Saturday, May 30, 2009

Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference Report

I mentioned in a previous post that I had attended this conference. For my University studies I needed to write a more detailed report, so I thought I would share that with you here as well...

The Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference was held at the University of the Sunshine Coast on 4-7 May. Educators from Australia and the Asia/Pacific were in attendance. Given that it was a Microsoft Conference, we were able to connect to the Wireless Network during the Forums, and many people brought along their laptops. I’ve been wanting to try backchanneling for myself prior to trying it with my students, so I got a few other people on board and we had chats going in Skype and Twitter throughout the sessions. I also tried using Webspiration to record my notes to reflect on later.

Day 1

In his keynote “The Compelling Case” Bruce Dixon outlined three phases of globalisation, and described the current phase as being about people collaborating – “Communication as a leveller, collaboration as the glue”. He spoke about sharing our planes, humanity and rulebook, and using creative problem solving as collaborators communicating across the world. Bruce then went on to explain how technology has led to rapid knowledge growth, which has increased too rapidly for the current model of learning. He stated that innovation in a technology-rich learning environment can: provide greater opportunity for meeting the diverse needs of learners; promote new dimensions for pedagogical innovation; give us a platform to better understand teaching effectiveness and leverage what personalisation offers learners; challenge us to look for more appropriate and effective means of assessment; and allow us to re-imagine the curriculum.

Professor Sohail Inayatullah spoke about Transformational Learning and the role of visioning and design. He helped us to consider the various options for the future including the default future – were nothing to change, and our preferred future. He led us through a meditative process to visualise the future. I found this process really helpful as prior to this session I hadn’t really pinned down my vision for education in the future. I had been heading along my own little path in a general direction rather than making purposeful strides toward a goal.

Laurie Campbell then took us through the components of Transformational Learning and how this model can be used to implement change in school environments. The components are: strategic plan, workforce capacity, innovation/entrepreneurship, curriculum, pedagogy, enabling learning environments and networks and partnerships. He shared a mapping tool that schools can use to determine their current position and consider future direction.

Sean Tierney and Bruce Dixon ran us through the steps to using a 1-to-1 laptop program to personalise learning. They explained the reasons for adopting such a program and the factors required for successful implementation. As my school is on the brink of purchasing laptops for classroom use, this session was particularly helpful. I will be guiding staff through the process using the 21 Steps to 21st Century 1-to-1 Success. You can also see the presentation here.

In the afternoon Kristine Kopelke spoke on the topic Addicted to Learning. Kristine dedicated time to doing what we all know we should, but don’t often get around to – she found out what children were already using ICT for. Her list of 21 Tools for the 21st Century was the conglomeration of her findings. You can see her presentation here.

Day 2

On the second day we learnt about Enabling Environments. Sean Tierney described some new designs for learning spaces that are being trialled in schools around Australia. He provided further guidance on how to create a library space that functions effectively to meet the needs of learners in the 21st Century. Laurie Campbell spoke about Virtual Environments and the use of The Learning Place in Queensland. Through the backchannel, our regional director gave us some insight into what we hope to be able to achieve with the new Virtual Learning Environment that has been put to tender for our Department of Education.

We then visited Chancellor State College, a P-Graduation school. They have been recognised by Microsoft for their innovative approaches to teaching and learning. They are a young school and have focused a lot of their resource budget on computer technologies, however they don’t appear to be using much more than other schools I've seen. One of the things that Chancellor State College does well is communicate what they do. They have a great logo that encapsulates their vision and values and their promotional video is very appealing.

After lunch we had a series of ‘unconferences’ – these are presentations given by the attendees that people can select and leave if they discover it isn’t helping them. I presented about connecting with parents through the use of email, blogging, podcasting and My Classes. I visited two other sessions: one about a 1-to1 laptop program being used in a Queensland school; and the other about a primary school that uses recording equipment for media studies.

To finish up on the second day, Adrian Greig presented about new and emerging technologies. This was a lot of fun and gave us some insight into where the technology is headed. You can see his presentation here.

