Monday, August 10, 2009

So Flash!!

I have been trialing Toufee Flash Video maker as an alternative to Adobe Flash. Basically, I can't afford the real thing so thought I'd try out the online alternatives. I have to say that Video production is way easier to understand. It's only a 14 day free trial but that's long enough to try out all the features. If video production is something you are considering at your school, I'd check it out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I've been looking at IT Hardware available in New Zealand and comparing it to what's available overseas. My curiosity was directed mostly at the difference in price. This blog aims to share my findings and provide readers to do the same. The following digital camera is a great example of the savings that can be made from sourcing products online.

Palm Video Camera and voice recorder

Palm Digital Video Camera - 2.5 Inch TFT LCD Rotating Screen

3 Products in One
Palm Sized 3.0 Mega Pixel Digital video Camera, still camera and Voice recorder.
USB connection for ease of use

How can you use this product:

* Digital video - 39 Interesting ways to use your pocket video camera in the classroom.
* Digital camera - Claymation, photostory and much more.
* Built in voice recorder - use this feature for digital story-telling, podcasting and interviewing. Combine with free programs like audacity.


This product does not support Mac OS.

Recording time for video. This camera will record up to 1hr 20 min with an external 1 GB SD Card (not included) on high resolution. Without the card you will only get about 12 -15 minutes Hi Res.

Internal: 128MB

External: SD/MMC Card (1GB Max) Dick Smith Electronics have these cards for under $20NZD.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Widget Box

Well, I haven't had much time for blogging lately but I thought I'd add this one in quickly. Widget box is a great resource for adding widgets to your blog. Here's a Math Man game I found, looks like PacMan but you have to do the math to get to the next round. This site is searchable so look for widgets that suit your needs.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What does Inquiry look like?

I've been sitting in on planning meetings with schools and in an effort to focus planning on Big Ideas, key concepts and competencies we created a document that sets out the stages of an inquiry. Obviously it will be different from school to school depending on the language you use to describe inquiry, but in practical terms it defines the teaching that generally occurs at each stage. It also states the level of teacher / student control. For example, during the focus / knowledge attack stage teaching is more traditional and teacher led.

Inquiry Planning Template Inquiry Planning Template Heath Sawyer .
The practical implementation of a 10 week inquiry unit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wikis and Websites - what's the difference?

I am asked this question quite frequently and thought I'd explain to the best of my ability from an educational perspective.

Websites sit in the web 1.0 category and are the original format that information was shared across the web. A website has a limited number of authors and were in large content based. The viewpoints of the authors were the only perspective available and besides email or submitting a form, interaction was very limited with the audience. Ownership and Audience interaction are the two key disadvantages of web 1.0.

Web 2.0 is very different in the fact that it has the ability to be highly interactive with the audience and can build communities of like-minded people. Wikis combine the features of adding 'static content' or information as well as developing collaborative content within a community. (Wikipedia is a good example of this)

The aim in education when using wikis is to build students knowledge and capability in co-constructing their learning. Because wikis are editable, students have the opportunity to use web 2.0 tools to demonstrate their learning with the input of others collectively. They become the authors and in so doing their learning becomes transparent.

I would certainly encourage teachers to use wikis to gather resources, display learning outcomes etc for student reference, but the idea is to use wikis to include scaffolding so students become more independant and then interdependant learners. This is certainly the intent of the nz curriculum vision of enabling students to be 'confident, connected 21st century learners'.

Community: If we are co-constructing learning with our students we need also to define the role of the teacher. Wikis provide us with the opportunity to involve parents, other classrooms and teachers. With effective use the input we can have on a child's learning stretches far beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. The students become teachers and the teachers become facilitators.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Back from the Learning @ School 09 Conference in Rotorua and reflecting on the highlights and points to improve on.

On day one the Keynote was Andy Hargreaves speaking on 'The fourth Way of Leadership and Change'. My mind was half on the topic at hand and half on preparing for my own workshop on collaboration. I thought it might be a good opportunity to try out a collaborative tool called Etherpad so I created a document and spread the word on twitter. If you have a look at the doc you'll see text highlighted in different colours, these colours represent the various authors involved from the conference.
The tool was fabulous and worked better than I could have hoped. I actually had to create a second document to accommodate more authors as etherpad only allows 8 participants at a time. I was a little put out but pleased that I couldn't get back into my original document because it was in full use by others. Thinking about it now, it was great having others help me in my note-taking and the collaboration was so successful. I also liked that if I missed or forgot something, someone else added it in.

So how good is it? I think etherpad did what it was setup to do and our group were able to expand on the issues and thinking being put before us. The chat feature is good for clarifying before adding content. It was note-takiing so a little hap-hazard but with a quick review of the PowerPoint provided for the keynote it all made perfect sense.

