Monthly Archives: July 2011

Projects, iPads, Presentations and possibly Prezi…

So I’m up to my ears in projects at the moment – three to be exact!

Firstly, small but still a project, I have managed to get our campus onto Twitter!  I am hoping that by using social media as a communication tool, we will enhance our current methods of parent communication so that they become even more effective than they are at present.  We go live on Thursday!

Secondly, we are well into putting together the first ever EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah conference. We are coming along nicely and registration will open shortly.  I will post more details about that closer to the time. However, conference planning and co-ordinating is time consuming and since we want to make it a conference to remember, we’re putting quite a bit of energy into it!  I’m loving it and so enjoying working with @artpreston and @timkeller.  These guys have a winning recipe that I believe is going to grow into something they didn’t, in their wildest dreams, imagine they could ever create. And the fact that we are working with them to grow this dream is amazing, to say the least!

Lastly, our iPad project is going full steam ahead, and it is this project that is keeping me the busiest – in fact it consumes my life at present – not that I am complaining!  The more I work with this wonderful device, the more convinced I become that this is a powerful tool for education and that it can change the way teaching and learning takes place.  Yes, there are many little obstacles, but those are mostly in our minds.  We have to change our way of thinking, shift our viewpoints and enable the children to take more responsibility for their learning.  At the SchoolNet ICT in the Classroom conference that I attended recently, I heard the speaker, John Davitt, refer to “struggleware”, in terms of giving children difficult tasks or projects to do and telling them to get on with it.  A little struggling never did anyone any harm and it encourages out-of-the-box thinking and innovation.  Well, I think of the iPads as “struggleware” for teachers!  These devices are pushing our boundaries and encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones, and I believe this is a good thing.  However, having said this, I don’t think the iPad is a difficult device to use and will by no means be “struggleware” for the children. It is an intuitive device and simple to use but since we (at our school) work in an exclusively Windows environment, there are a few issues we need to get our heads around – and getting the teachers to grips with the idea of cloud computing… well, that’s a different story altogether!  My challenge is to get the curriculum mapping underway and we have our first workshop with the Grade 6 teachers on Friday. I look forward to that.

In the lab all is well. Coincidentally all three grades are busy with Natural Science presentations using PowerPoint.  The Grade 4s are looking at different forms of Energy, the Grade 5s are preparing oral presentations on Useful Plants and the Grade 6s are showing their understanding of the workings of the Digestive System – three similar, yet very different tasks with different expectations and outcomes.   Think I should give Prezi a try with the Grade 6s next time… PowerPoint seems so “old fashioned”.  Mmm… food for thought!

#schoolnetsa11

The title of this post refers to the Twitter hashtag for the Intel ICT In the Classroom Conference I recently attended in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a whirlwind three days filled with excellent keynote presentations by international speakers, Naomi Harm (@nharm), John Davitt (@johndavitt) and Jane Hart (@c4lpt).

I enjoy reflecting on such conferences and seeing exactly how much there was in it for me and whether it was worthwhile. I can wholeheartedly say that it was definitely worthwhile, if only for the privilege of hearing such talented international speakers, but also for the honour of learning from some very talented South African educators. I came away a little overwhelmed (as usual – totally over-resourced J), but very satisfied that my time had not been wasted. I met interesting people, made new ICT network connections and enjoyed three days with three colleagues from my school. Here were some highlights for me:

· Naomi Harm (@nharm) is the most resourceful and professional person I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She has a wonderful sharing spirit and conducts her sessions in such a manner that everyone is engaged and feels part of the group. She is extremely knowledgeable in her field and her experience in working with teachers of all levels of ICT proficiency shines through. I attended two of her sessions: ‘Google My Way’ and ‘Transforming Your Classroom Practice with Web 2.0 Literacy’, and I left both sessions with a ton of resources. Naomi’s keynote speech on Day 2 of the conference was also extremely good, with many ideas and tips for teachers as well as interesting statistics and need to know facts for educators all around the world. Here is the link to her blog: http://blog.innovativeeducator.us/

· As with our local EdTechConf, the continuous Twitterfeed and back channel so ably managed by Maggie Verster (@maggiev), assisted by Arthur Preston (@artpreston) and others, was fantastic. A constant stream of shared resources, comments and quotes added to the value of the conference. And Maggie herself is an awesome asset to educators in South Africa – her knowledge of Twitter and other social media in the educational setting is immeasurable – be sure to follow her on Twitter!

· Local educator, Peter de Lisle from Hilton College in KwaZulu Natal is a very interesting person. His session on ‘Useful Tools for Innovation Across the Curriculum’ was amazing to say the least. Whilst some of the tools he demonstrated did not really apply to me as a Senior Primary educator, this did not detract from my enjoyment of his presentation. Google Earth and Maps have also taken on a new dimension for me – one I intend to investigate in more depth as a result of this presentation. Peter is obviously a higher-order thinking person and I cannot help but think how privileged his students are to have him as their teacher. Check out his workshop tools on his website: http://goo.gl/mI2Dq .

· A two-hour long five-way Skype session involving four American educators and Gerald Roos from SchoolNet was very valuable in that these teachers very kindly shared and showcased many of the projects they had done in their classrooms. Having recently Skyped with an American class with my Grade 6s, I was very interested in finding new ideas of how to uses this free tool effectively. I did ask the question whether the American educators thought that Skype would become a paid for service, as a result of its acquisition by Microsoft. All four unanimously agreed that this would not happen, especially not for Skype in Education. I truly hope this is the case. This session also highlighted for me the digital divide that exists amongst educators in our country – but that is content for a later blog post; a story for another day.

There were many more highlights and as I sift through my copious notes and read the back channels and Twitter feeds, I will come back and edit this post. As I said, there was a lot to take in and process. It is happening slowly, but surely.

Do I think this conference was better than out local EdTechConf held in Cape Town in May? No, I don’t, but that is because the EdTechConf is a completely different concept. It has its place and, at this stage, is on a smaller scale. The aim of the EdTechConf is to reach teachers at grassroots level and show them that technology is possible at all levels with minimal financial implications. It compliments bigger conferences such as the SchoolNet one and has its own niche market. Watch out for news of EdTechConf eXtended@Elkanah – coming soon!