Monthly Archives: April 2007


In my comment trails during the week, I feel like I've unwittingly started a few spotfires and it's only after re-visiting a key few blogs again that I realise conversation has flared and is burning brightly (but hopefully not out of control). Example one - I left a comment on Chris Craft's blog about my lack of engagement with the new social networking site ning. Miguel Guhlin picked this comment up and reposted it on his blog, where a very spirited debate took place in his comments section. But that's not what I wanted to write about.

This is what I wanted to write about. Darren Draper's video, "Are You Paying Attention?" has gone viral in a way that I have not seen since Karl Fisch's "Did You Know?" resource. I've seen references in edna and in a conversation with my principal yesterday, she says, "By the way, have you seen this video?"

How do I successfully explain that yes, I have seen the video but that I've seen fit to criticise it as well. But the good news was that Darren was totally open to my feedback and even has the good grace not to say something along the lines of, "Well, you do better then!"

Because the reality is that I'm not prepared to do anything else. My main point I was trying to make, and it was not exclusively aimed at Darren's video, was that a global perspective is going to be increasingly important as we interact with each other. Darren sums it up well:

However, I am saying that if we truly are a global community, and if a blog can truly be an international forum (an international classroom, if you will), then participants in that community must make a conscious effort to avoid ego-centric references to their own particular culture - for a world-wide culture is what we must become. I'm not sure if most current participants in the blogosphere truly understand their role in shaping the future. It seems to me that as participants in this global forum, we are all forming the international culture that will eventually be called "school".

We all think we know what we're talking about. But from our particular view of the world, we overlook what we take for granted and make assumptions about what others know. Julie Lindsay pointed this out recently in her preparation for the Horizon Project - to get people from different cultures successfully communicating requires give and take from all parties.

By the way, anyone is more than welcome to put me straight anytime I'm being Aussie-centric - but try and be as respectful as I was with Darren. Diplomacy is an important skill in this new learning landscape.

Attribution: Image: 'globe' by Tinker*Tailor


Although at times, it feels like there are very few education bloggers in Adelaide, a face to face opportunity like the Jimmy Wales event reminds me that there are other voices out there in this town, presenting different takes on the state and future of education. I'm not a big podcast listener but I've (finally) recently finished listening to a Nancy White recording from her 2006 speaking tour of Australia. This podcast was recorded at a lunchtime address to a NSW VET sector conference and is usual with any of Nancy's work, contains many references to the nuances and capabilities of online networks and communities. One of the points that stuck firmly in my mind is the concept that a new voice can be magnified by someone else who already has an established network. So I'm going to do exactly that in my post.

One of the educators at my table on Monday was John Travers. John is extremely well known person in the South Australian education community, having held the position of Manager of the now defunct Technology School of The Future at its peak. John even got to show Queen Elizabeth II around the facilities of TSOF during her last official Australian visit but today works with pre-service teachers at Flinders University. He was also the principal of Seacliff Primary School when I completed my final student-teacher practicum back in 1986! He's recently dipped his toes into blogging and is looking to build his online learning network. One of his recent posts came out of one of the conversations round our table concerning the impact of heavy-handed filtering systems. He says:

It is too easy to resort to victim behavior, blaming ‘the department’ for restrictions on web access when the power is fundamentally in the hands of the school. It means being accountable for one’s actions. But principals and and teachers and school councils are expected to be accountable, to act reasonably and to act in good faith. They manage this in relation to the purchase of books for the library, and are perfectly capable of doing this in relation to selecting web sites for access by students.

Although there are many education systems with less restrictive filters than SA, and with a hierachial permissions system, John points out that there are practical ways to get on with the business of innovation. Of course that doesn't mean that we can't lobby and push for a better filter system in the future but we can't let it become an excuse to prevent the innovation.

John's a fantastic person to swap educational technology ideas and concepts with in person. I'm hoping that some of my readers who enjoy my flawed ramblings might want to check out his blog, leave some comments and add him to your aggregator.


After the lunch, we were introduced to a panel representing the various sectors by Mark Pesce, the panel moderator. He spoke briefly to set the scene and had some really good things to say. He mentioned that there are issues in the way we learn in relation to the concept of knowledge sharing. Two key questions to consider - What is the truth? Who do you trust? He showed us the various models from the web - Wikipedia, distribued authority, then Britannica, centralised authority but walled (access for $6.95 a month), Citizendium, only approved authorities may contribute but when authority is concentrated, it slows down knowledge creation, Conservapedia, a creationist viewpoint and Uncyclopedia, a parody. Conservapedia was cited as an example of a special interest group, working to shape knowledge to suit their aims. Peer produced content has the potential to free knowledge latent within the community.

