Friday, 31 October 2014

Three Inspirations

It has been a huge month for Christchurch Connected Educators.  When planning our 31 Days of Blogging we thought it would be a tall order to get 31 different blog posts... but we did!  In fact, we even punched above our 31. Bridget Compton-Moen (one super sparky teacher!) aptly entitled our first post "Christchurch Teachers Rock" - yes they do!

To round off our month of blogging the Christchurch Connected Educators committee will finish this challenge by sharing three people/groups that have inspired them to become a connected educator. It's tough to narrow it down to only 3!

Julie Peterson

Julie's Google+

Julie is our Deputy Principal of Teaching and Learning at St Margaret's College.  She was the one that suggested I give Twitter a go and we took the plunge together.  Julie has supported and encouraged me to give anything a go and is a leader who is walking the talk!

Karen Meluish-Spencer

Karen's Google+  
Karen's blog - "Disrupt & Transform"

A massive thanks to Karen for heading up Connected Educator Month here in New Zealand. We all love Karen's amazing energy and passion!  She is a thought leader in education and has connected so many people in a range of exciting ways.

Jim Sill


Jim Sill is a Google Apps guru and is part of the EdTech Team.  I first heard him speak at the GAFE Summit in Christchurch earlier this year.  Jim is brilliant at providing demos (often winning the GAFE Summit demo slams) on new Google features. He has a great Youtube channel that is worth checking out.

Posted by Aimie Sibson, Digital  Learning Facilitator at St Margaret's College
@Aimiesibson, +AimieSibson

Three Inspirations

Only three inspirations?
This was a hard task to narrow down the three people /events/ groups  that have influenced me as a teacher, learner and educator.

1) Ewan McIntosh - I first met Ewan McIntosh when he came to my school about five, possibly six years ago.  He spent the day talking to various groups about using technology for learning. In the session with the English department he showed us a video game and talked passionately about how it could be used as a starter for creative writing. I was hooked! No-one else seemed to be, but I think that was the first time I understood the power of being connected. Here was this educator, from Scotland, in far away Christchurch, sharing ideas about teaching and learning.

2) eFellowship et al - the journey, the growing, the people. Being an eFellow  in 2013has changed how I think about teaching, learning, and being connected. Michael Winter says "the eFellows is a life sentence (but in  a good way). I have learnt so much from all the amazing people connected with
the eFellowship.

3)Educamps are a fantastic way to share, learn and connect with other like-minded EE's (eLearning enthusiasts). I have attended and/or facilitated eight educamps with another one happening on November 22nd here in Christchurch. I have met so many incredible teachers at educamps who have inspired, motivated and befriended me. And what happens at educamp stays on the shared google doc
or is tweeted out so everyone can be connected with the learning and sharing that is happening.

This #chched blog project has been incredible and has exceeded any idea we had about what people might share. I have been in awe of the teachers who have taken the time to write blogposts and share what they are doing and to give us all a little peek into your classes, thank you all.


Three Inspirations

As part of Connected Educator Month, #ChchED has done 31 Days of Blogging. To round this off, the committee are giving a quick overview of three key people/groups who have inspired them to be connected educators themselves.

Matt Nicoll
St Andrew's College

  • ChchED Committee
  • edchatNZ Conference Steering Committee
  • scichatNZ Committee
  • edSMAC Co-Founder

ULearn12 was the big change for me for becoming a more connected educator. Twitter and VPLD were the first avenues I used to be more connected, then I started to take some risks with making my pedagogy and keeping an blog to share these risks and innovations. But to take these steps, I needed inspiration from others:

Twitter: @kevinhoneycutt

Kevin was one of the Keynote Speakers at ULearn12. Just watch the first fifteen minutes of his talk and you might get an idea why he is #1 on my list:

Don't wait until it is perfect to get started, just get started. I didn't wait to be any good at filming my teaching and posting it on YouTube and our class blogs. They are not perfect, but they are useful to my students and to many others. Thank you to Kevin for giving the inspiration and courage to get started!

Twitter: @MissDtheTeacher

When Danielle started edchatNZ, and its respective fortnightly twitter chat via #edchatNZ, she was still a Provisionally Registered Teacher! From modest beginnings in 2012 (after ULearn12...), Danielle has been a "lone nut" leading an amazing team which brought us the first edchatNZ Conference in September 2014. I am proud to say that I am one of her most ardent followers and feel privileged to be able to call her a true friend. Every time I am in Auckland, catching up over coffee is always an inspiring highlight of my trip. Watch this space; Danielle is one to watch!

edchatNZ itself is probably the main reason that Danielle ranks so highly on this list. Via edchatNZ, I have built a really strong PLN and received great feedback for my own blog and ideas. Via edchatNZ, I have got help with units (or even just the teaching of individual concepts) that I thought were a bit "stale" or just wanted more variety with. Via edchatNZ, I have found the courage to share my ideas, and even to help build some other communities, such as edSMAC, scichatNZ and ChchED.

