EDUTECH conference Brisbane 2014

edutech

I recently attended the Edutech conference in Brisbane. With its array of fabulous speakers, opportunities to network and possibilities to catch up with educational suppliers of everthing “IT”, it was a great experience. Some reflections from a few of the sessions that I attended and speakers that I heard will follow in subsequent blogs. In the meantime here are my reflections on our first two keynote speakers.

From a hole in the wall to the cloud: engaging your students to fulfil their sense of wonder and passion for Learning.
Sugata Mitra
Professor of Educational Technology, Newcastle University & ‘global education superstar’

Prof. Mitra spoke enthusiastically about the results shown when students’ capacities are fostered to learn on their own and teach each other. He encouraged us to try to move beyond knowledge to an era of learning based upon imagination, creation and asking new questions. He highlighted the importance of collaboration.
Previously school system did not encourage creativity as the workforce discouraged anything other than rote and routine. Mitra pondered whether the current pedagogy, curriculum and assessment can produce creative children or whether we need a different style or indeed something totally different. If not we are not just producing children who will not be relevant in the skillsets demanded by future employment but will in fact be unemployable. He asked is knowledge obsolete, when answers to knowledge based questions can be so easily accessed. Emphasis on knowledge based assessment can also wire students to the reptilian component of the brain which sees things as threats and learning is not as great.

His talk emphasised for me that we need to move to 1 to 1 devices carefully so that students aren’t starved of the opportunities to collaborate in their learning. Our future classes should
• Foster students’ capacities to learn on their own and teach each other
• Move beyond knowledge to an era of learning based upon imagination, creation and asking new questions – ask: Do you think it could be wrong? rather than saying: That is wrong
• Interact with the cloud as the new domain of intelligence and learning
• Support students to connect with information and mentors online
• Relevance is important where skills and employability are concerned
• Self organised learning environments (SOLE) when asking the right questions can instil in students a desire to learn and overcome disengagement
However in slight disagreement, without some knowledge how do we ensure that what we are learning is in fact relevant and authoritative?

Embracing innovation in education.
Anthony Alcito Vice President Worldwide education Microsoft (USA)
Anthony Alcito began his presentation by asking the questions: Are we making transformation holistically? Are we developing a culture of innovation not just focussing on the acquisition of technology? He proposed that we should be encouraging holistic learning, with learning occurring both inside and outside the classroom, we need students to produce and create things not just rote respond. It is time to shift the pedagogy rather than acquiring and adapting to the technology, to deep learning projects
He suggested that when we are our helpful best, students are not learning as much but we should be promoting a curriculum of questions, peer assessment and certification without examinations.
Alcito introduced software :
Corinth Classroom which is a creator of learning objects and is aiming to put maximum creative power into teachers’ hands with minimum effort and enabling high-quality digital content easier than ever to integrate into the classroom. Choose among hundreds of objects, developed in conjunction with research universities, spanning a wide spectrum of subjects and integrate them into your own projects in minutes.
OSLO http://secure.lambdares.com/has the capability of modeling a wide range of reflective, refractive and diffractive components. In addition, OSLO is used to simulate and analyze the performance of optical systems. OSLO’s CCL (Compiled Command Language), which is a subset of the C programming language, can be used to develop specialized optical and lens design software tools for modeling, testing, and tolerancing optical systems. There is a free education version available.
TEACH Intel® Teach is a proven program that helps K–12 teachers integrate technology effectively into classrooms and promote student-centered approaches, engaging students in learning and preparing them with critical skills for success in our digital world. It aims for transformational learning.
In summing up Alcito insisted:
• change is about people and culture,
• research matters,
• we should expect more from technology
• We must use data effectively
• It is essential that we empower teachers and
• Relevance is imperative – skills must be linked to employability

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Inside a dog

I was asked to speak at our March Cotlibs meeting. The agenda for the afternoon was on Library activities to promote reading. I gave a presentation on Insideadog. This online interactive literature website is a place for teen readers, it is all about books – by young people, for young people and the home of Inky, the reading wonder-dog. Inside a dog 1
How did I use it?
I worked with a Year 8 class in collaboration with their class teacher. All students registered for their own account, searched for good books on our library shelves, read book reviews on Insideadog and set up a book list.Inside a dog2

Students were encouraged to move books from Books I want to read across to Books I’ve read column and watch their list grow.
I set up a book club –Ms Cav’s Year 8 library blog and had students join the book club.
I trialed the forums – general discussion, section of the bookclub and the blogs section to see which was more useful and ran with the blogs section, interestingly the forum section has now been taken out of the bookclub home page
I posed questions such as “Which character could you see yourself becoming friends with and why?” “What characters could you see yourself not becoming friends with and why?” “What has been the best ending of a book you have read recently?” and students blogged their responses, to both my questions and towards the end began responding to each other’s responses.
Inside a dog 3 I encouraged students to keep abreast of Inky’s news and encouraged students to comment when something arose that interested them.

