Jan 25

UPDATED POST: via information by Ellen Finlay (ScienceVictoria):

“An Inconvenient Truth DVD offer to all Australian Secondary Schools

Paramount Pictures have announced that all Australian secondary schools will receive a free DVD copy of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. The DVD will beInconvenient Truth released today and Jackgreen International with Jon Dee will be faxing every secondary school in Australia with the offer to receive the free DVD. The school will only need to fax back their contact details and mailing address on the bottom of the original fax.

As well as the DVD, schools and students will be able to access study guides designed by ATOM (Australian Teachers Of Media) to accompany the DVD and will be given access to an interactive website hosted by Jackgreen and Channel 10 with tools to enable students to calculate their carbon footprint. Standout schools will be recognized in a Channel 10 feature event based on the commitment of students and their families to make changes to reduce global warming.

This sounds like a fantastic opportunity for schools and science departments. Whether you agree with the contents or not, the movie is an excellent basis for debate and further exploration of facts.

More information can be found at www.climatecrisis.net. If you are unable to locate this DVD in your school in the next few weeks I suggest you contact Jackgreen International: www.jackgreen.com.au

This article determines that US Science teachers will omit one side to the global warming debate from the curriculum, because of Exxon Mobil funding. The company behind Al Gore’s film had decided to make available 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). But Science teachers said they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

That’s the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers (including this one) questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. The company spends millions to support groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that aggressively pressure lawmakers to oppose emission limits.

Source: Washington Post 2006/11/24

Australian Jo McLeay has some links to other edubloggers discussing “An Inconvenient Truthhere. Watch the trailer here.

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Dec 14

OpenAcademicI am impressed with the way OpenAcademic unifies powerful social-software technologies - the learner centred experience of Elgg, the community functionality of Drupal and Moodle’s course management + a Media Wiki. Refreshingly though, openacademic.org isn’t just buzz - it is actually happening. Coincidently, listening to a webcast the other day, some North American educators were discussing the prospect of a tool that unified various education focussed open-source social software technologies; I realised later they were talking about OpenAcademic. This discussion on EdTechTalk about ePortfolios in schools was of particular interest. It totally changed my understanding of what an ePortfolio should and could be.

I firmly believe the future of the ePortfolio as a concept is central to a future system-wide SOE (Standard Operating Environment) based on a social-software system (hopefully flexible and open-source) such as is mooted at openacademic.org. Perhaps beginning at the end of the decade? We teachers are currently attempting work with unsuited technologies, trying to achieve e protfolios we know have advantages for students, parents and teachers alike. What we really need are collaborative social-software systems hosted on the Internet in relatively open yet still safe and secure networked environment. WordPressIn the real-world, I accept this is some way off as an SOE, but still similar systems are within reach at the moment - a hosted version of Moodle, or as a simple content management system, WordPress for example: take the interface for the writing (blogging) system which is simple in form - *the emphasis with social software tools is on student produced content, and collaboration* - not WordArt - if I may just highlight an odd primary school example that some of my esteemed colleagues see using ICTs as meaning. MoodleIn keeping with the focus on learning content and collaboration, the filing system and presentation online is automated - these two large stumbling blocks are removed to allow the building of effective ePortfolios. In fact even the Moodle and WordPress interfaces are simpler than those of offline business/office tools we currently contort to fit educational needs such as Word, PowerPoint and Publisher.

In terms of the efficacy of ePortfolios as a ‘reporting’ mechanism in a K-7 setting there is definitely potential for a social-software e portfolio to be of great use. The time-saving aspect of a system utilising Elgg, Moodle, MediaWiki, Drupal or WordPress will appeal to Drupalteachers; for example they can easily be set-up to categorise writing and multimedia into Learning Area archives - for planning, reflection, negotiation, debate and again *collaboration* with teachers, cohorts and even external input (eg. schools overseas). In terms of assessment tasks, and avoiding the paper chase, they would are automatically archived to the database and saved as learning snapshots (writing, video, music, art, Kahhotz etc) because the students (with assistance) will have selected the appropriate learning area assessment “tag” for their work. Drafts can be saved and not displayed until publish is clicked. Teachers can moderate all collaboration via their in-box by clicking on approve, edit or delete when comments or completed tasks are published. An interesting discussion in the webcast above was the North American New Hampshire District model; ePortfolios documenting the learning journey and assessment linked to competency modules (our outcomes), and the association of projects and matching those with competencies (our Elgglevels). It would be awesome to have the Curriculum Framework integrated into such a system here. I’ve noticed Math is rarely included in the discussion on ePortfolios for obvious reasons - but for example, in a Primary School setting a screenshot could be taken of a score achieved in Year 3 Math Measurement at http://rainforestmaths.com/ for example - students could then blog (write/type) about their understanding in relation to the score displayed in the screenshot. Acheivement certificates from Mathletics could also be used. Maybe online maths syllabus tasks will in time become part of a social-software based SOE ePortfolio.MediaWiki

Possibly the greatest benefit of a such a social-software ePortfolio system is it’s usage for the duration of a student’s school life. Samples of learning difficulties could be recognised and collated by means of URI’s. Social-software e portfolios will have the bonus of ownership too - students will take pride in their work and be impressed by it’s volume and searchability for future reference. Different teachers over the time of a child’s growth, from Year 3-7 for example, could easily refer to the yearly archives to gauge the development of understanding, expression, past themes covered, etc.

[Cross-posted] This post was initially a response to an email by Peter Trimble to the eChalk email list.

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Oct 12

While attending the Knowledge Bank 2006 Online Conference I listened to a presentation on a teacher developed website in a Year 1/Prep class at
Clevy Keyboard
Wheelers Hill Primary School. The website is centred on developing the metacognitive abilities of the Year 1/Prep students through the use of thinking and goal setting tasks, student self and peer assessments and rubrics. Additionally, it contains samples of student work and also planning documents. One thing raised was the difficulty students had in using traditional keyboards, specifically the ability to recognise capital letters. This is a problem I have experienced too. Adding stickers to the keys can help, but they tend not to last very long! Another solution may be a keyboard designed for these young learners. I have heard there are plastic covers available but can’t find a link. A couple of keyboards I have come across are Big Keys and Clevy Keyboard which has Australian distribution. BNC Distribution claims the Clevy Keyboard:

…. essential in the education of writing and computer skills in primary schools. It anticipates on the growing interest for the development of the motor system connected to the education of handwriting. Moreover, this attractively designed keyboard stimulates young children to get acquainted with computers in an educational way.

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Aug 07

education.auThere are some informative and challenging podcasts coming out of education.au (”Australia’s leading Information and Communications Technology agency”, provide innovative technology online for education and training). Established in 1996 and funded by all Australian governments, it is a not for profit agency established to meet national education and training priorities.

The following links to podcasts come from the conference titled: “So what’s changed? Technology, expectations, connections and collaboration.” This podcast is a quick pre-conference intro by Garry Putland and is delivered with gusto. Another podcast features audio from the first session of the day given by ABC Radio Nationals, Phillip Adams. This talk was part of education.au limited’s “So what’s changed?” event, held at the Wentworth Sofitel Hotel, Sydney Australia on August 4th, 2006. There is also a fascinating lecture by James Farmer from edublogs.org, the educational blogging service we discussed in last weeks webcast. His podcast features the audio from the talk entitled “Engaging and empowering teachers and learners. What does this mean for pedagogies?”. These are the only three I’ve listened to thus far - fascinating stuff - details of the other podcasts from this cutting edge conference are available to “download to your pod” as Phillip Adams says. More are availbale here.

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