Thursday, 5 December 2013

Using a blog to support communication

I'm a great fan of blogging and as this very busy educational year draws to a close (and not a moment too soon), I thought I would share one really simple and effective blogging idea.

Every year a number of staff take our grade 10s to the Cederberg where they hike with staff and on their own; they cycle along country roads; challenge themselves on the banks of the Clanwilliam Dam and work with school children at Elizabethfontein in the Northern Cederberg . At Sanddrift and Jamaka they learn a range of skills and contribute to the upgrading of the environment in which they find themselves. We have named this journey the Bishops Epic. The boys experience a wide range of activities which test them physically and mentally and allow them to appreciate the landscape as well as the people and the history of the area.

Obviously the boys' families want to follow the journey and so we use this blog to communicate. Internet access is not always possible and the staff have limited access to technology. They do, however, have their cell phones and so we set up the blog so that it will automatically upload an email (with photo attachment) as a post on the blog. We chose to have a proof reader supervise the posts before accepting publication. Making possible a simple posting process worked really well. 16500 hits!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Digital Tools : On-Line Games that Inspire Building and Exploration

Tanner Higgin is Senior Manager, Education Content, at Common Sense Media, creator of Graphite ™, a free service for educators in search of the best apps, games, and websites rated for learning. This post is one in a series collaboration. Games included here have received high ratings on Graphite by educators and by the editorial staff at Common Sense Media. Go to Graphite to read full reviews of games and how teachers use them for learning in class.
Sourced from: 
The success and popularity of Minecraft in and out of classrooms is no surprise. It’s one of the best examples of the potential of learning with games because it embraces exploration, discovery, creation, collaboration, and problem-solving while allowing teachers to shepherd play toward any subject area.
But Minecraft is not the only game of this kind. Take a look at some of these.

1. Garry’s Mod 

garryscreenshotGarry’s Mod (GMod) is a sandbox game like Minecraft but instead of building and exploring, students use a fun physics engine that simulates things like gravity and mass. They also use a virtual toy box of assets from Valve Software’s popular games. The tool is a step up in complexity from the elegant simplicity of Minecraft, but with Garry’s Mod,students are exposed to physics concepts while having madcap fun.

2. Kerbal Space Program

kerbal_screenshotKerbal Space Program has a robust physics engine too, but it’s more focused than Garry’s Mod. Players purchase rocket parts, put them together, and then see if they can get a ship into orbit, to one of two moons, or even to another planet. These aren’t easy tasks, so play is focused on trial and error testing, and, like Minecraft, seeking help from the community is part of a successful strategy.

3. Sound Shapes 

soundshapes_screenshotSound Shapes is a visually stunning platform puzzle game set to a rich musical soundscape. Even better: students can create and share their own levels – like interactive sheet music — using sounds and objects unlocked by playing the platform game. It’s an accessible entry point into musical composition as well as game design, and provides an experience that builds on the creativity of Minecraft while offering something wholly unique for music lovers.

4. DIY

DIYFor creative kids who want to get their hands dirty, check out DIY, a site where students can find things to build, instructions for how to build them, and ways to share their creations with others. All projects are aligned to 50 skills that run the gamut from outdoors to indoors, and feature various challenges to complete and cool badges to earn and display.


screen568x568Computer programming is a great next step for students who love to mod Minecraft or toy around with the redstone resource (which simulates basic logic and circuitry). One solid entry-level tool is Stencyl, a game creation program focused on codeless, cross-platform game making. By snapping blocks of code together, students can create games that can be published and played on a variety of platforms including mobile phones.


Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 3.31.05 PMCodecademy is a web-based, self-paced site that teaches actual industry-standard languages like PHP, Javascript, Python, Ruby, HTML, and CSS. While students don’t create publishable games like they would in Stencyl, their learning is purpose-driven and contextualized, e.g. JavaScript for web development or Ruby for app development. And students do get to see their code’s output directly onscreen.
Minecraft has introduced a lot of youth to games as well as the critical thinking, problem solving, and creation skills necessary for self-motivated learning. The games and sites on this list have the potential to extend that learning, providing fresh outlets for self-expression in the digital world and beyond.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Grade 9 History Prezi's on Detente

Our Grade 9 boys have been introduced to a different presentation tool called Prezi. While Microsoft PowerPoint is a powerful tool for creating slideshow presentations and will be used by the boys frequently, Prezi offers a new and fun way of presenting information. The free version of Prezi is an online tool where prezis are uploaded and shared online. Prezi Edu licenses are available for those who wish to create, edit and present offline.

Here is the website address for Prezi:

Have a look at some of the Prezi's that the boys have created in response to certain questions that were posed to them by their teacher on a particular topic within their History curriculum.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Learning French Vocabulary using Digital Story Telling

How does one make learning french vocabulary fun, engaging, interesting and effective? 

