Monthly Archives: March 2010

The new citation

Photo courtesy of kharied on Flickr

As we continue to teach students how to seamlessly embed quotations into their writing, it occurs to me that we have developed a new way to cite our sources, namely online and using hyperlinks.

The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from a  blog post I was reading this morning:

(Brian Lamb is writing about the notion of curation as a model for teaching)

Yet again, I’m reminded of my favorite band of mad, bad content curators at WFMU (this year’s fundraising marathon is over, but they’ll still take your money), and how its Free Music Archive places curation at the centre of its mission. There’s an interesting interview on 3 Quarks Daily with WFMU station manager (and killer OpenEd 2009 keynoter) Ken Freedman that cuts to the intersection between freeform weirdness and careful curation.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

I’m thinking that this hyperlinked writing should be the way of student resources at school and universities. How much richer and more efficient would online resources be which embedded background knowledge and served as a model for referencing sources?

What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.

Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?

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Filed under 21st century learning, blogging, Education, Web 2.0

Who’s leading? How a movement is made

Derek Sivers received a standing ovation at TED for this talk about leadership.

This really made an impression on me. I realised that, yes, it’s the first follower who plays a crucial role,

he publicly shows everyone how to follow.

This is so true, and I can speak from experience when I say this. Last year, when I took the risky step of creating a ning for a class, my brave and trusting friend Maria was the one who said yes, I’ll do it with you.

It takes guts to be a first follower! (Thankyou Maria! You’re the best)

She trusted me (even when I didn’t trust myself), and together we joined forces not only to create the ning as a learning and teaching platform for the year 7 class, but we forged new territory as we went, supporting each other and later demonstrating to the rest of the staff what this new learning environment looked like.

The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.

This year our school has taken off with Web 2.0 platforms for classes, a couple at first, serving as examples for others. Thankyou, Una and Catherine, for making the ning such a rich learning environment and inspiring other teachers.

The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

Now there are more and more teachers wanting to try nings, having seen the wonderful examples.

Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

I may be jumping the gun a little, but I’m predicting that soon the Web 2.0 learning platforms and tools will be part of the everyday learning and teaching practice at my school.

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

I love the advice that Derek Sivers gives about leadership – listen particularly if you don’t consider yourself a leader:

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Check out Derek’s biography.

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Filed under Leadership, Web 2.0

Howard Rheingold knows crap when he sees it

Howard Rheingold knows what he’s talking about when he says we need to teach our kids to be crap detectors, critical examiners of what they find online. No, not censorship – Howard recommends teaching kids to be detectives and investigate the authority of what they read online. Our kids need skills more than they need content to navigate the explosion of information available to everybody. The video goes for 24 minutes and is well worth viewing and reviewing.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3352757&dest=-1]

Here is Howard’s blog post of the same title.

There is a growing list of links to related online resources at the end of the article.

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Filed under 21st century learning

A teacher’s evaluation of ning

“The real problem is not adding technology to the current organization of the classroom, but changing the culture of teaching and learning”.
Alan November in “Curriculum21” by Heidi Hayes Jacobs (found on Flickr in Great quotes about learning and change)

I want to share with you a teacher’s evaluation of a ning as learning and teaching platform for a Year 12 English class. Although Catherine has only been using the ning for a couple of weeks, she has used the features of ning to their full capacity, enhanced student learning, and created a real  learning community. It’s a shame that the ning is private – otherwise I’d show you what it looks like and how it’s working. Instead, read Catherine’s excellent summary and description.

