Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cool things that make my life easier

I haven't posted much at all lately. Here in Australia we are coming rapidly to the end of the year and with reports and awards nights and end of year activities, I feel a little guilty even doing a post. But I don't want to lose the momentum either of regularly keeping a log of the things that are happening here at school.
I thought today I would add a little about a really cool little application called Page Flakes which I use as my home page.

I plan to teach my students about it next year because one of the requirements of our students in the Victorian Essential Learnings is they manage and maintain their files and links as well as use applications to create, visualise and communicate. I think that giving them ways to do this through the use of Web 2.0 applications might be a good add on to the more traditional ways that we save and manage work at schools.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Podcasts and Cool things on Firefox

I listen to a few podcasts driving to and from work and it's often where I get a few good ideas. Commonly it's where I often hear of ways to use the Web or Web 2.0 applications. They are not always about education although many are. I find it's a good use of time as I'm driving along the Calder Highway to and from work
Besides some of the great podcasts that are done by educators such as Chris Betcher who produces The Virtual Staffroom podcast and Dan Schmidt who produces the KidCast podcast, there are also other more general podcasts that inform about more general things.
The one I have found really useful for just finding out about new things coming out on the web is one called Inside the Net. These podcasts have introduced me to things like Delicious, Flickr, wikis, Bloglines and RSS. Each week they seem to come up with something new on the web to talk about. All of which have added a new dimension to my teaching practice.
Another great thing was the introduction to Firefox (which I use as my browser all the time now) and all the cool add ons that you can get from Mozilla.

One that I heard about the other day is a little add on called Googlepedia. When you search for something in Google, the add on will also search for the equivalent in Wikipedia and produce it in a split screen. You can click on links within the wikipedia article to create a new Google search as well.
Really cool.

Monday, November 20, 2006

VITTA Conference

Today I presented at the VITTA conference in Melbourne at the beautiful Flemington Racecourse. It's an amazing venue and certainly adds to the ambiance of the conference.
Over lunch, I had a lovely chat with Renee Hoareau, Executive Officer of VITTA. I have known Renee since her myinternet days (now Editure). She shared some visions that she has for VITTA and also mentioned that VITTA aims to continue to lead the way in Australia as a very active organisation for teachers of Information Technology. Renee is certainly one of the leaders of ICT in Australia and I think VITTA is in very good hands. If the conference is any guide this conference is certainly a leader in Australia and I venture to say the world.

I wonder though if we are hopefully seeing more and more of the 'ordinary' teacher who is interested in integrating ICT into their curriculum rather than the IT specialist at these sort of conferences. I hope that is the case but then I'm a little biased towards the all round teacher who has a passion for learning all sorts of things including using internet technology.

After my session Teaching Thinking with Technology, in which I addressed the Intel thinking with technology tools and cool and geeky things that teachers can use from the web, I also met with Jim from Editure who very excitedly mentioned that they are investigating the use of Web 2.0 applications and have received a government grant that will allow them to research across Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Asia.
I think it's great to hear that companies such a Editure and Intel are recognising that many of these Web 2.0 tools make teaching and learning via the internet much more accessible to the 'ordinary' teacher who is not necessarily skilled in all things to do with information technology.
By the way by 'ordinary', I mean extraordinary. I mean the teacher who is not necessarily a specialist but a generalist, who is a seeker of new learning, not one who stays in the same groove year after year; who recognises that the world of teaching and learning is changing. And that we better be there or be square. :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Solving Problems of access

On Friday I got to school and went through the usual routine of setting up my laptop and logging on, connecting to my Pageflakes page and decided that I would quickly blog some thinking that I had done on my way to work that morning. But to my surprise I discovered that my login access to blogger was blocked.
After trying a few problem solving strategies and loath to spend too much time on it I resorted to phoning a couple of contacts at the Victorian Education Department to see if I could get to the bottom of the problem.
Long story short- I finally caught up with Sandy Phillips Manager of the Victorian Education Channel, Office of Learning & Teaching, Department of Education & Training. It seems that there are some concerns about blogger and it's suitability for use in schools and so it is going to be blocked at most Victorian Government schools. I am okay with that as I have had some concerns myself about the 'danger' of the Next Blog button which simply means that you never know what is going to turn up at the next click of a button.
With this in mind we switched to learner blogs very early in the year for our students. This is an environment set up by James Farmer, a Melbourne teacher and consultant who saw the need for an educational environment for teachers and students , in fact educators of all kinds to have an online space that would be suitable and protected , but also open and freely available to others on the web.
It 's a balance between recognising the importance and value of an online environment which is accessible to all and protecting to some extent the hearts and minds of our students as they learn to navigate their way around the web.
I had a really productive discussion with Sandy about some of the plans she has for developing just such an environment for Victorian teachers and schools where we could use the expertise and support of James and the Wordpress opensource software to create our own online collborative space.
With this in mind I have joined up with the Global teachers project which is a growing group of Victorian teachers interested in exploring the use of blogs and other Web 2.0 applications.
But while there is this 'cutting of teeth' so to speak I still intend to maintain this blog and will simply post the same material to my other blogs until I am brave enough to bite the bullet and go to just one again.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Maybe it is okay to show some emotion

My last post was partly a pondering about whether I am sometimes too enthusiastic about the things that are available on the web and the way it is changing the way we deliver, receive, interpret and think about education.
Comments to that post seemed to indicate that it's worth just showing a little bit of excitement and enthusiasm for what you do.
To top it all off I received a lovely email from Meron Drummond who is the Innovation and Excellence educator for the Cresswell Cluster in Victoria.

