Santa’s carbon footprint

Thank you to http://visual.ly/santas-carbon-footprint for this cool visual about Santa’s carbon footprint:

What shepherds do at Christmas…

Awesome – just in time for Christmas!

Tips for success in your next Mathematics exam

Below is a list of tips to help you during your next Mathematics exam (many tips will also be applicable to other exams):

Scan the paper:  Go through the paper quickly reading or scanning it to get an idea of what is asked. Make quick notes next to questions if you are scared you are going to forget e.g. which formula to use.

Do what comes easiest first:  Leave the more difficult questions until the end. You will lose valuable time if you get stuck on a difficult question and do not move on. Get some easy marks in first and then return to the more challenging questions secure in the knowledge that you have already got a solid mark.

Use every available minute:  If you finish the paper before the time is up do not sit back and relax! It is unlikely that you have not made any mistakes and there may still be some marks to pick up. Spend every last minute looking for errors.

Write clearly:  If the examiner cannot read your answer they will not mark it. If handwriting is not your strong point then take the time to write neatly and make sure you write your answer in the correct place.  If needed, make a big box around your answer, you may also want to take a highlighter into the exam room with you and actually highlight your final answers.

Questions with parts that follow on to each other:  If you cannot get the answer to the first part of a question, and you have to use the answer in the next part of the question, make an educated guess and write down something like : “Even though I could not solve the problem, I am going to use this value in the next part of the question.” The pick an answer and use it in the second part of the question.

Multiple choice questions:  If you don’t know the answer, have an educated guess anyway.  If you don’t choose at least one option, you won’t get any marks.  If you want to change your answer later, make sure you clearly indicate which answer is your final choice.  If it looks like you have marked two answers, you won’t get any marks either.

Read the question carefully:  Read the question slowly to find out exactly what is being asked of you. Highlight or mark the different parts of the question and note the different calculations needed to come up with a final answer.

Make sure you are accurate!  What is the question asking for? If it asks for 2 decimal places or 3 significant figures, then make sure your answer includes them. Simplify your fractions of your final answer.

Show all your working out, unless specifically asked not to show working out.  Remember you can still get a significant portion of your marks even if you make a mistake in your working out, just because you demonstrate that you understand the processes.

Check for errors:  Check your answer is sensible. It is unlikely that the answer will contain a long string of decimals. Sometimes it is useful to estimate a rough answer and check that your final answer is not miles away from it.

Learn your times tables and basic rules:  This might seem obvious but it is essential for speed and accuracy in your exam to know your times tables.

If there is no sign in front of a number, it is a plus/positive number.  If there is no number in front of a pronumeral, there is an invisible 1 in front of that pronumeral.

Fractions:  Change all mixed numbers into improper fractions before you do anything else. For adding and subtracting, get the common denominator.  For multiplying, multiply the numerators and then the denominators.  For division, change the divide into a times sign and flip the second fraction, then just do a normal multiply fractions.

Inverse % questions:  These are ‘backward looking’ problems. With current values given in the question, you have to calculate some original value before the decrease/increase occurred. Again, the answers tend to be rounded numbers. If you get a string of decimals, check back in your working.

Ratio:  When you have divided a big number into a ratio, ensure that when you add up the ratio parts you get the big number you started with, e.g. to divide 100 in the ratio 1:9, you will get the ratio 10:90, and if you add up 10 and 90, you again get 100.

Probability:  Simply check that your answer have no negative values.

The Mean:  Use your common sense. Check that your answer is between the highest and lowest values.

Rounding:  Unless the question asks you to, don’t round up a calculator stage until you get a final answer. You may end up with an incorrect answer even though you have implemented the question correctly.

Quadratic Equations:  A question asking for significant figures or decimal places indicates you should use the quadratic formula.

Square roots:  A)  Remember you cannot find the square root of a negative number.  B)  Remember that if you have to find the square root of a number, put a plus/negative in front of your answer.

E.g. to solve x in x² = 49, then x = ±√49 so x = ±7.

Pythagoras and Trig:  Check your answer. Remember a shorter side should not be a longer than the hypotenuse.  For any 90-degree triangle, you will probably have to use Pythagoras and/or SOH – CAH – TOA.

Perimeter, area and volume:  Convert everything to the same unit before you start any calculations.  For perimeter, remember to add the unit after the final answer.  For area, remember the answer is unit-squared.  For volume, the answer is unit-cubed. Also remember that a length can never be a negative number.

For the volume of a prism, work out the area of the base shape, and times that answer with the height of the prism.  For volume of a pyramid, work out the volume of the corresponding prism, then divide your answer by 3.

Graphs:  Remember to clearly label axis.  Also use a ruler to accurately show units on the axis.  If you have to draw a stem and leaf plot, remember to include a key.

Name all pages:  It is a good idea to put your name on the bottom of all your pages, especially if you use any loose leaf.  You may also ask for a stapler to bind all your pages into one booklet.

And finally:  Look at the marks for each question as that will reflect how much time and working is required to achieve the answer. Remember to include all stages of your working out.

Thank you to Clare Rimmer for sharing her ideas which inspired me to build on her list of exam tips: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/education/surviving-exams/top-tips-to-beat-exam-stress-16153715.html

Star Polisher

The Star Polisher (Leah Becks)

I have a great job in the universe of occupations.

What do I do?

I’m a “star polisher”.

I have a very important job.

If you want to know how important

Just go out at night and look at the stars.

Twinkling and sparkling.

You see, I’m a teacher.

The stars are the children in my class.

My job is to take them in-

In whatever shape they’re in-

And shine and buff them and send them out to take

Their places as bright little twinkling beacons in the sky.

They come in my room in all shapes and sizes.

Sometimes they’re bent, tarnished, dirty, crinkly, and broken.

Some stars are cuddly, soft, and sweet.

Some stars are prickly and thorny.

I tell them that the world cannot do without them.

I tell them they can do anything they set their minds to do.

I tell them they can be the brightest, shiniest stars in the sky

and the world will be a better place because of them.

Each night as I look at the sky,

I’m reminded of my very important job and awesome responsibility.

I go and get my soft buffing cloth and my bottle of polish

in preparation for tomorrow and for my class of little stars.

F2F vs online learning…where to from here?

Where do you stand on the face to face (F2F) vs blended learning vs online learning debate?

The fact is that in most schools, all learning today is blended to some degree:  Most schools, TAFE colleges, universities etc. use computers and online resources to some degree.  However, it could also be argued that there is a fundamental difference between blended learning and completely online learning.   It boils down to this: All blended courses require in-person attendance in one or more classes or locations at specified times; online courses don’t. For the latter, this single distinction removes the geographical and time boundaries that used to define student and instructor populations as well as pedagogy. There are huge implications, one of which is that completely online classes don’t require campuses, classrooms, and offices….or tutoring centres. Will we as a tutoring business move forward with our goals set on blended learning, or will we also cater for completely online tuition?  Many questions can be raised, e.g. from a learning perspective:  How will this impact on the progress and learning experience of our students?  From a business perspective: How will we manage the fact that each of us paid for a specific geographical area in which to tutor?  This debate is sure to spark many more discussions.

 

In the mean time, a recent study found that iPads in classroom provide 20 percent jump in Maths scores.  Read more here http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-31747_7-57363113-243/ipads-in-classroom-provide-20-percent-jump-in-math-scores-study-says/

The power of YouTube as an educational tool

About five years ago I started making very simple videos with educational related content.  I am not a movie maker, and neither do I spend a lot of time on creating movies.  However, with the use of free programs like Photostory, creating simple videos and adding music or voice recordings.  It has been interesting to see how my shared videos have been used, with many people requesting permission to use these in professional development days, or in their classrooms.

One video, The Circle Song, has been used many times, and I get feedback via comments as well as video links where students made phone videos of their classrooms watching the video!  This is awesome!  My channel hits is now on almost half a million, which is great considering that the videos were made for local use…now they are in use on a global scale.

My message is that we don’t need special skills or expensive software to make educational videos.  Just have a go, upload it and see what happens.  The link to my YouTube channel is http://www.youtube.com/user/MarynaBaden – feel free to subscribe, leave comments on my videos, or email me with any of your questions.

How to do this:

Watch this video tutorial on how to use PowerPoint and Photostory to create videos for YouTube.  This is a great way to share your PowerPoints with your students, while you can talk and explain what each slide is about.  (Photostory has a recording option so you can record your whole lesson in your own voice! Great for kids to listen to, revise, reuse, share and leave comments/questions if you upload it to YouTube.)

Below are two examples of Powerpoint/Photostory videos:

Video example #1: Inspirational video

Starfish – an inspirational message for all teachers (Over a quarter of a million views)

Some comments made about this video:

1.  Can I please use this video on FB? Just to share it with some collegues of mine? Thank you..

2.  I’d like to use this as part of a training I’m doing for my school…I will give you credit for it

3.  This is really a nice version of The Stafish and so appropriate for teachers. Thank you. We must never give up in our profession. May I use this for my teachers during the open of school? Thank you

4.  id like to share this video with my classmates in the graduate school.. id like to ask permission,. thank you.

5.  tis is very inspirational because at times you feel your not making a difference but you always are no ,atter how small it is .Thank youx

6.  God bless teachers throughout the world!!…

 

Video example #2: Circle Song (Maths formula for Circumference of a circle)

Some comments made about the Circle Song video:

1.  Thank you for this. We listened to it in my y7 math class and now.my little sister is in y7 and so I’m playing it to her to make her understand. I’ll be singing it in my exams lol :-)

2.  My math teacher downloaded this song for my Math class. She played it I don’t know how many times. Now me and my mates (we’re all in the same class) now say it’s our class special song.

3.  My maths teacher showed us this about 7 million times in class today!

Flipped classroom

<a href=”http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/” ><img  src=”http://knewton.marketing.s3.amazonaws.com/images/infographics/flipped-classroom.jpg” alt=”Flipped Classroom” title=”Flipped Classroom” width=”600″ height=”2831″ /></a>
<p>Created by <a href=”http://www.knewton.com/” >Knewton</a> and <a href=”http://columnfivemedia.com/” onclick=”javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','outbound-article','http://columnfivemedia.com/']);”>Column Five Media</a></p>
<p>

Flipped Classroom (found on http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/)

Thank you to @knewton for publishing this on his website http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Sharing the Christmas Story – Social Media style

Just for fun, here is great video showing how the Christmas story would play out today, if the people had access to Social Media and Web 2 technologies:

Dogs barking Jingle Bells

Too cute!

If Rudolph was an ordinary reindeer (the importance of nurturing uniqueness)

rudoph

Seeing as Christmas is just around the corner, the internet is flooded with videos and messages reminding us of all the well-loved and well-known parts of Christmas.  One such video relates to Rudolph, and how this Christmas tale may have panned out if he did not have his distinctive red nose:

Although this video is poking fun at the Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer story, it got me thinking.  When teachers and parents deal with kids who are – shall we say – ‘different’ from the norm, are we always trying to get these kids to conform to what is accepted in society?
There are so many different labels to refer to kids who are ‘different’ to the norm, for example “gifted”, “talented”, “special education”, “rebellious”, “goths”, “hippies”, “autistic”, and so on and so forth.  What if we could suddenly get all these kids with their alternate ideas to conform to what society views (at the present time) to be “normal”. .. how would this change our world?  If the Wright brothers never dreamt of flying,  if Edison never thought candles were over-rated, if Einstein did not dream of providing electricity via nuclear power, if Bill Gates stayed in college, if Mother Theresa did not see the poor and needy in the slums of her country, if nobody ever crossed the oceans to look for new land in the times before we knew the earth is not flat, if  all of the great inventors and inspiring people mentioned in the history of human kind were somehow forced to conform to the norm, where would humanity be?
I can tell you this much:  There would not be human footprints on the moon, and I would not be able to share my thoughts with people from around the globe with just the click of a button.
I want to wish everyone a very blessed Christmas time, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, enjoy every moment you have with your loved ones…whether they conform to the norm or not!

Spreading kindness

I love spreading kindness around…kids love it, and I love the smiles they give me when they get a little reminder of how amazing they are.  I constantly look for moments where I can “catch” kids doing something great…whether they do their work really well, or whether they do a little job for me, or for someone else in class, I think it is very important to continue to build positive classroom environments for kids and/or other staff members.

Here is an example of fabulous free printables available to make it easier for teachers (or colleagues) to spread some cheer around (this page comes from the Kind over Matter site listed below):

KK_Melissa_cards

Here is another great kindness resource from http://freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com/fresh_picked_whimsy/2010/06/spread-a-little-sunshine.html

kindness notes

Some other sites where you can find fabulous free printables for spreading kindness in the classroom or workplace:

  1. Kind Over Matter (printables)
  2. Wild Olive (printables)
  3. Love vs. Design (printables)
  4. iDIY (printables)
  5. Creative Mama (printables)
  6. We Love to Illustrate (printables)
  7. simple as that (printables)
  8. Sprik Space (printables)
  9. Eat Drink Chic (printables)
  10. Anything but Perfect (printables)
  11. Cottage Industrialist (printables)
  12. Fresh picked whimsy Happy Notes:  http://freshpickedwhimsy.typepad.com/fresh_picked_whimsy/free-downloads.html

How to add a PayPal button to your blog

These days, many teachers are sharing their resources via their blogs.  In many cases, the resources are shared for free, or for a minimal fee (see TeachersPayTeachers).  Here is how you could add a Paypal button to most blogs, to request small donations for the resources you share (note:  This does not work for the free WordPress blogs – yet.)

How To Add A PayPal Donation Button To Your Blog


In order to add a PayPal donation button to your blog, first you need to have a PayPal account. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you can sign up for a free PayPal account here.

Follow this step by step guide to add your PayPal donation button:

1.                 Login into your PayPal account with your PayPal email address and password.

2.                 Click on Merchant Services tab on the Top Menu.

3.                 Scroll down to the “PayPal Website Payments Standard” section. You will see a Donations link under the “Key Features”.

4.                 Click on the Donations link and you will be directed to a page where you will be asked to fill in some information.

5.                 You can customize your button’s appearance by clicking on the Customize text or appearance link.

6.                 Once done, click on the Create Button link.

7.                 You will then be directed to a page that says “You’ve created your button” with some HTML code. Copy the HTML code.

8.                 Next, sign in to your Blogger account. Click on the Design link on your Dashboard.

9.                 Click on the Add a Gadget link and select theHTML/JavaScript gadget.

10.             Paste the HTML code that you have copied from your PayPal account and click SAVE.

You can now check to see if the PayPal Donation Button appears on your blog. You can display the button wherever you want on your blog.

ABC’s: Then and now

ABC 1ABC 2

At least A is still Apple!


System wide change: E-Learning in schools

As an e-learning leader, I always wondered about the best ways to help staff to learn and use technology in their classrooms.  As an educator, I assumed that the transfer of knowledge into skills would happen in the same ways as it happens when students (who in this case happen to be adult teachers) learn in other areas of the curriculum.

According to research in human cognition done by Ericsson & Lehman, 1996, the following pre-requisites are needed for people to learn and use new knowledge:

  • The potential for developing competence.  The individual must have the basic knowledge, skills or capacity to learn these.  This also include a very important aspect: Access to any tools or resources to start learning and practicing the new skill.
  • Practicing a certain task over a long period of time which will result in powerful cognitive adaptation:  Individuals develop knowledge structures which help them master the information load of that task.

Thus someone must have the basic capacity to learn the new skill, have access to the resources and tools to learn the new skill, and have the time and opportunity to practice the task over a long period of time.  These components are needed to ‘set the scene’ for powerful learning to take place.  After the ‘setting of the scene’, so to speak, there are other factors which will influence whether someone develop expertise:

  • Intentional practice and
  • Progressive problem solving. Continuously setting new, challenging problems and operating close to the upper limits of capacity create a foundation for the development of new cognitive skills. Developing the ability to move beyond previously learned skills and apply old knowledge to new problems, and thus derive new solutions and practices, seem to be the cornerstones for continuous and effective learning to occur.

Of course, teachers know these things.  These aspects are mentioned in many tested and reputable learning concepts, e.g. Blooms Taxonomy (moving from easy to hard through lower to  higher order thinking skills), Understanding by Design, Harvard’s Teaching for Understanding, Vygotsky spoke of the “zone of proximal development“,  as well as any teaching/learning model based on constructivist learning (e.g. the E5 model used by the Victorian Department of Education in Victoria, Australia).

How can these principles be applied to e-learning, and specifically, to help teachers to acquire the skills needed to use technology as a powerful teaching and learning tool?

  • The potential for developing competence.  The individual must have the basic knowledge, skills or capacity to learn these.  This also include a very important aspect: Access to any tools or resources to start learning and practicing the new skill: Teachers need access to reliable computers, internet connections and professional learning opportunities to introduce them to the basics of e-learning.  Thus, money and resources need to be set aside by the departments of education to allow all teachers to at least have the potential to develop e-learning competence.
  • Practicing a certain task over a long period of time which will result in powerful cognitive adaptation:  Individuals develop knowledge structures which help them master the information load of that task.  Applied to e-learning for teachers, this means that teachers need time to practice their new skills, e.g. during the planning of their curriculum.  They need lots of opportunities to try their skills as individuals and as part of teams of teachers.  They need to have the time and the professional support to keep going, and be encouraged to think how they could use their new technology skills in different situations.  Thus there has to be encouragement and recognition from the leaders in the school, for those teachers who are learning to use technology in and out of the classroom.  If there is a performance development culture in the school, it is a good idea to have each teacher set an individual e-learning goal as part of the yearly development plan, so they have a goal to focus on and to link their professional development to.
  • Intentional practice:  Teachers need to set time aside for only playing with the technology.  They need to value the importance of spending time on task, in this case, spending time on task with learning and playing with the technology, until they become familiar with the skill and are willing to share their skill in the classroom.  If the school has a professional development program, the leaders need to set time during regular professional learning for staff to just have a play and learn new things.  The expectation needs to focus on the intention of learning with and about technology.  Once there is a core of teachers who have some technology skills, these teachers can be given the role to support other staff to learn these skills, e.g. through a train the trainer or in-school buddy/coaching program, with the explicit focus of using technology as a learning or teaching tool.
  • Progressive problem solving. Continuously setting new, challenging problems and operating close to the upper limits of capacity create a foundation for the development of new cognitive skills. Developing the ability to move beyond previously learned skills and apply old knowledge to new problems, and thus derive new solutions and practices, seem to be the cornerstones for continuous and effective learning to occur:  Every school needs to have someone who is the leader in this area, someone who loves technology and can share their passion for the new and innovative things happening out there.  This person should also have the opportunity to work with individual members of staff, to support them to continuously think of the next thing they could try, the next goal they want to achieve, etc.

It is paramount to understand that system-wide change will never occur instantly, nor will progress take place at exactly the same rate for each individual staff member involved.  Research on both cognitive processes and motivation has shown that a typical human characteristic is also to resist fundamental changes in our ways of thinking.  When we want to achieve conceptual change, we need to accept that  when people meet new learning challenges, they attempt to interpret and master them by using their own earlier theories and beliefs.   Learning will take place easier when it links to and enriches  previously acquired knowledge.   However, learning which demands genuinely new ways of thinking and changing one´s earlier beliefs has turned out to be extremely time-consuming.   If a system-wide change is envisaged, the biggest pitfall seems to be to try and force-teach new ways of thinking too quickly. It is a bit like the man who taught his dog to whistle, and then blamed the dog for not learning how to whistle…

You can teach an old dog any trick...but unless the dog learns the trick...

This can lead to systematic misconceptions and superficial learning.

Just like in classrooms, the learners involved in this forced process will try to comply with the requirements set by the leaders.  However, the teachers will  learn to give the correct answers to questions, instead of truly believing in the process.   At the level of their own thinking and beliefs,  people will stick to their previous conceptions even if these are in clear conflict with the new ideas and concepts being learned (Vosniadou, 1997).  A study done in Finland found that  this phenomenon is clearly seen, for example, in the adoption of ideas concerning teaching and learning.  According to this study, “teachers have rather widely adopted the vocabulary of learning models based on constructivist epistemology, but this is not yet manifest in their interpretations of everyday situations or in the ways they organize learning situations. Learning resulting in profound changes in one´s thinking is not nearly easy to achieve as the proponents of lifelong learning seem to believe.” (http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/coffs00/papers/jarmo_viteli.pdf)

How does this apply to e-learning uptake by all teachers in a system?  Here’s how:

If we have ‘set the scene’ as described above,   we need to empower those few who have shown that they can learn and adapt new technology to apply in different situations.  We need to give these rare few the time to continuously learn new things, and trust them to do this mostly by themselves (as nobody else will know what they are doing – usually not even the principal of the school!)  These few now need to be put in charge of developing e-learning opportunities for the rest of the staff, who are not as eager to learn technology skills.  Gently push the rest of the staff into opportunities to learn and play with the technology.  Ensure they have an annual e-learning goal, so each individual has to focus on reaching this goal, by accessing the professional learning opportunities (It goes without saying that all teachers need to have access to reliable technology and technology support to fix things up as they break).

Ensure you allow lots of time for the change to take place.  Ensure you celebrate small successes, the so-called ‘champagne moments’, when it comes to e-learning use by teachers.  Then allow opportunities for those who achieve success with technology as a teaching and learning tool, however small it may seem, to share with their peers.  Ask them to become leaders of small groups of teachers, and to teach these teachers to do what they have done. (This is an old trick, because when someone teaches another, two learns…)  It has not gone astray to even give little badges or certificates to teachers who attend professional learning focused on technology, and again for those who apply these skills in their classrooms.  Ensure everyone maintains a positive attitude and a good sense of humour throughout the whole process.  Remind staff that no learning happens without mistakes, and that it does not matter.

Above all, believe in your staff.  Continually encourage any kind of adoption and adaptation of technology as a teaching and learning tool.  Walk through the school and pop your head into classrooms on a regular basis, and be on the look-out for staff who are using technology…’catch them doing the right thing’, and then recognize and praise their efforts.

Now, on a side note, if you are the leader in charge of bringing system wide change in your school, your region or your network of schools, keep in mind that it will not happen quickly, and it may never happen for some staff members.  This is not your fault.  However, it is a great idea to take some time right at the start of your job to just walk around the place and take lots of photos and make anecdotal notes.  Put these photos and notes in a folder, with the date.  Now remember to make notes or take photos of every small achievement, any small change in staff behaviour, any small way that staff are showing they are adopting the changes.  Every six months or so, get together with someone in a similar position to you (or sit down with your manager), and compare the small changes you see from your photos/notes of six months ago.  Have your own little celebration, by looking  back at how things have changed.  You will see a gradual change happen, even though you may not be aware of these changes while you are in the trenches every day.  This may act as motivation for you to continue on your quest.

And above all, have some fun.  Remember, if something is worthwhile, it is okay to put effort into it…and what is more worthwhile than the future of our kids?

Note: I wrote this in 2006 as part of my report on what I have learnt during twenty days teacher professional leave.  I am currently cleaning out old records, but thought that the information contained in this may be useful to someone else.  I updated the links, e.g. added the reference to E5 in Victorian schools.  The ideas in this paper can also apply to m-learning.  Please feel free to leave comments.

A new digital divide: In one class

I just read ACER’s article named “Students improve computer skills but gaps in achievement remain.”  (http://www.acer.edu.au/enews/2010/04/students-improve-computer-skills-but-gaps-in-achievement-remain).  

One sentence really made me think:

It would appear that there is a small group of students who are struggling to master ICT skills and this will require attention over time to ensure that these students are not left behind.”

I teach some classes in a Year 7 cohort where all the students have their own netbooks, which they can take home and use whenever, wherever.  This really allows for 24/7 technology access.  Most students seem very proficient with the use of the various programs on the netbooks, however, as we have students from many different feeder schools, it is evident which Primary Schools preferred which software tools.  It is certainly not a case of all the students knowing how to use all the software on the netbooks. 

Although most kids pick the skills up quickly, a small minority of them still see the netbooks as little more than a glorified iPod.  They love using the netbooks for their videos and music (entertainment), but are reluctant to start using it for research, or for presenting their work or for communicating with teachers.  Even though they have plenty of opportunities to try the netbooks for learning online, they still prefer making paper posters, handwritten essays or building stuff with their hands…

This, of course, is nothing new to teachers.  We know about different learning styles.  We understand multiple intelligences.  I am starting to wonder whether digital literacy, which will be so important when students start looking for jobs or start communicating with employers in online forums, should be taught in a specific order?  Will we see the day when students will be placed in a digital literacy intervention classes, to support them in gaining the basic skills they will need when leaving school?  

We should be very wary of forcing all students to use technology for learning, as it may not necessarily be their preferred learning style.  We still need to celebrate those students that achieve progress in their learning without using technology.

I can clearly see that there is a digital divide developing, within this cohort of students with one to one netbooks.  This digital divide is not because the students don’t have access to the technology, it is only because they need more time to familiarize themselves with the technology.  I believe we need to explicitly teach the importance of technology as a tool for learning, not just entertainment…and then, we need to allow the learners drive the technology – not the other way around.

Left brain. Right brain.

THE Right Brain vs Left Brain test … do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

spinning-lady

If you see her turning clockwise, you are engaging your right brain.  If you see her turning anti-clockwise, you are engaging your left brain.  Most people use one or the other brain half more often than the other.  However, to make it easier for you to learn new information and to increase your ability to use the other side of your brain, try to see the girl turn the other way around.

Left brain functions

  • uses logic
  • detail oriented
  • facts rule
  • words and language
  • present and past
  • math and science
  • can comprehend
  • knowing
  • acknowledges
  • order/pattern perception
  • knows object name
  • reality based
  • forms strategies
  • practical
  • safe

Right Brain functions

  • uses feeling
  • “big picture” oriented
  • imagination rules
  • symbols and images
  • present and future
  • philosophy & religion
  • can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
  • believes
  • appreciates
  • spatial perception
  • knows object function
  • fantasy based
  • presents possibilities
  • impetuous
  • risk taking

When looking at teaching and learning, we need to take this into account for three reasons:

1.  Teachers are learners too.  As teachers, we would usually plan our lessons and present our classes based on our preferred brain hemisphere.  This means that if we are Left Brain thinkers, we will usually present lessons which are logical, sequential, factual and linking back to Science and Mathematics.  If we are Right Brain thinkers, we will present lessons which are filled with risk-taking activities, which focuses on ‘getting the big picture’ rather than sequences, and which links back to philosophical understandings.  Left brain teachers will not feel comfortable with quickly changing their lesson plans to ‘wing it’, while right brain teachers may not even have a lesson plan and decide to go with the flow of the classroom…

2.  Students stuck in classes with a teacher who is from a different brain orientation, will become frustrated and confused.  Teachers need to make a conscience decision to cater for students from both left and right brain orientation, when planning lessons.

3.  Of course, we also need to take the different brain orientations into account when we plan for technology in schools.  We need to make teams of people – some with right brain dominance and some with left brain dominance, so as to ensure we buy software and technology tools which will cater for all our students.  This goes much deeper than the old Apple vs PC debate…although that is not a bad place to start!

The only constant, is change

The only constant, is change.   The world around us is constantly changing, and these days, it is changing faster than ever before.  Can anybody still remember when we had to change from vinyl records and tape decks to CD’s?  At the risk of sounding ancient, I have to confess that I remember seeing a CD for the first time.  I loved the colours and how it reflected the light.  I thought it was the coolest little thing!  A few years later, one of my friends made a garden ornament with her ‘old’ CD’s: She made little holes in the CD’s and strung them together, then she hung them in a fig tree to keep the birds away.  I was horrified.  How could she destroy her CD’s?  I was still getting used to using them, and she was already destroying them!  Of course, she had discovered online music and iTunes, and no longer needed her stacks of CD’s.  She also got an iPod long before I did…but by the time I got mine, I could watch little movie clips on mine, which she was jealous of…

In my house, I still have cameras that use actual films, and yes, even a few unused film strips.  I have some cassettes with favourite music…I am waiting for the technology to come so I can easily and affordably get the sound off the cassettes and in a digital format.  I also have actual flipbooks for animations, I have cookbooks for coal stoves (inherited), and a real cotton table cloth (that I never use, due to it having to be ironed…I just use the modern table cloths that are so easy to wash and need no ironing.)

I could go further and include my husband in the ‘ancient’ category, but since I can’t do that without putting myself in that category too, I will just stop right now!

My point is that I must be an example of someone that is slower to change, someone that is a bit sentimental about letting go of things that I no longer use.  I like new things, but not all at once.  I like using things that work for me.  I like to hang on to those things.  And I guess, schools are the same.  Even though the whole world is changing around schools, the schools are slow on the uptake.  They tick at a slower pace, and seem to want to hang on to what worked in the past.

But change is constant.  The funny thing is, once I change to new things, I could not imagine how I ever got along without it…I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t have my iPod or mobile phone, I love the ease of use of digital photos, I cannot think how I would quickly prepare food without my microwave oven.  It is just the letting go of the old things that still make my life a little cluttered at times…thankfully, for my husband’s sake!

The powerpoint below has some very funny sayings about the way education has changed through the years, and the resistance to those changes.  It all started when students started using slates instead of bark, and the sentimentalists lamented that students should not use slates instead of bark, because how will they learn if the slates break? (Quote from 1700′s). 

So, it is not only the world around schools that is constantly changing:  Schools will also change.  But the most important change will not be in the buildings, the technology we use, the learning spaces and the furniture.  The most important change in schools will come when we, the educators, change.  Once we have changed ourselves,  schools – and our teaching - will change automatically.

 

Teaching only to where the teacher feels comfortable…

We are always talking about moving kids along, scaffolding them to achieve at a higher level, taking them out of their comfort zone, and always striving to move from “Teacher does, students watch” through to “We do” and finally “Students do, teacher watches”.

This process is well known in educational systems all over the world, albeit under different names, e.g. it is also known as Inquiry based learning, or the E5, Constructivist learning or moving through the Zone of Proximinal Development.   It is also known as going from LOTS (Lower Order Thinking Skills) to HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) in the Blooms levels of thinking, and it can also be viewed as using White hat thinking through to Green hat thinking (De Bono). 

Of course, all of these teaching and learning philosophies, or streams of thought, have been researched, and have scientific grounds.  However, in the minds of most teachers, the philosophies only refer to Pedagogy (Young people learning and the teaching of young people ).  We tend to forget about Andragogy (Adult learning and the teaching of adults).  

I wonder about whether we as teachers set the same goals for ourselves.  Do we want to push past our levels of comfort?  Do we want to be scaffolded (or go and find scaffolds for ourselves) to move to higher levels and better outcomes?  Do we want to feel challenged?  Are we willing to use ‘experts’ to support us through the Zone of Proximal Development from watching the expert, doing with the expert and finally becoming the expert?

When we relate these questions to using E-Learning and ICT applications in our curriculum development and teaching, we need to determine whether we are willing to use students as the experts to teach us?  Are we willing to be out of our comfort zone in front of our students, until we have tried and tried again to succeed? Will we persist with E-Learning in our classrooms until we finally reach that “A-Ha” moment when we  ‘get it’ in terms of an ICT application? 

If we are not willing to go through this process ourselves, especially with relation to E-learning and ICT in our classrooms,  how can we expect our students to be happy when they are  ”scaffolded”, “moved on” and ecouraged to “try and try again”….?

I recently listened to an interview with a fourteen year old student as the guest speaker.  She claims that teachers only teach ICT to the level where the teachers feel comfortable, and then the teachers stop teaching ICT.  As young people today have skills well above the ICT skills of most of their teachers, they are effectively ‘undertaught’ by the teachers in terms of ICT skills. 

Teachers may stop teaching with ICT when they start moving out of their comfort zone, but if this student is not aware that the teacher may be learning to use ICT behind the scenes, it means she does not see the teacher going through the agonizing process of trying new things, finding ways to improve his/her skills, of practicing the new technology.  Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the students to see some of the struggles the teacher is having when learning something new, so the students could realize that learning is a slow process – even for teachers?  In my experience, students are happy to help teachers with ICT.  The teacher only has to ask, or in some cases, the teacher only has to look like he/she is struggling…

Whose level of comfort is important in our classrooms: The teachers’ comfort or the students’ comfort?  If teachers refuse to move past their own levels of comfort in front of their students, are we in fact robbing students of the opportunity to see that true learning, and the art of improving yourself, is a life-long task?

 This is a real issue.  Perhaps we should listen to this student’s message, and remember the real satisfaction when we finally succeeded at something we had to work really hard at…won’t it be great if we could move ourselves along this E-Learning journey with the support of our students?

Here is the interview (see sound player beneath the photo).  Her name is Edith, a fourteen year old girl in England, and she explains her thoughts and frustrations with ICT in schools:

Edith student podcast pic

Source: http://terryfreedman.podOmatic.com/entry/2009-05-13T15_51_39-07_00

(http://terryfreedman.podomatic.com/entry/2009-05-13T15_51_39-07_00)

To flip or not to flip

I have become interested in the idea of ‘flipping’ the classroom since I first read about it on Karl Fisch’s Fischalgebra blog (see resources at the end of this post).  He describes how he makes eight to ten minute ‘mini-lessons/lectures’ for his students which they have to watch at home as ‘homework’. When they come to class, he then sets them work as he would normally set homework, but now the application of the lecture (which they viewed at home before coming to class), happens in class with the teacher roaming around and offering support to those students who struggle with the work. He thus ‘flips’ the classroom: The lecture happens in the absence of the teacher at the students’ homes via technology (e.g. vodcast of the lesson in the teacher’s own recorded voice), while facilitating the application of the skills taught happens in the presence of the teacher at school.  Technology is used before and after school, while the teacher facilitates learning in school.

If you watched the TED talk with Salman Khan (and Bill Gates), you would have seen that the Khan Academy videos (http://www.khanacademy.org/)  lend themselves perfectly to this kind of instruction.  If you have not seen the Khan talk, here it is:

Note that both Karl Fisch and Salman Khan refers to the flipping of the classroom in relation to Mathematics instruction.

Of course there are many advantages to this instruction type:

  • Creating online lessons allows for teachers to reflect on their instruction before they make it available for the students:  The teacher can listen how it sounds before students see the lesson.  Thus the teacher has the opportunity to make one “best of all lessons” recording, which can then be posted on the web.  If the teacher is not happy with the lesson, it is easy to either do it again, or edit bits and pieces of it.
  • The lesson only has to be delivered once, even though the same teacher may have five classes in this subject.  All students in those five classes will have access to this ‘best of all lessons’, the teacher does not have to deliver it five times.  This saves time for the teacher.
  • This also frees the teacher during class time.
  • Once the video is online, it can be used year after year as long as the content is relevant.
  • Once the lesson is available for all students in his/her class, the teacher can also reach students who are part of the global audience.
  • Imagine what this could mean for students in countries where they may not have access to regular schools…or for those adults who would like to train themselves, of for anyone who would like to brush up on some skills.
  • The availability of online lessons has great potential for kids who miss school due to travelling abroad or being kept out of school because they are sick.
  • This argument also extends to situations where schools may be closed or teachers are absent, e.g. during snow days, after floods, earthquakes, wars and other disasters.  As long as we can provide access to the online resources for the kids, the learning can continue.
  • The emphasis no longer falls on only the classroom time for the teacher to provide instruction.  Thus, if the regular teacher is sick or absent, the learning can still continue as long as the school provides a replacement teacher to facilitate learning for those students who need intervention.
  • This also applies to students wanting to review content before exams, or perhaps even when students forgot how to do something and would like to revisit the lesson again.
  • Students can download the lessons and carry it around with them, ready to be used when they have time, e.g. via iPod (on the bus, on the train), or by plugging their USB’s into a computer without internet access.
  • Students can pause, rewind, fast forward…they can take only the bits they need, and fast forward the rest, or they can watch the video again and again until they ‘get it’, without feeling that they are interrupting the teacher by asking him/her to explain something again.
  • The classroom becomes more of  a place for learning than a place for teaching.  The human face of teaching returns.
  • The students who need help from the teacher can access the help, while those students who are shyer and prefer to view the video again and again, can do so as well. Differentiated learning.
  • Another way this brings differentiation into the learning, is that students who would like to work ahead, can do so.  Every student can now work at his/her own pace, while the teacher truly facilitates learning for all.
  • Once the lessons are on the web, the teacher can refer to them again and again.  It becomes a resource which is available as and when the students need it for ‘just in time’ instruction.
  • Everyone may gain access to some of the delivery of the best teachers and experts in certain fields…as Salman Khan said:  If Einstein made lessons on Calculus, we would not have to do it now.  One would hope that for subjects like Mathematics, where the same content is delivered every year, having online lessons would save teachers time and effort into the future, for as long as those lessons are relevant.
  • Having online lessons could save teachers having to make the lessons themselves…teachers could choose to use other teachers’ lessons, providing those lessons serve the purpose of the lesson goal.

However, we need to think and plan before we make ‘flipping the classroom’ a school-wide practice.  Here are some of my reservations:

  • If bad classroom instruction is transferred into a digital format, it is not all of a sudden effective teaching...it is still bad instruction…however, in a digital format it can do much more damage as it is globally accessible and very easy to share.
  • Not all content lends itself to being delivered via video lesson, as some content can only be explored and developed through active interaction, debate and collaboration.
  • Curricula change every few years.  The videos may become obsolete once the curriculum content changes.
  • There would be two sides to obsolete videos:  We could either remove obsolete videos so they don’t become even more digital clutter, or, if they are watched regularly by a global audience, leave them as a resource for others to use.
  • Time constraints and attention span constraints:  If all teachers want to deliver content via recorded mini-lessons, we need to be aware that students cannot possibly be expected to sit through six (or how many ever subjects they have in school) recorded lessons every afternoon.
  • This type of instruction may not suit the learning styles of all students.
  • Not all students will have the drive to sit through mini-lessons in the afternoons.  Realistically, we need to expect that some students will not do the ‘homework’ and turn up to class unprepared.  These students should be prepared to watch the lesson in class, using headsets.
  • Students will need access to internet devices in school, whether they are allowed to bring their own (a big culture shift for some schools), or whether the school invests in the buying of internet devices for the students.
  • Schools will have to invest in having someone on staff who can support the other teachers who are not so technologically savvy.
  • Schools will have to invest in internet storage and reliable quick internet connections.
  • Teachers need to change their thinking around students working at their own pace…if a student is working on his computer, teachers will have to trust that the student is in fact working on the subject or learning by himself.  If this is not happening, schools will have to invest in software which can keep track of what students are accessing and viewing in class.
  • The age at which this ‘flipped classroom’ starts, may possibly be after the end of Early Years, when kids move into Middle years and start associating more with their peers and learn more about themselves.  I believe that kids in Early Years still need the face to face interaction with the teacher during lessons, who they see as one of the most significant people in their lives.  This supports the development of social and communication skills.
  • There is a possibility that some students may find that they are not technologically savvy either, or struggle with digital literacy, or find the delivery of content via computer screen draining.  How to engage these kids…?
  • Each kid will have to buy his/her own headset in case they have to view videos on class.  (Sharing headsets is unhygienic.)
  • Not all students will have the time to spend on school-work after school hours.  Many students do sport, or have jobs.  Some students have lengthy travel times to get home, and most students have chores to do.
  • This means we need to have a school-wide policy about the length of these recorded lessons.  My thoughts would be that we should cap the length of any of these lessons to about eight or ten minutes per mini-lesson.  This means that between watching the lesson and taking notes, the student should spend no more than 20 minutes on each recorded session, per subject.  If they had six of these to sit through in the afternoon, it would still mean about two hours of work after school.
  • Students should then be expected to sit through a maximum of about two of these mini-lessons per subject per week.
  • Alternatively, schools can make a school-wide decision (have a policy) that only some subjects will ‘flip the classroom’ while other subjects will still remain traditional teaching.
  • Making recorded ‘mini-lessons’ may also not suit the teaching style of some teachers.  Schools will have to provide professional development or coaching, and leadership will have to support teachers who are not confident enough to record their lessons.
  • A digital divide may develop between students who have access to reliable and cost effective internet, against those who don’t have internet access or don’t have the funds to pay for constant viewing/or downloading videos.
  • Storage of the ever expanding library of videos need to be discussed.  Schools will have to provide huge space online for teachers, and students will have to consider the ways they are going to store the downloaded videos.
  • Naming conventions for the videos need to be considered as well, e.g. within a school-wide naming convention policy.  The videos should be named and tagged in such a way that students can easily locate the correct video, or search for ones used previously.
  • I am wondering about the expectations which will be placed on teachers…will they be expected to keep making video lessons even when they are home sick, or when they are off on long service leave?
  • How will it work when teachers need to take time off for having a baby or for being sick – will the replacement teachers be expected to teach in the same way the absent teacher taught?  Will we eventually have two classes of teachers: Those who teach using flip classrooms and those who don’t teach like that?
  • And last but not least: It is a sad comment on our society that almost everything can be used against teachers.  To convince teachers to put their lessons into a digital format, we need to ensure that these online lessons will never be used as a form of ‘teacher measurement’.

Please feel free to leave comments if you have any more ideas on this topic.

Resources

Visionary Leadership and e-learning

There is a storm brewing on the horizon, and that storm is called “e-learning in schools”.  As the world is changing at lightning speed, and employers are biting their nails in frustration at the lack of technical skills of the students coming out of school, as young people get sick and tired of ‘powering down’ when they enter classrooms and drop out of traditional settings to participate in virtual learning environments, as universities are offering more and more opportunities for students to access their work online, we are hearing the chorus of more and more voices yelling out that we need to change the way we teach our kids.  We see this on Twitter, we see it in the news, and we see it in the statistics of drop-outs.  We see YouTube videos of students telling the world that they no longer value that which most teachers still hold dear:  The tradition of face to face education. 

In the middle of all of this, we have our leaders of schools.  We are all turning our eyes to these leaders and we are all asking them to lead us into the future…

I believe we have several COMPONENTS to include in the implementation of any E-Learning plan or ICT integration strategies for our schools:

  • Component 1:  Whole school approach:  Embed  e-learning into school accountability and improvement framework.  Link to teacher goals and individual learning plans for teachers and principals.
  • Component 2:  Build leadership capacity:  Professional Learning on leading E Learning and ICT improvement for Principals and school E Learning/ICT coordinators
  • Component 3:  Build teacher capacity:  Provide and support high quality teaching and learning in the areas of ICT applications and how to use E-Learning for effective teaching, learning and assessment.  Source high quality evidence-based curriculum and assessment strategies to fulfill e-learning needs.
  • Component 4:  Effective use of data:  Use data to inform teaching for student improvement and understanding.  Monitor and track student progress within classrooms and  P-12.
  • Component 5:  Student Intervention: Targeted small group intervention using e-learning strategies.  Differentiated instruction using e-learning strategies.
  • Component 6:  Partnerships (Schools and communities) regarding the use and integration of e-learning.

In all of these components, the Central Office of the particular Department of Education, the Regional Offices as well as the individual schools, will have certain roles and oblications.  For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the School Leadership responsibilities for implementing the E-Learning plan across the school:

School Leadership responsibilities for Component 1 (Whole school approach): 

  • Set standards and targets that are explicit and are linked to school strategic plan, principal and teacher performance plans
  • Promote the concept of all students as E Learning/ICT learners and capable of achieving success
  • Support the development of teacher capacity as teachers of ICT and E Learning (e.g. by resources like time release for staff to attend or develop Professional Learning in areas of E-learning, timetabling staff off together so they can plan for using e-learning across curriculum and year levels, funding equipment and professional trainers, etc.)
  • Promote E Learning awareness of all teachers across all curriculum areas (link to individual teacher plans and goals).
  • Support innovations around ICT-rich learning environment
  • Model the effective use of an ICT-rich learning environment
  • Embed information and communications technology [ICT] as a key enabler to personalising learning in teaching practice and programs

School leadership responsibilities for Component 2 (Build leadership capacity):

  • Appoint and support E Learning/ICT coordinators in all schools
  • Identify best practice in E Learning  and promote collaboration
  • Respond to Department of Education initiatives
  • Source and promote the Department of EducationE- Learning resources and assessment tools

School Leadership responsibilities for Component 3 (Build teacher capacity):

  • Principals promote, implement and support DEECD initiatives
  • Utilise region expertise in E Learning/ICT for building teacher capacity
  • Support attendance for  beginning teacher forums, twice year to promote effective E Learning/ICT teaching and learning
  • Embed information and communications technology [ICT] within teaching practice as key enabler to personalising learning in teaching practice and programs

School leadership responsibilities for Component 4 (Effective use of data):

  • Principals promote and  support all teachers to use data to inform teaching and learning, regarding e-learning practices in classrooms
  • All teachers use data to inform teaching for student improvement and understanding, using e-learning tools
  • Assessment as, of and for used in all classrooms:  Use E-learning tools as much as possible.

School leadership role in Component 5 (Student Intervention):

  • Principals ensure that systems are in place to track student progress, using e-learning and online tools
  • Students who require additional assistance are identified , tracked and supported, using e-learning as much as possible
  • Principals to ensure that intervention is embedded and linked to classroom instruction, using e-learning tools and strategies as much as possible
  • ICT is embedded in the communication with staff, parents and teachers

School leadership in Component 6 (Partnerships): 

  • Acknowledge the role of parents and carers in E Learning learning
  • Keep parents and stake holders informed of planned e-learning inititatives, and invite feedback wherever possible.  Invite collaboration if possible.
  • Strong partnerships between home, school and community.  Partenerships can be built on or promoted via e-learning and online tools (blogs, wikis, etc.)
  • Close links with pre-schools and other schools, promoting and using  E Learning and ICT routines and forums.
  • ICT is embedded in the communication with staff, parents and teachers
  • ICT is embedded in partnership/stake-holder relationships and collaboration

It is clear that without direct and indirect support from those in power to make decisions about resource allocation and funding, the e-learning journey will not happen in schools.  Tough decisions need to be made about:

  • Funding the training of e-learning coaches and leaders for all schools,
  • allocating money for time for e-learning purposes,
  • providing expert training for school leaders in e-learning appliacations and how e-learningcan promote effective teaching and learning (pedagogy),
  • allocating high quality e-learning resources,
  • mandating time release for teachers and principals to access the resources and training about the effective uses of e-learning in classrooms,
  • enabling innovators to be recognized, valued, promoted and supported in their uses of e-learning principles and applications,
  • an ongoing learning and improvement culture surrounding best practice e-learning in schools,
  • and setting clear expectations that e-learning will become part and parcel of our classrooms.

