Thursday, January 31, 2008

Prague in Words and Images: Day 1

Here I am in Prague! Yes, the Czech Republic, in the middle of Europe (well a bit to the west) and it's the middle of winter.

I am here for 4 days for the ECIS / ISTE IT Leadership conference. A small group of IT leaders from Europe and close by, joined by Don Knezek and Lynn Nolan from ISTE, will meet over the next 3 days and discuss many things to do with IT in schools. More about this tomorrow. However, here is my short slideshow just finished for a session where Chad Fairey, Director of Technology at the American School of Paris and I will facilitate discussion professional development models and trends. I want to talk about Personal Learning Networks and have thrown some ideas together.

More importantly, I have been out and about for a few hours seeing Prague this afternoon! I walked and walked right around the castle, over the Charles bridge, into the Old Town Square...and all the way back again! I had lunch at one of the many cosy restaurants and ate mulled wine (lovely!) and 'Bohemian' plate which consisted of roast suckling pig (yes!), duckling, chicken, sauerkraut, 2 types of dumplings and other things.....It was delicious, but all the dumplings were a bit stodgy. Braced again for the cold air, off I went walking, walking, taking pics...

I have to tell you the Lonely Planet Guide Book on Prague is spot on. It mentioned how the restaurants tend to load the price (charging for bread without telling me it was not free, over-charging for the meal as it turned out.....I was too full to notice! and pointing out in a loud voice that the total did not include a service charge). Total cost was about $25US...I am not complaining. It is also spot on when it describes the many shops around the touristy town square area and how tacky they are. I did enjoy walking into the 'Babushka' shops and looking at the many wonderful nested dolls from the region. The hand-painted ones are beautiful! I want to go back and take pics of these, but feel I should buy something first.

My pics from today are on Flickr in a Prague Set. Below are some personal favourites. I would love to come back in the Spring/Summer!

Prague castle DSC00272

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Changing Shape of Conferences: EduCon 2.0

There has been a real shift in what an educational conference is, who it is for and who can participate. The EduCon 2.0 event at the Science Leadership Academy is on now. Many educators are physically there in Philadelphia, but many, like myself here in Qatar, are watching from afar. In fact, not only watching but actively participating, interacting and sharing ideas!

View the complete program and pre-conference discussions

This evening in Qatar I was skyped into a conference session by George Mayo as he explored global collaboration in its different guises around the world. I was able to watch and hear George and his room full of attendees via UStream TV, while chatting via the chat available with UStream while also sending Twitter messages to the Twit Notes Twitter account set up by George beforehand. I was also able to talk to the audience and take questions on global collaboration and my experiences with the Flat Classroom Project.

I was however just one of a lineup of guests George had organised for his presentation, including Clarence Fisher (see pic to right). The Skype calls and conversation were seamless and George was adept at directing the live audience as well as the virtual audience along a path of exploration. You must also check out the Twitter project George completed this week called @manyvoices. Read also Andy Carvin's writeup about this on PBS

It is already 10pm here now...but I see by the conference agenda there are some really good speakers and topics I want to watch on UStream in the next session! Such a pity tomorrow is a working day for us here and I have a 5am start!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shifting our Schools: Making Connections

A new initiative from Jeff Utecht and David Carpenter is the Shifting our Schools International podcast. This goes live to air every second Thursday via SOS UStream and Jeff's On Deck blog. It is designed for all educators to participate but has a particular focus on educators in international schools in the Asia region and goes 'live' at a time that is suitable for this part of the world.

Last Thursday (second episode) the essential question for this week was
How does making connections affect learning? with guest speaker, yours truly!

Also online and sharing ideas this episode is Justin Medved
See the show notes from On Deck

The show itself was a continuous conversation of ideas, reflections and sharing best practice examples form our schools. We talked about making connections through online projects such as Flat Classroom and Horizon Project. We talked about communication issues and how shift is happening in our respective international schools. We talked about the selection and use of software (online and portal) to facilitate communication within our schools and with the wider world.

Justin shared 3 guiding questions developed at ISB based on the new literacy skills our students need. They are working at integrating these guiding questions across their curriculum. Our students will not just be citizens of their localities but will be participants in broader communities connected digitally.

The questions are:

  • How do I find and use information to construct meaning and solve problems? (effective learner)
  • How do I effectively communicate? (effective communicator)
  • How do I responsibly use information and communication to positively contribute to my world? (effective collaborator)

For more information on this new literacy and curriculum integration, check out their Google Doc and wiki.

How do we shift our schools?
How can we make and use connections to effect learning?

The SOS Podcast itself is a great example of how connections can effect learning, I encourage you to listen to the podcast.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

And now for something completely different......

You have to watch takes me back almost 30 years (gasp!) to my wild and free university days as an undergraduate music student. We never did this exactly, but we did have a lot of fun doing other outrageous things with soundscapes, musique concrete, jazz, African instruments etc etc. Life seems so different now......

