Digital Deadwalkers

We need to take action. It’s important we pool our planetary thinking to come up with a solution for inattentional blindness aka digital deadwalking. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons made this video to try to do something. It is not going to work unless we all pay attention and use all the thinking we have at our disposal to stop people walking around , with phones and iPods plugged into their ears , from being killed. The number of pedestrian plugged in , distracted people being killed is increasing world wide. This is not very clever of us. We have some cool gadgets but they should not be putting our lives at risk. We do not seem to go through the obvious risk assessment teaching and learning that we probably would do with industrial machinery. Technology is being accepted as safe and yet , clearly, it is not so there has to be education around that for safety and well being as there is for using industrial machines. As simple as the water and electricity don’t mix idea. Plugged in pedestrians and traffic don’t mix.

pedestrian fatalities Image:spike in pedestrian accidents.

While the research is in its infancy, Queensland University of Technology’s Amy Williamson said 30 per cent of those polled so far admitted to having a near-miss with a vehicle and 15 per cent blamed their phone

My own concern is that perhaps this behaviour is turning into a learned habit, even without the device. This year at school I have had a number of Year 8s just walk straight into me or nearly miss my face when they open a door. They do not realise I am there. There is nothing intentional about their behaviour . They are usually embarrassed about what they did and are polite and apologetic , so it tends to suggest they are doing what is natural to them and not taking in the people and things around them. It may have nothing to do with being habitually plugged in but I am wondering if that is causing this behaviour? In class they are happy, engaged, alert people so they are all then cued into competent, productive behaviour.

It is time to stop thinking about it because we have been noticing pedestrian , plugged in deaths around traffic and transport since 2009. We really need to face this head on and find some solutions. Giving them their own lane to walk in is not changing the behaviour into something safer.

Issey Miyake – Spring Summer 2015 Collection

So ,this is the 2015 Spring Summer Collection for Issey Miyake’s European shows. It demonstrates how the technologically conceived 3D material is used to create clothing and shows to full effect the difference between flat earth clothing and technology inspired  21st century clothing. It actually explores the space between the body and item of clothing. Conceptually it is different and presents a new perspective on what clothes can mean. As the show unfolds it becomes less the artistic expression of this 3D material and more a functional use for the clothing but with nothing lost in form and style. As the show progresses the clothes soften and have more movement. I can sit at home and be dazzled by a Paris collection but I am just as much dazzled by the technological thought which has gone behind creating this fashion show. Art, music, science, language, design, technology, maths, culture…it embodies all our thought disciplines.

3D Steam Stretch – Issey Miyake

You have to be able to think in a technological way to create a 3D fabric and then understand how that will then translate into  haute couture clothing. The fashion designer, Issey Miyake, shows in the video the thought process and then the functional requirements of creating such a material. All the while the images focus on form and movement. They also portray very clearly how technology aids graphic design in a fundamental way to take it to a higher level. The marriage of technology and graphic design is extraordinary and you can literally see how different this 3D material is from normal material. This material was created for his summer collection  this year and tomorrow we’ll see just how much technology can inspire and take us to a whole new level of creativity and imagination.

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake studied graphic design but he has since gone on to be one of the world’s top fashion designers whose collections are shown and viewed in so many prestigious events. This animation by Euphrates shows what happens when you put design, art and technology together and that is something Issey Mikaye does exquisitely. More to come! Total genius on creating a brand!

Install iOS 8 on iPad or iPhone

Do you know why we need teachers on the internet? They take nothing for granted in learning. If you are trying to update a device you need to know about the settings.

settings app Image: Internet Safety Project.

People get devices and enjoy using them and then it all falls apart when they have to update or when they realise they could be doing other things with the device – like downloading apps. It’s not intuitive. It’s learned behaviour which you can either work out yourself or you can’t. Assuming people know how to connect their device to a computer and use iTunes as an alternative can be a big ask. Do they know where to put the cable? Do they know how to download iTunes? The video I have chosen to show how to update an iOS is of value since it does show some of the problems you might encounter. You do need to be connected to wifi. You to know what to do when the screen comes up with “Hello” when you had an iPad that was working fine until then. Settings, though , is critical. Everyone needs to know how to find and navigate the settings. You have to tap Settings then General , then Software Update to get started. The man who did the video about the app store might have thought he was funny writing on screen you need a finger/stylus , iPad and wifi to get started. It is that basic when someone doesn’t know what they are doing and is on totally unfamiliar ground. They need to be moved through a process one tiny step at a time with nothing taken for granted. No one should feel a failure because they cannot navigate a device. No one was made to feel a failure because they could not operate a TV or fridge. We need to make it that easy for everyone.

Create an Apple ID and use App Store

I had a phone call today from a senior friend who didn’t know about having an Apple ID so you could use the app store. I am posting this so if you, too, know people who don’t know how to get themselves started on their iPad or their iPhone you can quickly get them the information. Here is the link to the Apple ID site where you create the ID. The video is short, sweet and to the point. There are longer videos on YouTube about the app store, but most people just want to get going.

Back to Edmettle

edmettleIt’s taken a while to get my Year 9s up and running with Edmettle this year. They were attached to Twiducate which was also created by Brian Aspinall. Twiducate is the old version. Edmettle is designed to fit in with the values of the Canadian curriculum, but as it happens, it fits in nicely with ours too. With Edmettle you also have an opportunity to involve parents. I am not up to that yet because it has taken me half a year to get the students to accept Edmettle and just use it as we did Twiducate. It’s not annoying. It is a sign they really value the place where they give me online feedback and practise their French sometimes. They, are right to approach a new site with caution and prudence. I respect their judgement in that. Yesterday , though , we got back to Edmettle and they were all happy with it and typed away as they normally do, so today I can move that forward. As a teacher I value it because I can ask them questions about the work we have done, I can ask them for input for something I am trying to decide, we can discuss ideas and trouble shoot and we can practice our French when we want to . I also have the opportunity with Edmettle, as do the students, of endorsing values like  initiative, grit, organisation etc. As a teacher I have found that to be a nice thing. With a site like Edmettle each student has a voice. Each student is heard and each student can be noticed. I have a direct line of contact with all the students in my class. It is safe, it stands alone and it really makes them think of how they will say something because there is a character limit. Same for me. It trains you up for social media and it forces you to be discerning as you write. I knew they had adopted the site yesterday when more of them had put up an avatar. I can go back to this today and work on their bios and how we shall assess the next task. These students love group assessments. I created a rubric which , twice now, they have fine tuned and discussed so that we now have the perfect group assessment sheet for iPads. They own their group assessment now because they were part of developing it and their ideas were all helpful and valid. When you have access to everyone’s ideas, you have access to a broad range of ideas. Guarantees you can achieve well and Edmettle is a great tool for faciliting collaboration. I , too, needed time to get away from Twiducate because it had been so useful for creating a feedback loop for input as as well as practice for me. Time to move on!

Quick slide show on Mac

gum treesYes, you can import your photos into iPhoto or iMovie on a Mac to make a fancy slideshow. What if you just want to show a bunch of photos quickly?

1. Command A to select all the photos
2. Option then Spacebar to get the images to show in full screen and to control them.

OSXDaily gives you all the tricks for the full screen slide show.

Say Hello to Trello

I have just been playing with Trello. For me, I have decided it’s a good place to organise my information as TrelloI learn Python coding. It’s a bit like Storify and Pinterest rolled into one. You can create different boards and add to them. You can label them, prioritise them in different ways and even collaborate with others on boards if they belong to Trello. You invite them. My Trello is set to Private but there are other options and you choose whether to share or not. It keeps a running list of what you have done which would be helpful if you are busy and trying to keep track of what you are doing. You can archive sections of boards and decide later if you want to delete them. If you check the settings and sidebar you can see there are so many handy options for collaboration and working on aggregating materials and resources. I could be writing my own comments as well.It’s free to join and use but there is a paid business version if you wish to pursue it. You can also run it in different languages.

