Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Starting classes with Grade 8 students in a four week time period.

Every grade 8 student that goes through Information Technology Grade 8 class (a 4 week period of time) gets trained in specific things in our school to start them on their journey of their Digital Persona.  They learn how to use Outlook since this is the email that they receive from the district, they learn their user name and password and how to save and protect their data on the server (since where ever they move in the district, this user name, password and all files will follow them) and they learn to be safe online.

Through the process of all of this, they learn a number of software program and web tools that we feel is important for them to learn and useful in their time period that they will be in our school.  The main one is Prezi, an online tool that can also operate offline, and you can brainstorm online using their apps.   The intro to our class and to learning more about the students quickly in the four week period is for the student to do a Prezi of their life.  Below is one small example, but a good one.

There are a number of help/support files and videos.  
The program itself has a number of videos that teach students how to use Prezi, but I show the basics like :
  • Select your background
  • Change your background
  • inserting text
    • change color
    • change font
    • change size
  • inserting pictures
    • rotating pictures
    • changing size
  • inserting movies
    • 2 different ways - by youtube address and by uploading
  • zooming in and out of words, and pictures
  • using frames
  • inserting arrows, etc
  • making a path
  • put a very small word in a word
  • adding music at the end
Students love to do this, learn something new, and I give them a bonus if they teach another student or even better, a teacher in the school.  That seems to work great.  But that's just the start.

We also
  • use Inspiration for brainstorming and organizing
  • Use different avatars so they understand their digital footprint.
  • Look at real teens talking about what has happened to them when going to far with chats and others,
  • I show them google satellite and how it can zoom right in to look in your window or what's in the garage to steal.
  • They learn how someone can get your phone number and address.
  • Talk about Facebook security.
  • Talk about rules for safety.  They use the web tool "Toondoo" for this making a comic book.  Here's an example:  

  • They learn about the start of competitions of computers with bibliographies of Gates and Jobs.
  • They do some fun web tools that we talk about their usage like
    • MyOats
    • Wordle
    • Tagxedo
    • TimeRhyme
    • and blogs.
These are but a few things we do in 4 weeks, making the class fun, but informative, and with the specific purpose of starting our students safely on computers and on the Internet.  Hope you enjoyed this.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Googlize your Classroom

One of the more important things in education that I believe in is the strength of building networks with your colleagues and sharing the material you have learned. That's why I believe in helping others, doing training and when asked, helping present at the Surrey Teacher's Association Conference the past Friday.  If you are in SurreySchool District and wish to access all of this material and more (handouts on how to do), please email me and tell me your email address.  Through I am sharing all this material and more in the "Group Share"

Presentation 1 - Googlize Your Classroom.

AT the STA conference on Friday, May 3rd, I presented two presentations that I would like to share.  The first being a presentation, or rather a showing of all the different educational things that Google can be used for.  Many of their sites are educationally sound, with lesson plans included, and resources for both teachers and students.  I'm talking more then just googledocs.  See the presentation below of all they can do.

1 googlepresentation2 from Nicole Painchaud

The slideshow above does have two movies that are shown below as links.

Google Stories

Example of a SearchStory

What is Google+

My Second Presentation - Business Education Links

It's exactly how it sounds.  I shared material that I had gathered up for Business Education teachers to share in their classroom.  I shared some of the material in the first session but more.  I explained how I used LiveBinder, and created a binder for others to copy and build.  I explained about teaching students to use GoogleDocs and use StormBoard for idea generating, explaining to students that there is no such thing as a stupid idea, that everything is possible, that sometimes the wildest ideas can help develop some innovative ideas to develop improvements in a product.  See the video below for an example.

Next you have to teach your students how to work in groups and give good feedback.  The video below is about Ron Berger's elementary class and how to give good feedback, or rather positive critiquing.  Excellent to show your students ahead of time so they understand the importance of feedback.  Hope this helps someone out there  ;)

Below is the binder I started on Business Education links for teaching students business and more. Please feel free to copy it in Livebinder.  I only ask that if you have a few good sites to share that you email me and let me add them to my LiveBinder.  I hope this blog entry helps someone out there :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Guest Blogger - H. Nielsen - Poetry and Technology Together.

Recently Sullivan Heights had the opportunity to participate in the Poetry In Voice National Poetry Competition.  For me, this meant learning how to use some new technology, as the entries had to be submitted on line.  This made me a bit nervous, but I had three very keen and talented students who really wanted to compete, and they assured me they had a friend who could help with the tech. stuff if we needed it, so we decided to give it a try.

Each student had to memorize three poems to performance quality, and then we had to record them from the waist up against a solid background.  The contest stipulated that we were not allowed to do any editing of the recording and stressed the importance of good sound and picture quality.  We solicited the help of a student to film the girls - she did so using the IPad and a camera.  We had to do several takes to get the sound quality where we wanted it, and found that the IPad produced the better video.  

