Friday, November 6, 2009

The New Learning Revolution

I'm reading a fascinating book, 'Unlimited - The new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it' by Gordon Dryden & Jeannette Vos.

'All of us, together, are surging through the most profound revolution in human history. Its impact is personal, national, global - and, in many ways, unlimited.
'At its core are seven catalysts, now converging and fusing to change the way we live, work, play, learn, teach and create - at any age.'

The Learning Network's blurb says: "In this book, New Zealand authors Dryden and Vos explore the current direction of learning and challenge our traditional thoughts of intelligence. They cover how to develop your own unique talents, find your personal learning style and give advice on how to embrace a life of learning and creative thinking. Plus they give advice to parents and teachers on how to maximise the learning of children. An excellent book for teachers and parents and those who want to enhance their own learning and understanding."

The book covers the 21st Century trends in teaching and learning across the world. This is a MUST READ for everyone interested in eLearning!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Closer, my dear come closer, with Web 2.0

We worry that IM, texting, Facebook are spoiling human intimacy, but Stefana Broadbent's research shows how communication tech is capable of cultivating deeper relationships, bringing love across barriers like distance and workplace rules.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wonder of eLearning

In the latest Interface magazine, David Warlick says that teachers should focus on information and learning, not on the technology and simply getting ICT into their classrooms.

"The purpose should be creating the new information environment, one that's at the core of our children's 'outside the classroom' experience with technology.  We have to bring digital, networked, abundant, overwhelming information into the classroom."
This article, (together with my studies in EDPROFST 714), has really nudged me to try a new way of teaching.   I've tried Inquiry before, but never with as much success as this time, and in the past I've ended up feeling quite dissatisfied with the whole process.

But, the winds of change are blowing in Room 24!  This term, I decided to take up the challenge, and use technology, together with our school's inquiry model, to let my students manage their own learning.  It has been the easiest few weeks in my teaching career, and the most gratifying.  My class has gone from a structured, disciplined and teacher-led environment, to one in which I am sitting back taking photos of them, for lack of anything else to do, while my students work at their Inquiry topics.  They are surprisingly quiet, and on-task, and need very little support from me, mostly shunning my conservative suggestions for more ambitious ideas.  For example, they want to take a video of themselves explaining a concept against a green screen, and then point at a diagram on a Keynote page.  (Yikes - we'll have to ask an expert!)

Our topic started out being 'States of Matter', but as the students continued the process of asking questions, and wondering, it became, quite simply: Water.  (We were interested in more than just 'states of matter'!)

This is the process we have followed so far:
  • I set the scene by creating a web page in KnowledgeNet with links to websites, videos and online interactive games about Water.  I then set my students free to explore in a very unstructured way.  (For me the letting go was the hardest.  I like structure!)  
  • After that we discussed what they knew already.   But, once the list was made, it covered my whole term's planned teaching!  (No sense in teaching them what they know already!)  Then we made a list of what we wondered.  A very interesting list of questions came up.  
  • When we sorted the questions, we discovered that they fitted into about seven categories.  We decided that we would have seven groups.  Now to decide how to find the answers to our questions. (Social media was their first choice, but we ended up using books and websites mostly).  They decided how to share their findings, and the kids decided on various forms of Digital Books that could be embedded in our class blog.   We made a list of media to use, and came up with some tools that are available on our laptops and are approved in school.  Once we were ready students chose which topic they were interested in, and chose which software to use for publishing their findings.  We also talked about their focus audience, and it became a literacy lesson on Audience and Purpose!
  • After that we started looking for relevant info, adding sticky notes to seven posters with the topic written in the middle, as they came across relevant facts. We did this first as a whole class activity, quite randomly browsing a selection of websites and books.  Later each group focused on their topic only. The next step was for each group to sift and sort the information into at least eight pages.  Once more, Reading comprehension skills, such as Finding the Main Idea, Determining Importance, and Summarising all came into play, in a very natural and unstructured way.
  • Once that was done, students proceeded to write their scripts, using all the terms and jargon they needed, and explaining processes that they would follow.  We spoke a bit about the structure of Explanation writing, but their eyes glazed over after a while, and I left it.  They may as well find out for themselves, that you need a structure!  
  • When everything was ready,  they started gathering media, taking photos and recording video and audio.  At this stage we are synthesizing all of this created material into eBooks. 
The most amazing part of this whole process has been not my student's learning, but MY learning.  I am starting to realize that children respond to media that interests them, want to have fun, and learn better when they are doing and not just listening.  (Duh... didn't Piaget say that centuries ago?)   Even my most hardened ADHD child is on task, producing good material, and reflecting their learning in the material they are producing.  They are all writing, reading, measuring, discussing, thinking, managing self, discovering and solving problems. And all this is happening without much input or support from me.   I'm just watching and learning!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Open source tools for you to use!

