Digital Convergence

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Like any educator, I love a good acronym.

Like any user of social media tools, I love a good acronym.

Here's one that's really popular - PLN. Stands for Personal Learning Network. Gets bandied around a lot by educators using social media tools. Myself included.

We all think we know what we are talking about when we refer to our PLN.

Well, I do, at least. Not too sure about some of you others out there. Here's what I personally think my PLN is:

  • infrequent or frequent use of social media tools of my own personal choice like my blog, Twitter, Reader, Slideshare (I could keep naming 'em) to read, view, communicate, write, talk, learn with other social media users on topics of my personal interest.
  • nodes on my personally constructed compiled network are people who are serendipitious discoveries, linked to in a variety of ways via comments, blogrolls, twitter lists as I trawl my way through my social media connections.
  • my PLN is a bunch of frequently travelled highways, deserted dirt tracks and narrow one-way alleys to other people's thoughts, opinions and ideas.
  • I have nodes that respond to me as much as I respond to them, some who don't know or even care that I exist, and those who I'm blissfully unaware of that read my dubious collection of posts, tweets, comments and random digital utterances.

A PLN is a notoriously hard beast to accurately describe and I know that my take is not a universal notion. I like a lot of the thinking that went into defining the differences between groups, communities and networks a while back - especially from people with deeper thought processes than mine. So, with that bit of digital history on my cerebral back burner, here's a few things that I think a PLN is not:

  • a one stop shop where all great educators come to drink from the common digital watering hole. Because not everyone on my PLN is an educator, not everyone reads and links to the same group of thinkers. Beware of Nings advertising themselves as such - they may be a Learning Network, but they are not, in my mind, Personal.
  • possible to assemble in one spot at one event in time, not even virtually. Diversity, controversy and civilised disagreement are the seeds for pushing boundaries of thinking. Some echoing in the chamber isn't a bad thing but you don't everyone singing together like a well honed choir.
  • not fixed. Sources can be dumped and replaced as I see fit. You can do the same with my posts, tweets etc. Flick 'em if they are just adding to the digital noise.

So, I'd love to read some challenging of people the next time they trot out the PLN acronym. Semantics is an important element of any popular turn of phrase used in varying forms of communication and my own personal will vary from many other points of view. By all means, challenge me and my admittedly flawed thinking. What exactly do others mean? And do they believe that their particular interpretation is the only one going?

And if any readers can come up with a more entertaining alternative explanation to the PLN acronym than the one I've used in my title, please let everyone know in the comments. After all, PLN could mean Pretty Limited Nonsense.

pln

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I'm thinking out loud here following a stream of consciousness triggered from Dean Groom's post today. His theme was trust and how it evolves in an online network - my brain started throwing how that related to my own experiences and so I left a starting point in a comment:

I find that trust builds up time on the web – it develops over a sustained period of reading someone’s work, reading and conversing via comments, seeing where their masked agendas and sacred cows lurk and following their links back to their origins. My most trusted sources are ones willing to hear out my point of view or wonderings without putting me in my box in a reactive way. After all, if I just want dispensed wisdom I can just listen to a pontificated podcast or read a published article from a trusted traditional media source. I want a conversation – and to get anything of value out of that, mutual trust is pretty important.

My learning team had a PD Seminar on Wednesday focussing on Personalised Learning (more commonly referred to as Differentiated Instruction in other parts of the world) where the most valuable learning for the day was when I was engaged in conversation with my colleagues. Our presenter /facilitator, Pam Burton, did a brilliant job of opening up pathways to consider, drawing us in with activities that required conversation, self examination and questioning.

That's what the web offers me and other connected educator - the opportunity for conversational learning. That conversation is the real catalyst for learning - the content gives us all a context and framework as I'm finding out in my Intel Thinking With Technology course that I'm currently running with six middle primary teachers at my school. The course is secondary to the opportunity to connect, toss ideas around in a more personal setting that I would find less useful even with a group of closer to ten people. So, why would I bother with presenting to larger groups at a conference? That's not a conversation - and it's difficult to know what others are getting out of it, even if I think I'm offering something worthwhile.

