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Thursday, 13 December 2012

7th Grade Animations

7A and 7C have successfully completed their digital animation work for the year. They created their animations using digital cameras and tripods, webcams, and iPads. They were given the choice of  using the following techniques: Pixilation, Stop Motion, Paper Puppets and drawing.

Toki Line test, iStopMotion and Animation Desk were used to produce the animation footage, once the storyboarding was done. The videos were edited on iMovie on the iMacs.  They had a lot of fun working with new applications and and trying things out with the different techniques. They also got a chance to reinforce previous chromakey work using the green  and blue screens. Have a look at some of their finished videos.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Favourite iPad Animation Apps

This is a guest post by my colleague, Rodrigo Alfaro, based on our animation work with iPads this school year.

We recently purchased a dozen iPads for teacher and student use in the LRC. These iPads are used for many tasks, including animation. We have found a great many useful apps for animation which we hope others will find useful as well.

  Animation Desk Lite for iPad This app has the most features for classical (drawn) animation. Its greatest limitation is that you can only create three scenes in the Lite version. Even so, it is quite a robust application; it includes different pen and brush types, multiple layers of animation, variable frame rates, onion-skinning and even a digital stamp tool which allows you to cut and paste as well. This application is ideal for patient students who have a drawing vocation and enough passion to pursue the completion of one project for a period of time. This application also feels more intuitive if you use a stylus to draw. Animation Desk will allow you to save a scene to the Photo Library (Camera Roll) as a movie, which can then be emailed or exported to a computer with the USB cable.

This application is designed for pixilation (sequential picture) sequences. The interface is very simple to use and understand, because as soon as you open the program there is a small tutorial which guides you through the basic functions of the app. When a clip is created, the front or back camera is activated and you can start shooting right away. The tricky part is to keep the ipad as still as possible, so the animation is not jarring and inconsistent. Often times, the best method involves placing the iPad in a static position in front of where the action will take place. Since this is a purchased app, there is no limit to the amount of scenes available to shoot. You also have the option to play back the animation at different speeds. When your sequence is done, you can export to the Photo Library and email your movie from there.

Animation Express
 This application is simple to use. It is very similar in style to Animation Desk, but the interface is less complicated. Even so, it is powerful enough to be able to do rotoscoping (drawing on pictures). It includes 2 modes: the regular drawing mode (which includes, brushes, colour swatches, a stamp tool and a smudge tool), as well as the animating mode, (which includes adding, subtracting or duplicating frames, variable frame rate, a sound recorder and export functionality to get your video out of the ipad and unto a computer. Other features (with the free version) include a shape tool, a Paint Bucket tool which is used to paint large areas of your drawing. This program is accessible and simple enough for those who find Animation Desk too complicated.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Favourite Extension and App

I have a huge list of favourite extensions and apps that I love. My Chrome address bar is now minuscule as the result of me adding so many favourite Chrome extensions to my account.

There are only a few extensions in particular however, that I use many times a day without fail. Diigo is definitely one of them. I won't go into that now as I have written about it in the past.

Post to Blog
Diigo Groups for Student Content
My Wish Lists for Diigo and SimplyBox(now defunct)

Evernote clipper is one I plan on using more often, but funny enough one of my most useful extensions is the seemingly measly little shortener. Now there are plenty of shortener extensions and apps out there, but this one has been with me from the on start and it works every single time. It is not only reliable, but fast and it generates a little QR code along with the shortened URL. It is this QR code that is so important to me.

Big deal you might say. QR codes are everywhere, they're certainly not new, so what is the big deal? Timeliness and reliability are both important here. I work on both a Mac and an iPad each day as do our students. Emailing links, or even bookmarking and then accessing them on Diigo (which I love) or tweeting them for example, seems to take too long, too many seconds spent opening up applications. Really,  I don't necessarily want these particular links taking up space in my Diigo account etc. Often we need the link in a pinch, while in the midst of a project.  At other times we generate them in advance, to use in directing the kids to starter activities, or as components of our online lessons.  We use one of my favourite iPad apps, i-nigma, to capture these QR Codes.

I have been loving this system for a while and decided that it deserves sharing.

Hold on....i-nigma is another application to open up, so why am I whinging about lost time?

