Sunday, 30 September 2012

Ways of Learning

Like many bloggers, I have more than one place where I collect and collate so today I'm taking the opportunity to share another of my sites here.
I created this site to gather information on different methodologies as my department began exploring the notion of thematic planning. Since its beginning, I have also added in sections for the Flipped Classroom model and PBL (Project-Based Learning). Hopefully the site will offer other teachers some alternative ways of delivering curriculum content. 
As always, feel free to get in touch with suggestions or comments which are always appreciated.

Click here to visit the site.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Interesting Ways with Thinglink

Anyone can add to this presentation, so if you have more great ideas, do share!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Contribution & Collaboration #flatclass

I've just finished Chapter 6 of Flattening Classrooms and what a great read! Lots of useful reminders about the things we need to consider when collaborating online, including avoiding 'lurking' where people watch but do not contribute. What is the justification of just 'taking' from the community and giving nothing in return? Apart from preventing others benefiting from your insights or challenges, you deny yourself the energy and inspiration that comes from such communication.
One of the key questions that arose was:
Am I embedding opportunities for collaboration and related assessment into curriculum design?
I think I don't do badly on this front, but there's more to be done. I now need to start formally assessing contributions alongside subject-related content. Hasn't it been shown time and time again that if it's not being assessed, it's probably not being heeded much by learners?
Up to this point, I've used rubrics for collaboration as stand-alone assessment (AfL) tools, but for summative assessments I can see the benefit in having these criteria given prominence alongside the other skills and knowledge traditionally assessed in the classroom. The tension remains, however, between school-dictated assessment models based on rather outdated standards and the need to move our learners into the 21st Century workplace with an appropriate toolkit.
And it's not all plain sailing. Without a doubt, online collaboration is extremely challenging with asynchronous workflows and the associated time-lags allowing for disengagement, and miscommunication. With the online conference happening tomorrow, it'll be very interesting to hear others' experiences of this mode of learning with all the inherent challenges. Do the suggested solutions really yield positive outcomes? Watch this space...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

PL Overload?

So, the PBLU course is finally yielding some interesting assignments for which I have to engage my grey matter...and it's challenging! With a return to work (albeit part-time) and the FCCT course underway, I am well and truly feeling the pressure. Add to this the maintenance of collaboration ties with several schools in the US and I'm definitely working no less intensely than this period last year when I was a full-timer.
In my enthusiasm to get on board with the Flat Classroom Project, I somehow read, but did not digest, the fact that this is a Masters-level course. Having completed an MA in Education, I had previously stated that I was done with adding such a study load to my work load and look at me now. But I am enjoying it. The workaholic in me lives on...
For the FCP we've been considering 'Communication' and we were grouped into 4s to give Quadblogging a go. I've never participated in such a venture and it'll be interesting to see what results it yields. The asynchronous mode of working is not exactly new to me, but the absolute lack of time to chat in the gaps is. As this is what the learners will be doing on the project (CCA starts tomorrow!) I guess it's only fair that we go through the process ourselves and it'll be a useful learning experience I'm sure.
Having completed 2 of the PBLU courses, I was feeling rather underwhelmed by it all but quite smug to see how far along the inquiry-based learning route our school already is. However, today's assignment which asked, 'How do you assess 21st Century skills such as critical thinking?' made me stop and wonder. In all honesty, I am guilty of talking about these skills a lot and expecting my learners to employ them but I have not once included assessment of these explicitly on a rubric or otherwise. What an oversight! So definitely some learning for me today.
Conference 2 is tomorrow so I still have reading to do and it's not exactly skim-reading material so time to get back to it. More soon (if I haven't cracked...)

Storyboard That: Drag n Drop in a Flash

I noticed Storyboard That from a tweet by Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) a couple of days ago and set aside 5 minutes to have a quick look. It offfers a very simple interface for creating anything from basic to detailed frames.

As an entire year group at my school is currently producing video for a film festival I can see an immediate application, but the tool could also be used for providing instruction e.g. a process in Science, a technique in PE or a summary of historical events. Of course, being an English teacher, using this as a reading response assessment is also a possibility but I think my first exploration of Storyboard That will be to create frames (extracted by screenshot) for my teaching sites to engage learners and provide guidance at certain parts of the lessons. How could you use it?

Friday, 14 September 2012

A Re-post: Advice for Shy Presenters

I had this blog post bookmarked for a while as I prefer to have a look at a recommendation before passing it on, but as I have recently been focusing on presentations with my learners, it rose from the bottom of my 'bloggable' folder.
The post is from the excellent FreeTechForTeachers site and has a 5-minute video on how to overcome shyness in front of an audience with a truly useful article attached.
If you or your learners struggle with public address, this could be a great resource to explore, share and discuss.

Soundation: Create Your Own Soundtracks

As elements of operating systems are being replaced bit-by-bit with Web 2.0 tools,  Soundation is another free service to add to your kit. As with Garage Band, you can splice and mix uploaded tracks or choose from over 600 clips available from their library.

Results can then be used in group projects without the concern for copyright that is becoming an ever-increasing concern. Click here.


