Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Time to reflect

It is the end of our new-technologies course and wow I have learned a lot! Prior to this course I thought that integrating ICT meant using the smart-board to play some games and getting the children typing their assignments up on word! I now know it is so much more than that.

What I have loved most about this course is being exposed to the world of Web 2.0 tools. I have a constructivist teaching philosophy and believe in the power of collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools go hand in hand with social constructivism, as students are no longer passive recipients of information while using the web. I now have an array of tools that can enhance my constructivist practice and connect my students with the rest of the world!

Tools I now feel competent using include:

- Podcasts and avatars
- Blogs
- Wikis (visit my Wiki experiment at BiodiversityToday)
- Smartboards
- Social bookmarking and word-clouds
- Digital story-telling

Can't wait to use them all in my future career!

The Blogging Experience
Initially I was quite reluctant to have a blog, but the experience has proven very valuable. Not only did the weekly task of completing a blog keep me on top of my course-work, but it provided a forum to reflect and receive valuable feedback from my peers. The blog experience allowed our class to collaboratively learn about technology while in the comfort of our own homes. Needless to say I learned as much from my peers blogs and feedback as I did from making my own blog posts.

Blogging is certainly something I would introduce to my students in the future. Not only does it promote reflective thinking and collaborative learning, but it is easy to use and engaging!

To summarise, the technological world we are heading towards can be scary, but it is the way of the future. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to equip my students for the world they are entering, and it is a technological one whether we like it or not. While the tools themselves may be awe-inspiring, intimidating or scary, the pedagogy that underlies their use in teaching remains the same, so why not embrace it.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Technology and the future

This week we looked at the future of new technologies and where technology in education is headed. From an educational perspective I think the progression is fantastic, however I did feel a little bit uncomfortable with some of the concepts we discussed. This included fridges that order you milk when you run low, billboards that recognise you and target their marketing, and most disturbing, the potential google chip implanted within our brains! While I embrace new technology, the old fashioned side of me feels nervous about where it might be going, and to be honest, I'm not exactly sure why. I think my discomfort comes from a concern for the lazyness of the human race and the ability of marketers to know me better than I know myself.

In education?
Having got that off my chest, e-learning is opening up worlds of opportunity for our students that we could never have imagined until recently. Mobile learning provides portable, always accessible education, through podcasting, mobile social networking and blogging and augmented reality, and is the way of the future. Of these I thought that augmented reality is the technology I could see myself using. Augmented reality involves looking at the real world with digital inputs overlaid. I loved the example we were shown in class, where on a visit to a historical site students can look through their mobile devices and see what the location would have looked like 100 years ago. With devices such as smart phones and I-pads, I can see amazing potential for augmented reality in S&E education. Augmented reality is a fantastic tool to enhance engagement and motivation for learning.

I love the following description of augmented reality by Billinghurst (2002);
"In the Arts Center of Christchurch New Zealand there is an empty dusty
basement room. This room isn't much different from other basement
rooms, however visitors are treated to a very unique experience. Upon
entering, they hear a voice telling then to come closer into the darkness.
When they do, a life-sized virtual image of an old man appears floating in
front of them. The man turns, looks at them and tells what it was like
working in this dark space over a hundred year ago. He is Ernest
Rutherford, New Zealand's Nobel-prize winning physicist, and the room is
where he performed his first research as an undergraduate at the
University of Canterbury. Through the use of advanced technology an
empty space is turned into a very rich educational experience."

The following video gives an appreciation of what augmented reality is. It is in Spanish (I think) but you can get the idea!  

Billinghurst, M. (2002). Augmented Reality in Education. New Horizons for Learning. 

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Folksonomies and falling in love with Wordle

Until our most recent session I had never even heard of a folksonomy!. A folksonomy is basically a classification system for content; in the case of new technologies, we are looking at classifying websites, resources or documents using tags that can be collaboratively contributed to (also known as social bookmarking). Folksonomies can result in a word cloud where importance is reflected in font size. Delicious, wordle, and word sift are some examples.

