October 5

Holiday meanderings, Google+ and Digital Story telling

I have spent these holidays catching up with reading and getting my head around the new Google Plus… which I had an invite to a while ago, but had few people I knew using it… so it was left on the backburner as the end of term chaos consumed life.

So Google + wow… I have been using Twitter since the early days, and have loved how I can expand my professional learning network by following people whose tweets I find interesting and relevant. I have eLearning connections all over the world now as a result. The only thing is that most comments are limited to 140 characters – which can be good, a bit like a haiku, you really have to think about how you say what you want to say, to get the full meaning and context.

Facebook I have mainly kept as a friend space… not wanting to bore my non techy friends with tech stuff… and vice versa with my other pastimes. I did create a “school” facebook account this year, because with a range of other tech issues and unreliability I at least knew all of my students would be able to log in and see my reminder posts etc.

The benefits so far with what I have played with and seen on Google+ is all the great things about twitter…lots of sharing of ideas with people you allocate to circles… you can also share publicly with the world. You can share your thoughts or ideas with as many or few people as you like by simply selecting the relevant circles.

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Google+ is still in testing… but so far it’s looking very good for educators wanting to develop their skills and knowledge with educators worldwide.

One of the features is a “Hangout” where you can get together with others and have a face to face chat over the internet. At the moment I believe up to 9 people can be involve, but this can present a great range of sharing opportunities not only locally but globally.

I was luck enough to participate in viewing a hangout session about Digital storytelling.  There were educators from all over the US who shared with us how they have used Digital Storytelling to get students to develop not only their literacy, but a wide range of skills including digital citizenship.

VoiceThread allows you to collaborate via text voice or image as you and your class discusses images, either as a starting point, or analysis of an artwork. There are education versions, which allow students to post with more security http://ed.voicethread.com/

Youth Voices Youth Voices is a school-based social network that was started in 2003 by a group of National Writing Project teachers. They have found that there are many advantages to bringing students together in one site that lives beyond any particular class. It’s easier for individual students to read and write about their own passions, to connect with other students, comment on each others work, and create multimedia posts for each other.It’s also an opportunity for educators to develop their knowledge about curriculum and digital literacies.

Storybird is a lovely site which has artists who collaborate by providing artworks which can be used to stimulate and illustrate story creation.

Teachers Teaching Teachers check out here for the next talk

GoogleLabs is being phased out… but has an amazing set of resources… imagine 3D Google earth for the body…or the Google Art Project, giving you tours of the worlds greatest galleries…Get in quick!!

Sketchfu is an online drawing and sharing program… very easy to use, and some great artworks to stimulate ideas.

Handling the enormous amounts of information is something we have to try to help our students resolve… Where do you find reliable sources? How do you know what is reliable? Where do you store the information. The easiest way is using a social bookmarking platform such as Diigo, Delicious or Google, where you can save your bookmarks on the cloud, and always have access to them, using keywords and tags to search for them.

Another couple of apps I came across over the break have been Scoop.it and Storify both allow you to create a “feed” of information on a specific topic.

With Scoop.it you can have a tool which sits within your web browser, and allows you to scoop any relevant topics for your area of interest. You then add new links each day or week, or when ever. Others can follow your topic, and add further relevant “scoops” to your page. You can in turn follow others who are “curating” topics which interest you. The topics are wide and varied.

Storify uses a range of social media such as Twitter, facebook, Google+, YouTube etc to draw information together to form a “story” on a specific topic. This could be a unit of work you have created with your students, or it could be the information you want your students to explore.

Both of these would be great ways for students to collaborate and sift though information to create a really useful knowledgebank of information.

Whatever way you want to delve into the digital classroom of the 21st Century, don’t imagine it can just happen… it needs a lot of pre-planning and organising by the teacher to ensure students don’t get lost in the information, or the technology.

Well… some correction to get done…..

November 16

Ultranet V2

On November 3 and 4 the Ultranet Lead Users and Prin team from the college met up with other schools teams and the Ultranet coaches for training in the new release features of the Ultranet.
It is looking good. Great to have some more design features such as themes for different pages, and the ability to use CSS (a way to add code to your pages to give them a more individual feel). The Learning tasks appeared to work well, but as we don’t get students onto it until next year it was a little frustrating.

The electronic copy of the release 2 book, with all of the details is HERE – Ultranet Release 2
In August we were introduced to the first release of the Ultranet, and were able to set up a range of different spaces for different purposes and aims: personal, peer sharing and student sharing. The new version of the Ultranet has added enhancements to those pages as well as some new areas.

