New Teacher Blog: Guiding Digital Nomads

I first met Aine Murphy (@ainetmurphy) when she was completing teaching rounds at my school in 2010. We bonded over a common interest in technologies, blogging and global collaboration.

Aine taught in Ireland for ten years before moving to Australia and retraining at Deakin University. She is now teaching Grade Three/Four at Point Lonsdale Primary School having previously taught Spanish.

Last year, Aine and I taught post-grad education students at Deakin University and together we injected some new ideas and tools into the curriculum.

Aine has recently started a new blog called Guiding Digital Nomads: The Wanderings of a Teacher in the 21st Century

http://digitalnomads.global2.vic.edu.au

I recommend subscribing to Aine’s blog as I’m sure her posts will be full of new ideas and excellent reflections.

Aine also recently started a new blog for her Grade Three and Four students and is looking for other blogging classes to collaborate with. Contact her via either blog or Twitter if you’re keen!

Why not head over to Guiding Digital Nomads now and introduce yourself?

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010

Jane Hart, a social business consultant, and founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, has been compiling a list of the top 100 tools for learning since 2007.

The 2010 list is currently being compiled and you can view the full list here – Emerging Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010.

Interestingly, you can compare the ranking of the tools over the last four years.  So far, it is fascinating to see how popular Twitter and YouTube have become since 2007. It is also interesting to see how many top 100 tools there are this year that were not rated in previous years. Most of the tools on the list so far are free which is great to see.

Voting will close on 17th October 2010. I encourage all educators to take the time to share their Top Tools, to help make a comprehensive and useful list for all.

It was a very tough choice but my top 10 tools are

What are your top tools for learning?

What do you think makes a good tool?

Tech Tools for Teachers #22 PrimaryPad

Each week Simon Collier and I collaborate on an email newsletter for teachers called Tech Tools for Teachers. Click here to find an archive of past newsletters and to subscribe.

This week we review the site PrimaryPad

http://primarypad.com/

PrimaryPad  is a tool that allows students and teachers to collaborate on a word-processor style document. Despite the name, PrimaryPad could be used with both primary and secondary students.

primarypad

We like PrimaryPad because it:
* is free.
* doesn’t require users to sign up or log-in.
* is very easy to use. You can create a page in seconds.
* has a wide range of uses for all ages and curriculum areas.
* allows for collaboration across the class or globe.
* is secure – only people with the unique URL can enter a room.
* is ad-free.
* provides an authentic opportunities to discuss netiquette and cyber safety issues.

An example of how I used PrimaryPad in my Grade Two Classroom
Last week, I used PrimaryPad with a small group of students each day.
I wanted to use this tool, not only for the powerful collaboration opportunities it offers but to create an authentic opportunity to introduce my students to chat rooms and netiquette in a controlled environment.
For the task, there were six members of the room (including myself) each on individual computers. We first started by having a general online chat to get the students familiar with the tool. I had my students focus on
reading others’ messages, responding appropriately and remaining on-topic and polite.
With the first group, the chat led to a discussion of the school Festa that was held on the weekend and the group decided to use the collaborative space to create a top 10 list of the best aspects of the Festa. The chat feature of the tool was used to decide on what to put on the list.
The students got so much out of this session. Afterwards, we were able to reflect on how the students did with reading and responding to messages and we had a rich discussion about netiquette (ie. CAPTIALS means shouting, the importance of taking turns etc).

Other examples of how PrimaryPad could be used (note some ideas from http://www.ideastoinspire.co.uk/primarypad.htm)

* Import a document and students edit it collaboratively.
* Students write a story, movie/book review, essay or other text in small groups.
* Brainstorming in groups what students know about a new topic.
* Import an opinion piece and have students use the chat function to debate the topic.
* Make a chain story. One class starts a story, another class continues it and so on.
* At the end of a unit of work, students collaborate to document what they’ve learnt.
* Students help their peers to make their sentences more interesting.
* One child types a word in and other children try to list as many synonyms of it as possible.
* One child takes on the role of a person (e.g. Roman soldier, environmentalist, land developer etc.) who must answer questions posed by other children.

For more information about how to use PrimaryPad, download the PDF of this week’s Tech Tools for Teachers Newsletter Newsletter #22 PrimaryPad

Have you ever used PrimaryPad?

Do you know if any other tools like PrimaryPad?

How could you see this tool being useful in your classroom?

PrimaryPad is a web-based word processordesigned for schools that allows pupils

and teachers to work together in real-time.

Social Media Monitoring

Last week I posted about Denis Masseni’s report “Why Schools are Spooked by Social Media.”

An interesting component of this report was on social media monitoring. That is, monitoring the internet for mentions of a particular keyword (such as your school). This is a good way to take defensive action if negative mentions occur and to keep tab of positive mentions.

In his report, Denis described two free online applications that allow you to search the internet for any reference of your keyword.

Social Mention (socialmention.com)

social mention

Social Mention can scan a range of social media outlets such as blogs, comments, images, videos, audio etc.

When you search a keyword, along with your results of mentions on the internet, you get a display of sentiment. That is, what percentage of occurrences are positive and what percentage are negative. It uses a linguistics processing tool to analyse the words and phrases for positive and negative language.

Social mention also provides information on who the top users are of your keyword search. Interestingly, for my school (Leopold Primary School) that was me!

This tool is popular with businesses and also members of the wider community who want to keep track of a certain topic. Give it a try.

The second social media monitoring tool that Denis mentioned in his report was,

Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts)

google alerts

Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. You simply type in your keyword, select what you want to search and when you want to be emailed.

