This fun picture taken earlier this year when I was shopping in Singapore, was created with photofunia, one of the tools my teenagers are using to create profile pics for Facebook and Bebo.
Sadly, I'm not at uLearn09 this year, but such is the power of technology that I am actually able to follow most of the keynotes, and twitterings about this year's conference in Christchurch.
Yesterday's NZ Herald reported the following:
Californian Gary Stager, an expert in computers in schools for 27 years, has travelled the world spreading the message of what can be achieved if children get proper access to technology in schools. He is disturbed by the "narrow thinking" he has found from the adults in charge.Many schools, including mine, feel the need to control the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classrooms. They have various reasons, often citing the need to 'support' the use of these tools (which seldom need support), or the cybersafety policy of this school. At my school I am fortunate that the powers-that-be are openminded to the creative use of new technology, and we are usually allowed to try out new tools that we come across, as long as it is embedded in our planned program. This is not so for many teachers at other schools. Even so, schools are doing some pretty amazing and creative stuff.
"I think one of the trends I am seeing globally is an increasing conservatism, not just in educational policy, but a narrowing of the imagination of what kids can actually do with computers," Dr Stager told the Herald, after speaking to the ULearn education conference in Christchurch."
I have heard - through my Twitter network - that many New Zealand teachers were left feeling pretty disgruntled by Dr Stager's comments. But, I suspect he may be right. Yes, we are pretty forward thinking in New Zealand. Yes, we are blogging and podcasting, and even putting our student's faces on the net in classroom blogs and - very risque - even TV channels. But are we really unleashing their full potential?
I've been browsing some of my own teenage children's Bebo pages - which I do from time to make sure they are using safe practices - just to see the most amazing creative artifacts that these youngsters are producing. Video's, fun photo effects, slideshows and audiocasts, are among the few masterpieces I came across. The irony is that these kids are getting almost no exposure at the Secondary School they attend.
So sad that in the Primary and Intermediate schools we are teaching kids all these wonderful tools, just to let it all fizzle away - except for privately, in the children's own use of social media.
Dr Stager might not be entirely right about Primary School's use of technology in New Zealand, but I'm afraid at Secondary level we are still sadly lacking. Or are there Secondary Schools out there that disagree?