Information Literacy

I've been lurking around some excellent blog posts and catching some mind challenging tweets of late. This little beauty from Will Richardson is a typical thoughtful piece of writing but it is the quality of the comments that had me enjoying the to and fro of the topic. The conversation is clear, concise and insightful - and often sums up my own inner turmoil in better words than I could summon up myself in the same venue. Where everything is heading in regards to the future of education, heck, the future of learning is hotly debated by better informed minds than mine but only by reading and eventually engaging in the conversation can I expect to get a better grasp of my own role within that future.

There is always talk about preserving the essentials, the traditional knowledge, skills and concepts that will always be needed. Politicians like to call them the "basics" but I don't think that educators and our powers that be necessarily have the same things in mind. Our parents certainly may another mindset altogether, as Trevor Meister pointed out in Will's comments:

The notion that things will remain status quo until parents Demand changes led to this comment-

“But the only way that parents are going to DEMAND access is if they see that not simply as a way for kids to get a computer but to see connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help their kids become more educated, better learners than by books and paper alone.”

Other comments suggest that this is not likely to happen because either parents are ignorant of technology or are caught between a rock and a hard place worrying about getting their kids into college, which is best served by status quo.

A third reason this might not happen is probably not much of a factor now, but will be. What about the Parent that sees all to well “connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help their kids become more educated, better learners.” For them the use of emerging tech, web2.0/3.0 and what ever comes next is just a part of life. They are also starting to see major cracks in the old -you have to go to college to get a “good job”, what ever that is because “Employers” require you to have a “degree”. Most of the people they interact with on a day to day basis may be freelancers, independent subcontractors, or entrepreneurs running their own show. To them the idea of saying, “Wow that is amazing work and is exactly what we need, …but I’m sorry, you didn’t graduate from college.” would be ridiculous.

This parent is also not likely to DEMAND greater access and use of technology for better learning. For one, because of their connectedness, they have witnessed the back and forth battles over the same issues for years and can guess that their Demands will be in the minority and are likely to fall on deaf ears. (They may also have figured this out at the last parental advisory group meeting when everyone looked at them like they were from another planet after each and every comment or suggestion.) They have already declared the horse dead and as everyone knows, even if you drag a dead horse to water its not going to drink, no matter how hard you beat it. For another, the level of access and the knowledge of tools available may be higher at home. When the child comes home with a “Research Project” that includes the word- presentation along with the words- Power and Point instead of being thrilled, they send a note back to school - “I am sorry, my son/daughter can not complete said “Research Project” as I had previously vowed to strangle the next person I saw doing another lame power point presentation. Don’t worry, we will do the research, but will choose an alternate form of presentation.” This parent doesn’t feel the need to demand much of anything, they might even be the ones least likely to. They and their child have all the access they need, an awareness of what is available “out there” and the ability to tap into it when needed.

I do want to make it clear that I am not saying this parent is any “better”, this is just their reality. For now, their numbers are probably fairly small, but it is hard for me to imagine that this demographic would not continue to grow.

See what I mean about minds better than my own...

Trevor expands further on one possible future as we have more parents joining the ranks of the hyperconnected:

Take that now larger group of hyper-connected parents, mix with group of hyper-connected educators (especially those that found themselves left behind in the middle) armed with even more powerful technologies and networking know how, and stir. If these aren’t a nearly perfect set of conditions for spurring innovative solutions, I don’t know what is. How long would it be before someone said, enough, would it be possible to organize a series of unconferences or tweetups or #barcamp style gatherings? We could call them #schoolcamps or #learnups, and do follow up in between on-line. …. (many other possibilities exist of course, -perhaps the AI instruction/testing model will finally be perfected.

So, in true inquiry style where the question is the starting point for thinking, I posed this over at my new staff Ning (where the tumbleweed is still blowing through):

If School Is Changing To Match Our Students' Future... then what essentials do you think we need to keep regardless of that future?