Hi Anne
My feet have just hit the ground for the first time since last Monday’s LiNum21.con event.
I wanted to take the first opportunity I could to let you know that I thought you did an absolutely FAB job last Monday.
Your session was short, sharp, informative and inspiring.
It also made it quite clear that there is heaps I don’t know!! But it pointed me in the right direction for some more ICT learning! I would just LOVE to know how you do what you do, but I intend to find out! At the moment, Podcasting, Skype, wikis, blogs - make my head spin, but in such a good way. I crave to know more.
Now all I need is time! LOL

Meron Drummond

Gresswell Cluster Educator

Meron also has a lovely quote in the signature of her email credited to Jamie McKenzie

‘…the conscious personal commitment to building one's repertoire is central to the model of quality teaching…. Quality teaching amounts to a lifetime journey of exploration, practice and discovery.’

ã Jamie McKenzie, 2004

And I think that sums it up pretty well.

Enjoy your head spinning....it's lots of fun. :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Is it all too much? The LINUM 21 Conference

Today I presented a session at the LINUM 21 Literacy and Numeracy conference for the Northern Metropolitan Region in Melbourne, Victoria. My session was entitled Teaching with Technology and was designed to showcase the Intel Education Teach Thinking with Technology Tools as well as tell a little of the story of the work we are doing at Wedderburn. In the second half of the hour long session I also planned to demonstrate the Teach with Technology wiki that I currently use to document my work at Wedderburn and the blogs and Wedderburn P12 wiki that I have been using with the students at Wedderburn College as well as mention and demonstrate some other tools such as Skype, podcasts, rss etc. I was hoping to excite and enthuse teachers to have a go at some of the thinking tools and the Web 2.0 applications that are freely available on the web.
As I began the session I simply said to people that if they wanted any information about any of the work that I was showing that they simply needed to write down the url of my blog (this blog) and they would be able to get all the information they needed and more.
I think that I probably demonstrated my personal enthusiasm for the potential of the internet and the power and engagement value of discovering ways that can create and relate the curriculum in a meaningful way to our students. But I'm not sure that was a good thing.
I fear that I may have lost a few people along the way by being too enthusiastic and assuming that participants were more aware of the Web 2.0 apps. There were people there who weren't familiar with blogs and wikis and although I tried to explain and demonstrate in the time that I had I'm not sure that I was too successful.
So if any of you have been brave enough to come visit this post, and check out this blog, tell me what you think.
Would it have been better to just look at one thing..I have this terrible tendency to get excited about things and want to share them with everyone else assuming that you will all love them and see the educational potential as much as I do.
Anyway if you do make it maybe just have a go at one thing...
try a blog, or try a wiki or download Skype

anyway post a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Skypeing with Oz Teachers

Chris Betcher arranged for a Skypecast to be conducted at 10.00am Australian time for members of Ozteachers. Ozteachers is a mailing list that I understand from the comments of one of the members, Marg Lloyld is one of the oldest educational mailing lists in the world for teachers. Even if it isn't it's certainly one of the most active and one that I rely on very much for great ideas and friendly and helpful support for all manners of issues, problems and suggestions related to teaching. I don't believe that this is a list for teachers who are IT specialists. In fact there seem to be many in the group who are dabbling around the edges with eLearning and ICT. But that's great because most of the time the questions and discussions aren't too 'techie' and are often about great ideas that someone has come across or a problem that someone has. And there always seems to be somebody out there who has a suggestion or answer.
Anyway to get back to the Skypecast, at one stage I think there may have been about 70 online. Chris did a brilliant job managing all the chatting and comments and while there were a few technical hitches mainly to do with the number of people online and sometimes the occasional intruder, it worked really well.
A few of the highlights for me were
Hearing the voices and seeing pics of so many of the people who I read about online.
The discussion about how we might use Skype in the classroom was really valuable and one that I know that we will explore some more. I seemed that there is an opportunity for someone to try to gather a list of those teachers who are using skype to see if we could link up.
We also discussed some ideas for using copyright free music and sounds as well as reference to the K-12 conference that John Pearce presented at and many people listened to. We were reminded that the presentations including John's are still available to listen to.
After the skypecast I stayed online for a little while and chatted to Michael Cridland, a teacher in Brisbane who is also teaching Year 7&8 students. He is also 'playing' with blogs and wikis with his students and we had a good discussion about using wikis as a digital portfolio. Great to talk over some ideas and get someone else's opinion.
Hope we can do it all again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Beauty of Flexibility and the wonder of technology

I have a routine at the beginning of each IT lesson to always have my laptop connected to the interactive whiteboard, data projector and internet whether I plan to use them or not. There have been many instances when we have been discussing something as a class where we have wondered about an issue or an idea and then quickly googled it or gone to Visual Thesaurus Googlemaps or Wikipedia to check something out immediately.
The other day we were just about to start our class when the students noticed the Skype icon pop up as one of my Skype friends logged in and naturally being curious they asked what it was.
Well I couldn't resist, so out the door went the lesson plan and in came a quick lesson on Skype. A minute or so later we were Skypeing with Chris Betcher and his daughter over in Canada. Chris had his webcam on so that added another excitement for the kids as they could see as well as hear Chris and Kate. It was fantastic and we had other teachers come into the room to see what was going on.
Chris has blogged about this as well on his blog. The wonderful thing as Chris said was that it took no time and was a really powerful opportunity to make links across the world. What I saw was total engagement, every student was totally engrossed. Many went home and checked out Skype for themselves. But I think the best thing was the chance to talk to Chris and Kate about their experiences in Canada and the opportunity for us to spontaneously (if only virtually) spread our wings into the big wide world. It's certainly something we will do again. In fact we are already planning another skype opportunity with some students in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thinking about where to next with IT

