Sunday, January 24, 2010

Google Apps Status Dashboard

Google Apps status updates are available from this link.

It is well worth bookmarking and going there whenever you are beginning to feel like you are wrestling with one of the Google Apps.

In their words, "This page offers performance information for Google Apps services. Unless otherwise noted, this status information applies to consumer services as well as services for organisations using Google Apps."

You can see from this screen shot that information is supplied about 11 Apps.
Hands up who wishes Blogger was one of them??

You can see from the information supplied about this outage with Google Sites that there was less than an hour between them publicly acknowledging the problem and posting again that it was fixed.
Note the RSS feed at the bottom of the Google Apps Status Dashboard page. I have added it to my iGoogle page so it is nice and handy to keep an eye on.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rock Our World - The Movie

Global collaborative projects for classrooms have become one of the education buzz terms for happening teachers in the noughties. This term is used to cover a wide range of programmes and activities and from my limited experience they are not all created equal! They range from: "I've Got this Idea and I would like some foreign schools to join it - but strictly on my terms at my convenience"; through to the inclusive, sweeping-across-continents Rock Our World. Some of the projects are really successful with only 2 or 3 schools participating, and some have very large numbers involved.

I have a long personal interest in learning in this way because I had a teacher in primary school who set us up with penpals from around the world, and I exchanged letters with 3 of them (Japan, France and Argentina) for a number of years. It is hard to imagine now how I had the patience to keep that up when the delay between letters was weeks or months. I supsect that it was an ongoing curiosity about how other people around the world lived that provided the motivation for a child living on a dairy farm in the Waikato.

Recent technology has created an opportunity for huge numbers of children to extend their learning, their understanding of others and their world view and have a lot of fun doing it. So I am always interested when I see new ideas for projects being tweeted or blogged or publicised on places like the GlobalEducation Ning. I do have a few things that I look out for before I even consider bringing them to a busy teacher's attention back at school - which is all I can do now I don't have my own class:
  • the learning- what is this all about for the students?
  • does it look like fun?
  • who is organising it? (I've been caught out in the past and discovered when we were all set up and waiting to go that the organiser started it as a way of them learning how to use video conferencing tools, and so we never actually got to speak because they weren't able technically to connect with us. Very disappointing for the children.)
  • is it truly global or just a bunch of international school expats working together (I love International schools and taught for 5 years in them, but I want our students to meet the locals!)
  • is this going to be a synchronous or asynchronous experience? To be practical it needs a significant asynchronous commponent, but nothing beats the synchronous for kids. Actually talking to, or being on a chat with, kids from somewhere far away and mysterious is fantastic.
  • is there give and take in the synchronous, or will the time zones always favour the organisers? It is part of the learning fun to get up in the middle of the night and huddle around a webcam, but it gets a bit tiresome if there are members who always schedule the conferences for Period 2 during school at their end!

I tweeted a question about this back in October: "
What is the biggest difficulty you face when connecting kids globally? Time zones? School term dates? celebrations/holidays?" I was surprised how many responses I got and a very large majority said time zones. In fact 100% of the Kiwi responses said that, and I supsect that is because our time is so out of kilter. One of the greatly appreciated touches in ROW is the table we all get handed with our times all mapped out so we can find our own and the other schools with a quick glance down the table. This is a much more inviting solution than being told to "Join us at 9.00am EST" or similar. Another appreciated solution is to take the time to look up the other participants' time zone and invite them saying something like, "This will be 12 am your time and 10.30 am our time".

I noticed in the last round of Rock our World that holidays and celebrations were a biggie too. Carol Anne organised a calendar of all our school holidays and festivals and on any given day of the project there was at least one school either away on holiday or having a short break for a festival celebration. I guess this was bound to happen when 40 schools from all 7 continents were participating!

This has been a very long introduction to Rock Our World - the Movie. In the second half of 2009 Pt England students participated in the 11th round of ROW. This one was around the theme of 'Tolerance'. As well as the usual learning experiences we have with ROW (all learning about a topic together, writing music together, and lots of video chats with each other to share the learning) Carol Anne organised a song that we all learned to sing and everyone videoed themselves to contribute to the final music video - which has now been published on iTunes as a song and YouTube as a video. You will glimpse the kids from Pt England and Summerland schools in it. Rock Our World! Song sung by students in 40 schools in all 7 continents!

Andrea Tele'a was the teacher who managed Pt England's participation in ROW and published footage and updates on the Ning. Student reflections were published on their own blogs.

This is how Carol Anne introduces the video on YouTube:
ROW is an international collaboration where students from around the globe compose music, make movies and meet each other in live chats!
Songwriter: Stephen Petree
Sung by: Stephen Petree and the Students of ROW 11
Also available on iTunes!

Congratulations if you made it this far. Carol Anne has just announced on Twitter a new round of ROW....."What do you get when you cross Rock Our World and NIKE??? A brand new season callled "Walk Our World!" WOW!" Looks like another fun one to sign up to!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What did you read at the beach?

One of the things I love about other people's baches is reading through the bookshelf. You can always rely on an eclectic mix of paperbacks left behind by previous holiday makers and a stash of ancient tomes that have to have come from someone's great-aunt's deceased estate!

This summer we trekked north to Henderson Bay in the far north of New Zealand. This beautiful beach with surf, sand, rocky headlands, fishing, diving and pohutukawas typifies the images that come to mind when talking about an NZ Summer Holiday. We stayed in a small cottage and camped around it as the whanau expanded. The bookshelf here was behind the back door and you wouldn't want to begin to psych
oanalyse the contents.

One book that provided hours of entertainment was "The Children's Hour With Uncle Arthur - Book 1", by Arthur S. Maxwell.
Wholesome, Truthful, Uplifting, Inspiring Stories for Boys and Girls. Complete with more capital letters than I have seen in a long time. It was a collection of improving homilies for children of the 1940's, and was illustrated by a selection of the most hilarious photos and paintings.

Thought you might enjoy this one....

(If you can't read the caption, click on the photo and it will open in a new page)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cape Reinga to Bluff in one year

Cape Reinga and Bluff have to be two of the top 10 'must sees' in New Zealand. One of my highlights of 2009 was getting to travel the entire length of the country and visit both of these kiwi landmarks for the first time in my life. In January'09 I went on a road trip north with my family and was stunned by the beauty of Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island. As well as the wairua and physical beauty of the place, it was impressive to see the way that DoC have developed the place for visitors.

Then in the October holidays while speaking at the ILT conference in Invercargill I paid my first visit to Bluff- at the bottom of the South Island. And once again stood beneath the iconic signposts. This time it was cold, bleak and Wintery, but this created a great counter point experience. It was then that I realised how privileged I have been to have seen both places inside one year. And was reminded of a post I had done the year before after a trip to the West Coast of the South Island. New Zealanders really need to get out and see this great country before heading overseas.

This Summer we again headed north, to spend our Summer at the beach in Henderson Bay in the Far North. Because it is only a 45 minute drive to Cape Reinga we decided to go up there after dinner to see the sun set. A couple of dozen people had the same idea and most had brought cameras (and tripods) and were there to take creative photos. It was quite a fun, camp atmosphere as people started talking to each other and even helping each other frame up their shots. Whether looking through a lense or huddled together on one of the bench seats, the sun setting over the place where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans meet that should be on everyone's bucket list.

And when the sun finally set, the solar powered light beamed out from the lighthouse on the cliff top, lighting the way as most wandered back up the path to their cars and a few seemed to be settling in for the night.