Newcastle ‘all a Twitter’ following forum

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The  New Institute Forum held on 13th October proved to be a great success with a good crowd enjoying the presentations from advertisers around the issue of just how might we ‘brand’ Newcastle.

twitter-bird-logoDuring and following the forum, the Newcastle ‘tweeps’, (users of Twitter as a social networking medium), took up the challenge to contribute to just how might we brand Newcastle. 

Hundreds of ‘tweets’ later, and the power of social media was demonstrated, leading to coverage on local radio and an ongoing sense of fun and enjoyment at being able to contribute.

Imagine using Twitter to gain feedback around a particular topic or activity within a school community? Maybe a way of generating interest in an upcoming activity, or getting ideas about a particular topic.  It’s fast, and anytime, anywhere.

Pedagogical shifts: everybody’s business

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cowmoodleIt was great this week to get an email from an Aussie ex-pat who is working in Holland, with some great commentary on the tensions which can exist when we roll out infrastructure and tools and, indeed, online spaces.

There is also a range of viewpoints about the futility which exists when we simply provide the infrastructure and tools and fail to create shifts in pedagogy. We do need, however, to go beyond the view that this is simply a failure of the employer, and to start to think about why it has taken until very recently for a more mainstream acceptance that this ‘stuff’ isn’t going to go away, and that if we are to be able to sincerely regard ourselves as professional educators dedicated to optimising possibilities for young people, then maybe we have to enact significant parts of the necessary pedagogical shifts ourselves.

Here in NSW we ‘did’ the training model: remember TILT ?

We’ve been very good at smiling benignly at the early adopters. We’ve been happy that there has been something for our children to ‘play with’ when they’ve ‘finished their work.’

It is up to all of us to have a renewed view of what the work is, and that it’s everybody’s business. It is simply no longer good enough; over two decades since it has been all around us, to make excuses like:”Oh I’m just not much good with technology..” or “the internet is good, but we’ve got to be careful that children don’t lose the ability to use a real library..”

Having said that, there is a need for us to look carefully at how we structure the ‘delivery’ of curriculum and ideas in an online world. I am a great fan, for example, of Moodle, but can understand some trepidation that it may only become a very structured content delivery platform, rather than the Collaborative Online Workspace which it can be; a virtual learning environment, where the 24/7 nature of access enables the collaborators to invite others along to share the fun they are having learning. Lots of the work we’ve been doing with Moodle lately at has been aimed at this level of environment creation, and in our focus on the key imperatives: to Connect, to Collaborate, and as an aspiration for our shared future, to Create: not only demonstrations of our learnings, but a new paradigm for assessing our understandings about the role of a place we might call school. It’s about moving from the notion of School Planning, to an inclusive and connected focus on Planning School

Interesting Learning

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This is a great example of teaching a concept through participative learning.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

Don’t You Think It’s Time?

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Just getting the hang of creating more mash-ups.  Here is a mash up used last week as a visual backing for an acoustic version of a great contemporary Australian song and as a way of providing a summary of a number of images used during a presentation to a school staff.

The song this time was recorded live in the lounge room !

Hope you like it !

And, an update later, and an idea:

Try this:

1. Load all of the images from your mobile via bluetooth.
2. Import them all into Windows Photo Gallery or iPhoto
3. Use the create slideshow option in either app
4. Select an audio track to back the slideshow. In this case I’ve selected a live recording I made at home of an old Donovan song, which was recorded on laptop in Audacity and exported as mp3.
5. Render the movie and upload to YouTube
6. Use the embed code to paste into a blog or wiki or Moodle!!!!

Remember to remove any pics that you don’t want to share !

Here’s an example made with images from my phone. The shot shown shows my wife happy to have bumped into Matthew Newton at the Dungog Film Festival!

Managing for abundance

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I received a link via Twitter and Scott McLeod to a fantastic article: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity

The abundance is in capacity, and when we consider that the 2gb RAM which is becoming an entry standard these days is around 20000 times more processing power than the 64kb which we had available on the old trusty Apple IIe back in the 80s!!

The writer makes some interesting comparisons about how we deal with each situation.


Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity. By Chris Anderson 06.22.09

Learning in situ

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It is great to remind ourselves of the potential for learning to occur whenever and wherever, and to see the opportunities for learning.

And it is wonderful to see the products of a growing process, literally, at one of our local public schools.


At Hamilton, kids have been active participants in the Blue Gate Garden, working together to grow and then build links with local restaurants to sell produce: an age old village custom.

On top of this, though, they have been conscious of the need to be able to clearly state just what sorts of things they are learning by doing this.  And, think about it: they are learning lots!

Understanding of basic needs for growing.

Developing social skills to work together to achieve a purpose.

Seeing opportunities to recycle and reuse resources, saving the future for our kids….

See how the signs describe itscrngrab_02-jun-30-1034

In our garden we learn to:

Predict; plan; observe; weed and water; measure; work together; research

Not a bad list of learning outcomes really!

scrngrab_03-jun-30-1039 case that’s not enough..

We have some great schools.

Under Construction

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adolescentunderconstructionYesterday was spent in a couple of different locations delivering ideas and updates about the program formerly known as Laptops for Learning: now Digital Education Revolution NSW.

Within the presentation it has been timely to reflect on some developmental facts that: despite their being ‘digital natives’ in terms of the culture and context of possibility into which they have been born, our adolescents are still exactly that and, in a range of ways are still very much ‘under construction.’

