Monthly Archives: November 2009

Melbourne – Centre for books, writing and ideas

Did you know that UNESCO bestowed on the city of Melbourne the title of City of Literature as part of its Creative Cities Network?

Maybe you did, but did you also know that the Arts Minister, Lynne Kosky, announced two days ago the creation of The Wheeler Centre: Books, Writing, Ideas. It has been named after the founders of the Melbourne-based Lonely Planet travel guides.

From 2010, Melbourne will have a new kind of cultural institution. The Wheeler Centre. A centre dedicated to the discussion and practice of writing and ideas. Through a year-round programme of talks and lectures, readings and debates, we invite you to join the conversation.

The city of Melbourne is home to an impressive collection of literary organisations, including the Victorian Writers’ Centre, Express Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival and the Centre for Youth Literature.

These organisations will reside at 176 Little Lonsdale Street, a newly renovating wing of the State Libray of Victoria. I still remember the Melbourne Public Library housing the National Art Gallery, the Museum of Melbourne and the Planetarium.

Now it is the home of the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing and Ideas.

Browsing the Wheeler Centre’s website, I discovered a remarkable short animated film for the New Zealand Book Council.

No doubt some wonderful initiatives will be coming from these literary organisations, like the Summer School Novel Writing workshop in January 2010 organised by the Victorian Writers’ Centre.

 And if you ever doubted the connection between reading and writing (as if you would), you’d be advised to read what the Victorian Writers’ Centre writing tips state at the top of the list:

A few good tips to develop your writing.

Every experienced writer reads widely. Professional writers always recommend reading as a way for the writer to learn their craft. Reading widely can enhance your writing technique, broaden your scope, multiply your ideas and deepen your understanding of literary form in all its variety.

And if you’ve ever been confused by punctuation rules, think about following the great French author, Gustav Flaubert, in his ‘musical’ rules for punctuation:

Flaubert’s rule was that a pause of:

one beat equals a comma

two beats equals a semi-colon

three beats a colon

four beats a full stop

That’s what I call simple rules of punctuation.

Thanks to CMIS Fiction Focus for the alert.

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Filed under Literature, poetry, reading, writing

Web 2.0 is like a dinner party – Steve Hargadon at VITTA09

Yesterday I attended the VITTA annual conference 2009. There were many highlights, and one of them was the keynote speaker, Steve Hargadon.

Steve has an interesting quietness about him when talking about dramatic things. His message of the revolutionary changes taking place in the world of work, education and play was presented without any eschatological overtones. All the more effective.

Instead of summarising the entire content of my notes, I’ve pulled out a small selection which is playing around in my mind.

Web2.0 has reshaped our life.

We’re about to go through the biggest change in education in centuries, maybe ever.

It’s going to feel like a tidal wave. How are people reacting to this? Some have their back to the wave, a few are out surfing the wave, but to most of us that wave looks impossible.

I still don’t get how people – intelligent, dedicated educators – do not see the wave. I just don’t get it.

We go to Web 2.0 applications to see peer content, to have peer relationships. We are taking off attributing, collaborating, and creating.

We are changing the nature of communicating; there is a significant cultural change with advent of the internet.

Yes, a cultural change. Notice Steve doesn’t say ‘technological’. Technology is the platform, it is becoming ubiquitous, absorbing the new culture of sharing and co-creating.

The web is a conversation. Many feel it’s a tidal wave.

Yes, the sheer size of what’s there is overwhelming.

It’s changing us into becoming a conversation, not unlike going to a dinner party, engaging in conversation and leaving the party,  fulfilled by conversation. To understand what’s happening in Web 2.0 platforms, we must shift our view of web content as being a conversation.

We don’t follow everything, we choose what we follow, just as we would at a dinner party, selecting conversations that interest us.

We are living in an era of increased openness. Here’s an example: Mitopencourseware, a world-class university, offering all the course content free. This is an enormous historic change. Massachusetts Institute of Technology are intent on being in the forefront of a new way of delivering information.

Amazon.com is another example of the interest people have in peer information; we read what other readers have said about book, not published reviews.

Social networking will become the foundation structure of our educational experience.

Hmmm…. I wonder how, given that most people, even leaders, have their backs to the wave.

