Saturday, June 28, 2008

Online at LAX and enroute to NECC...musings .....

I am 'suffering' from sleep deprivation...stuck in LAX airport waiting an extra 6 hours for a flight after missing my connection from Hong Kong. Will get to San Antonio after midnight now! (I am planning any future travel sans LAX, this airport is far too stressful fo me!) Finally got a credit card to work for the T-mobile Hotspot (not very international-friendly asking for a ZIP code for day-pass sign-up, had to make one up. Also tried 3 credit cards before one worked!). So, have spent the past 2 hours reviewing blogs, catching up with bits and pieces but not really able to focus on impending presentations for over the next 5 days...need some sleep for that.

I see there is lots of activity on the NECC Ning, including more groups to join such as the K12 Online Conference, digital storytelling, and Do the LOTImotion (started by Miguel Guhlin this week). EdubloggerCon and Classroom 2.0, a full 'unconference' day at NECC is tomorrow and looking like over 150 will be there this year! Yeah! I was reading Will's blog and had a bit of fun trying out Wordle. Here are my delicious tags as a word cloud (I hit the randomize a few times until I got this many interesting choices). I see Jo McLeay on her blog has also shared a Wordle as well as thoughts re her trip to NECC. I am really looking forward to seeing Jo again, and the other Aussie contingents!

Also, heads up on the announcement re the K12 Online Conference and Keynote speakers. Vicki Davis and I are delighted and honoured to be part of the keynote group! We will literally have our heads together over the next 2 weeks as we workshop at NECC and St Louis (spaces still available!!) and plan our keynote for 'Kicking it up a notch' in October.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On my way to NECC 2008: Face to face has high value

I am in Hong Kong for a few days on my way to NECC 2008 in San Antonio. Yes, I can hear you say, '...but San Antonio would be quicker to get to from Doha via the Atlantic rather than the Pacific route?!', and you would be correct, except that after NECC I then have to come back to Australia for a few weeks before going back to Qatar. In fact, with side trips in the USA and in Australia this year I have estimated I will be spending about 80 hours in the air over the next 2 months, not including time to get to and from airports and wait for flights. I'm looking forward to the frequent flyer points to be earned....or am I?? I hate flying! There is no joy in aeroplane travel, food, comfort (!) or in most respects, convenience, however as an international educator, this is what I do.

NECC 2008 in San Antonio will be the best ever this year! I have been attending NECC for the past 6 consecutive years...Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego, Atlanta and now San Antonio. It will also be the busiest! I have some wonderful sessions to attend and deliver and great educators to meet and converse with. My schedule is full (literally) of meetings, flat classroom sessions, international meetups, ISTE gatherings etc. I really value the face-to-face opportunities NECC provides. These complement the year-long virtual gatherings and interactions and provide an opportunity for cementing friendships further, for planning projects, sharing successes and failures, and moving further along the path of 21st century learning as a professional educator.

Just thought I would share this photo with I write this it is evening in Hong Kong. It has been raining all day due to the tropical cyclone that was meant to have missed here and gone to Taiwan, however we woke up to wind, rain and clouds this morning. Tonight the rain has eased and the lights are on full once again. What a magnificent city! it has been 23 years since my previous visit, and what changes have occurred! What a sophisticated and tourist oriented city, what a fantastic shopping haven amidst beautiful scenery and a juxtaposition of cultures.

So, this is what I am looking at now, the night lights of Hong Kong, seen from my hotel window in Kowloon. See you at NECC!

Hong Kong night

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

This is what I mean by 'Ubiquitous'!

My 14-year old daughter wants to learn a musical instrument...well, she has learnt the violin, the piano and is currently taking singing lessons, but is wanting further immersion in music. My influence as a jazz musician is strong, and she enjoys listening to all my jazz CDs (or should I say MP3 files these days?).

We are about to take off from Qatar for the summer, as an an incentive to do something useful over the summer, rather than not, we have borrowed the Qatar Academy Yamaha alto saxophone to take with us to see if she will 'take to it', become inspired, motivated and enthralled enough for me to go and buy one for her.

So, in our possession is one shiny, loud, amazing alto sax! Will we get it safely on and off all of the plane trips we are taking this holiday?

