Friday, November 27, 2009

Coming to an end with our Blogs

This is not breaking news that Blogging is about to come to an end! Just that our academic year is coming to an end in New Zealand and as we farewell our classes for the Summer and prepare for new students in 2010, some teachers are beginning to ask, "What do we do with our Blogs?" This tells us that Blogging has become a mainstream activity in many schools now.

The question has two main underlying strands: these Blogs now contain an extensive record of student learning so we want the content preserved for the students; they also represent a lot of hard work on the part of the teachers who don't want to lose all the connections and hyperlinks that have evolved.

So we have tried to put together some helpful tips for our teachers about what to do at the end of the year. They come under headings like:
  • if the teacher is leaving the school
  • if the teacher is switching rooms or levels
  • if the teacher is starting from scratch
  • if the teacher is inheriting and 'old' blog
  • etc

You are welcome to check out and use our Google Site we have created. If you have further suggestions for it, please add them to the comment here.
NB: as we use Blogger, the resource is all based around Blogger.

We can't help you if your own school has different protocols! eg We have heard of a school that requires teachers to close down all blogs and start fresh at the begining of the year; we have heard of schools directing teachers to hand their blog to another teacher etc
Well worth checking out the expectations at the beginning of the year before you start blogging!

Monday, November 23, 2009

eTools-as basic as breathing

The basic technology tool kit of a teacher in 2009 has exploded from something filling a small handbag in 1999, to a full set of luggage in the last decade.

In 1999 we would have taken for granted that a teacher could use pen (in several colours), pencil and paper, could operate a photocopier and telephone and we would have presumed they had a driver's licence. Since then, with the exponential growth of technologies in our schools, the list of what we take for granted that a teacher can do and use is extensive.

We have an immersive eLearning environment, and we want to let new teachers know what will be taken for granted - without being overwhelming!! Tall order. This needs to acknowledge new teachers will be a mixture of beginners and experienced teachers and have used a variety of operating systems on computers. Help us create our list of skills that are as basic as breathing for new teachers to our school in 2010. Anything you would add or subtract would be appreciated in the comments.

Here we go....

As we induct new teachers for the year beginning 2010, we are creating a list of what we would expect that teachers know how to do. Just as no judgement is offered when from time to time we encounter a teacher who doesn't drive a car, the list following is not 'success criteria'. But to function effortlessly in the 2010 environment we WILL presume the following:

All our teachers are able to:

  • check an email account daily and manage it efficiently
  • use a computer or laptop and trouble shoot basic functions ie on/off, connect to printer, connection to internet
  • use the internet to search, find information and to communicate
  • particpate in online environments eg blogs or forums or Nings or Trademe or Facebook etc
  • manage music files in software eg in iTunes
  • manage photo files using software
  • download photos from a camera
  • use a word processing document efficiently
  • store and retrieve data from a hard drive eg your computer
  • access Google Docs
  • edit a short video clip using simple software ( was "create a movie" - changed due to feedback below *)

All our teachers are able to use the following independently:

  • video camera
  • still camera
  • laptop
  • cellphone
NB: None of the above is platform specific ie no-one expects new staff to be familiar with the MacOS used on our Apple computers. The skills above transfer quickly if they have already been embedded.

All our teachers will need to learn quickly (with help available) once on the job:

  • administer a student blog ie upload content, manage commenting, manage student use
  • edit online pages e.g blog or Google sites or KnowledgeNet
  • social networking
  • store and retrieve from network
  • Google Apps - personally and with students
  • how record and edit audio
  • a graphics programme your level of students is using (e.g Kidpix, Hyperstudio, Pixelmator, Photoshop)
  • create a basic presentation eg Keynote or Google or Prezi or Powerpoint
  • MacOS basics
  • saving files in a variety of file formats (e.g .mov,.dv, .jpg, .aiff, .doc etc)
  • student management system
  • printing to networked copiers
  • use of sound field
  • use of data projector
  • use PhotoBooth
A list like this has to be specific to the individual school's needs. What have you created for your school?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Sites Templates

An announcement this week on the official Google Sites blog will make a lot of teachers and schools happy. They have ready made templates to enable your Site to look and feel like a web page.

"Google Sites makes creating and sharing a website easy. It is powerful enough for a company intranet, yet simple enough for a family website. Today, we’re happy to simplify the site creation process even further with the introduction of the Google Sites template gallery. When you select a template from the new Sites template gallery, your new site will come setup with custom page layouts, links for navigating to each page, embedded gadgets, themes and much more...."

So for those who STILL do not have a school website for 2010, maybe this could be a good place to start, particularly for the small schools who don't have extra staff and money to do these things. And for those of us using Sites for all kinds of other purposes, this will make the creation process much quicker. Having said that, I have always been a person who likes to start from a blank page, be it PowerPoint, Hyperstudio, Keynote or whatever!

You can read more about it in this Washington Post article here.

I have been experimenting a little with creating a page in Google Sites and copying the HTML and pasting it into KnowledgeNet, simply because I find Sites faster to use. Last week I got caught out because none of the images showed when I pasted the HTML into KN. I puzzled over it, then realised that I hadn't made the Site public in the settings, so of course they weren't available in KN.

One of the features I am sure we will use quickly (those of us who have Google Apps for Education) is the ability to create a template for your school and have it available inside your school Google Apps for everyone to use. It doesn't have to be shared publicly. You could create some very useful Portfolio templates like this.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creativity - an elusive ideal?

During TEP Bahrain there were a number of ideas that recurred throughout the conference. In the eLearning stream that I presented in, creativity was one of these - unsurprisingly. One of the most impacting statements made for me was when a woman asked a question following our presentations that went something like; "It is all very well to talk about creativity as being an essential component of 21st Century education, but what are we to do if in our countries our teachers have never seen a creative classroom, been taught in one or have any idea what it would look like?"

This question has stuck in my mind and I have been pondering it for a couple of weeks now. Firstly to realise how many intangible advantages we have in developed countries, and secondly to consider what we have to offer as real solutions to developing countries.

On our return from the Middle East we stopped over in Sydney so I could attend the Australia/NZ ADE conference for 3 days. As part of the event we were asked to bring a 2 minute 'double click' to present. This was to be a multimedia presentation showcasing what we have been doing in our own recent practice. As you can imagine at a gathering like this these presentations were stunning and I learned a huge amount from them. And carrying the hallmark of the ADE community, they were very creative.

During the first session Maxx Judd, who organises the global ADE programme, gave a presentation showing where on the globe ADEs are located. When I saw the map, with the question of the woman in Bahrain still alive in my head, my eyes were drawn more to where ADEs are not represented on the world map and I decided to change my presentation. I looked at the talent in the room and thought about the words used to describe ADEs: Advocates, Advisors, Authors, Ambassadors - and wondered if there was any place for this talented group to support the kinds of schools who have never experienced creativity.

So this is what I put together that night for my double click presentation on the second day...

Added YouTube version in response to request. Left blogger version for those where YT is blocked!