Word clouds in the classroom?

There are a myriad of websites, blogs and slideshows dedicated to using word clouds in the classroom. Including Top 10 Wordle Lessons for the Classroom and 46 Interesting Ways to Use Wordle in the Classroom. Here are some of the ideas from these resources that I could see myself using;

  • Students input their own work to see key themes and ideas, and assess if these match the intended purpose of the piece.
  • Students analyse pieces of text through looking at the key words used (or not used) and analyse the reasons these words were so significant. Great for historical speeches, documents and newspaper reports. 
  • Students compare and contrast multiple texts, analyse for bias.
  • Word walls
  • Students can use word clouds to make profiles about their classmates.
  • Students can self and peer assess by inputting assignments into a word cloud to see what themes they hit and what they missed.
  • Instead of traditional graphs students can create a word cloud for class polls.
  • Analyse the language used by fiction authors.
My word cloud! 

Using the text from the website Top 10 Wordle Lessons for the Classroom, I created a word cloud in Wordle to look at the key ideas for using Wordle in the classroom. It is such an easy tool to use, producing visually appealing and engaging results, that would be so useful in many classroom applications.
Word cloud created on by E Fraser using text from retrieved 23/5/11

Social Bookmarking in the Classroom

I created another word cloud using a web article by Grosseck ( to identify the key ways that a social bookmarking site such as Delicious could be used in education. Overall, delicious would be a great tool for students to locate resources, share resources with one another (contributing to collective intelligence) and for teachers to monitor and provide feedback on the research a student is doing for a particular project.

Word cloud created on by E Fraser using text from

Monday, 16 May 2011

Social Networking for Children

Recently we have been looking at social networking, mainly in the context of cybersafety for children and professionalism for adults. While we hear a lot about the associated risks, social networking is a fantastic tool to make connections that can foster cooperative learning. The video below gives a great overview of social networking.

I was fascinated to learn that 51% of 8-11 year olds are engaged in online social networking (ACMA, 2009); however based on my prac experiences, I estimate this could be higher in certain demographic schools, as nearly every child in my class participated in Club Penguin. In order to stay up to date with the latest craze, I decided to investgate Club Pengiun and how this popular social network could be incorporated into education.

What is Club Penguin? 
Club Penguin is a virtual world for 6-14 year olds, where children control avatar penguin characters that can interact with one another. Children can chat with each other, participate in a range of games and activities, look after virtual pets and participate in Club Penguin parties, events and plays and much more. Club Penguin offers two levels of security, one where children can only use and recieve a series of pre-defined questions, answers and greetings, the other uses a filter that limits exchange of personal information and inappropriate content. In addition, parents can control the amount of time children spend on Club Penguin, with parent controlled timers that allow the website to enforce daily limits.

How can this be used in education?
The Club Penguin website describes multiple benefits of their social network, including;
  • Development of keyboard skills.
  • Creativity through role play. 
  • Math and money management skills.
  • Social skills.
  • Learning about participation in a community.
I believe this list is quite limited regarding the literacy learning that may occur through participation in Club Penguin, including skills in reading, writing, viewing and communication. In addition, children are being exposed to social networking from a young age, meaning they begin their cybercitizen development journey early on. As a teacher, Club Penguin has the potential to be used as a platform for social constructivist learning. Teachers could encourage their students to use Club Penguin as a forum to discuss homework, or set topics for discussion where students present their conclusions to the class the following day. For students with limited internet access at home, they could be allocated time before class where they can use the internet to participate in any online social activities.

Club Penguin is by no means the only children's social network that could be incorporated into teaching, see Sarah Kesslers article on children's social networks for further suggestions.

Australian Communications and Media Authority (2009). Click and Connect: Young Australians us of Online Social Media 02: Quantitative Research Report.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Until our most recent session, I was under the impression that google was the be all and end all of search engines, and this would have been where I sent my students. However, it appears there are a range of alternatives that would suit different educational purposes.

