Kids of Dreams – 2010 marks 21 years!

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It’s not long since our wonderful Friday evening launch and celebration of the 21st edition of our annual Kids of Dreams publication which celebrates literary and artistic talent. Student’s  prose, poetry and artwork from Years 7-12 are included in the publication.

It was an amazing night! Why?  Well it was ‘special’ for a number of reasons.  I was the main editor of the production this year, along with my wonderful Teacher Librarian colleague Kirsten Reim (who wrote a wonderful editorial for me), supported by my ever efficient library team. We came to the job a little late this year, so it was a complete scramble to the end, making sure that everything was as right as possible.  So much writing, so much art, so many decisions about layout and presentation. It was an amazing and rewarding experience to be able to work on a publication that showcases the work of our students who have the courage to speak up in artistic forms.

Author Brian Caswell provided the judging of the student’s literary works. Brian was Writer in Residence at the College earlier in the year.  Brian’s comments for each item he chose for an award are worth reading – so much so, that this year I included the judge’s comments within the publication itself  as a record of achievement for the students.

Kids of Dreams was  launched on Friday 19th November with the help of my talented Twitter friend Mark Pesce (inventor, writer, theorist, panelist on #newinventors, obsessed with language, communication, social networks).  I was able to tell the audience that Mark was the first VIP guest to come to the College as a result of an invitation arranged through Twitter!

Mark provided an inspirational keynote/official launch presentation – and focussed on the power of creativity to drive our learning and thinking. Creativity and inspiration is inside us all, and around us every day. How we harness these talents and opportunities is up to us, and how we share them with others is the key to change and development of value in all we do.

Hey! I never thought I would be MC at an event with Mark!!  Thanks very much Mark for making out 21st celebration a stunning success.

I swear I wasn’t smoking anything!

“I swear I wasn’t smoking anything. But I might as well have been”… is a tantalising statement in an article from Harvard Business Review earlier this year on How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. To quote:

A study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs. What’s the impact of a 10-point drop? The same as losing a night of sleep. More than twice the effect of smoking marijuana. Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process. You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that. But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you.

The value of this article hit home for me yesterday when I read 7 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down. I’ve not read Henrik Edberg’s book – could be good or bad for all I know.

But I do like some of the sentiments he expressed, particularly when I think about multi-tasking, and the use of technology.  I do believe that educators have to stop and think a little about  how important it is to promote reflective writing in our students. There is very good value in stopping and thinking AND there is still very good value in stopping and thinking with a pen and paper.

Well, of course, I’m not pushing against technology so much as pushing for technology melded with the a form of technology that is less  conducive to multitasking – i.e. writing on paper. It’s about capturing ideas. It can be about the tactile experience of writing those ideas down. Of focussing your full attention on the ideas as you write. Of letting those ideas rest. Of crafting and making by hand something that is an expression of our own thinking.

I liked some of these concepts shared by Henrik too:

Unloading your mental RAM. When you don’t occupy your mind with having to remember every little thing  you become less stressed and it becomes easier to think clearly. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons to write things down.

Clearer thinking. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to use your for mind for remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Having it all written down gives you an overview and makes it easier to find new connections that can help you solve the problem.

Well, I have to admit, I do like notebooks, and nice pens.

Perhaps I’m just reflecting my age – or reflecting the values of an age that we shouldn’t lose just because we love technology!

My kids always wrote journals for their holidays and some of these are the nicest things we have to remember who they were when they were young. While I love to see and hear about the amazing feats of students who excel in virtual worlds, gaming and the like – I personally still stake a lot of value in the slow, deep, and reflective practice of writing.

The trick is to allow our students to have the time to acquire the habit and the skill of writing for pleasure, relaxation, reflection and learning. Sadly, I feel that schooling has slammed the door shut on this most wonderful of capabilities.

Excellence at ISTE 2010

Several intrepid educators have travelled across to Denver, Colorado  from various parts of Australia to attend one of the world’s leading conferences for learning and teaching with technology.

The conference  “Exploring Excellence” hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education is of a scale and variety that is never experienced here in Australia. Amazingly this conference gets underway a good day before the official launch.

Edubloggercon2010 was (as always) a totally crowd-sourced “unconference” event – built in the lead up to Saturday on a wiki, then finally voted upon and organized at the start of the day for the full day’s of busy activities. A list of of the shared link. My completely favourite fun session is always the Web 2.0 smack down of new media tools. Check them out and what others are saying.  We could really enjoy doing this for even longer than an hour – it’s just fabulous to get recommendations from practitioners. Overall,  it is amazing to see such grassroots activity resulting in such quality information.

Thanks to Scott Merrik for hosting a lovely evening at his brother’s home. So nice to spend time with Virtual Worlds educators, and to experience a little of Denver home life. I remember the first time I met Scott in ISTE island a few years back – and for his welcoming patience to a ‘newbie’ SecondLifer. 

