Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Too busy to blog

It has been a long time since I have blogged on here. I have been working with lots of people and some of the work has been consolidating what we started and can be read on previous posts. Lately my visits have become different. The teachers I am working with are beginning our one-on-one sessions. Before I have even opened my laptop they are talking about what they have done and can I fix this problem or saying "I have a list for you..."Teachers are really directing the sessions.

There is some really fantastic and innovative thinking and work happening. I am really looking forward to the mini-conference where people will present their action research and show their work from this year. Dave and I worried that we would have to beg people to present at the mini-conference, we might need to do a bit of pleading but plenty of teachers have contact us immediately and are happy to present which is encouraging.

One thing that is very noticeable, when I have asked people to share at the conference, is their first reaction- that their work is not as good as others and it probably would be of no interest to anyone else. I think this is just a natural reaction. I have been challenging people to see that everyone has completed a different project and have approached it in unique ways. That is of interest to people. Some people have had amazing growth and change over the year but feel that as they started as one teacher described "as a blank canvas" they can not do all of the whizzy things that others can do.

I think that it is very important for these people to present. For two reasons:
They are fantastic reminders of the change that has happened, and change is sometimes so gradual we do not notice it ourselves or in others.
And it is important that everyone in our cluster sees themselves in some of the presenters.

One of the teachers I spoke with last week felt that technology did not come naturally to her and it has been such a frustrating, but in the end rewarding, process. She thought her work was perhaps not a very good example of action research because she hated it so much to begin with and she probably did it wrong. I think her voice is the most valuable for people that felt the same. We had a fantastic conversation about learning and challenge and getting the right balance between the two. She explained how she avoided difficult things at the beginning of her ICT journey because she was worried that things might go wrong. Now she looks for things she can't do and is confident that she will be able to work them out eventually.

She was so pleased with the outcomes of her action research and all that she had learnt from it. Until we looked through the results and had this discussion she said she would have said the process was largely a waste of time. It wasn't until it was finished and she could see the whole thing come together and reflect on it, she realised what she had achieved.

I think the best is yet to come for her. She has largely been working away on this without many people realising what she has been doing. If she does present at the mini conference I think the feedback she gets from other teachers will take her thinking to another level.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Erika's maths wiki

Erika has started a wiki with Dave. She has been uploading videos of her students demonstrating number strategies to share with parents what the students are learning at school and help parents understand the focus on strategies rather than knowing the answer.

We added some games to the website which complemented the strategies Erika's students were demonstrating and explaining. She has only just started to add these as it is a lot of work for her five year olds. One of the senior classes is also developing a wiki of mathematic strategies, so hopefully some older children will be able to help Erika out with the videoing. We talked about perhaps setting her resource room up as a little recording studio and having a 'recording in process' sign on the door. It's hard to find a quite time to record with very young children, there is no such thing as silent reading.

Clemency is ready to Podcast

Clemency has been using her blog to keep in touch with her class while she was overseas recently. Now that she is back she is ready to get the class blogging. When I visited last she was considering podcasting. She thought using audio blogging might be more engaging for the children and make it easier for them to report the class news without having to worry about the writing of their message as much as the message itself.

I said I would send a few examples from our cluster and of other schools podcasts. Clemency wants to have a class jingle at the beginning of each class news report. She is going to experiment with Garageband on her mac and during my next visit we will go through the process of uploading audio to her blog with podbean.

This is Petra's class blog and podcasts from George Street Normal School. You have to scroll down a little past all of the other exciting things they have been doing.

Click here to go to the cluster wiki's resource page on podcasting.
Point England School are serious podcasters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stacy is online

Stacy at Outram has been using a word document with some games hyperlinked to it to help her class navigate the web during reading time.

Last time I visited she didn't feel ready to undertake a wiki so thought she could learn to hyperlink in a document and understand this process and get this up and running in the class, sorting out the practical classroom problems and then going on to a wiki later. So she has a wiki and I think a lot more confidence in her knowledge and ability using technology.

She has been having some difficulty with some websites. She has been using them to reinforce phonics and spelling type teaching in her class and many of the games audio has been recorded with accents that change the vowel sound. We found a few more sites that she could use.
We also talked about the students using the digital camera to collect picture of objects which represent a target sound and displaying these in Comic Life projects on the wiki. I have sent her some examples of this on Margie (GSNS) and St Leonard's Junior wikis.

I am hoping to get back to help Stacy transfer her links from her document to her wikispace and putting some pictures into her wiki to represent her links and make her wiki look flash.
The main benefit of a wiki over a document is that it is portable, anywhere you have the internet you just put in the wiki address and up pops your wiki, at home, at the library, on school trips, holidays, snow days, any classroom. This is the really advantage that Stacy will now have.

Managing a wiki once you've made it.

Lynda has made her maths wiki during one of her CRT days. It was all finished, we just added a few touches. Making sure that the children had pictures they could click on to represent their maths groups, as many of Lynda's NE class members are beginning readers.

We also put some picture of her class during mathematics time on the wiki to personalise it. Then we went over to Lynda's class and made her classroom computers homepage the class wiki, and put some links in the toolbar of the internet browser of her classroom computer so that the children could get straight back to their wiki if they get stuck in a game or a bit lost online.

We also looked at the resources that Lynda could use that you can download from the cluster wiki to support managing you computers in the classroom. There are posters and help signs etc made up, these will save Lynda having to dream and type these up. There are lots of tips on this page for managing computers in the classroom to make you life easier and the classroom a little quieter.

Moving forward with a wiki.

Kerry and Janferie have put their action research projects together which is very sensible since they share the same classroom.

We went over some of their questions and reviewed a few things that they say they were not ready for last time. This is a very important point when trying new things, you need to be ready to take them on. That is why frequent efforts to do things rather than putting in great chunks of time tend to work better when you are doing something new.

Just like anything learning to build a great class wiki takes time and you do go through a period when things feel more annoying than worthwhile, but the more you preserver the easier it does become. While we were focusing on all of the next things they want to do, it is also a great time to celebrate what they have achieved since my last visit. I hope they had time afterwards to think about that. They could go back and read my last blog post about them.

One thing Janferie and I discussed was concepts. She explained that it is important for her to understand what she is doing and I totally agree. If you get the concepts behind what you are doing, trying to do, you tend not to need to know every little step. If you have the big picture most of the steps just make sense, they become obvious or common sense. With a bit of deduction and trial and error you can usually work out what to do. And of course frequent practice makes perfect. Janferie said last time I visited they weren't ready- now they are and I can't wait to see what they end up with.

Planning and filming video to teach Number Strategies

Sarah at Outram School has been working with the students in her class to develop a video library demonstrating number strategies to each other.
Sarah has been getting the students to learn a new strategy and then plan an instructional or demonstration video for each other to teach what they have learnt.

She has been storing these on her class wiki so that the students can continue to review their work. She says that this activity which is a part of her maths programme now as an independent activity has been a really good way of increasing students confidence and communication skills to explain their thinking and has really helped students to remember the strategies and use them.

The wiki has become a resource for the class that they can also share with parents at home. This helps to demonstrate to parents the strategies that are now a focus for students in numeracy. Many parents are still trying to understand the teaching of strategies rather than teaching pencil and paper algorithms.

The students have taken control of all of the planning and filming, Sarah just exports the video so it is a web size (small for uploading and playing back) and puts it onto the wiki.

She is developing pages for each strategy she teaches. Sarah will be sharing her work at the next Virtual Syndicate on Numeracy, but you can have a peak now by clicking here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Classroom meetings

Carmel at GSNS has been investigating Circle time to use with her class. To avoid this becoming too teacher centred, Carmel wants to have students run this time as a classroom meeting. She also wants to tie this in with her classroom blog, where many of the issues or celebrations from the class meeting will be shared with families.

