Monthly Archives: July 2006

All through my US based links on my Learning Network, the feedback and disbelief is being realised as edublogger after edublogger posts about the successful passing of the US Government's DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act). The first post I read on the issue came from Mark Ahlness, then I read Will Richardson, then Vicki Davis and Doug Noon. In a nutshell, DOPA means this:

It would require that, as a condition of receiving E-Rate support, all schools and libraries block access to social networking websites and chat rooms.

via David Warlick - July 25, 2006.

Just when educators involved in exploring the educational potential of social software apps and sites are gaining traction and mainstream teachers' interest and curiousity, this knocks things Stateside for six. How long before the Aussie powers that be, keen to emulate the Bush administration as much as possible seek to impose something like DOPA here? But wait, maybe, we don't need to - hardly anyone can get to any of those sites in a school anyway. Makes it kind of hard to teach socially responsible online behaviour when the windows to the outside world are blacked out.

I celebrated my 40th birthday last Monday in low key style which was my wish, and had a fun morning with Joanne and the boys down at the National Railway Museum. It's only about a 15 minute drive from our place to Port Adelaide where it is located and every July holidays, they hold a Thomas and Friends week aimed at getting the younge age bracket interested in trains and all of the accompanying history. Joshua who turns three in about two weeks loves Thomas and he had a blast riding on their small Thomas train around the complex, looking at the restored locomotives in the main shed and looking at some models of the Ghan and the Indian Pacific in the video room while his brother just watched the videos. Aaron was more interested in the trip to KFC for lunch afterwards. Anyway, at the end when we were leaving, we just had to make one last stop at the souvenir shop on the way out. Joshua's eyes lit up because there was the most complete range of wooden Thomas models a child of his demographic could want to see. He ended up choosing Mavis, the quarry train (I've become quite the expert, y'know) to add to the 15 others he's got at home.

And now all of this is directly related to the fact that in the afternoon, I rang my broadband provider to upgrade from a 256 mb speed to a 512 mb. This also entails a download limit increase from 500 mb to 12G, which has become a necessity. Why? Well, usually I get an 80 % download usage email in the last week or so of the month that indicates I've managed my quota well before the compulsory slowdown. That was until the Thomas the Tank Engine website was discovered.... It had everything a nearly three year old could want - little games, galleries of all of the trains (and there's a lot of them) and movie clips as well. So the last two months have had both boys requesting and using this website after tea on many weeknights. The end result was that the 80 % download usage email arrived in the inbox much, much earlier - about a third of the way into the month. Luckily our account just slows the MB flow instead of charging for excess but the writing was on the wall - time to upgrade. Now I can download podcasts, video and other resources freely instead of being limit conscious. That is - until the boys are old enough for online gaming!

I had a go at this last night but obviously didn't save the draft correctly because here I am having another go at wrapping up the rest of Friday's CEGSA Conference. I won't record any more on the Friday morning keynote - I was actually thinking of deleting the post but then Jason and Arti added comments before I could take action. It was very cool to meet and talk briefly with Derek Wenmoth - first person in my aggregator I've met who hails from outside Australian borders. He was also kind enough to stay for our joint presentation - CEGSA Educator of the Year, Al Upton and myself on "Blogging - 21st Century Learning Is Now!"
I'll start with that presentation. It was a real privelege to co-present with Al who was under a bit of pressure as he had to re-do his slides when they failed to copy properly from his USB drive earlier in the day. He talked at length about the future of learning touching on the next thing emerging (his term, in-world learning) with virtual worlds etc. He then moved into his classroom blogging and gave the audience of 30 or so a good overview of his blog and some of his students'. That left me a bit over 20 minutes for my part in order to keep to schedule so I fired up my new slideshow (download here - 4mb, or PDF version Blogging -21st Century Learning is Now! ) and away I went. With the influence of Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind", I used the Story of my blogging journey as a way of showing how it can be an effective tool for Professional Learning. I showed a quick snapshot of my original Blogger blog and related the transformation to my current edublog. If you do check out the slides, a bit of extra explanation will help. I talked about June last year during the interview for my current job when I was asked as a final question - What are the emerging technologies that will be important in education? The best I come up with - Interactive Whiteboards! I then told the story of how my blogging started with the fortunate discovery of Steve Dembo's Teach42, whose blogroll led me to David Warlick and then onto Will Richardson. I explained my methods of using blogrolls and public Bloglines accounts to populate my own Bloglines account. I expanded on the content of my blog and revisited my importance of comments to the conversation diagram. I highlighted how comments can breathe purpose and enthusiasm into a blog showing my first comment from Will that took me by surprise. I gave some other example of blogosphere conversation - being featured in a post by Christian Long, my extended comments conversation with Leigh and Alex, and my dabble in the TLF debate in the comments section of Artichoke. I wound up with the following conclusions:

What's In This For Educators?

