Yesterday I introduced my 8th graders to Dipity in Social Studies. We have been working on WW2 and I wanted them to produce a timeline in Dipity where they were to include video clips, texts and photos. They had ten topics to choose from ranging from Nazi-Soviet Pact to Battle of Dunkirk. We had a double lesson and eager to get started we kicked off in the computer room.

DipityDipity is a great tool, but slightly confusing in the beginning and Flash-based. Two challenges that created trouble for me and my class. I had posted the task on the class blog with instructions and my very own Dipity presentation Road to War.

Out of 15 students only 3 students managed to set up an account with Dipity, read the blog entry on the class blog and get started on their Dipity presentation. The rest had either problems with getting the Dipity site to run properly with its Flash features or to understand the task itself. One student wondered if she could sit down and write a straightforward essay in her notebook instead.

What did I learn from this experience?

1. Clear instructions and particularly focus on main objective. What is the purpose of using this utility?

2. Make sure we have a network that can handle several students on the same webpage. (As of now certain websites act sluggish when more than 5 students work on the same page – Google Docs is a notable exception.

The students are getting fairly used to use online resources such as Web 2.0 tools like Google Docs, Blogger and others, but found Dipity somewhat confusing. I still believe that is partly my fault. I could have been more clear on objective and purpose as well as the introduction of Dipity itself.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to try these things out with my students and use the feedback I get from them in terms of what works and what does not works that well. It wasn’t a total disaster, but it was a frustrating experience seeing that my lessons did not go according to plan.


There has been an explosion of Twitter users the past six months or so, which is interesting. There’s talk of the next big thing, how it is taking over for Facebook and changing the social interaction online and communication. I have used Twitter myself now for three years or so and in the beginning it was a community of three in my sphere and we kept each other updated on trivial details of our lives.

Using Twhirl from my desktop to update.

Using Twhirl from my desktop to update.

It became really useful when I set up a blog for a particular journey in the Caucasus and wanted to add a more realtime update to it other than the weekly blog entry. I embedded my tweets and my blog “came alive” with answers to the ubiquitous question “What are you doing now?” from the road.

Twitter really becomes more valuable the more interesting people you follow. I follow teachers and educators, but also journalists and musicians as well as people within the tech-industry and a nice selection of friends. Arne Krokan coined “thin tweets” and “thick tweets”, which I thought was interesting. It is actually more interesting to answer the Why? than What? in many instances. I particularly enjoy using Tweetsville for finding interesting resources and links, and hopefully share some of my own discoveries.

Twitter is constantly working on improving the expanding population of tweeters.

Twitter is constantly working on improving the expanding population of tweeters.

Surfing and reading up on edublogs across the net I realize that teachers have tried to use Twitter in their teaching, and I am intrigued by it. Nevertheless, I cannot quite see how it can be implemented in my class of ninegraders. I am familiar with Twitter Parties and Events like displayed in the screencast beneath, but I am not sure if I want to pursue it myself in my lessons.

What is true though is that I really benefit personally from the fantastic source of information, knowledge and competence which exists out there in Tweetsville. I have tried to convince others, but many shrug their head and don’t quite see the beauty of it. Personally I find that Facebook has become a dusty old interactive yearbook, whilst Twitter has taken a leap forward and keeps growing in importance to my online life.

Keep tweeting.

Useful guides for meaningful tweeting:
Art of the Tweet
Twitter is Messy

My Twitter name: mortenoddvik

Screenshots from

Screenshots from

This term my colleagues and me have tried out Engrade – an online assessment tool for teachers and educators to file and document grades. As we do not use any digital learning platform as of yet, which I regret, we are as the middle school branch trying out other ways to compile, collect and synchronize our assessment in a more useful and effective manner as well as keeping an easier way to file and search for past records.

Engrade has several features and one of them is to create student accounts and thereby create transparency for students and parents. We have not enabled this feature, and it won’t happen anytime soon before we know more about Engrade in use.

I find that transparency is important, but it should take place in a one-to-one situation and not in a format like Engrade. I do however find Engrade very helpful to stay organised in my grading as I teach several classes in several subjects. I have tried to find other alternatives, but haven’t found any as good as Engrade.

