Category Archives: Technology

iPADMeet @ Elkanah – Join the conversation!

Great news! A spin-off from the first ever TeachMeet at our school, will be our first iPADMeet which will be held on 26 November. At the TeachMeet it became evident that there are a number of teachers and schools looking at or already using iPads. There were many questions around how they were being implemented, ownership, buying of apps, iTunes etc. There and then we realised there was need for a similar TeachMeet forum for the iPad, so here we go…

Our iPADMeet will follow directly after our second TeachMeet. For more details go here.

Please join us and let’s get the conversation started!

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A Heartfelt Appeal from a Caring Principal

We live in such a busy world where many morals and values have taken a back seat and parenting styles are vastly different to when we were children. Obviously we need to move with the times and adapt methods of parenting to the issues of the moment, but the bottom line is that common sense should still prevail and parents should still be parents and not ‘pals’.  This came through very clearly in a recent article from our school newsletter, written by our Senior Primary principal, Gareth Allman. With his permission I have posted it below:

Dear Parents and Pupils

As I am going to pen words of caution once again on this topic, I fear that people might believe that I am not a fan of technology and social media, and that thereby my words might lose credibility. Allow me to say that this is not at all the case – I am a huge, albeit amateurish, user of technology!

The role of Blackberry’s instant messaging platforms in the riots on the streets of London is by now well documented. The disturbing video footage of youths going on the rampage and looting stores is a vivid reality check of how something as simple as a phone can create so much damage. It was brought to my attention last week that many of our pupils are playing a game on their phones called ‘AMS’. This is an acronym for ‘ Ask Me Something’. Whilst it could be innocent, this is sadly not the case, with many questions being posed requesting strong lurid and sensual feedback. Now I know I could be perceived as an old crock and that when I was 12, if we had had cell phones, my questions would have been along the lines of, “Do you have petrol for your scrambler?”, or “How many pellets do you have for your pellet gun?” in advance of a walk in the bush! Yes, our children are growing up in a different environment and that’s not going to change. But this does not mean that we throw our arms up in the air, despair, and wish for the ‘old days’. It is incumbent on us as teachers and parents to be pro-active in the management of our children. I would even go so far as to say many parents need to take back the ownership and rights of parenting.

Children need to be checked on. And whilst they might retort with something along the lines of, “Don’t you trust me?”, this is not the essence of child rearing. In fact, parents might well be able to say that you do trust them. You trust that they will make mistakes! And that it is your responsibility to help them to learn from their mistakes.

Children need to be taught that they need to think before they post something. They need to understand that a social media mistake cannot be erased. They need to understand that a bad post can lead to bad reputations. They need to ask themselves, “Will I be comfortable with my father or grandmother reading this?”. It is way too easy to write something and ‘hide behind a screen’. They need to ask, “Will I be comfortable in asking this to an audience such as my class?”  They need to understand that acceptable behaviour is not only required in public space, but in cyber space too. That Scotland Yard warned last week that those inciting violence on Twitter will be sought out and punished, shows the need for smart cyber space behaviour.

A fortnight ago I wrote about positive discipline. The follow through of that is consequences. Consequences are necessary in that they help modify behaviour. They transfer the need to be responsible from the parent to the child and place the problem squarely on the shoulders of the child. If boundaries have been determined for acceptable use of a phone, and they have been breached, take away the phone. Take back your right as a parent and do not fall into emotional games.

So, what are we as a school doing to educate our pupils in this regard? Besides the pastoral care and on-going incidental interventions, some parents may be aware that we are developing our own Life Orientation curriculum so that it is relevant to the needs of our pupils. One module that has been introduced is around the issues of being  ‘cyber smart’. Mrs Stadler has also published a brochure called ‘Staying in Touch’ which was distributed to pupils and parents in the first term. In addition we are in the process of securing a guest speaker to address the Grade 6’s about being cyber smart.

We are all concerned about Keeping Your Kids Safe. This great South African website has some good ideas for doing so. [Click on the words].

Alternatively, use your phone to scan this QR code:

 

Having fun with QR codes!

I have just created my first QR code (Quick Response code) with http://www.qurify.com/en/.  Here is an explanation of what exactly QR codes are, from the website:

QR Codes are 2 dimensional barcodes that are easily scanned using any modern mobile phone. This QR Code will then be converted (called “dequrified”) into a piece of (interactive) text and/or link.
 
So simple and it works like a charm on my phone.

These codes have endless potential in the classroom – imagine a scavenger hunt with all the clues in QR code format, spread around the school and the students have to scan each code to find out the next clue!  What fun! Of course, it means allowing them to use cell phones, but there are ways and means of doing that – I’ll do a little more investigation.  In the mean time here is my QR code:

EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah!

The day has arrived!  We are happy to announce that our school will be hosting the very first EdTechConf eXtended event at the end of September!

All the details are below – simply click on the picture to register. We hope to see many new faces at our conference!

