Friday, September 28, 2007

Say YES to mobile computing

Another well-prepared and much needed resource came to my attention today. This must-see video was created by Graham Brown-Martin and is available on Google video and is called 'Mobile phones, mobile minds - Teachers.....' . It runs for about 25 minutes.
Other things you should know about Graham
  • Founder and managing director of Handheld Learning (, a very active online community of interest for academics, practitioners, thought leaders, opinion formers and developers.
  • Host and chairman of the Handheld Learning Conference (, the worlds largest conference about learning while mobile. Coming next month, October 10-12.

blog post of mine from March looked at the use of mobile phones in a school environment. It was good to revisit this today in light of my new position at Qatar Academy. The new mobile phone policy here is that students may bring their devices but are not to have them turned on or use them during school hours. This is why I see secretive hiding of devices by students as I walk around the school. Alas there is no integration or embedding (Read Jeff's post with ideas re integration vs embedding) of mobile technology at this school yet. There are a few laptops coming in and I am encouraging all students to bring their mobile devices. However, until I can change the mindset of teachers and work with them to support ubiquitous computing very little will change I think.

Quote of the week (did I see red?): "The worst thing the school could have done was put in the WLAN", by a science teacher at QA. BTW, we have an excellent campus-wide WLAN provided by CISCO. Many other schools would give up their science teachers just to have this facility ;-)

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Web 2.0 Professional Development Resources

This year the first IT-related professional development push in my new school is with the librarians across the three Qatar Academy schools: Early years, Primary and Secondary. We have three libraries and, including the multimedia specialist, 10 staff. We meet for one hour, the very first hour of the week, and look at turning the information centres of this school into 21st century libraries that are dynamic, thriving and accessible 24/7.

As with any new initiatives in the school there is a vast difference in abilities amongst the existing staff, however there is one thing all the librarians have in common: they know nothing (or very little) yet about Web.2.0. I am really pleased to be starting here with the information hubs. The skills these teachers and assistants will learn and use will permeate throughout the rest of the school so that by the time the students and other teachers come on board with new modes of learning and retrieving and storing information, the libraries will be able to advise, guide and lead them.

So, I have started with a wiki page(s) on Digital Literacy and have mapped out some objectives and a plan of what to cover. I am hoping the motivation of my new colleagues will stay high and we can keep meeting throughout the year. Let me share with you the first 3 sessions. More resources mentioned below are also hyperlinked from the second wiki page on Web 2.0.

Session 1: Social Bookmarking
I played the 'Social Bookmarking in Plain English' video on YouTube.
Then we looked at delicious and explored the concept and practice of folksonomy. I had already set up a Qatar Academy delicious account for my Grade 6 classes and invited participation from the librarians. This was a success as immediately they could see the benefits and applications of this tool.

Session 2: More Social Bookmarking and Introduction to RSS
We reviewed the delicious skills and I foudn out that some personal accounts had been made and maintained over the week as well as the Qatar Academy account. Thought had also been given to sectional school accounts and a Primary school account was activated. We agreed that the information specialists in the school could be responsible for overseeing school accounts, we did not decide if it was a good idea for students to have the ID and PW of these accounts. I have given this information to my grade 6 students for the QA account along with discussion about digital citizenship and responsible sue of shared online resources.
I showed how bundles can be made to reduce tagging overload and also how accounts can be networked together.
The intro to RSS was a little shaky...this is a tough learning curve. I played the "RSS in Plain English' video and We Fryer's 'What is RSS?' and then encouraged the use of personal Bloglines accounts. This was where I lost most of the group. I think opening my current is in a mess really, although I can see through the mess...discouraged them. The head librarian said to me that once they saw how many of my feeds I was not keeping up with (!!...not enough time!!) they felt helpless and lost.

OK, back to the drawing board, how do I introduce RSS and not alienate my team?? I believe RSS in its practical form is one of the most powerful Web 2.0 concepts and I really wanted them to understand and use it.

