Culture Connecting Classrooms: Kapa Haka Via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew's College via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew’s College via Skype

On Friday last week our two Year 4 classes in the Preparatory school engaged in their first ever Mystery Skype, something other classes have done before with schools in Singapore and Australia. For those unsure of what a Mystery Skype is, here is a good explanation:

Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

This Mystery Skype was again with Avondale Grammar in Singapore, but with different classes, neither sets of students knew where in the world the other class was. It was terrific seeing the students asking intelligent questions, using atlases, globes and trusty Google to try and locate where the other school was. I was impressed with the students from St Andrew’s asking questions such as “Are you an island?” and also picking up clues such as the names on the school uniforms of the students from Avondale.

This culminated in our Year 4 students being the first to correctly guess the country and the school which was a very exciting “win” for them. To help out the Avondale students, the St Andrew’s College students decided to perform the school haka:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s deliver a passionate haka over Skype to students in Singapore.

Mr Craig Kemp, the teacher at Avondale Grammar that helped co-ordinate the Mystery Skype was really impressed with the haka from our students, sending out a tweet with a photo of how it looked via Skype from their end.

It was quickly decided at this point that a followup Skype between the two classes should happen, as Mr Kemp was keen for his students, who had been learning some Kapa Haka themselves, to see more from the St Andrew’s College students. This happened today and we again captured the action as the two classes shared performances with each other:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s College and Avondale Grammar exchange kapa haka performances via Skype.

I was really thrilled to see this “re-connect” between the two classrooms as it builds on the connection established via the original Mystery Skype and allows both classes to share cultural performances they have been practicing, in this case, kapa haka. It’s awesome to see that New Zealand teachers around the world are taking aspects of tikanga Māori with them into their classrooms and sharing it with their students.

A view from the St Andrew’s College classroom as Year 4 students perform the classic waiata “Toia mai te waka nei”

It’s incredible that technology such as Skype allows this sort of cultural exchange to take place so easily and I am pleased that teachers like Mr Kemp from Avondale Grammar in Singapore, and our own Year 4 teachers Mrs Penny Munro-Foster and Mrs Anneke Kamo are open to making these sorts of connections.

Mr Kemp noted at the end of the performances that former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga was coming to visit the school only an hour after the Skype session and this was a great warm up for his students who were going to perform the haka for Tana.

Students from Avondale Grammar practice their kapa haka via Skype before a visit from former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga

This connection creates an awesome example for other classes at St Andrew’s College to take up the challenge and try Mystery Skyping for themselves!

Recording & Blogging: It’s What I Do Now

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Solo Tasks: around the Law of Reflection with extension work on Moodle

Mr Matt Nicoll has been a regular contributor to this blog, providing one of the very first posts on recording his lessons for later playback by students, to presenting to the CORE Education eFellows, and his very active role in the development of Twitter usage amongst staff and the #edchatnz conference organisation.

I had wanted to sit down with him and see how his videoing of the teaching moments in his lessons had evolved from when we chatted in October 2013 and took the opportunity to do so after the #edchatnz conference. It transpires that in someways he has stuck with the successful recipe he had developed in 2013.

Mr Nicoll still remains the primary blogger for his classes, sharing the content, notes and videos on the class blog. His rationale for this was simple:

I am still traditional enough to want to retain control over the quality of the key concepts and ensure that they are being explained correctly. The big win, however, is that the students don’t need to write notes in class meaning they can spend more time on the activities.

SOLO

Two obvious positives from this are:

  • More time is spent in class discussing the quality of the answers e.g. what does multi-structural thinking look like compared to relational thinking (in terms of the SOLO thinking taxonomy)
  • Students benefit from this because their understanding of the SOLO taxonomy, which is used widely at St Andrew’s College, is deepened and their ability to explain their answers improves.

Despite being the Year 9 Dean and the associated workload that comes with that role, Mr Nicoll has found that keeping up the blogging and recording of his lessons has not added to his work. If anything, he believes it has allowed him to gauge where his students are at more accurately, since there is more time spent discussing the learning, than copying down notes. Student workbooks (or computers), are used primarily for writing down ideas, notes or discussions they have had in class – not for copying content off the whiteboard.