What has been interesting is the approach to learning that has taken place with this instrument, and therefore the title to this blog post.

Getting the saxophone home my daughter assembled it and then started to blow...and got a good sound almost straight away! But, we did not know what else to do, where should the fingers go? How should the mouthpiece be placed inside the mouth etc??

So, on the couch together, Violet with the sax, me with the MacBook online via our Wireless network we looked up tutorials on the Internet. Very quickly we found videos that showed the basics of getting started, we knew where the fingers go, we heard others playing the also saxophone. There is no need to wait to go and buy a 'book' or a 'video/DVD', these resources are available for all...and in the comfort of the couch!

Later, still honking away, Violet comes to show me the recordings she made of her playing using her mobile phone. 'Listen Mum, this one sounds OK, ....but I like this one better...listen to the notes I am playing'. How absolutely amazing! A beginner musician, mobile computing, the ubiquity of learning with tools that are just there ready to be used. With online access and mobile devices learning is fully supported and engagement is high...why wait??

Picture: Alto Saxophone 2

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Transforming Learning: A Local and Global Perspective

NECC in San Antonio is just around the corner and I am busily preparing for some of the events I am actively participating in.

The Tuesday (July 1) at NECC this year is 'international' day and starts with a breakfast meeting with the ISTE International Committee, moves at 11am onto the UNESCO ICT Competency Standards for Teachers, then at 12.30pm Technology and Educational Change: A World Perspective a panel session with myself and other international participants, then from 2-4 International NETS: ICT Around the World, where I will be helping to facilitate a table looking at iNETS and other influences for technology standards.

The International panel will be an amazing event as we have collected together educators from around the world who are witnessing the changes and shifts in learning as it is being influenced by developments in technology.

I am going to talk about the International Baccalaureate Organisation and then move onto more local (for me) ideas and share the developments equally amazing and awe-inspiring developments in Qatar as it moves towards being a knowledge society. ICT Qatar are implementing programs that will transform education, and they are doing it with confidence and well thought out direction. Then of course there is my school, Qatar Academy, and how we are implementing a 1:1 mobile, ubiquitous environment called under the umbrella of E-Learning for Life.
Here is the slideshow I will run and speak to during the 7 minutes I have to speak on the International panel at NECC

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sharing my Classroom Part 2: Grade 7

In an earlier post last week, Sharing my Classroom Part 1: Grade 6, I described the units of work created this year and hyperlinked some student multimedia work displayed on their blogs.

This time, let me share my Grade 7 curriculum as it was and as it developed as shown on our wiki-centric classroom website.

We started the year with a 'Dreamweaver' unit. As an application -based unit this is a little outdated and not what I would normally teach, however given certain other extraneous influences, it was a matter of being easier to stick to this 'set curriculum' as the time and work through it. Don't get me wrong, I love Dreamweaver, I just don't like the inward focus of an application-based IT approach.

The unit was called 'Disaster!' and students were challenged to think how an online resource could help people before, during or after a disaster. A community and service area of interaction was discussed (IBO) and students investigated typical disasters such as tsunami, hurricane etc. Three web pages minimum was the requirement. Of course we looked at good and bad web page design, navigation, image placement and editing etc etc. At the end of the unit of course students shared their work in class, but were ultimately disappointed their work was not 'online'!

The second unit for the year was about exploring animation as a way to communicate. From the class wiki:
For this unit you will develop skills using animation tools and explore how animation can enhance communication.
You will have a choice of tools to create your final product. These are:
To get started with Flash watch and learn from the Atomic Learning Flash online videos.

So, students explored and created their own, self-determined project. This was enormously successful. Even the simple game sites such as Sploder had students creating games of differing ability levels and sharing ideas and strategies. Most chose the online working environment, only a handful chose to work with Flash (ultimately more difficult, especially as the requirement was to 'work it out yourself').

One student Abdullah, in collaboration with Yousif, created a game using Flash and managed to post it online. This online flash game had an operating system theme (see image)

Here are 2 Grade 7 blogs of distinction showing how they maintained their process journal as a blog and posted material to the blog for assessment - Rawan and Dana (both include Toondoo images).

