Tag Archives: discussion

Videos + rich class discussion = Vialogues

https://vialogues.com/vialogues/play_embedded/3402/?width=540

A retweet by Jenny Luca informed me of Vialogues

Vialogues supports meaningful discussions around video. Video can be a powerful instrument with which to engage an audience. However, while videos are essential to the equation, the conversations surrounding these videos are what characterize a vialogue. Vialogues gives you the opportunity to participate in a focused environment that allows you to absorb the content of a video while commenting on it.

The heart of Vialogues is embedded into its name; a vialogue is a video plus a dialogue.

This is a neat way to use videos for class discussion online. Currently I’m involved in the rich sharing of writing in Year 9 blogs. Videos can be fantastic for sparking discussion. The advantages of online discussion directly under the video include participation for every student and an overview of the whole conversation. I hope to be able to use this or other Vialogues with the Year 9 students soon.

I had trouble embedding the Vialogue on my Macbook Pro using Chrome. It may just be an issue on my machine and if anyone can help me embed successfully I’d really appreciate it.

Click the ‘explore’ button to browse people’s Vialogues – so many ideas here to use or modify. I’m interested to hear if you’ve used Vialogues in your classes and how successful they were.

https://vialogues.com/vialogues/play_embedded/328/?width=540

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Writing for an authentic audience, being real. Thanks Isobelle Carmody.

Nick and I are very excited about the way our Year 9 blogs are developing. But before I go any further – Isobelle Carmody has visited us in a guest post!! Isobelle has been very gracious and has taken the time to write down her thoughts for our boys. I would like to share her entire post with you:

I was never much for diaries, and then I read the Diary of Anne Frank, and it was so vivid and real and it felt so true, that I have on and off again over the years, tried to write diaries. I was never very good at them, perhaps because I was the only audience and it seemed to me that I poured the best of myself, the truest words I could write, into my books. You might smirk at this, given I am captive in the fantasy genre corral (save when I can jump the fence and go for a midnight roam in the other paddocks or even out into the wild, where there are no rules or fences). But I don’t see the best fantasy as escapism. I see it as an attempt mostly to try to look at human existence from the outside. To get outside of ourselves, because reality always feels like I am too close to the mirror to see properly. You know when someone shows you something and they hold it too close?  For me right from the age of 14 when I first started to write, I was striving to get some distance, some breathing and thinking space, and fantasy and science fiction allowed this. For me it is a very philosophical genre – it allows me to grapple with the great questions of human existence. Why am I here?  What is the nature of existence?  Am I (are we) FOR anything? Why are humans capable of such wonderful and dreadful extremes of behavior? etc
When Ms Sheko asked if I would like to post on your site, I came to visit to see how I would fit in there. I was immediately taken by the techno-beetle, and then that lovely quote from Thomas Mann had me hooked. It was also timely because having resisted blogging as I resist all new things that force me to pay attention to the world and hence to neglect the worlds I am building in my imagination, I was asked by the State Library blog for a month Inside a Dog. I was intrigued and agreed before I could stop myself. So, ten days and five posts in, I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously. It allows me to find out what I think about things- that in fact is what I think all writing should be about. Writers figuring out the world for themselves.So, good luck to all of you and take full advantage of this site. It really does help you to think better.

Oh, and if any of you would like to visit me, either send me a friend request on Facebook or better still, come visit me this month on Inside the Dog– it is a lot less unsavoury than it sounds. Here is the link to the latest blog and you can read down and back from there. There are lots of other fabulous blogs too, and you gcan get to all of them.http://www.insideadog.com.au/blog/short-story-pt-1

best wishes

Isobelle Carmody

I particularly love this section of Isobelle’s post

I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously.

Having an audience, even a potential one, apart from the teacher and outside the classroom, sets the boys in a completely different space. I know that because I’ve been writing blogs for a few years, and although I’m never sure who will read my writing, I have a sense that somebody out there might, and so I write for that somebody. That’s entirely different to writing a prescribed piece of writing you know your teacher will read – not for pleasure, but in order to give a mark.

Amazingly, Nick has already seen evidence of this awareness in our boys within a very short time –

They are all really experimenting with voices. I love the difference in voice between the first and subsequent posts. They very often go over the top, and mimic what they think is an adult voice. This is so much better than what they usually produce, which is the voice they think is the ‘right’ one (bland and devoid of personality).

I’m overwhelmed by what is happening in these blog spaces within such a short time. The boys have demonstrated some excellent philosophical thinking. In the second task they have reflected on what constitutes learning, whether this happens in or out of school and about their ideal learning context. They have been reading each others’ posts and have started to have meaningful discussions. This is a far cry from the banal commenting which is often associated with teenage social media environments. This is high quality writing, reflection, evaluation and interaction.

Most of all, the boys are feeling their way into their blog spaces. They are starting to feel comfortable in their blogs and are finding their authentic voices. As Nick has observed, the quality of their writing has increased noticeably. Some are using images to complement their writing. It hasn’t taken long at all.

Who says deep learning isn’t possible within social media?

Take a look at the boys’ blogs, their online conversations. Please come in here and leave a comment.

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Random facts I learned from Flickr today

They may be random, but I’m still learning.

Flickr is fun to browse, but more and more, I’m discovering Flickr to be an interesting way to learn. The photos take me into places I’ve never been, to things I normally wouldn’t see, often providing interesting background information.

Here are a few random things I learned from Flickr photos today

This photo was taken in Russia by seriykotik1970

russianbuilding

An art nouveau building near my office that was gutted by fire last week. Sadly it’ll now probably be demolished and ‘rebuilt’. In Moscow fires of this sort are often started deliberately by unscrupulous developers.
Designed by Lev Kekushev in about 1910.
Photographed in 2007

Turkish roosters are very colourful

turkishcock1

turkishcock2

Smarthistory is a group on Flickr which complements the website smarthistory.org. The purpose of this website and Flickr group is to enhance or replace the traditional art history textbook.

For example, you can learn about Matisse’s Red Studio from a short video using Flickr pictures of art collected by group members. 

Redstudiomatisse

If you read About Smarthistory, you will understand the motive behind the creation of this website and Flickr group:  

We are dissatisfied with the large expensive art history textbook. We find that they are difficult for many students, contain too many images, and just are not particularly engaging. In addition, we find the web resources developed by publishers to be woefully uncreative. We had developed quite a bit of content for our online Western art history courses and we had also created many podcasts, and a few screencasts for our Smarthistory blog. So, it finally occurred to us, why not use the personal voice that we use when we teach online, along with the multimedia we had already created for our blog and for our courses, to create a more engaging “web-book” that could be used in conjunction with art history survey courses. We also realized that this content would be useful to museum visitors and other informal learners. We are committed to joining the growing number of teachers who make their content freely available on the web.

Smarthistory is an excellent example of what can be done to create high-quality, free educational resources through collaboration. You’ll understand the scope of this project when you look at the site map which provides a hyperlinked timeline of art history. I also like to check out the discussion in groups.

The best thing about learning on Flickr is that you don’t expect to.  That’s why it’s so enjoyable.

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

TED Q & A with Ken Robinson

KenRobinsonTED-reddit

The TED blog describes an interesting Q&A session with creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, author of The element. Reddit gave TED fans the opportunity to submit questions for Ken, with the 10 most voted questions being answered.

Here are the 10 questions Ken answered. Many of these are long, and I’ve tried to select the main part of the question, but you’ll have to go to the post to read the rest:

1. What specific actions do you recommend taking to overhaul, say, public education to maximize how we identify and nurture creativity? And what place do you think things like critical thinking and logic (also noticeably absent) have in basic education?

2. …why do we make these distinctions between “math”, “biology”, “history”, and “art”, when they are all linked, and when the interconnections so often make them meaningful? Is it OK if children are not “well-rounded,” as long as they are following their curiosities, or does a lack of “well-roundedness” mean we are not exposing them to enough bridges to new interests?

3. What do you think is the correct way to grade/rank/assess an individual’s academic performance? And what do you think should & should not be included in standardized entrance exams like SAT?

4. … some would advocate that video games are in fact best preparing kids for 21st century life. What’s your opinion on this, and of the place of video games in education?

5. There are so many individual teachers and librarians out there who GET IT, who want to help their students stop “playing school” and start having authentic learning experiences. How do they build critical mass to change our bureaucratic, cookie-cutter approach to educating children?

