Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Google Maps goes indoors

"Where am I?” and “What’s around me?” are two questions that cartographers, and Google Maps, strive to answer. With Google Maps’ “My Location” feature, which shows your location as a blue dot, you can see where you are on the map to avoid walking the wrong direction on city streets, or to get your bearings if you’re hiking an unfamiliar trail. Google Maps also displays additional details, such as places, landmarks and geographical features, to give you context about what’s nearby. And now, Google Maps for Android enables you to figure out where you are and see where you might want to go when you’re indoors."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Koha does not mean 'to steal'

This makes me extremely angry. One of our key online tools is our library catalogue Koha. It's patron-centred, allowing students and staff to write review, tag items, create and share reading lists, rate and recommend books- it's a wonderful tool for promoting literacy. It was developed 12 years ago by the Horowhenua Library Trust and open sourced as a gift to the world (koha means gift in Maori). It is inconceivable that a foreign corporation could apply for, and receive, a trademark for the word Koha in New Zealand. It was developed here, it's a common Maori word and it's community owned. Large international firms who can hire better lawyer than a community trust shouldn't be able to bulldoze their way through law. It's just wrong.

Donations are being gathered here for the legal fight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Unconferences for CPD

At our school last week, we  held our first ever Unconference for staff professional learning. I've been to quite a few unconferences (or barcamps) before but this is the first time I've been part of one where the whole school stops and takes part for two days.

An unconference is a participant-driven event. Rather than inviting people to attend a conference where everything has been decided by others in advance (the speakers, the content, the timetable, the spaces etc.) an unconference emerges out of the strengths and interests of the people who attend.
The 'open grid'

How does it work?
The open grid: if you would like to meet up with others to talk about something that interests you, write the title of the session in one of the timetable slots on the day. Anyone else who wants to take part (or co-convene with you) turns up at the appointed time and contributes what they can. It makes for a very responsive, very engaging event which is grass roots and bottom up. If your session sounds similar to one already being proposed, merge the two and co-convene.

Unconference session in progress
I was lucky enough to attend sessions run by my colleagues on things like:
  • Role plays and the mantle of the expert in the classroom
  • Using Facebook to build community with classes
  • Creative use of teaching space strategies
  • Strategies to give useful feedback to students
  • Effective groupwork strategies
But the absolute BEST thing about the unconference was seeing the transformation that takes place when you empower a group of teachers with the belief that they have a powerful contribution to make to the way learning happens inside their school. Outside experts are great, but the first step to transforming any learning organisation should be to tap into the amazing practice that is going on in classrooms every day. And, better than one-off conferences, all of the experts I heard from will be in the staffroom at lunchtime if I want to carry on the conversation.

The two ideas we kept coming back to were 'the answers are in the room' and 'what if your contribution is the key ingredient?' If you've never been part of an unconference before, do it; you won't regret it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hackerspaces in schools

Hacking (in its old sense of pulling old things apart and making new things from the parts) has a wonderful link with learning. When we learn something new, we take our existing schema (or frameworks to assist understanding) and add new information into them. We pull apart, remake, remodel, expand and adjust them to take onboard new concepts and information. So wouldn't it be great to facilitate more hacking in schools? Here one approach to doing just that:
What happens when you turn a middle school library into a hackerspace?

Can homework do more harm than good?

Yes, is the short answer. Here's an interview from RadioNZ's Nine to Noon show with Richard Walker (associate professor at the University of Sydney) about his new book called 'Reforming Homework'.
In short, there is limited evidence that homework does much more than blunt a student's desire to learn. To be fair, there is some evidence that a small amount of homework / reinforcement at senior levels does improve student achievement. A really thought-provoking interview.

All I want for Christmas is an Android tablet

Here's a 'ruggedised' Android tablet designed especially for younger students. The design might be more Fisher-Price than MOMA, but the fact that it's being sold by Toys-R-Us is an indication of how far touchscreen tablets have come in the last two years. Do you think I could buy one and pretend it's for the kids? US$199


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Infographic: mobile phones and teenagers

This is a pretty comprehensive run-down of mobile phone use by teenagers. Some points to note:

  • 40% use phones to do last-minute study before exams
  • 88% text during class time (despite this being 'banned'- are you winning the war on this?)
  • Scary: 25% have been at one end of 'sexting' or the other. Woah!
  • Generation Mobile

Created by: HackCollege

Innovation: Lamborghini or Lemon?