A disgruntled parent about twelve years once accused me of running a shotgun curriculum - stand at the front, spray it out and hope it hits someone. (To be fair to myself, his major gripe was more with his perceived shortcomings of the system I served. I was merely a typical cog in the machine.) Teacher PD is still much like that - expert delivers, we all take notes and somehow we take enough away to improve our own learning and that of our students. If you're an engaging speaker then this approach can work - to an extent. John Hattie was a recent example of this where his research was presented in such a way that two hours flew and his message was sticky enough to last into the conversations that resulted over the following days and weeks. But this is still a mother bird feeding its open mouthed chicks approach.

I know I've harped on this before but there is a disturbing irony when someone uses this approach to inform others about the benefits of networked learning. What else can we do? I don't think that I want to front up to another state conference to talk up the benefits of online learning. The other twist is that there is an unending source of conversation/s sitting in my Google Reader, in my Twitter stream, in my Ning communities with like minded educators who also need no convincing but at the local level, there is still still admiration for the self promoting experts who will show us all the way to classroom learning nirvana. Too many educators that I cross paths with have no idea of the freedom, the power, the connection they can make with a little effort and time. I can do some influencing in a situation like my Intel course time where there is room for the conversation to grow.

How do you grow the conversation? I'd like to know.

Photo of Flat Students created by Alex and Colin Harbeck.

Photo of Flat Students that were created by Alex and Colin Harbeck.

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I work three days a week in a primary classroom. So, theoretically, I am in a good position for putting edtech and Web 2.0 idealism into a realistic roadtest situation. I don't stand behind podiums at conferences berating and exhorting the masses to bring their classroom into the digital world. I don't have influential push (or pull) within my own system - and I'm not sure what I'd be suggesting even if I did. But I have invested an enormous amount of my life over the past four years into this networked learning thing. If anything, I have a lot of digital runs on the board. Heh, the Geoffrey Boycott ¹ of edublogging. That could be me.

So, I feel that my personal benefit has been enormous. I connect with a wide array of educators who feed me a daily diet of inspiration, insight and practical resources. I have become more aware of how education systems work in various parts of the world. I've had the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people that I've come across in my lifetime - some I've conversed with on Skype and in Elluminate and Adobe Connect or just the comments sections of blogs. My network connections have given me opportunity to present about my experiences at conferences and online events, and I've learned about connectivism, social media, gained a more balanced view about cybersafety issues and heard about Illich, Gatto and Postman for the first time.

I couldn't give up my Network now - it gives too much to me.

But I work in a role where I'm meant to be bringing the "good oil" to teachers, helping them to get their feet wet in technology use and showing them how the web can transform student learning. It is a role that sets me up as some sort of "expert" which can be a problem in a couple of ways.

Firstly, Darren Kuropatwa points out in his reference to neophytes that "Experts have a different aura about them. That aura of expertise is intimidating for neophytes." His basic premise is that any message that an educator with "expert" status might try to seed with his or her own colleagues will be perceived to be unattainable and beyond their reach. So all of my efforts to highlight how easy digital tools are and how empowering technology can be via workshops, team teaching and other training could actually be unproductive.

Dean Groom also talks about the burbclave effect - where teachers don't have to go and become innovative users of technology because if they have one connected educator on staff, they just have to wait until it is brought to them. It's the effect when staff say they can't use their IWB until they've had some training, where they wait for a list of good numeracy websites to be emailed to them (or given to them on a printed piece of A4) or wait until they are given release time for planning before they will even look at something like the ISTE Standards.

Ironically that while someone like me may well be viewed as somewhat of a local expert, the educators I connect to and learn from leave me feeling very neophytic indeed. When I measure myself globally, my local credentials shrink down to small proportions.

