Archive for May, 2009

Narrative Unit: Texts

An update on how things are coming together for my unit of work on Narrative, which combined more mainstream print and visual texts with ‘new technology’ texts.

The texts I have selected to study are:

  1. The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe (poem)
  2. And antoher thing – Anthony Dennis (Sunday Life opinion article)
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (novel)
  4. Fairytale and fable selection, possibly using a webquest
  5. Fox – Margaret Wild (picture book)
  6. Inanimate Alice (multimedia)
  7. and, if time permits, The Castle - Working Dog / Sitch (film)

After/while studying these texts, students will be creating their own narrative compostions:

  1. An individual digital story on the theme ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ (term 2)
  2. A group drama enacting a fairytale of students own choosing (term 2)
  3. A short story using hypertext to link to flashbacks in the story (term 3 – using new laptops)

I’m loving teaching this unit – so far we’ve looked at the poem and the magazine article, and are now reading Curious Incident…if we finish looking at the book by the end of week 5, that will leave plenty of time to look at the other texts (not a ‘close study’ – just exploring select aspects of narrative) and do some work on the assessment projects.

More updates to come!

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ICT Cross Curriculum Content

A comment by Pixeltoy on an earlier post about the Laptops for Learning Forum got me thinking: although I do believe much work will have to be done to ensure authentic integration of ICT resources into all subject, I’m not sure that syllabus change is the answer.

NSW syllabuses already have cross-curriculum content embedded into each syllabus.  One of the content areas is Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The ICT cross-curriculum content in the English 7-10 syllabus is worth quoting here at length:

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) content in English enables students to develop and apply skills, knowledge and understanding of ICT in their composing, responding and presenting, and as part of the imaginative and critical thinking they undertake in English. The ICT content has been incorporated into the content of this syllabus to ensure that all students have the opportunity to become competent, discriminating and creative users of ICT and are better able to demonstrate the syllabus outcomes of English through the effective use of ICT.

In their study of English, students are able to apply their existing knowledge of word processing, multimedia, ways of formatting and presenting texts, simulation software, graphics and electronic communication and further develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of these technologies. They learn about the ethics of information communication through technology.

At Stage 4, students use specified tools and functions of word processing for composing. They learn to import images and graphics into folders and documents. In formatting documents they learn to desktop publish using graphics in a multimedia presentation or webpage, evaluating appropriate layout and design principles for a specific audience.

At Stage 5, students use more advanced specified tools and functions of word processing for composing. They learn to create, import and manipulate graphics. They learn about advanced forms of digital communication such as video conferencing.

So, what is it that’s already letting us down?  What is it we are missing in our professional learning to be able to implement this content, which already appears in our syllabus documents?

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Tribes #TED

Seth Godin talks to TED 2009 about how, rather than homogonising everyone, then internet has instead lead us to form TRIBES. He explains how:

  • People on the fringes can now  find each other, connect and go somewhere.
  • It is tribes, not money or factories, that can change our world…that can align large numbers of people.
  • What we do now for a living in today’s society is: find something worth changing, then assemble tribes, which assemble other tribes etc. until it becomes something bigger than us – a movement.
  • Leaders challenge the status quo, and build a culture and a community to connect people to a cause.

What are you changing?

Who are you connecting with?

Who are you leading?

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The Twitter Experiment

This five-minute video gives an impression of what it is like using Twitter as a backchannel in a large classroom.

I am already a HUGE fan of Twitter as a tool for extending my PLN. Logistically, I’m unsure how tweet-ing would work in a NSW high school context at the moment (leaving aside the fact that it is blocked by the web filter) – can anyone out there share a success story?

more about “The Twitter Experiment“, posted with vodpod

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Arts and Sciences not seperate #TED

In this TED talk Mae Jemison makes some very poetic and logical arguments for teaching the Arts and the Sciences in a more integrated way, and about the importance of promoting human creativity, which she explains is found in both the Arts and Sciences:

The talk was interesting in itself, but the reason why I found this Ted talk so appealing was that it again got me thinking about the inter-related nature of the acts of reading and writing, and of what our English syllabus in NSW calls responding (reading, listening and viewing) and composing (writing, speaking, and visually representing).  You might already have spotted a problem with these divisions – although the syllabus names reading as an act of responding (because it involves thinking about and having a response to what is read), one can also write or speak a ‘response’, yet those acts are names as acts of composing.  Do you follow? ;)

The distinction being made in the syllabus however, is not really between the acts of reading and writing (for example), but between acts that involve responsive or comprehensive thought processes, and acts that involve original or creative thought processes.