Here’s the all-important question for educators:

How well are we preparing our students for this world?

We don’t know how, we’re not really sure ourselves. But we do know that eduction will change. It will feel like tidal wave.

There are all kinds of ways that schools resist change. What can we do? Breathe deeply, turn toward wave and figure it out. The best way to predict future is create it.

Be a learner first. Get back into learner mode. Learn about these technologies.

And here’s an interesting example of innovative use of social networking for marketing purposes. Ikea has used Facebook to get users to willingly promote their merchandise.

Does this have anything to do with education? No, but why can’t we as educators be as innovative?

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

What I discovered about my PLN after I told them I’d deleted my Twitter account

So, if you read my previous post, you know that I was stupid enough to delete my Twitter account in a fatal moment of confusion. You also know how devastating it was for me to realise I’d lost the community I’d grown to depend on every day.

Let me tell you how something devastating turned into something heart-warming.

My first reaction was to tweet out my loss and ask everyone to follow me again. But, hang on a minute, I couldn’t do that because I no longer had a community. Well, not on Twitter. I still had Facebook, and some of my Twitter contacts were also on Facebook.

The response to my status was immediate. One of the first people to respond was Jo McLeay aka @jomcleay who reassured me with the simple but powerful message, ‘We’re still here for you’.

After finally admitting my account wasn’t going to be reinstated, I decided to start a new account from scratch. It was no fun thinking about  how long it would take to rebuild. I wrote a blog post about the experience, but couldn’t tweet it out as I usually would. I could, however, throw it up on Facebook and ask my FB people to tweet it out. Would that work?

The response was swift and very touching.

Soon my message and blog post were being retweeted all over the place. I started following people again, and in less than 24 hours I had a community of people again, over 200 of them, and only a couple of days later, over 300.

My personal learning network had rebuilt one of the most important platforms I had for communication and professional interaction.

I was back in business!

Thankyou, everyone, for all your help and support.

6 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, networking, technology, Web 2.0

What I realised when I lost my Twitter account

                                                                 Photo courtesy of GettysGirl on Flickr

Yesterday I accidentally deleted my Twitter account. As soon as it happened, I was in shock. I’d lost everything.

What have I lost?

Firstly, I can’t believe how much it’s upset me. How long have I been on Twitter? Not a year, surely. How important can it be? I’ve lived without it most of my life, after all.

I feel that I’ve lost a community. I realise now how important my network is to me, and think back to the months I’ve spent discovering people, reading their biographies, appreciating their passion, their individual interests and skills, following them.

What’s also interesting is that I’ve developed new behaviours. I suppose you do when you become seriously involved in something. Hang on, did I say seriously? I think it means more to me than I realised.

I’ve developed behaviours which are social, not technological. I’m not a techie, I stand behind Web 2.0 technologies because they connect me to people. I’ve started to behave consistently as someone who functions in a community. There is nothing I discover without wanting to share. There is no idea that comes to me, no emotion I feel, without wanting to tweet out to people and wait for a response.

I realise that the people I’ve gradually drawn into my network are like-minded, but also diverse. I love that about Twitter.

I never have to wait long to get a response. Any question, suggestion, query, frustration receives a response, and leaves me feeling supported. If there’s little or no support in the people in my immediate community, there’s plenty of it out there in the Twitterverse. The world has become smaller, closer. And I meet some of these people in person; online relationships sometimes go offline.

I’m inspired by the people in my network. Their links take me to amazing websites, blogs, wikis, photos, videos – an incredible array of shared creativity and countless hours of their time. They give me ideas and spur me on to follow my own passion as a learner and teacher.

I really don’t know what to do with myself. Yes, I use Facebook, but not everybody does. I had more people on Twitter, and just the other day Facebook was blocked at school, even for teachers. I really do feel like Rapunzel at school. I feel as if my lifeline has been cut off. Discovering resources, I save them into Diigo and Delicious, but I have nobody to show them to, to talk to them about. I’ve lost the real-time connection.

If people who are anti-Web 2.o applications could experience the richness of online communities, I think they would change their mind. Surely, the negativity and fear come only from the absence of experience, from media-created and anecdotal misinformation – all theory.

