Monthly Archives: November 2005

Clarence Fisher posted a few days back about the concept of Centres of Innovation and lamented the demise of this concept in the Canadian education system.

At the national level, the Canadian government does almost nothing to support innovation in education and my provincial government (who is responsible for education) designs resources for schools to use, but does not monitor their use or support and promote centres that are using their tools in innovative ways. At bestin Canada, we have lab schools that are hooked to schools of education and are centres of new ideas, but their overall "effect" on education is regional at best.
We need to find ways to do better.....

This got me thinking about parallels in my own education system here in South Australia. We are a small state population wise and one initiative created in the mid 90's was the Technology School Of the Future - a place where computing initiatives were trialled, a lot of crystal ball gazing was involved and high tech education solutions were funded regardless of the barriers of practical implementation in mainstream classrooms. I remember going on a staff training session there when TSOF (the popular acronym) was out at The Levels and thinking that it was a real ivory tower. Everything they showed us was too expensive, too complex and required too much technical knowhow even for our newly appointed ICT Coordinator.

Eventually as schools became networked and the department made educational technology a focus, TSOF gained relevancy and a new address at Hindmarsh. When I-Movie first came out, TSOF had rooms full of Macs where you could spend the day editing footage with your students. Even up to a couple of years ago, if it was new to education, TSOF had it and the expertise to teach it to you. In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II got the royal tour of this cutting edge facility. I remember being involved in a Quality Teacher Program there, taking my class there for a day to use Audacity to add soundtracks to our Milestones In My Life projects and attending or presenting at the annual Exciting Learning Expo.

But the edge has gone from the place. Courses and professional development are now excessively expensive for the average teacher, it costs you a fee to book a room and the number and quality of presentations at the Expo has dropped. I've even heard of it being referred to by a colleague as "The School Of the Past". Ouch!

Obviously, TSOF is suffering from budgetary cutbacks and is being expected to "pay its own way ". But being a DECS site, why shouldn't it subsidise teachers to attend their courses? So Clarence's issue is an international one - even in the so called lucky country.

My boss forwarded the above mentioned policy for me to read through and evaluate a while back. It outlines the South Australian education system's proposed view forward in the world of educational technology until 2008. The draft policy is open for feedback until November 3O so my goal here is to create my own blog review which I may or may not send in to DECS Head Office.

The cover letter puts the proposed policy in context by reviewing The National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century, published in 1999 which stated:

All students will leave school as confident, creative and productive users of new technologies, including ICT [information and communication technologies] and understand the impact of those technologies on society.

Now whether that goal reflects current reality in South Aussie classrooms is open for debate. A lot of initiatives have come and gone in that 1999 - 2005 timeframe, and what was important for kids then has certainly evolved to today where Read/Write technology, social software and open source solutions are just nibbling at the edges of mainstream. Educational change cannot occur without teachers to provide the momentum - but let's face the facts, if you're reading educational blogs (let alone posting to your own), you are in the group of educators commonly referred to as "early adopters." Anyway, let's see what it says.


This sets the scene. Mention is made of students growing up is a digital world and there is a line drawn defining the technology (ICT) and what learners do with that technology (e-learning). This should help clarify the differing terms bandied around in schools over the last few years. IT sounded like a business term and Learnirg Technologies was too vague. (My friend, Lindsay would point out that a photocopier was a Learning Technology!) There is also reference to international research that backs up the use of ICT but surely there is Australian research that is more relevant. Why not reference the action research work done by our own teachers in the PLICT program? But I definitely agree with the final sentence in the section:

All educators have a responsibility to engage in e-learning to improve learning outcomes for today's children and tomorrow's global citizens.

In my view, there are still too many teachers who see ICT as an optional extra in the classroom, who think the teacher-librarian is the sole provider of information literacy skills. They have to accept the responsibility or re-evaluate their commitment to education.


I'll review these two statements together because they represent the ideals not the implementation. The vision rightly focuses on the pedagogy and is open enough to include opportunities still to appear or be developed. Both statements acknowledge the need to participate in learning beyond our own Australian borders. How much interaction with the outside world that translates to in the classroom will be interesting to see.


This is an interesting section where the varying factors - educators, leaders, parents, content and environment - are all lined up with their critical dot points. Now I fall clearly into the first section so it's interesting that five out of the six dot points can be demonstrated via blogging. I think I would like to see the fourth point:-

· encourage participation and identity in online communities amended to

· encourage and model through active participation and development of own identity in online communities

It's a bit unrealistic for us to expect that students will develop participation and community identity through encouragement alone. Through our own experiences, we will be more effective guides - it's a bit like having a sports coach who's never played the sport he or she is now responsible for. It's interesting that one of the dot points for leaders is :

· participate in online communities

Why wouldn't that be a requirement for all educators from the Chief Executive down?