  • Opportunity for online presence without technical knowhow
  • Professional dialogue with others worldwide when you want it on topics of your own choosing
  • “Big picture" perspective
  • Find out about new technologies and practices first
  • Solve your own education based problems while contributing solutions for others

What's the potential?

  • Grassroots influence on future directions here in South Australia
  • Teachers making better use of their time by sharing resources and idea
  • Gain experience in the openness of Web 2.0 technologies so that students gain the benefit of informed, net savvy teachers modelling appropriate use in their learning
  • Teachers having access to their own just-in-time Professional Learning

Hopefully, it went OK.

Rest Of The Wrap Up.

Yvonne Murtagh's Presentation on Web 2.O.
Yvonne has been a source of inspiration and support for me as I've become more involved in this brave new online world. Her workshop last year The Magic Of RSS gave me a real boost along in my blogging exploits and she has promoted my efforts much more than I deserve. She went to both my workshop and presentation as a supporter, as there wasn't anything I was saying she didn't already know! So as a measure of respect and mutual support I went along to her workshop and I knew I'd learn something new as well! She used Bob Dylan as a starting metaphor to explain the emergence of Web 2.0 and the online apps that have been generated - Web 2.0 list. Interestingly, we had a handful of audience participants who had never heard of One of her real passions is the concept of mashups - and showed us one that mashed a GoogleMap of New York with audio files geocached to specific locations. All of her presentation resources were tagged in true Web 2.0 style @ including the Coming of Age document. She then demonstrated her FeedReader. (I still feel that desktop based apps like this are limited - because you can only access it on that particular computer and the feeds can't be shared.) An excellent presentation that ran well overtime because Yvonne had us all enthralled and she has so much to share. Thanks, Vonnie!

Karen Church's Online Gaming Workshop
Basically, my first ever dabble at playing World Of Warcraft. I've steered clear from gaming, not because I don't believe that they don't have educational value (quite the contrary) but because I know getting involved will suck hours out of my life I would like to invest elsewhere. I reckon my blogging would suffer for a start! Anyway, I managed to slaughter 8 wolves and earn a pair of gloves in 20 minutes. At least now I know what the fuss is about.

Parting Thoughts
The free wireless was great, allowing me to be one of two people blogging live, although Vonnie uploaded pics to Flickr throughout the event.

Leigh Blackall's ears must have been burning in Dunedin throughout the past two days because I heard his work referenced in at least three presentations and several conversations.

As usual, conversation between events with other educators was a real highlight. Maybe we can get next year's event up on Hitchhikr.

Photo from SouthOz's Flickr Photostream
Me on the right, Kay Clifford (eTeacher) on left, Anne De Nicolo and Colin Becker near the wine when the pic was taken at Thursday's Happy Hour. Thanks Al, for filling me in.

I was going to write about this last night when everything was fresh in my mind, but I spent time fussing over and organizing my slide presentation for this morning's joint Presentation with Al Upton. I've come to the conclusion that I create slideshows to clarify in my mind what I want to say. I deliberately tried to keep text down to key phrases and use my own diagrams, screen dumps and Flickr Creative Commons images. So that took all of the time I had set aside and now I'm sitting here in the second keynote of the day, indulging in a bit of multi-tasking. I had about 12 participants following on from Al's Workshop which was focused on classroom blogging. That was very cool and he gave us a good overview of his classroom blog and the how-to's of getting a class blogging. He showed us Dylan's blog as a great example of how kids can use these connected spaces. Anyway, he set a high standard for me to follow but I was primed and ready to go.

Al and I had originally used a SeedWiki to prepare for both our presentation and both of our workshops. There were five parts to my workshop and I had put up the notes for two of those sections previously and was going to finish up on Wednesday evening just prior to the CEGSA conference. However, SeedWiki was down for the entire evening which threw a very large spanner in the works. I very quickly (within 90 mins) threw my notes and diagrams into a new space at Wikispaces which has never been down when I've needed it with the bonus being that I am very familiar with their interface. So I had a Powerpoint presentation which I talked to, expanding my points and pausing to allow the participants time to browse for some blogs and to set up their own Bloglines account. A 90 minute workshop goes really quickly and I had a mixed bunch of participants ranging from practicing bloggers (Jason Plunkett was one participant) to others who had never dabbled in blogs. I think they all got my point that blogs can be a fantastic tool for Professional Learning. I divided the workshop into five sections - The Global Conversation,
The Edublogger Community, Finding And Reading Blogs, The Power Of Comments and Centring The Conversation.

