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Is Blogging Dead?

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Earlier this year, I had a conversation with one of the new teachers at our school about blogging which was overheard by one of our senior teachers who has been at our school for many years. That senior teacher made the comment: “I thought that blogging was dead!”. I was horrified and assured the teacher that it is was still very much alive!

More than 12 years ago, I started to blog under the direction of Heather Blakey who was a popular blogger in Australia. She conducted a PD in our school library for staff on blogging. I was fascinated and thought it would be a great way to share our country backyards with others, especially as we live in Kanawinka, the largest Geeopark in the world. There is much evidence of volcanic activity in our area, on our farms and in the small towns that our students hail from. Our students come from Penshurst, which has the volcano, Mt Rouse; Macarthur (Mt Eccles) and Koroit (Tower Hill).

Since that time I have taught students to blog, usually commencing in year 7 as that is normally the youngest age group that I teach. My new year 7 classes have started to learn the skills of blogging at the beginning of this term.

To support my horrified response that it was not dead, following are  recent stories that I have had from past students and from one of my school teaching colleagues:

  1. One of my past students is now a successful apps developer working for himself. He started in this field as he loved blogging while he was at school. The coding that had gone on in the backend of the blog had fascinated him.
  2. Another student took a university exchange last year, and messaged me to say she had created a blog to document her travels whilst studying in Great Britain. I took an avid interest in what she was doing and could keep up to date by reading her posts.
  3. Michelle, a teaching colleague at school, and her husband love to travel. Last year, when they visited Spain, they shared their updates on Facebook. However, they were concerned that some of the feedback they got was not positive in resultant comments. She wanted me to teach her how to blog so that they could share their travels this way and have some control over possible feedback via comments etc. Faraway Places to See was started and the result is a stunning reflection of their travels on the recent trip to Africa.

When I travel or seek information, I will often search for blogs on the topic as they are coming from people who have experienced, researched or usually have organic knowledge on the topic. Many years ago, I wrote the following posts on why blogging is important and my viewpoints have not changed at all, in fact they are constantly reaffirmed. Blogging introduces so many different skills – digital citizenship, writing skills for local and global use, use of multi nodal media, html coding, development of digital portfolios and much more.

Blogging is not dead and will not be while I and many others teach Digital Technologies! I am as passionate as ever about blogging and want my students to be too!

See  some of my previous articles on

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Involvement at ISTE 2018 – Conference Presentations

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ISTE is the biggest conference in the world for technology teachers. This year, it was held at the McCormick Place, Chicago. There were more than 22000 people in attendance a. The following were presentations, that I was involved in.

I was fortunate to represent and present with some of my colleagues from  my most valued personal learning networks:

Global Education Day:  Sunday June 24th, organised by Lucy Gray and Steve Hargadon (the learning revolution). These two amazing educators lead the fabulous Global Education Conference. As part of this session, I led a roundtable discussion on the Best Tools and Apps for Global Education. See the shared, crowd sourced document. Approximately 20 people crowded around a table, introduced themselves, accessed the google document and as each one shared their favourite tools, Leigh Zeitz added them to the document. What would you add to this document? Either add as a comment below or directly input it into the online document. See the participate portal with summaries of this 3 hour session.

Poster Session: Sunday July 24th

Hello Little World: Teachers Connecting Beyond Borders with David Karnoscak, (Chicago USA) Steve Sherman (of Cape Town, Sth Africa) and a number of members of our HLW Skypers group. See the session summary.

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In 2011 two high school teachers, Katherine Zablatnik (Austria) and Brad Peach (Texas) met via Skype. They wanted to promote building lifelong bridges between students and to enhance cross-cultural awareness. Today the group has over 150 educators and continues to impact the lives of children all over the world. Click here for more information

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As part of this session Effie Kyrikakis of Winners education  stayed up 3am in order to skype in with us, so that those who were interested could play Mystery Skype with her or generally ask questions.

Matt Frattali captured an interview with me and Steve. See it below.

Snapshot Session: Connected Learning in the Global Classroom with fellow Skype Master Teachers Amy Rosenstein and Todd Flory See our session summary

Connected Learning in the Global Classroom
Todd Flory
Go to this Sway

Interactive Lecture: Top Tools for Global Collaborators Tuesday July 26th with Amy Jambor and Makisha Rogers See session details.

This session was submitted as one of the ISTE Global PLN’s presentations. See our full presentation Twitter was used as a backchannel providing participants with the  opportunity to interact during the session, using the hashtag #isteglobalpln. Four questions were asked of them over the session. As Makisha was unable to attend ISTE, she presented virtually via a google hangout, demonstrating the power that technology can give to classrooms through virtual communication.  See Connie Rensink‘s live streaming of our presentation on periscope.

