Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flavours of the Month...

The Writers Club
This is a great site that allows students to have their own blog for writing.  They use a username and password (no email is required!).  Students are able to add blog posts, comment on other students writing and make friends with other students.  This adds an element of competition as students collect achievement awards based on the work they have created.  This has also been a great tool to teach about social media as students make friends, create forums and groups.  
How I use it in the class: students are encouraged to post any writing they have done in class.  Recently, students have completed one particular piece of writing, parents have been encouraged to find this and comment on this to their child.  We have used this as their writing sample for the first half of the term.  Students love this site, recently some of the boys (who are normally throwing around a rugby ball) came running up to me asking if they can finish what they were working on at home last night...not that I want my students to sit on a computer 24/7, but I surprised these boys were so into this!

This is a behaviour management system ~ online!  This site has a great interface and is very easy to use.  I have it on the IWB as well as the iPads in the class and my iPhone.  This programme allows us to keep track of students behaviour which is easily customised to our needs.  When a point is awarded a sound produced...the power of this sound is amazing.  I also have this by my side when we are in assembly, on field trips...everywhere!  Of course there is a reward for the top players...at the end of the week the top 8 students have their 'own choice' for half-an-hour and the lowest 3 scores for the day clean up the class. 

I have been a big fan of iMovie in the past.  The full version is jammed packed full of features to make movies...although this can be a little daunting especially between different versions so when I was introduced to the iPad version I was a little hesitant thinking it would take a bit of time to get to grips with it.  How wrong I was! This is a simple, logical app where the results are amazing.  Although it is basic, there are some add ons you can buy.  Extras for iMovie lets you add text, titles and scrolling credits to your movies.  We also use Action Movies.  This lets you add special effects (e.g. tornadoes, car smash...) to video's.  The students also love using the trailer component of iMovie.  
How I use it in the class:  One of the many ways we use it is to reflect on the weeks learning. Students create a simple movie about what they have done in the week, filming their work and either doing a voice-over or adding in text to describe what they have learnt.  They also comment on their next steps and what they have enjoyed or are looking forward to.  This then uploaded to youtube and embeded in their wiki.

Check out their latest trailer for a pass-it-on blog we were part of:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Individual Learning Pathways (ILP)

To enable better integration of e-learning within my classroom, I developed a programme which allowed students to decide when and where they will do their learning.

Using more and more technology in the class, it was clear that using the designated one session a week in the ICT lab was not enough to integrate technology in my classroom programme.  My students were also capable of managing themselves to some extent and I wanted them to take more ownership of their own learning.  The only way I could make full use of the classroom technological devices (laptops and computers to start with) was to throw out the way I had previously run my class (at Maths time, everyone was doing some kind of maths activity, similar with Literacy, etc) and look at a more flexible learning environment.

Questions I asked myself
- Why do all students have to do a subject (e.g. Maths) at the same time?
- Is it possible to organise their programmes so the computers get the maximum use?
- How do I know the best time for their learning ~ can they decide when to do activities that do not rely on a new skill being taught?

How it Works:

Teacher Sessions - Workshops
Students still need to attend group lessons with the teacher (that was a given).  I named these 'workshops', where students, depending on the topic, would know the workshops they need to attend during the week...Maths and Literacy are the main subject areas that require these workshops.  Depending on the topic, groups are formed by either interest (e.g. when we were doing instructional writing, students were writing instructions for using different e-learning tools and were grouped by the tool rather than ability) or by ability (e.g. for Maths).  Students then have a follow-up session straight after the teaching session, allowing them to consolidate the skill they have just learnt.

Independent Activities
The activities needed to be at a level where students were able to 'get on with it', and also reinforce the skills they were learning in their workshops.  When I looked at what we had in their programmes already, there were activities which they did not need a teacher to be over their shoulder.
Example Activities 
- Spelling: students practice their weekly spelling words with a list of activities (using their Multiple Intelligences)
- Publishing: students spend this time publishing their work to their wikispaces
- Reflective Journal: towards the end of the week, students write a reflection of their week of learning, this may include their successes, their next steps and what they have enjoyed (they have a list of sentence starters that can help them if they need it).
- Blog: my students don't have their own blog, so within their wikispaces, they have created their own blogs.  They publish their reflections of the week here.
- Editing: students go through their writing, reflections, anything and spend this time proofreading their work. I allowed them time in their timetable to actually sit-down and make their writing better.
Finishing: students have time to finish off any work they have not completed during that week (or in previous weeks).

