Notes from a Laptop

February 23, 2009

The day the server went down…

Filed under: Computers!,General comment — Lindajay @ 8:05 pm

We expected the worst when we heard that the server room had been flooded at school. Thus all access to networked computers, the Internet, email and printing was impossible. What to do?

It seemed at every turn, the tasks we planned to do were unachievable. There was no access for students to log in and check their email, no access to their school files to print off that last minute assignment, and no access to that new web site that they had heard about on the weekend. (But of course they turned on the computers anyway!)

Teachers had been trying to get onto the school server all weekend to upload a few new files they had worked on at home, ready for the new school week. Emails hung somewhere in the ethernet, and messages lingered at a frustratingly short distance – to be released in a flood when things were back to normal, I guess.

So what were we able to do in our day at the library?

Firstly, studies had to rearranged – the dank musty conditions were not suited to staying all day in the library. Where do you send 127 seniors in the first periods of the day? And who will supervise them? And how do you explain to them – NO LIBRARY / NO COMPUTERS.

Staff was also evacuated – with several asthmatics amongst us, the conditions were not conducive to remaining all day in the library – thankfully, the Junior School  library space had been saved from the damage of the downpour.

However, none of this stopped the calls from teachers – wanting to use the library space for research and computer access (sorry, we are busy moving furniture; no sorry, I am giving more attention to mopping up soaks; no sorry, we don’t have computer access or internet either!) – but perhaps they were planning ahead – though I can’t see things back to normal for a while yet.

I give up – time to escape – I need to access the ‘Transforming School Libraries’ course. I’m done! I’m going home! At least the internet works there – till tonight’s storm (which might cut it out all together!) Glad I had a look when I first arrived home!

February 21, 2009

Time to Revive!

Filed under: General comment,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 10:19 am

tsl2This blog has been neglected of late, while trying to encourage others to get on board with Web 2.0 tools – which is a bit illogical when you think about it (though the time has been dedicated to another teaching blog). It’s now time to revive it, as I am currently participating in an online conference, Transforming School Libraries, which aims to share ideas and inspire each other internationally.

Indeed, ideas are coming thick and fast and we are being ‘thrown in the deep end’, as we navigate a new workspace where we ‘meet’ for the next 9 days. Therefore, this will be a great place to reflect on some of the ideas I glean from the conference, and a place to collect further international links as others share what they have found to work in schools (school libraries, in particular – see the Blogroll to the right). It will also link, I hope, to the planned Web 2.0 instructions I can use for peer tutoring at school this year.

November 21, 2008

Thinking inside the box- SimplyBox

Filed under: Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 1:40 pm

sboxA relatively new Web 2.0 tool is known as SimplyBox.

It provides the facilities to collect snippets from web pages (like Window Vista snip tool), provide links back to these (like Delicious) and enable sharing of details, pictures and links with friends and colleagues (like One-Note, Flickr, Facebook, etc.). So it has many tools in one application.

How-to

A quick trial run revealed that it is relatively quick and easy to download, and easy to get started:

1. Simple sign-up by choosing a Username, password and adding you email address. A link is sent to your email for verification.

2. You then need to download the SimplyBox toolbar to your browser using the link provided. You can also use SimplyBox without this toolbar.

simply-box

3. After the installation of the toolbar (see image above), you need to login as a last step (in the toolbar space) and get to work or play! If the toolbar is not showing have a look in View/ Toolbars and select SimplyBox.

4. Once your toolbar is up, you can visit a website then save all, or part of it, to SimplyBox for later referral, or sharing with others.

The introductory video provides lots of suggestions for its use – planning, sharing important sites, and the ability to organise your online serendipitous discoveries in personalised containers and boxes:

  • Planning a holiday? collect sippets of information about your plans to share with friends
  • Writing an essay? collect your quotes and reference links in one of the containers
  • Like to share videos? direct your frineds to your video tab
  • Found some valuable sites for your students? place them all in one box for students to access

I am in early discovery mode so would like to know what others think after they have played with SimplyBox themselves.

