How to give a great lesson

This PowToon presentation gives you food for thought about how to organise content for a classroom. The students we teach now are visual.They do learn more quickly and better with animated and visual presentations. They do learn more efficiently if you keep the board clear except for two or three things and then move on. I have also used PowToon with students and they really like it. I didn’t use it last year because we were looking at other animation software to use in class. PowToon was easy for them to use and they produced some really good assignments with the content we were learning. Using a more visual approach needs rethinking and making the most of a visual approach need practice. Using a graphic organiser like the one I put up in my last post helps you to rethink materials and resources for lessons. This video has reminded me to think about something else again. It’s how you start a lesson. The first 5 minutes are critical. Once you have their attention by using technology, it rarely wanders off in my experience but you have to get those first 5 minutes right. I am going to focus on improving that and this video demonstrates when you keep the conversation going, you move the information and you build a narrative, you can gain attention quite easily and then deliver worthwhile content. I could do worse than decontruct this video to see how I could improve my presntation skills in a lesson.

Storyboard your lessons

storyboard lesson planI have this down to a fine art now, but it wasn’t always the way. I have had to change my thinking with technology and consider how to present content and information differently. To make best use of the technology at hand you have to make an effort to find the files and resources which will best get your message across. As teacher you are the trail meme, the trouble shooter, the inspiration , the connector and the narrator. A lesson these days can be technology rich and each piece can play its part in connecting students with their learning. You are welcome to download a copy of storyboardlessontemplate if you wish. It’s basically a checklist to ensure you make maximum use of your technology resources. The next step is to work out the sequencing of materials.

Google Tour Builder

I have blogged before about Google Tour Builder because it is a powerful classroom tool which students like to use because it is real. I am using it again this year and am offering you a different video to watch. Both videos explain well how to use the Tour Builder. As a French teacher it helps me help students get some authentic learning and also have a good reason to use their French. QuickTime will record their screen as   Tour Builder plays so they can import it into iMovie or some other software to enhance the tour even further.

I have just been through an odd experience in that Chrome will not run the Tour Builder Google Earth extension. I downloaded it but Chrome, a Google browser ,doesn’t seem to want to support Tour Builder any more. I am now running it on Safari and it works really well.

Epson Easy Interactive Tools

Epson Easy Interactive Tools look a bit classier and give you some good options than the regular whiteboard tools which come with the Epson.These tools will work on any whiteboard, not just an Epson. It’s actually a good idea to do it this way. The tools which come with the board are straightforward , do not confuse people and do the job. When you are ready to move on, you can download the Easy Interactive Tools and watch this video which explains everything slowly and well. You can actually see what you can do and you can play the video and practise using the tools at the same time. That is a great way to learn because you are under no pressure to suddenly be good at something which might take a little bit of time for you to master. I use the option of showing things on the board and annotating it as I teach. It really means I can focus the learning and add to what I have selected as a visual part of my lesson. It means I can do things which are more complicated. I can erase it all in two clicks and then see how far we have come as a class. My capacity to use more and better resources is increased because of the options supplied with the Easy Interactive Tools. I have mentioned them in passing before because downloading them was the first thing I did when my new board was installed. The regular tools do a lot of the work for me but to have choices means I can change delivery modes easily and make better use of my board.

Don’t drown in a glass of water

drawingI love learning languages. You find out other people have suchamazing ways of encapsulating life experience in the most vivid of ways. What if you want to share some of these gems with your class? Well, the French saying applies to me. I wanted to explain this expression to my senior students and so I grabbed my lovely electronic pen and went to all that real estate on my board and tried to draw it for them. I could have just stood there and tried to have explained it and explained it and all they would have looked at is my face. I could have taken the easy way and just told them in English. Forcing them through their own passive French, engaging their brains and creating heads which would think this in French meant I had to draw as I was explaining. I have replicated the drawing I did on my iPad in SketchBook Express which is a great app for non drawing people like me. For those with talent it would be brilliant. I have no fear of using my appalling drawing in class. Immediately it lifts the pressure. Students cannot believe what they are seeing and they stop worrying about what THEY can’t do and become absorbed in my lack of capacity to draw. It amuses them no end but they are not a bit mean. It’s just funny. I do not drown in a glass of water when I am confronted with having to explain something in French to my French students. I use the tools and talents (or lack thereof) and teach. A similar thing happened in my year 9 class this week. We are doing a more demanding version of introducing ourselves. I had a text on the board and only that text and I could add notes as we were going through it. I got to the expression of riding a horse. I did not translate it. I drew a horse, which luckily they recognised first go, and sat someone on it and repeated the expression in French and it was how they became familiar with it. So, don’t let your students drown in a glass of water and don’t drown yourself in a glass of water when it comes to technology. Be bold!

Never underestimate the power of peer support


Peer support is invaluable

Image: freepik

It took a little bit of time on my part to match students but I gave all my year 10 students a blogging buddy from year 11 or 12. When I handed the blog addresses out   in class this morning , the year 10s were very attentive, very much on their game and making very sure they got it right. I got them to link to the buddy blog and then to visit the blog and like a post and then comment on one. You could have heard a pin drop and when I got up to investigate why it was taking so long and there was so much silence my year 10s were looking very carefully at the buddy blog they had been given. You could feel the energy lift and how important this was to the students. The next class was my year 11 and 12 class and I told them they all now had a Year 10 buddy to coach but one who would encourage them in their blogging. I had hardly got it out before the students had their laptops lids up and they were on their blogs looking for the year 10 magic. Again, there was an energy lift . The year 11s and 12s thought this was a fantastic idea and their pride was obvious. Peer support and respect mean a lot to students. It is an essential part of their learning and now I have my year 10s up and running and have connected the year levels, I shall be able to see for myself just how powerful a tool peer support and encouragement are. I use my year 11s to coach and mentor my year 12s as they go into their exams and major assessments. The level of commitment from the year 11s has always been inspiring and the positive impact it has on my year 12s is always openly acknowledged by them. Students can make each other strong and they can help each other enjoy and value learning in a way nothing else can. I’ll be able to build this cyber support now and see where it takes us.

You can’t win ‘em all

desk No, you can’t win ‘em all, but you have to persist with a can do mentality when it comes to technology. Today was not one of the best days with technology, but there were some really high spots. My new office has a new,clever desk so I brought an old keyboard from home and hooked it up to my laptop and am loving it. So much easier on me, so much nicer to use under those conditions and besides, it’s fun. Another monitor would make it brilliant. Sometimes you just have to have all the technology. By contrast, my classroom technology was a trial. Test, maybe. Test of my skills and lessons in patience and tolerance. This morning it was all good and I could make good use of all my files, the students’ files and my IWB. We achieved so much, covered so much ground and it was all so easy because we all had laptops. Even the student whose laptop would not boot was delighted I could offer her an iPad after she took her technology behaving badly to the technicians. For her it was a nice change and she was happy to use an iPad. It was different and fun for her. Then we came to last lesson which really put us all to the test. 31 very active year 9s and then an LMS which would not load so I could not do the roll, a board which would not connect and my whole lesson revolved around technology and what I had on my laptop and what they had on their iPads. You cannot put 31 year 9s on hold in last lesson and say , twiddle your toes because the board is not working. We don’t have books.We don’t have paper. So what do I do when it all seemingly falls apart like that? I teach! I got out my trusty blue writing stick and wrote things on the board. A to do list. First we were going to try the Edmettle site because it was blocked last week. Yes! We could get onto it and we did the things I had put on the board. The students liked using a new site and were asking some good questions. The lesson I was going to present took an interesting turn. Their electronic versions of the workbook and coursebook did not have the pages I wanted them to use. I checked in disbelief on their iPad and they were right. I always take screenshots of the exercises I am going to use on the board. Why? It means only that particular part of the page is in view. We are totally focussed on that and extraneous page information cannot interrupt cognitive flow. Like a comic strip I just focus their learning one frame at a time. Thank heavens. So I loaded the images up onto the LMS which was now available to me and did the roll while they were downloading them. Bingo. We were in the business of learning. The iPads displayed the images well so that they only focussed on each exercise one at a time. They were in control. I was in control. It wasn’t the lesson I had planned but when it comes to technology  work arounds are of paramount importance. While, at times, I was walking and talking them through the work, I kept trying to get a board connection. No HDMI connection, no Apple TV option but finally, 5 minutes before the end of the lesson, I got a VGA connection. They laughed. “You have a big board, why aren’t you using it all?” Good question. “Because it’s a VGA connection and I haven’t adjusted the resolution yet. Patience!” That lesson taught me and them a lot. I could get my content across but we were learning to haul as a team through a troubled spot without getting ourselves off task. You don’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need.  The team effort was great so even though you can’t win ‘em all ,you can capitalise on any given situation if you adopt a multi mode delivery option.

