Virtual Revolution episode 1

I watched last night’s heavily hyped BBC “web 2.0″ programme with a lot of expectation. I have to say that I was very disappointed.

Throughout this blog I have been writing about my learning and how the web has opened out my horizons and led me to avenues of discovery that have changed my perceptions as well as giving me information. This programme taught me nothing that I didn’t know before and had on “the usual suspects” to give us the wise words about how we got here and where we might be going and the difficulties that we might encounter on the way.

I appreciate that I am an enthusiast… hence this blog and therefore the Beeb has decided that it needs to explain the Web to “the ordinary man in the street”… but my question is… who is “the man in the street”? These days he is possibly a Twitterer, he may be on Facebook or at least his children are, he probably has a laptop or a P.C. at home, he almost certainly uses one in relation to his work and he is pretty certain to have a mobile phone which may well have internet capability.

The world has changed therefore from the days many years ago when I used to watch the B.B.C. series “Horizon” and marvel at the great experts speaking from on high and telling us fascinating developments in technology or science (some of  which never actually came about or had the impact that the programme had foreseen).

One of the key ways that the world has changed is in the accessibility to information that the web has thrown up and, importantly, the freeing up of otherwise chained down information that was accessible to only a chosen select few.

The excitement to me of web 2.0 is the connectivity that it has produced and the way it has promoted  the chance to become a part of a network. I feel that the  chance to explore the potential of networks was missed in this programme in favour of a rather rushed history lesson and the general thesis about revolution and counter revolution which I thought was too simplistic.

I wondered about the size of the carbon footprint that was made by having to shoot a scene in San Francisco when nearly everyone now could be interviewed online. Indeed I have witnessed some fascinating interviews on the web which were shot in an expert’s office or lounge. I suppose that there is still the feeling in any film by big T.V. companies that there needs to be glamorous settings (why do I think I have seen that view of San Francisco and its famous steep streets and trams so many times?).

They touched upon the art of blogging and then stated that there had been a steep decline in it since the initial great enthusiasm a few years ago. I would disagree with this (I would wouldn’t I since I am writing this in my blog). I feel that blogging has been a glorious opportunity,as one of the most sensible suggestions that was made in this programme, to allow anyone to actually gain an audience and express their thoughts. It has also provided the basis for the transfer of information and the possibilities of collaboration.

I have a blog tracker attached to this blog and know that my blog posts have been seen all over the world. It may not be by millions or even thousands or maybe hundreds (I sometimes make 10’s!) but it is seen and it is read….therefore it has an audience and this is the case for all my fellow bloggers. I feel that blogging in terms of numbers may have declined since its launch but the quality of the blog has increased along with what you can find from them.

The creation of Wikis has also widened the input into the knowledge base that was once controlled by the few. The opening out of universities with lectures online and of course the growth of “You Tube” as repository for videos of all sorts has led to an explosion of knowledge. This is not to say that all of it is worthwhile and I am not for a second thinking that this blog entry will go down in history as a major work of art or great contributor to human knowledge. It is though my authentic voice and there are millions of voices out there who are now a part of the great “learning revolution”.

I felt that this programme did not really add to my knowledge and therefore I had spent time on it that I could have spent online maybe watching a lecture from an esteemed expert on some aspect of history or politics that I am interested in or reading one of the many blogs that I try to get around to reading because I really value them and the information and links that they give me. Or maybe I could have spent the time on Twitter and picked up many valuable links to websites which would have led me to find new ideas or applications or I could have had a chat with one of the many educators whose ideas I appreciate and who have helped me to develop my own thoughts.

The B.B.C. needs to be aware that they are in competition with the web as a provider of entertainment and information. If they are to make us use an hour productively watching their product then they need to widen my horizons and tell me something new or challenging…. I heard no mention of Second Life in the programme… personally I find the whole thing off putting but it is surely worth looking at in terms of the future of the web and indeed our future.

I will be watching episode 2 in hope rather than belief that it will be a worthwhile experience. I am, despite the things I have written above, a great fan of the B.B.C. I think their website is a marvel and has led the way in showing the potential of the web. I have always watched their amazing output of programmes, which are consistently of a high quality that has become associated with the name of the B.B.C. I am a proud Brit who is aware of the role that the B.B.C. has taken as a pathbreaker in the world of both radio and television broadcasting. I suppose it is their past excellence that leads us to expect such high quality from them. Episode 2 may return to the quality that I have always expected from them, I will no doubt be blogging about how brilliant it was next Sunday morning…. watch this space!

