Monthly Archives: September 2008

Back to Wordle

Further to my previous posts about Wordle (here, here, and here), I discovered in Box of Tricks excellent uses of Wordle by different teachers. One teacher used Wordle for a pre-reading strategy, and made two wordles from two different newspaper articles on the theme they were studying. Each student, armed with dictionaries, had to guess the gist of one of the two, then explain to the other student what they thought the article was about. The teacher supplemented this with further vocabulary discussion, displaying the Wordle on the interactive whiteboard. Finally, students looked at the full-text articles. The teacher saw the value of Wordle, ‘not only as a text analysis tool, but also as a tool to elicit speaking and creative writing’.

A class of 5-7 year olds used Wordle as a visual voting tool. They brainstormed a list of words following an excursion, then voted on the ones they felt were most significant. The size of the most popular words was very obvious in the Wordle.

Wordle has been discovered to be useful in different areas of the curriculum, eg. Visual art, Maths (representing data), English (vocabulary and spelling), brainstorming a topic or theme as an introduction or reflection tool, and eLearning/ICT (presenting information).

Some excellent pedagogical reasons for using Wordle were raised:
– Wordle’s visual attractiveness can make a dull text analysis task more attractive, motivating students to complete the task;
– By capturing the gist of a text, it helps pupils focus on the vocabulary, register and grammar in a simple and engaging way;
– its electronic form enables it to be adapted to different media, eg. paper, blogs, interactive whiteboards, etc.

Nick Peachey, on his blog, outlined how Wordle is useful for language teachers:
Revision of texts: students could look at the Wordle and try to remember and reconstruct the text;
Students can make predictions based on the Wordle of the text they are about to study; they could check the meaning of vocabulary before reading the text;
a Wordle could be a prompt for reconstruction of a dialogue;
Students could examine a Wordle made from a short poem, and write a poem of their own from the Wordle, then compare their poem with the original;
A Wordle could be made from different text genres, and students could guess the genre and give reasons for their decision;
Wordles could be made from different poems, and students could guess the poet from the Wordle;
Students could make Wordles from a text they write introducing themselves to the class; these could be displayed, and students could try to guess the person from the Wordle; or they could exchange Wordles and use them to introduce each other;
A research topic could be introduced by a Wordle, and students’ pre-knowledge could be tested by asking how they think the word is related to the topic; after further research is carried out, the Wordle could be used as a prompt for an oral presentation;
Wordles based on topics to be studied could be displayed at home for revision of vocabulary;

Above all, most teachers really appreciated the simplicity and versatility of Wordle. I’m amazed at the number of pedagogical uses people have discovered for this simple, attractive tool.

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What skills, what intelligence, what’s important

I’m having trouble embedding the video, so here’s the link to Daniel Goreman’s talk about emotional intelligence: http://www.edutopia.org/daniel-goleman-sel-video
I’ve been mulling over what 21st century learning is, and why we need to change our understanding and approach to teaching and learning, as well as how to explain it to teachers and parents in a way that will create a lightbulb moment for them. Here’s what’s been going around in my head:

Alvin Toffler, in Rethinking the future, said the following: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’. Keywords: change, flexibility, skills-focus as opposed to content-focus.

I found in Edutopia a video where Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional intelligence, speaks about the value of social and emotional learning. He talks about the need to get over our fixation with academic achievement and reminds us that we are educating the whole child. He calls for a shift towards helping kids become more self-aware, and being able to make good social decisions. These are social-emotional skills – getting on with others, managing anger and impulses – the skills that form the basis for a better world.

In her video presentation for the Learning 2.008 Shanghai Conference, Sheryl Nussbaum spoke about change happening extremely fast in our world, and suggested ways to manage that change as teachers. She quoted those famous statistics (can we verify those anywhere?) that by 2010 knowledge will double every 72 hours. That makes the focus on content mastery, which is still the main focus of our teaching in schools, a misguided one. Sheryl points out that our current system of schooling is based on the premise that knowledge is scarce, but since that is obviously no longer the case, this current system will not work, and will not prepare our students for the 21st century world. Sheryl advocates the teaching of Web 2.0 technologies to enable students to pursue meaningful, authentic, passionate scholarship, to connect them with global communities and allow collaboration in projects that have been chosen by students themselves because they mean something to them. Sheryl also speaks about 21st century education preparing students to become responsible and self-motivated citizens, getting out of the classroom and involved in real projects in life right now, not after they finish their schooling. This is something I feel was lacking in my own education, which prepared me for expert knowledge of certain areas (which I’ve largely now forgotten), but not for the ‘afterlife’. I see many schools now offering more opportunities for students to take on positions of leadership, to get involved in community, environmental or social projects, to work in teams and learn to get on together, appreciating each other’s differences and unique talents. With global connections through new technologies, the stage is set to free students from traditional classroom practices, but this is not yet happening as quickly as it should.