Sticky notes HD

Sticky notes HDSticky notes HDI am on my iPad and rather than read about the seven mistakes I could be making vacuuming (I kid you not), I have decided to share Sticky notes HD with you. It costs just over a dollar and I know there are other sticky notes apps for free. They are not colourful and flexible like this one. The range of colours is lovely. There are also filters you can apply or you can use your own image as a background. You can change the font size and choose between black or white and you can use your camera to add images. It means you can make a high powered, customized note for a specific purpose or just your common and garden variety. I could see it having a good use with the iPads in class but it is not something I can expect because it is a paid app. Your note can be viewed several ways so it means you can take screen shots for different purposes if you wish. Sticky notes HD is more interesting to use but also offers more options for making notes.

Get yourself published!

CreativistThere’s a portal for everyone these days and if you want to be a writer , then Creativist might interest you. It comes with free and paid versions so you have a chance to get to know the site and what it offers before you commit yourself to any kind of payment. And yes, there is and app for Creativist. There is also an education version which you can enquire about. If you want to know more about it before you actually go on the site and have a look yourself, Benjamin Bathke has an excellent blog about Creativist and what you can do with it and how to use it.

Add new !

mindset shiftLiz Watts (@fizwiz) put this up on Twitter last night and it’s a great graphic to stop you in your tracks and make you think about changing your mindset. When you carry a big workload, when you have done something for a while, you get into a routine and that can become a rut where you dig yourself deeper. The same old thinking gets the same old results. If you always do what you always did then you will always get what you always got. You know how that thinking goes. With classroom technology you have to be prepared to “add new”. You do it all the time with apps, software and sites. It’s the way technology works. It adds updates, a new interface, a new version, an upgrade, a new device. It is not going to be standing still so you have to develop a fluid mindset. It is what you also need to teach your students. They have to be encouraged to try something new, a different approach, a new platform. Offer choices. It is no longer one size fits all. Half way through my year 9 lesson yesterday we went into choose your own technology mode. Some went on the language learning site. Some used a variety of ways for recording their conversation. Some wanted to work on their Paris presentation. Two students had got themselves well ahead and so I offered them a chance to use the Elevator App to make their dialogue into an animated presentation like the one I had done at the beginning of term. It meant they had to learn to use the app. They were very excited when I said once they had done that they could import it into the fancy video app on my iPad and make something really cool. We negotiated that they would come and tell me when they had spare bits of time to do this because they were doing it as an extra. While I was helping other students and listening to dialogues I could see those two students were completely lost in their new learning. They were having to find a different way of doing things and it had invigorated them. It invigorated me too. I was learning if you know your software and hardware , you can personalise quite significant portions of learning for students without giving it over to making yourself redundant or superfluous to requirements. You are, in fact, critical to it all succeeding in a positive way.

Year 10 blogs ahoy

Cours du vendrediWell, it is not quite so easy getting all year 10s engaged with their blogs as it is with senior students. I am currently relying on the snowball effect and am trying to avoid any kind of deficit model. That will not be sustainable past the middle of the term or there will be too much for students to catch up. We’ll see. Teachers are , by nature, very methodical and systematic and that is what wins the day with blogging in my experience. It is a high level skill and students can’t just do it. They have to learn with one little bit at a time. The year 11s and 12s are going really well and the year 12s in particular are making good ground because they had their blogs last year as well. Blogging adds so much to their literacy and linguistic skills. The fact we are up and running with the year 10 blogs is a positive. The fact that so many of them have done so much good work and their blogs are starting to get a voice and style of their own is great. We are using our blogs:

1. To fill in learning gaps
2. To consolidate in class learning
3. To learn new skills
4. To tackle something we find challenging
5. To build a good online presence
6. To extend our learning
7. To take responsibility for our learning
8. To persist
9. To be independent learners
10. To have a voice and be heard

All the year 10s have something on their blogs . A few are still thinking that it is something they can avoid or choose not to do. In terms of consolidating and extending their learning a blog will show them just how much they can grow and learn. It is evidence they can interpret and present quality information and content. It is also evidence they can make connections, follow instructions and take control of their learning. My year 10s have a lesson a week at the moment to do their blogs. This lesson is actually supervised by a Japanese teacher so I have built in an opportunity for them to make tiny steps in learning yet another language. Create a multilingual approach. It will take them the term to get comfortable and then we can move on. You have to grow in order to blossom. I have created a task sheet which they follow each week and it is interesting to see which students can accomplish everything on their blogs. It provides evidence of what they can do in an hour and for most of them it is something they are enjoying. By the end of term I am hoping I can tell you they are all making progress in their personalised learning. The early weeks are hard but , if they follow the same pattern as the year 11s and 12s , they will soon get into a comfort zone. I have discovered with blogging that some students fight it because it is totally new ground and they are used to being very comfortable in their learning. As they grow older , do you let them stay that way or do you offer them some real challenges? My year 12s are really comfortable now and have a lot of confidence. A year of blogging has shown them just how much it can support them as a learner.

If you want to see my Friday worksheet for the year 10s, you are welcome to download it .

More practical help

online resourcesSometimes you need to fill in a learning gap. Sometimes you need to help a particular student with a particular skill. Online services can meet these needs if you know where to look. Online services are available 24/7 and can be accessed from any web enabled device. No one has to wait for knowledge to come to them and no teacher has to be out of resources for ever complex classes. I have picked some more sites which will help, in particular with English, but the first two cover other subject areas as well.

Help Teaching

KB Teachers


The sites offer online printables, online exercises and online help for classes and individuals.

Practise your English

English GrammarI had an English relief lesson. Three of the students did not have books once we had handed them out and they were not doing the sorts of exercises where they could share a book because they had to write in the book. One student was very keen to do creative writing so since he seemed to have ideas and a plan I thought that might be good use of his time. The other two I said they could look up English Grammar sites where they could practise their English on their iPads. Not as easily done as said!! I looked on my laptop and was not happy with what I found so in the end I got them to do pair work with someone who had a book. Since then I have looked up some sites where you can practice English Grammar online. All I can say is that it easier to find sites where you can develop native speaker French abilities than sites for English speakers. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. I’ll share my 3 finds:

English Grammar Secrets
English 4U

WordPress app

wordpress readerThe WordPress app was never this good. I had upgraded my iOS on the iPad and a number of apps wanted to update. The WordPress app was one of them. I had tried to use it ever since the app had been invented but we just could not get along. Not sure what made me click on the WordPress app again recently. Curiosity , probably. FlipBoard has been through various changes , some of which have been horrible , and has now settled into a really good interface and MO. I never really give up on apps which I like or want to like. This is all new ground and developers need a chance to play out their ideas, concepts and coding. Growing pains. Patience and tolerance are virtues in the technological world. When I did open my WordPress app I was surprised. It was quite different. It had a clean, stripped down interface and clearly defined choices for navigation. This app has since become my daily friend. I can easily check the feed of blogs I follow. I can easily check the stats of each of my blogs. My blogs load easily in the interface and I can write posts if I want to . It also brings me notifications so I can keep up to date with what is going on on my blogs. This app is well thought out now and can be very handy for managing my WordPress blogs and keeping up with my feed. It has taken time to get it this good, but so worth it! The app is now highly functional and very useful.

Take control of technology

technology People sometimes think I am clever because I can do so many things with technology and I do them easily. It has nothing to do with being clever. It is familiarity and practice. I do not want technology controlling my life so I control it. It’s lumps of plastic and connections; not what I’d call an inspiring leader. I have thought about it. What do I do ?