3Doodler pens

 

Our school received a $10,000 DigiTech startup grant through Digital Technologies, Department of Education. The main focus was to look at introducing robotics into the classroom and being able to roll out the new Digital Technologies curriculum. I wanted some equipment that might be fun and reasonably easy to embrace as well.

 

David Deeds, an online colleague who is Director of Information and Learning Technologies for Schutz American School in Alexandria, Egypt. Egypt shared photos of his class working with 3D pens on Facebook. He is always at the cutting edge of technology and its use in the classroom. As I wanted something fun for students to work with, we added the purchase of pens to our shopping list. David was emailed to get his recommendations for which pens would be best to use.

Following is his reply:

There are lots of knockoffs 3D pens these days. I maintain that 3Doodlers are still the best, even though they might cost a few dollars more.
You can get them direct from the 3Doodler website, from Amazon, etc.
How long will they last? Well…that depends on the quality. I know folks I bought them for in Mexico three years ago are still using them.
3D pens allow kids to create 3D art. Beyond Art class, kids could create 3D models of atoms or whatever.
They’re a lot of fun…kids go crazy with them…that’s enough for me. 😉
And that was enough for me. After searching around online, Harvey Norman had the best deals as they were clearing out the pens. In fact we also received some bonus items like pen holders and foot pedals. Six 3Doodler pens were purchased. They are not cheap but were cheaper than other online options at approximately $168 AUD.
Challenges
  • I had no idea how to use them. Should I sit down and work out how before students used them? Are there safety measures required.
  • Our art/technology teacher is very wary of all this new technology, fearing that it takes away student creativity.

Positives

  • one of my year 10 DigiTech students, Emily, was really keen to use them when I showed the class. She took it on herself to research how to use it, found some patterns to try and get started with, printed them off and brought them to me.
  • The pattern sheet was laid on the table top, the plastic threaded through the pen and the design was traced around using the pen.

As I have done so many times over my long teaching career, I decided to jump in the deep end and let the students play, teach me how to use them and we collaboratively learn together. Emily brought the printed sheets to class period 1. I said that I preferred she design something first rather than downloading an existing pattern, but she felt it was a simple way to start and that she could simply concentrate on learning how to operate the pen. Her first attempt was rather rustic but on her second go, she started to perfect the technique, causing a lot of interest from fellow students. Following is a movie to see how it looked.

Emily also worked out the technique to join 2 pieces of 3D printout together eg in making the Eiffel Tower. It was made in 2 parts, then joined to create the 3D object. Emily said this was quite difficult to do.

First attempt

Once students have learnt the basic use, following are some ideas of things that they could now design and create:

  • smaller colourful glasses
  • masks
  • key rings
  • balls etc

I would like them to use the pen to build the complete 3D image rather than put flat pieces together.

Have you used the 3D pen printing technology? What suggestions do you have?

 

The power of technology connections in learning


Each year, district schools, open their buildings to interested prospective parents. It almost becomes a competition, with some schools holding their information evenings earlier and earlier in the school year. Of course we all think that we teach in the ‘best school’!

school sign

Although our school, Hawkesdale P12 College is small, it is big on opportunities for students. Technology has enabled us to open up the doors to the world. which includes expert speakers eg authors, scientists, museums; to global classrooms and to some of the best teachers and educationalists there are.IMG_2686.JPG

For the information evening, parents are divided into groups with both a teacher and student leading them around the school. Parents are rotated around Science, Physical Education, Food Technology, Robotics and Information and Communications Technology  areas where they participate in a range of ‘hands on’ activities.

linlin taiwan

Each year I am asked to videoconference (using Skype) in to another classroom or with other teachers to show the magic that technology can bring to learning. My two wonderful colleagues, Steve Sherman (Living Maths), South Africa and Lin-lin Tan from Taiwan agreed to connect with us for each of the groups. Steve was at another school and kindly went out of his way to skype with us. This meant he used his mobile phone to connect and he was seated in his car in the carpark to talk to us. This was a first for me! To have an educator teaching us from within their car.

steve from south africa

Initially, the parents and students played Mystery Skype, asking questions that required a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to determine their location. Lin-lin had to tell them where she was from as they did not work it out in the allocated time. She also shared a poster and map of where she was from, some Chinese culture (as she is Chinese), her evening meal and some of the foods she enjoys. (Note, our school teaches mandarin Chinese.)

linlin and soup

After a number of questions by students, one of the parents determined Steve’s location with the question: “Did the Australian Cricket Team recently play in your country.”

nathan and steve south africa

People will often ask well “What did you learn?” from doing these connections. Here is just a little bit of learning in the 15-20 minutes that Lin-lin and Steve had.