[PLEASE NOTE: If you attended the inaugural EdTechConf in May this year, we kindly suggest that you pass this invitation on to your colleagues. This will aid the EdTechConf team in their efforts to reach out to as many teachers and administrators as possible, and avoid disappointment due to possible content overlap. Thank you!]

Moral dilemma or just old fashioned?

I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment and forgive me if this sounds like a rant, because it’s just how I feel about the topic of underage use of social media services and communication tools such as Facebook, Mxit, WhatsApp and other such services.

I work in a Senior Primary school where most of the children are between 10 and 12 years of age. A large number of these children (I feel a survey coming on, since I do not like to speculate on statistics) are using Facebook regularly and they also use MXit or more recently WhatsApp on their cell phones. (I know of Grade 4 children using WhatsApp). They also access You Tube regularly and a few of them even post videos on You Tube. So what’s my point? ALL these service have age restrictions on them and 99% of our children are too young to be using them! That raises the question then, are these children using these services without their parents’ knowledge or even worse WITH their parents’ knowledge?

Don’t get me wrong – I am an avid user of social media. I love Facebook and cannot live without Twitter. I know that MXit has changed the face of communication in South Africa and that WhatsApp is rapidly following suit. It is not the services that I have a problem with – my problem is that I am a person who works by the book. I believe rules are put in place for a reason and if they are there to protect children, why on earth would we want to break them? I can only think that ignorance is the problem. Our parents just don’t know enough about the ins and outs of services they allow their children to make use of. And what exactly are we teaching our children if we allow them to “bend” the rules by altering their birth dates? If the parents allow them this now, what else are they going to allow in the future? Where do they draw the moral line? Are these parents not bowing to the very peer pressure they are trying to guard their children against??

I’d really appreciate comments on this post. Am I missing the boat somewhere, or am I just old fashioned?

For your interest, I have looked at the terms of service for the following services to see what the age restrictions are: 

Facebook: 13 years old

MXit: 14 years old (with parental permission)  

WhatsApp: 16 years old

You Tube: 13 years old to view, 18 years old to post videos

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!

Exciting times!

At the end of a school term when things are usually winding down and slowing up, I find myself busier than ever, in the throes of two wonderful projects!

Firstly – the awesome, amazing and all-consuming iPad! This week our Grade 6 teachers took delivery of their iPads and this marked the beginning of our official iPad Project.  We are now faced with the intricate and interesting task of mapping our curriculum to the amazing array of applications (apps) available from the Apple App Store.  We have a huge task ahead of us, but having already done a little of the leg work myself, I have found that it is fun and most definitely addictive!  Once you start, it’s very difficult to stop.  There is so much available, one could work on it for days on end.  However, since we are a team of 7 who will be working on this, each looking at a different learning area, it will be a lot easier and as the saying goes: “Many hands make light work!”  Our first planning session is scheduled for next week.

Secondly, after a great meeting with Arthur Preston (co-creator of the EdTechConf mentioned in an earlier post) yesterday afternoon, it can now be confirmed that our school will be hosting a conference of our own, under the EdTechConf umbrella!  We are so excited about this new partnership and the fact that we will be hosting our own conference.  We have bought totally into the grass-roots concept of the EdTechConf, conceived by Arthur Preston and Tim Keller, and hope to add our own unique spin.  The dates will be announced shortly, once a few minor matters are confirmed.

So, added to the fact that I will also be attending the ICT in the Classroom Conference in Johannesburg in the first week of the holidays, as well as an Apple workshop in the second week of the holidays, my plate is pretty full at the moment.   Am I complaining?  Not a chance!

Update – the long awaited iPad has arrived!

Not long after my previous post, I got a call from my boss.  “Come to my office – I have something for you.”  I just knew it was my iPad, so I bustled over to her office (this involved a 2 minute drive by car, as we are on different campuses), and took delivery of my beautiful “baby”!

Only thing is, you can’t do anything with an iPad before setting up an iTunes account and downloading some apps, so guess what I’ll be doing this afternoon? BIG GRIN!! 😀

iPad-mania strikes!

I am patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently) waiting for my iPad 2 to arrive!  It is on order because apparently the 3G/wi-fi version is as scarce as chicken’s teeth in South Africa, and as luck would have it, that’s the one I want.  So, I just have to hurry up and wait for it to arrive… ho-hum… twiddling my thumbs!!

In the mean time, I am trying to read as much as possible about these beautiful devices.  I am totally new to Apple products, have never used a Mac and so I am totally clueless in this department.  This, however, does not mean that I am not excited about the imminent arrival of my device and what it holds in store for me – and the children at my school.  We are hoping to run an iPad trial in the very near future.  There are many hurdles and obstacles in our way, the main one being the financial implications of such a venture, but I am adamant that when we do, my lack of Apple/Mac product knowledge will no longer be an impediment!  So, in order to learn, I am following blogs and reading up on all things iPad and as I go along, I am creating a list of useful links to share with anyone who reads my blog. (I’ve also convinced my husband to let me use his cell phone upgrade and now I’m investigating the iPhone 4!)

See my growing list of iPad links here.

Here is a close-up of the beauty that is  iPad 2: