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.

I Can Count

I said in my last post that I worked with seven teachers to build a class wiki but only mentioned four. The other three Tania, Ryan and Amber have had some experience building a wiki so we covered different things.

Ryan and Tania were experimenting with adding sound into their wiki. Although it can be really frustrating at first when you get it right adding sound to a wiki is really quite easy. You add sound just as you would a file or picture with the symbol of a little tree.

Tania did a great post on her wiki of a student reading a book. The best thing for me was that I didn't know how long you could record for and stay under 4MB (this is the limit for uploading to a wiki). Tania's recording was just over 5 minutes and uploaded easily. We didn't check the file size Tania. We will have to next time. Ryan and I did this with his file as we thought it might be one of the reasons why it wasn't uploading but there was something wrong with the recording which Ryan can now fix. You check the file size on a Mac by selecting the file and pressing command and the letter I (I remember that by thinking Information).

Ryan also gave every child in his class a sign in for his wiki he went to "Manage Space" on his wiki and selected User Creator.
In here he followed the instruction given to list each child in his class with a user name and password, then all of these logins were created. It was pretty easy.

for example
Username, password
bobg, 0utram1
amyi, 0utram2

Ryan will be giving the students their logins and passwords and keeping his own copy also.

Amber has made a cool jigsaw out of a class photo for her wiki and changed the navigation bar on her wiki. If you don't change it it will automatically make every page you create a link in the navigation side bar.

I also sent them a link to this website to have a go at some other tricky things when they are ready or interested.

Looking forward to seeing their wikis next visit, people should be warned that blogs and wikis can become obsessions once you start doing some of this cool stuff.

Wiki Mania

I worked with seven teachers at Outram who are all taking on a wikispace to manage and enhance effective computer use during Maths or Reading time. Janfrie, Kerry, Megan and Lynda have the best advantage for their action research, that they will all be able to support one another and save each other a lot of work. One of the most time consuming things about making a wiki can be finding the approriate games and sites to link to. This searching and reviewing should be made easier as it can be done as a team.

One of the best things about wikis is that you can copy pages etc of other people's wikis and if you work in a syndicate situation where everyone has a wiki you can take turns making some of the pages your class works from, modifying pages is much easier than building them from scratch.

We discussed some of the management ideas and the wiki has some ideas to support thismanaging ICT in the class . Janfrie was concerned that the children would not play the computer games correctly and made a good point about learning opportunities being lost because of too much choice. We talked about what she does with floor games in her class currently. She gives children a specific game she wants them to play which relates to what they are learning and she teaches the children to play this game before she sends them off to play it. The computer should be no different.

Greg was in the room at the time and suggested numbering the games, most teachers will be doing this so they are able to tell the children "circles will be playing number 12 today."They can match the right game to the child and learning intention without any extra preparation. Once the games are there and all numbered, all of the work is done. That is even easier than floor games- you won't be trying to put all the game pieces back in the right bags during the holidays.

We all looked for games to link to from the following sites. I will start compiling a list on the wiki in the future as the year goes on and hopefully all of the finds of these fantastic five will be added in there and we can all benefit from their searching.

Big Universe

NZMaths We also looked at the digital objects.
BBC Maths this is a link to the main BBC schools site which has Math, Science and English stuff which is really fantastic. Go to the Primary part. KS1 is juniors KS2 Year 3ish-5/6 KS3 will have some stuff which is appropriate at Year 6-8.

KS means Key Stage ( a bit like our curriculum levels in NZ)

One of the best things to know when building a wiki especially for little ones is how to take a screen shot. To take a screen shot it is the command key, shift key and the number 4 key together on a Mac on a PC you need a programme. It is also important to use tabbed browsing (having a few tabs open at once) you press cntrl (PC) or command (Mac) and the letter T, to open a new tab. Then you can have you wiki open in one tab and use other tabs for searching in.

I can't wait to see how all of these teachers work together and what they all do in their classrooms.

Stacy can hyperlink

I worked with Stacy who teaches New Entrants for maths at Outram. She announced to me that she knew nothing about computers and was "the worst in the school". Funnily enough about four people told me that, just that day, they can't all be the worst. In fact Stacy was a very fast learner and had heaps of skills. It is easy to feel like you don't know a lot when you compare your self to what other people know. The only person we should compare ourselves with is ourselves a year ago or four years ago, or last week. That is why we are making a note of changes to our learning and thinking and Stacy did this at record speed.

