Tag Archives: ideas

2 Year 9 classes, a teacher, a teacher librarian, a couple of Australian YA authors and lots of blogs

This is a progress report for our blogging Year 9s (2 classes). Let me first say that I am loving, loving the learning that’s happening with this cohort. Following Michael Gerard Bauer‘s guest post, ‘I blog therefore I am‘, Nick and I were wondering how to respond and which direction to take. We loved the fact that Michael had tuned into what the boys were writing about. Michael has been generous to my students before – several years ago at my previous school. He has a brilliant way of speaking directly to the students in an informal way, combining humour with a serious message. Nick and I wanted the students to respond to his post, and to develop a theme in a post of their own. We decided to pull out Michael’s final message to the students:

So I encourage you to keep up the writing boys. Words are powerful, amazing and life changing things. Don’t pass up this opportunity to find your own and share them.

I like the idea of teachers modeling what they want their students to do, and happy that Nick agreed to both of us writing our own posts about the power of words. In doing this we lift the barrier between teacher and student, and we also let the students see a little of ourselves. I was also toying with the idea of introducing hyperlinked writing to the boys. I’ve written about the importance of hyperlinked writing before, and since then I’ve read an excellent post by Silvia Tolisano about it. Jenny Luca has referred to Silvia’s post in her own recently.  I believe it’s something we should take seriously – it’s the way we read online so all the more reason to incorporate hyperlinked writing in our set of literacies. Modeling is a good way to make a start. And so Nick and I both wrote posts using hyperlinked writing.

Nick’s post was entitled ‘Find the right words’, linking back to the earlier theme of ‘you are what you know’ and highlighting the idea of learning not just for school but ‘for the person you want to be’.

At school, we are constantly engaged in the getting and using of knowledge, and the main thing that makes this possible (even more so than an iPad!) is language.

Nick talked about poetry and revealed that he looked to

‘poets to reveal to me the ideas about life I sense in my gut, but don’t always have the words for myself.’

In his final paragraph Nick asked the students to

respond to Michael Gerard Bauer’s clarion call to embrace the power of language. Reflect on what this means to you. Perhaps think of a time when choosing just the right words was important.

The students were asked to read my response to the theme of the power of words, and to comment on three other posts, and see what kinds of ideas their classmates came up with.

More than anything else, I love the way we are all entwined in ideas which have been shared and developed – 2 year 9 classes, a teacher, a teacher librarian, a couple of Australian authors and the 2 classes of student blogs housed in the teacher’s blog. It really does become a form of diary, but not that of a solitary person, on the contrary, a shared document which traces the collaboration of ideas and dialogue as they develop over time.

It’s words, and it’s also so much more than words.

Please read some of our students’ posts (their blogs are linked on the right hand side of the main blog. We would love to hear your comments and ideas.

WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

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Filed under blogging, Collaboration

We all need a regular kick in the pants

Antoni-INhabit2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why brainstorming is ineffective and how to fix it

ideas

Photo credit: khoraxis

Psychblog has posted a controversial article entitled  Brainstorming reloaded which claims that brainstorming doesn’t work after all. Brainstorming, as a method of pooling the group’s ideas, has been around for a long time. I know that Australian teacher librarians, at least, still promote it as a starting point for research, and subject teachers are also using it as a springboard to discussion within a topic.

Brainstorming certainly looks like a great way of dealing with some of the problems associated with decision-making and creativity in groups, such as groupthink and people’s failure to share information effectively. By suspending evaluation, encouraging a relaxed atmosphere and quantity over quality, the brainstorming session is supposed to foster creativity.

But the article goes on to undermine the effectiveness of brainstorming:

But now we know that brainstorming doesn’t actually work that well. Experiment after experiment has shown that people in brainstorming sessions produce fewer and lower quality ideas than those working alone (Furnham, 2000). Here’s why:

  1. Social loafing: people slack off to a frightening degree in certain types of group situations like brainstorming.
  2. Evaluation apprehension: although evaluation isn’t allowed in a traditional brainstorming session, everyone knows others are scrutinising their input.
  3. Production blocking: while one person is talking the others have to wait. They then forget or dismiss their ideas, which consequently never see the light of day.

The article suggests that brainstorming be conducted online in order to achieve higher quality results:

In this research brainstormers typed in their ideas to a computer which also displayed other people’s ideas at the same time. This rather neatly gets around the social loafing and production blocking problems.

