Sunday, 12 October 2008

Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt3.

Will talked about how we need to prepare kids to work with people from multiple cultures, whom they are never going to meet, in order to create things together. He explained how it is predicted that in 2 years time most Fortune 500 companies will have a presence in an immersive world e.g. World of Warcraft, Second Life, etc. He suggested that people could be "going to work" as an avatar having packed their "virtual lunchbox" for the day. (Having a major Otherland moment here). It is such an amazing thought and totally reinforces just what a different world our children could be living and working in.

Will asked "How do we prepare our kids to connect with people who share their passion and work together to effect change?" I love this idea of kids working together to make a difference in the world. I love the idea of working with others myself to make a difference. I think Erin and her class are already off to a great start with this via their Kiwis for Kenya project. Projects like this one show that it really is possible.

Sheryl made a comment that really resonated with me, "None of us is as good as all of us." I thought this was a really powerful statement. The idea that the more of us that work together, the greater the change we can effect is quite a sobering and yet optimistic thought. Sheryl talked about how, with this in mind we needed to ensure that we and the children did not just simply use the tools at our disposal, but use them in a way that allows us to move through Shirky's continuum to the point where we are able to take collective action.

Another thing Sheryl said that really hit home for me was, "You can't give away what you do not own." This is so true. She went on to say that teacher's NEED to own it. By this she means that we need to be comfortable moving in these networks and communities, in having connectivity in using and exploring the digital tools available to us. I agree that this is vital, after all how else can you know what you are talking about? How else can you ensure the children are fully prepared to take their place in the world?

Sheryl talked about how we are working outside our comfort zone, how we are in a messy place of change, but that we are preparing our kids for their future! Again this struck a chord. The question is, how do we get everyone else on board with this? How do we get the message out there? What about parents? Their idea of school is based on their own experiences, we need to consider how we can communicate the need for change and the types of change to them.

Will added at this point that there are lots of questions and lots of challenges. With this I whole heartedly agree. Sheryl added that as educators we need to decide together what matters. She discussed the importance of us becoming networked learners, of collaborating with like minded people. I couldn't agree more. In the past year alone I have benefited immensely in terms of my professional and personal growth thanks to the collaborative and supportive group of educators who make up my PLN.

Sheryl identified us as the last generation of teachers who have a a choice about whether or not to embrace this technology/participatory media. She said the children in our classrooms now do not have this choice. She went on to add that we have a moral responsibility to make the choice to embrace it. She explained that while some of our kids will get this at home, many of our lower decile children do not have this safety net. She referred to it as a "safety net for their future" and that the only place our at risk learners would get this is within the "safety net" of our classrooms, which is why it is absolutely vital that we make the choice to embrace the tools, to own them, so that we can do our kids justice.

She finished by saying that New Zealand teachers need to move to true collaboration and collective action. She challenged us to to "Do it for the children's sake, challenge the status quot". Finishing on that note I felt excited and energised. Everything I heard made a lot of sense to me. I found it powerful because it reaffirmed my thoughts and beliefs, as a keynote it reflected where I am at with my thinking, with my own personal tipping point. This is a challenge that I am ready to take up. But, is this the same for everyone? What about those teachers who aren't there yet? What can we do to get everyone heading in the same direction? I'd love to hear what others think, what is your perspective? What do you think?

So here you have it, a three part rewriting of my frantically typed notes as processed and reflected on by me. If anyone thinks I've missed something or perhaps missed a key idea, please feel free to let me know in the comments and I'll come back and edit. I got SO much out of this keynote that it's hard to do it justice. Thanks so much Sheryl and Will for making me think, ask questions and even dream a little. I can't wait to see where this train ends up.

Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt2.

Will stepped in at this point to explore the concept of sharing further. He looked at how sharing on line is extremely easy, apparently blog posts, Flickr uploads, etc number in the millions each day. We talked about how the problem with this ease of on line sharing is that many kids using forums such as MySpace are not necessarily sharing in a way that is very appropriate. He went on to add that our kids are going to be Google-able and thus it is extremely important for them to think about what they are sharing. Apparently in the U.S. more and more people are being Googled by future employers. Will asked us to think about what we are doing to prepare our kids to make sure they are employable in 6-7 years time. He went on to say that we're not really preparing them to be sharable right now. I had to agree whole heartedly with this as I am absolute passionate about helping kids (and adults) to understand the importance of their "digital footprint" and encourage them to consider that everything they place on line stays on line. It was very affirming to see that I am definitely heading down the right track with this.