Sorry, Brent is not on twitter, nor does he have a website or blog. This does not make him any less "connected" but it does mean that I will need to email him about this post, instead of letting my PLN wheels do the turning for me.

Brent is my Head of Department. He is on this list because of the faith he has shown in me, and the opportunities he has afforded me. He is also here because he is a voice of rational reason when I start getting ahead of myself with my "great ideas!"

In 2013, Brent and I both went to the International Conference on Thinking (ICOT 2013) in Wellington. We were both inspired by what we were exposed to and driven to make changes in our own department. Brent then organised for us both to visit some great schools in Melbourne, Australia.

Brent is a wonderful leader of our department. He has made me feel valued, while also offering much-needed advice and critique. He is open-minded to ideas, so long as they are based upon sound pedagogy and match the goals of the department. He has encouraged me (and others in our department) and never been an obstacle in the way of innovation. He is not an advocate for "we've always done it that way", so he belongs squarely at #3 for me.

Bridget Compton-Moen 

Selwyn House

It was very hard for me to narrow down to just three people who inspire me as I get amazing ideas from every member of my PLN. So I've decided to share three blogs I consider must- reads. I've also chosen to share international blogs as many of the educators who inspire me are kiwis and I suspect you'll know them well!

In no particular order-

1. Langwitches- This is a truly amazing site with lots of amazing information for connected educators. There are so many treasures here I'm not sure which to highlight but this is a must if you have or are considering setting up a class blog. Silvia Tolisano is truly inspiring.

2.  WhatEdSaid- Edna Sackson is an amazing inquiry teacher who teaches in a PYP school like myself. Her posts are always thought-provoking and challenge me to ensure that there is an inquiry disposition in my class. She is awesome! Two other amazing inquiry teachers are Kath Murdoch of JustWondering and Maggie Hos-McGrane of TechTransformation. Maggie teaches in the most incredible school in Mumbai so her blog combines two of my great loves; inquiry and India!

3. NerdyBookClub- This is a must read for anyone who teaches literacy or loves reading! It was started by the incredible Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) but the posts are crowd-sourced. If you are anything like me, you'll spend a lot of your time finding the perfect book for your students and this is where I find reading material to check out for my learners. Add it to your feedly!

Ok, so I snuck two extras in there........ all five of these blogs are fantastic. Enjoy!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Future of e-Portfolios

Eddie Norgate, Principal, Diamond Harbour School

As a self-proclaimed cynic, there are many aspects of education that I struggle to fathom. Why does the rubbish in a school always blow down from the senior area to the juniors? “The junior children always pick up their rubbish, it must be the seniors.” Why are swimming parents the most difficult to deal with? Tongue now removed from cheek, and on a serious note, why do leaders and teachers alike pull their hair out when dealing with Student Management Systems? (SMS) E-Tap, Assembly they all have their strengths and weaknesses. This cynic was looking too closely at the weaknesses, so in October 2013 decided to investigate what was on offer.

To help explain the journey, there were some key aspects aligned with the strategic direction of our school that needed consideration:

  1. How can we safely and effectively report to parents in an online environment?
  2. What system allows support teachers, teachers working in MLEs and teacher aides to comment on learning in one place?
  3. What are the best ways to communicate information to parents?
  4. What accounting products are out there to support schools and to give cash-flow projections?

In terms of reporting to parents we had dabbled with the Google Platform with limited success. Pleasingly teachers were already exploring different ways to report, capture learning and were keen to challenge the current systems. I wasn’t expecting too much when I started talking with other leaders and in hindsight I was overly optimistic to think that I would find a ‘one stop system’ to address the above.  After some fruitless discussion and investigation we were lucky to be referred to LINC-ED by another colleague. 

Check out the demo video:

After 3-4 months of exploring and debating we decided to take the plunge and started using LINC-ED at the beginning of 2014. From a principal’s perspective the benefits of LINC-ED are endless:

  • ERO - the much dreaded Gestapo. LINC-ED allows you to document, link and wax lyrical about your actions and processes against the six dimensions.
  • Data - the data is easy to access, very easy to share and report to the staff and BoT. Even easier to send to the MOE.
  • Appraisals and teacher inquiries are all stored on LINC-ED. No more paper, one central place, opportunities for leaders and staff to collaborate.
  • Sharing of resources, links and learning is simple for staff.
  • I particularly like the visual layout and the personal nature.
  • All teachers can comment on all children in terms of their learning. Ideal for MLEs.
  • You can track which parents have opened their child’s report. In the past we did not know how many parents read their child’s report.
  • Target groups and children identified in annual plans are flagged on LINC-ED. This means when visiting classes, you can briefly check up on these children. It helps to focus teacher talk around our learners.
  • SENCOs can upload all those specialists reports to one central area.
  • LINC-ED provides options at 3 way conferences.
  • All forms of learning are easy to capture when reporting, google docs, video clips etc.

