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.

6 June 2014

Testing Times

The end of term is always fraught, but we just received news that our new positions have fallen through. This is stressful to say the least; not having a place to live, move to, job, school for my kids - it's hard. However, I am hoping that, and believing in, the adage that everything happens for a reason. I am also hoping for some good news and something positive to come out of this incredibly difficult twelve months.

As if to foreshadow this, on the same say I receive this devastating news, I am also nominated for teacher of the month. Is this the edge of a silver lining? It smacked of irony - but at the same time, did help a little.

22 March 2014

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break

Year 8 have been working on a unit about customs and traditions around the world.
Final Preparations on the Exhibition
The unit stems from the novel Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka, set in China in 1911, about a young girl who fights the tradition of foot binding.

In addition to reading and talking about the issues raised in the novel, learners have also worked collaboratively to research customs and traditions of a country of their own choosing. In teams, they decided on a country and set off to find out about it in order to produce an exhibition at the end.

The unit has covered essential information literacy skills as learners explored strategies about how to search for information, as well as how to evaluate the information they found. They also explored how they best take notes, and how to use and reference the information they find.

In order to present their information clearly, learners also looked at how to use presentational devices such as headings, sub-headings, labels, diagrams, bold and bullet points to guide their readers to relevant information. They analysed some non-fiction and focused on how the visual layout can help you understand a text and locate specific detail. Using these skills, learners went on to develop a display using their research and non-fiction knowledge.

Each group had to fill one display board and include:

- a title
- a clearly labelled map
- one piece of non-fiction, informative writing per person with references
- at least six images with caption and references
- one relevant physical object

The exhibition has been set up in the reception and will remain for a fews weeks to be shared with the school community.

See the full unit at bit.ly/nisstiesthatbind.