Just came across this quote today from http://teachpaperless.blogspot.co.nz/2011/05/best-thing-about-chromebooks-its.html

Thinking about it, the real importance of the Chromebook is not the vendor, it’s not the device, it’s the fact that it makes the predictionthat the Web of the future is not just a place to go look for stuff, or even a place where we can share stuff and network, but rather it’s a place where everything is done.

Exactly how I think about Chromebooks!

Digital Art

I am not an artist – at least I’m not a graphic artist (although I am a musician!). Sometimes as a teacher it’s hard to inspire your students in an area you are personally weak in – like art for me. How is it then that we are currently completing our 3rd major piece of art in 7 weeks? (Given my reputation for lack of art work – in previous years I’ve used the excellent art ability of my CRT teacher to produce art work!)

The answer is a session I attended at Ulearn09 presented by my friend Rachel Boyd. I really attended it in order to pick up some information to share back with our junior teachers but I’ve ended up using the ideas for my classroom. Her session was called “Juniors can do IT” – and if you get a chance to attend one of her workshops you must because it really should be STUDENTS can do IT (and teachers for that matter). I’ve embedded one version of her slideshow below:

Our first piece of art is demonstrated in slide #21 – photo symmetry. Here’s our result:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The second piece of art was a kind of blue screening effect (slide #22) where the students sketched a picture with them in it; then a buddy took a photo of them in the correct pose for the picture; printed the picture and cut themselves out; drew the background and stuck themselves into the picture. Here’s our results:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The third piece (and not all finished) was a take on Andy Warhol style pop art (slide #23). We did two versions – using 4 colours for each set of 4 pictures. Instead of paint or dye we used pastels or coloured pencils for our pictures. Some of the colour choices were quite inspired.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by dragonsinger

The best thing about art work like this is it draws on my strengths (technology) and incorporates creativity. Thanks to Rachel I’m exploring new avenues of expression (as is my class).


I’ve seen the name Classtools.net around but had never been to the site until I read a review in the NZ Interface magazine.

I discovered that you can create all sorts of interactive flash activities for free to use in the classroom. I watched a video or two about how to use the site and decided to try out a couple of the activities. The most successful (and popular) was the arcade game generator. It was so easy to use. All you need is some questions and answers to put into the generator. You can then just click on play and up comes the screen with options for 5 games. My kids went wild playing the games – and they were all fraction questions.

Watch them in action – they’re quite noisy but listen to the excitement and fun they are having. One of them said today that the best thing about this week was that she now knew her fractions.

(Note that I had both my laptops in use by the students to compensate for 3 computers out of action.)

Keeping up with my blog reading

I suffer from the problem of not enough time to keep up with my RSS feeds – today I opened up Google Reader to discover 600+ items to read.

Luckily I sort into folders and some I’m quite happy to mark as read and be done with them.

Others I skim through quite quickly.

But the gems I click on the little double arrow to read in their original blog format.

These posts I savour – some I comment on – some I tuck away for further digestion during holidays.

Here are some blogs/posts that have come to my attention today:

Joe McClung posts about a student who was away from school – but didn’t spend all their time relaxing.

At the teacher’s desk is a collaborative blog – well worth the read.

My boss also blogs and this post about Art Costa caught my eye – specifically the initial comments about thinking:

1. Learning to think

2. Thinking to learn

3. Thinking about our thinking

4. Thinking together

5. Thinking long term and short term

Tom Barrett always has things worth reading. He creates some very useful presentations that are just that – useful/helpful/practical.

This particular post talks about using Wordle

and Voicethread

in the classroom. As I use both of these already (in a limited way) I’m interested in these slideshows.

Andrew has posted about the “crazy ones” – I love this – I have one of the limited edition apple “think different” watches – what’s so different about it? It runs backwards!


(This isn’t my actual watch – but this is what my actual watch looks like!)

Kids can totally blow you away …

Yesterday we used a blog to facilitate our SODA (start of day activity based on Tony Ryan’s Thinkers Keys). The students worked in their groups to come up with their ideas. Then they commented on the post to record their ideas.

Picture 2

All the groups worked well and came up with fantastic ideas. I have developed a sheet that sets out exactly how to do their commenting.

Picture 3

Then I showed them the process I went through to moderate their comments (and incidentally demonstrated why I wanted the particular layout in the comments) and published their ideas.

Then last night when I was doing some more work I happened to notice that there was a comment awaiting approval. When I checked it out I was totally blown away.

Picture 1

While we have been learning about critiquing (voicethread) I’ve not talked at all about commenting like this in blog posts. This was totally student initiated – and Drew is a 7 year old, Year 3 girl.

It’s so inspiring when you see your students starting to respond independently like this.

Blocked websites, drama and connectiveness oh my

Today started off with lots of drama. I went to school early knowing I needed to finish up last night’s work in rearranging the classroom. Just as well as I discovered that the ethernet cable I laid (and duct taped) was faulty. No problems replacing it and firing up the computers. I flicked onto the internet and thought my eyes were deceiving me – Watchdog had blocked my home page on my classroom computers. Thinking I’d clicked on some strange link I tried again – still the same blocked message.

“Oh FLip” I thought (ok – that’s not exactly what I thought but I’m sure your imagination can fill in the appropriate words!) I went over to the office and expressed my dismay to Mike, our principal. After some investigation we discovered that Watchdog had blocked Blogger/Blogspot – Mike had a blog there which was also blocked – not just my pages.