I got really good feedback from many of the participants and even had one teacher, Hank, come up to me and tell me about his new blog that he got up and running that evening at home. I must go and drop him a comment. Hopefully, the participants glimpsed the potential that blogging can have for developing their own Learning Network.
Click the thumbnails above to view two key images from the workshop (a) a TouchGraph screengrab showing my Learning Network and (b) a self constructed flow chart of how to get comments up and going on an edublog.

Download Blogging For Professional Learning slideshow. (2.5mb) PDF File Blogging As Professional Learning (Thanks, Leigh for the conversion.)
Notes and resources at the CEGSA06 wiki here.

Geoff is involved in teacher education in Melbourne, Victoria. He believes there is confusion about why technology matters ~ a lot of tokenistic effort by teachers. Bottom up approach - linked to learning theory and how people learn. Top down - does the technology change the way people learn. Humans are flexible learners - used the example of mobile phones. Do we attend courses in how to use a mobile phone? I'll add the link to Geoff's presentation late when it's available ~ I'm struggling to pick out points to blog. I think I just need to listen.

Presentation by Greg Gebhart.
Works @ Moana College in Melbourne and part-time for NetAlert. Netalert established in 1999. Can be booked for schools. Broadband and dialup converge by 2008 - latest study said that very few kids access from a bedroom. Predators can lure someone in 7 or 8 minutes before they can be in a private chat and exposed to something undesirable. Chat windows open - 10 - but one girl had 730 or so names on her buddy list. 89 % of access is at home, not at school. Some kids playing a lot of dangerous games. Girls more likely to use chat technology - wireless networking is making online access easier. Used Netstumbler in hotel room and found 33 unsecured wireless points. Touched on the practice of wardriving and then ipods and podcastirg technologies. A risk factor is inappropriate material as podcasts (suicide, mutilation, bodcasts) - trading of inappropriate material that isn't part of the school network. Camera phones where images are uploaded to the net - children don't understand the consequences. A simple technique is to downgrade the image so that is not of use for child pornographers. Porn generates ten times the revenue that eBay does. Sophisicated scams targetting banking log ons, gambling - phishing. Very cleverly designed websites that capitalise or misspelt domain names. The issue of cyber-bullying is growing - bullying webpages, now a court case involving a teacher being bullied by students. Showed us the site called - a form of cyber bullying. 65% of Cyberbullies are girls. Walked us through MySpace and Bebo - so much personal information out there. We need to educate our kids as to what is appropriate to post online. Greg then showed us some case studies then a video from the US called "Predator". Good news is that over 80% of kids have only known friends and family members on their lists. Warning signs are kids who are "glued' to the screen because they are scared of losing their new friend or missing out on conversation. Great to be at a session that was super informative but advocated education, not banning stuff.

Peter's session is on the use of within in the classroom - a quick and dirty way of web authoring but a great way of enabling collaboration. Showed us Wikipedia, then Uncyclopedia, a wiki where you can spin a yarn. His presentation was authored on a wiki - Waraku Education Wikispace. It can only be edited by other Wikispaces members. The ads can be removed by a quick e-mail to the administrators and ask because if a wiki is for education, the ads can be removed. He then showed us a wiki he has used on the Grant High School Moodle site. He explained that Grant's stuff is all externally hosted on an outside server because of some many problems with the department's serve that blocked or was unfriendly to things like forum e-mails etc. Peter also showed how the history function works within a wiki and then he fielded some ideas from the audience on additional ideas for wiki use. the showed us examples from Bill Kerr (Africa game) and Leigh Blackall (TALO Swapmeet).

Derek Wenmoth, Director eLearning CORE Education Ltd Christchurch NEW ZEALAND with his keynote was titled," Thinking Digitally". He started by relating a story about his father-in-law who was confronted by a group of youths who disappeared quickly after a few words. Derek's son suggested to his grandfather that he should have taken a photo of these guys using his mobile phone camera. This is an example of digital thinking. Also related the story of the high frequency sound used for keeping teenagers away from malls called Teen Buzz, which has been reinvented as a ringtone that adults can't hear! Quoted Nicholas Negroponte " Thinking in terms of Bits, not Atoms!" He talked about the change in tools from when he started teaching in the 70's. Then tools were Analog, Now tools are Digital, Next tools are Connected.

Our schools may not may changed but our kids have. Talked about the concept of "hypertext" minds and " attentional deployment." It is now an important skill to be able to shift attention from one task to another. Talked about synchronous tools (IM, Skype etc.) and asynchronous tools (blogs). He showed us his daughter's blog. He also talked about My Space - he points out as educators, we can't afford to just say, "Well, that's their problem." Derek posed the question," What would happen in Australia if the Internet fell over tomorrow." Well, our banking would grind to a halt but would it make any difference to schools?