Whether or not schools are using social medias themselves, it seems that it would be a good idea for schools to have these social media monitoring tools in place. They are a good way to nip any problems that occur in the bud and monitor what your students are doing in cyberspace.

Do you use social monitoring?

How do you think social monitoring should be used?

Sites for Integration Aides

Monday 9th August is a statewide curriculum day for Ultranet implementation in Victoria.

For readers who are outside of Victoria, Australia, the Ultranet is a  $60.5 million online portal for teachers, students and parents in Victorian government schools. Read my post on my initial thoughts on the Ultranet here.

I am a Lead User at my school, Leopold Primary School and we came online in Cycle One in May.

While I remain somewhat sceptical that the Ultranet will actually work on August 9th, we have come up with a detailed plan for training the staff on this day.

Catering for our integration aides was a consideration in our planning.

While our integration aides will be participating in the basic Ultranet and Web 2.0 workshops, we are also allowing them time to explore useful websites that they could use with their students on classroom computers.

I have prepared the following handout for our integration aides, which may also be useful for primary school teachers.

What do you have planned for August 9th?

Do you have any sites that you think would be particularly useful for integration aides?

Super Teacher Worksheets

super teacher worksheets

Super Teacher Worksheets is a useful site for primary teachers that contains free, printable worksheets.

The worksheets are divided into the categories of

  • maths
  • reading and writing
  • grammar and phonics
  • spelling lists and worksheets
  • puzzles and brainteasers
  • holidays
  • science and social studies
  • teacher helpers

In each of the categories, there are activities suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities.

I have found some great activities for my grade two students especially for place value and reading comprehension.

Check out Super Teacher Worksheets and see what activities may suit your class!

Leave a comment. Do you use Super Teacher Worksheets or any other sites for ready-made resources?

Blogging Tool: Embedit.in

embedit.in is a site that I saved to my Delicious and Diigo accounts about a year ago but forgot about and have not yet used. I recently rediscovered this site and realised how useful it could be in blogging.

This tool allows you to embed almost any sort of file into your blog such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, HTML, web pages and other URLs.

You can embed files up to 20 MB and choose to embed the full document or add a thumbnail or link.

The site is easy to navigate and straightforward to use. On the home page, you simply click on “select files”, choose your file and then sign in with a third-party account such as Twitter, WordPress, Google or OpenID.

You can annotate files with red pen or highlighter and choose the height, width and background colour you desire.

When you upload your document you can choose whether you want to allow or disable printing, download and public visibility.

embedit.in uses the Adobe Flash 9 platform to display your document, which is apparently available on over 98% of browsers worldwide.

The site includes an analytics feature to show where your viewers are coming from and how they are interacting with your documents.

Here is an example of what an embedit.in file looks like…

I have added embedit.in to my list of Web2.0 tools to embed in your blog.

How do you see embedit.in being useful?

Blog resource: New fonts for your posts!

I have long been a fan of downloading free fonts to use in Microsoft Office documents and I have often wanted to use more interesting and creative fonts in my blog posts. Most blogging platforms have set fonts however which limits your ability to change the appearance of text and therefore the visual appeal of blog posts.

I recently came across the website Fontself which allows you to create and use various fonts and create your own alphabet for your blog, website, and social networking profiles.

The Fontself Widget Maker is useful for sites like Edublogs as you simply choose a pre-made font, type in your text and grab the HTML embed code.

Here’s an example of how a Fontself font can add life to your blog post…

I have previously blogged about Page Plugins which has an option to use glitter text which is a similar concept.

Adding a new font is a great way to jazz up your blog so enjoy exploring the possibilities of this great tool!

Leave a comment if you know of any other great font tools that can add some personality to blog posts!

Clasroom Resources: Teachers Pet

I have been using the website SparkleBox for quite a while to find a wide range of printable resources for my primary classroom. I was therefore surprised to discover that the SparkleBox website has been been undergoing a troubled time recently with it’s creator and editor, Samuel King being imprisioned in January 2010 for child pornography offences. Read about it here. As a result of the convictions, many teachers felt compelled to boycott their use of SparkleBox.

sparklebox

This week on Twitter, I found out about an alternative new website called Teacher’s Pet. The site that was launched on April 14th 2010 is the combined work of a teacher, Christina and Flash programmer, Jay. The site contains free printable PDFs and will soon contain IWB resources and music. The website is nicely designed and the resources are clear, colourful and purposeful. While this is a UK site, it looks like it could be useful for primary teachers worldwide. This site is very new, however new resources are being upload regularly and hopefully it will eventually become a site that is as comprehensive as it’s comparable website, SparkleBox. Check it out!

Teachers Pet

Postscript: I have just come across another new similar site called Twinkl. There must be a few SparkleBox alternatives popping up on the web. This is good news for teachers!

Leave a comment if you know any other sites with printable resources for teachers.

Create a Global Avatar with Gravatar

As I read quite a few blogs, I always like it when a commenter has an avatar (picture of self) next to their comment. Even if the avatar is not a true picture, it adds interest and a personality to the commenter. Often, when someone does not have a recognised avatar, their comments on blog posts and so forth display a randomly generated image or nothing at all. On my class blog, visiting commenters are assigned a monster image. This is cute but doesn’t add a unique identity or personality to the reader.

blog gravatar

The solution to having an avatar that will work when you comment on all blog posts is Gravatar. This image follows you from site to site when you comment on blogs and other forums. I found about Gravatar last year from the ever knowledgeable Sue Waters. She has a great step-by-step description of how to use Gravatar. Check it out here.

gravatar

If you want some ideas on how to create a fun avatar for yourself or your students check out my post here.