Friday, December 23, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 24 (Leadership)

I've saved the best gift until last. Here's a chance to change someone's life. In April 16-17 2012, we're holding the second annual NZ Emerging Leaders' Unconference. It's a chance to get together everyone who wants to make a difference in education.

What is an unconference?
It's 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. If you want to lead a session, you write it up and people attend. It sounds a bit chaotic, but works brilliantly.

We recognise that letting the Principals do all the talking is only one approach to leadership. Another approach is to harness the wisdom of everyone, build on their ideas and collectively take them to the world.

Leading, not following.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 23 (Game Design Goodies)

Unleash the entrepreneur in your students. If you've ever played Angry Birds, or even heard how much money the developers make each month, you can see that game design is an incredible rewarding career (in every sense). For students who show promise in programming, here are three good open source engines to get them building games relatively easily.

1. Spring RTS "Spring is a project to create the best RTS engine ever (no joke). There are three principle goals which we hope to achieve:
  • Build a flexible and powerful 3D RTS engine that can handle large numbers of units and state-of-the-art special effects and animation.
  • Support new games and maps with powerful built-in Lua language support that allows game designers to realize their goals and develop better and better games.
  • Support end-users, fix bugs and provide the best support we can."

2. "StencylWorks isn't your average game creation software; it's a gorgeous, intuitive toolset that accelerates your workflow and then gets out of the way. We take care of the essentials like physics and native APIs so you can focus on what's important—making your game yours."

3. is an editor and engine that lets you author for desktop, web or mobile and has nice features such as an asset gallery/store built in.
Unity 3D

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 22 (Visualisations)

Three of my favourite 'sights':

1. Incidental comics is a cartoon blog that has really clever, heart-warming comics like this one:

2. is a very good infographics site, helping to communicate easily a lot of information about topics:

3. Information is beautiful. The designers work very hard to make easily accessible very complex topics and huge amounts of data. Take a look at this one to see just how screwed the U.S. (and global) economy is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 21 (The final frontier)

If your students like exploring the infinity of space, introduce them to these three programmes. All open source and free for everyone to install.
1. Stellarium... "is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go." Available for Windows/Mac/Linux.

2. Celestia. The free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions. Unlike most planetarium software, Celestia doesn't confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy. Available for Windows/Mac/Linux.

3. Virtual Moon Atlas. "Software for Moon observation and survey. Let you visualize the real Moon aspect at every time. Also help to study any lunar formations using feature database and pictures library" Available for Windows/Mac/Linux.

To infinity and beyond.

EDvent Calendar: Day 20 (Unconference)

Try an unconference in your school. Here's a good example of the way they create new things: we ran an unconference/barcamp with our staff to share knowledge and expertise. I spoke about it at the Emerging Leaders' Edu Ignite Evening, emphasising the way it shifted teacher professional development from a passive to an active process:

Ignite Talk | Mark Osborne from Emerging Leaders on Vimeo.

Tara T-J was in the audience (and speaking as well) and decided she should run one for her students. Great idea. She and Tim Kong bounced a few ideas around on Twitter and set up two similar experiences for their classes at opposite ends of the island; both being great successes.

In Tara's class, students were teaching each other how to sketch, change a bicycle tyre, play guitar, dance and do BMX jumps, but what they were really teaching each other is that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a learner.

So what did the students think?
  • It was really fun and you feel really proud of your self for teaching people something that they didn't know.
  • I found it hand when people started to do their own thing sometimes and go off task.
  • Next time I would probably ask for less amount of people so its easier.
  • I learnt that teaching is harder than you would think.

in Tim's class, a similarly wide range of topics were taught. Here's some more student reflection from Seatoun School's barcamp, but you get a better sense of what's happening by watching this student-led dance class:

Barclass: Hiphop warmups from Seatoun School on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 19 (Safe social)

If Twitter gives you the Facebooks, here are a few safe ways to use Social Networks.
1. Edmodo is a Facebook-style site that is secure and operates a lot like a closed class space. My friend Tara T-J uses it with her classes but I don't have a lot of experience with it. "Edmodo provides a safe and easy way for your class to connect and collaborate, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. Our goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner."