Notes from the panel with the task of answering the posed question - What are the practical and philosophical challenges for peer-produced knowledge sharing technology?
Librarian viewpoint - online collections that encourage input from the community, mediated for high standards and accessibility in search terms, using a combination of folksonomies and subject headings.
Industry - kids today are well versed in media literacy but how do young people get the chance to tell their story?
University - Wikipedia challenges the traditional role of unis and the traditional process of knowledge creation. The good thing is that Wikipedia cites its sources which is good academic process.
High School - (the smoothly spoken Peter Ruwoldt) Teachers are connected to concepts of peer publishing, using the constructivist theory which is about building on previous knowledge. There is more scope for constructivist learning than before but the "filtering system" blocks the opportunity for peer publishing. The filters in school brings us back to Web 1.0 level which is a shame because we could have had a cool learning environment via low cost web based tools.
Student - Wikipedia changes the way he works at school, but it needs more contributors from the generations who aren't so technology savvy but as more people get older and more experienced, there is opportunity for the resource to really grow.

The final task was to do some knowledge sharing within our table group. This is best explained via the final three images - the task, the group and our solution. task.jpgideas.jpg

More after my brain marinates in the ideas of peer publishing and knowledge sharing/ creation - I know that many edubloggers are already in this world but how do we bring the majority of classroom teachers along for the ride?

Tag:  eduausem2007


Well, it would have been good to have live blogged this event but my laptop refused to connect to the wireless network here at the Hilton. We had a brief introduction from Chris Robinson, Director-General of DECS, who spoke first and made a couple of statements that I'm not so sure about - I'm not sure that I'll expand any further than that. Garry Putland then introduced Jimmy to the assembled crowd - pointed out his visit had attracted mainstream media attention, quite possibly fueled a bit by the threat to the mainstream that Wikipedia presents.

What follows are my notes of his presentation - italic reflections or comments of mine along the way.

As the next billion users come online, the digital divide is going to narrow - he then introduced the concept of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is freely licensed in many languages and is owned by the WikiMedia foundation. This foundation involves Wikipedia and sister projects - of which $1 million was spent expanding in 2006. One of the other projects is Wikia which is a separate organisation which moves beyond the non-profit and educational domain. An example he showed us was the MuppetWiki, which documents everything in the world from a Muppet point of view. Jimmy then touched on OpenServing which offers free hosting to anyone working in the area of free software and content development, and then demonstraed Wikia search, an open source search engine with the algorithms freely available to try and replicate the traditional end user experience similar to Google and Yahoo.

It was noted that only one third of the articles are in English. Jimmy stated up front that he was an advocate of Free Access. What is free access? He described it as "freedom as in speech not beer." He pointed out that Wikipedia was not a data dump and cited an example of an argument about whether it should contain the full version of Hamlet – but it was decided that it is not an archive because as its role of encyclopedia was the essential summary of human knowledge and all articles need to conform to the needs of the topic. He showed a video of his visit to Delhi where they had for-profit schools that had only two computers in the school, but no web connection, in an illegally settled area - he said he was wondering how does his work impact in this area. After all, the next billion people coming online will be from the developing world.

How popular is Wikipedia ? 9th most popular website on the internet, 6th most popular in Germany, 12th most popular in India, Japan and Iran. He ran a comparison of "reach" with CNN at 2.23% and Wikipedia 6.19%. He then referred to the Nature magazine study comparing Wikipedia articles between Britannica articles.
Although interestingly, this comparison isn't universally accepted as valid.

He covered the topic of neutrality and mentioned a “culture of thoughtful toleration” where people were able to disagree safely. Wales then made a good point that most learning environments are designed with the bad things that might happen at the forefront. He mentioned that what education needs is an accountability model, not a gatekeeper model. So, in his view, how should students and teachers use WikiPedia? Taught the right way, Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for research but educators need to make students aware of how the articles are constructed.