They need their teachers to learn

The above video, with a song written and performed by Kevin Honeycutt is so true. This week I attended a Gifted and Talented Group Meeting. I had been asked to come along to talk about “Voicethread”  http://voicethread.com/ as an opportunity for their gifted children to communicate with others of like minds and outlook.

The lady who had asked me to come along was very excited by the idea of having a means by which her children could talk to each other and maybe make videos. She could see the potential in all of this, not just for the gifted children but for all children.

I remember the excitement that I had when I had first discovered Voicethread. I could see endless possibilities that crossed the boundaries of place and time. I saw a few brilliant threads on different subjects by people from all over the world of all ages and nationalities.

I entered the room enthusiastic about what I was about to show them and expectant of real enthusiasm and support from these teachers who have the developmental needs of their charges at heart as we all know.

But as soon as I arrived I was greeted with a group of non-smiling sceptical looks. I was asked numerous questions about child protection which I understood and which I tried to answer as much as possible but it seemed to me that the possibilities, the excitement, the potential of all of this new technology was lost on them.

In my last blog entry I have included a Powerpoint that was made by Daisy, a ten year old child who I am teaching in a mathematics group at the moment. This was an example of how a child was coming to school with a message for her teachers….. this my world let me bring it in to school.

Kevin is right, it is the teachers who need to learn and learn fast. I see so much public money going into teacher education and CPD and yet I still feel that I am one of the few enthusiasts who is shouting our message to an audience that doesn’t really want to listen like most of the group of teachers who I talked to the other day.

Oh, I almost forgot to say, as I arrived to give my talk on Voicethread, I found that there was no laptop available for me to use. The Headteacher stated that they are put away in a secure cupboard as soon as the school day ends. I therefore had to give a  talk about a brilliant computer program without them being able to see and hear it! I told them a few more sites for them to look up and they scribbled the addresses in their notebooks. One of them was “Wallwisher”  http://www.wallwisher.com/

I would love to get a wall set up and get the children to answer a question “how do you learn best?” and paste their electronic stickies onto the wall. I have a feeling that most of them would say that they learn best by using the power and potential of the web using their laptops, P.C.’s and phones as they do all the time at home.

This wall would be one big message from the children that Kevin has put so eloquently in his song…… “”We need our teachers to learn!”

Daisy’s Powerpoint

Daisy is a ten year old child who is one of a group of children that I am doing some additional mathematics teaching with in a local Primary school.

She first started with the group about three weeks ago and sat with her best friend. I was asked (as a Consultant) to help this particular group because they had low self-esteem , particularly in regard to mathematics and were underachieving.

In Britain we still have the dreaded SAT Tests at age 10/11 before our children go on to secondary school. I was asked to give the children some help in becoming more methodical about answering test questions so that they could give a good account of themselves when these tests take place.

Daisy entered the room where we were meeting and did not look very positive. She had the “teen pout” that many children show who are going through the first phases of puberty and teenage angst.

I showed them a Powerpoint about “RUPC” which stands for Read, Underline, Picture, Calculate (and check) any questions you are given. Daisy hardly noticed what I said and seemed a bit “distant”.

The following week we were looking at an extension of the RUPC idea which is called “RUCSAC”. This was a more useful device for me to use as it has a pictorial representation which children can relate to … i.e. a Rucksack (although it is not spelled the same way!)

Daisy was now giving me the total negatives. She seemed to take no notice and was “playing to the gallery” especially her best friend. In the end I decided that she was a distraction to the group and asked her to leave.

She sloped off and I later went to her teacher and discussed the issues. She decided that she would give Daisy the option of whether she wanted to return to the group.

This week she returned to the group and seemed pleased to be back. She was attentive and worked well with her friend. At the end of the session she said,

“I’ve made a Powerpoint for you,”

“You have?”

“Yes… it’s about RUPC… do you want to see it?”

We went into her class and her teacher put on the Powerpoint. We were both amazed. She had put together the RUPC and RUCSAC ideas.. explaining all I’d done with them and used excellent graphics to present the ideas. More to the point she had done this on her home computer in her own time.

