Monthly Archives: March 2009

YouTube Symphony Orchestra forms

A little while ago I wrote a post about the wonderful collaborative project, the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Musicians from all over the world were invited to audition online, and were selected to play together in New York in April this year.

Here’s the line-up of YouTube Symphony Orchestra musicians

The video makes me smile; so many different nationalities represented, all collaborating in this project, transcending language barriers with their music.

Equally as interesting is the unique way each musician has chosen to introduce themselves in their video, giving a brief glimpse into their world, adding their own graphics and sound.

Over 3,000 people from over 40 countries auditioned for just 90 prize slots in the orchestra.  I know some people think this is gimmicky, but I like it.

4 Comments

Filed under music, Web 2.0

Spreading the word to stop the word

Twitter informed me that Jenny Luca was spreading the word to stop the word. In her post, Jenny joins the push for awareness to stop the inappropriate and discriminative use of the word ‘retard-ed’. The post is a response to the incredible Laura Stockman’s blog carnival. Laura is donating a flip video camera to the cause.

Here are the rules for the carnival:

  • To be entered you MUST have at least one blog POST that focuses ending the use of the r-word.
  • Your post MUST be on how the r-word makes you feel, how you will help Spread the Word to End the Word, or have to do with the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign.
  • Your post MUST be entered on 3.31.09.
  • Once your post is up, please leave a comment here so that I know you are entered. It would be great if you could leave your name or the name of your class/school and a link to the post. I will create a new post on my blog that day with a list of all of the bloggers who have spread the word!
  • Everyone who posts and leaves their link here will be entered into a random drawing to win the Flip Video Camera! I will draw the name of the winner on April 1st!

Like Jenny, I remember the ‘r’ word being used freely at school, not just primary school, and I still hear it now. I’m ashamed to say that I often don’t bat an eyelid when I hear it because it’s used so flippantly that it doesn’t even arouse offence. Clearly, this is not acceptable, and we must think about the implications of this attitude, and then do something about it. This goes for all words that discriminate against and offend people, whether they discriminate against disability, race, religion, gender or any other group that stands out as different.

Why don’t we have a class collection tin for charity and create awareness by penalising students for using the ‘r’ word or name-calling in general? We might be surprised to discover how often we use inappropriate language.

There’s no nice way to use the word ‘retard’. As John McGinley says in the video, using the word ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ is an act of cowardice because you’re discriminating against a group of people who can’t defend themselves.

 

Betsy says it so well in her post.

There is no shame in having a developmental delay or a disability of any kind. Trust me, some of the greatest human beings you will ever meet are ones that you may have just walked right by without even noticing or acknowledging. Do them and yourself a favor and see others as fully living and loving human beings, no matter what the differences.

Please stop using the R word – replace it with respect.

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Filed under language

Finding your passion

Of course, I’m referring to Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element which I’m not going to summarise here because I’ve only just been dipping in and out, chewing bits and gazing out, pondering. What I have taken out with joy, the joy that comes from connecting your life context with the book’s message, is that you have to find your passion. You. You have to find your passion. Yes, your students have to find their passion in order for true learning to happen, but – and now I’m taking over here, so you’re hearing my own rave, not Ken’s – YOU, the teacher, must put yourself before the student, and find YOUR passion. Because if you will, you’ll take off and become a better teacher, and if you don’t, you may never know the teacher you could have been.

For me, finding your passion is synonymous with finding your inner strength. We’re all different, you knew that, I didn’t have to tell you, obviously. When we find what we’re passionate about, and we connect it to what we do and how we do it, then we’ve found an eternal spring. We don’t force things, we don’t find it difficult, we don’t find it boring. We need to trust ourselves.

I’ve had the privilege of working with teachers who have done just that. They love teaching – which doesn’t mean they’re forever stuck in an evangelistic fervour, no, they have their days – and they love the kids they’re teaching (moments, again). They’ve found their passion, and it’s in connecting with students and making a difference in their lives.  Yes, for the English teacher, it’s about the grammar at times, the punctuation, the ability to write a coherent introductory paragraph, but actually, no, it’s about the relationship with the students, a relationship that builds trust, admits to liking the student, develops confidence, unleashes the often hidden talent that is unique to that student.

