Monthly Archives: October 2012

Learning can be real!

Students in year 7 are learning how to use some of the lesser known features of MS Powerpoint. After creating animations in Powerpoint, I was going to get them to create games in Powerpoint. This was dependent on them accessing a file in the network drive in a 2011 folder. To my dismay, the folder had been removed. Now what!

I had just finished chatting to Lorraine Leo in skype re the imminent hurricane that was soon to arrive on the North Eastern area of USA, where Lorraine lived. I quickly messaged to see if she was still there and could she please speak to my students about this hurricane and its impact on her, her school and the area that she lived in. Lorraine was kind enough to agree. Once I had overcome the technical issues that seemed to beset my hardware in the computer room, Lorraine appeared in the video option of skype and spoke to my students for 10 mins or so. Her school was closed for 2 or 3 days, they had been warned to stay indoors. Some areas had been evacuated. Her concern was for her elderly mother and other family members who lived in New York etc. Unfortunately, the screen share facility did not work as Lorraine was about to share a presentation featuring information on this.

The students were able to come up to the webcam one at a time and ask her questions. Halfway through my lesson, 50% of the class then went out to an early lunch as they were involved in the school production. I ended the call with Lorraine as the video was not working. This left me with 10 boys who were so intensely engaged in googling the hurricane, where it started, what it looked like, the weather maps, the increasing impact of it, the loss of lives etc. One of the boys found the youtube video of President Obama’s urgent speech to the nation and we all watched that.

As Lorraine was still online, the boys went up to the chat feature and keyed in further questions for her. Here are a couple of the text questions:-

  • Qu: Are you getting much wind and rain at the moment? Response:Hi Ross. No we are not getting very much rain or wind at all right now. It feels sort of like we are close to the ocean though.. I think that the humidity is higher than normal. Let me give you a link.  Weather forecast Here you can see the temperature.
  • what is the temperature? It is 50.9 degrees Fareinheit (This sparked research as we record temperatures in celsius)

The lunchbell then went, but what a lot of learning went on, from a short skype call which thoroughly engaged the students and sparked their curiousity, from a real person expecting a real natural disaster – the local knowledge, the atmosphere,  the feelings involved, the unknown future, the lead up to a natural disaster etc were all there! Students were going home that night to research further and watch for any TV news. Since then Lorraine has made a little video of the strong winds blowing outside her window for students to watch when they come into class tomorrow.

The twitter hashtag has been added to my tweetdeck column #sandyq for twitter updates from people – there are images, updates, news items etc (and some updates that are  inappropriate) but all part of learning.

Thank you so much Lorraine for making learning real for us! Stay safe, take care and we look forward to hearing from you once that hurricane has passed.

Tech Talk Tuesday: Live Binders

When: Tuesday October 30th, 4-5pm, Melbourne, Australia time (gmt+11)

About the Session: Live Binders will be the topic of conversation this week with our special guest presenter, Peggy George of Arizona USA. Peggy is well known globally in her role as a co-host of Classroom2.0LIVE, the popular, long running webinar series.

Peggy will demonstrate the power of live binders for curation purposes, show some wonderful examples of its use and then show how to create your own. Peggy will use web tour and app sharing to take participants on a tour of some of these resources to show them the possibilities of Livebinders. See a recent example. Participants will be shown how to use it for personal, group or student use. Come along and share in the conversations.

Here is the link to join in this session.

A whole lotta technology going on!

People ask how technology can be integrated into the classroom – especially with the little ones. So, often it is just thinking outside the square and making the most of teachable moments!

