Archive for the ‘Online Learning’ Category

For me, the gift of blogging is providing myself with a vehicle to ‘think’ about issues and formalizing my own thoughts on different topics.  Some thoughts sit with me for a very long time before I get around to exploring them further by teasing them out in writing.

I’ve touched on this one many times over the life of this blog.  It’s always under the guise of encouraging lifelong learning.  My thoughts are many and varied – just use the keywords ‘lifelong learning’ to search NovaNews to find my thoughts and ideas.

I aspire to lifelong learning myself and fervently hope that all those of us in the teaching game also reach out to constantly challenge themselves with new thoughts and new ideas and to discover and savour the joy of lifelong learning.

At the end of it all though, is our stated aim to inspire the students in our schools to become lifelong learners so that they are able to set their own challenges and be lead along a path which may quench their thirst for learning.

Some time ago, I came across this fabulous infographic created by Mia MacMeekin. Just now I’ve been re-visiting it, thinking about the keywords used and the thought bubbles created under each.  This infographic, I realize,  encapsulates so many of the thoughts and words that I’ve been sharing here on NovaNews or spoken about to colleagues over a cuppa or presented at conferences or meetings.


How great it would be to inspire our students with the many thoughts included in this infographic.   Indeed how great it would be to inspire educators to get on board and modify some of their daily routines by considering and adopting some of these thoughts.

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Reading an article recently about a program which aims to combat racism, discrimination and cyberbullying,  I jumped online to check it out.

Developed by the Anti-Defamation Commission, Click Against Hate (CAH) is a relatively recent addition to the many programs already operating in our schools which aim to tackle, head on, frightening statistics such as those highlighted in one ABC News report:

From YouTube vid - Click against hate

Through interactive, hands on sessions, facilitators of the program encourage students to assertively stand up to all forms of bullying, hate and discrimination.  Fostering confidence to report all forms of abuse, racism and bullying, students are empowered to be proactive, responsible users of the Internet while learning the mindset of those who perpetrate such hate.

This educational program focuses on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school climate by addressing issues of bias, bullying and prejudice reduction at its roots and provides the tools to deal with this ugly phenomenon.  The program also focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students.  CAH has been designed as an interactive and innovative program giving students current information that empowers them to deal with these situations showing them what the power of words can do.  (Anti-Defamation Commission)

In addition to the more lengthy video produced and posted on the website of the Anti-Defamation Commission, my online research located two short news broadcasts about the program which are well worth a look.  The first was published August 13, 2015 on ABC News while the second was aired on SBS World News more recently on May 18, 2016.


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I very rarely look at the stats of my blog.  Quite honestly, I’ve better things to do.

But the other day, I was poking around on the NovaNews dashboard looking for something and came across an incredibly high number of hits for a post I wrote back in late 2012:  Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers.

I was amazed to see that in just the first three months of this year – 2016 – there have been a total of 962 hits on this post, a figure which equates to 43% of the total number of hits on the same blog post last year.

Learning to learn - 10 essential skills for teachers!

So I’ve been sitting here for a while puzzling over why this post should be generating so much interest.

Perhaps my post may be garnering some attention via Twitter, but a check of recent stats on my WordPress analytics suggests not.  Most of the ‘referrers’ to this blog post are in fact coming from search engines which suggests

that many ‘out there’ must be searching for ways to improve their own teaching skills and that is the really interesting finding in all of this!

Inadvertently, it seems, I’ve discovered that my thoughts are being read far more widely than I’d previously thought.

Ah, I say with a smile on my face:  the power of blogging!

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It’s hard to believe that Pindex hasn’t been developed before now because when you stop and think about it, the idea has almost always been out there.

Launched just a month ago, its premise is simple and its design is very appealing.  Its four person team aims to curate educational videos and infographics for teachers and students.

In short it’s a pinboard for learning or looking at it another way …..  a Pinterest for Educators.

More information can be extracted from the Pindex website:

Pindex is a pinboard to collect and discover the best educational material. It’s not just for teachers and students. Anyone can create boards to share their passion and enjoy the adventure of learning.

Take a look at this video which gives a glimpse of what’s available on Pindex

or explore a guide to Pindex to figure out how best this new resource can be used in your school or shared as a resource through your library.

