Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Campus Channel

After more than a decade of publishing a daily televised news show, prolific blogging and podcasting, we are still exploring more ways of sharing and celebrating the students work.

When we met up with Jeremy from Tentacle and hear about Campus Channel earlier in the year we were interested with his concept of a simple web based interface for teachers and students to upload movie content to and have it play on screens around the school. At the moment we have it playing on one screen in the foyer and there are always kids, parents and courier drivers sitting or standing in front of it checking it out.

I like the way it uses a simple twitter feed to display messages at the bottom of the screen. And I am amazed at how many people read them! It is more effective than a notice board. I created a twitter account to use just for this purpose, and it cycles through the current and up coming evens and announcements. Well. current as long as I remember to go back and delete out-of-date tweets!

The web interface allows you to create playlists and have different content on different screens. The vision here is more screens in corridors and other public areas of the school in the future.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming to an end with our Blogs

This is not breaking news that Blogging is about to come to an end! Just that our academic year is coming to an end in New Zealand and as we farewell our classes for the Summer and prepare for new students in 2010, some teachers are beginning to ask, "What do we do with our Blogs?" This tells us that Blogging has become a mainstream activity in many schools now.

The question has two main underlying strands: these Blogs now contain an extensive record of student learning so we want the content preserved for the students; they also represent a lot of hard work on the part of the teachers who don't want to lose all the connections and hyperlinks that have evolved.

So we have tried to put together some helpful tips for our teachers about what to do at the end of the year. They come under headings like:
  • if the teacher is leaving the school
  • if the teacher is switching rooms or levels
  • if the teacher is starting from scratch
  • if the teacher is inheriting and 'old' blog
  • etc

You are welcome to check out and use our Google Site we have created. If you have further suggestions for it, please add them to the comment here.
NB: as we use Blogger, the resource is all based around Blogger.

We can't help you if your own school has different protocols! eg We have heard of a school that requires teachers to close down all blogs and start fresh at the begining of the year; we have heard of schools directing teachers to hand their blog to another teacher etc
Well worth checking out the expectations at the beginning of the year before you start blogging!

Monday, November 23, 2009

eTools-as basic as breathing

The basic technology tool kit of a teacher in 2009 has exploded from something filling a small handbag in 1999, to a full set of luggage in the last decade.

In 1999 we would have taken for granted that a teacher could use pen (in several colours), pencil and paper, could operate a photocopier and telephone and we would have presumed they had a driver's licence. Since then, with the exponential growth of technologies in our schools, the list of what we take for granted that a teacher can do and use is extensive.

We have an immersive eLearning environment, and we want to let new teachers know what will be taken for granted - without being overwhelming!! Tall order. This needs to acknowledge new teachers will be a mixture of beginners and experienced teachers and have used a variety of operating systems on computers. Help us create our list of skills that are as basic as breathing for new teachers to our school in 2010. Anything you would add or subtract would be appreciated in the comments.

Here we go....

As we induct new teachers for the year beginning 2010, we are creating a list of what we would expect that teachers know how to do. Just as no judgement is offered when from time to time we encounter a teacher who doesn't drive a car, the list following is not 'success criteria'. But to function effortlessly in the 2010 environment we WILL presume the following:

All our teachers are able to:

  • check an email account daily and manage it efficiently
  • use a computer or laptop and trouble shoot basic functions ie on/off, connect to printer, connection to internet
  • use the internet to search, find information and to communicate
  • particpate in online environments eg blogs or forums or Nings or Trademe or Facebook etc
  • manage music files in software eg in iTunes
  • manage photo files using software
  • download photos from a camera
  • use a word processing document efficiently
  • store and retrieve data from a hard drive eg your computer
  • access Google Docs
  • edit a short video clip using simple software ( was "create a movie" - changed due to feedback below *)

All our teachers are able to use the following independently:

  • video camera
  • still camera
  • laptop
  • cellphone
NB: None of the above is platform specific ie no-one expects new staff to be familiar with the MacOS used on our Apple computers. The skills above transfer quickly if they have already been embedded.

All our teachers will need to learn quickly (with help available) once on the job:

  • administer a student blog ie upload content, manage commenting, manage student use
  • edit online pages e.g blog or Google sites or KnowledgeNet
  • social networking
  • store and retrieve from network
  • Google Apps - personally and with students
  • how record and edit audio
  • a graphics programme your level of students is using (e.g Kidpix, Hyperstudio, Pixelmator, Photoshop)
  • create a basic presentation eg Keynote or Google or Prezi or Powerpoint
  • MacOS basics
  • saving files in a variety of file formats (e.g .mov,.dv, .jpg, .aiff, .doc etc)
  • student management system
  • printing to networked copiers
  • use of sound field
  • use of data projector
  • use PhotoBooth
A list like this has to be specific to the individual school's needs. What have you created for your school?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Sites Templates

An announcement this week on the official Google Sites blog will make a lot of teachers and schools happy. They have ready made templates to enable your Site to look and feel like a web page.

