And The Curtain Comes Down

This post is written with a mix of sadness and excitement. Flickr Photo Download: Down in Front

It is with sadness that I say goodbye to Edublogs but it is with excitement that I announce I’ve finally taken the plunge and bought my own domain name and am hosting my own blog using BlueHost and WordPress.

James Farmer and Sue Waters – you are two of the most generous, helpful and amazing people I have ever met in the blogosphere.  You both are so generous with your time, your resources and your knowledge.  Thanks to you both, I’ve not only been able to blog, but also I’ve been able to improve my blogging skills.

And of course to you, my faithfully readers, I extend my thanks.  Thanks for dropping by to read my “goings on”.  Thanks for all your comments and encouragement.

I’m hoping of course (fingers crossed) that you’ll update your RSS reader with the feed from my new blog.

Image Attribution:

How Do You Know?

Week:  Nov 8-14

Essential Question:  How do the ISB TAIL Standards fit in with content learning and instruction happening in classrooms at ISB?

We were asked to analyze the ISB Technology and Information Literacy (TAIL) Standards and determine where they fit in with content learning, age appropriateness, and assessment design. How can teachers and schools ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy?

A lot of our table discussion centred around whether or not the word technology ought to even be on the ISB TAIL Standards.  I wonder if the word technology were not there, then some teachers may still not embed technology into their classroom practice with many of the standards. However it would be virtually impossible to collaborate or communicate globally without the use of technology unless you are really stubborn and determined to complete these kinds of tasks using old methods (and I’m thinking about snail mail here).

As I’m a Grade 5 teacher (with a shameless plug (aka: hyperlink) to our class blog) I looked at the 3-5 Learner Profile. Our current Grade 5 team is doing an amazing job of providing students with a variety of experiences with technology – from individual blogs, class blogs, using flip cameras, iMovie, Garageband, creating podcasts and wikis to name a few.  Whilst some of the team are still becoming comfortable with the use of technology in rich and authentic settings, it is the willingness to try, the flexibility and the genuine belief in the power of technology’s use in Education that will enable Grade 5 students to become successful technology and information literate students.

There’s a very informative and practical wiki growing on the web already.  The NET.S Implementation Wiki.  Ideas, suggestions, rubrics and and resources are being added by real teachers in real classrooms to show a variety of ways that can help us ensure that students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy.

It’s That Time Again!

Yes! It’s that time again ……. almost!  You KNOW what I’m talking about ….. it’s that time when you can don your PJs, and suck up all the bandwidth with your own personal learning sessions, anytime, anywhere!
K12 Online Conference 2009 | Add the K12online Badge to Your Blog 2013 Spread the Word!
It’s almost time for the annual FREE K-12 Online Conference! This years theme is “Bridging the Divide”. And this year is shaping up to be the best yet!  Our very own Kim Cofino will be kicking off the whole shabam, the week of November 30th, with the Pre-Conference Keynote:
Going Global: Culture Shock, Convergence, and the Future of Education

So mark these dates on your calendars:

PRE-CONFERENCE KEYNOTE:  Week of November 30th

WEEK 1: December 7-11, 2009
Getting Started (13 presentations)
Leading the Change (14 presentations)

WEEK 2: December 14-17, 2009
Week in the Classroom (13 presentations)

I have to add that the keynote for this strand is by an awesome Kiwi girl (of course) Rachel Boyd
Kicking It Up a Notch (14 presentations)

That some, 41 presentations, all for you, at your leisure, and for the total PD price of ZERO dollars.

Maria Knee has put together this very clever teaser using animoto. If this doesn’t “wet your whistle” I’m not sure what will!!

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is used in the publication of all events. So if you’re like me, and ALWAYS get the timezones wrong – use TimeandDate to help you join in the fireside chats and eluminate sessions.

Psssst:  Did I mention it was FREE!!

Who’s Job Is It Anyway?

Our Essential Questions for today’s session:

  • How do the NETs and AASL standards address the needs of a successful learner?
  • Who’s job is it to teach the NETs and AASL standards to students?

The NETs (National Education Technology Standards) are from ISTE (International Society Technology in Education) and the AASL standards are from the American Association of School Librarians.

Our table group enjoyed a good deal of discussion comparing and contrasting both standards.   We looked at what are these organisations talking about in terms of what students need to be doing and asked ourselves do they address the things we have been looking at back in Course 2.  We discussed the value of having standards, what was missing, what seemed unnecessary and was their any overlap.