Many of the decisions surrounding support are totally out of the control of the normal teacher. The modelling and support need to come from the highest realms of leadership in any  Department of Education.  In their strategic plans, Departments of Education need to allocate resources to schools, tagged specifically to enable principals and innovative teachers to make the e-learning happen in schools, and to bring others on board.

Yes, an e-learning storm is brewing on the horizon, and like in the past, visionary leadership will be the only safe ship in this storm.

For more resources on E-learning and school wide change, please visit (and download the documents):

leadershipday2010_thumb1

This post was written in response to a call from this website: http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2010/07/calling-all-bloggers-leadership-day-2010.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dangerouslyirrelevant+%28Dangerously+Irrelevant%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Speedtile

I just discovered a very cool tool to save some time when browsing and surfing the net: Speedtile. (http://www.speedtile.net/)   Here are some information from the Speedtile introduction page:

“Think about your favourite websites and all the backroads you use just to access them.
Wouldn’t it be an advantage if your homepage has them all categorized just the way you like it?

Speedtile keeps track of your favourite websites. Save and organize your bookmarks in a clear and visual environment, always up to date with daily snapshots.”

Your home page can now contain thumbnails of all your most frequently visited sites, and it could look something like this: 

Speedtile

Let out your Creative Beast

Three (powerful) words …

Three powerful words about Remembrance Day from Peter Brown: Go to this website for the video: http://www.hotkey.net.au/~petercb/anzac/

Google Maps Alphabet

Why not send your students on a virtual scavenger hunt?  Rhett Dashwood found the whole alphabet on Google maps!  For links to the maps and the locations of these ‘letters’, visit his site at http://rhettdashwood.com.au/#16575/Google-Maps-Typography.  You can do the same: Ask the kids to find a picture of something on Google Maps, e.g. find a letter, a number, a shape (e.g. a heart, a star, a circle, an oval, a square, etc.), a face, the outline of a body, or advertisements (quite a few companies are now creating huge logos so Google Maps will do their advertising for them…for free!) Here is a blog to kickstart your searches: http://googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2009/03/find-shapes-on-google-maps.html

Video of Google Maps Alphabet:

Video of how to search Google Maps for shapes using Urban Spaces

Google Earth interesting shapes

Two videos showing shapes and advertisements:

One student created this video, showing some interesting images on Google Earth

Below is a video with some man made images, the coordinates are given as well  e.g.

SHARK:
31 59’20.53″S 152 34’18.47″E

GEOGLYPH IN CHILE:
19 56’56.76″S 69 38’2.07″W

USA BUSH:
41 51’26.99″N 121 29’25.75″W

HORSE#1:
50 39’26.33″N 2 24’14.92″W

ARROW IN PERU:
14 32’45.28″S 75 9’35.85″W

“FACE”:
33 55’37.16″N 117 34’8.58″W

LINES IN PERU (NAZCA):
14 33’9.40″S 75 10’36.74″W

“UFO”#1 IN SPITSBERGEN:
78 38’29.61″N 15 7’5.50″E

GEO-FORM:
19 37’40.75″S 69 58’46.35″W

HORSE#2
54 13’29.68″N 1 12’44.46″W

GEOGLIPHS IN HILE:
19 12’13.45″S 70 0’30.41″W

ELEPHANTS IN AFRICA;
10 54’12.65″N 19 55’56.05″E

BIG RABBIT:
44 14’39.77″N 7°46’10.71″E

SIGN:
37 37’38.69″N 116 50’48.38″W

HORSE#3
51 19’16.29″N 1 45’22.76″W

DINO:
42 4’34.14″N 2 21’21.93″W

“UFO”#2:
45 42’11.97″N 21 18’7.81″E

BIG INSCRIPTIONS IN CHILE:
17 58’20.55″S 70 14’12.89″W

SMILE:
43 25’44.84″N 80 19’51.12″W

Category:  Travel & Events

Hearts found on Google Earth

14 Ways to stifle creativity

By Youngme Moon, who is the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where she focuses on marketing and strategy innovation.

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

Ultranet…will it bring Ultra-Censorship in Schools?

In Victoria we are poised for the implementation of the Ultranet, a state wide ‘intranet’ which will make online collaboration between students, parents and teachers happen in an ongoing, anywhere/anytime online environment.  (For more info on the Ultranet, please visit my wiki http://echuca-ultranet.wikispaces.com ).  Kids will get a student number when they enroll the first time, and all their assessments, reports, outcomes and teacher comments will be logged under that student number.  When the kid moves from one school to another, e.g. from Primary into Secondary college, these results will be immediately available to new teachers, giving a rounded picture of the student’s progress in school so far.  Parents will be able to find out how their kids are going by logging into the Ultranet and accessing their own child’s reports, ongoing assessments, anecdotal teacher notes and the goals the kids have set for themselves. Parents will be able to contact teachers or make comments about their child’s progress, which will allow for many more opportunities to build relationships between the student’s home and the school.  Teachers will have a portal where they can put their lesson plans, and access the resources, handouts, lesson plans, tests, exams, projects and so forth, that other teachers have uploaded.  The knowledge bank will be a fantastic opportunity for teachers to stop re-inventing the wheel, and start building collaborative learning communities online…

With so many obvious advantages, why am I a bit weary?

Upon reflection of our e-learning journey in many schools, I applaud the fact that the Ultranet will give schools another opportunity to unblock some online content at school level.  Lots of students already have 24/7 access to the internet via their mobile phones, and in many cases, blocking certain sites at school level only stops teachers from using the sites in class…kids could access it anyway, via their phones.  Perhaps it is time to rethink our decisions about censorship, and stop allowing people that have never actually taught (or that taught many, many moons ago), people that have never actually used YouTube or the other sites blocked at school, to make decisions about what teachers should and should not be able to access as teaching tools. 

Curriculum should drive technology….technology should not drive curriculum.

In deciding which content to block at school, it may be beneficial to read the view of one student regarding censorship of the internet: http://teenlife.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/10242/censorware-doing-more-harm-than-good/

Please comment about your thoughts on this matter.

Prezi: An alternative to PowerPoint

‘Making a teacher’ – Inspirational video for teachers

To all teachers

Never forget how special you are.  We appreciate your sacrifices and hard work. Please take this video as a ‘thank you’ for who you are and what you do.

Fences and silos

Doing yard duty is probably the thing I dislike the most about my job as a teacher.  It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of my students, or that I think getting out into the open spaces outside is not a great opportunity to smell the roses…BUT sometimes it can be really boring out there in the yard, not knowing all the kids that race around or play chasey (I teach in a huge school). 

Today, however, I had a bit of an epiphany: I realized, as I patrolled my ‘area’ on the school border during lunch time, that the kids inside the yard, actually stay INSIDE the yard, and there is no fence in sight!  The kids know where the boundary of the school yard is without any fences/lines/curbs, and they find a spot amongst the crowd inside the allowed area, and stay there.  Sometimes (most times) they move around like ants all over the school yard: Buying stuff at the canteen, kicking balls on the oval, finding the library and using it for reading or research…but we don’t have to worry that all thousand of them will just run like wild things all over the place outside the school’s boundary.  Of course, I am sure, one or two may want to go AWOL, but they are usually found out quickly as there is some checking of the attendance rolls straignt after a break.  In all the years I have been a teacher at this school, we have never seen the need to start putting up fences or ever increasing high walls to keep students in.  There is an unwritten agreement that the kids will do the right thing, and stay inside the boundary lines.  If we chose to start building fences to keep the kids inside, and put up red signs that say ‘Access denied’ all over the inside of those fences, I dare say some of our creative teenagers may see this as a challenge, and then try to break free.  And since teachers can’t be everywhere all the time, we may loose more than one teenager through a hole or over a fence…However, since we don’t try and stop kids with physical fences, but instead rely on their inherit sense of right and wrong, the kids stay inside the boundary…

But what happens when we start thinking about allowing kids onto the internet?  I find that most schools think it is their role to build fences and high wall all around the access we deem appropriate for our students.  We even block out any windows which may give kids peep holes into the world beyond.  We sanction the kids, we watch them all the time.  We warn them of ‘inappropriate sites’ by blocking all sites not specifically ‘whitelisted’, and when they dare to try and get some information from a place which we don’t know about or have not come across before, we stop them with flashing red pages warning them that ‘access have been denied’ and that the ‘administrator’ will be sent a message to alert him/her of this transgression.  I know of lots of kids that now spend hours online trying to find different proxys to hack through all the walls we build around the internet access for kids….

I wonder what would happen if we just started teaching the kids where the boundaries are, and then expected them to stay within those boundaries?  Yes, there are millions of predators lurking on the net, but there are also millions of decent, helpful people, great thinkers and fantastic resources.  Teachers are short on time as it is (seeing that we have to do yard duty and all!)…don’t you think it is about time we stopped trying to re-invent the wheel in our own little silo, and  instead, go online and hook up with others that have already done similar work and perhaps left some great resources we can tap into?  Are you modelling responsible global citizenship online, and are you spending your time on teaching kids the boundaries?  Instead of wasting whole technician’s time on building ever higher virtual walls, preventing hacks, chasing kids that try and breach the walls we build, and just spending a fraction of that time by just doing some regular checks to find the one or two that AWOL, we can keep focusing on the majority of kids that will do the right thing, and stay within those ‘acceptable use of internet’ boundaries, without any virtual fence, or wall, or flashing warnings.

Education in the Future

Institutional Education needs to change, or it will die.  The monatary value of information is reaching zero dollars.  In the information age, facts are free.  Education is not about teaching students facts, because facts are not preparing students for the real world.  Education is about creativity and new ideas, empowering students, not about conforming.

In the future, College Degrees may not be seen as anything of value, or as status symbols…so what will be the status symbols of the future?  http://www.futuristspeaker.com/2010/04/competing-for-status/

Something just ‘isn’t working’ in institutionalised education…the world is changing…and if you don’t change with it, you will become irrelevant.

Maths Year 7 Wiki

I will be teaching Mathematics to Year 7 students in 2010.  As part of my extension program, I have collated some interesting and fun things to explore, for example fractals, Pascal’s triangle, Body Maths, etc.  All the resources can be found on the wiki http://mathsyear7.wikispaces.com/.

In the mean time, enjoy the holiday season, and may 2010 bring joy and happiness.
New-year.in

Year 7 Wiki for 1:1 in 2010

As part of my role as E-Learning coordinator, I have to support staff in building capacity to integrate ICT in their lessons.  We have a specific focus on the Year 7 team for 2010, as we have 195 students in Year 7 each with his/her own netbook, coming into the Year 7 Learning Neighbourhood.  Our teachers have participated in a Learning Walk to one of our feeder schools, where they observed the students using the netbooks in Year 6.  Here is the learning walk prompt sheet that teachers used for their classroom observations: Netbooks School Visit

As part of our collaboration with the Year 6 teachers, we started a wiki.  Teachers were invited to make comments on what they have learnt, which links and websites they found valuable, and which problems they encountered.  Here is the link to our wiki: http://echucaelearning.wikispaces.com/.   The pages we learnt the most from were  http://echucaelearning.wikispaces.com/Education+Linkshttp://echucaelearning.wikispaces.com/Other+uses+for+notebooks and http://echucaelearning.wikispaces.com/Troubles+and+Problems

Please feel free to contribute to this wiki if you have had any experience with 1:1 programs, e.g. what works, what does not work, and how we can change it.

Panning and zooming in PhotoStory

I recently learnt a very cool trick in Photo Story: Panning and zooming.  You import the same photo several times into Photo Story, click on the first image in your photo strip, then you use the customize motion option (on the same page as where you would usually record your voice with the photo).  Tick the box to  choose to set the beginning and end position yourself, and choose where you would like your camera to go.  Click save, go to the next picture, tick the boxes next to set the beginning and end position yourself, as well as next to the option where you set the start position to be the same as where the previous picture ended.  The next step is important: Go to the Transitions tab (you click Customize Motion on the page where you would normally record, then choose the Transitions tab).  You need to tick the box for No Transitions for every photo in your show.  This will ensure that your slides move gently from one photo to the next.

Just follow the same process over and again, for all the pictures in your Photo Story.  Here is a document with step by step instructions of how to create a Photo Story that pans and zooms across the same picture: (right click on the document link, and choose save target as, then save the document to your computer from where you can open it and view it):  Create a Story from a Single Still Photo Panning and Zooming (Alternatively you can view the document on Google Docs http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATrf3vzsgKqKZGNyNjhnZDhfMTYxNmtnbWdxZ20&hl=en .)

Here is a video of a Photo Story with panning and zooming:

PanningWaterLillies

Serious Fun

I recently read this on Twitter:

“For math lovers: A pizza with the radius z and thickness a has what volume?

pi * z * z *a of course!”

Apart from the obvious clever wordplay, this got me thinking: What role does humour play in our classrooms?  Thinking back to my teachers, the funniest teachers always seemed to get our attention, and make us hang onto their words.  Long after forgetting the Maths formula or the Grammar rule we learnt, we remembered the funny things that happened in class.  We told our friends about what made us smile, what made us giggle, and what made us laugh.  I am sure if we had Twitter and Facebook, we would be tweeting and posting these events long before we tweeted or posted the actual content of our lessons.  As teachers, this may present us with a new angle on creating ‘teachable moments.’  If we can wrap up the content in a funny story or a joke, perhaps we can make the next post on Facebook or feature in the next Instant Message conversation our students have!

And to wrap up, here is a funny poem about Teachers:

Teachers

Are you crazy?

For the longest time I looked at myself in the mirror and asked: “Are you crazy?”  And yes, I know that if you look in the mirror and talk to yourself, you probably are crazy!  However, my grandma always said it is okay to talk to yourself and ask questions, but start worrying if you answer yourself too! 

But let’s not digress.  Have you felt that you are the only voice in a sea of silence, yelling and screaming that people should start changing the way they teach, because we are disengaging so many students through sheer boredom? (Note to self:  “If kids can’t learn the way we teach, perhaps we should teach the way kids learn.” Author unknown. )  Have you ever been in trouble with your peers or your managers for doing things differently to how it has always been done?  Have some parent asked you why you let your students “play” on their computers during class time when they should be “learning” from books?  Have you wondered why nobody has ever invented a device you can plug into your head so you can Twitter or email or surf the web all day without having to carry your computer around?  Have you thought “I have to Tweet that” or “I have to post that” when you heard of some new resource or something interesting?  Have you ‘visited’  some other schools around the world (and this include using Google Earth or Google maps…e.g see Around the world in Eighty Schools using Google Map :Over 64.000 views on the Around the World with 80 Schools Google maps- http://bit.ly/wUUy6 Cool!)  Do you have a PLN?

Well, if you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, don’t despair.  You are not alone.  There are a lot of lonely voices in different places around the globe, and they all congregate on Twitter, and they share and collaborate, and they are crazy together, which, in a weird sense, makes them normal.

And lastly, if you are crazy enough to think you can change the world, you often succeed. (See video below.)

Multitasking…

Teachers often refer to the way students “Multi Task” as being a good thing, something to stand in wonder about. I have been caught up in this notion as well, as I watched kids e-mail, text and listen to their iPods while they try and solve a Maths problem…the operative word, of course, being “try”. They attempt to do a lot of things, and end up not doing one thing thoroughly. Now it has been proven: Texting, talking on a phone and e-mailing can lower your IQ by ten points! That is two and a half times the amount that smoking one joint will lower your IQ! So, what is the moral of this story? Do we need to tell kids off when they interact with their PLN while at school? No. Do we need to ban all e-mail and iPods from classrooms? No. The answer is the same as it has always been: A time and a place for everything. When students need to pay full attention to a specific mini lesson or instruction, it would be best to do away with any distractions. This will give their brains the opportunity to make connections with what is being said, and to start forming links with prior knowledge…important to improve retention and memory.

For some more interesting factoids about mobile devices, view the video below.

Twitter: Terrific and Tragic

 Many people are sharing valuable information on Twitter, building skills and knowledge on a global scale…Restaurants and air lines have encountered the power of Twitter when disgruntled customers tweet about bad service, and the public respond by not supporting the restaurants and air lines. Twitter plays an important role in displaying the public perception, e.g. during the Iran elections the Twitterverse took up a unified cry for freedom by adding green ribbons and green overlays to their Twitter avatars. Twitter also enable people to share events like earth quackes and tsunamis long before any news agency can get the story on the air.

 

 

If you don’t know what the buzz is about, look at this video called “Twitter in plain English”.Twitter in plain English

 

 

However, sometimes, Tweeting every single detail of your life is not such a bright idea! There have been reports of people getting fired after tweeting that they were at a sporting event on a “sick” day, or workers getting the sack after tweeting some silly and insulting comments about their bosses or the companies they work for. Likewise, Bosses also need to be aware of the Power of Twitter: Dilbert.com

Teens and social media

A remix of Danah Boyd’s research on teenagers and their patterns of using social media at the 2009 Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. It describes today’s teens social habits and what our roles as teachers are in providing a critical framework for safe and responsible global citizenship. And, to top it off, the whole video was made without any cuts! (I presume they used Prezi.com to create the presentation, and then used a screencapturing program like Screentoaster, Jing or Camstudio to video the presentation, then edited the product by adding some background music e.g. using MovieMaker? Let me know what you think…)

Related article http://www.insights-group.com/2009/09/28/how-is-social-media-like-a-party/

Tagul

For everyone that has used Wordle, this new application will seem very familiar.  Tagul (http://tagul.com/#)  is like Wordle, but with more features, e.g. you can choose the shape of your word cloud, and the words in the cloud  “pop up” when you mouse over them.  A Tagul is only 50kb in size.  This tool is great for visual brainstorms, to stimulate thinking and to start discussions. Here is an example: A Tagul with words featured prominently on my blog:

http://tagul.com/cloud/1

My Favourite Educational Quotes

My favourite educational quotes


As per the previous post, I made this video by first creating the pictures in PowerPoint, then saving the slides as JPEGs, then importing the pictures into Photostory, adding the music and transitions (star transitions), and finally saving it as a .wmv file.  Then I uploaded it to YouTube.  For step by step instructions and information videos on how to create digital stories like these, please see this page:  http://marynabadenhorst.global2.vic.edu.au/videos/video-creation/digital-storytelling/

Starfish

 Starfish: Inspirational Video for teachers.

(For guidelines on how to make similar videos, see the bottom of this post.)

I made this video by first creating the pictures in PowerPoint, then saving the slides as JPEGs, then importing the pictures into Photostory, adding the music and transitions (star transitions), and finally saving it as a .wmv file.  Then I uploaded it to YouTube.  For step by step instructions and information videos on how to create digital stories like these, please see this page:  http://marynabadenhorst.global2.vic.edu.au/videos/video-creation/digital-storytelling/

Social Media Revolution

 

Consider the following:

  • By 2010, Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers — 96 percent of them have joined a social network.
  • Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the Web.
  • One out of eight couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media.
  • Years to reach 50 millions users: Radio, 38 years; TV, 13 years; Internet, 4 years; iPod, 3 years. Facebook added 100 million users in less than nine months; iPhone applications hit 1 billion in nine months.
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest, between the United States and Indonesia.
  • Yet, some sources say China’s QZone is larger, with more than 300 million using their services (Facebook’s ban in China plays into this).
  • ComScore indicates that Russia has the most engaged social media audience, with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month — Vkontakte.ru is the number one social network.
  • A 2009 U.S. Department of Education study revealed that, on average, online students outperformed those receiving face-to-face instruction.
  • One in six higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum.
  • Eighty percent of companies use LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees.
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55- to 65-year-old females.
  • Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres have more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Ireland, Norway, and Panama.
  • Eighty percent of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. People update anywhere, anytime. Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences!
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé. Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen in 2009.
  • What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook…
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles. Some studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopædia Britannica. Seventy-eight percent of these articles are non-English.
  • There are more than 200,000,000 blogs.
  • Fifty-four percent of bloggers post content or tweet daily.
  • Because of the speed in which social media enables communication, word of mouth now becomes world of mouth.
  • If you were paid $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia, you would earn $156.23 per hour.
  • Facebook users translated the site from English to Spanish via a Wiki in less than two weeks and cost Facebook $0.
  • Twenty-five percent of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content.
  • Thirty-four percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.
  • People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services than how Google ranks them.
  • Seventy-eight percent of consumers trust peer recommendations.
  • Only 14 percent trust advertisements.
  • Only 18 percent of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI.
  • Ninety percent of TiVo users skip ads.
  • Hulu has grown from 63 million total streams in April 2008 to 373 million in April 2009.
  • Twenty-five percent of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video on their phone.
  • According to Jeff Bezos, 35 percent of book sales on Amazon are for the Kindle when available.
  • Twenty-four of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation because we no longer search for the news — the news finds us.
  • In the near future, we won’t search for products and services; they will find us via social media.
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content (Web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook daily.
  • Successful companies in social media act more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Ogilvy — listening first, selling second.
  • Successful companies in social media act more like party planners, aggregators, and content providers than traditional advertisers.

The above statistics and “Social Media Revolution” video tell the story. Social media isn’t a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Please feel free to share with any non-believers!

Erik Qualman’s new book “Socialnomics” from Wiley Publishing will be in stores and available online August 26.

Voicethread

I just started playing with Voicethread.  It is  a fun way of sharing photos and collaborating online.  I know some teachers are using it for language development, e.g. in LOTE.  They upload an image as a prompt, then ask students to leave comments in a language other than English.  The teacher can then listen to all the comments and comment back to the students…very interactive and cool!  

I also know of a teacher who puts screenshots of a movie (e.g. from the movie Holes) in the main frame, then students have to comment on what they think the characters in the screenshot would be saying or thinking (like I described in the Substantive Talking Tools under Photo Chat).  One Maths teacher uses voicethread to explain the steps in a Maths problem screen by screen.  The kids can then leave comments if they don’t quite understand what he is saying.  You can leave comments on every picture uploaded in the voicethread.  After making the voicethread you can just leave it on the Voicethread page (which can be accessed by anyone that has the internet, so kids can view it from home), or you could also share it by sending them a link, or you could embed it to your own web page (which is what I have done here.)

Below are two examples of a Voicethread  embedded into this page.  You can listen to all the comments by either clicking onto the big arrow in the middle of the big screen so the Voicethread starts playing, or alternatively just click on one of the small squares around the big screen to listen to that specific comment.  If you want to leave a comment, leave your comment by clicking on the comment button on the bottom of the main screen, and then eiter type, record (a little screen will pop up asking you to give permission for the computer to use your microphone, just click the green tick to allow the microphone to be used for recording your comment) or upload your comment/sound effect/music snippet.  Your comment will appear on a small square around the main frame, so everyone else can then listen to/view your comment.  You can always delete your own comment, so don’t worry if you make a mistake. In the first Voicethread there are more than one photo to look at. You can move onto the next picture by clicking the big arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the main frame. The second Voicethread has only one screen.   Thanks!

