Moving Up

Aug 15, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

You have got to love the buzz of students getting their first school laptop – it is infectious. This time of year has to be one of my favourites. The sound the kids make when they get to open their computers for the first time is still priceless.

Ford Family Portraits: Mr. Isaiah Early

This year we further refined our “role out” strategy. We have always tried to give our new year 7 students as much support as possible but this year we are trying to go that extra mile. Things kicked off on Friday afternoon with a keynote speech from the secondary principal on how technology is influencing our world. The students then took their laptops home for the weekend to explore. As the new week started up we organized a Year 7 Tech Conference. During this conference students worked in groups through a series of activities lead by various members of the teaching and admin staff.  The sessions during the day were structured for focus on the Approaches to Learning from the MYP programme. Students explored:

  • Responsibility – Digital Safety
  • Organization – OneNote & The Portal
  • Communication – Blogs
  • Organization – Dyknow & Veracross
  • Responsibilty – Ethical Use
  • Organization – Outlook
  • Organization – Backing Up

This is a similar structure to what we ran last year but the extra bit we are focusing on this year is the continued support we will provide the students. During House Room (home room for most) the teachers will be focusing on specific issues every fortnight. These sessions will mostly relate to how students organize themselves electronically and learning to lead a balanced life.  We will be using resources from Common Sense Media, Manic Time, Netsmartz (and many more of course) to help ensure that our new middle school students are supported as they progress through the year.

climb up the wall (cc)
Things have started up well. Let’s hope we can keep things going.


Getting Connected

Aug 9, 2012 by     7 Comments    Posted under: Communicate, Digital Suitcase

When the school year starts up again it is always an interesting challenge to get connected with the things going on at school – friends, students, new initiative, etc. It seems that the holidays hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm to try something totally different this year – it is time to get out there again.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Ivan Rumata

For the first stop on this journey into the uncomfortable Ivan and myself have continued the redevelopment of our Year 9 course. We are looking to implement a student directed and peer assessed course and I think we are getting close.

The course is designed around the idea that the students are working towards their “Digitally Connected Passport“. Along the way they will earn stamps in this passport to show their development and mastery. The different regions/sections that the students will have to explore are the MYP Approaches to Learning. Inside each region students will have to complete a set number of activities in order to earn their stamp. As they work towards a stamp each activity will need to be peer assessed and then as they go for their stamp they have to get approved by the supervisor (Ivan or myself). Hopefully we have found the right blend of entertainment and challenging.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by JorgeBRAZIL

We have taken inspiration from many different sources for the games style of this unit and have drawn heavily on the new Common Sense Media curriculum for our activities. Things are looking good at the moment and we only have to wait a few more days to let is lose on the students. I can’t wait.

What Is Happening Out There?

May 25, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Communicate

When I was going through my RSS feed the other day I realised that the world is “swimming in data“. There is so much amazing stuff coming out about basically every aspect of our society – student debt, rising sea level, transportation and so much more. But do we know what is actually going on in our own backyard?

Here at school we have been playing around with our ICT survey for the passed few months and have been trying to work out what do we actually want to know about our community. We want to see how effective our ICT services, support and integration program are but we have realised how difficult it is to structure a survey to really get the information we are looking for.

As I write this we have been working on this survey for the best part of 3 months. The process have been an amazing experience (although at times I wish I could be done with it):

  • Brainstorm – thinking about what do we actually want to know and start the process with this in mind
  • Reflection – look at previous school surveys to identify question types and results
  • Collaboration – working together with other schools to develop common questions through which we can compare our results
  • Develop – construct the survey and think about how questions should be structured
  • Trial – asked sample groups of colleagues and students to test the survey out and provide feedback
  • Redesign – constantly rework and rejig our survey as the process goes on
We are approaching the time when we will distribute the survey and I have to say I am a bit nervous. Will this “sea of data” help us change our practice to better meet the needs of our student? I certainly hope so. Let’s see how things go.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by ohad*

The Power of Images

Nov 29, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Communicate

We all know the line “A picture is worth a thousand words” but are all pictures created equal? Are all pictures worth a thousand words or are some worth more than others?

I am a very visual learner and I realised early on the importance of being able to “read” pictures (images). I feel it is a skill that students need to be explicitly taught. I am aware we are all able to gain meaning from images but very few of us have the natural ability to interpret the message of an images. It is something we have to learn.

In one of my classes we were learning about various contagious diseases and as part of this we developed an essential vocabulary list. Instead of asking the student to find the definitions of these words I asked them if they could locate an image which represented what the word meant to them. This was a new challenge for the students. Most of them had never been explicitly taught about how to find and reference images.

To kick things off I gave students a couple of minutes to select a word and find an image that represents the meaning. “Too easy” said most of the student and all of them came back with a picture well within the time limit. But when we looked at the collection of images we realised that a number of students had picked exactly the same image. After a short chat the kids realised that the reason for this is because they all used Google Images. We moved the discussion on to if they knew whether they were allowed to use their picture in a presentation. After some humerous responses we realised that none of us knew if we had “permission”. This lead perfectly to a video I had prepared:

After watching the video we chatted about how we could find Creative Commons licensed work. I gave a short demonstration of how Creative Commons Search and Compfight worked, how to reference photos and told them they needed to develop a presentation with 10 definitions.

As I walked around the room I was amazing at how quickly the students picked up how to find and reference “powerful” images. It was almost a logical step for them. They already knew images were a powerful way to convey meaning, all they were missing was a little extra guidance. Hopefully the students will be able to take some of these skills away and apply them in other areas of their life. Fingers crossed.

Public Exposure

Nov 25, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Be Responsible, Communicate

Have you ever searched yourself on “Google”? How public are you?

These questions are something that I never would have thought about when I was at school. But now they are questions we all need to think about. The line between our professional, personal, public and private life has become so blurred.

This is an issue I often think about and I am always struck with the thought of how we are preparing our students for this new reality? How will they know what to share publicly or privately when many adults don’t know themselves?

I feel that we as educators need to take a more active role in helping prepare our students for this new “public” world. Our current generation of students have done a reasonable job of adapting to the new technology and handling the challenges that they have faced. But how have we supported them during this process? Often we have provided minimal support.

Over recent years I have noticed a number of educators looking to address this reality. Whilst working on assignments students are talking about writing publicly or privately, the importance of a secure password and what to do when they find inappropriate content. They are being provided with authentic opportunities to engage with society and in doing so they are forced to discuss the realities of working in this environment.

Hopefully the lead that these educators have set will become more widely spread through our schools. By doing this our students will be further supported as we help prepare them for life beyond school (on and offline).


Surrounded by Floods

Nov 23, 2011 by     27 Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Communicate, Create

As most of you already know Thailand was hit by serious flooding this year. The flood water inundated cities with up to 3 metres of water and came very close to flooding all of Bangkok – only a small section of the city remained dry. While the area around our school remained dry, our school closed for a number of days and a large section of the school population was directly affected by the flooding.

During this time year 7 students were inquiring into how river systems worked. The events that were taking place around the school provide a great learning opportunity for the students. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Teresa Tung and her class for this unit. Here is a brief overview of how the inquiry developed:

The Water is Coming

The floods spread rapidly throughout the country as the water moved towards the sea. Our challenge was to stay up to date with the information. Students realised that the newspapers and their websites were not up dated regularly. So we turned our attention to Twitter and explored the various “hashtags” that were developing. There were two major ones – “thaiflood” (which had tweets in Thai) and “thaifloodeng” (which had tweets in English). Through this research we explored reliability of information, the importance of video and pictures in conveying messages and much more. Following the information really highlighted how quickly the situation was developing and also how many people were affected.

Where Did the Water Come From

After many days of uncertainty about whether our area of Bangkok would flood, the signs started to improve. The school community really rallied together to offer support to those in need – check out a video here. In class discussions started to focus on how this situation developed in the first place. It was time to find out where all the water came from. We decided to look at how rivers worked and chose the Ping River and the Chao Phraya River as the focus for this. We turned to our trusty friend Google Earth and after some playing around built a tour which followed the river from the source to the sea. Whilst watching this we focused on the cities it passed through, the features of the rivers (meanders, tributaries, river mouth, etc) and also the various man made obstructions that affected the flow of the river. I would have to say the Google Earth tour was one of the most powerful uses of technology that I have ever seen. Below is a quick video of the tour – sorry for the low quality. If you would like the Google Earth file just let me know.

Did The Students Get It?

So while the disaster that has struck Thailand provided our students with a range of fantastic resources and learning opportunities, did the students actually pick up an understanding of how rivers work? To see if they did we asked them to develop “In Plain English” style videos of how rivers work. We have already used this style of video (developed by the people at Common Craft) before so the students got into the project very quickly and as you will see below did a fantastic job.

Reflecting on this unit I am so glad that I get to support teachers and students in their inquiries. The technology tools that we used really helped to provide a unique insight into the situation in Thailand and helped students draw a connection between this and the learning they were doing in class. It is times like these I love to be a teacher.

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