Saturday, 1 December 2012

Interactive Photos

If you haven't used in class yet, I would highly recommend it.

Children do need an email address to create a login.  This is another great opportunity to reinforce copyright on photos.

Thinglink gives you the ability to add a photo and then tag the photo, with each tag being a clickable link i.e. to youtube clip, information website, soundcloud etc, therefore making the photo interactive.

It's so flexible you can use it in so many different ways.

One class had taken photos of the cakes they had made as a final product from their inquiry on sweet treats.  They had created jingles to go with their cakes which they recorded with easispeaks and then uploaded their recordings into which they then linked to their photos on thinglink.  They also linked in videos on how to do fondant icing, recipes etc too.   

Another class had been busy making advent calendars, so they ended up taking a photo of their finished calendars and then tagging each day.  They recorded reading Christmas stories, making Christmas music using garageband, singing which they uploaded to and then linked to their photos in thinglink.  They also added tags to videos, Christmas info etc.
Have a look at some of them on their blog here

Another class let their children choose what they were passionate about.  Here's a couple of their examples.

The use for thinglink is only limited by the imagination.  You could use this easily across the curriculum.

Chromebooks/GoogleApps/Office 365 reflection

I've been fortunate to have a Chromebook laptop to play with to evaluate for possible purchase for our school.  Chromebooks are wireless laptops that essentially don't have hard drives and are built to work with Google Apps and the Internet, so everything you create (docs, pics etc) is stored in My Drive or elsewhere online. 
Chromebooks use a Chrome OS so if you are already familiar with Chrome and Google Apps, the transition is simple.  It turns on 8 seconds flat (faster than a MAC) and has an excellent battery life. (8 hours in the v1 I have).  Once on, you login into Google and off you go.  Icons down the bottom of the screen give you quick access to Drive, Gmail etc and you have a ‘launch pad’ which gives you your apps you want from the Chrome Store.  Note, only those apps that don’t require downloads can be used.  Of course you have full access to the internet through Chrome, accessing all the wonderful online tools that are available.
I am looking into the value of Chromebooks within our school and whether we buy these or laptops or a mix to best support the learning.  We are also looking at Office 365 and Google Apps and need to decide which cloud solution to use to support collaboration, creation etc for the learner.
A v1 chromebook is US$350 ($430NZ), so a bit cheaper than a laptop.  You can get a ChromeBox which controls the settings for all Chromebooks connected to that box.  So IT support is reduced and controlling the available apps and settings etc is straight forward because it's web based. Chromebooks can't get viruses. The keyboard feels good and mouse very user friendly.
At first when I was looking at the Chromebook I was thinking, ok what software do we have on our network and how can we replicate the same experience on the net and through the apps in the Chromestore?  What does Google Apps presentation do compared to MS PowerPoint etc?Having a software and training background in a prior life before teaching, I am used to comparing and evaluating software, so this was the natural way for me to think. I was also thinking about Office 365 and what that offers in comparison to Google Apps.  Our technicians recommended a trial of both, however I struggled to see the benefit in that because they will both come out well I'm sure with advantages/disadvantages in both.
I gave the Chromebook to a year 2 (6/7 year olds) class today and said to the teacher let the kids have a go and see what they create.  I went back half an hour later and the kids were doing amazing things. These children had never used Google Apps before. They had gone onto Google Drive, created a drawing and two children had decided to research the Wonders of the World and had put together pictures with labels within 20 minutes.  They loved the ease of use of being able to create new things.  They felt there were far less steps involved compared to non Chromebook laptops and working within tabbed windows made tasks more manageable in a faster timeframe. Two other children decided to research insects and had been able to put together various pictures found on the Internet to present them within 15 minutes once again using Google Drawing accessed through Drive.

