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Surprise Makes Us Curious for Longer

Edte.ch Tom Barrett - 1 September, 2014 - 20:35

I have often referred to times when my son George is faced with new experiences as “moments of flux”. These newly discovered pieces of understanding cause a shift in the knowledge George has and creates moments when everything changes.

As with all new learning, working in the “zone of proximal development”, as Vygotsky described it, challenges what we know. A study by researchers Bonawitz, Schijndel, Friel, and Schulz, found that in fact children are more likely to remain curious in this challenged state. That surprising experiences or ones that challenge our existing knowledge cause us to remain exploring for longer and to prolong our state of curiosity.

“After observing a surprisingly or unsurprisingly balanced block, the children were allowed to play, and here’s where the authors’ first major finding emerged: Children tended to play longer with the block when its balance was surprising in light of their theory. In other words, children’s spontaneous curiosity compelled them to explore aspects of their environment that challenged their current theories, and therefore had the potential to teach them something new. Curiosity paved the way for learning.”

By spending longer exploring something new and remaining open, curious and interested the children maximised their potential for new learning. One of the ingredients of great learning that we know to be true is “challenge”, and it is clear from this research study that challenge leads to greater curiosity.

What a simple way to continue to develop a Culture of Curiosity in our schools and classrooms: make surprise part of the fabric of learning.

Pic Waaah, Santa Claus!! by PeterThoeny

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 1 September 2014

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 1 September, 2014 - 20:26

Nothing like easing into the new school year. Last week was a four day week and so is this week. Today being Labor Day in the US most schools are closed. Here in New England and in fact much of the US tomorrow is the traditional day to start school. Some have been back longer of course. Standards and US education seem to have a rough time of it. No matter if you are off today or working I have a few links to share.

School administrators are really starting to take notice of and advantage of social media. The school district where my son is an assistant principal has made that a priority this year. Not just school accounts but administrator accounts. Want to help my son get going? Follow him at @ace_thompson

Mark Guzdial is looking for help figuring out how to design ebooks to be usable. If you have ideals drop on by his blog.

I made some minor updates and additions to my Computer Science Education Blog Roll last week.

I’ve been seeing a lot of good times from CS Teaching Tips @CSTeachingTips on their Twitter feed and in the gadget on the side of my blog. Like this one:

Speak to students directly if they use language that downplays the ability of women and students of color.

Are you a STEM teacher? Interested in serving at the national level for a year?

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship (AEF) Program is now accepting applications for the 2015-2016 Fellowship Year. Program applications are due by 5:00 pm EST, November 20, 2014, and must be submitted through an online application system.

The AEF Program provides a unique opportunity for accomplished K-12 educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to serve in the national education arena. Fellows spend 11 months working in a Federal agency or U.S. Congressional office, bringing their extensive classroom knowledge and experience to STEM education program and/or education policy efforts.

Sniff – A (next) programming language for Scratchers on Arduino and Raspberry Pi Sort of a textual version of Scratch. Interesting idea.

Is this a great clock or what? I wonder if I can find one for my classroom to go along with my clock that shows time in binary lights.

Categories: Planet

Spring is in the air!

It is finally spring in Australia! Today marks its official arrival but the last week of winter was lovely and warm giving us a real taste of what is to come. The daffodils are out and the blossom trees commencing 

Janet Barnstable of  the HLW Skypers group and Global Virtual Classroom, sent those of us in the Southern Hemisphere a little “Spring” by sharing with us this website – the Flower Garden. It starts up as a black screen, but here are Janet’s instructions for making it come alive!

Click your mouse anywhere (& everywhere) on the page & see what happens!
Better yet, click (hold down) & drag your mouse over the black page…

I wonder how this was done. Is there a similar tool that students might be able to use to create similar outcomes? How could something similar be used as outcomes for classwork?

Happy season of Spring if you are about to enjoy it like me! How many seasons do you enjoy? What is your favourite season?


Categories: Planet

A Little Help, Please! A Guide to Help-Seeking Behavior - Education Week

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 1 September, 2014 - 15:37


  • "Offers a way of learning about the different types of help-seeking behaviors in students and what might work with each." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: guide, behavior, education, self-help

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

5 Questions You Should Ask Your Principal

The Principal of Change George Couros - 1 September, 2014 - 05:30
#173092166 / gettyimages.com


I was recently asked by a superintendent if I had some questions to ask his principals to start off the year.  The questions I gave him were based on the following areas:

  • Fostering Effective Relationships
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Embodying Visionary Leadership
  • Developing Leadership Capacity
  • Creating Sustainable Change

In my opinion, the principal is probably the most important job in an educational organization.  There are many studies that reiterate this, but I think it is that they have the most authority closest to kids.  It is not to say that teachers aren’t important; they are absolutely vital.  But a great principal will help to develop great teachers, and a weak principal will do the opposite. They also tend to push great teachers out of schools, although most of the time unintentionally.  Bad leaders tend to drive away great talent.  A great teacher can become even better with a great principal.  As the very wise Todd Whitaker says “when the principal sneezes, the whole school gets a cold.”