The building of your own social media network is such a personal journey that it is a very difficult beast to describe in such a way that non-web-savvy educators see the point. It's why I won't ever bother offering a Web 2.o / PLN / using social media to learn presentation or workshop ever again. I'll guarantee that no-one has ever been turned onto blogging based on anything I've ever said or wrote - its value is intrinsically linked to the individual's needs. If a teacher is not interested in exploring the internet on his or her own time, then they are never going to see where this could take them or how it could impact their classroom.

Which brings me to my next point. Many of us edubloggers assume that what we learn online is directly transferable into our classrooms. We also assume that if more educators did what we did (read, write, link, share, create) then we would end up with these amazing transformed classrooms. So, we spend time preaching the benefit of social media tools even though there is no one simple recipe, even though this networked learning thing is intensely personal and damn near impossible to replicate.

I keep wondering if the time spent to become proficient in the online world (note I wrote proficient, not expert!) is worth the investment in potentially transformed pedagogy in the classroom. I have spent many hours online, eschewing television and other possible hobbies, and I know that many, many of my colleagues are not prepared to invest the same amounts of time into this medium. I know that my investment is worthwhile - for me. But I struggle to see how social media can transform the primary school classroom. There are so many compromises that need to be made in the name of online safety and duty of care, barriers in terms of computer access and the pressure of the traditional curriculum that I can see why so many teachers wait to be told what to do in terms of technology use, rather than take the risks involved with being an innovator.

I think my next step is examine my own classroom practice to see what has changed in my approach since becoming connected back in 2005. I suspect that the process is so gradual that I may find it difficult to recall my former practice with any accuracy. And if I, the enthused educator playing with connected technologies in my spare time, can take so long to work out what can translate into today's classroom, what hope does a less enthusiastic teacher have of bridging the gap of digital possibilities?

Just thinking, that's all.

walk2web

¹. The metaphoric comparison may be lost on any non-Commonwealth non-cricket playing readers. Geoffrey Boycott's career was characterised by lengthy stints at the batting crease, accumulating runs at an extremely slow rate often to the frustration of both the opposition and his team mates. Certainly not as talented as others in his era, his dogged style meant that he hung around for a long time in a somewhat selfish manner.
2. The really cool visualisation of links out from my blog comes from walk2web.

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Transition - 1. Passage from one form, state, style, or place to another.

I struggled to find the right word to decribe what I'm trying to sort through in my mind at the moment. I wanted a word to describe the middle ground between say a traditional paper based, non-digital classroom and the always on, connected 1:1 environment I saw the other week in Melbourne. I first thought netherworld captured that essence initially but a quick check on the actual meaning quickly showed that word was inappropriate.  I thought digital purgatory had a nice ring to it, but using computers is not a form of atonement so I've settled for the less edgy transition.

My school and in particular, my own classroom runs a form of digital transition. I've coined this term as an inner mind response to discussions with my colleagues during and after our visit to see the 1:1 laptop program at St Albans Meadows Primary School. We share a bank of twenty laptops across four classrooms so as teachers, we have learned to be quite creative and flexible in our use of this limited resource. So, what is digital transition?

Digital transition - not a traditional place of learning but not quite the transformed connected classroom either. There are times when circumstances force the teacher and the class back into traditional mode  - when networks go down, when laptop access is scarce, when time is tight - to become a place where whole class instruction. worksheet driven activities and lock step units are then more commonplace. When the technology is available, things flow more easily and students can attend to tasks with full access to preferred tools as required.

Does anyone have a better phrase to encapsulate what I'm trying to describe here?

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We had a day trip to sunny (?!%) Melbourne today to attend a PD Workshop on the 1:1 laptop program following a f2f network connection made by my principal, Ann with the Coordinator Simon from St Albans Meadows Primary School at ULearn in October. Now I know there are successful 1:1 laptop programs all over the world but I had never really seen one in an Australian public school before. So after a delayed arrival into Tullamarine Airport and a quick taxi ride, my co-teaching buddies and I got to the school about ten minutes into the start of the presentation. Simon presented in his laid back but informative style, then we got to head into the classrooms to see the students using their laptops. There was a morning tea break and then he took us through the funding model and more importantly, the sort of work the students construct using their laptops. So, here are my notes from the session.