The seamless creation of new products was refreshing and these 7 year olds did this with no teacher input.  It reminded me of the ease of use of an iPad and how quickly children adapt and create products.
Some people say the Chromebooks are limiting because they can't have downloaded software and you can't save anything on the hard drive. After much reflection and working with the Chromebook myself and reflecting on children's experiences, I came to the following realisation.
Why am I comparing what software we have at school and trying to find equivalent online tools? We should be looking at new ways of creating to meet learners needs rather than trying to do what we've done before.  My generation have been almost indoctrinated with MS Office and  MS have held the market for a very long time. Over the past couple of years the amount of Web 2.0 tools available for creation has increased together with apps for mobile devices.  Why would you think PowerPoint as a default when you should be actually looking at what is the best way to present the learning for that child.  If a child's goal is to work on their oral presentation then surely they should be looking at tools which will support that learning for presenting.  There is a whole range of tools available.  There is a shift in the thinking required, in that instead of having a default position of what we use to create and present, children need to drive the learning and understand what their learning needs are and select the appropriate tool to support that. Teachers need to have a shift in thinking and guide the children in their learning journey. We should be reflecting afterwards on the tools we use.  How did that meet our learning goals?   Does this mean teachers need to be experts in technology? I don't think so.  We need to all be a part of the learning process and willingly and give the reins to the children. We need to develop a continual evolving  digital toolkit for both the teacher and the child to use, but together and as a part of the learning process. The biggest challenge I feel is how to get teachers to create a shift in their thinking.  I read a research report on the Manaiakalani Trust where it said “the use of Google Sites and the Teacher Dashboard were the biggest changes in pedagogy across the cluster”.  With evidence of “co-construction of planning with students, less instructional and behaviour management talk from teachers more learning talk by teachers and students, an increase in independence and self management of learning by students”. (   seeManaiakalani Evaluation Report 2011: The Netbook Pilot Year   2011 Final Report (see pdf at end).  

Whilst, technology is just the tool, if that tool can support meeting learners needs in a seamless way then it's a pretty important tool!
Some people say Chromebooks are limiting, however I feel enlightened and can now see how they are actually at the forefront in the shift of thinking and really support learning in a more in depth way than imagined and we need to tap into that.
At the end of the day our school needs to choose a cloud based solution for storing documents/work and either Office 365 or Google Apps will suffice.  I don't think it's necessarily about comparing either product.  Yes a choice has to be made, but maybe it's more about what fits best with the learning. Perhaps Google Apps suits a primary school more because of the additional products such as Teacher Dashboard which lets the teacher manage the classes documents.  From the Manaiakalani Trust research Teacher Dashboard was certainly a huge factor in managing student work more effectively.

What we really need to be doing is developing a toolkit for teachers and children as learners so that children can make informed choices to support their learning.  To me if a Chromebook supports this transition and shift in thinking and makes it easier for the teacher and the learner,then isn't the choice between a Chromebook or non Chromebook laptop obvious.  People say you still need to have a few laptops to do the grunt work of creating videos etc, however I think that it's probably only a matter of time before such functionality is available on the web. I feel lucky in that our school is getting ultra fast broadband over the holidays and we are planning to migrate our servers to the cloud.  We are also looking at trialling two classes bringing their own devices in 2013 as part of a focus on blended learning.  Together with the fact that I am full time supporting teachers and children in e-learning this which I feel makes a crucial difference.

Chromebooks are cheaper than a laptop and pave the way to a whole new way of thinking.  For me Chromebooks fit where we are at as a school in that we are looking for cloud solutions to support the learning and it may be that some schools aren't ready for this move yet.
So my final word on Chromebooks, they open up unlimited opportunities for children and their learning.  Yes they are a different way of thinking and learning but maybe this is a good thing as it will support the change in thinking required to meet learners needs in this day and age. I like how Chromebooks wouldn't necessarily hook to our school printers so it forces people to think in a print less world (note this is just the way our school printers work). It would still be possible to print on a networked machine by logging in on a networked non Chromebook machine, but children and teachers would have to think twice about what they really want to print.  Chromebooks would also support online ways of working together giving children an authentic audience instead of their books or print outs which limited people see.  Some web 2 tools are more orientated towards Google in that you can use Gmail to create class accounts such as  I'm sure competitors will rise, however one needs to make a choice with what is available at the time and I feel that with a Chromebook and Teacher Dashboard with Google Apps  has the leading edge in supporting a shift in thinking which is required in this day and age!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Teaching Copyright/Creative Commons

I've had great success with teaching children about copyright on internet images, and through practise using different web 2.0 tools,  those children have put their new knowledge into action until using creative commons has become second nature for them.  This has been over two terms but it's really exciting to see children become responsible digital citizens.  I adapted the lessons accordingly dependent on the age level.

I wanted to share the process and tools I used with you.

To start with I felt children needed a real hook when teaching creative commons, so  I created a file in PowerPoint, copied a 'non-copyright' photo and turned it into a 'reveal photo' by drawing four rectangles that covered the photo and then used the animation menu and set an exit animation on each rectangle so when the PowerPoint presentation was played, one rectangle was removed at a time, revealing bits of the photo underneath.

Children had to guess what the photo was going to be after each 'reveal'.  This had the children hooked and they knew this was going to be their task.

Then we started looking at creative commons, because they couldn't just go grab any old photo like they were used to doing.

