Monday, 30 April 2007

A "Pay Attention" Staff Meeting

This afternoon we had a great ICT PD Staff Meeting @ Central.

We started off on the right foot by viewing Darren's "Pay Attention" movie (click here if you haven't seen it yet). We set the scene by explaining it was made for a US audience and that most of the facts and figures related to the US... we challenged our teachers to view the video and reflect on "how does this relate to us in New Zealand?".

We had what I believe to be an absolutely fabulous reaction from staff. There were loads of heads nodding throughout the video; lots of thoughtful "hmmms" and a few spots of laughter as well. It really set the scene well for the next part of our meeting which was to celebrate all of the fabulous blogging that has been started since my PD session on March 12 this year. Our teachers have come a long way and this was a great chance to acknowledge the efforts they have put in and to celebrate their successes. I am really proud of them :)

We then moved into cooperative groups and brainstormed the ways that we could keep our blogs current with less teacher effort... this is the next step for most teachers.

I have collated all of our staff's ideas onto this wiki page. You might like to view it and see if you get any new ideas for integrating blogs into your classroom and keeping them up to date.

Teachers have also been set a challenge tonight in an email I have sent:

All of our ideas for keeping blogs current are now displayed on a wiki space. Please visit and see if there's an idea there that you can implement in your classroom.

Extra for Experts: There are 6 spelling mistakes on this wiki page (on purpose!)

The first 6 teachers to edit the wiki and change ONE spelling mistake will get a sweet treat. [Click on the "edit this page" button on the top right of the page to correct one spelling mistake - make sure you also let me know it was you!]

This will be both fulfilling for your sweet tooth as well as giving you an experience in editing a Web 2.0 collaborative wikispace! Enjoy!

I wonder what the response will be?!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

My PC pet peeve

For the last week I have had my class using my school Toshiba laptop. This seemed like such a good idea and I thought that it would be great to give my own macbook a rest from children's grubby hands. Boy was I wrong....

My students are simply not used to all of the PC's security alert warning screens popping up ALL over the place: asking to say yes or no when working on the web. I'd basically told my students to just click "yes" most of the time but when working with Blogger the other day they seemed to be inundated with them all. Then the computer had installed some updates and wanted to restart every few minutes. It REALLY annoyed all of us. Especially since I had just got my students working independently making posts and comments on the blog. It seemed that every few minutes there was a "Rachel!" called out from a student on the computer... and I really can't blame them! It is totally annoying!

Maybe I have been working day-to-day on Apple computers for too long and have been enjoying the luxuries? I'm just not ready to go back into the PC World!

This movie is an excellent demonstration of my frustrations, it's one of the "get a mac" adverts. Enjoy, and in the meantime I'll be tweaking that PC's security settings to see if I can improve things!

Oh, BTW I should mention in case you don't already know, that I teach 6 & 7 year olds who aren't capable of reading security warnings; and no my PC isn't running Vista like mentioned in the movie. Ta :)

More great Slideshow Tools!

Another fantastic tool for displaying slideshows on your blog is One True Media I know.. dumb name huh!). It is equally as good as Rock You and Bubbleshare and good to use for variety.

I quite liked it because it allowed me to choose all my photos first, then upload them. I didn't have to constantly monitor the site to know when I could upload the next photo.

Once uploaded I was given a choice of "styles" - currently there are 4 to choose from. My example uses the "wheel" style. You can also upload music, but I presume it really should be non-copywrite etc.

One difference with using One True Media for a slideshow is that you can also add in short video files.

Here's what my One True Media slideshow turned out like:

PS - to make it smaller to fit my template I changed in the html coding to height: 400; width 400. I could not find a way to resize my slideshow on the actual site. It may be fine being big with your template, mine is just quite narrow.

Slide is another similar site that allows you to upload your photos. Like Rock You it allows for several layers of customisation like:
* style (type of transitions - in my example I have used "revolver")
* themes (extras that appear in background)
* skins (which are a bit like borders)
* you can also select the size of your slideshow.

I uploaded the same photos to Slide as used above so you can see what can be produced.

Lots of scope for variety and customisation here.... happy slideshow making!

Monday, 23 April 2007

A new feature - translate my blog!

You can now view my blog in 10 different languages!

I have installed a new widget in my sidebar! It uses Google's Translation Services and converts the whole page into the desired language. I have this fantastic blog to thank for my new gadget.

I spent about 10 minutes "googling" a widget to put on my blog and this was one of the best that I found to translate the whole page without having to copy and paste the text over to a translation page.

Two reasons I have installed this translator are:
  • I stumbled upon a link to my site on this blog in some foreign language (maybe Spanish?) and thought it only polite!

