Friday, October 31, 2008

What have you signed up for this week?

A recent conversation with colleagues at school has prompted this post. They were concerned that there are just 'too many' things to sign can one person cope with it all? ...what is the relevance to everyday classroom education and life as an educator? How can you remember all the passwords and login information?

My response to this is:
  1. Don't 'fear' the multitude of online membership opportunities. Embrace them as being part of what you do as an online, connected educator.
  2. Make sure when you sign up for something new you a) Bookmark the home page using Delicious and/or Diigo and b) Tag your confirmation email for future reference as it often contains vital login and PW information. I use GMail and 'label' these emails as 'Software'
  3. Try to use the same user name. I always use julielindsay now for everything. If you prefer a nickname rather than full name, so be it, but use it consistently. Two reasons for this, you will be easily identified by your online name, and it is easier for you to remember when you go to login in if it is consistent.
  4. Do not try to remember more than 3 or 4 different passwords! In particular have a different password for your email account to other sites. Rotate your passwords, and change them over time, but for the sake of sanity do not have to cycle through more than 4 to get into anything!
  5. Share your new found online resources with friends/colleagues so that together you may interact and decide if the tool etc is worth using or not. It is easier to evaluate if others can join the conversation.
What have I joined this week?
  1. Edmodo - an educational tool for microblogging. Just joined today, looks like it has potential. Can't work out how to add friends. Love the feature to upload assignment/files and to have the calendar. Will experiment with colleagues and see if it is worthwhile transplanting to a class.
  2. EdTalks - a New Zealand initiative shared by ITGS colleague Andrew Churches. NZ and international educators are talking about learning in individual videos. I am having trouble accessing some of the clips but will persevere. Excellent idea, lots of potential.
  3. Woices - This one I love! have just joined today but the idea and practice of sharing voices around the world, of sharing unique 'sound walks' and experiences takes me back to my undergraduate music student days! I also love the changing image in the top banner and this one of the young child caught my attention. Thanks to friend Anne Mirtschin for sharing this today!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time to Grow - Our Keynote for K12 Online

Earlier today the keynote Vicki Davis and I created went live on the K12 Online Conference website. We had fun making this, but boy it was hard work!
In the category of 'Kicking it Up a Notch' we have titled the keynote 'Time to Grow'.

We want to know how you are 'kicking it up a notch' as well. How about leaving a voice comment on the K12 page (scroll down), or add your name and ambition to the Google Map we have created.
I hope you enjoy the is heartfelt, and varied in approach so you can take it a bit at a time if you want! If you are blogging about the conference, our keynote or any of the other excellent presentations, make sure you tag them with the extension provided on the index page. So for our keynote that is

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Flat Classroom Conference 2009 - Register Now!

Grade 9, 10 and 11 students involved with the conference from Qatar Academy with Julie Lindsay (Head of IT), Greg Hedger (Director QA), HSBC Bank representative and Ray Jones (Flat Classroom teacher QA) during the signing of the agreement for sponsorship for the Flat Classroom Conference, January 24-26, 200

Very exciting times here in Qatar! Plans for the Flat Classroom Conference are progressing well, with the usual minor glitches, however we are all very pleased with the international and local response so far. My meeting with ICT Qatar went well last week and I have a follow-up meeting next week to discuss local involvement further and how we can support this.

We are extending the registration closing date until Monday November 3 for international participants. After that the registration rate and hotel rate will rise. See the conference website for more details. Already we have registration from educators around the world. We have also offered scholarships to students and teachers from 7 countries to attend the event.

This afternoon we signed the agreement with HSBC Bank Middle East Limited, who have generously supported both the Student Summit and the Leadership Workshop. We have also started a conference Ning, and invite virtual participation globally. On the Ning I am ambitiously creating a photographic count-down to the conference via a daily blog post. My aim is to show a variety of scenes and images from with Qatar and to encourage participation by sharing the normalcy, and yet uniqueness that is pertinent to this country.

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21st Century Learners take the K12 Online Conference Plunge

I have long admired Karl Fisch and his approach to staff professional development and the way he has shared their social learning sessions with the rest of us. I am also very influenced by the work of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice initiative. A must-read article is Sheryl's PD 2.0: It's all about building community.

