Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Use SketchUp to design your dream golf hole!

Mervin Walsh's technology class used SketchUp PRO and SANDBOX tools to design and draw their dream golf hole.

The golf hole included the following components: a tee box with a small hut (stamp tool) alongside; fairway (drape tool); green (drape tool); a hole on the green with a flagstick in it; bunkers; water hazard and trees (trees to be imported from 3D warehouse).

Marks were allocated for the layout design, creativity, use of colour and textures and profiecency in the use of SketchUp SANDBOX. 

Sensible Internet Advice: LO programme

A rock in the hands of a monkey is either a tool (to crack open nuts) or a weapon (to crack open the head of another monkey) or a toy (to roll or toss for amusement)! Our focus in the Life Orientation department at Bishops is on the “monkey” and not the rock….. While we may naively believe that students use technology primarily to aid their education, reality may be that they use it far, far more often as a toy or even a weapon.

The internet and technological gadgetry in general, provide a particular danger to young men. The exploitation and abuse of girls via the internet has received a fair amount of publicity, and schools and parents routinely coach girls in preventative action and the dangers of meeting “people” in chat-rooms or via websites. Little, if anything, is done to address the unique problems of young men. They may no longer be first targets of pedophiles, and they are probably big enough to defend themselves from physical threats which may arise from ill-advised contacts made via the internet. However, their very own personality and make-up is often their greatest source of danger. The irresistible attraction of competitive games, the sweeping storms of hormonal changes and their lack of emotional awareness conspire to make them victims in an entirely unexpected way:  they often, inadvertently, perpetrate grave misdemeanors as a result of their tendency to recklessness, or in the heat of the game or as a result of perceived threat to their ego. An otherwise sensible and kind young man may suddenly find himself guilty of the distribution of child pornography, when he forwards a picture or video he thought “funny”. When crossed or betrayed, his instinctive reaction may be anger and revenge and, before he knows it, he has made comments or threats he can no longer retrieve. All his young, ill-considered adolescent trials and errors are indelibly printed somewhere out there in the ether, and any hope of redemption of his image is lost, as it “goes viral” and spins out of his control.

The second category of dangers lurks about in his still-forming value system. It is alarmingly easy to cheat with technology. Answers are bbm-ed. Assignments are cut and pasted. School “work” is churned out at a speedy rate – without ever having passed through his brain and thought processes. Google has become the new Oracle of Delphi, and our own attempts to solve problems and create novel solutions have been hijacked by the plethora of opinions available at the press of a finger. Who would struggle through the process of thinking when a few finger-clicks can have a wonderfully neat “task” ready for the English teacher in a flash?

The last of the IT Horsemen of the Apocalypse is the one called Addiction – to gaming and to pornography. Increasingly research is showing that these two addictions are far more prevalent and dangerous that we had hitherto considered.  As a school which insists that our boys use laptops in the classroom, I feel strongly that we therefore have a burden of responsibility to provide a clear moral compass and an awareness of the inherent dangers of this choice, as well as the IT skills needed to make maximum educational use of the medium.

In grade nine we take a term to look at these issues in the following ways:

  • We use interactive webpages to show boys how to manage their on-line brand and social media presence
  • “Tagged – what you do online can tag you for life” is a valuable video, with interview clips from the characters, discussing the implications of hasty posts
  • The boys create a poster of Top Ten Tips regarding an aspect of internet safety – emotional and reputational
  • Nick Hall, a lawyer, visits each class individually to discuss plagiarism and legal aspects related to internet use
  • Each boy does an audit of his time spent on the computer or gaming, including a discussion on the opportunity costs of this
  • We take a brief look at transferable cognitive skills (or the absence of them!) and the necessity of a reality-based conceptual framework to the development of maturity and appropriate relational skills.
  • We introduce the mechanics of process addiction.

Next year I plan to add ways to avoid “brain drain” and to encourage discrimination when choosing content. Plagiarism remains a perennial problem to be addressed. In short, we must aim to foster an appreciation for human dignity and reinforce the benefits of creativity and original thought, while building a solid moral and value framework within which to use the ever-present technological gadgets which have become so fundamental to our lives.

Bev Kemball
Head of Department: Life Orientation

Learning French in fun new ways

Contrary to many critics, comics can be beneficial to learning in the classroom and not a fun art-enrichment activity. Comics provide narrative experiences for students learning a new language such as French. Students follow story beginnings and endings, plot, characters, time and setting, sequencing without needing sophisticated word decoding skills. Images support the test and give students good contextual clues to word meaning. Comics act as a scaffold to student understanding.

