This site has moved to a new location and changed to a different format. There are now 2 sites worth following – ‘ABCreative’ focuses on new ideas, tools and resources for educators, while ‘ABCreative Resources’ aims to provide a resource library of interactive tools. Please visit the following website for regular updates;
Richard Lambert and I recently presented at the VITTA 2009 ‘Slide to Open’ conference held at Flemington Racecourse. The session we took was focusing on ‘Digital Storytelling’ in the everyday classroom. We enjoyed sharing our past experiences working together on our ‘Movie Magic’ unit, but also had the opportunity to reflect on our own journey’s in 2009, as we are both now at different schools.
While there are always going to be different approaches and outcomes in different environments, there is no denying the power of storytelling and its effect on humanity. Throughout history, man has created new ways to share stories, and now in this digital age, storytelling has a new medium that is faster and greater reaching than ever before.
The presentation is very visual and relied upon our verbal cues, but you still get the idea and key points of our session. Thankyou to everyone who attended for your positive and enthusiastic reception to our work.
While the debate concerning the importance of focusing on the three ‘R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic will always be present in schools, I believe a focus on what I call the three ‘C’s is just as, if not more, important. I believe in fostering the concepts of creativity, collaboration, and connectedness in our students to support them in becoming positive contributors to society.
And so as to explain the importance of these ongoing life skills I am going to refer to how they impacted on four of the most influential human beings on the planet – John, Paul, George and Ringo, and have a look at what we can learn from them as educators.
Since the beginning of time, humans have searched for ways to express themselves, and in turn, share their stories, emotions, feelings and views on their world. In its earliest forms, man used cave paintings as a way of not only recording and sharing their stories, but as a form of creative expression. Over time, visual arts, music, dance and poetry all became vital tools in sharing our innermost thoughts and experiences. And where would Maths and Science be without creative and challenging thinking?
And in reference to the Beatles, there is no explanation needed. But it is important to note that by harnessing their creativity, the Beatles were able to take advantage of their talents and achieve things even they wouldn’t have thought possible.
In recent years, the development of computer technology which empowers the user to be creative and share their work easily with the world via the Internet, has seen the creation of a new medium of self expression. Now, at more than any other time in history, we have access to tools (such as Twitter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 applications) that allow us to share our thoughts, ideas and creative work immediately with the world.
Our challenge as educators is to continue to inspire this most natural of instincts in the everyday classroom. In a world that is becoming all the more data driven, often the first thing to be sacrificed are tasks and projects that promote creativity. Now, more than ever, educators need to be strong in their resolve to foster creativity. Share and celebrate experiences, good and bad, so as to promote creative thinking which could one day solve the problems of tomorrow.
The ability to co-operate, debate, justify, and reconsider are some of the most important skills we will use in our everyday life. Collaboration does not mean we always get along or agree on everything either. Some of the most brilliant ideas and work of our time has been born out of competition and appreciation for other people’s ideas. John Lennon and Paul McCartney are the perfect example of what can be achieved when you are inspired by another person’s ideas, but also forced to challenge and better yourself through a creative process. While the direction was given through a particular or number of people, all elements of the group were important contributors to the final product. Collaboration creates an opportunity for ‘synergy’ to occur – the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
Are we promoting these skills in our classroom? Collaboration does not always mean setting them off for ‘group work.’ We need to provide an environment where the students are clear on the task, its sequence and know how to move forward as well as time to explore, justify and debate their ideas.
While John, Paul, Ringo and George were all completely different individuals with their own beliefs, outlooks, talents and influences, their connectedness to the group was what they shared. They were able to create a trusting and honest environment where they could share their ideas with one another. The sanctuary of the group must have been even more import for the four men as their world became more public and chaotic.
Do our schools and classrooms reflect this type of connectedness? While our students are all unique, the one thing they all share is their connection to the classroom and school. It provides us with a safe environment in which to explore, make mistakes and learn. They are part of something that is reliable and has a certain amount of predictability through the routines of timetables, classes, teachers, etc. This is why the students that often have the most difficult time at home are the students who never miss a day!
Why do so many students ‘drop off” as they make their way through school? Are the size of our institutions and demands on teachers to educate masses of students leading to a sense of a lack of identity? Are the demands of timetabling overshadowing our most basic desire to belong? How can schools make more explicit, and provide an environment, where the teacher / student relationship is the most important factor for success?
