Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I finally found what I have been looking for. Thank Scholastic! It was a bit of a task signing up for it, but it is exactly what i was looking for and I'm sure many if not all of you will benefit from setting up an account. It allows you to set up a free class homepage that can be accessed by your students and their parents from home.
You just need to Click Here then create an account. Creating the homepage is quite simple too. I encourage all teachers and teachers to be to create an account and have a go. What a wonderful way of keeping parents up to date with classroom happenings, as well as a way of posting homework, fun bits and pieces, and just connecting the classroom with home. I am so glad I found this!!

Still not what I need

Okay, So after having a look around this tool would be appropriate for a high school or tertiary level. It does not set up a virtual classroom that you load things to and your class members can access anytime. In WiZiQ you 'schedule' a class so that it is like having a real classroom session but online. I can see how that can be useful in other areas, but I don't think it's very practical for primary school. The other thing you can do on it is create tests, and you can also look for publically accessible tests.

So it really isn't bad, just not what I'm looking for.
The search comtinues...

Please if you have any ideas, let me know, I would really appreciate it!

I changed My Mind...

...About Glogster. Yes it is a fantastic tool and quite exciting and after playing around with it is very simple to use... to create Glogs only. It is not very friendly as the kind of Virtual Classroom I was imagining. The kind that it sets up just creates accounts for all your students and automatically connects them as friends and the teacher has the main authority over what happens. Learners can create, post and comment on each other's glogs. However, once you publish a Glog you cannot edit it... this is slightly annoying and does not work for me.

So, after googling 'Free Virtual Classrooms' I have come acrossWiZiQ. It looks pretty good and more of what I am looking for. What's more there are plenty of YouTube Clips etc. on how you can use it. I am yet to have a big 'play' with it, but I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Image courtesy of MSU Moorhead's Glogster Tutorial

Just came across another cool student-centred elearning tool. Its called Glogster, and it allows you to create free interactive posters, also known as 'glogs'. The posters can include text, audio (MP3), images, videos and special effects. If using Glogster, students have complete freedom of expression. Glogs can then be viewed either directly from glogster or they can be inserted into wikis, web pages and blogs.
There is now also Glogster EDU which is for educational use and allows for some teacher control. With Glogster EDU teachers privately register their learners to create a safe 'virtual classroom'. In this way, teaching 'glogs' are private and can only be viewed by anyone who isn't registered in the class with permission from the teacher.

Just another cool tool that is worth having a play around with!


Here is just something I came across when looking at Ning (which is a social networking tool where you can create your own network). This is a network that has already been set up called Classroom 2.0 . Its a networt for Learning managers interested in bringing web 2.0 technologies into their classrooms. It might be a handy one to join, don't you think?

FlickR for Formative Assessment??

Good night Exporer by mgsbird

I had never thought of the idea of getting learners to find images on FlickR that relate to the unit of work, other than to be used in a presentation or assignment. For Student Centred learning, however, it has been brought to my attention that FlickR can be used to check learner's understanding of a topic. Learners can create a flickR account, and search for an image that describes something in their current unit of work. For example, in the year 4 class I volunteer in, last term the Unit was called "Adventure on the High Seas", which looked at a number of different sea explorers from history, including John Newton. I might, for example choose the above photo as an example. I might say that to me, this unit is about people who go above and beyond, push the limits to find new beauty, just like the Eagle flying high in the sunset. (Okay, so its not the best example.... but I can expect more of students who have actually done the unit!)

In this way, you could check learners understanding of the core concepts of the unit by a) their choice of photo and b) their justification of choice. The photos and justifications could be loaded to a class blog or wiki, or simply pasted into word with an explanation and printed out.

Good idea of a different way to use FlickR. What do you think?

Collaboration with WIKIs

Because I have used WIKIs myself for quite some time, and for only the one purpose - to plan group assignments in a university context, I got really stuck for ideas of different ways of using WIKIs in a student centred way in a Primary Classroom. So after a bit of searching, I came across the great website - 50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom. It breaks the 50 ideas into 7 different categories:
  1. Resources Creation
  2. Student Participation
  3. Group Projects
  4. Student Interaction
  5. For the Classroom
  6. For the Community
  7. Other
Some of the ideas that would best fit into both Oliver's Learning Design model (1999) and Keirsley & Shneiderman's Engagement Theory (1999) are the 7 ideas in the 'Community' section.

One of these ideas fits in pefectly with a Unit my Mentor teacher did last year. It was a Healthy Food Unit in a year 3 class. It was a transdisciplinary unit with a genre based approach - the genre being prcedures. This unit could be adapted so that learners use a WIKI to collaboratively create a Healthy Foods recipe book. Learners can then research and test different recipes, categorise them (e.g. snacks, salads, breakfast etc.) and use the Procedure genre to share the recipes with peers and other stakeholders on the WIKI. The URL for the WIKI can be shared with other classes for them to view and even printed in the school newsletter to encourage healthy lunch boxes. Learners may even come up with their own recipe ideas, or even find out and share why their recipes are good (both good in taste and good for you).

