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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.

Is Big Brother watching?

Nov 22, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Be Responsible

I have been using TurnItIn a lot of late and it has got me wondering is it something that I actually agree with. Is the purpose of it to act like “police” and catch students out? Or it meant to be used it to address the issue of plagiarism?

For those of you who haven’t heard of or used TurnItIn before this is a website where students submit their assignments (usually essays) and the work is scanned to check for “originality” (i.e. have they plagiarized). Students and their teacher are then given a report which identifies what percentage of the work has been “copied” and identifies the location of the “copied” sections. That is the basic functionality of the website, for more information check out the video below:

Now you have an idea of how it works I am sure you can imagine my dilemma. When I am using it am I trying to “catch someone out” or trying to highlight the incidents of plagiarism? It is something I have thought a lot about and as time has passed the more I support the use of TurnItIn.

Click on picture to see complete graphic

It has been well documented that we are living in the “copy/paste” generation and as we all know it is easier than ever to take someone else’s work and call it your own. Technology has enabled this shift and we all have embraced it. But often in education we have struggled to keep up to date with this shift. Teachers still emphasize the importance of creating original work and citing sources but it is very tempting for a student to “take” a section of someone else’s work.

Services like TurnItIn provide both teachers and students with the tools to review their work. Yes, it can be used as a way to “police” student’s work but with a bit of attention it can be used as a learning opportunity for both students and teachers. I would go further and say if students are required to submit all their work through TurnItIn throughout middle and secondary school they will become used to the procedure and will “realise” the parameters on their work. If it is only used for final samples in the upper grades of secondary school students, of course, will feel as if teachers are trying to catch them out. But if it is part of the process they have “always” done then it becomes the routine.

So despite my initial reservations about using TurnItIn I have come to really appreciate the service and have to say that it is probably the coolest and most powerful educational website out there. If you are a teacher or student I would encourage you to give it a go. The results that it produces are really interesting – I randomly submit things I write through it and I am always amazed with the results.

Staying Connected

Apr 11, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

In my role as an ICT educator I hear a lot about the importance of staying connected. Most of the time these discussions revolve around using technology to establish personal learning networks. But of late I have been thinking about the importance of staying connected with those around you.

This is especially so when we look at a school community. I am lucky to have worked at schools where the school community is so engaged in learning. They play an active role in establishing a learning environment which is conducive to positive school culture.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to run a range of Learning Seminars for the parents of the school and it has highlighted how important the home/school relationship is. In theses sessions we have worked with the parents to help develop an understanding of the values and practices that we as educators believe in. These sessions have been very engaging and have provided both the parents and myself with an opportunity to discuss how best to support the students of the school.

By establishing connections with the school community we are able to listen to their needs and desires and also at the same time help establish a relationship where we can work together to create the best learning environment for the students.


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