Digital Literacy

Here’s a link to an article by Clive Thompson about literacy – it seems a professor from Stanford has done a study over 6 years where she analysed student writing – from formal essays to emails, blog posts and chats.

The amazing thing she discovered is that today’s youth write more than in my day (think about it – those blog posts, tweets, emails etc you write today – we didn’t write like that when I was a kid – the only writing I did as a kid was an occasional letter (usually thank you one) or school work) and that they are adept at writing for an audience – because they know who their audience is.

Clive’s article is here.

Thanks to @zemote for the heads up on this one.

WikiEducator vs WikiSpaces

I’ve been doing a bit of editing in both wikis over the last few days and while they are both wikis there are many differences.

WikiSpaces has a number of shortcuts for changing different sections – cosmetic changes if you like. The coding is also different which made my initial foray into WikiEducator a puzzle as the formatting I was used to using didn’t work.

My Classroom Wiki Portal
My Classroom Wiki Portal
My WikiEducator homepage
My WikiEducator homepage

WikiEducator has a different purpose overall I think. As already mentioned there are differences in the coding but it has a very neat function where you can edit parts of pages rather than having to edit the whole page at once.

indicates sections of editable code.”]The [Edit] indicates sections of editable code.

WikiSpaces allows you to embed objects (such as forms and pages) but I’ve yet to find that feature in WikiEducator. (And since they’re embedded they change as you continue to edit them.)

Embedded Google docs
Embedded Google docs

I’m beginning to use WikiSpaces as part of my classroom curriculum delivery mechanism because it allows me to do the embedding (as mentioned above).

Part of Weekly Plan
Part of Weekly Plan

WikiEducator allows me to do other types of formatting too such as the box shown here.

Other formatting available
Other formatting available

I’m at the start of a 10-day wikieducator workshop – by the end I may well change how I use the two wikis. Time will tell.

eXe – an eLearning XHTML editor

I know that sounds a bit daunting but it isn’t really. This program is very good news if your school is running on Moodle – a bit like a car running on gas really!

I’ve signed up for an online workshop at wikieducator. I’m at home today recovering from a stinker of a headache and decided to do some more work on my profile and browse through some of the workshop and mastery pages ahead of time.

I came across a link to a tutorial about pedagogical templates where there was mention of eXe. Being a link clicker I followed that link and discovered some new software to play with.

How does this fit in with my use of google docs?
As I’ve posted before I’ve been using google docs – the docs I publish as a webpage and I use the forms tool to create online question forms.

Here’s an example of some homework questions about communication and you will see that #2 and #3 have links to wikipedia articles and to online forms in order to answer the questions. (Semaphore questions; Smoke signal questions)

In these examples you can see that students had to go to the first web page, open a second page to get to the wiki article and a third page to answer the questions. Clumsy. At least clumsy in light of what I discovered eXe can do for me.

Here is the eXe created equivalent document. It took me about 15 minutes to put together (mostly spent figuring out how to embed the google form) and save.

My school doesn’t have Moodle but I do have a dropbox account where I can host pages for others to access. So I exported the eXe file/bundle/package to a web folder and then renamed and moved the web folder to my public/shared folder in my dropbox. It automatically syncs to the cloud. I found the index.html file and got the public link to it and there we go.

For further reading you can check out these links:

Using Google Docs as part of teaching

I’m out of my classroom this morning for a literacy workshop. I’m not sure who the relief teacher will be but that’s ok – all my work is already online waiting for my students.

When my students arrive they turn the computers on and open up their assigned browser (long story!). Their home page is the class work blog. They read through the schedule for the day and then usually go on to play one of their favourite maths activities.


Today they will do the same but I won’t be there to see them through the first 1-1/2 hours. They can still do their work though and the relief teacher won’t have to do anything except manage the class.

I use google docs to plan my week. Then I publish it as a web page – this puts it into a format that is easily shared with my class (and others).


I hyperlink other work so that as I am demonstrating things for the class it’s easy to find them. The lessons are done the same way – I type up instructions – format them – and then publish as webpages – this makes it easy to hyperlink them in the class blog as well.

This is a shot from today’s maths:


I also set up maths activities (aka games) for the week and have them linked from one page:


When I come back into the class later in the morning the work is ready to go – I have this week’s spelling words linked as well as our reading activity for the day:


I’ve become a fan of google docs and find it frustrating when I have to use Word or even Open Office. One of the great things is I can still edit as I go – these are all living documents. Sometimes when several students ask me a question I then go back and write the answer up as part of the instructions. I do this quite openly in front of the students – it’s part of their teaching and learning as well as mine.