Carmel is considering combining some practical element to this, that these class meetings link with the key compentencies. By giving students time to collaborate on rich tasks with opportunities to demonstrate key compencies. The student will then evaluate their achivement of the competencies in the classroom meetings. Some students will be responsible for recording this work by taking photos which the students can use to reflect on in the meeting.

Comic Life on wikispaces

Margie at GSNS has been using wikispaces to provide links for her class to support the learning in the class. Check out her class wiki, it looks fantastic.

She had been experimenting with slide share to make powerpoints of photos the students had taken and uploading them to the wiki to share.
This was a bit tricky and Margie really wanted the students to take a larger role in the development of the sharing on the site.

So we looked at Comic Life. The students can easily use the photos they have taken and put these into Comic Life projects. Margie can export these projects as an image and put it straight into the wiki.

She is making a table with a space for each letter of the alphabet which will link to a page with their comic life pictures.

Student wikispaces

Keith at GSNS has handed the reins over to his class. They have developed their own wikispace. It has really developed, it has over 400 pages.

The students have had a period of time to get an idea of the basics of how to do things. They are ready now to take responsibility for organising their pages, links etc.

Keith and I discussed that perhaps they are ready to have their own wikis. Keith can have the main class one. Each students' own wiki will link to his wiki. Only Keith and the student will be members of their own wikis, all students can contribute to discussions but they can only edit their own wikis.

At the end of the year Keith will be able to hand ownership of the wikis on to the individual students and create new wikis to his. This will mean that the work he has put into his original wiki can continue to be used saving a lot of set up work.

Podcasting in wikispaces

Michele and I worked together on her wikispace today.
We had a short session as we had worked together a couple of weeks ago.
There were a few key things Michele and I had to remember as we went through this process.

In audacity, which Michele is using to record students reading, you need to export the audacity file as an MP3. Wikispaces can not upload an audacity file it needs to be exported into a file format that wikispaces can upload.

Michele can upload the file just as she would a picture and is going to put these podcasted stories into her wiki so that students can evaluate their reading.

She has decided to use a powerpoint to share her action research. So we went over how to insert audio files and movies into her powerpoints to share what she has done. One important thing to remember here is that the powerpoint remembers where these are rather than actually embedding them into the powerpoint. So if you move the files, they won't play in the powerpoint. You need to save the powerpoint as a show, then it will bundle all of the seperate parts of the powerpoint presentation.

RTLB wiki

This morning I worked with Lyn and Tricia to see how their RTLB blog was going. Lyn and I used Survey monkey to make a survey to collect initial data for them to compare to later in the year.

We discussed how the internet has become a resource that teachers may now use before they refer a student to the RTLBs. While this is great Lyn and Tricia would like to have some online resources they have found and can recommend for teachers to use.

Tricia has been working on a page of resource like this for online story books. She is still working on the page but hopes that this collection she has made would save other teachers time hunting for these resources. The benifit of having this resource online is that Tricia can email the link to this page to teachers, they can link this page to their own blogs or wikis or just use this from their classroom computers. Tricia and Lyn can provide an interactive resource that teachers and students can use immediately.

They are going to set aside an hour or so a week to continue building this resource. Check out their wiki so far.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Paul’s wiki.

Paul is nearly ready to unveil the Sacred Heart wiki he has been working on. Today we flashed it up a bit. Paul is adding pictures in tables to compliment the information we put in last time.

We made a few things in word and then took screenshots of them to get nice titles on the pages. We uploaded these as images and they look really effective. Screenshots are such great tools, on a Mac you press apple and shift and 4 all at once to get the screenshot tool. The screen shot saves to your desktop. On a PC you can download a free tool to take a screenshot like a Mac or you can use the screen capture key and then crop the picture.

We discussed having the children write the information for parts of the wiki, explaining what is great about their school. Hopefully this will save Paul the job of deciding what to write, give the wiki a profile in the school and give the students some ownership of what is on their school wiki.

Comic Life

Everyone is into Comic Life it seems everywhere I go people are wanting to use it, learn to use it or use it better or for something different.

Today I worked with the staff at Sacred Heart on Comic Life, they are all at various stages and wanting to use it quite differently. Learning to use it is fairly straight forward, thinking about how to get the most out of Comic Life in your classroom is where you energy needs to go.

Jenny, Brian and Kath are all planning to use Comic Life in their classroom in different ways. Brian has been investigating the way Comic Life has been used to create word art, or word shape. He used a picture as a background in comic life and then used the lettering tool to make the words take the shape of the image. There are some examples here. Later he can delete the photo. The learning here is in word choice and vocabulary. Students make the word art from words that relate to the image.

One thing that is important for people to realize when they use Comic Life is that when you save you are saving your comic as a comic life file. This means it can only be opened in comic life. If you want to make your comic into a jpg or another type of picture file, go to the file menu, and choose export. You can then export your comic as a picture and save it to your computer. You can put this into word, email it, put it on a blog or wiki easily in this format and everyone can view it if they do not have comic life.

Jenny was using Kid Pix files she exported these as pictures (jpg) and then used them in Comic Life.
Kath and Jenny will be using Comic Life as a way of sharing work and for students to sequence events, particularly learning experiences. Telling stories through images.

Link to our wiki to learn more about Comic Life and how you could use it in the classroom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today I worked with Alan at Liberton Christian School. He originally started his wiki for his action research on basic facts. He told me he just wanted it to organise his maths games for his groups. It seems to have got a bit bigger than that as Alan has seen the possibilities avaliable to his class and the community.

Today we had a bit of a tidy up, as you tend to do as you go. As you become more familiar with the ICT tools and refine what you are doing with them you do have to move and shift things around. Alan and I talked about how this is really the process of Action Research and that it is a way of seeing or tracking how your thinking is changing. Alan said the coming to the last Virtual Syndicate meeting help clarify the action research process to him. He said listening to lead teachers share the process and comparing that to what he has done so far he can see the relevance of the process and that it really isn't meant to be a difficult task.

Alan has been using Comic Life in his classroom to make some road safety posters. He was really impressed how easily the students were able to create such effect posters. He said he could see the problem solving, collaboration and how different his role was during the comic life tasks he set the class. We discussed the opportunities for deeper learning and conversations between students and teachers when the smaller task related questions are solved by students supporting one another and problem solving together. He commented that the process was very real for students and that they were able to reflect on what they had learnt easily.

Alan and I went through the steps to export a comic life project as an image or movie and uploaded these to his class wiki to display these and allow students to share their work and the messages in their posters with their families.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digital story telling

Michele at GSNS is working with students to improve attitudes and achievement in literacy. We looked at a couple of tools she might be interested in using with her students. Comic life, Photostory 3 (pc only).
Michele came to the podcasting workshop earlier in the year and plans to record students reading into audacity and let them listen to this play back, perhaps with the book they read from and to self assess their reading.
She made a wiki last year that she will be working on, with her third year student, as a resource for the class and a place to share these stories.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Measuring learning

Claire at GSNS and I set up Skype on her classroom computer and laptop last time I visited. This visit we revisited Skype and the wiki that Claire made last year. We discussed using a page on her wiki to present her action research, keeping a diary like a blog on this page.

Claire will be videoing two pairs of students interviewing one another at the end of their current inquiry topic. Next topic she will get the students to do this again, next unit, she will actively teach questioning skills and interviewing, the class will use Skype to interview experts etc to get more information during their inquiry.

Claire will be able to listen to the videos and measure how many questions are open and how many a closed before and after her teaching about questioning and interviewing.

