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.

There is always the one…

the oneThere is always the one:

  1. The one who has not done their homework
    The one who can’t log in
    The one who has forgotten their password
    The one whose iPad is flat
    The one who has no battery power on their laptop
    The one who forgot the note
    The one who can’t find the file
    The one who cannot upload their work
    The one who forgot to upload their work
    The one who does their version of the assignment…

There are lots of ones and with technology they are there to test your skills. Do you have policies? Do you have work arounds? Can you problem solve? Are you open to new ideas? The one who does their own version of the work needs a conversation about work expectations but more often than not, they are the student who will show you a different approach using technology. Problems with the ones using technology are a good way to teach it because it is needs based. It helps them to learn to be independent. There are times when you have to breathe in and breathe out slowly but most of the time these ones are good value in terms of teacher training and enhancement.

My Planet via the scenic route

My planet Well, we got there. Lessons can fall over for the simplest of reasons. Teaching French space vocabulary to year 9s is quite tricky and demanding but I do it step by step and we get there. We had made up an alien and described it. I then asked them to make up a planet and label 10 things on it. I thought they were doing it but when I looked at their iPads there was nothing.

“We don’t know what you mean.”
“I mean I want to make up a planet like you made up an alien.”
“What kind of planet?”
“Well, that’s for you to make up. It’s your planet.”
“Do you want an aerial view? What do you want?”
” I want you to make up a planet.”

We were getting nowhere fast so I shifted the lesson over to some vocab and pattern practice and said we’d come back to our planet the next lesson. We needed time to think. I went away and made a desktop for my laptop by stitching planet pictures together. Next lesson I walked in and got lots of oohs and aahs. I could then tell them in French (because we had done all that extra practice!!) what their planet might look like. Suddenly there was a hive of activity and they went to work and it was interesting to watch how these Year 9s went about creating their planets. Some are very particular and like accuracy. Some like taking a theme and working with that. Some like it to be cartoon style, others like it to be realistic. I marked those planets today and they have done a wonderful job. Our next step is to put our alien on our planet and make a little story in French. The beginning of those planet presentations are looking really great and they are being very careful with their French. I still don’t know why they couldn’t make up a planet. I do know I am glad I have a laptop and a board.

What is a teacher?

Heather MacKillop made this video in 2011 and it has only had 13 views. Does that mean she doesn’t have a real message? Does it mean what she thinks doesn’t have value? People can put things up on YouTube and get millions of hits. Are their thoughts more important and helpful than Heather MacKillop’s? I watched this video and could see some really valuable messages and lessons for us as teachers. What is a teacher in the 21st century? I think her point that we are shaping students as they shape us is crucial to who we are as teachers in 2015. Students are not just beings to be plugged into a port and we download information into them. We are shaping them. We are trail blazers but we also need to be genuine and authentic in our relationships with students so we can show them the way, share with them and create prooductive relationships with them. teachers One of the most important aspects of this video is how Heather MacKillop has gathered together so many media images of teachers and stuck thoughts about teachers and then made the bold statement in the picture: They will never make a movie about a teacher that made a teacher smile on the worst day of their grade 7 year. They will never write a book about a teacher who made a student go from a C- to a C+. . Teachers can make a difference in small, profound ways. With the advent of technology we can give and gain feedback far more easily. Everyone has a voice and so each student now can represent themselves and can be built up and moved forward. This video poses some interesting ideas worth discussing and clarifying . I was looking at the teacher and classroom images. Is that how I want teachers and classes represented in media? No. A good reason for us all to be out there representing our profession as it truly is. We are not our stereotypes nor our ancestors.

Candle Poem – flipped classroom

With support from my real life PLN and my virtual PLN I have managed to get my act together and produce something which could be used as a flipped classroom exercise. I don’t need them for French because there are plenty of quality materials made by French and Francophone people which I can use for those sorts of activities. This is an exercise I used to do in English and it never failed to be a winner. I love poetry and I have always loved teaching poetry. The video is not perfect but because I have made it in Pinnacle Studio I can pull it apart and tinker with it very easily when I feel like it and have the time. I enhanced the sound quality in Wave Pad. It is really important to have good, clear sound on a video. I am happy with what I have done because I like making videos. I have learned a lot about putting a video together and even more about sound enhancement. The original idea came from Adelaide Poet , Rory Harris. He came as a contract teacher to my school at the time and we worked together on senior English. He was a poet but he knew how to engage any other human being in poetry in the most amazing ways. This is one of the ideas he shared with me.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2015

Maslow's hierarchy of needs This revamped version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been making the rounds. I found this one on Twitter by Morten Øverbye. It’s something which has sparked some good discussion on his feed. Adding battery and wifi to the hierarchy of needs acknowledges we have become technology dependent. Does it mean we can’t be stable and secure without them? Is it a first world problem? To have battery there is a bold statement about how we have failed to address the basic requirement of a technology society. We are constantly interrupted by failing batteries, batteries which have a short life, places which don’t sell the batteries we need,waiting for the right battery to be delivered. It really is an implementation problem in our technology paradigm. As for wifi, yes, we are looking for that everywhere, but we also have mobile coverage which can alleviate the problem if we have the money to pay for it. Do we need batteries and wifi before food and water? I think not, but as someone points out we might need our location services to find food and water. Interesting remodelled hierarchy to ponder and a sign we are changing as a society and that Maslow’s will need to be upgraded.

Try Tellagami

Debbie Boyer’s video about Tellagami is really helpful. Had it not been for the video I would not have worked out that you have to save the Tellagami first before you preview it. I put the one I made last night on my iPad into DropBox so I could pick it up on my MacBook and show everyone . It really is a good option for us to use as languages teachers and for the flipped classroom. It is a good way of building up oral capability in students since the recordings are 90 seconds. This means you have to think carefully about what you are saying and how you deliver it. I don’t like the synthesisers. It doesn’t work well for French or English. In English the intonation is a bit odd – but could be used to good effect. It needs French synthesisers.Tellagami For Japanese I am told it is very effective and the voice synthesisers are replicating Japanese sounds and sentences well. For my own purposes I can see some real possibilities for this in class. I can see how well it could suit some flipped classroom activities. I have got my first video and I shall make more because I can import them into iMovie and that really does open up options.

I have a plan

telligamiNothing like a full on, steam rising off keyboard session of #aussieED PD to get the thoughts and ideas flowing. Last Sunday’s session was whizzing by and the amount of energy created would probably have lit up Sydney for the night. For me, it unblocked at least one area of thought where I was stumped and couldn’t find a way forward. Having done that I magically unlocked a second baffling stuck thought. Conversations work. PLNs are life blood and it’s being with empathetic people of your own kind which help you solve problems and create growth in your thinking. Teachers need time to talk! As we chat on #aussieED a lot of side conversations take place and often these resolve issues for people or , at least, allow them to see a path they can follow. For a year now I have sat and wondered what I’d make a video about as a teacher and then, I had done all that work on podcasts and I can’t think of anything to podcast about. Still can’t. That one may remain a mystery for longer. In the meantime, more and more and more and more information has come out about data retention. Enough to make me not want to put my voice and self online incase they pop up somewhere unexpectedly.Nor do I want anyone trawling through my voice  or videos recordings which I have not published…because, basically, they are mine. There’s another issue, though, and I was not alone in that one. I don’t think I am the right person for a video or a voice recording. Some people are naturals at it and some people can learn it but some things can’t change easily. My voice cannot change. I do not like the sound of my recorded voice. I don’t like how I am on video. I have taught enough students to know that some students are just brilliant at video. Others are brilliant at voice tasks. We all have our shiny bits. So Sarah (@sarahtirtilas) suggested Tellagami to me as a way around this dilemma of mine when we were tweeting out our #aussieED answers. I vaguely remembered Tellagami from my year 8 class last year but the students had favoured Puppet Pals and Sock Puppets so we didn’t pursue Tellagami. I have downloaded the free app and dressed my avatar but got no sound when I was recording. That may change because sometimes apps need to settle in. It may not, but still, I shall pursue this and now know I have a way forward with some aspects of what I could do in terms of a voice and video recording. I can put this into iMovie too and enhance it. As I play with that I now have an idea for something I really could do as a video . Not for French. There are millions of good quality online resources for teaching French . I supplement  these with content movies and animated presentations. No. I am going to do something for English. This where the #aussieED PLN broke my stuck thinking. I was thinking French . I was thinking my own voice. #aussieED asked us to think of good activities we had done before which always worked. As it happens , I have a poetry one. I probably won’t use Tellagami for that, but Tellagami will suit other things and a voice synthesiser is what I need to use if I am not happy with my voice. Toys ot play with and things to do. Happy now.