About this video (from the YouTube site)
"Worldwide one of a kind, the Vegetable Orchestra performs on instruments made of fresh vegetables. The utilization of various ever refined vegetable instruments creates a musically and aesthetically unique sound universe."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feeling a little hammered lately?

Picture Credit: Hammered.....

KwHobbes recently asked 'What are you doing?' and "...what 5 tools do you think would be the best to use with teachers so that they don’t think we’re hammering nails into that coffee table." Along with a Calvin and Hobbes comic analogy to think about I was mentioned in the blog post and asked to contribute. So here goes.......

My FIVE online tools that I think are best for teachers to use because they are easy, useful, can promote student-centred learning and are more fun to use/work with than hammering nails.

1. Wikispaces - a wiki-centric classroom for curriculum delivery, student discussion and collaboration

2. Ning - educational networking at its best (and now advertisement free!)

3. Animoto - easy 30 sec (or more) animated videos that are great to embed into blog posts or feed into start-up pages

4. Twitter - professional networking in micro form...the best new thing since sliced bread! Also useful in the classroom....just starting to explore possibilities here

5. Slideshare - the best for storing slideshows online and embedding code

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Peering inside the Cyber-Savvy World

This came across my email today at school via an English teacher, Christine. She shared a review of the new video from PBS Frontline called 'Growing Up Online', to be released today. From the Frontline website the promo for the video states:

"MySpace. YouTube. Facebook. Friendster. Nearly every teen in America is on the Internet every day, socializing with friends and strangers alike, "trying on" identities, and building a virtual profile of themselves--one that many kids insist is a more honest depiction of who they really are than the person they portray at home or in school.

In Growing Up Online, FRONTLINE peers inside the world of this cyber-savvy generation through the eyes of teens and their parents, who often find themselves on opposite sides of a new digital divide. A generation with a radically different notion of privacy and personal space, today's adolescents are grappling with issues their parents never had to deal with: from cyber bullying to instant "Internet fame," to the specter of online sexual predators.
FRONTLINE producer Rachel Dretzin investigates the risks, realities, and misconceptions of teenage self-expression on the World Wide Web."

In her email Christine says, ".....its extreme pertinence should be shared with you as well. I have been grappling for about five years now, how to compete with the internet. But there is no competition – instead of competing or defeating, we need to look at teaching our students the pros and cons and how to be intelligent, savvy users… perhaps this is a more important skill, especially in middle school, than how to use various programs.

So how do I change and adapt my own teaching? I struggle with this as the generation I teach has left me far, far behind in their mentality about the use of the internet."

Well! As Head of IT at Qatar Academy, here is my initial response -

"What is happening here is the changing shape of information and this should be a concern of all educators. This is why we need a change in mindset for QA (and all schools) to change teaching methods and adapt to the needs of the emerging ‘digital natives’ (Prensky)

I am reading ‘Everything is Miscellaneous’ (Weinberger) and Wikinomics (Tapscott) and these books talk about impact of the digital world and the exciting potentials of online communication and collaboration using Web 2.0 tools. Tapscott refers to them as ‘weapons of mass collaboration’!

So, how can you change and adapt your teaching? We need to work together as a school, we need to allocate time so that teachers can adopt new tools and methods, we need time for conversation and reflection, we need to showcase best practice use of tools already in the school and learn from each others experiences, we need to bring into the school experts to complement our existing expertise and support and inspire teachers further, we need to have ownership of change as we move to the next level and turn QA into a school of the 21st century by encouraging input from all teachers and holding their hand.

The change that will have to come to all schools is inevitable. Already we have global collaborative projects, we have students exploring digital citizenship issues and ideals, we have students and teachers developing online spaces for curriculum support, interaction and discussion. What we need is a more interdisciplinary approach (very MYP), and a willingness from administration to want to make this happen sooner rather than later.

We are already on the right track. We are assessing readiness and moving ahead with determining goals for online learning in conjunction with mobile computing.

The biggest change that needs to happen is for educators to stop pigeon-holing ‘technology’ as removed or alien or separate to learning. This is a crucial step everyone must make for us to move on as a school. And yes, we do need to come to terms with a non-application approach to digital literacy.

If nothing else the video from Frontline has fostered some interesting communication and discussion amongst colleagues. I hope the actual video lives up to expectations and provides some insight into how educators can merge with the cyber-savvy world in a positive and embracive way.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Edublogosphere Survey: What do you think?

Here is a chance to do some reflection and reaching out. Take the Edublogosphere Survey 2008 created by Dr Scott McLeod. Inspired by Vicki Davis and her shared answers I went in to try for myself.

