Looking for Indonesian Partners

Indonesian FlagThis post is a bit of a call for assistance from any schools in Indonesia. If you could assist we would really appreciate it.

Our year 5 classes are just embarking on a thematic unit of work on Indonesia.  The students are doing research into life in Indonesia, learning about the culture, food, transport, religion and so on. It’s being done as part of their HSIE strand.  By the way, HSIE stands for Human Society and it’s Environment, for those outside NSW…  Oh, and NSW means New South Wales, for those outside Australia. See the joys of writing for a global audience?

And that’s the point really. Getting kids to think outside their own backyard, and realising that when they use certain words or abbreviations that they don’t always translate across borders and timezones. Knowing that other people are asleep when you’re awake, and that words and phrases you take for granted can be complete mysteries to people outside your own culture is, I think, a really important mindset to develop. It’s one of the reasons I’d love to see more and more projects include a global, collaborative element.

If we’re going to learn about Indonesia – a country that is one of Australia’s closest neighbours and yet so very culturally different – I’m really keen to connect our students with other students who actually live there.  I know it can be tricky to arrange global collaborations, especially where language can be a barrier and these sorts of “soft learning” projects are not always valued by others as much as they are by me.  So I’m trying to come up with something that is relatively “low impact” to potential Indonesian partners. I’m looking for something whereby we can encourage them to be involved, while at the same time not becoming onerous and overcommitted. It’s got to be something where the partner schools can contribute at a level they feel comfortable with.

To that end, here’s what I’d like to suggest (or rather, request)…

I’m going to get our three classes of Year 5 students to work in teams to build three websites about Indonesia, one per class.  Our students will be put into pairs and each pair will work on creating a section on the website about one aspect of Indonesian life.  We will be using Google Sites to build it.

Ideally what I’d like is to establish a handful of Indonesian schools to act as “consultants” to us as we build these websites. We’d invite comments and feedback about the pages we make, perhaps letting us know if we were somehow missing the point on something, getting our facts wrong, or just not quite understanding the spirit or nuances of the Indonesian culture. It would be pretty cool if one of our students who might be learning about, say, Indonesian food, could, instead of just finding an image using Google Images, be sent a photo from an Indonesian buddy showing what they had for dinner last night.  That sort of thing would be just perfect!

I’ve already managed to enlist one such partner teacher in Endang Palupi, an ESL teacher at a school district in Pekalongan. We have arranged a series of Skype calls between her students (who are keen to practice and extend their use of English) and our students (who are keen to meet Indonesian students and learn more about life there.) On that level, it’s win-win. Endang’s students will also try to provide us with feedback and some level of consultation as we build our websites.

In an effort to not place too much expectation on any single teacher or school, I’m also looking for a few other Indonesian partners who might be willing to contribute to this project. I’d like to think that it will be a two way street, and that they will benefit from working with us as much as we hope to benefit from working with them.  Like I said, it’s just a nice easy project that would be based around getting some “consulting” and advice from them as we build our websites. This consulting can be simple and easy (maybe just take a look at our websites occasionally and drop us some feedback on how we’re doing), or become more involved (Skype calls, travel buddies, co-collaboration on the sites, etc)  It’s really up to the other school as to how much and what they’d like to contribute.

So, Indonesian schools, how about about it… can you help me out?  We’ve just started working on this project and we’d expect it t run for the next 7-8 weeks. We’d love to get you involved!

If you can help us, or know someone who can, please leave me a note in the comments below.

Photo Credit: CC BY-ND http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/2503224501/ 

Talking Heads

The Royal Treatment is a video forum put together by New York City-based educator, Ken Royal, on behalf of Scholastic in the US.  Ken uses a couple of computers both running Skype simultaneously (similar to Leo Laporte’s Skypeasaurus) to run two full screen video inputs from two different interviewees.  He then videotapes the whole thing and publishes the chat.

I had the pleasure last night of being part of the panel with Thialand-based educator Jeff Utecht to talk about wikis. I’m glad to have been able to contribute, but Jeff is really the wiki-god, and he certainly had lots of good stuff to say about them.  We talked about how wikis get used in the classroom and about the importance of a “wiki way of working”. To me, wikis are symbolic of the changes taking place in society and the more collaborative, more iterative nature of creativity demanded these days.