Ta-da ! on the To-do

start -up to-do list It was good having my to-do list open on the iPad next to me as I kept track of what I needed to do. With One Note I can tick off what I have done and tomorrow I can delete those and add what has come up. It meant my first day felt like it was productive and organised because it was productive and organised! What is left will be completed in the next couple of days. Since I had my list to keep me focussed, I actually had fun and learnt along the way. Having it on the iPad meant I didn’t need to swap screens or shift anything around. I discovered how to message a whole class on the LMS and while I was doing that (with help from AP to navigate the less than intuitive interface for whole class messaging), I discovered we now have a mobile option for the LMS and I look forward to trying that on my phone on Thursday. Being able to access the LMS on a phone has its advantages when you either don’t have your laptop or you don’t want to have your laptop. When I arrive at school on Thursday I get there at lunchtime and need to use my phone to quickly work out what is on the LMS. I am hoping the mobile option makes that even quicker. We have also become pretty efficient at school at getting information around via email. It sustains a  positive,  personal contact as well as a sound information distribution network. The term is up and running and technology is providing solid support. I’d be lost without OwnCloud and DropBox. I have dropped files into both of them today to try and move past USB sticks. I have USB back up at present just incase there is no wifi access, but being able to use cloud services does streamline everything considerably.

Back to the coding

first scriptI haven’t  seriously coded in a long time. Time to get back to it and I have chosen to work with Python. It will work across all the devices and computers I have no matter what OS they run. Even though I have a body of transferable knowledge, I have to treat myself as a beginner because if I have learnt  one thing from coding , I have  learned it is one tiny step at a time. Coding is very disciplined, precise thinking and you have to be absolutely accurate. The challenge comes in using your problem solving skills to work out how you are going to get something to work. Okay, so I want to learn Python, where am I actually going to put the script and how am I actually going to run it? I have got the C Language app for my iPad. That runs Python. I have to pay 3.70 to get it to run unlimited scripts. It might be worth it because it has such a nice interface and there are some resources there I know I’ll be able to use eventually. I already have Text Wrangler on my MacBook. I’ll need to download Python and then work with the information I find to use it on that if I want to. Linux will easily have what I want so I am leaving that until last. I took the biggest challenge first – Windows 7. I found an excellent site : Learn Python the Hard Way It suits my needs and covers all the operating systems. The instructions for Windows worked out but I had to update PowerShell to version 3 because I am on Windows 7. Nothing worked until I did that. first python scriptI have written and run my first script in the PowerShell and so I can work through the rest of the site bit by bit. It is not really learning Python the hard way but Zed. A. Shaw is very clear about how you have to behave if you want to code. It’s not guessing, hmphing, skipping over bits, trying to race ahead. It is disciplined and exact. He could not have put out a better message . I have also signed up for a free Udemy course – Coding for Entrepreneurs Basic by Justin Mitchel. I am not an entrepreneur and have no aspirations in that direction . I want to learn what the course has on offer and then I can decide how I will put that to work. Justin Mitchel explains everything well and the course is set out very clearly. It is supposed to take 4 hours. I downloaded the course app to my iPad too! So, before I even got to learn anything in Python I had to set up my devices and find the software I needed and ensure I had the right versions. For me it is good to have a multimedia approach like the Udemy course and then my website where I can go to learn the next bit. Ready to code!

Start Up Term 3

Start Up Term 3 So, what does your to-do list look like for the beginning of Term? We have started semester two but are about to go back for Term 3. I know, it sounds a bit messy. We might need to streamline our school year a bit so that the breaks are more logical and fit with what needed to change. I have 10 things on my list which I am pretty sure I can organise in a straight forward way but there will be other things I’ll find out about when I get back to school. To be able to do this electronically makes it so much more straight forward and so much less time consuming. Some of the things are about converting what I have to suit my needs this year. Some of the things are verifying I have the key documents in place to consult or share. Some of it is creating new materials and learning tasks. It’s a good mix of quick and easy and then those things which will require thought and time. I have used One Note because I’ll put the file in DropBox and then pick it up on my iPad with the One Note app. I also have my to-do list backed up on my blog now!!

Quick look at Windows 10

Joe Belfiore gives you a straightforward look at the new Windows 10 which will be released on July 29th. The video will help familiarise you with what is there, how it works and some of the features of Windows 10. The official Microsoft site is here. I put myself on the list for the free Windows 10 update. I had Windows 7 on this computer originally , then upgraded it to Windows 8 and then had to downgrade it back to 7 because Windows 8 StoreIcon nonsense kept using up my system resources and Windows 8 used to fail to boot. It  all started well and I loved it , then it became too unreliable. It was odd it had settled in and then destabilised. I used to like Windows 8 and had no particular need for the start menu. I could do everything I did on Windows 7 and I used to love watching the metro screen change and move around. It was different and interesting. PCadvisor UK is regularly updating what is going on with Windows 10. If you want some tips for Windows 10, then go over to the post on InfoWorld. I am looking forward to the Windows 10 download. This will be the first time I have ever had a download of an OS like this on Windows. My MacBook does it well but, since it is a work computer, I can only download an operating system when I am permitted. That does not worry me. I am not the one who has to maintain and care for 100s of laptops. It was interesting to do a system upgrade like that and it will be interesting to compare the Windows 10 one against it. I suspect the organisation of my changeover has been going on for a couple of weeks now in the background and my hope is that it will be smooth for that reason – the prior preparation and planning stuff.

Change calendar settings in Windows 7 taskbar

calendar settings windows 7 I had forgotten how to change the Taskbar settings for the date in Windows 7. Luckily, the How-to Geek site has a beginner geek section. Embarrassing, but mission accomplished.  The date is now showing as I want it to and I am all set and ready for the Windows 10 update coming at the end of the month.

My new bookseat friend

bookseatI am not complaining. Someone gave me a bookseat because they didn’t want it. My first thought was – oh, I can put my iPad on that. I did. It works brilliantly. It’s a stable surface where I can sit my iPad and it is better than having it flat on a surface. It also balances nicely on the arm of a big chair. All good, really. I had no idea there was such a thing as a bookseat. They are material full of polystyrene beads so they are beanbags for books and iPads. I find it very comfortable to work with and my iPad loves it.

Change the way you see the world

second languages This infographic was published on the Business Insider Australia site via movehub. If you go to the  Business Insider link you will see which second languages are important and established in each area of the world. The information is astounding and is showing just how much we are moving, how populations are bringing their culture and languages to different nations and how critical it is to be multilingual/plurilingual in our global society. Business is conducted in various languages and there are political implications for this . Politicians ought to be multilingual/plurilingual too so that they can establish good relationships with their citizens, neighbours and international counterparts. Will the language maps stay like this or shall we keep shifting languages around the planet? If that becomes the case, then speaking more than one language will be essential to success and capacity to live, work and study anywhere. The Business Insider site also has a video on the comparative sizes of countries. I was interested to discover that Australia can fit inside Brazil. In a classroom it is important to understand these sorts of things because our students come from everywhere and what we consider big in Australia might be considered enormous somewhere else. We’ll get in a car in Adelaide and drive to Melbourne. In other countries that is unthinkable.We need to look at how the world is changing and build that into our approach and understanding of our students.