Separating suspensions using filtration

Computers are used in class, mostly for research and communicating overall answers for a lesson – shaping the learning into a formal reflection. Again, choice is provided to students – they could use MS Word, Powerpoint, OneNote or a graph in Excel for example. Because the “nuts and bolts” of the lesson are covered off in the form of comprehensive, quality notes on the class blog, students can simply:

Think like a scientist. Investigate like a scientist.

NCEA CLASSES:

Mr Nicoll’s blogging and recording practices extend to his NCEA classes as well, and he states that this allows him to better gauge where his students sit in terms of Achieved / Merit / Excellence in the respective standards they are working towards:

If a student is struggling to remember facts, I direct them to the blog where they can review the content. If they are struggling to articulate answers at a level required to move from Merit to Excellence, then I engage them in discussion.

RECORDING THE TEACHING MOMENTS:

The NZ Science Teacher website blogged about Mr Nicoll’s methodologies earlier this year, and since then some of his processes have changed:

  • Gone from using an Android smartphone to a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. This has allowed the uploading and editing of video content to become much easier as it is all on the one device. Being physically larger than a smartphone has also allowed the student recording the lesson to hold the device steadier, meaning the quality of the video footage has improved.
  • He is now using the Surface Pro 2 to record experiments in the classroom fume cupboard and display that on the classroom projector wirelessly using Miracast (similar to how Mr Hilliam does this in Maths)
  • Approximately three times a week he will record 8-12minutes of teaching and experiments and upload them to his YouTube Channel
  • When away from classes for an extended period of time, such as Winter Sports Tournament Week, he pre-records teaching concepts for his students. He then books laptops for the lessons if required, emails his students to bring their headphones along, and they can watch along in class.

Combining oxidation and reduction half equations to give a balanced overall equation (example video left for students during tournament week)

Matt has been increasingly requested to share his methods in different forums including at the #edchatnz conference which he had helped co-ordinate, and also to visiting Senior Leaders and Principals from the Independent Schools Senior Leaders Forum that toured the Christchurch independent Schools on the 16th September 2014. He summed up his approach to blogging and videoing his lessons with the following definitive statement:

It’s what I do now – it’s not going to change.

Students explaining the Law of Reflection

Year 8 Students Engage With #kidsbookchat

This morning Mrs Bridget Preston’s Year 8 class joined in with a multi-school Twitter chat focusing on books. This was organised by a Year 8 class at Selwyn House and was set to run similar to the #mathschatnz and #scitchatnz sessions, with a number of questions being posed for students to answer.

There were seven questions up for discussion that had been posted on the blog of the Selwyn House class site and these were:

  1. Q1: What is the best book you have read this year
  2. Q2: Who is your favourite author at the moment?
  3. Q3: What is your favourite genre?
  4. Q4: Do you have a class read aloud/ novel at the moment? What is it?
  5. Q5: What is your favourite spot for reading?
  6. Q6: How do you find books to read?
  7. Q7: Recommend some titles you’d like to share.

The students in Mrs Preston’s class were excited to be participating in this form of dialogue, and soon grasped the key skills of including the hashtag #kidsbookchat in each tweet, and also starting their replies with the question number they were answering.

I’ve collected a few of the hundreds of tweets that were sent during this 40minute chat and you can scroll through them below (the first tweets are at the bottom):

Throughout the chat Mrs Preston was engaging with the students, reminding them of the need to maintain appropriate replies in their tweets and also making the connection how this is a great way for the students to find out new titles to read. When it came to question six (how do you find good books to read?), many of the students tweeted our fantastic library manager Mrs Kennedy was a great source for finding new books. Many of them even included her Twitter handle showing they grasped this form of communication very quickly.

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A number of the students were tweeting from their own devices – a range of  laptops and tablets – and had set themselves up on a variety of furniture in the classroom, some even getting comfortable on beanbags. The attention and focus from students was high throughout the session with a number saying towards the end “This was so cool” or “this was great fun!”

