Monthly Archives: April 2012

How to use Vialogues

I used Vialogues in my English class last week. I think it’s a tool with great educational potential. I was going to write a lengthy post outlining the process, but figured it might work better if I created a screencast showing you what to do instead. I’d encourage you to visit the site and take a look around for some inspiration. You’ll find it, I’m sure.

I’d love to see more teachers using screencasting to explain processes to their students. Being able to revisit an explanation is something that I think is valuable. I’m always pointing my students to YouTube to find screencasts explaining editing tools or how to troubleshoot problems on their computers. It seems like you can find a screencast for nearly everything these days!

Hopefully, the above screencast explains Vialogues well enough to encourage you to have a go.

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School’s out Friday

I’d never heard of Henry Rollins until this week. I was on a plane flying to Sydney, and there was an article in the in-flight magazine where he discussed his life. Then tonight, I was searching around for a School’s out Friday post, and on the front page of Reddit was a link to the above video. I like the message, and think it might be useful to use as a starter for my Year 10 class in one of our lessons next week. I hope they pay close attention to the examples used in the latter stage of the video, and note that they are all men. Considering the message was for, ‘Young people’ and not specifically, ‘Young men’, it would have been good to find a couple of female role models to add to the mix.

Big week, and tired eyes are testament to that. I’m off to a Bell Shakespeare professional development day tomorrow where we’ll be exploring ways to teach Romeo and Juliet. You know, that seemed like a great idea when a couple of my colleagues and I discussed it a few weeks ago, but right now, it’s not exactly holding great appeal. I have no doubt it will be incredibly useful, and I’ll probably be really glad I went around this time tomorrow night. Just right now though, a good long sleep-in holds more appeal!

I hope you’re able to avail yourself of that sleep-in tomorrow. I’ll be envious! Enjoy your weekend. :)

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Using Evernote to record a lesson

I mentioned this on Twitter last night, and quite a few people were interested in it, so I thought I should write a blog post about my use of Evernote in my class this week.

We’re in the midst of a close study of Animal Farm, in preparation for the crafting of a text response essay. There are no bells and whistles about my delivery of content this week. This is old fashioned class discussion, with a lot of teacher talk happening as we dissect the novel, looking for key plot developments and pertinent quotes that we might be able to use in the upcoming (sight unseen) essay. The students are marking up their novel as we discuss events and there’s an awful lot of sharing taking place.

Yesterday, two students were absent. They were going to miss some critical information, so I opened up my desktop version of Evernote, created a new note, and clicked on the microphone icon. This opened up the option for recording. I made sure my inbuilt microphone on my computer was turned up and pressed record. 77 minutes later I stopped the recording and emailed it to the students. Because I’m emailing through Evernote, the huge file that it is sends and arrives in the student’s school mail.

Five minutes later I got an email from one of the students saying thanks. I checked with her today, and she said the recording was fine, she just had a little trouble hearing some of the responses from students who were further away from my computer. Today, all the students were present, but I asked if they would like me to record the lesson. They did, and at least 8 of them asked that I email today’s recording onto them when our lesson was over. I love that they can revisit what we covered, and maybe cross check that they marked up in their novel what we identified as relevant.

Evernote has to be my favourite notetaking and organisational tool. If you’re not yet an Evernote user, you should be. My students were fascinated by it when I told them what I was doing yesterday, and many have investigated it as a result. It has so much potential in school settings, and is something I would like to see students have the option to use. Teachers too!

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School’s out Friday

This was on the front page of Reddit this evening. It is pretty mesmerising – mesmerising enough to lull me to sleep. But really, that wouldn’t be too hard at the moment. After spending the last four and a half days of the holiday’s preparing my parent’s house for sale, I fronted up for the first week of school more exhausted than when I finished up last term. Not very clever planning on my behalf!

My son, husband and I returned home not long ago from our Cover the Night work to support Kony 2012. I’m very proud of my son. He wanted to take part and insisted I order the action pack. He followed through with his commitment tonight with the support of my husband and I. I really don’t care what other people think of the campaign. I care that my son cares – I want to encourage my child to be a person who is empathic, who views the world from the perspective of not just his own experience, but the experiences of others in less fortunate positions. So far, I think he’s on the right track, and we will do whatever we can to  help him understand that sometimes you need to look outside yourself and do something to support a cause.

I’m off to Sydney on Sunday in time to deliver a presentation on Monday at Barker College for their Teacher-Librarians and Geography teachers. I’ll be talking about the General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum and our school’s Information Fluency program that we have been developing. Sunday night will see me enjoying dinner with some of the best TL’s in the business – can’t wait for the stimulating discussion we are bound to have!!