2. allows anyone to set up their own micro-blogging site. It's a really safe, secure way to allow organisations to tap into the power of micro-blogging for internal communication, micro-reflection, questions and answers, out of hours discussions etc. It's great and we use it at our school.

Face book
3. Diaspora is not the new Facebook. It's not even the old Facebook, but it is a project that has the potential to become very useful to schools as sites like Facebook create impenetrable walled gardens within the web. Tim Berners-Lee says
"Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph...[but] once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site."
But Diaspora is different. It's completely free software, which means you can install the code wherever you want and retain ownership of your data. Right from the very start of the project, users have had the ability to remove their data and permanently delete it, unlike Facebook which makes it difficult to do this. Many schools and universities are wary of using Facebook to create communities around courses because all of the content they upload to Facebook can be used, modified or even sublicensed by Facebook in every possible way – even if they quit the service. It goes without saying that setting up your own internal Diaspora* server ensures you retain ownership of content long term. You can even link your account to Facebook if you really want to, which means you're posting into both environments at once.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 18 (Fun theory)

How do you foster creativity in your school? Do you think schools collectively do a good job of teaching creative problem-solving? I'm interested to see what would happen if schools ran more of these kinds of creativity competitions. I'll let Kevin tell you more about his fun theory:

How would your students come up with solutions for traditionally difficult problems in school like litter, doing homework, encouraging teamwork or stamping out bullying? Let's ask them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 17 (Cyber safety)

One of the best internet safety organisations in the world is New Zealand's Here's a quick run-down of some of the best tools they offer:

  1. In festive spirit, they've released their own Advent Calendar with 24 great tips on staying safe online:
  2. Hector's world: "Hector’s World® is a unique cybersafety initiative for teachers and parents to help young people learn about safe online practices and digital citizenship. The core content of Hector’s World® is the 7 animated episodes featuring Hector the dolphin and his friends. Each episode has support material for teachers and parents."
  3. Scam Machine: "[The Scam Machine] lets you build a news story based around someone you know, putting them at the centre of a online scam story. Once you have made your selections, added some information, you can watch the story unfold on video, with your friend right in the thick of it. Share the video news story to educate friends and family about how easy it is to fall for requests to send money offshore by wire transfer."

...and a couple of videos that can be used with older students to help educate them on the dangers of posting online.
Think before you post: 

Out of your hands:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 15 (I've got the power)

My gift to you today is the gift of inspiration. Two amazing stories centred on generating eectricity: first William Kamkwamba talks about building for his village in Africa a water pump and a wind-powered electric generator:
"I found a tractor fan, shock absorber, PVC pipes. Using a bicycle frame and an old bicycle dynamo, I built my machine. It was one light at first. And then four lights, with switches, and even a circuit breaker, modeled after an electric bell. Another machine pumps water for irrigation."
Watch and be inspired:

Second, Justin Hall-Tipping demonstrates a material that allows us to generate electricity using our windows. Truly remarkable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 14 (Augmented reality)

For those who don't know about it, augmented reality is the name given to any technology that can overlay the real world with information or data. There is huge potential for learning in Augmented Reality; if you've got a smartphone, download one of these apps and have a play. If you'd like to learn more about how students can use AR as a publication tool, go here. At the frivolous end, we can turn roadsigns into monsters:

...while at the more serious end, AR can be used to see what the world used to be like...

...before the Christchurch earthquake (CityViewAR by Hitlab): bring textbooks to life (Aurasma):

...or make meaning out of the world around you (Wikitude):

Monday, December 12, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 13 (Homework is broken)

Three interesting articles to get you thinking about how we use homework. Aside from the fact that anything related to learning that is called 'work' turns students off, there is a mounting body of evidence to show that most homework does more harm than good.

1. Here's a really interesting interview with Richard Walker (associate professor at the University of Sydney) who has summarised the issues surrounding homework in his book 'Reforming Homework'.