Winning!

stephen king book quoteYou know you’re winning when you catch students out for sneakily reading their ebooks in class. It was NAPLAN testing this week in Australia and by Thursday afternoon the Year 9s were all naplanned out. I had organised a simple, practical lesson for them where they could just do things that were easy but would add to where we needed to be by next week. As a bonus one of my students had offered up their phone to me before it got confiscated as usual because it was flat and of no use to them. I offered to charge it off my laptop as I had that on and the response was so worth it. Every week we go through locking the phone in my filing cabinet because it is a constant source of distraction. Responding in a kind way might see a difference. We’ll see. The lesson was underway and the year 9s settled into their work quite well. I wandered around to see what they were doing and one student was so engrossed in their ebook they didn’t even notice me next to them . So the ebook had to go away and then I noticed there was a print book on the desk. We had a little chat about books and then we moved on to doing the right thing in lesson. I wandered up the back…another secret ebook reader! No games, no nonsense just escaping into the wonderful world of fiction to soothe the naplan overload. That is the first time since we have had the one-to-one programme that I have caught students trying to sneakily eread. Love it. At the right time and in the right place ereading is the very thing. The devices are easily portable and quality dictionaries are available at the tap on a word. In celebration of reading I offer two free ebook sites:

Open Culture which has 700 free ebooks in print, audio and  in different languages.

The Literature Project

Finally! 21st century classrooms!

classroom technology Finally! Finally you can see and feel the difference. We are moving into the next phase of classroom teaching – the multimodal, connected classroom. We have teachers connected on Twitter, Facebook and other online sites. Teachers can develop their PLN across their own country and the world and are starting to do that with their conferences and classrooms. Teachers are developing expertise in different technology areas  whether it be apps, online sites like Google Education, Apple Education, Microsoft Education or mastering software and content delivery in a way which now shows confidence and expertise. We have our professional organisations interacting with us online and emails which are far more content rich and dynamic so that we are all starting to work together as a profession which is better enabling our classrooms , our skills and our content. The more we connect and share , the more we’ll determine good processes and ideas for education. It’s not even halfway through our school year in Australia. We are doing well!! performance standardsTechnology is organising content in a way which reaches out to more students and we are learning that .We are also sharing it as a profession and it shows. We’ve discovered the pitfalls and the work arounds and so we are able to move forward again. We are meeting our national performance standards really well.

Another reason to blog

authentic relationships Image: The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

I found out last night you can build very genuine relationships with students and their parents if you blog in class. All my year 10s, 11s and 12s have blogs. At parent evening last night I shared these blogs with the parents and immediately the conversations changed. Yes, we had talked about the student’s results and what they could do to overcome the weak spots and gain in performance strength, but when we were looking at the blogs the conversations became very animated , natural and spontaneous. The parents were very positive , helpful and were automatically linking what we had been doing in class to what they knew and what they were going to do or could do. We talked about their trips to France, their experience in shops, what it was like in the snow. All sorts of things on the blogs were sparking conversations and connections and the students themselves were talking very naturally about what we had been doing , the bits that had been hard or fun. We had been talking about performance but the conversations went on to a real discussion about learning so we were all connected in sharing our ideas about how this would work better. It was really good to have my laptop there, to be able to display a blog and then see that was engaging everyone in positive ideas about authentic learning. The ideas coming up were making us so positive and now I know that is something I now ought to build into my blogging – a connection with parents. The students could see that too. They could see their parents were impressed with their blogs and were really enjoying seeing what they had done. It was making me think we need to have an electronic space where we share examples of work so that students and parents can see what is happening but also so that students can see what a good electronic version of a piece of work looks like. Judging by the conversations I had last night it would then create a growth mindset so all those task ideas would grow into something bigger and better…and very genuine.

Art is amazing

Were it not for technology , we probably would not be able to see this amazing work of art. We wouldn’t be able to see it being created and we would not appreciate the level of detail and thought which has gone into this humbly named string art. It is a video by Vova Zagranovsky of a painting by Zenyk Palagniuk. It took 24 kilometers of thread, 13 thousand nails and 200 hours of working time. People are extraordinary.

Happy Mother’s Day

Karla Celis makes videos in English and Spanish and as a consequence can improve her reach and connectivity. Her Mother’s Day videos show you how to make some nice gifts and this one from 2013 has some good ideas which she makes easy to achieve because she is using video and has a cheerful personality. She teaches you a Spanish word and it would be great to see her teach more of them. This is a really authentic way for learning a language. If you look at her Mother’s Day 2014 video you can see how much she has grown as a video presenter both in her personal presentation skills and her technical skills. Practice! Repetition and daring to get out there and learn as you master a new skills set. If you look at her Mother’s Day 2015 video you can now see how professional she is , how confident and how in control of her medium. With technology we now have a way of connecting easily with others but we also have a way of being able to demonstrate how a growth mindset works and what it can achieve. So, with these three lovely videos I hope your Mother’s Day is really happy .

Get in touch with your inner geek

geekrule27 Image: Geeks are sexy

A while ago I blogged about the difference between a geek and a nerd. I also blogged about the advantages of having a dual screen setup. Today I’ll offer you some choices to allow you to take advantage of the world of geeks. Gabbing geek offers a lot of current information about comic book heroes, films and other things of geek interest. It also has a very live podcast which you might like to listen to in your dead times where you are looking for something good to do. buckeyeinteractive goes through 10 fun and tech savvy sites which  are certainly good value and Geeks are Sexy brings you current and up to date geek news. Discworld reading guideIf you are a Terry Pratchett fan Boingboing, another really good geek site brings you an image of how to read Discworld.

My favourite discovery is from the buckeyeinteactive site and it’s a site called carbonmade. I haven’t linked you to the home page because it makes the site look a bit kiddie and it is not at all like that. You can use the site to build a visual e-portfolio/blog where you can showcase your images to great effect. This is something which would be very useful to students since they would be able to easily demonstrate growth and development as visual learners. The site has a really lovely gallery of the sorts of things people do with and it’s conveniently divided into subheadings. If you are at all visually oriented, it is well worth a look. There are some very impressive sites made with carbonmade.

You can just sit there

percolator

Image: WeCoffee

You do not have to be doing all the time. You don’t have to always be trying new technology, software, ideas. Sometimes you just have to sit with what you have. Your brain and mind learn from repetition and practice and an opportunity to engage with educational theory. You have to allow time for the new things you have been learning to percolate into your system and practice so they take hold as real change and knowledge. It’s the action of repetition which then leads to refinement because you are thinking about what you are doing and then have the time and space to improve and enhance. In many respects it is the theory of games. You go over and over certain aspects of the game until you have mastered the skills and ideas. Then you level up and take on new knowledge and ideas and work on those. It is no different with classroom technology. There has to be time where you just do what you do with technology so you can see how to get the best out of it and then know what you are looking for next or can embrace the next stage in implementing a different approach , idea or device with technology. ReSit therepetition and practice then  talking about it , sharing, lead to growth.

