Category Archives: 21st century learning

Open minds welcome – Year 9s begin blogging

I’ve noticed that Melbourne High School has two mottos. One is ‘honour the work’ and the other, perhaps more recent, is ‘more than just marks’. The school is a hub of co-curricular activity which attests to that. And yet, not surprisingly for a selective school full of bright and competitive boys, the focus is largely on attaining high marks and, in particular, a high ATAR in VCE. There’s nothing wrong with that if it doesn’t interfere with what matters more – the development of a love of learning, a thirst for understanding and thinking.

When English teacher, Nicholas Fairlie, and I put our heads together in the hope of doing something different with Nick’s two Year 9 classes, we decided to try out Posterous as a blogging platform. Nick found the perfect quote by Thomas Mann to introduce the point of blogging, a quote which so beautifully expresses the reflective aspect of blogging.

Keeping a Diary

“I love this process by which each passing day is captured, not only its impressions, but also, at least by suggestion, its intellectual direction and content as well, less for the purpose of rereading and remembering than for taking stock, reviewing, maintaining awareness, achieving perspective.”

(Thomas Mann, Thomas Mann: Diaries 1918-1939)

Nick had the boys spell-bound as he introduced the project -

And so, boys, this is why we’re blogging. Not for the rightness or wrongness of our ideas, but for the having of the ideas and shaping them fit for the page. These pages will celebrate and affirm thinking: bold thinking, creative thinking, subtle and robust thinking. What goes here is valuable because it is the product of our minds and because of that will be respected by us all.

Without making a big deal of it, Nick spoke to the boys about responsible and respectful behaviour, pointing them to the guidelines:

5. Nice as it is to read encouraging comments, such as “well done” and “good job”, try to give some more feedback than this. Work on building a dialogue.
6. Keep track of what has been said by others before, and then try to provide some new viewpoints. You can also ask thoughtful questions, as there may be new and unfamiliar cultural references in other students’ photos and commentary.

Past experience has taught me that rich commenting is an art which has to be taught. So much learning takes place without much effort though – writing not just for your teacher and a mark, but for a peer audience and a potentially global readership, will open up the scope for authentic discussions and social learning.

And so we have made a start. Two classes of Year 9 boys have created their own blogs and personalised them (as they all naturally want to do), and these blogs have been linked on the front page of Nick’s blog. They have written their first blog post on a topic which has yielded some mature and thoughtful responses (to ‘We are what we know’). It was exciting to read such interesting responses to an open and abstract topic which may have intimidated much older students – a rich start to something that promises to truly be “taking stock, reviewing, maintaining awareness, achieving perspective.”

After sending out a tweet and Facebook status to promote the blogs and encourage commenting, we sat back and waited for readers to bite. My generous network jumped in immediately with responses to encourage and challenge the students in their thinking. My online colleague, Sinnika Laakio-Whybrow, from Finland, was amongst these and will no doubt impress upon the boys that their writing attracts a global audience, and that it’s just as easy to have a discussion with someone on the other side of the planet than with someone interstate.

sinikkalw responded:

I would go along with your reasoning that most of us don’t really know who we are or what exactly we know. But why is that perfectly fine with you? Wouldn’t we all be better off if everybody knew a bit more about themselves and what they know?

1 day agoAndrew Poxleitner responded:

Andrew Poxleitner
I would agree that if people knew more about themselves than they do right now, not only would they benefit, but the contributions to society would also be invaluable.Perchance I was a bit vague on this, in the post, but we also have to question ourselves on how to do so. How do we find about ourselves? I believe, at least, I’m in the dark in regards to who I am, and how to figure out who I am.
Therefore, I’m perfectly fine with the fact that maybe not many people know who they really are, because from the very start of the discovery, it’d be like picking needles out of a haystack.
Being realistic, not everyone can figure out who they are, and that’s a fact. Well, at least to me it is.

1 day agosinikkalw responded:

Technology truly is amazing, here I am on the other side of the world having a “discussion” with you!In hindsight, and with life experience, I can assure you that teenage is the very time when you really start on the lifelong journey of “finding yourself” and becoming your own independent individual. What seems like needles in a haystack to you now, will become clearer and clearer to you as years go by. If there was a reliable method of “finding your true self” that worked for everyone, I’m sure we’d know about it. The beauty of life is the journey, the process, the gradual deepening of our understanding, the willingness and openness to find out. Because not everybody can figure it out, doesn’t mean that you can’t, does it?
I’m grateful to be collaborating with a teacher who has a focus on the deep learning beyond marks, one who is excited about the possibilities of social learning and willing to take the small and larger risks associated with such a project. Our clustrmap already shows over 80 visitors from different parts of the world. Nick has been in touch over the weekend and is cooking up a meaty follow-up for the boys.
This is going to be so good. Here is the link to Yr 9 English MHS blog. Please come in to read the blogs which are linked on the right hand side of the blog. We would love you to leave a comment and add to our rich conversation.

