Tag Archives: flickr

What’s been happening – term 3 has been a busy one

I’m not the only one remarking on the lapses between blog posts. The blog is no longer the main platform for sharing and communicating – there is a long, long list of online places which need to be fed and looked after – for me that includes other blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Scoop.it, Diigo, Slideshare, Vimeo, Libguides, Facebook and all its groups, and more. So I thought I’d drop in and do a quick update on what may be worth checking out in case it’s helpful or even interesting.

My school library blog has been keeping up with reading ambassadors for the National Year of Reading (#nyor12). These short and informal interviews are a pleasure to read, and reveal thoughtful responses to reading preferences. We’ve also recently celebrated 2012 Book Week with a hugely enjoyable ‘party’ in the library. I’ve included photos I think you’ll enjoy of our costume and cake competitions so that’s definitely worth checking out. This is the first Book Week celebration I’ve attended at Melbourne High School since I started a year ago, and it was fantastic. I was so impressed by the willingness of staff and students to dress up and play the part. The creativity displayed in our book-themed cake competition added a gastronomical dimension – who can resist cake? Yes, we did go on a bit about the cakes looking too good to eat but it didn’t last long.

I’ve been having such a good time resourcing the art curriculum in the last few months. My art blog churns out a diverse selection of inspiration to art students and teachers (I hope). This includes images, photography, design and animation.

Our students explored links to websites with antiquated encyclopedia images to create their ‘transformations’ which I combined in a slide show. The reduced image size doesn’t do justice to the details in the students’ work, so have a look at larger ones in Mihaela’s new art blog.

Yes! Our head of art now has a blog, and so do her students. This term our year 9s and 10s were lucky enough to get iPads, so we decided to get them to create Posterous blogs which we linked to Mihaela’s ‘mother blog’ and encouraged them to start snapping away with their iPad cameras so that they could develop a store of visual inspiration for their work. The beauty of a mobile device is the opportunity to capture photos as you go about your everyday activities. I’ve found the best images are the unexpected ones. I was inspired to get the art students blogging when I saw my dear friend, Marie Salinger’s, student blogs. Marie’s students have realised the rich potential of blogs in terms of journalling, reflecting, evaluating and just plain sharing. A blog is visual, it’s sequential, easy to access online and share with others; it invites responses and conversation. In her Visual Arts blog, Marie has reflected about the way in which iPads have enriched learning for her girls. The way Marie’s students used their blog to experiment with and evaluate iPad apps for drawing, then share with others, inspired me to talk to Mihaela about doing the same. Consequently I went into obsessive mode and lived and breathed art and apps for a couple of weeks, adding an Art Apps page in our LibGuides, my art blog, Pinterest, Flickr and Diigo.

Robot I am Apps used: Blender Pixeltwist                 (iphoneart.com)

Recently a dedicated team of students from the co-curricular group, Writing Competition, successfully wrote a book in a day. They had to collaboratively write at least 8,000 words and illustrate their story. The whole thing had to be done within 12 hours. I was very proud of the way they managed to work together and fuse their ideas and talents to produce a fantasy story for the Children’s Hospital. I hope to be able to share their book once I check the copyright.

Well, that’s it for now. Hope some of this has been useful to you.

4 Comments

Filed under Teacher librarians, teaching

Five Card Flickr – what a great lesson

Teaching is such an up and down thing. I always hesitate to say ‘teaching’ because I’m a teacher librarian, and we don’t teach the same way teachers teach. Our role is so diverse, and we are sometimes seen in the classroom and other times seen at our computers, madly reading or researching and creating stuff for teachers and students. But teachers we are, so it’s teaching that we do.

Anyway, as I was saying, I think most teachers would agree that during a typical school week it’s common to experience ups and downs, and sometimes so many of these that you just want out.

This week just past was one such week. Most of the time it seemed that it would just be a downward roll but somehow the last lesson of the week was so enjoyable that it redeemed the rest.

Sometimes simple things can work so well. So it was when I joined a teacher and his Year 9 English class to give Five Card Flickr a go. It’s one of the writing  prompts in my new blog called Storyteller. It seemed simple, we both decided to give it a go. Secretly I thought it might bomb since this was the last period of the week, and after all, these were Year 9 boys.

