Category Archives: Web 2.0

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 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 – . 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.


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!


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!

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 /

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, 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!!

Story Time!

Our Grade 6’s are writing stories for the Grade 2’s and Grade 3’s.  Working in pairs they have had to come up with an age-appropriate story which they have to illustrate too.  The Grade 6’s have done this in the past, but this year we are taking the task a little further.  These stories will be created in PowerPoint and then saved as PDFs.  From there we will upload them to Youblisher (see previous post dated 10/11/2010), to create ebooks.  I have shown the children examples of what these books look like and they are very excited to be using this wonderful tool. 
I have created a Grade 6 Wiki with a page per class and I will embed these stories into the Wiki.  I then plan to ‘advertise’ these stories to my Twitter PLN in the hope that other classes from around the world will pop in and read the stories and make comments (positive ones, I hope!).  This project excites me and I know the children are excited too – fact, I have a Grade 6 class  in the lab as I type, and there is a buzz second to none going on in there!

Crossword Fun

One of our Grade 5 teachers came up with the idea of having the children draw up a crossword using one of the websites I had sent to her a while back.  This worked out really well, because not only did the children have to come up with clues that made sense (using information from their Social Sciences books, to do with Contagious Diseases), but they then had to copy and paste the crossword from the website into Word and add value by changing fonts, inserting pictures and borders etc. The result was most pleasing and the children enjoyed the task too!

The website is Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker, found here:

Click on the image below to take a look at a few examples…


I’ve been playing with ‘Youblisher’!

If you go to my BETT 2010 page and scroll right down to the “Visit BETT” Winner article (click on it), you will see what Youblisher can do.  It converts pdfs into magazines – with the sound effect of turning the page!  What an incredible tool to use with children.  Imagine the uses for creative writing and publication of books written by children for children!  I’m going to be using it in a week or two in that collaboration project I hinted at in my last post, so I used my own material to practice!  Thanks again to Fiona Beal for that wonderful tip!  Click here to visit the Youblisher website:

Here is a screenshot: