Category Archives: news

New Melbourne-based collaborative blog – Brassofthebear

Photo by Alexander (Sasha) Sheko

Brazen plug for my son, Sasha’s, new collaborative blog about Melbourne – Brassofthebear. It’s just new but there’s plenty to read already.  Here’s the ‘about’ –

Welcome to Brass of the Bear, a collaborative blog with a local focus written by people in and around Melbourne, Australia. The name of the blog is derived from Bearbrass, one of a few names by which Melbourne was originally known.

Brass of the Bear (BB) aims to feature a broad range of content within its local focus, such as:

  • Reviews of cafes, restaurants, bars and the such,
  • Information on local events, art, cinema and music
  • Photography, writing and other locally based creative content
  • Secrets, quirks, hidden locations and adventures to be had
  • Information and opinion pieces on local community and political issues

BB is seeking contributors in any of the above areas (or even anything relevant that doesn’t fit into the above categories). Contact us at brassofthebear@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you.

Sasha asked me to contribute and so I wrote about Melbourne as a UNESCO City of Literature, highlighting events at the Wheeler Centre. Here’s a selection –

You  may or may not know that Melbourne is ‘a City of Literature’. I have no real way of predicting that since most of what I don’t know is common knowledge. In fact, Melbourne’s designation as aUNESCO City of Literature is apparently “acknowledgment of the breadth, depth and vibrancy of the city’s literary culture”. That makes me happy. And so Melbourne boasts a variety of literary organisations  and events to promote a culture of reading and engagement, events such as  Writers VictoriaExpress Media, the Australian Poetry Centre, the Melbourne Writers Festival and theEmerging Writers’ Festival.

You can read the rest here.

The Gertrude St Projection Festival is a good read.

Over the past couple of weeks (from 20 – 29 July, to be precise), Gertrude Street in Fitzroy has been home to a variety of projection art pieces, ranging from hypnotising geometric animations in shop windows to colourful patterns projected onto the entirety of one of the 20-odd story public housing towers. This year saw the fifth Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF), featuring a large number of artists, including a number of collaborative works.

This is the first time I’ve seen the Projection Festival, and I really enjoyed it. Gertrude Street is one of my favourite streets, so much character.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Other posts include Adventure – Footscray, Le Miel et La Lune restaurant review by James Zarucky, a very informative post about Yarraville by Ashley Onori, a story about the old Children’s Hospital (with photos which look apocalyptic) which is being demolished, and a review of the White Rabbit Record Bar in Kensington. The blog includes posts expressing political concerns (a letter to Daniel Andrews) and commentary on a film  from the National Film and Sound Archive’s Film Australia Collection.

I’m always supportive of collaborative efforts, especially when they’re shared online for others’ enjoyment, and I do love my city, so I’m looking forward to reading more from hopefully a growing list of contributors. If you have any expertise in any area of knowledge pertaining to Melbourne, or if you’ve recently attended an event which is worth writing about, leave a comment in the ‘About’ section of the blog.

Photo by Alexander Sheko

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Thank you and goodbye, Steve Jobs

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YouTube.com/Teachers is launched – let’s flip the classroom

Breaking news:

YouTube.com/Teachers has just been launched.

This morning I read Will Houghteling’s announcement in the  Google Certified Teacher Group –

This morning we launched YouTube.com/Teachers as a resource for educators everywhere to learn how to use YouTube as an educational tool. There are lesson plan suggestions, highlights of great educational content on YouTube, and training on how teachers can film their own educational videos. This site was designed/written by teachers for teachers and we hope it’s the first step in really kick-starting a community of YouTube-using educators (sign up for the new YouTube Teachers email list on the right hand side here)

Read the launch blog post here, co-authored by James Sanders and the launch tweet is here if you want to RT it.

There are many reasons why we should make more use of videos in our teaching: to increase student engagement; to cater for the visual learner (most learners will appreciate a visual means of learning); to introduce a new topic to students before the class; to provide a visual tutorial which students can revisit as many times as they wish and at their own pace; to provide an alternative style of instruction – to mention just a few. Flipping the classroom is something I think should happen more often – provide the video as homework to precede the class, and that way students are already familiar with the content and classroom time can be used effectively for discussion, collaboration and creation.

