Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Grade 5 Class Google Site

Andrew Finn has been pushing the boundaries of digital possibilities by using his class Google Site as powerful communication, administration and organisational tool. Andrew explains,

"The class website evolved out of the idea that we needed to making Literacy more of a living subject. As a class,  we wanted to make our writing more available to a wider audience, whether  in the format of a movie or as an excerpt from our writing notebooks.

We also wanted to be able to take our Reading Workshop to a new level, by commenting on our Conflict Novels on the site. Adding a 'hit counter' was important, in order to ascertain how much the site gets used. Also parents offer keen feedback when they see pertinent dates on the homepage, relating only to the class (such as 'Homework Assignment due Friday 13th April!)
After the website became popular, students requested that an individual page was set up for each of them, so they could post a 'personal profile' about themselves as well as samples of their extra writing and links to inspirational, educational webpages.  
The students have found many ways of using the website and the novelty seems never to wear off. It also presents great opportunities for us as a class to discuss appropriate behaviour, language and accuracy in writing. The website is hugely sustainable - downloading photos of a class trip can take as little as 3-4 minutes usually and setting up a new page takes even less time."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

New experiments with Grade 6 Science

In recent weeks the Grade 6 Science students at our Dover Campus have been using technology in some wonderful ways to enrich and deepen the learning experience.

The Middle School Science teachers including Valerie Newton and the Digital Literacy Coaches have developed some lessons on using the electronic Data Probes to collect real time data of changes in acidity levels in a neutralization experiment. Neutralization is an important concept for the students to understand as this summarizes their study acids and alkalis.

Traditionally the neutralization experiments are done in a few different ways, including with litmus paper and static measurements once in the experiment.

The Data Probes are sensors which can collect data from different variables including temperate and also pH levels. With an electronic pH sensor attached and a piece of software called Data Studio, students were able to collect some rich quantitative data that clearly highlighted the of neutralization of two chemicals with different pH levels. The students added drops of a chemical to the solution and recorded the pH level after each subsequent drop with the data probes. By adding more drops of chemical, the piece of software highlighted the changing pH level and the eventual neutralization of the solution. This is on a nice graph as shown below.

In the next piece of assessment, students are designing their own experiments to measure the effectiveness of different indigestion remedies. The data probes could be used in one of their experiments allowing them to collect a rich source of data and then test this against litmus paper and other traditional tests.

Visualising and Explaining Meiosis in IB Biology

I was recently invited into one of our Grade 12 classes to see a nice example of using StopMotion in Biology to explain the steps of Meiosis. The students had finished learning about the process of Miosis, which is a special form of cell division, essential to sexual reproduction. The aim of the lesson was for the students to understand the process and to identify the changes that occur at each stage.

The students each used a free program called FramebyFrame to collect a series of images which then collated them as a small animation. Some of the groups went a further step and used iMovie to record audio over the videos. FramebyFrame is just one option to collect a series of pictures. In this instance it was the easiest way to collate and then combine the images into a movie. These were then shared in a StudyWiz Gallery for the students to view and comment. Some of the students used the video as the basis for an iMovie with a narration of the process. This is a nice example of how students can explain the process and deepen their learning.

In the future we could go a step further and use the iTouch devices and any StopMotion app such as StopMotion Recorder to capture the images. The iTouches can be mounted on a stand with a clamp making the collection of photos a bit easier. StopMotion Recorder can also collect a huge number of pictures if the student wished to show movement within the process instead of the unique stages. Other apps such as iTimeLapse could be used overtime to show growth of a sunflower or something similar.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Digital Writing Workshop

Rachel Wright, Grade 4, captures the powerful synergy of Digital Writing Workshop in action and edits them together with iMovie.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Finding Balance - iLearn Parent Workshop

Since the beginning of Term 2, the Digital Literacy Coaches at our Dover Campus have been delivering a series of workshops to support the iLearn Initiative. The focus on the second workshop was about helping students to find balance in a digital world and to help parents understand some of the strategies that their child could use to remain focused, on task and efficient with their time.

The following are some broad practical steps that will help you begin a discussion with your child. These hints have been adapted from the excellent resources available from the Common Sense Media group.

  1. Establish good habits early
  2. Develop a place at home where kids can be online
  3. Stress homework before computer work
  4. Limit multitasking and discuss coping strategies
  5. If you suspect a dependency, have a heart-to-heart
  6. Don’t take away the computer
  7. Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Establish good habits early:
Kids need guidelines and rules about what is an appropriate amount of time to spend on the computer. A good rule of thumb for our Junior School students is no more than an hour a day during the week. Allotting computer time in 15 or 30 minute increments gives you a chance to check in and suggest that it’s time for a break.

For older students, establish appropriate guidelines that everyone in your family acknowledges. For Middle School students perhaps 1-2 hours after school is a suitable guideline. For most students some of this time will be used to complete homework using their laptop.

Late at night, always insist that older students place laptops, phones and other devices outside of the bedroom to be charged at night. Having a period of disconnect or down time between finishing homework and going to bed might be a good idea for our Middle School and High School students. Be prepared to turn off the wireless internet router late at night, as a way to force your children to disconnect.

Develop a place at home where kids can be online.

Within your house, find a place perhaps in the dining room or lounge where your children can work and where you can walk by and casually observe their online habits. As they get older give them more privacy and independence and allow them to work in their rooms, but feel able to rein this freedom back, if you feel concerned.

