Sunday, November 30, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Edublog Nominations for 2008

The 2008 Edublog Awards nominations close in 2 days! This is an interesting opportunity to recognise best-practice out there in the blogosphere with the use of blogs, wiki's, educational networking and other Web 2.0 and multimedia tools. I also believe this is a chance to focus on the people and personalities behind the tools and to explore what it is that really makes the proliferation of communication via the Internet so effective, powerful and a catalyst for change in educational pedagogy. So, here are my modest nominations.

Educational Wiki:
  • Educational Origami created by Andrew Churches in New Zealand - a wealth of excellent resources, ideas and objectives with regular updates.
Best Individual Blog:
  • Always Learning by Kim Cofino - I really admire Kim's thoughtful, timely and provocative posts about her learning and development as an international educator, teacher and literacy specialist.
Best Educational use of a Social Networking Service:
  • The Flat Classroom Project Ning - OK, I do not want to be accused of nominating myself here just because my name is there as the creator of this Ning! This educational network supports the connection and collaboration of 100s of educators and students associated with the various Flat Classroom projects internationally. It provides a space for each individual to post their own resources, including blog posts, shared and completed multimedia, forum discussions, and shared bookmarks etc. It is the hub for communication between student to student, student to teacher and teacher to teacher. It facilitates cultural understanding as well as flat classroom pedagogy.
Lifetime Achievement:
  • 2 Cents Worth - David Warlick's blog truly deserves this recognition in the hall of fame for lifetime achievement. Always a joy to read, always current, aware and informative.
Watch the Edublog Awards 2008 website for final lists of nominees. Voting starts in December. Good luck everyone, and thank you for contributing to my PLN!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Determined Teachers - Flat World - Can You Help?

According to the Flat Classroom Conference Ning we have 64 days to go until the Flat Classroom Conference really begins here in Doha. Excitement is building amongst teachers and students who are trying to get here and take part in this inaugural event. Based on the Flat Classroom Project, and on the concepts found in Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat, our aim is to flatten the learning experience and provide an opportunity for participants to not only connect virtually but to cement this relationship via a face-to-face gathering where creativity and action are encouraged.

The conference itself is in two strands: Leadership Workshop and Student Summit. These strands will merge and intertwine throughout the 3 days and provide a unique opportunity for teachers, administrators and students to work together and determine what education should or will look like in the future (and the future is now!). We have participants coming from literally all over the globe, including the international presenters. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of HSBC Bank Middle East we have been able to give out scholarships to qualifying classrooms to help pay for expenses while in Doha to attend the event. However, our funds do not provide the money for actually getting to Doha (the airfare!). Therefore across the world participating teachers and students are madly trying to raise funds, promote the event within their communities and foster support so they can afford to travel to Doha. Not only have these dedicated and entrepreneurial educators had to submit requests to higher authorities, convincing them that Doha, Qatar is a safe place and that this is an amazing opportunity for cultural interaction leading to enhanced understanding, but they have also been responsible for helping to raise extra money.

To date we have classes confirmed from Ethiopia, Oman, Pakistan, Australia, USA (Houston, New York, Georgia) and Spain. Each class has their own story to tell about why and how they will make it to Qatar...and they will tell their story before, during and after the conference as part of the ongoing conversations. This is a compelling story, and it will be told.

For now however, I wish to encourage support for the class in Houston from
Spring Woods High School. Led by a dynamic teacher, Estie Cuellar, this group of 9 students come from a typical government school that essentially has no money to support international travel and experiences. Estie is working hard to bring the world to her classroom and a part of her classroom to the world via this trip. I encourage you to read the new Qatar Conference blog, created by Estie and the students to record the journey, and also to read more details on the 'sponsorship brochure' created to promote Springwood's participation and desire to foster more funds to make this possible. Maybe you are in a position to help out? Imagine the possibilities of promoting peace and understanding from opposite sides of the globe and interaction that can only help participants from all countries to appreciate diversity in an increasingly complex world.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Work with the Living" - A week with Gary Stager

Qatar Academy are preparing for their 1:1 learning with laptops. The school Board approved recently that all Grade 7 and 8 students in 2009-10 will have a new laptop (bought by Qatar Foundation). What this will finally and ultimately look like is under discussion. To promote the use of laptops and online learning in a constructivist mode we invited Gary Stager to visit for a week.