This year has been my first year of teaching a Year 7 and a Year 8 class for Information Technology. As a primary trained teacher who hasn't been fulltime in the classroom for the last 5 years it was exciting yet challenging at the same time. Particularly as I had to rethink my ideas about assessment, class structure, class management etc.
For example, as primary teacher I am used to having extended blocks of time where as a class we could go off on a tangent or run with an idea that the students have come up with, or explore something deeply and make up for lost time later. The absolutely most frustrating thing I found about teaching secondary students was the time limit. 48 minutes periods in an IT class is a ridiculously short amount of time to ensure that we had the time to talk and think and learn before getting to the computers. And of course the kids always wanted to get to the computers straight away.
It also meant that the end of lessons were often chaotic with shouts of SAVE your work as they were rushing out the door to the next class. This was instead of the lovely "okay everyone lets come together and think and talk about what we have learnt today" that I was used to as a primary teacher.
Teaching older students also came with the delightful "why do we have to do this" "this is boring" responses- not that I didn't get that as a primary teacher although I did mainly teach elementary students so it was rarer.
Having said that though I was somewhat surprised sometimes as I really tried hard to provide some (what I thought) were pretty stimulating lessons and activities.
But that's okay, it just challenges me more.
I actually did a survey with the kids last week and asked them things like what did they enjoy the most, what did they least enjoy, was there anything I could have done better, did they understand my instructions, was I approachable when they had difficulties.
On the whole the comments were very positive. But one interesting thing was that almost all kids said they hated blogging and they loved creating their digital portfolios.
So that got me thinking that maybe what I should do is think more about using wikis as a way to have the kids document more of what they are thinking (blogging) but make it more possible to express themselves like they like to do in their digital portfolios.
The Cool Cat teacher blog has some great ideas for ways to use wikis that I think I might try.
I'm thinking that this might be the way to kill two birds with one stone....maybe.

What did they learn?

The final task that the students had to do was to think of three reasons why they think that one person could change the world and three reasons why they think someone couldn't and then to decide for themselves.
Some coped with it well and others found it extremely difficult to think from another point of view and give both sides to an argument. With more time it would have been great to have a socratic discussion but with only one period it's difficult to find the time.

It's something more to think about and something that I would like to try again with another group of students.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How did we go?

The key to making this lesson work has been finding something that the kids can relate to. About 3/4's of the kids loved the Punk Rocker song and some turned their nose up but that was fine. It still worked as a way to get conversation happening.
I ended up using three different videos that I downloaded from YouTube- all related to the Free Hugs phenomonem. One was the original video by the Sick Puppies, one was a video created by a student in America and the third one was of a young girl in Canada who talked to the camera about the effect the video had on her and what she then did. It was a lovely reflective piece that summed up the power of the connections that can be made across the world.
I used a cool piece of freeware FLV to download each of the videos onto my laptop so that I could use them off line and also because we block Youtube here at school.
The lesson has actually blown out to three lessons because there was so much discussion and the kids wanted to hear the song and see the video a few more times.
Today we did our group thing, took the kids outside in the beautiful sunshine. They worked in groups of three and compared and contrasted the way each media-video and audio got it's message across.
Then after even more discussion and sharing we are almost ready to individually blog. It has certainly taken alot longer than I thought but the results have been really positive and have encouraged me to continue to use what is available to stimulate and encourage.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Going to try this idea tomorrow

As a result of an oz teachers post that mentioned a really cool little video on Youtube called Free Hugs, I decided that I would try to use the video as a way to have students think some more about the way the internet and Web 2.0 is changing the world-or is it?
So what I have done is downloaded the videos using a great little add on in Firefox called FLV download which enables the videos to be loaded onto my computer. (Youtube is blocked at school so I can't make a direct link) and then I'm going to use Sandy Thom's song, "I wish I was a punk rocker" to get them to think about the different ways that one person might change the world. I bought it the other day on Itunes so hopefully I'm fine with using it.
The question is Can one person change the world?
For these students I have been using a blog - Wedderburn 7/8 Blog to write up my lessons and here's the post. I find it's a good way to keep a record for myself and also hopefully gives kids a chance to think a little more about what they have to do.
I think the addition of music will also help. We generally have music going in the classroom when we are working anyway although I'm guessing some will love and others will hate the Punk Rocker song. I think I'll try to find the lyrics to the song as well as that will add another level of understanding.
will report back tomorrow on how it went.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Back to reality

Well I'm back in Wedderburn after a really hectic but exciting week with my new Intel friends who are now going to train Participant teachers back in their schools in the Intel Online thinking tools.
After school this afternoon we met for our staff meeting and I presented the Knowledge bank case study work that we had done.
We also discussed changes that our prinicipal has been informed of through his regular regional meetings. Changes and expectations of the way schools will be using the internet within the next two years. A rollout of a Victorian Ultranet that all schools will access and use as their online portal for all curriculum, assessment and communication needs. Very interesting and exciting but it would be good to think that the states are talking to each other because I was only just reading a post in oz teachers from Andrew Dalgliesh, Manager of The Learning Place Online Learning Operations Branch, Education Queensland.
His post referred to an ongoing discussion about the advent of Web 2.0 applications and their effect on schools and education in general.
From his point of view he was discussing at a system level, the type of thinking and planning that must go into the development of an 'in house' portal for schools.

He says:
as Web 2.0 means more and more content going into so-called "personal" spaces where it potentially sits alongside "dodgy content", I think this will raise the issue of much of it being filtered out by current technologies and policies. Maybe providers like YouTube will need to develop reliable rating schemes that apply to their users rather than items of content (eg "KidSafe Publisher Level 2"?) so that safe content doesn't get blocked along with the bathwater?

As for in house e-learning environments, you'll be glad to know we are planning to redevelop the Learning Place as far as possible along web 2.0 principles, including:

* better integration of different application environments (eg LMS and resource repository)
* single sign-on (within LP and eventually to all inhouse environments)
* brokerage of content beyond the LP environment using trust relationships
* the ability for users to customise and aggregate their own environments
* incorporating new content types and technologies into a mainstream environment
* integrated search for maximum discoverability of resources

As well as:

* more seamless integration with systemic environments (the MOE)
* better Help support on the site (which we've done - see below)
* content caching to alleviate some of the bandwidth issues facing many of our schools
* investigating how we can broker content and services with outside entities based on trust relationships, so that users can exchange with others outside the system without compromising student safety.

