Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blogging Guidelines for Schools

With the rapidly increasing number of students blogging as part of their learning experiences it is good to see that Netsafe has been working on behalf of New Zealand Schools and the Ministry of Education to produce a set of guidelines for schools. It has been labelled guidelines as they are clearly not offering directives but rather "to assist schools in developing a policy for the safe and educationally appropriate use of web-logs or blogs." They have emulated the blogging environment in their approach and have published their guidelines with comments boxes under each of the six headings. So if you want to have your say on this topic, head on over to their website, join their community and add your thoughts to the discussion. They clearly are interested in listening to schools and educators as I recognise a few of the phrases and ideas being explored!
  1. Why use a school blog
  2. Establishing an educational blog
  3. Monitoring and managing the school blog?
  4. Privacy and copyright
  5. Platforms and tools
  6. Discussion questions for your school
They’ve also set up a simple survey there where people can vote for the three most important characteristics of a successful digital citizen. When I went in and added my vote the results so far showed that "Behaves Ethically" has almost double the votes of any of the other options. "Confident and Capable" is the next most voted for aspect of digital citizenship with "Critical Thinker" a close third. So get along there and make your vote. But if you would like to state your opinion publically, then pop back here and tell us through the comments.
I would have liked to choose 4 options, because I think that "Managing your Digital Footprint" is right up there too. And whilst the other three characteristics are being talked about in some classes in some schools, I think it is still extremely rare to find teachers talking with students about managing their digital footprint.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All you need is a twinkle of CRC!

After my last post with lots of acronyms flung at us by the MoE you could be excused for wondering what the title of this post is referring to. Well think kiwi - I am talking about the stuff in your tool shed.

A teacher here has been muttering for weeks about her MacBook not playing sound through the internal speakers, even though it plays fine through head phones and other external devices. Like all teachers she needed her laptop too much to hand it in for repairs for an issue that, while extremely irritating, didn't warrant the inconvenience of sending her laptop away to TELA for 10 days for repairs.

This week I took it off her for half an hour to see what had been mucked up in the system settings. Turned out nothing was out of sync; it really was telling her that "selected device has no output controls". Next stop Google and sure enough, it seems to be a common problem. And the geeky advice was endless, and time consuming. Including extremes of reinstalling the system etc.

Didn't take long before I came across a post by some dude who should be an honorary kiwi - he explained in technical terms what was wrong and then said it can be fixed in a jiffy with No.8 wire and CRC. Actually not quite. I presume he is American and offered the US equivalent of CRC - 'JUST a twinkle' and a poke around at 3 o'clock position inside the head phone jack with a tooth pick, and all would be back to normal. Apparently something inside needed to be toggled!

Well, I am not admitting to anything online about a TELA laptop, BUT one very happy teacher was the result. And when the news got around two more laptops appeared with the same problem, requiring the same solution - to the delight of the male staff members who carried out the delicate operation.

(I will provide a link to the webpage with the answer on it - when I find it again)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Managing the Learning

This morning I attended the MLE Roadshow for New Zealand Schools and listened while Paul Seiler and Ian Munro delivered a wealth of information to a large group of what looked like Auckland principals and senior managers. If people kept their attention focussed throughout they should have come away with a very clear picture of what a Managed Learning Environment (MLE) means for their schools and how it connects the Student Management Systems (SMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS).
They also did a great job of impressing on those present that this world we have all entered has to be led from the top by the principal and senior management. And they had a strong message for schools with no/little/out-dated policies for staff and students using these environments - "Get it organised - NOW". It is just a shame that we are all lumbered with those confusing acronyms. How many people know an LMS from an SMS or an MLE? Well, if you do, they were handing out chocolate fish!
We heard quite a bit about the eportfolio systems being offered by some of the vendors the Ministry of Education has selected as preferred partners. The Google Apps while mentioned, appear to be a sideline to the main event at this stage.
The notes from this are easy to read and available on this link on slideshare.