This year at Qatar Academy I want to provide an opportunity for teachers who are ready to take the next step into '21st century learning and teaching'. I know '21st century' has become a hackneyed phrase, but it suits our purposes here in Qatar, with the notion of moving forward, grasping and developing and embedding new ideas and learning from each other as the primary motivation. The impact of social learning, of community, is stronger than we at first realise. I want to foster this and sustain it in meaningful practice. I want to do this with teachers who are willing to put in the time and effort to explore, discuss, reflect, contribute and shift their learning forward in the process.

With these objectives, '21st Century Learners' met for the first time last Thursday. Yes, Thursday is the last day of our working week, and 2.30-5pm is not the ideal time to congregate, however I had about 14 people arrive, and stay! What is also exciting is that some of these participants are from outside of QA, from other secondary and tertiary (yes!) institutions around Doha. Already we are building an extended community, already we are interacting with other educators who we do not see on a daily basis.

Our first session revolved around the K12 Online Conference 2008. I have fully documented what we went through, our main discussion points, and format. The focus of the group has 3 strands: Research, Pedagogy and Tech tools and the aim is to spend some time on each of these.

We started reviewing some essential tools including Twitter, delicious and The concept and practice of all of these was not that well known amongst most so the learning curve was steep from the start. I didn't push the back channel idea with chatzy this time as I wanted us to move into this gradually over the next few sessions. Consequently the back chat was almost non-existent for this first session.

We watched sections from a variety of presentations from the first 3 days of the conference, including Stephen Heppell's keynote. We tossed around some ideas as to what 21st century learning looked like and finished with a Web 2.0 smack down of favourite tools. I believe everyone left feeling they had something new to experiment with, some extra idea to work with and consider how it applies to the classroom, and of great importance a sense of community and the power of learning as a team.

My plan to hold these sessions every 2-3 weeks. The K12 Online conference is a wonderful catalyst for this type of gathering. Next meeting will be in 2 weeks to review more presentations from the conference. Then 2 weeks after that we will have our own session with Gary Stager, our consultant in residence for the week at QA. I am working up to uStreaming it, or at least doing some creative videoing like Jonathan Chambers and the Shanghai LAN parties. Even more ambitious I want to extend our community here in Qatar to include other interested groups around the world. We have a school Ning and now a 21C learners group on the Ning. How can we best use these tools, including wikispaces, to collaborate and interact with other like-minded 21st century learners globally? Let me know is you are interested? How would you do it?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's not the 20th Century - Me, We and See!

These are my notes and reflection based on the K12 Online Pre-Conference Keynote by Stephen Heppell, released Monday October 13, 2008.

I saw Stephen present at NECC a few years ago and was impressed then with his expertise and ability to see the way forward based on the path we have just trodden. I can't help thinking Stephen is the UK version of David Warlick....except I don't think David uses the word 'churlish' very often.

Stephen takes us on a walk down memory lane and relates, in narrative style the telecommunication projects and developments he was involved with, and in fact instigated, during the 80s and 90s and into this new century. His story telling style is calming. I enjoyed the low-tech approach to the keynote and found it easy to focus on what was really being said.

here are some notes as I listened:
In the 1980s -
Challenge: What can we make the technology do that is useful?
compelling, seductive and engaging

NOW - processor power in a mobile!
The technology can do anything we want, therefore what do we want??

Reflection, Retraction, Research, Representation - important words in the 80s as well

Distance between the NOW and the US - distributed asynchronous learning

In the 90's -
Schools online - the power of getting people to work together at a distance
The sense of 'Usness', throwing communities together
Learning in the new millennium started in 93 - connected students to experts
Teachers are learning professionals....the catalysts, didn't have to provide the learning but provoke it and be catalytic in making it begin

Tesco SchoolNet 2000 - in the Guinness Book of Records
- learned the magnitude of connecting
- showed the power of citizen journalism in its essential form eg children interviewing celebrities
- a sense of audience - audience matters, sense of usness
- me, we and see!
- community a powerful word

"Watching people is so important if you are going to understand the 21st century"

Building portals became popular - but it's not absolutely about 'stuff'

Not a fan of wikipedia (Stephen).....Encyclopedia Britannica online has a more thorough approach, collecting experts
Ability to critique, content is not king
The Internet is all about sharing and caring...Web 2.0 has always existed.
Knowledge is a free good
Sharing and exchanging with others, that sense of other, that sense of us turned out to be hugely important

The 'elephant in the room of identity' on the Internet.....who is who?