2. "Armed with neuroscience, self-analysis and common sense, some of New York City’s most competitive high schools, famed for their Marine-like mentality when it comes to homework, have begun to lighten the load for fear of crushing their teenage charges."

3. From the Best Evidence Synthesis:
  • "Cooper reported cases where homework generated negative effects for students when their parents brought conflicting instructional techniques to bear on students’ homework activities." Make sure homework is designed and delivered in a way that works to align and promote links between home and school contexts.
  • "In the light of much research showing that homework can be potentially negative unless carefully structured and managed by teachers, Epstein reported on the research-based development of the TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork) process of interactive homework (Epstein, 2001)." Make homework as interactive and engaging as possible.
  • "Alton-Lee and Nuthall (1990) found homework opportunity to be more strongly related to the learning of intermediate students than whole-class, small group or individual learning opportunities in class in social studies." Make sure the homework is as differentiated as possible. 
  • "In a later study of intermediate students' learning in an integrated science and social studies unit, Alton-Lee and Nuthall (1998) found curriculum-relevant homework tasks to play a critical role in enabling working memory to consolidate in-class learning before forgetting occurred." Focus on reinforcing learning from the in-class lessons, not homework for the sake of it, or repetitive, boring drills.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 12 (Classroom Gardens)

"Britta Riley wanted to grow her own food (in her tiny apartment). So she and her friends developed a system for growing plants in discarded plastic bottles -- researching, testing and tweaking the system using social media, trying many variations at once and quickly arriving at the optimal system. Call it distributed DIY. And the results? Delicious."

...and if liked that, start building your own farm tools and equipment.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 11 (new approaches to school)

Sometimes I think we do school this way because we've always done school this way. Here are a few alternative approaches that are based in research rather than being based in 'what we've always done':
Tinkering School:

Studio schools:
The Teddy McArdle Free School:

Friday, December 9, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 10 (Your kids can code)

Five awesome tools to teach youngsters the basics of programming:
  • Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.
  • Creating an App Inventor app begins in your browser, where you design how the app will look. Then, like fitting together puzzle pieces, you set your app's behavior. All the while, through a live connection between your computer and your phone, your app appears on your phone.
  • Alice is an innovative 3D programming environment that makes it easy to create an animation for telling a story, playing an interactive game, or a video to share on the web. Alice is a freely available teaching tool designed to be a student's first exposure to object-oriented programming. It allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games. In Alice, 3-D objects (e.g., people, animals, and vehicles) populate a virtual world and students create a program to animate the objects.
  •!/exercises/0 "Codecademy was created out of the frustrations Zach and Ryan felt with learning how to program. Tired with less effective text and video resources, Ryan and Zach teamed up to create Codecademy, a better, more interactive way to learn programming by actually coding. This is just the beginning. Join us as we make it easy for everyone to love and learn how to code."
  • Hackety Hack will teach you the absolute basics of programming from the ground up. No previous programming experience is needed! With Hackety Hack, you'll learn the Ruby programming language. Ruby is used for all kinds of programs, including desktop applications and websites. 
(This post's title references one of the best sources around for kid-friendly programming tools. Follow @mykidcancode on Twitter if teaching programming is something that interests you.)

EDvent Calendar: Day 9 (The myth of learning styles)

One of the best gifts we can give our students is the assurance that our classrooms will be devoid of any kind of quackery. Every 'good idea' or new strategy we come across should be scrutinised according to what we know about what works in teaching. In short, if it hasn't got a peer-reviewed evidence base, it should go into the quackery basket until more research is done. (If you only read one thing on what works in teaching, read this.) One of the things that should be in the quackery basket but is practised in almost every school in the west is learning styles; the notion that particular people learn best in one particular way in all contexts.
"There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist. While we will elaborate on this assertion, it is important to counteract the real harm that may be done by equivocating on the matter. In what follows, we will begin by defining “learning styles”; then we will address the claims made by those who believe that they exist, in the process acknowledging what we consider the valid claims of learning-styles theorists."

This video also puts the case nicely:
Give your students the gift of being research-based in your practice. It's the best gift you can give.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Edvent Calendar: Day 8 (Contexts for Mastery)

Watch this video!

