Friday, 27 August 2010

Reform Symposium 2010

Reform Symposium 2010- Steve Hargadon - reflections on the Keynote address

[PART 1]
[PART 2 next week 1st October]

Recently, I had the opportunity to take in part of the very successful two-day Reform Symposium 2010.

However, like many, life got in the way and conspired with global time zones to make it impossible to take part in more sessions than I would have liked. It was a great professional development experience though, which I look forward to taking part in again in 2011.

The organisers have provided the sessions as downloadable links, which was especially convenient for me since my wife and I spend much of our "downtime" in areas of the world with very limited (dial-up) or non-existent internet connectivity for long periods of time.

As a result, I was able to download some of the sessions I had wanted to attend but couldn't and watched the presentations as we travelled (yay Nokia E72!).

In this post, I am going to summarise and reflect on the issues of particular interest to me, given my context, in Steve Hargadon's keynote address which he presented at the Reform Symposium 2010 on 30th July which he called "School 2.0: How the world is changing dramatically and how that will impact education." Steve is an excellent presenter so his was the first session I downloaded.

Steve began the presentation by discussing John Taylor Gatto, the New York State Teacher of the Year from 1989 to 1991, and author of the book "Dumbing Us Down." Steve read a short snippet from Gatto's retirement announcement and went on to highlight the fact that Gatto's message, that the factory model of education is not working, is now considered pretty much mainstream in the Ed Tech world.

Steve couched much of his discussion in terms of "stories" and that although the factory model "story" is understood by many to not work any longer, there is some question as to what the new story should be. Steve argued, quite correctly, that the new story of education needs to be an all encompasing one with, in fact, many different stories connected together. I would suggest calling it an "anthology of education stories."

The presenter then raised the point that the internet is now a very powerful tool which allows a multitude of participation types like never before, while being essentially beyond bricks and mortar school rooms. Steve presented two views of the revolution which is occuring.

The first of the two viewpoints was called the "Orderly View" and the second was the "Realistic View". The "Orderly View" shows "The Three Eras of Education" as being 3 distinct stages: "Apprenticeship", "Universal Schooling" and "Lifelong Learning". In the final era, students and parents take responsibility for learning and the content

What is is that makes people do this stuff (Free & Open Source) for free?

Steve went on to consider the idea of open source software and briefly discussed Linux and Apache programs which are very popular open source programs created as a result of volunteer effort. This led him into discussion of the topic of Volunteerism 2.0.

While he was discussing the MIT open educational resources service he suggested that one of the reasons institutions like MIT would provide educational resources for free is that the value is no longer in the knowledge per se. I think I would have to disagree with that. I believe the value is still in the knowledge, the difference I feel, is no longer in the need to have an "all knowing" expert who appears to own the knowledge be an the sole distributor of it. I would like to believe also, that it is an increasing sense of community responsibility on the part of large institutions who are making an attempt to be seen to be working towards the reduction of the digital divide in such places as Africa. It is easy for us sometimes to forget that by far the majority of the population of the planet do not enjoy persistent, reliable, ubiquitous connectivity to the Internet to the extent that we do in Western Europe and North America and parts of Asia and that much of the world's population relies heavily on mobile phones for their connectivity.

In keeping with the topic of Volunteerism 2.0 Steve also discussed the situation where Clay Shirky was being interviewed by a member of the television media who asked where people get all this time to volunteer for in such things as open source programs. Shirky's response, according to Steve, was that the time spent watching television is declining simply because television does not engage us enough. As a result, there is an increasing amount of "cognitive surplus" which people use on things that do engage them.

Photo Credit: burakg via Stockvault

[Part 2 next week]

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

My PLE (Revisited)

It's about that time of year again where I take an inventory of my current Personal & Professional Learning Environments (PLE), in other words the tools I use to further my learning, either formal or informal.
Since I successfully completed my M.Ed., the environment will be somewhat different than what it was while I was studying. The point of this excercise is to reflect on what has changed in my PLE and why as well as any overall impressions.

Below, you will find a graphic representation of the PLE I used about a year ago (click the image to make it larger).

Now, contrast that PLE with the one I am currently using:

While many of the tools remain, there have been some changes. For example, it looks as though, on balance, there has been a shift towards websites which I consider authorieties in the field of education and Professional Development. Content creation sites such as wikispaces still appear in the latest version. It seems also that the shift to mobile technologies is well on its way as I find myself increasingly doing work on my phone. Web 2.0 technologies are also well represented, but less than originally? I think the big difference in this assessment is the increase in mlearning, professional development and possibly a rationalisation of Web 2.0 technologies.

Why do I think these changes have happened? The first thing that struck me was, what appeared to be the decline in the number of Web 2.0 technologies or was it merely rationalisation? Not all tools which I've dropped are Web 2.0, or there was duplication of tools. For example, Freemind, a mind mapping program which is a download, has essentially been overtaken by which is online and a Web 2.0 technology. There has definately been an increase in mobile computing because of the fact I am more often not able to access a desktop or laptop computer. My smartphone is, where I need it, when I need it. There has also been an increase in access to professional development sites such as The Educator's PLN (NING) because I am attempting to keep pace with pedagogical ideas and the EdTech community as my community of practice. Finally, although I have dropped some tools, I think really it was a rationalisation of tools which essentially did the same, or nearly the same, job.

Another tool conspicuous by its absence is Evernote. I have found that I am increasingly using the Active Notes tool on my NOKIA. So, no need to use Evernote which I would have to download and install (if they have a S60 version - I don't know, I didn't bother to check). Moreover, I found that I used Evernote on my PC as a clipping service. But I also had Wired Marker for that and Jing for screen captures, so Evernote, for me, was redundant.

The next one 'out' was "". This was a move to efficiency really. I was till using and found that they were essentially duplicated tools, so I stayed with - still a Web 2.0 tool!

The second area of change was the increased use of mobile technologies. This change has occurred rather quickly as I am increasingly using the tools on my smartphone to get everday in-class tasks done such as evidence collecting and scheduling. Nevertheless, the move is still limited as a result of the wifi access limitations within school and the limitations on mobile use.

And that is my review of my PLE. What does your PLE look like? Are you using tools which I don't? If so, how do they help you? Have you ditched any tools recently?

Photo Credit: "Keyboard" by Alireza-Ghabraei via

Friday, 6 August 2010

Using Audacity for pupil radio dramas with sound effects

Creating a radio drama using sound effects, Audacity and pupil scripts.

One of the favourite activities this year was script writing for an authentic audience. This year we decided to try our hand at creating short radio dramas.

I introduced the class to some classic (edited) radio dramas such as Superman and Sam Spade. They loved them!

We discussed in our groups what the purpose of the scripts were in our context, how they were related (connections)to our English and Inquiry topics, what we liked about the dramas we heard, what made them interesting, who would be the audience in the 1940's & 50's as well as what other events were part of the context at the time. The groups then fed back their ideas to the class and we recorded them on the Smartboard.

We then broke up into our teams for a brainstorming session on what the plot, characters, etc. would be for our own dramas. Once the draft copies were ready, the groups had to work out if they needed any sound effects and if so what characteristics they needed to have.

For example, one group needed someone walking. But, on careful consideration, they realised they needed a woman slowly walking in high heels. Unfortunately, we couldn't locate a pre-recorded sound effect on the internet which met our needs, so the group located a willling teacher and recorded her as she walked down the hall. They then saved the recording and we imported it to Audacity, where the children worked out where the sound effect had to begin and end.

For some groups, who needed several sound effects, the task was more onerous and included such clips as explosions, helicopters, children playing and someone with hiccups.

After a few practices and editing, the actual first recordings were made. Different groups approached the challenge differentlyand were given enough flexibility to solve issues with lateral thinking so they all learned how to record or find a sound effect and import it into Audacity. Then, using the time shifting tool they decided where the effect would go then they edited it for fade in, fade out etc. I will have placed a link to one of the typical draft versions which the creators would love to have comments about. when I return from vacation. Here is the first 30 seconds or so but it should be enough to get the gist! :)

We enjoyed using the site SoundBible for our clips.
Photo of microphone by SimonDeanMedia

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Digital Literacies in top 100 Technology Blogs for Teachers!

A little while ago, I was very excited to discover that this blog had been placed in the top 100 technology blogs dedicated to teachers. Considering the illustrious members on the list I am really pleased that this blog has been helpful to others! See for yourself at Online

Thanks Alexis!

Sunday, 1 August 2010