We are still required to use an approved SMS for our roll return, E-Tap, which also allows us to invoice parents. Obviously we still have some historical data stored on E-Tap and we will keep it for next year too, but as soon as we are able rid ourselves of E-Tap we will. (The team at LINC-ED are currently working with the Ministry of Education to ensure all requirements have been met and approved)

We all know implementing new systems is not all beer and skittles. You could probably guess the initial issues:

  1. Getting staff behind a new system.
  2. Paying for two SMS whilst the new one is phased in.
  3. Up-skilling staff and parents.

In the coming months we look forward to exploring the student portal, opening the system all year for parents to access and we are excited about the opportunity of a using LINC-ED for roll returns.

Whilst LINC-ED was unable to solve the cash-flow and accounting practices within our school we have developed an in-house facility that accurately forecasts our cash-flow. We’ve been advised to hold off for another 6 months before taking on an accounting package. Furthermore, we are using Mailchimp for our school newsletter which saves hours of time and also gives us data on who actually reads it!

Swimming season is nearly upon us and I will leave you to deal with the rubbish at your school, but if you would like more information about LINC-ED-Ed, the implementation process or just to see it in action, drop me an email. You won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

#Kidsbookchat- a twitter chat for connected kids!

For me one of the highlights of being a connected educator is participating in Twitterchats. These “virtual staff meetings” enable like-minded educators to “meet” and have discussions about a huge range of educational topics. I will never forget the thrill of my first ever twitterchat. (Yes, my husband does tell me I need to get out more!) 

My first chat was the inspiring #titletalk which is run by the Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller. I couldn’t believe that I was actually chatting with one of my "eduheroes"- I learned so much in that one hour and subsequently spent a fortune at my local Children’s Bookshop! I was hooked.

Soon after my first #titletalk, the #edchatnz community was born thanks to the amazing Danielle Myburgh. This community has gone from strength to strength and in August I was lucky enough to attend the first ever #edchatnz conference in Auckland. The friends I have made and the learning I have received from this free, teacher-led professional development has been invaluable; my students are the ones who have benefitted most from my involvement in this professional learning.   

I was excited when I first heard about educators using twitterchats with their students. It seemed a natural progression; surely this type of learning from our peers would be just as powerful for students as it is for their teachers. The #kidsedchatnz community is hugely successful thanks to seven amazing New Zealand teachers. Sadly, my class can’t take part in this due to timetabling but I have often looked over the chats later and been inspired by the depth of the children’s reflections and the supportive nature of their conversations. This chat is attracting worldwide attention; you can read more about it here.

My class have had a twitter account for a long time and we haven’t always taken advantage of the access to an authentic audience that this tool enables. So when one of my students suggested we turn to twitter to ask for book recommendations for our 40 Book Challenge, #kidsbookchat was born. Initially this started out as a slowchat, meaning we’d post a question and people could respond at any stage but the girls were keen to host a half hour twitter chat where classes or reading groups met synchronously to discuss books and share recommendations.

Our first chat was a general chat about reading habits, favourite books and favourite authors. It was a huge success and was the first time that our class twitter account had ever hit its limit for tweets sent in one day! The result was lots of new classes from Dunedin to Auckland for us to connect with and lots of new books to add to our “To Be Read” lists. The second chat was focused on dystopia, a genre that is enormously popular with many of my learners. This chat was optional in 8C as there are some students in my class that aren’t fans of this genre, however the vast majority chose to participate and many were swept along by the enthusiasm of other students and chose to give dystopian literature a second chance. We hold the chats in our library and there is always a flurry of book borrowing activity at the end of the session as the learners borrow titles that have been recommended.    

Tomorrow is our third #kidsbookchat. We will be meeting at the #kidsbookchat hashtag at 11am to discuss Realistic Fiction. We hope that your class or a reading group can join us. Here is the link to the questions we will be asking.

We hope to "meet" you there!

