Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Digital Learners

Does the technology drive the way we teach? I have always felt that it was important to have a strong philosophy in place before suggesting change - and I still think that is generally sound.

However we need to be careful that by doing this we don't unnecessarily lock ourselves into 20th century ways of teaching with a layer of ICT on top. In other words if we teach in much the same way as we did 20 years ago, perhaps we have to have a quiet look at how ICT is transforming the learning environment and whether there are ways we can better make use of this environment to the benefit of our learners. viz

  1. Flat Classrooms;
  2. Redefining Literacy for the 21st century
  3. Harnessing the New Shape of Information

George Siemens is a keynote spealer at a conference in Sydney in October. He is a leading theorist on the changing nature and needs of learning. This short interview is worth reading:

ICT will contine to transform the way we teach - our ways of teaching are going to change and we need to explore the new ICT's. thinking about ways they can be used to modify / improve our students' learning. To some extent, then, the technology has to lead the pedagogy. If you have a smartboard in your classroom, don't just think of it as another whiteboard which can be used as a projector screen - Use the pd which will come with it to think about and explore ways in which it can transform the way your class teach and learn.

A fair bit of work has been done on the current generation of learners. For example this NZCER Report is the first of a series which looks at digital learners and the things which influence their lives:

NZCER Report - Zooming in on Digital Learners: (80 pages!)


An American Report looks at similar issues. It's a bit shorter and specifically explores the issues of digital kids in text based classrooms.

Points from Listening to student voices.

  • Computer and internet use is growing
  • Students are sophisticated users
  • Technology is important to students in education
  • Technology is not an ‘extra’
  • In-school access to technology is limited
  • Home use dominates
  • In-school use is not integrated
  • Computers and the Internet are communications tools, first
  • Metaphors describe how students use the Internet for school: The Internet as: (This is interesting)
    • virtual guidance counselor
    • virtual textbook and reference library
    • virtual tutor, study short-cut, study group
    • virtual locker, backpack, and notebook
  • Technology has caused students to approach life differently; but adults act as though nothing has changed
  • Students desire increased in-school access
  • Students want to use technology to learn, and in a variety of ways
  • Students want challenging, technologically-oriented instructional activities
  • Students want adults to move beyond using the ‘Internet for Internet’s sake’
  • Students want to learn the basics, too

Interesting to see things from American (high school) students' points of view.

Relaxing on the beach.....

A Few General Bits and Pieces:

Wikipedia - accurate or not?? In December 2005, the science journal, Nature, chose 50 entries on various scientific topics from Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica to be peer-reviewed by an expert in the field. The study found that, on average, Wikipedia articles contained 3.9 errors per article while Britannica articles contained 2.9......


Digital Life extract from last Wednesday 19 Sept. Interesting content on:

  • the ANZ Bank email scam
  • Computer games for oldies
  • New mobile phones
  • Lonely Girl
  • Bigger Monitors
  • Use of Podcasts in learning - particularly at University level.

Right click and download or just click to play in media player

Special request - tactical advice for Sudoko:

Sudoku Help: http://www.sudokusolver.co.uk/

Handy Hint - Use Excel to create a timeline:



Instructions here.

If you're feeling poor, check this out!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Is Blogging like Jazz?

Is blogging like jazz? Hmm, not sure but here's someone who thinks it is:

With production week upon us, here is a Kiwiana icon - Hammond Gamble -he's been around almost as long as Bob Dylan and his new album is definitely worth a listen to.
Excerpt from Midnight
His website:

We talk a lot about Information Literacy. I'm not overly comfortable with the term (I think I prefer a term like information management?) Wikipedia has a page on it.

Looking for information requires a lot more then simply generating a quick couple of keywords. And it involves more than just heading to Google! The process involves a more thoughtful and discriminating use of information sources. (Try the Wellesley Search Pages or the Quick Search page.) There a any number of information management tools here which can help to focus a search.
They also need to have the ability to interrogate the information source, ensure the information answers the questions they are asking and be patient enough to verify the information.