Interestingly, like our school, St Albans Meadows doesn't have a dedicated computing room - abandoned about four years ago. In a move to make most school technicians cringe in fear, Simon described their network as open without logons, passwords. Being transparent makes it easier to achieve learning goals as students are not spending time looking for the loopholes. The important thing is for students to have access to technology. He touched on the concept of 21st Century Learning and was somewhat bemused about this term considering we are just about finished with the first decade of that century. This opinion certainly rings true for me. He said that the school's perspective that it is about students engaging with the technology of this century. Right on cue, it was time to mention "Inquiry Based Learning" and he shared one of the Inquiry units titled "10 Ways To Save The Earth" where the students could show their learning in a number of ways including animations, raps and podcasts. The school also runs a program called Samoogle, based on the Google employees premise of 20% work time dedicated to employee's own learning. Students had been given this amount of time over half a term and had chosen to pursue a number of things - inventing a new sport, publishing a magazine, creating an animation, tutorial, clothing, rap/video clip, new game concept or a video storyboard.

Simon shared anecdotal teacher judgement data on student achievement, showing growth in stimulating learning, classroom behaviour and improved writing quality as judged against the VELS. Because the program has only been running in Year Five and Six, it hasn't been possible to ascertain any growth against the NAPLAN data (which is our Federal Minister's benchmark). The laptops have made an enormous difference to the struggling learners.

We then met another of the teachers, Travis. He talked about the concept of building a Learning Community (another topic dear to my heart) and how the laptop had impacted on their community. There was 100% uptake by parents, after surveying the parent community and flagging this program as the way forward. There has been increased opportunity to show work samples to inform parents and noticeably positive student attitude since the program's inception. The laptops don't go home every day - this is negotiated between the teacher and the student. It sounds obvious because it is true - a program like this starts with really good teachers to start with. The original concept was that the laptops would provide learning 24/7  but that has turned out that less is more. Laptops are not taken home during holidays and weekends as a general rule. This leads to the fantastic phrase:

Anywhere, anytime but not all the time.

Although the school has a number of IWBs installed across the school from a Victorian Education Department trial a few years back, they are not used for much more than projection screens. As Simon said, "Who needs interactivity on an IWB when the students have interactivity at their fingertips?" They use many Web 2.0 tools as well - VoiceThread, Wordle and a new one for me, Etherpad.

Simon talked next about the How? for their school. They worked to develope a culture that valued and recognised the importance of ICTs. There is an emphasis on thinking outside the square - circular desks in the classroom, power cords and power boards hanging from the ceiling. They have found that sharing is the best Professional Development. The average teacher doesn't have to be the keeper of all knowledge - they just have to know when to let the students have access to the right tools. The main message is focus on the curriculum and the pedagogy and let the kids drive the technology. He talked through their budgetary model which I won't outline here.

The teachers have also been provided with release for Inquiry planning of units. Each class has three major units and a smaller "Myself As A Learner" unit to start the year. This was provided via the Intel Teach program. We also saw examples of student ePortfolios using iWeb, which is hosted locally on each student's machine, and students can take their work off via a USB drive when they have to hand their laptop back to the school at the completion of primary school.

For more information on the St Albans Meadows program and 1:1 laptop learning in general, you can check out Simon's 1:1 Learning Ning.

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I went out to dinner with a group of "Edutwits" on Wednesday evening - an event organised by the amazing Kerry Johnson. Now, Kerry works for educationau but her influence spreads way beyond her official employment role. This dinner was a great example of that and connected up a dozen or so educators involved in a wide span of areas - project officers, instructional designers, consultants, teachers and general networkers. I enjoyed myself very much. Now the timing of this dinner capitalised on the edayz09 event, a conference focussed on elearning mainly in the VET sector. So, there were a few visitors from interstate and the exciting news was that Nancy White was the featured keynote speaker for the edayz event.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kerryank/4094393623/

I expressed my disappointment that it would have been great to hear her speak as Nancy is one of those fantastic online communicators and facilitators whose influence spreads far and wide. Her work in online communities is well renown and I've listened to a number of her talks online and been a regular reader of her blog. She's even remixed some of my work as you can see in her 10 Minute Lecture featured on Leigh Blackall's then blog back in 2007. She's an innovative thinker, an important node on my network and so, when Kerry suggested I come in this morning as her "guest" to hear Nancy speak, I jumped at the opportunity.

