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Monday, 31 January 2011

As Australia returns to school

It was noticeable as I came to work this morning that here in South Australia the school population is again on the move. Traffic was more congested.
Government schools in South Australia open their doors to students today, the teachers having "gone back"  on Thursday.

And here in Adelaide, what a day to return!
42C promised for today, so presumably things will be complicated by "hot weather policy".

But Australia wide school term dates are not the same, and the starting dates for independent and Catholic schools will vary from thoseof thegovernment systems shown below:

Staff commence: Friday 4 February
New students commence: Monday 7 February
Classes for all students commence: Tuesday 8 February

Term 1: Friday 28 January – Friday 8 April

Term 1: Monday 24 January – Friday 15 April

Term 1: Monday 24 January – Friday 1 April
Students resume Tuesday 25 January

Term 1: Wednesday 2 February – Tuesday 21 April

Term 1: Monday 31 January – Friday 15 April

Term 1: Tuesday 15 February – Friday 3 June
Schools in the North and North West start Tues 15 Feb, Schools in the South start Wednesday 16 Feb

Resources for teachers returning to school:

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Monday, 24 January 2011

Mind Maps - a key to learning?

We all know the adage "a picture is better than a thousand words" and it seems that research is now supporting the concept that learning can happen more easily with a visual prompt.

Or is it that the creation of a mind map makes the learner think more carefully about the concept, as well as involving a sense other than reading?

An article Beyond Rote Learning by Massie Santos Ballon in the  Philippine Daily Inquirer (22 Jan 2011) begins

FOR MANY people, the word "learning" is synonymous with "memorization."

For these people, the true test of how much knowledge they’ve gained from a class is dependent on being able to recall, and parrot back, as many facts and figures as possible.

A recent study by American psychologists suggests, however, that when it comes to retaining information, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Their data indicate that teaching students to develop methods of recalling information, instead of relying on lists, could help them learn complex ideas, such as, those presented in science classes.


Mind mapping tools

I've culled these from a larger list of Personal Productivity Tools at Jane Hart's Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies.

  • i2brain
    Not just another mind mind mapping program.  It is multi-dimensional. It visualizes your thoughts and plans in depth
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • iMindMap
    Mind mapping tool from the creator of mind maps, Tony Buzan
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • MindGenius
    Mind Mapping Software that helps students and educators to plan more effectively, can provide a focal point for class discussion, and help improve memory recall for exams.
    £, Free Trial, Download
  •  MindManager
    Helps you capture and organize every detail in one trusted place and use the power of visual organization to uncover hidden gems of information and unexpected insights.
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • MindNode
    MindNode Pro and MindNode are elegant and simple-to-use mindmapping applications for the Macintosh that help to visually collect, classify and structure ideas; and organize, study and solve problems.
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • Nelements
    3d Mind Mapping tool that you can use to organize your knowledge in 3d.
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • NovaMind
    Mind mapping software
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • Seavus DropMind
    Smooth, flexible and creative mind mapping solution
    £, Free Trial, Download/Hosted
  • TopicScape
    Concept mapping and mindmapping in 3D
    £, Free Trial, Download
  • Visual Mind
    Software based on the mindmapping technique to visualise your thinking an quickly arrange and organise your work
    £, Free Trial, Download

What are the best mind mapping tools you've come across?

Do you use mind mapping in your teaching and learning?

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Friday, 21 January 2011

Educators: taking advantage of e-reader capability

Using e-readers in the classroom should prompt some pedagogical changes.
Reading a book with an e-reader or e-reading software/App is not just the digital equivalent of reading a made-from-paper book. It opens up a whole world of possibilities, student engagement, and, at the next level, of creativity.

Most teachers will be familiar with the first level of possibilities:

  • text re-sizing
  • dictionary/thesaurus
  • portability and the potential of carrying a very large number of books on a single device
  • animation and interaction if you are using an App
  • search function that enables the user to search the book for specific text - e.g. to check up on the first time a particular character appears and so on
  • text to speech synthesis - usually a "computer" voice but sometimes still useful

There are tools that the user can use which both personalise the device, or, if it needs to be shared, enable more streamlined use. (Here I will refer mainly to the Kindle because that's where my area of "expertise" lies, but perhaps you could adopt the approach of "if that can be done on a Kindle, how can I achieve something similar on my e-reader?)

  • tools like Categories in the Kindle enable the user to put the e-books into a sort of "folder" system. In this blog post I explain what I've done on my Kindle, but you could easily use categories on a shared device to store books for specific users. I would imagine that other devices/software have the ability to sort books into labelled shelves. (if you know of anything here, leave a comment)

But there are tools that allow the user to take use of their device to a new level. Let's take the scenario of a student who is required to write a book report, or an analysis of a particular section.
The student may need to be shown how to use the bookmarking and annotation tool, how to transfer those notes to a text reader on a computer, and then to manipulate them for a book report.

My point here is that the teacher needs to take a bit of an interventionist role, set post-reading assignments that challenge the student to make use of the extra capabilities an e-reader provides.