... go on, try the translator for a laugh... you know you want to! :)

PS: If you haven't already read it I suggest you read the State of the Live Web (April 2007) report here.
Click here if you want to copy and paste the code to get a translator on your site :)

Friday, 20 April 2007

A new blog to the public arena!

If you haven't seen the "Pay Attention" video yet.... YOU NEED TO!

I blogged about it just over a week ago, you can view it here if you missed it.
It was created by Darren Draper to "motivate teachers to more effectively use technology in their teaching"... and THAT it really has done, except not just for the Jordan School District that he made it for... it has made a ripple throughout the world (yes, even reaching us in little old New Zealand) where I KNOW it will be invaluable for staff development.

Last week Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher) had asked Darren if he blogged... and the answer was that he didn't blog publically (personal blog and school blogs were kept private)....

Well in response to all the fabulous attention Darren has achieved through his brilliant video, Darren has now created a public blog. I encourage you to visit and subscribe to his blog... he is one to watch out for!

Thanks Darren for making your great stuff accessible to all of us!

Oh, and just another plug... check out this site Darren's created on "How to become a better teacher" for fantastic info and resources.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Why let our students blog?

I have made a presentation on "Why let our Students Blog?" and hosted it on Teacher Tube (also viewable below). I have been meaning to address and this write a post on this for a while: to identify the benefits and reasons why we should have students blogging in our classrooms.


When I viewed Simon's (Educating the Dragon) great response to "Why Teach Technology?" I realised that writing about the benefits of student blogging was not the only way I could present my ideas. I am currently on school holidays so I have put together this presentation inspired by Simon's!

Movie/video is such a powerful medium. I created the presentation on good old PowerPoint and uploaded the jpgs of each slide to imovie. I've kept the transitions to a very basic cross dissolve mostly to not detract. The music is nothing flash - "English Channel" from Freeplay Music but it does the job.

Hope you enjoy it - it's only my first "draft" so please feel free to leave comments and mention anything I've forgotten or need to include :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The Power of Wikipedia

I am absolutely astonished at the incredible power of Wikipedia (or rather the people who are editing it). I have been following the horrific Virginia Tech shootings that occured on the 16th in America.

As it is a piece of breaking news on Wikipedia I have been able to see the huge changes the page has undergone just over the last half hour while I have been doing my normal romp through my blog subscriptions through Blogarithm.

I guess because previously I have been working, I have never seen an event unfold and be reported so quickly and accurately on Wikipedia. There are so many people out there truly dedicated to ensuring it is up to date and referenced to the hilt. The page has changed so much even in the half hour I have been viewing it.

Looking through the history I can see the first page edit was at 15:16 on the 16th (US) and it comprised of this:

Obviously as more news, facts and figures became available the page evolved into what I can currently see (which will be vastly different to what you'd see if you checked it out now)

Here's 2 small shots of what the page looks like as I view it now (21:01 on the 16th US):

This really shows the power of collaboration and how amazing wikipedia is - paper resources (ie newspaper etc) would have long been out of date by now.

It is truly heartbreaking stuff to think that so many lives have been lost and that this all occured in a school/polytechnic where students and staff are supposed to feel safe,

Our hearts are with you Virginia as you attempt to pick up the pieces.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Bloggers' Choice Awards

Currently the Bloggers' Choice Awards are on and a category struck my eye: Best Educational Blog.

David Warlick's 2 Cents blog is one I of the top 20 nominated in that category that I recognised. Currently he has got 7 votes - compare this with the currently leading Educational Blog Mom is Teaching with 51 votes!

Head on over and make your vote!

EDIT (Tues): Have just checked today and David's blog is no longer there!?? Perhaps he's asked for it to be removed from nomination?? Anyway still worth the visit.

Other categories to check out are: best blog about blogging & best blogging host.

The Power to Change the World

Iain from over at Edge of the Seat has started a fabulous Ning project that you might want to consider contributing to.

"If I could change the world" has been set up "with the idea that this could be a place where children could raise their voices."

From the website:
"This is a global project where children from around the world can submit artwork and writings outlining their own ideas for making the world a better place. The submissions from this project will hopefully be made into a book."

This fits really nicely with our school's theme for the year "The Future Starts Now!" and is something I will be getting my students to be involved with next term.

Topics selected so far are: poverty, pollution and violence.

We will be creating original digital art and creating our online art gallery. Time permitting, I'd also like the students to create a short video that addresses the pollution issue.

Brilliant idea Iain! Head on over to this site if you think this is something you'd like to be involved in!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Digital Learners

Pay Attention!

This is a fantastic video created by Darren Draper This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it from the Jordan School District. His aim was to motivate teachers to more effectively use technology in their teaching.

It is a goodie and has already been viewed thousands of times at both You Tube and Teacher Tube. I will certainly be showing parts of this video at one of our staff meetings next term. Definitely inspiring, motivating and thought provoking!

