Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goals for us as learners

This is a photo I made for the IBO Learner Profile which is I think one of the best things to come out of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. The Learner Profile "is the IB mission statement translated into a set of learning outcomes for the 21st century".

Risktakers

IB learners strive to be:

Inquirers They develop their natural curiosity. They acquire the skills necessary to conduct inquiry and research and show independence in learning. They actively enjoy earning and this love of learning will be sustained throughout their lives.
Knowledgeable They explore concepts, ideas and issues that have local and global significance. In so doing, they acquire in-depth knowledge and develop understanding across a broad and balanced range of disciplines.
Thinkers They exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethicaldecisions.
Communicators They understand and express ideas and information confidently and creativelyin more than one language and in a variety of modes of communication. They work effectively and willingly in collaboration with others.
Principled They act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness, justice andrespect for the dignity of the individual, groups and communities. They take responsibility for their own actions and the consequences that accompany them.
Open-minded They understand and appreciate their own cultures and personal histories, and are open to the perspectives, values and traditions of other individuals and communities. They are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience.
Caring They show empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs and feelings ofothers. They have a personal commitment to service, and act to make a positive difference to the lives of others and to the environment.
Risk-takers They approach unfamiliar situations and uncertainty with courage and forethought, and have the independence of spirit to explore new roles, ideas and strategies. They are brave and articulate in defending their beliefs.
Balanced They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
Reflective They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.

What a fantastic set of goals. It is my goal to make a poster about each of these. The photo is one that I took on my trip to China earlier this year. I love the Flickr toys that made it easy to do.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Critical and digital literacies

The other day at the web 2.0 workshop at my school a question was posed: is blogging and communicating online better than face to face communication? A trick question I thought. The answer is clear; face to face is always better than distance communication if it is possible. The benefit of setting up the community of inquiry with blogging habits that your classroom can become is the affordances this gives when this is working well – the possibilities of global collaboration leading to greater understanding among peoples.

But I was surprised. The people in the workshop answered the question that blogging gave opportunities to students within the classroom as well. The quiet student who blossoms forth in writing, the international students who, while they don’t like to speak in large class groups, are looking for ways to show their knowledge, the opportunity for students to fill out their answers with considered thought. And this wasn’t said but I know that the opportunities at school to learn how to be a digital citizen while in a safe and monitored environment with guidance at hand are a really important part of classroom blogging.

The workshop was really varied. I look forward to being able to introduce you to a French language blog soon as well.

Having a blogging classroom set up and having enough teachers using web 2.0 tools enables “just in time” learning to happen. We are solving problems together, with other teachers and with our students. I am at the moment trying to get Voicethreads recorded (which isn’t working for me currently) but I will not stop trying. I know that when it does work I will know a lot more than when I started. Being open to all these opportunities means I can make the most of my opportunities. Having students ready with web 2.0 capacities means that we try a new tool when it is invented.

One of my finds this weekend was from the Allan Luke webcasts. I listened to an episode from May 31st this year on the new literacies which I really enjoyed. Allan Luke is at Queensland University, Australia, and has a global perspective. I liked his focus on social justice in curriculum design and his imperative not to infantilise the students in our schools by expecting less of them than they are used to doing in the their daily lives in critical literacies. Have a listen, see what you learn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I love Twitter

I love Twitter. Through this manifestation of my Learning Network I find out about new blogs, what people are learning about, reflecting and doing. I hear about ideas that are being formed, presentations that are coming together and live interactive events round the globe I can be involved in. The network never sleeps (although parts of it are taking their rest all the time). People ask for help, for feedback and for comments for their students as they are finding their writers' voice. Last night (my time) I heard from Vicki Davis that some of her students were blogging. I went and had a look and was most impressed. Today I showed one of them to some in my Year 7 class (most of the class was working on their Voicethreads, but a small group were blogging). And now Miranda has made a post in response to the students at Movieworms. I love the network.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A new idea for my workshop

Why have I been wanting others to try blogging? I know that I was introduced to a new world that I found exciting and informative, but after telling others about it, there is some but not much interest in it from other teachers at my school. There are lots of reasons given, mostly lack of time (i.e. they admit it might be good to do but are too stressed to take up some thing new). Others say “…but why would anyone care what I wrote and why would I waste my time reading about minutiae of other peoples’ lives?’ This seems similar to experiences Darren has had as well. I recently became aware that if one first came across random bloggers in the early days of blogging (not educational bloggers who share their discoveries and reflections about learning) then one might have a really negative idea about blogging. And if this same person came across students blogs (and we’ve all read them) that start off “I’m in English and I’m so boooored, can’t wait till lunch”, it’s not surprising that their initial negative impression is confirmed.

But on Wednesday I have a really interesting opportunity to speak to teachers of the MYP program at school about the potential of web 2.0 technologies to give further opportunities for learning, especially global collaboration and intercultural awareness, which is a big part of the IBO. Similarly the IBO curriculum is based on the latest in educational research and web 2.0 seems so suited to providing the necessary learning environment for 21st century students. Some of the teachers on this team are those who have been less than impressed by blogging.