The student safety issue is one aspect, but other considerations include the need to manage digital rights appropriately, scaleability and managing the operationlising of emerging technologies (even if they are only "emerging" in the education space - eg VOIP). Web 2.0 tends to be easier to achieve when you are running a single application environment (eg Moodle) on its own, but when you are running several and have a lot of critical services dependent on those, redevelopment takes a bit longer, but we are working on it.

As a systemic solution we also need to be careful balancing the needs of those on the cutting edge with the need to make a difference for those who are yet to engage with simpler technologies and the role of good web and tool design to support that process. It also has to work in with the larger Departmental strategic agenda (Smart Classrooms) and of course any feedback will be welcome.

In the meantime, you'll be glad to know we've rebuilt our Help section to provide more supportive information that reflects not only the most common queries we get but also the integrated approach we take to our different environments. This is the first example of a move for us to divide up the experience, not so much by the tools you use, but by the things you are trying to do.

It seems to me that we are all in a sense trying to do the same thing-wouldn't it be great if the generosity of spirit that has grown around the advent of Web 2.0 extended to each Australian state education department.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Telling our story-The Minibeast unit

This week while in Sydney training a new group of Master Trainers in the Intel Program Teach Thinking with Technology I will also be participating in the Victorian Dept of Education Knowledge Bank Online Elluminate conference.
So on the morning of October 12th at 9.00 am I'll be sitting at a laptop with headphone and mic in a room in Sydney sharing our story of integrating and developing teachers using ICT and higher order thinking with teachers from Victoria and all over Australia and beyond.
I plan to take the participants on a virtual journey to illustrate the way two teachers and their students used technology and higher order thinking skills to wonder about the life and value of the minibeasts of our world.
Along the way we will use new technologies such a wikis, blogs, podcasts and online video.
I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Teaching with Technology wiki

Over the last few weeks, well most of the holidays actually, I have been spending my spare time putting together a wiki that documents the work we have been doing in our Rich Picture case study with Knowledge Bank as part of a project with the Victorian Department of Education and Training.
What I have done is used a wiki to write the story of what we have been doing over the last term on our Minibeast project which investigates the use of Curriculum Framing questions and ICT in the classroom.
It will always be a work in progress I think but is ready now to be added to my blog. It not only contains stories and ideas that we used but also has some short videos of teachers talking about the process and their experiences.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tom March Leading the way

I admire the work that Tom March does. I have been privileged to hear him a number of times and he is a gifted and entertaining speaker but that's not what really matters. What matters is the message that he sends to us as educators. Above all I think, in my humble opinion, his heart is in the right place.

He asks us

How do educators help our students make truly satisfying choices? We can start by taking our cues from Seligman, James, and Harvey. We can "hand students over to themselves." We can engage them in the joys of learning, of making meaning, of being part of something larger than themselves, of testing themselves against authentic challenges. We can shift them from passivity and consumption to action and creativity. And believe it or not, the New WWW can help us.

Just as the Web has empowered students to undermine pointless, rote "research assignments" through copy-and-paste masterpieces, the New WWW shifts learning power to the students themselves. When the world of information explodes beyond what one head can hold, who decides what gets into that head? When students can demonstrate their learning in a persuasive essay, a sardonic blog, a moving short film, a robust wiki entry, or a humorous podcast, why would we demand deadening conformity? The New WWW may do us all a favor and put assembly-line education out of its misery.

Tom March (2005) http://tommarch.com/writings/newwww.php

So I think what Tom is saying is that if we can challenge our students to think for themselves, to feel responsible for their own lives and the lives of others we are some of the way there. We want our kids to WANT to learn because something has meaning to them. If we do this then we will be well on the way to providing the education and preparation for life that we all are entitled to.
Today I used started a conversation with my Year 7 students about learning. I showed them a short video that Chris Betcher had added on his Crowded Wisdom blog The video challenges us to think about the schools of yesterday and today and asks basically What is different?
What is different about kids as learners and is that reflected in the way schools are run?
We had an interesting conversation about what learning actually is. What is hard about it? Why do we think? Some of the kids said we don't want to think, school is boring, they don't know why they have to learn. Some even said the video was saying that we don't need to learn traditional subjects like maths and english.
But to me it wasn't what they were saying that was important it was that they were actually forming an opinion, they were actually thinking about their own thinking.
My challenge as a teacher is to find ways and means to make them want to learn, to find things that have real meaning to them.
But also to teach in a way that relates to the world they live in and that recognises that this world is different, is rapidly changing.
They then did a short online quiz that Tom created that asked a big question "What do you think is the most important thing about the internet? " It lead them to understand that learning not just about accumulating knowledge, it's about understanding and using that knowledge .
It was a really valuable exercise and one that I want to work more with over the next few months. Hopefully we will end up with some persuasive and creative ideas that really get our kids to THINK.

The Web 2.0 community

One of the very few drawbacks that I can see about the exciting things that are happening around the explosion of Web 2.0 in education is the amount of time that can be 'wasted' (not) in reading, talking and thinking about what is out there and how to use it to our advantage as educators.
The last two weeks have been our Victorian school holidays and I'm a little embarressed to say that I have taken very little advantage of the usually beautiful spring weather that we have in September because I have been glued to my computer either catching up on projects that have looming deadlines or Skype-ing (Skypename-annieb3525) with other 'online geeks' or as I prefer to think of them, new online friends such as Chris Betcher who is an Australian teacher currently on a teacher exchange in Canada and David Westaway a teacher in Ballarat, Australia.
But I guess the thing that I think is key is not even how we use them but how we educate our kids to discriminate and evaluate exactly what is out there.
To that end one of the things I am participating in is a podcast with Chris which you can hear by going to this link.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More Why Blogs

In reading a blog by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach she touched on a subject that I have pondered for a while and made it so simple-and perhaps that's the beauty and the solution-make it simple.
I want my students to reflect more effectively and maybe it can be as simple as this?

