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What a conference!

The build-up was tremendous, the hours of preparation numerous and the feelings of expectation and anticipation were huge. Could we pull it off, the six of us that make up the Elkanah IT Department? We were confident that we could and, oh boy, we DID!! I am so proud to be part of such an awesome team.

The EdTechConf eXtended event at Elkanah has come and gone but I don’t have that feeling of deflation and emptiness one often experiences after a particularly exciting event. To the contrary, I feel elated, not only because we did a great job, but because we were able to excite and inspire a group of teachers, give them ideas and possibly some tools for including the use of technology in their classrooms, making it an add-in, not an add-on! That’s what this event was all about and even if each teacher took away only one idea to make a start, take that first step, then we were 100% successful in our mission!

Key points that came out of this conference were:
* Buy-in from school management is vital (sadly very few principals attended our conference).
* Technology needs to be an integral part of teaching today as our students are born tech savvy (digital natives)
* It must be an add-in not an add-on
* Teachers should start small, choose one aspect/topic and use technology to enhance it
* Baby steps… Take that first step!

We had a variety of wonderful presenters who provided much inspiration and to them we are very grateful for their input an willingness to share their experiences and projects. All their bios and presentations are available here: http://elkedtechconf.blogspot.com.

The EdTechConf team consisting of Tim Keller, Arthur Preston, Rick Greener and Helen Temple have started an amazing initiative which is gaining momentum beyond their wildest imagination, with a number of future eXtended events planned already. The first one will take place at Cornwall Hill College in Gauteng in October. See www.edtechconf.co.za .

Elkanah will continue to be closely involved with EdTechConf, especially since Arthur Preston has recently been appointed as the new head of our Senior Primary, where I am based!

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Facing Facebook…

I am an avid “Facebooker”. There is hardly a day that I do not pop in to check my news feed and see what’s happening to my “Friends”. Quite often I post a status message, but not always – just when I feel like it. Unfortunately though, I pop in a for a “quick” look and before I know it I’ve lost 30 minutes or more, reading all the status updates, checking new photos added, ‘liking’ pages and more. The reality of it is that Facebook is a time thief – 10 minutes turns into an hour in the blink of an eye, stealing what could be productive time; time which could have been put to far better use, if one had to be honest, that is. It is also a fantastic social networking tool and has enabled me to connect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in 30 years and it is for that very reason that I can’t resist it.

However, neither of the above is why I am writing this post today. I have just come across a post (thanks to Twitter – another one of my “vices”), by Vicki Davis or @coolcatteacher which touches on aspects of Facebook which I have brought to the attention of our parents and our staff – the issues of ‘friending’ our own children and the ‘friending ‘of our students.

Before I carry on, let me say that the Internet is NOT and does not have to be the huge ogre that it is made out to be. It is an awesome resource which, when used wisely and responsibly, is the most amazing tool available to children adults alike. It is our duty as parents and teachers to give our children the tools to make use of this wonderful resource in a safe and responsible way. However, the consequences, when it is NOT used responsibly or in an unmonitored manner, can be very nasty indeed.

Back to Vicki’s post. It is an excellent read and provides some excellent insight into the Friend settings on Facebook, many of which most people are not aware. She also touches on the issue of underage Facebook users, which is something close to my heart. I’m a real stickler for following rules as I believe that rules are put in place for a reason. If you may only be on Facebook from the age of 13, then so be it. That is why my own daughter does not have a Facebook profile – she’s only 12, and I will cross that bridge when she turns 13. As for parents who allow their underage children on Facebook, well I have always advocated that these parents should ‘friend’ their children with the idea that they can keep an eye on their children’s Facebook activity as a protective measure. Vicki’s post has put a completely new spin on this and gives excellent reasons as to why this is possibly not a great idea.

Vicki also addresses the issue of teachers ‘friending’ their students. I do not approve of this, as I feel it is unprofessional, especially at primary school level when there is a great difference between teacher and child in terms of interests and experience, not to mention age. Do your students really need to know what you did last weekend or what your friends have to say about you? I think not, but that is my personal opinion entirely.

Please read her article for yourself. Whether you disagree or not, it makes good reading: Cool Cat Teacher Blog http://bit.ly/gstwVV

For similar or related posts:

Unsocial Social Media – http://bit.ly/hMwuct

Why Teachers Need to Use Social Media – http://bit.ly/gSr

Virtual ‘hanging with friends’ (where, when, how…) – http://bit.ly/f83qpO

What’s the right age to give a child a cell phone? – http://bit.ly/fphnJd

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

An Apple a day…

Last Friday, I got a close look at an iPod Touch (actually an iPhone, but the iPod Touch is the same thing, without the phone). Wow! What a piece of magic – so beautiful and apparently very useful too. So, our principal and I are getting a demo iPod Touch to play with for the holidays. Of course, the idea is to see how it can be used in the classroom and from what I saw on Friday and also on the Apple website, there a MANY uses for this beautiful piece of technology. I can’t wait! Thanks to Michelle of Think Ahead. Now do you think that, if I close my eyes and wish very hard, my little Samsung will turn into a beautiful iPhone4?? Wishful thinking – he he!

See the Slideshare by Grace Poli here:
http://www.slideshare.net/gpoli/a-classroom-in-your-pocket-ipods-in-education?src=related_normal&rel=1521233

Picture courtesy of :http://www.apple.com/za/education/ipodtouch-iphone/

Cultural patterns in a stained glass window!

The Grade 4’s have been studying the significance of colours and shapes in cultural patterns, specifically those of the Zulu, Ndebele and Xhosa people.  As a fun, related actvity, they got to create their own cultural patterns in MS Publisher.  I will be adding more pictures, but could not resist putting these up in the stained glass collage I created with http://www.stainedglasscollage.com/  Another fun, FREE Web 2.0 tool!