Seoul Sky Garden

MVRDV’s Seoul Skygarden is planned to be a reality in 2017. Currently it is a computer simulation. The Dutch architectural firm is going to retransform  disused , raised highways in Seoul into green spaces which will also become retail and socialising areas. It is a challenging concept but so imaginative. The highways had fallen into disuse because they were no longer safe to use. Imagine the original financial investment in those highways. This is a bold way to reclaim them and to get city dwellers back in contact with nature and natural surroundings. Seoul is not the only city rethinking its spaces in an ecological way. That retransformation of cities is taking place globally with some stunning effects. Even Adelaide is dabbling with green wall buildings and it’s great! It means we bring nature back to the concrete and metal. The Dutch Team won the competition by drawing on a large team of experts and a totally collaborative approach to the project and its requirements. The team was local and international. Our students will be world changers if we want them to be. Skills and talents can come together through technology to reimagine our world . I wonder who had the original thought to transform those roads? I wonder how the Dutch company gathered its team together? I wonder, if we were to break the skills and knowledge needed to complete a project like this, what subject areas would be listed? My guess is all of them and my other guess is no single subject would be more important than another . The Seoul Sky Garden is living proof we need everybody’s skills and talents in our world and that technology allows us to really dream big. Simulations are how we are showcasing our bold imaginings to the rest of the world. It’s just fantastic when you think about it.

MathMagic for Captivate

I just discovered MathMagic for Captivate on my MacBook. Why? I am a French teacher. I have found a video so that someone who actually knows what they are talking about can explain this to you. I have no need for an equation editor but you may well need one. The images you create in Captivate are extremely clear and so would replicate well on an interactive board or in a video lesson. Captivate is an Adobe product which obviously the school has kindly loaded on my MacBook. The least I can do is share this with you because it seems to be the very thing if you like creating equations. From my non Maths point of view , it is actually interesting to me to see all the maths symbols so well organised and aggregated. My way of tackling it would be to find out what each of those symbols meant and what I could do with them. Probably not a lot. Have fun. You’re welcome.

Love my mobile personal assistants

devices You just never know. That message was brought home to me again about 10 minutes ago. I was supposed to go to a website to give feedback. The website was a non event. Not a single link went to said feedback portal. Luckily, there was a QR code to the feedback site. I got my phone and bingo! I was on the right page, I could give the feedback and my job was done. Using my phone obviously wasn’t my first option but I have learned you need to have access to more than one device and electronic instructions need more than one way to get you there. We are living in a multiple option world!! Often, when you are seriously engaging with the online world you do need more than one device. My year 8s last year, some of whom are my year 9s this year, were really good at using their phones and iPads together to create a really efficient study platform for themselves. My year 10s, too , sometimes ask if they can borrow an iPad and when I ask why, it is so they can do one thing on their iPad and another thing on their MacBook. They are really organised, efficient , digital workers. I find when I participate in things like Twitter chats I need to have my computer and my phone. My phone whistles all the incoming notifications which I then know to check on the TweetDeck feed. It means I can be answering questions, retweeting, responding to answers and replies without having to do extra. My phone becomes my personal assistant. At work, I can run my emails on my iPad and do other things on my MacBook. When you use more than one device, the mobile device becomes a very powerful personal assistant which can keep you fully informed but also allow you to access other things while you are doing your main work on a computer.It means the cognitive flow is not interrupted and the thinking processes are smoothed over for you when you are working intensely. Right now my phone will let me know if anything comes up on Twitter because my email is open on my second desktop screen. We have the devices and hardware, we need to put them to work. They are not just ornaments.

Any space can be a tech hub

tech hubI discovered all this because I could not upgrade my iPod and dock on Tuesday. I now have a little tech hub in my sewing room. I have a TV and was using my iPod for the music, apps and streaming radio as I sew. There were no iPods to buy and I was told docks would not be being replaced.

“Why don’t you just use your phone?”
“Because it’s my phone. I don’t want it tied up like that.”
“We stream everything through wifi these days. Just use an iPad mini. It’s runs your television as well, you know.”
” I wanted an iPod and a dock. I am now going to have to rethink this. I don’t want my wifi on all the time.”

Not to mention if the wifi goes down , you have had it. If you have wifi speakers, that’s it. Nothing like a brick wall to force you to rethink your life once you get over the hissy fit. I had an old mobile computer trolley out in the garage. I had a Samsung tablet. I had a Netbook. I had to be able to do something. I cleaned up the trolley and got in into position. I connected an older Telefunken speaker off my sound system which was rarely used to my Samsung tablet. Good sound! No problems with wifi. I set up the Netbook and then found it couldn’t access the wifi. I used a wifi adapter and it now has a perfect signal. Bit silly, but never mind , it works. I moved my TV from the shelf to the trolley and the phone from the table to the trolley. I then went out to get a surge guard power board with USB charging to complete my little hub. That was not easy either!! What is the matter with shops? I ended up getting a great Belkin one which is a tribute to functional design. It is solid, has classic lines and looks really cool. I have since shifted my Netbook to the keyboard shelf on the trolley so it shuts away when not in use. It is all so tidy! All so functional. I can listen to music, watch videos, DVDs , television, I can stream radio, keep up with Twitter or Facebook. I can look up patterns and sewing things online. I am fully functional! I blogged before how I created a little recording studio which packs into a drawer. I have proven you don’t need a big space to be able to operate in a big way. Work and study spaces no longer need to be whole offices, whole desks, a certain type of desk or venue. We can now connect and work anywhere.

Colour your teaching

If the only thing you do is watch this video, you have done well. It speaks for itself and is beautiful. When my daughter was at art school, one of the first assignments they had, was to build an installation which focussed on one colour. Hers happened to be green. As part of her audience experience she wanted to make a green cake. She went outside and got some fuchsia leaves and asked me if I could make green chocolate leaves to go on her cake like the ones she had chosen. I washed the leaves , dried them and painted them with green chocolate. When her cake was made we peeled off the real leaves and had the chocolate ones for her to decorate the cake. She then took a photo of it on some little camera around at the time which printed up a small photo of the cake she had baked. It was not only a good mother and daughter moment, it was a good teaching a learning moment. I learned that if you focussed on one thing and explored it from all angles it was a deeply satisfying and inspirational way to learn. From then on I applied that in my classroom. With technology you can focus on one thing from all sorts of angles. You can teach content in multimodal ways and bring about a deeper understanding and a much better sense of what the learning is about. Looking at teaching through an artist’s lens means you have the opportunity to truly engage someone’s mind and creativity by immersing them through studied focus which then builds on itself.

Technology reads your mood

Scientist Rana el Kaliouby has been working on technology which can read your facial expressions and then know how you feel. The TED talk here explains her rationale behind it and then how it has been developed. Towards the end you can see for yourself how detailed and accurate it is. They have been researching and refining it for quite some time and soon it will be in place in the real world. They have been working on cognitive intelligence for technology. They are adding another layer to that by investigating and exploring emotional intelligence with regard to technology. Rana el Kaliouby was driven to work on this because she was separated from her family for some time and she really was only interacting with devices. She also wanted her family to better understand how she felt as she was only communicating with them through technology. I can see ,like her, that emotionally smart software might have a place in a classroom so that it could make better recommendations for students who are not engaging with what you have offered as a teacher. I can hear it now. “See? FooGoo is telling me I am bored with it. You need to show me something else. “ I can also see that the software might bypass the teacher and recommend something of its own which will engage the student. Fun and games to come. The gender differences with interaction were interesting and worth pursuing for what that really means.Do I need a device which reads my mood? I don’t think so, but I’ll have to wait and see what transpires by way of development. Technology is plastic and circuit boards. I don’t have a need to engage emotionally with it nor for it to know how I feel. I don’t talk to my pot plants either. Rana el Kaliouby says she expects this to be real in 5 years. It means we need some idea of what it will do, what it is capable of and , inevitably, how it can be misused, so that we, as teachers, are ready for it.

