May 1, 2011

Discovery Time!

Having recently attended an inspiring PD session at school about Discovery Time I am both inspired professionally to give it a whirl and also inspired to share that knowledge too.
I had thought that Discovery Time was basically for Juniors but having been to the session I realise it can be for almost any age group! It is basically planned and organised play-time for children to experience and learn for themselves once a week with no teacher restraints or controls.
The one block session once a week involves a variety of activities that give children the space to be creative, explore through discovery and play, problem solve, work on a key competency focus while playing, covers all aspects of different learning styles and are motivated. Check out all the benefits here - Discovery Time
Although our facilitators suggested a Friday morning...I have been too inspired this weekend and want to give it my first whirl on Monday morning - the beginning of a new term and start with either a BANG or a FLOP...which ever, it will be an interesting experience! I have challenged myself to come up with some activities around the Royal Wedding which happened on Friday April 29th.
I am pretty sure my 8 year olds will PMI the usefulness or not of Discovery Time so we can be more planned and inspired for the next session.
Will keep you posted so to speak.

Feb 17, 2011

Patterns galore - a Geometric wonder

Amazingly fun [not exactly a photo] but beauty created with geometric lines and shapes - lots of fun and kinda therapeutic also! Discovering effects of geometric shapes and comparisons with lines and colours.
With classes probably have 'free time' followed by a piece of art using only 3-5 of the patterns.

Art patterns discovered thanks to Mrs Fennemore

Feb 16, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog

So to blog or not to blog?
What have I discovered along the way....
  1. Inspire them - check out other class blogs together, discuss them, whats cool, whats not cool, what rocks their boat, what doesn't? Rate them and follow them
  2. Remove the  'next blog' option from the top navigation bar [you have no idea what the 'next blog' might be and it might not be child friendly] How to is HERE
  3.  TEACH them how to comment - what could they say? what pointers for future learning could they give? what encouragement is needed? this needs frequent reviewing and reminding and sharing of 'awesome' comments [use the data-projector]
  4. Share the LOVE - follow child friendly blogs and encourage children to comment frequently on other classes posts and blogs - they hopefully will return the favour. The more readership the greater encouragement ch'n get to write more!
  5. Give feed forward as the teacher too - encourage and share!
  6. Loosen the reigns and allow children to discover for themselves - everything does not need to be word perfect or punctuation perfect - but checking in first is good
  7. Use social networks to promote your class blog - Facebook, Twitter - your own PLN [professional learning network] are great for getting your ch'ns stuff out there!
  8. Use a variety of tools for your blogs - they do not need to be just writing - voicethread, picture displayers, movies - all look great
  9. Promote with the families of the class - newsletters, flyers and posters - encourage them to be a part of the blogging community and their ch'ns learning
  10. Constantly review and encourage, encourage, encourage!
Of course we are all still learners - at present, having blogged for a few years with Year 5/6 students, I am re-learning and re-evaluating our blogging strategy with Year 4 students - with the essence of above still in the works.

Key for me is the students have got to ENJOY the experience - it should not be a chore or thrust upon them! Having FUN is the key!

Feb 9, 2011

Terrific Typing Apps

Here are two awesome web apps for practicing your typing skills.

Typing Monster - seriously fast [ for expert typers] type the recipe, complete with punctuation as well as typing the numbers to destroy the monster before he takes your lives! Intermediate and up

Typing Tide Pool - for learners - gets progressively harder as the swimming meeting continues. Leveled words. Type the words to speed your swimmer to the end of the pool before your fellow swimmers to unlock the next level. Much more speed relaxed...sure ch'n would love this one. Yr 4 and up

Jan 31, 2011

Guts and grit!

Embedding can be easy and very successful as well as encouraging to children and their learning. Our classes favourite would be Voicethread and designing their own games from Classtools. My class blog with heaps of embed examples.

Voicethread - a super easy web app that you can add images to and add voices using inbuilt microphones, Also a fabulous tool for collaborating with classes from other countries. Here is an example from two ESOL ch'n related to a book they had read - Octopus. Here are two examples of a collaborative voicethread - teaching a class in USA about Maoris - Maori words and Maori numbers.

Another of our class favourites is using Classtools - where they can create their own games. It can be tricky adding finding the code..we discovered the best way was to create our quizzes was to write the quiz in pages or word first and then use Firefox browser to create the game. Ch'n can create a huge variety of arcade games for classmates to play. Here is an example Egyptian quiz game created by 9 year olds.

Answer Garden is another favourite - we used it to brainstorm after an immersion  activity on Egypt. It can be used in a mass of different ways and is easy to use and versatile. Teachers can use it too!

 I have used Survey Monkey with classes before to collect and collate statistical data, however a great bunch of peeps seem to be using Poll Daddy so here goes with my first one! Love the ability to re-edit once finished and re-embed. Cool Tool!