During the debrief later in the afternoon Mrs Preston stressed the elements of trust involved in an activity like this, not posting silly or off-topic tweets. One thing the students requested was the ability to include their first name or initials in their tweets, rather than having all replies coming from @StAC_8C. When asked directly what sort of learning takes place from an activity like this some of their responses included:

  • Being open to new learning
  • Managing impulses and staying on task/showing appropriate behaviour
  • Learning how to use twitter/twitter handles and hashtags
  • Gained new knowledge about books – what books to read
  • Taking on a role and responsibility within the chat
  • Communicating with other students around NZ
  • Sharing their knowledge of books

They expressed an interest to run their own Twitter chat on a different topic at a later point in the year.

It is always pleasing to see a new initiative work out successfully and for the students to be able to identify their learning from an activity like this. This class is also going to try their first Mystery Skype later this week as well – more fun and engaging learning opportunities powered by technology.

UPDATE: This #kidsbookchat has been summarised in the following Storify recount as well.

Hashtags Connect NZ Educators

scichatNZ logo

@scichatnz Logo

Twitter is changing the way that teachers access professional development – a trend I’ve highlighted in earlier posts already – and teachers from St Andrew’s College are helping to lead the way.

Strong evidence of this is the recent #edchatnz conference which a number of our staff attended and were inspired in various ways to try new things in their teaching practice. A great example was our Year 4 & 6 students skyping with Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a Nanogirl – a connection forged at #edchatnz conference.

Another outcome from this conference is #mathschatnz and #scichatnz – two new Thursday night Twitter sessions similar to #edchatnz that promise to deliver “PD in your PJs” (the sessions run from 8:30pm to 9:30pm and beyond). What is really exciting for St Andrew’s College is that a number of our staff are helping to promote and facilitate this: Matt Nicoll Year 9 Dean, Chemistry and Science teacher (who I’ve already blogged about here and here), Ben Hilliam a Maths with Statistics teacher (who demonstrated using OneNote, Miracast and a Surface Pro so well here) and Dean McKenzie our Head of Department for Maths.

#mathschatnz

It was interesting talking with Mr Hilliam and learning about the genesis of this new Twitter chat. Whilst it emerged from the aftermath of the #edchatnz conference, Danielle Myburgh (founder and moderator of the original #edchatnz twitter sessions) had already foreseen the need for a math focused chat session – #mathschatnz. Chatting with Mr Hilliam and Mr McKenzie at the conference motivated them to get it up and running and leverage the already strong community of teachers in the Canterbury Mathemathical Association (CMA).

Mr McKenzie emailed all other Math Heads of Departments in Canterbury and Stephen McConnachie (who inspired this post about Wolfram Alpha) helped promote it through Twitter and the VLN Maths and Statistics ICT Community.

These Twitter professional development sessions follow a similar pattern: there is a moderator who asks questions (usually prefaced by Q1 or Q2) and those involved provide their answers prefaced by the relevant question number e.g. A1 or A2. This helps sort through the flow of tweets and make sense of it all. Tweets must also contain the hashtag of #mathschatnz to “connect” the tweets into the conversation.

Mr Hilliam had agreed to moderate the inaugural #mathschatnz session and created the following questions:

  • Q1. Introductions: who are you? Where are you from? What levels do you teach? #mathschatnz
  • Q2. What did your students learn today? #mathschatnz
  • Q3. How did you come to be on #mathschatnz tonight?
  • Q4. What do you want to get out of #mathschatnz ?
  • Q5. What has been your best experience teaching maths this year? #mathschatnz
  • Q6. What’s something new you’ve learnt in maths this year? #mathschatnz
  • Q7. What’s something new you would like to try in any of your classes this year? #mathschatnz
  • Q8. Final question of the night: what would you like the theme of future #mathschatnz to be?

Given this was the first time the #mathschatnz session had run, Mr Hilliam had modest expectations of perhaps 10 people joining in, mostly from the Christchurch region where personal connections helped the promotion of the event. Pleasingly, however, around 20-30 people joined in, for at least 4 of them it was their first time ever on Twitter, and regions represented ranged from Gore in the south, to Auckland in the north.