Game based learning apps



There is always going to be a limit as to how many apps and websites you can use in your classes because taking charge of them takes time and energy. It pays, though, to take a look at what is available because it might just be the thing you need for a particular class, a particular student or for a colleague who is looking for something suitable. It may also take a team effort to set some of these apps up at the beginning of the year so that you can benefit from them during the year.That is one thing which needs to be addressed in our workloads. Setting learning materials up online is exacting and time consuming initially.  The Educational Technology and Mobile Learning site has just come up with eight really good apps for mobile learning and game based learning. Some, you could use as an adult to increase your own learning. These game based apps are how we are moving learning out of the four walls of our classrooms. Not all students are endorsing that at present but it is going to be how we capitalise on class time, get the edge and move ourselves forward in a world where we are all connected. We are moving from web 2 to web 3 so it is only a matter of time before we muster specific groups for learning specific things and our students need to be familiar with this approach. I like the look of Zondle and plan to explore that a bit more.

What are we doing and where are we headed?

elements of the creative classroom frameworkTeaching and Learning in South Australia Facebook page put up a link to The NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition. New Media Consortium in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking has been putting out a report about digital impacts in education since 2002. It is the most comprehensive report in this area I have ever seen. It covers everything, it is extremely well articulated and thought out, it gives you information, food for thought, a detailed picture and plenty of reputable outside links to further reading and information. It looks at where we have been and where we are headed and, as ongoing reporting on technology in education, it is invaluable. The image , left , is an interesting one for thought and discussion. The other image which is very compelling in this report is the comprehensive list of technologies and digital strategies now available to us in schools. Any educational institution now could use this information for an audit, an overview, discussion, strategic planning and training.

Personal Learning Environments

I lied to myself. I was thinking – I don’t think I like this personalised learning notion. I don’t want to be a tutor. I don’t want to do just one on one, or one  little group  on one, or one in some virtual space or other. Me and my black hat. The last two weeks of this term have actually been the first two weeks of the second semester and I have been really enlightened as to what PLE can mean in my classroom. Under the video I have put on this post , there is a comment about someone believing it is a PTE too, where the T stands for teacher. That’s me and now I am nearing my second week of being in a PLE and PTE, I can say it’s a great way to go, really. My experience has been serendipitous and accidental. Technology is central to its success. Having watched the video, my current credo for PLE will come from it:

They are organic
evolving and

I have learned that with technology you have a growth mindset in teaching and no longer view it as a set  content to get through. It is genuinely a learning continuum which can be enhanced, adapted and grown and all the while you are moving everyone forward, including yourself. It is central to lifelong learning, central to knowledge acquisition and predicated on everything you know about competencies, indicators , performance criteria, collaboration and teaching for effective learning. Everything you know comes into play and so it is a naturally active approach which can endure.

I have international students in my class. At the change of the semester, if they were leaving at the end of term, they were allowed to change into another class for the two week experience before they went home. One of my international students lost her friend to another class but on Monday last week she brought in a Japanese friend for the two weeks . This student had done no French. Before, the two international students often brought a third friend to class, who had no lessons at that time but who did know French. That student would sit in a two hour lesson and be there with us , do whatever we were doing and contribute to the class 100%. I was wondering what I would do with a Japanese student in a senior French class who had no French. Well, we have done well. She has been happy in the class. I got her onto duolingo to learn French in our lessons and she loves it. She has gone through a lot of levels and could show me. When we did little French oral exercises, she had to do them in English but this week, we did a dialogue and she could participate in that. Her friend simplified what she had to say, helped her practise and they performed their dialogue as convincingly as the others. She could also sit and listen to my explanations in French of vocabulary today which I needed to do before we had to write our imaginative piece using the conditional tense. She is surprised with what she has learnt. I am delighted. She has the beginnings of a fourth language under her belt, a sense of achievement, a way of moving forward and we have had a chance to share with her what we learned about the Japanese influence in France and get her opinion. That is all authentic learning in a much better way than I could have planned or even imagined. Now I have a framework for the PLE model, I can share more of what I have done with you.

VocApp – first look

VocApp is certainly different in its approach and new generation technology for mobile platforms. My holidays are next week and I shall explore it better because, already, I can see some advantages. I have explored the VocApp site and was surprised to find that one of the things it does is explain the unexplainable to students of a language and explain word functions so it is not just for learning vocab lists. It supports an understanding of how languages function. I also liked the notion I would be able to create vocab lists from texts and that my senior students would be able to do that as well. It is something we do on a regular basis using graphic organisers and lists. vocappIt would be a  big step into the 21st century if we could make up our own multimedia flashcards from a text. One of the other advantages is shown in the video. You can make custom vocab lists by using voice recognition software. This is the way forward and I can see that  as having  both classroom and workplace value. There is school support for the app which I shall look into and I downloaded the app onto my iPad but have been using the free materials on my computer as well. You can get the Google Play version from the Play store. The app supports a number of languages and has been successful in its promotion of developing multilingual learners. If you go on YouTube you will see it has some credible endorsements of this aspect of the app.

Why play games?

Farm TownCurrently, there is no real evidence that games will improve cognition and ward off things like Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is good, then , that I do not play games for that reason. For me, it has been a hard won effort in discovery learning because I have no predisposition to playing electronic games at all. I used to be a person who thought games were rather trivial activities and not the sort of thing I should be doing. I have discovered, however, in a technological world, there are some real benefits to playing games.

1. Games familiarise you with the device and peripherals. Now when I get a new device, no matter how big or small, I load games. They familarise me with how the device works, which buttons, gestures, keyboard functions to use and show me whether the sound is clear and whether the device is running smoothly and has good graphics.
2. They make you read the whole screen. Games teach you to absorb information from all over the screen. I notoriously place my vision in the centre of the screen and skim down. I trained in speed reading. Great for printed text. Not so great for screens. A game will get you to pay attention to all areas of the screen.
3. Even if they do not improve your brain function they give you feed back about your brain. I use games because they tell me how my brain is. I know if I cannot think properly because I am tired. I know what the issues are and I am then aware I need to compensate for woolly thinking, or forgetfulness or the fact I can’t be bothered playing a game. All of this is useful feedback for daily living and will often alert me to knowing for sure I need more sleep or I am coming down with something.
4. Games force you to think outside of your comfort zone. A game will force you to think and rethink, to change and adapt and become more flexible in your thinking and approach because you are outside of your safe and secure thinking patterns. Games will  always challenge how you think and how you approach things. The positive side of that is you become a very confident thinker.
5. Games are stress busters. If you have the right games, you can use 10 or 15 minutes of playing that game to re-establish calm and ordered thinking. Some games take you through routines which just get to to reconnect with balance so that you are then grounded again.

I play word games, match three games, puzzle games, hidden object and long term ,open ended building games. I have different games for different times and moods. Long term games I play on a regular basis. Other games I play according to the amount of time I have available. Now that I play games, I can understand students better who play games and I can have better conversations with them as a teacher. I can have better conversations with students who lose themselves in games. Some do and I don’t know that we have any good studies about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Other people have lost themselves in books or films. There is a point at which this is avoidance behaviour but it is also very common for people to pick a good film or book , just to get out of themselves for a bit so they can deal with real life. Games might have a role to play there, in that sense too, but since there is an addictive aspect to games, I would want to know there have been some decent studies to look at this properly and impartially.

The try and fly generation

I have been a very naughty teacher. My year 9s had a really mean teacher today but we sorted it out! I am looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds and I have a week to watch it progress now. Learning in action…for all of us. I accidentally set them 4 hours of electronic homework on their language learning system. I know it tells me how long it will take when I set homework on this syLanguage Perfect Homeworkstem. I was in a new section and I wanted to pick a variety of verbs. I had forgotten just how thorough this language learning system is. My year 9s are really on the ball with technology. They had no sooner come into class than I heard , “Oh, you have set us homework!” They check their emails.  Then I heard , “4 hours?” reverberating around the room.

“Mrs. Woods, have you really set us 4 hours homework?”

“Mrs. Woods!!”