A couple of weeks ago I began a ning with my Year 12 English class. After their initial disappointment that this ‘wasn’t facebook’ and once they worked out how to post a blog and replies to discussions, the class began to embrace their ning, and I have been thrilled with the results!
Our ning contains the following:
1. Photos of our class. Once a week, I bring a camera into the class and the boys take turns with being the ‘class photographer’. They capture moments from the class and ensure that everyone in the class has a photo. We have also added photos from college activities such as the Athletics Carnival where all the boys dressed up. These photos have been placed in albums in the ning and have been great in inspiring a sense of class spirit and unity.
2. Videos related to the text: I have been able to upload a number of videos related to the text we are currently studying – ‘Maestro’ – at the moment there are videos of Cyclone Tracy, Wagner, Peter and the Wolf, and Vienna.
3. Notes: I am able to write notes that highlight upcoming events / work that is due etc. I have arranged the format so that this is the first thing the boys see when they log on.
4. Groups: I have made groups for each of the texts we are studying, so all of our comments, quotes and resources can be located in easy to find areas.
5. Discussion Forums: Each group has discussion forums. At the moment our discussions are taking place in the Maestro group. As a class we have decided to pool all the quotes we find into these areas so that when writing a text response, everyone knows where to find the resources.
6. Chat facility: this enables everyone in the class to be online at the same time in the evenings and ask questions that everyone can contribute to, if they wish.

At the moment my class is preparing for their first text response, and I have found the chat facility to be extremely useful. A number of boys over the long weekend asked for help with their introductions and were able to place their work on chat and receive feedback from other students as well as myself. It was wonderful to see students help each other, as well as to see the particular student edit and re-edit their work. We have missed a number of classes in the past week due to public holidays and college activities, so it was wonderful to be able to assist students in this way in the lead-up to their assessment. It has also been good to see students ask each other for help with specific quotes and to see other students provide answers.

The ning has given students a central place to go to, when finding their resources for English, and has also allowed questions to be asked and answered very quickly. One of the boys told me this afternoon how much he loves being able to use the ning and how helpful it has been for him. I have also enjoyed seeing boys who never contribute in class, feel confident using this technology to voice their opinions. One boy in particular has become a ‘guru’ when it comes to knowing specific quotes in the novel, which has been wonderful for his self-esteem. However, without a doubt, the best part of the ning is the fact that students are discussing and analyzing the text outside of school hours – of their own volition! What more can an English teacher ask for?!

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Filed under 21st century learning, Web 2.0

How did my presentations go?

How did your presentations go?

People have been asking me this since last Friday when I faced two groups of people and talked about my experiences with nings, flickr (and briefly blogs) in the classroom, and how these things can create learning communities.

Well, I’m not sure how I went, to tell you the truth. I’m really not certain.

This is the first time I’ve presented at a whole-school professional development day – I did present with Maria Toomey last year, very briefly, about our Year 7 English ning at a staff meeting. And that’s it.

So here are my thoughts:

It was definitely a good experience for me. I had many moments during the session where I realised things, and this will contribute to my own learning and hopefully improve further presentations if they ever occur.

I realised that my Web 2.0 experiences have been predominantly within humanities areas, centering on discussion, reflection and sharing of ideas and viewpoints, construction of deeper understanding, and peer interaction. I haven’t had as much contact with maths, science, commerce teachers (apart from Nicole’s forensic science blogs), and haven’t seriously considered the fact that not every educator’s teaching depends on these things.

I’m usually hard on myself, and I will acknowledge the many supportive, positive comments I received from staff, but I think that I have a lot to learn about presenting in an engaging, relevant way. I intend thinking about this and perhaps paying attention to good speakers – our guest speaker, Travis Smith, being one, and the speakers who have just participated in the TEDxNYED talks which I missed because my notebook’s connectivity has been so sporadic.

Here is what I had in mind, and what I did for the presentation:

I wanted to show how rich the learning can be within collaborative Web 2.0 platforms, so I created a ning as a temporary sandbox for newbies. Within the ning, I created groups for some of the subject areas, and as more people joined my session, I expanded these groups, and tried to include a few resources and questions for discussion to give people an idea of how the ning could work for them. I created a collection of videos which provided either background to Web 2.0 technologies, or the future of education.

I had so much to share, and I knew that I wouldn’t have time for everything. The last thing I wanted to do was overwhelm everyone with theories and pedagogy, so I included a few of my blog posts which had already detailed the ning and flickr experiences. I added bits and pieces for discussion, including relevant and challenging quotations, a cool little flash demo about how high blog commenting rates in Blooms Taxonomy, and so on.

Photo courtesy of ecastro on Flickr in group ‘Great quotes about learning and change.’

