Category Archives: DigiTech

The Things that Counted: Reflecting on 2016

When I moved up to grade 4/5 last year after teaching only the early years in my career so far, one of the things I both looked forward to and most feared was how to engage students in their learning by making it real.

At the end of that year, I chatted with my kids about what experiences they got the most out of, what they enjoyed about the year. There were two consistent responses: the Poetry Slam and the Kids Conference.

Interestingly, a lot of the parents I talked to also had those two experiences as a stand out from their child’s year. This is important to me; if parents see enjoyment, value and focus in their children’s learning, it makes it much easier for them to support and extend the work of the teacher.

Poetry Slam

The poetry slam came about when my team was planning a poetry unit. We thought that ending the unit with a poetry slam would be a great way to share. When I explained this to my grade, I happened to mention that often poetry slams are held in public places, like an auditorium. One student asked if we could do ours in the local cafe and I said “Why not?”. My initial reaction was to say no because the teachers had discussed having all our grades share together, but when the students come up with a way better and completely reasonable idea, you have to drop your plans and go with it.

Throughout a really successful unit, the kids worked with a mentor poet, Cam Semmens, who coached them over four sessions. They wrote many poems, scrapped some and reworked others. They tossed and turned over their final performance poem. They practised the way their poem would be spoken and watched other poets slam (including this hilarious one by Nick Offerman entitled ‘A Slam Poem to Bacon‘).
They picked the date, called the cafe and booked their space (and submitted their milkshake orders too). They called up the local newspaper, were interviewed and organised a photographer to come down during the performance.

A self-organised story in the paper!

They invited their parents to come and watch, and nervously walked down to the cafe that morning to deliver weeks’ worth of writing. They beautifully performed their pieces and supported the students who had stage fright.

Read their blog post on the Poetry Slam here.

Often as teachers we talk about a genuine purpose for writing being important, but often forget to include this in our planning, and even more often forget to ask the students what would be the best way to share.

The Poetry Slam was one of the most powerful learning experiences I’ve seen in my class. Students were driven, they were excited, they were analysing their writing and helping each other do the same. They were desperate for conferences to get feedback, and soaked up every second of the mentor poet’s expertise that they could get.

Having purpose turns ‘work’ into ‘learning’.

 

Kids Conference

After speaking at #DigiCon16, I was invited by Jo Clyne, a brilliant historian and educator, to have students present learning at the HTAV Kids Conference. This conference showcases ways that teachers and students are doing using technology innovatively to learn about history and geography.

In the midst of a history and civics unit, together Jo and I came up with a plan which resulted in a launch lesson with Jo, followed by a longer-term project where students worked in groups to tell the story of an individual or group’s experience of Australia’s Federation. Some of these groups were selected to present at the conference.

My students were both excited and terrified at the size of the lecture theatre!

The whole class took the tram to ACU for the day and attended their first conference. They took notes and met students from different schools (including secondary students) who were all using technology in new and powerful ways to learn.

This conference was exceptionally powerful for my students; not just watching others, but seeing their own learning shared in a public forum was genuine, challenging and exciting. What they presented was something they were confident in and had worked hard on, and they got feedback from students, teachers and a university lecturer on how great their end products were.

As the dad of one of my student presenters excitedly mentioned to me on the day, “10 year olds did not present at conferences back in the day. That was for university professors.” This is not the case anymore. 10 year olds are more than capable.

 

The lesson I have learnt is that:

  1. It is possible to provide (and be open to) genuine ways for students to engage in and share their learning with a wide audience and in meaningful ways. 
  2. Not only is it possible, it is vital. 

#DigiCon16 Presentation: Coding in the Primary Classroom

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 9.47.16 PMThis year I presented a couple of sessions at #DigiCon16, DLTV‘s annual conference.

One of the sessions I presented was Coding in the Primary Classroom: An Inquiry Into Gaming with Tamryn Kingsley. We took participants through the process of a unit we taught together with our grade 2 classes. The unit was an inquiry where students made their own games using the platform Scratch.

We have been contacted a few times since the conference to share the resources we used, so I thought I would collate them all here. All the slides and links to the resources we used are below. We would love to hear from you if you are creating your own gaming unit!

Introductory video of what scratch can do https://vimeo.com/65583694

Cheat sheets – guides for learning the basic skills of Scratch https://goo.gl/7PGfZU

Challenges – short tasks using Scratch designed to help learn basic Scratch functions  (We used About me, 10 blocks, It’s alive, Music video). http://goo.gl/CgOiO1IMG_4262

Blocks – printable Scratch blocks http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/resources/vector-scratch-blocks

 

Classic Games

Pong http://www.ponggame.org/

Pacman http://www.playpacmanonline.net/

Tetris http://tetris.com/play-tetris-flash/

Supermario Bros. http://www.ozmogames.com/games/super-mario/mario-mushrooms.play

Space invaders http://www.pacxon4u.com/space-invaders/

Angry birds  http://freeangrybirdsgame.org/play/angry_birds_online.html

 