If I build you a network of people like you, you too would come to depend on it; you’d also miss it if you lost it.

I’m going to start from scratch. My old twitter username was taniasheko, but I’m not able to keep it, so I’ve created a new username from my maiden name. On Twitter I’m http://twitter.com/taniatorikova I had to create a new email address: taniasheko@gmail.com which I’ll use just for Twitter, and not anything else.

 If you’re on Twitter, if you’ve followed me before, please follow me again once I’ve got a new account.

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Filed under 21st century learning, technology, Web 2.0

Have you learned to share?

parrotsharing

Photo courtesy of Eliselovesprada on Flickr

Marie Salinger just shared with me an excellent blog post written by Andrew Douch, No learning for unauthorised persons.   Andrew expresses his disappointment in the fact that many teachers are reluctant to share what they create for their students’ learning. I recommend that you read the entire post.

In my comment following Andrew’s post, I mention that my role as teacher librarian automatically puts me in the position of finding and sharing resources, and that I don’t see why I shouldn’t share outside my school, or even outside my country. Since forming a personal learning network on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Diigo and similar networking platforms, I’ve realised that what I share with others is a drop in the ocean compared with what I receive. If only all teachers would experience this.

My blogs and wikis are also a way of sharing ideas, resources and discussions which would otherwise only be shared with a couple of colleagues or not at all. It seems that blog authors find all manner of things useful and edifying, and write about these. I’ll often share resources this way, or even re-post from someone else’s blog if I think it’s worth passing on and giving my two cents worth.

More problematic is the sharing of material which I’ve read in a hard-copy publication. Currently, I’m reading the current edition of Fiction Focus: New titles for teenagers published by Curriculum Materials Information Services, WestOne Services, Department of Education and Training, Western Australia. It’s a teacher librarian’s treasured resource, providing excellent critical reviews of adolescent fiction, as well as reviews of resources of professional interest to teachers. I’m also reading the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter published by the State Library of Victoria.

It’s frustrating for me to read these excellent resources and not share them online. What may normally occur is that we read them and take out ideas and resources for our own practice, or at best, email a few teachers if we think there is something of interest for them.

So what’s problematic? Well, it’s common practice to re-post online content written by someone else because you can give a synopsis and hyperlink to the actual resource; you don’t have to do more than give a quick summary of the original post since the reader can go directly to the source for more detailed information.

Not so in this instance. I would really like to feature some of the articles in these publications, but how much should I say? I don’t want to overload my readers, and I can’t presume they will obtain the hardcopy publications. I’m not sure if the publishers will consider my efforts a breach of copyright.

For example, there’s an excellent special feature in Fiction Focus, Wow websites – book inspired web wonders, which links to Young Adult fiction websites which

use high quality art and web design to create spaces and interfaces that reflect the character of the fiction that they represent,

providing

spaces for young readers to do what they have always done: play, discuss and imagine…

I applaud the promotion of such websites because I’ve realised that reading becomes an experience when adolescent readers become involved in the art, interactive activities and games, author blog and videos. Providing such websites increases the chances of hooking young people into reading fiction.

themortalinstruments

Here are the links to author websites provided by this article:

P.B.Kerr’s site, Quertyuiop

Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series

Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series

Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series

Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series

For Picture Book authors, there are links to the following websites:

Shaun Tan

Matt Ottley

Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror   Gothic feel site

Darren Shan

The Bad Tuesdays

Scott Westerfeld’s new Steampunk-inspired website

The selected works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

The CMIS Fiction Focus blog include more extensive links to more blogs and websites of young adult authors and illustrators.

Fiction Focus also has an excellent article on Steampunk,

a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction. At the core of steampunk is the notion of altered history (often Victorian and London-Victorian at that) combined with technology that is historically impossible, and therefore all the more intriguing.

There are great links included, so you can see my dilemma – I’d like to share all these wonderful resources with people, but I really think they should subscribe to the magazine, or even, the magazine should go online. CMIS has also given us a taste of Steampunk in their blog which is worth adding to your RSS feed reader, but I can’t resist including all the Steampunk blog links given here as well.

Brass Goggles

The Steampunk Home

The Clockwork Century

Steampod (podcasts)

Antipodean Steampunk Adventures  with an Australian slant

The Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers

Do read the Fiction Focus blog post about Steampunk.