Bridget Compton-Moen
Selwyn House

All principals should be digitally connected

All principals should be digitally connected and tech savvy!
Paul Sibson, Principal, Fendalton Open-Air Primary School
@sibsonp, +PaulSibson, Professional Learning Blog
There I've said it. That may appear to be a challenging opening gambit and I have no doubt that some will try to debate that there are many highly effective principals who are neither connected or tech savvy and that is true...for now. However not only are our children forging ahead and disappearing over the horizon many of our teachers are not too far behind them. If principals do not have an understanding of the power of social media and the possibilities of technology then we risk becoming irrelevant. It is easy for leaders to stick their heads in the sand and say that leading e-learning is not their job, that they can employ someone to do that. However the reality is that setting expectations for and driving the use of technology in schools comes from the top. We have to 'walk the talk' and actually engage with the tools that we are asking our teachers to use.
In her 2011 book Student-Centered Leadership, Viviane Robinson shows that the biggest impact that principals can have on student achievement is through Leading Teacher Learning and Development. The use of technology is now a central part of teacher learning and development and if principals are to effectively lead they must be willing to learn themselves.
It was with this in mind that I set up the 14 Day Twitter Challenge for Principals earlier this year. I wanted to encourage as many principals as possible to give twitter a go, to understand how it works and hopefully use it to grow rich connections.
I believe that it is part of my role as a principal to model to the teachers at my school how I use technology. I use twitter, google plus, our internal blog and my personal blog to share learning and to encourage others to share. Now, I except that I am somewhat of a geek and that I have a natural fascination with all things digital, I am an early adopter. However these tools are so easy to use, it is no longer an excuse to say that it is too hard. If you can use email then you can use twitter, facebook, google docs, calendars, google plus, pinterest etc...
Tweet on Sept 20th
I am seeing more and more teachers jump on board with tools like twitter and the runaway success of the #edchatnz hashtag illustrates the point. Teachers are using twitter to set their own agenda and find their own PD, the 'twitterarti' of education are the ones who are leading many of our teachers. As Annemarie Hyde (@mrs_hyde) says "#edchatnz is the staffroom of choice". I think that this is wonderful and an exciting development that is giving our teachers rich learning and connections way beyond their schools. However it is also a threat to the traditional model of schools and to Professional Development. As a principal do you know how your staff are connected, do you know who is influencing their thinking? Are you part of the conversation?
I suspect that as more teachers become connected and form their own communities the more they will want to work with like minded teachers and principals. When I am looking for new teachers, I google them to see if they have a presence online. Are they sharing via a blog, twitter, google plus? Are the engaged in an online community? I wonder how long it will be until teachers are googling school principals with a similar set of questions before deciding to apply for a job!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gadget Girls

How do we get teenage girls interested in "techie clubs" and not see them as "geeky clubs"?

In the Primary years I have observed that it is cool to be a "tech wizard" or "tech angel" or have a "genius hour", however, something shifts for teenage girls when they enter Secondary School.  Partly I see girls with diaries more chocker than my own and between sport, dance, drama, future problem solving and other various clubs they simply don't have room to squeeze anything else in.  Lunchtimes are precious social times to chat, hang out and to get a bit of chill out time amid the busyness of the school day.

I understand all this but I can't shake this desire to learn with our digital natives and utilise their expertise across the school in terms of providing leadership opportunities in a field where our students are often leaders. I love finding out what technologies the girls enjoy using and believe that, as teachers, we can harness that knowledge to make learning an engaging and authentic experience.

I have had a couple of different roles over the past two years (Library and e-Learning Centre Manager & Digital Learning Facilitator) that have taken me outside of the traditional classroom environment.  Within these roles I have tried to kick start a number of e-Learning initiatives for our girls such as: techie brekkies, tech angels, genius bar...  I was starting to feel a little despondent as nothing seemed to take off... or not really!  As a PE teacher it was always easy to get numbers for Netball or Tennis... As an English teacher - no problem getting a debating team up and running so where was I going wrong?

I started chatting more to the girls in an informal way and tried to really work out what might swing the techie club from being a geek club (the feedback that I received) to something fun, exciting and a bit cool.  So, I targeted Year 9 and launched "Gadget Girls".  I didn't really have any idea how it would work but I put it out there as a girly group to come and play with gadgety things (here is the flyer that I sent out). 

What's happening now...

We have Gadget Girls every Thursday lunchtime and it's rocking!  Here are a couple of game changers, making Gadget Girls a success over the other flops (or as Ewan McIntosh - @ewanmcintosh would say First Attempts In Learning) 

Keep it light, fun and social. If it's in the lunchtime the girls want to chat and eat. Which brings me to my next point...

Bring food - a box of Favourites was hugely appreciated by my girls.

It's important to have a few cool techie tools to get things kick started so that the girls feel that they are going to get something out of the group.  As we're a GAFE school I started with that and introduced them to a few things that they hadn't been exposed to.  They're loving Google+ and we're playing with the idea of a little monthly Gadget Girls episode - using Live Hangouts on Air.

So, the biggest challenge has been overcome (getting the girls there) then it's important chat to them (or rather listen to them) and find out what they like and let them take reins.  Instagram and photo sharing are top of the list for our girls. We have set up our Instagram account and are about to get going with it.  We also plan to do some cool things with photos and Makey Makeys.  I'm not sure how this will work yet but the girls will problem solve and we might need to skype Tim Carr  from Mindkits (@MindKits) to help us along.  

