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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Tomlinson)

Archive for the ‘Web 2.0 in education’ Category

Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 13, 2011

Thanks to Sue Tapp for sharing this link on Facebook:)

Free Technology for Teachers: 5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos.

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ICT PD: Digital Portfolios

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2009

Here I am Harrisfied PS with Heather Carver again, this time learning about Digital Portfolios.

This is the wiki we’re using…and this is the site for digital portfolios.

We started off by playing with MindMeister to tease out the issues: this is probably a useful thing to do with staff so that concerns are aired and dealt with.

What’s the point of digital portfolios?  Check out the introductory video

  • to have an ongoing digital record of work that can include the student’s use of Web 2.0, graphics, video, podcasts, images etc.  They can use MovieMaker, PhotoStory, blogs, wikis etc
  • depending on where it’s saved, a digital portfolio can travel from school to school when students transfer

Heather says there are  four main purposes:

  • to demonstrate learning
  • to assess learning
  • to guide learning
  • to reflect upon learning.

To demonstrate learning

  • explains and displays what’s been learned in a unit
  • constructed while elearning is taking place
  • aligned to the criteria for the unit

Reflective portfolios

  • Often done as you go along
  • what was learned
  • how tasks were approached
  • what could be improved
  • often aligned with personal learning goals
  •  contains a variety of file types
  • reflective commenatary over a whole year or long period of time

For guidance

  • usually done by teacher or support person, gathering info about what to do for a student
  • examples of failing to meeting learning or behaviour goals – articles of work, video, audio etcFor assessment

For assessment

  • The ePortfolio IS the assessment,
  • it proves that the stduent has achieved the goals
  • often has an audience other than the student, teacher or parent.

The best vehicle?

  • Sometimes an ePortfolio can simply be a folder on a server containing samples of work comprising an archive or aggregate of work done over time.
  • Software solutions inlcude PowerPoint, PPT templates, Foliomaker, (school licence needed, a bit more expensive per child) edcube (school licence needed, about $900 p.a.).  Be wary of the time spent on doing these things – can over-ride learning time.
  • ONline tools: LMS,(Sharepoint, Moodle – Learning Management system)  Google Apps, Mahara (Heather’s fave), Wikis, Blogs, Websites.  The advantage is that kids can work on them at home.  Beware: the school’s internet bill can be huge. 

 It’s important to secure ePortfolios so that they can’t be deleted, either accidentally or on purpose, by the student or someone else.  If using online tools, strict protocols need to be in place for cyber safety.

All schools should have a copy of Digital Portfolio Resources CD.  Also available on ePotential.

Decision: how much time should be spent on these?  Who does them? How often?  Teachers and students need a set of rules to ensure safety, security and consistency between classes.

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Online thinking tools – ultranet workshop 25.9.09

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2009

Ok, I’m at an Ultranet workshop run by Heather Carver, and I’m learning how to use online thinking tools. This is the link.      

The first one we’re playing around with is at and it’s a tool a bit like V8 Inspiration mind mapping.  It’s reasonably intuitive, and once your students have an account you can have multiple users working on the same mind map.

 The Intel visual ranking tool is useful for prioritising…it’s a step up from mere listing, and it requires that students give reasons for their ranking.  (There’s a little notes box that opens up for them to do this – double click on the statement and it will open up).  Groups can rank statements together, and then compare results from different groups.  The comparison link is the RHS button at the top.  We tried the Thinking about Thinking tool.  Heather reminded us that if we’re setting up a task like this, it’s important that there not be a right or wrong answer – it needs to be an open-ended task.  There are demos for the different tools to explore at this site.

From Teacher Workspace (register as a user first) you can set up your own ranking task, and then set up teams.  Clicking on Create a Set of New Teams lets you set up a whole lot of groups at once, or you can do it one at a time.  For this trial (ranking what was worst about the Great Depression, which students researched while we read Audrey of the Outback)  I set up the teams using the names (and matching passwords) that we have in the library (and so didn’t specify student names which is optional), but for an assessment task I might name the team members. It’s also possible to create a snap shot of their work.  This looks like a really terrific tool and I think students will enjoy it too.  (For primary students I wouldn’t add 16 items to rank or it might take forever for them to finish.)

The only glitch I found when using this tool was that it published some words in my list incorrectly.  I checked it, and it wasn’t typos – I’ll need to find out what went wrong….

