I am so impressed with PowToon I am going to work on it until I get really good at it. I know the students will love it. I need to use it a bit more first so I can see what it can do and then I shall allow the students to try it out. There is a really good review of it with videos on the Web App review site. Web App review is dedicated to bringing useful and helpful reviews of educational apps and extensions for Chrome. PowToon will work in any browser , though. I have been using Firefox. It is always good to find a site which gives you real information. I started playing with PowToon last night and it is easy to manipulate but it will take a while to ensure the final product is really good. It is a matter of being really familiar with software. I always start with something I want to teach in class. I find it easier if I am problem solving and purpose building. I am going to teach pronouns with it. I plan to show whatever I have done on Friday. It may or may not be a good product to show. The thing is, if you are working with your students as partners in learning you can choose two tracks. You can go in as the clever role model and show them what you can do and then what they can aim for, or you can go in with a semi baked idea and work with them to complete the process. It depends what you are trying to achieve. In this instance , I want them to have a chance to be familiar with PowToon but I also want them to learn pronouns. We started that on Tuesday and I was teaching them to present their own learning material in a visual way. We were putting in speech bubbles and arrows and other visual text boxes to get them to understand the function of direct object pronouns and the part they play in sentence construction. They were picking it up quickly so I need to capitalise on this. They have had a 10 minute PowToon look and see so now I can go back with my plan. If I present them with my own clever PowToon on direct object pronouns they will go one better. If I take in my half baked one because I haven’t had time to finish it, it will be presented as a work in progress and “a bit of an idea” so we can grow the whole idea together. I want them to create their own little teaching video on direct object pronouns. It will consolidate our learning and using PowToon means they will really have to think of what they are doing linguistically as they create their animation. I’ll use the link I have here the the Web App Review site because it gives a clear set of instructions for start up. We shall also have to spend 10 minutes finding and sharing the direct object pronoun sites on the Net so they can use that research as well as our class and book work. Since this is new, I shall be monitoring whether they can learn this way. I am confident they can or I wouldn’t try it and these students make a really genuine effort to get the best out of their laptop learning.
When you have a book, you have a book. You look at it , you ingest it and you do what the book says. When you have access to technology there are so many avenues for learning which you can pursue and so many ways of looking at the same thing. When you plan a lesson or a topic this provides a great opportunity for creating differing approaches which will suit more people. You can provide print text, videos, slide presentations, applications, podcasts, animations. You can provide an in depth approach or a light hearted one. You can set it all to music if you want to. Content can be manipulated in so many ways. It means students can access content in ways which mean something to them. The building blocks of my lessons and topics are :
With technology you can explain the new topic or lesson in so many ways. You can use slides, videos, audio, electronic pens, websites, games,applications, images. You can appeal to so many senses and engage students in so may ways. If they don’t like the little video they might like the images or the audio or respond to tablets. They might follow as you pass from slide to slide. They can be creating their own interpretations on their laptops as you go along. I shall never forget one student who would transform my information into very artistic slide presentations as I went along. Her keyboard skills were excellent and she knew the software. So that brings us to action.
Students need to be able to digest the information and synthesise it as they are working on it. It might be making a movie, a dialogue, an interview, a podcast, some online exercises, a game, a document. Show them the tools which will meet their needs and encourage them to share tools they know. In my classes the action and exploration tend to be running concurrently. We will be looking at how to build up and extend our knowledge, how to get reliable information, how to verify information, how to find examples of what we want. I’ll show them how to use software to turn that information into a product or content sharing opportunity. I’ll help them, they’ll help each other and then we’ll look at what we need to troubleshoot or strengthen. Sometimes it goes very quiet during these times of exploration and action. They become very absorbed. Initially I always show them a way of structuring what they are learning for themselves. I then build on that.
I have found reflection is very powerful when they do it orally and when I give them a structure. Initially we do it informally on Twiducate. I’ll just get them to say what they thought of the assignment and what they have learnt. If a want a formal response I have found the best ones come from using Photo Booth on the Mac. They record their thoughts and I have a video of them. They take this very seriously. I give them a list of things they can talk about and tell them to decide what they think is important and then to add anything else. They think it out well and then prepare themselves very carefully for video feedback. This surprised me. I thought they would just go on the laptop and talk with maybe a few notes. This has never been the case. For them the video message is far more important than the paper message. It has a validity for them which we need to take into account. The depth to which they will respond is impressive and they will say exactly what it is they know and what they need to build on. They will articulate clearly how they went about an assignment and now what each step provided for them. I don’t get that in paper responses and perhaps we need to look more seriously about how we are now differentiating with the information we get on paper and that we can have on video. Cognitively, students are seemingly responding quite differently to different media. It is something I plan to explore more next year.