We both realised that she was very good at using a Powerpoint, had good computer graphics and animations skills and that she had used  this media to express her learning.

As someone who feels that we are neglecting so much in not allowing our children greater access to laptops and mobile devices, I felt elated by this Powerpoint.

Daisy had so many skills that would support and enhance her learning. This Powerpoint was her statement to her teacher… I can do this…. this is how I learn best….. I think that we neglect the message of Daisy’s Powerpoint at our peril.

Below I am attaching a copy of her Powerpoint… we gave her 10 fantasticos for it… but it told us so much and has raised her self-esteem by miles. How good is that?

rucsac rupc

Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day

I am a recent Blogger and therefore have had to learn a really hard lesson. There is an interplay between the time it takes for my research and the time I can spend on the rest of my life which includes a full time job as well as a wife and a very demanding Shetland Sheepdog called Skye!

I have waded into the waters of the sea of information and am finding it difficult at times not to feel  a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of sites and brilliant blogs out there.

So I have become what my wife says I have always been in regards to our weekly food shop…. a one stop shopper! If the world were run by me then I would have just one place where I could go to access the world of information.

Yes, I know I can do a Google Search for any subject that interests me… but a search is quite a blunt instrument… it allows you to go and look at other sites… but are they sites worth looking at or are they just a waste of my time?

Imagine my delight therefore when I discovered Larry Ferlazzo’s wonderful site  http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/ This is a site where Larry has taken the time to go and do all the searching around the web for me (where does he find the time) and then brings me his opinions about the best sites worth looking at.

Having just looked at his Blog entry on his 4ooth “Best Sites” posting I haven’t the time (or Larry’s energy) to go through them all.. excepting to say that, for those of us interested in the applications of technology to education, this site is a real gem.

If you, like me, feel that you haven’t the time to trawl the waters (I know… one minute I’m drowning in the sea, the next I’m rescued and joining a fishing trawler!) then give this site a go… it is highly recommended and will pay dividends in terms of time and energy… and therefore release me to go on one more walk with my ever anxious dog!

Thanks Larry and well done!

The Holocaust Cybrary

Wednesday 27th January is International Holocaust Memorial Day. There will be many schools throughout the world who will be using this memorial as an opportunity to let their children research and in some way try to understand this horrible chapter of human history.

Throughout this blog I have been exploring my own e-learning. When I learnt that this day was coming up I felt the need to find out what resources were available on the web to further my knowledge and experience of these events.

I had originally intended to get a collection of sites and make a list that I thought might be worthwhile to some hard-pressed and overworked teacher who wanted to use this subject in some way with his or her students during this week.

I did find an excellent site that I would strongly recommend for older students that has some good videos and some excellent information about holocausts/genocide in places such as Rawanda as well as information about the Holocaust of World War 2. This was from The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust http://www.hmd.org.uk/

I would strongly recommend that pupils are able to see the Educational Site http://education.hmd.org.uk/ This has a superb case study called

The Secret Archive of Oneg Shabbat

This is the story of Dawid Gruber who was 19 years of age and was one of the thousands trapped in the hell that was the Warsaw Ghetto. He wanted the world to know his testimony and so he managed to write down what he felt and went through and place this in a tin can that was buried. He never knew whether anyone would ever find it. The picture on the site of the old and rusty container is a very moving one and might lead to much discussion and maybe writing or artwork by children.

I then did a search for other sources and came upon one single source that  will form the basis of this blog post. The site is called “The Holocaust Cybrary” http://www.remember.org/

This is a marvellous site. Unlike the previous one it does not look into other events of genocide and destruction such as Rawanda, it concentrates on the events of the Holocaust of World War 2.

In this site is assembled a large collection of resources which I feel will really provide a useful basis for practically any schoolwork that could come out of this special week when we remember these horrible events.

There is a “Virtual Tour of Auschwitz 1″ which uses the technology of 360 degree photography to analyse this most gruesome of sites. alongside you as you pan to the right and left is a written commentary which is a useful skill for children to master (i.e. following information and understanding how it relates to photographic evidence).

