What I want my teachers to know about me

At the end of last year I asked my Year Four students to record their thoughts on an open Google Presentation

What were the five things that they wanted their new teacher in Year Five to know about them.

Here is the link to our blog with the embedded Google Presentation.

Have a flick through- the kids wrote some fun stuff.

All well and good. I was reading the class blog of new Twitter follower Hineata Blair from Hamilton East School this morning and was thrilled to see that she is intending to use that sort of idea with her class this year. She asked us what were the five things that you would like your teacher to know about you. I wanted to support what she has done for her children by leaving a comment so I wrote my answers as an adult learner to the people who might teach me in a classroom or lecture theatre.

This is what I wrote…

I want my teachers to know that….

  • I want to be inspired to want to learn what they want to teach me.
  • I want them to understand that I might not learn in the same way that they did when they went to school.
  • I want them to know that I want to be connected to other learners, not just the ones in my classroom.
  • I want them to know that I can show my learning in ways that aren’t writing and drawing a poster.
  • I want them to give me time to play, learn and share things that I want to learn about.
How would YOU answer?

Maybe this could be a meme. I am going to tag some people to write what their five things would be. As you write your answers could you share your thoughts in the comments or write your own post on your blog and link it back to this post. Try tagging five other people to do the same and we can see how big this post can get.






Please just leap in and add your thoughts about the way that YOU like to learn and tag others to do the same.

Here is how I constructed the lesson.


Google Apps For Educators

Not being known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer I have taken a fair bit of push to use Google Apps with my class although I use the Google Docs package extensively myself. The main reason why I never used Google Apps for Educators in my class is I didn’t know how to specifically and I didn’t know the usernames and passwords for the children in my class or even where they would log in. So after a bit of beavering away and a little help from my on-line Personal Learning Network I am there!

The final push that took me over the edge of thinking it might be something worth trying and spending my evening free time (ROFL) investigating more deeply was that because our wonderful COW of Apple laptops are basically dead or on their last legs and as we couldn’t afford to replace them in one hit we have leased three baby netbooks for my class. Frankly I loathe them but we do the best we can with what we’ve got and at least I have something apart from my TELA laptop for the kids to use. I also have two slow and troublesome eMacs bringing the total that my class has to six so I suppose I shouldn’t whine. Anyway, the kids want to draft their stories on the netbooks and of course they don’t have WORD on them and I couldn’t find the time to download Open Office.

So I found out where to log in for Google Apps and put a link to it at the top of our blog so the kids knew where to look. I fleetingly got myself Admin access to Google Apps and entered  the kid’s names and gave them passwords that were the same as their e-AsTTle log ins so we could remember them. Then my admin privileges were gone but the set up work had been done.

Admittedly the children in my class are generally fairly ICT capable for eight year olds and all but three have internet access at home so they catch on pretty quickly to new ideas. I had one session with the whole class in front of the data projector to show them where to log in and let them read the screen as to what they needed to do to create a new document, write and draw on it and share it with others within the domain.

They caught on exceedingly well and work has been pouring in ever since. We are basically in the PLAY stage of learning- where we discover what we can do with the tool.

Google Docs - All items
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Last week we set a task on our homework grid to log in and do something on their docs. Marshall even set homework for ME to do using the docs.

Today Marshall who is eight decided it was time that we learnt to do presentations with Google Apps so he made a presentation on how to make a presentation.

Just in time learning on Sunday night before our Rocky Shore field trip my PLN brought me Tom Barrett’s post about using Google Spreadsheets. I quickly put one together to record our population counts from our field trip and when we got back we all entered the data as quickly as we could with multiple edits being visible on the whiteboard as we went. It was a good way to make sure everyone got a shot at logging in and recording their data and conclusions.

It’s all good and we are finding out new things together which is even better than me teaching kids how to do things my way. New things in new ways. All this in four short weeks. Yay

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This video summarises the useful updates to Google Docs.

Twitter- a way to build a network

Twitter RepliesI was honoured to be asked by Innes Kennard to present a couple of workshops to groups of teachers in the Wairarapa and Palmeston North last week. We talked of the communication, audience and collaborations enabled by the use of Web2.o tools in the classroom.

Particpants asked about how I let people know of the things we do in the classroom and how I have been able to form a Personal Learning Network.

We spoke of having an RSS feed like Google Reader or Bloglines to bring interesting blogs to you instead of having to go out and check them every day.

I spoke of the power of Twitter to connect with educators around the world and demonstrated that with a quick tweet to that affect. I don’t like to send out general tweets like that as a rule as I don’t like to presume that I will get a response.

Being that, personally, I generally do not have the time to tweet during the teaching day I was surprised at the number of people who could spare a moment to reply. Responses came thick and fast from Scotland, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Maine, Essex and New Zealand. All within minutes. Powerful stuff. Thanks team.

