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Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Day the Internet Went Down!

Yesterday upon arriving to school, staff members encountered a school without an internet connection. For some it was  a moment to rejoice, no more email hammering through the system to deal with and no more computer based admin work to be done. Some of us saw it differently, asking ourselves the question, "How on Earth could we function without it?" Now I am not referring to emails and admin, but digital teaching and learning. I teach ICT and let's face most of my lessons are web based, as well as parked on a wiki or Google Doc. It wasn't so much the lack of access to the lessons, but the resources I very carefully park online to use in my teaching, as well as the web applications I am teaching students to use.  Let's face it the Twitter research lesson was going to have to be scrapped!

In the end I opted for having the 8th grade create a story map of sorts, an outline for their upcoming work with Prezi. They actually cheered when I told them the internet was down-go figure. Anyway we pulled some books off the shelves, handed out the paper and they got to it. It was worth it. Each group engaged in a lot of discussion and planning and now has a plan for organising their presentation.

It is not the end of the world when the internet goes down, there are other ways to cope, and other activities which can be done, but my Twitter lesson will still have to take place, even if its a week later, causing a domino effect for all the followup activities-again not the end of the world.

That doesn' t mean I didn't cheer out loud and practically jump out of my chair when Tweetdeck all of a sudden pushed an update through onto my screen.  (You know what? I wasn't the only one!)

UN Week-Millennium Goal Videos

The ABC celebrated UN Week during the last week of October.

For the LRC that meant aiding kids with their Millennium Goal videos and setting up a great display of articles from around the world.

The Videos

As component of their Life Skills work, students across the grades were asked to produce a group video based on one of the UN Millennium goals,. They needed to research the goal, and find a way to get the message out to others, utilising a range of media which may have included:video clips, music, narration and photos.

Some groups opted to do interviews, others found powerful photographs for slide shows, while certain groups chose to record themselves acting out given roles and other decided a screen cast was the way to proceed. Many students chose to search Creative Commons sites for images, others used Google Advanced Search to access information and images. They brought in music to mix into their projects, on their iphones and ipods, brought in videos and photos they prepared at home and made good use of the LRC flip cameras,tripods iMacs when filming live footage and remixing their work.

It was fascinating to observe the students as they chose the digital tools that best suited their vision for the project, incorporating the web fluency and media skills they had learned over the last year or so,  while researching and resourcing their initiatives. These students each have a well developed digital toolkit to draw on, one which will increase as the school year progresses.

Research the Web 2.0 Way

Research plays an important role in the education of students. The development of  a research skills program is one of the LRC’s many important objectives for SY 09/20.

This year we have taken advantage of the wide range of Web 2.0 tools available to support and enhance research work with students. Students are learning more about how to search the web efficiently and effectively, while at the same time evaluating the sources they encounter. Web searching and evaluation are now taught utilising the 21st Century web fluency tutorials and hands on challenges, in combination with the pertinent videos from Brainpop.

One of the most exciting developments in research this year is the introduction of Diigo, a powerful social bookmarking application. Diigo enables students to form learning groups and networks, bookmark, tag and annotate web pages online, share their findings and annotations with their research groups, as well as search the bookmarks and annotations of others interested in the same topics.

In the 8th grade Twitter is being used along with the hashtag #abcict to record nuggets of information in 140 characters or less, forcing students to be succinct in their note taking. They are also using Twipic to upload photographs to their Twitter stream. The entire grade can then access the research as part of the #abcict stream. 7th grade used Google Chat to accomplish a similar feat in small groups, and later on this year, some classes will be using Today’s Meet to do the same.

An updated version of Noodlebib is being used to create notecard from these collaborative streams of information, as well as create outlines and citations. The 8th grade presentations based on all this research, will then be constructed and delivered using Prezi, a very exciting web application for delivering dynamic presentations both on and offline.