There are alot of other good ideas on the website that are really practical to integrate into classroom. Another one that I like is a Choose Your Own Adventure collaborative story. Check out the site for more information.

Let me know what you think of my ideas, and also if you have any others to add!!

Hot Potato, Hot Potato

I have already done 2 posts on quizzes - One about using Class Marker and the other using PowerPoint to create quizzes. Of the two, I have preferred using PowerPoint because a) you can personalise and customise the quizz as much as you like and b) it's simple enough for learners to create their own quizzes in.
However, I have just discovered and downloaded Hot Potato, which is now my new favourite quizz maker. It is very very simple and appealing to use, and only takes a couple of minutes to download onto your computer for free. It gives you the options of
  • JClose - creating a fill in the blanks cloze activity
  • JMatch - creating a matching exercise
  • JMix - creating a jumbled sentence excercise
  • JCross - creating a crossword puzzle
  • JQuizz - with the options of multiple choice and short answer quizzes.
I am excited to use it, let alone what the learners will be like when they get to have a go. I really like that it gives you the options of different types of activities. This means that learners can choose an option that suits them and their learning the best (both style and level).
Once each group of learners has created their quizzes, there is an option called The Masher - which you can add files to to build a sequence of excercises into a complete indexed unit. This way, all the students quizzes are in one place and everyone can have a go at each other's quizzes - or a particular quizz may be assigned to a particular groups or person to complete.

When using this in the classroom I would start by creating quizzes in each category first for the learners to complete. After that I would do a modelled/shared session for creating each quizz with the class. From there learners can work in small groups (2-3) to choose a quizz type and create a quizz on a given topic (preferably to do with the unit of work being studied that term). It may even work to have different groups working on dofferent aspects of the term's work - e.g. one group doing the SOSE focus, one group maths focus, one literacy focus, one science focus, one art focus etc. Thes should all work in together if the unit is transdisciplinary.

You can also upload these to a web page so they are interactive or you can exzport them for printing.

In all, it is a really cool program!

Digital Storytelling

As the name Digital Storytelling implies, it is basically students telling a story using digital media, including the use of images, music, narrative and voice. What better way to encourage our digital learners to write! Not to mention pushing the boundaries of their imaginations.

Narratives and short story writing are core content of English curriculum. Digital Storytelling allows this content to be transfered into the digital age, engaging our learners and creating in them a whole new set of literacy skills - digital literacy! Learners still need to thoroughly plan their story and write a 'script' that includes all the elements of a narrative BEFORE even thinking about storyboards and taking photos, meaning it is still a literacy-rich task.

The fact that it is storytelling alone makes it perfect to integrate with the Learning Engagement Theory. Learners can plan and produce (Create) their narratives/stories in pairs (Relate), and then share them to an audience in a 'film festival' for thier parents or a buddy class etc.

The other greate thing about Digital Storytelling is that it should not be too difficult. Learners plans and take their photos then load them onto the computer. They can then use a free photo editing tool, such as Picnik to manipulate their images as desired. Then, each 'frame' can be created in PowerPoint, by saving each slide as a GIF or JPEG. Once this is done, the frames can be imported into Windows Photo Story 3 (which is free to download) to start making it into a 'film' with music and voice overs. Audacity is a great voiceaudio recording and editing tool that is simple to use and free to download. Also, for Royalty Free Music, learners can download music from Incompetech.

To me, this is a very straight-forward and great tool for student-centred learning.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Student Reflective Blogs

Because of my study program, I am not currently enrolled in a portal task. Although I do volunteer in a classroom one day a week, I am very limited as to what I can do with the class. I really think that student use of Blogs as a tool for reflection could be very useful - If the entire class has access to the required technology. In an ideal world it would be a perfect way for learners to relfect either at the end of a lesson, at the end of each day, or at the end of each week. I initially had the idea that the blogs, as a reflective tool, could be used not by themselves, but each reflection could be guided by the learning manager so that each post uses a different reflective technique - for example the first post might use a KWL (Know, Want to know, Learnt), the second one might be a PMI (Plus, Minus, Interesting) as the framework for learning reflection, and so on (Frangenheim, 2007). This way, learners are not only engaged in the reflecyion because they are using a favoured medium, they are also engaged in thinking and are learning and useing a variety of thinking/reflective skills. After a semester of learning how to use different strategies learners can then have the freedom to choose the most appropriate strategy to make a reflective posting.

The other idea I had was that learners could use the blogs in pairs or groups of three as a Science Journal where they can post the resukts, conclusions and discussion of their investigations. By doing this, not only the teacher can use an RSS feed to view their learners work, but learners can use an RSS feed to view each others results and compare them without having to have every group present to the class (which takes a fair bit of time). This can prompt further discussions and further investigations.

These are just two of the ways I would like to try to use a blog in the classroom. I am sure there are hundreds of other possibilities. Feel free to comment with any other ideas you may have!