Here are some answers I came up with

What is the most difficult thing I find about blogging?
  • Lack of time to read, Finding fresh content, Lack of time to write
These all add up a general confusion and feeling of inadequacy that I am not out there enough reading and commenting and finding new bloggers.

Technorati authority as of this post: 65, with a Rank of 112, 625 (I agree with Vicki, after a quiet Xmas this has gone down from over 100! But then again.....get a life right? ;-). However, I do have visitors from what this is now 140 different, distinct countries...that's amazing? right?

OK, my favourite post on my blog: A Day in the Life of a Global Connected Educator.

Favourite educational blog: David Warlick (my first and fav of all time of course...but there are so many others!!!)

Working with the Willing: Moving teachers into the 21st century is my favourite recent blog post by Kim Cofino at Always Learning

A blog that deserves a bigger audience: Intrepid Teacher by Jabiz Raisdana, a new colleague here in Doha, teaching at the American School of Doha...we are yet to meet f2f!

Anything else I want to share about being an educational blogger:
It's a fantastic way to interact with like-minded educators and to learn more about the world...but it is not for the feint-hearted ;-) as it can become an obsession........

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The world is a fishbowl...come on in!

Karl Fisch sent me an invitation to 'live blog' with students at Arapahoe High School as they discuss Dan Pink's book, A Whole New Mind.

In his email he described:
"We will be using a discussion technique in class called Fishbowl with Live Blogging. Fishbowl is a discussion method similar to Socratic seminar where students participate in either an inner or outer circle. Inner circle participants are in charge of leading the discussion of AWNM, actively facilitating a discussion using critical analysis, asking in-depth questions, redirecting responses, discussing the assigned text, etc. Traditionally the outer circle listened to the inner circle discussion, took notes and turned them in to the teacher. Now we are having the outer circle participants live blog their thoughts and questions. The inner and outer circle's conversations sometimes intersect and sometimes diverge, but are always amazingly rich."

I was a little unsure about this but hopped on board last night (morning for Arapahoe) and joined Dean Shareski, Darren Draper, Karl, and a class of Grade 9 students with teacher Anne Smith as they discussed Chapter 4: Design.

A class blog post had been set up and as we listened to the live conversation by the 'inner circle' the outer circle (educators and outer students) posted comments to this post. We used an online tool called MeBeam with success to webcam the educators and the physical classroom together.
Here is an image of participants using MeBeam with the blog comment window open as well.

Here is the blog post where you can read over 200 comments made during the session. A wiki sets out the schedule for the remainder of the live blogging sessions up until February 22.

I was most impressed with the students and the fishbowl method. This is another exciting venture into fostering a global perception and lowering the walls of the classroom. Students and teachers interacted and conversed via the blog while the inner circle also could see our comments as they drew some of these into their conversation, which we heard through the audio facility of MeBeam

I must tell you a little secret, I thought Karl was the founder of the fishbowl know fisch, fischbowl etc....luckily my spouse who is very familiar with this method of discussion due to the many Philosophy for Children classes he has organised, set me straight. After a little research I now understand and fully believe the traditional fishbowl method is being enhanced by the use online technology tools, such as a blog. These comments from a student at Arapahoe at a completely different session last year reinforce the power this method/technology has to promote structured thinking and independent responses during discussion.

Also, read Anne Smith's blog about the development of the fishbowl method in her classes. Fishbowl 101 describes the emerging structures that encourage students to think at a higher level and to be systematic in their approach to discussion and interaction. In Anne's words:
"I decided that students would need to know how to ask good questions (higher level thinking questions), how to facilitate a conversation while still being able to get their point across, how to manage the classroom, how to look for criticism and understand the criticism they found, as well as actually understand what they read.
After much refinement, discussion, trial and error, and more trial and error as well as feedback from that first group of seniors ( the feedback is essential every year to tweak it to what best benefits the students), the fishbowl emerged."

Congratulations to Karl and Anne and the other educators and students at Arapahoe for their initiatives. I really enjoyed being a part of the session and it has given me lots of ideas to try something like this myself.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Citizenship: Digital and Global

I was part of an interesting conversation last night about what it means to be a global digital citizen and how we can embed life-long skills into the curriculum.

There are a number of interesting and exciting initiatives around the world by teachers and organizations to help promote and support best-practice use of digital tools and to also promote awareness on a global scale of the responsibilities of being a digital citizen.

In my own small way I have started a Grade 9 unit called Digital Citizenship based largely on ideas and concepts found in the book 'Digital Citizenship in Schools' by Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey (an ISTE publication). They also have online resources. I cringe a little to share the wiki URL as the unit is not fully developed yet. However I want to include it in this blogpost as an example of how a 'unit' of work can be developed and share with you where this has come from and where it is going next semester.