A mix of primary and secondary teachers were involved in the chat and a number of people were lurking (following along, but not actively contributing to the chat). When asked what he hoped #mathschatnz would achieve, Mr Hilliam stated:

To inspire and motivate maths teachers … it’s less about the nuts and bolts of what happens in the classroom … it connects teachers to a wider network to provide ideas and encouragement … it also provides a hashtag for non-maths teachers to ask questions of maths teachers if they need help.

Moving forward, it is likely that Mr Hilliam, Mr McKenzie and Mr McConnachie will rotate the moderating responsibilities.

#scichatnz

Like #mathschatnz, the motivation for the #scichatnz fortnightly twitter PD sessions came from a conference. In this case, it was the SCICON2014, a biennial event that was hosted in Dunedin this year. Mr Matt Nicoll couldn’t make it along in person but did track the highlights from the various sessions on Twitter.

He picked up that another Chemistry teacher and Twitter user Rachel Chisnall first suggested the use of #scichatnz to promote a hashtag for teachers to seek help and discuss various ideas.  She also hoped it might become a regular chat session similar to #edchatnz and with the help of Mr Nicoll, they established there was enough interest to progress it.

The very first #scichatnz session ran on 31st July and was moderated by Mr Nicoll (who will take turn about with Ms Chisnall). The questions asked were:

  • Q1: What are your feelings when you recall science at school?
  • Q2: What do you love about teaching science?
  • Q3: What do you see as the biggest barriers to student enjoyment of science in school?
  • Q4: How do we keep students engaged in science?
  • Q5: Why do students (and the community) perceive science as “hard”?
  • Q6: How does your current science teaching cater for students’ inherent passions/interests in science?
  • Q7: Primary students seem to love science. How can secondary/specialist teachers support science education in primary schools?
  • Q8: How do you maintain your love for science?

A more detailed review of the actual session can be found at this article at the website of New Zealand Science Teacher and Mr Nicoll personally reflected on it over here. He commented to me that:

There are only so many professional development opportunities you can get along to and attend, and there are also only so many hours in the day. One of the big benefits of Twitter PD is that you can share the learning with others who couldn’t make it to the session … you can also review it in your own time by checking out the links and resources shared

Reflection:

Both #mathschatnz and #scichatnz run on the alternate Thursday night to #edchatnz (and in case you wondered, there is an #engchatnz out there for English teachers), meaning there is a wealth of opportunities for teachers to engage in free, challenging and motivating professional development on a regular basis. It is also a great way to network with other teachers in your curriculum area.

From St Andrew’s College perspective, having three teachers involved in the promotion and moderation of these opportunities reflects their commitment and skill, along with respect amongst their peers in which they are held. As always, it is the students at the College that end up benefiting from this type of ongoing learning, since the ideas discussed and the inspiration received, filter back into the classroom.

 

Keen Young Scientists Collaborate with “Nano Girl” Via Skype

Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. Nano Girl Skyping with our students in Year 4 & Year 6

Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. Nano Girl Skyping with our students in Year 4 & Year 6

Collaboration. There is that word again – it’s proving to be a recurrent theme running through some of the recent blog posts I’ve written and this post epitomises the value of collaboration amongst teachers and the wider education sector.

Ten staff from St Andrew’s College travelled to Auckland earlier this month for the #edchatnz conference and a popular speaker was Dr Michelle Dickinson a.k.a. “Nano Girl.” Ginny, who teachers across both the Preparatory and Secondary schools, talked to Dr Dickinson at the conference suggesting it would be great if she could connect with our students in some way.

Quite independently, Mr Wilj Dekkers and Mrs Penny Munro-Foster had heard an interview on the radio with “Nano Girl” and also reached out to her with a request to Skype with our classes in Years 4 and 6.

