Friday, December 15, 2006

Flat Classroom Conversations: Part 3


Bangladesh ITGS Class: Without Walls

Part 5: What Would You Ask Thomas Friedman if He was Here?
Students were asked if Thomas Friedman was here what would they ask him? A candid discussion ensues. We considered that the world is flat based on the concept of the 'flattening of the playing field' and the technological developments (most of the ten flatteners) and that our classroom in Bangladesh has the same opportunity to be heard and make a difference as any other classroom in the world. Students expressed confusion and requested their TOK teacher to come into the discussion for further clarification. Listen to the next podcast as well (Part 6) for the next episode. (3 min 22 sec)

Students watch Friedman speak at MIT

Part 6: Flat World Concepts
A discussion between Flat Classroom students and International School Dhaka's Theory of Knowledge (TOK) teacher, John Lindsay about concepts related to and presented in Thomas Friedman's book 'The World is Flat'.
A question: What are the implications for education? For 21st Century Learning? Are we pioneers? Will other teachers do this Flat Classroom Project?
One answer from an educators perspective:
"The classroom is now not bounded by the four walls and that in a real sense things that are the other side of the world, whether that be round a spere or in a straight line, are still brought in much closer, things are more accessible (mobile and ubiquitous).....
There will be expectations then that students will take the shorter path in this flat world to the resources, there will be more expectations because of the possibility"
(John Lindsay) (6 min 25 sec)

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Flat Classroom Conversations: Part 2

Gr11_1 Gr11_2

Bangladesh ITGS Class: Without Walls
Continuing our conversations about the Flat Classroom Project and our 2 week collaboration with Vicki Davis' class in Camilla Georgia.

The project was completed on Tuesday December 12. The student wiki pages were locked down that day and now a team of international judges are reviewing each page and selecting winners for the handful of awards we have nominated. This is a bit of fun for us all. As I see it all of the students are 'winners' and any final recognition for a job well done will be icing on the cake for them.

Part 4: Flat Classroom Topic Discussion
Individual students talk frankly about their Flat Classroom Project topics. These were based on the ten flatteners discussed in Thomas Friedman's book, 'The World is Flat'.
(9 min 51 sec)
  • Naimul (aka Sourov) shares his candid thoughts about the Internet being 'a bad place' and how it can alienate users rather than unite them
  • Virtual communication: what are the best ways to do this?
  • How Google is taking over the world

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Flat Classroom Conversations Part 1


Well, I feel as though I have been around the world and back on a non-stop flight! A similar feeling to being hit by a Dhaka bus.
Seriously, we are all tired but feeling good that the Flat Classroom Project has been a success in more ways than one. The intensity of a short-run collaboration brings out the true character of all participants. It has helped my class to bond with each other and with me far more effectively than the regular day-to-day classroom experience. I am very proud that all of my students managed to finish their project and upload a personal video to their collaborative wiki page.
If you have not heard of our project yet read Flat Classroom Project Launch Today.

Here are direct links to their completed pages:
  1. Connecting the World Online
  2. How the World Wide Web has Changed the World
  3. How Work Flow Software can Enhance Productivity and Communications
  4. Combined with 8 due to absences.
  5. Why we should be promoting Web 2.0 tools for sharing information.
  6. Globalization and Outsourcing
  7. Google Takes Over the World
  8. (Combined with 4) The Changing Shape of Information - PLE's and Social Networking
  9. Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing
  10. Virtual Communications
  11. Wireless Connectivity
Bangladesh ITGS Class: Without Walls


Yesterday in our last class before the winter break my Flat Classroom students and myself as well as a couple of guest teachers discussed the project. The students shared their experiences, thoughts, suggestions for the future development of the project and more! I have created a series of podcasts from this discussion and invite you to listen in, from wherever you are in the world, to our conversations.

Part 1: Hello
This short podcast is a 'Hello' in Bangla and a discussion about the characteristics of the Bangla language. (2 min 22 sec)

Part 2: Reflection 1
Students discuss the use of a wiki for facilitating the Flat Classroom Project as well as their thoughts about global collaboration and tools used for this. (3 min 14 sec)

Part 3: Reflection 2
Students continue to reflect on their project experiences and discuss their involvement. They also talk about the educational advantages of doing this project, including their thoughts about the international exposure the project has attracted. (3 min 8 sec)

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Flat Classroom Best Wiki Nomination Thank you

A sincere thank you to those who nominated our Flat Classroom Project in the Edublog Awards for Best Wiki 2006. We are very excited and honoured to have been included!

Also nominated were APWH Wiki, Classroom Google Earth, David Warlick’s CoLearners Wiki, Schome and Support Blogging. What an inspiring collection of innovative educators. I encourage you to explore these wikis as they offer cutting edge solutions to connectivity, collaboration and best practice use of online learning.

Click HERE to vote for your favourite wiki. You have until Midnight GMT Saturday 16 December 2006 to vote.

