Clever Gmail Signatures

At school we are shifting lots of stuff into the cloud and the boss asked today if I could help him get the school logo as a signature at the bottom of his Google Apps Mail like it used to be when we went for desktop mail. You could add the logo as an attachment but that would be a total pain considering the myriads of emails that a principal would make in a day!

So, after some research and a little trial and error this is what I came up with.

First of all download Blank Canvas as a Firefox or Chrome Extension.

ImageOnce that’s done and Firefox restarted, log into your Gmail or Google Apps and click Compose Mail like you usually do. You will see little icons above the To field.

Hover and see what they do. I added the quick add remove as extras later on.

For an image I had to upload it somewhere else- I chose Google Sites but I suppose you could put it anywhere on the net.

As I am not an html genius I used the html editor on my blog to work out what the code needed to be to wrap around the image URL. In maths strategy land that would be called working backwards to problem solve I guess.

I know how to wrap html around a URL cos I use Blog Assist a lot- thanks Greg for that little gem.

I didn’t realise that <br> forces an extra line like tapping Enter so the name, URL and logo sit with a space between them but if you knew html that would have been really simple! Have I just admitted how little I know!

So the finished code looks like this..


Does that make sense? I like it when I work at something and manage to get it working before midnight!

Discovery Time

During the holidays I attended the Cutting Edge Conference in Porirua. As well as presenting I was able to attend a couple of workshops. One that intrigued me was about Discovery Time, run by Brenda Martin and Gay Hay co-authors of the book, Discovery Time- Developing Key Competencies through activity based, child-directed learning.

I gave it a go for the first time on Friday and it was a great success so I thought it worth sharing. Here are my notes…

Discovery Time is a 90 minute, action, activity based programme reminiscent of Developmental in the old days. The teacher is engaged with the learning as well. Parents have to be reminded of need to ask questions and not to solve problems. It is well planned with structured, activity based activities- it can bring the week’s programme together.


Activities could be constructing, painting, drawing, weaving flax, parent passion, outside activities, skipping, sanding, sandstone carving, dressing up, making movies, carpentry, Lego robotics kit, shadow puppets, OHP stories, cooking, skipping, new food tasting, spending more time working on something that hasn’t been finished, Journal craft activities, clay, water play, trains, darts, juggling, musical instruments, clothing design, marble tracks. There are heaps more ideas in the book.

It is student centred learning based on play, creativity, activity and centred around the child. The teacher or parent doesn’t try to solve the problems for the child but leads the child to solve problems and challenges for themselves. The teacher lets go a little and hands the control more to the children.

The structure of the lesson-

  • Introduction- key competencies eg managing self- managing our gear- we discuss first what it would look like if we were managing ourselves well ( Y-chart).
  • Activity time- doing the activities from a menu of choices- children select what they would like to do- if there is an over-subscription the opportunity to do an activity will come up again another time.
  • Share what you’ve done, buddy-up, photos, share- before we pack up.
  • Reflection- after we’ve packed up. Thinking about what we’ve learnt. I would use Wallwisher to record our thoughts if I had more laptops to record with.
  • List of ideas from kids on what they would like to be doing next week. And also list of who has missed out that would like to have another go next week.

The Discovery Time book has a CD of ideas and resources to use to supplement the programme. Here is my planning sheet for the session minus the individual targeting section.

Our first session went really well on Friday with children totally ‘in the zone’ for the whole hour and a half. I liked particularly that I wasn’t ‘teaching’ the whole time and had the opportunity to sit next to the children as they worked rather than directing them to complete tasks. Children appreciated the opportunity to delve more deeply into an activity for an extended length of time. Next time I would add some more artistic, creative activities to our list of choices.

I liked the Discovery Time concept as we talk about creativity, child-centred learning, key competencies and life long learning it ticks all the criteria of what learning is.

As we finished Friday after a Discovery Time, a workshop with the St Johns First Aid instructor, Jump Jam and ANZAC assembly one cherub, about to go home for the day said, “It’s been just like a birthday party today!” A good way to finish the week.