In the midst of the photography and commentary there are occasional paintings by a survivor from the camp Tadeusz Siwek

There are also two brilliant Flickr slideshows, one of them, “Then and Now” showing pictures or paintings from the Camps and then pictures of how it looks now, the other, a collection of paintings, drawings by 6th Grade children which I feel will have the best impact on children if it is just shown and looked at and they are allowed to see and experience what these marvellous young artists have managed to achieve with the material of the Holocaust as a main theme.
The pictures can be accessed from the main site and there are other art resources from the “Imagine Art Gallery” on the site http://www.remember.org/imagine/

There is also an excellent on-line book called “Childhood In Times of War” by Andrew Salamon http://www.remember.org/jean/index.html

This is the moving testament of a Hungarian Jewish boy and the events he lived through. It is a great example of how online books can encourage reading for children as much as the paper versions that they are used to.

The site contains interviews, other resources and links and I cannot recommend it more for teachers and for adults such as myself who are still seeking to come to terms with and try to understand how people can visit these horrendous crimes upon other people.

I will conclude by saying that the Holocaust Memorial Day is a really important event for all children to know and try to come to terms with… we neglect its importance at our peril. I am always haunted by Santayana’s prophetic words “those who do not learn from history are condemned to relive it!”

Sudan: The War Child — National Geographic

This is a short video by National Geographic which graphically covers the past and present of one of the most remarkable young men in the world today, Emmanuel Jal. Emmanuel is now an internationally renowned hip-hop and rap artist. He is also someone who survived one of the most horrible civil wars in recent times, in the Sudan.At the age of seven he was a boy soldier who had seen the horrors of murder and rape at first hand and was taught to hold and use a gun.He went through hell in the next few years and was fortunate to survive. The only reason that he did so was because he was rescued by a young British aid worker called Emma McCune.She brought the young Jal and other boy soldiers to the safety of Kenya.Unfortunately, she was killed in a car accident in Nairobi when she was only 29 years of age.Emmanuel grew up to become a singer and writer. He has also started a campaign to raise enough money to build a school in the Sudan to be called the “Emma Academy” after his “saviour” Emma MCCune.In order to raise the money Emmanuel has sworn to only have one meal a day. So far he has done this for 418 days but he will not give up.I first learnt about Emmanuel and his amazing story in his inspiring TED Talk that I refer to in my Blog entry “My Top 10 TED Videos”.For more information about him and his campaign to build this school look at the website for the Charity he founded Gua-Africa… http://www.gua-africa.org/emma-academy.phpIncidentally, despite the fact that he is desperate to raise the money for this marvellous project of the Emma Academy, Emmanuel asked his supporters and friends to give whatever they could to the suffering of the people of Haiti last week. I think that it speaks legions about him as a person.Please watch this video and then see the TED talk and, if you can contribute (however small the amount) to the campaign to build the school. At a time like this, it is good to have something positive like this that looks to the future and realises the potential that education can have to transform the world and make it into a better place.

Poems about Haiti

I have just read an excellent entry in the always good “Open Culture”  website  http://www.openculture.com/ . The  entry is called

Voltaire on the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

This is a very powerful poem that still moves in translation and whose echo rings through the years as we now face the devastation of Haiti.

My reaction to reading the poem was to try and write one of my own in respect of Voltaire’s and about the present disaster. I am putting both poems below as I feel that events such as these, although terrible, do provide an opportunity for students to explore their feelings, empathy, explore the social and political implications and maybe try to come to terms with an event such as this (as Voltaire did in his response to the non-concerns of many about Lisbon in 1755).

First, lines from Voltaire’s “poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne”:

What crime, what sin, had those young hearts conceived
That lie, bleeding and torn, on mother’s breast?
Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of vice
Than London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?
In these men dance; at Lisbon yawns the abyss.
Tranquil spectators of your brothers’ wreck,
Unmoved by this repellent dance of death,
Who calmly seek the reason of such storms,
Let them but lash your own security;
Your tears will mingle freely with the flood.

And my own response as a poem:


Haiti 2010
And maybe,
Just maybe
You will look into the eyes
Of the child crying
Unknowing
Why did this happen?

Because you were born
You lived in that place
There are plates beneath the Earth
That move
And they moved

What will you do?
Survive,
Grow up,
Exist
Live
In that place

You will die there
Remembering what?
Dirt, darkness, the screams of others

It was not your fault
You lived in that place
In another there could be smiles
That another day could become tears


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