Monthly Archives: April 2007

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I know I said that he wasn't worth $300 of my money when I can watch so much of him on the web already. But when Al Upton e-mailed a deal "Half price to see the expensive man" I got in quick and got the MYLU team tickets to his Adelaide seminar.

We've been planning some aspects of our unit of work on community today and a contribution to Wikiville from our middle school cohort seems to be on the agenda. So the seminar is very timely in all of our MYLU teachers being on the same (wiki) page when it comes to the power and collaboration of knowledge sharing via the wiki format. Add to that a big interactive whiteboard user research group interview tonight where the question was asked, "How do interactive whiteboards help with student's own knowledge creation?" and the conversations that will come from a team of people discussing issues raised by this seminar in grappling with that question will be timely and invaluable.

I know Marc Prensky's visit last year has had a lasting effect in our school even though only Annabel and I attended. Even though I'm ready to leave certain metaphors behind, there are still a few "digital immigrants" trading on that expression - thankfully, not in the guise of an excuse.

Should be good. Most teachers like a discount.


I know that it borders on sacrilege but I don't really read David Warlick that much these days. But when cleaning out some of my Bloglines feeds today, I did take notice of this post where David wrote about the importance of attention in the blogging world. He has this to say:

To get things done, we need other people, and to get them interested, we need their attention. One thing that’s concerned me is that as we talk about limitless bandwidth, limitless channels on the TV, limitless this and that in the world of information, what is not limitless is attention. There are only so many people and so many hours in the day. And each of us are only willing to give up so much of our day’s attention to others’ ideas.

That got me thinking that as the blogosphere grows, that the opportunity for new bloggers to gain a foothold, and to attract enough readership to create a network of expertise is actually more difficult than when I started this blog experiment back in August 2005. David describes how it panned out for him:

...that I started blogging in a time when there was an abundance of attention out there, looking for something to pay attention to, and they would latch on to almost anything. As more people started becoming interested in blogs, and there were only a handful of educator bloggers out there, they came to Will Richardson, Terry Freedman, David Jakes, and some even came to read my blog. It was like physics — attention gathering around Will’s voice built up mass, and the more mass gathering around a particular voice the greater the gravitational pull — and the more attention that was attracted to it.

All of a sudden, a comment I read earlier in the day on an edna forum made sense - in paraphrase as I haven't asked permission to quote directly, the poster was lamenting that new things online always had a burst of energy initially but then struggled to continue. He cited that blogs are prone to an early death if there isn't any feedback.

The attention from others needed to foster a blog is an important ingredient. I personally believe that comments are the lifeblood of my blog but not everyone else agrees. But attention comes in many forms - comments are just one method of measuring who's reading. I think I was fortunate in the timing of my entry into the edublogosphere after the wake of the well known names David cites but before the bigger growth over 2006 that has also spawned many well read and often quoted education focussed bloggers. So there is potentially a big difference between my experience and what the teacher who starts a blog tomorrow can expect in terms of gathering audience, conversation and importantly, momentum.

I read a lot of bloggers who don't read me. There are bloggers who read me who I don't have in my Bloglines. There are readers who probably don't blog! And it's true that every time I find a new blog or become aware of another educator blogging, my first inclination is to add their feed. But I struggle to get through all of the blogs I'm currently tracking (hence my problem reading David Warlick) and will only keep the Must Reads folder up to date. So in the best interests of managing my attention, if I want to add a new blog I will  look through and see if there are any current feeds that can be culled.


Just like that, one blogger has one less chunk of attention coming their way. I know it happens to me because I see the Bloglines subscription numbers wavering up and down when I check to see if my latest post has been RSSed through successfully. (I know I've forgotten about blogs or assumed the person has stopped blogging due to a dodgy RSS pickup in Bloglines.)  As more educators look for that attentive audience, the reader has a choice - do I keep the feeds that I've read regularly and consciously avoid adding new voices to the mix or do I make space for them and be a bit ruthless about who gets to stay in my Personal Learning Network?