Scratch Games

Quiz https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/86004996/?fromexplore=true

Platform Scroll https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/1775702/

Punkin Chunkin https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/1445936/

Bridy https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/87143678/?fromexplore=true

Arc https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/2422227/

Maze https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/10128431/

Race https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/13042816/

 

Inspiration

Mel Cashen Festival of Gaming blog post http://melcashen.com/?p=955

Darrel Branson Game Making at Mildura West www.goo.gl/BeWDbt

Google Translate: Removing EAL Barriers

unnamedI have a student in my class for three weeks. She lives in China but has come to Melbourne for a short time. Naturally she has had some trouble being able to communicate because English is not her first language. Off their own bat, two girls in my class decided to help her out by using Google Translate to convey the instructions in her language, then to continue communicating with her so she could participate in their group. Three students who did not speak each other’s languages worked together on making a film today. I am in awe of the powerful combination of kids and technology. Anyone who says tech does not belong in the classroom is wrong.

Teaching Measurement using Google Maps

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Just a simple activity using a tech tools to enhance student understandings.

This week I have been working on area and perimeter with my 4/5s. This has included a lot of estimation. It became clear early on that students were unsure how to estimate common units for measuring length (i.e. mm, cm, m km). To provide a reference point for estimation, I asked students to create a poster for themselves to be able to remember the sizes of these measurements, with the intention that this would make it easier for them to estimate with a visual cue.  Most chose to use the app Pic Collage to display their work.

For example, to remember the size of 1 millimetre, some students took a photo of the thickness of a fingernail. For 1 metre, they referred to the length of a classroom table.

Kilometres proved to be difficult as it is a difficult distance to visualise. So we used Google Maps to experiment with distances and see a visual representation of exactly how far 1 kilometre is. Students found a familiar local point on Google Maps and used the directions function to map the journey to another familiar location that was 1km away (for example, the local Coles or skate park).

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Term 2 Goals

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Term 1 was massive for me. Being at a new school and a completely new year level has had me completely floored.

I feel like I have spent the entire term in a whirlwind of not really knowing or understanding what’s going in, which has been completely different to my previous experience of understanding most things and leading a lot of it.Things have not been bad, just unfamiliar. I think I have been so used to working in certain ways and expecting particular things to happen around me that being in a new environment has had me upside down. For the most part I have just spent time feeling guilty that I have not been making a great contribution to my team this term while I’ve been finding my feet.

Now that I’m starting to get my head around my new school and how it works, I am refreshed and ready to do more.

I have three goals for the Term to keep me focused on improving my practise and extending my skills.

  • Stay connected. Twitter is blocked on my school network and I am so used to checking in and stalking my eduheroes during the day for inspiration that without this frequent connection I have been dry as the desert. #vicpln I’m coming for you.
  • Blog more.  When I get into the habit of blogging often, I start to push myself to try new things so I can share it. This can only be a good thing so expect to see more here in the coming weeks.
  • Reconnect with my passion: tech. Out of all the things I do in my job, I find that learning about, teaching with, and using technology to improve learning to be the easiest and most interesting to me. I intend to find myself a niche in the school where I can run with this and try some new things.

Big things happening here – wish me luck!

Growing Good Digital Citizens

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For anyone trying (like me) to get their head around the DigiTech curriculum, hopefully this can help get you. I plan on sharing some of the things I do in my school that address this proposed curriculum at a grade 2 level.

 

My school’s Digital Learning Team has identified the area of “Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility” as one of the areas for improvement after a staff survey on the ISTE standards showed that this was the areas where staff felt unconfident and had less knowledge than others.

As a result, all students have downloaded an eBook (Common Sense Media’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum and workbook) that provides a lesson-by-lesson curriculum for teachers to implement with their students. I’m finding it to have some good resources but mostly it is a little dry.

I feel a little more confident about this area than just following a text book, so I wanted to share a lesson I did with my Grade 2s about being a responsible digital citizen.

 

We had a discussion about the term “Good digital citizen” and what it meant. Two of my students are Digital Leaders in the school and were able to lead this discussion quite capably. Students put forward their ideas on what this might look like.

We watched this video to hear some other ideas on what good digital citizens are like. The song “Pause and think online” is catchy and the kids got a lot out of it!

The song basically associates actions and body parts with responsible use of technology. For example “listen to your gut” for things that don’t seem right, and “balance with your arms” to balance your time between using technology and giving your mind and body a break from it.

 

After this my students used the Thinglink app to create an interactive image that would explain their interpretation of how to pause and think online. They took pictures of themselves and inserted “nubbins” (this word is too creepy for me!) which were either text or video to explain how they would use a certain body part as a good digital citizen. Here are a couple of examples and here is the class blog on this lesson, if you want to see more.

 


The Thinglinks went on our class blog for others to read and learn about how they can be a good digital citizen.