Bloglines Plumber in Action

Today I got a message from the Bloglines plumber telling me that Bloglines was having a bit of down-time! It got me thinking about how much I now rely on these Web2.0 RSS tools to bring the internet to me. I subscribe to podcasts, personal blogs, edublogs, class blogs, kids blogs, wikis, Flickr photos and comments from all around the globe. I managed to go and do some housework and all was fine again. Phew!
There is a down-side to subscribing through RSS though in that you can miss the conversation sometimes threaded through comments. I make a point now of re-visiting comments.

Access-It Library Version 8

On Monday I had the opportunity to attend two development sessions in one day.

The first being a morning-only session on using the new version of our library software package Access-It V8. It was very intense and the room filled with people with a range of roles all charged with the digital cataloguing of their school’s resources. Accessioning a library collection is an thankless task that those not charged with actually doing it seem to think happens by magic! I used to do the job on aImage Sunday afternoon at school but now have 1½ hours a week of non-pupil contact time for the job- not enough but more than before!

Raewyn has been released on the odd afternoon to learn the ropes. It irks me though as I take ten minutes to show her how to do something how I never had any one to learn from. What she can pick up in ten minutes from me took me hours of struggle by trial and error to figure out- all done in my own time in the weekend. Yes you can say RTFM but the manual is in pdf format and the index itself is about 20 pages long. How much less painful it would have been to be able to learn alongside someone else. We have to learn off each other – collaboration is the name of the game!

Our Waterways Wiki Collaboration

Today I took my class on a field trip to test the health of the local Waimea River. It did not go as planned as the massive high tide kept pushing the fresh water up onto the bank and we coudn’t access all the interesting waterlife we wanted to find. We did have the chance to start work on our wiki when we got home which was great.

This photo of one of the groups working on their wiki page could well become one of my favourites. All children are so totally engaged in the collaborative process of adding their learning to their wiki page that they don’t notice that I am waving the camera about! Everyone working wirelessly together on the web to create on-line content about their learning. Just what 21st century learning is all about!

I entered our podcast/wiki/blog web links into a NZ Environmental Monitoring  and Actrion Project to win water monitoring equipment. They thought it good enough to put our links on their website which is encouraging.

Tapped In

Through my links with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach I am involved in an e-mentorship with pre-service teachers at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, USA. The exercise is a wonderful learning experience for me probably more so than for the pre-service teachers! The idea is that we use Tapped In to discuss questions of interest in a forum type situation. Some of the discussions are of particular interest to the American situation but the other mentors from around the globe are a so well thought of bunch with much knowledge and insight to share – people like Will Richardson, Paul Harrington, Vicki Davis, Jeff Utecht, and Emily Kornblut, Chris Craft and Vinny Vrotny. Through the discussion I glean insights into the way things are done elsewhere- like the blocking of Wikipedia and Google. Imagine that! It makes you appreciate the freedoms we have here in NZ!

Here is one of my ramblings imparted from my soap-box that was threaded today.

If we are to believe those that tell us that the jobs of the 21st century will be in the creative fields- art, movies, music, entertainment, drama, dance etc then the ‘lessons’ need to be in those fields. I think we are getting fixated on the things that we can make an easy pencil and paper test for.

Education is being driven by university types who live in their heads and enjoy the intellectual challenge of constructing clever little statistic analyses of child behaviour. In my opinion actual teaching is an organic exercise where you can’t just learn one subject discrete from other everything else.

We shouldn’t think of ‘real’ lessons being maths, science, reading and writing etc and the arts and physical education as being ‘extras’ to add on at the end if there is time to fit them in. The ability to retain knowledge in itself is no longer as important as it once was in an age where the answers are only a click away.

In saying that we as teachers need to find ways of working smarter and collaborating more rather than slaving into the small hours in the morning constructing lessons from the ground up.