Day 3

On the final day they ran us through the Microsoft Innovative Schools projects and explained how we can apply to move to the next level to receive additional support from Microsoft. The regional representatives attended meetings to find out how much money Microsoft will be providing to schools this year through its new budget. We had some planning time to consider how we will use all the things that we learnt over the conference.

I’d also like to mention that a significant part of the conference for me was networking with other educators and hearing what they are doing and how they have made it successful. It was a very valuable learning experience that gave me a lot of information to digest about the future of our schools. I’m looking forward to going back over the video presentations to learn from them again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Gold Mountain #1

This week my literacy class started reading New Gold Mountain: The Diary of Shu Cheong by Christopher W. Cheng. This is an historical fiction which is part of the "My Australian Story" series. It tells the story of life on the goldfields at Lambing Flat, NSW in 1860-1861. Shu Cheong, a fictitious character travels to Australia to find gold to take back to his village. On the journey both his father and third uncle die, leaving Shu Cheong alone in a foreign country. The local Chinese Society arrange a foster parent (Uncle) for Shu Cheong and it is at this point that we pick up the story.

Summary of Pages 1-30
The first thirty pages introduce us to Shu Cheong and life on the goldfields. As time passes, more people arrive, and tension begins to develop between the Chinese and the Europeans. Shu Cheong learns how to swim and longs for the day when he can begin earning gold to pay his way home to his village.

Code Breaker: Begin a vocabulary chart with the class. Add to it vocabulary from the text along with definitions. This can continue to be built up throughout the term.

Text User: Explain about the historical fiction genre. Explain the meaning and purpose of a 'preface'.

Text Participant: Look at a map of the area where this story takes place. Students begin a chart to show the historical facts in the story, the fictional elements, and the parts they're unsure of.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Let them touch the tools

This week I've been thinking a lot about the magic students can do when you give them the tools. I think that often we're too scared to give kids tools to work with. We may be worried that they will break them or that they'll lose them or even that they might hurt themselves with them. We spend so much time focusing on the negatives that we may not even consider the potential of allowing students to use them.

When I was away on camp, I handed around my camera and the class' flip camera. It was really enjoyable to see how each student approached movie making. It made me realise that some students are great interviewers, others have excellent camera presence and still others are budding documentary makers!

We've also been testing out some tools from yesteryear. Descendents of Tom Lester (who found the gold that started the Australian gold rush) presented a workshop on gold for students yesterday, and they got to find 'gold' amongst the gravel using a cradle.

Later in the day, we had the opportunity to go up the Ridge again and do some weeding. Students worked in pairs with specially made hoes to dig out the verbascum up there. It is amazing the impact 60 students can have when they all work together to pull weeds for half an hour.

So, moral of the story? Whatever you're doing and whichever technologies you're using, put it into the hands of the kids. It's worth it. You'll be amazed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Fun - 22/5/09

Wow! What a whirlwind week! This week was jam packed with all sorts of fun learning and not much in the way of sitting in the classroom.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we had our Year 4 camp which was a lot of fun. I even had a go at the archery and took on the instructor. Students picked who they wanted to back. (I won!) You can watch the video below. On their return to school, students used Debono's Six Thinking Hats to reflect on their experiences.

Time Travel in Australia's History
On Monday we had the first in a series of visits from "Captain Lister" who is taking us back in time to learn about Australia's history from colonisation through to 1900. Students powered the time machine, with static electricity, by rubbing their heads. The multimedia presentation showed us going back in time... before High School Musical...before iPods...before computers...before telephones...etcThis week Captain Lister took us back to 1770, when Captain James Cook explored and mapped much of the eastern coast of Australia. Students got dressed up in costumes as Captain Cook, botanist Joseph Banks and William Hicks. They learnt about this journey and life aboard a ship.
Joseph Banks had a go at drawing a kangaroo and we saw a copy of the original picture he drew. We then hopped back into the time machine and returned to the current day.

Lucky Phewa - Zulu Celebration
Lucky Phewa, a performer from Durban in South Africa engaged students with his "Zulu Celebration". Students really enjoyed the music he shared with them and had the music bug for the rest of the day. They really got a great feel for the rhythm.