AASL  appeared to be more holistic in terms of the 21st century learner, whilst ISTE – appeared more “techie” in terms of the 21st century learner. When thinking about the value of standards, I personally think that it really matters what you are using the standards for.  Are you looking specifically at technology or are you looking at the learner as a whole?

AASL was more fitting with Bloom’s Taxonomy, more specific. Technology is hardly mentioned and looks more at the learner as a whole no matter what area of learning they are in.

Why do we need to have these standards?  Are these two organisations just legitimizing themselves?  Aren’t all these things integrated into curriculum areas?   But if we don’t specifically state what is expected then how can we hold anyone accountable for these standards being met?  Do our specific curriculum areas specifically address these particular things?  There is overlap in all curriculum areas.

What should schools do?  Do schools need to have a set of standards like from ISTE or AASL or an amalgamation of the two?  Or is this already in the school’s curriculum?  Who’s job is it?  Could we really make learner’s like this?  What’s the best way for this to happen?  This fundamentally the hardest part!!

When you get a new teacher in and this isn’t their passion how do you know that this is going happen?  More important is the level of understanding – it’s all very well to have these standards – do teacher’s value this stuff?  Do they understand it?  Is it grounded in a belief?

My personal belief is that ultimately the school has to have this embedded into their mission statement, it has to be part of the vision for our learners.  Are we aligning the standards with how we see our learners – are these standards grounded in our beliefs of the learner.  It is important to know (as a teacher) what to expect or what is expected of you as a teacher.

When you want to build common understanding – that takes everybody.  It’s not going to be a static document either and it’s not a content driven document.  It needs to be constantly revisited, realigned, and contributed to by everybody including the students themselves!!

Flickr Photo Download: I Want You...

So who’s job is it to teach the NETs and AASL standards to students?  I think that job belongs to ALL of us.

What do you think?

Image Attribution:

CoETaIL – Course 3 – Final Project

Wow – the end of another course – Course 4 starting next week!!  The purpose of this post is to reflect on the experience of designing this unit/presentation.

To be honest in my reflection,  I need to say first that I’ve really struggled keeping up with Course 3.  It’s not that I don’t understand parts of it or I can’t do parts of it, it’s that I’ve struggled with keeping everything functioning together.  By that I mean my family, my work and my study.  And it’s been hard.  So hard in fact, that I ended up doing BOTH parts of the final project instead of just one.  Was it a combination of so much to do and so little time to do it in?  Was it not reading the instructions properly?  Is this what happens to our students when we overload them with so much to learn and so little time to learn it in?

So how did I come to do twice as much work as I really need to?  I believed I’d read the requirements correctly the first time, and I actually had.  I also distinctly remember our Course Advisers repeatedly tell us that we had a choice so my confusion, and eventual “extra workload” was entirely my own fault!

Utilize your visual literacy skills to either:

  • Create a visual presentation to use in your class to help teach a lesson


  • Develop a unit plan to actively engage students in using visual literacy to demonstrate their learning (include a model “project” for what your students should produce).

For some reason a while later I thought than you had to have a unit plan and I couldn’t understand how to get a unit plan out of the tutorial my group and I had created on “How To Choose A Just Right Book”.  So that’s what led to me doing BOTH parts of the final project! I think I need to take some of the advice I always offer my students:

Check and double check you understand exactly what it is you are required to do before you start!

Anyhow ……. back to the reflection:

Create a visual presentation to use in your class to help teach a lesson:
I enjoyed working as a group on a creating a tutorial for what is a similar problem across the grades – teaching students how to choose just right books in the learning hub!  For some of us, many of our students wander aimlessly around the learning hub not actually making good use of their time and certainly not sure of how to choose a book that’s just right for them without the levels on the books.  It felt like we were creating an authentic presentation for use in the classroom as well as fulfilling our course project requirements.  Working together as group saw us work cooperatively, collaboratively, using each others strengths to produce a finished product, much like we expect our students to do.  It is always helpful to go through the process we expect our students to go through in order to troubleshoot any problems we think may occur.

