A ‘City Comparison’ App Smash

Yesterday I was working  with a class in Wanaka around the theme of ‘Thinking Global, Acting Local.’ We had a great day learning about Sphero SPRK+s, Makey Makey and Scratch and also seeing how to integrate the G Suite tools into a learning progression.

Our first activity was to ‘think global’ and explore the common features of some famous cities around the world, including their own town. We did what lots of people would call, ‘an app smash!’ This is really just combining apps together in some way. Our app smash was to integrate Google Slides with Google Maps and the Street View feature.

Here’s a link to your own copy – it’s very simple but had the students engaged for a long time – they didn’t want to finish. Just open your own copy, follow the instructions and complete the thinking section at the end.

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STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)


These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

STEM ELEMENTS planning (1).png

Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.


Coding Resources Hyperdoc

There will be a load of teachers in Australia and New Zealand starting to think about planning for the year ahead with a new class and a new group of students. One of the things we are always hoping to do is to inspire and motivate them in those first few weeks.

What better way to do this than to launch them into the world of coding! If you’re after a resource to help you get started, here’s a poster with some clickable links to take you straight to the app or website you’ll need.


There are resources for anyone just starting out, through to more advanced users who are looking to develop their understanding of syntax coding. I’ve also written about this in more depth here, on our website at Using Technology Better. Click the links below to see the online versions and download your own copy if needed using the links at the top of the PDF.

Google Drive – Coding Resources Download

Microsoft OneDrive  – Coding Resources Download

The Power of Video

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 3.13.34 pmThis week I facilitated 2 sessions at the Mediamash Workshop day in Winton. This was a teacher/student day for everyone to learn alongside each other – a powerful theme for the day in itself!

My sessions were looking at the potential for videos as a powerful tool in the learning process. In our class we recognise 3 things:

1. Today’s learners are incredible visual in the way they like to learn.
2. Outside the school environment, we often use video to learn things – from gaming walk throughs, to instructional videos for building and fixing things. So why not at school?
3. Videos can be used at lots of different stages in the learning process.

In the slides below you’ll see some examples for how we use videos before, during and after which are just ways to describe the steps our students take in our learning pathways.

The before part of the process is where flipped learning emerges. Many times this year we have had students come to a learning workshop having watched a video we provided in the pathway with a much deeper understanding of the concept or skill we are looking at. This allows us to practise, or fill in the gaps they have.
During in this sense indicates the workshops that happen with a teacher and after is where the student goes away to consolidate, clarify or create their own videos.

Make sure you click on the images and links to access the movies and sites.

**Above image sourced from http://www.visual-learners.com/image-files/models.gif


‘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!

Mediamash Workshop Slides

I’m part of an initiative called, ‘Mediamash‘ which is aimed at inspiring schools to dig into the treasure chest of digital media for their learning programmes.

Today we launched our first teacher and student workshops. These are the slideshows from 2 workshops I ran, with a colleague.

I always love talking with other teachers about the systems and methods we’re using in our classes – especially ones with so much passion and enthusiasm for giving our students the best possible learning experiences!

Thinking Hats for big kids

This week I got a great idea for deepening the critical / reflective skills of my class – something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. @MsBeenz sent me a reflective template that uses De Bono’s Hats (this site has some great resources to download and use, too) to structure the students through an amazing reflection.

Her class used them to write reviews on their ipad apps and I slightly adapted it to help the Year 6s reflect on their camp from the week before. I was REALLY surprised with the way it scaffolded some great reflections by asking them to think across the sprectrum of thinkers hats – logic and facts / feelings, positive / negative and creative / facilitative. (My own take on the hat names but I do like the ‘cautions’ word instead of negative, perhaps)
When some students saw the posters I put together, below, I heard, ‘Oh those – we did them in the juniors!’ and, ‘Those are for babies aren’t they?’ Well, you can imagine my face – very black hat reaction! Amazingly, the reaction was pretty accepting when we got into it and I showed them how we’d use them. I even explained that a lot of businesses use them to help make big decisions.
When we’ve finished I might post a couple of their reflections. I think they’re pretty good. Much better than hatless, anyway!
The template for the camp reflection is in the folder above, also – thanks @MsBeenz!