So when you think of the three Cs, think of the impact that they had upon the greatest band of all time. Where would the Beatles, and as a result society, be without them?
In my role supporting teachers develop confidence and good pedagogy in their teaching with ICT, I aim to provide you with a weekly update of some of the gems I have found on the internet for my staff. Rather than post a page with links to a thousand items which you then have to spend time sifting through, I have created a resource of library which I have individually checked and deemed worthy of making the list. As teachers, we just don’t have the time, but by sharing, we can all help each other out.
So check back regularly for more updates, and please share any worthwhile activities you find with me for these posts.
By clicking on a link you will be taken to a preview of the activity. If you like the look of it, click on the picture of the page to be sent to the site.
Get your own ‘Web License’. . http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=101804&ac=0763a
Typing Tutor – http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=78027&ac=e0805
Fishbone Diagram http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=85282&ac=a5cd5
Hamburger (Planning for writing) http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=85287&ac=fefb7
General Early Years Links
Stories From The Web http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=100983&ac=81b83
Posters, Newspapers & Comics http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=94720&ac=76c1f
Aesop’s Fables http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=92200&ac=a3a5b
Alien Invasion http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=93761&ac=654ce
Writing K-2 http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=75221&ac=17e4b
Comic Creator http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=103554&ac=85be9
Story Starters http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=95972&ac=49b2c
Amazing Apostrophes http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=93764&ac=82b21
Colons & Semi-Colons http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=93762&ac=61594
Speaking & Listening
Oral Language http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=103556&ac=db0f1
Making a speech http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=93763&ac=f1c2f
General Interactives http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=86411&ac=62ffb
Number – Base 10 http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=95019&ac=c44d6
Number – Tables practice http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=81979&ac=f5d11
Measurement – World Clock / stats http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=100977&ac=9bfe2
Measurement – Ruler Game http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=93172&ac=73807
Handling Data http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=90002&ac=b566c
Geometry / 3D Shapes http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=104372&ac=010ac
Shapes all around us http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=104375&ac=54e4d
Carnegie Hall Listening Adventures http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=101620&ac=fa463
San Francisco Symphony http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=101621&ac=e165c
JamStudio – http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=101567&ac=0a51b
Art appreciation http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=103543&ac=944b2
Still Life http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=103534&ac=74216
Surreal Painter http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=101628&ac=4757c
Lost Bike http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=84692&ac=c9004
Mt Batur http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=84691&ac=1f88f
Key moments in Aus history http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=90453&ac=19a7b
Build your timeline http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=90452&ac=cc181
Mapping our world http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=94297&ac=e6058
Geography World http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=87123&ac=b75bc
Put Arnie back together (Hilarious) http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=98924&ac=2f700
Build Your Wild Self – http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=103553&ac=e5197
Stop Disasters – http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=102372&ac=adec6
Active Science – http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=100984&ac=10f0b
Wasteland Adventure http://simplybox.com/public/item/?id=102371&ac=c71a3
I am over the stats. I don’t care how many kids are using the internet, uploading to YouTube or the number of email accounts the average primary student may have. We all know that technology is here in a big way, so lets get over it and move on!
The most important stat to remember is this - the relationship between the student and teacher is the most influential factor in learning. Pretty simple, huh?
Maybe we should start refocusing on something more relevant as teachers – being human.
The alarm bells are starting to ring in the way technology is starting to take over the importance of relationships in some classrooms. While technology supports and extends learning in a meaningful way for our students, my fear is that many teachers are losing their connection with their students because of their focus on the technology. So no matter what amazing tool you are using, unless you are sharing your knowledge, skills and expertise in a way that is meaningful for your students, then you are having a minimal impact.
Consider these questions:
Are you becoming more accessible online than in person?
How much of your class time is being spent behind your computer?
Are your students interacting with each other in your class while using the technology?
Is the 1:1 laptop initiative taking away from your physical ‘connectedness?’
How much time are you spending seated behind a laptop in class, rather than ‘working the room?’
In such an influential moment in the history of education in terms of change due to the way technology impacts upon our students, and as access to new ideas and technologies becomes easier, faster and less expensive, let’s not forget the importance of being human. Sharing a joke, asking about their day, discussing their weekend…. all vital but sometimes overlooked. Only then can offering your support online be of true value.
