Saturday, May 31, 2008

Toondoo and more...

Year 8s have been exploring some new tools as they work out how their group wants to represent their learning and thinking about the novel we have been reading as a class. The novel Falling from Grace by Jane Godwin is a tensely written narrative told in two alternating first person excerpts. What Godwin does with language cries out to be visually represented. The students have been looking at Photostory 3, Voicethread, toondoo and making digital videos with the school camera and in some cases their mobile pones (with appropriate authorisation from me, as mobile phones are generally banned at school). They spent some time in their groups storyboarding what they wanted to represent and thinking of ways to do it. Then some lessons looking at the other computer-based ways of telling their bit of the story and later they spent some time filming. Some of the students are making plans to keep filming on the weekend. One group is making a movie trailer using photostory and even though unfinished I am loving how it is coming along.

Here is one of the toondoos that one group made. The students are willing to explore the tools and use more than one way of displaying their ideas. This particular toondoo had the students discussing animatedly how they saw Ted, and wat sort of character he was. Can we show a feeling about a character even if the way we represent him isn't how he was described/implied? It was a fantastic lesson for a Friday afternoon and I love how excited the students are about the novel.

Monday, May 26, 2008

XO Laptop and people I met

On Saturday 24th May I attended the ICTEV conference in Melbourne (as I did last year). This year my experience was enriched by meeting so many online friends f2f. One highlight was meeting the Edtech Crew , Darrel and Tony, whose podcasts I have so much enjoyed listening to. They were podcasting from the conference as well as you can see from the photo. Tony Richards is holding an XO laptop belonging to Daniel Stefyn, who along with Roland Gesthuizen was giving a series of workshops about the OLPC. I heard about the new projected $75 laptop called the XOXO which was mentioned by Dave Cormier in the Edtech Weekly podcast "a completely new redesign - a tablet PC folded in half." Seeing the XO was exciting and seeing what it could do was amazing, especially the connectivity.

I went to a workshop on Google given by Greg Gebhart which was most interesting given that I will be visiting Google headquarters in San Francisco in just under a month. Learnt some cool things and played with google maps. It was great to hear that Greg has had a rethink about the educational uses of twitter after seeing it used as a backchannel in his workshop. Margaret Meijers gave the keynote lecture and she was inspiring, but I did wonder if more benefit could have been had if the keynote had been ustreamed. Maybe that's something for the Conference committee to think about for next year.

Daniel Stefyn at ICTEV with his XO laptop

Darrel Branson and Tony Richards podcasting at ICTEV

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Literacy Wars

Just back from a great session that ended up being really good Professional Development (PD) even though I thought I was just going to a meeting. As a member of the VATE PD committee I attend monthly meeting where we plan events for English teachers around the state. It's always great to work with other (mostly) passionate teacers who care enough about their work to look at helping other teachers, learning a lot as we go as well. But this evening there was a visit by Monash academic Illana Snyder who was there to talk about her new book The Literacy Wars. A wide ranging discussion ensued among the twenty or so teachers there, about topics of interest in working as English teachers in the political and cultural climate of arguments about literacy that construct teachers as somehow being the problem instead of as professionals in the classroom. We talked about the moves towards a national curriculum, teacher workloads, preservice teacher education and the varied takeup by teachers of the new technologies such as blogging, podcasting and game-making, among other things. While I was there I reflected that I was privileged to be hearing wise and reflective discussion where people shared their experiences. It was an inspiring meeting (and yes I know that sounds like an oxymoron).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Melbourne Bloggers Feast

Here we are at our first Bloggers Feast. We ended up with ten people there and I think, we really impressed the wait staff (standing) with all our tech gadgets which came out as the evening progressed. As you can see it's still early in the evening. In this picture we can see Lauren O'Grady, Helen Otway, Tony Richards, Howard Errey, John Pearce and organiser extraordinaire Sue Tapp. Just want to say thanks to Sue Tapp who organised it and to everyone for coming. Tony Richards from IT Made Simple who recorded several of the conversations he had with participants for his podcast Ed Tech Crew. Lauren O'Grady also has blogged about something we discussed on the night, the sessions she had with Marco Torres during the day. Worth a look.

