Monday, 21 September 2009

Module Ten - And Now The End Is Near... (Web 2.0)

Wikis really sum up the best of Web 2.0 as it relates to 21st Century Learning. They are all about collaboration!

Essentially wikis about collaborating to create a shared document or collective knowledge. In my classroom I am always trying to get students to understand the concept of sharing and the difference between sharing and copying. When doing any sort of project based work I encourage students to share their knowledge. If i share something I find – and someone else does the same we are halving the work for each other!

One of the great advantages of Wikis is the ability to track changes. Provided you set them up correctly, the administrator has the ability to see who is making changes and what changes they are making. Within the classroom situation it proves to be a great way that students can monitor each others’ contributions.

It has also been an interesting exercise for me in seeing students actually stop one another from “copy and pasting” from other sources as they are constantly checking up on one another.

The other beauty of Wikis is they are not restricted to a physical classroom. Contributions can be made by anyone with appropriate access. The mother of all Wikis – Wikipedia – is a great example of what can be achieved through collaboration and self monitoring.

Web 2.0 tools are constantly growing and evolving. part of this natural evolution is that previously free sites ask payment – some add advertising – and then along comes a free one to replace what was there pr along comes a completely new technology. It is important in education that we as teachers are constantly evolving with the technologies – that we remain open to change and new learning. That we continue to explore the educational opportunities presented to us by Web 2.0 and beyond…

Module Nine - Let's Get Connected (Web 2.0)

I have only really become a fan of social networking via Web 2.0 technologies this year when I joined amongst other things – FaceBook. So why – after much resistance to be honest – did I join FaceBook? Or maybe the real question is why did I not set up a FaceBook account earlier.

I hate to admit – it’s kind of uncool – but the main reason was out of ignorance. Like many of my vintage, I heard the many(??) horror stories (how many are in fact urban myths) about FaceBook. About identity theft and gossip and … well I am sure we all have a story to tell to convince others about how “bad” it is.

Why did I join? Well I do not like making judgements out of ignorance. Besides I consider myself to be a fairly sensible individual with a good understanding of privacy and online common sense. I have also used online messenging services (such as ICQ) for many years. I was also keen to engage in at least one of the social networking environments my students were spending so much time. What is the appeal? (By the way I DO NOT engage with students in this environment)

Armed with knowledge I created my account and made sure I set as much privacy as I believed important and started to create my online network.

I know have over 400 “friends”. My use of the term friend is simply the expression used in FaceBook to describe someone with whom you share. I would not consider many of these people true friends and as such do not share the sort of information that I would share only with my closest friends.

I have found the whole experience VERY rewarding as I have managed to stay in touch with many acquaintances made around the world through my basketball and wheelchair basketball careers.

I have also taken to the use of Twitter. Whilst my tweets feed my FaceBook account I mainly use Twitter for Professional Contacts and Professional Social networking. Through the tweets of people I am following I am able to discover great readings and resources in areas that interest me and am then able to share these with my “followers” by retweeeting or simply tweeting good material i find.

The Twitter environment is one that is constantly changing and my list changes. Some people who I followed early on now only seem to tweet about their favourite coffee. If i don’ want to hear about it I simply stop following. I am in control!

In keeping with my previous posts – Twitter helps me by keeping me abreast of current trends in 21st century learning. As well as reading the likes of Mark Pesce, Will Richardson and Kevin Honeycutt, I also keep up to date with news from the Board of Studies, stay abreast of ABC news and have a laugh via tweets from Rove and Will Anderson.

It’s all about balance.

Module Eight - Pushing Rather Than Pulling (Web 2.0)

One thing we all understand about 21st Century living (in my opinion) is that we are all time poor. There is never enough hours in the day to do all we want.

For me one of the more difficult tasks relates to staying up to date with current information re 21st century learning and also staying in touch with latest technology trends – whether that be with my treasured iPhone or technology in general. Besides my “professional” interests I want to stay in touch with what’s happening on the world basketball stage (FIBA), the world wheelchair basketball news (IWBF) together with current news.

There is no one site I can go to that covers MY interests and i no longer (did I ever???) have the time to trawl through a range of sites to see if there is anything new.

Enter the world of RSS…

For me nothing new in this module as I have been using RSS feeds for a while now. I also have my own Google Reader feed. The only difference between the average user (perhaps???) is that I use my mail program to automatically download my RSS feed so that I can preview this information even when i am offline and “flag” to follow up later.

