Category: Web 2.0 tools

Virtual teaching with Michelle Iro


This is Michelle Iro, a fourth year teacher-in-training at University of Ballarat, holding a lava bomb at the Penshurst Volcano Discovery Centre. Michelle has been working at Hawkesdale P12 College over the past four weeks, teaching my Year 6/7 Maths and Science classes. On Friday, 5th November she will run an Elluminate session with the 6/7G class as an introduction to Monday’s class, about Tower Hill, the State Game Reserve near Koroit. Click on this link for the Friday Period 2 Elluminate session. Tower Hill is the remains of a Maar volcano, formed when molten magma is forced up through the water table, causing huge amounts of steam and pressure to blow material out of a crater. Tower Hill is well known for it’s abundant wildlife: emus, koalas, kangaroos, echidnas and wetland birds.

6/7G : Click on this link for the Period 2 Elluminate session on Monday 8th November from Tower Hill.

6/7R: Click on this link for the Period 4 Elluminate session on Monday 8th November from Tower Hill.

Two International Science Projects


The International Paper Airplane Challenge

To finish off term 3, year 6/7 students will be learning about the scientific method, while they research, make and fly paper planes. Students from three  other schools, in Philadelphia, New York and Tasmania, will be doing the same experiments and we will compare our results. Ms Catherine Laguna from Philadelphia, Dr Gerald Ardito, from PVC Middle School (NY) and Mr Deon Scanlon from St Aloysius Catholic College (Tas.) all teach 12-13 year old students science.

Students decide what defines the “best” paper plane for them – is it the one that flies the furtherest, most accurately, highest in the air or looks the best? They research different styles of planes and develop a hypothesis – a statement about a measurable factor of the plane (length, width, angle of wings, mass etc) that impacts on the best performance. They then write up the procedure accurately, so the experiment can be repeated anywhere, anytime, with the same results. Students choose three planes to trial and collect the data to graph and compare with international students.  Students will use The International Paper Airplane Challenge wiki to document their progress and post their videos and Google Docs to compare their results.

International Energy Challenge

This project, for year 6/7 and 8 students, will involve Terri Johnson (Bode Middle School, St, Joseph, Missouri) and Kristy Lathrop (Messa Middle School, Castle Rock, Colorado) and Gerardo Lazaro (Lima, Peru)  in a Siemens – STEM – Institute facilitated collaboration. We will use the Energy Challenge wiki, Google docs, Skype and other tools to allow communication with students across the Pacific Ocean.

Terri and Kristy have already done some great brainstorming and planning during their school holidays, with the ideal aim of the collaboration being that students will:

  • see different viewpoints
  • be able to suspend judgment
  • be able to make informed decisions
  • be risk takers
  • understand that “energy cannot be created or destroyed…” and that
  • there are costs/benefits to all technology decisions

K12 On-Line Conference “Week in the Classroom”


Screenshot from K12 Online Conference

This week I have been excited to be informed that my proposal to present at the K12 Online Conference was accepted. The conference is in it’s fifth year and again promises a diverse range of international presenters, distinguished key-note speakers and excellent opportunities for collaborative professional development. The pre-conference week starts on 11th October with Dean Shareski, whose very name is the embodiment of what the conference is all about – sharing. This free conference, with the theme “Cultivate the Future!”, includes some truly inspirational and innovative users of technology in education, such as:

I am truly honored and humbled to be included in a line-up with such outstanding leaders in education. If you are planning on participating in any part of the conference, please leave a comment and if you are interested in my “Week in a Classroom” let me know what your specific interests are, so I can tailor my presentation accordingly.

Year 6/7 Forces Assignment

Forces - comic life

Each student prepared a storyboard by folding a sheet of A3 paper into 6 sections and then drawing an example of the following results of forces:

  • Forces can start motion
  • Forces can stop motion
  • Forces can change the speed of motion
  • Forces can change the direction of motion
  • Forces can change the shape of an object, and
  • Forces can have no visible effect at all!