I believe that students as young as possible need to understand what it means to be online. Grade 9 (14-15 year old) students are not that young. They are already way out there exploring, joining, creating and uploading, interacting and have probably made their own mistakes and maybe cemented their own bad habits. Or maybe they have already set standards for good online behavior. However, Grade 9 is an excellent level to be discussing and exploring these concepts as they are able to fully appreciate the importance of online responsibility and also able to study this with some degree of seriousness. For my current students (who have 2 weeks of the semester left) the aim was to investigate, design and plan a digital citizenship lesson (yes, it is an IBO MYP unit!). They then needed to create artifacts to support that lesson (video, PPT, handout, etc), deliver the lesson, add all supporting material to their topic wiki page and evaluate their performance as well as the actual lesson itself. We are working through the lesson deliveries now and will 'tidy up' the wikis and write evaluations in the next 2 weeks.

I have found the students to be largely lacking in depth of perception for their topics and feel that in some cases the material has been trivialized. But, thinking about this, the aim was to choose a target audience and plan a lesson for that group. Most have chosen the Grade 5 or 6 levels and therefore have included fun activities (eg sitting on a range of chairs to determine ergonomic suitability), one student chose to deliver to an adult group (teachers after school).

I am particularly impressed with the Digital Security team (once again, wiki not finished as of this writing) who created a 'Jeopardy' style game and also a video. Here is their video, produced by Dillon about digital security (I know you will love it!)

Plans to develop this unit include a rewrite for next semester and a global collaboration on the material. Barbara Stefanics from Vienna International School and Vicki Davis from Westwood Schools are looking to join me on this as we work through a student-centred approach encouraging student-created material on each sub-topic. There will be more blog posts about this during the year.

There are some excellent resources available for developing digital and global citizenship courses. I am seriously thinking of creating a teacher-awareness and parent-awareness course/seminar and am inspired by the work of Vinnie Vrotny with his 'Educating Parents through participation' ideas and course on Moodle.

An Introduction Guide to Global Citizen Media popped up this week, via Andy Carvin on Twitter (do you follow him?). It "...offers context and case studies which show how everyday citizens across the world are increasingly using blogs, podcasts, online video, and digital photography to engage in an unmediated conversation which transcends borders, cultures, and differing languages." The PDF file is worth downloading and is available in Spanish, English and Bangla!

As part of the IBO Information Technology in a Global Society Diploma Course we study the social and ethical issues to do with IT and society. My ITGS wiki from last year (that is still being updated by my past students from International School Dhaka at their request!, but not by me this year as I do not currently teach this course) has sections on this.

Also, I was delighted to rediscover today the CyberSmart website, courtesy of an email from Mala Bawar, the Executive Director. Their online Digital Citizenship workshops '...model the safe, ethical and responsible use of technology in a virtual learning environment while demonstrating the value of life-long learning.' I am really excited to have re-found this resource again and will be exploring it's possibilities in terms of community use here in Qatar.

Vicki in her Techlearning blogpost What should be done about digital citizenship talks about literacy, safety, learning strategies and etiquette as core curriculum. She also states that:
"Digital citizenship is more than literacy, it is living safely, civilly, and effectively in our increasingly digital world.The focus here is that students are not where they need to be with the skills encompassed in digital citizenship. It is a process and cannot just be taught by one teacher one time and expect retention. It must permeate all subjects in all grade levels just like reading, for increasingly it is reading."

This resonates with me as I strongly believe in an interdisciplinary approach to learning and the breaking down of divisions and walls (this is no surprise to the readers of this blog!). Digital citizenship is not just about safety and privacy and facts and figures, it is a way of living in the increasingly digital world! CyberSmart also present 'research and information fluency' and 'creativity and critical thinking' as key components of the larger digital and global citizenship picture, and align their workshops with the revised ISTE standards.

What are you doing about promoting/teaching/discussing/showcasing good digital and global citizenship ideals in education?

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Living with technology: Now and then

I wish I had a fancy picture like Clarence has in his post today about technology in the classroom. I also wish I could start to incorporate more meaningful use of a variety of gadgets and mobile computing devices into my everyday classroom. However, the life of a secondary school teacher is a little different and seeing as I teach 12 distinct classes and about 250 students I am not always able to develop the rapport that I idealise with all students.

The main aim of this blog post is to share some facts and figures. As a quick 'let's get into it after the break' lesson I asked some classes to blog about any interesting technologies they received or came into contact with over the holiday. I also asked them what technologies they owned and had at home.

A quick survey of 2 classes today revealed the following:

Date: January 10, 2008
Student level: Grade 6
Age: 10/11/12
Sample: 43 students
Location: Doha, Qatar
Nationality: 70-80% Arabic (majority Qatari), 20-30% mixed/international

Technology Ownership
(personal ownership, however gaming devices may be shared with family)
ITEM followed by Number
cell phone - 36
iPod - 31
PS2/PS3 - 29
laptop - 28
X-Box - 17
DS - 12
Nintendo wii - 10

I am assuming these are not normal figures for this age group. Qatar Academy is a private school and it is in one of the wealthiest countries in the world...therefore I suspect my perception that this is 'normal' is a little skewed. Or is it?