Do I read everything that comes through my RSS data feed. More often than not – NO!I don’t have time to read it all! But the summary receive enables me to quickly skim – sometimes read in depth – and more often than not – book mark in my delicio-us for later consumption when i set aside my reading time!

Module Seven - mmmmmm Delicious (Web 2.0)

The first time I was introduced to I just did not get it!!!

… but back then I also tended to work less collaboratively and was no where near as engaged as I am in a Web 2.0 World.

Since re-establishing my presence earlier this year I cannot believe I lived without it!

One thing has changed for me this year. I now receive far more information across my virtual desktop (read computer). I am using Google Reader to help track recent posts relating to 21st Century Learning and also am constantly receiving a Twitter feed – with most of the people I am following have a similar focus of education reform and 21st Century Learning.

Through these sources (together with the more traditional mailing lists to which I subscribe) I am constantly inundated with information. Often too much to read there and then.


If I see something that catches my eye and I do not have time to read it there and then, I take a few moments to enter it into my account. Later when I have time I can go back and follow the link.

Another powerful feature is the ability to “tag” items so that i can call up bookmarks based around specific topics like articles relating to negative use of social networking sites or science related sites.

The real power was brought home to me one day when I was away from my computer(s) and was speaking to a primary school principal about a great website for primary school cybersafety. I was able to quickly access my account from my iPhone and find the site for the Principal.

When we add in the ability to “follow” other users we really start powering along. Rather than starting a Google search for resources, I can go to one of the people I am following who has an interest in the area I am searching and I can start by looking at sites they have bookmarked. This is a great way for KLA areas to keep track of GOOD web resources.

At school, I have encouraged staff to set up accounts and for KLA groups to meet to decide on useful tags that can speed up access to resources for specific topics. Instead of everyone working in isolation – all can contribute! we don’t have to constantly re-invent the wheel.

Right now I am still feeling my way with student use – not too sure why I am hesitant – but I believe that I will have an account setup for next year whereby I can easily share resources with students. I know this can be done with myclasses however, just makes it easy for an all in one solution that is easy to manage.

Feel free to add my to your network

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Module Six - Creating and Communicating (Web 2.0)

Well unlike previous units – this module introduced me to something new. I had not experienced Glogster before. Glogster certainly introduces a new dimension to blogging in that it may well appeal more to our visual learners as a way of recording their reflections. I can also see it as a great too when working with Visual Arts or even Music students. was introduced to me by some of my Year 9 students and has proved to be a very useful tool to enable students not only to mind map – but to do so in a collaborative environment. In a class where group work is common and planning is a pre-requisite of project work – provides an ideal environment ofr students to share their ideas.

Students are encouraged to include me as a “friend” within their tasks so that I can also monitor and provide feedback.

Module Five - YouTube - The Bane of a Teacher's Life? (Web 2.0)

It’s amazing how often I hear of YouTube being blocked in schools. In fact how many of the great web 2.0 tools are blocked. Often the blocking of such sites is a local issue and not a system decision.

There is no doubt in schools YouTube can cause issues. The main I am exposed to on a day to day basis is the drain on our bandwidth as students are accessing material from the site. Sometimes thisis quite legitimate as teachers refer students to a resource relevant to their studies. The problem comes though when 30 students are accessing (and therefore downloading) the same clip 30 times.

Another problem occurs when students are accessing YouTube clips while they are working. These are often music clips and whilst students may in fact be on task while they are listening to the clips it puts a strain on network resources. But banning access is NOT the answer. The answer more lies in educating students into being responsible network users. As Chris Morris recently tweeted in a conference back channel “You don’t teach children to eat correctly by locking the ‘fridge”.

We are still exploring the uses of YouTube type applications in Education. Sites provide a fantastic resource for students as they can find multiple explanations of how to complete mathematical problems. Of course teachers are now able to easily create their own versions and post to YouTube. Below is an example posted by Juliette Pantaleo from St Christophers, Holsworthy.

This sort of use of YouTube not only allows students to review a classroom explanation but it also allows parents to see the teacher’s explanation so that they can reinforce the same methods when attempting to “help” their children with homework. It also allows absent students to catch up on missed work. The next extension of this is publishing to Apple’s iTunes, maybe when a K – 12 channel is opened up for Australia.

Last year as part of the 2008 iLe@rn project, a simple but innovative use for YouTube was demonstrated whereby videos were posted by teachers to explain current assessment tasks.

