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"To allow fear to be in control of one's life, is to limit oneself and all around you. Connect with your children, with your learners. Understand them, understand their worlds and grow with them, not against them".




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Monday, 30 July 2007

Supporting Learning with Online Tools in 2007!

Supporting Learning with Online Tools During 2006 more than 30 teachers completed this program on how to plan and use e-learning strategies to extend and support their teaching. External funds are again available in 2007 to allow us to re-run the program. This program is referred to as the Introduction to Blended Learning in the Computer Schedule. Program overview Participating teachers will be helped to identify a blended learning delivery model appropriate for one of their programs, using TAFE VC Vista. Initial discussion on the pedagogy of learning will be the basis for the how, where and why e-learning techniques can support effective learning. This program will consist of three half-day workshops that will cover: the why, when and where of using e-learning to assist delivery the how. Participants will learn to identify and select appropriate combinations of online activities, assessments and resources to support their teaching. Teachers will use TAFE VC Vista to develop resources for their own teaching area. Following the workshops, participating teachers will be supported by the e-Learning Facilitator (ELF) representing their centre. This will make them eligible for a payment of $300. Program details Dates: Friday 17, 24 and 31 August 2007. ____________________________________________________________ My comments on the above PD Program that was emailed to staff today. I hope I do not offend with this post - my thoughts, based on experience, from my head alone at this time. Please let me preface this by saying, feel free to disagree with me as I do have a bias or two, based on personal experience alone. I could hardly stop laughing when I read, that 30 staff have since 2006, completed this intense and grueling Professional Development (what year are we in again, as I thought it was 2007, not the 'ice age'). Completed, Reported maybe but Applied within a learning context by all 30, sorry but it is too funny for words. Someone make it stop, as my ribs hurt. Well If I had not seen the original, I would not believe it. This PD is useful I guess for those who have not bothered to update their ICT skills in TAFE or for staff new to TAFE, who have not had the opportunity to delve into the unknown encounters and futures of all things 'e', but really, when does this TAFE look beyond sites such as TAFEVC Vista (an upgrade to the old TAFEVC - the one all of those staff who were issued lap tops with in around 2000-2001, signed a document to the effect, that they would undergo the prescribed training and if not they would have the lap tops repossessed). From personal experience and the many tales I have heard in Australia, there was no concrete attempt made to keep track of who did what and thus many lap tops have never been seen again in the workplace, instead they are by now in the trash, but at the time, staff gave to their children for school or used as a door stop or dust catcher. I did all required training along with some others, who like myself felt that as it was part of the contract for the lap top, we should comply. We also wanted to learn more about what we could offer our learners, by engaging all things or some things 'e' into our practice. I do not have exact numbers, I would make a guess at the training completion (all modules completed) by staff at one TAFE to have been between 10-15% of staff population (a multi campus TAFE) over a three or four year period. So those who did not learn how to use TAFE VC, create online learning materials, integrate and apply in teaching practice and all else required in the PD offered now, may do the same training (the upgrade to TAFEVC VISTA replacing TAFEVC), as they were supposed to do, years ago when they signed on the dotted line for a lap top, all those years ago and now get $300 as an added bonus if they satisfy the requirments in 2007. How rapidly TAFE appears to be advancing in all things 'e' or online and blended. Maybe another 5-7 years will see PD offered in the use of social networking tools or maybe blogs! Okay, so government funding is now being used at the cost of $300 per staff member, to train them in basic e-learning principles and practice, they should already know and one would have thought applied in the learning context since the year 2000. This comment of course does not apply to those staff who have only recently begun working in the TAFE, VET, VTE Sector/System (I must have got one of the silly things correct - harder to keep up with than web 2.0, 3.0 and more). This may seem harsh, but it is crazy to spend money on such PD, when the current majority of staff at this TAFE, have shown, little or no interest, instead choosing to spend their time, knocking those who have embraced past and current technologies, applying them, watching and embracing the evolution of the tools and technologies available and evaluating the benefits of their use in the learning context. Funny how most of our PD in the most part has been in our, out of class time at work, at night or the weekends when home. Our PD has been ongoing since the first training session we attended, some years back, because we took the time, to connect with others, join communities, learn, share and collaborate. Our aim simple, to ensure we were maximising the potential of current and relevant tools and technologies, that would enhance the learning environment and experience for all stakeholders, including business/industry, the Australian Economy? Is it not our role in VET, VTE, TAFE, to provide our clients with the learning required to gain employment, survive, grow personally and professionally and succeed in their endeavours. In turn business/industry of all types gain highly skilled, professional employee's (skills required today and those that will aid them in the future - oh and yes I still consider those in the trades as professional) , increasing the capacity of business/industry/people, the country, to advance, to lead, to maximise profit and increase their position in markets, domestic/globally, advancing the position of the nation and creating a healthy, sustainable economy. Okay, so I may be dreaming - but not all dreams are forgotten and some are worth holding onto - Never say Never! I wonder if they have ever heard of blogs or dare I say it, Social Networking Tools, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, The Future??????????????????????????????????????

