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STAVCON 2011

zooniverse

Image Source

This week I was fortunate to attend the Science Teacher’s Association of Victoria annual conference, held at La Trobe University, Bundoora. I presented two well-attended sessions of “A Digital Toolbox for Teaching and Learning Science“, for which I received some excellent feedback.

The Keynote address on Day 1 was Professor David Jamieson, from Melbourne University, who spoke about “Physics, Power and Climate Change”. It was a very sobering analysis of climate data over millenia, the relationship between climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and our currrent insatiable appetitie for power. He highlighted the imbalance between the consumers of power in the developed countries and the effects of climate change that will impact more severely on people in developing nations.
On Day 2, the keynote speaker was Dr Tanya Hill from the Melbourne Planetarium, who had a very inspiring plenary titled “Where to Find Aliens”. She had some awesome space images and great information about how new exoplanets are being discovered virtually every week and how some of them may be quite earth-like and capable of supporting life. She challenged us to think which was more incredible, that we are the only planet in the vast universe that harbours living beings or that there are other places where life goes on. One of the web sites that Dr Hill recommended was “Zooniverse“, which has eleven “missions” which are “citizen science projects” – that the general public can participate in. Zooniverse includes eight space missions, one about nature, one about humanity and one about climate.

Supervising a Pre-Service Teacher

This week I have been in all my classrooms, but only prepared three lessons. I came to work every day, but didn’t teach Biology, Maths or Science. This week was the first week supervising a new student teacher, in her final year year of a graduate diploma of education. Tara is a confident, well-presented and very well organized young lady. She has an excellent rapport with students and is very willing to take on board any suggestions for improvement. She has planned and prepared effective lessons, provided encouraging feedback to students and sought advice when required. She has embarked on her web2.0 journey with this blog at My Blog.

During the next four weeks of her five week placement, I hope I can assist her to further develop her teaching skills and support her school experience. I remember the important lessons from my own practicum experience – using a ‘hook’ to engage students, planning quality tasks with clear learning intentions and leaving time to ‘wrap up’ the lesson. I remember shadowing a tall, energetic man who seemed to be juggling a dozen balls at once – as he strode up the hallways he greeted students with a smile, reminded them of extra-curricula activities and kept ahead of administrative tasks. I remember asking him how he coped with stress and he told me how much he loved fishing.

This teacher is Tara’s father, nearing retirement now, but a great role model to his daughter. I hope I can assist Tara to become the great teacher her father is, but with new skills for 21st century learning. As well as sharing appropriate resources and classroom management strategies, I hope I can help her achieve her teaching goals. To be a great 21st century teacher she will need to encourage critical thinking, problem solving and informed decision making. She will need to be innovative, flexible and able to adapt to changing technologies and department policies. To be a great 21st century teacher she will need to demonstrate excellent communication skills, the ability to collaborate effectively and the capacity to build knowledge collectively. Tara has an exciting and fulfilling career ahead of her – how would you ensure she develops the skills that enable her students to reach their fullest potential?

My first response to this post was from the Maths Hombre via Twitter, who wrote this very interesting and useful blog post, “Self Assessment for Teachers”.

A couple more web2.0 tools for students


Pinterest is a site where you can collect images and text like a virtual scrapbook. Register, log in and start pinning your favorite clips, quotes, recipes etc.

Artskills has a great application for creating online posters. Choose bold and bright headings, backgrounds, borders and upload your own images.

I will be asking my students to create a “Five Kingdoms” virtual scrapbook or poster for classification in Year 7 Science or show examples of each of the five classes of vertebrates, with descriptions of the key characteristics. We are also running a competition at school this term, “What does your digital footprint say about you?”. I will ask students to create posters to advertise the competition.

How can you use these tools with students?

Scoop.it, SpongeLab and QR codes

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Image Source

This week I have had some time to explore a few more sites and tools for science teaching and learning. SpongeLab has just launched a new site with graphics, animations, interactive games and a teacher’s section. You can set up classes and save a playlist of activities for students. You and your students have access to a free digital library of scientifically accurate and stunningly beautiful images, graphics, simulations and animations including exciting interactive games such as “History of Biology”, “Build a Cell” and “Build a Body”. SpongeLab uses credits to unlock premium activities, which are earned by time online (or purchased through PayPal).

