Some “Cool Tools” for School

As part of the EduBlog Teacher Challenge I have been exploring a few different “cool tools” for presentation. While I have only explored a few of the many they provided for us to look at, one that grabbed my eye was Bitstrips. I joined for a free trial and found it has easy to use format. I plan on introducing it to my students this week and seeing how they go with it before making a firm decision. However it is one of the more easy to use comic creators I have seen so far.

Here is a comic I made very quickly with our four class rules:

I will post back when my students have had a chance to test out the website and share some of their examples.

As part of the Global Read Aloud I have been using a Padlet to connect with other teachers and classes. Here is one that we are using to keep track of our learning:

Padlet has been a great way to connect with classes without having to worry about setting up a class blog. It is easy to restrict for privacy yet can host a number of file types and quick information posts and pictures. We are enjoying sharing our thoughts this way. As a teacher I also like the quick set up and update ability! I will definitely keep using this tool in the future.

These two presentation tools were simple to begin with and share with students. I can’t wait to keep exploring different presentation tools as I find the time! I look forward to sharing my journey and experiences as I do so.

Until next time……

Global Read Aloud 2014

This year I was introduced to the Global Read Aloud through my following of a wonderful educator @pernilleripp via Twitter. This is a wonderful 6 week event where classes can read a particular chapter book or a selection of picture books by one author, connecting with classes around the world to share their learning and thinking. 

Pernille Ripp created a short YouTube clip about the Global Read Aloud and why teachers should think about participating:

My class and our class next door are participating this year for the first time. We have both made connections in America and Canada and have been sharing information about our classes, school and town over the last month. Its been interesting sharing with the students on Google Earth where in the world these schools are and what they look like. Lots of questions and wonderings have come up as a result! Here is a picture of who my class are connecting with this year – before we started posting pictures and information:

GRA world connections

The GRA author study this year is Peter H Reynolds. His fantastic picture books are filled with wonderful messages and delightful illustrations – and we get to read six of his wonderful books and share with others what we thought. Last week was the first “official” week and it was kick started by a picture book called The North Star. In this book a boy goes on a journey. We talked about where we wanted to end up on our own journeys and together with our neighbouring class we made the following video:

We can’t wait to keep practicing our reading skills on more of Peter’s stories and connect with our new friends from overseas!

Until next time……

 

Common Sense with Creative Commons

It is common sense. Everything on the internet has gotten there somehow. Pictures were taken by someone. Music and video was created by someone. Everything online was created or “mashed up” to create something new by someone. So of course that someone can be said to “own” that thing. The problem we face is that many people don’t think about it when they copy and paste something they like to use in their own work.

I’ve been the guilty party here myself. For years I copied and pasted images from searches and websites that caught my eye for projects and posters and notices. Then when I started thinking about it and realised that I should probably be referencing the source, I put a link to the website I found the picture on – thinking I was doing the right thing. My idea was right though my execution not quite proper.

What I have learnt through participating in the EduBlogs Teacher Challenge is that there is a certain licensing that attaches itself to a lot of items on the internet. These Creative Commons licenses allow the creator or owner of a piece of work to determine how that work can be shared.

Different sites online have built in search functions where it is possible to search for items depending on what type of license it has. These help a great deal – and now large search engines such as Google have these search features in their toolbox as well. What can help even more is sites like Compfight that assist users with attributing the work to its owner by listing the license and attribution information in a fairly easy to read format.

Compfight has become my main site over the last few months as I have explored more closely Creative Commons and what it all means. It really is easy to attribute images through this search engine – I have posted a photo below (from my search for “connections”) showing how the attribution works from this website:

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: courosa via Compfight cc

I see my role now, as a teacher who is aware and somewhat knowledgeable of this, to teach this to students so they understand the reasoning behind it and why they need to be aware of Creative Commons at all times online. I believe it is my responsibility as a teacher to develop student understanding of how to learn and create in our technology filled world. I am involved in building their responsibility and awareness of how to behave online and attributing images and items correctly is a very large part of this behaviour.

Finding child friendly resources is my first step in this journey as well as continuing to learn more myself about the finer details of licences. EduBlogs have given me the starting point and I am looking forward to connecting with other teachers to continue this learning path!

And of course – I am not ever again using an image or media file without attributing it correctly!

Until next time!

 

Flattening our walls with Skype

The beginning

I had heard about teachers using Skype in their classroom to connect with other teachers and classes during the last few years. It had always interested me but was something that was put in the “bookmarked” list of things to get to over the holidays. And then when holidays arrived it got pushed back in favour of other holiday events and tasks.

But this term I decided to grab the camera and just do it – so one evening sitting on the couch (where all teachers do their evening work right?) I clicked onto Skype in the Classroom

Skype in the ClassroomWow. From the moment I logged in using my Skype ID (that I have had for the last decade) I was jazzed. It gave me energy. Seeing all that was possible I kinda went into a “favouriting” and “connecting” craze – making bookmarks and sending out emails to lesson creators asking to connect. I was like a kid in a candy store – I wanted more!

Reality Strikes

The next day after a full day of teaching my little friends their curriculum I was slightly panicked. I had to ask myself “where can I fit something like Skype into my lessons apart from what we are already doing?” I became deflated and began to fall back into my do-it-later mode of thinking. But I stopped myself. How? I realised it was something I wanted to do. I am very passionate about students developing global understandings through ICT and believe they should be made aware of their digital footprint and how to become a responsible digital citizen. Just because I was teaching younger students this year was no reason to not continue with my beliefs.