We thrive on human interaction, so let’s make sure we are providing it in our classrooms. Let’s make sure we are using technology as just another tool in the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of educational strategies – not the only one.
For me, there is nothing more exciting in education than an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher doing everything in their power to maximise the learning for their students. With the array of resources and ideas available on the internet through the collaborative nature of forums such as Twitter and other social networking sites, there has never been a more dynamic time in education.
Yet in our desire to be innovative and on the cutting edge in order to inspire and engage our students, I believe we often sacrifice the quality and overall impact on outcomes in our haste to jump onto something new. Let’s face it, in our desire to be ‘innovative’ all the time, surely there must be a negative offshoot which no doubt impacts on our students.
For the people who know me reading this post, they will probably find it hard to believe it is me saying this. I am always looking to try new things and love nothing more than seeing the students lap up a new challenge. But every time something new has been introduced, it has been carefully planned, thought through, debated, justified and integrated because it was going to support, not overtake, the learning focus.
A crucial element often overlooked is time. How much time are you giving your students to firstly become proficient with the technology before you are moving them on to something new? Are they being given the opportunity to master the concept and take it places you would never have imagined? With the crowded curriculum, time is often the first thing teachers will cut back on.
At my school, we have embarked on a number of programs that have taken years to develop, yet are never the same from year to year. For example, our digital storytelling program has been running since 2005, yet no two years have been identical. In our desire to continually improve the organisation, effectiveness, student outcomes and overall product, the program is continually revisited. Yet the overall structure of the program stays the same, allowing routine and a clear understanding of where we are heading to be established for the students and teachers.
This consistency has allowed the students to master skills which has ultimately lead to the incorporation of other technologies. Some of these include developing a podcast site to share their work with the world (iSchool), and the use of Blogs and Wikis to support the process of making their films. But all of these developments would not have come about if we did not have an engaging concept to start with that could be built upon. Every effective teacher uses the same principle – come up with an engaging topic or idea, then investigate the best tools for scaffolding student learning.
I still recall the discussion with our school leadership team where we debated whether the concept was becoming ‘tired.’ Yet with the introduction of new and more effective tools, the students are improving their quality of work, and as a result, their overall outcomes. So if you have a great concept, stick to it, but reinvent it as the need arises.
So, let’s stop handing the kids the ‘toolkits’ before we have created a challenging ‘worksite’ for them to be used and get back to focusing on ‘quality workmanship.’
A checklist of thoughts to consider before implementing a new program;
- Am I prepared to support and allow the time for the students to investigate these tools?
- Once the student has mastered the tool, where could they possibly take it next? (Hopefully somewhere we never expected!)
- Where is your school heading with ICT?
- Are you taking other teachers with you, or are you creating pockets of innovative use in your school?
- What does this mean for the students? That is, when they leave your exciting classroom, are they entering a time warp back to the 1970s in some of the other rooms?
Disagree, or have any points to add to the checklist? I would love to hear your thoughts.
There is no doubt about it, there is a real sense of community around Mac users. It could be because we are often seen as different, and at times even persecuted, but it only makes most of our grins even broader as we reflect on what they are missing out on. Educators using Macs also tend to be on the same page – inspired, motivated, and excited about providing real and creative learning opportunities for their students.
So, Sue Tapp (Upwey) and myself have put together eMug (Eastern Mac Users Group). It has been created for educators in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne, Australia wanting to share ideas, new products and experiences in an informal way.
A big thanks to Mark Richardson and Deb Hicks for their initiative in getting the Western MacSchools Network up and running several years ago, and to Kim Mitchell and Peter Hine in the Northern Suburbs last year. In the true Mac spirit, these guys have been super supportive in getting the group up and running.
If you can’t attend the meetings, still join our group to particpate in forums, get the latest information and hints. Check out our website and join;
Click here to download an eMug flyer to put up in your staffroom.
See you at our first meeting!
**PLEASE NOTE: This conference is now to be rescheduled to September – Please stay posted for more information.
An exciting new PD opportunity for teachers in Melbourne is ‘Beyond The Basics’ which will be held at Coburg Senior Secondary College on August 1st. This event aims to provide teachers with practical ideas and hands on activities that can actually be taken back to their schools – a concept sometimes lost when these types of days inspire you, but don’t quite provide the know-how to get them going in your classroom.
