Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ninging it

With the popularity of Nings increasing, I've been giving some thought on how we can leverage them within our courses at our respective schools. I belong to several Nings that are extensions of my PLN and they have proven to be valuable resources time and again. But what makes them so valuable as a resource is the broader network of individuals that participate in the various nings.

The ISENET ning for example, was developed by @demetri has become a tremendous resource for educators around the world. Although I tend to stay in groups related to technology, there is a group for just about any facet in education. This ning is 1800+ members strong.

So how do we leverage the collective wisdom of educators around the world? I believe teachers need to open up their nings to other teachers and resident experts in the fields being explored within their ning. The ning is a powerful tool but if used solely for the class of students being taught, then the classroom walls have moved only slightly. A concept I have learned over and over again in the International Cohort for PLP Ning.

A few weeks ago, Debra Garcia at Fredericksburg Academy asked if I wouldn't mind joining FAT BIO(Topics in Biology at Fredericksburg Academy). I accepted the offer and was thrilled at the opportunity to read and participate in topics related to Biology.

You see, before I moved into the world of educational technology I was a MS science teacher but my degree is in Biology from the College of William and Mary. Although I have a new found passion for educational technology, I will always be a science guy first-look out Bill Nye.

The ning is indeed a wonderful opportunity to share but I say let's move beyond our classrooms a little more and ask a colleague from another school, university, or profession to share their experiences with your students.

I hope school's of education consider this model because there are lots of grad students who could certainly benefit from this type of experience.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Care to fall off the flat world with us?

Below is an annotated version of the video skype session St. Christopher's School had with Toorak College regarding the Australian Bush Fires. The video is just under 20 minutes but one can certainly sense the energy, compassion, and the desire to work together to make a difference.

How are we helping? Toorak College suggested that we support Chum Creek Primary School. This is a small school that suffered tremendous damage and it is our desire to assist Chum Creek acquire a new playground and to send drawings developed by our lower school students to support their students.

Interested in helping the students of Chum Creek?
Please send notes of support or checks made out to:

Chum Creek Primary School
care of Michael Corr(principal)
705 Chum Creek Road
Healesville 3777

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mastering Old Tech-the PPT Dilemma

My class recently completed what most instructors would say as the dreaded PowerPoint Assignment. However, despite the groans I have heard from colleagues, I continue to use and exploit this tool so my students can learn about the flexibility of this program. Let me start by saying that I teach a computer applications class to a group of 8th graders but despite the very 20th century title for the course, I make every effort to allow my students to explore their imaginations, engage in creative problem solving, while appealing to the affective aspects of their learning. I have the benefit of not having a formal curriculum which allows it to change dynamically from trimester to trimester or from assignment to assignment.

Back to this dreaded PPT assignment. The first thing we covered were issues that can make a PPT presentation ineffective. We brainstormed different concepts using Inspiration and then launched into the assignment entitled the "Lousy PowerPoint". The assignment itself is nothing new. Many teachers have asked their students to create Lousy PPTs, but my goal was to also incorporate many of the "wiz bang" options available to users.

After developing presentations that exaggerated and highlighted poor presentation skills my students were then asked to redo their PPTs so they could be delivered effectively in front of an audience.

As my students were developing their new and improved PPTs, I was struck by how much they picked up from designing and critiquing each others lousy PPTs. So, is the oral presentation dead? I hope not because public speaking is a valuable skill that should be groomed and practiced regularly. Presentation software has unfortunately been misused by so many users that many teachers blame the product rather than the instruction. Guidelines and rubrics are all fine and good but the true essence of creating an excellent presentation is having good public speaking skills. So let's be sure to include those items in our guidelines and rubrics too. After that, it is all a transition away.

Helpful tools for presenters:
-rehearsal time
-wireless mouse
-wireless keyboard
-internet connection
-practice space that mimics where the presentation will be given