Session 3: More Web 2.0 Concepts and More RSS
Over the weekend my luck changed! I was handed a fool-proof way of introducing essential Web 2.0 concepts in a practical and non-alienating way. Thanks to Atomic Learning and Vicki Davis there is now a Web 2.0 Workshop series of videos that covers introductory Web 2.0 terminology and then concentrates on RSS, using NetVibes as the main platform for feeds. We worked our way through the 5 lessons for setting your RSS reader today and then started the section on Feeds and Views. I had a winner here. The team were understanding because the videos were bite-size, user-friendly and on-target to what we needed, and they were understood by people who were struggling to make sense of this new jargon and new methods of information retrieval. All participants were able to setup NetVibes and start to feed through websites etc (they all subscribed to Vickis blog as well!).

A special mention to Joyce Valenza and Judy O'Connell, two information specialists who are out there and who have inspired me, as I am using their work to help inspire the team as well. Today we discussed Joyce Valenza's Information Fluency wiki and "You know you're a 21st century librarian if....." The library head mentioned she was going to take some of these ideas and use them in the new 5-year plan for libraries and media she is putting together...every little bit helps towards moving past the 20th century.

Thank you to all of my revolutionary colleagues who take the time to put online numerous resources via blogs, wikis and video material. I could never have produced the range and quality of resources by myself. This is such a wonderful way to share and help educators around the world develop skills and knowledge.

A quick mention also of a TechLearning eBook I found today called 'Professional Development through Just in Time Learning' hosted by Atomic Learning.

Also, seeing as this blog post is about professional development, check out the new WiziQ virtual classroom (it's free!).

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Friday, September 21, 2007

My Morning in Doha and Online Tools

I have just 'wasted' a couple of hours playing around with Web 2.0 tools and organising data online and offline.

It started with a quick browse of some blogs this morning and it has led to this blog post to share my explorations. Having moved schools and countries I am still a little disorganised with data. I have backups on hard drives and DVDs (some of the latter were lost in our shipping disaster!) and I have a lot of material online. When I tried to find some of my videos to play with the YouTube custom player I went into a mild spin. I have videos uploaded to, Google video and YouTube and TeacherTube....why do I have so many options? So, when I come to consolidate some strands and thoughts I have found the collection to be disjointed and unworkable. Will have to think about this some more. I wanted to collect all my Bangladesh videos together in a playlist so had to upload 'The Day Begins in Dhaka' video again to YouTube (it was on blip only) to join with the others. Once I found it (!) on a hard drive I then had to choose the version I wanted online which meant watching 3 different videos (a few tears of nostalgia for the old life...).

Meanwhile working spouse at his desk has spent a few precious hours setting up a complete Skype system for us to communicate with the family in Australia. These in and out calls with Skype are amazing...and now that we have good bandwidth here in Qatar we can take full advantage of this! no more expensive phone calls I hope. Next thing I know, after sending all details to family re calling a local number and getting through to our Skype here, my father is calling! He is 78 years old and quite computer savvy. We had a good chat and he told me about the new DVD recorder he has bought to record from his HD TV, but it doesn't work yet as they forgot to send the remote and the instructions with it!

Then I started to set up a YouTube custom player. It is such a functional tool! I came across Jennifer Dorman's wonderful blog and wiki full of interesting and useful and well developed Web 2.0 tolls and ideas.

I have been using the Common Craft videos on Web 2.0 tools for staff professional development recently. They are so accessible to the nervous read/write web teachers! The ability to put them all into one embedded video and then onto a blog or wiki is so great!

This one uses almost the same videos as Jennifer. However, Common Craft released a new one this week called Google Docs in Plain English so I included that as well. If you click on Menu you will see the other videos as part of the collection and be able to select what you want.

Here I have combined some videos made in Dhaka while at International School Dhaka. The Podcast Bangladesh and The Day Begins... are mine, however the ISD Memories of Graduation was created my a student, Shaveena, from last year who gave me permission to share it via my YouTube account.

In this example you can see a different option for the embedded video player. I quite like the other one above for preference as viewers can more easily collect the code and video details straight from the viewer.

Using YouTube custom player is easy via your own account. Just remember that you must mark the videos you want to include as favourites first so that you can create playlists and then a custom browser.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

No clichey, it IS a flat world

I don't care what anyone says, the world really is flat.

Today I invited the students from my previous school, International School Dhaka in Bangladesh, who did both the Flat Classroom Project and the Horizon Project, to participate in the new Flat Classroom this semester as student advisers. These young adults are now completing their final year of high school, the second year of the IB Diploma and have a lot on their plate. I would not suggest they actually do the project again but my idea is to have them interact with the other new comers and act as peer supporters and help with the judging towards the end. I think we could even include a peer award where they could give their choices and awards. I really hope Vicki's class from last year are also available and willing to so this.