Most of the points are in recognition of the challenges in the immediate and longer term future. Recognition of keeping students safe online is a very important and topical issue at present and it would be very helpful to acknowledge the need for the teaching of skills and strategies to address this, rather than focussing solely on filters and firewalls.

The e-learning environment has an interesting reference to appropriate bandwidth which is separate from another point which talks about:-

· online connection anywhere and at any time

-: I'm not too sure why these two points have to mutually exclusive, and if the latter point is a vague way of addressing students who only have online access at school. There is definitely a digital divide amongst students in our schools and the more there are expectations of student learning shifting to an e-learning environment, the more disadvantaged the students on the wrong side of the divide. Any policy has to do more than just hint at this issue.

Now I'm not in the position of deciding where DECS funds should be spent but I'd hate to see expensive LMS solutions, restrictive software agreements and excessive investment in large scale Learning Objects taking preference to finding real solutions to address teacher expertise in e-learning and ensuring strategies are in place to give all learners equal bite of the e-learning access cherry. Get that right and this policy should guide DECS in the right direction.

Following from D'Arcy Norman's posts on What Pre-1985 Video Character Am I? and Bruce Effing Boxleitner? where he finds out what fictional character he would be in these worlds, comes a new (well, new to me) alternative where one can create a cartoon character based on yourself. Some students in my class showed me this site South Park Studio where they were creating likenesses of themselves and their friends for the Yearbook CD-ROM. Now, I've been a bit precious towards D'Arcy on his blog following his post on Microsoft Live - Designed by Fisher Price so I hope this shows I can be a little bit politically incorrect (in a nerdy sort of way). Compare this image to the one on About Graham Wegner and see if you can spot any differences. 

 SP Graham

Well, the school's Governing Council has given the go-ahead for the purchase of and installation of six more ActivBoards in our classrooms to go with the six that were installed in August. I presented the plans to my colleagues a few weks back and stated that we (the ICT committee and leadership) were after expressions of interest for the next rollout and that attendance at a Professional Development session would be the way to go. So, that ball is in my court but I have extremely busy and found it hard to put together the sort of information session I might have liked to - sort of a mini-keynote that explained the basics and let people know what they were in for. I started a Powerpointesque flipchart presentation to cover what I thought all the essentials might be - hooking things up, using the tools, planning the first lessons but then I thought, "How will I know that all of this is hitting the mark?"
Then it was obvious, turn the direction over to the stakeholders! I thought back to my presentation to the School Council where I just showed the council members "stuff they wanted to know" and the overwhelmingly positive feedback I got back as a result. Now I'd hope that teachers would be a bit more critical than parents and not be as swayed by the wow factor but why not let drive my session. That's not me copping out as I still have to demonstrate, answer the questions, make notes for future reference but this way, the group are guaranteed to walk away satisfied that they got something personally worthwhile out of the hour. So I've designed a quick and simple Word document (could have easily been done in Open Office as well) that can be downloaded here to view.

It gives them space to identify 5 things they want to know (How do you save a flipchart? How do you add backgrounds? How do you create counters for a game?) and then I use the IWB to log their answers in a mind map, drag them into broadish categories and go from there. I then demonstrate the board's possibilities all while sorting the participants' needs. I think I'm on the right track - I'll post tomorrow night on the outcome.

Along with the generous bloggers who have stopped by and added comments to my blog, I'd like to acknowledge James Farmer and his whole edublogs community vision. Currently, he is highlighting my blog as one of three feature edublogs which is probably the reason traffic has increased over the last week. Also, this led to a short post on the influential Stephen Downes blog - this link shows how quickly communication between educators can be established. Communication can't happen if no-one is reading what you write and although I run this blog for my own purposes, the recognition is nice. (Even for a blog that is less than four months old!) So, thank you, James. Keep up the good work and I'll keep pointing my colleagues towards edublogs.

