Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our multicultural Games Unit...

Kerry Dyke, our fellow Middle School teacher has been implementing a great unit on Multicultural games for a number of years here at International School Bangkok. I have teamed up with him and we now have re-vamped and improved the unit.

Here's how the project is going to work...

  1. Students work alone, in pairs or three's.
  2. They research a physically active game unique to their or another culture.
  3. They will write a blog post which explains the game, includes pictures and the basic rules of the game and explains the games unique features relevant to their culture.
  4. They also plan a short teaching lesson which they deliver to their peers. The class is divided into small groups to make the teaching itself less daunting.
  5. Students will then deliver this lesson to their peers. The lesson is recorded on the flip camera
  6. Students will be expected to work with the recorded video to create a 1-3 minute video which assists explaining the game and shows them teaching. This will be uploaded to You Tube and embedded into their blog page.
  7. The final part of the assessment requires them to reflect on the process writing a blog post about it.
Check it out here

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Flip Cameras... making life easy and hard!

Kerry and I have been implementing our multicultural games unit which involves students presenting games from their own culture, being filmed doing so, creating a blog post about this and then uploading a video of their game to their school blog (I will blog more about this later).

This has been a fantastic unit and has provided an opportunity for me to fine tune some basics about using flip cameras and dealing with the other hardware to ensure that the images to students.

Here are a bunch of hints...
  1. If you want good footage, film it yourself, or spend time teaching the students how to video and give them a chance to practice (not the greatest for ensuring lots of activity time in PE)
  2. Once you film a child get the footage off the camera ASAP, label it and keep the video files in separate folders which you can pass on to the students. Don't import into iphoto... it isn't easy to work with iphoto with the movie files
  3. When you download the files from onto your laptop don't delete them via your computer. You need to delete from the camera itself. If you delete via the computer you end up sending the files to a 'hidden file' on the camera itself, which doesn't free up space for more videos on the flip camera. Delete on the camera.
  4. Once you have footage downloaded from the computer, encourage students to get it ASAP, or write it to a DVD/CD (watch the size). Ideally encourage kids to buy a 4gb or larger flash drive so that they can get the footage (flip cameras film in HD so the files can be huge)
  5. Ensure you always have spare batteries for any flip cameras.
  6. Back up
The flip camera a fantastic technology which is really easy to use and fantastic for quick filming with good resolution and frame capture speed. It allows kids to have instant feedback on their performance and has multitudes of uses in PE

Laptops in PE... Useful or time wasters...

I have been blogging a bit about IT saving our time and I think it is important to review this in the light of effective use of computers in PE. I know what some PE teachers are already thinking... do computers even have a place in PE? in my mind there is no doubt they do, however only if they are providing further reinforcement to what is happening in the lesson, or if they save the time of the teacher, which may provide for better learning opportunities.

Today we finished our fitness testing and we have used the same process that we used in August where we used
googledocs spreadsheets to create a form for students to submit their data from their fitness testing into a common spreadsheet, which could later be separated by class, teacher and grade and uploaded if necessary into student reports. This process involved students entering their personal and fitness test data into a google form, which saved us enormous hours and saved a whole lesson for the kids.

Why laptops instead of desktop, simple... PE is mobile.

In order to a
chieve the most effective IT integration into PE, the devices and tools we need to use have to be incredibly mobile, resilient and easy to use. We don't want to take away activity time from students(moving to a computer lab etc...), so it is essential that we ensure our non-activity time is reduced. We have improved the process of collecting data from students from one or my earlier blog posts about google forms for fitness testing so that students now enter their details into the spreadsheet as they finish all their testing. This saves further time and frees us up to do greater learning in our PE classes.

The biggest problem we face as a PE department is charging laptops when they are being used all day. In this situation it is essential all teachers are aware of putting laptops to sleep to save battery time after they have been used, and to ensure that during lunch times students return the laptops to be charged. Once this pattern is established effective use of laptops can become possible. Here are some ideas of how we could use them in PE:
  • Fitness testing via google forms
  • Entering activity levels on my food pyramid tracker
  • Using flip cameras and then downloading to allow for student to observe their technique.
  • Laptops could be used to write reflections about units.
  • Please make a comment on more ways that you see laptops being effective tools in our PE classrooms.
Happy laptop intetragration!

NETS... Effective?

When we look at the NETs for teachers and administrators and their overall effectiveness we have to ask ourselves, how relevant are these set's of standards for Teachers and Administrators to being a "Good Educator" in today's world? After all, if they are not relevant then the chance of them being achieved is minimal and their effectiveness is questionable.

There is little doubt that the NETs are full of great ideas and principles which enhance learning, however, I have to agree with Gabi (from our COETAIL course) that the NETs are not strictly technology related concepts and skills. Often the adoption of such broad technology standards are a way to justify or add 'weight' to our subject area. Dana, also from our COETAIL course suggests similar views that we are committing jargon overload by introducing yet another set of standards. So how effective are they going to be if people are already teaching the standards in other curriculum areas?

My question is, do tools really need standards? I think most would agree that technology is a tool, it is a means to an end, not an end to a means.

The moment an educator is using technology 'just to teach the skills' or just to make it more 'teched out' is a concern. As I have said in earlier posts, technology is there to save our time, not to consume our time (check out this blog post from kmc21...), or for a nice video from TeachersTV on how to use IT to save time... (sorry they won't let you embed this in a blog... rather ironic as that would save time for the viewer!). Tools enhance learning, so therefore any effective curriculum for technology needs to focus on how technology ENHANCES LEARNING... not just how to attach it to learning already occurring.

We must make certain that we keep an eye on using technology as a learning enhancement tool, a tool that saves our time, freeing us up improve our teaching to therefore improve our learning.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Taking it to the next level... integrating IT in the classroom.

So how can teachers and schools ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy? Before we even ask this question, we have to ask what does a school want to achieve when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy?

There is clearly a continuum that schools lie upon from those which don't embrace technology to schools which fully immerse themselves in technology. Each of these schools will have different information technology aims, and therefore when we ask the question of ensuring students get what they need, we have to frame this in light of the schools philosophy. Schools which fall under national curricula requirements have their hands tied to some extent, however as can be seen in the NETS or the AASL Standards there is a lot of room for interpretation in terms of what level of technology is actually taught. Many of the standards are broad and could be easily integrated into other subjects without a firm focus on 21st century I.T. Skills

As my last post suggested, to not teach technology is to ignore the life world's our students exist in, this in turn potentially disconnects us and may hinder a positive learning relationship. So, long story short... schools need to teach IT, what depth they chose is situational.
In order to achieve this integration into the classroom there are some key areas schools need to consider:


By adopting a formal curriculum for IT, schools have an agreed upon set of learning goals which they need to meet with each student. In many ways this is just a step to 'legitimise' the domain of IT, however statements can provide schools with the necessary lever to integrate technology and source funding.


Probably the biggest limiting factor on any school is the available budget as this will effect every other suggestion below.


To ensure that curriculum goals are met it is vital to have strong IT leadership amongst a school and the appropriate support provided, both in terms of technical 'maintenance' support and specific IT learning related support. There are many models of IT learning related support from teacher leaders, IT support staff, IT coaches etc... what is important is that handing a tool to someone is useless unless the user knows how to use it most effectively. Trained, competent staff are critical to delivering a quality curriculum.

Internet connectivity

What one can achieve in a web 2.0 environment is now highly limited by web connectivity. Wireless options and general internet speed has to be sufficient so not to waste learning time.

Appropriate hardware & software choices

Budget and internet connectivity will have an enormous influence on hardware and software choices. In saying this schools can effectively use much shareware and web 2.0 tools, which reduces cost, software and even hardware in some cases.

Regular Professional learning opportunities

The opportunity for teachers to engage and be extended with technology is critical if technology aims are to be achieved. Learning opportunities need to be linked to the school's vision of technology and any curricula adopted. This ensures that staff have adequate opportunities to master skills required to be taught in the classroom.

When schools take a good hard look at the above areas for implementation of IT, then there is a greater chance of ensuring we impart the information literacy skills students need.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who's job is it to teach Technology and Information Literacy?

So I am concerned, concerned that we are even asking this question. We started a new COETAIL course today so I'll have to answer it!

Let's be honest, technology is now so embedded in western society that it is in reality, quite impossible to escape it within education. Technology is here to stay and it will continue to expand and blow our minds by the advances it makes. If we chose to ignore technology as teachers we are turning a blind eye to the world that our students are growing up in and in fact, we are doing our student population a crime by not given them the skills necessary to succeed in a technologically driven economy and society. It is a disservice to not give our children an opportunity to master the skills needed to live in a such a society

The question that is raised is how do we teach these skills? One option is by creating a set of learning standards to ensure that all students are engaged in technology. The NETS are one example of a set of standards that can be adopted by schools. These standards are devised by the 'International Society for Technology in Education' (ISTE), which is actually an American based society (the 'N' in NETS represents 'National'... rather ironic considering it is an international society). The NETS are divided into key learning areas/strands/standards (depending on where you come from) as follows:
  1. Creativity and Innovation
  2. Communication and Collaboration
  3. Research and Information Fluency
  4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  5. Digital Citizenship
  6. Technology Operations and Concepts

As you can see from the above standards only the last two standards are overtly descriptive in their title as 'technology' focused (I use this term broadly). The first four standards are skills that I feel are embedded in other curricula areas within a school, it is only when you read the descriptors of standards 1-4 that there is a reference to these standards being taught through a 'technology focused environment' or using 'technology tools'.

Another set of standards that could be used for ensuring schools teach technology within their curriculum are the AASL standards (AASL: American Association of School Librarians). These are much broader (as they are primarily for librarians), but are also set out much more effectively as they are broken into Skills, Dispositions in Action, Responsibilities and Self-Assessment Strategies within the four standards:
  1. Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge
  2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply to knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge
  3. Share knowledge participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society
  4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth
Once again, many of the standards are very broad educational goals that many schools already include within their 'School Vision', 'ESLR's -Expected Schoolwide Learning Results', 'Essential Skills' or whatever the school policy is called which lays home to it's primary educational goals.

So, as many of the standards themselves are embedded in other curricula areas and school policy documents why do we even need a set of standards? Does the creation of a set of standards lead us to ask the question 'Who's job is it to teach IT'?

Personally I struggle with this and see an adoption of a 'set of standards' as another bunch of boxes to tick, another hoop to jump through. Let's just look at standard five from the NETS... 'Digital Citizenship'. In reality most schools in western society promote 'citizenship' or 'global citizenship' as an educational aim, which in a modern world one would now argue is inclusive of digital citizenship... the two are connected, not disconnected, or should I say more broadly, information is connected in our learning, not disconnected.

