Monthly Archives: December 2012

Pic Collage – a favourite app

chinese food dayr

One of my favourite and most used apps this year was pic collage. The image above was put together using this app. The photo is of our canteen manager and Wang-Yi our Chinese teacher assistant.

Pic Collage is user friendly, is free,   allows photos to be taken within the app, or inserted from the photo gallery or the web. Text and stickers can also be added to the collage. The free app comes with a basic gallery of stickers with an option to purchase more.

Our library has a class set of iPads that students may borrow for use in the classroom. It is always great to give students an app to work with, watch what they create and how they create an outcome to get an idea of what the app can produce.  Below are two collages created by year 10 students, of our school vegetable garden. The garden produces some wonderful herbs and vegetables for use in the school canteen or in cookery classes. As summer is now here, the beds have been cleaned up and replanted in readiness for the summer time break. Can you see what has been planted by the year 6 students?

vegetable collager


Getting the most out of Polycom Videoconferencing Equipment

libby hathorn closer up

These notes were taken at the recent Perfecting the Blend Conference at Mt Clear in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.  Lynette  Whitfield was the presenter.

Mobile videoconferencing

As students bring in more tools, schools and Polycom add more opportunities for these tools. Students collaborate on a daily basis using iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices. Polycom now has a mobile app for iDevices, smart phones etc  allowing students to connect tablets and smart phones with other standards based video systems. Teachers and students  can add active touch monitors and now use with Polycom. See the guide.

Sharing files:-

  • Capturing the content – if a student comes with something on her iPad, can share file through touch screen, saved to thumb drive and sent to LMS.
  • can save screen or email to students.
  •  Using airplay – going back to regular iPad, shutting off content. Using BYOD, connecting with HDX, sharing and uploading.

iPad – apple TV, cannex connector which goes into codec .Can use touch panel  Interactive whiteboard in session. New software uploads makes it available to users.

Students working from home, can

  • download video app or android.
  • Join call from home.
  • Uses wireless or 3G.

Use these extra features not as a top on but capability to bring relevance into curriculum. Always tie the context to students. Use technology to enrich curriculum and engage students as never before.

A stylus can be used to double touch.  Need a thumb drive so can save files for uploading, or to email out to students. Dialling in on iPad enables the user to start a whiteboard collaboration and another person can take control and annotate on that whiteboard as well.

Flip the  classroom, spend less time on presenting content than diving into the context. Put students in teams even though geographically dispersed. Students drop into individually setup meeting rooms and come back into the big virtual meeting room.  Polycom have announced cloud access – skype, iCloud, google etc will all be able to have access.  Get link, click on link and actually join conference (just  like skype) with people you can drag into the conference. In meeting invite there will be link to join and can connect.

Some ideas for use

Languages:  eg if students live in a rural state – with not all classes available at all high schools – don’t have teachers for all languages.  One class – teach Spanish, French and German from across state. Students can join collaboration around the planet. or http://www.polycom  Goto Education Section. Could interact with USA learning mandarin Chinese students who are just learning Chinese rather than with Chinese people. Ask questions in Chinese students and students answer back in English from China. Students use videoconferencing. They want to use these, they want to use their iPhone or iPad. Throw up ppt slide using polleverywhere and can quiz students.

Adjusting to what students are expecting in a school environment. Connecting back on phones on sporting excursion with school, if on holidays, then can conference back into school or can share what they are actually doing. Use app to connect in to use mobile devices.

Pixellation and quality of video depends on network of each school and how many are using network at same time, downloads, no. connecting through network.  Lessons can be recorded




MS Lync for education


MS Lync is now available to all Victorian Education Department staff and should replace MS Communicator as a tool for communication. The following notes were taken from a session by Graeme Oswin of the Grampians Regional Office. MS Lync is a virtual meeting software that is being considered for general classroom us.


  • Free to Victorian  Education Department staff
  • Available to all staff
  • Simple to use
  • Powerful sharing and collaboration features
  • Person to person or group conferences
  • Scales  well – Video Conferencing equipment does not scale well.
  • Integrated with MS Office
  • Windows and Mac versions
  • Distribute large files and attachments
  • Conferences recordable
  • Integrated with Polycom VC units

Video does not work well in online version with eg global connections.


  • Requires computers to be online
  • No direct student access
  • Students  would need to use teacher login
  • Less suited to large groups – best used for individuals with headset
  • Does not support advanced camera actions such as pan and zoom


  • New video call, share whiteboard, with annotation tools at the bottom.
  • Can create groups in projects
  • Set availability
  • Can send email for meeting alerts

Have you used MS Lync for online meetings or for classroom use with students? If so, what do you have to share? Please leave any questions or experiences as a comment.