Back in 2003, I was part of a PLICT research grant that looked at the relevancy of South Australian School websites to their students. I've always been keen on learning about website design right from using Netscape Composer back in '97 to the various incarnations of FrontPage to the 30 hour DreamWeaver 2004 course I did last year at Thebarton Senior College. I even got our current version of the school website up and running during the April school holidays this year. But there's always been something missing from the very read-only world of most school websites here in South Australia.
At first, I theorised that it was student perspective that was the missing ingredient. That was the basis of the Research Grant where my friend and colleague, Lindsay and I endeavoured to use each others' classes to generate content to fulfil the intentions of the grant application. Well, we weren't the only ones but the research component took a back seat to the project component. So, our final report back to the other Research groups tended to outline timelines, show completed webpages and describe process. And finally, someone asked the question to which we had no answer, "How will you keep your web pages up to date?"
Well, those webpages still need to be updated after two years but now the technology exists to answer that question. A blog powered school website is that answer. I still need to do more research but what Tim Lauer's school Lewis Elementary in Portland, USA does on there on their website is absolutely spot on. Nothing is static, its blog based interface is constantly updated, it has Flickr feeds providing the images, everything is archived for reference. The step that needs to be taken by the vast majority of South Australian schools is a change from the one way, static information site where information dates very easily and one person is resonsible for puttng all together to the read/write variety where all school members can be contributors right from the principal down to the begining reception students. Now that would make it a school website worth checking regularly, and with an rss feed, techno savvy parents can have all of the school's latest stuff "pushed" to them. And those student websites created in late '03 could finally take on some life and meaning.

Caught the second half of this segment on Channel Nine's Today show on blogging. I found the link to a video re-run of it posted here. I don't know if it will be up after the next show at 6 am Australian EST. So that's in about 8 hours - check it out to see an Aussie media perspective. I'll update this post with a new link if it shifts or give up if it disappears.

Beware: may not play behind a school internet firewall - the video played fine at home on our broadband connection. Also, as it uses Windows Media Player 10, you might need to view it in Explorer, as it won't display in my favourite, Firefox.

I just love the way that blogs can throw up responses to issues that are currently percolating around in my brain. Answers are not always provided but there's always a new angle of perspective, fresh directions to pursue and new learning guaranteed. So, over the last few days I've been grinding my teeth over the issue of appropriate student internet use at my school. Certain kids in my class have been spending time downloading images of dubious educational value - nothing inappropriate, wrestling pics, soccer and AFL players, the band Kiss , Ferraris.
So the Big Brother in me formulates a few responses, (1) put offending URLs and key words on the net filter (2) limit the MB limit of the offenders or (3) start planning to improve Internet usage here though a planned Information Literacy program. The first two are certainly knee jerk reactions but the second isn't solely my responsibility - surely my teaching colleagues are covering this in their classrooms? But little signs tell me that the message about using the internet effectively as a tool isn't reaching the target audience. There are Year Threes spending thirty minutes and countless MB searching for a vague topic using Google without any success (it's all in their internet usage history log in Educonnect), there are Year Sixes and Year Sevens quoting Google in their bibliography (I hope they write Library if they use any books!) and some middle school boys with up to 200 go kart images in their network folder (it's for a project!) And let's not forget the kids who think research is cut'n'paste a slab of information from the first website that looks vaguely relevant into a Word document. So is this my failure? How do I redress this problem? I feel confident with my skills when online, but do other teachers? Because if they don't and therefore they are maybe unable to identify inappropriate or even just plain inefficient use of this vital resource.
So, as I said earlier, all of this stuff is circling in my cranium when I check my mail and see a comment for this blog awaiting moderation. It's a genuine one, caught by the WordPress filter because it has more than one URL in it, from Rachel of Bard Wired who posted a link to a Jerry King cartoon for me to enjoy. And then she mentions that she responded to a comment that I had posted to her site on the post Working the Web with Kids. I quickly click to have a look. What she has to say is immediately relevant to my current mindset:

Hi Graham - yp i know what you mean - i came in at the tail end to help these kids with the technical details & uploading of their sites. This is what their teacher had to say:

I got the kids to copy and paste from websites, then print it out and each group had their own folder. I had previously talked about plagarism and why it was important to not just copy and paste. The kids then just highlighted the bits that answered their questions and then set about putting it into their own words. I think discussion might be the key and as it was a small group there was plenty of chances to discuss with them and get them to justify their thoughts. It was really instilled in them though because one boy was copying and pasting to his website and the other kids 'told on him!!!!!! So nothing new, just a talented bunch of kids!!!"
I have done some workshops with teachers "Developing Critical NetStudents" We look at issues such as copyright, plagiarism, evaluating websites, developing questioning skills, netsafety & effective searching strategies. My key message really is if you want to develop Critical Students you need to be a Critical Teacher.
I really like the advice of Blanchy who tells us that to get around plagiarism teach children how to quote directly (in moderation) and then make comments on their quotes - it gets around the 'rewording' of other peoples ideas - & i have seen my son do it using the thesaurus - it is still cut&paste...

