An Encouraging Connection

How simple it is to make connections and support the learning of children both in my own classroom and another in Bangkok. Last week Jeff Utecht at ISB, Bangkok,  sent out a couple of tweets inviting people to encourage a few of his fifth grade bloggers who were just learning how to blog and recording their instructions on constructing a science experiment exploring variables. It helps, maybe, that I had met Jeff while on holiday to Bangkok earlier this year, but that personal encounter isn’t really relevant to the connection.

I made a few comments on the grade five blogs and was particularly impressed with young Haley’s post. To encourage her and show her how the whole blogging thing might work, I decided to replicate her experiment in my own class the next day, using Haley’s procedural writing to help us with our instructions.

P9040004Setting up the experiment took five minutes of my time and my class took a couple of photos and quickly blogged about their results and I added a link to it for Haley through her blog comments so she could find our post the next day at school.

Haley learnt  about the power of blogging in a real context and my class made another connection and further cemented their own learning about variables that we had completed as part of our science fair earlier in the term. Following up on a question that Haley asked in a comment I was able to share a Voicethread we had made earlier on New Zealand currency. You can see how these things can grow.

Jeff later blogged about his own ideas for extending the collaboration…..

  • What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
  • I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
  • I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
  • How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
  • Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)

These connections don’t need to be huge, or time consuming, or hard. They just need a little time, a little energy and a buddy who wants to share and learn. The whole process isn’t in the least bit scary.

Teaching Well

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Darren Kuropatwa put together a slideshow of what it means to be Teaching Well. People were invited to add a slide each. My slide idea sort of came from my blog title and the view is across the bay from Nelson’s Rocks Road. Using Google Docs for this kind of collaboration was a new experience for me.

View the whole Google Doc presentation in its full screen glory, it’s rather good.

Last night in the OZ/NZ Flashmeeting Chris Betcher shared how to add collaboratively add geo-locations to forms created in a Google spreadsheet- (40 minutes into the session). Put your locations into a cell and select them, go insert, add a gadget and select map. I tried it after the Flashmeeting all on my own and it works, right down to my street address. Useful stuff you could use in all sorts of ways. Thanks Chris.

Kids Teaching Kids- Virtually

People have been asking me how I am enjoying being back in the classroom after a year out and about seeing the world and working with teachers instead of eight and nine year olds. Generally I am enjoying being back in the classroom but had forgotten the hours that classroom teaching needs to keep all the balls juggling in the air.

I do miss the adult conversations and the variety of being in a different place and working with different people each day but learning opportunities that we have been having lately at school keep me connected with people and places outside the walls of my classroom.

We are enjoying the conversations through Sylvia Tolisano’s Around the World with 80 Schools Project and enjoyed talking to children in Chrissy Hellyer’s class at ISB, Bangkok.


We also worked collaboratively with Myles Webb’s class at Melville Intermediate in the Waikato. A couple of keen students at Appleby had taught themselves how to use Pivot to make simple animations. I follow Myles through Twitter and his kids were keen to learn how to do it as well. We set up a session using Skype for audio and Adobe Connect Pro‘s screen sharing capabilities. Because Pivot is a Windows app and we are an Apple School I used my personal MacBook Pro laptop with Parallels (thanks Ben) to screen share. Children were able to see what George was doing with Pivot at our end through sharing our desktop while he was explaining what he was doing using Skype.

Pivot

The session went exceedingly well and both groups enjoyed the challenge of the exercise.
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It is very powerful for young children take control of their learning and make meaningful connections to ‘expert voices’ of a similar age to learn from one another.

Learning is Indeed Messy

Over the last few weeks we have been having fun in class exploring the world through the eyes of children in Kathy Rice’s class in British Columbia, Canada and today, Brian Crosby’s class in Spark, Nevada, USA. These learning experiences have come to us through Sylvia Tolisano‘s Around the World with 80 Schools Project. The idea is that participants enter their class details on a wiki and then link up whenever they want via Skype. The calls are only supposed to be five to ten minutes long but we tend to go longer as we share our music, clothing, weather, pets, population, sports. Learning is messy and things never go quite to plan.

So far we have visited 4% of the globe with our class blog comments and Skype calls. I wonder what percentage we will have by the end of the school year.

Here is where Sylvia’s students have been so far!

Before the event we have a bit of a look around on Google Earth to fly between New Zealand and the place we are going to connect with.

Then we brainstorm anything we know about the country that we are going to connect with. Before our Skype call- not a lot!

We then designed fairly open ended questions and allot people to ask the questions.

I used the Time Scroller widget to get our timing right and after a bit of negotiation as to a time the works we are underway.

