Category Archives: Integration

A Fresh Approach to PD

Professional-Development-Picture-e1351198680108Professional development and staff training in a school is always a sore point. Teachers, as we all know, are very busy people. When they are not busy in the classroom they are often coaching on the sports fields, involved in parent meetings or sitting in other school-related meetings, amongst other things. Their time is often not their own and to make time for any training or Professional Development is extremely difficult. There are only so many hours in a day, and to expect teachers to come in to school in the evenings when it is their family time, is a big ask.

I am very fortunate to work in a forward-thinking environment, where the importance of ongoing Professional Development and training is recognised. It is currently a point of discussion in our school and I sit on a small committee which will look at the various forms of Professional Development and how they can be implemented effectively at our school. It is also recognised that some people do not enjoy working in a large group where they feel intimidated and get left behind. Everyone works and learns at a different pace, some are early adopters and forge ahead while others need to be shown more than once to gain confidence. In my role as head of Digital Learning, I am faced with working with a wide spectrum of abilities and varying degrees of tech knowledge.

We work follow a 1:1 iPad programme in the classroom, but our IT Centre is a Windows lab running Office 2013. Our children are exposed to a multifaceted approach to ICT which is what they will experience in the real world. To prepare them for this they also have integrated IT lessons in the IT Centre for an hour a week, over and above their use of iPads in the classroom. Our teachers run their own IT lessons and they use Windows computers in their classrooms, so their Microsoft Skills need to be kept up to speed too. That is my job – to ensure that they receive the necessary training for effective teaching with the iPads and in the IT Centre. Training is perhaps not the correct word – ‘exposure’ to new and existing tools covers it more effectively.

A new addition to our PD programme is weekly Face Time sessions which run from 7:30am to 9:00am on Friday mornings. I meet with the teachers in one grade (and a one or two of the teachers involved in other learning areas such as Design Technology, Art, Drama etc.) and we look at different aspects of technology which they use in their teaching. Although Face Time was only implemented late last year, and I have only had one session this year, it is has turned out to be the best 90 minutes I have ever spent with these teachers!

I try to break the session into the following sections:

  • iPad-related apps/tools/ideas
  • IT Centre-related tools/ideas (including Microsoft tools)
  • Other – this can include discussions around the use of tech, questions from the teachers, sharing experiences etc.

On Friday I worked with our Grade 6 teachers and the Design Technology teacher and our principal, Arthur Preston also joined us for the session (Aside: I am so grateful for his support in this area. Upper management support is really vital for the successful implementation of technology in a school environment). I did not stick exactly to my proposed agenda above, but we covered the following (It looks like a lot, but working with a small group allows me to be more hands-on and the pace is faster than it would be in a bigger group setting):

  • Kahoot (https://getkahoot.com/) – A super game-based learning tool which can be used so effectively in different ways in the classroom – and it works on the iPads!
  • Padlet (https://padlet.com) – A super-easy online collaboration tool which has multiple uses in a classroom setting – and it also works on the iPads!
  • QR Codes (http://www.qrstuff.com/) – We looked at how to create QR Codes, how to scan them (Qrafter app or Quick Scan) and different ways to use them in the classroom.
  • Microsoft Office Sway – (https://sway.com) – An exciting new Microsoft presentation tool which is internet based. There is an iPhone app which works on the iPad too.
  • Blogging in 2015 (Our students all blog using Kidblog and the teachers run Grade blogs) – We firmly believe that blogging with a purpose and for a wider audience is key to improving our children’s writing skills, and blogging also fits well into our Digital Citizenship programme.

The teachers loved all the tools mentioned above and they were particularly impressed with Sway. They are very keen to try it out. They particularly liked that it:

A very bad photo I took while the teachers were learning about Sway. I was so engrossed in the session that this is the only photo I took!

A very bad photo I took while the teachers were learning about Sway. I was so engrossed in the session that this is the only photo I took!

  •  Is FREE! (Teachers love anything that is free to use in the classroom).
  • It is online and can therefore be accessed anywhere.
  • It is simple, with not too many fancy features (‘keep it simple’ is my mantra).
  • It has enough features to make it interesting and different.
  • It is user-friendly and quick to learn.
  • It is a lovely alternative to PowerPoint.
  • It is easy to share Sways and the viewers don’t need to sign into any accounts.
  • It works on the iPad, even though there is only an iPhone app– an important feature in our school.
  • It is another tool to add to their Teacher Toolboxes!

I was so keen to share how Sway works, that I introduced it to my daughter who is in Grade 11. She immediately used it for a Design project that was due the next day. When she told her teacher that she had used a new and different presentation tool, the teacher was concerned that she did not have the software on her computer or that it would not be compatible with her computer. I believe she was pleasantly surprised with what she saw.

Take a look for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/KayleighSway

sway2

Here is the Sway I created while I was teaching myself how to use it: http://tinyurl.com/TravellingRhinos

sway3

Next Friday I will be working with our Grade 5 teachers and the following Friday it will be the turn of our Grade 4 teachers. I will share Sway with each of these groups and I feel confident that they will also be as keen to use it as the Grade 6 teachers were. In a three week rotation I get to spend quality time with all the teachers on our staff. They will also be given the chance to share some of their successes with the rest of us at each of these sessions. These small group PD sessions constitute only a fraction of what we hope to develop into a varied and dynamic PD programme over the next year. Professional development is key to staying abreast with all aspects of education – not only technology.