I hope my staff are keen to engage with this question and help me to figure some of the potential answers. I'm just hoping that they don't mimic what one of the smartest people in my network observed at the recent ALEA Conference in Tasmania:

It is 8:15am and I am watching English teachers crowding wildly around the worksheets stand excitedly buying worksheets to bore kids *sigh*

What are the essentials? What is the difference between them and the 21st Century Skills that are touted as where educators need to be?

This term's Inquiry unit has focussed on the concept of leadership. This was designed by the three teachers involved (myself included) to cover the SACSA Health standards of 3.5 and 4.5

3.5 Assumes different roles when working as part of a cooperative group or team to achieve a shared goal and understands the effects on relationships.
4.5 Develops skills for working effectively in groups and in teams, explores different constructions of group dynamics such as leadership and identifies qualities for good leaders.

We used our school UbD planner, where we identified our key questions and overall inquiry statement, essential skills and knowledge, and formative assessment goals for the unit.

The Inquiry Overview

Every individual has the potential to be a leader. Leaders have a set of social and friendship skills to enable them to help and empower others.

Through this inquiry students will extend their social knowledge and skills to enable them to make and maintain positive relationships and close friendships and work collaboratively in teams.

As seems to be the case more often than not, these units of work are very fluid and in a constant state of revision to better suit the needs of our particular cohort of students. One of the key features of the UbD model is the identification of a final assessment task during the initial planning of the unit of inquiry. Well, that's the goal and while being mindful of that requirement, we haven't really nailed down what that would look like until later in the unit. The weeks seem to be so jampacked with other things, and our own agenda of "things to do" constantly on the overflow that it took until a week or so ago before we met as a co-planning team to design this final task. We had our understandings and our final task had to reflect some format that would enable our students to demonstrate the depth of their understanding of the leadership concept. We had chosen a selection of famous quotes on leadership appropriate to the 11-13 year old age level and thought that these would be a good vehicle to use to evaluate their understanding. But just reading and interpreting their responses was a pretty plain vanilla task that was begging (in my mind) for some ICT enhancement. Ever the web-savvy consumer, I suggested that the final task could be a replication of the Will Lion Digital Bites collection of quotes embedded in metaphoric images on Flickr.

We tried to work out how this could unfold, how many images a student could be expected to create and with each re-definition of the assessment task, we kept getting further and further away from our outcomes and essential skills and knowledge that we wanted to assess. So, Maria pointed out that we needed to take on board our own planning question for designing any learning task with "What's your purpose?"

Getting back to the planner, pulling out the skills and knowledge dot points enabled us to redefine and refocus the task expectations. We could easily revisit guidelines and other scaffolds to ensure that this challenging task was realigned and achievable by the students.

So, that was the task. The student picked a quote that they felt they understood well and could explain in a short paragraph. That quote would be matched with an image - either a digital photograph of their own, a graphic designed in Photoshop or a choice from the masses of freely licensed images available in Flickr or Wikimedia Commons. Of course, we all have had to scaffold this task effectively so that students understood the concept of an image metaphor and some basic Photoshop Elements skills to put it all together. We spent time discussing and choosing the quotes in groups and as a whole class so that they could relate them back to content and concepts covered throughout the unit like Michael Grose's Four Keywords for student leadership.

Of course, as I drafted and composed this post, Dan Meyer has posted a few times about the effective use of images in presentations, and it has made me even more conscious about working with the students to ensure that they don't just grab the first thing that looks good and bung it all together. I'm definitely no expert in graphic design but know just enough to know that it deserves some attention when the students are going to post their ideas to the wider audience on their blogs. Without getting into the finer detail of where Dan believes the standards should be at (that's a whole new blog post with a different emphasis), I still feel that this assessment task has been challenging enough to get the kids justifying their choices of quotes and graphic. The early finishers are only just posting their results now but there are some pleasant indicators that some kids have an innate sense of what goes together to "sell" a message and make a point.

I'll finish with two sample graphics and invite anyone with a passing interest to check out the students' leadership slides. This task is not a pen and paper exercise in my mind.