"Google Sites makes creating and sharing a website easy. It is powerful enough for a company intranet, yet simple enough for a family website. Today, we’re happy to simplify the site creation process even further with the introduction of the Google Sites template gallery. When you select a template from the new Sites template gallery, your new site will come setup with custom page layouts, links for navigating to each page, embedded gadgets, themes and much more...."

So for those who STILL do not have a school website for 2010, maybe this could be a good place to start, particularly for the small schools who don't have extra staff and money to do these things. And for those of us using Sites for all kinds of other purposes, this will make the creation process much quicker. Having said that, I have always been a person who likes to start from a blank page, be it PowerPoint, Hyperstudio, Keynote or whatever!

You can read more about it in this Washington Post article here.

I have been experimenting a little with creating a page in Google Sites and copying the HTML and pasting it into KnowledgeNet, simply because I find Sites faster to use. Last week I got caught out because none of the images showed when I pasted the HTML into KN. I puzzled over it, then realised that I hadn't made the Site public in the settings, so of course they weren't available in KN.

One of the features I am sure we will use quickly (those of us who have Google Apps for Education) is the ability to create a template for your school and have it available inside your school Google Apps for everyone to use. It doesn't have to be shared publicly. You could create some very useful Portfolio templates like this.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creativity - an elusive ideal?

During TEP Bahrain there were a number of ideas that recurred throughout the conference. In the eLearning stream that I presented in, creativity was one of these - unsurprisingly. One of the most impacting statements made for me was when a woman asked a question following our presentations that went something like; "It is all very well to talk about creativity as being an essential component of 21st Century education, but what are we to do if in our countries our teachers have never seen a creative classroom, been taught in one or have any idea what it would look like?"

This question has stuck in my mind and I have been pondering it for a couple of weeks now. Firstly to realise how many intangible advantages we have in developed countries, and secondly to consider what we have to offer as real solutions to developing countries.

On our return from the Middle East we stopped over in Sydney so I could attend the Australia/NZ ADE conference for 3 days. As part of the event we were asked to bring a 2 minute 'double click' to present. This was to be a multimedia presentation showcasing what we have been doing in our own recent practice. As you can imagine at a gathering like this these presentations were stunning and I learned a huge amount from them. And carrying the hallmark of the ADE community, they were very creative.

During the first session Maxx Judd, who organises the global ADE programme, gave a presentation showing where on the globe ADEs are located. When I saw the map, with the question of the woman in Bahrain still alive in my head, my eyes were drawn more to where ADEs are not represented on the world map and I decided to change my presentation. I looked at the talent in the room and thought about the words used to describe ADEs: Advocates, Advisors, Authors, Ambassadors - and wondered if there was any place for this talented group to support the kinds of schools who have never experienced creativity.

So this is what I put together that night for my double click presentation on the second day...

Added YouTube version in response to request. Left blogger version for those where YT is blocked!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swine Flu - this cloud may have a silver lining

The whole swine flu epidemic came and went in the New Zealand Winter without creating much impact in my corner of the world. Sure a school down the road closed for a couple of days and a few adult friends were quarantined because of it, but it really didn't seem to have much more impact than a lot of the Winter health issues we have faced in schools over the years. Perhaps that meant the excessive hand washing and sterilising- the extra focus on hygiene- was effective? It certainly made an impact on the school administrators with the endless pandemic paperwork, planning and policies required to prepare for an outbreak. Our country has seen 14 deaths in total as a result and the weekend papers tell us that it is over and the tourists are returning because of it.

So when we arrived in Bahrain we were surprised to see what high profile H1N1 had, both in that country and amongst all the schools from the Northern Hemishere countries. In Bahrain we heard that the students were only just returning from the long Summer holiday mid October, having been told to take extra weeks off to prevent an outbreak of H1N1. This had impacted schools significantly and we spoke with teachers concerned with how they were going to prepare students for high stakes testing with the school year shortened.

However, we were very interested to hear from 3 educators from 3 different continents similar stories of how the swine flu had created an interesting positive (from their point of view) outcome in their schools. In preparing for a swine flu outbreak their schools were requiring their teachers to prepare effective virtual schooling experiences to enable their students to continue their learning from home if their schools were closed.