From Lin-lin

  • Where in the world, Taiwan is. Some students may not have even heard of Taiwan!
  • What the Taiwanese language sounds like! (She was home about to eat her evening meal and her mother had called her to come and eat. She responded in her language to say that she was working with a class in Australia)!
  • It was very hot where she lived. (It is nearly winter here!)
  • We saw the soup she was about to eat – it was vegetarian with many healthy greens etc and heard about her fried rice for tea. She also showed us their pickles.
  • The landmark that Taiwan is famous for – the Tapei Tower
  • Chinese lucky envelopes and how they are used.

Steve Sherman

  • witnessed the true ability of being able to teach anywhere and anytime using technology. Steve taught us from his car in the school carpark.
  • exchange rates – students showed Steve our $5 note and he immediately turned into a learning moment. Parents and students had to search for the exchange rate between AUD and the Rand. The Australian dollar buys nearly 10 rands.
  • Different cultural phrases: South Africans say ‘tins of coke’, Australians say ‘cans of coke’
  • Students/parents had to work out how much a can of coke would cost in AUD, if Australians were in South Africa.

South Western Victorian Bushfires on St Patrick’s Day

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March 17th was forecast to be hot and windy, with high fire danger and extreme warnings were issued by the Country Fire Authority (CFA).

It was an early morning rise on Saturday 17th March. I had stayed overnight with my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in an airbnb accommodation in Broadmeadows as it was a short ride to Tullamarine airport. They were flying out to Sth Africa and had to check in at 7am. I was then to drive their car back home.

After seeing them through their flight check-in, I continued on to the Victoria Market to have some breakfast and purchase some fresh delicatessen items, meat and fruit. It was a lovely warm, calm and pleasant morning and I thought that surely the weather forecast was wrong.

After a 3.5 hour drive home, I stepped out of the car to feel the heat and the strong winds that were now blowing. It did not cool down much at all so even when I went to bed it was really hot. Instead of the winds dying down they continued to escalate in strength and speed – a most unusual occurrence. As I was tired I had retired early for the night.

Our landline phone had been out of order for four days, but Telstra had said it should be fixed by the following Tuesday. For some reason, I took my mobile phone to our room and placed it on the bedside cupboard (it is usually charged overnight in the kitchen). At 12:40am I heard it ring via viber (using our wifi) as we do not get mobile phone service at home. It rang out but started up again. I could see it was my daughter trying to ring us and assuming that one of the grandchildren had taken ill, I answered it. However, Katherine was trying to tell us that there was grass fire headed to Hawkesdale and that Hawkesdale was being evacuated. In fact, most people had left at 11:00pm. (We are 8kms south of Hawkesdale). Her snapchat was going wild with people’s photos and updates regarding the extent of th evacuation.

This was hard to believe, as we could not smell smoke or see any fire. Fortunately, our power was still on, so I started up our computer to check out Facebook and the Victorian Emergency website. To my horror, there were fire alerts over much of Western Victoria.

The other puzzling factor, was the fact that our pager had not gone off. My husband is a volunteer firefighter with Warrong which is just south of Hawkesdale and in cases of serious fires in our local area, his pager would have gone off.  Then….. the pager did go off! I quickly threw some things together, including our passports, a sleeping bag and pillow, jumped in the car to evacuate to my daughter’s house in Warrnambool, whilst my husband donned his CFA firefighting uniform and went to Hawkesdale to help fight the fires.

evacuate now

However, 5 minutes down the road, I remembered my iPad which I desperately needed to keep up to date with the VicEmergency app. I quickly went back inside the house, got my iPad and drove down our drive for the second time. When I reached the end of our driveway, a car had pulled up. It was our neighbours who were coming back to check on us for the second time. They had been to our place an hour earlier and banged and banged on our door trying to wake us up and alert us of the approaching fire. Unfortunately, we had slept right through this. I thanked them and proceeded onto Warrnambool.

It was eerie driving to Warrnambool. There were no other cars on the road (as everyone else had most likely evacuated and reached their destination.)  I had the radio on and could hear all the bushfire warnings. Finally I reached Warrnambool and Katherine’s house. There was little sleep to be had as we listened to the radio and watched the app for the latest updates. Facebook updates provided information from those who had evacuated and from some who decided to stay at Hawkesdale. (They evacuated to the recreation reserve at Hawkesdale or to the Hall). From their updates we knew that Hawkesdale had still not been taken. However, I had no idea where my husband Bruce was. He finally messaged me via viber to say he was okay, had been trying to mop up the fires where they had hit on the farms in Greens Lane and put out some of the fires in the windbreaks and trees.