What I find to be one of the biggest challenges as a class teacher is constant reporting, documentation and grading of academic progress and personal developement. It’s very important, but often the systems in place are cumbersome and ineffective. There’s a lot of paper, printing and filing.

The great advantage of a site service like Engrade is to have an all-accessible (encrypted, login-based) place online to keep all your assignments, grades and comments. The built-in formulas for calculating grades are precise mathematically, but one should not leave out the human assessment factor such as behavior, personal progress, efforts etc. When I set my term grades I combine the features of Engrade with my own assessment.

See demo here.

In the recent week I have had the pleasure of taking part  in a social network for Norwegian teachers and educators called del&bruk. Formed by Ingunn and other entrepeneurs it has seen a mushrooming of new members by the day. One of the main issues predominant in discussions are the fear of sharing. The idea is to share your ideas on implementing ICT in your lessons and hopefully find useful ideas that others have posted. I have to admit that I haven’t been good at sharing specific lesson plans yet, but I am however engaged in discussions regarding past or ongoing projects in my own work. This network has given me an ample opportunity to share concerns and enthusiasm about my efforts to implement ICT in my lessons.
Top View
An interesting article at Betchablog addresses the issue with The New Digital Divide and points out the sad fact that the ones who usually find themselves in networks like del&bruk are already into the whole Web 2.0 community and are active in an array of networks from Flickr to Twitter and bookmark using and attend courses in Second Life. There is a distinction between the “will’s” and “will-nots”, and the latter have many excuses why they don’t want to take the plunge. Where does the responsibility lie?

The sole responsibility relies on the individual teacher and his/her willingness to try out new digital applications and technologies in the classroom. This is the case in most schools in Norway and beyond I dare say. Personally I do feel overwhelmed myself with all the possibilities and having actually taken the plunge myself with a trusted colleague we’ve now started blogging, making digital stories and films, producing music and taking advantage of Quizlet in language classes, Tutpup in Maths and Dipity in Social Studies. It does create a lot of extra work, but the experiences we make are valuable lessons to us as teachers and it is very rewarding discussing them with others attempting to do the same in communities like del&bruk.

Life itself is in fact lived in beta, and the most important thing is to take the plunge and try new things. Teachers are often being accused of being conservative, but del&bruk is yet another example of how we do take responsibility and try to change the status of the classroom and bring us into the 21st century. It will be interesting to see how things develop and I hope I will continue to share and participate fervently.

My avatar Pip hanging outside of Diginalet.

My avatar Pip hanging outside of Diginalet.

Me outside Diginalet.

Me outside Diginalet.

Last night I signed up for an avatar in Second Life again. I recall having previous experience with it, but after the novelty of virtual flying wore off I did not quite see the value of it. After a tip from Arne Krokan I joined delogbruk this week, a great initiative by Ingunn, where teachers in Norway with interest and competence within ICT aim to share and use their experiences with digital literacy and tools in the classroom.

One of the users on the forum invited all interested to join SL for a dryrun and explore the opportunities within a virtual environment. I signed up and teleported myself to Diginaletdet digitale pennalet – on a pretty island. I, well more accurately, my avatar, found himself in a office environment, inside a building with desks and conference facilities. I met Rammen, another person from delogbruk, and then later Kita – who first invited teachers to come here. I had a nice chat with both of them about the the history of the place and, possibilities and the ideas they had for this place. I also got to know them a bit better.

Emotionally it was fascinating as I experienced many of the similar feelings I would have when meeting new people (albeit it would take some decades before I’ll get to meet them midair flying). I was a bit apprehensive and nervous as well as skeptical – not unlike a conference situation where you do not know anybody. I started the conversation in English – the universal language of the net, and trying to figure out the social code of the place. E.g. Should one fly down to the ground to talk or is it okay to hang up among the clouds and talk standing hanging with ones’ back to each other? What social code exists in a virtual environment like SL?

