Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tools we have used before and forgot about #2

Wallwisher (now known as Padlet) was another old familiar tool I came across recently. I stopped using it as it was not always reliable, but it has had a revamp and seems to be working quite well. What I especially like about it is that it also works on iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. It is not an app but you can access it through the Safari app by going to if you are starting a new one, the URL that designates the Padlet you have created or as a QR code (try out the one to the right) which is generated for you within Padlet. You do need to set up an account to create a Padlet but your students do not need logins or accounts to access it.
You can add text, graphics, movies, maps, slideshows, documents and photos from webcams.
You can embed the Padlet in a wiki or or a blog.

Below is a Padlet wall that I have had for a few years with some ideas of how to use Padlets in the classroom. Please feel free to add to it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Students and Researching

I came across the following infographic from Education Database Online Blog about students using technology to research.

Digital Research Infographic

A lot of the points I agree with. Students in primary and intermediate schools all use Google and Wikipedia for researching. Most of the researching I see is of a poor standard
  • students ask questions in the search engine
  • students don't know what key words are
  • a lot of what is found is regurgitated in a PowerPoint or a Keynote with words students obviously don't know the meaning of
  • it is all lower end thinking, there is no new knowledge or meaning
What I don't agree with is that Technology is making it harder for students to research. In my travels my observations are is that teachers do not teach research skills, they assume that students know how to research. Researching is considered Googling! The statement that the amount of information is overwhelming is due to the poor research skills that turns up millions of results. Another statement that it is harder for students to find credible sources is also down to teaching students how to recognise from URLs what looks like credible sites, and then searching the page itself to see if it is a reputable site.
Is the internet distracting? Are devices and their apps distracting? Yes they are! So now we have to teach self control to students, and reinforce on task behaviour.
I disagree with 'technology is damaging students' attention spans'... if anything it is improving it. In the last two weeks I have been in six different schools. My observations were of engaged, interested students who were learning. All of the schools were using devices to differing levels, all have had to discuss with students about appropriate use of devices and apps. Several teachers have told me that in particular several of their boys who were not doing well in traditional classrooms have been turned around with using devices.
I believe that technology is making it easier to research if you have the skills. Devices and apps like Evernote that allow you to store, cite and organise information needs to be taught to teachers and students alike. Google runs a free online PowerSearching Course which all teachers should do.

Let's teach the basic research skills! The following links are to a Higher Order Thinking Resource wiki that I am developing, that makes use of Graphic Organisers to scaffold student learning

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing, Reading and Boys

I have had several people at lots of different schools talking to me about boys and literacy and how they are not doing so well according to the benchmarks they are supposed to meet. When I am in classrooms and see the types of activities that the students are doing, most of the time they are boring, prescriptive tasks that have been given to students for decades to do.
There are lots of great resources out there that have great activities that you can do with children. Some of my favourites come from Sheena Cameron who is incidentally publishing a new book on Writing this year. But we all know 'technology engages boys'. Give them a device, use your imagination and think of tasks that will grab them.

Examples I have seen recently

read through your story with your buddy and find the long 'a' vowel sounds
Let's put the books on our head and balance, pick up debris from the ground and flick it, annoy somebody close by, giggle over something funny one of them said (sound familiar?)
So why are they doing that? They are bored, it is not engaging, they can't see the worth of it.
Suggested Solution: 
give them a device (iPod Touch, iPad, laptop with camera) Task is now to record yourself saying the words, one person can take notes and write down the words with the long vowel sound, the other person can be saying the words. Yes, there will be laughter, and pulling of faces, but give them an expectation and a time limit 'I want you to find 20 long 'a' vowel words in 5 minutes, set your timers now.
Predicted Outcome: 
they will have had fun, they will be engaged in the task, they will be reading, they will discover their mouth shape changes when they say the words

read your story with your buddy
exactly the same as the observation before. When I have noticed boys to be engaged in buddy reading is when they are looking at high interest topic books such as space, dinosaurs and cars and trucks.
Suggested Solution
For buddy reading choose high interest topic books. Let them read the interactive books on the iPads, iPod touches, let them read some of the books online on the computer together.
Let the students use Sock Puppets to record themselves taking turns in reading. Apart from the laughs they will get from hearing the squeaky voice, they will hear if they are reading fluently.
Predicted Outcome:
they will talk about what they are reading, they will be engaged in their learning. They will be reading. They can share back to the group/class.

answer comprehension questions in their books
5 minutes have gone by and they have written the date, and the number 1. They have discussed what pen or pencil they will use, they will have searched everywhere for a ruler...
Suggested Solution
Use a simple Graphic Organiser like Expanded Question or the Notability app where they can take a photo of the questions and type in their answers
Predicted Outcome
Students will stay on task and want to get started on their work

Printed Worksheets
Some students like worksheets. A lot don't really care for them. I see grimaces on faces, then there becomes the long hunt for the missing pen/pencil that was there 30 seconds ago. And while we are looking for the pencil/pen we happen to drop/misplace the worksheet and will need to search or berate the person next to us for having/hiding our worksheet. Once they get to their table/desk 5 minutes later the teacher is berating them for not starting. Then starts the slide into the body slump as they take another 5 minutes to painstakingly write their name...sound familiar? Why are they doing that? Because the task is boring!
Suggested Solution
Interactive Worksheets in Google Docs/Word/Pages/PowerPoint/Keynote/Google Presentation. Have some comprehension questions, but some might link to a website where they have to search for something or read something related to their instructional text. Add a Graphic Organiser/s that may scaffold them in their answers. In PowerPoint/Keynote or Google presentation insert a YouTube movie with Questions for them to answer at different points. In Google Docs insert a drawing block where they can draw the answer to the question or they can use a Drawing app on their iPad and then insert the drawing into the Interactive Worksheet. Ask a question that allows them to photograph the answer. Mix it up a bit and have Word Study questions, Dictionary meanings etc where students can use dictionaries/thesaurus on devices, online, printed books.

This all might sound like a lot of work for the teacher but a worksheet in this format could become a template that could be used over and over again. And if you start this with your top group you will have the 'Interactive Worksheet' for the next reading group when they get to that level.
When planning your activities think how you could do the same thing creatively using technologies that will grab that reluctant child and engage him..