The Learning tasks area gives teachers the opportunity to set up courses with a range of features. These can be set up in the “planning” space which only the teacher can see, much like an electronic chronicle. These “classes” can then be shared with your own classes. In 2010 only homegroups are being added, so you can’t see the next step unless you teach your homegroup. All of the rest of the classes will be added next year. This is frustrating, but we have to work within the timelines.

The other new feature is the addition of parent spaces. Parents will be able to access the Ultranet, and have at their fingertips information about their child’s timetable and when learning tasks are due etc.

There are many other features, and I would strongly suggest jumping in and getting familliar, as it is an expectation that you will have Learning tasks etc up there for your students. You can find a heap of helpful information on the Support Site by using the Cogwheel which pops up along the bottom of the Ultranet page.

The Cogwheel to Support site

The Cogwheel to Support site

Many teachers across the state have already embraced the sharing nature of Web 2.0 and the Ultranet, and have created spaces for sharing curriculum ideas and innovations with other like minded teachers. For example there are Design spaces set up for VCE classes in outdoor Ed, Maths etc as well as VELs groups looking at Metals, LOTE, Maths, Textiles, Science Twitter users, iPad users etc. Just do a search for your subject or group interest and you will find a space you may like to join… there are nearly 8,000 Design spaces already, or you can create your own. Some spaces are open or restricted, which means you can join them. Private spaces don’t show up on the list, and you would need to be invited to.

Our timeline is to have all teachers using the Ultranet over the rest of 2010, and developing their courses for 2011. Students will then access the Ultranet through Term 1 2011. Together there will no doubt be some fun and games as we all work our way through it, but there needs to be some content on the Ultranet before we invite parents on in Term 2 2011. By that time, no doubt, there will be parents waiting to see what all the hype is about, and having heard about it from earlier release schools who already have content on their Ultranet spaces. 

Looking forward to seeing what we can create.

November 10

I’m back

I am just wiping 2010 off … after the ACEC conference things moved along very quickly…. Looking to a brighter 2011, with more posting and blogging…and getting to more online and face to face conferences etc. I have been back at work for a week, after 6 months out of action, and boy it doesn’t take long for a digital footprint to shrink!!! It was heartening to see the Redback Project has notched up over 1000 visitors over the past 12 months 🙂

Feeling out of the loop as an Ultranet Lead User, it was good to be on deck for the second release training. I have been spending some time setting up Learning Tasks, however, we won’t have students added to the Ultranet until next year (as all of our senior classes are specialist/electives and not home group based) it can be a bit frustrating. The feedback on Twitter is others are feeling the same way.
We are having a Head Start program, starting the year 11s off with their Year 12 classes, it would have been great to spend some of that time adding students, and getting them familliar with the Ultranet, so we can get straight into content next year. So… I am setting up the class spaces on Moodle and my Design tech wiki as well. My Teaching area is textiles – VCE Design Technology and VET Fashion. Yes doing the same thing on 3 different sites, but from experience I know it it better to err on the side of caution with technology, and always have a backup plan!!!

March 11

Autumn already

This year is speeding along already, and although I have been blogging, I have been a bit slack here…
exciting things in the pot… including being invited to be part of a group of schools to work with Stephen Heppell…. I would have loved to have been part of the team, but I need to share the knowledge, and get others out there trying new things, pushing boundaries. It will be fantastic to see how this project develops.
We have started to develop a GPS based Geocaching project with our year 9s which we have put in for an innovations grant…. fingers crossed on that one. We will be pursuing it regardless of the funding, will keep you posted..
Does anyone reading this use geocaching or GPS with students? any hints tips? I do geocaching myself… about to set my first cache hide… woo hoo, it is so much fun, and I am really excited to be able to get the kids hopefully excited. The team will be working with the Sandringham Historical Society to create some informative caches around the area.
eLearning around the college seems to be booming with many blogs and wikis and nings popping up all over the place. Sensational.
I am looking forward to the ACEC 2010 conference, and will be looking forward to getting some live blogging happening there… I will be presenting on the Redback Project, hope it goes well. Better make my conference program selection. There are some great VITTA sessions coming up too.
My VCAL ICT PD group have been using blogger to record their progress, we are getting there. Working on a number of tasks to create business cards, flyers and using some online web site creators. Next term we are looking at using a wiki to create an online portfolio to record their learning journey in all of their VCAL studies. Want to look at some mobile blogging with them.
Finally got around to adding an RSS feed and email subscription widget thingy. Hope it works…best to subscribe from the main page.

July 31

Showcasing your talents

Once again I am putting the College eLearning update on my blog, and hope to get some feedback about what everyone is doing. It was great to hear the beginnings of some wonderful conversations about how we are each developing our ability to use technology in the classroom.