I’m happy to share the actual links with people so please let me know if you want to see the working documents.

Edmodo in the Classroom (and out of it too!)

At the end of July I was prompted to take another look at Edmodo when they released a new version. It was exciting to be able to chat with them and ask the pertinent questions – like age limits – NONE!

I created an account and set up a group for my class. I then created 6 group logins for each of their classroom working groups. Last week I introduced Edmodo to them via some questions and walked them through their first group login and chat post as well as assignment turn in.


I then introduced them to our communications starter activity and the questions I’d set in Edmodo.


When you post an assignment it looks a little different to a chat note and includes a due date. The students also have a “turn in” link to click when they want to turn in their answers.


As an the teacher I can see who has completed the assignment quite quickly by clicking on the “turned in” link – group members who haven’t turned the assignment in have a red highlighted “not turned in” under their avatar while those who have turned them in are shown as waiting for grading or graded.


After they’d had a chance to log in and complete questions over the course of a few days we’d ironed out most of the initial problems (hitting the spacebar makes a difference to your login name or password even if you can’t see it!).

One of my youngest students (turns 8 next year) who signed up last week when she was home sick (and completed quite a bit of the classwork as well) is using the DM feature to ask me questions about homework and where to find different information.

Today is homework day. We send homework home for 10 days. I wanted the students to create their own personal login and get into the habit of checking Edmodo for questions/assignments etc. Shortly after I arrived home from our staff meeting an email notification popped up telling me one of my students had sent a DM to me in Edmodo. Over the course of the following 2 hours several more students had signed up and were posting messages to me and to the class – and found how they could talk to each other by answering public posts!

I realise that having started this there is an obligation for me to be available for these students – but that’s one of the prices we pay when we work with Web2.0 tools. Another obligation is teaching them responsible use – I’ll let them have a fairly loose rein for this week while they’re learning what different areas do and teach them about appropriate posting and responses.

I’m happy because my students are excited about using technology in this way.

Thanks to the guys at Edmodo – you’ve got a winner here.

To teach or not to teach, that is the question …

Hamlet said:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

My deliberate misquote is about teaching. It comes out of a conversation I’ve just had with my DP where he told me some of his past parents are complaining that their children are bored at high school because they’re being taught maths they learned 2 years ago while in his extension maths class.

That reminded me of a twitter conversation I had with someone about some of the ways I’ve been using ICT in my classroom and how high schools need to catch up. It also reminded me of a conversation about the ‘luddites’ – those who resist using new technology in their classrooms. It used to be that we should wait for them to catch up. Now the thought is that we should continue our ICT/e-learning journeys in spite of where they are at. Some will eventually catch up; some will never catch up.

The question therefore is this: do we as primary school teachers with a passion for e-learning, ICTs, unlearning & relearning, follow our passion or do we sit back and wait to see what the high schools are going to teach? At the moment it seems that in many areas primary school teachers are leading the charge.

Another question is this: do I, as a passionate advocate for integration of ICT into all areas of my teaching and learning within the classroom environment, go with ‘the flow’ or do I stick my neck out and go with my passion? What will happen to students in my class who go into a classroom next year where e-learning isn’t central?

My decision (well – not really mine alone – my DP and Principal support me) is to continue to lead the charge in e-learning – and hopefully enthuse and encourage others to join me (and it is happening).

I guess the next question is this: how do we draw others along with us on this fantastic e-learning journey? For it is a fantastic journey and it’s one where we’re not the only teachers – my students (7-9 years old) teach me things all the time – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Inspirational Teachers

It’s not the technology in our classrooms it’s the passion and vision we have. This via Justine (Rt:@NZChrissy RT:@Shareski Via @ujdmc)

Twitter woes

Twitter is a fantastic tool – it’s been part of my online PD/PLN since I first signed up. But I woke up on July 28th to discover that my twitter account had been suspended! I immediately filed a support request to have it reinstated but have had no luck yet.

In the meantime I created a new account and am using that.

This is the shot from my @dragonsinger57 account
This is my new @KiwiJoe90 account
This is my new @KiwiJoe90 account

As you can see I have a little way to go. This time I’m concentrating on adding educators – if you were one of my @dragonsinger57 friends please add @KiwiJoe90 too.