Monthly Archives: March 2006

Inspiration is another great tool that works really well on an IWB. Today, whilst defining a research topic with the class, I used the program to map out the choices our class had made late last week. The main themes are in green with sub-topics in the light blue bubbles.

Once the class had voted, the theme of future of humans was selected and then defined further. Here is one of the subtopics with the best questions (as defined by the students) about the future of education. Mr. Robot will be replacing me next term.

I flagged over at our team blog, Activboarding, that our group of IWB teachers would be meeting to review our progress at implementing our ActivBoards and it would be Time For The Hard Questions. So to put myself under the same microscope as my colleagues, I am posting my responses to these questions:

1. Why do you feel that IWB's are an important step towards our school's vision of "up-to-date-technology"?

Certainly, I believe that Junior Primary classes have really found the IWB to be easy to integrate - as part of activity time, using the interactive activities online keyed into their curriculum, explicit teaching of specific skills. Certainly, the opportunity exists to use IWB's to model information literacy skills that would support our Problem Based Learning program. In an ideal world unrestrained by budgets, there would be adequate access to computers/laptops after this explicit teaching. Currently, it is an ideal way to prepare a class before going off to the Computing Room to work on a specific project. IWB's are important because it brings the reluctant or less confident teacher along quicker towards realising the value and potential of ICTs, and translates into better learning opportunities for their students. An IWB also is a great just-in-time learning tool for whole class exploration - access to online content that everyone can view clearly is only a click or two away. Access to maps, interactive diagrams, photos where a teacher can add extra learning via annotation is something that cannot be done well without this tool and certainly difficult to implement in a Computing Room unless you have a software tool like LANschool.

2. What's the best lesson or activity that you've managed using your IWB?

Unfortunately, it hasn't been a full on, whizbang multimedia experience that has been my best, because my ideas for potential use of a IWB are yet to be realised. My best has been in a Maths lesson, an area of the curriculum I am less confident and consequently, deliver more traditionally than what I'd like. I recall a lesson on long multiplication where using students, we modelled the correct method, the preferred way of setting out and then checked the result modelling the correct use of the virtual calculator. Several boys who had been reluctant learners really switched on during this lesson and worked hard to show neat and correct working out in their books - just for the opportunity to scribe on the IWB and use the virtual tools. And the work was saved on file for a couple of absent students.

3. What have been the most significant hurdles towards getting the IWB integrated in your teaching & learning program?

Time has been a big factor in my progress. Being part time in the classroom and sharing a laptop gives me less time to "play around" with the software and consequently less opportunity to design more in-depth lessons. More and more, I find myself wanting to give the class opportunities to develop ideas along the lines of student initiated curriculum and use new tools that aren't necessarily best viewed in a whole class scenario. It is sometimes hard to know whether to start a flipchart from scratch, look in the library or go online to find the resources I need for the next lesson or unit of work.

4. Where do you see the IWB making the most significant, transformative differences in your future practice?

I think they would have the biggest impact if the class had significantly more access to computers than currently possible so that my teaching could be applied to tasks more readily. With so many Web 2.0 tools around and more to come, it would be a great place to review and plan ahead for my class in its web presence, either through their own website, tracking information sources of importance and participating in online communities.

5. How ready are you for a mentoring role with the next wave of IWB users?

I'm ready - I have to be as it's part of my job. I've tried to keep marginally ahead of our pioneers but because they were given their opportunity with the IWBs because of their ability to work most things out by themselves , I've only really been called upon for technical issues. I've tried to foster reflection and sharing via the Activboarding blog which although under utilised by this group, still has potential. So, in understanding how the whole thing works technically and in operating the tools, I’m a good source of support but I have a long way to go to be where I’d want to be as an innovative user of this technology.

So I've answered these probing questions. Do any other IWB bloggers want to help me out and let me know what their responses to these questions would be? Jo? Graham @ EFL? John? Jeff? Anyone?

This is Part 2 of my notes/thoughts/reflections on Marc Prensky's 296 slide presentation. (He seemed to be quite proud of that figure!) Since I posted Part 1 last night, Bill Kerr has posted his observations and elaborated more on comments he made to me over the lunch break (while I was in the food queue and as his own plate of food went cold!)

Prensky views games as the ENGAGING educational system while games are portrayed in the press as negative. For kids, learning is the big reason they play (the secret!) He listed a whole bunch of games that had educational opportunity including Civilisation, Simcity, Tycoon, The Typing Of The Dead. There were games for physics, immunology, persuasion and one called the ESP game which tags Google images. This had threefold benefits in his view - it teaches, it's fun and does good for the world.
He also mentioned that teachers didn't have to get into games straightaway in the classroom - it is enough to just start talking about games and designing questions to start conversation with the class. Use the principles of game design / instruction including (1) users' engagement (2) frequent important decisions (3) "level up" towards clear, important goals (4) adapt to each player individually (5) work by iteration and playing, not theory & (6) emphasise gameplay, not visuals (eye candy). It was all about creating mutual respect. His quote - "We are all learners. We are all teachers."
In the next part of his keynote, he steered away from the theme of games only and focussed on teachers and technology in general. Sharing our successes - many teachers are doing great things. Who else knows? Can I find it online? If all teachers started storing online then we all could capure, access and reuse work of others. Google is the most powerful tech tool of all. Teachers need an easy way to publish to the web (blogs, wikis etc.) For Google employees, 25% of their time at work can be used for whatever they want. (My thought - imagine what could be done if our education sysem did that for educators. It would blow the "I don't have time for that" argument out of the water.) So in summary, Prensky says (a) adopt new attitudes and behaviours, (b) share successes, (c) use emerging tools, (d) allow students to create new tools, (e) ask the hard question - "Would my students be here if they didn't have to be?" Most of the people who criticise games don't play them. In short, don't ban - explore the limits.
That was the end of his keynote, people applauded and then he opened the floor to a few questions before lunch. One participant talked about a new (!) application that he'd just discovered, Google Earth and wanted to know if there were any games based on this application. I immediately thought of Vonnie at SouthOz E-learning and her bookmarked links to mashups, several which had combined Google Earth in a number of ways. Prensky reminded the group that what had wow factor for immigrants might not have quite the same impact on the natives - what he did suggest was the posing of an aid mission perhaps where you had to plan a rescue mission to a remote village in Indonesia or South America. The other challenge that Marc set for educators was to ask after a lesson, or a unit of work, to be brave enough to ask your students, "What sucked?"