After gathering all the video, which was way more time consuming than we thought it would be - luckily we gave ourselves a couple of days - it was time to upload the video clips to the site.  This was the scariest part for me, as I had never done anything like this before.  Luckily our tech. facilitator was excited to help, and with her expertise and the clear directions provided by the Poetry in Voice website, we were able to upload the videos with very little difficulty.  It only took about an hour, much less time than I had assumed, and it was much easier than I thought it would be.  The whole experience was a good learning opportunity, and definitely something I would repeat in the future.

Thank you Ms. Nielsen for sharing your learning experience.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Livebinder for Collaboration

I've made a number of binders that I use for sharing sites.  I use Livebinder for a list of web site that I use with BASE students, making it easier to go from one site to another with a click of a button.  It also helps me to organize the sites for different areas of study I do with BASE students.

I also have created a site of useful links for Business Education teachers.  I needed to organize these sites to show to a group of teachers that teach Business Education at the Surrey Teacher's Association Convention in Surrey BC.  Here is what the binder looks like.  It's open for everyone. If there is one thing to say about Sullivan Heights Teachers (the school I teach at) is that we believe in sharing.

Check out it's simplicity. for livebinder for Business Ed.

How to use Livebinder - tutorials.

Project Based Learning - Guest Bloggers Ann Harris & Stacy Brine

Earlier this semester, my colleague Ann Harris and I embarked on an attempt at project-based learning
with our Social Studies 9 classes.  Nicole had presented a wonderful explanation during a recent Professional Day that inspired me to think about adapting a current project I already used.  Nicole's presentation was full of templates and ideas that could be directly applied to a variety of courses and topics.   

So, in collaboration with Ann, we adapted the First Nations project.  We did some KWL charts and brainstorming ahead of time.  Technology played a major role as the students were to be using the i
Pads and presenting with Prezi.  We added an essential question to guide the students in order keep the larger issues present in their minds; the students were required to address this essential question throughout their presentation.  And we really wanted the presentation to be much more dynamic; where the students would not be reading their notes, but rather using what was in their Prezi to guide them.  We expected them to truly know the material and speak confidently about it.  And since we had required them to present in the first person - as though they were actually there studying these First Nations groups - we hoped they would be comfortable with the information and be able to engage the class.      

Ann and I acted as advisors, having students fill out work reports along the way to maintain accountability.  The reports included a group contract, a project management log, individual and group work reports, and self-reflection.  Thankfully, all of these had been provided by Nicole during the Pro-D.  Even though this created extra paperwork and organization on our part, I found it to be very worthwhile in assessing the students.  It was straightforward and kept students on track as they moved through the project.  It kept them accountable to each other as well and didn't allow anyone to get away with doing little work and then receiving the same amount of credit as the other group members.           

Here's what actually happened:

  1. The research went well.  Our teacher-librarian, Roger Hayward, prepped the students in the library with a presentation on how Prezi works and how the students were able to share and work on the Prezi from different locations.  The students took the job seriously and filled out their work reports along the way.   
  2. The presentations were a disappointment.  Both Ann and I observed that there appeared to be a real disconnect; many students simply read off their notes during the presentation even though we had specified that was not acceptable.  Upon reflection, Ann and I hypothesized that there could be many factors at play: the students were uncomfortable because they didn't know the material well, they were  uncomfortable speaking in front of the class or perhaps students were simply doing what they were used to doing during presentations.  Reading off of cue cards was obviously something that was acceptable throughout their school career.  Our solution: specify to the students that they may not use any notes during the presentations.  Instead, they would be required to speak about their content by using their images chosen and/or a few points to help them along.  And most importantly, we would have the students actually rehearse the presentations ahead of time.  Students would be required to rehearse using the pictures they had selected with no notes.  Ann did this when she did a similar project with her Socials 8 class after we did the project with our grade 9s.  She found that it helped greatly. 
  3. The feedback from the self-reflections was generally positive.  Many students wanted more time to prepare for the presentations.  Some still complained about a lack of effort from some group members and felt as though they did the majority of the work.  This was an issue us when deciding on how to assess the students.  I varied the assessment and in some instances, gave individual marks for work done, while Ann gave a group mark only.
  4. My students often failed to address the essential question about how geography, climate and natural resources affect the way people live.  They seemed to stick with their given topic and not go back to the big picture.  In the future, I would provide more support and guidance around this.  The students are used to a certain pattern and structure around presentations and it seems they weren't able to break from the mold. 

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience.  In the future, Ann and I agreed it was best to keep the topics . specific.  When Ann tried this format with her grade 8 class, their topics were 'Ancient Civilizations' and it was much too broad.  Keeping the students focused is the key and allowing them the time to practice in order to meet the expectations of the presentation is critical.  I know I took for granted that the students understood what a 'good' presentation looked like.  Engaging the students in setting the criteria for an engaging presentation would have been helpful.  Ann also felt there are many applications for individual students to do Prezis on their own.  Since the group project, she has assigned a Prezi to students to present on their own.    And, as always, practice is key for the process as well; the more the students work through project-based learning, the better they will get at it.  And the same goes for us teachers.