But that's not all! The news gets even better. Vicki Davis, my colleague on the Flat Classroom project, has also been nominated for Best Teacher Blog with her Cool Cat Teacher Blog. Also, one of our esteemed Flat Classroom Project 06 judges, Darren Kuropatwa has been nominated for Best Teacher Blog with his A Difference blog. Congratulations to you both!
To vote for Vicki or Darren click HERE
Also, Happy Blog-Birthday Vicki! What a great way to celebrate.

I am so proud to be working with international educators such as Vicki and Darren and others who have been nominated for EduBlog Awards. These educators are truly amazing, hard working, conscientious and have a profound love of teaching and improving education systems.

What also inspires me is the collectivism of edubloggers. One for all and all for one, to coin a phrase. A day does not go past (wait a minute, an hour does not go past) when I do not learn something from someone in the blogosphere. To be truthful I can't afford to open my aggregator while at school.....I can get seriously sidetracked ;-)

Thanks also goes to Josie Fraser for her work on the EduBlog Awards for the second year in a row.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Atif and ELGG: Watch the Video

In a recent post I shared the news of Atif, my student, being on the BBC 'Click' TV program talking about social networking. Since then, Atif agreed to upload his full 1.30 minute video to Google and has embedded it on our class wiki.

I recommend you take 2 minutes to view this young man and listen to his thoughts on social networking. He talks about the ability to be connected to the rest of the world through the learning environment blogging software called ELGG. He talks about not being alone and how he values online friendships as much as offline ones. He talks about living in a country such as Bangladesh where the political instability often makes travel difficult and how online communication provides vital social and academic resources.

Atif concludes his brief but eloquent presentation with:
"Nowadays everyone meets people online and it's not that dangerous, especially in Bangladesh since people we communicate with are mostly from foreign countries."

I hope you join me in appreciating Atif's realistic appraisal of the everyday use of online social networking tools, ELGG in particular. This is from the mouth of a digital native, a 'baby' of the 21st century, an international student/citizen with an honest and inclusive outlook.

As educators we can all learn something from this. We can learn to look for and promote the positive uses of emerging technologies. We can learn to persevere with their integration into everyday learning. We can learn about what it means to be an international person in a shrinking world. These are valuable lessons. Thank you Atif for being our teacher.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Digital Future 2007 Report Findings

I am picking up on some ideas from Andy Carvin's post to his blog on PBS Teacher Source to do with The Center for the Digital Future and their 2007 Report just released. The press release summary provides an insight into the use of the Internet in the homes of about 2000 Americans in an ongoing annual survey of the same households. Andy was intrigued by the increased involvement in online communities with offline or civic action.

I am finding these points interesting:

In general the 2007 Digital Future Project found that Internet use is growing and evolving as an instrument for personal engagement – through blogs, personal Web sites, and online communities.

Online Communities
  • Online communities: daily use -- A significant majority of members of online communities
    (56.6 percent) log into their community at least once a day.
  • Member interaction -- Online communities are online havens for interaction among members; 70.4 percent of online community members say they sometimes or always interact with other members of their community while logged in.
Internet Users
  • The number of Internet users in America who keep a blog has more than doubled in three
    years (now 7.4 percent of users, up from 3.2 percent in 2003).
  • The number of Internet users who post photos online has more than doubled in three
    years (now 23.6 percent of users, up from 11 percent).
  • New friends, online and in person -- Internet users are finding growing numbers of online friends, as well as friends they first met online and then met in person. Internet users report having met an average of 4.65 friends online whom they have never met in person. Internet users report an average of 1.6 friends met in person whom they originally met online -- more than double the number when the Digital Future Project began in 2000.
Internet Access and Use
  • Americans on the Internet -- more than three-quarters of American are Internet users; 77.6 percent of Americans age 12 and older go online.
  • The Internet at home – more than two-thirds of Americans (68.1 percent) use the Internet at home, a substantial increase from the 46.9 percent of users who reported home Internet use in 2000 (the first year of the Digital Future Project).
  • Hours online -- the number of hours online continues to increase, rising to an average of 8.9 hours per week, an average of one hour more than 2005.
  • Internet connections at home: modem use plummets -- Use of telephone modem to access the Internet continues to decline. Last year, the number of Internet users who reported that they went online through a telephone modem dropped to less than a majority (45.6 percent) for the first time in the Digital Future Project. Use of telephone modem for access dropped again, to 37 percent of Internet users.
  • Access to the Internet through a broadband connection grew slightly, increasing to 50 percent, compared to 48.3 percent in 2005.
  • Men and women online -- For the first time the percentage of women going online was higher than the number of men.
  • Internet use and its effect on time spent watching TV – More than one-third of Internet users (35.5 percent) say that they spend less time watching TV since they began using the Internet -- a modest increase over 2002.
The Internet and Education
Schoolwork and the Internet: children’s views -- Children and adults continue to express conflicting views about the importance of the Internet for schoolwork. Of Internet users age 18 and under, 80.5 percent say that going online is very important or extremely important -- slightly less than the 83.5 percent who reported the same responses in the previous study. However, almost three-quarters of adults (74.1 percent) say that since their household acquired the Internet, the grades of children in their households have stayed the same.