Image: quotes-clothing.com

The Seinfeld Guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy

I use Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy all the time. It is stuck on my filing cabinet in my classroom.  I have been a bit of a fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy ever since I heard about it. With technology there are so many ways to represent Bloom’s Taxonomy. A version for every learning style and approach. Zaidlearn has a great collection of the digital versions of Bloom’s Technology. I am also a bit of a fan of Seinfeld  so this version of the taxonomy appeals to me. There was a Seinfeld episode where George does the opposite to free himself as a person and it is one which has stuck in my mind .It has given me a great way of changing myself when I am stuck and can’t think of anything else.

Cheap tech gadgets

The video was made for last Christmas. It isn’t even Christmas in July but I watched this and there are a couple of things which caught my attention. What I like about Marques Brownlee is he won’t recommend something he has not used. The mini chargers are a good idea. I and several others are regularly caught out with a dying phone and a life to live. They are small enough to tuck in somewhere really easily. Until they solve the battery life problem on mobile tech, they are a reasonable work around. Sometimes the simplest technology just comes into your life and goes to work hard. All the things recommended here would do that. I am so glad he mentions audio quality. Sound is something people really need to look at and not everyone wants to spend a lot to improve it. Not everyone can but in a world where sound and video are becoming more important we really need to focus on sound. The video also shows how someone who is relaxed and in control of content can deliver an informative video .

Dysfunctions of a professional learning community

collaborationImage: Science in Action

This post is a response to a challenge put on the Teaching and Learning in South Australia Facebook page. The page looks at aspects of the South Australian Teaching for Effective Learning framework. We were asked to read Steven Weber’s Five dysfunctions of a professional learning community and reflect on it. I have done a lot of reflecting around the TfEL and have reflected before about my PLN. That presentation needs to be updated since my network has changed and expanded. So what do I think about the dysfunctions of personal learning communities? I have used Steven Weber’s headings.

Dysfunction #1: Lack of Norms

If you consider the meaning of community , then I prefer the ecological one:

A group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified habitat

and the mass noun one:

The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common

Teachers working together in a community to improve the learning outcomes for students can be strong independent units and can develop a natural way of sharing their ideas and experiences or they can be put into a group situation where they are expected to work in a specific area of pedagogy.

This is where the norms are important. It is important to be open about how that community will operate if the group doesn’t naturally function co operatively. Some groups are better than others. Most groups do not go through norms clarification. In that sense there is an assumption people will know how to relate and exchange ideas. This is not always the case and formal attention to norms invariably smooths that over. In my experience online communities can come together more productively than real life ones since electronic media force you to focus on content and communication rather than all the other peripheral issues of real life groups where you do have to go through what the communication processes are , what the attendance expectations are, what the outcomes are to be and then what the level of input is for each member of the group. Online that is clear and it is a choice of whether you are present or not and how much you contribute is up to you. You are not distracted by personalities, habits and comportment of others. Online communities gather with a prepublished agenda and the focus is 100% on that agenda.

Dysfunction #2: Lack of Team Goals

Goal achievement is more readily accessed in real life teams. The action plans, the ideas generation and the implementation are all concrete things for people to discuss ,develop and do. Online teams are looking more generally at issues, ideas, approaches and can clarify methodology and theory well. Real life teams can achieve solid practical outcomes with clarity because they have more time if the expectations are clear. Online teams can clarify all the reasons for doing these things and ensure that individuals who participate in the discussion come out of it knowing more than when they went in. Virtual teams support the individual who then will become a more confident and more able real life team member.

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Trust

from Steven Weber’s article:

According to Lencioni (2007), a lack of trust “occurs when team members are reluctant to be vulnerable with one another and are unwilling to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or needs for help. Without a certain comfort level among team members, a foundation of trust is impossible.”

I only agree with the second part of this but trust is a very big issue in teams and not one which is easily overcome if the trust is not there. Online you can become a target or someone can attack your ideas and some would just wilt and pull out of the discussion. That achieves little. In a real life team it largely comes down to how open and straight forward the team members are and whether there are common goals and ideas and whether there is a hidden agenda or power hierarchy. No one has to be in an online team but an online team is good back up if your real life team doesn’t suit you well. Teachers are probably in more than one learning community and that is a good idea. The last thing you need is a teacher who is not able to grow through collaboration or discussion of ideas with other teachers. I don’t believe trust is built by sharing mistakes, vulnerability and weaknesses. I think that is coming at it from a negative point of view. A professional learning community is looking at pedagogy, theory, curriculum expectations, professional standards. For me, then, this means we are looking at having a comfortable level to discuss those ideas so we strengthen ourselves , our knowledge and our experience through airing ideas and thoughts in a professional setting. The group leaders are the ones who will be alert to learning gaps and how to broaden the experience for all participants. Leadership is a skill and members of a team have to feel comfortable in a group and  be able to express their ideas and thoughts.

Dysfunction #4: Lack of Communication

True. Communication is everything. These days you can communicate in multiple modes and that is a real advantage. Getting information and ideas out is easy so there is no excuse for lack of communication. It is also important to make it clear to a group how you are communicating. Online communities are more efficient and effective at communicating and Twitter is the number one in my book. It is important to have a place for ideas and feedback and that is more easily managed online. This way a community is dynamic and connects more naturally from meeting to meeting since discussions and input are valued and can grow on.

Dysfunction #5: Lack of Essential Learning Outcomes

From Steven Weber’s article:

From my observations, developing essential learning outcomes involves trust, conflict, debate, time, and the ability to come to consensus.

It is very important to have time to look at departmental documents, examination board criteria and performance management criteria et al. If we are to truly develop as a profession we need to dedicate quality time to look at professional documents , guidelines like the TfEL and share our ideas with other professionals. Online communities can become quite international in their input and that is even better because you are not locked up in regional thought bubbles. You can look at what you do in your region and compare it with how others approach things in their region. A professional learning community will do that – focus on something and then broaden the discussion so that the classroom implications, the teacher practice expectations and the attainment possibilities are all clear to the individual teacher. It then needs to be linked to curriculum outcomes and expectations and the sorts of assignments which would fit the bill and then how you would reasonably assess those assignments.

It’s all good, really

 

Image:  Galaxy black space                                                 First week back , term 2, 2015. All good, really. spaceI met my year 9s for the 2 hour double lesson yesterday morning and our  new topic was space. There is soooo much vocabulary to learn for space. Technology makes it easy and I have proof! For space I have made two different slide presentations which I converted to videos. We went through the presentations and we pronounced all the words. I had embedded those videos into a movie with space things and a loose narrative so we went over the vocabulary again. My laptop desktop was a map of Cité de l’espace in Toulouse. I explained what the areas were and then showed them 3 short videos in French about how school children have an excursion to the Toulouse space city and so they could see the real version of what was my desktop background. Some of our vocabulary was used in those videos. I played the slide presentations again to see if they could now tell me what all these words meant. We use Education Perfect for Language learning support. It’s a paid online learning tool and French covers the costs by doing everything electronically. I gave them 30 minutes to learn the space vocabulary there because I had set up the list. It’s divided into 4 ways of learning vocabulary and in the time they were learning so many of them were saying , “Look, I got 100%!” ” Look! I got 80%. That’s good isn’t it?” Some brought their iPads to show me. These students like taking learning risks because they know if they consider it unfair I will negotiate a fall back position if they speak to me about it. 20 mins into their online learning I announced they were having an online test in 5 minutes. Gasp! They ramped up their efforts and watched me set the test. I can do that in 3 minutes and the test came up on their iPads 2 minutes later. They had two chances at each word and 5 minutes to complete the 20 word test. This was the vocabulary we had just learnt that lesson. Education Perfect then emails me the results and notes the words/expressions students had the most difficulty with. All the students got 18 or 19 out of 20. There were four things they were having difficulty with. One student raised the issue they had lost a mark because they had not put a hyphen in. I could see it on his iPad. I have taught them to look out for assessment traps. The point was valid. We listened to two French songs as a break because we are looking at French music for our project this term. One of the songs meant I had to explain the difference between Francophone and French and how you get to be a French national. To finish the lesson we found a conversation in our book and worked with a partner to get the short conversation ready for today. Once I hear those I have a ProVoc presentation/ IWB quiz on the space vocabulary and then we’ll watch a French space cartoon. It’s good with technology. You can really get to work.