Learning to Learn
The learning journal assignment is the most important tool in making that transition from learning to learning to learn. There are four big questions to be looking at:

1. What have I learned (today, this week, whenever)?

2. How did I learn it?

3. Could I have learned it better/differently?

4. How could I use what I've learned to benefit someone else. (In other words, could I teach/coach/help someone to learn more effectively based on my experience?)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Our new podcasting venture

In the last couple of days of term I worked with our Tanya's Grade 2/3 students to help them voice record their reports that they had written about their frogs. They loved the experience and loved to hear their voice once we loaded it up on the web. It was really simple using audacity, an opensource software free download that records and edits sounds. we even used some copyright free music to add some background music to the recordings.
really cool and the kids loved it.
Next term I'm working with some students in Grade Three/Four and I can see that we are going to have a real opportunity to develop this idea further and perhaps create a real podcast with RSS feed and all.

Web 2.0 What is out there?

Bob Stumpel has put together a list of web 2.0 applications that seems to be growing by the minute. It 's worth thinking about how this will impact upon education and also how we as teachers can harness the development to engage and increase the learning of our students.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More thoughts about thinking tools

So what is the value of having thinking tools online vs the more traditional pen and paper, drawing, model?
Firstly having the tools online makes them accessible from any classroom or even location that has internet access. We have recently purchased a set of laptops that can be used with wireless connections anywhere in the school and this makes the availability of the thinking tools much more real and applicable simply because we can access them no matter where we are.
The engagement factor can't be underestimated. Students interact with each other online and in real time whether they are in the same classroom or in another school. Even the design and ease of use of the tools seems to engage then in a way that drawing with pen and paper doesn't.
Having said that though the tools are designed in a way to be simple and 'non' distracting so that the concentration is on the task and not the tool.
The tools are designed so that all can see the results-it allows for teachers and other students to review and observe.
The tools are generative-they can be reviewed and used again and again. They can be built upon and added to over time.
They are open-ended and not limited by content. I have used the tools with students in early years and middle years for science, for english, for integrated studies.
It's all about visually representing thinking and actively contructing ideas and meaning.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Questions about thinking tools

Last Friday, 8th Sept 06 I presented at the ALEA conference in Melbourne. It was held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image ACMI at Federation Square. What an awesome venue and a great chance to see what the centre is all about as well as hear some inspiring speakers.
My session was entitled Thinking with Technology and I designed it to showcase some of the ways that I have been using the Intel Thinking Tools at Wedderburn College.
Basically I showed some examples of how the Visual Ranking, Seeing Reason and Showing Evidence tool can be used to display and visualise the thinking that is occurring as students are working through a problem or a challenge.
One of the questions that was raised during the session was interesting and one that I would like to explore a little more.
Basically it was something like, What are the advantages of doing something like this online? Why not just, for example rank things on cards or write them on a white board, why not just draw a concept map, why not record and categorise evidence on pen and paper?

Firstly, I think the bottom line is you firstly think about the outcomes that you want to achieve. If the purpose is to simply rank concepts and to discuss and justify why, then doing it with cards or on a whiteboard would work equally as well as doing it online.
I think the value that is added online is the fact that students can readily see the ranking of other students immediately. The process of reordering, discussing, rethinking and evaluating can be done quickly and responsively.
I think a great advantage to the teacher is that all the tasks can be stored and returned to easily and efficiently as well.
I would like to discuss this more and will do so over the next few days.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Creating new learning and thinking with technology.

It's been a while since I posted and I actually have a few things in draft form that I want to post over the next couple of days.
The last couple of weeks have been hectic but exciting with the main focus being a week in Melbourne training the first Australian group of Intel Senior and Master Trainers in the pilot program Thinking with Technology.
It was a very challenging week both mentally and physically with very long days and nights keeping up with the program. But it was an incredibly rewarding week for me to work with other teachers from Victoria and Queensland who are exploring the use of technology and higher order thinking in the curriculum.
One thing that I found really valuable was to create a wiki specifically for this group so that they could reflect each day online. It meant then that they could comment on each other's thoughts and also meant that other interested people could read the comments from all over the world. So in a sense it was a pilot within a pilot and I think it worked very well.
Go here to check out what they said.
Intel Thinking with Technology Pilot

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kids and Mini Beasts and Computers

What is it about kids and minibeasts? They absolutely love collecting them and observing them and probably squashing them. But I suspect over the last few weeks I think they have developed a more healthy respect for the little creatures.
What is it about kids and computers? It's not the same thing I know but what is amazing and exciting is the way the kids become so engaged whenever we bring laptops into the classroom. We have been using the laptops over the last couple of weeks on Tuesdays to allow the kids to create one of the tasks that was planned in the unit of work- creating a ppt to represent their understanding of a minibeast. These children haven't been exposed to MS Powerpoint and only in this second half of the year, virtually when we began the Minibeast unit, have they been given access to their own server and internet account at school. But in this short time they have learnt to log on, to save and name their work, to create a new PPT file, to add images and to copy and paste text into their presentations. Some have even learnt to narrate and record their writing onto the slides.
What amazes me I guess is the ease with which they pick up the skills and seem to be able to cope with this new learning with such ease and enthusiasm.
One of the most exciting things though is how willing the students are to help and be patient with each other to support their learning.
The challenge for me though is to ensure that the learning is really happening and that it's not 'busy' time. To that end Tanya employed some short cut strategies to ensure that the keyboarding challenge wouldn't hold the students back.
The students had researched their frog and discovered many aspects of their habitat and development. They then wrote these facts and ideas in the traditional manner by writing and editing in their storywriting books. Tanya, their teacher, then spend a short time after school one day and word processed each of their reports into a word document.
The day that they were to work on their PPT's the children then simply went to a shared folder and copied and pasted their particular piece of text onto the slides of their PPT thus saving that awful waste of very slow typing that very young children can only achieve.
It was just a matter of teaching them how to locate and paste some images from MS clip art and/or some of the free online images libraries such as Pics4Learning or Freefoto and then they had created a pretty effective PPT presentation. For these kids the bells and whistles of PPT are a big deal and as far as I'm concerned that's fine for a little while. They are having a ball discovering how things move and make sounds. But soon we'll also teach them about the less distracting ways of making an impact when you are sharing your learning.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Knowledge Bank-Our MiniBeast Unit