Sheryl’s Blog Post

Sheryl has been hampered in her blogging by our lack of connectivity and time spent in the sunshine sampling the culture of New Zealand. She is now in Wellington where she delivers another keynote and workshop series. She has however recounted some of her exploits since landing on our shores on her blog 21st Century Collaborative. I felt so proud of Nelson and New Zealand as I showed Amber and Sheryl around. It is lovely to see our place through the eyes of others from time to time. It helps you appreciate it even more. Sheryl takes Tiny Ted with her and we wish them all the best for the rest of their trip and a safe journey home.


  ImageWe caught a plane to Nelson on the morning of 15th. Nelson is a city of about 45K but is absolutely breath taking. Much of Peter Jackson’s movie The Lord of the Rings was filmed here. As the plane landed we could see mountains and beaches. It was just like the advertisements we had seen for New Zealand before we arrived. Amber and I were very excited as we made our way via Taxi to the hotel. We stayed at the Rutherford Hotel, a very nice hotel in a room that had a view! About an hour after we arrived we were taken to dinner by TUANZ to meet all of the sponsors and funders of the Educational road show. I sat between Simon and Heidi and across from Ernie and Amber. Simon explained a great deal about New Zealand’s culture and people to me. I learned a great deal. The restaurant was called Bar Delicious and it certainly held true to its name.

During this conference I was to not only do my Keynote and Workshop, but I was asked to givImagee two additional workshops and the panel discussion. It was a full day. The highlight of my time in Nelson was being able to meet Allanah King. Paul Harrington had introduced us and we have been collaborating online prior to my coming to New Zealand. She has been working with my pre-service students in the e-mentorship and was a guest speaker with the Alabama teachers who are involved with the 21st Century project. I also got to meet Rachel at the conference who attended the Elluminate session Miguel and I had prior to my coming to New Zealand. It was great fun. The Nelson teachers were a delightful audience that laughed and asked tough questions. Many brought their laptops to my interactive sessions and created blogs, wikis, and social networking accounts as we went along. The conference ended with Graham saying this was the best professional development he had ever attended. He was presented with a bottle of New Z

ealand wine as a gift for his comments! As a huge surprise, when the final farewells were given and folks were leaving the conference Graham made his way forward and gave the bottle of wine to Amber and me as a gift of appreciation. Kiwis are a kind and giving people. That evening we went to dinner with Allanah and her precious mother Margaret. Margaret’s great, great grandmother was one of the original Nelsonians that arrived from England. She is a perky woman with a terrific sense of humor.


Most Beautiful Place I Have Ever Seen
ImageIf you could imagine the most perfect place on earth it would look very much like Nelson. There are hills and mountains everywhere that end gently at the most breath taking beaches.


On Saturday, March 17, Allanah took Amber and me to the market. But the market here is different than flea markets in the States; it is more like a mix of real art and quality wares. Each of the vendors was personable and many were friends of Allanah. Every person I have spoken to in New Zealand has treated me as though I mattered. You do not see that in the States, we are often in too big of a hurry and brush people off quickly. After the market Amber and I took a very expensive taxi ride to Abel Tasman to meet some of the TUANZ

crew (Heidi, Quinton, and Brad) to go sea kayaking. Our guide’s name was Angus and he did a very good job of explaining the basics. Amber and I were in a double kayak. It was such a thrill to paddle along the coast of such gorgeous scenery. We worked our way through huge rocks sticking out of the Tasman Sea. I saw birds and other creatures I had never seen before. The weather was perfect, breeze and sun. While traveling in our Kayak we passed Kaiteriteri beach. We then came to a beach where we stopped and came ashore and ate banana cake the caretaker of the Kayak shop had made for us and drank apple juice. It was the first time Amber had ever been on a beach with no other footprints. Amber and I decided to stay and explore the beach a bit more while the others went around the next bend to see what was there. We met two other gentlemen along the way who smiled and then disappeared. I got to see a starfish clinging to the rocks and other curious little birds that chirped and clicked loudly as a greeting.

