The demise of an icon – Goodbye EB in print!

Introduction

Many of those of us who are “booky” will have the Encyclopaedia Britannica as part of our childhood. Certainly in my case there was never even the possibilty of having it at home! The price would have been well outside the reach of my parents’ income. However I was lucky enough to attend a grammar school of very old foundation (Queen Elizabeth the first) in the UK and the old creaky library had two Britannicas one fairly old – one rather newer – ie only several years old.

As an 11 year old the EB seemed to contain all the knowledge I would ever need – I was both awestruck and awe inspired by so many volumes. Every time I opened one of those volumes it was a journey into adventure.

Why are we all so sad ?

Last week it seemed I couldn’t access Facebook, Twitter or the Internet in general without seeing a reference to sadness at the demise of a printed Britannica. I too felt sad! This made me explore the “why” in my own mind. I am definitely a “book” person of eclectic tastes – we have several thousand books which travelled half-way round the world with us when we moved from the UK to Australia. So there is at least one reason why I would be sad – loss of any printed book option is sad for me. However the comments I have seen and my own thoughts go beyond my normal response to loss of a print option.

The disappearance of print versions of many texts has been happening for quite a while but this seems something of a watershed for many of us. Perhaps (and I feel this is definitely so for me) this stems from reasons that are more to do with our “comfort zones” and the iconic nature of the EB than with its undoubted former value as a reference. I certainly feel that a childhood friend is lost to me forever – an over-reaction certainly! After all the print versions of the EB won’t simply vanish, there will just not be any new editions. I am sure that the EB will remain on many shelves for many years so that we can still access and savour the feeling of exploring a topic in a printed form. I know that his is something I do even though I have been fully aware for many years that much content in any large reference book is out of date well before it is printed.

The very fact that the content of a book once published is “cast in stone” has given us interesting opportunities to explore change in meaning, understanding and development of knowledge over time. Even as a child I often looked up a topic in both editions of the EB available to me in my school library (one about 30 years older than the other) and saw the changes in understanding and knowledge that were reflected there. I suspect that seeing these differences was fundamental in shaping both: my own awareness of the non-immutability of some “facts”; and my understanding that perceptions of events and information changes with time. In my opinion it is much harder in an online context to chart those perceptual differences as there is often no definitive change of edition – online material is often continuously updated in small increments. Finding previous versions can also be difficult as they may be deleted or overwritten. This is not to say that I don’t love being able to access vast amouts of information and soak up knowledge anywhere, anytime – I most definitely do. For me the Internet is a “magic carpet” and “open sesame” and I would never want to go back to having only printed books as information sources!

Conclusion

I count myself lucky that I now have a set of the EB! As a child I would have given much for this. A friend and colleague recently moved and was going to get rid of her set of Britannica – I couldn’t bear the thought of this and they now have a home with us. For myself this feels very much like the beginning of the end of an era. I am still sad at the loss of this particular printed text. I suspect I will be even sadder if/when the day comes when that other (for me) great institution as a reference text  the Oxford English Dictionary decides to be available online only!

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – iPads in class?

Introduction

This recorded Serendipity session was again one where the topic chose itself. There were only three of us in the room a topic choice time and we were all interested in the initial suggestion of “iPads/tablets in classrooms (1:1 models)”. This being a Serendipity session the consensus was to go with that topic.

The Session

This was a great session, mostly audio with some text chat and a number of links shared both through text and on the whiteboard.

As always the discussion ranged across a wider field than the topic title would imply. We were talking mainly of iPads, however much of the conversation would apply also to other tablets.

We also talked briefly about sharing devices in class and also about the added difficulties of “bring your own device” scenarios and the need for activities not device specific.

One of the main themes running through the discussion was how difficult it is for many teachers adopting iPads in class to get started.

Reasons for this may include:

  • lack of availability of pre-existing activities “lessons” that can be used as they are or easily adapted;
  • lack of time to learn the device

I think that these issues apply to introducing any new device/technology but that the problem is becoming more apparent as new devices and technology proliferate. Also increasing adoption of devices/technologies in “schools” is forcing those who are not by nature “early adopters” and experimenters to use these new tools before they are ready!