Anyway, here’s the video from last night.  It was nice to be sharing with Jeff and Ken.

So You Are Real!

It seems so easy to make global connections these days.

Tools like Twitter, Skype, podcasts, blogs and even good old fashioned email make it easy to build connections with others.  But they also make it easy to overlook the fact that behind each tweet, IM or email there are real people.  Although the online world has made us the most connected we have ever been, at the same time the sometimes faceless, disembodied nature of it can also allow us to be quite disconnected if we let it.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing over the last couple of years is to take every opportunity to make real connections with the people behind the avatars.  I remember the first time I bumped into Judy O’Connell at a meeting in Sydney… although I knew of HeyJude and had read her blog for a while there was still this sense of “wow… so you ARE real!” when I finally met her.  Since then, I try to make a point of meeting other members of my online world in the real world whenever I can.  It’s great to finally meet up with people you feel like you somehow know through reading their blogs or hearing them on podcasts or seeing their endless streams of tweets.

This week I had the pleasant experience of meeting up with Colin Jagoe, a passionate young edutech in Ontario Canada, and the story of how that meeting came about is pretty typical of how our PLNs can so easily cross the boundary between the virtual and the real worlds.  Colin apparently follows my Twitter feed, so when I mentioned that I was coming to Canada over Christmas, he dm’ed me back to ask if I’d be interested in coming to a meeting of edutech leaders in his school district.  He suggested it might be good to share some stuff about what we’re doing in Australia as a way to provide some additional food for thought for his district team.  Naturally I jumped at the chance, so we emailed and Skyped back and forth to make the arrangements, and last Tuesday I headed out of Toronto and up to the Peterborough office of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board to join their meeting and share some of the stuff I’ve been doing with the students back at PLC.  We looked at some of the Year 3 Voicethreads, the Year 4 blogs, the Year 5 Podcasts and talked about the logistics and practicalities of running these sorts of projects. I shared the results of the recent PLC Mobile Phone Film Festival, an idea that also seemed to spark some possibilities for the Kawartha schools.  We talked about Creative Commons and cellphones for learning and a bunch of other topics that came up, and it was wonderful to be able to share some of this with real live people in a real live space.

I had to laugh when Colin’s first words to me as we met in the foyer were “So you ARE real!”, exactly the words I used when I met HeyJude the first time. It’s good to finally meet people and put a real face to their avatar, and this experience goes to show just how easy it is to create global links between people… here was I, a teacher from Australia, talking with a group of Canadian educators about ideas that were relevant to both of us.  It started as virtual (and there is certainly a great deal that can be done in a purely virtual environment, don’t get me wrong!) but it is amazing just how a few tweets, skypes and emails can take these virtual connections and make them real if that that’s what you want to do.

It got me thinking about some of the other real life connections I’ve been able to make over the last year or so, and it’s pretty amazing. I dug through my Flickr photostream and found quite a few snapshots that I’ve taken with other connected educators, so I made this little slideshow. (The new slideshow tool is Flickr is fabulous by the way!)  There are many other wonderful educators I’ve met that I couldn’t find photos for… I don’t want to list names as I’m sure to overlook someone inadvertently, but my apologies if I’ve left you out!

Next week, I’ll have the great pleasure of meeting Sharon Peters when I’m in Montreal, something I’m very much looking forward to.  Sharon and I have spent many hours over the last few years chatting over Skype and sharing ideas, and she has organised for her and I to present a 4 hour workshop on IWBs and Web 2.0 tools to school leaders in the Montreal independent school sector.  Should be good fun!

Sharon and I have been in touch all week with last minute organisational bits and pieces for the workshop, but I’m sure that when we finally meet in person next week I’ll still have that same overwhelming sense of “so you ARE real!”

The New Digital Divide?