Just read this and had to share it. Now I know my destination!

"Teacherpreneurs enjoy autonomy and empowerment and sometimes the working environment attracts them as much as the financial incentives. As a good entrepreneur abhors unprofitable venture, likewise, teacherpreneurs resist lose-lose situations where they are forced into methodologies that are not reaching their students or curriculum that doesn't meet their high standards. Teacherpreneurs want to see students engaged and learning...Good teacherpreneurs aren't renegades; they are connectors."

Lindsay, J & David VA Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Pearson 2013, p44-45

Thursday, 13 September 2012

PicLits: An Adaptation on Concrete Poetry?

PicLits is a site that I was reminded of by a recent blogpost. Visitors click on a picture of their choice from a selection provided and then they can drag and drop words onto the picture to create a type of art-based poem or PicLit. The word banks are customised to each picture so that something relevant is likely to be produced. 

A great tool to get learners started on composing while avoiding 'blank page syndrome' or it could be used as inspiration for descriptive writing. There is also a Learn It section on the site where visitors can take writing Master Classes.

Teachers may think this is restricted to use in the English classroom, but why not start your Science or Math lesson with a bit of a creative burst? Click here to give it a go.

Warning: Check the day's gallery (not on the home page) before sharing with learners as some of the results may be inappropriate for your context.

Alternatives to Picassa for Web Albums

Earlier today a colleague asked why she couldn't make her Picassa albums public outside our school domain, as she wanted to embed a slideshow in a Google Site. The answer: Picassa has moved to Google+ and therefore sharing is controlled through that portal. If your school doesn't have Google+ enabled, your hands are rather tied on this one. 

Albums are a great way to showcase learners' work or share learning moments with a wider audience so it's well worth finding one that meets your needs.

In a quest to find an alternative, I discovered two services that are a bit different but perhaps even better? Judge for yourself:

Dropmocks is a service that could not be simpler. Simply drag files from your computer onto the screen and they will be uploaded. No registration; no time wasted. Click on an image to bring it into focus while the rest sit behind blurred out. Embed in a Google Site using the iframe gadget. Here's an example below.

Wallwisher is no newcomer, but how about combining different media for a notice board display rather than a traditional slideshow? Combine artwork and video to enhance your pictures and visitors can leave comments (if you set the permissions appropriately). And even better - it's a collaborative tool so all your learners can contribute. 
To embed in Google Sites, simply copy and paste the embed code as usual. It will display best on a site that is 800 px wide, or visitors will have to scroll around to see all content. Example here:

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Assessing Critical Thinking

Today, I was given an assignment from PBLU to consider how I'd assess 21st Century skills, specifically critical thinking. At first glance, I thought, 'easy' but when it came to actually getting it down in black and white I realised that I had a glaring omission in my assessment toolset. While I talk about critical thinking skills with my learners (a lot!), I couldn't recall a time when I'd included it in the assessment criteria of a rubric or given written feedback to even one learner using that actual term. I mean, of course I've asked them to expand on a point in their learning blog, evaluate a process they've been through and make their thinking 'visible' but why on earth would they be doing this as a matter of practice when I don't explicitly assess it (or at least not since our 'Thinking Together' program 2 years ago which new learners never experienced)? And here's me after a year of focusing on 'Clarity in the Classroom'. Appalling!
Recovering from the immobility of shame, I watched the recommended video below to get started. I realise that I am going to need resources to focus on critical thinking more explicitly and, as mentioned by a colleague in a discussion yesterday, it's time for us to make audio & video recordings a regular feature of classroom activity. In this way, we'll be able to make thinking an aspect for reflection as with any other skill. Below the video are some resources that I've read through but I'm sure there are lots more out there to be discovered, and I'll be looking out for resources to use with learners in particular.

Scholastic $1 Deal Sale Now On!

Time for a Change

Until now, I have kept my PL blog and my teaching resources blog separate but after conversations with several colleagues & 'networkees', it's time for a change. In future, I will share my musings and discoveries on methodology and pedagogy here using the label ReflectionsI have been the lucky participant of such good courses, summits, online conferences, webinars and PLN connections that I really feel it's time to share.
I will continue to curate the best of Web 2.0 tools for the classroom as well as professional learning resources, but hopefully this bit of reorganisation will give me more scope to incorporate consideration of what exactly this all adds up to. 
So bear with me and feel free to filter out my ramblings using the Labels menu on the right to get right to 'the good stuff.'


Monday, 10 September 2012


Just read this and had to share it. Despite the frustrations, we are not alone!

"Teacherpreneurs enjoy autonomy and empowerment and sometimes the working environment attracts them as much as the financial incentives. As a good entrepreneur abhors unprofitable venture, likewise, teacherpreneurs resist lost-lost situations where they are forced in to methodologies that are not reaching their students or curriculum that doesn't meet their high standards. Teacherpreneurs want to see students engaged and learning...Good teacherpreneurs aren't renegades; they are connectors."

Lindsay, J & David VA Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, Pearson 2013, p44-45