I also got to see how skillfully Kerry managed the Ustreaming, CoverItLive backchanneling process. The most technical I've ever gotten was to plunk an iRiver recorder at the front of a room at the start of the session so to see someone like Kerry run dual laptops, monitoring the conversation people were feeding in via chat and still keep track of the presentation, even with a five second vocal delay in her headset as she went. There are details about how she managed the process here.

Nancy is a very engaging speaker. And thanks to the marvels of social media, you don't have to put up with my half baked notes (which I started to try and type in on the Notepad on my phone) as I decided to lean forward (you can't really recline during a Nancy White presentation) and just enjoy absorbing the message. The presentation was Ustreamed and I was going to add the link here so you culd start listening in at around the 18 minute mark but Mike Seyfang has already done that piece of legwork and captured the essential audio here. Play while clicking through her slides and you have a pretty good time shifted re-experience.

This means I can spend so time reflecting on what her ideas sparked in my mind then and after I've had a bit of time to think things over. I do like the fact that Nancy talked about presented ponderings and incomplete gut feelings and that her ideas were conversation starters, not final assertions. Her opening poser "Is community 'dead'?" had me thinking as I think about teh work done at my school to foster a Professional Learning Community based on the work of Louise Stoll, and the concept of classroom as learning community (based on the work of Konrad Glogowski) that I have tried to foster with my student blogging program. Actually, can a classroom be a community? After all, the students don't get a lot of choice about how their peers are grouped and they get even less choice about who their leader (teacher) will be. Community is meant to be participants with a common purpose or interest - is learning too broad a brush stroke and a group of typical primary school students range across the spectrum in terms of how they view learning as a positive thing?

She also talked about how mobile technologies allow us to be together in some many other ways and that there are new emerging technologies that fall between or bridge the gap between the analogue and digital world - the Livescribe pen as one example. But it is a challenge to be able to show to others already using these technologies for purposes other than learning that they have huge potential as tools for learning. i think about my students' mindset around ipods in the classroom where they can't see past just listening to music and using it as a sort of concentration cocoon as its possible premier use in the classroom. My students view their mobile phones in much the same way - connections for social and entertainment purposes only. How can I change that?

Nancy talked through the various stages that one can learn - solo, pairs, triads, the flock and the network. I feel that many educators don't go past the solo and will go with the flock if compelled. Nancy is right about one thing - accessing and building a network has to be lived before one can possibly realise the potential and assist others on their way. I kept thinking about a recent conversation on a mailing list where an educator was defending Education Queensland's position that all social media tools used with students needed to be behind the safe walls of their portal The Learning Place - it was a bit like learning surf life saving in a backyard pool. Anyway, I digress.

I had never heard of the concept of triangulation before where the most innovative practice and real learning occurs at the edges, not at the top. It would certainly explain why the upper sections of a bureaucracy like the one I work for seem to be out of touch with what is happening in wider society and certainly with the pace and direction of technological change. Of course, the sweet spot of being able to be innovative and make a difference without running foul of leadership or having that success subverted into someone higher up the food chain's claim of success is one to think further on.

Anyway, I was glad I got to come and see Nancy for myself. I would have liked to have hung around and tried to meet her but I didn't want to overstay my welcome. Thanks again, Kerry!

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I was chatting with a colleague the other day about the most effective way to create a list of online Mathematics resources for our school. We were both thinking of delicious as we have a significant number of teachers with accounts. The idea was to use a group of teachers as the "curators" of these resources and tie them all together in some way. Initially, my colleague figured starting a new delicious account perhaps under the name lnpsmaths might be the best approach. But the problem was sharing the logon and password with the others participating in the initiative - and delicious works best when you are constantly logged on, see the resource in the course of the working day, then hit TAG without too much thought required.

