Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – just a chat!

Introduction

This recorded Serendipity session was really just a chat rather than a more formal session. There were only three of us so we just talked about the ideas we had on the whiteboard and digressed into other areas.

The session

The ideas on the whiteboard for this week were “Crowdfunding” and “Teaching basic numeracy in primary schools”. However we diverted into several other areas.

We only had a brief chat about each of the  topics this week. Just sharing some of our own thoughts and ideas about them rather than an in depth discussion about any one topic. We started with a heads-up from @jofrei on the recent conference of the Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children. Jo had not got links to hand at the time but later sent these – one specifically relating to the VAGTC EmpowerEd conference program. The second is a link to a white paper – New opportunities for the gifted and talented – directions paper

Our next flying visit was to the concept of crowdfunding – what it is and some potential issues around copyright and Creative Commons licensing that might arise with crowdfunding online projects.

Then we talked about the accessibility, or lack of accessibility, to outcomes from gifted education research. This being largely because such research is published mainly in journals that are expensive to access. The discussion expanded into comment on the pressure to publish now on academics.  We also diverged into issues around obtaining recognition (eg for blogs) and funding for projects in areas that are perceived as of interest only to minorities.

We finished with a short discussion about maths with particular reference to teaching in primary school and student confidence issues.

Conclusion

A slightly different Serendipity this week but still as always engaging and interesting!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is a FineFocus session. Join us on Thursday May 2nd at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning May 3rd in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

An unexpected encounter!

Introduction

I try to take a short walk around the block fairly early most mornings. Often this doesn’t happen because I need to work. However this morning I decided I needed a walk!

My unexpected encounter

I always carry binoculars on my morning walks because this is a good time for birds and I am doing my best to catalogue the bird species I see on the block. Usually I leave my camera behind because it is just another thing to carry and taking reasonable pics of wild birds (especially as most of them are small) is just not going to happen.

This morning I really wished I had taken my camera! My walk took me up what we call “the pipe run”. This as the name suggests is a route where we have a pipe running from the bore about a hundred metres through the bush to the bore water tanks. The pipe is only about 5 metres into the edge of the bush from the firebreak on the northern edge of the block. As I walked beside the pipe I heard movement so I stopped and saw two of the recently released kangaroos slowly moving deeper into what is a fairly narrow wedge shaped strip of bush. I continued slowly and at the end of the pipe run I turned right onto the track between the bush and the top paddock.

As I walked past the bush towards the paddock gate there were three kangaroos on my right in the edge of the bush. Two of them moved quietly away into the bush but to my great surprise the third one came towards me. I stood still and put out my hand, the kangaroo sniffed at my hand and seemed to decide I was “mostly harmless” and allowed me to stroke it. None of our regular visiting mob would come this close except at the one spot on the block (near to water) where they can sometimes find hay. So this is definitely one of the new release – and obviously one who hasn’t yet lost the “humans are friendly” response from being raised by people.

Where the kangaroo joined me

Kangaroo joined me just outside the fence about 15 metres before the gate

From about 15 metres before the paddock gate the ‘roo accompanied me on the rest of my walk – around 600 metres through the top paddock and back down to the house beside our other patch of bush.

Luckily as I neared the water trough Phil was outside the house so I asked him to bring some green from the garden. The ‘roo ate some of this from my hand and then discovered some nearby food mix (we are still putting out a little transition food). This gave me the opportunity to go inside and pick up a camera so I was able to take some pictures of my companion.

 

 

Although I didn’t discourage the ‘roo from keeping me company today I think I will have to do so in future. Kangaroos that hop calmly up to humans are at great risk to their lives as not everyone enjoys having them around. They are regarded by many farmers as a pest. Because of this we have made considerable (successful) efforts not to encourage our regular visitors to become too tame.The only place we are able to approach them is by the water supply we keep full for them. Anywhere else on the block they just disappear into the nearest cover.

