Showme – Connecting any time, anywhere.

My teacher inquiry this year is to provide the parents of my class as many opportunities to be a part of the learning with my students. I suppose I ‘m trying to widen our learning community beyond being just my students and I’m assuming that this will help them achieve – so far it definitely has!

One of the things I’ve been doing is to give the students access to teaching from home – not from a worksheet but through interactive games and videos.

This isn’t anything radical but, like any good elearning practice, the effectiveness is enhanced when teaching pedagogies and media are mashed into a workable system. One that is student centred and personalised.

An example of this is our basic facts blog. Here the students are working through a series of steps on a basic facts ladder (designed by advisersplus in the Hawkes Bay) using some links to interactive games – and some videos created on a great ipad app called showme.

Showme has been a fantastic way to record some teaching steps for a particular skill that the student can access at any time. Some parents have told me that THEY”VE found them helpful when they’ve tried to help their child master a particular skill.

Here’s a video explaining more about how it came about and the impact it’s having in classrooms across the world.

There are lots of uses for this great little app. I’ve used to remind students on our classblog about the scientific method – really helpful when they’re working in groups and unsure about a step in their experiment, and last year my students became quite handy in making their own showmes to explain and demonstrate their learning about all kinds of things we were doing in class.

Here’s a showme that I made to explain how to find fractions of a whole number. The small group I was working with was able to show their parents at home and consolidate their learning even more.

How are you providing opportunities for your students and parents to continue the learning?

Blogging with Zing

Last week I spent some time with some teachers from our school at our first ‘iTips’ workshop. We looked at how to create some extra Zing to our classroom blogs and I thought I’d share 3 things I do to personalise them and make them stand out a bit more.

1. Headers

– I use Comiclife, which is a mac and pc programme, to create a lot of graphics and visuals for my blogs. Pretty much all my classroom titles, labels and posters are made on this. By downloading and inserting some images from google, even the examples in this picture of some free icons I downloaded (by searching ‘free icon download png’) to put behind the text. Gives it a bit more bling , I reckon.
The best kinds of graphics to download and put on your header is the ‘png’ file. These graphics have the file with ONLY the image in them. It;s like they have the white background sort of cut away with scissors. These are great to put on top of other images or even the text as there isn’t a white box around the image. Try it. You’ll see what I mean. Use the ‘arrange / bring to the front or back’ feature in comiclife to change the orientation of the images.
Here’s a review video of comiclife as a taster. Search around and you’ll find LOTS of tutorial videos on youtube to get you more confident!

2. Pictures as links
The side bars on blogs are a great way to direct your readers, students to the sites you want them to visit. One obvious way is to use text as a link and there are a few different standard gad
gets to help you do this. I use these for lists of links but one of my favourite ways to link on the sidebar is using a picture as t
he link. I think this is far enticing for the reader and adds some visual effect to the look of your blog.
You can insert a gadget called PICTURE and use a screen shot of the site you want the link to go to. There’s a space to include the website link (URL) and away you go! Screen shots are one of the greatest things ever – hold down shift / command / 4 and ‘frame’ the image that you want to capture. (For PC users the keys are different. Try this link)
3. Installing a ‘third party’ blogger template.
This is one of the greatest tips for revolutionising your blog – and one that I’ve noticed is not readily used by many teachers. Third party refers to a source away from the original, in this case blogger. You can alter your blogger blog (or most other platforms*) inside the design feature which can look great. But for an even more custom, original look you can search through a massive range of templates by google searching ‘blogger templates download’ as an example.

Here’s a site I’ve used a few times – It has some great search filters that help you find the template for you, such as searching by colour, structure or even key word tags. There are a lot of videos that show you how to complete this process and, with a little playing around (a few templates might have some gadgets that aren’t working or might not allow you to add you’re own zingy header at the top) you’ll find one that suites you.
Here’s a tutorial from a guy with a fascinating accent. There are plenty out there!
So, there’s just 3 little techniques that can create a great blog. One last thing to get you going even further is to look at lots of other blogs and see what they’re using. It’s a great source of inspiration to ‘borrow’ another person’s idea. Just click on the gadget or look for clues at the bottom for a website where it originated. There’s nothing like a little google search to satisfy that curiosity of ours.

Here are some links of some blogs to inspire you!
* This is my new ‘Bazinger‘ footnote – a word I’ve stolen from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and my signal for a jargon word.
Platform – in this sense it’s a form of blogging programme that you can use. Examples could be blogger, wordpress, tumblr or posterous.