On our way back the wind picked up and we paddled through some real waves. It was quite exciting. When we arrived back at camp there were others who also had gone on Kayaking adventures, all young and locals. It reminded me very much of my life as a twenty something traveling around the US, especially the time I spent on The Farm in Summertown, Tenn. The peace and calm is unlike anything I have experienced in a very long time. We road the bus back to the hotel and went in to take a long, hot bath.

The next morning, Allanah picked us up and took us to the World of Wearable Art Museum. Several years ago the wearable art competition began as a school fund raiser. It has grown to an international competition and has been moved to Wellington, New Z

ealand’s capital. The costumes are very much like what you see in Cirque de Soleil and the detail is mind boggling. I so wish we could actually wear clothes like that. I love the originality and creativity. In fact, Nelson is a city of artists, organic food, and people who understand how to work hard and then enjoy life.

After the museum we picked up Margaret and went for a drive to see the gorgeous country side. We visited the most amazing beach and picnic area and ended up at Allanah’s school. I fell in love. One hundred children attend Appleby School. I was immediately taken back to the small innovative school I created in Georgia. The classrooms were decorated with student art and creative displays to reinforce the concepts they are learning through project-based instruction. All of New Zealand’s schools are encouraged to use personalized learning strategies and inquiry-based approaches to learning. There was even a library.Image

The place I was most blown away by was the playground it was simply amazing. There were a series of pipes children could manipulate with water to not only learn some amazing science concept by doing, but also produce musical tones. The students can play in the dirt with trucks and buckets, they can climb trees, and have outside places to eat and study as a class. Allanah said they have the occasional broken arm from falling from the tree, but it is so worth it in the long run to allow the children the freedom of exploring nature and how their body moves in the sunshine. They have a pool and an Amphitheatre in addition to the custom designed playgrounds (created by a parent from Germany with expertise in that area). I so wanted to teach in a school like that–I was so appreciative to have been able to visit.

We ended the visit with a lovely lunch at an art center and watched fan tail birds spread their tails saying hello as we ate our meal.

Thank you Sheryl for your tips in helping me to get rid of the ugly fuzzy photos and replacing them with clear ones and for helping me ‘borrrow’ your photos and text.



Pageflakes – an alternative home page

Here is a Web2.0 tool that Sheryl put me on to called Pageflakes. With this handy tool and the power of RSS you can easily pull in any content you want right on to one page. You quickly do the usual sign up thing and you are away.Image

Anything with an RSS feed will embed itself into Pageflakes, like blogs, podcasts, wikis and the like. With Firefox you will know if a site has a RSS feed because it will have a little orange square at the end of the address line at the top. To make a new section all you have to do is to bring up the page you want (CONTROL-T will get you a new tab to do it in so you don’t loose the Pageflakes one.)

Once you have the page open that you want- highlight the URL (the address) and copy & paste it into the little box that opens up when you click on ADD FEED in the top right hand corner. When it has whirred for a couple of seconds click on where is says add to may page and it will put a little box with the last five entries on it on to your Pageflakes home page ready for when you want to scan your favourite pages. You can drag the little box around on the page and arrange your page anyway you fancy! Cool eh!

TUANZ 2007

After a great deal of anticipation on my behalf the TUANZ2007 conference came to Nelson at last.

It was a very much an ICT packed day as, as I was checking my morning emails Beth Sullivan from Horace Mann Elementary School in Binghamton, New York skyped me. It was very close to their school home time but the children were keen to chat and ask questions. Beth and I have been emailing and chatting for a while about setting up a collaborative jig-saw puzzle wall display. I was able to record & edit the conversation and made it into a short podcast on our Podomatic page with some photos taken from their blog. It was a great session and the link holds promise of a flourishing conversation. ImageI had been chatting with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, the keynote speaker for TUANZ, for some time and was looking forward to hearing her speak. Sheryl is the one who has given me so much encouragement and self confidence to speak up!