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Horizon Project 2008 Awards: Good Morning and Good Night

Yesterday was the final gathering of Horizon Project 2008 participants and observers. The Awards Ceremony was held in Elluminate, as have many of our teacher meetings and summit events during the project. It was a typical 'Good morning, Good night' international online meeting, with Australian participants crawling out of bed at 5am, and Qatar people online at 10pm. I was very pleased to welcome also a number of our judges, classroom teachers as well as students from Qatar and the USA to this celebration of creativity. This project has been magificent in its outreach, with over 200 students from 10 classrooms and 6 countries, along with dedicated educators who have joined us as expert advisors, peer review classroom leaders, judges and general observers and supporters. A very big thank you to everyone!

The purpose of having awards is to highlight the best wiki pages and the best multimedia artifacts created by students. This is not meant to deflect from the excellent work and dedication shown by all students attempting and completing this project, but to provide a sample of excellence, a collection of best-practice work.
All awards are found on the Awards wiki, a link to all eligible videos on the Master List wiki, and all multimedia, including comments and student/teacher interactions can be found on the project Ning. Another special thank you to all mutlimedia judges, names are listed on the Judges wiki, which also includes a 'Project in a nutshell' overview. Here is the slideshow used at the awards with a list of all winning wikis and artifacts -

Three types of awards were given for this project:
Each of the 13 topics included 4 impact sub-groups. These are -
A - Education
B - Government, Politics and Employment
C - Arts, Entertainment and Leisure
D - Science and Health For each topic, classroom teachers as a team have determined the best sub-group wiki based on the Wiki Construction Rubric.
These awards go to the best multimedia works. Student work will be assessed against two criteria related to the objectives of the Horizon Project. See the Multimedia artifact rubrics for more details. A winner, runner up, third place and honorable mention (if appropriate) has been awarded in each of the 13 major topics.As a culmination to the project we invited guest meta-judge, Terry Freedman, to determine the best multimedia works overall from the 13 topic winners in each group.

Terry says: "It has been a great privilege to be asked to judge these videos. All of them were a pleasure to watch, and if some of my comments make me seem a little over-critical, it was in order to (a) help me decide on the top 3 and (b) to help you to know what was good and why, and what could be improved, and why. If you would like some insight into how I carried out my judgements, please read this article. For detailed comments on these and the other videos, please visit the relevant Ning page."

Here are the top multimedia artifacts for the Horizon Project 2008 -

First place

Games as a Pedagogical Platform by Assistant Project Manager: Josh D (GHS)

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

Second place

Evolution of a Ubiquitous Platform by Project Manager for EUP: Lara K (QA Gr 11)

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

Third place

Data Mashups : Data Mashups and Google Earth by Akiko K (KGHS 3Yr)

Find more videos like this on Horizon Project 2008

So, done and dusted, as they say. This blog post has given you a starting point for exploring the project outcomes. Start with the award winning videos, view the best wiki pages and explore the excellent material on the Ning.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Sharing my Classroom Part 1: Grade 6

It is assessment and report writing time here at Qatar Academy. I have been in the unenviable position this year of having 12 different classes across 5 different year levels (about 250 students in total). Needless to say this is a challenge and in many respects an unworkable situation for any teacher. However, as I near the end of it all and look towards a completely different working environment next year that encompasses an administrative position with none of my own classes (something I have mixed feelings about), I want to share student achievements from this year.

As in recent years I have run a wiki-centric classroom. My Qatar Academy IT wiki links to all curriculum for this past academic year. I did have some excellent class photos on the home page in bubbleshare, but we had issues with it running through our network so I took it off. Here it is now, with great smiling faces of some of my students (all of whom have given permission to have their photo online).

BubbleShare: Share photos - Powered by BubbleShare

Grade 6 Classes
In Grade 6 this year, with one 55 minute lesson per week, we completed 3 units that focused on communication and skill building with multimedia tools as well as Web 2.0.

Unit 1: Introducing Qatar and Qatar Academy - using PhotoStory and being part of the global project run by Chris Craft called 'Life 'round here'. Our entries are found here.