The Internet at Work
Does the Internet make workers more productive? -- The percentage of users who say the
Internet at work makes them more productive has continued to increase overall for all six years of this study. Almost 70 percent of users who have access to the Internet at work (69.7 percent) say that by going online at work their productivity has improved somewhat or a lot, an increase from 66.3 percent in 2005, 65.8 percent in 2003, 64.5 percent in 2002, 60.9 percent in 2001, and 56.7 percent in 2000.

Brief Summary
In general, according to this report the use of the Internet is higher, people have a better connection and are doing more 'social' activities such as sharing resources (photos) and making friends or communicating with family. There is signs of increaed use of the Internet at work along with increased productivity. In education however there is no real sign of Internet use to increase grades. In the latter I doubt there is actual acknowledgement of social interaction as a benefit from Internet use. It seems that more people are using online learning communities but not necessarily as a tool for educational pursuit.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

BBC 'Click', Bangladesh, ELGG and Social Networking

Some excitement for my students this week! On the BBC 'Click' flagship technology TV programme Chris DeWolfe, the MySpace CEO is interviewed. As part of the 24 minute episode young people from around the world were invited to send in video clips of themselves talking about the use of social networking software. My student, Atif, took on this challenge and produced a 1.30 video describing his use of ELGG. He sent this to the BBC producers and was chosen as one of the handful of students to be featured on the episode. Well done Atif!!

We are very proud of Atif's recording. He speaks clearly and succinctly about the use of ELGG and how it helps to connect him with the rest of the world. Other people talk about different social networking sites and the main focus of course is on the use of MySpace. Chris DeWolfe gives a fairly impartial review of the development of MySpace and focuses on positive aspects.

To see the full 24 minute Click episode click HERE and scroll to the end of the text and select 'Watch the full interview'. This will open a new window with an embedded Real Player window. Atif is featured in the first 5 minutes.

In the short section that is viewed on 'Click' Atif discusses how ELGG links him with his immediate school community and the rest of the world. In Bangladesh with some of the political turmoil students sometimes find it difficult to physically get to school as the streets are not considered safe. Social networking software is playing an increasing role in joining alienated individuals, extending the walls of the classroom and enhancing educational experiences. This is all good and I not only encourage it with my students but build it into our everyday classes.

As an aside to this storyAtif had some problems uploading the final video to the BBC by the deadline. Last weekend Atif Skyped me and asked if he go into school to use the Internet as his was too slow at home and he needed to upload his video by a certain time. Luckily we have a wireless network (encrypted for security) so all Atif had to do was get his driver to park outside the school gate while he used his laptop and the WLAN, there was no need to even get me to come over and open up the building! If I can persuade Atif share and upload his full video to Google I will hyperlink it here.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

While I was Playing Tennis the World Got Flatter

So, what did I do last night..... as members of the Australian Club 'C' division tennis team here in Dhaka my husband and I played the last match of the season and were soundly thrashed by the Canadian Club......then we came home to find my daughter, Violet, in tears about her French homework (another story altogether)....then before going to bed I thought I would just check the email and look in on the blog posting I uploaded before tennis about our Flat Classroom Project to see if there had been any response.....and then (I have to put this in bold) I found an email from Thomas Friedman! (author of The World is Flat)

Dear Julie,

I read your blog about the flat world classroom. I was delighted to see it! Tell me how it goes. Yes, this is really Tom Friedman. Allbest, Tom

Just thought I would drop this juicy fact with my CEO today, and was glad to hear he was suitably impressed.
Question from CEO: But how did he know you are doing this project?
Answer: He read my blog!
Question/Exclamation: He read your blog??!! Wow!!

Now my CEO wants to borrow the book (The World is Flat). My students of course, as stakeholders in the project and as readers and connosouirs of the ten flatteners were also impressed, but a little confused.....the sense of awe and wonder at how this communication is possible and how it makes the world flat is perhaps reserved for my generation, the younger you are the more it is accepted as common place (?)

Vicki Davis, my flat classroom project partner who has such wonderful energy and vision, posted a great opening to our project on her blog today. I empathize completely with her discussion about teachers being connectors and not just content delivers anymore. I am a firm believer and supporter of experiential learning and have participated and initiated a number of online global projects over the past 10 years. I never fail to be thrilled at the absolute delight the students get from these projects and how the learning outcomes are usually far higher than initially expected. By this I mean the extra learning that occurs apart from the content of the project such as:
  • Developing good communication skills to be able to find a place where understanding occurs in order to break through cultural misunderstandings
  • Developing good inquiry skills and fostering a sense of wonderment at the differences in the world
  • Being flexible in working hours and knowing there are deadlines and other people relying on them
  • Developing a fuller understanding of how the world works and that it does not just revolve aound them
  • The feeling that individuals can do something about changing how the world is now and that through communciation with and understanding of other people this can be a reality
As Vicki says, "It is time for the mass production not of industrial robotic line workers but of teacherpreneurs. For I believe that if this attitude is promoted in the classroom under proper authority and best practices, that teachers can truly become connectors and breed a new generation of global collaborators and big picture thinkers like we've never seen before."