One teacher said they had all been asked to have 4 weeks of course content available on Moodle for the students; another said all their teachers had been required to explore synchronous and asynchronous options and submit a plan to interact with the students (eg Skype, Elluminate, blogs, wikis etc). The third educator said their institution was planning to use iTunes U to teach their students. In all of these cases, the thing that delighted them was that finally ALL teachers were being required to come on board with 21st Century learning. With the urgency of an in-your-face need, there was nowhere for the reluctant, late-adopters to hide. And they all spoke of being run off their feet providing professional support for the teachers who had either avoided professional development opportunities or simply not implemented them in the past.

I wonder how many eLearning facilitators and lead teachers have doubted if the time will ever arrive when being digitally literate will be a non-negotiable requirement for all 21st century teachers? It didn't happen in the first decade, so maybe the second decade will see it happen?

Unlike the Nothern Hemishpere, we didn't perceive the swine flu as threatening enough to take serious measures to prepare to teach large numbers of students virtually. But for anyone who was listening to Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, addressing the ULearn09 conference, we did hear her deliver a 'hard line' message to the 25% of schools (or was it teachers?) who have not yet implemented 21st Century technologies in their curriculum delivery. The interesting question is how she will insist that this happens?

TEP Conference Media

This movie was produced by the media crew at The Education Project Bahrain and shown to us at the closing ceremony. It is available at this link....

As I sat and waited for proceedings to begin, I whipped out the Flip Video to capture my own footage of the media doing their thing below....

I have also noticed that official video of the sessions is now being posted online:
Day One links (October 16th)
Day Two links (October 17th)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

State of Affairs of Educational Outcomes - TEP09

The Education Project conference got underway with a 'debate' style of 5 minute addresses on the subject of "State of Affairs of Educational Outcomes".
The starter questions given were:
  • Why donʼt outcomes measurements tell the full story?
  • Why are educational levels below what we expect?
  • Why have so many reform programmes that promised results not had the desired effect?
Following are couple of points from each speaker that grabbed my attention...

Tony Wagner - speaking about 21st century learners
  • All students need new skills, skills we do not know how to teach or test.
  • "Reinventing education for the 21st Century is the conversation I hope we will be having over these next two days".
Bahram Bekhradnia - speaking about Universities.
  • Governments need high class universities to achieve modern knowledge societies.
  • Universities need to be free and have good governance. Autonomous universities are the best !
  • Need quality and relevance. Some of the best graduates are qualified in subjects such as drama.
  • Universities are not there to produce oven-ready graduates for the work force!
Dr Mona Mourshed - speaking from a research perspective
  • 3 Trillion dollars is going into education across the OECD yet when you look at student outcomes over the last decade they have hardly moved! How can this be?
  • Classroom size doesn't work and research shows it is not important! Reducing class size is the most expensive reform. It has devalued teaching by making more teachers. It has created worse pre-service training by spreading the budget out further.
  • Students spend 60% of their time out of school. Technology has the power to unleash the potential of the student because they have access to learning during the 60% time.
Alan Blankstein
  • If assessment is to be precise it will be narrow. There needs to be a trade off.
  • The system delivers what it is designed to. If we want to alter the system and the outcomes of the sytem, we need to start with the readiness of the child - which may even be whether or not they have eaten. Change is technically simple but socially complex (quoting Michael Fullen).
  • School leaders need to emphasise positive deviance. Identify excellence and help to spread it. Positive deviance should become the norm.
Dr Frank J. Macchiarola
  • In education there is a difference between perception and reality. People inside education see it one way. People outside education see it differently.
  • We need to look at education as if the children in the school are our own.
  • We all have to invest in education. The school can't do it all.
  • We need schools in partnership with society. Our children need faith, belief, high expectations and love.
Andreas Schleicher - speaking via video
  • Tests are no longer sufficient to tell whether children are successful. Application of knowledge is far more important. Kids need to be able to diagnose, create, and communicate.
  • Strong foundation in base subjects is still very important. But after that comes what you can do with it.
  • We can't always break things down into bits to solve problems. We must be able to analyse, synthesise etc.
  • We need to focus on key competencies, not just build a knowledge base.
Following these presentation statements, the debate revolved mainly around class size issues, pre-service training and work conditions. One point raised strongly from the floor was, "What style of teaching was taking place when researchers concluded class size doesn't matter?" Was it a very knowledge, content, didactic approach? Or was it Inquiry driven classrooms?