Below: Helen Otway (front right) and John Pearce (front left)

Below: Al Upton and Jenny Luca

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Re-Imagining Web 2.0 applications and implications

I tried live blogging - and felt the results were less than awesome. I tried ustreaming and wasn't sure that I know how to do it to get te best results, but now I want to reflect on the day as a whole. It was certainly enough to get us all excited again. Will Richardson spoke with his usal passion and thoughtfulness. My colleague felt that the enthusiasm for web 2.0 is definitely contagious, and then you have to be part of the real world where access and equity are real issues.

But there were lots of suggestions about how to get people to look at the changing pedagogies that go along with the use of web 2.o (see bookjewel's reflections here and Jenny Luca's reflections here). What really struck my colleague was the emphasis that the speakers placed on conversation. The podcasts of the talks as well as the presentations designed by the speakers are going to be made available soon for your viewing pleasure. The best part of the day was meeting so many of my personal learning network, the synapses in my outboard brain and how close I felt to people I had only known in a virtual way before. One really good piece was the presentation by Cecilie Murray on the results of studies on safety on the internet and gender and the use of ICT. She reported that studies in both Australia and the UK showed that girls were using the internet especially for content creation. The emphasis on the students was also noticeable although I did notice as an absence that that was no participation by students. I feel that I have not had a complete presentation on education nowadays unless I have heard directly from a school age student like the students of youth twitter or the students of school 2.0. I took lots of notes that will influence my blogging in the next little while. Altogether it was a most worthwhile day and the results will become clearer as we go along.

Liveblogging post 2

Right now John Pearce from Geelong and Anne Murchin from Hawkesdale are giving a talk on their experiences with web 2.0 or the way they are giving experiences to their students to develop conversations and collaboration within Australia and globally. John is having his new book technology toolkit Introducing you to web 2.0 published next week. Anne is talking about her global collaboration with 150 students from Canada. It is really inspiring.

Live blogging from SLAV Conference

Jenny and Susan are here at the SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) Conference presenting to an audience of teachers and librarians and teacher-librarians. Jenny is talking about using Slide Rocket as a presentation tool now in beta. The direction her life has taken has changed since learning about and learning with web 2.0 tools which enable conversations to happen which would otherwise not be possible. It has been great to meet a number of my Personal Learning Network here today Jess, Anne, John, as well as Jenny .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reading for Pleasure

Blame it on the busy life of someone trying to hit the ground running after long service leave AND stay in the holiday mode for a while but I've been remiss in blogging lately. There are many subjects I want to write about, still percolating in my mind and will no doubt find their home here in due course. But on last week I was able to take a photo of my students in the reading area of the library (a designated part of the library with comfy chairs and small round tables) and I hope I was able to show some of the love of reading that this practice our school has adopted has generated. Late last year when the program had been running for a year the library gave me some date to show that the amount of fiction borrowed had increased by a significant amount compared to the last years records. What I wanted to have was a place and a time in the curriculum where our teachers put their money (investment of time) where their mouth is. If we value reading for pleasure and see it as something that will enefit the students in their quest to become conscious life-long learners we have to give a time and place for it in the curriculum. iT's no good saying there is too much material to cover, that we don't have time. So in our school the reading for pleasure is exactly that. It is not associated with any assessment or extra work. There are no restrictions on what they can read - it can be fiction, non-fiction, magazine, newspapers or picture books. They do not have to finish the book or report on it in any way. The only requirements is that they don't chat to each other while reading (and I am even in two minds about that) but I want to generate at atmosphere of calm and peace and pleasure associated with reading. Each English class from Year 7 to Year 11 has a half or one period a cycle devoted to this and it is great if the teacher can model reading for pleasure as well. It is hardly a chore for English teachers. So why was I a bit miffed when I explained to a parent what our system was and he said "wish I got paid for sittng around and reading!" Any way the students love it, the borrowings are going up and when we do have student volunteers talk to the class about books they are reading at the end of each session, I get to hear how much they value our system. I think Stephen Krashen, who inspired me, would be proud, and I thank the librarians at school for organising it all.
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