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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

QR Codes

Have you ever wondered what those strange new bar codes are that are popping up in newspapers, on posters, on the web?

They are QR codes (2 dimensional bar codes) and they offer one of the easiest methods by far  of loading web content on a Smart phone. To give it a try, using the scan option on your phone. What page does this code link to?

If you are interested in using QR codes in your daily work, post them on a website, a blog, a social network, sign up at, shorten a link and generate one of your very own.

Just consider the implications this may have for the role of mobile devices in education!
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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Phones in My Classroom By Choice!

Telephones don't have to be a curse. No, I don't like answering them or yacking away for hours on them, never did, even as a child. There is a difference however, today's telephones are so much more intriguing than those that existed when I was a child. For the longest time, I have been reading and chatting to others about the phones our students carry around, telling myself that I can make good use of these devices in my classes, but that's all it

Today's mobile phones are not only phones, but so much more. They are Smart Phones! A good majority of our students own BlackBerries or other phones that hook up to a 3G network or our school wifi. Some of these devices may not even be phones at all, some of them are iPods!

Yesterday I decided I was jumping in with both feet and eyes wide open. It was no longer going to be about the talk. Yesterday I decided it was time for action.

I created an account at PollEverywhere which is a great site that enables users to create polls, share them online with links or as embedded features on blogs and wikis, and provides a variety of ways for those being polled to respond. I didn't want this to cost my kids any money so I decided against text and opted for Tweet and  Web voting.

During the lesson we were working on micro-blogging research with Twitter (plan A)and/or Today's Meet (Plan B). (We had trouble creating Twitter accounts from school.) At the end of the lesson I asked the kids to go get their phones and other devices capable of connecting to the school wifi or a 3G network. Other teachers in the building gave me a few strange looks (Generally speaking, cell phones are to be turned off and packed away during the school day.)

I emailed the link to the kids and they got on task and answered the poll, while we watched with excitement as their responses appeared on the screen. I have asked them to bring their devices in again next week and thanked them for being a part of my little experiment. I am pretty sure that this is going to become a part of my weekly starters and/or plenaries all because my kids already own Smart Phones or other Smart devices.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

When a Lesson Explodes in New Directions

One of my 7th grade classes was settling down to work on their collaborative presentations, which they share with a school in Colorado, when all of a sudden there was great excitement! Okay there was an explosion of excitement.  The other class was also online and working on the presentations. To say that my kids were thrilled is an understatement. Immediately Google Apps group chat windows began popping up and student exclamations could be heard all around the LRC. These students were no longer separated by thousands of miles.

We very quickly shifted the entire class into a seminar room, got Skype up and running at both ends and within minutes were video conferencing with our partner school, as the excitement began to crescendo. We had not prepared in advance for this. It was a bit of a surprise, so there was no script, just kids engaging in discussions about each other, face to face with their partners in another country. Hobbies, favourite books, musicians and the weather were the main topics of discussion.

It's interesting how many of us find it easier to engage in text chats, where ideas flow easier than in video chats, where all of a sudden the most outgoing child might find themselves at a loss for words.

Anyway we just managed to get through all the groups, and with five minutes remaining in the lesson, the kids returned to their computers to finish up working on their presentations and texting with their partners. The kids at our end were very reluctant to log off of their chat sessions to pack up to go home. That's powerful!

You know when a lesson has surpassed your expectations,  and become something even greater.This was one of those moments.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Latest Shift Happens

Have you seen the latest shift happens? If these figures are accurate, the amount of activity both social and financial happening by way of social networks is astounding.

 It is certainly updated and worth watching.
Check it out at our new ABCICT Blog!

Monday, 8 November 2010

United Nations Projects-Millennium Goals and Awareness

The LRC Celebrated United Nations with a fantastic display of artifacts from around the world. Most of these items were loaned to the LRC by members of staff. Tours were run for students across the school and special bookmarks were made available to the community.
In ICt lessons students in KS3 worked on various cross curricular projects, with a global emphasis. Take a look at the descriptions below.


The 8th Grade students have finished working on their Scratch projects. This year they were asked to choose a Millennium Goal to focus on and develop a project around it. Most of these projects have been uploaded to the ABCICT Scratch Gallery and there is quite a variety to browse through and enjoy. You can even download, run and check out the programming used, via the Scratch Website.

