Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Where Are We Going???????

Some time to read, some time to think in the last couple of days...

"Google is like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere, and God sees everything. Any questions in the world, you ask Google."
Alan Cohen, vice president of Airspace in "The World is Flat"
Thomas L. Friedman 2005

Check out EPIC (not the NZ version) I don't know if this is very scary or very exciting - both probably - but I do know that we are standing at the edge & some of us are just starting to test the water...

Saturday, 27 August 2005

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory." ~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Friday, 26 August 2005

Te Aroha Regional ICTPD Meeting

Great for the team to get away again :-) Do we do some of our best talking on these looooooooong car trips - or was everyone asleep in the back seat or too kind to me to tell me to shut up. Some interesting ideas on what to do with teacher release time Term 4 - i wish i had recorded our conversation - i did scribble some of it down when i got home - but where is that piece of paper?? I need a palm pilot, i-pod, cool thingamyjiggy to keep track of the whirl of thoughts & ideas in my head.
So the day was OK - not terribly challenging - Douglas was a great presenter - a good overview of teacher laptops, other MOE ICT initiatives, the new e-learning strategy. Discovery learning with the Stanley Ave kids with a little piece of software Pivot Stick Animator - would overlook the software quite easily but i don't think that was the main point of the session. Yes Discovery learning - to a point - we all have to work it out at sometime for ourselves - everything changes so quickly how else are you going to be independent learners if you don't try things out & take risks. But I wouldn't use this approach as the only way - kids can also go a long way if we model some starting points and give some expert advice where needed to push them through their zpd... It would have been good to have some real 'chew the fat' time with the other facilitators - there was lots of small talk but no real nitty gritty beyond 'how's it going?'
Thanks Barb for organising the day - it was great to have the involvement of the kids (a reminder perhaps of why we are all there). All the photos are here

Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Everything Bad is Good for You!

Just finished this thought provoking book by Steven Johnson.

Try this thought experiment from the book: (a parallel universe where books are the new technological advance & becoming more popular than video games)
"Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying - which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements - books are simply a barren string of words on the page. Only a small portion of the brain devoted to processing written language is activated during reading, while games engage the full range of the sensory and motor cortices.
Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him or himself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children. These new 'libraries' that have arisen in recent years to facilitate reading activities are a frightening sight: dozens of young children, normally so vivacious and socially interactive, sitting alone in cubicles, reading silently, oblivious to peers.
Many children enjoy reading books, of course, and no doubt some of the flights of fancy conveyed by reading have their escapist merits. But for a sizable percentage of the population, books are downright discriminatory. The reading craze of recent years cruelly taunts the 10 million Americans who suffer from dyslexia - a condition that didn't even exist as a condition until printed text, came down to stigmatize its sufferers.
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a linear path. You can't control their narratives in any fashion - you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. For those of us raised on interactive narratives, this property may seem astonishing. Why would anyone want to embark on an adventure utterly choreographed by another person? But today's generation embarks on such adventures millions of times a day. This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they're powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process: its a submissive one. The book readers of the younger generation are learning to "follow the plot" instead of learning to lead."

Before you jump up & down about this slanderous attack on the the importance of reading it is a provocation for us to think that - Non-print based media is honing different mental skills that are just as important as the ones exercised by reading - Print requires effort, concentration, attention, the ability to make sense of words & follow narrative threads... Games - require some of the skills above - there is a lot of 'collatoral learning' - decision making through a process of probe, hypothesise, reprobe, rethink (scientific method) James Paul Gee, What Video Games have to teach us about Learning and Literacy.

Yep food for thought :-)

Cool Tools + Access = Motivated Learners

Well I hope so that's the idea. Me being an idealist again... I think there are a few other important factors to go into that equation like purposeful learning objectives, student driven opportunities & teacher support. What else belongs in the mix??
Don Tapscott in 'Growing up Digital' has this to say "Access is a critical first step...
Wiring the schools and populating them with computers is necessary but insufficient to ensure equal opportunity to share in the digital revolution. Children need access to computers and the Net, but they also need appropriate software and services. They need motivation to learn. They need a redesigned educations system and teachers who have retrained and reorientated. Innovative technologies cannot make up for educational professionals who lack innovative methods and merely replicate learning models that don't work."