He also made a point about filtering our children's on line experiences. He gave Clarence Fisher as an example, Clarence doesn't moderate his kids blogs, he monitors them, because they have an unfiltered world at home. I totally agree, it makes much more sense to teach kids appropriate ways to deal with the nasties out there then wrap them up in cotton wool so that when they do encounter them they have no experience of how to deal with them appropriately. If they are given an opportunity to manage these situations in a safe and scaffolded environment, then surely they will be better prepared to meet them head on on their own.

Sheryl stepped up at this point to explain how sharing leads to connections, which eventually leads to the building of community. She talked about how she went from knowing no New Zealand based educators to connecting with a whole lot, to developing community, all due to their on line presence. She explained that it is important to continue to share, engage and post in order to maintain the community of practise and to allow it to grow over time. I know there are times where I have large gaps in posting to my blogs, although I do maintain a healthy level of interaction via Twitter. However, after hearing this I resolved to make a greater effort to not only blog with greater regularity, but also comment on the blog posts of others more often. I can also see the necessity of setting up situations in the classroom where my children have this opportunity as well.

Will shared examples of fan fiction sites at this stage as an example of the cooperative things kids are doing. He talked about how we can cooperate and create similar situations. He also mentioned Scratch and had me absolutely fascinated as he talked about a group of kids he hooked up on line via Skype, with an expert in Scotland who took them through how to use Scratch. Andrew was the 12 year old expert and he was up past his bed time - how cool is that?! I love the idea of using tools like Skype to connect kids with each other in real time situations. I certainly think this is an area that needs to be explored further. I am also very excited by the thought of children being able to see each other as experts, to be able to realise that the "experts" aren't just adults or teachers. I wonder what areas of expertise my children could offer in a similar forum? I definitely need to explore this idea further.

Sheryl talked about Bruce Tuckman's ideas of Teaming and explained how groups go through stages of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. Apparently the reason we often don't see more evidence of change in school is because people get to the storming phase and give up before getting to the true performing stage. She also talked about how you can see pockets of isolated change in the school/classroom. That resonated with me as I could totally relate to the idea of being an isolated pocket.

(To be concluded in Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt3).

Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt1.

I'm going to explore this keynote in three parts as I got a lot from it and have a lot to share and consider. I figured that by breaking it up it will make for easier reading for those of you that are interested.

Whilst at ULearn08 I was fortunate enough to be able to listen to a keynote presented by Sheryl Nussbaum - Beach and Will Richardson, two US educators who I very much admire. They presented using a sort of tag team approach with each of them taking it in turn to share their message/thoughts with the audience. The title of the keynote was;
"Here Comes Learning". I found their presentation to be both inspiring and reaffirming, I could see that I am on the right path in my journey as an educator and learner as we move forwards in a new direction with education.

Will shared the story of 11 year old Laura Stockman and her blog 25 Days to Make a Difference. Laura started this blog after her much loved grandfather died in honour of his memory. She was determined to make a difference in the world by doing one good deed a day for 25 days. Her blog was the portal through which she shared her journey with the world. Now, around 10 months later, Laura is still blogging and still making a difference, her original plan has has just ballooned! Check out her blogto see just how much. Laura's blog is read all over the world, she's one awesome kid.

Sheryl then talked about her work with novice teachers involved in a networked project with threaded discussions. She discussed how this kind of network allowed for the sharing of several different perspectives about he topics discussed. I think one of the things that really struck me personally was her story of a young teacher who was questioning his decision to become a teacher. He was finding everything so overwhelming and, as many of us have done, he was starting to feel that he just didn't measure up, that this wasn't for him. He wrote about it in the forum and what he wrote came from the heart - he really was at the end of his rope. What he got back was an out pouring of support and encouragement from the others in the forum. Realising he was not alone he made the decision to stay in education, his post to the forum when he made this decision gave me goose bumps. This was an example of what a powerful medium a community of practise can be. I know from my own point of view that my PLN is like my life line, it's what keeps me going and helps me to feel that I am simply not just a voice in the wilderness.

