The waves in the bay

I hope everyone likes the new header on this blog; a detail from a picture I took of tiny little waves lapping on the shores of Port Phillip Bay last week, and taken with my new Canon EOS 450, which I’m loving.

It seemed a more summery kind of image than the cloudy looking shot of the Snowy Mountains. You can see the full size original pic on Flickr HERE

Above is another shot from an afternoon on the beach at Mornington in the last week of the holidays. I’ll come back to that photo for sustenance later in the year!

Beginning of a great adventure

Or so said Lou Reed, in his (best) album, New York.

But, after seven years of blogging this doesn’t feel like much like a new adventure. Moving this blog from edublogs.org to wordpress.com isn’t an exciting thing to do, or particularly adventurous. It took me about an hour and a half to find a new blog name, export my posts from my old edublog and import them here. It didn’t work too well first time, it did the second.

And why? Well, Edublogs had gone ad-happy, and while I won’t labour the point, they were in-text style ads that appeared in your blog content, unless you upgraded. Edublogs has been my preferred platform and my recommendation of choice to other educators for the last three  years or so. But Edublogs had some performance issues earlier this year and I began to worry about being so reliant on one independent service in these increasingly economic times.  And them came the ads.

So, here I am world. I’m not excited. I’ve been blogging too long to think that anything I say here is going to change too many things out there. But I write because I think and feel. And that’s still an adventure.

Snowy Mountains

Last day at work for the year today, and heading up to the Snowy Mountains for a few days to do some walking, breathe some air and slow down.

Looking back at some of my posts over the last month or so I do sound a bit tired and jaded.  It was nice to get the VCE results yesterday and see some fulfilment and purpose in all that activity. I’m going to try to come back rejuvenated with the joy of teaching and leave the politics alone for a while. I’m not even going to blog about the increasing advertisement presence on edublogs or where that might go, and are we all just a little vulnerable in these hard times to one great blogging platform?

I hope all my reader has a great Christmas and Santa brings some cool technology gadget, with batteries included!

Is this the archetypal myspace blog post?

I stumbled across this blog post on my space while searching out a musician I like (Josh Rouse: for some reason musicians have stuck to myspace!) I though it might very well qualify as THE classic myspace post; the one that defines the genre:

HeY eVeRyOnE!!!

How are you all? Well life for me at the moment is ok i guess…It could be better but hey its not perfect all the time. School starts soon and can u believe it im actually looking forward to it. These holidays have been so boring!!! I went and saw stick it today. lol. It was good :-)..hehe…Ne ways…hows everyones love lives going???coz mine is confusing:-S…Ah well i just need to give it time.

Ok well I have to go now

I Love Everyone sooooo Much!!!

Mwah

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Ordered for closure

Just coincidence? Or something darker that I read today of two edublogs being closed down by the institution where the teachers works. In his blog Teaching Generation Z, Graham Wegner pointed out Al Upton and the minLegends 08 which currently reads:

Order for Closure

This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children’s Services – South Australia)

It seems that this blog in particular is being investigated regarding risk and management issues. What procedures should be taken for the use/non-use of blogs to enhance student learning will be considered.

Please note … I am greatly comforted by the support from many of my parents/care-givers, the staff & leadership at school and the Learning Technologies team at ‘headquarters’.

I absolutely value the support and wisdom given to me from my global social and learning networks – and isn’t that what the whole thing is all about?

Best of all are the kids .. without their enthusiasm, love for blogging and collaboration … well this blog would never have existed .. and now, would not be closed.

Cheers, Al

And, at the same time, a colleague pointed out Intrepid Teacher, which was closed due to complaints from parents, and the teacher subsequently resigned. That blog opens:

To Prospective Employers:

If you are reading this post, then you have most likely already read my cover letter, perused my resume, and now are probably left asking yourself why such an experienced, passionate teacher would resign from his current position. Below you will find my explanation:

As a Language Arts teacher, I try to inspire kids to think, reflect, analyze texts, and express themselves through writing and other media formats. I focus on these skills because I believe in the inherent power of literature and art to transform individuals and society. I believe that it is through communication and identification with other people ideas that we best learn how to become global citizens. I could go on and on, but let me just say that I practice what I teach-I believe in writing, so I write. For the last few years, I have been storing this writing on my personal blog.

