Thursday, August 23, 2007

EduBlogger World Virtual Meetup Notes

[I have come back to this post to edit it to add more information and links to the other virtual meetup session on August 23]

I was delighted to find a variety of educators join together this morning (5am my time in Doha) for the first EduBlogger Virtual meetup. We shared images and ideas and URLs. The opportunity to meet in real time really helps to create a bond between us all. Thank you all for participating!

Thank you in particular to Jason Hando (Sydney), Jim Gates, Diane Hammond, Chris Lehmann, Joyce Valenza (USA), Sue Waters, and Annelieske (Perth) for sharing their ideas and strategies with Web 2.0.

The main points of discussion focussed on what each individual was doing in their own sphere of education with Web 2.0 tools. There was some discussion about how EduBlogger World could help connect like-minded members. Jason raised an interesting point that he thought EduBlogger World was a little narrow to cater for the emerging needs of Web 2.0 savvy teachers. Like over 2000 others around the world, Classroom 2.0 Ning is also providing a place for educators to meet, discuss and learn. EduBlogger World Ning and wiki have been created to attract members and provide a worthwhile place to congregate for educators interested in the communicative powers of online tools, blogging in particular. I believe there is a distinction between the Nings and that EBW provides a cutting edge international environment for promoting best practice. Check the Talking Points for EduBlogger World on the wiki.

In my confusion I forgot to record the Elluminate session (!) but here are the screen shots from the whiteboards.

Also, I wish to direct you to Darren Draper's post for 'Window to the EduBlogger World'. I love his picture of the mountains in Utah, such a stark contrast to my desert environment here in Qatar. Also Diane Hammond's post, with the wonderful view out into her garden and beyond.

The other EduBlogger World virtual meetup was hosted by Vicki Davis. Listen to the recording here. Read Vicki's comprehensive blog post summarising the EduBlogger World facilities and invitations to join in.

Also, read the talking points for discussion that have now emerged from these virtual meetups.

Don't forget if you are sharing a blog today for the Window to the EduBlogger World event tag it with edubloggerworldmeetup2007. Also, review and join in the discussion for tagging standards.

I look forward to reading all of your posts as they
feed through the EduBlogger World wiki.

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My Window into Educational Blogging

As part of the EduBlogger World first ever virtual meetup and unofficial launch day on August 23 this blog post is a brief look into my educational blogging world.

Who am I and why do I blog?
I am an international educator who firmly believes the walls of the classroom should be lowered and/or flattened so that all participants in the process of learning can be part of the global community and share their experiences and thoughts as they feel inclined.

These are some of the reasons why I blog:
  • I blog to share what I am doing with my students and with my own exploration of education and life
  • I blog to clear my head and document new experiences, with a focus on educational technology
  • I blog for fun and to be creative
  • I blog to encourage interaction with other like-minded individuals
  • I blog to synthesise and evaluate and reflect on my ideas and experiences
Right now I am blogging in Qatar, a country in the middle east found between United Arab Emirates (Dubai) and Bahrain. I have a new position at Qatar Academy, a K-12 international school. It is early in the year and I have not met any of the students yet. I have high expectations of my students including the following:
  • I will expect all of my students to blog and develop an online learning environment
  • I will expect them to collaborate and cooperate with other students in their class as well as students and teachers worldwide as the need arises
  • I will expect them to be professional online and to embrace the new learning opportunities that blogging and other online activities provide them
  • I will expect them to not only blog but also read alternative blogs (students and others) and to develop expertise in commenting on other blog posts in order to create an online dialogue
My Blogging Window
Right now I am blogging at the dining room table as we have been living in this new apartment in Qatar for less than one week. If it was daylight this is the image I would see outside the window I am sitting next to: The wall of our compound and over that the desert with occasional houses. Our Qatar Foundation Education City Housing, like many other places in Qatar, is surrounded by stretches of desert with clumps of houses.

Educational blogging is a valid and worthwhile method of communication and promotes and supports best practice approaches in the classroom as well as higher order thinking skills.
Are you an educational blogger? Join us at EduBlogger World. Don't forget the virtual meetups on August 23! Also don't forget we are looking for Global Greeters in every country.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Live the dream, don't just talk about it!