 

Conclusion

As I write this there are fourteen kangaroos outside my window. They are a mixture of some from our regular visitors (2 females with last year’s joeys still in attendance and this year’s young in the pouch) and the newly released group. There is a bit of occasional squabbling but not much. The two mature females are quite assertive about their personal space and also still protective of their joeys. Also there seems to be still some “pecking order” being sorted out with the new group. So thus far it seems that our hope that the groups will mix and the new ones will eventually become part of the mob is more likely to happen than not!

Edublogs webinar overview – learning styles

Introduction

This session – recorded as always was a FineFocus session in which we took a learning styles by exploring some of the online learning style inventories available and discussing their usefulness.

The session

We started with a couple of “where are you coming from” type questions. These elicited that we had all at some point both completed an inventory ourselves and also used one with students.

Because we all had some familiarity with Learning Style Inventories the next part of the session was very quick. This was just a brief look at the different types of inventory before moving on to the fun part of the session where we each tried one or more inventories and shared our results. The next part of the session used polling to look at ease of use for the inventories and the ease of obtaining useful information from them. This was followed by consideration of:

  • usefulness to us as teachers of knowing student learning styles
  • usefulness of knowing our own learning styles
  • usefulness to students of knowing their own learning styles

We finished up with an opportunity to share our own preferences – several links had been shared earlier via text, a look at our “take-aways” from the session and some quick feedback!

Conclusion

Overall this session was fun – because we all had prior knowledge of Learning Style Inventories we were able to discuss them in more depth than if they were new to most of us. Also it is always very satisfying to go and try something out during a session and share the outcome. Most people enjoy finding out something about themselves and this session gave us the opportunity to do so!

Our Next Webinar

Our next webinar will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday April 25th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday April 26th at 7am West Aus, later in the  morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues”. We post these on the whiteboard and then choose the topic for discussion by poll.

Latest menagerie additions!

Introduction

We now have quail added to our collection of edible and laying birds! As well as four young quail from a colleague at work we were given a pair of adults by friends living nearby.

Our new arrivals!

The female of the adult pair was still laying although it is a little late in the year. Of course, as is our wont, we couldn’t resist trying to hatch some eggs! As usual we collected a week’s worth of eggs in our cooler at around 15 degrees C. This gave us 10 eggs – quail sometimes lay two in a day.

At the end of the week we transferred the eggs to the incubator and left them to incubate for 15 days before taking them out of the rotator at the “pipping” stage – when they are ready to start making a hole in the shell. Nothing happened at 18 days when they should have hatched. “Ah well!” we thought, try again in the spring. However as we have had slow hatches before we left the eggs in the incubator for a bit longer (just in case). To our great surprise and delight we heard “meepings” from the incubator two days ago! We checked and found one chick well on the way to emerging and four more with small holes in the shells.

Five baby quail in the brooder boxThe next morning there were five tiny quail staggering around the incubator. Once they had dried off we transferred them to a brooder box with a lamp to keep them warm. They are so tiny that we are using a small jar lid for water as they either wouldn’t reach, or would risk drowning in anything bigger.

Two quail chicks in cupped hands show just how tiny they are.

Chicks and ducklings are of course very cute but these minute bundles of feathers definitely win top prize for cuteness!

This morning we had another surprise – I was working peacefully away at my computer and heard a loud and indignant “meep” from the incubator. Investigation revealed another hatchling – this one must still be on daylight saving “grin”.

Conclusion

We are hoping, ultimately, to be able to release quail into our vegetable garden – with a cage and nesting area that they can access but the chooks and ducks cannot. The released quail will then be part of our “pest control” system and will hopefully either breed themselves or lay eggs in their nesting area that we can collect and eat or incubate. We will of course eat any excess birds!

Edublogs webinar overview – Serendipity, ISS watching & Facebook apps

Introduction

In this recorded Serendipity session we actually took a look at two topics – “spot the station” and “Facebook apps”. For both we asked the proposers to expand a little before we decided this.