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Monday, November 27, 2006

Flat Classroom Project Launch Today

Vicki Davis and I invite you to drop in on our Flat Clssroom Project over the next 3 weeks. This project has been in the planning and development stage for about 6 weeks and today it is launched!

The idea for the project came from us both reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I started to learn about Friedman and the flat world through David Warlick's blog and also through Will Richardson at NECC06. I have also been keeping bookmarks for 'flatworld' and 'flatclassroom' on delicious.

In October Vicki blogged about her students 'weighing in on Friedmans Flat World', so I contacted her and suggested we develop a collaboration between our students so that they could interact and discuss and develop links with other students from 'the other side of the flat world'. For the next 3 weeks students from International School Dhaka, Bangladesh Grade 11 ITGS class and students from Westwood Schools Grade 10 computer class will discuss life from their side of the world based on the selected 'flatteners' as per Friedman's book.

So here we are today with a project launch and a lot of excited students anticipating some fun learning experiences. The project is wiki-centric and has been developed to align with each of our curriculum and assessment needs for this time of the year. Each student has been partnered with another from the other side of the world. Each partnership has a topic based on one of the 'Ten Flatteners'. There are comprehensive assessment rubrics and a code of ethics for online learning. We are also developing resources and approaches to using Web2.0 tools in the classroom and for communication and sharing.

We are expecting a lot from our students and have discussed the need for regular and ongoing communciation and discussion between them and their partners as they develop their own wiki pages and multimedia content. We have also invited noted international educators to help review the final wiki pages and multimedia objects with a view to awarding and showcasing best practice learning outcomes. More about this later.

So, we invite you to drop in and browse the development of the first Flat Classroom Project. Our students know that their wiki will be viewed internationally. We look forward to your encouragement. I look forward to being part of the growing and maturing I anticipate my students to do as they embrace this online adventure.

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Online global collaboration warm and fuzzy

What I loved about the K12 Online Conference recently was getting to know the personalities and in many cases being able to put a face to a name. Today a warm and fuzzy thank you e-card came from Lani to all presenters from Darren, Sheryl and Wes (conference organisers). Along with the card came a link to a video "Thank you to K12Online06 Presenters". I am sharing this video here. One of my pictures is in it! The one with David Warlick on a computer screen...taken while sitting at my desk at work as I watched his keynote!

Being one of the presenters and 'When Night Falls' final Skypecast conveners/moderators I would like to add my thanks to the organisers and participants in the K12 Online Conference. It was a great experience! As a graduate from a Masters degree a while ago that was purely by distance education and one that demanded very regular online collaboration I am aware of and support the intrinsic benefits of this type of communication and connecting of like-minded individuals. The sociability and interactivity of online learning environments has been documented and fact I even wrote an academic paper about it in 2003 called "Online Learning Community".
Here is the abstract of the paper:
"In the quest for viable options for online tuition the development of an asynchronous environment that fosters interaction and a sense of community learning has become a preferred method. Modern computer technology has made possible a new and rich learning experience. The foundation of an online learning community lies in constructivist principles and emphasises the exchange of information and ideas so that the individual can grow as can the community. Of the many factors involved in making this structure work, particular emphasis can be put onto the need for social interaction, technology systems that are designed to respond to the needs of the students and a learning environment that is motivating and engaging."

You will notice I have bolded one sentence that sticks out from the rest..' that the individual can grow as can the community.' I particularly like the idea of us growing together through our interaction and collaboration and the thought that we are less isolated, less vunerable, wiser and more confident as a group than as individuals.

I am continuing to find new challenges as I work through the K12 Online Conference presentations and feel a real warm and fuzzy today thinking that I was priveleged to be part of this online event.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Tutorial for Podcasting using Evoca

I have spent some time this weekend exploring and comparing online 'podcasting' facilities in preparation for a forthcoming project (more about that later!). I was looking for something that can do direct online recording from a microphone and can also allow you to upload prepared audio files.
The two that I finally compared are Podomatic and Evoca. I talked about Podomatic in a previous post this month. It has a great feature that allows you set up your own web page (type of blog). It does cater for direct and uploaded audio input however it lost points with the inability to embed individual posts. The 'badge' or embedding feature on podomatic, from what I can find, looks great but it includes all posts (see link above to previous post again). Evoca has the advantage of allowing individual posts to be embedded into blogs and wwebsites. It also has a 'group' feature that allows you to set up a group for combining posts, like a community blog. Also, it allows you to send a recording straight to your blog, see previous post, however, once in I cannot work out how to add any comment or anything else to this individual posting. Evoca allows phone call audio recording as well, a feature I probably will not use here in Bangladesh as even the online direct recording is a hit and miss affair sometimes.

