Diigo Update (weekly)

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What Twitter does > What Twitter is

“I have no idea why you’d use Twitter” he said to me, as I tried so very hard not to openly yawn at the prospect of the conversation continuing.

Okay, okay, you don’t get it. But in the grand scheme of things, it is fairly unremarkable that I’m hearing this.

Many ‘on’ Twitter may have noticed the #edchat tag appearing in global (not parochial) tagged conversations and wondered what it’s about?

It’s about this – an online daily newspaper using a neat little application, that is to Twitter what Feedly is to RSS – called Paper.li.

Now here’s what I suggest. Don’t mention Twitter to the folded arm types. Just show them this as a useful resource where they can pick up on technologies and solutions that teacher educators around the world think at valuable. Then put down the microphone and step back. There are many obvious uses beyond #edchat, and I leave you to dream them up. It is well worth checking out – and please God, perhaps we can use it to illustrate the diverse connections and content being shared.

This is a much more ‘real’ example of what Twitter does – rather than what Twitter ‘is‘ – the latter being impossible to explain – and way more meaningful that the PLW, PLN stuff … 🙂

Diigo Update (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Giving students better, more meaningful feedback

Many people I meet in professional development sessions believe that the ‘tool’ is predominantly for the use of students to undertake some activity. This can be true, however if you are working with newcomers, it is more productive to focus on the teacher. This avoids a stream of questions in which the teacher usually tries to predict student issues, behaviour and attitude – all of which is entirely hypothetical, subjective and leaves plenty of room for them to mentally dismiss the entire session. Instead focus on something that all teachers and students can benefit from easily – feedback.

Yes yes, lots of tools can give feedback. Consider however that your new found friends are used to marking, grading and annotating. Giving feedback on paper can be very rewarding, the hand written comments bringing a degree of reality and personalisation to their typed up, turned in documents.

This is very important to newcomers. Offering digital feedback feels un-natural. The fact it might be more efficient isn’t considered until after this feeling is psychologically resolved. Remember that for many – encountering online software at all is a revelation. Research suggests that 90% of teachers don’t stray from Word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software. Their use of ‘the internet’ is to crudely search for information which they hand out liberally as a digital-reading list. Conceptually the internet and software is seen as a dichotomy. I tend to favour working with assessment over any other component of teacher-activities. This assures them, that no matter what occurs during digital-learning, they will be able to assess it.

Reviewbasics, is an excellent tool to use is this respect. It is very clear about what it does from the outset.The home page needs resonate immediately – given them a clear message as to what it is for. ReviewBasics is a great way to start working with teachers. It allows the teacher or student to upload multiple page documents, video, images, web documents, schematics etc., It allows them to use pre-existing materials – PowerPoint, PDFs etc, so they can immediately use it for very little effort. One feature that I like is the ability to organise work into project folders.

So far so good, nothing scary here … language newcomers can understand. At this point you can talk about uploading course materials, and how it is rather like storing them on a flash drive or shared drive – but unlike those devices; you can invite students to use them to (in assessment).

After making a project folder it allows the upload of familiar file types. Don’t overlook this. People like to upload documents. It feels very affirmative and deliberate. You might also like to point out the file size limit. In many cases distributing large files by email is problematic – as they can bounce or take forever to arrive. (Heads will nod).

You can also capture a webpage. Trying to scrape webpages into Word or print them out is a basic activity of the newcomer, so show them how that can work to their advantage. This is simple to do, just paste in the URL of some resource that might be of interest to them.

Now you have a couple of simple resources to work with. So far you are about 15 minutes into the session. You’ve proved to people that they can add content to the internet. So take a moment to de-brief and celebrate.

Now we can get people to start working in pairs. Ask them to invite each other to review a document of webpage. Keep it simple – we are trying to get them familiar with the idea of sharing – easily. If any questions arise at this point over privacy etc., just explain that you will be talking about that later. These questions are genuine concerns, but subconsciously it can be an opt out point, so smile and complete the step.

This screen is important – it firstly looks fairly familiar – as it has 99% of the tools they ever use in a word processor anyway, and has a clear option that allow privacy. Remember the situated learning context here is assessment and student feedback, not mass collaboration (which is far more scary).

IMPORTANT: As them to log-out of ReviewBasics and check their email.

ReviewBasic will have sent them an invite (check spambox) to review the document(s). The sign in with an auto-generated password, and will be promoted to change it. This is good – it denotes security. They change it and move on to see this screen. You can see not only what to review – but gives you a time! – You can actually account for the time you are spending with a student! – This is a great feature, and exposes to a wider audience – the amount of time you spend with students – digitally. You can show the instructions, see the documents … and get reviewing.

Now let’s see what kind of feedback can be added. At this point, allow your learners to experiment – and wander around asking about what kind of feedback they like to give – and point out ways to transfer that happyness to this activity. Allow about 10 minutes tinker-time. Invite people to grab a drink – it makes the experience seem more relaxed and takes the focus off you for a while.