What marvels me is that these students will be doing it of their own volition. They will not have a face-to-face teacher reminding them to participate. I was touched this morning when they emailed and chatted online with me about how they miss me at ISD. Already Atif and
Shakila have joined the Flat Classroom Ning (currently a private Ning for participants of the project) with Cannelle, Salmaan and Sourov also about to accept invitations I sent after their requests. I explained who they were to my class at Qatar Academy this afternoon. Remember that video we watched about the year 2020 and mobile phone technology well, said I pointing to a grey head icon on the Ning this is the person, this is Atif. They looked at me in disbelief. And this cute kitten icon is Shakila.

Later during that same session I noticed Paul Fairbrother had just joined the Ning so in the midst of our blogging, audio experiments and Ning work I pointed out to the class that this new member was in fact the head of online learning for the IBO, based in Cardiff. Yes, the world is flat. I can collaborate with my ex-students from Bangladesh, who have become even more globally aware and attuned to the importance of sustaining online learning communities, while teaching in the middle east, while also being part of a global project that has as its hub a Ning where we can all see who is online and monitor contributions from all around the world.

Why don't YOU consider bringing your class in and joining us for the Flat Classroom Project 2007?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Flat Classroom Project 2007 Invitation

I am excited to announce that Vicki and I will be running another Flat Classroom Project this semester. We are continuing to explore and define the parameters of a truly interactive and collaborative global project and invite interested classrooms anywhere in the world to consider being part of this unique experience.
We have spent the past two months deliberating as to what format the project will take and how we will preserve the integrity of the past project. Essentially the Flat Classroom Project 2006 is now archived on its own wiki and there is a new wiki for this brand new project in 2007 soon to be announced.

Meanwhile here is the press release about the project:

"As a follow up to the award winning Flat Classroom project (see 2006 project), educators Julie Lindsay (Qatar Academy, Qatar), Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, Camilla, GA USA), Barbara Stefanics (Vienna International School, Vienna, Austria), and John Turner, (Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne, Australia) are announcing the official pre-planning of the Flat Classroom Project 2007 which will begin in October and conclude on November 30th, 2006. This year's project will incorporate a study of the ten flatteners as outlined in Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat, and earned the project inclusion in version 3.0 of his book. (pages 501-503). This year's project includes an intentional plan to include the six senses of the conceptual age as outlined by Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind.

This project already includes schools from four continents but the goal is to include schools from six continents (except Antarctica.)

Accordingly, this project will include three primary components:
  1. Editing and updating previously created information (Mass Collaboration, Symphony)
  2. Creating Digital Stories using the 6 senses of the conceptual age from Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind
  3. Post Project Reflection - Students will post their reflection on the process on the project ning.
This year's project has three primary methods of facilitating communication:
  1. The Flat Classroom Wiki - This will be our product.
  2. The Flat Classroom Ning (with private groups for teachers, leaders, student groups, and educators).-- This will be our connection piece that will allow us to make and cement the connections and manage the workgroups.
  3. The Flat Classroom Airset to create cross-time zone calendaring.

Interested classrooms are invited to read the requirements and email
Participating classrooms will be announced on Tuesday, September 25th.

How you can join in:
  • Participating Classroom: We wish we could take everyone but are looking for several other strategically placed classrooms with the competence to participate. Please contact us!
  • Sounding Board (Peer review): Perhaps you have a classroom that would like to spend a day reviewing videos. This year's project will heavily rely on digital storytelling. E-mail us as well. We plan to add additional room in Elluminate.
  • Researchers: We are making the Ning open to researchers, expert advisers, and those who would like to more closely follow the project.
  • Judge: We are working on this element right now.
  • Attending a student summit or live Elluminate meeting.
So, do you have a class that is ready and willing? We would love to hear from you!


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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Animato experiment

This is a bit of fun. allows you to string together images, add music and create a 30 second video for free. You can also pay $30 and create unlimited 10mb videos for a year.
This has interesting potential for a Web 2.0 classroom.