Develop a unit plan to actively engage students in using visual literacy to demonstrate their learning (include a model “project” for what your students should produce).
I love digital storytelling.  Stories let us communicate our perspective and perception. Stories let us connect on an emotional level with people and events in stories and we connect them to experiences in our lives.  Digital storytelling allows us to share our stories globally hence the driving force behind the unit plan Personal Narratives Digital Stories.  Sharing our stories with an authentic audience enables students to work with purpose, using visual literacy to show, not tell the narrative story.  How powerful is that?  Communicate skills are engaged, connection skills are addressed and students are provided with opportunities to address multiple intelligences.  Again, going through the process we expect our students to go through in order to experience what it will be like is paramount to the success of any project-based learning in the classroom.  It also provides students with a model to aspire to, gives them direction and helps them to understand what is expected of them.

The actual process of making the model was an eye-opener.  Just thinking that you’ve developed this splendid, authentic, purposeful task does not necessarily ensure that the project will be successful.  Choosing my personal narrative was easy – it’s the one I’d done the most work one, it’s the one that’s been polished and polished until it’s the best that it can be.  Students will not struggle with this step as they too have a similar piece of work in their Writer’s Workshop book.

Finding the images for the story was easy – pictures from my camera.  That’s what had prompted me to write the original narrative in the first place.  As for students finding images, unless they too had photos stored on their computers at home and could bring them in on a flash drive, they would have to search for appropriate images to retell their chosen personal narratives.  I began to wonder whether there was a rather large obstacle here for students.  Searching and finding appropriate images (and I’m referring to the visual appropriateness here, rather than the creative commons approriateness) will be time-consuming and difficult for many students.  This would be the area where the storyboard planning would be extremely important – what sorts of images will help me tell my story.  This is where those critical thinking skills will need to be applied.  Critical thinking is a very valuable skill, a very important skill.  At this point I get the feeling that this is the focal point, the crux of the lesson – that’s different to what was originally envisioned in the unit planning.  Again, I’m reminded of the importance of creating a model project.

Using still images, adding audio, adding background music, and using transitions in iMovie was exceptionally easy, but only because I’m familiar with the programme.  This is where screencasting will be of particular use – mini tutorials to share with students how to do certain things like importing images, editing images, transitions etc.  It could also be an opportunity for students with prior knowledge to shine – they could help other students by offering a “mini-workshop” on how to do certain things in iMovie.  You could organise to have 3-4 “iMovie Experts” who are available to answer questions from fellow students so that the teacher remains the facilitator and does not have to have all the answers and technical know-how of the programme.

Projects have layers – it’s important to understand that – it’s important to realise that some things will be taught “just-in-time” with project-based learning, other things will be deliberated planned and taught.  Being flexible is one of the reasons working with digital tools will succeed.  Taking risks with your own learning and going through the process you expect your students to go through will also help your project to be a successful one.

Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

There is nothing more powerful than a digital story.  I love ’em.  I love the combination of voice, music, and images.  I love the planning and the creativity that goes into telling a digital story and I LOVE the fact the digital stories are much easier to share with family and friends.

Daniel H Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind says:

We are our stories.  We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves.  That has always been true. But personal narrative has become more prevalent, and perhaps more urgent, in a time of abundance, when many of us are freer to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves and our purpose.

Digital storytelling’s place in the classroom has cemented itself as one of the most powerful mediums available to our students.  It’s a chance for their stories to be created, to be heard, and to be shared.

I really loved Photostory3 in the classroom as software for digital storytelling.  It offers students and teachers the chance to create simple, effective digital stories, taking care of the “bells and whistles” that students tend to get carried away with – but still left that option open if it was needed (challenge for those digital natives in your classroom).  I wish someone would create a Photostory3 for the Mac! (Hint, hint someone!!) My prayers have kinda been answered with PhotoPeach I wrote about using PhotoPeach a while back, and I’m still liking it.  There’s a couple of missing features that would really put PhotoPeach on a par with Photostory3 – the ability to rotate photos and to add audio!  But it’s still pretty effective if I do say so myself.  I really like the feature of adding music from a general offering of styles – one less thing to think about if you are beginning digital storytelling in the classroom.  Being able to choose music without worrying about copyright is a bonus.

Here’s Day 1 of a recent trip to Cambodia, to show just how simple yet effective you can tell a story digitally. My general rule of thumb is ……..  if it takes me about 15 minutes, chances are that Grade 5 students can make theirs in two 45 minute sessions plus planning/storyboard time!

