Simulated Science

We certainly had some fun learning about earthquakes and being earthquake explorers in my class this term … eventually. We embarked on the Primary Connections, Year 6 unit and I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about continuing with the unit when a massive earthquake occurred in Christchurch in February 2011. I actually considered abandoning the unit because of the personal circumstances and emotional well-being of some of my students. However, once the dust settled, I very gingerly returned to work on the unit with much success. We spent lots of time looking at maps, learning objects, statistics and reports about earthquake events around the world and throughout history.

Through our investigations, I was reassured by children in my class that, whilst it was not impossible for a massive earthquake to occur in Australia, as history has shown, it was less likely that we would experience multiple devastating earthquakes like those in Christchurch or, as we saw later in Japan, because of our position on the Indo-Australian Plate. Phew, what a relief for me about that, and wow – look at the real life learning they had gained.

The children constructed ‘shake tables’ and earthquake proofed some structures to test.

Shake Table
In their quest to produce a similar earthquake every time they tested their earthquake proof structure, they investigated devices, to detect movement.
IMAG0501

With the help of a trusty side-kick, and fantastic science teaching partner, Howard Graham, we had some amazing science sessions showing kids how to use data loggers with magnetic and light sensors, an iTouch app called iSeismometer and a good old piece of paper with coloured textas that kids used to trace around a structure to measure movement.

The children looked at the data they collected to decide whether earthquakes on their shake tables were of the same ‘magnitude’ and make modifications to their structures if needed.

Children devised ways to reproduce the same 'magnitude' quake each time.  Data collected confirms their method worked.

Children devised ways to reproduce the same 'magnitude' quake each time. Data collected confirms their method worked.

iSeismometer is a free app available from the iTunes app store. The children loved experimenting with this very easy to use application. Movement data was collected to analyse for fair testing.

iTouch app - iSeismometer

The ability to play and replay the data was invaluable in their scrutinising of the effectiveness of their method of producing a similar quake each time.

iSeismometer app - free from iTunes app store

What are we doing in Science next term?

Hmmm? Marvellous Micro-organisms – anyone

The PLN Project #CCK11

Week 2 of CCK11 is about developing a network and making connections with other participants. Something I value is the PLN I (sometimes neglect) belong to. Regardless of participation, like this MOOC, my PLN doesn’t discriminate against those who lurk, or judge those who ramble on about something loosely related to the topic.

This video trailer is an example of a networked PLN that supports anyone who has a good idea and is willing to have a bit of fun. We are yet to see the final product, but I’m sure it’s due any day now. On the night that the idea came into fruition, people committed to it in minutes via Twitter and Google Docs.

Stay tuned 🙂

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011 #CCK11

So enough lurking and head scratching.  It’s time to throw myself in and connect and share.  So far I’ve simply read, researched and compared Connectivism to other isms I am familiar with.  It’s sitting well and although I wouldn’t profess to being a leading authority on it, it seems like a theory that will suit the ways of working in a contemporary classroom, enhanced further with digital technologies.

The concept of a MOOC – Massive Open Online Course is exciting and in itself what Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is.  Masses of people connecting with each other to develop more fully a body of knowledge, and a massive network.  Suddenly my PLN has the potential to grow exponentially, but it will require me to connect first, plunge in and just start. It feels like beginning to blog starting over again, however this time I don’t really know the audience except that we all share a passion for learning and sharing. I know that once I start to make the people connections, the course will become richer and more fulfilling.

Let the connecting begin!

Magic Wallet – Wouldn’t we all like one of these?

MW

Magic Wallet is an app available from the iTunes Store ($3.99).  Each time Magic Wallet is launched, coins appear to fill up the screen.  There are no 20c or 50c, which is a shame, however the $1, $2, 10c and 5c are easy for children in the Early Phase to count. This is an excellent app to learn to recognise these coins.

When a coin is double tapped a ‘magic finger’ appears and removes it from the screen.  Children could work in pairs and take turns to collect a coin and keep a running tally of how much they collected.

Magic WalletMany other games could be invented and children could easily make their own rules for a partner game. In the bottom right corner of the screen the little i indicates there is more information available.  Tapping on this i allows the user to change some settings in relation to the ‘magic finger’ and the currency available ie.

USA, Euro, UK, Swiss, Canada, Japan, Australia

Fast Finga – another iTouch idea for the classroom

FastFingaapp

A little app we’ve been having some fun with on the iTouch is ‘Fast Finga’.  This app is available for $2.49 from the app store on iTunes.  The possibilities for use in a classroom are only really limited by your imagination.  I think this is a great app to encourage children to create content with the iTouch.