We shared many links, tips, ideas and solutions to issues of using iPads and other devices in class – particularly with respect to the various non-compatibilities.

Conclusion

I personally enjoyed this session immensely, not least because I came away with a couple of new apps to try out on my own iPad!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. “More quick & easy online tools!” In which we will explore and share our opinions about a few online tools that are potentially quick and easy to learn for teachers and students.  Join us on Thursday March 22nd 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 23rd in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs webinar overview – big brother (Google)!

Introduction

In this recorded session we took a look at the recent changes in Google privacy policy. A current issue of interest to most educators who are online because the majority of us use Google applications and also we often recommend them to our students.

The Session

We started with the usual “where are we coming from” on the topic – taking a quick look at whether and which Google products we use and at our awareness of the privacy policy changes.

Next we took a closer look at some of the changes. We raised concerns and looked at some of the possible impacts.

Then came the interesting bit!

I asked participants to take a look at their own Google Dashboard and particularly their Web History. Everyone explored, made changes and shared thoughts about the amount and type of information and the sometimes worrying preditions/assumptions made by the algorithms. After the Dashboard  everyone accessed the Ad Preferences where it is possible to make some changes to the way Google targets you with advertising.

We finished with some feedback and a look at our best takeaways from the session.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this session although I felt that I talked too much! I found it interesting to get the perspectives of others on the policy changes and planning the session made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done. We all find the advertising annoying but as someone said in the session this is how Google makes money and is able to provide all the apps we like so much!

I also realised that I am getting better at what used to feel like worrying silences – those that occur when people are exploring something and changing settings.

Next Webinar

Our next session will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday March 15th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday March 16th 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.

Read it when you need it!

Introduction

This post was triggered by a tweet from Jess McCulloch (@jessmcculloch) that initiated a train of thought much longer than suggested by her original question.

Jess’s tweet  raised the issue of the “Read later” tag/list asking does anyone get round to their “Read later”s. I sent a reply to the effect that I never use “Read later” options as I know perfectly well that I will never read them! This started me thinking about what I do actually do with respect to dealing with the myriad links and posts that cross my desktop each day.

My online “imperatives”

These are some of my personal strategies (other than using an iGoogle page for easy access to many things):

  • Don’t try to read/view (or promise myself to read/view) everything that passes across my desktop.
  • Don’t collect “read later” lists because I know I won’t do it.
  • Have in my GoogleReader feed only very few feeds from blogs I have a particular reason to follow. Even then I don’t expect to read them all in depth or even at all.
  • Skim anything that attracts my immediate attention eg from the title or topic mentions and then tag with Diigo. That way I can find it with a search of my Diigo tags.
  • Adopt a read it when I need it approach – hence skimming & tagging in Diigo for those items that interest me at first glance rather than reading them in depth.
  • Adopt a find it when I need it approach – use my search skills to find what I need when I need it then tag in Diigo for future use. This saves me inordinate amounts of time as I rarely read, and therefore don’t catalogue/tag, an item until I need it.

  • Use different bookmarking applications for different purposes – for example all my virtual room links and a number of frequent access sites are saved via Google Bookmarks for easy access whereas I use Diigo for web pages, blog posts etc that need to be tagged for me to find relevant ones.
  • Never re-share, re-tweet, re-post links without reading or at least skimming them first! This is one reason that I don’t re-tweet often. I know it is counter to the way most people operate on Twitter but I am unwilling to re-share anything I haven’t accessed myself!
  • With anything that gives me a daily/weekly email of updates I rarely open these until I want information from them. I simply file them in a folder labelled with the source and then access & keyword search the folder.

Conclusion

I think I am lucky in that I remember key information relating to things that interest me (I have a magpie mind) even if they have only been briefly mentioned or have been submerged in other content. Also I am  a relatively good “searcher” and usually find it easy to access the information I need quite quickly when I need it!.

Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – projects, community

Introduction

In this recorded Serendipity session we didn’t actually vote on a topic! There was a consensus to briefly discuss three of the topics and that the fourth one perhaps merited a FineFocus session of its own (see next week’s topic at the bottom of the page). In fact we looked at two of the topics in the end – they were:

  • project based learning & using the strong language of online programs
  • community involvement in content delivery

These blended together very well and generated lots of discussion.

