Monthly Archives: August 2006

Reading D'Arcy Norman's feed and had to check this post for more info leading me to this site, xkcd full of strange but compelling comics. I have to admit I didn't understand the one that D'Arcy displayed on his blog (maybe because I'm Australian or not as bright as I'd like to think) but maybe some one will pop by and explain it for me. I did get this one however.

tagzania.jpgDiscovered another gem today on the web when working with my class on their personal projects. After showing one student how to whip up a quick map with positionable markers and insertable text in QuikMaps, another child wanted to include a map showing the location of the Mona Lisa. After trying to use the regular version of Google Maps, we stumbled across Tagzania. This handy app allows you to search for landmarks just by typing in a keyword "louvre" and two maps were generated - one showing the position of the Louvre in Paris and another showing Paris in Europe. There are also Flickr tagged photos relevant to the neighbourhood shown on the page. It's good to peruse what others have created but it is pretty easy to create your own, and I suspect that it is where this tool can be most powerful. Very handy and a great way to generate very specific maps for students to use in their presentations.

Hi to all participants from this morning's presentation. I promised that if you looked at the website address on my business card, you'd end up here and I'd have some links to ideas and resources mentioned during the presentation.

Did You Know? powerpoint link at this post at the Fischbowl.

Lockleys North Primary School IWB blog, Activboarding.
Also, click on my Interactive Whiteboards category tag on the right hand side of this site.
IWB sites bookmarked - or or

Also, the wiki site from our Middle Schooling Conference presentation on IWB's has some worthwhile IWB resources and contain links to the Marc Prensky articles quoted.

Feel free to comment or email at my contact address in the right sidebar.

It's always dangerous adding another blog to the aggregator, another conversation to follow but when I find one that speaks to me on topics that I relate to, in it goes. My latest addition comes from the Bump On The Blog where Brian Grenier is saying a lot of things that describe my role pretty closely.

What’s been concerning me more though is how I can get teachers to understand exactly what my job is and get them to act upon some of my suggestions. Let me try to clarify the predicament I am speaking of. If I had to sum up my job in one sentence (which I do quite often), it would be this; I assist/train teachers with integrating technology into their curriculum with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement. That said, what I have come to notice is that teachers are calling upon me NOT to help them integrate technology, but rather to fix some technical problem (printers, network access, setting up computers, etc…) I’m not quite sure how to address this situation, being that I really don't feel I am in a position to tell teachers what they should be doing in their classroom. I really don’t mind troubleshooting and solving problems for teachers, but I fear that by doing this too often I am neglecting to do what I really should, and want, to be doing. I’ve tried taking the opportunity in the past to talk to teachers about technology integration as I was in the process of fixing some technical problem, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. I usually get comments like “That’s a great idea” or “Hmmm, I never thought about doing it that way. I leave thinking that maybe this teacher will actually try implementing some of my ideas, ask me to work with them one on one to get a better grasp on strategies, or share the idea with some of their colleagues who would show some interest. I’m disappointed when the next time they approach me is not to talk about these ideas, but to fix some new technical problem. I’d really like to hear some comments about ways you would suggest, or have approached, such situations.

Brian's dilemma is one I share and it's not an easy thing to resolve. In my role, I help to set stuff up so that the technology is focussed on the learning and that requires some technical thought and basic expertise. But my role statement is about improving teaching and learning, and it is easy for that role to play second fiddle to trouble shooting. The bottom line is also that if the technology doesn't work, then the risk is that teachers won't bother. My difficulty is finding the time to find that balance between working on improving teachers' ICT use and resolving technical problems that help them get back on track quickly. For example, at the moment I have a teacher who has calibration issues with the ACTIVboard in the classroom, a laptop out of action for another teacher who needs it for her ACTIVboard and another request for a classroom computer to have the local printer installed.

Sometimes the two parts meld together. Another teacher wants to use the new scanner in the MYLU block. In this case, the technical aspect is to install the software for the teacher, show her how to hook it up to her laptop - but the teaching and learning payoff comes because my actions then enable her to implement her own teaching and learning agenda. But in the scheme of things, using an ICT coordinator hired to influence teaching and learning is an expensive way to solve technical issues.

So, my way around this is try and lead by example, pushing new ideas out to the staff members who seem most receptive and keeping the conversation ticking over in the staffroom. Look for opportunities to offer leads and tips to others - with our new IWB users, a new website for resources or cool new application can be what helps them to maintain enthusiasm and keep working towards the seamless integration of ICT in their classroom. I also don't want to be seen as the "expert" (although in some ways, that's unavoidable) because that can backfire as methods or ideas I propose can be seen as requiring too much technology based expertise for a busy, regular classroom teacher. So, my role is always a state of constant re-invention, a work in progress - in the end, I don't think I have much insight to offer Brian.