1.Be discerning about the media you use and consume
I don’t just look at anything and ready anything. I don’t just accept what the Net serves up as my daily diet for consumption and I don’t just do what is popular. I choose what I am going to do, read, watch, see and if I think something has gone too far or been too invasive, I take action. I don’t put up with the internet or technology. I use it for my own purposes.
2.Have daily routines with technology
In the morning my phone goes on and I go on Facebook. Facebook will tell me immediately anything I should know. My feed is designed to bring me interesting and informative information, colour and laughter. It also brings me instant news. In the evening I always look at Zite and Flipboard. I get some good articles to read. If I am not teaching , my phone is always on and with me. If I am teaching or driving my phone is somewhere else, locked up.
3.Move away from the device. Engage with the real world.
I turn technology off. I don’t worry if I missed a call or a message. I don’t have my computer or tablet on all day. I am connected first thing in the morning, during a school day but at home, the stuff goes off and I do other things. I have a lot of interests and there are things to do and people to see and a real world which I am in. Sitting all day is not good.
4.Be selective about what you will throw your heart and soul into
I decide what I want to get good at and what I want to be involved in. I don’t just do what people say is the thing to do or spend my time on with regard to technology. I am very bad at mobile phone calls but very good at texting. I love Facebook but have never been on Instagram and cannot as yet see the point. I have worked hard at learning how to make videos and voice recordings but my love is still making animated slide presentations.
5.Learn to focus and not be distracted
If I am using technology I don’t try to do other things. I don’t multitask and I don’t have running conversations. To be good at technology and to be able to get the best out of it, you need to focus. Which is why you need to get up and walk away and be with real people in the real world.
6.Get a good perspective
The internet is full of hype and loaded arguments. It is full of trends and mass media manipulation. I think for myself. I work things out. I get other information from elsewhere. I do not just accept and do. Facebook was a massive trend long before I got on there. When I encounter something new like that I check settings and sit and watch. I work out how something is impacting the world and people. How they are using it. How they are creating markets, thought bubbles, major paradigm shifts and also good impact. It is why you need to have real conversations with real people and live in the real world. You get a balanced perspective and you can talk things through.
7.Master something
Get good at keyboard skills, colour manipulations, making recordings, making a slide presentation. Get good at finding good YouTube clips about interesting things. Invest some time in mastering an aspect of technology you feel you are wobbly in and don’t worry about whether you are good at it or not. Just learn it a bit at a time.
8.Be connected
I am on Twitter several times a day. I am constantly fed information about news, views and perspectives and I follow people who will provide good insight and information. Ditto Facebook. My feed gives me lots of ideas and information and in a few minutes I am recharged and have ideas and ways of doing things. Trawling through stuff is not necessarily the best way to keep afloat. It is what you do when you want to get more and better information about something. It’s not a way of life.

Keep calm and use technology

Technology helps you problem solve

Technology helps you problem solve

This is a follow up to the last post so you can see how we finished. I didn’t quite finish how I said I would in the post, but we ended up on a learning high. I added a slide to my presentation with 5 different ways to ask for something in a shop. We practised those at the beginning of the lesson and they could say them really well. I went through my slide presentation of one sentence of the conversation at a time in big writing on a colourful background and they could say the sentences and they knew what they meant. I played the recorded version of the conversation and moved the slides forward one at a time as we heard each line. I put up a screen shot of just the conversation from the book which I had shown them last Thursday and which they had found too hard to understand and too hard to tackle. We had a little chat about how that had been hard and how we now could do it. We had 15 minutes on our language learning site on our iPads learning the vocabulary list I had made them from this conversation. 100% focus. I can check the participation rates and scores on the language learning site. They all got themselves into the 80% accuracy or more in that 15 minutes. They loved seeing that on the board. We had evidence they could learn. They then had 30 minutes to do their own version of the conversation. It is quite complex for year 9s. After 30 minutes they were ready to do the partner presentations and they did well. They did not falter over saying it and they did not hesitate. Technology had allowed them to master something difficult and we are now ready to branch out into another conversation which they can record. When I get stuck like that in class I do move on until I have replanned the delivery of my lesson. I can fast forward and skip that bit but I don’t think it helps if you ignore a learning block. My job then is to look at what apps, tools, sounds and images I have to master the content. How can I break it down? How can I reinforce it? How can I get students to take on the content in a way they feel in charge? They know from game playing they sometimes have to go back and start again. They know from game playing they need talismans, energy, cheats, repetition to get to the next level. They could not master the level as I presented it to them. It made no sense, so what I did was a game walk-through using a slide presentation to hold a narrow focus, oral activity to increase engagement, learning site vocabulary which trained them in pronunciation and meaning and then a complete run through of the level from start to finish so they had evidence they knew it all. We have so many resource choices these days. We need to make good use of the options to scaffold learning and inspire confidence.

Keep calm and use technology

question mark

Use technology to problem solve

Image : ClipartPanda

It was the lesson after lunch last Thursday with the year 9s. We had been practising shopping and what to buy in different shops . I then put a conversation from their book up on the board and said I’d give them 15 minutes to look things up they didn’t understand. About 5 minutes into this it was clear they could not do it. First time for everything. This conversation has always come after the other things and been straightforward. Not last week. The students were simply baffled and unable to get a hook into it. It was the last lesson of the week. I did not want them going home for a weekend and thinking French was hard and horrible. We then spent the rest of the lesson learning numbers and shopping vocabulary on their language learning site. Perfect. I had the weekend to solve the problem. I could just leave it. Skip over the conversation and move onto something else. We have the whole French language to learn. Not hard finding something else. No, I decided I would use technology to present the material differently. I set the conversation up one line at a time on Powerpoint slides. Big writing. Dark text on a colourful background. Monday last lesson I started with this. We did the conversation one line at a time. We pronounced it. We worked it out. So far, so good. I had made a list of 40 words of the conversation and put it on their language learning site. They loved it. They spent 20 minutes getting to grips with the vocabulary and were learning it quite quickly. There was a lot for year 9s to learn. We stopped. I put the original conversation up on the board and I played the sound file of it. All eyes were on the board following the conversation. We then went back to our language learning site to do more vocab practice on it. No feeling of failure. No confusion. No disenchantment. I used technology to get them into learning something they had found incomprehensible. Now, next lesson, I can play the conversation, I can get a couple of students to read it out and then we can do our own version of the conversation. Familiarity does not breed contempt. It breeds success. If you are on familiar ground you will take the risks necessary to learn a bit more and push yourself a bit more. These students could have felt like failures but using technology allowed me to refresh and repeat in a way they could understand. I now have a PowerPoint I can dress up even more and make an even better learning tool. Students who were born in 2000 and after like interactive learning. I am learning I have to become part of that as a teacher.

Map your Twitter followers

TweepsMapI have to thank @PeterDoyley for putting his TweepsMap up on Twitter so I could discover this tool. You link TweepsMap to your Twitter account and you get a map of the world showing you where all your followers are. It is fascinating information. Two thirds of my followers are from Australia and America and then the rest come from all over the planet. I love the internet. Information is presented in a very useful, interesting way. It means you might need to use other languages to contact more followers from different countries. It might mean you need to have dedicated Twitter accounts to reach certain parts of the world. It’s up to you. You have an interactive map which demonstrates clearly your reach and gives you information which you can act on.

Don’t just sit there!

The Ergonomic TimesBack to ergonomics, courtesy of The Ergonomic Times. I subscribe to it so I get all the latest information and research on a daily basis. That is how fast the world is trying to cope with the problem of ergonomics and technology. Problem? Yes. It costs money if you don’t get it right. We also have some very alert researchers who are trying to get some solid data so we can adapt to technology and not cause strain and injury. Standing seems to be the trend these days. There is a case being made for standing workstations. I prefer this option where you get a choice. The article explains its arguments and rationale well but the bottom line is you have to help people change their habit of sitting with technology and you have to offer options. One of the options needs to be to go for a walk. People can be sitting for a long time with technology so they need a chance to be able to have a standing workstation, an opportunity to walk around a bit and get outside, even. What is commercially available may be too expensive, but a bit of thought and consideration can offer some workstation flexibility. This article on GeekWire emphasises how you can manage technology during a working day and what to avoid. It mentions dual monitors and to have them together at the same height. Well, at home, I put up a second monitor which is a bit higher so I have a standing option. I wanted to try it and it helps. It also helps to have a second monitor so I change what I am looking at and where.I am not just sitting there immobile. The more we think about it and work together , the better we shall get in creating technology work environments which do not provoke physical problems.