He talked about the need for a free culture future and touched on Creative Commons licenses using the example of Flickr photos that can be assigned under a CC license. Through the CC model free culture can create a base layer of raw cultural materials for learners to remix and build upon. (Not market exchange but intellectual exchange. Participatory medium means that we should care about copyright and IP.

Neutrality is an important concept in search. Through things like tags , metadata is being generated by the general public creating terms that are becoming common use - can they be used for search terms? Can this lead to the read/write culture in the education sector. Wales used the example of Connections @ Rice University - producing free licensed online textbooks.

Wikipedia is currently completely blocked in China and Jimmy Wales says that there is no intention of compromising like Google. (He compared the situation in terms of free speech being similar to apartheid South Africa) He said it's time to for Google to have their feet held to the fire and their motto of "Don’t Be Evil" – however, unlike a lot of companies just going into China for the money, Google has been fairly transparent. Wales believes that accessed information is a fundamental human right.

Jimmy fielded a number of questions from the floor at this point handling them all with aplomb but I wasn't taking notes - I was still trying to get my laptop to connect to the wireless!!

Tag:  eduausem2007

1 Comment

Every day brings a new Twitter friend and I try to lob at least one twitter into the mix on a daily basis to keep in touch. Some people on my little network are regular, others post in fits and bursts but it's become mildly handy as a post-it note bulletin board type place to check in with people on a passing by type basis. One of the lesser known features is the ability to direct message someone (yes, I know that I could use e-mail) that can direct a question or answer. Quentin D'Souza messaged me after I posted this to twitter:

A big meeting tonight for our interactive whiteboard teachers - how they have moved their classroom practice forward. Very challenging 4 me. 09:24 PM April 12, 2007 from web Icon_star_empty Icon_trash

He was keen to know how the meeting went and pointed me to a forum discussion (open to world) in his local area that is similar in context to our local CEGSA edna forum (closed to wider world). So, without compromising the research component - I will not identify the researcher or anything my fellow colleagues stated in the meeting in confidence - I will share some of the questions being discussed and some of my personal responses, no matter how unsure I might be. This is in the interests of me trying to model the open educator, flaws and all, that I'd want all teachers to be.

Firstly, we'd all had a lesson videoed last year that was the subject of another personal interview. At the meeting I was invited to share a highlight from that and make some general observations about that lesson using the interactive whiteboard. The first question asked about what I had learnt from watching the video and whether the video approach was useful. I learnt a fair bit about my teaching with an IWB and that is I like to talk - a lot. I'd like to think it's about prompting kids to participate and then asking probing questions to get their brains thinking but sometimes it was just lead time to string the steps of the lesson together. I felt that in my demonstration lesson I fell into the trap of using the IWB as the focus for the whole time and because 40 minutes was allocated for the taping, that's how long the lesson went for. The lesson was on "Using Search Engines" as a tie-in to personal research projects the class was working on and it was also relevant to our SACSA Society and Environment area (Learners develop and use operational skills in information and communication technologies to critically design and construct texts, search for and sort information, and communicate with others.) All participants were given a DVD copy of the lesson with two camera angles shown on the screen simultaneously and it was interesting to view myself teaching a lesson from the perspective of the student. I wasn't unhappy with the lesson itself - it was an explicit exploration of tools lesson and it was reasonably tightly scripted from my side. There were opportunities built in for input from the students where at times I called someone to scribe, students also filled in a grid with their answers and also volunteered to use the hotlinks to various search engines and then typed in suggested key words. One page of the flipchart I was using had four "facts" about Google listed (two were true and two were false) and the task was for the students to collectively suggest key words into Google to ascertain whether the fact was truth or fiction. Right at that moment when reviewing the lesson, I realised that was the point where a class set of wireless web-connected laptops would have been ideal as then the students could have all tackled the task and reported back their findings and used the IWB to model their process. As it was, it dragged as a whole class exercise and I cut it short after only two facts. It is a bit of an ironic conundrum - the teacher poses problems in digital form but all the students have to work with in their immediate environment is pen and paper technology. The video approach was useful because although there are elements of artificiality whenever cameras are present, it was useful to have a magnifying glass on my questioning methods, how I brought students into the lesson and whether they would be better served by using different approaches. I think the danger of having an IWB lesson videoed is that I was really conscious of making sure the board was being used as the goal was to gain feedback on its appropriate (or otherwise) use within the classroom.