Even though the questions were developed for superintendents to ask principals, I think that they should be questions any educator, parent, and even student should be able to openly ask their principal.

1.  What are some ways that you connect with your school community? (Fostering Effective Relationships) - When asking a principal this question, it is important to look for answers that go beyond the basic answers like staff meetings, emails, etc.  I would look for answers that go above and beyond what is expected.  For example, one of the best principals that I knew spent every morning welcoming staff and students to the school at the main doorway.  He would ask questions about their family, talk to them about their lives, and get to know them in a much deeper way than what was expected.  Although this principal has been retired for a few years, many of his staff refer to him as legendary because of the way that he would go above and beyond connecting with kids and community, before and after school.

2. What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in the school? (Instructional Leadership) Covey talks about two important areas for leaders; character and credibility.  Many principals are great with people, yet really do not understand the art and science of teaching, or have lost touch with what it is like to be in the classroom.  Although a leaders does not need to be the master of all, they should be able to still be able to walk into a classroom and teach kids.  They should also definitely be able to lead the staff in workshops that focus directly on teaching and learning.  If teachers understand that a principal understands teaching and learning, any initiatives are more likely to be seen as credible in their eyes.

3.  What are you hoping teaching and learning looks like in your school and how do you communicate that vision? (Embodying Visionary Leadership) – There are many leaders in schools that often communicate a BIG PICTURE of what schools should look like, but can’t clearly communicate what it looks like for teachers and students. It is important to be able to discuss elements of learning that you are looking for in the classroom.  Not only is important to hold this vision, but to help develop it with staff and be able to communicate it clearly.  Many new educators walk into schools thinking that “quiet and order” are the expectations for classrooms, so even though they are doing some powerful work in their classrooms that looks quite messy, they are worried that it does not fit in with the vision of their boss. Due to this, many will often try to tailor their work to look like what they think the principal wants because they really don’t know what is expected.  Having a vision is important but clearly communicating and developing that with staff is also essential.

4. How do you build leadership in your school? (Developing Leadership Capacity) - Many principals are great at developing followers, but fewer are great at developing more leaders.  There has been this notion for years that you do everything to keep your best talent at all costs, but in reality, it is important to figure out ways to develop people, even if that means they will eventually leave. Great schools have become “leadership” hubs that they are continually losing great people, but they often get a reputation of being places where leadership in all areas is developed, which actually tends to attract some great people.  Wouldn’t you want to work with someone who is going to try to get the best out of you? There is a great quote that I’ve shared before (paraphrased) on this exact topic.

Many leaders are scared about developing people and then having them leave.  They should be more worried about not developing people and having them stay.

Again, great leaders develop more leaders.  What is your plan to make this happen?

5. What will be your “fingerprints” on this building after you leave? (Creating Sustainable Change) This has been a question that was asked of me years ago by my former superintendent, and has been one that has always resonated.  What she had shared with me is that she should be able to walk into my school and see the impact that I have had as the leader of the building.  This is not to say we throw out what the former leader has done, in fact, quite the opposite.  Great leaders will not come into maintain the status quo, but will bring their unique abilities to a school that will help them get to the next level.  They will build upon what has been left, but they will work with a community to ensure that their impact on a school lasts long after their time serving the community.  This where all of the other questions above truly come together, but it takes time and dedication to make it happen.

The old notion is that teachers and students are accountable to a principal is one that is dying (thankfully).  Great principals know that to be truly successful, it is the principal that is accountable and serves the community.  They will help create a powerful vision but will also ensure that they do whatever work is needed to be done to help teachers and students become successful.  I encourage you to talk to your principal, no matter what your role, and ask her/him their thoughts on some of these questions provided.

Categories: Planet

When is a webinar an unwebinar?

Ben Gallagher was to present for last week’s Tech Talk Tuesday on the amazing accomplishments of his grade 1/2 class who love building with lego. They had this dream of making an animated movie. With Ben’s help it became a reality! Harvey Crumpet an Australian Academy Award winner encouraged them and the movie premiered on the big screen in a 700 seat cinema.