The next tool we looked at was the Showing Evidence Tool.  It’s suitable for Y5 & 6 upward, but is especially useful for secondary students.  The demo we looked at was called Mysterious Malady but I sneaked a quick look at the one for primary schools – which is just the thing for a library lesson: Can a thief be a hero?  For secondary students this is a tool best used with groups so that students have peer support to develop reasons and have to justify their ideas; probably it’s best used with a whole class at primary levels.

There’s a Seeing Reason tool too. It’s a bit like concept mapping but it involves identifying factors in the argument that are positive or negative.  This a demo for the Causing Traffic Jams Seeing Reason task.  Again, the tool allows a teacher to see a snapshot for assessment purposes.

There are so many tools to play with on this Intel site, and they’re all free!

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Wikipedia in simple English

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 26, 2009

Simple WikipediaI am indebted to one of my students for the discovery that there is a simple English version of Wikipedia, designed specifically to have simple English words and grammar for people learning English and for children.   Thank you Zahraa!

This is the URL or click here.

This is a good place for teachers to contribute kid-friendly info for projects – and if you do become a contributor, well, you’ll know straight away if the work’s been plagiarised, eh?

Posted in Learning and teaching, Resources to share, Web 2.0 in education | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Using Wikipedia wisely

Posted by Lisa Hill on June 14, 2009

Wikipedia is in constant use around the world today, and nearly all of us use it as a frontline source of information now.  Somewhere, I have read that while there can be inaccuracies, research showed that there were actually fewer errors in Wikipedia than in the Britannica, especially for more recent information.  Well, maybe that depends on the entry.  Wikipedia’s team of scrutineers monitor contentious topics (e.g. Israel/Palestine) and sometimes ‘lock’ them so that changes have to pass scrutiny; sometimes there is just a warning to be wary, as there was when I used the entry on Muhammed Ali  as a source for one of my students who had chosen him as a subject for our current Biography unit of work.   Overall, I find it remarkably helpful, especially when seeking information about countries that don’t feature so much in US/UK encyclopaedias – not least Australia!  Some of the entries are excellent, and have been written with clarity and expertise, as I found when I wanted to know more about Modernism, (see my post about it at ANZLitLovers). 

But there can be pitfalls, and I am indebted to my good friend Sue Terry, from Whispering Gums, for the following advice about using Wikipedia wisely.  All students should be made aware of these tips for sorting out the good from the bad:

  • check the footnotes/references: good Wikipedia articles cite their sources, not just as references at the end of the article, but in-line at the point statements are made.
  • make sure the sources are valid: look at the domain names (such as dot gov and dot edu) and the authority of the person or organisation behind that source. Blogs, for example, are great to read but they are not necessarily a reliable source for an encyclopedia article.
  • look for multiple sources: these can provide a double-check on statements made, particularly the more controversial ones
  • check that the sources themselves don’t cite each other: circular referencing can be common in the on-line information world.
  • look under the “Discussion” tab: this is where articles are assessed (though these are not always up to date) and where discussion about the article occurs – contentious issues, exclusion versus inclusion of information, definition of terms, etc, can be discussed here.
  • look under the “History” tab: while many Wikipedia editors are anonymous or semi-anonymous, you can get a sense of who has been involved and the level of their activity and involvement.
  • note any tags on the articles: editors tag articles that have problems, such as poor or no citation of sources, incomplete or minimal content, and so on. Some of this may be obvious but sometimes these tags can clue you in to how useful the article may be, where its weaknesses are.


Posted in Learning and teaching, School Library stuff, Web 2.0 in education | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Assistive technology in the classroom: ICT for students with literacy problems

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2009

I went to two sessions at the ICTEV Conference that explored software that enhances learning for kids with literacy problems, and was impressed.  More than that, I think that any education system that is serious about making provision for all students (and has jazzy little slogans like ‘every child, every opportunity’ ) ought to provide funding for every school to have access to this type of software.  It ought to be installed on every computer used by students, including in secondary schools.  Make it cheap, and make it mandatory.

These sessions were presented by Yvonne Lynch, Jo Evans, and Pat Minton from SPELD, and Mary Delahunty from St James PS,  (not the journalist Mary Delahunty!)

Of the programs I saw, I was most impressed by

TextHelp is an interface which works across many programs, with its own toolbar at the top of the monitor screen.

TextHelp toolbarThis program will

  • convert text to speech, reading aloud, for example, from a web search on Wikipedia;
  • check spelling, offering not only alternative spellings but also dictionary meanings of each alternative so that students choose the right one;
  • sort out homophone confusion;
  • predict words from even the most bizarre invented spelling;
  • and more.