I had an email from Adrienne Carlson today, telling me about her informative blog post : 100 Best Open Source Apps for Educators.  Have a look!

Some of the ones I liked were 
  • Penzu, a journalling site with opportunities for online journalling for our students. 
  • WordSift, really handy for visualizing words, especially when teaching reading comprehension strategies.
  • UDL Book Builder - cool tool for creating digital story books.
By the way, she also has an interesting blog post for iPhone enthusiasts, 100 iPhone apps for Academic Types.  This blog is definitely worth adding to your RSS aggregator!  Definitely worth checking out - make sure you have loads of time, though.  Her '100 lists' will keep you busy for a while!  Have fun!


More about ePortfolios

Further to my recent blog post, this video explains the use of ePortfolios very nicely.

Fostering creativity in the classroom

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

This fun picture taken earlier this year when I was shopping in Singapore, was created with photofunia, one of the tools my teenagers are using to create profile pics for Facebook and Bebo.

Sadly, I'm not at uLearn09 this year, but such is the power of technology that I am actually able to follow most of the keynotes, and twitterings about this year's conference in Christchurch.

Yesterday's NZ Herald reported the following:
Californian Gary Stager, an expert in computers in schools for 27 years, has travelled the world spreading the message of what can be achieved if children get proper access to technology in schools. He is disturbed by the "narrow thinking" he has found from the adults in charge.

"I think one of the trends I am seeing globally is an increasing conservatism, not just in educational policy, but a narrowing of the imagination of what kids can actually do with computers," Dr Stager told the Herald, after speaking to the ULearn education conference in Christchurch."
Many schools, including mine, feel the need to control the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classrooms.  They have various reasons, often citing the need to 'support' the use of these tools (which seldom need support), or the cybersafety policy of this school.  At my school I am fortunate that the powers-that-be are openminded to the creative use of new technology, and we are usually allowed to try out new tools that we come across, as long as it is embedded in our planned program.  This is not so for many teachers at other schools.  Even so, schools are doing some pretty amazing and creative stuff.

I have heard - through my Twitter network - that many New Zealand teachers were left feeling pretty disgruntled by Dr Stager's comments.  But, I suspect he may be right.  Yes, we are pretty forward thinking in New Zealand.  Yes, we are blogging and podcasting, and even putting our student's faces on the net in classroom blogs and - very risque - even TV channels.  But are we really unleashing their full potential?

I've been browsing some of my own teenage children's Bebo pages - which I do from time to make sure they are using safe practices - just to see the most amazing creative artifacts that these youngsters are producing.  Video's, fun photo effects, slideshows and audiocasts, are among the few masterpieces I came across.  The irony is that these kids are getting almost no exposure at the Secondary School they attend.

So sad that in the Primary and Intermediate schools we are teaching kids all these wonderful tools, just to let it all fizzle away - except for privately, in the children's own use of social media.

Dr Stager might not be entirely right about Primary School's use of technology in New Zealand, but I'm afraid at Secondary level we are still sadly lacking.  Or are there Secondary Schools out there that disagree?

Monday, October 5, 2009

ePortfolios and eLearning

At our school we have been using ePortfolios for the past two years, using KnowledgeNet.  Using a template, our students keep track of their own learning, upload their projects and reflect on their goals.  Parents can view their child's progress at any time, and teachers give feedback and feedforward as needed on a regular basis.

Although it was initially a bit of hard work to set it all up, and get teachers trained to use KNet, the kids took to it like a duck to water.  In my class I tend to break down tasks, so that we focus on one task at a time.  I then model the steps to take to the whole class using my Smartboard.  After that I ask for confident volunteers to go and try it out on their ePortfolios.  I can have seven students working straight away, as I have 4 standard computers and 3 laptops in my class.  Those seven students support each other, and working according to a detachable name list, they then call the next seven students, and teach them the process.  The new seven students then teach the next seven, and so on.  As I only have 26 kids in my class, the whole process takes about 45 minutes.  I try to align the tasks with whatever lesson I am taking, in other words, if we are uploading evidence that we have reached our Maths goals, it will take place in Maths time.  I supporse there's no need for this, though - it's just my old fashioned way of keeping track of what's happening in my classroom.