Thumbs up Etherpad ... 8 1/2 out of 10. More users would be nice, or a copy/paste overflow to a second document.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pimp my Gmail: Backup your files.

I have been using Gmail for about 3 years and have used 5% of the storage capacity of the service without deleting a single message. At the same time I have had 3 computers and needed to deal with the nightmare of file storage. This is what I use for files I want to keep safe and refer to often:

Backup to Gmail: It's a basic program that allows me to right click any file and send it to my Gmail account.

If you are a serious Gmail user then you'll be using Firefox for your browser as it has more features than IE. Regardless of this, Gmail can be a mess unless you use 'filters and labels' so you'll want to create a label for your backup files and filter those files to that label.


  1. My important files are online and secure within my account and accessible anywhere.
  2. Because my files are in Gmail they are searchable.
  3. Nifty little addons let me see the file type.
  4. Gmail keep adding storage space to my account.

There are a bunch of tools that make Gmail work for you so will elaborate on those in future posts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Putting the 'C' in I.T

There aren't too many things that come along that make you wonder 'How did I ever get on without this before?' But the power of Collaborative applications like Google Docs and wikis is such a situation. What further amazes me is the awe that comes from people when you introduce them to the simplicity and efficiency of working this way.

I'm currently introducing and training a cluster of 10 schools in using Gmail, Calendar, Docs and iGoogle, believing that having a sound infrastructure and tools established early on is what will build and maintain our professional learning Community.

What we have managed to do so far this year:
  • Nearly everyone has a gmail account and we use a convention with names so that we know who we are Communicating with either via email, chat or Video-chat.
  • The facilitators work calendar is shared publicly.
  • We collaborate on planning documents and schools are able to share longterm plans with the facilitator to inform him about future training or resource support.
Where this is heading:
  • Effective professional development is regular, focussed and meets the needs of the individual as well as the collective. There is an abundance of quality material online through blogs and it makes sense to introduce teachers to it. At this stage I am only sharing my reader favourites with lead teachers in the cluster. It is possible to view my reader profile page publicly here . Feeds can also be added to a teachers iGoogle page.
  • iGoogle - The ability to aggregate data into a single web page is an extremely useful and powerful tool in a cluster situation. In the not too far future teachers will be using blogs and wikis and using online accounts for a number of applications. The iGoogle pages will make sense of that chaos, giving us a snippet of what has changed within our community and a choice of what we want to view or not.
  • I have started a Diigo group for our cluster as well. Social bookmarking is a powerful way of sharing ,storing and explaining resources on the internet. I'll keep it simple at first and provide links to good quality web 2.0 resources. With some PD members will learn how to use the internet as a planning assistant and will start adding their own bookmarks in Diigo for everyone elses use.
That's the beginning of our infrastructure setup for communicating and collaborating. The motivation for wanting to use these tools I hope has come from reinforcing the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The good old pioneering days

I remember getting the ICT bug back in 1995, I was at an Intermediate school in my first year and they had just put in a suite of computers and server for what I can imagine wouldn't have left much change from $100'000. I have to admit that most of what I was doing at that time was using the technology to print shiny and bright new resources for my classroom, many of these I then photocopied. The same year we had a planning day whereby each teacher created a unit, it was collated into a book and each teacher was given a copy (My introduction to school collaboration). I bought my first desktop computer soon after for $3500 with a whopping 32MB of RAM and 2GB Hard drive (Ouch!!). The following year I was Deputy Principal at a nearby Intermediate school and set about getting a suite installed there (but better ...evil laugh). I had to have all the latest software and of course the internet. We made up rules and guidelines as problems arose and trust me there were lots of problems and as the technology rush came from the corporate world saying buy! buy! buy! I was all too willing to try out the newest gadget with a resounding yes! yes! yes! (Bill Gates was God). It was an amazing setup but in the year 2009 not a scrap of that technology still exists and I couldn't have burned enough CDs and done enough backups to save all the work I'd done in the past for use today ... 
  It seems like such a waste but in reality it was a progression that many schools were going through and there were no alternatives. I like to consider those days as pioneering. Basically, we found out what we didn't want happening with ICT in the classroom, augmented our programmes with ICT a bit and dreamed of the possibilities of what could happen in the classroom. New Zealand's curriculum was evolving at the same time and teachers were used to expecting change. With the introduction of web 2.0 and a sound ICT infrastructure nationwide we dreamers are starting to see everything happen that we wanted more than a decade ago.

