Listen to the Learning Chatter

If you’re like me then you love using technology to engage and motivate learning in your classroom. One of the ‘hits’ you often have to take when you do this is being labelled as a ‘teacher into toys.’ It’s frustrating to hear since you know and have seen the difference they can make for your learners.

img_2650One of the ways you can show others the benefits of these ‘toys’ is to record some of the conversations that your students are having during activities. I’ve started to call this;

  • LEARNING CHATTER = the language and conversations of learning in action.

Here’s a video of some sound bites I captured with one group at a recent Sphero SPRK+ demo hour I took at a local Primary School. Listen for the subject based vocab, the design thinking and collaboration here.

 

3 Ways to get the most out of your Sphero robots in the classroom!

Last week I was helping the Macgear team demonstrate the Sphero SPRK (Schools, Parent, Robots and Kids) robots to educators at the NZ Ulearn Conference in Rotorua. Here’s a short vid I made that shows some of the snippets of what we were up to for the 2 days.

We use these robots in our STEM workshops with teachers and they’re one of my favourite STEM tools to use; I’ll explain why in a later post. Here’s a link to our upcoming events page where you can see the dates and venues of some STEM workshop days coming up. (Let me know if your schools would be interested in hosting!)

Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re getting ‘learning bang’ for your buck with your Sphero.

1.The teacher is ALWAYS key!

Just like every learning situation, the role of the teacher is paramount. And not in a central, dominant way but as a facilitator, driver, connector and coach. The learning that happens is always best done in discover mode, where the learners are working things out, solving their own problems and making their own ‘cognitive links.’ It’s the teacher, however, who has a crucial part to play to;

a) Frame the activity – create the motivating problem or scenario,

b) Help redirect and scaffold the learner towards some learning outcomes,

c) Provide the framework for reflection and to help students make connections with what they’ve learned – and the space to share those with others.

2. Use a great learning app, like The Lightning Lab

This app – The Lightning Lab, is a great app to use with the Sphero SPRK, partly because of the community you can connect with. Students can download other people’s programmes and build on top, or alternatively, create their own programme and become Sphero authors by uploading to the community themselves!

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SPRK Lightning Lab App – IOS Android, Chrome OS.

The community section also has activities and lessons that teachers and students have written and shared within the app – it’s a great way to share learning experiences and get ideas for your next activity. An even better idea is to have students create a learning experience (around a concept such as angles, gravity, friction etc) and share with others through the app!

3. Combine the digital with the material world…like a boss!

I love seeing the digital world interact with the material – afterall, that’s reality! When we scaffold experiences like the one in the video, where we make a craft that will move across the water, and include a coded programme for the Sphero to automate the craft, we are connecting so many areas of the curriculum and AMPLIFYING the learning. Who doesn’t like getting hands on with things!

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Those are my three tips! Do you have any other ideas or things you know work with your Spheros? Leave a comment below or retweet this link in Twitter with an idea to share.

Chromebooks on a Macbook?

Most NZ Primary teachers have Macbooks as their main teaching tool under the Ministry’s leasing scheme, but their student have Chromebooks. This isn’t a bog deal as most of what they do with their students is in the cloud on platforms such as Google.

screen_shot_2016-09-15_at_11_05_42_amBut – every now and again it’s helpful to be able to model things using the same OS (operation system) as the students, especially in the early days of setting classrooms and accounts up. So what to do? A teacher ‘could’ just use a Chromebook  in those situation but that would be much too easy and no where near as cool as using Parallels!

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-11-10-06-amThis software (comes with a free trial for 14 days and costs $79 after that) runs a different OS inside your MacOS in a seperate window. Simply download, install and choose the Chromium OS system download to get going. And then you are away!

You can also run Windows 10, even an Android phone’s OS if you really wanted to…I did and it was totally nerdy fun!

 

 

Student Engagement Poster

This is a great poster I’ve seen thanks to Educatorstechnology.com and it’s doing the rounds on twitter at the moment. I’d probably say that I’m great at using 2, 3 and 5 in my teaching practice at the moment and I’m definitely going to utitlise the “3-2-1” method of reflection in number 6. Lately I’ve been asking, ‘What’s one thing you’ve learnt or gotten better at today?’ and this would take that to another level, I think.

I also remember a teacher using number 7 a lot when I was in Primary School. We would try to beat each other to finish her sentence. Funny. What’s something you’re already using and also, what would you like to use in your class a little more?

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So you’re Team Teaching now, are you?