Not bad, for another “freebie” tool on the web!

Changing the Teaching & Learning Landscape

How has the explosion of web based video changed the teaching and learning landscape?

We had two links to explore for this question.  The first, an article in the NY Times Magazine by Kevin Kelly, Becoming Screen Literate.  He states

Screens are everywhere …………… These ever-present screens have created an audience for very short moving pictures, as brief as three minutes, while cheap digital creation tools have empowered a new generation of filmmakers, who are rapidly filling up those screens.

When technology shifts, it bends the culture. Once, long ago, culture revolved around the spoken word.

This would have to be the single most astounding effect the explosion of web-based video has had on the teaching and learning landscape.  No longer are we bound by textbooks and studio-produced video tapes.  No longer are we limited in our resources to help our students learn.  No longer are we “just the teachers” and students “just the learners”.

The explosion of web-based video has provided us with more opportunities to help students understand concepts and practise skills.  As Kelly so eloquently points out, cheap digital creation tools have empowered our students to take control of their own learning and the learning of others in a way never experienced in schools before.

Of course, not all of the effects of this explosion are positive.  Our rapidly filling pile of web-based videos contain a mass of “rubbish” not suitable, nor appropriate, nor substantial enough for education.  One might ask “Doesn’t this make more work for the teaching and learning landscape as you sift through the ever-growing pile of video now available on the web?  Kelly thought of this also.

The holy grail of visuality is to search the library of all movies the way Google can search the Web. Everyone is waiting for a tool that would allow them to type key terms, say “bicycle + dog,” which would retrieve scenes in any film featuring a dog and a bicycle.

It is a formidable task, but in the past decade computers have gotten much better at recognizing objects in a picture than most people realize.

So we may conclude that this will not be a problem forever.

We are teaching and learning in the 21st century.  There are certain skills that we as teachers and as learners need to acquire.  Web-based video is one of those tools that allow us to connect, communicate and collaborate easily with others around the world.  Jamie McKenzie’s article Questioning Video, Film, Advertising & Propaganda: Deconstructing Media Messages gives us a good overview of those visual literacy skills we need to be exposing our learners to in the 21st Century.  What was once “literary devices” in an English Class are now “film devices” in our literacy classes.

One of the effects of the web-based video explosion would then also include the necessity of ensuring that learners possess the skills of critical thinking and as McKenzie states:

the importance of being able to understand information when presented through through a variety of media.

McKenzie pointed out in his article that there is little explicit clear commitment to the critical analysis and debunking of film, media, advertising and propaganda.  These are the skills that we must therefore including in our teaching and learning environment in reaction to the explosion of web-based video.  We must make sure that we engage students in careful, critical analysis.

Screencasting in the Classroom

It’s been a couple of years since I last made a screencast.  I find them incredibly useful for tutorials – especially to help students complete tasks at home or during their “downtime” in the classroom.

We have a variety of free tools at our finger tips for recording screencasts – which are essentially  “just in time” screen-capture movies of your desktop with audio.

Back in the ol’ days when I worked at a PC school, I used CamStudio – a delightful, easy to use free download software but it was for PC’s only (I hear there is a paid version for the mac now).

Screencasts mean that Students can watch a tutorial over and over again, in their own time, stopping and starting them as they desire.  What I like the most about screencasts is the potential for use in the classroom and the fact that it’s just not the teacher that has to create them!  We’re going to be using screencasts to show our mathematical thinking when we multiply and divide – explaining to others in the classroom (and world as we’ll put them on our own blogs!) how our favourite strategy works.  Here’s just a few other ideas for screencasting:-

  • Tutorials for web2.0 tools
  • Tutorials for specific lessons in different curriculum areas
  • Tutorials for “How to’s”
  • Catch up tutorials for students absent from class
  • Teacher absent? – Screencast for those important points that you really want students to know!

Screencasts are so good for those learners that just need a visual as well as an aural explanation as well as the opportunity to watch something again, in their own time, and without having to feel like they’re not smart just because they benefit from hearing/seeing something many times.

Since there’s no CamStudio for the mac (well not a free version anyway), we still have a few free options.  There’s Jing (personally I find it a bit clunky, limiting and I don’t like the file extension it uses) and then there’s the SMARTrecorder.  (both Mac & PC)

Of course if I were rich …………… my ultimate choice of screencasting software would, without a doubt, be ScreenFlow.