These are links to a couple of great clips I  showed the children.

Then we looked at various search sites other than google such as 

I modelled searching for a photo and how to check license information and how to copy and attribute a photo.

I then set the children the task of finding a non-copyright photo and I recommended they use attribution regardless of whether it was required or not.

The children set about the task enthusiastically and created their reveal photos in PowerPoint.  They loved it so much that they all went home and created them and teachers carried this through into their teaching in the classroom to reinforce the learning.

After a period of time, (6 weeks) I introduced the next tool which was 'Glogster'.  An online interactive poster.

Classes used this tool to present their inquiry, but this tool can be used in so many different ways.

Tip: When signing up to Glogster, use the educational version and children don't need an email address.  Teachers need to sign up and get a code which the children use on sign up.

We went over the terms and conditions and talked about how they were agreeing to not using copyright  photos.  So we went back over  how to search for creative commons photos etc, reinforcing their prior learning.

Teachers in the classroom backed this up by using Glogster across the curriculum.

Teachers were commenting how children were starting to use creative commons more instinctively and there was talk about whether images were 'copyright' or not.

Then after a period of time (6 weeks) I introduced another web 2.0 tool called which allows you to create an interactive photo.  Children do need an email address on sign up and once again we talked about the terms and conditions and how they couldn't use copyright photos, reinforcing creative commons.

By this stage I found that children had really taken the searching for creative commons  photos on board and it was becoming second nature.  Teachers fed back how children were 'talking' in the classroom when looking at photos online, asking each other, is that a copyright photo? Have you used attribution?

Children do need to be exposed to 'finding' non copyright photos in a meaningful and purposeful way. 

I hope this gives you some ideas to use in your classroom.  Of course the easiest photos to use are actually  the ones the children have taken themselves!

Feel free to contact me if you need any further explanation.  @HelenofTroy01

Please share any successes you have had teaching about copyright images by adding a comment below.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pic Collage with Reflection

Today I was working with a class trying out a newly downloaded free iPad app called Pic Collage. Pic Collage enables you to add a mix of pictures, text, backgrounds, stickers/effects and save as a photo.  I can see how this app could be used across the curriculum.

I think it is imperative in today's world for children to be encouraged to develop their thinking and creative skills by giving them the time to explore and find things out for themselves, so today I gave the iPads out (1:3) and told the children (8 yr olds) to find the app called PicCollage and explore how it worked.

Children explored with great enthusiasm collaborating with each other.  After about 15 minutes they shared their findings. The next step was setting an authentic task which was to use Pic Collage to  present their recently created animal artwork in a creative way to put on the class blog.

The results were outstanding with each Pic Collage looking quite different.  However what impressed me the most was when a group of children had not only added their artwork creatively, but instinctively added reflections next to their artwork.  Such a great WOW moment for me.

Here's their Pic Collage.

Monday, 5 November 2012


Use wonderopolis to build a culture of curiousity in the classroom and to plant seeds for passion projects or genious hour.  Have fun.  Children and teachers alike, love it.


Friday, 28 September 2012

Google A Day Teaches Key Word Searches

I'm finding that children need more practise at identifying key words for searching on the internet more effectively.

Google a Day is fabulous for really helping with this.  Every day Google put a new problem to solve up on their site and give hints to help solve the problem if you are completely stuck.

I decided to select appropriate examples of google problems for children to use and stored the hints in QR codes, then challenged children to solve the problem without using the QR Code hints.
The answer was also stored in a QR Code.

I modeled a couple of examples,  scaffolding how to identify key words and then let children continue on their own.

All children rose to the challenge and every single child completed the problems identifying key words and they were excited to scan the answers. 

Try one for yourself courtesy of

The ancient Romans didn’t know me, but the Mayans did. What numeral am I?

Here's how to prepare in advance.  

1. Go to and copy the question and hints including answer to a Word document.
2. Leave the question, however select the first hint and cut.
3. Go to
4. Click on data type plain text
5. Paste your hint text into the content text box.
6. Select a colour
7. Right mouse click and copy QR Code image to the Word document.
8. Repeat for all QR Codes required.

The results were astounding and children were asking for more!  They all went away buzzing and talking about how much fun they had.  Fun and learning together - brilliant!!!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

LiveBinders - Managing Resources

I was listening to Clare Amos's top 10 tips for BYOD which is from a secondary school perspective, but nevertheless parts are still very relevant for primary school.

I was curious about the mention of Livebinders which is an online binder used to organise information.  Clare recommended in her talk, students use Livebinders to gather links, information, research assignments etc.