Coping with School Tragedies


The recent shooting in Newtown CT makes us all reflect on the braveness displayed by those teachers involved, their quick thinking and their utmost care of and devotion for the  students. There are many lessons here for us.

How does one cope during and afterwards?  The impact is felt worldwide. Here is a good article on how to approach news items such as these with children – Talking about the news with kids.  Angela Maiers has written  this wonderful post on There is no lesson plan for tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are closely involved.

My wonderful friend, Lorraine Leo has created a google map for people to add candles in a show of global sympathy and support for those who suffer. Lorraine also alerted me to this post Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario

Bridging the Gap: Turning Face to Face into a Synchronous Distance Learning Language Class

classroom at Yale

Please note: These notes are a summary of the keynote session presented by Chrissy Hosea of the USA at the recent Perfecting the Blend Conference at Mt Clear, Victoria, Australia

Chrissy Hosea teaches Dutch over three campuses at university level in USA

  • Students meet in a classroom on a campus at a designated time, 5 x 50 mins per week
  • The Instructor is positioned @ Yale
  • A student assistant is placed with the class in the distant campuses

Project background

  • How not to lose teaching style!
  • Classroom interaction is important

Role of student assistant

  • Setting up classroom
  • Turn on and check the work stations
  • Print and distribute handouts etc
  •  Minor technical troubleshooting
  • Administer quizzes
  • Instruct class in case of emergence
  • Help with promotion/Dutch events
  • Petest new exs/software
  • Give me feedback on class – using google document Most has something to do with technical issues, kids who aren’t in class, something happens, takes attendance. Groups and who is working with whom.

Important Tips

  • Backup plan for videos and worksheets so that people are occupied for when technology fails.
  • Positioning of room – important that all students can see each other all of the time – need to feel part of the class all the time.
  • Most important in languages is communication – need to practise their speaking with communication, therefore needing as much interaction as possible. What are my teaching principles – what do I do in a classroom.

Teaching Principles

  • Students feel safe and comfortable (many feel inadequate cos new to the language)Polycom Video Conferencing Equipment (VC) has  very good audio and video quality. All participants can see and hear each other at all times, therefore relationship with far-site students can be established thru common experiences. Instructor can manipulate camera view. Choose what do I want them to show them my screen or choose what they see.
  • Language input is to be current, rich (preferably authentic) and relevant to the students
  • Students speaking time is maximized
  • Classroom activities are stimulating and engaging – kinda forget you are learning but helps you learn more
  • Students engage in meaningful communication

How can this be achieved – videoconferencing  technology for classroom acitvities and web conferencing technology for group/pair work eg skype, gmail chat etc

Seeing students are not sharing one physical space how to guarantee

  • Students feeling part of the same class and both locations share similar class experience
  • All students speaking as much as possible in meaningful communicative tasks
  • Activities that are inherently interactive

Group work

  • Students need to know and trust each other, therefore they need to talk to ea other and work together
  • All feel equally part of the class

How to achieve this…

  • Student speaking time is maximized
  • Use group and pair work when possible
  • Classroom activities are simulating and engaging.
  • Need interactive games and activities
  • Collborative writing ex – write a story together. Eg

Once upon a time….. There was a class…..  of Dutch students… Where?…. In Ithaca NY

Connect with remote students

  • Assure similar classroom experience for all students (try and step into their world eg share what happens on campus so part of the conversation0
  • Refer to events happening on the remote campus
  • Have (obligatory) online office hours
  • Conduct remote campus visit
  • Have students work together in as many ways as possible (in class, online: blogs, shared documents)
  • Have remote visits if possible.

Also online – student blogs – choose own topics eg own foods. Get students to read each other blogs and comment on each others.

Compile work lists – all have to do 10 words, get translation, etc in google docs

Try and visit students 1 or twice per year. (For Chrissy this is a 5 hour drive but have f2f classes so difficult to do).

Student feedback


  • Less contact with instructor
  • Self-conscious w camera
  • If talk softly people cannot hear you
  • Technical problems are frustrated, difficulty reading monitor or hearing others

Agreed that

  • Class was similar to a f2f class
  • Would recommend it to others


  • One way of doing distance learning
  • Limited scalability
  • Complicated logistis (schedules, breaks, credits, registration)
  • Possibility of technical difficulties
  • Big time commitment for instructor (training, developing courses)

Transitioning from Classroom to Blended Learning

Last week, I presented at and attended a two day conference in Mt Clear, Victoria, Australia – “Perfecting the Blend”. I was asked to present on the above topic, discussing considerations for curriculum planning and assessment. This was combined with classroom stories and experiences.