Will talked about the need for "every child in every school to grow their own network in safe and effective ways". This really resonated with me and, as a mother as well as an educator, I can see the sense in this as these transformative technologies shape a very different tomorrow for our young people. I find this really exciting, if a little scary at times, but also realise that this concept is potentially very daunting and frightening for some. The other worrying thing is that I think perhaps many people out there just aren't aware of what's here already and what's coming up close behind. I first read Tad Williams "The Otherland" series back in 1999 and thought "yea right!" but, having reread it recently, I can see that much that was written about as science fiction has in fact now become science fact and I can see that many of the other concepts explored in that series may in fact become a reality in the not too distant future.

Sheryl then went on to talk about the need to place teachers in these situated learning communities of practise in order for us to support and enable the children in growing their own networks. She talked about how she felt that New Zealand has a good understanding of the power and value of these types of communities and cited our ICT Cluster system as an example. Sheryl used the following definition from Wikipedia to describe community:

"The process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations."

She went on to relate this to virtual learning communities. Sheryl talked about communities of practise being situated learning communities e.g. in my PLN we're all educators and are interested in improving over time. Sheryl talked about how situated learning communities are all about improvement. A situated learning community, according to Sheryl, differs from a network because it evolves. She explained that in a situated learning community you would want co-created content and co-created community, which should result in co-ownership. She talked about how members of the community start to evolve and develop shared norms.

Sheryl mentioned seeing the learner in these environments as an innovator, a co-communicator. She then went on to outline Clay Shirky's steps in a continuum in the process of forming communities whereby it moves from Sharing to Cooperation to Collaboration to Collective Action. (Clay Shirky is the author of "Here Comes Everybody").

(To be continued in Here Comes Learning - A Keynote from Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson Pt2).

Friday, 10 October 2008

ULearn Day Two

Day 2

Started the day nice and early with another brisk walk through the streets of Christchurch to the Decadence Café for the Bloggers/Twitterers breakfast. This was a fabulous way to start the day, nice food, good company, time spent catching up with my online friends – just brilliant! In fact I could have stayed there longer just talking, getting to know each other better & just chilling. Thank you so much for organising it Simon, great idea, nice to have the opportunity.

After breakfast it was off to the conference venue. I sat at the Blogger’s café for a while just getting in the zone. Was feeling a little nervous by this point as I had to present later in the day and this time it was my “big one” the 90 minute interactive presentation!

I was interviewed & videoed by some of the fabulous kids from the Media Team. They were talking to me as a first time presenter about how I found the whole presentation process. Not sure what happens with all the video next, but it was neat to be asked.

Off to the keynote next where we got to see the awards ceremony for Microsoft Innovative Teacher of the year. Some stunning work being done by educators in schools around New Zealand. The posters to support their presentations have been on display in the foyer – just amazing. The speaker who followed – Steve Carden was just terrific. Made some interesting points, was a fantastic story teller. It was great to hear form the perspective of a “non educator”. I made a few comments on twitter about points he made that resonated with me. If you can hold out for 24 hours I shall add a quick post on my thoughts – I just need to retrieve them from Twitter when I’m able to be online again & have time to think it through.

After morning tea it was off to my first breakout of the day with Sheryl Naussbaum Beach. I have to admit to being just a tad star struck & when she shook my hand and said “Hi I’m Sheryl” it just made my day. An amazing lady, very knowledgable, very genuine. Her session was fantastic and shall be the source of another blog post I think as again I have a lot to ponder.

Highlight of lunchtime…finally getting to meet Mr Woody, another member of my PLN. By the time lunch rolled around all I could handle was a banana! & a glass of water. I sat upstairs in the presenters lounge with David and Marnie and just took the time to chill and try to calm my nerves. Then I headed over to the Crown Plaza to prepare for my presentation.

