4 weeks – 18 days – 84 hours

I wonder just how long it takes to learn “stuff”?

By that I mean learn it so that it becomes instinctive not just regurgitated stuff.

The title of this post is how long we’ve been at school this year and it doesn’t seem like a very long time at all. Yet when I reflect on all the learning that has happened so far I’m amazed.

I know that before school started this year most of my students hadn’t used Web2.0 tools at all. Most had been on computers to play games, some had use word processing software, and less than a handful had used/visited a blog or a wiki let alone actively engaged in either of those.

Not all of what we do is Web2.0 though. It’s just that we use Web2.0 to enhance our learning – and one of the early things I talk about with any class is that the best way I can be a great teacher is to be a learner alongside them so we learn together.

I’m aware that NZ teaching is a little different to other education systems (including the fact that I do all the teaching – there are no specialist teachers at our school) so I thought I’d give you a little idea on some of what we’ve done in our first four weeks at school. Our classroom is a little unusual in that it used to be the library and is not a standard box shaped room – this lends a real atmosphere to our class that other teachers are envious of.

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We have a deck and steps out from one set of doors and it’s a handy place to work on warm afternoons when there’s a cool breeze.

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I have bean bags and a couch which students can use when they are working – if they’d prefer to lie on the floor to work they can do that too.

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I also like to provide games for them to play during maths time or other times when they’ve completed their work and let’s not forget the joy of reading!

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At the moment we don’t have a school library to use (the librarian is unofficially part of our class for this term) and so we are walking up to the public library every second Friday to get class books out.

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Of course we’ve done maths and we’ve been looking at statistics – every one can now ask survey questions, collect data, create a graph of that data and talk about what their results mean.

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And we’ve been doing some testing traditionally done at the start of the year.

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We’ve even found time to have some fun and social times such as our Te Moana whanau assemblies and our Bike to School day.

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But how about some of the techie stuff? The Web2.0 stuff? We have a number of computers in our classroom – 4 of them actually belong to the school library so will be removed at the end of this term but that still leaves 9 computers with a possible 2 more coming from a parent. We run some on XP; one iBook (mine); an old Acer fitted out with Ubuntu (my daughters old laptop); and an older HP that I reformatted with Ubuntu too. Only 2 students had used an OS other than XP before the start of school – now all of them can quite happily work on any of the computers. As I tell the parents all that really matters is the browser (Firefox) that they’re using and that’s consistent over all the OS we use.

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The students have been using edublogs for their ePortfolios. Some have already memorised their (randomly generated) passwords. A couple of parents have already got into the act to comment on their child’s blog.

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Several of the students recorded themselves sharing their mihi (part of a formal greeting in Maori where you introduce yourself) and embedded them in their blogs.

Listen!

Some have videoed themselves reading their stories to add to their posts.

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We’ve used Google Wave and DropBox and the classwiki which is used to direct their learning. Next week we’re skyping into two classrooms – one in Dunedin and one in Hamilton to share some of our mihi and the following week we’re going to use Google wave to write some collaborative stories with a class in Dunedin and a class in Nelson.

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Every student in the class is using all of this technology. They may not all have it at home but they have very quickly grasped hold of this new “stuff” and are using it daily. Each week I have a new student email monitor who checks the class email account – our management is using email for school daily notices and all comments on our class blog are sent to the class email (which I monitor very carefully – these are only 8 & 9 year olds after all).

We even have used technology for our art work – I’m more of a music person rather than a visual art person and I’m rather proud of the fact that we’ve produced two major pieces of art already (that really is amazing for me!). Our first piece was around symmetry and created using the digital camera.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The second was using photos to enhance their art work. Students first planned their picture; then a buddy took a photo of them in their designated pose; then they cut out their photos and sketched their work and then coloured in their background and stuck the photo onto it. Pretty nifty work!

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So back to my original question – how long does it take to learn “stuff”. It seems to me that our young people who are not intrenched in negative ideas (you know the ones I mean – “but 5 year olds can’t do that!” type) and who are willing to have a go are able to learn fast – if they are given the opportunity to do so.

I think our school sign says it all – Raumati Beach School – where we learn, play and make friends. It’s a fantastic learning environment for anyone willing to have a go – children and adults – and I love working in an environment where discovery and curiosity is a valued part of the curriculum.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

Twitter to the rescue

It was a day like all other days …

… actually it was Friday – day #3 of the 2010 school year. According to my planner Friday is ePortfolio posting day – and yesterday was my students (8 & 9 year olds) first introduction to their Edublogs ePortfolios.

The first few went ok – they had cheat sheets to refer to if they forgot what to do and their login/password information was on a laminated card for them. I had 5 students working at a time on the computers. (Although I could have had 13 working at the same time I wanted a smaller number in case I had to problem solve.)

The problems started when the second person onto the computer went to log in – instead of arriving at their own dashboard they arrived at the previous person’s dashboard. I switched them to a different browser and that worked ok for the first person but the same problem occurred in the second browser.

Oh No!

Then one of my students published his post and got a pop-up message about it being spam.

More Oh NO!

I quickly wrote a message in the box on the page explaining that this was an 8 year old making his very first post, submitted it and went to my laptop.

Here’s where Twitter comes in. I knew that Sue Waters – Edublog guru and Aussie superhero was on Twitter – we’ve chatted on and off over the past few years. I sent two Tweets out to her explaining the problems.

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Within 30 minutes she’d responded with a solution for the first and fixed the second problem and even sent a message to my students explaining antisplog in kidspeak to them.

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Without the ready access to Twitter and people/experts this problem would have taken quite some time to fix. One of the good things with Twitter is that I can have DM (direct messages) sent to my cell phone so I had a sound alert that she’d responded to my call for help.

A huge thanks to Sue for her help.

As an aside – my tweeted messages and the responses weren’t private/hidden from my students – they saw me send the tweet and they saw the responses. It’s things like this that show them responsible use of Twitter.

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