Education

Feeling pretty chuffed!

I recently inherited the job of setting up and maintaining the website for VALHALLA Strength – South Brisbane and right now, I’m feeling quite proud of myself!

We inherited the site earlier in the year. It was essentially a straight copy of the website for our sister gym on the north side of Brisbane: VALHALLA Strength – Brisbane. I had to change all the details, links, images, and much more to reflect the information required for our gym. Let’s just say, I had a lot of hidden links to uncover, image settings, and many other general settings to find and change. In fact, I’m feeling so proud of myself that I want to share a little list of all that I have achieved in the last week (yes, I’m even celebrating the tiny wins because they’re still wins!):

  • Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 6.24.36 pmSite icon! It’s such a small thing and hardly noticeable, and I may change it again, BUT I STILL DID IT!
  • Site logo! Again, such a simple thing but it was hidden somewhere in the back end of the theme design and it took me days to find it…
  • Different menu options
  • Resizing of featured images for the blog post – this was a massive win!

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  • Integrating a social stream plugin! So proud of this one as it took LOTS of trial and error (and lots of frustration and head scratching and even consultation with colleagues that are very clued in about this stuff)

Of course, there were numerous other things I had to do and it’s certainly not perfect at the moment but it’s done, and I’m very proud of myself. During all my fumbling around I learned quite a few things about myself and thought I would share some of my learnings…

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. You can figure it out if you don’t give up
  2. Google is your best friend when problem solving the unknown
  3. You don’t have to be an expert but you have to be willing to learn
  4. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very rare that you’ll do something so horrible that it can’t be undone!
  5. Always ask for help
  6. If you’re starting to get frustrated, WALK AWAY! It’s amazing what a little bit of distance can do for your frustration levels…
  7. And most importantly… PUBLISH FIRST, PERFECT LATER!

While fiddling with the website I couldn’t help thinking about how my students would tackle the problems I encountered. In my classroom, when a student comes up against an issue their first instinct is to ask me, their teacher, for help… They tend to be unwilling to trial things, make mistakes, search for the answer and then give it a go. It’s like they want to be shown exactly how to do it and to know that they won’t fail! Well, this is not what happens in the real world, as I have just proved, and somehow we need to teach them that they are more than capable of discovering the answer to their problem themselves.

I’ve been tossing up with the idea of writing down my thoughts about digital natives and the like, which after this experience I think I’m going to have to, if only to get it straight in my own head! So… stay tuned for that.

Education, Thoughts

Templates on Instagram – Innocent or something more?

I came across a great teachable moment last night on Instagram, but this moment I woke up and felt that I needed to share it a little more widely…  Templates on Instagram – are the innocent, or something more?

Firstly, here’s the post:

krystalgagen Can we talk about these templates for a minute? I’ve been noticing an increase in templates that you screen shot, fill in, and then post on your Instagram story. While most of them are harmless, there are some that ask for a LOT of personal information. For example, this one is asking for your age, your birth day and month – put those together and you’ve got your full birth date. Add in your height, birthplace, and descriptive features, like eye and hair colour, and all of a sudden that’s everything that you’d put on a driver’s licence/form of ID!

I’m not saying that everyone that creates one of these templates is out to collect your information, but in today’s world of selling information and identify theft, we need to be super careful! There are some of these templates that are harmless fun, and while the creator of this one probably didn’t mean any harm, the minute you put this amount of information into the world, you put yourself at risk.

Don’t let this stop you from engaging in the Instagram or general online community! Just be careful about what and how much you share. Be smart, stay safe 💪

#adventuresoftheliftinglibrarian

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 8.44.24 am

When I first saw this template I thought, “aww, that’s a bit cute.” And then I read it through properly and my heart stopped. I’m not exaggerating. I actually felt that thrill of fear, and experienced a spike of adrenaline as I saw what this template was asking me for. As I said in my Instagram post, the creator of this template might have created this with innocent intentions – you know, maybe they hadn’t fully thought through the types of questions that they were asking? But the cynical side of me, the part of my brain that assesses risks, couldn’t help but think: “this is the type of information you’d put on a drivers licence, a form of ID, a missing person’s report!” Put together the birth date and birth place, and if your profile has your first (or even in my case, first and last) name in it, then BAM! They know enough about you to start stealing your identity. Call me paranoid, but in this day and age, with companies selling and buying your information daily, we need to be super careful.