For those of you who were not at the whole staff meeting last week  here is a snippet

My presentation was created with prezi, and can be found here

Using Technology in the classroom is not a passing fad, which, if you wait long enough, will blow over. It is an integral part of 21stC life, and now is a good time to jump on board and prepare your skills and your own confidence for using a range of these in the classroom, and in your day to day life. I am here to support you in that, expose you to a range of tools, let you know what has worked for me, and others, and work with you to find what works best for you. The fact that we don’t have the infrastructure and technology to do these things in every classroom right now should not be stopping you from developing your own skills and understanding of the potential of these 21stC tools.

I mentioned Moodle, and we are hoping to have external access to this shortly.

Moodle is a Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment – which means it is an online space where you can create dynamic learning for your students, and teams you may work in. You can put links, files, quizzes, games, digital learning resources, forums, assignments, chats rooms, etc for your students to add to and create with.

Domain teams can have spaces where they share resources across the college – no reinventing the wheel. Cross campusing can be made easier less need for having to get there the share resources. Teams across the college or across a campus can have a space to share and reflect, which is private.

The other project I discussed was the Redback Project

This project can help you to develop your understanding and capacity to use a range of Web 2.0 tools. It is self paced, and can take from a couple of weeks to complete to a year or more, working at your own pace.

Starting with finding your starting point by using the ePotential tools and track your eLearning journey with reflections in a blog. Those of you who are power users may already be beyond blogging( ahh my working title for the next project) and may just choose areas to focus on. Regardless of whether you work through the Redback Project or not, we would like all staff to complete the ePotential survey, as they informs the leadership team on areas we need to focus on with PD etc.

There will also be some Redback support on Moodle

How are you using ICT/eLearning/technology/21stC tools in YOUR classroom? Reply to my post here, and share with the rest of us. (If you would rather keep your links private – this is an open blog, please post them on the Redback Forum in Moodle (this link will only work at school)

My Textiles classes both have blogs, and the Year 11s are beginning to work on their own blogs you will find them here

Year 11 Design and Technology – Textiles

Year 12 Design and Technology Textiles

My year 10 Media Production class

I also have a Ning group for my textiles classes, and Moodle course for my Media class.

Are there other tools you use in your class? Please feel free to add your comments 🙂

July 19

Preparing the way

Awesome, we have a bunch of funding coming to us to buy new equipment to provide students with better access to eLearning opportunities. The government is aiming for us to have a 1:1 ratio of students:computers in years 9 – 12 by 2011. Fantastic. What an incredible opportunity for our students to truly be prepared for life outside of school in this digital world.
The big question we have to ask, before we rush out to buy the goodies is “Are we ready?”
Do we have the infrastructure to support so many computers accessing the network, will the wireless coverage be able to cope? What do we have to do to make sure it does? We all know that any flakiness of the system will often lead to students and staff not willing to trust they can use them, and we end up with all of these computers either not being used, or being damaged when students get frustrated when they don’t work.
We are working to improve and strengthen the infrastructure, but that will take time and money.
The other huge question is are teachers ready to have students in their classes with access to a computer? Will it mean there are just more word documents, powerpoint presentations and internet searches? For some it will be a huge and fearful learning curve, away from the security of how you have always taught, into this new digital world. This is not a passing fad, which you can ignore, and hope it will just go away. This is the world we are preparing our students for, a digital world, and we need to be providing exciting learning opportunities for them, as you have always done, but now we have the world at the click of a button, and the most amazing opportunities to inspire and teach our students.
What are some ways you can think of which will be different, better or worse, teaching students who each have a computer? What are some of the pitfalls you will need to be aware of in order to be best prepared to use the technology yourself, and in your class?
I know you have heard of blogs, wikis, web 2.0, nings, but how do you see these being useful in your classroom. Would you use twitter or facebook? Learning Management systems like Moodle, and in the future Ultranet are tools you can use as a starting point. How will you make sure your students are safe, and yet ethical users of the technology? How will we work towards developing a cohort of digital citizens?
Feel free to add your comments to this blog post, I would love to know your thoughts.

June 14

The year so far….part 1

This semester has been huge for me – new school, new position, new responsibilities, new classes – some of which I have not taught for ages. I think I am starting to find my feet, hopefully anyway. First lot of end of semester reports nearly under my belt…. yes I am procrastinating here, multi tasking while I think up some good comments. Anyway, time to start reflecting on what I have done and achieved so far, and start planning the way forward.