Each week, I have grade prep/one for one lesson of technology. Our classmates in Boston, USA, are reading a book called Australia’s Amazing Animals. Their teacher, Mrs Leo, alerted me to this fact. Through her suggestion, the grade prep/ones were each to draw one of the Australian animals featured. These would then be shared with her class across the globe. Although students hand drew the images, here is some of the incidental technology used to achieve this:-

    • Should students hand draw or use an iPad app to sketch the animal? If the iPad, how can a class set of 8 be shared with 18 students?
    • If, iPad, which app? On the morning of the class, a tweet went out to Gail Lovely, an expert in using technology, including iPads and apps, with the early years for suggested apps. Response came back almost immediately – DrawCast,  Doodle BuddyArt Set (which is not free) and Explain Everything Gail attached by email her fabulous quick sketches in Doodle Buddy and  and DrawCast.
    • Due to restricted access, the timeline and the need to download some of those apps, I decided to get students to use pencils and paper for drawing rather than an iPad app. Students will then see their hard copy converted to a digital image format. They learnt about scanning and bringing the real world into digital format. I also demonstrated taking a photo of their drawings with the iPad and we checked out the quality.
    • As I was asking what were the student favourite Australian animals, I suddenly thought of twitter. Immediately a tweet went out asking followers to share their favourite native animal with the prep/ones. Within minutes there were responses which then created another teachable moment with the youngsters and helped build their global knowledge and understanding. This could have formed the basis for a whole lesson in itself and probably still will.



  • As there is a also  song attached to the story of the Amazing Australian Animals. As there is no piano or guitar in the prep/one classroom, I remembered the synthesiser app on my iPad. Out it came and the students were able to sing the song to my ‘raw’ accompaniment.

Despite all these wonderful interruptions, students completed their drawings in that lesson. One girl took her brolga sheet home to finish as she wanted to complete two drawings. The collage compiling all their animals appears above. It was created using MS Collage Maker. In summary this lesson use such a lot of technology even though the final student outcome was a hand drawing – email, twitter, apps, software etc

Can you work out which animals the kids have drawn?  What is your favourite animal? We would love to know. Please add in a comment below.

Have you ever sat down and thought about all the wonderful technology that you might have used both deliberately and incidentally in a classroom? Isn’t it great when it is so immersed, it is just used for powerful learning!

Global challenges – “Lunch with our author 2013″


School can be a really busy place, with many interruptions to a timetable and routine experienced almost on a weekly basis. Christopher Herz, our author from New York has kindly offered to run further lunchtime classes with those students who are interested in further developing their writing skills.

Here are the challenges we face when working cross hemisphere, cross continent, time zones:-

  • Timing of session with a school’s busy  curriculum: the need to meet at lunchtime, as students come from across year levels – year 6 through to year 10. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if students could be released from their class for one lesson to do this? Sigh! but that is there is this perceived need that the curriculum must be covered in individual timetabled subjects)
  • Suitable times: finding a suitable time for both sides – Hawkesdale and New York. Our early school morning coincides with late night before New York. Our lunchtime pre-daylight saving is 11pm New York time. Too late to expect anyone to link up with us on a regular basis, when there is work the next day.
  • The School Year: The timing of the school year – the need, therefore, to wait for daylight saving, to start which is into term 4 – a crazy time of year for schools in Australia as we this is our last term and senior students finish early, school camps are on etc
  • Finding a suitable day, knowing that our today is Christopher’s tomorrow
  • Achievable time span: the need to keep the number of lunchtime meets to an achievable time span
  • Student commitment: getting an ongoing commitment from students to complete tasks given within the week
  • Extra curricula school activities that can interrupt student attendance
  • Achievable outcomes: Working out the best approach to the writing activities – getting achievable outcomes within a limited time span. Christopher is doing this for free, so we do not want to encroach too much on his precious time.

Attempting to overcome the challenges:-

    • Offer the weekly lunchtime class to years 6 to 10. Students come on a volunteer basis but must be committed to completing the tasks given by Christopher
    • Avoid extra curricula school activities
    • Agreeing to a 5 week program to avoid end of year activities
    • Christopher came up with great idea of “Writing through the Senses”. Each week, he will use a different sense to inspire students to think beyond their imagination and create plausible characters, scenes and stories that will be engaging and captivating to their audiences.
    • Christopher told students that they must write for 15 mins everyday and carry pen and paper with them at all times, jotting down notes when they can.