The reason I think this program should be standard equipment in schools is not just because research shows that 20% of students anywhere everywhere have learning difficulties.  It’s also because here in Victoria we have a large Non English Speaking Background student population, for whom this program has huge potential.  When the student is using any MS Office program, TextHELP can intercede to help them with pronunciation, grammar, idiom and spelling.  It can help with study skills like summarising – and solve the plagiarism problem with the click of a mouse.  You have to see it at work to see the possibilities – it really is amazing.

I was lucky enough to win the door prize, which was a demo copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking. This is speech recognition software which is ideal for people with dyslexia and is a million times better than the version that comes with MS Word.  It has perfect spelling, and once it ‘learns’ your voice you can dictate email, spreadsheets and documents.  Although it doesn’t work for everyone with a speech disability, it can in some cases also learn to recognise their speech so it is sometimes a brilliant tool for people with physical disabilities.   What I really liked about it was that you can dictate a sentence, and then tell the computer to ‘scratch that’ – and it does!

This software also has possibilities for mainstream students (or adults).  Speech can be recorded on a digital voice recorder and then when you connect it to the PC, it automatically downloads and transcribes the recording.  I could take a DVR with me when I walk the dogs in the morning, dictate a chapter of The Great Australian Novel as I go round the block, and Dragon would transcribe it straight to text for me!  (I wonder what Dragon would make of the barking when we go past the big shaggy dog on the corner LOL).

I really do admire the software developers who create these wonderful tools that support kids with special needs!  Contact Jo at EdSoft for more information – and when you’ve checked out the programs, then contact

if you agree that these programs should be in every school.

Posted in Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Opinion, Web 2.0 in education | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Down to earth, and on-site support

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2009

After yesterday’s excitement at the ICTEV Conference, it was back down to earth…

I like to think that I can instal, trouble-shoot and generally solve my own IT problems, but when it comes to networking it is just too hard for an amateur.  WiFi, Ethernet, and all that stuff? Call in the experts, especially if you want to do tricky things like networking two or three home PCs so that they will print to a printer in a different room on the other side of the house…

The printer concerned is a Canon LBP660 and although it’s old enough to have come with floppy installation disks, it’s actually a very good printer.  Fast, trouble-free and you can load a lot of paper without it jamming.  Alas, the cartridges are very expensive, and so I was a bit dismayed when I upgraded my PC and it wouldn’t talk to the Canon just after I had bought two new cartridges.   I had XP on both computers, the new and the old, but could not solve the problem by downloading new drivers so I reluctantly set off for that large office supplier that has put all our other local suppliers out of business, and bought another B&W laser printer to go with the new computer. (It’s an ok Brother HL-217OW but its paper tray is ridiculously small – why do they design them like that?)

We try to be green chez Tim and Lisa, so we set up the old computer in a spare space in the sitting room with the Canon attached.  So Tim has been to-ing and fro-ing between his office on the other side of the house and the Canon – because it is the best and quickest for printing out his work documents – and of course we did not want the cartridges to go to waste.  But it’s a pain, mucking about with USBs and all that, so we called in aboc IT consulting and all our problems are solved.  We can print all over the place now, to the Canon, the new B&W  and we can do it from any computer and our little netbooks as well (so that when I take notes or blog posts at PD I can print them straight out now, instead of having to fool around with those pesky USBs).


aboc IT consulting is efficient, effective and affordable.  It has an impressive carbon reduction policy and specialises in small business support. Highly recommended!

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More than Blogs

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2009

There’s More to Blogs than Blogging was a great presentation, all about moving on from simple blogging to more sophisticated use, and you can check out the presentation through this Wiki link.

Oh no, I’m running out of netbook battery!

(I must remember to bring the charger next time…)

PS From home, on Sunday.

This really was an inspirational session – and I nearly didn’t go to it because I was tired and had already been to a session on blogging!

