Category: Teaching and Learning

Hour of Code


This week millions of students in over 180 countries are participating in “Hour of Code” to raise awareness about the importance of computer science around the world and in celebration of Computer Science Education Week. I have been a bit reluctant to embrace coding in my classes, thinking that it was all too difficult and unnecessary. Just like the driver of a car can get from A to B without knowing how a combustion engine works, a computer user can operate the device without knowing how to code. However, every driver can benefit from some basic mechanical knowledge and every computer user can benefit from some knowledge of basic coding – and they may even find it fun and interesting!

There are many “Hour of Code” resources available for teachers and students, making it very easy to introduce coding in your classroom, no matter what age your students are. I have curated some links to resources at the end of this post. At Hawkesdale College, students from Grade 5 to Year 9 used Code Studio to create their own Flappy Bird game using simple drag and drop commands. Many of these students progressed to creating Angry Birds mazes and Frozen snowflakes.

“My favourite game was flappy birds because I learnt how to make a game which I enjoy playing. It was fun because I was trying to get a massive high score.I created a flappy bird game and a frozen game, but I did not like the frozen game as much as the flappy bird game.” ~ Patrick (Year 9)

“I made the flappy bird and angry birds game. My favourite was the angry bird one because the scene and characters change throughout the learning and it’s a bit more challenging.”~ Catie (Year 8)

“I created snowflakes in the Frozen game, which was quite fun.
I like experimenting with the Flappy Bird and the Angry Bird codes.
I like the idea of putting codes together quite easily and customising the game to suit us. I would like to do more of this stuff in our daily classes.” ~Vesna (Year 7)

“I made a flappy birds game and an angry birds game. The flappy birds game was quite fun but I liked the the angry birds game better. I like how things change around during the angry birds game. It was good to learn and it really tests your brain.”~ Hannah (Year 8)

Resources:

Week 2: Goal Setting

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Goal setting is an important way to focus time and energy on improvement and a lifelong skill that can assist students to achieve their ambitions. Make sure you introduce the handy acronym ‘SMART’ goals and discuss examples (and non-examples).

  •  S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – achievable (or attainable)
  • R – realistic (or relevant)
  • T – timely

This Kids Health site has five great tips for goal setting.  I like to provide some guidelines to students and suggest 3 academic goals, 2 skills and a personal goal for improvement. We also created a rubric based on the “You Can Do It!” framework – Confidence, Organisation, Persistence, Resilience and Getting Along. Students rate themselves from 1 to 5 for each of these attributes and then choose a couple to work on. Again, it is useful to give examples, such as 1 = I talk to a special friend about my ideas, 3 = I can speak to small groups of about 10 people about my ideas,  up to 5 = I can confidently speak to a room full of over 50 people about my ideas.

 1. Use Padlet or Linoit for students to create a wall of goals

Each student posts their goals on a ‘sticky note’ on the wall. You can save this wall embedded in a blog or wiki to return to at the end of the term, semester or year. 

2. Create a form in Google Drive

Again, this way you can save and store all your student’s goals for review in Semester 2 or at the end of the year. Students also need a copy to refer to, so make sure they have saved them.

 3. Create a poster or infographic with your goals.

4. Create a video about your goals.

Repeating goals out loud and recording them are powerful ways for students to remember and solidify their goals. Investing time and energy into creating a video about their goals assists students to make them authentic, relevant and purposeful. As simple as recording a student reciting their goals or as imaginative as creating an animation, this task is open enough to allow students of all ages and abilities to get engaged.

 5. There’s an app for that!

Of course there are hundreds of apps that can be used to support goal setting – whether your goals are to break a bad habit, get fitter, lose weight, read more or whatever. This is a comprehensive post for free and paid apps that can assist. The top free apps for goal setting are “Way of Life – the ultimate habit maker and breaker” and “Everest – live your dreams and achieve personal goals”.

What are your tools, strategies and ideas for student goal-setting?

Week 1: Icebreakers!

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My aim for 2014 is to write a blog post each week that includes a range of teaching strategies that can be used to engage students in their learning. The focus will be on the learning goal, using a variety of hands-on strategies, web tools and mobile apps. For week one I am suggesting a range of strategies to be used as ‘Icebreakers’.