 Here is a Voicethread with many comments already:

To view my first attempt for Voicethread (Camel Wisdom), click this link http://voicethread.com/share/617652/ (http://voicethread.com/#q.b617652.i3284545 )

To view the Hall’s Gap voicethread on the Voicethread site, here is the link http://voicethread.com/share/619815/

Blabberize

This is a very cool tool for kids (and adults!)  You sign up to Blabberize.  This process takes about two seconds, no e-mail verification is needed.  Next, you will be taken to your own page.  If this is the first time you go to Blabberize, you will have nothing in your page.  Choose “make” at the top of the page.  You will be asked to upload a photo of a face.  Next you will be asked to position and shape a mouth onto the mouth of the photo you uploaded.  This is the part that will move as if the mouth opens and closes with the voice you record later on.  Next you will be asked to add a recording, e.g. record something with your own voice, or upload a sound or song you already have.  Next, hit save.  You will be asked to name your creation, write a short description, and add a few tags.  Lastly, you can share your creation with the world as you will be given the HTML code, or a shortcut to email to friends….and wha-laa!  You have created a talking photo, with moving mouth to boot!  Imagine the possibilities for making characters in a novel come alive, or for LOTE (having charaters talk/give instructions in the native tongue…)

Examples of a Blabberize:

 1.  Blabberize a Cartoon:

2.  Blabberize an artist: Michael Jackson singing “Bad”

Collaborative Learning/Substantive Conversations; Ice Breakers

icebreakercircle-3

I recently attended a substantive conversation workshop.  We used some “oldie but goodie”  collaborative learning and conversation starter tools to get the people moving and talking.  For each of these activities you may want to use an online stopwatch (http://www.online-stopwatch.com/).  I listed the conversation starters and resources/handouts here, perhaps you would like to try some of them in your classroom or professional development activities:

1.  Star Buddiesicebreakerstar2

Resource: Here is a document with six stars that you can print and use during the workshop: IceBreakerSixStarsPDF

Each participant got a star with six coloured points when they entered the room.  Participants are asked to put our names in the centre of the  star.  Next, participants were asked to go in search of six people in the room, one for each point of their star.  However, if you put someone’s name on your ‘yellow’ starpoint, that person had to put your name on their yellow starpoint as well.  If you put another person’s name on your red starpoint, that person had to put your name on the red starpoint on their star. Whenever you want people to have a quick chat about something, ask them to go and find their “yellow point” partner (or red point partner, etc.)  Great activity to get people to get to know each other, moving around and talking.

2.  Photo Chat

Each participant gets a photo about a topic that all participants may find interesting (see an example of a handout with four ‘photos’ of classrooms   Photos or pictures should relate to the content of the professional development or lesson.)  Give participants conversation starters (e.g. “For your photo, what do you think the Teacher would be saying if he/she was asking the student open ended questions to find out what the student understands/have learnt during this lesson?”)  The participants need to use one of their starpoints (see activity in number 1 above)  to find a buddy and talk about their photo to their buddy, using the conversation starter given.  Give the participants about a minute to talk to their buddies before moving on to the next buddy (another colour on their star).

3.  Fish Bowl Slide1

Participants are told about a topic that some participants may know a lot about.  Participants are asked to ‘volunteer’ to be fish and talk about this topic in front of the rest of the participants.  The two (or three) ‘fish’ volunteers stand in the middle of the room, while the rest of the participants form a circle around them.  The ‘fish’ in the middle of the circle each gets a chance to tell their story about the topic given at the start, while the rest of the participants are quietly listening and taking notes/writing down comments/writing down their questions.  (Here is a tool to use for this activity.  It is a KWL chart. ) After all the ‘fish’ had an opportunity to tell their story, the rest of the participants are given the opportunity to ask questions, contribute their comments or tell snippets of similar experiences, all the while the participants that are not talking, need to respectfully listen to the person talking.fishbowls

4.  Jig Saw   jigsaw_pieces1

Jigsaw activities – where, like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of information fit together to make one picture in the end – are great to start collaborative learning and communication.  This activity asks participants to make groups of two, three, four,  or five (as instructed by the facilitator).  Each member of the group gets a section of a topic to learn about.  The group members need to become an ‘expert’ in the section they have to learn about.  They may also choose to go and learn their section with other people that have to learn about the same section of the topic.  This takes about five minutes.  Now the initial group comes together.  Each member of the group now teaches the other group members about the section he/she had to learn about.  The idea is that all the group members will now know something of every part of the topic, as they had to learn one section themselves, and learnt about the other sections from the other group members.  jigsaw_diagram

For more information on JigSaw in Classrooms please see these websites http://www.jigsaw.org/steps.htm, http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/coursedesign/tutorial/jigsaw.html, http://olc.spsd.sk.ca/DE/PD/instr/strats/jigsaw/ and http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr324.shtml

5.  Cocktail Partysticky1-300x299

Variation 1:

The facilitator can either pick headings and place these headings around the wall, or just open a general discussion.  Participants are asked to write one or two dot points on a sticky note for each heading (or for the general discussion), and place these sticky notes on the walls around the room, either under the headings, or just anywhere on the walls.  If there are no headings given, the participants need to try and ‘group’ the sticky notes together under similar themes.   Now tell participants to form pairs.  Each one of the pair needs to pick to be either the number one of the number two.  Now ask all the number ‘ones’ to go and stand with one of their sticky notes on the wall.  For the next fifteen minutes, all the number ‘twos’ have the opportunity to move around the room and ask the number ‘ones’ to tell them about their sticky note comments or dot points (Please don’t just stay with your own partner, move around and ask as many people as you can to tell you about their sticky notes).  Now all the number ‘twos’ have to go and stand with one of their sticky notes, while the number ‘ones’ have the opportunity to move around the room and ask the number ‘twos’ about what they wrote on their sticky note.   stickynotes pinksticky_notes

Variation 2

Another variation on this idea is to ask participants to draw a picture about something you discuss.  They have to try and convey as much information as they can in just that one picture or symbol.  Use these sticky notes to stick around the room for the ‘cocktail party’ as described above. stickynotes

Sticky Notes Cocktail Party Web 2.0 applications

You can open up digital walls with for sticky note contributions using applications like:

  • Wallwisher (http://www.wallwisher.com/): You can include music, images etc. with this application
  • Brainstorming: Powerful tool to get ideas on digital “sticky notes” and stick them onto the board.  You can also add pictures and documents, as well as online videos: http://en.linoit.com/
  • Wiziq (Pronounced Wiz-IQ) : Free online collaboration in a room, upload and share notes, documents, powerpoints, etc., participants can type questions in the chat box, or participate using pens/emoticons/text boxes on the whiteboard side (similar to WebEx or Elluminate) http://www.wiziq.com/home/
  • Dim Dim: Similar to Wiziq in dot point just above: http://www.dimdim.com/
  • Brainstorming fun tool: http://www.distractionbeast.com/brainstormer.swf
  •  Online Collaboration in Real Time: http://thinkature.com/: With Thinkature, you can create a collaborative workspace and invite coworkers, friends, and colleagues to join you in just seconds. Once inside your workspace, you can communicate by chatting, drawing, creating cards, and adding content from around the Internet. It’s all synchronous, too – no need to hit reload or get an editing lock.
  • Almost Meet http://www.go2web20.net/app/?a=Almost_Meet
  •  

     

  • Online sticky notes http://www.pindax.com/
  • Online notice board: http://stixy.com/

Online collaboration/meeting spaces (whiteboards to write on, etc.)

6. Half Cards Slide1

Resource: Download these playing cards (http://www.jfitz.com/cards/ or http://www.teachnet.com/powertools/neattools/playingcards.html)  or   buy a cheap deck of cards to cut in half.

6.1 Variation 1: Forming pairs to talk

Each participant gets half a card (some participants gets the bottom half, some participants get the top half) to pin to his/her collar.  Each participant needs to find the other ‘half’  to form a pair and talk about something the facilitator/teacher asks. 

6.2 Variation 2 Being a ‘volunteer’

The participants get half a card, while the presenter/teacher keeps the other halfs.  During the lesson/professional development session, regularly pull out half a card out of a hat when you need a ‘volunteer’ to come and share their thoughts.  Make sure you discard the cards you used already if you want to share the ‘volunteering’ around.

ICT Application: Random Name Selector:  Click on this link to open the uploaded Excel Random Name Selector, go to File, Download As, Choose Excel.  Download to your computer, open from your computer after you have downloaded the file, and enter the names of the participants into Column B.  Every time you press F9, a random name from the list will be displayed at the top of the page.

7.  Funny/Famous Faces  googy

Resource:  Here is a document with some famous Disney Characters for such an activity.

Variation 1 Guess my photo: 

Give each participant a picture of a famous person.  Tell them to keep these faces hidden from all other participants.  As a lesson starter, participants need to find a partner.  The partner may only ask twenty ‘yes or no’ questions to find out who the face on the partner’s photo is.  After the twenty questions you HAVE to guess the name of the famous person.  Now switch around and ask twenty questions to see if you can identify your partner’s face. 

Variation 2 Who am I? (Photo pinned to your back):

A variation on this activity is to pin a face onto the back of participants.  They have to ask questions of their partners to try and find out who is pinned to their backs!

Web2.0 variations:

  • Have someone sit with their back to an IWB.  Show the picture of a famous person on the IWB for the rest of the participants to see.  The person that can’t see the IWB can ask twenty questions from the audience to try and guess the face of the person shown on the IWB. 
  • Show some concept or part of the lesson (e.g. show a fruit if you are doing “Healthy eating”, a chemical for a chemistry lesson, or a character from a novel the students are studying, or a place from the country the students are studying for LOTE, etc.) on the IWB and follow the same process as mentioned in first dot point just above this one.

 

8.  Toilet Troubles…toiletpaper_carton

Bring a roll of toilet paper, and tell people you’ve run out and this is the last roll. Everyone, please take as much as you think you’ll need for the day.

Hold out the roll so people roll off the sheets. You can use your thumbs as guides and “accidentally” break the paper if people take too much.

When everyone has taken paper, reveal the real reason: please tell one fact about yourself for every sheet of paper you took. Now share with your table team.

9.  Red Herring  red-herring_color

Variation 1: 

Each participant needs to share three things about themselves with a partner.  Two out of the three things must be true, the third is a “red herring” and not true at all.  The partner must guess which is the “red herring”.

Variation 2:

Each participant writes something about themselves that is true but hard to believe.  They must write their names on the back of the piece of paper.  The facilitator/presenter collects these notes and puts all of them in a hat.  Throughout the day the facilitator/presenter draws out a note out of the hat, reads the statement to the audience, and asks them to guess who this relates to. Prizes for guessing correctly.

Variation 3

Put three to five statements (OF WHICH ONE IS UNTRUE BUT PERHAPS A COMMON MISCONCEPTION) about the lesson or professional development content on an interactive whiteboard.  Ask the audience to “vote” for the statement they think is untrue.   (Hands up for each statement, count the hands, write the number next to the statement).  Reveal the correct answer after giving some of the participants the opportunity to “defend” why they chose a certain statement.   (You could also ask pairs to discuss their choice with a partner. )   

You could also give the participants the option to change their vote after the discussions took place, before revealing the “red herring”.

WEB 2.0 applicatons:

10.  Zoom

Resource: Packs of cards for each table: ZoomSequence

A group tries to create a unified story from a set of sequential pictures.  The pictures are randomly ordered and handed out.  Each person has a picture but cannot show it to others. Requires patience, communication, and trying to understand from another’s point of view in order to recreate the story’s sequence.

Some resources:

Page 1 with random picturesPage 2 with random pictures, Page 3 with random pictures, Page 4 with random pictures.

11.  Many more activities here http://marynabadenhorst.global2.vic.edu.au/icebreakers/ 

and http://wilderdom.com/games/Icebreakers.html

More info on collaborative learning including activities, here: http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/cooperativelearning.htm and here http://viigo.im/1baV

Digital Stories using Photostory

Here is an example of a digital story I made today.  (For more examples of digital stories, as well as a video on how to make these stories, please go to http://marynabadenhorst.global2.vic.edu.au/digital-storytelling/): Camel Wisdom (to view in Voicethread and leave comments use this link http://voicethread.com/share/617652/ ) 

How to make a similar digital story:

I saved pictures attached to an e-mail I received recently (Right click on the picture, choose Save Picture As, type a name for the picture, then save the picture to your My Pictures folder.)  I then started a PowerPoint, and inserted each of the pictures into a new slide.  I made sure the picture covered the whole slide.  I also made a first slide with a title for the movie (using WordArt), and a last slide with my name and recognition for where I got the music from. 

How to make a digital story using PowerPoint and Photostory:

1.  Open PowerPoint.  Make your story slide by slide.  Make a title slide at the beginning of your show, and a slide at the very end indicating who made the slide/where you got the pictures/where you got the music.  Go to File, Save As, and then name your slideshow, and where it asks ‘Save as type’, click on the down arrow and scroll down until you find the JPEG option. (See printscreen below): Slide2

2.  A  box will pop up asking you whether you want only the Current Slide (highlighted slide) or Every Slide to be saved as a JPEG.  (See picture below.)  Choose the Every Slide option.  All your slides will be saved as JPEGs in a folder in your My Documents, with the same name as the name you typed in the box where it said ‘File Name’ (In the picture above, the File Name box has the name Camel Wisdom.) Slide3

3.  To make your digital story, you will need Photostory installed on your computer (Download free from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/PhotoStory/default.mspx).   Open up Photostory.  Now follow the steps below to create your digital story (movie) in Photostory.

Slide22

Slide23

Slide24

Slide25

Slide26

Slide27

Slide28

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Personal Learning Network

I understand the terms ‘Digital Immigrant’ (anybody born before 1980), ‘Digital Native’ (Anybody born from 1980 onwards), and Ditital Settler (anybody  born before 1980 that adapted very well to using digital technology as part and parcel of their learning and teaching.)  I am also familiar with Tweeting on Twitter, and see myself as a resident of the Twitterverse, and if you have no idea what I am talking about now, you are probably Twit-less (someone that does not use Twitter).  I  found myself resorting more and more to my personal learning network (PLN) on Twitter to find answers to my questions.  It is wonderful to pose a question, and within minutes have the answers flowing back to me from all over the world.  I can sit in the comfort of my own home at any time of the day or night, and find out interesting facts or just funny factoids and indeed, I am following @factoid on Twitter just for that reason.  I smile at the silly reasoning of @duhism (someone that pokes fun at our otherwise logical assumptions).  I follow and learn from educators who freely share their resources, I celebrate some of their successes in class, and become aware of possible dangers or pitfalls when using E-Learning in schools. Most of all, I am no longer alone in my quest to move the critical mass of teachers towards using more technology in the planning of their lessons and their assessments.  So, here is my personal learning network below.  I want to thank each and every0ne of you for making my life as an educator so much richer.   And if you want to follow me, go to Twitter (http://twitter.com/), join, then click on Find People and look for marynabadenhors  … then just click the Follow button.  Go back to Twitter often, ask questions,  share your favourite websites, or just tell (tweet) others about your educational journey.  Do what we always tell our students to do: “Be brave, just take a risk and try it!”  Pretty soon, you will have your own little PLN.  Happy Twittering!

Note: Other pages on this blog that relate to PLN or Twitter in Classrooms:

Get your twitter mosaic here. (Follow this link for your own mosaic: http://sxoop.com/twitter/)

Train (of thought…)

I recently had to travel to a professional learning activity using a train.  It was quite enjoyable, and as I was sitting staring at through the window, it occurred to me that everyone on this train had four choices at any time:

1.  You can stay on the train, enjoy the ride and the scenery, and go to the final destination.  Obviously, this is the most sensible choice if you want to get to your destination fast.trainlookingoutbesttraininsidetrainlookingout

 

2.  You can decide to get off at the next station, to stop over for a while, learn a little bit more about that place, then get back onto a train and go to your final destination.  This choice is open to anybody that has some time on their hands, and an adventurous spirit.traintation

3.  You could decide you don’t like the train or the passenger sitting directly opposite you (or the noise or the smell or…whatever!), get up, open a door or a window, and promptly jump off the moving train.  Of course, this option is not sensible, as the train is already moving and moving quite fast.  You could get seriously injured, or worse…trainjumptrainoutdoor

4.  Everyone on the train has a fourth option as well.  Someone could get up, walk to the engine room at the very front of the train, climb out and around until you reach the front tip of the train, hang on precariously for a few minutes, then jump off right in front of the moving train…well, no prizes for knowing what will happen to anybody that jumps right in front of a moving train!  Disaster.traincoming

Out of these four options, the first two seem the most sensible.  The last two seem silly.  Yet, it is the last two choices I see lots of teachers making when faced with integrating technology into their classrooms.  The fact is that technology is here.  It is in our classes anyway, whether we like it or not, because kids bring their mobile phones and/or i-pods into class.  As teachers, we are forced to use our laptops for report writing, and kids do online tests to benchmark and track their performance.  However, even though the whole lot of us are on a moving ‘technology train’ together, some teachers still choose to jump off, or worse still, to try and stop the moving train by jumping right in front of it!  The train is moving already.  It has momentum and speed.   We are on it.  We are not going to stop it by jumping off.  All that is going to happen to us if we jump off, is that we will be left behind the moving train, while the rest of the passengers will go on and reach their final destination.  Are you going to be on the train, or left behind?traincoming2

Recognition: All photos from Flickr

Fish in water…

81344-26

Students today live in a world where technology is everywhere.  They grab a digital camera or mobile phone to take pictures, then Bluetooth these pictures to their laptops or PODs (Personal Owned Devices), then upload them to their blogs or FaceBook or MySpace.  To communicate, they invite comments from their friends online, e-mail or Direct Message, Instant Message or Twitter or MSN their family and friends, (that is when they are not developing repetitive strain injury (RSI) in their thumbs due to texting all the time).  They learn how to  cook using a microwave oven.  They find information via the internet by reading online newspapers or Wikipedia, or more likely, they may just pose the question to their Personal Learning Network (PLN) across the world via a forum like Twitter, and within seconds, they will have information flowing back at them: True brainstorming, true synergy!  By combining all the little bits of information, they are able to form a big picture of global proportions, as their picture was made up of bits of information from all over the world.  For quiet relaxation, you can find them listening to music on an iPod.  For a more action packed relaxation period, they may choose to play with Wii or go for video-gaming on Playstations or an X-Box.  You may say that they are like a fish swimming in water, when it comes to using technology…

… And for a fish, water is invisible.  So it stands to reason that for young people in first world countries across the globe, technology is invisible.  They just use it as part of their everyday life, it is not even

Then they enter school.  Unfortunately, in some schools, there are very little use of technology. We see these kids flop around like fish on dry land, and we wonder why they seem so lost.  They wander from class to class, are told to put their mobile phones and iPods away, and do not have access to their PLN.  And yet, we want them to learn and be relaxed at school.

Are our expectations realistic, or just cruel?  Are we taking their oxygen away if we do not allow them access to technology in school?  There is another old fish saying: If you want to feed someone, you have two choices: You can either catch him a fish every day, and then he will have fish for every day you cath him the fish (i.e. he will be okay when you are around to feed him)…  Or, you can teach him how to fish, and he will have food forever.  This is the true secret of independence: Being able to fish for yourself.

So, as teachers, we need to stop standing on the shore.  We need to get our feet wet, get in deeper until we don not touch the ground anymore, and swim with our students.  Be assured: When it comes to technology, our students will be able to keep us afloat if we let them they can be our teachers and we can be their students.  We do not have to be able to use every new gadget of know about all the software applications, our students will teach us these things.  But we need to be in there with them, because it is only when we meet them in their world, that we can have an influence over where and how they will swim in the future. And with all the sharks lurking in the ocean, we should get in there quick, so we can prevent our young guppies from swimming with the sharks, just in case those sharks do not think fish are friends.

Note: This blog entry is a copy of an entry on my other blog:  http://me.edu.au/b/Maryna_Badenhorst/entry/fish_in_water

Note: For another copy of this blog entry – please see my other  blog:

http://me.edu.au/b/Maryna_Badenhorst/entry/fish_in_water

Maryna Badenhorst

Organisation
Schools
Sector
School Education
Role
ICT/Web administrator
Communities of Interest
digiteachersnsw

High Touch vs High Tech in Schools

I recently read an article about how President Obama’s election campaign was the ‘perfect balance between High Touch and High Tech’.  For those that are not entirely sure about what these terms mean, here is an explanation as it came across to me:  High Touch means the human interface, human interaction, socializing, commune-ication, humour, contact between people, and so forth.  It includes concepts like synergy, team work, brainstorming, and communicating face to face.  High Tech means technical skills, technology rich environments, using latest technology to communicate e.g. Twitter, blogs, wikis.  High Tech means incorporating digital means of socializing.  At first glance, it seems as if these two concepts are in direct competition.  Yet, Obama achieved success in his endeavours of reaching out to the masses both physically and virtually, and in the end, he was elected as a leader.

Do teachers also face similar choices?  Of course.  We deal with people, and need to use technology. Thus, we too need a balance between High Touch and High Tech.  We work with other people all the time.  We need to be able to lead by example in our communication with other teachers, support staff, school managers, parents and students.  We need to have relationship building skills, in addition to having the High Tech skills like incorporating technology into our teaching and the students’ learning through setting tasks and assessments that will require students to learn and demonstrate their skills of using technology effectively in ways that mirror the world outside of school.  An all High Touch approach will see our student fall behind in the technology skills needed in the workplaces and tertiary institutions of the modern world.  An all High Tech approach will see everyone deprived of a basic human need, namely face to face interaction with other human beings, thus forfeiting socialization, and true human companionship. High-Tech needs to be in balance with  High-Touch, which will allow people to utilize technology to bolster actual (not virtual) communities and face-to-face social interaction.

If we want technology to be used in an effective and smart way in our schools, school leaders must demonstrate a willingness to support staff, to provide the necessary resources, to encourage staff, to train staff, to celebrate small successes and share these around at staff meetings.  These things all speak towards the high touch abilities of school leaders, yet it is used to encourage the capacity for becoming more high tech, in staff.  Teachers also need to use High Touch methods to motivate and encourage students to become more High Tech.  It is clear that eductors must strike a balance between these two ideas.

For further information on the balancing act between High Tech and High Touch, please read   futurist John Naisbitt’s 1999 book High-Tech, High-Touch: Technology & Our Search for Meaning.  Here is a blurb of the book: “In High-Tech, High-Touch, Naisbitt prompts the reader to act on the information by examining the technology-driven changes in our society. In short, he demands readers accept that we, as people, are responsible for these trends, to understand that it is within our power and to our benefit to take action to find balance in our lives. While technology is the tool, it’s how we wield it that matters.”

Other resources on this matter can be found on the web:

The Black Dog

As educators, we are with students most of their productive day.  If we get to know our students well, we may have to deal with issues within our students that impact on their learning, even though it has nothing to do with the content of what we teach.  One instance is when students are bullied or harassed, or for some reason start displaying symptoms of depression.  It may then be up to educators to support and help the students deal with the mental or psychological injuries that are left deep inside.  Perhaps the following two diary entries will give a little more insight in what people may face once they spiral down into the black hole of depression:

Diary Entry One:

                                       “I once read that reading books outside a dog is easy. But inside a dog you can’t read, because it is dark. I laughed about the silliness of that concept. Who would like to read a book inside a dog? What a silly notion!  Then one day, it is all too clear…the day you get to know what is commonly known as the ‘Black Dog’. It is depression, and it comes to you and sits with you in your circle of self worth, and just pants with it’s smelly breath, dribbling toxic spittle on your feet. It is always there, and it sits and stares at you whenever you try to do anything, until you feel guilty for leaving it alone and stop doing what you are doing, until you do nothing at all. It has yellow eyes that glow in the dark, and keeps you awake at night. It has a big mouth, and eventually, it swallows you whole. And then, you sit alone inside of this Black Dog. And then you realize that, yes, you can’ t read inside a dog. Or write. Or think. Or know anything about yourself. You find yourself trapped in a foreign and lonely place, with only the muffled sounds of your family and friends’ voices somewhere far, far away, and no-one is able reach you or to touch you. You sit there and wonder how many days and nights have gone by with the world going along its natural path, while you wonder where you will find a single dot of light to bring some hope, or a single candle to try and warm your whole being with.