A few other little extras:

Have music playing 

Set yourself up in a nice environment - we are in our beautiful Library and e-Learning Centre.  It's a fabulous space where the girls like to hang out.

Be visible! I had a couple of girls join because the saw us through the glass windows having fun. One of them said "What's this girly group?  It looks fun, I want to join".

I know it sounds funny but make sure the girls like the name.  Gadget Girls was a goodie for our girls.  After a few get togethers I asked if they liked the name and whether they wanted to change it. I got a thumbs up from all - it's a keeper (thanks to  @juliePeterson for that one).

All in all I am letting the girls steer Gadget Girls in the direction that they want.  It's really easy to tell if I have a suggestion that they don't like... largely by the silence!  So we move swiftly along!

Technology failed us this week and we couldn't get Google hangouts working (not to mention I forgot the Favourites).  I was feeling like it was all a bit of a disaster really but  it was a lovely moment when I heard the girls say as we finished up:
 "I love Gadget Girls"
"Yeah I look forward to Thursday lunchtimes"
"It doesn't matter if it doesn't work, it's fun just finding out about all this stuff"

I'm relieved it's not all about the chocolate!


Monday, 27 October 2014

Libraries are not just books

Desna Wallace, Librarian Fendalton Open-Air School
Twitter @edna33,

We all know teaching and learning are changing everyday but it is not just in the classroom that changes are happening. When was the last time you had a good look at your school library and the changes happening within?

Libraries are no longer just a place to house books with a gatekeeper glaring at you the moment you start talking. Today they are vibrant, often noisy places with full-on learning and activity. While students are able to borrow books as always, they now can borrow e-books and audio books. A good school library management system and OPAC provides access to so much information, much of it through databases not otherwise publicly available. EPIC databases, for example, guide students through an array of information with the hard work already done. For younger students the advantage is that the sites are safe and secure.

A modern learning library environment offers the flexibility of movable shelves, open spaces, use of Ipads, laptops, smart phones and the like. QR codes plastered on the walls or inside a book can take students with just one click or swipe, to reviews of the book, or websites with further information. School library blogs and websites can offer support both at school and home. Lunch times in a school library might hold book clubs, creative writing classes and even knitting clubs. Both classroom teachers and librarians need to work together with the new technologies to provide the best opportunities for our students to learn and encourage a love of reading. 

A good library needs a librarian who is willing to support students in their search for a great read, a new author or help in navigating the Internet. A good librarian knows their stock and knows their students and can match child and book or website together. A good librarian offers support to teaching staff, often being ahead of the game with content curation and compiling items, websites etc in readiness for a topic. So it saddens me that there are many schools without a librarian. It saddens me more, that some schools do not even have a library. 

For some schools without a library it seems that books will be placed throughout the classrooms or learning environments (which is great as classrooms should always have plenty of reading material available). However, sadly there is still no special place to visit. A library is far more than just books. It is a safe haven for those students who don’t do sports, the child who struggles with the social skills to fit in but feels safest in the library, surrounded by books and a librarian who will watch out for him or her. 

Having spoken to a number of teachers from different schools, there is a distinct feeling that the school library is such a special place to visit that the loss of a library would be devastating. I asked them, would they take time in their busy day to sit in a corner of their class and look at the books and encourage children to take some home. Their answer was a unanimous no. They love visiting a library , checking out the displays, new items, and the chatter as children pick up a book, talking amongst themselves over the latest Guinness World Records. Choice does matter, serendipity matters. A five year old relegated to only the books in his class may miss out on the opportunity to find a book that will be one he remembers for a life time.

Keep your librarians, and keep your libraries. We all want the same thing at the end of the day; children who grow up literate, able to learn, able to take ownership of their own learning having a love of reading.

Popcorn and poetry for National Poetry Day - from:

Information and Research in a Digital World

Preparing students for academic research that goes beyond Google.
Cathy Kennedy, Library Manager and Teacher with Library Responsibility, St Andrew's College


Recently the School Library Association made available a unit of work for librarians to use entitled Tertiary Transition. This unit is intended for Year 13 students and to prepare them for the world of academic research. Universities and Polytechnics are telling us that students are arriving with skills ranging from none to some to getting there! This is a great unit and it is fantastic that SLANZA have made this available but I can help a niggle in the back of my mind that such a unit shouldn't be needed – surely we have had these students for the last 8 years in primary school and 5 years in Secondary school to prepare them for tertiary information seeking? I have no doubt that we have all seen this lack of skill in our students, an over reliance on 'googling' and a research mentality that lacks depth in their variety of sources or an inability to identify a credible source or evaluate a source with confidence. Why has this come about and what can we do about this 'google' generation who think everything they need is just one quick search away and will appear in the first three results on the first page of the search? (By the way, don't think I don't love Google – it makes my life easy and I'm a big fan but there is a 'time and place' for using a general purpose search engine when embarking on research for open and complex questions.)


