Friday, October 26, 2012

BLENNZ learning library launched: Stories & resources for children & young people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision

Yesterday I spent some time exploring the BLENNZ Learning Library. The description on the home page explains, "Here you will find a collection of stories about children and young people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, written by BLENNZ educators for parents, whānau (family) and colleagues" (source).

Te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere. Te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga, nōna te ao. The bird who feasts upon the miro, resides only in the forest. The bird who feasts upon education, resides in the world.

 I found the site to be well-organised, informative, well set out, and easy to navigate.The 'clean' pages with plenty of white space suggest that accessibility was a priority when the design was put together. Most importantly, I felt, is the stance of the resources, which are written from a practical can do, how to point of view, as opposed to a deficit model. There is, however, also support for parents, and whānau (families), as well as students and teachers, that acknowledges the challenges, and offers empathetic support. The  BLENNZ Video Library on YouTube, for example, offers snapshots of parents speaking about their 'journey', as well as from the professionals - including, for instance,  the video of Gary Veenstra, Child and family worker with the RNZFB, talking about the area of grief and loss in his work alongside learners and their families and whānau.

The site is organised into age groups, as well as having resources locatable by category (listed below), and tags.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Taking action against online bullying - what can you do?

English: Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, th...
Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first class day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As you're sure to be aware from the media Cyberbullying (and bullying in face-to-face environments) is experienced with all age groups, and in a wide range of situations. (See herefor example). It is reprehensible in all cases, and people need to know how they can respond if they are bullied, and how they can support each other in cases when a friend or colleague is being bullied.
Beth Caras (in this article) advises "“If you don’t want to respond back to whoever is doing this to you I understand, but you should tell the social medium whether its Facebook or Twitter, because they have people monitoring their traffic, and they have their compliance officers. But you should also tell the police, because law enforcement has computer crime divisions now and they can determine if the threat is credible or not".
Cyberwise, during the US Anti-bully awareness month, also identify a raft of useful resources for young adults who use social media, and their parents (read more here).
If you are not convinced that this is something for all of us to take action, and responsibility for, you may also want to read the following article that remembers Amanda Todd, a 15 year-old Canadian who recently committed suicide after being bullied. Diana Graber challenges us with the following (read the full article here):
It’s tempting to blame social media for this tragedy. But that’s too simplistic an explanation for a string of events that include not only the original unfortunate lapse in judgment, but years of emotional and physical bullying, and a very public plea for help. It makes you wonder were the adults were during all these years. And why issues like bullying, sexting, sharing inappropriate images on social networks, and more, aren’t embedded into our daily discussions both in the classroom and out.
If we can take anything away from this sad story, I hope it’s a call to action for all adults to use this event as a catalyst to talk to the young people in our own lives. Whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that most of their lives are now being conducted online, so if we don’t learn how to speak to them about appropriate and safe online behavior, or better yet, inhabit the digital world they live in order to be better equipped to guide them through these unchartered waters—then shame on us.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Internet of Things (free e-book review by Derek Wenmoth)

If you are interested in where the connected world is heading then the e-book reviewed by Derek Wenmoth is likely to be something you might want to download and read. I watched the video embedded at the end of the post a while ago, and at the time the significance of the Internet of things did not quite sink in - and the implications. I wonder if there are some drawbacks as well as positives to the uber-connectivity that is envisaged. One positive may be an impact on efficiencies such that we use less power, for example. But I wonder what the drawbacks might be, as I am cautious about hailing innovation for innovation's sake...but do we have a choice? It would be great to hear your thoughts.

Derek's blog post can be accessed here, and as a taster:
The Internet of Things will be the most complex structure mankind has ever created. In a generation, there will likely be a trillion nodes measuring anything on Earth that can be measured, and with the insights culled from that data, we’ll control every aspect of our built world.
We live in a connected world, where millions of people and objects are interconnected by the Internet. In many of my presentations over the past couple of years I've referred to the Internet of Things (IoT) as one of the key trends we need to be watching for – this topic was one of CORE's ten trends in 2011 - in that year it was estimated that there became more 'things' connected to the internet than people.
Tonight I downloaded a free e-book titled The Internet of Things, developed by Accenture in conjunction with the Bankinter Foundation of Innovation. The publication describes the state of the art of this promising technology.
The e-book is over 70 pages long, and provides an excellent overview of the range of areas of our lives and the societies we live in that are being or potentially will be impacted by the Internet of Things.
Anything imaginable is capable of being connected to the network, become intelligent and therefore offers endless possibilities.This topic can be quite mind-boggling for some, and a focus of real fascination for others. Whatever your thinking, there's a lot to think about with this topic, and it's definitely worthy of some time to consider.
To

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The iPad as a Tool For Education - a case study

English: iPads offer a variety of software
English: iPads offer a variety of software (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This case study focuses on the implementation of an an iPad programme, at Longfield Academy in Kent (UK). Longfield Academy is a mixed secondary school for students aged 11 to 18 years of age. There are currently around 970 students at the academy, with around 160 of these in the sixth form.

Overall, the case-study reported that the use of iPads has positively impacted learning and teaching. One teacher asserted that, “The iPads have revolutionised teaching”. I wasn't so convinced that this case study added much to support the use of iPads in education. There did not appear to be a transition to a knowledge building approach by students, where they work on ill-defined problems, in authentic contexts to co-construct their own knowledge in context - in their community for example. Would be good to hear what you think....

As yet, data around improvements in students achievement has not yet been collected.
You can download the full report (see below) - as a taster:
Such devices cannot be dismissed as mere toys or distractions and while they bring with them technical and management issues, these are far outweighed by increased student motivation, progress and collaboration. Students using them regularly indicate that their iPads have become an indispensable tool, facilitating research, communication with teachers and, as in art, saving considerable time so enabling greater achievement.
Teachers too, though perhaps with the same inbuilt cynicism that many have for any new technology, are very positive about the value of the iPads and articulate many of the benefits, not only for learning but for themselves. In the context of a restructured school in brand new buildings, to enable almost all students and all staff to have a new tablet device, one not designed for such a situation, and to integrate it into learning and teaching, as has happened at Longfield, would be considered brave by many. Yet the project proved to be extremely successful. While the technology has been an integral part of that success, a key factor has been the quality of the initial and ongoing project management, without which the outcome may have been very different. Sound change management principles have been applied and other schools intending to implement similar projects should learn from the experience of Longfield Academy.
In a presentation to schools and industry in March 2012, the Principal, Anne Davis, set out nine lessons that the school had learned from the project up to that point and it is useful to repeat these here:
  1. Develop a clear vision and strategy for your 1:1 scheme
  2. Define your learning culture
  3. Define and create your user experience and support model
  4. Work with a traffic light and reporting system
  5. Evaluate your existing position
  6. Know how many staff and students already own, in this case, an iOS device
  7. Get everyone involved –don’t let a perception grow that it is a ‘done deal’, even if it is!
  8. Get devices in teachers and learners hand as soon as possible
  9. Record and share your experiences
(source, p. 50)

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