Monthly Archives: January 2009

I believe this about learning…

‘map of Romania’ photo by ggrosseck on flickr

 

…students do not come in one-size-fits-all packages and should be treated as individuals who deserve to be stretched

…no matter what their level of learning, a student’s work is enhanced when their parents are involved in the learning process

…the experiences of students are important aspects of learning and should be incorporated in the classroom as possible

…students live up to the expectations given them by their parents, school and their community; if a student is expected to succeed he or she will

…every student has the capacity to reshape the world; they must be guided to making their impression a positive one

…students should learn by investigating the world and issues that surround them in fun and creative ways

…learning should be an  interesting and useful process

…what happens to students beyond the classroom is as important as what is contained in it

…every student deserves an opportunity to succeed

…the highest goal of education is to teach students to reason and think for themselves

...students should be taught and engaged in such a way that they fall in love with learning

 

Tonia Johnson posted her beliefs for learning on her wiki for Adams City High School. They gave me the opportunity to reflect on what initially may seem obvious and unoriginal, but at second glance are actually deep and essential aspects of learning. I started to think about how much of the teaching and learning at our school corresponds to these beliefs; how much my own practices support these beliefs.

Is there one introductory belief that forms a basis for further good teaching practices, or are they intertwined and shoot off each other?

I would really like some feedback from you about which of these beliefs you consider most important and why, and if you can add to this list.

Essential to good teaching practice, in my experience, is taking the time to reflect and critically evaluate what you are doing as an educator. Now that the new school year is starting, I can see how easy it will be to fall into the busy and relentless schedule of weeks and terms without taking time out to breathe or blink. I think we need to make a time to reflect, just as we deliberately schedule appointments to the dentist. Yes, it is sometimes an appointment we don’t feel like keeping.

Blogging (for those of you who continue to argue with me against it) is always a discipline that provides a regular time for reflection and evaluation. Amidst defensive cries of ‘haven’t got the time, too busy’, I stubbornly insist that time must be made. It’s worth it.

 

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning, teachers, teaching

1000 books you must read

malcolm-mcdowell-as-alex-001

Malcolm McDowell in A clockwork orange directed by Stanely Kubrick. Photo from The Guardian.

 

 

The Guardian has created the definitive list of must-reads: 1000 novels everyone must read.

Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels – no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems – from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements – love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel – they appear here for the first time in a single list.

What I like most about this massive fiction recommendation are the genre synopses which make me want to start reading right here and now and not stop until I’m finished. To give you an example, here’s what you’ll read about science fiction and fantasy:

It is sometimes assumed that science fiction, fantasy and horror must mean spaceships, elves and vampires – and indeed, you’ll find Iain M Banks, Tolkien and Bram Stoker on our list of mind-expanding reads. Yet these three genres have a tradition as venerable as the novel itself. Fiction works through metamorphosis: in every era authors explore the concerns of their times by mapping them on to invented worlds, whether they be political dystopias, fabulous kingdoms or supernatural dimensions. JG Ballard, the writer who brought SF into the mainstream, has remarked that “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” Ballard’s visions of “inner space”, Orwell, Huxley and Atwood’s totalitarian nightmares, Kafka’s uneasy bureaucracies, Gibson’s cutting-edge cool – all are examples of a literature at the forefront of the collective imagination. Every truly original writer must, by definition, create a new world. Here is a whole galaxy of worlds to explore.

What follows is a truly impressive list of synopses under genre headings. Here’s an example:

Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)

One of the first attempts to write a comprehensive “future history”, the trilogy – which also includes Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953) – is Asimov’s version of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, set on a galactic scale. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction.

You’ll also find Susanna Clarke’s article on Imagined worlds, including these authors – Lewis, Tolkien, Pullman, Pratchet and Le Guin. Her introduction is enough to draw me in:

The children’s author Anthony Horowitz recently pointed out that all books are doors – when we open them we expect to be somewhere else. All books are doors; and some of them are wardrobes.

Michael Moorcock reviews the best dystopias:

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four (1949)
Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Frederik Pohl & CM Kornbluth: The Space Merchants (1953)
Angus Wilson: The Old Men at the Zoo (1961)
Thomas M Disch: Camp Concentration (1968)
Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
Joanna Russ: The Female Man (1975)

Top 10 novels that predicted the future is an interesting read. Don’t hesitate, go to this website and run off and read!

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Filed under Literature, reading

Twitter mosaic

Thought this was cool – a mosaic of my Twitter followers. This is a visualisation of the community I rely on – for the latest information, help, discourse, banter, and much more.

If you’re a Twitter user, you can also get this follower mosaic.

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From George Washington to Barack Obama

It would be remiss of me not to post something about Barack Obama’s inauguration. Not for the first time, I’ve shirked a difficult synopsis of a complex event by opting for a video.

Theresa McGee posted this video in her post on the The Teaching Palette. It’s an interesting visual journey through the line of American presidents.

There is a similar morphing video in one of my earlier posts.

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Filed under art, creativity, technology

Reading in the margins with others

goldennotebookproject

I’ve been involved in a discussion lately about different types of reading. Most people have agreed that reading a novel is very different to reading a website or anything else online. Some people think that deep thinking and understanding are becoming extinct since reading online has distracted a large part of the population. People are concerned that online reading is superficial, and that commenting revolves around less than challenging subject matter.

Well, today I discovered a very interesting project which combines serious literature with the trappings of online interaction. It’s called The Golden Notebook project.

Doris Lessing’s The golden notebook was digitised by HarperCollins. The book was allowed to be reproduced in digital form in its entirety without any cost.

Here is some information from the website:

What is this?
It’s an experiment in close-reading in which seven women are reading the book and conducting a conversation in the margins. The project went live on Monday 10 November 2008.

Why are you doing it?
It’s part of a long-term effort to encourage and enable a culture of collaborative learning.

What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.

How come only the seven women can comment in the margins?
Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many. [Note: the forums are open to everyone and we do hope that readers beyond the initial seven will join the fray there both as regards the text and the process. We really want to know what you think works and what doesn’t.

The seven women authors are profiled on the homepage. Towards the bottom of the page you can see recent comments, pages with the most comments, and recent discussions.

A reading schedule is included

We’ve developed a reading schedule; so for the next six weeks, you can follow along with the readers and discuss the same passages that they’re dissecting.

The blog, a collaborative one amongst the women, is fascinating. Here’s part of a post on reading by Nona Willis Aronowitz

For me, what is inspiring and magnificent about reading is the sense of communion with one single other human mind. No other artform, I think, is so direct, so unmediated, so simple. There’s no need for lighting, makeup artists, camera operators or directors. There’s no studio or network calling the shots. No orchestra or actors have to interpret the work. I don’t even have to be in the presence of the artist’s personal handiwork. A scattering of printed characters on a page or a screen and I am in the presence of another person’s creation.

Here’s a short section from Naomi Alderman’s post

A recent story in The NY Times asked if stories have a future. If we’re blogging, texting, doing rapid response communicating, who cares about the narrative, tortoise slow and painfully digressive? Naomi’s comment that she needs to come up for air now and then from TGN to overcome the characters’ depressive tendencies makes me wonder WHY DO WE READ? What do we get from books; what are we getting from Lessing? I have just moved from NY to Portland, Oregon with 140 book boxes, the collected treasures of a life spent in books. In each box I am finding approximately one book per 30 worth saving. Looking at them all with fresh west coast eyes, I’m not sure what these books have given me. I can tell you what they’ve taken away: an ability to live a good life OUTSIDE of books.

I’m thinking about the possibilities of a pared down project for students. How would this look?

Fascinating… fascinating….

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What does learning and teaching look like for me in 2009?

photo by aussiegall

Paul C of Quoteflections tagged me in a meme which goes a little like this:

What is the focus of learning for you in 2009?

What are the important new things you are teaching ?

In her meme, Joyce Valenza wrote

The landscape continues to shift and that means reinterpreting our standards for emerging tools, issues, and innovations. 

 The landscape is shifting and my own landscape is too.

 Here are 5 things I would like to focus on in teaching and learning this year.

1. Collaboration:

I’d like to focus on collaborative learning – encouraging students to learn from each other. I’m working on wikis for art and English, as well as a fiction blog, and this year I hope to bring the school community into it. I’d like these tools not to belong to me, but to be shaped by the whole community.

2. Global connections:

It would be good to break out of the metaphoric echo chamber this year. I’d like my learning and teaching to connect to people outside of the classroom, whether it be another class, another school, a different country or culture. I envisage using things like Voicethread to share ideas and opinions, commenting in blogs to build personal learning networks, and possibly Skype for author talks.

3. Picture it:

With the explosion of visual media, I’d like to think more visually and encourage students to do so. My teaching will expand the concept of literacy. I’m talking about focusing on visual literacy, learning to deconstruct images, creating visually, and exploring multiple layers of meaning in  images. Students are comfortable with imagery but  need to learn to use and manage visual images metacognitively.

I’d like to involve students in Flickr – putting pictures up, browsing the vast archive of flickr images, understanding Creative Commons, favouriting photos, connecting to others by commenting on their photos, participating in a photo project. I’d like to continue to show students visual search engines, such as Viewzi and SearchMe, and I’m pretty sure that similar search engines will continue to evolve.

4. Thinking!

In this changing landscape where learners need to be discerning and critical, there’s an ongoing need to focus on critical thinking. Not cramming content, memorising material or copying and pasting. Making kids think, question, debate, disagree, compare, synthesise, rethink.

5. The learning process

I’d like students to understand the learning process.

I will be constantly saying: don’t be afraid of making mistakes; that’s how you learn. Don’t be alarmed if something is difficult; it’s part of the process. Don’t give up, but push ahead. Don’t settle for what comes easily, take the challenge and go with what’s hard. Move out of your comfort zone. Know the fluctuation of emotions during the research process. Go with the flow. Learn something real.

That just about wraps it up. My learning and teaching goals for 2009. It’s good to make yourself write them down. Here they are, right in front of me, and I can come back to them at the end of the year to evaluate my progress.

Just realised (a day later) that I have to tag people for the meme. Ok, the following people are tagged; let me know if you’ve already done this and I’ll change my tag list.

Darren Kuropatwa

Frances Manning

Jenny Luca

Judy O’Connell

Jennifer Clark Evans

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, flickr, teachers, teaching, Web 2.0

The world is talking; are you listening?

globalvoices

Global Voices aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore

At the moment the special coverage reports on Gaza strip bombings, Thailand protests 2008, Google street view arriving in Japan, and more.

I’m always looking to expand the often selective media coverage on mainstream news services.

A map at the top right of the screen changes its focus on different countries; you can click on the country to reveal how many news articles and links are available for the current day. Today in Kazakhstan there are 3 articles and 11 links available.

There are offshoots of this website including Rising Voices which

aims to extend the benefits and reach of citizen media by connecting online media activists around the world and supporting their best ideas.

This section includes project updates, Delicious links, videos and flickr photos;

Global Voices: Advocacy – Defending free speech online;

Voices without votes –

Voices without Votes opens a window on what non-Americans are saying in blogs and citizen media about US foreign policy and the 2008 presidential elections

 This site is easy to navigate with a search option or browsing option within countries, topics and authors.

I think this would be a valuable teaching resource. Worth noting is the Creative  Commons Attribution 2.5 License with ‘some rights reserved’ at the bottom of the page.

Please let me know what you think, and how you can envisage using this resource in the classroom.

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