Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for August, 2008

The joys of instructional design
August 27th, 2008

Stephen Downes posted a note regarding this video via Karl Kapp. It brings back many memories for me.

Filtering out the junk and the noise
August 26th, 2008

Maish Nichani has written a telling post on inner spam filters. He was inspired by an article in the Scientific American, Your Inner Spam Filter. Maish succinctly relates that there are two types of people, “those who can remember large amounts of information (high-capacity individuals) and those who can’t (low-capacity individuals). The draw on research and show that it’s not that the high-capacity individuals have a larger store, it’s just that they are better at ignoring the spam that comes their way! In fact they found that some low-capacity individuals were holding more information than high-capacity individuals.” Which am I?

Is this a skill or an ability that we can teach to our students? This is certainly a skill for the 21st century. Kyle Barrow published the chart shown above last May. I wonder what data generated the chart yet assuming it is accurate it is quite clear that we need to impart to our children the ability to filter out the noise and eliminate the spam in the first instance.

Whoever invented stick figures was a genius
August 26th, 2008

Sketching on the whiteboard during Year 10 history today. Teaching the history of the womens’ movement in Australia. Exchanging ideas with the students regarding the glass ceiling. I asked the students to create a diagram that they felt illustrated the concept. I sketched my own. Consisted of stick figures.

As I sketched one of my students exclaimed, “Whoever invented stick figures was a genius!”.

It was a revelatory moment for her and also for me. That person was a genius.

An evening with Dean Groom, PBL, SL and OzNZ PPL
August 17th, 2008

Dean Groom in his role as Howard as he weaves his OzNZ disciples down the PBL pathway

Sat in on an OzNZ educators flash meeting. It seemed I arrived first and rather idiotically I clicked on the Start Broadcast button and sat there like a stunned mullet for a bit until I realised I had hijacked the opening of the proceedings. Oh well, I will not lose any sleep over at that.

There was discussion regarding Second Life and also Interactive Whiteboards. I was looking forward to more talk on SL actually. SL intrigues me somewhat.

Some educators rave about SL. Others deplore it. Two documentaries regarding virtual worlds and Second Life that aired on the 6th August on SBS TV here in Australia, the Age of Avatars and Wonderland: Virtual Adultery and Cyberspace Love did not go down too well in some education sectors. PodLove may have perturbed some educators as well.

Then as the online discussion continued, Dean Groom, provided us all with an excellent and impromptu live example of PBL. We were all involved as we gradually collaborated to solve the problem set up by Dean. One gradually took on a role as we sought a solution to the conundrum. Dean is a real practitioner. Impressive. It was a good get together. I lurked more than contributed. Next time I should be more proactive. A number of sites were referenced during the meeting:

Digital Ethnography

I participated in what I believe was the first OzNZ flash meeting back in April. That was a interesting experience as well.

This evening’s meeting has been archived here. The OzNZ educators group is well supported with a wiki, diigo group and a ning.

Addendum: Discovered this nice piece on Machinima on the SBS TV website. May interest you.

How far did you roam as a child?
August 17th, 2008

Recently Bill Kerr wrote a thoughtful post on the Cotton wool culture. This is a culture in which children are mollycoddled by society and kept out of harm’s way. His post was inspired by an article in the Guardian, ‘Kids need the adventure of risky play‘ [print]. I commented on Bill’s post and he responded with a selection of related links which I have listed at the foot of this post.

The article in the Mail online, ‘How children lost the right to roam in four generations‘, is particularly telling. It sets out quite clearly how from one generation to the next children are not roaming as far as their parents and grandparents. The article also mentions how walking through parks and gardens can reduce stress levels. It mentions that adding plants to your environment can also reduce stress. Recently, news that the German government plans to ban the Kinder Surprise chocolate egg as they pose a health risk to children has also generated comment regarding the cotton wool culture.

The view from our home in Bellambi looking towards the Pacific Ocean back in the 1960s.

Now, when I was seven our family moved house to a place called Bellambi. Between us and the ocean were open areas and an old rifle range that was rarely used. There were beaches, creeks, rock platforms, bush tracks and large sandhills.

