Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Come and Elluminate with me today!

There are two opportunities for you to come into Elluminate today (Wednesday May 28) and be part of a global meeting.

Number One
The first is our Qatar Academy Grade 10 Student Summit. This is the culmination of the Horizon Project 2008 for my class. They will have a brief opportunity to present their work and talk about thier ideas from the project. Come on in and see what a great job they have done and support them internationally. They will be very excited!
Time: 12.40 Doha, Qatar GMT +3 (5.40 EST, 9.40 GMT, 7.40pm Eastern Australia)
Elluminate Room for Student Summit

Number Two
Meeting in Elluminate room with Steve Hargadon and Vicki Davis.
As per the email Steve sent out:
Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis join me to discuss their global collaborative programs, Flat Classrooms and the Horizon Project.

In the two years that Julie and Vicki have been collaborating, their five global collaborative projects have included more than 20 classrooms and 500 students from a variety of cultures, backgrounds, and geographic locations. Their Flat Classroom project was featured in the latest edition of Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, upon which it was based.
Julie joins us from Qatar, Vicki from Georgia, USA. There will be time for audience Q & A.
Elluminate Room
Time: 8am pacific, 11am EST, 3pmGMT and 6pm Qatar
More information on Classroom 2.0 Wiki

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

What am I doing at NECC in San Antonio??

Here in Qatar we do not break for the summer until June 18. Between now and then I have final assessment and 250 reports to write as well as numerous administrative tasks closing down the year and opening the next one. It is an exciting time here at Qatar Academy as the shift is starting and there is anticipation as well as fear in the air. You know the saying, 'be afraid, be very afraid'. Well, it's true....but more about that later.

This blog post (my first in 2 weeks!!!!) is about one event I am really looking forward to and planning for, NECC 2008 in San Antonio. I am so pleased and proud to be taking a team of ICT and information literacy educators from Qatar to NECC this year. There will be 5 of us and we are carefully planning what the main objectives are and what we need to see and do to bring back to school in August. What a great opportunity!

Before I continue, did you know NECC 2008 now has a Ning! Come and join today!

I have a busy schedule already at NECC and hope to meet a lot of people who I have interacted with online over the past year. So, here is the list of events I am directly involved with either as a presenter or helper:
  • Edublogger Con and Classroom 2.0 (Pre-NECC event on Saturday June 28) - last year EdubloggerCon was one of the highlights of the entire conference. Yes, I know it means you need to arrive a little earlier but it is worth it! Run in 'unconference' style it is an opportunity to mix with other bloggers and people interested in pushing the boundaries of education and learnign from each other in an informal setting.
  • Leadership Symposium (Sunday June 29, 8-12.30) - I don't have a URL for this one yet as it was added to my list just this week. I was delighted to be invited by Leslie Conery, Deputy CEO of ISTE, to help present at an invitation-only event on the Sunday morning. This session is looking at what NETS.S refresh looks like in the classroom, what activities and projects exemplify NETS and what leaders can do to make this happen and proliferate. I have been asked to create a 15 minute 'lesson' or activity showing what I do in the classroom to foster critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and collaboration using technology. This I will deliver 4 times as groups of leaders rotate around different rooms and areas. I have some ideas.....will share via this blog soon!
  • SIGTel Forum: Connectivism, Curriculum and the Virtual Classroom in 21st century Telecollaboration (Sunday, 1-4) - This is the SIGTel event with Judi Harris, Alison Powell and David Thornburg connecting theory with practice to address these questions "How is the read-write Web appropriated for connectivist learning and teaching? What are the implications for teacher knowledge-building, professional development, and assessment? As part of this event there is planned a 'gallery' of organisations who will be available to speak about their projects. I will be there representing Flat Classroom Projects, along with iEARN and others.
  • International Networking reception (Sunday, 3.15-4.15) - Yes, I will be running from the Forum to this one. Don't miss it! A great opportunity to mix with international attendees. As a member of the ISTE International Committee I know how hard our leader, Camilla Gagliolo works, as do others, towards this event each year.
  • Flat Classroom Project and Horizon Project Birds of a Feather session (Monday, 2-3) - Come and meet my great colleague and friend, Vicki Davis and me during this session. We hope to gather together people who have been involved in the projects over the past 2 years as well as new comers who want to learn more about what a flat classroom project is and how to 'flatten' the classroom walls. Yhis promises to be a fun, informal session, with lots of great ideas bouncing around!
  • 'Catch your Flat Classroom in the Net' (Monday, 3.30-4) - If you missed the Birds of Feather come and meet Vicki and I at the NETS connect lounge. For 30 minutes we will be presenting informally and sharing how the Flat Classroom type of project meets all the NETS.S standards!
  • 3-hour workshop: We teach the world: the global collaborative classroom (Wednesday, 8.30-11.30) - This is a SIGTel sponsored workshop that Vicki and I have put together to share how to run your own flat classroom project. We originally had a full-day workshop planned, however have now modified it to fit into 3 hours. So, the pace will be fast but we will have some fun. There are still seats available for this....why not come and join us!
So, in between all these sessions I plan to spend some time at Bloggers Cafe, the mandatory walk through (and more!) of the trade hall as well as catch as many other sessions as I can!

