Sunday, 24 February 2008

Playing Again!!

I'll get some work done at some stage - procrastinating again by playing with tools and toys on the web. Having said that, I am exploring what these things can do in order to see how I could apply them within a classroom setting.
Just been playing with and created this

It's kind of a work in progress and needs more thought put into it, but it's a start. I think I quite like using this as a tool.
Off to do some planning for tomorrow now.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

When It Rains...Surf and Play!

The weather outside is disgusting - rain, wind, grey and gloomy. So what's a girl to do but sit down with her trusty laptop and spend (waste) the day playing with what the web has to offer. I have been following and responding to tweets from Twitter, catching up with blog posts that need to be read, digested and responded to, exploring the networking option on, playing with iTunes and a cute little widget called Moody, setting up my personal book catalogue at LibraryThing (can't get a widget yet - have to wait 2 hours 'cause they're down for maintenance), updating Facebook and playing with Skitch. PHEW!!! I'm sure there are plenty of things I could ( read should) be doing, but sometimes I just like to take the time to be totally self indulgent and play.

looks like it could prove very useful (as well as being fun) and the little icon looks so cute in my dock. I've been having a play to see what you can do. Haven't tried a screen shot yet, just a drawing and using iCam to take a photo of the cat. Check out my experimentation...

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I'll say one thing for it - Skitch makes uploading images to your blog a piece of cake! I 've just had a go at uploading a photo from my iPhoto library - it's rather a scary pic - what happens when you let your 11 year old photograph you when you are over tired - but you get the idea.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I can see a lot of possibilities here - I'll have to start thinking about uses for the classroom. This is always providing our filters and firewalls will let me use it at school. If not I'll just have to get creative.

On a more sensible and serious note - there really is soooo much available out there on the net, plus what your computer can do in terms of what it comes with etc. I have so many things I'd like to try out with my kids, but sensibly I realise that you can't do it all. It's my intention to sit down this weekend and map out my intentions, goals and where I would like to head with my class in terms of using and infusing ICT, to ensure that it is purposeful and will enhance their learning, rather than being a total play experience with no real purpose. Which doesn't mean that I don't think they should play - in fact I think play is the best way to learn just exactly what a tool can do. But in terms of a learning experience, at some point the play probably needs to move towards something a little more structured. Anyway, I shall ponder it a bit more and post back here when I'm done. Off to play some more...

Thursday, 21 February 2008

We're Tearing The Walls Down... One Brick At A Time

My class and I have made our first steps into the world of classroom blogging. Yesterday we worked together to create our first blog post. The children had so much to say, the ideas just kept tumbling out - our blog post ended up quite long, but I was absolutely stoked with their enthusiasm and the number and range of contributions. One of the things that was just wonderful to watch was how one child's idea would spark something for another child, who would add their contribution, and so on and so on... They were really thinking about the structure and sequence of our post, I heard comments like - "I would like to add a sentence just before the sentence about..." or "That paragraph there might be better at the top because..." The kids were engaged and motivated and they were exploring oral language, reading, collaboration, cooperation, thinking about structure and audience.

What they find the most exciting is the idea that they have a real audience, their parents and other family members , other teachers and classes in our school and in schools across Auckland, New Zealand and the world. This was made even more real for them when Amanda visited their blog last night and left them a comment. This meant that I was able to return to school today and, less than 24 hours after there entry was posted, share feedback from a real live reader. The kids were absolutely thrilled and can't wait for Amanda to get back from L@S so she can share their blog with her class. Thank you so much Amanda - you made their day.

At this stage I am scribing for them and we are creating our post as a whole class, shared writing experience. I added the links and photos for them too. I am working towards the children being able to take responsibility for all aspects of our blog. I'm hoping to use something like blogging buddies, monitors or teams - possibly evening having children take a turn at being editor in chief so that someone has the responsibility of giving the post a final ok before uploading. I'm still playing around with ideas in my head at this stage - I need to mamp out a long term vision to ensure the whole process scaffolds smoothly and remains a worthwhile learning experience.

In order to sell the idea of blogging to my principal I decided to make their blog invite only so that it is pass word protected. This is a mixed blessing, as on one hand I can restrict access to the type of audience I approve of, on the other hand - it could reduce their potential audience of acceptable and legitimate readers due to the extra step and hassle involved. What it does mean is that parents have to request an invite in order to get their password to view the site and the children will have to wait for their feedback until this is all sorted. However, I am sure once things are all up and running this will be fine.

I am hoping to be able to invite some other classes from around NZ (and beyond) so that they can have an audience of their peers, as well as providing them with the opportunity to visit and comment on other blogs so they get to experience the true power of blogging.