Which search engines and services would I use in the classroom?
  • SearchCloud: Allows several terms to be included in a search where each term can be given an importance ranking by changing the font size. Places search terms in a cloud showing relative importance of each term, great for visual learners and for student's to rank the importance of key words in their search.
  • Google: A great research starting point and useful to search websites only from Australia. When referring children to google, it is critical to teach them to look beyond the first few suggestions.
  • Tag Galaxy: A fantastic service that searches Flikr photos. An alternative to a google image search, I would send my student's here to find images related to a particular topic. Great graphics that would be engaging for student's, particularly visual learners. 
  • ZuiTube: Youtube for children, ZuiTube would be a great video search tool, minimising the risks of inappropriate content with youtube. Videos are a great tool for student's to get an overview of a topic and to share ideas with schools from around the country and the world.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Information Literacy: Information Overload!

What is information literacy? 
Information literacy, also known as critical literacy, is a major component of traditional comprehension teaching. At it's simplest, information literacy involves questioning a text, challenging the ideas presented and recognising that the author has their own personal background and beliefs; information literacy reduces the likelihood that the reader is "manipulated or misled" (Fellowes and Oakley, 2010, 490). I believe that the skills associated with information literacy are more important than ever, as the internet provides such a vast amount of information, that can be contributed to by anyone. The internet is such a valuable resource, so we need to equip our students with the skills to make the most of it, without being manipulated.

How can we teach online information literacy?
Fellowes and Oakley (2010) describe 3 broad approaches to teaching  information literacy, and these can be applied just as well to an online setting. Deconstruction of texts involves looking at the language features, pictures and the structure used in a text. Reconstruction involves putting texts together in a different way and then analysing the effect the new form has. Juxtaposition involves comparison of texts.

Using these approaches, students could analyse the features of a website that operate to convince them of the authors intentions; for example the use of colour and emotive language on a political website. Students could create their own website showing a different view to that of another website. By comparing two websites on the same subject, students can compare similarities and differences, and relate these to the authors intentions. Bogus websites are a fantastic resource to challenge students ideas about the reliability of online information. The Sellafield Zoo website is a fantastic example. Lesson ideas include carrying out further research on the nuclear disaster described or on the credentials of Mr Travis Beauchamps. Students could generate a list of clues that indicate the site might be false, and then perhaps create their own bogus animal and create a convincing publishable profile for their creature.

Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language Literacy and Early Childhood Education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cybersafety Outreach

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a Cybersafety Outreach seminar provided by ACMA. I knew this was an important topic, but had previously dismissed it as more of a high school problem. It was confronting to learn about the internet culture that very young children are immersed in.

What are they up to online?
This was probably the most eye-opening part of the seminar for me. From 8 year olds with Facebook to Moshi-monsters to late night gaming on Nintendo-dsi, I can see that primary school internet use is something I had underestimated.

The most concerning element for me was the idea of children using very adult tools such as youtube and facebook, and the concepts that they may be exposed to and be subsequently desensitised to. ACMA's cybersmart schools gateway provides fantastic resources regarding what children of varying ages may be up to online. They break internet behaviour into age groups, and provide comprehensive information on the stage of cyber development, as well as resources for teachers. This will certainly be my first stop for any class I work with in the future.   

Developing a Cybercitizen

ACMA has developed a cybercitizen profile based on four categories that describe the "skills, knowledge and behaviours or capabilities" (ACMA Cybersmart, accessed 19/4/11) that are required to be safe online, and describe these stages for various age groups. The four capabilities are;
  • Positive online behaviour
  • Digital media literacy
  • Peer and personal safety
  • E-security

For me, the thought of teaching cybersafety seems a lot more achievable when broken down into these user-friendly categories. I love their use of the word positive for online behaviour, rather than simply telling chidlren what the can't do. At the end of the day, we want our students to have access to the wealth of information that is offered by Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, we just need to teach them how to do it safely.

