Category Archives: Classroom practice

Searchography

It turns out that in our current time of exceedingly powerful search engines (and there are many of them) the skill of searching is sadly neglected. Or worse, assumed to be so endemic as to need no formal training.

It’s importance is undeniable, and it’s poor use responsible for wasted time, and efficiency.
Admittedly, poor searching does take us down a path of serendipity – an increasingly important proposition in the age of big data and advertising that latches on to the most minimal of clicked interest and curiosity. But, that’s the topic of another post.

What is stranger is that it was important over a decade ago.  It’s time to resurrect this important component of formal documents (assignments, projects, other school work).

Searchography:
A list of search terms used to construct an assignment or project.
Mapping your search used in constructing a critical response to prescribed work.
Typically presented (or blogged) as an appendix to the document.

Format/Structure:
Search engine
Term
Qualifier

 Note:
A critical searchography traces the following moments, experiences or events of student research;
questioning / defining search strategies
search and encounter (entering the discourse)
reformulating the topic (focussing)
discovering (forming conclusions)

Purpose:
To validate student responses in assignments
To view (visible thinking) student thought processes and approaches to assignment answering
To allow teachers to scaffold their student’s skill development, knowledge development and generation of responses
To construct and develop a basic digital skill
Reduce the likelihood of plagiarism
Formalise the experience or performance of finding information
Like a bibliography it serves as a companion to the research paper, authenticating and tracking references
Critical searchography allows you a chance to worry less about the identity of the author of found material and more about the skill with which the student appropriates it, and how it affects their path of enquiry
Flows naturally into a bibliography
Displays patterns, paths and events of encounter

Bibliography:
Marsh, Bill. 2000 “Critical Searchography – Remodeling Research & Authorship.” 06 Apr. 2014 http://www.factoryschool.com/btheater/works/essays/comp/CS/searchog.html

Moving away from printed books

Disregarding all the usual issues with publishers dragging the chain on making their school text books available in various soft copies…

We often find introducing a different option is a slow process – a bit like introducing Broccoli to kids.  This article reifies for me some of the issues I bump into.

http://deangroom.amplify.com/2011/04/04/what-students-want/

It explains a little why kids think the way they do.‎ The myth of digital native is long proven to be nonsense.‎ Their outlook is determined directly by those who show them the possibilities.‎ Our influence as teachers – even as supposed digital migrants is huge.‎ They will take their lead (sometimes unconsciously) from how we model things.‎ Our reliance on text books will influence them.‎ Our limited use of ICT will limit them.‎ Our extensive use and ‘have a try’ approach gives them a belief that there are alternative ways, new ‎ways options and even if we try and fail, it’s a good thing.

We are where they find things out.‎ I wonder if the idea that alpha males taking to e-book formats more readily than girls is because ‎teachers consciously or otherwise treat them differently.‎ There’s a PhD in there somewhere…‎

Too narrow a focus

Because I’m trying hard to develop a course that truly is Digital Citizenship, I avidly follow all links that purport to be something even vaguely connected to the topic.
It seems that in the majority of the cases DC is equated to learning how to deal with cyberbullying.

This is annoying on at least two fronts.

First because DC is so much more than this. The bullying issue is a sub set, but itself only part of online behavior.
Second because the term cyberbullying should be banned. It is just bullying and would happen even had technology not made it more pervasive. The whole bully thing is a pastoral issue and is constantly lumped in with technology as if technology caused the problem. Admittedly technology exacerbates the issue because it puts bigger weapons in the hands of bullies. But the bully being a little s### is a behavioral thing not a technical thing.

I like that we are pioneers in this field, but occasionally the lack of commonly understood terms can be a bit of a pain.

Things don’t always go to plan

We have tried to shoehorn Windows 7 onto the Mac Book Air laptops. This hasn’t been successful.  On an individual basis, it works successfully enough, both parallels or Boot-Camp do an excellent job. In fact initially it all loaded smoothly enough. Our biggest problem was the lack of a PXE boot to connect to our software controlling system.  However; in an environment where regular updates are pushed out, it is less stable.  Screen drivers in particular have been a problem. The boot-camp drivers work well, but the automatically pushed drivers and updates caused screen size issues, leaving the screens stretched and in a non-native resolution and hence a little fuzzy.

What’s come out of the exercise is the willingness of the students to deal with this. It was explained to them that it was a little bit experimental, and things might not always be trouble-free and flawless. They took to this notion like ducks to water, they were patient in waiting for upgrades, tolerant of screen sizes that were not perfect, found work arounds for printing when they couldn’t connect directly.And much more.

It is this willingness to tolerate technology’s shortcomings that will set them apart as a generation.  In a sweeping generalisation, teaching staff are flustered and frustrated if things are not 100% completely smooth, error free and if computers are not tolerant of keyboard thumping in place of rational alternative finding. But the students are.

Classes have continued smoothly with students finding their own work arounds, or partnering up with a working system, all without having to be told anything beyond the initial “this will be experimental”.

We sometime forget to give them the credit they are due in unusual circumstances.

It also suggests that teachers willing to ‘have a go’ even if they are on unfamiliar ground might find unexpected allies in their students when things are not so perfect, and ICT support thin on the ground.

Digital Thingamabob course

Work continues on the Yr 6 (Et. Al.) Digital Thingamabob course.  Still no resolution on quite what to call it. But that’s less important than making sure the coverage is appropriate.

The focus remains on producing students who can use a laptop to support their learning; to be creative; to produce responses to assignments and homework in a broader manner than those with only the three Rs. And almost as importantly to make nettizens of them so that they, A) don’t make fools of themselves on-line and B) conversely make themselves look good on-line.

Here’s the outline so far; Digital literacy or here for the non-pictorials;  http://sirchriss.com/?page_id=166

The support material is also underway and as yet I’ve not found anything (Creative Commons or otherwise) that would be a suitable option simply to insert into the course structure, without almost as much modification as starting from scratch. Perhaps I’m being too picky or contrary.

Digital Competence

The capacity to participate in a digital world

Self

Digital Access:  The capacity to use and own digital technology.

This should be gender irrelevant, and encompass the capacity to explore and be undaunted by new things. This forms the basis of being a digitally capable citizen. Digital exclusion of any kind is restrictive to the growth of human beings in a digitally natured society (like schools).

Digital Commerce: The capacity to participate in an increasingly cashless society.

This must include the recognition of imbalance during trade, the recognition of when being ‘ripped-off’, and how to be successful consumers of online goods and services. The understanding of hidden small print and sneaky deals, and long term ramifications of signing up for services. To select

Digital Literacy: The capacity to access information with discrimination and verification of that information’s veracity.

To express oneself in non-written ways, encompassing multimedia constructs. To select appropriate methodologies and applications suited to purpose and be discriminating in that choice. To personalise and purpose focus own computers and mobile devices and link them towards a synergetic relationship.  To construct personalised portal applications. To understand different file formats and their open or closed-ness.  To be RSS aware as a basis for managing information overload.

Digital Learning: To have self management skills in learning activities.

To manage digital media and files supporting learning. To keep reflective portfolios and recognise patterns of learning in order to be aware of own learning style and preferences. To know how to seek out what is needed to fill learning gaps. To know how to seek mentors, support, peers, information sources, etc, when constructing personal learning networks. To maintain the currency and freshness of that network in changing situations.

Digital self protection: The capacity to be self protecting against digital attack.

From computer virus, malware, online fraud, identify theft, or cyberbullying. The capacity to construct a positive image of self in cyberspace, untarnished by inadvertent inappropriate activities. To manage one’s own digital footprint. To protect digital assets with appropriate backup and storage. To protect hardware and maintain it in working order. To maintain digital skills sufficient to be on equal level when participating in the job market.

Digital wellbeing: The capacity to use technology to enhance rather than be detrimental to health.

To set and maintain routines, schedules and time limits appropriate for using technology. To have sufficient OH&S knowledge to promote self wellbeing. To understand ergonomics as applied to technology use. To have strategies and knowledge enough to deal with cyberbullying. To have awareness of the time consuming (addictive) nature of cyber activities.

Others

Digital responsibility: To know about copyright, other digital laws and ethical use of technology.

To know how to not infringe creative rights and find alternative sources of media for personal consumption. To know how to avoid illegal activity, knowingly done or inadvertently done. To refrain from using technology and digital skills to cause harm or distress to others be they of a less, equal or more skilled nature. To have self protecting, human feeling awareness capabilities around social networking. To develop competency in new methods of communication etiquette suited to the media chosen. To know how to choose the right system per situation. To respect/protect the privacy of other people’s sensitive information.

