16 September 2014

Real Life Learning: Global Opportunities

flatconnections.com
Working internationally for the past seven years has allowed me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. This has helped me to be open to new ideas, beliefs and cultures, as well as ways of thinking, seeing, and perceiving the world. Studying my MEd online with a global cohort has also opened my eyes to the fact that many countries are still very insular about their approach to education in terms of pedagogy as well as content. We simply cannot afford to be this way if, as many schools nowadays suggest, we are offering our learners a 'top class education'.

On today's digital planet, a world class education means we must prepare learners for what the world is now, for life both off and online - that means we must expose them to a daily routine that requires skills in managing devices, accounts and netiquette. If we do not provide learners with the opportunity to organise themselves effectively and appropriately using technology, we are not preparing them for what their true working life is going to entail. 

One way we can help expose learners to how life will be once they leave the protective yet unrealistic 'walled gardens' some schools create, is through online projects. These projects provide the opportunity to learn essential twenty first century skills, collaborate online, meet other learners from around the world and realise that business sometime has to be conducted asyncronously due to time zone differences.

I Project Manage one of Julie Lindsay's Flat Connection projects, Global Youth Debate (formerly Eracism). This exciting project joins schools across the globe and provides essential skills in:
  • research
  • collaboration, and 
  • communication
Debating hot topics asynchronously, teams share resources via Diigo and foster discussion on Edmodo, then battle it out via Voicethread for a place in the final. It provides a chance to use web 2.0 tools to develop a wider global perspective of the planet we all live on; it provides an insight into different cultures and beliefs, and this year's theme is all too relevant - Global Peace and Security. Our topic up for debate is: 
Revolution is a justifiable means to global peace and security
Whilst not every school can travel to new countries in a face-to-face capacity, any school with access to computers and the Internet can flatten their classroom walls and enrich the learning experience of their students. Global Youth Debates allows learners a valuable connection and insight into their peers' lives on a world-wide scale - without having the expense of travel. As a team, we are also here to provide lots of training and support for teachers and their learners in taking these steps into the future of learning. Click HERE to have a look at last year's debate to give you more idea about how the projects operate.

Global Youth Debates is open to all schools and learners aged 10-18. Sign up is open from now through September for debating to commence in October. More information about this year's Global Youth Debate can be found on the website and teachers should read this guide for more information.

If you think your school would be interested, please contact me, +Julie Lindsay or visit the contact page to ask a question. Alternatively, you can email globaldebate@flatconnections.com, or go right ahead and sign up.

Follow the project on Twitter @DebateGlobal or Facebook.

Read more about this and other #FlatConnect Global Projects for all age groups HERE.

10 September 2014

Assistive Technology to Support Writing

I spoke at the Google Summit KL in 2013 about tech that enhances the reading and writing process. One of the apps I shared, Ginger, was one that I had been using as an assistive technology with a targeted number of learners who particularly struggle with spelling or who are dyslexic.

Whilst there are in-built spell checkers in a lot of word processing systems, Ginger differs because it
...analyzes the context of an entire sentence, and its corrections conform to the writer’s intended message. This method is especially successful for dyslexic students who often confuse words which sound the same but are spelled differently. 
(http://www.gingersoftware.com/ginger-for-schools)
Ginger is more sophisticated and identifies homophones, which helps many EAL/ESL learners too. In addition, rather than being isolated to one system, it highlights words in all online writing - including Blogger, email, Twitter etc.  Areas that need attention are highlighted and suggestions can be accepted or declined.

In readiness for IOS8, you can sign up for the new keyboard app HERE, available from the App Store. You can also visit the GingerSoftware site to download the app onto your computer or add the extension to your browser.

26 August 2014

Global Living & Connection

White Sand Beach, Coral Island nr Tioman Island
Since last July, I have had the privilege not only to have lived in Singapore but to have visited Thailand twice - Phuket last summer and Hua Hin for Christmas - Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Qatar and the beautiful Tioman Island in Malaysia three times! In fact, my family and I just spent the last three weeks on Tioman after a very stressful few weeks of job hunting (see Testing Times) and packing up to leave Singapore.

Upon our return from Tioman, we spent a lovely busy four days in Singapore visiting and saying goodbyes to all the wonderful friends we had made, before finally flying out to a new adventure in Qatar, where we arrived two days ago.

In the middle of all this, I have been offered the opportunity to Project Manage one of Julie Lindsay's Flat Connection projects, Global Youth Debate (formerly Eracism). This exciting project joins schools across the globe and provides essential skills of research, collaboration and communication. Debating hot topics asynchronously, teams share resources via Diigo and foster discussion on Edmodo, then battle it out via Voicethread for a place in the final. It provides a chance to use web 2.0 tools to develop a wider global perspective of the planet we all live on; it provides an insight into different cultures and beliefs, and this year's theme is all too relevant - Global Peace and Security.

I am proud to be part of this project. I have the luxury of travelling to, living in and learning about other cultures, but I didn't whilst at school. My children have the same luxury now and, as a result, have an open minded outlook towards people from all cultures. I am aware that not everyone has this opportunity and Global Youth Debate allows learners a connection and insight into peers' lives - without having the expense of travel.

The project is open to all schools and learners aged 10-18. Sign up is open from now through September for debating to commence in October. More information about this year's Global Youth Debate can be found on the website and teachers should read this guide for more information. 

If you think your school would be interested, please contact me+Julie Lindsay or visit the contact page to ask a question. Alternatively, you can email globaldebate@flatconnections.com, or go right ahead and sign up

Follow the project on Twitter @DebateGlobal or Facebook.

Read more about #FlatConnect Global Projects HERE.

13 July 2014

Little Brother - Book Review

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

If ever I read a book that advocates the teaching of code to school kids, this is it!

All teenagers need to read this to think about the implications of technology - about how it helps but more importantly, WHO it helps. It paints a dark portrait of a not-too-distant future in America, where our every move is tracked and analysed. BUT it also shows how those who can get beneath the surface of computers, can change the world.

Computers are not new anymore - but the facade that we see masks what is really going on. Children need to be able to go behind the facade that presents our interface as beautiful and learn to control and manipulate it. The future is not about those who can use a computer because let's face it, two years olds can do that. The future is about children who can get behind the pretty and into the nitty gritty.

Many educators are coming around to this notion and lots of us are introducing basic code into our classrooms (see my post, Future of Fiction), though I read this book after reading an article on how a school in the States had banned it due to its '"lauding" of hacker culture'! What better publicity and what better way to sell a book to a teenage audience than to tell them that it is banned! And that is how I will sell it to my learners next year, when this book goes into my recommended reading pile.