There were a couple of key points from the day that particularly stuck in my mind. Sheryl will put up her on-line hand-out at the end of the conference tour that will help elaborate my thinking but in the meantime here goes (with a little bit of extra Allanah thrown in for good measure)…

  • Children are born these days with a chip in their head. They are hard-wired differently from us!
  • Watch it, do it, teach it! The person doing the learning is the person who is holding the pen, or the mouse!
  • Technology will not replace the teacher, but teachers who use technology will replace those that don’t!
  • Teachers need to be multi-literate, not teaching children but helping them learn.

We can use our global connections to help us do these things. The teacher is the one to mentor or role model the technology use. Children managed to safely walk across the room carrying a pair of scissors. With modelling they can be taught to safely and constructively use the web. Don’t be frightened of the technology- work with it.

ImageThis photo for me says a lot about the power of collaborative learning. You can de-construct the coffee into its single components but how much better it is when those disparate parts come together. The students in our class are like the post-it notes. When we work collaboratively with blogs, wikis, podcasts and whatever our learning is so much better than it was when we worked in isolation. We learn from each other and with each other.

Thanks Sheryl for the opportunity to learn with you.

Tiny Ted, our geocaching bear



This page is really a tribute to a little friend of ours who is soon to leave us on the second big adventure of his life. He arrived from 13,000 miles away from Cefn Fforest School in the valleys of south Wales through our podcasting friend, Paul Harrington. While in New Zealand he got me into lots of interesting places that I would not have got on my own. He has his own trackable number worn as a dog-tag around his neck which is his own personal web page as well.

He went home with lots of children and had his photo taken in all sorts of places. As I walked him to cockpit of the plane on the way to the Learning At School conference in Rotorua a fellow passenger recognised him- not me!

I told the children today that I was intending to give him to my friend Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from Virginia, USA, when I meet her at the TUANZ conference on Friday. One of my Year 4 boys actually started to cry (and then tried hard to hide that he was) at the thought of him leaving.

I had under-estimated the power of the connections made through the use of Web2.0 tools- blogging, podcasting and Skype. For this young man his learning had become very personal.

How to make a Blogger blog

Some time ago I made a ‘how to’ on making a blogger blog and then a follow-up on how the improved layout sections work and how to get rid of the problematic NEXT BLOG feature in the Blogger navigation bar.

You may also like to play with my Bling For Your Blog blog which outlines all the extra tools you can add to your blog.
So here they are!


Beta Blogger Set Up

How to get rid of the next blog navigation bar

An online discussion in Elluminate

I wanted to be the first blogger to talk about our online discussion about technology issues facing New Zealand teachers that Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Miguel Guhlin hosted this afternoon in Elluminate.

I hiked off after school to Brightwater School, a ten minute drive, to catch up with Janice, Sheryn and Dobbie for a discussion with the TUANZ keynote speakers.


Janice was on a PC- sans microphone- so had to change to a trusty Mac!

Once we got the technical aspects sorted Janice was really excited by the possibilities of using such technology to discuss ICT with Sheryl live! It was really nice to be able to share the experience with other keen people and share the fun of playing with a new piece of technology. So simple to use but so effective!

Sheryl and Miguel asked us some probing questions about the NZ’s ICT landscape to better inform themselves before the conference begins and to also generate discussion among ourselves.

I believe the transcript is going to be posted on the TUANZ wiki at some stage. Please forgive our burblings. It is all just nervous excitement.

How we link together

This interactive Genealogy of Influence Touchgraph website shows in a clever graphic form how the things we do affect and influence others. It will take a minute to load so be patient. It would be a wonderful tool to show children with a little snippet of knowledge thrown in. Click on one person and the web links change to show who they were influenced by. The kids in my class sometimes think of that as cheating- I call it learning from each other!