We regularly popped into the author of the month, however no amount of encouraging would see the girls blogging to the author. Inside a dog 4

Uploading book reviews to the site was extremely appealing and a quarter of the students did this of their own volition.
There are also competitions on the site however I don’t think students participated in these.
Inside a dog 5

Would I use it again?

Most certainly but would make the following changes:
Ask all students to do updates to their computers at regular intervals – IT issues did make the program problematic and discouraged a number of users. The verification process was long-winded because of these IT issues (verification failed to show up on laptops that updates had not been installed) but it is possible to work around this by having students sharing the laptops that are showing the verification code, for others to register on.I set the securities to private but would keep membership open until all students had signed up. This would also overcome the verification process issues. The major change I would make would be to our use of the author in residence section. We totally underutilized this valuable tool and in future I would link to it every time the class were undertaking our Insideadog activities.

Unit 6 reflection

Characteristics of an effective learner and how technology can support this
Reflecting on five words to describe an effective learner, I felt it necessary to really spell out the meaning of “effective”. The dictionary definitions include: Adequate to accomplish a purpose and having an intended or expected effect so keeping this in mind here are my five words.
Inquisitive: we must really want to find out new things in order to have the enthusiasm and resilience that learning often requires. The sheer breadth of the internet with all its wonderful interactive parts can really encourage inquisitiveness in students.
Adaptable: we cannot get bowled over the first hurdle we come across and must be prepared to adapt as we go along. New tools come along all the time that can do what we want in a better way. We need to be open to these tools and change and adapt as we find ones that suits us better.
Organised : I agree with Cameron on this one – if we are not organised with so much information out there we can never be “effective” – though I am sure we will still learn a great deal but perhaps not just about what we are requiring at any given time. Tools such as Springpad, Diigo, Evernote can make us so much more organised and streamlined so that we can stay on target with our learning.
Persistent: With so much information available we sometimes think it will be very easy to find what we are looking for. But sometimes this just does not happen as quickly as we would hope. We need to be persistent, always looking for that valuable piece of information or that online lecture that will deliver us the goods we are requiring. Here technology can be detrimental to the effective learner as there is so much available it can make it very hard to keep persisting, though as your searching skills increase the knowledge of limiters can filter disseminate some of this information for us and keep us on track
Engaged: Engagement is recognised as a fundamental attribute of deep learning. Here technology can play a vital role in engaging students. Many of the tools that are developed today rely on the students taking an active role in their learning – participating in online discussion groups, sharing what they have found with others, getting in contact with experts in their field, all of which will keep students engaged.

Your own progression with technology, how has it changed the way you learn and shaped your professional practice?I remember my sister showing me how she could type on a keyboard and print it out on the other side of the room! How things have changed. My professional life as a Teacher librarian has totally changed. Thankfully I did not have to suffer the card index and only had to put up with a vertical file for a couple of years. But to think that now we can provide students with databases that will not only provide searchable indexes and full text articles of our local newspapers and journals but those from around the world, sometimes even days before they are published in print format. We can “promote our wares” all over the school, the wider community and in fact the world with digital signage, blogs and library websites. We can provide access to experts previously out of our budget (think artists in residence on Inside a dog) and can streamline tasks within our staff.

Your feelings about the impact of technology on us as citizens
I do think we have a way to go to overcome the “facelessness” of technology that encourages people to write things they would not dream of saying to someone face-to-face. Also the ease at which we can undertake things (think copy and pasting) also adds to the need to keep educating students that our rights and responsibilities as citizens do not change just because we are using technology. In the wider community, I have seen a table of five people in a restaurant all interacting on their mobile phones and not engaging in conversation with their dinner guests. We do need to be vigilant that it does not take over our lives, that we do not forget to embrace nature in all its glory and really “live” moments not just view them from afar.
Your thoughts about the use of technology in learning and the role educators play in modelling the use of technology
At an in-service on literacy, I remember the presenter saying that students will not automatically relate instructions from one subject to another, even if it relies on the same skillset, so repetition is imperative. I think the same can be said about using technology. We may be demonstrating WordPress blogging and encouraging students to write respectfully, attribute others works etc but if we do not draw the link between Facebook and blogging for example, many will just not put the two together. Educators also need to model correct copyright practices and not tell the students that they cannot plagiarise but then produce a burnt DVD to show in class – don’t laugh – it happens!