The Session

Initially we shared concerns and misgivings about:

  • some of the possible issues  of being locked in to any one of the increasing number of publisher owned and operated student/content management systems;
  • increasing curriculum rigidity and standardisation of “learning”

Then we moved on to discuss the advantages project based learning “PBL” and the difficulty of doing this with the increasing constraints on educators. This conversation blended well into community involvement in content and gave rise to many ideas on possible community projects. There were also suggestions for other ways of increasing community involvement in educational organisations as a strategy for breaking  down the barriers that often exist.

Conclusion

This session was fascinating – truly Serendipitous in the way that we ranged across the related topics. It seems to me that increasingly in our sessions we are hearing the frustrations of educators in schools, who meet with severe constraints on how they teach as well as with the ever narrowing and more prescribed curriculum. As an adult educator in literacy/numeracy I feel that I am incredibly lucky at the moment in having a less rigid and constrained curriculum than colleagues in schools but it is probably only a matter of time!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. “Big Brother (Google) is watching you!” In which we will take a look at some of the implications of the recent changes in Google.  Join us on Thursday March 8th 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 9th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs webinar overview – Birdwatching with biblical binoculars

Introduction

In this excellent recorded session we learned about “Birdwatching with biblical binoculars” (@jofrei) – Jo Freitag of the Gifted Resources information service told us the story of her exciting blogging project carried out with a group of Church School attendees during 2011.

The Session

Jo started with some background on how she had come to do the project – using the subscription to EdublogsPro that she won at the Reform Symposium in 2011. She then introduced the blog that she used.

Jo moved on to tell us about the wide range of activities that the group undertook and how the “biblical binoculars were used to find biblical references to birds that illustrated the topic under study. There was some exciting “just-in-time” learning and sharing by members of the group using their mobile phones to find and access references.

The range of tools that Jo used with her group was wide – some of which are shown below.

Many links were shared via whiteboard and text both by Jo and by other participants. Some of them we visited during the session and others were saved for later :). It is very well worth catching the recording for this session both for Jo’s great presentation and for the interactivity and links that she shared.

Conclusion

An exciting sesssion! Jo’s use of such a wide range of tools and activities was awe inspiring and led to a very high degree of engagement from her group. I found this particularly helpful given my own context at the moment of preparing for a project which hopes to better engage my online literacy students through adding media to blogposts and thus generating a simple e-portfolio.

Next Webinar

Our next session will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday March 1stat 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday March 2nd 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 Serendipity webinar overview – four topics!

Introduction

This recorded Serendipity session was a little different from usual in that we took a brief look at several different topics:

  • 2 minute teaching presentations in job interviews
  • managing image sizes
  • technology troubles
  • the new look Twitter – what are the differences

This was fun – we used the timer to ensure that we spent similar time on each topic.

The Session

We started with “2 minute teaching presentations” this topic was proposed by a participant who has a job interview coming up. It is a topic that I think most teachers find interesting bcause we have all been there at some point whether it be a 2 minute, 5 minute or 10 minute presentation. In my personal opinion the shorter the time they allow the harder it is! We used a whiteboard to make suggestions and there was also discussion in text chat and through audio.

The second topic was “managing image sizes”. A topic which often surfaces as a result of people trying to send  files (eg “Powerpoint) by email or to upload them and discovering that they are too large for sending and/or they take an inordinate length of time to upload.

As someone who lives in a “bandwidth challenged” region it is an issue close to my heart! Because of this I probably talked to much in this part of the session :). The topic was the subject of a Fine Focus webinar “Imagine your Image” overview here some time ago and is also one the the Free Tools Challenges in the Edublogs Teacher Challenges. There were a variety of links, tips and ideas for image management shared in text chat  As a result of the discussion @philhart with input from @MrsSOnline produced a Google Doc on managing images post download from camera and has posted about this with the link on his blog in “Pictures and presentations: an issue of size”.

Our third topic “technology troubles” lent itself very well to a whiteboard where we shared the technology troubles that are currently at the top of our respective lists. For several of us one of these was the perennial “getting others to use the tech!”. One of the best things about this sort of topic is the realisation that “one is not alone”! Another plus was the sharing of suggestions on how to solve particular tech issues.