The week before my family and I left Australia to start yet another new life as educators in Qatar we had a meeting with our 'retirement' specialist. We had been avoiding this meeting as we are are always a little embarrassed to go and admit we are a little slow in planning for, thinking about or acknowledging that one day we may have to retire. I suppose one reason for this is that we are having such an interesting and exciting time (read also between the lines exhausting and stressful) as international educators. Anyway, our man behind the desk has lived our international life vicariously for the past ten years and is always pleased to see us and hear our latest adventures. This time he sat back and looked at us with quite a sense of admiration (rather than disturbed alarm as many others do) and said, "You know, you have really lived the dream. You have done something that many others are too afraid or have not had the opportunity to do."

I have been thinking about this statement over the past week as we settle into Qatar. In between unpacking our mouldy 18 cubic metres of shipping sent from Bangladesh (and throwing a great deal of it out, including personal items such as photos and paintings), in between getting to know many new colleagues at Qatar Academy, in between opening a bank account, having our medicals, leasing a car and driving it ourselves along the Doha freeways, in between walking around our new housing compound at dawn (the coolest time of the day now), in between attending new staff orientation sessions and finding our way around the enormous Qatar Foundation Education City campus, in between joining a new jazz band and playing my first gig last night at a sophisticated event at the Pearl (if you know anything about Doha you will understand where this is), in between all of this I have been thinking that opportunities are always there for everyone. It is a matter of knowing when to take them and then having the courage to do so. It is a matter of having confidence and prioritising your life and allowing yourself the luxury of chasing and finding the dream and allowing the journey to be just as important, if not more so, than the dream itself.

I encourage you all to live your dream and be risk takers in life. You never know where it may take you and what you may find. If you are an educator and/or and educational blogger maybe your journey will take you to our EduBlogger World first organised event and virtual meetup on Thursday August 23. I blogged about this before and full details can be found on the EduBlogger World wiki on the Virtual Meetup page.

There will be TWO synchronous events on this day, August 23. These are listed on the airset calendar for EduBlogger World. If you are not familiar with it is very easy to start a calendar and add events and other calendars. Also, if you set the preferences to your own time zone every event that is posted on any calendar will come up in your time....this is SUCH a great feature!

For the sake of this blog post I am sharing the times of 2 synchronous events in GMT. Here they are:
Thursday August 23 at 2am-3am GMT: Hosted by Julie Lindsay (me)
Thursday August 23 at 7.30-8.30pm GMT: Hosted by Vicki Davis
Don't forget there will be events on Second Life as well....check the Ning and the wiki for these.

Both of these sessions will be in Elluminate so make sure you download the software first and open up the Elluminate room. More details about this will be available on the Ning on Wednesday.

So, live the dream, participate and let's see what sense we can make of this international blogging world. Don't forget to tag your blog posts on this day with edubloggerworldmeetup2007 and to share a photo of where you are and talk about your blogging and online experiences. The world will be waiting to hear from you! I will be sharing more of my experiences in Qatar and some ideas for how we can expand and connect the edublogger community.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Invitation to 'Window to the EduBlogger World'

On August 23 we invite EdubBloggers globally to participate in 'Window to the EduBlogger World'. This is the first organised, participatory meetuped eminating from the new social network called EduBlogger World. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing with blogging in education and as an educator here is what we invite you to do to be part of this event:
  • Contribute your own blog post on this day and tag it edubloggerworldmeetup2007. Check out all of the tagging standards on the EduBlogger World Wiki. In this post share your experiences with blogging. Where do you blog? How often do you blog? What do you blog about? Why is blogging so important to you?
  • Share a photo of your own blogging area (looking out of a window, your room, your classroom). We want to collect images of EduBloggers around the world and where they blog and/or what they are looking at when they blog. Put this in your blog post and put it on and post it to the Ning.
  • Participate in a synchronous event (virtual meetup) on August 23 and meet other EduBloggers online.
  • Sign up to be a Global Greeter: We are inviting members from all locations to step forward and be a Global Greeter. See the wiki page for more details about this. How many countries can we add on August 23?

Also, participate in a live meetup on this day. There will be online events where we invite you to participate in dicussions focusing on how we can best use EduBlogger World to further communication and interaction amongst members. More details coming VERY soon about times for August 23 live events.

Meanwhile, view the introductory video created just last week about EduBlogger World.

I look forward to being part of this 'Window to the EduBlogger World' event next week from my new home in Qatar!