The room was a bit of a comfy fit for everyone (and I’m sure I had ring ins as I think there were more than 26 in there – but it was all good. So I just launched in and went for it! I think people really enjoyed learning about the Pacific Northwestern Tree Octopus & having the opportunity to view my live specimen! I actually think I tried to cover almost too much. I think next time I might break it up and do a few things, or maybe offer a session for beginners and then one that’s a little further along the continuum. I didn’t quite get what I wanted happening with the wiki – ( a time factor again) but it was all good, as really I just wanted people to take some time to play, explore and discover. The idea of creative commons was new to most of the attendees so I was pleased to have a chance to really plug that one! Other than all that, I had some great feedback, really positive, so I hope people got at least 1 thing out of it to take away with them. I figured that they could always revisit the wiki and explore things for themselves when they had the time and were in the head space to do so.

My last breakout was with Will Richardson, again I thought it was terrific and it was fun adding comments to the back channel he had streaming alongside his Google Docs presentation. I sat with Allanah & we back channelled our “talk to your neighbour” discussion!… he he he. Some valuable and thought provoking stuff once again. I’ll revisit the ideas further in a future blog post – to be honest, with presenting as well and trying to get around and meet everyone it’s been a bit hard to find time to just sit and reflect – I’m figuring I’ll roll the ideas round in my head and then blog them once I’m home and have time to think it all through.

The final part of the day was the conference dinner. Totally awesome! Excellent live performances going on, good band, good conversation, great food – it rocked! I was able to catch up with a few of my PLN friends and really enjoyed having the opportunity to catch up with Simon and have a good, long chat.

So now it’s really late and I need to catch a few hours sleep before the final day of Ulearn08. I’m off to interact with classroom bloggers tomorrow at Dorothy Burts breakout, then I finish where I started back with Andrew Churches learning about his Digital Taxonomy – really looking forward to both of those.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Day One of ULearn

Up bright and early, I marched off through the streets of Christchurch in the beautiful spring sunshine, to register for Ulearn08. I have to say that Christchurch really is a beautiful city, I love all the parks & the old stone architecture – it’s just magical.

Arriving as the doors opened I trot up to register – so much easier when you’re there before the crowd. Collected my registration pack, which included a nice USB data stick as a thankyou for presenting – Thank you CORE Ed.

Trotted up stairs to the presenters lounge to get my laptop configured – pretty easy really – just a case of turning it on. Saw Toni while I was there and said Hi. Then I wandered downstairs to check out the posters for the Microsoft Innovative Teacher awards. The posters were amazing, and the amount of work and detail involved was just astounding! They also have to do a six minute presentation before the judges – I’d hate to have that job. Met up with Marnie & David K there – which was really neat I’d met Marnie before but only knew David through his blog “Turning the SuperTanker”. It was nice to catch up with people I knew so I didn’t wander aimlessly. We headed upstairs to the presenters lounge to just chill out for a while.
While we were there Rachel & Lenva arrived so I had a nice time catching up with everybody. Went downstairs to get my list of delegates & there was Erin at the registration desk – so it was hugs all round.

Finally it was time to head off to the keynote. The sense of anticipation was starting to build – I was here & Ulearn was about to begin! For the first time ever I had my laptop open & was using it to take notes instead of the old pen & paper method. I was also able to follow the back channel of tweets through Twitter which were starting to pour in thick & fast. Chris Carter was up first – I was really enjoying the video he had to support his talk of educators & kids around NZ doing their thing – some awesome stuff happening there. Next up were Sheryl Nausbaum- Beach & Will Richardson – they presented together, taking turns to share the presentation. I think they raised some interesting points that are well worth thinking about. Some of them will take a lot more mulling over I think. I shall blog about them separately though.

After the keynote it was morning tea & then time for the 1st breakout. Had an awesome time at Andrew Church’s session. We did an online learning styles test (apparently I’m multimodal – a polite way of saying indecisive???). Then he took us through all kinds of tools and applications that could be used to reach & strengthen different learning styles. One of my favourites was “Rasterbator”! The name’s a bit of a worry, but it was a really cool application, you can basically take any size photo & blow it up as big as you want – way cool. I did discover that small pixel sizes work better.