August 22, 2008

Using Wordle

Filed under: Web 2.0,Wordle — Lindajay @ 4:33 pm

I was reminded once again about this magical tool when reading through some posts on Blogging Corner recently. One of these (from Tania) expanded my thoughts on this and so I have tried playing once again with it.

Tania spoke on her web site, Brave New World, about: 

Using Hitler’s speech delivered in Munich in April, 1923, the wordle has created a powerful, visual summary of the text, revealing  points of emphasis.

This encouraged me to go beyond just inputting a blog address into Wordle (which picks up the key terms used in a blog) for generating an image.

I tried using Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which generated the following image.

Image generated by Wordle, licenced by http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/

In this age of visual literacy, I really think this is great online tool, which could have a multitude of uses.

May 10, 2008

the Why 2 of Web 2.0 – Will Richardson at Syba Signs Conference

Filed under: Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 10:27 pm

In Sydney yesterday, Will Richardson spoke at some length about the skills developed at an early age by individual creative students – in spite of their schooling. He gave the example of 14 year old, Andrew Winton, who has recently schooled Will’s children about using Scratch (a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art) via internet conferencing.

He gave other examples of the way in which Web 2.0 tools are, for example, having a notable impact on US elections, via Obama’s blogging ability, while also enabling retirees to earn a prosperous living after work. (and has included lots of these examples at: http://willrichardson.wikispaces.com/)

Web 2.0 is here to stay – and make an impact! The world of work also reflects a web 2.0 impact – employers googling prospective employees, businesses managing  the tools to grow their businesses, and also demanding the ability to collaborate in an online world  from their prosepctive employees.

The online connectivity of students is no longer disputed, and with these other factors impacting, it is vital that schools and educators sit up and listen – and take part! Kids are not waiting for us to work out for them what’s good and what’s bad, so we need to ask these questions for them.

The read/write web (RWW) meets the needs of students today who are continually online and connected to vast social networks outside of school, through mobile phones, MSN, MySpace and Facebook. With guidance, the interest in these social networks can enrich their educational experience and help them make best use of the many networks which engage them.

Examples of Web 2.0 making a difference which were highlighted by Will included:

  • Nata Village Blog – http://natavillage.typepad.com/ connecting with schools in Bostwana
  • Cyclone Nargis – rapid social editing on Wikipedia for current informed knowledge of a recent disaster
  • Nine Inch Nails – modern approach to promoting music – free download of latest album
  • FanFiction – readers writing and contributing chapters to well known fiction
  • Secret life of bees Blog – an early exploration of the use of blogs discussing literature and enabling a response from the author
  • Flat Classroom Project – echoing Thomas Friedman’s book, the World is Flat, this aims to join classrooms around the world into one big classroom.

Thus, Will calls us to “help our students leverage the technologies they are already using instead of have them check them at the door” And he encourages us to see the relevance of Web 2.0 tools for our classrooms and tech savvy students, and to adapt some of these technologies to maintain the links between education and the real world kids live in. View Will’s presentation which was videoed live to the net from:

 http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/401163

May 1, 2008

Demanding questions – ala Jamie McKenzie

Filed under: General comment — Lindajay @ 6:17 pm

Many educators today, while recognising the technological skills of Generations X and Y, often decry what the Internet is doing to their research and analytical skills. In a recent article on the Questioning.org website, Embracing Complexity, Jamie Mckenzie points to the way in which we as a society also wish to find simple answers to complex problems. Is this simplification a consequence or symptom of our information rich world? And what should educators do about it?

A few answers

Speaking at a workshop in Sydney this week (‘Demanding Questions and Lesson Design’), Jamie discussed the need to orchestrate lessons in which students are guided in the process of piecing their answers together – moving beyond the ‘cut and paste’ mentality often found in many research activities. He challenged those present to give students something that will “keep them thinking for the next 37 years”!

Another key theme of the workshop was to give students authentic activities. This is so that they value what they are doing – as opposed to just collecting facts. Making activities real, purposeful and things to make them wonder should spur them on to be involved, to have their minds switched on and to make  research their own.