In summary, I really like podomatic for the great web page you can develop and the sharing, searching and finding podcasts online. However I really like Evoca for the more refined embedding facility, groups and other more sophisticated recording and sharing features, and they also give you your own page!

Here is a screencast I prepared to show you how to use Evoca for peronal use or in the classroom. I hope this is useful. My students will be joining Evoca this week and trialling this as a classroom tool for communication and storing and sharing audio files. I will let you know of any problems as they arise.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

International Education Issues

I'm picking up the conversation from Jeff Utecht this week re 'The Places You'll Go' and the dilemma of being an international educator. Having been 'out' of Australia for 9 years and essentially loving every minute of it this observation is just as it is and not a complaint by any means. Yes, the way it works is that we are usually required to resign before getting another job. This is so the school administration can work out who they need to recruit for the following year. Therefore we all end up at the various job fairs and recruitment events in different locations around the world going out of our way to impress each other hoping to find a good match for the next part of the journey.

Going to an international job fair can be both soul destroying and/or an exhilerating experience. My husband and I have had both sides of the coin and have been to fairs in Boston, London, Kualar Lumpur and Dubai over the years. However, it is almost an essential part of the whole deal as going to a job fair allows both sides (employers and teachers) to have more interviews and therefore potentially more chances of getting a new job. We will be off to the Search Associates fair in Bangkok in January....and if unsuccessful will be flying to London in February for another fair. The word lately is that there are more jobs than teachers this year, however finding the positions you really want is never easy. Despite our vast experience over 3 main educational systems (Australian, British and IB) and our 50+ years of combined teaching and our combined ability to teach ICT, Technology, mathematics, music, english, ITGS, TOK....and more...hey, wait a minute, maybe we should start our own school!!

What really worries me about searching for a new job is finding a supervisor/principal/CEO etc who is tech savvy and can understand what I am talking about! There are not many out there who I can converse with about Web2.0, ubiquitous and mobile computing and wiki centric classrooms. However, putting the 'tools' aside, I know we will find people of vision and passion and energy and we will gravitate towards them. Being an international educator is not just about which country can provide the best holiday opportunities, it is about contributing to and being part of another culture for a period of time. It is about developing internationalism amongst the faculty and students. It is also about sharing 'flat classroom' experiences and exploring life-changing experiences for us as a family.

I want to thank Jeff also for pointing me in the direction of Blaugh! These examples and more can be freely put onto a blog.....they are priceless!

A Deal's a Deal

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Monday, November 13, 2006

test recording 1

Aspiring towards 21st Century Schooling

"In the 21st Century school, technology must be like oxygen, ubiquitous and necessary"

These are the first 'words' beamed onto the 'Planning the 21st Century School' K12 Online Conference presentation by Marcie Hull and Chris Lehman. I have been really looking forward to this presentation and have been lurking around the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) website and reading various blog postings trying to gleen what this is all about.

The SLA homepage states:
"The Science Leadership Academy (SLA) is a new Philadelphia public high school that opened its doors on September 7, 2006.

Developed in partnership with The Franklin Institute and its commitment to inquiry-based science, the SLA will provide a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Students at the SLA will learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes."

Coincidently I have also spent about 2 hours this weekend watching old episodes of Starship Enterprise (you know, the one based on Star Trek with Jonathan Archer as Captain), just to try and clear my head and get away from the computer. Will I find parallels with this science fiction episiode and the SLA video? Will they also be totally paperless and get their lunch from a food replicator by saying 'hot chocolate, no sugar'?

Marcie: School 2.0 means there has to be a change in school as we know it today. To her it means having everything to do with technology, but technology is not at the core. Essentially it is understanding change and how change is going to be a constant part of our lives. "The knowledge that schools have to redefine themselves in this landscape of schools that is ever evolving"

What is School 2.0?
  • Student-centered (Constructivist: kids ot be critical consumers and producers of information)
  • Knowledge-driven
  • Project-based
  • Collaborative
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Transparent
  • 24/7/365
  • And of course, uses technology
Chris says School 2.0 is:
  • a mindset, a recognition that the way we do things has to change
  • student-centered, constructivist, to 'teach kids to be critical consumers and producers of information'....'schools need to change to reflect the wider world, need to change the structure of schools'...'information distribution and communication as well......there is no excuse for not publishing homework asignments and email parents...
Technology as transformative:
  • Use of laptops: giving students and teachers the tools to transform their learning
  • Community of learners
  • Web portal developed
  • Project-based learning combined with Rubric/criterion based assessment
  • Inquiry-based learning: finding and solving problems
  • Sustainability.....??
Interesting images of whiteboard and butcher paper brainstorming sessions shown (no use of technology here as a teacher planning tool). I must admit I start to break out in a cold sweat when staff meeting leaders bring out the butcher paper. There are a number of excellent online tools that could be used for this (Moodle, Google docs, wiki etc) and using paper means someone has to eventually transcribe into a digital format eventually. (Maybe this need for large white areas with scribbled words encompasses a learning style I don't posses). I see however from the description of this presentation that you have been using online tools for teacher collaboration, such as Moodle, prior to the opening of SLA.

