Sunday, 27 May 2012

Using Your Email in Gr 2

This week we began to talk to our Grade 2s about using their school GMail in preparation for when they move to Grade 3. We were so impressed with our 'internet savvy' our students were! 

These are the slides we used during our discussion:

Things we discussed:
- What will your digital footprint be?
- Digital footprints can be big or small, helpful or hurtful
- Assume everything you do online can be seen by others 
- You can't take it think before you type!
- Don’t tell anyone your password! Don’t use anyone else’s password. Use strong passwords
- Protect your email - never share your email address with someone you don’t know. One way spammers get email addresses is by using programs called spiders, crawlers and bots. These programs search the Web, collecting e-mail addresses and adding them to spamming lists

Other things to remember: 
- This is your school email, to be used for school tasks
- Don’t send annoying forwards e.g. ‘OMG send this to 9 people or you’ll have bad luck for the next 17 years’
- “When in doubt, doubt.” you need to develop a healthy skepticism about any information you receive in e-mail – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bling Your Blog

1) Remember who your audience is and write for them.

2) Make each blog post a conversation, encourage comments, add comments, keep it going. Give the people visiting your blog a reason to come back.

3) Read a lot of other blogs - seeing what others are doing shows you the possibilities. 

This widget allows us to see how many visitors we have had on our blog and where in the world they live.

Or try ClustrMaps and have a historical prospective of visitors to your blog. It is really easy to do, visit the site, pop in your blogs address and your email and it will give you the html. And the best part is, it embeds in a perfect size for the class blogs.

2. Shelfari
The Shelfari widget allows you to showcase favorite books that you are reading in your class. Easy to use and install. The first step is to sign up for Safari and then you start to look for favourite books, simple. Shelfari is added as a widget and you can find the embed code for your shelf on their site. When you sign up you may want to sign up for a class Shelfari so your own personal books don't show up on the shelf.

3. Google Translate
This widget is available right in the blogger platform. You have so many languages to choose from. If you don't want Google Translate, how about looking for another widget in the Blogger platform.

Have a look at all the other Blogger Widgets, there are lots of interesting ones. Getting Other Blogger widgets:

What to do when you find a widget out there that you like? Add it into your blog in one quick step - easy!

* this is how I found and added a Brainpop Joke of the Day Widget!

Take a look here to see some top class and teacher blogs: Edublogs Awards

64 Interesting Ideas for Class Blogging (from Tom Barrett)

Taking Blogging Further (a crowd sourced google doc with great ideas!)

ELFADA Course Blog (E-xtraordinary Learning for a Digital Age) (older students but some really interesting posts)

Australian Grade 4 class blog (teacher has just won an award)

American Grade 3 class blog (teacher has won a blogging award)(there is a post on this blog about a ‘family blogging month’ which looks like a good idea!

Kim Cofino from YIS also has some great blog posts

This is why we blog!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Learning Talks take off

Since my last post describing Learning Talks as a method of assessing for understanding, several teachers have come forward with examples that fit the genre.

Students in FIB (Grade 10) English worked in pairs using an iPad and the Show Me app to record their thinking and annotations on a piece of text. In the video below, Guy Roberts explains how this process allows him to assess student's understanding in ways that are fundamentally different that using traditional methods.

Students in Chinese used Explain Everything on an iPad to record their strokes as they wrote characters and then spoke the words with proper tones.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Tech to Transform Assessment - part I

Technology can impact assessment in a variety of ways, from substituting digital tests for paper to self-marking online formative assessments, (Substitution and Augmentation in the SAMR model) it has great potential to assess skills and knowledge in ways that we couldn't imagine or were not possible previously, redefining how we assess.

When considering which assessment tool to use, begin with your learning goal.  Understand what it is that you're intending to assess in the first place.  The next consideration is selecting an assessment tool that will give you the kind of information you need to assess students progress toward the particular learning goal.

Too Many Hammers
"Too Many Hammers"

One of my favorite sayings:
'if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail'
certainly applies to assessment. If all you do is assess learning with a paper and pencil test, you're seriously limiting the learning goals you can have for your students.

In a recent Professional Learning session for our Middle and High School staff we aimed to introduce a few items teachers could add to their assessment toolkit.