Since Christmas Day, 52 passengers and 22 crew members have been stranded in pack ice near Antarctica – three icebreakers have failed to reach them and finally a helicopter is being sent to rescue them. Classrooms can be a bit like ships sometimes – students with different interests and abilities are grouped together with a common destination. The goal is reached more effectively when everyone gets along and demonstrates good organisational skills, persistence, resilience and teamwork. Setting high expectations in the beginning and clearly communicating those expectations is important in an open and trusting environment.

At the beginning of each year, teachers will benefit from getting to know the students in their new classes – their interests, strengths, experiences and skills. To build trust and respect in your classroom, students need to get to know each other too. The following activities can be used to help participants feel comfortable in the classroom and assist in creating and maintaining a successful learning environment.

1. Create an avatar

Avatars are small images that can be used to identify users online. There are a huge variety of online sites to create your own avatar, including

2. If I was an animal, I would be a…..

Students find a picture of an animal that represents their character. ARKive  and Flickr are two great sources of animal images. Students then describe the characteristics of the animal that they have. This is a question sometimes used in job interviews, so it is worth thinking about. A monkey might be considered agile, intelligent and curious; an ant is hard-working and part of a team; a tortoise might be slow-moving, but thoughtful and persistent and an elephant is strong, loyal and has a great memory.

3. Self Portrait

Students draw/sketch/paint/collage themselves and display their image. Digital tools that can be used include:

4. Use word clouds to create an image

Wordle and Tagxedo are two web2.0 tools that students can use to create an image using words they choose to describe themselves. WordFoto is a mobile app that can be used in a similar way. Lois Smethurst explains the process of using Tagxedo and WordFoto on her blog, “My ICT Journey”. Ask students to choose at least ten words that they think describe themselves. An alternative might be “Ten things you didn’t know about me”.

5. My five best qualities

Students trace around their hand and for each finger nominate a characteristic that they are proud of – some students might need prompts, so perhaps you could brainstorm a list as a class to start with. You can also use Padlet or Linoit to complete this activity (each student posts their five characteristics on a sticky note on the digital ‘wall’ or ‘pinboard’). Here is a list of 555 personal qualities that students may find helpful.

Some more ideas for Icebreakers can be found at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning – Ten Techy Icebreakers for the 21st Century Teacher.

Learning 2.013 – Making Change!

“Learning 2.0 is a transformative, challenging experience for all participants; it is the conference that leads the change in education. Every year the goals of the conference are to connect  educators from around Asia and the world as well as to create an active learning experience that pushes their thinking about learning and technology.”

What an amazing experience – more than just another educational technology conference! Learning 2.013 is the eighth (?) in a series of unique conferences for teachers, organised and presented by teachers. Although I may have been the only teacher from a small, rural, government school, and certainly one of only about half a dozen teachers from Australia, I was one of four hundred delegates that were inspired by the whole event. Coming from Hawkesdale P12 College (230 students from prep to Year 12) I was amazed by the scale of the conference itself and the resources and infrastructure of the school. United World College South East Asia (East Campus) is a new school, building up to 3000 students from kindergarten to Year 12. It aims to be one of the most environmentally sustainable schools in the world, with passive solar design, air-conditioning powered by solar panels and an extensive recycling system.

Another great part of the conference was the overall structure and the Learning 2.103 app, which allowed users to choose their sessions and have an up-to-the-minute individual schedule at their fingertips. The conference was a combination of learning 2.0 talks (punchy presentations from the stage in the main hall, TEDx-style), extended sessions and ‘in a nutshell’ sessions from the same presenter, student sessions, hands-on workshops, un-conference sessions and cohort meetings. This allowed participants to choose some sessions based on feedback from others. There were three Science cohort meetings, which myself and John Gaskill facilitated.

Thursday 10th October

I attended the pre-conference day, participating in Heather Dowd’s (@heza) “Google Apps Bootcamp” workshop. Heather works at the Singapore American School and started the day by creating a collaborative slideshow using Google Presentation: Learning 2.013 GApps Bootcamp Introductions. Although I knew this was possible, and have seen Tom Barret’s “Interesting Ways” series use it with great success, I was surprised how well it worked with multiple users collaborating simultaneously. Other activities included:

I really enjoyed the opportunity to spend an extended period delving into the more intricate functions of Google Apps and especially ‘Flubaroo’ – a ‘script’ that allows you to automatically correct tests created in Google forms. Thanks Heather, for the huge amount of time and effort you put in to preparing and delivering this six hour pre-conference session (9.00am to 4.00pm).

