Holiday Goodies!

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> Planet Orbis Project, especially avatar skins, etc…
> Intel Teach Course and PBL
> OpenSim on a USB Stick
> Holistic Education
> Jibe
> Cooking

Our Term 3 holidays will soon come to an end and, although a little more relaxation time would have been nice, I’ll be happy to return to school next week knowing that I’ve had a productive break. ūüôā ¬†I’ve been very fortunate to have the time to work on a variety of projects over the holidays and there have also been a couple of surprise inclusions thanks to one of my favourite tools, Twitter!

OpenSim Project
We had an exciting Term 3 with our TechnoSpirit Project and Term 4 will see us introduce Planet Orbis to a group of Year 5 Maths Students. ¬†We’ve had a lot of fun setting up some basic areas on the Planet Orbis sims and developing some extra terrestrial avatars for the students. (That’s right, their avatars will be aliens!) ¬†Students will be using the OpenSim building tools to create their own crop circle patterns as part of their studies in Geometry. ¬†Part of the fun of this project has been developing the narrative to present to the students. ¬†Keep an eye on our Begonia Island Blog for more details of this project.

Intel Teach Elements Course
Towards the end of Term 3, our Director of ICT passed on information about the latest Intel Teach Elements Course.  After looking into it I was interested in pursuing it further not just because of the ICT content but because the new course is based on Project Based Learning.  I thought that I would dread going through the online course during the holidays, however,
I’ve found it easy to work through and a good starting point for learning more about the PBL approach. ¬†Below is an example of what I’ve covered so far, a comparison between Conventional and Project Based Learning. ¬†This task alone was a very enlightening one!

conventional_vs_project-based_cropped

Cooking
My daughter and I always enjoy time in the kitchen during the holidays. ¬†We tried lots of new recipes, one of which was a delicious chocolate cup cake recipe. ¬†Hayley wrote a blog post about it and, believe me, these were no ordinary cup cakes! ¬†Hayley called her post, My Day with Chocolate Dreams. ūüôā

Virtual Worlds & Jibe
An unexpected surprise came when I read a tweet by Kyle Komboy, CEO of ReactionGrid, who invited us to try a new virtual worlds platform, Jibe. ¬†My understanding of this platform is very limited, ¬†however, I was excited to have the opportunity to try accessing a virtual world from within my browser. ¬†Normally, in order to access a virtual world you require some 3D viewer software. ¬†Could this be the future of virtual worlds? ¬†Open your browser, go to a URL and, with a couple of clicks, find yourself transported to another world? ¬†Things that amazed me about the experience were how easy it was to access, the speed and incredible graphics created with Unity 3D software. ¬†Months ago I recall accessing the Jibe test site and was excited to see how far the ReactionGrid team have come with this project in such a short time. ¬†I’ll be following the continued work of the ReactionGrid Team as Jibe will allow us to access worlds from mobile devices as well as embed players on our own sites. ¬†(If I look into my crystal ball, I can see parents accessing our Portal, logging into Jibe and walking through a school Art Exhibition in-world! ūüôā )

mini_jibe_player_reactiongrid_login_cropped

Virtual Worlds & OpenSim on a USB Stick
Another holiday surprise also came in the form of a tweet and was about setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick. ¬†I now have an entire OpenSim grid that can run from my USB Stick without the need for internet access and at no cost! ¬†There are a number of advantages with this type of approach and you can read more about this topic in our Begonia Island Blog Post. ¬†By going through the process of setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick, I was fortunate enough to learn more about Roger Stack, his work at Tasmanian Polytechnic and the Holistic Education Network. ¬†Until now, I wasn’t very familiar with the term “Holistic Education” and was excited to read about something with which I could identify.

Education with a holistic perspective values spiritual literacy.  Spirituality is a state of connectedness to all life, honouring diversity in unity. It is an experience of being, belonging and caring. It is sensitivity and compassion, joy and hope. It is the harmony between the inner life and the outer life. It is the sense of wonder and reverence for the mysteries of the universe and a feeling of the purposefulness of life. It is moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

I’m looking forward to heading back to school next week and to continue the challenges of promoting the use of ICT. ¬†I love the fact that, yet again, Twitter friends have had a positive influence on me as they shared their work, interests and lives.

Special thanks to Clare Rafferty for sharing the easy animated GIF tool used in this post, Gickr.