Another great new resource is “Scoop.it“, which I came across on Twitter. Joe Evans has curated an “iPads in Education” e-magazine from various sites, and I used the tool to produce two Scoop.it titles “Education for Sustainability” and “VCE Biology“. Although the site is in beta, it seems to work really well – even on the iPad, which is not ideal for all purposes (I have found it of limited use in Google+ and blogging). Once you are registered and choose a title, you can select articles from various sources to add to your e-magazine. I was quite chuffed to discover that Lisa Neilsen, writer of “The Innovative Educator“, had mentioned me in her latest post about this tool.

This tool is a great way to introduce a topic to students, compare perspectives and editorial styles or collect resources for a project. I posted the Scoop.it link to my students on our Facebook page, where they can access videos, slideshows and other content that may be blocked at school.

Have you noticed those mysterious black and white squares popping up around the place? QR (quick response) codes are used like bar codes to store information, but have a much greater capacity. They can store over 7,000 characters, including URL’s, names, adresses, phone numbers or other information that can be quickly and easily transferred to a mobile phone or other device with a camera and the appropriate scanning application. Mr Robbo (the PE Geek) wrote about them way back in 2009 and they have been used in Japan since 1994 (according to Wikipedia). A very inventive use of the codes can be seen above, from Flickr, where the Periodic Table of QR Codes takes the user to a video of each element in the periodic table.

Student Survey

Please complete the survey below – make sure you scroll right to the bottom using the side bars and add your email adress (if you have one) and click on “Submit”. Thanks!

Five new web2.0 tools to try in 2011!

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I’ve just opened the second-to-last flap on the wonderful, web2.0 advent calendar, by @ktenkely at iLearn Technology. Just so I don’t forget to try some of these great new web2.0 tools when I go back to school, I thought I’d better write this post to remind myself! The advent calendar was created using Wix, which is another tool that I need to use more in the classroom in 2011. I have also just discovered Lulu Publishing, thanks to Mr. Robbo, the P.E. Geek, who has recently published his book “100+ Ways to Use Technology in Physical Education”.

1. Answergarden is an online tool for brainstorming that can be embedded in blogs and wikis. Get instant feedback, with the answers appearing in a word cloud (most frequent in largest font). Ask students a question, and all their answers (up to 25) appear on the whiteboard.

2. Crocodoc  allows users to mark up and review documents online. You can collaboratively highlight and comment on PDFs, Word documents, images and more. Upload your own task sheets or ask your students to upload their work to Crocodoc and you can review, comment on and edit their work online.

 3. Dushare is a real-time, person to person, file sharing application. Quickly and easily send files without uploading to a server.

4. Juxio allows users to create streams of multimedia displays to “create new meaning”. Add images and text, share or print. Can be used instead of Powerpoint, making a poster, video or cartoon.

5. Nota Mash your ideas and media together with friends in a dynamic whiteboard wiki. Using photos, videos, and other web content you can instantly create brainstorms, presentations, scrapbooks, and enjoy an interactive chat with more than 50 friends

Google Teacher Academy

On our last day at school I took the opportunity to take pictures of students for my application to the Google Teacher Academy. The GTA is a free professional development workshop for educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy allows participants to get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies and receive resources to share with colleagues. Although the applications don’t close until 27th January, I wanted to show my students what their pictures went into, so here it is:

My Top 10 Online tools for Global Collaboration in 2010

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Here are my ten favourite tools for global collaboration in 2010 and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful teachers and students who have participated in various projects this year. I am grateful to all the wonderful people who have willingly shared their skills, time and expertise to enhance student learning in my classrooms and am regularly inspired by the passion and enthusiasm of teachers within my online personal learning network.