Well Rome wasn't built in a day so the last couple of days I have been working on the 'appropriate software' @ SPS with the senior classes. Our sessions were called 'BEYOND PAINT' Drawing & photoimaging tools are really expensive (I wonder what a site licence for MX 2004 would be!!!) So we have been working with DrawPlus from I was amazed at the quality & range of 'higher-end software' that you can download from here now - desktop publishing, photo & image editing, graphic design, 3D animation & web publishing. All the kids had some hands on time exploring the features of DrawPlus in preparation for using it to create logos for their upcoming icecream project...
Here's a little jpg I threw together in DrawPlus:

Friday, 19 August 2005

DigiOps Takes a Dive

Maybe I'm too much of an idealist but I still think the big idea of DigiOps Community Technicians is great - i guess our schools did too otherwise we wouldn't have gone down that path together...
But the nuts & bolts of it are not so easy - without going into detail here - but i think with the disappointment comes a sigh of relief.
All the best Holly on your next venture.
Thanks heaps to Garry Falloon you are doing an awesome job - we will watch to see how the CommTechs and other DigiOps projects develop.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Wine Not Network - Toko

Thanks Richard, Cathy & Kelly for hosting us at Toko this afternoon. Thanks also to Richard (Barnes) for sharing your Matau kids blogs with us. Lots of discussion about the access to a wider audience & the associated improvement in the kids written language, alongside that was discussions about how to keep our kids safe online in such an environment - using the blog tool settings to have all comments posted to the Principals address & raising kids awareness of issues associated with interacting in an online environment and how to deal with this. If you are interested in setting up your own blog go to - follow the online instructions to register and set up your blog & then tell us all about it!! Cathy walked us through a webquest she had used with her kids and described how they extended from this into written language and then movie making. Cathy has posted information about this at this Interact link. Richard shared examples of how their kids had used Movie Making within the Prep programme to create snapshots of school life (eg Jones Cup Day) and using Flash to animate the retelling of Maori Myths and legends. Using these tools across the curriculum is another way to present learning that involves just as much 'work' & definately more engagement & no dumbing down of cognitive skills. Kelly shared her story of the email buddies her class have been corresponding with - how this was structured for kids to be able to use the email programme efficiently and they types of interchanges they had with a class of children from Wimbledon. Some concerns about their buddies during the time of the London bombings and how they hope their kids will continue to write now that the UK class has moved onto a different teacher. (They are sharing a hotmail address) Thanks to those who made it out this afternoon - good to see you all there - next Wine Not Networking at Eltham (maybe a hands on Apple time) Bring a friend :-) !

Pixing it up @EPS

Yahoo KidPix3 has arrived at Eltham! It's great to have access to lots of cool apples but it's also great to have some software to work with (as well as iPhoto iMovies etc )Had some fun with a handful of 5 year olds - the trick is i guess small steps. I thought we would illustrate their writing but in effect you have to have playtime first to explore all the neat things you can do!! I focussed that in with an expectation that they would print something that had a background, their name on it & something they had made using the paint or draw tools. A big part of the learning curve for them was just to learn to control the touch pad and the clicker button. So lots of play time @ Eltham, get those Apple Pods out into the junior classrooms (already the senior kids think they need a pod just for them) and give them time to play and explore - when you think they have a handle on that, then introduce them to some structured activities. Teachers take your Apples home to play so you don't miss out on all the fun :-) If you want ideas for using this cool tool for learning search TKI Learning Experiences and look at the Snapshot of Learning @ TKI Software for Learning.
Spent some time with Jacqui exploring a range of teaching resources online and a range of learning resources online in particular WickEd (it really lives up to its name!)
More play time together with KidPix - Jacqui is going to structure a learning activity based around their Dinosaur topic - "What if Dinosaurs came to school?" Take lots of photos around the school, import them into KidPix from i-Photo and getting drawing and adding pictures. This is based on idea of Megan's from a wonderful book full of pictures of Dinosaurs in everyday present day life... Look forward to coming back in a couple of weeks and helping out in the classroom, maybe move onto putting their pictures into a slideshow, a soundtrack or narrated story to go with it, export it as a movie, put it on the website, show it at assembly....

