Who was Ray Martin?

Ray Martin, delivered the 13th 2008 Andrew Olle media lecture, which is available on iView. Mr Martin is a journalist of Australian legend, old school and part of the mass media establishment, presenting on the Australian 60 Minutes – a show which personally I find a little hard to digest, but then I don’t watch much TV.

Lots of very rich people from the 20th Century mass media culture, all listening to the current issues – as he sees them.

Well, I’m no one, let alone a journalist, but I did take notice when he commented –  ‘content is king, and always has been … and always will be’ – in reference to the quality of Australian journalism.

He went on to talk about the lack of investment in journalism generally, the cutting of staff, and lacking media networked TV shows on topics such as finance.

What I found really interesting was the off the cuff swipes at ‘internet content’. I am sure he is an amazing journalist and has changed the landscape blah blah … of old school ideas of media and content creation, but omitted to identify the power of the read/write web.

There was no mention of the way in which the internet is changing content itself, and that must hurt the ‘moguls’ as he called them – given that every media outlet now has a ‘blog’ feature or a ‘comment’ feature in it’s attempt to get some form of fractured conversation.

I think its still significant that shows like 60 minutes offer some ‘after show’ chat room – which is heavily moderated. Again, in todays ‘conversation’ – the mass media is still anything but democratic when it comes to voices. The chat room, was just a reaction to the internet several years ago, and hasn’t really moved on from that as it has never really understood it.

In the book – Now is gone: A Primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs (Bartleby Press, 2007), Geoff Livingston says that

There is no more ‘audience.’ There are, instead, communities. By participating in online communities communicators can learn what the community wants and likes, and can create content that’s most valuable to it. The take away from this book: build value for your community, and work for them.

I think that the audience at the lecture is not understanding that, or perhaps is hoping that it’s not true. In another book, Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies Charlene Li and John Bernoff (2008), they say “People are getting more things they need from each other, and less from traditional institutions and corporations.” and more significantly they talk about define six kinds of online consumer behaviors.

Learning which types best define your audience (or clients, or communities, or target groups) is the first step in any strategy you take to reach them. The Creators are those who publish a blog or article online, maintain a web page, or upload videos at least monthly. Critics post comments on blogs or forums, post ratings or reviews, or edit wikis. Collectors save URLs and tags on a social-bookmarking service, vote for sites on a service like Digg, or use RSS feed aggregators. Joiners maintain profiles on a social networking site like MySpace. Spectators consume what the rest produce. Inactives—nonparticipants—still remain.

Unfortunately for the ‘moguls’ – there is now significant market research – being pushed to commercial organisations to suggest that technology has in fact re-classified the notion of ‘consumers’. Both in terms of product and information, we can’t classify them as we have for the decades in which Ray Martin has been pushing information into lounge rooms all over Australia.

We used to need to get our ‘niche’ culture fix from magazines and information was limited, that is no longer true. As a kid, I read Shoot – I used to race to the shops to get it – and find out about the soccer stars of the day – hoping it ‘might’ contain something about my local club’s hero’s. How different is that to today.

This article from 1993 in the New York Times is a good contrast between how the media used to classify us, and now how we classify us. But there internet has packed with ‘advertising demographic profile data’ in the last decade, so a Google Search is testiment to how much effort went into predicting what ‘we would want’ in the 1990s.

But now we decide what we want and when we want it. We also want to create it. Its not that the ‘moguls’ are right or wrong, just that we don’t need them as aggregators of ‘quality information and reporting’. We self regulate, self edit and sell organise in places such as Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the place I go to read the news because its created, edited and maintained by all of us, not some of them.

Why worry about what Ray thinks? – Well  people listen to Ray and know of Ray – if they are over 40.

He’s the spokesman for the Baby Boomers. This is why students don’t listen to Ray. He is irrelevant as an aggregator of information for the teen generation. He is talking to the ‘spectators and inactives’.

Changing media delivery reaction

We see TV being ‘fast tracked’ from the USA – simply because the tech savvy can get it anyway. So it’s not just teens – its 20-30 somethings too – the peak TV ratings crowd that they are ‘worried about’. Let’s not forget that the media-rich are interested in commercial gain, not public service.

Content is king – user generated content! – if you are in elementary, high school – and university.

We are simply not listening to Ray. We are listening to each other – and that is what we need to do in the classroom. We have to recognise that kids are not reading magazines as the once did, they can get their ‘pop culture’ fix from any number of sources – digital sources.

They would rather spend their money on mobile phone credit than paper.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a group of kids in the playground, discussing an article in a magazine. I am sure some do, but the first thing they do after school, is turn their phone back on, and plug back into the ‘live’ world.