You might be thinking: “but Facebook asks me where I lived and for my birth date, how is that any different?” Well, yeah, sometimes we do give out that information willingly, I myself have done this. The difference being, Facebook is a company that I know the terms and conditions of. I’ve read their fine print (I know, nerd!) and I’ve made an informed decision. I am prepared to take that risk. The difference between that and these templates floating around on Instagram, and probably other platforms that I don’t use, is that there are no safe guards in place for my information. I don’t know who is on the receiving end of it and what they plan to do with it. That scares me.

All I ask is that you think before you post! That you open discussions with people you might think are at risk of answering these types of questions without fully thinking through the consequences. (By the way, I don’t just mean teenagers… I know plenty of adults, of any age, that don’t think things through before posting!) The more we talk about this type of thing in our families, or communities, the less likely we will be at risk of something horrible happening online. As I signed off last night: Be smart, stay safe.

Education

My version of flipped learning

I recently discovered Flipped Learning. I know that a lot of you are probably all over this already, but it was new to me and I fell in love with the idea of saving time in the classroom. At the moment, I teach three year 9 geography classes. I see them all twice a week for about 2 hours in total per class. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time repeating information. Sometimes I catch myself giving one class a really in depth lesson on a concept, and another a very quick snapshot. I realised that this wasn’t fair.

I turned towards the idea of flipped learning because I found it to be a really great way to give my students information, and allow them to work at their own pace.

Here’s how I do it

  1. I record myself going through a particular resource or skill, such as a:
    • PowerPoint where I want to add commentary
    • Piece of assessment that requires a deeper explanation
    • Researching or referencing
    • Using Google Earth Pro
  2. I upload these videos to my Google Drive and ensure that Link Sharing is turned on
  3. I add these videos to the Google Site that I have made for my class
  4. I direct my students to these videos as needed.

Here are some screenshots of what it looks like

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Here’s what I’ve discovered

At first I was a little hesitant about this idea as I felt that perhaps I wasn’t doing my job properly. We get trained to think that good teaching is us standing in front of the class and giving instructions (or at least, that’s what my experience was during my study) so having a video replace me in many ways was a little confronting at first BUT what I gained from doing this has been amazing.

I have more time! I now spend less time going through certain skills repeatedly AND I and I can direct students to these videos if they either need a refresher or missed the class altogether. The feedback I’ve received for this has been great.

It’s been better for students that require different paces! I’ve been able to differentiate better in my classes simply by using these videos and then adding in activities to complement them. For example, in one class I did an “Interconnection” activity that had 3 levels. The students all watched a video (I cheated a little with this one, I found a perfect video on YouTube), then I had 3 different options for activities. I directed the students towards choosing their own activity depending on their learning. I made it clear to them that they needed to pick the activity that would challenge them in the 15 minutes that we had. At first I found that some students needed some guidance with this, but after a little while they all managed to settle on the activity that I would have allocated them anyway. Overall, the learning that happened here was far more authentic than I had experienced in the past with my “Interconnection” activities, simply because the students had more ownership over their learning and I was able to spend more time broadening opinions and exploring ideas, rather than explaining things over and over again.

I’ve also used these videos in my research and referencing lessons. Usually I will be asked to visit a class and help them find resources and books on the topic they are studying. We in the iCentre, have found that the engagement with our resources has skyrocketed after doing these lessons and even though students grumble about having done this before, they do like walking away from a lesson with some good research to use for their assignment. Even though I will always go to classes for this type of thing first, I found a need for the videos AFTER I visited. And so, I created quick 2-4 minute instructional videos that went through exactly what I did during the lesson, and shared them with the teachers and students. I find that often, students just need a quick reminder on how to do something rather than a complete repeat lesson. So far, the feedback for these videos has also been very positive.

Final thoughts

With the feedback that I have received and the amount of time that I have saved so far, I’m going to continue using my version of Flipped Learning. I’d love to hear if you’re using Flipped Learning in your classrooms and how it’s going. I’m also curious to know how you host your videos as I am currently tossing up using YouTube as my hosting site – any advice would be greatly appreciated in the comments!

Education

Geek-A-Thon Wrap-up!

