It was over quicker than a Tua knock-out!

I must first apologise for neglecting my blogging obligations.  It would seem that life is flashing  by and piling up at a furious pace.  Between attending and presenting at ulearn09; preparing my class for term four; PAT and STAR testing for school reports and preparing for my new position as Principal at Pukeokahu School, I have been avoiding this blog with vigour.   However, guilt has raised its furry head and I have decided to just get on with it.

So … ulearn09 was fantastic!  As an attendee it was an energetic experience; but as a presenter it was a blast.

Early on in the year I decided that my Professional Development Goal would be to take every opportunity to present  to a professional audience.  When ulearn09 came up I saw it as a fantastic way to extend my presentation experience.  Though in hindsight, I must admit that the decision to present at ulearn09 was kind of like jumping into the deep end without my floaties!   But, all in all, after all of the stress and sweaty palms, everything worked out well and it was over quicker than … well you can read the title.

My hands-on workshop was about using Web2.0 tools to enhance a classroom blog, like I had done with my classblog – The Wocket Spot Blog.  I decided to design my workshop to be run like the Amazing Race.  Collaborative groups would required to complete as many tasks as possible within a given time frame and publish their completed tasks to a mock classblog – you can check out the finish tasks here.  The point being that Web2.0 tools are quick, fun and easy to use.

All of the information needed to complete the tasks can be found in a website I have developed –  It was my hope that after my workshop the attendees would be able to continue using the site and share it with their colleagues and perhaps even run the Amazing Race for their own staff (I have left The Race page with all of the tasks on the site).

And of course now I offer to you all access to my wee site.  I hope it is helpful and fun to use.  I will be adding to it as time goes by and I discover other funky little Web2.0 tools that enhance learning in a blogging environment.  You are all welcome to use it to run your own Amazing Race, just drop me a line if you need help setting it up. And please let me know if you think there is anything else I should add.

Yes!!! Writers block defeated! Post is published! Guilt is dissipating and next the topic is forming in my mind!

Images sourced under creative commons licence from:

Teaser Three – Watching the Progress Bar turn Blue

Lately I have been using Camtasia to create Screen Casts for my eWindows site.  Now usually I am a strictly freeware kind of girl (well that’s a little bit of a fib because I have paid for Edublogs, Voicethread, Flickr and my domain names, anyway …)  but I am really impressed with Camtasia.  So much so that I may even fork-out for it after my free one month trial (this is awesome, try before you buy!).

Camtasia is easy to use, has great support and tutorials.  It runs seamlessly with my Mac and uploads directly to YouTube.  At one easy payment of $99.00 (Education Pricing) I do believe it may be a keeper, though it may have to wait until after I recover from my little trip to Christchurch (only 9 more sleeps!).  O, and after we wallpaper the living room.  Below is my weekly-ish offering to the Blog-o-sphere.  My third ever Screen Cast on how to add a Word-cloud to a post.  So readers, I would really like some feedback here, how did I do?  It’s a lot harder than it looks.

Teaser One – The Google Empire

Here is my first offering to the blog-o-sphere from my uLearn09 presentation

An eWindow into my Classroom

The Google Empire

Google Logo “Just Google it!”
Gone are the days when Google was just the provider of interesting facts and decider of living room quiz nights. Google is now a vast array of Web Applications designed to pull today’s web consumers into its clever and enticing ‘Googleverse’. And believe me, this Web Nut is banging on Google’s doors screaming “Let Me In”. In fact, while I am typing these very words I am wondering, why I don’t ‘can’ this wiki, and transfer it all over to Google Sites! Maybe I will; we will see …

Now back on track!
A quick run down on a few of the major players in the Google Empire (and don’t forget, one username will take you everywhere!)

Gmail Logo

This little beauty is gold! It’s free, easy to use and one account will service your entire class, or school as the case maybe. Check out the Gmail Page for information on the funky format (thanks Sue Waters!).

Google Docs Logo

The ultimate in collaborative documentation. Create documents, spreadsheets and forms then share with collaborators or embed them into your site. Students can use Google Docs to draft their writing, then share that writing with you to provide instant editing and feedback.  I thought this collaboration gem deserved a page of its own as well! (thanks Nick Rate!)

Google Calendar Logo

A wonderfully useful application that allows you to set up an editable calendar. Keep parents up-to-date with events and deadlines. Add the class birthdays, or maybe a famous date or two your kids and parents may find interesting (thanks Sue Waters!).  Link to my classblog.

Google Maps Logo

I can only describe Google Maps as super cool. Find your school’s neighbourhood, add your markers and embed it on your site! What can be better than an interactive map that uses real satellite pictures? The only draw back is that it is a little tricky to embed and edit. This however, this can be over come with a little practise. Link to my classblog.

Google News Logo

Search hundreds if not thousands of local and international news organisations. Newspapers, Radio Stations, Television and Web-Based News Sites. Google News allows you to search a relatively narrow field of sourced information.

Google Sites Logo

A simple Web Site creator. Embed other Google content like calendars, maps and Youtube or add other third party content. Google Sites is a new alternative to Wikis.

Google Reader Logo

Have you heard of RSS? Are you unfamiliar with the term “Read my Feeds? Do you have lots of sites that you like to read but you can never get around to checking them all? If this sounds like you need to check out my Google Reader Page.  I can’t get by without my Google Reader! (thanks Common Craft)

Youtube Logo

YouTube has had some bad press in the ‘Edu-verse’ lately. Many schools choose to use alternative sites like TeacherTube to avoid the perceived evils of YouTube. However, YouTube wins hands down when it comes to ease of use, quality of playback and upload speed. Why bother with an inferior product when the Rolls Royce of video playback is at your door step. Just follow a few simple rules and all will be well. Link to my classblog.

Google Apps Logo

Google Apps is a free web-based IT infrastructure. With Google Apps you are able to create and manage email, messaging and shared calendars for all of your school community. Up-load videos and documents, which only your school community can view. No advertising, and a safe place for your students to learn about creating their own online identity. Check out this video for a short explanation or this video for a more thorough Webinar.

Preparing for ulearn09


elearn09 is approaching rapidly and I am feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety.  Excitement because this is my first ulearn experience and I get to have some face to face time with the many awesome NZ Educators.  Anxiety because for some strange reason, must of had one too many coffees that day, I applied to be a presenter and was accepted! Eek! 😮

My presentation is called An eWindow into my Classroom (Breakout Five for any of you who are interested in attending).

Join me as we create a classroom blog that allows parents and whanau to be an active part of classroom learning. We will be using a variety of Web2.0 tools that are free and easy to use. There will be tips and tricks on how to make your blog appealing to students and informative to parents. I will also talk about ways you can engage an audience in the global community. Your classroom blog can be so much more than another publishing platform, it can be an interactive environment that enhances student learning.

(Believe it or not it took me four hours to write that synopsis.)

I am hoping that by the end of the session we will have constructed a mock classroom blog and or set up the bones and a few fancy bits in my ‘victims’ own classroom blogs.  I will set up a fairly open rotation where participants can engage in a variety of cool web2.0 tools that will enhance your classroom blog and to make it ‘blog-i-licious’ (blog-i-licious  – my term for a blog that is engaging, fun, funky, collaborative, communicative and of course enhances learning, thanks Fergie!) My brainwave for this presentation is that all of my presentation’s content will be sourced on a Wetpaint Wiki.  That way participates will always have a point of reference to go back to after the intensity of the conference.

I have found Wetpaint is an easy to use platform, possibly less finicky than Wikispaces (of course this is only my opinion).  My only real bugbare is that you are unable to view the html code, but I can get over that.  Each page on this Wiki will explore a different Web2.0 app.  I will include tips and tricks on how to use each app. in your blog as well as include examples of how I have used it in my own classroom blog.

As you have all probably guessed by now; this post is basically shameless self-promotion on my part.  But it is also me feeling a bit guilty for neglecting my blog for this my newfangled wiki of mysterious means (I am keeping it private until the conference).  Therefore I, in another self-promotion tactic, will be releasing sneak peaks to a few of my wiki’s page as my blog posts during the lead up to ulearn09.  I will have omit a one or two links and leave out a some of the workshop content, but I hope these sneak peaks will pique your interest in attending my workshop (remember Breakout Five) or at the very least consider playing around with creating your own classroom blog, or maybe adding a bit of ‘Bling’ to your existing one.