I investigated further and Livebinders is a great tool for in the classroom both for students and teachers. 

This is a great example of using Livebinders for instructional writing using a recipe .

I discovered this Livebinder which is a 'digital toolbox' for teachers which is invaluable

I'm planning to introduce Livebinders this week with a year 6 class as well as at our staff meeting.  Teachers could use Livebinders  to organise websites for their class as an alternative to using favourites, social bookmarking sites like Delicious or wikispaces.

Do you use Livebinders or an equivalent?  If so, please share by commenting below.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

QR Voice

To use QR Voice you need access to the internet and a device with a QR Reader app such as an iphone or iPad to read the QR code.

QR Codes offer many opportunities to support learning. This week I tried out with year 2 (6-7 yr olds) and Year 5 (9-10 yr olds).

QR Voice generates a QR Code which, when scanned, speaks up to 100 characters that you have entered.

We used this in two different ways.

Firstly, some classes had had a writing focus on similes, so we stored their similes in the QR Code and when scanned the children could hear their similes. The children were motivated and engaged and were not only keen to write more of their own similes, but were motivated to scan everyone else's QR codes.  What a great way to hear everyone's writing!

The second way that we used QR Voice was to extend thinking. With the younger age group we used QR Voice to store 'who am I' clues. The children chose an animal and came up with four clues to guess their chosen animal. Each clue was stored in a separate QR Code. We added another QR Code at the end to include the answer.

Here are the steps to creating a QR Voice generated QR Code. 

1. In MS Word type the sentence you want to add to your QR Code. To check how many characters you have entered, use MS Word's, word count feature.   Click on the Words option at the bottom of your screen as shown in the graphic below.

The resultant dialog box displays, showing the character count and this does include spaces!

2. Once you have the correct amount of characters (up to 100), then copy this text. (Highlight text,  Ctrl C to copy).

 3. Go to and paste this text (Ctrl V) into the space as shown below.

 4. Click on Generate QR Voice button to generate the code.

5.  Click on the generated QR Code to open in a separate window and copy this code into the Word document ready to print.

6.  Remember you will need to use a smart phone or iPad with a QR Code reader app downloaded to scan this code.  I used the QR Reader app which is free to use.

Try to scan this one direct from the computer screen.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Motivating Reluctant Writers

I have been trying out a new collaborative writing approach based on Jill Hammond's (Core Education) recipe writing using Etherpad (an online notepad). I have found that even the most reluctant writers are motivated to write. Writing is scaffolded when children can see each other typing at the same time. I will outline the approach. I use Etherpad as opposed to Google docs because it is quicker and more straightforward to set up (which hooks in all levels of teachers) and has a great versioning system. Once finished, it is simple to export the file to your computer to keep. 1. Set up children into groups of two with pseudo names. 2. To set up a new pad, in your browser, type for example You will be prompted to create a new pad and say yes. Repeat for each pad you wish to set up. 3. In each pad, add group pseudo names with four spaces between each name. I normally add four to five groups in each pad. 4. Etherpads are saved automatically. 5. For children to access the pads, I usually set up shortcuts in a shared folder. To do this, I copy the web address (, then go to the shared folder, create a shortcut by using the right mouse menu, click on New, Shortcut. Paste the webaddress in the Properties, click on Next and then give the shortcut a name ie Room1Group1. Children can then use this shortcut to access the Etherpad. 6. Make sure you agree the rules with the children before starting, as they will be tempted to write silly things, say hello etc. Children should only work on their own piece of work (no editing of other children's work) and it is ok to get ideas from what they see but not to only copy! 7. To start with, I usually set a theme for writing, like a 'stormy night'. Do your normal motivation for writing, finding out from the children what makes an interesting piece of writing and the purpose of writing (audience). Have an example piece of writing to show. 8. I then get the children to think about the 'theme' and get them to shut their eyes and describe their scene verbally. I usually start with what my scene looks like then get others to share. Recipe writing: Ingredients: Setting the scene, Tuning in the ear, Developing the character, Creating the action, The resolution. A. For recipe writing the first ingredient for writing is they have to use a silent camera and write, only describing their scene with no sound. B. The second ingredient is introducing sound, engaging the senses. C. The third ingredient is have your character appear in a dramatic way within the setting. D. The fourth ingredient is add in action building up to a key moment. E. The fifth step is to resolve the story, revisit the scene, sounds or central character and remember to leave your reader with something magic to hold on to. Try it out. Children love it. I usually get the children to copy their finished writing to their blogs, providing an authentic audience. Let me know if you try this out by commenting below. Would love to hear about different ways of using this.