However I am intrigued by the number and diversity of 'gadgets' generally in the lives of these young people. Not only do they nearly all have phones, but an iPod is almost seen as essential, a laptop is not far behind, and then many of them had more than one gaming device in the house.

I am going to sound like some old-timer here but I feel it is important (when you get older) to reflect and share experiences from the past. So, let me tell you that when I was that age I desperately wanted a portable cassette recorder! We had a family 'stereo' on which to play the 45" and 33" records (LPs), and my father had a transistor radio (almost pocket size) to listen to the footie (Aussie rules football) on the weekend, but this relatively new gadget of a cassette player, in portable form with a recorder as well, was most exciting!

To get my much coveted technology I worked in my father's shop (a pet shop) and saved hard. To work 7 hours a week on a Friday night and Saturday morning...this was in the days when shops shut at 12pm Saturday's and did not open again until Monday morning!...I earned $5.00. I remember finally buying a Sony device, with a smart swinging chrome handle, not very big, but with a pop-open cassette drawer, built in speakers and play/record buttons at the top. I remember catching the train into the city (Melbourne) to pick it up (best prices were in the city larger shops...not that there were that many electrical shops around then). I remember walking in with my younger sisters in tow, choosing the model and the shop keeper saying something like 'Are you rich?' odd! I remember paying $120 Australian for this 'portable' cassette player/recorder that I then toted around everywhere with me.

I took that cassette recorder to 'Jazz in the Park' and recorded tapes full of wonderful Aussie jazz on sunny summer afternoons. I took it to my music lessons and recorded my teacher playing and explaining new ideas. I took it to my grandparents house and recorded interesting odds and ends such as my grandfather playing harmonica while I played along on glockenspiel. I was enthralled and excited by this technology that gave me access to recorded data that allowed me to interact in a more personal way with my world. I think I even have some of these original tapes somewhere.......

So, I do think young people today feel this same sort of excitement but in a more diversified way. They naturally adopt new gadgets without fear, without question and adapt them to their lifestyles. They use them to socialize, for entertainment and enjoyment, for creation and self-fulfillment, and for communication.

What do you think? What was your first piece of real technology that changed your life in some way?

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To Conference or not to Conference: This is not the question

I love conferences! I love meeting new like-minded people. I love sessions where I take lots of notes. I love the hype, the buzz, the learning. For me there is no question, given a chance to go to a conference I grab it willingly and with the expectation that it will be worthwhile to me as a learner and as an educator.

My school have just approved a team of 5, including me, to attend NECC in San Antonio! I am doubly excited. NECC is still my absolute favourite conference, and now I can share it with my immediate colleagues. I am also doubly, doubly (??) excited as I am reading international blogs and finding others who are 'online friends' who are also making the trip this year such as Jo McLeay and Judy O'Connell.

However, planning and running a conference is no mean feat and we are just starting to look at what we can do here in Qatar in 12-18 months time in terms of bringing in consultants and educators who can inspire and take our school and others in Doha on a fast trip to a further change in mindset. I came across Mark Wagner's blog post today, What's your ideal educational technology conference?
Mark is helping develop a conference in California and asks these questions:
  1. If you were on the conference planning committee, what theme would you suggest for Fall 2008? (I’d love to hear why, too.)
  2. What keynote speakers would you most like to see? (And while the speakers from 2006 and 2007 are among my favorites, we won’t be having any repeats… so I’m looking for new ideas.)
  3. Imagine you’re a classroom teacher in a middle or high school (unless you actually are - then no imagining necessary)… what do you want most from a technology conference?
Here is what I responded as a comment:

Hi Mark
We are pondering the same questions here in Qatar as we move towards supporting 21st century learning with mobile computing and online learning. Here are some ideas:

Theme: Learning has no walls
Why?: De-teching needs to start with the title, let's not separate technology from learning but keep it all the same, let's encourage ALL educators to come. Also, let's broaden the scope and bring the outside world in and encourage the participants to reach/look out of their own windows and beyond their own walled environment.

Keynotes: Speakers who are patient with the technophobes but also inspiring to the early adopters who are keen to do more; speakers who not only talk about lofty ideals but can 'get their hands dirty' with practical advice and be able to workshop tools as required; speakers who represent an international approach (this is SO important). My personal favourites include David Warlick, Gary Stager, Joyce Valenza....however there are a number of emerging (or already emerged) stars who have so much to offer and just need a push onto the international keynote stage such as Jeff Utecht, Judy O'Connell, Vicki Davis, Kim Cofino, Terry Freedman........