You have ‘Enraged Me’

I shouldn’t be writing this post, I should be marking books, reflecting on my Teacher Inquiry, or preparing for my presentation at uLearn09 (hehehe, yep they accepted me! Wooo Hooo) but as my Grandmother would delight in exclaiming … “that man has really put a bee in your bonnet hasn’t he!” and by ‘that man’ I mean Marc Prensky. I am not sure if I am breaking any copy right laws, sorry if I am, but here is the article he wrote that really got my knickers in a twist (another of my Grandmother’s favourites).

The article is entitled “Engage Me or Enrage Me” What Today’s Learners Demand. Now before I continue with my rant, I must equivocally express my opinion on digital technologies in the classroom (though if you haven’t guessed from my previous posts by now, I must wonder about your inference skills).

I heart eLearning, bring it on! If it enhances learning it’s going into my classroom programme, if not just give me some time and I will find a way in which it will. Is that clear enough?

I am Pro-eAnything2.0.

However, Prensky’s article has really upset me. He has implied that the only way in which we can truly engage students is through games based learning. I believe that this is a dangerous mantra to evangelise. While many gaming platforms are wonderful learning environments, the majority of Prensky’s reasoning and examples weigh heavily on the negative side of the scales. This article starts alarm bells ringing in my head. I want a digitally enhanced 21 Century classroom. I however, do not want games-based, instant gratification, user-centred classroom Prensky seems to be advocating.

Prensky begins well enough, describing his classic classification of the three types of student us educators would of encountered at one point or another, a fair point but over simplified in my opinion. But then he makes this strange statement when reminiscing over his time teaching in a poor area of New York City.

The big difference from today is this: the kids back then didn’t expect to be engaged by everything they did. There were no video games, no CDs, no MP3s—none of today’s special effects. Those kids’ lives were a lot less rich—and not just in money: less rich in media, less rich in communication, much less rich in creative opportunities for students outside of school. Many if not most of them never even knew what real engagement feels like.

What does he mean? Did children sit around staring at blank walls not knowing what to do with themselves? How did a child play back then without a control in their hand? How did one play baseball or tennis before the invention of the Nintendo Wii, or sing a song before Sing Star on the Play Station 2? Hmmm how indeed?

I will not insult your intelligence by describing the childhood past times of the “Digital Immigrant”. But I will question this. What exactly do you consider to be engagement? Is engagement the same as being interested? Is it having fun? How about just paying attention? Or is engagement more than this surface interest? I believe that true educational engagement is a process where by the learner is actively inter-acting with their learning environment, evoking cognitive stimulation from which the learner is able to create their own content with which they share (still thinking and refining this definition).

Prensky’s now goes on to list examples of the ways “All students we teach …” are engaged by various digital wonders. Think very carefully and see if you can count how many of these examples include the student creating their own content through cognitive stimulation. I will add learning intentions to help you.

Here we go:
Downloading Songs
– We are learning to create playlists.
Rapping, Lip syncing and Singing Karaoke – We are learning to move our lips in time to music like Brittany Spears.
Mixing our own music or making movies – We are learning to tell a story through music or pictures (well he gets my approval for that one but the rubbish is still winning 2 to 1)
Playing Video Games – We are learning to repeat and repeat and repeat a stage (not unlike rote learning) until we can pass it.
Checking email, IM and talking to my friends – We are learning how to talk to our friends in other ways than just the telephone.
Buying things – We are learning how to spend our parents money.
Playing on a portable console or GameBoy – I am learning how to squint and sit in the shade so the sun doesn’t glare on my small screen.

And finally, this one gets special quotation marks

“…some may do the extreme sports that are possible with twenty-first-century equipment and materials.”(WTF?) – We are learning to bungy jump and parachute after school everyday because my parents are so rich, NOT!