The afternoon consisted of Marc Pensky moderating a panel that had a range of people representing the wide variety of interests involved in the seminar. There was even a token student from one of Adelaide's most elite schools - hardly representative of what typical Australian student perspective would be. I think that Bill describes the afternoon session better because I didn't find it as much of a "light bulb" experience. However, it was great to meet and talk with educators from all aspects of Aussie education from a teacher trainer from Tasmania to a elite private school ICT teacher from inner city Sydney to TAFE lecturers to providers of alternative prgrams for disaffected and disadvantaged youth.

Well, it was my intention to try and blog this day as it went but in an ironical twist, the MC who was introducing both Gerry White and Marc Prensky, told all of the assembled crowd to turn off their mobile phones, PDA's and laptops. I couldn't believe it but I didn't want my Pocket PC confiscated. In fact, I'm not sure that it was even serious - but to avoid any hassles (real or otherwise) I switched to pen and paper.
So, there I was amongst the widest variety of educators that I've seen in a long while. People flew in from places like Sydney and Burnie, Tasmania. Anyway, the introduction to Marc Prensky was handled by the CEO of educationau, Gerry White who touched on a few issues of importance. He talked about the importance of Web 2.O and how this was a return to the original concept of the web. He led us through all of the responsibilities of educationau - Edna Online,, and my favourite (!?) the Learning Federation. Actually had someone from TLF on my table and had to bite my tongue when she asked if I knew what learning objects were. Anyway, Gerry was only the entree to the main event and at around 10.30 am, Prensky strode to the podium, and cordially invited us to turn back on our mobiles, laptops and PDA's.
Rather than repeat all that he said, I'm just going to record my notes here and reflect where my memory serves me well. As I recorded in an earlier post, plenty of educators with more cred than me have blogged his message before so my notes reflect what hit me at the time. Hopefully, we'll get Bill and Al's version of events as well in good time. Great to catch you guys at the breaks.
One of his first slides was "What's next?" then "4 Things I Hope Are Coming Next. (because we really need them)." 1. dealing with change 2. productive engagement 3. getting mutual respect 4. sharing our successes.
I loved this quote - "E-mail is for old people."
He pointed out that if IT power doubles every year, by 2036, technology will be over a billion times more powerful than today. Needs to be a shift from pre-21st Century approach of solving problems with tools we have > o inventing new tools to solve problems. Changes in literacy - the new literacy for the 21st C is programming. We live in a world of constnat change and education isn't reflecting that rate of change.
His key stat - 50% of the world is under 25, our customers are the "digital natives" where neurobiology is telling us that technology is changing the way that the "natives" think - (a) moving faster (b) randm access (c) multitasking (d) graphics first before text (e) connected (f) rich e-life (g) pull, not push (they have to want to do it). We (educators over 25) are the "digital immigrants". Motivation + passion = engagement and that feels like play, not work. Engagement is more important than the content (or the technology).
Marc talked about the concept of "Engage Me or Enrage Me" and how we as teachers have to get to know our students as Individuals and show empathy to remain relevant. He saw it as important that teachers DON'T WASTE TIME learning to ue new tools (kids can do that) but that we learn about TECHNOLOGIES and teach about them. He used Wikipedia as an example. He also pointed out he believed that 1:1 laptops were the way to go to achieve full engagement in learning with technology.
I'll post more of my notes over the weekend.

Jason at Plunkers e-Learning has had a small difference of opinion with his local community library, where his effort to promote game based learning has provoked a rather close minded response. Jason's intentions were:

Following Bill Kerr’s lead I have been promoting video games and how they can have a beneficial effect on students by promoting the higher order thinking skills, provide students with a “rich” information base (how many students can give you an accurate representation of history based on the games they have played) and other such skills.

So his reward for trying to engage his net generation students? A response that seems put more stock in sensationalist journalism than academic authorship. Jason continues:

So what is our library's response to this? This evening happens to be the Annual General Meeting of the school. Our library also happens to be a community library with members of the public regularly making use of our library. This post was placed just inside the library so all members of the community would be confronted with it. Notice the highlighted section that quotes a phycologist from an Adelaide Hospital as saying the army uses games to desensitise their personnel to shooting others. Just one small aspect, without looking at all the positives.

I'm not surprised Plunkers is hot under the collar. All formats of communication have the potential to be used for siniser purposes - the music and literature of Hitler's Nazi regime is one such example of misappropriating art forms. That does not counter an argument against the book or music or the internet or mobile phones or even, yes even video games. Another example of pre-judging something without any first hand knowledge. What's your next move, Jason?

At a cluster meeting for middle school teachers tonight, there was talk not just about the typical characteristics of students approaching and in early adolescence but that every generation has new permutations on these characteristics. We were given a handout of a study by Mark McCrindle titled Understanding Generation Y. From this I can see that I just squeeze into Generation X and that the generation referred to in my blog title have yet to enter our school system. Personally, I think we are yet to discover exactly what Generation Z will be like and whether teaching in its current form will exist when they hit the middle school zone.