A teacher from the video comments: How can technology remedy inequities? Process oriented use of technology to allow it to help our larger aims in education.

My summary:
Thanks Chris and Marcie for this insight into SLA. As an international educator I am keen to explore best practice education (and use of eLearning objectives) from around the world and I admire your stamina and ongoing initiatives with the development of the SLA.
Project based learning is a well established constructivist method utilized by many international and national curriculum systems globally, including the IBO. The challenge is, as you have shown us, combining this with vision and a well thought out plan that includes a on-to-one ubiquitous computing environment. It is the mindset that change is good and change is inevitable in this evolving world where the shape of information changes daily that must dominate. How will you build in sustainability for change? Is this a contradiction in terms? The technology will change and evolve but what needs to remain constant is the approach taken by the educators and the need for acceptance of student-centred learning. This, I feel, is your number one challenge.

Parallels with StarTrek? The jury is still out on whether it is a case of ' boldy go where no man has been before', or whether this is a road once trodden already by others with just as much spirit and ambition but a little less funding. I look forward to forthcoming episodes. Good luck and well done!

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Web 2.0 in Theory and Practice

Today in Dhaka we have been told not to go to work (school) as there is political trouble and there will most likely be blood in the streets before the day finishes.
Despite the stress associated with the climate (it's OK, we live in the diplomatic area and out of the way of the real disturbances) I welcome this extra respite to continue to explore and evaluate Web 2.0 tools that I can use in my classroom. Luckily the Internet is still running!

I have just created a new account with Podomatic called Julie's Flat Classroom and have uploaded one podcast so far called ELGG in the Grade 11 ITGS Classroom. This recording is a little rough as we literally had a round table discussion about our uses of ELGG and I asked the students for their frank opinions. We did this podcast a while ago and I have been trying to upload it to my usual online place for audio, but keep getting an error message....not sure why. Podomatic will allow me to upload/podcast up to 500MB of material for free with 15GB of bandwidth available. In the past hour I have also had 2 requests to be added as friends and there are numerous opportunities and tools on Podomatic for collaboration and interaction and sharing! I am amazed how good this is. It will also allow you to record an instant podcast online (all you need is a microphone).
Here is an embedded version of the Flat Classroom podcasts including a cut-off live message and the ELGG podcast:

Click here to get your own player.

It's difficult to tell sometines if it is our connection here in Bangladesh or other problems that caused the live recording to be cut off.

Another new tool/toy I discovered recently (thanks to TechnoSpud) is YackPack. This is designed to make it easy to record, play and share audio messages. I have been using Vaestro and added a request to my k12 Online Conference presentation for participants to leave me a message on my E-Learning Channel. YackPack seems to provide a more sophisticated interface but from here in Dhaka the connection is a little slow...will keep experimenting and report back on this later.

Also, just to remind you that provides a mapping facility that can be linked to or embedded on your website/blog. See the menu tools at the side of this blog to find my Friends of E-Learning Map or click HERE to open a new page. Please add your pin to my map as well!

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

My K12 Online Conference Presentation

My presentation "The 21st Century Educator's Toolbox: Developing a Professional Learning Environment" is now online!! It is dinner time here in Dhaka, I have rushed home from school to spend another 2 hours on the wiki...still so much to do for the actual learning environment and digital portfolio bits, but I feel happy now that there is a variety of resources and ideas for participants in my actual presentation pages.

My presentation introduction can be found on the K12onlineconference blog HERE
A direct link to the video to supplement the presentation is HERE
The actual presentation material is on my wiki HERE

OK, now for some explanations and thankyous. First of all, thank you to Faruk the rickshaw walla who was very sweet and also very amused at our antics the other day in the street creating the first part of the video. I was so nervous, and for some reason there was unexpected loud traffic in the street that the effect was not quite what I wanted.....however it was a bit of fun.
Just to remind you of the basic facts [has the learning started yet? ;-)] I discussed in the video:
  • Bangladesh (called East Pakistan then) gained it's independence from West Pakistan in 1971
  • Population of Bangladesh is about 140 million
  • Bangladesh is surrounded by India and Myanmar. Here is a location map.
  • The outfit I was wearing is called a salwar kameez. I think I got this the wrong way around in the video. The kameez is the long dress-like tunic; the salwar (pronounced shall-wah) is the baggy trousers; the scarf/shawl is called a dupatta
  • Also, I do not normally look that short and dumpy. The software distorted the picture when I had to rotate the image and I have not worked out how to fix this yet!
Please leave me an audio message on my Vaestro E-Learning channel with your comments and suggestions for developing a Professional Learning Environment. To do this listen, to my Greetings K12 online conference post and reply to it. All you need is a microphone.