A New Song
Mr Tucker taught us all a new song called Down River by the Wilcannia Mob. This Australian hip hop song was created and recorded by five boys aged 8-12 in 2002. The boys share their own story through rap and the backing sounds of the digeridoo. You can find out more about their project at Down River.

Australian History Projects
Students have been continuing with their work on the culture and lifestyle of different Aboriginal clans prior to colonisation. We had some more time to work on the computers for research and publication. Many students are creating PowerPoint presentations...
Some are creating Museum Boxes...And others are recording audio files with the Snowball...We are trying to get as many opportunities to use the computers as possible in order to complete these projects. Students are learning a lot about ICT as they use it for real purposes in connection with their classroom learning.

Year 4 Camp 2009

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we took students on the Year 4 Camp. The camp was located about 30 minutes drive from the city, and it was nice to get out and explore nature. Students had the opportunity to explore a range of activities they don't usually get the opportunity to try including archery, orienteering, frisbee golf and initiatives (team problem solving challenges).

We went for a bushwalk on the first day, and after a steep climb, we enjoyed the view from the top (photo by RE). We had a short skit night, with students creating their own skits and performing in front of their peers. I was impressed by the courage students showed when performing their songs acapella. Later that night we had a campfire where we sang songs and toasted marshmallows.

On the second day we learnt about the wool industry and visited a wool shed to see a sheep being shorn. Students then got to pat a lamb that is about 6 - 8 months old. They got a sheep ear tag and some wool as souvenirs.

The kids had lots of free time in between meals and activities and as always, there were dramas of 'trashed rooms' and imaginative tales of murders that took place during the night! A couple of boys worked out how to create face paint with rocks and painted their faces on the last day. (Parents weren't so impressed!)

I took along the flipcam and a camera, and a couple of students brought along their digital cameras with video capacity as well. We passed the flipcam around for students to interview one another throughout the camp and on the trip back on the bus. The trip was well-recorded on film and now students can play around with the images to create photostories or movies with the recordings.

I experimented with updates to parents using our My Classes page, but I found the video files had to be quite small and they took a long time to upload. On the positive side, we set up a collaborative journal for parents to leave a message for their child, and when a new message came in, I showed it to the student on my iPhone and they could respond by adding a comment to the message.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Get a Free History Education Online

As I'm currently teaching about Australian History with my Year 4s, I thought it might be nice to share some resources about history that are relevant to people in other areas of the world (particularly the US). Karen Schweitzer approached me with this guest post:

Some of the best colleges, universities, and learning institutions offer free history courses and other educational materials online. You can use these resources to increase your own knowledge or enhance your students' classroom experience:

MIT History Courses - The Department of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology makes nearly 100 free history courses available online through the school's Open Courseware program. All of the courses are designed for college students at the undergraduate or graduate level. The majority can be translated into multiple languages and include a wide range of materials for self-learners.

FREE - FREE (Federal Resources for Educational Excellence) is dedicated to providing free teaching and learning resources from federal agencies. History topics on this site include American history and world history. FREE offers images, documents, videos, and other learning materials.

History Channel Classroom - This History Channel mini-site is a great place to find free history education online. The site has a "day in history" feature, video clips, quizzes, activity suggestions, and other learning resources. Teachers will like the site's study guides that can be downloaded for free. Each guide is designed to accompany History Channel Classroom programs. Pages can be printed and include quizzes, classroom activities, and discussion topics.

BRI eLessons - The Bill of Rights Institute offers topical eLessons aimed at teachers who want to teach students more about America’s founding principles. The free eLessons are delivered via email and include historical content, classroom activities, discussion topics, and other educational materials.

Civics Education - Civics Online, a collaborative online project, provides a wide range of learning tools, classroom activities, and other educational materials for parents, students, and teachers who want to learn more about civics. The site also links to a number of online libraries and primary sources for civics education.

American History - Known as Crossroads, this website is a joint effort between The Sage Colleges (Troy, NY) and the Niskayuna School District (Niskayuna, NY). The goal of Crossroads is to provide comprehensive K-16 curriculum in American history. The curriculum is organized by historical period and grade level.