Jan 25, 2011

Having FUN with Images in blogs!

As I am a very visual person, and according to Tony Ryan [see previous post] we should use more images in education, I have opted for posting about creative use of images in blog posts.

Frequently we use our own images for our blog posts as I think these are more powerful and I love the ch'n having 'ownership' over their writing and creative imaging also. I teach my class about photography early on in the year - rule of thirds, light, colour, line, texture etc

So how do I display my images in a creative way?
Well I am glad you asked.
There are hundreds of different displayer apps on the web.
Here is a selection of our favourites:

1.  Flickr [costs yearly fee to be unlimted] we use the free 200 shots version. Also heaps of extras for Flickr images can be found here - many Flickr images can be used with no copy right issues. I generally tell my class to leave a positive comment on the image for the photographer if we have used their photo as a courtesy. Spell with Flickr [great for headers] ★★★★★

2. Capzles - a funky photo displayer, free to use, comment moderation, story and spiral display options, add music etc examples here ★★★★

3. Animoto - easy to use, limited images allowed on free account, apply for education account gives longer movies options, often duplicates the movies ★★★

4. Picture trail - slightly more complex to use, but huge variety of options for shapes and action to your images example here  ★★★★

5. Fotobabble - add images easily and use internal or external microphones to speak over the image selections, excellent for ESOL students and low end readers and reading task, easy to use with little support needed example here ★★★★★

6.  Vuvox - create slideshows from your images, free to use, example here ★★★

7. Blabberize - awesome fun for ch'n - use any person or animal image, draw mouths, record sound and watch it cartoon talk - free to use  ★★★★★

8. Photovisi - collaging for your images, mass of choices, ch'n love it ★★★★

9.  Kizoa - presentation and slideshow presenter with images, slow loader ★★★

10. Voicethread - my favourite and easy for others to comment - share your images and add voiceovers - great for collaborations as others can comment verbally also but comments can be moderated - easy to use, images can also be drawn on without destroying image by individuals. Educators account gives unlimited free voicethreads. Also massive library to search from.   examples ★★★★★

11. Photofunia -  add your image to many backgrounds, including billboards, Warhol patterns, buses etc example used as image for illustrating this post ★★★★★

12. Photopeach - creative display of photos in movie style, add own or selected music, free, easy to use, example here  ★★★★

This is obviously just a wee selection of the fun that can be had using images to enhance your blog posts - let me know of any other funky tried and tested ones you have used.

Have fun with Images!

Jan 24, 2011

Tony Ryan - Inspirationals for Term 1....Zest practice

Today we had one of our teacher only days shared with Northcote Primary @Learning Network with Tony Ryan.

Tony Ryan is an inspirational speaker in all contexts....amusing, challenging, inspiring and has a zest for life which he shares through many images. He is easy to listen to and often inspires thoughts as the day goes on [ignore the fact that he is an Ozzie] he is open and forthright and I love his conferences/sessions.

A day of inspirations and conversations with where to now?
My goals after Tony:

  1. Get a support person on staff to keep me positive even when the proverbial hits the fan!
  2. Continue/start/action my goal from early Jan - photo of the day blog with my class  
  3. Check out Fun Theory - see what the children think, challenge their thinking with the grid e.g see the one to the left - combine
  4. Use some idioms to have some 'fun' during the day
  5. Try and laugh more often [when I feel down...stick a smile on] how? Tony says bite a pen between your teeth and make sure your lips don't touch the pen - try it!
  6. Teach my class about Google Wonder Wheel - awesome search part of google...who knew it was even there? [Well Tony did!]. On a search in google the Wonder wheel option can be found down the left had sidebar - more visual for ch'n to gather and fine tune their research skills. Each click  from each wheel brings up a refined search. AWESOME! [see above]
  7. Use brain exercising every day for 10 mins with the children - thinking matrix [as above], thinkers keys activities, sudokhu, word game, see saw thinking 
  8. Para-phrasing practice and ch'n talking [in pairs more often] use the Dilema as starters
  9. Challenge their thinking...challenge your own....Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
  10. Check out....1000 awesome things [again  and see the beauty in every day stuff]
  11. Open my Genuis/Geek bar [not just for ICT] - get ch'n posting Questions they want answers to/problems to sort and get other child experts to help them and support them
  12. Continue my Facebook lunchtime support group
  13. Look at 
  14. Use Cool Iris more often - have a photo up everyday for them to see on arriving in class [quick pair discussion after roll]
  15. Don't take life so seriously - chill a bit and do stuff for ME!!! Coz I am worth it!
Yes many ideas brewing and buzzing I feel a bit more 'let me attem'
Thanks Tony for the 'Think Different' day!

Jan 21, 2011

RSS feeders

There are heaps of RSS readers.