Review basic uses a system of call outs to give feedback. This is great! They are all clearly colour coded with specific actions – highligher pens, line drawing, selection of areas etc., but they are also use a taxonomy. The student will immediately see the kind of feedback that is given. Students can’t judge the tone of your penmanship, nor to ticks and statements like ‘good work’ have any meaning. This is cognitive organiser for both teacher and student. As we are trying to develop critical thinking, we need structures to help us do it.

The way ReviewBasics allows you to look though multi-page documents and give organised feedback will, in my view, make it more clearly understood by the student.

There are so many tools here, that teachers who like to tick, line or write extended responses will be satisfied, as the operate like post it notes. If you now want to draw a bow and shoot Word – ask them how many people can do this in Word already? You will get a tiny proportion raising their hands, and if they do – ask them to share an example. (I can’t I don’t have it on me). Kerzam, ReviewBasics overcomes that.

Now here is the kicker in ReviewBasics. I am proposing that this tool is student centred. By that I mean it is a tool that student would use as an electronic submission of work to the teacher. Students can send work to you (be that on the web in their wikis) or a printable. You can then write all over it. Why is they FANSTASTIC – because even in Ning, Wikis, Blogs etc., it is very hard to give pointed feedback as constructive as this.

The is of course no reason why you would not share a collection of websites and ask students to write all over them. Really? I hadn’t thought of that! Always allow the audience to offer expert advice to you. Focus on the student sending you work, and at least half the room will turn the tables and suggest ways to use this for mass collaboration. You can then show them how on the right you can see the comments of each student, so you can use this to evaluate any web session that you run in class. How many times do students spend an hour on the computer, ‘searching’ or looking at resource – and the teacher has NO IDEA what they understood as they sat doing it? – A plenary at the end, just before the bell? Give it up! – Make them review the learning BEFORE they leave or for homework!

Finally – after you have scribbled all over the students work – you can leave a closing comment. If it is the students collaborating, then they can leave a series of summations – so you can work over a document (middle order thinking) and at the end request a higher order conclusion.

This tool alone would transform a classroom, especially those in 1:1 laptop situations – or where teachers are providing web-content. This is just to ‘touch’ on how to use the the tool – in a simplistic way, and perhaps takes an hour of a morning workshop.

The rest of the workshop we would be talking about deeper uses – strategies and under-pinning the role of the teacher as a collaborator and facilitator of learning – and provide a lot more ‘teacher’ information about how to go about using this one tool – while at the same time dealing with issues of assessment itself.

I hope that this gives you some ideas – not just on a great tool, but also about professional development of teachers – who are very tricky bunch. Love to hear your feedback if you use it.

Tales of Utopia

In the beginning part of the year, I started collaborating with Jeff in Montana on a Gifted and Talented project, where middle school students undertook a unit on Utopia.

The study book was Animal Farm. We developed a series of activities to meet the standards, which ultimately had the goal of engaging students in creating their own original short stories that used themes taken from the book and other texts.

The project culminated in his students publishing their book online. The stories they created are excellent! Proving once again that students can be really amazing.

I was trapped. I reached the end of the long hallway, out of breath and scared out of my mind. They were coming after me, I could feel their presence. I knew I never should have spoken up. Now I was the enemy, and they were going to execute me.

Now the book is published, and what would be even more amazing for them, would be to see people actually buy it – outside of their class and parents.

You can preview the entire book online; and have a browse though their work. Imagine telling middle-school kids that in a few weeks they are going to publish a 10,000 world novel!

Watching the clock definitely didn’t make school go by any faster, if anything it just dragged it out. Waiting for the bell to ring was like watching grass grow. My teacher seemed indifferent to our suffering, as she squeezed everything she could out of her lesson to make it last until the very last second. Please let something interesting happen, I thought. All I need is a little explosion, that’s all. It was as if the sky read my thoughts.

So consider buying it – or at least reading a few stories and leaving them a comment.

It costs under AU$40.00 (less with the discount of $10!) and will make a great resource for anyone teaching Animal Farm and interested in creative writing.

As a bonus (bribe), we’ll give you the entire unit so you can teach it.

This includes a series of lessons, writing tasks and the theory behind how it was designed – (as the project is founded more in games archtypes than Blooms). Even more tempting, we’ll work with you online so you can ask questions. We’d love to see the project grow.

If you put the following code in at the appropriate time and you will receive a $10.00 discount. Click here to buy the kids book and preview their work.

$10.00 off discount code = eduCreateQ31

I have to thank my friends Angela and Kerry for their help in this project, their advice was invaluable (again) – and a massive thanks to the students for their enthusiasm and creativity.

This project has become a significant influence on my project with Jo Kay in Jokaydia GridAnimal Farm 3D, where we are taking this from two dimensions to three, as a transmedia project. Creating a world for students to learn is no small task and really has taken a year to get to the point where we have started the design and development of the world – and the supporting documents needed to teach and learn with it. This will be ready in late June. The final project will allow schools to drop students into a secure, private, immersive work, explore a new narrative and ultimately create their own writing.