  1. Edublogs  is a fantastic, easy-to-use blogging platform that can be a springboard for global projects. Many of my online friends and colleagues have left comments on my blog prior to us starting global projects together. Student blogs are also the basis for many successful collaborations.
  2. Twitter and Tweetdeck help you to form a personal learning network and find teachers interested in global projects in your subject area.  Try #scichat, #mathchat, #slide2learn, #ultranet, #edchat and #mlearning.
  3. Time and Date helps to find suitable meeting times and calculate the time in different places around the world. It has a fantastic maps showing night and day across the globe and the fixed time calculator can tell you the current time in hundreds of cities.
  4. Google Forms allows you to collect information quickly and easily, such as student names and sign-ins, email addresses and preferences. You can embed the forms in blogs and wikis for students to complete online.
  5. Skype now has a recording feature, so conversations can be stored for review. You can use Skype one to one (with video) or with a group, to plan projects and for students to communicate with each other.
  6. Edmodo allows you to form a group and keep track of discussions. We used it in the IEC for planning.
  7. Gmail also allows you to form groups and keep track of email discussions easily, straight to your inbox.
  8. Wikispaces for Educators has a customizable interface and makes it easy for students to create their own web pages. The wiki-mail feature allows students to send group messages. 
  9. Voicethread allows students from different time zones to add to conversations around images or videos, asynchronously. It has various editing and privacy settings and the ability to moderate comments.
  10. Elluminate is a free (to registered Victorian educators), web-conferencing platform with whiteboard, audio, web-cam, interactive tools, polling and application sharing. It was used to great effect for our International Energy Challenge, allowing students to communicate across oceans and continents.

My Top 10 Online Tools to Embed in Blogs and Wikis in 2010

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Sue Waters from Edublogs got me thinking today, when I read this post and completed the survey “What tools do you like to use your students that can be embedded into blogs and other websites like wikis?”. The problem was I had to narrow it down to three tools. So I thought I would write this post, to include the most valuable tools I have used in 2010. Now lists of tools can get pretty boring, but I have linked to student examples of each of the products, to show you what students are capable of when using these tools.

1. Bubbl.us is a free, online mind-mapping tool that does not require student registration, although if you do register with an email address, you can save the work online.  Although you cannot embed the mindmap, you can take a screenshot and add it as an image. Rachel, a year 8 student, created a fantastic example about Simple Machines here.

2. Voicethread is always on these lists of tools, because it is easy to use and suitable for students from prep to year 12. It can be used to good effect in global projects, such as the International Energy Challenge, due to the ability for students from different time zones to add to conversations asynchronously. In the IEC, we had 150 students from three countries and five different schools create twelve Voicethreads about different energy sources, that we embedded on each page of the wiki. We did have a few issues with access (privacy settings) but these were mostly resolved by including teachers as editors of each Voicethread.

3. My Studiyo is a free, online quiz-making site, that allows students to create multiple-choice quizzes and add images. It is great for sharing between students for revision. Rachel, my wonderful Year 8 student, created this MyStudiyo quiz about different rock types.

4. Slideshare is a great way to convert PowerPoint presentations into slideshows that can be embedded into blogs and wikis. My year 11 Biology students worked in groups to create these slideshows about Biogeochemical cycles.

5. Wordle allows students to create colourful word clouds individually or with others.  Tagxedo is another word cloud creator, with the added advantage of being able to shape the creation. It also seems to have more options for fonts and colour themes. I plan to use Tagxedo more in 2011. Rachel created a wordle about Electricity here.

6. Create-a-Graph is a free, online site that students can add data and choose a graph type to create, which can be customised with different fonts and colours.

7. Wallwisher is a fun online tool that allows students to easily answer questions and make comments using sticky notes posted to a wall. It can be embedded on blogs to give students an idea of everyone’s input.

8. YouTube for quick access to short videos – great for breaking up a science or maths lesson and demonstrating concepts. Unfortunaetly, most school servers block YouTube content.

9. Flashcardsdb has been used by my VCE students to good effect, for remembering definitions and as revision for exams. Creating the cards and sharing them with the rest of the class can be achieved by embedding into a class blog.

10. Maybe the best of all,  Google forms has also been a fabulous tool for collecting data from students, easily accessible from a class blog. I posted a Student Perceptions Survey on the class blog to get feedback about my year’s work and to improve my teaching in the future. It imports all the data to a spreadsheet for easy analysis. I also plan to use Google forms next year to find out more about my new students and collect their email addresses, interests and preferences.

The following slideshow has more Digital Tools for 21st Century Learners:

View more presentations from Britt Gow.