Below is a quick little Screencast that I made with the SMARTrecorder in 5 minutes to demonstrate to my class how to sign onto VoiceThread and leave a comment.
It was super easy to use, and being able to chose the screen capture area (default capture is the whole desktop) was a bonus!  The only thing I didn’t like about SMARTrecorder was that you can’t see the mouse!!  I’m going to ask my students tomorrow if this is a real hinderance or if they understand the tutorial just the same.  I think it’s a little confusing in some parts, not to see exactly where I’m clicking!  What do you think?

I use for storing my movie files – it’s free, you get lots of storage space, multiple uploading feature and the rendering of your video is pretty quick.  On the odd occassion, I might use TeacherTube or YouTube.


Our CoETaIL leaders (aka: Kim Cofino & Jeff Utecht) have asked us to reflect on a presentation we have created in the past looking at how we would implement new visual presentations techniques to better communicate your message to your audience.

PresentationzenOne of the best books I bought over the “Summer” break was Garr Reynolds‘ book,  presentationzen Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. It’s an informative read and is full of ideas, reasons and ways to ensure that you’re not contributing scores of to the “Death by Powerpoint” group!  My favourite new term is slideument – a cross between a slide and a document.  I know I’ve been guilty of a few “slideuments” in my time!!

Marketing guru and presenter extraordinaire, Seth Godin, contributes to presentationzen with the idea that

communication is the transfer of emotion

He says you can improve your presentation immediately by:

Making slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them.  These slides should demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.  No more than six words on a slide. EVER.

Don’t use cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.

No dissolves, spins or other transitions. Keep it simple.

Create a written document. A leave-behind.  Put in as many footnotes as you like. Tell the audience that you’re going to five them all the details of your presentation after it’s over, & they don’t have to write down everything you say. DON’T hand out printouts of your slides.  They don’t work without you there.

I’ve been trying to use presentationzen during the writer’s workshop mini-lesson for my Grade 5 students.  I’m hoping that the visual images will help to stimulate creativity and emotion.  I did think that my slides were presentationzen – after reading the above message from Seth Godin, I’ve discovered that they’re weren’t quite there yet.  I had transitions still, the slides repeated my words, not reinforced them and some had more than six words!

I’ve come to the realisation that the words are on the slides for me, rather than the students, and this is a direct reflection of how much I am still not comfortable with the writing workshop mini-lessons from Lucy Calkins.  I’m using her words, her ideas and I haven’t yet managed to formulate my own words and ideas about teaching writing workshop style mini-lessons.  (but now I digress ……).  Below is a sample of a “before” page and then an “after” page.  Apart from the last suggestion from Seth Godin about creating a writing document (which I guess we do in a way when we hang reminder charts everywhere in the classroom for writing and reading) – I think I’ll definitely stick to the other suggestions.

Before …….

After …….

Garr Reynolds believes

One of the most important things you can do in the initial stage of preparing for your presentation is to get away from your computer.

My planning has always taken place at the computer, so I’m willing to give this a go to see if it helps me be more true to the presentationzen ideal.

I’ll also be asking myself his two questions as I prepare my next presentations:

What’s your point? Why does it matter?

Image attribution: writing journal:

Using an Appropriate Image

CoETaIL Blogging Assignment:  Sept 14-20th

Use Creative Commons image search to find an appropriate image to use in at least one of the classes you teach. Include this image in a blog post and share how you plan to use it in the classroom. How can visual imagery support your curricular content?

Our Enduring Understandings:

  • Design and layout of information influence effective communication
  • Audience and purpose behind your communication affect how and what you communicate.
  • Different information mediums require different strategies when organizing information and communicating effectively.

I use Creative Commons all the time to help me with my Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop mini-lessons.  I hope that it helps my students visualise and capture the heart (no pun intended) of what the mini-lesson teaching point is. At the same time I use images to model to students how to attribute images used.  There’s always an attribution slide at the end of the mini-lesson.  (That’s me – always looking for multiple teachable moments!!)

This is one of my most favourite images used to date.  It’s popular with my students too!
Peanut Butter Cup Heart on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Image Attribution:

The Writing Workshop mini-lesson was:

Good writers revise by asking themselves “What’s the most important part of this story?” and then develop that section.  You can do this by ……….

  • Rereading your story
  • Find the heart of it
  • Develop that section of your writing