Monthly Archives: February 2007

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A while back I postulated the idea that all teachers today should have some form of online presence. I had some varying reactions to my ideas and had to do some mental justification. Maybe I needed to clarify. By online presence, I did not mean that I envisaged all teachers with their own websites, weekly podcast or blog. There are much less effort-intensive options like social bookmarking or StartPages that still serve as jumping off points to access and collate the many worthy online resources that can be woven ino a teacher's daily practice. By using's Your Network feature, a teacher can tap into collective wisdom and choice using the digital version of "word of mouth." I suppose I did have utopian visions of a blog driven education sector where ideas and resources were freely exchanged and what I experience through this humble medium become commonplace for all of my colleagues.

But maybe Christian has a point.

With more and more educators wading into the blogging waters, it will invariably be harder to find the voices that matter (to me) and to obtain that precious new and fresh insight that will move me forward in my own professional learning. Just getting teachers blogging because they should? I don't think that the momentum is as great as Christian's post makes me feel so it could well be that by the time blogging becomes mainstream for educators (like e-mail now), the early adopters will be off using some other medium or platform to exchange ideas leaving blogs as mundane and everyday as mailing lists and lockdown forums. And yeah, I've certainly stated somewhere in my archived past, that if you are going to "do blogging" with your class, then you'd better have tasted the format for yourself, or just becomes another checklist item on an ICT continuum.

"Mmmm, blogs in Term One, we'll do wikis next, then in third term we might try podcasts..."

If it's about the needs of students, then maybe some of this web based learning is the cherry on the cake and as long as the teacher's providing the basic technology-lite cake, then their job is done. But if we are really doing our kids a dis-service by letting them explore cyberspace in their own time, possibly without guidance, creating digital histories that are hard nearly impossible to erase then teachers as a profession need to do better.

Maybe teachers don't need their own wikispace or Bebo account or have ever stepped into Second Life (I'll admit, I've tried that twice for less than five minutes each time!) but they DO need to know how to track information efficiently, they do need to know how everything potentially links up online, they do need to know that every keystroke is adding data to the machine, that every child they teach will be Googled for some future job or opportunity or what they bring to the classroom will be seen as less and less relevant.

Chris Harbeck put it beautifully last time in my comments:

It always is getting teachers to take the first step. Once that step has been taken the transformation can begin.

Here's to online transformation.

No danger of this video going viral and I risk alienating my Kiwi subscribers but this "classic" moment of Australian sporting infamy can be relived time and time again, thanks to YouTube. Love digging in the files...


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For the past four weeks I've been teaching the old fashioned way with the minimal use of technology in the classroom. I have had the ACTIVboard, of course, and the challenge this year has been to get the students using the board as much as possible. But the computer room and the two classroom PC "dinosaurs" have been off limits as we're had a new server installed for the school. This has meant no logons, no print accounts and no network access for the kids as our two on-site technical staff gradually get the new system off the ground, save critical files and programs from the old server and configure everything properly to avoid future disruptions. I've managed to start up the class blog and today one of my Year Sixes completed the first student composed post for 2007. Next week, when we first get to go to the Computing Room, the students will be perusing other student and class blog sites to gain a better feel for what it all entails. We'll be able to start on the digital aspects of our Identity cross-curricular unit involving the creation of digital stories detailing the ten most important Milestones of each student's life so far. There will hopefully be an opportunity to compare National Identity via wiki with another class on another spot or the globe (thanks for the opportunity, Tom) and a foray into individual student blogging. With their own logons, students will be able to use the option of publishing their work again and to utilise the computers as they research their Personal Projects. With my guidance, they will be able to improve their information literacy skills and..... anyway, now we can get started.

It just goes to show that my digital classroom  has a long way to go in terms of providing access and still operates in a traditional paper based way at present. It's not quite the classroom without Google, as the IWB allows me and the class to pull in digital resources for whole class use and group work. I'm hoping that our middle school wireless laptop program that is planned for later in the year will be able to make a difference in this regard. With this in mind, I had a look at another local school on Wednesday to see how to set up the wireless points, and other implementation issues firsthand. I see other bloggers' classrooms with their pods of computers in their room and I hope that having even a half class set of laptops shared across four classes will provide computing access not possible previously. With these resources available in a planned timetable, the students will be able to use the laptops for all sorts of cross-curricular purposes. And because all of the MYLU teachers have had a bit of experience with their own laptops with the ACTIVboards , they will find setting up and using the laptops with students to be easier and less hassle than a PDA program (although I'd love to be a pilot class if any Australian organisation have a class set of Pocket PC's they want to give to a good home).

But for now, I'll get ready and plan for our first official Computing Room timeslot on Tuesday.

