Category Archives: 21st Century Skills

One is NEVER too old to learn

In the past few weeks I have learnt more than I am sure I learnt in my four years of college – way back when!  When I took on the task of finding a class overseas to collaborate with, I certainly did not have the faintest idea of what it would mean for me.  It has been the steepest learning curve I have ever experienced, and I have to be honest and add that I felt some trepidation at times, but boy, have I loved every minute of it!

I’ve learnt how to Skype – and all the ramifications that go with projecting the session onto a screen for all to see (setting up the webcam, data projector, sound tests, speakers etc.), I’ve learnt how to create a Posterous blog for all the project photos, and I’ve learnt how to add things to the project wiki that I was not sure of before.  Today I discovered a website with clocks to show the different time zones.  I’ve embedded them into the wiki and the Posterous blog and they look really smart!

Just shows, you are never too old to learn.  I am a life-long learner and I am definitely enjoying my learning more now than when I was at school, so it is my mission to expose the children here at my school to as many new experiences as possible – and technology is just the way to do that!

 

This week the world seemed a little smaller!

On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, we crossed the miles between Cape Town, South Africa and Michigan, USA, with ease.  By using Skype our Grade 6’s communicated with new-found 6th Grade friends from Madison Middle School in Adrian, Michigan.  In two Skype sessions, we connected and chatted, comparing our different schools and asked questions about life in America vs. life in South Africa.  Our children asked the most interesting questions and got to answer questions from the other side of the Atlantic too.  Their children were very interested in our school uniforms and they asked us whether we liked them and felt comfortable in them.  They were particularly interested in the shoes we wear to school! This is learning in real time and surely how our children should be learning in the 21st Century? 

What fun it was – and somehow the world did not seem to be such a big place after all!

      

We’re Skyping with the 6th Graders from Madison Middle School in Michigan!

Exciting things are happening in our lab this week! As the title explains, we will be Skyping with 6th Graders from Madison Middle School on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  We are excited about this because it will be the first time we have Skyped with anyone!  This wonderful event is a direct spin-off of our Grade 6 Stories project, as the 6th Grade Social Studies teacher from Madison Middle School, Jill Brandeberry, found our stories Wiki and contacted me with the idea of doing a small project together.  Due to the timing – end of the school year in the US and assessment time on our end, we have just done a very small project together, in the hope that we can build on our new-found friendships in the future!

What we are busy with is a comparison of our schools and Grade 6 in our respective countries.  We have a wiki going in which we are placing all our information as well as questions which we will try to address during our Skype sessions.  Please take a look at our Wiki – Let Us Compare!

Keep watching this space for more updates!

Things are hotting up!

Whew! Just as the term is coming to an end, some interesting events have taken place. Last night  I sat in on the very first Skype session our school has ever had with a class elsewhere in the world.  Our Grade 2’s (my son’s class too), Skyped with Grade 2’s from a school in New Jersey, US.  It was an awesome event and the kids loved it!  As a spin-off from that, the Grade 6 teacher would like to connect with our Grade 6’s!  Then, as a result of my having “advertised” our English stories on Twitter, our Stories wiki has received a number of visits from various parts of the world (96 to date), and a teacher from Adrian, Michigan in the US is keen to connect her Grade 6’s with ours.  How exciting is that?  It seems the second term is going to be eventful to say the least!

On a personal note, I will be attending the EdTech Conference(http://www.edtechconf.co.za/)  here in Cape Town in May and then in July I’m going to Johannesburg to the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference (http://www.schoolnet.org.za/conference/).  Oh, how I love my job!

Empower yourself!

A wonderful thing happened in our IT Centre today!  One of our teachers,who will remain nameless, and who has labelled herself a “technophobe”, taught an interesting, viby lesson on a potentially boring section of work – Parts of a Plant.  Using a video she herself sourced from YouTube as the introduction to her lesson, she played it using the data projector and brought this lesson to life!  In fact the whole concept of the lesson was hers and I merely supplied assistance and some technical know-how before the time.  The application of the lesson was a Publisher document which had to be completed by the pupils to assess their level of understanding and listening.  Very technological indeed, and what made it more special is that she taught this lesson for our principal, who has been moving from class to class observing lessons.

The secret to her success?  Recently this young lady bought herself a laptop – the first one she has personally owned.  Since then she has taken off and is now flying!  She has totally empowered herself and has probably learnt more since taking ownership of her new laptop, than from her day to day work on her classroom computer.  From school work to social networking to designing party invitations, this new acquisition has opened a new world for her and the proverbial “bug” has bitten!  Kudos to you, my friend – may you spend many happy hours creating more stunning lessons on your new baby – this is only the beginning!

