My Life as a Blogger – the challenge

I have only been blogging now for about 12 months.  Actually now I think about it I have been blogging for the last few years.  My first experience of blogging came when I moved to England to teach about 6 years ago.  As I was sitting in the library to check my emails I was peering over my shoulder at a fellow traveller uploading pictures and writing an online diary of their trip.  Now this was in the pre facebook days and was exactly what I needed to share my pictures and what I had been up to with my family back home.  Over the 4 years I was away it proved as a great tool to share with family and friends and I still love looking back and reflecting using Mel’s European Adventure Blog.

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For some reason, until now, I have never linked this blogging with the blogging I do now.

Last year I was searching Google for some reason and happened upon Kathleen McGeady’s class blog.  I instantly fell in love with what she was able to achieve in her blog and was very quick to get on board with my own class blog.  It was such an invaluable way to add links for my class to use, share what we had been doing in the classroom and give the kids real opportunities for writing.

It didn’t take long for us to see the wonderful benefits of our blog in the classroom.  With a few comments left on other blogs we soon grew a network of people who we now collaborate with around the world.

The next step in my blogging life was to find the plethera of teacher blogs out there.  Kathleen McGeady’s ‘Integrating Technology in the Primary lassroom,’ gave me a lot of help in using web 2.0 tools in my classroom and also reminded me about my twitter account!

Through Twitter I was able to find some wonderful blogs such as What Ed Said,  Edte.ch, and many others, which you will find filling my Google reader at the moment! I soon  realised the potential of using these for inspiration in my teaching and reflection.

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That was when I began my own blog! And why you now find me doing the Edublog Teacher Challenge!  So why am I doing the challenge?  As someone quite new to the idea of blogging, especially professional teacher blogs, I often have the feeling that I am not qualified enough or I struggle to think of interesting posts and  because of this I tend not to post as often as I would like.

Therefore the Teacher blogging challenge is perfect for me.  I look forward to publishing many posts over the next month.

Online Dictionaries

Recently the Oxford dictionary announced they would no longer be making paper copies of their dictionaries. Although a tech lover, I must admit I was horrified at the thought and quickly added the recent edition to my Christmas list.  When I told the kids in my class, their response was the complete opposite to mine – ‘Why would you need it in a book anyway?  We just use our computers!’

How honest and true they were.  As, when I thought about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I picked up a dictionary in the classroom, but the online dictionary gets used all the time.

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Image: ‘Depth of Field‘ 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/99021790@N00/4269594949

So, what do I use in the classroom?

Dictionary.com

I find this site replaces your everyday dictionary.  This is our favourite dictionary app on the iPad as it is easy to use for the kids. Also it gives you drop down suggestions as you type – great if you are not sure how the word is spelt.

Oxford online

This online version is fantastic for those words you don’t always find in the student dictionary version.  But, as with the paper version, it is not always ideal for the primary classroom.

Visuwords

Now this is a great user friendly dictionary.   It colour codes the words making it easy to see different definitions for the same word or synonyms.  If you are looking for a definition, simply hover your mouse over the word and a box appears defining the word in a simple, clear language.  It is a great resource to look at different words such as nouns, adverbs and adjectives.

Visuwords

Lexipedia

Similar to Visuwords, Lexipdeia sorts words into synonyms, verbs, nouns, etc.  What lexipedia does differemtly is have a side bar where the words are sorted into categories.  This makes it really easy if you are looking for alternative adjectives to a word. We recently used this site to find alternative words to said and walk.  The students found the synonyms using lexipedia and added them to wordle to create a word cloud to display in the room.

Lexipedia

Thinkmap – The Visual Thesaurus

This visual thesaurus is fantastic.  Although not a lot different to the other ones I have mentioned this thesaurus allows you to hear the key word you have entered and you can also change the key word by clicking on a linked word.  Unfortunately you need a paid subscription for this but you can trial it.

The Visual Dictionary

This is not a a dictionary as such but I love the concept. It is a collaborative project where people have added photos of words to create a visual dictionary.  Type in your keyword and it shows you all the photos with that word.  It adds a great new spin on cutting out words from a newspaper to make a sentence.

The visual dictionary

What online dictionary do you use?

Do you have any great ideas for using online dictionaries?

Why not leave a comment?

Edublog Awards

As a new blogger this year, this is the first time I have participated in the awards.  It was definitely a difficult job and I have spent far too long (especially during the report writing period) deciding from my long list.

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Don’t forget you can nominate your own blogs here at Edublog Awards.

Best Individual Blog: Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Kathleen McGeady has many inspirational ideas and discussions on her blog.  I have it in my favourites bar as I am always going to it to find websites, web 2.0 tools or ideas to use in my classroom. It was her blog that started me blogging in the first place.

Best Teacher Blog: What Ed Said

Edna has some wonderful thoughts about education. She inspires me to think about and reflect on my own teaching.  She also has a wonderful humour.  Check out her post on ‘How to write reports….not’

Best Class BlogMiddle Learning Unit BPS

I love their Pic of the Day and Mystery Pic!  The children in this class take great pride in writing posts and I love to watch the variety of videos they have.  You should check out ‘How to make a Pumpkin Lantern’

Most Influential Blog Post: Teachers thinking about learning….

This post looks at how we can step back and allow students to be responsible for their own learning.  This is something I have been looking at closely in my classroom therefore this post was very informative and gave me some great ideas for reflection.

Best Education Webinar Series: Tech Talk Tuesday

I can’t say enough of this series.  If you have not had the opprtunity to join this elluminate session on a Tuesday, to listen to educators sharing terrific practises and ideas in the area of technology, you are certainly missing out!  I just wish it was Tech Talk Thursday so it wouldn’t clash with my staff meeting every fortnight! Luckily it is recorded.

Best Educational Podcast: Edtech Crew

These guys are with me in my car, when I go to bed and when I am doing the ironing! On my iPod that is!  Every fortnight, after listening to these guys, I jump straight on my computer to check out all the great things they talk about or to find our more about what their special guests have shared.

Best Individual Tweeter: Tom Barrett

Tom does a wonderful job using his PLN to share class and teacher blogs.  He uses Twitter to build collaborative tools we can all use in our classrooms such as the ‘Ways to’ series. From Tom, I have found many great class and student blogs all over the world.

Best new blog: Ms Woodward’s Class Blog

Ms Woodward’s class only started blogging in August for the first time and already they have built a fantastic blog full of great posts and interesting web 2.0 tools.

Best Student Blog: Aysha’s No 1 Blog

Aysha does a wonderful job sharing her learning and ideas in well written posts.  This is a great example to any student blogger.

Lifetime Achievement: Linda Yollis

I know Linda has not been blogging all of her life but what she has done for class blogging could fill a life time.  She has set the bar for writing comments and her ideas are used all around the world.  She is always searching for new blogs and loves to share comments with all that she visits, collaborating with classes everywhere. I have learnt so much from her blogging and can’t think of anyone else who deserves this award more!

All In A Picture

I like to start new topics or themes we have in the classroom with something to inspire students, whether this be a book, piece of music or a picture. Pictures can tell a thousand words so I was very happy to find Tag Galaxy thanks to Twitter.

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Tag Galaxy creates a 3D planet made up of flickr photos, using specific tags.

Tag Galaxy

To start your Tag Galaxy you will need to enter a tag word (search word).  This will create a planet for this word that is surrounded by related tags.  Choose as many tags you would like and simply press on the centre of your planet to jump to the final product.

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Instantly you have created your own planet of Flickr photos.  From here you can spin the planet and select specific photos and their description or use the arrow to look for more images.

Students have enjoyed using Tag Galaxy to find inspiration for writing, creating galaxies for them to gather ideas for their settings. It was also a great introduction to our Commonwealth Games theme of India.  We were able to see quickly and clearly the animals you might find in India.

How do you think you could use Tag Galaxy in the classroom?