One fun literacy activity is to use Fast Finga to create a rebus story using the many pictures, emoticons and symbols contained in the app.   Files can be saved in folders and named so that children can return to a story to finish or edit.  When a story is completed, it can be exported to a photo library, or if a wireless network is available, can be emailed, sent to Evernote or Twitter.

IMG_0012

In pairs, children can take turns writing a sentence to create a short story together. There are rich discussions about characters, setting, spelling choices and grammar had along the way and of course children are having a lot of fun writing.

My iTouch ideas – at the moment

iTouch

Attending Digital Storytelling PD last week got me chatting to colleagues and thinking about how effectively I’m using my  iTouches in the classroom.

After some initial experimenting using iTouch apps and downloading podcasts, for the classroom, I’m beginning to develop an idea about how I’d really like to use the iTouch. I really don’t like the idea of children using devices only as a consumer. I want children to be at the centre of their own learning and be creative.

iTouch2

I started out using apps in a fairly straight forward manner.  I chose apps for skills practise or rote learning.  The  first exciting app I purchased was the RIDBC AUSLAN app for my own study. I loved being able to see the movement and size involved in signs I was trying to remember and master.  My AUSLAN dictionary weighs a tonne and it can’t slip into a pocket or bag so I was sold.  If it was in my bag, I was likely to pull it out in an idle moment and look a sign up or have a practise.  I’m a complete book fiend so I also love my little book shelves full of books purchased from the app store.  They’re cheap, cute and right there at my finger tips.

For my students,  I’m leaning more towards using a couple of apps in conjunction with each other to create a project or complete a task. We recently loaded photos into the iTouch of a science experiment conducted about the bounce-ability of a ball. Children used Comic Touch to label the photos and then recorded reflections about their findings using the voice recorder. From there we putt it together into short podcasts to upload to our blackboard space so that other students can comment and give feedback.

Recently, we used Easi-speak microphones to record each of the character parts for a podcast of Wombat Stew.  We added artwork and photographs and made the podcast and have loaded the podcast onto the iTouches in the classroom.  The students love listening to this podcast and have invited kids from other classes to come in before school starts and listen too.  Some children have bought in their own devices to load up the podcast so they can share it at home.

We used Comic Touch to make Fathers’ Day cards this year.  It was a really quick and simple project (because I had been out of the classroom for a few days).  The children chose a photograph of themselves and added a comment in the form of a ‘talking bubble’ ‘thinking-bubble’ or ‘shout-out’ and a greeting for their dad or grandad.  I had the photos developed and they were used on the front of a card, on the inside of the card was a descriptive poem. Next year I will go for a completely digital card.

We’re using an app called ‘Count By’. This simple app is an electronic hundreds board and we’re using it to create and describe number patterns and riddles to a partner in maths.  We use many apps like this one, and I’m trying to concentrate on developing lessons where children need to communicate their ideas with another.

Now that the children see the iTouch as more of a tool for learning I have many more ideas blossoming. At first they were so novel that the kids were happy to sit and read and practice sight words, number facts or read little book apps.  While these are all valid activities in the right hands at the right time, I am pleased that my students are more interested in creating and showing off their own products.

Digital Storytelling – Using ‘My Place’

My Place for Teachers

Another gem from the Digital Storytelling Professional Development I attended at the Learning Innovation Centre was our session with Deborah Cohen from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and a break-out session I attended with her later in the day.

Deborah Cohen stepped us through ‘My Place’ from start to (almost) finish. Here I will tell you a secret, I thought ‘My Place’ was the Sally Morgan version and I was interested in attending that break-out session because of the indigenous perspectives I might be able to incorporate in an English/SoSE unit around the book. I thought that it would be interesting for any year level because it has been adapted as a picture book for younger readers too.

Imagine my surprise when ‘My Place’ turned out to be a book written by Nadia Wheatley for Australia’s Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988. Back then I was having fun attending Expo 88 and drinking beers at the various exhibitions there. Now there’s a digital story I can tell …

‘My Place’ is a very clever picture book in it’s own right. It has been made into a magnificent television series, with another series in the pipeline, which will encompass another 100 years. Each episode of the series is set in an earlier decade from the perspective of a child living in the house the story is set in.