I have on occasion been frustrated – dare I say critical – of the sometimes glacial pace of change in the broader educational community when it comes to embracing the use of ICT. I occasionally say things that might make me appear less compassionate than I really am. But believe it or not, I really do have a great degree of patience and time for anyone who is genuinely interested to know more about how to effectively integrate technology into the demanding job of teaching kids every day.

A week or so ago, I returned from the CEGSA (Computer Education Group of South Australia) conference in Adelaide where I had the great pleasure of giving one of the keynote addresses. I got to meet so many wonderful, dedicated educators who were there giving up two days of their holidays to come and learn more about technology and how it can be effectively used it with their students.

The people I met at CEGSA are already the “believers” however. They were attending the conference, presumably, because they already understand the important role that technology is playing in education. They are probably the people that get looked up to in their schools as the “geeks” (in a good way) and are the people that others turn to when answers about technology are needed. And yet, I can’t help but see that there is still a wide gap in skills and understanding between even the group that turned up at CEGSA. I hope that if any of them read this they don’t take it the wrong way, but I was a little surprised that even this group was so unconnected in so many ways. A quick show of hands, while hardly a scientific way to measure, indicated that there was a surprisingly small number of those who blogged, used Twitter, or understood the use of basic Web 2.0 resources like Flickr or del.icio.us. I’m incredibly glad they were there, but I was a little surprised because I’ve come to take so many of these things for granted and sometimes find it hard to get my head around how other educators can possibly not be tapped into this stuff.

So on the one hand, I’m a little surprised that the level of connectedness -the Web 2.0ishness – was so minimal in this particular group. On the other hand, I’m unbelievably excited that so many teachers are wanting to find out more about this stuff, to move to that next level for their own personal understanding and growth in the use of ICT.

What scares me a little are those on the other side… the vast majority of the teaching profession who have never been to a conference like this. The ones that will turn up to school on Monday and either not make any real attempt to create a technology-rich environment for their students, or who still think that PowerPoint is pretty cool. Our schools are full of teachers – many of whom are outstanding educators with enormous passion and energy – but who do not understand the pivotal role that technology plays in the lives of their students.

I think what often shocks me the most about teachers who don’t take technology very seriously, is just how far behind they really are. They don’t have any idea just how out of touch they are with the kids they teach each day… kids who in most cases are far too polite to say anything about their teachers’ lack of technology understanding. But trust me, they know who you are…

Some of the classic excuses for why some teachers don’t integrate technology might include the following… how many have you heard before?

  • “Im retiring in a couple of years anyway” (yes, but your students are not)
  • “I’m too old to learn this stuff”
  • “I’m too busy, I don’t have the time”
  • “I have too much content to get through” (this one is usually followed by “you just don’t know what it’s like”… ah, yes, I do.)
  • “I don’t really like computers” (you don’t have to like them, you just have to use them)
  • “I just don’t understand technology” (as though they think no one has noticed that yet)

The scary thing is not the folk that turn up to an event like CEGSA in order to learn more to move ahead. My hat is off to them.

And the scary thing is not even those folk who resist that progress because they don’t get it or don’t want to get it..

No, the scary thing to me is not the particular characteristics of these two groups, but rather the huge divide that is being created between them and the impact it is having our profession. It is the new Digital Divide.

We used to talk a lot about a “Digital Divide”. Usually we were referring to the inequitable technology gap between the rich and the poor, the “information-haves” and the “information-have-nots”. But I think I’m getting rather more concerned about the widening gap between the “information-wills” and the “information-will-nots”.

There is a group – and a relatively small group at that – who are extremely active in the edtech community. I won’t mention names, but if you’re a blog reader you probably know who they are. The educators that ARE connected, networked and wired. The ones who really get it. They blog, they tweet, they podcast, they wiki. They store their bookmarks in del.icio.us and their photos in Flickr. They know their way around Second Life and belong to numerous online communities. They get excited by Flips, iPods and IWBs. They’d rather have a Flashmeeting than a staff meeting. To the rest of the world they are freakily geeky, but they are at home in the digital world inhabited by their students, regardless of whether they are native to it or not.