Mrs Munro-Foster’s class had been looking at science in a range of different areas throughout the year, exploring ideas such as:

  • The rhythm of nature
  • Electricity, including making basic parallel circuits
  • Chemical reactions
  • Superconductors

The students had demonstrated their knowledge and understanding to their parents during a Celebration of Learning Evening much like this one with the Year6 students.

A focus was on developing rich, open questions as part of their oral language skills development and being inquisitive of the world all around them. The students had been very inspired by the TED talk given by Dr Dickinson, actually asking to re-watch the clip multiple times over the last few weeks, and each time they were getting different understanding from it:

This concept that “science is everywhere” connected with our students and led to Ginny receiving confirmation of a chance to Skype with the Year 4 and Year 6 classes today at 11:30am. With many excited students, not to mention teachers, the Skype went ahead.

Here is the first question being asked by a Year 4 student, and Dr Dickinson’s reply (the full Skype session can be seen further down the post):

Talking with Mr Dekkers and Mrs Munro-Foster after this Skype session, they both described their students as “super excited” “incredibly inspired” and “absolutely buzzing” from their chance to listen to a world class scientist working in the field of nano technology.

The Full Skype Session With Dr Michelle Dickinson

Reflections:

I am personally very excited by learning stories such as this one.

In this instance there are three different teachers, from different syndicates and departments across both the Preparatory School and Secondary School collaborating to connect with an external expert to bring rich, authentic and inspiring learning opportunties to our students. Obviously “Nano Girl” actually works in a cutting edge technology sector, but behind the scenes there is lots of great technology making this type of learning possible.

Earlier in the year we have skyped with Vikings in York in the United Kingdom as well as connecting via Skype with an international school in Singapore through a Mystery Skype session. Today’s session builds on these earlier initiatives and highlights our teachers willingness to extend their students’ knowledge and connect with true experts in their field to inspire our learners.

RectorWhat could be more exciting than that?

At the beginning of this year the College Rector, Mrs Christine Leighton, observed in her opening address in Regulus

I am always mindful that we cannot sit still and simply enjoy the benefits of success. William Pollard (Episcopal priest and physicist) wrote in the 1960s “Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

 

In this light, we have adopted the theme for St Andrew’s College in 2014 of Innovation and Collaboration – two qualities that are at the heart of 21st century learning.

I am thrilled that our teachers are picking up on this challenge and actively innovating and collaborating both internally within the College, and like today’s session with Dr Michelle Dickinson shows, further afield. For some of our staff this was their first time using Skype in the Classroom:

Based off the success of the session today, I am confident more teachers will look further afield to connect in this way.

UPDATE: Student reflections from class 4T on the Skype Session:

Dr. Michelle Dickinson of the University of Auckland also known as ‘Nano Girl’ Skyped us and answered our science questions. We all agreed that we felt both very excited and nervous at the same time. It was our first experience in a Skype classroom and we were going to talk to our science hero. We have followed her experiments, conducted our own chemistry experiments and explored electrical circuits. We were so excited that we knew about electrical currents, static electricity and chemical reactions and we could understand the conversation. Below are some extracts by 4TMF students, reflecting on their learning in a Skype classroom.

“I was very inspired when Casey asked his question and we found out that it could be possible to really fly, and you need really cold shoes.” – Maddy

“When I asked my question about super conductors and how cold the shoes would need to be to make the shoes fly, Nano Girl said -109 Celsius. The material she would use to make the boots is Yttrium, which acts as an insulator inside her shoes so that her feet wouldn’t get cold.” – Casey Continue reading

Reflections from the 2014 #edchatnz Conference (Guest Posts)

edchatnzEarlier this year Mr Matt Nicoll started introducing a wider group of staff at St Andrew’s College to Twitter, and how they could use this as an expanded Professional Learning Network (PLN) to support their teaching practice. As part of this, he introduced them to the fortnightly #edchatnz “teacher chat” which is sometimes referred to as “PD in your PJs” since it runs between 8:30-9:30pm on a Thursday night.