Bridging World History - This free world history course from is comprised of 26 chronological units. Each unit includes a 30 minute video and online text. Other course features include a database of audio pronunciations, historical images, and activities.

The First Thanksgiving - Scholastic offers several free online history courses, including this course about the first Thanksgiving. Students can take a virtual voyage on the Mayflower, learn more about the daily life of pilgrims, and explore a wide range of related topics.

The American Civil War - The University of Washington offers a comprehensive online course with a focus on the American Civil War. The course is split into four easy-to-manage modules and includes everything students need to gain an understanding of the circumstances that led to the war and the government aftermath.

Geography, U.S. History and Government - This free course from Western Governors University was created specifically for online learners. The college-level course was meant to be completed over a period of 12 weeks, but is set up so that students can learn at their own pace. Covered topics include colonization, topography, citizenship, civil liberties, and early government.

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer who writes for, a site that provides university information for students.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Explore the Galaxy

I am really excited about this week's tip and I'm hoping you won't have already heard about it, as it's been passed around in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) quite a bit this week. (From Silvia Tolisano on Twitter, to Paul Hamilton's Blog, to Teachers Love SMART Boards, to you! Will you pass it on as well?)

Tag Galaxy brings tagging to life and makes searching through Flickr photos fun. It's too hard to explain in written words so I made a little demo video for you. Please check it out and explore Tag Galaxy for yourself.

For more Tech Tips, click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dealing with Disappointment

Today I thought I'd take a moment to consider the ways we deal with disappointment. It's something that we all deal with throughout life: beginning with our first running races, the birthday gifts we didn't receive and those frustrating claw machines that never give you the stuffed toy you wanted. I'm hoping that thinking about it can help us to be more understanding of our own emotions and the way we support others (including staff members and students) who feel disappointment. It might also help us with being the bearers of bad news.

Many things disappoint us including:
  • missing out
  • failing to achieve
  • making a mistake
  • losing
  • bad news
  • when things don't go the way you expected
Disappointment is a hard emotion to deal with. We tend to think of it as a bad emotion that we need to hide. We don't want to let it effect us and we try to console ourselves so we won't be embarrassed in front of others. Sometimes, we won't tell people that we're hoping for something, because we don't want to have to tell them that we failed. Disappointment can be embarrassing and humiliating.

When disappointment first hits, it may catch you by surprise. Often I haven't realised how much I've wanted something until I've been told I can't have it! In the moment before the bad news is given, there is still a chance that it will be good news. The moment the bad news is received, the good news is no longer a possibility. In that moment, one possibility dies and the other becomes reality. Your mind and your emotions have to deal with this grief and accept the new reality, preferably without any sign of emotion to those who are around you. None of us wants to be seen to be a poor loser.

Unfortunately, this isn't easy. I've decided that I have a limited time span during which I can hold back tears (hopefully long enough to remove myself to somewhere private!). Other people display their initial disappointment through anger. In some circumstances, people try to fight for the reality that has been taken from them.

So, where to next? After the initial confrontation with reality, we have some time to let things soak in. I always find that I am bombarded by mixed messages over the next few hours. If it's something I worked really hard toward, I feel lousy about my own ability. I try to find some consolation, you know the old "It wasn't meant to be...Something better must be just around the corner...Maybe next time". These phrases are great when trying to convince other people that you're not feeling hurt at the outcome!

Other ideas start floating through my mind too - some to do with giving up (!) and others to do with how to improve chances for the next time. Obviously the second set are much more productive. After I've had some time to deal with the initial emotional upheaval, I'm ready to talk to others. I usually find comfort in talking through my thoughts with people I trust. Alternatively I might write down my thoughts and feelings to help me sort through them. (Okay, okay, so I faced some disappointment today - can you tell?!) I let my husband know straight away and he is very good at helping me think through things. We usually have a nice dinner (or I might buy myself a tasty cheer-up treat).