Take a serious look at Edmettle

Take a serious look at Edmettle (@edmettle). It is a newly created safe, educational platform to simulate real world skills in social media and feedback. Like Twiducate, it is designed with safety in mind. I confess I haven’t signed up for my look around yet because this year’s start up has been a little more complicated than usual. I plan to sign up so I can see what Edmettle does and then decide whether to shift my students from Twiducate to Edmettle. Brian Aspinall is the very competent, technology oriented teacher who invented Twiducate and that has been a very safe, popular addition to my classes over the last few years. Edmettle takes it up a level and will be worth investigating because Brian Aspinall is a teacher. He knows what we need. We need ways of connecting safely with students in an online environment and we need to build in that feedback loop which is part and parcel of working in an online environment. You can take the Edmettle tour and meet Brian on this video. The one above explores his rationale in a very creative way. Do students value things like this? Yes. I got my 30 year 9s to log into their Twiducate class yesterday. Not a single student was loath to do it or tardy in achieving their log in. They had no sooner logged in than they were writing “Bonjour” and greeting each other. “Can we write to each other?” “Can you please put up what you want us to do?” We did the avatars and bios first and then I put up what I wanted them to do. 6 sentences to introduce themselves in French. In was so quickly achieved and finished we had time to go onto our French learning site. Students didn’t even mind when I made them correct their spelling. I had rainbow text, colourful text… they were so animated and enthusiastic. They loved seeing themselves on the board. So, seriously, go and take a look at Edmettle . Promise to do it myself too , and when I have, I’ll be back here blogging about it.

Up and running with the Year 10 blogging

It took me half an hour to get my year 10 French class up and running with their WordPress blogs. They were really good but at one stage I had to get up and see whether they were actually doing what I asked because they were so silent. They had become very intense and were trying to keep up. Two had wifi issues but we smoothed that over with an iPad until they got their wifi back. Another had missed most of what I had done but as an English as second language learner it was just probably too much information for him. He told me and I shall help him get going because his capacity to do and understand is excellent. It is hard when language barriers stand in the way. Something I like to avoid. In years 11 and 12 the blogs are there to back up work, provide some authentic learning, practice target language skills and explore culture. The year 10 ones are going fulfil a different role and some of that will be discovered as we go along. We learned about categories, tagging and how to put links so we have the links to other student blogs and sites for learning French. I plan to link up the blogs across the 3 year levels once we all get going. I want to see if students like supporting each other in cyberspace across classes. They support each other well within class groups in my experience. I am also going to use their blogs to extend their learning in a lesson I am not there. Another language teacher will take the lesson and already the possibilities are opening up. At the moment the blog will be to practise the things we have done in class and then to explore learning opportunities. We were doing telephone conversations. One of them was listening to where someone was. She was in Bora Bora. The students did not know where it was . It is in a French speaking country so one of their blog posts this week will be about Tahiti. For younger students this is a great way to fill knowledge gaps because they are in charge of their learning and they like that. We are also learning about Brittany along with our telephone conversations so they can look at Brittany, the food, the lifestyle and the fact it has Gaelic as a language. Blogs can really extend the boundaries of the classroom. I have not looked at their blogs as yet as we have only just set them up. I’ll give them a week to sort them out and then I shall go visiting.They were certainly trying to get it right.  My year 11s and 12s got their blogs together really quickly and what was evident was they had a real awareness this was going to be public and they wanted their work and their French to look good. The year 12s could revisit their blogs from last year and the year 11s had set theirs up at the end of year 10. The video shows you how to set up a WordPress blog. There are much longer videos if you want to look them up on YouTube. They explain things well. I really am curious to see how these younger students manage blogging. One thing I noticed was they were immediately attracted to the quick posting option and the reader. They much preferred the blue and white dashboard and felt uncomfortable in the traditional set up. Colour is everything to younger students and blue and white is probably familiar ground for them.

Twiducate – every student has a voice

TwiducateThis is not the first time I have blogged about Twiducate. I am doing this so the teachers who didn’t know about it on #aussieED can get a better idea of what it is. I have used it with my junior secondary classes for a number of years now. It provides an avenue for every student to have a voice. It also allows them , for my lessons, to practise their French or to give me feedback and ideas on an assignment. A classic use of it last year was when I was trying to do group assessment and it was the first time I had done it with my class. We wanted to get it right. We used Twiducate to feed in our ideas. I have worked with a French class in France with it. It was good because the French students were writing at night and when we came into class the next day their posts were there. Students like Twiducate. I can put the feed back or input up on my whiteboard and we can have a look at what they wrote and what we think or whether we have some errors to correct in French. It is a safe, reliable platform for feedback and literacy skills.It also makes a good precursor to blogging. My year 8s loved it last year and they would put up pictures with their text and share links with each other for assignments. Each class uses it slightly differently. As a teacher you are in control since you can delete undesirable comments. I have never had to do that. Twiducate brings out he best in students. I write a post with my questions or ideas or little task and away they go. They also love seeing their comments pop up on the board if I link it to my board. Twiducate has been invaluable in my classroom for ensuring everybody gets seen and heard. It’s a tool which creates equity.

Dual monitor set up

I have chosen this video because it shows you the benefits of dual monitors. You can work across screens. You can have one thing open on one screen and continue on with something else on the other screen. Mine are set up on a Windows 7 desktop with one old Flatron L192WS screen on the left as the secondary monitor and my Acer T230H as the main monitor. The Acer is HDMI connection on the monitor to HDMI connection on the computer box. The old Flatron is VGA on the monitor (there is no other choice) to DVI connection on the computer box. It would not work with a VGA connection to the computer and I have to thank my NVDIA card widget for letting me know I needed to connect it via DVI to the computer. I borrowed a VGA-DVI adapter to do that. You can buy a cable but they are not readily available in Adelaide. One of the other benefits for me is that I can stand up and compute with the second monitor. It is slightly higher than the main monitor and so now I have choices in how I work at my desk! dual monitorsYou right click on the desk top and choose screen resolutions and set each monitor to the preferred resolution for that monitor. For my ACER it’s 1920×1080 and for the Flatron it’s 1440×990. On both monitors I have a very clear picture. dual monitors setupThe other thing you have to remember is to drag the monitor screens in the screen resolutions box to the right place . For me that meant the Flatron on the left (2) and the Acer on the right (1). I can now slide whatever I want between the monitors. As well as being more fun, it is more functional.

The 21st Century – are we there yet?

I love the Jetsons. It was a cartoon series which finished in 1963 and had a revival with better technology to produce it in 1985. The Jetsons lived in the 21st century. Elroy’s Dad drove him to school in the flying car and then ejected him in a space pod to Dipper Elementary School. In 2062 Elroy had a robot teacher with all of its glitches. The bad boy is sitting there reading a paper book and watching a video on his phone watch. These watches are just coming onto the market now. Elroy has a jet pack to fly around the classroom and the school reports are produced on tapes to go home. No thought of email and file attachment or an online portal.No thought of e-books and the robot teacher is quite the martinet. So, do we actually have a vision of what we want 21st century schools to look like? Do we want robot teachers? Jet packs in class? Watch phones with wifi access? Flying cars? There is a black board with maths written all over it in this episode. When Elroy gets into so much trouble from his parents he runs away from home. The bad boy rings up his parents on the Visiophone and tells the truth about the report switch. We have video phones and, occasionally, we have children who run away from home. Wouldn’t the report have had the wrong name on it when George was listening to it? Do they not identify children in the 21st century? Why ruin a good story with the truth! So, while we are imagining an 21st education scenario, how much is it going to be as faulty as the Jetson’s predications? I love the Jetsons. My favourite cartoon. It’s a cartoon, though. When we are doing our thinking and planning we are in the real world with real students and their families. We need to be looking at emotional intelligence with regard to technology as well as dedicated use. Relationship building is a core skill of teachers as is trouble shooting. A robot teacher might be useful but is it the answer and if we create robot teachers, what do we actually want them to do and be? If we don’t have input as teachers, we’ll get technology devices which don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes, don’t suit our purposes.