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 10.16.23 pmOur school has been working in Team Teaching pairs now for the best part of a year. It’s been so successful and beneficial across the board that we couldn’t imagine going back to teaching alone. We are also really pleased to see that this approach to a school structure is catching on all over the country and we’re having quite a few schools visiting to see what all the fuss is about.

Of course we’re not claiming to invent the idea of working with other teachers – my first introduction came from Jo Fothergill, a teacher from New Zealand, who spoke about her team teaching aspirations at an Educamp we hosted at our school in 2012. But we are very proud at our school of developing a whole school culture that has embraced Team Teaching as a crucial part of our shared pedagogy and learning programme.

So – why is there so much push back? I’m going to start a short series of posts that will ‘unpack’ (one of my favourite words, apparently) some of the reasons why TT gets so much resistance and also what makes it work at our school!

 

‘Engage, Empower and Enlighten’ Presentation

This is the presentation for a workshop I’m taking tonight with some Home Educators in Southland. It’s exciting to sharing with a ‘different’ crowd and one outside of my normal environment – people involved in schools. But, it’s also exciting to be sharing at tonight because our own children are taught at home and I’m sharing some links and sites that have been created by my own kids!

Please dig into the presentation and engage with the links. Most of the images are linked to the actual sites and resources that I share. This is a presentation I’m sure I’ll adapt and use a few times more!

Popplet Criteria

One of the principles of quality learning we push with our students is knowing what success looks like. We do this in quite a few ways but having a success criteria is pretty up there.

This week our classes are publishing their short stories on Comiclife, one of the student’s favourite ways to publish and share their work. This criteria below was created using Popplet. I love this tool for the following reasons.

1. You can create visually stunning posters in less time than it takes to shake a stick.

2. You can import images, links and video as well as text.

3. It is interactive but also adaptable to be static – you can export or take a screenshot and print this into a great poster for the wall.

This embeded version lets the user move it around, zoom in and out and, if there are videos they can be played within the window, too.

So far this term we have created two different posters of criteria that students can refer back to; this one and one for creating a great instructional video on Doodle Cast Pro (a great video making app). My hope is that we will create a wall of criteria that will help guide the student to success for a whole range of publishing / sharing tools they can choose.

Teaching Kids to be Brave and Kind

I thought I’d pass on this article on the Momastry blog. It’s written by Glennon Doyle Melton and really resonated with me this week. From the look of the 1400 odd comments underneath it has for others, too.

The idea that an educator’s role is to simply raise achievement standards would rankle even the numbest teacher. There are so many things we do in our classes that can make or break children’s futures – it makes me baulk at the weight of that responsibility and to be honest, there have been times in my shortish career where I would admit that I’ve missed the wood for the trees.

This recount of a parent and their description of the efforts they take to look out for the lonely children in their class is inspirational and incredible challenging! But the line that stands out for me the most is right at the end.

Isn’t that what it’s all about. Do we teach children how to read and write? Yes. But we should also shape and inspire them to be resilient, to go outside their comfort zones and to move from being ego centric to thinking of others.
So, what does this mean for me? It means that when I have photocopying to quickly grab before the bell goes and a student comes to talk with me and make a connection before the start of the day… I will stop and listen and gift her some of my time. It sounds easy but with the pressures of teaching I can assure you that if my priorities are not right, it’s not.
There are lots of little things we can do to make every student feel accepted, safe, cared for and valuable. Lots of small things. And small things, I’m finding, add up to be big things.
Have we missed the point of teaching sometimes? Is it all about technology, innovative practice and passion? No. I wonder if it’s about helping kids be brave and kind. I also think that we need to model that to them, too. 

Aurasma – an Interactive, Digital Display

We have a third year college teacher, @mattmurraynz, working with us this year and he is proving to be a handy innovator in his own right.  One of his college assignments this term was to create an interactive display in the classroom.  He told me his class were thinking, ‘What? How do you do that?’

With a little bit of chatter and after seeing a great ipad app called aurasma lite he came up with an idea for using augmented reality and the student’s learning about taonga – special treasures.

The student’s held their taonga and spoke about it’s importance to them, then Matt made this into a video. The video is uploaded to aurasma and a screen shot of the video was printed out and hung on the wall.

Matt then went through the steps on the app to take an image of the photo and linked it to the uploaded video. And below is the result. When you hold the aurasma app view finder up to the image it shows the video of the student speaking inside the image of the photo.

How cool would our classrooms, office foyers, shopping mall walls, and street signs be with this kind of interaction?

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?