The Opening Keynote on Sunday evening  by Jean-François Rischard of the World Bank  was a little disappointing – but the shared camaraderie of the crowd at the Bloggers Cafe certainly made up for this in spades. Nuts were shared, jokes were cracked, pictures were snapped, and Twitter humor abounded!

It’s my second trip to an ISTE international conference. It promises to be yet another inspirational conference.  I met one wonderful teacher – three years in the profession, three conferences at which she presented, and engaged in amazing innovation at her school. What an inspiration!

Technology innovation is everywhere! Already we have heard from schools that are integrating iTouch devices and now iPads into their overall curriculum delivery. This is very different to Australian schools who are stumped by network issues. Perhaps more of us should be at conferences like this to bump innovation along by disseminating crowd-sourced solutions to similar problems. This is where a personal learning network comes into it’s own. Someone can always help provide ideas and solutions.

I’m looking forward to learning more, interacting with old friends and new, and being excited about the future of learning. The program ‘at a glance’ gives a peep into the possibilities at ISTE2010.

If you dropped into my session on Monday, here is my presentation for review.

Horizon Report K-12 – future think!

What a buzz!  I helped with the Horizon Report K-12, which has been officially released.

This volume, the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition, examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.

Make sure you read it and circulate it to the leadership team in your school or institution.

Thanks to  Larry Johnson and Alan Levine of  NMC  for inviting me to join the 2010 K-12 Horizon Project Advisory Board as an Australian school representative.

Open Source ethos

I have been spending a bit of time thinking about The World is Flat by Friedman in preparation for the first Flat Classroom Project in 2010. Amongst other things, I thought about Open Source thinking and flat world communications which I planned to share in the  Keynote kick-off.

Well, you now how it is – I just couldn’t share everything  I wanted to (lots out in the rough cuts), but the ‘finds’ are still inspirational.

You have to be inspired by the powerhouses of  Open Source software and Open Content. There is no doubt in my mind that an Open Source ethos is the best way to collaborate, create, share, and be empowered to inspire future learning.

For example, during the crisis in Haiti, the Open Source community did amazing work in Haiti OpenStreetMap to assist aid and rescue workers to do their work and help the relief and reconstruction effort. It was a Flat Classroom Project in action – creating up-to-date  maps of  Port au Prince. Dozens of mappers and developers were able to lend a hand, coordinating on the OSM Haiti WikiProject.

Thanks to Paul Hamilton, I was inspired by yet another amazing example of the power of work taking place using Open Source Software to help people. The development of the  Eyewriter is inspirational. The Eyewriter uses low cost creative technology an free open source software to enable graffiti writers and artists with paralysis to draw using only their eyes.

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Mobile Medline Plus ~ shows us the way

So why haven’t more libraries adopted mobile tools? asks Eric Rumsey as he considers the advantages of mobile friendly design on iTouch/iPhone or like devices.

I agree –  we do need to get on the mobile wagon as quickly as we can. There are many popular mobile compatible sites these days, and blogs are well-optimised on the mobile too. WordPress is a great platform for achieving an integrated look in relation to this, and the mobile-based management tools for WordPress is also impressive.

So it was most interesting to read  Mobile Medline:Plus: A Great Example for Libraries. The mobile version of MedlinePlus that was released by the American National Library of Medicine last week is an elegant example of  libraries making their sites mobile-friendly. Eric gives a good run-down of  MedlinePlus on the mobile.

Eric is on Twitter @ericrumsey

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I confess – I access a lot of things via my iPhone instead of on a regular computer. The portability and immediacy of access is irresistibly convenient.  Whether this is a good thing or not is vaguely irrelevant – the mobile is embedded in youth behaviours.

Anyone got a good example of this kind of application in schools or school libraries?

Better get our blogs and information services mobile minded soon!

Copyright changes – let’s fuel our imagination!

Under European Union law all books, poems and paintings pass into the public domain 70 years after the death of their creator.

At midnight last night the works of artists and thinkers who died throughout 1939 slipped out of copyright, meaning they can be reprinted and posted on the internet without incurring royalties.

In addition to Yeats and Freud, the list includes Arthur Rackham, the illustrator whose drawings appeared in early versions of children’s books such as Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the novelist Ford Madox Ford, and Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt.

A selection of works by the artists will be available on Wikisource, a sister website of the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia, from today.

Wikimedia, the not-for-profit foundation that runs the sites, hopes that further works will be uploaded by the public throughout the year, providing near-complete and legal archives of the artists’ output.

The end of copyright also means that the works can be freely downloaded onto electronic reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle.

It’s an astonishing shift for us all. Copyright has always been expiring each year on works of writing and music – the key difference now in 2010 and beyond is the ready accessibility, transportability and share-ability of these resources.

On New Year’s Day 2009 the copyright expired on the Popeye cartoon character, following the death of the artist Elzie Segar in 1938. Works by Mikhail Bulgakov and F Scott Fitzgerald are among those due to pass into the public domain on New Year’s Day 2011.

Right at the fingertips of our students!