Monday, 16 September 2013

Google Chromebooks and the WeVideo app

Last year I evaluated Chromebooks and the impact on learning

I have had the privilege of having a Samsung Chromebook on loan for a couple of months now which I've put into classrooms to try out.  We did a collaborative project around persuasive writing using WeVideo which is a Google Drive video editing app that allows you to record voice, upload photos, video, sounds etc. (Create, Connect App, WeVideo, then use by Create, WeVideo).

I tried out the 30 day trial collaborative Education version of WeVideo whereby users can collaborate on the same video at the same time.  What was interesting was that I was on my MacBook Pro and other students were on the Samsung Chromebook.  I had do download updates to Flash etc to get WeVideo to work on my MAC, however the Chromebook had no issues whatsoever.   Very impressed!

Here's a a draft version of the video we created.  Interestingly, you have to pay for the collaborative version of WeVideo ($200/year for 50 users), however you can just use the free version of WeVideo, which is a watered down version.  Not as many transitions and effects.  I am definitely sold on WeVideo as an  effective and simple tool to use across the curriculum.  I love how it ties in so nicely with Google Apps too.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

I don't have the time to learn or collaborate! Really? How can you afford not to!

I have found that whenever I talk to educators about Twitter, if they haven't used it before, a common response is, "oh I don't have time for that".

Surely at the heart of teaching is learning and building relationships!! Do you really NOT have time to learn new things or collaborate with like minded colleagues?   I would argue how can you afford not to!!

Twitter for me has provided some of the best professional development I've ever had.  I connect and collaborate with educators all over the world and most of the New Zealand educators I connect with I have had the privilege of meeting in person.

Amazing things start to happen when you do start connecting and participating on Twitter.  For example one night I was tweeting with @mrs_hyde who is a DP at an intermediate school in Rotorua.  She encouraged me to attend the Educamp unconference in Rotorua and mentioned @CaroBush was travelling down suggesting a carpool. The next minute @CaroBush (whom I didn't know) was tweeting saying she had space if I wanted to go.  To cut a long story short I ended up travelling down with Caroline and four other educators and we had the most amazing learning conversations in the 3.5 hour drive, and by the time we got to Educamp we'd already done so much learning.

I saw Jarrod from #pegeeks in Australia had created a 14 day twitter day challenge, which gave me the idea to create a 14 day challenge to encourage educators at my school to give Twitter a go.

I created this challenge in which is an online flyer.  So I challenge you to take the 14 day challenge!   You won't regret it.

Anyone for EduCafe Maths?

I have tried EduCafe style maths with a year 2 and year 5 class successfully.  So what is EduCafe style maths??

Divide children into mixed ability groups around tables.  I usually build a bit of fun into it by talking about how we are going to a cafe to do maths today etc.  

Each group must decide on a 'summariser'.  This is a person who will summarise the group's findings to a new group.  

On each table is an A3 sheet of paper with a problem to solve in the middle. Problems around each table vary in difficulty and type.  

Everyone must write down their own ideas and put their name on it.  To start, everyone has 5-10 minutes to solve the problem in any way they can think of.  They can draw it pictorially, describe a strategy etc.  Each group must discuss the strategy they used to solve the problem and check for understanding. The summariser in particular must be able to talk about the different strategies the group have come up with. You may need to remind children that it's ok to make mistakes.  (Classes that have already developed a culture around risk taking and learning from mistakes don't have any problems with this challenge.  If you have a class that aren't comfortable with making mistakes or don't know each other well enough to feel comfortable to do this, then let the summariser pick one strategy on the paper to summarise back to the new group).

When 5-10 minutes have passed, signal to change tables.  For year 2s I found it better that children all rotated one way, for year 5s I let them choose which table they went to next to shuffle everyone a bit (max 4 children at a table).

The summariser must not move tables, and their job is to summarise the previous group's strategies, to the new group, then that group tries to add any new strategies they can think of. 
And the process continues.

I found it beneficial to pull everyone together at the end and focus in on some of the strategies that were used to solve various problems.

Monday, 2 September 2013

How are you driving your own learning?

There are so many opportunities to drive your own professional development  these days, it can become a little overwhelming. Where do you start?

At a staff meeting I presented staff with some key professional development learning opportunities - best of the best - to encourage everyone to get behind that wheel and start the journey.   There is a little bit of something for everyone.

When presenting I like to use demonstrate the use of different tools, so this time I tried out Haiku Deck which is an app on the iPad which focusses on the visual side of presenting and you are easily able to select from a range of non copyright photos available at your finger tips through the app.  I found it quick and easy to use.  The downside is it doesn't offer voice and you can't hyperlink websites. (as a side note, I recently read a post which talked about importing a Haiku Deck into the Explain Everything app, then you can add voice that way.  When there's a will there's a way I say!

I have provided all links that are included in the presentation below.

