Author Archives: murcha

Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding

que-es-un-blog-y-para-que-sirve-un-blog

Image source

Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding can provide an understanding of your classroom, community, country, culture, ideals, experiences and learning within and beyond the classroom. Before I connect with others, I want to know more about them – are they genuine, who are they, what are they about, do I want to maintain contact etc?  Therefore, I look for their blog or other online space for more information. This becomes important as we become more globally connected.

Blogging is an essential, user friendly, online space that teachers and classrooms should use as it offers a rich learning space and enables ongoing conversations through comments. It enables customized learning. Starting and Sustaining a Blog for Global Understanding was one of my workshops for “Supporting the Challenge” at the recent Flat Connections Conference in Sydney. See the actual presentation below and read further for my notes on this presentation. A resources document has been set up. Please add to it, if you have suggestions.

Some of the popular blogging platforms include edublogs, wordpress, blogger, kidblog. My personal preference is for edublogs (the pro version or a campus) as they provide ready advice, offer some great support materials and online resources and enable the use of multi-media which is essential for global understanding when language differences may be a challenge. Edublogs pro also allow movies and podcasts to be directly uploaded without the need to embed code from eg youtube, vimeo etc.

To get started a blogger will need to understand the nature of posts, pages, links, widgets, hyperlinks, categories tags and the necessity for an “about me or us” page (an essential ‘handshake’ to foster initial interest and encourage ongoing connections and reading)

Comments

Comments enable ongoing conversations, provide a base for discussion and enable ongoing learning. Readers can ask questions, seek clarification and share their own knowledge and resources. A blogger needs to know what ‘good’ comments look like and how to moderate them.

Media

Embed media including sound, images and videos wherever possible to supplement or replace text. Images ‘speak 1000 words’ and where languages may not be the same, will show and share so much to provide for global understanding. Stories can be shared in images, videos, sound stories and animated slideshows. Youtube and vimeo videos can be embedded to reflect where you live and learn or links to videos provided.

Widgets for global understanding

Following are some widgts that could be added to theblog  sidebar

  • Clustrmaps, flagcounters to motivate and show the location of readers. They can be used to also teach statistics, the location of countries and the flags of different countries
  • Clocks – eg clocklink provides learning re time zones, days and dates. A countdown clock eg Countdown  or Create a Countdown will alert to upcoming cultural and religious festivals, school holidays etc. A time convertor eg world time buddy will help with the ever challenging time zone differences.
  • Weather – eg willy weather or weather add gadget provide a  global perspective on weather conditions
  • Translate widgets – google, bing to allow posts to be interpreted across languages. Learn how to translate blogs even when widgets are not present
  • Flickr – eg flickr slidr will show the latest photos shared on flickr on the sidebar showing what it looks like in your classroom, community or country
  • A blogroll can share blogs that your classroom might be connected to or that might be of interest from global classrooms, communities or teachers
  • Twitter – enables a feed of tweets to be shared
  • World news widgets eg reuters

Some advanced features

  • Embed the code from powerpoint presentations that have been uploaded to slideshare.
  • Vokis – can be used to introduce yourself in your native language
  • Embed google maps complete with pins that share global collaborations, images and explanations in text. See Skippy’s blog post (manouvre it till you see her pins)

Consider the following:

  • The use of mobile apps for blogging on the ‘fly’ or quickly sharing images, podcasts and videos
  • Choosing a theme that suits mobile reading
  • Taking part in the student blogging challengeJoining a quadblogging group
  • Some countries may block blogging sites

Tips:

  • Post regularly
  • Read other blogs
  • Comment on others’ blog posts
  • Share new posts on social media eg twitter, facebook etc Use global hashtags eg #globalclassroom #globaled etc
  • Let your blog take direction over time

Useful resources from Edublogs

What suggestions might you have to add to this topic? Please add as a comment below this post.

Global Connectedness

At the recent Flat Connections conference in Sydney, the program included a several “Supporting the Challenge” bootcamps which allowed participants to choose the topics that were of high interest to them. “Global Connectedness” was the theme of one of my offered workshops (bootcamps).

In this session, the following questions and topics were shared and discussed.