Just a deep sense of empathy.

Just a quick advertisement for a free event for Adelaide based teachers called the Web2 Showcase. Blurb from the TSOF website as follows:

Web2 Showcase: All you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask! Thursday September 21st, 2006, 4.15 – 6.30 pm, Discovery Centre, TSoF Guest presenters: Graham Wegner, Al Upton, Mike Seyfang, and Yvonne Murtagh This is a free event An introduction to some of the collaborative Web2 resources that are quick, easy, intuitive, free, personal, collaborative, connected and empowering for kids and teachers.

It's going to be in the vein of Darren Kuropatwa's Whiplash! concept where each new tool set gets a fifteen minute overview before it switches to the next presenter. I'm going to do two sections - one on wikis and the other on Personal StartPages and it is pretty amazing to be part of a group of such high calibre educators involved in working out how these new tools can play a part in our classrooms.

I had a very interesting discussion with my class this morning on a wide range of topics related to technology and a lot of issues gaining publicity in the press. It started with a few observations about the MYLU (Middle Years Learning Unit) use and misuse of our school's internet access. I was pointing out that a few students were using our connection to add a few mp3's to their folder on our school network, then connecting their thumb drives to take them home. So we talked a lot about how sharing of mp3 copies of songs was illegal (although hard to police) but also breaches moral standards. It was interesting to listen without too much judgement to some students' surprise that websites advertising free mp3 downloads weren't legitimate and that taking a copy from a secondary source (a friend or a website hosting the file) was no different to "stealing a CD."

This led onto talk about the fact that some of the mp3 sites were in fact, scam sites offering low grade or imitation versions of popular songs that required the user to enter their e-mail address to get the file. This was a great opportunity for me to test out the media assertion that kids like my students are easy targets for internet scams. Greg Gebhart, of NetAlert, gave many such examples at his presentation at CEGSA this year so I dusted one of them off to see if the kids could spot the scam. There's one that goes along the lines of "Buy an iPod for $1". As soon as I mentioned that much, a chorus of voices rang out, "I've seen that one!" And it didn't take long before a student pointed the scam, "They're only after the credit card number." Well spotted, I thought. Maybe these guys are more aware than the media would have us believe. I had to admire the eleven year old logic that believes it can outwit the scammers! One boy then suggested that as long as you were definitely getting the iPod, it was just a matter of contacting the bank and setting the monthly limit of the credit card down to the solitary dollar!
The flow on effect of this group conversation led two girls to admit they had been the victims of a mobile phone scam where to receive a free ringtone, they had to TXT in their phone number. There was fine print involved that wasn't clear or accessible to them and they had both had their $50 credit limit drained with the monthly fees required that they hadn't seen coming. One girl said she had gotten her money back after her father contacted the company and applied some pressure. The fact that the company caved in so readily tells you something as well. Other tactics the kids were aware of included two way fees for certain services - $2 cost for you to ring the service and a $2 cost also for you when you are rung back. Not all of my students were clued in however - one mention of the dreaded Crazy Frog ringtone and some kids were all hyped up, "Yeah, cool, I'd want that for sure!"

However, on the whole, the class showed a pleasing awareness of some of the scam tactics involved on the web and in the marketing of ringtones and SMS games. They knew signing up for something free (games, screensavers and emoticons) with their email address meant signing up for piles and piles of spam. And no-one thought that $1 for an iPod was such a good deal anymore!

Image credit: SCAM by Peter Kovacs, Flickr Creative Commons.

After two weeks, I've finally organised the audio from the International Middle Schooling Conference presentation on "IWB's in the Middle School Classroom". I recorded it on the school's new iRiver T10 and the results weren't too bad with the built in microphone. After tidying it up in Audacity, I had a go at uploading it onto the web to link it in here. Originally, I tried uploading it here because I had read somewhere I could upload up to 25MB of files here but I didn't read the fine print of the 3MB limit of individual files! So, I tried my new account but that has a limit of 10MB per file on their free account (you can upgrade that for a monthly fee.) So, it was off to create an account at ourmedia which required a download of SpinExpress for uploading large media files. I managed to do that but ourmedia then went down for the weekend and I only got access to the file's URL. So, if anyone is still interested (kinda pushing it here, I know) here are the complete set of resources from our well received presentation.

IWB's In The Middle School Classroom
Listen - (mp3 - 14MB) View - (flp, pps or pdf) Links & Notes - (wiki)
No more to be said about this particular event but be warned - I have a IWB presentation this weekend at an EChO (Early Childhood Organisation) conference and we're doing something for parents at my school next Wednesday evening. So this won't be an IWB free zone for long.