When I got home I got to reflecting on how these people came to be in my network.

I try to support others- that’s how I get supporters. I try and engage in conversations with people. A couple of people who replied I had not been previously following as I went through a stage when I felt I might be overwhelmed by following too many so I really followed few who requested that I follow them. I immediately remedied that by a follow.

When I first started the journey to create a Learning Network I was way to shy to express an opinion because I was in awe of the reputations of the people I was following. After having built up a rapport with some of those people I now realise that generally they are just teachers like me- like us.

So- to build a network, I think, people should just leap in and engage with fellow educators- leave comments, direct tweets to people, ask questions, encourage, challenge, discuss. We are all learning together.

Learning From The Experts

Our highlight from last week was a Skype conversation with @NZWaikato’s class at Melville Intermediate in Hamilton. Every year at Appleby we take time to learn our mihi (Maori greeting). Drawing, as we do at Appleby School, from a predominately European background I find it difficult to put the learning into a authentic context. At ULearn09 I had the pleasure of meeting Myles Webb face to face and we set up a plan to have the experts in his class teach my class how to pronounce their mihi. My class is familiar with the traditions that underly how a Skype call is likely to go but Myles’s class had never tried to video Skype before.

I recorded the various test calls we made along the way while Myles beavered away behind the scenes to get the technology to work. After a number of trials we eventually got the connection going, much to the delight of both classes. Myles did well to get the audio going on his antiquated equipment but in the end couldn’t get the video to go. On the strength of the experience he has since gone out and bought a new webcam. The video below shows the progression of the call from our end. I was so impressed that Arahina was able to teach our girls their mihi so well. I was able to leave the girls alone to get on with it. You can tell over the period of the call the improvement in the korero. It will be great next week when we are able to continue the learning and we will both be able to see each other- we realised that we get a lot of clues as to whose turn it is to speak when we can see each other.

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.

Sunday Six

This is the first school holiday in a couple of years where I have had nothing to do  and I am relishing the early nights and late rising to bank a reserve of sleep that I can draw on when school starts again- yeah right!

As you can well imagine I have spent a fair amount of trolling the internet, twittering and exploring. Here are a couple of holidays finds that are worth more than a save to my delicious.

1. Ten YouTube URL Tricks– I often see embedded YouTube videos on class blogs and wonder if teachers realise how few clicks away from porn they think they are! With these easy tips you can disable the search box and links to related videos and more.

2. My Delicious– I have spent some time tidying up my on line bookmarks and putting them into tag bundles. @AngeNZ asked for a look through and I thought others may like a peek as well.

3. iPhoto09 Faces and Books. ImageI have just taught my iPhoto how to recognise photos of people and made a Photo Book of my recent overseas travels. That was so fun and the book of 68 pages ($122NZ) will be delivered in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait as I have seen the quality and professional look of iPhoto Books before but never actually made one. I could have printed it to pdf but thought I would push the boat out and have the hardcover book professionally printed.

4. Through Twitter links I have joined in on a couple of UStream professional development sessions in Canada and somewhere else. It doesn’t seem important really as to where the sessions were but thanks to Chris Harbeck for the invite to join in.

5. Drop Box– Drop Box is a handy Mac only tool- a bit like your own personal server to dump stuff onto between computers. You just install it on the computers that you want to be able to access your files on- in my case my home laptop and my TELA school laptop and it just sits in your top toolbar and you drop stuff in it to collect it from another computer. By recommending the tool to others I get a little extra storage but 3GB will suit me fine for the free version. Great for when a file is too big for an email and you can’t be bothered finding your flash drive.

6. Styks is a cross platform Pivot type animation free download in beta. Nice and easy for kids to handle- definitely in my 2009ToDoList.

    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.


    The session went exceedingly well and both groups enjoyed the challenge of the exercise.
    Picture 5
    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.

    Augmented Reality

    ImageThe things you discover on the internet! As you do on a Saturday morning you have a little time to play while the washing machine finishes its cycle. Via my friend @tricias in the UK I came across this little piece of magic that I just had to follow up on.

    The idea is that you print out a piece of paper and hold it up in front of your web cam and a whole virtual reality world opens up in front of your very eyes with spinning wind turbine, 3D and the sun shining above. They have two scenarios- the other is showing solar power! It’s just magic! Do it. You’ll love it. No idea how it works though but think of the possibilities. Here’s a little video to show you how it works….

    Virtual World Video

    To get the link to the piece of paper that you print off and to see the so easy instructions click here. It only took me a minute to print and play!

    Piers and his Mum had a bit of a play with it as well. Have a look at Piers’ blog for the video the made.

    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.