The most difficult challenge Claire has at the moment is finding experts to Skype, we have found a few contacts, one problem is many people don't have Skype themselves, so Claire might have to spend some time convincing and assisting the people she wants to Skype to set it up. Many of the connections she makes will be a great resources for the cluster and it will be great if Claire can share that with us all at the end.

Some ideas or places to start to make Skype connections

Independent learning

Today I worked with Natalie at GSNS, this is her third ICT contract so she is very familiar with action research. She is a confident user of ICT and made a comment that I hope everyone in our cluster makes in their own time. She said that she is quite happy now hearing about or being introduced to something now, and then just playing around with it and working out how she might use it. What she really wants are ideas, she might change these ideas to suit her purposes, or develop them further or in a different direction but she is at the stage where having a network of places to get new ideas is the most important thing.

We are all at our own stage of the journey, how comfortable we feel, how happy we are to take risks, but eventually we can all feel that independence as ICT users. As Natalie said, you don't stop learning or changing but you start to seek that out and are confident you will be able to achieve new learning. Independent learning is not about doing things on your own but it is about making decisions about your own learning and what you need to do to take control of this.

Natalie and I looked at lots of things that related (or didn't but were interesting) to her action research. I left her with lots of lins to follow up and get ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does, she is keeping a blog to record her thinking as she goes, she will be able to present her action research from this blog at the end of Term 3 without extra work. Her journey will be recorded on her blog.

Allanah King on Sheryl Nassbaum- Beach's wiki

Links to all of Allanah's stuff

Rachel Boyd's blog

Rachel Boyd's wiki

Suzie's Links

Suzie's wiki of web 2 and software stuff


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sacred Heart online

Paul the principal at Sacred Heart has been working on a few ideas for his Action Research. He has been looking for something that is a real need and won't be additional to his busy role. Paul has decided to set up a school wiki, to communicate with the community, upload newsletters and have information for prospective families. He will survey the community first to see how they feel about communication currently and then at the end of his action research he can resurvey them to see if the wiki is a worthwhile use of his time. Will it make a difference?

We set up the wiki and Paul was able to move most of the information straight from various resources the school already uses in hardcopy. He made lots of pages covering the main information about the school just in that afternoon. We have the wiki closed down for now and a family password can be made for families to access the wiki, later we can open this up or open up part of the site with school information and password the sections with information that is primarily for the families. The advantage of having the wiki for this is that Paul and the staff can control so much about what happens with the wiki, the school will have real ownership of it.
Paul has been thinking big, seeing the possiblities for the school, if the school wiki links to class wikis, blogs, etc. I sent him a few wikis from other schools to look at how other schools have done this.

Paul is working on the wiki between now and when I go back putting up all of the content he wants. I'm looking forward to going back and getting into the next stage.

Comic Life and Kid Pix

Jennie at Sacred Heart wants to use Kid Pix for the students to respond to work with. She plans to use photos of the children and have them write and draw on these and save the files for her to put together as a slide show. She can also have the students record their responses verbally.

We talked about some of the difficulties for very young children to tell a story using Kid Pix, to make a slideshow involves a few steps which can be a bit tricky, it involves quite a few steps, including careful saving of files which in the excitement that students have in making their story can be forgotten. Then they are disappointed at the end when they come to put their story together and can't locate the files for their slide show. Obviously with teaching and time the students would manage this. But we looked at Comic Life as an alternative, if students were wanting to put a story together.

At the virtual syndicate meeting yesterday (8th June) we looked at work done by children using Comic Life. We discussed the benefits of using one tool very well and not using a programme and then saying 'that's done' next thing. There is so much learning possible in Comic Life and in many programmes and ICTs, we need to ensure we make the most of this. Dave has put together a great resource on the wiki for Comic Life. We talked about showing students quality examples of work and really helping them to understand what is possible with the tools we are asking them to use. I have blogged before about compound learning, if you put the effort into teaching students to use a tool, letting them do something with it, you should continue to let them push the boundries with this so you get the learning benefit out of it, for the teaching effort you have put in. Too often we move on to something new instead of capitalising on what we've done.

This is often called deep learning, this happens best when you get students to transfer their learning to another context or problem, usually a rich task. So working with the same content but in a different way, perhaps getting students working with a novel you have read through drama, then taking pictures of this and having them use the pictures (in Comic Life) to retell the story in a different way. In doing this you give students two experiences to compare, this is where they would draw rich reflections on their learning. Just because you have used this teaching/ experience sequence once does not mean you wouldn't reuse it. If something works well we should reuse it. Obviously you need to add something fresh so things don't get tired but I think that if you are constantly doing new things, things get hard and we can focus on elements of activities which are not really meant to be the learning focus. In Queensland Government's New Basics Curriculum, assessment is based on these types of learning experiences (rich tasks).

We had a few timing and technical issues this visit but next visit, Jennie and I will nut out what she can measure, so that she knows that these learning experiences are making a difference for her class.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

North East Valley Normal School

Today I was at NEVN working one-on-one with the teachers. They have just got netbooks in their classes, which are really hard for adults to use ( I felt like I had giants' hands when I was trying to work on them). I did get used to them, makes you think, how difficult is it for young children on adult sized laptops?

There are always a few problems setting up new gear and getting it all networked and working as it should. It is quite exciting what the teachers and students will be able to do with these new resources. It made me think about how important it will become for teachers to have resources that can move with them, such as wikis and blogs etc. When you change classes, schools etc it is bad enough having to physically move so many resources but if you have painstakingly set you computers up with games/software it is another job which will only become more frustrating with the more computers in each class. With web based resources all you need to do is set the internet up to your own web resource (wiki, blog etc), your resources can easily move with you. Of course there would be software you would want but most of your resources can be linked together on the web.

I spent a bit of time with Fiona sorting out a few issues she was having with Picassa . This is a great tool for bloggers, you can make slideshows and collages with Piccassa and load them up in one hit onto your blog, rather than doing these one and a time.

Karen is linking her blog and wiki together, she is putting some help sheets on her wiki for parents to learn to leave comments on her blog. They will be able to link back and forth without noticing they are leaving the blog and Karen can take advantage of the properties of both tools.

Tracy is working away on her Reading wiki and will be adding some podcasted stories to her wiki. She will be using a nice easy but effective idea from Tania (Outram's wiki).

The senior classes have been working on their word processing skills and are ready to start their writing blog. The children will write in word and then cut and paste their story into the blog. There are ways of blogging offline, but small steps and understanding the process is an important part of getting to that stage. Eventually each student will have their own blogging login and will be able to independently blog. At this stage the process will be teacher controlled.

Michael's action research will be of interest to many people who are working with a screen, projector or interactive whiteboard for the first time. He is challenging himself to use the screen in his room as many ways as he can over the year and keep a diary on how he is using it and reflecting on the benefits students got from it. He is trying to ensure that he doesn't use this tool just for lecturing but that it enhances engagement and learning in his class.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wiki Users

Kelvin at DNI made a wiki last year. It is really impressive. He was thinking about doing several blogs this year, one for each of his topic. After looking at the reason for having the blogs it seemed that he could just as easily extend how he is using his wiki, to include children to have own logins and wiki pages to manage.

Kelvin will set up a username and password for each child in his class and give them either their own wiki or pages on an additional wiki to work on and take ownership of. This way the huge amount of work he has done on his wiki is not at risk of his class accidentally deleting or shifting things around (although it is easy enough to fix these issues, it is an added hassle).

Kelvin can control what students can do within the main class wiki and on their own. He is taking his wiki to the next level, it’s pretty exciting stuff.

He has also been busy making movies for the DNEye version of ‘Stars in their Eyes”. He has been filming interviews with the students using a green screen background which he plans to change to flying stars etc as the contestants are interviewed. He has these shared on his wiki too.