  • What is a global community?
  • Some examples of global communities.
  • Where can educators start to connect with the world?
  • What are some of the most popular networking tools to build a community?
  • How can a global community be successfully maintained.
  • Tips for sustaining a global community.
  • Challenges

View the presentation:-

Skype in the Classroom – #ISTE2014 presentation

Last minute preparations

Last minute preparations

At the suggestion of Toni Oliveri-Barton, I submitted  a proposal to present on “Skype in the Classoom” for ISTE2014. It was accepted and special online friends and members of HLW Skypers and Global Classroom group offered to be part of the presentation. They were Toni Oliveri Barton,Theresa Allen, Louise Morgan and David Karsoncak. We asked Steve Sherman (Living Maths) from South Africa and Janet Barnstable, of USA, to be our special e-guests so that conference participants could experience the nature of skype and multi video participants Prior to the session

  • A skype group was formed initially for the face-to-face participants so that we could collaborate and chat 24/7. The chat remains and will be there for up to 12 months or more. Living on the other side of the world still meant that I could read the discussions in my waking hours. (See 7 tips for successful skype groups)
  • several skype videoconference calls were made to finalize the presentation
  • google presentation Skype in the Classroom was used for our collaborative session - add slides, comments, images
  • a google document Skype in the Classroom Resources and a collaborative live binder were setup to add resources. Conference participants and others were encouraged to help crowd source the google document.
  • decided on an iste skype hashtag #iste14skype See the twitter feed

collage Immediately prior to the session

  • @murcha @dkarnoscak @toniobarton @tdallen5 @mrsmorgansclass met in the bloggers cafe to finalize our presentation
  • labelled the slides with our initials
  • tested the connection 30 mins earlier from our allocated room. Brought in Steve and Janet via video
  • positioned a webcam on the audience so that Steve and Janet could see who they were talking too.
  • enlisted Sue Wyatt aka @tasteach to be our chief tweeter and administrator. Thanks Sue!
  • Preston Morgan to be our general liaison person, photographer etc

nearly ready The challenges

  • ensuring sufficient bandwidth for two simultaneous video linkups as the 1000s of conference attendees were using the internet often with 2 or 3l devices.
  • keeping the 5 presenters all keen to talk about their exciting work, to a time limit.
  • ensuring that both Janet and Steve could feel part of it by facing laptop webcam on the audience
  • ensuring we were ready to talk to our slides so that time was not wasted. Theresa setup her laptop with the presentation advanced one slide in front of the session laptop.
  • enabling Steve to demonstrate the more complex features of skype remotely from Sth Africa.
Participants start to arrive

Participants start to arrive

After the session

  • Louise Morgan created a storify listing the twitter conversations
  • Session and document links were uploaded to the ISTE site
  • Tweeted out the links to documents and presentation

Do you have ideas, resources etc to add to our crowd sourced document:- Skype in the Classroom Resources. Please add them. Were you at our session? If so, we would love some feedback.

The Fun of ISTE

 A fun night out at edtech karaoke

A fun night out at edtech karaoke

A gathering of Flat Connections Educators

A gathering of Flat Connections Educators

There are many opportunities to have fun and socialize at ISTE. Here are some of the activities/places where I had fun:-

  • meeting online friends face to face
  • deliberate meetings with the PLN – going to Martin Luther King Centre with blogging and other friends before ISTE officially began
  • impromptu meetings with friends
  • meeting up with others at the bloggers cafe
  • organised dinner meals with special interest groups eg Julie Lindsay and the Flat Connections Project participants and HLW Skypers groups
  • edtech karaoke – see image above
  • special receptions eg the Australian reception which was held in conjunction with Alberta in Canada
  • being immersed in another country with its cultures, accents, different foods and ways of life that can be different to mine!
  • struggling to be understood on many occasions with my ‘thick’ Aussie accent
Thanks Toni Oliveri-Barton for this pic!

Thanks Toni Oliveri-Barton for this pic!

Kevin Honeycutt, me and Sue Waters who was #notatiste14

Kevin Honeycutt, me and Sue Waters who was #notatiste14

Special friends - Karen Lierenman, Louise Morgan, me and Peggy George

Special friends – Karen Lierenman, Louise Morgan, me and Peggy George

Bloggers Cafe - Angela Maiers tries on Kevin Honeycutt's wearable technology

Bloggers Cafe – Angela Maiers tries on Kevin Honeycutt’s wearable technology

Enjoying time with Theresa Allen

Enjoying time with Theresa Allen

Impromputu dinner meetings with Toni Oliveri-Barton and friend

Impromputu dinner meetings with Toni Oliveri-Barton and friend

#iste2014 in full swing

the iste crowd

ISTE is one of the biggest edtech teachers’ conferences in the world. This year it is downtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA #iste2014. As it is my third time at ISTE, I am feeling quite comfortable with the huge crowds, the vast array of sessions that participants can attend and seeking out many of my online network as well as making new contacts. However, it is still a challenge to share regularly on the social media including twitter, instagram, FB, skype and even this blog.

Flying in just in time for the start of the conference brings the challenges of jetlag, time zone changes, climate differences (from the depths of Australian winter to the height of the northern hemisphere summer.) etc. There is always some angst as to ‘not wanting to miss out on anything’, what should I attend and how much time should be spent seeking out the PLN, meeting new people and looking around the city that ISTE is held in.

