Sunday, May 30, 2010

ICT Skills Revisited

I had a request this week for ICT Skills Checklists. I have collected a few links but with some reservations. ICT literacy is more than ticks on a computer skills checklist. It is a new kind of multi-modal literacy that involves creative fluency as well as interpreting meaning in various digital forms. I can understand teachers wanting a checklist (just tell us what to teach). In my experience, teaching computer skills in isolation is a common starting point for teachers starting out using technology. With more ICT experience, they tend to use technology to teach content in new ways and their pedagogy changes with increased personal use of technology. If you want to develop a checklist of ICT skills:
  1. Look at where your students and staff are at. Most ICT projects that descend from above like UFOs, eventually crash land.
  2. Use something like the ISTE NETS as a basis for your planning.
  3. Consider carefully where your staff are at. Consult Tom March's excellent list of teacher competencies.  
  4. Think big picture. Chris Betcher's list of 5 Simple Skills is a good discussion starter for staff.
  5. Don't base skills on proprietary software. Software such as Excel can change from year to year.
If you are still not sure where to start there are two skills I consider to be vital. The first is teaching your kids to touch type. In the 80's I was often faced with a lack of computers so I used to beg, borrow and steal them from whoever and wherever I could, including the local tip (sorry, I hear you saying, if I want to know about the past I will ask you). As long as the kids could input words on a screen I could teach them to touch type and that was my only goal. I told the kids that by the end of the year I expected them to be able to touch type with a towel covering their hands. The benefits are:
  1. It really makes a computer so much more useful as a tool when you can see what you are typing on the screen.
  2. You can measure the results (unlike most things we do in schools). Try this great site to see what I mean.
  3. Kids will see you in the street in 10 years time and thank you for it. 
The other skill is to teach kids how to search. Most kids (and teachers) search skills are like much of the content on the Internet (shallow). The "Digital Native" thing is a myth in my view. Many kids are very adept at wasting their time on the Internet and their skill set is very specific, rather than the generic, problem solving set they require.

Cool Things I Found This Week:
  • It was good for me to reflect on ICT Skills and where they are headed.
  • If Youtube is blocked at school, try one of these 30 alternatives
  • Zotero is enough to make you want to go back to school. It is a great tool for research.
  • 6 Word Memoirs are a great idea for English lessons.
  • We have to get better at searching using Google ourselves before we can teach kids how to do it.
  • 10 things Netbooks do better than Ipads.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Global Projects and Webquests

I am all for making learning activities as meaningful as possible and giving students an audience for their work. Think about it. Would you write if nobody was going to read your work? Engaging in projects that involve communicating with students in other schools and countries is a great way to lift levels of student engagement. There are problems sometimes with time zones and school holidays being at different times of the year when you join in a northern hemisphere project but these are outweighed by the quality of the learning that can take place. I have collected some links this week to some global projects. If you have any I can add to my list, please let me know.

Cool Things I Discovered This Week:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Moodle

I have been using Moodle as a Learning Management System for over a year now and training a few teachers how to use it, and I feel convinced that there are many good reasons for using it in the primary school. It is a fantastic tool for storing and delivering content and all of your digital resources related to a unit of work in one place that is accessible from any internet connection. You can use it to store flipcharts, embedded videos, worksheets, links, activities, assessment items and your teaching program. I have seen it used for organising and planning Literacy and Numeracy Groups, Inquiry units and personal projects. The problem anyone who hasn't used Moodle before is that the Moodle courses (units of work) are often stored behind a firewall on a school or district server or may require an enrolment key in order to access them, so it is difficult for me to show you exactly what I mean. I have some screenshots below and some links this week to sample courses. There is some new learning involved in getting familiar with Moodle. I have taught myself so you can too. Best place to begin to learn about Moodle is with these 2 Minute Moodles . You could then download some free software such as Poodle that allows you to run Moodle on your own computer (I haven't tried it sorry) or follow this link and learn how to run Moodle from a USB stick (I have been told though that it runs pretty slow via a thumb drive). You could also try a free hosting service such as Ninehub or Keys To School in order to dip your toe in the water. You will perhaps run out of space fairly soon and have to consider paying for some kind of hosting, whether it be your own school, district, diocese or a provider such Sentral , suggested to me by Warren McCullough . Hopefully the links collected this week will help you get into Moodle. Happy Moodling.

The example above shows how a Kinder teacher embedded all her dance instruction videos into a Moodle course in preparation for an upcoming school social.
This unit shows how students can follow a procedure, see a work sample and upload their completed assignment for marking.

Cool Stuff I found this week:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Powerpoint: The Butcher's Paper of the 21st Century

PowerPoint has been around since 1987 but I am constantly shocked by teachers, presenters and students who use it in utterly appalling ways. Remember teacher inservice days where every surface of the room was covered with butcher's paper? Powerpoint is the butcher's paper of the 21st Century, putting yet another generation of learners into a hypnotic stupor. I feel sorry for anyone who tries to use it for their presentations these days because it has such a stigma attached to it. My pet hates are stupid sounds, transitions and having more than 4 lines of text per slide. Consider the Year 10 student whose recent Geography assignment involved using PowerPoint for a Geography essay. Yes, an essay. The student was told they had to create a PowerPoint with 30 slides and that they had to put MORE than 4 lines of text on each page. There was no presenting involved with this presentation and no originality. I have seen some great activities using PowerPoint with infants classes (I prefer Open Office Impress because it is free and Prezi makes me seasick), but they are exceptions. This Year 10 assignment has to be one of the worst. I have been preaching how to use presentation software effectively for years. As someone said, your slide show is meant to be a visual aid and not a visual distraction or sleeping pill. This week I have collected some slide show tips as well as some great ideas for using presentation software in the classroom.

Cool Things I Discovered This Week:

  • PowerPoint is good for hypnotising chickens.
  • Great PD opportunity: 31 Days to Become a Better Ed Tech Leader
  • Kids can be historians
  • The Creative Thinking Spiral: "In this process, people imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences—all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects. As students go through this process, over and over, they learn to develop their own ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get input from others, and generate new ideas based on their experiences." This sadly is still a foreign concept in many classrooms.
  • A great Art site

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scratch

Scratch is a programming language created by MIT, that makes it easy for kids to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art and share them on the web. Students using Scratch learn many mathematical ideas and can collaborate with others and be creative. It represents constructivist learning at its best. It is the kind of thing that Bill Gates started out doing in his garage and you know what that led to. I urge you all to download this small program that runs on the smell of an oily rag from http://scratch.mit.edu/ and give it a try. Better still, let your kids play with it. They will be hooked. Please have a look at the links I have collected for you this week.

Cool Stuff I Learned This Week:

  • The Sistine Chapel looks much better when there are no people in the way.
  • Kids understand Maths best when they are able to teach it to others.