A Crowdsourced List: Web Tools, Websites and Apps

When I first joined the Twitter-verse earlier this year I had no idea of the benefits that doing so would bring. I learned early on that it is not a matter of numbers; Justin Bieber can have his 30,428,926 followers (as of 11 am November 20, 2012) and I’ll settle for quality. One of the first things I discovered was how to crowd source, to learn from the collective expertise of those with whom I connected.

Before long I had “favourited” a large number of suggestions about effective Web 2.0 tools, websites and apps. Over the last few days I have spent (too many) hours working through these. The end result is a PDF file which I have given the descriptive if rather unwieldy title of A Crowdsourced List of 55 Websites, Web Tools and Apps: Categorised by Subject Department (With two random Pin Boards, one case of doubling up and even a song) Told you it was unwieldy!

 

The list includes hyperlinks (or directions as to where to find an app) along with my overview and recommendations. I’m pleased to say that I have used many of the 55 and therefore know them to be effective for classroom or wider use. Though principally created for the teaching staff at my own school, I’m hoping the list will gain a wider audience. Just click on the link to access the PDF.

Image Credit: blonde20.com

Crowdsourced List of Web Tools, Websites and Apps

Please leave comments, questions or even suggestions for additions to the list.

So Many Imagined Futures

In September of this year I was fortunate enough to attend the Sixth National Leading a Digital School Conference on the Gold Coast. (Guess it helped that I live there!) The keynote speakers on the first two days were Ian Jukes and Tony Ryan; very different but equally engaging presenters. Both spoke of the impact of “disruptive innovation” but at the time I didn’t appreciate the full implications of this term … that particular epiphany happened earlier this week.

What do I see in the future?
Photo Credit: youlovatt.com

The reality is that digital devices are now disrupting education as much as they are enhancing it. I like to think of myself as an early adopter; certainly I was the first teacher at my school to use an iPad in the classroom. However, I’m still surrounded by a large number of teachers who operate their classroom in the same fashion that they did twenty or more years ago … same product, very different customers! Now, back to the epiphany. My first step  towards understanding came when I read the following tweet from Jeff Goldstein.

“How dare society force a child to sit in a classroom chair for seven hours and define what the child must find curious.”

The following day I read three separate articles which all made reference to the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project carried out in Ethiopia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, here are the key deatails:

* A number of solar charged Motorola tablets were dropped off in two isolated Ethiopian villages with a very high illiteracy rate. Within minutes, young children had powered these up and within days they were using a large number of the included apps. Most astonishingly, after just a few weeks, the children had figured out how to “hack” and had removed various built-in restrictions.

* Though a very limited trial, this project suggests that “…young children have innate technology-related learning abilities that most adults patently lack.” (Andrew Stokes, “ICT: the age factor” in Issue 31 of Loud and Clear, November 2012) Those monitoring the project also witnessed children as young as 4 engaged in spontaneous collaboration as they solved “problems” with the tablets.

OLPC Laptops

Peru has its own OLPC factories which have produced over one million units for the children of that nation.
Photo Credit: inhabitat.com

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

I think there is one very obvious implication; children now have at their disposal devices which can enable them to learn largely unassisted. This can only lead to wider implications; implications that I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere … but here goes, choose your own imagined future.

1. Schools see the necessity to rethink age groupings and class structure. As a consequence children of varying ages are increasingly grouped together in order to allow greater collaboration and peer teaching.

2. Students demand assessment that is connected to the real world and as a result we see a rapid shift towards greater project based and community learning.

3. Governments accept that, as Sir Ken Robinson claims, “schools are killing creativity.” As a direct result they close large numbers of poorly attended “bricks and mortar” schools. At the same time, online universities are catering for huge numbers of “underage undergraduates.”

4. Being highly proficient with a whole range of (yet to be invented) devices, students as young as 10 begin specific on the job training for their first career.

5. The United Nations officially announces the “death of the teaching profession.” Thousands of teachers must eke out a living by selling 99 cent ebooks via their blog. (Now, there’s a retirement plan!)

Yes, this post has been deliberately provocative at times … and I’ve gone for (and hopefully gained) a few cheap laughs. However, I would welcome your comments and contributions. What does your crystal ball tell you about the future of education as we charge headlong into the next decade?