My original plan was to start the session by acknowledging change, and how, as educators, we may feel overwhelmed or frustrated by it. I showed Karl Fisch’s video, What if?

This is what I showed the first session. I followed this up by asking the question, ‘How do you learn?’ I had set up a discussion for this within the ning, and included my own answer as a starting point.

I learn by writing things out, by making colour-coded charts and maps. Obviously now it’s much easier to locate information – I google instead of going to the library or consult an encyclopedia. In some respects, the way that I learn has changed over the years. I used to learn from one teacher, or by myself. Now I learn from and with people. I ask, I have discussion with others, I ask questions. I’ve built up an online personal learning network – people who are experts in different fields, educators mainly, but also people who push my thinking. I can ask these people for information, advice or their ideas any time and anywhere.

Teachers wrote their answer, read other teachers’ replies, and commented on these. The idea was to immerse them in a ning discussion, giving them an idea of how the threaded discussion worked, and how valuable this online discussion was in terms of collaborative peer unpacking of a topic.

That worked pretty well, without any dramas. Most of the staff wrote thoughtful replies,

I like to find things out for myself and discover new pieces of information. I like to take information or ideas from one field and apply them to another field. I like to see the possibilities of things and explore their extent.

others had a bit of fun,

We’ll try to make sure the office is a calm place for you to learn. Would you like us to bring some scented candles in???

and I think that’s a fair indication of what our students might do. So that’s cool.

It was interesting to see the beginnings of dialogue which extended the thinking through collaboration:

I learn through discussion with others. I find that discussion inspires me, and helps me to order my thinking. I tend to use this style of teaching in my classroom.

reply to this:

Do you think that how we learn and how we teach is different?

Originally, I had intended to follow that up with a video that showed how students learned, The digital generation. This was to be the lead-in to the whole point of the nings, etc. – as a connective learning platform within which our students felt comfortable, one which suits the way they are used to interacting with each other –  the point being that they learn best with and from each other instead of from the teacher, and writing for the teacher only.

I didn’t show this video in the end, either session. I don’t know if I just chickened out, but I got the feeling from my audience that they hadn’t come to think about the future of learning, pedagogy or anything like that. I felt from them that they’d come to consider whether nings and things were the way to go with their compulsory ICLT project. I made the decision on the spot to modify my approach and just supply practical and relevant information and instruction.

So from that point, I showed them a couple of nings which had been working very well – both within senior English classes. As I spoke about these, and later our flickr global photo project, I was aware that teachers who didn’t rely on the construction of knowledge and understanding in students from discussion and predominantly through writing, wouldn’t find my information relevant.

I have to say, it did affect my confidence and I felt that I withdrew in terms of dynamism. It’s not that I lost all enthusiasm, it’s just that I felt I hadn’t prepared sufficiently for all members of the audience. That had something to do with the fact that many of these had only joined my session very recently, in some cases that morning. Still, I think you do have to think on the spot and make spontaneous decisions after you get a feel for the audience.

As I mentioned earlier, many people were generous with their supportive feedback to the session. I would like to follow up with the rest, and find out whether they found the talk useful, and how I can provide answers to any questions they may have. I do feel I can do more through individual conversations.

It was disappointing that some teachers were not able to get into the ning – not sure why – and I’d like to try again, so that they can at least have a look around and see if there’s anything that interests them. The videos alone are a good resource, and I’m hoping that someone might take the time to look through these, as well as read some of the posts I’ve included.

I wonder if the ning will become a place I can continue to throw out interesting resources, links and videos. It may just die a natural death. I like the fact that it encompasses the whole school, and that I could potentially replace the separate emails to staff with ning group resourcing.

I wonder if the flickr project sparked any ideas in teachers other than those of English, foreign languages and English as a second language. I’m really keen to see what teachers can think of, where they can take some of these ideas. There’s no doubt that people will think of things that I haven’t, and I hope to gain from these perspectives.

Overall, it’s been a valuable learning experience for me, taking me out of my comfort zone, connecting me with teachers I would normally not see, and providing me with the challenge to synthesize my own experiences into an oral presentation to a broad audience.

If anyone has experiences or resources to share, I would be grateful.

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