It would seem to me the final score is Rubbish 6; Strange and Unlikely Example 1; and True Engagement 1! Hmmmm

As would seem logical, Prensky goes on to explain that school is not engaging because it does not include gaming (did you know that Prensky is the CEO of a games-based learning company?). School doesn’t have the fast paced action of today’s top selling games. School doesn’t have thrilling battle graphics or the flashing lights or awesome sound effects. Where are the graphics constantly moving on screen? You can’t build your heroes, kill the bad guys, save your friends. You can practise your awesome skills over and over and over again until you clock it, and don’t worry the cheats can help you at the tricky bits, just google them! Shut the curtains, dim the lights (atmosphere …), don’t worry about the time there’s no clock on the console (if you can read the time in the first place), watch that little character running around the screen, it’s almost hypnotising.

Have I ever mentioned that I used to work in a pub? The Whakatane Hotel to be exact, as well as serving on the bar, I also managed the little casino with its eighteen Pokey Machines (Slot Machines for you Americans out there). I once ask one of my very regular customers why he enjoyed playing them (even though he lost more money than he won) his answer surprised me. He said that is was the cool flashing lights, the fun sound effects and “I guess I like watching the way the graphics move on the screen”. Weird?? Those games sure knew how to hook their punters. I didn’t really like being in the Pokey room. It had very small windows, so it was always very dim, the same tunes played over and over again, strangely hypnotic, and it was very frustrating that there was never a clock in there.

I agree that schools need to move forward into the 21st century. I also agree that there are real educational benefits to some gaming platforms. But are all of these games really beneficial? Do they really endow these amazing skills upon the user? Will a child really “master systems ten times more complex than algebra, understand systems ten times more complex than the simple economics we require of them, and read far above their grade level” just because they can clock (to clock a game means to finish it) …

“the three most popular (i.e., best-selling) computer and video games in the marketplace. They were, as of June 2004: City of Heroes, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban, an action game for the PlayStation 2; and Rise of Nations, a real-time strategy game for the PC.”

Just because a child can Command and Conquer vast nations, vanquish a pack of Dementors and an evil wizard or command a squad of Navy Seals online, doesn’t mean he can do it in real life (and do we really want him to?)

The final ‘Bee’ in my aforementioned bonnet is that Prensky seems to celebrate, and advocate the engagement of a 4 year old with a complex and graphically violent video game named Halo 2. (Double WTF???).

Prensky explains that

“On a recent BBC show Child of Our Time, a four-year-old who was a master of the complex video game Halo 2 was being offered so-called “learning games” that were light-years below his level, to his total frustration and rage.”

I suggest that the possible frustration and rage this child is displaying has a direct correlation with the amount of heads he has blown off in his tender years (and maybe a lack of sunlight and exercise has contributed?)

While, Prensky does conclude with the statement that “creating engagement is not about those fancy, expensive graphics but rather about ideas” one must still ask the question – Who’s ideas Mr Prensky? The game writers who will create games that provide students with instant gratification?  The person who creates a game that students just use and not have to contribute to.

Not once has Prensky explicitly mention Web2.0 and students creating their own content to share and interact with a global learning community. I am sorry Mr Prensky but I do not agree with your view of the digital world! Being a “Digital Native” is about realising that you are an intelligent CONTRIBUTOR, not a ‘give it to me’ USER. (By the way, what’s up with your website Mr Prensky, it’s not very engaging?)

What’s a Wallwisher?

Thanks to a new blog post from manaiakalani I found this new little beauty I must say I am quite excited! Maybe it is the pretty colours; or the ease of use; how about the ability to add links and pictures; the open collaboration; being able to embed and definately the silly monkey picture!

I won’t go into detail, you guys can just get in there and have a play – add a note to my wall … go on I dare you!

Look really embeded!!!!!!!!!!!

My Teacher Inquiry

As a part of our EHSAS Cluster we are required to engage in a Teacher Lead Inquiry.  The justification of this inquiry comes from The New Zealand Curriculum.  In a section entitled Effective Pedagogy the document states that ‘effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students’.  With this I completely agree!  Are we not constantly asking ourselves – ‘How did that go?, ‘Did I activate that learning effectively?’, or sometimes ‘Oh crap, what on earth did I do wrong?’.  I see this inquiry as a opportunity to formalise that, everyday personal inquiry and perhaps activate some small form of positive pedagogical shift. secret- I dream of nothing less than revolutionary ;-P

Teacher Inquiry is further advocated by the research of Professor John Hattie and the late researcher Graham Nuthall (both Kiwis!).  Now I am not going to waffle on about the research justifications, not my style though it needed to be mentioned, as you are all intelligent enough to Google it for yourself (that was a compliment …).  What I will share with you though is a wonderful statement announced the other day by Intrepid Teacher“Group Brain Activate!”.  As a 21st Century Learner and Teacher I can see no other way to conduct a Teacher Inquiry other than collaboratively.  By collaboratively I mean by using the Web2.0 to publish, discuss, review and share my process and findings.

