Thursday, July 31, 2008

Have you skyped today?

I was recently phoned by a telephone exchange company trying to sell me cheap international calls if I switched my allegiance to them. On the end of the line, one of those telephone sales people rambled on and on so that I couldn't interrupt and tell them to find another hobby. When eventually she did pause for a breath I informed her that I skype. A longer pause followed. I thought she was about to hang up when she asked "What does that mean?". I was amused that a sales person for a telephone company did not know about new telephonic technology. So I explained. Skype is a programme that allows the user to initiate phone calls from one computer to another (assuming that the other has downloaded skype onto their computer too). Not only can one talk to friends and family with the aid of a computer and microphone, if you have a webcam you can see each other too. The telephonist genuinely sounded impressed and asked skeptically how much it cost for a skype call. I told her that was the best part of it - it is completely free. She apologised for taking up my time and hung up.

Skype has been a wonderful way for Manaia Kindergarten children to meet and get to know children from other kindergartens around New Zealand. We have many examples of children in our Whangarei Kindergarten (at the top of the North Island of New Zealand) crowding around a computer and microphone exploring the art of conversation with children from Geraldine, Fiordland and Auckland. The skpying kindergartens have shared their knowledge of painting, matariki, possums and stoats with our children. As teachers we have been able to hold professional conversations with teachers around New Zealand and as far away as Chicago.

On a more personal note my sister recently packed up her family, with my 10yr nephew and 2yr old neice and flew off to Tuscany for a 6month holiday. It is a trip of a life time - and I miss them. My niece and I had just come to a turning point in our relationship - as happens between me and most 2yr olds. We pass that awkward phase and become buddies. So it was kinda tough on us for her to then be whisked away. The highlight for me during their holiday in Italy is that I have spoken to my sister and nephew much more than I ever did when they were just 2hrs drive from me in Auckland. We skype almost once a day - whenever Mathew is a bored he sends a little chat "Want to skype?" - and I beam from ear to ear. My niece has peered into the webcam and watched me - fascinated - but seems to have found it all a bit confusing. Today she peered into the webcam, then vanished, and I could hear her talk to my family as she pointed to the computer and said "Beverly". Later she sat on my sister's knee (her other aunt) and was taught to blow kisses. We had a wonderful time blowing kisses from Whangarei to Tuscany and back again - til I almost cried!

Have you Skyped today?
Download Skype

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Can blogging benefit your children's education?

As teachers in a Kindergarten, as part of the MOE ICT ECE PL CORE Education Research Programme, this is one of the questions we have been addressing. If you would like to know more, check out Manaia Kindergarten Blog. If you are concerned about the safety of children blogging and their presence on the World Wide Web, check out our Blogging Safely Webpage - with links to articles, netsafety, and videos on how to begin a blog.

Share your edublog experiences under Comments.

Have you personalised your Google Page?

I have always seen the little link in the Google Search Engine page - "personalise your google page" - or some such remark and pretty much ignored it. The thing that attracted me to Google back in the mid 90s was the fact that it provided a clean page - unlike Yahoo at the time - and listed only links you asked it to list without adding a bundle of flashing light advertising. So personalising my Google page (which has always been my home page) gave me images of flashing lights, inane advertising, and clutter - and worse still - its self imposed!!

During the recent storm and between the episodes of power failures, with nothing better to do - I thought I would have a look at what a personalised Google Page offered. I have to say - as I have chosen the items on my Google Page - it is all rather handy. I have place on my Home Google page a small window with the days top news items, along with our current hobby - weather watching. A third small window accommodates my Google Reader account so on opening my Google Home Page I can see immediately, who of my friends and admirers, have updated their blogs.

Then I noticed that I could add permanent tabs to my Google Home Page. Google has a long list under "Add Stuff" - including (but not limited to) YouTube search engine, Google calender, animated eyes (which presumably watch your every move - scary!). YouTube is always a favourite of mine so I added a whole tab dedicated to YouTube's search engine, top viewed videos, Google's favourite google videos, etc - you get my drift.

I thought this 'tab' thing was kinda fun and wandered what other internet sites I like to be updated on quickly and efficiently - and ofcourse my addiction to FaceBook was quickly satisfied with a tab dedicated to my inbox, my friends updates, and profile page.

I looked at the idea of making my new Google Home Page 'pretty' (not usually my thing) and found that actually there are a number of attractive headers which change depending on the time of day (as I blog my Google Home Page is adorned with an attractive setting sun across a pacific beach). Maybe a bit kitsch, and you certainly have to play with different headers as some are more distracting than adorning.