Technology allows us to do things we haven't been able to keep up with our understanding
The connectedness....within a mouse click shares bought and sold etc, the immediacy of all that

In the next decade schools will just be one of many educational options.....
The financial crisis has been the beginning of the death of 'they'. That sense that there is a 'they' and that 'they' can do anything about is really 'us', the beginning of 'us' is important.
In terms of school, how can we organise our pedagogy in terms of 'us'
Democracy of learning is all about 'us'
School designs stress the 'us-ness', future of learning depends on the strength of gregarious bond...a two-way conduit

Some Final points
1. Learning is going global with vengeance
2. Assumptions we made about factory-schools is gone, the factory school is dead, long live the learning institution that is no corridors
3. A new era of schools, agile schools full of mutuality
4. Socially we are rediscovering some of the things that really mattered...connecting with extended family etc via online resources
5. Sense of community being reborn
6. Schools built around mutuality and usness and sharing and democracy deliver extraordinary gains in learning

New model of learning...
the death of education but the dawn of learning, exciting prospect........

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Educational Philosophy, Leadership and Wordle (?)

Pottering around this evening in Doha. Just listened to the K12 Online Pre-Conference keynote by Stephen Heppell. Loved it! Simple in style, but powerful in message. Will share my thoughts about it a bit later on. One good quote: 'Learning is going global with vengeance'

Reading Twitter, contributing to the twittesphere, interacting, catching up. I see that Sharon Peters has tidied her office, a colleague here in Doha, FrznGuru, has been working on her philosophy, and that Jabiz just posted on his blog his educational philosophy and created a wordle.

Hmmm.....I have just rewritten my 'Educational philosophy and Leadership style' (!), I wonder what it will look like as a wordle? Here are 3 permutations of the same word set.

Key words:
Learning, change, students, curriculum, technology, classroom, believe
...leader, global, digital, encouraging

What keywords do you have in your philosophy statement?

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Laptop and 1:1 Programs and Web 2.0

At Qatar Academy we are trying to define our 1:1 program within the constraints of meeting the expectations of the school administration, Qatar Foundation (our 'mother ship'), parents, teachers and students. Earlier this week I posted a question to the ECIS Moodle IT discussion forum.
How does moving to a pedagogically appropriate Web 2.0 learning environment affect how a 1:1 and/or laptop program is implemented? There are 3 possible scenarios with laptops:
  1. A controlled environment where the school purchases the laptops and maintains administrative control.
  2. A more open environment environment where the school owns (or purchases for the students) but gives the students administrative rights.
  3. A student-purchased environment where administrative rights are always with the student.
I see option 2 and 3 as being more conducive to Web 2.0 learning environment where students have the freedom to download and install software and updates as they need to. A more locked down situation where admin. rights are not given to the user prohibits students from having control of their own learning environment using mobile technology.

What are you doing in your school? What are your feelings about this??

Here are excerpts from the excellent responses I received:

Madeleine Brookes, ICT facilitator from Western Academy Beijing (WAB):
"Certainly option 2 and 3 would be the better option for your students - the line between using the computer for social purposes and for educational purposes is becoming blurred however I believe that educating the students in what not to download and how to use a computer responsibly is better than locking it down."

Harry Bennett, Technology consultant for international schools helping set up 1:1 programs
"The trick is to create an environment that allows your users to do all the things they should be able to do (which probably shouldn't include installing programs that haven't been tested by the experts you hired) as part of the learning process but not able to do the things that will diminish that capability for themselves or others. That is a tricky task but throwing out security because its hard to do right is as wrong as locking down a machine so that no one can do anything."