6. How do I get involved to make this change happen?

7. … What are your thoughts on the future of distance learning, and have you seen any signs of a breakthrough that will replace the status quo, while delivering interactive, powerful, social and visually simulating learning?

8. What is your opinion of the Summerhill School?

9.  I’m a maths teacher, in England, in a forward-thinking school (the head showed your TED talk to the whole school a couple of years ago at a staff meeting) and I believe in what you say about creativity passionately. So what three things should I do in September to foster creativity? I’m talking about definite, in-the-one-hour-lesson things I can do to my classes to change their experience.

10. … We all know you can find your element at any time in life but what more can I do to find out what MY element is?

 It’s definitely worth reading in full. I won’t summarise but I’ll pull out sections which resonated with me.

 The basis of my argument is: creativity isn’t a specific activity; it’s a quality of things we do. You can be creative in anything — in math, science, engineering, philosophy — as much as you can in music or in painting or in dance. And you can certainly be involved in the arts in ways that are especially creative. And so it’s important to emphasize that it’s not about creating some small space in schools where people can be creative, and particularly not if that means just tacking on some art programs on a Friday afternoon. It’s about the way we do things.

Ken talks about a ‘grammar of creativity’:

You can help them think productively, generate ideas effectively, help them to think of alternative approaches to issues and questions.

It’s a series of processes, not an event. And helping people understand how that works is an important part of being creative. You wouldn’t expect people to become literate just by hoping it’d happen.

And I think subjects is a poor idea, really, for the kind of work I’m interested to promote, because it suggests that the world is definable into entirely different sorts of content or subject matter…. So now, we live in an age where there are multiple variations of different disciplines — the merging of physics and chemistry and of engineering and genetics. And the problem is that schools and institutions are often slow to keep up with these changes.

It’s not that I am against standardized testing. What I’ve personally got a rant about is the extent to which standardized testing, firstly, has become a massive commercial industry which is detached, in most cases, from the real purpose of education. And secondly, the extent to which we’ve come to associate standardizing with raising standards. Now, everybody agrees we should raise standards in schools. Of course you should. But, the primary instrument that’s being used is standardized testing. And the problem with it is that it fails to do the one thing we know works if we want to improve standards in schools, which is to address personal development… It’s not there to identify what individuals can do. It’s there to look at things to which they conform.

So, my argument is that instead of standardizing everything in schools we should be going in the opposite direction…. I think we should be personalizing everything in schools. We should be looking at ways of making education relevant to each individual child. And there’s no other way of improving standards. Actually, there’s no other way of doing it on the grand scale.

 On the whole, people in education get this as much as anyone else. And they don’t like it. They know there’s a big problem in the system, and they want to change it…. 

The real place to focus, initially, is on the work you do yourself. I’m always keen to say this: Education doesn’t happen in the committee rooms of Washington, or London, or Paris or Berlin. It doesn’t happen in government buildings. It happens in the minds of students and learners. It happens in the classroom… So what I would say to teachers is: Change your own practice, today. The education your children are getting is a result of what you’re doing with them.

Don’t wait for the government to change things; get on and do it yourself. But also, if you’re in a position to do it, you should try and influence policy. There’s an opportunity to do that in many countries. It depends on your position.

Just dumping stuff online isn’t the answer to it. But there’s a massive thirst for ideas, for this sort of content, as illustrated by the mushrooming of social networking and user-generated content… Because we now have the ability to put the best thinking, materials, pedagogy, resources in front of everybody. This should be seen by schools as a massive opportunity to — not to replace what they do, not to replace their own teachers and curriculum, but to enrich and enhance it.

But there are some characteristics of good teaching which are concerned with promoting creativity. One of them is to engage children’s curiosity to get their imaginations fired up. I was saying earlier that the fundamental capacity is imagination. Well, what I mean by that is you can’t be creative if your imagination is not engaged.

If you want to promote creativity, you need, firstly, to stimulate kids minds with puzzles and questions which will intrigue them. Often that’s best done by giving them problems, rather than just solutions. What often happens in classrooms is, kids sit there trying to learn in a drone-like way things of not much interest that have already been figured out.