Conclusion: While Dr Mourshed may have raised the most controversy with her comments over class size, it was her statements about the 60% of student life occuring outside the classroom that were constantly picked up on over the rest of the conference. Whether it was people talking about community based programmes or the eLearning crowd talking about technology making learning accessible 24/7, many of the speakers reinforced
"the solution to the questions posed at the beginning lies in being far more productive with the 60% time".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Education Project - Bahrain 2009

"The Education Project is an opportunity to showcase innovations that have succeeded in one area – and, we hope, can successfully be adapted for another."
His Royal Highness Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al‐Khalifa Crown Prince, Kingdom of Bahrain
The Education Project has been and gone, and for many of you who have been wondering what it was all about, I am colating some of the thoughts and ideas I gathered. This post contains an excerpt from the opening Keynote from HRH. The entire speech is ten minutes long and can be downloaded as a pdf from here or watched on YouTube here (NEW!). The excerpt I have included in the video below will hopefully give you the gist of what the conference goals were. If you are anything like me, and relatively ignorant about the state of education in the Middle East, then take the 3 minutes to watch it.

The preconference blurb informed that "The Project will showcase seedling models of innovation and success in education, and encourage commitments from the private and public sector to adapt these models for wider roll-out." The conference was attended by about 300 people from 65 countries. The format of the conference encouraged maximum exposure for the greatest number of people/projects with most speakers being limited to a 10 minute presentation - quite TED Talk style. There were seven Plenary sessions, each with several speakers and 10 breakout topic streams - again with a number of presentations. With input of this intensity, there was an overwhelm of great ideas, but many of the most valuable connections came in the breaks, the shuttle vans and back at the hotel.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Peruvian Mihi

One of the fun aspects of arriving at The Education Project Bahrain is meeting up with Gabriela Ojeda from Peru, who we have got to know through the Rock Our World projects. We have talked from time to time via video conference, and it is quite something to meet up in the Middle East at this conference. One of the things we appreciated about Gaby from collaborating online was how her students responded to our Pt England kids' mihimihi on Flickr. They left a lot of thoughtful comments for the students.
Her students in Peru (which she says is pronounced correctly with a Maori accent, NOT a kiwi one!) are creating Mihi, modelling on the ones published by the PES students. Like so many of the people we are meeting at this conference, they are multi-lingual, so will create their mihi in two or more languages. Looking forward to seeing these!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What motivates kids to write?

The latest brain based teaching techniques? Cleverly designed Inquiry units? Interactive white boards? Inspirational teachers? Fabulous black-line master lessons? Accessing wonderful digital learning objects? Mood music?

I have been spending a bit of the holidays reflecting on this since attending the ILT (Inspiring Local Thinkers) Conference in Invercargill. This conference lives up to its name with every detail well thought out and anyone who gets a chance to attend should grab it. Set aside some time in the holidays in 2011 (the date of the next one) and go and enjoy some truly Southern hospitality. Speakers such as Marcia Tate, Eric Jensen, Rich Allan and Karyn Boyes challenged the attendees to think about how young people learn best and Christine Rankin closed the conference challenging us to stand up for what we believe is right. In between times the 'locals' presented a wide range of workshops. It was refreshing being at a conference where the solutions being offered were mostly outside the realm of eLearning that I inhabit most frequently. And it got me thinking, even where I was not convinced! With all the options being offered to motivate students to learn rattling round in my brain I arrived home and opened my RSS reader. What caught my attention was a flood of posts coming from blogs in our Manaiakalani cluster of schools. OK, some of these were coming from clever teachers who had scheduled posts of student content created at the end of the term to upload automatically over the break. This is a great idea because it not only keeps the blog fresh but also provides a reason to keep checking out their class blog over the holidays. And of course they are reading in the process. But what really caught my eye was the number of students who were posting. These are students CHOOSING to write during their holidays. How do I know that these were not cleverly scheduled posts? Because the content is topical. Leoden reporting on the Eels game and the Storm's win; Toreka with her recount of holiday camp and THE Fight, Destiney reporting about Totara Springs, Tanielu with his "Mountain Warrior TUAnated" etc.

What we are seeing is a bunch of kids writing without needing any of the raft of motivational teachniques and tools I started out with. So what is that all about? Maybe it is enough to teach kids HOW to write at school and if we give them the right environment to write in they will supply their own motivation. Or maybe it is that sense of audience....

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 (studentname.com) 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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Criminal Intent

It happens so frequently that it has become an expected, if not accepted, part of life. The call outs in the night for alarms going off at school. The criminals are no respector of socio-economic group either. They are as happy to knock off schools in affluent areas as they are in low decile ones. So often they perform mindless snatch and grabs over a series of nights, taking items that come in too close to the insurance excess to warrant a claim. And we all know of an unlucky teacher who has been caught out by a laptop theft with irreplaceable files on it.
From time to time you get lucky and catch one (not often enough) or get one who is REALLY thick. This post is to use more than 140 characters to let the twitter peeps know the happy outcome from the weekend burglary where we seem to have got the thick one(s).