The question is easily answered by answering another...Why do I love it?
It is free, it loads immediately, it is extremely reliable and it captures the QR Code without any kerfuffle. I don't even have to really focus it with the mobile device. I have stood at the front of my classroom and basically waved my iPad across the screen and it captures the code!!!

Getting a link to the iPad in a flash:
Basically what I do is generate the QR Code on the Mac and open it with i-nigma, that other app I absolutely love to bits. This opens it on the iPad where I can then use it in whatever project we are working on. This is great for working with citations of images the kids may have collected and sharing important links with each other.

Generating a link for starters or further investigation:
All you need to do is generate a QR code for the poll, reading selection, video etc, that you are using as a starter and having it up on your computer when the kids come in, ready to capture. I open mine in preview and they zoom very nicely, so even the kids at the back of the room can capture them with ease if needed.

Capturing on the spur of the moment:
Sometimes you may have reason to go off on a tangent and really want to share something with them for later followup or discussion. Just go to the page you want to share. Activate the extension and have a qr code for them to scan.

i-nigma is free for iPad, Android and Windows Phone, and shortner is a free extension from the Chrome Store,so there is no reason not to try it out.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

It's a Rap-A Better World Project

Two of my fellow ICT teachers and myself will be presenting our A Better World Project at the Global Education Conference, this Wednesday at 3:00 Central time. Do pop in if you get a chance and learn more about how your students can learn more about global issues through collaborative writing, audio and video work.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

GTA 6 Month Reflection

It has been 6 months since I had the pleasure of attending the Google Teacher Academy in London. I learned a great many new things at the Academy, many of which I have been able to apply in my teaching and also pass on to teachers at my school and those in my community. It is a great feeling to be a part of this process, sharing ideas with others and watching them get excited about them. It is often the  little things that make an impact. People find them easier to take on and are usually keen in identifying those skills, or tools that they can make best use of.

As part of the  GCT process I had to draw up an action plan. I could have chosen to create a teaching website but I already had one, or the training that I do at school, but again that would have been cheeky of me as teaching and supporting teachers is part of my job. We were asked to choose something that would make a difference, change the world so to speak. I had received a proposal from an NGO in Canada to help establish a learning lab for underprivileged students living in the countryside, in El Salvador. That is what I chose to build my action pan around.

Things don't always turn out quite as expected. We had big dreams for the lab and still do, however our initial ideas have been put on hold.  It has been difficult find a safe location for the lab, that also provides easy access for the students. Instead we have focussed our energy on working with the teachers who will be using the lab once it comes to be.

We are programmed to begin our first Saturday session this coming Friday, and will meet once a month for training sessions, until Christmas. After that our meetings will take place once every 3 months. I have set up a progression of topics that we are going to focus on and produced a schedule for them. We will begin with communication and collaboration and culminate in working on setting up an online presence for the teachers to use with their students and community.

Here is the progression for the project:

Change does not come easily. It requires patience and plenty of hard work. Forgive the cliche, but it is often true that even the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. In this case I have taken a detour and am following a detour I had planned to travel slightly later on in the process. My action plan will take at least a year to bring full circle and their is plenty to be done during that time. 

What makes it worth the effort is the enthusiasm of the individuals involved, those helping to make the change happen, either as teachers or supporters and those who through this process will be the ones to bring about a multitude of change, as they take their learning back and implement their ideas in their own schools and classrooms. 

I will be reflecting on this journey as we progress through it during this year, and am excited to be able to share our milestones with anyone who is interested in reading about them. 

Friday, 28 September 2012

It is Theatre Week at the LRC

Students are invited to come along to the mask making workshops after school in the LRC each day to make cool masks and even help prepare a short performance! 

They are also encouraged look at the Who Said That? posters outside of the LRC. 

A few of them are included below. Can you figure out which theatrical character spoke those words?

Students can record their answers on the papers provided and add their own favourite theatrical quotes to the empty speech bubble posters.

Happy Theatre Week!

It is Banned Books Week this Week?

It is Banned Books Week this Week! Many books are banned each year and it has been this way throughout history. What is censorship? Why do people and organisations ban books? 

Do you agree or disagree with this practice? Does the LRC ban books? 

