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.