Now, to be clear, it seems that these two blogs are under pressure for very different reasons, and the blogs themselves were serving very different purposes. And, I haven’t gone back and tried to read these blogs in detail to see what kind of things parents or principals might have found objectionable, if anything.

However, it’s interesting and sad to see these attempts to incorporate the most powerful contemporary learning tools foundering at the outset. Who is going to teach these skills otherwise? I do think that student blogging, in the first example, needs to be really thoughtfully considered and planned, but it’s surely worth doing? And the second example, where the teacher’s own creative life comes into contact or collision with their professional life, is one that might have occurred anyway, but the internet and its ‘to find out more, click here’, just makes more likely.

Some educators have opted for the ‘walled garden’, the in-house blogs that don’t get read outside the community, others argue that this isn’t ‘real’ blogging. Some schools are reluctant to put any of this data on external servers, even if they’re password protected and ‘secure’.

It’s corporation think. There was a good article in the AGE last week by Nicholas Carr called ‘Ready for the next digital revolution‘ which talked some nonsense, ‘Computer systems are not, at their core, technologies of emancipation. They are technologies of control’. I’d argue that they are, in fact neither.

Anyway, Carr makes a good point when he describes the dilemma companies have now as they (like the school bloggers) have to decide do they stay with traditional in-house control, or move to ‘cloud computing’, another term I don’t like!

Carr writes:

While smaller companies have strong economic incentives to embrace the full utility model quickly, most larger companies will need to carefully balance their past investments in in-house computing with the benefits provided by utilities. They can be expected to pursue a hybrid approach for many years, supplying some hardware and software requirements themselves and purchasing others over the grid.

One of the key challenges for corporate IT departments, in fact, lies in making the right decisions about what to hold on to and what to let go.

In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form. It will have little left to do once the bulk of the business of computing shifts out of private data centres and into “the cloud”. Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the process of information directly, without the need for legions of technical specialists.

For ‘It department’, substitute ‘school’. And think about it, not in terms of how much money the company is making, but something a whole lot more important.

Resources: virtual and real

I spent some time tonight doing a presentation at Coburg Senior High to a group of English teachers on a Virtual Resource Centre I’ve been working on with my co-author of The EnglishBoook. The EnglishBook is a senior English resource book aimed at students undertaking their final year in the VCE, published by Cengage Learning. The Virutal Resource Centre is an attempt to bring some of the tools and interactivity of the web 2.0 world: a blog, a page del.ico.us links, video and podcasts to extend the traditional text book. It’s been interesting to have those conversations with an established academic publisher and good to see them moving towards an understanding of the power of these tools.

It’s always a little threatening to present to your peers I find, and English teachers are a tough audience. However, it seemed to go well.

One bonus of the evening was getting chance to look at the remodelled Coburg Senior High, one of the newest state schools built on open planning and access to technology. I was lucky enough to get a personal guided tour by the Principal Don Collins (below) where he talked about some of his vision for the place, which is exciting. It’s a very different looking school, open plan, lots of macs and bean-bags and a library of targetted fiction and no reference collection; that’s online.

So, there I was talking to a group of English teachers from a range of schools about a virtual resource we’d been building, while we were hosted in a brand new physical resource that was also acutely aware of the virtual world. It’s all connected, but I’m too tired now to explain how!

Scott McLeod blogging about leadership


One of the magazines that makes its my way to the giant pile on my desk that I actually look forward to is the American magazine Learning and Leading with Technology, published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

In the November 2007 issue which just made it to the top of the pile, Dr Scott McLeod explains why he blogs about educational leadership including:

I blog about leadership because someone has to bang the drum and say “Pay attention to the leaders! Pay attention to the leaders!”

McLeod

McLeod (pictured above with a pile of gadgets that looks remarkably like my desk!) is the director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) (nice acronym but perhaps not totally suitable to the model of leadership I’m after!)  The short article points to three interesting websites: the CASTLE site at Iowa State University and two of McLeod’s own blogs, Dangerously Irrelevant and Leader Talk. All three sites are worth checking out; I’m even going to add one to my Bloglines subscription; that’s commitment for you!