What can a flipped classroom do?

I shall leave my last word for now on the flipped classroom to MADDrawProductions. I really like the way this video is made. I’d like to know which software was used. It demonstrates how easily you can explain something if you have the range of tools this video uses. It’s also a valid explanation of a flipped classroom. You are trying to use resources and technology to maximise the learning of individual students. They still need a teacher. They may not appreciate or understand the value of the resources you have supplied. They may not get the point of what is being said. They may not realise the implications of what they are learning. A teacher creates the meme trail for learning and sometimes you have to sit with a particular students and find the trail for them so that they can benefit from the overall content you are supplying. Trying to get that meaning to all of your students is the challenge. A multi modal approach increases the likelihood of meeting the needs of more students. This video has a nice way of explaining it all.

Power your learning

PowerMyLearningPowerMyLearning is a portal of learning activities designed to support the American common core but it is also designed to help parents, students and teachers find materials which would individualise learning for particular students. It is divided into subject areas and puts users in touch with resources which would be helpful in building skills and knowledge. You need to sign up to use the site but the resources are free and it is organised in a very clear, well thought out way. The site also runs in Spanish.

The flipped classroom

This is a teacher who has flipped his classroom and speaks confidently from his experience. If you are considering flipping your classroom , then it is worth listening to his rationale and arguments and those of his students. His is not the definitive model but it looks at how you can benefit more from class time with students if you are more flexible in your approach and look at the ways and means technology can now support you and the learning of your students.

Think before you flip

We are so lucky to have technology. We can really help each other. If you are thinking of trying a flipped classroom John Sowash (@jrsowash) has been kind enough to share his thoughts about what he could have avoided and what he wished he had known. He is very honest and straight forward. You cannot help but learn from him. The video is clear, effective and very practical in its help which is what you need as a teacher. Flipping the classroom is about making the best use of time, technology and resources. It is about thinking out your approach and your methodology so that your classroom time and the  access you have to technology allows you to create learning which is more flexible, more appropriate and uses everything you now have at your disposal in a more fluid way. Read the comments under the video. One person says to start small and that is a good piece of advice. Don’t try to do everything at once. My little video from yesterday is now something students can access at any time but it is also something I can use at any time. It is also available for students who missed the lesson or who cannot come to school for whatever reason. My classroom is still my classroom but it now reaches out to parents and students and critical parts of it are now available on my blogs , online elsewhere and as files which I can email if necessary. It is something you work towards. John Sowash points out some of the pitfalls in a way you will understand . mathjohnson further explains in his video what a flipped classroom is NOT and so , by now, you might have a clearer idea of where to start.

Animated whiteboard presentations

This is my first attempt , so go easy on me. I wanted to show you how easy this app is to use. It’s a paid app called Elevator Pitch. It cost about 2.40 AUD. It is not a top of the range whiteboard animation app for scribing like VideoScribe. The latter comes with all the bells and whistles and runs on a computer or a tablet. Elevator Pitch is for the iPad and I can see some people would be able to use their iPhones to produce animated whiteboard presentations.It’s an entry level app for visual outlining. I was up and running in a couple of minutes.animated IWB presentationThe time line at the bottom is very easy to follow and you can swap the elements around if you want to. You can add your own images, use supplied clip art and then you type in the text and choose the presentation styles. It has no sound element which does not worry me at all. I am a beginner at this animated whiteboard presentation skill and I shall need to progress in my own way.Not having sound means I don’t have to worry about it while I am getting the text and visual elements in place.  The little video you make saves to the camera roll on the iPad and then I saved that to Dropbox. It saves as a .mov so it can be imported into a video programme for enhancement, sound, other added video elements. I put my presentation into Movie Maker because it is very quick to make a presentation. This one is just to start the year in my classes and get students who have done French before to introduce themselves quickly. More fun than writing a list of expressions on the board. I can show my video and then we can do a bit of  practice. The movie I made with Elevator Pitch itself lasts 20 seconds and is on my iPad, so if ever I want to do a quick refresher of the expressions in class all I have to do is go to my camera roll. This is going to be a great way for me to cover basic expressions and language patterns and quickly revise things we have learned. The only downside was that it appears to have no support for accented characters. Not even if I used the French keyboard.

What a flipped classroom can look like

mathjohnson has used sketch noting to create a very interesting video about the methodology of a flipped classroom and why he does it and what it can look like. He gets to the end of the video and says there is no homework, so my question is – what has he flipped? Maybe I have misunderstood. Flipping needs to take the excessive teacher lecturing and long video watching out, put it elsewhere and allow the class time to be used in the way he says – to get the best out of the teacher, the content and use technology to facilitate multimodal delivery. To a large extent he is looking at individual progression so his classroom appears to encourage students at their own pace and their own time and he has used his ideas, skills , resources and technology to allow that to happen. Individual progression is not a new concept but I am actually pleased to see it revitalised and re-energised so that students are front and centre of the classroom and what they need to learn and how they need to learn it is paramount and can be achieved if we rethink out approach and use technology to provide the avenues, opportunities and resources for learning. If you are interested in what Graham Johnson has to say, he has a really good blog flippingmath where he goes to a lot of trouble to make his concepts and ideas clear. The end of the video gives you references to his other web sites. In my own classroom I tend to work on a couple of things at a time , teach the language , grammar and cultural content and then we get to the stage where we have what is called flex-time in the video. That is my time to help students individually, their time to help each other, our time to grow ideas and an opportunity to really get creative with their assignments if they want to . They usually want to and I try to point them to tools and ideas which will help them do something more interesting as they practice their new language patterns. For me this is independent learning time. This is where the resource library of the first flipped classroom post is invaluable. You need ready access to the resources which will teach and inspire and you need to encourage students to find their own really good resources which they share.. We also have two online language learning resources – one paid and one free which students love so they can use that if they have completed the current work. These online learning sites are a critical part of a flipped classroom in my opinion. They can fill gaps, provide incentive to learn and practise, have the gaming feel students are familiar with, offer learning options and rewards and generally create a valuable layer of learning which we did not have prior to using technology .They offer a different approach and encourage independent learning. Classrooms are no longer the one size fits all. They are moving into a  real methodology which is teaching students according to their needs because we have far more tools at our disposal and a whole world to consult.

The flipped classroom – sketch noting

Okay, hands up. Who likes reading a prescribed text or watching a prescribed video or slide presentation and taking notes or making notes? I have never asked students to take notes while they are watching or reading something. It is mind numbing and it interrupts the cognitive and creative flow. The mind is not free to make its own associations. Making notes on a second text reading or straight after watching something is different. Asking about a particular thing you want to remember in a visual presentation is normal. So yesterday I was writing in my blog post that note taking is important if you want to flip your classroom. So the video said. The video was by someone who had taught a flipped classroom. Me, too. My class time is working with students. You cannot teach languages in any other way. You have to constantly monitor and observe what they know and can know so you can create the next learning step to suit them. But what if you made note taking an explicit learning activity? What if you made it a  personal journey and a creative adventure for those who express themselves visually? What if you used visual outlining and visual thinking as a response to something you asked students to do at home? What if , once in a while, you had a bit of a competition and said you would display the best visual notes or had a bit of a competition as to who could produce the most colourful notes, the most original notes, the coolest notes? Set the criteria for the visual notes with your students? Sketch noting has a powerful impact on thinking and sketched notes can become works of art in their own right. It would not suit every student but it is part of a multi-modal delivery and would add to visual literacy and personal expression of ideas. I’d start off small and develop the concept over the year. I plan to do this because it offers yet another way for students to respond in a way which is individual and thought provoking. If you look up visual outlining and visual thinking on Google and click on the images, you will see there are some sketch notes which are highly complex in their approach. My belief, which I have yet to prove , is students would respond to this and would find doing their work challenging and enjoyable. If they are blogging they could also share these visual notes online to see what the world thinks. Sketch noting might not suit every subject or every assignment but I think if you are trying to make a success of a flipped classroom you have to find the things which will make it an attractive learning model. It relies on getting students to commit to their independent learning.