Then there is the other group. Those who still don’t get it. They still think that textbooks are the definitive source of learning. They never turn on the interactive whiteboard in their room. They don’t have a presence on the web, and they wouldn’t know how to Google it if they did. Their idea of technology integration is to “research it on the Internet” and the “get the kids to make a PowerPoint”. They either can’t see the point of technology at all, or they have almost no real understanding of how technology can be embedded into their classroom. They just. don’t. get it.

A new Digital Divide is emerging as the connected educators find each other. A few years ago, these bleeding edge edutechies were the exception. They were isolated in their schools. They did great things with kids but worked mostly in a vacuum because they were so rare that there was usually no one in the school to share their craziness with. But the rise of networked intelligence has changed that. These people are finding each other and forming alliances. They are conversing and sharing with each other. Their networks are amplifying their voices, and allowing them to connect in ways that their less connected colleagues don’t really understand, and through this connected amplification, they are starting to have a real voice. There has been a lot of talk for a long time about the need for schools to shift their thinking, to bring themselves into the 21st century where their students live. But that talk has been largely dispersed across disconnected individuals who were unable to have any collective voice.

In the last 18 months or so, I’ve been noticing that these disconnected individuals are starting to band together, connect much more strongly with each other through the social networks Their voices are getting louder and they are encouraging each other with their sense of community, sharing and openness, and as they bring their collective voices together it is throwing the gap between them and the laggards into sharp relief. This widening void between the “wills” and the “will-nots” is, I think, changing the game a little.

Paradoxically, the “will-nots” main fear is usually expressed as a concern that they will lose control over their students. A fear that if they even consider dipping their toes into the waters of educational technology that their students might realise they really don’t have all the answers. They resist technology because they think that to try (and fail) will expose this weaknesses to their students, but they fail to understand that by NOT trying it they are doing far more to expose their weaknesses anyway. It must be hard for a 21st century student to respect a teacher who steadfastly refuses to get with the program.

That’s not to say that these people are bad teachers. Sometimes they are exceptionally good teachers who relate to the kids in lots of other ways that have nothing to do with technology at all. But as long as they refuse to come to terms with technology in any sort of meaningful way they will always have this digital divide between them and the natives that makes them just that little bit less effective than they could be.

If you’re in the middle of this divide and trying to cross it, you know how much work it takes. But it has to be crossed eventually, and the best time to do it is before it becomes uncrossably wide.

Image: ‘Slam: I <3 Public Libraries – The+internet+is+closed
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22929959@N00/2848310955

Real Life and Real Life Learning

Kent Peterson, Chris Betcher, Linda Johannesson and Susan SedroiIn previous posts, I’ve mentioned how nice it is to occasionally convert some of our online connections into real ones.  This week I had the opportunity to again meet up with someone I’d only ever know through the blogosphere.

Susan Sedro is a teacher at the Singapore American School where she does ICT support for years 3, 4 and 5.  The first time I “met” her was during a group Skype call back in September last year and since that time we have read each other’s blogs, chatted occasionally on Skype and, along with Kim Cofino, even recorded an episode of Virtual Staffroom together.

I’d noticed that Susan was asking some very Aussie-centric questions on Twitter a while back, wanting to know the best places to go snorkelling on the Barrier Reef, etc, so I assumed she might be planning a trip down here.  We got in contact and I said if she was in Australia to give me a yell and we’d catch up.  Well, she yelled and we caught up.

So last Wednesday night, Linda and I met Susan and her partner Kent in front of the Orient Hotel at the Rocks here in Sydney.  We had a very pleasant evening wandering around the city, starting by catching a cab down to Darling Harbour, walking across the old Pyrmont Bridge to have an al-fresco dinner and a few beers at the Pyrmont Bridge Hotel, followed by a walk through Darling Harbour, up Liverpool Street through the Spanish Quarter, left into George Street past Town Hall and St Andrews Cathedral and all the way down to Wynyard Station.  It was a nice night for a walk and we had a good chat about all sorts of things, some education-related, and some not.

I made the offer to Susan and Kent to drop into my school, PLC, at some stage if they had time.  Fortunately, their plans for the next day had them catching a train that went right through Croydon so they took me up on the offer and popped in on their way.  We did a quick tour of some of the school, and even dropped into one of the computer rooms where Year 4 was having a lesson and had a chat with some of the kids.

