Monthly Archives: June 2006

As I've been pushing my point of view that if you want to get your students into blogging, then you need to be a blogger too, a couple of interesting posts of a supportive and expansionary nature have appeared as a direct or indirect result. Firstly, Doug at Borderland has analysed my previous post and reflected on points raised within and the comments continue that conversation. Read both for a full picture.

Then this afternon, I read this great post from Dean Shareski about the importance of comments in the whole blogging scenario. I left him a comment but ironically, his site rejected it and I lost my contribution. So, the guts of what I said went along these lines:- If you are going to maintain a blog, then allowing comments and leaving comments for others is vital to actual participation in the conversation. I agree that turning the comments off is an act of fear or an act of arrogance. If it's one of fear, then the public online space is not the place to air your thoughts or ideas because others will want to interact with them. Keep a diary in a Word document if you must. If it's because you can't be bothered reading them, worrried about spam, but you want others to read your stuff - well, it will look like a self appointed expert dispensing wisdom from up high on a pedestal. Dean's post is right on the money - if only I could have commented then - ironically, I hope this trackback gets there as a back up!

Photo credit - Comments by ONE/MILLION Flickr Creative Commons images.

Well, the Masterclass session was very good with both Barbara Ganley and James Farmer offering me a lot of food for thought while at the same time confirming a lot of what I'd already thought or believed. But I'd have to say that the best part of the evening was the conversation afterwards with a few online names being matched to real life face to face personalities. My future co-presenter, Al Upton was there - good to see him taking advantage of the free wireless at EDC as well. Michael Coghlan, excellent as the moderator of the evening's proceedings, was another well known TALO identity that I had the pleasure of meeting thanks to Thangaes. (Thanks for your encouraging comments below my Masterclass Notes.) I met Mike Seyfang, of LearnDog fame (recently mentioned in Stephen Downes' OLDaily) and said g'day to Vonnie of South Oz E-Learning.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to pitch a question towards our guests but was blown away that James could recognise me as part of the pixelised audience on his Skype video. Anyway, here's the link to Barbara's presentation on her blog and Mike's take on the evening for good measure. I've been putting in my opinion in over at the Masterclass blog in the comments section where my position on teachers being bloggers first before imposing it on their students was put to the blowtorch. Annie Reid in the comments section of Why Blog? challenged my assertion (rightfully so):

One thing with which I didn’t concur - that teachers need to be bloggers themselves to have authenticity/credability with students. This might be all very well in pedagogical utopia but in the real world its not possible and it would be unfair to expect that teachers are aufait with a technology before they use it with students. We all know that there wouldn’t be a computer in schools if that were the premise on which we embark on innovation and change. Most of learn as we go, stumbling and lurching and we get there in the end. All hail those with balance in their lives!

After a few exchanges where I got on my "high horse" a bit, I could see where Annie was coming from except looking at her first comment I had overlooked the part where she referred to teachers blogging to have authenticity/credibility with kids. That certainly isn't my point of view at all - as an educator, my job has nothing to do with gathering "cred" with kids. I only wanted to urge teachers to blog for themselves first - any other edubloggers reading out there who want to tell me I'm wrong or back me up - but the true power of blogs can only be experienced by being in the mix. My parting point for this post is a quick sentence that sums my viewpoint.

Sure, craft a blog alongside of your kids but consider the possibility that there might something of immense value in it (blogging) for you as a professional and as a person.

Photo credit: I blog, therefore I am. by vista. Flickr Creative Commons Images.