Follow this link if you would like to know more and check out the banned books display in the LRC. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Starting a New SY With iPads

The new school year has begun and brought with it our New iPads. We have also received the sync station and the Griffin covers. We did not purchase a sync cart even though we  needed storage, as most of what we found was very expensive, even before the cost of shipping them to El Salvador. We decided to refit an old laptop trolley for them  instead, by a sync/charge tray from Parasync and see how it went.  I have included a picture of our set up so far.

We have since spent many hours syncing them to iTunes accounts, identifying and adding new apps, trying to create new iTunes accounts for each one, and failing miserably.  We have also spent a lot of time basically setting them up with email accounts, itunes accounts, restrictions and folders.

Syncing: This took a while the first time as we were doing 10 at a time, using the sync tray and adding over 200 apps to the iPads. I was so grateful for the tray, which cut my work 10 times over, even if it was a long haul.

Organising: We then invited our students in whenever they had free time to help us organise the apps properly for us. We still haven't finished and the reason for that lies with iTunes accounts.

iTunes: I am not sure if it is my lack of experience or if a great many others have similar issues with iTunes. I know from surfing the forums that there are a lot of people out there who have had similar issues with it, but I am not sure if we are in the minority or not.

Unfortunately, at a point during the process,  iTunes blocked us from creating more than 4 accounts for our iPads. Now we really want everything to be on the up and up with this, really there is no other option, yet we still can't create the accounts through which to purchase apps. This means that we have had to delay and modify some of the plans we had for the devices, for the time being. We contacted Apple, and they said they would help us find a solution. They suggested we gift them to our other devices, which is something we too had considered. Unfortunately after doing so, we have yet to receive the confirmation emails for this. All is not lost, I have a screenshot of the purchases we made.

Since we were moving to gifting the Apps I decided to create an account in iTunes for each remaining iPad that didn't link to a credit card, since that route was now blocked. Lo and behold, the None option is now missing, forcing anyone who wants to create an account to link it to a credit card. Again I am not the only one experiencing this issue.

Let me just say at this point how much I love my iPad and how excited I am to have a set (albeit a small set) to use with our students. Despite all the obstacles so far, I am still convinced we can make this fly, and fly high! We knew there would be growing pains when we did this.  I just wish Apple would make it a lot easier for Educators in countries outside of the US to purchase apps. At present we don't qualify for their volume purchase plan. 

We are just beginning our pilot and so far it has been very successful. We are using the iPads for animation work, QR Code scavenger hunts, and will be using them for research and note taking as well as class starters and brainstorming, very shortly. We have plenty of other ideas for using this versatile tool and are busily adding them to our schemes of work. I am hoping to be able to report back on the process again very soon.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

ISTE Reflections

ISTE 12 Reflections

Reflecting on the ISTE 12 experience and comparing it to prior ISTE’s I have attended.

My experiences this year were in many ways similar to those at preceding conferences. There was little time to stop and reflect, eat, and see a lot of the sessions I had earmarked as interesting. It was easier to get around the convention centre than the centres in Philly and Denver and  It was really nice to have the Bloggers Café upstairs in the Sails Pavilian along with the various sig playgrounds. These were important venues for  meet ups and networking.  I attended a variety of sessions and presented on a variety of topics, and while the large venue, lecture style presentations are often very informative and occasionally entertaining, their impact on my learning was overshadowed by the networking opportunities, discussions, and sharing that went on in more informal sessions, meet ups and social activities. My PLN has once again exploded. I look at my travel envelope and there is a certain absence of business cards, both my own which ran out in just one session and those of others, QR Codes, twitter and the reinforcement and expansion of preexisting  professional relationships  were key elements this time around. A shift has certainly happened for me and it  has been building since ISTE 11 in Philly.

There were an estimated 20 000  attendees this year and  while that seems and is a huge number of people, it didn’t prevent me from constantly running into people I knew, many of them from previous conferences. It felt good to further solidify our relationships, share new ideas for project work and tighten those professional links even further.  My conference experience was not about the big name speakers and their sessions, it was about building my branch of our learning community, with professionals, both big name and not.

I was so fortunate in being able to present 3 poster sessions which were heavily attended and work at both the Google and digital AV Playgrounds with Sigms. While time consuming and taxing  at times (I spoke for 10 hours  total often 2-4 hours at a time.) These were some of the most important ISTE12 moments for me.