It’s a fact that the number of powerful web applications that can be harnessed for educational purposes is rising quickly. Educators from around the world are quick to identify those which are relevant to their work and together with students incorporate them as a part of authentic 21st century learning experiences, which are dynamic, meaningful, and often collaborative.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sharing My Online Comic Creator and Resource Collection

For a while now I have been compiling a collection of online comic creators. We use ToonDoo heavily in our school and have just recently introduced the kids to Pixton too. They love both apps. and use them a great deal across subjects where storyboarding and storytelling are common activities.

There is more to it however than just creating comics. Tonight I came across a fabulous collection of resources and suggestions on how to use comics in the classroom which I am trying to share as many ways as possible with my PLN and anyone else who is interested.  I have included the presentation created by S. Hendy, for you to peruse.

I went through the presentation and added a lot of resources from it to my SimplyBox collection of online comic generators and curriculum based comics. It is a fairly complete collection which I hope will be of use to anyone interested in using comics in the classroom. Please feel free to go through it and use whatever interests you as well as add any comments that would help others to better use the resources.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

When It All Comes Together

It was touching! 7th grade was in the LRC this morning to begin work on their Millenium Goal videos. As I walked around talking to them about it and looking at how they were approaching the task, my heart leaped with joy.  All the work we have done over the last year or so has really begun to pay off. The kids have built up their digital tool kits and skills to the point where they are able to make good decisions about the applications, equipment and approaches they can take when tackling new tasks.

I found myself thinking, "This is how learning should be, student directed with a high level of engagement."

Today in the LRC, some of the kids were prepping their video in iMovie. some were opening Jing in preparation for a screencast, some were collecting flip cameras and tripods in order to film each other and perform interviews,  while others were doing advanced searches in Google for information. The work was collaborative and focussed, yet the approaches all varied.

If you've ever wondered if it will all pay off, if the kids can bring together all that learning and apply it in a meaningful manner, the answer is most definitely yes.

I look forward to sharing some of these mini-projects once they are done.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Backing Up Twitter

I have decided to jump in with both feet and begin using Twitter for collaborative research in lessons next week. This of course brings with it some new problems which need addressing. I noticed a while ago that Tweets aren't eternal, this didn't bother me too much until I decided I wanted access to older tweets. Now it is a real issue, because I want kids to have access to our class tweets utilising a given hashtag, weeks after the fact. I gather from the different posts I read,  that 9-15 days is pretty much the average time they are kept and this itself is relative to the number of tweets etc...

I have done a lot of reading on this today, and I still haven't found a concrete solution to my problem. I tried to sign up with Tweetbackup but had log in issues and later came across the interesting TweetKarma in my travels through the Tweetiverse. I did however place an RSS feed on a query for our hashtag, in my PageFlakes account in the hopes that it will all accumulate there. Naive? Maybe, time will certainly tell. Being the untrusting sort, I am also going to back it up the old fashioned way, copying it all into shared Google doc. That way if in a week's time, when our class meets up again to use  the collaborative research we compiled, the older tweets cannot be accessed, I will have a full copy to provide them with.

If anyone out there has a proven solution for this I would be very interested in hearing from you.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Sharing the Links:Art Apps

We are very much into using cartoon and animation apps at our school for work across the curriculum, but are we using a variety of apps for other areas of art and design? I think in most cases we tend overlook these areas, especially when working with the older kids outside of Art lessons.

This afternoon I came across a tweet by @aFaizaK  of Word Ahead, which lead me to a great post by Mrs Smoke containing a listing of 45 websites for students to use in creating original art online. Some of these apps, I've  come across before and use a great deal, most I haven't. I can't wait to try some of these out with the kids!  A big thanks to Mrs. Smoke for taking the time to compile the list and sharing it with the world!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Finder Fox Widget

smarter fox

Now you can make your webpage/blog more interactive for readers. Just  place the finder fox widget on your web page and any reader who highlights a word or string of words will be given the choice to tweet them, look them up in Wikipedia, or search them out on Google and Twitter. What a great idea!  You can trial it right now as I have added it to this blog.