So, I confessed. I explained I was in a new area of the system, that I wanted to help them learn their verb tenses and that I had picked some verbs so that they had some good practice and it wasn’t like usual…it had added up to 4 hours and I was a bit embarrassed. I believe very strongly in negotiating with students and working out reasonable goals with technology. The key word being reasonable. I could have cancelled that homework. I could have changed it but I decided it is a good lesson to learn how to manage ridiculous and unreasonable and still come out on top. We had a 5 minute discussion. I said the best thing they could do was show anyone that life could throw them something utterly unreasonable and they would do their best to make it work. I also told them that I was not expecting 4 hours of homework!

I gave them 30 minutes of class time and said I could then work out how I would manage my own learning curve and lack of attention to detail on the screen. 25 minutes into it I could bring up the class and what they had done. They had completed 4% and then I could see what each student had done and 3 of them had done nothing. One student had not been able to access her account. Not  on her iPad, not on the iPad I lent her and not with more expert help. Nothing was going to work so we struck a deal that she would do what she could at home and I would allow for the iPad problem. The two others really had done nothing. So this learning system tells me who is doing what. I can show that to the students. We can look at it and by now, they know how to advocate for themselves in terms of being assessed online. We had a plan. We had a week to give it our best shot, I would get the email with the results and we would talk about it. I have just checked their progress. We are up to 8%.year 9 French

These students born after 2000 are really up for a challenge. All you have to do is put in a negotiating safety net and some agreed rules and they will just fly…the try and fly generation.

Cram app

cram appCram has been an instant success with my year 9s and my year 10s. It has also endeared itself to me because it is so easy to use. I put the Cram app on my iPad last night and could quickly and easily make up a set of flashcards which supported what I was teaching in class today. There is also an app for android so I can use it on my phone to create sets of useful cards. The two games are very effective because the students have to know the work before they can play the games. They cannot just play those games. It was interesting to see some of them try to play the games before they had studied the lists but it was all in a day’s work and good fun. The students go to the lists and memorise them easily and they love the games which really reinforce their knowledge. For me, it is a great site because I can access it from any device now and can put together a set of effective learning cards in 10 minutes. It really has been a helpful site. My lists are shared publicly so anyone can use them and I have yet to look for the lists I could use. Great way to share resources. I  put the link up on the LMS and then the students then access it on their iPads or their MacBooks. The site works just as effectively on both.

Technology Toughness

people networking

Networking is everything.

Image: In the Right Order

I was reading a good article on Huffington Post 7 things people with emotional toughness do and I just love divergent thinking. The more I read the article , the more I was thinking, well, this is how you have to be in a classroom with technology. So does using technology successfully in a classroom mean you are emotionally tough? That will be the topic of another post. What I wanted to do today was take the headings from Nicole Weaver’s article and show how they apply to ICT.

1. They take control.

Absolutely. You are clear about what is being used and when and for what purpose. There is nothing vague about technology use in a classroom nor is it something which is dictated to you as a teacher. You decide what devices and software are being used when and you make your expectations clear. A lot of the control is established by thinking ahead and remembering to say things like, turn off your phones, or we don’t have phones out in class or you need to ask me if you are going to take a photo. You decide what can be done when or 30 students and 30 devices will take over.

2. They’re flexible.

You listen and learn. That makes you flexible. You know a lot about different ways to do things so that if one option doesn’t work , you have choices. If there is no wifi it will not collapse your lesson. If one student does not have an iPad , you have a work around. By the same token, if you have a student who is prepared to show you something they know and feel would suit them or the class , you listen. It is how I found out about MineCraft. It is also how I discovered one of my year 8s the year before last could totally and completely do everything to do with her work just on her iPhone and she compromised nothing.

3. They learn from their mistakes.

Oh yes. You do. When technology flops it is unforgettable and you learn quickly to master what it is you thought you knew but didn’t. It is so important to have different ways of doing things so that when something isn’t right , you can quickly and smoothly go on to the next bit. Focus on problem solving and work arounds until you can master whatever it is you did not get right. Nothing like thinking you have planned a great lesson with technology only to find out the students do not see it the way you see it and are not using things the way you use them. Check every file and video before you show it. Check sound and where possible , have a back up device.If you are shifting from paper based to electronic, be prepared not to know how it will all work initially

4. They create specific goals — then conquer them.

That is definitely the best way to be strong in technology. Learn something different all the time. Sometimes it can be small things like keyboard shortcuts or accessing Google Drive. Other times you can really explore bigger things like Google Drive and all its possibilities, video software, image software or online  sites and services of one sort or another.

5. They look for acceptance from themselves, not others.

If you are using technology, stick within your boundaries until you are confident you are ready to learn the next thing. Accept that in some areas you might be limited. Accept there is so much to know , you cannot know it all. Accept what you do know and build on it consistently. Never feel inadequate but never fail to ask how to do something if you are not sure. If you don’t get gracious help, ask someone else.

6. They keep their stress in check.

It’s a device. A lump of plastic and circuits and maybe a fan or two. If it is not behaving itself, put it away until you have time to deal with it. You are a teacher. Teach away.

7. They let the little things roll off their back.

Just love it when I get the rainbow wheel of death on my MacBook. We sit there and watch it, I teach them how to say La roue arc-en-ciel de la mort while I am rebooting and if we have to we chant numbers, or answer random questions or do past participles…anything to use the dead time. I just laugh and keep it moving and my students fall in with that. Same for them. If it goes haywire for them we just work out what can be done in a calm and orderly fashion!keep calm and carry on Remember all those Keep Calm signs? Just go to the next step and the next one and stay cheerful.

Cool Cram flashcards

I went to Cram to have a look at the site, signed in with my Google ID and in 5 minutes had a flashcard set with two cool game options as part of the learning. Could not believe how cram flashcard gameeasy that was and how much fun. Cram has 108 million flash cards at the moment divided into logical learning areas. The more people add to it, the more choices we shall have. There is a premium version of Cram if you are interested. I am not a big flash card user but I have looked for a long time for a site where I could just make some sets of vocab cards. Repetition is how we memorise and so, with technology, we have to find different ways to get the repetition going. The two games which are part of the learning activities are a nice bonus.

Do you read better on paper?

find functionDo e-readers inhibit reading comprehension? is a very comprehensive article which looks at a number of global research projects and ideas to explore whether we read better on paper or on screen. To sum it up:

“When reading on screens, people seem less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation — strategies such as setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way.”

In the end it concludes the differences are small but the differences which are explored along the way do apply to students and texts and are very much worth considering. Some of it is to do with how we create texts in our minds as we explore them. Some of it is to do with how we search back through texts. Searching through texts is easy but it is not our habit. It is something we have to learn, as we had to learn reading in the first place. It is also about sharing how to do that and how to approach it. When you are reading in a browser, did you know if you pres CTRL F (on a Mac COMMAND F) the screen will come up with a box so you can search for text ? Software comes with a find function even if it is not displayed. I think the message to developers is please show a search option for people to use or , at least make it obvious how you do that.

Here is another, shorter, article about how e-readers help engagement in reading. There has also been some research about how e-readers help dyslexia.

There will need to be continued studies but there also needs to be continued  teaching and learning around electronic texts in the same way there has always been teaching and learning about how to approach a print text.

What’s in a meme?

SChool teacher meme This meme is so me. I am famous for the fact I do not let students pack up before the bell and I don’t let the bell dismiss them. As we go through our ritual greetings , we also go through our ritual farewells. I use memes sometimes to lighten the lesson or to reinforce my routines. I also use them to focus on something very specific in learning, rather like one cartoon frame focuses on something specific. It can be a good content starter. This week one of my classes will be making a meme because we have been learning the future tense and the meme will focus on one irregular verb and a common use of it. We can then move on to something more complex. Memes have become so popular they are being used commercially and there are aspects of that which can cause problems. Memes may have copyright attached to them. Fair use is deemed okay, but be careful. Also be careful because there are sites with memes which will download unwanted and unpleasant files onto your computer. That is just how the world is and we should have a central reporting agency . Every browser should have a button to click which reports sites with malware. It would make it safer for us all. In the meantime make sure you have good malware and virus protection. There has also been research on memes because they are transmitters of potted culture. Memes are passed from person to person. The popular ones represent what people see as important or a valid perception in some way. One study has found popular English language memes contain more men than women and the men are Caucasian. We need to get some better teacher memes. This one comes from a set of “unhelpful” teacher memes. I don’t see myself as unhelpful when I want my class to work until the end of a lesson. Maybe I am?