I chose the screen capture as it links to our guy, Sir Ernest Rutherford, who first split the atom in 1917. Rutherford was born about ten kilometres from Appleby School. Did you know that? The father of the nuclear age was born in Nelson! Even then he was worried that his discovery might be used for purposes that would not best serve mankind.


I liken it also to the forms of communication we are capable of when using Web2.0 tools. The resolution of the uploaded graphic is not great but if you click on it you get the enlared version and can see in visual form the inter-relatedness of human thought.

P.S. As I had this photo in my Flickr account, Mike Love, the creator of the web site, left a comment on my Flickr photo. How cool is that!!! From his comment you can read more from his blog. To add your own comment click on the picture which will take you to my Flickr photo. That is incredible. I am blown away by the power of RSS.


Sir Ken Robinson- creativity

I am not sure where I came across this TED video last year. I think it might have been a link in Greg’s blog. We watched it again at Learning at School in Rotorua. Sir Ken Robinson is a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening speaker. well worth listening to again. The link above will take you to his whole talk but this video gives you the focus he brings to creativity in education.


Learning at School in Rotorua

On Wednesday the Learning at School Conference started properly. Here Nikki and I sit ready for a session on Building an Engaged Thinking Classroom. See that other man- he doesn’t have a computer! That is because we ‘borrowed’ his computer for this photo!

The highlight of the conference for me, apart from being able to share our learning about podcasting, was to hear David Warlick’s keynote speech about Telling the New Story in 21st Century learning.

He talked about trends in the expansion of information and how we need to shift from an education designed to meet the needs of the industrial revolution. The 21st century needs creative, connected, collaborative people. He was really entertaining as well as informative. In this video he talks about ‘flat classrooms’ and how they might be when knowledge can be found in a click of a mouse.

Then on Thursday came my presentation on Podcasting- Getting Connected Globally

I made the wiki to support the people in my session when they got home. You can see it by clicking on the link to the right.

We got there really early so everything would be set up and ready to go. Unfortunately the entire internet network for the building went down and stayed down! I had prepared for the worst and had a back-up plan but it was un-nerving having three technicians whispering techno-babble to each other as to how to solve the conference centre’s problems as I was doing my bit!

Nikki took this photo as the internet came on at end of the presentation. I was so pleased it did as I had jacked up with Paul H in Wales to have a quick recorded chat in Skype to show people how it is done. He came through for me which was really great. See that lady on the edge of her seat and everyone facing the right direction!

People seemed really keen on the concept and hopefully the wiki can give them some links if they get stuck.

After all that hard work Tiny Ted our geocaching bear had a little light relaxation with a wine and cheese to celebrate our success!

This pou whenua graced the entrance way to the conference centre. It was a magnificent thing as it changed colour and dominated the foyer.

Then on Friday I went to workshop on digital literacy and using RSS to bring the power of the web to your computer. While I was there I put my laptop on the front podium and let Paul in Wales listen live to the presentation as Dave Warlick told us about Technocrati and Bloglines. I already use Bloglines and will investigate Technocrati some more. Paul later podcasted the talk and emailed David and asked him if it was OK to publish it. David emailed him back and said that would be fine as long as he told the story of how the podcast came to be. How is that for connected-ness???

Afterwards I was cheeky enough to have my photo taken with the man himself!
As the conference finished we flew back into the cold, wet wind of Wellington.

The conference was over and we had enjoyed every minute of it despite the exploding vehicles, lack of booked hotel rooms, the heat, the power outage and evacuation and the dodgy internet connections.

My next steps will be to create and edublog to record my thoughts on learning & teaching and to move forward the notion of getting a national educational podcasting network underway with the help of TKI and Learning Media! All made more possible with the connections made on conference.

What made the conference special for me was the personal networking I was able to do with ‘movers and shakers‘ from all over New Zealand and internationally. Dave Warlick talks of side trips in education being of value in education and these side trips are so valuable for me also. These are the extras we learn alongside the planned lessons in life!

And here we are! My edublog is born!