Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I have to convince the BoG to adopt e-Learning

This presentation has taken a lot of sweat and effort from many people globally. I am not joking. When I was invited by the Director at Qatar Academy to present the E-Learning For Life (E4L) vision to the Board of Governors (BoG) I immediately thought about showing what other international schools are doing and how this compares to where QA is now. What better way to explain why I am asking for so much money when the power of images and the explanation of implemented programs from other schools can reveal what is possible. I discussed this in a recent blog post as well.

Thanks to my wonderful and supportive PLN (Professional Learning Network) I contacted some of my colleagues; educators that I respect and who are working at schools I already know have moved forward into 21st century adoption of best-practice use of e-Learning ideals. These include Jeff Utecht (Shanghai American School), Kim Cofino and Justin Medved (International School Bangkok) and Madeleine Brookes (Bangkok Patana School). I asked if they could contribute images and share their IT learning environments.

Well, here is the result: E-Learning For Life: A 21st Century Initiative for the Next Generation. Catchy title? Will it inspire the Board? Will they want to move QA into the next level and support our vision for this school to be one of the best in the Middle East? I am so nervous about this presentation (tomorrow!) and the fact that the Director has said 8 minutes is the limit, with some time for questions and discussions. I have written two versions of the IT budget for next year..the 'essential budget' and the 'special project' budget which effectively doubles the essential one. But it's not about the money, it's about the attitude and the wanting to do it right. Tomorrow is a chance for us to try and show there is a better way into 21st century modes of learning. I have tried to show a balanced approach to all of the considerations we are currently discussing.

My E4L team have been over and over the presentation with me. We have pruned it down to the basics and now I have recorded it using Camtasia Studio. This is such a great piece of software as it allows you to record a PowerPoint presentation and edit and enhance it later. I actually exported it to Windows Movie maker as well and did further edits, you know the extra breathing and odd phrases that don't belong.

So, I have it under 8 minutes and really want to show this video tomorrow rather than talk live. I wonder if that will be appropriate? I sound nervous on the video...I sound like I am reading my lines (OK, sometimes I am reading lines....!). However, the BoG have such a large agenda for their meeting I feel this will be the most efficient use of time. After the video I can then answer questions. What do you think??

Thanks again to my extended network and to the support I have had locally and globally. Wish me luck!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Assessing the Reading Level of Your Blog

This is an interesting one just popped into my blogosphere this morning via Jeff Utecht who got it from Doug Johnson.

cash advance

According to this online testing device my blog is 'Junior High School' reading level. It would seem that in comparison to Jeff's test, my blog is a little harder to read however I am on the same level as this what it means? As an observation and as an international educator I am once again disappointed (that's not the right word, but it does give me a 4-syllable word that affects the next test!) by the US-centric terminology and result of the test. What is Junior High? Can we have an age level? Can we have a grade level? I think internationally that would be easier to understand.

Through a comment from Paul Hamilton to Jeff's post I also explored Juicy Studio for more statistics (3 syllables!).

The results show that my percentage of 3 or more syllable words is just under 15%.

The Gunning Fog Index is explained as:
"The result is your Gunning-Fog index, which is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. Results over seventeen are reported as seventeen, where seventeen is considered post-graduate level."

The Flesch Reading Ease: "The result is an index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70."
OK, so I have a 64.31 here ...doing alright so far.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:
"The result is the Flesch-Kincaid grade level. Like the Gunning-Fog index, it is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. Negative results are reported as zero, and numbers over twelve are reported as twelve."

In comparison to the first test this one gives more detail but it is interesting to see how the two have lined up together. Essentially my blog is readable by people who have had about 7-10 years of schooling, are in the early years of high or secondary school. The discrepancy (4 syllables?) between the Gunning Fox (10.29 years) and the Flesch-Kincaid (7.08) meters is interesting...but a scholar of research and statistics needs to explain these in more detail for clearer understanding.

Philip Chalmers of Benefit from IT provided the following typical Fog Index scores, to help ascertain the readability of documents.

E-Learning blog has the same index score as Time or Newsweek!