 Reaction Grid
The student Art Gallery in the ABC El Salvador Region is now up to date. Students used original art work created by KS3 Students to construct framed canvases and create 3 dimensional art for the region. If you have a Reaction Grid Account you can log in and teleport to ABC El Salvador to view the work in person. If not the picture above will give you an idea of what the gallery currently looks like.

Google Maps and Earth
The 6th grade students have completed their virtual tours of France using Google Maps and Google Earth. The students included important place marks, pictures and descriptions in these tours, as well as a spoken introduction to the regions they were focusing on, using Voki avatars. These projects are viewable from the Gallery at ABCICT. You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view them.
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010


We were looking at ways of promoting language in classrooms recently and this caused me to revisit some of my favourite tag and word cloud generators. In doing so I had a play with Tagxedo once again and wasn't disappointed. Not only can you create a great variety of word clouds, but you can create them in different shapes with plenty of different colours and fonts. This in itself is cool, but the best is yet to come. Apparently you can actually embed the cloud  and it becomes interactive, with words zooming in as you hover over them.  You can't do that with Wordle (my favourite tag and word cloud generator of all times).
Check out my latest Tagxedo.
(This is not the embedded version as I have had little success with this feature, but would love to hear from someone who has gotten it to work.)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Trying out Nota

I came across Nota today on the iLearn Technology Blog. After reading the description of it, I had to have a play. Especially since we have been looking for alternatives for wiki and site home pages.

Nota is an easy to use collaborative work space which is Glog like and more.
With Nota it is easy to import pictures from your various online accounts, including Flickr and Picasa, as well as add message boards, links, shapes and text. It is quite simple to figure out, and can also be accessed through PhotoPeach accounts. If you don't have a PhotoPeach account there is also an option for creating one on the the  Nota site.

Notas embed easily into Google Sites and Wikispaces so the potential for interactive walls (Invite participants) as well as home pages is definitely there.

NOTA - ABCICT%201%20-%20ABCICT%201"

Monday, 11 October 2010

Scratch and Millennium Goals

Emblem of the United Nations. Color is #d69d36...Image via WikipediaThe 8th grade students have initiated their Scratch programming projects this year, with a focus on the United Nations Millennium Goals. Students are very much directing their own learning in this project. Each student has chosen a goal to build a Scratch project around and will also choose the type of project they will create. We look forward to sharing them with you soon.
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ABC El Salvador Reaction Grid

The ABC now owns a virtual plot of land in Reaction Grid, which is an online world for students to learn in. The 7th grade and the Reaction Grid Extra- curricular club students are the first to explore and construct in ABC’s new virtual space. For the moment the focus is on creating 3D content that is representative of El Salvador and the ABC.

So far the kids have really enjoyed the work they have been doing, creating virtual content. Our task for this week to is to build the Art Gallery which will house examples of student work from our El Salvador Month Exposition.

Here is the link to our lessons so far.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Power of Prezi, on Social Bookmarking

This came through on Twitter a few minute ago, from Shamblesguru. The following is not only a great demo about the importance of Social Bookmarking tools Not only does it spotlight one of the best of the bunch- Diigo, but it is also a prime example of how to truly harness the power of Prezi. Just look at how cleverly this presentation has been put together.

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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Using the Collaborative Power of Google Calendars

I finally got my students to begin making use of their Google Calendars this month. We set up the lesson timetables, added interesting calendars, created birthday, friend and team calendars and of course made it all look pretty with cute backgrounds. Animated backgrounds soon became the rage once we discovered we could use GIFs.

All of this was pretty powerful in itself, but then we took things a step further. We created calendars in which to place the different cultural events happening around the country, during September, El Salvador's month of Independence celebrations. The kids invited their classmates to collaborate on their calendars with them and very quickly it became clear that they would be able to get the task done with little hassle, learn about the various events happening around the country and be able to share me into their calendars so I could then print them off  and post them all over the Learning Resources Centre. I was intending to post them all over the school, but dissuaded myself from it due to point number 2 below.