Like many others, Jamie believes that ‘many of our students are well-educated but incapable of thought’. We need to assist them to develop a greater capacity for lateral thinking – a skill in great demand in today’s world which calls more and more for creative thinkers. (As Dan Pink promotes in ‘A Whole New Mind’ – “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind… a new world in which “right brain” qualities-inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate.”)

Jamie also touched on the hurriedness of schools – where little time is given to wonder, to ponder or to wander, all of which are valuable experiences in the learning process. The ability to wonder is one Jamie has called for us to embrace in education for some time – see Why Wonder?

Another thing highlighted in the workshop was the distortion of reality which occurs so easily today. Consider the ease with which things can be Photoshopped (see Dove Evolution video) or edited before or after adding to the web (many examples of Wikipedia have been noted over time). And a new phrase has been coined of late – wikilobbying – referrring to act of paying others money to edit Wikipedia entries in order to cast the employer’s company, product or point of view in a better light – so how accurate can Wikipedia remain?

With all these issues raised, it is clear that we need to engage students in their own learning. We also need to equip them with the skills to be critical in their thinking, strategic in their investigations and energised as they examine the meaning of reality. Thanks for the inspiration, Jamie!

April 14, 2008

Twitter

Filed under: General comment,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 4:52 pm

After attending a recent conference, which had a lot to say about web 2.0, I decided to investigate Twitter and find out what other web 2.0 tools I might employ as a TL.

Twitter is an application which enables you to make quick and sometimes quirky links with a whole range of different people, worldwide, as often as you want. By signing in at: http://twitter.com, you are able to make comments or ask questions within a small post of 140 characters. These are then responded to by people in your network (followers) whom you have selected yourself.

What I found

  • Getting started is both challenging and easy at the same time.
  • Begin with people you know who use Twitter (‘following’ them) or search for a known person.
  • This allows you to peruse their followers and locate people with similar interests/needs.
  • Use other groups to find Twitterers (e.g. listservs such as OZTL_NET) – this helps you to link with people who have obvious connections already. Thus your network develops.
  • Check out the followers of others by visiting their web site links (in their Twitter information).
  • Ask questions – this leads to responses to help you learn how-to Twitter.

The value of Twitter

There are many devotees of Twitter. It is an easy way to get a quick answer to a question – if your network is big enough. In her comprehensive post, Are you Twittering?, Sue Waters provides extensive details on what Twitter has to offer, and indeed how to get started.

My own early experience with Twitter was that it was a fast way to get information from lots of different people and locations. Within a very short time, (through a Twitterer with lots of connections – thanks, Sue), I had lots of input to a query I raised. I have also found lots of educators’ web sites with great examples of best practice with students using Web 2.0, which I may never have found otherwise.

The other side of the coin is revealed in a post by Scott Karp titled Why I stopped using Twitter. He found “Twitter to be mesmerizing, which partly reflects the brilliance of the design and partly that I was following really interesting, insight, enjoyable people, whose random musings were worth following”… but time consuming. And it can be.

So, is it worth signing up?

I think yes, providing you have a purpose, a network, or an idea of what you want it to do for you.

Perhaps, we need to consider ways in which to harness the tool rather than the tool controlling us. At the same time then, we can enjoy the harmless and often frivolous chatter that might come our way – if only reminds us there are real people, just like you and I,  behind all those 140 character posts!

April 3, 2008

A blog is not an online diary!

Filed under: Blogs,dangers — Lindajay @ 10:45 am

diary.jpgQuite often people describe a blog as an online diary, and while to some extent and in some instances this could be true, I think it can be a misguided answer.

Think about what a diary has been to most people – a place to write their secret thoughts, an account of their love life maybe, and probably something kept locked away from prying eyes. On the other hand, a blog (though it can be a private stream of thoughts) is most often a place to be shared with a wide audience.

I make this comment after seeing entries made by students on different blogs – entries without proper grammar, little, if any, puncuation and sometimes questionable statements for online discussion. The use of text/SMS language is also occasionally used. With moderation, this can be discussed with students, and adjusted if necessary. (There could be appropriate places and blogs on which to diverge from conventional grammar and spelling, of course.)

