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!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Move over Post-Its, Bring on Wallwisher

One of my happy discoveries recently has been Wallwisher - a nifty little Web 2 app that can be useful to adults and students. I first heard about it from Nik Peachey when he shared his wall of useful Web 2 tools for teachers. This wall is worth a visit for the content on it, even if you are not interested in wallwisher. I discovered it the week after our unconference, #may09 in Auckland, and immediately wished I'd known about it then.
We had put a bit of structure around the unconference by giving everyone Post-its to jot ideas down on and then we attempted to sort them. We did get there in the end but we had Post-its all over the floor at one stage!

The next PD session I did with staff in the week following that experience I gave away the Post-its idea because I had discovered wallwisher. Instead everyone sat at their laptops and clicked away on the wall I had built adding their thoughts to the brainstorm. We had a very short space of time in which to organise a large event for our combined schools' staff and using this method we managed to come to a concensus and get planned very quickly. We had 17 people contributing at once and it handled that number fine. The owner of the page could start organising the 'stickies' as people uploaded them and everyone else could hit 'refresh' at any time on their own browser to keep up with the ideas other people were contributing.
But I also see times when it could be great with kids. One of the things we are working on in literacy is expanding the sentences our students write. I sat in on a PD session with Jannie Van Hees who gets kids in groups to work on sheets of paper to take a basic sentence and expand it by adding to the beginning, then the end and finally 'exploding' it in the middle. We thought that our kids would enjoy each group gathering around a computer and adding their contributions to a wall, as a different way of doing this.
Caution: These walls are either 'all on' (anyone can contribute) or 'all off' (only the owner can post). To use them with students particularly you would have to use the RSS feed from it and monitor it carefully as anyone can post on it.

Thanks to Fiona Grant for the photo from the unconference.

Monday, June 1, 2009

You heard it first on Twitter

Last week was quite a mixed bag for me. It began with a very successful cluster staff meeting where our seven schools from Manaiakalani came together for a celebration on Monday after school and our lead teachers ran workshops (with quite a bit of help from their students), to show the rest of the teachers in the cluster what they had achieved in the last 12 months. They presented in pairs and they were all fabulous, but possibly the show stealer was the presentation where Delwyn's 5 /6 year olds presented their project alongside Karen's 16/17 yr olds. Hard to argue with a concept where 5 year olds and 17 year olds are together presenting 21st century eLearning projects to improve their literacy outcomes!

On Tuesday I had to rapidly change gears and start working on the annual milestone report for our project that was due to be given the powers-that-be in Wellington on Friday. Needless to say I spent the rest of the week ignoring the wonderful things that were happening in classes and focussed on crunching numbers and making sure that I satisfactorily reported on all the outcomes we are working towards. Because I was running a tad late with this I turned off all RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook and anything else that might be distracting. This included the presentation of the Budget on Thursday night. So it was with some relief on Friday afternoon that I declared it finished and shared the Google Doc with all interested parties, then went online to see what I had missed in the few days off-line. It was a tweet from @sumich (see above) that grabbed my attention. I am so glad that I didn't know about it while I was writing my report. The EHSAS funding which enables Manaiakalani has been cancelled from the end of this year and the funding is being redistributed into other education initiatives instead.

Wow, the end of a dream - or is it? The thing about writing milestones, as a few friends have reminded me, is that while it is a chore and a bore to make sure your writing is in Ministry jargon etc, the opportunity to look at all the data and revisit your goals and evaluate progress is invaluable. What did I find? I decided to share our Google Doc with the public since the government has obviously lost interest, so click here to read the 30 odd pages. Some real highlights came through. We are looking to raise student achievement in literacy while offering a 21st century approach to learning and guess what - in the first year of what was meant to be a three year project- our Maori students made 5.2 times the expected national shift in writi
ng (as tested by asTTle)! We are excited!

So a further tweet during Friday evening from @craigprice who has also lost EHSAS funding for his school from the budget cuts brought a good challenge, "the things of most importance will continue"...It will be a great test of passion and character to not only see the year out strongly while the funding remains, but to also ensure that our beliefs are firmly embedded and can continue after the funding has ended to provide a new way of learning in the 21st century for our students.
And it will be interesting to see how the government uses the money that is being taken from Maniakalani to be put into programmes to raise Maori students' achievement.
All we can hope is that someone in the Ministry of Education will read our milestone report and say, "This looks like an intervention that is working with Maori students - why don't we give this a go?"