Book bonanza – buy online and save

Lot’s of people still buy books – interesting books! There are so many to choose from, but sometimes our local store/s may not have what we want – or we may just want to shop from home.

My friend Gary Molloy @chemedlinks is always on the lookout for an online bargain. Darcy Moore is also always on the lookout for an interesting read, and his latest purchase according to his FB status  is Tokyo Vice.  I should put those two into the same room!!

Perhaps Darcy  purchased this book for his Kindle.  That’s a whole different ball-game! But anyway – what if you do need to buy a book and want to same a few dollars too?

Gary pointed me to Booko ages ago for price comparisons  – and I have to vouch for the value of this service.

I rarely need to shop at Amazon any more.  Best service for me so far has been with the Book Depository.  Books arrive quickly, and are often cheaper than Amazon – postage is included in the cost! Gary tells me that the UK and US online stores are the same source, but often better pricing from the site.

You can even visit Book Depository Live – and watch the  stream of books being purchased from countries around the world.

Of course, I still love to shop in a good book-store – that will never change!  I also borrow books from my local library and my school library. But I also enjoy  being able to get the book I want, delivered to my door, is good value.

Check it out next time you’re shopping around for that special book. There are also other good sites, which I have lost track of.   If you have any more to recommend, please share the sites you know  in the comments.

The Digital and Literacy World of Young Children

A new report from the Pearson Foundation examines how digital media is affecting early literacy around the globe.

How is digital media changing the way young children learn? Could the way young children learn be evolving to meet a new, dynamic digital media format?

Authors Jay Blanchard, a professor at Arizona State University, and Terry Moore ask these and other questions in their new report: “The Digital World of Young Children: Emergent Literacy” (PDF), out this week from the Pearson Foundation.

The white paper was released at the annual Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) International Symposium.

Blanchard and Moore conclude “developmental milestones are changing as today’s children approach learning and literacy in new ways, not thought possible in the past. “

The paper is worth a read, especially for understanding our current context around the  emergent literacy needs of primary-aged students.

(via Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning)

Flat Classroom Project: Fresh start in a new world

The brilliant work by Julie Lindsay (Beijing, China) and Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, Georgia, USA) continues in The Flat Classroom Project 2010-1 which is now is well under way for 2010.

The Flat Classroom™ Project is a global collaborative project that joins together middle and senior high school students. This project is part of the emerging tend in internationally-aware schools to embrace a holistic and constructivist educational approach to work collaboratively with others around the world.

One of the main goals of the project is to ‘flatten’ or lower the classroom walls so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, 2 or more classes are joined virtually to become one large classroom. This is done through the Internet using Web 2.0 tools such as Wikispaces and Ning.

The Project uses Web 2.0 tools to make communication and interaction between students and teachers from all participating classrooms easier. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on ‘The World is Flat‘ by Thomas Friedman.

I was honoured to be invited to present the Keynote, ‘Pandora’s Box: Fresh Start in a New World’ for FCP10-1. This time there are  over 200 students from 10 classrooms across 6 different countries.

Here are some guiding questions to get them thinking about how to respond and start a discussion or foster an existing discussion:

  1. Is global collaboration using emerging technologies a pandora’s box? Why?
  2. How can we best prepare the ’17 year old Internet/connected world’ to mature and grow into ‘adulthood’?
  3. How has the flat world impacted on you as a teenager? as a teacher?
  4. What place do immersive worlds and virtual realities have in education?

Google – very social searching

Last year, Google unveiled its Social Search and launched into Labs. The idea is that you would see blog posts and other content from your social network in your search results.

Now, the feature is being rolled out to everyone as a new beta feature of As part of the release, Google has also integrated social search into their Image search. You’ll see pictures from photo sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa.

Holiday interludes – country escape

Supporting Cancer Research

Supporting Cancer Research

Just to realise that the term had finished, and the break from the busiest term of all had arrived was amazing. I am so far behind in my real and virtual worlds – it’s a joke!

However, a little time to to relax is not a bad thing – and for me that means an escape out of town if I can do it!

So my friend June and myself hit the road – headed off in the general direction of Mudgee, and really followed where the scenery took us. We wandered the roads – no map in hand – and discovered some wonderful delights.

We visited lots of places, but really laughed a lot when we finally arrived at Rylestone – because there we were, two girls on the road, greeted by a country town with NO mobile phone reception and the powerlines and trees all decked out in bras! That’s right…ladies attire in all shades of the spectrum.  This is a whole town’s statement of support for research into breast cancer – but what a statement!  Even the country roads between Rylestone and our next stop in the Capertee Valley had pink streamers hanging from the gum trees.

June waits for Yum-Cha

June waits for Yum-Cha

Rylestone was a very interesting stop..better than the wineries (which we also visited in the surrounding areas) because it’s just a bit alternative, modern, old and comfortable – all rolled into one. Yes, there was a hillbilly-like ‘guns and ammo’ shop, but there was also a marvelous art gallery, and the best yum-cha in the whole of NSW in the tiniest chinese artifact shop.

Interestingly, back at school and chatting over lunch, it turned out that I was lunching with a colleague who had grown up in Rylestone, and who knew the place that we were headed for for our overnight stay.

In fact the quick getaway lead to a little synergy for me – we ended up at the Glen Davis Hotel in the Capertee Valley.

Glen Davis hotel at dusk

Glen Davis hotel at dusk

This amazing little place in the middle of nowhere has a history associated somewhat with the school I work at.  St Joseph’s is a Marist College, and therefore part of a global Marist network. It turns out that our hotel was at one time a retreat for Marist brothers, and that just a few days earlier a couple of them visited for the first time, and were able to spot some of the Marists they knew in the photo pinned to the history board!

There is not much at Glen Davis these days – though in its heyday it was a very important place. The story that applies to many of the towns in the region. There is the hotel, it’s wonderful owners who are working to restore the art deco grandeur of the place, a camping ground up the hill, and a few local and holiday homes. No place to buy milk or bread if you run out!

The attraction is the surrounding countryside – abutting as it does to the natural beauty of the great dividing range. The Wollemi national park is also nearby, as are many other amazing attractions.   We saw kangaroos grazing on the grass in the hilly fields, and listened to the abundant Australian wildlife. We enjoyed the quiet and the beauty of the countryside and wondered what was going on in the world – no paper, no mobile phone, no wireless access. First thing we did when we got back into range was check our messages, and begin to remember the huge amount of work ahead of us this coming term.

Thanks to the Australian countryside on our backdoor (just a few hours drive away from home) for the serene country interlude in our busy online lives!

Road from Glen Davis

Road from Glen Davis

New Media for Professional Teaching Assocations

Yesterday was a great day for a group of educators gathered at our school, as a result of an initiative of the Professional Teachers Council, NSW.

I was given the opportunity to lead a day ” Web 2.0 Tools for Professional Teaching Associations” with members from different teaching associations, to consider how new media tools (Web 2.0) can  and should be used to transform professional practice and empower teaching associations to meet the challenges of learning and teaching in an online world.

This was a big ask – it’s amazing how far we have come in terms of possibilities. It’s even more startling to stop and consider the priorities that now face teachers and teaching associations in supporting student learning opportunities in the 21st century.

I prepared a comprehensive digital handout – designed for the participants to be able to use again and again as they have conversations within their own associations about current and future developments. Let’s face it – in one day you can only point to the potential, not make it happen!

I used all online tools for this full day – starting with a google forms survey before the day; google slide presentation to launch the day; and a google site as the digital handout (with all the videos, slideshares, documents and AZ Toolkit embedded to show how!)

Just to prove the point that Judy is not dreaming, we were lucky to have Ross Cartilage from Google come and talk about “The Cloud” – yes folks, it’s real and it’s beautiful!

Mobilise your education planning

Right now I am in the run-up to the first exams of the year for my students. They’re getting nervous and I am too, while I gather my information, think about reports, and wonder how much information I can muster for the chats to parents that are coming up on Sunday.

Sitting at my desk with dreamy eyes I wondered when I would be able to more effectively streamline my information gathering, my classroom tracking, and various elements of the administrivia of teaching that must be done to support great learning.  I was on the verge of setting up something vaguely flexible for myself, using something online (google docs?), so that I could develop this information in class (on a netbook?) and access it at my desk or at home.

I had not worked out what to do!  Bingo – I don’t need to.

A read of my RSS news told me that a new product that will launch on the iPhone just might be a great place to start with all this.

Educate: The Ultimate iPhone and iTouch App for Teachers.   Plan lessons; monitor student attendance; with teaching and e-learning goodies too!

Fix education now please!

I have a feeling that people have been trying to ‘fix’ education, one way or another for a long time, and perhaps that desire to ‘fix’ has become  even more urgent with the digital technology revolution. Whatever your take on the changes that need to happen, it is always a good thing to see organisations such as schools, education departments, and governments take that challenge seriously (rather than as yet another opportunity for political mileage).

I’m no politician that’s for sure – not at school, not anywhere. I tend to say what I think which can get me into trouble at times. The problem is, when passion drives your concerns, it means that it is not always possible to wait and wait and wait….

ICT in Learning Symposium

So I must say, I was delighted to take part in some small way in the activities of the Strategic ICT Advisory Service activites of Education AU.

The primary purpose of SICTAS is to undertake a series of studies in a broad range of areas to investigate the current and future impacts of emerging technologies and to provide strategic advice to assist policy makers to address the implications of implementation of new technologies in education and training. The target audience for this research will be senior policy advisors in the Australian Government as well as State and Territory government departments. The schools sector, vocational education and training and higher education sectors will benefit from the advice provided.

