Category Archives: education today

ABC Splash – New Australian Education Webiste

If you haven’t come across it yet ABC Splash this is a fabulous resource full of free  videos, audio clips and games.   The ABC has collaborated with Education Services Australia to provide  hundreds of new learning resources directly to the Australian Curriculum.

Available on the site are  latest technology  games, virtual worlds and immersive digital experiences.  Resources for English, Maths, Science and History across the curriculum.

Worth exploring!

Student access to web tools

Presently I am working in an education environment that restricts student access to web technologies that I would like to use.   Keeping students safe is of course of paramount importance, but as we live in the 21st century awareness and use of these technologies are the skills our students need to develop for their future work life.  Working with a group of senior students, we were unable to access multimedia tools and reverted back to moviemaker and powerpoint.  Then came the opportunity to introduce students to networking, blogging, wikis and the like, and again I met with similar frustrations.  I turned to my professional network for advice in this regard and an  interesting discussion then began on this topic with both points of view being expressed in relation to working within the e-learning environment provided by Education Queensland (The Learning Place) and access to resources outside of this environment.

I share here some of the discussion for the information of other educators.  Undoubtedly there will continue to be two viewpoints amongst educators on this issue, similar to those expressed by Shane and Jonathan.

Shane Roberts:

Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) togo beyond the realms of EQ.  I’m not saying there isn’t relevant stuff out there beyond EQ, but setting out to send students and staff beyond EQ as the first option is not safe practice.

As stated, there is relevant stuff out there, but purposely promoting
external services equivalent to services offered by your organisation is not safe practice.  Ever been to a Telstra store for them to promote another carrier?

My main point of the first email was to outline the services available to EQteachers.  This was not an effort to single out Qld state / public teachers and I apologise if anyone else on this list feels marginalised by this conversation but the initial email was targetted to EQ teachers.

If one takes the time to explore Learning Place, BlackBoard, Voicethread, iConnect (Elluminate), and Curriculum Exchange they will be amazed at the functionality and resources they have access to.

And finally, we (EQ) teachers need to restrict publishing of student work to
public places to ensure student safety.  It is all about providing a safe
environment equitably for thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students in an EQ location.  This is no different to any other learning environment needing to be safe.  As a HPE teacher I know students at some stage may swim in the surf.  This does not mean I teach them there.  I would love to be able to have open access, but as an employee of EQ I don’t, and it is therefore my responsibility to ensure I follow policy and expectations.

Something else to consider is that any work we produce is owned by EQ, not personally by us.  Therefore decision to host outside of EQ services cannot be a decision made by an individual teacher.  Its also important to note
that we do not own student work either, and requiring them to host outside EQ services is fraught with danger in my opinion.  Now this generally gets the back up of many people but it is true – the work is owned by EQ therefore they control copyright.

Jonathan Clark:

OK. How about this scenario?…

/You’re organising a Travel Buddy project with a teacher in the USA.
That teacher says, “Great. I am excited about this. I am going to make a
web site where we can place pictures, conversations and things we learn from our Travel Buddy exchange.” The teacher sets up the site, but of course it’s blocked in EQ so can’t be shared with the class.

“OK,” says you, “I’ll build the site in Blackboard (ie within the EQ
System).”
/
On the surface this seems OK. But the issues I have are:

a. It takes away the initiative the teacher from the USA showed. I have
to say to her, “I can’t use your site, but you can use mine (if I set
you up access).”
b. It means that I have to do that work. It’s harder to share the load.
c. It smacks of arrogance. “OK. We can collaborate, but you have to do
it in OUR system, as we are not allowed to use your system as our
department views others’ systems as inferior (and unsafe).”

This scenario is happening to me right now.

So, in answer to Shane’s question: Because I want to collaborate on a
legitimate and valuable educational project with a teacher outside the
EQ system (and indeed outside my country).

BTW How many real problems were created in the past from all those
online curriculum projects we designed, built and participated in well
before our education systems started building their own online facilities?

Margaret Lloyd, Ph D:

Thank you to all contributors to this conversation thus far – the postings have given us a glimpse at the complexity of the whole issue.

My first response is to be concerned about the oz-Teachernet projects and their future in Queensland state schools. But this is something I will follow up off-line with the Learning Place. I am hoping that our projects – and we’ve just launched Land Yachts for the third time – are going to be seen as OK. We do spend considerable time and effort to make our spaces ‘safe’ and ***touch wood*** have had no incidents of inappropriate behaviour from teachers or students in the 15 years we’ve been running online projects.  We don’t charge anyone anything – and never have. We think we are running these projects for the ‘right’ reasons and putting some real power into the hands of kids and teachers. Although similarly based in Queensland, we don’t see ourselves in opposition to the Learning Place. We see them as complementary.