The icing on the cake – and it’s very nice icing, is the companion teacher and student websites. The websites are a joint initiative by The Children’s Television Foundation, Curriculum Corporation and The Learning Federation. Aligned to ACARA (for the time being) for English and History; it is a treasure trove of resources for those of us historically deprived and wondering where we will suddenly ‘get’ appropriate teaching resources and ideas for teaching Australian history. The ‘My Place for Teachers’ website is a one stop shop. The website can be searched by decades, themes, events and people who are significant to Australia’s history. There is enough material in the website for years of work, or you might base a more focused unit around a particular theme.

The website adds an additional two decades to the original idea so that we are brought up to 2008, right about the time Kevin Rudd made an apology to the stolen generation. Additional resources are also available when you purchase the series on DVD with accompanying Teaching Guide, which is available from Australian Children’s Television Corporation or Curriculum Corporation.

As you can probably gather from this blog post, am excited about using this resource in the classroom. I have registered on the Teacher Forum so that I can network with others thinking about or already using the resource. I will be interested to hear from anyone already using it.

Digital Storytelling

Had a great day at the Learning Innovation Centre today. It’s the first day in a 3 day PD around Digital Storytelling. Brian Falkner, author of many best selling books for children and young adults kicked off the day with a great keynote about getting kids switched on to reading.

He had some fantastic ideas for ‘Book Trailers’ which are a little bit like a book review on steroids. These are great examples of persuasive texts that kids would be very motivated to produce. After that we participated in a breakout session called ‘Story Sports’ which works a bit like Theatre Sports and is designed to get kids writing in teams and having fun. My team wrote a sensational opening line to a western, a rap about being late for school, a love letter from Kazakhstan and a re-worked scene from Shrek – Valley Girl style.

You can see some of Brian Falkner’s work and ideas on his fun and interactive website.

Those of you who know me well, know that my great love is reading and I love to talk to people about their favourite books, what they are reading at the moment and what’s piled up on the bedside table waiting for the holidays. So, I couldn’t resist asking Brian today about his favourite author/s and which authors he enjoyed reading as a child. He told us lots but the one that surprised me the most was Enid Blyton. I read most of her books as a child, but never thought of them as ‘boy’ books, especially back in our day where stereotypical toys, books and roles were accepted. I had my old Enid Blyton’s out recently and flicked through them. My own (now grown-up) children screamed with laughter at some of the language and made fun of me for loving them when I was young.

We spent another session with Gayleen Jackson exploring some iTouch apps with writing in mind. More about that in a separate post to come soon.

Looking forward to tomorrow, that’s for sure

Renewal of Digital Pedagogy Licence

I have just received an email reminding me that my Digital Pedgagogy Licence will expire next semester. I have some choices now about renewal or working towards the Digital Pedagogy Licence Advanced. The Digital Pedagogy Licence is current for three years from the date of issue. I remember the day I got the Smart Classrooms Digital Pedagogy Licence official certificate in the mail. I was very excited to say the least, closely followed by shock upon reading the small print, which stated that it had an expiry date. After recovering from the initial shock and upon reflection, I wholeheartedly agree that renewal is dependant upon continued demonstration of my willingness to embed digital pedagogies and technologies into my teaching and learning, and reflection on effectiveness of same for learner outcomes.

I find it hard to believe that almost three years have passed since I completed my DPL. I have learned a lot, shared a lot and not slept much in that time. There has simply been too much to do and be involved in. I was thrilled to be nominated for a Smart Classrooms Award in 2008 and … well, there isn’t a word to describe the excitement when I actually received the award.
Smart Classrooms Photo

The best thing about my Smart Classrooms Award was the personal learning network I found myself part of. An ever expanding group of like-minded, passionate educators who are generous of their time, expertise and ideas. I have immersed myself in nings, wikis, blogs and the twitterverse and couldn’t imagine a life now without these tools to keep me connected with my support networks.

I continued to be involved with the oz-Teacher-net Land Yacht Challenge. This technology, design challenge is a fantastic opportunity for students to work collaboratively with other children from other parts of the world, be introduced to the idea of blogging and learn about team work. The captain of the ship is Dr Margaret Lloyd from QUT who has also become an important person in my professional life. Who would have thought building land yachts from empty margarine containers would forge such an important professional link for me. Margaret taught me that people are there for you, just ask. We did many favours for each other and in the second year of being involved in the Land Yacht project, I found myself ‘knowing the ropes’ and giving lots of advice to newcomers to the project. The collaborative aspect of the project was much more than the children working across the country (and in the next year, the world) it was a fantastic opportunity for teachers to support each other, learn new skills and make connections.