How does a beginner get noticed amongst the more seasoned campaigners (those who've stuck at it for a year or more!) when their initial postings will be a bit tentative, a bit exploratory or a bit self absorbed. I've seen a couple of blogs set up here in Adelaide by teachers that are only two or three posts in length since their birth at my workshop at last year's CEGSA conference. Why? Maybe the authors expected a bevy of comments and found that no-one was really reading. Attention doesn't just come automatically. I hate to use the phrase "competing for attention" because I don't think that the collaborative environment that Web 2 tools enable fits that, but bloggers starting out now have the unenviable task of task of "convincing readers" that their ideas and musings are worthy of that attention. Maybe the solution as David sees it is in social networking sites like ning or maybe new bloggers need to start looking for their attention sources closer to home. Either way, it's probably not surprising that many education blogs die on the vine. But maybe, if the author re-prioritises and looks at how the blogging process can still be useful without the initial audience, the blog can be maintained long enough to gather its deserved slice of attention.


Even though illness has wreaked havoc with the adults in my household over the Easter long weekend, I've enjoyed the opportunity to kick back and relax with my sons. Friday and Monday have included watching a bit of ABC Kids and our newest favourite TV show, Shaun The Sheep. I hardly ever consciously watch television these days but Shaun has really grabbed my attention. Made by the same company that produced Wallace and Gromit, Shaun The Sheep is six minutes of storytelling minus speech and words, in a very potent example of a modern text type.

There are a few places for the uninitiated to view Shaun - there's the official website where some 30 second clips can be viewed or a search on YouTube turns quite a few videos (more than likely to be probably breaching copyright so view them quickly as some have already been taken down) to check out. And if you become a full-blown fan (sorry, bad Aussie sheep pun there) then you could buy the book Feng Shaun (Discover Inner Peace With Shaun The Sheep), or the DVD (might be a good birthday gift this year - for me!) although I could only find it at the ABC shop or

It's hard to describe this show because it defies traditional kids' television so if you can spare a few minutes, check out a video and be ready to have a laugh at some very clever animation and fantastic storylines. If nothing else, check out Saturday Night Shaun...

I'm a fan of Shaun the Sheep!
Both images from the Fankit downloads on the official website.

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I was asked by Terry Freedman last year during one of the K-12 Online Conference Fireside Chats about contributing to the next edition of "Coming Of Age." While a bit daunted by the high level of contributions by other edtech luminaries, Terry convinced me by pointing out that he had no contributors from Australia. I had summer holidays coming up and thought that an untapped topic was the use of StartPages in education and started work on a short contribution. Well, good intentions and all, the article got three quarters written and then left until a reminder e-mail from Terry asking for a bio and pic for the book prompted me to complete the article by the end of February. It's not an epic by any stretch of the imagination but some educators may find it useful, especially after my 15 minute presentation at the Web2 Showcase that got some useful feedback. I wasn't sure if anything was allowed to be pre-published via my blog but after finding this preview of his own contribution by Darren Kuropatwa, I thought I'd post it here and see if it can be improved or critiqued.


Coming Of Age 2

Personalising The Web - Using StartPages

By Graham Wegner

Brief overview of article

This article explores the potential value in using RSS based StartPages in education. There is a brief exploration of RSS as the technology that fuels the StartPage concept and how RSS can be harnessed for educational purposes. The various functions and interface of typical StartPages are described along with their possible educational applications for teachers and their classrooms.

What is RSS?
One of the most significant technologies to emerge from Web 2.0 (otherwise known as the Read/Write Web) is Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication, commonly known as RSS. This is a background technology that creates content feeds from websites and allows for the aggregation of these feeds in new locations and to be customised by the reader. This means I can "subscribe" to multiple sources of information and have it collected for me in a central spot like a feedreader or an online news reader. These sources of information could range from blog posts to Flickr photo feeds to social bookmarking service updates. Without getting too technical, there are several formats of RSS but they are all utilised in the same way. A
site that displays the rssrsssymbol.jpg feed symbol is advertising that capability and subscribing to that source just means right mouse clicking (for PC users) and selecting Copy Link Location or Copy Shortcut, depending on your choice of web browser. If you paste that into your choice of aggregator, new content will then pushed out to you whenever the source updates.

How can educators harness RSS?
There are many applications, both desktop and web based, that utilise RSS in ways useful to educators. A lot of educators will use an aggregator (Bloglines is a popular example) to keep track of education and technology blogs as part of their professional reading. If a teacher has a class of students working on blogs or wikis, then subscribing to all of their feeds using an application like SuprGlu keeps track of all current changes in one spot and at one web address. If part of the curriculum requires focussing on a particular topic or concept, then subscribing to regularly updated RSS feeds allows the teacher and the students to access the very latest developments, news or research. Using tools like Flickr, BubbleShare, YouTube and, students can utilise multimedia content as an important part of their learning. But what is the best way to tab into and access RSS distributed information?