I have Call Recorder set up auto record the call which I have edited in iMovie to highlight the interesting bits.

As a great extra to our call to Kathy Price’s class in British Columbia we were able to contribute to a Voicethread they had made to show us exactly how cold it was! Have a look- it’s quite incredible.

Thanks Sylvia. We’re going to have fun with this- Argentina here we come!

We now know what a toque is and know a lot more about being a Canadian!

Tweet of the Day #gr8t

For the month of March, a group of educators and lifelong learners will be picking a “Tweet of the day” and ReTweeting it with a tag: #gr8t
Hopefully, you will join us in doing this too.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to participate:
• To share what you value about twitter.
• To see what others value about twitter.
• To celebrate the power and wisdom of your Personal Learning Network.
• To find interesting people to follow on Twitter.

My choice for what to retweet with #gr8t will be a Tweet that I find interesting, or insightful, or humorous. It might link to something I enjoyed reading, or it might have something profound or even fortune-cookie-like that appeals to me:

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There aren’t really any rules to participate: Find a tweet you value, and share it!

For Example, here is a Tweet I’d like to share:
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And so I retweet it with #gr8t:

Hey- I’ve never been the first in the world to do anything- this might just be a first! The joys of being the first to see the sunrise.

Internet Use Agreements

John Sutton wrote an insightful post that turned up in my RSS feed from the UK this morning about internet use agreements.

At Appleby we wrote ours a few years ago now. We review it every year and ask children, parents and teachers to sign it each year agreeing to the policy and asking parents if they allow their child to access the internet at school and to ask their permission to publish their child’s images and creations on the web.Appleby from above

If you are interesting in reading our AUP you can download it here in pdf form.

Most parents agree to their children’s images and work being contributed to our blog sites etc but a few do not want their children to have direct access to the internet for whatever reason.

John raises an interesting point in his post. By not allowing children access to the internet we are restricting children’s learning opportunities. At school we access Google Docs to share digital portfolios, we are part of the e-AsTTle on-line assessment programme, we blog, I podcast and generally collaborate on line with other classes in other parts of the world. By not allowing children to participate we are limiting their ability to learn using 21st century technologies.

Maybe a way forward is to inform parents of our policies and educate children proactively about safe internet use and just get on with it. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. What do you think?

Encapsulated by Capzles

If you have good people in your network you learn good stuff. Last night I caught a tweet by Wes Fryer about a another great digital tool called Capzles. He was impressed and so am I as I quickly made a Capzle from a few photos and a class digital story movie. I added some feedback text and an audio mix of my commentary and some FreePlay music. The features of Capzles that I like are the intuitive interface, the quick ease of uploading content and the timeline effect. It harvests the data from your photos and knows when they were taken and puts them in a timeline. It has great quality in full screen mode as well.

It fits well inside Blogger. A bonus is that as it embeds you can chose to only have the audio play when you click on the little speaker icon. That’s great ‘cos I find it irritating to have audio play on a blog when it hasn’t been asked so the audio doesn’t come to you uninvited. The only downside I can see is that comments go live immediately. For school I would like to see some form of comment moderation or at least notification of new comments but I don’t think it would be a huge problem.

For next year I thought it would be fun to take a photo everyday- children could add a photo highlight a day and we could grow our portfolio over the year embedded in our blog.

Give it a whirl and create one of your own!

Etherpad Collaborative Tool

Over the weekend I came across this great collaborative tool, Etherpad, and invited a few people via Twitter to give it a test run so we did. Unlike a wikispace or Google Doc multiple people can record their thoughts at the same time in real time and it worked a treat. Each person was able to quickly change their username to someone we could relate to and then begin typing away. As we typed we could see in real time what the other people were typing. Each person typed in a different colour so we could see who was writing what.Image When we  had finished you could save the whole thing as a saved revision text file sort of thing that you could copy into another more fixed document. It could be particularly useful for note-taking, where participants could help each other to record pertinent points or for a group to collaborate to build a document in real time.

Unfortunately it has now gone into closed beta testing because demand exceeded the load their servers could bear but worth waiting for I think.

Collaborative Dance Video

Here it is! After its conception nearly a month ago the collaborative video is ready to rock….

PreviewClick on the graphic to view the video with TeacherTube.