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Exciting Grade 6 Storybook Project

The Grade 6’s are currently busy with an exciting project.  Working mostly in pairs, the children wrote a short story aimed at a Grade 2 or 3 child.  This story was then typed up in PowerPoint on a maximum of 14 slides, with illustrations (website sources cited).  Some groups sourced their pictures from the internet, some drew their own pictures using shapes, some drew their illustrations by hand and scanned them in and one group created scenes with Lego and took photographs of each scene, and inserted them into the presentations.  These presentations were then saved in .pdf format and uploaded onto www.youblisher.com, a website which creates online books.  Not all the stories have been completed yet, but the children who have uploaded their stories are very excited about the final product because the e-books are flippable and look great – they’re almost like touching a real book! I have created a wiki with a page for each class, in which I will upload all the stories.  Once this is done, we will send the link home for the parents to look at and I will “advertise” our stories to my Twitter PLN, to try to garner an audience.  The last step in the project will be to invite the Grade 2’s or 3’s over to our IT Centre, where the Grade 6’s will read their stories aloud to their little guests.

This has been quite a long project, but it has been very valuable with the Grade 6’s learning many new skills – not only ICT skills, but interpersonal skills too.  It has been great fun!

The Importance of a PLN

Yesterday I made a new ‘friend’, thanks to the wonderful PLN I have created on Twitter.  A while ago I touched on the value of Twitter, but I feel I need to revisit the topic of a PLN again, because only now am I really beginning to see its true value.  I am now of the opinion that a PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is of utmost importance if one is to keep abreast of what is happening in education around the world.  If we are to keep up with trends, read the latest thoughts on issues in education and keep up with ICT developments world-wide, then a PLN is a MUST!

As I have mentioned before, I joined Twitter about two years ago, and then I started searching for people in the same line of education – ICT integration.  Before long I was following an array of people who ranged from specialists in the field, to regular teachers like myself, people with a passion for ICT and a love of social networking!  Well, it
has certainly worked for me! In the past two years I have learnt more, discovered more new things and ‘met’ more people, than I ever thought possible.  All thanks to the wonderful people in my PLN! I am following people in South Africa, America, Germany, England, Australia, Spain, France and most recently, Romania!

That brings me back to my newest ‘friend’ – @bucharesttutor.  This young man saw an appeal I had made for Maths websites and Cricket World Cup lessons, and in a jiffy he connected with me, and sent me
a list of links which I will now share with my fellow teachers.  He is based in Bucharest, Romania and is a qualified Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry private tutor who teaches all grades.  How amazing is that?

Through my Twitter connections, I have started following the blogs of a number of these wonderful people. I now don’t know what I would do without my amazing PLN – each day I learn more and more from them and I look forward to reading their latest offerings.  I am also hoping to meet one or two of these lovely people at the Intel ICT in the Classroom Conference, in Johannesburg, in July!  I know that @nharm (Naomi Harm from Wisconsin, USA is one of the international presenters – I met her at the same conference in Durban in 2009).

Please understand that Twitter is not the only way to create a PLN!  It was my tool for creating connections, but there are various other ways such as Facebook, joining Ning communities relating to your interests, and other networking tools.

 My advice to you then?  Get networking!!

The Science Expos

A week ago we held the Science Expos for each of the grades (4 – 6). The children could choose whether to work on their own or work in groups and then they had to present a Science experiment according to a well-defined set of instructions. Well, our children jumped to the task and presented exhibits of a very high standard, to say the least! Outside judges marked each child or group’s exhibit according to a strict set of criteria and Gold, Silver and Bronze winners were chosen in each class. These winners were awarded a certificate, and in the case of the Gold winners, a book prize too. It was amazing to see how much thought and effort had gone into each of the exhibits. Well done to all the children on a sterling effort, and a special word of congratulations to the prize winners for a job well done!

See the photos below:

Ooohh… so many ideas… where to begin??

Yesterday’s ThinkQuest course was great in that it really got me thinking and now I have so many ideas going around in my head, I almost have a headache!! This is a regular problem I have, so baby steps it will be… I really enjoyed the course and LOVED looking at the library of past winners. Some wonderful work has been done and it is certainly inspiring. So, I’ve set myself up on ThinkQuest – let’s see what will grow from there. I also enjoyed the course because I met new people and was able to exchange ideas and pass on tips to help others – and gain tips too. Such gatherings of teachers are priceless and so worthwhile. I certainly did not mind giving up my Saturday. Thanks Fiona (Beal), and thank you for showing everyone my blog too – very kind of you! Now off to work I go, to put into practice what I saw yesterday…he he!!

ThinkQuest

On Saturday I will be doing ThinkQuest training presented by Fiona Beal at Fish Hoek Primary School.  ThinkQuest is a free, protected, online platform for teachers and students, sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation. It includes an online project environment, competitions for students, and a library of content created by students.  Take a look here: http://www.thinkquest.org/en/
It all looks very exciting and I have a project growing in my mind, so I am looking forward to Saturday!