The World is My Classroom

WorldTomorrow at 10.30-11:45am and then again at 11:45 until 1:00pm I am presenting a workshop at The Cutting Edge Conference in Porirua, Wellington.

My workshop notes are on line and they describe some of the global projects that we have done over time. Click here to view the notes.

Please, I would love you to join us and help make the event authentic and interactive for the participants who will generally be new to the whole concept in practice.

Habits of Mind with Karen Boyes

Last week I was able to attend a Habits of Mind workshop with Karen Boyes. I had a bit of an idea of Karen’s style as I had attended her Fish Philosophy workshop at ULearn09 and I subscribe to the EdTalks podcast in iTunes.

Here are my notes…

Habits of Mind are the things that will help children/adults sustain ourselves in 21st century. Rate of change is accelerating- who knows what the future will bring?

What is thinking? Cognitive brain actions- thoughts, feelings, opinions, strategising, multi-solutions, considerations, conscious, unconscious-thought.

“Thinking is when your mouth shuts down and your head keeps talking”. THINK- PAIR- SHARE. Remember the hand signals. ( I used to use the hand signals last year but forgot over the school holidays ). Time for processing- 7-10 seconds to process the question.

How would you want kids to think- risk takers, engaged, individual thoughts, justify their thoughts, curious, open to other people, links to outside the classroom text to world connections, thoughtful failure.

What dispositions do successful people have? And if so can we learn them? (Interestingly George the soccer guy came school last week and talked to the kids about the sorts of things successful soccer players do- fitted in nicely to my thinking).

Habit is a cable, we weave a thread of it every day, and at last we cannot break it.” Horace Mann.

Mindful Garden of Verses‘ by Marie Ciota- poetry book about HoM- they help you solve problems and know what to do when the wings fall off. We’ll have to get a copy.

Here are the Habits of Mind– I hope I got them all! Image

  • Translate and transfer information-
  • Persisting- not giving up- thinking of the frog and the crow cartoon.
  • Managing Impulsivity- think before you act. Successful people think it through before they act.
  • Listening with empathy and understanding- while listening we are busy thinking about what we are going to say! I know you don’t know but if you did know what would you think/say/do.
  • Thinking flexibility- e.g. The Real Story of the Three Little Pigs.
  • Thinking about thinking- metacognition- Successful people can talk about their thinking.
  • Striving for accuracy- the word is striving. ‘Never work harder than your students’. C3B4ME. Say there are 3 errors in your writing rather than you got seven right, if children think they ‘passed’ they won’t bother to learn or work out what the mistakes were.
  • Questioning- at the end of a topic they should have more questions than when they started.
  • Applying past knowledge to knew situations- use what you learn.
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision. Getting the right/differnt word when writing, avoiding generalisations, exaggerations.
  • Gathering data through all the senses- like they do when they are little.
  • Creating, imagining, innovating- we can grow creativity. TED talks. Shift happens. Creativity is our point of difference from the production capability in India or China. (This ties in nicely with what Chris was saying last week– I am triangulating my data.)
  • Responding with wonderment and awe. FISH philosophy. WOW moment. I love the Fish Philosophy. It’s great to show happiness and joy and magic.
  • Take responsible risks- be OK with failure- try new things constantly. Failure is like manure- it sticks but it makes things grow fast.
  • Finding humour- kiwis like to laugh- be resilient- laugh it off and move on. (Personally I find that one hard- I don’t move on easily- I fester)
  • Thinking independently
  • Remaining open to continuous learning
  • Now the NZ Curriculum- T.R.U.M.P– Thinking. Relating to others, Understanding symbols and text, Managing Self, Participating and contributing.


    People need to be mindful competent- not automatic- thinking about the task that needs to be done.

    Developing Habits of Mind in Elementary Schools’ by Karen Boyes. Moving from teacher led teaching and learning to student led mindful learning.