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One of my takeaway moments from Mark Treadwell's day earlier this week is the point that we (teachers and the curriculum we are employed to deliver) often expect students to take on concepts and skills that they are not developmentally ready for. We are so focussed on doing more sooner that whether the kids are actually ready for it or not is a secondary question.

Here's an example. Treadwell proposes that in the Year 5 -7 year levels (10 - 13 year olds) that effectively searching the web in the name of "research" is a skill that the majority of these students are not developmentally ready for. Instead, he proposes that smaller groups of pre-picked websites are a more manageable way for students to develop their critical literacy skills. Considering that the vast majority of teachers that I know struggle to use Google in any more than a superficial manner, I'm beginning to warm to this perspective. It would certainly explain why some of the projects that I've overseen with students are just mere collections of assembled digital slabs - as Mark pointed out, it makes cut'n'paste the easiest way to achieve results.

I was all for students following their own choices thinking that the web provides for the variety of source material to provide a quality overview of their chosen topic. But the reality is that many students rarely use more than a handful of sites, usually whatever is on top of their initial Google search and the result is regurgitation, not understanding. Plus 30 kids working on their individual themes means no-one else to discuss things with, no-one else to push and challenge understanding or to even ensure that the information passes muster. Just because the talented kids can construct something useful and informative does not mean it is an effective way to equip kids with effective web skills.

But what I'm interested in is your point of view. Is Google a tool to be embraced with students of all ages or do we take a more scaffolded approach to helping their develop their search and evaluation skills? I'm really torn between my instincts that want to empower kids as soon as possible and the other possibility proposed by Mark's overall picture of the "21st Century Learner" that also reminds us that we don't just keep shovelling in extra stuff for the students to take on board without working out how to make it manageable or to jettison some practices that just aren't needed any more. Please, help me to make sense of this. Where do you sit in this picture or am I missing something that is obvious?

Image: http://flickr.com/photos/cayusa/1444806159/

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"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'
www.flickr.com/photos/25064547@N06/2568436053

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This writing of this post has nearly been as drawn as the unit of work that I want to write about. But it needs to be documented as sharing what I actually do in my classroom is an important role of this blog. So, here goes.

I'm starting to feel a little more confident about using the Understanding By Design process when co-planning our inquiry units. I've always used Resource Based Learning methodologies in my classroom (later rebadged as Problem Based Learning) but have never really planned as meticulously and strategically as in the last eighteen months. This is all part of our school wide push that places inquiry and UbD as the cornerstones of delivering a large slab of our curriculum (SOSE, Science, some parts of English and Mathematics as well as Technology) and part of my role as the ICT Coordinator is to model the strategic use of learning technologies in these units of work.

I think I'm getting better at choosing the right tool for the right purpose (Dan Meyer's first vodcast drove home that point pretty clearly) and that helps when other teachers seek out my input on the effective embedding of ICT in their own unit plans. But the practice of co-planning teams planning and implementing our inquiry units has been driven by my progressively minded principal and our talented Assistant Principal who see inquiry as the pedagogical vehicle for managing our broadly defined curriculum. There is a scope and sequence planned that overlays the appropriate outcomes from Science, SOSE, Health and Technology tied to essential questions that guide the unit design.

Maria, my co-planning buddy and I have worked hard to make the last inquiry unit really effective. We have stuck as best as we could to the Backwards By Design principles in using the planning proforma and thought long and hard about the essential understandings and essential knowledge that the identified outcomes required. Our main question was "Can We Really Make A Difference?" and the unit had to cover the SACSA Science outcomes and SOSE outcomes of:

Science - Life Systems
Explains the interrelationships between systems within living things, and between living things in ecological systems. They relate these ideas to the health of individuals and to threats to the sustainability of ecological systems.
SOSE - Place, space and environment
Identifies and describes significant resources, explains the threats which endanger them, and suggests strategies to combat threats.
Interprets and represents data about natural and built environments, resources, systems and interactions, both global and local, using maps, graphs and texts.
Identifies factors affecting an environmental issue, and reports on ways to act for sustainable futures.

