Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

The most time-consuming part of evaluating web tools for educational use has got to be looking at the Terms of Service (also know as Terms of Use or Terms and Conditions). They can go on for pages, and are so often wrapped up in so much legalese that even if you manage to read to the end, there is no guarantee you will be any wiser. And yet we can’t just ignore them; it is our duty as educators and as digital citizens to protect rights and understand responsibilities online.

Wouldn’t it be great if  Google Translate could do something to convert ToS into Plain English? Well, Terms of Service; Didn’t Read might be just the web project we’ve been waiting for. ToS:DR (for short) are a user rights group aiming to rate and label website terms & privacy policies from “very good Class A to very bad Class E.”  As well as rating them, they are also providing a “thumbs up/thumbs down” report card that helps users better understand individual aspects of a service agreement. The report card is written in bullet point fashion but it is possible to expand the points for more detailed explanations, access the full terms of the web tool and there are discussion pages available behind each of the points.

ToS;DR is still very new (started in mid-2012) so the number of sites that have report cards are limited, but it is an excellent example of the positive change that can occur through global connectivity and collaboration, and the project is actively growing.

This is a grassroots project, created by citizens and volunteers who take their responsibilities very seriously; they engage in a peer-reviewed process of rating and analysing to create each rating, and they are committed to Creative Commons and Free Software licensing.

While this site does not take the place of legal advice, it does help users make some sense of the pages and pages of fine print before we click, and ultimately that offers us the chance to make better online choices.

The future of learning in a networked society

Technology company Ericsson recently released a thought provoking video about the future of learning in a networked society. The video features interviews with educational thinkers including Stephen Heppell, Sugata Mitra and Seth Godin.

The video is a compelling exploration of the connective value of technology. The interviewees touch on the issues of standardised testing, the impact of online learning and the use of technology to facilitate collaboration.

You can watch the 20 minute video below and find out more about the project at the Ericsson website.

How connected are you?

Connected: the film

Hamish Curry, Education Manager at the State Library of Victoria, explores his feelings about the film Connected:

It was back in early September at a Gathering ‘11 event organised by David Hood that I first watched ‘Connected’, a film about “love, death and technology” by Tiffany Shlain. The film stimulated a whole bunch of complex thoughts and ideas I’d been having around the ways in which we relate to one another, and the tools of technology we’re using to help improve these relations. A tweet response from Tiffany afterwards, along with some email networking led me to organise the State Library’s own screening of the film on November 23. I’ve seen Connected four times since September, and each time something new resonates. I love the shock value of Albert Einstein who said that “if honeybees were to disappear, humankind would be gone in four years.”

Connected weaves a myriad of personal, historical, and global issues and challenges together, showing us that patterns are emerging amongst these random pieces. From the evolution of language, to our reliance on machines and the demands we’re placing on the hemispheres of the brain, humans are making more and more rapid decisions, connections, and discoveries. The film’s premise is that while technology is changing the way we communicate, relate, work and consume, it is having unintended impacts on our well-being and that of the planet around us.

I think all of us familiar with technology sense this, and no doubt all those who have been involved with the VicPLN program experienced various levels of anxiety and excitement around the tools of the web as well. Yet the film also highlights how technology is enabling us to make better and faster connections to issues confronting us and to the people who share our passions. Technology has helped us visualise data, trends, thoughts, and images in new ways. As such, the film promotes deeper thinking and reflection. There have been some great posts from people like Judith Way and Jenny Luca. Some see Tiffany’s story being quite self-indulgent, others see her experiences as being symptomatic of our struggle to connect.

For me it has stirred up a passion around a radical rethink of how we approach education. The traditional system broke learning down into disconnected but measurable chunks and pieces, which mirrored our thinking around literacy, numeracy, and sciences. Now more and more educators are realising that we’ve reached a point where we need to put these back together, creating an integrated, blended, and connected education system, where the school is simply a node in a much bigger community, both locally and internationally.

Another big node is libraries. They are at cross-roads too. Their ability to be hubs of information and community connections is beginning to be leveraged in new and exciting ways. It’s a nice time to be part of libraries and education; change is an expectation. So in closing, I’ll leave you with a Connected thought for 2012 from John Muir, who said “when you tug at a single thing in the universe, you find it’s attached to everything else.”