What do I/we want from a tech conference: I want it not to be about technology, the same as I want our Heads of Department meeting at school to not be about organisation and paperwork..but about pedagogy and learning!! I want to be able to pick up tips and tricks and new tools in a fun way but the main focus must be on how to support learning and improve outcomes and engage students. I want to feel excited about what is being presented so that I cannot wait to get back to the classroom and implement new ideas and find ways to rework curriculum that is valid but needs 'modernizing'. I want to learn more about how to create a student-centered learning environment and how to convince and educate my school administration that this is the way of the future.

So, what do you think about educational technology conferences? Learning without there's another idea!

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Monday, January 07, 2008

TakingITGlobal takes over Eduspaces

Last I looked Eduspaces was closing its door and shutting its service due to an inability to maintain it as a free service. Oh, I thought, OK, what are my Grade 9 and 10 students going to do for their blogs now? OK, let's worry about that when school starts.......

For 2 years now I have had older students using the ELGG-platform through Eduspaces.

I have really enjoyed using Eduspaces as an alternative to Blogger. My other blog is a sort of alternative 'flat world' mixture, but I have not updated it recently. One post written October 2006 gives more details about 'Community Learning with ELGG' and the experiences my students and I were having with the Eduspaces facility. I love the way it allows communities to be created and how cross-links can easily be made between other bloggers and communities. I am a great fan of Ning now but find features in ELGG/Eduspaces that are still unique or more applicable to 'blogging' in its real form, rather than all the facets of social networking that we now expect from Ning.

My Grade 10 class (who have just done the Flat Classroom Project) are using Eduspaces. Here is their group and their members blog.

Then on December 19 (I missed this until today!) the announcement (followed by much discussion) that TakingITGlobal will be taking over Eduspaces. Yes! TakingITGlobal are a charitable organization based in Canada. Educators and others can join, blog, find others and it is very international and supportive of global collaborative projects! Here is my profile page on TIG.

Here is part of a message from the Director of Technology and Co-founder, Michael Furdyk, in response to the takeover of Eduspaces:
"For the last 4 years, TakingITGlobal has been working to develop programs around supporting educators at all levels in bringing together global issues, innovative practices, and education technology to make learning more effective and engaging. Personally, this has been a big commitment and passion for me - each year, I travel to a number of countries to keynote conferences and run PD workshops for educators at the K-12 and Post-Secondary level."

So, I can tell my classes we are OK to keep going with their Eduspaces blogs! Thank you TIGlobal!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tucking in 2007 Part four: Flat Classroom Project Celebrations

The Flat Classroom Project 2007 was a magnificent collaboration between seven classrooms and over 100 students. As with the 2006 project, it was based on the flattener's found in Friedman's 'The World is Flat'. It involved students working as teams and constructing knowledge on a wiki page, in fact even having to 'edit' the wiki for their topic from last year and updating, adding etc. (a 21st century skill). It involved students creating a personal video using some outsourced content from a global partner. It involved a networking tool called a Ning, which tells a large part of this story by containing the audio and video introductions, the conversations and blog posts and now many of the student reflections. It involved a creative keynote speaker, many international educators as judges, peer review classroom teachers and other students as sounding boards. It involved the use of wonderful online conferencing software, courtesy of sponsorship from Elluminate, to facilitate regular teacher meetings and student summits, including the finale the Awards Ceremony.

Now that it is all over I wish to thank all participants for their amazing efforts and support. It is a hard project, it is all-consuming, exhausting and exhilarating and it has taken me 2 weeks of holiday to now come back to it in a reflective manner. However I wish to not only thank everyone but to celebrate our achievement. The student growth stories that occur from doing this project are shared by all teachers. The fact that the growth and output are often so astounding makes us all realize this type of project is profound in its impact.

On Christmas Eve I communicated with Tom Friedman to update him on the 2007 Flat Classroom Project. This is what I said:

".....I wanted to share with you the excitement Vicki and I both feel as we continue to move forward with this project, extending and refining it as a 21st century, pedagogically relevant mode of learning that emphasizes global collaboration and understanding. I am very proud of my Grade 10 class from Qatar Academy and and have plans to embed this project into the curriculum at the school. "

On Christmas day (Qatar time) I received this reply from Tom:

"Dear Julie, That is wonderful. Really, just wonderful. The best Christmas gift I could get. I hope you are getting some feedback from your cameo appearances in the paperback. Keep me posted on your work and happy holidays. Tom"

Isn't the flat world a wonderful place?

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tucking in 2007 Part three: The year of Global Collaboration 3.0

According to Steve Hargadon on the recent conversation on TalkShoe for the Educational Ning-Cast, 2007 is the year of 'social collaboration'. Jeff Utecht calls 2007 the year of the 'network'. David Warlick has redone his School 2.0 diagram for the third time and is asking for input.