That said this reflection would be incomplete without reference to some of the other sessions I was at as an attendee..   So here it goes directly from my Evernote  notebook.

About Evernote: I decided that it was time to take that plunge and do more than tinker with it.  I forces myself to use Evernote alongside Diigo and Twitter to record important experiences and finds and I have to admit that it was for the most part a great decisions.  I am going to ensure that I not only use it  often and with purpose but promote its use with other professionals  and students that I work with.

Now back to what I found. Here is a listing of all the resources that I collected during the conference that I thought notable. Some of these have been around for a while, but are worth being reminded about.

Google Docs Tutorials for Teachers
 This resource is designed to help educators and staff learn how to effectively use Google Docs.

Learn 360 Suscription Resources Online
Interactive media on demand service

Resources and lesson plans online for free

Kathy Schrock's Resources for Everything

Ask a question and invite friends or colleagues.
Collect ideas and vote for your favourite.

Edit and add photos to twitter, fb etc...with just one click. 

Manage lessons, engage students, share content, and connect with other educators.

lms social

create poems based on pics

Add physical behavior, rolling, gravity, hinges act…(mac put them into library manually)

Google Presentations idea:
Add hyperlinks as tocs in Google presentations

Form Emailer Script
Use for exit tickets, digital receipt for materials checked out, feedbck durng observation, walk throughs
(tools>script gallery)

Henrique's Site
10 step procedure

integrating Google Forms in to Google sites
Historical voyages and events

Choose your own adventure video using YouTube annotations

Create a Playlist Slam
How to do this.....
select playlist and playlist slam
Make a Coin go Around the World-flip a coin
inserting gadgets in spreadsheets

Google Cloud Connect for Windows users and Google Docs
Set to automatic to save to googl docs.

Gadgets Worth Looking Into
flashcards gadget 
gadges gadget for real time election results
display results

The Writer's Club 
online collaborative writing projects

My Big Campus 
A Site full of resources linked to standards
links to presentation resource live binder

Since ISTE I have come across a great many other resources that I don't want to forget about. They are all in my various Diigo Groups, however I plan to post several of them here too in the next  few days.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Positive Effects of Gaming

This evening as I was wandering through posts on Google+, I came across this post by the Frugal Dad.

Now much of this is not news. Many of us have been hearing for years that gamer's brains are getter at certain tasks and that their are physical differences between brains on games and those not. Most of us are also very aware of the educational benefits of gaming,  but didn't you know that video games were being used for pain management in hospitals?  Did you know that after 21 hours of play a week, the benefits are outweighed by negative impact.  I didn't, not until today, so I thought I would share.

The following Info graphic  is worth looking at, so do scroll down.

Gaming is good for you
Source: Frugal Dad

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

DVA Voting and Tickets

We have now officially closed voting on the DVA Videos. Thank you to everyone who voted on them! Tickets are available in both Secondary offices as well as the Upper Primary Office. Bring your tickets along for free refreshments on the night of the event.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Virtual Worlds in KS3

We have been working in virtual worlds in both 6th and 7th grade this month and it has been a roaring success.  It is a sign that you've hit it right on, when kids don't want to leave a lesson and groan when the bell rings, and this is usually what happens when we teach with virtual worlds.

This is the first year we have used PoraOra virtual world with any of our classes. Prior to this we had always used WhyVille to introduce our students to educational virtual worlds and to teach web safety and netiquette. The people at  PoraOra have worked hard to build educational in-world activities  that are linked to the British Key Skills for KS2. PoraOra is full of fun games that help students review and build their skills across subjects. For our 6th graders most of it is review and practice, and they have great fun doing it.

In 7th grade we are working with Reaction Grid for the second year running. Our 7th grade students are having a great time learning how to get around, exploring different regions and learning how to build in 3D with their avatars. We have even found a bit of time for shopping at Gridizen's market and customising avatars.

So far the building has been very simple as students learn how each basic shape can be modified, how to import textures and how to link prims together to create complex objects. Our objectives are many, learning how to get around, communicate and build in a 3d environment are core. Very soon however we will be applying these new skills in a very special way. Our students are going to research and then commence the construction of an environmentally friendly homestead. They will do so collaboratively with over 100 students working on it in total.