And I just want to say one more thing – as a teacher you can’ t do any of that unless you’re in touch with your own passion. You need to unlock yourself before you try unlocking anyone else. If you’re bored, you’ll burn out. It’s yourself you need to reignite. You start burning, you’ll heat up those around you.

I apologize for my fervent bombast. I blame Ken Robinson for getting me fired up. Read the book: The element. How finding your passion changes everything.

Or watch this video where Sir Ken Robinson talks about aspects of his book

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Filed under creativity, Education, learning

Houston,we have conversation!

new-1

A couple of posts ago I wrote about Thinking and writing about biology, and featured a NING called ‘Principles of biology: bringing life and living things into focus’ created by Sean Nash.  I wanted to show off Sean’s NING because I love the way he teaches biology, incorporating Web 2.0 technologies, critical thinking, creativity, reflection and even poetry. The NING, of course, is perfect for collaborative learning, and brilliant for discussion.

It was a thrill to have Sean comment on my blog, not just as a polite hi, but sharing information about his students and his teaching. It’s worth going back to the post and reading what he says.

What I found most interesting was our little conversation. I had pointed out that Sean’s teaching combined literacy with science.  He commented back:

Science and literacy had certainly better go together. We are in a heap of trouble as a species as it is. We can’t afford to continue to create a scientifically-illiterate populace. Where science and literacy are separate, science is but mystery and mythology to even our brightest.

What happened next really made my day. Two students left comments for me here on my blog.  These comments blew me away; they revealed a love for their learning experiences in Sean’s classes and NING, and an ability to reflect and analyse that our teachers would kill for.

I wanted to post these comments in full because I think they’re worth reading.

Here is what Tori Scott wrote (the bold type is my emphasis)

This is my classes website! I’ve always loved science, but this year was a whole new experience for me. In our class Mr. Nash gives us multiple ways too look at science. There are so many new things to learn that it’s truly fun to experience it in different ways. I came into this class thinking it was going to be him lecturing and us taking notes. This year was the first year that it’s all been so hands on.

This class really makes us think. Mr. Nash will just give us something, for instances a visual, and ask us to write about it. Like what we think it represents and our thoughts and opinions on it. I really enjoy doing this. It allows us as students to share what were thinking. That’s one of my favorite things about the website. Were able discuss and blog about the things we do in class. We each get to share as individuals, which is pretty amazing because each one of us think differently. This also allows us to learn on a completely different level.

I’d have to say that if there is one thing i’ve learned this year would be that science is not black and white. Thats a big misconception i’ve had. Through the year though i’ve began to learn and realize that there is always a gray area. The site gives us the opportunity to talk about it and understand more.

Rachel Huntsman wrote:

I am a student in the dual-credit biology class that uses the blog you have been discussing. I just wanted to let you know my thoughts on our use of the blog.

I really think it is a beneficial way of learning, and would recommend it to any teacher in order to get their students to actually think about learning.

I will admit I was one of the students who took the class just to get this major required science class out of the way before college. However, this coming from a person who really doesn’t enjoy science at all, I have found that I enjoy this class. I feel like I can analyze what I learn and discuss things with other students rather than simply fill out a work sheet and answer test questions.

I honestly think I will retain things from taking this class, and I can say I have benefited a great deal from it.

I also like the idea that other people, such as yourselves, are actually reading this blog and looking at what we are learning and how we are learning. It makes me think about what I will post because I know someone from the other side of the world might read it.

Now, you might have noticed that I’ve recently heard Will Richardson talking about network literacy, passion-based learning, and an authentic readership. Well here it is – an inspiring example of the best kind of learning. It makes a difference when it’s real writing to real people, not just writing what you think your teacher wants and what will get a good mark. As Rachel says, analysing, discussing, learning collectively – not filling out worksheets.

I wish more educators, parents and students could see  how good this kind of learning is. Thankyou Tori and Rachel for sharing and inspiring us.

3 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning, network literacy, Web 2.0

Powerful Learning Day

Today was the second face-to-face get-together of the Australian teams involved in Powerful Learning Practice. We had so much fun listening to Will Richardson, connecting with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, skyping Dean Shareski, having powerful conversations, problem-solving, making connections, deepening friendships.

Thanks so much to Will for being there, leading and inspiring us, and to Jenny for creating this opportunity, then organising everything. We are starting to make a difference.

You’ll find a few more photos here.

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Filed under 21st century learning, technology, Web 2.0

Will Richardson speaks in Melbourne

willnetwork

 Will  Richardson’s networks

I’m guessing there will be several blog posts about the SLAV conference, Perspectives on learning V2 today. I have considered whether to leave it to others, but a post always deconstructs my own thinking, and creates an archive for later reference.

Will Richardson was the keynote speaker, and he spoke about Network literacy: leveraging the potential of a hyperconnected world. There were concurrent sessions by Jenny Luca (Now you know Web 2.0, what next?), Adrian Camm (Why create a virtual learning community), and John Pearce (Projecting passionately with Web 2.0). The Plenary session was presented by Kerry Rowett and Judith Way (Web 2.0 and resources for you), who write the SLAV blog, Bright ideas.

SLAV is to be congratulated on providing cutting edge professional development, and also on providing links to the presentations on their Bright Ideas blog.

What I’m not going to do is summarise the talks. The slide presentations will give clues, and the podcasts to follow will provide the detail. What I’m going to do is pull out of Will’s keynote speech some of the main points that resonated with me.

Firstly, anyone who has read Will’s blog or looked through his Delicious tags, will know that network literacy is a leitmotif throughout his writings. If you compare the idea of network literacy with our traditional concept of literacy (at its most basic, reading and writing), then you have an idea of how Will stretches the idea of literacy, and also where his focus is. The hyperconnected world he speaks of is a connectedness which is made  possible by technology, but which is not focused on technology itself, but on a connectedness with people and people networks. And these networks are the source of information for Will. He doesn’t Google when he needs information, he goes to his Twitter or Delicious communities. When he wants to know what ‘s going on in the world, he doesn’t just read newspapers, he prefers to go to his personally designed sources in his Google Reader (RSS feeds), or to his favourite bloggers when he wants deep conversation. He connects with people who share his passions, with experts far and wide, and he urges us to do the same.

And so we shouldn’t be surprised when Will speaks of schools as places which need to change. He quotes Clay Shirky (Here comes everybody) who says we have to get outside of our physical spaces which define our schools and learning, and connect with people and networks globally. He reminds us that our students have already made it out to networked activity through social media sites like Facebook and MySpace. He pre-empts our concerns that Facebook is trivial and uneducational by pointing out that kids are already moving beyond the superficial and using social media to form interest-based groups, where their interaction is based purely on passion and transcends physical space, time zones and cultures. We are impressed when we realise that these experiences place kids in a position of being teachers as well as learners. We really get the point when we hear that this all happens outside of school, when it hits home that self-organised learning and teaching activities driven by pure passion are taking place outside of our learning institutions. While we have the problem of increasing disengagement in our classes. The point hits home with some discomfort.

Here are some points that came out of Will’s talk:

  • learning is an ongoing process, not something that fits neatly within a measured time frame
  • blogging allows us to rethink what it means to read and write; it becomes a connection, a conversation with an authentic audience
  • literacy is malleable and will evolve further in the next few years
  • multimedia texts expand literacy to include critical thinking and analysis
  • we need to create and navigate our own personal learning network, and teach our students to do the same
  • network literacy cannot be taught as a one-off course
  • we need to help our kids create a digital footprint, so that they have positive results when googled

Listen to the podcast when it comes onto the SLAV website for the rest of the talk.

Jenny Luca’s talk was a passionate account detailing her journey from Web 2.0 to making a difference to the lives of many people with the help of individuals and communities around the world. Amongst other projects, she spoke about Working together to make a difference which she is most proud of, since it is testimony to the best of people’s collabortive efforts.

I could go on; all the talks I attended were extremely interesting and relevant to educators. It’s the kind of resource and ideas list that could keep you going for a very long time. I’m already using most of the Web 2.o tools and applications that were mentioned, but I’m trying to integrate them into relevant and creative learning and teaching. What I have learned from hearing people like Will and Jenny speak, has not centred on new tools, but shifted me into a different direction, provided me with a new perspective.

What I’d love to find out now is how the audience received these talks, how people felt, what they thought, what resolutions, if any, did they make as they walked out of that conference. Did it make a difference? Please leave your honest comments here, and perhaps we can have a conversation. Did the talks effect a shift in your perspective and teaching direction, or did it just make you shift uncomfortably in your seat?

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, media, network literacy, technology, Web 2.0

Thinking and writing about biology

Sean Nash created a biology NING. One that even I want to join. Why is that so remarkable? Because I’m not a science person.

Sean Nash has created a NING called ‘Principles of biology: bringing life and living things into focus’. Yes, it’s about science. Yes, it contains lots of scientific facts, but it also approaches the teaching of science in a different way.

When I clicked the Forum tab at the top of the NING, I chose a discussion called ‘Synthesizing Respiration and Photosynthesis’. It doesn’t start with a long dry paragraph full of scientific facts. Instead it goes like this:

Take a good, solid read of this blog post. Read it again after thinking about it for at least five minutes. Then come back to this forum and scribble a bit creative commentary on how our study of photosynthesis and respiration allows you to really get at a deeper meaning of the post entitled: Grinding Grain by Dr. Doyle.

What is remarkable? The topic is introduced by a blog post. A blog is a discursive thing. The blog is called Science teacher: breaking out of the classroom into the world. That already tells you something. The blog begins with a poem about grinding grain by Antipator of Thessalonica, 85 B.C., and it’s descriptive in a way that makes you feel the process physically.

I love the fact that the instructions that go with the reading of the blog post recommend a second reading after a few minutes of thought. Thinking is part of the instructions! And what follows is not a summary, not a copy and paste of facts, but instructions to

scribble a bit creative commentary on how our study of photosynthesis and respiration allows you to really get at a deeper meaning of the post entitled: Grinding Grain by Dr. Doyle.

That’s ‘how’ and ‘deeper meaning’ in the same sentence. Now, brace yourselves, but here’s what follows as instruction:

A description in less than 100 words that is sufficiently creative that at least two classmates leave thoughtful, vote-like comments to… would be worth a measly few (yet potentially powerful) extra credit points to add to your pile.

What’s amazing here?

Description, not summary.

Creative. Enough said.

Requiring response of others. Interaction, whereby your description is required to initiate response in another person. Writing about your response, effecting a response in someone else.

Can this be science?

And here’s the clincher:

What do you get from this? What does it make you think of? Does it allow you to see, or understand anything in a deeper way?

Thinking, evaluating, deeper understanding.

Here is one of the students’ responses:

The knowledge we gained through learning about cellar respiration and photosynthesis really helped to understand what he was saying. As he described what it felt like to turn the wheel, “First my right arm, then my left. I can feel my biceps swell. My legs work, too, shifting my weight back and forth with each pass of the milling wheel. My breathing picks up.” I can now easily understand why he begins to breath more readily, and when he begins to describe photosynthesis, and the creation of the wheat I can really follow what he says instead of being more lost than anything else (paragraph 7). The best place I could see that the knowledge was very relevant was when he begins to show how photosynthesis works in one direction, and that cellular respiration sort of reverses the process ((paragraph 7)

I love the reflection on the learning process at the end of the lesson. There are so many things I love about this way of teaching.

Who said that science was separate from literacy?

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Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Education, learning, writing