Stephen Cary, a second language learning specialist says "Comics provide authentic language learning opportuinites for all students....The dramatically reduced text of many comics make them manageable and language profitable for students".

A trial version of Comic Life is a freely available, but licensed versions do come at a price.
Our French Grade 8 class used this application to create their own comics describing their daily routines and the key benefits of engaging through creating, thinking, comprehension were all evident during the process.

Here is one example of what the boys created using Comic Life.

It's all about Teaching and Learning

Our challenge as teachers today is to not only to prepare our students to be digitally savvy and information literate, but also to help them create, communicate, collaborate and connect so that they can become responsible and contributing citizens in the future.

Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay and we as educators need to do everything we can to empower out students for their futures.

Technology will never replace a good teacher, however take good teaching practice and equip it with the advancing technology that is now available to us, and we have a powerful combination of ingredients to take to our students.

Whenever one attempts to plan and create a lesson or classroom experience using some form of technology, one must always focus on how the technology can be used to enhance the learning experience for the students, and assist them in applying the 21st Century skills such as collaboration, creativity, organisation, critical thinking etc and not just on the technology itself.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. So often, despite the best planning, a technology-based lesson can go awry. Always ensure that you have a backup plan should the technology let you down.

Our students are such confident users of technology. Don't feel that you have to know everything or more about the technology than your students! They will show you the way!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Teaching with Twig

Shanni Thomas
Cape Town

About Twig:

On-line resource for Physical Science, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics and Biology; Includes quality video; Can be hosted locally; Comes with worksheets and quizzes – available online or via download.
Purchasing: 4 different subscription options

Classroom Use:

Fabulous resource for flipped classroom scenarios

Tube Chop: chop 'n share from any YouTube video.

Teachers are using this to chop the relevant sections from a YouTube video and share it.
Four easy steps:
  1. Find the video on YouTube and copy the URL
  2. Go to tubechop and paste the URL
  3. Select & cut interesting part of the video.
  4. Share it

Monday, 29 October 2012

Learning Meiosis hands-on!

Cell division in Life Sciences is best learnt by getting students to 'recreate' the stages of the process in a practical, hands-on way.

Using playdough, each stage of meiosis can be modelled, annotated and then photographed. These images can then be imported into Photostory or Movie Maker and then edited. Narration, effects and music can be added to complete the digital story and the project saved as a movie file. Editing the timing of each digital image can create an animated sequence representing the stages of this type of cell division.

This type of activity supports visual learners and can be a wonderful way in which to reinforce concepts and enhance understanding. It also means that the completed movie can be shared, uploaded to a blog and used for revision purposes in the future. Collaboration, creativity, organisation and critical thinking are all 21st Century Skills that can be effectively implemented in this excercise.

The videos below are examples of the movies that were created in this way.

Using Digital Storytelling to learn Xhosa Vocabulary

Learning Xhosa vocabulary in a linear fashion may not be the most inspiring or effective way of teaching a second language so we decided to put a different spin on the theme of Churches and Ceremonies for the Grade 10 Xhosa class.

The boys were asked to take photographs of various items in the school chapel using whatever technology they had available and to source other pictures from the internet that supported the theme.

Using these downloaded resources, and PhotoStory 3, the boys created a narrated picture story in Xhosa and saved the final product as a movie.

Photostory works by organising a series of digital images into a sequential order. One can then add various effects to each of the images, insert text, music and even record your own voice. It is a Microsoft tool and freely available for download off the web. Photostory projects can easily be uploaded into Classroom blogs without having to going through YouTube.

This made their learning experience more visual, fun, creative and contextual and also supported an active learning environment.

Here is an example of one of the movies created by the boys.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Digital Footprint

How to behave appropriately, safely and responsibly online; how to stay safe and to create a positive personal profile, a digital footprint that you are proud of...These skills that are very topical in educational discussions.

  • awareness of the consequences of online behaviour 
  • respect privacy and personal information – your own and others 
  • select appropriate spaces to work in and contribute to 
  • encourage appropriate, ethical and responsible internet use 
  • be proactive about inappropriate online behaviour 
  • actively create a positive digital presence and be proud of all you put online

We are preparing pupils for both their working lives and their personal lives by teaching skills of communication, collaboration, research, independent learning and networking. Many current vocations include the integrated use of technology and it could be argued that technology has become integral to everyday communication. Schools spend significant portions of their budgets on monitoring, limiting or restricting access to certain technologies or Internet usage. In many ways, while appreciating school liability and safety concerns, restricting access to technology creates a false environment and limits the development of those skills required for 21st century living and learning. Limiting access to technology reduces pupils’ skills in learning how to behave appropriately and keep safe when using technology. Our role as educators is to equip our learners and parents with the skills and resources they need to that they are able to understand and make sensible choices about cyber behaviour.