If you are coming to NECC in San Antonio I do hope you drop by and say g'day.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A new toy: Read the Words

I found this just now via a Twitter from Wesley Fryer, who found it from Bob Sprankle on Bit by Bit. It is a Beta version of Read the Words (, a Web 2.0 application that converts text into words. Here is a simple example I created of the previous blog post to this.

The voices for selection are an interesting mixture of male and female and there is a real attempt to add inflection and expression to the reading. It provides a downloadable MP3 file and also an embeddable widget for online use. Let's think how many uses this could have in a regular school day or week.

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The Wisdom of My PLN

I am dipping into 'The Wisdom of Crowds' by James Surowiecki and grappling with statistics and averages and the fact that a crowd can have more collective wisdom than one person. James is a keynote speaker at NECC 2008 in San Antonio in a few weeks so I am getting a head start on his ideas.

I am coupling or aligning this theory with my emerging Personal Learning Network (PLN) and specifically with my Twitter followers (all 638 of you!) and embracing the comfort of having a ready supply of man-made (as in straight from the horses mouth) answers and responses, or 'wisdom' to my occasional questions.

This morning I was thinking about a recent request from a colleague to consider who we can contact to speak for our Model United Nations student conference and gathering next November. There is a list of topics and strands and amongst these was the term 'digital divide'. Well, I thought, have ideas about this....but maybe my PLN has more wisdom and experience and diversity to give me even better ideas?

The result from a 4-hour stretch on Twitter, as shown above, is quite interesting. First name to come up Stephen Heppell, who I just blogged about in the post before this one as he was on the Learning to Change video and is a great representative for new school models. Then came Tom with a link to Web 2 for Dev conference with lots if interesting, unknown to me speakers.
kjarrett recommended Bonnie Bracey from the Digital Divide Network.
Interestingly Andrew Churches recommends Gary Stager if we want to get into heavier discussion about the digital divide. The georgiac mentions Marco Torres, then technolibrary with the person who spoke on digital equitly at NECC 2007....who is that?
Then to top it off Andy Carvin, founder of the Digital Divide Network, and who I have had a number of online interactions with and follow on Twitter is mentioned by thomasdaccord.

So, thank you my wise crowd, I could not have come up with that exact and worthy combination of names.

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Death of Education, Dawn of Learning

Learning to Change

My colleague and fellow Flat Classroom Project 2007 teacher, Barrie Becker, sent me the link to this video. She got it from Scott McLeod's Dangerously Irrelevant blog, who got it from David Warlick's 2 cents Worth blog. In Barrie's words, " It is fantastic - really summarizes and validates what we do."
The video is made for advocacy by Pearson Foundation Digital Arts Alliance and the Consortium for School Networking.

It features a number of well known education movers, including Stephen Hempel and Dan Pink. The message is summed up by Stephen at the end...."The death of education and the dawn of learning', which he claims is an exciting prospect.

Participants talk about creativity, ability to synthesize, work in teams, be multi-lingual and multicultural. Some 21st century set of literacies: Focus on finding and validating information, synthesize and leverage information, communicate it, collaborate and problem solve with information.

