Friday, January 30, 2009

Using Blogger with Students

With school about to start here on Monday I have spent part of this week helping enthusiastic teachers set up web environments for their new classes of students. Voice Thread, Flickr, Animoto and Blogger have been the main ones used this week.
While I have been stepping people through the basics I have spent a bit of time searching for easy solutions to a few minor issues I noticed students coming up against last year. Setting up and using a blogger account is dead easy, but it is surprising how many newbies miss the place to click to make a comment on a blog post. So I did a bit of Google searching and ended up back at the one-stop-bloggers'-help site of Vin, The Blog Doctor. Now his solution is a bit geeky, but as you can see from this blog, it works!
Instead of it saying "0 Comments" at the bottom of this post, it now has an inviting little comment making it clear how many comments have been added and that this is the place to click if you want to read them or make your own comment.
So if you want to know how to do it, then go to his blog post about making user comments link more friendly and follow the instructions.
You might want to take a deep breath before you delve into the HTML, and certainly take his advice and download the template HTML first so you can restore it if you mess it up, but it really isn't rocket science.
Do this to your blog and your students (and more to the point, their parents!) will have no problem finding the place to click to comment on the first class blog post on Monday.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hyperstudio Returns

Its been six months since I posted about meeting Roger Wagner at NECC in San Antonio and finding out about the new and improved version of Hyperstudio. One of the outcomes of that meeting that I didn't mention then was that he agreed to allow Pt England School to be one of the Beta testers for Hyperstudio 5. We were understandably excited about this. We had hung on longer to the classic version than any one else we knew and so it was only 6 months since we had stopped using it in the school. This meant that we had a few teachers who were confident users and lots of kids who still remembered it well.
So Juanita, Andrea and Helen got their classes up and running with Hyperstudio 5 and together we provided feedback to the developers about what we were finding as we used it. As I predicted when I wrote that first blog post, the joy of discovering that our favourite programme still felt the same but had come back turbo-charged was immense! There are some things about Hyperstudio that no other programme we tried when looking for a replacement ever got right - the draw tools are obvious. Other multimedia programmes all seem to think that we actually want to use clip art! And the way Hyperstudio does animations is in a league of its own.
I remember a couple of years back when it seemed that Hyperstudio would be gone forever and Mike Anderson sent me a table he had created comparing all the facets of the multimedia programmes we were being offered to replace HS. Only one programme ticked all the boxes (Hyperstudio), the rest all had bits lacking.
The question I have been asked recently is this, "For schools who have got used to life without Hyperstudio and now have purchased other programmes, why should they turn around and spend money on version 5?" A fair enough question when money is tight this year. My answer is that it really is a one-stop multimedia shop. It just does everything that our students require to produce an engaging, high quality, sisomo digital learning object demonstrating their learning outcomes or the process they have been through in their learning.
Probably the most important aspect to me is the way it develops students' thinking and problem solving skills as they use it. I have always got my students to start with the end audience in mind when creating a Hyperstudio stack and to work back from there. Who is going to look at this and how are they going to access it. What are you wanting to show them and how will you ensure they understand it? Why are you presenting it this way and is there a better way? Hyperstudio provides a huge variety of options for ensuring this happens and as the teacher we need to make sure the rubric for the task acknowledges the thinking that has gone in to achieving the required outcome.
This meshes nicely with our focus on audience too, as it leads the kids into thinking 'audience' yet again when planning outcomes.
This example was created by a 7 year old student who chose to use Hyperstudio to create a movie to enter in the school's film festival competition at the end of last year under a 'Go for Green' theme. Thanks to Toreka for sharing her work...
video