Whole Class Lessons
There are still some things we need to do as a class.  Within their weekly timetable, these are already written in (e.g. Assembly, P.E., Library).

What it Looks Like
Monday morning, as a class we sort out our timetables.  I have my timetable, which includes workshops and who attendees.  Students start by putting in their workshops, then they can insert their activities around this.  We have a computer booking system, where students book into computers.  If there is no computer free at the time they want, they need to re-organise their timetable.  I use the class wiki to post their supporting material and many of the lesson e-learning tools used in the workshop.  Recently I have used flipped videos, where students view the material before coming to a workshop.  This has been a great success and allowed students greater time to work on the skills taught.

Session are usually 30 - 45 mins and their timetable is broken up into time slots.

Things I needed to do as a teacher
- Let go as a teacher: students are not all doing the same type of activity, so as teacher, I needed to let go of the control and allow this flexibility in the class.
- Allow flexible learning spaces: changing my classroom to allow students greater access to computers was essential.  My classroom has different learning areas depending on the need.  At every table there is a computer (laptop or desktop computer).  I have a teaching group table centered around the IWB.  Students chose where they sit depending on their timetable.  If they need a computer, they sit where they have booked a computer, if they have a workshop, they sit at the teaching group table.  Some students even choose the floor ~ as long as they are engaged and focused, they can make that decision themselves!

This idea has transformed my class.  My students are in control of their own learning and are a lot more independent because of this.  I often come back to class from a break and they are sitting down, getting on with their programmes!  They are independent, focused learners who are capable of making choices that impact on their own learning path.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Oh Flip ~ Flipped!

After discussing with the class (see earlier post), I committed to posting my first flipped class to our class wiki, ready for the coming week.

I made a keynote, with the idea that I would voice-over.  After numerous attempts to not cough, splutter, have someone walk in and ask why I was talking to myself, I made the executive decision to not voice-over.

Here is my first lesson:
Writing the main part of a speech
View more presentations from missmccauley

iPad Roll Out

After spending a few hours writing this blog post, publishing then accidentally deleting - here is my second attempt!

This year, our school's main focus is digital learning.

Term One
We formed a group of teachers, covering all year levels within the school.  This group was self-selected, with a common goal to help the school move forward with our e-learning.  We had several meetings and the school employed David Kinane, a highly motivated and passionate e-learning facilitator.  During the first term, David came into our classrooms working along side us and showing us various tools to use with our students.  I made an wiki to begin posting our progress, including meeting minutes, help pages, staff development pages.  I intended this wiki to be accessed by all staff, so I also included a Glossary as I knew many staff did not know the terms we were using.

Term Two 
We really needed an action plan to help guide our way through this journey.  This was developed with a smaller team.  We spent a day looking at the different strands of e-learning and came up with a 3 year plan.  We also looked at getting iPads in the school.

iPad Roll Out
The easy part was deciding on the device, the hard part was the roll-out.  Getting this right would ensure staff could understand the device and be comfortable using it within their classroom and we didn't want these devices to be just another 'gadget' relegated to the cupboard.  We had a diverse group of people, some who had their own Apple touch devices (iPad/ iPod/ iPhone), some who had used some sort of apple touch device (but didn't have one of their own) and some who had never touched an Apple touch device.  The iPads were ordered (one per teacher), with the idea that teachers would get personally comfortable with the device before introducing it as a classroom tool ~ we really needed to 'sell' it to the staff.

With the iPads ordered, the actual deployment would be carefully planned.  Proper planning would ensure teachers understood the device and therefore be more confident users.  I knew among the group of teachers who had not used an Apple touch device before, there were skeptics.  How could we make this deployment as simple as possible for everyone involved?  We decided to break the staff into 3 self-selected groups.  The HOT group were those who owned their own devices.  The MEDIUM group were the staff who had used an apple touch device before, but didn't feel they were advanced and the MILD group who were the beginners.  For this group (& anyone else who wanted a copy), I made up a step-by-step guide (using Jing) that included the set-up process, parts of the iPad, installing an app, joining a wi-fi network and tips & tricks.  We really wanted the staff to set-up their own iPads so when more come, they can be set-up and not reliant on someone else.  This also meant staff knew some of the in's and out's their iPads, for trouble-shooting, staff would be better equipped to deal with problems.

The roll-out went well. Staff were happy ~ yay!  Next came the support.  We held staff meetings where staff were encouraged to share useful apps (using Apple TV).  I also set-up a space on the staff wiki to find useful apps.  Staff were also encouraged to add to this collection.  A month down the track we also sent out an anonymous survey asking questions relating to the iPads.  The response was great ~ teachers were ready and wanting more devices with most teachers using it within their classroom programme to varying degrees.