Possibly the biggest part of dealing with disappointment is being brave enough to risk disappointment again. For some people the thought of possible failure or disappointment stops them from stepping out and trying anything new. Yes, they avoid disappointment in that area, but doesn't it limit their potential as well? If we only try the things for which we are guaranteed success, then won't we miss out on developing our capacity?

What are your thoughts? How do you deal with disappointment?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Unity of the Head and Heart

What follows is a report I wrote for my Leadership in Learning Organisations course. I received it back with comments that it is a bit idealised, so please keep that in mind as you read. Also keep in mind that I'm still waiting to try out an Educational Leadership role, so most of what I have written is what I will aspire to, possibly not considering all the challenges and road blocks along the way!

ACT schools are currently undergoing a great deal of change as they continue to implement Every Chance to Learn and ensure that they are covering the Essential Learning Achievements through their school curriculum. The introduction of the Quality Teaching Model in the ACT has lead to a further period of transition as schools determine how this will inform school practices. Our schools go through cycles of change as we modify practices in line with the requirements of school and system. Effective leadership is required in order to meet the challenge of change.
The ACT Department of Education has recognised the need to enhance the capability of our aspiring leaders in these changing times. In response they have designed a new School Leadership Framework and are supporting aspiring leaders through the Targeted Scholarship Program and through their own Leading to Leadership Program.
In preparing this report I considered my own experiences alongside contemporary research and the new capabilities outlined in the School Leadership Framework.

Unity of Head and Heart
Today's educational leader needs to develop essential characteristics of both the head and the heart. With the head, the leader takes responsibility for deepening knowledge, creating vision, strategising, organizing people and resources and reflecting upon growth and learning. With the heart, the leader takes responsibility for connecting, communicating, inspiring and supporting others. These traits are necessary for guiding the school community in building and sustaining an enriching learning environment.

Traits of the Head
In The Fifth Discipline (1994), Peter Senge outlines three key elements for improving the growth of learning organisations:
  • Aspiration – which involves Personal Mastery (the commitment to lifelong learning and improvement through reflection and adaptation) and Shared Vision (the development and communication of a shared vision for the future and a plan for aspiring to it).
  • Reflective Conversation – which involves Mental Models (reflecting thoroughly on and questioning our deeply rooted images and ideas about the world) and Team Learning (dialogue that brings out an intellect unachievable by separate individuals).
  • Understanding Complexity – which involves Systems Thinking (the ability to understand the way systems work and use advantageously).
Generally speaking, these are traits of the head. They require deep thinking and understanding both individually and communally.
Today's leader needs to be knowledgeable in current research, principles of education and system priorities. Such knowledge informs the design of a school vision and a strategy for school development. It is vital to keep abreast of contemporary discussion around educational issues in order to maintain relevance to the changing needs of students and society as a whole. A wise educational leader will determine which trends are of most significance and pour appropriate time and people power into these endeavours. Without knowledge and understanding, the educational leader lacks appropriate direction and accountability.
Educational leaders need to engage in regular reflection both on their own practices as a leader and also the effectiveness of the school community in meeting the needs of the students. This is done through the regular School Review process, Principal Appraisal, Professional Pathways and other in-school reflection processes. National testing provides one means of examining the strengths of a school's educational program and with appropriate reflection, leaders can use this information as a guide for change.

Traits of the Heart
In recent years there has been a greater emphasis placed on the social-emotional capacity required for leadership. In their research, Goleman (1998) and his colleagues found that while IQ is a factor in determining what vocation a person obtains, EQ (emotional intelligence) plays a significant role in determining whether that person becomes a leader within that vocation. Goleman extrapolates that emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills – are essential traits particularly in the highest ranks of leadership.
Generally speaking, these are traits of the heart. They require a greater capacity for understanding self, a passion for the work and an ability to work effectively with and respond to the needs of others.
Leadership from the heart begins with a genuine care and concern for the individuals in the community. In creating a learning community, people need to be able to come together and experience learning and growth in a supportive environment. It is the responsibility of school leaders to connect with people in the school community and also develop partnerships beyond the school walls. They will see the skills brought to the community through its many members and will encourage and support people to use and develop these.
Leaders who demonstrate a passion for their work inspire others, and with the right nourishment and guidance the community will work in solidarity towards the school vision. A wise leader will consider the positions and concerns of others within the school community and guide them through the transition period when change is required.