How do you use Flickr pictures in your classroom?

Spelling

I am always on the look out for different strategies to teach spelling and I thought I would share a few that I use in my classroom.

Wordle is a wonderful tool for spelling.  It is a particularly good way of having children practise new spelling patterns.  Wordle works by inserting a number of words or text into a cloud.  The more the words are used, the bigger they become in the cloud.  This allows children to practise the correct spelling of words when they need to repeatedly enter the word.  When learning a specific letter pattern I have children enter words and take a screen shot of the final product.  This gives them a great refernce to look back at when writing.

wordle

An alternative to this is Tagxedo, which makes the clouds in different shapes.

Along the lines of repitition being a tool for learning spelling, I was taught these two tricks at a PD many years ago and they are both popular in my classroom.

1. Using a tricky word (commonly confused words or those with irregular spelling) of the week children are given a small piece of paper.  They need to write that word, with correct spelling, as many times as they can in 1 minute.  The competition certainly gets them motivated and it is always amusing to see how small they can write their words!

2. Writng a silly story using the same letter pattern.  Give children a time limit to use as many words from the same letter pattern as many times as they can in a story.

I went to the station to begin my vacation.  It seemed the whole nation was there so it was a commotion.  I stepped forward with caution to find a weird creation. It was some lotion with an addition sign.  With some ambition I went to information to ask about it.  The man said it was a formation of portion.

After spending some time in the UK, I did some profession development with Pie Corbett, who has some wonderful spelling activities.  One that I always pull out when teaching compound words is to make a silly story by turning the compound words around.

I went to get the papernews along the pathfoot.  Mum gave me her baghand, which she had got from her boardcup.  On the way I played some ballfoot but got an achehead.

I was recently shown Google scribe. This website predicts the word you will write from the letters you are entering.  From the first entry a drop down menu appears with a list of words you may be using.  Although not specifically teaching spelling I find this is great for children who have spelling difficulties which impedes their ability to write.  It has been wonderful to see reluctant writers proud of what they have written and to see that these children have good writing structure, something I may not have seen if they were asked to write a paragraph.

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What games or activities do you use for spelling?

What are your thoughts on how spelling should be taught?

Please leave a comment.

Click

We have been using a class blog most of this year and I love it as a tool in my classroom.  Recently I found many people have adopted the Project 365 blog idea, where you take a photo for every day of the year and reflect on it.  It started me thinking how I could use this in the classroom.

So I created a new blog, Click: A photo for every school day.

Each morning a sign on the door lets the children know who the ‘clicker’ of the day is.  It is their responsibility to find something to take a photo of and upload it to the blog.  They then need to write a reflection on why they chose to take that photo.

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In just a week it has been a huge success.  It is interesting to see what the kids have decided to take a photo of and it has them thinking about what they see everyday in a new light.

Each day the “new clicker’ is helped by the previous ‘clicker’.  They help each other to use the digital camera to take macro photos or look  for an interesting angle.  They then have someone on hand to edit their writing and help them upload the photo and add tags.

In the first couple of days the kids had really noticed the changes around the school ground with Spring making its way.  It was also great to see Gryphon take a photo of the Interactive Whiteboard as he saw this as being the centre of the classroom.

Pretty Flowers

I have also been really surprised at the standard of the writing.  The 4/5/6 kids have a good understanding of the global audience they are writing for and have enjoyed the chance to reflect.

What types of blogs do you use in your classroom?

Do your kids use digital cameras?

Leave a comment to share your ideas.

First Time Twitterers!

Last week a friend had her first experience with Twitter.  It came late at night and after what I fear was an hour of yelling at the TV during Q&A!  So of course her first Twitter came with the hashtag #qanda.  The following night over dinner I couldn’t talk enough of how good Twitter has been for me.

Today I see her curiosity has got the better of her as she jumped onto Twitter once again.  Although I am sure she felt the same as I did when I first started – what do I do now?

I had heard so many people talk about how wonderful Twitter is for educators and I had an account for about a year before I started using it.  Now it is the first place I go to ask a question or share ideas.