I feel very positive about the use of ePortfolios in our school.  Students are learning to metacognitize about their learning.  They can see how they have reached their goals, and they love to see my comments. 

Jamin Lietse has been researching ePortfolios and provides a link to an MoE document 'ePortfolios - celebrating learning' for those that are interested. You can also get this document, and more, from Ian Fox's download page.


Student created quizzes

I have been thinking and reading about how to use technology to improve student's learning, and not just as a teaching tool.

Thinking specifically of Inquiry Learning, here are a list of 12 interactive quizzes that student's can create themselves, to reflect their learning and to test their peers' understanding of their Inquiry findings.

eLearning Research

I found this interesting document via my eLearning Research Network.  Just scroll down to the third comment and click on the pdf download. This document highlights a Framework for eLearning Research, which is well written and summarizes the current thinking of the MoE.

"e_learning Research and Evaluation Framework 08 FINAL.doc, 125 KB"
- areas of research in e-learning - e-Learning Research Network (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Do 21st Century Learners REALLY learn better?

I must admit - I'm feeling decidedly grumpy! I'm not at uLearn 09.  For various reasons I couldn't attend this year, and I have to say - I'm green with envy...   So, I'll pacify myself by immersing in all things technological, in the comfort of my own home, and under my very warm, fluffy, pink blanket!

I've been reading the research done by Kirkpatrick (1998) in which he looks at the correlation between the use of computers in the classroom, and improved student learning. According to this article, computers in classroom make very little impact on our students learning. At the time of the article being written research was inconclusive, and not much progress was being made.  Many further studies done at the time, underscored these findings.

In an article written a year later, Schacter (1999) argues that computer technology is effective as a learning tool, only if paired with appropriate pedagogy and if designed according to different educational theories and principles. He encourages teachers to not just implement computers technologies for the sake of doing so, but to 'endorse and exhibit the learning that we want all children to engage in.'

In the world of computer technology, changes occur with lightning speed. These articles were written a decade ago.  Shortly after these articles, came Web 2.0.  How has this changed these earlier findings?

Larry Ferlazzo, one of my favourite bloggers and Grand Prize Winner of the 2007 International Reading Association Presidential Award for Reading and Technology, explains how his use of ICT in teaching ESOL students changed their learning:  "Students could create online journals, read each other’s entries and comment on them, and, at the same time, learn more about each other.  Students could design their own online English games and tests that other students would take. These activities, in turn, would lead to further face-to-face conversations"

In spite of his successes, he still feels that "Technology has its place, but also has to be kept in its place. Our students need the support, and power, that face-to-face, flesh and blood, relationships bring – not the virtual ones of MySpace “friends.”   Instead of having our students primarily relate to computers by sitting in front of screens and just using well-intentioned learning programs, let’s have them use these computers to relate to peers and help create a community of learners.  This can lead to students teaching, learning from, and supporting each other, as well as challenging themselves."

A recent article, by Hattie (2009) comes to the conclusion that there is no necessary correlation between having computers, using computers and learning outcomes.  In his opinion, there are more instances of teachers using computers for instruction, than students using computers for learning.  He goes on to indicate that the best results are found when there is a diversity of teaching methods being used, teachers are well trained, peer-tutoring is taking place, computer time is being planned to integrate self-managed learning, and feedback is taking place.

And that's why I would have loved to be at uLearn '09! It is such a wonderful opportunity to learn all of these skills, so that computers in our classrooms can be used effectively to increase student learning!  For those lucky delegates that are there: Enjoy every minute and please keep the blogposts and tweets going so that the rest of us can collaborate and learn with you!

Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement (pp. 220-233). London: Routledge.

Schacter, J. and Fagnano, C. (1999). Does computer technology improve student learning and achievement? How, when and under what conditions? Journal of Educational Computing and Research, 20(4).

Kirkpatrick, H. and Cuban, L. (1998). Computers make kids smarter — right? Technos Quarterly for Education and Technology, 7(2)

Image link

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teaching Content through Technology

I have been struggling to consistently integrate ICT into my daily classroom program for the last 3 years.