My school runs a program called Transition Class, which caters for special needs students with fairly significant learning disabilities.  These students, about 20 of them, attend regular classes but also focus on learning a lot of life skills.  To help facilitate this, PLC bought a house next door to the school which they call Transition House and the kids regularly spend time there, learning very practical skills to teach them to look after themselves. One of the wonderful things these kids do every term is called Transition Cafe, where they host and manage a cafe luncheon for PLC staff… the menu is prepared, orders are taken and the food is cooked and served by the transition students and it’s a wonderful example of real life, relevant learning in action. Kent and Susan’s visit just happened to coincide with this term’s Transition Cafe event so of course they were invited to join us for lunch at the table reserved for the IT Services team.  We all had a very pleasant time sitting in the sunshine, chatting and being served by our wonderful transition kids.

I had to sneak off from lunch a little early as I had an IWB workshop I’d promised to run for our Creative Arts staff.  I left Susan and Kent in the capable hands of our IT Director, Chris Waterman, who escorted them over to meet me just as the IWB session was winding up, and we took another quick tour through The Croydon, an old pub that was bought by the school a few years ago and converted to our centre for technology and the arts, before eventually bidding them farewell as they continued on with their day.

Meeting IRL is a good thing… If you ever get the chance to meet up with colleagues you’ve only ever known through the network, I’d encourage you to do it.  It was terrific to meet Susan and Kent, and I’m hoping to be able to take them up on their offer to catch up in Singapore one day.

I think it would be rather nice to sit and share a beer or two at Raffles Hotel.  🙂

Making your photos worth 1000 words

This is a joint post between Sue Waters and myself about integrating Flickr with Picasa, and has been cross posted on each of our blogs.

Let’s start with a little background on this post’s origin

After spending some time yesterday migrating Linda’s entire photo collection (well, most of it… did I mention that regular backup is very important?) into Google’s Picasa photo management application and then giving her a bit of a tutorial in how to use it tonight, she asked the next obvious question… how do I put some of these photos onto Flickr? A good question. After all, Flickr is without a doubt the best online photo sharing website around. With amazing tools and options, an incredible online community for sharing and learning from each other, and a huge array of APIs that enable Flickr to work with a range of different online and offline services, the decision to use Flickr as your online photo storage tool of choice is a bit of a no-brainer.

However, on the desktop it’s a different story. Flickr is purely a Web2.0 service, and there is no local desktop component offered with it. This means that while Flickr is wonderful at managing your photos online, when it comes to dealing with the photos stored on your hard drive the only real options you have is whatever tools are already on your computer. If you have a Mac, iPhoto does a great job of photo management. It’s free and comes with every Mac. If you are more serious you can always look at Adobe’s Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture, but these are quite expensive applications. On the Windows side, there are probably dozens of “photo management” applications but most of them are pretty awful, and some are also expensive. Most people just settle for managing their photos directly in Windows Explorer which is an average solution at best.

Using Picasa for your offline photo management

Enter Picasa from Google. Picasa is a wonderful free piece of photo management software and lets you sort, arrange, adjust, crop, rename and generally manage your photos on your computer. It really is an incredibly sophisticated yet simple tool for photographers and the price tag can’t be beaten…. you can’t do much better than free. It is available for Windows only, which makes perfect sense since it essentially does most of what iPhoto already does on the Mac. As well as the desktop app, there is also a “Flickr-like” online photo service from Google called Picasaweb. I say “Flickr-like”, because although it lets you store your photos online it lacks the same community and API sharing that makes Flickr so compelling. If you’re serious about photos online Picasaweb could be a little disappointing. However, being from the Google stable of products, there is some common functionality for exporting photos directly from Picasa on your computer to Picasaweb on the net, which is a nice touch.