Barbara Ganley
Speaking from her desk at 5.30 am from her classroom.
Important for educators to realize that kids are interacting and using these new technologies _ the digital natives cannot leave their digital selves out of the classroom. Those without digital access will be left behind. Quoted Dewey " is a social process....” Not sure they will navigate this world effectively without effective and ethical role models. Nothing wrong with stumbling and failing - invite multiple perspectives. Opportunity for a learning community to be authentic - brings her to blogs, podcasts and digital stories. Blogs don't take away from face-to-face interaction - they are not an add-on either.
Central to Barbara's classroom is the Motherblog, a gathering point of information, links and resources. Other blogs are set up for different courses but all remain open as a resource for all students. Links to outside blogs - students realize there is a connection to the outside world. Gives them access to outside experts. All students have a blog for themselves for reflection and they comment on each other's work. Think before you post - once something is posted to the web, it is hard to retract (even impossible!) The teacher can model effective feedback through the use of comments. Making of connections by using aspects of learning from other courses. Blogs invite more than just text _ images and multimedia (use of flickr and digital stories.) Podcasts are also a powerful medium to gain perspective from different cultures. There's an aspect of "letting go", learning not to micromanage student blogs. With blogging, curriculum is always expanding. There will be barriers to implementation - Servers crashing, kids not wanting to engage.

James Farmer
Founder of (yes!!). Looking at where we've been - he started off with Yahoo Groups which was an introduction to online learning. E-mail is limited to how a prolonged conversation can evolve. Chat rooms was the next step forward - conversations, very immediate but in depth conversations could be limited _ synchronous has disadvantages because of time differences. Next up -discussion boards (one of the oldest technology on the web) still relevant and used today _ but deeply lacking in things like ownership of comments, personal presence, particularly chaotic. Threads can be crazy to follow. A lot of LMS's still use them as a major way of communicating. Blogs are a centred form of communication and is also subversive. James then mentioned some dumb blogger from Adelaide ( a bit of red embarrassment right about now) moving right along - James doesn't think that group blogs work. Talked about the Australian version of myspace - 43 million users world wide. Where does James think it is all going? Referred to the "Community of Inquiry." Social presence - cognitive presence - teaching presence. Having a blog allows you to present yourself as a real person online, in an individual sense and group presence. Need to focus on individuals and stop setting up on online environment for people to go into and communicate in. In summary, authenticity, individual and reality, are the three points about the big advantages of blogging.

Footnote: Fixed up some confusing typos and added link to myspace. Reflection on the night coming soon - thanks to those who have commented. The power of blogs!

Just testing out a new scanner here at school - super easy to use and under a $100. I had to scan something so drew something inspired from the great comments response to Blog On. Scanned, coloured quickly in Photoshop and uploaded to flickr. 10 mins max spent on this - gee, anyone can be an artist these days!

A really interesting skype enabled chat with Alex Hayes last week about his work and mine as well led to an invitation to contribute to a new group blog with a focus on mobile educational technologies. When I look at the blogroll of contributors there, I certainly feel that I'm in a place where I can learn a lot more than I can contribute. Some of my posts there are probably going to reek of naivety, but mixing it with high level thinkers can help me to clarify ideas better to my colleagues at the local primary school level. I certainly want to expand the ideas I started in my On The Wall Or The Go post, with the goal being to publish a better researched, in depth article in our local professional association's (CEGSA) publication.

Personally, one of the best things I have done this year was to buy a wireless router for my home broadband connection. That in combination with a new wireless Acer Tablet PC from work has really freed me from being chained to my desktop each night or from having to sync my iPaq to constantly download my blog reading and learning. The analogy of where mobile learning (and working) seems to be heading in my eyes is much like the shift from hardcover to paperback books. When the paperback book became a popular "technology", then were two things that gave it an edge over its more traditional rival. It was lighter and more portable. Instead of binding and stitching, it used inexpensive glue. The old dustcover was given the heave ho and and a thinner, flexible glossier cover made it very attractive to the consumer. Now it was practical to read a book or two on the bus into work or in the staffroom on lunch break. I was a big science fiction fan at high school and borrowing three or four Asimov or Andre Norton paperbacks was preferable to only getting one hardcover edition. But the thing that gave the paperback its big advantage was its vastly reduced cost - here in Australia, about half the retail value of its older sibling. So that made buying books much less of a luxurious indulgence and the consumer could afford more books more often. Of course, the publishers still like to release all new titles in hardcover some time ahead of any paperback release - much like big budget Hollywood movies going to the cinema a few months before they make onto DVD. Of course, downloading movies off the internet has probably reduced the gap between the movie theatre and you owning your own legal copy. So how does this relate to the use of mobile technologies?