Unfortunately, at the last moment (ie 30 mins before the start of the webinar) other pressing commitments arose as Ben is acting Principal in his school. I often have to teach on the fly and my classrooms can often be messy, but what to do next when this was a webinar of high interest for adults. Should I cancel, quickly find something else or ???? At the very least I would stay in the room for the first 30 mins and tell any participants that the publicised presentation would not occur that day. If there were enough, we could see what questions they had re technology and hopefully answer them or explore the answers together.

A number of participants entered all from different educational backgrounds and some from different countries. We started to chat, share our learning spaces and I then asked what questions any had re technology. Ben, a graduate teacher expressed interest in learning more about connected learning and was an experienced web page designer before taking up teaching. Peggy George, one of my regular attendees from the USA and moderator of Classroom 2.0 wanted to know how to edit out some clips from an existing movie.

Ben suggested using iMovie, but Peggy wanted to see how to do it. Whilst they looked for a movie to share over application sharing allowing Ben to screen share and show exactly how to remove the unwanted material, I showed the use of padlet (an online sticky wall) with my year 7 ICT students. They had started to build a sympathy wall for those who were suffering from the loss of relatives, friends and community in the recent flight MH17 disaster.

Ben loaded a movie for us, app shared his desktop and proceeded to show how to edit and cut sections of the movie. However, Peggy had a different version of iMovie. She shared her movie and then working as a collaborative brain, participants and Ben helped Peggy edit the movie.

It was a fantastic effort by all and a really interesting session that worked completely unconference style but with so much learning gained where it was needed.


Categories: Planet

A new school year begins and global classrooms connect!

As Australian schools enter the final weeks of term 3 with still another full term to go, our European and USA counterparts (and others) are starting or about to start their school years. Reinhard Marx is an innovative connected colleague from Germany and someone I really enjoy working with asked whether I could teach a grade 4/5 class about the area I live in. It was one of their first classes for the year.

Tools used and resources accessed:

  1. Skype was used to connect me with his class and to provide a backchannel for reminders and prompts when we were both ready.
  2. A powerpoint presentation was created to show a little of my school and the farm that I live on.
  3. It was uploaded to google presentation, should my bandwidth not allow me to share from my screen.
  4. An Australian flag
  5. A real pet lamb (as we are in the middle of the busy lambing period on the farm)
  6. A fresh bunch of flowers (as this is my hobby to garden and work with flowers)

My grandson and me on the farm bike

We started with a mystery skype. The students did not take long to work out where I was from. When they worked out my country, I shared my flag to the web camera. Students then volunteered to ask me a number of questions eg “Was it winter where I lived?”. The last 15-20 mins, I shared my screen through skype and talked through the photos of school and our farm. The bandwith was great for a start and images and audio crystal clear. However, after the fourth slide, the size of the images failed to load quickly in Germany, so I shared the link to the google presentation and we walked through the images remotely. To complet the lesson, I brought in one of our pet, bottle fed lambs – always a sure winner!

I like working with Reinhard because he:

  •  actively seeks global connections and lessons. He is a science and maths teacher
  • gave students the choice of mystery skype and a lesson with me or they could continue with their maths. (There was a mix but most of the time, they were intently watching me and the presentation)
  •  introduced the class of 26 clearly to me swivelling the camera so I could understand the teaching space I was in
  • always repeats what the students say, so that I can both hear and understand the comment or question asked
  • always stopped me for a question that a student might have – so their curiousity was satisfied immediatley and not forgotten about
  • ensured the students came up to the camera and could be clearly seen by me
  • interpreted my talk so that all student members could understand what I was sharing


  • bandwidth and sharing images over skype
  • working with an interpreter, remembering to keep my sentences short and concise, pausing to be interpreted and then carrying on
  • the accents and understanding the comment or question – especially understanding the name of the students


Categories: Planet

8 Great Email Etiquette Tips for Educators & Everybody

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 28 August, 2014 - 21:17

Every email message from a parent or colleague is an opportunity to create a powerful impression. As Kevan Lee says in How to Send Better Email, great email gets across the intended message with the desired emotion. You have to do both. But you’re so busy, how do you find time to craft the perfect email? Use these tips to plan ahead!

You don’t accidentally send awesome email any more than you accidentally climb Mt. Everest. It takes practice and planning. This year I’m working to send better email. Here are the key phrases, tips, and ideas I’ve uncovered in my quest. Better communication = better relationships.