Repacked Heroes

Soccer has become a product, not ‘just’ a sport. Magazines are ‘lifestyle’ driven and media-moguls have resorted to ‘glamor’ images to sell their advertising space, appealing not to ‘soccer fans’ but to the spectators and the brands that want to sell to them.

As most of the ‘heroes’ are themselves a product, the image of the player is a brand to sell product – not soccer, the magazines are often aimed at ‘aspirational male targets’ than soccer fans. In many cases, the media is out of ideas, and the content of some magazines is little more than recounts of more timely amateur content.

I see these ‘inputs’ into the popular culture of students as a significant challenge to teacher’s attempting to provide students with ‘engaging’ content.

In effect, the massive amounts of images, video and text offered, is pushing the ‘mass media’ into diluting it’s 20t century quality journalism mantra into titillation, shock and expose tat. As Mr Martin retires from the field, he is perhaps symbolic of the end of mass media, as it has been since the the invention of the ‘web press’ (ironic name).

They can’t deliver ‘direct news’ in as fast as ‘us’ so then the focus has on more social attractors – body image, status and popular culture semantics are needed to survive. This creates a whole new discourse about social change in the media, and the expansion of what we allow as ‘acceptable images’.

If we are to understand how to deliver ‘content’ to students, then we need to understand how they collect it.They are motivated by peer recommendation, peer pressure and peer generated content. If we harness that, and allow them to use that approach in classrooms, then they will be more likely to ‘listen’ to teachers. Teachers need to re-pack it. This is not optional, this is critical.

We cannot continue to present ‘content’ in the way the Ray Martin was suggesting – as expert, experienced and singularly authoritarian.

If we see ourselves as the ‘elite’ content providers, as the media-rich do, then we can’t be too surprised if students see it as ‘old’. The ‘yeah but’ here is … but it’s on the test, so they have to. They don’t. The test is not longer the ‘end game’ or the measure of a student’s worth. It’s what Dan Pink calls ‘Right Brain Rising’ in his book ‘whole new mind’ where creativity and more artisan skills are now highly valued by major companies. We have to accept that students can get ‘facts’ through technology at virtually no cost.

We need to be more able to design ways in which they can collect, criticize, create and join together to demonstrate their comprehension of ‘facts’ in a context that is relevant to them in spaces that are relevant – such as Skype, Second Life, Adobe Connect and Forums.

Ray Martin’s lecture was probably challenging and relevant to the media-rich he was speaking too, but given number of teachers who are ‘baby boomers’ and that there are significant issues in their retirement and the general exit from schools, then Ray is not talking to ‘us’ – as Stephen Heppell says.

Unfortunately, new teachers are appraised by ‘time served’ as it has always been. So under the ‘baby boomer’ watch, I don’t find it at all surprising that younger teachers (and some older ones) feel frustrated and powerless to get past the wall of ‘yeah buts’ that are in the generations above them in management structures that are there to create tiers of authority and lines of management.

Even Gen X or Gen Y teachers, are using the Baby Boomer (and their 20th Century Learning Models) as their point of reference.

I think that it’s very important that all teachers listen to Stephen Heppell’s k12 Online Keynote – when perhaps they are only listening to media-rich spokesmen.

But how many staff would get time off in lieu to attend this online? – recognized by the ‘administration’ as professional development. Very few.

We need to get rid of the myth that it’s Gen Y mavericks wanting to get WoW into the classroom as some sort of fad, but that all sectors and generations are recognising that we are past the ‘information age’ and being good at maths, science and english is not enough. Students need to be creators, editors, remixers, critics, collectors and sharer’s of knowledge too – by understanding where students prefer to go for information.

The problem is, there are more Spectators and Inactives in education … but just like any new ‘technology’ – the connected ‘usness’ as Stephen calls is, is growing at exponential rates, and as teachers retire, Ray Martin retires – there is a gap that we must fill – as students can’t wait for the last baby boomer to get on the bus

I’m sure Ray would have made a better job of this post.

Teachers Without Borders (Kenya)


Konrad Glogowski has come back from his mission with Teachers Without Borders Canada.

At the Jokaydia Unconference in late September, Konrad introduced a fantasic exhibition of photography and textures as part of the two day teaching and learning conference.

Teachers Without Borders – Canada is a non-profit, non-denominational NGO devoted to closing the education divide through teacher professional development and community education.  TWB organization focuses on the building of teacher leaders.

They work primarily, but not exclusively, in developing countries, in order to build self-reliance, health, and capacity.

Konrad talked about how TWB is trying to develop sustainable teacher professional development, using connections waith global education, finding teacher leaders and building capacity.