Then I was listening to the Ed Tech Posse podcast and Dean Shareski said something that really made me think. The way I understood what he said (roughly) was that instead of people who see the value of blogging hitting others over the head with it, to put things around the other way and ask teachers who want our help to set up blogs why they thought it was a good idea. That would certainly save me a whole lot of time (I have been offering to go into teachers classrooms when I have a planning period to help set up class blogs and so often the resulting blogs are just left to die). Another teacher of my acquaintance says that if a teacher isn’t blogging of their own accord it really doesn’t help the students if he or she tries to introduce it in the classroom. This means that students who may enjoy blogging are not introduced to it by a teacher who is either against blogging or not familiar with it. But these teachers have their own unique gifts for their students and will take their students with them in other ways.

This is basically the mindset that I will go into the workshop with. I plan to say only a little (having possibly said too much in the past). Some teachers who have started blogging will share their journeys, Yvonne, a science teacher, Bernie, an English teacher, Katrina, leader of the Environment Group, Jennifer, teacher librarian and Vicki, PE teacher and new user of del.icio.us and wikis. I guess though, the ultimate point I want to make is that blogging is easy and fun but you have to be committed to it, and it may not be for everyone. (Even though I would like it to be.)



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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Awe inspiring people really

Having had a day off for Melbourne Cup day I have been enjoying catching up with reading blogs and twittering. I would like to continue the theme of featuring some interesting bloggers found on the Directory of Australian Edubloggers - all people who are developing and sharing resources, teachers who want schools to be better places, possibly more exciting, but in any case more effective. As I write these posts I have the voices of the naysayers in my head, people who think that blogging is just a fad, that it's an optional add-on that certain people may choose to engage with, but that it's outside the real purpose of education. This is something I don't believe. Students are going to be creating a digital identity as one of their social identities and it is up to teachers and parents, in their wisdom, to help guide these young people.

Anyway, end of rant. Here are some more fantastic educators that you may want to follow and learn from.

Fiona Banjer, who writes Mrs B's Professional Dialogue with Herself, is "passionate about the value of providing www and Web2.0 applications into learning experiences." She has a website where she keeps resources as well as tips for using Interactive Whiteboards.

Jess McCulloch maintains Technolote which is "about integrating more ICT into the language classroom (namely Web 2.0 spplications), but also about language teaching and learning in general." Her articles are thoughtful, well written and informative.

John Larkin is a "teacher of History at St Joseph's Catholic High School, Albion Park, NSW", who has "been working with technology in education for 15 years." He writes TeachTech which is full of interest and resources.

And then there is Sue Tapp, a friend through blogging who blogs at And another thing. She is "a teacher of English in a government High School in Victoria. I am attempting to integrate Web 2.0 in my classroom and to develop a better understanding of the pedagogy and the technology." Sue recently tried out Voicethread to great effect here.

At Wax Lyrical, a beautiful name for a blog, we find Kate Quinn, who "research(es) blogs and online learning. By day (she is) an e-learning administrator in Perth."

And Russel Mongomery who blogs at Braindump, teaches middle school maths in Perth, Western Australia. In his own words: "I am a disruptive innovator and at the moment I am a digital pioneer (warrior/champion/fool) at my school." As a pioneer and friend on twitter he is a most inspiring person and because of him and others like him the world is a better place. I dedicate this blog entry to him.

Some interesting Aussie edubloggers

I subscribe to the changes on the Directory of Australian Edubloggers and so get alerted to those who have signed up. It made me think that I haven't shared the gems I have been discovering, so I would like to highlight some. In no particular order they are:

Karen Mann at Web2 Wanderings who is "an accountant who decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to become a teacher." She is from New South Wales and is completing a Masters in Education and is also a member of Classroom 2.0.

Then there is Westley Field at Skoolaborate. He is from Sydney in New South Wales and his site is a "Virtual Island, Blog and Wiki that allows innovative, creative, cutting edge schools to collaborate with like minded schools world wide" in Teen Second Life. He also writes at iThought.

Roland Gesthuizen, who maintains Plakboek, is a "Learning Technology Coordinator and IT Teacher who works to support a range of ICT initiatives and leads a team of highly motivated and talented computer support staff." Lots of info and reflection here.

Linda Shardlow is a maths teacher at a secondary school in Melbourne who writes at First Person, Second Hand, Third Dimension, where she reflects on lots of PD she attends. She is "interested in discussing and reflecting on curriculum approaches to the teaching of mathematics, my own practice and that of others in order to provide learning experiences that engender authentic thinking and deep understanding of concepts in my students."

Kylie Willison has an interesting perspective as: she "teach(es) basic IT and office skills adult education classes using Ubuntu Linux... work(s) for Teen Challenge as well as running (her) own training business and home schooling (her) teenage daughter. She writes at Blog blog blog and is from South Australia.