Jemison is critical of the way we have been taugh to regard ‘intuitive’ and ‘analytical’ thought processes as seperate – to see ourselves and others as ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained'; ‘artists’ or ‘scientists'; ‘destructors’ or ‘constructors’.  While it may be handy for working out assessment task weightings to distinguish between acts such as listening and writing (although we will often test listening by getting kids to write down what they understood!), it is one way in which we reinforce the artificial binary of intuition and analysis.

One must be intuitive to be truly analytical.  One may work very methodically to acheive originality or create art.  Good English teachers understand this, and continue to promote creativity in all its forms.

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Laptops 4 Learning

Wanted to get down some of the big ideas (and fast facts) that have come up over the past two days at the Laptops 4 Learning Forum.  There is so much I could say – and will say, in some more blog posts over the coming week.  For now…

Big Ideas:

  • Schools should work toward developing a ‘digital culture’ by using technologyas a tool, rather than scheduling technology events.  The laptops should become part of the learning environment, like pens, papers and whiteboards.
  • Laptop use in schools has the potential to make classes and projects more student-centred.  The increased capacity for project-based learning through connectivity (and nifty software) can mean that the technology can have a positive impact on pedagogy.
  • Teachers will need to develop their skills in classroom management to accomodate problems with the technology…but this is no reason to give up or shy away.  We already do this when the photocopier breaks, or the OHP bulb blows!
  • Laptops are exciting, and the potential for student engagement is huge.  Rather than facing their work and asking  “why do I have to do it?”, this will get them asking “can I do it this way?” (This great point from Steven Plummer, who is leading the English KLA project)
  • Barbara Bober gave us a great metaphor – some teachers will be like Formula 1 drivers with the technology; most will ordinary, but competent and perhaps even excited drivers or smaller vehicles (to extend the metaphor for those who worry about teachers losing control in laptop lessons – in this metaphor, the teacher is still the driver!)
  • When planning, we should consider how the laptops will impact on the students, the teachers, the pedagogy, and classroom management.  All are important factors
  • There isn’t a need to re-invent the wheel.  As well as imagining new and foreign possibilities, we should be looking at current curriculum and pedagogy and asking: what can be enriched?
  • Ken Olah explained that feedback to kids has the largest correlation (1.4) with increased student learning.  Imagine the opportunities for feedback that constant access to personal laptop creates!
  • It will be a bit messy to start off with…but it is worth it.

Students Talk:

In one panel discussion two students talked about what they saw as the benefits of having and using laptops.  They suggested:

  • Being able to do bits of work ‘here and there’, rather than only being able to access desktop computers at certain times will relieve some stress around homework and assignmetns
  • Homework etc. will be more easily recorded in a school diary or calendar on the laptops
  • Work can be saved, and easily shared – no more lost sheets or notes if you are away
  • Having computer access at school.  Students reported often having trouble getting into a computer lab or finding a free computer in the library
  • Assiting group work outside of school hours
  • Better access to whole school information – they suggested school notices being distributed electronically.

Fast Facts:

  • Students will get their laptops in Term 3.  Teachers will get theirs before students do, probably in July.
  • Wireless is getting installed in April, and this is bound to be a bit disruptive.  Libraries plus one classroom will get it first.
  • Every school will get one full-time technical officer to support laptop use.  There is a 4 year funding commitment from federal governemt for this, and this person is employed regardless of whether your school already has ‘an IT person’ – their sole job is to support the laptops
  • Schools will have spare batteries and laptops for students to use if they don’t have their laptops (and policies will be in place to curtail repeat offenders)
  • Students are expected to charge their laptops overnight and bring them charges to school.
  • Operating system is Windows XP
  • Software installed is Microsoft Office 7 (standard suite plus One Note) and Adobe (Connect, Presenter, Captivate, Photoshop Elements, Premier Elements, Dreamweaver, Flash and Acrobat Professional)
  • Disk size is 160 GB, but about 50 GB of this is used up with the software
  • The Lenovo laptops have two USB ports,  an Ethernet port, Bluetooth an SD memory card reader, and an inbuilt webcam

As I said, there is so much more information to come.  In the meantime, enjoy a peek at the new laptop :)

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