The teaching of Information technology is embedded in what we do, it cannot be separate, sure we need to teach the skill of a program to ensure the students are up to speed, just like we teach a science student 'how to use a microscope' or a PE student 'how to use a heart rate monitor'. The key is this is not the key learning we are after... the technology provides access to something deeper... the cell structure... the workings of your own human heart. It is when we access the deeper stuff the we learn. Technology itself is a tool, a tool is used to create, to discover, to lever us into understandings we couldn't achieve before.

The key point is...

...the tool (I.T.) is embedded within learning, it has to be taught within each subject. We
therefore share the responsible for ensuring our students are equipped to succeed in an evolving technologically landscape.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Teamwork through photos

Our current grade 7 Physical Education unit teaches teamwork through Aussie Rules. Teaching teamwork can be a little cliché and the term itself can prove to be a little elusive as many of the discussions students and teachers can have don't break the surface that much. Often simple ideas of 'working together' and 'communication' are the key things that students say, sometimes without really explaining what they mean, but what does teamwork look like? feel like? sound like?

I was after something a little deeper so I've decided to use the following creative common pictures to lead the students, prompting them into some deeper discussion. The guiding look, sound, feel questions should help them identify some real examples of what teamwork is. The discussions take on a little more of a constructivist approach, which is helpful for them to connect to their own understandings of teamwork.

Finding creative commons pictures is easy, simply go to the creative commons search site and then type in the key search words just like on Google search. Why use creative commons to search? Simple... the photos are there to be shared, no need to worry about copyright issues and you have a great selection of photos available through all your key search engines. Here are the pic's I am using...

What does teamwork feel like in this soccer team?

What does teamwork sound like in this rowing team?

What does teamwork look like in this racing team?

What does teamwork feel like in this cheer leading team?

iMovie and Coaching

So I know that a few of you who read this blog may be wondering why so many blog posts in one day, sorry for the overload! With coaching and life being super busy the first thing to go in my life has been study time, hence the cram to get in all the necessary work for my current COETAIL course on visual literacy.

What I have learned during this course is that to do things 'visually well' takes time. To be a master at all the different technologies out there is unnecessary and means far too much time on the keyboard aiming for perfection. In talking to some other people in the course it was concerning to hear people mention that 'presentation zenning' one PowerPoint took them eight hours... to me this is over the top. When is too much, too much? To answer this I have to pose the question of what will people get out of the time I am investing into each visual improvement. If the person will gain much then perhaps it is worth our time.

In my final project I used iMovie as a coaching tool, something which was very time consuming to say the least, but in my mind incredibly valuable. I wanted to create an instructional video for each of my runners so that they could see themselves running and understand what aspects of their technique needed to change. Here's the process I followed to create a personal instructional video for each of my runners:
  1. I videoed all my Cross Country team running using a flip camera (I used four different capture angles)
  2. The download from the flip camera was super easy through the USB connector. I imported straight into iPhoto, then transferred the footage across to iMovie.
  3. From here I trimmed each clip so that I had only quality footage.
  4. I removed the sound from the footage as it didn't aid the instruction
  5. I played through the 'movie' and found key points in each runners technique at which I split the clip, created a still or slowed the video even more in order to give time to provide quality feedback.
  6. I recorded the voice over directly into iMovie, which was essentially the instructional piece
  7. I created some end credits, which summarised my coaching points
  8. Played with the sound to ensure it was loud enough, final check...
  9. Exported to a DVD (or in the case below to You Tube)

What I feel I have created is worth my time primarily because of the possibility of change in each of my runners technique, based on the feedback I am giving them. It was enormously time consuming when you add up all the videoing time, editing, voice overs and final touches, however I think it was worth it... I guess I will tell you next season when my runners come back with hopefully improved technique!

Here's an example of the finished product for one of my runners:

Jing... it can't get any easier!

One of the great little things that I have discovered and used a lot over the past 6 months has been Jing. Jing is basically a screen casting software available free off the web. The crew at Techsmith have done a great job at putting together a program which is super easy to learn and even easier to use! I think it took me about 5 minutes to get a good understanding of how to screen cast.

How have I used this?
  • As part of our new staff wiki, I was able to put together a couple of videos on how to log onto the wiki and how to update a profile picture, both proving to be helpful for people to whom technology doesn't come easily
  • For our department it has provided me with a way I can help others use programs and new technology without having to physically show them all the time (e.g. using google doc's)
  • For homework which is to be completed for Physical Education we try to reduce the amount of time in class which is taken up to teach technology required in the homework. Jing provides a chance for us to provide clear instruction to students out of the class
  • An example of this is in health where the program has allowed me to take screenshots easily, which I have then been able to upload to moodle to provide clear examples of 'what to do' for students e.g.

There is no doubt that this simple to use, quick to download tool has saved me time and allowed for my instruction to continue out of the classroom.

Web based video... it's all at our fingertips

When John Logie Baird first transmitted light to create an image which was not made from a shadow (this was a big thing back in the early 1920's), the television was born. However I don't think John would have guessed how influential such an invention would be over the next 90 years. In education the introduction of such technology has allowed students to see into cultures, environments and historical periods that they were never privy to prior to this invention. It's no surprise then that explosion of web based video has had an even greater effect on learning and education.