Some Context:

I have wanted to do a sleep over in the iCentre since February 2016, and on the 8th of September this year I finally got to do it! I have been working on celebrating all things Geek with our students this year through the Geek Girl program, the goal being:

To encourage girls to embrace their talents and creativity in a safe environment, as well as exposing them to industry professionals, broadening their views on what they’re capable of, and assisting them to reach their full potential.

geek girl logo

It’s been a fantastic year so far with fashionistas, illustrators, and animators coming in to share their experiences, as well as the process they go through each time they create something new.

For those girls that regularly attending these Geek Girl sessions, we wanted to give them the opportunity to really “Geek Out” so I combined my dream of sleeping over in the iCentre with a 24 hour Geek Out event and Geek-A-Thon was born.

Rationale:

Geek-A-Thon will be the culminating event of the Geek Girls program run by Krystal Gagen, Linda Clark, and Emma Maya, and hosted by the iCentre. The event will be invitational and focus on celebrating the success and experiences of the students that have participated in Geek Girl events throughout the year. The event will be a 24 hour event that will include guest speakers, opportunities for girls to share their “geekiness,” and for them to learn new skills and expand their thinking.

Geek-A-Thon Program:

  • Introduction at 3:30pm Friday – explanation of rules and plan for the 24 hours
  • Geek Out!
    • Computer circuit boards used to create sounds/lights that can change using the buttons or shaking them depending on the programming
    • Piper Raspberry Pi Computer Kit computer built by students during lunch breaks following blue prints – once built, had to finish it off by playing the game and learning how to wire the remaining buttons
  • Escape Room Challenge – Rebel Revolt (ongoing throughout the 24 hours)
  • Drones
    • Played with motion sensor drones + remote controlled drones
    • Design your own drone challenge
  • Dinner and free dancing
  • Sharing of drone designs
  • Geek Out*!
    • Makeup tutorial
    • Drawing tutorial
    • Swing dance tutorial – learning the Shim Sham from Ms Maya
  • Sphero races
  • Movie and hot chocolates
  • Bed time by 2am!
  • Breakfast and free dancing
  • Geek Out!
    • Public speaking tutorial
    • Music showcase
      • Guitar sing-a-long
      • Cello recital
  • 3D Printing with Steph Piper of PIPER3DP
  • Lunch and movie
  • Pickup by 3:30pm Saturday!

*Geek Out sessions designed for students to share the geeky thing that they are particularly passionate about.

Thoughts:

This event was everything I wanted it to be and more. It was so nice to see students from different year levels working together to explore the possibilities of technology, have in depth discussions about the process of creating or using something new, and have lots of fun along the way. Every student that attended Geek-A-Thon walked away with new ideas, thoughts, and questions, and all said they had lots of fun and were begging to do it again next year. The most beautiful thing about the event, in my opinion, was watching the relationships between our Geek Girls grow stronger and the sense of community  that was established was really special.

A big thank you to my colleagues Linda Clark and Emma Maya for you support throughout Geek Girls, and to Helen Stower for enabling me to try these sorts of events.

Photo Gallery on iCentre Website

 

Thoughts

World of Drones Congress 2017 Reflection

On Thursday 30th August and Friday 1st September I had the pleasure of attending the World of Drones Congress and I found it extremely valuable. Despite it being targeted mostly at those wanting to break into the drone industry, as an educator I found it highly relevant to what we are trying to navigate our way around in schools. I learned so much; it was an eyeopening experience and I am so thankful to my school for supporting my application to attend.

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 11.10.25 am

So, for those that couldn’t be there I thought I’d write down just some of my learnings and thoughts, particularly now that I’ve had a chance to process them!

My thoughts on Drones in general:

I walked out of the Congress absolutely blown away by the possibilities of drones. Basically, DRONES ARE COOL! The number of applications that the various speakers and presenters spoke about during the congress that they are already using drones for blew my mind. Here’s just a few:

  • Film and TV – there are film companies that solely work in filming with the use of drones and movie companies are slowly embracing the technology. Stephen Oh of XM2 Drones in Cinematography spoke about the boundaries between films using drones and how if the technology can be proved to work for TV, then they are more likely to take that technology on board in films. He told us about his work with the film crew on the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie and how it took a while for them to trust the technology. By the end of the shoot they were using the drones in ways they had originally never imagined because of the trust they had formed with the team of flyers.
  • Facebook – that’s right, Facebook is getting into the world of drones! They want to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together” but this isn’t possible if people cannot get connected through the internet. Therefore, their plan to fly a drone called Aquila above the height of commercial aeroplanes and have it beam mobile phone networks down to countries that currently do not have access to them is thought to be able to solve this conundrum. Issues that spokesperson Kathryn Cook spoke about included the fact that there are no global laws for drones, that each country has their own laws and regulations and if Facebook is to fly a drone around the world, they will need countries to work together to create laws that are able to be upheld and enforced on a global scale.
  • Flying Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) – James Dean from SenSat spoke about how his company is investigating the uses of drones in terms of digitally mapping locations. He spoke about the complications when it comes to needing to keep drones in sight and how this is often time consuming. He used the example of mapping London digitally – because they need to keep the drone in sight at all times, the process took a significantly long time. However, if they were able to fly BVLOS, then the project would have take half the time, if not even less. The advantage of having digital models of cities, construction sites, and other locations is slowly being realised and will allow different industries to use the data collected for a variety of applications.
  • Biosecurity – Felipe Gonzales of QUT spoke about how they are investigating the use of drones to monitor crop growth and health. He highlighted the importance of the industry working with potential buyers to ensure that the drone is easily useable and meets the needs of the buyer.

There was a lot of talk about Autonomous Vehicles and how they will change the way we think about car ownership. There was discussion around the complications involved in delivery drones, particularly with regards to how will the drone recognise the person/location and how will it drop off its delivery? It was clear to see that all of the applications they want to use drones for certainly came with limitations and big questions that would need answering first.

My thoughts on Laws and Regulations for Drones:

It was clear that the currents laws and regulations surrounding the use of drones are not up to the task of ensuring that people are using them safely. For example, I had no idea that there was an app called “Can I fly there?” designed by CASA to help people work out if they are legally allowed to fly a drone in a particular area. I downloaded the app and did a search on my house. I discovered that as long as I flew in one direction I would be fine, but if I flew in the opposite direction I would be breaking all sorts of laws and regulations because I am too close to an approach for an airport.

There were too many other issues discussed for me to list here, but I will share my takeaways in terms of what certain speakers presented as possible solutions to the issue:

  • Need to be proactive, not reactive – Dr Lisa Frye from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning suggested that we, as attendees of the World of Drone Congress 2017, have the potential to influence the laws and regulations that are created around drones. The industry needs to work WITH the government and education bodies to create the necessary laws and regulations that will govern the use of drones, and then be able to work with educators to teach these laws and regulations in schools (more on this further down).
  • Drones and planes – Gary Pohlner of Virgin Australia scared us all with some terrifying facts about drone encounters and the Virgin Australia fleet. These encounters clearly happen because the general population is not aware of where they are allowed to fly drones and how high they can fly them. Gary also spoke about how the colour of a drone can be a real problem. He used the example of a blue drone on a day with day with clear blue skies, the flight crew did not see the drone until it passed directly across the windscreen of the plane on approach to the airport. Gary suggested that if it were possible to tag drones with some sort of tracker then they could be displayed on aircraft instruments that would allow them to make adjustments to their flight paths in stead of forcing flight crews to react quickly to keep their passengers safe.
  • Public acceptance of rules and responsibilities – Paddy Goodall from Airservices spoke about the importance of working with the regular consumer to create laws and regulations that are easily understood and enforced, otherwise there is no point to them. He highlighted the fact that there are current laws and regulations in place, but because law enforcement agencies currently do not have the capabilities of enforcing these laws, people are getting away with things because they either don’t know they are breaking the rules, or know but don’t care because no one is currently doing anything about it.

An interesting point was made by an audience member about how best to educate the general public on the use of commercial and recreational drones. He suggested that when someone purchases a drone for personal use, that it becomes the retailers job to give a quick overview of the laws and regulations surrounding that particular drone and how to access the information on where they will be able to fly it. The purchaser would then sign a contract stating that they had received this information. The audience member said that he’s modelled this off what happens when a customer purchases a mobile phone.