Now they are using various programs (Pivot, Photostory, Monkey Jam, Windows Movie Maker and Paint) to illustrate a short movie demonstrating each of these effects of forces. Some students prefer to draw with a real pencil and can take a photo of their drawings and add headings and speech bubbles with Comic Life – which is available on the computers in Room 2 or you can get a free, 30-day trial at Comic Life.

These videos show how you can convert Pivot (stick figure) animations to AVI files for YouTube and how to put a Pivot animation into Windows Movie Maker. You could also try this one. You will need to access these from home as YouTube is blocked at school.  Students, please make sure any digital images you use are in the public domain or Creative Commons (free to use with certain conditions) and that you list the sites you have referred to on the last slide of your video presentation.

Here is Nathan’s Forces Movie, made in Pivot, converted to WindowsMovieMaker and uploaded to YouTube.

iPods in middle years science education

ipod with lego men

Image Source

Since attending the Slide2Learn conference, and being the holidays with plenty of time to play around, I have been exploring the possibilites of using our class set of iPods in the science laboratory. Even without the applications mentioned in previous posts ( Technoscience at Slide2Learn conference, Our Solar System and Free iPod Touch applications for maths and science learners), there are several very useful tools that are pre- installed.

note_taking The note taking application allows the user to tap in quick notes, saved for later use. the advantage of using an ipod over a netbook, laptop or desktop is, of course, it’s portability and it is very quick to open. This is ideal for taking  notes on excursions:

– recording data from water testing, results of quadrat or transect studies;

– adaptations of plants at the Botanical gardens, animal behaviour at the zoo;

– names, (you could also use the Contacts for this) times and dates (likewise, with the Calender) for later reference  – an external memory-jogger!

voice_recorder The voice recorder, an uber-modern “dictaphone”, allows very good quality voice recording  with the supplied earphones and tiny microphone. More sophisticated options for recording are available as acessories, but would only be necessary for podcasting and more serious recordings. I hope to use this tool with students who are very reluctant writers and those with poor literacy skills. As well as all the above uses, a voice recorder will be useful for recording observations of laboratory and outdoor experiments. Instead of writing up a proper experimental report, students can create a digital story using the microphone and drawings or photographs. So, the student will record the materials and equipment, method or process, results, observations and conclusions. The recording can then be sent, quickly and easily, by email to the student’s own email address, the teachers address and/or to a class “Posterous” account. Posterous is an online blogging platform which allows posting by email to a unique web address.

ipod_clockAs well as a world clock, which allows you to add the time in different cities around the world, this tool has an alarm, stopwatch and timer – three useful devices in the science laboratory. And don’t forget the calculator! So, if your students have these devices in their pockets, encourage them to use them for educational purposes as well!

A UK study by Becta Schools concluded that “The iPod can be a flexible tool for students to create their own resources and have access to these resources anytime, anywhere. They can make audio notes, PowerPoint presentations and multiple choice quizzes, thereby having a variety of tools to reinforce their learning.”

Skype a Scientist


Image Source by dzingeek@flickr

This week I particpated in a meeting with dozens of science teachers from around the world – right from my own loungeroom!  Science chat is held each fortnight on Twitter, with all members using the tag #scichat. This week’s topic was “What does the ideal 21st century science classroom look like?”. It was a very interesting discussion (although somewhat limited by everyone only using 140 characters!) that included student-centered instruction and real-world, authentic experiments, rather than the cook-book style of laboratory work in 20th century classrooms. One of the exciting things that was mentioned, along with lots of links to great science resources, was having science experts to speak to students in the classroom, from their own laboratory.

In Australia, we have the Scientists in Schools Program, administered by the federal government and the CSIRO. In May this year there were 1617 partnerships across the country, in both government and non-government; primary and secondary; rural and city schools. However, many partnerships rely on the scientist having the time to visit the school – which is not always possible. It would be amazing if more scientists could use Skype for Educators, so that those partnerships could be fully realised. This kind of communication could help to dispel the myth that all scientists wear white coats, have crazy hair and mix brightly coloured, explosive chemicals together!