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So where to start!

I first started by reading Sue Waters and Kathleen McGeady’s wiki and blog posts about twitter.  These are both great for Twitter newbies and this was where I really found out what Twitter was all about.

Here are my tips for First Time Twitterers:

Start Simple – I started by following some news outlets to get a feel for how Twitter works.  This is also an easy way to get updates of the news throughout the day. (It was through Twitter I was able to get the news straight to my classroom that Australia had its first female Prime Minister!)

Write a bio – You will have the opportunity to write a short bio about yourself in the profile section.  When I follow someone I always check the person’s bio to make sure they have a connection to education. And please add a photo or avatar.  The little default bird makes people think you don’t know how to put a picture on!  It also makes it easy to recognise your tweets.

Ask a question – you need to get yourself out there.  This is a great way to get responses from like minded people, especially if you use a hashtag that is relevant to you. If you know people on Twitter, get them to send a tweet to introduce you.

Use a hashtag –  A hashtag is the keyword that will allow people to search a specific subject. It will be a word with the # symbol in front of it (#hashtag).  You can also search for hashtags, which will help you to find like minded people.

Get yourself a desktop application –  I use Tweet Deck on my computer and Twitterific on my iPad.  Simply this is a place to organise your tweets and it keeps all of  your searches in the one spot.  Also if Twitter is blocked at your school this usually allows you to access it.

Build up your following list – A great way to start is to follow people from their blogs.  You will find as you start to add people they will also start to follow you, especially as you become more active.  This is how you build your personal learning network. You can add searches to your Twitter application and from here you can easily find people who are tweeting the same things as you.

In Australia, for Victorian teachers, you can search the hashtag #Vicpln and #Ultranet to find teachers.  You can also check out this site for a list of education hashtags across the world,  Education Hashtags. For Victorian tweeters there is also a list of DEECD teachers who use twitter.

Look for Twitter Buttons – You will see many different buttons on blogs and webpages.  This is an easy way to start follwing someone. Or if you have a blog put a button on yours. You will probably find many of your favourite sites have Twitter accounts.


Get Twitter Buttons

Safety First – always remember that your tweets are out there for all to see.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking your handle doesn’t give your identity away.  Your name will appear next to it!  If you want something to remain between you and the person you are sending it to, write a direct message.

What are your experiences of using Twitter?

Leave a comment to add any tips you have.

iPad

Posted onCategoriesICTTags, 2 Comments

After watching in awe of teachers from Epsom Primary school taking notes on their iPads during a recent Literacy Co-ordinators meeting, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fantastic it would be to have one of my own. Well it didn’t take much convincing to head to my nearest Apple dealer and bring home the new piece of technology.

Then came the question of what to put on it!  Luckily enough for me @jjash tweeted her new blog for the iPad trial at Epsom Primary School. Perfect timing!  From this I was able to get a great list of free and paid apps to use in the classroom to get me started.

The next day it was the kids sitting in awe as I showed them my new ‘toy’. “Wow! It is so big!’ was a popular comment. Obviously they are used to playing games on the iPod touch or iPhone.  In contrast to this many of the staff commented on how small it was, before asking if I could make phone calls on it!

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This week I have started using it in the classroom and now I wish I had 24 of them!  (Our school has 1:1 netbooks but have not used iPods before) It is hard to think of how to use it when you have to share it in small groups. But I must say my favourite feature is how quick it is to respond.

“Oh dear that child needs some practise on their timestables.” – press and slide and here you go!

“You want to know where Paris is on the map?” – press and slide and here you go!

No waiting for the netbook to start up!

My favourite app so far is Puppet Pals.  Today during guided reading the children used the characters to make an animation to do a retell of the story they had read.

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I have also used Talking Tom Cat, which is a hit with the kids, to do character evaluations.  Talking Tom Cat is cat who responds to touch and repeats everything you say.