This is another video you might find interesting:
Marco Torres production: 21st Century Pedagogy
'Need to develop a new pedagogical dna for schooling in todays world in order to break from the past'

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Are you really there??

I am trembling as I write this. I am reading carefully chosen words and sentences that have powerful meanings. I am reading online conversations and interactions and opinions that come from teachers and students. I am wanting to reach out and make everything right in the world, make people get on with each other, make people realize there are other people out there and that the world does not revolve around themselves. I am wanting to cut through complacency and excuses, cut through boredom and inactivity, slice through selfish attitudes. I want to demand engagement and higher order involvement of people I have never met, students I will never have in my class. I want to tell everyone that life is too short to be making excuses, life is too short to do nothing and life is too short to be invisible.

Our Horizon Project 2008 is in its last 2 weeks of student activity. The pressure is on to complete personal videos and wiki editing, teachers and students are getting tired, nerves are taut. There is still time for everyone to pull together, make a last effort to communicate and collaborate, exchange video clips, add some content to the wiki and finish on a high. However, now is the time when inactivity and involvement with the project really starts to be noticed.

Why are some participants more engaged than others? Is it technical ability, or lack of? Is it an unwillingness to be part of an online learning community? Is it just sheer confusion, an inability to understand the requirements and a feeling of being overwhelmed? Is the project too hard? Is it that they just don't care about grades, team members, the challenge??

In a recent blog post on our project Ning, Vicki Davis wrote,

"We have some students contributing, communicating, responding and participating. And we have some students who simply AREN'T THERE!

We are entering a new age in our society with Face to Face (F2F) is simply not enough because so many of us are communicating computer to computer (also called Peer to Peer or P2P). I say that we need effective "techno-personal" skills."

In response, student Jonathan C wrote,
"I find it slightly ridiculous. I've been busting my tail off to try and get the C3D group to work, but right now, the most complete page is the main page. A few of the pages still have very little information, and people are only editing small things without contributing anything substantial.

I am getting quite angry because of the inactivity of my peers. People are slacking off because they get out of school in less than a week, and while I agree that summer is nice, they have a responsibility to the rest of their team. I have seen pages with very little editing in the last 5 days, and i have not gotten any responses from anyone, except Mrs. Lindsay.

The students who are involved, yet do not contribute are not part of the effective Horizon Project. One of my friends commented that they would like to get rid of the people who were not contributing so they could learn who was reliable, and who wasn't. They need to learn that there are real people on the other end of the internet connection, who are pushing to get something done."

Then today Jonathan wrote a blog post titled, "Day 57 - Desperation" in which he said,
"If you are reading this right now, I thank you, because no one seems to understand the concept of communication. We have all these problems regarding completion, because people are wondering what they are supposed to be doing. Well, if you don't check the discussion on the wiki pages, or if you don't check your group, well, then it is awfully hard to know much of anything, now isn't it?

Because people are not taking the time to look into what they are supposed to be doing, or they are not taking time to contact their project managers, there is a little bit of a problem, in terms of horizon project completion. Project Managers and Assistant Project Managers can only do so much. Sub groups need to be taking the initiative, and they need to start working together to solve problems. No matter how much cyber urging the PM does, if you do not check your discussion on the wiki, or if you do not check your main page, than the group is doomed to failure.

Another problem that I am seeing across the board, is a problem with activity and motivation. A few students are working because their grade depends on this assignment. Others are contributing because they feel it is their duty, not to let others down. Others aren't contributing because they don't know what to do. Others aren't contributing because they don't have the tech, or do not have the grasp of English. Other's simply aren't . There is not much that someone can do to urge someone who has no interest in the project. You can't yell at them in person, you can't plead with them, you can't do anything. They simply disappear. They see that email notification of a post on their Ning, but they won't check it. They will see that their was a comment on a discussion board, but they won't check it. Follow up is key to the survival of this project, and the fact that people are in la la land, is not helping."

If anyone had any doubts about the benefits of project-based learning, global collaboration and relevance to real-world scenarios, you need look no further than this project. Students and teachers who are committed in value and time, and students like Jonathan who DO get it and ARE VISIBLE.