Saturday morning was spent with some friends at the Martin Luther King Centre, checking out many of the displays, viewing the eternal flame, entering his church, walking through his boyhood home and looking at the museum.

ebeneezer church

As day 1 tends to have a global theme, the globaled summit was the first official session attended. A number of ignite sessions and round table discussions took place during this 3 hour time slot. I was proud to lead the discussion on Bridging Cultural Differences. 

Global Classroom Project educators

Global Classroom Project educators

Immediately after this session it was time to head to the Bloggers Cafe and avoid the queues and crowds lining up for the opening Keynote speaker, Ashley Judd, an actress and a producer. However, we ended up in the poster session area as the cafe was crowded and several of us were helping  Louise Morgan with the Globalclassroom poster session. It was great to work with David, Theresa, Preston, Robyn and Karen. The two hours flew by as many, many people walked past and showed interest in the these wonderful global opportunities.

And that ended a long, but wonderful day!

Easing the distance of friendship

Two best mates

Two best mates

@murcha Would you believe that today we had a new student start in my classroom in rural NZ who was from your school!

— Myles Webb (@NZWaikato) April 15, 2014

This tweet came soon after one of our school families returned to New Zealand to take up work there again. All too often we lose contact with students who leave us, so this tweet caught me by surprise and again show the power of the online network.

After some discussion, it was decided to try and link our schools up and allow Fred and Bayley, who are great mates to continue their friendship over skype. There is something quite fascinating about being connected with another classroom, seeing the posters on their walls, their doorway and corridor etc. The quality of the video connection was superb and after some issues with my microphone, the two boys were able to chat away, asking questions of each other. Thanks Myles for making this possible. Our principal thought this was a great idea and hopefully it will ease some of the homesickness and loss of other buddies.

Soon, we will link up the two classes and hopefully this is the start of an ongoing connection.

When technology makes the impossible possible!

Capture

Picture this -

  1. a class of students in a slum/ghetto of Kenya – the largest slum in Africa by both size and population See Boomtown Slum: A Day in the Economic Life of Africa’s Biggest Shanty Town
  2. students who are orphaned and many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS.
  3. visible holes in the decaying walls
  4. no power in the classroom
  5. no visible seats or chairs for the students to sit on
  6. no sign of books and resources
  7. volunteer teachers  who care passionately about  and for these students

Despite all this:

  • the teacher is amazingly innovative, creative, connected and active with the use of his laptop and mobile wifi
  • uses skype to connect his students to others across the world
  • the children are confident and seem happy, singing with gusto and rhythm
  • the children are given opportunities to learn at the Cheery School – “a place for nurturing students for their better lives”.

Technology makes these connections that were previously impossible, possible. Children from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya can learn from others around the world in real time, when they cannot afford books, education or even food etc!This week is multicultural week in Victoria, Australia and Friday 21st is National Harmony Day, which makes even more precious the story that now unfolds.

the girls1

Last night it was my great privilege to connect with this class of young children aged 5-7 from The Cheery School, Kibera slums, Nairobi, Kenya. Their passionate and caring teacher, Livingstone organised them to individually ask questions of me. They were confident, well mannered and at times shared objects with me to show their culture and the wild animals of Africa. In fact, I thought they had a real snake to show but it was a toy! To complete the connection, the students sang a wonderful song to me in an enthusiastic and joyful manner, showing rhythm and unity.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

A toy snake is shared to show some of the local wild animals.

How can we help classes such as these? Will technology provide the ability to learn with and from the world, help them break out of their cycle of poverty? The impossible, may just become possible!

Below are some  videos that  share more about the Cheery School:-

And the little dog laughed to see such fun!

The little dog who laughed

Upon dialling Timboon Consolidated School’s polycom equipment, Jenny, the librarian promptly answered, said ‘hello’ but a little dog could be distinctly heard in the background drowning out some of the audio. She hastily said ‘excuse me” and disappeared from view. Instantly a little black poodle ran up to the equipment and excitedly barked and carried on at me.  The more I spoke to it, the louder it’s barking got! What a to do!

Within a few minutes, Jenny returned but the little dog stayed. I thought she would take it away and find it’s rightful owner but by now it was quiet. Jenny proceeded to tell me that the dog, Pablo, was part of the school’s animal program and he was in fact, the library dog! 