Overly revealing comments are probably of more concern. We need to have a conversation about what is and isn’t appropriate to place on blogs and social networking sites, since many students have their own Facebook, Meebo or MySpace pages – even if access at school is banned.

Examples of the possible risks of overexposure and need for privacy considerations have been highlighted recently in the media. Already facing troubles with respect to his night club activities, Nick D’Arcy (potential Olympics swimmer) has had photos from Facebook plastered over the newspapers. Team-mate, Stephanie Rice, has also had personal photos revealed in the media. The consequences of this is unknown, but I sure sure his family is feeling very exposed at the moment.

While not directly linked to blogging, this is a useful example to discuss with our students about online posting – a great warning to be careful what you post. An oft quoted rule could be useful here: if you wouldn’t want your grandmother/parents/ boss to read it/see it, then don’t post it. A useful video on YouTube to illustrate this is ‘Think before you post’, It’s also provides a good reason to talk about blogs in broader terms than ‘online diaries’. They are so much more than that!

April 2, 2008

Obstacles to adopting Web 2.0

Filed under: obstacles,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 2:27 pm

obstacle.jpgWeb 2.0 tool were big on the agenda of School Libraries Leading Learning, the conference of ASLA NSW, held at the King’s School last weekend. Several comments were made about the slow adoption of these wonderful tools, but unfortunately in many schools there are often obstacles. Here are just a few observations on possible hitches which come when adapting Web 2.0 tools to school situations, for which we need to find solutions (or at least be aware of):

  • access to sites blocked at server (departmental) level – e.g. schools unable to access webmail products like Gmail, or viewing of Youtube blocked for protection issues
  • inability to download plugins to school computers – sometimes only the administrators can allow this (try and find them and pin them down to do it!) – e.g. problem accessing tools such as del.icio.us toolbars
  • reading of, and access to, blogs may be blocked by school filters – e.g. filters using word blocking
  • different levels of online access may surprise teachers – e.g. teacher access to some sites that are blocked for students – YouTube – lesson prepared on teacher’s login but to run on students’ logins
  • peak periods of demand on school networks, leading to slow access e.g. slow and faultering display of videos which are being streamed (or in fact, low bandwidth of school networks)
  • time needed to learn new tools, and then decide which is the most valuable to adapt and use, so that it is integrated validly into classroom use – not just as a fancy add-on
  • cost – in time, training, and updating of hardware and networks to manage new demands

Still, in spite of all (or some of these) obstacles, we as teachers and teacher-librarians should endeavour to try at least some of these tools, (no need to be phased by the vast numbers, just pick a few) and share our successes with others – in training, guiding and encouraging through the difficulties and frustrations. Perhaps we need a place online to regularly share our successes and point others in a positive direction in adaptation of Web 2.0.? As Ross Todd said: “Just do it!” But I add: “Let’s share it!”

March 14, 2008

Dynamics of Web 2.0

Filed under: General comment,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 12:49 pm

signup.jpgThe previous post was edited due to changes which occurred in using Learnerblogs (to a focus on Edublogs instead), and since that time further changes have occurred. It is now easier to add students to a blog, using the Gmail option, but directly within Edublogs. This is available on the Users/ Blog & User Creator tab.

So instead of jumping in and out of Edublogs and Gmail to create students as users, it is possible to add (they say) 15 students at a time. I haven’t personally tried this option but it seems a good one. Just be prepared for it to take a little while.

Keys to success, in adding students to Edublogs, include:

  1. planning ahead
  2. keeping good records (e.g. using Excel to record student names/ Gmail/ usernames/ passwords
  3. starting small (small reliable group of students or staff to get used to blogging as a group)
  4. enthusiasm and regularity in posting

If you are ready for the journey, then click on the image ‘sign up for free’ to go to Edublogs ready to sign up. At the Edublogs, there are also helpful 5 minute introductory videos to guide you along the way.

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