The conclusion of the psychological literature, therefore, is that people should be encouraged to generate ideas on their own and meetings should be used to evaluate these ideas.

I’m not sure what you might think about this, but something doesn’t sit right with me. It sounds like a good idea to simultaneously generate ideas online – I like the idea of all the contributions being visible real-time – but I think the classroom has its own group dynamics. Perhaps this research is more relevant to business. I think that there is a group dynamics and sense of trust which has hopefully been created by the classroom teacher. I’m not sure if secondary students are too critical of their peers’ suggestions in the brainstorming process.

Even if you set up the individual and simultaneous online brainstorming, wouldn’t students be threatened by the competitiveness of generating as many ideas as their peers? This may not be obvious online, but they could easily tell if others are typing in suggestions or just sitting there. You would also have the problem of those who think quickly getting in first with ideas that others may have come to later. Altogether, I think you’d have the same problems. At least with the teacher mediating an oral brainstorming session, he/she would be aware of those needing encouragement to contribute.

However, I do like the idea of an online brainstorming tool which allows every student’s contribution to be seen. Online brainstorming tools like bubbl.us are good, but are not a collaborative tool. Collaborative online brainstorming sounds like a solution to the isolation of a regular online tool. The article points out the importance of the group in the activity:

Why not just send people off individually to generate ideas if this is more efficient? The answer is because of its ability to build consensus by giving participants the feeling of involvement in the process. People who have participated in the creative stage are likely to be more motivated to carry out the group’s decision.

What do you think? What are your experiences with brainstorming? Your thoughts about the effectiveness of brainstorming, either as part of classroom discussion with the teacher writing down the group’s ideas on the board, or students using applications like Inspiration or bubbl.us

Am I missing something or is there a collaborative online brainstorming tool which I should be using?

 And what is your reaction to the last line of the article?

Groups aren’t where ideas are born, but where they come to sink or swim.

 

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

Words come to life in Wordia

oscarpuppet

I love the idea of a dictionary created by many people, but Wordia is more than that. It’s a media dictionary created by people sharing their own videos. It’s people talking on video about a word that they’ve chosen. So it’s much more than a definition. Watch Oscar Puppet’s video defining the word ‘buncombe’ and you’ll see that it’s just as much about the person (or character) behind the chosen word – it’s a word definition with personality.

What else is Wordia?

It’s a community of people who, for one reason or another, care about a word enough to spend time making a short film to explain their chosen word.

wordiacommunity

You, too, could join this collection of people who make this media dictionary. This is what you have to do:

wordiainstructions

 Wordia is in beta and is far from comprehensive. There’s something good about a brilliant, new idea in the making, especially when anyone is invited to contribute.

I got sick of searching for words that weren’t there so I browsed using the ‘words’ tab. There’s a list of ‘best words’ and that’s how I came across the definition for ‘fermata’. Very entertaining.

Wordia has it all. Aside from the obligatory dictionary definitions on the page, the list of synonyms, you also get comments from people, making Wordia not so much a dictionary as a linguistic peopleonary.

There are many ideas for the English classroom here. Apart from the kids watching or making their own Wordia clip, you could discuss which videos work best and why, or how the video presentations could be improved, or you could get the kids to choose 5 words they didn’t previously know, or 5 words that sound the most ridiculous, or 5 legal words, 5 words associated with emotions, etc. You get my drift.

Have a look for yourselves and tell me what you think.

 

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Filed under creativity, Education, film, humour, language, learning, play, teachers, teaching, Web 2.0

early images of reality from picture books and today’s clickability

We take for granted today the clickability of information. We should think back, really think back properly, to the days before we had the internet as a source of information.

I was talking to my son today about our early conceptions, and we shocked ourselves about uninformed and xenophobic ideas we had of people and cultures when we were children. My primary school years situated me in a very narrow place, although not as narrow as some, since I did come from an ethnic background. These are very interesting times because we are developing and learning like crazy but we don’t have a great deal as points of reference, so our learning is coloured by our often incomplete or erroneously formed concepts. To put it another way, what information we do gather is not always correctly understood and is even reconstructed by our own imagination. I say imagination because you need a great deal of it to fill in the gaps between the isolated pockets of knowledge and understanding.

