Friday, November 28, 2008

Cluster = Unconference

Southwell held it's first Cluster Unconference last night. Even though we are now at the end of our cluster contract, it is important to keep the professional development going and an unconference is a great way to do this. While it was a small gathering, it was still a successful night with good PD, drinks and a lovely meal to end the day. Thanks everyone for organising this.

If you didn't get the chance to go, for what ever reason (family commitments/writing reports/just too busy) I recommend you take the opportunity next time, as there is ICT PD for everyone, whatever your level of ICT is - You just have to be open to it.

Altogether we had five round tables.

Table 1 - Heath Sawyer - Gordonton School - Blogs, wikis and eportfolios

Table 2 - Gill Hammonds - National facilitator primary - ICT PD - Sharing Classroom Best practice

Table 3 - Dave Winter - Southwell School - our cluster facilitator -Gaming

Table 4 - Jo Wilson - Southwell School - our school lead teacher - Managing Change

Table 5 -Barbara Reid - ICT Facilitator -Web2 tools

I spent most of my night racking Barbara's mind for new web2.0 tools and sharing a couple of my own new to her. Talking to Barbara made me realise that I'd actually been kidding myself with regards to what web2.0 tools I could live without due to having restricted access on my linux, firefox browser based class set of Eee PC's this year.

I kind of accepted this, this year namely because we didn't have fast enough internet access anyway, web2.0 programs just weren't their yet and I did have a few I could use. But now we've got the fast internet pipe (100 Mb national, 10Mb burstable international with no data cap) and web 2.0 programs have become so much more sophisticated over the last year or so I think I'm just going to find it too frustrating having the restrictions on my licence.

Which is why I have to announce that my love affair with my Eee PC is officially over.
The Eee PC was and will always be my first love but it's time to grow up and move on.

In two weeks times I'm going to pack away my class set of Eee PC's and move on to - dare I say it a class/syndicate set of ____________.

Well for that you'll have to wait and see, but for now here are a selection of web2 sites we discussed last night, some old, some new but all highly recommended if you haven't used them yet.

flowgram - interactive presentation software
blabberize - talking pictures
mywebspiration - visual thinking tool (it really is just like inspiration)
exploretree - online library of thinking maps
sumopaint - image editor (bitmap and vector drawing program with layers - reminds me of macromedia - fireworks)
scribl - shareable online whiteboard

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Elgg - Best use of ICT in Teaching

Well as you know PW won the Interface magazines 'Best use of ICT in Teaching' category with his use of Elgg for his learning goals. Well you may ask what is so special about that? Elgg is our schools private social network, a number of us use it for a whole range of different purposes (learning logs, eportfolios and group work). Well what Pete did that made his application special was;

1) he took a main stream technology (a social network) gave students ownership of it and then used it in the classroom to aide learning - teaching how to use the technology safely and ethically,
2) he focused on teaching the key competencies,
3) he incorporated student and peer assessment for learning

Combining these together to give deep and meaningful learning for students.
Very important skill sets that need developing for the 21st century learner which is why Elgg is such a powerful tool for our school.

Elgg gives our students the opportunity to learn social networking skills in a safe, secure environment. Unfortunately 'Yes' that is a 'private social network' I give no apologise for that' we are a Full Primary School not an Intermediate or High School. We have students in our care from 5 to 13 who all have access to Elgg and it is important that we teach them the correct etiquette of social networking before we unleash them on the world. Our parents for one wouldn't be impressed if we didn't.

That doesn't however mean that it is a 'closed' system we can invite experts from the outside to join our network and contribute to our students learning. Our first expert Rae Clayton (an advisor working for enviro schools) was added last month. Rae liaises with our environmental committee and classes involved in developing our enviro garden via the environmental committees community blog. It would be nice if we could add more experts to the system and in in particularly I for one think it would be wonderful if we could encourage our old boys and girls to join Elgg. That is one network of experts we could really tap into. Just ask if you know of an expert who you would like to be added - it would be great to build the community.

Elgg allows both students and teachers to build their own learning communities and every community then has access to its own homepage, wiki, blog, file sharing area etc (just like Ning). Initially this can just be your own personal space or present class community but ideally as students take more responsibility for there own learning it can be used by students to direct their own learning and develop their own communities of learning.

Elgg gives our students access to an eportfolio area which can be used as a modern eportfolio both of and for learning. Students can keep a learning log enabling them to reflect on all aspects of their work. They can add files, documents, photographs, movies. They can upload and link to web2 artifacts they have created via glogster, voicethread, animoto etc and share these with their friends, communities and networks. Students and teachers are able to reflect and comment on all stages of their learning.

And most importantly they can do it.

Note I say "they can' here" i.e "students can" because this is the difference between Elgg and Moodle. Students do it not the teachers. No longer is it the domain of the teacher to upload all the work as it was in the web1 world. Students learn a 21st century transferable skill.

Not that there is anything wrong with Moodle - Moodle is a great course management system. Elgg is a great social network.

Yes it is a bit quirky to use and difficult for some of us (teachers) to initially get our heads around (they do say you have to get stuck in the midddle of it be in it to really understand it). Well the kids sure do, we as teachers just need to dare to incorporate it into our learning programs and trust the students to do the rest.

At present we are still running Elgg Classic, next year we will be upgrading to the new Elgg version 1 or whatever the new version will be then. Hopefully this won't be as quirky and a little easier to use.

But until then just remember if you want to start using Elgg all you have to do is click Elgg from the front page of our Moodle site, type in your Moodle password and away you go. (Oh sorry just Southwell people only).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Congratulations Pete

Well it's official Pete Walch (Southwell School, Hamilton) won the Interface Award ' Best use of ICT in Teaching' for his use of Elgg so I can say a big WELL DONE PETE - You deserve it - It's nice to see someone recognised for all the hard work and effort they put into teaching.

Unfortunately we didn't win the 'Best Teacher Blog' category' but then again we were so surprised to be even selected, that was amazing in its self. Congratulations to Marnie Thomas (Meadowbank School, Auckland) who did win the category and the runners up Erin Freeman (Rangiora Borough School, Christchurch) and Jamin Lietze (Bethlehem College, Tauranga).

Well done to Interface Magazine too for hosting the competition (another great idea from a great magazine), the selected 5 finalists in each category and everyone else who entered the competition. If you didn't win this time or didn't even enter there is always next year. So keep up the good work and start that blog now if you don't already have one. You never know next time it could be you.