Here is a modest example I created with images from Qatar.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Live at the Doha Debates in Qatar

Last week on September 5 I went to the Doha Debates in person! Yes, this internationally acclaimed series of debates that are fostering freedom of speech and critical analysis in the Middle East is held on my school campus!!!
Here is the Qatar Foundation building where they are held.


The Doha Debates are an initiative of Qatar Foundation (my boss) and aim to foster free speech in the Arab World. They are televised by BBC World and chaired by Tim Sebastian, known as the former presenter of the BBC's flagship HardTalk.

The subject for this debate was:
"The House believes it is time to talk to Al Qaeda"

Speakers for: Terry Waite (former hostage and hostage negotiator) and Asad Durrani (Former head of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence:ISI)
Speakers against the motion: Laith Kubba (Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the national Endowment for Democracy) and Adam Holloway (British MP and member of the House of Commons Defence Committee)

It was exciting being in the same room as all of these people. We were ushered in through security and sat in tiered seats. There were a number of ushers, organisers and cameras. I was sorry I didn't take my camera. Thinking it would be not allowed I left it at home, only to find there were many personal digital cameras being used.

The audience was a mix of western and Arabic. I guessed a large part of the audience were from the educational institutions on Education City. There were also many tertiary students who asked questions.

Each audience member also had an electronic voting device. At the conclusion of the debate Tim asked us to vote for or against. The majority, about 63% voted for the motion that it is time to speak to Al Qaeda.

You can watch the Doha Debates, including this one, as a webcast.

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Every Classroom a Global Communication Centre

I am in Qatar this weekend catching up on blogging about my new life while others, including many of my blogging colleagues are at the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai. I just caught this line from Kim Cofino, "Every classroom should be a global communication centre", by Alan November, while checking my Twitter, also Kim has this as a message on her GMail tag, so I saw it in two places! Kim is sitting in a discussion with Alan, I presume, and is twittering and communicating with the world as she is there. (BTW Kim, I loved your recent post on being a 21st century literacy specialist)

This is conference style 2.0, or as others have called it, including one of the main presenters, the wonderful Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from 21st Century Collaborative, the 'Unconference'.

As Sheryl says on her blog today:

"What Does Unconference Mean?

Alvin Toffler
said, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." Unlearning is at the heart of unconferences. They are about pushing the boundaries, coming out of our comfort zones and getting use to the unexpected. Realizing it is not business as usual, but business as unusual and that it is O-K-.

Unconference is a term that basically means customizable or organic in design. It is emergent in design. The conversation is facilitated to go in the direction that participants feel it should go. Presenters and attendees share equal responsibility in making the session a success."

I am so impressed with what Jeff Utecht and colleagues from the Shanghai American School and the wider Shanghai community have done to put on this conference. For a start they have not mentioned 'technology' in the title, they are focussing on the learning. There is very much an unconference aim and a setup that is inclusive of non-attendees. For a start there is a comprehensive website (OK, but other conferences have these I hear you say), there is a social networking Ning, (OK, that's a little more on the cutting edge), and there is a Twitter account that you can follow, while Jeff has also set up a TwitterCamp on site for participants to follow (have I lost you yet??). There is also a conference Flickr group and a hitchikr page for all feeds learn2cn07 and learn2cn.

Who is attending? Well, amongst others Will Richardson, Alan November, Gary Stager, Jamie McKenzie, Chris Smith, Wes Fryer and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.

Here are links to the main strands of discussions and presentations at the conference.

Leadership | Podcasting | Education 2.0 | Social Networks

Digital Tools | Visual Media | Literacy

I urge you to follow this event over the next few days. It is going to be big in terms of ideas and passion about new modes of learning. I wish I was there, however I can get the feel and follow the action from here in Qatar because of the tools that are being employed to network and share. This truly is an amazing world we live in!

And yes, I firmly agree with Alan, every classroom should be a global communication yours???

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Sharing an amazing vision here in Qatar

Here in Qatar I work at Qatar Academy, a PreK-12 school now delivering the IBO curriculum across all levels (PYP, MYP and DP) which is located on Education City, a large campus on the outskirts of Doha. However I work for Qatar Foundation (QF) for Education, Science and Community Development. QF represents the innovation and creativity of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar. QF is a non-profit organisation and was founded in 1995, and Education City is their flagship.

Two weeks ago all new staff at Education City were treated to a presentation about QF, then loaded onto buses and shown the around the campus and finally given a sumptuous buffet lunch. Images from the campus can be found on my Flickr group for Qatar.