My thoughts on Drones and Education:

The whole reason I went to the World of Drones Congress 2017 was to investigate what drones will mean for education and I was not disappointed. Here’s my top 5 learnings in terms of the implication of drones on education:

  1. I am pleased to report that every speaker reinforced the fact that educators are not the only ones responsible for teaching the next generation of drone users. The best recipe for success in terms of educating the next generation will happen if Government + Industry + Education work together to inform best practice.
  2. The drone is just the tool, we still need to teach the skills that allows them to do something with the data the drone has collected.
  3. Drones are a problem based solution, not a solution looking for a problem
  4. Drones and STEAM go hand in hand. Once you’ve found a problem, ask the students to create a solution using their imagination (the Art of STEAM), and then use the other components of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to then refine and make the design.
  5. The younger we challenge our students with problem based learning, the more likely they will be able to take on bigger and bigger challenges as they get older, thus preparing them for a future that we are not 100% sure on what they will need to do, what skills they will need to have, and what problems they will need to solve.

Since attending the World of Drones Congress 2017, I have already issued a quick “design your own drone” challenge and was blown away by the designs that my students created. The students of now and of the future will be the ones that embrace this technology and do amazing things with it.

Final thoughts:

The opening key note for the World of Drones Congress 2017 was presented by Thomas Frey, a man that is well known for the quote:

“2 billion jobs to disappear by 2030.”

When he spoke about this quote he highlighted the fact that it wasn’t supposed to be a doom and gloom statement, but rather a wake up call. If there are 2 billion jobs in the next 13 years that are able to be replaced by robots or drones or some other piece of technology, then we must look at this as there being 2 billion jobs worth of people with free time. Frey said:

“We’re not automating jobs out of existence, only tasks… One way to look at it is that we’re eliminating jobs but freeing up human capital… Just because there are no jobs doesn’t mean there isn’t any work to be done.”

He spoke so passionately about the possibilities of drones and technology and ended his presentation with a quote that had a massive impact on me and how I now look at the way that I teach and challenge my students:

“We are limited only by our imagination.”

 

A selection of photos from the exhibition room at the World of Drones Congress 2017

Education

The future of technology is so exciting!

Yesterday I attended a GTAQ Professional Development (PD) hosted by Canterbury College called “The Digital Future of Geography.” The presenters came from Esri Australia and were teaching us about their online platform for GIS, called ArcGIS Online. This is an incredible resource for teachers and schools, it’s FREE and has so much information, data, tools, and support available.

Yesterday’s PD only confirmed for me how amazing the future of technology is, both for geography and for the world in general. Here’s my 3 take homes from the PD:

1. GIS is an essential skill for geography and we shouldn’t be intimidated.

Some of you might be wondering what GIS is. Traditionally, it stands for Geographic Information System. However, the Esri presenters yesterday made it very clear that they think of GIS as a tool that allows us to:

  • ASK questions
  • ACQUIRE information
  • EXPLORE the data
  • ANALYSE the data and work out the where, what, why, and how
  • ACT and problem solve as we are all global citizens!

This was a really powerful realisation for me because I had been a little afraid of using GIS in my class as it seemed overwhelming, but by breaking it down into simple geographic inquiry it made so much more sense!

2. We want and need our students to be critical of where the data comes from.

The Librarian in me was so happy to hear the presenters reinforce the idea that we need to keep teaching our students to be critical of where the data comes from, who is providing it, and how they collected it. This is so important in this day and age of the Open Data Movement! Although there are lots of companies and government bodies that are still yet to get on board with this movement, many are recognising the value of sharing data with the people. This raises all sorts of issues, not least of which is teaching our students the importance of evaluating the validity of the data. The presenters demonstrated simple ways for users to find out where the data is coming from and to work out if it is reliable.

3. “What is where?” “Why there?” “Why care?”

Part of geography is working out why certain events or patterns occur. There are many different questioning models that we use, and yesterday our presenters alerted us to their favourite:

  1. “What is where?” – where are things located?
  2. “Why there?” – what would cause those things to be there? This is where we start to discern patterns and connections
  3. “Why care?” – why would we care about these events and patterns, and what does this mean when looking at social, economic, political, and environmental issues?

This really hit home for me and it allowed me to think very carefully about how I phrase my questioning and how different questions can elicit different responses from students.

I realised that geography is a subject that is very useful to our students, but the way that we (myself included) have taught it in the past is quickly becoming outdated. We need to embrace these new technologies that are available if we are to keep up with our students’ needs, and place them in a position that allows them to work in future jobs. It’s our responsibility as educators and geography enthusiasts to make sure that we are familiar with GIS and where it’s heading to equip our students with the necessary skills for their futures.

Let’s face it, the future of technology is exciting, the field of geography is only one example, and if we’re not willing to step out of our comfort zones to learn new skills, how can we expect our students to do the same?!