And everything aches. It is sore to even breath.  The air is so thick, it sticks to your throat, suffocating….Some days, you wish you could just stop breathing, and make all this go away….”

Diary Entry Two (Three months after the first entry):

                    “Today someone sent me this video.  It is a ballet of a one-armed woman and a one-legged man. And suddenly, I found one little dot of light. Yes, these people lost a limb. So did I. I am not sure I will ever be able to pursue my previous life with the same passion…how can I? I am hobbling along like someone that lost a right arm or a whole leg! But look at these two dancers. They obviously have talent. They went through pain and distress. But they waited patiently until the wounds healed.  Then  they found someone that can help them to pursue their dreams. And through persistence and passion, they came back. They are dancing again. I have found an a sprinkling of hope, a little bit of music that touched me here deep inside this dark dog. Perhaps it will help me find a way out, back into the light, where I can read again. And dance.”

For emergency situations dealing with depression in Australia, go to:

Emergency Help

If you are feeling suicidal there are people who can help.

If you live in Australia please call

Emergency 000*

or

Lifeline 13 11 14

or

Kids HelpLine 1800 55 1800

and tell the person answering your call that you are thinking about suicide.

* If you are using a mobile phone and 000 doesn’t work, you can call 112 to access the Emergency Call Service. If you have a hearing or speech impairment and can access a TTY (teletypewriter), call 106 for the text-based Emergency Call Service.

Other support for Depression

  1. With links to Primary Schools help, Secondary Schools help, Rural and Workplace help, personal experiences, indigenous support etc.: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?
  2. Specifically for youth: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/get-help/for-depression/
  3. Links to professionals that can help: http://bluepages.anu.edu.au/help_and_resources/types_of_help/
  4. What is depression?http://www.depnet.com.au/universe2/ and http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/depression/depressionexplained/index.cfm
  5. Initial support for the depressed person, the people dealing with the depressed, and further steps: http://www.psychologyinfo.com/depression/help.html
  6. Self help therapies: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/depression/treatments/self-helpalternatetherapies.cfm

Wonderful Web2 tools for classrooms

Recently I was approached by an aspiring teacher.  She wanted to know which five Web2 tools I use the most, or see as the most valuable…well, the problem was obvious:  How do you choose only five?! 

My response follows (referring to interesting links similar to delicious style).  Please leave comments about your favourite Web2 tools:

1.  I think Wikis are wonderful.  As a starting point, here are some links

  • Technology is not for everyone…some teachers may even  be ‘allergic’ to using it!  Interesting blog post: How sharing Technology Professional Development is similar to sharing a Chocolate Cake http://bit.ly/yzFyJ
  • Internet safety…a can of worms.  Get started with info here http://www.wiredsafety.org/

Starting on a Web2 journey in the classroom may look overwhelming, but choose the applications that you think will really support your teaching style and the learning of most of your students. The beauty of Web2 is of course, the interactive and hands-on type collaboration that can take place in a virtual world, enabling anywhere, anytime learning. (www-whenever, whoever, wherever).  And on to Web3: http://www.labnol.org/internet/web-3-concepts-explained/8908/

Distributed Teams

I recently learnt a new term for teams that are functioning as a team, but the team members are not in one location: It is referred to as a Distributed Team.  These teams do ‘virtual work’ in ‘placeless offices’.  It implies the team members have access to technology that enables each of them to make regular and planned contact with the other team members, to create a situation where the team can function and reach the team’s goal, while the members are not actually seeing each other face to face.  The team members are not in the same geographic area, only in the same ‘mindset’ area. 

This is a reasonable concept, but is it only ‘good’ on paper?  Do we really have the ways and means to make the distributed team, work as a team?

As a coach, I am very aware of the big impact body language has on the outcome of communication and negotiation.  I understand the forming/storming/norming/performing phases of teams.  I know a group is not the same as a team, because in a team, there is no ‘I’.  And I am versed in Covey’s Habits of Effective People, so I understand the importance of  Synergy…so, how does a distributed team really work?

I contacted a few team members of different teams that work in this way, and came across the following Web tools that could assist Distributed Teams:

  1. Distributed teams can make use of Wikis.  These are online document ‘folders’ where contributions can be invited from the team members, and are an essential part of making the team work.  The different pages in a Wiki could hold information ranging from the team minutes to ‘to do’ lists with the names of team members attached to the tasks, and can also include pages where other important documents like contracts, budgets, proformas, applications, newspaper articles etc., can be kept.  Wikis are available free or for a small financial investment.  Some free options are available from  http://www.wikispaces.com/, MediaWiki or DokuWiki.
  2. For online collaboration in real time, use real-time Web2 tools like Skype, Dim Dim (Like WebEx or Elluminate, but free! http://www.dimdim.com/) Elluminate and WebEx (not free, http://www.webex.com/), or Thinkature (http://thinkature.com/), or http://www.kolabora.com/.
  3. Using an online ‘office’ system where all the team members have access to the documents, music, photos etc., online.  One system that could fulfill this requirement is Glide (http://www.glidedigital.com/, with informtion video at http://g4tv.com/videos/26634/Glide/), and here is another: GroupSharp.com – Allows you to share lists, databases, file sharing, and wikis for your team.
  4. Online brainstorming, using a forum where multiple users can collaborate and contribute their ideas at the same time, like using Mindmeister: http://www.mindmeister.com/, http://mywebspiration.com/,  or use an online bulletin board like http://www.stixy.com/
  5. Instant messages and SMS, as well as E-mail and Twitter, can keep the team members informed of more immediate decisions made, or changes in plans or direction.
  6. Online collaboration by working together on documents: http://www.instacoll.com/ and Google Docs , Etherpad and ThinkFree (for links to these tools go to http://mashable.com/2009/02/21/online-document-collaboration/).   Another option can be found at  http://www.teamworklive.com/
  7. Tracking goals after tasks have been assigned: http://www.myschoolbinder.com/, http://www.teamworklive.com/,  or issue trackers like JIRA, Trac, or Redmine.  For those less-development oriented, choose something tailored only to project management, like Basecamp,  and LiquidPlanner.
  8. To get feedback, use online surveys e.g. at http://www.surveymonkey.com/.
  9. Create a custom web page for your team, e.g. using http://www.nexo.com/.
  10. Make team members part of a their own social network, using free software like http://www.boonex.com/.
  11. Find, highlight and share online resources via http://www.diigo.com/.
  12. For another comprehensive list of tools refer to http://mashable.com/2007/07/22/online-collaboration/ ,and for another professional reading with lots of comments and suggestions go to http://www.readwriteweb.com/enterprise/2009/07/four-essential-apps-for-distributed-teams.php

Other tips

  1. Ensure all team members are aware of the regular meeting times.  These meetings should take place when all team members can attend via the online forum.
  2. Ensure someone is in charge of reminding team members of the regular meetings, either via email, SMS or Twitter (or all three.)
  3. Ensure someone is in charge of taking notes of meetings, and posting it where all team members have access.  Let team members know where the notes are posted.
  4. Ensure an agenda for meetings, and a time keeper during meetings, so the meetings can move forward at a reasonable pace.
  5. Have clear goals and targets, and assign specific team members to specific targets.  Keep track of their progress by direct contact as well as requiring them to log their progress where other team members can access the progression towards the goal.
  6. Record meetings where possible, so team members that miss out, can access the meeting later.
  7. Celebrate small successes along the way.  A good way is to blog about what you have achieved, post photos of video clips, and invite team members to contribute via comments or their own posts on the blog.  The collaboration will support the development of a team spirit.
  8. Wherever and whenever possible, plan for in person team meetings.
  9. Enjoy the journey.

Diary.com: Online diary…digital portfolio

Many schools are working to get students to record their thoughts and work in a digital portfolio format.  Many tools are being considered, ranging from computer based tools like PowerPoint, to online tools like blogs and wikis.  Recently I started using a tool online called “Diary.com” (click here for link to http:// diary.com).  The user can choose between having the diary open to the world wide web, or to make it private and only have it seen by those friends you invite via email.  The private option is really the best application for students in a classroom, as it then opens up more options like uploading photos of students participating in classroom activities, as the photos will only be seen by the student and the teachers or parents allowed to view the diary entries.  The diary is also flexible in the sense that the user can add photos, files, music, video clips and music, to the diary.  This option makes it very useful for digital portfolios, as students can scan or photograph their work and add the images as evidence to their written work, or add short video clips taken with a flipcam, or a pod/vodcast, etc.  There is no time limit for the life of the diary, so it could become a written and visual display of the student’s progress in a classroom or a school.  You can write up to 5000 characters in one entry (as opposed to 140 characters in Twitter).   The diary also allows the students to enter important dates like  birthdays, public holidays, school camp days etc., and it has the option of being reminded of these dates via email or sms.  Here is a screenshot of the page you see when you first open up your diary:

diary_edited-1

PicLits: Combining Literacy and Art

One of the wonders of Web2 is that it allows teachers to constantly find new and exciting ways of integrating technology in  classrooms.  Here is one interactive way of using online tools to encourage students to make their own sentences to compliment a picture:
http://piclits.com/compose_dragdrop.aspx 

This site provides many different images (to pick an image, just click on the rolling bar of pictures on the top of the screen), and students then drag and drop from a bank of words, or write their own sentences (‘freestyle’), onto the image.  The sentences the students make, will reflect their thoughts about the image.  The finished product can be saved on the web in the gallery, blogged, saved on computer or emailed, so it can be shared with other students or parents.

Here is a comment regarding PicLits: “Thanks for discovering Piclits and the posting above.  A “PicLit” is a combination of words placed on a photograph to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture”.  PicLits include not only sentences (simple, complex, and compound) but, poems, verse, captions, stories, rap, quotes from books, music, etc…..  It is FREE. The words and photos change daily. The carousel of photos also changes whenever you return to the home page.  DRAG-N-DROP is an excellent teaching tool for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary.  FREESTYLE allows the user to use their own words. We have a suggestion column on the side of Freestyle.  You must register (penname) to save your PicLits to “MY PICLITS” and to be viewed in the GALLERY and commented upon.  I hope this helps.
I welcome feedback and ideas.  Thanks in advance.
Terry Friedlander, founder ( terry@piclits.com )”

Here are a few examples of PicLits we made:PicLit from PicLits.com
See the full PicLit at PicLits.com
PicLit from PicLits.com
See the full PicLit at PicLits.com

Flashmobs

Wikipedia explains Flashmob as follows: A mob (or flashmob[1]) is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse. The term flash mob is generally applied only to gatherings organized via social media or viral emails. The term is generally not applied to events organized by public relations firms or as publicity stunts.

As such, it is a fairly modern phenomenon.  People participating or observing will often capture the evidence on mobile phones, to share on the web.  Examples of flashmob behaviour were seen very recently in protesting and making political statements during the Iran elections, or to celebrate Michael Jackson’s life and music after his death.  Here are a few examples of flashmobs:

Mathematics language: Full sentences please!

Suppose you wrote this sentence on the board: “The big black dog ran over the road and and caught the yellow ball.”  Next, you ask the students to copy this sentence down, and as you roam around the classroom, you notice the kids are writing some funny things in their books, ranging from: “The dog road the ball,”   to “dog caught ball” , “black ball”, “dog ball”, “black yellow” or even just “the the”.  Of course, none of the sentences the kids wrote, makes any sense.  As a teacher, would you be telling the kids to stop taking shortcuts and write down the full sentence so as to convey the true meaning of the sentence?  I would imagine so. 

But what happens in Mathematics?  Do we expect the same “full sentences” from the kids?  And if we don’t, what impact does it have on the understanding of the Mathematical concepts?  Here is an example:  The teacher put the following example of Pythagoras’ Theory, on the board: p1000293

In following “all the same steps” (as per instruction from the teacher), see below what the student wrote in his book.  Please note that the student did not write ‘full sentences’, as he wrote that ‘eighty five is equal to nine point two’, which is not true.  He also did not put the full steps in to ‘find the perimeter’, which means that if he made a simple calculation mistake in finding the perimeter by adding the three values, he would loose all the marks for this question: p1000295

My question is: Why do teachers allow students to get away with not writing ‘full sentences’ in Mathematics?  Referring back to the example of “The big black dog….” given at the start of this post, it is clear that, if we don’t write the full sentence, it makes a huge difference in the meaning.  Mathematics is a language, like English.  It conveys meaning.  Students are being made aware of the implications of not writing full sentences in English…and the same should apply to Mathematics.

Animals in learning

Have you ever invited a class guest, perhaps a speaker from an interesting field outside of education?  Was the class guest inspiring?  Did all the kids get involved?  And how would it go down if the worst reader in your class was to read to this class guest for half an hour…would the guest stay focused on the student and pay close attention to the struggling reader?  Would the guest return every day for the rest of the year to spend half an hour listening to the struggling reader, and remain patient and happy?

Well, in many classrooms across the world, ranging from special education through mainstream and into gifted education, classrooms are being opened to animal guests.  I am talking about dogs and cats being allowed into the classroom at regular intervals, with amazing results relating to student outcomes.  Here are a few examples I came across:

Dogs

  1. In some special education schools in America, the students are taught valuable life skills like perserverance, empathy, listening to instructions and sharing, by spending time with ‘facility dogs’.  Students work with a specific dog each day, brushing, walking and playing with the dog.  A special bond usually forms quickly between the dog and the child, and very positive results have been recorded as students that refuse the interact with other students, quickly start talking and playing with the dogs.  Teachers noted that the dogs were always interested in the students, and stayed focused on the students with a non-judgemental and friendly manner.  Students responded positive to this, as the following excerpt demonstrates: “The dog has a very calming effect,” says Jeanine Konoleski of Canine Companions for Independence. “It’s just a different bond between a human and an animal that’s amazing to see.” The organization, which breeds, raises, and trains dogs to work as service dogs for the disabled, sends so-called facility dogs to classrooms across the country, where teachers are trained to use their dog in the classroom, practicing everything from math using dog food measurements to writing with the dog as a subject. (http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Unconventional_Teaching_Tools/)
  2. The link between animals and autistic students has fascinated many educators over the years.  Many parents and counsellors of autistic students have found enormous value in using a trained dog with an autistic child.  The dogs are trained to nuzzle the face of the child as soon as the child starts crying, rocking to and fro, or displays any behaviour that the dog may recognize as the onset of an emotional episode.  The dog keeps distracting the child in this manner until the child starts responding to the attention by calming down and looking at the dog.  The dog stays focused on the child, and in many instances, children that usually refuse to look anybody in the eye, will take hold of the dog’s head and look the dog in the eye, and start talking to the dog in comprehensive sentences.  In many instances, the child is then also able to talk to the adult in comprehensive sentences and even to respond to questions.  The parents also take these dogs shopping with them, if the children need to go along.  What would usually be a very long and tiring trip for the parent as the parent previously had to deal with the autistic student’s outbursts, now becomes a shared experience as the children stay calm and focused during the shopping trip, regularly touching and talking to the dog. For more information on this, google ‘dogs for autism’ or go to http://www.righteouspups.org.au/Services/AutismAssistanceDogs/tabid/162/Default.aspx, and for some amazing stories of autistic children forming special bonds with dogs, read: http://www.emporiagazette.com/news/2009/jan/31/dog_magic_leash_boy_autism/http://www.righteouspups.org.au/Services/AutismAssistanceDogs/LeoandHalo/tabid/179/Default.aspx, http://www.righteouspups.org.au/Services/AutismAssistanceDogs/ZachandJaxon/tabid/180/Default.aspx and http://www.righteouspups.org.au/Services/AutismAssistanceDogs/AbigailandButtons/tabid/176/Default.aspx, or watch some of these videos: http://autismservicedogsofamerica.com/videos.cfm
  3. In some schools in America, dogs are being used to encourage struggling readers to practice their reading.  The students read to the dogs every day, and it does not matter how many mistakes they make, the dog remains focused on the child and attentive.  This encourages the children to persist with their reading, seeing great improvements in short amounts of time.  Notably is the program R.E.A.D.: An acronym for Reading Education Assistance Dogs, one of the first nationally recognized organizations to incorporate the use of animal assistants with students for reading programs.
  4.  Students that have speech impairments, also benefit from practicing instructions with the dogs.  ‘Sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘shake paw’ is especially helpful for students that struggle with the ‘s’ sound. For more information and results of experiments, please refer to http://www.springerlink.com/content/m1t5306x13888134/fulltext.pdf
  5. Students that have been shy to talk in front of others, have been able to answer questions about a dog without hesitation.  This breaks the barrier for these students, and soon the students are also able to answer questions or talk about other topics or issues.
  6. Empirical research supports the contention that the presence of a calm, attentive dog tends to reduce the stress responses.  Physiological measures such as a reduction in heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and other observable signs of anxiety reveal that interacting with a dog can moderate stress (Katcher, Friedmann, Beck, & Lynch, 1983).

Horses

  1. Gentle Carousel Therapy Horses are tiny, show quality miniature horses that are therapy animals. At only 27-29 inches tall, these horses work with children and adults inside hospitals, hospice programs, assisted living programs, group homes, programs for Alzheimer patients, schools for children with disabilities and with those unable to leave home. They also work with at risk and abused children. Gentle Carousel also has the “Reading Is Magic” program, which focuses on struggling or at risk students in preschools and elementary schools, and it was found that students respond very well and form an instant bond with the horses.  Students that are not willing to read in front of other people, willing read to the horse, or re-tell a story to the horse.  This has a huge impact on learning to read fluently, as well as reading for understanding so as to be able to tell the story in your own words.(http://www.bringlight.com/organizations/show/274
  2. A chance encounter with a horse called Betsy, helped the parents of an autistic student to unlock some of the barriers between the child and the world.  The boy was accepted by the horse at age two, and the bond between the child and the horse has  been strong ever since.  The boy is able to talk comprehensively, answer and ask questions, and stay focused on task while on the horse, and for extended periods after getting off the horse. “Whenever he was on a horse he wouldn’t tantrum,” said Isaacson. “When I put him on Betsy that would be the only time his tantrums would stop, any other situation and he could turn at any point. We wanted to keep him on a horse as long as possible.” For more information, photos and the whole story, please refer to http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AutismNews/story?id=7354280&page=1.  Another story relating to horses and autism, is told in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHzEfMdRE30

Summary

There has been positive results for students in interactions with animals in the learning environment.  There are many people that believe that bringing animals into schools, may be equal to opening a can of worms, with asthma, safety of students, animal welfare and so forth, cited as reasons for discouraging the use of animals in classrooms. However, somewhere in the back of my mind, the old saying about throwing out the baby with the bathwater, still rings true…I would like to pose a question:  Would a compromise between animals as respected and valued classroom ’visitors’, and students that truly benefit from these visitations with animals, see a school enviroment where students feel safer, calmer and more willing and able to take risks with their own learning?

Lighting for Learning

In years gone by, many schools were designed with smaller windows to ensure that not too much energy were wasted (by escaping through big windows)  on heating or cooling of the learning environment.  However, there has been a shift afway from this practice in recent times, mainly for three reasons:

  1. Energy conservation:  The improvments made in insulation with double glazed windows and better tinting, allows for natural light to enter the learning environment through windows, and so energy is saved by having electric lights turned off during daytime, while heating and cooling are not affected by bigger windows. 
  2. Flow of light:   Daylight gives off a continuous spectrum of all light wavelengths, including blue, red and green, appearing as a bright white. Daylight is the standard for color quality in lighting, with a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 100. Daylight is free – the most energy efficient source of illumination.   In contrast, fluorescent lamps give off a discontinuous spectrum – a flickering light, with spikes of color, with  a CRI from the low 50’s to 86.  This has been shown to overstimulate the brain of some students, leading to epileptic episodes.
  3. The effect natural light has on student academic outcomes and on task behaviour:  Experiments with natural light versus electric light, clearly demonstrate a correllation between higher academic performance and the use of natural light in learning areas.  One example is the analysis by the Heschong Mahone Group, noted in the excerp from http://www.ergo-eg.com/uploads/books/lightingforlearning.pdf:                      “This  analysis studied elementary school students in districts from three different states: California, Washington, and Colorado. Although each district had different curriculums, building designs, and climates, students were found to perform significantly better on standardized tests in classrooms where windows and skylights let more daylight in the classroom. In the California district, where test data was available for comparing scores from the beginning and end of the school year, it was shown that, after controlling for a variety demographic and educational variables, students in the most daylit classrooms improved 20 percent in math and 26 percent in reading than the students in classrooms with the least daylight.  A re-analysis of this study, completed in February 2002, sought to discover whether better teachers were being assigned to more daylit classrooms and also searched for differing effects by grade level. New information was added about teacher characteristics to the original data set. No teacher bias or grade level effect was found. The reanalysis only reinforced the robustness of the initial results and emphasized the power of the daylight variables. A similar, though smaller, study in North Carolina also found improved student performance associated with daylit classrooms in both elementary and middle schools. These and other studies have motivated the U.S. Department of Education and many state departments of education to strongly encourage the use of daylight in the design of new school buildings.” 

 For another example stating the relationship between improved student behaviour and natural light, please refer to the colour ‘Blue’ in this web post: Colour for learning.new-york-day-five-and-six-080new-york-day-five-and-six-110new-york-day-five-and-six-127day1-ls-a-06march09-028

Other important factors to remember in designing classrooms, is the other light sources now seen in classrooms, e.g. computer screens, interactive whiteboards, calculator screens, desktop monitors, etc.  These light sources are not always healthy for students, especially when used to replace good light sources.  Eyesight can be damaged, and flickering screens can also have a detrimental effect on students with underlying health issues like epilepsy, or mild autism.  Students should be encouraged to take regular breaks from looking at these light sources, by e.g. installing software on computers that will flash warnings to students to get up and move around after a set period of looking at the computer screen.  Screen savers should be dark and preferably monochromatic, with few or no flashing areas.  If possible, computer screens should be covered, or computers switched off, when computers are not used for periods of time.  It is also important to ensure enough natural light enters the classroom through big windows or skylights, so students can see their work, but not be blinded by sunlight.   This is a better option than electric lights which will reflect off the screens and blind the students.  One popular solution is to provide indirect lighting, with most of the light reflected off of the ceiling from pendant-mounted fixtures. Since light is reflected, an efficient installation requires 80% reflectivity for ceiling materials and 65% reflective paint for major walls. (http://www.designshare.com/Research/Lighting/LightingEnvr1.htm)

Artificial light sources should be as close to natural spectrum light as possible.  Low intitial costs should not be used as a reason to compromise in this area, as it could have long term effects on the outcomes of students that spend significant amounts of time in that area.  In conclusion it could be said that teachers will know how to manage the amount of light in the classroom, intuitively.  It is always better to use curtians, blinds and reflectors to manage light during the day, and try and limit putting posters and other stationary objects in front of the windows so as to limit permanently cutting out the natural light.