8 Email Etiquette Tips for Educators & Everybody 1. Use Their Name

Cows who are named give more milk. Aa living beings, we are wired to respond positively to our names. (Maybe with the exception of our full names for those of us whose Moms only used it when we were in trouble.)

Use the name of the person sending you the email. While you can have certain things that you repeat in common emails, typing their name means that you’re paying attention and it matters.

Do you know people who are struggling to get along and send each other terse emails? You might need to help them start communicating face to face – their negative views of one another might be making a big deal about things that weren’t meant that way.


2. Emote in Your Open

Emoting is showing emotion. Emote at the opening so your recipient knows you really do care. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Thank you!
  • You’re right!
  • I’m really sorry ___ happened to you.
  • Thanks for sharing your idea.
  • I know this is really frustrating for you – let’s get this solved.
  • Definitely strange! (I use this when something has happened that I’ve never seen before that will take me time to research.)
  • Awesome! (If they’re telling me something good.)
3. Repeat and Relate to Requests

If they are asking for something, repeat their idea. Then try to relate to it. (This comes from Chase Clemons’ Support Ops Email Guide).

So, for example, in my role as IT director a teacher contacted me upset that wifi wasn’t working properly in the back of her room. I started off by acknowledging how frustrating it is and my own personal experience with wifi struggles. Then, we move on to tackle the problem.

Repeating makes sure you understand their point. Relating helps them know you empathize and also helps you consciously empathize in your own mind so you remember what it feels like to have this problem.

4. See Your Email Their Way

Read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie to master this one. Always frame your email in terms of what THEY feel and THEY think. It sounds harsh, but typically, when having a problem, they can care less about YOUR inconvenience or your struggle. So, I’m not saying give into every single request and stop what you’re doing. Just reread to see where you’re using “I” too much and where you can use “we.”

5- Short but Not Snippy

Take out the word “but” and put a period to shorten sentences. (Hat tip to Carolyn Kopprasch from Buffer) Use shorter sentences. Add white space. If it is too long, many won’t read.

I remember getting weekly update emails from a teacher that were 12 printed pages. WHAT?

Others are so short there is no room to emote or have follow up. These can come off as rude.

Brevity is a challenge for me. Write and reduce until the essentials are included.

6 – Use Power Phrases

Here are some phrases I like. I’ve laminated a page with them so I can pull them out in the stress of the day and use them.

  • Thanks for being open and honest about your experience so we can learn from it.
  • I know this is a huge disruption to your day and I’m working to get this fixed.
  • I’d love to help you with this.
  • I can fix this for you.
  • Let me look into this for you.
  • I’ll keep you updated.
  • You’re right, we could definitely do this better.
  • Can you try ….
  • If it’s still a no go, can you… That will help me ….
  • I know this might sound scary but I’ll walk you through it. Here’s the steps:
  • I’m so sorry you’re not finding ___ helpful. What do you like and not like about it? I’ll be more than happy to see how we can help you? (This is when someone has complained but it is too short and I honestly don’t know how to help.)
7 – End Well

End with a personal message or an uplift. Always end on a positive note about working together or what they can expect.

  • Awesome! Glad we got it fixed!
  • If that doesn’t work or you have more questions, just let me know and I’ll be happy to help!
  • If you have any other questions, please reply to this email. Does this help you?
  • Have a fantastic ___. (Friday, weekend, trip, vacation – or anything personal that will relate us as human beings not just human doings.)
  • And remember, I’m always an email away if you need help.
  • Does this help you?
  • Did that answer your question? And does it make sense?
  • Anything else I can help you with today?
  • If this isn’t resolved to your satisfaction by ___ let’s talk then, OK?
8 – Plan Common Responses & No’s Create Snippets or Templates for Common Requests

Remember the importance of classroom procedures? Help students be self advocates. For example, if a parent is asking at home about a grade and it isn’t the day I enter them in Powerschool, I have a procedure where students flip their card to red and ask me about the grade. If I don’t have other teaching tasks, the student and I will review the item, handle anything missing and I can update the grade immediately. If a parent asks, I help them understand the procedure that is in place and work to get their answer. This helps me get questions answered faster but also keeps me from being distracted.

When there are common issues happening in anything I support, I’ll work on a common response that I can use as part of the larger, customized email. This saves time. Keep them in Google canned responses or a document (or use something like Phrase Express (PC) or Text Expander  (MAC) if you don’t use Gmail or Thunderbird.)

Just remember to customize every email just a bit.