John Pierce from Salty Solutions Educational Consultancy and Rick Kayler-Thomson from Bellaire PS had so many wonderful ideas, it’s hard to know where to begin.  I loved the Passion Projects which have led to students continuing to blog on their area of interest even after leaving the school and going on to secondary college. Pete and Byro Films shows an extraordinary level of competence with animation and game-making – (and the Basketball game is horribly addictive till you figure out how to score a goal)!  The Goss is a repository of student short talks on all kinds of jazzy subjects from dust storms to the Roswell Incident, all downloadable as podcasts.  You can tell that the kids love doing this….could I get my act together to do something similar with the talks my Y5&6 students are doing for their Fame (Biography) projects?  I shall have a play around on my practice blog to see if I can learn how to do it in time.  (Having a practice blog is another idea recommended at the conference – I’ve had one since I did the Web 2.o course last year, and I’ve kept it to use whenever there’s something I want to try without mucking up my real blogs).  The Puzzler Blog is another clever idea that is worth a try as well.

A talented and enthusiastic teacher combined with consultancy expertise = fantastic opportunities for kids.  I am so impressed by this team!

Check out John’s blog as well.

Posted in Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Web 2.0 in education | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

ICTEV Conference, Keynote address

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 30, 2009

Here I am at the ICTEV Conference at Melbourne Grammar, hastily updating this blog because I forgot to bring my netbook charger!

Bruce Dixon (Director IdeasLab, Co-founder Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation) gave the keynote address, and he was fantastic.  He talked about so many issues I couldn’t keep up, but it was exciting.  His topic was ‘Emerging Trends that Redefine Education in the 21st Century and Imperatives that are Driving Transformation’.

He began by saying that our strength in OZ is our weakness – we take on innovation readily, but we don’t always consolidate.   There are huge expectations of schools with the major new focus on education, it’s front and centre with our government but also around the world. We are challenged by needing to meet needs of the future  because we’re not just being influenced by countries we’re comfortable with, now also the unfamiliar i.e. India and China (though Dixon didn’t name them).

 We all know the competencies we’re expected to develop:  21st century learners analytic thinkers problem solvers communicators globally aware civic engagement successful learners numerate articulate curious passionate literate collaborators, synthesisers, personalisers, localisers – and they’re just the ones I managed to jot down.  But as we all know, it’s hard enough to achieve traditional competencies and now we need to expand on that.

The Best Job in the World phenomenon is an example of this new kind of thinking that’s happening in the world.  The creation of this ad (because that’s what it was) was clever enough as a means of advertising Queensland to the world but everything else in the thinking behind it, was based on 21st century thinking. It had a huge impact internationally, and the job application  medium was video generating 36000 entries – how many of our students could have engaged in this process?  They should be able to = tThis is the way the corporate world is working – skills demand has now shifted dramatically. Routine cognitive or manual job opportunities have vanished. Anything easy to teach and test is easy to digitize or make a robot for. School has to be different.

But how? No school? Still subject based? Somewhere between these extremes? The frog is in rapidly rising hot water. Social and interactive aspects of schools are still very important. The Singapore classroom of the future (I need to find a link to this online somewhere)  offers every teacher time there because they know they have to change.


1. Globalisation, More than global projects – just a first step – young Oz people more than any other country need to be connected globally – we are the most isolated country are in the world, we do not have a modern network yet – embarrassing lack of languages – we don’t have cultural understanding, and it’s very obvious in Europe.

We need to make more use of phones, VOIP, SKYPE, time zones are a problem but not along our own time zone. More conference environments for young people should be facilitated. Open course ware project in the US – leading universities make available the lectures, PPTs, podcasts, videos etc. These should be used by students e.g. Prof Leewin(?)’s physics lectures. And these are available to kids in the 3rd world as well!

2. 21st century challenges environment, climate change etc – technology has to be a part of the solutions, connecting with other countries to solve them. Precedent of the Human Genome Project. Students connect at home,but not much at school: They used to come to school to use the computer, now they go home to use one. People think differently now about how we use it…

Intimidated by web 2.0? It’s just a ‘toenail’ in the water of what’s ahead. FaceBook is why the world has a different perspective on Obama.  There are new international ways of facilitating all kinds of things, including philanthropy through social networks.

Those schools not letting kids use Google???????????? web 2.0 is the architecture of participation!  ICTEV needs to lead the conversations, not Andrew Bolt!

3.  Content v context. Current model is out of date, informal learning is eclipsing formal learning. Success in the future is being able to do what you were NOT taught to do.  Kisa need to be able to do more complex things than before, things not previously accessible to children. Skilling people in low level word processing and excel is not what it’s about. It’s about how you can use the technology to improve mathematical understanding, Science and so on. 