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

K12 Wiki Winners!

Vicki Davis has announced the K12 Wiki Team Assignment Winners. I am excited to find out that our (Reuven Werber and myself) Citizen Journalism wiki page has come equal third place!! All the details about the wiki workshop can be found on the K12 wiki.

This 'competition' evolved from the presentation Vicki gave last week for the K12 Online Conference called 'Wiki Collaboration Across the Curriculum'. About 18 hours ago the event culminated in a skypecast with discussions by judges and participants. Unfortunately I was not able to make the skypecast as the time zone here in Dhaka was not good but I look forward to hearing the recording later this week.

Here is a
must listen to podcast Reuven recorded last night that was played during the skypecast. In this podcast he discusses the logistics of our wiki page development and reflects on the experience of long distance collaboration using this Web 2.0 tool.

The experience of participating in this fun project has helped to
crystallize my own thoughts and actions to do with the use of wikis in education. The wiki interface allows for easy collaboration. It also allows for a user-friendly interface to display material. The challenge for all users (students of all ages) is to find creative ways to present literacy tools and to show legitimate research, evaluation and synthesis skills. I feel inspired to continue developing my own classroom use of wikis and am thinking of ways to foster further international collaborations. As Reuven says, the wiki technology is 'the ultimate flattener' for interaction and best practice online socialisation as well as digital literacy skill development.

I encourage you to explore the K12 wiki, in particular view the other 'winners':
Thanks to Vicki for this initiative through which we have all learned more about Web 2.0 tools and made new friends in doing so. Thanks Reuven for being my team member!

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K12 Online: Literacy objectives for our time

Tonight I caught up with Clarence Fisher's presentation. Wow!, what a great relaxed and informative style! I feel informed but still overwhelmed. Clarence proposes a set of skills for 21st century literacy but then concludes by asking if we are following behind our students who are perhaps becoming underground digital apprentices. How can schools lead the way when many of the teachers are not on board with this concept and mode of thinking about information and digital literacy? I remembered again a handful of the teachers at my school who recently declared technology was not enhancing literacy and have gone on a no-tech tools binge...back to pencil and paper to correct the illiteracy (I am not kidding!). I despair at this attitude but can only encourage them to view this presentation.

Wesley Fryer talks about an extended version of the digital native/digital immigramt model developed by Prensky with Digital Refugees and Bridges on his Infinite Thinking Machine posting recently. He claims the digital refugees are "The older adults in society who have chosen to flee rather than integr
ate into the native culture." and "The refugees are primarily motivated by fear and a staunch desire to not only resist change but actively oppose it, deny the existence of a changed environment, and/or ignore it."
I know I am working with some refugees but let me tell you a 'straight from the shop-floor' secret...they are not just the 'older adults...' I know this sounds more shocking and unforgivable. It's possibly the ultimate definition of digital conservatism, to be young and yet a digital refugee.

Anyway, congratulations Clarence and thank you for your enlightening presentation. I enjoyed it and will share with my colleagues and also my students....I value their opinion as well.
Globally Literate
by Clarence Fisher

The Key Questions:
What is literacy? How is it changing? (it has always changed)
What is literacy in our time? Where do we think it is going? What does it look like in a classroom?
  • Component of comprehension
  • Component of production (producing a message)
  • Literacy is interactive (communicating a message that others understand)
Overview of historical view and practice of literacy.
Texts have changed through time: tablets, scrolls, book became popular in Christian times (small and easily carried and hidden).
Printing press in Guttenberg: Mass, societal literacy became possible.
Concept of reading - left to right (Arabic = right to lect, Chinese = column top to bottom)

In an historical context literacy is in a constant and continual state of change. Why is today any different?
What does it mean to be literate in our society today?
Constructive citizens in the 21st century need to understand complex issues.

Being literate today is more challenging as there are many more types of texts than in the past eg multimedia such as sound, video, animation, podcasts, spreadsheets, graphs
Also, many different types of information can be combined in a single page eg print combined with video, music, animation.
Connected texts: blogs, wikis....use of hyperlinks, commenting on others work.
Ideas evolve and change over time with the electronic text we have today. Editing takes place post-publication. Many sources to go to with different points of view.
Possibility of global recognition and attracting a world-wide audience.