Compound Learning

I worked briefly with Jackie at DNI on comic life today. Some of the children in her class showed me the amazing work they had done in paint and then used Comic life to put together little cartoons.

Jackie was surprised by comic life, although it takes a bit of fiddling around with to learn the skills used in Comic Life were the same skills she was had learnt in word using call outs and inserting pictures and text boxes. We discussed the transferability of ideas/ skills from one programme to another programme and how the learning in one compounds and increases your entry level into another programme.

That is one of the arguements I would have for someone who didn't feel they have enough time to learn new things and investing their time in new ICT learning, the benefits are continuious it is not a task that is an end in itself. Learning something new often saves you time when you are working on things in the future. Compound learning, investiging time at the beginning saves you time, or even gains you time in the future.


Today I worked with Stephanie at DNI. The topic they are studying is weather. She did some google searches and found a weather forum which had information she has been looking for. Best of all her class will be able to use the forum to post questions to a whole network of weather experts and enthusiasts. The weather forum connects to other useful sites like the Met Service site.

Stephanie has just had a projector put into her classroom and has started using it to share videos with her class. We also looked at some sites she might use for Maths and Science, the BBC Bitesize activities and the NZ Maths site (particularly the digital objects). We looked at teacher tube, as another resource to use video in the class. The teacher tube videos are ideal as they are short and because they have been made by teachers the learning is explicit.

Stephanie had lots of ideas about what to focus on for her action research. We spent some time looking at a few search engines for children rather than exclusively using google. As we looked also at getting information from experts and the LEARNZ site, Stephanie is sort of thinking about researching skills and different ways and resources to use for finding information for her topics throughout the year.
I'm looking forward to seeing what she decides.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Home and School Links

Moana at DNI has started a classroom blog. She wants a engaging way to get messages home about homework etc to parents. She thought a blog would be a good way of doing this.
Moana is a pretty fast learner and had mastered the basics of blogging quickly, we then looked for a few widgets for the blog, she felt that having some fun moving or interactive parts to the blog would mean that the students in her class would be more likely to visit the blog and also share it with their parents.

Here are a few websites Moana could start with to add some bling to her blog Suzie Vesper's wiki has heaps of information on blogs. This blog also has links in the right hand menu with great instructions to add heaps of things to your blog. Blog Backgrounds at this site and more blog backgrounds and bling at "the cutest blog on the block" site.

Science Fair

Jackie at DNI is getting her class to type up their work for their Science Fair presentations.

Today we worked on a few word functions to solve some of the problems Jackie and her class have been having.

As Jackie was trying out some of these new things she commented that she needed to do to learn, she closes programmes down when she has learnt a new skill and repeats it from the beginning several times to help her cement her new learning. We then talked a bit about similar learning techniques students need to uses to acquire new skills and how this varied between students. This understanding is at the core of our ICT contract,that teachers understand the independent learning process and they understand this and share their personal experiences in the learning process with their students. It is also about recognising that different students have different learning preferences and strengths and using these to enhance learning. It is great that Jackie has made that connection.

We worked on things like changing the page orientation, adding text boxes and callouts (speech bubbles). Hopefully Jackie and I will be able to team teach her class next time and work on some of the considerations the students need to put into making the most of what ICT can do to communicate their scientific findings. One thing that is frustrating about a lot of programmes is a lot of these great things are hidden away in toolbar menus. Spending time exploring these menus is a great way to work out what the programmes you have are really capable of doing.

DNI Sports wiki and blog

David and Chris at DNI school would like like a place for the students to celebrate their participation and achievements within sports teams at DNI.
They wanted a website which is easy for families and the students themselves to check on game times, draws and any other relevant information. They would also like something that the students could eventually take responsibility for and provide some news and student voice to the reporting of sport achievement at the school.

To do this they have made a wiki (with static pages of information) and a blog which is linked into the side navigation bar of the wiki. We will be working on this again next week so I will post a link to this. We are also thinking that videos, photos and podcasts could be a part of the blog to really increase student interest and voice in and on the blog. DNI are going to be looking at the work that Ryan (Outram Lead Teacher) has done on the Outram Sports Blog.

Dance Videos

Andrea at DNI takes a dance elective during the year. She has a great action research project planned. She is going to teach one dance to the students using a peer feedback teaching strategy. She will then teach another dance but instead of getting the students to peer assess, she will get them to self assess their work. She will be working with the students to see which type of assessment is more effective for them as learners, peer or self assessment.

For both the peer and self assessment Andrea will be using video as a part of her teaching. We talked about some of the resources for digital photography on the Otepoti wiki that she could modify to help the students improve their own filming. We also looked at video teaching resources for dance on teacher tube and video jug. She made her own wiki and a teacher tube account. Andrea can upload the movies the students make of their dancing to her teacher tube account and then take the embeddable code and organise these dances on her wiki. Her students can watch their dances easily and Andrea can organise her class having some students assessing their dancing watching the videos and some practising or filming their dances.

One thing that is important if you are going to upload your movies to a site like teacher tube is to save the finished movie project as a movie. Lots of people don't realise that audio, movies, even powerpoints are not finished movies until you render them. Movies will play like competed movies on your laptop because all of the audio files, pictures and film you have put in the movie project are on your computer. If you tried to play this project on another computer a lot of this information would be missing. You must save/publish/render your project as a movie and for Andrea she must do this so her files are small enough to upload onto the web. This is an option as you go through the saving process.

I was also telling Andrea about this video, she might like to use in her dance class. A group of students and teachers in New Zealand were inspired by Matt's video and made their own. It would be interesting to see if these videos inspire Andrea's dance class to do something innovative.

Collaborating- Professional Communities

The technology team at DNI can see a need for a way for them to work collaboratively with other technology teachers around Dunedin. They would like to have an easy way to communicate with all technology teachers around town to share knowledge about the best places to source materials, new ideas and resources.
Tim, Steve and Helen had already thought that a blog might be the best way to do this. The advantage of the blog when each teacher has the time to check the blog or make a request for information others will be able to answer or feedback to them when they are free. The blog makes it possible for busy people to collaborate when it suits them. At this stage they will leave it closed and get it going with technology teachers in Dunedin, but I suggested that eventually they open it up and they may find they can make all sorts of connections with other technology teachers all over the world, or people in related industries.

We also discussed that on my next visit we would look at Skype and using this as a resource to get in touch with people working on projects in the real world relate to the types of tasks and briefs the students are working on in class. Perhaps the blog will be one way of tracking these people down.

Blogging about products in food technology

Ann at DNI is a very inventive food technology teacher, she has some really innovative things going on in her classes including a Top Chef competition.

We went over a few video sites she might use for recipes and instructional videos. Teacher Tube, You Tube and Life on Video (video jug).

We also discussed using mash ups, which enable you to synchronize PowerPoint with video or audio. This would enable Ann's students to make their own instructional videos and recipes.

One thing that I was stuck on was how we would get all of Ann's students as authors on the class blogs we made. Each of her groups will have a blog which we linked to all of the class blogs. Ann will have her own blog also to share her learning with the class throughout her action research learning process, and she will be able to present this at the end of her research.
Usually to add people as authors of a blog with Blogger, you go to the settings area/ permissions and add the new authors email. The new author then goes through the link sent to them to become a member of the blog. Ann's students do not all have email addresses and I thought there must be a way for her to do this easily. I had a bit of a search around Blogger help and searched the help forum of past questions other had asked and found out how to add all students using just one email account.

You need a gmail account, these are free to set up and you would not need to use it past setting up the blogging accounts. If you already have a gmail email account then just use that.
Then in the settings/ permission area instead of putting the email as normal you write your email address and between your email name and the @ write +child's name.
For example (the blue part is not normally part of my email address). You can repeat this for each child in your class and all of these emails will come to your account. Each child will then have to join blogger by following the link but it saves you making email accounts for students that they wont use. This way one email account for every child in the class.