Vicki talks about the 'currency of reputation', and addresses student complacency with this:
"What would your currency of reputation be? Although now, in high school, you can take on this project and literally goof off, take the C or F and move on with your life. Very soon, you'll develop a reputation as a non-existent person who cannot be counted on."

Is the Horizon Project/Flat Classroom Project a microcosm of real life? In many ways I believe it is, there are achievers, conscientious contributors, excellent communicators, creative thinkers, and there are many who do not put in the effort, for what ever reason do not participate at all or not often enough for us to really see what their strengths are except that they are just not there.

How can we change this? How can we change the world? Is our current education system(s) promoting effective global communication and collaboration? Are these skills valued enough to be part of what we do in schools on a regular basis?

I have plenty of questions.....I do not have as many answers. For myself I lack understanding sometimes, as a highly motivated person, of those who lack interest in exploring new terrain and taking on different learning modes.
Do you, as the reader of this blog have any answers?

A special thank you to Jonathan from Glenbrook Academy for freely sharing his thoughts and concerns about the project with us.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Trying to be a 'Better Blogger'

OK, there goes another hour....or more...trying to get my head around commenting and co-commenting while blogging. I admit I am not a diligent commenter. There, I have said it! I applaud those who make the effort to comment and co-comment and keep the conversations going and I love to get comments on my blog! Even though I don't always comment back (another black mark against my name as a blogger). Is it time? Yes....but it is also a certain shyness I still have to be fully out there and interacting.....I think it is also a lack of confidence in what value I have to offer as a commenter. However, my aim is to be a 'Better Blogger' and here is one way we can do this.

I wish to draw your attention to the Comment Challenge created by Kim Cofino and colleagues for the month of May, 2008. Kim has detailed instructions on her blog on how to participate. There are prizes and awards! (I think if you wanted to be a winner you would have started on May 1st however). There are daily activities posted on the Comment Challenge wiki. People are blogging about how to be a better commenter. There are even student and class participants from around the world. This is amazing!

So, what have I done so far? At last I re-found CoComment and added a widget to my blog to track comments I make. It has raised my awareness of how important commenting is and how as a blogging community we need to put in more effort to support each other and to foster conversations.

So, join in, put your name on the list of participants, create a CoComment account and get organized. This is not about being a winner, it is about participation and being a better blogger.

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Get ready for K12 Online Conference 2008

The announcement went out this week for the K12 Online Conference for 2008. The call for proposals to present deadline is June 23.

I really like the theme this year: Amplifying the Possibilities

The conference is continuing with a similar format as in the past two years (2007 and 2006) however there has been a slight change of personnel convening the event and a change in focus for the strands.

The conveners from before include Wes Fryer, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Darren Kuropatwa
with the addition of Dean Shareski this year.

The four strands -
Strand A: Getting started
with the addition of Everything you wanted to know about getting started with web 2.0 technologies for learning but were afraid to ask. The presentations in this strand will focus on specific, free tools for newcomers.

Strand B: Kicking it up a notch
You’ve been using blogs, wikis and other technologies for awhile but perhaps haven’t seen them transform your classroom and the learning environment for your students in the ways you think they can. This strand amplifies ways new technologies can be used to transform classroom and personal learning.

Strand C: Prove it!
Although some teachers are excited to “amplify possibilities” using computer technologies, Web 2.0 tools, and 21st Century learning strategies in their classrooms, how do we know if these innovative instructional strategies are really working?

Strand D: Leading the change
Innovative approaches to teaching and learning using web 2.0 tools are often utilized by a limited number of “early adopter” teachers in our schools. This strand seeks to amplify ways educators in a variety of contexts are serving as constructive catalysts for broad-based pedagogic change using Web 2.0 technologies as well as student-centered, project-based approaches to learning.

All details can be found on the K12 Online Conference blog. Proposals deadline, another reminder, is June 23. Announcement of keynotes coming soon. Announcement of presenters will be made at NECC 2008 in San Antonio on July 2.

I encourage all readers of this blog who are out there making a difference in their classrooms to consider submitting a proposal to present.

