can call Quentin an administrator), but now we know they can "toon" as well.

Quentin blogs at "teaching hacks". Always a good read.

Quentin D'Souza - Featured Dooer!

ToonPress - The Blog at ToonDoo - The Cartoon Strip Creator - Create, Publish, Share, Discuss!

My Toondoo won pick of the Day!

The toondoo I created to illustrate my "Sound Familiar" post has won the editors pick award at toondoo.

Imagine my suprise when I cleared my mailbox to find this:

Hi mark!


We're happy to! inform you that your ToonDoo Ban and Block culture made quite an impression on the editors at ToonDoo. Therefore, your creative expression has found a place as Featured ToonDoo of the Day!

Toondoo is a fantastic resource. Here is the toon again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Are Schools Losing the Game... (the power play).

How is your organisation dealing with web2.0?

Thanks to Scott Mcleod's halfbaked musings at dangerously irrelevant, I discovered this post from Wesley Fryer

Schools need to respond to the technological power play

The power play is a hockey term, I'm not sure what we would call it here downunder, but here is the part that stood out to me.
Helping teachers use technology effectively in the classroom means far more than simply providing a technician who can keep computers,
printers, networks, and content filters working appropriately.
Addressing instructional technology support needs also means:
  1. Having administrators who understand the importance of studentsusing technology to not only CONSUME content, but also appropriately PRODUCE and SHARE content on the global stage of the Internet in safe and constructive ways.
  2. Having administrators who expect and require teachers to REGULARLY ENGAGE students in Internet-based collaborative projects throughout the school year, not just at the end of the year when required assessment tests have been completed.
  3. Providing CERTIFIED TEACHERS to serve as mentors, coaches, demonstration teachers, and hand-holders to other teachers less saavy and with less initiative when it comes to instructional technologies.
We need more than technicians providing technical support in our schools, we need leaders and mentors, (and the budgets to fund them). These mentors need to come on top of adequate technical support. According to Wes Fryer again
- school tech support levels are 10% of industry standards (1 onsite tech for 50-70 machines, that is considered adequate in business, where needs tend to be less complex)
Are we wasting money providing more technology to schools, without giving technical support to that same technology, along with supporting the "upskilling" of teachers?

A final point. Wes, when speaking to teachers a a recent conference states:
I heard several teachers relate stories of “technology out of control” in their schools, where part-time teacher-aides (responsible for staffing school computer labs) were unable to prevent students from accessing pornography from school computers, bringing pornography and other objectionable images from home on USB flash drives, and printing many of those images on the school printers.
Probably a common scenario in many schools accross the globe. Another blog I read, Parallel Divergence, raised this issue last October in the post The trouble with web2.

We've all heard the hype on web2, how is your organisation dealing with it?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why Don't School Directors Blog? part 2

A response by the School Director (superintendent) to Kim Moritz's challenge.
Quite sensible and eloquent really.

Superintendent Rinaldi gives many reasons for not entering the blogosphere. But what of the principals that wont (refuse to) even use email?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Why Don't School Directors Blog?

Here is a great story.

Kimberly Moritz challenged her superintendent to start a blog

How many of our decision makers leave it up to others to try and explain their decision? Wouldn’t it be great if they could blog it themselves. The community would have one version of a story and minimize confusion. It might even eliminate the gossip.

How many of your/our regional directors have a blog?

What about the principals out there?

Do you see a need or necessity? Is blogging still confined to the domain of innovators and early adopters? (aka classroom teachers).

It seems that so many of our communication channels are still firmly pre web, (what's web2.0?). How is that to change?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Teaching in Todays Classroom

Greg Whitby will be presenting at the New South Wales Computer Education Group (NSWCEG) at Newcastle on Monday 2nd of July.

In this video he talks about "today's school" rather than the 21st century school. The primary aim of todays school is to aid learning outcomes.
This happens through a process or concept of learning anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
This can only occur when staff are liberated from current working conditions. Conditions which Greg says "enslave" and "de-skill" teachers.

Would be interesting to hear a Teacher's Federation response to this.

Learning outcomes versus working conditions for teachers. Makes for a lively discussion.
Greg has an excellent presentation here. Its a pdf file in the form of some slides.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Does Technology make a good teacher?

I've been thinking about Scott Mcleods question, (previous post) and have discussed this with some colleagues.

Warren has been supporting educators in their use and implementation of ICT for more years than I can remember. His site WAZMAC is well worth checking out.

Let me quote Warren.

I have always found it effective to consider the "adopt and adapt" approach to professional learning. I find that when we are able to *adopt* technology for our personal needs, we very quickly *adapt* the technology for use in other areas of our life - eg the classroom.

The key here I believe, is personal needs. When we find some personal value in the technology we begin to capitalize on that value by implementing it in new ways. Sometimes this is seen as innovation. If one is working in a stale 20th century environment, anything "new" may be seen as innovation. Yet that same innovation may be seen as old hat at another school.

Digital cameras are probably the most common example, but more recently blogs etc are coming into the mainstream "adopt and adapt" realm.

Add to this list the use of mobile(cell)phones in the classroom, along with Interactive WhiteBoards. IWB's (See Here for a discussion on pro's and cons of IWB's)

We just need to make sure that our school systems can adequately support and encourage teachers who have adopted new technologies at home and are ready to adapt them for use at school.

Too often I hear administrators criticising teachers for not embracing change, when it is more often the administrators who are not creating a climate that encourages the desired changes. Or more often apply limits to teachers' creativity in how they interpret "change".

Innovation is often stifled so that administrative boxes can be ticked.

Change is very much a two-way street. And there are always risks.

Do we need more risk takers in our education departments? Risk taking is fine when it all works out, but failure is par for the course. How many times can one fail before it adversely effects the students? Do we hold the line and let others innovate first? Who wants to go first? At what cost?