Curating is a vital skill

Curating is one of the important building blocks of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence. The software for these Livebindersareas is going to be as good as the curating and if you have watched the video about Watson , you will know that intelligent software needs intelligent curation. The outcomes will only be as good as the input and that means resources on the internet need to be of a very high quality and peer reviewed. Cognitive computing is used widely in medicine these days and artificial intelligence is being applied in educational contexts. Currently we do not have many sites where students can safely curate information. Paper.li is a well established, well respected one and students can curate in Evernote but it is not the same as the widely available information aggregation sites. Safety and suitablity are important in schools so we needs apps and online sites which teach curation but which are student friendly and child safe. My own favourite information aggregation sites are Flipboard , Zite and Diply. I collect suitable links on my blogs and like  places like del.ic.ious. Livebinders allows you to curate your own material and is education friendly and has education support. These sorts of sites need to be more available on the Net, more prominent in schools and come with a safety tick for education.You need to use information aggregators to understand how they work and then that will inform good choices when you do your own curation on a site.

Because everyone needs a worldometer

World population clock Everyone needs a world population clock. This site gives so much current information with regard to current populations in the world and individual countries . China has the biggest population. It took until around 1800 to get one billion people but we are set to hit 8 billion in 2024.

Little Lucy helps you learn

Lucy is one of the new emotionally intelligent robots developed by Professor Rajiv Khosla at La Trobe University. It is a collaborative effort across nations , in particular with Japan. There’s that word again – collaboration. Nothing of significance is achieved or created these days without collaboration. Lucy was originally designed to help with dementia and aged care patients but has now branched out into helping autistic people in a very significant way. In the SBS article Robots ‘help autistic children learn’ mother and nurse Yvonne Cartwright articulates extremely well what Lucy has done for her two autistic children but she also articulates views which resonate with any teacher. Robots are computers. We may personify them and identify with them as being like people but they are hardware and software. They will repeat things over and over. They will do what they are programmed to do . They are as clever as we can currently make them and will develop as we use them to engage with real people and then have experts like Professor Rajiv Khosla who will patiently, and seemingly happily, use his knowledge and network to improve the capacity of the robot to do and be more. Cognitive computing is making a difference in the lives of real people . It is allowing them to connect with others and it is allowing them to develop their personalities. It is also improving what they know and can do. Robots will repeat and repeat and repeat and not tire of it. In a real classroom they could provide some engaging help in lots of ways and they sound like they can develop linguistic skills so it would be good to have a Lucy in language learning classrooms. Finally, the future is here. Yvonne Cartright sums it up for teaching in the article:

“We don’t celebrate them finishing high school or uni, we celebrate those light bulb moments where you see sheer joy in your children’s face by something they’ve done, and they know they’ve achieved something.”

We don’t finish anything. We are on a learning continuum and as robots become available to us we shall be learning with them and teaching them how to achieve something else.

Anti gravity shoes and worm hearts

worm hearts Image : 19 things you didn’t know you needed to know

So much to know that I didn’t know I needed to know. I am wiser now and know that Michael Jackson invented the anti gravity shoes and worms have 5 hearts. The link above about what you didn’t know you needed to know has used some animated gifs in a really good way to help you understand how things work, how they are made, how things happen. The internet can be horribly sideshow at times with its bouncing, sparkling, flashing, moving animations which are basically junk net. The Vivaldi browser can be helpful that way because you can turn off images. It can be distracted when things keep moving on a page. 19 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know is different. It is a good educational use of gifs and I am thinking we are now at the stage where we could create assignments, electronic tasks and worksheets where we use animated gifs, images and videos to create our content and it would be so much more interesting and relevant. Video loops certainly have a good educational use and we should look at incorporating them more into what we do.

Technology gives hope

I cannot help but be totally inspired by Nick and Chris Fryer who have had Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy since the age of 8 and were not expected at all to live until the age of 37. Their interest in, and capacity to work with, technology has given them a life full of hope and inspiration. They are world changers and are enabling themselves to have an even bigger impact on the world by their creative use of technology. You can miss the first 3 minutes of this video and see just how much they can do and how inventive they are. Now they have got this far they are taking an interest in other MS affected people and creating a YouTube channel to show them that they , too, can have a positive, productive life. You can read the abc news article Muscular Dystrophy Robot Building Twins to understand better just what they have achieved through technology and how their use of technology is having a profound impact on the world of people who have Duchenne’s MS. Nick and Chris are showing us that we no longer need to be limited in any way. Technology offers a pathway to those who were previously marginalised because we thought we did not have a way of helping them. As it turns out, if you give them the tools they can help themselves and  us , show us the possibilities and create solutions to problems in a way we had never previously imagined.

The Fibonacci Sequence

Had Maths been this colourful and so connected to nature when I was at school, I might have survived Maths so much better than I did. The great thing about technology is you can find things which will get the messages and content through to all types of learners. I could never think of Maths in an abstract way inspite of being a good abstract thinker. I needed to see patterns like this and I needed to see how it related to living things. It would have made so much more sense to me. The Fibonacci Sequence is explained on the Maths is Fun site. The amazing video featured on The Mind Unleashed. It is such a beautifully constructed video.

What about the games?

FarmTownThe games debate in education is gaining strength and depth and should continue. Games play a significant role in most people’s lives these days and we need to continue examining the impact, questioning the value and looking for the benefits. You will never find me advocating for violent games. I cannot see they would serve a useful purpose so someone else will need to pick up that line of argument. I find it difficult to believe that there are people who actually conceive these games, market them and have no problem with it. The male/female gender breakdown of game players is about the same. This wasn’t always the case. As a mother I can remember spending hours with my daughter helping her work through the frustration of no games for girls. She had played Donkey Kong with her Dad as a child, she  then always had a Play Station and loved games like Indiana Jones,Jurassic Park, Tetris and Sponge Bob. She had a lot of Play Station games she enjoyed and could play with friends and family. She settled on Tomb Raider as her favourite game after a long time of playing Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? She then got into SIMS because she had always loved Sim City and Roller Coaster Tycoon. We never chose her games.We taught her how to find the games to suit her and to look online and in shops and get information and discuss things. As a parent I could see it was part of her world but then, as a parent, I offered her other interests and other things to do as did the rest of the family. PsyPost offers a look at recent research that links the amount of time playing games with behavioural problems. Those students who just cannot leave their games alone need to be helped to be less intense about playing games. It’s a question of balance and then the time and place approach. As teachers we can have an impact and find ways of helping students to know they can live without their games for a little while. At one stage I was one of those who thought games were stupid and had no real purpose. I then went on a mission to find games which suited me. I had to say the games sites I started with, once they recovered from the shock I was not going to play what they said, actually worked with me and found me the sorts of games I like. I play a game on FaceBook, games on my iPad, I have games on my phone incase I am stuck somewhere waiting and I have  training and puzzle games on my NintendoDS. I like puzzles, word games and things like Bejewelled Blitz but I also like games which are based on Lego thinking where you build something complex one tiny thing at a time. Minecraft is a game which has been very successful and which a number of my students have used in class. It does have educational support and teachers who are pioneering its use. kidspot has a very thought provoking and well thought out article about what Minecraft offers children. Worth a read and the games debate needs to carry on with some decent research and thinking so we can find ways of using the gaming approach in class but also combatting the negative impact of games on some students. We need to be more precise about what those impacts are and what can be done about it. My former stance of “Games are silly they are not for me” is not adequate!