Free iPod Touch applications for Maths and Science learners


Image Source

My twelve year-old son has just joined the iTouch brigade, buying himself a hand-held, game-playing, music device that has become permanently attached. Our school has also recently purchased several, thanks to a grant awarded to Anne Mirtschin. So how can teachers use these slick and intriguing machines to engage students in maths and science learning? I searched for free educational applications and this is what I found:

Times tables – imultiply is a 12 x 12 multiplication grid that you tap the two numbers you want to multiply and the answer is highlighted in the grid. TimesTables Free  is more colourful and more fun, with flashcards and drills to help master multiplication tables.

Math Minute is a simple to use application that offers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division drills. Maths Drills Lite is similar, but with richer graphics and helpful hints in the form of number lines, wooden blocks and finger counting.

Number Line and Fraction Factory assist students to understand fractions and decimals. Percentage Change (99c) helps to reinforce, step-by-step, the process of calculating percentage change. For more advanced mathematics, Math Tasks has commonly used algebra and formulas, including calculating areas and volumes, while Geometry Stash has descriptions of some common theorems, with diagrams and Geometry Touch (99c) is a study guide to the formulas you may be required to know for exams.

For the real science geeks, Periodic Table of the Elements  and Molecules (download and rotate 3D models of molecules) are two of my favourites. Science Glossary is a useful app. for scientific terms and biographies of scientists. Planets is a 3D guide to the solar system for aspiring astronomers and Planet Facts has hundreds of informative snippets, with beautiful graphics, about the planets of our solar system. Muscle System (free for a limited introductory period only) is one of a series of medical applications to assist learning about names of muscles of the head and neck, their action and nerve supply. 3D Brain allows you to explore 29 different regions of the brain.

Not Free ($11.99) is “Star Map“, a pocket planetarium, for locating planets and constellations, written by a professional astronomer. “iBird Explorer Backyard” ($4.99) allows bird identification by sight and song – I’m guessing for northern hemisphere species? For the full list of educational apps check out the Apple Store.

Twitter, Spineless Wonders and Accidental Science!

 twitter Made with My Cool Signs.Net

I read on Twitter recently that someone’s Twitter network has given them the best PD in over 30 years of teaching. That’s a pretty powerful claim – but since I’ve only been teaching 7 years, I’ll have to wait another 23 to see if it’s true! For now, I’m pretty happy to believe it – here are just some of the resources I have found in just a couple of hours this morning.

Planet Science provides resources, ideas and downloadable materials for science teachers to create enjoyable and memorable lessons. It has eight different sections for teachers, pearents, under 11’s and over 11’s, ‘out there’ (experiments and outdoor activities), Randomise (games) and more.

Zephyrus interactive education has science activities for biology, chemistry, physics, science super-stars and homework help for students.

Create clever personal, musical, fashionable or historical timelines using “All of Me” – an automatic application that uses your blogs, videos, internet pages, pictures or other digital assets to produce a personal time line.

Love this “Most Famous Men on One Photo“. How many can you recognise and name? Where is the “Most Famous Women in one Photo?”.

Lisa Neilsen writes at the Innovative Educator about “25 Random Things an Innovative Educator can do to Enhance Teaching and Learning”.

Not all scientific discoveries come from years of hard work and careful research! This post, “Eight Brilliant Scientific Screw-ups!” describes how sometimes accidents result in valuable new knowledge.

David Knowles, a dedicated entymologist, has set up this site, “Spineless Wonders” , to be the total resource for insects, spiders and other amazing living creatures (without backbones).



This application can turn any photo into a fun image around hundreds of themes. Great for classroom posters, student projects and book reports. It does have Google advertising and links to other sites, so be vigilant and perhaps set a time limit with your students.

Virtual Microscopy

Screen capture from Virtual Microscopy

Best Biology site of the week is probably this Virtual Microscope from the Indiana University Bloomington – it has slides of cell division, and tissue from all the body systems – digestive, circulatory, excretory etc. So if you don’t have enough microscopes for every student in the class, don’t have the relevant slides, or students are having difficulty getting a clear image, this is one solution. I used it my VCE Biology class today, so students could see the difference between the thick, muscular walls of arteries and the thinner walls of veins and the thinnest walls of capillaries. They were also able to identify the five different types of white blood cell and count an approximate ratio of RBC to WBC.