Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wiki Success - Part 3

Collaborative learning - New experience.

So now it gets interesting. The class I had this year were in general, spoon fed learners. I was initially confronted with questions like "What do I do now?", "Is this good enough?", "Have I done enough?". It was going to be a challenge to create independant and interdependant learners within the course of the year. It seemed a logical step to change their approach to learning with each other before attempting to collaborate with other people online.

I decided to tackle the task head on and launch them into an inquiry unit. The Restaurant Inquiry unit focused on goal setting, planning and teamwork related skills. In summary the students setup and ran their own restaurant from concept and design to meals on plates. It was a huge task and gave us the opportunity to integrate the concept of student led learning, ICT and a very practical, fun and hands on experience.

I was very pleased with the outcomes and how the students were starting to take responsibility for their own learning. They were starting to ask quality questions and make suggestions for the direction their learning could take. At this late point in the school year I still only have slightly more than a handful of students that are intrinsically motivated with their learning but that's more than I started with at the beginning of the year.

Next post: Collaboration continues

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wiki Success - Part 2

Our wiki was an easy and inexpensive way of storing and displaying our learning. We were currently using scrapbooks as portfolios but began developing our student pages as a replacement. The purpose of the portfolios was to share with parents what their children were learning.

The next challenge was to get parents on board and start using/viewing our cyberclassroom. I held a parent education evening and talked them through setting up a registered account on the wiki and regularly sent home newsletters directing them to the site. It was obvious that the students themselves would be the best advocates of the site but they needed a reason to use it at home. (
In total I had 19 parents join the wiki but almost all parents viewed their children's portfolio on line at least a couple of times / term.)

In an attempt to get some interaction between school and home I started adding our classroom programmes onto the site. Our Math and Language programmes were available online detailing what we were doing in class and included homework tasks and digital objects. Learning criteria was available for parents to see exactly what we were learning and I provided them with resources like
Asttle What Next to clarify our objectives. The advantage to creating an online classroom programme was:
  • Stored online for future reference and updating.
  • Shared - With students, parents, school administration and I am aware that a number of other teachers are using my templates within their classrooms.
  • Interactive - Uses the resources of the internet within my planning.
  • Time saving - Now that I have templates setup it is quick and easy to add new pages and resources.

In the next post I'll be explaining our first attempt at collaborative learning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wiki Success Part 1

I've been using a website as part of my classroom programme for several years but this year decided to use a wetpaint wiki (Cyberclassroom).

In the first term we learned about cyber-safety with an intensive unit called
NetSmartz investigating the do's and don'ts of internet use. The reasoning behind this was because I wanted my students to have full use of the internet without too many restrictions. Good choices and peer / self monitoring were more important in my view than just blocking them from all and sundry. Making them responsible for their own internet use would equip them outside of the classroom and make my job much easier within it.

I chose wetpaint because of the treeview menu, meaning I could give each student their own folder and page without cluttering up the nav bar.
Wetpaint also has some other good features like templates and widgets that are really easy to use.

With a class of 34 students it was a challenge but most were able to produce a quality page. We had to set some ground rules as well so that the children understood how we were to respect others efforts and also the process for drafting, editing and publishing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Create your own fonts

I stumbled upon this whilst having a conversation about morse code with my students. We were looking at creating our own patterned codes and a student of mine said that he knew a site where you could make your own True Type fonts.

Here's the site intro: is a FREE online font generation service that allows you to create your own fonts within a couple of minutes. 100% Free! * Your own handwriting turned into your very own font for free * Optionally include your signature * Use your fonts on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux * Personalize your digital scrapbook pages * Make your own "family handwriting history" * Make as many fonts as you like * Use your fonts in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and every program that you own.

We followed the steps and downloaded the pdf template and they got busy creating their sequential codes. Some were very clever and others undecipherable but creative nonetheless.
You need a scanner to be able to do this, but the rest is easy. The students have had fun trying to problem solve the codes and sentences.

Here's a student font example and link to the font file.

Here's a hint:

Type the alphabet out in order to see the pattern. (Start with Caps)