Over the past couple of years I have come to realise that I am not alone in my search for Educational Enlightenment.  Not only are there people out there struggling along on their own journey but these people are sharing, thinking, communicating and learning from one another.  I want to be part of that crowd!  So Group Brain Activate, lead me to the promised land … or at least give me few good tips on Oral Language?  Oh yeah, that’s what my Teacher Inquiry will be about – The improvement of Oral Language through Video Conferencing and any other Web2.0 gizmo my hopefully enthusiastic Group Brain may suggest.

I have set up a Wiki as my Individual Teacher Plan (formally a flimsy piece of paper, Save The Trees!) where I will document my thinking, planning, progress and reflection.  Pop in, have a look, make a suggestion, correct my spelling or just stay for a cup of tea, you are all welcome! (just as a quick note for all you speedy readers out there, I haven’t got anything on there yet, I am planning to set it up this weekend after the in-laws have gone, but never fear it will be done asap!)

Enter the Twitterverse

Everyone is picking on me!!!!  Today I admitted to being a fan and now an active Twitterer. People keep asking me if I am following Ashton Kuttcherr and Ellen Degenerous … obviously not!!! I can’t even spell their names let alone find them!

I first encountered Twitter last May while I was on the Apple Bus Tour .  When visiting Point England School the eLearning Facilitator, Dorothy Burt, mentioned that she Twittered.  I of course, being thoroughly amped with the tour, joined straight away … now what? I didn’t know who, what or where to follow.  I couldn’t even understand half the text language being used???

Thankfully I have now had some timely advice from a few ePals and have gathered together several worthwhile people to follow (is there a name for for that? followees? peeps? friends? the stalked?)

The trouble is that now I need to find out how to keep up!  There seems to be some kind of snow-ball effect happening; in the last 12 hours I found 17 people to follow, and I am now being followed by 10 more people than yesterday.  From these Tweets, I have discovered 8 more blogs to follow and 1 more Ning network, not to mention all my eGeeky friends I IM in the evenings, my constantly growing Skype list and the Bebo I never visit.  Do I need a Facebook too?  Now if my powers of mathematical ability are correct I will be communicating with about six billion and five more people then I can cope with.


Please tell me … how do I keep up without being biologically wired to my MacBook??!!

wordle – Beautiful Words

My Site
My Site is an very new (less than four months old) and interesting site, that creates these colourful ‘Word Clouds’ from text pasted into the site. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

At first glance, not unlike the creator Jonathan Feinberg, I thought was merely an entertaining way to display what ever you had on your mind. However, upon closer investigation, the potential for enhancing learning quickly became apparent. According to his FAQ section, Jonathan has received other 100 requests from teachers since Wordles conception.

Let’s have a look at an example of powerful words:

“The Struggle for Human Rights” a speech by Anna Eleanor Roosevelt

Some enterprising person has inserted Eleanor Roosevelt’s speech on human rights into You can clearly see the 150 most used words (small connective words are automatically removed). As you can see in Eleanor’s speech, the themes of Freedom, Human Rights and People have a strong presence. Lets compare Eleanor’s speech, with George Bush’s speech on Sept 11, 2001.

Statement by President, George Bush, Sept. 11, 2001
Statement by President, George Bush, Sept. 11, 2001

Hmmmmm . . . Anyway, give a Wordle a go, it is a great way to analyse documents quickly and painlessly. Just look at this next Wordle, it could save us all some time.

The New Zealand Curriculum
The New Zealand Curriculum

“Just remember all…that words are powerful, so very powerful, that it can change attitudes (for the better or for the worse), with or without provocation. They can be triggers, reminders, movers, and emotive…Be kind with your words and listen too” ANON