Monthly Archives: November 2006


The "When Night Falls" concept was quite ambitious. Run a 24 hour Skype-a-thon with volunteer moderators all signing up from all around the globe into slots listed on the wiki. As the culminating event to the fortnight long K-12 Online Conference, it was an opportunity for anyone involved in the conference - organiser, presenter or participant to meet together in a virtual space and chat at a time convenient to them. There was a chat venue provided at Tapped In and each Skype call covered an hour before reconvening in the next Skypecast with the next moderator. I first checked in at about 1.30 pm via the chatroom where Jennifer Wagner was about to launch her hosted hour. The kids were requiring my attention so I didn't don my headset and join in at that time. It was a very pleasant afternoon so we ended up taking the boys out to a playground and I didn't go back online until 8.30 pm. I ended up staying on for about two and a half hours and crossed paths with some fabulous educators in that time. The first hour was capably moderated by Vinny Green, and I had the pleasure of talking to the enthused and energetic Glenn E. Malone. He seemed to epitomise the ultimate K-12 Conference participant as he described the various presentations he had viewed and his pride at being in the winning team for Vicki Davis' wiki competition. Unfortunately for me, he assumed that because I'd produced a presentation on Overcoming Obstacles, that I'd have some words of wisdom worth sharing about spreading the word of online technology. I was less than eloquent in my response but it was excellent to make his acquaintance along with Chris Harbeck, a Maths teacher from Winnipeg, Canada who hosted the following hour. He got up at some unbelievable hour in the early Canadian morning to do this and his first ten minutes of Skype moderation was plagued by "human spam" - an unwelcome racist, Skypecast surfers looking to practice their English skills and an annoying Aussie who kept announcing, "Hey, I got a story to tell!" Once Chris cornered him, muted the non-participants and took a few minutes to get a well earned cup of coffee from his kitchen, there was some great conversation before the next hour started more quietly with Chris Betcher, Aussie teacher on exchange in Canada. Shortly, after a short time, it was time for me to say goodbye quietly via the chatroom as to not disturb the conversation unfolding and head to bed.

My Learning Network continues to widen.


Social networking sites are not just popular with teenagers. It has come to my attention that despite that the fine print specifying a sign up age of 13 years in services like Piczo, students yet to officially become teenagers are using their choice of Web 2.0 technology. Students are accessing, creating and linking to and from their own multi-media, often garish (IMHO) websites with the usual array of pages and features - friends pages, pics, profile pages, shout boxes, custom pages, guestbook plus more blinking animations and images lifted from sources all over the web. It could be argued that as these sites and pages are being created outside of school time, the school has no control or responsibility over the use of or the content of these sites be they hosted on Piczo, MySpace or Beebo. But if many parents already feel left way behind, it is important that students are just left open to make mistakes in the most public arena ever.

I've done a few things as a young person that I'm not proud of and that I'm really glad were made in the privacy of a 1970's country town (where you could argue things weren't that private!) and then as a teenager, in the claustrophic environment of a boarding school. My mistakes can stay in the past. Noone has records or even evidence that can come back to haunt me as an adult. My mistakes were made but I have total control over who knows what about any indiscretions or embarassments from my formative years. It's unrealistic to expect that kids today should be held to higher standards of behaviour and decision making than I was 25 - 30 years ago. But online is not the place to show your ugly side, your vulnerable side, your whole life, your private details. It's potentially the biggest, most anonymous audience anyone could expose themselves to. Parents are rightly concerned and some have negotiated their child's online participation in these sites but others feel powerless, that kids have it all over them in terms of skill, purpose and technical knowhow. So, as educators, we are best placed to help protect kids from themselves.

Having checked a few examples out, here are some of the worrying aspects of what kids are up to.

  • Private details being shared like full names, actual ages, school name.
  • Pouting, brooding self portraits or aggressive poses with violent props.
  • Shout boxes and guest boxes full of profanity, abuse and extremely bad spelling and grammar (cringe, we'll get blamed for the latter) .
  • Photos that may or not have permission from the subjects being featured - some high quality which could be appropriated for inappropriate means.

Now it is not the technology that is causing the problem but the naivety of the users. But hey, young kids and teenagers have always been shortsighted and impetutous - it's part of growing up - so my approach to raising awareness of the potential dangers when speaking with students goes along with a two pronged attack - Your Reputation and Your Safety, What's It Worth To You? It's important to get kids to realise that too much personal information is easily gathered to track an individual down, that once something is on the web, it can be saved and re-purposed beyond their control and that angst, abuse and romances of the moment can come back to haunt you when you least need it. Links connect off to other sites which I know is a big part of the attraction, but means one person's risky behaviour in that network can compromise the safety and reputation of a student exercising care and restraint.

However, once you have that conversation and continue to leave the communication channels open, then kids will take steps to socially network with care. It is really important not to criticise kids or judge their character - after all, that can only confirm in their mind that adults (and teachers in particular) have no idea and the digitally divided wall gets reinforced. And teachers, particularly those who teach 10 - 15 year olds, need to know about this stuff. Go have a look at Piczo, MySpace and Beebo. Try to leave your judgemental side out of it and see how it works. Look past the provocative images and language that are often featured on the front pages of these sites and see how they interconnect - maybe, you will see the potential for learning as well.


I know that regular readers of this blog are probably sick of hearing about my presentation for the K-12 Online Conference but seeing Bloglines dropped RSS feeds for several weeks and I've unable to post for several days, this may be news so I am publishing my blurb and links here for anyone interested to check out.

Graham is an ICT Coordinator in a primary school in suburban Adelaide with a focus on inquiry based learning and interactive whiteboards. He sees that information literacy and Web 2.0 technologies go hand in hand and will have a significant impact on his role. As well as working with students who are comfortable in the digital world, his role also involves helping his colleagues come on board with the effective use of technology for learning in the classroom.

The changing information landscape of the 21st Century demands that our students develop new skills of information literacy and become knowledge producers as an integral component of their learning. But what of the professionals charged with these students’ education? Can they be convinced of the need for personal change to keep pace with their students’ world? Are they even aware of the exponential changes taking place? How would they get started in their classrooms? This online presentation will explore some of the barriers faced by educators seeking to improve and influence their colleagues’ perceptions of the internet, and Web 2.0 in particular, as a vehicle for learning. It will pull together various resources that could be useful as starting points for discussion and explore some of the concerns and trepidations of average teachers struggling already with a heavy workload. This presentation will use a wiki as its base and seek to leverage the online Conference participants to help create some possible answers and resources for those of us who recognize the need for our colleagues to be at our sides, providing best practice for our digital age students.


Supporting Links

Add Mike Seyfang's mp3 audio only adaptation here as well.