Notebooks and mobile device ready for note taking

    And so, we have now completed two weeks of linkups – each one offering further challenges (which will be written about in further posts) but also some wonderful  inspiration provided for the students and their writing, sheer engagement on the part of students and Christopher’s obvious passion coming through.

Tech Talk Tuesdays: A Guided Tour of Blogging part 2

About the session: Blogging is an essential digital literacy in the 21st century. This session will be an extension of the recent “Guided Tour of  Blogging”. This session will be structured to suit the needs of the participants but the following may be covered:

  • why is blogging an essential digital literacy?
  • the importance of categories and tags in blogging
  • how to add those wonderful widgets to the sidebar eg clustrmaps, weather, google translate, countdown etc
  • the importance of commenting, appropriate commenting
  • establishing an audience
  • how to expand a blog’s readership
  • how to create digital portfolios through blogging
  • tips and hints for successful blogging
  • where to find out more

Click on this link to listen to the recording. Please come along with your questions, experience, expertise and join in the conversations.

A backchannel for ESL

Further to previous backchannel posts, the point at hand was really “could a backchannel be used in an ESL speaking class (English as a second language).

A backchannel, using  eg Todaysmeet,  could be used in numerous ways in the ESL classroom. Students or participants could:-

  •  share in real taking notes on the content of the speech
  • get a group of students to write in the backchannel the speech content in both the spoken language and the native langage
  • translate all or part of the speech
  • Using postive feedback and appropriate language,  comment on the accent used, speed of speaking, understandability, general delivery of the speaker etc
  • Student evaluation of the speaker and their speech or conversation
  • Students could add a question in the backchannel and the ESL speaker interpret it into English
  • note any confusion with translation, or words not understood at all
  • the teacher could go back through the chat to ascertain the understanding of the audience, the confusion, the notes gathered etc and where further teaching or learning is required.

What ideas do you have for using a backchannel in the ESL classroom? Could you please share them in a comment below. Thanks

Playing in a Google Hangout

Several weekends ago, I was privileged to play with google hangouts, under the direction of Jo Hart, who is a master at online learning. The invitation was put out through the Australia Series facebook group. Jo, Penny Bentley, Tatyana Chernaya (from Russia) and Heather Peterson were part of this group.

A great way to learn is to have an informal hangout with others and test the options with each other, share experiences and discoveries and take the learning from there. It is great to learn with a small group, especially when they are willing to explore all the elements, push all the buttons and share what was discovered. There is mentoring, teaching, learning, group networking etc.

When at home, I am on limited bandwidth and have often found that using the video, pulls me out, so I have not tried to attend too many. However, during this session, Jo taught me how to pull back the linkup speed. See screenshot below

Here is what we did:-

  1. Jo demonstrated screen sharing
  2. Worked out how to add and share files
  3. Add dressups
  4. Use the video camera for a virtual tour
  5. Toggle on and off the microphone, video cam option etc
  6. Used the chat and associated elements

How to create a hangout: 

  1. Login into google+
  2. Search for hangouts, create hangouts, share link provided with people you wish to be part of the hangout. (Can have up to 10 video participants)

Jo demonstrates screen share

The pluses:-

  • free for those wih google mail registration
  • Allows file sharing including text documents, ppt presentations, images
  • Allows ‘dress ups’ for a bit of fun or role playing
  • Can be recorded through airpla and saved on youtube (Can you privatize the resultant viedeo)
  • Could be useful for videoconferencing and video chats in classrooms, but care would need to be taken with recording of session that appropriate permissions are there.
  • Potential for ‘remote’ classes or teachers
  • Invitations can be quickly generated through google circles
  • Can pull back to a slower bandwidth setting

Learning about Russian mushrooms

The Challenges

  • easier if all participants have their own gmail account and are part of your google+circles
  • heavy on bandwidth
  • potential privacy and security issues

Virtual tour of Jo’s backyard

In class, we have played with the google hangout, but it was close to bell time, our bandwidth was not strong that day but it did work sufficiently but time for full exploration was against us.