Spot the station

This intriguing title gave us a fascinating subject. The International Space Station (ISS) and related matters in the context of learning. “Spotting the ISS” was something recently discovered by one of our participants but unknown to the rest of us. So none of us had in-depth knowledge to share on how we could use this with students.A cartoon image suggesting the ISS as a teaching resourceHowever we all had snippets of information about the ISS and other space related resources, so we each spent five minutes exploring and then shared links and thoughts on the whiteboard, in chat and through audio. The NASA ISS webpage has lots of exciting content and the ISS tracker page shows the current position and track of the ISS. Lots to explore and huge potential for educators especially as the astronauts are on several social networks!

Facebook apps

We moved on to talk a little about Facebook apps, although inevitably there was some broadening of this into other social media. Concerns raised were about security issues and the increasing amount of advertising in one form or another. We all recognise that advertising is what enables Facebook to be free for us to use. However with Facebook and with other social media this seems to be on the increase and becoming more and more intrusive. In terms of security most of us are cautious about using apps in social media. It often seems that the security and privacy settings are far from simple to use and that they sometimes revert to defaults! This is a potential topic for a future FineFocus session.

Conclusion

As always Serendipity gave us much food for thought!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is a FineFocus session where we will take a look at learning style inventories and their usefulness or otherwise. Join us on Thursday April 18th at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning April 19th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

More ‘roos outside our windows!

Introduction

Time for one of those posts about where I live rather than specifically education related.

This morning we had an exciting visit from members of one of our local wildlife sanctuaries. There are a number of these sanctuaries around the state who rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife. The purpose of this morning’s visit was to re-introduce some orphaned kangaroos into the wild by releasing them on our block! We already have a regular “mob” of kangaroos who break up into smaller groupings at various times of the year. These ‘roos don’t live exclusively on our block but range across several adjacent properties – ours is just one that they visit.

A bit of general “stuff” about kangaroos

Kangaroos are frequent victims of traffic on our roads. When females are killed or injured their young in the pouch (joeys) may well survive unhurt. However unless they are rescued they can’t live long once their mother is dead. Kangaroos are born very tiny and immature and once they reach the pouch they attach to a teat and remain out of sight in the pouch for several months.

Rescued joeys are raised in artificial pouches – often woollen bags – and bottle fed with milk. Eventually they reach a size where they can live outside the pouch and feed on the normal types of food eaten by adult kangaroos. Before release the young kangroos of mixed ages get used to living together as a group in a large pre-release enclosure where they have far less human contact than during the raising phase. Finally a number will be released into the wild – this is what happened here today.

The release

The team had successfully caught 15 young ‘roos from their large enclosure. They arrived in a convoy of cars in mid-morning. All very exciting as we hadn’t really expected quite so many ‘roos or quite so many people!

Picture of 'roos being unloadedThe first step was unloading the young kangaroos from the cars. They had travelled in woven mesh bags and were very mildly sedated so they they wouldn’t panic either in transit or when released.

Kangaroo travel bags lined up for releaseThe next step was to lay the travel bags out in a line, all “facing” in the same direction, and to unfasten them without actually releasing the occupants. A tricky activity this as there were more ‘roos than people.

Releasing the young kangaroos

Releasing (in theory) is simultanous, of course it wasn’t quite like that but very nearly

Kangaroo looking at new surroundings

Once out of their travel bags most of the kangaroos stayed around for at least a few minutes getting used to their new surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time to explore as they began to move away from the release spot.

 

 

 

 

 

By the time the team had collected the bags unloaded some transition food for us to help tide the ‘roos over steadily to foraging completely for themselves most of them had moved away into the surrounding pockets of bush to investigate their new surroundings.

We expect them to stay mostly hidden during the day and to come out to the release spot for water and some transitional food. We hope they will sort out a pecking order with our regular visiting mob and join in with them to form a larger mob where the new introductions integrate into the structure and eventually breed.