In 2006 we were very chuffed to win a Tandberg Video Conferencing unit that was worth $10K. It has really only come into its own since we joined the NEN trial with access to KAREN and the benefits of fast broadband. But the kids have been loving it and have written up a few of their experiences on their blogs. We have also enjoyed letting other people come in to school and use it for meetings that they may not otherwise have had access to.
So we were pretty upset over the weekend to discover that the latest burg was the room where the Tandberg was set up. The door was prized open and they came in and took the Unit but we presumed they were disturbed by the alarm before they got the projector off the roof or the speakers off the wall. In going to check what had happened in the dark, the microphone (you can see on the right of the picture below) was found chucked on the ground. And the empty laptop boxes it usually sits on had been ripped open.
All who knew about it and use it at school were pretty glum and I had a little pity party on Twitter. Thanks for the support :)

Fast forward to the light of day, and there was the disgarded Tandberg. The criminals obviously had no idea of the value of the item they had snatched and had chucked it in disgust when they realised the laptop boxes were empty! And best yet, when our techie man plugged it in and turned it on it "gave a cough and fired up as good as new - actually with a slightly clearer picture!"
Not so fortunate for one of our neighbouring schools who on the same night had some teacher laptops successfully lifted - presumably by the same crew.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ECE teachers lead the way

Today I was reminded again of an old NZEI union slogan that was going around when primary teachers were trying to get pay parity with secondary teachers "Shoe size shouldn't shape salaries". I was invited to attend "Touch the Future, Teach the Future", a conference put on for early childhood educators from around the north island by their ICT facilitators working with CORE-ed. This is the 3rd time they have held their annual hui at Pt England School, and every time I have been impressed by the level of integration of eLearning being carried out with these very young children. We should be very wary of making assumptions based on shoe size about what children are capable of learning using technology tools.
The workshops being held were for using tools that many primary and intermediate teachers are still not allowing their students to access. Photography, video editing, multimedia software, Comic Life, Voice Thread etc. And these, mostly women, have 3 and 4 year olds using this technology!
For my workshop on Oral Language I tried setting up my presentation in a Google site so the attendees could access all the material I presented afterwards. I was very pleased with the changes that have recently been made in Google sites and how easy it now is to embed and hyperlink all the content I wanted to.

Derek Wenmoth and Jane Nicholls, both from the CORE-ed team, gave inspiring keynote addresses, incorporating humour and challenge.

I came away at the end of today determining again to recommend to anyone going to ICT conferences such as ULearn to make sure that at least one of the workshops they attend is from the ECE sector. We all need to keep being reminded of what the kids wearing the smallest shoes are doing in their learning - even high school teachers!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More Evidence from Google Earth

Found another tool to add to our webspaces to provide evidence to the students that they DO have an audience for the work they are sharing online. I have posted about this before and a few of you have admitted that it is not just the kids who are curious about who reads their blogs! The tools we have been using so far to track our visitors have felt pretty satisfying, but this latest addition to the blog is fun.

Ok, it's on the top right of the sidebar of this blog; it's a tiny badge I have titled Google Earth traffic. Just click it and you will see why we are loving it!
You get taken to the Digital Point webpage and you see place marks on the map of where the visitors come from. Same old, same old you might be thinking.

But no; click on any one of the markers and you are given a link to view the place of origin in Google Earth. And then the fun begins. You really get to see where your visitors hang out. This is so much more fun for kids than a static map, and I bet you like it too!


Copy the code from my page and use it on your own space

Slow down the speed of Google Earth and the zoom feels even more
spectatcular Before showing it to kids, or on slow connections, have Google Earth open in the background.
The markers only last for 24 hours, so when I planned to demonstrate to a group I put out a call to friends to spare me a click to populate the map.

It almost feels a bit 'creepy-stalker', but I know that my own house does not show when I have visited - it goes to Newmarket where I presume my ISP must come from. However, it does go straight to the school for markers originating from PES, so some must be accurate.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Student Copyright Issues

If you have seen the title of this post in your reader and have dropped by to hear yet another take on what to do about students downloading music and demonstrating their mastery of a slick copy/paste technique, then you have been misled. I have been musing over the past couple of months about student rights over their own 'images and schoolwork' once it is published. A few happenings and conversations have got me thinking about this.

eg. I received an email from a non-teacher type who just happened to have been at some education conference recently and in passing mentioned that we would be proud of the work students at your school are producing because this writer had seen a couple of presenters showing our kids' work posted online as examples of points they were making in their presentations.
My initial response was along the lines of, "Wow, that's great to hear that others are appreciating the work the kids are publishing." But soon came the thought, but it's not me who should be hearing this - it's the creators of the content. It takes hours to put together a presentation for a conference, but would take less than five minutes to leave a quick message on a kid's blog to say that you would like to use their work and show it to an adult audience. Imagine how affirming that would be for the kids AND it would model fair use and digital citizenship to them at the same time.