Up-sizing to a combo - Do you want fries with that?
There are so many accessories that can be added to enhance the features of the iPad.  We have already purchased some Apple TV's, so sharing what is on an iPad is easier.

iPad Covers/ Frames have also been investigated.
After a lot of research (talking to teachers at other schools, blogs, twitter, general internet searches), we found two to look at.
First was the Big Grips iPad Frame. This product is advertised as 'The iPad case made for Kids'.  It was big and certainly provided excellent protection should the iPad be dropped.  After two weeks of use these were the observations (both staff and students)
- Looked fun, bright colours
- Protected the iPad and even bounced (impromptu tested by 6 year old accidental drop)
- Could come with a stand that made it easy to prop up (either landscape or portrait)
- The frame is quite big.  They have made holes to get to buttons such as the volume.  It is actually quite difficult to get your finger down to the button (big fingers ~ forget it, tiny finger ~ too short)
- Does wrapping an iPad in foam and being okay to drop the message we want to teach our kids when using these expensive devices?
- Charging the iPad while in it's case proved to be quite difficult as accessing the charging pins was a challenge.
- When filming, my students who used this cover had a pink arch in one corner from where the cover had moved.
- The cover is quite big, making the overall iPad large and bulky (not good for storage of multiple iPads)
- iPad cover is expensive

I looked into other options and found a a silicone product which claimed to be anti-shock.

Educase iPad Covers: These were the observations by both staff and students:
- The iPad is encased in a hard plastic frame, then wrapped in a heavy duty silicone providing enough protection against dropping (impromptu drop by teacher ~ whoops!)
- The iPad case didn't obstruct any of the iPad features ~ camera was framed, speakers were not muffled by the frame, ports were easily accessible.
- It has a stand enabling the iPad to be stood up, if needed.
- Cheaper than any else like it currently on the market.
- Students enjoyed using this.
- Cover is slim and does not make the iPad too big.

Next Steps
1. To introduce more devices!
2. Find suitable covers/ frames for iPad
3. Continue with staff development and sharing of successes.

Watch this space...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What a year...2011

Leading up to 2011
The school I am currently working at (and have been since 2009) have varied in their technology within the school.  Some classes had IWB, all had some sort of computer/ laptop devices (although some didn't work).  Having been teaching since 2004 and always having an IWB in my class, it was a challenge to teach some lessons without being able to show a clip or have a flip chart that I could use.  I was worried that I would loose the skills I had built up over the years and I was right.  A year and a half later, I was fortunate enough to get an IWB in my class...phew!  I was also lucky enough to be in a team of teachers who were eager to think outside the box when thinking about the classroom.  I had been involved with 'digital classrooms' before (being defined as having 10 computers in the classroom at a previous school I was at), but I could not envisage the road we were about to travel down!

iPods (2011)
In the previous year, we held a market day where our students design and made products to sell.  The goal was for the students to be involved in the whole design, production, advertising and selling process.  We didn't have any firm plans for the money we raised but knew we would get the students involved in the whole process.  After numerous ideas (roller-coaster, swimming pool, student lounge among some of the ideas) we came down to printers in the school as we found both staff and students were getting frustrated with the lack of access to get their printing.  After speaking to our Principal, we decided that this may not be the best use of the money.  Light bulb...iPods.  I had an iPod and an iPhone but I had not really thought about this in the classroom.  A little research later and we decided that this would be a great road to go down.  We researched and researched this idea and finally purchased 8 iPods (without the camera...what would we need a camera for and they are so much more expensive - *insert deep regret!*).  We now had 8 iPods to share between 3 classes, so it was decided to keep them as a set (as we had read numerous recommendations that this would be better).  We had a timetable set-up where my class would get the set every 3 weeks.

iPod PD
We also wanted to get the most out of these devices.  It seemed the more we researched (and we researched a lot) the more we got to grips of the magnitude of change we were about to undertake and how much we had been missing out on.

I knew of a school who used iPods and went to observe a day in their school life.  Ahuroa School opened my eyes to some the possibilities within the classroom.  They were a lot more advanced that us (having both iPods/ iPads/ apple TV's...).  We also attended a course on using the iPods in class...we were off!  Hindsight...If only we had got those iPods with cameras!  We noticed a shift in our classrooms.  Students were connected to the world and loved the different way of learning that this device provided.