Plan to How Say No

As I read the powerful book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, I’m learning that to say yes to everything is not only unrealistic, it keeps me from focusing on the essentials. Learning to say no is essential! Here are some of the resources for phrases about how to say no that you can use.

My husband and I laugh as he has me do “no practice” when I’m saying “yes” too much. But there’s truth to practicing saying no, particularly if you’re a woman. Start rehearsing ways to say no that leave a positive impression.

No’s For Women: Use the Relational Account Method

Research shows that saying “no” can harm the views people have of us . If we’re women people will think we are cold and selfish. While that isn’t fair, it is the world we live in. Women in particular need to know how to say no in a way that let’s us continue to be perceived in a positive light. I

Wharton prof Adam Grant’s  7 sentences he uses to say no shares the “relational account” tip. It is THE approach for women to learn, in particular, when they say no. Grant says:

 Studies by Hannah Riley Bowles and Linda Babcock reveal that when we offer relational accounts for going against the norm, we’re viewed more favorably, as we preserve our image as giving and caring. Here are some of my relational accounts:

  • Mentoring requests: “Students are my top priority professionally, and since I teach more than 300 students per year, I don’t have the bandwidth to take on additional mentoring.”
  • Speaking requests: “With more than two dozen speaking invitations rolling in per week, my wife and I have set a limit for speaking engagements, and at this point, I’m maxed out.”
  • Introduction requests: “I’d become a taker if I kept asking this person for favors” or “I don’t know this person well enough to impose.”

This means that when you say no, relate it to a human aspect of your life so the others can see why you’re saying no. This happened to me by accident. I get so many requests to speak and often some people want me to drastically reduce my prices for speaking. During the school year I have just a few days to speak and when I get those requests, I can honestly say:

“I have two children in college and just 10 days a school year to speak. My husband and I agreed that I can only speak at my full rate during the school year so we can pay for college.”

This is the truth and it is something people understand. If you have a true relation then use it – don’t make stuff up.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders also has some lovely ways to say no on her post on 99U.  Here are a few that I’ve tweaked for myself.

I’m happy to do that, let’s move ___ to next week, then. (This forces them to make a choice if they have given me too many things on my list.)

Boy, I wish I could help you but that isn’t my area of expertise. It might take longer for me to figure it out and I might not give you the right answer. I’m copying -_ on this email who does this every day. Let’s see if he/she can help you before I get involved. (This hands it off to someone but lets the person know that if they don’t get the answer they want, they can reach back to you.)

Wow! That sounds awesome. I wish I had the time right now to explore this more but with my full time teaching job, it just isn’t possible right now. If I know someone who might appreciate this opportunity then I’ll add this. I’m blind copying my friend ___ who might be interested in this opportunity and I’ll let him/her get back to you if it fits with their current areas of interest. Good luck and thank you for reaching out!

You get the picture. Also notice how I use blind copy for introductions, particularly for the high level people who are now in my inbox. I want to protect and keep that relationship preserved.

Email Is Important: So Answer Well

While this is not comprehensive, it is meant to start conversations about how to respond to email. Every email is a chance to leave parents, colleagues, and community members with a wildly positive impression.

When you answer consider these tips and remember this — spammers and junk mailers might not deserve one but sometimes it is hard to tell. If in doubt, crank it out.

You can do this! Remember that awesome relationships are built upon awesome communications. Be an awesome communicator – it will help your career more than you can fathom!


The post 8 Great Email Etiquette Tips for Educators & Everybody appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

What Twitter offers teachers: The evidence | EduResearch Matters

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 28 August, 2014 - 13:14


  • "In order to convince teachers of the possible benefits of using a new technology, such as Twitter, we decided to look for evidence of its qualities. What in particular, does Twitter offer educators? Is it worth getting involved?"
    30 leading educators (with an interest in educational technology) were identified. They were the ones who were currently using Twitter. The study analysed samples of their tweets in order to determine their purpose and the possible benefits of the tweets to their followers. Also examined were a sample of tweets from the twitter streams of two popular educational hashtags: #edchat and #edtech, in order to determine what ‘followers’ may gain." - Rhondda Powling

Tags: no_tag

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

The role of questions in learning!

“What did you learn, Terri?” I asked a student.

“I didn’t learn anything, I just asked lots of questions” was the response.

I was surprised by this comment from one of my year 7 ICT girls following a linkup with students from another school in Melbourne. They had been placed in pairs and used Onenote to learn about each other. I know that she would have learnt a lot as she had asked questions, received responses and discovered the answers to what she wanted to know.