Presentations for K12Online08 must conform to the following requirements:

  1. Presentations must be a single media file of twenty minutes or less in length.
  2. Presentations must be submitted in a downloadable and convertable file format (mp3, mov, WMV, FLV, m4a, or m4v.) Presenters wanting to use an alternative format should contact their respective strand convener in advance.
  3. Presentations are due two weeks prior to the week the relevant strand begins. (Week 1 presentations are due Monday, October 6, Week 2 presentations are due Monday, October 13.)
  4. Presentations must be submitted only one time and on time. Early submissions are welcomed! Repeat submissions (with changes and additional edits) will not be accepted. Presenters should proof carefully before submitting!
  5. All presentations will be shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
Follow K12 Online via Twitter.
Check out the K12 Online Conference 2007 Ning for what happened last year.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Day in the Life

This article was published last week in the May 2008 edition of Learning and Leading with Technology magazine from ISTE as part of the 'Bloggers Cafe' series. I have reproduced it here, without the minor editing cuts, and with the essential hyperlinks that make a blog a truly interactive and alive piece of writing.
I hope you enjoy reading about what has become a natural way of life as a connected educator.

A Day in the Life of a Global, Connected Educator

(How blogging has changed my world)

Julie Lindsay
Written February, 2008
Based on a previous blogpost from February 2007

As a global, connected educator I blog to foster international communication and to interact with my personal learning network. Blogging is embedded into my daily life. I read blogs, I respond to blogs, my student’s blog, and my colleague’s blog. It is through blogging that I have made and sustained professional liaisons around the world and what it means for me to be an educator and technology leader has shifted dramatically. Blogging allows me to embrace diversity, encourage and support new ideas and be inclusive on a global scale. We can all learn more about the world by opening our eyes to what is going on out there, outside our classrooms, outside our schools, outside our states and countries. Blogging promotes leadership and a 'flattened' approach. Blogging allows you to bring the world into your classroom.

My day of blogging starts with breakfast and a review of Google reader. In my daily routine and my struggle to make sense of where we are going I read blogs of other educators who are also sharing their experiences of the changing learning landscape. But, not only do I get to read from my own blogroll (subscription list of bloggers), through Google Reader and the 'share' feature I get to also read what my favorite bloggers are reading. Wow, this is a powerful tool. This paradigm shift means I know what my colleagues are reading and being influenced by and I can also share my explorations through the blogosphere. I scan Kim's (Cofino) new post from Thailand about 'outside voices' and the positive impact of bringing a consultant to a school to support curricular Web 2.0 embedding. I remember the Skype interview I recorded with Kim recently and uploaded to the wiki to introduce her to our school community and how the spoken word provided immediacy and complemented the written text. Another blog post is about a 'sustainable educational model' from Jabiz, a fellow expat. in Qatar who I have at last met face to face, where he states, 'education is the ability to sustain your own learning'.

At my desk at work I scan email, open Twitter and some Ning's (social networks) to view recent activity. The Edubloggerworld Ning has steadily growing international membership and an active core of people who keep the network alive. Our recently created school Ning, elearning4life, is also jumping with extra groups and forums and blog posts added every day. I decide to add a new group called 'Blogging for Learning' and immediately post resources. Being early morning in Qatar the Twitter network is alive with Australasian’s at work, coming off work and settling in for the evening. Meanwhile the Europeans are still in bed and the USA contingent is finishing off their evening blogging and online activity before saying goodnight. I add some greetings, comments and pick up interesting resources via 'Tweets', including new blogs posts hot off the press.

My email is alive with negotiations for meetings and events around the world. Jeff in China sends another SOS (Shifting Our School) podcast invitation to participate in online discussion with international educators; Barbara from Vienna and Vicki from Georgia are lined up for an online meeting via Elluminate later tonight to discuss our new digital citizenship project. I check my calendar and realize it is for 10pm in my time zone...not as late as usual. I also receive a reminder about another 'fishbowl' blogging session on 'A Whole New Mind' with Karl's class in Colorado. Steve has invited me to Skype in for a Web 2.0 session for the forthcoming event, luckily the Saturday session is in a workable time zone for me.

So, when my students ask 'What are we going to use our blogs for?’ I smile. My response includes, 'Blogging will change the way you view the world, blogging will change the way you interact with the world. Blogging is just the beginning of how you will have an impact on the post and one interaction at a time.'

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