When I got the new position I was given a book to read by my sister-in-law – “The First 90 Days, Critical Success strategies for new leaders at all levels,” by Michael Watkins. (Harvard Business School Press). It had a range of strategies, although aimed at the business world, quite easy to put into any leadership role, to help new leaders find their feet and make a positive difference in their new positions. It gave strategies for promoting yourself to new colleagues, maximising your strengths, coming to grips with the new workplace and developing teams to implement your leadership goals. It was interesting as I stepped into my new position that my new boss was reflecting many of these same strategies and ideas, to promote me and my new role to the staff. A great situation to be in, feeling very supported by my upline.

Continuing on with the book reviews, the boss suggested the leadership team read (as a part of our leadership professional learning time with Perspectives Coaching)  “Leadership and Self Deception – Getting out of the box”  The Arbinger Institute. Great read for putting a lot of relational issues into perspective, and rerflecting on issues and relations in past work places, and how to change your own attitude, to be more positive with peers and those you want to lead. You know how there are always some people who you would do anything for, and others who have a different approach which doesn’t support a team wanting to get things happening. Very positive read, for both work and personal relationships.

Throughout this past 6 months I have been lucky enough to be supported by my principal and able to attend a number of very relevant and inspiring professional learning opportunities, many of which I have covered live in this blog, using the wonderful Coveritlive tools. It has been very handy having a mobile broadband dongle to keep me connected anywhere, regardless of local internet availability.

Over the term 1 break I had the opportunity to see a presentation by Stephen Downes, an inspiring speaker talking about connectivism and how this will reflect on how we teach our kids, and how we learn ourselves. It was my first Coveritlive session, and I was pleasantly suprised at how well it worked. Linking in with other Twitter users who used the same hastags made my coverage of the presentation far more powerful, as it wasn’t just me reporting, others were adding tweets, which were added directly to my session. My personal/professional learning network exploded as I met quite a few of my twitter colleagues for the first time that day, and added more.

Stephen made some great points, helped me to clarify that balance between online work and play.
One of the points he made, which I think many of us working with online and mobile technologies are guilty of, is along the lines of….
“of course log in and connect to work from home, but feel free to sleep at work”.
How many of us feel guilty about logging in to personal sites at work, or researching stuff for home? or checking work mail from home? where is the line drawn? Is there a line any more??? perhaps a little tongue in cheek, but I know in my online networks I often think to myself… wow this or that person must be connected and focussed on work the whole time. Now I also know it’s so easy these days to be surfing and playing online, when you come across a handy site, click a button and you have tweeted it to the PLN. I think as technology becomes more and more easily accessible we really need to make sure we have that healthy balance. I know my family keeps me on the straight and narrow in that regard 🙂

My kids showed me the wonderful power of connectivity when we recently got wireless broadband at home. After setting up the laptops, we had to set up all of the DSs, WII, PSP. They logged in to the wii wifi, connected with a cousin on the otherside of town, and spent an afternoon playing, laughing, sharing with their cousin via phone while all playing Mario Kart on the Wii. They also connect with friends on the DS, while surfing the net and chatting online. They don’t just “get” connectivism, they expect it.

I attended a “Master class” presented by Teaching Australia on Leading a Digital School (my coveritlive session). We were also given the book “Leading Schools in the Digital Age” by Michael Gaffney and Mal Lee, who along with Allan Shaw presented the session – slides here. It was good to see how schools have achieved success with integrating digital technologies, and become aware of some of the pitfalls, and develop strategies to avoid them. The book is becoming my well used resource for developing strategies to develop a really positive (hopefully) uptake of digital technologies across the college. Of course step one is to have a hardy infrastructure to support digital learning, and that is the challenge we are working through at the moment. The session was interesting, as the people attending were mostly in leadership positions, not eLearning positions, unlike the Stephen Downes presentation, and there was much less movement in the Twittersphere, with most people taking hand written notes.

On the 6th May I attended Greg Whitby’s “Enabling Learning in Today’s world“.  It was a slightly different slant, and once again I “covered it live”. Interesting presentation, embedding the reasons behind why we are wanting to move into a digital approach to teaching and learning. The hall was packed, interestingly enough not many laptops or mobile devices…. I started to reflect on whether I am still one of the early adopters with covering these sessions on my blog ( I like to write, it’s how I learn best, and take it in, but often lose or never refer back to my notes on paper. I can honestly say I have gone over my coveritlive sessions a few times now, and I always know where to find them :)) There are still many out there who need to be shown how to jump on the digital bandwagon, I guess that is part of my role, both in my local community and the extended one.

There is still a bit to cover, so I will do this in a couple of parts… stay tuned