As a teacher of Physical Education I regularly use You Tube to assist in teaching sports and skills which are not common to the students I teach. When teaching a new sport to young athletes it is often helpful to show them what the real game looks like, and in an international school where we try to have a balanced curriculum with sports from all around the world it can be hard to find DVD's for each sport we teach. Unless you have a fantastic range of DVD's available in your department or school library, then the first place most people now turn is straight to the web and in particular to You Tube.

Recently I taught some circo-arts to my grade 6 PE class; one of the skills I taught was the diabalo, also known as the Chinese Yo-Yo. While teaching this to my class I soon found that one of the boys was especially gifted at this skill and after spending some time with him I found out he had self taught himself through you-tube. This was no surprise to me as I often find myself going online looking for coaching videos, dynamic warm up ideas, technique videos etc... I also find when I get in the classroom I often rely on You Tube to pull in a short piece of video to help the lesson have a range of learning mediums.

In our grade six Health Education class we teach a small unit on smoking and in particular we focus in one lesson on what the cost is to a nation and what governments are doing to stop this. In order to get something useful for the class I managed to go online, find 5 different videos, which I downloaded and imported into iMovie, edited, added some questions for the students and what I have now is a usable, effective video to assist me in my smoking lesson...

The greatest benefit of web based video is the fact that it is at your fingertips. Here are just ten real benefits of using web based video:
  1. In the past using video was an ordeal as you had to ensure that you had booked everything well in advance. Now with web based video multiple classrooms can watch the same video at the same time
  2. Students can access any videos shown online at home, which is great for re-teaching or for make-up work
  3. Online video selection is increasing all the time. As we contribute the range of quality video's increases all the time
  4. Web based video gives up to date resources for students.
  5. Storage space is not necessary, nor are tedious recording mechanisms to ensure we know what we have as a department
If you aren't using web-based video in your classroom, or if your school is too narrow minded and ban's You Tube or other sites hosting video then you need to change things! There is no doubt in my mind that correct use of web-based video greatly enhances the teaching and learning landscape.

Instructional Digital Story Boarding...

So it hit me after catching up from a session I missed recently for our IT class that the process of digital story boarding was a perfect way to teach physical skills within Physical Education. If students can put together digital story boards for fictional and non fictional stories, then why shouldn't we use the same tool in Physical Education and get students to put together a digital story for teaching a specific skill?

Why would we do this?
  • We all know that teaching a skill requires deeper knowledge of the skill
  • By asking students to create an instructional 'digital story' we are requiring our students to understand the skill to a deeper level
  • Creating videos for different skills can provide useful teaching tools in the future

Here's the
rather simple process to create a digital story...

  1. Decide on a particular skill to teach in the instructional story
  2. Get the students to break the skill down into the key stages of the skill execution
  3. The students will take photos of themselves at each of the key stages while executing the skill
  4. Students will write an instructional narrative which explains the key teaching points for each stage of the skill
  5. Upload the photos into iMovie and record the instructional sound track in time with the key stages
  6. Export the instructional movie to You tube ready for the teacher to assess. If students have an eportfolio or if they blog you could have them embed the video into their blog so that you can use a reader to pull all the video's into one stream for quick and easy marking.
What we provide for our students is an opportunity to really understanding the principles behind the movement, the knowledge they gain from this process allows them to then effect change within their own technique and their peers. Depending on the age of the child this process could be more guided with the skills and stages already set out by the teacher.

We are soon beginning a Tennis unit where students have to analyse technique and break a skill into its parts, this will be the perfect chance for the students to show their understanding of a tennis skill through digital media.

To zen or not to zen?

To be honest, I'm tired of PowerPoint. The number of times I have had to sit through presentations where students, other staff or presenters read through their slides has gone well off what I can count with my fingers and toes (and believe me I have been guilty of this too). Often the slides are unappealing, disconnected from the content being shared, cluttered and full of 'special effects', which turns what could be a great PowerPoint into distraction, disconnection and disillusionment.

Presentation Zen is a breath of fresh air for those who are in my shoes, however like all good fad's it has its downside. The idea behind presentation Zen builds on the premise that pictorial information is much stronger at conveying messages than textual. If we can build our presentations around images that stimulate deeper thought, then the information we are trying to convey connects to our viewers more effectively.

The idea of Zen stems from Mahayana Buddhism, asserting 'that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition rather than through faith and devotion' ( If our presentations are following a true 'zen' style then we must ensure our presentation itself, has sufficient time for meditation, self contemplation and intuition... essentially this is searching for a constructivist approach to presenting, the viewer constructs their own meaning from our carefully constructed PowerPoint.

How easy is this? in reality it isn't.

Many of us use PowerPoint to cover a lot of information in a short space of time, so the idea of reflection and time to meditate on specific content within a presentation is difficult to achieve. The mere fact that presenters speak throughout their entire presentation points to their being little chance for true deep reflection. I gave it a shot on a presentation I had done for our grade 8 Sports Education Unit, which focused on teamwork... here's how one slide completely changed...

The Old:

The New:

I think I know which one I would like!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

7 ways I integrate IT...

Our COETAIL course has started again and I am going to be posting blogs a little more regularly over the next few months. Since starting the course last year I can see quite an impact in how I integrate IT into my everyday teaching.

