Monthly Archives: October 2008


"Googling isn't learning."

I saw this quote in an article in an educational glossy lying in the staffroom and it caught my eye enough to use (ironically enough) Google to find the source. It comes from The Australian newspaper in an article written by Justine Ferrari titled interestingly enough "Low marks for computers in schools" - an interesting read in itself. If you read the full article, you will notice that I have lifted those three consecutive words totally out of context - it's not entirely what the quoted professor was intending to say - but it's more the fact that this quote sums up a lot of educators' mindsets is what intrigues me.

Using Google or any other search engine is definitely learning in my book but the degree of effectiveness can vary according to purpose. Even the most shallow of cut'n'paste efforts learns something, even if it's to become better lifters of text for shallowly defined assignments. But with an effective teacher at the helm, Google can be a very powerful tool to improve student information literacy. I get what the quote hints at to some degree - too often students are just left to use Google without any scaffolding or guidance on how to interpret or manipulate the results.

Again, Google's potential benefit is totally determined by the pedagogy employed in its use. Sometimes, a person offering an opinion that "Googling isn't learning" is revealing something about how they view the process of learning.

Image: 'Google logo render - mark knol'

On Friday I wearily returned from our double class camp, suffering a bit of dehydration and sunburn (I was drinking water and had sunscreened myself but a few urgent issues took precedent on the Friday morning so my own continuing needs took a back seat to student welfare at that time) but very satisfied at how the three days away had turned out. In general, the students had a great time earning praise from our outdoor education instructors for their involvement, their willingness to try new things and their support of each other. One instructor even said that our students were more like country kids - a compliment in her eyes as country kids are generally less concerned with image, more likely to be willing to try outdoor challenges and make their own fun. I thought the campsite facilities were magnificent - there were so many great options for the kids from the Tarzan swing to the flying fox (described as "the thing that moves" by one of my class members) to the trampolines to the gym with its sports equipment, pooltables and air hockey table. If you are a South Australian teacher looking for camp options, I would highly recommend the site.

My co-teacher in this venture, Maria, and I pushed this as a chance for students to detach from their digitally enhanced world, coming to an agreement that mobile phones and Nintendo DS systems were not needed for the three days. We agreed that portable music players were fine to bring and that digital cameras were actively encouraged. We took two Flip cameras along as well and for the first time since 1998 when I first took a Sony Mavica and five boxes of floppy disks to our Flinders Ranges camp, I spent more time grabbing video footage in preference to digital stills. We're still not at the stage of this innovative school in New Zealand (tweet via hooked_on_think) but playing the assorted videos back on the classroom IWB will be a great way to relive the highlights and see how the camp was from different points of view. 

And eventually, I'll upload the video of myself on the giant swing...


I've been quite pleased with the way my students' blogs have progressed this year, considering the caution with which I have proceeded. I originally had volunteer Blog Coaches from my online network ready to interact with my students but Al Upton's class blog controversy and some advice I received in the aftermath had me re-thinking that concept. It was a shame because I really appreciated the helping hands that were offered to my students freely - and I feel as if I never really showed that appreciation properly.

A lot of online interactions in the edublogosphere are built on goodwill and that may be why many of us (education bloggers and twitterers) are reluctant to criticise (even constructively) others because we don't want to sour the potential to collaborate. And that's what I'd like to leverage now - some of your goodwill.

My students are starting an inquiry unit "What Makes Us Australian?" and I figure that their blogs are the ideal platform from which to explore more about their place in the world. But I need some help. My students don't have an online learning network of their own to help shape their thinking - so I want them to borrow mine. They have created posts that list 10 things they feel are unique to Australia. If you feel inclined pop over to my post on the class blog and follow the listed links to one of their posts, have a read and leave them some observation or feedback about their choices. You will notice that several people have already read and commented on some of the first posts from the class - their participation has already created a buzz and authenticity to the discussion that would not have occurred within the four walls of our classroom only. Having new perspective (especially from outside Australia) will be valuable in forcing them to justify their choices, consider new information and deepen their own understanding of the topic. This is different to the angle Doug Noon and I delved into last year on our Spin The Globe wiki and will be a much more individual exploration.

Thanking you in advance for becoming new teachers for my students - you may even learn a thing or two about Aussies in the process.


I'm not much of a contributor to mailing lists but I do read through some of the postings on the Oz-teachers list. There seemed to be very little about the recent ACEC08 conference in Canberra on the open web so I read some recent reflections with interest. One aspect of interest that came through in some of the reflections was an annoyance with delegates who chose to backchannel via twitter on laptops during some of the keynotes and presentations. Without directly quoting any of the responses, there was an opinion posed that these educators were lacking in professional respect, that they weren't paying attention to what was being presented and that their activities were distracting for other delegates.

Anyway, I thought I would throw the latter half of my posting here for the wider edublogger community to ponder at their whim.

I am one of those educators who will always have his laptop open (wireless availability and battery life permitting) and use the web to connect to points of interest that a speaker might be mentioning, pulling in resources that come to mind when something crops up, making notes, trading ideas with any backchannel that exists and yes, delving into my RSS reader if the presentation becomes irrelevant to my learning. I do this quietly, without fanfare and certainly am unsure how this activity can become a distraction to others. This methodology has actually made me a more attentive participant at any conferences that I've attended.

Although I did not go to ACEC, I would say that any ICT conference that has a mobiles off, laptops off policy is not one that I'd bother attending.

However, this is just my opinion. What do others think? Laptop backchannelling - the way modern educators make conferences relevant or just plain bad manners?

Are those of us who are laptop-toting social media addicts helpful to the future of professional learning or adding a complicated layer that just scares or annoys others?


September was one of the quietest months on my blog in over three years. There are a number of reasons for this including a growing feeling of disconnect between my online learning and the urgency of the rest of my life. I've become a bit like the country person trying to cross the busy street in the city for the first time, waiting for the comfortable break in the traffic that never comes while all of the experienced pedestrians just cross with ease at their first opportunity. And every hesitation means that someone else jumps into the gap, just as John Pearce recently described after his extended blogging hiatus.

I know that maintaining an active online presence is not an extra for me, but my family and some minor health issues have sapped the urge to regularly post here, or to participate in twitter, or to check anything of interest in greater detail. There is so much good stuff to read, view, interact with and so many talented educators doing their thing that it is easier sometimes to back out and become the lurker, instead of the active participant. Add in the fact that I have to re-apply for my position at my school in the next couple of weeks and it seems that local issues need to be prioritised so that my life can have some semblance of balance.

My wife and I took the kids on a three day holiday down to the South-East of our state here earlier in the week, going to a number of places and doing all manner of kid friendly activities. Although I (still feel) felt exhausted from the driving, the dodgy motel rooms and the refereeing of back seat sibling disputes, the mental break from my all consuming profession was quite welcome.

I could have been at ACEC08 - as it seems anybody who is somebody in the Aussie edtech field was there - but seeing I'm feeling more and more like a nobody these days, the days with the kids and Joanne seem very well spent. But I am hoping that I can breathe some life into my blog, otherwise the "Open Educator" tagline might be misleading.