Our favourite web organiser

Web Organiser This modest little web organiser has been a big hit in my classes over the last two weeks. You can get your own copy from clipartbest. I frequently use web organisers to help build ideas, language skills and content. This particular web organiser has been used to build vocabulary, practice verb tenses, talk about films and to advertise Adelaide. I put the central idea in the middle and then display it on my IWB. As a class, or group we then work around the extensions to fill in each bubble. After that, I get students to do their own version of it. My year 9s were so fast they demanded to upload their perfect tense practice onto the LMS so I could see how well they had done. My other students put theirs on their blogs and were happy to do it. I could have asked them to write lists or 6 examples of what we were learning. I decided on this web organiser. One student summed it up this way:

Last week in French class we had to find different words to describe Adelaide. Instead of just doing the typical list, we used a web organiser for the first time. I think web organisers are a great way of doing activities like this because it makes you more creative.

If you are looking for other sorts of web/graphic organisers, look at my other posts:

Love graphic organisers!
Graphic organisers
Free graphic organisers

You have to grow in order to blossom

flower of computing Image: The Evolution of computing

The site linked above, the Evolution of Computing, has so many useful diagrams and tables to help you put technology and ICT into perspective. It really is multidisciplinary and fosters multidisciplinary thought and action. We have been growing computer systems and they have now changed from user based to community driven systems and they determine our world view. You need to have an awareness of how technology drives our world view so that you can better use it. According to the site:

A world view is:

Essential. To view a world one needs a view perspective.
Empirical. It arises from interaction with the world.
Complete. It consistently describes a whole world.
Subjective. We choose a view perspective, explicitly or not.
Exclusive. You cannot view the world in two different ways at the same time, as you cannot sit in two places at once (footnote 10).
Emergent. One world view can emerge from another.

Software and hardware can play a part in determining our world view. It is important, then, that you can use technology and see how it is empowering or limiting thinking. A multidisciplinary approach ensures that thinking remains as broad as it can be and a multilingual approach ensures you are engaging as many individuals who all can contribute ideas and thinking to the system. Across the whole flower of computing are pluralingualism and intercultural understanding and richness. If you read ( or even just look at the pictures) the article about top start ups on the Techcrunch site you will see the top start ups are multilingual. The world is changing.

A view from the top

Or on high. Not all students speak English as a first language and so I have tried to use two common expressions which mean the same. I made this video to be part of our flipped classroom discovery learning this year. As I explained before, there are plenty of things for French, which is my current subject area and so I thought to put my English teacher hat on and see how I would approach that from a digital perspective. A view from the top/on high was a homework exercise which I used to set as an Englsih teacher and the students always loved it. I would have to use class time to explain what I meant and what I was looking for. It has to be very descriptive so the reader can easily imagine what the person is looking down upon. Students would walk up to favourite place where they had a good view, or sit on top of a ladder (safely) or a chest of drawers. They loved the challenge of finding the vantage point. Now, with technology, I can show them the sorts of things they could view and they could use their own images or images from the internet to inspire their writing. Depending on the class, I could ask for more than 250 words. We’d look at how they had described their views and how we could make them even better. With laptops they could work in little groups and show each other the views, read the description and then get feedback. I’d take it further and get them to make a video presentation to show the difference between written and visual literacy. Having made this I realised it is so handy as a teacher to have banks of eletronic resources. It helps fill gaps if teachers are away. It takes the strain off your voice. It means you can use class time to explore and expand ideas and skills. I enjoyed making this. It made me focus on what I was trying to do and I was learning more about Pinnacle Studio as I went but I was also working across devices which made it more interesting and challenging for me. Technology forces you to problem solve and create at the same time. It forces you to work in a multidisciplinary way and it makes you far more particular about thinking content out.

Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 18.5

pinnacle studio 18.5I have been running Pinnacle Studio 16 for quite some time and decided to invest in the new Pinnacle Studio 18.5 Ultimate. It’s paid video making software but for me it is worth it because it has a solid bank of resources, it is challenging and the finished products are good quality. Video making is something I have been teaching myself since we had laptops at school. I like making videos for my classes and it is often a good way to present content and get a really good lift off with a  new section of work. I’ll talk more about my recent project in my next post because I can see now there are even more benefits to teachers having videos for content delivery. Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 18.5 has a comprehensive library of video and sound effects. I find it very easy to work with in terms of adjustments and working with the time line. It is easy to import new resources, easy to find what you want and fine tuning is something where you have to apply yourself. I am still not that good at the credits section at the end. I found that easier in Pinnacle Studio 16. The new layout is smoother and less complicated – not that the other version bothered me much but I appreciate a less cluttered screen. It makes navigation easier. Sound improvement has been better considered in this version of Pinnacle Studio. It runs very smoothly and better than Pinnacle Studio 16. I am having the usual teething problems , though. It is a massive programme and it takes a little bit of time to settle in and get used to its new home. I don’t worry about the buggy bits when I am first using a big programme like this. It tends to be silly and then , with patience, it just goes…and goes. Rendering is very fast and the options for video size and quality are good. I liked Pinnacle Studio 16 and I like Pinnacle Studio 18.5 better. It is a nice programme to work with. It’s my favourite. I use iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Corel Digital Studio and Sony Movie Maker Platinum. Pinnacle Studio is my favourite because I can customise ti better, it comes with a decent library of effects, it imports quickly , easily and logically and basically, everything is there in one place. The finished product is individual and less generic. I need to spend some time on the how to now that I am used to how it operates and fits together. There is considerable support and online help so I won’t need to look far.

Sociotechnical systems

Education and schools are now sociotechnical systems and we need to pay attention to what that means. Ian Sommerville’s video explains it clearly and well so that you can understand the implications and the concept. It is now a discipline of study which has actually been around since the 60s but the implications of it and the necessity of it are  becoming clear.

“Sociotechnical systems are systems which include technical systems but also operational processes and people who use and interact with the technical system. “  Anywhere where people and technology are working together as part of a network with the intention of achieving organisational goals. If you look at the sociotechnical systems stack, you not only have a clear idea of how people and technology can work together, you also become more aware of how and where you should be focussing your attention for trouble shooting or improvement:

2.Operating system
3.Communications and data management
4.Application system
5.Business processes
6. Organisation
7. Society

Teachers have been busy in the last few years working in the area of application system to find the right tool, apps, software, devices and approaches to ensure students are meeting curriculum and examination board outcomes and requirements but also to establish what can and cannot be done with different aspects of technology in a classroom. They are now , probably, in a good position to give reliable and valid feedback which would grow that area. They are also in a position to align what they are doing with technology to school site plans and national curricula so that we can better define what can be achieved, what is being achieved, and more importantly address the pitfalls and sticking points. One of the more obvious ones , at the moment, is how to address electronic work which does not appear to be that of the student whether that is in a class situation or an exam one. We need to look at that and use our experience to remedy it. Before we were all trying to get it all up and running.

There is a similar growth which could take place in the communications and data management area. It is happening but we need to be looking at it clearly so that national bodies, school bodies and everyone connected to the education sociotechnical system can communicate better and more effectively in house, locally, nationally and internationally. The system stack is a convenient way to look at the sociotechnical system in schools to make sound judgements as to what can be improved, enhanced, addressed. It means you have a way of looking at the good processes occurring and then the ones which might be diverting the system from working optimally. Before we  continue  to extend and build our education sociotechnical systems we need to build in  review and reflection points of our systems. That kind of self-awareness will only grow our capacity to manage our sociotechnical system competently.