Android needs to toughen up

elephant face plantImage: GetLol

Enough of the Icecream sandwich, Lollipop, Eclair, Jellybean. Next it’ll be Raspberry soufflé or Lemon sorbet. *facepalm. Could just as easily be *face plant. Time for Android to toughen up and beef up its names. What’s wrong with Apfelstrudel 3.8 with Eisbein enhancements or Kartoffelpuffer 3.2 with Kransky software and AntiBratwurst protection? Androids should be Sauerkraut enabled with a Torten spyware suite and Browserentwicklertools. I don’t want to be a Jellybean-Nutzer. I want to be a Strudel-Besitzer with Jägerschnitzel TV and RindsrouladenMobilfunkverbindung. Okay. I am going to stop. Right there. Android? Are you listening?

The magic of technology

Zach King is a perfect 2015 example of how integrating technology into your life and learning can create the most magical outcomes. This is the top end of technology integration and demonstrates what that can mean. The thought, the imagination, the hours of learning and perfecting, the application, the sharing for peer review , getting the feedback and then sharing again. Zach King does not call himself the finalcutking for nothing. He knows and understands technology and explores it to the maximum and then yes, it all comes down to the final cut and his sharing drives it forward. He is everywhere on social media and uses media channels to build his skills, his life and his creativity. You can find him on Instagram here and on Twitter @finalcutking.

Integrating technology into the classroom

integrate - definitionThis whole blog is about integrating technology into a classroom and education and how to do it – the tools, the techniques, the thought processes. It is a lifestyle choice! I have never thought in terms of integrating technology into my classroom. I have just thought of using it and finding out how to create good teaching and learning with any technology I have been offered: OHPs, data recording machines; BBC computers,video machines , PCs and now IWBs, smart phones, iPads and laptops. What does integrating mean, though? I looked it up on the Merriam-Webster site to see if that was what I was doing since it is actually one of our professional standards..

1. to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole : unite
Certainly have worked hard on that. I made a decision when we got laptops to get rid of pens and paper to save the planet and to force myself to rethink everything in terms of technology. A pot of pens, a white board pen, a wad of paper and sets of  worksheets are in my classroom incase of long term power outages. The more I have used this approach the more everything hangs together smoothly in a technological way.By blogging about it , I have given myself the opportunity to think things out and reflect on what I have been doing and then get peer support and review. I just use technology and my students just use it and we work together to solve problems since that is part of using technology.
2. to find the integral of (as a function or equation)
Not relevant.
3a. to unite with something else
Yes! I have united technology with everything I do and think in a classroom. I have united it with the curriculum, the daily routine, the assessment processes and performance standards. I have also used it to unite more strongly with my students to create a feedback loop so I can grow their learning and they, in turn, can grow my teaching.
3b to incorporate into a larger unit
I have incorporated it into the classroom and curriculum delivery and everything now has an electronic version and approach. It is fundamental to my teaching and fundamental to my development as a teacher because I have been able to incorporate myself far more effectively into national and global connections. Incorporation is about connectivity with technology.
4a. to end the segregation of and bring into equal membership in society or an organization
4b desegregate
Technology is not something to be viewed as an extra or an event. It is daily living, daily routine, daily functionality and so technology in my life and my classroom is not special or a thing. It’s just normal. In order for it not to be different you have to find the things which suit your needs and the needs of your students – the videos, the tools, the approaches, the websites, the online tools , sites and apps.

Here are 50 ways of integrating technology into your classroom.

The great Year 10 Blogging Review

thinking-please-be-patient-thecuriousbrain.com_Image: Simple Life Strategies

My last post Why blog? was written live in class with my Year 10 students. This is the last week of Term 1 and we needed to review what we have been doing. I decided we’d do it as a blogpost fest with one post about why we blog and the other post about how we’d gone in French. Each post had 6 questions and an image and they were only allowed one sentence answers. I did the first post on my interactive whiteboard at the same time with them. One question at a time. I could show them how to do bold text. I  also wanted to show them how to backlink, make sure they ticked categories, tagged the post and then could change an image size and know how to acknowledge it properly. A number of them are really good at tagging and come up with some inventive and interesting tags. They are getting really good at picking interesting images too. I was doing my answers at the same time to take the strain off those who  were still finding blogging baffling.I did not want them going on holidays with bad feelings towards blogging. It took the pain away for them and they felt comfortable. All the class responses tell me they like and value blogging and can see worthwhile learning outcomes for themselves.

These are the questions I asked about their French for the second post:

1. What have you done this term in French that you are proud of?
2. Tu aimes le français? (Do you like French?)
3. Qu’est-ce que tu as planifié pour les vacances? (What have you planned for the holidays?)
4. Why do you need to be enthusiastic about learning languages in 2015?
5. We did Bretagne, comic characters, phone conversations and houses. Which one did you like the best and why?
6. What is one thing you can do next term to improve your French?

As for the responses to Why blog?

This is from one of the girls on her blog Pic Boisé :

Questions asked by my teacher:

1) What is the best thing about blogging?

I can voice the things I want to say online in an easy way. It is easy to write information that I gather and to show people what I know and what I do.

2) Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Blogging is important in 2015 to share opinions and inform people. It is important to share ones knowledge with others in one way or another. The internet is used greatly so this is one of the best ways of informing people.

3) What is the best blog post you have written this year?

My two best blog posts are Les marchés d’Adélaïde or Bretagne! Brittany! I think the les marchés d’Adélaïde is good as it shows many things the Adelaide Markets has that is French. Bretagne! Brittany! is a good blog post as it informs people how to say common words in English, French and Breton.

4) What does blogging teach you?

Blogging has taught me just how simple it is to get your information and knowledge out to the world. Many people overseas have visited my blog which I was excited about. I didn’t think that this blog would be viewed internationally!

5) Are short blog posts or long blog posts more popular on your blog?

Long blog posts are more popular I have found as they have more information. As long as the blog post doesn’t drag on and get boring then long ones are more visited. They have more information from different sites with much relevance. Most of my blog posts are rather short but the longer ones are more viewed.

6) What is one of the things you can do better on your blog?

I think that I can improve my blog by adding more information on each topic.

This is a response from one of the boys on his blog Jbelf in France:

1. What is the best thing about blogging?

Sharing interesting info to the world and hearing feedback

2. Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Most things are online or electronic now so if you want to connect with other internet blogging is great

3. Whats the best blog post you’ve written this year?

Montrer ma Maison because it was most viewed and I enjoyed having a really expensive house with a pool inside and living in the snow

4. What does blogging teach you?

On a couple of my posts about France and French life there have been comments that give me feedback but also teach me new things about France that I never knew

5. Are short blog or long more popular on your blog?

I find that short posts are more popular because they display the info without being too long that people will start getting bored

6. What’s one thing you can do better on your blog?

Post more frequently instead of once or twice a week and do post about things outside of the french classroom as well

The blog review has helped them to get a perspective on what we are doing and has underlined that all the hard work, fun and , at times, frustration have led to something they can now appreciate and value . They have also discovered the world cares about what they say and do. It has opened their eyes to the fact they can connect globally.They can even see their own way clear to the next step now. Reviewing blogging helps clarify the picture. At times, when you are new to it , it can be like working in the fog. High level learning is like that. Sunshine and blue skies in the learning arena now we have done our reviews and I have some valuable feedback to build on for next term.

