Saturday, 29 November 2008

Collaboratively create a unit of work using Wikis

During this term, I have been working with Tony Jones, the head of Science at Tokoroa High School, at creating a wiki so that him and the science teachers in his department can co-create a unit of work. Neither Tony nor his colleagues had worked with wikis previously. They had flirted with using a Learning Management System, and Tony has created a whole L2 physics course using eXe, but they have found using a wiki the easiest way to put something on line and actually do it together. You can have a look at their work by going to

Designing Learning Spaces

One of the things that I am trying to do with the schools that I work with is to include the use of ICT for learning as part of the schools overall learning vision with the idea that it is the learning needs of our students and the teaching needs of our teachers that drives the purchase and implementation of hardware and software. This then leads to focussed PD based on need, which in turn leads to the old idea of reflective teaching where the teacher assesses the impact of their teaching and teaching approach on their students' learning. This is included in the NZC under "Teaching as Inquiry".

While I have advocated this approach, I have paid little attention to the design of learning spaces. Instead, I have continued to follow the old model of computer labs and computers in the back of classrooms. Derek Wenmoth's recent blog post "Designing Learning Spaces", has just turned my world on its head, because it means more change and more learning. It also means that I need to make sure that I am up to speed with all the recent developments around technology, LMS/SMS integration, pedagogy and now property management so that I can provide the best advice to the schools and staff I work with. My list of books and articles to read grows on a daily basis.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Michael Fullan - The Change Maker

One of my colleagues at Raupehu College, Jane Voon, pointed this article out to me. It is called in the "Change Maker" and is published in the most recent edition of the Education Gazette. This follows up a powerpoint and podcast sent to me by two other colleagues regarding the work of Guy Claxton. My focus for the last two years has been on ICT, and the technology, with the understanding that the technology is really secondary to the pedagogy. However, my knowledge of the pedagogy has been scant at best, and so this year has been a real challenge for me as I climb the steep learning curve of truly understanding the pedagogy behind eLearning. This has widened my exposure to not just educators who have an ICT focus, but educators who truly have the learning and the teaching of young people at the centre of all they do. A very humbling experience to say the least.

Michael Fullan points out the importance of teacher capability and motivation, and the need for strong educational leadership. Not administorial leadership, but educational leadership. This has to come from principals and teachers in our schools. I realise that in my role as an ePrincipal, I am well positioned to provide educational leadership, not just technological leadership, which brings me back to the point of pedagogy, and the long hill still in front of me as I come to grips with the theories and the methods that will really make a difference to a child's learning.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Now that's what I call blogging

I have often been asked the question "how does technology benefit the learners? Where is the evidence?" Well here it is. This year, four students from Reporoa College did a computing course, through video conferencing with a teacher at Mercury Bay Area School, Max Ross. The first part of the course was dedicated to creating a web page in PHP, with a link to a data base which was created and queried using mysql. The second part of the course was all about building a robot using Lego, and programming it to carry out a set of given tasks. This culminated in all the students congregating at Te Aroha College to engage in the "Robot Wars" to see whose Robot would be able to tip over the other robots and hence claim the "Title".

In order to track their work and to document the project development, the students were asked to set up a blog. Which they duly did. When I read a few of the blogs, what I saw is what we have been talking about as educators. Here I saw responsible and independent learning, collaboration, creativity and problem solving. Check out these two blogs (whose permission I have obtained from the owners to share).

These students would not normally have access to blogs because it comes under personal networking and is filtered by our network filtering system. So we had to unblock the filters for them. Makes you think - responsible use of blogs is so beneficial, but how many students would simply spend their time on bebo (Blog Everywhere Blog Often) and do nothing? Something we need to look at closely.


I know I make reference to the work of Jan Gilbert ("Catching the Knowledge Wave") and Dan Pink ("A Whole New Mind"), and I think so often that teachers look at me and go "who"??? Well not so much with Jan Gilbert, but definitely with Dan Pink. Now here is a NZ blog, about educational leadership that makes reference to Dan Pink and puts his thinking into an education perspective. Thanks to Cheryl Doig and her blog "Think Beyond". for putting the education slant on a book which could be mistaken for a book only for business, but which in reality has so much for education too.

Social Networking - Is it that bad???

This is something I recently found on Chris Dawson's blog regarding social networking. I think he's spot on regarding education, and it shows where business is headed in the near future. The future is definitely coming very fast. I recently read that Japan is working on building a "space elevator", which they hope to have up and running by 2018. This is something from a science fiction novel, which we now have the technology to build; anyhow, back to education. The challenge is how do we get our students to use their social networking for the purposes of learning. How do we know that our students have something they want to learn about? What about students who don't know what they don't know, and come from backgrounds that do not value learning? It really is a paradigm shift from the way we view teaching and learning now, to what teaching and learning could look like in the future.

.... Read the blog post below, and see what you think!!!!

Chris Dawson -

Go ahead…Hang out on

MySpace. Wait, what?

The MacArthur Foundation just released a study suggesting that, not surprisingly, given the integration of social media into business and modern culture, the time kids spend with so-called new media, is generally neither wasted nor particularly harmful. In fact, as one of the lead researchers points out in the New York Times,

“It may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out with new media, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages,” said Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, “Living and Learning With New Media.” “But their participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. They’re learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.”

During a chat with a student she commented that often young people don’t respond to emails anymore; send them a message through Facebook and they respond immediately. What does this mean for business? It means that Intel is on the right track with its business-oriented social media development efforts.

In terms of the study, the Times again pointed out an important piece of the research that is worth the attention of classroom teachers:

“New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting,” the study said. “Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults.”

The executive summary of the Foundation’s whitepaper sums up the perspective nicely:

Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture. They have so permeated young lives that it is hard to believe that less than a decade ago these technologies barely existed. Today’s youth may be coming of age and struggling for autonomy and identity as did their predecessors, but they are doing so amid new worlds for communication, friendship, play, and self-expression.

Many of these technologies that are “fixtures of youth culture” are permeating business as well. Been on Twitter lately? Sure, there’s plenty of garbage, but there are also important communities sharing ideas, business contacts, and developing their own brands (of course, there’s another one of those new media buzz words, but it certainly fits). How about that election we just had? Barack Obama has almost 135,000 followers on Twitter.

Again, a message from the study to administrators and teachers looking to integrate technology into the classroom:

In the process, young people acquire various forms of technical and media literacy by exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media. They may start with a Google search or “lurk” in chat rooms
to learn more about their burgeoning interest. Through trial and error, youth add new media skills to their repertoire, such as how to create a video or customize games or their MySpace page. Teens then share their creations and receive feedback from others online. By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Exemplary Online Educators: Creating a Community of Inquiry

This is an article which was published in the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE. While it was published in 2005, I think it still has relevance for today. This article was found by going to a link provided by a fellow eTeacher, Lynda Walsh-Pascoe.

In the introduction it says;
Within most disciplines there are those who are recognized as being exceptionally competent practitioners. These people are sometimes called exceptional or exemplary. In the educational realm, students remember these individuals as the teachers who most positively influenced their learning. The commonality of these exemplary practitioners is that they do their work in a remarkable way and their teaching strategies and interpersonal interactions are regarded by their students as highly successful.
It is easy for online educators to just transfer huge amounts of text, or files, online and call it online learning. This article highlights the importance of good practitioners who know how to inspire and lead through online learning. Click on the post heading, which links to the article

The New Zealand Curriculum and Assessment

This is the second really good post that I have read this week (Following on from Chris Dawson). This one is by my fellow ePrincipal Darren Sudlow, from Cantatech. His blog makes reference to the workshop he attended at ULearn 08 given by Rosemary Hipkins of the NZCER on the New Zealand Curriculum and Assessment. He has uploaded Rose's powerpoint from the conference, so it is well worth the visit. Click on this post title to link to Darren's blog

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Enough Already with Luddite Schools

Hey, call me a poacher, but I have recently read two good blog postings. This one is by Christopher Dawson, see previous posts. His post lays out the vision we should have for our students regarding their adoption of technology for learning. It also therefore poses a challenge for our teachers to enable this sort of adoption to occur - not an easy task, which will take some time, but we have to start somewhere.

go to or click the title of this post to be linked to the words of Chris Dawson.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

classroom 2.0

I subscribe to the ZDNET education updates which is a blog maintained by a fellow educator (in the US) called Christopher Dawson. His most recent post was regarding social networking and other web 2.0 tools (go to or click on the title to view Chris' post). The tool he was referring to was Ning, but this was NOT what got my attention. What did get my attention was the example he gave of schools using web 2.0 tools. He was blogging about how a group (cluster) of state schools in New York city are using social networking sites and cell phones to support their students' learning. His post has an excert from that article but you can go to this link, Village Voice to view the complete article. What was interesting about the article was how the schools were collecting data on how the use of the technology was improving outcomes for their students. The US may be transfixed with testing and collecting data on student performance, while we in NZ believe that education is so much more than that just test scores. However, in this case it is showing us teachers in NZ that technology can make a difference, and that the difference (value added) can be measured. The article also makes reference to a website called classroom 2.0. This is a space dedicated to those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative or transformative technologies. Isn't this what we are about in our eLearning clusters, whether they are ICT PD, EHSAS or simply VC.

Our NZ curriculum provides us with the opportunity to
transform education in New Zealand. We have the technology, we have the tools, we now need to transform.