It is a very exciting project and the first time around for us in attempting something so ambitious. We will play it by ear and if needed, slow down and continue it next year. One thing is certain, the students and the teachers working in RG are thrilled with this project as were the 6s were with PoraOra, to the point of ushering a collective groan every time the bell signals the end of the lesson.

      My Horses

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Learning Through Games

This is a great TED Talk on how powerful the the learning is that takes place in when playing MMPOG.
Our World of Warcraft students are a great example of this. The learning that has taken place in-game, since January is exponential. This doesn't even take into account the additional learning they have engaged in through the novel study element of the club.

Games aren't bad and yes books are still good!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Presenting Our WoW Project

Last Saturday we had the privilege of presenting our WoW project at the Social Learning Summit .  My co-presenter, who is a 12th grade WoW expert, and myself were really excited about sharing our experiences and those of our students in the club so far. The session was only 30 minutes long so it was a bit of a rush and we couldn't delve into things too much, but we managed to cover the important points. Hopefully through our sharing session we managed to spark an interest in other teachers.

There are two things that really stand out upon reflection on this project. The first is the ability of a blogging platform to facilitate the writing process, and enable students to collaborate, and teach others as they publish their ideas to the world.  The second is the way in a which a game environment not only helps students in thinking strategically, but also moves them towards directing and resourcing their learning.

Our students, took the initiative and began to research the WoW game. They  made it their business to visit and read through forums and wikis. They searched out and watched videos on the game, and they engaged in important discussions with other more experienced player's. Their appetite for learning kicked in and they became ravenous. Funny enough, at no point were they instructed to do so!

So the question is, if kids can turn on this need to learn more, and the appropriate web search and web evaluation skills are in place, enabling them to locate important resources and teach themselves, then how can we shift or redesign other learning experiences, in order to evoke a similar hunger, a similar response?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Speed Geeking!

On Saturday March 17th The LRC and ICT Committee held the annual T4L or technology for learning morning.
After a lovely breakfast, courtesy of the school, staff were treated to a special keynote session live from London, on  3 trends in education.
Next, everyone engaged in a speed geeking session. Teachers spent 4 minutes at a station in a circuit of 13 stations and moved on to the next station each time the whistle was blown. During each stop they learned about a different T4L tool. Some of the themes included  less traditional teaching and learning tools such as World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Lego and incredibots, as well as newer tools including iPads and digital flip books. There were plenty more amazing ideas shared at this time. They are outlined in the copy of our program below. 
Next, staff members participated in 2 digital playground sessions in which they were able further explore the tools  they were most interested in.We chose two sessions as we had more topics than presenters and this allowed us to swap over between the two.
These were all dynamic learning experience, but what made these sessions even more exciting is that many of them were lead by our ABC students.We had a total of 17 students volunteer to run sessions, both speed geeking and in the digital playground. We gave them some guidelines, talked to them about what they could do and they took it from there. They were fantastic! Many members of staff came up to me after the fact to mention how impressed they were by what the students were doing. 
 A Google Site was created to house content for the session in the form of web pages, one per idea. The initail Google Docs planning was  also transferred over to the site. This included lists of students, activity rotations  and presenters, circulation maps and links to the program. Google Forms were used to collect attendee lists as well as after session feedback from teachers. This particular site is restricted to staff members only, but you can get a taste of some of the sessions by looking at a few of the pages which I cloned for my Inset Wiki.
Please check out our Flickr Set and Facebook Album for more on this great event!     

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Brain on Vidoe Games

I am a proponent of using video games in teaching and learning. I use them with my students and my own children are avid gamers. That said I recognise that I there are various effects, both positive and negative that these types of games can have on the human brain. It is important for everyone, parent, teacher and child, to be aware of these effects. Below you will find an  infographic from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog which outlines some of the effects of video games on the human brain.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Online Gaming

Our kids have grown up with video games that are far more complex than those we were familiar with as children. They love games and understand online gaming environments. It makes sense to get creative and use games to help students learn important skills.

I wasn't always a proponent of gaming, in fact it has taken me quite a few years to really understand the positive impact that gaming can have on student learning. This changed when I started an after school WoW club. (There are other elements to this club besides the game, such as reading, reflecting and blogging.) It has proven to be a powerful experience for both myself and my students. Upon reflection of the work they have done in in WoW and our journey together (I play along with them), I am impressed at what we have accomplished.