Teams 5-10 teachers – conduct workshops and seminars in Kenya, which has poor access to computers and internet. So communicating with teachers is usually via internet cafes. TWB sees connection as a major goal in Kenya and are working with over 60 teachers in 2 townships in South Africa – to get them more connected to communities of practice. He spoke about how TWB have formed partnerships – with local organisations, government and commercial sector – to respond to local needs identified by local organisations

This work is based on the needs assessment to  plan, design and deliver workshops but TWB does not work with students, apart from observation. His Second Life build give opportunities experience Kenyan classrooms that can’t be achieved in 2D media like FlickR. The exhibit was designed to give an experience of what a classroom looks like and feels like.

The build includes textures from walls and the envronment, together with a very graphic photo exhibition to explore. It gives a graphic idea of how Kenya’s elementary classes might have 140 students to 1 teacher or secondary with 60/70 kids. The tin roof is scortching hot, and classrooms rarely have anyhing on the walls. Paper based resources such as maps and charts are too expensive for the schools to buy, so most classrooms are hot, crowded – but enthusiastic. In the photo above – there are several nations represented from tertiary, secondary and primary – all sharing ideas on how a build like this could benefit students in learning about Kenya and the massive issues they face in education.

Second Life is adds a new dimention to presenting, what is essentially a photostory. The ability to create a school in proportion, use authentic textures, and recreate details, such as the blackboard – which is not a board, mearly that the wall is painted black, due to costs made the discussion with TWB in the space an air of reality, that I don’t think would be as impactful as a slideshow. Avatars were free to wander the compound and get a feel for the spaces and issues that TWB were talking about.

The TBW website says that At 59 million, teachers are the largest single group of trained professionals in the world AND the key to our children’s future. Equally amazing is the estimated need for more than 30 million NEW teachers to achieve the goal of the U.N.’s “Education for All” initiative by 2015.  The issues are complicated by the number of children who do not go to school at all – 104 million, 50% of who live in countries touched by conflict.

Konrad is an amazing educator, and I am looking forward to woking with him and Jokay in the next year in researching and developing sustainable projects using Second Life. At a time when teachers ‘want more’ else have lots but don’t maximise the opportunties – I think that projects like this make a very powerful statement about the growing digital divide. For more information, check out the TWB global site.

Webkinz in Year 1 Class


This is from my  wife’s work with her year one class. This is using a Webkinz that she bought off eBay. Here’s her reflection and explanation of using plush toys and virtual worlds.

Introducing ‘Buster’.

Buster is the 23rd member of 1G and is the most popular class member. He is the link between real word and virtual worlds for the Year 1 class.

When Buster first arrived, he was kindly introduced to the students as a homeless pet that had been rescued from the pound. He was in dire need of a home and 1G had been selected by the council to look after him. Then the fascination, social networking, mathematical and language skills began to develop.

 Each day a student is selected to take Buster home for the night. If the student has internet access, they are given the code and tend to his needs on line. They are allowed to feed, play and care for Buster. This develops the student’s awareness of needs and wants and links with social studies units.

 Students are invited to chat with other ‘furry friends’ in the carefully moderated online chat rooms. The students also need to write in Busters journal to bring to school the following day to share. This reinforces the need for literacy in terms of reading and writing. Students without online access are given 20 minutes at the start of the day to tend to Buster’s online needs.

Students have signed an agreement with their parents to follow WebKinz and 1G WebKinz rules. This enables the student’s access to the site but they are unable to spend KinzCash. A budget is calculated weekly. Game prizes of KinzCash are calculated and graphed in maths lessons and decisions about how to spend the money are made. The students collaborate and debate on what the money should be spent on and one group of students each week is given the time to make these changes.

Students are encouraged to use part of their computer time each week to compete in online creative competitions as well as construct new knowledge through the problem solving challenges.

The student’s number skills are becoming well developed as they have an authentic need to learn about money and computation skills. The notion of budgeting is often foreign to a Year 1 student but is very important to the members of 1G. The more money we can save, the more we can buy.

 The ability of the students to debate and negotiate has developed. They are critical in their debate as to what the class should spend money on and are getting very good at justifying their reasons for their choices.  These improved language skills are reflected across all key learning areas.

The use of this online learning simulation is an authentic, hands on, motivating and student directed learning opportunity. The skills learned area used in context whilst developing fundamental care, mathematical, problem solving and language skills. ‘Buster’ has been an effective tool and reflects the ability of web based resources to enhance learning opportunities even in early childhood.

Merging virtual and real world learning gets younger!

 This is an interesting article with advice for educators and Linden Labs about the issues in using Second Life in educational settings. I particularly like the advice in general and the specific information on running alternate viewers. The recent manditory update to the Linden Client poses yet another úpdate of the school network.

In another article on Terra Nova, there is some great advice on Protecting Children In Virtual Playgrounds. Anyone with children will have noticed that kids toys in the high street are increasingly connected to some form of virtual world. The ‘pocket”device powered worlds are popping up all over the place which means that there is an marketplace increasinly this is aimed at younger children.