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another Meme to fill the day........

Thanks to Durff and Cheri I have been tagged with this meme.
Ok ladies, I will do this as I wait for a video to upload to YouTube.

The rules are:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they've been tagged

Here we go, 8 random facts: (in no particular order)
  1. I have been to 8 different countries in the past 12 months
  2. I love roast pork but do not eat the crackling (not much pork available where I am off to next week!)
  3. I have 2 Masters degrees (music and educational technology)
  4. I was born the year Billie Holiday died (jazz vocalist)
  5. My daughter was named after 2 flowers, Violet Rose, because I was into cottage gardening at the time
  6. I love Aussie style BBQs with sausages and tomato sauce
  7. My favourite jazz pianist is Thelonius Monk
  8. I am a city girl but also love wide open spaces along beaches and up mountains
I am not tagging anyone for this meme. If you feel inclined, follow along, it's a bit of fun.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Conversations with John Turner from PLC, Melbourne

Conversations with John Turner, Head of IT at PLC, Melbourne, Australia about the Horizon Project and 21st century educational technology in the classroom, August 7, 2007.

While in my home town, Melbourne, Australia I caught up with Dr John Turner, Head of IT at PLC (Presbyterian Ladies College). John and I have been collaborating and joining our students from Melbourne to Bangladesh for the past 3 years. For a couple of years we joined for online, virtual debating and shared podcasts and vodcasts. In the past year John's Grade 10 IT class were members of the Horizon Project.

The podcasts below are edited cuts from our one-hour discussion. They are a little rough but I think very interesting, especially for readers who are keen to know more about the practicalities of integrating Web 2.0 tools into the classroom and also of embarking on a flat classroom or horizon project in the future.

Discussion Part 1
Discussion about access to Web 2.0 tools. Touches on constructivist vs controlled education and issues with blocked websites in Victorian schools. John says if we can get the educational edge on a web tool then it becomes easier to justify its use as a learning tool.

Discussion Part 2
Using Twitter in the classroom and linking it in with iGoogle. Having a 'window' web page for RSS feeds that incorporates feeds from the wiki, the Ning and Twitter.

Discussion Part 3
Comments about the Horizon Project including issues for students and teachers. John made the point that apart from Web 2.0 tool use students were confronted with personal issues of getting along with others and having to find strategies of working with others who they are communicating with but will never meet face to face.

Discussion Part 4
The use of Elluminate as a tool for communication and collaboration and the potential for K-12 education. The issues raised include the sustainability of whiteboards, laptops and change as an ongoing process and the advantage of 'free' Web 2.0 tools.

Discussion Part 5
Flat Classroom/Horizon Project ideal time frame and ideas for administration.

Discussion Part 6
Women in IT survey and discussion. The interest of the girls at PLC was influenced into IT by what they did through the Horizon Project.

Discussion Part 7
The potential of research and the credibility of the Flat Clasroom Project. The objective of the research is to determine what the requirements of the project are and what the value is. Research is needed to be able to confirm the viability of the educational structure, package a sustainable structure. Political influence is then needed for incorporation of 'the package'. In a qualitative action research mode. Plan, try, collect, evaluate and do it a constant rate of change. Research needs to simplify the process so it not so hard to be involved for other teachers.

John's comments re advantages of doing the Horizon Project:
  • Forced him and his students to learn more about Web 2.0 technology
  • Was the catalyst to integration of Web 2.0 tools into the curriculum at different year levels (Ning, Twitter, wiki's)
  • Raised the awareness of the administration in his school of the value of online learning and Web 2.0 tools (including Elluminate) for collaboration
  • Influenced students into looking at IT as a career path

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Friday, August 03, 2007

In Retrospect: A Year of Challenges and Adventures

In two weeks time life as I know it will once again change. My family and I are moving to Qatar in the Middle East for an initial contract period of 2 years. I am excited about this move and looking forward to it. However I have spent some time recently reflecting on the past four years in Bangladesh and in particular the past 12 months and all the adventures and opportunities I have had. Last Christmas I declared defeat and did not write the usual update letter to friends and relatives. Claiming exhaustion, and finding a beach to flop on was the best I could do. Now I am thinking, well why does an update letter have to be just at Christmas, so I am taking a more pragmatic approach and getting in early with communication of events that have changed my and my families lives and outlook over the past 12 months. I was surprised to find that over the past 12 months I have visited 8 different countries. In this blog post I want to briefly share these travels with you along with two photos from each destination (decisions as to which 2!)