Do you offer students the ability to choose their own contexts when demonstrating mastery of a skill or concept? In the New Zealand Curriculum, the key competencies of thinking, participating and contributing, relating to others, using language, symbols and texts and managing self are very context specific, but we don't always do a good job of offering students the ability to choose the context. I have no idea how Danny Macaskill would go with a pen and pencil or a calculator, but the video below tells me quite a bit about his ability to learn and be creative:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 7 (Games for change)

"Founded in 2004, Games for Change facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.
Unlike the commercial gaming industry, we aim to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good. To further grow the field, Games for Change convenes multiple stakeholders, highlights best practices, incubates games, and helps create and direct investment into new projects"

EDvent Calendar: Day 6 (Open street map)

If you're slightly concerned about how nicely Google has woven itself into anything on the web that requires a map, there is hope. Open Street Map is a wiki-based mapping site that allows people to participate in crowd-sourcing the creation of maps. Have a look at OSM. Is your street there? If it's not, log in and add it. Add points of interest like schools, hospitals and parks.

This video shows a time-lapse of the creation of the map covering the greater London area. It's a lovely metaphor for a community of people creating knowledge out of darkness.
London OSM Edits 2005-2010 from ItoWorld on Vimeo.

EDvent Calendar: Day 5 (Campfires, watering holes and caves)

Learning Spaces for the Digital Age
Prakash Nair is one of the great thinkers in the area of innovative learning spaces. One of the great ideas he explores is the notion that in all learning spaces there needs to be:
  • Campfire spaces
  • Watering hole space, and
  • Cave spaces.
Campfires are where stories are shared (presentation spaces), watering hole spaces are where ideas are exchanged and connections are made, and caves are quiret, reflection spaces. Have you got the right mix of these three kinds of spaces in your school?

Nair asks:
"Why do schools look the way they do? Why is there a chasm between widely
acknowledged best practice principles and the actual design of a majority of school
facilities? Why has the disconnect between learning research and learning places been
so difficult to repair?"
If you read nothing else this summer about learning spaces, you should read this:
(...and if that floats your boat, you'll love Dr Kenn Fisher)

Monday, December 5, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 4 (Google Streetview)

Have some fun courtesy of Google Streetview. Explore the ruins of Pompeii:
View Larger Map
...or take a stroll through the Colosseum:

View Larger Map
 ...while Google Art Project takes the power of Streetview to the world's best art museums:

Have fun!!

EDvent Calendar: Day 3 (The Barefoot School)

Barefoot School
Bunker Roy talks about why he turned his back on a potentially prosperous future as a lawyer or a doctor to start a school where you can stay for a day or a lifetime and people with degrees are disqualified from entering:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

EDvent Calendar: Day 2 (Single Sex Schools)

The myth of single-sex education. 
An overwhelming body of research shows that coeducation is better for girls and boys.
"decades of research on academic outcomes from around the world has failed to demonstrate an advantage to single-sex schooling, in spite of popular belief to the contrary. Of course, there are some terrific single-sex schools out there. However, research finds that their success is not explained by gender composition, but by the characteristics of the entering students (such as economic background), by selection effects (for example, low performing students are not admitted, or are asked to leave), and by the substantial extra resources and mentoring these programs provide."

EDvent Calendar: Day 1 (Games and Brains)

Okay, so this is an EDvent Calendar rather than an advent calendar. For each of the 25 days of Christmas, I'll post a link to a great teaching and learning video or article. You can start the countdown with this good TED talk about games, rewards and dopamine:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Streetview or Skiview?

Like skiing? Are you stuck at your desk but feel a burning desire to sail down the slopes of Breckenridge and Whistler? Streetview may be able to help:
From the streets to the slopes, Street View in Google Maps recently updated its special collections to include a number of new ski resorts, so you can tour some of the world’s most beautiful ski terrain right from your browser. Whether you’re planning your annual trip to your favorite resort or hunting for an exciting new adventure, Street View can transport you to your desired destination. Tour a few of our favorite ski resorts below.
View Larger Map