So here's my top seven ways that I have used IT...
  1. Google Forms: These have played such an important role in how I collect data. I use the forms in such a varied way and the fact that they are so easy to custom fit, has meant I have found many uses for them: collecting registrations for a monthly run that I organise in our local school community, collecting students choices for units, gathering sports team personal data and to gather parent feedback. Google forms have saved me enormous amounts of time and allowed me to focus on more important things.
  2. Wetpaint Thai-ing in Wiki: As part of the role I shared with my wife as the new staff coordinators for our school we created this wiki to help people assimilate smoothly into Bangkok and our school. The wiki proved to be a collaborative space in which nearly 100 members came together to ask and answer questions, share knowledge and most importantly, connect. Although highly time-consuming in setting up the wiki the site answered numerous questions and the collaborative nature of the site meant that we weren't the only one's answering these questions! I used Google Analytics to track how much the site was being used and was surprised to see an average of 9 visits a day with over 12,000 page views in the past 5 months! Definitely worth it!
  3. Google Docs: In our PE department we used a Google Doc as the 'virtual white board' to review our PE curriculum. It began with us all entering our thoughts about our current PE curriculum using 6 questions guided by De Bono's 6 thinking hats (we eached typed in a different font so we knew who wrote what). This rich document was then refined to create a list of things we liked and disliked about our current PE curriculum and gave us direction for curriculum changes. From here we created a new Google Doc which became the sketchboard for our new scope and sequence. The fact the document was shared, available for all to input, change, rearrange etc... allowed for much greater collaboration than would a static file.
  4. Panthernet (Moodle): We are now using this school managed site in our PE department for information delivery, quizzes, and enrichment work. It isn't always the most simple to use, however once you know the ropes you can create a rich online support site for your classroom.
  5. iWeb: From fooling around with iweb on my mac I created a static web-page which houses all our PE department's important documents on once site (Scope & Sequence, Standards, benchmarks, philosophy) and hyperlinks to all our units on our school shared server (which can be accessed from home). I then was able to email this to all our department (we all use mac's), and they were able to save this on their laptops. The idea is that this has the most up-to-date resources we are using and is user-friendly so that our fellow PE teachers who aren't so tech-savy can access the information they need swiftly and simply, saving time in the long run! They bookmark this static page and can access it directly through firefox.
  6. My Google Reader: This has been a simple and effective way to receive relevant professional reading. I love the fact that I can get a quick summary of others blogs, read deeper if I wish, or mark as read as needed! My favorite two blogs include 'Mr Robbo -The PE Geek', a great blog from an Aussie PE teacher who has IT ideas oozing from his pores and 'Leadertalk', which sometimes provides some inspiration for aspiring leaders!
  7. My Blog: This has given me a chance to be reflective to a wider audience. It has provided a reason to write and to share and it is creating a professional learning focus for me.
At the start of the course I set a goal in my first blog post: "My goal is to use technology so that I can do the things I REALLY want to do, it has to free up my time, not suck up my time." The reality is that technology has freed up much of my time, with the above examples really making life easier. The problem is that staying up with the technology has filed some of the time that has been freed up. The more I learn, the more realise how much more I could learn. The reality is that somewhere we have to draw a line... I'm learning this and drawing some clear lines with permanent marker... so don't worry, I'll never be tweeting you, I'll be out for a run.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Google Forms take the pain out of fitness testing... well at least for the teachers!

Ok, so we all know that PE teachers hate paperwork (well most of them), but there is one thing that seems to frustrate us all... when paper work takes away from activity time and our own time.

In my current school we have been using the FitnessGram tests to complete our triannual fitness testing. In the past all the results were taken manually and entered into either excel, the FitnessGram software or onto PowerSchool (our online reporting software). We thought we were pretty good at keeping the kids 'connected' by getting them to log onto PowerSchool to check there results and then use these in moodle via an online worksheet which allowed them to reflect on their results and where they were positioned with the different fitness zones. This proved to be a effective way for the students to reflect on their fitness levels out of class time, while also increasing activity time and integrating IT into our subject.

What was a hassle was the process of transferring the data from the little sheets the kids recorded their results on, into our online reporting system (PowerSchool). What should be an easy task tended to take a few hours going through each child's fitness result form, collating the results and then manually entering them onto PowerSchool... not any more.

All we did was create a GoogleDoc form, which allowed the kids to input their data, which was automatically collated, and then exported, sorted using excel, and finally uploaded into PowerSchool.

Very sweet, very smooth.

To ensure the kids didn't loose activity time we built the input session into a fitness circuit around the gymnasium. At one station we had 12 laptops ready to go with the GoogleForm bookmarked for each child to input their data into. Students referred to charts to work out their fitness zones and in a short time got a clear picture of their fitness level. This station served as a rest and drink station as well, which all combined to create a meaningful learning experience, while saving us time. Good times! We had class sizes from 30 to a combined block of four classes with 110 students in the gym entering data within the lesson. Never again will I manually enter this kind of data again!

If you haven't tried GoogleDocs check them out. They are very easy to use and effective in the classroom.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fantastic Picture...

This is well worth looking at... Check out the original; it allows you to click to each of the famous people on Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

COETAIL Course 2 Project Reflection

'Thai-ing in'

For my final project I wanted to create a wiki that attempted to follow the theme of 'mass collaboration'. The first challenge is how do you start mass collaboration? Answer: one link at a time. The other major issue is when does mass collaboration become 'mass' collaboration as opposed to collaboration amongst a few people? Wikipedia defines the key difference of mass collaboration to normal collaboration being 'that the collaborative process is mediated by the content being created - as opposed to being mediated by direct social interaction as in other forms of collaboration' Perhaps this assignment was an attempt at 'mini-mass-collaboration', m-m-c. Sure the content is under constant creation, especially in the social aspects of the wiki, however some would argue this isn't really mass collaboration.