Impementing our MiniBeast Unit:

For the last 5 weeks Tanya and Deirdre, Grade 1/2/3 teachers have been working with their students on a MiniBeast unit that we have developed using the Intel Teach to the Future unit plan which integrates ICT and thinking into the curriculum.
Tanya and Deirdre were part of a Participant Teaching 40 hour workshop that we conducted at Wedderburn College last term. As part of the course they chose to create their unit around minibeasts. The unit that they created, based on Curriculum Framing Questions was designed using the Intel Unit plan structure. The two classrooms have taken a slightly different focus with Deirdre's class studying insects and Tanya's class studying frogs. On at least one day a week they have some specific time where they work together as a whole class and I try to work with the students on Tuesdays where we specifically focus on integrating ICT into the class program.
The two rooms are joined in the middle by an area where we have situated an interactive whiteboard, dvd and sound system. The rooms have another 8 networked desktop computers and we also make use of the 25 wireless laptops when we need to. The laptops can be booked ahead of time on an online calendar on mydesktop which is our online portal for all teacher information.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blogger Tips and Tricks

Blogger Tips and Tricks
With all the issues around moving to the beta version of Blogger, I'm going to keep an eye on this blog to see if there is anything that will come up about the new version.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Asking a big question.

One of the powers of the web is the fact that we can combine and see visual, audio and text all at once.
Today I worked with a Gr 5/6 group in a literacy group. I wanted to give them an opportunity to read and think about an issue and then to show their thinking using the online learning tool Visual Ranking. http://www.intel.com/education/visualranking/index.htm
As it was a literacy class we first used the reciprocal teaching method to examine an online story created by UNICEF It asked the question: Can we develop without further damaging the environment? This linked in with the broad topic of environment that they are just beginning to study in class.

We had a spirited discussion where we gathered lots of ideas about how and why we might be affecting the environment of the world.
Then in small groups the students went to the computers and logged into the Visual Ranking tool where I had set up a list of things that I thought they could rank according to how seriously they thought it was affecting the world environment. I deliberately have not asked them to study the UNICEF site at this stage as I want them to consider their ideas before and after they have gathered more information and knowledge.
My plan is to have them investigate and read more about the situation and then decide whether their ideas have changed after reading and discussing.
More to come...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Creating a Learning Space

This week we are starting to see real progress in our new learning space at Wedderburn. The frame is up and we can now see the size and structure for real.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Some new developments

This is so cool. Terry Freedman, who writes about ICT in Education and publishes so many things on the web has now created a podcast of his book Coming of Age; An Introduction to the World Wide Web. Some new developments.
Now I can listen to it on my way to work and learn some more as I drive. Cool.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Master Training

Last week I was in the beautiful town of Echuca running a Master Trainers Intel Teach to the Future Essentials course with 9 very enthusiastic and intelligent teachers. As Master Trainers they will then return to their schools and train 10 more teachers in the Intel course.
In this way they are developing their own skills and also learning how to train others in the art of teaching with ICT.
Although it wasn't officially part of the course, we started to talk a little about the impact of Web 2.0 and what it will mean to us and our students.
I think it is something that will become more and more real to us and our students and harnessed in the right way will offer a whole new way for people to learn, think and express themselves.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why Blog? What I'm thinking

The conversation that I had with my Yr 7 students made me think about why I have been asking them to blog.
I think one of the things that I could do would be to provide them with some really powerful opportunities to see the way the web can make a difference to people in the world.
An example would be to show them Sarah McLaughlin's website and how she has created a video that simply shows what can be done with the $150,000 that would be normally be spent on making a video release for a new song.
Another would be to use the images that I came across on the reuters website which has a series of topical photo stories and images that you could use and maybe add a song to it to get more effect.
How powerful are images??? and the messages they can send. Can I help the students see this relationship and the power of being able to reach the world even though they are students who live in a small country town in the middle of Victoria.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why Blog? What the kids think.

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of Year 7 students today who, when told that part of their lesson today would be to add to their blog commented, "We don't get why we have to blog." They wondered what was the point of blogging. Good question (as usual) and it made me think more about what I was actually asking the students to do.
In the immediacy of the lesson I quickly rethought what I had planned to do and decided that we would brainstorm all the Information and Communication technology that we use. And then I asked the kids to think about the one or two things that they couldn't 'live' without and to blog about that.
Seemed to solve the immediate problem but not the long term one.
Later in the day I caught up with the same kids and we talked a little more about what they might want to learn about.
I told them a little about Web2.0 and it's development on the web. How it's one of the reasons that I want to encourage them to blog. So that they, like so many other people in the world, have an opportunity to express their thoughts. To think about what is important to them.
They seemed more interested, especially when I suggested that they have more of a discussion about what they would like to learn about and that I would be happy to listen to them and see what we could come up with.
So that's where I left it for today but it did make me think and wonder about what I could do to encourage them to realise the power of the web and the way it can make a positive difference in people's lives.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blogging with the Grade 1's to 3's