Webkins is an example of the real world of play merging with the virtual word – which is not as much about play, as it is about social interaction and collaboration.

Chat is not ‘open’ but constructed, which Webkinz claim makes it

“The Webkinz Clubhouse is a place for kids to socialize with friends in a fun and safe environment. In the KinzChat area, kids use our pre-constructed chatting system called KinzChat. Members cannot type in their own words in KinzChat; they can only use the phrases and words we’ve created.”

But the point is, that children f this age, are communicating online with avatars, and in tern, children whom they would otherwise probably never meet. Give then pre-school to elementary age of the target market, products such as webkinz are creating a ‘norm’with kids that online communication in virtual spaces is as acceptable as playing a computer game with their friends in their lounge room. Webkinz in making ‘virtual’ learning a norm, though play and social interaction.

Freaky Creatures – targets slightly older kids – and uses Freaky Creatures gives players a toy with a USB key that they then train online for battles . Again signing kids up for online experiences based on a toy, mashing reality play with virtual play – connecting socially. This genre of toy development is firmly focused on leveraging the ‘media age’. Going online to look for ádded information’ as it used to be – buy the toy – then look at the website for éxtras’ was simply a hook to get you to look at more product. Now the product is the online facet, not just an add on.

Plush toys are not missing out either.  http://www.zibbiezone.com/ Zibbies now inhabit their own virtual world – The Zibbie Zone! The “Zone” is a virtual world where children play and interact with the quirky and cute characters created by Play Visions. ZibbieZone.com was created by children’s book author Stephen Cosgrove (Penguin Publishing). The plot involves the imaginative premise that plush toys begin disappearing into the Internet. Zibbiezone is combining traditional toys, virtual worlds and a respected childrens author (who has previously created flash books) to again create a pre-school social network.

So while many educators debate the benefits or otherwise of Second Life, Active Worlds, Teen Second Life, the reality is that the is a growing immersion for kids in social-based learning and play – online. And its not all marketing, there are multiple benefits in using something like Webkinz or Freaky Creatures.

For example – boys love Ben 10, they like scary creatures and fantasy books such as Deltora Quest. The ‘flat primary’ internet used to be given over to product promotion. A few slick graphics, flash games, colouring pages and maybe a flash movie. It was all about engaging with the character, buying into the marketing message. It was a pull technology.

Deltora Quest’s website is mearly a reinforcement that there are books. Emily Rodda is one of Australia’s most successful, popular and versatile writers, and has won the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award  five times. Together with illustrator Marc McBride, their books are hugely popular. The internet presense is quite different from Zibbie. Parents however are used to seeing young kids on the internet sites of their favourite ‘products’, but now those products have a new ‘pull’ factor that parents may not have any reall understanding of.

Webkinz needs you to look after your pet – online. Freaky Creatures wants you to battle online to power up your toy. And Zibbies live in the internet as well as the kids bedroom. Quite simply reality play, imaginative play, and virtual play are fast meshing to just become ‘play’. The humble plush toy are plastic action figure now has a social life – all be it one managed by a commercial interest.

This trend is something that primary teachers can use to their advantage. There are numerous ways in which they can use these emerging technologies to engage kids in their classroom – as now they will be doing it more an more at home. So Media Literacy is important to not just high school (still debating Second Life), but to primary school. Perhaps more significantly, the toy industry is not going to get into such moral debates. They know that social networked based media has fast overtaken the idea of us living in the ínformation age. As kids flocked to online teen plus games such as Age of Empires, World of Warcraft – now the see that technology is now present in the home, to allow even younger kids to ‘get online’.

Club Penguin is now be called Disney’s Club Penguin There have been rumors about another player in the ring ever since Sony backed out of its potential $500 million deal to buy Club Penguin.  PaidContent is reporting the deal was “a cash payment of $350 million and an opportunity to earn out an additional $350 million between now and 2009”. Such is the power of brands, when they move on a social trend.

The shift to virtual play is as sure as the move from trains to space rockets, the moment they landed on the moon. 2D experiences online are less appealing to kids that the integration of a physical toy into a 3D environment with social aspects. Immersive worlds that connect to the real world are here to stay, even if as an educator you cling on tight to the idea that MS Office activities is enough.

The ‘reality’is that hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in virtual worlds. Toys are connecting to them, and giving kids exposure to immersive media. You can deny it, you are argue against it, but the brand power and marketing machines behind the entertainment industry are not.

They know that their linear, 2D offerings are being downloaded and their market revenue is falling. Music, Videos and Stand Alone games are easily pirated. DRM was not the solution and proved un-popular. There is no doubt that reality play and virtual play will continue to merge. Technology, speed and access to 3D based experiences – outside schools – is now as simple as anything else online.