Well, we are still in an era where the vast majority of online content is geared towards the monitor size of a desktop or notebook computer. Some formats are capable of reshaping themselves for a mobile phone or PDA screen but wireless mobile users still need to use web services like Skweezer, Mobile Leap, Google Mobile or the mobile version of Bloglines to assist in comfortable reading. The read/write web may well be in full swing on the regular sized screen but there are far less choices for the Web 2.0 mobile user. So, the change will have to gain momentum (and it will be driven by consumer demand) until the paperback version of the web is in place. Moblogging is proof that people want the capability to publish to the web anyplace, anytime. So just like one of my class's simple pleasures might be to relax under the trees on a beautiful day reading our very portable paperbacks, there might be soon a day when they can write a hypertexted report on their mobile wireless device, publishing it to the web on the fly and downloading criteria for a set task in voice, word and/or screencast format in the same shady spot. Maybe then the education sector might be with grudgingly accept that power of learning is indeed in the hands of its students.

Photo credits: bookshelf by kathy s Flickr Creative Commons Image.

This week is eLearning Week here in Adelaide and a few events have been lined up to try and raise awareness of what eLearning is and what it means here in South Australian education. The big event for me of course is the Masterclass on Blogging with Barbara Ganley and James Farmer on Thursday evening, which I've mentioned in a previous post.

Now, as blogs can also be a platform for self promotion, I am going to highlight one part of E-Learning Week that I've had a hand in setting up. One of the organisers contacted me re: an asynchronous event that could run in the background of the week, something participants could enrol in, log in and explore under their own steam that brought together some of the department's future focus with what is developing on an broader, more global scale. It's titled the E-Learning Week 2006 "Sampler" Event, hosted on a TSOF Moodle site with different sections to explore and participate in (quizzes, polls, forums, external links etc.) My contributions were in the Education Blogging section (what a surprise), E-Learning Experts and a section on Interactive Whiteboards. The E-Learning Experts were all well known to edubloggers - David Warlick, Jay Cross, Stephen Downes, Dr.Helen Barrett, Wesley Fryer, Will Richardson, Doug Johnson and Marc Prensky - I'm even let Wes know about this via a comment on his blog and he said he'd be keen to participate, maybe throw a few thoughts into my blogging forums. So I e-mailed him enrolment instructions. So, I'll throw it open a bit more. Are there any other bloggers who'd want to have a poke around? I can't post an open URL because of the copyright restrictions on the Learning Objects section (yes, Leigh, I can hear you snickering) but I'm happy to forward an enrolment invitation to anyone who emails me with a request. I might be completely underwhelmed but outside input into this could really demonstrate the collective networked power of education based blogging.   

For those of you who read this blog via an aggregator or don't always read the comments, Terry Freedman provided me with one of the best quotes of the year regarding my Blog On post.

People who make those sorts of comments would make them whatever the subject. It’s a reflection of them and their level of consciousness rather than a reflection of what they think about anything in particular. As the Sufi saying goes, “When a pickpocket looks at a Holy Man he sees only his pockets.”

And via David Muir's post on Alan November's keynote at eLive06 who posted this quote that proves trying to keep things simple doesn't always work:

“The past is over” - George Bush.

Couldn't have put it better myself.....

I love Bloglines. It's one of the first things I check every day when I log on at work and I check for updates far more often than is healthy. But when you are subscribed to a lot of feeds (that's 107 at last look) some of them can build up in a big backlog of unread posts. So today I acccidentally clicked ** Updated Feeds and every post sitting unread migrated from unread status to the right hand pane ready for reading. Whoops! Luckily it was after school so I sat down and starting scanning and reading all the way from top to bottom. A bit of a drastic way to clear the decks but maybe a blessing in disguise. So after 42 posts from Christian Long, 30 odd from David Muir as well and lesser amounts from everybody else, I had a blank Bloglines account - just like a clean desk! Except for one thing, other posts starting rolling in the left hand side as I skimmed and read and within the half hour, there were at least 10 - 20 new unread posts waiting for me!!!