Technology in education is a very good blog for two reasons – it shows how to use Tumblr effectively and it discusses openly and in an interesting way the sorts of issues we all confront with technology in a classroom. As the author states : “However, it is a teacher’s responsibility to actually learn about the technology and use it effectively in a classroom to garner student engagement. ” The latest post Digital Generation Gap looks at how we deal with students doing other things with their devices when they are in class learning. It looks upon it as a generational issue. Every point made hits home and describes exactly the impact it has on you as a teacher and then the thoughts you have. The post is so real. So, how do we react to it, manage it and deal with it? If I find students texting on their phones I hold my hand out and they know I will take the phone and lock it in my filing cabinet for the lesson. I am always clear about what I think about texting in class. With “other activities” I use the argument that is used at the end of the post on the Digital Generation Gap post. If they can do it, well, what if I came into class , texted my friends and family, set them work and did my emails or let them do what they wanted on their laptops so I could get on with my blogging? They understand that. I also say it is very silly to pay me as much as I am paid so they can come to class and text, surf the Net, go on iChat and it is a very silly thing for a teacher to be paid that much while they do as they please…maybe I should! They then get the trust speech. They seem to get that too. When I found some senior students on iChat instead of working on their assignment I asked them to log out of it, but I left myself logged in. iChat is horribly annoying when you have the sound on. It makes all this banging noise when people log in and out. About 10 minutes before the end of the lesson one student couldn’t contain herself any longer and asked me to turn it off. I said that was how often people go on and off of iChat in lesson. We used to use iChat to send each other files until the LMS was up and running and mostly iChat is as the Digital Generation Gap describes. Students see another student they know and just say a cheery hallo. Is there harm in that? No. Is it only that? Don’t have the time to find out. One technician we had in her twenties said we didn’t distinguish between school behaviour and home behaviour with technology. Good point. I have also had student teachers in their 20s who find students doing things other than the set work on their devices abhorrent. We have always had a conversation about how to manage that in class. I have heard of very well credentialled and successful technology teachers refusing to teach any more with technology because students are doing other things. We need to talk about it. We need to get it out into the open. Students are in our care. It is digital citizenship, time and place, financial outlay, cost effectiveness, real time vs virtual time. We do need to establish what we think is a good use of our time , money and devices. Year 8s, for instance, are always very excited to download a French dictionary onto their iPhone or iPod Touch and learn which ones are good. They ask to use their iPhone/iPod and it is something which makes them happy and aware of what are good applications and bad ones. There is no easy answer to this as the Digital Generation Gap quite rightly points out.
Next week is the next laptop roll out for the new year 9s. Their macbooks are coming preloaded with Lion. Our others run on Snow Leopard. Lion is more like an iPad and an iPhone so lots of students will easily adjust to the new OS. It also has a file sharing feature called Airdrop so files can be shared across the network. I am looking forward to helping with the roll out but, for us, it is a big commitment since we are a big school and so it means everything has to be just right before we can do the roll out. Our technicians and home group teachers help with the roll out and the students come along with their parents. There is then a facilitator. Someone like me who will help students set up their new Macbook. I did it last year and it was a very heart warming exercise and so completely different from anything else I have done as a teacher. It is a different way of connecting with students and their parents. This video lets you have a quick look at Lion. Its trackpad gestures are slightly different so you need to familiarise yourself with those.The person explaining it does not cover too much too fast so it is quite easy to see how Lion works in principle. I see the iPad similarity as a strength since the iPad interface is easy to manipulate and manage and the nested groups mean you can keep apps under control! The desktop feature which comes with Lion is common to all Linux operating systems. It can be very helpful if you are working on a number of things at once which you often are in a school. This video is a good starting place for Lion.
We have to start somewhere. We have to look at what we need by way of skills in technology and then create checklists and levels of competence. It means we then know which level to go onto next and it means we know what we are aiming for. I have designed this as a means of discussion. It is not set it concrete. It ought to be able to be changed and rearranged so it suits our needs. We need to be far clearer about what we can do and what we need to be able to do in order to progress further. It is something we can state clearly and then self evaluate. We just need a decent set of competencies for each level.
I have found it is quite difficult to distil what you do as a teacher on a daily basis in a classroom in order to teach students. This is my best effort and I had to think about how I actually cover topics. it is not as simple as following a format because there is something organic and spontaneous about teaching.
I generally cover two topics a term . Within that I teach vocab, grammar and sentence structure.