    • Do a word splash- other ways of saying the same things- key words, synonyms, phrases that convey the same meaning Wordle
    • How do we do that- what it looks like. Graphic- prove with 3 ot of evidence- Comic Life
    • Ask a child who is successful what they do to be successful. Celebrate it- Y chart look like, sound like, feel like. None of the HoM stand alone.
    • Pausing, probing, what do you mean?- to get more clarity of understanding.
    • What habits of mind do successful people display to help them be successful- sports people, authors, role models
    • Managing impulsivity. An owl or a frog- which personality type are you. Make a four part rubric co-constructed with the kids body parts of the frog.
    • Success-o-meter- pudding like, luke warm success, groovy success, outstanding.  Like a growth chart on the wall 0r our traffic lights.
    • Use the language of thinking- analyse, predict- use the right words, don’t dumb it down
    • A thinking buddy- Tony Ryan’s idea- soft toy to do your thinking with.
    • If you allow it you teach it.
    • Make trading cards- make eight cards- teacher gets one and rest are traded. Like our fitness cards with a digital photo of how it looks. Each for an example of HoM.
    • Bookmarks with the HoM with photos of HoM in action
    • Certificates on HoM to be completed by parents
    • The teacher needs to always model.

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

    Thanks Karen- a lot to go on with but good practical, real things I can do in my classroom this week and next term.

    Sitech IWB Conference Workshops

    While attending the Breathe Technology Sitech IWB Conference I was able to attend a couple of workshops that I want to share with staff at my school next term. What better way to share than through the blog.

    First up, ‘What’s new in the Lab? Cool stuff from Google’ with Chris Betcher and a bit of my stuff mashed in as well.

    Google searching– there is more to it than typing in the box and pushing search.

    • Click the little circle next to pages from New Zealand to refine the search.
    • Put speech marks around a couple of words to get an exact match to the words other than a combination of either. eg “Allanah King” will get better results than Allanah King.
    • If you go to Advanced Search you can look for just pdfs or powerpoints. I have found this search to be quite useful when I want to make a slideshow for the kids. I can use someone else’s that is close to what I want and just tweak it a bit rather than starting the whole thing from scratch.
    • After you have made a general search you can click on Show Options- Chris pointed us to the Wonderwheel option which lets you see your search in a mindmapping sort of view.
    • The Time Line view puts your search on a timeline of when it was mentioned.
    • Also look at images, news, blogs to further refine and pinpoint your search,


    Firefoxbecause Chris was using my computer and it wasn’t synching suitably with the data projector you couldn’t see the URL he was able to move the size of the address box by dragging the little space between it and the Google search box. It was only an incidental new learning but it will overcome an annoyance when synching with an un-cooperative data projector.

    A tour of some of the tools from Google Labs

    • How to embed a Google map– save it, put your markers or whatever in and click the little chain next to the word Link to get the embed code.


    • Google Translate– in the past I have used external sites to write in other languages but would definitely use Google Translate next time as they have more options and a cleaner interface. I wonder if I can use this to translate National Standards information into Thai for one of our school families?
    • Google Account Settings- Log in to Google and go to Settings- Account Settings and see the Pandora’s box of Google things to play with- like web history.
    • Use 1 Click for Firefox one click downloading of YouTube Videos.

    I was then able to attend couple of IWB specific workshops.

    I managed to get to Simon Evans’ workshop IWB and the Internet. Handily Simon provided us with a pdf handout of notes from the session that he was OK for me to share. Thanks Simon- you rock.

    Writing a single sentence and expand it- we have been doing this in class using our own data projector but it would be more effective moving the phrases around on an IWB. Wanted to share but there wasn’t a right moment.

    Put a Google Map of your school on the big screen and have children write instructions of how to get from home to school.

    Inferring- reading a photograph- put a news photo on the big screen- children record their inferences, could be done with text as well. To get this screen shot I grabbed a photo from a news web site, dropped it into Pages, captured it with Skitch and used my Wacom tablet to write. Easier on an IWB but achievable with ordinary data projector. My screen in my classroom is just the ordinary whiteboard- in the classroom I would just write on the whiteboard- you couldn’t capture it but at least you could share it in real time with the whole class.