Topics covered:
  • Multiple intelligences of the students we teach - they are also digital learners
  • Statistics on these "digital learners" use of technologies
  • Blooms' revised taxonomy and how important it is to have students creating
  • Using the technology that students' love to: create/teach/reach/engage students more effectively
  • Using the power of the internet and cell phones in teaching
Plus: check out the link provided at the end of the video for links to fab resources!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

How we rely on aggregators...

Not a great start to my morning! As it's school holidays I had a leisurely breakfast while I checked my email for my latest "blogmail" from Blogarithm. This is one of my normal morning routines (it's just rather nice doing it at 8am rather than 6am!).

The email was sent properly but when I opened it the logos were obscured and said "click here". When I went to click to visit one of the blogs that had been updated I was redirected to a site saying Blogarithm's domain name had expired! I checked and checked but no luck, even after trying numerous links.

All I could think about was that all the addresses of all the blogs I subscribe to would be gone! It would take me hours and hours to compile such a list again from scratch... made me wish that I'd somehow saved my links or backed them up!

On this site I found an email link to the owners of the site and immediately sent a "HELP!" email. I was pleasantly surprised when within an hour I received this helpful reply:

Hi Rachel,

I'm sorry about the expiration. It will be working again soon.
There was a mixup with our domain registrar.

Andy MacDonald

Well done Blogarithm! Having checked now I can see the wheels are in motion as the page I am redirected to is different... at least the page is parked now.

I can't wait until it's back up and running.... can you guess what the first thing I'll be doing is??!!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Worldwide Blogging

If you're not convinced that blogging is worldwide and used in areas other than education you need to view this great Slideshare presentation by user mjamesno that was uploaded a week ago.

Click the forward button to advance the slides.
BTW you can easily upload your PowerPoint presentations to Slideshare and embed them on your blog as I've done here if you didn't already know that.

I have just found this out: Sony's new corporate marketing strategy incorporates Blogging! The company "has made it obligatory for all senior staff at both Columbia Records and RCA Records to start blogging actively". Read more about it here!
I wonder what staff will make of this?


YouTube vs TeacherTube

I have been thinking seriously lately about my use of YouTube for uploading and sharing student's videos. Since we only shared one video properly on our blog last year in my class at Mapua School the use of YouTube was a non-issue.

This year, however, as I can see my students making lots of mini videos to share and showcase their learning and reflections on learning I have been having a closer think. In most schools overseas YouTube is blocked, and indeed it also is in many New Zealand schools.

My first alternative to YouTube was investigating Google Video. But then Google went and bought out YouTube! So Google Video is now filled with the same random and often bizarre and crazy things that YouTube has on it!

Today I tried an alternative that I've been quietly finding out about since its launch on March 6th 2007. This is TeacherTube.

It also is completely free and allows you to upload your video and get the code to embed it on your website/blog etc just like YouTube (see my test below). The benefits are that if students click on the TeacherTube logo they are taken to a much safer site. TeacherTube's aim is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos.... a much safer forum.

I found TeacherTube easy to sign up to, easy to upload to and it plays just as nicely in your blog as YouTube does. I will definetly be using this as an alternative in the future... a great find and a growing community that we need to support.

FOR teachers, BY teachers... got to love it!

Managing ICT in the classroom

I am currently at the Nelson City Cluster ICT PD Lead Teacher's Day.

We have just had a sharing time and questions have arisen about how we manage ICT in our daily classroom programme. I thought I would take a back to basics approach to describing how ICT is managed in my classroom currently and how my students produce the work that they do! (apologies if this is boring for you!)

My student's skills at the very start of the year:
My students have come to me with very basic Word formatting knowledge but no typing skills. Some can insert photos into Word. No one has any experience with blogging/wikis/podcasting etc. They had minimum exposure to the Internet/Internet games etc.

For ICT I have spent all of Term One teaching my students digital camera/photo skills and routines, skills for using equipment. It has not been the end product that is important, and it's taken a term to get the "end products" - our first video and our first podcast.

Routines we have established are:
  • computer/ICT buddies - mixed abilities
  • rotation system for taking digital photos - buddies goes out, take their shots (4 of each), come back and "silently" tag the next pair who goes out and takes their pics - the rest of the class is working as per normal and I am uninterupted to teach the class - it takes no effort from me because I have put in the hard yards to teach them the skills and the problem solving aspects.
  • I teach one capable child the skills, they teach the next, that child teaches the next.. the trickle down effect. This allows me to keep teaching our general classroom programme.
  • A "C3B4ME" policy if you have difficulty with the computer during the normal class programme.
  • I want to set up an "experts" list later in the year so that students will know who they can go to for help.

