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.

 

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

tick

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

K12Reader

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
EnglishTestStore

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.