December 19

Catch-A-Teacher Day

Welcome!

Welcome!

It’s over! Our four day school Web 2.0 Expo extravaganza over the last few days of school year was largely (and I don’t use the word lightly) adjudged as ‘a success’, ‘eye opening’, ‘interesting’, ‘informative’, ‘fun’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘a bit crazy’, ‘unusual’ by a range of people around the school (eclectic and funky as our cover clip 🙂 )

For four days, three teachers (Simon Carabetta, Jaeik Jeong & myself) and about a dozen student-helpers (13 to 15 years old), put on a ’23 things’ of a kind for our school community to inform, teach and stir about ‘Web 2.0’ and its culture-changing potential that is starting to be realised in our societies yet (still) largely outside school walls.

To ‘walk the talk’, we not only set up stations, but also created the event’s wiki (largely student work!), even a Ning (well, sort of … 🙂 ), got a bunch of students to start up their blogs, Twitter, set up RSS readers, fooled around with Skype, Etherpad, Twiddla, Moodle etc.. We had a number of educators from around the world dropping in virtually via Etherpad (copy of excellent contributions here, thank you SO MUCH to all who have contributed), we had encouraging tweets from around the world … all in all, we were ‘doing’ Web 2.0.

But out of the four days of messing up, playing, teaching, learning, succeeding, working together, guessing and generally having a ball, the last day will remain seared in my mind forever.

Until the last day, we had very few staff that came to the expo. They would bring groups of students down but then (most of them) didn’t quite engage with the expo in any way. “That’s for the kids, not for us…” was the general sentiment, with few notable exceptions. With the whole thing PRIMARILY for staff, we weren’t making the dent. The matter was raised at our regular morning ‘war briefing’. We made the decision that the last day was going to be ‘catch-a-teacher’ day.

It was pretty simple really. Student-helpers were encouraged to approach a teacher, invite them to the expo, try to work out and ask what the teacher might be interested in to learn…then demonstrate, teach and help them learn (about) a particular Web 2.0 tool and how it could be useful to them (the teacher). We also asked our student-helpers to note down on the central ‘tally’ board what teachers they taught what.

Students took up the challenge very seriously and we had them literally chasing teachers down the halls to invite, talk to, teach the teachers. With most teachers agreeing to come (even if out of courtesy if not curiosity) it was an incredible sight.

Catch-a-teacher ... live

Catch-a-teacher … live

Catch-a-teacher ... come in

Catch-a-teacher … come in

And this is what the tally board looked like after only a few hours!

21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours - ALL by students!

21 teachers, 10 different tools, 4 hours – ALL by students!

Yes, I repeat: teachers are far less likely to say no to a student than a ‘tech integrator’ with a resonable (tech) proposition for teacher’s problem/idea in class. It just works!

Another highlight of the day was the technically so damn easy yet so profoundly different (to ‘regular school’) Skype conference of our ‘helpers’ with a good friend Ira Socol. I saw Ira tweeting, hooked up over Skype and within seconds the whole class said ‘Hello” to Ira and his dog (“with a weird name Sir…”) in Michigan. We soon shared a screen with Google Earth on it where Ira literally showed us around his neighbourhood, place he works, we zoomed out to see and learn a bit about the Great Lakes (some of the kids watching have not been further than a few blocks from their place in their life!), cracked a joke or two and after a few minutes thanked Ira for his time. After the event Ira tweeted:

Damn right!

I read the tweet aloud to claps, cheers and hollers of approval at our post-expo ice cream ‘debrief’ (yes, we did treat the awesome crew 🙂

Yum! Well deserved.

Yum! Well deserved.

The sense of community, appreciation, working together, problem solving, the JOY of learning, particularly on the last day of our Expo was palpable. Many of our student-helpers ‘got off’ on it, dare say far, far more than many a lesson in the year just finished. There it was, a working rhizome of education I dream of, where roles/status/label/credit did not matter, only what we can learn, share, help, improve. Sure, it was quite an intense day, but one where the students saw the potential of what many of us have been banging on about for … years now.

Before we took our parting group photo, I asked the student-helpers is they would like to attend a school organised and run a bit like our expo – passionate, hard-working, following people’s interests, funny, a bit messy and unexpected, unclear at times but always valuing learning of all kinds: “Yes, sure, we’d love to…” I replied with just a line: “Demand it for your own kids.”

Just imagine! Or as a colleague quoted in his farewell speech yesterday: Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will get you anywhere.

And since I mentioned farewell speeches – I delivered mine yesterday too (copy here). I will miss the people of Belmont City College (and my first Moodle, my baby 🙂 ). They matter.

Thank you!

Thank you!

September 18

Why is everyone an expert on education?

politics of ed

Image Source: Tyack, David (1974). The One Best System. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Page 286 (Thank you Jon Becker!)

Everyone is an expert on education and its particular, dominant subset – school. Everyone who has either attended school, taught at school, had their kids at school, managed school, funded school, even avoided school knows what school does. Unlike any other public institution, we can quickly produce an opinion on what schools should and shouldn’t do. Scores of politicians, business leaders or (other) powerful pundits who arrive on the scene claim the credential of knowing how to run schools. Many of these self-proclaimed experts are widely interviewed and financially supported, many more ignored beyond their personal sphere of influence.

But just why are we all ‘experts’ with a more or less considerate opinion on how things should be with schools and education?