Friday 11th October

On Friday, I attended Rebekah Madrid’s (@ndbekah) “Everything is a Remix – Learning 2.0 Edition”. Rebekah opened the session by sharing some YouTube videos by Kirby Ferguson, where he demonstrates how popular musicians and film makers have re-used melodies, lyrics and scenes over time. His argument is that there are no truly unique creations and that everything is copied, transformed and combined, so that new ideas evolve from the old ones. His brilliant TED talk is here:

Following the extended session were student presentations in the library, which included “Design teaching”, photography and robotics. These students were very capable, confident and enthusiastic about sharing their ideas, as well as demonstrating excellent technology skills. In the afternoon, Diana Beabout (@dianabeabout) from the Shekou International School, presented  “Asessing Learning with Digital Resources”.

Saturday 12th October

I was lucky enough to attend Adam Clark’s (@AdamClark71) extended session – “Balancing the See-Saw – Living Deeply with Technology”, which was all about  keeping the balance between work and family life in a digital age. He encouraged technology users to take breaks, using various techniques such as colouring mandalas, stretching towards an upturned cup on the floor and Pomodoros.

After lunch I presented my own workshop “Improving Student Outcomes in Blended Learning Environments”, which morphed into a “Digital Toolbox for Blended Learning”, after I discovered that the participants were probably less experienced with online learning than I had anticipated. it was well received, with some good feedback from participants, whose only suggestions were that we needed more time.

One of the most enjoyable sessions was Paula Guinto’s (@paulaguinto) ‘in a nutshell’Creating collaborative conversations in the classroom and beyond”. Paula is a dynamic primary teacher at UWCSEA (East Campus) and encourages respectful relationships between students by building trust. She is an energetic and thoughtful learning leader who cultivates complementary learning spaces, both physically (classroom set up to allow small group work, including a variation of the ‘harkness’ table) and virtually (teacher and student blogs). She facilitated a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, in which half the group were seated around the table and the other half were observers, recording aspects of each individual’s role in the discussion.

Benefits of Blogging for Students

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Way back in June 2008, Anne Mirtschin wrote “What is a blog?” with a description of the different ways blogs can be used. We are still blogging at Hawkesdale, due to the great benefits for students:

1. Student-centered Learning

Blogs allow students to create their own space on the internet, where they can customize their templates, express their ideas and share their opinions. Students love to add different widgets, images, music and animated clips to their blogs.

2. Supports Differentiation

Blogging is an authentic, open ended task that is suitable for a wide range of abilities. You can be young or old, speak any language and use blogging for your own purposes and interests.

3. Open Learning Community

A blog is accessible 24/7 to students, peers, parents, relatives and anyone! Students can display a portfolio of their work to a global audience. Cluster maps or other widgets can be added to show where visitors are viewing from. Students love to see red dots popping up on their cluster maps and it can become a geography lesson too!

4. Authentic Audience

Students take more pride in their work because it has the potential to be viewed by this global audience, including their peers in other countries. They are no longer just writing for their teacher, but the whole world!

5. Improves Literacy Skills

Blogging encourages reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and research. As the blog builds (with the most recent post at the top) you can look back and see improvement over time.

6. Builds 21st Century skills

Blogging allows connections with the global community and promotes teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Blogging helps to build information, media and technology skills required for 21st century work places.

7. Engages students socially

The Facebook generation expect to have a global voice, they expect to be able to communicate with everyone, all the time. Blogging allows this. Students can create links to their friend’s blogs and other sites of interest.

8. Allows reflection and a record of change

Like a diary or a journal, but accessible from anywhere, a blog can document the development of the learner. Blogging gives users time and space to record their reflections.

