Sunday, August 10, 2008

Teaching or learning, which came first?

I am grateful for technology, not just for the fun it brings to my life, but for allowing me to focus on learning and teaching.

Most of my ramblings here have been about next year, when I am barely half way through this year. So I have taken time to refocus my energy into the children in my Prep class. I have learnt a lot from them. In particular, how capable kids can be when you allow them, also that trust can go a long way. One more thing, children sometimes/often need structure and routine to get things done, (from my experience this year, they relish the opportunities).

So I am focusing on pedagogy and learning, how I can best meet the childrens needs in my class, then, if I have time, I will start working towards next year.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My wish list

I am now starting a wish list of resources for next year.  The sky is the limit (hypothetically speaking).
Feel free to make suggestions:
  • 6-10 video capable personal media players (Iriver e100 Approx $129) 
  • 1-2 video editing desktops (perhaps 1 computer with 2 monitors), mac or pc
  • Either 4 x MacBooks ($1349, base model) or 4 x imacs 20" ($1549)
  • 2 x retro lounges with new fitout (no idea how much)
  • 4 dell laptops with wifi (approx $1000)
  • wifi router (tbd due to sole supplier policy in EQ)
  • 2 x hdd video recorders (haven't researched yet)
  • 6 digital cameras with VGA video (eg Kodak M873 $145)
  • 6-8 headsets of decent quality, need to check if wireless has good enough quality ($100)
You may have noticed that I have not included a 1 to 1 set up.  I am currently have the opinion that sharing the hardware will develop more collaboration and communication away from the computers as well as opportunities using the computers.  It is also a financially more feasible.

I am still considering software and platform options.  Matching applications, (including web2.0 apps such as some of the Adobe AIR stuff that is floating around), to students is the key.  

Some of the options I am looking at may be blocked, but after some wise words from Chris Sutton in the Knowledgebank online conference wiki, "prove that the learning is valid and appropriate and is linked to essential learnings and there is a better chance of getting it unblocked."

Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution (Patrick Woessner) Technology in the middle

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Part 3

I have worked out how to make my ning community accessible at school. I registered a domain name and paid a fee to ning to allow the domain name to be used for the community and now the site is accessible.

However, I have hit a bit of a roadblock. The ning network states that the people for whom the community is targeted at must be older than 13. The class I will be teaching will be aged 11-12, so it kind of wrecks it. It is a real shame as it is an excellent platform with everything I could have wanted to create an online portal (except a Learning Management System (LMS).

So now I am focussing more on joomla and the community builder. It is much more detailed and needs more hands on to get it to work. It has a back end which you use to set it up and it can get rather complex. The advantage is, there us a huge range of tempaltes available to make it look entirely different. This is what it currently looks like. Another advatage is an LMS is available as a free add on to add modules, quizes and other types of elearning tools, this would sve me having to setup an elearning environment on a different site.

I have also now got a very detailed guide of how to set up the community from scratch and I think I will be spending a fair bit of time sorting it out. Deep down, I am hoping that I may still be able to use the ning community, I have to find a work around.

I have also been playing with elluminate and Adobe Connect. Both online meeting platforms, both free but also restricted to 3 people per meeting. You can pay for apremium service but it is out of my budget. Unfortunately, as theylook quite good. I will still make use of the free services as a supplement.

The other option is to use blackboard and not worry about the online social network. This way the children can work in groups, build wikis and access online materials. I just don't like the blackboard interface. Perhaps I need to be more positive about it.

Enough thoughts for now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

eponderings part 2

I quite enjoyed writing my first post so I shall continue...

By recording my thoughts, I have developed a focus for my online research. My goal now is to develop an online social network and virtual classroom for the class I am going to teach next year. Why wait you may ask?

I want to get it right! I want to make sure that I choose the right platforms to engage students and yet still be accessible to all the children in my class. I also want to ensure that I can facilitate the site confidently, (I currently teach a prep class - 5-6 year olds which this tool is not appropriate).

I have so far done the following:
  • This year I used Pageflakes to set up an information page for parents of my prep class, sharing things like photo galleries, great websites for kids, a calendar, a blog and a to do list as well as the show and tell roster!
  • set up a ning social network but this is blocked by school filters (need to find out how to change this).
  • successfully installed joomla 1.5 on to my personal school webspace
  • investigated using moodle (to tricky for me to set up and probably over kill for my project)
  • investigated using a commercial add on for joomla as a learning management system (LMS). I found joomlearn basic (free) but have not installed it yet as is has reported issues with cb (see below)
  • Installed CB (community builder) from joomlapolis which allows profiles, blogs and connections to name a few great tools.
  • read a million other forums and blogs to get ideas, tips and learn from other's experiences.
  • joined hot chalk which might be my virtual classroom ( or blackboard which is offered by my education department and I already have courses set up).
Next step: Talk to other teacher's who have done or are doing a similiar prject.

eponderings part 1

Today I sit at my computer attempting to write my first blog. My main goal is to improve my writing and share thoughts about teaching and learning.

This year I have read an amazing amount of opinions, views and ideas as I have ventured into social networking. Most I have agreed with and some I do not. But as a result of all my exploration on the web I have deduced that I can waste a lot of time looking and playing and not actually doing anything productive.

I have made use of Twitter (bobbartley), Diigo (bobbartley), ning, (bobbartley), as well as google reader to keep in touch with the many interesting and novel blogs I have found.

However, now I must try to focus on what it is I have learned over the past six months and narrow down what it is that I really want to achieve. Higher order thinking, collaboration, communication, hyper connectivity and networking are a few words buzzing around in my head lately but mean nothing if not productive and tool based.

In the end, I want to guide the children in my class to be more prepared for change, after all that is the only constant.

So I still sit here pondering. I think that technology is one vehicle to help achieve this. Children already use technology to communicate, explore and play. It needs to be entwined in learning so that it relates to the real world that children live and play in.

I hope, by recording what I have to say I will at least have more focus in what it is I wish to achieve and how I am going to go about it.

I feel I currently have a few barriers. The current education department that I work for is a very big brother and likes to rule with an iron fist. Our internet filters are extremely tight and I find this extremely restrictive. For example, I want to develop my own ning social network, where children can learn how to use the internet appropriately, in a closed environment but ning is blocked by current filters. Other blocked examples include edublogs, animoto (very cool video creation site), wetpaint and google docs.

My next project will be to experiment with Adobe Connect , which looks very cool for online collaboration. This appears not to be blocked yet. Another cool looking project is webon an easy way to make a mark on the web.

Currently I am teaching in Prep (5-6 year olds) a lot of these tools are not that useful on prep and there is no need to be innovative for the sake of being innovative. But the future looks bright.