I soon found myself involved in many projects. Sometimes, too many! One of my favourite projects emerged from casual staffroom chats, involved mentoring colleagues towards integration of ICTs, use of IWBs and developing online learning spaces. I love supporting staff casually, over a cup of coffee, often a small task that someone thought difficult or beyond their skill level. In a 10 minute, ‘I’ll help you at lunch time’, a problem could be solved, a new skill learned leaving a colleague feeling successful with confidence levels raised. One of my colleagues who had previously had no interest in ICTs, went on to become quite the guru of facilitating student blogging in a virtual classroom and soon became my off-sider in providing advice for others who became interested.

I have completed a couple of semesters of lecturing for CQU in a course, Managing eLearning. One was face to face lecturing for second year pre-service teachers. Apart from the face to face delivery of content, the course involved monitoring and moderating an online learning management system (Moodle) and helping students to develop their ePortfolio in Mahara.

I quickly learned a lot about my own teaching and learning when I reflected on the course materials I was presenting and compared it to my own practise. The next semester was delivered completely online to students who were not all education/preservice teachers as students. That was a fantastic opportunity to reflect on teaching and learning. These students were required to reflect on digital technologies explored in the courseware in a professional blog and then to develop courseware in their chosen field. Principles of good teaching and learning shone through for many of the students, and some of the best of these were not involved in education at all. They embraced the learning frameworks provided in the courseware and their end products were sensational.

In my classroom I have continued to expose my learners to collaborative, online projects such as the oz-Teacher-Net Land Yacht Challenge, online workshops, chats and Book Raps provided by the Learning Place.

In my current classroom I am involved in an exciting project called ‘Early Phase ICT Enthusiast Team’, led by the inspirational Kristine Kopelke from the ICT Learning Innovation Centre here on the Sunshine Coast. There are 17 teachers from 10 schools throughout Queensland involved in this project. Each teacher or teaching team was provided with a resource kit which they use daily as part of learning experiences with students. Successes and challenges are posted in our team’s project room. Over time we will put together resources and ideas for each digital technology and provide PD and/or resources for other interested teachers. Some of this will be provided via EQ’s iConnect web conferencing tool and as has already started in my own school, sharing the resources and ideas with colleagues.

I need to consider how I will continue to strengthen my digital pedagogy practice and here is where I will need to set some goals and commit. A couple of my PLN colleagues are aware of my quandary in relation to Masters of Education -v- Digital Pedagogy Licence Advanced. At the moment I am leaning towards DPLA because it means I can work on the Early Phase Project, develop some resources, sharing sessions and reflect on the work within my classroom. This would enable me to make a useful contribution towards supporting colleagues on their way to engaging with ICT’s. I also recognise that this is the kind of work I enjoy the most. To work towards DPLA would immerse me in another professional learning community which is probably what I would most enjoy at the moment.

I’m back and committed

Time has flown and I’ve neglected my blog for too long now. I read ‘A New Millennium Teacher’s Digital Toolbox’ http://rdean6.edublogs.org/ by Rohan Dean which has inspired me to get my thoughts together. I will spend some time exploring some of the new digital technologies he has mentioned and revisit some of my old favourites. A holiday task I’m looking forward to.

What I really need to do now is have a big think. What do I really believe now about teaching and learning? Do my actions reflect this? Just when I felt I was starting to get my head around these concepts and feel confident about my position, I moved to a new and exciting school. This year so far has been about adjusting to a new work environment and new year levels to teach. As a staff we’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting to know each other, our families and of course the kids. We’ve established many policies and procedures, completed visioning, set up committees, parent groups, learned about Macs and iMacs, Sounds to Letters, ACARA and the list goes on. It has in some ways been like being back at University, with something new to learn almost every day, and I have loved every minute of it.

‘Busyness’ though, has left me feeling a bit anxious about my ability to align my practises with my beliefs. Have some of the things I hold dear gone out the window in order to survive. Reality check? YES. There … I said it.  The thing I’m pondering is, why?

I have access to a PLN full of amazing and inspirational educators right here under my keyboard and my busyness has kept me from them. The very people who would have kept me sane, grounded and up to date with some of the things I have needed over the past few months. I’m feeling better already knowing that right after this post, I’m going back to catching up on unread posts, reconnecting and doing my part in supporting others.