You know you've hit the big time in Aussie education when you're featured on the EDNA website feed - well done, Judy O'Connell, librarian extraordinaire and advisor in Catholic Ed, NSW, who hit the ground running a few months back with her blog, HeyJude. Check her posts for excellent insights into information literacy and other educational Web 2.0 stuff. Keep up the good work.


In preparation for a debriefing session after the recent International Middle Schooling Conference, our team has posed these questions to sharpen our thoughts and assist in visioning our school's Middle Year program. In the spirit of being open and "deprivatising" my practice, here are some initial reactions and dot points of what I took away from this event.

1. What are the messages coming out about the social, emotional and academic needs of middle years students? Do these needs change across Year 6 and Year 7 and beginning and end of the year?

One of the clear impressions I gained was that young adolescents want to make a difference to their world - meaning that real community service and involvement in charities are a great opportunity for positive contributions. Friends and social groups are extremely important to middle schoolers - working out what their own self image is.

2. What is being advocated about student driven curriculum / approaches to personal projects?

Engagement was touted as being key to improved learning at this level and while technology was one hook, having the opportunity to make choices within the curriculum also enabled engagement. The idea of student portfolios (e- or othewise) being controlled by students in their own learning journey was also on show. Student initiated curriculum and personal projects (like roundtable conferences) are also a way of being cross-curricular and allowing students to go deeper and spend longer, more quality time immersed in a particular project.

3. What place does authentic assessment have in the academic development of middle school students?

Rubric based assessment was a big buzz at the conference - as someone who has been developing and using rubrics since 1999, I'm pleased to see such widespread promotion of these tools. Of course, we can now align our rubric standards to our curriculum outcomes and inform our common reporting. Of course, rubrics become more powerful when developed with the students and given out at the start of a task or assignment. Not only do the students know what is expected but will be able to predict their own achievement.

4. How can ICT be used to engage students as members of a global community?

In my view, the concept of a global community means that we, as educators, need to be providing safe opportunities for our students to create content for authentic purposes and audiences. This could mean using tools like wikis, blogs, discussion boards and Moodle for communicating with others. It could be about defining their own place in the world and finding out about the lives of other middle school students around the world (e.g.Wikiville). Maybe it means being involved in specific programs like the Jason Project where students can access scientific experts, journalists or authors.

5. What areas of specialisation could be offered for this age group that provides a stimulating approach to learning to learn?

Offering choices that are not necessarily class bound - maybe electives or specialist sports or options like debating and public speaking. A problem based learning program that runs throughout the year with topics negotiated with the students using a James Beane type model. An enterprise based project opportunity where small groups of kids work on specific projects within the school or local community (Art gallery, digital stories, an info CD-ROM for new students, a podcast tour of the school) is something unique for middle school students to hang their hat on.

6. What can our parent partnerships be like for this age group of students?

If we can get our students to start thinking about their potential future, then the wide variety of work backgrounds of our parents could be accessed in a beginning Voc.Ed program. Parents with ICT expertise could be utilised and those with a business background could add real life value to the Maths program. Other talents could be accessed and used in elective programs.

The conference gave me a lot of "big picture" perspective and some of the research Donna Pendergast referenced would be worth picking through to look for elements to enhance our middle school program. Remember these are raw thoughts and ideas, and like any other post on this blog is open to criticism and feedback.

As I sat down this afternoon to prepare my lessons for tomorrow, the first day of the school week, I resolved to put together a tight concise sequence of learning. I've been out of the school a fair bit over the last fortnight so my resolve was to make a concerted effort to harness the power and potential of the IWB. (OK, I just didn't want the ACTIVboard standing there unused mocking me, and I've got a student teacher coming in for the first time who will wonder why we've got one in the room if it isn't in full swing!) I started to plan out a lesson on apostrophes, contraction and possession, which is essential stuff for my age group of students. I opened up the flipchart and put in a bunch of contracted and uncontracted words for the class to match up. That took a while, then I started another page where they could write up the answer in front of the class. Then I went online to find some interactive websites on contractions that we could use to help "cement" the concept into place and so on went the process.....type, link, cut, paste, save and then nearly two hours had expired. The problem is that the lesson only goes for 45 minutes and my energies and time being used were not in proportion to that. I have to be a bit smarter and have the websites, interactive links etc. at my fingertips a bit more so to speak. So that I don't forget, my great idea is this. Last week, I dreamed the idea of our school's IWB "digital curriculum" being tagged in a account so that one only had to log on as that user (iwb.user) and specify the Learning Area (maths, english, sose, lote, science, pe&health etc.) and the links that I or anyone else on staff have tagged in this way will come up. So, from now on, anything that looks remotely useful to anyone else using an IWB will be tagged by me in this way and then I have the beginnings of a really useful resource on the biggest social bookmarking service there is. If you want to help me out - when you see something that looks good tag it for:iwb.user and I'll do the rest.