I put together a definition of what I see as blended learning but enjoyed hearing that students when surveyed requested a

‘mix of learning’

from the opening speech.  That is a great definition of blended learning.

tweet where students request mixed learning

A google document was set up with a list of resources and as a space for further conversations. Below is my presentation.

Videoconferencing with the Early Years in Hong Kong

conferencing with Hong Kong

The conference:  Perfecting the Blend Conference, Dec 2012 at Mt Clear, near Ballarat,

The session:  “Video Conferencing – Early Years focus: Hong Kong” with Chun Fung Bong (an early childhood educator at York English Kindergarten and Primary School in Hong Kong).

The space: Polycom Videoconferencing

Here are my notes from this session.

Getting started

  • Used videoconferencing for professional development and workshops
  • Started videoconferencing with the younger students. First contact was Rowena Gerber, USA, who was a keynote presenter at the conference.

How it is used:-

  • No zoo in Hong Kong – huge effort even to go to museum or zoo in China. National Interests – NASA programs from USA are free for US. Impossible to link up with a space program in China as space program is part of the military. It is easier to get US astronaut than Chinese astronaut in Hong Kong.
  • Visit authors, museums, Museum of Modern Arts, music programs. Cash strapped schools cannot afford to go out too much.
  • Drawings by students – exhibition flew to Japan. Shared drawings over Videoconferecing. Rowena’s students shared animals – lizards and snakes were being seen by children – fundamentally shocked to the core – as it is inconceivable in Hong Kong or China to touch reptiles. Yet, reptiles make great pets.
  • Learn how to play golf – Students in HK and China only know how to study. They are trying to start sports program and learn how to play golf but in HK golf is considered a sport of the wealthy or aristocratic.  Land is scarce. It teaches patience, sportsmanship but no teachers knew how to play golf. In HK people learned 1 on 1 or 1 on 5. But teaching children would be 1 to 20. They went to libraries to look for ways to teach golf. Emailed all friends in the world. A school in Wales came back and said they were teaching golf to primary secondary students.  Offered a VC workshop. Got a PGA pro from Wales to teach teachers in HK how to teach golf and how to teach students as a group. Then went on to develop a tennis program.  Discovered things that not even youtube has.
  • Tennis: First year teachers – come out with theories but no practical knowledge of how to teach tennis to 30 students. They can sit in on another academic’s lesson and watch this teacher teach.
  • Virtual tours/experiences 99.9% of students have never seen snow but it appears in many children’s books. VC with another school who showed them a snowman, it became concrete for children.
  • Learn Astonomy: Multi point VC – had researchers at Cambridge teaching students about astronomy – Pakistan, England, HK etc  can change the way you teach but also how you look at learning.

Further notes-

  • Connect 3 mins beforehand to test, control camera and see how different schools use space.
  • Problems with VC – maintain mutual view
  • VC units are not cheap – huge cost. Maintaining the line is very costly.
  • Resolution –  projector and VCC units. When the project is on a big screen resolution is lost.
  • Use VC to a TV – bright, don’t need to turn off the lights. TV is engaging.

Tips/observations for videoconferencing with the early years

  • Early years – students <6 years old – lack of concentration, they do not speak loudly, language barrier.
  • Most Video conferences are an hour long. Introductions, teaching activity and then finsh with a game
  • Introductions – a very scripted part due to difference in language ability. Some children come up and introduce Hong Kong to other side, then other side introduces. Main reason that VC may fail is lack of preparation. He therefore insists that other side gives a verbatim script of what children would say with actual names of students who are speaking.
  • Need script on middle bit ie teaching activitiy. This means that children can come to the VC prepared. The teacher can share background information to enable better interaction once conferencing. Little ones speak very softly. If mic does not pick up what they are saying, the MC or hosting teacher should repeat what they say and repeat on the other side.
  • Teaching an activity – Some examples are tai che, waltz, bucket drumming, Chinese calligraphy, how to make gingerbread house, no bake cookies. Need to modify content and know exactly how it might play out.

Martial arts (Tai che) Tai che is great as it is slow. Learnt how to teach to own children and then teach the other side. Use imagery, “Imagine a big watermelon, push right side to left side”  Impose a narrative or story it becomes much more powerful. Language barriers and age gaps can be challenges – overcome age differences and language differences.

Games include: Simon Says, Guess Who?