A colleague recently commented that with education one isn't sure until significant time has passed as to whether a particular method or technology has been successful or not. We therefore need budget to experiment, to try new things and to keep asking the question as to whether what we do adds educational value. I consider myself fortunate indeed to work at a school that has a single rule for the use of technology in the school; it must be used to improve educational outcomes. If pupils choose to use it in other ways then we regard that as a behaviour issue, not a technology issue. 

I do however, agree that there is plenty more that we can and should be doing to improve awareness and to educate about Internet behaviour...Watch this space!

Internet Access

So much is possible with modern technology. The Internet offers amazing opportunities to collaborate, communicate, curate and create. Unfortunately, in South Africa, we are limited by the quality of Internet access. Not having sufficient Internet access actually costs money because schools typically then replicate many of those services in-house, with associated technical and personnel overheads. Schools with sufficient Internet access can use all sorts of free software to do amazing and challenging educational activities, besides using it for administrative functions such as mail, file storage etc. It would be interesting to quantify expenses in terms of physical hardware and in-house technical expertise to manage the hardware/software vs using cloud computing to achieve the same end. Adequate Internet access has thus become a budgetary priority!

Appropriate Internet use is obviously an essential component of any daily academic programme.  Our educational responsibility is to equip our learners with the skills necessary to become comfortable, competent and responsible digital consumers and creators. I'll write further about the sorts of educational support and discussions that happen in classes and tutor groups....

At school we take reasonable precautions to prevent access to unsuitable sites. Limiting and restricting access is not our core focus though. Generally, the boys and staff appreciate and value the technology rich environment we all work in and the majority use the Internet sensibly and intelligently. Our focus is to provide the tools and develop and encourage the skills that empower staff and learners to maximise the  educational benefits of using the Internet in teaching and learning. These ongoing educational conversations are very much part of our professional development and teaching programme.

Resource Centres

Brisbane Grammar was a highlight for me. They have recently opened the Lilley Centre, a new 26 million dollar library centre, a state-of-the-art building equipped with the latest technology. Access to information– in all its various forms – audio, video, internet or printed material, is a priority. As the information centre of the school, the centre is multi-functional and exceptionally practical, designed to meet the pupils’ needs and likes. New technologies make so much possible and the centre offers video conferencing facilities linked also to a teaching training venue for professional development. The geography of the learning spaces is impressive. Classrooms are comfortable and practical; bright and airy with lots of glass. Furniture is easy to move and so rooms are able to be adapted to suit a particular class’s needs. Australians term this a flexible learning space.

The Lilley Centre is extremely popular with the pupils, and is an important social space, for collaborating on learning tasks and also for collaborating socially. Their Head of eLearning said that information literacy and the ability to access and evaluate information that promotes both independent learning and social responsibility, is a main focus. The aim is to empower and transform pupils by providing opportunities for critical thinking, meaningful creation of knowledge and a deeper understanding of complex world issues. There are spaces for pupils to work in small or big groups or on their own – and the technology is there to encourage publication and to equip pupils with the skills they will need to become flexible, innovative and reflective thinkers. Pupils’ work is displayed on large monitors all over the library. 

Information skills taught in isolation are of little value and their librarians are working partners with classroom teachers to plan, develop, implement and evaluate units of study.

      reflect on information
      select what is useful
      evaluate its value 

Learning Spaces

BBG Brisbane
Classroom design has changed little in decades, other than aesthetic improvements such as colour, better lighting and furniture. Although modern classrooms are now equipped with computers, projectors, screens, sound equipment and possibly cameras, scanners and so forth, fundamentally the design has remained unchanged. Indeed, in many instances, classrooms have been adapted to accommodate technology in ways that make the technology problematic to use e.g. power or network points positioned poorly, inadequate wireless coverage, poor seating options or desk arrangements.

The learning space has a profound impact on the learning experience and my experiences confirm this. Many Australian schools have implemented what they term “flexible learning spaces” - rooms specifically designed to allow for easily adaptable classroom layouts and situations. This has enhanced the openness of the traditional classroom. Flexible classroom spaces are set up with multiple points of vision, with practical chairs and with light furniture that is easily rearranged. They are superbly kitted in terms of technology and particularly so that the technology is easy to use. Many too are able to be easily adapted to form part of a larger venue.  

