Netbook Parent Info Session

Recently I attended a parent info session at the HS my son attends. He was told that parents who attended would help to secure a netbook early as it showed home support, I smelled a ploy to get parents to come to a meeting. Now, if you thought that you would have about 100 community members attending would you prepare something to ‘wow’ them? You would think so but the session proceeded with, what looked like, educators fumbling with something they knew very little about.
So we see 20mins about the new rollout by the DP who has little or no idea about the package. He did, to his credit, contact Arthur Phillip HS to find out how it is working there.  netbook
We move on to… Moodle- yes they just purchased the hardware to get moodle running. Do they mean a GProxy or a Linux box? Librarian demonstrates saying that teachers will begin to use from T3.
Then Clickview which can be used at… School. Personally I don’t see the new netbooks running clickview very well even though the librarian was keen for students to be able to.

I was expecting to see how the school was going to use the new netbooks in the classrooms. Alas, they showed a lot of “we are going to” and “we can do this”.Group breaks into 2 groups; Robotics and Connected Classroom.


A yr8 team demonstrates their entry- a team of 4. Over yonder a group of yr9 boys are demonstrating their Photoshop/flash/movie maker efforts on their 17in screens. Funny how my yr9 son hasn’t done any of this to date this yr. Mind you many of the parents watching are impressed. How any of this demonstration relates to the l4l is not very clear.

Connected classroom.

Shock, horror. This is the first IWB in the school. At the forefront of educational change! None trained for it yet.

So, what do we have here?

We have a school about to be flooded with netbooks coming to terms with 1xConnected Classroom, Moodle and a new set of software (Adobe). Ever heard of the term ‘Jack of all, master of none’?
On discussing the presentation with my son he was flabbergasted, exclaiming that what I had seen was bulldust. ‘I’ve used school computers 2 or 3 times this year when our class has been to the library to research using the internet’.
Now, I know this will not be the case in all HS in NSW but I would hazard a guess that this is not an unusual situation. For many schools the integration of ICT is just not a priority, it means retraining and rethinking how to teach effectively.

A sign of things to come

Maralyn Parker published a blog entry last week which addressed some issues which eduTwitters have been contemplating for a few weeks now. I couldn’t walk away from the blog without posting my own response along the lines of what I have stated previously.

Maralyn Parker’s Original blog

Bilby, you have a very valid point of pertinent value- training that goes beyond the basics. Let’s face IT, this generation ARE using the technology everyday. Teachers are not.
If we think that the Office suite of apps is what will enthuse our students we are in for bitter disappointment. As for the Adobe package, only effective training with meaningful outcomes will save it from becoming a waste of space on the hard drive. There is no use in training to use Premier when there is no use for it in the classroom, whether it be yr9 OR yr12. The majority of these Adobe apps are out of reach for the average student, so to assume they have knowledge in their application would be dangerous.
Let’s look at what our teenagers CAN do with technology these days. Hmmmm. Social networking. Short video clips for Youtube. A few photos on Flickr. Hey! All of these self-taught skills have a purpose. Well blow me down!
Let me make a prediction. These students with new netbooks will use the device moreso as a way to maintain their social connections than as a learning tool INTEGRATED into classroom teaching, like a powerful BIG mobile phone. The HS teacher, and let’s be frank here, will be bamboozled not only with the accompanying apps but also with what the students will be doing with their netbooks.
I’m not trying to be negative. I AM trying to point out that this introduction into schools NEEDS to be done properly. Not like previous syllabus implementations- ‘Oh, look a new syllabus. Work it out and train yourselves.’
IF the rollout is done properly, teacher training highlighting good methods for integrating technology within their programming, then we have a chance to really make a difference. And yes, that means teaching our teenagers when and where it is appropriate to ‘social network’ and be responsible ‘netizens’.
I am glad to say that MANY teachers in the K-6 space are modelling wonderful integration of ICT in the classroom. We see our student’s enthusiasm to join in, participate and gain new skills- ENGAGED. Too many times I have seen students move on to HS and never see ICT beyond a TV or OHP unless they go to their High School library as part of their lesson.