It is particularly difficult for non-classroom teachers to access examples of student content to use in presentations so we inevitably end up showing work created by students who we don't work with. And what I have discovered is that under New Zealand copyright law the students own the work, and so deserve to be informed if not directly asked, when their work is used by others. I am obviously not a lawyer, but take a look at the Guidelines for Schools for the online publication of student images and schoolwork and check out this Ministry of Education publication, particularly where it deals with student copyright issues.

It is not just other educators who can overlook who has copyright to student work either. As classroom teachers we can spend long hours supporting, monitoring, tweaking and fixing up student online content and can justifiably feel a strong degree of ownership of the work published by our classes, but actually it is owned by the students and their parents/guardians. Whether it is simply their writing typed up in a post, images in a slideshow or complex 3D animations or movies - it all belongs to the students.

Which brings me round to some of the questions I have been asking in earlier posts on this blog; if the students own this content, who is taking care that policies are in place to ensure that students can have content removed if they no longer want it online or don't want it in a particular space online? What record does the school management have of where content is being posted and the user names and passwords to manage it if the teacher moves on or loses interest in that space. Does the student's copyrighted content then become cyber-junk? This means the ability to access (as an administrator) student content posted online should not remain solely with one teacher.

My boss, who always likes to bring the virtual world issues into perspective by comparing them to 'old school' issues, reckons student copyright is no different from how it used to be with school books and projects; we all can remember teachers who wanted to keep a brilliant science fair project or fabulous piece of student art work to show to the next year's class as an exemplar. They had to ask the student for permission to do this because they clearly owned it (though in many science fair projects there is often a fair degree of parent ownership!). And so it should be no different with online content.

It is an interesting read to find out about student copyright issues and wonder how often their rights are being overlooked. One clause that should be fairly obvious is the right of the student "to object to derogatory treatments of their work" - make you think twice before you publishing their work on some sites wouldn't it! Another issue arising from this is creative commons, which I am sure most readers here would think is a good innovation. But, as teachers we don't have the right to apply a creative commons license to the work of students - they would have to (with their parents if they are primary or intermediate age).

Hard to teach them to do (copy-)right by others if we are not doing right by them in the first place isn't it!

The need to consider the Copyright Act 1994 - from the MoE booklet
Schools often wish to publish on the Internet original material that students create at school, including artwork and text material such as stories, poems, and other literary work. Material such as this, created by students, attracts protection as copyright works under the Copyright Act 1994. The students each own the copyright in their own artistic and literary works. Schools do not own the copyright in students' schoolwork unless it is legally transferred to the school.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Managing all those Blog feeds

One of the key indicators we are researching through our Manaiakalani Cluster projects is the impact of authentic audience on student motivation and engagement, and ultimately on their learning oucomes. This means that they are increasingly publishing their work in online spaces such as blogs. As our students move more and more into working in online spaces the task of tracking their changes and just keeping up with it all can become daunting, particularly for those in school management roles (and secondary school teachers) who are overseeing more then one class of students. At the moment there are close to 100 blog feeds alone from our cluster students, from Year 1 - 13.

I have been working with principals and teachers to introduce them to RSS and try to find a method that suits their eLearning style to aggregate their RSS feeds. We have explored all the usuals; Netvibes, Google Reader, iGoogle, browser based, Apple Mail (would love to know if Outlook and Entourage have simple RSS like Mail does), etc and the most commonly used appears to be adding a feed gadget to the sidebar of their own class blog, as I have done on this blog. But this doesn't allow for the sheer volume of blogs they want to follow.

I have come to accept that the sort of person who is reading this blog has no problem with the concept of RSS, but not everyone is willing to either set up an aggregator OR go searching for the feeds. Most willingly accept responsibility for a feed from the work they monitor from their own students as part of the job, but the rest of it feels too hard or too geeky. So I am trying another solution.

I have tried adding individual feeds to our cluster website using Grazr, and that worked well while we only had 10 or 20 accounts feeding in. As the numbers grew it has become a 'hunt the needle in the haystack' to try and find them.

In the holidays I saw isaac_d send a tweet from Twitterfeed and I checked it out to see if it might be a one stop solution for Manaiakalani. I created a new Twitter account, clusternz , then signed up to Twitterfeed and added all the RSS feeds from the cluster blogs one by one - very tedious, as even on our KAREN connection it doesn't load fast! Now every time one of the cluster blogs publishes a new post clusternz automatically sends out a tweet.