Be quick to request an invite.  I’m anxiously awaiting mine so that I can have a more in depth peek at this fabulous new resource!

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Whether participating as a reader or a writer of blogs, engagement with the Blogoshphere provides an opportunity to learn, explore and discover the knowledge, opinions and thoughts of others.  It is an exciting and vibrant world which invites readers and writers to freely express and explore an enormous range of topics.

Having the opportunity to tease out the various aspects of blogging – how to blog and what can be gained from blogging – is an opportunity that was extended to me by the Australian publication Education Technology Solutions and is the fifth and final article in a series about lifelong learning which I have written for this magazine over the last twelve months.

Aiming to provide concrete suggestions for the novice blogger to help get started as well as providing thoughts and ideas of the benefits to be gained by engaging in the Blogosphere. Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!  has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 69, December/January 2016.

ABSTRACT: Blogging is a powerful way to determine our own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the Blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.

Also published on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!

pic-1By Bev Novak.

Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.

Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.

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Last week I focused on my own foray with online reading and reflected on the massive changes that have unconsciously and slowly crept into my online reading routines.  My reflection on this prompted the realization that we really need to tease out skills involved in online reading so that we can be sure we are helping our students master these necessary skills.

Debunking the assumption that students in our schools instinctively know how to successfully engage with online reading is essential at the outset.

Being tech savvy, which many of our students are, does not mean they know how to successfully extract information from the wide diversity of websites they are likely to encounter in our increasingly online world.  Like all aspects of education, skills need to be taught and learned.  Remember those left right eye coordination activities given to young pre-school aged children?  Perhaps it’s time to develop similar activities that incorporate skills pertinent to online reading and establish for this young age group a set of foundation skills which will see them better engage with our online world.

As students progress through our schools though, cross curricula kinds of activities should become part and parcel of various classroom experiences:

  • Exposure: Constant and regular exposure to a wide range of online reading sources is important to enable students to develop familiarity.  If online reading activities focus more on one kind at the expense of another, they will not develop necessary skills.  Expose students to online reading for pleasure, interest and information which can be found in short stories, newspaper articles and Wikipedia posts.  Ensure that online reading incorporates a range of media such as text, graphics, pictures, video and audio such as that found in blogs, magazines, encyclopaedias and newspapers.
  • Format: Rather than assuming students have an innate understanding of how to ‘read’ various online sources, discuss and highlight techniques which can be applied to different kinds of pages as well as aspects included wtihin them:
    • learn to see the gestalt of a webpage so as to instinctively know how to tackle reading it
    • explore what is incorporated in header and footers of webpages
    • size up a webpage so as to determine skills needed: one column requires top down scanning; many columns requires side to side scanning while moving from top to bottom;
    • scan web page headings and the first sentence of paragraphs to give an indication of content
    • focus on the entire website content before succumbing to the urge to check out embedded links
  • Expectation: Increased familiarity with a range of different online websites will enable students to predict what they may expect to find.  This expectation will, in turn, give them cues on how to approach reading the website.  In other words, the more we talk about what is being read, or having students discuss it with each other, the more ‘approach’ skills they will develop. By exploring embedded links in a structured way, students can develop a sense of when it may be of value to wander away from the reading at hand and what they can gain from this diversion.
  • Notetaking: Learning how to use various apps and programs to take notes while reading will enrich the online reading experience.  Along the way, valuable lessons can be learned in how to gather information, record sources and compile bibliographic information which may be needed if the information is to be shared.
  • Focus: Much as we encourage students to pick up a novel or magazine and read for an extended period of time, so too should we require them to read online for an extended period of time.   Those wonderful programs such as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) can easily be moved to online reading.
  • Writing:  Today there are a plethora of online tools which allow the novice to write and create websites of their own.  Learning the ‘back end’ of how a website is created or a blog written is a very effective way of learning to read online!   The mantra I constantly tell my students rings very true:  “The more you read, the more you write.”  Flipping this mantra to say “The more you write, the more you read” also holds true!

Increased expectation and improved navigation will ensure improved engagement with text.  Enabling students to successfully engage with online reading is a path to increasing the amount of online reading they choose to do rather than being required to do.