Attribution: Image: 'laptop interfaces' by fluke42



I've been scouring the web trying to find some teacher friendly resources to help my staff colleagues get into using Why Well, there are a host of social networking sites out there and some of them have more innovative features and more elegant graphical interfaces than, but no one has a bigger user base and for educators, that is a big attraction. I held an hour workshop on Monday after school and went through some of the basics in an effort to get the staff using online bookmarking as a way of tracking their growing base of useful websites. After all, I have heard the cry of "My Bookmarks are gone!" quite a few times already.

Here's what I found.

David Muir's excellent PDF Guide - Simply (Published in 2005 so is missing information about some of the latest features like the network and subscriptions but is very teacher friendly for those who are not overly web savvy.)

John Pederson's Using in Education. (Saved as a Google document, but it's probably aimed a little bit higher than the average classroom teacher - more a guide for the early adopter IMHO.)

Quentin D'Souza's Social bookmarking tools part of his wiki (covers a broader area than just, but led me to the next find.)

Andrew Brown's brilliant screencast (basically covers everything I tried to get in my workshop in under two and a half minutes.)

Are there any other gems out there with "teacher-friendly" stamped all over them?


This photo brings back many memories of my formative years in teaching. For three years I headed west away from "civilisation" along the Eyre Highway in my old brown Chrysler Valiant teaching at Miltaburra, the area school in a paddock and Ceduna, where I first experienced teaching in complex and challenging situations that taught me lessons that still resonate with me today.

Attribution:Image: 'Road to Wudinna' by Georgie Sharp


Via educationau, I found out that Jimmy Wales will be the feature speaker at their 2007 seminar series - Challenging how knowledge is created. Last year I got to see Marc Prensky as part of the 2006 seminars. His visit sparked off a lot of local discussion and his influence was felt in a number of ways in the way I used some of his analogies with my staff, and some of the wider discussion in the education community. The cost to see Jimmy Wales is set at $300 a head, plus the cost of being released from the classroom for the day. There could be a lot of value in say, my school's teacher-librarian, going along as the whole concept of authority of source and the new nature of knowledge is a real challenge to the way the vast majority of South Australian school libraries operate. But, for me personally, I have to question whether that cost is really worth it. After all, would his message be substantially different to anything that has already been recorded in digital form that I can access and view at my leisure on the web? There's his presentation on TED Talks, a recent one - Jimmy Wales Gives Talk on Free Culture, Transparency, and Search - from earlier this month, on Cnet (excuse the compulsory Microsoft ad at the beginning) and Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture from Fora TV. Then there's the mass of information in text form on him and his work and the actual project, Wikipedia, the main reason he is coming to Australia. Will a seat at the Adelaide Hilton give me an experience worth the pricetag? Or is it really for those who won't hear his message any other way? It's not as if I'll get to talk to and exchange ideas with the man himself. However, early next month I can go to an event for no monetary outlay, and actually have conversations with regional big picture thinkers instead. What represents the best value for time and money in terms of future directions in education?

Attribution: Image: 'Jimbo' by thomaswanhoff


I used this handy tool today with my class as part of our unit of work on Identity. The students had a thumbnail sheet of their classmates that they could cut out and arrange on the graphic. But... the catch was that they had to justify the specific placement of each student pic by recording something that the two linked students had in common. And every connection made on the graphic had to be justified in this way so every picture had to be thoughtfully placed. The kids worked on this for half an hour this afternoon and barely scratched the surface - with a lot of kids seeking each other out to work out points of commonality.

"Do you barrack for Port Power or the Crows?"

" What month were you born in?"

"What's your middle name?"

"What's your favourite X-Box game?"

You get the idea. How did I get this activity? Well, in true digital viral form, the graphic came from Chris Harbeck in Winnipeg, Canada, who created it on Gliffy after listening to a Bernie Dodge presentation podcast, listened to and recorded by Wesley Fryer from Oklahoma, USA. Chris picked up the idea very quickly and applied his take on the "Glass Bead Game" mentioned in the presentation. Maybe I was initially resistant to this global virus but eventually the idea has taken seed here in Adelaide, Australia.

Just how easy it is to lay my hands on ideas and communicate with those people who create and put these ideas into action half a world away still blows my mind.

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Christopher D. Sessums says:

We need an instructional theory that states: “we must listen to people who think differently than we do.”

That's why it's important for someone like me to listen to someone like Dan Meyer. His latest post adds another must watch video to the ones I highlighted in my last post. One thing we both agree on is this:

...this is an exciting time to be a teacher with graphic design and motion graphics in his back pocket...

Compelling messages are being created that don't rely on words alone. Images, key text and motion combine to draw the viewer in, give that part of the brain that would normally be prone to distraction something to notice, and delivers the idea or concept in a very "sticky" way. Dan Pink talks about the importance of design and I think Dan Meyer is right on the money here. Engagement is not entertainment - but it's a compulsion to see something through to the end to see where something is going. That's where presentation technologies can be really useful. And that can work just as well (probably better) in a Californian mathematics class as it can in my humble Aussie primary classroom.