There are two things that would have made this an even more powerful experience:
  1. The cool backgrounds don't transfer across, which I understand as they would overwrite the backgrounds of those who are shared in. There could however be an option to choose between backgrounds for different calendar views and printing.
  2. It would be awesome if we could print off descriptions in month mode or week mode, brief as they may be, so that people would have a better idea of what the events entail. I couldn't find a way to do this, so ours are very basic print outs.
All in all, Google Calendar is a great tool and kids as well as teachers should be encouraged to make better use of it.

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Spring Note-Cool Collaborative Tool

I have been on the outlook for another cool collaborative tool, one that requires a very low learning curve so that students can just jump in and work with it.
Today I finally found a moment to look through my Diigo groups and came across, among many things, Spring Note.

Spring Note is a wikish sort of tool, that is set up with templates for to do lists, members, discussion, and links.  Now,  you could easily set up a wiki template to do the same job, but SpringNote has already done this for you. The options vary depending on the type of notebook you wish to create.
It comes with a nice WYSIWYG editor which allows you to embed code for maps, video and slide shows and more. It certainly is worth a go if you are planning on engaging in work of a collaborative nature.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Moving On

Blogger (service)Image via WikipediaI have finally made the decision to move on.  I  am very thankful to Edublogs for having provided a home for my blog during these past 3 years, but mine remains a free account. As the options have been repeatedly reduced  from free accounts over the last year, so too has my patience with the situation waned. As our school  is a Google Apps institution, it makes better sense for me to move forward with Blogger, which will soon become a part of our Apps Accounts. It also links in nicely with other Google Apps that we use with our blogs at school. In fact I am now officially climbing down, not without pain, from my Edublogs soapbox. I will now be promoting Blogger at school for all new blogs.
Those who already oversee one of our many school Edublogs accounts may also find themselves switching over, unless their departments are on board with shelling out the cash to keep their Edublogs in top form.
If anybody knows of a way to migrate (as some might say backwards) from Edublogs to Blogger, I would really appreciate a brief explanation, or link to a tutorial.
If interested, this is the link to my new blog.
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Friday, 20 August 2010

GarageBand, Jamendo and Creative Commons

Last year a colleague of mine, who is a very accomplished musician, began to use GarageBand for recording and mixing music tracks. This work lead to the creation of an amazing album and didn't stop there. After many hours of hard work he then uploaded the album, entitled Boats on the Bay, to Jamendo. Jamendo is an online musical platform community, that allows artists to upload their work and share it with the world. Listeners have the option to listen online as well as download the music to their computers. Jamendo automatically licenses all work under Creative Commons.

What a fantastic example of a teacher using digital technology to create, publish and share their work through one of the many great web services available. Not only is his work now published online for all to enjoy, but our students are able to access it along with all the other albums on the site, for use in their digital projects. You can imagine how exciting it must be for them to be able to use the published works of one of their very own teachers. The next step will be to focus on getting students involved in composing, recording and publishing their own masterpieces.

I have included a link to the album.  Please feel free to listen in.

Boats on the Bay1.200

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Back to School Resolutions

Screen shot 2010-08-12 at 11.47.36 AM

My action plan for 2010-11 is pretty jam packed and possibly over ambitious. It would be impractical to mention it all, but when I think about the upcoming school year, certainly several goals come to mind.

  1. 3D Constructions-Sketchup is a powerful program offered by Google for Free. It is fairly user friendly and allows for  design and construction in 3D. The 3D Warehouse is full of great pieces that can be added to furnish, landscape and basically embellish work. The possibilities are endless really. All one needs is a topic that would be greatly enhanced through it use. One that comes to mind is an English unit which has students design an author's room, as the culminating activity in an author study.

  2. The virtual worlds I want to use with my students are: Quest Atlantis -has some new units that would be perfect for work in Life Skills, Second Life, Google Maps and Earth to continue with the  virtual tours work we did last year (Did you know you can embed code into Google Earth text boxes!), Reaction Grid for working on in-world 3D thematic constructions, and possibly a compilation of a student gallery.

  3. Collaborative Projects are going to be big for us this year both internally and in conjunction with other schools. I met quite a few wonderful educators at ISTE who have already started the ball rolling on this by linking up their teachers with us. The next step is to begin pairing up teachers and projects at both ends. There are so many options for this: wikis, blogs, Nings, Elluminate, Skype, not to mention all the Google Apps.

  4. Programming with Scratch with 7th and 8th grades-We began this last year and made quite a bit of headway. We are now in a position to push up the Scratch learning curve for both teachers and students.