The purpose of the wiki is to help Integrate new staff into ISB, our community and Thailand, no easy task alone, hence the idea of mass collaboration works perfectly. If all people are able to contribute, edit, add and are aware of their ability to change the course of a wiki to suit the needs of all, then the final product is better off and more effective in achieving it's original goal. The wiki isn't just for the new staff coming in this school year. The idea is that it can grow, evolve and become a site which is a one stop new staff member site for all future ISB teachers.

Setting up the project using wetpaint was easy, however I still get frustrated at their little bug which causes you to appear to be signed in as someone else (requires a refresh to fix). In order to set up the wiki effectively I ensured new staff signed on first to introduce themselves, then collegial partners (who are still signing on). The next step is to invite all other staff to join the wiki to enlarge the possible contributions. The wiki is evolving as we speak, new pages, comments and updates seem to be added consistently.

I have enjoyed registering the page with Google Analytics, which is giving me some pretty awesome feedback. From this data I have been amazed that each day the site is receiving between 15 and 25 logins daily, averaging 7 minutes a session on the site. This kind of information is inspiring me to keep on improving the site.

The issues that I encountered fall around the fact that the site needs to be 'invitation only' as some of the information on the site is of a private nature with regard to individuals and the school. This limits the potential collaborative size of the site. The second issue has been getting people on board with the wiki when they don't have the technical skills to do so. In order to assist people in overcoming their phobia of technology I created video help guides using Jing (a fantastic screen capture tool by TechSmith. The reality is that many people still need one on one guidance in setting up their wiki, here again is where collaboration can occur with our fantastic Tech Team: Jeff Utech, Chad Bates, Dennis Harter and Kim Cofino.

Overall the process of setting up the wiki has been well worth it. It has taught me the technical skills I need to moderate a wiki, it has reminded me of the different abilities of new and present staff when requiring people to use technology to collaborate. Finally and most importantly it has inspired me to use Technology more to connect real people in the cloud so that their feet can stand on a firm foundation when they meet in reality.

For a link to more about how my wiki fulfilled my project requirements please go to my project write up.

A clash of cultures...

Are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?

Rob Rubis offers some insightful comments on this question in his recent blog post, which points to the many structural barriers teachers erect when delivering curriculum that stop limit mass collaboration... I hear another Pink Floyd song coming on here! Here in lies the major issue... in order to prepare students for a world of mass collaboration we need to remove the barriers that stop collaboration, we don't another brick in the wall. The problem is that the barriers are often ingrained in our society.

Mass Collaboration:
  • Involves working together
  • Means being open for feedback from a wide range of people
  • It can take on a life of it's own
  • It is uncontrollable by an individual
Our Classrooms often contain:
  • Individual assessment, very little collective grading opportunities etc...
  • Feedback that is often uni dimensional (usually the teacher is feeding back to the student)
  • Scripted, curriculum driven, objectives, standards and learning outcome driven.
  • Teacher control
Our Current Western Society appears to be:
  • Be individualised, competitve, consumer focussed ideals
  • Valuing feedback limited to improving performance, products, accounability
  • Goal orientated, self centered based on personal goals and achievement
  • 'User pays', 'liability', state control point to individual responsibility
What we have is a clash of cultures. Many western classrooms reflect the values that are prevalent in our current society, these stem from a capatalist, individualistic society which runs counter to the ideals necessary for mass collaboration.

The Second issue lies in the ability to get students to engage in mass collaboration, a skill which requires a high skill level: By Ross Mayfield

If Ross Mayfield is correct in his representation of the level of skill and engagement needed to collaborate with others, then collaboration is a tough skill, let alone mass collaboration. The reality is that in our classrooms we rarely get to this level of community engagement, nor do the students believe they can contribute to mass collaboration sites.

So to answer the question, 'Are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?', no.

Perhaps we need to reword this question as Rob Rubis also suggests, 'how would we prepare students for a world of mass collaboration?' How do we do this?
  • Create authentic opportunities for collaboration in the classroom
  • Allow students to take control of their own shared learning
  • Create a culture where feedback is a natural and muti-directional in the classroom
  • Reward collective action over individual action
  • Remove the technical 'block's in the wall' (enlarge bandwidth, access to computers etc...)

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Where does the power of the web lie? Katy Silberger

Simple Answer: Google it...

Long Answer: Spend the rest of your life reading the 87,300,000 search results
, or alternatively why not harness the power of the web to answer this question... Stabilo Boss

...delicious might give you some good references, facebook or your blog could create comments or writing on your wall, perhaps you could tweat it out, or even create a collaborative wiki to find the answer.

In my mind there are two things that make the web incredibly powerful:

1. It's capacity to hold and connect exponential quantities of information
2. It's capacity to connect people and evolve based on user feedback

Both of these processes are based upon the interaction of people with the web. As the web has evolved into web 2.0 we now see the power of the web lying not in static pages, but in active multi-dimensional web-pages where individuals are engaging with each other creating audiences bigger than ever possible in the history of mankind.