An Information checklist for kids is below. It is a bit naive asking if the information is biased - isn't it always, and should they apply this list to all information sources? The idea is good though, and worth a look.

Websites for this week:
http://www.ct4me.net/ Use of ICT in Mathematics.

http://www.carnegiehall.org/article/explore_and_learn/art_online_resources_listening_adventures.html Music learning site - Learn about sound, music notation, text, and instruments in a fun, interactive exploration of musical repertoire. Although designed primarily for those aged 6-12, these engaging games allow both kids and adults to experience great music while learning music concepts in a stimulating environment.

And, finally Air new Zealand's daily specials page. New domestic destinations every day with some very cheap fares:

Sunday, September 10, 2006


One of my favourite scientists was a physicist named Carl Sagan who unfortunately died at an early age in the 1990's. He once said something which really puts us in our place:

'We live on a hunk of rock and metal that circles a humdrum star that is one of 400 billion other stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy which is one of billions of other galaxies which make up a universe which may be one of a very large number, perhaps an infinite number, of other universes. That is a perspective on human life and our culture that is well worth pondering.'

This went down really well with the creationists!
He was also responsible for the cosmic calendar - a model of the life of the universe compressed into one earth year:

Graphic: http://school.discovery.com/schooladventures/universe/itsawesome/cosmiccalendar/page2.html
Find out more about Carl Sagan at Wikipedia
Similarly, this is an thoughtful presentation of the idea of reducing the population of the world to 100: http://www.miniature-earth.com/
Speaking of Wikipedia, there are now over 5 million articles of which 1.3 million are English (480 in Maori). There are 229 different language Wikipedias.
There is an ongoing discussion about the accuracy of Wikipedia. The link below points to a reasonable opinion piece on why we should treat Wikipedia as credible:
If you doubt the accuracy of an online, collaborative encyclopedia (and you should, it's worth a read.

Some interesting papercuts! Possible classroom activity? More on the website below.


And finally. Point England School in Auckland produce a weekly podcast. Their web page is worth a browse: http://www.ptengland.school.nz/index.php?family=1,871 If you have ITunes on your laptop, you can listen to their latest podcast:


Link to Inquiry learning (Steve's Link)


Friday, September 01, 2006

Searching for the Right Stuff

In the past week - was it Monday? - we were talking about searching the internet and I thought it was timely to think about the process we (and the boys) go through when we do this.

It is very easy to rush to a computer and throw the first words we think of into Google and then hit the first result for information. We need to teach children and model ourselves, a more thoughtful, considered approach.

We have an information process - it is worth looking at this and adapting it for our own uses.

Choosing keywords takes time and experience. We need to think about the right blend and combination. Booleian logic can help. These links provide some information on this:

We also need to encourage our learners to be discriminating. Always verify your information, whatever source it comes from, books or internet. Use the analogy of someone running into the class and saying that lunch was going to be early. Do you believe them? No, but you try to verify the information by asking someone else. We need to have a healthy mistrust of information.

Learners should practise thinking about the most useful places to find the information they need. Up to date information about countries of the world could be tracked down on the CIA World Fact Book.

If you require New Zealand information, try the developing NZ Encyclopedia Te Ara. And there are a couple of NZ history sites worth using: New Zealand History online and a site maintained by a NZ woman living in France: NZ History. The National Library has a growing collection of digital material including Timeframes - historical photos of New Zealand.

For worldwide biographical information try the Biography Channel and for New Zealand Biographies, try the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.

And of course, the online collaborative encyclopedia, Wikipedia needs to be used as well.

Google images isn't the only way to track down graphics for your work. Teachers at Work has a good site with links to image databases.

Finally, I'm a great fan of providing online scaffolding so that learners can work at their own pace. Examples of this can be found with Webquests, Thinkquests and Jamie McKenzies "Slam Dunk" lessons .

If you have any questions about any of this, please talk to me!