Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parents engage with their children's learning

We have been focussing on publishing student outcomes in online spaces to motivate and engage students in their learning, with a particular focus on literacy outcomes. Our research results have shown that this is highly effective, with students saying things like, "I like writing now because I know that people read it." It shouldn't really have needed a researcher to tell us that writing with only the teacher as an audience is not very motivating!

We have also discovered that working with students in this way is very motivating for teachers because they get feedback - albeit via the kids work - in a new and authentic way.

But we have had a real sense of validation as we have started to see our parents engage with our students through their online work. We publish the students work mostly through blogs, and we have made the settings very public. No passwords required to read, and no passwords required to comment. So we have been finding that our parents are being generous and as well as supporting their own child, they are leaving affirming comments on the work of children other than their own.

For anyone unfamiliar with our district, the majority of our families do not have computers or internet access at home and so we don't take their interaction online for granted. But anyone who overlooks the impact of Facebook on every age group of adults is out of touch with life in 2010. Our young mums at school may not have the gear at home, but because they use Facebook they get themselves connected at different times during the week - friend's places, internet cafe, library etc - and it is up to us to suggest ways they can interact with their own child online at the same time. We have been gathering email addresses from our parents and including them in the Settings (Email and Mobile tab) so they receive an email every time the class or student posts. We are also teaching those with Facebook how to add an RSS feed to their page so they can receive updates there.

Last week we held a Home School partnership meeting at night to teach our parents how to respond to their children's blog posts. We were taken by surprise when 93 parents turned up! This Flip video shows them listening to a preamble in the hall before they went off to classrooms to enjoy a 'hands on' blogging experience - leaving 160 kids with the principal for 'baby sitting'!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Aviary added to Google Apps for Education

With a huge focus on creativity in our Manaiakalani projects it has been a concern to some of us that through Google Apps for Ed we are in danger of moving more and more into 'productivity' apps with our students and spending less time on the creative apps.

The announcement that Aviary has been added to the available apps inside Google Apps for Ed is VERY welcome.
Image Editor, Effects Editor etc for graphics is a great start, but even better news for the Manaiakalani schools is the Audio editor.
As Jim Sill says:, "Aviary allows you to create graphics, audio files (Podcasts, VoiceOvers) and more. Now, you can save the files you create and they will be stored directly in your Google Docs account. It also gives you embed codes so you can put the pictures or the mp3 player on your site. This really opens the door for classrooms to produce content and share it with ease."
Can't wait to see our creative students and teachers using it.....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Transforming teaching by broadband

The last two eLearning conferences I have attended in New Zealand have opened with the Minister of Education speaking at length about the government plan to spend $1.5 billion on fiber optic roll out, which will include schools, across the country. What was perplexing to me was hearing significant numbers of kiwi teachers express sentiments along the lines of "there was nothing in that for me"! Agreed, the previous Minister announced a day off school for all teachers during his final conference speech, and the implications were far easier to grasp.

I observed a class of Year 3 students grapple with a similar concept recently when they met to discuss how they would spend the wonderful $250 prize they had received from the Ruth Hart Jessee Strange Award - a big feast or a Flip video camera? Hard decision for them to make!

I was reminded about this when I watched the BBC video of Sam Pitroda, who is adviser to the Prime Minister of India, delivering his views on how access to broadband in his country will impact teachers and teaching in India in the very near future.

Some of the gems from his talk include:

"Technology is a great social leveler, second only to death."

"It is not a question of replacing teachers by broadband; it's a question of transforming teaching by broadband."

He tells us that:
In India there are currently 550 million telephones
They are adding 15 million new connections each month
There will be 800 million in the next couple of years

This will see the whole country connected and the local government bodies connected to form a national knowledge network.

He speaks about the teacher's role as a mentor and talks of the internet / broadband bringing the guru tradition back to India. Guru are people who are there for you, who have many answers, we look up to them, but they are not always teaching.
He says the concept of teacher delivery with duster and blackboard is obsolete; it doesn't make sense today but we still go on doing it! And it will have to change. That's the power of the internet.

I am reminded that as educators we need to be looking for inspiration at every level (from personal to blogs/books/Twitter to large conference keynotes) outside of our traditional 'Mother Country' and North American go-tos. The video is only 3 minutes long. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Google Moments

The crew at The Onion have continued their amusing satires of Google by publishing an article on March 2nd entitled "Google Responds to Privacy Concerns With Unsettlingly Specific Apology".

With paragraphs like this....
"Whether you're Michael Paulson who lives at 3425 Longview Terrace and makes $86,400 a year, or Jessica Goldblatt from Lynnwood, WA, who already has well-established trust issues, we at Google would just like to say how very, truly sorry we are....."

You would hope more people realise this is a spoof than those who were hoodwinked by the video below :)

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stuart Middleton Engages Teachers at Learning@School

Stuart Middleton opened the recent Learning@School conference in Rotorua with a masterly overview of decades of education in New Zealand and gave us his take on the problem of student disengagement in our schools. He pointed out that there was no way this is something we face on our own; "dropping out of education systems, is now the number one issue of English-speaking education systems..."

Anyone follow this via Twitter and the blogs would have read that the Keynote was universally well received, probably because it spoke directly into issues kiwi teachers are facing right now. And maybe because it was surprising at an ICTPD conference to have the opening keynote address something different from what @deangroom tweeted as the "Blah blah, Digital Native, blah blah, times they are a changin', blah blah, beige..." that we too often seem to hear.

The video embedded below, via CoreEd's EDTalkNZ channel, is well worth taking the time to watch...
"In his keynote address from the 2010 Learning@school conference, Dr Stuart Middleton outlines what is known about disengagement and the reasons for this phenomenon, and outlines potential responses to it."

Digital Storytelling

"A Child's War Machinima"

Students in the Manaiakalani Project create hundreds of digital stories as part of their literacy programme. One of the best parts of my day is viewing these as they are published online, mostly on their blogs. I am always on the lookout for exemplars to show the students and teachers to stretch our thinking and to promote awareness of what others are doing.

This weekend I was looking through some digital stories published on Edutopia, of the George Lucas Foundation and I found this one produced by Nafiza and her classmates at Global Kids Virtual Video project.
"A Child's War Machinima" says
As part of the Global Kids Virtual Video Project, a group of students created this animated movie about child soldiers in Uganda.
At 6 minutes 43 it is well worth taking the time to watch this very moving story. You would need to make your own call about the age group of students you could show this to, but I am sure they will find the story compelling as well as being challenged by the production values.

It does not have an embed option, so follow the link over to their website....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

BC Reader - iPhone App

Short post for iPhone buffs out there...

Thanks to Anthony Samuels for introducing me to BC Reader recently. Perfect for anyone who doesn't know what to do with Business Cards when they are doled out to you. Obviously the content is valuable and you might want to look the person up sometime. But since everyman/woman and their dog carries them now-a-days, the stack gets so huge that you can't find them when you need it anyway.
Enter BC Reader. Download the app from the Apps Store (cost $4.99). Each time you get a card you take a photo of it. It scans the photo and enters the details into your address book. Done. Throw the card away.

BC Reader iPhone app from Shufflegazine on Vimeo.