The flipped classroom

We are going to work on flipping our classrooms as a school this year. We are a busy school with good access to technology and resources. Why wouldn’t you want to make the best of your teaching time and technology? Flipping the classroom is a concept which can make better use of the resources you have, including human resources. It is not just something which you can do. You have to work through the steps. This video alerts you to the things students need to know as your transition to a flipped classroom. It also alerts you, as a teacher, to the things you need to pay attention to. This week’s posts will be dedicated to the flipped classroom because it is new to us and luckily old hands have shared their ideas and resources online so we can benefit and build on them. So where do you start?

1. Work out what students ought to be able to do by themselves and where they would need your help in class.
2. Encourage them to take notes and write their questions and difficulties down.
3. Establish a content library .

The content library is critical. Where will it be? How will students access it? This is discovery learning with technology. The follow up in class needs to then look at how each student can be learning from what you have provided. It is focussing on making the most of you as a teacher to teach all the students in your class so that your class time is interactive and focussed more on explicit learning.

I am a teacher

Susan Simon has two lovely videos to make teachers realise who they are and what they do and why technology is there to support them. It could never replace a teacher. I am a Teacher 2 can be found here. In South Australia we go back to school tomorrow and the students will come in next Tuesday after the Australia Day holiday. Our holidays are gone and we are readying ourselves for the new school year.LavaLamp I have reorganised my desktop area at home so I am ready to go and am all set to sparkle into 2015. Now that I have looked at those two videos, I am more than convinced teachers are very special.

Do your students have nomophobia?

Nomophobia? What’s that? NO MObile phone phobia. There have been four significant studies which have revealed that people become stressed when they are separated from their phones. This doesn’t surprise me. Phones have contacts, messages, apps, weather information, pictures. Lots of pictures. Do we suffer from anxiety when we are separated from our wallets? Anything which has the things which are important to our identity are going to create a problem if we are separated from them.Students are brought up on mobile phones these days. They are familiar objects and they witness daily their significance. The article on the  Psychology Today  site which discusses the four research papers states:

My take is that we now have four different studies in four different labs using four different methodologies, all showing the same general effect: Our smartphones make us anxious and that anxiety then gets in the way of our performance and our relationships. Some call it FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—or nomophobia—Fear of being out of mobile phone contact or FOBO—Fear of Being Offline. Regardless of what you call it, this disorder is a manifestation of anxiety, plain and simple.

The article is well thought out because it looks and how you can become too attached to your smartphone and ways and means of dealing with it. It is a very comprehensive article for dealing with nomophobia. It confirms what the original Missouri University study confrmed. When people can see or hear their phones  but not access them their stress levels rise because they cannot deal with it. A smartphone has the planet changing activities every 5 minutes because of a mobile phone sound. This is Skinner and his rats all over again which is why the article in Psychology today looks at breaking that connection with your phone. Skinner taught pigeons to play ping pong with operant conditioning. What are we being taught with our bingly bongs and whistles?

nomophobiaNomophobia is explained really well on the whoishostingthis site and there is a really good infographic which brings to light some fascinating information with regard to mobile use and users.

The Huffington Post article, iPhone separation anxiety is real, study says by Damon Beres explains the video clip more fully.

All of this has implications for us as classroom teachers. I do not separate students and their phones unless 1. They are going to the toilet 2. They have used their phone for private purposes during class time. In both cases their phone is locked in my filing cabinet until they return to class or the lesson has finished. I prefer not to see phones on the desk but that is not always possible if they do not have a bag and their clothes don’t have suitable pockets. Phones on the desk have to be face down. My year 8s were especially good with their phones last year and so I could look more at a responsible use option and that is what I teach with mobile technology anyway. If they asked me and they could show me what they were doing, they could use their phones for French. Sometimes it was easier to run one app on the phone and something else on the iPad or they could take a picture of the board or  what they had made or written. I have just used my iPad to look things up while I am on my desktop writing this. We often use multiple devices . They should not be running our lives and we should not be snapping to attention if they make a sound. That is what we have to change.

Teaching in the 21st Century

Teaching in the 21st Century complete with Bloom’s Taxonomy. A video worth watching because it keeps asking the questions which we need to answer. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we have to re-evaluate on a regular basis what students need to learn. The world is moving along at a rapid pace and jobs are shifting and changing. We will always need people who can think, who can participate , who can be a part of a team. We need people with fresh ideas, insight, a capacity to trouble shoot and go out on a limb. We need communicators and we need people who can understand what to keep and what to let go. Students do have access to their own avenues of information. They can learn what they want to but a lot of what they could learn will pass them by without good teachers who can teach the knowledge and skills to make students more effective independent learners who can really take advantage of the information rich age. This video provides a platform for thinking about what you think is important when you are using technology in a classroom and how you can get the best use out of it for your students.

Get your ergonomics right

ergonomic self-assessment checklistWe are in a bit of a trap with technology. It all looks so easy and doable and we forget we are humans with biological parts which can show wear and tear. The Ergonomic Times keeps you up to date on what is happening in the area of ergonomics and technology but it also makes you aware we have at least learned. There are people now doing research on trying to get it right for us with touch screens and newer devices and our interactions with these devices before we get to the stage where we suffer strain and injury. In the industrial era the machines were big and imposing with movable parts and so it was obvious that we would need to protect ourselves as we used this equipment. It is not so obvious with technology. Productive Writers has a very good post about the ergonomics of sitting and writing and the picture makes it crystal clear about what you need to address. Dohrmann Consulting has a checklist for office ergonomics but other information about keeping yourself healthy and well as you engage with technology as part of your daily living. In 2015 part of what you have to do is look out for yourself and take responsibility for your own health and welfare. The University of Melbourne has a comprehensive self-assessment checklist for ergonomics. If you work through it you will not only get feedback about what you can improve for yourself , it will also highlight anything which needs to be addressed on the workspace. Consistency and clarity of thought will help us sustain a healthy, workable relationship with technology and it’s good to know we have so many researchers looking out for us.

Why should leaders blog?

Why should leaders blog?Blogging builds social capital. It is not a deficit model where you know and others don’t know. You launch your ideas and thoughts into the blogosphere and you will receive ideas and thoughts back which can help you, challenge you and move you on in your ideas and thinking. Education comes from the Latin word educere – to lead forth, to raise up, to erect. We are educators. Anyone involved in education is an educator. They are in the position to lead people on from where they are and raise them to a newer level so they can build the things they are capable of building. Leaders in education are in a prime position for forging connections globally, nationally , regionally and creating influence with regard to educational matters. They have laptops. They have devices. They are no longer locked up in offices far from the madding crowd creating policies, guidelines, structures and memos. They are all now netizens and can take their skills and knowledge out on the Net to further the interests of education. Blogging is a mainstream skill now. Big media and software sites have blogs to support their websites. Blogging puts a human face on an organisation and it allows that organisation to clarify what it is doing, add to what it is doing, troubleshoot, explain, gain ideas. Blogging can be used to problem solve and crowd source ideas and people for projects and plans. Add blogging to a presence on Facebook and Twitter and you can connect with a lot of people to further your aims and gain support for what you are doing. Our national curriculum body, ACARA, and our professional standards body , AITSL, both increased their social media presence last year. They have made some big inroads into connecting with others both locally and overseas and have the figures to prove it. We have got to know them in a more personal way and they are no longer disembodied websites or bits of paper with instructions. They are now real people with real agendas and we can connect with them in a real way. Leadership and Influence has ranked the top 100 Leadership Blogs. It might interest you to see what the web thinks is a top leadership blog. Podnosh has written a good blog post about why leaders should blog and it looks at how leaders can use blogging for problem solving. Blogging adds to personal resourcefulness and strength. It also adds to organisational robustness because it creates connections to strengthen the sense of purpose and clarity of direction. So, if we are all blogging, will we all connect with each other? No. There’s a thing called calibration. You come out on the Net and float your content and some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t. One of the invaluable lessons you learn as a blogger is how to connect with others in a way that gets your content heard and seen. Some are better than others at it. Experience is a great teacher. Does it matter if you are not a big success? Not in my opinion. I have one blog about positive thinking which doesn’t get much traffic. I have had it for a long while. Some of the posts take off. Mostly the posts are for me and my information. They add to me and if they add to others , that’s a good thing but it in no way diminishes the real value they have had for me over the years. Take a look at George Couros’ blog. He knows what he is talking about and there is an authenticity there which will lead you into finding the real value of blogging as a leader. He is a Division Principal and he has taught other educational administrators about the value of social media and how to make it work. Everything on his blog post is linked to more information and practical, contextual help. He is doing what I wrote yesterday in my post as to why teachers should blog. He is sharing all he has learnt and knows and you can see just how strong he is as a leader in an online context. Blogging gives you a voice . It increases your reach and therefore your capacity to influence. I think, therefore I blog.

