Monday, October 22, 2007

Changing face of education

I recently had to give feedback to our staff about what I had learnt at ULearn 07. I spent some time thining about it, and together with the inspiration from the current K12 Online Conference, this is what I've learnt:
  • The audience is no longer just the teacher, or even sharing with the class - the audience has become global. We will need to teach our students a whole new set of thinking and communication skills. They will have to speak, and write a standard of English which is globally acceptable and understandable. They will have to learn to respect the diversity of their audience. They will have to use words which convey their meaning and emotions without offending or putting themselves at risk. They will have to start thinking about what information they want to share, who their target audience is, and how to best present their ideas. Stuff we've been teaching them anyway.
  • Our students will probably be earning their money doing a job that hasn't yet been invented. Very few - if any - of them will have routine, run-of-the-mill office jobs sitting in rows of desks with the same colleagues until they retire. They are unlikely to have a physical inbox and outbox, or go to work carrying a briefcase. Our students have to be prepared by us to work in a virtual office, be able to keep up with constant change, and communicate with anyone, anywhere to find information. Networking skills will be vital, as will creative communication skills.
  • Our students no longer have to be taught masses of facts. Yes, basic Maths and grammar facts, and general knowledge is still important, but more important is to teach them where and how to find the information they are looking for. The old encyclopaedias on the bookshelf, even the dictionary and thesaurus will be gathering even more dust. They'll just source information on line. After all who of us are still using the Yellow Pages for anything else than a doorstop?
All the old teaching ideas need to be chucked out the door.

What? Just kidding:

None of the old teaching ideas need to be chuck out the door. All the good ideas we've alwyas had can still be used, just in a different and more exciting way. Here are some examples:
  • Playing with plasticine or clay: Yep, they can still do it, only now they will use 'I can Animate', and create digital animation stories with our little characters. Imagine doing volcano's, and creating an eruption, or dinosaurs, and making them walk across the set. Students now have to do more research to figure out how the set will look, what the vegetation looked like, what the backdrop needs to look like. They will need to write a script, draw a story board and collaborate with their peers to put their plans in action.
  • Dress up corner: My students love dressing up, and I have a whole corner of my class dedicated to dress up. At the cheap $ stores, I buy fancy hats, wings and other novelties and I add to our store every now and then. The students then take photos of each other wearing the fance dress. Sometimes they make up a character as they go along, Sometimes they depict a character from a book, depending on how I set the task. The photos are downloaded, and used to create comic stories. We use ComicLife. They have now learnt 'old' skills like retelling their story, or creating a story and new skills like digital photography, and publishing in graphic novel format.
  • TV Broadcasts: One of my favourite ideas from my college years, was to paint a box like a TV and have the children deliver their news as a news broadcast. I have used this idea over the years with great success to get even the most reticent student to order their thinking, and deliver their story with confidence. Just think how exciting this idea will be if I chuck away the delapidated old cardboard TV and replace it with a real video machine, have them edit their broadcast and publish it in the form of a podcast!
More ideas in the next blog! Watch this space...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Get on the bus, guys!

It's easy to get frustrated with my colleagues, who just won't get on the eLearning bus, but I'll try not to!

As one of the ICT lead teachers, I've been blown away by the Web 2.0 tools. In my Year 3/4 class I have kids blogging, podcasting (well almost), creating comics, dressing up as book characters and publishing and editing their own digital photo's, and more. Today we are starting with digital animation. My students are eager to learn, are writing fun and entertaining scripts, are authors, editors and publishers. Isn't that what we want to teach? Some of the other teachers have got even more inspiring projects running. At my school we have wonderful resources, and everyone can easily integrate ICT into their lessons.

Yesterday we had feedback time about uLearn. Six of us had been there, and come back buzzing.

Our children are growing up in a new, exciting world. My teenagers at home contact their friends in South Africa every day. Cost free. One of them wouldn't eat with us last night, because he didn't want to let 'Morgan' down, who was gaming with him out of Montreal.
Our students will be needing more than the knowledge of 'the bonds of 10' and '20 words with -ing'. They will have to survive and earn money in the global community.

Come on, teachers. Get on the bus!

Monday, October 15, 2007


My kids are starting to think I'm actually quite cool. (I'm talking about the one's I live with.) But, I've had to learn a whole new language first! I can now blog, twit and flikr with ease. I organize my links in I even make use of an aggregator to manage my RSS feeds. No, not the evening meal, the RSS feeds. But the thing that impressed them most, was my weekend animation exploits. I have just discovered Apple's 'I can Animate'. What fun! My kids and I (and I have four aged 12 to 17) spent a couple of hours creating fun little animations. The attractions of the World of Warcraft was abandoned to play with their Mum!

The implications for use in class are limitless. I showed my class the projects today, and they're so excited. Some of my most challenging boys are planning to bring their lego men, and are looking forward to the next Writing lesson, so that they can write their script! These are kids that have been reluctant to write more than 2 or 3 very poorly constructed sentences at a time. Eager, willing and animated!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

To blog, or not to blog?

I overheard someone saying that to blog, was a bit like 'blowing your own horn'. Well, maybe it is, but maybe the bloggers out there just love writing. Or talking. Or sharing their thoughts.

Why does it appeal to me? Is it just that I like the 'sound' of my own voice. Or do I have something worthwhile to say? Or is it just the flavour of the month? I honestly don't know. But I'm loving it. It gives me a reason to write. A reason to share my thoughts. And I might just get some communication from out there, which will expand my world!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

uLearn '07 - I'm sure learning!

I'm lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to attend the uLearn conference in Auckland this week (during my non-contact time - previously called 'holidays'.) WOW! What a load of mind-blowing ideas! I've seen (and been able to try out my own) podcasting, and got to grips with Garageband. I learnt how to create an animation using I can animate..., and had a look at the easy ComicLife. Today I'll be attending breakouts on more interesting topics. The best thing of all is that the presenters are mainly teachers themselves, which meangs they are not sitting in their thrones sprouting vague grandiose ideas, but are giving us hands on ideas. My was of teaching, but most of all my attitude to my students' learning, has certainly been changed!