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What exactly does a 21st century teacher librarian do? A list of curated topics in Scoop.it

This has been reposted from my school library blog.

On the topic of the teacher librarians’ role and exactly what it is we TLs do in our jobs, I wanted to share this article in The Guardian: Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian.  We all know that there’s more to being a librarian than stamping books, as the subtitle of the article states. How bothered are we by the fact that a large proportion of our school communities have little idea what we do?

If we stopped the next person walking by on the street and asked them what our jobs as librarians involve, we’d be willing to bet that their first answer would be stamping books. This is because many people’s experience of librarians is of the frontline, customer service staff.

I think the same can be said of school libraries although it varies greatly depending on the interaction between teacher librarians and teaching staff. What the article says about librarians is surely relevant to teacher librarians, librarians and technicians -

If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too.

Of course, in the digital age, in fact, in the global digital culture in particular, teacher librarians play a vital role in schools. What exactly is the role of a 21st teacher librarian?

It’s not something which can be answered in a simple sentence. For this reason, I want to share links to curated websites on this topic. I am including a list of Scoop.its which have been curated by various people (including me) on the topic of the 21st century teacher librarian. I hope you find this list useful; it includes all things relevant to the 21st century librarian in the broadest sense.

My Scoop.it – What is a teacher librarian?

Curation and libraries and learning – Joyce Valenza

e-Books – Carmel Galvin

Create the web and learn to live - @pipcleaves

21st century libraries – Dr Steve Matthews

Educational technology and libraries – Kim Tairi

Embedded Librarianship – Buffy Hamilton

Graphic Novels in the classroom – @dilaycock

Information coping skills – Beth Kanter

Information science and library studies –  Joao Brogueira

Information fluency, transliteracy, research tools – Joyce Valenza

Inquiry and digital literacy – Shawn Hinger

Internet Search – Phil Bradley

Learning – Darren Kuropatwa

Libraries and ethnography - Buffy Hamilton

Libraries and Tumblr – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries as sites of enchantment, participatory culture and learning (what a title!) – Buffy again

Livebinders – Peggy George

Multiliteracies – Vance Stevens

New librarianship – Karen Burns

Personal learning networks for librarians – Donna Watt

QR codes – libraries – NairarbilUCA

Readers’ advisory for secondary schools – Marita Thomson

School libraries – Nickki Robinson

Social media content curation- Guiseppe Mauriello

Social networking for information professionals – Judy O’Connell

The library technician – Dawn Jimenez

Student learning through school libraries – Lyn Hay

Weird and wonderful - for librarians and booklovers – Jean Anning

This selection is only a small fraction of what’s being curated by people passionate about their topic on Scoop.it. It’s overwhelming but also a fantastic way of keeping track of evolving scoops on searchable topics. The fact that the list relevant to teacher librarians is so broad indicates the breadth of the teacher librarians’ focus and involvement. Of course, we can’t do everything but it’s a good idea to see potential involvement, and having seen the bigger picture, delegate to team members (assuming you have a team) the most pressing areas according to their interest.

By the way, Scoop.its are very easy to make and make reading enjoyable in their magazine-scoop-style presentation. It’s easy to follow, to search, to share and to recommend Scoop.its and articles. It’s also a brilliant way to build your Personal Learning Network by investigating the curators, checking out their bio, looking at what else they’ve curated or what they themselves follow.

You’ve got to start somewhere! Happy scooping!

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Getting ready for iPad rollout at school – exploring apps and thinking about Apple’s new iBooks Author

Unexpectedly, and on the last day of school (for me, as teacher librarian – all the classroom teachers were on holidays the week before), our principal announced at an informal meeting that we were going to put iPads in the hands of students and teachers at school, starting with all our year 9 and 10 students. Okay, so I get my iPad1 upgraded, not bad at all. It seems our school is the first to gain approval to use the government funding for technology on iPads.