Unit 2: Becoming a Web 2.0 Expert - where we explored blogging, social bookmarking RSS and created a start-up page using iGoogle

Unit 3: New Technology for Learning - here the challenge was to investigate an emerging technology and design a presentation to show the class, and Dr Hedger our Director how it could be implemented in the classroom. This unit used the MYP Technology design cycle of Investigate, Design, Plan, Create and Evaluate. The essential tools used were Animoto and Voicethread.

The challenges of this project were to create a presentation using the essential tools and to document the research and process (as in a process journal discussing deign, plan and creation of the final products) on a personal blog. The final presentation was delivered from the blog where animoto and voicethread were to be embedded. Animoto was going through some changes as we worked on this project. At one point we were able to download the 30 sec. clip, which we did and then imported it into voicethread to create a seamless presentation. However, the next week animoto had blocked this allowing only longer clips to be downloaded. Animoto also started an free referral service where an all-access pass for education was available (thanks to Ewan Mcintosh for sharing this). I contacted them and obtained one of these but my students had already moved on in the project to the next stage so we ended up not using it this time. Some students managed to get the download before it was blocked.

Here are some of the best examples of student work for Unit 3.

Felix - Tablet PCs
Abdul Rahman - Nintendo DS
Jonas - laptops in schools (this one has animoto uploaded to voicethread)
James - Laptops
Manuel - iPhone
William - E-Book
Simone - MacBook
Alexandra - Ninteno Wii
Hamdan - MacBook Air

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Learning 2.008: Shanghai here I come!

Like Kim Cofino I have also been invited to present at the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai, September 2008. Also, like Kim, I am pondering what presentations (3, I believe) I can best prepare for this event.

I have been fortunate over the past couple of years to build a pallet of presentation material, some fairly mediocre, some with more potential. I am trying to decide what I really want to say, how passionate I am about certain topics, and whether I should stick to the stereotypical topics that may be expected of me (if there is such a thing!). I am also concerned that as a presenter I do not end up saying the same message exactly like someone is important to be on the same playing field as the other presenters and attendees, but it is not necessary to be playing exactly the same game. There is a need for individuality, originality and 'having a unique voice' amongst the wilderness of 21st century learning.

So, having pondered on that, and blogged for 10 minutes now, enough to make it feel like I am continuing to procrastinate with choosing topics for Learning 2.008, here goes some sample ideas, just waiting for your comments and constructive input.

"Footprints on the digital sands of learning - what it means to be an educator in the 21st century"
As an educator in the 21st century do you follow digital footprints? Do you leave your own digital footprint? How important is it to have an online presence, a personal learning environment and a virtual network of colleagues? This session will look at starting with baby steps and show how easily these can become confident strides on the digital sands of learning using connectivity and collaboration tools as the keys to success.

"Digiteen and Digiteacher - is your school ready to embrace action for digital citizenship?"
Using the recent Digiteen global collaborative project as a catalyst this session explores what it means to be a digital citizen and how your school community can become actively engaged in promoting best practice use of online learning. Forget the fear factor, embrace safe practices and informed pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning online with social networking tools and collaborative websites.

"Mobile, Digital, Ubiquitous = Communicate, Collaborate and Create"
You have mobile computing devices in your classroom - now what? This session looks at embedding Web 2.0 pedagogy across the curriculum to support learning while mobile. Gone are the days when a laptop is used mainly as a word processor and research tool for the Internet. The future is here, ubiquitous computing in conjunction with online learning modes encourages communication, collaboration and creativity. It also promotes independence and higher order thinking for problem solving in the classroom. Don't touch that off button!

"How flat is your classroom? Seven steps for successful global collaboration"
The flat classroom concept is based on the constructivist principle of a multi-modal learning environment that is student-centered and a level playing field for teacher to student and student to teacher interaction. Based on the experiences of the award winning Flat Classroom Project this session will detail seven essential steps for lowering your classroom walls to promote connection and understanding between geographically dispersed, ethnically and culturally diverse groups of students in meaningful, global cooperative authentic learning experiences.

So over to you, the reader, which session is the most inspiring? Which one can be dropped off the list? What else would you like to hear me talking about as well as, instead of?

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