We identified the Enduring Understandings:

Students will understand that:
The behaviour of living things are interrelated and interdependent.
Actions by humans can have positive and negative impacts on the earth’s ecology.
It is necessary at times for human intervention to maintain a balanced, sustainable environment.

And the key pieces of Knowledge:

What students will KNOW
Definition of environment, ecosystem, interrelated, interdependent, sustainable, ecology.
Facts about Port River dolphins, their current environment, their anatomy and species, life cycle and identification of individual dolphins.
Facts about the Port River area and general history.

One of my key ponderings that I gained from my global collaborative wiki project with Doug Noon and his sixth grade classroom was whether students at this age might be better off grappling with local issues rather than making the big leap into international connections. He had reservations about the in depth understandings gained about our respective cultures and although my class learnt a lot about the use of wikis, and how to pose more effective questions, I would agree that a deep understanding of our counterparts' lives was not achieved. In fact, the most beneficial thing we did as a class was a day excursion into the city of Adelaide as the resulting documentation of our own immediate surroundings meant a clearer perspective of what worth sharing with others about life here in South Australia. So this year with the key question "Can we really make a difference?" we decided that looking locally was definitely the key to engaging successfully with the key ideas and knowledge behind this unit. My co-planning partner and I decided that the example of the Port River dolphins would be an excellent lens through which to examine the question and the whole idea of human impact on natural environments and existing ecosystems. We started in with a tuning in activity where student groups were given five topic related images that were sorted in priority order and then had to justify their choice back to their peers.

One of the initial catalysts for student engagement was our guest speaker, Ann, from the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society. Her knowledge and expertise were backed by skillful presentation skills and the students were "hooked" into the concept of human impact on these very social marine mammals. Ann also provided the link to Dr. Mike Bossley, an eminent local scientist who happily fielded questions via email. I also got my students to view some online topic-connected video and got them to draw out initial connections in their blogs.

By this point, the kids were gaining a fair bit of disconnected facts and concepts so it was time to it was time to head out for an excursion to make it all "real life". We took both classes down to the Port River and the Maritime Museum dolphin cruise - the kids were treated to more of Ann's expertise, and most importantly, headed out onto the water to hopefully view the dolphins in their own environment. You can see from some of the images taken by the students that the human impact along the waterway was very evident.

There were more lessons and sessions picking apart the concepts of ecosystems etc. seeking to unpack the ideas and knowledge we had identified as being important but eventually towards the end of last term, we were ready for the final assessment task, designed to see if the students could connect the knowledge to the concepts. Now, in UbD, the final assessment task(s) is one of the first thing designed - the whole point being that way, you are always conscious of the purpose of the whole unit but we did change from our original task as in typical teacher fashion, we were overcomplicating our ideas. Finally, the students worked in pairs with a selected image from the excursion and they had to write some accompanying explanatory information including the location of the photo, facts established by the photo and finally the connections between the Port River dolphins and those facts. It became a very accurate way of assessing whether the students had come to a deeper understanding about human impact on the dolphins.

Of course, all units could be better when viewed in retrospect, and the glaring element missing here isthat we didn't really get to determining whether we can "make a difference". Hopefully, that will improve in this term's effort but I believe that the students really did make headway towards a solid understanding of the big concepts of this unit.

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Multiliteracies –Teaching The Consumption and Production of Multimodal Texts

Dr. Geoff Bull and Dr. Michelle Anstey

www.ansteybull.com.au

Session One

Teaching The Consumption and Production of Multimodal Texts.

What is a multimodal text? Goes beyond just straight print text, can be interactive, linear and non-linear. All texts have values and the reader is an active constructor of meaning from the text. (This is an interesting point as students move more into construction of texts for wider audiences beyond their classroom. Are they aware enough of the different ways the words and images they choose will be interpreted?)

