Don’t ask “Why blog?”

I started this post with a view to have the “Here Comes Learning” presentation below, support my staff Professional Development presentation about the importance of blogging. I’m sure a number of teachers still wonder why they should consider starting a blog. I spent some time working through the considerable information that Will Richardson presents in just the first twelve minutes (the rest of the presentation will have to wait for another post) and now I realise the question is much bigger than just blogging or wikis.

It’s not “Why should I blog?” but “Why should I be connected?”

Will Richardson is a renown author and leader in the field of Web2.0 technologies in education. He was a presenter at the NECC09 in Washington and I, fortunately, was able to attend the session. His message to teachers is that they must be part of the huge technological shift that is happening, that they must use and own the technologies so that they understand them and so that they will ready to teach students what they need to know about using web2.0 technology in ways that are effective for learning.

Here Comes Learning by W.Richardson and SNBeach

Here Comes Learning – Wiki with more links to this presentation

My summary of the Importance of Teachers being Connected by Will Richardson

  • Students use the online world for social reasons but, also, increasingly to learn things -see the video about the bow drill which Will mentions throughout
  • Will quotes Clay Shirky when he says that the ability to form global groups about things we are passionate about which include all levels of expertise and the power of the group in an online world are part of signiificant change – a “Techtonic Shift.
  • We have incredible access to raw data (see the Iran tweets, photos). We no longer depend on the traditional news sources to know what is happening. We need skills to critically analyse the information for importance and accuracy.
  • These new technologies are having an impact on businesses. Companies monitor the conversation and how people form groups around their products. This is easily seen in Twitter when businesses follow and respond to those who use their product name in their tweets.
  • Information Literacy has changed not just the way we write (Twitter and blogs) but the way we read and critically analyse information. New literacy skills are needed and suggested by the National Council of English Teachers :

Develop proficiency with the tools of technology Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

  • Students are using the technologies Primarily to Socialise but now they are beginning to connect in interest based ways tapping into the millions of potential teachers, who are out there, when and where they need to do it

The problem becomes that many children/students have no adults that can teach them how to use technologies for ways that are effective for learning. Teachers need to understand these technologies, understand the shifts, own the technologies and make connections for themselves.They need to take time to immerse themselves in internet type environments to meet the challenge of providing students with the skills they will need in the 21st Century.

The second part of this presentation was concerned with the Professional Development model that will support teachers to develop deep seated skills and connections.

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The Mathtrain @ NECC09

Jenny, Eric and MeThe Mathtrain is Eric Marcos. He is an amazing teacher because he inspires his students to learn and in particular to love maths. My travel buddy, Jenny Ashby and I had the pleasure of meeting him at NECC09 and to hear him present. He was at the Camtasia Studio Booth ( the makers of JING great free screen capture and screen casting toos)  showing how his students use screen casting to share their mathematical knowledge.

I first became a fan of Eric after listening to an Ed Tech Crew Podcast where he was interviewed. I have mentioned him in an earlier blog post when I was looking for examples of students articulating their learning. I think this is why I admire Eric so much. I am a strong believer in students using their voice to tell us what they know. I am sure it is one of the crucial steps in constructing knowledge. Using screen casting, as Eric does, not only builds student’s confidence as they tell an audience what they know,  but helps them crystallize their learning into solid knowledge.

Eric played a number of examples of the student’s work which can be seen on his site but he talked passionately about the students and their enthusiasm for the process. I know that his students love the screen casting and publishing their work, but would guess that they also love the feeling that comes when they know they have learnt something new. The process that Eric Marcos goes through with his students lets them experience that feeling every time they create that snapshot of their math’s lessons.

MATHTRAIN at NECC from Lois Smethurst on Vimeo.

This is part of Eric Marcos’s presentation at NECC09. You can see how enthusiastic and passionate he is about his work. (You can also see that the little web cam that I was experimenting with captured the presentation and reversed all the images.)

Maths Train – Eric Marcos from Lois Smethurst on Vimeo.

The Story of Penelope

Eric tells the story of a disengaged year 8 student who he tutored in Math. The change in her attitude came when she began to screen cast her learning. I think this could be attributed to the change in focus i.e. that is
  • maths has suddenly become much more language focused
  • Penelope is now the one in control
  • using the screen casting lets Penelope realise her learning it completes a process
  • screen casting to an authentic audience makes the learning more “imperative”

Screen casting is not a magic cure. It is clear that Eric Marcos does a lot of Math teaching before the students hit the screen casting stage, but it certainly changes the stakes for the students by giving them the opportunity to articulate their learning to an authentic audience.

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Animation-ish – Favourite New Software @ NECC09

I was fortunate to hear Peter Reynolds speak and to receive a free copy of his software “Animation-ish”  while at the Constructivist Celebration @ NECC09 in Washington. This is the one piece of software that I would like to put on my school’s 2010 budget. Peter Reynolds is an inspiring speaker, a talented artist and author.

  • I admire the philosophy behind the development of Animation-ish.
    • Peter Reynolds believes in giving children a chance to play and experiment through their passions and unique abilities. Animation-ish is designed to give them the opportunity to express themselves through drawing and animation with the ‘ish’ concept that tells the world ‘back off, I’m trying to figure this out, and right now this is the way I do it’ – gives us some room to play, experiment, LEARN.
  • I think it is easy to use but creates a sophisticated finished product in a reasonable amount of time.
    • You can draw with Animation-ish in three very intuitive levels, “Wiggledoodle-ish”, “Flipbook-ish” and “Advanced-ish”.  It is best to have a tablet to draw with but many students these days are used to drawing with a mouse. Animations can be looped and exported in a number of formats. You can read a more detailed review here.
  • It has excellent support material, is generally very appealing and works well with the web 2.0 publishing world of today.
    • It has excellent tutorials and “Inspire me” files to get you started. You can register for a series of tutorials taking you through each level of Animation-ish

My first little animation – just so that you can get the idea how simple it is – created in less than an hour.

The only problem is the cost. I was hoping for a whole school site license for less than $2000 (our school has 750 students) but it appears it can only be bought as a volume license for 25 computers at that price. Our school would need 4 or 5 times that just to cover the computers for students in grades 3 to 6. As much as I love it, and can see its advantages, that is far too much in our budget… I can only hope that a whole school site license is released at a more manageable cost.

I’ve just read another blog with a similar view of the Animation-ish software and its value for the classroom.

More Links – The Live Wire

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