St Hilda’s Head of School, Peter Crawley, believes that sight and access are the goals of better classroom design and that the use of glass is key. He says that classrooms are better for pupils and staff when designed using glass and allowing connectivity between spaces. To this end he designed classrooms with plenty of glass to enable the pupils in the room to see out and the room (and its activity) to be seen from the outside. Pupils and teachers are able to see between rooms and teachers enjoy the interaction that is possible between rooms. More of the great daily classroom experiences are thus visible and inadequate learning experiences are exposed.  He has found that pupil discipline is more self-directed in an open glassed environment. Furthermore, glass allows the classroom to be connected to other spaces but not be dominated by other spaces. Teachers are able to see each other in action and are easily able to assist each other or buddy-teach. Teachers appear comfortable and not isolated.  They feel welcome in each other’s space and the energy and collaboration that results is exciting to witness.

Besides the obvious physical benefits of adaptable spaces, there is also a noticeable atmosphere change in such rooms. The pupils respond differently within these rooms and from my interaction with pupils I would say that they seem to feel happy to work in such venues and like the informality and responsibility it presents. They are part of what they can see is happening around them and they respect that. 

Australian experience: Funding models

Schools have different models of funding 1-1 technology; some charge the parents by including a lease amount on the fee bill. Others put the immediate burden of ownership of the device onto the parent... BYOD - even if the school stipulates what the device must be... What they are actually saying is Bring Your Own  Device, with the required software - all in working order! One school was experimenting with giving pupils the device as part of school fees. Another school provided mobile labs, but were finding that the maintenance and support overhead and expense was unsustainable. 

Each model has its pros and cons. 

My thoughts... To create a model that enables focus of the school's resources on actual classroom (and beyond) teaching and learning.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

iPad Pitfalls to Avoid

We are going to be piloting a 1-1 iPad program at our school and I thought we could blog our thoughts and findings as we go… Our venture is about learning, not technology…

I was lucky enough to visit Australia and learn from people who have experience in 1-1 iPad programs…I’ve been advised and warned!

Some advice (from a variety of too many to give credit to!)

 Do not focus on apps. Focus instead on what it is you are trying to achieve. Explore effective integration tools and strategies. There are tools for annotation, screen-casting, audio creation, and video creation. Consider how you can use the above as a catalyst for change and innovation. 
Do  keep talking about the WHY and WHAT! Why I am consideering teaching this is this particular way? What can I do now that wasn't possible before? What value does this add? This is an opportunity to change practice, rather than an opportunity to use new technology to extend existing practices.  Use modern tools to teach modern learners, to support learning and teaching and to act as a catalyst for transformative change. 

Do focus on what iPads do best: Use the tool and its features to engage your class, to offer a variety of activities, to encourage self-directed learning and to encourage collaboration, communication and creativity. iPads are mobile and perfect for anytime, anywhere learning. 

Do explore content from a wide range of materials. Use the free tools and services available on the Internet to encourage collaboration and sharing.

Do share your resources with other educators.

Do involve yourself in on-going and adequate professional development (PD). Just having a tablet won't necessarily translate to expertise in or out of the classroom. Teachers need time for professional collaboration (and support) on how to integrate the devices into the learning process. Teachers need to develop strategies to cater for varying learning styles, ages and competencies. This is quite different from playing with a few apps!

Do not think it's going to be easy! Cloud computing, poor Internet access, software issues, hardware issues, understanding how to share files, understanding how apps work, problems with different file formats...Work together to overcome these hurdles.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask your learners, your colleagues and the Internet!

Do not expect the iPad to replace your computer / laptop or even think that it will provide equivalent functionality. The iPad will access the Internet, email and online curriculum. It will allow you to do basic word processing, create spreadsheets, complete presentations, edit basic videos, do basic photo editing and record sound. It also operates as a camera or video camera. 

The iPad is suitable for some but not all computing needs. The iPad does not replace the need for another computer/laptop. It is an additional device. At this stage the majority of apps are not able to replace the full suite of productivity applications available on a PC or laptop. However, as a mobile computing device, the iPad may, particularly in junior classes, be sufficient for the majority of classroom work, provided that there is access to a computer for specialist software, printing and for backing the iPad up.

Do not try and share iPads. The   iPad is a personal device and it not easy to share e.g. it is set up for a particular person and does not offer multiple profiles like a PC/laptop would. An iPads is designed to be personal and permanetly connected , giving opportunity for collaboration, communication and creativity. 

Do not think that the iPad in the only solution. It is just a tool that puts technology into the hand of the teacher and learner. It's what you do with it that matters! There is no question that having the same device for all makes it easier to manage a 1-1 program – from a teacher preparation and management point of view…That’s why we’re piloting iPads…However, there are other options and many schools are having great success with a Bring your Own Device (BYOD) model.