I have tried to read up a bit on Second Life and in this article – Second Life Improves Real-Life Skills – in Science Daily, I find it particularly interesting how one still needs the social skills to interact with others. But social disabilities such as fear and shyness might stop the person to interact with others in real life. It’s a fine balance here of course, but as the interviews resarcher Ms Grant points out:

“There are not many places we go in the world where we are guaranteed social contact, in real life it is harder and less likely that you will go up to a stranger and start a conversation,” said Ms Grant.

Since the SL experience I have been thinking about how it would be feasable and useful to use SL with students. Topics like identity, culture and communication comes to mind. First though I look forward to participate in discussions in SL with other people in Diginalet – learn and share – and then see where it will lead us.

The Norwegian daily Aftenposten writes that the Norwegian school is catching up on the digital revolution. Exemplified by VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) like It’s Learning and Fronter (along with minor platforms (in Norway) such as Moodle, PedIT and Microsoft Learning Gateway) teachers, students and parents alike can keep up to date on assignments, projects, events, grades and feedback. Still, VLEs are mostly common in high schools and middle schools. In elementary schools communication still finds its way home to parents through the students’ backpacks.

When I taught at Horten VGS a couple of years back we used It’s Learning in a very easy and meaningful fashion. Assigments were turned in, corrected and returned within the digital learning environment. Communication with students was supplemented with the digital arena where other information like upcoming tests, teaching material, my lecture notes (available for downloading) as well as attendance records for students were available.

Now I teach at a small private school and we do not use any VLEs, but maybe in the future? I have previously blogged using blog as a teaching tool for the students and the teacher’s communication through Yahoo Groups. We’re still adapting as a team to find the best way to keep up to date on information, and personally I find that Yahoo Groups suffice, but it would be beneficial for our future students and teachers to facilitate a VLE in our working environment.

However, it does not eliminate the need for human interaction in the classroom or staff room of course, but helps with the workflow for students and teachers as well as giving the school a digital fundament for communication in a thriving learning environment.

Net safety, netiquette, online safety, websmartness etc. It has many names, but they all attempt to describe one thing: rules to go by when navigating the information highway (an ancient pre-2000 description of the internet..?). As I work in a school and work with kids a striking reality hits me when asked questions from the kids like: “Did you have a radio when you were young?” or “Is it true that you didn’t have a mobile phone when you were at school?”

This generation grew up with the web around them, most of their parents didn’t. Most of their parents use the web to check the tabloids, real estate prices and perhaps book a plane ticket, while a selected few use the web in a more extensive way, either through work or by personal interest.

This week we invited all parents to come to a information meeting on net safety run by Redd Barna, a Norwegian interest group working for children’s rights. The meeting would address the concerns regarding children and net use as well as help the parents to gain a larger understanding of what their kids do online.

Out of 400 parents 8 showed up.

This is part of the problem. Generally parents tend to think they have control over what their kids do online. Kids and their parents have rules they say. Truth is that rules made by children and grown-ups together might not apply when peer pressure and friends’ loyalty becomes more important. A great responsibility lies with both the school and with the parents. We have to acknowledge that children grow up with an unparalleled parallel world, sort of speak, to the physical one, namely the digital world. And as one parent put it:

“When I send my kids out to play I worry. I worry about wether they’ll fall on the ice, wether they get run over by a car, get kidnapped, raped or if they get in a fight with friends or if they have had enough to eat. But I cannot worry about all these things, I have to pick my worries and prioritize them. Accordingly I feel good about sending them out because they get fresh air, they socialize and learn new things about the world.”

The same thing could be said about children online. They play online games, they chat, they post pictures and videos and they do schoolwork. All of these activities have positive effects for the child’s upbringing. Nevertheless, there are many dangers, as there are in the physical world. What we as parents and teachers need to do is to acknowledge our responsibility and dare to be advisors to our kids. We have to get engaged in our children’s activities. It should become innate to ask our children over dinner how things went online today in the same way as we ask about their school day and their training.

We have to get engaged in order to see the dangers, but also the immense possibilities. We have to teach them that all actions have consequences, as they do in the physical world. Furthermore, we have to walk the walk and not only talk the talk. If we post pictures of friends and foes on Facebook without permission then we cannot expect our children to not do the same.

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