The key investigations are:

While I had to turn down my invitiation to take part in the  Think Tank activities last year, I was there in Sydney for the National ICT Symposium. The opportunity to workshop intensively with leading educators and administrators from around Australia was an outstanding way to start of Term 2. This sort of conversation is rare in my daily work and reminds me of the vital need we have to create a culture of conversation at the school level to help focus our ICT developments in order to empower 21st century learning.

Dean & Al

The discussions were intense, and challenging. The key summary points can be found at ICT Symposium wiki. While the key points are captured, the real telling of the story can be found in the pictures of the day and the new connections/alliances formed to further our common goals.  I met up with my favourite two men – Al Upton (primary teacher  from SA, and virtual worlds designer)  and Dean Groom (all round smart guy, co-conspirator in our upcoming publications and Head of Learning Design at Maquarie Uni) . Jo Kay (Jokaydia owner and design consultant) and Bronwyn Stuckey (Quest Atlantis) completed the Jokaydian “get real” team!

I also loved the chance to talk with Moodleman (aka Julian Ridden IT Knowledge Services Manager at Riverview College).  Just imagine if Moodleman and I worked in the same school??  The world would maybe change :-) I was also delighted to meet up with Tomas Lasic, the other Moodle and e-learning guru who hales from WA. Wow Tomas, you are tall in real like as well as online!

Raju Varanasi

Many participants came to Sydney from around the country. A small group of us had some really interesting professional conversations with Raju Varanasi, General Manager, Centre for Learning Innovation within the NSW Department of Education and Training. Raju has the opportunity to provide seriously important opportuities for learning initiatives in our State, and as such he is pretty much abreast of what is possible, what the challenges are, and what processes we should adopt to facilitate innovation and change. It was delightful to work with him – and he came up smiling even after the Jokaydians threw every possible challenge at him to consider.  Raju returned for another dose of  discussion with the most exitable group of all (you are always excited when you are full of ideas and challenges!) and as a result Raju has invited us to spend time with his team to provide input into his planning programs. Cool!  The power of networking and the opportunity for conversation and robust discussion at such events is critical and so very helpful for moving things along.

Gary Putland

The work of EducationAU in this field is always vital in Australia. For me it was again a good chance to catch up with Gary Putland (General Manager, and the gentleman who HAS to fix his newbie icon in Twitter!)  and Kerry Johnson (fellow Jokaydian). These people and all the Edna Team – some more of whom I was able to meet – play a vital role on our behalf!  Though many teachers don’t realise it, we are lucky that they are passionate about the future of ICT in education on our behalf.

My summary?  It’s a long way before these  conversations happening ‘at the top’ reach the leaders in our schools, our middle managmenet, and our classrooms. But to be realistic, things have progressed since 2006 when I started in this whole Web 2.0 thing. Now we are having national conversations that understand that the digital agenda is not only about hardware and infrastructure, it is also about the digital connectedness of students and teachers. How we move forward will depend on how we connect through our social media, as connectedness (more and more) becomes our curriculum and our professional learning construct.

Kerry Johnson

As money pours into connection infrastructures, computers in schools, wireless networks, 3G device connectivity, the days for discussing the pros and cons of one-to-one computing are over.  Every school should have a myriad devices connected to the intrawebs – psp, itouch, netbook, laptop, whatever!  What is now needed is ubiquitous connectivity – not locked down access.  Through these myriad devices we can transform the frameworks for learning – catch up with the kids in their technology timeline, and at last deliver learning and teaching in ways that are relevant to their furture.

The issues and challenges in all this, and the debates that must be had to ‘win the day’, are the topics for another blogging day.

It was great to get a group of people together in one room, from around Australia, who actually understand the complexities and imperatives. Well done and thank you EdnaAU for the chance to participate in your day.

By the way – take note!  The words Web 2.0 were not mentioned all day!  Roll on the future.

All sorts of mischief!

We’ve finished the first term of our academic year for 2009.  There is so much to share, and so much to write about – but it is going to have to wait. Next term is going to be just a little bit easier!!  Why?  Well we’ve been up to all sorts of mischief!!

Here’s what’s been going on:

The library renovations will be closer to completion – furniture will arrive, new desks with power and data will be installed, couches, ottomoans and other fun things!!

Our conversion to a new library management system will also be complete – and we will switch to RFID for security and organisation of our resources. Excellent!!

We’ll also commence our Accelerated Reader program (for guiding essential reading) with the Year 7 students.  We’ve been busy buying books and getting our library collection organised for this!

We’ve put half our Fiction collection into Genres!!  more on that later too!

Is that all – no way!!  I’ll save the best till I am back from holidays. Yes, this time I AM having a holiday –  I really am. I’m not even taking a tiny laptop!

In the morning I head off for New York City, then Budapest. Worlds apart and worlds of fun.

Happy holidays to all the folks in Australia!