Socrative is a tool I've written about before in the context of the 'flipped classroom'. This tool has a simple web interface that is made for mobile devices but works well on our student's MacBook Pros. The whole premise behind Socrative is that it can be a way to collect instant feedback on student learning without having to radically modify how we teach.

Typically, teachers will pose problems to students, maybe writing them on the board or asking orally. The lucky student who is called upon gets to answer while some in the class may just play the odds and not engage in the problem. Using Socrative, the teacher can push an "answer space" to every student and have them respond and view the live results challenging everyone to answer. The instructor can immediately use this live feedback to decide if they need to spend more time on this particular topic or if the class is ready to move forward.

In our session, we first pushed a short quiz of belief statements about assessments (crowd-sourced from Twitter, share code: SOC-183118) which had no right or wrong answer*. Respondents selected based on their belief whether the statement was "more true than false" or "more false than true". We downloaded a report of the results. They then partnered up with another teacher and went through the quiz together having discussion on the statements they didn't agree on.
*to assist in data analysis, I marked every question with "more true than false" as the correct answer.

Our MS & HS Maths teachers have used Socrative quite a bit to "take the temperature" of the class following a lesson using 'Exit Ticket' quizzes. (Socrative has a standard one built in or you can make your own) These typically have students rate their own level of understanding or comfort with the material, solve a few example problems, and have an opportunity to ask questions that linger in their minds. Our teachers were already using paper-based Exit Tickets and really like the ease of data analysis that the Excel reports from Socrative quizzes afford them.

We gave participants an Exit Ticket, share code: SOC-175368 at the end to get feedback and to help us know what their needs are for future sessions. 

Though Socrative easily allows us to get a quick read on how all our students are learning, the type of response (multiple choice or written response) limits the depth and types of learning we can assess. To get a glimpse into the thinking process students are using, an entirely different genre of assessment is needed.

'Learning Talks', explained by colleague Andrew McCarthy, allow us to see and review students' metacognition, or thinking about thinking. There are several ways teachers have always done this, using things like oral examination or less formally by questioning. Using technology however we can capture the student's thoughts in the moment, as they're working out a problem. This gives us invaluable insight into their understanding of a topic. I'm describing Learning Talks as a genre here because there are really many ways that they can be done. We focused on a few different ones during our session.

Learning Talks with the MacBook - Video
Students quite often record things or take photographs with their Facetime cameras on their laptops. These cameras can be used simply with Photo Booth  to record a video.  Here are a few ideas:
  • A student can record a "director's commentary" of their own musical composition as it is playing in the background, explaining their choices and intentions. 
  • A student can record themselves talking about a piece of artwork they've made and are displaying to the camera.
  • A pair of students can record a whiteboard or paper drawing of a chemical reaction as they explain it.
  • A group of students engaging in a book talk can record the thoughts and contributions of each member of the group as it happens.
  • A student could create a quick Common Craft style video shooting downward at the table as they manipulate simple paper cut-out figures to illustrate a concept.
Learning Talks with the MacBook - Screencast
Quite often students will create something on their computer or work through a problem using tools like Geometer's Sketchpad. Using Quick Time player, students can record anything that's on the screen of their MacBook while recording their voices. This is what it might look like:
  • A student explains their thinking while solving a Maths problem using Autograph to illustrate the solution.
  • Students could build a simple Keynote illustrating a concept like price elasticity and record a "voice-over" movie.
  • A student could use Skitch to draw or annotate a diagram of a cell membrane while explaining how the structure is related to its function. 
  • A student could use Skitch to annotate on a still photograph of themselves taking a jump shot in P.E. using lines to illustrate the proper technique, arm position, hand postion, etc.

Learning Talks with the iPad - Screencast
Annotating using Skitch or a similar program on your trackpad can be a difficult thing for students. In situations where the annotating, writing or drawing are going to be extensive, it makes sense to move to an iPad.  Several different apps exist to allow you to record screencasts on your iPad and they all take full advantage of the large screen when you can draw or write and see your results directly on the screen and record voice at the same time. Ideas for iPad screencasts:
  • Students "work out" a solution to a maths problem by hand as they explain.
  • Students explain a concept like positive and negative space by sketching on screen and/or by importing examples of images they've found using Safari browser. 
  • Students draw out a timeline as they explain significant events about Singapore in WWII. 
  • Students photograph a piece of text and annotate or highlight the text as they explain.