Numerous words and phrases come to mind when I review the past week here at Qatar Academy with Gary as our consultant in residence to help move us closer to a 1:1 and constructivist learning environment.
These include some often-used sayings from Gary himself, adjectives about the week as well as practical and philosophical objectives that have emerged or re-surfaced and discussed, sometimes ad-infinitum.
Gary has a great passion for learning and a straightforward approach to using technology, specifically laptops, in the classroom. His phrase "Don't be a jerk", offered as advice to those who asked certain "What if...." questions inspired many of us to think again the systems for learning with mobile technology and how responsibility for the device needs to be with the user at all times, with a focus on common sense. In terms of moving the school and the teachers forward Gary uses the term "Work with the living, and do no harm", stating that in the early stages of a laptop program (or any new methods relying on technology use) it is best to work with those who are willing and able to take on board new modes.

Resources from the week with Gary can be found on our E-Learning wiki, and also on Gary's website for Qatar.

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Can you believe it...the only photo I have with Gary and me......

Here are further essential ideas from the week:
  • Gary said "Bad ideas are timeless, good ideas tend to be fragile" in relation to building a sustainable learning environment using technology
  • Gary said "Less us, more them" when talking about student-centred learning and building from the learner up
  • Challenge the assumptions about children and their capability to survive in a digital world....yes, they can be responsible for their own backups
  • Get back to the roots of 'personal computer' meaning an individual device that each learner has/owns privately
  • Focus on non-Internet based use of computing and use offline mode as much as possible...bandwidth is finite, no matter how good it may seem to be
  • Consider a parent-education program to fully introduce laptops at all levels of learning
  • Promote an active classroom and active creativity as opposed to passive 'screen-watching' when using computers
  • Promote a community of practice (a learning community)
  • Promote writing...if kids are writing more it has to be better!
  • Consider re-writing curriculum to accommodate the opportunities laptops bring
  • Make wise and creative decisions about software use - Web 2.0 will not do everything you need
  • Move away from using language such as 'producing content', inspire creative solutions and problem solving using laptops
  • Have a laptop expectation for all staff, however for those teaching Grades 7 and 8 next year, make sure they are on board with the 1:1 initiative
There is no doubt after viewing the schedule I put into place that Gary worked hard! His versatility, energy and willingness to take on a range of situations meant that all members of the Qatar Academy community had the opportunity to see him, talk to him, and to workshop with him. Gary spoke to parents, the wider community, teachers at all levels in all sorts of configurations (HODs, early years, subject groupings, 21st century learners, administration); he was in the classroom running model lessons for Grade 5, as well as senior school Mathematics, Science and English; he workshopped teachers in constructivist learning; keynoted "Ten things to do with a laptop - Learning and powerful ideas", followed by a panel session including local teachers and leaders (thanks Jabiz, Mike, Sam and David!) and he met with the Student tech team (quite a highlight, especially when he produced the XO laptop!).

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Gary with Grade 5 students

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Gary with some Student Tech Team members

Nothing was too daunting or irrelevant to Gary. He spoke to the PE department, the Modern Foreign Languages group, and the school counselors and more...... At each teacher session he spoke with passion and knowledge; at each model lesson he pulled out activities that provided a new way of looking at computers in the classroom; at meetings with the administration he challenged current thinking and reinforced the notion of best-practice meaning student-centered. He even spoke to Qatar Foundation IT Dept. personnel in a teacher/infrastructure joint meeting and we all had the chance to discuss what works best and what we need in a classroom to promote learning using technology.