We are beginning to create our classroom without walls, just baby steps at first and slowly, brick by brick we will get there. I'm feeling excited and positive about our learning journey.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


I'm not a huge fan of the terms digital native/immigrant as I'm not sure that people always slot nicely into those categories. By virtue of my birth date I should be an immigrant and yet I don't behave like an immigrant or learn like one (according to the accepted definitions) and I had unique experiences growing up that may have contributed to this. Although, having said that I did most of the growing up that I can remember in the late 70s/ early 80s - so maybe I'm not truly in the time frame for immigrant either. My current question that I am pondering is, what do we call people like me who don't slot neatly? Do we need to have these generalised names at all? Is there are better way of looking at it? Is it really about your birth date or is it more to do with your mindset and how much you embrace change and the new technologies? I guess none of this is mind blowing stuff and it probably doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. To be honest I really don't like labels and I guess it is a way of illustrating, in a very straight forward way, the differences between generations. Part of the issue for me I think is that I don't like people making assumptions without knowing a little more detail. By the same token, is it fair to assume that all our kids are natives? I've taught in plenty of places where many of the children don't even have access to computers and play stations (for example) at home and have little opportunity to interact with a wide range of technology. Could these assumptions make a difference? If so, would it be a positive one or a negative one? Would we push them to do things assuming that they can? Or, would we instead make the mistake of not ensuring that they have the necessary scaffolds and supports to truly benefit from the tech they use at school?
Like I said, these are merely musings, just things to think about. What do you think?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

My PLN has taken me on an amazing PLJ Pt 2 - PD & personal connections.

Ok so back to PLNs and PLJs. Thanks to following blogs through google reader and blogmeister, plus the regular tweets from twitter, I have found out about all sorts of PD opportunities and useful 2.0 software. In the last 10 days I have had a wonderful time exploring, creating, thinking and playing - never mind the other gidgets and gadgets I've already discovered thanks to my PLN. My PLN let me know about Educon20 that was held in Philadelphia last weekend. This meant I was able to view online presentations of the various workshops, either in real time or later when it suited me, thanks to the magic of UstreamTV - something I knew nothing about 2 weeks ago. Also thanks to UstreamTV and my PLN I have been able to participate in the Unconferences each Wednesday from the International School of Bangkok - here, teacher Kim Cofino sent out an invitation via Twitter. The great thing about UstreamTV, when you view it in real time, is that you can log into the chatroom attached to the show (you just need to sign up as a member first) and you can actually add your comments, thoughts and opinions to those that are participating on the screen in front of you as well as other people in the chat room. A fantastic way to participate in professional development with like minded others.
Another great way to participate in PD and discussion with others is via Women of the Web 2.0. Every Tuesday at about 8pm our time they have a live radio type discussion, which is also available later as a podcast, and again there is the option of signing into the chatroom and participating in the discussion. Very cool.
Thanks to my PLN I was able to set up a wiki to share all my links and follow up info for my conference presentation instead of having to add to demise of a few more trees using the more traditional paper handouts.
Twitter is fantastic too. After uploading all my presentation info to my wiki - including my slideshow (another great web 2.0 tool I found out about from my PLN is Slideshare)I asked if a few of my Twitter contacts could read through my presentation and give me some feedback. This they did and I was able to make some changes and tweak a few parts thanks to their suggestions. They also helped to boost my confidence before I presented as I was very nervous. So a big thank you to Rachel, Allanah and Amanda.
Blogging I have done for a while now, having started my family and friends blog earlier last year where I share my daily chitchat, scrapbooking etc. I added this blog after ULearn last year as a place to share my educational thoughts, learning and conversations without boring my family and non teaching friends to tears. What I love about blogs is the fact that you can comment on other people's blogs having read about their thoughts and ideas and engage in a dialogue about various topics, etc. It also provides people with an opportunity to share their opinions with you via your own blog.
I guess one of the nicest things about Web 2.0 is that it's all about making connections and maintaining them too. I find that with teaching you are so busy, add parenthood to that and general family life, as well as the many other demands on your time and it can be quite hard to stay connected with others, you just do your own thing day by day. Even though I know my mum thinks it's a bit weird that I happily talk to people I've never met, let alone seen in real life, I think I have established some wonderful online friendships and acquaintances. It has also allowed me to stay in touch with friends who now live in other parts of the globe.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Cluster Conference

Well, I've just finished attending a 2 day conference for our ICT cluster. I presented 2 workshops, 1 on Quest Atlantis and one on connecting learners to global audiences. I was very nervous about presenting as I have only ever presented to my own staff - not a whole lot of others. However, it went really well, I had positive feedback and people seemed genuinely interested. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to share something I'm passionate about with others and I hope that people were able to take something away from my presentation. I created a wiki to go with my presentation which you can check out here.

Our keynote speaker today was Derek Wenmoth He had us all wanting one of these. His presentation focused on preparing our learners to live in a future that is difficult to imagine. I have to say, I always find it mind blowing just how rapidly technology is advancing. Things I've read about in science fiction novels are becoming, if not already a fact of life, then more of a possibility and less like fiction.

Over the last couple of days I've had the opportunity to explore Scratch, Picasa, create pick-a-path stories and tangrams using Powerpoint and simply have the opportunity to talk and share with others. The downside of presenting is that you don't get to go to as many workshops (there were a couple of things I missed out on that I would liked to have seen); however, it gives you a different perspective and you appreciate just how much work is involved in preparing a presentation and just how nerve wracking it can be.

The whole conference ran smoothly, food was yummy and it was a great way to get geared up ready for the start of a new school year.