When Susan Boyle sang on Britains Got Talent, she had no idea her different 'You Tube' video's would total over 100 million views touching hearts all over the world. Neither did Alison Chang know that her photo posted by her youth pastor onto Flickr, would receive more publicity than the teenager could ever desire, need or handle (Thanks Virgin Mobile). The internet has the power to rise up and the power to crush. The power lies in it's users and the collective interactions they have.

Charles Leadbeater writes about this in 'People power transforms the web in next online revolution', a great article which points to numerous examples of the web being used as a powerful source of change, creative inspiration and space for inovation and development. Leadbeater challenges us to use this powerful collective element of the web to find answers that are real in society. His book, We Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production is a book I want to read... going with the theme of working together his first three chapters are free on the his book's web page.

So, to finish I want to share a famous Maori Whakatauki (proverb) which points to the power behind the web...

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke,

Kei hea ke te komako e ko,


Rere ki uta,

Rere ki tai,

Ui mai koe ki ahau e aha te mea nui o te ao,

Maaku e ki atu,

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata,

Tihei mauri ora.


If you should tear out the heart of the flax bush,

Where will the bellbird be,

Will it fly inland,

Fly out to sea,

Or fly around aimlessly,

But if you should ask me what is the greatest thing on Earth,

I will tell you,

It is people, it is people, it is people.

Would you climb without a rope?

So when faced with the question of "who's responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?" The answer lies in the following metaphor...

Imagine, the web is a rock face, users 'climb' the web instead of 'surfing the web', moving freely over the face of the rock, navigating the different arete's, overhangs, cracks while not only engaging with the rock face but also with what lies on it. Climbers learn from experience becoming more effective 'users' as they spend more time on the rock. They move quicker from one site to another, learn the easiest routes, and as they work together, more routes are marked out, anchors are placed, top ropes added and climbing becomes easier and safer. Now imagine taking a whole class to this rock face, let's say a 7th grade class with a range of abilities, experience and confidence.

What is the 1
st thing you would teach these kids?
Safe climbing procedures
What's the 2nd thing we teach them?
Good technique for climbing

You see, we don't send kids wild on a rock face as we know the dangers are too real. So why do parents and educators (including myself) often send kids online without reviewing online safety, and checking that our students have good technique to ensure they are using the web effectively? I think this answer lies in the reality that many parents and teachers see themselves as technologically challenged and in a position not to offer advice to these techno-savy teens.

To overcome this we must educate teachers and our parent population of the risks associated with online use, we need to ensure we are all up to date with basic technology and web tools and ensure that we all role model appropriate use. The reality is that as adults we are more likely to have a good understanding of what is appropriate and what is not, therefore we are definitely in a position to assist our youth on how to operate online.

So, the responsibility to teach online safety is a shared one, in my mind between parents, teachers and the student. Parents have a responsibility to be 'tutors' with their children, reinforcing what is taught at school. Many need to assume a greater role in ensuring they are working with their children to help them be safe online; after all parents wouldn't let their kids lose on a rock face without ensuring they knew what they were doing either.

In the article 'When Dad Banned Text Messaging', Geiger shares her struggles with her husbands decision to ban text messaging. This article demonstrates the lack of thought many parents put into extreme decisions such as banning texting or internet use. Geiger has major issues with her daughter texting 100 times a day and is particularly concerned of 'the mean-girl texts, the ones no one would have the nerve to say to a person’s face but are easy to send from one nonconfrontational phone to another', she appears to support her husbands decision of no texting, but also wishes her children were given the chance to text. Why do parent's resort to extreme stances? Is banning technology the solution? No, the answer lies in educating your children on 'climbing technique', how to use the tools safely and effectively. It is teaching children discernment and self discipline... words that aren't too popular in our impulsive, self centered society.

If Ann Collier's comments are correct on her second life presentation on online safety, then the web has evolved from the depository of documents, web 1.0, to web 2.0, which is ultimately the connection of people. As there is now more at stake with regards to safety online due to the personal connection people are creating, it is now more important to ensure students know what appropriate online behavior looks and feels like.

As schools we need to take the bull by the horns and assume the key responsibility of not only teaching children online safety, but assist in assessing online safety. Any teacher who expects students to use online technology in the classroom has to ensure students know how to 'rope up' and be effective while online, this involves teaching and assessing online skills. There are cases where the school's role with online behavior has been challenged such as shown in Kenrick and Zetter's articles, both cases show how schools can get caught in the grey areas of what happens 'in school' and what happens 'out of school'. The reality is the two are connected. Schools need to be bold in protecting children's welfare to ensure they can effectively learn, part of this welfare now extends to their online welfare... just another area for schools to take responsibility for!

So, are you roping your students up or are they tying their own nooses?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Copyright or my Right2Copy?

I remember searching for information as a 16 year old at our local library, looking through the microfiche and the index cards to find the books that would help me for my most special assignment... it was my first computer processed assignment on my favorite sport, mountain biking. Some of the books I needed were already borrowed, so next I was cycling to another public library to pick it up copies they had. Hours after I had started my initial stage of research I had three books, each full of prized information that I used to complete an assignment that I was proud ot, an assignment I have kept until this day as it was my first computer generated assignment, check it out as a google doc!

It is no wonder I wanted to recognise the authors of the books and no surprise I wasn't tempted to use their ideas as my own as I had put so much time and energy into finding the books and researching the sport. I was proud of this effort, and I wanted to show that I had become more knowledgeable because of my interaction with the information. Back then I didn't have access to the internet, it would be another two years till I came into contact with it upon entering University.