I decided to visit the "Add Stuff" link one more time before the storm raging outside subsided - and to my delight I found ......... PACMAN. This game of my youth (I held the highest score in our 3rd form class in '83! - not sure if I should still be proud of that - but there you have it) now takes centre stage on my Personalised Google Home Page!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ken Robinson

This talk from Ken Robinson may be a few years old - but definitely a good watch. What seems like an obvious way forward for education, seems to be a new idea for so many. Sir Ken Robinson, doesn't so much give a definitive view on what education should look like, but rather poses some reflective questions about education today. I have felt for some time that early childhood is on a good road. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the school system followed the lead of Early Childhood Education, by following children's interests, strengths and the tools that come so naturally to them, as a vehicle to teach them many of life's necessities. And along the way wouldn't children develop a passion for learning, because they are learning about things that interest them. And wouldn't it be great if assessment did not consist of a hall filled with rows of desks, shuffling papers, tension, stress, and a pass or fail. But rather wouldn't it be great if children could be encouraged through positive assessment practices, and scaffolded by teachers who are passionate because there are sharing their strengths and interests. Because isn't it that which is important - the knowledge, skill and passion TO LEARN - and not the actual data we throw at them? Because the data we feed them today, will probably not be the data they need for tomorrow...

Here's Ken Robinson's take from TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

Also check out Ken Robinson's views on National Standards

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Team Challenge

David Spragg provided a thought provoking day, as he challenged the teachers of the Northland Kindergarten Association, to step forward positively as we face new changes. Many of us are excited by the prospect of having a new teachers join our individual kindergarten teams. David Spragg proffered that if our new challenges DON'T SCARE us, then we need new challenges. That is - there will be some testing times. It was mentioned a number of times that it takes almost two years to settle into a new job, for changes to become embedded, for a team to congeal.

Personality types
We identified our different personality types based on shapes. Many identified with the Squiggle - a person with many ideas, who can see the whole picture, who is a bit rusty on detail. The Circle was the next biggest shape - the nurturer, making sure everyone is ok and working together well. And then the square, rectangle and triangle - more interested in detail, some more so than others, some more obsessively than others. It is important to remember that no one shape is better than another - indeed it is better for a team to have one of each 'shaped personalities' in the team - a team of circles rolling around taking care of each other will not dream or get the job done, squiggles will too might have the ideas, but if the detail is not there the job is not achieved, and the squares, rectangles and triangles need a dreamer.

It was also noted that we need to treat our team members with the same respect that we treat children. If a child said "I'd like to build a rocket today!" - would it be acceptable to respond - "Mmm, No. We tried that yesterday and it didn't work." And yet for some reason we are apt to responding in this way to new ideas from adults. Spragg challenged "What is the worst that could happen in trying out an idea, even if you have tried it before, or don't think it will work - Let your team member give it a go, with the support and enthusiasm we proffer children".

Barriers to flexibility - what are our barriers. Spragg divided the barriers into three main areas - Attitude, Structure, Competence.

Attitude. We use power play, Cynicism, tradition - to prevent ourselves moving forward.
Structures. Architecture (Not a big enough office, not a big enough playground), Union regulations, Legal requirements (can't do that we're not allowed)
Competencies - Knowledge gaps, Skills Shortage (don't know how to draw), Technology deficiencies (don't know how blogs work), Innovations shortfalls (isn't measurable)

Tantrums - He suggested our barriers can be manifested in what essentially is an adult tantrum. We all do it, it is way to ensure we get things done the way we want them done - but tantrums are not helpful in a team decision. How does your tantrum manifest itself? If you feel a teacher throwing a tantrum in a meeting - Spragg suggests you point it out. It is hard, but a good decision can not be made if one member is throwing a tantrum. It is best to say "Lets put a hold on this decision until you get a grip on your tantrum." Tantrums need to be left at the door.

To build a team philosophy - you first have to be a team and have a personal philosophy within that team. Spragg suggested that we work together for a term, make notes and sort out our own philosophy in words, and then come together and work out a team philosophy.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." - Darwin

So for Manaia Kindergarten, we wait, step forward positivitely and with excitement - prepared for the new road ahead.

Friday, July 4, 2008

1968 - Future of Computers

So what did they get right and what's a little different?
What is our prediction for 2048?