Yet the use of socially connected devices and worlds in school is still seen as óut there’ which is rediculous. What is not happening is that teachers have the opportunity, desire, awareness or ability to look beyond their ‘training’ and consider how using online virtual worlds should and could be blended with everyday learning – as it now is with our students – informal learning.

Designing Teaching and Learning experiences to take in ‘now’technology – is critical.

PSPs, Nintendo’s, Webkinz and more are all low cost, durable and perfect tools to engage students. It just requires educators to be more ‘media aware’ and to accept that ‘media literacy’ is not limited to 2D websites and books.

The horse is already out the gate … I can’t see much point in denying that immersive learning, 3D environments, games, and mobile devices are not as relevant as rulers, text books and calculators.

At the rate we are going, schools are going to been seen as learning museums in a few years by students. The world does not require approval to re-organise how kids want to learn by educators. It will do it through product and social networks.

I think we are reaching a massive ‘moral and ethical’ watershed in education – and we talk about ‘safety’ – as if that is just a school issue and sufficient to circle the wagons and do almost nothing more.

I think is is firmly a social issue – and personally, I’d rather not leave it to massive commercial brands to set out what is good/bad/safe or educationally beneficial for students. After all, they may get educational consultants in the design process – but focus groups and marketing ultimately has the last word.

Teachers need to be active in the development of these technologies, not deny them. And the best way to do that is to use them – or at the very lest – explore them away from class and make a more informated decision. The established communities of practice, such as ISTE Island or Jokaydia have established learning networks to offer advice. There are regular online events to attend or join. Virtual Professional Development and Seminars are probably the best way to convince ‘nay’ teachers of the educational benefits of what is currently in store now.

A Nintendo Learning Story

A friend came over this week, with her 5 year old.

He was proudly showing me his new Nintendo DS. He’d done a leaflet run with his dad and bought it a week or so earlier. *Note to self – stop giving own kids gadgets too easily. I was amazed that he had a game, but had found a better use for it – as he explained.

He showed me a collection of writing that he’d done in the car on the journey over. He’d been copying down letters and numbers from road signs. But, and here’s the kicker, he used the drawings to tell me about the trip over, where they can gone, what he saw etc.,

Being ever the teacher, I back tracked a few times and asked him to explain things he’d said – such as where did you see the sign for 110 – ‘oh on the motorway’ he said, then showed me another one that said ‘exit speed’. He wanted to know what happened if you didn’t leave the motorway at that speed. I didn’t have an answer for that, but that didn’t put him off.

I’ve had no success in getting anyone at my school to take interest in hand held devices. A few PSPs around the place, but they are not ‘in the swim’ of learning.

I continue to read great things about Nintendos, not least from Ewan ‘Mr Channel 4’ McIntosh … and wonder what the problem is, why do administrators think about computing as either laptop or desktop, mac or PC? –

Even the Rudd funding application explicitly asks that question. Surely there is enough evidence now to at least consider trialing the DS in schools. I’d put my hand up for it – after all, Rudd is funding 9-12 computing, is there even a plan for K-6 or are we just going to leave it until 9th grade?

Go on an ICT Diet – you need it fatboy

If you are a teacher, or know a teacher that uses and ICT classroom, this ones for you.

What are you feeding your kids? – How do you know that what you are feeding them is good for them? Is your classroom really that healthy?

Diet, according to the mass media, is vital to our health and well being. We also hear how playing video games is bad for teenagers – they should be out playing ball. But is it all bad? Here is a great post in Teen Health to read later.

Going past the ‘home’ use of technology, I’d like to propose the idea of a ‘healthy ICT environment’ for learning in school. I propose that many teachers need to go on an ICT Diet, and loose some pounds and bad consumption habits.

Googling is not healthy. Nor is skulling Wikipedia. Both activities do not promote healthy consumption of information, and the student brain rarely turns it into knowledge.

Fact based information is everywhere. Asking questions that can be easily Googled is hardly going to break students into a sweat. And as all the fitness gurus tell us – no pain no gain. ICT in classrooms is not to be used as the Ab King Pro (click it’s funny).

Using a computer is not short cut to learning and water, I mean information retention (ah the fitness puns come thick and fast). I think that many ICT lessons are fundamentally unhealthy.

Here are few things that I think are serious problems in high school ICT lessons.  Sharing a computer with someone else is NOT collaborative learning. Asking kids to look up answers to things you wrote on the board in NOT enquiry learning. Showing kids a powerpoint you made last year for the same class is NOT a teacher exposition. Writing answers on a worksheet after they look them up on Wikipedia is NOT multimedia – nor is adding sound effects to power point.

