Tikatok Journal

We’re back to school this week. It’s always a good time to start a new project and I’m hoping to inspire the student’s creativity and writing voice with an online journal. It’s going to be hand written and drawn but downloaded digitally using Tikatok. Here’s the first of my own example – it’s just the title page. More to come.


Skype in Classrooms

I became a fan of Skyping when my parents moved to Russia for work. It’s amazing how, at the end of a skype call with them you really do feel as if they have just popped around for a visit. It’s almost as if you don’t miss them quite as much because, ‘We see them all the time.’ We often have the kids show them a toy they just bought, do a dance or piano recital and one time Dad took us for a tour of their apartment with an extra long laptop cord.

This term our class had some ebuddies set up with a teacher in Alabama, USA. We set up a combined wiki to pose some questions and used the skype call as a motivation to teach the students questioning and conversational skills – we even had co-constructed a success matrix to help us write some open questions (a skill that we have much road to travel on!)

The Skype calls were a huge success, in terms of a rich learning experience. We learnt a lot about questioning, how to have a conversation and were even opened up to the obvious cultural diversity that exists, even between two western countries; the students in Alabama were quite taken with the fact that a lot of our children wear bare-feet all day, quite unheard of for them.

Next term we are looking to use Skype for some research into our ‘biotechnologyinquirys – as well as renewing our connection with Alabama! I’m setting up a media room in the corner of the class that has our school logo behind the camera and a sliding door to block out some noise. It’s all very exciting and helps us to achieve a goal for this year – to branch out of our four walls and connect with the outside world, even if that means digitally as well as physically.

Here’s a fantastic set of links to skype in the classroom related resources from Teachingdegree.org

This video is an excellent introduction to the world of Skype. Thanks to sayitvisually for the upload and Richard Byrne for the link (Freetech4teachers).

(Photo above used under Creative Commons, by Shareski, from Flickr.com)

Tech exciting teachers AND students?

I’m absolutely passionate and excited about the elearning revolution slowly sweeping through schools and classrooms. I guess this is because I’m part of the infinite ‘edu blogging’ revolution and I regularly try to integrate technology into my classroom practice.

Last year I was fortunate to go to the New Zealand ULearn‘ Conference and have the top blown off my professional development programme. Anyone who has been to these types of conferences knows the buzz they create in connecting with like minded people. This post, by Angela Maiers (one of my favourite bloggers), gives some benefits of these conferences for teachers
– meeting and developing your PLN
– a chance to reflect on your own and others classroom practice and beliefs
– being ‘warmed’ and surrounded by so many other similarly enthused people
– sharing and gathering tools and strategies for your classroom
– catching or reviving a passion for learning

Sometimes I wonder, however, whether this passion and enthusiasm for tech integration is shared amongst our students as much as it is with some teachers (and I write ‘some’ because there are many who are decidedly tepid about it, which I’m becoming okay about… slowly).

This wondering is heightened when our class seems just as enthused by a new packet of coloured felts for our modeling books as they are with a new application on our class blogsite. Recently they were given the choice to communicate their science learning digitally or by traditional ‘Tri-board’ and the class was split. 50/50. I guess that not every student will walk away from traditional methods in our classrooms. To them they are just another option.

What I have also noticed is that the students who DO get excited by a digital environment are the ones who, traditionally, have been the most likely to be those disengaged with the learning. They are the boys, the lower achievers and those whose interests are quite different from their teachers and peers. This has GOT to be a huge benefit to the classroom as a whole – for the atmosphere, the building of a classroom learning community and, at the very least, the reduction of time spent on behaviour management.

I don’t think that elearning will always excite every student. Neither will it , I’m willing to accept, empassion every teacher. What I think it is achieving at the moment is to draw those disengaged students into a new world of achievement and success. A world that’s pretty foreign to many.

What I’d like to see more of in the future is the type of conference that would inspire students through peer sharing as much as those that do this for teachers. It’s an interesting potential.

(Above photo used under Creative Commons, by ‘superkimbo in BKK’, sourced from Flickr)

Replacing the ‘dis’.

I often listen to podcasts while I run. Dr Gaston Weizs podcast, ‘School Psychology, has some great insights in basic behavioural psychology that relates to the classroom.

One podcast described the reasons for challenging behaviours. Dr Weizs describes the behaviour as being a learned action that someone uses because it gets them a desired result. He says that we do what we do because of the three ‘E’s’ – it’s easy, efficient and effective. This is to say that the student ‘acts out’, for example, because it’s their first reaction, it gets the desired attention and then the desired result.

The majority of behaviour management in schools is precisely that; management. How often do we simply deal with a negative behaviour after it happens, ‘mop’ up the damage and dish out the punishment. And then we foolishly believe that the student will learn something from the episode.

Dr Weizs suggests that we should be teaching the student to ‘replace’ the negative behaviour with something that is equally the three ‘Es’ but much more positive and socially acceptable.

I can already think of how this approach might be successful with one student who continually challenges authority if he believes he is being dealt an injustice – no matter how small or insignificant and in a disproportionate manner. We already have an arrangement where he reflects on an incident afterwards and I think our next step is to construct a strategy that will replace his outbursts with something equally easy, efficient and effective.

The more challenging behaviour to replace is a student’s disengagement from the learning process, the topic of my teacher inquiry this year. If I was to apply the three ‘Es’ to this behaviour (as a way of understanding the action more deeply than, ‘They are just lazy!’) could I, perhaps, be on a journey to helping the student replace this disengagment with engagement?

Maybe a way forward will involve some conversation time with the students involved. My instinct tells me that the disengagement is a learned behaviour that has developed from a lack of confidence, a fear of failure and low self efficacy.

I’m sure there will be some interesting conversations around the corner.

Photo left used under Creative Commons License from ‘Foreversouls’, sourced from flickr.com. Image above from http://drweisz.blogspot.com/

Powerpoint no nos.

Our class often uses a powerpoint presentation during ‘QNews’, our research and oral language activity. We use a matrix that guides the students to using them effectively and it includes things like having no more than five words per slide.

I think that teaching students to use visuals when they communicate something is so critical in getting a message across. My belief made for some interesting debate with other teachers last year when I raised the idea of having ppts as part of our senior speech competition – you can imagine the points for and against.

This video has some classic ppt mistakes and it always amazes me how many adults fail to stick to some basic rules.