Have tried and tested:

Netvibes - a website that logs all your RSS feeds and those widgets that interest you most - draw back? You have to visit the page to see the updates....not one of my favs but some of my colleagues swear by it

Google Reader - part of the Google package and comes as an extra with your google mail option. Nice reader that is easily usable on all sites offering RSS - love the one stop shop with same login and password for mail, docs, reader etc

My real PICK of the bunch is most defiantly Socialite. It's an app that sits on your computer, a client if you like - BUT with this little beauty it has my RSS reader included, my Flickr accounts, my Facebook updates AND my Twitter - in one awesome package - no need to flick from page to page or site to site. Love this little beauty and well worth the minimal outlay! Having trialled many other Twitter clients this baby is the one that has me hooked with everything in the same place. Could not live without it!

My advice - try out a few of them and see which one works for you!
Have fun trialling! Let me know which ones you find and what you think of each one.

Avatar....NOT the Blue People.....

Creating Avatars...not the blue peeps from the hellishly long movie, but your image for use on blogs and other places on the web to show who you are.
I have used a variety of Avatars over the years such as: my minimee by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London [the POME in me], my wee mouse with his cheese [to depict my last name], me with Johnny Depp [need I say more?] and my minimee South Park pirate. All these Avatars depict something about me.

I got my class to create avatars one year [2010] when we tackled a world blogging exchange for the football world cup in South Africa. They needed avatars to comment and design posts on our page using Wordpress [also new to me].

One of my goals this year is to get my year 4's to have their own avatar. So for this we will be experimenting with a few avatar creators and possibly rating their effectiveness as well.

So lets experiment with a few of these avatar creators then.
Rating: 1 = nah, 2 = it's ok, 3 = not bad, 4 = worth a go, 5 = whoop whoop!

  1. The wee lego dudes - easy to use, fast loading,  child friendly, only minus is can't be saved except screen dump it.  4
  2. Talking voki - slow loading each section, needs fast connection, good fun, has adverts, will be slow creating with ch'n - vast amounts of choices 4   see below for this one
  3. Picasso style - easy to use, not so much fun as others, loads fast 3
  4. Weemee - easy to use, similar styles, plenty of choices 5
  5. Doppleme - easy to use, basic choices, simple user interface, groups can be created [might be useful for classes] many options available for logon [suggest a generic class login rather than ch'n having own logins] 4
  6. My Avatar creator  - very simple to use, fast loading, variety of choice, screen capture [purple bodied chick, plain background] another bonus is the programme can be downloaded and used directly from the computer 
  7. Awesome child friendly site called MEMAKER for creating an amazing simple avatar image including your likes food and activity wise 5
  8. Build your wildself - awesome cartoon effect, heaps of choices, fast loading, child friendly, gives you animal info as well. Printable and email-able 5
  9. Avatar creator
It's also worth mentioning that even the static avatars can be given voices using BLABBERIZE! A very funky website used to make static images make sounds

Click here to comment on this Voki.
Get a Voki now!

Jan 15, 2011

Blogging Whadda Ya Know?

I started blogging myself a year ago but have started with children in my class three years ago. The first year with year 5 and 6 children [aged 9-11 years old] did not really take off but each year since then it has grown from strength to strength. I am a firm believer in the teacher not 'doing it' for them. So I did not want a blog that I updated with work on their behalf. I wanted them to be doing it. I have learnt that experiencing other blogs relevant to my classes is the way to get them 'on board' early one. I often start with a selection of blogs that I have seen from other classes and children...they look at them, comment on them and discuss what they like or dislike and what purpose they serve in groups. This seems to kick start their interest in blogging.

It's also worth noting that I frequently review blogging and commenting, particularly the appropriateness of comments and how to give constructive feedback. Depending on the age of children, it is useful to demonstrate or show excellent examples of comments to inspire them. However, it is also important to comment on their posts yourself as their teacher and give them feedback and feedforward.
It has been very rewarding to see how much the boys have got into blogging as well - I never restrict their choice of post - if the child is interested in something let them be is my policy. This has encouraged reluctant writers to get into it and share their interests and experiences. It's also worked well with ESOL children improving their English language skills. 

I also developed a maths blog to support my childrens learning in math groups - with tried and tested sites that I know are both safe and educational that I can direct them too in set math areas. Since then I have started a language one also for the same purpose NB both are under construction.

Last year it was awesome to have children that wanted their own blogs after using our class one and so pleasing to see them blogging in their own time after school and in the holidays with very little prompting from me. We attached their blogs to our blogroll alongside the blogs that we follow regularly so the children can locate them all easily.

This year my class blogging will continue with a younger age group [ummm...lets see how that goes] as I am teaching year 4's aged 8 and 9.

I have also set myself a personal goal to photograph at least one thing a day [and my class also I hope] so I have started a photography blog too which I hope the children will be able to comment on using photographic terminology.  

Here's to another year of blogging!