And guess what? From May 2010, the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter will be going online. Yes!

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, author, blogging, Children's books, Education, Literature, networking, Teacher librarians, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

More great quotes about learning and change

Originally uploaded by colemama

I’m spending more and more time on Flickr. It’s a rich resource in terms of creativity and content. I wanted to remind you about the Group Great quotes about learning and change.  I’ve mentioned it before, so forgive me, but I think it’s worth featuring again.

greatquotes

 Contributors to this group add photos with quotations about 21st century education. I like the succinct way quotations express multiple ideas and concepts, but coupled with an apt image they are even more effective. These can be used as posters to stimulate thinking, to promote discussion or even to remind yourself daily of what’s worth thinking about.

Top contributors currently are Dean Shareski, Scott McLeod, Darren Kuropatwa, Langwitches and Darren Draper.

There are other people who are using images for conceptual purposes on flickr. I stumbled across a few today. Amongst these was Costel Mago who uses beautiful photos to support his insights.

Here’s one of his that resounds with me:

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.

pidgeons

Personally, I find that I’m turning to images more and more for a powerful and succinct way to express ideas. Flickr is a well of shared thoughts and ideas, as well as images. Dont’ underestimate what you will find there. Find the message in the picture.

I’ve been finding so much that’s valuable to my personal and educational life on Flickr lately; I think I’ll write another post about what I’ve found for learning and teaching in Art. See you next post.

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Filed under 21st century learning, flickr, networking, photos, Web 2.0

We all need a regular kick in the pants

Antoni-INhabit2

Janine Antoni, “Inhabit,” 2009. Courtesy of Luhring Augustine Gallery

 I agree with the Art21 blog post, Another kick in the pants, that everyone needs the occasional kick in the pants, only I think that maybe we need it regularly. Joe Fusaro says

I use Art21 for a kick in the pants from time to time, whether it’s to inspire my teaching by watching Carrie Mae Weems or to give my studio practice a jolt by listening to Kiki Smith talk about her process for making works of art. I mean, everyone needs an occasional kick in the pants, don’t you think?

Joe goes on to mention TED talks as another source of inspiration, and I have to agree with him –  TED.com and Art21 have been regular sources of inspiration for me too.

TED’s theme is Ideas worth spreading, and its mission is of epic dimensions:

…our scope has become ever broader…. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress.

A clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers is an amazing boast, and the reason why so many people either discover TED with joy or continue to return to its rich storehouse.

The scope of Art21 is enormous, and its themes a dream for teachers of art. The series explore such themes as compassion, consumption, ecology, fantasy, humor, identity, loss & desire, memory,paradox, place, play, power, protest, romance, spirituality, stories, structures, systems, time, and transformation. Each theme is tantalising in its scope, eg. compassion – artists explore conscience; reconcile past & present; expose injustice; express tolerance. It makes me wish that Art were compulsory, or at least, not separate from the official literacy which seems only to reside in English. A sharpening of higher order thinking skills will find no better place than the Arts (although it certainly resides in all subjects).

Every day I still find myself explaining, justifying and defending my online activity. I always point out that it’s the connections to people and ideas, information and images, which I would otherwise not discover, that keep me coming back to my laptop. It’s a breathlessly vast source of inspiration and ideas, a regular kick in the pants – pushing my thinking, challenging me, jolting me and enriching my life.

I would recommend Art21 to anyone, not just art lovers, because it provides a window into a world of ideas and creative concepts, and of course, TED.com because of its amazing array of interesting people who have a way of making complex things simply fascinating.

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Filed under 21st century learning, art, creativity, Education, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

What have I learned from VCE?

This article in The Age resounded with me – Surely there’s a better test was written by Alexandra Adornetto, Year 12 VCE student at Eltham College and, at 17, already an author of a popular children’s trilogy starting with The shadow thief.

Of Alexandra’s initial questions,

How have I been shaped by my learning experiences? What skills have I developed that are valuable and transferable in the workplace? What lessons have I learned about the value of education?

– I wonder most about the last one: What lessons have I learned about the value of education? Or even, what have I learned about learning?