So, using the power of tagging, we decided the best and easiest option is to use a unique tag to tie all of the saved resources together regardless of who was doing the tagging and saving. This way, even the teachers who are not using delicious (even though we are getting closer to total staff participation) can just have a shortcut to http://delicious.com/tag/lnpsmaths on their EdPort homepage to benefit from the Mathematics focus group's hard work.The only glitch we've discovered is that the same site can be saved by multiple users and it will show up each time as a separate entry on the list. Our stopgap solution is say the first person to find the site uses the unique tag, and others can save but avoid the lnpsmaths tag.

Now none of this is ground breaking or unique, but it showcases the simplicity of the way delicious works (I think it is quite a bit simpler than diigo and most staff are not power users of social bookmarking at this stage) in a very powerful way. Now, we have a hotlist of sites that is constantly growing, anyone can contribute and it gives using digital resources in the teaching of Mathematics a real vitamin hit.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/double-h90/3014614501/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/double-h90/3014614501/

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Two weeks ago, we packed up our computer room in preparation for the impending demolition of our current library (Resource Centre) in the lead up to the building of our BER funded new "21st Century Library". The thirty odd desktops of varying vintages were distributed throughout the classrooms or retired to the "obsolete" pile. Our focus has been on the development of wireless capable buildings to support our laptop program which has a trolley of laptops in both the upper and middle primary blocks. Add a small fleet of ten netbooks used by the Year Three classrooms to the pool and it felt quite strange to be putting old style desktops complete with CRT monitors back into classrooms where kids have become used to using the laptops on their desks as part of the regular classroom program.

As I unplugged, trundled and then re-assembled the desktops in their new homes (ably helped by an enthusiastic Year Fvie class), a few interesting things became apparent. Firstly when the classrooms were first wired with data points, it was obvious that no-one envisaged that computers would be anywhere but at the back of a classroom. The number of data points is also interesting to note where the educators responsible for planning and trying to predict future needs could not foresee a need for more than four data points in a junior primary classroom or six in an Year 3 - 7 room!

Now, my point is here not to criticise my predecessors for getting things wrong but to make the point that what we actually need in classrooms in the very near future is a very fast moving and elusive target. In the goal of future proofing a school's technology needs, the constraints of budget and what is actually available at the time provide real barriers to what is possible. For example, currently we have wireless network points running on the "g" standard meaning that all of our laptops can log on, authenticate and access the network with ease. We could upgrade to "n" standard wireless at a much better data transfer speed if we wanted but as our technician pointed out, straightaway we would have to purchase "n" wireless access points at a much greater cost than the current generation ones we have and one fleet of laptops purchased in late 2007 would not be able to connect as "g" is their maximum connection, making them redundant on our network. Also attaching more laptops to the network means that we need to have the infrastructure to support this expansion.  But if we hold off for six to twelve months, prices drop dramatically as a relatively new technology becomes commonplace and more readily supported. And with budgets always tight for a humble public school, these sort of trade offs mean that sometimes we will take a wrong turn or be surprised when technology opens up new opportunities.

So, we are now in a transition period where we try and imagine what the new learning space will be like and try to eliminate the "this is how a normal library looks" type of thinking that could be very redundant and date very quickly. Things will be testy for a while as classes go cold turkey from their regularly scheduled computing room time (which was a useful time for classes to work on individual tasks) and work on ways to use these newly created pods of older computers within their classroom. I know that I will find the regular access to our old computing room to be problematic as the trolley of twenty laptops only go so far between four classes. Time for teachers to get creative - yet again.