In Conclusion
As demonstrated here, there are many traits that are essential for effective educational leadership. Contemporary ideas have expanded to include not only traits of the head, but also traits of the heart. A unity of these elements is required for the development and growth of an enriching learning organisation. The ACT Department of Education and Training has included these elements in their new School Leadership Framework. With any hope, this will lead to the development of a new form of leader with the necessary skills to guide schools through learning and change in the future.

List of References
ACT Department of Education and Training, School Leadership Framework
Goleman, D (1998) What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, 1998.
Senge, P (1994) The Fifth Discipline, Doubleday, New York

The pure and honest truth...

In my previous post I mentioned how students read through some books nominated for awards in order to get a good sense of what makes a story great. Joyce has asked me to share those books with you, however, I cheated a little bit when selecting the books. To tell the pure and honest truth, I just went to the library and borrowed picture books with Children's Book Council of Australia Award stickers on them!
HOWEVER, I checked out the Children's Book Council of Australia website and here are some links to the nominees for this year and the winners from previous years. ENJOY! :)

The Short list for 2009.

Past Winners

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Fun - 15/5/09

It has been a great week - productive with a sprinkle of fun. I've been feeling good as I've been getting back into my morning run which seems to do wonders for managing stress! Miss Eschauzier and I did a lot of team teaching throughout the week which meant we could do more targeted teaching.

Story Writing
This week students in my literacy group worked with Miss Eschauzier to determine features of quality writing. In small groups, they read books that have been nominated for awards over the years and considered elements of characterisation, plot, and language. As a class, they then put together a Kidspiration mind map to organise their ideas. Students then did a self-evaluation of their own writing and considered areas to work on further.Miss Eschauzier introduced a planning tool we developed for writing stories. Students used this for planning new stories.
Indigenous Australians Project Groups
On Monday students decided who they would like to share a cabin with at camp. We rearranged the desks in the classrooms so that they could sit in these groups during our Integrated Inquiry lessons to work on a project together. The task is for students to research the history, culture and traditions of Aboriginal Australians from a particular region and present the information digitally (audio, video, PowerPoint Presentation, Museum Box or other as negotiated). These digital products will then be stored on our My Classes page so that students can explore the work of their peers and reflect on the similarities and differences between the regions.

As a group we created a rubric that will be used to grade students. I provided some books that I borrowed from the local library and we arranged for some extra sessions in the computer lab. Students have made a great start to the task and are learning a lot about how to research in the process. We taught students where and how to look for information that is useful and relevant. We also explained about the copyright licensing surrounding online images and showed students how to find pictures they can use and how to give appropriate attribution.

Fractions and Decimals
In Maths this week we explored Fractions and Decimals using a video and one of the manipulatives on Math Playground. Students completed drills adding and subtracting fractions with the same denominator using worksheets from Math Drills. We also used MAB blocks to represent decimals and played with a range of fractions games and activities.

Peer Support
Our Year 5/6 students have been leading mixed-aged groups through activities to explore issues around bullying. These lessons are supplemented by lessons in home classes in alternate weeks. This week we discussed issues around bullying and students made this Y chart about how bullying looks, sounds and feels:
For more Friday Fun, click here.

Walk Safely To School Day

Today was Walk Safely to School Day, so I decided do participate by walking the 7 kms from my house. It was an awesome day for it, and I enjoyed catching up on my RSS feed and taking photos along the way...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

How can you fit a Museum in a box?

Thomas Clarkson did it, and so can you... with Museum Box. I have been itching to use this ever since I found it, but wanted a REAL reason. Finally, I've found it, and Museum Box seems to be the best tool for the task. No need to cart home projects written on big sheets of cardboard - this one can have text, pictures, videos, audio files and links, and it sits on the web ready for viewing whenever.

This is an online tool for collating information in categories and sharing it with others. My students have the option of using it for presenting information about Indigenous People Groups from around Australia. Students are researching these groups with books from the local library and relevant websites we've found online. In small groups they will pull together the information they've found and create cubes in their museum boxes.