Short answer: If we presume we are constituted, built of what we ‘know’, then we don’t only KNOW a lot about school, we ARE school. School is not (just) an institution, it is a particular way of thinking and knowing we are attached to. And because we can’t imagine anything different, we get cornered into dead-ends of ‘solutions’ that substantially change – very little.

Now for the long answer and explanation… Continue reading

May 5

Best when human

Getting busy at the Education.au ICT in Learning Symposium

This is an attempt to organise many thoughts after spending an amazing weekend with a number of passionate and wise ‘ed-tech’ people at and after the SICTAS symposium in Sydney last weekend.

It may have been an ‘echo chamber’ a little at times but…it felt wonderful. The gathering was passionate, informed, engaging, motivating and hopefully fruitful when our recommendations come to the top echelons of public service in Canberra. A big public thank you goes to people at Education.au for pulling it all together.

But there were some curious moments and statements that made me think. Continue reading

March 18

One sentence

Good news travels fast. ‘Sticky’ ideas even faster.

In her recent comments, fellow teacher and moodler Mary Cooch (known also as @moodlefairy) mentioned how the staff at their school spend a couple of minutes of their weekly meetings talking about their use of Moodle in the classroom. I loved the idea and in the brief email exchange that followed hinted that I will try to use it here at our school too.

This afternoon, I had a cryptic staff meeting agenda item called ‘Share’.

When I got my turn to speak, I simply asked:

‘Could you please share ONE thing or strategy you have found Moodle useful for in your classroom.”

Silence. Tick, tock, tick, tock – 15 seconds.

Then it opened. What followed was just about the best 8 minutes of my three years at this school – 10 short stories, 10 people, 10 different uses, 10 different skill levels. Genuine, specific, relevant, encouraging … and more we haven’t heard because of the crammed agenda.

As I write this, an email popped into my inbox from a colleague Aaron. This is the last sentence from it:

“What took place in today’s staff meeting is exceptionally rare, so from one colleague to another, well done”

I find myself happy and sad at the same time.

Sad? Because, as Aaron says, it is exceptionally rare. Making such things standard practice won’t change a few staff meetings – it will change the profession we are in.

December 15

Gazump

Squeeeeze! (Lemon Grenade)Gazump. A situation in which the price for real estate or land is raised to a higher price than what was previously verbally agreed upon.* (1)

This week I lost half of my job. The half I formally started this year and was promised to go for another year, the half that gave me a chance to begin to wisen up on ICT, how to ‘infect’ people with enthusiasm for the impact and potential of ICT, the half that gave birth to Moodle and so many other valuable things at our school that have made an impact on the entire school community. Like many of my colleagues working for the same employer (largest in our State…have a guess), I was asked at the start of this job to come up with ways to better engage teachers and students with ICT in ways that are relevant and specific to the context of our school. A number of wonderful colleagues and myself worked hard to do just that this year, only to be…

gazumped!

Continue reading

October 9

Top 5 myths about teaching with Moodle

5 MythsIf you are trying to introduce Moodle to teachers or staff at your school or a similar organisation, you have or you will probably hear at least some, if not all, of the five statements below in some shape of form. I deliberately called these ‘myths’ because they simply do not stack up when compared not only to my own experience and that of my colleagues at our school, but to the experience of literally millions of teachers around the world using Moodle in their daily work.

These five myths deal exclusively with teaching and learning with Moodle. I have distilled these after experiences at our school and reading about experiences of fellow Moodlers over the last year or so. For more myths about the technical aspects of Moodle (Top 10) you can visit the Moodle forums at Moodle.org.

So, here are my top five … with replies.

Continue reading

August 6

How can Moodle change a school

Before starting to work as a part-time technology integrator at our school this year, the principal asked me to come up with one ‘thing’, one key strategy for staff and students to ICT to improve their teaching and learning. After seeing the flexibility, robustness and ‘organic’ nature of Moodle the choice was pretty simple to make.

The video, shown here in two separate clips, is not so much about the technical features of Moodle but about people using it. I am forever indebted to our wonderful network administrator Russell Clarke, my colleagues from Moodle champions to Moodle beginners, and the students, who have taken to it so well (well, a healthy majority of them at least). Without them, none of the things shown in the clip would happen.

The focus of the first clip (9:58 min) is on the ways different, mostly standard features of Moodle have been used by various teachers and students at our school. If you can’t see this video (Part 1) please click here.

The second clip (5:43 min) shows the positive and in some cases very significant changes the establishment of Moodle has brought to our school in terms of using ICT to improve our core business – teaching and learning while modelling, establishing and maintaining healthy human relationships. If you can’t see the clip (Part 2) please click here.

I end this post with an anecdote from a teacher at our school. Over the last couple of weeks of holidays, my colleague Kim Bebbington built a fantastic course on Australian History, now shared by four other Year 8 classes. The course includes an assignment, due in week 3 of the upcoming term.

Deliberately or not, Kim left the course open to students to enrol and look at as he was building it. Imagine his (pleasant) surprise when he received a fully completed assignment (due in week 3) by one of the students in his class two days before the start of term.

But as wonderful and useful as Moodle has been, it is the people who are making the difference. It is not the technology itself – it is what we do with it.

If you are a ‘moodling’ teacher yourself, looking into it, or a person responsible for getting (particularly) teachers up to speed with Moodle and ICT in general I would love to hear from you – there is much to share and learn from each other.