So, I remember growing up with Australians who were either ‘real Australians’ or from a European background (Greeks, Italians, Macedonians) and Russians from my own cultural group which was always a minority (and none at school). Since I loved to read, my knowledge in these days was gleaned from books, most of which I owned and some from libraries. Information books didn’t seem to abound, and picture books were often teachers of the world beyond my own. I remember learning about dark-coloured people with grass skirts or slanty-eyed people, people living in teepees or igloos or swimming underwater every day. Now, that’s not a deliberately racist description because, since my information was delivered through a visual medium, my knowledge of these people was almost entirely visual. And not a realistic depiction but usually a cutesy illustration.

Now we take it for granted, but a little context to information is just a click away on the internet. Google Earth or Maps would have given my little snippets of information of other cultures a geographical location, and joined all those floating, isolated bits of knowledge into a world map; Flickr could have given me an easily accessible collection of pictures. Of course, information books with photos abound, even picture books with beautiful photography which deliver early aspects of reality to the preschool child.

How has this affected my development of knowledge? Do I still harbour distorted ideas of the way things are in the depths of my subconsious? Or have I worked hard at reconstructing and revising the way I see and understand things? Is this a blessing in disguise, a constant practice for maintaining elasticity and flexibility in the course of life and my understanding of it?

Meanwhile, I remember my picture book worlds with nostalgia. I used to imagine myself in the pictures, and dreamed of living on the little island where the smiling grass-skirt girls lived, so tiny that you could walk it in a couple of minutes, always sunny, water crystal clear, fish and birds abounding, all things provided for idyllic living. Did you wish you lived in any of your picture books?

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Filed under Education, flickr, learning

Is that work? Or are you wasting time on the internet?

There are two places to be – immersed in Read/Write worlds and not. And never the twain shall understand each other. There are some things that cannot be explained theoretically.

Today a friend of mine, who is extremely intelligent and wise (I’m stressing this to support a point that’s coming) said to me in all earnestness that she never wanted to blog, didn’t see the point of it, and thought that a few years down the track, people would look back at blogging and say big deal. I’m paraphrasing loosely here. I told her that she didn’t get it because she didn’t do it. And that the only way she would understand it was if she did it. The same goes for other forms of online social networking and learning.

Now this friend, as I’ve already mentioned, is intelligent and wise, an extremely experienced and competent educator, and committed to her role as teacher librarian. So what keeps her in that other place when many of us have moved to the new improved place? And what will it take to give these gentiles an understanding of the transformative nature of the interactive, connected online world? Is it like convincing non-believers that Jesus actually walked on water? (I’m hearing you already, non-believers).

Following this discussion, another friend in the same business asked me if I had read many fiction books lately, and I said not many because there was so much to read and respond to online. Her brow furrowed, and with genuine confusion, she asked what was there online that took up so much of my time. Was it work?

Now here’s another prickly subject for me. Is it work when I spend most of my evening on the internet? Some of it is, and directly related to my job as teacher librarian, but much of it is self-directed reading and responding to the overwhelming mass of wonderful ideas, discussions and resources that are shared. A hollow and static concept – ‘work’. Do you mean, is it something that will be useful in your teaching and supporting role to teachers and students? Then, yes, it is. It’s that and so much more. It’s discovering gold mines many times a day, connecting with people and their knowledge and expertise, giving and receiving ideas, and surprising yourself with the ideas that are expressed by you – ideas you never thought you had, ideas you may never have known you had, if it weren’t for the blog or the comment box. If we’re going to justify the hours we spend online, then we must acknowledge once and for all that what we’re doing is valuable. It’s an ongoing learning process that feeds us so that we can feed our students and school community.

We don’t want to dry out. We must dry out if we don’t water. Networking feeds us, connects us to great minds and wonderful people from so many places. It’s not about the technology, it’s about people.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Teachers today on Youtube – how do you rate?

Is the picture of teachers in this video fact or fiction?
Let’s have a look at some of ideas here.
Firstly, teachers today work in a world that is fast-paced and rapidly changing.
Do we realise this fully?

Teachers today work together to facilitate, innovate, coordinate, participate, investigate, advocate and illuminate.
How are you doing so far?

Teachers today may have limited autonomy, opportunities and resources…
Is that true? Does that make you feel uncomfortable?

but their possibilities are unlimited; they are leading, shaping, finding new approaches, new technologies and discoveries.
Sounds exciting.

Teachers today instil curiosity, extend possibilities, make connections, engage students, excite learners to solve problems of the new generation.
What are the problems of the new generation?