She wanted to get the students to use the computer well during Maths without interrupting her and to make sure that learning stayed the focus for them when they were on the computer. We discussed a lot of ideas from the Otepoti wiki.

Stacy felt like a wiki was too much at this stage so we discussed hyperlinks. Stacy didn't know how to make a hyperlink and had heard the word but wasn't too sure about what it could mean to her programme. We talked about how hyperlinks enabled children to get the idea of connected thinking. We discussed how children can start to link something they are writing about to something else that relates. I told her about some children who have written poems and linked words to images to create feeling and mood in their poems. Stacy started making a table with hyperlinks for each math group to use during their time on the computer.
Next time I see Stacy we will put these into a wiki. A few people who had been making blogs and using hyperlinks didn't know how to do this in documents so now Stacy can teach them all.

Clemency at Outram School

Yesterday I visited Outram School to see how they were going with their Action Research ideas. First up I worked with two teachers but will separate their blog posts as they were both doing different things.
Clemency teaches a year 2 and 3 class at Outram and blew me away with her enthusiasm for the blog that she has made for her class last year. She has independently completed her own Action Research last year and has already learnt so much.
She showed me a really neat post on her blog of a little girl in her class in a 30 second video clip swimming. She said for the parents to be able to see this was a real moment when she realized how powerful the blog was as the girl had been terrified of the water previously and her parents at work would have missed this significant moment where she had achieved.

This year Clemency plans to take her blog further by involving the children in making the blog posts, and reporting on the news in their class. She has assigned roles for the children, three children will complete a blog post each week. She is going to train the children and provide some pictorial instructions on how to do a blog post.

An idea I heard Jane Nicholls talk about once was to use a lanyard or some type of identification tag to give the job some status, such as this picture with the title reporter or official photographer for Room 8. I thought this was a simple and effective idea, for a bit of fun.

We also discussed podcasting. As Clemency's class are younger children for some the writing of comments and captions may be difficult, for Clemency it means she will have to edit and proof read much of what they have written. This year Clemency will trial the students using voice to report their blog comments. I left her the link from the podcasting information on the wiki and a link to Point England School in Auckland who are serious about podcasting. They have really gone to town with it.

Clemency's enthusiasm has made a real impression on me. She has been keeping a diary of new ideas and steps she has been taking during the process. I told her about how some teachers thought of keeping a parallel blog of their own about their action research, there are no rules about how you present you action research. Finding an easy way to keep track of the learning and changes that happen along the way in the early stages will mean there is no pressure at the end of the year to remember what you have done. It may seem silly now but by the end of the action research it might be really difficult to remember where you started.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Refining focus by bring things back to learning

Michele Dakers and Julia France (see previous blog post) emailed me today with their family survey which they will use to measure the effectiveness of their blogs. One of the things they have come to decide from talking about this survey and what they want to find out over the time that they use the blog is the type of communication which will benefit learning. They are not only hoping to add another way for parents to get information about what is happening at school but want to increase the amount of learning and reflection from school happening and being reinforced at home. They are hoping the blog will be a talking point to increase these types of learning conversations at home. The best Action Research will always be focussed on the learning of children and making the most of learning opportunies. They are calling their research "What did you do at school today?" catchy....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Managing Computers during the day

In the afternoon today I spent some time with Leonie Spencer and Lee Phillips in the Junior School at GSNS. They have a small bay off both of their rooms with some older Macs some running OX9 and some running OX10. There are lots of great games and programmes on the computers but the children don't use the area well and are often frustrated in there when they use the computers for independent activities. Both of these reflective teachers realised that this was because the students are missing many of the important skills to use these computers effectively to learn from. Because the computers are very different from the laptops that both of the teachers use, and they realised that they needed pictures on their help sheets for the students, we were not able to use MWSnap to take screenshots and make help sheets. We were able to take a picture with a camera of the screen launcer and then used a function on the camera which justifies a photo if it has been taken of a flat upright surface, like a whiteboard. This is how well it came out.

We got all of the other images for the help sheets from google image which you can use to make resources and get pictures of anything you could think of. It is particularly useful for making resources for juniors and special needs and ESOL students. A picture says a thousand words.
They are also planning to get new mice as they identified that they were a barrier to success for the children in the computer bay. They also plan to buy some headphones and a jack so that two students can listen in peace to stories on the computer at reading time.
Lots of their ideas came from the 'Managing Computers' section in the cluster wiki.

They have decided to record their Action Research through a series of videos taken through out the year of the children talking about how things are going in the computer bay. What an easy way to show progress without too much hassle. They are are using a digital camera and just filming short two minute interviews of the children.

One thing I was impressed with was how the two teachers listened to the complaints and feedback from the children to begin with to identify the issues in the computer bay.

I think the process they go through will really veld some great pointers for other teachers to apply to their own classroom.

Using and Managing Audio Recording in Class

This morning I worked with Margie Hanning (Junior Teacher) and Petra Olrich (Year 3-4 Teacher). They were both wanting to firm up the direction of their Action Research, Petra wanted to focus on her oral language programme. After the three of us talked about Action Research and choosing something specific to inquiry about she refined her focus to "improve the quality of her students personal responses when communicating or reporting to others." Petra had heard about Podcasting to decided she would like to do this. She is podcasting with podOmatic. Petra is a confident user of ICT so we spent the rest of our time talking about how she would manage the children podcasting with only 1-2 computers to use for this. We discussed having a roster, so children are the podcaster of the day and must collect infomation related to their reporting role and later in the day podcast this with Petra's help initially and then on their own. She would like to link this to her class blog so also made a Blogger account.

Margie wants to focus her Action Research on sound and letter knowledge. She has reorganised the order she is teaching the letter sounds in her room so that it is allined with her handwriting programme. We found some examples of a simple idea demonstrated on Rachel Boyd's blog and slideshare account, Rachel is a Primary School Teacher and ICT Facilitator in Nelson, Rachel has a letter of the day, the students go around the school and classroom and take photos of things which start with that letter. Margie, Perta and I discussed how this could be managed and thought that two children could be the photographers while the rest of the class does their handwriting also on a roster system. Petra had made some small frames and has given me the masters for these. I will put them in the picture area of our wiki as a resource to share. I have used cardboard frames for children to practise framing a shot before they get the camera, this is a good strategy if you have more children than cameras, but Petra's BLM is a better solution as it is more durable and when laminated waterproof. I then showed Margie slideshare, last year Margie became a powerpoint expert and thought she could use her skills in this area to train the students to make a slideshow with the pictures they have taken. Slideshare enables you to upload your powerpoints to the internet and then gives you an embedding code to put your powerpoints on blogs or wikis.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens in their classroom on my next visit, it was great working as a mini group and I think Petra and Margie helped one another more than I helped them. At GSNS the teachers are working in pairs from the session to help one another after I have left, having someone to talk to is important. The insight someone else has through a different perspective can solve many difficulties easily.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

RTLBs Dunedin North

I had such a lovely morning working with the RTLBs based at George Street Normal School. Tricia Scott and Lynn Marks are doing two separate Action Research inquiries into their own practice this year. Tricia will be working on enhancing the work she already does with dyslexia. Lynn would like to further enhance the communication between schools and the RTLB Service. She has decided to do this with a wiki from wikispaces. As this lively pair work so closely together, they decided it would be best if they both worked on the wiki and helped one another to learn the techie component of the wiki. Lynn will be in charge of marketing and reflection on the wiki later.
Lynn and Tricia wanted to add the logo for their RTLB office into the site so we installed MWSnap a programme that takes snap shots of your computer screen. You can download this from our wiki by clicking on the MWSnap link, learn more and get it for yourself.
They both realized after we had finished our work that although the wiki appeared quite complicated at first it was really about becoming familiar with wikispaces and practicing what they had learnt. Most of the difficulties could be solved by just looking carefully at the screen and using their common sense. Tricia sent me an email this afternoon reflecting on our work this morning. She wrote ”I also discovered that I do know things – just needed someone to reassure me that I was on the right track.” This is so true, sometimes just having another person to discuss what you are doing with really helps and we often don’t have time for that in the classroom.
I often learnt a lot from the children in my class and always had a feedback session at the end for them to share what they have learnt. They find some great little tricks and tips by not following my instructions and loved sharing this with the class. If you have a projector for them to demonstrate on this feedback works really well.
I am sure that Tricia and Lynn will blow me away next time a visit with all that they have helped one another to learn.

Check out their wiki- they say it is a work in progress but not bad for a quick morning session.