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……


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!