Friday, December 16, 2011

Getting along.

This is a great little video to use as a discussion starter. I hope to use it with my classes next year.

Bridge from Ting on Vimeo.

It could be used to discuss the choices we make in our behaviour. Brute force versus co-operation. During the first term we will be doing a project on bullying and I'm thinking of using this video as a discussion starter.

Here is another little fun activity from Larry Ferlazzo's blog. If you haven't followed Larry on Twitter or read his blog do it today. Thank you Larry for all your inspiring links.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

So what is happening in our child-free school?

We seem to have been at school without the learners forever - although it's only been one week. We all agree on one thing - we couldn't have accomplished the volume of preparation without this week. The teachers have typed up schedules and lessons and edited and re-typed.... We're all becoming very comfortable with using computers for admin tasks.

I have been interested to watch groups of teachers getting together to collaborate on their planning, share ideas and tasks, make a big noise while they do it and obviously have fun. It's a bit like a reflection of the way learners interact when working together in groups. It's stimulating, busy and sometimes deafening. At the same time a lot is being achieved and we are getting to grips with our new curriculum and how to implement it.

I don't have a "partner" teacher and do all my own preparation in consultation with the teachers and the topics they are covering in the class. Next year I will be writing my own curriculum as I go along as we can no longer afford to use a "canned" curriculum. More and more parents are not paying school fees and this is putting a strain on the school budget for the extras such as computers and extra equipment. I am enjoying the process of making up my lessons so far but envy the grade teachers who work in groups and produce a collaborative effort. Teamwork is a 21st Century learning goal and one that we should be encouraging amongst our learners.

So here's to the end of the 2011 academic year. We have two more days to go to wind up our activities and then it's a four week break before we return to school for a new year, new classes and lots of changes promised by our principal of only 3 months. Bring it on..... after a rest of course!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And so ends another year in the lab...

Last Friday our learners completed their last day at school. The teachers are staying on until 13 December to get up to date with all the planning for our new curriculum starting in January. It's all talk about CAPS statements and term plans and class lists.... There is an air of excitement as the teachers plan for a great year ahead.

There's something very soothing about working in a school without students. Can't think what it might be .... Hmm perhaps it's no bells, or noise.... I must say, I always fancied working in such a school. One gets so much more administration work done and one doesn't have to stop what one is doing to re-focus the boy who is intent on distracting one's marvellously prepared lesson. Ah, but by the end of the week we will be missing the little dears.

One of my major tasks at this time of year is stock-taking in the library. Our library runs on an honour system with the teachers checking out books for their classroom and returning them when they are finished. No loan periods, no librarian to check up. What is really amazing is the very small number of missing books at the end of each year. I take comfort in the fact that most of the books that were missing last year have turned up back on the shelves this year so why stress? What's missing today will be back this time next year.

My other big task is to do a thorough clean up in the computer lab and run some maintenance on the computers before shutting down until next year. This year I'm not able to start the big clean up because the teachers are working in the computer lab, using technology for their admin tasks. What a joy - it means our school is moving to the next level in technology integration. I take comfort that the work will get done sometime before we close for the year.

The new year will bring new adventures, new challenges as always. We are discontinuing our present ICT curriculum this year and I will be formulating my own lessons in future. It means more work, more time, no "canned" lessons with templates already done for me - but I'm up for it and I'm looking forward to exploring and growing. I have plans to focus on literacy by using blogs, Edmodo and wikis. I plan to do more global projects and try out new and innovative Web2.0 tools. I am a lifelong learner and I look forward to a year of learning with my students.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 2 of our blogging course.

Thank you Fiona for your inspiring input into this course. Although I have used blogs in the past I am learning so much from participating with others.

I set this blog up for reflecting on my teaching practice. At this time of the year I have assessed all the learners and the symbols have been handed to the teachers. There are the usual interruptions to the routine for Nativity plays and practice for prize-giving. We perservere and I am using the time to consolidate some activities and the grade 3's are posting their final activities in Edmodo.

So what is Edmodo? It's a web2.0 mock facebook type social network for education. The administrator sets up an account for their school and adds groups according to groups/ classes/ clubs within the school. Each group has a code. Learners and other teachers sign up and register with a group according to the code. This make is relatively safe for learners to use and there is even a facility where their parents are assigned a code to access their child's home page.

The teacher can post assignments, polls and activities for learners to complete. They enjoy their own Facebook. I regard Edmodo as a tool for teaching online  netiquette and it's also a great place for our grade 2's and 3's to practice language skills such as sentence construction and punctuation in an engaging way.

I can see that in a "perfect"world Edmodo would be a wonderful tool for teachers and learners. They could post their work, interact with one another and engage in discussions. The perfect world I refer to is one where learners have access to a computer and a good Internet connection both at school and at home. We're not there yet so we rely on our hour a week lesson to play at learning about social media. The real advantage of this situation would be that teachers can access and assess learners work online - no more carrying heavy bags of books!

With regards to assessment, if one sets up an assignment learners complete it and click on a button that says, "Turn in assignment". The assignment are then stored together for the teacher to assess. One can set the range for marking.

One of our grade 2 classes participated briefly in a Global Classroom Project with learners from many other classes around the world. In a restricted and safe space the learners share information about the size of classes (at 33 in the class our's was by far the biggest), what they eat for lunch, how they travel to school etc. They are making global connections and communication using technology which are 21st Century skills.

I will certainly extend the use of Edmodo in the new year. It's a perfect place to set up a collaborative project on the Olympics and a wonderful way to share cultures.

Oh and another big advantage of Edmodo is that it can be used by groups from kindergarten right up to Grade 12 (and beyond). 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Week 1 - A fishy story

This week I've been using offline lesson options due to the fact that our virus protection at school has expired and there just aren't the necessary funds to renew it. We are exploring some options but in the meantime I am avoiding going online. It's been a great opportunity to do some fun activities.
I chose a template from the Computers 4 Kids library. This one is in Word and it starts with a simple fish shape using shape and line tools. The learners then learn to Insert Shapes and decorate their fish using colour and texture to transform it into a "fancy fish".

I really loved some of the designs they came up with and I am always amazed at how they become more creative when they share ideas amongst themselves. One idea leads to another.

This little guy was the only one who created a shadow below his fish. I thought it was quite effective and gave the whole picture more of a 3D effect.

This one was from one of the girls. Just look at the expression in that eye!
Playing around with shapes like this helps learners build their tech skills, encourages creativity and helps them become more intuitive when using applications in Office. They learned to find their way around the ribbons in Word and how to format shapes and page elements. Sometimes the fun lessons are the really simple ones.
If you are on Facebook you can view a few more pictures of our fish at Cotswold Preparatory School.