Angela from CORE asked me to do a write up for it for the Time4Celebration theme so I had to make up a scholarly dissertation on why I did it but it was really just a bit of fun. Here is the blurb I wrote for @Ageja

  • Purpose – The project started out as a bit of fun- it ended up that way too. We thought we would make a collaborative video in a similar style to the http://wherethehellismatt.com video that is wildly popular on You Tube. By having a collaborative dance video we were able to transcend cultural and language barriers as everyone loves to move and dance- it is pretty universal.
  • Process –I wanted the video to have an element of New Zealand wide participation but also wanted to include our global audience so I blogged about it on my education blog and on Twitter I also mentioned it when I was moderating the K12OnLine conference These avenues ensured that we got more than just New Zealand videos and added a little cultural diversity.
  • I asked that people email their videos to my little used gmail address so as to keep my main email spam free in case it got picked up by a spammer. I had a bit of trouble converting some of the videos as they came from various operating systems and in a variety of formats so I had to use a couple of online video converters and my clever Adobe Flash Video Encoder . I learnt new stuff cos I had to grab a couple of videos from people’s Blogger or Flickr accounts and turn them into movie files on my Apple. I used Orbit Downloader and it was fortunate that I had Parallels on my Mac so I could change the format using the free PC Format Factory to convert the Flash files into something that I could easily edit.
  • I used iMovie06 to create the final video as I haven’t got the hang of iMovie08 yet. I then exported it as a Quicktime movie file for uploading into ‘the cloud’. Along the way I either stripped away the original soundtrack or lowered the volume so that a universal sound track from FreePlay Music could go over the whole set to tie the thing together. I also added subtitles so people would know where in the world the videos came from.
  • The finished the movie was uploaded to Fileden so that people could download the 24MB file and save it without having to worry about buffering or viewing on possibly blocked YouTube or Flickr sites. I also uploaded it to Teacher Tube that was less likely to be blocked and YouTube so that kids could actually find it for themselves. In this way people could either view it directly with streaming video or download the higher resolution video if they wanted to to play it back for whole class viewing.
  • Product – People were asked to send in up to 20 seconds of video so I could put it together with the final cut off date 7 November- giving people plenty of time to organize themselves. The quality of the resolution of the video varied quite a bit as some teachers did not have access to digital video recorders but all videos were included in the spirit of global collaboration.
  • Reflection – It would be great to do a similar kind of thing again as it was so much fun to see what others had come up with and didn’t take very long to complete. It just needed someone with a bit of time on their hands to act as a hub for everyone to send their videos in to. Kids seem to have got into the spirit of it and look forward to seeing the finished published product.

Thank you so much to all the contributers and their classes from around New Zealand, Canada, Bangkok, the United Kingdom, @fionagrant, @charbeck, @kathycassidy, @lisibo, @efreeman, @nzchrissy, @keamac, @teachernz, @leannehough, @lenva, @jaminlietze, @njt24 and to the hundreds of kids and their teachers who enjoy a sense of fun and adventure who like to participate in a community wider than their classroom walls.

You rock!

 

Where are you?

While at the ULearn08 dinner I thought of organising a flash mob doing the Dancing Man before the Friday morning keynote and had it pretty much sorted before realising that there wasn’t a keynote on Friday morning. Doh!

So after that rather lame attempt Jane and I had the idea of us all creating one with our classes and I’ll collate it into a Twitter’s dancing video!

Here’s the link to higher quality downloadable video if you like. The video from there is much higher quality than the YouTube one- good for showing the whole class.

So here’s the thing- can you make a 20 second video of yourself and your class dancing and email it to me for putting together! I will strip your audio and put one sound track over it. Send it to moturoa@gmail.com

We have a dozen videos so far from all over the place. It would only take a minute or two to go outside- or inside- to film it and the kids really look like they’re enjoying themselves- and the teachers too!

The final date for emailing the videos is 7 November. You have one week to go people before you get to see the finished global collaborative dance video!

ULearn08

I’m home safely after another brilliant ULearn08 conference. The whole thing is really such a whirl and I think you do need some time to internalise things but here are my thoughts as they comeULearn Left Overs to me now there is nothing left but empty wine bottles and a head full of wonderings.

I’ve been at home out in the sunshine doing a little weeding with my fingers busy and my mind reeling about that word, CHANGE. I look reflectively at my own classroom practice and wonder how much it has really changed. How much connectivity I allow? Is it more about me and my teaching or about the children and their learning? I am looking forward to going back next year and putting my money where my mouth is with a new group of Year 1/2.

I want to do an action research project on the changes that podcasting makes on oral language. It will be great to have a fresh slate on which to write. My network will be invited to act as my peer review.

This was my first conference where I was more of a leader than a follower- in lots of senses of leadership. I lead a great group of six teachers from Discover IT Tasman cluster. What a great group to give up a week of their precious school holidays.

I presented three sessions and here are my Twitter presentation notes for download. “You’re No One If You’re Not On Twitter” by JB Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons. I now have a new heap of Twitter followers- I hope I can live up to their expectations!