A group of Grade 8 boys used technology to assist them in learning their french vocabulary. The focus was on the process of learning and not the final product, the latter being a movie created using either movie maker or photostory.

The boys were divided into groups and were given a list of french words relating to the theme "My Daily Routine"

The process involved a number of steps and check points. They first had to construct a number of french sentences using the words provided in the vocabulary list. 

Secondly these sentences had to be checked by their teacher for accuracy, construction and grammar and corrected where necessary.

The next step required their french teacher to narrate the sentences that each group had constructed, while being recorded by the boys using cellphones, or their laptops. This meant that when the boys themselves narrated and recorded their own sentences into their movies, their pronunciation was spot on.

The boys then went off to film themselves or to take photographs that would form the backdrop for their dialogue. The movies were then put together using windows movie maker or photostory. The boys were encouraged to be engaging and creative in the making of their movies so that they would not only appeal to their audience but would produce a product that could be used as a learning tool for other french students.

On reflection, the process itself went well but further fine-tuning would be necessary should this exercise be repeated in the future. The active engagement and the enjoyment of learning  was clearly evident among the boys.

Here are some of the activities that took place that facilitated and added value to the learning:

  •  hands-on, active learning
  •  being able to integrate multiple activities (writingresearchingcomputing, presenting)
  •  collaborating and sharing
  •  discussing and reflecting
  •  being able to receive immediate support as and when required
  •  accommodating multiple learning styles
  •  being able to revisit a ‘lesson’
  •  authentic learning – not just an assessment

Simventure - running a virtual business

The EMS department has invested in some new software called Simventure. Introducing Simventure to Grade 8 and Grade 9 students during their EMS course is intended to provide the boys with a valuable learning experience as they are able to transfer the knowledge and experience gained by using the Simventure software.

Simventure is a Strategy Game that teaches Business, Entrepreneurship and Employability Skills

business game-business simulation"Designed to be highly engaging, SimVenture appeals to students with a range of learning styles. Its versatility means that it can be used in a variety of ways beyond the challenge of simply running the simulation;
In classrooms around the globe, students are being engaged in activities which;
  • allow them to run their own virtual business
  • require them to make decisions, take risks and deal with failure
  • stimulate teamwork and discussion
  • incorporate role play, reflection, presentations and reports
  • explore business strategies
  • demonstrate theory
  • promote financial awareness
  • encourage data analysis
  • support more traditional approaches to learning
SimVenture provides an excellent context around which learners can use and apply skills and concepts in a practical, dynamic, problem solving environment.
Working in simulated monthly cycles users make decisions in all areas of business and receive feedback to see the consequences of their actions.
Within the four key business areas (Organisation; Sales & Marketing; Finance; and Operations) any number of decisions can be made each month.
The challenge is to generate enquiries, sales and orders and build a successful company."

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Learning Spaces

I recently returned from a magnificent trip to Australia and Singapore. Amongst other things we spent lots of time talking and learning about 'learning spaces' and the profound impact such spaces have on the learning and teaching.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Grade 8 History Prezi's

Our Grade 8 boys have been introduced to a different presentation tool called Prezi. While Microsoft PowerPoint is a powerful tool for creating slideshow presentations and will be used by the boys frequently, Prezi offers a new and fun way of presenting information. The free version of Prezi is an online tool where prezis are uploaded and shared online. Prezi Edu licenses are available for those who wish to create, edit and present offline.

Here is the website address for Prezi:

Have a look at some of the Prezi's that the boys have created in response to certain questions that were posed to them by their teacher on a particular topic within their History curriculum.

Monday, 14 October 2013

10 Great Annotating App for Ipad

The Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website has posted the following article.

For today's post, I am proving you with a list of some great apps to make annotations on your iPad. Check them out below and let us know what you think about them.

1- Notability

Notability powerfully integrates handwriting, PDF annotation, typing, recording, and organizing so you can take notes your way! Discover the freedom to capture ideas, share insights, and present information in one perfect place on iPad.  "

2- Course Notes

CourseNotes lets you take notes during classes or meetings, keep them organized by subject, and print them or share them with friends! Review your notes later and search through multiple class meetings and notes all at once. "

3- PaperPort Notes

"PaperPort Notes is a digital note taking tool for the iPad that is transforming the way people create and share information. Now you can combine documents, web content, audio, typed text as well as hand written notes into a single document that you can easily organize and share with anyone. "

4- DocAs

"DocAS lets you take note, sketch your ideas, annotate PDFs, convert other document format to PDF, do presentation, read documents, record your meetings and classes, and share your notes/documents on your iPad, "

5- GoodNotes Free

"GoodNotes lets you take handwritten notes, sketch diagrams, mark-up PDFs and organize them on a beautiful bookshelf. Turn pages with a swipe, highlight or add notes to any page, and share your notes with anyone. "

6- Subtext

"In Subtext teachers and students can exchange ideas as they read, right in the pages of almost any digital book or document. You can also layer in enrichment materials, assignments and quizzes—opening up limitless opportunities to engage students, foster analysis and writing skills, and assess student progress."