However, I didn't actually create it to Twitter from myself, as I can't imagine many people wanting to follow an account that only tweets blog updates! I really wanted the RSS feed that Twitter generates on the side bar. http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/55514340.rss

So now I have another option for creating widgets schools can put on their web pages, like this one, or individuals can add to their blog side bars (an example in the sidebar of this blog), or the RSS feed works in Mail, iGoogle etc. I have had feed back from two people this week who say it already feels much better having all the kids' blogs consolidated into one feed and not swamping all the other feeds they follow.

The only problem with this is for teachers in schools who block twitter, but maybe if this is an effective system for the principals to use, they may unblock it ;)

And now, I am waiting to hear feedback from you all that there is a MUCH simpler solution that I haven't thought about yet.....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Confidently leading online learners

During the last school term, after I had spoken at a conference, a teacher came up to me and told me that the 21st Century learning I had been talking about had not been happening in her class but she was determining to give it a go. "I'm thinking about where to start," she said "but everyone says that blogging is out and Twitter is where it's all at, so what do you say to me starting with Twitter in my class?" Well, mentally I was retorting, "No, don't do it - as you were - forget about anything you just heard from me". But of course I didn't say that aloud. Instead I asked, "Who is the Everybody who is saying this?" "Oh, The Media!" was the response.
Of course one teacher informing her decisions about the next step for her class (or other people's children as I always prefer to think of it) from media sound bites and a conference speaker may well be an abberation, but it was enough to get me working on another post about my musings around Web 2 issues. Over the past couple of years I have talked with heaps of educators who are starting out using Web 2 tools with their schools or individual classes. I have come to see that there are a couple of very important understandings to be clear on before setting out like Captain Cook on an exciting voyage of discovery with an eager crew of children.

One of these is to have an understanding of
the community you work in and the other is to have an understood purpose for doing this. Understanding the community - the parents, the Board of Trustees, the school vision and leadership, the policies already in place, the students you are working with - will save a whole raft of problems later on. I have loosely grouped communities into 3 categories;
  1. The 'walled garden' community
  2. The 'go-fer-it' community
  3. The 'yes - but' community
The 'walled garden' community are very cautious about the whole online thing with their children and are reluctant to have them on the internet, most concerned about their images and content being online, and even request directly that their children are not included in any online spaces - including the school website. My belief is that these parents have a right to have this attitude and if you have chosen to work in this community it is up to you to make it work! Parent education and involvement is an obvious starting place, but in the meantime you are obligated to respect their wishes and work within the 'walled garden'. Hopefully they would accept password protected web spaces, students represented by avatars and pseudonyms etc, but it is their call.
The 'go-fer-it' community at the opposite end of the spectrum do exist! As a community they 'get' Web 2 and enjoy it. They are proud of their children when they see them online and support them gaining a measure of online 'fame' through their online identities. (BTW, I am taking it for granted that, despite this open attitude, the school is working within 'Netsafe' boundaries with things like first names only, no phone numbers and addresses etc). I believe that the challenge for teachers with this level of trust and freedom is to constantly be evaluating ethics and behaving responsibly online and not just 'winging' it. Continuing to remember that with freedom comes responsibilities. And to continue to keep the community well informed of new directions the students/class/school are taking - as there always will be the next new thing.
The 'yes - but' community are anywhere on the continuum between the other two and they deserve ongoing education and information. They may well agree to one situation, eg happy to have the class blogging, but have uncertainties about another online environment. Every community has the right to be completely informed about what their children are doing and where their learning is taking place, but this group may respond particularly well to regular opportunities to come into school to see the students demonstrate their learning and hear from the teacher the thinking behind what is happening. And of course the more they are invited to be involved as a contributing audience the greater the buy in is likely to be.
In the early days of eLearning I held 'open class' once a term from 3pm till 9pm where the students could bring in their extended families and show them online, and using the data projector if they wished, what they had been learning. And of course the parents were welcome to talk to me as well, but the emphasis was on the students informally presenting. In my last year of doing this I had so many come in that we set up a mini theatre and one child brought in the neighbours as well as the whanau to look at his work.