Why should teachers blog?

Why teachers should blogI have to say I find it very odd coming here to tell you why teachers should blog when I have seriously blogged as a teacher for 8 years and cannot believe how much it has added to me and my classroom. I have had teachers tell me they wouldn’t blog because their things are their things and they wouldn’t want to share them. I have never known what to say other than I see it quite differently and I do. I do because I blog. Everything I think and do with regard to teaching is blogged. I laugh when I find myself going through a school day and wondering if something is blogworthy or not. I walk around school with a whole global network behind me and  know  that while I am teaching this network is busy connecting with what I have said or done so I can move to the next stage. My blogs have been an invaluable safeguard in a technological approach to ensure my work is backed up and preserved. I can’t always rely on my device or computer to come up with the goods. I also know if I ever left everything at home my resources are there on the net and I just have to borrow a device or do without and get students to use theirs. I am not lugging folders around, I am not searching through endless bits of paper and filing cabinets to find the thing for my lesson. It has been part of my plan to create a paperless classroom because I am so sick of clutter and killing trees. When I share everything I say or do I get a lot of reaction and feedback. Facebook is one of the places which shares my blog posts the most and yet I do not connect my Facebook account to my blogs. I advertise my blogs through Twitter always and LinkedIn and Pinterest sometimes. I discovered Pinterest because of blogging. How could I have missed it? It is a brilliant classroom resource. I blog about content and know that so much better because I have been blogging. I have a much deeper appreciation of my subject matter because others have come in and joined me and offered me pathways and resources.One of my blogs started initially because a student teacher told me there was nowhere to find good resources for French like the ones I had. My French blog is for me , my students and equally serves the purpose of getting others to find good quality resources for teaching French.  I  also blog about what I am required to do by way of professional standards and requirements. I look at these things in blog posts. I understand what the requirements and expectations are far better because I have deconstructed them in blog posts and used them as teaching challenges. There is this constant flow of energy and ideas because I blog. One thing leads to another. One link leads to another. One visitor leads to another. It grows exponentially and my journey goes and grows so that I constantly find myself enthused and  invigorated. I am never at a loss. Never thwarted . Never frustrated. I can blog all about it and writing is very therapeutic. When you are aware there is a global audience it forces you to be less flouncy and more pragmatic in your approach and I have found the web has always resolved my issues when I find I cannot push through them myself. I share and get so much more back. It means , as a teacher, I am constantly refreshed and enthused. I am connected with other teachers, professionals and experts from all over the world and the richness of their thoughts and ideas comes to me because I blog. I can then take all of that magic into my classroom. Why wouldn’t you blog?

Why should students blog?

Why should students blog?For four years now I have blogged with my year 11 and 12 French students on WordPress and it has been an invaluable addition to our learning. This post is a follow-up to a previous post Should educators blog? so it is the first of three posts in the series. Initially when you start teaching students to blog I have always found it to be like pulling teeth. I have to be prepared for the moans and groans, the frustration and the blank faces. This is not a familiar platform for them and it is not something they can learn in a twinkling so it means they have to apply themselves. In the end they all love and value it and can see why we did it. In first term I generally stick to my blogging checklist and teach them things a bit at a time. I make sure they have linked to websites which will support their learning and that they link to each other’s blogs. Initially I scaffold their posts and tell them what to write about and do. It might be writing up what we have practised in an oral, exploring around a topic we are studying, finding a video or a funny picture to support what we are learning. Sometimes it is re-explaining to themselves (and others) what we have just learned and finding their own resources to support the learning and post. They also put up the work they submit to me for assessment. I then move it to the model – learn, reflect, share, get feedback, learn some more. One of the things which becomes clear to them and others is how they grow as learners as the time passes. Once we are past the teething stage I encourage them to visit each other’s blogs and to like and comment. For my part I visit every week, leave a little comment and give them a mark out of ten. All the marks are then weighted into their overall assessment. They don’t just learn content. They can see what they are doing has a global impact and some of them realise they can write posts in a way which will attract an audience. Blogging is a mainstream skill these days and it builds confidence and knowledge. It also builds linguistic strength and I allow students from term 3 onwards to blog in other languages as well to build their multi lingual skills.The increased fluency in expression is very obvious. I teach students who have other languages in their background and it supports cross cultural learning. It will also increase their audience and that makes them really happy. They learn the value of languages. I don’t let them write in a language I can’t read myself or don’t have someone handy who could translate their posts for me. Luckily I am surrounded by colleagues who could cover that need if necessary. The blogs also back up their work. On more than one occasion it has been a life saver for a student but it is also good practice. I do it myself. I blog my classroom tools and resources so there is yet another place where I can find them. This year I shall blog with my year 10s. A younger age group, which has had a different background in technology, ought to make it a different experience. We’ll see.

The Not Perfect Hat Club

If you go to a meeting and find yourself brain numbed and frantic rather than invigorated and enthused, you are in the wrong group. We work and learn in groups and so it is important to pay attention to the fact that , as a teacher, as a leader you set the tone and atmosphere and control it. I went to the #aussieED PLN session on Sunday on Twitter not really ready to be there because I am on holidays. We have just done the worst bushfires in 30 years and then were plunged into winter weather instead of summer. My iPad then decided to keep disconnecting from the network and so I was stoking up my desktop computer so I could participate and keeping up with what was going on by using my smart phone. Not a good frame of mind for learning. Then magic happened. Brett Salakas, as our leader, was cheerful and welcoming. Everyone who came on was happy and friendly. I got properly connected as it all started and then it was full on for an hour which just flew by. In that time I learned, interacted, thought, engaged. At a million miles an hour with a lot of laughs. Good learning and a happy atmosphere changes you back from ho-hum to bright and productive. Now I have done my homework for this week, I can see I was wearing my Not Perfect Hat. I went in on that session anyway inspite of the technical hiccoughs and less than optimum frame of mind. I allowed others to get me to rise above it and find my real self. This whole PLN approach by Brett Salakas is breaking new ground and allowing us to free up our classroom thinking with regards to technology. The video lets us see real people with excellent skills and a lifetime of experience and hear their thinking and approaches… in our own time using any device. Technology means we can have a far reach and create a really dynamic entourage which will help us lift  us and our students into some authentic learning opportunities. Technology is about thinking in a technological way. Doing things naturally with technology which will invite higher level learning. In doing that we have to put on our Not Perfect Hat. We have to know we can be more fluent in our thinking and actions if we let go the things which hold us back from learning. The Not Perfect Hat Club itself is about using a real author to engage with students . She reads her stories and teaches students how to draw animals but uses all of that to support animal welfare in the real world. It is a bold concept. Marty Kelz and Jena Ball have combined to grow that concept from the CritterKins books. Brett Salakas has in turn  brought it to us through a webinar so we can enrich and broaden our thinking.

Marty Kelz sums it up on his blog, Been there, Did That, Doing it Again:

Any one and every one of us, regardless of age, can become a digital native, and in a very real sense we are all newbies, working to learn and harness the power of social media to network and build community. It’s just another literacy. What’s important is that we remember what lies at the heart of education. That heart is not gaming, coding or tests. It is and will always remain the stories we tell, and the older we get the better, wiser and hopefully more entertaining storytellers we become. ~ Marty Keltz

Facebook -friend or foe?