Potential for the classroom

  • use as a screencasting tool – do not invite anyone to the hangout, simply record the lesson using airplay and add to youtube
  • record classes for students who are absent
  • invite in other remote classes
  • use for videoconferencing
  • Professional Development potential for small groups

Thanks Jo for making the time available to share your knowledge and expertise and letting us play to learn. Have you used google hangout? If so, how? What could you share with us? Please add your comment below this post.

The power of backchannels!

A week or so ago, I got a request to explain the backchannel and wrote a post Using a Backchannel. However the response came back that there was still confusion.In fact twitter is actually being used as a backchannel for this discussion.

As a teacher, students can tell me when they are confused at the very point of confusion if they can txt me in a backchannel or discussion space, but they rarely put their hand up and tell me. I can then re-explain, re-teach until they do understand.

Re-explaining a backchannel:-

Imagine if when you are writing for an assignment or assessment piece, that would allow every student to simultaneously:-

  •  ask questions that come to them, immediately.
  • ask for the word  or terms, to describe something (as it wont come immediately into your head)
  • resolve confusion immediately
  • share  opinion ‘silently’ with others who are also writing
  • seek feedback on an argument  to be used etc.
  • share resources
  •  input feelings, thoughts etc
  • teacher could add ‘silently’ ask questions to ensure students understand topic
  • retain a written record of all of the above

Imagine if….when listening to a presenter at a conference,or to speakers in a debate or a public speech or to a teacher, listeners or participants could:-

  • offer feedback (constructive) on the quality of the presentation
  • ask questions at any stage
  • share their knowledge with each other
  • share resources to support the speaker
  • poll on the success of the speech

Below are some screen grabs of a backchannel used in a classroom. Students in grades 2 to 10 were listening to a geologist talk virtually (online) about the animals that lived in Kanawinka, Australia’s GeoPark. Each student was logged on individually and could use the chat area as a backchannel. When Ian, the geologist talked about the bats, the students put questions and comments into the chat area (backchannel) of the virtual classroom, Blackboard Collaborate. Ian  stopped his presentation and answered the questions.

Backchannel chat from students whilst listening to a virtual guest speaker

The screengrab below is from an online accounting class where students shared their confusion in the chat. They would not have normally interrupted me, the online teacher, but as they had a chat area to comment in, they were happy to admit what they did not understand. I had to rephrase my teaching and teach to their confusion.

The backchannel from virtual students in Blackboard Collaborate during online accounting class

Some backchannel tools to use:- twitter, chatzy, todaysmeet, blackboard collaborate, msn, skype group chat, coveritlive  etc

Setting up the backchannel-

  • Choose a backchannel tool
  • The organiser or teacher creates a backchannel using one of the tools above.
  • The link is shared with the class or participants. These participants  click on the link, login (if required), enter their name and proceed to use it as an educational chat room.
  • It twitter is to be shared as a backchannel, then a hashtag would be created eg for the recent ACEC2012 conference, participants shared what they learnt, asked questions, talked about experiences through a tweet that included the hashtag #acec2012. This hashtag can be entered into tweetchat and the conversation followed there.

Further resources

How would you explain a backchannel? Have you used one? What is your opinion of a backchannel? What tool did you use? What resources could you add to this post? Can you please help this young university student?

Tech Talk Tuesdays: Using iPads to EnhanceTeaching and Learning

When: Tuesday 16th, 4-5 pm October Melbourne Australia time (gmt+11)

About this session: Joe Dale, from the Isle of Wight, UK, will be our guest presenter. Joe has been brought out to Australia several times this year to work with educationalists in the area of technology and mobility in teaching languages.  He will share, virtually, his experience and knowledge in using iPads to enhance teaching and learning. Joe is a UK Independent modern foreign languages and technology consultant and is host of the TES MFL forum and MFL portal manager for the OU’s Vital programme.

Please join us and share in the conversations. Click on  this link to listen to the recording. In this session, Joe shared the changing nature of learning, lots of resources, links, apps, thinking etc. Thanks Joe for getting up at 6am to share with us.

What questions do you have?