    Thank you to Jason Neidermeyer, Simon Evans and the team at Sitech- you guys are great. It was a great learning opportunity.

    Sitech IWB Conference- Learning

    Last weekend I was privileged to be invited to present a couple of workshops at Sitech’s IWB conference at Koraunui School in Upper Hutt. Apart from from being the only person there without an IWB I found the conference to be quite affirming and energising. I was so impressed with Koraunui School- they closed the school early on the Friday and some of the senior students stayed behind to assist participants. There was fabulous parental support as well. We started with a powhiri which set the welcoming tone for the whole conference. I also admired the way the whole staff at the school watched out for each other and supported each other. You could see it was a real learning community.

    My workshops were based around the concept of using wiki to enhance learning in science. I shared a couple of science wiki that we had created to serve as a resource centres for our learning like our one on Flight. I also shared the one Lisa Parisi and I had co-created on comparing hemispheres which, I think showcased an even better use of wiki- that of collaboration and authentic learning.

    Not surprisingly I learnt more than I shared. Chris Betcher was one of the keynote speakers at the conference and I was able to get to a couple of his sessions. I made notes- even having to resort to using a piece of paper once as the wifi wouldn’t let him go on line and if you’re presenting a workshop on Google Labs you really do need wifi- I had my trusty Telecom T-Stick with me so lent Chris my computer so he could get on with his workshop, leaving me computerless! Imagine that!

    The first of Chris’ keynotes was titled “When the Wings Fall Off.” Here are my notes (in black) …

    The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

    Example Swiss watches- 1968 the Swiss had the world market sown up. Within a couple of years Japan took over through the invention of the quartz movement watches. The Swiss monopoly wasn’t able to adapt to the changes and they withered.

    Example camera makers- camera manufacturers who were not able to shift to digital withered.

    Example- vinyl records, tapes, CD, digital and they withered.

    Example- newspapers are withering.

    Those most adaptable to change will survive, not the strongest or the cleverest as Darwin proposed.

    ‘People who are able to adapt are successful, those who can’t fail- the change makers are those who are the ‘troublemakers’, the creative one that think differently. Think of Maui- the youngest brother who stirred up trouble and started  a new order!

    Example- fall of the Berlin Wall- the troublemakers in a dockyard in Poland spread across Europe. An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted. Victor Hugo.

    We still reward compliance- Sir Ken Robinson– creativity not valued. Not innovation in classrooms- one size does not fit all.

    Why the wings just might fall off education- Social networks, search tools, falling costs, free, Web2.0,  jobs that haven’t been invented yet. Things are changing- what worked in the industrial age will not work now.

    Google is 12 years old. Pre-Google like pre-printing press- a defining moment in history. Google has changed everything- the way we find out stuff. Where did all the questions go before Google?

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Recognition of play- can we do some play- to follow ideas for a time, find a time each week/fortnight. How can we allow for experimentation, the following of a passion. Let kids play with ideas. Google company allows their staff to ‘play’. Some of their best stuff comes from play. I like to let kids play with new tool or software before I ‘teach’ it, but should pursue the idea of play within the curriculum.

    Why? Other countries have an abundance of riches- NZ does not- we need to have a point of difference- successful just doing lots of something isn’t enough- you need to be ‘beautiful’ well designed as well- eg iPhone, iPad?

    Automation- if your job can be done by a machine it should be done by a machine.

    What then is left- creative, design, aesthetic… That’s what we CAN do well.

    How do we encourage creativity in children? Come up with something interesting for them to work on. Give them time, tools and skills they need. Get out of the kids way and let them get on with it.

    Recognise individuality- interests, choices, flexibility, thrive on ambiguitymy long time Twitter bio , encourage risk, allow and grow from mistakes.

    The less restrictions you place on the task, the more creative the response. Where does success criteria fit here? Are they too limiting?

    Think big- make it hard fun but still push the kids further than they thought they could achieve.

    It was an excellent conference, well organised, with great network and learning. Thanks for the invite.