Written paper texts are generally consumed in a linear fashion, but digital text can be very non-linear. Even television can be non-linear and interactive (i.e. reality television) where you can use SMS and web voting to influence and change the direction of the text. Processing a text means drawing on the experience of other texts. Texts incorporate a variety of semiotic systems – decision making can be influenced by preferences. Both digital and non-digital formats of a text are produced these days. Design and aesthetics of a text target specific cultural groups.

When presenting a text to students, decide what you want the students to know and be able to do? We were shown two multi-modal texts and had to consider the contexts – which they were published. Two images shown from the Iraq war – one from early in the war and a later one. Our group discussed the difference between the two and came up with many different possible interpretations. A photographic technique is the use of the Y-vector to attract attention to a specific part of the photograph. (“Punch Into Iraq” – The Australian March 2003 and The Australian July 2007.)

Texts are becoming more screenlike. Showed an example “The Penguin Book: Birds In Suits.” Layout offers a number of starting points and boxed in texts mean shorter, simpler sentences. The traditional ways of decoding a text do not always apply to more screen like texts. Previewing, skimming and scanning are skills that involve eye movement on a text. Look at a similar topic using various texts and work though with your students how to make meaning and navigate the information.

Jakob Nielsen - useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html You have 30 seconds to grab your reader’s attention. Looked at the changes of the National Geographic front page from 2003 to 2008. Changed so that signal to noise ratio had improved.

Obvious statement – start with a purpose then choose the technology or tool to suit.

Session Two

Consuming and Producing Still Images

What is your literacy identity? Use of prior experience with text, knowledge, cultural knowledge and experiences, social knowledge and experiences, and technological knowledge and experiences. Break away from “doing school” and re1ate to the “life world.” Showed “Anzac Day - Simpson And His Donkey” cartoon for the Australian April 26, 2001. Showed KIA ad showing a van with a sign “New To Country, will Work For Less.” What reaction do you have and what trigger that reaction? Having the skills to understand a mobile phone contract or to undertake a rental agreement – who has the power and to clarify - this is using critical literacy. Advertising texts is a good place to start but you can move onto other forms of texts - scientific texts cited as an example where one scientist was presented in their work environment in their lab coat etc. while the other was interviewed in the street with opposing points of view. Who appeared to be more authorative ?

Why study still images? We get so much information today via visual images that we run the risk of taking them (and what they mean) for granted. What role do images play in a text? A few examples - a pulp mill leaflet from Tasmania with an open ended question, a Donna Hay recipe book showing toffee apples and a magazine article showing a hand drawn map of the Huon Valley.

Color is used in images – harmonious colours and contrasting colours used to evoke feelings or to draw attention. Plan a colour script for a piece of writing – examples cited were Pixar movies and children’s picture books (The Lorax came to my mind as a good example. Another planned example of color combination I came up with were the Miami Dolphins NFL team whose team colors are Coral and aqua - the colours and the names match the image.)

Showed through a number examples of children's picture books where images and how they are presented are really important to the story being told. One example was "Black and White" by David Macaulay. The front cover consists of four separate images that present images in different ways using different colours and styles presenting a significant challenge for the reader to decode. We were also shown the book ''Fox" by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks where the text was designed to match in with the illustrations.

Session Three

Moving Images

Hidden agenda aim of the session was to ensure that we never view a moving image in the same way again! How do we get meaning from “moving visual”? Are we always conscious about how we gain meaning? Use codes and conventions to do so. Gave an example of how a group of friends may see a movie together, but discussion will show that they viewed it in many different ways. Use grabs of video from what the students themselves watch advertisements, soap operas etc. in 5-30 second segments. Does not contravene copyright of material – as it is covered under “fair use”.

Talked about male and female ads and the various choices made by advertisers to differentiate with choices of colour, music and pace. Looked at camera angles in covering men’s and women’s sport and how it changed over time. Can be an interesting study when viewing the Olympics. “Literacy by stealth” assists boys who are literacy-reluctant. Trend, emerges from research that a lot of student learning comes from moving image, up to 25%. This has implications for texts presented in the classroom. If teachers do not include “moving image” as part of their teaching, they will become increasingly irrelevant (as well as not doing their job.) Use the extras sections of DVD to look at storyboards (excellent reason to use tools like Comic Life). It is important to explicitly teach the metalanguage. Big and little, zoom in and out then become characterisation and context.