Here's my unscientific take on it and below some of things we are doing to try and turn the tide! None of this is earth shattering or new – just my current journey which still has a long way to go.
WHY? They think they know – They don't think we know – We think they know    

They think they know
Just because our students are confident in a digital world it does not mean they are competent. They have grown up surrounded by the digital landscape and are assuming that they are carrying out research competently – their own confidence and comfort in the world of 'google' (or general purpose search engines) means they don't think that there is anything else - but you don't know what you don't know. They are confusing finding popular information with finding academic information and that they way to do each of these is the same (see graphic from Massey University). Students are confident in their approach to research and if they can't find what they need, they assume it's not there to be found! Their very confidence (but lack of competence) in searching is their very downfall. We need to ensure that we explicitly teach how to carry out academic research (appropriate for the level) and all the critical evaluation, note-taking and synthesising skills that go along with it from the early school years.

They don't think we know
I have come across resistance in students who believe all they need is Google and Wikipedia and they are set. I've been openly challenged (all be it politely) on what would I know? "You didn't grow up with the internet, Mam!" Once again, their digital confidence (and in some cases, arrogance) can be barrier to learning new digital searching skills. Convincing students that even though we are 'old', we do actually know how to navigate the world of digital, academic information. I find it only takes one to two demonstrations and the appearance of just what they need for their research to convince students that there really is a 'deep web' out there that they can tap into.

We think they know (we could list many sayings about assumptions here…) I think this is one that is now changing but some of this came about from the 'digital native' tag. I know I was guilty of this one for a time assuming that these creatures of the digital age could navigate the world of digital information with more knowledge and competence than me and I was working on the assumption that students were accessing everything they needed. Feeding this was probably my own steep learning curve as the information revolution took hold. Of course, this digital ability by some kind of osmosis or courtesy of the year of your birthday is ridiculous. At the end of the day, information literacy skills have not changed - reading, critical thinking, evaluating sources, note-taking, creating citations are all the same but the places and way we search and the tools we use have changed dramatically. As I began working with students many told me that teachers always told them to make sure they had a variety of sources, "don't just google it!" but they had no idea where else to search – googling was their one and only default position. Don't assume our students are good at any of these information literacy skills (digital or otherwise) or that they will carry them over from year to year or even from topic to topic – they are complex and require explicit teaching and practice across all curriculum areas and all year levels.


Here are some 'stream of consciousness' thoughts about ways I've begun to fight the 'I'll-just-google-it' generation.
  • Start with the teachers. Giving teachers the understanding of the 'deep web' and how to access academic databases is very powerful. For two years I ran a Professional Learning Group covering our own library catalogue and the secrets it could reveal, research databases, New Zealand Sources, our online Encyclopaedia, evaluating sources, how to 'google' better, note-taking, creating bibliographies and citations and the overall information literacy cycle. 
  • Working with classes and target year groups – no brainer. Working with the Year 9's we have created a unit of work with the social studies teachers to work through the research steps and explore digital sources beyond a general purpose search engine. These were not 'one off' lessons but my input was part of a complete unit of work requiring a research component. These sessions included using our catalogue, accessing databases (via EPIC), how to 'google' better (Power Searching with Google), using a variety of search engines and evaluating sources.
  • As above, I have worked with students from Years 6 to 13 when they are about to embark on an inquiry or an internal assessment with a research component. Reminding and demonstrating to students where these sources are and how to find them. Don't hesitate to show students again and again or give quick reminders. One of our history teachers noted that the students used a variety of sources very well in one internal but didn't transfer any of that learning (as expected) to the next internal! They do need reminding not to fall into the 'just google' habit. I know many students are probably sick of this mad library lady! 
  • However, having said the above – teach them how to 'google' better. To hone my own search skills in Google I worked through the Power Searching with Google tutorial. This is an informative, self-guided and paced tutorial which gave me some key content to then share with students – would highly recommend this for anyone with an interest in information literacy.
  • Make finding the 'deep web' easier to find and create a 'one stop shop'. Our Library Homepage has become the launch pad to a variety of sources with all the necessary password information that students need. If it's too hard to find or too many clicks away they will give up. I tell students that they don't need to remember all the different places I teach them to search - just remember the library homepage and that will lead them on from there.
  • Provide a good online Encyclopaedia and digital library. We have subscribed to World Book Online and other World Book digital libraries. This provides a digital, credible and reliable source and a great starting point for a topic. When you don't know much about a topic, searching effectively or critically can be difficult. A simple overview of a topic can lead to the formulation of effective keywords and the ability to identify valuable information. Wikipedia can fill this role nicely as does Encyclopaedia Britannica which comes free as part of the Epic databases available to all schools.
  • Start young! I begin teaching our Preparatory children as early as Year 4 about digital sources and start with our World Book Online. We use language like credible and reliable as early as possible and are showing our younger students what a 'variety of sources' truly means – not just lots of different websites they found on google!
  • Teach how to critically evaluate a source. I have done this with classes from all levels and found it is best done as part of their inquiry, assignment or internal. There are many acronyms out there to help students think about sources. For many years I resisted using CRAAP but it's clear and students remember it!
  • Start all talking the same language. In our Preparatory School, I have been involved in the team re-working our Inquiry model. At times we might think we are re-inventing the wheel but it means that students will year after year, hear the same language and messages around research from teachers – it's all about teachers being on the same page which impacts on student learning.