A Side Note on Bullying
The big media buzz at the moment is cyberbullying, and is a very serious issue plaguing many students in our classrooms. I came across this video recently, and thought this would be a great opportunity to share it. For me, the message is that there are different ways for children to stand up for one another, and that a small gesture to a bullying victim can go a long way, and I am sure the message in the advert could be carried across to the cyberbullying context. And take note of some of the comments on the video (if you visit the original Youtube site); an example of some negative online behaviour that we don't want our students to be a part of! 


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Podcasts and Avatars!

This week we explored podcasts/vodcasts, digital storytelling and social-sharing. All seemed amazing resources that have fantastic applications to teaching, all with many platforms that provide a variety of formats to suit your needs. Today I have decided to focus on pod/vodcasting.

When considering  podcasts  for in education, it is basically an audiofile. From a traditional web 1.0 perspective, podcasts can be used as a passive transmissive learning resource. In the classroom, this could be in the form of downloading podcasts on a particular topic that student's can then listen to. From a web 2.0 perspective, podcasts give students a voice with a world-wide audience (if appropriate). Because podcasts can be shared, they provide an authentic learning experience, as well as allowing students a chance to reflect on the way they may present their views, and to develop oral language skills. They can also be used as an authentic diagnostic or summative assessment tool for teachers. The DET has a fantastic section on podcasts in the classroom; Podcasts in the Classroom.

So what about safety? The great thing about podcasts is that they are audio only, so allow anonymity. In order to engage students further, there are many sites offering avatars, technically turning your podcast into a vodcast. Students can use a pre-programmed voice and enter text, or record themselves, which is then combined with a visual character to represent the student. Blabberise and Voki are two such sites. Personally, I think that Voki is an amazing resource, as they have an online community of teachers who upload and share lesson plans that they found successful using Vokis. In addition, Voki provides a range of other resources for educators.

As we all know in education, there is nothing quite like trying something for yourself. So here we go, check out my Voki, talking about Vokis in education. Was a lot of fun!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Twitter in Education

A microblog differs from a regular blog, in that it has a limit on length, so that posts must be concise and to the point. The most famous example of a microblog is Twitter. Again, joining Twitter is something I scoffed at until recently, thinking it was exclusively for self-indulgent celebrities!  However, stay posted, as the next stop for me is creating my Twitter account! This inspirational video is what changed my mind;

So, should we use microblogging, in particular Twitter, in the classroom? I have come to the decision that yes, we certainly should! As the video above demonstrates, what an amazing way to stay up to date with your interests, why shouldn't children be offered this opportunity as well? When a class is studying a particular topic, why not follow Twitter accounts posting relevant, topical information. I believe this would be an engaging and authentic learning experience, and would connect children with the issue or topic within the greater community.

In addition, summarising an event, story or issue is a skill that children need to learn, as we have all experienced the drawn-out (admittedly very endearing) tales of children. Twitter would provide an authentic medium for children to share information in a concise manner; teaching children to think about the value of every word they are writing. In my honors year at university, I had a similar experience where we had to summarise every scientific paper we read in under 300 words, including objectives, methods, results, conclusions and a critique. It was a steep and valuable learning curve, and definitely taught me a new skill!

So in summary, Twitter in the classroom can be valuable to;
  • Follow children's areas of interest.
  • Follow issues and current events.
  • Writing tasks; Forced to summarise and be concise.
  • For teachers; connect with other teachers, share resources and stay up to date with issues.
  • For teachers; class blog to communicate news and events with students and parents. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Exploring Wikis

The term "Wiki" was to me a foreign one until recently, however I now understand it to be a web-site that allows all users to edit or add new content. In this way, a Wiki is a great example of collective intelligence.