You can join the YouTube Teachers’ Community on this page if you want to receive emails about the ways in which you can incorporate YouTube videos in your teaching.

I think it would be a good idea to create a YouTube channel for your classes and you can read about that here.

Have a look  at 10 ways to use YouTube in the classroom and also at different types of tools to create your own videos or for students to create them. There’s a lot more on the site including tips for video production.

You can search and browse educational categories of YouTube videos here. The Khan Academy alone has 2.676 videos to choose from.

It really is just sensible to be aware of best quality resources available instead of reinventing the wheel. Unless, of course, you are creating an original alternative to the wheel!

Browsing through the different curricular areas of various tertiary institutions, I am aware that there is a wealth of resources for students requiring more sophistocated content and thought, and that applies to all students at my school, Melbourne High School. For me, as teacher librarian, this wealth of resources is begging for curation. I’m thinking about YouTube.com/Teachers  from my role – it’s there, it’s fantastic, how do I promote it to the whole school, and how do I embed it into a space where teachers will find and use it.

I welcome feedback and thoughts about this excellent resource. As always, I will be sharing this resource and my thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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New start – second week at Melbourne High School

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo Elorza on Flickr

As far as new starts go, this one feels good. Not one to go with the flow of things usually, change for me is often like a dentist’s visit I want to avoid. I admit the first few days weighed a little heavily with new procedures, finding my way around, new names and the loss of friends and familiarity of my old school, but one day into the second week and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Today we had 2 interesting visits in the library. At lunchtime Adele Walsh, Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature, came to talk to our Reading Group about The Inkys’ shortlist. (Sorry, I have forgotten the name of the lovely person who accompanied Adele and also shared her experiences of the listed books). Some people talk about books in a way that makes you want to drop everything and read all of them simultaneously, and this was one of those times. When you can talk about books without sounding like an academic, and without relating plot or analysing characters (without mentioning teenage angst!!), then you have the students listening with interest.

After school my head of library had arranged for Simon Shaw from Apple to come and talk to teachers about iPads as tools for learning and teaching. I’ve been to sessions about iPads before, and Simon’s session was probably the best one I’ve been to. There was no hard sell, just a focus on how teachers could do what they already do only better on the iPad, and a range of impressive apps, plus a hands-on session using iMovie. It was good to see a decent turnout too.

Wednesday I will be running an after-school session on Google apps. I have a serious problem when faced with ‘presentations’ and hope to improve with more practice. The research and preparation I do is excessive. Basically, I find it difficult to select a realistic portion of what’s possible. I’m sure the ridiculous amount of research is a procrastination technique. Finally, yesterday, I decided on what I might talk about and what I would exclude. At the moment this is all sitting on a page in my wiki – and looks awful. When I have time I should put this into a slideshow. If you’re brave, here it is. It’s not exhaustive but I wanted to showcase a range of tools. It’s difficult to prepare things like this when you have no idea of what your audience knows or expects, but hey, whatever.

Tomorrow lunchtime I will be meeting with the group of boys I’ll be working with as part of the Creative Writing group. I have inherited this group from my predecessor, and I’ve heard people refer to this group as the Competition Writing group which is an obvious clue in terms of what they do. I had a quick chat to the school captain who is a leader of this group today – lovely boy. I assured him that I didn’t want to change anything they were already happy with, but what did he think about also creating a blog so they could have an audience for their writing. Happily, he thought this would be a good idea. I’m really looking forward to working with these boys; I’m sure there is much passion and talent amongst them. In terms of the blog, I thought it might also be a space for any of us to share anything and everything about writing. Just now I received a Facebook update from the Facebook group, ‘The Wheeler Centre for books, writing and ideas’. I want to include this in a post to encourage the boys to join the group, and to show them what Facebook can provide besides chat.

The Wheeler Centre Facebook group also put me onto Australian Poetry, a Wheeler Centre resident organisation which is celebrating National Poetry Week with a different theme every day this week. There really are so many wonderful programs happening locally, and it will good to share these.