But right now – if you scrape up some money and want to grab a great unit of work at the same time … then click the link!

Infographic: The tangential learning principle

These are two infographics I’m using in a presentation in a few days to Principals. The first represents the disruptive element (social) that has appeared in socially-connected learning. It’s the part which often is potentially a crack in the wall and may lead to tangential learning, or a crack that fuels intellectual and network lock-down as we struggle to answer questions based in fear, uncertainty and denial.

My presentation is not about that conflict, but to attempt to illustrate why students will spend as much time in online games and virtual spaces as the will in the K12 classroom, during the school career. The choice is pretty simple; either we choose to allow social-interplay into classrooms, and develop curricula founded on solid experiential learning principles, or isolate students from the potentially cataclysmic web.

Informally, our children are already exploring and trying to make sense of the world outside the window. At the same time, politicians are gearing up for further high stakes testing, standardised learning, back to basics (3Rs) and filtering – not just school (but everyone’s content).

Our children, in their school career will experience 10,000 hours of this, learning about a set of rules and future predictions that are not true anymore and ignore the tangential experiences afforded by web, game and mobile. The infographic below describes (as best it can) how I see the theories of Connectivism (Downes & Siemens) playing out in my childrens use of technology – daily.

I’ve invited my 9 year old along to demonstrate how this infographic relates to his use of MMOs – which I think is a model which can be applied equally to how I want him to learn at school (and out of it).

I have been at pains not to use edu–techno-babble, jargon, or to name specific technologies — as this further complicates the message.

What I am trying to demonstrate in the session is the way in which ‘social’ impacts school (like it or not) and to help those attending try to make sense of what they (and you) see as core, important and worthwhile – so that they can begin to formulate their own view and local community manifesto.

This infographic is very much the way I see the design of learning, though the principles and strategies embedded are far more complex.

It is how I learn, how I see my children learning – and how I am trying when possible to help other teachers develop their own classrooms in professional development.

If you have time, I’d welcome your feedback – to see if this infographic can be applied to your own learning – Does it work for your interests, even though yours may be tangential to mine?

Diigo Update (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Learning with Wikis

This is a resource that I use with first-year students, new to the idea of working in wiki’s – with others.

It gives an outline of wiki spirit and suggested approaches to how to begin working with others, whom perhaps you have no association previously. I suggests some ways to engage others, and how to approach group work, beginning with the use of a wiki as individual workshops to research and collect ideas; then to move these to a group space for further discussion.

Students often find it difficult to populate the blank page (to be the ice-breaker) or to identify early-leaders in academic pursuit of the solution. We have to remember, that much of their informal use of technology is friend-based; not academic need based.

It uses some obvious project based learning approaches – and focuses on the metaphor of not having the group’s efforts stagnate or get stuck on the esculator. It is particularly important to break down the barriers between those who are natural leaders in such learning methods; and those who settle to follow.

Other references/resources that are of use: WoW Wiki’s statement about conduct. Wikipedia entry for [spirit].

I run a 40 minute lectorial around this handout. Most students are not prepared in this class for ‘tech’ learning; so paper gives them a common baseline. We talk about using mobile devices, third spaces and the importance of ensuring people ‘off the grid’ are included in inter-group discussions.

I use it to test for prior experience; and to draw out those in the class who like to lead, or perhaps will mentor others initially – and those who seem stunned at working in this way. There are always a few or each. You might find it of use; it is not particularly higher-education specific. The above video is the wake-up event; and I refer to it as a metaphor during the presentation and discussion of how to go about negotiation, collaboration and individual effort to achieve the aims of the group.

Thanks to @robynjay for her inspiration on including wiki-spirit over wiki-skills.


I like this search engine because it has something that others don’t have. It allows you to search the metaverse more specifically. It seems to lag a bit when you hit the button, but the results are somewhat ‘tune-able’ within ideas of social media and blogs. I already have plenty of sources via RSS that I enjoy, but at times I do want to look for the more obscure, and in doing so want to do so without the inevitable alignment with product that Googleborg insists I want to see.

The tools allow you to search in intentional ways. If you have decided to teach students about primary, secondary and metaverse sources – using Feedmill would be a great way of allowing students to explore differentiated contexts – if only to explain that they exist. The results will probably be DET-unfriendly, but for other schools, it would provide an interesting activity to get students to critically analyse the results. At the end of the lesson, the outcome of ‘wow, so Google isn’t the one pathway’, then it’s worth using.

I am sure a Librarian will provide a better evaluation of the tool itself, but I found it interesting. In a world increasingly interested in ‘reputation’ – you can see how the results are not concerned with commercial alignment, but with frequency and popularity. I found some of the results a bit eclectic, however it did bring to the surface spaces and people that would not normally rank on Google’s first page. I looks like a good idea and I’ll be interested to see what other people write about it.