Edublog Awards 2007

The Edublog Awards

Some things old and familiar, some things unexpected and new; the edublogs awards always have something of interest.

If you’re up to your neck writing reports, correcting exams, sitting in planning meetings or reviewing your course, then bookmark the site and revisit it over the summer holidays and see how some educators are embracing the blogging form.

edublog awards

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The authenticity of the practitioner-blogger

I had the good fortune on Thursday to finally catch up and say hello to a couple of teacher bloggers who I read regularly and meet in real life two people I’ve only connected up with online until now.

Graham Wegner blogs out of a smallish primary school in Adelaide and his emphasis was on the blog as a tool for professional development and growth. He discussed how professional development used to be driven externally and measured in terms of the number of hours you clocked up or conferences you attended and how radically that had changed for him as he charted his own professional learning journey.

Graham told about how blogging had helped him reflect on his own professional growth, and connect up with educators around the world. He talked powerfully about ‘taking control of my own learning’ and gave us some great links to some educator blogs that I hadn’t seen before, and some great tools such as SlideShare, a nifty tool for embedding slideshows in blogs. You can see Graham’s presentation on SlideShare HERE The image above is the final  slide in Graham’s presentation.

Jo McLeay blogs from a secondary English classroom in Victoria and her blog title, The Open Classroom, really fits her philosophy. Her presentation focused on classroom blogging and she spoke passionately about her experience getting students blogging. She said that she began working with student blogs because she’d seen the effect it had had on her own learning. I loved the honesty and integrity of Jo’s presentation as she spoke about the successes (and failures at times) of her experience.

One thing that struck me about both these presentations was the emphasis they made on the comments in blogs. Graham said that comments offered insights, built on ideas, shared your experiences and pointed to other useful resources. Jo talked about how reinforcing and affirming positive comments can be for young bloggers who are putting their ideas out to the world. It made me think I’ve got to be more proactive about that part of my blogging experience.

The other thing that struck me most powerfully in both these presentations was the absolute authenticity that emerged from both these teacher bloggers, teachers with busy lives and schedules, blogging about their world and their journey. It was a very positive afternoon.

Living to learn, Learning to blog

I attended tonight the first of a series of workshops Ivanoe Grammar is planning in conjunction with VITTA on the technology classroom. VITTA sees the role of information technology association as broadening, from IT teachers to supporting other professional networks, including this blogging event and they’re beginning to lead in that direction.

James Farmer from edublogs was the keynote speaker. I’ve heard James Farmer before but this time he began with E.M Forster’s vision of the future, which might be seen as a kind of vision for the internet.

He showed us the ‘machine’ we’ve been given (Blackboard and WebCT) and asked whether they were good. He showed us the discussion board in Blackboard (which he called a threaded bulletin board’ and talked about the loss of identity and ownership
in this kind of communication. He asked us what kinds of things these LMS’s offered (address book, tasks, calendar) and said we didn’t want them. (we already have calendars and address books don’t we?)

On the other hand, he said that mySpace offered young people ‘identity’. He talked about Facebook, instant messaging, RSS feeds and the ways that people connected with each other.

He argued that we were still getting transmittive Victorian pedagogies, mainly because we were asking for them. He showed a picture of a giant Swiss army knife, which represented an LMS.

What we really want, he argued, was collaboration and interaction, just as happens in real life good classrooms.

He argued for the iintegration of existing tools, not a giant one size fits all tool.

James Farmer said that blogs were now just ‘websites’, which integrated other tools like youtube, slideshows, Flickr, Twitter, del.ico.us in flexible ways that LMS’s didn’t allow. He argued for the possibility for ‘subversion’ and that we needed teaching presence (structure, process), cognitive presence (content, discourse) and social presence. He said that Blackboard discussion forums didn’t allow for developed social presence and that the new tools (esp. blogs) offered much greater potential here. The process isn’t one of creating a course that students ‘go through’ but co-creating course content with students with the blog as a hub.

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