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A friendly alternative to Wordle

I recently had a nasty experience in one of my lessons. The pupils were learning about Word Clouds and I was showing them how Wordle worked. I always use the www.wordle.net/create URL because it takes you directly to the ‘Create’ section of Wordle and steers the students clear of the home page where some of the gallery Wordles are featured – and often they are inappropriate for children to see (your network administrator can also block certain pages). I show the pupils where to type the web address in the browser and then they get going. Unfortunately one little darling inserted an extra letter into the word and was immediately directed to a very inappropriate site. Fortunately I was about a metre away from the child and immediately took action, but we were both shaken by the experience.

Today I came across a very child-friendly Word Cloud creator – http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm . There are other such Word Cloud creators, but this one is especially designed for children from Grade 2 and up. Perfect for our needs and one I will definitely use in the future. In fact, the whole ABCYa! site is filled with interesting educational ICT activities for kids.

Glimpses from the IT Centre

I had my camera out today, to record what was happening in the IT Centre…

Learning through play:

The Grade 5s are studying the Ancient Egyptian civilisation and so today they are building a pyramid with this stunning BBC History Game called Pyramid Builder. Try it! They’re having a ball, and what they don’t realise is that there is a lot of learning going on because the game requires thought and logical reasoning as well as decision making.

Afrikaans Cycle Test:

The Grade 4s wrote their Afrikaans Cycle test here today – on the computers! They coped very well!

Brushing up on our Geography with a Rugby World Cup Game:

With this quick little game created by a friend (and her co-author) to promote her latest book in the Planet Octavia series: Geogrugby. Do you know where all the World Cup Rugby nations are in the world?

School was never this much fun in my day!

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!

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!

 

The Spin-offs from a conference…

Since attending the inaugural EdTechConf two weeks ago, there have been a few spin-offs worth mentioning (well, some I can’t mention yet – some exciting things in the pipeline.  Watch this space!) 

Firstly, as a direct result of my having attended Tim Keller’s talk on Smart Cyber-Parenting on the Thursday evening, we have managed to secure his services to give the same talk at our school on Tuesday evening, 7 June.  This is such a worthwhile talk and should not be missed by any parent with a tween or teen.  In fact, when I told my daughter who had attended the first talk with me, she asked if she could go again, because she found it so interesting! 

Then, yesterday I got a call from Mathew Phillips at Sun Valley Primary.  He had seen my presentation on ICT integration at the conference and he asked if he could come and spend time with me in our lab, to see exactly how it all works.  So today I had a visitor!  Mathew spent time talking to me and looking around our lab while some lessons were in progress, and then I took him across to our High School where he was given a tour of the ICT Centre and Library as well as our Data Centre.  We also stopped in at the Junior School to show him our Junior School lab.  Mathew was suitably impressed and went home with a lot to think about and mull over.

Lastly, I needed some input about uploading videos into a wiki I am working on, so who did I call on?  Fiona Beal, of course!  Fiona works at Fish Hoek Primary School and, although we have met on a few occasions before, we reconnected at the EdTechConf.  I sent her an email with my query and in the blink of an eye I had an offer of help in the form of a blog post – see here: http://bit.ly/lvZORc

Now that’s the power of conference networking and a great PLN.  We are in this together – why not pool resources and share ideas?  Our students can only benefit from it.

The Best Conference Ever!

On this past Friday and Saturday morning I and two of my colleagues (@folklind and @juanita_o) attended the first ever EdTechConf held in Cape Town.  So often one attends a conference and walks away feeling that your time has been wasted or that it could have been shorter or even that you got nothing out of it.  That was not the case for this conference – in short, it was nothing but excellent.

I was also very honoured to have been asked to be part of a Best Practice Panel discussion and present a short insert on how we handle ICT at my school and which Web 2.0 tools we have used successfully, and I was very pleased to have been able to add to the value of this conference.  In reflection, here are the highlights of the conference for me:

  • The talk by @timkeller (Tim Keller) on Smart Cyber-Parenting – Online Safety for Parents and Kids.  It was nothing short of brilliant.  Extremely informative and brimming with eye-popping statistics to support his talk. (This took place on the Thursday evening before the conference.)
  • The talk on Technophobic Teachers by Arthur Preston (@artpreston) was spot on and very humorous!  We can all identify with members of his Technophobe family in our schools, but as he rightly said – there is help at hand!
  • The panel discussion titled “You put WHAT on Facebook?!” – this was eye-opening and confirmed many of the thoughts and opinions I have on the topic of student-teacher relationships on Facebook.  It also highlighted many legal aspects we need to take into account.  The introduction by Gavin Keller (@gavinkeller) was serious but hilarious at the same time.  Much food for thought!
  • The many people I met, especially those I had been following on Twitter.  How lovely it was to meet them face-to-face!  I also expanded my PLN which is why I was there in the first place.
  • The wonderful tools and resources we were given to take away and explore at our leisure, including a flash drive full of resources and a wonderful session by Maggie Verster (@maggiev) on how to bookmark all these resources in ONE place.

I look forward to ETC 2012 and I hope to take some of my teacher colleagues with me next time.  This conference is not just for the tech geeks and ICT managers.  It is for the teachers who work at ground level, in the classrooms.  They are the ones who need to be there, as they have the most to gain.

A word of thanks to the organisers Tim Keller and Art Preston, as well as the team at The International School of Cape Town, for a very memorable event.  Anyone interested in reading about the conference, log in to Twitter and search for #edtechconf.

Please take a look at our stories…

Our Grade 6 students  are so proud of what they have created.  Please take a look and leave a comment or send us an email (address on the wiki).  We would LOVE to hear from you!

http://elk-grade6-stories.wikispaces.com/

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