Stress homework before computer work.
Help your child make a distinction between homework time which uses the laptop, and time they spend socialising online. Please look at our school homework expectations in the Planner and use these as a guideline. The issues of multitasking can make a simple homework task stretch far beyond the teacher’s time expectations.

Make sure your kids know that homework must be finished before they look at YouTube videos or instant message the latest gossip to their peers. Think about where they are doing their homework and ask them to record times when they are completing their homework and times when they are playing games, or socialising online.

Limit multitasking and discuss coping strategies
Multitasking is a common habit among all of our students and we strongly believe in teaching them coping strategies so they can self-manage the plethora of online distractions.

Experts agree that multitasking prolongs the time it takes children to do individual tasks, such as homework.  Research does show that multitasking affects our children's ability to filter and retain information, and also their ability to refocus back to the original homework task. A constant toggling back and forth and between devices, such as music players or cellphones, has a real impact on their ability to process and retain information.

The Common Sense Media group has produced excellent guidance for parents about Multitasking which is available here.

Practical Steps for multi taskers
  • Encourage your child to open only one or two applications at a time, and close other windows.
  • Ask them to use the full screen options in some applications to block out distractions.
  • Show them how to sign out of programs such as Skype and help them identify open applications in the dock.
  • Removing any distracting applications from the dock. Items included on the dock could just be focused on school applications. (Pages, Keynote, Safari, iCal, Preview, plus several others) see below for an example.
  • Develop a simple strategy with your child to turn off the wireless when they are trying to focus on a piece of writing. This is available on the top menu bar.
  • As a last resort help your children install a piece of software called Self Control. This has been really popular with our older students. Students use it to set time limits and block a list of websites that they know are distracting. Once the time period is set, websites and applications are blocked until the limit expires.
  • With younger students, explore the use of Parental Controls on a Mac to block them from installing specific applications and games. Parental controls can be set up with help from the school Apple Help Desk located in the Secondary School Main Library. 

If you suspect a dependency, have a heart-to-heart. 
What happens when your children are away from the computer? Are they argumentative, depressed? Is there a marked change when they are online? Have you noticed changing attitudes to school work, or their willingness to meet up with friends during weekends?

Have a real discussion with your kids about your concerns. This, plus some serious guidelines, may normalise the behavior. If the problem continues, or you think the computer time is masking depression or anxiety, talk to someone else at school, such as the Tutor Group teacher, or respective Head of Grade. They may have the same concerns.

Don’t take away the computer. 
This may seem like the best solution, but it can be very damaging to “addicted” kids, who may feel that being online is the only thing that brings them any enjoyment. Instead, try low level and consistent involvement with kids as they use technology. Sit around the dinner table with them, encourage them to work in a central, visible place. Whilst they are doing work, ask small questions to begin a dialogue. e.g. What does that program do?

Removing the computer can make them depressed. It can also affect the level of your child’s trust in you and does not help them in developing ways to cope and with strategies that will shift their behavior in the long term.

We try place an emphasis on trust, freedom and independence and helping students learn strategies to cope. Independence, freedom and privacy need to be earned and can be rolled back as a strategy by parents to help students.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. 
Dependencies are hard to break if they don't have a set of coping skills. If you need some help please be in touch with Tutor Teachers, Heads of Grade or the school Counselling Department.  Guidance is also available on the Common Sense Media site.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Learning with a Shot of Apple

A huge thank you to all of the members of staff who attended our first "Learning with a Shot of Apple" event. It was great to see so many teachers sharing ideas with people from different parts of the school and having discussions around the ways we use technology at UWCSEA to delivery a 21st century learning experience.

A special thank you to the seven amazing staff members listed below, who showcased an element of their classroom practice. We felt these showcases were a nice informal way to share new ideas and hopefully lots of people could draw links back to their personal subject areas, and some new ideas to try. If you are interested in any of the showcases that were presented, please be in touch with the individual staff members.

iPads - two amazing apps
Stuart MacAlpine
How to use your iPAD as an IWB (Doceri) and how to use them as a brilliant interactive textbook (iBook Author).
Skitch for images
Tim Shepherd
Skitch is simple little annotation tool for images when you cant be bothered to open up Photoshop. Why use a sledge hammer to crack a nut? (Download the software here)
Keynote and Narrations
Lizzi Williams
Using the recording feature on Keynote and ShowMe on iPads students practising their speaking and listening skills and teaching others. Similar to Voicethread, but simpler.
StopMotion Animation
Martin Lyon
Will look at ways for students to display understanding by collecting a series of images, showing the evolution of a process. The creation of a StopMotion gives students great opportuntiy to refine their conceptual understanding. The program called Frame by Frame was used to developing the StopMotion animations.
Oral Recording Tools
Michele Pirson
When to record what, why, with what.  How to use simple apple features on a day to day basis.  No special apps, no fancy project, but daily use.  This is an application built into the mac operating system. QuickTime Player
VoiceThread for Feedback
Nicki Hambleton
Voicethread is a simple and quick way to work collaboratively to share, submit and view comments on images, documents, presentations. Groups, individuals or whole classes can set up a thread to annotate visuals, receive feedback, discuss ideas and opinions all online.
Google SketchUp
Dave Hobman
Google Sketchup is a 3D drawing application that is probably good enough to design most objects but it is simple enough for students to learn to use quickly. There are various add on programmes (plugins) that can do clever things such as open up a 3D shape and lay it out flat as a net. Clever and fun!

Music by: Youth Group - Forever Young