7-iAnnotate PDF

"iAnnotate PDF is the most powerful annotation application for the iPad, and with our latest release we’re bringing that same power to Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files as well as images "

8- Pages

"Pages is the most beautiful word processor you’ve ever seen on a mobile device. This powerful app has been exclusively designed for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Create, edit, and view documents wherever you are. "


" Penultimate gives you the fast, tactile gratification of writing on paper, with digital power and flexibility. Take notes, keep sketches, or share your next breakthrough idea -- in the office, on the go, or home on the sofa."

10- Diigo

"Your all-purpose digital library on iPad - bookmarks, archives, annotations, notes, images, and screenshots. Collect everything, find fast, share easily, and access anywhere."

Biology Videos: Human Impact on the Environment

A new topic in the South African Gr 11 Life Sciences curriculum is Human Impact on the Environment.  The Environmental Capacity Building, Training & Education at City of Cape Town(CCT), Headed by Linda Buirski have run excellent environmental education projects in the past and this project has allowed us to align an environmental project directly with the curriculum. 

Life Sciences teachers and learners have been able to see what the CCT is doing to reduce the impact of humans on the environment and allowed learners to gain knowledge and skills that will help them, not only with the content to be covered in the curriculum, but also to consider what and how individuals can find solutions to environmental problems and through collaboration, allowed them to learn new ICT skills.
The project started off with a mini conference for 50 Life Sciences teachers held in May at Bishops. At this conference 12 schools chose to participate in this project. Working in pairs each group chose one topic from:

  • Water
  • Food Security
  • Loss of Biodiversity
  • Atmosphere and Climate Change
  • Solid Waste management 

Partnered schools were taken on a field trip organised by Lindie Buirski to see the problems / solutions at source. The groups visited the Coastal Park Landfill site, The Blaauwberg Nature Reserve, the Oranjezicht Urban Farm , the Westlake River to see water management in action or visited the Eskom Resource Centre in Bellville

Groups met on 3 Saturday afternoons  in June, September and October to plan, set up social media accounts to communicate and plan their research and create a video storyboard and then to put their final video together. They were assisted by Sally Wilson head of Bishops ICT department and ICT educator extraordinaire. All videos are available from this site and also on the BiologyZA YouTube channel  (if other students have created videos on aspects of the Life Sciences curriculum it would be great if they too could be added to this channel). Please view their videos and add your comments.

 A second focus of this project was to encourage boys at Bishops to work collaboratively in groups of 3-4 to research one of the topics described above and create a way (eg Website, PowerPoint, business cards, QR code, eBook) to present their research. In class they had to lobby for their share of ‘’funding’’ for their solutions (1 Fizzer sweet = R100 000.00). Some of their projects can also be viewed on this site.

In this project learners from 12 schools have been exposed to real world problems and have had to collaborate to research and find solutions. They have learnt content knowledge and also how to deal with other people in groups, how to share information and resources through social media and how to plan and make a video or in the case of the Bishops boys , a website. The boys from Bishops also had to share the resources developed with their classmates to use as study aids. 

A requirement of the curriculum is that they do a project on one aspect of Human Impact on the Environment that is relevant to their community and this project has ensured that they have done this in an valuable, authentic and fun way. 

Cheryl Douglas

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Internet and technology concerns

Last night many of us attended the presentation on cyber safety at the Prep. There are many perspectives on how to deal with technology access and loads of wonderful tools to help younger children from accidentally stumbling upon unsuitable and harmful material. 

One example is Youtube Safety. Another example is K9 Browser, a safe way for your sons to browse the Internet. Mobiflock is another tool that parents may want to use. We have put together a site that addresses some of the issues around online safety and offers tips on digital citizenship. 

Parents often share with me their concerns regarding their son’s technology usage at home. My advice is always that you talk to your sons and build a trust relationship. Set the parameters - up front - about what reasonable and appropriate technology usage means in your home. One parent told me that before he gave his son his phone they had agreed that he, as the parent and technology sponsor, had the right to ask his son to make his phone / iPad / laptop available for a spot check that they would do together. It worked both for the parent who was comfortable that he had retained some control and for the son, whose privacy was respected and sense of responsibility and independence acknowledged. Do not forget that you control the Internet connection in your home! I came across the image above. Perhaps give that a try?