Why blog?

pencil

Image:

Are you ready to lead a different kind of learning?

1. What is the best thing about blogging ?

I can follow my interests, back up my work and share my knowledge.

2. Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

People want to connect and not all people want to say one thought in one sentence because they have more detailed ideas and opinions to share.

3. What’s the best blog post you have written this year?

My post on Why Leaders should blog because it had a profound impact in the blogosphere and was really well received.

4. What does blogging teach you?

It forces you to crystallise your ideas into a sharable form and dare to put them out to the whole planet for ingestion and review.

5. Are short blog posts or long blog posts more popular on your blog?

Any post can be popular no matter what its length because content is king.

6. What is one thing you can do better on your blog?

I need to check the mobile access and decide whether I need to use a different template which is more mobile and tablet friendly.

What will you do with Watson?

What would I do? I would put it into the hands of secondary school students. All secondary school students. Not just the anointed. I have learned over all my years in teaching that the best laid plans of mice , men and teachers can be totally thrown on their head when you get a school full of  secondary students onto a new approach, gadget or pathway. Secondary students are marvellous crap detectors. “What is the point?” “Why would you?” “But what if…”. They are also very good at interpreting things in ways you would never imagine. This can be hugely creative but it can also show up the loopholes, the weak spots and the deficits of any model or gadget you are trying to introduce to “the masses”. If Watson were to be put into the hands of a planet full of secondary students, they would soon sort it out. They would learn to work with it, undermine it, create with it, find the anomalies, ways of misusing it, ways of improving it. They would give Watson a run for its money. So why would you do that? Watson is one of the biggest programmes underpinning cognitive computing. Our secondary students are the ones who will be benefiting from it and who will add to it. They need to know how it works. They need a deep understanding of Watson and they need to be able to grow it into the next generation of cognitive computing software. If cognitive computing is about computers learning from humans and vice versa, then field work needs to be done with the young. Older people will bring their skills, expertise ,perspective and knowlege to bear to create a system which is more reliable, functional, dependable and adaptable. This really is the future and it should not be held back. Right now is a good time to genuinely collaborate on authentic learning for all. So, how would I put Watson into schools? I can’t answer that question at the moment. I am still learning about cognitive computing. They have put Watson up against humans in Jeopardy so they are still learning about it too.

Like 1994 was kinda weird

I am conscious of the fact this was put up on YouTube by c|net on April Fool’s Day but I’ll take it at face value and assume it really is an original (VHS) copy of the 1994 c|net Tomorrow Daily Show. Were I in need of being grateful , now would be the time . Having watched this video I am  so grateful it is 2015 and not 1994. Not that it was all bad in 1994. That was the year I went to my local library and booked in for an hour on the internet. It was the first time I had seen the internet and it was so exciting to be on Netscape and surfing the web. The hour went too fast and I was full of wonder. In October that year I bought my first PC. An IBM. It transformed my life. It was magical. In this video they are saying the internet was not taking off and probably wouldn’t go anywhere and that email was a bit silly because why would you email people when you could phone them? They also show one of the original brick mobiles (I have one in the cupboard!). They could not see people taking to these bricks and finding mobile phones a bonus. The prize comments go to the Playstation so-called review. They could not believe Sony would put out a game console to compete with Sega and Nintendo. Sony obviously had good marketing skills, a capacity to take calculated risks and some top of the range developers with vision. The vision is totally missing in this video which  is not occurring in 2015 . I am grateful c|net moved on from that because they are one of the reliable sites which bring good reviews, sound comment and a capacity to embrace the future. I am so glad c|net got with the programme. I am also grateful that tech people and tech enthusiasts don’t talk like that anymore. Relieved, actually. I lost count of the kindas, likes and weirds. It takes this video to show just how far we have come and just how much we have changed. We are far more creative in our approach now and I am so glad!

Fix technology with technology

cat Image: Pinterest

A lesson for wearing my #notperfecthat and just walking through the issues in a calm, considered way. I could have done without it, but technology is very much there to teach you how to be a good problem solver. I wanted to show my class a couple of their blogs so we could clear up some misunderstandings. The students had actually provided the materials on their own blogs so I could easily explain. One of the benefits of getting students to blog is you quickly find out what the learning gaps and misconceptions are and you can use their blogs and your own resources to set them straight very easily. It creates an authentic learning continuum. My interactive whiteboard decided to be difficult. First the projected screen size on the board was too small. I fixed that with the remote as I was explaining. I was just about to get going with the student blogs I wanted to show and the board lost the connection altogether and 3 resets, as I talked, did nothing to resolve that. Deep breath. My students have laptops. We put the addresses of the blogs I wanted them to visit on the whiteboard . I told them to read and look for themselves at what I was talking about and to leave a like and/or comment on the blogs they were visiting. In the meantime I was trying to get my connection back. The students enjoyed being able to independently look at the blogs. The students who were being visited were very proud and pleased to be able to help. It was all very positive , genuine learning and sharing. I got back to my board and the lesson carried on except for 5 minutes my laptop just would go into screensaver mode ( it is not set for that) and half way through a practice sentence the whiteboard image would shutdown. I just logged into my laptop again and after a few minutes it just stopped misbehaving. Had I not been able to get back onto my whiteboard/laptop interface I would have chosen the whiteboard only option or connected my iPad and used that. It  is important in a technology driven classroom there are technology options for when things play up. As it turned out we had a good lesson where we shared a lot of information and learning and the students did not add to the problem. They were seeing ways of helping resolve the issue and keep us all on track. We did not get side tracked or off task. We problem solved as a team because I was clear about what we were learning and doing. Wearing our #notsoperfecthat meant we had a real sense of achievement in the end.

Having fun teaching with technology.

Matthew Weathers teaches Maths at Biola University and can play some interesting technology tricks, with a little help from his friends, on his students. The clip has been out for 4 years so you may have seen it. He is using the element of surprise to engage his students and to gain a high level of interest which he can then utilise to lead them into some solid learning of concepts and ideas. We’d love to be this clever. We’d love to be able to do amazing things with technology. It would take time, energy , thought and very careful planning. Matthew Weathers is obviously very good at thinking out the logistics of a presentation such as this as well as having considerable skills. You can emulate the approach ,at least, and start your lessons with something which is eye-catching, interesting, highly amusing and bound to create  interest. We can all think about how to raise the bar at the beginning of the lesson. All I saw written on a science board in big letters this morning was Mendel’s Pea Plants. I wanted to know what that was about, who Mendel was and what was so scientific about peas. Thanks to the obliging science teacher I am now fully au courant with Mendel and his peas.

Cognitive computing is happening right now

I read an article about cognitive computing last week and thought, I need to find out about that. It will have implications for education and classrooms and it will change how we do things. I am not an expert. Not even a teensie bit close. I have just found out about it and shall spend some more blog posts finding out about it so that I at least have some idea of what I am talking about and what cognitive computing means.The video explains it well but for me, the information which really made its mark is they have a chip ready to go next year and they are looking to – and this is a quote of a quote – “enable the next generation of mobile devices to see, read, feel and predict user behaviour.” Feel? I really do need to find out about cognitive computing.