Finally, if I was changing jobs I would be asking questions about community attitudes to 21st century learning before I bought into the job - some things take a lot of energy to change! Having a clear understanding of the purpose for using Web 2 spaces with your students will seem obvious to anyone who reads adult edu-blogs, but I am no longer surprised when I meet teachers planning to 'set up a wiki/blog' simply because they have been told that it is the thing to do now. My own experience working with children in eLearning has been to state the purpose in writing and hand it to the boss (and sometimes Board of Trustees) when I get the next new idea to try something different. And the first set of bullet points is about the learning I would hope to incur. This way of operating has primarily benefited me because writing a brief resume clarifies the thinking - a bit like writing a blog post - and when you get a green light it helps to have the support of management behind the project.
One of the questions the Manaiakalani lead teachers asked each other at our last workshop was 'Can a first time visitor to your class blog tell from the home page what the purpose of this blog is?' They worked in groups on this, analysing each other's blogs and in the end decided out of the 16 teachers present only 3 were absolutely clear. Discussion followed about how to improve the clarity of purpose on the other 13 and changes were made accordingly.
You would expect that the purpose of your blog would evolve over time, but it can be a useful exercise to ask someone else to give feedback about whether the current purpose is clear.
Having lots of teachers talk to me about their own online spaces and hearing about the issues arising in their specific situations has contributed greatly to this post - so thank you very much for your openness. This is also a continuation of the thinking coming out of our discussions around developing robust Web 2 policies for our school and cluster. As always your thoughts are welcome :)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Web 2 policies for schools

Last week I spent a couple of hours working with the principals from our cluster of schools to update our existing policies around the way our students and teachers work in our Manaiakalani projects. It is not enough to call them internet policies because they also encompass the local television, public televison, and podcasts through iTunes that our students participate in. At the moment I am calling them policies for 21st century learning and teaching.

I am fortunate to work with a group of principals who are very supportive of the big picture idea of providing a 21st century learning environment. They also are aware that they need to keep up to speed with what is currently happening in their schools and in schools around the world who are working in this way. And that it is a big ask.

Two hours is not long enough to do more than scratch the surface of this topic, but the idea we did discuss in depth is the one I have depicted in the image below. When people start to talk about policies around blogs for example, the idea many seem to have is of a blog being like a book, a movie or even a webpage with all the elements contained within the page/screen you are looking at. So you write a policy about who can do do what on a blog, who owns the content, who moderates it etc and you are finished, right? No, you're not...

The beauty of a blog (and of course a wiki works in the same way) is the ability to embed elements from all the cool Web 2 tools we can lay our hands on. And this means student images, movies, and other content is possibly spread over a dozen or more accounts on the internet. The image I have created below is of a blog I started in 2007 for Korero Pt England, the KPE podcasts. I went through it and included all the sites that are currently feeding into the one blog....This means the agreement our schools develop needs to encompass students and teachers using or uploading student content to all these places - and the latest ones we will discover tomorrow.
As we have pointed out many times, the predator concerns are a minor possibility. There are far more likely scenarios of why we need to have a clear knowledge of where our student images and other content is being hosted. eg a parent walks into the school and says that due to an incident at home her children are now under a protection order and they can't have any images displayed online which may identify their whereabouts. Removing them from a blog or the school website should be simple. But if there are other sites hosting these images too they also may need to be accessed. As a facilitator I have worked with teachers who when you ask them to log into xxxx account online have forgotten their username or password, often because they clicked 'save my name/password'!
Some simple solutions we have agreed to;
All accounts are owned by adults (teachers or parents) and this saves us from concerns about the age restrictions as well;
All account emails used to sign up are the school domain ones if they are involving school students (so I don't use my xtra account or hotmail)
All usernames and passwords EITHER use a designated schoolwide username and password OR are kept in a secure database maintained by a senior manager of the school.

These solutions for 21st century learning and teaching are not intended to restrict the creativity and innovation of the teachers, but rather to protect them and their students.

This post is long enough. More discussion to come...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Easi-speak; as easy as it sounds

A significant component of our Manaiakalani projects is to increase our students' oracy, but we all struggle with the issue of getting enough quiet spaces in a busy school to record the quantity of work the students are producing. So anything that simplifies the technical process has got to be of huge benefit. I've seen the Easi-Speak mic at a few trade stands over the past year, and seen teachers saying it is great on Twitter, so I finally got around to ordering two and they arrived today. I went down the corridor and asked for a volunteer student to come and play with it and 'show' me how to use it. There is no learning curve with recording, and the USB connection to the computer is easy as well. We experimented with a few applications to drag and drop it into (Garage Band, iMovie, Hyperstudio, Keynote and Quicktime Pro) and it worked like a charm. Go and have a listen to Jarna's recording of one of her blog posts, or listen to me ramble on below... (I took the footage with the Flip Video, so a bit one-handed and wobbly...). The first mic walked out of my office at 3pm with Jarna's teacher - I don't think I'll be seeing that again in a hurry!