From my perspective 2007 was the year when interaction and collaboration on an international basis really took flight. I call it the year of 'Global Collaboration 3.0'.
What does this mean?
  • It is all about the development of social networks, it is about finding like minded people/educators and sharing ideas, it is also about joining together from different parts of the world and working as a team, as a single classroom, sharing a pedagogical approach
  • It is about forging friendships with others via online communication rather than face-to-face
  • It is about students making decisions that affect their learning and having the freedom to do this
  • It is about facing 'failure' in a traditional sense due to a non-traditional approach to pedagogy
  • It is about trust and risk-taking and inquiring minds
  • It is about looking outward and bringing the world into your classroom
  • It is about embracing differences and making a difference
  • More importantly it is about student-centered learning. It is about setting up situations and scenarios and allowing students to move at their own pace and construct their own learning landscape, giving them the freedom to share responsibility, solve problems, become self-reliant
Global Collaboration review
(based on part of my Flat Classroom Project presentation last November)

Global Collaboration 1.0
  • Individual classroom work with some commonalities with partner(s)
  • Some sharing via an online website or email communication
  • May be coordinated by a central body e.g. Global School House, Epals
  • Some minimal interaction between participants
  • Low-level use of technology and online tools for interaction
  • Teacher-directed learning
Global Collaboration 2.0
  • Classrooms get to 'know' another class(es)
  • Connections and interactions (synchronous and/or asynchronous) are more common and planned
  • May be working towards a shared goal, e.g. iEARN Learning Circles
  • Some experimentation with Web 2.0 tools may happen
  • Teacher-directed learning
Global Collaboration 3.0
  • Fully engaged teachers who communicate with all participants (other teachers and other students)
  • Use of Web 2.0 tools for communication and interaction (networking) and for creation
  • Different global classrooms work together on a theme/project and become one classroom
  • Common assessment objectives
  • High expectations for connectivity and collaboration on teachers and students (it is not enough to email once a week!)
  • Extended community partners included in the project (other educators, experts)
  • Output may be individual or class/school based but includes input from others
  • Output uses multimedia and attempts to make a difference to the immediate or extended environment
  • Teacher and/or student initiated, student-centered learning
What was also remarkable about 2007 was the evolution of online tools that can be used confidently and successfully in the classroom to promote Global Collaboration 3.0 ideals.
My favorites for 2007:
  • The wiki: undoubtedly the best thing since sliced bread (for global readers this may be an Australianism meaning the best new and useful thing to happen)
  • The Ning: Now that classrooms can use this advertisement free this opens up possibilities for many creative and essential applications
  • Online file conversion: Sites such as have made working globally across platforms a breeze!
I hope there is a global collaborative project planned in 2008 for your class!

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Talk about Ning and Education with TalkShoe

Are you using Ning in education??
Why not come and join the Ning in Education Ning. This was started by Steve Hargadon and is sponsored by Ning.

Visit Ning in Education

While you are there and looking around I suggest you explore the Social Networks in Education wiki as well for a larger list of educational Nings and other resources

I was really excited to get an email from Steve Hargadon today detailing his plans to start a regular talk session about Ning in education.

Here is part of the email:
Here is the link to the first eduational Ning-cast: It is scheduled for tomorrow, January 3, at 6pm Pacific / 9pm Eastern. You can listen to the show live (or later recorded) without signing up at, but if you do sign up for a free account, you can have the choice to participate in our Ning-cast online, by Skype/VOIP phone, or regular land line. Those who choose to download the Talkshoe software can also particpate in a chat window. There are good instructions on the site.

If you aren't going to download the software (PC & Mac only), you can call in as follows:

1. Dial: (724) 444-7444
2. Enter: 12083 # (Talkcast ID)
3. Enter: 1 # or your PIN (you set up a PIN number if you register)

OK, so for the brave pioneers, tomorrow night! Talk to you then.


Wow, this sounds great! If you visit the TalkShoe Ning in Education web page it has a count down timer to the start of the session! Over 10 hours to go still as I write this. In fact I will probably not make this first session as it is 5am in Qatar...on a Friday weekend day for us.

So kudos to Steve for this initiative! I recommend readers join TalkShoe and join this session! I just joined and downloaded the software that allows me to host, chat and other things while joining the talk session. I am looking forward to hearing the conversation tomorrow.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Tucking in 2007 Part two: Report on ECIS 2007 in Madrid

Just thought I would share this with you as, with certain technical difficulties (a few gremlins today I think) is has taken me 3 times as long to write and collate as I wanted.


Last November I attended the European Council of International Schools (ECIS) annual conference in Madrid. Although I saw very little of Madrid (I spent a week there 8 years ago however), I did have a wonderful time presenting and learning from others at one of the top annual European events in education.
Here is the official report I compiled for our PD Coordinator at Qatar Academy.