Meet Gray Jyraffe.

gyraffe

He's a Noob in Second Life. He's been hanging around Jokaydia, ISTE Island and freebie shops scavenging around trying to work out how to teleport, fly and strike up conversations with impressively physiqued and impeccably attired avatars. Gray has even been to a few events now, settling into custom bean bags and listening intently to talented educators detailing their innovation (both virtual and real world exploits). He even went to his first Jokaydia Unconference on the weekend - not as much as he was hoping, as his real world alter ego had issues that interfered (families, sleep) with a fuller participation schedule. But he did get to meet (virtually) one of his blogging heroes, Konrad March (aka Konrad Glogowski).

session unconf
He has a lot in common with his alter-ego - me. Like Gray, I'm an ordinary person who is constantly in awe of the talent that is so easy to connect with online. What Jo Kay has created in Second Life is totally amazing - and a massive leap of faith in the potential of this online education haven. Build it and they will come, indeed. I'm not quite sure yet what this space has to offer me and its relationship to my current work - but as I (whoops, sorry), Gray noted last night at the beach side after event celebration, sometimes the deepest learning occurs in the space where I am doing something new and challenging, but feeling out of my depth.

unconf final

The talent I can connect to via these avenues - my Reader, twitter and now Second Life - is unbelievable. Sometimes, I think that my main talent is recognising others' talent and being able to stream and subvert their innovation for my own purposes.

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The way I plan for my teaching has changed a lot over the past few years. This really was obvious today as my wife, Joanne, planned for her two days of teaching this week in the manner that I did not so long ago - writing out lesson plans by hand, cross referencing her resource books and creating some resources by jumping on the family desktop and printing it off ready for the photocopier. To be fair, she is just returning to teaching this year after five or so years out of the classroom (and we all know that the world has changed just a tad in that time) and she is teaching five-year-olds while I'm at the other end of the primary school spectrum. So, I thought I'd take ten minutes now and detail how planning digitally grants me flexibility and opportunity that was not possible in the past.

Firstly, I have the luxury of a school laptop. This means I can operate wirelessly wherever I feel comfortable around the house. I construct my program on a private wiki shared with my tandem partner and co-planning buddy - this enables transparency, collaboration, pooled resources and consistency in what we deliver in the classroom. We share documents, URL's and flipcharts via this wiki. I have all of my key documents on my hard drive and backed up on my 8GB thumbdrive. So, if I want to check if I have the laptops booked for my Literacy session on Monday, I can pull that document up in seconds. Likewise, if I want to see if there is a spare slot to take my class to the Resource Centre, I can also have that for checking in an instant.

Our Inquiry Scope and Sequence document is readily available, as are my PDF versions of SACSA, our mandated curriculum. So today, I quickly checked what the next inquiry unit was, briefly read the relevant outcomes from the SACSA Lite PDF and did a quick search on YouTube to see if I could find anything that suited the theme of human effects on the planet which is the broad concept behind the title of "Whose Fault Is It?" The YouTube search found a clip from a CNN documentary titled "Planet In Peril" which gave me a new lead to follow.

I found the website, and the Google Video version, which I know won't cope with our school filter and internet speed at school, so in the spirit of educational purpose, I started Vuze on the main desktop and started to download a torrent of the documentary so I could show excerpts tomorrow on the interactive whiteboard. This doco would be an ideal resource for "frontloading" students with ideas, base knowledge and questions for their own independent research later in the term. I also mentally noted the RSS feeds on the original website and fired off an e-mail to my colleagues about this find and then saved it to my delicious account.

I've been reading Dan Meyer's blog - in particular his refit of a Darren Kuropatwa mathematics lesson - and with this in mind started planning one of my own on the concept of measurement in metres. Another concept that needs to be covered is scale drawing, so I used Google Maps to get a decent screengrab of the school for a introductory lesson based on the BER intiative. I dumped this into a flipchart for the IWB and into a worksheet that could be given out to the students. With this image safely stowed, I posed the problem that will logically require some conceptual measurement skills and then headed over to the DECS website to download plans for new libraries and classroom blocks which I'm hoping someone tomorrow is going to point out as a requirement to successfully meet the assigned challenge.

With all of these plans detailed on the wiki and saved, I decided to write this post. Time now for some tortilla wraps for the family evening meal, then back after tea to insert some links here and then to assess last term's final inquiry assessment tasks which are sitting waiting for me on my students' blogs. If I don't get distracted doing other things, that is.