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Social Networking Tools, Parents, Children, Siblings, Together Again

Social Networking Tools - Parents, children, siblings, Together Again! By JinxieTheCat Playtime Update from Gadget Girl and her Family of Believers - Social Networking Tools Really do Rock! Okay so playtime update. As usual went hell for leather checking out every gadget, plug in or other tool, that I could possibly download. I did it for IE, MozillaFirefox and started to play with Thunderbird. Bad news and a confession:( Learning by doing and making a hell of a lot of mistakes is great - 'Do not overload your computer by downloading every gadget you find', certainly one I will not forget in a hurry. So many gadgets to play with, I had to have them all, and think I nearly made it, in both browsers and then got moving with thunderbird. I had little space to work in as so many gadgets they took over the screen, but it was fun. Fun until, they began to act up, gadget and browser wars are an interesting phenomenon, you never know exactly what will happen next, until your computer says, that's it, I am sick of this and does not wish to talk to you anymore. Good News - Psychology, Sociology, Technology, Learning and Loads of Fun! I have learnt so much without realising. For the first time, my sons are now coming to me, to ask if I know of a gadget with a specific function, so the tables turned a little. There has also been a change in the type and frequency of engagement between the boys and myself. The television has not been a great focus for any of us for sometime now, each of us happier with our laptops, doing what we each enjoyed, whether it be searching the www for things interested in, homework, games, research, communication etc. Now I find that the three of us, have reverted back to the days when they were younger, playing together with toys and having a ball, this time the difference is that they are online and free. The interaction between siblings and parent, have become more frequent, sharing, getting excited when we find something new, sharing frustrations, collaborating and learning not only about what is online, but learning more about what makes each of us tick and taking our relationships to a new and I have to say wonderful place. Watching the boys, playing and learning freely, without do's and do not's or ridged guidelines to be followed, an absolute joy. To see both create a unique online identity, one reflecting their individuality, their personality, their interests and is theirs alone, nothing short of spectacular. Last evening, my eldest (year 10 at school) returned home from school, with a group assignment. We had the usual chat, had dinner and all was as usual. My son (who has had a myspace forever), asked many questions about the social networking tools, I had been rambling about. The remainder of his evening was taken up with his own adventures, checking out the different sites available, selecting one and creating his own networking site, so that he and his group could collaborate when not at school. Once created he advised those in his group and asked them to sign up and check it out, leaving it open for each member to comment and offer suggestions, so all were comfortable with their new learning environment. Adjustments were made, all happy and began working on the assignment. Within a 24 hour period they: researched, created a collaborative online learning environment, tailored to their needs and preferences, discussed, chatted, explored, shared links to material for the assignment, used google docs sharing and working together and so much more. That was a week ago and all of them are enjoying their new learning world, playing with it and using it to their benefit in completing their assignment. Honestly, I have not seen my eldest this excited about learning for sometime. He came home today, ranting and raving as he walked in the door. Before I knew it, I was hearing how narrow minded his school was, how they had no idea about the real world, that he hated being trapped and was sick of it all. Not things a mother wants to hear however the reasons for his frustrations, deserving of validation and respect. So what was the problem? Today was a day in the computer lab, working on their projects, time to research and continue to write. His group, had been working harder than ever and were ahead of the targets/milestones they had set. When in the computer lab they went to log into their accounts to continue their work and all of a sudden, up popped, ACCESS DENIED. They spoke with their teacher to try and find a way to get in, only to be told that such sites were dangerous and would not be unblocked. He, is still furious, he does not understand how something that is so useful, that has engaged him and his friends in learning in a positive and constructive manner, learning not just content for the assignment but many other skills, such as communication, collaboration, team work and the rest, can be blocked from a school. I have a feeling that their are many others, in the world, in similar positions. Still do not have the answers as to how to change the minds of those in power, but I do believe that in the end, the needs of the learners, are going to be met one way or the other. Maybe we will see a change in the number attending institutions, preferring to work off campus, using these tools. If the institution can not provide and the staff are not ready to understand the changes, then why would they not look for another option. So what gadgets do I like? Oh, Nasa TV caused no end of difficulties and nothing has convinced me that man really did walk on the moon:) I have, I think..... worked out those that I feel are 'useful' personally and professionally. I can now see the space for searching and writing, most of it taken up for a time with toolbar after toolbar and gadget after gadget. I have become a fan of the side bar option. I can have everything I need contained within it and I am finding it easier to work with - eyes not running up all the time to find what I need, not hiding behind another toolbar, directly to my right side of view (left did not work for me). The real beauty of it all is that I now have icons on the side bar for all of the social networking sites, I have been playing around in, Ning, Facebook, Myspace, Blogger etc and I have tailored my feeds accordingly. The option of tabbing your page is sensational. I can have an individual space for each of my projects and my personal needs. The side bar remains a constant, each tabbed page tailored with the inclusion of a few specific tools, required for the specific project/research and of course my personal start up page for the day. Some others you may wish to take a peek at: Webaroo: capture page - we are pretty good pals now, coshed.com, Co-citer Myspace Toolbar, web 2.0 toolbar, Windows Live Toolbar I will bring you more shortly. It has been an interesting time, one that I am enjoying no end. No longer constrained by limited tools, we are afforded the option now to create our own working environment. One tailored to meet our needs and I believe reflect our personalities, truly building our online identity. No one environment will look the same, each unique to the individual and will evolve with us. There is so much to learn, so much to play with. The possibilities they afford educators, learners, businesses and more endless and exciting. Added Features On Ning Ning has made some changes in the last week--including the ability to add images or photos to any text box or forum post (this is a great addition for forum postings), and renaming the "chatterwall" to "comments" and adding some functions which are much more natural for conversations. Most significant, however, is the addition of a "groups" function to the network, allowing you to create (and be an administrator for) a group within Classroom 2.0. The group can be public or be invitation-only. I can imagine a lot of possibilities, including geographical or school/organization groups, or groups based on specific technologies (say, podcasting, for instance). Each group has a group-specific forum (and RSS feed), and gives the administrator the ability to communicate directly with all group members. Another installment soon. Brought to you by: gadget girl and her gadget kids http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping

Is this happening in your part of the world?

Hi All, I am just a little curious as to what is happening outside Australia, with regards to the freedom of access learners have to social networking tools, whilst learning within an institution (physical). 2007 has seen an increase in negative publicity related to myspace and youtube in particular. I do not have the statistics, but from my searching it appears that a fear campaign began in late 2006 and continues still. A campaign to scare parents into blocking their children from these sites, taking them away from a world they belong too, yet are torn away from it, due to a media campaign designed to support educational policy and practice nationwide. Policy and Practice, that is now seeing educational institutions at all levels in Australia, blocking learner access whilst on campus to the most popular social networking sites. Most will say that this is a preventative measure and must be done to protect the learners whilst within their charge. I do not dispute this, as it can be a dangerous world, if used in an uneducated fashion, however surely recognition must be given to the FACT that the world of learning and learners has changed and has for some time. Instead of blocking these sites/tools, why not embrace their worlds, learn about their worlds through their eyes, engage with the learners through these tools, all learning together and guiding the learners into safe and responsible use of their worlds, to minimize the potential for any harm. So protection is what they say loudly, but I have confirmation from one TAFE that another reason was definitely one of the amount of bandwidth those social networking sites, in the top 5, took up. Only now in Australia does there appear to be any movement in relation to rapidly expanding the bandwidth throughout the nation, so as not to be left behind in the new worlds that are evolving and others still emerging. Those being used already, by academics, scientists, learners of all forms, business people, many businesses - industry that we in TAFE are supposed to be providing, current and relevant learning, yet we are blocking the very tools, many of our learners will be required to work with or others that emerge in the future. Maybe it is me but it does not make any sense. How can we claim to be providing education of the highest standard, when we dare to retard the learning available to our clients. My personal opinion is that Australia, is rapidly losing ground in the education arena on a global scale, due to bandwidth issues, forcing institutions into adopting a block mentality, stagnating the learning offered and creating a false reality, where technology and its tools are of little importance, lectures, textbooks, assignments and exams, still held on a large pedestal, ignoring and neglecting to prepare learners for the now and how to adopt and adapt with whatever the future online brings. I may be wrong and hope that I am. I would really appreciate hearing from anyone else on this subject, especially those from outside of Australia. Sharing your thoughts, opinions, experiences, learning, with us all would be sensational. Jacinta http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping

Monday, 23 July 2007

A Personal Account and Reflection on Cyberbullying

http://rpc.technorati.com/rpc/ping Well at the time of writing, I feel as if the world has turned upside down and me along with it. At the time of publishing this today - 7 months after - New Worlds and a New Me After dealing with online bullying in what I considered a place of work and learning, leading to me electing to disengage from an online forum that had been a part of my life since 2003, I have been through some major ups and downs. Blogging I felt may be a great way to connect with others who have similar interests, so I have given it a go. All was well when I was on top of my game. Not so now. I continued to explore as may online social networking tools as humanly possible. Not wanting to know only how they worked, but: what drew people to them which were the most popular who used them why did they use them did they use them socially or for business or NFP how could they be used for learning within TAFE environments (and other educational levels what educational program that would be accessible to all could be created, to counter the current 'terror' attack by the media, who are pushing the 'stir up the parents' buttons, 'scare them', when educating, learning experiences, engagement and current information would be far more appropriate and the list goes on The journey was amazing, the learning continues but at a lesser pace than before. Why, because any form of bullying can get you down. I began to blog less, I have not engaged as often in the social networking environments, I established, joined and was active within. Have I lost interest in the area I was so intrigued by, No, but motivating oneself gets harder and harder. In the back of the mind a worry that maybe someone will track me down and it will start again, one that you think leaves you but is ever present. I am angry. Angry after feeling I had no option but to leave an online world as there was little support from management, and no assurance of protection in the future. Disconnected from many I had been engaged with since 2003. Confidence waxes and wanes, posts get deleted and so it goes on. Hopefully I am now on the road to recovery and can trust and let go of what has been a nightmare for me and those close to me. If you know of anyone who has been or is being cyberbullied, please take the time to understand them as until you have been there, you have no idea of how it feels or the impact it has on your life. To all those who have been cyberbullied - remember for everyone of the predators there thousands of neat people who are out in cyberspace and will rally around you - support you, understand you and eventually help you back on your feet in the worlds that you rightfully belong. At the time of publishing this post 7 months after the events, I speak from experience. I had an amazing support group - many of whom I have not yet met in person, but I hope to someday. They rallied, they supported publicly, they understood when I was quiet, they understood when I was quite manic, posting all of a sudden, flooding email boxes with links and things I had found, they left me be or so I thought at times when I just needed to be invisible - finding that many had been supporting the work I had done in the past and quietly ensuring I was still visible. I did not understand why at the time? Why did I deserve such support? Why did these people, many of whom did not even know me at the time and have still to meet me in the flesh? Why did it matter if one voice vanished from online discussion of any form? Finally that turned around in my mind, to a feeling that is often rare. A feeling of support from people who believed in me, believed that I belonged in discussion, were willing to watch over me and I knew would protect me from harm in the future, if I returned. Unconditional support - Wow - Once it kicked in, I bounced back. Slowly to start with and now there seems to be no end to this new journey. My experience like for all those cyberbullied, was horrid - BUT now I look back and am thankful, yes indeed - if it had not happened I would not have been shot into the blogosphere, returned to myspace and explored so much since, creating a new future in my worlds, with my friends. Never say Never - If You Have Left - Come Back - We Need You and Together Will Watch Out For You.