Where to from here – lots, lots more to do. Working even more alongside classes and teachers and formalizing programmes of work that ensure these skills are taught and practised is the big challenge for me. We've only begun this journey and there will be many of you out there who have got some great initiatives running in your schools in order to create students who are information literate in this digital world – I'd love to hear your stories!


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Green Screen Images: Learning Alongside Year 6 Students

This blog post is from Glenys Williams, Assistant Principal at Fendalton Open-Air Primary School

Follow Glenys at: @glenysmwilliams,

Last week I was working in the Year 6 classes at school. The leader of our senior syndicate asked me to help her students create a slideshow showing their recently made Wearable Arts costumes to celebrate and share the product of their inquiry. She had an end goal in mind but wasn’t sure how to achieve it. How could the students place a photo of themselves in costume against an alternative background? She set me the challenge of finding out.

During the morning I worked with a small group of interested students. Together we suggested ideas, Googled, used Help menus and problem-solved to discover, trial and record the solution. This focused but largely undirected learning stimulated amazing conversation about the features, techniques and tools within different applications.

By the afternoon the students and I were teaching their Year 6 classmates how to create Microsoft Powerpoint slides showing themselves in costume in front of a relevant (or funny!) background. Below are some examples of what the students independently created.

While I could have asked around the staff to see if anyone could teach me this new skill, learning alongside the students and discovering the solution for ourselves was incredibly powerful and highly motivating. The process of suggesting solutions, trial and error, helping and supporting each other made the discovering just as exciting and meaningful as creating the end products. Teaching their peers then gave the students the opportunity to consolidate their new learning.

At the end of the day the children and I were buzzing. We couldn’t wait to share our photos and celebrate our success. It was just another example of why I love being a teacher. To live in a time when we have access to amazing technology is such a privilege so I believe it is important we utilise these tools to their full potential while remaining mindful of how we use them and why. 

Thank you for setting me this challenge Judy. I look forward to the next one!

Create. Learn. Share. Enjoy.

Instructions for how to add a background to a green screen photo:
1. Take a photo of a person or object against a plain background (e.g a sheet. Green is preferable but not essential).

2. Take a photo of a landscape or save a Creative Commons image from the Internet.

3. Open Microsoft Powerpoint (2010 or later).

4. Select a slide style e.g. White.

5. Delete any text boxes or other formatting guides.

6. Insert>Photo>select source for the green screen photo of the person or object.

7. Format Picture>Adjust>Remove background. The background to be deleted will turn purple. Adjust this using the sizing handles. 

For more detailed information about selecting the background for removal type “Remove a picture background” in the Help menu.

8. Click outside the picture to remove the background.

9. Insert>Photo>select source for your landscape image.

10. Arrange>Send to back

11. Resize the background to fit the slide if needed. Place the foreground image where desired.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Creating Content

By Lisa Dillon-Roberts, Principal, Merrin School

It is no longer news to anyone that Technology has and continues to transform our lives.  It seems that as one great device or piece of software is launched into our worlds, another falls off into the abyss of non-popularity.

But one thing remains constant, our need to create, present and curate content.

Our personal and professional content is everywhere.  It’s on our phones, on our laptops, and more than ever it is now in the cloud – blogs, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, the list is endless.

How long before our content is accessed via accessories we wear e.g. watches and glasses and by standard home appliances e.g. TVs and fridges?  Will you be able to access your content from the passenger seat of your car in the coming years?

So what are the ‘real’ issues surrounding working with content?
From my personal perspective, both professionally and personally I simply do not have the time to put valuable, high quality content on a number of different platforms.

At school we find it increasingly frustrating to create content over and over again.  For example, we create content on our classroom blogs, but then require similar content for our school newsletter, we then want the same content to be part of our leaver’s magazine and again on an individual basis via CD for leavers, all the time spending hours recreating it.

At home, I create content on Facebook for family to view, I then require the same content to make a photo book or to place on our family blog for family members who don’t Facebook.  All the time spending hours creating; ultimately recreating this content.

At school we have been thinking about this issue for some time.  Recently, we have launched ‘Hail’ ( into our school.  This system allows us, via ‘tags’, to manipulate the same content as many times as we wish and publish it to a number of different locations.  We now create high quality content once and publish it everywhere. The presentation quality is high-end and at this early stage we are sold.  Please feel free to check out our firstpublished school newsletter here...