How we manage the ICT component: the doing:
  • Children take the photos, I upload them to my mac, children browse iphoto library and select best photo from the 4 that they chose. This is the photo we will use later.
  • The children do the brainstorming, drafting and writing, currently I do the typing. It is not practical for my 6 and 7 year olds to do the typing, but they do type up short sentences themselves.
  • We have a computer suite with 11 PCs. Our library time is the same time as our ICT time. Half the kids are upstairs in the computer suite; half downstairs in the library borrowing books and doing literacy activities. We have a support person, Monique, who can "teach" the class for ICT but I use her to support my students in their learning activity - roaming up and down and assisting students. We have been using Kidspiration, a web 2.0 speech bubble site and Tux Paint this term. View these posts on our class blog for what the kids have done: here and here.
  • In class we have lots of mini programmes going around blogging and podcasting. We do all of these with my mac and my digital camera. We only have one computer in the room!!

These are the things we have covered so far this term in ICT teaching (that I can remember):
  • What is a digital camera? What does it do? How do we hold it safely?
  • How do you turn on the camera? How can we take a photo?
  • What do we do if the screen goes black or if I have a problem?
  • What do I do when I've taken my photo?
  • How do I turn the computer on? How do I turn on the monitor?
  • How do I open programmes?
  • What do we have to do when we are being videoed? - how do we look/speak/act?
  • What is a blog? What is the Internet?
  • Why are we going to have a blog? Put on your thinking hats - What could be the good/bad/creative aspects of having one?
  • How can we access our blog from home?
  • What is a podcast? Why would we want to do a podcast? What should we remember when doing a podcast? (voice, expression, pausing, tone etc)

Generally the general classroom programme keeps running! I do not designate and do a full day of just ICT! We integrate it seamlessly into our programme. We only use the ICT as a tool to share, celebrate and display our learning. Children go off individually or in buddies to my "teacher corner" to do their recording or insert their pictures. I need only to show one capable child ONCE... they then can teach another child.. and then that child will teach the next!

Behind everything we do on our class blog and our podcasting sits LOADS of teaching and student's work! For example, every story you read on our class blog or read aloud on the podcast has been brainstormed, drafted and edited by the students. We are still doing the reading, writing, maths etc... and LOTS of it! The ICT is used to bring the students work and learning to life and give the students ownership of it. It also shares learning with our parents/family members.
Please post any comments or questions you have below, I'd only be too happy to help!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Our first Podcast for the year!

Well it is another time for "firsts" in my classroom with ICT this year!

One of the reasons for this is that we have had a 3rd year student teacher teaching in our classroom for the past 5 weeks. Another reason is simply that the students haven't quite been ready for it all!

Now we are all settled into our routines within the classroom, I am back teaching full time and it is nearing the end of the term. We have walked hard for the last 9 weeks to settle into our new classroom, get to know each other, as well improve our writing, reading, maths and oral language skills (including listening!).... and it shows!

Today we talked about the word podcast coming from the words "ipod" and "broadcast" - we talked about ipods being to do with music and broadcasting being to do with the news and radio - so basically talking. We listened to some taped stories and thought about how we were going to speak when our voices were recorded.

We decided our voices had to:
  • sound interesting
  • sound exciting
  • be loud
  • be not too fast
  • be expressive!
Last week we wrote some brilliant stories about our favourite places at Nelson Central School. Today most of the class brought our stories to life by recording us reading them using "Garageband". We then took digital photos of our buddies around the school in the favourite places that we wrote about! We added these to our recordings on Garageband.

Click on the badge below to listen to our AMAZING PODCAST (vodcast)... great for a first attempt for the year I think. Will have to think about better recording equipment for next term, we used my macbook and its internal mic. At some points the class was quite noisy as they were involved in group work and individual students were recording.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Our first class video for the year!

On Thursday last week my class made their very first proper video for the year!

We have been lucky enough to have a 3rd year student teacher, Nicky, with us for the past 5 weeks. She has been great and the students have really enjoyed her teaching.

We used our class digital camera (nothing flash) - a Canon Powershot to record very short goodbye and thank you messages to Nicky. The sound quality, however, was not flash and we had to record the videos just outside our classroom as otherwise it was too noisy. It's still a little hard to hear some parts of the video due to background noise but it's a fantastic start!

They practiced very hard in pairs what they were going to say, but still many students were affected by "stage fright" but I'm very proud of their first effort! May there be many more throughout the year :)

BTW: I had to remove one short clip as that child does not have permission for her image to be shown on the internet (we included it in the real video that we gave to Nicky in DVD format however)... a small price to pay, but I should have considered her poor buddy who she did the filming with... now she has been cut out of the online version too! Will have to take this into consideration next time.