NSW DET self created resources

There are an abundance of resources created by teachers for…themselves. One day I hope we reach a point where we are no longer ‘self-conscious’ and actually share our resources with the intention of helping others. I can cite a few to begin with. Jenny Eather who created the fantastic Rainforest Maths – if you google ‘Jenny Eather’ it will lead you to Writing Fun an indispensable classroom resource FOR ALL TEACHERS. Now, Jenny is at Bilambil PS, the homepage is just, WOW! All created by Jenny. Yet, where on the DET network are you guided to the fact that Jenny Eather has these resources ready for you to use?

Another excellent place to resource excellent classroom materials is wherever Stu Hasic leaves them. His main site includes STEMS which is truly a godsend for any yr 6 coordinator. Why this is not used by schools across the NSW DET is beyond me!?! He also has a free ‘Jeopardy’ game that can be modified by the classroom teacher. Instant resource that WILL have an impact on your class learning cycle.

Stu has freshly developed a ‘SRN’ Student Response Network tool. Think of it like a buzzer type application where students have to select the correct answer from A, B, C or D and submit their response via the software at their computer. The results of which will be displayed on the main screen (IWB/Projector etc).

Then, of course, there are resources that have been developed ‘in-region’. Unless you are a techcentred user you probably don’t even know these exist.

A nice easy ‘starter’ site is at SWS (South Western Sydney District). The simple to use ICT tasks are faultless for the technology beginners. Find an idea that suits your current learning cycle and follow the steps. Instant ICT integration. Now that computer at the back of the room has some use.

One of my favourites since way back when includes CAP (Country Areas Program). What’s there? Well, Collies Clicks for starters. Ready made webquests that have hundreds of schools participating from Australia and overseas. (there are thousands of schools in NSW and yet this EXCELLENT ICT resource can only muster a small percentage of those)

The availability of Bloom’s grids is nothing to scoff at. Not to mention the excellent MOTN (maths on the net) which should be a weekly ritual for all S2 and S3 classes in NSW. Complete the activity as a class and then submit the answer via email. Who would have thought the integration of technology could be so…easy?

The CAP site has many more offerings. Take some of your RFF and explore the benefits to be had.

There are many more resources out there, created by US. Yes, DET employees with ideas. Creating, using and posting their creations. BUT, we don’t tell anyone about them. We just hope that other teachers will find them, by chance. Ho hum! We need some sort of advertising system. Like Delicious? Like Twitter? Like email? Like a DET forum? Like…

photos not exciting enough?

image143645616.jpgBefore we carry on with the static ‘photo’ movie and advanced features let me mention the ease of making a ‘video’ movie.
This is such a natural thing for students to do. Head over to and you will see a few class lessons using Interactive Writing Board (IWB). Whiteboard Science Students use a little blue handheld camera to shoot VGA video (low resolution 640×480). They then connect to the class laptop that is connected to the IWB and display unedited video. Easy.
I haven’t found ‘that’ specific camera. However, in the USA you can find many that will do better. There is the Flip Mino HD and the Kodak Zi6. Both shoot HD at 720p. This is _much_ sharper quality than VGA. Unfortunateley, these models are unavailable in Australia and cost over $300 Aus. So what is the alternative?
Recently I spotted a DXG portable HD recorder. It resembles the Flip Mino. Uses AA batteries, has 720p resolution, uses standard memory card (a 2gig card holds 1hr of HD video) and has the built in USB connector. All for a very reasonable $99. Yes, a portable video camera the size of your mobile phone for under $100!
The quality is very good considering the device has no stabilization etc. Easy to carry. Batteries record at least 20mins of video (rechargeables very handy).
Implications foe the classroom? Think about it… Pickup. Turn on. Shoot. Connect. Import. Refine in iMovie or MovieMaker.