Technology peeves

These are Don MacMillan’s pet peeves with technology. I identify with them all. I hate putting the USB in the wrong way, it annoys me phones and laptops don’t have the same sort of charger for each device. Each mobile phone has a different charger. Each laptop has a different charger. I certainly relate to the washroom sensors. I am the one standing there waving my hands uselessly under the dryer. Then he talks about printers. For me that is not an issue. I rarely print but it is insanity itself that a new printer is cheaper than buying new ink. E-waste.

That is my first pet peeve. The amount of e-waste we generate because we cannot be bothered going back through the system and streamlining it for optimum use. We have cords, adapters, monitors, keyboards, batteries, CDs now. Nothing is easy to recycle and nothing is easily adapted. Nothing ever matches so I have a whole box full of cables and wires and know in there somewhere is the right cord or connector for what I want to do. Tablets are not the answer. We have worked that out now. They are good and useful but they are limited in what they can do. It’s their portability which is the real advantage and the fact they suit some people perfectly. There is then the problem of battery life. We have all these cool devices and forever running to charge them or going out to buy another pack of batteries. I can remember how liberating it was to be able to run a calculator off solar power. Suddenly we were finally free just to get on and calculate. No credibility in the technology age if you are held up because of battery life or a connecting cable.

Don MacMillan talks about passwords. One of my pet peeves, too. We have so many of them. We seem to need so many of them. You do get told your password is weak. That’s another annoyance – patronising computer messages. I don’t like the alternatives being suggested – voice passwords, iris passwords or fingerprint passwords. You just know that is not going to go well.

Then there are the games which want you to play them the way they want you to play them. You are herded like beef into certain ways of doing things or going about things. If the game does not stop doing that to me, I never play it again. It’s a game. My game.

My current peeve is apps which manage to lose the in purchase component. Apps like that should be taken off the range of choices. There needs to be an effort now to divest the world of unreliable apps, software and websites. I know people can fake reviews and ratings. It is time to deal with this properly. There have to be trials, beta testing and then an easy way of reporting unreliable software and sites. People are encouraged to design apps, in particular,and software but we are missing the quality control and ongoing durability of the product. If a leg fell off your chair 6 months after you bought it , you would have something to say and a way of addressing it. Technology doesn’t provide that sort of protection really. It can lose things, corrupt things, stop working, make things vanish, make things unopenable, make redress very hard and still we engage with it. We have had it on the world stage long enough to be better at what is offered and how we solve the problems. Caveat emptor is the way a lot of technology difficulties are dealt with but we need real solutions and that is the challenge we should take up.

I know what she’s talking about!

Thursday after lunch is not a prime time for teaching year 9s. Neither is Monday last lesson. Never mind, it is how it is. This Thursday my plan was to drive through on the perfect tense (passé composé) in


I know what she means!

French. We had looked at what it was and what it meant the lesson before and it really needs to be taught carefully and in bits in French. I have a key slide for this concept. One with a great picture and 3 sentences which are very dramatic which we say and learn so the students know what we are doing and then how good it will be when we have learnt it. We warmed up with numbers and then got to the next step in our learning. They were confident and secure with the auxiliary verb avoir and then we got onto the irregular the past participles. We had done the regular ones the lesson before. We said the verbs and then laughed our way through the past participles because they have sounds not familiar to English speakers and don’t relate to the infinitive of the verbs. Why would they? They are irregular. I wanted them to make a table so we could go through the French and English and pin our knowledge on something. So we counted the verbs in French and then made our table on the iPads.

“But what about those other things? We need to know what they mean too.”
“Yes, we need another column. We need to know what they mean.”
“I was thinking we just need to know the verbs today.”
“No! We need to know what those funny words mean like lu and bu.”

So we made our fourth column and they were very silent as they got the information down and we put in the English so they knew. Half way down the list of past participles, one of my irrepressible students suddenly exploded: “Oh, I get it.I know what she means. I can say, J’ai bu un café…I have drunk a cup of coffee.”
“I can say , J’ai lu un livre!”
They were looking at the board and their iPads. All these sentences constructed in the passé composé were popping out of their mouths. These students born in 2000 and beyond are very much visual, interactive learners and they like involving themselves with learning. They enjoy it.

The icing on the cake was when one student brought out her iPad so I could listen to her planet presentation in French which was a show and tell and she had 3 slides where she had changed her sentences to the passé composé and had been pleased she could do that now. I love technology.

Udemy – learn whatever you want

udemyUdemy has attracted millions in start up funding. Enough to make you sit up and notice and know this is the future. It is a site where anyone can teach anything but they do have their checks and balances in place. If you want to know how to make apps for Apple watches or learn a language you can go to Udemy and learn. It’s a pay as you learn site. It will grow so that you will be able to search and learn whatever you want. It runs on instructors getting ratings and reviews and then rising to the top. I am never comfortable with this model but it will sort itself out. Integrity and authenticity do shine in cyberspace but you also approach sites with the knowledge that likes, comments, followers can be bought. I have never seen the value of that because it does not help. Udemy and sites like it have presumably built in some way of keeping things honest and they certainly monitor what is being taught. It runs in 80 languages and so it is enabling more people to access learning . An online site like this is making very real the notion of lifelong learning and 24/7 learning. We no longer have the constraints of time and place hampering us from learning what we need and want to know. At the moment there is a real focus on this site with technology and technology development. The best thing is there are some free courses you can sign up to. The value in these is you will learn something but then you will understand how a concept like this works and can make informed decisions about which paid courses to take on. Tech Crunch has an overview here. It would be an interesting challenge for teachers and preservice teachers, in particular, to try to construct courses which would be successful and valued on site like Udemy. It would also be important for teachers and preservice teachers to take courses on sites like this so they understand how they work, what they do and what is offered.

2015 is pretty amazing!


Image: KaiZen mind and start up



If this is the connected world, if this is teaching , if this is 2015, it is pretty amazing. I put my post up yesterday about doing things in little steps so you look at the improvements at each stage and can get things finished properly. The story , now , of this post is internet magic. It is the lesson of the internet – create content, share, gain feedback and improve. At the end of last year I was listening to a podcast in French by Johann from françaisauthentique where he was talking, amongst other things about “l’esprit Kaizen” and was explaining what that meant. Johann also has a firm commitment to self-development so his podcasts maintain my French and encourage me personally. I went to school and asked the Japanese teacher what Kaizen meant and he told me what was in the picture left – it was a good improvement but in small steps. As I explained yesterday I used it to get my unfinished sewing projects completed and have since applied it to things I want to be able to get done but can’t see my way clear to achieving them unless I commit to an approach whereby I look at what I want to achieve, decide where to start and then put in small amounts of time to complete something a small bit at a time but well. I am making good change. I am trying to improve how I do things so I enjoy them and get value out of them. In the KaiZen Mind and start up visualisation is explained as one of the key stepping stones. If you make good small changes then you can see clearly what the next step is. You visualise that well because your mind is not swamped with all the other thoughts of how, when , why, what if…blah blah. All the self-defeating thoughts. Shannon Tipton articulates really well on her blog Learning Rebels the value of it as a teacher. So, I was blogging about my KaiZen approach yesterday and the post was picked up and published in a German : – Kaizen / Lean by Frederic Jordan . Kaizen is a concept which has been used in manufacturing and the car industry in particular to create an attitude of continuous development. Wikipedia explains it as : Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (“muri“), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.

I could go back into school today and tell the Japanese teacher that all this stuff I had been doing from his explanation and help with Kaizen had come from my French podcast, through his Japanese cultural and linguistic knowledge, through the English on my blog to a German This is the internet. We go across languages and cultures and we arrive in the wonderful world of connected learning . This is 2015.