We ticked along nicely...trying to integrate these devices throughout our whole programme.  Then I was lucky enough for the chance to attend the ULearn conference in Rotorua...*insert complete change in my teaching*.  It was like being hit by a bus.  Teachers were doing truly amazing things!  The ideas I had - I needed 3 weeks more just to get my head around it all.  The new terms (thank goodness for google!), the new ideas WOW!  So consequently my entire classroom change.  The layout the delivery...EVERYTHING!

I am a 'I-CANT-WAIT-TO-DO-THAT' teacher (which also means waking at 3am to put into place new ideas).  So come term 4, when my students came back, everything had changed.  The reaction...they loved it!  Furniture change...check, wikispaces (class and student) set-up and ready...check (see Wiki's in the classroom for further details).

So that was 2011...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Oh Flip!

In the last month or so, I have been reading more and more about the 'flipped classroom'.  I have decided to try and incorporate these ideas in my classroom programme.

Step One: Researching
Although I have read quite a few articles on this topic, below are a few that I have found particularly helpful:

The Flipped Classroom Defined (great infographic)
The Flip: Turning a classroom upside down
Mobile Learning and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture
The Truth about flipped learning 
3 Keys to Flipped Learning (very practical)
What the Flip (the other side of the coin)

Step Two: Discussing
I thought I better have a conversation with the people it would directly affect ~ my year 5 class. I have decided to trial it within my literacy programme, specifically the dreaded Speech writing unit that we are about to embark on.

So we had a great chat about this notion today. I had them collate their thoughts on a PMI (on the IWB):

From this chat, the feedback was very positive.  The students were very excited about this new idea.  Some of the feedback and reactions:
1. No teacher to help - I have reassured students that we will be discussing the finer details when they have their workshop (group time) with me.  They will also have the ability to leave a comment or discussion if they have anything to discuss.
2. No internet at home - I have a couple of students who will not have access to a computer on a week-by-week basis.  For these students, they will have time in class to view the material before their workshop. They will also have access before school.

So now I have the students on board, I know what I am going to 'flip' (literacy lessons, specifically speech writing), I know when I am going to start...next week...I just need to flippin' do it!

If you have any advice/ success stories/ pitfalls, please feel free to add a comment.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Useful Classroom eLearning Tools

Apart from wikispaces here are the some other tools I find very useful within my year 5 class (and as a teacher)

This site allows you to create screenshot and screencasts.  I use this tool to create instructional guides for students and staff.  We have recently rolled out iPads to the staff with many staff members not having used an apple mobile device before.  Jing allowed me to create a step-by-step visual manuel for basic operations of an iPad.  In the classroom, we were set to teach instructional writing for the term.  With help from David Kinane (an elearning facilitator), we got the students to create useful instructional guides for tasks such as inserting a widget in wikispaces.  These guides have been used by both students and teachers!  Within Jing you can also create instructional video's as it can take a screencast that students talk over...explaining what they are doing.  These video's are then embeded in their wiki's - or the class wiki help section.

Fotobabble on the iPad
Talking picture.  Students can take a photo of a piece of work and discuss this (in under 60 seconds).  This can then be embeded in their wiki for all to see ~ and hear!

iMovie on the iPad
Yes we use these on the iPads.  This allows students to capture the content and use it in iMovie all on the one device.  We create a movie where we took one of the students stories and create a screen play (all in one week!).  The students then filmed and edited this on the iPad and showed this to the school as our assembly item.  On a day-to-day basis, students capture what they have been learning in their workshops and post this to youtube, then embeded onto their wiki's.  They use the voice-over tool to reflect on what they learned and what their next steps are.  This only takes a couple of minutes and allows them this reflection time.

Class Dojo
I have found this in the past week...if you have google chrome, you can get the app.
ClassDojo is an easy way to engage your classroom by recognising positive behaviours as they happen.
The students seemed really excited about this tool.  I have put it up on my interactive whiteboard and have it installed on the 2 iPads in the classroom (I also have it on my iPhone).  This allows us to keep track of what is going on in the classroom.  You can make your own behaviours.  I have included a forgetting homework button, where I can now keep track week to week who the regular forgetters are (previously I have kept this  on a chart, but I can now access this anywhere...end of year report writing...check).  I get students to put their own points up and at the end of the day, the lowest 3 need to clean up.  At the end of the week the top 8 students get half-an-hour of their 'own time' in class (Friday just before morning tea when we are helping the class next door with spelling).