But lo and behold! it was a success! After a brief explanation the boys were bent over their laptops typing away. And they kept typing! Now I have to explain that our lessons are over an hour long so I thought there was no way that this activity would take up the rest of the period. But it did! There’s something heart-warming when you see a room full of 14-15 year olds engrossed in something at school.

So what’s Five Card Flickr? Simple: you go to the website and you’re presented with five photos pulled from Flickr – so they’re photos people have shared. Real people, and you can check out a little about these people because their usernames are hyperlinked to their Flickr page. So you can have a look at what else they have been  photographing.

Ok, so out of these five photos, you choose one, and as soon as you click on it, a new set of 5 photos appear, and so it goes until you have 5 photos which you’ve chosen for your piece of writing. Then you add your username, a title for your story and write it directly into the box provided. You save and then it’s added to a gallery, and you can also share it as a permanent link.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Valbusa on Flickr

As soon as the boys started writing, they peered across to the student next to them to see what they were writing. Mr T. was also writing a story and his was projected onto the screen, and it was cool to see it evolve as a process along with the editing. After they’d written their first story, the boys were curious to read everyone’s contribution in the gallery. And that’s the whole point of this kind of technology – to open up to the group; kids like the social aspect of writing. They like to compare and have a laugh at each other’s stories. The sharing becomes the most important, most satisfying part of the experience. Compare that to writing something for the teacher full stop.

I think they were also chuffed to see their stories on the Web; they liked the fact that other people – people they didn’t know – would read them. I think it made them feel like mini celebrities. Never know who will read your stuff.

Five Card Flickr could be used in so many ways – in English class, ESL, foreign language. You could allow any kind of written response – we said write whatever. So they could write a poem, prose, a song, first person, third person, etc. After the first one we decided to specify genre, so they had to write a horror story. There are as many possibilities here as your imagination allows.

Pictures are such a good prompt for writing, and Five Card Flickr is a winner. You should try it.

Here are some of our boys’ responses:

6 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, flickr, Web 2.0, writing

Project reflection confirms the value of social learning

Recently, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been involved in a global project with two overseas schools (Finland and USA) within Flickr. Gradually my evaluation of each week’s outcomes have been written and cross-posted on this blog.

Today I completed my reflection on and evaluation of weeks 6 – 8 which you can read on the project’s blog. Re-reading the students’ contributions,  the value of social learning has been reconfirmed. If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate.

I thought I’d cross-post Week 8, so here it is.

Week 8 – What does learning mean to you?

Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you.

Write about what learning means to you, where and how you learn best, school learning and outside school learning, your feelings about learning.

To some, learning was best represented by a simple pencilcase.

Photo by ryanrau

while others saw learning in relationships outside of school.

Photo by andresg201.usa

Many students’ reflective and evaluative skills were impressive. My guess is that the personal topics enabled the best kind of analysis because students were able to choose an aspect of their lives which was meaningful.

This is my father and my nephew. Isn’t he amazing! I think so. They are both learning so much. My nephew, about everything around him and how to interact and my father, about being a grandfather and everything that means. I really love that this shows how we never really stop learning and that there is always something new to experience.

I tend to learn more from project-based and hands-on learning as well as auditory learning. Though, I am good at standard school learning. I love learning new things and exploring topics. As long as it is something I like. Math, unfortunately, is not my forte. Reading and writing is more up my alley. But overall, I hope I continue to learn for the rest of my life. 🙂

We may not often ask our students to reflect on what learning means to them, or how they learn best, but the project’s responses made me realise how valuable this kind survey would be.

Many posts were endearing for their honesty indicating that students felt safe within the global cohort. This is testament to the respect and encouragement students consistently showed each other. It’s so important to recognise this when so many educators are afraid of trying out online, collaborative projects, fearing they might ellicit bad behaviour from students.

Photo by JamesMau

This surrounding basically describes the environment in which i like to learn in. One which is quiet, peaceful and relaxing. It’s hard for me to learn in a noisy and loud environment because there are too many voices going through my head, which then doesn’t allow me to lock in and concentrate.

Learning is a pretty big thing to me because it helps me get through each day and builds me up for what I want to do later in life. I can’t say that I like school but I’m there to learn and its part of my life.

Photo by timbau

This photo is of the book shelf we have in our study. Learning for me can sometimes be really fun or sometimes it can be horrible, depending of the subject. I like English, Maths, Psychology and Sports Science.

(comment) I feel like that too, it mostly depends on how I feel that morning. If I’m super tired and just want to go to sleep, I wont be in the mood to learn anything. But if I woke up good, I don’t feel tired and I’m not complaining, I want to learn. 🙂

Why don’t we realise the value of social learning and take learning out of the classroom, out of the hands of the teacher as ‘sage on the stage’ and into peer learning?

7 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Social learning

Week 3 – Take a photo with movement

This has been cross-posted from Through global lenses

Week 3: Take a photo:
With movement, maybe one of your hobbies, or activities at school or freetime

*Write about:
Your hobby/hobbies or extra-curricular activities at school, what made you choose them and what they give to you.

Photo by Danielnau on Flickr

Cricket and football were at the top of our boys’ list of hobbies and pasttimes for Week 3′s assignment. This prompted a discussion about the different types of sport with questions about Australian Rules football and cricket.

You’re right; cricket is not a very common sport in the USA. I don’t know to much about cricket, but it kind of looks like baseball. Is cricket only a male sport, or do women play too? Wow 4-5 hours! That’s a really long game! Do all games last that long or only the games that go into overtime?

And yes its not very common sport in Finland. Actually I don’t even know any Finn that plays it. I’ve seen some cricket games on TV and they sure are very long. How long is an average cricket game?

(Another comment) Is cricket little bit like baseball? Cos i only know how you throw the ball and that the bat looks weird:)

In some cases students learned the rules of sports they didn’t play in their country, for example, one of the Australian students explained the rules of squash to a student from Finland.

There is ample evidence that students are engaged in learning from the overseas students – much more than if they had just read the information in a text.

Finnish student: Mostly we swim in summer because its only time in the year when water temperature goes over 20 degree Celsius.

Wow! I can’t believe that 20 degrees is warm. What is the water temperature usually?

It really depends on the time of year. Most of summer its like 15-19 degrees but it goes way below that on other time of the year. Some finns even go to swim when water is just over 0 degree during winter.

Photo by tiaafi on Flickr

Experiences are very different amongst students. This American student’s comment has been echoed by some of the Australian students:

I like this picture I looks like it came out of an imagination not from a real place some where. I have never touched snow but I have seen it before and it did look like a lot of fun.

Photo by keithtAU on Flickr

The above photo was greeted with surprise

(Finnish student): Woah! I never believed that there is a place fort ice skating in Australia. Is that some kind of indoor ice skating arena?

Sometimes the comments are about the photography:

Photo by brentonwau on Flickr

I really like this picture. You can see the movement in it but its still very sharp (Finnish student)

Some responses go deeper:

Photo by KierenT_au

I got this picture when I was gardening and when I saw it I was fascinated. It showed to me that us humans should be like this big although there are a lot of minor obstacles in the way there are also very big ones which I think is a perfect example of life. This bug showed me that there’s always a way around even if it was very big and take a long time to get around it still managed to get around.

While watching this bug for ages I just saw at some points that you get stuck and cant move and you need a helping hand or you might just get stuck and struggle for a bit but soon figure out how to get unstuck. I think that time is the greatest thing on this planet without time where would we be? Also without choices where would we be what if we couldn’t make our own choices?

I’m not sure if I could have asked for a better response if I had included more prescriptive guidelines. This student has blended photo with higher order and creative thinking. It’s interesting to see the occasional contribution with a surprising perspective. When students read the entire cohort’s responses, they get a rich diversity – so much to take in and respond to.

Understanding is unpacked through the dialogue. An Australian student talked about swimming when it was 30 degrees and an American student responded by saying

That’s insane 30 degrees I would die down in florida when it gets to 40 i think it’s like an ice age!!! It’s so crazy on the difference between there and here. By the way your picture is very cool and the pool looks amazing:) I love swimming.

A Finnish student clarified:

Are you talking about fahrenheit or celsius? Cos 30 degrees in celsius is really hot and morgan is talking about an ice age:)

Whatever the students have shared in this week’s assignment, there is plenty of positive reinforcement from their cohort:

This is very cool. the fact that it’s your passion and you enjoy it is even cooler. I like how you actually enjoy and look forward to it is awesome.