ICT Workouts for healthy classrooms

Firstly, I don’t like the digital native idea – Don’t assume that someone in primary (elementary) taught kids how to touch type, no kid was born to text – they learned it.

Being a competent typist is much more important to 7th graders than being a ‘blogger’. It might look good to administrators and parent – ‘hey, look how 21C my abs are’ – but if you only have limited hours in the ICT gym – teach them to type please.

Make sure that they have key mastery skills, take on board differentiated learning needs. Assume nothing. Make sure you have a list of things you want to ‘check’ for before launching into your newest Web2.0 love. They have to type, they have to read, they have to know where to look for information, they have to JUSTIFY it. If you are finding that kids are heading to the cookie jar (Control Copy/Paste) then make sure how screw that lid down tight. (Ask questions they can’t Google).

Paper is still an Olympic champion – think of ways in which you can use paper in formative assessment. Give kids paper that they can use to construct meaning. Don’t give them things to fill it – eating between meals will spoil your ICT appetite. Come up with formative scaffolds that help them work online. Don’t assume because they eat at Bebo, that they know what to bring to class. They don’t know, and mum doesn’t know what to pack for a healthy ICT lunch either. Design paper things that help them learn WITH technology.

Use the ICT gym equipment safely. Put the kids on the IWB, not your powerpoint. Use tools like Mindomo as a vitamin IWB enhancer. Get them to work collaboratively to solve a problem, not to colour in or click things. Its a big visual space so let them run around a bit.  The internet is VERY BIG, take them on a virtual field trip. Find ways to put them in front of the board, not you – you’re the coach, you don’t need to run around all the time. But you do need to keep them motivated.

Leave bad habits at home. Don’t bring your MS Office bias into class. Honestly – how teachers ever do a mail merge or set up a macro – or need to teach kids to – EXPLICITLY? Most people use like 10% of Word’s ability. Instead, go have a look at GoogleDocs, Buzzwords or Zoho. Think about how you can get kids to work collaboratively with you and others – using the same core functions that Word has been drip feeding you for a decade or more. Don’t learn more Word Tools, learn more collaborative writing tools. Maybe there’s a project idea in which they’d need to learn to mail merge – give it context and purpose.

Get in a coach or pro mentor. No one ever said that getting healthy would be easy. Connecting to people who can help you – is called a Personal Learning Network. You can get all kinds of great advice and also give advice. You+Network=Winning Team. You+Bad ICT Diet=Unhealthy Learners.

I think that if we took the average ICT lesson to Dr Learning, we’d find that it is unhealthy for the students. Chris Lehmann talked last week about technology being like Oxygen for students.

I think oxygen is not the only thing we need to live, diet and (brain) exercise will create collaborative, creative and engaged learners – who will suck down plenty of O2 in ICT classrooms.

Think before you jump!

A few people have asked me about ‘where do people start’ in re-thinking their use of ICT in the classroom. This photo kind of sums up what can happen if you decide to make a lot of noise unexpectedly. Noise is good – as long as people are expecting it. If not, then it may have the opposite effect, making change a lot harder next time … if there is one.

One of the ‘dot com’ phrases from the lat 90’s is applicable to getting into Web2.0 in your classroom is “the biggest risk to your success, is your success‘. In other words, if you get too carried away, too ambitious, then you see some amazing results initially, but sustaining that becomes problematic as you try to scale it outwards. Getting beyond your immediate classroom is actually easier by working with someone else online than it is with the teacher next door. Forget changing your school, just change yourself.

Start with the students.

Think about not what you are into (this week), but what is it that the students know, or need to know – in your subject. Adding technology will not make kids any smarter at all. You need to be very clear and very strategic. You have to think about ‘waves’ of revalation with your students. You can’t just keep moving endlessly though the savannah of web2.0 applications that spreads out before you.

Take it a term at a time.

And be well prepared to do that! – If you are teacher who works a day out or even week out, then you won’t pull it off. Why? Because your day to day teaching is dead. You are no longer going to have all the answers, no longer stand at the front and command. You will be an expert learner – supporting novice learners. You won’t have all the questions – but you will be scaffolding the goals/standards/outcomes – and how kids will reach them. If you like to ‘wing’ it, hand out worksheets, set text book execises … think long and hard! You are not going to pull it off, and you’ll confuse students.

Get involved and develop a personal learning network.

Professional Development, as it’s been for decades is dead. Learning is a conversation and people are organising without needing their management structures to do so. This means being online. You might be a fringe dweller – who looks and listens to conversations – or you might like voice, audio chatting. You might even get a Second Life (which leads to some amazing new ways of looking at yourself and the industry you are working in). But if you think its a game, then hey – collect your ream of paper on your way out.

Put down the ‘tool’ and back – away slowly!