I'm going to give them the option again later in the term when students investigate individuals who had a significant impact on Australia's history prior to 1900. I'm looking forward to seeing how they play with this tool creatively to present the information that they find.

Have you tried Museum Box?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference

I spent the best part of last week at the Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference on the Sunshine Coast. There was so much to absorb that I was feeling pretty exhausted by the end, but definitely had a lot to take away and apply.
I was there with the principal from my school so we had plenty of opportunities to discuss how ICTs fit in with the future of our school. We were given tips for starting laptop programs and for redesigning learning spaces. We visited a local school that has innovative programs running from Prep through graduation.
I had my first try at backchanneling using Skype for general conversation and then Twitter for more poignant ideas we wanted to share with a wider audience (#misc09). I found that backchanneling required a level of concentration that I'm not yet accustomed to. I realized that it may take students a few tries before they feel comfortable with backchanneling and find it a successful way to learn.
All in all it was a great experience even though I only got short glimpses of the ocean!

Friday, May 8, 2009

5th Teaching K-6 Carnival

Welcome to the May edition of the Teaching K-6 Blog Carnival. This month we have a great group of posts and yet again, lots of lists to choose from. I encourage you to check them out and share your comments with the bloggers. Enjoy!

Gripes and Brags

Hall monitor starts this month with a gripe, saying "Is corporal punishment an effective form of discipline?" in his post Progress Report: WTF is up with hitting students?! at

Historyiselementary brags about a new book The Gift at History Is Elementary. She says, "This post is part book review and part opinion piece regarding the value of personal history and how it fits in with the American story."

Brain Strain

Mark Marshall stops us in our tracks and poses the question Do Classroom Blogs belong in Elementary Schools? posted at Musings from an International Teacher. What is your opinion? Leave your comment to add to the discussion.

In the News

Alvaro Fernandez presents Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development posted at SharpBrains, saying, "At a time when educators are preoccupied with standards, testing, and the bottom line, some researchers suggest the arts can boost students' test scores; others aren't convinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?"

Innovate - Beyond the Slate
Mathew Needleman shares his ideas on How to Get Started Making Class Movies posted at Open Court Blog. His down to earth post will help you prepare students for the task of making and editing a movie.

At Child Care Only Fiona Lohrenz presents Tips For Storytime. She shares ideas for selecting texts and choosing an appropriate reading space. This month she also shares her ideas for creating exciting treasure hunts in A Late, Great Idea.

Meaghan Montrose presents Effective Learning Strategies and Study Skills Part 3 posted at Colleen Palat. She shares tips on how students can prepare for exams by creating and rehearsing questions.
Kelly Hines gives us a rundown of how can raise non-technology savvy students in her Unlucky Lists posted at Keeping Kids First. Definitely worth a read.

Look No Further
Wendy Piersall presents Zoo Animal Coloring Pages: Zoo Babies posted at Animal Jr.

Sarah Scrafford presents 100 Free Courses & Tutorials for Aspiring iPhone App Developers, 100 Lectures That Will Teach You to Be Rich, and 100 Awesome Cheat Sheets to Learn and Do Everything in Less Time.

Erika Collin presents 100 All-Time Best Productivity Tips for Working & Learning from Home

Nancy Miller presents 100 Resources to Help You Read Better and Faster posted at Online University Reviews.

Why not submit your post for the next carnival?

The Teaching K-6 Carnival is posted monthly on the 7th. I am collecting submissions throughout the month, looking in particular for posts that discuss and exemplify innovative teaching and the integration of technology in the K-6 classroom. I also invite a few "brain strains" to keep our minds alert and challenged. Please submit only articles of which you are the author and refrain from using this merely as a sales pitch. For full details, please read my call for submissions.
If you have a relevant post that you would like to submit to the next edition of teaching k-6 carnival use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Support this Carnival
If you enjoyed this edition of the carnival, you can support its continuation by sharing it with others. Link to us, add us to a tweet, stumble or digg us. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tech Tips Tuesday

This week's tip: Teaching during a pandemic

Over the weekend I listened to Edtech Brainstorm on the topic "What happens to education during a pandemic?" Mark Montagne asked whether our schools had plans in place for if our schools were closed for an extended period due to a pandemic. The discussion really got me thinking more about how I would continue to teach if my students were all in their homes and unable to attend school. I love the "What if?" questions!