Warren goes on to say:

Give people the tools and let them explore, learn, and adapt them in new and innovative ways.

All very good. A sensible idea, and no doubt one that works, generally. However, in a later discussion Warren outlines exceptions. There are always exceptions aren't there?
"A close friend is a teacher, and also runs a small hobby business over the internet, outside of school."

"He has adopted the technology at home, but doesn't necessarily "use technology" widely in his classroom (this is partly due to the allocation of equipment at the school). His classroom, is what I would consider to be a more "traditional" classroom."

My youngest daughter, who is pretty technology-savvy, was in Fred's class in Year 6 (3 years ago). Barely touched a computer all year - but had one of her most enjoyable and productive years at the school. Did everything the "old way" - spelling drills, mentals, etc, etc. She especially learned to enjoy reading books. And the whole class came to enjoy Fred's wicked sense of humour.

The focus in Fred's class was *learning*. And my daughter enjoyed learning.

Kinda defeats the "must have technology" argument though! But worth considering if we step back from the trees to get a clear view of the forest.

The bottom line is that a good teacher will create a wonderful learning environment regardless of the tools that they have. I guess we just assume that the technology thing make the tools better. But it may not be so. Maybe even the opposite in the hands of a reluctant practitioner.

Great ideas Warren. A great teacher teaches, no matter what the tools at his/her disposal. Is the money that is currently being spent on technology in schools being wasted if teachers are not teaching? IWB's in every room?

What are your thoughts and ideas?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Key Question

Rather provocative Scott.

Dangerously Irrelevant: Another key question

If individuals at home can see the transformative effects of digital technologies, and corporations can see the transformative effects of digital technologies, why can’t schools? Are they just incompetent, dunder-headed organizations compared to other institutions or is something else going on? In other words, why WOULDN’T schools see the same transformative effects of technology that we’re seeing in most other sectors of society?

Friday, May 11, 2007

For and against IWB's

Sure to be a passionate discussion starter:
From Tony Richards

Learning - Thinking - Playing

All this has got me thinking. I am going to start a little ongoing post of the "for" arguments and the "against" arguments, in line with this I am going to also list alternatives as many schools do not give any thought to the possible alternatives.

I welcome any comments - suggestions - arguments and ideas:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Encyclopedia of Life

A remarkable concept! More here
I found it on George Siemans' blog, but references are popping up everywhere.

Many of you may have to watch this from outside of your corporate network because its hosted on youtube.

As an aside, I saved a neat video from youtube the other day and went to upload it to teacher tube, but then read the terms and conditions of teachertube. No advertising. A shame really (though understandable) because a lot of really creative and pertinent work is in the form of corporate advertising.

Has anyone found a workaround?

What makes administrators effective technology leaders?

Interesting post and discussion starter on dangerously irrelevant.

Can a techie be an educator? Can an educator be a techie? Some interesting points made on Georges blog. My opinion is that the rare beast (geek/network guy/educator) is indeed doing the rounds, (look at the edubloggers) but is generally a rare and endangered species.

The best outcomes that I've seen occuring in schools come from a genuine collaboration between educators and tech support. Genuine collaboration arises when both parties see the others point of view and are able to work towards a common aim.

So what are the aims of schooling?

The network guy will tell you that a school's aim is to provide reliable IT infrastructure. The educator will tell you that its' aim is to create self realizing adults able to make valued contributions to the global community. The administrator will feel that a dynamic and responsive structure will serve the staff and school community best. (My ideas, you could add many more).

It's only when the educator can see the network guy's point of view (and vice versa) that things can (and do) move ahead.

The alternative is the "digital taliban" scenario I outlined in a previous post.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Toys before Tools.

This thought comes from a great post at

Kids exchanging videos are the proverbial tip of the ice berg. As longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer pointed out more than fifty years ago – when he was mulling over the fact that the wheel was a toy before it was a tool – serious work has its origins in play. And almost alone in the animal kingdom, humans retain the capacity for play well into adulthood.
The concept that Serious work has its origins in play, is new to me, and is one that I'd like to explore further.

The youth today using (playing) with myspace, runescape, second life and clubpenguin are forging new ways of seeing, thinking, doing, solving, relating and creating.

In the words of Flintoff, rip mix burn has become grip fix turn!
From What is teacher 2.0 again
What is true of Web 2.0 will be true of Teacher 2.0 – dynamic, outward facing, community building, radically democratic, initiatory, active and interventionist; how the Web is changing is how teaching will change.

How does your classroom measure up today? Is it outward facing, community building, initiatory etc? What can a classroom teacher do today to ensure that it becomes so?
Heres a toon that sums it up.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Sound Familiar?

I do understand the arguments for child safety, duty of care, and such, but when schools/teachers are having success with an innovative program, and the child safety issues are covered as much as possible, then why continue with the ban and block culture?

I am pleased to say that in NSW schools, projects are considered on their merits, and are unblocked,trialled and monitored. This is a good start. Conditions apply, but those conditions are usually insignificant when compared with the alternative...the loss of the project completely.

How does your school deal with the issue of blocking harmful sites?

Here is a take on the situation from Dangerously Irrelevant.
Dangerously Irrelevant: Principal blogging not allowed

This tale’s been told before. Technology coordinators who are more concerned with disabling than enabling. Technology personnel that we would hope would be progressive, forward thinkers regarding digital technologies but instead are regressive gatekeepers. Teachers and administrators that try to move into the 21st century but run into the brick wall of supervisors or support personnel. Superintendents that allow such situations to occur rather than insisting that their district figure out how to make it work (like other districts have). Educators that fail to understand that the world around them has changed and that their relevance to that world is diminishing daily.