Part of the Global Movement at ACEC 2010

quote_steve_collis

Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to travel to Canberra for the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008. ¬†Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year in Melbourne but, none-the-less, was excited to attended the final day of ACEC 2010.

It was like the final day was tailor made for me, with wonderful sessions to assist and inspire me. ¬†And, after such a frantic and sometimes frustrating first term, I felt I needed some inspiring! ūüôā

I had heard so much about Gary Stager and was keen to see his keynote presentation, You Say You Want a Revolution?
I know that Gary is sometimes controversial and his “straight talking” approach doesn’t appeal to everyone. ¬†However, I was in the right frame of mind for some straight talking and “tough love”, as he put it. ¬†Although Gary was direct in his presentation, I felt it was beautifully balanced with lots of humour. ¬†It was a reminder that, although there are some worrying things occurring in my school and in education in general, I must not give up. ¬†Not wanting to settle for an average 1:1 program but striving to help teachers create an excellent 1:1 program is paramount.

My next session, Virtual Worlds – their roles in learning, teaching and professional development, was with Lindy McKeown who “planted the virtual worlds seed” after her incredible keynote at the¬†VITTA Conference in 2006. ¬†I was truly amazed at what she showed us years ago in Second Life and I continue to be amazed today. ¬†My school is currently in the process of setting up our private grid, Begonia Island, so seeing how Lindy conducted her session entirely from her “Terra Incognita Island” was fascinating. ¬†Lindy was not physically present at the conference but “in-world” with Dr Bron Stuckey directing¬†proceedings¬†in the actual conference room. ¬†We examined the roles of virtual worlds, their potential and explored active or passive forms of learning. ¬†Getting the balance right when it comes to active and passive forms of learning in virtual worlds is important as we prepare to introduce our private grid to our students and staff.

In Virtual Worlds for Education – don’t just imagine the possibilities, experience them, I was excited to meet Kerry Johnson who I had previously met via Twitter. ¬†Kerry has been a real inspiration to me as I have followed her OpenSim journey. ¬†She is as friendly, caring and delightful in person as she is on Twitter! ¬†Six months ago, I knew very little about OpenSim and the work of ReactionGrid, let alone how to actually setup a grid for our school. ¬†Now I am coordinating the development of our private grid and loving the steep learning curve! ¬†I owe a great deal of this progress to incredible educators like Kerry. ¬†I was amazed to hear that Kerry also had very little experience when she started her work to establish the ImmersED grid and I came away with lots of tips and a greater confidence in my abilities. ¬†Thank you Kerry!

My final session for the day was Professional Development and the Web with Steve Collis. ¬†I have followed Steve’s work for years now and find him to be one of the most inspiring, innovative and giving educators I know. ¬†Without fail, he will prepare wonderful resources for every presentation that he conducts, making it possible for people to participate from anywhere in the world. ¬†Steve always speaks with such passion and I found myself with tears in my eyes as he invited Henrietta Miller to speak about how Twitter has inspired her in her role as a primary teacher. ¬†It confirmed for me the need to continue developing my Personal Learning Network and the importance of introducing wonderful online tools such as Twitter to my colleagues. ¬†Something that Steve said will stay with me…

I don’t think of myself as part of a school, but part of a global movement.

I need to stop thinking of myself as the Staff ICT Trainer at an Independent School.  Perhaps that is why I lose faith and feel frustrated when progress is slow or does not occur.  I am part of a global movement in education and that is a wonderful thing!

Of course, there is so much more to a conference than keynotes, presentations and workshops. ¬†Having the opportunity to meet members of my Personal Learning Network is always exciting. ¬†These are people who assist, encourage, share and make me laugh. ¬†I’m not sure if they realise just how far reaching and valuable something as simple as a tweet can be, but it is something that I truly appreciate.

To the conference organisers, presenters and participants – thank you! ūüôā

ELH: Life Lessons in ICT

lorne_sunset_elh

I was fortunate enough to attend the Exapanding Learning Horizons Conference which is held each year in Lorne.
2009 was the third ELH conference I had attended and, this year, I had the pleasure of sharing it with five of my colleagues. This definitely added to the experience! ūüôā

The highlights for me were many and varied. ¬†During a number of sessions throughout the conference, you could have been forgiven for thinking that we were attending a personal development conference and not an ICT one. ¬†For me, this was why this year’s ELH conference made an even bigger impact on me than previous years. ¬†I really felt that things were “coming together”, so to speak. ¬†Valuable lessons in life were merging with ICT and educational issues – I loved it!

It was during two of the Critical Conversations sessions that I felt real connections were made between life and ICT in education. ¬†The discussions during both of these sessions headed down the ICT Professional Development path. ¬†In one session, I heard Margaret Meijers talk about the importance of the right attitude and, in another, I met Roy Williams, who told me of his great passion for Physics. ¬†The idea of the importance of picking up on people’s passion and linking this with ICT was then raised during the Critical Conversation by Peter Steer.
attitude_determines_altitude
I was first introduced to the idea of Attitude determines Altitude by Roger Barrow, whilst he studied for his Private Pilot’s Licence. ¬†Although the “attitude” it refers to is the attitude of an aircraft, of course it also suggests that with the right mental attitude and self-belief, we can achieve great things!

Teachers with the right attitude, even those who lack ICT skills, means that we are half-way there.
Teachers who do not have the right attitude towards the use of ICT in education means that we have an even greater challenge on our hands!
I would rather train a room full of “believers” who lack the skills than try to convince the “non-believers”!

Keynote speakers Andrew Douch and Travis Smith were both inspiring. Andrew showed us how ICT is “Redefining the Classroom” and how his use of Web 2.0 tools has improved the academic results of his students. ¬†However, it is not just his use of Web 2.0 tools – it is also his passion for learning. ¬†His students love Biology! ¬†Travis’ enthusiasm and sense of humor was also a highlight for me. ¬†His keynote presentation about “Scaling Innovation in Teacher Practice” touched on a number of important issues that generated valuable discussions with my colleagues. ¬†He also included just the right amount of free software to keep us “Web 2.0-holics” happy! ūüôā

I was fortunate to spend an entire afternoon with Steve Collis as he outlined his school’s “Real Audience Project“. ¬†He illustrated the many innovative ways his school uses ICT to publish a variety of student work from traditional printed books via lulu.com to podcasts aired via their own school internet radio station using SHOUTcast.

Steve’s colleague, Mark Liddell, gave an incredible presentation titled, “Technology Ideas for Mathematics“. ¬†Maths is definitely not my strength so I was intrigued to see how Mark approached his use of ICT with his students. ¬†Again, it was this presenter’s passion that shone through. ¬†If only I had a Maths teacher like Mark when I was at school!

Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity

Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity

There were many other highlights throughout the conference and I would need to several blog posts to do this conference justice. ¬†However, for me, all of the highlights involved people who have an enormous amount of passion for what they do. ¬†At the 2008 ICTEV Conference, I heard Margaret Meijers say, “Learn how to learn with passion and curiosity”. ¬†At the moment, I am reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element, in which he speaks about “how finding your passion changes everything”. It was clear to me from the keynote speakers, presenters and the many people I met and spoke to at ELH that they had all found their passion. ūüôā

My Personal Learning Network

In looking back on 2008, one of the most positive influences in my life has been establishing a PLN or Personal Learning Network.

My PLN is not just made up of colleagues or even former colleagues.  It is made up of educators from around the world, some of which I had the great pleasure of meeting in 2008 and some of which I certainly hope to meet in the future.

Without doubt the most valuable tool I have used for establishing my PLN has been Twitter.

Twitter has provided me with the opportunity to:

  • share and discover new resources (my Delicious links have gone through the roof, thanks to Twitter!)
  • ask for and offer assistance to colleagues about a range of ICT and education issues
  • have access to a never-ending amount of professional development (reading the blogs of other educators has been extremely worthwhile)
  • feel a deep sense of gratitude for my home, town I live in, school I work in and the wonderful people in my life
  • share lots of funny moments and even some heart-breaking ones
I compiled the slideshow below using One True Media which was passed onto me by the lovely Amanda Marrinan via Twitter. ¬†(Of course!)¬†If you are unable to view the movie via the player, please click here. Special thanks to Lisa Dumicich for the fabulous photo of Twitterers at the VITTA 2008 Conference. ūüôā
Whilst it features photos of those in my PLN that I was fortunate enough to work with or meet in 2008, its purpose is to say thank you to¬†everyone. ¬†The amazing support that you have provided me is truly appreciated. ¬†You are indeed my “Twitter Angels”!