Monthly Archives: December 2008

Life is One Big Top Ten 2008

I’m up for a challenge, especially one which allows me to reflect on my learning for this year as we near the end of 2008. Paul C. of Quoteflections has set a challenge to share a top ten list for 2008. It’s a great idea because it makes you think about and evaluate your findings for the year. Now that I’ve stopped to think, I realise that this year has jet-propelled me into a whole new way of learning and connecting. In May I started my blog, slowly connecting to many other bloggers through reading and commenting. This year I have also joined, as part of my school team, the Powerful Learning Practice cohort led by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. I’m only beginning to realise the depth and breadth of the  experiences within this learning network.

I would have no hesitation in saying that my most powerful ‘lesson’ this year has been that people are our most valuable resource, and so I’ve chosen as my Top Ten 2008 List:

Links to sites that demonstrate that we are better through sharing.

histografica

1.  Histografica: Picture the past

This site allows you to find and share historical photos of places around the world. You could discover photos of your old hometown or places you’ve been to. It’s a site that develops its archives as people share their photos. Only a few countries have been represented so far, but I’m sure the collection will grow.

2.  LIFE’s photo archive on view Google. Read about it here.

It’s one of the most magnificent photo archives of the past century and it’s now available on Google. It’s the Life magazine collection, some 10 million images altogether, and after the deal between Google and the keepers of the Life archive, a vast chunk is now at Google Image Search.

3. Phrasr allows you to create a visual phrase. The words in your phrase are matched with flickr images which you can choose for your picture phrase. The sharing part is the archive you can browse, and you can share your own visual phrases.

Here is my blog post about Phrasr.

4.  Flickr tools

Mentalaxis has a comprehensive list of flickr tools so that you can creatively share your photos. For example, Travelr lets you display your flickr photos geographically on a world map.

5.  280 slides

As it says on the website, create beautiful presentations, access them from anywhere, and share them with the world. With 280 Slides, there’s no software to download and nothing to pay for – and when you’re done building your presentation you can share it any way you like.

6.  Capzles

Capzles is a new way to combine videos, photos and mp3s into rich, multimedia storytelling. Read about it in my blog post.

7.   A picture’s worth  is a wonderful site where people are encouraged to write about the meaning or story behind a personal photograph. As the site says, “A Picture’s Worth” provides a haven for people to truly “show and tell”.

You can read more about it in my blog post.

8.  Larry Ferlazzo’s websites of the day

This is not a tool or website, but I’ve included Larry’s blog because I believe people are the best source of information and sharing on the web. Larry was nominated as a finalist in the Best Resource-Sharing Blogs category of the Edublogs Awards in 2007 and again this year, and here he shares a list of education blogs that generously share resources and links.

A list of resource-sharing blogs nominated for the Edublogs award 2008 is definitely worth a look.

9.  Us Now is a film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet. Have a look at the ‘Your videos’ page, still in its early stages. Here’s a video called ‘Video republic’:

Read Clay Shirky’s  transcript of this clip.

10. I wrote a post about YouTube Symphony Orchestra a little while ago. This will be the first ever collaborative online orchestra.

We invite musicians from around the world to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Your video entries will be combined into the first ever collaborative virtual performance, and the world will select the best of you to perform at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in April 2009.

This one tops the list for me. It’s collaborative, it’s global, it’s a celebration of talent, it’s inviting the world to make music together.

As suggested by Paul, I’ve tagged the following esteemed bloggers:

Marie Salinger at Just in time; Sue Tapp at And another thing; Allanah King at Life’s not a race to be first finished; Jenny Luca at Lucacept; and Rhonda Powling at Rhondda’s reflections: wandering around the web.

 

 

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Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas story

A beautiful collection of art accompanying the Christmas story is to be found on this Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

mmachristmas

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Life photo archive of Christmas

achristmascarol

At the risk of appearing obsessive, I’m also adding the LIFE photo archive of Christmas images hosted by Google.

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Mahalo searches Christmas stamps

christmasstamp

Mahalo has a unique search result which is quite satisfying and neatly packaged.