Wiki's in the Classroom

The number one tool I find invaluable is wikispaces.  I really liked the idea of students having their own voice heard by a potentially world-wide audience.  I had read a lot about student blogs, however it was a school policy for students not to have an email address.  So Wikispaces was the next alternative.

My students were now open to a world-wide audience.  They loved the ability to create content which could be viewed by anyone and with our multicultural school, many of our students had families overseas who could easily view their progress.

I started out giving students a username and assigning them their own space.  I create a class wiki, where I would post materials to support lessons, etc.  As soon as I introduced my students, they were off.  I found students going home and immediately working on their wiki's (either work they hadn't finished or 'blinging' their wiki ~ embedding widgets/ video's...).

This is my second year working with wikispaces.  I find we use physical excercise books less and less as students opt for publishing straight to their wiki.  Last year we got students to bring in USB sticks for saving files, pictures, etc.  We no longer use these (whoops!) as students can save documents, pictures to their wiki and being internet-based, they can access this information from anywhere.

I have just finished my mid-year reports and this was a great tool for seeing their learning (and I didn't have a stack of books spread around me).

Managing Wiki's
Using the comments feature, I can comment on their work, just like I would during class.  I try to focus on a page a week (e.g. their writing pages).  I keep a list of students I need to catch-up with (either they haven't completed a task, or they have done an outstanding job).  This means I know exactly what is going on.  It also means I can easily identify students who are struggling.  With one particular student (struggles with anything IT-based), I have paired them up with another student to ensure they know how to do basic tasks and to ensure they aren't just looking around the internet.  

It's great to look back at last year's work and see the development of my own skills and the students...wonder what 2013's class wiki will look like!

2011 Class Wiki

2012 Class Wiki

Saturday, June 2, 2012

So I begin...

Having grown up with a brother (and to some extent a father) who were obsessed with computers ~ I never thought this would (or could be) a world that would interest me.  The thought of locking myself in a room and staring at a screen instead of being in the great outdoors, repulsed me.  The smell, the translucent skin of his 'computer geek' friends, the lack of social skills...was not for me!

Fast forward 15 years and I find myself easily absorbed in an online world where I am constantly learning and changing my own views on the world (more specifically my teaching pedagogy)...HOW did this happen?

I have been teaching for coming up 10 years and I love the evolving nature that is teaching.  I can see the benefit of this new digital age.  

Since coming back (2010) from my stint in London, I was fortunate to join a team of like-minded teachers at a school on Auckland's North Shore.  We seemed to be in-sync with each other and have constantly evaluated and changed our programmes to try and get the most out of our students and foster a feeling of confidence and independence in each individual.  Being someone who can't sit still for longer than half an hour, helps to ensure that constant change is mandatory for sanity (the thought of doing the same topic, same time, every year ~ YUCK!)

So I found myself in this year 5 team (with 2 other amazing teachers), who had already implemented some great ideas.  They had started a different system for their learning in class.  Beginning with Literacy.  Reading, writing, spelling and other literacy based activities were put together and the 'Literacy Tumble' was created.  This meant for the middle part of our day (11 - 12.30) students moved through 3 activities - by the end of the week, the students would have rotated through individual and teacher activities.  Per week, students would see the teacher 3 times (reading, writing and spelling), then the rest of the time they would work independently.  

We also purchased (through a market day where students made products and sold them) 8 ipod touches.  This allowed us greater activities to offer our students.  

This worked well for a year, but could we take this idea further?  We also had technological devices in our classroom which weren't always being used.  Enter the notion of ILP's ~ Individual Learning Programmes.  This allowed students to control their own timetables.   They would be in greater control of their own learning.  It enabled students with busy schedules outside of the classroom (e.g. support lessons with learning assistance, ESOL, etc) to timetable this in.  Within this ILP, students attend 'workshops', group lessons to teach/ reinforce new skills.   There are certain events during the week that all students must attend (e.g. assemblies) and these are put in the plan.   Students are doing tasks at different times of the day meaning the classroom resources are used throughout the day.  Students when setting up their programme for the week also look at the activities and book in computers on timetables.  

We have now (in the last month) begun to introduce iPads into the classroom.  We have two in our class and this is allowing students greater creativity and platforms to produce and display their work.  

After attending the ULearn conference in 2011, I was introduced to wikispaces.  Students were now able to have their own online learning space, where the audience was potentially world-wide.  They love it!  Students often (daily) go home and continue their work from the day.

I should have started this along time ago...bugga! 

So this will be my learning journey...road blocks, bright ideas, evolution...all the good, the bad and the ugly...