Beecroft bush in the holidays

January is a time to stay at home for us this year, but it’s still holiday time in Beecroft.  If you jump over our back fence you could scramble along the dry creek bed to meet up with the part of the bush at the bottom of  Day Road in Cheltenham (edge of Malton Road). Once at the bottom of Day Road, you  can walk down the bush track that connects to the Great North Walk which is a 250 km walking track that runs between  Sydney to Newcastle. Phew!

The Great North Walk was developed from Gary McDougall’s and Leigh Shearer Heriot’s proposal for a ‘Sydney to Hunter Track’, consisting of about 300km of walking tracks, submitted to the Australian Bicentennial Authority in 1988. I have been told that it incorporates a few convict tracks along part of its route, but I have only ever walked parts closest to home. It is estimated that more than 40,000 local, interstate and international visitors use the walk annually, either taking the challenge of the full 12-16 day hike or enjoying shorter walks of one or two days in different sections of the walk.

The bush is very solitary – yet you also meet lots of people walking or on bikes along the way.

Here are some mobile phone shots of the walk near home.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Google maps drive me mad!

I don’t usually drop a cartoon into this blog – but this time I give up! Sometimes ya just gotta laugh!

It’s the only thing to cope with the insanity at school driven by the latest upgrade to Google Maps in Australia.  Every student is perusing streets (and more) in detail.

“Oh miss, look at the skidmarks on that road”!!  Learning?  Depends on your perspective :-)

xkcd – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.

Google images – or bust!

I’m constantly amazed at the lack of direction provided to students about the use, value, purpose and function  images into their work – including the notion of authentic creativity (i.e. ripping off other people’s work and presenting it as your own is not mashup – its trampling on someone’s work).

Well I won’t preach – no point. I see teachers constantly falling for presentation as if it somehow has translated into quality higher order thinking in the heads of students. Doing a google search for images, and dropping it into a powerpoint, and essay, an animoto, a machinima or anything, without some purpose behind it all teaches very little…AND it doesn’t even address visual literacy or creativity either.

So yes, there are places to find images..if that’s all you need.  See Find Free Images Online!

Doing a Google image search is also valid if the image found is demonstrating cognitive understanding in a visual way, and is also referenced back to the source.  For example, a good image from NASA, credited as such, adds value to a student’s compilation of knowledge and understanding of the topic being considered.

Unfortunately, what  I see too often is a pretty picture found, dropped into a title page or text, to ‘make it look good, miss’, not chosen to enhance and support the content being discussed and explored, and certainly not referenced back to the source.

So I suggest some of the following uses for Google image search – ways that support the cognitive engagement with topic and text:

  • If you want to know if a person is a man or a woman and the name doesn’t help, do a search for the name.
  • If you don’t know the meaning of a word, the pictures may help you.
  • Find what’s interesting about a site, by looking at the pictures included. For example: wired.com.
  • Type the name of a painter and turn your search into a randomized art class!
  • Discuss how images have been used in sites for key historical characters, and the message that they portray. e.g. try ‘Hitler’
  • Have some ‘keyword’ fun with Google Image Labeler. See how you go in two minutes, and what keywords you come up with to name your image!
  • Play with Montage-a-Google and focus on visual literacy!

Truth is nothing will stop teachers and students using Google Image Search. It’s easy.It’s here to stay.

Comes back to pedagogy doesn’t it.  Do you want pretty pictures? or do you want to help teach kids creativity, discernment, visual literacy – oh and ethics around the creative arts :-)

Back to basics!

Touring schools in Auckland, we learned lots of different things. I want to share our wonder at what we discovered about school shoes!!

We noticed kids running around in bare feet, and we kept noticing it and began to wonder what was going on……wee kids in the playground on the coldest day that Auckland had experienced so far this winter.

Simple. Kids don’t have to wear shoes unless its a school excursion or a sport event. So lots of bare feet at school. We even spotted some kids walking home in bare feet, carrying their shoes! This is something Australia could try!

Tweeting and twhirling

Do you tweet on Twitter?

Then you might like to Twhirl as well.

There are many little tools you can use for your Twitter conversations, but my twitter client choice for now is Twhirl. Are teachers twittering? You bet. Check out the first Twitter Mashup from sujokat (Sue Tap).

Looks good doesn’t it? Functionality is excellent.

twhirl.jpg
  • That’s my mouse…

    ……is a neat new entry into a teacher’s toolkit – if you’re brave enough to give it an experimental go!

    ThatsMyMouse allows people to passively interact. Just by navigating through a web-page you can interact with the people on it. Since it’s written in JavaScript (and supports all major browsers) it works for 95+% of visitors after a website places a single line of JavaScript on their page. You can see, talk and interact with anyone who browses to the same page as you.

    Mashable also wrote about this simple but brilliant gimmick that they dubbed a Social Browsing Widget.

    Playing around with it after an alert by Alec Couros on Twitter, I thought that it could be used as a good focus point for discussing a topic on a web page, or even webpage design.

    Contribute to the discussion of the tool for Alec at ThatsMyMouse. Alec’s captured text transcript will help you discover more.

    The way it could be used is governed by the comment field, which you position with your mouse after writing the text. The comments don’t stay on screen for long, so it’s not about marking up a page with comments, but rather having a fun tool – perhaps online with other classes – to throw some ideas around and generate discussion.

    Try this out on your wiki some time soon :-)