My secondary students also do not think that they are learning when they txt each other on their phones, add updates to their favourite social media sites or share images and videos. They have a ‘set’ view on what is ‘formal’ learning but do not pull that across to this wonderful informal learning.

A recent linkup with Melbourne Museum where students could Meet the Scientists virtually using polycom equipment, meant that they did not have the same opportunity as the f2f audience of students. However, Cameron Hocking had provided them with a backchannel, which some of our students used. There were many questions placed in that backchannel and many of them were also posed to the physical panel of scientists. Following is a sample of some of the questions asked of Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist, in the backchannel:-

  • Are whales your favourite?
  • Did whales once have legs?
  • did you help get that whale back into the water a few weeks agoless than a minute ago by jeremy ring
  • How do you name the animals or find out the names of the animals if you’ve never seen the animal or fossil before?
  • How big is the biggest fossil you’ve ever found? Emily year 6about a minute ago by The King David School
  • how many fossils have you find this year

Wherever possible, students should be given the opportunity to participate in a backchannel, whether it be one set up in eg todaysmeet or backchannelchat or in a virtual classroom eg blackboard collaborate, skype, MS Lync etc. It will provide a teacher with further teaching and learning opportunities, areas for research,  and greater knowledge of student interests and involvement in topics.

Do you get many questions from students? How important do you think that questions are? What role do questions play in learning?

Categories: Planet

Yet More Block Programming Languages

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 28 August, 2014 - 02:09

I saw this announcement on Facebook first but I probably just missed seeing it on the email list. At this stage I have to wonder why? Why more of the same? Do we really know that these languages work and if so for what definition of “work?”

From Dr. Jeff Gray at the University of Alabama via the SIGCSE mailing list:

We would like to announce the availability of two new Blockly-based languages that may be of interest to CS educators:

  •  Spherly is a web-based programming environment that allows programs to be written using a block language to control a Sphero robot. Project URL: http://outreach.cs.ua.edu/spherly/
  • Pixly provides a block language for exploring topics in media computation; particularly, the manipulation of pixels within an image to support red-eye removal, chroma key, etc.  Project URL: http://outreach.cs.ua.edu/pixly/

Both projects can be run from within a browser (Spherly requires a provided server to be executing on a local machine for Bluetooth contact to the Sphero). Each project page has links to a demonstration video, a user manual, a Google Groups users forum, related links, and a “run” link for executing each environment.

For completeness I did add these to my Programming With Blocks post.

Categories: Planet

“Ensuring Equity”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 27 August, 2014 - 23:52

A question and concern that I often hear in my travels is “what about the kids that don’t have devices in school?”

These educators want to create “equity” among students and don’t want students to feel left out if they don’t have access to technology.  Interestingly enough, one of the goals of the Ministry of Education in Ontario is on the notion of “ensuring equity”:

All children and students will be inspired to reach their full potential, with access to rich learning experiences that begin at birth and continue to adulthood.

What I love about this is that it is focusing on ensuring high standards for what we provide our students.  There are many students that do not have access to devices or the Internet at home which means it is MORE IMPORTANT to provide these things for them at school.  We would never take a library away from a school because students don’t have books at home.  In fact, we would do the exact opposite.  We would provide more opportunities for kids to read rich resources.  So not finding ways to provide devices and access to the biggest library in the world (which happens to fit in your pocket) to our kids, in my opinion, is unacceptable.

If we are to ensure equity for our students, let’s make sure we do it at the highest levels possible.

Categories: Planet

Rotate the Cell Phones

Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson - 27 August, 2014 - 00:26

One of the things I am working hard at this year is making things more clear to students. I want them to understand concepts and why they are important and useful. Of course one issue with teaching computing is that experienced people are used to thinking in the abstract but beginners are not. So tying theory into physical activity can be helpful. And if you can use something students care about even better. I was pleased to discover a new visual aid today that I think worked well.

I was working with a simple project – rotate the values in a series of textboxes.

Take what is is the first box and move it to the second, the second into the third, the third into the fourth and the fourth back into the first.

Experience tells one to save what is in box 4 in a temporary variable so you can copy it later and not lose it. Students sometimes have trouble visualizing this in their heads and I often see projects were a value is lost for each rotation. In the past I have used classes of soda (pop, tonic, soda pop) and asked students about how to swap the contents. Today I didn’t have any of that (poor planning perhaps) and I was talking about more than two items to swap. Fortunately an answer was at hand.

