Monthly Archives: June 2010


Google Maps Street View now becomes Google Beaten Track View as I discovered that the Googlemobile has been documenting the Mid-North of South Australia where I grew up. My brother is still on the family farm and it is amazing to be able to virtually drive down the dirt roads out of Wirrabara and head towards the almost ghost town of Appila and drive past it. So, even though others have done a better job of using Google Maps to take a trip down memory lane, here are a few grabs to show where I come from.

stone wall

This stone wall on our family farm is over 120 years old.

3 chain roadThis is the Three Chain Road, aptly named because it is "three chains wide" in very old measurements. I remember minding mobs of sheep for my father taking advantage of the free grazing sitting on my old green bicycle and later on the Honda Ag Bike.

daleysThis is the gate to Daley's, a piece of land that my Dad bought in the mid seventies a few kms from our original farm. I still remember him coming home shaking after taking out the then sizeable loan from the local ANZ bank.

rural schoolHere's the Appila Rural School where I went to school in Year Five. I was the only Year Five in the school and went there after the local Lutheran School closed after dwindling down to six students. I only lasted one year before my mum decided to send me to the larger primary school at Wirrabara which had over fifty students for my final two years in primary school.

pine creek

Finally, heading back towards Wirrabara where the road dips through the Pine Creek that weaves its way through much of the family farm. I recall a flash flood that cut off our farm on three sides when I was about eleven or twelve. The water was up around the half way up the gum tree on the right hand side.

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I don't why I haven't subscribed to Mark Pesce earlier, considering Will Richardson has linked to many of his posts before in the past.  I've heard him speak too, at the event that featured Jimmy Wales. But this latest post (no short read by any stretch) is one of the best I've read this year. Mark has a great scope on the Australian educational scene plus a clear picture of the potential of social media.

For all of human history, until about three years ago, we were fundamentally constrained by our biology.  Now, with the rise of ‘social networks’ – which, I want to remind you, are not new in any way – we’ve accelerated our innate capabilities with the speed and power of computers, and amplified them with the reach of a global network which, in both Internet and mobile versions, touches nearly five billion people.  We can maintain some form of connection with several hundred – even thousands – of others.  This isn’t easy; it requires care and attention that could be directed to other, often more important things – such as driving a car, or listening to your partner at dinner, or doing your homework.  Nothing comes for free, and just because we can establish connections with thousands of others doesn’t mean we can manage those connections meaningfully.

This is the knife-edge of the present, because many of us – and certainly many of your students – are establishing far-flung networks of connections, but don’t wholly understand the cost/benefit relationship that comes with these networks.  We can give ourselves a pass on this – after all, this sort of thing simply wasn’t possible just a few years ago – but it’s a dilemma that will become a permanent fixture of 21st century life.  We want to be able to ‘multitask’, to do everything at once, with everyone, everywhere, but studies show that the divided mind is incapable of depth.  We want to be connected, but we don’t want to be interrupted.  We want to be the life of the party, but we also want time to think.

This is the world of 2010.  This is how children present themselves as they enter secondary school.  And it’s only going to become more connected.

So many teachers that I know are part of that connection as well. I had a carpark chat the other afternoon with one of my colleagues who reflected on how much having a Facebook account had improved her technology skills - from her typing skills to her photo sharing to her improved connections to her family and friends. But some many educators are still puzzled as to how all of this relates to learning. I'm not convinced that our students, the ones who are connected via phones, touches, MSN, are all that focussed on the learning potential either. They are just into the connection for their own purposes. As Pesce points out, we are still trying to figure out where all of this is leading and the impact it could have on one of society's most traditional institutions.

That’s what networks do – they find a way around any neat systems or hierarchies or rules that they have no use for.  If that network happens to belong to a fourteen year-old with poor study habits and an attitude problem, then the fact that the homework assignment wasn’t completed is suddenly no longer his problem.  It has been elevated.  It has burst out of the cozy confines of the teacher-student relationship, and overflowed into all of the other connections that student chooses to invoke: parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and so on.  It is as if every student walks into the classroom equipped with a panic button which can instantly bring the educational process to a screaming halt.  If that panic button is connected to a parent already neurotically hypersensitive to anything which could disrupt the careful cocooning of the child, the educational process will break down from stresses it was not designed to accept.

That is the world we have walked into.

Many of you have specific policies in your schools regarding the use of mobiles, protocols over where and how and when and why they can empower students.  Some of you even ban mobiles outright.  Let me be clear: all of your policies are for naught.  All of your protocols mean nothing.  Any child who tastes the empowerment that comes with the network will not ever willingly surrender that empowerment.  If you try to suppress it, you will simply ensure that it will show up somewhere else, in a form that you can not control.