All in all an exciting and satisfying experience!

Edublogs webinar overview – Accessibility Standards

Introduction

This recorded session was a FineFocus session in which we took a brief introductory look at Accessibility Standards.  The topic is one that is becoming increasingly prominent as governments around the world set accessibility compliance standards for government websites.

The session

We started with a poll and a whiteboard to find out where we were all coming from on Accessibility Standards and their application in an online/e-learning context. This revealed varying knowledge and so provided great opportunities for discussion as we continued through the session. We moved on to look at the sorts of things that we, both as individuals and in the context of meeting our students’ needs, felt made websites more accessible.The next part of the session was a brief look at the links and possible conflicts between Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Accessibility Standards. We also took a very quick look, via App Share, at the guidelines that have been derived from the standards. I must admit that when I first looked at the guidelines I went into panic mode! I am reasonably tech savvy and I was totally daunted by the impossibility of making every piece of e-learning I develop totally compliant. I think that others in the session felt similarly – having had time to reflect my response is that I will do what is feasible and take baby steps. One of my main concerns is that this will all be too hard for the average practitioner who is only beginning their journey into developing online content and that the result will be a return to boring text only documents uploaded as documents and lacking interaction.

We also considered the impact on others (not falling in to defined equity groups) of changes made to meet the needs of specific equity groups. We compared some of the old Elluminate buttons/features with the new BbC ones that were developed through very close consultation with equity groups.

Finally we discussed some ways we might make a start on improving accessibility in our own practice – including checking foreground and background for colour contrast. Although it wasn’t one of those suggested I have made a change in my blog theme moving to a “responsive theme” ie one that is “mobile friendly” and adapts itself to the device type so that the text is readable without  zooming. I made the change because fortuitously I saw this post by @suewaters – on “theedublogger” and it nudged me into making the change. I don’t like my new theme as much as the old one – I would probably have stayed with it forever given the opportunity, but I think it is good that I made the change!

We finished with a page of links, “takeaways” and feedback.

Conclusion

This was a really interesting session partly because we all came from very different amounts of prior knowledge which always gives rise to great discussions.  Also our varied backgrounds enabled us to bring different perspectives – one of the best things as always for me was hearing/seeing the ideas and opinions of others in the group.

Our Next Webinar

Our next webinar will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday April 11th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday April 12th at 7am West Aus, mid morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues”. We post these on the whiteboard and then choose the topic for discussion by poll.

 

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – cool tools and other things!

Introduction

In this recorded Serendipity session our chosen topic was “cool new tools” – although this extended to cool tools, not necessarily new, that we use! We also decided to take a look at some of the other suggestions if time allowed.

The Session

We had some new tools shared and also some old favourites.

 

Always interesting to find out what everyone else is using and often even more interestingly HOW they are using it. We had a great conversation around these tools and how/why we use or in some cases don’t use them!

One of the best things about Serendipity is that we often look at more than just the one chosen topic. This gives people an opportunity to share briefly what is currently on their mind and get input from others. In this session we talked about the pressure imposed by assessment and reporting requirements, and an interesting sidelight on the need to translate a report into a parental first language. Yet another pressure that would not have existed 30 years ago! The topic of free live conferences was also discussed briefly – there are now many of these globally but not at the moment one that is at generally Australia friendly times. (Most of us in the session were Australia based).

Conclusion

A great session – Serendipity is always fun and enlightening!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is a FineFocus session. Join us for “Accessibility Standards?” in which we take a look at some of the issues around accessibility of e-learning content and some of the standards introduced to try and make it more accessible. Join us on Thursday April 4th at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning April 5th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs webinar overview – “Replacing GoogleReader”

Introduction

This recorded session was a FineFocus session where we looked at some of the possible replacements for GoogleReader. The topic was born out of the previous session which was a Serendipity discussion about the upcoming demise of GoogleReader.