If you have a Kindle, you might find EduKindle a useful place to browse and monitor.
Of course there is always the Kindle User's Guide.

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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Twitter is for old people!

I have again got some anecdotal "evidence" as a result of discussion of yesterday's post.
It appears that, while teenagers are hooked on FaceBook and texting on their mobiles, they are less than impressed with Twitter.
This appears to be a fairly typical response (this by a 13 year old female)

daughter: Dad, only OLD people use Twitter.
Me: But it's used by lots of the celebrities that you follow - Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, some of those Gleek kids...
daughter: (rolls her eyes dramatically) Da-ad, you only use Twitter instead of Facebook because it is simple. Like the smoke signals you used to send from cave to cave when you were young.

and another

My own 15 yo daughter thinks Twitter is embarrassingly stupid.  I handed her my phone the other day as I was driving and dictated a message for her to send... it was only afterwards when she realised it was Twitter that she said "Eww, I used Twitter?!"  :-)

This time the ancedotes are supported by research.
  • This report dated September 2009: Only around 15% of all the Twitter users are less than 25 years old, who would know? An official report from Morgan Stanley says that teenagers just don’t use Twitter.... people under 25 years are the main Internet users, only this group of people takes the 25% of all population; but they also just represent 16% of all Twitter. more
  • In December 2010 a Pew Internet report said "Eight percent of the American adults who use the internet are Twitter users. It is an online activity that is particularly popular with young adults, minorities, and those who live in cities."
  • In a post Teens Don't Tweet in mid 2009 Nielsen estimated that 64% of Twitter growth had come from the 24 to 55 year old age range
So, it may be that if you are hoping to sell Twitter to a bunch of teenagers in the classroom, that you've already lost the battle, just when you've found a technology that you like.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Twittering in Education

This is an old web posting: http://www.emergingedtech.com/2010/02/100-ways-to-teach-with-twitter/

But it raises an interesting issue and your chance to correct me.

My impression is that, in Australian schools at least, Twitter, for a variety of reasons, gets minimal use.
Am I right?
By and with students that is, but a different scenario exists with teachers.

Do you Tweet?

Jane Knight lists it as a key tool for professionals
http://c4lpt.co.uk/140Learning/twitter.html Publish
It came out as #1 in her Top 100 tools for Learning in 2010 (and it was #1 in 2009 too)
It still looks like #1 so far on her 2011 list

Twitter apparently grew hugely in 2010


In the past 12 months, Twitter users sent an astonishing 25 billion Tweets and we added more than 100 million new registered accounts.


If you have time to look

Where I tweet

I found it necessary, even essential, to separate my work and personal personas.
I would describe myself as an occasional tweeter.
I have set things up so that my blog postings automatically get posted into the appropriate Twitter account.

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Seducing our students with e-readers

It seems that many students can be turned off reading by the physical characteristics of made-from-paper books, like

  • size of the font - we expect them to "graduate" to smaller type fonts before they (or is it their eyes?) are ready
  • page layout - not enough white space, print density, no pictures
  • the size of the book - too small, too big
  • the weight of the book

One of the interesting things emerging from discussions about e-reading experiences is that it seems people who already read a lot are reading even more. Here is an article that explores that theme.

All of this is the fault of my ereading device. Like the muses of ancient lore, the device has seduced me. I can’t wait to sit in my recliner and read on my Sony 950; I simply do not want to pick up a printed book. The screen is easy on my eyes, the touch screen a pleasure, the ergonomics excellent for me, and the weight significantly less than most of my hardcovers. It oozes pleasure and an enjoyable time to be had. ... I’m reading three to four times as many books as I did before I had an ereading device

Perhaps that ties in with what I touched on yesterday: the impression that they are able to read faster.

Amazon for example are citing rising books sales, particularly of e-books.

Of course in education it isn't really the established older readers we want to get to. It is the younger readers who in the past have been turned off reading for reasons like those I cited at the beginning of this post.

And the jury is out on whether these people need a dedicated e-reader or an App on an iPad or e-reading software on their computer

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Monday, 17 January 2011

Can we make things too easy to read?

Anecdotal evidence from friends and comments about their e-reading experiences include an impressions that they are able to read faster on their e-readers than they can with a "normal" made-from-paper book. We have all thought that had something to do with the ability to manipulate the size of the font.

This phenomenon has been noted elsewhere, for example, a study of US middle school students who were all using Kindles, where their teacher found that nearly all were choosing to read their e-books in one of the larger size fonts.

Again this is anecdotal "evidence" - but there have been suggestions made that e-books are abridged versions - people unable to believe that they were able to read the book so quickly!

A colleague borrowed the company Kindle for the holidays and got on famously with it, far better than she thought she would. She said that she quickly forgot it was a device and settled down to reading with it easily. She read 3 books, all fairly long. However the time came to return the device and she reported that she had made the transition back to p-books just as easily.
She reported having a strange experience. The print on the p-book was a bit small and so she thought she would "bump it up bit", until she remembered she was not reading it on an e-reader.

So this post from TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home, a blog that I follow regularly, Are e-readers too easy to read? makes interesting reading. A neuroscience blogger suggests that easy to read fonts interfere with information retention. I guess if that were an educationally sound conclusion, then we would have made our readers and text books much harder to read long ago.

What do you think?

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Friday, 14 January 2011

Teachers and librarians lead the way with e-books

New Research Report Just Released
eBooks:  K-12 Educators’ Usage and Attitudes


A new research report has just been released that surveys teachers and librarians to find out how they are using e-books—personally and in the classroom—and to identify purchasing usage, attitudes, and trends.  

The report presents the results of a survey conducted among 700 teachers and 600 school librarians in the US.

The survey shows that school librarians are leading the way in bringing e-books into our nation’s schools – in large part because they have funding available to support their E-book purchases. The top-line results show that 40% of K-12 teachers and 50% of school librarians have purchased E-books for either personal or professional use.

The survey was conducted by educational consulting firm Egremont Associates, with support from co-sponsors edWeb.net, MCH Strategic Data, and TecKnoQuest Inc.

Points from the survey results:

  • educators who have not already jumped on the bandwagon appear to be unlikely to do so in the near future.
  • 70% are paying for eBooks out of their own pocket.
  • School librarians are more involved with eBooks than teachers - partly because their eBook purchases are more likely than teachers.
  • most popular foramts of books purchased are .pdf or .azw (Kindle)
  • if educators own an eBook reader it is most likely to be a Kindle

Join Exploring eBooks for K-12 on Edweb Net and download the executive summary free.

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Thursday, 13 January 2011

E-books in education in 2011

One interesting report that has come my way is the Price Waterhouse Coopers report on ebooks, published at the end of 2010.

While it is not specifically related to education, it does give a good overview for those who haven't yet begun thinking about e-readers and e-books. It contains some very persuasive arguments for why teachers and librarians need to try eReaders and eBooks. It is the way the world is headed.

It compares data from from the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands (what a pocket of resistance that seems to be)

I was particularly interested in the final pages which described the Situation in the Year 2015. (check page 32 onwards)

Here are the main points:

  • Books will still be printed. Books made from paper are not going to become museum pieces any time soon. However the book industry will be transformed by eBooks and eReaders.
  • Printed books will continue to account for the majority of sales. At the end of 2010 eBooks accounted for only 7% of the US market and much less elsewhere.
  • Prices for eReaders will fall.
  • Colour screens and Internet connectivity will become commonplace.
  • eReaders will remain less expensive than tablets and have fewer "disruptive" features.
  • Dedicated eReaders will continue to be more popular than tablets, although the sales will flatten out where they are already established.
  • Tablets will be lighter and have longer battery life than currently.
  • Tablets will gradually take the place of printed magazines and newspapers.
  • More publishers will offer multimedia content in eBooks.
  • "special interest books" will be sold on a chapter by chapter basis (this has interesting implications for text books)
  • Cook books and Travel guides and other special interest books will be offered as tablet Apps, and also with interactive feautres, online updates, and subscriptions
  • Libraries will be lending both eReaders and eBooks
  • As demand decreases for print books some titles may no longer be available in print, although printing on demand may still happen.
  • By the end of 2012 most avid readers (in the US at least) will own an eReader.
  • The eBooks market share in the US will be 22.5% in 2015. In the UK it will be 14% in 2015, and in Germany 6% and in the Netherlands 4%
  • Closures of physical bookstores so far have probably had more to do with the economic downturn than with the rise of eBooks. Physical bookstores will need to look at the services they offer in order to ensure survival.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Creating P.C. reading by whitewashing the classics

An interesting issue has arisen

Publisher to release versions of 'Huck Finn' and 'Tom Sawyer' without the N-word, prompting strong but mixed reaction.
The internet is abuzz with reaction to a publisher’s controversial decision to replace the N-word with “slave” in Mark Twain’s classic novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in an effort not to offend readers.

You probably remember that Agatha Christie’s TEN LITTLE NIGGERS became TEN LITTLE INDIANS which always seemed to me to be a very strange choice, and now it is the much more sanitized AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

The interesting thing was that in the Agatha Christie novel the "niggers" in question were ten soldier boy figurines on the dining room table. As the book evolved and people were murdered the figurines disappeared. The title of the book was based, as you will remember, on a nursery rhyme.

I remember (you probably don’t, being mainly much younger than this geriatric) reading Joseph Conrad’s THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS.
Should we hunt down all books with similarly offensive titles?

But the Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer books are to be reprinted using “slave” instead of the n-word.
The count is apparently 219 times
Is this madness? What do you think?

What would the Australian equivalent be? Is it better to replace politically/socially offensive words with more sanitized ones, or should we be teaching our students to recognize the offensiveness, but also to undePublishrstand how the author was reflecting common usage at that time?

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