Now I know what is missing in my classroom practice! According to Mishra & Koehler, 2006 I need a new special kind of expertise: TPACK! (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge.)

"True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator)."
When I first started reading this article, my first thought was: 'Yeah, right. I've got to figure out the new curriculum, get my head around National Standards, meet assessment deadlines, and then still have expert content, pedagogical and technological knowledge.'

So how does this relate to the reality of teaching in my classroom?

Let's take Writing. I may need to teach the text type Recount Writing. First step would be to find out about the text form. I will need to look up resources such as exemplars, matrices and language features for a Recount. (Content). After that I need to decide how I'm going to teach the framework in such a way that my Year 5's will get it, and be able to apply the knowledge. I may use different strategies, like modelling, scaffolding, writing frames, peer-writing or collaborative writing. (Pedagogy). Now I can decide which ICT tool is best suited to meeting my needs. I may decide to let them blog about an event, create a ComicLife recount, or have different options for different ability or interest levels within my class. (Technology)

The paradigm shift has to take place in my head first. I need to get away from the idea there is only one tried and trusted way to teach specific content. And after 22 years of teaching, that is a real challenge. Fortunately the Digital Natives that I teach have no boundaries or pre-determined expectation of how their learning should be presented. To illustrate this point, I will share what happened in my class this week: I needed to have my students give evidence in their ePortfolios of how well they had reached the goal of 'being able to apply a range of word-identification strategies'. We talked about it for a while, and I had them make individual lists of the strategies they were using. They then explained the strategies to each other. The kids got the idea of putting their ideas on a poster. "Fine", said I, "get out the sheets of coloured paper". The horror on their faces! "Why?" they asked. "Why can't we just do it in Glogster?" Why indeed? They could. And they did - every single on of them managed just fine, without any support from me. What's more, they could continue work on their glogs at home, and are commenting on each other's work in a positive way.

This is a prime example of TPACK. I have managed to transfer my knowledge of Word Identification Strategies to my pupils, I have used effective pedagogy to have them self-assess their knowledge, and I have taught them a techology tool which they could effectively use to illustrate their skills.


Reference: Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing Technological Pedagogical Knowledge. In AACTE (Eds.). The Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Educators.Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten Tops Tips for Teaching with NET

"Innovation is the process of altering existing practice in order to achieve more effectively certain desired learning outcomes" (Fullan, 1985). You can read a summary of his book here. Without these three dimensions of change in ICT, these desired outcomes are not likely:
  • Teaching materials
  • Teaching strategies
  • Teaching beliefs

These days we are extremely fortunate in that materials for teaching are readily available online. Our biggest challenge in the classroom is implementing our known strategies in new ways, and adjusting our beliefs to accommodate the new set of skills our 21st Century Learners need.

To help you in your quest to be a 'change agent' the George Lucas Foundation has posted a handy booklet, Ten Top Tips for Teaching with New Media, on it's website. You can download it for free, and it's choc-a-block full of tips for integrating ICT in the classroom:

What's Inside:

  • Break the Digital Ice
  • Find Your Classroom Experts
  • Get Off to a Good Start
  • Think Globally
  • Find What You Need
  • Make Meaning from Word Clouds
  • Work Better, Together
  • Open a Back Channel
  • Make It Visual
  • Use the Buddy System
I've been using some of these strategies and tools in my classroom, and they certainly do make integrating ICT into the daily program much easier. There are also heaps of ideas and websites, that I'm looking forward to trying out!

The next challenge of course, is getting the school to let me try out all these new and exciting disruptive innovations (Clayton, 1995)....!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Digital Generation

Mark Prensky (2001) so aptly describes the new generation of learners as 'Digital Natives'. This video illustrates beautifully just how seemlessly our learners are immersing themselves in the New Educational Technologies.

Read what I had to say about the Digital Native / Digital Immigrant debate in a previous post: I'ld rather be a Digital Pioneer.

Video retrieved from:
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved 9 August 2008 from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cool Tools for Classes!

Kellow (2007) discusses some of the difficulties with using computers for Inquiry learning.  I've found a cool new tool for creating interactive games that could be used successfully in Inquiry Learning. It's called Classtools, and I used it today, both for a reading comprehension task, and for a general knowledge quiz we're getting ready for. Best of all, my kids helped me set it all up in no time at all!