Year 7 Student Blogs:

Jade’s blog
Jasmine’s blog
Elektra’s blog
Jobe’s blog
Tobie’s blog
Sam’s blog
Messiah’s blog
Tayla’s blog
Chris G.’s blog
Emalee’s blog
Helen’s blog
Alex’s blog

Differentiation using Technology

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Image created in Tagxedo

Another highlight of the ATEA conference I mentioned in a previous post, was meeting Jennifer Elsden-Clifton, who is the Lecturer for New Learning at RMIT University’s School of Education. She uses Blackboard Collaborate to support graduate teachers in their first year out. It will be my great privilege to participate in one of her sessions on Differentiation on 28th July. In addition to recommending the list of sites below, my tips to the graduate teachers with regards to differentiation will be:

1. Know your students well.
An effective teacher should be able to list a dozen points about each individual in their class – their abilities, interests and goals. I like to use a “letter to my teacher” at the beginning of the year, to get to know my students better. You could also use one of the many multiple intelligences surveys available to get to know how your students learn best. Tom Barrett has produced an excellent series of crowd-sourced slideshows, including “Interesting Ways to Get to Know your New Class”, which, at the time of writing, had 24 strategies from educators around the world. I often find that I get to know my students best during extra-curricula activities – camps, excursions and sporting events – so I try to be involved in as many of those opportunities as I can be.

2. Take the time at the beginning of a unit of work to find out what students already know about a topic.
I often have a class discussion, in which I draw a mindmap (or display a Bubbl.us concept map) which gives an idea of the scope of the unit. As we mention examples and ideas, these are added to the concept map. You could also ask students to create a Web Doc (mash up of text, images, drawings etc) about what they know about a topic. You might want to emphasize the literacy in a topic, and ask students to create a Wordle or Tagxedo word cloud, or a crossword or word search using key words from the topic. Educaplay is a site to create word puzzles, quizzes, maps and other educational games from keywords.

3. Give students a choice (especially in the middle years) of tools to use or ways of presenting their work.
Encourage students to use a variety, not just the easiest or most favorite each time. Open-ended tasks, that allow students to use their creativity and draw in their own experiences and interests are usually the most successful. For example, the 60second science video competition, in which students were asked to work in a group to produce a one minute movie that demonstrated their understanding of how forces act on an object. Some students used bicycles, skateboards, model boats, paper planes, insects on water, balls and trampolines. You could use Glogster for e-posters, which Kery Obradovich wrote about at “Using Glogster for Differentiation”, create digital stories (slideshows, photostories, videos or ebooks) or any of the online publishing tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts) to share student work. My “Digital Toolbox for 21st Century Learners” has lots of examples of how different web2.0 tools can be used for differentiation.

4. Agree on some criteria that match your learning intentions and make the goals specific.
You may like to show some examples of student work (or your own if you don’t have student examples) and discuss what is good, what is interesting and what might be improved. Develop a rubric with students so they know what is expected. Continue reading

Mid-year break – time for exploration and reflection

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Only two days into the July holidays and I have found some great resources I want to share with students and teachers. I’ve been playing around with the new Google+, which seems to me a more suitable social networking tool for schools than Facebook, due to the ability to share in ‘circles’ and customise who sees what.  Google+  isn’t fully functional on the iPad yet, but I think there are some well-paid and very clever people working on that.

Web 2.0 Tools:

  • Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning from the American Association of School Librarians – what’s different about this list is that it is categorised and aligned to standards.
  • Animaps allows you to create informative, animated maps using Google maps as a base for photographs and annotations. You can also do this in Google maps, but Animaps seems to have more options for photos and text. This would have been great for my Year 8 class’s “Rock Around the World” project, where they used a wiki to identify and write about different types of rocks around the world (Wave Rock in WA, Grand Canyon in USA and Cappadoccia in Turkey for example).
  • Buncholinks allows you to create a group of web links and send them easily by email or post as one link on Twitter. How is this different to Diigo or Delicious? Probably less useful because you can only save up to 10 links, but the ability to email specific links to a group of people might be useful.
  • A Cleaner YouTube  is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that removes the related videos,  so there is less chance of students coming across inappropriate material.
  • Dear Photograph, What Was There and HistoryPin work on the principle of placing an old photograph in the present day and writing notes to accompany it. Georgina Pazzi had the great idea to use this concept for visualisation and goal setting. Students place themselves in an existing scene and create a new scene of the future with themselves in it. It might also be useful for science projects – changes in our environment over time including deforestation, erosion, succession.
  • Overstream allows you to add subtitles to online videos – ask students to explain a science concept shown on YouTube, Vimeo or other online video site.
  • ZooBurst allows students to create “3D” pop-up books online. Teachers can create logins for students, without a student email address. It reminds be of StoryJumper and Kahootz, in that you can search for backgrounds and clipart and add them into your page. You can also upload your own images.