The same stretch of road in 2008. Open space replaced with houses.

It has been turned into a suburb now. One end of our street was actually a dirt road back then. All that free space has largely disappeared. This Google map shows the area today.

Where I roamed as a young boy. Click on the map to view a larger map with a scale and labels.

As kids we would roam around the area. There was so much to do and so much to explore. We would go fishing, swimming, sliding down the sandhills on cardboard or sheets of masonite, look for bullet shells, let off fire crackers, search for geckoes, build massive sand-castles and so on. We would be gone all day, returning home at dusk. No worries, no fears. [We even smoked cigarettes at times, something I never took up thank goodness. You could buy a packet of Rothman's Tens for 21 cents. We would look for empty drink bottles. The bottles were worth three cents each. Seven bottles could buy us a packet of cigarettes. We even smoked at primary school in Year 6 at St Columbkille's when we were on incinerator duty.]

When I was eleven years of age I began riding my brother’s bike around the area. Peter had recently resurrected his old bike and I was keen to learn how to ride the old thing. When I turned twelve I received a Speedwell bike for my birthday and the area in which I roamed with my siblings and friends extended regularly to seven or more kilometres. I remember riding up the hills of Corrimal to the home of my good friend, Robert.

Even before that I used to ride my Cyclops scooter to the home of my friend Peter in Corrimal. At the age of 10 a group of us climbed Brokers’ Nose, on the escarpment west of the Illawarra. My sister and I rode our bikes from primary school on the highway in Corrimal all the way home to Bellambi. Sometimes we even walked home, a journey of several kilometres, if we missed the school bus. We were aged 10 or so at the time.

Things have certainly changed. How far did you roam as a child? How far did your parents and grandparents roam? Would be happy to read your own stories…

Perhaps this could be a meme, How far I roamed as a child… Would you like to help me get it started?

Addendum: Today I was interviewed by ABC radio here in the Illawarra. One of their interns discovered this blog post yesterday and arranged for an interview with Nick Rheinberger during the ‘Mornings‘ show. The interview went live to air as I was teaching my Year Eleven Ancient History class. The interview covered such points as real versus perceived dangers, the degree of violence in the world, the role of the media, taking risks, and the debate over to what extent one should allow children to freely roam. At the conclusion of the interview I returned to teaching. There was a talkback session on the topic with the general public on the radio afterwards. I am hoping to secure a recording of that as I was not able to listen. I shall add links and audio as they come to hand. I added some more links below.


Bill Kerr ~ Cotton wool culture; just the facts about online youth victimisation; 5 or 6 dangerous things you should let your children do [inspired by..]

Ted Talks ~ Gever Tully: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do

The Guardian ~ Kids need the adventure of ‘risky’ play

Waraku Education ~ Playing with stuff

Sydney Morning Herald ~ Charlie Brooker: Egg the youngsters on so that life tastes better

Sydney Morning Herald ~ Surprise ruled bad for health

BBC ~ Analysis: Rearing children in captivity

Times Online: Children who have everything, except freedom to play outside

Mail Online: Children who play unsupervised, turn out fitter and more sociable, study says

Spiked: Don’t blame parents for ‘Cotton wool kids’

Times Online: Help! How afraid should I be of stranger danger?

Lenore Skenazy: Free Range Kids

Times Online: Let ‘cotton-wool kids’ hang out on the streets

Times Online: Our cotton-wool kids ~ The danger from our ‘cotton wool kids’ ~ Get a life and take sensible risks, says safety chief ~ Cotton wool revolution: Instilling resilience in children is a vital lesson but only makes sense in a supportive society

UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis  ~ The Capable Project 

UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis  ~ Children who play unsupervised are fitter

Babies online ~ Unsupervised Play is Good for Children

HTI ~ Cotton Wool Kids

Times Online ~ ‘Bring back the conker fight to re-educate cottonwool kids

Spiked ~ Unwrapping the ‘cotton wool’ kids