Report by Julie Lindsay, Head of Information Technology / E-Learning

Presenter and team member of the ECIS ICT Sub-Committee)
Online resources:

The ECIS conference in Madrid was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the Web 2.0 tools being used in our classrooms here at Qatar Academy. Although I have not been at QA for very long all of my MYP Technology classes are, in various degrees, embracing the use of blogs, wikis and online multimedia creation. The Grade 10 class in the past semester also joined the award winning Flat Classroom Project, of which I am a co-founder. [Flat Classroom Project is in Thomas Friedman's 3rd edition of The World is Flat! See pages 501-503!]
As a presenter I initially joined the ECIS ICT team and co-presented the Web 2.0 Cocktail. This was very well attended to the extent that the room allocated was not large enough for us to go ahead with 'hands on' activities. Therefore we spent the 1.5 hours introducing and discussing different ways to use Web 2.0 as an educator to enhance the professional learning network, and as useful classroom integration tools. I focussed on Wikis (a similar but shorter presentation to the one given at ASD NESA) and on a relatively new 'micro-blogging' tool called Twitter. Due to the limited wireless bandwidth in the conference room all presenters had trouble going live to the Internet and we relied on cached pages and slideshows.

Flat Classroom Project Presentation Reflection

My second presentation, Flatten Your Classroom and Embrace 21st Century Global Learning, was as a solo presenter. Based on on the development and experiences with the Flat Classroom Project this presentation highlighted the concepts, the implementations, the pedagogies and student work of both the 2006 and 2007 Flat Classroom Projects and of the 2007 Horizon Project.
The slideshow of the presentation in it's online format is embedded below. As a live presentation however, given the Internet connectivity constraints at the conference, was completely cached and hypelinked via the PPT slideshow.

During the presentation I discussed concepts, implementations, pedagogy and outcomes of both the 2006 and 2007 Flat Classsroom Projects and the sister 2007 Horizon Prioject.
I was very proud to be able to showcase student work from QA and from the other 6 classrooms and over 100 students and many educators involved in the project. The grade 10 students at QA did a fantastic job in the project as before this year they had not used blogs, wikis or a number of other Web 2.0 tools needed to succeed with online communication and collaboration. Since attending ECIS in Madrid the Flat Classroom Awards Ceremony for 2007 has revealed a number of places for our students incuding the following:

Suggestions for Qatar Academy

After the presentation I had a number of attendees ask what my own school thought about the project and the successful contributions the students made from QA. I realised then that I had been working in relative isolation and that very few colleagues knew what this project was about or what impact it was having on the students. As a general suggestion I believe it is immensely important to be given opportunities within your own school to share best practice pedagogy, particularly when an organisation such as ECIS recognise the importance of the project and offer a presentation opportunity (these are not given away freely by ECIS). We need to develop a culture of sharing and celebrating success within our own school so that we are able to confidently affirm to others that initiatives are supported and developed as a team. The NESA model is excellent in terms of sharing ideas and being able to braoden horizons however as an individual school we could be doing more internally to foster this.

Some other important sessions I attended at ECIS 2007

1. School-based Research and the IB
by Richard Caffyn and Anna Simandiraki from the IB Research Team, University of Bath

This session covered the types of research: school-based, practitioner
Uses of research: instrumental research use, conceptual research, strategic, and wider influence of research
For more information go to research on the IB website and download the executive report on survey done on school-based/practioner research.
Important point: research informs practice and is not just a higher degree

International Education Research database
IB Research Notes (now stopped)
Research Team Website

Future directions
  • Directory of researchers: A 'who's who' in international education and IB research
  • Research forum
  • Inventory of research topics
  • Programmes support
Relevance for Qatar Academy
It is through research that we can identify and integrate best-practice 21st century pedagogical models for learning. We need to encourage teachers at QA to be part of the research that is so desperately needed to affirm the impact of online learning, mobile learnign and others. Once again it is a matter of encouraging sharing and collegiality and supporting teachers in their everyday trials and succeses in the classroom.

2. NAIS Challenge 20/20
As part of the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools in the USA) 20/20 Program, student-teacher teams from within and outside the USA work together each Fall semester to come up with solutions to one of 20 global problems.
There is no cost to participate and no travel required
Recent participation: More than 400 schools from 39 US states and 52 countries
  • Collaboration
  • Creative problem solving
  • Communication with students from a different country and culture
  • Relatively unstructured: no benchmarks or performance standards
  • Paperwork: registration process, reports
  • Bonus: Priority for Institute for Student Leaders for rising 9th to 11th graders
Examples online
20/20 Challenge

Importance to Qatar Academy
Every student at QA should have a global project experience at least once during their Primary and once during their secondary schooling. I was very impressed with the organisation, aims and objectives of the 20/20 Challenge and would be willing to work with other teachers to see QA involved. They were also starting to experiment with Web 2.0 tools and used a Ning (same as Flat Classroom Project) for communication.

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