Leave a comment

Filed under 21st century learning, flickr, network literacy, networking, photos, technology, Web 2.0, writing

Week 2 – People in your life

This has been reposted from Through global lenses

Week 2 assignment:

Who are the people you see every day? What do they mean to you? Are you a person who needs to be with people all the time or do you also like solitude? Which people have been most influential in your life, how and why?

Week 2 took students from the initial focus on who they were to their circle of family and friends.

I was surprised again that our boys were so unashamedly grateful to their parents; I think that they’re more likely to admit their feelings in writing than through class discussion. It has been very encouraging to note that all students have exemplified the best online behaviour, leaving comments which have encouraging, supportive and leading to spirited conversation.

Although Week 2′s contributions were all similar, centring on family and friends, the little details created interest. I thought I’d share some of these details.

Photo by JamesMAU

“My Mum and Dad will do anything to make me happy and to see me having fun, they even wake up at early hours of the morning to take me to 5am basketball training 30 minutes away from our house and school, just to make me feel happy and cared for.
My Mum and Dad aren’t life savers but they are just regular parents who provide so much for me and make me feel safe and secure. I am very lucky to have them and there are many ways I wish I could thank them”.

“My family mean a lot to me; they help me through the hard times and support me through the good times. My parents are great; they support and respect the decisions that I make.

“My friends mean the world to me, if I am having a bad day they can make me smile, they are always there to support me and help through the good and bad times and I try to help my friends as much as they help me”.

Photo by LukeS,Au

“My little brother is a person i see daily and also someone whom i love to spend some time with. Not only is he my brother, he is one of my best mates and i adore him for that”.

Comment:

“I really like this picture. It made me smile. The light from the sun completes the picture, in my opinion. I also like it because it shows how close you are with you little brother. I, personally, have three little brothers and they mean a lot to me. =]”

Photo by KierenT_au

“This Photo to me shows my relationship with my friends, I really don’t care if people say wearing that stuff is for girls only and stuff like that. I think it’s fun sometimes just to dress up and mess around and not care what the world thinks of you. The relation with all my friends is great we all get along and we are all into music also we all love to chat and just hang and chill at places”.

Comment:

“You seem like a really cool person. :)
I love how you can be your own person and not really care about what other people think”.

“I’m not really a person who needs someone always to be around them I love just being by myself and seeing where I’m heading and also just time to relax. I love to be outside when I’m by myself I sit on my fence or either up on this brick wall at the side of our house and I just sit there and enjoy the wind and the fresh air and free space, I got to say that the only thing I don’t like about sitting outside is at night I cover my whole body basically from head to toe but I still get bitten by the mosquitoes”.

Comment:

“love listening to the wind too. It’s amazing. Especially at the beach. And, yes, wow mosquitos are the biggest pests any where in the world. :P

I love how the Week 2 assignment broadened the group’s knowledge of each student within the circle of his/her family and friends. It brought together students from different geographical and cultural backgrounds, highlighting what young people have in common everywhere. In some cases it aroused curiosity –

“Is these clothes what you wear at school? We don’t wear school uniform in Finland.”

The best part of the project for me, again this week, was seeing the enthusiasm of the students racing to read what others had said in response to their posts and  photos. The smiles on their faces …

Leave a comment

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

Thinking about evaluation

Contributed by Darren Kuropatwa in Flickr Group Great quotes about learning and change (pool).

I’ve been collaborating with Marie Coleman (Florida) and Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow (Finland) through Flickr to bring our students together in a photo-journal project. Yesterday I interviewed some of the students for feedback and, once I figure out how to edit these avi files, I’ll be sharing these very interesting interviews here.

This has been cross-posted from Through global lenses.

Our Flickr project has come to an end, and I haven’t even been able to keep up with what’s been happening.

Nevertheless!

I’m not going to let the opportunity for reflection, evaluation and showcasing escape. It will be done – eventually.

This week I hope to start asking students and teachers for feedback. This will take the form of questioning on the ning, as well as recording interviews which I hope to start today.