Possible areas to develop are countless, but here’s one: possibilities for personalisation can address learner diversity. Flexible approaches to learning different learning styles – everyone wants to do this but teachers often burn themselves out trying to do this in traditional ways. With technology it’s possible. Kids can express their ideas with sound, animation, video, images and not just words. Not just expressing ideas for the teacher, kids can publish to the world, to a new audience.

Digital portfolios, knowing prior learning – Ultranet may make this more possible. No one has done it yet, but the vision is good. Schools have been slow to change because the kids don’t have 1-1 computers – they have to have them! Victoria the first teacher in the world to give each teacher a laptop. We need to think differently.

(Dixon is exhausting, but he has an important message and he sees the message is urgent).

Technology is going to allow us to manage all this diversity, assess it formatively and so on. The PbyP learning cycle – web 20 and assessment through personalisation by pieces. Competencies – learners set the goals, submitted (like a PhD?) peer assessed at that level, and the level above.

Accountability: people fear it – No child left behind program in the US emerged because of accountability – but we need to define what we want it to be. First and foremost we should be accountable to Kids. What have we been spending on education and what do we get for it? US spends more than anyone, 13th in the world, Korea is ahead of them. PISA is a picture of the value your education system is delivering. Most people in the world who achieve at the same level of America are low paid workers – not a great future to US – their GDP would improve if they got a better result from their investment in education.

Jazzy new developments in Victoria? : e5, PDPs etc.

 Where and how learning takes place….’free’ time i.e. not at work or school, if we can engage kids to learn anywhere anytime – i.e. move them beyond print era to broadcast era to collaborative age = different environment. Publishing, social networks. Learning is not organised around a school – libraries are not a transformed space – whole new view of what they might be. 1.Technology increases pedagogical capacity. One hour a week access to computers is not enough! 2.What are we going to let go of? Not an add on, transformation. Spaces/ digital content/ digital pedagogies. 3. digital lifestyle 4. Paradox of universal education – media always telling us we’re not doing well, when in fact we are, though there are increasing numbers of disengaged students and these have to be able to do more. Technology can help us address this?

These notes are a mess!  Conference blogging is an art I need to learn!

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Classroom 2.0 and our cruel time zone

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 21, 2009

Classroom 2.0 is a really useful online professional association and I’ve been a subscriber since last year though I don’t participate in discussions much.  However, today I discovered that I can access archived Elluminate sessions and that there are some most interesting topics available.

Elluminate is a program that facilitates online conferences.  With a microphone and earphones, you can see the slideshows, videos, images and whiteboards; hear the speaker, ask questions, and join an online discussion; and even click emoticons to express dis/agreement or applause.  DEECD uses it for Knowledge Bank conferences and I’ve ‘been’ to two so far.  Next week Julie Evans and I are ‘going’ together and will participate in ‘Joining the Virtual Classroom’ – but joining Classroom 2.0 as a subscriber enables you to ‘attend’ many more – all for free.

classroom-20-blogOur cruel time zone, of course, means that any US conferences are on at obscene times here.  This week’s one on podcasting in the classroom, which I’m really interested in because I don’t really know how to manage using it in the classroom, is on at four in the morning.  However, once you’ve signed up and configured Elluminate, you can access the archives and there are some beaut topics available.  There’s how to use Moodle, Twitter, Ning, Voice Threads, Skype, Diigo (huh? that’s one for me to explore), Blogging with Students, Google Forms, Feed Readers and Social Networking.  A whole pantry full of  Web 2.0 goodies to play with, all online, and available to play with any time you feel like it. lisa-on-elluminate

Elluminate is very easy to use, except for one tricky little security feature.  If you click on the link above you get the Elluminate home page – and it’s a commercial product.  There are demos and all that, but you can’t get in to anything without a user name and password.  However Elluminate have very generously agreed to host Classroom 2.0 activities, and if you sign up for one of their activities, you get the URL which lets you in. The other thing is that while it doesn’t take very long, if you want to participate live, you need to configure your mike and earphones beforehand.

I was astonished to discover today that I feature (sort of!) in the Student Blogging program!  The presenter was talking about how to find interesting blogs, and lo! there was my Blogspot profile page, which has links to my Travels With Tim and Lisa blog and my presence on The Complete Booker.  It’s a very big world out there in cyberspace but apparently Steve Hargeddon (who is the guru behind all this) maintains a very extensive list of educators who blog, and somehow he’s trawled from my professional blogs (this one, and the two I maintain at school, the MPPS LiBlog and the MossgielParkPS blog) over to my personal ones which also includes the ANZLitLovers blog.  Amazing.

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