I talked about, in the All Our Futures report, two things, one of which was “teaching creatively”: teachers finding interesting ways into material. Presenting unusual points of entry or interesting angles or perspectives, and enjoying the process of finding them. So, that’s important. Teachers themselves should try to evolve their own creative capacities and enjoy what they do, creatively. Standardized testing has taken the joy of teaching away from them.

The second big part of this is asking open questions as much as we ask closed questions. Giving people questions they can explore, rather than ones to which they have to find answers that have already been given. That, to me, is the fundamental piece of all creative processes. Giving area for exploration.

One thing I didn’t touch on earlier is, the creative process is a bit like a DNA strand. There are a lot of things weaving through it. One task being creative is to hypothesize and think of possibilities and look at alternatives ideas — to speculate. To be imaginative. But an equally important part for every creative process is to act critically on the ideas you’re coming up with. To evaluate them.

… group work. An awful lot of creative work doesn’t happen individually. It happens with people interacting with other people. The most powerful engines of creative thinking are groups. And the reason that’s true is because a great group models the human mind: it’s diverse, it’s dynamic, it’s distinctive. So, knowing how to form groups, how to get groups to work, how long to leave them doing it is a core skill of good teachers.

So I think its three things: it’s stimulating imagination, it’s telling them problems with open questions, and knowing how to organize groups. And I think in there are the answers to things we can all start doing tomorrow.

Fertile ground for personal and professional discussion, don’t you think?

 

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How have you changed as a writer because of online spaces?

On Twitter I read that Will Richardson was doing a day-long workshop on ‘How have you changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities?’

Considering the deliberate and concentrated direction ‘out’ I’ve been following in the last year, when blogging through a Web 2.0 learning process took me out of the library and into the world, I thought it would be a good idea for me to ponder this question:

‘How have you changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities?’

Well, the short and simple answer is easy: I never was a writer until I started a personal blog, and so that simple step in setting up a blog, like so many people did before me, has given me the gift of a space I can personalise with my thoughts. Over 30 years ago, when I finished secondary school, I lost my excuse for writing. Having enjoyed writing in English classes more than anything else at school, there was no reason or opportunity to do it anymore. So when I started my blog, tentatively at first, it was a joyful reunion with a process I had long missed.

And so, back to the question, ‘how have I changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities’? Blogging has not only given me the chance to write, but it has given me an audience, and it has connected me to people. When I say audience, it’s not a big one, but I’m not talking to the air either. If I have something to say or share or ask, it’s great when I get a response, a thrill when I start a conversation, and brilliant if it involves people from different parts of the world. If I’m thinking or doing the same thing as someone in another country, then the world is brought closer, the unknown seems more familiar, what was foreign becomes more friendly.

The online communities I’ve joined since – Twitter, wikis, nings, etc., have taken my writing into the interactive zone. I’ve responded, supported, elaborated, argued, bounced off others, shared people’s successes, empathised, and generally had a great time with people I didn’t know, or hardly knew, and now with whom I share a great affinity. To describe this affinity, I will just say that if I’m ever in need of anything – moral support, information, advice – then the people in my network will instantly respond.

And back to the question again – my writing has changed even in its sincerity, its authenticity; I think it has thrown off its carefully constructed facade, its attempt to impress, to sound correct, to please, to conform to the status quo. It’s become transparent and unselfconscious, playful and casual, flexible and possibly courageous.

If my writing has changed in these ways because of online spaces and networks, then it must be clear to all that it is a human, and not technological, development. It’s about me, not my technology skills. The technology has provided the medium, the connections, but it has centred on human interaction.

These are the reasons why I’m exploring and pushing Web 2.0 platforms for learning and teaching at school. Using online spaces and communities for writing will connect students to each other and to others outside the classroom. Writing will become meaningful, and learning enjoyable.

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Filed under 21st century learning, blogging, learning, network literacy, technology, Web 2.0, writing

Power of the network

The last couple of days have been very interesting. I’d like to share what I have learned since I shared on this blog a discussion about favouring an external blog to an internal one.

Above all, I learned that I could depend on the people in my network. Who are these people? Some of them I’ve met face to face; some I’ve come to know through my involvement in online networks; a few I’ve only just met in the course of this blog issue.

Amazingly,  over 200 people read my last blog post. Much as I’d like to convince you otherwise, I don’t normally record such a readership. How did I receive such a response?