This session was similar to our occasional ones where we each experiment with a tool or app that we might use with students and then feedback to the group on the experience. However in this case our concerns were more about the tool meeting our individual needs for a GoogleReader replacement than being suited to student use.

We followed out usual practice in these exploring sessions of each member of the group spending around 10 minutes exploring one of the alternatives and then feeding back to everyone else using audio, textchat, whiteboard and app share. As usual this worked well in providing first impressions! Checkout the  recording for the feedback.

Conclusion

This was a great session! One of the best things about this type of session is that it gives an idea about the potential usefulness of several alternative tools/apps in a much shorter time than it would take each of us as individuals to look at them all. This often enables us to narrow down our choices to one or two for deeper exploration.

Our Next Webinar

Our next webinar will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday March 28th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday March 29th at 7am West Aus, mid morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic

 

Edublogs webinar overviews – two Serendipity and “What isn’t taught in school”

Introduction

This overview is for three webinars – two Serendipity sessions and a FineFocus about “what isn’t taught in school”.

Serendipity topic – Instructional design

In this recorded session we talked about instructional design. There has been a recent discussion around instructional design in LinkedIn and it is a topic that arouses strong feelings.  It was certainly at the top of my mind for two reasons:

  • I was about to start a temporary new role working on a project to develop e-learning for a Certificate II (Australian levels) vocational course. This involves being part of a team with specific designated roles eg designer, developer, SME, although mine is a bit “woolly”! A sharp contrast to my usual situation where I am often the sole e-learning designer/developer or the facilitator and main designer/developer for a very small team.
  • The second reason is my current involvement with others from my network in the development of deMOOC which is highly collaborative and informal without the narrow role designations of a formal team.

The discussion was wide ranging beginning with a look at “What is instructional design?” We also talked about the pros and cons of need for subject expertise in instructional design and other aspects of the process.

 “What most schools don’t teach” – a FineFocus session

This was a session where I was unable to be present – I logged in but was unable to stay due to work commitments. So this is one of those recorded sessions where I needed to access the recording to find our what happened! This was a very small group so was more in the way of a two way conversation than usual.

One of the things that most schools don’t teach is coding! Those of you familiar with our webinars will know that my co-facilitator Phil is a programmer as well as a teacher. In this session Phil shared some ideas about the uses of teaching students to code. These are not just their resulting ability to write programs! However

I personally have some reservations about everyone learning to code – analysing systems and developing algorithms is one thing but writing good clean efficient code is very different. I think there are risks involved in that as is currently the case with building websites everyone who has learned by “playing” with the tools thinks they can do this to professional standards. The result with websites is many very poor quality websites built for organisations by amateurs.

Serendipity topic – the loss of GoogleReader

As always in Serendipity we began this recorded session with a whiteboard for topic ideas. The news that Google is to close GoogleReader was at the forefront and was the chosen topic.

This is the second Google product that I use personally where closure has been announced relatively recently, the previous one was iGoogle (due to close in Novemeber). In the light of this our first whiteboard was an opportunity to think about whether we, as individuals, have too many eggs in our Google baskets.

The consensus was that on the whole we probably do tend to use too many tools/apps from the one source. We considered briefly the “why?” and it usually comes down to convenience. You only need one login for your GoogleAccount and also the tools/apps often enable cross linking and cross posting to occur fairly seamlessly.

Links for a number of possible alternatives for GoogleReader were shared and we also added alternatives to some of the other Google tools/apps. Main takeaways from the session were that there are alternatives – we just need to look even though changing is a pain!

Conclusion

Three very interesting sessions with lots to think about. The Serendipity has given rise to the next FineFocus topic which will be an opportunity to share and explore some possible GoogleReader alternatives

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is a FineFocus session. Join us for “Replacing GoogleReader” in which we share and explore some possible replacements for GoogleReader. Join us on Thursday March 21st at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning March 22nd in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.