Graeme Aitken's keynote from ULearn 11 is available. The TLDR version is:

Educators are obliged to cause:
  • Successful learning (achievement)
  • Greater interest and
  • Greater confidence
It's not enough to simply cause one of these to happen, we must maximise the intersection of all three. BUT, educators can waste students' time in three key ways:
  • Misalignment (not doing the core business of the task)
  • Disengagement
  • Lack of success
Evaluate your innovations again these criteria to ensure they are not 'mirage' innovations:

Free online music tools

A great list of useful music tools. As the article says: 'who needs Garageband'?
Here are nine free tools that students can use to create their own music online."
Nuf said.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

OLPC goes Minimally Invasive

I don't think it's bizarre, I think it's genius. Sugata Mitra would probably like it too:
"The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has devised a bizarre plan for deploying its new XO-3 tablet. The organization plans to drop the touchscreen computers from helicopters near remote villages in developing countries. The devices will then be abandoned and left for the villagers to find, distribute, support, and use on their own."

From Arstechnica 

Moodle Admin Map

Here's a great 'underground-style' map to the location of all the Moodle 2.1 Admin tools:
"Moodle 2.1 is here and now… so is the Moodle 2.1 Administration Map!  Such was the success of the original version we couldn’t go without updating the map to include the new features of 2.1, most notably the addition of Mobile devices.."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Flipping the flipped school?

There has been quite a bit of talk about 'flipped school' over the last few months, mostly centred around Sal Khan's video lectures. The concept of the flipped school is that students should watch video lectures at home and come to school for one-on-one tutoring from their teachers. It's worth noting that i) Sandi Mann's research shows that 60% of students find lectures boring and ii) watching videos about even extremely complex problems only light up the brain a fraction of how much working with a group of people does. If you want to give your brain a work out, question a friend about something you're both learning.
Does this picture look like good learning to you? Don't get me wrong: eLearning is at the heart of what I do every day, but apart from the fact that these students don't need to be at a school to stare at a screen, what you're seeing here doesn't align with what we know about good learning. Links between physical activity and brain function, the importance of social interaction, experiential learning, multi-literacies and differing perspectives are all missing from what these students are experiencing.
Recording videos for 'pure' concepts like calculus and physics might work well for some learners, but once you start presenting things like the French Revolution in the same manner, I get a little bit worried. The beauty of studying history is hearing different voices, and differing interpretations, and the thought that you can 'get' an event from a video lecture is a bit unsettling. I also think the Khan videos have gained such popularity because there is an inherent lack of trust in most teachers' ability to explain difficult concepts.
Personally I think we need to flip the flipped school.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Being part of something important

[Cue Aretha Franklin singing R.E.S.P.E.C.T.]

From: Bersin & Associates

A new book "RESPECT: Delivering Results by Giving Employees What They Really Want", which Brenda Kowske co-authored with Jack Wiley outlines the following as motivators for employees.
"[Respect] stands for:
  • Recognition
  • Excitement
  • Security
  • Pay (only 25% of answers were in this category!)
  • Education
  • Conditions at work - social and physical
  • Truth
Makes sense, right? But here’s the kicker: companies that executed on the principals of RESPECT had higher customer satisfaction ratings, higher financial metrics, and tracked a percentage point above the S&P 500. Simply put, and the third reason I’m proud of this book, it’s the ultimate win-win at work."
So let's translate that to education: happy teachers result in happier students (customers). It links pretty closely to what Dan Pink outlines in his TED talk on the surprising science of motivation:
"It's an approach built much more around intrinsic motivation. Around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they're interesting, because they are part of something important."

A great question to ask is 'does what I am teaching help students to feel like they are part of something important?'

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making ideas real

From The Official Google Blog:

"For the past decade, legions of Google SketchUp users have been quietly shaping the world around us. Two million professionals and hobbyists use this 3D modeling tool every week to design everything under the sun, including houses, room layouts, movie sets, aquariums, bridges, robots and furniture. They even rebuild cities. Chances are, even if you haven’t tried SketchUp yourself, you’ve witnessed, touched or walked inside something created by a SketchUp user. "

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

World of Warcraft in school

This presentation asks a question I find irresistable: 'What Happens to "School" When Learners Become Heroes?

The pseudoscience of single-sex education

This research is a challenge to popular belief:
"No, the studies don’t show that girls’ schools are better for girls. But they’re sure great at perpetuating sexist attitudes. ... Together with six co-authors, we recently published a peer-reviewed article in the journal Science,The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Education,”... It’s a provocative title, but our paper supported it with three lines of evidence."