Mike phoned Watchdog and left a message and I went back to my classroom to get the day started. Luckily today is Friday and we start the day out of the classroom with syndicate singing, Jump Jam and usually (but not today) School Assembly.

By the time we got back to the classroom and check the website it had been unblocked! The cheer from my students almost raised the roof.

The rest of the day went well apart from me forgetting to send student portfolios home (will do that on Monday.) Here are a few glimpses of my rearranged classroom.

I stood on a chair to get this shot – gives you an idea of the four radial groups each with desktop comps and the two group without comps.

Another shot of the radial groups.

One of the groups brainstorming – trying out the Wallwisher brainstorming site.

This group was planning today’s skype session. They read the guidelines and wrote their script and assigned tasks. (And did a fantastic job – we had problems with skype and they remained patient throughout the whole session.)

Two groups have no desktop computers. I brought in my personal iBook for a group to use – they had a quick lesson in how to use a mac and away they went. (When I first got a laptop under the teacher scheme I was very precious about it – I still am – but for this I’m making an exception and until I can get another computer I will supply my own.)

This group is working on my teacher laptop (MacBook).

So the day turned out ok. But oh my … what on earth possessed Watchdog to block Blogger/Blogspot overnight?

Classroom Groupwork

I’ve been working on how my students do their work in the classroom and being inspired by other teachers blogging about their experiences.

I took some photos today of 4 of my groups working. (I have 4 students who go to another (new) class from 9:30-12:30 due to size of our classes.) The 5th group was doing publishing.

This group is working on some independent non-fiction texts.

This group is brainstorming their group Autumn Acrostic outside on the deck. They then went back to their assigned computer and to this blog post and added their acrostic as a comment.

This group was doing handwriting. I like to liven it up and so they got to copy the first two stanzas of a funny poem. I’ll give them the second two next week.

I’m using my old iPod mini for the listening post – if I can get some cushions then I could let them go outside and listen there.

After the story finished the group had to go to the computer and answer the questions about the author and the story in a comment on this blog post.

When the kids arrive at school tomorrow they will find their classroom changed. I had 3 monitors on an expanda box and one separate older computer. They were all lined up along the wall. Now they are in the middle of the room with 4 groups radiating out from them. I still have to get another 2 computers for the 5th & 6th groups but this is a good place to start.

Learning journies

I blogged during the holidays about taking a new direction in my classroom teaching/management and thought it was about time to reflect on how it is going so far.

Term 2 I want to explore some possibilities. So these are my ideas so far:

* Desks are grouped in 5 table groups of 6
* Students will have a “home” group where they sit for admin purposes (Roll/SSR/End of Day etc) as well as for topic – they are mixed Y3&4/boy&girl
* Each table group will have a specific purpose during maths & reading/language time that will be the same each day (teacher, equipment, knowledge, investigation, basic facts practice for maths; teacher, reading activities & Word of the day, handwriting, writing (draft/editing/publishing), reading (buddy, library etc) for reading/language)
* Students will be in 5 groups and will rotate around the table groups over 4 days (I think 2 rotations per session especially while we’re trialling this)
* Students will also have a chart/poster of “other” activities they can go on with if they finished the assigned activity

This is really an adapted backbone idea but the activities are going to be varied – for instance:

* Publishing of work will have choices in format – on paper/blog/word/photo
* Some activities will be available via mimio and/or classroom computers
* The students also don’t have their “own” desk to return to – they have a home group (this is made easier by the fact that they have tote trays elsewhere with their stuff in them); the big difference is that while the activities may be similar to what they’ve been doing already they are not returning to “their” desks to work in isolation and some of the activities will now be a group activity rather than an individual activity

So how am I going so far:

  • students are quite settled into having a home with no specific desk – very much first come first choice of seating – some students are moved because they’re too chatty or off task but mostly they seat themselves and are quote happy about it
  • the groups for the maths and reading/language time are working well – they are grouped in 5s and aren’t all at the same exact levels but are close enough to work together
  • I’ve moved from the old ‘sitting in the teacher’s chair while the reading group sits on the floor’ to sitting at one of the table groups for doing reading activities – I really want a kidney shaped table for that purpose but this is working ok for now
  • having a specific purpose for each table group during the curriculum time works very well – it took some time to set up but they know to read instructions and to get on with the work
  • I set up a listening post using my old iPod mini – I’ve got a bunch of stuff on there including a number of short stories from NZ authors as well as some stuff for the whole class – we’re listening to Harry Potter #1 this term & our syndicate Jump Jam is on there as well
  • so far we’ve published to our class blog and I’m keen to go as paperless as possible – the fact that people from overseas had read their writing and commented on it was very powerful for them
  • My next move is to incorporate the use of Google Docs for some of the classwork – Google Forms is a good place to start and instead of just printing out worksheets with questions I’m going to try creating them and linking to them in our class delicious – that way the instruction can be to “go to the delicious page and click on the link entitled xxxxx” instead of printing out heaps of paper.

    I’m also looking forward to Google Wave – the possibilities of collaboration in writing/reading/maths between classrooms (my mind is whizzing ahead at 100 kph here) will be fantastic.

    I think by taking this journey step by step I’m having more success than I have in the past when I’ve tried to do too much in one go.

    I’ll be checking back in later in the term regarding this fantastic journey we’re on.

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