I will definitely highlight others in the next few posts but these are some I would like to introduce to some of my blogging network who are not already familiar with them

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Libraries are fantastic

Recently I sent our teacher-librarian some really interesting links which I’d like to highlight here. The Teacher Librarian Ning looks very interesting. It is “For those of us who connect, teach, share, and lead in new information landscapes. Come play in this exciting learning sandbox!” Created by Joyce Valenza it features a frappr map and a discussion titled ‘Best Book you’ve Read all year’ with 57 replies. I think I’ll be going there when it is summer holidays for me. I think that there are enough resources about education generally to make it worth looking at for any educator.

In the same email I also pointed to a voicethread called The Face Off: Databases VS Google by Technolibrary (Carolyn Foote) because I had been talking the my teacher librarian about specialized information sources that student were overlooking due to their overdependence on Google regardless of the purpose of their search. It is a clear and logical explanation and one more reason to experiment with voicethread.

And lastly I pointed to The Not so Distant Future blog by also Carolyn Foote, a librarian at a large public suburban high school, Westlake High School, in Austin, Texas. I’ve met Carolyn on a number of occasions on Ustream events and have come to respect her wisdom. Her latest blog entry ‘Learning in a Community’ is an example of that wisdom:
So, here are some ways to build a learning network if you want one:
  1. Read a few blogs. Pick four blogs. Read them, and make a comment fairly often. Part of the idea here is conversation with others.
  2. Create your own site that people can visit. A blog, a wiki, a website–so when you post on their blog, they can see who you are, and what your work or interests are.
  3. Join a network, like Classroom 2.0 Ning, or Global Education Ning or Teacher Librarian Ning or Librarian 2.0 Ning. It’s a great way to find out projects other people are starting and join them. Those are also great places to post a question or to ask someone to join a project you want to do.
  4. Join a network that has to do with your outside interests–visit a knitting blog or a football blog or a travel blog and post comments there.
  5. Join a site like Twitter. The thing about twitter is–you can’t just join it and sit there if you want to get the power of it. Join Twitter, search for 4 twittees that are educators, librarians, biology teachers–whatever your area of interest is.
Fabulous.
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A story in Voicethread

Recently, I thought I'd have a go at trying out Voicethread, inspired by Rachel Fryer, I thought how hard could it be. But I'm afraid I don't have that charming naturalness that a three year old can muster. But I know that reflecting on learning means that the product in process is also valued. Anyway here it is. I decded to make for first Voicethread about my trip to China in April this year to a workshop for the Middle Years Program of the IBO. I am going to show it to my Year 7 class to let them see that preparation of a script can be useful. I was also inspired by Chris Betcher and his first try.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Subspace, Code Lyoko and Animal Farm

Today I was very happy to be at another meeting of the writers group here at school. We are getting about 15 students who kee coming back and 3 or 4 teachers each time and we have great discussions, stimulating and amusing. When a year 12 student member came, she was interrupting swot vac (or pre exam study break) to come for the meeting. We all clapped as she came in. We heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30." Several students are participating.

We heard about Voiceworks, a "national, quarterly magazine that features exciting new writing by Australian young writers. It is a unique opportunity for young writers and artists (under 25) to publish their poetry, short stories, articles and comics, illustrations, drawings and photos." We heard the beginning o a story that a student started in her Maths class, and will have to wait till we find how it ends. We heard about Monique's story that she previews on her blog, a piece of fanfiction based on the French animated TV series Code Lyoko. I read a small passage from a novel I am reading at the moment that I love, Andrew McGahan's The White Earth, such evocative writing. We heard about a student writing a review of a novel she liked and sending it to the author and having the author put it up on her website. A student talked about her experience of reading Animal Farm and another student talked about an idea she had for a story about subspace and how that idea had come from what she was learning in science about the universe. We made a theme for next time on anything related to science fiction or speculative fiction. I can't wait.

Blogging then and now

Today I took a replacement class, as my Year 12s have gone. It was a group of Year 11s in a computer room. Among them were some students I had taught in Year 9 two years previously and were some of the first students I ever blogged with. We talked about their old blogs, abandoned since year 9, and I showed them to the students. They laughed at their younger selves, amused that back then they had gone to "parties" rather than "clubs". They seemed intrigued by these word snapshots of the now distant past. It was clear to them how much they had developed and changed. I then showed them some of the blogs of the current year 9 students and now I was unexpectedly faced with (and pleasantly surprised) by the differences between the two groups. One possible reason is that my experience as a teacher who blogs has had some impact on the quality of what students write. I have also noticed that, with practice (the current year 9 students have blogged longer and more often than the 2005 class), and the practice could also be having an impact.


It made me feel that potential we have to have each Year 7 student start a blog at the beginning of high school and maintain it for their time at school would be a genuinely useful process. The students could each year be linked to a Year Level class blog and I would envisage the teacher of any subject at that Year Level being able to put up posts to the Year level blog and ask the students to put up some response. It wouldn't always have to be writing. It could be a file uploaded, a game, a voicethread, or podcast, a cartoon or anything, as I know that not everyone likes writing so much. But creating something - that's another matter. Students generally love that and it would be a great challenge. But I guess a lot of students still generate and show their knowledge in writing so that would work as well. It is a dream I have and who knows maybe it will be able to happen.