2veritasium certainly has a lot to say that is worth considering and ought to be debated loudly and clearly. I know we live in an economy but does it always have to be about the money? I can’t say I feel thwarted or annoyed by the way Facebook is managing my feed because I get a lot of information from the sites I follow and I get plenty of updates from my Facebook friends and family. There is a tendency by Facebook to plonk something at the top of the feed because it assumes I want to know or comment. In that sense it does encourage and push commenting and liking. They have certainly made it easier to “like” on tablets and smartphones. They want people to interact. One thing I have said to other people is I believe Facebook is a good training ground for teaching you to look after your online information and presence. It changes frequently and doesn’t always tell you and so you develop the habit of checking the settings. If paid posts are going to be more highly featured I cannot see that working. People will just block them or find another work around. I block what I don’t want to see. 2veritasium says your feed will end up with like minded people and thoughts. Well, yes. I look upon Facebook as a place where I can go to catch up with people and find things out. It’s not where I want to be confronted and challenged because it operates too randomly and doesn’t take people and their needs into account when it allows that kind of interaction. Facebook has battled through a number of social issues to create a safer online space for people and that is how it should be. One of the people commenting under this video mentions that YouTube can be unpleasant because of the trolling which can go on under videos. Good point. Why go looking at videos and then have to suffer the unfiltered words of some random person from somewhere? The pages I follow on Facebook are sometimes places that I engage with as a customer. The side adverts on Facebook I look at but would follow them up online as 2veritasium suggests. It has been good to have contact with my colleagues on Facebook. Everyone has a different way of connecting and teachers are incredibly busy people. It is handy to send a Facebook message sometimes and easier than an email and I don’t always have a mobile number. I would have thought Facebook is about connectivity and if you want to make money from it , you do it naturally, as has been going on with the Facebook pages from businesses and organisations. It may be growing slowly but that sort of contact is growing . It’s interesting to think how we are using and seeing these high profile sites and then how a business model is trying to influence them. Thinking what this all means and then sharing ideas will inevitably lead to better approaches to meet needs but constantly looking at people just in terms of money is probably not going to work because essentially we prefer the sharing notion of these sites.

Quiz Studio

Quiz Studio I have already downloaded a number of quizzes which will suit my classes when I start the new school year. Quiz Studio is a nice looking app and you can download quizzes and learning materials from Quizlet. Quizlet is a site where you can make your own online learning tools no matter what the subject and then something like Quiz Studio puts then into a nice interface for you on your tablet or phone. Quizlet is also available as an iPad or android app. Quizlet is a good way of us helping each other and Quiz Studio organises the study in an effective way.

Quiz Master Lite

Quiz Master Lite

Make use of your IWB

I am ready to go with my first Quiz Master Lite quiz. This is a free app for iPad. The Pro version costs about $3 and I’ll be getting it because it is worth having that little bit of extra functionality. The free version is functional and will make good use of my IWB for revision and a bit of fun. It is so easy to set up the quizzes. You just name the quiz and put in the questions. It then has some music and sound effects as the quiz runs. I think my younger students will like this and it will be a good way to get a lesson started, break up a long lesson and to do some quick revision. The simple images and text are bold and clear and so will have a good impact on an interactive whiteboard.

Brushes 3 app

Even I could make a picture look better with Brushes 3. Better in the sense it was then a bit more artistic and original. If you have real drawing skills you could do a lot with Brushes 3 as the video shows you. There is also a gallery of images and then YouTube has more clips of what people have achieved with Brushes 3. I have noticed a lot of students love playing with the paint apps where you swirl and play with colour and shape. Brushes 3This would be the perfect app for them. I have also found that as someone who is not confident with art tools at all that I got going really quickly and achieved something I didn’t have to hide. The eternal question in teaching is whether you develop strengths or weaknesses and just what the balance is. I let students work to their strengths but I always encourage them to try something different and have a go. More often than not it becomes yet another strength they can utilise in life.Not all paint apps lend themselves to being instant successes but Brushes 3 creates a confidence which I know students will appreciate. Many really like to take their time in creating imaginative images to complement their work and this type of brushwork has become the new generation doodling.

Top Posts 2014

Top posts I have had so many visitors from all over the world. Blogging has a long reach! My top 5 countries are US, Australia, South Africa, Germany and the UK. The top 10 posts for the year are interesting. I have always wanted education to be a hot topic because when I first started blogging about education SEO clients considered it to be a fizzer . Education!? Now it is important to the world and becoming more important. Educators need to blog and sustain quality online involvement. So what were my top 10 posts with hundreds and thousands of hits? I am not counting my home page. It is amazing what becomes a top post. The MacBook ones have always been popular as has been the ICT skills checklist and the Padagogy ones. Wonder what this year will bring?

Mini Mac OS shortcuts
Telefunken TEL7J tablet
Turn 2D images into 3D online
Polish your presentations
5 classroom uses for Apimac Timer
Microsoft pptPlex for PowerPoint
Padagogy – Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
ICT skills checklist
Put your name on your MacBook menu bar
Food Pyramid Game

Be Curious


Learn something!

Learn something! Curious is a site designed for anywhere any time learning and you can bring your own device. It has an iPad/iPhone app where you can access the free learning videos or make in app purchases if you wish. The site will only get better as people learn about it, learn from it and contribute to it. It states clearly in its terms of reference that it is a site which supports education and it also takes some pride in presenting competent materials which are organised into logical learning groups. The videos range in length and you can deliberately pick the short ones of about 5 minutes if you wish. Others are around 20 minutes so it is a site which enables you to capitalise on those dead times in a week where you might be forced into waiting so that you can use the time happily to learn. There is also the Curious 52 learning challenge which they ran last year and would hopefully repeat this year. It is a site which supports anyone who wants to learn.

bContext presentations with iPad


Create and share

BContext is quite a versatile app where you can create screen images for the IWB or just your iPad and use recording, image placement, web searches , text and shapes to create presentations. If you were adept at it , you’d be able to teach and talk but you could also make premade materials for students or they could use the app to make presentations themselves.You can share your presentations from within the app. Screenshots of what you do come out high resolution and high definition and so would easily lend themselves to being imported into a movie making programme for an even more creative, high impact presentation. Some parts of the app are paid but you are not required to pay in order to make good use of the app which you put on your iPad. bContext itself comes with a number of short, competent , video tutorials which help you to get oriented and productive. There are quite a few apps like this but bContext had a number of elements you could use for the presentations, the tutorials and then I found the hand writing part of the app was very responsive. I think students and teachers would find it a useful tool in their kit.

Rename iPad/iPhone app groups


Rename your app groups

When you name app groups on your iPad or iPhone occasionally the wrong name just gets assigned or you decide one day you want to rename the groups you have. Once named, it is not obvious how to rename the groups.

1. Hold your finger on an app/group until it wiggles.

2. Take your finger off.

3. Now tap on the wiggling group you want to rename.

4. The name box should appear .

5. Rename your group.

6. Tap on the screen to minimise the group.

Australian Curriculum : Digital Technologies

You may have missed it. ACARA put out a video explaining Digital Technologies in our new Australian curriculum. computational thinkingIt is about giving our students the skills, thinking and tools to comfortably sit in a digital world and understand the implications of that. It is the thinking which is important. ACARA has tried to focus on that and show a way to develop that because if we don’t have students who are hurting their heads with learning and who are not engaged in explicit interaction with technology then we won’t be moving anywhere. To me, Associate Professor Paul Newhouse sums it all up well. We have to be able to collaborate. We have to be able to find digital solutions to problems facing us in workplaces and organisations which are all part of a global movement now. Associate Professor Paul Newhouse is right. We need to engender knowledge, disposition and concepts all of which are readily available and highlighted in our national curriculum. The fact we look at general competencies and put ICT there means ACARA acknowledges technology is there and integral to all we do now.

Ah yes, I remember it well

8 year anniversary That was a nice surprise. I had just posted something and there was my encouraging message from WordPress telling me I had just marked my 8 year anniversary (sic) on the site. I remember it well. I have been blogging since 2003 but it wasn’t until 2008 that I came on WordPress and that was with trepidation. I had used Blogger and that was a good platform to begin with at the time. I still have both my Blogger blogs which now are part of the Google suite of tools. I had started the Wellbeing blog on WordPress for a training and development team I was running based on inquiry learning. The blog meant we could preserve all our ideas, thoughts and documented our professional journey. It also meant when I became a member of the Personal and Social Capability learning team for our ACARA training I could package up all the Wellbeing materials and resources and repackage them in my new Personal and Social Capability blog on WordPress.Nothing was lost and all that knowledge and learning was transferred to the new perspective of ACARA.  It is nice for WordPress to notice these things and give me encouragement. As automated as it probably is, it’s the thought that counts and their motivation to lift others up.