We are only exploring the possibilities – but one thing that I believe is a given. YouTube and similar sites are an exciting part of the 2.0 Teacher’s arsenal!

If you are interested in further reading and examples of the use of digital storytelling this site at the University of Houston provides some great reading.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Module Four - TEAM (acronym) Together Everyone Achieves More (Web 2.0)

Eiffel Tower at Sunset
When I first sat down to write this blog reflection I wasn't sure what I should be focusing on. 

Sure Flickr is a great tool for storing images. It also is a great place to search for images that one may want to use.
Sacre Coeur

But I believe what is most important here is NOT the tool but rather a whole philosophy that is represented by Flickr and other similar sites.

"Web 1.0" was an environment which was really only for "taking" data, whether that be text, images, music - whatever.

The key thing that Web 2.0 has brought to the Internet community is the ability for all to GIVE not just TAKE.

And give we are - in our millions.

This is certainly posing a threat to commercial publishers who have built an economic model based around people charging for their work. With sites such as Flickr, people are giving away material that previously we would have been expected to pay for. And what do we/they want in return - acknowledgement!

Enter the Creative Commons License.

The whole issue of copyright is one that has raised many questions in recent years.

Even back in the days of "Web 1.0", there were those that were asking the questions of what one could "legally" do when it came to the transmission and storage of digital images.
The Louvre

This issue has only heightened with the emergence of the personal publishing revolution that is Web 2.0.

One of the key features of Web 2.0 is the ability of one to share themselves with the world. So if I share myself - that is to say - if I publish to the "Web" am I therefore giving away my material? There is no simple answer and the issue becomes complicated when one considers that an image I have posted above from a recent trip to Paris is hosted on a server located who knows where and covered by which countrys' laws?
Eiffel Tower at Night
I believe there has been a general shift in the population when it comes to attitudes relating to ownership of data. I believe we are seeing people more willing to share and collaborate. If I am prepared to share my work with others then they will be more likely to share with me. Sites such as Flickr have allowed people to easily publish and share their images without a need to understand how to create a web page.

We also have seen an emerging interpretation of copyright known as the Creative Commons License. By attaching such a license to images one can indicate whether are free to use your image in an unrestricted manner, where you allow altering of the image. Or you may choose to place some restrictions such as limiting the use of your images to non-commercial uses.

When working with students we have an obligation to not only use technology, but also to educate our students in what it means to be responsible digital citizens. We need to enlighten them on issues related to copyright, not just with images, but with all forms of digital data.
Notre Dame Cathederal

Recently when working with a group of Year 10 students, I was amazed to discover that students honestly believed that it was ok for them to download digital media using Limewire because they had paid for the professional version of Limewire.

Flickr is a great way of sharing images and short videos. Its also a great way to publish to an authentic audience and through feedback develop ones photographic skills. It is also a great place to find royalty free images for use within a classroom setting.

Another great site for sourcing such material is Creative Commons Search. Here one can search a variety of sources including Google Images, Fickr and
Moulin Rouge by Day
I hope you have enjoyed some of the images I posted to Flickr from a recent trip to the most beautiful city (IMHO) on Earth. All images are Matt Wells originals taken in Paris, July 2009 and are free for use. Please simply acknowledge the source. More images are available from my Flickr Photostream.

Module Three - Google Docs (Web 2.0)

After no post in this Blog since the day I created it - this is the third entry on one night! Hope the system can cope with so many posts HAHAHA!
Google Apps in Education by Dr Helen Barrett
Google Apps in Education by Dr Helen Barrett

Its been an interesting week for me because I have experienced the use of Google Docs in three ways.

The first was where I merely "used" a document created by a fellow attendee at a conference. By used I simply allow my colleague to "keep notes" in his document which I cold then walk away with at the end of the day. Quite handy really as I was engaged in lively (and related) twitter discussion throughout the day. Not too obvious that upon reflection I noted that (a) this was somewhat selfish and lazy on my part and that (b) this defeated the purpose of why the owner created the document.

My second experience was where such a document was created and an invitation was sent to all connected participants at the session to contribute to the document. During this session I was happily adding pieces of information into the document, making edits and conrtibutng with my own thoughts/comments about what we were doing.

My third experience was where I created the document and invited others to contribute. My invitation was sent by Twitter and a number of people in the room contributed - summarising the speakers' thoughts and adding personal opinions. Links to appropriate web sites were supplied by others and to my amazement contributions to this document were made my someone following me on Twitter but not even attending the presentation.