Here is another list of results for Christmas stamps and holiday stamps.

I wonder if there are any sites displaying more unusual Christmas stamps?

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Christmas stamps

Reading through Art Blog by Bob I came across a  poll for Christmas stamps from different countries.  Which stamps would you vote for?

poll_finland_stamp

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Different kinds of reading – internet and literature

noteasytostayfocussed

 Photo courtesy of imago2007

I’m aware that my reading behaviour on the internet is different from when I read a book, in particular fiction. In addition, I think that my book reading focus has altered since I’ve discovered hyperlinked online reading.

I’ve included a paragraph from a piece written by Sven Birkerts on Britannica blog, Reading in the open-ended information zone called cyberspace.

Again, I’m not saying good or bad, I’m just saying. When I am online I am perpetually aware of open-endedness, of potentiality, and psychologically I am fragmented. I make my way forward through whatever text is in front of me factoring in not just the indeterminacy of whatever is next on the page, I am also alert, even if subliminally, to the idea of the whole, the adjacency of all information. However determined I am to focus on the task at hand, I am haunted by this idea of the whole. Which is different than what I might experience sitting in a library chair knowing that I’m in the midst of three floors of stacks. The difference has to do with permeability, with the imminence of linkage, and it is decisive.

 Here is the complete article.

I’d like to explore this topic to gain an understanding of something that affects our students and us as teachers.

What do others think about the author’s views? What are your thoughts about the different kinds of reading? Do you think our generation of online students are affected, and is this positive or negative?

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A balance between teaching skills and content

oldscales

Photo by takaken2008 on Flickr

What are 21st century skills and are these skills different to those currently being taught in schools?  How radically do we need to change our teaching practices?

Daniel Willingham has written an informative post in Britannica blog entitled Education for the 21st century: balancing content with skills, in which he asks and answers the important question: why the sudden concern for 21st century skills.

Willingham quotes reports and books  that point to:

changes in the skills required for most jobs. Our economy is generating fewer jobs in which workers engage in repetitive tasks throughout their day (e.g., assembly line work) and more information-rich jobs that present workers with novel problems and that require analysis and teamwork.

 Willingham quotes Elena Silva in defining these skills as having at their core the ability to

analyze and evaluate information, create new ideas and new knowledge from the information.

He also adds to creativity and critical thinking the following essential skills for the 21st century from a report from the partnership for 21st century skills :

new knowledge … [and] global awareness, media literacy, information literacy, and other new content.

Now, this is where I start sitting up and taking note. Although I’m fully on board with the need for 21st century skills, I haven’t felt comfortable substituting content for skills alone. Memorisation of facts without the skills is obviously a waste of time, and I understand that you need the skills to locate, manage and synthesize the freely available information to create knowledge, but we still need a knowledge of some content, surely, otherwise the skills are free floating and without context. 

Willingham ties up the skills/content dilemma very well for me. He says that the 21st century skills require deep understanding of subject matter:

Shallow understanding requires knowing some facts. Deep understanding requires knowing the facts AND knowing how they fit together, seeing the whole.

And skills like “analysis” and “critical thinking” are tied to content; you analyze history differently than you analyze literature … If you don’t think that most of our students are gaining very deep knowledge of core subjects—and you shouldn’t—then there is not much point in calling for more emphasis on analysis and critical thinking unless you take the content problem seriously. You can’t have one without the other.

As usual, a balance is required to make things work effectively, and this should surely be common sense. This way we avoid the too often pendulum swings that have occurred in the history of education

between an emphasis on process (analysis, critical thinking, cooperative learning) which fosters concern that students lack knowledge and generates a back-to-basics movement that emphasizes content, which fosters concern that student are merely parroting facts with no idea of how to use their knowledge, and so on.

For me, this balance is the key to identifying the problems and solutions of 21st century learning. I’m trying to understand the shift in education more deeply to avoid a superficial conversion. I think that, for me at least, more discussion will enable a deeper understanding of the learning processes and the corresponding teaching processes that are essential to prepare students for work and life in these times.

As usual, I welcome and am grateful for any comments, and look forward to generating some discussion.

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