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!