Students and technology in the classroom

Technology in Education – students simply don’t think of it as being anything but normal. It is just integrated into their lives. It is not separate or special rather just part of the way they work.

Recently a teacher asked their year 12 students how much value they placed on having their own laptops in the classroom and if it  was a great advantage to their learning in that classroom. They were a bit “ho-hum” about it. They have had their own personal computers all through secondary school and, looking at/listening to their answers, it was evident to me that they took so many things for grantedsimply because they cannot really imagine life without them. They don’t really know what they would have to do if they did not have the technology because so many little things are taken for granted. For instance none thought how easy it was simply write an essay and then edit it easily – rather than rewrite the whole piece. None realised how easy it was to take and organise notes, continually adding to them as new data was gathered and none wondered how hard they might find it if they had to do research without internet access whenever they felt the need. Many are very visual and they like the easy access Clickview and YouTube videos when they need to find out how to do something. These are just some of the little things.

The question was not a “fair question.” It was not really a test of how useful the students found computers because they don’t really know any different.  They don’t know what life is like without technology in their lives. They can list some of the bigger things like social media, blogs and vodcasts and using some of the digital tools to help them learn but too much is just part of their world and even the teacher who asked the question did not consider how much technology flies under the radar.

The question was probably due to frustration when the intranet was “down” or running slowly which only makes more evident that technology is an integral part of education and our students are lucky to have had 1:1 computers for such a long time. I don’t really think the teacher did not see the benefits but it did make for an interesting discussion.

This is a simple infographic tries to show how much impact the internet has had on education.
How Has The Internet Changed Education?


Choosing privacy in a digital world

Recently in the US there was the first-ever Choose Privacy Week.  The focus of the week was to inform Americans about their rights to privacy in a digital age. With Facebook recently in the news because of privacy concerns it was a timely campaign. Below is an interesting video made by American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Although though it has been created with an American context (with the US consitution making a number of things different from the Australian situation) it still offers a powerful message.
It is also interesting to think that we have come to the situation where the concept of keeping at least some things private is something we have to teach, promote and remind people to think about. 

Why would you not choose to keep some things private?  Many people who live online, myself included, can tend to forget just how much of our personal information is very obtainable (by everyone) and how much more can be gleaned and put together the unscrupulous. Considering I blog, am a member of numerous ning and wiki communities and other social and collaborative networks, I have put a fair chunk of my life online. This video certainly should have an impact on the way people think about their online selves. 

In a previous post I wrote about my take as a teacher of young  people. I regard it as part of my duty to help our students understand that privacy is not really part of the on-line world. Everyone must be responsible about their digital identities. So many of the tools on the web today are intuitive in that they take your past history and try to link it to your current search/request. 

There are still three basic aspects about privacy and cyber-safety that I regard as important to discuss with students about their digital profiles.  These are:

  • Always read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to when you are signing up for something, be it Myspace, Facebook, Glogster, Flickr or anything else.
  • Value your personal information. Most social networks really only require the bare minimum for registration. Everything else beyond that is purely voluntary and always be aware of what could be used in the future.
  • Do not ever share anything that you don’t want others to know about yourself. Do not think that because you only invite some people to something that others will not ever be able to access the information or that in the future some “friends” may turn out not to be so friendly. (This very sentiment is re-iterated by the well-known people in the video)

The technologies today offer all of us many wonderful opportunities. We can make the most of them by being “good” or proficient users and by making sure we understand the strengths and the limitations of these tools. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.




more about “Choose Privacy Week Video“, posted with vodpod


Internet filtering – Censordyne: the GetUp campaign

If you have been reading this blog you would have read posts (esp Dec 2008) about the many things wrong with, and ineffectiveness of, blanket filtering plan that the Australian Commonwealth Government is undertaking.

If you are also concerned about our Commonwealth Government’s Internet Censorship plan, worried that things have gone too quiet and opposition case is not being heard, then you might like to try this new approach.


The campaign is being run by “GetUp an independent community advocacy organisation, formed in 2005, which helps Australians to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues.” It is running a controversial new campaign that  pokes fun at the Rudd Government’s Internet filtering plan. Watch the video. It has a very professional look.  At one point it even makes a comparison to the recent events in Iran. The campaign is also supported by a dedicated website and Twitter account. It offers a very easy and practical way to register your concern. You can express you support for this campaign by using the “click-here” and submit your petition or register your concern. You can also support the GetUp in a monetary way but it is not compulsory.

