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Archive for June, 2008

Here are some creative and useful classroom web 2.0 learning tools that I found via my blog subscriptions. Think of the fun you could have!

From Jane’s E-Learning Picks (great site!);

  • Kigose a search engine site designed specifically for teachers and students. It’s definitely worth a look!
  • Also look at Jane’s other recommended learning tools.
  • Timetoast for creating timelines and sharing them on the web. I had a lot of fun creating one and the potential for classroom use is big.

From Larry Ferlazzo who has the most comprehensive resource blog for ESL students and teachers:

  • Awesome highlighter is a great tool to highlight text when reading a web-based document
  • OneSen allows you to create your own scrambled sentences for others to work out. Images, video etc can be added. Good for ESL learners!
  • Creating crosswords – here’s another site!
  • Search me – a search engine that gives a snapshot of what the webpages look like. Very cool.
  • Phreetings – a photo+ greeting site where you can create a postcard to share. Great for vocab building with ESL students.

And I just love the wiki WebTools4U2use which has the most comprehensive list of web 2.0 tools for K-12 teachers and students. Brilliant! For some weird reason, I can not create the link here!

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If you ever get the chance to meet Bol and Akoi, two Sudanese students attending catholic schools in Ashfield, Sydney, then grab it!! They are an inspiration. While none of us can truly comprehend the momentous challenges that face refugees like Bol and Akoi, it is worth listening to their story. In fact, I think it is to society’s detriment if we don’t!

I am privileged to be on a committee with these two talented students. The generosity and bravery they show in not only sharing their stories but also at times, challenging our preconceived ideas about what we think is best for our refugee students, is a humbling experience. I fully believe Akoi when she says she will be Australia’s first female prime minister!!! She is one talented young lady!! Both Akoi and Bol are bright, articulate, fiesty and compassionate people.

They are Australia’s future – what a bright future we have!

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Has google changed the way we read? Will Richardson raises some interesting questions for educators in his post Required reading on reading, based on an article by Nicholas Carr called “Is Google making us stupid?”

I know when working with teachers the issue of what students read is hotly contested in terms of the quality of the reading matter. The value of reading digital texts is often not recognized as having equal worth to the more conventional forms of reading material being used in various curriculum areas. Discussion around how we read these digital texts, is not as forthcoming.

I am interested in the notion of HOW we read digital texts – and how different this process is to reading linear, print-based texts. In his article, Carr quotes a British developmental psychologist, Maryanne Wolf is concerned that, as a consequence of the way digital texts are constructed, the reading focus is on “efficency” and “immediacy” rather than deep understanding. Wolf asserts that reading such texts can be a mere “decoding” exercise, and in fact, users become “disengaged” from what they are reading. This is contained in a report she has compiled Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain.

I can see the logic in this argument, as a regular reader of the net, I have experienced the quick flick of pages – without necessarily gaining great meaning (same with books!!) – but that in itself is an important reading skill. How to locate, discard and choose the relevant information needed. I have also experienced sustained reading of material on the net despite the intertexuality of these texts – mainly because it interests me and/or is the information I need.

Reading on the net, is a different reading process and does require additional skills. The CEO Multimodal project shows some evidence of this.

So what does this mean for the teaching of reading and the pedagogical practices involved? Alanah Healy and Karen Dooley, in the article Digital Reading Pedagogy for Digital Novices highlight the multimodal nature of digital texts which require different skills to navigate the multiple pathways found within these texts.In other words, digital texts cannot be read in the same way as print-based texts. So what changes do we need to make to our reading pedagogy?

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That thought ran through my addled brain more than once as I listened to a variety of speakers at the Symposium on the English National Curriculum held at Sydney university last Saturday. Educators from all across Australia attended to not only listen but to participate in discussion about the National Curriculum. The absence of primary educators (with the exception of the passionate Assoc. Prof. Robyn Ewing) on the panel of guest speakers was a huge oversight by the conveners. Also, the largest body of English teachers in Australia i.e. Primary English Teaching Association, was NOT invited. Oh dear!!! To coin a popular Australian tourism phrase “Where the bloody hell are you?!!”

Subsequently, the agenda was dominated by secondary education issues, in particular the HSC. Some interesting points were made, particularly by the President of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, Mark Howie, who opened his talk by stating how marginalised he already felt that day. Try being a primary educator in the audience! Not only did I feel marginalised but very, very undervalued as educator. If “flexibility”, “inclusiveness”, “diversity”, and “all stakeholders” are to be realised through the National Curriculum (terms peppered throughout various presentations) then this needs to be represented in the selection of speakers. Otherwise, it is just rhetoric (another term referred to heavily throughout the day. Ironic!!)

In saying all this, I did come away something. A determination that as educators and professionals, we as primary educators need to reclaim our voice and start agitating for our students and their needs. Thankfully, Dr Paul Brock, an inspirational speaker on educational issues, was prepared to listen to my lament about the lack of a primary voice at the symposium.

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I have begun copying the material i added over the years from the CEO Sydney Early Learning – Transition myclasses page to a new Google site. I have also added new information about Early Learning to this google site. Hopefully, this site will allow more people to view the information – particularly other teachers across CEO Sydney. I have also invited some colleagues as members to collaborate and create the page together with me. So take a look!!

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That’s the message I received today after watching primary teachers across the Archdiocese of Sydney present their multimodal literacy projects. Truly a-mazing! There were so many examples given of children leading the learning in classrooms. Pedagogy is not just in the hands of the teacher. Children, once given the language of learning, are able to lead others, both peers and teachers, on wonderful learning journeys. As a result, the unexpected learning that arises from teachers stepping back and giving students a voice, is quite powerful.

Common threads across the presentations:

  • real purpose and audience was established for learning through the use of digital technologies which were highly motivating for the students
  • language! language! language! As many of the students represented in these projects were from an ESL background, the importance of teacher’s knowing about and planning for English language learning was vital
  • meta-language was not only developed but important to the learning process which in turn supported their meta-cognition….powerful stuff!!
  • the learning was very much directed by the students and as a result, the teachers became learners alongside their students – deep learning and engagement for both teachers and students occured
  • risk-taking in learning was evident due to the students interest and confidence as learners
  • critical thinking was crucial as the students evaluated their own learning
  • the production of texts – print, digital and live – did not take as long to create as expected due to the high level of motivation generated and good pedagogy driving learning
  • student voice was very obvious – they had a lot to contribute to their own learning and the teachers allowed their voice to be heard (always a challenge!!)
  • the collaborative nature of learning, for both the teachers and the students,was frequently referred to as an essential element of effective learning.

See my Multimodal page for an overview of each school’s project.

Questions proposed by Assoc. Prof. Maureen Walsh ACU

  • What skills are we teaching students to read and understand digital texts?
  • Should the notion of text types be extended to consider the different types of digital texts?
  • What role does literacy and English now have? Has it changed?
  • How has the nature of collaborative learning changed as a result of the use of technology in the learning process?

Life Cycle courtesy Yr 1 students Regents Park

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