Next Step

So I went back to Skype in the Classroom and began looking at the website from a ‘beginners’ point of view. What did I need to know to start? Where could I find information on how to go about implementing this as part of my classroom practice? This is when I found the Skype Guides, which is probably one of the best how-to helps I have seen in a while (along with the Edublogs Blogging Challenges). 

Scrolling through the list, I came across teachers from all over the world who had been using Skype in their classrooms successfully and who were offering their own time to mentor teachers and answer questions about doing just that. Suddenly I had found what I was looking for – people who could tell me how they had done it and help me do the same.

Making Connections

Connecting to these guides has been fantastic! Obviously one of the problems in connecting globally is time zone differences. The guides post dates and times for sessions they are offering so they can reach as many people as possible through group calls. However when one of the guides I made my first connection with realised I was in Australia, she was wonderfully flexible in making a time that suited both her in America and me. Another guide, who was from Victoria like me, even set up a separate time and date to call so it fit into our schedules coming to the end of term.

What Skype guides have confirmed for me is the wonderful collegiate nature of our teaching profession – around the world. These guides have been generous in ideas, time and support, which has made the prospect of moving forward with using Skype seem much easier to manage! Skype Education has also been wonderful – I used Twitter to send them a question using their #SkypeAtoZ chat feed and received an answer back very swiftly. 

I’m looking forward to flattening our classroom walls with Skype – I can’t wait to get started with my students.

Until next time!

 

Blogging Jitters – Remembering my ITF

Here it is….. my first post on my first professional blog. Yikes! Nerves are striking right now but I have been wanting to enter this world of education blogging for a little while now and I am jumping in with both feet. 

Previously I had my first taste of blogging during my year on an International Teaching Fellowship during 2013. I was awarded this Fellowship by the DEECD Victoria and spent 12 months teaching and living in Grand Junction, Colorado. I wanted to share my experiences with my colleagues, family, friends and students at home so set up my own personal blog. I began wanting to share my educational and personal experiences, but quickly realised I enjoyed sharing all the personal experiences so much that the educational moments feel to the side!

However, there were a few things I took away from my year teaching in Colorado, and therefore the United States. Australia has a great education system. Victoria works hard for the whole student, not just the academics. We look to develop personal and social growth as well as “normal” school learning like Maths, Literacy and Science – and we do it well (through our curriculum no less!) Don’t get me wrong, American teachers do an amazing job with their students and the teachers I worked with in Colorado were some of the hardest working and most caring I have seen in action! But my overall feeling from the whole year was as much as I enjoyed my teaching over there, I am very glad to be a teacher in Australia right now…….. ask me again in another 5 years!

January = snow!The particular school I worked at was a wonderful school situated in a low economic area of the school district. Most of the student body couldn’t afford the (roughly) $2 free/reduced lunch program. These students were often coming to school for security, stability and care. They ate breakfast at school, had their lunch provided for them and if needed were provided with winter coats, new shoes or school supplies. Yet the feeling within the walls was that of community. These students and teachers were a family – and you felt it when you walked through the doors.

From the start of the day, teachers were greeting students as they arrived at school with eye contact and conversations. Respect was expected by staff and students alike. Students eating breakfast in the cafeteria before school were expected to use their manners and clean up after themselves. Playing tetherball, football (NFL) or games outside meant students took turns, shared equipment, rotated in and out fairly, referred to the game rules posted nearby and solved any problems or disagreements with Rock, Paper, Scissors. Major discussions were taken to the teacher but most disagreements could be solved between the students respectfully. It allowed teachers to have conversations with the students and connect with their lives instead of spending all their duty time following up with disagreements.

Teachers also rewarded students who displayed BEAR behaviour. These behaviours were the school “rules” or values –

  • Bear clawB – Be Safe
  • E – Everyone Learns
  • A – Accept Responsibility
  • R – Respect Staff, Students, Self

 

Students who were recognised as showing these values were given a BEAR Paw – which were a small photocopied award with their name and details recorded on it. These were taken down to the office and the student could call home to celebrate their success. Just this positive idea of allowing students to call home when they had been successful in a personal way meant something very big to a lot of them and their families.

Overall the development of the social community and values of the school impressed me. Teachers and administration went out of their way every day to connect with their students and their families, even inviting them into monthly progress meetings if the student was in an Intervention program or below grade expectations. And yes – the parents came! Every time! With this support of the students personally, socially, emotionally and academically every student had the opportunity to grow – which was shown with the school earning State and National recognition for excellence in student learning growth. It truly was a wonderful school community to be a part of for 12 months.

As part of my return at the start of 2014, the DEECD asked me to make a presentation to the ITF administration and my fellow ITF teachers who had returned. My PowerPoint presentation was around what I have talked about above and included a small ideas that the school had put into place to support the families if needed, including details of the Response to Intervention program that  ALL teachers and interventionists were involved with. Included in the presentation are two videos of the school with the administration explaining how they came to make such wonderful growth with their students.

If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me. I am always happy to discuss (and relive) my amazing year in Colorado!

And that brings me to the end of my first post – which was easier than I thought! What have I learnt from this post? Blog about something you know or are passionate about and it will flow!

Until next time!