Alexandra’s answer is negative; she sees students having to work

within a system that reduces achievement to a game where strategies are more important than ideas.

Her cynicism flows from the fact that

the sum total of my education will soon amount to nothing more than a figure — an ENTER score that will determine which percentile I fall into statewide and which courses I will be eligible to apply for.

I agree with Alexandra when she says that

the system fails to recognise the diversity of skills and most subjects do not allow students to demonstrate skills in a form other than a written exam.

I’ve started reading Rethinking rubrics in writing assessment by Maja Wilson, which, at one point, talks about decontextualised teaching of literacy through ‘separate literature, speech, and composition courses’. In the past ‘Reading, speaking, and writing were simply a means to dialogue with professors, peers, and the community at large about matters of public interest.’

Andrea Lunsford (1986) describes an integrated, language-rich environment that supported powerful literacy.

Classroom activity… was built around “oral disputation.” One  student chose and presented a thesis, often taken from reading or class discussion, and defended it against counterarguments offered by other students and the teacher. In addition, students regularly gave public speeches on matters of importance to society, in forums open to the entire college and the surrounding community… the students learned more from their peers than from their teachers … this model of oral evaluation and the form of student speaking societies provided an audience, a full rhetorical context, and motivation for discourse, features woefully lacking in later “set” essays and written examinations.

Maja Wilson goes on to imagine how ideal this kind of learning would be. This would be the antithesis of the VCE as we know it, and as described by Alexandra. Instead of receiving ‘a static score from faceless evaluators’, a student could receive a type of assessment ‘not to rank’ the written content, but purely as feedback to aid learning and develop abilities.

Assessment would be free to interact positively with learning since ranking … was not its main objective.

In her article, Alexandra goes on to point out the many skills students possess in activities they do outside of school which are not taken into consideration in the VCE assessment.

Life skills, innovative ideas and community involvement — what intelligent nation needs these? It’s obviously much safer to work towards the goal of conformity. Here is just the beginning of a list of skills that exam results cannot possibly hope to reflect: interpersonal skills, the ability to entertain, how articulate we are as speakers, our ability to work as part of a team, the ability to deal with challenges and invention.

I’ve often thought the same, and when I see the curriculum packed to bursting with content that teachers struggle to cover, I’m not surprised that they often lament the lack of time to develop important skills.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that our current system does not reward creativity or cater to the diversity of skills and abilities possessed by students. What it does reward are formulaic learners and those with a good memory.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I noticed a difference between, for example, the Psychology course offered within the VCE  and that within the International Baccalaureate. VCE Psychology seemed to be largely a matter of content memorisation, whereas IB Psychology involved higher order thinking.

Alexandra comments:

Other knowledge-based subjects such as legal studies, psychology and history ask us not to apply knowledge but simply to recall and regurgitate the contents of our hefty textbooks.

It’s interesting how Alexandra’s suggested solutions harken back to the older system of assessment described by Wilson in her book:

Clearly an overhaul of the current system with a review of its goals and objectives is in order. Until universities take a radical look at their selection procedures, nothing is likely to change. How much more sensible would it be to include an oral exam (where you might talk through your ideas or your achievements) as a percentage of our final assessment?

I like the way Alexandra thinks, I like her suggested alternatives:

Perhaps the presentation of a folio of achievements would go a long way in presenting us as individuals with a unique contribution to make. Perhaps a hands-on project in a preferred area of study should be a compulsory assessment task.

Yes, Alexandra is cynical about the merits of VCE, and grim in her description of the final exams:

As for us, we will be writing furiously for three hours, surfacing only to check the clock and take periodic sips from our water bottles from which we have assiduously removed the labels in compliance with yet another inane regulation, designed to eliminate cheating.

What do you think? Is she being too harsh?

As for me, I hope that this year’s VCE students will at least be able to demonstrate the extent of their study efforts, not like the poor girl during this year’s English exam whose watch stopped, freakishly, at the same time as the wall clock, and was caught out at the end with only two thirds of her examination paper completed. So much frustration and upset – two years of effort spoiled by a fateful turn of events.

I recommend The English Companion ning which has a rich discussion between Maja Wilson and educators of her book.

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Filed under creativity, Education, learning, teaching