The trouble is that while Picasa may be an obvious best choice for local photo management, Flickr is the obvious best choice for online photo management. It would be nice to have the option to manage your photos locally with Picasa and then send your best shots up to Flickr to share with the world. Nice, except that Picasa is owned by Google and Flickr is owned by Yahoo!, and when companies are in direct head to head battle like Yahoo! and Google are, the last thing you want to do is anything that promotes your competition. This is unfortunate, since the losers in that battle are you and I, the consumers. We just want to manage our photos using the two tools we like, but it’s not as quite as straightforward as that.

Connecting via Twitter

Talk about synchronicity. As I was pondering this question tonight, the exact same question floated through my Twitter feed. Mrs_Banjer , sujokat and Sue (dswaters) were discussing the very same issue – how to manage your photos on and offline, what service to use, how to integrate them, and essentially they were tweeting on the very same things I was thinking about. One thing led to another, so via Twitter we discussed, chatted, talked and shared links. We pontificated on the pros and cons of Flickr versus Picasa. This is just one example of the power of an always-on personal learning network. Eventually though, I felt I needed to clarify a point in the discussion so rather than overTweet to the world, I Skyped Sue Waters in Perth and chatted about it directly. While we were talking a tweet came through from sujokat asking “someone do a blog on this please this is fabulous but all too quick for me to take it all in”. Sue and I decided that we’d do that… write a post about the pros and cons of Picasa and Flickr, but we’d do it as a joint post. So this is being written in Google Docs and is a collaborative effort between Sue and I… over to you Sue.

Now for My Thoughts On Picasa vs Flickr

Getting photos off the Camera

One of the best aspects of Twitter connectivity is the challenging of your thoughts, beliefs and making you really think; often about issues you had not considered. This was definitely the case with Picasa vs Flickr. I have rarely used Picasa as Window Explorer and Picture Manager have been adequate for my needs but really into Flickr. In all fairness to Picasa more likely that I have not spent enough time exploring the virtues of Picasa — it did take me 12 months to realise the benefits of Flickr. So my homework for the next few days is to throughly road test Picasa and report back to ensure I have done my usual through research.

It is definitely benefical to import photos from your camera directly into Picasa because it means you don’t import multiple copies of the same photo.

Uploading to Flickr

For Mac users, there are several options for getting photos to Flickr. As iPhoto is a standard application found on every Mac it is a much simpler proposition for developers to create APIs that hook directly between iPhoto and Flickr, so there tends to be a number of uploading tools available, the best known of which is Flickr Uploadr. As well as the Flickr Uploader, there are free tools like FFXporter that plug directly into iPhotos Export option to offer direct Flickr integration. Another option is to use Flock as your web broswer… Flock has Flickr uploading tools built right in.

Uploading

For Windows users who like Picasa as their photo management tool, uploading images to Flickr from Picasa is also a relatively simple process, even if not quite as obvious or integrated as that enjoyed by Mac users. Just download and install Flickr Uploadr on your desktop, open the Flickr Uploader and Picasa windows alongside each other, then drag and drop the images from Picasa library onto the Flickr Uploader. Simple!

Final Thoughts

Also worth checking out David Jake’s thorough information on Flickr (thanks sukojat for the link) and Philip Nichols’s guide to Picasa.

Besides learning a lot more about Picasa it has been amazing collaborating with Sue to write a post together; using Google Documents, Twitter and Skype.

Sue and I would love to learn more about how you manage your photos.

What are your thoughts? Do you use an offline photo management software? What features do you like about the software you use? Do you share your photos online at Flickr or do you use another photosharing website? And if so, which one and why?

Please take this opportunity to drop past Sue’s post and leave some tips for her as well.

Twitter has left the building

Twitter was down for a while today. In order to feed the Twitter addiction, @shareski started a group Skype chat and started to drag people into it, who in turn started to drag more people into it. Pretty soon we had our very own pseudo-Twitter going, as everyone continued adding people into the chat space until there must have about 50 people in the room… easily the biggest Skype chat I’ve had.

Twitter eventually came back up, and a huge collective global sigh of relief was breathed.

Still, the Skywitter chat was a fun experiment. As Vicki Davis observed…

“It is like an Elvis impersonator — not the real thing but close enough when the real one is dead.”

That comment made my day. 🙂

Tags: , ,