I left there and headed back to my office to meet with the Google Certified Teachers group on an Elluminate session organised by Cindy Lane. The guest speaker was Kern Kelley and co-incidently he shared with us for an hour the way his district in Maine, USA is using the Google suite of tools and where it places the students as they graduate. While there was no mention of the acronyms we are familar with in NZ, the students from Grade 5 (11 years) and older are using the Google tools (with lots of other Web 2 tools embedded) to manage and support their learning.
When they graduate, Kern's students are gifted a personal web address ( to take forward with them into their adult life. On the website, "What's in a Name", one of the FAQs explains, "
The intent of having the web address is to help manage your digital identity. Many students have MySpace or Facebook accounts, but these are usually focused on more personal aspects of your life. This account is meant to help you craft your professional side." Into this webspace they can take forward aspects of their ePortfolio from the Google account they used as students at school.
This seemed like a wonderful answer to the questions I was hearing in the morning session about how our MoE was going to handle the storage of student artifacts, data etc for them to be able to access in their life after school. By 18 years of age they could make the decision and choose what they wanted to bring forward into their own website. And I particularly like the way this enables students to 'round out' their digital footprint to include the academic and learning content in the same space as their social networking antics. These students are advantaged when future employers Google them by having other aspects of their life added to their identity.

Kern's blog, the Tech Curve' also has an interesting article
for us , 'Why Google', as we continue our discussions about the place of all the acronyms in New Zealand education.
I am embedding the Googlezon video he links to which may scare as many people as it fascinates.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Education Outside The Classroom

I wonder how many of us still take students on school camps and on EOTC experiences which brave the sea, rivers, lakes or the mountains? Rumour has it that schools are becoming more and more cautious about it after some of the tragic experiences we have heard about in the media. So I was a bit surprised this week to hear as I was driving, some parent ringing in and complaining on talk back (no, that's not the bit that surprised!) about having to fork out for more and more school camps. I thought his kids were jolly lucky.
on camps and EOTC trips has always been part of my life, even as a preschooler. My parents were the sort who organised camps for kids in their own holidays. And all my best schooling memories are a series of trips into the great New Zealand wild or going on camping weeks. So even in my first year of teaching I took my intermediate class tramping in the bush and on a camp. One of the things I have noticed is that when you meet up with past pupils 20 or 30 years later, it is the EOTC that they remember most clearly. Join a Facebook group of past pupils and the chances are they will be talking about the trips and camps they went on.

The thing that all successful EOTC experiences have in common is that some sound organisation and planning has occured before hand and behind the scenes. The first trip I took with my Year 7 class in 1979 was a day tramping in the Waitakeres. 60 kids, another BT (who hadn't done much EOTC before) and a few parents and me. We had no forms to fill in and no-one thought to send along a more senior teacher, but I sure did my prep before hand. We spent a couple of weekends tramping the tracks we were taking the kids on to become really familiar with the area as I had never been there before. We spent a bit of time at the visitor centre talking to guides and getting some maps. And we did all the usual planning; which groups to go with which parents (the ratbags in my group of course), the first aid, the buses etc. There were some hairy moments, which I will not publish online, but we all got back safely and repeated it later in the year.

There will always be an element of 'danger'. No-one can prepare for a sudden tragedy or an 'act-of-god' weather experience; but good preparation, including being familiar with the territory, goes a long way towards making EOTC events memorable for all involved.

So continuing with the boss' theory that 'all the 21st century digital stuff is easy to get your head around if you apply good old fashioned principles to it', it amazes me how many teachers embark on digital EOTC with no prior experience, no scouting the terrain, no contingency plans, no parent meetings (or the equivalent) etc. It seems pretty straight forward to me. You 'go on a course' and you hear about, say, Voice Thread. Or maybe you see it somewhere. Ok, do you sign up and get going with other people's kids or do you scout around, maybe Google a few examples to have a look at? Even take a few minutes to look at VoiceThread's own tutorial or explore their examplars?

I just think that some teachers are getting their analogies wrong. Taking the 'I'm not a manual reader, I'm a try-it-and-find-out kind of person' attitude, which is fabulous when it is about them and their personal learning styles, and applying it to taking 30 youngsters (who are other people's kids) into an online EOTC experience doesn't work for me.

Having been podcasting from early on, I will admit to carrying some baggage from my experiences with groups of educators who have asked to come and visit our school for some PD on how to podcast. My first question at one of these sessions is, 'Great, what is your favourite podcast? What do you like to listen to?" 9.5 times out of 10 I am met with a blank stare. I am not quite sure why you would contemplate doing this with kids if you haven't explored the terrain yourself.
What possible use would you be thinking it could have in your class if you have no idea about the good, the bad and the ugly?

The origins of this Manaiakalani blog relate back to some teachers who challenged me about asking them to blog with their classes when, although I read heaps of blogs, I wasn't actually doing it myself. A bit like directing a class tramp through the Waitakeres from a helicopter?

This post has been languishing in draft form and Derek's post today inspired me to get on and publish it.