Part of my role as a virtual conference coach is to help teachers use polycom high definition videoconferencing equipment. This equipment has been rolled out to a number of schools by the Victorian Department of Education and I dialled Jenny, the librarian from Timboon Consolidated School to step her through the procedures. After going through the basics of remote controls, the microphone, camera etc, we again discussed the role of the dog. This discussion would make an ideal lesson for my year 7 ICT class. Jenny agreed to talk to them  last week, invited the year 7 teacher, Lisa, and class to connect as well. Lisa is the teacher who introduced the dogs into the school.

jenny clear and girls

And so it came to be that:-

  • my year 7ICT  class linked up with a year 7 English class from Timboon – another small rural schoolThe two  classesThe two classes
  • we learnt about the role of the dogs in the school and their importance eg students who came to the library would often read out loud to the dogs. They relaxed, developed confidence as the dog did not know if they were not reading fluently or were making mistakes. Other children who may be feeling down, will cuddle the dogs in the classroom and gain comfort from them etc
  • we shared our environments, using the remote controls to swing the camera to the windows to show ‘what was outside our window’. We had the primary school sports and a race was in progress, Timboon showed us the trees outside their window where resident koalas were perched in the trees.

Outside our window! Outside our windows!

  • students stood to speak, introduce themselves and share their favourite subjects, which led to more questions etc
  • An hour quickly flew by and we have agree to link up several times over the semester and share further activities.

The challenges:-

  • learning to use the remote controls and camera effectively
  • learning to speak articulately, project the voice and talk to the camera

Some of the learning that took place has been documented as students were asked to record three things they learnt and one question that they still may have on their blogs.

Future linkups – could Pablo listen to our school students reading to him via the equipment?

the two classes

Embedding videos onto student blogs!

Students are taught how to create videos using MS LIVE Moviemaker in most ICT classes. The results can be fabulous and I have been looking for ways for students to share their videos on a blog post. Embedding the videos only seemed possible by uploading their videos to youtube, vimeo or a similar online video host, grabbing the resultant code and adding to the html code of the blog. As many students are too young to register themselves for such sites and as I queried the use of these sites for hosting the  work of especially young students.

Year 9/10 and 7 students are creating “About Me” videos using only text. Here are their instructions:-

  1. Use MS Powerpoint to add  text, colours etc, sharing what they like!
  2. Save the ppt as jpgs in file type,
  3. Add these images into MS Moviemaker.
  4. Add transitions
  5. Add music preferably from danosongs - royalty free music as long as his site is credited.
  6. Insert appropriate credits.
  7. Save as a movie
  8. Upload to your blog, under upload media

As our Education Department provides us with a blogging campus – global2 which is edublogs based, the students use edublogs. Previously students have uploaded the media which appears as a link. Visitors to the blog, then click on the link to watch the movie. To our delight, when students uploaded their videos, they could choose the embedded media player and were able to view the movie through the player on their blog. See some of the results:-

Fun with ICT – abcya animate!

abcya animate

If I am unable to take  my class, I try to leave something that would be engaging for students and something that they could learn together as the replacement teacher rarely has the ICT skills to continue on with what I normally do.

Upon googling “Fun with ICT in class”, I came across a site called abcya animate  and thought this would be good to leave for my students yesterday when I was absent. I have long been a fan of abcya website for the primary students. The task set my year 9/10 ICT students was to create a simple animation that would entertain the 5-6 year old students from Tipperary Station school. Students had to explore the tool individually and share with each other in what they discovered.

This afternoon, I scored an ‘extra’ lesson and had a year 9 group which comprises a small group of disengaged, low literacy students. We briefly talked about how an animation is created using frames and then off to work they went using the the abcya animate site and you could have heard a pin drop! They were highly engaged and worked well with most completing an animation. Here is how it works:-

  1. user friendly program – students were given no instructions on its use
  2. animations are short as students have only 100 frames to work with
  3. a palette of bright colourful backgrounds, images etc is provided.
  4. Students simply drop and drag onto the main stage
  5. no need to register
  6. animation is saved as an animated gif
  7. the animated gif is uploaded as medai into their global2 blogs (an edublogs campus) and maintains the animation (the page may need to be refreshed if it plays through once.
  8. primarily a tool for younger students but the older ones had just as much fun.

Challenges:

  1. when students saved their file it lacked an extension name. They right clicked on the saved file>chose rename>carefully added a .gif to the name
  2. we are trying to work out whether we can save an animation in progress, load it back into abcya animate to finish the work at a later stage. Many left their website open on their laptops and were going to try and finish it at home.

See some of the completed animations that have been embedded on the student blogs.

  1. Nikki’s My Dog and The Very Blue Fish
  2. Sarah’s The Chase
  3. Darby’s My short animation

Evaluation: A simple user friendly tool to create simple animations. A great starting point to learn the mechanics of animation. Although directed at younger students, my older students were highly engaged in using it.

How could this tool be used in maths, English and other subjects?