Having said that, I do understand why EQ, or in fact, any system does what they do to protect the kids in their care. It would be irresponsible to allow Web 2.0 into schools and not put any boundaries on its use. I have this feeling that an equilibrium will one day be found between care and access. All systems need to begin with rules and tight parameters that start to be relaxed as people feel their way with what they can and can’t do, or should and shouldn’t do. Having said that, I am prepared to put up a fight to continue to have EQ schools take part in oz-Teachernet projects. Last year, Land Yachts had 400 kids in all states of Australia taking part. None of us would do anything to put any one of those kids at risk.

Andrew Westerman:

In EQ, the Learning Place provides a location for parents and schools to
set up booking timetables for interviews via The Learning Place. This is
secure. Frankly, I would have thought a system based on email would have
been sufficient or better, but the facility is there if EQ schools want it.

The Learning Place also offer blogs (to refer to Marie’s query). While
Global Student may provide a more attractive interface, the
functionality is the same. But security is guaranteed with the LP.

As a teacher, I cannot be sure who runs or works for Global Student.
This means I am exposing my children to potential threats by using it.
Most teachers can see the possibilities for breach of duty of care in
that, especially if the blog is very personal (as we hope some will be).

Michael:

“Why would one need to specifically teach their students (and other staff) to go beyond the realms of EQ”

Because there is a big wide world out there that is inhabited by all the
students we teach on a daily basis, because every teacher has their own teaching style, preferences and needs, because teachers specifically (as a profession) are open and adventurous and like to try new things to see what works best in their classes (and every class dynamic is different), because teachers like to share and collaborate with teachers and classes all over the world. Or maybe we could just wrap Queensland in cotton wool, cut all the cables and pretend that there is not a world out there that our students need to be prepared for.

Jenni Fewtrell:

With Ed Qld’s revised Code of Conduct it looks like we may have to work
within the Learning Place for blogging and other collaborative projects.

Maybe with all of us working together to provide feedback about the
functionality of the LP. they will work on better usability for our younger students. For one, the multiple passwords to access LP is so difficult with any primary student.

We can only try….

Well said Jenni. 


Digital Natives Have Their Say

Do kids ever get invited to conferences on the future of education? This is quite strange when you think about it, as Mark Prensky points out, all stakeholders are involved in corporate decisions, yet kids are rarely asked their viewpoints. In his article, Young Minds, Fast Times: The Twenty-First Digital Learner Mark points out:

Today’s kids hate being talked at. Students universally tell us they prefer dealing with questions rather than answers, sharing their opinions, participating in group projects, working with real-world issues and people, and having teachers who talk to them as equals rather than as inferiors.

Nearly two-thirds of secondary school students want to use laptops, cell phones, or other mobile devices at school.

A student in Albany, New York, pleaded the case for using technology in the classroom: “If it’s the way we want to learn, and the way we can learn, you should let us do it.”

One teacher queried, “Do computers cut you off from the world?” Not at all, said an excited student: “We share with others and get help. Technology helps — it strengthens interactions so we can always stay in touch and play with other people. I’ve never gone a day without talking to my friends online.”

One California high school served up a dose of common sense: “Kids grew up around computers. They love them. Their computers are their second teachers at home.” A student in West Virginia offered this nugget: “If I were using simulation in school, that would be the sweetest thing ever!”

Mark states that the best part of the student panels is always hearing the kids’ answers to his final question. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” Great responses:

I ask about their experience that day and whether their soapbox proved useful. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” I ask. I truly love their answers:
“I like the fact that we become equals. Students do not get the opportunity that often to share their ideas. If students and teachers could collaborate, a lot more would get done.” (Anaheim, California)

“A lot of students care — you just don’t realize it.” (Poway, California)

“Most of the time, the teachers are talking and I want to go to sleep. But now my brain is exploding.” (Poway, California)

“Don’t let this be a onetime thing.” (Poway, California)

“I think it’s important that you take time to see what we feel.” (West Virginia)

“Now you know what we think and how we feel. Hopefully, that will go to the heart.” (Texas)

“I waited twelve years for this.” (Texas)

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it!” (Texas)

“As a general rule, you don’t hear from kids unless they’ve gotten into trouble.” (Anaheim, California)

“Both groups [teachers and students] can learn from each other.” (Anaheim, California)

“If you don’t talk to us, you have no idea what we’re thinking.” (Hawaii)

Clearly, the kids find it valuable to share with their educators their opinions on how they want to learn. Although skeptical, they hope those teachers and administrators who are trying to improve their education think so, too, and listen carefully to what the students have to say.

Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers?

 We take it for granted that computers have tremendous potential to transform education. According to new research that focused on computer adoption among the poor in one Eastern European country, computers at home can actually help to lower the grade point averages of students, distract students from homework, and potentially contribute to behavioral issues.

 We find evidence indicating that children who won a voucher (to gain a computer) had lower school grades.