One step at a time

view from the top I can’t say I have really appreciated the value and importance of doing things one step at a time so that I can complete something properly. Yes, I have broken things down and worked on bits and isn’t that what I do for my students with the Weekly Tasks Sheet because they like it better that way? I break bigger tasks down so that each week they know what to do so they can complete a packed assessment plan or a demanding project. I have seen what they can do with that. I can see that the work is better and I can see, that inspite of my best efforts , there are always a few who leave it until the last minute. When you break things into small steps then those who try and complete it quickly in a short time show up quite clearly. They can see it too and so every time you do that, you gain more students who will put the time in. In the last Christmas holidays I learnt about the Japanese notion of Kai Zen – completing something in tiny steps. I applied it to a mountain of sewing projects I had and could not believe how they were being completed and looked beautiful. I had thought each step out. I had applied myself for each step. It meant each step had more value than if I had broken it down into steps and just done it. There is a difference. Start here, go to that, do this bit, do that bit. It is not the same as starting, thinking that start up well and then, as you are working on that knowing what the next step is. You then focus on the next step. It is about focus, mindfulness, positive mindset and the whole project is much better thought out. I am using this approach to complete a video for Flipped Learning. I enjoyed finding the pictures, then the videos. I realised as I was setting them up in the timeline of my video programme I could use Elevator App to do some transitioning in the video. I have yet to do that, but I’ll do that one film clip at a time. 100% focus. I have  to decide as well  about whether I use voice overs or music or both. As you work in a Kai Zen way you appreciate each element of a project and that it has its own value. You then also understand the value of chunking work, breaking assignments down and packaging work in a way so that the elements of a task have their own vital importance as you build a whole.

Free video clips and animated gifs

squirrel gif Cyberworld is becoming increasingly animated and video oriented. If you and your students are looking for free video clips to insert into presentations then Videezy is the place to go. As more people use it the banks of clips will become more varied and helpful . As it stands I found three which would make my video presentation more interesting and pertinent. If you want animated gifs, which have their place but not all over the place(!), then giphy has plenty of animated gifs available. Have fun!

Teaching backwards

learning backwards Image: Free Ppt Templates
When I want to lift up the learning and achievement in my students I teach backwards. With technology and blogging that has become a lot easier because I can get exactly what I need at each step along the way , I can get feedback in class and then look at the learning on their blogs. When you look at student blogs you can see each student is quite different as they process information in their own individual way. It really makes you appreciate the value of differentiation. I blogged about how my year 9s had wanted to see what I meant when I asked them to make up a planet. I took that lesson on board from them and now, when I want my year 10s to advertise Adelaide in French , I thought, well, the best thing I can do is show them French people advertising Australia to their own people. I found two vloggers who were approaching it differently. One uses his iPhone and creates very popular videos of his road trips which are quite spontaneous and funny. The other one has a polished approach and sets up videos and interviews and has roadtripped himself around the world this way and it is now his job. That in itself opened the eyes of my Year 10s. They found it interesting to think French people did this. I could then show the Xavier by bike blog – Don’t dream your life, just live your dreams. Xavier did a bike road trip from Lille to Dubai and blogged about his adventure, with videos in French and English. They could understand bits and pieces of the videos but could see how French people advertise Australia to their own people. We then fed in some vocabulary, expressions and ideas for presentations. As they sorted out their own thoughts on that, I constructed my own brochure on the board as they looked around for what they thought they needed. It isn’t really about connecting the dots. Students are in the internet age. They have a lot of packets of information and ideas in their heads. It’s more an atomic approach to learning where you get the electrons and neutrons to fly around the nucleus of the core learning to create something structured and meaningful. I want my year 10s to produce an advertising text for Adelaide and then a one minute video in French to advertise Adelaide. As we go along I can feed in more vocabulary and expressions, we can look at the videos again and they will be able to see they are achieving something valuable. We have started with shop recommendations. In both of the videos they looked at what our shops were  like and we have done plenty of shopping vocabulary and practice so it’s a good place to start. educereEducation comes from the latin educere. I am a firm believer in leading them out and up.

Then there is the day…

seize-the-day-quote-1 Image: PictureQuotes

1. The day there is a massive storm and a tree comes down on your roof but thankfully just blocks one side of the house and does not damage it. On the other side you try to back your car out of the roller door and the wind is so strong the door malfunctions and you mangle it with your car. You cannot get out. The phone is dead. Thank heavens for mobiles.

2. The day you happily and enthusiastically jump into your car and drive to school on a beautiful sunny day. That’s it. No school bag, no other bag, no laptop, no lunch. You borrow money for lunch and draw the web pages on your whiteboard. You wave your arms around a lot.These days I have iPad back-up.

3. The day you walk the students back from an excursion and one starts to worry you are lost. Another student gets out their mobile, opens up the map app and shows the one who is worried exactly where we are. Thank heavens for mobiles.

4. The day you cannot get to school because your leg has considerable soft tissue damage because of a random dog attack. You tell the school you will be online during a particular lesson because they actually need support in French and you thought you’d be there. One student gingerly sends an email during lesson time. They realise you really are there and so the emails arrive with their requests for help.

5. The day you have spent hours on a carefully planned awesome ICT lesson and there’s a fire drill. Be thankful it wasn’t more serious and use your awesome lesson next time.

6. The day cloud services are not working and you need it to share a critical file with students. Get out the trusty USB stick and fill in the sharing time with basic content practice as they share.

7. The day your IWB has no board connection. Hold your laptop up, show the screen, wave the free arm a lot, and use a writing stick on a normal board. Don’t do what I did and try and change things on the laptop screen with your finger thinking it’s a touch screen.

8. The day the sound doesn’t work. Talk your way through the presentation or get the students to imagine the voice over. Really frees up everyone’s thinking.

9. The day you all sit there looking at the rainbow wheel of death spinning. Reboot. Teach as you troubleshoot, if there is no remedy ,change device or go down the old road and use the student laptops. Students love helping in a technology crisis moment.

10. The day everything drops into place, the learning curve is steep and challenging and you break through with technology awesomeness.

Technology trains your brains

technology opens horizonsI am sure someone is doing research somewhere to prove than technology use improves your brain function. Students born in 2000 and after are different. They know a lot. They can absorb information very quickly. They make connections fast. My job as a teacher with those students is to access all that information in their brains and make it go to work in the name of real knowledge and education. I actually taught my year 9s yesterday some French grammar I had taught the year 11s the week before. The reason I did it was when I was marking their work I could see the year 9s wanted to make more complex sentences and normally I don’t try that until year 10. I could see what they were all trying to do in that batch of work. We practiced our big numbers and then I just said to them I was going to try something and that I had, in fact ,taught them modal verbs last term and they even knew what that meant, and that I would see how they went and they shouldn’t worry if it seemed hard because it was. It was year 11. I got silence. Some scrambled for their  pencils. Their iPads were under their chairs. I did my 5 minutes explaining but at every step I asked if they got it. Their faces were intent. They were looking at one bit and then the other bit and I could seem them trying to make connections. It’s easier when I do my daft drawings. My students seem to enjoy my lack of capacity to draw as I talk and they learn that way…visual, some text and voice overs!!! These students have grown up with technology. I only ever teach like that for a maximum of 10 minutes. Technology means I can create custom lessons, access what I need very quickly, create depth or amusement in an instant. I can see these younger students want to know. They ask intelligent questions. They do not switch off from knowledge and they don’t worry if they are baffled. The internet baffles them on a regular basis. Games baffle them at every level. They have no fear of not knowing because they also know you can level up or you can access someone on a site which will explain all. Next semester in year 9 I am going to have baffle your brain sessions of 10 minutes every week and see what happens. We are really going to hurt our heads with learning at a higher level. Having something which you cannot do easily, cannot understand easily forces your passive knowledge to become active. That’s my belief and this is my plan.