Teachers today overcome obstacles, embrace change, redefine education, are fluent in technological tools, are aware of global concerns.
This is a huge job and an amazing responsibility.

Teachers today are challenging students …
to find solutions;
to find their voices;
to change the world.

I’m interested to find out how teachers react to the messages in this video.

To quote a teacher recently:
‘Where does the academic fit into this?’

Isn’t it time we opened up our vision of what our role as teachers today is?

While you’re at it, have a look at Digital World: Kids today

Thanks to Judy O’Connell for putting me onto these videos.

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Filed under Education, teachers, Web 2.0

Web 2.0 supermarket – let’s go shopping!

There’s a veritable cornucopia of Web 2.0 goodies on this site. It’s the Web 2.0 comprehensive directory to a TON of social networking sites presented by Jake McAuley from GO2WEB20.net THE BOOK. This is version 2 updated 16/09/2008.

Here are some applications I thought might be useful just from the first few pages.

1K: Read and Write Short Stories
1000Keyboards is a website created for writers to submit, share, critique and communicate in an environment tuned to promote growth and exposure.
http://1000keyboards.com
Tags: share,create,communication

12 seconds : Share Short Videos
12seconds.tv allows friends and family to record and share short video updates about what they are doing or where they are. You can use a webcam or a cellphone. It’s a free, easy, and fun way to stay in touch.
http://12seconds.tv
Tags: video,TV,webcam,mobile

22 Books : Create and Share A List of your Favorite Books
22books is dedicated to the creating, sharing, and viewing of book lists. Start out by browsing some of the featured lists to the left and then open a free account and start creating lists of your own.
http://www.22books.com
Tags: book,share,list

280 slides : Create & Share Presentations Online
Create beautiful presentations, access them from anywhere, and share them with the world. With 280 Slides, there’s no software to download and nothing to pay for – and when you’re done building your presentation you can share it any way you like.
http://280slides.com
Tags: presentation,create,build

3D Package : 3D Box Maker
3d package is a 3d-box graphic generator. 3d package lets you instantly create 3d-boximages online, free. Just upload pictures for cover and sides and then get 3d-box in you favorite imageformat (JPG, GIF, PNG supported). Post them in your blog or anywhere else.
http://280slides.com
Tags: generator,3D,package

5min : Life Videopedia
5min is a place to find short video solutions for any practical question and a forum for people wanting to share their knowledge. 5min aims is to create the first communal Life Videopedia allowing users from all over the globe to contribute their knowledge by sharing visual guides covering variety of subjects.
http://www.5min.com/
Tags: knowledge,video,share,tool,Israel

99 Polls : Free Online Web Polls Generator
99Polls offers a simple approach to making Web Polls, which you can post nearly anywhere on the Web. 99Polls.com poll-creation tool requires no knowledge of HTML or coding, and once made, the poll can be posted on blogs, Web sites, and social-networking profiles such as: MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Xanga and more…
http://www.99polls.com
Tags: poll,generator,social,Israel

All That : The Search that Never Stops
Allth.at will keep looking for your item on the sites you select and report new search results back to you. You can also choose to have new results emailed to you or, you can subscribe to the RSS feed and have your new search results delivered right to your RSS reader.
http://allth.at
Tags: search,engine,track

Alltop : All the Top Stories Covered all the Time
Alltop is a directory of stories from the most popular blogs on the Internet. Updated constantly.
http://alltop.com
Tags: content,link,aggregator

And I’m only selecting from the A list. This list will boggle your mind, distract you from the task at hand, and possibly ruin your relationships. Browse at own risk.

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Filed under Education, photos, Web 2.0

Blogging about blogging; and before you know it, I’m thinking about PLP

What do young people think about blogging? Let’s have a look; here’s what one 18 year old has to say. This one happens to be my son, but I don’t think that prevents him from representing his generation:

‘People no longer are just able to blog, but blogging is increasingly becoming accepted as a legitimate medium of information; albeit quite different to others. At the cost of the credibility associated with major news services and other more traditional ways of getting our information, a whole new world is opened up- of personal opinion, a perspective into the lives and experiences of others and original creativity. When subjective experience and opinion is sought over objective fact, blogging becomes a medium very difficult to beat.’

Here’s the recognition of the value of the input, not of academics or editors, but of people like any other people, all contributing to whatever kind of information is important to them. Here’s a preference for what people have to say about something, for collective advice by people who care about their interests.

Technical applications are seen as enabling more direct ways of communicating, showing, connecting.