Colour for websites

Following on from the previous blog post on ‘Colour for learning’, it is just as important to take note of the colours used on websites.  When students build websites or start blog pages, or even when building a digital portfolio that can be used as a showcase of work and achievements, the use of colour to convey messages, cannot be underestimated. (Check out your very own colour using colorstrology http://www.colorstrology.com/colorstrology_sniffer.html)

Websites have different objectives, e.g. to inform, to sell something, or to entertain.  As such, the website will always have a target audience.  It is important to understand the target audience and their perception of colours, as there are many differences in the way  colour is interpreted by different cultures, genders and even different age groups of people.   As an example, red is perceived as a symbol for prosperity in some Eastern societies, whereas red is perceived as being a symbol for danger in some Western societies.  Colors are also frequently associated with religious, cultural, political, or historical events, situations or groups.  These things should be kept in mind by those who are trying to figure out what color to use for a website

In choosing a background/base colour for your website, it is safe to choose a neutral colour like black, brown or white, with beige and grey. 

Warm colours like red, yellow and orange,  suggest warmth and seem to move toward the viewer and appear closer.  These colours will draw the eye, and can be stimulating and pleasant in small quantities, for example as a frame around a text box with interesting facts, or for a hyperlink.  However, when presented in large quantities, warm colours become overpowering and can lead to eye strain and fatigue.  In England, a bright yellow wall behind a computer screen has been noted as the reason a secretary started making lots of spelling mistakes and eventually resigned from her work! An overdose of warm colours will eventually produce a sensation of anxiety, uneasiness and aggression.  People easily click out of websites where warm colours take up the biggest area of the screen. 

Cool colours like different shades of blue and green and purple, usually lead to deeper thought processeses and prolonged concentration, and can be used in larger quantities than warm colours. Cool colours create the idea of being ‘further away’, so is less threatening, and easier on the eye.

Some colours borrow aspects of both warm and cool colours, and are called intermediary colours.  Examples include yellow-green and red-purple.  These colours are good to offset the primary colours, and to complement the colour scheme you choose.

As mentioned in the previous post, more than six colours in any environment lead to visual over-stimulation, and is tiring to the eye.  Flasing images and lots of colour will turn many website visitors away.  It is advisable to use colour harmonies to create visually attractive websites, which are not overpowering yet not drab and  boring. 

For inspiration, look towards what works in nature.  Lots of green leaves with a few red flowers dotting the image, or a green tree with a few red apples hanging…red and green works well together, providing the green takes up most of the space.  monet-waterlilies

Monet, Waterlilies http://www.abcgallery.com/M/monet/monet146.html

Another way to find out whether colours will work in harmony, is to look at the colour wheel.  Use different shades (tints and hues) of the cool colour, and bring a few spots of interest with the corresponding warm colour which lies directly opposite the cool colour on the colour wheel.  This means that all types of green go well with red, blue goes well with orange and purple goes well with yellow.  When used in a web site, choose colours of lower intensity to put together, so they don’t seem to ‘vibrate’ on the screen, which will also lead to a visual overload.

henry-matisse-picHenri Matisse – Woman with the Hat, Paris – 1904-5, http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/2933/fauves/fvmatisse.htm

When choosing colours and different shades, keep in mind that different people may have different monitors.  Some of the older equipment will not display the same colours as the newest technology, so it is better to play it safe and choose colours from the 216 colors browser-safe palette.

When choosing colours for your website, ensure your background colour will not interfere with the colour of your font.  It is the safest option to choose black as the font colour, as it is easy to read.  Your background colour should allow your font to be the focus, and not be a strain on the eyes.  It is advisable not to choose a warm colour for the font of the main body of work.  Warm colours can be useful when used for drawing attention to small details like links to websites and hyperlinks.

Resources

http://www.writedesignonline.com/resources/design/rules/color.html

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/monet/monet146.html

Colour for learning

These days, a lot of schools in Victoria, Australia, are spending millions of dollars on creating “learning neighbourhoods” or “learning studios”.  In these open spaced areas, a lot of the focus falls on creating environments (spaces) for groups of students where they feel safe to take risks with their learning.  The influence of ‘space’ in the learning, now comes into play. I am aware of the importance of a more unified approach to highlight the importance of aspects like furniture (grouping of and design of), colour, lighting, floor covering and natural light areas, to drive the designs and planning of these learning areas. 

I have been interested in how the physical aspects can impact on the learning that takes place in the learning spaces.  I will write a series of blog entries that focus on each aspect individually.  I have already touched on one aspect, namely ‘Music’ for learning (previous blog post).  Today I would like to look at Colour and the role it plays in promoting different kinds of learning.

Colour for learning

We are six billion people living in a color-drenched world.  Researchers believe that there are between one million and seven million colors that the human eye can distinguish.  According to Berlin and Kay’s linguistic study, eleven basic color terms that fall into three classes are listed:

Black, gray, white (achromatic color terms)
Red, green, blue, yellow (primary color terms)
Brown, orange, purple, pink (secondary color terms)

Obviously people distinguish between different hues of colour.  For a more in depth discussion on this topic, please visit http://www.colormatters.com/words.html.  If you would like to express your views on colour and find out what other associate with different colours, take part in this colour survey: http://express.colormatters.com/colorsurvey/

Color in the learning environment provides an unthreatening environment that improves visual processing, reduces stress, and challenges brain development through visual stimulation/relationships and pattern seeking. Visual stimulation actually rewires the brain, making stronger connections while fostering visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity (Simmons, 1995).  Colour should be incorporated to promote brain activity, but using more than six colours can be a distractor in classrooms, and strains the mind’s cognitive abilities.

Faily (1979) reported findings that optical stimulation by the use of warm colors and brilliance of lighting will cause increases in muscular tensions, respiration rate, heart action, blood pressure and brain activity. Cool colors and dim lighting bring about reverse effects such as muscles relaxing more and sleep being facilitated.

 Yellow: 

Yellow (and the yellow family of colors) gets your attention faster than any other color. People notice yellow objects first.

Even when you are looking straight ahead, you can see a yellow object that is not in front of you “in the corners of your eyes” much sooner than any other color – even red. Scientists describe this as follows: “Lateral peripheral vision for detecting yellows is 1.24 times greater than for red.”

Many experts also point out that colors such as yellow or greenish-yellow are more visible to the human eye under dimmer conditions compared to red.

Yellow was also chosen as the colour of “positive thinking”, and identifying benefits, by De Bono in his Six hat theory.

It stands to reason that yellow is a good colour to stimulate the brain into rapid thinking and to encourage generating quick and rapid thinking, brainstorming and discussions around a subject area.  Using yellow  -especially bright yellow or yellow-orange mixtures like the colour of school buses in America –  in an environment, will allow for stimulating discussions, but will also bring the noise level up and may be a distraction when used for large areas in a classroom or learning environment.  Babies cry more in yellow rooms, and people loose their tempers easier in all yellow rooms.  As it attracts the eye, it is used for large farm equipment, as a warning light on traffic lights and as an indicator on cars, and for the well known “yellow sticky notes”.

It has been found that light yellow (happiness, warmth, summer energetic, lively) together with green (nature, trees, comfort) are the preferred colours for large areas when students reach high school age, whereas pure primary colours like bright red,  bright blue and pure, sunny yellow are the preferred colours for large areas in kindergarten and early primary years (http://www.leadered.com/pdf/Color%20white%20paper.pdf).

 

Blue

 The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is one of the most popular colors. Blue has a ‘split personality’, and in our language, ‘having the blues’ or ‘being blue’ depict being sad, while the French uses blue to depict surprise (‘sacre bleu!’)  Lighter shades of blue are seen as peaceful and tranquil, and causes the body to produce  chemicals that promote feelings calmness.  For this reason it is often seen in bedrooms.  Darker shades of  blue are usually associated with dignity and loyalty, and even high class – an old phrase for the upper class of society was “blue stocking”. 

When used alone with no warm accents, blue can also be cold and depressing. Fashion consultants recommend wearing tints and hues of darker blue to job interviews because it symbolizes dependability and loyalty. People are more productive in blue rooms when required to do individual work, or thinking deeply. Studies show weightlifters are able to handle heavier weights in blue gyms.  It is no wonder that De Bono chose blue as the hat for promoting and focusing on problemsolving, to look for new ideas/leadership, and thinking about thinking (metacognition).

In September 1981, Dr. Wolfarth of Edmonton, Canada, studied the impact of light and colour on off task behaviour, in six year old students.  He found that by only replacing the cool white fluorescent light fixtures and the semi-gloss white walls with full spectrum Duro-test Vita-Lite light fixtures, and painting the walls light blue, the off task behaviours decreased by 22%.  It should be noted that the students spent the major part of their day in this classroom environment.  In subsequent studies, where students spent their time in and out of this type of environment all day, the results were also erratic.  (The normal ‘visual noise’ on the walls, e.g. the notes and posters on the orange and red bulletin boards, were retained.  The same students and the same teachers participated throughout the trial.  The classroom routine was not changed at all.  Thus all other factors stayed the same.)  This is a significant decrease in off task behaviour.  Once again, colour and light seem to play an important role in how students learn, and how long they can stay on task, with light blue and natural light seeming to promote concentration and on task behaviour, while also lowering blood pressure.  For further information on this trial, please refer to http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/13/e3/df.pdf

Red

Red stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing, and is seen as an emotionally intense colour. It is also the color of love. Red clothing gets noticed and makes the wearer appear heavier. Since it is an extreme color, red clothing might not help people in negotiations or confrontations. Red cars are seen as symbols for driven, fast responses and speed, and are popular targets for thieves. In decorating, red is usually used as an accent, as it becomes very overpowering when used alone or for covering all the walls in a room. Decorators say that red furniture should be perfect since it will attract attention.

The red hat was chosen by De Bono to illustrate our emotions about a topic.  Using the red hat, we can convey our instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (without having to worry about any justification).

Red in classrooms are usually used as accents like on bulletin boards.  It will draw the student’s attention, but not as much as yellow.  It brings warmth and balance to cooler rooms where blue or green may be the main colours on the walls.  It should be used very sparingly in rooms where autistic students are taught.

Green

Green is a colour found abundantly in nature, and signifies growth, rebirth, and fertility. In Muslim countries, it is a holy color and in Ireland, a lucky color. It was the color of the heavens in the Ming Dynasty, and so green jade became a valuable commodity. Today’s greens provoke strong reactions. People usually either love it or hate it. It is also interesting that different hues or shades of green can elicit different reactions from people.  Pea soup, green jelly, sleazy motel carpet, dreary hospital walls, ecology, emeralds, wasabi, and sage. Would you rather be green with envy, green behind the ears, or green around the gills? (Idiomatic American English for extremely envious, immature or nauseated.) 

It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve focus on other areas of importantce, e.g. red or yellow bulletin boards. In Zimbabwe, all military vehicles are painted in a mixture of different hues of green, to make it less visible.  Due to many accidents occuring with these vehicles in broad daylight, it is now law that all military vehicles will drive with their lights on when driving on main roads.

It is a calming, refreshing color. People waiting to appear on TV sit in “green rooms” to relax. Hospitals often use green because it relaxes patients. Brides in the Middle Ages wore green to symbolize fertility. Dark green is masculine, conservative, and implies wealth. The ‘greenback’ refers to money.  In Feng Shui, green eases absent-mindedness, nervousness and rudeness.  It also represents quietude, persistence, patience and hard work.

Green does not attract the eye or stimulate the brain like red or yellow.  De Bono chose green as the colour to associate with deeper investigation, and for seeing where a thought goes. 

Green has been used successfully in rooms where students with autism are being taught, especially if the floor and the walls are duller hues of green.

 White

In Western societies, brides wear white to symbolize innocence and purity. White reflects light, and is important in classrooms to make small spaces seem bigger. White is popular in decorating and in fashion because it is light, neutral, and goes with everything. However, white shows dirt and is therefore more difficult to keep clean than other colours, and thus impractical in classrooms as it will show scuff marks. Doctors and nurses wear white to imply sterility.

As mentioned in the section under the colour ‘blue’, full spectrum white light is really important to lower blood pressure and stope some behaviour management issues in classrooms.  Light appears colorless or white. Sunlight is white light that is composed of all the colors of the spectrum.  A rainbow is proof. You can’t see the colors of sunlight except when atmospheric conditions bend the light rays and create a rainbow. You can also use a prism to demonstrate this. 

There are 1,000 plus terms used to define whites, off-whites, and beige. Adjectives such as glistening, pearly, shimmery, blinding, glittering, and gleaming were frequently coupled with white. More common terms, such as ivory, ecru, parchment, vanilla and cream, were used for off-whites and very light browns.  For classrooms, it is important to remember that there are many different kinds of ‘white’.  It ranges from cold white with blue and purple undertones to pinkish and yellow which are warmer, and perceived to be ‘friendlier’.  Depending on the effect you want to achieve, decide carefully whether you want to use white on large wall areas, as it can be harsh on the eyes and show marks, but will not compete with accent areas like bulletin boards. When used on ceilings, the rooms will seem bigger and the less confining.

Other Color Recommendations (http://www.leadered.com/pdf/Color%20white%20paper.pdf)

  •  Gymnasium: ACTIVITY — red, red-orange, light orange, warm yellow, apricot, orange, lime, medium green, no turquoise
  • Hallway: REFRESH — green, blue, magenta, school colors
  • Cafeteria: NUTRITIOUS — orange, red, green, lime, dark brown; no blue, no yellow-green, no magenta
  • Auditorium: DIGNITY— violet, black, dark green, navy, warm neutrals, purple, burgundy
  • Media Center: RESTFUL — light green, peach, rose, light green, aqua, peach, cream; no white, no dark colors, no bold colors
  • Study Hall: STASIS — green, blue, brown, earth tones; no red, no orange
  • Kitchen: HOME — green, brown, beige
  • Toilets: COMFORT— white, blue, 
  • Counseling: HARMONY— green, lavender, peach, medium brown, yellow, no red, no bright yellow
  • Offices: RELAX — turquoise, blue, brown, green, magenta; Sandstone, light gold, light green, blue-green, black; no red, 
  • Entrances: SCHOOL COLORS
  • Lecture: THOUGHTFUL— blue, green, violet, magenta
  • Computer Skills Lab: ENCOURAGE — medium colors, provide visual relief; no bright colors
  • Biology: NATURE — blue, green, teal, brown, beige
  • Business: CORPORATE — blue, gray, black, burgundy, dark green
  • Chemistry: LOGIC — blue, green, indigo
  • Physics: ENERGY— blue, yellow, green, indigo
  • Foreign Language: FRIENDSHIP — yellow
  • History: AGE — amber, blue, yellow, sea green
  • Mathematics: LOGIC — indigo, blue
  • Social Studies: SOCIAL — orange, green, brown
  • Drama: PASSION — orange, indigo, blue, violet, red, white
  • Art: CREATIVE — green, violet, red, peach, pink, light yellow
  • Choral: TEAM — green
  • Band/Orchestra: TEAM — violet
  • Dance: CREATIVE — orange, purple, violet, yellow
  • Language Arts: COMMUNICATION — sea green, blue, green; no avocado, yellow-green, purple, chartreuse
  • Government: ORDER — blue, green, indigo, silver, gold, mauve, violet, magenta
  • Economics: WEALTH — emerald green, amber, violet, gold
  • Athletic Facilities: VITALITY— red, orange, bold colors; no turquoise
  • Clinic: CLEAN — sky blue, white, pink, green, light yellow
  • Shop: CONSTRUCT — -peach, pink, light yellow, violet
  • Culinary Arts: APPETITE — orange, light yellow
  • Floors: BACKGROUND — -neutrals, tints, school colors, wayfaring patterns
  • Walls: BACKGROUND — pale yellow (asthmatics), almond

It you want to find out which colours are in harmony with each other, refer to http://www.colormatters.com/colortheory.html

 Resources

Using music in the classroom

These days, almost every student has an iPod or MP3 player.  They will sometimes ask the teacher whether they may use this device in the classroom, to ‘listen to music’ while they work.  This presents the teacher with a dilemma:  If the answer is NO, the students my talk to each other and get distracted that way, if the answer is YES, the students my get distracted by the music and so the work may not get done anyway.

As one of Howard Gardner’s multiple Intelligences, music plays an important role in how we learn and how we perceive the world.  Have you ever found yourself thinking back to another place and time when you hear a song that you associate with a specific memory?  People easily form affective relationships with music, and so it stands to reason that music can be used to aid memory and learning in the classroom.

The use of music in the classroom can make the entire learning process more enjoyable and can stimulate “right” brain learning. Six years ago researchers reported that people scored better on a standard IQ test after listening to Mozart.  

The most important point to remember when using music to accompany learning is that it be an aid to learning and not a distraction.  If you want to use music in the background to help students concentrate, choose music which employs regular periods (repeated phrases and patterns).  According to Kenneth Beare (http://esl.about.com/od/esleflteachingtechnique/a/brainmusic.htm),   the following can be used as a guide for appropriate music for different activities:

  • Grammar – Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi
  • Imagination exercises (descriptive writing, speaking) – Ravel, Debussy, Satie
  • Current Situation, News in the World – Rap (for inner cities and their problems), Ethnic Music from the discussed countries (you would be surprised at how many people quickly associate the type of music with a part of the world)
  • Making Future Plans – Fun upbeat jazz (“Take Five” by Dave Brubeck)
  • Discussing “Serious” issues – the “serious” Germans: Beethoven, Brahms – even Mahler if you are adventurous!
  • Learning about different aspects of one theme: Peter and the Wolf (associate the different aspects with the different musical instruments.)

Music can also be seen as another type of instruction for students (on par with games, worksheets, concrete materials and virtual manipulatives).   If used this way, music needs to be chosen or created so the content of the songs carry or convey the content of the curriculum.  The idea is that once the student has learnt the song, they will be able to use the target skill.  Examples of this is where, e.g. 

Linking the auditory part of music with any visual, will make the learning more powerful.  If you search on YouTube, you may also find videos with songs about Maths concepts, Science, English, etc.  Just search the topic you are teaching, download the appropriate video, upload it to your school’s intranet, and make it available for students to download.

When the music is associated with any movement, the learning also becomes more powerful.  Link the music with movements like a dance, tapping feet or clapping along.  Students will also be able to learn the songs quicker, as the memory of the music then becomes part of the whole body’s learning.  In some cases, students will learn the movements before they know the songs, but will still be able to associate the song’s content with the movements.  These kids will thus know the movements and associated concepts, before they know the words well enough to sing along with the music.

So, the next time the students want to listen to music while they work, choose something out of the list above, and have the students put your selection on their iPods…then they can listen to that music while they work, and hopefully, with the earpieces in their ears, they won’t be talking to other students when it is not needed either!

For a comprehensive reading list on Music you can buy for use in classrooms, go to http://www.songsforteaching.com/references.htm and http://www.songsforteaching.com/

Above or below

Have you ever travelled by plane?  Isn’t it interesting how different your perspective can be depending on how high up you are?

The higher up you go, the less you see on the ground.  Very high up, you will see the top of the clouds.  It looks fluffy and soft. 

You can’t make out the detail on the ground.  It is just one scene of big, blurry shapes.  Huge crops under pivot just look like green circles.  Whole housing estates look like blocks in a jigsaw puzzle.  Major highways look like thin lines.  Mighty rivers look like ribbons strewn on a table. 

As you get  closer to the ground, you start to make out different objects.  You see cars, buildings and even people.  It is as if you go through the looking glass into another world.

 

What does this have to do with teaching?  I have seen it many times that graduate teachers enter teaching “on the ground”.  They face the real deal, the moving vehicles, the people, the buildings.  They can’t see over all these objects.  They are part of that world, and they fall into the routine.  As you become more accomplished, you start lifting off the ground.  You can still see through the clouds, but now you can make out the bigger picture.  You can see that the buildings are grouped together in an organized manner, and that there are other things around, like farms and roads.  As you learn more, you lift up even higher, and now you start seeing clouds from above.  When you reach this level, you actually have to make an effort to remember how it was when you were on the ground, as you can’t really see it in front of your face.  You have to refer to maps and feedback from the towers on the ground.  You would not know if there was a raging storm or severe wind blowing under that cloud blanket, down below, on the ground, if you didn’t get the regular and reliable information from the trusty towers on the ground…You start thinking about wider horizons, and can see the sun clearly from wherever you are…

So, as you rise up higher in the leadership roles in schools and the Department of Education, make an effort to set your plane down somewhere every so often.  Make an effort get back on the ground, right in the thick of things.  Remeber contingency plans like a coat and an umbrella.  And bring some sunshine with you, to share with those that are still looking at the clouds from down below…

Fishing

My husband went fishing recently.  Before he left, he demonstrated the length of the ‘big fish’:

After a whole day of fishing, the biggest fish he held in his hands was the sardine he used for bait:

Instead of giving up, he changed tactic.  He bought different kinds of bait, and convinced someone to take him out on a boat so he could fish in deeper waters.  Once again, he told me he would catch “the big one”.  Here is the result:

Granted, it does not look like much…but then again, he also caught and released heaps of smaller fish…he kept a few, though:

In total, the weight of all the fish would have far exceeded that of the first fish he intended to catch. 

This fishing adventure brings a few classroom lessons to mind:

1.  The first (old and obvious) lesson is of course:  If you catch a fish for someone every day, he will eat every day, until you stop catching the fish for him.  If you spend a day teaching someone how to catch fish for himself, he will still eat every day, but you won’t have to work for him or take responsibility for him, every day! (I would give credit to the person that thought about this brilliant lesson, but I have no idea who it was.)

2.  If at first you don’t catch any fish, change your bait.  If at first kids don’t bite if you try to teach them something, change your tact.

3.  Don’t be scared to fish in deeper water.  Don’t be scared to set the bar higher for yourself, or your kids.

4.  Be prepared to compromise and take the smaller wins.  One biggish fish may be what you set out to catch…but more little fish will weigh more, and last longer in the fridge.  If you want to achieve something big in your class, try to “catch” the little things first.  In the end, they end up being worth more than just one big catch.

5.  And lastly, if you go out on a boat, prepare, prepare, prepare.  My husband came back from the deep sea fishing experience telling me that he only had one regret: Not taking the anti-sea sick tablet early in the morning!

What type of teacher are you?

After googling “What is a teacher?”, I came across this site where you can fill in a questionaire, and find out what kind of teacher you are (http://712educators.about.com/library/quizzes/blteacher_personality.htm).  I completed the questionaire several times, changing my answers around here and there.  I always got the same answer, namely that I am a ‘fair and balanced teacher’.  This got me wondering whether it really matters whether we choose to watch “Star Trek” or ” CSI”?  Does it really matter whether we were the “class geek”, a “bookworm” or the “class clown” when we were in school?  Does it really matter what our favourite kind of music is?  As long as we have the best interest of the students at heart, and as long as we follow the principles of effective teaching, does it matter what we wear? It takes all kinds to make a rounded pupil.  Students need to be exposed to skinny and plump people, to funny and serious people, to male and female, to young and old.  Students need to learn how to interact with all kinds of people, and to form relationships with their friends as well as their teachers.  They need to observe how teachers act and react, how adults operate in their workplace.  They need to find role models and adult friends.  Schools provide students with the opportunity to interact with peers and superiors, and to observe how life is lived outside of their family home.  It does not matter which television programs I like, or what my favourite colour is, or what kind of music I enjoy listening to.  I am just one piece of the ‘big picture’ puzzle the students see every day, and for some students, I will be a bigger part of their picture than for others.  These things are important:  That I am open to form relationships with the students, and that I follow effective teaching and pedagogy principles in my lessons.  One half of the learning the students do in school, will be the content of my subject area…and the other half will be to learn how to form relationships with people like me.  Which brings me back to the start:  To be a balanced teacher, I need to balance pedagogy/content and relationship building.