By the end of our first lesson, we were all teaching, supporting and sharing our experiences, guiding each other, as we engaged in discovery through exploration and role play. Students began guiding their own learning, through discussions and quests with others in our class and other players in the game. They used all the resources at their disposal, game wikis, YouTube tutorials and more, without prompting, and became part of a larger learning community as they sought out connections with others. This in itself is a huge leap forward. The kids were driving their learning experiences, determining their own paths, resourcing their support and extension and building learning networks.

There is a lot learning that goes on in an online game. I made a point of taking a few minutes each week to reflect on my own learning experiences. I wanted to better understand what learning processes the students were going through during those experiences. They were reading, following instructions, building strategies, seeking solutions, collaborating with others, and learning from mistakes, while utilising online safety strategies. Aren't these skills we want to help our students develop?

The strategies the students developed throughout their journeys were often a result of the conditions and obstacles they encountered. Their quests, dungeons and group work, required not only travel strategies, but strategies to aid them in coping with other adversities along the route, recognition of obstacles, their locations and how best to deal with them. They had to employ good communication, netiquette and internet safety skills in dealing with other players within the game, while traveling and participating in team based activities. Students had to use their number skills to collect and trade goods, work with experience points while finding ways to level up as well as deal with training requirements. In-world reading was a major focus of the game, as students read through quest descriptions and followed instructions. Students applied their mapping and compass skills, determined routes and means of transportation, depending on topography. These were not skills directly taught in the club, instead students were supported in navigating the virtual world.

It is an eye opening experience for a teacher, who has spent many years, devoted to planning, resourcing and teaching lessons, to realise that with the right venue, students are capable of and motivated to drive their own learning in these ways. I think it only reconfirms that we need to get more creative and take risks, offer more options, give the kids a say, loosen up the reigns a bit, and embrace our roles as facilitators of learning.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The February Newsletter is Out!

Please click on the image below to access the full newsletter.  We hope you enjoy it. We would love to hear back from you, so please take a minute to write us a comment.

Mrs. Garcia

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Research Skills-No Excuses

Research skills can be tricky to teach. When you sit down to think about it, the term research skills is a bit of an umbrella, encompassing so many important skills.

When considering the research process, strategies and tools for searching come to mind.  I have been teaching this for 4 years, but still wonder how I can better teach kids to be effective and efficient seekers of information. What strategies can we use and what tools are available? Throughout this stage of the process determining the quality, relevance and reliability and fairness of sources (see filter bubbles) and  is also imperative. Evaluation skills are brought into the mix.

It is important that students learn how to scan, identify important information and separate it from that which is not, read for understanding and take notes on the information they have found (This in itself is a huge skill to learn.) Before any of this takes place however, students must learn how to structure their research questions, and plan their ideas, so outlining skills need to be taught.

All of this must happen in order for students to use their findings to create something through which to share their understanding. The type of project undertaken will affect the structure and content they will use. But we are not done yet. Students must also be taught to reference their work and somewhere along the line, students must be given the opportunity to reflect on their findings, writing and final project.

It is too late to begin this process in high school. It needs to start much lower down, in elementary school, and through meaningful experiences, preferably before bad habits develop. It needs to be planned for with care and a progression determined. Students won't learn all of these skills in isolation, they should be taught across subjects (where applicable) as part of any research task they undertake. They won't learn them all on their own and may have trouble seeing their worth unless otherwise pointed out to them, strategies taught and plenty of relevant practice provided.

We teach searching skills and evaluation skills, and help equip students with some of the best tools available to do so. We teach them how to take notes and share their findings and ideas with others using Twitter and Diigo. We teach them a great variety of ways in which they can publish and share their work and also focus on delivery to a group. I think about all that we do, and when it is done, knowing how much goes into it, recognising the quality of the work we do and yet I know we don't have it right yet. I have never been as convinced as I am right now that the teaching of research skills needs to begin prior to middle school.