Year 4 using video in class

photos extended

What if you want to go beyond the ‘photo’. What more can you do?
To begin with, let’s create a static simple movie.
On XP/Vista use ‘Movie Maker’. Got a Mac? Then fire up iMovie. The principle is similar on both platforms. Take your digital photos, import/place them into your movie making software.
By default each photo will how up for 4seconds each. 10 photos, 40 seconds. Now, if you have a laptop chances are that you have a built-in microhpone. You can add an audio track for each photo. Eg: “At the zoo we saw 10 monkeys. Can you count them?” have a student speak. Write the descriptions as a class. Review and discuss whether the audio describes the photo and work at it with the class.
Essentially, this is an English lesson achieving T&L outcomes in an environment which will be engaging.
Once the process has been modelled as a class at least 80% of your students will be ready to create their own. Kindergarten will get there, do not underestimate them. (if you have ever seen a 3 or 4 yr old with a digital camera, computer keyboard, remote control you will know what I am talking about)
Movie finished? You should have a simple video of photos with students talking about each photo. Play the video for the whole class to view. The fact that students can hear their own voices and see themselves in photos on the big screen will have them all diverted to their seats.
From this we can progress to ‘user’ level skills. We can begin to explore transitions from one photo to another and the use if music as a backing track. We can even begin playing with titling.


I think photos is a good place to start for the novice and the expert alike.
The novice because photos are a handy classroom prop/tool. Document an excursion. Photos for portfolios. Photos to show a procedure.
The expert because they too often ‘let go’ of simple tech ideas in the pursuit of more challenging applications. But honestly, how can your budget afford The Adobe suite of apps?
So, digital photos. What cab you do with them?
Stimulate writing
Encourage talking & listening
Create discussion

This without manipulating the photo!

Tanzania – Teaching Conditions

The Tanzanian Teachers Union in Kagera region is contemplating legal action against Bukoba District Commissioner Albert Mnali who last Wednesday ordered a police officer to cane primary school teachers in the area.

Mr Mnali allegedly ordered a police officer who was accompanying him during his official tour in the District on Wednesday 11, to dispense four strokes of the cane each to 16 teachers for failure to execute their duties.

According to impeccable sources, Mr Mnali accused the teachers for reporting late at their workplaces and absenteeism as indicated in the teachers� attendance registers in three primary schools.


Step 2

So what does a teacher need to be able to integrate ICT?
Plain and simple. Learn to let go of the traditional approach to the classroom which has burdened educator and bored students since the technological evolution. Learning outcomes can be achieved, but in a totally new and refreshing way.
Where once it was ‘the mode’ for teachers to plan integrated thematic units that worked and slowly they became dismantled for a more linear curriculum through the 90’s, it is time to take what worked and apply it in this new age of learning.
We need to sit and look at the outcome to be achieved. Design a thematic learning unit around the outcomes from the key learning areas. Look at what students can currently do with ICT and replace traditional, conventional learning experiences to suit.
When you have 3 and 4 year olds who are able to operate and take digital photos and video using digital cameras, mobile phones and the like- it cannot be overlooked in the classroom context.


Is it necessary for an educator to have strong ICT skills in order to integrate technology effectively? In a word, no.
The crucial element is ‘the end’ or ‘what do I want my students to achieve?’. Once this has been determined, the learning experience can be enhanced through the use of ICT. Notice that I say ‘enhanced’ and not necessarily ‘improved’. An enhanced lesson will show a high degree of engagement, not necessarily showing an improved learning experience. Why not improved? Well, if you use ‘PowerPoint’ for every learning situation the experience will quickly become an annoying one for the student. Spend a moment and ask your students how they use technology at home. Do they video with their phone/digital camera, edit, then upload to Youtube? Do they design and modify their own Bebo/MySpace pages? Do they write constantly using sms/msn? Then why bore your students with PowerPoint?
Build on their already developing skills and interests.
•Can video diaries be used to document the science findings of the group? Then your everyday digital camera can record just fine. Sufficient editing software is available on the standard PC or Mac.
•During mathematics, is it possible to document group work with digital photos? Digital camera or mobile phone.
•Art lesson? How about a simple Paint program? Try TuxPaint if you’re stuck. Or perhaps you could use a projector to view art galleries and artworks online?