If you have not investigated what the government is planning, you should do so soon. I believe we should all seek to understand and take a stand on the issue. I do not believe that it is the role of my government to judge what ‘they think I need’ but rather act on/support the voice of the people regarding any issue that arises. I thought that basic democracy was about having choices and a voice. If we are not even aware of issues, and the government continues with their plans to ‘modify’ things without our knowledge, how can we really function as a democracy? If, like me, you are concerned about the filtering have a look at Censordyne. For further information and links about the plans, try the NoCleanFeed site.

Navify – Searching Wikipedia, Flickr and YouTube

My colleague Tania found this tool via the Free technology for teachers blog. I had seen Nibipedia, but Navify was a new tool for me to look at. It is a mash-up of Wikipedia, Flickr, and YouTube.

We all know that many of our students use Wikipedia,which may be developing into the world’s most extensive encyclopedias, as people continue to build on the information it contains. It does sometimes lack visual content, ie. pictures and more often videos, to assist with the written explanations. This can, at times, place a limit on its informative value. 

Navify seeks to redress this problem. Like Nibipedia, it attempts to match videos and images to Wikipedia articles.



To use Navify:

Go to the Navify site and do a standard Wikipedia search (no log in required) by simply entering your search term, just as you would in any search. The results will be returned in a tabbed form displaying:

  • Wikipedia article
  • related images and
  • related videos.

The images tab offers photos added by Wikipedia (or Navify users) and those automatically discovered on Flickr. It is very new at the moment but, as more users come on board, I can see this becoming a great source for relevant and useful images.


Video tab

Video tab

The videos tab works exactly the same way except that it finds related videos from YouTube.

Commenting on articles is also allowed. Navify is also supporting these comments using Disqus, so you will be able to read what people are saying about the Navify article pages.

The service is also planning on offering a music player so that users can listen to full related songs and audio content. So far I have found with my searching that Navify enhances the Wikipediaoption. It is still developing but has potential to become much greater. There seems to be no end to what tools people are thinking up to try and create better searching options. They won’t all survive and it will be the users who decide, in many cases.  It is a very interesting time for those of us interested in information searching.

On-line technology in schools.

The internet. We have come a long way in a relatively short time. Our students can’t remember a time without the it. Here is a short documentary on its development.

“History of the internet” is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet.

The documentary was found via the Internet, made using tools that you can get via the Internet. The voice-over was by Steve Taylor and you can learn about how it was put together on his website. You can learn more about PICOL here.

I am writing this post after again listening to other teachers discuss how schools should use the what the on-line world offers. Discussion was about how teachers should approach on-line options with respect to their classes, the tools that should be used and what it means for a school when some teachers are innovative and others are not.

We have come a long way and things are happening. I understand that many things have to be considered from all points-of-view but sometimes I can become discouraged at how slowly things are changing. When even the value of trials are questioned, especially by some are “put out” by those who are willing to do the work to create a new option for students.

I love it when teachers allow students the option to use their varying creative talents in producing interesting and unique work. They should be encouraged and supported (and lauded) not asked to be careful about offending by their very enthusiasm. Teachers are a funny lot and many are very good at their chosen profession but many like to be “hastened slowly”, not pushed, veryslowly and carefully lead and encouraged. Just as long as they are not left behind by their students who expect to learn and are finding the world beyond the school classroom more interesting, more up-to-date and more relevant.

Don Tapscott: more on growing up digital

This is a short interview of author Don Tapscott (Grown Up Digital) and family talking about growing up in the digital world.

Interesting that when discussing multi-tasking. He describes the difference between the young and those older.  The Read/Write web also posted something about the topic of Multi-tasking, The Older You Are, the Better You Multi-Task (If You’re a Woman).

In new data, released by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI), it claims to give us insight into how men and women engage in “simultaneous media use.”  According to the study, it’s more common for women to watch TV and use the computer than it is for men. What’s more, women supposedly get better at this multi-tasking as they age. I always though that it was a given that women were better at multi-tasking, and not just in a digital sense, because they have been doing it in all sorts of areas for years. This study just adds more weight to my long held beliefs.