What ideas do you have about how Learning Talks might be used?  Please add them by leaving a comment.

Our teachers are quite excited to add some new items to their assessment toolkit and several used them the next days in their lessons. In future sessions, we aim to introduce more tools and techniques that can help us expand our thinking about assessment and see the opportunities they can give us to gain insight into what our students know, can do, and understand.

Bullseye image:
Hammers image:

Monday, 7 May 2012

Digital Citizenship in the Primary School

Below is a summary of the main points from our parent workshop on Digital Citizenship in the Primary School. You will also find links to some of the tools/sites we recommended in the session.

Our approach to Digital Citizenship

UWCSEA is one of the pilot schools for the Generation Safe 360 Assessment. This rigorous approach ensures all stakeholders in the school community are committed to Digital Citizenship, and have a solid structure in place to support students, teachers and parents. We achieved Bronze status recently, and we are working towards accreditation of Silver and Gold status.

Every student/parent has signed a Learning Technologies Agreement, which aims to get students/parents to begin the conversation around responsible use with technology at school and at home.

We are adapting resources from Common Sense Media as a basis for our Digital Citizenship Curriculum. Lessons are based around three broad strands: Safety and Security, Learning with Technology, and Digital Citizenship.
Sample Infant Unit - Going Places Safely
Sample Junior Unit - Rating Websites

We promote balanced use of technology. We advocate physical activity, face-to-face contact with peers and encourage students to use the best tool for the task at hand. If that is a pencil and paper, no problem! We're not forcing kids to use technology. Instead, we see it as one of many tools they can use for learning.

The school has a very useful Parent iLearn Information website you might like to bookmark. It has links to school policies, advice, and guides to sites such as Facebook.

How can Parents help?

( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by sean dreilinger:

Embrace their world
Involving yourself in the activities your child enjoys through technology can go a long way towards mutual respect and understanding. Why not try that game your son/daughter has been hooked on lately? Find out why it is so engaging.

As them to teach you some of the things they know - they may well have discovered many shortcuts you could benefit from!

Encourage Balanced Use
Help them understand the importance of outdoor play, varied interests and face-to-face interactions with friends.

The Common Sense Media Agreement is an excellent starting point for beginning the conversation. Maintaining an open line of communication with your child is crucial for your parent/child relationship in the years ahead.

Set Boundaries
Parents sometimes hesitate in setting boundaries for technology use because technology can be used as a tool for learning as well as for entertainment and social activity. Setting terms of use guidelines, such as no laptops in bedrooms, time limits or keeping mobile phones in a central place at bedtime are suggestions you may wish to consider as a starting point. This resource provides some good suggestions for time limits, and this site provides some great tips for reducing screen time.

Role Model
You are your child's most important role model with technology. It is unfair to ask them to switch off devices if you won't do the same. Show them how you maintain balance in your life and ask them to help monitor your technology use as well.

No Bullying
Let them know that bullying is not to be tolerated, whether in person or online. We frequently say, "If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online." Reinforcing this message helps students see how serious it is.

Help your child understand that in today's cut-and-paste world, they need to be especially careful about what they 'say' online.

Navigating and setting up appropriate privacy settings on any social networking site they may be using is important, as is having strong passwords and keeping them private.

Resources to support parents

View Pure is a tool to help eliminate comments/related videos from YouTube when showing them to kids. This does require pre-screening videos, however is a much more pleasing interface to view from than YouTube itself.

Have you set up strict filtering as the default option when doing a Google search? This link to a quick video tutorial will walk you through the process.

For younger students, you may find exploring the parental controls available on a Mac to be useful. Parental Controls allow you to limit specific apps, or block access to certain websites, set time limits for usage and/or restrict access at certain times of the day. While these controls can be useful, we do encourage you to talk with your child about any concerns you may have as well.

For older students with whom you think distraction may be an issue, there are a range of tools to help track time and/or manage distractions when using computers. You may like to explore:
Self Control (for Mac)
Self Restraint (for Windows/Linux)
Rescue Time

Here is a blog post from the Digital Literacy team about Safety Online in the Early Years which has some useful strategies including a list of kid-friendly search engines.

Next Year

We are planning more parent workshops for next year, and as always, are keen to get feedback so we can best meet your needs. Please complete this brief survey to help us in our planning.