Here are some questions for student evaluation:

1. What did you enjoy the most about the Flickr project?

2. What, in your opinion, didn’t work for you?

3. How could this project have been improved or done differently?

4. What sorts of things have you learned?

5. What was the most valuable thing you learned?

6. What do you enjoy about connecting with students from other countries?

7. How important is the photo in the writing assignment?

8. What did you enjoy about other people’s photos?

9. What did you learn about taking photos?

10. What was your favourite/What were your favourite weekly theme(s)?

11. What was the most interesting thing you learned from another student?

12. What have you learned about other cultures?

13. What sorts of things do you have in common with students of other cultures?

14. What do you think are the main differences between you and students of other cultures?

15. Would you like to visit/live in the USA or Finland? How has the project influenced your answer?

Some questions to ask teachers:

1. Did you enjoy the project? What were the highlights?

2. What did you expect from the project at the outset?

3. Did the project meet/exceed your expectations? In what ways?

4. How did you find the collaboration? online/global aspect; time differences; school term differences, etc.

5. What difficulties did you experience during the project? What worked and what didn’t?

6. How would you do the project differently if you did it again?

7. What do you think students gained from the project?

8. In your opinion, how important a role did the photo play in the writing?

9. Was this project an enhancement for students? Which ones in particular (were there any surprises)?

I’ll be responding to these questions myself because I think that an evaluation is the only way to truly learn from something. Some of these things are only half-formulated in my mind, so this exercise should help me think more deeply and define what I think.

So what does the quote – If all your kids do is learn to read and write, they won’t be literate – mean to me?

There’s a bigger answer to this, but for now I’ll give the smaller answer, the answer relevant to the objectives and outcomes of this project.

The learning that has taken place here has been learning with and from other people – students who share interests and passions with each other regardless of their geographical location.

Instead of learning from a book, a fact sheet or article provided by the teacher, our students have learned from each other.

Their learning has been sparked by curiosity, a desire to connect with peers, natural dialogue, and an opportunity to share and be creative within a stuctured but relaxed framework.

They have learned by asking, by reading each others’ contributions – within an online community.

They have done this with respect for each other and through positive comments. This is much more than just ‘reading and writing’.

More about this later….

Leave a comment

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

Flattening the world with Flickr in the classroom

Photo courtesy of matthewpAU on Flickr

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that there are certain ‘flatteners’ that promote and allow for connection, collaboration and creation via distance.  He was referring to technological applications which shrink geographical barriers and make global connections possible. This is my aim for a special project at my own school – a project which would enhance teaching and learning through ‘connection, collaboration and creation’, taking the students out of the classroom and into the world.

In 2009 I decided to take up a Flickr challenge to upload a photo every day for a year and post it to appropriate flickr groups. As a result I connected with others through interest and dialogue, and three of us –  Marie Coleman, Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow and I –  agreed that a similar project  would be an enriching experience for students. I was lucky to find a teacher who was interested in the project and who has supported it wholeheartedly.

Sinikka reflected:

‘I would really like to challenge my students to bring out their real personalities in the foreign language. I have learned over the years that Finns especially seem to suffer greatly from a sort of ‘personality reduction syndrome’ when using a foreign language. I blame our text books and language classes for this, since students hardly ever get the chance to express THEMSELVES in the target language, but are always asked to talk about external topics, or role play. Their use of the language is also far too fact-based – emotions and feelings are hardly ever touched upon’.

I think Sinikka hit the nail on the head by underlining the importance of students expressing themselves, instead of practising their writing skills using isolated topics and writing mainly for the teacher.

The learning is happening for us as teachers too. In the planning stages, we collaborated in a Google document, using Google spreadsheets and slideshow (thanks Marie!) to brainstorm and formulate our project. The geographical time differences weren’t a problem at all, and occasionally Sinikka would catch me in Google chat before going to bed if I was online early enough in the morning.

The final product is an 8 week project with a weekly assignment based on a photo and written description following a theme. The first assignment is to take a photo which ‘is not you, but represents you as a person’ – so, an introduction to initiate the sharing of personal information and interests. Although almost every student included sport and music in their introduction, there were diverse details which created interest in the group. The cultural differences were obvious conversation starters, and the similarities brought the students together through shared interests. I know that our boys, being in a single sex school, were interested in the opportunity to connect with the girls!