As educators we have a responsibility to keep ourselves up to date with the way the world is headed, to connect with others instead of staying within the walls of our own classrooms or staff rooms; to notice what young people are doing and what they’re passionate about – to move, ourselves, even if we’re comfortable where we are, or tired. It’s not about us, whether we feel uncomfortable about the changing world – it’s about the students. We should continually ask ourselves: what kind of world are we preparing our students for?

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Blogging about blogging; and before you know it, I’m thinking about PLP

What do young people think about blogging? Let’s have a look; here’s what one 18 year old has to say. This one happens to be my son, but I don’t think that prevents him from representing his generation:

‘People no longer are just able to blog, but blogging is increasingly becoming accepted as a legitimate medium of information; albeit quite different to others. At the cost of the credibility associated with major news services and other more traditional ways of getting our information, a whole new world is opened up- of personal opinion, a perspective into the lives and experiences of others and original creativity. When subjective experience and opinion is sought over objective fact, blogging becomes a medium very difficult to beat.’

Here’s the recognition of the value of the input, not of academics or editors, but of people like any other people, all contributing to whatever kind of information is important to them. Here’s a preference for what people have to say about something, for collective advice by people who care about their interests.

Technical applications are seen as enabling more direct ways of communicating, showing, connecting.

‘Photographers can take photos of their home city or holidays and post them on Flickr, along with geotags (so that people may see exactly where the photos were taken); performing artists can upload audio or video recordings of themselves on services such as Youtube to increase their exposure; political commentators can by series of hyperlinks to other blogs and news services critically analyse current affairs and provide explanations, arguments and challenges to what is reported in traditional established media. All of these forms of expression can be directly embedded into blogs, providing an individual with a space in which to express themselves- in the case of writers, musicians, etc…, to publish their work for free (or close to it)!’

All in all, there’s a noticeable excitement about the possibilities and the connectedness; about the possibilities for the individual’s self-expression. But could you imagine a similar passion from a young person if asked to talk about the possibilities in school education? What do you think? Are students encouraged to become involved in socialnetworking for learning? Are they encouraged to use Web2.0 applications to present their ideas and opinions? What do you think?

With this in mind, I’m thinking ahead to my school’s involvement with the Powerful Learning Practice program, and looking forward to making a difference to the mindset and teaching habits of teachers (including my own). Jenny Luca posts about PLP from the Learning 2.008 Edubloggercon conference in Shanghai:

‘Why do I feel alright about where we are? Because we are at least being proactive and have ourselves involved in Powerful Learning Practice . We are going to be immersing our staff in a learning community, and community is going to be what drives change. It’s not a discussion about the latest Macbook Pro that is important. It is a discussion about the connective relationships our students can form and learn from that is going to be the tipping point for many of our schools.’

‘Connective relationships’ – this is what it’s about. Information becomes meaningful through our relationships with people. Learning becomes meaningful through connective relationships.

If you’d like to read more of the authentic, passionate literacy that springs from real interest and involvement, read the rest of this new blog.

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Filed under Education, flickr, Web 2.0

Deletionpedia

Paul Stewart (thanks Paul) put me onto Deletionpedia, a wonderfully annihilistic-sounding encyclopedia. Rhonda Powling has blogged about Veropedia, a verified Wikipedia, so I thought it would be interesting to check out Deletionpedia, an archive of more than 63,000 pages which have been deleted from the English-language Wikipedia. As with histories within any wikis, it’s interesting to see changes made, and you can browse through different deletions, such as pages deleted after more than 1000 days on Wikipedia; pages deleted more than 200 times; pages deleted this month, etc. The process of editing becomes transparent. Deletionpedia also provides ‘page of the month’, ‘list of the month’, and ‘category of the month’.

Did you know that Wikipedia allowed reuse of its content, including pages it has deleted, using the GNU Free Documentation License? To comply with this license, Wikipedia rescues the full edit history of its pages. Wikipedia splits up the archive into ‘we don’t like’ and ‘we do like’. And so, ‘we don’t like’ copyright violations, serious libel problems or offensive material; and ‘we do like’ interesting or quirky pages, including creative writing, opinions and original research (which do not belong in a wiki).’

All of this works by automated script following a Wikipedia user tagging something as appropriate for deletion. The tagged pages are uploaded to a temporary store; the deletion log is checked and the deleted pages are uploaded from the temporary store to Deletionpedia. A forthcoming feature is the addition of a rating system for easy identification of interesting pages.