My class has had a very disrupted week, with me being away for two days, and a number of other out of the ordinary activities happening around the school. I wanted a Friday afternoon activity that would be short, but that would have a high level of engagement for all levels. Creating our interactive games certainly did the trick!

You can see the comprehension game on my class blog, Sparkle. It's based on a fun newspaper article that we read this morning, and is loosely based on the comprehension facts we focused on, as well as on some of the vocabulary we learned. It took as long to create as it takes to type in the ten questions and answers!

We are also getting ourselves ready for a New Zealand General Knowledge quizz which is being held schoolwide, and my class have been learning hard! Using the Flashcard Generator tool we've been able to create an interactive game based on the first 10 questions, and on Monday each group will take a section of the rest of the questions, create the games and then embed them onto our class website, which runs on KnowledgeNet. Here's the one we did collaboratively:

(To get the full benefit, you will have to click 'play' in the full screen version. You will have the choice of several games! Go on, have a look!)
Quiz One

There must be loads of other uses for this cool tool, and I'm looking forward to looking at some more of the templates shown. (You can read more about this in the July Interface magazine on p37.)

Kellow, J. M. (2007). Inquiry learning in an ICT-rich environment.
Computers in New Zealand. Schools, 19(1), 24-31

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back to the future with Skype Screen Share!

My class and one of my fellow students, Debbie McSkimming's class, just had the most awesome Skype audioconference! The Year 7 and 8's from her school are studying 'What's New?' and my Year 5's were eager to share the technology we have been using!

Both Debbie and I stayed well in the background, and the whole call was run by the kids. We knew what questions were going to be asked, which was just as well, as we were having sound difficulties.

From my side it was really easy, as I just had to get the kids on the mat, let the office know to do no speaker calls, and plug in my laptop to the Smartboard. I know Debbie had to book a room, and maybe she can tell you herself how her technical setup worked.

I had the new version of Skype downloaded, and it has a great new feature: Screen Sharing. My kids were able to share their projects, like digital animations, digital storybooks, blogs, Glogs and so on, by just sharing our screen. How cool is that!

As a child I remember watching Star Trek and they had all sorts of special communication methods, long before Skype. Remember? Well, beam me up Scotty ... we're in the future!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Learn IT! Teach IT!

I found this super website off Larry Ferlazzo's website of the day blog. (A great resource for ESOL teachers!)

It's called Learn IT - Teach IT, and it has loads of information for teachers to implement Web 2.0 tools into their daily practice. The videos and 'How To's' should be really helpful for use for teachers and for students. Have a look!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Te Reo Maori Week

As many New Zealanders will know, this week is Te Reo Maori week. (Maori is the indigenous language of New Zealand.) Each year at our school we have a school wide Maori lesson for every day during this week. In the past it has been done in various ways, but this year one of our ICT lead teachers, Kerry Tetupu, has used her students to present the lessons in a really inventive way!

Korero Mai

Each day's lesson has been made available in video format on the server. Teachers merely have to drag the day's lesson on to their desktop, and show it using the IWBs or dataprojectors that we have in every class. The whole school participates at the same time.

Our students were able to participate in the Waiata, the lesson itself and the karakia at the end. Words of the song and key vocabulary are included, and the presenters have been really good at creating long enough pauses, so that the students watching can interact, and repeat terms and words. They have even used praise and motivation, to encourage their learners! These video's have been scripted, filmed and edited by the children themselves. Each lesson includes a seperate digital story, in the form of a podcast, that was scripted and created by the students themselves. A competition question is asked at the end of each video, and a daily winner for each year group is announced later in the day by that morning's presenters, using our speaker system.

The videos are currently being uploaded onto a wiki, and I will add a link to it as soon as possible.

Well done to Kerry, and to Room 22. Ka Pai!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Share your links with Sharetabs

For my online university paper on Literacy (EDPROFST 702) I'm looking at ideas to use for teaching phonics to struggling readers. I needed a tool where I can list all the websites I've found. Usually I use my De.lici.ous account, but reading Hey.Milly's blog I got the idea to use Sharetabs.

Here are some interesting games and links that can be used for Phonics. I prepared this list using Sharetabs. I can see this tool being quite useful in class for inquiry or when wanting to focus on a specific skill for a specific group. My tabs are here.

ShareTabs - Share your links as tabs

What other uses can you think of for this tool?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Skype in the classroom

We have been experimenting with using Skype video calls quite a bit in the classroom lately, and I have found it to be such a useful tool.

