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 dejmclean+bob@gmail.com (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.