More than a feedreader - introducing the StartPage.
There are a number of exciting web applications utilising RSS technology exceptionally well that fit into a category known as Personal Homepages or Start Pages. So, what is a StartPage? A StartPage is a self-constructed webpage that uses small feed boxes or modules that can house weblinks, photo feeds, breaking news, search engines and social bookmarking links. The user has full control over the positioning of each module using drag'n'drop customisation. Generally, access is free and just requires a valid e-mail address to create an account. More than one page can be set up on the one site, using titled tabs at the top of the StartPage to navigate. A StartPage can become a "one stop shop" that many teachers can use to manage their use of the internet especially as they explore and use more of the really useful Web 2.0 tools that continue to emerge on a regular basis.

I have tried out a number of the StartPages available online to test out their various interfaces and capabilities. ( When looking at the merits of a good StartPage, I am looking for several features. There should be access to my webmail, telling me when new e-mails arrive. It should be easy to set up RSS feeds not only of blogs, social bookmarking sites and news services, but for using RSS search engines for key terms and words. There should be an extensive library of “widgets” that can range from clocks, personalised maps and video feeds to sticky notes, instant messaging and daily cartoons! Another really handy feature that is desirable for classroom use is the ability to make the StartPage public, which is essential if you want to set one up for your students to use. Finally, a healthy community of users associated with your chosen StartPage is essential to ensure the long term future of your customized pages, and allows for developers to add more creative and innovative “widgets” and “modules” for your use. For starters, I would recommend looking at PageFlakes, Netvibes, Protopage or WebWag. There are many others that I have yet to have a play with – a comprehensive list can be found at the 3spots blog.

Using StartPages in Education.
So, how can educators make use of this interesting new tool? Well, it is a handy way of gluing web based feeds together on a common theme. A teacher might have a topic or focus that their class needs to work on and the StartPage becomes the platform to organize a lot of relevant online content that the students can access. By using RSS based web searches, current news items and other web based updated resources will come to the StartPage cutting down on a lot of the searching and scouring that would normally be required. Images that can be used for assignments or as discussion starters can be accessed using the Flickr modules. Various widgets can be utilized to beam in current information about weather, world stock market prices, country information – the sky is the limit for how this information can be utlitised when it is gathered in the StartPage portal. One StartPage developer, PageFlakes, has even designed education templates for use within their pages that help students organise their own online portal. If your classroom has an Interactive Whiteboard or regular access to a data projector, then this technology means your class can build, customise and display a web based portal that reflects the needs and priorities of their learning. Imagine using this technology for collaboration with another school across the other side of the globe, with the latest news from your home town, photos from the local community regularly updating and feeds from student blogs populating the page to give them a real feel for life in your part of the world!

For my own personal use, I have used a StartPage as a professional starting point for my daily web explorations. Vital web addresses are bookmarked ready for use, topics of current interest are being tracked via RSS searches and my most important sites feeds provide me with the latest blog post or podcast without heading off to a dedicated RSS reader. At a glance, I can check what resources are being bookmarked by my Network and click to check anything of interest. All links open in a new browser window or tab so that I can leave that open but go back to the StartPage for another purpose. The StartPage can be a dynamic way to get reluctant teachers online. They might be reluctant to have a blog or contribute to a wiki, but being able to customise an online page with their own choice of important links and resources is an appealing and less threatening way to use the internet for their professional learning. There is also potential for use as an e-portfolio platform as feed boxes can lead off to archived artifacts in a web storage account, links can be posted to articles and professional development, a photo stream illustrating aspects of their work can be embedded and online documents of importance can be accessed from within the StartPage environment.

StartPages are a very handy way of "tying it all together" on the web. As more and more educators delve into Web 2.0 tools and realise their potential in the classroom, there will be a desire and need to make it manageable and sustainable. A StartPage offers flexibility, compability with a huge range of tools, and will help teachers and students alike as they tap into the potential of the internet.


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Ever since I delved into educational blogging, a strong supporter of my efforts has been Jo McLeay, a secondary English teacher from Melbourne. She has a great name for her blog, "The Open Classroom." It's a great title because it evokes images of transparency and free dialogue. I'm pretty sure that's what Jo strives for and it brings me to the point that in order to have an open classroom in today's existing school paradigm, I would assume it would need to be led by an open educator.

What's an open educator?

It could be interpreted in several different ways but I'd want to consider this concept in the context of the digital age. For me, an open educator is someone prepared to share their practice, their resources and ideas, locally and globally, to known colleagues and unknown peers. In short, they are committed to an open professional existence.