edchatNZ MissionsAs wider momentum built nationally behind this regular chat, plans for a conference grew, coming to fruition over the 8-9th of August at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Matt Nicoll was part of the #edchatnz organising committee, and St Andrew’s College sent ten staff to attend this, a mixture of Preparatory and Secondary teachers and our Library Manager. They all committed to blogging some reflections and you can see them in their entirety here. I have selected just a few observations to include below:

Vicki Pettit – Head of Learning Preparatory School:

Mrs Pettit started with a tour of Hobsonville Point Primary and reflected:

From hearing all the talk about modern learning environments it was great to see one in action [at Hobsonville Point Primary] … What we saw continually reinforced by staff and students at HPPS was the students being at the centre of the learning … Learning is visible and by visible, all stages of the planning and process are displayed as you move around the different spaces … It was interesting to talk to the students and hear them articulate where they are at in the learning process.

She went on to reflect about how personalisation of learning is instrumental:

Personalised learning in Action and lies in designing a curriculum that truly engages the learner. And of course to do that, personalisation is the key. Would your students still come to school, or to your class in they didn’t have to? The answer should be a resounding “YES” … A great two days spent with an inspiring group of educators!

Ben Hilliam – Maths and Statistics Teacher:

Like Mrs Petitt, Mr Hilliam started out with a tour, but this time it was of the brand new Hobsonville Point secondary school. He observed:

The campus is unlike any secondary campus I have ever visited. It is built to accommodate 1350 day students, but currently it has a roll of around 120 year 9s … The feel of the building is much more in line with what a modern library, university campus or software development company office might feel like. It is physically set up to encourage openness and collaboration …

The potential challenges of teaching in an environment like this was not lost on him, but there was abundant evidence that learning was taking place:

There are no classrooms, form-groups, timetables, bells, periods or subjects. As a teacher from a ‘traditional’ school, the question begs, how on earth does anything get learnt?! (or taught) … Yet, despite the apparent lack of structure, the year 9s were busy doing all sorts of things. The walls were covered with examples of student work … What struck me a lot within the way students self-direct themselves was the way they are encouraged to be self-aware of their goals and what they will have to do along the way to achieve them.

This final comment is telling in terms of the emphasis placed on students to be responsible for their own learning:

Such a pedagogical structure places massive amount of responsibility on the individual student. This is not a fact lost on the staff at Hobsonville Point.

Continue reading

Microsoft Release Significant Update to OneNote for Macs and iOS

OneNoteBack in March this year I was incredibly excited to hear that Microsoft had finally released a version of OneNote for Apple MacBooks running OS X. However, it became immediately apparent this was “OneNote Lite” with heavily restricted functionality and I blogged about my frustrations here.

Early this morning I saw a tweet showing that Microsoft had released a crucial update that would bring the long-awaited functionality to Mac users, on both OS X and iOS platforms:

Full information can be found on this link but the key benefits are:

  1. Access your work or school notebooks on your Mac stored on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online (on Office 365).
  2. Open and insert files, including PDF files, into your notebook pages.
  3. View your password protected sections.
  4. Improved organization, capturing content, and sharing of notes.

The first point is critical for students at St Andrew’s College, many of whom bring a MacBook to school (numbers of Year 9 Students with Apple devices shown here).

I made a screencast for our students to use to help them connect to OneNote on their Macs:

This was also posted on the front page of our Moodle LMS for increased visibility.

In some ways this free update helps close the circle of functionality for our College – whilst not enjoying complete parity, MacBook users now have far greater ease of access to OneNote which is a tool that increasing numbers of our teachers are using in their classrooms.

A neat feature to see added to the iOS versions of OneNote would be inking – the ability to use a stylus within OneNote on the iPad or iPhone. Here’s hoping this is not too far away!

Collaborating With The World: From Twitter, to OneNote Online, to Lync, to Yammer!

This is a story of collaboration.

It’s also a success story – of starting with a problem causing frustration and then ending with a solution that was shared with a wider community for their benefit.

In between, a whole range of different technologies were used to facilitate the collaboration and problem solving sessions including Twitter, OneNote Online, Lync and Yammer

Given that the New Zealand curriculum places a strong emphasis on participating and contributingI thought I would share this story to show that teachers, and not just students, actively engage in collaboration.