  • I own a printer but don't use it except to occasionally scan something.
  • I have a lease laptop - thank you!! Imagine how hard it would have been integrating ICT if teachers didn't have laptops - obvious but brilliant none the less.
  • All my planning is online and can be shared with other teachers via a weblink.
  • I don't have to do all the work on a project because we collaborate now and someone always has a great example to work from.
  • I have way more friends. Geeks are the popular kids in the playground now.
  • We don't have to buy software anymore because someone wants to give you their product for free.
  • I can actually work from home if I want to and sometimes I really want to.

Perhaps you have a past experience to share.
P.S: I remember when they put the 'C' in I.T

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why use Google Apps for cluster communication?

I'm preparing to work with a cluster of schools this year and one of the areas for development is infrastructure. To state an obvious truth we need to communicate and collaborate effectively. One of the first tasks I will be undertaking is providing everyone with a Google account alongside the professional development and support they need to use it on a day to day basis. There are several reasons for wanting to do this.
  1. It makes sense to have everyone using the same tools. Each school will have its own I.S.P and email service separate to each other, meaning we would have to use third party software to do what can be done within Gmail itself. Schools can use Gmail as a common communication tool and still receive emails from their current school address.
  2. By having a Google Account and online identity early on, members of the cluster can start plugging into learning opportunities more readily. Cluster members with be able to subscribe to feeds and make comments on blogs as an example.
  3. As a facilitator I can share my calendar and keep track of docs across schools with Gcalendar and Gdocs.
  4. Data aggregation: iGoogle aggregates data from a variety of sources into a single Homepage. This is a perfect way of sharing and disseminating information across a cluster of schools. It's all good and well creating and publishing something wonderful if you don't have the means to share it nor the audience to view it.

There is so much more, so I'll summarise and discuss other Gapps in future posts.

Google has developed a wide range of applications that can be used to collaborate effectively with colleagues in the workplace. In today's technological age the workplace has been redefined to include 'Anywhere, Anyone and Anytime'.One of the initial challenges of the information age was the volume of information being produced and the confusion that resulted when people tried to make sense of it all and work together. Typically, emails were sent out with documents attached and individuals edited their copy and brought it along with them to a face to face meeting. The attendees at the meeting then collaborated on the task at hand to produce a single document with consensus. This method works but there is a better way, it costs less, saves time and confusion, nobody misses a meeting and ultimately produces a better result.

The following video demonstrates how google docs works and employs this type of collaboration.

This video provides an overview of Gmail the hub for Google Apps

I was investigating creating a Ning for the cluster but not being an expert would be interested to hear your thoughts on team collaboration and infrastructure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Leadership and Management:

I have read Steven Covey’s ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’ at least a dozen times. As I begin in my new position as an ICT facilitator I am drawn to the concepts outlined in his book. With 10 schools and over 100 teachers to work with, the dynamics, range of experiences, capability and paradigms people hold towards learning will be extreme. It makes sense to promote a system of leadership guided by principles that we all understand alongside the skills, knowledge and tricks of the trade we will be developing during the contract. I see many parallels between the 7 habits and the new curriculum and with ICT becoming an increasingly more collaborative experience for learners; it will be an excellent lighthouse for our interactions.


Habit 1: Be Proactive
Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Develop a principle-centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long-term goals based on personal principles.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win
Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a "win/win" deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make "no deal" may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to reward win/win behavior among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding win/lose behavior.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
First seek to understand the other person, and only then try to be understood. Stephen Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one's own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.

Habit 6: Synergize
Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person's own solution.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Nation

Our NationBased on the game 'Age of Empires', Our Nation is an online environment where students are thrown into a past world. Divided into separate tribes of varying talents, they discuss and complete tasks to build and strengthen their nation. Starting with the very basics, they must tell the story of how they came to this new land and record on their scroll (wiki) any developments they have made.

The Herald of Nations (teacher) unfolds new instructions, activities or scenarios each day.

This is an integrated inquiry unit with the intention of investigating the elections with a twist. Students work towards developing their own values, slogans and policies. Other themes include trade and exchange, conflict and Tiriti O Waitangi as the Imperial Nation is introduced to assert their influence on all others.

The wiki platform used in collaboration with other web 2.0 technologies provides the opportunity for classrooms around the world to join in and start developing their own tribes.

In reflection this unit was excellent in delivering what I like to call a play area for students to explore and roleplay complex issues like leadership and conflict. We explored how to run meetings and have a debate. If I were to do this unit again it would be in the second term due to the fact that the fourth term had too many distractions and I would be sure to invite other classrooms with plenty of warning in advance.

To find out more about the project, visit the Our Nation wiki and be sure to read through the teacher notes for a full explanation.