At my school, structures like co-planning partners and learning teams are all designed to foster the openness and transparency required to move whole school practice forward. There are barriers in that sort of collaboration as not all teachers' mindsets lend themselves to teamwork or the pursuit of common goals. Sharing of resources and professional practices voluntarily outside of these group structures can be a sporadic, incidental or scarce occurrence. An example of this came in a conversation I had with a ICT coordinator at a local high school who had been trialling an expansive Learner Management System where teachers could post whole courses online and house their resources in an environment where sharing was as simple as providing an open folder for others to peruse. He said that teachers were loathe to put much up because they didn't want others "stealing'' their "intellectual property." I can think back to the many primary school teachers who guarded their precious resource folders jealously for the same reasons. In my opinion, being open doesn't come naturally to the average teacher - it takes a conscious choice to do so.

Many of the students we teach are used to being open, especially online - sometimes we (the generation before) think that they are being much too open - and are used to be under surveillance via mobile phones, computer histories and security cameras. Being open is not an issue for them and if the oldies don't understand what's going on and aren't savvy enough to check out the online spaces where the information is displayed, well, that's a bit of a bonus for the kids. And at a certain age, students feel that they have a strong grip on dictating how their open web presence can be displayed or portrayed. I think it's actually a hard sell talking cybersafety to anyone over the age of twelve because a large proportion of these students have already established their online identity and have chatted and Piczoed and MySpaced large slabs of their life and the details involved onto the web. I can sell my tales of caution and care to my slightly younger class because at best, they've only dabbled with some of the technology and are more willing to listen to and consider the risks involved. Photos, profiles, friends' lists, detailed angst - it's easily found and it's a real cultural shift that a lot of educators are struggling to fathom, let alone deal with.

Here's what we do know. There are risks involved in being online. There are risks in being open. There are risks in being open online.

But the open online educator has a greater chance of being a powerful role model for positive, constructive use of the web by students than the closed offline educator. Because where does the latter get their direction? By using a step by step lesson plan from NetAlert? If I'm planning a unit of work based on responsible use of the internet, do I rely solely on one site that I've been recommended? What about multiple points of view? If I'm an open educator who has online presence I can easily gain those alternative perspectives by leveraging my network, using resources other open colleagues have left to be shared via their tags, their wikis, their YouTube videos. Before too long, I have the necessary digital resources to enable my class to cover the topic and its associated issues effectively.

Open educators also work smarter. By making their content and resources open to be shared by others, they can access other teachers' content and resources in return. The wheel doesn't get reinvented in every classroom - a re-mix culture between open educators can emerge where you can take, add, alter and re-share flexible resources around the globe. The closed educator misses out on that.

I'm guessing that if you are reading this, you already are well qualified as an open educator. The problem is - what do we do about the rest of our profession?

Attribution: Image: 'share' by dmihnea

Here we go _ live blogging with Mike Seyfang on "What 2 Can Do For You?" He's just polled the audience on who knows about Web 2.0 and got a good response. There were less hands for the poll on who was enthusiastic about Web 2.0, who was luke warm. and who thinks it's all hype! Luckily I was in a blogging corner with Vonnie and we gave back positive vibes as Mike described his outline. As described in his blog, attempting to ban all harmful or dangerous sites or tools on the web is like trying to grab a blancmange.

He showed a video mashup of an interview with Kevin Richardson with Nick Hodge where the point was made that the most interesting tools being used by kids are not accessible within the school environment. After a second blancmange video, he then outlined his vision of the "virtual fieldtrip or excursion". He describes it best in his original post but he goes into further detail. The scenario described researching Wikipedia on Australian Governor Generals and getting students to spot errors in the content.

Mile then gave us a demo of Twitter and described it as the bridging technology between mobile phones and the internet on computers. More to come after I digest the issues. . . .

Update: CEGSA Educator of The Year is Judy Beal - well done!

I'm trying out twitter - just to see how it works and what the fuss is about. The finding and linking of friends is interesting - there's no obvious way to search onsite for potential links. I started with Mike Seyfang and then went through his friends, then  found EdTech Talk, and then another and then another. I suppose it is nice to know that Jeff Utecht got to have lunch with Doug Johnson and that I had to hunt up a spare part for a dead projector - still trying to work out the hidden power in this sort mini-blogging meets post-diary. Anyway, if you want add me as your friend and let's get twittering...