The added bonus is that I have 100% student participation and focus! I use the interactive whiteboard, with a MacBook with built in webcam for our calls, so all the students can see the video, and can see the participant on our side.

Last year I Skyped my cousin, a quadriplegic,who I had grown up with in Zimbabwe. Until the very end of the conversation the students did not realise that he was physically disabled. We spoke about his childhood and growing up in Africa. He also told them that as a child I had stolen his ice-cream, which delivered roars of laughter, and made it all very real for my students.

Last term we were having a look at World Geography. I contacted my 14 year old nephew in Michigan, and my class were able to ask him questions about the climate, population, schooling and so on. What worked really well, was that we planned the questions before hand, and I forwarded them to him, so that he could prepare answers. Each child had a turn to introduce him/herself and then asked the question assigned to him. We practiced listening and responding to the answers. At the end of the conference some of my boys performed the haka for him, which was a great hit at the other end! I have many other friends all over the world, and if I repeat this unit, I will certainly draw on my contacts to talk to my students about their countries!

This term we are focusing more on health and body issues. Yesterday we had a call to a colleague, Sue Hodge, who is at home with a back injury. She had a discussion with the students about back injuries, possible treatments and prevention. Although we had not prepared questions this time, it went really well, and the student participation was once again excellent.

Success depends very much on good organization. You need to have informed the participant on the other side of your learning intentions, and what type of questions they can expect.Remember to work out the time difference and agree on a suitable time and date! America is particularly tricky, as the time difference can be up to 16 hours! Also make sure that your students are prepared with questions, and understand what procedure is being used. A chat about protocols and ettiquette, and also interview techniques is very important. I like to send a quick chat message about half an hour before our call, just to make sure the participant is standing by, and that connectivity is OK.

I'm looking forward to Skyping more often, and will keep you posted. I would love to hear from anyone else that has used Skype in an interesting way!

I found this interesting post by Vicky Davis (Coolcat Teacher blog) on how she has implemented Skype in her classroom: Skype in the Classroom. She has a great video, so have a look!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Skype to Singapore

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Singapore last week, but it overlapped with an exciting ICT expo hosted by my school. Fortunately Alicia and I had a plan!

The two of us hosted a breakout called 'Skype to Singapore' and delegates were able to set up their Skype account, learn to use text and video functions, and take part in a live audio-conference with me in Singapore and Alicia hosting from Auckland.

We had really good feedback, and delegates were excited about the ability to have first hand real time experience in the use of Skype!

Of course, I breathed a sigh of relief that the hotel's rather unstable wireless kept going for the entire 45 minutes!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photoface from Oddcast

I've been looking for interesting ways to add audiocasts to ePortfolios. I found this cool tool, and have been having fun with it for the last hour or so! It's called Photoface and it's by Oddcast. You can upload a photo or use one of their's and make it younger or older, fatter or thinner, add backgrounds, face art and all sorts of fun elements. You can add audio recordings, or just type in text and use one of the pre-recorded voices in different accents. I chose Tessa with her South African accent!

You can get an embed code, but for some reason I can't get it to work, so here's a link. You can also download or email the image. Fun, isn't it!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Teacher eTalk Wiki

It's not very flash yet, but at last the Teacher eTalk wiki has enough content to let everyone in!

You can access it by clicking on the link in the sidebar. Mostly the wiki is for teaching resources that I need in my Year 5 class. Please feel free to join the wiki, or to add to it if you are already a wikispaces member!

If you have a cool wiki to add, please do so on the Teacher's Wiki page!

My next task will be to add the bling! I have to figure out how, first, so if you have any ideas, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prior Knowledge leads to Making Connections

My classes' recent AsTTle results once more showed that my students' comprehension skills are greatly lacking. Two of the areas which they need to focus on are Finding and Processing Information, and also Making connections.

I found this excellent thought provoking video, in which Professor Daniel Willingham describes why content knowledge is so essential when learning to reading with comprehension, and why teaching reading strategies alone is not sufficient. He makes the point that the more a student knows about the subject content, the better he will score in a reading comprehension test.

As one of the commentors said, 'student's actually have to learn stuff' and not just rely on Google to get their instant knowledge! I think in our quest to move towards 21st Century Learning, we tend to forget that our students still need to know 'stuff' to have better understanding of the world around them! What do other educators think?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Posterize your learning!