Enjoy your weekend – find some sun, rest and relax. : )

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Sharing New Classroom Tools using Libguides

Today I had the opportunity to run a session with interested staff, showing them new Web based tools they could be using in their classrooms. I spent quite a bit of time over the holidays putting together a page in our Libguides site for this purpose. Some of the tools were familiar to me and are ones I’ve used in classrooms I’ve taught in, but others were new to me. I decided to try and find screencasts explaining their use wherever possible, so that staff could revisit this page after the session and refamiliarise themselves with how you go about using each tool. I had to use my limited coding skills (those of you who read regularly will be smiling at this) to change the size of the YouTube videos to try and fit the sidebar boxes. I think the staff who attended found the session useful, and I thought I’d share the link here in case there are others in schools elsewhere who will also find this a useful point of reference. To see the page, click here, or on the image below.

If you’re from a school using Libguides, you may want to use this page on your site. Like I said earlier, it took me a long time to put together. If I can save you some time on your end, then that’s a good thing in my book. :)

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School’s out Friday

You have to commit to watching this video. You just have to. Caine Monroy’s summer holiday pursuit will remind you of your childhood, when you had faith in your ideas and quite often, you’d commit to spending time to making them work. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of wet, rainy days, when being housebound meant cubby house construction time for my brother and I. Our lounge room would be transformed with upturned furniture, blankets substituting for plaster roofing, and cardboard boxes, if we were lucky. If there had been a major purchase recently, we might be lucky enough to score a ginormous box, and we’d huddle inside partaking of lunch and afternoon tea in our luxurious surrounds. I was so entranced with Caine’s arcade and I think I’ll be sharing it as the term starter with my Yr 10 students next week. Thanks go to Dean Groom for leaving the link in a comment he posted here this week.

I’ve felt like a contestant on The Biggest Loser these last two days. I’ve been working at my parent’s house, getting the place ready to put on the market – time for them to move to something more manageable. Yesterday, their garden looked like a jungle – today, it’s transformed to a relaxing haven. This involved hours of pruning, weeding, shoveling, wheelbarrowing and plenty of sweat into the mix. I wish I could say it’s translated into inches off my backside and thighs, but I’d be lying! There’s more ahead, as I tackle the inside this weekend. Wish me luck – there’s a chance I may never be seen again. ;)

Enjoy whatever comes your way this weekend. I bet it’s going to be more enjoyable than what awaits me!

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Is it just me?

Yeah, why would they?

When a group like Invisible Children launch an online campaign that ignites teenagers to think of a cause outside of their Facebook stream, they face criticism “…for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rddVuoy9

The narrator of their video, Jason Russell, suffered a psychotic episode, with this explanation offered from his wife, Danica Russell.

“Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks. Even for us, it’s hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention — both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days,” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rde5gjQa

Meanwhile, Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram, a marketer who learned to code at night, has had this said about him on a TNW post.

Instagram‘s CEO, Kevin Systrom, will go down in history as one of the greatest Silicon Valley success stories of our generation.

Is it just me, or does the world seemed skewed? When people trying to do something to make the world better receive criticism, and people who make a photo sharing app are lauded as success stories, then I think we need to do some re-evaluation of our priorities.

But maybe that’s just me.

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Coding defeats me…again

Code Academy sounded good, it really did. I signed up at the start of the year, super enthusiastic that this was going to be my successful second go at learning code. I spectacularly failed at the P2PU course I enrolled in last year, when I found the lessons perplexing and the discussions in the forums way above my entry level extremely basic understanding.

I started in January, heady in the fantasy that this would be something I could sustain when I returned to my full time job at the start of the school year. Fantasy it was, as I succumbed to the nature of full time work and family expectations. Come the first term holiday break, the fantasy revisited me, making me think this was something I could immerse myself in and master. Oh, and the Code Academy team kept sending me emails, encouraging me to return. I felt like I should do the course some justice.

So, I tried. Reality is what I’ve faced, as I fumbled through instructions and had to keep clicking on the ‘hint’ button to get me through stages. Yes, the hint helped, so much so that I’d finish a stage with no real clue as to what I’d supposedly mastered.

Eventually, I decided that coding is just not my game.

It might be, if I was dedicating myself to this as a full time pursuit for a period of weeks with enough support around me so that when I hit a stumbling block, I might be able to turn around and ask somebody what was I doing wrong. Alas, that is not my reality, and won’t be anytime soon.

I am concerned about the future, and know that a knowledge of coding is a skill that will be highly sought. I know that the computing industry is over-represented with males and not a whole slew of women are lining up to learn these skills. I’d like to be able to help my students understand that this is something they should be looking into. I don’t want to see a small minority control further development of the Web, and I’d like to see women in peoples’ top ten lists of movers and shakers in places like Silicon Valley.