Bangladesh: Dhaka
Yes, we have lived in Dhaka for four years and have lots of wonderful memories and photos. These two were taken in our last week in Bangladesh in June 2007. I commissioned the aspiring artist, Bishwa to paint our family portrait. The day we visited for a final 'sitting' was hot and sticky. I remember Bishwa and his friend being very hospitable and gracious.

Nepal: Kathmandu
A trip with colleagues and family in October 2006. Fantastic place!

Durbar_29 Nep_Trip_28

More photos of Nepal

Indonesia: Bali
Our Christmas trip...yes the beach, the pool, the relaxing Balinese ambiance.

Balitwo035 Bali015

Thailand: Bangkok
John and I went to Bangkok in early January for the Search Associates job fair. I cannot find any photos from this was far too stressful to take photos anyway!

Germany: Dusseldorf
I attended and presented at the ECIS IT conference in March 2007. It was cold, stark but beautiful!

More photos from Düsseldorf and the ECIS IT conference.

Qatar: Doha
A preliminary visit to our new school for training in June 2007.

Qatar_June07058 Qatar_June07005

USA: Atlanta, Georgia
The NECC event! Such a great time.

Poster9sm Sundial1

More photos from NECC07

Australia: Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast
The never-ending holiday back in Oz for the summer/winter. Time for family, relaxing......

Qld_2007054 Qld_2007060

and thinking about future footsteps on the sands of time.......


Considering the importance of Content or the Method

An article in the Melbourne Age inspired me to blog today. I'm still 'on holiday' in sunny Coolangatta, 2 more left weeks before we leave for Qatar.

The article, Plans to Halve Core Subjects a Concern, talks about the proposal to reduce the number of core learning areas in Primary school education (children up to about the age of 12). Currently there are eight key learning areas including Arts, Health and PE and SOSE (Studies of society and environment). The four core learning areas proposed are: English, Mathematics, Science and History (Australian emphasis). Australia is very similar to some other western countries in that it does not have a federal curriculum, despite much talk and good will in that direction. Therefore each individual state decides on the curriculum direction, coming together through national associations for discussion and comparison of objectives. The Australian also ran an article on the same day, Primary school to focus on the basics.

The Principals of Primary Schools in Australia talk about a 'cluttered curriculum' and want to reduce the stress placed on teachers that occurs when the curriculum is too broad.

I get goose bumps when I read about plans for a 'core curriculum'. In fact I get a little stressed thinking about the way the wheel is reinvented when it comes to curriculum aims. It was only 20 years ago when the VCE (Grade 11 and 12) was introduced in Victorian secondary schools that Australian History was made a compulsory subject. Great idea! But it did not last. Was it not engaging enough? Was it too difficult? Did it alienate non-Australians? Talking about Australian history, the first payout was made this week to an indigenous Australian who was a victim of the 'stolen generation'. In the 40's and 50's and beyond Aboriginal children were taken from their families and given to white families to raise. It has taken until now for claims to be made to the government for compensation.

My feeling is that we should be talking about the
method of education and not so much about the content. Content will come and go, history will be written and rewritten but HOW we approach learning in the classroom is the key issues here. Yes, we can build a content-rich curriculum or we can 'narrow' it down to four key areas if necessary but the important idea is to promote engagement and motivation. Every subject or curriculum area can be inspiring and can promote independent learning but where are the page 3 articles about classroom method?

I am heartened once again by reading David Warlick's blog today, he writes:

"....generate the energy that we need to drive learning in flat classrooms, turning them into learning engines.

Those elements are:

  • We are preparing children for a future we can not describe
  • We are preparing children, who as a generation, are enjoying a rich information experience outside-the-classroom.
  • We are preparing children within a new and dynamic information environment with new qualities that seem ready made for teaching and learning."
David's message at the end of his post is about encouraging learners to learn how to teach themselves. Yes, learning to teach themselves is the message, learning to be independent, creative, free-thinking, risk-takers, collaborative, and all the other learner profile words that we all use. Content as an aim in itself pales in comparison to these higher order educational objectives. Thanks David...and this has been my 2 cents worth to add to yours.

OK, back to the beach!

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