Thursday, 11 August 2005

Digital Learning Objects

Our PD team discussed the use of Learning Objects as many of our schools have recently obtained the CD - so for them it's 'Got it! Now What?'
At the moment, from our discussion, we see that DLOs are just like a "box of stuff" - resources (wonderful that they are) that have just been put out to schools without much in support. How can we maximise the potential of this awesome resource for our schools?
What structures can we put in place for supporting teachers to use them effectively in the classroom? Two things would be useful here: Firstly professional development for teachers to better understand the wealth of resource available to them and how to integrate them into their planning. Something like the BELTs toolbox would be good - some software that sits alongside the DLOs or some type of LMS learning management system.
What is in the DigiStore - how can you search and organise this? We thought the CD was it... How many other schools are not accessing the full contents of DigiStore because they don't know what's available?
I know after some discussions with Joy Hooper that they are working to address these areas. Richard Bradley will be taking part in some 'research', feedback, survey with the Learning Federation & Joy so help lead the way. Please share your ideas about Digital Learning Objects in the comments below.


Yahoo at I-School - 2 days off to play :-) I think in PD-speak it's called 'Sandpit Time'. I am learning lots and becoming more familiar with the Macs (I've got Apple Envy & I want one plz) It is great to have a focussed workshop that lasts all day & not just the 1 1/2 hours you get at conference... First day making webpages in Dreamweaver. I have done some work with this programme - rehauling the SPS site and would like to do the same for when I find some time... So it has been entry level stuff & I must admit I was hoping to learn more about css style sheets and more but thats OK because there are some gaps in my knowledge - little things but important things - its the little things that matter!! So the most important little thing I learnt today was to optimise my images, get them just right before I put them on my page! This is a little something that I have regularly stuffed up in the past that makes a big mess of my page! We are being shown how to use nested tables (I dunno John R. what do you think?) - & the little thing I learnt today was that I should nest all my tables inside one big table - set to 800 pixels (not percent!)

Wednesday, 3 August 2005

Toko School

More movies & photostorying here @ Toko. Slam Dunk claymations (1 1/2 hrs start to finish) with R5 boys. They wanted to learn the process for when they are ready to present their retelling of Maui and the Sun. Practiced with toy cars, used art works for scenery, a bit of Plasticine, a bit of red dye for blood... Lots of fun :-) Kids made photostories of the disco last week and Toko School's day out at the skating rink - some narration, some groovy music & voila very much more interactive than browsing through an album. Lots happening with Maths Week Online here - if you didn't involve your class this year get into it next year - an awesome interactive learning opportunity. As students work through the problem solving activities they rack up points and get to bid for prizes. I can see here there are some kids that are very motivated & engaged with Maths Week - racking up a few points and prizes too! Access to equipment is a key enabler (and in many schools often a disabler) of making IT happen in the classroom - no problems with access here. Kids have lots of opportunities that it is a seamless part of how they work in the classroom - good to see :-)

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

SPS & Learning Software

I worked with Jen's team and their classes for a couple of days introducing them to some freeware learning software. There is very little software on school computers beyond the Microsoft Office stuff. We loaded them onto the classroom computer & also burnt them to disc for the kids to take home. They are more likely to get hands on time at home than in the classroom! (Purely a numbers game - 1 computer divided by 30+ kids just does not equate...)
I was astounded by the response of the kids who wanted software - from the 3 classes we burnt 40+ cds - we had two sessions where kids came and worked alongside me in my office (while i did other things) & they copied disc after disc while multitasking with 'Wacky Stories' from Learning Media.
Many kids when asked say they have computers at home but after talking with Kelvin he seems to think many might just say that as they don't want to say they haven't. So i wonder what the real figure is for computers in homes? What is the size of the digital divide in the wider Stratford area?...
More about the software - things like Artrage, Acid Express,some RiverDeep demo stuff, TUX typing and maths (Typing was identified by the teachers as a skill they wanted to see improving as it really slowed the children down when they were trying to complete work), also had some Grey Ollwits software - maths, language games - but a lot of this stuff is just like an electronic worksheet & not too exciting, plus photostory & movie maker 2 etc.
Check out Software for Learning on TKI