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Dinner at Souq Waqif

What did I learn from Gary Stager?
  • I was reminded that there is a a complete history of using computers in education that is easily overlooked in the 21st century
  • That Web 2.0 is not the only, or in fact the dominant, focus across a school and in relation to implementing 1:1 learning
  • That reading research and going to the root of an idea, the original author and proponent, is the best way to understand where we are now and how we got here
  • I need to find more time to re-visit Seymour Papert and the many other authors and visionaries that Gary has collected in his online Constructivist Consortium Bookstore
  • That good teaching, no matter what century, requires imagination, patience, structure that focuses on the learning and creativity and that students at all levels need to be continually challenged and allowed to construct their own meaning
As a sideline, Gary and I have a similar interest in playing and listening to jazz therefore had some interesting conversations about this....I think he has convinced my daughter (a new convert to the tenor saxophone) to attend the Stanford Jazz Workshop one summer soon when we are in the USA.
Oh, and another thing......I feel like an ice-cream connoisseur after having been out with Gary for dinner 3 nights in a row.....what fun we had! (For future reference, Cold Stone at Villagio is the best!)

More pictures from the week:

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Across My Desk: November 14, 2008

A mashup of ideas and influences from this week and before this week that I want to share with you all via this blog.

1. Don Tapscott, author of 'Growing Up Digital' and 'Wikinomics', has released his new book 'Grown Up Digital'. The book is Available from Amazon and you will be supporting Taking IT Global with proceeds from sales. Here is a free chapter download

2. Copyright and FairUse in teaching resource - worth reading

3. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative is releasing another batch of laptops for sale starting Monday November 17. are handling the sales. A recent video with Nicholas Negraponte being interviewed on 60 minutes shows clearly how the digital divide is being narrowed with the rollout of these devices around the world. I am going to purchase one nest week. For $399 I get to donate one to the cause and have one sent to me! My main objective in owning one is to see if we could run a Flat Classroom Project, with all that it entails, using these incredible if the hardware can join with the pedagogy and we start connecting students...I mean REALLY connecting students from diverse areas.

4. Flip video camera new release that has larger memory and other features. Just keeps getting better...and user friendly!

5. CoverItLive now has Twitter Integration
CoverItLive is a live blogging tool that can be embedded into a blog/wiki and used as a shared backchannel. Now you can integrate up to 12 Twitter feeds into your CoveritLive event. Just type in the Twitter accounts you want to autopublish and every minute, CoveritLive will go get any new Tweets and publish them directly into your Viewer Window with a little 't' logo so your readers know it was a Tweet.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Embedded Flatness - The Flat Classrooms Project 08 Keynote

We invite you to view the Keynote produced by Terry Freedman for the Flat Classroom Project 2008. There is also a Keynote wiki page on the project website where Terry not only shares the final version of the video script, but the original version as well....including some interesting pictures of someone that may be Terry for a 'few' years back.

Terry's concept of 'embedded flatness' is clearly described with excellent examples. The keynote itself is personal and relevant, aimed at the students, gives doable advice, provides an insight into research and 'government thinking' and provides a perspective of what life is like in the real world beyond schools.

A couple of Terry comments:
"As I’m writing this script, there are people in my personal network popping up in Skype and Twitter. In the last 15 minutes, I’ve chatted with people from the USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and China. I’m having conversations with them, and giving information to them, and receiving some back. More importantly, the conversations I’m having with them are mostly unplanned and casual – the same kind of conversation I’d be having if I bumped into them in the street. That’s what I mean by embedded."

"What this project is helping you develop is a set of skills that will help you throughout your life. These are skills like:

· Being able to collaborate with others.

· Carrying out research on your own.

· Managing your own time.

· Working well as part of a team.

· Playing an effective part in the project.

· Reflecting on what you’ve learnt.

· Thinking creatively."

Thanks Terry for your time and effort. I hope you get a chance to interact with the students on the wiki as they watch the keynote.

I also invite the reader of this blog post to explore Terry's online resources further and to fill in a survey he is conducting on collaborative projects. I really like this recent artcle of Terry's 'Be Very Afraid' where he talks to teachers and students and shares the videos he has made of them enthusiastically describing their work.

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