Digital Etiquette:   To appreciate appropriateness when interacting with humans – seen or unseen and mechanical response systems.

To be discriminating in file sharing – cloud computing and interchangeable file types. To use appropriate language subsets, suitable to the media chosen.

Blogs

An issue that is increasingly important for students and of vital importance for any leader and evangelist of ICT in education is the capacity to take regular classroom activities out of that classroom both spatially and temporally. We are, like many, a college with insufficient face to face teaching time; so access to the learning minds of students outside school hours is vital. Tools that tap into screenagers enamourment of social networking and technology are an important solution to this problem. Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell identifies five major uses for blogs in education.

First, teachers use blogs to replace the standard class Web page. Teachers post class times and rules, assignments, project, notifications, suggested readings, and exercises.

Second, and often accompanying the first, teachers post links to Internet items that relate to their course.

Third, blogs are used to organise in class discussions.

Fourth, teachers use blogs to organise class seminars and to provide summaries of readings. Used in this way, the blogs become “group blogs”—that is, individual blogs authored by a group of people.

Fifth, students may be asked to write their own blogs as part of their course grade.

Farrell’s fifth use of blogs could, with little change become, requiring students to construct their own lesson material or compile their findings of ongoing experiments or exchange possibilities with peers – within a stipulated project, either teacher or student generated.

For an example of this; a Year 9 Science class, via www.blogger.com (See pictures below) were required not to submit a final assignment paper but produce a blog of the experimental progress concerning water quality and associated flora and fauna in a waterway in Centennial Park. Review by peers counted for as much of the final mark as the teacher input. Blogs were specifically chosen so as to raise digital literacy, remove possibility of a last minute all nighter, allow considered reflection or contributions and access by the teacher in non-school settings. The science teacher was also able to improve the students learning by adopting uses 1, 2 and 3 (Farrell). The class teacher used the students’ own blog entries to link to sites of interest or further exploration (use 2). The ‘scaffold’ in the students own head served as the basis from which to explore and so expand. The teacher also had a blog entry to act as a reference page to review the topic as the study progressed, acting as an advanced organiser page and an index to the students’ own work (use 1).  While not a use specific to the project, discussion was encouraged across the blogs as to the interest level and completeness of peer work.

Blogs can be in-house, but the resultant ‘in captivity’ nature then negates the value of being internet based. An important value of a blog is that students know they have a more public reach; that they are potentially in the face of an audience of global proportions; having outside review as a real possibility gives gravitas to their approach and writing.

Sample blog entries from yr 9 Science class.

I have finished writing my scientific report. All of the experiments and observations and research I completed taught me a lot about an area that I live so close to but knew hardly anything about. I found the open ended investigation really interesting and enjoyed doing it. Now that I know so much more about the protected wetland, it makes me want to help maintain its existence. It was fun, but it feels good to be finished!
Today i tested the turbidity and salt presence of ny first 2 samples and as they were from the harbour they were very high salt. I am going to do my moisture and organic content of my 2nd lot of soil samples. Because the science teachers are using the drying oven at school i have to use the second oven in the boarding kitchen. The kitchen won’t let me use their scales so straight after school today i went to phillip and weighed out 2 lots of each soil and what i will do is put all 8 in the oven but i will take the first 4 out at an hour and a half and the other four at 3 hours because i am unable to weigh them inbetween so this way the first ones will be moisture and the second organic. This weekend i hope to go and take more pictures of the gardens and work on my report.
due to miss b being away on tuesday, i have had to delay my parent rock, texture and colour testings. these tests are the last ones that need to be completed so every test has been completed at least once. they will be tested during lunchtimes, whenever miss b is available.
once these are complete i can begin sections of my report that invlove methods and results.
i have already begun writting my draft report; the introduction and reference section.
also called the Health officer from Randwick council- Mark Leona about the new stormwater system that has been installed. results from this arent determinable yet as to how it has impacted as it is still early days but i did get some details on the system.

the regeneration number did not respond, this reference is not too important though.
nor did the Environment officer at randwick 9399 xxxx

Digital Literacy course for Yr 6

I have begun to write a course for my Year 6 class.
This is proving to be difficult and I might end up producing a lot of it on the fly.

It must dovetail with the regular curriculum, hopefully be a little in front so that when they need computing skills to produce something a little beyond the regular essay-type assignments, they think in terms of digital storytelling or take a multimedia approach.