Your only solution is to make peace with the network, to embrace it and the new power relationships which it engenders.  In order to do that we must have a good think about how the network can be used to tame the network, about how you can empower yourselves.

I think that you need to read the post in full to appreciate all of the ground Mark covers here - but he leads into the most enticing concept from my perspective, the potential for educators to connect around the National Curriculum via the internet. Enticing, but is it possible?

Giving kids laptops is interesting and important but entirely insufficient.  We must give kids a reason to connect, something beyond pure sociality (which is also important but outside of the task at hand).  We must give them a reason to connect with knowledge.

We’re very lucky, because just at this moment in time, the Commonwealth has gifted us with the best reason we’re ever likely to receive – the National Curriculum.  Now that every student, everywhere across Australia, is meant to be covering the same materials, we have every reason to connect together – student to student, teacher to teacher, school to school, state to state.  The National Curriculum is thought of as a mandate, but it’s really the architecture of a network.  It describes how we all should connect together around a body of knowledge.  If we know that we should be teaching calculus or Mandarin or the Eureka Stockade rebellion, we have an opportunity to connect together, pool our knowledge and our ignorance, and work together.  We can use our hyperconnectivity to hyperempower our ability to work toward understanding.

Again, this is not the way we’re used to working.

Most of the educators I know in my f2f world will balk and say, "That's out of my range of expertise." Most of the educators in my online network do this as a matter of course - but very few of them are in the K-12 Australian education system. They are connected. Pesce's enticing scenario dictates that teachers start to use each other as resources and collaborators, and build something of greater value than the outcomes listed in the new curriculum, a networked curriculum that continually evolves to suit the needs of our students.

That's potentially more valuable than any MySchool website.

Being the ICT coordinator means that I get a heap of brochures, fax printoffs and emails for this product or another lobbing in my in box. I've lost count of how many times I've put a copy of the latest HDGuard solution into the recycling box. But I'm always surprised what different vendors think that schools should shell out their limited budgets on.

Today it was a publisher offering blackline master books for the teaching of "computing skills" and "inquiry learning". I don't even remember the company's name.

Then there was the pdf from this mob with their "low cost" student laptop. Honestly, should schools shell out A$599 for a 7 inch screen and 128 MB internal memory machine? Heck, I paid nearly $200 less than that for an Acer Inspire One with a 10 inch screen and 250 G hard drive, and I've seen them cheaper than that since then.

Obviously, plenty of companies are just flat out guessing with what is actually useful in a classroom, or they see us as the biggest bunch of suckers going around. I suppose the BER rorting just confirms to many in the business world that schools are just  fair game for any sort of financial exploitation.


It feels like ages since I've blogged and even longer since I've blogged anything worthwhile. Of course, the longer I leave writing here, the more the self doubt sets in and makes me wonder if I have anything worthy of pushing out to say. So, the counteractive cure to that is put up a grandiose title and have a bit of at length pontification about the current state of play in the edtech world.

I'm sick of Windows' complete vulnerability to trojans, worms and other nasties especially when I'm trying to get mid year reports written on my school XP laptop. Files don't play nice across platforms so doing it all on my favourite MacBook Pro wasn't really an option. Interestingly, I can plug in a USB flashdrive into the Mac and see all these weirdly named folders (Kalba, Doda, Gravity etc.) that I just know shouldn't be there but the Mac won't let me delete them. Plug it back into the XP laptop and they become invisible but the crazy stuff happens then. I have found that I can plug in, see and delete these nasties in my son's Ubuntu netbook. Another win for Open Source, I suppose.

I got another invitation in my inbox to be on one of those Top 100 Edublogs lists that seem to be all the rage. What disinterests me is how many policy, corporate and cause based blogs keep making those lists. I'm only interested in reading edubloggers who write for themselves, that are identifiable individuals with clear personalities and quirks - now that's a list I'd be honoured to be on. I find it hard to take sites that call themselves onlinedegrees or onlinembas seriously, especially when the internet is a great conduit for learners who don't want to follow a traditional credentialling process. Give me an empassioned teacher breaking free of the confines of their classroom over some politically driven ISTE-style bandwagon hopper. Jose sums it up better than I can anyway.

While I've been looking at how one might go about setting up, fund and implementing a 1:1 laptop program, David Truss has introduced a new concept that really resonates - the BYO laptop program. Not sure how it would fly in Australian government schools with the bureaucratic need to cover liability but it is worth considering. And I'm beginning to warm to the idea of iPads in the classroom, especially in the younger years.

Meh.. not really much to say. But it's a start. I'll see what gets my brain churning next.