Photo courtesy of MorganT7.USA on Flickr

The project is quite  simple but with very rich results. The weekly themes set  diverse tasks. Some themes ask for the sharing of personal, cultural or geographic information, some encourage photographic creativity (‘Take a photo: of something you go past every day and take it from an interesting new perspective”), while others require deeper thinking and creative solutions (‘Take a photo that goes with the title or lyrics of a song’ or ‘Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you’).

We have used Flickr as a platform for this project. Flickr provides an easy way to upload photos, an automatic photostream for each student, and a profile for identification. Our group, Through global lenses, is a one-stop shop for the whole operation. It holds all the members from the three schools, allows for instructions and program, as well as storing all essential information such as netiquette, creative commons, commenting guidelines, etc. It even has email.

Challenges

Following  a weekly theme and guiding questions, students’ task is twofold. Firstly, to take their own photo – this requires thinking and reflection, creativity, individuality, and it is hoped that, as students become accustomed to the challenge, they will become more creative and try different things. Secondly, to write something which responds to the theme, answers prompt questions, and informs and entices readers.

When students view each other’s contributions, this sparks curiosity, natural questioning, and ensuing dialogue. It also brings out  a desire to do as well or to do something different. Students are not writing for the teacher, but for a peer audience, sharing generational views and tastes, and learning about cultural differences.

It really is one big conversation, with everyone getting a go, and nobody feeling they can’t get a word in. Several people can engage in dialogue under the same photo. Conversation arises from shared interests and curiosity about cultural differences. Students encourage each other and develop trust and respect for each other. The result is writing from desire instead of duty.

Differences in language are often the subject of conversation. Students ask and explain linguistic and semantic differences, for example, the first week’s photo has resulted in a discussion of the differences between American and Australian football.

Challenges for us include encouraging students to move away from ‘chat language’ and to write correctly and fluently. Despite our instructions, I’ve noticed in the early stages students reverting to their preferred chat in the comments.

Practicalities

It’s easy to keep up with who is commenting on your photo, or further conversation in photos you’ve commented on, when you visit the homepage for the group. Another useful feature is the availability of editing comments or writing. Teachers can ask students to improve or correct their writing at any time.

Reading through comments in the early stages, I can already see the conversations developing as more people enter the conversation, as questions are answered and elaborated on, and the desire to develop the dialogue becomes self motivating. This is very different to writing for your teacher which is a static exercise. Here the writing is interactive and can continue at any time.

I’ve noticed that our boys seem different in their writing and comments to the way they present themselves at school. In the comments they seem unafraid to say that something is beautiful, comment on cute dogs, and be generally more open. I guess that’s what comes with writing to a peer audience. That and writing to connect with kids like them from distant places. For these reasons I’m excited about this project which, even in its initial stages, has sparked authentic and engaged conversation, and which will no doubt develop for each student  his/her voice through images and words.

Photo courtesy of BasseFI‘s photostream on Flickr

10 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, network literacy, photos, teaching, Web 2.0, writing

Learning: that’s how we live

Learning is not something that can be captured, predicted or assumed. It doesn’t fit neatly in a table, it’s not defined accurately in a chart, a survey, it doesn’t happen the same way for you as it does for me.

We try to prove that we understand it, control it by conducting research, analysing results, following assessment rubrics, but we should just keep our eyes open and watch. It’s happening around us, at breakfast, in the classroom, the playground, during the holidays, on the bus, and even as we sleep.

Sometimes, as educators, we think that we haven’t influenced the learning process in any of our students (or even our colleagues). We may have been too impatient, too hasty in making that assumption. Evidence of learning can surprise you at the most unexpected times.

I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled to return to school after many weeks of holiday, but it had to happen. Last year I was very happy to join forces with a dear friend, teacher of English, who was brave enough to weather the uncertainties and hazards of ning learning. We tested the Web 2.0 waters together, and made learning interactive with real-life connections and conversation for our students. It seemed that this kind of teaching and learning was not going to catch on fast.

In the first couple of days at school this year, to my delight, several teachers have approached me to help them create a ning, blog or wiki for their class. I’m stoked. I hope that this year will be as fulfilling for them and their students as it has been for me in my own participation in learning communities online: learning from each other wherever we are.