You need to get into the conversation because everything gets easier if you do. If you are not in the conversation (and there are a millions of fragmented discussions going on right now), then you will remain one person. The power of you + network is what makes your classroom work. Don’t worry about ‘the tool’ or learning ‘how to use it’. Before you go anywhere near that, you have to be absolutely clear that you are prepared to do all this, prepared to be more flexible than you’ve ever been before and that you are prepared to support your students – online – whenever they are online. If you clock off at the bell, this aint for you. Hang on – its not about you right? – It’s about the learners. That is a fundamental self-check. If you are not prepared to live it, not talk it, then back away now.

Preparation before doing.

Before trying anything … I’d suggest you take a look at the following 10 things. A pre-flight inspection if you like. Have are clear for take off? – You need to get this stuff clear, written down and well planned. Any fool can sign up a class for Ning – and hope kids use it. They will, but what are the value adds. You have to start somewhere … so here’s a list of 10 things I think people should address before jumping.

Getting into Web2.0 Classroom?

Things to consider :

1.    Don’t expect anyone in your staffroom to empathise with your new found vision. Where you previously sourced information (your primary sources : collegues, professional publications and Google) – you will now start getting them from your network – this is alien to most teachers.
2.    Start with your students and work outwards. Changing your teaching style and their learning style is far easier than changing the world.
3.    Work out how much access you have in ICT classrooms before deciding anything. Access determines the ICT level you can work at. Be realistic.
4.    Develop a clear understanding of ‘Digital Reputation’ – be clear about what activities (ePortfolios) – using online read/write technologies can they use in the future. Discuss these with your students. Make it a project! – Make sure you understand how they see it.
5.    Develop a clear understanding of ‘Media Awareness’ – In the context of what you are teaching – how do you want to teach students about ‘filtering’ for your subject. Write down your goals, and discuss with your class.
6.    Take your librarian out to lunch. Find out how they can support you and your learners in research, literacy and copyright/creative commons.
7.    Get a network. Your network. Get Twitter – use twitter! – It will change the way you learn, and the way they learn – it’s an ecosystem.
8.    Prepare to spend time online – at home – some of the best teaching and learning happens in Ustream, Skype and Second Life.
9.    Listen to podcasts – buy an iPod – listen in the car or where ever – podcasting is blogging out loud – and there are some great Ed Tech stories out there.
10.    Join http://classroom20.ning.com – start reflecting on your teaching practice – take part in conversations. Develop a learning network.

No Teacher Left Behind!

This is a poster for the ‘connected’ teacher. While many talk about ‘students being left behind’, or ‘preparing kids for the 21st Century’ etc., Then why not a poster to reflect the thousands of teachers who are totally insane and working towards a shift in education – that even governments and institutions recognise as vital (they just don’t want to pay all the direct costs for it).

Personal Costs for teachers

Teachers in my view need to at least have their home internet use funded in some way. Many teachers are having to buy their own laptop or use their home desktop, most I know have to share a desktop computer at home – and bandwidth with family members.

Australia’s personal tax laws don’t help. Writing off hardware over 3 years is dumb. Why should a teacher be treated the same as a business – who are using the computer for far more lucrative purposes. Teachers should be first in line to get a Rudd laptop in my view – then at least its one less cost for them to bear while they are learning how to use it to better effect.

Instead we see this recently from the Teachers Federation.

“Although teachers in many public schools in NSW spent many hours preparing their school’s applications, significant issues relating to infrastructure and support need to be addressed by the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) before the Federal Government’s “Digital Revolution” arrives in public school.

As a consequence of this, unlike private schools in the first round, no DET school is likely to see any computers under the program before the 2009 school year.”

I prepared my schools application – no one paid me to do it, and I am not alone in yet another ‘cost’ that is avoided by government.

If we want to get more teacher engaged in reading, learning and participating in the exponential growth in the use of social networks as professional development vectors, then there is a significant cost to those teachers – in addition to their normal workload.

This is a personal, not school or government burden. They do it at home – and may are awake at ridiculous hours to do it – because they see the benefits for the kids – not just talk about them.

This cost needs to be recognised, these people need to be recognised! – with more than a pat on the back.

I suggest that teachers keep a record of this (personal) time. Post it somewhere, so you can remember all the hours you put in. Make sure you value the time, even if ‘they’ don’t. Make consious decisions NOT to help – if that will incur a higher personal cost that you can afford.

Technology is pushing the boundaries of teaching and learning. Judy commented that bloggers should be joining professional bodies to lobby for change. I think she’s right.

I’m not sure how I’d articulate the poster’s message – but old habits die hard.

Jokaydia Unconference THIS WEEKEND

The Jokaydia Unconference is on this weekend in Second Life. This will be MASSIVE. Jokaydia has become a huge personal learning network, and this weekend there are a huge amount of things happening – and some great people sharing stories of things that are happening in classrooms – not just talking up the need to change – but people who can show you change.