In the case of  the Romanian program, subsidies were provided for the purchase of home computers. The Ministry of Education did provide access to educational software. According to the researchers, few children installed educational software on their computers, and fewer still reported actually using that educational software.

The possibility that home computer use might displace more valuable developmental activities is a real concern. The researchers concluded that the role of the parent in “shaping the impact of home computer use on child and adolescent outcomes” is an important factor that needs to be addressed in programs aimed at bringing technology to underprivileged youth.

“Thus, our findings suggest caution regarding the broader impact of home computers on child outcomes. They also raise questions about the usefulness of recent large-scale efforts to increase computer access for disadvantaged children around the world without paying sufficient attention to how parental oversight affects a child’s computer use.”

Is this  something that needs to be considered in light of the one laptop per child  program?

I am sure that many educators would agree they would rather see children with computers than without.  Using the tools to gain in learning is the goal.  Liaison between school and parents, and using the tools effectively at school will assist in ensuring that they are not misused in the home environment.

Any comments?

Getting started with Web 2.0 tools

It can seem a little overwhelming knowing where to start with facilitating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom for teachers who are trying to embrace 21st century learning. I was so captured by this wiki: Webtools4u2se that I thought it would be a great tool to introduce teachers to cool tools and what is great about the wiki is that it gives lots of ideas for using the tools. Designed for school library media specialists, it is an ideal starting place for all educators.  It is very informative with a bright inviting home page (this is created using Glogster). It also has a page dedicated to Why Web 2.0 tools? Tools include:

  • audio and podcasting
  • blogs
  • calendars, task management and to do lists
  • drawing, charting and mapping tools
  • portal and web page starting tools
  • photo and photo sharing tools
  • presentation tools
  • quiz and polling tools
  • news feeds and aggregators
  • social networks
  • video tools and video sharing
  • wikis
  • productivity tools

wikiweb2-copy.jpg

Another great starting place for teachers wanting to know how to start or where, is Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch’s project and wiki for laying the foundations for using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning. Visit their wiki at: Laying the e-planks for a Web 2.0 school. Anne and Jess are embracing 21st century literacies at their Hawkesdale P-12 College (a small rural p12 school, educating 5 – 18 year old students om Victoria, Australia) and are documenting what they have achieved as well as their goals on the wiki.

In the Planks page, they have resources to important issues related to Web 2.0 use, such as cybersafety, digital media and copyright, joining networks and creating an online space. To follow their journey you can subscribe to their eplanks podcasts.

Here is a great  wiki, 23 Things introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers. It is a 10 week course for teachers. Although it cannot be joined it gives a list of resources that are to be covered in the course. If you are interested in learning more about the course, participating in a future course session, facilitating the course at your own school or adapting the content under Creative Commons, please email Shelley Paul @ k12learning20@gmail.com

Net dependence sapping our life skills?

Whilst researching on the net I came across an article that caught my eye, Net dependence sapping our life skills in which the author states that the current generation are losing some of the skills relied upon by previous generations. His article stated:

  • His (digital native) son was unable to read a map when his satellite navigation system was down.
  • Today’s generation expect to access answers to questions immediately via Google.
  • ‘Mobile phones and the internet have ruined an entire generation’s self-reliance’.
  • ‘Today’s generation have lost the joy of studying books, maps, papers and other non-electronic devices’ and so on.

I found myself disagreeing with his comment that ‘mobile phones and the internet have ruined an entire generation’s self-reliance’ as well as the other comments he makes about how students may be lacking/missing out on experiences. The internet has greatly enriched opportunities for enhanced learning experiences via podcasts, wikis, blogs, multi-media, RSS and other resources. Students are becoming self-reliant on how to access information and discern between reliable and non-reliable information. They learn many more skills than previous generations in information retrieval and are exposed to a wider variety of knowledge They are involved in a world of connectedness, collaboration and sharing, all of which enrich and expand their knowledge bank.

By no longer being confined to the walls of their classrooms they can connect with other students outside their school and outside their country. Their learning becomes real-life exchange experiences. These different experiences lead to different brain experiences (Prensky 2001). Learners think and process information differently than their predecessors and their thinking patterns have changed.

Personally I would rather be educated in today’s climate than in the generation I grew up in. Living in the information age means that people need to develop the skills that will enable them to effectively function in society. Technology is moving at such a pace that even the simplest of jobs requires people to use technology. What it means for the future of Australia is that education needs to keep pace with change and not be stuck in traditional pedagogical methods of teaching to enable learners to fulfil their potential in the knowledge society. Unless teachers (and parents) make the effort to connect, they are unable to meet today’s learners’ needs. They need to connect to speak the same language and co-exist with the digital natives!

Does anyone agree that net dependence has sapped our life skills?

References: Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, On the Horizon, Vol. 9, No. 5, NCB University Press.