Copyright, copyleft…what’s left to copy?

1.   Copyright

 

It is important to take a moment to consider the Copyright issues around sounds, images and any work created by other people, that you may be using in your vodcasts, blog pages, or projects that students work on.

 

Fair Use

For any art, music etc. that originate in America, it is wise to be familiar with the Fair Use Law.  It enables you to use copyright material if the benefit to society is greater than the profits the owners of the material stand to make.  Situations like these include use in areas where the material used will be added to, adapted etc., like in educational settings, use in text books, sharing student work, etc.  An informative video about this issue, with a link to the boundaries of Fair Use, can be viewed on TeacherTube: Code of Best Practice in Fair Use for Media Literacy

Royalty Free music and sounds

Several artists create music that you may be able to use for free, providing you give the artist recognition for the music in your vodcast. Here is a list:

 

         http://www.royaltyfreemusic.com/free-music-resources.html

         http://www.partnersinrhyme.com/

         http://www.deezer.com/

         ccMixter.org

         http://incompetech.com/m/c/royalty-free/ (Give recognition for this music to the artist Kevin Macleod)

         www.squidoo.com/freesounds (Go to bottom of the page, click on freesound sample collections)

 

         For information on the last three sites, watch the following video:

      http://www.metacafe.com/watch/412641/royalty_free_music_downloads_attention_all_metacafe_producers/

 

For many more examples of royalty free clipart, photos, images, sound effects, music and so forth, please refer to this link on this blog page: http://marynabadenhorst.global2.vic.edu.au/royalty-free-stuff/

  

2.      Authorization

 

When you want to video or photograph students or teachers in Victoria, Australia, make sure you get the Authorization to do so.  Students need to have parental permission, and teachers or other adults need to provide permission on the Adult Authorization Form.  Links to both these forms are given below:

 

 3.  Fickle situations

Students will mash images, sounds, video clips and so forth, which may not be royalty free or under creative common licences.  This dilemma may impede the creativity of students, and the final product may not represent the original work of art in the slightest.  This area is still murky in terms of copyright laws.  Here is an example of such a scenario:  The following video clip was put together from many YouTube video clips…it contains just snippets from the other videos, to make up this completely new video.  The question is: Where do we stand in terms of copyright? The new video does not represent a new and original piece of work, as it is just a mashed version of various other videos…or is the mashed video actually a completely new work of art?  The creator (kutiman) of the mashed video (called the TruYou project which can be viewed at http://thru-you.com/) gives full recognition to the various other videos.  Watch the mashed video, and decide for yourself: Thru-You Video

 

On the other side of the scale, YouTube invited musicians to submit pieces of music that were mashed together in one big symphony for YouTube.  The description of this video is: “YouTube presents the world premiere of the Tan Dun composition “Internet Symphony, Eroica” as selected and mashed up from thousands of video submissions from around the globe. www.youtube.com/symphony.”  The link to this video is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC4FAyg64OI

 

Shortened URL: http://2pl.us/gB

Challenge and support

Today’s post addresses something that some educators find to be a little controversial, but it is something worth thinking about.

I learnt a lot about facing challenges by working in big organizations.  Every day, teachers face the challenges that teaching present, for example planning lessons, time management, engaging students at different levels of ability, extending students, dealing with behaviour problems, dealing with parents, contributing to professional discussions, keeping records and interpreting data, etc.  However, the challenges I am talking about are the “other” challenges, namely those brought into the workplace as coordinated programs across many schools and affecting many teachers, by the Powers that Be.  It seems that there is something new to learn about or to do and report on, every year.  I have noticed that with these kinds of ‘big picture’ challenges, there was a sometimes an effort to introduce a support structure to support teachers in implementing this new program.  Yet, it also seemed that in most cases, these support structures soon became little more than accountability measures that then also posed an additional challenge to teachers.  Here are a few exmples:

  • Teachers were asked to learn about laptops.  As a support to teachers, every member of staff was given a laptop to use for work.  The idea was that teachers would use the laptops and learn how to implement some strategies like e-mail communication, blogs etc., by just having access to the computer and the internet.  Within a year, everyone that got a laptop, was asked to keep records of the hours they spent on the laptops, and later also what PD and in-class work they used the laptops for.  Support (laptops given to staff to play with to familiarize them with ICT) became linked to an accountability measure that required additional time and effort (challenge).  There is nothing wrong with holding teachers accountable for having access to the laptops.  What was missing was a coordinated program to support staff in attending laptop PD, learn about all kinds of software, developing in class lessons and ICT based programs, i.e. a similar “big picture” program to assist staff to actually gain the skills that they would be held accountable for.  And even in schools or areas where there were sporadic programs lauched to assist staff, it was not made clear right from the outset that attending these PD sessions would be mandatory once a teacher got access to a laptop, or that teachers should in fact keep a record of what they are using the laptop for.  My question is: Is this a lack of planning or a lack of transparancy?  Of course, this point is WIDE open for discussion…
  • Teachers were asked to look closely at improving Literacy and Numeracy instruction.  As a support measure, online testing for Literacy and Numeracy were developed to pin point where interevention may be appropriate.  The online testing was launched throughout many schools, and it impacted many teachers.  Soon enough, online testing became an accountability measure.  Staff were expected to interpret the data, and find ways of using the data to drive their instruction…Yet again, there is nothing wrong with being accountable, but did all the teachers that were asked to use online testing, also gain access to specialized PD and intervention strategies?  Were all of them taught how to interpret the data?  Were all of them supported in finding ways to use the outcomes in real classrooms? Was there a support program rolled out to every school? 
  • One to one laptop programs were rolled out to many schools.  Due to the huge cost in money, time and human hours, the rolling out of the laptops were coordinated and planned to ensure we dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’.  Here is my question: Did we roll out a mirror program to support teachers to deal with the challenges of using and applying the laptops in classrooms, with the same vigour?  Do we have the technical skills in all our schools to deal with the broken laptops, the additional strains on internet, the higher risks that come with higher exposure to online environments, and so forth?  We posed the huge challenge to teachers and schools, did we supply  a huge support to all those teachers and all those schools?  Of course, teachers will be held accountable for what they did with the laptops, but do they know before the time what exactly they will be held accountable for?  And how can we support them in learning the best possible outcomes for their learning areas and for the levels of the students?
  • Whenever we ask staff to do something extra, do we take something they are doing already, away? 

There are many, many more examples where challenge is always matched with support, then the support changes into another challenge in itself.

I have no problem with being held accountable, or being expected to be innovative and to renew my thinking about education.  I actually love the challenges, I thrive on solving the problems…However, my contention is that we need to maintain an equilibrium, with challenges posed matched equally with support programs.  There should be challenges, that is how we grow and improve…but there should also be support in equal amounts to maintain the balance. There should be an equal amount of time, resources, effort and money spent on developing support programs for these challenges.  The support programs should be transparant and available for all to access.  Accountability measures should be clear right from the outset. 

I believe that these are the biggest challenges faced by Leadership teams in education.

Interactive Art

Have you seen Sir Ken Robinson talk about the importance of nurturing Creativity in schools? If not, watch this funny but extremely important video:

Quotes from the video:

  • “Everyone has an interest in education…if you go to a dinner party, and someone asks you what you do…actually, you are not often at dinner parties.  You don’t get asked.  And if you go, you don’t get asked back.”
  • Everyone has an interest in education.  Education runs deep with people, like religion, and money and other things.
  • “Creativity is as important as Literacy, and it should be treated with the same respect.”
  • “We are now running National Educational systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.”
  • We get educated out of our creativity.”
  • “Shakespeare was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he?  How annoying would that be?”
  • “As children grow up, we teach them progressively from the waist up, and then we focus on their heads, and slightly to one side.”
  • “University professors are just another form of life…they look upon their body as a form of transport.  It is a way of getting their head to meetings.”
  • “The whole education system is a protracted process of university entrance.”
  • “These days kids with degrees are often heading home to play video games. ”
  • We are in a process of academic inflation. Degrees are not worth anything anymore.
  • Academic ability is not intelligence.  Intelligence is diverse.  Intelligence is dynamic. Intelligence is interactive.  Intelligence is distinct.
  • Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. This comes about by looking at anything through the lenses of different disciplines.
  • We must see our creative capacity for the richness it it, and see our children for the hope that they are.  Our task is to educate our children for their whole being so they can face the future.

Here is a transcript from an interview with Sir Ken on the 7:30 report: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2009/s2600125.htm

If you want to start being more creative, but don’t have a huge budget for resources, why not use this site: http://www.nga.gov/kids/kids.htm.  It is a great site where students can create many different forms of art online.  It is very interactive, and loads of fun.  The following art forms are available to choose from:

Collage Machine, Mobile, PixelFace, 3-D Twirler, Cubits, Diamonds, Dutch House, Photo Op, PaintBox, Wallovers, RiverRun, SwatchBox, Flow, Jungle, Brushter, Still Life

Here is an example of a picture I created using Brushter:

Here is an image created in Still Life:

Here is a screenshot of 3D Twiller:

 Play with your photos, using any of these 28 online tools to edit and have fun with: http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/services/28-online-photo-editing-websites-to-have-fun-with/

Here is an example of a photo edited in Dumpr:

Example of a photo edited using Snowdrifts:Below is an example of a picture edited using Golden Frame:

Here is a comprehensive list of free online tools: http://mikeodden.com/online_art_tools.html and http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/links/artgames.html

 

Salut to the hair on the back of your hands

One of the dubious perks of having a teenage daughter, is that you suddenly become acutely aware of all the physical faults you may (or may not) have, even those you were never previously aware of.  Just the other day, she informed me that the presence of little hair on the back of your hands point to the fact that you must have some Italian blood in you.  I am not sure how truthful this assumption is, but I immediately looked to the backs of my hands (as I am sure most people reading this piece of writing are doing right now!) and saw some minute hair there.  “Well,” I thought, “this proves it.  I must have Italian blood.  Which I can now blame for my passion in life.”  And if nothing else, I am passionate.  Passionate about my work, which means passionate about becoming a better educator. 

 

In honour of being “somewhat Italian,” I recently watched a travel show about Italy.  What fascinated me the most was the lack of order in their driving.  Cars going everywhere, tooting and honking and arms waving out of open windows.  Insults being yelled back and forth, and at the traffic circle…let’s not go there (literally!) 

Image from http://image48.webshots.com/48/6/33/99/2606633990076223318eqZHTZ_fs.jpg

During the  hold up at the traffic circle, the camera man filmed how the Italians handled the situation.  Yes, there were horns and loud voices, bumpers and booming….but there was also a car full of young men…and they took the opportunity to start courting a car full of young women.  (Trust the Italians to grab an opportunity like this!)  Through the animated conversations, quick glances and hair being flipped over shoulders (for both sexes!) it was clear that all were very pleased to have had this chance to exchange some phone numbers.  Another young woman actually got out of her car, strolled over to another vehicle, and within a minute the older female driver of the other car also got out, hugged and kissed the young woman, and they started a healthy conversation.  Other people seemed quite relxed, talking and smiling, waving and even eating!  It seemed that, even though the traffic was not making any progress, the Italians were able to seize the moment and enjoy the delay.  In a very Neopolitan manner, everyone seemed to be getting to their destination in the end.  People seemed to be able to not let things that are beyond their control, consume all their time and energy.  They interacted with others through words, facial gestures, hugging, eye contact, yelling, waving arms around, crying.  They expressed their emotions and got to the destination in the end, but they seemed to enjoy the journey, every crazy second of it. 

 

So if I am to be a bit Italian, what can I learn about this Italian way of life?

 

Well, in schools we quite often get to traffic circles.  The progress slows down, things get hairy (excuse the pun!) One option is to yell and honk our horn.  Another option is to enjoy the moment in time. We can take the few precious spare moments to work on a relationship, to rekindle a conversation, to catch up with a colleague, or to just sit down and have a break.  We can choose our destiny.  But we cannot always choose our journey.

 

Just look at me: I have now decided that my destiny is to journey through life with hair on the back of my hands, and to be proud of it. Salut! 

From http://www.alivenotdead.com/rozpho/Hair-There-Everywhere-profile-173299.html

The little birds…

Hendrick van Loon wrote the following in The Story of Mankind: “High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock.  It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide.  Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak.  When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity would have gone by.” 

When I heard this story as a wide-eyed girl, I often wondered what would happen to the little bird’s beak, if he kept scraping it over such a wide and rough surface.  I imagined how it would become shorter and shorter each time it repeated the action…and off it would fly, to go on an adventure, just to come back and do it all over again.  Eventually, and here-in lay the crux for me, the rock would be all finished, turned into a big heap of sand…and so the biggest deserts began. 

I still think of this story when I try and introduce new and ‘foreign’ concepts like blogs, Twitter, wikis and so forth, in classrooms…like a little bird that tries to sharpen its beak on a very daunting rock.  Just fly in, fly over and fly out…the progress sometimes seems negligible.  Yet, the key is in persistence.  Eventually the big rock will only be a big heap of sand…

…hopefully not a desert, but a beautiful beach with the ocean near by, a palm tree, half a coconut with a straw in it, a hammock, pop!  (what was that?  Oh, the sound of my daydream bubble bursting. Time for another fly over.)Image created with http://taggalaxy.de/ using the Tag ‘eternity’.

Inspiration out of the Bronx

I would like to introduce you to an inspirational teacher.  She teaches in the Bronx in a school commonly known as ”The Google School”, because all the teachers use Google Documents, and all the students have access to their own laptop.  This school sits right in the heart of the Bronx, where you regularly hear of drug related incidents or gang related stabbings.  We visited this school on our recent study tour to New York, and from the outside the school looked very drab.  There was barbed wire on the fences around the perimeter, and graffiti on the shop walls next to the school.  

You had to present photo identification, walk through a metal detector, and put all your belongings through a screen similar to those you see on the airport, before being allowed in. 

Then you entered another world.  Teachers and students collaborating, chatting, and high-fiving when a student achieves something.  Clean walls filled with student work, and classrooms with students being engaged in their learning, most times working on their laptops.  This specific teacher, Rathini Kandavel, teaches English. 

On the day we observed her, she had the class split into three groups, each group was working on a different activity.  One group listened to a podcast of a book, while following along (reading) in the book while they listened.  A second group was doing some online test on comprehension, and she could immediately display and give feedback on student results as the students finished the test.  A third group was doing a spelling and listening activity. 

We had the opportunity to speak with the teacher afterwards, and she told us that she also uses Google Documents constantly.  She explained that she can correct and leave comments on student work online, while the students can then ask questions and leave further comments on what she has done.  This online collaboration has made it possible for the students to keep contact with the school and keep on studying even when they are home (somewhere in the Bronx…)

I kept in contact with this inspirational teacher, and she sent me this email (and link) to share some of her work: 

I thought I’d share this website with you!  It is a project I’ve been working on with my 7th grade students.  It is called the “Bronx Youth Storycorps” website with a collection of short stories and personal narratives that answer the question, “How can my power connect me to the world?”  Although in some stories the question isn’t answered so quickly, but these stories are remarkable and all of them are amazing!  My students and I are very proud of our work! 

http://sites.google.com/site/bronxstorycorps/

Let me know, also, if you have any problems accessing any of the documents or files.

Thanks for you time!  Enjoy!
Rathini”

This is just another example of how technology can start breaking down the walls between classes, whether classes refer to those in a school, or those that exist in society. 

This is sand (link below in post)

I was reading a Grade 1 teacher’s blog pages recently (http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=1337 and http://staff.prairiesouth.ca/~cassidy.kathy/index.html), and came upon this fun tool.  It is an online program called “This is sand” (link to http://thisissand.com/), where you can create beautiful pictures by dropping ‘sand’ in different colours, onto the screen.  (The colours are changed by pressing ‘c’ on the key board, and then choosing the colour you want.)  Afterwards you can upload your creations to the gallery, so they can  be viewed online.  Of course, you could also printscreen the image, and copy it to Paint or Word, and then save it to your computer as a picture.  This picture can then be uploaded to your own blog or digital portfolio.

Aterwards, students are invited give feedback about their own creations and experience in creating the pictures, and also to view each other’s creations, and leave positive comments.  Students thus develop their skills in Literacy, communication, art and social interaction all at the same time.  You can read some comments left by teachers and students here: http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blog_id=926048&mode=comment&blogger_id=1337

If you want to use this program you need to have flash and javascript enabled.  Click on the links to download them, then follow the install instructioins.  Java and Flash are both important web platforms that allow you view movies, animation and sound.

Examples of This is Sand pictures:

Below is a screenshot of the gallery with many This is Sand pictures:

Pen&paper writing vs digital writing

Recently I read a blog post of a Latin teacher that asked his students to comment on their blog, about what they loved about his classes (http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2009/06/your-students-write-alot-apparently.html).  One student started off by saying he likes blogging, because  “you don’t have to write.”  The teacher cut and pasted the student’s whole blog into Word, and it turned out to be 156 pages long.  Being someone that likes numbers, I researched how many words would make up an “average” Word document page of size 12 font.  There seems to be a lot of variation in answers, but it seems to be at least 500 words per page (or more.)  So, basic arithmetic shows that this student wrote at least 156 times 500 words, which is 78 000 words. The average paperback novel has around 90 000 words…this student seems to be only one or two blog posts off from that target!

Which brings me to my question: What is Writing?  When I was in Primary school, we learnt “how to write” by having a pencil in our hands and practicing letters.  Later on we practiced our “writing” by neatly scripting sentences, and later still, our “writing” consisted of whatever essay or creative piece we had to hand in…somewhere between learning how to form letters and words, and using those to record our thoughts, the leap was made between the actual skill of being able to hold a pen and write, and communicating by writing down our thoughts. 

It seems that more and more, in an increasingly paperless classroom, students have access to computers that are becoming more specialized.  We are starting to think of computers as devices that can serve specific purposes, like pulse-monitoring devices, global positioning systems, toll system tags, e-book readers, and writing tablets (Stephen Downes).  All these and more are forming an increasingly large part of our landscape outside of the classroom, and it stands to reason that it should be reflected inside the classroom if we are to prepare students for the world they will encounter when they leave school.

If we apply this to the idea that “writing” is putting our thoughts into words and having a written record of those thoughts, we can use computers’ voice recognition applications to tell the machine our thoughts, and it will be put into (written) words.  If students can read, they will be able to track and edit their work later on, without ever having to pick up a pen or or actually writing down a word.

While technology changes rapidly, people do not. People want to use tools that look and feel like tools they’ve always used, and will tend to adopt tools only if they see a clear benefit either in productivity or in savings. (Starr, 2003)  Perhaps we will see students writing with a stylus onto their desktop, where the desktop is literally the top of their table/desk, but it is also a touch sensitive screen that will immediately save their work online in a unique student portfolio. 

It seems clear that for the time being, people will still have to be able to actually write down stuff, even it is just to make notes of directions or making a  shopping list…but with the speed that all things are being infused with digital technology, who is to say that we won’t get affordable, mini notepads that we can carry around with us all the time…notepads that will “write” our words down for us, so we never have to use pen and paper again? (Devices like these are already on the market, but not yet readily affordable to everyone.)

“In 2002 Microsoft released the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition to support tablet technology. (Thurrott, 2002) It included handwriting recognition and voice commands.  Apple’s iPod touch, ostensibly a music player but in fact a small wireless computer, is widely popular. With slim, lightweight technology, truly useful and portable (note)PADs will be widely available within the next ten years. We have already seen significant improvements in screen technology, including slim touch-sensitive screens. Wireless access and cloud computing make bulky storage devices unnecessary; what local memory is needed will be more than adequately managed using tiny flash memory chips. Improvements in battery life and solar power will mean that these low-wattage portable computers will run for days. ” (Stephen Downes, http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2008/11/future-of-online-learning-ten-years-on_16.html.)

Where does this leave us in terms of teaching kids how to script letters and words, using a pencil and paper?  Will all future tests and exams also come in a digital format as well?  Do we all need to start selling our shares in the good old pencil and pen companies?  And what about the countries that don’t have access to these new technologies…will the future divide be between those that need to write (those that were left behind), and those that never have to write again (using only digital technology)?

And finally, if our kids never learn how to actually write, what will they do if they holiday in one of those countries where you can only access your money if you actually sign a cheque?  :)

Gambare! (Where is it in our schools?)

“Gambare”, a mindset that is taught to children in Japan from birth.  It is more than just a concept.  It involves a total commitment, a way of life.  It is not just a way of thinking, it also becomes a way of being.  To try and explain Gambare to a Westerner, the word “perseverance” comes closest to what it involves.  It has been described as “to persevere, to do one’s best, to be persistent, to stick to one’s purpose, to never give up until the job is done, and done well….”  Gambare can  be summed up in three different ways of persistance and perseverance:

  1. Standing up for one’s beliefs, even when personal risk is involved and despite opposition
  2. Moving ahead in seeking to accomplish one’s goals despite obstacles and detours
  3. Surviving tough times by hanging in, being patient and coming back strong after a lost battle, a mistake, or other setback.

In schools, we may often find ourselves in situations where we can use some “Gambare.”  I was discussing the importance of using Twenty Maths Language Questions at regular intervals during Maths lessons, with a parent.  The conversation went something like this:

Parent: “Why do you persist in asking twenty questions at the beginning of your Maths classes?  Kids never get the twenty questions right anyway.  You are just wasting time.”

Me:  “I think that it is important for students to hear Maths language regularly.  They need to be able to interpret the questions and solve them Mathematically, so they need to be able to ‘translate’ everyday language into Maths language, and link it with some concept they can use to solve the problem.”

Parent: “But why don’t you make the questions a bit easier?  Then they can get them all right!  It would make them feel good!”

Me: “Are you a coach of some sport?”

Parent: “Yes, I coach basketball to the under elevens.”

Me: “Eleven year olds are not very tall, are they? Do they get all the balls through the hoop?”

Parent: “Nope.  They need to practice a lot to get that ball through the hoop!”

Me: “And has it ever crossed your mind to lower the pole with the hoop on it so the kids could all get the ball through the hoop?”

Parent: “No, never!  They have to practice…”

Me: “And when they finally start getting that ball through the hoop after practicing a lot, it makes them feel good, doesn’t it?”

Parent: “Now I get it.  You can’t lower the bar in your Maths class either, can you?  Kids need to practice and persist a bit, so they can build up the skill set they will need later in Maths, and for that matter, in life…”

Me: “And when they finally get it, it is build on a much deeper understanding because they practiced and persisted.”

Parent: “Yep.  Plus we also bring in here team work, can’t we?”

Me: “Well, that is a whole new ball game!”

Gambare.  Persist and persevere.  It is important in school.  It is important in life.  Where can we bottle and buy some of it to use every day?