I don’t mind admitting failure. I’m embracing the power that comes from acknowledging your vulnerability. Let’s face it, I’m getting pretty good at it. ;)

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School’s out Friday

Really, George Lucas?…. really?

What would Harrison Ford say about this? Does he know, in his now near geriatric state (well, nearing 70 anyway), how his seminal character is being portrayed on Xbox machines the world over? Pay close attention to the lyrics- even they’ve been morphed to suit the character. Surely Harrison would have had a word or two to say about this. He’s probably feeling a certain degree of comfort, seeing as there is no mention of this embarrassing slight on his Wikipedia page…yet. ; )

Some of you may have noticed there was no School’s out Friday post last week. It was the last day of term and exhaustion (combined with a glass or two of bubbly!) overcame me. I was relishing the joy of a completed renovation of our back room, and as promised, here is a photo of our masterpiece.

It’s been wonderful being able to relax out there over the holiday break. The only downside is that our wireless connection doesn’t extend out there. : (  It’s a form of forced meditation for me I guess.

I always expect to be churning out the blog posts over a holiday break. It’s just not happening for me right now. Maybe next week will see me in a more reflective state. The meditative state has taken over – I’m finding it hard to keep my eyes open and keep dozing. I’ve got quite a bit of work to plough through these holidays, so best I find a way to get my energy levels up or I’ll be regretting time wasted in the coming weeks.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter break with friends and family. Enjoy whatever it is you are planning, and indulge on a choccy egg or two. You deserve it. : )

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Hyperlinking text – a skill that needs some lovin’

Silvia Tolisano wrote a post the other day about something that’s been on my mind for sometime now. ‘Wondering About Hyperlinked Writing‘, encapsulates quite a few conversations I’ve had over the last few weeks that have made me consider what many aren’t doing in schools today.

But first, a confession. I had no idea how to hyperlink text until 2007. I was Head of Library (my first year in this position), and knew I needed to be creating online resources to support curriculum. I was aware that if I pasted a link into an email or a document, it seemed to automatically create a link you could click on to take you to the source document. Troubling for me, I had no idea how I could hyperlink text. What I did know was the feeling of vulnerability in a workplace, because I was living it. One of the members of my staff at the time was very Web savvy, and I eventually just admitted to her that I had no idea how to do this and she showed me just how simple it was. What a revelation!

Of course, a knowledge of how to hyperlink text assisted me greatly when I started writing this blog a few months later. Understanding the communication that can ensue when you link to the work of others was part of my learning curve, and it certainly helped me to gain an audience and form a learning network that crosses oceans.

Understanding the power of hyperlinked writing has changed my thoughts about reading. I welcome a hyperlink as I read. Knowing that I can easily move to the source of an author’s inspiration is something I find helpful, and not a distraction. It’s made me consider why students aren’t routinely taught this skill when they complete projects. I know many are insisting bibliographies are created using the correct formats, with links embedded, but it seems to me to be more helpful to have students hyperlink their text at the point where they have gained their inspiration or knowledge for their submitted work. I’m not suggesting they forgo the bibliography – it’s still essential they learn this skill, but hyperlinked text within a project will help a teacher move easily to check their student’s understanding, and to confirm that they have done their best to avoid plagiarising the work of others.

Here’s a potted version of the recent conversations that have got me thinking about this.

1. Talking to a colleague about hyperlinked text in projects. A few days later, he revisited this conversation with me, asking if authors of articles, websites etc. were OK with their work being linked into other documents. My answer was that it was good etiquette to do so, and many people appreciated their work being acknowledged in this way. It attracts visitors to the source document, and that’s got to be a good thing. This was obviously a new concept for him, but something I think he will be taking back to his classroom practice.

2. A phone call from a friend on a weekend. She was creating a PowerPoint for her Primary School students, and wanted to link a YouTube video into this so that they could easily access it on the day. She had no clue how to do this and I had to walk her through the process over the phone. I did give her instructions how to download and embed a video into the PowerPoint, but this was a bit too complex and we’ll have to master this skill face to face!

3. Asking my daughter (now in Yr 11) if she knew how to hyperlink text. Answer: No. She knew how to insert a link into a document, but had no clue about linking the text.

Our Edublogs platform at school has been a very good vehicle for a discussion of hyperlinked text/writing with my students. Getting them to understand that their voice can carry further when they hyperlink to the things they are referencing is part and parcel of the classroom conversations we have when I’m working with them. Making sure we embed this school into the Information Fluency certificates we are developing will also assist whole year levels to move through our school with this understanding.

Sometimes, I think we get so swept up in the acquisition of new skills that we forget about the basics. I know that for me, understanding how to hyperlink text unlocked doors that had been closed. Perhaps your students and fellow teachers are standing behind those locked doors. Time to give them the key.

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in Microsoft Word

Some handy advice about hyperlinking in iOS Pages

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