FUSE learning resource: 1000Poppies

1000Poppies has been created by History Teachers’ Association of Victoria, Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, and DEECD. It is a place where students from around the world can share their feelings, experiences, and stories about war. Students are able to use historical research and interviews with key stakeholders of Remembrance Day. The site aims to increase student appreciation of war and their participation in acts of commemoration.

1000Poppies

You can register as an individual on the site, or register a class (suitable for Levels 3-6 VELS and VCE history). Teachers, there is a teacher’s blog where you can get information on how to use 1000Poppies with your students. You are also able to share images and videos, and contribute to the discussion of groups around the world.

Visit the Poppy Field, where people plant their poppy and leave a message when registering to the site.

Guest post: An international 3-way webchat for Gippsland youth

On 21st May 2011, an innovative group took part in an international 3-way co-author webchat via Skype.  The chat was set up by Phong Truong, Branch Support Librarian of the Civic Centre, Port of Sale, Wellington Shire. The webchat allowed rural youth to connect with authors. Particpant and author Hazel Edwards explains the process, the strengths of the webchat, and the challenges:

This morning we had a chat about writing which overcame geographical and a few other barriers.

 

This webinar was an innovation set up by Branch Support Librarian Phong Truong after attending a talk I’d given at the SLV on our YA novel ‘f2m:the boy within’. She wanted to use technology to attract youth & provide access to counselling resources on issues such as gender.

 

f2m: the boy withinAcross the Tasman and across Skype, it was a 3 way Webinar between Wellington Shire Gippsland Youth Council members, co-author Ryan Kennedy in Wellington New Zealand and myself  in Melbourne.

 

Ironically, at first, we didn’t realise both places were both called Wellington. 

 

Did it work? Yes. But we had a few technical hitches. Despite the trial on Thursday afternoon, where audio problems were solved with a closer microphone relaying questions, getting the visuals working three ways on the Saturday ‘real’ event was a challenge.

 

Was it worthwhile?  YES!

 

Strengths of Webinar:

  • Role modelling by Ryan as young novelist, writing first book from own gender experience.
  • Demonstration of how ‘outside’ authors could be accessed, where-ever they or potential readers live.
  • Practical sharing  of how co-authors had utilised electronic ways of collaborating (and how to cope when things go wrong).
  • Good questions and candid answers.
  • Encourageded rural youth to utilise Internet resources when seeking answers to problems: relationships, gender or literary.
  • This area has a Youth Council with a Youth Mayor, and Pauline the Deputy Youth Mayor participated.
  • Audio was clear.

What have we learnt from the experience:

  • Network connection recommended over Wifi.
  • Need to have a test session, especially for sound. Re-position seating.
  • Prepared questions
  • Suggest audience identify themselves when asking questions.
  • Wear a bright coloured jacket to stand out from dark chairs.
  • Intimate group enabled questions to be answered fully. ‘Casual feel’ atmosphere conducive to  a real exchange.
  • Since our YA novel subject matter of gender was controversial, helpful to have co-authors viewpoints from varied backgrounds & generations & access to their website resources such as YA guests blogs.
  • Needs a co-ordinator to arrange books available for reading beforehand & this is where e-books are more easily accessible.

Challenges:

  • Several youth who were expected didn’t make it, but there were eight in the room, including the deputy Youth Mayor.
  • Technical issues with getting the visuals to work three ways on Skype. After a 10 minute delay, we decided to go with visuals between the Wellington Youth and Ryan in NZ, and utilise Hazel’s audio although they could ‘see’ Hazel. At the end, we had a concentrated visual session between Hazel and the group in Gippsland.
  • Co-ordinating: Phong prepared books, handouts etc and invited reps from youth groupings, but 10 am Saturday a bad time for techie support and those who play football.
  • Questions covered writing issues such as how to co-write on Skype and e-mail, how did the book get published and benefits in e-book format. Gender questions included issues such as how do you get support in a rural area, Ryan’s personal experiences transitioning and media and librarian reactions to ‘f2m:the boy within’.

Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy

PS Only afterwards, I realised the room in which participants chatted was called the Wellington Room! I was still in my Melbourne study, but my husband had cleared up his desk, visible behind my head on the web cam. That’s another plus for participating in web chats! Desks get tidied or are caught forever on web cam. 

Phong outlines the Wellington Shire Gippsland Youth Council and lists those involved in the Skype chat:

The Wellington Shire Youth Council is made up of 18 youth between the ages of 12-25, who eagerly represent young people within Wellington Shire.  It provides an avenue for youth issues, feedback and communications to liaise with Wellington Shire Council, forming a bridge between youth and local government.  Youth Councillors are instigators of positive change and act as role models and leaders with the community.

Youth Councillors who were in attendance:

Krystal Davison, Youth Mayor, 19 yro, Sale

Pauline Rathnow, Deputy Youth Mayor, 23 yro, Wurruk

Mallory Ginkel, Youth Councillor, 15 yro, Sale

Dean Hardisty, Youth Councilllor, 19 yro, Paradise Beach

Mel Giles, Youth Councillor, 22 yro, Sale

Staff:

Phong Truong, Branch Support Librarian

Katy Cummins, Communications Officer  – Media publicity and photo

Damian Norkus, Information Technology Support Officer – Set up of Skype link

Before participating in the webchat, the youth were expected to read f2m. The trailer for the novel is below:

                                  

Thankyou to Hazel and Phong for sharing their webchat experience. What I love about this webchat is that regional youth were provided with role-modeling from the authors, experienced amazing technology, and discovered how there are really no barriers anymore to what can be achieved (co-authors Hazel and Ryan explained how they co-wrote on Skype). If you are thinking of organising your own author/youth chat via Skype and would like to contact Hazel, Ryan, or Phong, please leave a comment or contact them via their websites (linked to above). To see reviews of the fabulous book f2m, visit Google Reads.

Guest post: Junior M’s blogging and global collaboration, by Michelle Scott

Michelle Scott is a teacher at St. Luke the Evangelist School, Blackburn South, Victoria. Michelle has developed a bright, engaging blog with her junior class called Junior M’s Learning Journey that showcases their learning using web 2.0 technology. The class is also involved in a wonderful exchange activity that is connecting them globally. Michelle explains below:

In 2010 I completed the SLAV Web 2.0 course along with several other teachers at St Luke’s. At this time a blog was started for our two grade 1/2 classes – Junior’s Jig. My level partner Verona maintained the blog with my class chipping in posts every now and then. This year my class Junior M have the very own blog (we signed with blogger after much unsuccessful wrangling with wordpress), Junior M’s Learning Journey. My aim for the blog is to provide the St Luke’s community (parents, families and friends) and a gradually developing group of global friends (through twitter), an insight into the learning Junior M is engaged with most weeks.

Junior M's Learning Journey

Recently, my students made a significant connection with a school in Ontario, Canada with whom we are twitter-friends. After we posted questions on twitter to the Gill_Villeans they asked us if we’d like to host their class mascot, Gill the goldfish, and to add photos etc., of his adventures at St Lukes on their wiki. Their teacher is using this as a platform to further engage her students in writing.

Gill the goldfish goes global

Over the term holidays we will send our class mascot, Ella the echidna, to Canada. Students in Junior are fascinated with the process of receiving a package from overseas and have many ideas for how to host our visitor, which they actively implement.

I feel this process of blogging and commenting on blog posts extends the children, from enriching their thinking both laterally and critically, to exposing them to a world beyond their classroom. This in turn shows them how much in common we have with people around the world.

The understanding of differences and similarities that comes from global collaboration is priceless. Thankyou, Michelle, for sharing your teaching and learning with us. All the best to Ella on her big trip.

Worth reading: Comments on the future of libraries and librarians

Worth readingThe Houston Chronicle Editorial recently published the article ‘Elegy for librarians: After all the budget cutting’s done, who’ll be around to help us ask the sharper questions’ (March 30th, 2011). While this article is a solid look at some of the roles of libraries and librarians in today’s society, what is powerful are the comments being left. Have a look and see what you think.