I say this as recently I’ve been to SL events that really are not much more than fireside stories. For some reason I put my hand up for Quest Atlantis If you’ve been thinking about ‘what is SL all about in regard to Education’ then this is the BEST thing you can start with. Check the website for sessions and times!

Another dilemma!

Assessment. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb ‘assess’ means to ‘evaluate or estimate’. It goes on to define self-assessment as ‘assessment of oneself or one’s performance in relation to an objective standard’.

In a collaborative assessment task, most teachers and students know that the work of each individual will not be equal. To compensate for that we add some ‘individual’ task. This strategy seems to be in response to ability of some students to do little, knowing others will do the work for them.

Why do hard working students accept this and what can teachers do to combat it?

Perhaps both the teacher and the student is caught in the ‘prisoners dilemma’ scenario, both in different concentric circles. One in the classroom, one in the school system.

The prisoners dilemma is described as the following according to Wikipedia.

“Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (“defects”) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?”

Some students are used to facing this dilemma in assessment. They simply accept that they will have to allow other students to not participate, and to do the work regardless. Often they will receive good marks, despite their peers.

However at the same time, they do not gain the experience or rewards of shared-experience and shared-learning. They have closed the doors to negotiated participation. It is simply easier to do it alone. This is a learned condition that is reflected in online collaborative discourses.

These students usually offer little reflection about the input of others or how others have influenced their initial thinking on some topic. They may describe the collaboration as a basic recount, but doesn’t demonstrate any engagement with their peers.

Their writing reflects on the events and instructions – rarely on the achievements of group interaction.

At the same time, their peers will write about what the group is doing, how it is hopeful  of achieving the project goals – but rarely describes how that is being achieved or evidences any artifact to support that they are working as individuals towards the group goal.

Their writing is polarized. One talks about the ‘task’ and evidences their individual learning and ignores the others. The other is passive and observes and narrates the actions of the others.

Work is shared – at the end of the assessment period with their peers. It’s a group assignment, so they need to fulfill the bargain. But neither work effectively as a group during the process.

The Student Dilemma

Working online highlights this dilemma – when projects are designed specifically to resolve this core problem in pedagogical approaches to ‘group work’.

The ‘marks’ from the assessment may more accurately reflect effort, participation, communication and collaboration.

Content in these assessments is the ‘glue’ binds the project.

Evidence so far that I’ve seen, feedback from students and teachers, points to improvements – but only among active participants – this applies to students and teacher participation.

This is in performance in comprehension, application and retention of content – The majority of students, especially those in the ‘middle order’ have a much greater ‘scaffold’ to use as a framework for learning and visibly benefit from being part of it – so participate at levels not seen in the traditional classroom.

Unfortunately, the passive student often scores badly in summative assessment. They simply did not participate in the formative activities.

Previously they might score well in group projects, riding on the coat tails of others, but now the body of ‘digital’ evidence in formative assessment, I think, is less of an ‘estimation’ of performance and more of an ‘evaluation’.

The School Dilemma

But this poses a curriculum and school dilemma – especially if you introduce group tasks specifically designed to solve the student dilemma.

Some students will ‘appear’ to be doing worse – as their grades are perhaps more reflective of their performance. I would suggest that they are doing as they have always been doing – but online approaches are removing ‘estimation’ form assessment. Teacher has massively more ‘evidence’ of learning to use.

In senior students, this will mean that un-reformed curriculum ‘tasks’ may appear to achieve ‘better’ grades as the assessment is far more open to being an ‘estimate’ than a reflections of the individual.

Online communities use ‘time and date’ as their point of reference, so despite a teacher arguing that this strategy provides insightful formative ‘always on’ assessment opportunities for teachers, and supporting peer-learning networks for students – the school is ultimately measured by summative A to E reporting.

No one will do ‘too’ badly in this model. We have to create mixed ability groups, to ensure equity. Some of these students have relied (or willing to gamble) on this to bolster individual assessment grades. Overall – it will pan out in their favour.

Playing the ‘prisoners dilemma’ game that no matter what the other player does, one player will always gain a greater payoff by playing defect.

The systemic dilemma

So on paper, the introduction of assessment tasks that use online technologies, as form of formative assessment may lead to overall ‘school’ grades appearing to dip – as students learn to adjust to the changes.

Are we willing to accept this ‘dip’?

Reform in assessment needs to happen holistically and teachers begin to truly understand how fluent technology use can change learning and assessment. It may be something we would like to work towards, but I wonder if this ‘shift’ in learning and assessment poses questions for the curriculum and the wider system that they are not ready to answer – yet

Does judging school performance by summative assessment hold back collaborative online learners?