There was considerable time spent in the deconstruction of the short film “Star” directed by Guy Ritchie, and the making of “Walking With Dinosaurs.” Geoff paused and talked us through the different codes and conventions of the what we were seeing, hearing in terms of soundtrack and also dialogue.

Moving Images blur the lines between fiction and non–fiction. Walking With Dinosaurs is an example of fictionalising facts - a story is created to demonstrate what scientists have learned and determined from their research. Presents issues about authenticity – how do we determine it and identify it? Talked about the role that virtual worlds, (Second Life) have in disturbing the paradigm about what is real life.

Overall, a very good day that confirmed many of the practices that occur in my room in terms of using digital content to teach specific concepts and cater for the multi-literate learners in my classroom. It also highlighted the usefulness of an Interactive Whiteboard in the classroom and provided many useful explanations of how texts are constructed to use in discussion and analysis with my students. I still would like to have had wireless to look stuff up as we went along - it is very much a preferred learning style of mine and in line with the whole multi-literate point of view. Text is still important but the ability to decode and make sense of the other text forms is a crucial part of being literate today. I wonder if digital literacy can be construed as something else or just the digitisation of the three forms of written text, still images and moving images? There has to be more to that as this [multiliteracies as covered today] mainly deals with the consumption angle while the creation would bring other things to consider. Something more to tease out at a later time - or perhaps my readers would like to kickstart with their points of view.

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Kudos to educationau for offering to host the May 2nd event titled "Learning In The 21st Century" as a positive spin off from the issues coming to a head with Al Upton's class blog closure. Now the event is not about Al's situation but is more a roundtable discussion as a starting point for moving forward. Acknowledgement must go to Alex Hayes who came up with the initial concept of an event and drove the TALO involvement but will be nursing his swollen knee as the discussion unfolds. Janet Hawtin has also been amazing, connecting all the dots and encouraging key people to have their say. Over a GMail chat the other night I negotiated an afternoon only visit to the event and a recorded contibution for the morning due to my classroom teaching commitments. As I type the just over 10 minutes of audio is uploading to my podomatic account and hopefully I'll link to it just before I head to bed.

Audio presentation for May 2 - click to download.

Sites mentioned or relevant to my presentation.

Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century

Spin The Global wiki project

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Chris Lehmann has written some of the best posts for my money in 2008 and his timing always seems to be impeccable. His recent Letter To A New Teacher spoke to all teachers, new or experienced, regardless of sector or country and I found Chasing False Gods to be really good fodder for my own thoughts. As the whole Al Upton and his miniLegends issue dropped into the edublogger pool and the ripple waves started washing up onto various shores, Chris's words have new meaning for me as I try to work out why blogging is worth pursuing in the classroom. Is it a faddish idea because it's new technology and merely digitises what's always been done in classrooms or does it offer students regardless of age something more? Chris points out:

We have to understand -- we cannot compete with the ever-more-fast-paced and realistic entertainment world. What we can offer is meaning and purpose and authenticity.

Does blogging have purpose and authenticity? Or is it just a shiny new wrapper that just maybe has too many hard-to-manage variables for the average teacher? Where does it fit?

Something tells me that we should be encouraging teachers to be innovative, to push into unfamiliar territories but once again, Chris's most recent words come swimming into my brain, looking to temper that innovation with our responsibility as educators:

As educators, we must be hyper-aware that we cannot be revolutionaries at the expense of our students.

And there are plenty of revolutionaries around. It is one of the things that Al himself must guard against - being the poster boy for any cause that sees itself at odds with the status quo of administration that doesn't get it, railing against an impersonal system that just doesn't care or in desperate need of an overhaul or dismantlement. He must beware of powerful personalities willing to hitch their cause to the miniLegends - and most are worthy but it's so easy to get sucked into the frenzy, to forget that there is a curriculum to deliver, a classroom to run and there are the students who probably just want their blogs back and have had enough of their time in the spotlight.