Predictions about how technology will change the way we learn in the future. (I have based my reflections on the school system P-12)
The following issues will always limit the take up of technology in teaching practice and ensure that it plays a supporting rather than major role in the future of learning in the school system :
Duty of care – we will always have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for our students. Educating students alone about cyber bullying will not stop the practice (people are still smoking despite the enormous amounts of money spent on educating them of the dangers). We are also living in an increasingly litigious society so sadly we do have to lock things down., to provide the duty of care expected of us.
Cost : In only 14 years my school has gone from one word processor in the library to 1-1 laptops, one IT support staff to 5 support staff and one Assistant Principal IT. Our software licencing costs are enormous and despite a greater emphasis on Open source this has not been able to replace purchased software.
Maturity of students: formal photos on Facebook, YouTube clips of One Direction, or a Facebook page of English resources – it’s a no brainer what students will pick first. We can only model on a platform that does not give them access to their own personal fun stuff or it will be a constant battle keeping them on task.
Right relationships: technology will always be anadd on to the powerful relationship building that teachers do to encourage their students to learn. Google believes working at home, or teleworking, is not the best environment for ideas to flourish, so I don’t think we will be embracing a radical “study at home” environment in the school system in the near future, but I predicted that blue jeans would never last and look at them now!

Unit 5 Reflections

Search
I remember years ago when the Internet was much younger (and so was I) and Yahoo was all the rage, I came across this new search engine called Google. I began encouraging students to use it because, as I described it to them, “it just thinks like I do”. The students agreed that it did in fact think like they did too. I have become a little frustrated with it as it changes so quickly and I have to keep updating my Google search tutorials (and by the way thank you for the info on the Google advance search cog – I had thought that a quick an easy advanced search for Powerpoints, without having to remember the search terms was lost to me forever) but it still is one fantastic search engine. Whereas I have found Bing on the other hand to be too Americanised, and more likely to pull up sites such as wisegeek and about.com that are not authoritative enough for our research purposes.
I liked instagrok for younger students and the searches seemed very contained.
FindingDulcinea and Sweetsearch are two search engines that I strongly encourage our students to use when researching. A term such as Ancient Egypt or Kokoda Trail for example will have valuable sites for assignments, Google on the other hand will have a great deal of sites advertising tours to these places or Travel Agents writing “authoritatively” about the place. Finding Dulcinea does have three different search tabs “This site”, “Selected sites and “Entire web” and defaults to search results from “This site”. Both of these features confuses students who do not use the search engine often enough to remember to click through the tabs.

Evaluating Resources
For all student assignments I try and find two or three websites per topic to get them started. We are currently doing Middle Ages in Year 9 Science so I have headed to the BBC History site This site incorporates the “old school” authoritative, accurate information with the transforming powers of modern technology, archival video clips, primary sources etc at our fingertips. Although journalism has taken a big hit with the recent phone hacking scandals, I still believe that organisations, such as BBC, do provide valuable authoritative journalism.

Tagging
I’ve often added keywords to library catalogues to make resources more user friendly – how many people say poultry these days instead of chooks? – tagging just comes naturally to me. Being someone who likes lots of visuals I really like the tag cloud though.

Online tools

FREE TOOLS

SPRINGPAD NOTEBOOKS
The Terms and Services page and Privacy Policy of Springpad notebooks, my chosen online service, are located in the footer widget at the bottom of the homepage. The only catch to accessibility is, that once you log in and create your own notebooks, you rarely return to the homepage (in fact unless you know to add “about” to the web address you cannot get there via your own page). There is no link to terms of services or privacy policy on your notebook page.
The home page uses terminology such as “mission”, “discover”, “care about” “harnessing” which did give me the impression of a company that was not going to rip me off, good marketing I know, however the Terms of Service and Privacy policy do continue this theme.
They are written in clear language:
“This policy tells you, among other things, what information we gather from you, how we may use or disclose information that identifies you personally and our efforts to protect it”.
“If you are under 13, please do not attempt to register on our Website or send any Personal Information about yourself to us.”
Seem to be on the side of the user:
“Your privacy, and the privacy of all registered users of the Springpad service, the springpad.com and springpadit.com websites and our mobile applications, is important to us”,
“You may use this Website and our mobile applications without volunteering personally identifiable information“.
However I was surprised by the clause “We may alter, suspend, or discontinue this Website or support for any mobile application, in whole or in part, at any time and for any reason, without notice” , particularly with the so public demise of Google reader but felt that the following was reasonable:
“You will retain all ownership rights to any Content you submit or make publicly available for inclusion in the Springpad service (“User Submitted Content”), and we are not obtaining ownership rights to any of your User Submitted Content. We do, however, need you to grant us certain rights in the User Submitted Content, so that we can incorporate such User Submitted Content in our services. Without such rights, we may be violating copyright and other laws by storing, posting, backing up and allowing the download of your User Submitted Content on our Website or through our mobile applications.”
Also, I was reminded but not surprised by the use of cookies, but was interested to see that cookies could be “deleted or blocked by changing the settings on your Web browser, but if you block all cookies, you may not be able to take full advantage of the Springpad services”. It may be interesting to trial this and see just how many/what type of services were withheld.
I do have to admit to just skimming the first few paragraphs of the terms of service when I signed up, but having determined how I was going to use the service, I felt I would not lose much if they were to discontinue the service – though reflecting on how much I have stored in my notebooks, I would be more disappointed than I originally thought, however it still would not be devastating.
For the purposes of this exercise, I did read the whole document, did not get too bored and even learnt what “estoppel” and “indemnity” meant?
Backing up my data was very easy. Simply by clicking on the “Create backup” in the Settings menu and downloading the file to Mycomputer. It took me longer to create a new folder on Mycomputer that to download the file.

