Friday, May 10, 2019

Technology and Special Needs

I am now at the end of the second unit of IICT Part 2. Upon starting this unit on technology and special needs, I thought it was definitely out of my comfort zone. I think that this is down to my experience, having taught in a private school for the majority of my teaching career. But saying that, working through the unit, I was able to draw on software that I have used and skills that I have acquired and apply them successfully to my learning. I did find myself returning to the same software a few times. I wondered why this happened. In the past, I have used software that was touted as the next best thing, only for it to be discontinued or replaced by something else. So I do hold back little when looking at new software to ensure that not only is it right for the students to use, but is easily accessible, works with the technology within the school, and will last beyond the class when I no longer teach them.

The software that stood out for me was Mindmeister and Tellagami. I have previously explored and used mind mapping with students, but this was when the software was installed on computers in my lab, and the students rarely used it. Now that computers are used throughout the school and are more readily accessible, especially Chromebooks, I can see my students using this more actively in their learning. The other resource is Tellagami. My initial thought of this was that it was gimmicky. I still hold back a little on using it, bearing in mind that it might not work on the iPads in my classroom. But that being said, I can see the opportunities for the students' learning and will be exploring it further. Even if the app does not work, I will be looking for similar software to use within my classroom.

One of the things I enjoy in the course is being to read the posts and comments from a wide and varied group of teachers. I do tend to hold back and take in what others are saying, both in online posts and group conversations. I think it is my personality and while that does make it look like I am not contributing, I am taking everything in and trying to make connections to my own experiences. (I do subscribe to the notion in social media that while everyone has a voice, not everyone has to hear it ;) ). So I find myself really connecting with a post when I do like to comment on it. 

So far in the course, I have learned a great deal and have shared some good insights from my own experience. I am looking forward to unit 3!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

IICT Part 2 - Back to the Blog!

Okay, I am going to admit first of all that I cheated a little with this task. I have a blog. You are reading it. I started using TypePad and then in 2014/2015 I moved to Blogger. I shared some posts, a few videos. And then I stopped.

It’s not that I don’t have things to share. I do have a great deal of experience teaching with technology, and that has become more apparent as I have moved from a private school to supply teaching in Peel. It’s just that I feel that it takes a while to craft what I want to say. Knowing that what I write is permanent and has the potential to be read by others means that I have to think about what I am saying.

That being said, George Couros has a great blog. I first heard about him when I started to write my blog. I have read his book; which is fantastic. I have heard him speak; very inspirational. But he has a huge audience. He sells books. He runs workshops.

I teach. I don’t have a huge audience. I reflect on my teaching without blogging. Maybe it’s my English upbringing. I can quietly get on with my work without sharing it. I don’t even like compliments!

That being said, I am willing to start this again. I know that being reflective in my teaching can help me grow and discover more areas to grow, to expand, and to develop my skills further.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Which platform to teach with?




When I started teaching technology, my focus was to teach the students how to use software to complete a certain project. That made sense - the students had access to computers with Microsoft products installed at school and home, and didn't bring their own laptops or tablets into the classroom. In the 15 (eek!) years that I have been teaching computers as a subject, the students have become increasingly more proficient in learning how to use the software. So much so, that now I can easily teach the basics of a piece of software within a single lesson (or less). For example, once a student knows how to insert a picture into a Word document, it is pretty easy to work out how to insert a picture into a presentation!

This year was a pivotal moment though. In the last couple of years, I had let students create a presentation in their choice of PowerPoint, Prezi, Animoto, while I highlighted the pros and cons of each one. Some students started with one and switched to another, as the limits of one program hindered their creativity. This year though, I have given free reign over how students tackled a project. 

One Grade 8 project is to research and create a new school campus. Students work in small groups to design how the school looks, collaborating on how schools have changed in the way that they teach and to focus on their interests. I have previously asked students to work in Google SketchUp to complete their models. At the start of the project this year, I decided to let students work in anything. Some stayed in SketchUp (one project far exceeded my expectations), others researched 3D room designers and taught themselves how to use them. A couple of groups worked solely in a slideshow presentation, and there was even a cardboard model! The wide variety of projects did make for an interesting way of evaluating the work, but the enjoyment and focus the students had while working was very rewarding. 

I understand that companies have to sell their products but students should work in what they feel comfortable in using and be exposed to as many platforms and software as they can. The list I present to the students will include the following:

Powerpoint, Slides, Keynote, Prezi, Animoto, Sway to present information. 
Word, Pages, Docs, to write. 
Excel, Numbers, Sheets for spreadsheets.
Photoshop, Paint, Gimp to edit pictures. 
Scratch, Hopscotch, Kodu, Macrolab for programming.
(feel free to add your own in the comments)

Personally, starting the school year I will continue to work in Google Drive with the students, Outlook on my iPhone for email, but I will use OneNote for my planning and marking.

I think that it is necessary to prepare the students of today for their world tomorrow, not rely on what we are comfortable teaching.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Microsoft Camp 21 - a reflection




Well, today I completed my two days at Microsoft Camp 21 and wow, was I surprised! I am relating to going to Disney; far better than I had expected.

I stumbled across the camp through a tweet from @mraspinall with only a week and a half before it started. I thought it looked interesting, and decided to check my calendar and sign up. 

My first confession - I don't use Microsoft products on a daily basis. Over the years, I have slowly moved over to Apple products; iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and AppleTV and Google products with Drive and GAFE. It's not that I have had anything against Microsoft, I just started to use other products more and it was natural, I found with Apple, to stay in the same family of products.

That being said, I had 2 take away 'wow' moments with Microsoft products. The first was with Sway. At the start of the Sway presentation (video here), I knew nothing of the software. It only came out at the end of last year and my first impression was that it was a cross between Prezi and a blog. Well, technically it is, but after using it, it is SO easy to use and VERY effective.

The software is like a presentation, but you can add images, text, headers, videos, tweets, as well as embed content. Content can also be grouped together, comparisons can be made between (think 2 images next to each other), charts created and added, presentations embedded, images stacked. I don't that my explanation is doing it justice, but I have only used it for a little while. 

The best part? Sway is free to use and only requires an email to get an account (not necessarily a Microsoft email). Oh, and it's multi-platform - computer, tablet, phone, browser.

Here is my first Sway - not bad for a quick experiment with the software I think! Proof that it is good software - I showed this to my daughter who spent time creating her own today - and it IS summer vacation!

The second 'wow' moment was One Note. This time I had used One Note before, soon after it's 2003 release. At the time, I thought it was good but didn't really use it too much, this was before tablets and smartphones which is where I see the value of the software now (ahead of it's time?)

Again, like Sway, One Note is free to use and is multi-platform. The basic premise of the software is the same as before - notebooks can be created with sections and pages. Text, images, audio, links and a whole lot more can be added to each page. All of this can also be shared as well. Office365 users can also do more - such as creating shareable pages and notebooks with students, and locking content to annotate over it. 

This time viewing One Note, I saw more potential especially as a teacher tool. Day books, anecdotal, file for emails - in essence this will eliminate my day plan binder, records binder, and my huge amount of saved emails. I am very much looking forward to exploring this further. 

So, 2 things to explore further this summer. And I am looking forward to it!