Starting The Ball Rolling With Twitter:

It all started with a frustrated tweet by me which quickly got a reply from a recent connection and fellow fan of Microsoft OneNote I’ve made on Twitter, Marjolein Hoekstra who replied:

Marjolein is based in the Netherlands, and soon helpful ideas were coming in from Arizona in the United States courtesy of Ben Schorr:

The basic task I was trying to accomplish was sharing a “template” OneNote Notebook with students who could take their own copy of the NoteBook and then edit it, either within the desktop version of OneNote (for students with Windows 7 or Windows 8 computers) or via OneNote Online (for students that had an Apple Mac). This shouldn’t have been too difficult, but given the reduced functionality in the browswer based version of OneNote, it was proving challenging.

As you can see from the above tweets, I had been including Darrell Webster, a Sharepoint Trainer from ShareThePoint.com who joined the conversation with:

He then followed up his initial tweet with the key suggestion to move this conversation to a platform that supported more than 140 characters in one message that Twitter was restricting us to:

Extending The Conversation With OneNote Online:

Darrell quickly provided a link to a shared Microsoft OneNote Online notebook where we could all contribute more fully. I’ve included some pictures of this collaboration below:

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At this point, Ben signed off with an offer of further help if required:

Coming Up With Solutions Via Lync:

OneNote Online did a great job of helping Darrell and I understand what the real issues were, but then we wanted to extend this further to trying practical work around solutions. He sent me a Lync Online meeting request where his screen was shared and rather than just typing and sketching within OneNote, we were able to talk directly with each other as well.

Over the course of 40minutes we established what the issues were and some potential work arounds. During this, Darrell recorded the Lync session and later published it privately on YouTube so that Ben and Marjoelein could review it later (by this stage, both had gone to bed because of time zone differences).

 

Sharing a couple of screenshots of the Lync session does not do justice to the power of this tool. Keep in mind I was doing it all through a web browser on my MacBook Air – there was no desktop application involved.

With a possible solution in place, I went away to do some more experimentation, and then created a screencast tutorial of what definitely worked. This was aimed at my students so they could carry out the task at the start of Term 3, but also helped solidify my understanding and meant I could share it with Darrell, Marjolei and Ben easily.

Sharing the Success With Yammer:

Earlier this year a New Zealand Microsoft New Zealand Educators Yammer group had been created and it has quickly resulted in a number of experts and enthusiasts sharing information. Given the significant input I’d received from Darrell, I knew I had to share the results of our collaboration wider, and so I posted it into this Yammer group:

My post and screencast in Yammer

My post and screencast in Yammer

This got a couple of replies:

Feedback

Reflections:

In the end I got what I wanted – a relatively straight forward way to share a format-rich OneNote Notebook with a class of students so that they could edit their own individual copies. It’s not as straight forward as it probably should be, but there is simply no way I would have achieved this outcome without the significant contributions from people all over the world.

I also doubt whether we would have been able to collectively understand the details of the issue without the use of technology like OneNote Online and Lync. Sure, Twitter connected us and Yammer allowed me to share the successful outcome with others, but the bulk of the “heavy lifting” of this collaboration was all achieved through typing, drawing and eventually talking, over Lync and OneNote.

A big part of teaching is encouraging students to be resourceful and to collaborate with a wide range of people to achieve a successful outcome. It’s important that as educators, we can model how this can look in “real life”. I am passionate about education and the role that technology can play to facilitate this and I think this example demonstrates how easily expertise from all over the world can be accessed to achieve a great solution for our students.

Behind The Scenes at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games with Moodle

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, member of the BlackSticks at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Mr Bradley Shaw, our very own Year 8 teacher in the Preparatory School, has been selected to represent New Zealand at the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games hosted in Glasgow.

Already a proficient user of Moodle and OneNote in his classes, he contacted me asking if I could help set up a dedicated Moodle page that he could keep updated throughout the Commonwealth Games. Due to the strict social media policies in place by many of the teams competing at the Games, Mr Shaw could not blog on a publicly accessible page, or use social media such as Facebook or Twitter either.