One (or even two) of our classes will be participating in a photo blog project with Marie Coleman in Florida, USA, and Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow. Inspired by our own experiences in the Flickr 365 day photo challenge (and similar projects) – and this is how we met – we wanted to try this out in the classroom. With a weekly theme for photos, we hope that students will enjoy learning from each other,, and that literacy development will naturally spring from curiosity and an exchange of cultures.

A seemingly simple task, posting a photo and writing about it, can actually be a higher order exercise. Marie’s and Sinikka’s posts attest to the depth of thought which can be achieved.

Sinikka’s post:

Today’s Daily Shoot also became the theme of my 365 photo:

“Let’s have some fun on a Friday. Make a photo that goes with the title (or lyrics) of a song. Interpret away!”

Another ordinary day at school, in the familiar red-brick environment. I am thinking what is the state and purpose of education today. I’m sure many students would still sign Pink Floyd’s message of not needing any education from back in 1979. At least not the same old, numbing and repetitive, factory style.

Aren’t schools still too often working like the meat grinder in the brilliant Gerald Scarfe animation of the song where kids are dropped only to spew out uniform minced meat at the other end? Is there any space for individual thinking, learning methods and goals, or chances for each individual to realize their full potential? Why does it seem that the spark, the passion, the joy and creativity are all buried and forgotten inside these walls? Can our students, in their bright pink and red coats, be themselves, and not just other bricks in the wall?

By the way, there is a Finnish expression ‘counting the ends of bricks’, meaning to serve a prison sentence. Sometimes, for me as a teacher, the brick school seems prison-like, too. There are too many outside pressures, constrictions, national assessments and rigid attitudes, which tie my hands.

Marie’s post:

While keeping an eye out for right angles (today’s @dailyshoot assignment), it became apparent that there were a large number of examples in ‘man-made’ structures. On the other hand, there were fewer (or perhaps less obvious) instances in nature and humankind.

Though there is an expectation of support from the angled structures, this cobweb’s network may exemplify the ‘real world’ much more accurately! It certainly reflects the ‘hyperlinked’ nature of today’s youth in their learning and in the interconnectivity of the Internet and all of its tendrils. The web is also much more appealing to the eye, but where would it be without the support and structure of the foundational right angles – guess we need the synergistic relationship of both!

I think these examples illustrate the depth of thinking and fluency of writing which can result from a single image selected to address criteria which still allows choice.

One more thing…

The learning that springs from passion is a wonderful thing. My elder son, who has never studied photography or even art (as an elective) at school, has recently discovered a love of photography, and is learning on the fly. He has joined Flickr groups, and has challenged himself to a daily photo blog. Just last week, he was approached by Zulya and the Children of the Underground for a photo shoot for their next album!

I’m holding onto these examples of learning in the hope of making a difference to student engagement with learning, not for grades, but for life.

14 Comments

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

How do we learn from people? Do we trust people? What do people know?

Photo courtesy of Okinawa Soba on Flickr

If I’m going to convince others about the whole point of Web 2.0 technologies, not just teach them how to use the technologies (what for? being the pivotal question), then I’m going to have to sort through for myself what it means to learn from and with other people (as opposed to the traditional learning from books, teachers).

Here’s an example. I’ve been reading the photo blogs which are part of a 2010 flickr challenge. Many of the blogs I follow are written by those living in the northern hemisphere. It’s interesting observing opposite weather patterns, for example, of those celebrating Christmas and the new year in snowy winter while I’m experiencing sweltering heat with temperatures in the high 30s in Melbourne today. Not only is the blog reading informative but the conversation is satisfying, and underpins the joy of learning from people who are real, who have a sense of humour and can answer your questions.

I’ve been enjoying sinikka’s blog. Sinikka writes from Finland so, for example, I learned about Finnish Christmas and post-Christmas customs. Not only that, but I could tell her about our Russian customs. Again, learning through conversation. Not static, dynamic learning.

Some blogs are very specialised. The library history buff blog is very impressive in its range and detail of information about the history of American libraries. You’d be surprised how esoteric some blogs are.

Photo from Library History Buff Blog.