The final topic was “new look Twitter – what are the differences?”. Coincidentally, and serendipitously, I had been exploring the new Twitter just before the session. I rarely use Twitter web, Tweetdeck being my client of choice, however I accessed Twitter web directly because of a glitch with Tweetdeck. Found myself unexpectedly in the new version and so did a quick explore. As a result I was able to share my Twitter page and do a quick tour of similarities and differences. The main plus I think for me is the inclusion of “Interactions” enabling me to see new follows and RTs easily. This was a very quick skim and I’m sure I missed things that are significant in the new version. We may take a closer look in a FineFocus session soon!

Conclusion

This session was quite fast paced – Serendipity sessions are often slower paced and reflective. However fast or gentle paced there is always that Serendipitous learning element. I really enjoyed this session and think that perhaps we should do more Serendipity sessions where we have short discussions about several topics – what do you think? Feedback would be very welcome – let us know if you think this would be a good idea.

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This will be an exciting session with Jo Freitag (@jofrei) who coordinates the “Gifted Resources” information service website. Jo will tell us about her blogging project “Birdwatching With Biblical Binoculars” that she has been undertaking with her Sunday School group.  Join us on Thursday February 23rd 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 February 24th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Edublogs webinar – Global Student Blogging Challenge

Introduction

In this recorded session Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) gave us a fascinating look at the Global Student Blogging Challenge soon to get underway for its first run of 2012.

The Session

Sue started with a little of the history of the Challenge which has been happening for several years and has grown phenomenally since its inception.

Sue then shared  and talked about a variety of pages from the Challenge. She told us about how the Challenge works for students and teachers.  This included a look at some of the activities and answering our questions as we looked at the pages.

There was much interest in the mentoring aspect of the Challenge. Sue asks for volunteer mentors each of whom is asked to visit and comment on a number of student blogs.

If you are interested in the Challenge and are an educator, future educator or perhaps a retired educator then please consider volunteering as a mentor. With over 1,000 students in the last Challenge and more likely for March 2012 Sue needs 30-40 mentors. As Sue said in her presentation you don’t need to be an expert blogger – the role is more about visiting, commenting and sometimes making suggestions on what students might write about. Checkout the Mentor Registration Page and be a part of the Challenge!

There are already students and classes registering for the March 2012 Challenge so if you are a teacher with class or student blogs and you want to participate it’s time to think about registering right now!

Conclusion

A great session – the Global Student Blogging Challenge is such an exciting event. Each year I try to plan for involving at least some of my students and/or colleagues. so far this hasn’t happened. Partly this is because of the complexity (for me anyway) of initiating blogging with my totally online regional literacy students who often struggle with computer literacy as well. However this year we have a project which will enable us to try out a model for getting students started with blogs by using them as a simple e-portfolio. So although the March Challenge will not be possible I still have hopes for September!

Next Webinar

Our next session will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday February 16that 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday February 17th 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 – three in one post

Why three in one?

Apologies all for very tardy posting! As usual the return to work after our long summer break meant a frenetic few days before returning and subsequently 2 weeks where I have felt more and more overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do.

Introduction  to Serendipity – Teachers and blogging

This recorded Serendipity session took a look at teachers and blogging – whether all teachers should be blogging and just what should be made public/included in a professional blog. We had thunderstorms during this session and I missed a bit in the middle (power outage) which took out my desktop and also temporarily my backup laptop internet (wireless modem). Everyone just carried on with the discussion – my idea of a perfect session is when everyone just carries on if the moderator drops out 🙂

The Session

We followed our usual format of putting our topic ideas on the whiteboard and then polling to choose the subject for discussion. The winner was a combined topic around “All teachers should blog” and How much private info/thoughs should we reveal on a professional blog.

We started with a whiteboard although, as is often the case when we are a small group who all have audio, the discussion was quite audio based.  Discussion ranged around the pros of blogging for teachers, should it be compulsory as part of professional development and some privacy thoughts.