Social Media: Choose the Bandwagon not the Soapbox

OK, here’s the thing … I’ve finally had enough; enough of colleagues ranting against social media! Yes, I know this sounds like a rant too. Be calm Simon, “get your Zen on.”

The latest edition of Australian Teacher Magazine (Term 4 2012) has its customary “Technology in Education” insert. Feature stories in this particular issue are dedicated to the ever present furore surrounding the use of social media in education. In all fairness, the editors have provided a well balanced view with articles from both experts in Cyber Safety and classroom teachers. Susan McLean, a former police officer who now conducts professional development sessions on the theme of “Respect and Responsibility,” concludes her article with a simple yet powerful statement.

“Education is the key to empowerment – we must act now!”

For McLean it is a matter of establishing “professional boundaries” while still focusing upon the positives of social media. A further story provides the results of an online survey conducted by the magazine with over 3000 school educators. Disappointingly (for me at least) 72% of the respondents were strongly against students accessing social media sites at school. Yet, I admit to having used Twitter (ever so quietly) in class with great success, despite the punitive nature of my school’s social media policy.

Midway through this school year I took on the newly created position of Learning Technologies Coordinator at my school. I feel my success rate so far has been OK with respect to the adoption into classrooms of some cool Web 2.0 tools. Likewise, I’ve had small but willing groups of attendees at voluntary after school professional development sessions. The one area where I know I’ve made no headway … you guessed it, social media. How do I know? Despite my constant campaign to have my colleagues create a Twitter PLN, I have close to 200 followers worldwide and … 2 at my own school. And I receive e-mails including statements like this:

“… it’s hard to guarantee that the Macbooks are being used for educational purposes. In fact, many teachers are already reluctant to use Macbooks within their classroom because of this issue of students accessing Facebook and YouTube … and many more will follow if we are unable to effectively monitor and ban their use in the future.” 

GOD … give me strength! The Australian government’s Digital Education Revolution (DER) acknowledged that social media sites deliver “… educational outcomes, facilitate supportive relationships, identify information and promote a sense of belonging and self esteem.” (Nolene Callaghan, “Embracing Social Media the Key to Student Engagement” in Technology in Education, Term 4 2012) Well, we can’t have things like that happening in schools!

Image Credit: http://bsocial.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/social-media-bandwagon-florida.png

So, to conclude, because I’m banging the keys of my Macbook way too hard! Where to from here? I’ve convinced my supportive Deputy Principal to give me the same Year 8 group for two subjects next year and I have “permission” to use Edmodo, Twitter, Twiducate and Smart Phones within the classroom. My aim is to model “best practice” in an effort to showcase for the naysayers that social media can work in an educational setting. A big part of that will be teaching students the respectful and responsible use of social media. (Thanks again for those words Susan McLean.) I know that you don’t throw a 16 year old a set of keys and say, “Here you go, teach yourself to drive.”

But, (and this time I’m really concluding) I would welcome the thoughts and comments of anyone who reads this post. Can you suggest other ways that I might convince my colleagues to get on the bandwagon rather than the soapbox?

15 Quotes to Inspire

The ideas of others, encapsulated in a perfectly rendered sentence or two, have always been a great inspiration for me. This list of fifteen quotes, many garnered from my time in the Twitter-verse, might just work for you too! (… and, I promise to frequently update this collection.) They can also be a great starting point for a blog post of your own.

On Leadership

1. “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sail.”     John C. Maxwell

2. “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”  Henry Kissinger  

On Reaching Your Potential

3. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  George Eliot

4. “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”  Pablo Picasso

5. “Only those who risk going too far will ever know how far they can go.”  T.S.Eliot

6. “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”  Chinese Proverb

7. “It is not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”  Anonymous

On Education, Yesterday and Today

8. “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”  W.B.Yeats

9. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Mark Twain

10. “I don’t need to know everything, I just need to know where to find it when I need it.”  Albert Einstein

11. “To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step towards knowledge.”  Benjamin Disraeli

12. “Learning any time, any place, any path, any pace.”  ACEC 2012

13. “We’re operating on a 200 year old paradigm in a world that needs an entirely different skill set …”          Madeline Levine

14. “Today, kids can create profound artefacts of their learning that are most times better than what’s in a textbook.”  Chris Lehmann

15. “Banning technology is like grabbing water; it’s not very effective.”  Anonymous