Develop a Personal Learning Network
We need to be connected and collaborate as educators so we can not only continue our own learning journey but be role models for our students.  Our students are growing up connected and collaborating, therefore we need to get our hands in there, so we understand the world our students are growing up in!!!

Virtual Learning Network
A network developed through which teachers are connecting through in their droves.  If you want to find what iPad app to use for reading etc, this is the place to go.  Great place to share your own ideas to.

Connect to Teaching Ideas and Free Technology for Teachers which will be a  good start.  

I will do a separate post on Twitter as I have developed a 14 day challenge to twitter.  Twitter is the best PD I have ever had and I would really encourage you to get connected. Even if you start by searching on #ICOT2013 or #EdChatNZ, #GAFE.

These are six of the top blogs I would recommend to start with.
These are fabulous opportunities.  I love getting involved and presenting, but the formats also let you go along and observe until you gain confidence to get more involved.

So take your first steps and get 'driving your own learning'. 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

SAMR - Roadmap to ICT Integration

Over the last couple of months, I've been exploring SAMR in more detail and have presented on it twice, which I've included in this blog post.

What is SAMR?
SAMR is a roadmap to ICT integration that has four level; the first two being where technology is used to enhance the learning essentially as a substitute for pen and paper with added functionality like spell checker.  The next two levels take the learning from enhancement to transformation where more advanced tools are used to create new tasks using collaboration and sharing.  My presentations will explain this in more detail.

I've presented at EduIgnite   EduIgnite is an evening where educational leaders get together and share their learning.  The format has to be 20 slides and 15 seconds per slide.

Here is my slide presentation

I've had a few twitter conversations about the SAMR model.  I had one question asked, what is wrong with substitution?  I reflected on this, and our conversation talked about the fact there is nothing 'wrong' with substitution as such and obviously with a roadmap to integration you have to start somewhere.  This person felt there was stigma at his/her school around 'Substitution' and you were looked down upon when using this level of integration.  

The main point I feel, this is a progression so if you only ever do substitution then we need to think about 'are we using technology the best way we can for the potential it offers in respect of  being used to 'transform learning'.

Is it realistic to expect to be at the 'transforming' level all the time?

I think the majority of teachers probably do just use technology at the substitution level and the SAMR model is helpful as a guide to progress us beyond this level of use. 

In reality there will be times when substitution is more appropriate but if we are able to use technology to take us further to create new tasks then we owe it to ourselves to explore this further.

The levels make you more aware of how we use technology as a tool for learning.

I reflected some more and taught the SAMR model with various classes at my school and then ended up revising my presentation at a TeachMeet2  This is where each slide can only be 15 seconds long, hence the 'fast' talking.  I've included thinking around the key competencies from the NZ Curriculum and I've given practical examples of use at each level, also pointing out the benefits of each level.

This is my slide presentation;

This is the video.

This is a great video which focusses on the use of Google Apps using the SAMR Model.

Here are some extra resources that I found on the VLN which you might find of use.

Good luck with your journey.  Would love to hear from anyone choosing to take this SAMR journey and how it changes your practice.  @helenoftroy01

Sunday, 26 May 2013

What does a 21st Century Classroom look like?

Last week I attended the first Educafe being run in Auckland, New Zealand by Emma Winder.  This is where people get together to discuss educational issues in a particular format whereby everyone sits at  'cafe' style tables and there is a 'summariser' at each table.  You are given fifteen minutes to talk about a particular issue/question, brainstorming on paper and when the music goes, you go off to another table but the designated summariser stays behind, summarising what was discussed to the new people that arrive.  Then the same thing repeats itself.

A wide variety of people attended from Board of Trustees, Primary and Secondary educators.

The the poignant question discussed was:

We know there is a need for us to change our teaching for the 21st century, we know why this is, we’re working towards it,
BUT what does 21st century teaching and learning actually look like in practice?
It was great to get the different perspectives, particularly from a secondary level.  I'm going to focus on one idea that really clicked for me.
The importance of the  New Zealand Curriculum Key Competencies was a common thread amongst the discussions and noted as an essential part of the today's classroom, particularly thinking of future jobs (
The five key competencies are Thinking, Using Language, Symbols and Text, Managing Self, Relating to Others, Participating and Contributing.

Glen Taylor school from West Auckland mentioned how often schools do a blanket coverage of a key competency where one key competency for a week is focussed on, however each child at their school has a key competency as a goal that they need to work on.  Love this personalised learning.  So when a learning area is discussed, the children are reminded of their own key competency goal to focus on within this task.  

I think that a vital part of this will also be getting the children to reflect on the progress in their key competency.  I will certainly be trying this with teachers.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Today's children can google their mistakes! How well are we preparing our children for it?