The next question asked me to share a segment of the DVD and explain my choice. I didn't really focus on a particular part but I did note that the kids were ready for a change of pace or activity at about the 20 minute mark. The follow on question asked how the video of my classroom practice aligned with my educational beliefs about good teaching and learning. This provoked a lot of discussion and I think my feelings that an IWB needs to be backed by other technology tools were very strong. For me, good classroom practice uses whole class instruction time as an avenue to setting up a task or introducing a specific concept - using the IWB in this way is fine, but using it as a lecture or tour of content is not the way I operate. It is important to allow students time to work in small groups or as individuals on certain tasks whether they be cementing an idea or concept into place or investigating a problem or designing a product. How to effectively utilise the IWB for a small group or even an individual is still an ongoing challenge for me. The IWB does represent a great opportunity to go over ideas or concepts that are troubling individuals - together at the board the student and I can go over steps to a maths problem, or show them specifically how to add an e-mail attachment or how to add punctuation to a paragraph easily with both parties able to annotate, save and re-visit the work at hand. So, does the IWB align with my teaching practice - yes, but to a point and it does bring other tools into play.

Have the interactive whiteboards lived up to your expectations? How?
It's been over 18 months since I first got an IWB in my classroom so it's hard to remember what my expectations were but because we have spent so much time repeating the Marc Prensky mantra of technology implementation, I've been looking at how they can allow me to do "new things in new ways". They have allowed me to access web based resources easily, construct things with my class collaboratively (e.g. class meeting agendas, assessment rubrics, class rule agreements) and keep everything that I would normally put on a regular whiteboard into digital, readable, saveable format.

How has the IWB influenced the learning process in your classroom?
It has been brilliant in allowing students to become the teachers of their peers by using the IWB as a presentation platform. Through their Personal Projects where the student presenting took charge of their peers' learning for a 20 minute stint through to opportunistic moments when a student returning from an Asian trip with her father can plug in her USB stick and play her slideshow, talking the whole class through her amazing experience.

What problems or difficulties in your classroom practice have they solved and / or created?
Access for students is always an issue - not everyone can have an opportunity in every lesson. It has certainly solved the problem of my messy writing through superior presentation and use of the handwriting recognition tool. Use of various software programs and the internet has become embedded into my practice - but when the network is down or the web is slow, useful access to some of these tools is compromised. There is the issue of all students being able to see the IWB - sadly for a while I reverted back to traditional rows - as the students themselves want to be able to see what is being shown and manipulated.

What does effective use of the IWB look like in practice?
I keep thinking that this idea ties to the IWB being just one technology option within the classroom - while it caters really well to whole class activity, other technologies like computers, mp 3 recorders, video cameras, scanners and digital cameras help to facilitate group and individual learning. The IWB provides an ideal starting point but if (any form of) technology remains solely in the grasp of the teacher and doesn't get handed over to the students, then the learning will be limited without any personalisation. Like all technology, the IWB will only be effectively used by an effective teacher.

Describe a successful experience that you have had using the IWB with students and outline why you think it was a success.
Last year, my class worked on Personal Research
Projects on negotiated topics from our SOSE curriculum. The IWB allowed the student to be up in front of their peers controlling the presentation experience and by being at the board, being able to stop to annotate images or diagrams along the way, pull in multimedia without stopping and heading over to the laptop and being able to go back to key points at the request of the audience. One really memorable presentation was by a boy on the Roman Empire - he's still collecting credibility points from me and his former classmates today!

This is as far as the discussion got during that session but there are more questions that didn't get covered that are worth posting here for anyone else who'd like to use them.

In your classroom, what do you believe is your role as the teacher? How do you believe students learn and what is the role of the IWB and ICT?

Dave Miller describes three stages of development using the IWB - (i) supported didactic, (ii) interactive and (iii) enhanced interactive and a change of thinking. Can you identify with them? What factors help teachers move along these stages? 

Has the IWB influenced your attitudes and beliefs about what constitutes as "good" teaching and learning? How and why?

Do you think that teachers who adopt a student-orientated constructivist teaching approach are more likely to make better use of the IWB and vice versa: Teachers who readily integrate them into their practice are more likely to possess constructivist learning styles and why?

How has the IWB impacted on your work? (e.g. stress, workload, enjoyment, self-esteem, collaboration with others.)

What factors have supported and / or hindered your use of the IWB?