One of my favourite tools is Glogster. We are looking at 'Change' as an overall topic this year. To help Set the Scene, I had my students do brainstorms, first by adding their ideas with sticky notes to large pieces of paper with some of the crucial questions they had formulated. I then divided them into groups, and had them sort and clarify the answers, and choose their five favourite responses. Each group then had to work out a way to work as a team to get their posters on Glogster.

Here is the first completed poster:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Extreme Playground Makeover.

Botany Life Church is upgrading our playground. Have a Look!

Monday, March 16, 2009

SOLO taxonomy in practice.

At the beginning of the year the lovely and inspiring Pam Hook from Hooked-on-Thinking fame visited our school, and introduced SOLO taxonomy to us.

I'm always looking for new ways to prepare my students for the inquiry process, for reflecting in their ePortfolios. To me SOLO seemed just the ticket, but I wasn't sure that my Year 5's would actually understand it. As with many other learning areas, they have once again surprised me. Not only do they have a good understanding of the model - they could actually define it, and apply it to their thinking!

Video removed.

I am so impressed by my students! The students in this video have a range of abilities, and some are normally very reticent to answer questions. Strangely enough, they loved talking to the video camera, and seem to find it less threatening than their 'dear old teacher'! What also surprised me is how quietly they sat while each got a chance to explain their thinking. Not one complained of boredom, or became disruptive. Obviously the idea that they could share their learning with the blogosphere was a great motivation for them. Also, there was no 'hands up', and each child got a chance to assess their definitions, write their reflections down, share them with a buddy, and then share them with the camera.

I'm looking forward to using this model over and over again, and can't wait to see how their new skills will reflect in their e-Portfolio reflections.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crazy Professor Reading Game

I've loved Power Teaching since the day I stumbled upon it on Youtube. In Room 24 I have some rather rambunctious pupils, and Power Teaching is my saving grace. The kids love it, it keeps me sane, and the classroom management is a breeze.

This year I have a class with very low Reading comprehension skills, so I gave the 'Crazy Professor Reading Game' a go.

The results are not yet clear, but I certainly have students who are usually very reticent readers very excited about reading now!

Watch Room 24 enjoying the Crazy Professor Reading Game:

Video removed.

For more info on Power Teaching, see my earlier post, or go to the website where there are heaps
of free downloads, resources and videos.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Collaborate...or not?

The thing I love most about ICT conferences, is the ability to share, create new context and collaborate. During a given session I will twitter to my friends about what I'm learning, share my notes on Google Docs, look up websites and paste links, and all the while participate effectively in the Breakout. As I'm a tactile learner, this is the way I process, think and reconstruct ideas.

Sitting in my second breakout at Learning@school, I found myself next to a colleague from a different school. In the spirit of 21st Century Learners we decided to collaborate and share our notes using Google Docs. The presenter had asked us all to move the furniture into a kind of horseshoe shape, which had me inadvertently shifted to the back of the room. He then proceeded to instruct us that he wanted 100% eye contact. A bit tricky now that I was sitting at the back of the room, with my back to him. 'Well', I thought, 'I better get myself organized quickly, before he starts'. He sidled over at this point and in a friendly manner asked whether there was anything wrong with my computer. I assured him that I was fine, just getting myself organized. Gee, was I surprised when he pounced on my colleague and I a few moments later. (We had been quietly setting up a shared Google Docs document to take our notes.) We were told that we were annoying him, and that he wanted 100% participation. I was last so chastised by my Principle in Standard 5.

Needless to say, I was a bit switched off for the rest of the (double) presentation.

Moral of the story: Choose when to collaborate!

What do you think? Should we have boundaries to our collaboration, and if so, what are the boundaries?

PS: If anyone wants to share my notes on Google Docs, let me know!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Class TV Channel made easy!

For a while now I've been researching a way to have a class TV channel, on which we can add video's, images and news items.

I've been on various workshops to schools like Point England and others that have their own TV channel. (You can find more on the NZ Learning Channel.) I've also learnt to use Mogulus, which I find quite hard to get my head around. At last I've found something which is easy, quick and most of all practical to use in class with Year 5 students: WorldTV!

Here's a look at how I'll be welcoming my class on the first day, using our brand-new class channel, SparkleTV:

It's still under construction, but it gives you an idea of what can be done! I'm still trying to figure out how to convert the Keynote that I used for the intro, in such a way that it retains the audio. If anyone knows how to do that, please let me know!