Something happened this past week that had never happened before. I was teaching 6th grade how to use smart searching tools and strategies, evaluate websites and share their sources and annotations socially through Diigo. This was the first time we did this quite so thoroughly with 6th grade and I was blown away. Where the older grades are accepting and basically put up with it prior to many of them reverting back to their old habits, 6th grade embraces this type of  learning, they hunger to try things out and make a huge effort to get the work done, and even take on additional work outside of class time that wasn't required of them.

We are getting closer, 6th grade is the right grade to go full throttle with this, but wouldn't it have been even more powerful if the groundwork were already in place? There would be less direct teaching of research skills and more guided application. This should be an expectation in the 21st century. There are no acceptable excuses for not teaching students to be information literate and doing so not only from the middle years on but from an earlier age.

Here are some links to my favourite tools and resources for teaching these skills.

Diigo-Social bookmarking, annotations and more.
Twitter and Today's Meet-Microblogging Platforms for sharing succinct nuggets of information
EasyBib-for citing work.
21st Century Information Fluency- for teaching searching skills and website evaluation
May Favourite Hoax Sites-Buy Dehydrated Water, Dog Island, The Northwest Tree Ocotpus, and anything    You can find plenty more here and here to choose from.
The Big Six-Framework for teaching and learning research
BrainPop Online Sources(login required)
BrainPop Internet Search (login required)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Augmented Reality and SketchUp

I am in SketchUp mode right now, as we are working with the program in our 8th grade lessons. The students have been given a special task. They are to create a room based on a descriptive piece they wrote in English lessons, entitled a Character's Mind as a  Room.

It's the second time we have done this project in two years the culminating activity for which,  is to create a SketchUp video of the models. Yesterday the plans changed a bit something new and exciting appeared on the horizon. I came across a slide share presentation posted by Martin Burrett on augmented reality. The presentation lead me to AR-Media's cool plugin for Google SketchUp. I needed to check this out, one because I have never really investigated augmented reality (except for the time I tried to get it to work in Zooburst, failed and gave up...[Note to self: go back and try this again]), but more importantly because it would be an exciting activity to do with our kids when they complete the unit. They could even screencast themselves manipulating their models.

All anyone needs to do is to download the free plugin from AR-Media then build or open an existing  model. A working webcam is a must, most computers come with built in cameras today, as is a print  off the marker from the AR-media folder in your computer library.

To get a better idea, watch the very short inexpert video demonstration I put together. There are plenty more of these peruse, including one produced by In Globe Technologies, which demonstrates layers management, real time sections and more.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The January Newsletter is Out!

Here is our January Newsletter. Do have a read when you get a moment and feel free to comment back to us on this blog.

This is a snapshot. Please click here to read it online.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

When Glitches Lead to Gain


Each Monday our World of Warcraft group meets to discuss our readings, blog posts and work together in-world. Unfortunately yesterday afternoon, WoW was experiencing difficulties with user log-ins and after a few tries we gave up. The kids then resorted to their next favourite game, Minecraft and a discussion soon began. Some of the students had found out on Twitter that on the 18th (tomorrow) Minecraft might be allow online users to play the complete game for free. They were very excited about this, and since I don't play Minecraft and couldn't access my WoW account,   I decided to delve into it further. 

It turns out that many online services have planned activities, amongst these "blackouts" to protest SOPA. We weren't terribly familiar with what that was, so we dug further and found out that it is a piece of US legislation that is meant to protect against online piracy- called the Stop Online Piracy Act. There is a great deal of public opposition to SOPA and as a result many online services have planned a blackout. 


What is your Opinion on SOPA?

The kids, our learners of the remix generation, were genuinely interested in what SOPA was and why Wikipedia, Minecraft and many others were so unhappy with it that they would go to these measures. I don't think I have ever had 6th graders ask me to send them news reports before. Yesterday after a brief discussion, many of them requested that I forward on the information to them. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Fullfillment of a New Comment!

It is always very exciting to receive feedback on published work. It generates a feeling of pride, boosts confidence and helps you to realise that you can make a contribution regardless of your age.

Today I received a notification that one of the student videos received a comment. 
Our novice WoWers were able to help someone with the game in their very first video tutorial. 
"gaqol29 has made a comment on Darnassus- transportation for Night thanks alot this really helped me to get out of the elf world" 

Please do take a moment to comment on our WoW blog when you get a chance. The students are submitting their first homework assignments based on the readings and the game this week.