  5. PLN's for staff-Okay this is terribly ambitious and I don't expect to get everyone on board, but there are now certain members of staff who are ready to take this next important step in lifelong learning.

  6. We will need to continue to support current reading club through our Reading Club wiki and find new ways to promote reading with students.

  7. Update and expand the LRC, ABCICT and Web Fluency wikis and make best use of them with staff and students and parents. These sites are important learning hubs, full of activities and resources as well as one of your main means of communication with the school community.

  8. Continue with our push on information literacy for students, and bring new staff members on board.

  9. Continue work with student digital portfolio wikis and ensure that staff members are aware and on board with making best use of them.

It is all about teamwork and careful planning. Teachers are key to this, and the greater the variety the richer experiences become. It is also time to get the kids on board at the planning level whenever possible. When they have a hand in directing their learning powerful things happen. I have huge expectations for the upcoming school year and look forward to all the challenges and successes and yes even the odd failures when they occur. It is all part of the learning experience.
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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

ISTE: After the Conference

ISTE always leaves me with a ton of new ideas crashing around inside my head. This year was no exception.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Google came out on top for me this year. Google Lit trips, whether those already created or those we create ourselves, will provide an important next step in using Google Maps  and Earth to enhance our book studies and digital story telling across subjects. I didn't know you could embed text in Google Earth Place-marks! Just imagine the things you can add to your stories and tours with such an option. Voki and Blabberize narrators come to mind immediately. Here is a link for Google Earth for Educators for further exploration.

Google Search Stories was a new one for me. I have to wonder why I haven't come across it before. What a novel way to tell a story using Google Search!

I lined up for and was lucky to enough to get into the Google Wave BYOL Session, without a ticket (Yes it is possible and I did it a few times for different sessions, during the conference.). I learned a bit more about using bots with Wave for translations and other purposes. This is great as  I am hoping to use Wave as a collaborative platform this coming year with grades 6-8, but only after carefully planning out the structure.

Other things that got my mind revving were GPS and Google Forms for storytelling (choose your own adventure types, scavenger hunts). Now I have never used GPS before and have decided to face my fear and give it a whirl, but I have used Google Forms a lot, never however, in the ways the Google people where demonstrating. By adding pages you can incorporate many different routes within the same form for your students to follow. This is very cool indeed!

One of my fellow Poster Presenters reminded me about Webspiration, a great online idea mapper which allows for uploading media and collaboration, questioning, comments and chat. After a bit of digging around I realised I actually had an account with Webspiration!  I am now ready to say goodbye to my other mind mapping apps and welcome  Webspiration with open arms. Thank You Kevin from New Zealand!

There are too many sessions that I would have like to have attended, most clashed with other things I had to do. I haven't really mentioned Keynotes or Poster sessions which were equally as powerful as the other sessions I attended. Really a team approach is necessary for optimization of the ISTE experience, but the amount of learning and number of connections that are created for even one person at this conference, are guaranteed to stir the educational pot and get things moving at any school.
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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Coming to an End

It is the end of the school year, only a few more weeks to go. A time for relection amidst reports, grades and special activities.

When I look back on sy09/10,  I feel a  sense of amazing accomplishment for our school. This past year our students and teachers made incredible strides, in working with technology as part of their teaching and learning endeavors.

During this past year,  the LRC continued to support departmental and cross curricular projects, as well as teach normal ICT and web fluency lessons, but amidst this, something out of the ordinary occurred! On many occasions Teachers and students arrived, ready to work on  an array of web 2.0 and digital media projects, with the skills to implement them- and this is the clincher- with little or no support.

We have gone from a point of steep learning curves to a lesser incline in which our staff and students are comfortable with current technology. We as a school are now  building upon our new found skills and utilising well stocked digital toolboxes, to support and enhance learning across subjects.

Students are in a position to choose between a multitude of applications and tools, finding the one that is just right for their work. At any given time they may be creating a video, podcast, cartoon strip, writing a Scratch program or creating a Prezi all for the same assignment. What's phenomenal  about this  is not that they can use the tools, but that they are taking their own approaches, choosing amongst appropriate applications, while embarking on these learning journeys. Equally as exciting is the fact that teachers are allowing,  no- encouraging them, to do so. We have reached a point in which students can take the first steps in directing aspects of their own learning, and teachers are fine with this.