What does all of this mean? It has made me think about my blog and why I am writing it. I delivered a PD session the other day to teachers about getting started with blogging. I told them blogging had changed my many ways. I told them that I mostly write for an audience and thanks to you (the person now reading this post, yes YOU!) I am gratified to know that someone is reading this blog. My audience were amazed! The concept and practice of blogging for an international audience is amazing. I try to keep some sort of erudite content in my blog but the loftier posts that link in with the blogosphere and comment and draw in on recent conversations take me a long time to write. The easier posts for me are the grass roots 'this is what I am doing and this is what my immediate circle of colleagues are doing'.

How readable is your blog?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogging to Support Literacy

This afternoon the Qatar Reading Association has a 'teachers teaching teachers' workshop on the Education City campus. Teachers from Qatar Academy and other schools in Doha have assembled to share best practice.

Session 1 Encouraging and Including the Reluctant Contributor
Chad S and Diana W from Qatar Academy

My presentation
Blogging to Support Literacy
is on my presentaiton wiki

This post has been moblogged at the workshop as an example of mobile blogging.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Edublog Awards for 2007

The Edublog Awards are back again in fine form for 2007. Nominations are open until November 21.

So, step up and nominate a blog, a wiki, a blogpost, an educational use of social networking and more!

The associated Digizen award is also worth looking at. According to the website:Entries must be accessible online, ie, can be hosted on a school server, website or on a public web service (such as Bebo, Myspace, Blogger) that is accessible without a username or password. For information about the range of social networking services available, and ideas on how best to use them within an educational setting, you can see our section on social network services. See the digizen website for more details.

Here are the categories for the Edublog Awards for 2007:

1. Best individual blog

2. Best group blog

3. Best new blog

4. Best resource sharing blog

5. Best designed blog

6. Most influential blog post

7. Best blogged research paper or project

8. Best teacher blog

9. Best higher-education student blog

10. Best librarian / library blog

11 Best educational tech focused blog

12. Best elearning / corporate education blog

13. Best educational use of audio

14. Best educational use of video / visual

15. Best educational wiki

16. Best educational use of a social networking service

17. Best educational use of a virtual world

18. Best educational use of open source

19. Digizen’s 14-19 competition - note, this award is not run by the Edublog Awards, but they are delighted however to be promoting it and supporting young peoples participation.

20. Conveners award

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Are you able to help Flat Classroom Students with Video Clips?

Our Flat Classrooms are buzzing this week as students go full swing into producing their multimedia artifact. The work is individual and 'judged' according to a rubric. Each students belongs to a topic team as well as a concept group and is given the challenge of creating a short piece of video that reflects both of these ideas. For example one of my students, Yara, is in Group 7, Google Takes Over the World and in concept team 2, Story and Empathy. She has plans to create a video that tells a story about the impact of Google in her life.

The objective of this blog post is to open the door of the flat classrooms even wider and invite input from the global community to help the students finish their video work. One of the requirements of the video is to have a short clip outsourced from their classroom/school/country. Some students for various reasons have not managed to get a clip so rather than have them miss out we have created a wiki page of last minute requests. Have a look and if you are interested and able you too could be part of a flat classroom multimedia artifact! For example, one student is asking for someone to video opening a laptop while at the beach...any takers? Ten seconds of video, send it according to our video requirements and we will be delighted to receive it and give you credit!

For more information read the requests page and leave a message via the wiki page and/or discussion tab. We only have a few days to do this as the deadline is looming.

Thank you in advance global community!

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E-Learning for Life: Help needed convincing the BoG!

My school Director has invited me to present my 'E-Learning for Life' strategy for Qatar Academy to the Board of Governors (BoG) in two weeks time. This is a great opportunity....and I am nervous!

In my new position as Head of Information Technology /E-Learning at Qatar Academy I have the challenge of helping to move the 10-year old PreK-12 school (now an IB World School) into the next 5-years of strategic development. This is an exciting challenge for a number of reasons. Firstly QA is owned and managed by the Qatar Foundation which in turn has been formed by a decree by the Emir himself. In other words the school is owned by the ruling family in Qatar. As you may also know Qatar is one of the top 5 richest countries in the world. You may also know that Qatar is one of the most 'developing' countries in the world right now. It is in the Middle East but it is progressive and taking a global approach to providing educational resources for people in Qatar and beyond. Not only this, it has a vision of excellence and is building a magnificent Education City on a huge campus that includes a number of reputable tertiary institutions such as Carnegie Mellon, NorthWest University, Texas University.