Although this is a neat time saving trick, I hope people also see how useful online help, espeically forums can be. Anytime you think 'I will I could do...' or 'It would be really handy if..', someone else has usually had the same thought or asked the same question and you probably can do it, it's just a matter of finding out how.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strath Taieri

Today I was out at Strath Taieri School in Middlemarch with Lead teacher Lisa and Principal Vicki. We set up two things at the school, Skype and Google docs- so they can collaborate as a staff during meetings on a shared document.

We met as a whole staff about the action research the school will do. Strath Taieri have decided to do their action research together, with the aim of building a school wide planning document.

One thing the school has noticed is that when their students are not able to use the computer, save documents etc the learning within these tasks is slowed and effected with many students becoming frustrated. They want to see if they teach some of these skills (only the types of skills with are transferable and useful in many computer programmes and for many types of tasks) if the students are able to focus on the learning rather than the doing when working on set tasks.

They are going to randomly pick 20% of the children from each class and set them a computer task, the teacher observing will keep a tally of the types of interactions the children have while they complete the task, categorising these as about the learning, computer, or social comments.

They will do this both now before the teaching of the computer skills and then again at the end of their teaching. I think the results of this will be really interesting. They are going to start by getting the students typing using dance mat typing, later they will introduce file management and printing skills and finally researching and safely using the internet.

Lisa and I put together a progression of these skills this afternoon and as they trial this, they will refine it to suit the needs of their learners. The results will be really interesting for all of the schools in our cluster.

Managing different tasks

Shona McRae has been taking on so many challenges over the last two years. She has been integrating lots of ICT into her literacy programme, including having her students make digital portfolios of their work.

She has used webquests, made a class wiki, and used powerpoint and word to present and publish work. Parts of the programme are getting a bit out of control as she has found many students skill level has accelerated at such a rate that some students can complete a lot of work quickly while others are still catching up with past work they have been set.

She has been using peer teaching to teach her class the skills they have needed to do much of the work, which has worked well but she has learnt a lot along the way.
Shona has identified one problem is that many of the same tasks or skills which students need help with is taking her time and her next step will be to develop a system that deals with this issue and helps her manage and track the work set and completed by different members of the class.

I hope she takes the next step slowly and enjoys everything she has accomplished with her class, it is amazing how much she has changed in her class just in the last year.


Chris Rodriguez at GSNS will be doing her action research on presenting skills. She will be allowing her class to choose how they would like to present their work, ideas etc during the year.
She has already begun introducing ways the children can present their work using traditional ways, posters, etc.

We went over the basics of powerpoint for her class, so they will be able to add this to their list of choices for presenting.

Chris will be teaching her class presentation skills and this will be what she will measure at the beginning and end of her action research.

Chris has a third year student teacher with great ICT skills so she is using these skills to facilitate her own new learning and involving him in the action research process. What a fantastic model for a new teacher to follow an associate who shares their learning process with their student.

It is obvious that the culture of that of a community of learners, Chris constantly shares her new learning with her class and we structured into the lesson several reflection times for the students to share their learning with one another. They did this easily as they are obviously used to this process, Chris is an excellent role model of this and also skillfully phrases her questions for student to use to reflect from.

Skyping Experts

Claire Spencer at GSNS has been involved with video conferences to Japan in 2008. She has been traveling the College of Education to use the video conferencing equipment with her class to get to know students in a school in Gifu, Japan. Gifu school is GSNS sister school.

Get to college for the conferences has been a bit of a hassle so someone had suggested Claire and her class use Skype for these conferences.

Claire will use Skype for these conversations, we went over the features of Skype. Skype not only provides a video call but can be used to send files including pictures and to type comments to the person you are speaking to.

Claire would like to be able to get the students to have time speaking to a buddy in the class in Japan. She feels, although the whole class conferences are important, they can be a little impersonal.
She is then going to extend Skype as a classroom resource for gathering information. We emailed Te Papa to see if someone would be available for Claire's class to Skype regarding their current topic study.

As the year goes on Claire is going to teach interviewing and questioning skills so these sessions become more and more worthwhile. Her data collection will be to gather these questions and she will be able to measure the children's skill level of questioning to show progress.
Claire will make decisions as she goes about how she will teach her class about asking higher order questions.

Below are some links about ways levels of questioning can be developed and communicated in the classroom.

Questioning Pedegogy

How teachers can use questioning in the classroom, measuring questions.

Jamie McKenzie on teaching questioning

Improving students' questions

It will be great to see what exciting things Claire's class does with a new tool.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


One thing that was very obvious at St Leonard's when I visited was how well everyone was working together to learn new ICT skills and to change their practice.
I don't know how tech savvy everyone was there before the contract started but they all seemed pretty competent and confident yesterday.
One thing I didn't think about before this contract was how far I had come and how much I had learnt. I doesn't really occur to you yourself. Sometimes it is not until you stop and think about where you were a year or two ago you realise how much you have learnt or changed.
I have just emailled the team at St Leonard's and asked them to think about this very thing, I was just wondered if they had all noticed their own changes. Change can creep up on you, especially if it happens slowly or amongst things that are a bit annoying-like smoothing out technical difficulties etc.
Lianne (Lead Teacher) has obviously done a fantastic job of passing things she learns on and supporting everyone but also all of the staff have all shared all of their skills and really committed to learning new things. They are a very impressive community of learners.

Wikis and managing files

Katrina (senior teacher at St Leonard's) action research will be focused on successfully incorporating ICT/internet use into her classroom programmes, including the students learning some basic file management skills.

We started in her classroom with a quick session on managing and organising files that the children save. Katrina has been using Kid Pix in her class but they have been saving the files in a lot of different places. St Leonard's school has now created a folder for each class on the desktop of all of their computers and a folder for each child in the class folder for them to save all of their work. We went over with the children making a folder in their folder for each digital story they make to put any related files into the same place. Katrina will continue to reinforce this as it does take students a while to get into the habit and also understand the concept behind keeping their files tidy and organised (a bit like everything else they should keep tidy and organised).

Just as Katrina wouldn't clean up children's own mess in the classroom, she is expecting the children to take responsibility for keeping the classroom computers tidy. We will be working on a few poster resources for the children to remember the file path and some tips for naming their files and folders. Just as we might do to help children to keep the classroom tidy.

Then Katrina and I started building a wiki, we had a few technical hold ups but got there in the end. Katrina was a bit of a whiz, she had made a home, reading, mathematics and game page by the time I left. She had found some really neat pictures to illustrate each of her reading and maths groups and will be working on building up the links to games and activities for each group over the year. We found a few widgets for her wiki, a clock, calendar and a cluster map, which shows where the visitors to your wiki are from on a world map. Check out her wiki here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alphabet Books

Jilena and Verity at St Leonard's School are going to be focusing on alphabet knowledge for their action research. I forgot to ask them how they will be measuring the effect their work has on students learning, but as they teach such a young and sprightly little class I assume they will be able to measure their progress with the alphabet tests they frequently do throughout the year.

The reason we didn't get to that was that we were having so much fun working out how to make the little alphabet books that they are going to embed in a wiki.
They are making a little alphabet powerpoint book for each letter of the alphabet, there are pictures throughout the book and audio of them reading each word which captions the picture. They will animate the words so that it bounces, or slides onto the screen and the children can play the sound when they click on a picture or the sound icon.

Jilena has set up a wiki and an authorstream account. She has made a page for each letter of the alphabet and then embedded the powerpoint book they have made for each letter.