Okay, I’ll play your game

game earningsActually, I probably won’t. The one thing about people who play games is that they are very particular about which games they play and which device or devices they use. Some play Facebook games, others console games. Some just want to play on their smart phone. Some want simple games, others action and multiuser games. We all have very strong preferences and so it comes as a surprise in some ways that some games make squillions of dollars and there are gamers out there who can make huge amounts of money from their gaming when the opportunities arise. Those who invested in Grand Theft Auto 5 a while back would have found it sucked up their bandwidth and their money in excess usage charges. Those on unlimited broadband would not have had a problem, but those tied to a capped plan were finding no one else in the house could do anything because the data allowance had run out. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a high performance, cutting edge, state of the art game. The graphics and everything else to do with it are top of the range awesomeness. It is why it was awaited with great enthusiasm by those who play it. Game developers have a significant impact on hardware and software development because their games test what we can currently produce and their ideas drive the creativity to develop better components and ways of doing things. So take a look at the numbers:

1. 10 highest grossing free to play gaming apps
2. Top Grossing iPhone Games – by country (You will need to log in.)
3. 10 highest video games ever

Games are about the money, the market and what people seemingly want to do. Clash of Clans can earn nearly 200 000 million dollars a day in the US at the moment. The money around games is huge, the market penetration massive and our willingness to play never ending. So , what does all this mean for education? We really do need to start that discussion and robust debate. Game companies are not going to be at all worried that students are playing games in class or endlessly at home. My first thought as a teacher is we need to get some balance into usage first of all. Then we need to deconstruct games to see what educational purposes they serve and what technology skills they develop. We need to think about putting our teacher input and  making observations about what games do and mean. We probably need to teach the skills to create games and have some educational input there. We need to understand what games are, what purposes they serve and what the impacts are and then contribute to what they can become and how they can be used. We need to play games ourselves and talk to people about the games they play. Until we start doing these things it will take more than me to look at games and gaming in education.

Should we teach games?

50 millions usersThis is a really interesting graphic which I found on ScoopNest. It took 75 years to get 50 million phone users. It took 35 days to get 50 million users onto Angry Birds. Today we can’t live without our phones or our games. Should we teach games, though? Should we teach the skills for creating games? Currently, we always tend to look at education from an economic rationale point of view . There is little room for learning and intellectual development for the sake of it. games jobsToday on SEEK there are 1008 jobs for games. If you look up Games Developer you only get 157 so the key word search has to be accurate. It’s only Thursday in Australia and already there are over 1000 jobs for games this week.I have been teaching long enough to know we had schools with rooms full of the new, mysterious golf ball typewriters which we used because everyone needed keyboard and typing skills to get a job. There were big discussions as to how much time would be allocated to keyboard skills and typing practice in the curriculum and then students were separated into separate classes so they could become executive in their office skills. I have heard no discussions like that about games and games development.

I read a heartfelt piece on TechCrunch the other night: Dear Teacher, A Video Game Developer Is A Real Job And Should Be Celebrated where a father talks about the need for teachers to recognise games developer as a future career. Matt Burns was clear and made some valid points. Teachers constantly need to shift their headsets into what are currently the job skills sets for any given decade.

Looking at all of this from an education, classroom stand point is matter for some big, robust discussions. It’s not just about games, edutainment, keeping the students occupied. It is about deconstructing games and their impact and looking at their educational value and the skills they teach and use so that we can have some valid input as teachers into this whole industry. It’s about thinking , creativity, collaboration, coding, maths, algorhythms, art, design, literacy, social skills – and that is just off the top of my head. I need more than one post and we need more than one thought.

Share your classroom strategies

Why not share our classroom strategies? It would be a way of helping each other, of reminding ourselves of the basics, of getting some ideas of how to smooth out difficulties and it would create a bank of information for new and pre-service teachers. Not all strategies are going to work with a particular class, a particular year level, in a particular country or region. I was glad Rob Plevin had put this up on YouTube. He is very direct, honest and straight forward. You understand from his journey that he has worked on his performance standards, taken his classroom management seriously and is offering others a chance to rethink how they are approaching their students. He has nearly half a million hits for caring about us! When under pressure it is easy to fall into traps, get into a rut and looking at videos like this gives you a chance to refresh and reboot. His chit chat recommendation is a good one. His demonstrating how to approach students positively rather than negatively is demonstrated clearly and you can hear the voice and language changes. Meeting them at the door is not always going to work. Our school has a policy that we get to our classrooms 5 minutes before the end of a break and during lesson change times we do the best we can if we are changing rooms and are already there to greet the students if we have one classroom to teach in. If you are there before the students you can greet them and have some chitchat. You can get to know them better and develop a positive relationship. They can also come in and ask you about anything which may be worrying them. Some schools have penalties for lateness. That works if the students complete the penalties and respect them. I had a Syrian student teacher once who never noticed if students were late. It was in the days of books. She would keep teaching and just get them on the right page and point to the right spot ,open their exercise book and put a pen in their hands. She never mentioned it and it worked. After a couple of lessons with her all the students were on time. I have watched other videos about behaviour management and some recommend not singling out students and not mentioning names. I happened to be in class this morning and the very first thing I did was:

” John, would you mind listening please? It is really important to me that you listen. ” John looked up and sat quietly. I then remembered the videos I had been watching and said, “Oh, sorry. I should not have mentioned your name . I should have said I have one student not listening.” The students were amused. “Mrs. Woods , how would we know who it is? We might all be feeling guilty.”

John looked at me. “I really don’t mind. I wasn’t doing the right thing.”

My watching the videos has put “teaching” into me. I was reflecting on my practice and then sharing that with my students. I teach my students to say when they are not happy and to speak up for themselves at the right time the same as I do. If we all shared our behaviour management strategies we would be stronger, we’d have more strategies and we’d build strong relationships. Essentially that is what Rob Plevin is talking about and showing us. It’s about talking to students so that they can see you value their input and they , in turn, value yours. In the same class this morning the chit chat turned up that all but one  of the students was feeling very tired. That helped me quickly rethink my lesson with them so I was not pushing them too hard and allowing them to lighten up a bit during the course of a double lesson. In the end, we achieved a lot and felt like we had been successful. Sharing works.

One for the developers

Put people in an office where they are all teaching the same thing and inevitably the ideas will blossom and grow quite naturally. Our conversation started with the flipped classroom model which the school Level 1is working on this year. It moved very quickly to virtual classrooms and what that might mean and whether you could simultaneously teach a real classroom and a virtual one or whether some students would prefer a virtual classroom and whether that was a good thing and how that would look and work. The consensus on that was it would be a reasonable option but we liked our real classrooms. We then started talking about the Statements and Profiles where South Australia was the first state to get serious about that curriculum approach and we did a lot of work around it but  it all came to nothing and we had to move on. One of the real advantages of that was that it described in detail the LEVELS of learning and you would assess students according to levels. It meant classes would have become Level 1 classes or Level 6 classes in any given subject and students would have been grouped according to their level and not their age. We were talking about the advantages of that for Languages. We then somehow connected that to the flipped classroom and the virtual learning we had been talking about and decided we needed a language game with level so that students could work on core material and level up as they do in games. It would be familiar ground for students and the concept would need no hard work in terms of introduction. We were looking at how a game could introduce the core vocabulary and expressions for that level and the students could even be engaged in the game in conversations for that level. We have voice synthesizers. We have video. We have microphones, cameras and keyboards. A game could follow the format of a text book and introduce new things at each level, practise the grammar expressions, have little audio comprehensions, video instruction and enrichment. It could be used in and out of class and would be valuable for the wider community too since there is a need to learn languages and a decent game platform with kudos would be one way of showing you had a certain level of learning in that language. We need the developers to get onto it for us, please !