As happy as I am, and as excited about the possibilities for innovative, hands-on, mobile learning, I can’t help wonder how it’s going to work – with teachers coming back to school without preparation time, time to think and plan, time to play (I don’t think too many teachers have used iPads), time to collaborate within faculties to decide on a plan of attack. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting new direction, and with Apple’s recent announcement of the iBooks Author, I wonder if digital textbook creation will ever be possible on the iPad. I’ve saved in my Diigo only a few of the many reactions from people after having read Apple’s license agreement restictions.

I’ve been doing a little thinking and researching myself. Last year I put together online resources for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom in our library’s new LibGuides. You can access these resources here (don’t forget there are 2 tabs) – yes, I’ve mentioned these before but I’ve been adding links here and there. I’ve also created other LibGuides pages which support the use of mobile technologies, eg 21st Century Learning and Digital Citizenship (multiple tabs) and these a work in progress.

Having the time to myself these holidays, time to meet with family and friends, to shop and explore, I’ve (perhaps foolishly) decided to tackle the 365 daily photo blog again. Yes, I have. But this time I decided to do what some of my online colleagues are doing, and that is use a few choice apps to quickly and easily upload photos to a blog, usually without text. I figure, yes, I miss the description and reflection, but at least this will be an easy way to document my year as well as play with photo apps on my phone. So it’s Posterous that I’m using and the app PicPosterous to upload the photo, or else you can email the photo straight to the blog. My blog is called Going round again (yes, I know, not very original). In most cases I’m not including any text, just throwing up a visual snapshot of my day.

There are so many apps for photo editing which sometimes transform a mundane subject matter into something a little more interesting. As you can see at the top of this post, I’ve been playing with an app called Kinotopic – I’m sure that photo is driving you nuts by now. You can read about what this app can do on the website but as far as I’m concerned it creates pictures like those hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, moving pictures. Very cool. Less cool is my skill at colouring what needs to move without disconnecting things that shouldn’t be disconnected. Have a go if you can, it’s fun. Heaps of possibilities for students for creativity here.

I’ve included screen shots of my photo apps -

The apps I’ve used the most are PhotoStudio, Instagram, PhotoShake, and more recently, after Kim Cofino‘s recommendation, Camera+. It’s easy to go from the photo itself on the phone to the editing and finally posting to Posterous (via PicPosterous app or email). The effects are fun and make an otherwise mundane photo look a little more interesting or at least look better with a frame.

Of course, there are so many more apps for whatever purpose, and here’s the link to the links I’ve been saving over time.

Gimmicky apps aside, teachers are interested first and foremost in applications which enable them and their students to function as they always have, eg word processing, document saving, etc. A recent Twitter discussion confirmed the popularity of Evernote to do – almost everything! Andrew Maxwell shared 100 uses for Evernote which is a handy little checklist. The Apps in Education ning has a good selection of Apps for Teachers.

Google has a suite of apps for all its different tools.

I’m getting ready to present to staff and I’m happy to do the research for what they need, but I’ll also be recommending they build their personal learning networks, join Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, so that they can ask their own questions and share knowledge and expertise. I’m hoping that the new challenges will convince them that social networking is a powerful way to learn rather than something other people do when they have no life.

If your school is using iPads, I would be very happy if you would share some of your experiences and your favourite apps for teaching and learning.

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Connected – the film and the Melbourne event @slv

An email from Hamish Curry got me interested in a film called Connected: an autoblogography about love, death & technology which is screening at the State Library of Victoria (Village Roadshow Theatrette) on 23 November 2011 at 6.30 – 8pm. Well if Hamish is gushing about it, then I must see it.

Here’s the info Hamish sent in his email:


What does it mean to be living in a hyper connected world? How is it changing the way we communicate, relate, work and consume, and what impact is this having on our well-being and that of the planet around us? In this entertaining, exciting, and emotional film, director Tiffany Shlain takes audiences on an exhilarating roller-coaster ride to discover what it means to be connected in the 21st century. Shlain reveals the surprising ties that link us not only to the people we love but also to the world at large. A personal film with universal relevance, Connected explores how, after centuries of declaring our independence, it may be time for us to declare our interdependence instead. (Dir: Tiffany Shlain, unrated, 2011, 80 mins)


This event is highly recommended for those with interests in education, social media, communications, technology, sustainability, history, science, and culture. We have a special ‘Connected: Educator’s edition boxset’ to give away on the night.