Houston Chronicle   

Guest post: Class blog ‘Learning Together’ by Marie Kennedy

Marie Kennedy is a prep teacher at St. Luke the Evangelist School, Blackburn South, Victoria. Marie and her prep students’s class blog, Learning Together, is a wonderful example of how web 2.0 tools can be used to support and extend teaching and learning, and as a way to make connections:

Learning Together

I started my class blog following the SLAV Personal Learning Network PD I was a part of early in 2010, where I had learnt so much about Web 2.0 tools and the many benefits of blogging for Learning and Teaching. I was excited about the potential for local and global collaboration and creating strong links between home and school. I had always used ‘myclasses’ as a way to communicate with parents about what was happening in the classroom however I could see the enormous potential of creating a class blog.

As a Prep teacher I spend a lot of time modelling how to use a blog. Through this modelling the students are learning important protocols and safe behaviours when navigating the online world.  I am responsible for posting photos, writing most of the posts and moderating comments. My students take part by sharing reflections on their learning using tools such as voicethread, wallwisher and videos. I share their writing, reading, maths and art through slideshows. My students also become involved in commenting. I model the process and at this early stage of the year I type their thoughts and ideas. My students are articulating to a global community what they have discovered helping them to consolidate and deepen their understandings. Many visitors to our blog ask interesting questions that extends the students thinking and challenges them to consider new perspectives. These are some of the powerful advantages of blogging.

Learning Together -Science

While we have had success reaching out to the global community one of the challenges of blogging is involving our parent community. My major aim for developing a class blog was to connect with parents and families. To provide a springboard for conversation at home about what is happening at school and how the students are thinking and learning. While some parents do visit and comment I have had limited success with this. As a school we are hoping to provide a parent night on blogging to address this issue.

Learning Together - Better Buddies

Blogging allows for authentic and rich conversation both within and beyond our school community.

Thankyou, Marie, for sharing your fantastic work, and the work of your students. I particularly like how visually appealing Learning Together is, with the images of your students and their work. Your adopted pet Freddie, the spider, is a cute extra on the blog and a good way to create interest in any blog (e.g. name the virtual pet or avatar). Learning Together provides uses of web 2.0 tools that will offer inspiration to many.

Connecting with GiggleIT

The Giggle IT Project is run in partnership with the IASL (International Association of School Librarianship). It is aimed at 10 – 14 year olds, but can be adapted to other ages. Once registered, the work submitted to the GiggleIT Team will be presented on the class/school GiggleIT website. The project for 2011 is ‘the colours of our land’, with four competitions running:

1) Name Our Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in your culture – class, collaborative project

2)  Design your personal logo – individual project

3) Write a haiku poem – individual project

4)  Create a travel poster – individual project

The Giggle IT Project’s website details instructions for teachers who would like to sign-up their class, including lesson plans, and provides instructions for each competition, with voicethread slides to help explain the details. The competitions do not close until 1st November 2011.

The GiggleIT Project

If you would like to have a look at the GiggleIt compeition winners for 2010, go HERE. This is a wonderful project to foster in your students an appreciation of different cultures and experiences.

Guest post: Global collaboration by Kathleen Morris

Kathleen Morris is a grade two teacher from Leopold Primary School, Victoria. Kathleen has an inspirational blog called Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, where she shares her experiences, resources, and advice concerning blogging, global collaboration, and technology integration.

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom

Kathleen has agreed to share her wonderful experiences with collaborating globally, in a joint post between Bright Ideas and Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom. We hope together we can inspire more teachers to make connections and open up whole new worlds for their students.

Below, Kathleen outlines her experiences from the first global collaboration in 2008 to now, showing that her classroom experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent, and richer.

I created the following diagram to demonstrate how my involvement in global collaboration has progressed (tip: click on image if you want to see it more clearly).

diagram progress global projects

A summary of how I progressed with global collaboration

2008

Christmas Card Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with seven schools around the world and we exchanged Christmas/holiday cards.
PROS – Learning about all the different countries involved and their holiday traditions.
CONS – Lack of “real” connection to the classes and lack of technology used (the contact was slow!).

2009

Teddy Bear Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with a class in Canada. We exchanged teddies via snail mail and we “helped” the teddies write weekly emails to each other. We collated all the emails on a page on our class blog.