This week I have been spending some time in two Year1-4 classrooms situated in a large room with an interactive whiteboard. Having started a minibeast theme this term we thought that it would be a ideal opportunity for the classes to start up a blog which would record the progress of their frog habitat in one class and the snail aquarium in the other. With each class I took them through the blog posting process and then worked with a small group to have them learn a little more so that they could support the effort of others to blog independently.
We also learnt how to upload images so that they can record the process visually.
Here is what we have done so far.
Wedderburn Wonders
I have found that using our class page in myclasses, to provide url links for both viewing and posting has been very supportive.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Half an Hour: Adults and MySpace

I've been looking for posts and blogs as I want to get more imformed about blogging. The more I look the more there is to find. Half an Hour: Adults and MySpace
Having said that, I think we just have to jump in and have a go. I'm setting up a blog for Grade 1-3 students who are in two classrooms and who are participating in a Minibeast theme.
We want to have a blog where students can log observations that they have made about what they have learnt.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Designing Units of Work

In a parallel life I am also an Intel Teach to the Future Senior Trainer for the Victorian Department of Education and Intel Australia.
In previous posts I mentioned that I travelled to the US to train in a program called Intel Thinking with Technology. Over the next few months I will be introducing this program to Australia through some pilot workshops in three states.
This week I am talking at the Victorian CeLL/Intel Conference in Melbourne.
Rather than destroy a few trees photocopying the information, I thought I would put the links on this post and then have interested teachers go to my blog.
Australian Intel Education site.

Teachers can currently view three unit plans that have been written by Australian teachers in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.
The Thinking With Technology will be a pilot project and is designed to train Master Trainers and Participant Teachers in the use of the online thinking tools.
The course will help teachers to look at ways that we can use the online tools help students visually represent their understanding of complex and interconnected issues.
The Thinking with Technology tools are already freely available to all teachers and can be accessed under the section called Thinking Tools-Supporting Higher-Order Thinking.

Changing Blogs

Much has happened with our students and blogging since my last post. I've taken the advice of my good friend Jamie and decided that the best place for our Year 7&8 students to place their blogs is in the much safer environment of edublogs and more specifically learnerblogs.
We now have a blog portal for Wedderburn College bloggers and this provides links to the student's blogs.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Why Blog?-Classroom Blogging -PART TWO-the serious stuff

A friend has challenged me with his questions to think about the implications of blogging on the net in the classroom.
What he is suggesting ( I think) is that if we are going to allow or encourage or even require our students at school to BLOG. are we facilitating the possibility of our kids to be:
  • vulnerable to predators and other dangerous people ?
  • flippant and careless about the standard of work or writing that they publish?
  • more vulnerable to being cyber bullied ?
  • more likely to participate in cyber bullying themselves?
  • a participant in unsavoury, dangerous, inappropriate discussions ?
after a long and spirited discussion- my initial response is- I DON"T KNOW- the jury is still out for me .
There are a couple of things that we could consider immediately to ensure that our students are safer.
  1. we could ensure that their blogs are not public (a setting that is available on Blogger.com
    but then an important part of the whole reason behind blogs is gone-that is the opportunity for other students to see their work
  2. we could make sure that we regularly check their blogs-a fairly big job but not impossible as the scheduled time for blogging is in class time
  3. we could link all the blogs to one blog so that we can all easily access everyone's blog and simply - we are doing that already-see http://we-are-redbacks-.blogger.com
  4. we could house all the blogs on our internal server so that the blogs can be shared across our school community but no-one else will access them- this is available to us and is something that we may do very shortly after some more discussion and debate
  5. we could simply say that blogs are not appropriate because of all these issues and that students will do their reflections on other online journals within our intranet- certainly possible but currently the software we have doesn't allow the flexibility of expression that blogger.com does
  6. we could create a class blog-one blog rather than many and students contribute posts to that - but again, these students are Years 7&8. I think part of the beauty of blogs is the individuality and ease of use for each individual student

and I haven't even considered the other issue of quality of posting-how do we get kids to write for their audience and to write high quality work-after all this is being published. That is another blog and I will think about it some more.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Why Digital Portfolios?

Last year through our North Central Innovation and Excellence Network we applied for some funding to develop a case study of the use of Digital Portfolios. As a school who is keen to use ICT in motivating and effective ways we thought that DP's might provide an opportunity for students and teachers to think about the way they think about and represent themselves and their work.
We engaged Dr Maureen O'Rourke http://www.acep.net.au/ to work with us over a period of 5 days.
We spent much of our time exploring the why and hows of creating Digital Portfolios.
Fundamentally I think that we are enabling our students to document and demonstrate their learning and their thinking in a way that engages and educates them.
Once back in our schools we began the process of working with our students to develop the DPs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


This is a link to another blog that I have come across that has been posted by LF Bowe who works at the eLearning Branch, Innovations Branch Department of Education in Victoria. eLearning

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ICTEV Conference this weekend

This Saturday I'm presenting at a conference in Melbourne of ICT teachers from all over the state. As I was preparing and finalising what I plan to share with other teachers I was prompted to think about sending some notes to the conference organisers who would then upload them to the website. Good idea and efficient way to upload notes for participants. Saves a few trees as well.
And then I thought-well isn't this an obvious way to use my blog???
If I put a few posts up that discuss the things that I plan to share and then simply direct participants to the url aren't I using ICT in a real and effective way?
I guess we will see. Perhaps what I will do is ask a few people to go to the blog next week, after the conference and post some comments about what they think. It 's worth a try at least.