WOW - talk about drawing on the collective wisdom of people!

It got me thinking of how this could be used in a classroom - particularly where I have students engaged in group work. Rather than sending emails to each other, or chatting or one person being responsible for putting together a document, ALL members of the group could contribute.

So why not just use a Wiki?

The big advantage is these docs can be saved simply as a standard "doc" file or 'pdf" and then incorporated into other work or kept by a student on their personal computing device where they can access it even when they don't have access to the "net".

Or conversely the group document can easily be accessed by anyone with appropriate access from the "net".

I also have a Google Presentation document that I have created for collecting what I see as relevant 21st Century Learning quotes. This was MY collection that I was gathering until I realised that if I SHARE this work and allow others to contribute and use the document then it has a greater chance of reaching my initial concept.

Together we can share the load.

Module Two - The Use of Blogs in Education (Web 2.0)

I am always looking at HOW we can use various technologies within the classroom setting.

Our focus as professional educators must first and foremost be the education of our students and for me that means that somehow I can pass on to me the most important thing I learnt at school.

What is this I hear you ask (metaphorically speaking of course as I can’t hear you and of course I am assuming that someone else is actually reading this)?

The most important thing for me is that my students learn how to learn.

To this end I am always looking out for ways that people may be using current or emerging technologies in cool PRACTICAL ways to ENHANCE what they are doing in the classroom. (Sometimes I believe we attempt to “impose” technologies that do not value add and in fact leave us time poorer).

In this section of the course I have been asked to reflect on how a Blog may be used in a classroom setting and I must up front give credit for this idea to someone else.

At a recent gathering of Sydney Diocese Secondary eLearning Coordinators, Alma Divanovic, a CAPA teacher from Mary Mackillop Wakley explained how she was using Blogs to get her art students to create a form of electronic process diary.

What a great yet simple idea!

I have since gone back to school and am currently working with our CAPA Coordinator on how we can use this process and adapt it to the needs of our boys.

Thank you Alma!!!!

If you have hung around until the end of this post (kudos to you) I would like to treat you to a song by Kevin Honeycutt an American education reformist which sums up one of the reasons why I am passionate about teachers engaged in life long learning.

I hope I am not publishing to an audience of one!!! But if I am – so be it – the important thing is to take time out to reflect – another great use of blogs

Module One - Long Time Between Drinks (Web 2.0)

Well, it has been quite a while since I have entered anything here – despite the promises I made to myself.

I have lots a valid reasons for not having made any entries – well are they reasons or simply excuses (now THAT’S a whole new Blog entry I think for another time [Note to self: Blog on Reasons v Excuses])

So why am I back here?

Short answer – I HAVE to be here (just joking Helen) as its part of the requirements of the Web 2.0 course I am currently undertaking through the Catholic Education Office (CEO) Sydney.

By way of introduction, my name is Matt Wells and I am the eLearning Coordinator at All Saints Catholic Boys College, Liverpool. The school caters for Year 7 – 10 boys. We are currently in a period of transition as many of our staff explore the exciting possibilities that the Digital Education Revolution 1 to 1 laptop program has brought to our school.

The course is being provided to allow teachers within our system to allow teachers to engage in their own authentic learning. To be truly eLearners – to be able to learn Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.

Throughout this course I will be returning here to update this Blog with more of my thoughts.

For now though its back to some more investigating as I believe I must engage in this work if I want my colleagues to do the same.

The best way to promote learning is to demonstrate that we are ourselves life long learners.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Where to Begin???

After much procrastination, I have finally opened a Blog of my own.

So why haven’t I done this before? I guess the main reason is that I am not much of a writer. I have never been one for spending time documenting what I am doing. And to be honest I have never thought that anyone would be too interested in what I have to say as there are so many great innovators out there already.

So why am I doing this now? I have come to a point where I realise I am spending too much of my time JUST DOING. I feel the need to take some time out of this ever accelerating world of change, to stop and reflect.

I owe this to my students and to the teachers I am leading.

I can not promise anything new here as my aim is simply to reflect on the plethora of information about educational change. To look at how it impacts on myself and my school.

iLe@rn is an initiative of the Catholic Education Office Sydney. It has evolved from a number of philosophies about the role of ICTs in the classroom.

The core of iLe@rn is the the individual taking responsibility for their own learning. iLe@rn is about quality life long learnng.

The teacher plays a crucial role!

In a future post I will explain what I believe the role of the modern teacher to be.