I have been working on my End of Year Headmaster's Report (which is probably way too long), over this past week. I found it hard to sit down to it initially, perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that needed including, not knowing where to begin.  As I began going through it however, I felt myself  thrown back in time and immersed in each of the experiences that I was recording. I was awed to see just how much has been accomplished this school year.

I realise that our school's experiences are not totally unique, in fact I would be terribly concerned if this were the case. It is my hope that my colleagues around the world are taking a moment from busy schedules to reflect on their school year, whether half way through or finishing up for the year.  I would hope that they are overcome by smiles and a sense of pride in their institutions, when they too realise just how  incredible their school's journeys  have been.
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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Presentation-Research Using Social Networks

Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I will be presenting a poster session on the Research Project I did using Social Neworks,  at  ISTE 2010. I have included  a brief description of the topics I hope to discuss during the presentation.


In this presentation we will discuss the the educational potential of Diigo as a learning network, showing participants how to set up and manage student learning groups, collect in homework digitally and encourage student collaboration through the creation of a learning network.In working with Diigo, we will look at: social bookmarking to groups, use of tags, highlighting and sticky notes, comments, following and being followed.


I hope to demonstrate some ways in which students can use Twitter to take research notes and share them with others in their groups, using hash tags.  We will look at other alternative to Twitter, as well as the pros and cons of using each with students.

NoodlbeBib and EasyBib

I plan on sharing our experiences with using NoodleBib for generating citation lists, paraphrasing and creating outlines and discuss EasyBib as an free/paid alternative for generating citations.


We will finish by looking at Prezi as a powerful presentation application, with a focus on how it can support presentation reform and empower students to create interactive presentations.
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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Earth Day is Coming Soon

Earth Day Canada logo
Image via Wikipedia

Easter is over, spring break has officially ended and the next big focus is Earth Day, coming up on April 22nd. For the second time in a row our school will be celebrating it as a part of Earth Week.

During Earth Week classes from across the school find interesting ways to focus on taking better care of the Earth. As well, short workshops are run each day after school for students and teachers. Last year we worked on making recycled bottle blocks, recycled paper creations, we held a butterfly release, worked out our carbon footprints and planted a tree in front of the Learning Resources Centre. This year we are hoping to create a recycled materials structure with the help of students and teachers from across the school.

While thinking about this, I felt compelled to begin compiling list of great Earth Day resources for teachers and students. The initial work is now parked on our LRC Website with new additions due shortly. These sites contain a rich variety of interactives, videos, photo galleries and lesson plans. Most of these are for 6-12 but there are a few lesson plans and resources for Primary school teachers and students too.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Google Custom Search Tool-Hats off to Google Yet Again!

Yet another reason to adore Google!!!

I have just come across a spectatular way to create pathfinders for students. Leave it to Google to empower use with such a simple yet potent tool.  I am referring to Google Custom search. Screen shot 2010-03-24 at 9.04.01 AM

Through Custom Search Google enables you to create two different types of search tools, one that includes only sites you specify, and one that focuses on sites you specify, but also searches the rest of the web.  Basically you determine your search topic, websites to search within, keywords, and yes you can alter its look as well. Once done the embedding code is made available along with multiple options to edit and refine your search tool further. Not only that, yes like most things Google, you CAN collaborate on it.

I was playing around with a very rudimentary WW2 timeline and picture pathfinder which I have embedded below. Anyone feel like collaborating on it?


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Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gabcast and Podcasts

The icon used by Apple to represent Podcasting.
Image via Wikipedia

I have been on the lookout for a place to host our student produced podcasts for quite some time now. Originally I intended to use a blog  for this as the podcasts could be uploaded as posts and RSS'd. I've changed my mind!

I've started to read  Toys to Tools by Liz Kolb, and in doing so came across Gabcast. Gabcast is great for uploading podcasts from phones, it allows you to create different channels, but more importantly it allows you to upload your podcast episodes, painlessly.

I have just started to use Gabcast, but I like what I have seen so far.

Did I say you can also link to and embed your podcast episodes?
(A word of advice, set the height of the podcast player to 90 instead of the default 76 or the play button may not be visible.)