Literacy =
  • No single type of text
  • No single type of skill: Toolbox with choices to access, comprehend and respond to content
  • Whole set of skills to create their own content: blog comment, video, set of photos, podcast
The skills of literacy are changing

Access Skills:
  • It's not about 'search' it's about 'find'; using different tools with understanding for different purposes.
  • Include finding and using an RSS feed- finding authentic voices
  • Include ways to find current information and immerse in conversations, find and join challenging people and networks..meaningful..authentic...
Comprehension Skills:
  • Reading online: different to reading a book....skimming to read through vast amounts of material, then changing to focused reading
  • Basic reading skills still vital ...but can be more complex...dealing with multi-modal text
  • Need strategies: begin at the top? deal with written text first, then multimedia, then hyperlinks??
Evaluation Skills:
  • Trusted sources of information not the same with online texts
  • Look at date, links, author, break apart URL's to find root sites, search deeper into the source
  • Reliability of information needs checking....can it be trusted?
  • Teach them to be effective critical, question it...
Production Skills:
  • Print is no longer the dominant medium of communication...what do we act as if it is??
  • Give kids a choice....a medium that suits their message
  • Contemporary and interactive forms of representation
  • Skills needed to choose a representaiton that fits the purpose, content and audience
  • Encourage an environment where experimentation is OK
  • Production skills are not technical skills...not trying to produce programmers and's about the literacy
  • Skills needed to communicate the message
  • Time needed to choose form of representation and to learn skills to use their choice
Interaction Skills:
  • Build networks of people who challenge their thinking and drive it forward
  • Stephen Downes work on groups and networks
  • Teach how to write good blog comments (Vicki Davis, Anne Davies)
Creative, ThoughtFul and Globally Appropriate

The Big Ideas:
  • Literacy has changed and will continue to's a FACT. Schools need to look at the definition of literacy in a changing world
  • A new skill set of production and interaction skills are needed as well, simply reading and understanding a text is not enough
Underground digital apprenticeships...are we following behind as's our job to guide and help and be at the forefront.....

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

K12 Online Keynote: Opportunities and Creativity in Education

Week 2 of the K12 Online Conference has started and I am working through the two new keynotes for this week. One aspect of this confernce is the range of accents! From a Georgian twang to a Scottish brogue! (I mean this affectionately of course).

The Overcoming Obstacles keynote:

Unleash the Potential: Remix Obstacles into Opportunities
by Anne Davis, Georgia USA

A select summary (bits that I wanted to particularly remember)
  • What is the best way to present the obstacles?
  • I don't have an answer for each obstacle, neither do you, but we all have a passion for creating environments for students where there is joy and excitement and a connecting and learning by talking and sharing globally.
  • We need to be creative and think of ways to get others involved....have those conversations in unexpected places....extend the conversations into actions that can affect the change.
  • Remix #1: An opportunity to change public opinion on high-stakes testing
  • Remix #2: An opportunity to reach a technophobic teacher: Provide examples of actual work with students...teachers want to see the technology making a difference
  • Remix #3: ...Seize the time...make the time for writing and thinking. Help educators reframe their use of time. Blogging is valuable use of time
  • Remix #4: An opportunity to build concrete examples that this type of learning is powerful.
  • Remix #5: An opportunity to involve others outside your classroom (parents, school board memebrs etc) them relevant posts made by students. Make them part of the process and they may become part of the solution...
  • Remix #6: An opportunity to change public opinion on the use of social networking tools in schools and libraries....the best way to protect our young people is through education. Invite parents in on the dialogue on these tools....
Anne's wiki Remixing Obstacles into Opportunities
Aim: to provide a 'Quick click' to 'just for the moment' resources. Readers are invited to contribute resources.

Anne asks: What is one way you can turn an obstacle into an opportunity??

I posted this comment to the conference blog just a while ago:

"Anne, I am thinking hard about how to turn an obstacle into an opportunity. Sometimes during the working week there seem to be so many ‘obstacles’ that I feel clousterphobic. I totally empathise with your views on needing to be working with the students. As an administrator I still have a teaching load, but my classes are like fresh air to me after meetings and problem solving and planning etc etc for the rest of my time. I am very reluctant to let them go. This is where I work through many of the obstacles that others find and help to show other teachers good examples of what is possible and what does improve communication and learning.

My looming obstacle is a parent education evening where I have elected to discuss digital literacy and eLearning and how it improves education and benefits the students….I think I may be throwing myself to the wolves here. However, I was heartened by a conversation with parents today (remember I am in Bangladesh but many of our parents are well educated and well travelled) about social networking sites and found their attitude to be positive and their knowledge broad about the good and not so good aspects.

After hearing you tonight I feel heartened and reinvigorated to start planning for my parent meeting and determined to turn it into an opportunity to share experiences, discuss fears and show examples of learning in the 21st century using the tools that these parents pay a lot of money for in school fees. Wish me luck! Thanks Anne for your inspiration!"

Checking the wiki again I find there are already great resources available that I can use for my parent evening with topics such as filtering and online safety issues. Anne also provides a page on presentations to be shared. Does anyone have presentation material or ideas or resources that are specifically for parent evenings aimed at fostering community learning, collaboration and discussion in a positive way? I would be most interested in seeing these. In return I promise to share the resources I finally put together for the session at our school in a few weeks.

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