But Chris does elaborate more about the role of the risk taker in the classroom:

We must take risks in education. We must challenge the tried-and-true way of educating students, but we must do it thoughtfully and carefully and transparently, because we don't have the luxury of just "going out of business." Every school that makes those choices poorly affects the lives of the students who honored that school with their choice to go there. This is -- as much as any other reason -- we must always, always, always humble ourselves before the enormity of the task in front of us.

I know that writing a blog has altered the way I learn. But capturing the elements that enable me to reflect and connect is not so easy with the students that I teach. It's why I think that the work that Konrad Glogowski has done with his students to be incredibly important. It's also why Al's issues have resonance for me. It's why my own department's response and planned future responses are important to me - how authentic student blogging can be will be determined by how well they can connect to each other, to other students learning similar things and to adults who can guide and direct them in their learning. Otherwise, it will be just recounts and writing in short bursts in pretty themed environments - the digital equivalent of colouring in the page margins.

By running a class blogging program, am I really pushing the boundaries of what the classroom should be today? I think so but only if there are connections out of that classroom. It's early days - and I'm pleased that a sense of community is starting to emerge with my students. There is encouragement, there is some risk taking going on in terms of reluctant writers creating their topics and posts, there is some exchange of ideas and the kids are looking already in under a month to go beyond the "Cool blog" comments and add some substance to their observations of their peers' writing. The Blog Coaches was my next logical step - I need to partner that up with parent information and education as the greatest threat to this carefully monitored situation is media-fuelled apprehension. So I can see the blog as a learning tool that helps students to become digitally literate, improve their use of the written English language, explore topics from their SOSE (Studies Of Society & Environment) curriculum and reflect on their learning in any area of their set curriculum.

But how realistic is this all? How sustainable is a model that demands that the teacher implementing it be linked into a global network? That they understand the digital tool they expect the students to use intimately? I like what Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has to say on this point:

As educators we need to get ready for a real shift in culture. The shifts that are coming will not allow "business as usual" rather it will be "business as unusual". That is why it is critical for all of us to first own these emerging technologies and the pedagogy/culture that surrounds them, by using Web 2.0 tools to connect- in an effort to chase our own passions. Through the experience of building of your own PLN, not only will you model for your students how this should be done, but you might find some transformational moments along the way -that like mine with Jenny and Dan- will leave you a better person. And do NOT discount what those younger or older than you have to offer. Use expertise and passion- not age- as criteria for who you should learning from and for who should be part of your learning network.

The miniLegends are well on track in this regard. Al Upton is an exceptional teacher who believes in empowering his students. If Sheryl is right and she's identifying what is needed to be a teacher today, I feel ready for the challenge and I reckon that the kids in my class are going to be well positioned.

For this year.

See, that's where my selfish generousity kicks in. I can leverage my network and hook my students up with Alaskan kids on wikis or have well respected edubloggers waiting in the wings to become another one of their teachers. But what about the other teachers in the building? The ones without their own blogs? What about the teachers in my son's school who have never ever read a blog? What about the students I teach as they leave me and hit high school where they get taken back to basics with their technology use and assumed levels of competency?

Has my genorousity been more about me and my passions than their needs for their actual future? As opposed to the one we all agree they should be getting? Don't worry - I teach all of the stuff that Chris advocates we do not overlook. Balance is important.

We need innovators. As Leigh Blackall once said to me, (I'm paraphrasing here) that you need the boundary pushers as it then gives those following behind room to move. Occasionally, however, it doesn't hurt to remember that the students of innovative teachers don't get a say in coming along for the ride. But then there are implications and consequences for inaction and ignorance as well.

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I pride myself on my spelling ability. So much that I can get indignant when confronted with the accusation that my lifelong memory of a word is actually incorrect. But who can argue when the Wikipedic wisdom of crowds defines the right spelling for me...

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Luckily for me, perhaps I'm merely contributing to the evolution of the English language...