Fast Forward 15 years and the same assignment on Mountain Biking could be reproduced by any student anywhere around the world in less time, with less effort and all without leaving their seat. Researching these days consists of little more than typing the words 'mountain biking' into a Google search box, doing a quick filter for the best information from the ...

... search results and picking the the best pictures out of nearly 5 million pictures provided by a google image search, to enhance the project.

All this information available faster than I can type. With less effort involved at the research stage and with overwhelming numbers of sites of reference material, students must feel less attached to the material they find and more overwhelmed and 'numbed out' of the worth of what they find. It is therefore no surprise they see it as their right to copy this into their own projects; surely that is what the net is there for... to provide information?

Copyright is changing... Right2copy is the norm.

So do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws? Copyright evolved to protect creativity, it was never in place to stop the sharing of such creative thought and works. It appears that what underlies the concept of copyright is giving credit for work, and in the case where profit or full use of an idea is involved, it is about ensuring that an agreement with the creator of the work is achieved. The effects of globalization as propagated by the internet show some of the dangers of copyright issues. Information is readily available for anyone, anytime, anywhere. You can't even be guaranteed of privacy on the net by removing yourself from the internet. This was clearly shown in the case of Alison Chang vs. Virgin Mobile, or Allison Stokke's unwanted nightmare online attention (enough to make any father worry), both show cases where neither girl posted the pictures that made them famous online. It is the norm for students to download music, photos, movies, games, programmes and file share online, along with a wide range of practices that blatantly break copyright laws.

So what is the solution? Is there a solution?

Copyright is changing and is continually challenged by the global nature of the internet. As there is no governing body over the internet the jurisdiction falls in whatever country you lie, some countries allow file sharing others don't. America will follow through with legal action and will even do so in the few cases of educators breaking copyright. Even where countries have firm copyright laws, a number of terms within these laws which have relevance for educators are vague and relative: 'fair use' and 'transforming'... isn't this dependent to the setting, student age, and goals of a learning project?

So what is the answer?

The biggest breakthrough in copyright over the past 8 years has been the evolution of creative commons. These give a more explicit intent of copyright and appears to help us in the sharing process of material online. Creative commons allow us to licence our own work and agree to share under certain conditions. It allows people to become more aware of their rights and take personal responsibility for their own copyrighted works. It also gives users of online material greater understanding of the intent of the creator. In essence it clears up the murky waters of 'fair use'. Creative commons don't by any means keep us safe (as shown in the Alison Chang case above), and this is something we need to be aware of. The potential for building a greater pool of knowledge and information by using open creative commons is limitless.

As educators our role is to ensure students understand the ethical side to fair use, and are able to judge what is transformative and what isn't. We need to promote the use of creative commons images, music, video and other works so that students feel safe about what they are using. We must encourage respecting authors work in the process of referencing material, and encourage students to be creative and build upon the work of others. By promoting a sharing aspect for our students and their work, we encourage them to contribute to a greater pool of knowledge than their own. Finally we must model this.

So does our AUP take this issue into account? No, Nothing there... hmmmm

Reflecting on my last two blogs, perhaps it it is when we take personal responsibility to maintain our privacy online, by being reflective about our digital footprint that we can also balance how we share our copyrighted works to others.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Privacy a Right or Responsibility?

So I am posed with this question:

Is privacy a right or a responsibility?

In the west we strive to build our own little kingdoms, we erect our fences, install our security systems, ensure we deadlock our door's and essentially make our lives more private, protected and disconnected than any oth
er period in history. Yet isn't it ironic that in these same houses we connect straight into a network more public than any environment we have encountered in the physical realm, a network which can multiply our information faster than a virus, potentially sharing it with an audience we may never have intended.

What fence do we build around the information we share in our networked community? How do we padlock our digital identity? What security system do we entrust to ensure that more sinister net users can't steal our virtual embodiment? The reality is that most of us on facebook don't think twice about clicking 'accept' to invitations from 'friends' that we don't really know as traditional friends in the true sense of the word, the majority of online users often trust the website and never read the screeds of terms and conditions when signing up online, we click the little box which says 'I agree to these terms and conditions'. But what are we agreeing to, who are we connecting with, and perhaps more importantly who is watching us?

The problem we have is a breakdown from reality to virtuality. In reality we accept that privacy is actually a personal responsibility, which leads to a right. We don't open our homes, our worlds and our personal matters up to the world, yet online people feel compelled to... why?


When we spend so much time online we lose reality of the potential audience we can reach through our online activity, and are oblivious to the potential surveillance over us. We forget we are essentially creating a digital passport which we will carry for life, one which can reveal all sorts of information about us.

Both articles we had to read this week, the first by Samantha MacConnell,
'Don't overestimate privacy of online information' and Beware: the Internet could own your future by Husna Najand, raised some interesting points about privacy. Najand's article concerned me the most as it highlighted the abuse of power that capitalist corporations such as Facebook have over people. The ability for them to change their terms of service contract to a stance which saw them ultimately owning all the information of their users online is a grave concern for some, and a major abuse of power. For many users this may not be much of a concern as MacConnell points out, 'Of course, if you do not have photographs or information posted that could be incriminating, there probably is no need to worry.' But the following short clip from The Wall shows why we all need to have some concern...

Are you taking the responsibility to protect your privacy?