Saturday, October 28, 2006
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Secrets of the Alchemist Dar
This book by Michael Stadther has just been launched along with a worldwide treasure hunt for 100 rings worth 2 million US dollars in total. If you want a way to turn kids on to reading this could be it. There is also a teacher programme and resource pack you can order. I wish I had a class to do this with. Michael was interviewed on National Radio yesterday, the podcast is available from here.
He also has an online publishing company where anyone can have their book published.
He also has an online publishing company where anyone can have their book published.
Blogged with Flock
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Online conference starts
The k12 online conference has started. I listened to the keynote address from David Warlick twice so I could review one point he was saying. The video is worth watching just for the experience. I haven't really had a chance to reflect deeply on anything he said but I have learnt a whole lot already about technorati tags and wikis. If you get the time this is worth being part of just for the experience.
Today I spent some of the day setting up some new Mac book laptops for one of the school I work in. These are seriously cool. I want one. The best of both worlds.
Technorati Tags: k12online06 k12online
Monday, October 16, 2006
k-12 online conference
Click on the clock to find out the time of the key note for the k-12 online conference. David Warlick is the speaker. I'm sad to not be able to join in with this live as I will be in class tomorrow at that time but I think it will be well worth coming back to.
To save you looking it is 11.00 a.m NZ time on Tuesday 17th October.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Stuff that has me thinking!
Yesterday I blogged a little grizzle about the lack of $$ being spent on hardware and the "sausage sizzle" mentality of New Zealand schools when it come to thinking about hardware purchasing. Today I have been viewing some more of those fantastic TED talk presentations and had my view challenged on a number of fronts. Firstly I listened to Iqbal Quadir talking about setting up a cell phone network in Bangladesh. If you are remotely interested in poverty and aid issues he is well worth listening to. His point that challenged my thinking about $$ and technology was a diagram he displayed that showed the shift in power relationship and ultimately in productivity when countries receive foreign aid as donations versus helping people to become empowered and to solve their own problems.
Now don't get me wrong I'm not advocating taking away government funding from schools but maybe there is some power in schools having to work a little hard to get the things they really want and need. There are plenty of stories from older teachers about the wastefulness of the old system where schools were centrally resourced for many things. Schools would be sent new pianos when the old ones they had were perfectly fine. I'm now trying to think how his cell phone model could be applied to school technology. One way I see is related to another idea in much discussion at present and that is the idea of community. At present schools would be seen in most communities as a cost activity rather than a resource. What if this could be turned on its head somehow and schools could become community resources that helped generate wealth (I'm not just talking about $ here) for the community. On a really micro level I saw this a couple of years ago where one school I visited was trying to attract an artist in residence who they were offering free use of a space to in exchange for interaction with the pupils. I think there are many ways in which schools could break down the barriers that currently exist and be mutually beneficial for the community.
The other two videos I watched from TED were presentations by Malcom Gladwell and Barry Schwartz. These two talks were both fascinating. Essentially they were both talking about the same topic "Human choice and happiness" but from completely opposite angles. Gladwell talked about the fact that if you ask people what they want they often don't know or respond with something they already know about. If you offer them choices then we find that the responses do not fit into a normal bell curve but the data suggests different options are required to satisfy people's desires. Schwartz also talked about choice and happiness but concluded that more choices = less satisfaction.
As I was watching these two presentations I was reflecting on education and how the movement to increase student autonomy in learning fits in with these ideas. I'll have to reflect on this some more but I think that there must be a balance point somewhere in the middle where optimum learning conditions are created with sufficient choice but not too much to lower satisfaction and effect. Again at a micro level I saw this happen this year when my daughter's school surveyed parents about their preferred methods of receiving feedback on their children's progress. Did we want 1:1 interviews, reports, student led conferences, portfolios etc etc? Because we were asked what we wanted, many parents responded with ideas they knew about. Interviews were a popular choice. Student led conferences were a new and unpopular idea but the school decided to go ahead with them anyway. A recent newsletter reported that feedback has been positive. People didn't know they wanted this choice until they had experienced it. This is what Gladwell predicts would happen. I am extrapolating his ideas related to food to education here so the links could be tenuous but it is interesting to think about. Scwartz however would argue that too many choices would lower satisfaction.
If you can spare the time TED talk videos are well worth browsing through. These are top notch people presenting whether you agree with their ideas or not. Aubrey de Grey is worth listening to for his radical ideas about increasing life expectency.
David Warlick - We have no choice!??
David Warlick made this comment on his recent blog.
Maine was the first of a handful of states in the U.S. that have decided that it is the state’s responsibility to take learning into the 21st century by investing in access to digital networked information for every teacher and student. Led by former governor, Angus King (present at the opening of the conference), it was a bold and expensive move, especially for a state as rural as Maine — and a state so challenged by rapid economic change.
I come away even more convinced that we are not going to achieve the changes in public education that some of us preach, until we have thrown out the paper and started teaching from a purely digital networked information environment. Staff development will be critical. Leadership will be critical. But the sense that I got from the conversations I had and overheard at that conference is that presented with the void of a new and barely tapped information tool, your great teachers (leader teachers) will blaze trails very quickly and very creatively, and the rest will follow.
We have no choice!
Is he right? If he is, what does this mean for the NZ education system. The government have spent, in recent years, considerable amounts (considerable is debateable btw) of money on professional development but very little on equipment. Schools still struggle with the sausage sizzle and cake stall mentality that they use to provide technology for students. I absolutely applaud the focus on professioanl development but now I think it is time for some serious $$ to be spent on providing hardware and infrastructure to schools. Some of this is slowly happening but in my opinion it is too little and far too slow. We now have one laptop per teacher in NZ. This is wonderful. Now it is time to give schools enough to put laptops in the hands of every student or at least on a ratio of 1:3 for pupils years 5-10 and 1:1 for years 11-13.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Do you remember space invaders?
This is a link to an interesting article about a teenager who has had a grid in serted into his brain to record brain surface signals, a brain-machine interface technique that uses electrocorticographic (ECoG) activity - data taken invasively right from the brain surface.
He is able to control a space invaders game just with his imagination. Wow! Were could this lead.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
More Cool Toys
Online collaboration tool
This is another of those web 2.0 applications. I had a browse this morning and it looks like it has some great tools in it for online collaboration. I like the idea that it has chat and teleconferencing built in but I haven't tried them yet to see if they work well. The tools appeared to be fairly intuitive. Worth a brief look.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
An email from Terry Freedman got me looking at the Every Child Matters project in the UK. This link to extended schools caught my eye. It is an interesting read about how the UK government want every school by 2010 to be offering a range of services outside of core schooling. I have said for a long time it seems silly to me that schools have huge resources in use from 9 - 3 and then they are mostly locked up the rest of the time.
In Christchurch there are a few initiatives underway to break down some of the barriers. One project is the partnership betwen the local council library service and the education department in a library partnership. The learning centres are community facilities as well as having close ties to the local schools. There must be so many more opportunities for schools to partner with local and central government and business to maximise the use of facilities and provide services to whole communities. I've wondered for a long time why, for example doctors and dentists are not located next to schools.
It is fun to think what we would build a school like if we could start from scratch and build a whole new community. I was a bit disappointed when I visited the Pegasus Town model and saw the layout of the proposed school. To me it looked like anywhere else in NZ and I thought they had missed an opportunity to really do something different. Maybe it is not too late I'm not sure. I am interested in anywhere else in the world where this has been tried or where local schools are doing innovative things to break down the walls and invite the community in.
Send me an email or comment on this blog if you do know of any examples.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Greg blogged about this article from Edutopia Magazine.
The main bit of the article is about a teacher who lost his job supposedly because he didn't follow the curriculum. I'm a sceptic cause I think there must have been something else behind this story. The article does include a great quote that Greg points out.
"Isolation is the great killer of teachers," he says. "When they see there are other people out there providing resources, the receptivity shoots up. Teachers aren't looking at a script. They have plenty of scripts. The lights go on when they see tools."
The above quote resonated with me. I love to come across new tools that I can see have classroom potential. That's why I'm experimenting with blogging, podcasting and wiki's. Further down that article there is reference to Instructable.com. This is a fantastic looking site with step by step instructions to all sorts of cool things This would be a great website to use in two obvious ways. Firstly go surfing for hands on projects for your kids to make. Or get There is nothing better than hands on learning. Secondly get your children to upload their own step by step instructions to projects they create themselves.
I think this site has huge potential. The mouse robot looks like something really cool to do.
Kids Programming Language
Kids Programming Language
This looks like a fun site for those kids who are into finding out about how computer programs work. Apparently this is a simple programming language written with 10 - 16 year olds in mind but now being used by a whole lot of people.
The site has links to examples and instructional videos that are quite good. You can also download games that have been written in KPL and modify them to help you learn programming.