Web sites for Science Teachers:

  • Teacher Tackle Box is a site where you can search by subject, theme and topic for webquests, thinkquests,  favourite links and Trackstar tracks.
  • Seven Online Science Projects, for all grade levels, allows students to share data with others around the globe.
  • Twig is a UK education site for short videos on all science subjects. Only some are free – you need to subscribe for access to the entire library.
  • ScienceTV has a list of tips and suggestions for creating science videos in classrooms.

I hope you find some of these tools interesting and let me know how you have used them in your classes to improve learning outcomes – I’ll keep you posted at Technoscience with examples of how these tools can be used with middle years science classes.

Reflections on my Online Class

Kate&Fergus

This year I am teaching VCE Environmental Science to a class of eight students – only one of which who actually attends Hawkesdale P12 College. The seven other students are from Shepparton H.S. and McGuire College in Shepparton and Brauer College in Warrnmabool. These students are all passionate about environmental science and wanted to study the subject in Year 12, but it was not offered at their schools. Through the Victorian Association of Environmental Education teacher’s network, I offered to provide an online course to these students using the Ultranet, blog, ning, Skype and Elluminate. They each provided details of their school and home email addresses, phone numbers, parent and teacher contacts and their timetables. It was obvious that there was very little opportunity for the timetables of four different schools to co-ordinate to allow these students to attend the classes scheduled at Hawkesdale. It was also apparent that these schools have not yet provided Ultranet access to their Year 12 students. Another difficulty is that email, blogs and Elluminate is blocked at these schools.

So far we have had three weeks of classes, with communication from home via email, the blog and four Elluminate sessions, each about 90 minutes in duration. The first two sessions were introductory sessions, getting to know each other and becoming familiar with the Elluminate tools, which include an interactive whiteboard, audio, text, chat, video and application sharing. We will need to increase the number of online sessions as we are not covering enough material to get through the course in a timely manner. By alternating Tuesday and Wednesday and having a weekend session we will be able to increase the number of contact hours.

VCE Environmental Science is not offered by Distance Education in Victoria, as it has a high practical component, with experimental work part of the student assessment. We have overcome this difficulty by meeting at “Ecolinc”, in Bacchus Marsh, where we completed several experiments, including monitoring power output of household appliances, recording the energy transformations in solar panels, hydro and wind turbines and observing a model hydrogen car and the Environmentally Sustainable Design features of the Ecolinc building itself. These practial demonstrations were video taped and uploaded to the blog for the two students unable to attend. Students have also been able to undertake practical work with supervising teachers in their schools. It was a great pleasure to meet these students as it helps to add a face to a name in my memory and find out more about each of them. One of the students is particularly shy, although this wasn’t noticable in an online enviroment, because she had been contributing to the online discussion in the same way as the other students. I think this is an interesting aspect of the online environment that I noticed last year when doing our Virtual Teaching Rounds with Pre-Service teachers from Ballarat University. The online environment reduces the likelihood of one student dominating the discussion and allows students to participate more democratically.

I think the keys to the success of these students will be their motivation to complete the course, their persistence with technology and their ability to take responsibility for their own learning. They will need to have the confidence to ask for assistance when required and the ability to recognise when they lack the understanding they need to fulfill the requirements of the course. On my part, I need to make these requirements explicit to students and have clear expectations of the work required. I need to provide them with the materials they need to develop an effective understanding of the content as well as the skill to synthesize, apply, evaluate and create. I will also need to monitor these student’s learning carefully to ensure they are completing the work required and developing the understandings to allow them to do well in both mid-year and end-of-year external examinations.

I am very interested in feedback from other teachers who have taught online classes abAout what they think is important to ensure the success of online teaching and learning. What are the key ingredients to the success of an online course?

“For a Successful Online Teaching and Learning Experience – Communicate” by Lawrence Regan PhD

“A Top Ten List for Successful Online Courses” at the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.

Reflections on the Teacher’s Blogging Challenge

Well, the Blogging Challenge is over and it has been a busy time reflecting on ways to improve my blog, completing the challenges and reading and commenting on new blogs. To keep tabs on all the new members of my personal learning network, I am dedicating this post to them:

Penny Bently – Cloud 9  – Penny is a fellow maths and science teacher active on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook.

