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Code like a girl

So, in the interest of diverse opinion, in respect to the last post, I post this video of girl coders from the recent Apple WWDC Conference. I’m all for empowering girls to be what they want to be, and love the advice here: ‘don’t give up, just because it’s dominated by men’.

BTW: I still don’t think compulsory coding is a good idea! These kids all really wanted to make things happen.

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Cool tools: Diigo

One of the quiet achievers in my online working is Diigo which, in its simplest form, is an online bookmarking tool, but has powerful features including tagging and ‘lists’ and even annotations, which allow you to keep track of web pages you want to remember for later in much more powerful ways than the traditional ‘bookmarks’.

I’ve been using Diigo for a few years now, ever since I gave up on ‘Delicious’, which was an earlier entry in this style of tool. I’ve now got nearly four thousand links added to Diigo and I never use the built in bookmarking tool that comes with Chrome or IE, which means I never lose my bookmarks or favorites when I change computers either. I can log into my Diigo account from any computer and see my ‘Library’ there, all ready to go.

I’ve used Diigo lists and tags in my teaching too. As I add things to my library (with the handy little browser tool) I tag them, or add them to a list. And it’s simple to email that list to my class. For example, when I was reading up and researching prior to teaching Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway to Year 12 a couple of years ago, I tagged anything I found ‘woolf’. Then, I could just search that tag, and send the class a handy URL with them all in a list, like this: WOOLF

Now, I see that Diigo is replacing lists with an ‘outliner’ tool, which I’m looking forward to exploring. (see introduction to that feature below)

Diigo is a free tool, but has a premium model too which allows you to work more with images and PDFs. One of the essential cool tools for me.

Top 100 Tools for Learning

Still on the Cool Tools theme, I liked this list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning from the 7th Annual Learning Tools Suvey

Lots to think about and explore here, including thinking about how is YOUR  school responding to the use of these tools by teachers, many of which involved social networking or the Cloud?

What can we learn from Finland?

Well, maybe one of the things that emerges from this interesting conversation with gurus John Hattie and Pasi Sahlbert, that a colleague put me on to, is that perhaps we are being overly critical and pessimistic about what were doing in Australia. Maybe because pessimism and cynicism can serve a political agenda better than acknowledgement of successes?

Sahlberg talks about teacher quality, equity, funding and a range of other issues in a really reasonable way. I respect the work that Hattie’s done, but do you sense here that he’s talking down our system, and emphasizing his own agenda rather than listening to what he’s being told? He’s being told that Finland values teachers, respects teachers and pays them well, values teacher autonomy, doesn’t over-emphasise teaching … his action plan for Australia … well, it doesn’t really reflect that.

Stephen Heppell at the The Schools Network Learning Technologies Conference

Late last year I blogged about a short session I attended with Stephen Heppell on technologies in learning, which I enjoyed a lot. So, I was pleased to find a video of Heppell presenting much the same presentation I saw. So, I embed it here for your viewing pleasure. Some interesting points relating to ‘bring your own technology’ around the 19 minute mark and also on classroom design from a student perspective beginning around the 21 minute mark.

First look at Apple’s new take on textbooks

I’ve embedded the Apple announcement on text books below. I’ve already heard some negative reactions in the twittiverse arguing that this is another examples of Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach, and that locking schools and districts into Apple systems entirely is not a good move. It seems there’s other questions too about whether these textbooks will be available on other platforms (unlikely) or available in other formats (very unlikely).

Nevertheless, I’m quite excited about it, particularly from a writer’s perspective. Could I write my textbook and have it on the Apple bookstore without the intermediary of the publisher? Like musicians do now?  Could we break down the systems and empower good teachers and good teacher/authors and share their expertise more widely? And I’m definitely going to download the publication software.

But I have reservations, and they are more around the idea of the textbook in the first place. Maybe the textbook thing is bigger in the United States than here, or maybe because I’m an English teacher there isn’t generally the reliance on a textbook beyond the set novels and plays.

The video says they are going to change ‘one of the cornerstones of education: the textbook’. But is the textbook really that critical? How does this change learning? Or teaching? And, will replacing the traditional textbook with a ‘bells and whistles’ version change the classroom experience? Where are the collaborative tools, the feedback, the personalisation, the differentiation, the user-created textbook that we’ve talked about for some time.

There’s no doubt it will look pretty, it will save a lot of printing and heavy schoolbags for kids with iPads (oh yeah, how many is that right now?), they can be updated easily and they will be more engaging.  But every time I hear ‘engagement’ as an argument for new software and hardware I cringe a little. There’s got to be better reasons than that. We shall see!