I walked out to the car at the end of the first presentation at a senior campus to find a carpark full of cars with red and green P plates, and this car, parked in waiting.

After re-assuring the driver that I wasn’t stalking and checking that it was OK to take the pic, I got this shot which just seems to work so well as a metaphor at a range of levels.

Today, I was reminded of the talent we have amongst us when I heard a colleague presenting about some of the issues affecting the middle years, and about the need for scaffolds, and elements of explicit direction and support to allow the emergence of the potential in adolescence.

The future: under construction.  There’s something positive, however, that the vehicle for its driver sends a message of optimism, a statement.

Yep; time to move from school planning to planning school.

Moving House

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Well, here we are at the start of a holiday weekend and a weekend of moving house planned !  Not what we would have preferred but: that’s what happens in this grand adventure we call life.

Have been spending a lot of time lately adding links to a blog which is more specifically related to ICT integrations.  You can see it at the Grapevine.

It has also been interesting to try out some new themes for the Parent and Community Web blog.  You can see the result here.

Twitter ~ Connecting ~ web 2 and COWs

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I’ve been blogging a bit about Twitter recently.  Here’s another great example of some good ideas sharing.  Check out the video below on YouTube if you are able to.  It gives some great ideas for using web 2.0 tools to structure a different type of learning environment.

piphowell@Darcy1968 Perhaps watching this video called ‘goomoodlikiog’ at may inspire them to create while they have time

A tweet !   ~  140 characters maximum..a discipline in deciding the key message and shortened URL..and the building of a sense of community: a professional learning network; one with the capacity to meet way beyond the walls of our day to day existence.  Think of the possibilities when we, as a whole community, move from a paradigm of school planning to a new paradigm of planning school.  It is a simple reversal of word order, but a powerful shift in engaging with community.

I was talking to a teacher the other day about setting up a Moodle for him to use for his class.  The structure, which allows Categories and weekly or topic based formats lends itself well to planning a site to support a K-6 class.  You can post things which are planned for the week, homework, kids can have their own blog within the Moodle, you can include chat and a database, quizzes etc etc.

The hack work is in the set up, adding users and so forth.  This is easier in a network environment if it’s possible to access an LDAP server, but for a class, it’s not a huge task to create the user accounts, and a lot of fun to learn.

We’ve been running a ‘Virtual OC’ project between Tighes Hill and Biraban schools and the students are in the process of creating and uploading their second set of content around a theme based unit on Gold..’ all that glitters…”

In term 1 the kids produced ppt and podcasts. They are lashing out into video and other digital media this term.  The project has been helped along by one of our Quality Teaching consultants and I’ve been having fun setting up the Moodle and finding solutions; and finding out more about Moodle.  It’s another Collaborative Online Workspace, or COW :-)

If you’d like to know more about our COWs, have a look at 

We also have capacity in our web 2.0 space to provide WordPress blogs for people wanting to have a try in the run up to the rollout of the DET blog which will come with much more seamless authentication possibilities.

A few current examples are below  - This is a WordPress blog running from our hccweb2 space.  Pip uses it to support the outstanding presentations she has been doing around the region.  - Using WordPress as a powerful yet simple solution for school communication..  Don’t forget, however, that the school website service is just about to roll out and looks great !  Just a demo showing off what one of the free themes I’ve found on the web can do for Moodle.   Home of our virtual OC trial  Another nice theme for Moodle – a place for gathering ideas for L4L Some of our Maths Head teachers and others are starting to get some great stuff together.  Notebook resources.  Notice that Moodle has the ability to render RSS feeds from other sites.  This one displays feeds from Pip’s blog.

And, this site is being put together to provide resources and ideas for all of our COWs – Collaborative Online Workspaces.

We also have a whole herd of COWs grazing in the Sharepoint environment which is hosted on a regional server and accessible to authenticated users of the DET network.  Many of our consultants are now managing and growing their own COWs as a place to share resources and ideas amongst their teams and as a way of giving access to more and more schools and teachers to the great ideas and resources they have.

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The learning is there in front of us.

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Dog walking in the park at night: squelch in wet grass and the sound of men in the darkness playing a pick-up soccer match.

Ahead, the glorious rotunda; uplights levitating the corrugated iron and hardwood to hover abovrotundae the park.

And look, inside to see the intricate framework.

What would be the angle between the ‘spokes?’

By applying our knowledge about the total number of degrees in a circle, how can we calculate the individual angles by counting the spokes?  Why have those shapes been used to support the roof.  Is it about strength or asthetics?

Does the roof shape resemble an bandsman’s helmet from a time where a Sunday outing to the park provided an entertainment at the turn of the 20th Century, no TV or radio.  Imagine the gatherings to farewell some of the young men whose names appear in the long lists of the war memorial beside the gates, where the Anzac wreath hangs, flowers browning while the years condemn not the memory of the stone enshrined sadness on either side.

How, why, and with what?

What are the patterns, relationships and emotive responses we feel to a rich and complex world around us.

In other words, if we can excite curiosity, the learning stimuli and resources are all around us.  We can then use some of the great tools at our disposal to find out more, to link ideas and then to create evidence of new knowledge and understandings.

Sounds pretty good to me.  Here’s a sketchbook view of the rotunda


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