ABCICT #1 - Welcome to the ABCICT Podcast Channel

Our Welcome Message

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Virtual Field Trips

Second Life
Image via Wikipedia

I have long been fascinated by the potential that Second life and other virtual worlds hold for educational activities including virtual field trips.

Whyville is great for the younger kids. It gives them the chance to get used to virtual worlds, in a safe teacher manageable environment and provides plenty of educational activities for students and teachers to engage in. Many of our 6th grade students took to  it so much last school year, that they would log in from home when it wasn't a homework assignment and meet up to work on different activities with their friends.

Quest Atlantis is another virtual world that offers students carefully scaffolded learning quests to embark on as they work their way through different teleport locations. I've done the required courses and am excited about taking a group in. We are hoping to begin with a class of teachers who we think will be inspired enough to build quests into their curriculum.

I came across Reaction Grid very recently and have only begun to investigate its potential for working with students, but there are already a lot of great destinations to visit. My impression from my very limited experience of it, is that many teachers at present are using it for learning about construction in virtual 3D worlds. I would love to hear from people who are using it successfully with their students.

Second Life (including the teen grid)!  Wow comes to mind every time I think of it. I have been using Second Life on and off for the last 2 years, mostly as a way of learning how to get around on the grid, attending workshops and investigating what is available. I left it for about 6 months and when I returned Wow had become WOW!!! There are so many new places to discover, meet at and learn from. I tend to fixate on applications that wow me and Second Life has certainly stolen a  large chunk of my attention lately.

Once hooked anew, I decided to continue with my previous quest of searching out destinations with field trip potential. I soon found that the grid had expanded to the point that I needed to begin cataloging in some shape or form the many destinations I came across. Enter wikispaces, my all time favourite for wikis. Its nice to know that whenever you need to bring content together in one place you can quickly create yourself a parking lot using a wiki.

My hope is that the wiki will become more than a parking lot however. I would like to see it grow, and am hoping that others interested in virtual worlds will help me with that.  So far I have put everything together on this page, which is expanding  so quickly,  I might need to begin linking off of it soon, to new pages for housing content. If you are at all interested in virtual worlds in education and virtual field trips in Second Life, please take a look at the links I have gathered and request access to the wiki, so we can build the collection together.
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Monday, 1 March 2010

What We Hope is an Exceptional Resource

Screen shot 2010-03-01 at 10.42.41 AM

Our LRC website was created to house a rich assortment of teaching tools, student resources, picture and video galleries and more.
The main interface is a pictorial, user friendly Glog embedded in a wiki. The Glog allows designers to link images and text to web pages and can be embedded on most sites.

Within the LRC Website community members can access, virtual bookshelves, which highlight new arrivals, and link to user reviews. They can also enjoy a great assortment of e-books from many different collections.

Community members can find collections of web tools, for editing photos, working with audio and video, as well as access digital image, video, and audio collections. Many of the resource in these collections are licensed for reuse and remixing into digital projects.

There are times when community members might want to request a resource for the LRC library. Our website offers an easy solution to this by hosting a request for resources section. Using this option members of the community can ask for books and magazines as well as other resources to be included in the yearly orders.  These requests will be reviewed by LRC staff members several times a year.

It is easy to browse the current library collection online. This includes not only books, but magazines as well. ABC users, and people from around the world, are able to check which resources the library contains and which copies are available for checking out.

Keeping up to date with happenings at the LRC is also quite easy. Regular reminders and information updates are issued through the LRC Twitter stream and Voki services, on the right side bar.

Community news and events are also posted weekly and can be found under the News Section. The LRC Events Calendar is embedded in the website for easy browsing of upcoming orders and events.

In house video and photo galleries are available for viewing and the Ustream link will take interested parties to live streaming of LOL’s Friday shows.

The research section provides students and teachers with important guidelines and resources for teaching and learning, as does the section on presentation guidelines.

Don’t be surprised if the main page changes a bit throughout the year. It’s to be expected, as relevant links to topical or new initiatives are added.

Some LRC Quick Links

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Thursday, 25 February 2010

My Wish Lists for Diigo and SimplyBox

I love Diigo and can't live without SimplyBox.

Diigo is there for me in so many ways. Bookmarks are just the beginning. It is my new lifeline to Delicious (my backups of all backups), my research central, a big part of my PLN, and a vital teaching tool. I love the ease of bookmarking and annotating, sending to Twitter is also a perk. That said there are  a few things I would really like to see in Diigo.