Showed us his OLE continuum diagram to demonstrate the pedagogical charge needed in schools. He then started to talk about the different components needed in schools for a school based OLE - LMS (Moodle was his example), management of student identity but while schools set up their system to contain everything, students are off setting up their own blogs, ELGG's etc. See his diagram here. The problem now is not access to information but how to sort through that information.

Sometimes, the phrase "Couldn't have said it better myself" is appropriate when reading the posts and comments across my Learning Network. Here are a few that have caused my meager brain to click up a gear.....
Bill Kerr is in fine form again, really looking at the "education big picture" here in Australia in a deep, probing way that provides a shallower thinker like myself with plenty to ponder about. He words things beautifully, especially when assessing the chances of web based technology making successful inroads into schools. His take on the current state of play from a recent post:

The Department thinks: "We control". Teachers think: "We shut the classroom door and do our thing" The reality often is that each is thwarting the vision and hopes of the other.

This is the reason why so many teachers went into meltdown/overload over the new Common Reports that aligned reporting on students to their year level and the curriculum expectations prescribed in our frameworks. Like many curriculum frameworks that have come and gone, a lot of teachers figured that if they just battened down the hatches and continued to teach the way they always had, it would all go away. However, if everyone has to stick strictly to a prescribed curriculum, where is the chance for innovation and moving forward. Bill's thoughts really delve into the systemic way of dealing with change and how many of the issues of how education can keep pace (or attempt to, instead of pretending it's not happening) with this brave new world of instant information access.

Over at Artichoke, a spirited discussion emerged in the comments of her recent post "'Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.'" My light bulb moment came after botts had theorised that part of the problem with ICT absorption in schools was the education system's oversupply of "digital immigrant" aged practitioners and that the next wave of techsavvy teachers coming out of uni would be up to the challenge. Artichoke replied in the next comment that...

......I realised that teaching is not a career option for that attracts Prensky’s Digital Immigrants as much as it attracts the Digital Luddites.

Teaching is not what you would recognise as a career pregnant with ICT opportunity.

I hadn't considered that possibility before but.... it's true! Someone with ICT talent in their late teens/early twenties will be snapped up by other professions where their abilities will provide them with opportunities and acknowledgement, not the roadblocks and skepticism of an education system struggling to stay relevant to its students.

Like I said, so often, I find edubloggers summing up a particular viewpoint in a neat quotable paragraph that I "couldn't put it better myself."

I've been enjoying the holiday break and spending some quality time with the family. I went to Teachers Golf Day on the Monday at the wonderful Murray Bridge Golf Club. I was my usual inconsistent self mixing in two birdies with some atrocious holes including sailing a long tee shot over the out-of-bounds fence onto someone's gravel driveway. On Tuesday we took the boys to see Over The Hedge at the cinema. I still marvel at the amazing animation in children's films these days especially after we saw Cars the other week as well. The first ten minutes of that movie were a sensory spectacular - I loved the realistic shine and gleam on the animated cars as they jockeyed for position on the precisely detailed track, putting even an X-Box 360 to shame. I still have to consciously remind myself that the "wow" factor I experience isn't necessarily the same for my sons - in fact, because it is so "real" I wonder if the blurred distinction between the real world and animated world is impossible to detect in their malleable minds. Certainly, in my youth, cartoons like The Roadrunner Show and Huckleberry Hound didn't have that problem.

Every evening though, I fire up the laptop and spend some time tweaking and preparing for my blogging workshop at the upcoming CEGSA conference. Now North Americans might all head to NECC but in this part of the world, this conference is a big deal. So,I've been fussing over a Powerpoint slideshow that will serve as a backdrop/brain prompt/presentation tool and trying to observe some of the ideas and philosophies I've read over at Presentation Zen. I'm trying to keep text to short memorable phrases (Be a contributor, not just a consumer) and a simple colour scheme in line with the "less is more" approach. I went hunting through the Creative Commons section of Flickr for some handy images and ended up looking at Leigh Blackall's Networked Learning images. I loved the overcast sky on the first pic and that became the genesis of a simple idea for my own presentation. Armed with our Canon Ixus 500, I went out in the backyard and took some shots of the afternoon sky to use. My youngest child, Joshua, followed me out and I ended up pushing him on the swing for a fair while. This worked out well because the weather and clouds kept changing, presenting me with new potential backdrops.

One thing leads to another.... (Leigh's image first, followed by mine)
What's the point of this post? Not too sure but I think I've been somewhat influenced by the Daniel Pink book, "A Whole New Mind." If anyone couldn't tell, I've just finished the section on Design which is influencing the way I'm going to present my message. I've also read Story and some of my diagrams like my QuikMap of my Commenting Community will help with that aspect. Now to keep reading the section on Symphony to pull the whole thing together.