ACEC2012 Conference in Review

Every two years the ACEC conference is held in a different city of Australia. The beautiful city of Perth was host city in 2012. It was held at Wesley College in South Perth, a well set up private school with sweeping views across the River Swan.

The Highlights

Networking : As always for me, it is the networking that is the highlight of a conference – meeting many colleagues face to face, re-acquainting with established friends, meeting new people and connecting to others who interested in education.

Many years ago, I met  Sue Waters on twitter. She is now a moderator of Edublogs. Sue kindly took me under her wing as twitter was not making sense to me  and suggested 25 people key tweeters to follow. From those days our educational network has grown dramatically along with our personal friendship. Sue kindly offered me accommodation in her home. Sue Wyatt, who co-ordinates the Student Blogging Challenge, Amanda Marrinan , an award winning ISTE teacher and innovator with her Prep Gems and a friend of Sue’s Frances, who  calls herself “a geek who writes code”.  Night times at Sue’s house was a blogger’s paradise and much was shared.

As always the attendees were friendly, receptive to technology and keen to learn from and with each other. An ISTE Study  Group was on tour and took part in the conference. It was great to be able to socialize with them.

The workshops/sessions

A large number of sessions were offered for each time slot, with a mix of topics. Sessions ran for approximately 45 mins  with staggered lunch hours and morning and afternoon tea breaks. A keynote started each day and another was offered in the afternoon. The notable keynote keynote speaker for me, was Dr Miltron Chen, whose workshop I also attended.  His topic was Education Nation – Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools. As I am intrigued with the notion of Games Based Learning, Sasha Barab on Video Games and Transformational Play was also of interest.

The morning, afternoon tea and lunch breaks enabled time to wander around the Trade Exhibition Centre.  I loved catching up with Geoffrey Kaye who I had met virtually through my online colleague Lorraine Leo in the USA. Geoffrey was at the Compu-Ed stand. We have used his DiscoverE virtual classroom many times for global connection and communication. It has been specifically designed for low bandwidth use.

Many of the sessions that I chose to attend focused on global education and the tools to enable this.

Unconferencing

Thanks to Roland Gesthuizen and Amanda Rablin, google hangouts had been conducted in the weeks leading up to the conference to allow pre-conference connections and networking. A Space Lounge was set up in convenient location to the Trade Exhibition Hall. This was a space for people to relax, charge their computers and network on an informal basis. I spent most of any spare time  here and met many online colleagues face to face. Roland and Amanda were instrumental in organizing google hangouts of sessions and for an unplugged day preceeding the conference.

Next to the Space Lounge was the stand for the South Australian ACEC conference 2014. Tina_P and Al Upton were busy gauging support for this conference in Adelaide. See also their facebook page.   Badges could be ‘blinged’ here and  a photographer was on hand to take catchy photos of attendees to promote the SA event.

Socializing

There was ample time for socializing with two conference dinners – one celebrating 25 years of ACCE and the other being the official conference dinner at the new State Reception Centre in Kings Park. Sue Waters ensured that we were taken to this venue a little earlier so that we could bask in the magnificent views of Perth and enjoy the multitude of wildflowers that were out in the Park – a truly beautiful part of Perth. The Wadumbah Dance Group performed at the Conference Dinner. It is one of the premier Indigenous dance groups in Australia and it was great to celebrate with them. The food was good, the company great and a lot of fun was had dancing to the DJ.

Kings Park State Reception Centre amongst the wildflowers

Awards

I was proud and honoured to receive the ACEC Educator of the Year Award for 2012. A great colleague, Adrian Camm, received the ACEC Leader of the Year award together with Lynn from Western Australia. Congratulations to both of them. Thank you to my supportive network who made this award possible for me.

 Changes in the coference from two years ago:

  • majority of attendees had a mobile device.
  • Photos were taken with phones, iPads rather than cameras and then shared via twitter or instragram or to Facebook
  • Online spaces included a Facebook page
  • the presence of unconference style workshops

Thanks

Special thanks to Sue Waters for being such a great host and to the conference organisers for the huge effort that must have gone in to organising this wonderful conference.