Thank you ladies for working so hard for our students

Innovation Grant - What our Departments are Working on....

Innovative Summary of your Department Continue

this is a continuation of the last blog where our departments updated the school on the different areas of study or change (Innovation) that was taking place in their area.  This sharing helps our school keep updated, helps in our Individual Goals (so we internally network and share), and helps up help each other.

In no order of importance, just teachers taking turns, here is what else is happening in our school.

Physical Education
  • Grade 8 and 9’s together.  Reorganize students in more meaningful ways.  Pooling classes together, with  Separating students on fitness levels.  Students like the variety of options. choices
  • Also doing 2 fitness days per week, culture changed this year.  It was previously scheduled for one day a week.  150 – 160 kids.
  • We have as many as 6 blocks per period.  Sometimes they are leaking out into the hub, but when bad weather it’s worst.
  • Increase in enrollment in Super Fit day.  In the grade 11/12 area.  Women only – get Fit class.   ½ the girls did the Sun Run; it’s a transformation of their life.
  • Assessment piece – digital portfolio, doing interviews, and some portfolios were tangible, but now it’s going tech, towards a blog entry recording their physical fitness development They are embedding videos, links to different sites of interest, with peer, parents and teachers doing the assessment.  Using the Library to do the blogs.  It’s been fast, a bit messy but fun.
  • Looking at going out of the classroom and into the community.  To the aquarium, Play land, ties to the elementary schools (feeder) Grade 2 working with the Grade 12s, interacting with the Grade 12s helping them and then 
  •  The TRU for Grade 11s being entered.  Sent student to the Grade 11 Physics challenge.  Congeniality award.  Ms. Leonard. 
  •  New teachers James Lo and Chris welcomed to the school.
  •  Working with Discovery Education.  Video clips added into students.  Changed common assessment with the different groups together. 
  •   Gill taken on Project Based Learning with a Naming Game.
  • Now also have fish, growing for students to see.
  • Update - oversee events – Costa Rica and to Europe with Science related assignments.

  •  Course selection online.  Grade 10 – 11.  There were not too many glitches but 11 going into 12, it was the students and the time it took them to register. So the 10s got most of the spots for the registration.  So now they understand the process.
  • Tweet scholarship information and various programs for students.  Need teachers to follow @msborasa.

  • Jr. teachers are working towards getting students to the same levels.  Many students at different levels.  The department decided it was more important to get students to master the skills then the grades.  Called “Skills Mastery”.  Taken main concepts, broken into the skills, and judging the mastery of each one.  Doing it conceptually, pictorially, and then it’s an assessment of the skills, only (i.e. skill 1, skill 2, skill 3.).  Marked out of 4.  Top score, showed all.  3 – got what I meant but I did not come up to the right one.  2 – I really tried but I need to work harder.  1 – I tried.   Each skill tested twice about a week to a week and a ½.  To get 5 out of 5, you need to get to a 4 twice.  You need to transfer the skill in different ways.  Three changes, twice in class, one out of class. 
  • New this semester, so working at it.  But you can see a different.  The learning and the passion to learning are greatly improved.  Parents are contacting department, stating that they like where it’s going.
  • Need to make 3 skills test for each concept.
Tech Education

  • Students did very well in the Skills Canada this year, working almost through the night to make sure their robot worked in everyway.  They took best machines at the provincial in 4 games – seated 4th, and they won the Silver in the finals.
  • Showing Skills Canada video.
  •  Too many kids leaving high school without basic skills.
  •  Skills Canada promotes trades and technology to the next generation to keep the skills up.
  •   Not enough kids are coming into schools with the skills to teach them hand skills. 
  •  Career is working at getting a bus to the Nationals June 5th and 7th in Vancouver.  Looking at sending students to see these skills and be ready for these skills.
This 20 minute new course has been implemented across the entire school.  It was new this year but it has been growing in development, shape, and form.  J. Helping surveyed a group of students, got feedback from all the grades.  The students valued the time but they expressed concern that some teachers don’t’ understand the concept of discovery time.  They asked what their view of discovery time is and then were asked if this was happening in your classroom.  Are you finding connection, are you making connections?  Many said it was dependent on the teacher’s philosophy.  Some loved what was happening, others not sure.  Yet at the end of the discussion they wanted Discovery Time to continue.

There will be a survey for the teachers to do, what’s working for them, and what is not working for them.  If the teacher believe in Discovery Time (a time to get to know your students, to be a part of their life, and to follow them through all the grades to make a connection, a mentor in the school) then the students do.  If the teacher doesn’t believe in it,  then the students don’t.

Every teacher handles Discovery differently, and the dynamics are all different.  Each classroom is different a different grade, different personalities in it and it’s up to the teacher to make the connections.

There is a problem that was mentioned during our sharing, one that will be considered.  When you are away, some teachers are supposed to cover.  The “Sit and talk “ to the kids doesn’t work with a sub.    Teachers need something that can be handed to the TOC for the sub to make the work.