The new school policy this year (let’s ignore if it is a good one or a bad one for now) is for all students to place their phones in a rack in the front of the classroom when they arrive. Teachers can of course tell students to keep and use the phones when educationally appropriate. In any case I had a rack of phones to use. Four phones in the bottom four slots in the rack. How convenient!

I asked a student to come up and show me how he would rotate them though the slots in the rack. Interestingly he tried to explain it to me but I insisted he show me.

This turns out the be an important step because it forced him to think for a second. The answer was there but not clear and solid until he was forced to move physical objects. After a pause he picked up the first phone and moved it out of the way – to an empty slot in the rack. Rotating the rest was easy after that.

Watching the students duplicate my example (from only the running form and explanation) is seemed like students understood the concept of the temporary variable better than usual. We are teaching a visual generation for sure. I wonder if the cell phones were an extra incentive to watch? Regardless this is a visual I plan to use again. When we cover sorting for example.

Categories: Planet

Quiz Yourself: How Good Are You at Teaching the Art of Learning? | MindShift

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 26 August, 2014 - 18:12


  • Quickly done that reflect on your answers and the ones they suggest. Good discussion starter. - Rhondda Powling

Tags: learning, edutopia, education, quiz, teaching

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

How To Bring in Virtual Participants Effectively

How would you go about connecting a housebound staff member to a school curric day? @jjash@rgesthuizen@camhock@murcha

— Margo Edgar (@medg56) August 24, 2014

This tweet sparked a conversation on twitter with many teachers offering advice. Before answering the question, further questions were asked:-

  1. was the staff member housebound and able
  2. what software would be best to use and which is easiest
  3. sound could be tricky so need a microphone. Question on what sort of microphone and how to set up
  4. what physical space was being used and how many f2f participants
  5. what does the program look like – presentations, workshops, group work etc?

Valuable advice from Brette Lockyer

@medg56 @jjash @rgesthuizen @camhock @murcha Whatever used should give opportunity 4 them to do more than listen: input, add to convo.

— brette lockyer (@brettelockyer) August 24, 2014

As one of my passions is using technology to break down all barriers. From my experience, my response would be as follows:-

Potential tools to be used:

Software options available to Victorian School Teachers:- Skype, Blackboard Collaborate (through DEECD license), MS Lync, Google Hangouts or Polycom videoconferencing equipment. The easiest tool to use would be Skype as it extremely user friendly but may be blocked in some schools. It would allow chat, video and audio options plus some more difficult features such as screen sharing etc. Recording sessions is more difficult and bandwidth may be an issue. A mobile device can be used for access from home.

Using skype

MS Lync is available to Victorian teachers but the software would need to be installed and activated on devices. If it is a two way link, it is user friendly and has many advanced features, including chat, whiteboard and the ability to send large files. It can easily be recorded and presents itself as wmv file once finished which can be shared privately or online. All participants could log in and the chat area could be used as a valuable backchannel, giving everyone a voice. Multi participants would take more time to create email invitations.

MS Lync whiteboard

Blackboard Collaborate is still one of my favourite tools for bringing in virtual participants to events. It has many advanced features, including that valuable backchannel, an interactive whiteboard, the ability to create breakout rooms for group work and can be recorded easily. One link or booking could run all day or different links created for different sessions logins. The housebound teacher would need to have trialled it first to make sure it all works from home, especially if on a Mac. There is a mobile app which does not allow participants full interactivity eg cannot write on the whiteboard, but can chat, view and talk. At least one staff member will need moderator rights in order to book a room(s).

Interactive whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate

Google Hangouts Offers many of the above features and is very google based. Sessions can be recorded and uploaded simultaneously to youtube. However only 10 video participants can be involved and it is very bandwidth heavy. If multi participants, takes time to learn how to set up the hangout and share out the link. It would be preferable to provide a different hangout link for each session.

Google hangouts used for PD

Polycom Videoconferencing Equipment All rural secondary schools and smaller rural primary schools have access to Polycom equipment. The housebound teacher would need to log in with a mobile device and the video will not be as clear. A separate back channel would need to be created eg with todaysmeet.

Polycom used for PD to several schools

Brette Lockyers suggestion was such valuable advice as the one of the biggest challenges is to make virtual participants feel part of the professional development.

@rgesthuizen @medg56 @jjash @camhock @murcha Yes n maybe also assign an on-campus buddy to enhance communication. Hard to call out online! — brette lockyer (@brettelockyer) August 25, 2014

Other considerations


Equipment: microphone, web camera, ideal location for the recording devices to capture sound, video etc and above all – determination to make it work! Preferably an on-site buddy and a back channel separate to the chosen tool.