WordSmyth

WordSmyth is a very comprehensive online dictionary for English (with Spanish support) which runs at 3 levels and has a WordSmythpicture dictionary for those who need visual support in their vocabulary learning. You can add a widget so you can look up any word on any web page and there are parental controls if you need them. There is also educational support and opportunities to create word quizzes and vocabulary tests. The site has a very comprehensive free version then there is a paid subscriber version which might interest you.The school support is free. Their own clarification of this is the best thing to consult. The site is being developed to create sound educational underpinning for vocabulary learning and online dictionary use. All the words are pronounced and the contextual examples of meaning are really helpful.

100% focus

keynote Nothing wrong with KeyNote or PowerPoint. Use them to match your needs. What do year 9s need first thing Thursday morning? KeyNote. It sparkles, it bubbles – it doesn’t just blandly sit there . I was on a mission. I had a verb to conjugate . I created the KeyNote presentation so we would look at the verb subjects first and then the conjugated form of the verb.One person of the verb at a time. Each word sparkled, bubbled, caught of fire or had firework explosions and the students loved it and loved their verb and learned really quickly. They even said I had done well. There was nothing to detract or distract and so we got through the verb quickly and then could make up sentences on each part of the verb and I could write them on top of the presentation.  There was plenty of room on the slide presentation for this contextual learning. We did so well we had half an hour spare to spend on our language learning site. 100% focus increases productivity!

The social media effect

social media effect As I have explained numerous times before , the tried and true practice of the internet is to share, gain feedback and grow your ideas. Like, share, follow. The infographic I have featured left explains how a blog post can grow your idea and permeate it through social media so it will both gain traction and come back to you with ideas and changes which will help develop your own thinking. You are not alone. You need not be alone. You do not have to sit there trying to come up with ideas and performance attainments. You can take yourself from where you are, share your thoughts and ideas and then blog or tweet them, share them in another social setting and the feedback you gain will help you decide the validity of your ideas and whether to pursue them as they stand or to adapt and change them. No idea is too small or too unworthy. Nothing is wasted. From all the sharing and repetition in different arenas we come to a common understanding of what we believe and think. We also create a cultural stability. If you look at the 35 social media infographics on Pamorama you can see another one which says Twitter is 43% babble and 38% conversation. Babble is an interesting choice of word. Tends to suggest the tweets are not worthwhile but people might just be throwing the ideas out there to see what happens. So called silly tweets can often get some serious thinking going. There is another infographic about balancing your social media diet. Certainly worth considering and certainly an infographic which makes you think about how you spend your time engaging with social media and how children/students should be balancing their time. This is something which people are thinking about at the moment and making lifestyle changes accordingly. The infographics are there to promote and provoke thought and consideration.

Every body is different

Doug Thomas goes through a lot of hints and tips to do with ergonomics and shows you the sort of Microsoft products currently available to help you .His capacity to talk common sense and get his messages across is worth the view of this video. He is clear, articulate, has a sense of humour and talks very comfortably in the video format so that you feel he is actually talking to you. In 15 minutes he looks carefully at how you can improve the ergonomics of your computing and what you can do to help. It is cheerful, positive and practical. This video is via Office Blogs which regularly features videos to help you learn Microsoft products and then more things to do with computing and managing computing. The videos might have a focus on Microsoft but the impact is much wider than just a product sales pitch.They are tutorials to help you feel comfortable with technology. The videos are designed to help you genuinely learn and become involved in learning. I got the link to this video via The Ergonomic Times. If you are interested in following through on the Office Blogs help then you can find the link here.

All about English

Everything you could possibly want to know about the  English language with maps, a video and then wider information.With technology you can get a far better picture of what a language actually is than ever before.  Just go to this link on Vox. English has more non native speakers than native speakers, a myriad of accents and dialects, and literature from numerous cultures and yet our impression is often that English is some static language which has one source. The maps explain its origin and then its global usage. I got the link from the We Are Teachers Facebook page .It ‘s a great resource for the classroom so that students can see and understand how and where English is being used and exactly how the language came about. The video gives you some idea of the numerous British accents. If you are interested to know the most widely spoken languages, the top 10 are on Daily News Dig.

New kid on the browser block – Vivaldi

VivaldiVivaldi is so new as a browser it still has its training wheels and dreams of a great life to come. It plans to be across device and it will be supporting onboard Mail. I have only tried it since yesterday and have just joined the community so I am less than 24 hours into this and I am using it as my preferred browser. The only issue I have had is it would not type text on the login page for one site I needed for school this morning when I was on my MacBook. Everything else has been fine on Windows and Mac. It also runs on Linux so it’s completely cross-platform and that is how things should be these days. It is a stripped down browser and designed to be efficient. No argument there. It is amazingly fast and very uncluttered. I am used to a tool bar so I have had to retrain myself and have caught myself out a couple of times looking for my toolbar links. Old habits die hard! I like having the bookmarks at the side. I like what it offers as preloaded site bookmarks in different categories both when I run it in French and English. It simplifies everything without compromising on speed. Pages load ultra quickly. Mostly it operates from a slim sidebar but there are settings bottom left and ,bottom right ,you can stop the browser from loading images and become even faster. The thing which I appreciated the most at school on my whiteboard was the fact I could increase the size of the web page text by using the slider bottom right. It made one lesson so easy because we were working from a French website and to be able to enlarge it just by sliding and then work from that image on the board made for a really good teaching option. If you go to the Vivaldi site you can download the tech preview and then be a part of the community if you want to . It also explains just how much of an open source collaborative effort this new browser is. 2015 at last. You can find them on Twitter @vivaldibrowser.

Visual and spatial learners

This is a great example of why teachers should blog .I hope Kurtis Powers keeps blogging because already he is providing education with worthwhile insight and thought from a teacher perspective. His video makes it crystal clear as to how we can better provide for visual and spatial learners. It makes some good points so the messages are clear. He has also made an effort to learn how to make videos himself and that will help his understanding of how to scaffold that in lessons and use it to advantage. If you go to his newly created blog Education Super Powers you will find that Kurtis Powers had all the research back up and thought for why he is advocating this approach with technology. He is underpinning his pedagogical decisions with research but , because he is a teacher, he is looking at the role technology and software play in his classroom and discusses those things as well. I am wondering, since we do use technology now both at home and at school, whether we are now creating visual and spatial learners and that text based learners will diminish as time goes by.

So what else don’t I know?

I rest my case. There is no way you can know everything about technology nor what is currently interesting your students because we have technology. I was on YouTube looking for something about team quizzes and somehow , by YouTube magic, I ended up seeing a video about fingerboarding: miniature skateboard competitions, videos, montages. You name it and these young people were exploring the world of little skateboards and what tricks they could do with them. They were also videoing them and sharing them. One thing I noticed straight away was that these young people were using mice , keyboards and monitors. The next generation is making its mark in its own way. The other thing I noticed was that it wasn’t brand new equipment. Tech Deck is one of the companies which makes the trick tape so adolescents can do these tricks with their miniature skateboards. So there is a whole technology thing going on which seems to involve mainly boys and I don’t even know about it. We are constantly worrying students are spending too much time on a computer but these students are mixing their real life interests with hands on skills, imagination and then some interesting videos.

This generation of students are blending the real and virtual worlds to further their real world and they are not about gadgets . They are about dedication, trial and error, commitment, collaboration and sharing . Fingerboarding is building online and offline communities which work together and have a common interest. It’s not what I have been thinking technology is because it is away from tablets and phones. It means adults and the community at large have made some intelligent changes with regard to young people and technology. They are back into discovery learning and sociable activities. Now I am going to find out if any of my students do this.