After writing out my response to the Computer Systems Manager, then posting this with my response to him, I sent a link to the post out on Twitter, asking for people to enter into the discussion. I wanted to generate discussion, and to collect people’s views and perspectives. Discussion is a healthy and powerful thing. It’s a good idea to find out what others think even if they don’t agree with you, and in some cases, particularly when they don’t agree with you, since it pushes your thinking.

Apart from clarifying my own thinking with regard to the value of Web 2.0 technologies and their role in learning and teaching, in writing out this issue I gained valuable insights from others using the Web 2.0 platforms. Herein lies the power of these technologies – not in the technology itself, but in the powerful connections with people, people with unique backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, talents, and ideas.

The people who commented my post were educators or involved in education in some way. They responded quickly, and they came from around Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth) and overseas (Hong Kong and USA).  Click on their names next to the comments and read their profiles and their blogs to make their acquaintance.

My online networks are full of professionals whose reading and links, ideas and talents, I follow. If I need an idea, advice, professional reading, teaching material, and more, I go to this network. And I try to be helpful in return. Anyone who has experienced the collective wisdom of online networks will tell you the same. It is not about the technology.

Our students will go into the world needing support and continued learning. If we help them understand and navigate appropriate networks, we will be laying the foundations for support systems. We should allow them to learn within supervised online environments, teaching them how to write and interact appropriately and in a safe way, to share ideas and solve problems with relevant groups of people, etc.

As educators, our view of what is essential for student learning needs to change. Our students’ world will be fast-paced and changeable, requiring adaptability and resourcefulness. Our students will need to know how to find what they need, and who to trust. They will hopefully be able to discern who to follow and how to behave.

Change is never easy. One of my mentors, and co-founder (with Will Richardson) of the Powerful Learning Practice model, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, has just written a blog post about change, which she prefaces with the following quotations:

 “It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”  James Gordon, M.D.

“Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.” King Whitney Jr.

Sheryl uses the metaphor of her recent house renovation to deconstruct the journey towards building change, towards the creation of something new. She documents this process insightfully, and I recommend you read the entire post.   I thought I’d pull out some of the phrases that resonated with me in Sheryl’s post.  She talked about the challenge of

keeping the momentum and the dream of the transformation alive

She also said:

There are times I wanted to throw in the towel and thought as outdated as the home was at least there was peace and comfort.

 things will look worse before they get better

Fear is a big part of it too

Trust is another issue. Do the experts I have hired to make these changes a reality have the know how and wisdom to make it all happen

I’d like to end my post with another one of Sheryl’s quotes:

 For change to take hold and redefine people and the places they live and grow there needs to be a time of inquiry, reflection, and visioning.

I’m grateful that I have people with whom to share my inquiry, reflection and visioning.

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Filed under 21st century learning, blogging, debate, learning, network literacy, networking, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0, writing

Stick figures in peril – Flickr groups

Originally uploaded by superlocal
 
 
 

 

I enjoy Flickr for its access to a diversity of images, and have joined several groups to zoom in on a specialised focus of interest. Flickr groups also allow the geek to have a home, and I’m quite comfortable in some of these groups – in fact, I entertain myself exploring some of these esoteric groups.

One such group is ‘Stick figures in peril’ which is intrinsically funny AND also entertains with the ensuing discussion.

This image has tickled the imagination of some of its group members who have ventured to guess what the picture could mean.

stickfigures1

Here’s a funny sign

nokissing

indyfoto says:

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/no -kissing-all…
No kissing allowed at Warrington station – it blocks the platform

By Mark Hughes
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
The ‘no-kissing’ sign at Warrington Bank Quay station in Cheshire
Lovers hoping to bid each other an intimate farewell will no longer be able to do so in certain areas of Warrington Bank Quay train station after “no kissing” signs appeared following concerns that embracing couples were causing congestion.

The signs were installed on Friday as part of a £1m refurbishment of the station and have divided the car park and taxi ranks into “kissing” and “no-kissing” zones.

Interesting what you can learn from a Flickr group with a strange name.

I can think of ways to trigger discussion and imaginative speculation in the classroom using flickr groups images.  Any other ideas?

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Filed under Education, photos, teaching, Web 2.0