Lois Smethurst – My ICT Journey – Primary Teacher Leading Teacher for ICT, Masters of Information Technology in Education, Teacher Professional Leave investigating IWBs, pedagogy and coaching, Intel Master Trainer, host of R U Connected and much more….

Yvonne Osborne – Visual Arts at Taylor’s Lakes Primary School – Creative and artistic blogger from Melbourne, Victoria.

Jeff Trevaskis (Mr T.)  – Webmaths – where Mathematics is tastier than pavlova (in northern Victoria).

Kay McGriff – Mrs. McGriff’s Reading Blog – Language, poetry and reading.

Theresa Allen – CSRN Technology – Technology teacher and coordinator for the Cathedral of St. Raymond School in Joliet, IL.

Miss Kay Tea – Miss T’s Reflections – A primary teacher from New Zealand with 36 years experience.

Christy Berry – BerryArt – A creative and connected art teacher who mixes art and reading.

Malyn Mawby  – Love2Learn – An active and engaging writer also on Twitter at @malynmawby

Laurie Fowler – Fresh Fowlers – An  asst professor at the University of West Alabama who teaches technology to pre-service and in-service teachers.

Jodi Woodward – I’m Still Learning – Great blog for tools in primary classes @Jodiwoo on Twitter

Lydia Schultz – Book Frontiers – An active school librarian and past English teacher on Twitter at @librarylady90

Tracey – Mrs S Online – Active and creative blogger with great “how-to’s”.

Jee Young – Teach to Inspire – An international educator teaching in Seoul

Anna Bring – Teaching Swedish – A swedish/maths/special needs teacher working in Norway (@anna_bring)

Mr. Carson – Learning With Mr D Carson – A thoughtful writer with links to all his Year 7 student blogs

Janelle Wilson – Stretching Forward – A middle years science teacher with a special interest in Space

Glenda Morris – The Groovy Librarian  – A teacher/librarian at an all-girls school in Melbourne, Victoria.

Nancy C. – Teaching is Elementary – A blog for teachers, parents and those interested in using technology in education.

Mrs D. Krebs – Dare to Care – A conversation about 21st century skills

Carol Satta – WCS Library – Library blog to encourage reading at Webster Bible Church and Webster Christian School

Michael – A Relief Teacher’s Journey – West Australian primary teacher with great enthusiasm for blogging.

Kim Lepre – Edquests – Great new blogger with lots of excellent links to tools and prestigous blogroll

These are the dedicated teachers who participated in the blogging challenge, wrote wonderful reflective posts and who I visited and left comments to. I hope I can continue to connect with passionate educators like this, who go the extra distance to improve their practise and share their work, their thinking and their learning. I’ve tried to mention you all, but I will keep adding as I find you all again!

Blogging Challenge #6: Embedding a “Nervous System”

 

View more presentations from Britt Gow.

This post is in response to the Teacher’s Blogging Challenge Activity #6 Embedding Media. Back in December last year, Sue Waters asked “What tools do you like to use your students that can be embedded into blogs and other websites like wikis?”. She asked teachers to complete a Google form, itself embedded into the post, listing the top three favourite tools that we like to use with students. This got me thinking – “How can I narrow it down to three?” – and in response I wrote a post titled “My Top Ten Online Tools to Embed in Blogs and Wikis in 2010”. 

So how do we narrow down the choice of tools? Firstly, we need to be looking at the learning outcomes we wish to achieve. Nobody who ever bought a drill actually wanted a drill did they? They wanted a hole! (Did I read that on Twitter recently?). So instead of recycling the previous post, “My Top Ten Tools for Embedding”, I will focus on the learning outcomes that can be achieved with each type of tool, when students use those tools to demonstrate their understanding and skills.

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1. Text tools to Embed – Wallwisher, Wordle and Tagxedo

Wallwisher can be used to gain and store feedback from students about a range of questions. It can used like an exit slip – “What are three things you learnt today?” or to plan for future classes – “What didn’t you understand about today’s lesson?”. Wordle and Tagxedo can be used to find out what students already know about a topic and the relative importance of different terminology in their mind. Find out more about how these tools can be used with students in the slideshow presentation embedded above.