Book online here – https://register.eventarc.com/event/view/6099/tickets/connected-an-autoblogography-about-love-death-technology-23-november

For those with a stronger interest in education, we’re planning to have a meetup prior, for an opportunity to share some of the programs and strategies that are changing the way we think about education.

This will also be at the Village Roadshow Theatrette from 4:30 – 6pm.

Please email me directly if you’d like to part of this informal meetup (HCurry@slv.vic.gov.au)

I look forward to having a diverse, passionate, and open-minded crowd on the night, and for us all to feel a little more connected.


Thanks, Hamish, I look forward to the whole event – film and discussion. So many good things happening in Melbourne lately in terms of meetups and good conversation.

 

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Mobile learning with no limits @VITTA

The Victorian Information Technology Teacher’s Association‘s Mini Conference, A contemporary learning series: mobile learning with no limits, was held last Friday at Ringwood Secondary College, and focused on 1:1 devices, how they could be used effectively in the classroom, and how they were relevant to the Australian Curriculum. The principal of Ringwood Secondary College, Michael Phillips, Outstanding School Leadership Award Winner, delivered the keynote plenary, Synch and Swim, which centred on the theme of Leadership for Learning that keeps ahead of the wave.

Disruptive technological change is rapidly shifting the balance between traditional models of teaching and learning and those that are more blended. The factory model of learning has finally closed for business.

Directions for learning are limitless as:
• distributive technologies allow 1-to-many;
• collaborative technologies encourage many-to-many;
• personalised learning is possible through 1-to-1;and
• distributive feedback technologies promote 1-to-many or many-to-many.

All of this is possible now in every classroom in every school.

Michael’s speech was a powerful message for educators and educational leaders to stop talking about 21st century teaching and learning as if it was set in the future, and accept that the future is here and requires a radical shift in teaching practice. When Michael said, “The factory model of learning has finally closed for business”, I felt like applauding and crying simultaneously, knowing that many schools were still in denial of this fact. Still, the conference participants were testament to the willingness to listen and learn, perhaps to embrace change.

Concurrent sessions are slightly frustrating because you can’t be in more than one place at the same time. The first session I attended was run by Roland Gesthuizen, a fellow Google Certified Teacher whose long experience in presenting enabled him to lead a relaxed but dynamic session which drew participants into discussion. One of Roland’s interesting observations was that the iPad was a microwave – it’s not the same as a laptop,it doesn’t do everything, but what it does, it does well and fast. After a fertile discussion, Roland demonstrated how he used Google apps such as Moderator in his teaching, and gave a quick overview of his experience in Sydney at the Google Teacher Academy.

I enjoyed presentations by Kevork Krozian and Clare Rafferty, both from Ringwood Secondary College. I think that Ringwood S.C. would be an exciting place to teach and learn. Some sessions I missed unfortunately, including Cecilie Murray‘s 2 talks which were full to bursting, and Jenny Ashby‘s session which ran at the same time as mine. Jenny and I presented at what Jenny referred to on Twitter as ‘graveyard shift’, the last session of the day. Despite the hour, I was impressed by the attentive audience I had in my room, and grateful for the positive feedback at the end of the session. I was also privileged to have SLAV’s executive officer Catherine Ryan and VITTA’s Jo McLeay join my session. Thankyou for your support and kind words especially as I was reluctant to present – not a fan of public speaking, so much more comfortable writing a blog post. I must say, though, that I ended up enjoying the experience.

If you are interested in having a look at my iPad/iPhone apps showcase – a spectrum of apps strewn across the curriculum – you can see it as a slideshow here. After so many hours of research I’m thrilled if anyone finds my resource useful.

And it’s always fantastic to see people you know at conferences. Happily, I had the pleasure of seeing Jenny Luca (and being introduced to Megan – hope to God I’ve remembered your name correctly) and John Pearce again. The online network is brilliant for maintaining the conversation but face to face is still the best.


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Naplan our benchmark? Why not “The Horizon Report?”

Our school is in the process of an external review. As learning enhancement coordinator, I was reviewed as part of a small group which included the learning support and transition coordinators.  During our meeting the reviewers focused on the NAPLAN results, and asked us how we used this data. We were encouraged to drill down into specific data which would allow us to address the specific issues. For example, if our students’ weaknesses were revealed in the area of writing, we would make it our business to find out if the weakness resided in the mechanics of writing, the critical thinking component, etc.

At some point during the meeting I started thinking about how we came to put so much emphasis on NAPLAN testing, and if we had any other criteria with which to evaluate our teaching. Surely there were more contemporary skills to base our assessment on – beyond spelling, grammar, numeracy, reading and writing? It’s pretty obvious that, although all these things are important, we’ve come a long way in terms of essential skills in the last few years.

Just look at The Horizon Report. Its discussion of technology adoption highlights critical challenges, and these include digital media literacy, new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing and researching (eg blogs and networked presentations). These trends and challenges are indicative of ‘the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn and even socialise’.

And yet how many schools are engaging in conversation about these challenges? Or are they still looking at spelling, reading and writing. During our meeting I was disturbed to hear educators blame the introduction of one-to-one notebook computers for the decline in writing standards. Don’t get me started on that.

Back to my original point – who looks at the Horizon Report in schools? At best it’s read as an interesting or challenging extra piece of information. Is it too challenging? Considered irrelevant? Too far from what we are doing so we just put it away since it isn’t seen as crucial to learning and teaching? Or is it that we refuse to acknowledge how ubiquitous technology has become and think we can prevent the adoption of things like mobile phones? And yet, The Horizon Report states: “Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more”.

We are still focusing on the problematic nature of digital and mobile technologies – problematic because they disrupt our orderly, nineteenth century classroom. They create chaos. But we need that chaos, we need to shake up the traditional lessons to re-engage students and help them connect to and take ownership of their learning.

I see the problem residing in the disconnect between school and life. How can students be engaged in an artificial construct which separates knowledge into rigid compartments, knowledge which is delivered in a way which students find foreign and unengaging. Shouldn’t we look at how our students find what they need to know, how they create things, how they organise events within their networks? We still see this as separate from learning. We are convinced that young people’s online socialising is superficial, a waste of valuable time.

Howard Rheingold’s post, How does digital media impact youth political and civic engagement?says otherwise. Rheingold points toJoseph Kahne‘s very important empirical study about young people’s use of digital media and how it impacts their engagement — or lack of engagement — in civic affairs and politics.

That research, Kahne says in an interview, punctures some core myths about online activism, and strongly indicates that the virtual world nourishes youth engagement in real-world issues.

What we found is that young people were more likely to volunteer offline when they were part of online networks.

The question becomes, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for social enterprise and civic engagement?

And I would add, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for what happens in terms of teaching and learning at school?

Online, young people are gaining skills … how to work in a group, how to negotiate things, how to get organized, how to organize other people… We also found that their online participation increased their exposure to diverse viewpoints… 

How diverse are the viewpoints students are exposed to in the classroom? I really think, not diverse enough. Rather than shut down possibilities for our students to connect outside the classroom out of fear, we could enable connections and guide our students to behave responsibly and maturely. I would even go so far as to suggest that we encourage young people to join specific online groups to broaden their range of experiences. If we take students out on excursions then we could do the same online.

Does anyone teach in a school which formulates its strategic plan while looking at The Horizon Report?  

Here’s the full interview with Joseph Kahne taken from Howard Rheingold’s post.

Does social media and the Internet fuel youth political engagement? from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

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Why I play

Art by Lena Torikov

Before I bought my iPad, people would ask me what I planned to do with it. Why was I spending so much money? Was I certain it was worth it? How was the iPad going to be different from a notebook? Should I buy an iPhone instead?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions with any certainty. That’s why I was buying an iPad – to play, to gain an understanding of what an iPad enabled me to do, to figure out if iPads played a role in the changing face of learning in schools.

There’s nothing wrong with putting forward a suggestion before you have all the answers. I didn’t and don’t have all the answers for iPads in education, but I don’t want to wait until the time when it’s safe, when the majority of educators have understood the value of iPads and accepted their place in schools. If I wait that long, I’ll be on the tail end of a movement that doesn’t stay still. I won’t be a forward thinking educator but a safe follower who calls out for others to wait up.

If I waited until I was sure, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Where am I now? I’m on the road to finding out. The iPad apps session I recently did with staff at school was a way in – despite the best advice to hold off because I only had one iPad to pass around, to hold off because iPad education wasn’t a realistic option at my school, because people weren’t ready, because because…

Play is an essential part of being a teacher – it’s the learning part of teaching. Play is experimenting, discovery, it’s creative, it’s action, it moves into a new space. Wouldn’t it be great if play was compulsory at school? Instead of instruction from teachers to students, play would put everyone on the same playing field. Risk would be a prerequisite.

If we wait until it’s safe to do something, we’ve been left behind.

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