Children recorded themselves pretending to be a character in the book.  At the same time they can made the cat do some actions. An example was when a character was bossy they made the cat hit the cymbals and told the viewer to listen to what they were saying or else!

Do you use an iPad in your classroom?

What are your favourite apps?

Why not leave a comment?

Weekly Websites

Initially when I wrote this post I called it International Websites, thinking that the two I chose were from the UK.  When I thought about it though I realised that I don’t actually use many Australian sites! I am not sure of the message this portrays, whether they are not there or I that I don’t chose to access them.

So I am now on the look out for some great Australian websites, that could turn into my weekly website.

If you know any please leave a comment to share the ones you use.

Do you have those favourite websites you use in the classroom which you always keep coming back to?  The trusty favourites you look at every time you do your planning?

After spending four years teaching in the UK I was able to utilise some fantastic resources they have. And even now, back in Oz, I still turn to these websites every week.

My first point of call is Primary Resources.  It is a site full of activities, prinatbles and IWB resources that is organised into subject areas.  Key Stage 1 covers children in Prep to Grade 2 and Key Stage 2 covers Grade 3-6.

Primary

I especially like the PSHE section as it mainly looks at SEAL, a program written to implement social and emotional aspects of learning.  I use a lot of these ideas for circle time.

Obviously some of the worksheets will need to be altered as they use UK speak but this is where I first look for PowerPoint presentations.  For those who use Smartboard software there are heaps of files for this too.

Ambleside CE has a number of activities and flash games for the classroom.  This week I used the Look, Cover, Write, Check activity where I typed in the words I wanted the kids to practise and a giant hand comes over and covers the word while you write it.

Look cover write

I also use the function machine, which was made by year 4 students using Spreadsheet.  If you choose the machine to do random functions the kids can guess what the operation is.

Ambleweb

The site is broken into literacy hour and numeracy hour and is easy to find anything you need.

Do you have a favourite international website you use in your classroom?

What is your favourite resource on the website?

Leave a comment to share it!

Ultranet

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It is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment.  What is Ultranet?  What will Ultranet do?  How will I find time to use Ultranet? Why do we need Ultranet?

After being in England when they implemented their Learning Platform I was amazed at the potential it had but couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being tapped into.  I then questioned why it was so long coming to Victoria.

After ‘playing’ (due to staffing at the time I was unable to do the lead user training) for the last two weeks I realise why we had to wait.  This has actually been well thought out! It has all the elements the Learning Platform was missing! And it has been well implemented.  Don’t worry, I think it has its limitations also, but it is exciting that as of Monday we will all have this wonderful tool at our fingertips.

I have been mocked in the staffroom (in a good way!) of my enthusiasm for the Ultranet.  I admit jumping around and dancing the day I was finally able to get my book and login was probably a little over the top! But I think that deep down everyone is excited about what it will bring to education.

In my time ‘playing’ on the Ultranet I wrote this following piece on my Express Page Blog.  I can’t wait for Monday’s Statewide Ultranet Day and the chance to tap into all of those wonderful resources we have surrounding us – our colleagues. We have talked for a long time about bringing down the walls in our classrooms.  Well the Ultranet is the bulldozer we need!

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Well the time has finally come.  I have officially logged onto the Ultranet for the first time.  I must admit that, for me, it has reminded me of being a kid again! Like the time that I counted down the minutes and seconds to my birthday because I knew I was getting a bike with gears, only to end up in tears the morning of my birthday because I had no idea how to ride it.  That is the feeling I have about now.  I have the tool, which will contribute to moving communication in education forward like never before and I don’t know where to start.  I know how to ride the bike (I have had one before when I worked in England for 4 years and I have all of the transferable skills from my blog and wiki). But it doesn’t mean I know how to use the gears to ride it well! Of course, I do as any 9 year old would when looking at the new bike they know they can’t actually ride.  I get on it!  Unlike the bike though, I think I will be able to remain injury free while trying it out. Hopefully!

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Are you enthusiastic about Ultranet?

How do you see yourself using Ultranet?

Leave a comment