Skype in the Classroom

On Wednesday I worked with some classrooms who wanted to develop their use of Skype. I arranged for two classrooms to skype with us (thanks to connections with my twitter friends, @Marama and @mrkempnz), one in Dunedin at Grant Braes School and the other at Pukeokahu School near Taihape.
The first class, Room 3 at St Thomas Aquinas, watched this video that explained what skype is and how it works.
Next we co-constructed a chart of what a successful skype session is. The poster below is the version I’ve put together in popplet – a cool chart maker, I’ve discovered. The three parts, preparation, during the call and reflection are based on the rubric I found online here, at the ‘Educational Origami’ blog. We found that it helped us have a great first Skype call, especially the prep stage where we visited their class wiki or blog and prepared some questions to ask.
Here are some reflections I’ve taken from the two sessions.
1. Watch for tricky technical bridges to hurdle.
It’s always important to test your technology before using it, especially when you’ve arranged a time to do something with someone else- who has built their timetable around it. We had some issues with proxy settings and, I think, some firewall blocks which has tripped me up in the past. Always check your connection before you need it. Especially when using skype for the first time with a class.
2. Always have an authentic purpose.
Anything new has its gimmick appeal. I’ve found that this lasts for about 20 minutes with kids and then they’re over it! When we’re using skype to call someone you should always have a real reason for doing so…not just because you can – ‘Hey kids, lets skype the class next door!’
With the second session we decided that we’d use the skype call to help the class develop an understanding of open and closed questions – and a real audience to practise on! They were totally engaged in asking their open questions (based on a video the other class made of a science experiment they did with sheep’s eyes) and they got experience how powerful those types of questions are. The learning intention of the session was not how to use skype – classic example of use the tool to help the learning..rather than learning the use of the tool.
3. Don’t underestimate how familiar our students are with technology
It was amazing to see how many hands shot up when I asked if they had used skype before. Many had skyped their grandparents and family front out of town and a lot of them knew how it worked and what it did.
Often we think that we will be sharing a tool with our class that is innovative and amazing! It may well be, compared to the technology we usually use at school, or even compared to the teacher next door. But to these students it’s a normal part of everyday life. It’s not so amazing to them – they don’t know any different. All the more reason to make our classrooms as relevant as possible to our students everyday lives.

Online Planning

It’s the start of term 2 and I’m flat out planning. Every teacher knows this joy… sometimes. Planning, I’ve found, is the key to having a successful day in the classroom.

When you’re at teacher’s college it’s something that you come to resent because of the marking / assessment purpose – especially when you know that the chances of actually teaching what you plan is small. Now that I’ve got some time under my belt I’ve become a planning fan. There’s nothing better than stumbling on a resource or an idea that you are excited to use.

Here are two ways I’m using some online planning resources for this term. The first resource, mindmeister, is something I saw Nick Rate use and really liked. This mind mapping application lets you create an overview of the term. Each curriculum area has the activity or focus described and then, what I really like, you can create the links between them. You can see the links I’ve made with the inquiry topic of cultural diversity.

You can also add online links, download it as a pdf / jpg etc and also share the map with others online and have them add or edit the map. Brilliant. Here’s an embeded version you can interact with – students love making these and putting them into their efolios, too.

I’m also using this online planning resource found on the Ministry of Education website, TKI. It’s a social studies inquiry planner that walks you through the steps. I really liked the colour coding of conceptual understandings, thinking and reflective steps. It’s very visual (important to me), interactive, downloable and easily edited throughout the term.

I’m still a fan of pen and paper. I’ve become a hybrid planner you could say but these two sites show how we can use a digital format to create, edit, share and plan for the benefit of our students.

Image used under creative commons from MarkKelley, via flickr.com