Why Blog?-Classroom Blogging

Over the last few weeks my teacher friend Rach and I have been introducing blogging to our Year 7 and Year 8 students. Rach is a first-year-out teacher who is new to our school this year and who also teaches Physical Education and Outdoor Education. She is also a bit of an IT freak and loves nothing better than mucking around on the computer at night when she probably should be preparing amazing IT lessons for her Yr 7&8's. Only joking Rach-you can do all the surfing you like 'cause you seem to have it all in hand.
Anyway, we team-teach 4 periods a week and this 2o year veteran primary teacher (oh that is scary, I've just realised that I have probably been teaching almost longer than Rach has been living) is really enjoying this opportunity to team teach, learn more and more new stuff from both Rach and the kids.

Having said all this though I think one of our key challenges is to think about why we should, could or would use this method of publishing in the classroom.
a few questions that immediately come to mind-and I don't necessarily have the answers.
  • Will it improve student literacy?
  • If so - How?
  • If not- Why not?
  • Will it engage students in the writing process?
  • What do we get students to write about?
  • What is our role in the process?
  • How can we harness this authentic writing and journalling opportunity to also teach and develop writing and thinking skills? (It's the old Reading Recovery teacher coming out in me)
  • Do we allow free reign for topics or do we maintain some direction or control?
  • How do we maintain the privacy of our students?
  • How do we ensure their protection?
I'm sure there are heaps more questions to ask and many more issues to explore. Another time...

Monday, May 01, 2006

How good news travels

Isn’t it amazing how news travels around the web. I clicked on this link that a good friend sent me. She is great at forwarding anything along educational lines that she thinks would be of interest.
I looked at it and was thinking it looked like an interesting website.

Once I looked at it I then realised that this was something that had come to me last week via another mailing list and I had already printed it out ready to read.
I guess it makes you realise that our world is getting smaller and that belonging to online communities ensures that someone will pass it on if they think it is important enough.
To me it illustrates the value and generosity of the online educational community. But it also illustrates the importance of teachers being part of this community. Not just because you are interested in ICT but because you must be informed and up to date.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another Blog-ICT in the Classroom

ICT in the Classroom
this is a link to a blog that has been developed by another Australian teacher which looks at the challenge of integrating ICT into the classroom.
I will be looking at this with interest especially. I think our biggest challenge is to upskill our teachers and students so that they are using ICT seamlessly and easily in their educational work. But that means at some stage we also have to think about how we also create opportunities for teachers and students to get the skills they need to use ICT seamlessly in their curriculum.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cool things I saw shopping in USA

OK I'm back in Oz. And now I have some time to reflect on a few experiences over in that huge shopping mall on the other side of the world.
8 hours to kill in LA before flying on to Portland. What is a girl to do but go shopping? Well there is no other choice for this girl.
But even for a seasoned shopper like myself there were a few eye openers and interesting observations.
So here goes...
Things we don't do in Australia... or things that I haven't seen

  • line up in one line and wait to get served (maybe in supermarkets but not in clothes shops)

  • sign for credit card on LCD screen (we still sign on paper) see pic

  • get our shoes shined in the street
  • buy our newspapers from containers in the street( we buy them at the newsagent or get them delivered)
  • have ice skating rinks in the middle of shopping centres with kids learning how to ice skate
  • people drving everywhere with mobile phones to their ears. (illegal in Australia)
  • people driving on the right hand side of the road
  • me having to remember to walk on the right hand side of the street cause I kept on walking into other people
  • having to remember to tip people (we don't do it here)

There were lots of other cool things that I saw that I'll add to in the next few days.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Flying is like being a sheep getting shorn

2 hours to Sydney-13 hours to LA-8 hours stopover-3 hours to Portland and I got here.

A few thoughts about flying.
It occurred to me while getting on a plane for the third time that flying in economy class is a bit like the way my dad used to draft sheep when I was growing up.

Picture this...
Sheep-When it was time for shearing all the sheep would be herded into the sheep yards.
Humans-When it's time to fly we humans all make our way to the giant sheep yard in Melbourne called Tullamarine Airport.

Sheep-Once the mob of sheep got to the sheep yards they were herded down a long corral and were sorted by my dad into the rams, the ewes and the wethers.
Humans-we get to the airport, we line up in great long lines and get herded through the check in counter into First Class, Business Class and Economy.

Sheep-if it looks like rain they are rushed through the yards and into the shed ready for shearing where they wait for hours
Humans-we are told that we have to be at the airport three hours early and then we sit and wait for hours for our plane.

Sheep-each sheep is dragged out by the shearer and stripped of all their wool. Their wool is then picked over by the wool classer and all the bad bits are picked out.
Humans- we go through customs, get picked over, all the bad bits (like sharp things and metal stuff) are picked over or checked

Sheep- the sheep get shoved down a shute and out a little door and squashed into a yard to wait for the other sheep to be shorn.

Humans- in ecomony class you walk down a long corridor and into a plane that has all the people squashed in as tight as possible.

And that's why I think we are sort of like sheep getting shorn when we fly:

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sitting in my Motel Room in uptown Portland, Oregon.

Well here I am in my motel room having flown across the other side of the world to see new things, meet new people and learn new stuff.
How, you say, did this happen? Luck, more than anything but also the generosity of Intel and particularly their educational program Intel Teach to the Future Essentials http://www.tmd.com.au/education/ that provides integrating ICT in the classroom training for teachers all over the world including the Australian states of Victoria, Queensland and NSW, the influence of the Victorian Ed Dept and the kindness of Wedderburn College for letting me come.
So here I am and what I plan to do is to document this experience via my blog so that you, dear reader, can get an idea of the experience of one teacher flying across the other side of the world to meet other teachers from all over the world.
The image that I have added is at the beginning of my journey taken from Melbourne airport as I was waiting to board the United Airlines flight. 27 hours (included an 8 hour stopover at Los Angeles) here I am. More to come...