Here is the page they are working on ,they haven't made many of the powerpoints yet, it is a work in progress but it is going to look fantastic. Best of all it will be easy for them to manage and for the students to use independently.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Back to the Kindle Classes

I had a bit of time free today to quickly revisit the Kindle classes blogs at GSNS. Julia was in worrying about her blog and felt she needed a reminder on how to blog (She was really doing fine).
Even though initially it can be very frustrating at first, we do have to go through some frustrations to understand what the barriers are and then we can fix them. Unfortunately this is all part of the learning cycle. It is good to remember as it is something that we have to point out to children regularly too.
Julia and I were joking because for a lot of things she didn't really need me, but she said it was easier because I was sitting there- it's all psychological. She is all set up and away now, Julia attended the virtual syndicate meeting and had listened to Karen (Lead Teacher NEVNS) talk about her blog and we also discussed that although you can do fancy things with your blog all parents really want to see is a photo and a bit of writing about what is happening at school. So really there is no pressure to be amazing, that is the pressure we put on ourselves.

Michele is whizzing ahead, she has lots of skills for other computer experience and wanted to start podcasting, she made a podbean account and made sure she had audacity on her computer before I got there. All I did was take her through the process and explain a little bit about how Html works and how to put it into her blog and away she went. She said that the virtual syndicate meeting and looking at other blogs online has given her so many ideas she doesn't know where to start. She has found a few sites to add decorative things to her blog.

One thing to remember when you put lots of great stuff onto your blog is that it can be distracting if you put too much on it to people reading you work and the message is the most important part. After all it is all about communication. Also having a lot of fancy things can take longer to download for families with dial up. Michele has only got a bit of blog bling and it looks great.

Skype in School

Before I left NEVNS I thought I would pop in to see John the Principal at North East Valley Normal School and let him know what a great day I had had at the school, how much I had enjoyed working with the teachers. It is great visiting schools and listening to all of the thoughts and ideas teachers have about teaching and learning in their classrooms.
We were talking about Skype, John was really keen for someone to do their Action Research using Skype, while some might lead there in the end we didn't find a link to Skype today with any of the Action Research projects.

I was telling John about this video.

This blog 'Learning Is Messy' has some great tips and ideas to use Skype in the classroom.
A Wiki Offering ideas to use Skype.
Perhaps John will do this Action Research himself. I am sure he could find lots of ways to use Skype around the school.

Improving Attitudes

Tracy teaches the year 3 and 4 class at North East Valley Normal School. She wants to improve some of her students attitudes towards reading and reading time in her class. Tracy teaches the lower stream of readers in the senior syndicate. She has a few struggling readers who do not use their time well in class or have a good attitude to reading for a lot of reasons. Tracy has lots of techie skills she can transfer to building a Reading wiki and is confident if she plays with the wiki we set up she will be able to build her wiki. Here is a link to a few wiki basics.

Tracy hopes that by doing this all of the children will enjoy reading time more than they already do but for the few who do she thought the computer factor may be able to draw them in.
Tracy plans to use sites online games, videos and embedded games to create an activity for reading time which will enhance learning and provide a task which children must read to engage in.
Tracy said she can see that although this will be her Action Research project she will get carried away with the wiki and can see a lot of uses for it outside of reading time.

Reading and Writing game sites to link to from your wiki. Tracy will find many more but these are some I've collected that other teachers have found. No point Tracy searching for what the Cluster has already found. also word and text level games.

Writing Blogs- Senior Bloggers

Maria, Jane and Judith teach the year 5 and 6 classes at North East Valley Normal School. They have decided that they would like to focus on their writing programmes. We started a writing blog for each class, the children will word process their stories and then post these onto the writing blog for feedback from their classmates, teachers and other readers of the blog.

We were hoping that if students have an audience for their writing they may take more care when editing and using surface features in their writing correctly. Maria asked for some ideas or resources that she could use to motivate the children's writing as the biggest problem she felt was that with the age group she teaches they are just a bit sick of the routine of writing, what was exciting when they were younger is now old hat.

I have provided a few links to writing websites and ideas to stimulate children's imagination and seeing the purpose of writing to communicate what they have to say.
Story starter
Story Starter machine
Telescopic Text- great way to explain detail and description in writing
WritingFix for teachers lots of ideas but a messy website. The best thing about this site is it provides some book titles which are examples of the type of writing or feature you might want to teach.
Writing Prompts -Most random questions, a fun quick writing task.
Grammar Games
Magnetic Poetry online
Museum Box
Videos can be a great motivation for writing, instructional videos for instructions, see the post on this blog for Michael.

Cheryl the Deputy Principal at North East Valley Normal School takes children from the senior classes for extra support and extension in writing. Rather than work in isolation she prefers to strengthen what is happening in class so the students will benefit in class from her sessions. She will also be working with the students she takes to post on their class writing blogs.

We discussed word processing skills that the students might need to do this effectively and support their participation on writing blog. The teachers will provide time for students who are very slow typers to improve their typing through the online games linked to the Otepoti website. Cheryl used dancemat typing and was happy with the visual information provided by the online game. The blog allows visitors to post a comment. So that the teacher can monitor comments and knows which students have left which comments, they will have to teach their students to follow the instruction here to do this.
-Cheryl will get the extension group to focus on improving their comments made to their classmates on the blog. She will do this by developing a rubric with the children to evaluate work against which we hope will enhance feedback and the quality of the work.

One website which has a rubric generator on it that I have used is Rubistar I wouldn't recommend using the rubrics on there as they are mostly based on American school systems but it is a good quick way of getting some examples for children to look at to understand how a rubric works. You get so many results usually and have to scroll right down the page to see the rubric options and it is hard to filter un-useful results out but better than inventing your own examples. The power of a good rubric is that the children have helped to create it so in doing this they come to understand what the criteria really means.

I'm looking forward to seeing if the blog can help motivate some great writing.

Using Video to Stimulate Thinking

Michael has a Year 2 and 3 class at North East Valley Normal School. He has had a great idea to encourage more students at the school to participate in sports and clubs outside of school time. It would be difficult to measure if Michael's idea of getting parents to video children doing these activities and showing this in assembly would have an effect on other children taking up a sport or club.
We discussed ways to approach this differently so collecting evidence would be easier for Michael. We thought that interviewing children who had a talent in something outside of school and asking them if they felt like this was recognized at school or there was a place at school to celebrate this. Then having a time in assembly for this sharing videos of the children participating in their hobby outside of school. Later we could ask the same questions and see if children felt their skills and talents were recognised in the school.

Michael has had a tv screen in his classroom as a teacher modeling station for a year. He is using it in a lot of ways, I suggested that perhaps his research could be an inquiry into lots of ways to use this resources effectively. He has been using video in the class on the tv screen from Utube. He joined Utube as a member so he can make videos his favourites and does not have to look for them each time he visits and so the screen is not so busy when he is showing the videos to his class. This also means that he knows what content is on the screen and there will be no surprises. Michael could download the videos but as he only wants to use them once or twice it didn't seem worth his time or the storage space it would take to do this.

I hope Michael considers this as an Action Research topic as I think it would be of high interest to the many teachers who will have these type of resources in their room soon and will have to work out how the potential of these resources can be harnessed. Whatever he does I am sure it will be fantastic.

North East Valley Junior classes are studying Creepy Crawlies so below I have put a few resources which are really handy for screens, projectors and interactive whiteboards (or computers) for this and other science/ technology topics.

Video sites for the classroom
Teacher Tube
Maori Tube
ARKive- videos, pictures and facts about creatures
BBC Videos
Exploratorium- includes microscopic pictures
Futures Channel this is great to show maths and science concepts in the real world
VideoJug- instructions on video

Pictures for science

Websites and Games
The Animal Kingdom
BBC Science Teaching Resources

Also Digital Learning Objects on NZ Maths but these need a password, your school can sign up for one. I used these types of activities with small whiteboards so the children could write or draw their thinking while you paused the game for the answer.

This is an example of an inquiry into teaching with a projector and how a teacher's thinking can change when continuing to improve the engagement of their students.

Photographic Evidence of Managing Self

The New Entrant teacher at North East Valley Normal School, Fiona has been looking at the Key Competency "Managing Self" with her class this year. She wanted the children to start recognizing their own behaviours for learning, she has focused on self organization. She has taken pictures of the children putting away their bag and organising their reading books and equipment for the day in the morning, and not leaving this up to their parents. She has used graphic pictures to represent this to children, for example a ladder that children place their name on to represent how well they have managed themselves.

Next Fiona would like to change some of the behaviours she is observing during Reading time. Children are meant to work in twos at each reading activity and use 'inside voices', share etc. She would like to use the same system of photos to communicate what reading time should look like. Fiona was worried that her Action Research did not contain enough ICT. I think this is the perfect type of Action Research as it involved the children and teacher as a class solving a real issue. We discussed that perhaps Fiona could let the children gradually take ownership of the project, she will appoint photographers to collect the evidence for the class of how they are working during reading. The children can reflect on what they see happening in the photos before they decide how well they really did work during reading. Fiona has observed that all of the children immediately put themselves at the top of the ladder to please her rather than reflecting on what they have done. Fiona will use the resources on the Otepoti wiki on digital photography and will make up some of the viewfinders there so several children can plan and hunt for shots in the classroom despite there being one camera.

Best of all for Fiona, her students will be collecting the evidence for her Action Research she will be keeping her own notes but the children will provide photographic evidence of the change in her class over time.

Comprehension and Retelling

North East Valley Normal School ICT Lead Teacher Karen wants to target her action research to improve her students comprehension and retelling skills of text they have read.
She was thinking about using paint for the children to draw a picture of the story they have read or heard to use as a prop or reminder for their oral retelling. After we played around with paint Karen decided that for her year ones, aspects of the way the programme worked would be very frustrating. It does require a lot of mouse control and patience.
We talked about how Karen could capture the oral retelling of the children. Karen is familiar with audacity and was confident she could record the children's retelling. We created a wiki for these audio recordings to be uploaded to. Karen will have a picture of the book and then several children's recordings orally retelling story on wiki.
Uploading these files to the wiki is the same process and Karen was confident if she played around with the wiki she would be able to do this quite easily.

At the virtual syndicate meeting on Monday we were discussing time and how teachers may have to put a little time in at the beginning of these projects to learn how to use a new technology, but this was worthwhile as you get this time back as this new skill saves you time later. Karen had commented that when she had started her blog last year it was slow but she became so quick once she got going that she barely noticed the time she spent blogging and there were many things she just didn't need to do because of the blog.
I think part of Karen's confidence to take on the wiki comes from these blog skills. Components of a wiki and blog are so similar or at least the concepts of what you are doing that learning to wiki is now so easy for Karen. Everything she learnt blogging, transfers to a new project.

Your ability to learn new things increases and also your confidence to teach yourself by trial and error, or the confidence that you will be able to find out how to do something as you go along and when it is needed. This is the type of change that we might not notice in ourselves. I wonder if the other Lead Teachers have noticed how much faster they are able to learn new skills?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Today I have been playing around with it is a web tool that lets you animate characters and record their thoughts and ideas, you can create stories with dialogue. I can see lots of uses for this in the classroom and it is really fun to make these blabbers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playtime is Important

In the afternoon yesterday Danny (Ravensbourne Year 5-6 Teacher) and I taught his class the basics of using Powerpoint. Danny does a lot of computer based work with his class and has access to 8 Macs with his class (I was a bit jealous), he has really got a lot from all of these resources and uses these computers constantly in his classroom programme.

With his class I did a short demonstration of the things Danny would like them to be able to do. Then we let the children have a go and work out how to use these new skills. Although computer skills will not be the main emphasis of Danny's teaching we felt that it was an appropriate place to start. One of the things you have to do when you learn to use a new technology is play with it.

One thing that really upsets children is making a mistake that ruins work that they have put a lot of effort into creating. This happens as a natural part of learning something new, and we need to learn to cope with this, but having a bit of time to play with new skills where there is no risk of loosing precious work is really important.

What Danny and I did was get the children to share back what they had discovered after their play and share their learning with the class. This is also a great way to let children take the driving seat and facilitate their learning rather than you as the teacher having all of the knowledge. One of the children discovered something I didn't know which is what will happen. The teacher will also be the learner.

It is important after this learning for the skills to be used in authentic ways and Danny is planning to do this, the children in his class will be creating some digital portfolios of their work as the year goes on. What a worthwhile play session as all of the skills these children learnt in that hour will be used for the rest of the year in real and authentic ways and the class have been modeled the process of shared problem solving and learning.

I am looking forward to seeing Danny and Room 4 again to see how their profile work goes.

Make things easy

Ann (Lead Teacher) at Ravensbourne started a blog last year. She wants the children to take ownership of the blog this year. Several of her children have an interest and skills using the computer and she has a system set up for the children to use the computer during reading time.

She would like two of her students to help and train the other children in her class to post stories and a picture to illustrate their story onto the blog. Her two blog trainers were lovely to work with and they had everything sorted in 15 minutes. Very impressive.

Ann and I spent a lot of time making it easy for the class to access the blog on all ten of the classroom computers. One thing which helps raise the effective use of class blogs and wikis is to make the blog or wiki the homepage of all of the class computers. So when children open the Internet the first thing they see is their blog/wiki. It is also important to put a link in the toolbar of the browser (Internet explorer, FireFox, Safari) so that if children somehow get a bit confused they can click on this link and go straight back to their blog or wiki.

We signed into the blog on all of the computers and got the computers to remember the passwords etc so the children won't have to do this. This just takes all of the hold ups out of the learning and lets children get on with the task you have set.
It is just the same principle as you might adopt for Art, you may prepare the paints etc, so children can begin painting without all of the hassle.

It varies how you do change you homepage depending which browser you use.
Click on your browser to find out how.
Safari Firefox Internet Explorer

Make a link that children can easily find on your browser

Safari Firefox Internet Explorer

Ann is an expert at this now, she had to do it ten times yesterday. It will make using the Internet and accessing the class blog simple for the children in her class.

Google Docs and Skype

Verity Harlick (Principal at St Leonard's School) and Megan Odgers (Principal at Ravensbourne School) wanted to begin using Google Docs (documents) to collaborate together on join projects. Google documents is a resource provided as a part of the Google Apps (applications).

Google documents allows you to upload a document you have worked on, or start a new document and share this with other people. You can then both make changes to the same document, at the same time or different time and at the same place or different places. This would be a fantastic tool for syndicate and staff meetings, if you are all planning a unit of work, everyone can talk and add to the same document at the meeting all at once.

All google apps are free and when you sign up for one you have a username to sign in with to all of the other apps.

Verity and Megan could see a lot of uses for this tool as they often work collaboratively and their schools are similar sizes and down the road from each other so often what will work in one school can also work in the other.

Next we tackled Skype using Skype to speak to one another and to other Skype users has added advantages to ringing one another. Skype also has a chat feature and documents can be sent by dragging them into the chat writing box and pressing enter. There are lots of advantages to being able to see the people you are speaking to and to speak easily to multiple people. Both Megan and I were able to talk to Verity once she returned to school at the same time.

When I left they had already Skyped a few times that day. I hope these tools make things easier for them.
They both picked up how to use these things easily, google docs in a lot of ways works quite like email, well looks similar so they were able to transfer these skills.

The biggest problem was passwords and sign ins. I know how annoying it can be having so many usernames and passwords, I have tried to make most of mine the same. Sometimes though a certain application has requirements of passwords etc that mean you have to change your usual one, and once you add multiple email accounts things can get pretty messy.

One thing that seems to work for me is keeping a document on my computer called LOGINS. It is a list of all of the things I have signed up for with the passwords etc. I know anyone using my computer could see them, but there is nothing on there that is highly sensitive. One advantage of this is they are all in one place. Most importantly I have to remember everytime I sign in to a new thing I put that information into the document. Whenever it is possible I check the option box to have my computer remember the usernames and passwords.

If other people have different systems to solve this problem please comment on the blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Permissions and Members

One of the things which is really great about wikispaces is that as an organizer of your sites you can have complete control over who sees and can contribute to your wiki. It is a bit confusing to get your head around having different wikis with different levels of access and permissions but it is worthwhile and something that Lee Stream is managing well. Bilinda Offen (Senior Class Teacher and Principal) is developing the school's wikis.

They are using the wiki to provide their families with a resource during snowdays (when the students can not attend school because of snow), they have classroom wikis and a school wiki. Each wiki allows the students different rights but all link together so the students really don't know (or need to know) which wiki they are on.

That way as a teacher you may have a wiki you have spent a lot of time on and do not want the children to change so it can only be edited by you, and other wikis where the students can make changes and have ownership of what is going onto the wiki. Lee Stream have a protected wiki which can not be seen by anyone without a password or searched for on google, which respects the wishes of their community.

Bilinda wanted fancy buttons which matched in her navigation bar, you click on the small link under the side navigation bar that reads "edit navigation" to do this.
She made some cool little buttons on a website called cool text , once you have rendered the button and downloaded it and saved it as a file on your computer, you can upload the button as a picture to your wiki and insert it. Then you link the picture to the page you want and you have a cool looking navigation button.

I have mentioned it before on my blog but will say it again because doing this straight away saves time later. When you first start your wiki get rid of the white box which is in the navigation bar because it automatically makes every page a link in the menu, which is a pain later when you want to have more pages.

Bilinda is a really fast learner, she has a lot of past experience and techie skills which helps but one of her learning behaviours is to tell the person she is working with how she likes to learn and how she is feeling about what she is learning. It makes it easy to explain things to her because she can express when she still needs time to process something, or needs a drawing, or to practice something again. I don't know if you do that on purpose Bilinda or were just thinking out loud but it is a fantastic behaviour to have.

One of best things that came out of the reflection lessons I did with my class for the wiki was not something I had planned for, the children started giving me feedback about their learning preferences (which sometimes was a pain- just joking but you know how it is). It was really wonderful that they had realised through the wiki that this information was important and helpful to me as their teacher. How great would it be if children did actually say "I need some processing time now"or " Can we get a video of it, that is how I learn the best". I learnt that that can happen if you teach them to, best of all after a while they started doing it for themselves.

Bilinda must be one of those people who don't need to be taught that or maybe she has taught herself to do that at some stage in her life. Not many children implicitly know or think about how they best learn. I think that is one of the most powerful questions we can ask them.

Being a Learner

This morning Wendy Langley (Lee Stream Junior Teacher) and I patiently added her classes work to their private wiki.

Wendy and I worked on a class wiki. She will be training her students to put their own stories onto the wiki to share with each other and their families within their closed community. Wendy and Bilinda will be doing a whole school Action Research on typing. Some students will be using Qwerty to learn to type and some wont. They will then be able to measure the difference between the students ability to type their stories with and without training in typing. What effects does typing lessons have on children's story writing and word processing and is it powerful enough to warrant teaching this?

While we were waiting for the tenth story to upload, Wendy was discussing her past experiences learning various things on the computer and in another ICT cluster. She said that the best thing that computers had offered her was the chance to be a learner again and be reminded of what learning is like for some children.

I have to say that this rings true to me the key different in trying to present useful professional development to teachers using computers is the range of experience. In PD on reading for example you expect that most teachers have similar knowledge about teaching reading, you know that all teachers can actually read. With computers everyone comes to the course much like children in classrooms with a plethora of experiences and skills and you can't assume anything.

Wendy told me a few lovely stories about times she had been in situations with computers and at courses and realised that the feelings and reactions to these situations are exactly what her students feel at different times of the day. She said that this awareness has been the single greatest lesson computers have given her.

Good thing the Internet was a bit slow today or we wouldn't have had this conversation. Often the computers and Internet were a real pain for me in my class last year but actually some of the best things came from us having to get around these problems and many of those changes and solutions were not computer related things but they were the result of a challenge to do something differently.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Great Wiki Instructions

This is a link Greg provided to his staff who are making wikis.

Suzie Vesper has lots of really helpful information on her wiki about everything you may want to know about anything ICT related.

This wiki help is great for getting your head around making your own.

It actually has been a Wonderful Wednesday at Liberton

I set up this blog thinking that Wednesday would be the day I worked with classroom teachers. In reality it sort of happens when it fits in but anytime is still wonderful.

I worked with Alan Robertson and Hermione Barnett at Liberton Christian School today. They both had me very busy, they both have their action research ideas well developed and plans underway. We discussed the evidence they will gather now, of what is currently happening in the classroom in their area of focus and how this can be repeated at the end of the year to measure change.

Alan will be looking at basic fact learning in Maths and has lots of sites organized and now has a wikispace with links to various sites and games. He will be having the students learn their basic facts doing different activities, some computer and some with traditional materials such as flash cards.

Chantal (the Lead Teacher at Liberton) had told Alan about similar research that Brian at Sacred Heart School had done last year so he will be looking at this.
Alan will also be using some reflection time in the class for the students to think about their learning preferences and which methods best suit their needs. He will be using the sentence threads (starters) from the NZ Maths site which he heard about at the ‘Self Regulated Learning’ workshop at George Street Normal School last year. A lot of teachers use these to provide students with a starter for reflection.

Hermione has a topic which is really exciting for me, apart from ICT my other curriculum interest is Mãori. Hermione wants to see if she can use her wiki to enhance her Mãori programme as one of her other professional development areas is Mãori Education this year. It’s a great idea to combine both. I introduced Hermione to several online resources for Mãori Education.
TKI has a great list of these in the Mãori Community Kete.
Hermione hadn’t heard of Teacher Tube which is like Utube but has a bank of videos which are suitable for schools and teaching. I also showed her Mãoritube which is a resource of videos on everything Mãori. All of these videos are emeddable, which means you can copy the Html code (that crazy looking writing you see underneath them) and paste this into your wiki widget option. Once you save this your wiki will have the video you have chosen embedded (stuck on) your screen.

We looked at the online dictionary which translates Mãori to English and vice versa through a search box. It also will accept words with and without macrons and then corrects you in the results. This is a quick way to check if your not quite sure.

Hermione is really excited about all of the possibilities she can see for her teaching especially as she teaches juniors, the videos are perfect for accessing information if your not a fluent reader and pronunciation is not such an issue if you can find a video that demonstrates good pronunciation, examples of mispronunciation are good also so children can hear and correct this without offending someone in the room. Sometimes it is difficult for children to hear their own mistake but they can hear it is not correct when others mispronounce words.

Hermione will be doing lots with her wiki (I can see an addiction beginning already) but she is interested in measuring children’s feelings and confidence levels about accessing Mãori content and information in the classroom. We discussed interviewing a few children now and then at the end of her research. She might video or record their voices for this interview rather than writing everything they say- Now she can even upload this to her wiki.

The greatest thing again about working with two people at once is the help they can provide one another to fine tune their research. After I have left they can support each other with any new techie skills we covered. They are both well organized for some interesting and thought provoking findings.