PROS – We learnt a lot about life in Canada; children learnt about email.
CONS – There wasn’t the chance for a “real” connection to develop between students – it was all through the teddy.

*****

Blogging Buddies: in our second year of blogging we began forming connections with many classes around the world. We would leave comments on our new friends’ blogs and keep track of what they were up to in an informal manner.

PROS – Blogging suddenly become more powerful, interesting and meaningful as we had a real international audience. Students began to learn there was a life outside of their neighbourhood.
CONS – All our interactions and learning was “ad-hoc”.

2010 – first half

Our relationships with our blogging buddies continued and expanded while we looked to more structured, self-organised and personalised projects.

Collaboration Corner http://collaboration-corner.blogspot.com
I created a blog with Linda Yollis in California. Our classes had got to know each other since early 2009 via our class blogs.
We called the blog “Collaboration Corner”. This was a place for the students to work on projects together and have rich discussions through commenting.

We had two main projects in the first half of the year:
•    Lunch Box Project – this complimented our “Food” theme. A child from each class took turns making a post about their lunch. They used a tool like Fotobabble to narrate a picture of their lunch. Some great conversations got going in the comments on healthy eating, food preferences, cultural difference with food, food groups etc.
•    Our School – the students used tools like VoiceThread and video to show their American friends around their school. The students made posts about the play areas, library, office etc. The students were really interested to compare how school is the same and different in Australia and the US.

PROS – The students got to really connect with their blogging buddies and the blog provided a window into their lives. Skype was used to enhance this connection such as our Skype breakfast party. A lot of content was learnt about food, time zones, schools, geography. A lot of reflection and new ideas also arose.
CONS – We were working together and learning a lot but what for?

2010 – second half

Ugandan Global Project http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com
This is an idea I came up with because I loved how my students were learning and connecting with their buddies overseas but I thought something was missing. I knew we could take it further. I wanted my students to be able to use these global connections for a greater good; to raise their social conscience, help others and learn more about the world in which they live.

In this project, we set up another blog and invited some of our blogging buddies to join in. We had two Australian classes, three American classes and one Chinese class involved all working together to help out a school in Uganda.

The students were sponsored by their family and friends and at 10am on Friday 22nd October, all the classes around the world ran/walked for one hour to earn their sponsorship money.

Throughout the project all the classes involved worked on various tasks to learn more about Uganda and put up posts on the blog on topics such as
•    A day in the life of a student in Australia/USA/China/Uganda
•    A traditional song in each country
•    The run/walk event in each location
•    Time zones
•    Currencies

Behind these posts, the commenting was fantastic! The students (all aged 7-9) were involved in some rich conversations.

This project raised $20,000 which is making an enormous difference in the lives of our Ugandan friends.

There are also incredible flow-on effects still happening. A group of Americans who followed our project blog decided to volunteer at the Ugandan school. There are around 20 of them in Uganda at the time of writing and they’re making an invaluable contribution. Additionally, a teacher who read about our project contacted the school founder asking how she can help. The possibilities of these after effects are endless.

I feel that one of the ultimate goals of being a global citizen is to be able to work together for a common good, be understanding of others and have a social conscience. Through blogging, my students are developing as effective global citizens and I’m so proud of what they are achieving! I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next…

What next?

Needless to say, I want my students to be involved in more global collaboration in the future. I think a mix of informal collaboration and more structured projects works well. We’re now at a point where we don’t need to look at projects organised by outside agencies as we are part of a large international blogging community.

When it comes to projects, I like the idea of working on some projects that are simply designed to increase student learning and global awareness, while also aiming for perhaps an annual big project (like the Ugandan Project) where the aims go beyond individual student learning.

How to get started

If you want your class to connect and collaborate globally, I recommend you read this post by Edna Sackson “10 Ways to Create Global Connections

If you want to start in a more structured way like I did, there are many free and paid organisations co-ordinating global collaborative projects.

You might like to try…

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

http://www.iearn.org.au/

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/penpals/

http://www.epals.com

http://www.ozprojects.edu.au

Good luck!

Thankyou Kathleen for sharing your knowledge, and providing the links to further information. As Kathleen says on her blog, please leave a comment if you would like to share your experiences with global collaboration.