I am in the process of developing a digital citizenship/cyber safety programme for Years 0-6 at school and am initially focussing on our year 5, 6 level.   Digital citizenship is not a ‘one off’ and should be a continual discussion in the classroom, particularly as situations occur.  This is very much the start of my journey with this, and I will share more as I progress further down the track. 

I started by looking at the resource that Claire Amos had instigated for NZ Teachers that NZ teachers had put together in Wikieducator.

I reviewed a few videos and wanted to try these out.  To start the conversation going, I worked with a year 5 and 6 class for one block talking about digital citizenship and showed 2 videos and they took an online quiz.   I got feedback from the children and it really made them think.  Fantastic, that’s exactly what we need kids to do nowadays.  THINK, particularly BEFORE they ACT. 

I am terrified for children growing up in this day and age.  In my day there was no internet, so any mistakes I made as a child are not searchable, but the reality is their mistakes will be searchable.  With the increase of mobile devices, pictures/videos are taken too easily and with no respect or thought for others putting things online.

It is important to talk about the attributes/qualities of a good digital citizen and how respect is such an important one.  We should ask permission before we post a photo or video that includes other friends out of respect to those friends.

I will now describe the process of what I did in these year 5 and 6 classes as follows:

What is a digital citizen?
We started our conversation by using and built an online wall (allows collaborative post it notes) and we explored the key attributes of a citizen, (after determining what a citizen was!).   Then we related these key attributes to online (just put online at the end of each attribute i.e be respectful online). I got this idea from Kevin Honeycutt who is an inspirational speaker from the States, very popular in NZ.

Digital Footprint:
Online safety, privacy, sharing and footprint

Next I showed the video "Digital Dossier" which goes through what a person's dossier looks like throughout the entire life starting in the womb!  There are lots of teachable moments throughout this video and it  is an eye opener as to how large their digital dossier is going to be.

Digital Footprint
Honesty, Integrity and Ethical Behaviour
The second video is all about digital footprint. It reinforces that everything you do do online can be seen by everyone and is there permanently and can be copied and passed on to anyone!

It looks at photos and has a silly photo of a child with pencils up his nose, which is a geat opportunity to talk about 'who' puts photos up on line.  I ask the children, "Do you think this child put this online for everyone to see? and this brings about great discussion. Great for talking about respecting privacy and other's privacy too.

After watching both of these videos I then took the children through the online quiz at
This gives great opportunities to discuss passwords and dodgy pop ups and dodgy emails.  The children really enjoyed this.
Note, whilst I did this in one session it could easily be broken up into serveral half hour sessions, although the children coped really well with the one session.  Their next task is now to create an online resource that they can share with parents and friends about what they have learnt to reinforce the learning. 
Note prior to these discussions I had taught children about Creative Commons which is all about copyright and how to license your work to share.  We had Matt from Creative Commons New Zealand Skype in and do a session.  The does this free for NZ schools. (Matt McGregor <>).  I have blogged about how I reinforced CC in the classroom too at

By the way, this Ted Talk on 'electronic tattoos' is an eye opener for teachers and talking about facial recognition.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Teaching the Five Ws for Orientation

This post explains the use of an MS Word feature to motivate writers to ensure they are using their five Ws in their orientation paragraphs.

I was teaching a year 3 class about including the five W's (who, what, where, when, why)  in their orientation paragraphs of a recount.

The children typed up their orientation paragraphs in MS Word and then we used Ms Word's call out feature found in Shapes (Insert, Shapes, Callouts) to add callouts to show where they had used the five Ws (or not!). I showed them how to hold down the Ctrl key while they dragged on a callout to do a quick copy. What was really interesting was that even the reluctant writers were engaged and motivated and could easily see which of the five Ws they were missing.

I observed one typically reluctant writer and once he had completed the above, he saw very clearly what he had to change and he went ahead and changed it all by himself resulting in the following:

On reflection, I think the advantage of using this method over pen and paper and highlighters is that it is much easier to edit in Word and editing and adding text using paper makes it look really messy.  Children like the ability to edit in Word and have an instantly good looking piece of work to present and of course learning a new tool (callouts and copying using the magic Ctrl and drag) also helps.

Other teachers heard about the success of this method and so the learning was shared. 
Love it when the learning is shared!!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Create a Complete Google Apps Resource in Minutes

Our school is going down the path of Google Apps and I have recently set this up together with Teacher Dashboard (manages classes with Google Apps easily).

I was having a look through what we could do with creating websites using the Sites feature of Google Apps and discovered a template which creates a full Google Apps resource and it's customisable.

Brilliant if your school is going Google Apps and using this provides a complete resource with videos, tutorials etc.

Here are the instructions.

Once signed into Google and in the Sites area of Google,

1. Create new Site,

2. Click on "Browse the Gallery for more"

3. Either scroll down or type in the search box "Apps",  to find the template called Apps Learning Centre.

4.  Complete setting up the rest of your Site, giving a name etc and customise your resource as necessary.