 Simple-Machines-Rachel

2. Concept maps – Bubbl.us and Freemind

I am a great fan of mind-maps and have been using them since before my interest in web2.0 tools. Tony Buzan has been advocating the use of mind-maps for many years. His site lists the many benefits of mindmaps, which include reducing work load, increasing confidence, improving memorising and organisation and working more quickly and efficiently. So to find free, easy-to-use, colourful and accessible mind-mapping software on line has been fantastic. I use mind-maps to introduce a topic, giving students an indication of the scope of the unit of work and/or to summarize and revise a unit. Asking students to create their own mind-map helps them to make connections between concepts and organise their thoughts. By analysing the words students use and the connections between them, a teacher can determine how thoroughly a student grasps the concept. The image above is a screen shot of Rachel’s (Year 8, aged 13) mind map about Simple Machines. It clearly shows that Rachel has a good understanding of the different types of simple machines and gives examples of each type. She knows that there are three different categories of levers and that ramps and wedges are different types of inclined plane. I would be asking her where a ‘screw’ fits in and for a verbal explanation of how each machine reduces the force required to do work.

3. Audio Tools – Audacity, Podcasting, Voicethread

Recording audio allows students to practise reading, speaking and listening skills. In most cases, students should write a script prior to recording their voice, to ensure they can speak clearly, without hesitating and cover all the important information. If they are recording an interview, they should have thoughtful and informed questions to ask of their participant.  An exception might be if students are asked to briefly record their observations of a science experiment or quick “vox-pop” type recordings, for example. Audio files are usually uploaded and shared as links, rather than embedded in edublogs and globalteacher blogs. Although, I am rather envious of my friend Jess’s blog, Technolote, with her ability to embed Soundcloud files. Audio files can be used as an alternative to text with students who have reading/writing difficulties and are great for younger students and language learners.

 4. Digital Storytelling and Video tools – MS Photostory, Windows MovieMaker, YouTube, TeacherTube, Kahootz, Pivot

As with audio, students should write a script and carefully plan a storyboard prior to beginning recording. It helps if students are provided with a rubric and perhaps a past student example of the work required. If you can discuss your expectations with students prior to them starting work, you are less likely to have students waste time down the wrong track. Whether students use photographs, video footage or animations, they should keep the message concise, make sure the sound recording is clear (don’t try to record outside on a very windy day!) and be aware of copyright issues. The 60-Second Science Video competition was a great opportunity for students to produce a short video about a science concept of their choice. Creating a video requires students to think carefully about how they wish to present their information in a way that engages their audience.

5. Surveys, Quizzes and Polls – Google Forms, My Studiyo, Polldaddy

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 If students can create a quiz, they can be developing a much deeper understanding of the topic than by completing a test on the same subject. They have to identify the important information and write the questions as well as knowing the correct answers. “MyStudiyo” is a fun tool for students to use to create their own online, interactive quizzes, using images and text, very quickly and easily.

Polls and surveys allow teachers to find out about their students and allow students to gather data about their peers. You can see an example of a survey I created using Google Forms on the “Survey” page of this blog. Creating a survey like this is quick, easy and very useful to get information from students at the beginning of a new year.

 First sign up with your gmail address (I recommend all teachers and students have a gmail account) and select “Google Documents”.  Then click on “Create New” >> and select “Form” in the drop-down box. You will then be able to type in the question and choose whether how you would like the questions formatted – multiple choice, checkboxes, short text response or paragraph text response, choose from a list, scale or grid.You can add as many questions as you need (unlike SurveyMonkey, which has a limit of ten quesitons with the free version) and edit as required. When you have completed the form, you are given the google_docs_form2option to send as an email or embed into web page. The embed option gives you a code, which you can copy and paste into the “HTML” window of your blog. Sometimes the size of the form may not align with your blog size, but the width and length can usually be adjusted in the code. Once students have entered the information, the data can easily be retrieved by going to the spreadsheet in your Google Documents.

I have found Google forms to be a very useful tool for collecting data for maths investigations (surveys for graphing and probability for example); self-assessment;  for end-of-semester and year surveys of my teaching practise; for award nominations and for gathering preferences for activities for school camps and excursions.

How do you think you can use embedded mindmaps, audio, video, quizzes or surveys in your class? How do you think your students can benefit from using embedded media in their blogs? Sue Waters surveyed  8 and 9 year old students and found out about the media they like most to embed on their blogs, which she wrote about in this post, “BeFunky, PhotoPeach and SketchFu – It’s what Student’s want to do!”.