What are the most effective and ineffective strategies for professional learning using IWBs?

What will you do differently for the next classroom observation in Term 3 to demonstrate "good" practice if you were going to share it with colleagues, and why?

What lessons have you learnt using the IWB that would be would be valuable to share with colleagues?



My esteemed online colleague, Alex Hayes has once again hit the proverbial nail on the head, highlighting the very big deal that online identity is in this brave new networked world. Anonymity used to be reserved for those of us who were just starting out but it now seems to be the province of the coward, the troll or the antagonist seeking to disrupt productive communication and poisoning fruitful conversations.

Now more than ever, it is important to go by your real name, construct your avatar or Hackergotchi from a real photo and primarily use only your own words, and liberally use citations and hyperlinks when utilising the work of others. Using an alias and cryptic image will only raise suspicion about the need for a mask to hide behind.

Not all aliases and non de plumes are sinister as most genuine people are not hard to Google or tend to link to other open identifiable educators. Sometimes a fictional name puts enough legal distance between a blogger and their employer for the posts to flow freely, but a well written disclaimer can also do the same job. Within my own subscriptions, only a certain Kiwi vegetable might seem contradictory to the concept of open identity. In that case (and there are exceptions to most conventions) the alias serves as a metaphor, not a deception as the blogger's real identity was really easy to uncover (i.e. ask Leigh Blackall).

But if we need to be "surrounding this whole bullying thing with light" onto online bullies haunting comments and forums, then one of the best defences is to be really clear about who you are and make it easy to verify where you are coming from and expect nothing less from others in return. Expect that if you use a cartoon character or celebrity avatar, that others will dig virtually to work out your place in the jigsaw of online edu-interaction. Posters hiding behind fake email addresses, un-Googleable names and antagonistic, sinister  tones are to be spurned. By all means, spirited debate and contrary points of view help us all to grow. But it you don't know me personally which of these personas would you trust? :


We had an interesting exercise at our final staff meeting for the term where we had an A5 sheet of paper with a six cell table printed on it. In the six cells were writing prompts that were designed for reflection and some forward planning. I actually found it hard to really identify that I wanted to highlight for each section. I picked out something for each heading but internally I was dissatisfied with my choices - but I was under time pressure. After hearing some of my colleagues' responses, I realised that I was being too harsh and unrealistic and that even seemingly small triumphs are worth acknowledging and sharing. Ironic, that I strive to be open in this space but open f2f interaction with people I work alongside of daily is something that is harder to achieve.

Anyway, so that I can recycle the piece of paper and keep my responses for future reference, I'll post and expand on my choices. Perhaps one of my readers may want to use this idea with their staff or suggest some better prompts for me.

(1) My biggest WOW with my colleagues in my learning team.

I wrote: Thanks to Chris Harbeck, I used and then introduced the Glass Bead Game as a tool for our students in their Identity Unit. I used his original Gliffy template and got the kids to plot themselves and connections to their peers based on their similarities. Now this activity has been redesigned and re-used across four middle school classes. Chalk another win for global learning network interaction.

(2) My biggest WOW with my class.

Starting our class blog and getting comments from places like New Zealand and England. It showed the kids a small snippet of the potential power of a web band publishing portal. The important thing is to rebuild the initial momentum and excitement so that its current dormancy doesn't end as yet another good idea that failed to get off the ground.

(3) Collaboration / co-planning has enabled me to...

...keep pushing colleagues towards digital collaboration and resources. I offered workshops in social bookmarking, accessing online video sites and classroom blogs. I've been available for quite a lot of "just-in-time" technology learning and tried to empower teaches with their own trouble shooting skills.

(4) My plans for the holidays are... with the kids, spend time with my family, a couple of rounds of golf, do some blogging, go to see Jimmy Wales, finish my e-portfolio research grant write up and get organised for my AST1 reassessment.

(5) My proudest achievement this term...

... was managing to balance classroom duties and expectations (four days a week) with my coordinator commitments. Not saying that I can't improve or that things went smoothly all of the time but the juggling act is certainly harder than just being responsible for a full time class.

(6) My professional goal for Term 2 is ...

... my AST1 reassessment, and blogging with my class, hopefully leading to individual student blogs.

This reflection exercise was more valuable than I was willing to give it credit for at the time. Next term will probably be just as busy.