The simplest and easiest to use option would be for “an (confident) on-site buddy” to use skype on their laptop or mobile device, sit up the front, directly in line with the presenter and videoconference presentations.  The housebound staff member would be taken with them to be part of their smaller group discussions. It takes pressure off the organisers and presenters to be using the formal equipment and worry about sound, microphones etc. The buddy’s device would need a built in webcam and microphone. However external ones could also be used.  Alternatively any of the above tools could be used by the buddies. The buddy would need to watch the txt chat for any messages from the virtual participant.

If there is no buddy, careful consideration would need to be given to position of webcam and microphone. The webcam will need to capture the presenter, and/or the presentation and will need to be adjusted each time unless using Lync, Blackboard Collaborate or Hangouts.

If the whole staff are to participate in the virtual link up simultaneously, then blackboard collaborate and MS Lync would be the tools of choice. Physical participants will need to turn down their speakers and listen to the actual voice rather than the virtual. They can be active in the chat or on an interactive whiteboard should the occasion present. Other external participants could be invited in to create an even richer environment.

Complementary Tools

A backchannel in todaysmeet could bring in all participants if they have their own device allowing questions, shared resources, information sharing and a space for follow up conversations.

A backchannel should also be agreed upon and tested with the housebound staff member so that they can communicate should the normal channels not work in making connection- could be any of the above tools that they are familiar with.

The buddy

Needs to be comfortable with using technology, networking and a person who can work well, actively, interactively and collaboratively with the housebound staff member.

Recording of the Event

In the event of misfortune, the event/sessions should at least be recorded so that it can be viewed again and again!

What have I missed? What would you suggest? There are many many tools out there now for web conferencing but these are my favourite ones! It is learning in progress and using technology effectively to ensure that no-one is restricted from learning!

Categories: Planet

Playing our A game

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 26 August, 2014 - 12:43

Photo courtesy of ARU

For those who don’t know, I am a rugby union tragic and die hard Wallaby supporter. It’s been a disappointing few years for the team (and supporters) but recently we had reason to hope with a new coach.  All this came to a screaming halt on the weekend when we were outplayed by the New Zealand All Blacks.

As I tweeted during the match, this was a masterclass on how to play the game and no matter who you supported, it was a pleasure to watch these professionals in action.

It was impressive to see how well the All Blacks recovered from the previous week where they drew with the Wallabies.  They came back on the weekend with a relentless focus and new strategy to succeed.

The All Blacks coach was quoted after the draw saying that the team needed to improve ‘just about everything’ and that their ‘skills and game structure’ was virtually non-existent.  What I saw were individuals taking responsibility for their own improvement.  Sure they had input from the coach and others but they did the work themselves.  In a week they were able to reflect on their performance, take on the feedback and implement a new strategy. Isn’t this what good learning is about?

Listening to Hansen reminded me of Michael Fullan’s message about the right drivers -“The glue that binds the effective drivers together is the underlying attitude, philosophy and theory of action.”

Saturday’s match was a great example of a learning community in action.  We owe it to our students to be playing our A game.


Categories: Planet

Beyond Knowing Facts, How Do We Get to a Deeper Level of Learning? | MindShift

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 26 August, 2014 - 12:22


  • Schwartz (2014.02.28) acknowledged that approaches fostering deeper learning are not new, and pointed out related competencies derived from a MOOC. She also highlighted challenges of assessing such competencies. - Paul Beaufait
  • Schwartz (2014.02.28) acknowledged that approaches fostering deeper learning are not new, and pointed out related competencies derived from a MOOC. She also highlighted challenges of assessing such competencies. - Paul Beaufait

Highlights and Sticky Notes:

The elements that make up this approach are not necessarily new — great teachers have been employing these tactics for years. But now there’s a movement to codify the different pieces that define the deeper learning approach, and to spread the knowledge from teacher to teacher, school to school in the form of a Deeper Learning MOOC (massive open online course), organized by a group of schools, non-profits, and sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation.

So what defines deeper learning? This group has identified six competencies: mastering content, critical thinking, effective written and oral communication, collaboration, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets.

“Before we assess, we need to know what we are assessing for,” said Marc Chun, program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. What does effective collaboration look like? What does it really look like to be a critical thinker? These skill are more oriented towards process than content, making them difficult to assess in a standardized way.

Tags: academic mindsets, assessment, collaboration, Common Core, communication, critical thinking, deep learning, education, learning, learning to learn

by: Paul Beaufait

Categories: International News
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