‘Photographers can take photos of their home city or holidays and post them on Flickr, along with geotags (so that people may see exactly where the photos were taken); performing artists can upload audio or video recordings of themselves on services such as Youtube to increase their exposure; political commentators can by series of hyperlinks to other blogs and news services critically analyse current affairs and provide explanations, arguments and challenges to what is reported in traditional established media. All of these forms of expression can be directly embedded into blogs, providing an individual with a space in which to express themselves- in the case of writers, musicians, etc…, to publish their work for free (or close to it)!’

All in all, there’s a noticeable excitement about the possibilities and the connectedness; about the possibilities for the individual’s self-expression. But could you imagine a similar passion from a young person if asked to talk about the possibilities in school education? What do you think? Are students encouraged to become involved in socialnetworking for learning? Are they encouraged to use Web2.0 applications to present their ideas and opinions? What do you think?

With this in mind, I’m thinking ahead to my school’s involvement with the Powerful Learning Practice program, and looking forward to making a difference to the mindset and teaching habits of teachers (including my own). Jenny Luca posts about PLP from the Learning 2.008 Edubloggercon conference in Shanghai:

‘Why do I feel alright about where we are? Because we are at least being proactive and have ourselves involved in Powerful Learning Practice . We are going to be immersing our staff in a learning community, and community is going to be what drives change. It’s not a discussion about the latest Macbook Pro that is important. It is a discussion about the connective relationships our students can form and learn from that is going to be the tipping point for many of our schools.’

‘Connective relationships’ – this is what it’s about. Information becomes meaningful through our relationships with people. Learning becomes meaningful through connective relationships.

If you’d like to read more of the authentic, passionate literacy that springs from real interest and involvement, read the rest of this new blog.

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Filed under Education, flickr, Web 2.0

Reading Victoria

Reading Victoria is a program for adults run by the State Library of Victoria which encourages reading as a creative activity, expands choice and promotes interaction amongst readers. That’s what the website says, and I’m thinking – here are three essential aspects of reading that would work as a point of departure for reading promtion in schools. Creativity, choice and social interaction – all good reasons to get stuck into a book.

One of the offerings is ‘The Bedside Books Club’, a quarterly book club throwing open discussion of ‘the great, the awful, the perpetually unfinished and the can’t-wait-to-start books’. These categories are tantalising – the invitation reads ‘Have you ever wondered what books other people have on their bedside table?’ Can anyone think of other categories? I think the quarterly get-togethers, where everyone brings a book they’d like to suggest in light of the topic, would work well with teachers or even parents, and could be a way of fostering a reading culture within the school. Featured in the meetings are such delights as an author talk (Alex Miller – Journey to the Stone Country, 2003 Miles Franklin Award winner); a presentation by Mark Rubbo, Managing Director of Readings, about ‘What’s Hot in the Shop’; and guest reader, Genevieve Tucker, author of the blog, reeling and writhing. This sounds great, and we can still all go to it on Tuesday 14 October, 6-7.30pm at Mr Tulk cafe, State Library of Victoria. Wouldn’t mind going there myself.

The 2007 Summer Read is a compilation of readers’ top 5 books out of a shortlist of 20 recently published Victorian books. Discussion and voting is over, but the book information is still up. We really do live in a literature-rich state, when you consider the number of novels, short stories and non-fiction titles which are set in Victoria or are by Victorian authors. What a great promotion and idea to take away for school reading programs.

The Summer Reading blog treats readers to blogging by shortlisted Victorian authors. I intend to set aside time for this! It’s a treat being privy to the thoughts of such interesting people on a variety of topics and literature. Recent bloggers include Dorothy Porter, Paul Mitchell, who talks about how he became a writer. Craig Sherborne, author of Hoi Polloi, raises an interesting point about blogs: ‘They are quasi diaries and memoirs that may one day, soon enough given their popularity and conversational nature, replace books as the means for publishing autobiographical narrative; and their readers can be in constant communication with each other.’ There are others but I haven’t scrolled down any further yet. The blog also features reviews and opinions posted by the community of readers.

Celebrity Victorian readers also share their thoughts on their favourite books. Find out who reads in the bath, who reads in the Botanical Gardens, and who reads in their mother’s apricot tree. Where do you read?

We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in Reading Victoria, and I think that some of these ideas would work well in promoting a reading culture in our schools.

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Filed under reading, Teacher librarians