However, by setting up a password protected Moodle course here that requires students to enter an enrolment key, he would be able to keep students and staff updated and provide a unique “behind the scenes” view of life as an athlete at a world class sporting event. I was keen to support this as it ties in with part of our wider strategy of creating globally connected Digital Citizens of our students. The Moodle course has two forums in it currently where students can:

  • Ask questions of Mr Shaw (or other athletes he may be able to track down) of what life is like at the Games, and
  • Send messages of support to the BlackSticks and other teams that Mr Shaw can pass along.
Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

Live Twitter feed on the #Glasgow2014 hashtag

There is also a photo gallery plugin where new images will be posted from time to time. I also embedded a Twitter feed on the hashtag of #Glasgow2014 to ensure regular updates of images, results and news from the Games directly within the Moodle Course (see this blog post about embedding content such as Twitter feeds into Moodle) Additionally, I noticed that Hockey New Zealand has a Twitter account where they post results from games so I embedded that too:

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

Live updates from the @BlackSticks Twitter handle that will give game scores and results.

I always like to see Moodle being used for non-academic purposes as it highlights the versatility of this Learning Management System, and we have a number of co-curricular courses such as this one being used now. Here’s wishing the Black Sticks and Mr Shaw all the best at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games!

Bringing It All Together: The Power Of Embedding Content

One of the common complaints I hear from teachers in schools where computers/tablets are common place in the classroom is that students are easily distracted when browsing websites they’ve been directed to by the teacher. One way to address this is by where ever possible, choosing content that can be embedded directly into your Learning Management System, which in our case is Moodle.

Prior to the introduction of Moodle at St Andrew’s College in 2012, a number of teaching staff had various blogs, wikis and websites around the internet where students would be directed to find content useful for their learning. One of the initial attractions of Moodle was that it would centralise the sharing of resources for all teachers and students, whilst still providing a convenient launching point to locate relevant content elsewhere on the internet.

Increasingly, however, content can now be embedded from the source provider directly into Moodle meaning students do not need to leave the Learning Management System at all which increases engagement and reduces the chance of distraction by clicking off to other websites.

When sourcing great eLearning content from around the internet, I immediately look to see if it allows sharing through embedding, and where it does I always promote this option to our staff rather than simply linking to an external website from Moodle.

Embedding YouTube

One of the most popular resources to embed into Moodle is YouTube video clips and I created a video tutorial for our staff showing them how to do this:

At St Andrew’s College we have a Staff PD area within our Moodle site, and I’ve embedded all our video tutorials into a section of this site so that our staff can follow along with screencast tutorials like the one above.

Embedding ETV

Another valuable video source is ETV which more of our staff are finding the benefits of:

(I mentioned ETV embedding in this earlier post explaining various Moodle functions too)

Embedding Twitter

I’ve been posting recently about the merits of Twitter for Staff Professional Development and increasingly I’m seeing interesting uses by teachers of Twitter in the classroom. One way to achieve this is to embed a twitter feed directly into Moodle – again, a video tutorial showing how to do this:

Having recently returned from the outstanding EduTech conference in Brisbane, the Twitter hashtag of #eduTECH continues to be very active and remains a good source of links and advice. Embedding this into Moodle, or indeed this blog, is achievable with minimal effort:

Increasingly, more and more content is capable of being shared through embedding which is great news for teachers wanting to make their Learning Management Systems more engaging and interactive. A colleague recently tipped me off to using Wolfram Alpha maths resources that can be embedded into Moodle and I’ve demonstrated this briefly here:

Embedding Wolfram Alpha

There are so many other tools that can be embedded such as FotoBabble, Padlet and not to forget Google Docs / Presentations and Office365 WebApps that also allow for sharing through embedding into Moodle or other Learning Management Systems.

Feel free to share other great online resources that can be embedded in the comments below.

In the end, you want your students focusing on the content you’ve selected for that particular part of a lesson and by embedding the content you’re making it easier for them to access the content and stay on task.