The vision and commitment to excellence in education here is amazing. The money being spent and the rate of development is staggering. QF is the driving force behind the countries commitment to education and to Qatar becoming one of the most developed knowledge-based societies around the world. To do this they are partnering with international educational institutions, supporting higher research and contributing to community health and development programs. Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Consort of His Highness, serves as the chairperson of QF and personally guides the organisation with passion, vision and enthusiasm.

I have not met Sheikha Mozah yet but have heard and read about what she is doing. I am excited to be here working with visionary leaders of a country that is willing to put money into education and to promote reform and freedom of speech within the Middle East.

In the words of Sheikha Mozah herself:

"With good will and a sense of global responsibility we can achieve our objectives: Global education on an educated globe".

"Our goal is to do as our ancestors did before us, who believed in the urgency of meeting other civilisations, but not melting into them. And this is why we believe in the power of education to guide us toward this goal".

So, not only is there Qatar Academy and Education City, QF is also developing the following:
Qatar Leadership Academy: Also, IBO and a partnership between QF and Qatar Armed Forces
The Learning Centre: Providing individualised instruction in small classes for academically challenged students
Academic Bridge Program: Post-secondary preparatory program

As well as International Partnerships:
  • VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar)
  • Weill-Cornell Medical College in Qatar
  • Texas A&M University at Qatar (Science and Engineering)

Plans are underway with major building taking place to create an equestrian centre, Al Shaqab. It will be a state-of-the-art venue housing the Emir's stables, international arena, riding academy etc. We visited this as part of our tour and met the Emir's famous black stallion, the one he rode when opening the Asian Games in December 2006.
Here are pictures of the plans for the centre and of the Emir's horse:



Also under construction is an enormous convention centre, on the land opposite the main Education City campus. Watch this space as this is going to be BIG. One day soon Qatar will be able to host large regional conferences and become a focal point for meetings of all sorts.
Here it is in development:


As part of the QF community outreach program Education City hosts amongst other initiatives the Al Jazeera Children's Channel and the Doha Debates. The latter is a unique forum for dialogue and free speech in Qatar (more about this in a future blog post!)

I still have not covered all of the QF initiatives! Future plans include a central library, another recreation centre etc etc.

In the words of Sheikha Mozah:
"Today we plant seeds, tomorrow we open frontiers, tomorrow is rooted here".

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Back to the Blog: Life in Qatar

I think I have had 'bloggers block'! August 23 was my last blog post. I wish I had the time to blog everyday. I wish I had the time to read more blogs and respond and connect....sadly life is very hectic here in Qatar.

I have now reached the end of the first full week of teaching. I have now seen all of my 12 individual classes, spread across 5 different year levels (Grade 6-10). I have also started to get a handle on what the administrative part of my job here at Qatar Academy is. Essentially the two parts of my job don't quite correlate as the energy and time I need for the former (being in class and with so many different young people and curriculum needs) negates the energy I have left for the latter. It is early days yet, don't get me wrong, I am so excited to be here and part of this international school and there is SO MUCH potential but there is so much to do! Do I have the patience and energy to do it? I invite you to keep reading this blog and find out ;-).

For a start out of 1300 students and way over 100 teachers I have not found anyone else who blogs, or uses wikis, or any other Web 2.0 tools. Admittedly I do not know everyone yet. However, I keep hearing about the value of word processing and the joys of PowerPoint and cringe inside. From what my new students tell me the approach to IT has been quite conservative. There is plenty of hardware around and licensed software but I do not detect innovation, I do not yet detect any feeling for a 21st learning environment that values the use of IT tools. There is the start of a mobile computing program......some students bring in laptops and connect to the fairly new WLAN, BUT many teachers do not want laptops in their classes and talk about them being a 'distraction'........I have been there and done this before. I will blog about this again later. For now, life is getting into order and professionally the year will be a challenge that I very much looking forward to.

Here are some images of our first few weeks in Qatar.

The front entrance to the senior school at Qatar Academy

Our apartment is in this building at Education City Community Housing (ECCH)

A glimpse of the surrounding gardens and layout at ECCH

More photos of Qatar can be found on my Flickr account. Here is a Flickr slideshow of all Qatar photos so far.

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