Online School of Opportunity (OSO)

Why write on the walls, when you can write everywhere?

Mashable posted  “Why Teens Don’t Tweet”, giving a range of data and view on the demographics of a social network growing at +1300% a month. It made me wonder about how effective we are at competing for the attention of students, teachers and educational leaders. Are we too busy pressing the ‘Digg’ button and missing the opportunities presented?

“Twitter’s different than Facebook or MySpace because Twitter is not about your friends … Teens, more than any other age group, care about their friends. It’s the continuation of real-life friendship (and the creation of online ones) that has driven the tremendous growth of MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc”.

To use these spaces, today’s teens spend increasing amounts of time informally online. They are using informal learning. As formal public education provides almost no spaces for this it is no surprise that teens power down between 9 and 3.30, disconnected from their informal learning networks. And it isn’t a teen sensation; social games and online networks are actively marketed to pre-schoolers. The numbers participating in pre-school social game Webkinz alone dwarfs teen blogging.

McGivney (1999) a decade ago recognised the importance of informal learning pathways.

Informal learning generated by local people themselves often led to wider community involvement and activism, whereas learning arranged by education providers most often led to high rates of educational progression. Informal learning often started people on a continuing learning path by helping them become confident and successful learners. “

Space, time and organisation are cardinal elements of formal learning – which is the inverse of the online educational commons. Informality enables us to be successful learners in playful and social ways that we can take to new situations. Increasingly games and social networks provide this function. It is common to see two teachers talking about education online; but rare to see departmental CEO or Minister add to any authentic open discussion. They have attained their authority by abiding by the rules of formality; where as online authority is now earned through action in informal networks.

Teens use  mobile phones, Bebo, Facebook and MySpace – to successfully strengthen friend networks. What they don’t know how to do is apply it to the discipline needed in obtain life affecting qualifications. There is a clear role for teachers to do this, and students readily work with these teachers – who are not necessarily technocrats – but are adoptive leaders and good communicators. They talk with, not at – which is another characteristic of policy making bureacrats and politicians. You can’t co-opt your way to social change on your terms anymore. Get over it; move on. Stop building walled gardens and ignoring what is there already.

The problem with internalising everything and agreeing with yourself, is that it sustains nothing except yourself.

Seriously – why do we spend millions developing ‘closed’ applications using tax-payer money on things like a blog engine ‘pilot’, when the world is using Edublog Campus? The criteria is less than transparent and hardly going to give any real indication of pedagogical reform; if indeed there is going to be any public release of the findings. Per teacher; what is the investment?

The blog trial involves 20 teachers, each from a different school or TAFE Institute from across the State. Trial participants were selected though a variety of means but all are users of collaborative tools and are keen to use blogs for teaching and learning.

The Centre for Learning Innovation’s website (The public education tech-development arm) says “Connected learning projects allow students to engage with real-life situations, which involve communication, collaboration, self-directed learning, problem solving, researching and publishing findings.” it prompt you to download  a 1997 document which then explains what the internet is, why use it in the classroom and gives an illustration of how to use a website (Netscape 2). The link is dead, and obviously ancient history – yet is on the ‘new’ website.

Do you learn more by skimming last night Tweets than you did at your last technology ‘in-service’?

We don’t need to be at specific time or place to learn – just access the educational network commons that now exists online. We are seeing an effusion of activity in forming and joining new networks that is changing education philopshy, not technology itself. The tragedy is that teachers are often unable to benefit students from this action. It is locked stepped by political orientation to conventional, schematic discernment of the 21st Century itself.

We should be better utilising existing resources such as libraries and teachers, and investigating an ‘Online School of Opportunity (OSO) and not limiting students through long-familiar toothsome approaches to quality improvement (aka “School of Excellence” ). We need centres of opportunity before excellence can be afforded to all –  though investment in public Libraries and community spaces that encourage both teachers and students to get together and transform the way they use technology; not block it.

Ref: McGivney (1999). “Informal Learning in the Community: A Trigger for Change and Development.”  National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, UK.

Dissolving, Revolving or Evolving?

This is kind of interesting – especially if you are into the whole ‘big numbers’ stuff. I think I read way more marketing and gaming slide decks that Edu – I know what the shift is thanks – is a marketing message, and that PD only works 1:1 with simple tools – on demand and pretty happy with how things are panning out right now. Eventually this presentation gave me the impression that social networks are not really markets, but just a maelstrom of conversations; some of which is relevant, but most dissolves as fast as they appear. Seriously do I give a crap what some comic thinks via Twitter? or if some minor-tv panelist Tweets about how cool they are? – I am looking for ideas and methods, not more problems to agree with.

I’m sure that for every Tweet I see that gives me something new, I miss a thousand more – and thats a good thing probably. In fact; despite liking Twitter – it’s just there; and I’m probably not paying attention for the vast majority of the time. I do spend less time in the Brickyard and The Samba; but basically – Twitter feels better than talking to yourself – even though I probably am much of the time. It feels like being in a revolving door at times.

I really only have meaningful conversations with a limited few via Twitter – I can’t deal with the enormity of the follower thing. When it comes to learning, I think I’m much more focused on my own – readying Feedly; and although many are saying that they blog less; taking a lot of information to micr0-blogs such as Twitter and Plurk instead – I’m not sure how much impact they have for me – apart from ‘collecting’ resources that I generally just flick to Posterous with the semi-intention of reading later. I wonder if it actually ‘evolves’ my thinking.

It seems interesting that at #BLC09 that Cover It Live simply sucked Twitter into a deeper mix of media, something I noticed at #necc09, and TwitCam provides a ridiculously simple way to broadcast and get comments. Is the almighty Twitter is beginning to dissolve it’s relevance for me? So many spammers, so little point. I do like the self-styled marketing coaching guru profiles. Their photos often remind me of those that were in the local barbers as a kid – beaming their confidence at me.

I might give it a miss for a month – see what happens – and spend more time in some of the ‘back-catalogue’ of blog posts that I clearly missed – or better still – back in the Brickyard.

Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING

blockedlearning

Just send an email!

blockedlearning@gmail.com
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at http://blockedlearning.posterous.com and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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Mumbai – Twitter Feeds

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I am sure everyone, as they wake up or get in the car to go home will have heard about the events in Mumbai today. It was a hot topic on Twitter Search all day. About 6 months ago, Will Richardson was telling a story about Wikipedia and how it reported new on the Bharpour more efficiently than new channels. It was interesting to note that as I hit Twitter Search for the first time and used the #mumbai tag, there were 20 more results each time I pressed refresh. Some reporting the news, some reporting on the mass media’s interpretation of events, and local sources posting emergency phone numbers. At one point, people talked about how the mass media had gone soft on it’s coverage – but at the same time talking about how the authorities were attempting to remove the #mumbai tag from Twitter.

It is amazing to me, that in only a few months, we can once again talk about another news vector being more efficient (I’m not saying accurate) at publishing that even the ‘masses’ that edit Wikipedia.

Perhaps Twitter isn’t a news outlet. If not then it’s the worlds biggest ‘rubber necking’ event for sure.

During the same day, I read Annabel’s post about the situation of internet access in rural cities – talking about her recent professional development event in Mildura, Victoria. It is amazing to think how dis-connected even Australian society is in terms of access to information, and at the same time how important we don’t dis-connect our society.

Given the changes in just 6 months, it really makes me wonder how we will be reading the news in the next 6. Hopefully the news will be better than this though.