(Gambare shortened url code http://2pl.us/Q8)

Isolated or integrated ICT skills in classrooms

I have the opportunity to visit many classes, and I really like observing how different teachers use the computers with the students.  I have asked myself many times what “computer literate” really means, and every time I ask someone else, they give me a different answer.  Some of these range from “Kids are computer literate if they………

  • can play video games, send e-mails and search the web
  • can create and save Word documents or use basic word processing
  • use formulas in spreadsheets like Excel sheets (Maths teacher!)
  • copy and paste, (printscreen), transfer information between programs
  • create and work effectively with PowerPoints, Photo Stories, movies
  • upload photos, files (word docs, photos, music etc.), upload scanned work samples,  etc. to digital portfolios
  • maintain, contribute and upload to blogs and wikis
  • create their own web pages, create games, create mini programs and upload  and share the scripts to the internet
  • create movies and upload to the internet
  • participate in online collaboration sessions
  • can switch on the computer, and know where to access help when they don’t know what to do (i.e. they need to be able to read.)  This also implies operating basic toolbars and hitting the ‘Help’ button.  They are extremely computer literate when they can access online help.”

 Which of these skills will see students well prepared for the world they will encounter when they leave school?  Which of these skills will be ascribed to someone that is “computer literate”?

According to Michael B. Eisenberg and Doug Johnson (http://www.libraryinstruction.com/info-tech.html), in too many schools, “teachers and students still use computers only as the equivalent of expensive flash cards, electronic worksheets, or as little more than a typewriter. The productivity side of computer use in the general content area curriculum is neglected or grossly underdeveloped.”

To move from teaching computer skills in isolation, to integrating it in an appropriate and authentic manner in every curriculum area, is a big challenge for those of us known as “digital immigrants”.  Even though we may have a very broad and thorough understanding of software applications, programs available, Web2 tools and so forth, we still need to put in many hours of hard work to integrate these aplications and tools into our lesson delivery.  The delivery should model best practice of ICT use, so students have a role model and “template” to base their own work on.  Thus teachers need to demonstrate how to use ICT applications that are applicable to their intended outcomes and learning area, in a fluent and natural way.  Students need to observe effective use of ICT to achieve the outcomes, and then practice these skills.  It should be part of their classroom practice and be included in assessment strategies.

Clearly we don’t know where students will head when they leave school.  We don’t know what kinds of software or online tools they will use (it has probably not been developed yet! Have you had a glimpse of Google Wave yet?  But let’s not digress…)  However, we know they will have to be able to collaborate online, and they will have to be able to adapt and transfer their current skills to wherever they go.  Giving them the opportunity to get acquinted with many different applications of ICT in many different situations, will give them the depth of skills and the solid grounding they need to draw on for the rest of their working lives…

…and for that matter, for their social networking and interaction as well.

This brings up the next question:  How do we keep our ‘working’ online lives and our ‘social’ (private?) online lives, well, separate…?

Maths concepts and virtual manipulatives

Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room (as you do!) the other day, I read one of those waiting room magazines with the crossword puzzles and jokes.  One of these jokes was: The mother asked the birthday boy: ‘Do you want your birthday cake cut into twelve pieces?’  ‘No,’ the boy replied. ‘We won’t be able to eat twelve pieces.  Can you cut it into eight pieces instead?’

Funny, yes.  But it also got me thinking about the real concepts we are teaching kids in schools.  This boy was obviously taught that “The smaller number implies ‘it’ (whatever the smaller number refers to) is smaller.”  This makes sense, doesn’t it?  But what about if the smaller number has to do with fractions or parts of an area?  If it is the same area cut into less pieces, the smaller number indicates a bigger piece of the area (i.e. a bigger fraction.)  Do we ever make those connections and concepts clear to the kids?  The smaller number is NOT necessarily smaller!  What about negative two and negative ten?  Negative two means you are closer to the zero on the number line, so it is actually a ‘bigger’ number than negative ten.  What about two to the power of negative two against two to the power of negative ten?  Once again, two to the power of negative ten indicates a (much) smaller fraction that two to the power of negative two…fractions again! 

But then, what about one to the power of negative two against one to the power of negative ten?  These two numbers are equal…..both are equal to one!  Same thing with zero to the power of a small (positive) number, against zero to the power of a big (positive) number: it remains equal to zero.  And zero to the power of any negative number does not even exist!

Yes, we need to be careful when teaching blanket rules in Maths.  We need to be astute when we teach kids about concepts.  Wherever possible, we need to relate concepts back to concrete materials and digital manipulatives (ICT in Mathematics).  It is clear that digital manipulatives can be seen as the scaffold between moving from concrete, hands on materials to the more formal concepts.  This is one area where computers can play a vital role in the understanding of Maths concepts.  Teachers should also be aware of explicitly asking students to visualise what we teach them, i.e. ask kids to “make a picture in your head”.  It is much easier to remember things we have actually ’seen’, and, where possible, if we played with them or experimented with them, rather than just remembering numbers and cold facts.

If you would like to play with some virtual manipulatives in your Mathematics/Numeracy classes, visit this site and click into the year level and Maths area you want to explore: http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vLibrary.html

Looking specifically at manipulatives that may address the problem that started this discussion (cutting a cake into twelve or eight pieces), look at these manipulatives:

Memory…one of the most important tools a teacher should know about

I went to a seminar once, and as usual, I forgot almost everything that was said on the day, except for one snippet: “As teachers, we work with making memories every day.  Yet, very few teachers would be able to tell you how memories are made or retained, and how memory works.  Doesn’t that seem odd to you as an educator?”  Ironic that the one bit I remember word for word, is about remembering!  Come to think of it, I also recall that the food was really nice, that the room was stuffy and noisy, and that I was torn between attending the lecture and buying a new pair of winter boots, which all link to the fact that memories are also made when they are tied with emotions and feelings…

Although I remember that I work with trying to make memories every day, I have not made an in depth study of it (yet).  I have found out a few things though, and since we also work with meta-cognition in our classrooms, I started putting these things up on posters in the classroom, and I refer to these things often when I teach.  One such poster has to do with “Why do we forget?”  There are a few major reasons for forgetting, which are mentioned in most articles:

  1. We did not pay enough attention in the first place.  This is important for students to know:  If you want to be able to recall something later, you need to pay close attention the first time it is explained to you.
  2. We did not encode the information either in the short term memory, or the long term memory.  Students need to know that they have to at least have the facts stored in their short term memory when they leave the classroom, and that it can more easily be placed into their long term memory if they spend a few minutes later in the day to revise those facts again.  It implies that students need to use the time they have in class, to do the tasks and endeavour to store some of that information in their short term memory, at least.
  3. We also forget due to a lack of a retrieval cue. This is important for teachers as well: We need to ensure we use some trigger words or actions or cues, that kids will associate with the memory they formed previously.  For Mathematics, I interpret this as students knowing the Mathematical language and concepts, so that they would associate certain actions with certain symbols.  If they read “factorise”, this is the cue for retrieving the whole process (recipe) of factorising.  If they read “multiply” (or see the symbol for multiplication), this is the retrieval cue for applying a certain process and way of thinking…etc.  If we can link this cue to something kids feel strongly about (emotional connection) or some kind of action or song, it creates a much stronger link between the cue and the actual memory associated with it.  We need to be aware that we need to give kids the cues we will use to retrieve that specific memory, while we are trying to set the memory.  Kids and teachers need to be aware that there will be cues used the next day to retrieve the memory.  It may not go astray to even mention to the students: “Tomorrow, when I say pi, I would like you to remember 3.14″ (or something along those lines where the memory and the cue is linked explicitly.)
  4. Repetition forms stronger memories.  This means that students need to practice new skills and concepts regularly, and that TIME ON TASK is vital for forming stronger memories and links.
  5. Unless the memory is very strongly linked to an emotional experience, or if memories are not retrieved and used regularly, they may be replaced by new memoriesRevision is important to place memories in the long term memory bank, and to keep them there.

After all, it is a great honour to be working with making memories…we need to ensure the memories kids make in the classrooms, are worth retrieving (and available for retrieval) in situations outside of the classroom.

Double click on the image below, and then zoom in, to see a snapshot of the different aspects of memory…  The mindmap below was created with the online Web2 tool http://www.bubbl.us/

A new kind of thinking: Blooms Taxonomy for the digital age

The application of Bloom’s Taxonomy to traditional teaching and learning, has now been adapted to reflect digital applications.  For more information, go to http://techlearning.com/article/article.aspx?Id=8670

(The “not so good”) Things teachers need to know about laptops…

“LAPTOPS in the classroom will be for many teachers a rude awakening or a liberating departure – depending on your ideology. There is no disputing the fact that students will have a printing press on their desk. “

In the article 23-things-about-classroom-laptops/ published on http://deangroom.wordpress.com/, the author discusses problems that may be seen when students start using laptops instead of pen and paper…and many of these are very similar to what we encounter today.  Some examples are avoiding work through “technology” issues like flat batteries, lost files, work not saved, the internet “dropping out”, not being able to access the sites, etc.  Students may still disengage and talk to other students during class time, but this time they are hiding their email messages and chatrooms behind the screen they show to the teacher (screen wagging).  Students visiting sites that are not appropriate, without anybody at school even knowing, by using different proxy servers…where does this leave us in terms of duty of care?  I would like to comment on some issues and make a few points of my own:

  • File sharing: Pro or con?  If students share their work in appropriate ways, it can lead to the building of rich resources and collective thoughts.  If they share illegal music, games and homework, it becomes a huge problem.
  • Teachers: Where are we teaching?  The “where” has to do with a mind shift.  Sitting students in rows facing you, means you will only see the back of the laptops.  Moving around the class is more effective, but the most effective place to “be” is in cyber space with the students, working with them wherever they are on the net, and being able to view all their screens and work.  You should be available for them to access you online, ask questions, give feedback, guide etc.  This may mean that you are not even in the physical vacinity of the students, yet you are where they are: in cyber space! 
  • Teachers: “When” are we teaching? The “when” is also going to require a huge shift in the minds of educators.  No longer should we be required to work from eight to five at school, no longer should we attend meetings at school all the time, or teach kids only in classes.  We will be asked to forego teaching them at school, but instead meet them on the net in the evening, chatting, collaborating, working together…Flexible and available…always on tap.  This builds respect and trust, and students working with teachers when they need them.
  • The previous statement opens up the can of worms of the digital divide, between those kids that have access to computers and internet at home, and those that don’t…
  • Teacher privacy: Is there life beyond teaching? I guess teachers will have to start thinking about how often and how much they will allow students to interrupt their own family time. They always need to be aware of their presence on line, meaning that they cannot just upload any pictures or post comments that may be seen by students and that could compromise the teacher’s reputation.  Teachers will now have to set the boundaries as well, in terms of when and where they allow students to become part of the teacher’s life…and then there is the question looming:  Is there any life for a teacher outside of the classroom, that can still be private and free from student intrusion?  And how do we manage that?
  • Teachers need to learn how to create online meeting spaces for students, where they can collaborate and share, yet teachers need to retain some control, actively manage and set boundaries to ensure no bullying and harassment taking place.  Apart from this requiring some technical skills and time managment from teachers, I also believe that we will have to actively develop a set of protocols and boundaries around the appropriate use of online meeting spaces, which means that it has to be a school wide conversation including input from all staff members, parents and students.  As all schools are not starting to use laptops, perhaps these discussions should come with guidelines from Regional offices or even Central office…
  • Don’t try and translate all traditional teaching (like answering questions, working out of a textbook, etc.) to the laptop.  Whether kids use a real textbook or a digital textbook, there is not much difference in the application.  Try to be innovative.  Try to think of ways that the technology can enrich the student’s learning experience.  What about interactive manipulatives instead of a two dimensional picture in a textbook, what about video clips with the prescribed texts, etc.  Lesson structures should now include and reflect the variety and diversity of the learning styles of the students you teach.
  • The whiteboard (or blackboard) is no longer the place to “look”.  Put your work online so students can access it online.  Ensure you have the whole lesson, with the specific focus, as well as the tasks and outcomes, available for students to look at before the lesson starts. 
  • Mentoring and support for teachers.  Management in schools need to face the fact that they will have to invest in teachers to support them to learn not only the technology skills, but also to work through some of the issues they will be encountering.  Mentor programs in schools and between schools will become a vital part of teacher wellbeing structures, as new rules will apply for how and when teachers work.
  • Accept the fact that this type of environment is not for everybody…and that include students AND teachers.  Think of ways that alternative ways of teaching and learning (i.e. without laptops the whole time) could be accommodated in the schools of the future.
  • Recognise how important the goodwill of staff is. Keep them on side.  Be on their side. Encourage. Celebrate.
  • Sometimes, the wireless network won’t work, or computers will break down.  How will schools address the quick and (relatively) stress free support process when this happens?  Leadership: Plan for tech assistance on site. Teachers: Plan to always have an alternative and “back up” plan.
  • Involve students.  Start teams of students to act as ICT experts and coaches for teachers and other students.  This has been very successful in Jersey City, and received very positive feedback from students, teachers and parents.
  • Educate parents.  It is important that parents understand that students may have to be working online and on their laptops in school and at home, but that it is also important to keep an eye on their other internet activities…there is a time and place for school work, and a time and place for socializing.  New boundaries will be needed not only in school, but also at home.

All of these issues will become increasing important as we move towards a more “laptop infused” learning environment.  (“Laptops” could also be replaced by the word “digital device”, or even later on, “digital desk”!  They are not far off from releasing the first digital desks, where the desk top is the keyboard, and there is a screen with a and stalus that students can use to “write” straight onto the sensitive screens, which will instantly  translate “writing” into a digital format…)

“Oxygen” – Very, very funny and informative video

Oxygen from Christopher Hendryx on Vimeo.

Student disengagment (teacher boring them to death!)

Disengaged Students from jarrod robinson on Vimeo.

Innovation Showcase

Today I had the priviledge of presenting at the Victorian Innovation Showcase in Melbourne.  The topic was “Podcasting and Vodcasting…What happened in a Special School?”  It was a great opportunity to share the wonderful things that happened when we trialled vodcasting as a teaching tool with students with Autistic tendencies.  I learnt something valuable as well: At any given time, there is a “90% , 9% , 1%” rule (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html), for participation in any new project.  This means that if you start up a new project, 90% of the people will be “lurking”, which means they will just sit and observe, watch, not do anything.  9% of people will make infrequent comments, use some things, and sit back and watch most of the time.  These two groups (99% of the people) will be unpredictable and unreliable.  Only one percent of the people will actually contribute regularly, participate and create, and be consistent.  Makes you wonder: Does this mean that only one percent of the people actually make things happen?  Other research shows that 2.5% of people on earth are “Innovators”, i.e. walking in the front and making changes, usually living in their minds as if it was already five years down the track, because they are just so far ahead of the rest…and these people get resisted, misunderstood and rejected, until such a time that the rest of the world caught up with their way of thinking.  Hopefully, they are then recognized for the true genius they are.  Think of Vincent Van Gogh, Einstein, and other fantastic minds in all aspect of life, ridiculed by their peers, fired by their bosses, and living a poor and lonely life because they could see the the future as if it was already here…

Mathematics Language…

When I was in school, I often wondered about the intricacies of the symbols and signs in Mathematics.  It seemed that almost anything could be translated into “Maths Language”, and certainly, Maths Language could always be translated into English. That is what I thought Maths Language was: The signs and symbols, the numbers and sums.  I never thought about the possibility that it could be more, or wider, than what happened in the classroom.  Today, I realise that Maths Language is vitally important, and that consistency in how we explain things to students, and how the pedagogy links to the content, can improve student outcomes in Mathematics.  I am wondering whether we need to spend a lot more time in explaining basic concepts to kids, for example, the differences in meaning between the words “mean” in Maths against the word “mean” in English…this was very obvious when one Year 7 told another that she was just “mean”, to which the girl in question replied: “No.  I am not just average…”  The first person was talking in English, the second was responding in Maths!  And so, the confusion started…

What is coaching?

When I was young, I participated in some team sporting events…I was not very good at it, but I enjoyed the banter and team work.   I always had coaches, standing on the side lines every weekend during matches, giving us tips during half time (since they could see the whole field instead of just the little circle individual players were operating in), and ensuring we practice some basic skills during our practice sessions in the week.  Coaches had to be, so I thought, great players of the sport themselves.  They had to be passionate about the sport, and know the rules inside out.  They had to always be there.  We did not have practice sessions cancelled if one of the players did not show up, but we had one or two sessions cancelled because the coach did not show up…

On the days the coach did not show up, we felt alone and sort of lost.  We knew what we had to do, but it did not feel quite right.  In fact, I don’t know of any team that had some success or won any games, that did not have a coach.

Coaches.  They were a bit of a mystery to me.  They could play the game well, yet chose to step out of the game to be there for others wanting to learn. They worked out effective training sessions for the team.  The could earn our trust and respect.  Team players became better at playing the sport and being in a team, by listening to the coach.  In the end, coaches built each team member’s capacity to go on into other teams, or play well in other situations. 

In a way, I learnt a lot more than just sporting rules and practices from my coaches.  I learnt about fair play.  I learnt about the bigger picture and recouping and re-directing during half time.  I learnt that sometimes someone has to sit out for a while to make sure the whole team gets to participate.  I learnt about not getting angry or taking things personally if a parent or other team’s supporters yell abuse at you. I learnt about biting your tongue when the media (read: The local newspaper) says stupid things about you or your team. 

When our coach drilled us during practice sessions, we just assumed it must be because the coach wanted to prepare us for every possible scenario.  When things got really bad, we would just whisper to each other that the coach must have been having a tough day (but we still did what the coach asked.)  We never knew that coaches could perhaps also be accountable to someone above them.  Someone higher than the coach?  It would have been unthinkable!

Coaches give it their all, and yet they live a dangerous life.  In Australian football, I have observed, coaches could be out on their ear if their team does not perform…the team’s success can thus support the coach’s survival!  To be fair, if it was not for the team, there would not be a coach.

I learnt valuable lessons from my coaches.  I still carry that with me.  Yet, I never knew that coaching could also be a lonely place.  I never knew that coaches could also feel worried and lost.  I never saw in my coaches that they sometimes questioned some of their own strengths.  I never knew how much they actually took on board.  It never occurred  to me that they had to study constantly when we did not see them.  They had to devise new game plans, know about all the new rules, observe new teams, etc.  to ensure our team got the best and newest information…

The life of a coach in between games was largely hidden from us.

I never thought I would be a coach one day (I am not a very sporty person!)

And yet, I find myself as a teaching and learning coach.  I am now the one cheering and guiding from the sidelines, looking at the big picture, sharing my passion for the ‘game of teaching and learning’ with other teachers.  I now feel the aching deep inside of me, when I see basic mistakes being made by some of the team players I coach.  Yet, I cannot step in and play the game for them.  I cannot take over their role.  I cannot be them.  I can only stand and watch, working out new game plans to ensure the team’s synergy and individual strengths come to their full potential….

And in the final instance, I hope I can make some contribution to improved outcomes for our kids…that is my passion.

The relationship between being Literate and being Numerate

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New York visit from Loddon Mallee Region

These are the final few days before we fly out of here to New York, how exciting!  This visit to New York was organized by the Loddon Mallee Region of Education to allow people to have a look at what is happening in schools in New York, specifically in terms of using ICT in the classrooms.  Our Region is looking at providing every Year 6 student with a laptop in 2009, so we need to look at how the ICT can be used in the most effective way to support improved student outcomes.  It is a fantastic learning opportunity, and guess what: They expect snow in New York on Tuesday!  Rug up, mittens on, scarf and beanie…New York, here we come!

I have uploaded heaps of photos and comments on the pages to the left of this main screen.  The two New York pages are called : New York, New York! and New York, NY cont.   Please click on these pages for all the info!

Photo Editing: The following photos were edited by opening them in Paint and then painting onto them, then saving them again to My Pictures (go to Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint, File, Open, then choose the photo or picture you want to edit):

Me with my snow garb on

Me with my snow garb on

 

More fashionable New York look

More fashionable New York look

Digital Classrooms

Lots of informative videos and information are posted under the page Digital Classrooms also to be found on the top left hand side bar of this page.

Other informative videos are posted on this blog page under the headings “Shift Happens” and “The Machine is Us/ing Us”.   There is also a post with the heading “Introduction to blogging as an educational tool”, which can support a teacher information session.

To see how we used podcasting as an educational tool in Special Education, please click on the page to the top left of this blog, named : Podcasting: My Journey

The 5 E’s Resources

More resources have now been added to the page dedicated to E5.  The E5 Resources link can be found on the top left hand side of this web page.

Link to : The-5-E’s Planner (Thanks to Glenda Oliver)

Link to: The-leading-edge-example-of-a-level-5-unit-plan  (Thanks to Cindy Bruechert)

Video link to Cooperative Learning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEh8Z0sbiRE&feature=related, created by drpratt)

 

Introduction to blogs and wikis as educational tools

Blogs are used in many educational settings, and for various reasons.  Some teachers use blogs as “baskets” to contain information or to journal their own learning.  Blogs can also showcase student work or become a running record of what is happening in the class or the school.  For more information and applications about blogs and wikis in classrooms, also refer to the page Blogging? Wiki? What??? on the top left hand side bar of this page.

Great video: Why do we let our students blog? (Rachel Boyd)

Great blog to visit for more resources: Staffordshire PS Blog page (http://qlsictteam.wordpress.com/)

Powerpoint:  Blogging Basics: NOTE: If this PowerPoint won’t open when you click on it, please save it to somewhere on your computer and open it from where you have saved it.  Thanks!

Creating Action Buttons in a PowerPoint slide show

Use this PowerPoint Powerpoint: Action Buttons Scaffold to show others (or learn!) how to create action buttons in a slide show.  Armed with this knowlege, you can create simple multiple choice games for your students.  NOTE: If the show does not open when you click on the link, right click on the link, choose Save As, then save the show to somewhere on your computer, and try opening it from where you saved it.

Author of PowerPoint on Action Buttons: Maryna Badenhorst

For other Educational Powerpoints, refer to the following pages:

Shift Happens

Video on how our world is changing.

http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=1b425a7717504bca103d

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Interesting Video on ICT and the influence it has on all of us

TEACHERTUBE VERSION: The machine is us/ing us

 

The Machine is Us/ing (Us) Final Version, on YouTube

“End of ze world…” (Warning: Some swearing/Language)

Warning: Language not appropriate for general classroom distribution, yet this video shows that the author knows a lot of facts, and has thought about how the future may unfold.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZMwKPmsbWE Cartoon version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHW3lckmfh4&feature=related Photo version

Flickr and Facebook…semi anonymous and online, yet someone wrote songs about it…

Flickr photos: Social impact captures in a song

 This song is a really interesting social phenomenon.  Flickr shares photos from around the world, images captured in a moment of time.  It has such a wide impact on us as a global society, that someone wrote a song about the images, and so another way of sharing, caring and touching other lives begins…

Facebook song

A song about the social impact of Facebook on our interactions and social behaviours.

Hello all!

This is the first post on this blog page.  I hope that this blog will contain lots of different things that  I find interesting and stimulating.  I also hope that one and all will contribute, and that we can form a real online community with vibrant ideas and connections!  Please feel free to upload your own thoughts and questions…everyone most welcome!