By morning, we were able to watch some of it on the television news. At 10am I decided to drive home and see what of my garden I could water (to save both the garden and our house, should the fire proceed once more). Winds were still fierce and it was still quite warm. At 4pm there was meeting organised by the CFA for community members in our school library. The library was full of community members and representatives from a wide variety of groups. We were briefed on the extent of the fire and some of the options for financial and hardship relief.

community meeting at hawkesdale

The significant role of social media in all this.

Without social media, we may not have known of the impending fire until it was too late as we had no mobile phone service and our landline was out of order.

Snapchat: my daughter’s snapchat feed alerted her to the fires in the district including Terang, Camperdown and Gazette and then to the evacuation of Hawkesdale and the sheer numbers from Hawkesdale who had left. Watching the feed closely she realised she needed to urgently contact us using viber. Fortunately our power was still on for wifi to work. In real time, she was getting photos from people who could see the fierce fires nearby.

Facebook: updates here, enabled us to keep in contact with others who had evacuated and who had stayed in Hawkesdale. A site setup with the sponsorship of the Red Cross allowed us to mark that we were safe.

The Vic Emergency website: kept updating every 2 hours with the latest alerts, incidents and warnings.

 

Guest speaker for International Women’s Day

I received a very special invitation from Seena and Sebastian Panakal to speak to a group of women for International Women’s Day on March 8th. In Australia, the status of women continues to improve and gender equality is increasing in evidence. There is a lot of public attention on treating women with respect but that is still not always the case.

The group of women who I was to present to were from Kerala, India. These are Women of the Wiki, women who wish to become empowered, improve their status in life and the education of their community and to increase employment opportunities for their families. They do not enjoy the same privileges or standard of living that I, as a woman in Australia does. How special to share this International Day with women who lived in another country.

Sebastian and women

My role was to share the power that technology can provide. Accents can always be a problem and English may not be their first language, so I put together a brief Powerpoint presentation with images to help with understanding. I showed where I live  (on a farm in rural south Eastern Australia) and where I teach (a remote rural school of 200 students aged 5 to 18), an area that has no mobile phone service. However, access to the internet and a powerful network has enabled the world to be our classroom, resulting in a number of awards including global awards. Many invitations have now come my way to present at a variety of conferences both in Australia and overseas, including Qatar, Shanghai and USA. It is hoped that these women could see that ordinary women can achieve great things with the innovative use of technology and a strong network.

Skype was used to connect. Screen sharing allowed the Indian audience to see my presentation. Sebastian capably organised the videoconference from his end.

The women of Kerala, India were encouraged to consider tourism, providing homestays (through homestays.com or airbnb or similar) or “meals with strangers” (through apps and sites like VizEat, EatWith) could provide a welcome income for some of these women. Selling their craft work online is another possibility. The internet can open up willing global markets. They could teach their language online for a small fee. What other ideas do you have to help them?

Sebastian Panakal, a valued online teaching colleague, together with his wife Seena organised this event. Other online guest speakers were to follow. It is hoped that these women can think of ways to use technology to full effect and improve their and their family’s station in life.

One of the women asks a question

One of the women asks a question

 

Global Mardi Gras Judging for German Students

the winner

The winner of the Mardi Gras competition – the Penguin!

Reinhard Marx has been an online teaching colleague for many years, and pushes technology use to the boundaries of the world. Each year he organises many activities for his classes and brings other classes and educators in from across the world.

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The class from Croatia, as seen through the Hangout!

Last night was one great example of his innovative work and this is what it looked like.

  1. Students in his school came dressed in costume for the Mardi Gras.
  2. Prior to the event he sent out a google spreadsheet seeking classes and teachers from across the globe to be judges. Interested teachers filled in the spreadsheet, with their name, class (if they had one), country and email contact.

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    The class from Hungary

  3. Just prior to the class, the link to a Google Hangout was shared

    tereza and her cat

    Tereza – a judge from Croatia

  4. Reinhard creatively set up 2 webcameras, one at the front for students to walk towards, showing their costume and also to act out their costume character.

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    The rear webcam allowed us to see the back of the costumes

  5. Another webcam was set up at the back of the room, so that we could see the detail of the back of the costume.
  6. There were three sessions in total. In my session, there were classes/educators from Hungary, Croatia, Russia and Australia
  7. A link was given to a judging sheet setup in Google Sheets. We gave each student a score for A) their costume itself and B)  for their ability to act out the costume character. Each was scored out of 10
    voting sheet
  8. The winner with the highest total received a chocolate bar!

Highlights

  • Sitting in on a German classroom virtually and hearing the German instructions and then often the English interpretations of the character’s costume.
  • watching students being pushed outside their comfort zones to try and act out their character
  • watching in real time, the global judges’ scores coming in on the spreadsheet
  • seeing the variety of costumes

The total time taken was approximately 50 mins. Great work, Reinhard on a very successful competition.