I have 15 minutes to convince a group of powerful board members that the school as a whole needs to embrace new pedagogies that involve a whole new mindset. I have 15 minutes to review where QA is now, where we could be and how we can get there! I have 15 minutes to outline the plan for the next 5 years and ask for support for this vision in terms of agreement and money!

OK, I need YOUR help on this as well!

I want to be able to show best-practice from around the world. I want to say, yes Qatar Academy is a great school, however look at these best practices around the world and look at what we need to do to be one of the best as well.

Can you help??
  • Do you have ideas of what it means to be a 21st century school?
  • Do you ideas of what a 21st century classroom looks like?
  • Do you have images to support your ideas?
  • Do you have a new installation, a new classroom with an effective learning space/design?
  • Are you willing to share as part of global collegiality?

I invite you to share your ideas and your images on my planning wiki. It is open for editing now, you shouldn't have to become a member as such, but if you do I can quickly fix that!

I am inspired already by the writings of David Warlick (read the comments to his post), Kim Cofino, Jeff Utecht, and Kristin Hokanson and I know there are many more inspirational colleagues out there. So, my challenge and request to you is to share your ideas either via a comment to this blog post and maybe share a link to other resources I can review or by posting some material on the wiki.
You will be given full credit! I value your input to this challenge!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

The Straw, the Camel and the Ning

There comes a time when it just becomes the right thing to do. Yesterday decided it was time to offer advertisement-free student networks for educators!

My colleague Steve Hargadon educational consultant for Ning, has been instrumental in persuading them that we need safe environments in which to assemble as an online community of students and educators. Steve wrote a blog post about this a few hours ago with full details on how to now sign up for an ad-free Ning. Also check out Ning in Education for more details.

Let me share briefly the real story behind yesterday's decision. Vicki Davis and I along with 5 other wonderful classroom practitioners as well as a host of other dedicated educators are congregating on the Flat Classroom Ning for the Flat Classroom Project 2007. This week I noticed the Ning was throwing up some embarrassing and inappropriate advertising. It happened about 2 days ago in the middle of my Flat Classroom Grade 10 class. I was very disturbed but luckily the students just laughed it off at the time. I am back in the Middle east again this year, in Qatar. I know when I worked in Kuwait a few years ago things were very touchy about a lot of things to do with sex, gambling, pork, alcohol, Father get the picture? Here in Qatar however the atmosphere is more relaxed. However this type of advertising is not going to win any friends amongst the parents...and it only takes one to object and there goes the program. I have some girls in my class who will not have their photo online, will not be seen and are nervous about some of the tools we are using. I cannot afford to jeopardize this project that is going to have far-reaching consequences and will only bring people closer together around the world by a silly advertisement! We are living in a time of great adventure but also of great ignorance. We need to be careful, I cannot educate my students and their parents all at the same time. This is going to take longer, and misconstrued information about classroom activities is to be avoided.

So, at home that night I kept checking the Ning......all the adds were as normal...hmmmm, OK maybe I imagined it? Later the next day it appeared again. What to do? So I sent a message via Twitter asking my global colleagues to check if this add was coming up for them. I had a number of responses saying the adds looked fairly normal for Google.....hmmmm, is this only visible in the Middle East? I chatted with Steve and he filled me in on his campaign to have Ning provide ad-free spaces for educators. Steve is such a great colleague, he even offered to pay for the subscription for the Flat Classroom Ning himself! I emailed Ning with our concerns and asked for them to consider taking the ads off. When Vicki came online we had a discussion and she saw red! Another email to Ning asking that they support education and social networking. An hour later and the ads had been removed form our Ning!

The power of social networking and global collegiality is immense. Thanks Steve, thanks Vicki but above all thanks Ning for offering us this great service. We love your space, thank you for being approachable and considering the needs of K-12 educators.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, here is the advertisement that kept reappearing.

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