Here are my Cool Adobe Applications on the Web notes with links to the websites for download as well.

And I also did a workshop on podcasting which was very rushed but hopefully people will be able to follow up on when they have a moment. Here is the wiki link to that one. It would be great if people could add their podcast to the ‘People Who Podcast‘ page as they get their own podcasts under way.

If there is a next time I don’t think I will offer to present so much- there was so much more I would like to have been at that I think I might have missed some great opportunities to participate.

At our unconference the topic I brought to the table was that of Twitter- on line etiquette. While at the conference some people who maybe didn’t understand the public nature of Twitter thought it was OK to make derogatory comments about people who they knew were connected and likely to read them. Apart from being bad manners I think it is important for people to understand and help the children in their classes understand that what you write on the internet doesn’t just disappear after you push ENTER. What you write is a reflection of yourself as much as it is a reflection of what you think. If you want to say something potentially harmful maybe you should move into a more private conversation mode like Skype chat or F2F discussion at a more appropriate time.

Microsoft Innovative Teacher AwardI didn’t win the Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award 🙁 but it was fun trying. I got to go up on stage and be acknowledged as a finalist which was nice. I had to laugh though as Warren told me I wasn’t to take my laptop up on stage. With more than one way to skin a cat- I took my iTouch and twittered with that. Lenva tweeted that she could see my fingers moving and new what I was doing!!! Hehehehe!!!

Tools wise I learnt how to make news items with Adobe Visual Communicator- another great tool for 2009. Watch this space as I get the hang of it and work out how to do a little blue-screening

One of the best personal moments was at the very, very end, just as I was leaving Jared Holden from New Plymouth came up to me and said how much he appreciated my blog posting and contributions to our community. I left with tears in my eyes and a light heart. What a nice thing to say. Thank you Jared.

It was a top class event for me to meet up and converse with top people from NZ and overseas, topped off with a great weekend showing Sheryl, Will and their families our stunning country.

Thanks everyone- keep the shift happening and turn that supertanker!

Microsoft Innovative Teacher Award

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I am very proud to say that I an one of the twelve New Zealand finalists in the 2008 Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Teachers Award. I have been beavering away at making a poster to present at ULearn08.

The poster space is about 1mx2m so I have plenty of space to fill. Here is my centrepiece. There will no opportunity for interactivity where I have to present my poster so I made this interactive one that people will have to come to my blog to access it. All of the watermarked photos lead to blog posts that illustrate how I create, innovate, communicate and collaborate.

It took me ages to hyperlink the photos- you could test drive it for me!

 

Collaboration Links

  • A number of schools and classes in my cluster are now blogging in earnest and getting plenty of feedback and interaction flowing from it. Now they are ready to take it to the next level and go out their and use their blogs to foster links outside their classrooms and schools.

For me that collaboration really started through Paul Harrington from Wales and I exchanging comments on each others blogs and podcasts but teachers want to know how to go about starting those links and working on some meaningful projects with other classes.

Lenva Sheering has compiled this reference to the benefits and curriculum links of using collaboration on her Auckland Home Group wiki.

Here are some links that they may like to use to do just that…

  • Teachers Connecting– A teacher will register and complete a profile of their class level, interests and level of teacher technical skill. Others who are keen also to collaborate can see what projects are on the go that might suit them.
    Twitter
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!
  • Of course, most obviously, there is Twitter but it make take a while to build up a network of co-collaborators. On a side note it was great fun on Saturday night to gather a group of us via Twitter all watching and tweeting on the Kiwi triumphs at the Olympic rowing events.
  • Kim Cofino, in Bangkok, also has a project site that offers links to collaborative projects organised by grade level.
  • Then there’s always our own English On Line Book Backchat where classes get together and discuss books- again arranged by class level. This site hosted my very first on line discussion and the results still show up deep in a Google search!
  • The Flat Stanley project is an oldie but a goodie. The idea is that you send off a ‘Flat Stanley’ around the world and follow his trail- sort of geocaching for little kids.
  • E-Pals is a long running site linking classes of similar ages and interests to get together and form bonds.
    • Voices of the World is a Ning where people who join have a community where they can post media, audio, blog, links and the like. You have to join the Ning first then look for what is current with the project. It is based in America so the school terms are different to ours but it is nice to concentrate on hearing the student voices speaking with different accents and languages.
    • Lastly is another Ning organised by Jen Wagner. This Ning even has a group of Kiwi educators. We are starting to use it to talk about ULearn08. Again you need to join first- this Ning has many groups where educators from around the globe can form areas of common interest to link their classes.