At home, my nine-year-old daughter is producing small publications as a way of recording her adventures.  I see this as a priceless vehicle for recording the history of her childhood, at the same time encouraging purposeful writing by giving her the opportunity to story tell online.

Whatever you decide to do with content in your professional and personal lives I wish you well.  Revolution by definition means ‘a fundamental change in organisational structures that take place in a relatively short period of time’ so, where will you move to with content management?

Lisa Dillon-Roberts

Friday, 24 October 2014

Blogs - my tool of choice

I am a self-confessed "eteacher". I tweet, blog, curate, clip, pin, pad(let), Google, research, wiki, QR code, filter, share, collaborate, comment, read, reflect, teach, learn...  However, on reflecting I have come to realise that I am a bit of a "blog addict". Not sure if that is a category, but you may recognise some similar traits. Of course I love Twitter - and my PLN, but I think they are different tools for different jobs.

I love blogs!  Writing and curating content for my own, following links to others from Twitter, reading blogs from educators I know and respect, reading blogs from educators I respect but only know from Twitter and they don't know me , but what the heck - it's Twitter, everyone is a friend! I also have my favourite "techie" blogs, the ones that keep me up to date with new ideas and new tools, searching, sifting and curating the web so I don't have to.

So, why do I think blogs are so powerful?
I think that blogs as a platform can serve many different purposes, for me they are more flexible and easier to use than Wikis (again I have several of those!) but it is the power of publication that makes them such a powerful tool for learners. The other aspect that links to publication is the reflection on a written piece of work. If a student hands in a piece of writing to their teacher, no matter what the standard, the only people who see it are the student and teacher. If it is a fabulous piece of writing, then hopefully it will get home to be shared with parents but probably it is destined for the desk, locker or even rubbish bin. This is where class blogs are fantastic. Writing, photos, videos, events, wonderings, learning etc is shared with the class and family. Students learn to reflect, comment and support others in their learning. The writing process of drafting/ editing/feedback/publishing works well. There are some very good ideas in this blog post from te@chthought about using technology to teach writing.

So how have I used blogs?
Last year I set up a Year 9 class blog inspired by many teachers including @annekenn, @MsBeez, @krivett @kiwiallana @Jackbillie35 and many more. The class blog Ti Kouka-Directions for Learning was a reasonable success. 

We just got started, we didn't wait to get it perfect. After everyone had posted on the blog and we had 1000 page views, we celebrated with cake (idea from Allana). Next time I create a junior blog, I would use it as part of the formative writing process which would fit in nicely in a year 9 or 10 programme.I know that for many primary schools, class blogs are used extensively, but are not as popular at secondary. I would love to hear from other teachers who are using class blogs at this level.

The other blog I started last year was called The Shed - a blog for blokes.
I started this because I had a lot of boys in my junior classes who were reluctant readers, reluctant writers and reluctant learners. The idea was to find interesting blokey stuff that we could share with the class and then use as starters to write about. We would find You Tube clips, Ted talks, dog stories, car stories, anything that would catch our attention. Not all of this went on the blog as some of the TED talks were too long, but it was great to expose them to lots of different ideas. The story about the Cyborg emphasised the potential impact of 3D printing. This was one of our favourites and highlighted the way technology is changing our world.

One of the challenges at secondary school is working out how to add something new on top of a busy curriculum and NCEA assessment. This is often the reason we don’t try to make even a small change in our practice. Teachers will say if it is not going to save me time then I’m not going to try it, or how do I know this will work or be better than what I am doing now. Do we need to move on from this kind of thinking?

This year I have also started a blog for staff here at my school(idea from @Aimiesibson) adding posts about interesting techie tools, advertising eCafe on Fridays, workshops and sharing articles and my own PD. This has been a low-key way to share elearning ideas and tools with the odd quiz  thrown in to make it interesting and a  chocolate fish as a reward. I have also continued to post on my own teaching and learning blog, with the posts able to be used as evidence for registered teacher criteria , linked to my appraisal portfolio.

I will finish with quotes from two educators I have been inspired by: Kevin Honeycutt @kevinhoneycutt who said"Don't wait to get it right,just start doing it"  or something similar. And Ewan McIntosh @ewanmcintosh whose image (below) appeared on the Twitter feed for Edutech14.

If you haven't started a personal blog then I encourage you to try starting one, or even just start a Google Doc and record your thoughts each day. And if you don't know what to write, here are some starters for blogging from the team at Te@chThought, courtesy of Justine Hughes @cossie29
And if you want to start a class blog, four resources below.

Bling4yrblog   Allanah King @AllanahK
Ako: Teacher Learnng    Allana Taylor   @kiwiallana