Deleting the account looks to be very simple also. Simply click on the “Delete account” link on the Settings page.

Before I came across Springpad three or four months ago, I would jot down in a convenient place, books that I would like to purchase for my library– convenient to where I was at the time that is, definitely not convenient for following up at a later date. Consequently I would have book titles on scraps of paper on my desk, beside my bed (nothing like a Sunday morning lie-in reading the Book Review sections of the weekend papers), on the coffee table (reading magazines such as Good Reading on the couch in the evening) and in the dashboard of my car – listening to Radio National on the way home. Now that I have discovered Springpad, I post the book titles into my notebook “Books for Purchase” (though sadly not when I am in my car) and my offsider receives an email notification that there are new books to be purchased. When the books arrive, my offsider, with one click, transfers the books into a “Recently purchased folder”, when I receive notification of these, I can, again with one click, move them into another folder, listing them to be made into digital signage for advertising on our TV monitors. I can at this stage also add them to my “Must Reads” folder so that I can work my way through the list without overlooking any, and when read can click them into a “Hooray it’s holidays now I can read” notebook for the staff to follow. It works an absolute treat. I would definitely recommend this service to others.
TOOLSREVIEW
I’ve chosen to review the online tool Inside a Dog and no I am not looking for Brownie points!! I have recently set up an account and a bookclub as an extension activity for a class of Year 8’s. I was thinking of setting up a group through GoodReads but was attracted to the mission statement “All about books – by young people, for young people” and felt that it would be a good “safe” environment to have my first foray into online tools with the students.
Users do need to log in to Inside a dog and have to provide a Username, password, email address (we used our school email addresses) first name, age (I encouraged the students to put in their correct age as I thought it would be important for Inside a Dog book recommendations), school and about me (we chose to leave this blank, however I did assume that many would eventually go back to this so we discussed the power of the digital footprint to ensure that what they included there was not overly informative).
The Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of the site are fair and reasonable and having browsed through the posts and clicked on various members’ links, I do not foresee any potential issue, as little information is available for outsiders to view.
The news section of Inside a Dog will provide me with some valuable links to things that I will promote in my library – book trailers, competitions and I love the author in residence aspect of the site, particularly for schools that may not be able to afford their own author in residence program – this could be really promoted to schools Australia wide. It will be great for team teaching between my role in the Library and the classroom teacher. As an aside, I would like to see a section on recently released books – perhaps a very short blurb and a reading age recommendation that would not take away from the students’ reviews.
At this stage I plan to use it in two ways. Initially I promoted it to the classroom teacher as a tool to encourage the students to read – I could see moving a book from the “Books I would like to read list” to the “Books I have read list” could be a great motivator and will be encouraging all students to just blog a little like twitter, short sharp responses to parts of their book that they are enjoying, to encourage others to read the book. E.g Imagine if your Mum sent you off to a foreign country to a Dad you had not seen since you were three? Uggh.
However, when the classroom teacher was asking for extension activities to free the brighter students up from some of the more mundane comprehension activities that the rest of the class will be doing and hinted heavily about Inside a dog, I offered to also take a small group of 10 – 12 students and promote review writing and the author in residence components of the site. I will keep you posted as to how well it progresses. I will also be able to upload reviews that the students write to our library blog at regular intervals and include outstanding ones in our online school newsletter.
Inside a dog can definitely be used at the Redefinition level of the SAMR model, but it will depend on how it is used. If it is merely set to private and used as an opportunity to create lists of books students have read and would like to read and blog about the books they are reading, it will remain at the Augmentation level, but once students are posting reviews for other students in other schools to read and interacting with the author in residence it will definitely take full advantage of the unique possibilities that technology affords. It will be very interesting to see how far we can take it.