First things first:
1. Roll – students have 3-5 sentences to write or a simple exercise while I am doing that.
2. Explain what is in the lesson and what it will do for them
3. Teach content simply with slide show
4. Teach content in a more complex way with slide show
5. Use a short video to reinforce content
6. Do some exercises to practice
Follow up lessons:
1. Exercise to practise what we are learning – whiteboard
2. Ideas and examples about how they can improve – whiteboard
3. Look at the technology involved – whiteboard
4. Set the assignment and explain it
5. Examples of what I want them to achieve – whiteboard
6. Include other short videos which reinforce vocabulary ,content and presentation skills
Follow up lessons:
1. iPad apps to reinforce what we are doing
2. One to one help and tuition
3. Group input about how we can improve
4. One to one help and tuition
5. Specific quick exercises to reinforce and further develop content
6. Leave them alone to work
7. Respond to specific requests for help.
8. Negotiate deadline and presentation requirements
A long term assignment which will practise the skills we are learning in class and then I alternate between an oral and written presentation.
I collect it informally along the way but ask them to report back in writing on Twiducate. I generally ask them questions so that the feedback I get is quite specific.
I create a folder with the short and long term assignments relevant to the topic
I collect the slide shows relevant to the topic
I collect the sound files
I make sure I know which parts of the text book/workbook we are doing each lesson.
I collect videos and video links relevant to the topic and make sure I have book marked video links and created a text file with them.
For students without laptops I make the necessary computer room bookings each week according to our needs
I ensure everyone is comfortable with the technology aspect and spend at least 3 lessons on that.
I bookmark sites which will help them learn and get started or further develop their knowledge
I upload tasks and files to LMS or put in network folder.
I am not about to write a post where I soften the edges for everyone and agree but I do accept we are all different and what I am about to say expresses my personal preference.The one thing I can say about all the OS’ is that they have some good support for teachers and education and over the last year that has increased. No matter which OS you use there are now viable choices in software and education groups and forums. At work I use a MacBook all the time because it is our laptop of choice and with good reason. Technically the students and MacBooks have come up with some interesting challenges occasionally but MacBooks are pretty robust and system failures and interference is very limited. Apples are based on Unix and given Unix was the original OS to offer software for all then it was disheartening to discover that Apple was pushing the paid software line. Apple and the market have since rearranged themselves so there is now a good balance between free software, free to try software which is not crippled and then paid software. The apps store is a good move because apps are now familiar ground for everyone. I have found plenty of freeware which I can use and try which has added to my MacBook. I do not own it so the paid software is supplied to us. I leave the OS alone but I certainly have fun finding things which will help my MacBook look better or increase my productivity in the classroom. My biggest learning curve was how to keep my MacBook tidy and organised. It was a challenge but I have mastered that now. Initially I found the Apple approach very confusing and I had to work through a number of steps and get software to help me. My MacBook runs smoothly, has some good tools and software and has been very reliable. It’s a bit shaky on flash but not too bad and so everything I want to do is accomplished without a hitch. I have learned to use Spotlight and programme preferences to make my life easier on a MacBook. It runs hard and it runs well. I rarely use Windows these days. I dual boot Windows at home on my desktop and laptop. Microsoft Office cannot be beaten. It easily produces classy, original material and has a far greater capacity to be creative and imaginative compared with other office suites. Other office suites do the job. Microsoft Office not only does the job there is far more depth to it. Windows also has so much software on offer both freeware, shareware and paid software. I stay out of Windows because I get tired of the updates and then the long wait to shut my computer down. I get tired of the range wars between Windows and whatever it decides at the time and I get tired of hauling what seems to be a huge amount of stuff around. Windows 7 has been quite good and it accesses international news sites far better than other OS’ and its capacity to manage flash is second to none.My OS of choice remains Natty Narwhal from Ubuntu. I dual boot it with Windows and my MacBook dual boots with Windows as well. I like the search function of the dashboard in Natty. I can do screencasts and graphics more easily in Natty. I am getting better at Gimp so I use that on the MacBook as well. Natty makes very good use of my graphics cards and images are far better on Natty than any other operating system. I like to decorate my desktop so image is everything to me. I like the dock at the side. Natty makes life very easy for me. It has some trouble with international news sites. Silverlight handles these things better than Moonlight. I really like the Banshee music player. Natty just runs well. I had a problem with the screensaver hanging my computer from time to time. I have taken it off and not had a problem since. Ubuntu has always made my computing life easy. I can just get on with what I want and it is not using up all my system resources and running the processor or hard drive too hard . Being cross platform gave me a challenge at first and when new versions come out I still have to think them out. Nothing wrong with using my brain. If I had a NetBook I’d be running that on Linux because it is more efficient at using system resources and so there is superior speed and page access. Windows on a Netbook is why you have an iPod Touch to play with!