Don’t drown in a glass of water

drawingI love learning languages. You find out other people have such amazing 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

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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.

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