Next up was lunch and I got a chance to catch up with Jamin, Jane, Suzie, Simon & Fiona. I also got to chat with my old DP from Levin who is now the principal of Coley Street School – nice to catch up.

The end of lunchtime saw my Breakout arriving! Allanah was doing the first taster session in the room & I was next. Allanah and I had never met face to face before so it was awesome to finally get to meet her. I kind of hung out in the corner during her presentation, enjoying the calming effect of the Jack Johnson album she had playing, as by this stage my hands were starting to shake for some inexplicable reason.
And then it was my turn! So here I was with 20 odd faces staring at me waiting for me to start. So I counted to 10, took a calming breath, and off I went for 40 odd minutes talking about VoiceThread & all it’s many charms. I was pleased that people asked questions, nodded, smiled, laughed and interacted - did all the right things. I figured at that point that I must be doing ok as no – one was asleep, so it’s all good. Now I just have tomorrow’s biggie to look forward too and then I’m done!
Headed back up to the Blogger’s Café afterwards and caught up with some of the others, including Barbara who I hadn’t seen all day. Simon had a really funky microphone that recorded what you said as an mp3. You then plug it into your computer via a USB connector on the other end and voila! Great for sharing news, group discussions etc. Totally kid proof apparently. At $85 dollars I was thinking it was a little bit ouchy, but very cool and of course it was another toy to add to my wishlist.
Stopped a while with Suzie and just chatted as by this point I was feeling exhausted, a bit headachy & just a tad over whelmed – it was nice to have some peace.
Caught up with the rest of the crowd from school and we headed off to dinner at Portofino. So now I’m in bed blogging, just processing through the day. Have a lot to think about. There’s a lot going on and only so much time to get it all done. Please excuse the lack of links – I’ll go back through my post tomorrow if I can and add them , otherwise I’ll get them in place by Saturday – no internet access in the hotel so I have to do what I can between breakouts, etc while at the conference venue.
I promise I’ll blog the key notes properly as soon as I can. But I think it’s time for zzz’s as I’m up at 6am to get ready for the Blogger’s Breakfast and it’s just gone midnight.
Having a ball though. One of the best things for me has to be meeting up with everyone from my PLN – it’s just fabulous.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

ULearn08... I'm on my way!

ULearn 08 is finally here. It's been very much at the forefront of my mind for the best part of the year (let's face it, I've been looking forward to it since ULearn 07!)

In a couple of hours I'm off to the airport and on my way to Christchurch. I'm sitting here right now with my mind (and stomach) absolutely churning with different thoughts and emotions: anticipation, excitement, nervousness, apprehension and a healthy dose of worry to round it all off.

Anticipation - I am so looking forward to all the amazing learning and networking and just know is going to take place over the next few days. I am also anticipating that it will be cold!

Excitement - "I'm going to ULearn...I',m going to ULearn..." Total geek out time, get to meet up with all my online friends - yay! I'm like a kid the night before Christmas.

Nervousness, Apprehension & Worry - I'm presenting...TWICE! I've made multiple back ups of my presentations, have spent countless computer hours creating them and have the sore elbow and stiff shoulders to prove it! I know I'm well prepared, I think my presentations are useful (and pretty - not that pretty is important...but I like pretty!), however; this still doesn't stop me worrying that something will go wrong, or I'll mess up, or I'll bore my audience.... all the usual paranoid and irrational thoughts that keep the adrenaline pumping. I've decided there are times where perfectionism is a bad thing. I'm also a bit anxious because I have to fly. I hate flying! I like going to new places, but I hate flying there. To add to my nerves there is supposed to be a storm front across half the country - nice!

Voice Thread
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: voicethread ulearn08)

Authentic Ict
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: ict_classroom ulearn08)

My wiki to support my presentation & provide notes and further information can be found here.

So here I sit, full of expectations. I really need to close the lid on my 'puter and prepare to go offline for a while (that's an ask in itself - might have to divert Twitter to my phone...maybe not, imagine how fast the memory will fill up!) Rohi the Kea is ready for her trip down south, my bags are packed and guess what?

So if you're looking for me I'll be in this little number.

See you at ULearn08 everyone.