Somewhere in this amazing process, a spark may well be lit that will encourage independent online learning that may inspire a voracious hunger and thirst to learn!

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Coming across a blog post a couple of weeks ago which said we’re not reading much online today, threw me a bit.  Why?

Because I’m a convert!

I knew that my habits had changed the day I searched for the online copy of an article from a hard copy magazine to which I subscribe.   I had the hard copy magazine article open on the side of my desk.  After locating the online copy, I realized just a few minutes later I was totally engrossed – online!  I actually recollect that moment, because I stopped reading and took notice of the shift that had overcome me.  That was over two years ago.

While I have no recollection of consciously or unconsciously acting on my preference for online reading, it is clear that I have indeed made the shift.  Somehow or other I have taken control of what was a shocking case of ‘wandering eyes syndrome’ in which I could feel my eyes darting around a web page having no structured approach and seeing no logical path to apply to my frequent foray into the world of online reading!

I recollect becoming exhausted and slightly frustrated trying to engage with online reading. So, what happened?  What changed?

I wish I’d taken more notice along the way, because now, when confronted with articles such as this one: How much are people reading online? which states quite emphatically that not many of us are reading online, I feel at a loss to proffer an alternate view.

What I do know though, is that now, I can, given the time, spend quite a few hours a day reading online and I do most certainly prefer reading magazines, which in their standard print version, can be several pages long.

But …..

….. my infatuation with online reading still does not encompass reading novels.   Nup.  I haven’t as yet given up on hard copy books.   While I have read a few eBooks – from proverbial cover to cover – my preference remains, as evidenced by the huge pile of books on numerous bookshelves and tables at both home and work, for the good old hard copy novel.

So what is it that has seen the transformation to my preference for online reading of magazine and newspaper articles along with various interest based articles?

  • Increased familiarity: As the years have tumbled by, I guess it is clear that my familiarity with the layout of online reading materials has increased.  While blogs differ dramatically from each other, the format of them are all quite similar.  The same goes for online magazines and newspapers where the format of many are quite similar.  The header and footer of most blogs, online magazines and newspapers seem to conform to similar ‘layout rules’.  Either that, or I have become conditioned to what they have to offer and how to search within for information.  The same applies to websites.  While there are huge differences between websites, I’ve learned, or become increasingly familiar, with their layout.
  • Ease of use: With familiarity, I’ve developed a set of expectations on how to use various formats that present themselves to me.  I’ve come to expect and appreciate the embedded definitions and explanations that regularly appear on websites. No longer do I feel that I’ve lost my train of concentration as I wander off on the random paths of discovery on which these embedded links lead me.  In fact, I’m often conscious of how incredibly engrossed I become as I traverse my journey of discovery – especially when I glance at the clock and realize that an hour or more has zipped past.
  • Interaction: Navigating online articles and posts provides a way of engaging with text which is unparalleled when reading hard copy text.  As one of those diehard ‘pencil in hand while reading’ people, I must say that online reading has liberated me quite dramatically!  Over the last ten plus years, I’ve become a paperless reader, who regularly notetakes digitally.  Online reading totally lends itself to this routine.
  • Engagement: Part of my increased familiarity and ease with online reading must be due to my increased habit of online writing.  As a blogger, I regularly engage with the kind of material I write.  Without realizing it, I’ve become living proof of the mantra I constantly share with my students:  “The more you read, the more you write”.
  • Purpose: Reading for interest or reading for information are two very different purposes of online reading.  Reading for interest implies an increased engagement with the text, whereas reading for information implies that a rigorous search in underway.  While I’m conscious that my eye movements for an information search differ to my regulated controlled reading of text, skimming is an integral part of the reading process.  Learning to skim in a methodical way when engaging with online material is as important as learning to skim hard copy material.   I’ve found that my skimming of online material has improved over time.  Rather than being aware of my eyes darting all over the website, nowadays I’m conscious of skimming from top to bottom over headings, first sentences of paragraphs, bolded words and links which break up the website as well as skimming in a more controlled way across columns and other varied, unordered features which present in many websites.

So ….. should we be teaching our students strategies to increase their ability to engage better with online reading?


I’ll save my thoughts and suggestions for next week though!

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