Wikis in Education
Wikis are a fantastic tool for the social-constructivist classroom. Students can collaboratively construct a Wiki about a subject area with their classmates, their school or a wider community. I love the suggestions made in class this week about how creation of a Wiki page of a particular subject can be set as a task by the teacher, where the end result is a comprehensive resource created for students by students. What an empowering and authentic learning experience.

Advantages of using Wikis in education;
  • Goes hand in hand with social constructivist pedagogies.
  • A medium to teach students about collective intelligence.
  • Teach children about debate backed by evidence.
  • A tool to teach critical literacy.
  • An authentic and therefore motivational learning experience.
Disadvantages of using Wikis in education;
  • Class Wikis are highly dependent on teacher monitoring and guidance for them to be successful.
  • Public Wikis have the potential to have errors (this can be turned into critical literacy learning.). 
  • Potentially time consuming for the teacher.
With so much to offer, I believe the benefits of Wikis far out way any disadvantages, particularly since many of the issues with Wikis can be turned into valuable lessons in critical thinking for students. Certainly worth the extra time-investment by the teacher!

The quote below provides a really powerful explanation of why Wikis work despite so many concerns regarding their reliability:

"Think of an open wiki space as a home that leaves its front door unlocked but doesn’t get robbed because the neighbors are all out on their front steps gossiping, keeping a friendly eye on the street, and never missing a thing".  Lamb, 2004

And as for Wikipedia?

Brian Lamb's quote is a great explanation for why Wikipedia works, despite all common sense saying it shouldn't. We have had Wikipedia's "unreliability" drummed into us for many years, yet recent studies comparing it to Britannica show it's more reliable than previously thought.

The video posted below, demonstrates (in a very, very biased fashion!), some of the negatives associated with Wikipedia. However despite some negatives, I believe Wikipedia has valuable applications in the classroom; for example as a starting point for research, an example of differing opinions about various subjects (track history and discussion pages) and as a tool for understanding popular opinion and pop culture. By applying critical thinking, Wikipedia can be a valuable source of various forms of information. As educators, we need to teach children how to use this information appropriately. 

Disclaimer!! Please note that this video is amusing and does not necessarily reflect my views!!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Boys and Blogs!

Everyone hears about it can be more difficult to motivate boys in the classroom. Well perhaps new-technologies are the answer! Follow the link to a great newspaper article about boys and blogs, where a UK primary school has found that blogs are the key to get boys writing.  I also like the school's use of blogs for when the children are stuck at home for one reason or another.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Falling head-first into the world of blogs.

One month ago I never would have thought I would ever have a blog. Not because of any particular dislike of them, but just a misinformed view of who writes blogs! However having read some of my classmates blog beginnings, I am certainly starting to understand their potential in education. Story of my life since I began teaching; I am experiencing serious sensations of disequilibrium, accommodation and assimilation in my technology scheme!

Web 2.0 and Social Constructivism
Being a keen supporter of the constructivist approach to teaching and learning, I am loving the simplicity in which web 2.0 and social constructivism gel and complement one another. Social constructivism emphasises social context in development, and we now have web 2.0, an amazing tool that allows quick and easy collaborative connections with the entire world, so of course the two go hand in hand!I believe web 2.0 has the potential to allow social contructivist education to reach it's full potential. Children now have access to all of their peers, whether they sit in the desk next door or on the other side of the planet, allowing for cross-cultural collaborative thinking like never before.

Blogs and Education
At first I was a little limited in what I perceived as uses for blogs in education, but the more I search the more I find. As journals, they have amazing potential for reflection given skilled guidance from a teacher, and I am beginning to see that they are the diary of today. I love the idea of using a blog as a tool for news communications between a class and the wider school community (e.g. accessed 28/3/11) or as a way of recording a learning journey for a class or individual (e.g. accessed 28/3/11). One I thought of myself (!), is what a great task keeping a blog would be for a student who is away for part of term; a child can post holiday stories and photos, and the class can enviously read about the adventures. What an exciting medium to get children reading and writing!

So there you have it, the first post of many, in my sure to be tech-savvy teaching career.