What wonderful -Pedias await us in the future?

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Very much like Wordle, another tag cloud application: TagCrowd

Just when you thought that Wordle was the be-all-and-end-all of the word tag cloud, along comes TagCrowd.com The tag cloud above is generated using Senator John McCain’s statement regarding the continuing Wall Street saga and the US government’s $85 billion bailout of AIG. The result is a handy visualisation of the most frequently used words in the speech. These word visualisations were found on The Online NewsHour in a post entitled ‘McCain pushes regulation, Obama blames failed economic philosophy in AIG statements.’

Here is Barack Obama’s reaction in a word cloud:

How is Tagcrowd different from Wordle? Both applications require the user to enter text, url or file for cloud generation. But whereas with Wordle, fonts, layouts and colour schemes can be tweaked, TagCrowd has more options for greater manipulation. The user has control of things, such as setting a maximum number of words to show in the cloud, setting a minimum frequency (not showing infrequent words), showing frequencies or not (word count next to word), ignoring words from a stoplist (ie. customised list of words to be removed), grouping similar words (eg. learned, learns, learning), ignoring common English words (eg. and, of, me), and other options. TagCrowd also allows the user to print a full-screen version of the tag cloud.

TagCrowd is more specific about the possible uses of the tag cloud:
‘When we look at a text cloud, we see not only an informative, beautiful image that communicates much in a single glance, we see a whole new perspective on text.’

There are some good suggestions for TagCrowd’s applications: topic summaries for speeches and text; a blog tool or website analysis for search engine optimisation; visual analysis of survey data; help for writers and students in reflecting on their work; and others.

I put in my blog url, and the result seems to have captured the front page:

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Sharing pictures – We are the library

I love the sharing that’s going on now with information, pictures, videos, wikis, etc. Picture Australia, wants to recognise the outstanding contributions of its Flickr members, so they are introducing an award, which will be given once a month to an outstanding contributor. You can read about it here, and you can view the first winner’s pictures – 228 of them!

If you want to play your part in telling the story of Australia, read this.
This is a wonderful example of the new way of sharing information and of becoming part of the information itself. I imagine that young people would be interested in contributing to The National Library of Australia’s archive of pictures, and in creating a current pictorial record which will eventually be history.

In participating in this project, students will be encouraged to licence their images with creative commons. What better way to learn about copyright and the choices for owners and users of created works. Students will also need to learn how to supply detailed titles, descriptions and tags for their photos.

This is another example of authentic educational opportunities. There are many of these if we look out for them.

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Poetry and sport? What a challenge

Today during our library meeting, I received a less than positive reaction to a suggestion that poetry be the subject of a display or activity in a boys’ secondary school. Eyebrows were raised sceptically and scornfully, and ‘you must be kidding’ was all over everyone’s faces. Boys would never be coerced into read poetry; they preferred sport, war or anything that made you want to beat your chest and shout ‘Oi’. OK, I may be using some of my own poetic license in describing people’s reaction, but that’s just to set the scene.

By some poetic miracle, or perhaps the gods of Poesie were smiling down upon me, but later today I read about the Red Room Company’s mission to create, promote and publish Australian poetry in unusual ways.

‘Eight pigeons will race along the New South Wales south coast on Sunday – in a time trial the organisers liken to the Tour de France – with a piece of original, Australian poetry strapped to the ankle of each bird’. The day’s events began with live poetry readings at Stanwell Park, after which the pigeons flew to the breeders’ HQ in Mt Ousley, transmitting pigeon-cam video back to the launch site.

And just when you thought gambling and poetry didn’t go together, they do! You could put a (free) wager on whichever pigeon and poem you thought would win, and the winners would get a single poem as their prize, and also go into the draw for the grand prize: a “Pigeon Poetry Sculpture and poetry books from all states and territories”.

The website proclaims the success of the strange union of sport and poetry, as it occurred on 3 August this year. You can view a picture of each pidgeon, and read each pidgeon’s poem. Don’t forget to read about the pidgeon and the poet, especially since the write-up is so creatively metaphorical, that you’re not sure if the poet is a bird or if the bird is a poet. For example, reading about the pidgeon ‘Real Radio’, you not only get its weight and wingspan, but you also find out about its reading habits, and the languages it speaks (Hebrew and Wave, in this case).

When everything is presented in such a wondrously confusing way, young people won’t even realise what they’re doing, and before they know it, they’ll have read some great poetry without meaning to. I think this approach is fantastic: distract with strange coupling of poetry and sport (you could come up with your own version), blur the lines between the two, then confuse everyone, throw the poetry in while they’re blinking in confusion, and there you have it! This has given me food for thought…

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