  1. Bookmarking to multiple groups- So often I would like to bookmark to several groups at a time, but can't. This means bookmarking once for each group.

  2. Easy list construction using tag bundles or something similar-I am too far gone with my bookmarking to go back into each one and add it to a list. Tag bundles are a great way to easily bring in content to a list. Can we have that please?

  3. Easy user searches within groups- I use Diigo groups for teaching research and when I want to see what each member of the group has contributed, I would like to be able to search out that member, and have all the content they have added to the group appear. As it stands I need to go to each member's library or scroll through pages of group bookmarks and comments.

  4. Citation Generator-Diigo would be the perfect tool for teaching research skills if it had a citation generator similar perhaps to Noodle Tools.

  5. Sending to Twitter-might be a bit easier if the actual tweet was based on the description section of the bookmark. It would be important for this to remain editable of course, in order to keep things succinct.


SimplyBox is my Digital Teacher Toolkit. Only the best of the best gets in there, tools which I know I am going to use or recommend to others in our school, now or later on in the school year. I am very careful about its organisation and am trying to ensure that bookmarks have decent, if somewhat brief comments and a workable tag system. I love the fact that I can share my public url's directly to Twitter as well as on websites and with friends. Again, there are some changes that I think would make it ever more fantastic.

  1. Sub Boxes or Boxes within Boxes-Presently I have things organised into crates which contain boxes, but I now feel the need to have a boxes within boxes in order to keep things organised in a hierarchy.

  2. Shared Boxes-When having students share their boxes with me (They use it for collborative research much in the same way we use Diigo Groups.)I receive the emails, but only certain boxes actually appear as shared in my account.

  3. Boxing to Multiple Boxes-Just like with Diigo, I would live to be able to box to several boxes simultaneously. At present I need to bookmark to each box separately.

  4. Copy and Paste-I would like to be able to copy and paste bits and pieces of text from the comments box to the tags, twitter etc...instead of typing things out each time. It would be a real time saver if we could have this option.

Both of these applications are fantastic tools that no teacher or student should go with out. If you haven't checked them out yet, you are truly missing out on the organizational and collaborative power they offer. If used effectively both applications can act as the foundation for teacher digital toolkit as well as  potent teaching tools.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Safety, The Rules Have Changed and Then There's Facebook

Look both ways before you cross the street! Don't talk to strangers!  Some safety rules haven't changed at all, but the arena in which they are practiced has.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

It's Internet Safety Week at our school and we decided it had to be a whole school event this year, which basically means that the majority of grades are directly involved somehow. In the Secondary School we have put together a series of mini lessons for form time, most of which contain short video clips, and hopefully lead to plenty of discussion. There are so many great resources out there to choose from, that we have been able to provide a fairly rich array of experiences for the kids. During the week we are also running assemblies for each grade which focus on web presence and safety settings. There is a clever video from the CEOP which we use in the assemblies and  which really gets the message across and spurs kids into action, when it comes to their online presence.  This leads me to Facebook.

We are aware that many of our students under the age of 13 have Facebook accounts, but do their parents know?  Let's face it, the kids are there for the apps and the cool factor! During our assemblies this week (after the video) a short demonstration is given on how to apply safer settings in Facebook, right at the point when the kids are starting to really worry about the information they have posted online. I've uploaded the presentation (which is not  mindblowing or terribly pretty, just a set of slides taking you through the process of adjusting your different settings). This presentation has also been posted on our ABCICT wiki by student request.  The response so far has been good. Kids are looking for help in adjusting their privacy settings.

So what message are we sending out? The message is simple. We know you may have a facebook account and if you are under 13 you shouldn't. Your parents need to be aware of it, be able to monitor your use of it and you need to ensure your behaviour is safe. We are not condoning it, but rather accepting that this is the case and trying to cover all bases in keeping  everyone safe. What's missing then? The parents of course.

Parents for whatever reasons are often unaware of the extent of their child's online activities and let's face it, kids (and other people) will lie about their age to get what they want, in this case an account.  Parents themeselves are an essential link in all of this. They need to be aware of the situation, regardless of their child's age, talk to their child about their experiences online, help them monitor friend lists, privacy settings and reinforce appropriate online behaviour.  Parents need to know. Sometimes its hard to get the message out.  In our case the school has started an online newsletter, which  intended specifically for the purpose of opening up the issues by informing and supporting parents in keeping their kids safe.