Conclusion

This session illustrated to me that sometimes you just can’t be sufficiently prepared for contingencies. During the session we had a major thunderstorm and I lost power. I had anticipated the possiblity and was also in the room as a moderator via laptop and wireless modem. However the strike that put the main  power off also temporarily knocked out the wireless modem and thus kicked me out of the BbC room. Luckily the participants (all very experienced users) just carried on. In retrospect I probably should have made someone else moderator as well!

Introduction to “Do you Toon?”

The second webinar in this post was an Edublogs Fine Focus – Do you Toon? As always this was recorded. This topic happened because I have cartoons and animations on my mind at the moment. One of the mini-projects that I will be using with students in my National VET E-learning (NVELS) project “E-xtraordinary Learning For A Digital Age” (ELFADA) is for the students to explore some video and cartoon texts and then make their own and embed them in their blogs, so I am exploring the tools available so that I can focus on the easiest to use. It seemed a good opportunity for one of our occasional explore and share sessions.

The Session

When we explore tools in webinars one of the major considerations is how easy it is to learn the tool because we always have in mind the potential for using with students without them needing a long time to acquire the basics. We began with a list of 5 tools (including one iPad app which no-one explored leaving us with four). The first

activity was a look at whether we knew any of the tools. Then we followed a similar pattern to previous tool exploration sessions. Everyone chose a tool to explore from Go! Animate, Make Beliefs Comix, Pixton and Toon Way.

Having decided which tool to explore the group dispersed for ten minutes to explore their chosen tools. Then we reconvened to share ideas on: ease of learning the basics; how engaging to use; possible lessons/contexts; whether we would use with students.

Conclusion

These sessions are always both fun and informative! Exploring something new in a short time frame is always challenging but is authentic in terms of potential use with students. Students need to be able to grasp the basics of a tool quickly because it is a tool and not the primary learning objective of the activity. In my context, with often disengaged and/or not very ICT literate students, I find that tools have to be both quick and easy to learn in order to engage students and enable them to develop their “text” (visual, oral and written) creation skills.

Introduction to Serendipity – Strategies for overwhelmed teachers

Reaching the end of the marathon post with this recorded Serendipity session. This is an issue close to all of us who teach in any context. Teaching itself is demanding enough with the need to meet individual student needs across many levels, learning preferences and personal interests. Add the demands of curriculum and standardised testing or excessive audit requirements, and the increasingly heavy administrative load (this latter often the result of a requirement to justify almost every one of the myriad professional decisions we make each day) and it is unsurprising that the majority of good and conscientious “teachers” feel overwhelmed!

The Session

As always we started with ideas for the discussion topic of the week, and then moved on to vote on these. Perhaps predictably “Strategies for overwhelemed teachers” was the absolute winner. Certainly as one who has just returned to my role as a lecturer in public vocational education at the start of a new academic year in Australia I already feel overwhelmed, and for colleagues in the northern hemisphere that return to teaching after the Christmas holiday in the darkest, coldest time of the year can (as I well remember) be soul destroying in itself.

We decided to take a brief look at what it was that made us feel overwhelmed – inevitably the main culprits are those things we have to do that don’t directly relate to teaching eg admin/paperwork and also the ever moving “goalposts” imposed from outside.

Then we moved on to look at the strategies for dealing with these.

Between us we actually had two whiteboards of ideas – one is shown above. As always the discussion and sharing was not limited to the whiteboard and there were also many textchat and audio contributions to our thoughts making this a session where it is well worth catching the recording. One of the most significant things that several of us took away at the end of the session was the awareness that we all have the same issues wherever we are in the world.

Conclusion

I think this session will resonate with teachers everywhere! I certainly found it helped me with my current sense of being overwhelmed. In common with others I find/have found that my global PLN has been a phenomenal support for me in helping me to survive and manage all those pressures that overwhelm me. Often the the support comes in practical help, advice and suggestions. Sometimes it is just that with a global PLN there is someone I can connect with and chat to via Twitter in that “dark night of the soul” when once again I am up at 3am working because the “overwhelmedness” is preventing me from sleeping!

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session. This will be a fantastic session with Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) who will tell us about (and invite you and your students to take part in) the Global Student Blogging Challenge that she has now been running twice a year for the last few years. Join us on Thursday February 9th 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 February 10th in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.