Well, that’s it from me. Just checking in after week 1 in the new job. My blogging has been slow lately, and this has a lot to do with the unsettling leadup to leaving one school and venturing into another. At this point I feel that I will have the opportunity to get involved in some interesting projects, and look forward to telling you about it all.

Have good days!

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What an opportunity – Google Teacher Academy Sydney

What a (good) shock it was to receive an email with news that I had been selected to participate in the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney 20 April (as well as an optional half-day on Thursday). I still can’t believe my luck!  I’ve heard the one full-day PD is full-on, so I hope I’m up to it mentally and physically.

Although I’m confused and upset that many bright and shining people who deserve to go weren’t selected,  I am also honoured and excited, and look forward to fantastic opportunities to learn, connect and share with passionate educators. I expect that this experience will enhance my ability to support teaching and learning at my own school and in my broader environment, and also to broaden my understanding of ways in which I can contribute to learning enhancement, my new role this year. Obviously, the learning will not end with the one session but continue beyond the day. I look forward to meeting and adding to my network new people from all over the place. It’s always fantastic to discover interesting, innovative people.

Not sure what happens here

I suppose I’d better book my flight soon, as well as somewhere to stay. It will be interesting meeting the overseas people. Can’t wait!

Who else is going? Looking forward to meeting you.

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Please keep Ning free in education!

Jason Chmura on Change.org has written a letter to Marc Andreesen (Co-founder and Chairman of the Board, Ning.com) and Jason Rosenthal (CEO, Ning.com) with a petition to keep Ning free for educational purposes.

We, the nonprofit and educational community, urge you to make an exception in your plans to discontinue free Ning services. Since your founding in early 2007, we have been avid supporters of Ning.com and embraced your services as a critical component in accomplishing our missions. We’ve used Ning.com to unite diverse populations, inform individuals, confront difficult issues, and bring hope to those who need it most. For many of us, Ning.com has helped to bridge the communication gap between our organization and those we serve.

We understand that times like these often necessitate making tough decisions, and appreciate the situation that you’re in. However, we hope that you will consider the important role that Ning.com plays in the nonprofit and educational communities and allow us to continue using your free service to provide for those in need.

At a time when funding is scarce and organizations are fighting to keep their doors open, it is critical that these online support communities be allowed to continue without additional financial burdens. Please, be exceptional, and help the nonprofit and educational community at a time when we need it most.

The response to Ning’s free service phase-out is continuing through social media such as Twitter. I received the petition link through a comment in my previous post – it’s also included in the crowd-sourced alternatives to Ning Google doc – , and I’m assuming that, with 172 signatures at the time of writing this post, the link has not been widespread. That’s hard to believe, considering the massive Twitter response.

Checking the #ning updates on Twitter, I noticed the international response with all the non-English tweets (luckily I can read French and German and guess Spanish). Responses vary – some expressing disbelief and others accepting that services such as Ning could not, realistically, remain free. As for me, I assumed (naively?) that if so many educators were using Ning across the globe, then an organisation wouldn’t tick so many people off at the risk of turning them away and seeking other Web 2.0 educational platforms.

Despite the bad news, I’m reassured by the collective strength and wisdom of educators globally. The power of the network prevails.

So, where to from here? I’m going to look at how to export my ning data before it disappears or transfer it to another service.

What about you?

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What the! Ning isn’t free anymore?

This morning I read on Twitter that Ning would no longer be free anymore. Blink.

Can this be true?

TechCrunch announced the news.

Steve Hargadon was quick to send off a post; I was grateful.

Twitter has contributed various links, including a place to go to share how people are using nings in education. A Google document has been created for a collaborative space – already the number of participants is impressive (where’s Australia though? )Posterous has committed to building a ning blog importer. Somebody has thought of a way to save ning. Ideas are cropping up everywhere.

People are realising how valuable some of the networks are:

@RobertTalbert I agree and don’t care about my own Ning, but I am member of several large, wonderful networks (eg. English Companion) #Ning

As disastrous as this is, one thing is clear. Ning means a lot to many, many people. If you feel upset, you are not alone. This is a collective, global problem, and it will continue to receive a collective, global response and – dare I hope – solution.

Here’s a tiny part of the #ning Twitter stream:

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