Richard Lambert and myself will be providing two practical sessions for teachers;
Getting started with Web 2.0 (for beginners)
- What does it all mean?
- Why bother?
- What tools do I use?
- How do I get started?
- What does it mean for my class?
- What is Digital Storytelling?
- Why bother?
- Where does it fit into the curriculum?
- Stories from our experiences
- Examples of our work
- Assessing student progress
- Managing students
- Setting up a program for your class or school.
A big congratulations to Connecting Point, and particularly Gary Bass, for getting this concept of the ground and his overall enthusiasm for providing relevant and practical PD for teachers.
For more information, follow this link:
I am a lover of all things visual. The more clearly my information is presented, the easier it is for me, my students and colleagues in making sense of the world.
When trying to motivate teachers to start using technology in the classroom as a part of their everyday practice, it is vital that we make it as easy as possible. There needs to be a need, a clear purpose for introducing a new tool, that improves the way it may already have been done in the classroom. If it is not quicker, easier, and does not enhance the learning process, teachers will quite understandably avoid it.
In my last post, I highlighted the power of ‘SimplyBox’ as a way of storing and sharing resources over the Internet. Its visual nature makes it easy to quickly locate what you are looking for, rather than the hit and miss method of clicking on text links. Teachers and students love how easy it is to find the important information they want, store it and retrieve it when needed. After all, isn’t this one of the key strategies and skills we should be encouraging our students to have for their futures?
Another fantastic tool is ‘Shelfari.’ This amazing program allows you to create a virtual bookshelf of books you have read, or plan on reading. It also allows you to share the books you have read and share them with your friends. While you cannot read or download the actual book, it provides you with the opportunity to review wht you have read, keep a record of books and enter discussions about books with people from all over the world. For bloggers, it even allows you to create you own ‘shelf’ and add it to your blog – as you can see on my site here. There is even the ability to add your own books to the library.
This picture is a preview of all of the books I have added, reviewed and rated to my personal page. Imagine the power of this in the classroom? Students rating, reviewing, discussing, recommending, cataloging and searching for new books, all in a visual manner.
I am not an avid reader, but strangely enough enjoyed adding some of the books I have read, rating them, and searching for new titles I may like to read next. For the reluctant reader, I see this as a fantastic way to search for a topic I am interested in using the ‘tags’ facility, and then getting some honest reviews from other people who did and did not enjoy the book.
The biggest challenge for educators would be access to the site, depending on whether the filters at your school block it out. Check out the program, my ‘shelf’ and start exploring!
Over the last weeks, my school has been fortunate enough to gain funding which we have put towards getting interactive whiteboards installed throughout the whole school. However, since the beginning of the year, we have been heavily focusing on the needs of today’s students, and how we need to be making their learning relevant to their lives, and the world they are going to inherit.
It has been pleasing to see the positive approach the staff have taken. They have been playing with the software and becoming more aware of various Web 2.0 applications to suit their classrooms. Now that we have the boards, coupled with a new learning management system ‘Studywiz’ about to be introduced, the need to have organised and visual resources to support the staff is vital to their success.
This has been a massive challenge for me for quite a while – how can I create a digital resources library that is going to make it easy for teachers to not only access, but even contribute to, without me having to spend hours creating images and hyperlinking? Photos and even videos will be linked via the learning management system, but I needed something that could gather all the web based resources and links I have collected over the years.
Bookmarking sites like Diigo are excellent, but they were still not exactly what I was after. I want a visual interface where I can see what the bookmark is, making it easy for the teachers and students to quickly acces what they need.
Enter ‘SimplyBox.’ I absolutely love everything about this program. The ability to capture a snapshot of a page, drag into my box and then share it as a webpage has answered all of my needs. By sharing the page publicly, other people can now contribute to the page as well.
I have now set up a page within Studywiz which links to the relevant ‘box’ of visual resources. When the class clicks on the link, they are then presented with a visual library of resources – it is so simple and easy to find what they are after. After all, we are more likely to rememeber a visual cue than a bunch of text, aren’t we?
So a massive pat on the back to the guys at ‘SimplyBox.’ You have created an amazing product that is practical and easy to use. It also looks like the guys are keen to keep improving the product, as demonstrated by their integration with other sites such as ‘Twitter.’
Check out the introduction, and get ready to be ‘Simply’ Amazed!