Thanks a heap, Rachel. This one quote "My key message really is if you want to develop Critical Students you need to be a Critical Teacher." means that I have to invest more time in developing the critical literacy skills of my fellow staff members. We had about twelve staff complete a Teaching and Learning With The Internet (LTI) course last year. I want to make information literacy a focus with students next year in my revised role. And my own class must become the role models with me leading by example. I can sense a bit of holiday professional reading, designing of unit plans to re-introduce the concepts of key word searching, copyright, fair use, etc. to our students so that they will want to use the internet for the higher purpose of learning instead merely as an outlet for entertainment. Any chance of sending me any notes to do with your workshops, Rachel? After all, we are Antipodean educational neighbours!

The first six ActivBoards are humming along as well as can be expected with our pioneering bunch from ActivBoarding. Although I still moan regularly about the fact that 95% of the posts there come from me, I have got my boss to check out educational blogging and she even contributed a post. I think I have a solution to try and get them on the blogging train and encourage other staff members to give it a go. In my role here, I offer Training and Development sessions for staff that counts towards their T&D hours for the year. (Here in South Australia, we need to complete 37 and a half verified hours of T&D every year - then the Government gives us the final week of the year off before Christmas, bringing us into line with the rest of Australia. Adelaide is sometimes referred to as the "sleepy hollow" of the country.) I've shown teachers how to design webpages, how to operate a thumbdrive or use a scanner (don't laugh) or even how to use attachments in e-mail. So, maybe the go is to run a course on Blogs 101, get them reading blogs via a preset Bloglines account (original idea, Steve Dembo), set up their own account (Blogger is good, but hey, you can't go past edublogs, I say!) and show them the basics of posting, comments etc. Then give them an hour every week on a Tuesday afternoon where they can come in, read their feeds, post to their blog, play with some of the other tools - Technorati,, Furl, plus others that will have evolved by then and they accumulate hours of official T&D towards the required 37 and a half. I would have no idea how much time I've committed to developing my blogging skills and knowledge - it would be a lot by my own choice. But the big argument thrown in my face is that there isn't enough time to do this. Well, if I provide the time to get my colleagues started, there goes that excuse.
Well, I've strayed completely from my original intent for this post but it was to mention that the school is doubling its IWB quota and I am holding a workshop for interested staff next week to groom the next prospective IWB users. I've been developing a flipchart presentation (similar to Powerpoint, but with interactive components) that I might post a link to here when it is ready. It covers the starting points as I've already covered the pedagogical reasons at staff meeting a fortnight back. There are some very keen teachers, some who think they might be interested, a few from another private school dropping by to check it out and one very brave teacher who is not technologically confident at all who wants to come to find out what it all involves, even if in her words, she would be "daunted by it all." So, what you want to know before you had one of these exciting tools installed in your classroom? I hope I hit the right notes with this.
Current staff member using ActivBoard

One of the great aspects of blogs is that your content is published to a potential worldwide audience. However when you start off in a purposeful blog, you realise that it could take a while before anyone else seeks to interact with you. Now that's not a bad thing because if you start off blogging for yourself, the topics will be genuine and help you to find your voice. As time goes on, the interactivity and the connections to other people become important to connect your work to what you read about in your Bloglines feeds. Now my blog doesn't attract a lot of comments so I can tell you that all that do are treated like gold. First, it's proof that someone is reading my work and secondly, maybe my blog has contributed to their learning and then their comments definitely contribute to mine!

So a recent post of mine, Finding Time To Blog, prompted Canadian educator James Matthew to leave a comment and to "rip and remix" my post in his own blog Palimpsest redux.

I just stumbled onto a post by Graham over at Teaching Generation Z that suggests this problem of getting peers to buy into the importance of teaching (or even implementing in their own practice) the use of social software:

Now I can't afford to be snobby to anyone so I commented on his remix.

James, thank you for the comments re: Finding Time To Blog. I have to say I don't feel like a veteran teacher especially here down under where the average age of a teacher in South Australia is 50 years old. I have been involved in ICT technologies for most of my teaching career and have always looked for the bleeding edge even if I've never quite been there ......

And here's where comments can become a conversation because Matthew then replied to my comment. With this new way of weaving learning strands together I have a few choices - (i) leave another comment that answers some of the questions and issues he raises or (ii) do a remix of my own to show how the pieces can fit together. Here's a key point from Matthew's reply comment:

I think the biggest effect blogging has had on me is that it fuels my appetite for learning…I read a lot more now, because I want to have something to say. If this is the only benefit I ever see, then that is great, but I see the potential for so much more.

I couldn't agree more. I still haven't moved past blogging for personal learning but I definitely want it to be part of my classroom practice in 2006. There are only six weeks left in the Aussie school year so my focus is to keep improving my craft here and try to drag a few of my teaching colleagues along for the ride. So, Matthew, if you're reading this, watch this blog for developments. Anyone else, join the conversation and point me towards more learning opportunities.