When you are focused on something like this good things often make their way to you. Just this afternoon a tweet came through on TweetDeck about a Facebook Safety blog post by Laura Deisley. Perfect! I've included it in this post as it contains an excellent set of guidelines for helping parents sort out their child's safety settings.

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Book Blurbs

In an effort to further promote reading, the ABC has added a new component to its Library Programme, called Book Blurbs.

The Book Blurb programme is intended to cover a range of reading objectives through the promotion of student written book recommendations.
In using this new system we hope to support students in achieving the following literature related goals, while promoting reading school wide.

1. Identify genre preferences.  2. Reflect and report on reading.   3. Justify responses to literature.    4.Read independently.   5. Identify, enjoy and appreciate
books.  6.Actively search out books which are appropriate to interests and learning needs.  7. Use personal reading experiences to form opinions and recommend books.

To participate, students will need to fill in a special form, available in the LRC, and place it in an envelope on the inside cover of the book they are recommending. It's that simple.
Book Blurbs will continue all year long. The forms and envelopes are available at the circulation desk for student use. A copy of the form has also been placed on the Library websites, for easy access from home.

Of course its easy to think up a new program. Promoting it and maintaining momentum is, of course, another story. In the Primary School Book Blurbs is running initially as a competition for students, which has placed it in the limelight. Speaking to students about it in assemblies and through daily messages, as well as encouraging them to use the system when taking out or dropping off books, should hopefully help as well.
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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Our Non Traditional Library

Our Learning Resources Centre/Library could never be called quiet or traditional. There is always something going on and more than likely lots of things going on all at once, and the noise level reflects this. In fact the learning that goes on here is a far cry from that of the regular four walled classroom, and that's just perfect. Our teachers are quite comfortable with this and the students take to it naturally. The facility remains heavily booked each week.

While some directed teaching still takes place during introductions to lessons, the majority of the learning happens out on the floor of the LRC, as individuals and groups  supported by their teachers, pursue their various tasks at the iMacs, using laptops, and an array of other digital equipment.

Our latest addition to the library are some very comfy beanbag chairs. It's definitely high on the cool meter to hear the exclamations, "BEAN BAGS"(even from the older ones) and observe the students getting as comfortable as possible, as they embark on the important business of learning.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Scratch Wows (No I Haven't Fallen off the face of the Planet-yet!)

I have been all over the place, virtually since the Christmas Break ended and haven't had much time to write about it. At least that is the excuse I have been giving myself for my lack of focus in sitting down and reflecting.

I wanted to come back to Scratch for a moment however, and discuss wow moments.,

We finished up our scratch unit just before Christmas with the 7th grade students. These kids really enjoyed their Scratch experience and created some interesting projects to tinker with. The majority of these projects have now been uploaded to the ABCICT Scratch Gallery.

The wow moment with 7th grade was when the kids came in in the second lesson and wanted to get to their projects immediately. It was fantastic to see just how motivated they were, and be able to work closely with them in supporting the range of projects in the works. It was very much a case of students taking what they had learned and moving in their own directions. This  lead them to further learning experiences uniquely tailored to their own interests and programming requirements.

Scratch definitely provides for differentiation based not not only the individual's ability, but also personal preferences.

The second wow moment came the day after I introduced Scratch to one 8th grade class. A student came up to me after school to tell me how cool he thought the program was and to ask for help. After the first lesson, he had set himself the task of creating a Mario Bros. type game and was working on movement, jumps, sprite broadcasting and costume changes. Just to clear things up, we worked on creating and editing sprites in the first lesson.  We sat together for about 30 min, during which time he eagerly grasped a new set of skills that would place him 2 lessons ahead of the rest of his class. Scratch is a natural when it comes to extension work.

Other wows have occurred in both grades in different ways, but I would have to say that the eagerness with which the kids anticipate working on their projects, combined with the variance in style, and direction that Scratch provides for, are perhaps two of the most notable.

Plans are now in the works for a Scratch extra-curricular class, which will focus on exploration and collaboration on projects. The power here is that students will be  teachers as well as learners.     .