Kathy Epps from International School of Geneva
"The kids, teachers, and families are given many many opportunities to learn how to take care of their computers - how to use the admin rights, in effect. Teachers are given nearly limitless support, coaching, etc., to help them make efective use of the computers in the classroom, so that every one is supportive, enthusiastic, and learning and teaching is enhanced - not just more entertaining. (Julie, I have no doubts about what you would do in this situation!)"

Ben Morgan, Director of IT from United World College of SE Asia
"I think that tying students to a single laptop is already technologically and culturally outdated. The question, to me, is how to best provide access to the necessary data/tools via WHATEVER hardware the students may use.
This requires school to create:
- an online learning environment that provides tools for creating / delivering / managing instructional content (this will be an amalgamation of web based portal, elearning system, web 2 tools, MIS system, library system, etc)
- online data storage
- access to specialist software
- through a robust wired/wireless infrastructure that supports a multitude of devices"

My response today in reply was as a summary of essential points with an invitation for more discussion.
Her is a brief summary of the main points you have shared:
  • Laptop model and make - most in favour of the same
  • Image - standardized that includes licensed software and anti-virus
  • Collaborative environment - need to be able to foster this within a secure environment
  • System security - learning affected if system infected
  • Student purchase scheme (lease over 3 years as an option)
  • Administrative rights given to teachers/students under certain conditions - security, maintain original software
  • Tech support - needs to be a drop-in service
  • Systematic approach to laptop service - re-image if issue too time consuming to fix
  • Infrastructure - providing re-charging stations
  • Storage and backup of files - locally? USB? Server?
  • Computer failure - 3-year insurance/warranty, replacement policy
  • Professional development and pedagogical support for teachers, students and parents
  • Wireless network - continuity of access
  • Internet and Web2.0 - access at school and at home
  • Access to printing
  • Other mobile devices - handhelds, include broader mobile computing devices
  • Access to data and tools not hardware specific - include ALL types of ubiquitous devices
  • Secure network with set criteria for access - devices therefore do not not need to be 'locked down' or even the same model/make/device
The use of Web 2.0 tools came through as part of the overall consideration of what the 'laptops' will be used for and not as a focus of the possible program. Given the sometimes lack of access to online tools (Web 2.0) there continues to be, from what I can tell, a preference for standard software to be installed on each device as a base for classroom use.
Ben, I think your points particularly resonated with me as in my previous school, International School Dhaka, I spearheaded a mobile program that included handhelds and laptops; Palm devices for handhelds and a non-standardized laptop (in other words bring your own with minimum configuration required e.g.XP Pro) with a set of licensed software installed, costs passed onto parents. Since 0607 of course converging technologies has opened up even more possibilities and I agree with you we cannot be just talking about 'laptop programs' anymore.

I welcome further discussion on this. You, the reader of this blog, what is happening in your school re moving to a 1:1 environment while considering access to Web 2.0 and online resources?

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Flat Classroom Conference Update

I have been madly sending out information and reminders about our upcoming Flat Classroom Conference here in Qatar.

Hello from Doha, Qatar

Qatar Academy are proud to be the host of the first Flat Classroom Conference: Leadership Workshop and Student Summit to be held January 24-26, 2009 in Doha, State of Qatar. This conference has been kindly sponsored and supported by HSBC Bank.

The Flat Classroom Project is a global, collaborative project using Web 2.0 tools for connection, communication, collaboration and creation. The concept and practice of 'flattening' your classroom draws on 21st century pedagogical practices that include personal learning networks, online learning and a constructivist approach using established and emerging technologies.

You are invited to be part of this amazing get together of leaders, educators and students as we workshop, discuss and take action about what it means to lead, teach, learn and live in an increasingly flat world. Some scholarships are available to support K-12 educators around the world to come and bring students for the summit.

A reminder that registration deadline for the Flat Classroom Conference (Doha, January 24-26) is October 12 for the Student Summit and October 26 for the Leadership Workshop.

Confirmed presenters:
Vicki Davis, USA
Julie Lindsay, Qatar
Don Knezek and Lynn Nolan from (ISTE)
Dr John Turner, Australia
Jeff Utecht, Bangkok

All details, including the online registration form, are on the website at

Please direct all questions to me at
I look forward to welcoming you to Qatar!

Julie Lindsay
Head of Information Technology and E-Learning
Qatar Academy

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