Recently I’ve been mesmorised by the Flickr photostream of priest Maxim Massalitin who shares photos and information about Russian Orthodox churches. He’s from Kiev, and currently lives in France. He seems to have done his research about the churches and monasteries he photographs. In this way, writing blogs and posting photos on Flickr becomes a learning experience for the author too; information is retrieved and provided at point of need. It’s a great way to learn for me, like virtual travel. This photostream contains beautiful iconography, and I love the Byzantine tradition. It’s interesting to see so many different churches and monasteries and to read about their history.

Photo courtesy of H.Maxim on Flickr

I think it’s good to think about what learning means. Does it only happen at school? Obviously not. But we may not realise how much of it happens outside of traditional environments. Think back to when you finished school or university – did you think the main part of your learning had been completed? Well, sure you didn’t. But did you realise that you’d barely begun?

Maybe we don’t think that way but kids sure do – at least younger teens. If you don’t give them a written assignment to complete and hand in for correction, they don’t consider themselves working. Spend the lesson having a discussion which peels away at layers of understanding, and you’ll still be the only one considering this work. The kids won’t think they’ve learned much unless it’s on paper and with a percentage or grade.

My elder son has recently discovered a passion for photography. Now that he’s on University holidays, he has been able to spend a lot of time taking photos, learning how to play around with them, and reading books and manuals about photography. He has spent many, many hours of his time voluntarily researching and learning. And he is loving it.  The best example of out-of-school learning. I note that it takes time, and unlimited, but focused learning can be very, very productive. He also commits to daily posts in a blog celebrating his final year as a teenager. Self-initiated and passion-based learning.

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on flickr

Every day I learn so much that is interesting from people online – people who share their expertise and special interests, and who are willing to communicate with others. So much more engaging than learning facts from a static page. We can learn a lot from each other.

6 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, learning, Web 2.0

threesixtyfivephotos – daily photo challenge

This year I decided to take up the challenge of posting at least one photo a day as part of a Flickr group challenge. I ended up creating the blog, threesixtyfivephotos, so that the daily photos and small amount of written description would have somewhere to live. Now that I’ve almost finished, I realise that this exercise has proved to be surprisingly more than I expected.

Here are some of the themes:

My stuff, what I love and why Day 29 Toys     Day 232 Stuff

My garden and its seasonal transformation, how it responds to extremes in temperature in the summer (fellow bloggers in North America have documented how their natural surroundings have responded to extremes in temperature in the winter – interesting for me since we don’t have snow) Day 31 Heat damage in the garden  Day 242 First blossom   Day 225 Winter garden  Day 269  Rain rain  Day 256 The whole blooming lot

Good friends Day 13 Getting together with friends

Odd things around the place Day 20 The burning giraffe

Favourite Routines Day 17 Victoria Market

Traditions   Day 6 Christmas eve  Day 358  Christmas eve   Day 109  Orthodox Easter

Family Dramas     Day 5 Sasha doesn’t get his year 12 results  Day234  19th birthday saga  Day 302 Fencing

My City of Melbourne   Day 178 Federation Square  Day 164 Royal Arcade  Day 339  City sights

Food preparation   Day 212 Guest Photographer makes tarts  Day 348  Christmas baking

School events   Day 210  School Gala

Overseas visitors   Day 206  PLP and bloggers’ dinner at Southbank

Milestones and triumphs     Day 197  16th birthday  Day 187  He has wheels  Day 238  Namesday  Day 264 Day of Triumph  Day 246  Still smiling about yesterday  Day 338  Last day of school

Holidays   Day 185  Heaven  Day 318 Back to Barwon Heads

Special occasions    Day 312  Anna and Pat’s wedding   Babies Day 172 Baby’s first communion  Engagement Day 297

Self-fulfilling prophesies   Day 265 Once upon a time and Day 266 Lalo Symphony Espagnole

Special things    Day 288 Russian carving

The photoblog has been a surprisingly rich journey without even trying to be. It’s like a time capsule of sorts. And best of all, it’s connected me in a personal way with people I would otherwise not communicate with.

This could work as an individual student or collaborative class project. Definitely. Just one photo and minimal written description a day.

Why don’t you try it?

6 Comments

Filed under flickr, Uncategorized, writing