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!

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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.

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!

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.

October 8, 2007

Raison d’être…

Filed under: General comment — Lindajay @ 2:12 pm

keyboard.jpgJust the beginnings of a place to keep and share notes from many places of inspiration – some of which I discover serendipitously, others from wise sages whose paths cross mine – either physically or in virtual spaces.

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