This is what I think I would do:
I would create lessons using My Classes. I would put in resources for students to explore, then use the discussion area to create discussion around these resources. Students could also submit their responses to work in the e-learning folios. I would set Maths activities from other websites - probably Smart Kiddies so that I could monitor individual progress (or Mathletics once we have it). I would create forums in SuperClubs for students to further discuss class topics or work on literacy activities together. I would set spelling words and encourage students to practice these. I could video record myself doing a demonstration (science experiment or other) and post it in My Classes for students to use to complete for themselves.

For those with limited computer access, I could email or post activities. I could call these students (maybe in a conference call as there are not too many) to discuss the work and check on their understanding. I would also provide additional book resources for these students to be able to read for the information others are finding online.

Obviously, there would be gaps in this education, but for a couple of weeks at least it would keep the momentum going with learning. Ideally, students would need computer access and would need to be self-regulated in terms of focusing on the tasks. Problems would occur where there was more than one child in the family as computer time would need to be shared and teachers would need to schedule their forums/discussion times. This sort of program would also require parents to have an internet connections that allows for a substantial amount of downloading.

What would you do?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Friday Fun - 1/5/09

It was great to be back at work this week with a fresh start to the term. As always at the start of the term, we had a couple of pretests to determine what students know and the direction we should take with their learning. The Maths test covered the topics we will be studying this term, so we can group students by ability to cater lessons to their needs. The Australian History test shows us what students already know about Australia's history prior to 1900 including Indigenous lifestyle, significant historical figures, and major events and phases. We were quite glad to see that they don't know much at all yet, because that means that we can continue with our program as planned! Now that the tests are out of the way, let's look at what we did for fun.

Fun This Week

Readers' Theatre
On Tuesday we watched the video of the Readers' Theatre Performance at the end of last term. Students used a self-evaluation sheet to record their thoughts about their own performance. They also jotted down notes about the performances of others and shared these with their peers. On Thursday we read a poem/folk song called The Wild Colonial Boy and students worked in groups to decide a way to perform the poem to the class. Here is a You Tube video performance of the song from raymondcrooke.

Bus Timetables
This week students learnt about calendars and timetables. I talked to my class about catching buses and suggested that while they don't use buses much at the moment, they will probably want to use them more when they go to high school so that they can meet up with their friends. I told them about the first time I tried to catch a bus and how I failed miserably! We looked at a few bus timetables that you can pick up at the bus interchange, and then I showed students the phone number they can call for information and also the website.
We went onto the website and looked at the local bus routes that would get us to the closest shopping centres. I handed out copies of the map and timetables and students could use these to create their own imaginary journeys. One boy worked out how to get to McDonalds for dinner and home again. Another went from home to a cafe for breakfast and then still arrived at school in time.
We finished up with a sharing circle where everyone shared their journey and then we did a quick review of the steps for reading the timetable. This was a lot of fun and I'd be keen to revisit it again later in the year.

Story Parts
Miss Eschauzier taught my Literacy group this week. She showed students how to create descriptive phrases for settings in pictures and then they worked on individual descriptions of a setting of their choice. They then did a Kagan strategy: "Stand up, Hand up, Pair up" to share their work with numerous partners.
On Thursday students thought about characterisation in a couple of texts and then created their own characters using a Character Profile sheet. They will be doing more work with these characters next week.

Science for Smarties
Miss Eschauzier also taught a science lesson on Friday afternoon. Students explored what happens to the colours when smarties dissolve in a bowl of water. They used this experiment from the Surfing Scientist. It was amazing to see the way that the colours remained separated when more than one smarty was involved. Why not try it for yourself?

Next week I will be out of the school at the Microsoft Innovative Schools Conference on the Sunshine Coast, so there may not be a post next Friday.