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."


Technorati Tags:

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.

Technorati Tags:

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 researched....in 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..'.....so 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.

Technorati Tags:

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 blogger.com 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.

Technorati Tags:

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

Technorati Tags:

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 '...to 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!

Technorati Tags:

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, Archive.org 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 Frappr.com 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!

Technorati Tags:

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.


Technorati Tags:

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!

Technorati Tags:

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 consumers...be 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 engineers...it'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 change...it'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 schools....it's our job to guide and help and be at the forefront.....

Technorati Tags: