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.