Mandatory Internet censorship

 I wanted to post something about this issue on the weekend but I found that I could post nothing but quick  posts. I think that the very bad weather effected my internet connections, as some friends also had problems using internet resources. There are still no pictures or videos for the moment. So here is a post, a little late but nevertheless I wanted to say something.

I found it really interesting that the Australia-wide protest against the government’s mandatory internet censorship plan was not mentioned by the major news networks. Most of the protests in the state capital cities were to begin between 11 am and 12 noon. The weather was terrible in Melbourne on Saturday but there were hardy people who turned up.

I was at a local bookshop, discussing the problems that the Government’s proposed filter may cause, with a young man who works there. He spoke very eloquently against the proposal but had to work rather than be at the protest. I was buying books and finishing up tasks that I had to do. I felt guily that I didn’t go in to the city, as the issue has concerned me for quite a while.  

The Commonwealth government’s plan proposes to introduce filters that would not, for instance, have blocked any of the 15,000 child porn videos and half a million child abuse images uncovered by police in a major operation early last week. The filter can only filter websites, not the traffic on peer-to-peer networks, which seems to me, to be where most of the pornographic material would be found.

The Australian government released a report detailing the results of a trial of six potential filters on the 28th of July this year.

The report included the following statistics:

  • Internet speeds dropped between 21% and 86%. The most accurate filter was also the one with the greatest drop in speed.
  • Content that the filters failed to block ranged from 2% to 13%
  • Content blocked by mistake ranged from 1.3% to 7.8%

This means that there will be many websites blocked by accident, caught up by the indiscriminate filters. These could include those on issues such as sexual health or breast cancer.  Legitimate websites that may be attacked by hackers or spammed with porn will again be blocked, and to unblock them will be near to impossible. Websites that are considered to be supporting criminal activities will be blocked. Good, you may say but this will also block sites that, for example, discuss euthanasia, especially if they are deemed to be supporting it.

Then there is the issue about how short-sighted this policy is when we are preparing our young people to be responsible internet users, good digital citizens, rather than passive sponges, unprepared for, and uncritical of, the global world.

Lauren O’Grady on her All teachers are learners….blog has written several really good postsabout the filters. I replied to her latest blog with this: 

An interesting note is that none of the major media services have said/reported very much on the proposed Government filter/censorship plans. The protest on Saturday did not seem to rate a mention at all? Do they think that this will not have an adverse effect on their own sites? Why are basic civil rights issues not a major issue? Why aren’t there more investigative pieces on what this will actually do? Many of the parents who do not spend much time in the digital world see only the quote “protect the children” but, as we know, there are so many holes in this argument. Filtering in schools is a major “pain in the neck” when you are trying to teach students about responsible and safe use of the resources that could be made available otherwise. So many good/useful sites are sweep up by the filters. How can we get the message out that straight banning/filtering is not the answer but learning about responsible digital citizenship comes from (or should) learning and teaching in a the safe environment of the home and at school. Teaching our young people to be critical and responsive users not passive victims of the vagaries of the internet, is the best way to protect them.

Tania Sheko also wrote a very pertinent comment:

Two things:
If parents (anyone) fall for the sensationalist headlines ‘protect our children’, etc. then education may have failed them in terms of critical reading.

when I was growing up I attended a Russian language Saturday school within a community of old immigrant Russians whose experiences back in the old country were negative (eg. my great-grandfather shot by communists), and consequently the teachers and parents were paranoid about communism anywhere. I remember a woman spent much of her time censoring our textbooks which inevitably came from Russia, painstakingly gluing pages together or ruling thick black texta lines over words we should never lay our eyes on, eg. ‘soviet’ and ‘pioneers’. We were fascinated and went to great lengths to unglue or look through the light to see the tantalisingly forbidden words.

If, like me you are concerned about what is being proposed, you can go to NoCleanFeed and learn more about the plans and register your concerns.

There is an  official petition is available at The petition is open to all Australian citizens. Anyone who signs it must add their address, failing to do so may render a signature void. There as also a very good on this site, YouTube video you can watch and link to.