I also want to avoid handing them worksheets and paper based material (I’m an advocate of gracefully grandfathering all text books).
This must be partly self exploration and mostly practical.

It should make them competent in the 9 elements of digital literacy at least those pertinent to 11 year olds. And in context of, making the technology they have part of their creative world, not just a tool to Google and word process with. Their own online protection is primarily important and as such they may end up using social networks such as Facebook or something similar. At least they’ll have a chance to learn how to use it sensibly and to their advantage, rather than stumble and post inappropriate pictures and comments. It must cover many of the common Web 2.0 tools we take for granted (Twitter, Bogs, Wikis, Delicious, Etherpad Etc.)

Here’s the extent of the thought process so far.

Digital literacy course

Comments and constructive input welcome

Being a pioneer is never easy – but it can be rewarding

I attended a conference keynote by Jeff Mao, the Learning Technology Policy Director for the USA state of Maine. Why is Maine significant in the world of computing in education? They are the first and so far ONLY state to have adopted a one laptop per student (1:1) approach. Pioneering stuff.

Part of his talk was an admiration for Australia, as the first country in the world to officially go 1:1 in education. Yes, while there may be a perception that the use of laptops in schools is old hat in places like England and America, we are the true pioneers here. Australia is the only country to fully embrace this new, exciting, scary, fraught, and potentially revolutionary approach to learning.

So what’s the significance of this, where the potential for both great successes and great problems are all in the same package?  Much work and research has been done around the world on the use of technology enhanced education and the findings are, at worst positive and at best astounding. But, never before on a country wide level, we are first.

Schools across the country will all take their own approach, based on the nature of their students and the culture of the school itself. Teachers will adopt technology in the manner best suited to their personal teaching style, their subject and the nature of the content, as well as the school leadership’s willingness to foster a culture of discovery. If we encourage and admire a willingness to try from our students and want to develop a pick-yourself-up approach after a fall, we should model and display this ourselves. Some teachers will be early adopters of inspiring new approaches; some will be more gradual and cautious. In part, students themselves will dictate the speed of adoption as they enhance their capacity to be independent learners, support their teachers in the joint journey, and grow in their understanding of the deep potential; rather than stick with superficial uses such as chit chat on the Facebooks of the online world.

Whenever you’re a first, an early adopter, a pioneer, there are plenty of mistakes to be made, and plenty of learning opportunities to work through. Without these there is no progress, no growth, no snatching of victories before anyone else.

Our school is taking an approach that values the capacity and capabilities of its students and their contribution to this pioneering. As parents, we hope you will join them as a digital pilgrim on their journey; learning as they do, encouraging and supporting them, making it a joint learning exercise rather than seeing it as all too scary to be involved.

I’m past teaching

A short while back we had a prac’ teacher arrive at the school. I was due to take the class late one Friday afternoon – our regular technology session. Asks the earnest and keen young thing “Can I come and watch you teach?”. I of course answered with the expected answer – No.

In response to the puzzled, confused, unsure look spreading across his face I could barely suppress the grin that was building from roughly knee level. He asked, quite politely I thought, if I was simply too concerned, shy or even worried that he might be critical as a result of watching. This is something that has been of no concern from the first day I stepped into a classroom – I have no problem with anyone watching me. Like me or not, it doesn’t matter – in fact if you actually don’t like what I do , that has much merit. It means you had to engage with the content, and have an opinion and have had to think about it. All good things.

Shortening the otherwise long story – I explained to him, I am far too old, too busy, and too lacking in ego to believe I can teach any one anything. I just turn up occasionally and watch them learn. Set the project give them the skills, material and opportunity then get out of the way.

Actually it has taken me some years to be able to do this. As a “teacher” I feel that great propensity to add some more info, to re-state the process, to just add one more bit of info, to sneak in a bit more instruction, to relate it to some other bit of work, to, to, to.

It’s actually hard to do this stepping back. There’s the pressure of having to get the through the standard test that inevitably comes, to be able to write something vaguely positive sounding in those useless academic reports, cover the syllabus, do like everyone else does, and so on. All compel us to squeeze in more info, more jug to mug, more stand and deliver. It isn’t easy to let kids do what they do so well. Learn.

The older I get, the more I get to know about myself, the more I try to make this all I do. I’m there to watch, guide and help them learn. They’re good at it. Just be there to assist.

You’re still welcome to watch me – I just hope to be the least active part of a classroom that hopefully is buzzing with real education.