Friday, October 27, 2006

The Virtual Staffroom

There is an interesting initiative recently begun by Chris Betcher, an Australian teacher currently on exchange in Canada, that gets educators together to discuss teaching with technology. The Virtual Staffroom presents these conversations as podcasts and the three published so far are excellent. The link will take you to a blog which has all the information you need to subscribe and listen - they are registered with iTunes, but are free. I have stumbled my way through this process so might be a help if need be.

Episode 3, It Takes Leadership, is about interactive whiteboards and is one of the best things I have heard (or read) about them so far. I listened for the second time on the way home today. The only drawback of podcasts is that it is difficult to take notes while driving! Friday arvo traffic proved a help in this, if I can read the one and two word notes I scribbled on the back of my visa bill. Here goes.

  • IWBs are in essence just the latest in a series of teaching boards. But beyond the seldom used bells and whistles seen in demos, there is a very powerful teaching tool limited in its use only by the imagination of the teacher.
  • Concepts which could not previously be taught can be through using visuals and interactivity (John referring to teaching his Yr 3/4s about molecules using IWB).
  • For all the increased access to computers in schools over the past decades the take-up by teachers of ICT integration has been slow – even in “laptop schools”. Mal notes from his research that teachers with daily access to IWBs have almost 100% take-up.
  • John points to the ease of learning computer functions without the barrier that keyboards can cause.

That is your taster. The Virtual Staffroom says this much better and lots more to boot.

Episode 2: The New Web is just as good and features Michael Cridland, a beginning teacher from Queensland who has started using podcasts with his Year 7 class. In this discussion Chris Betcher also tells how he has used podcasting with older high school kids to engage them with “boring” material using a method very similar to the jigsaw strategy.

PHOTO: Anthony Attard and keen Ancient History students revising for their HSC trials at 8am on a chilly July morning this year.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Internet Safety

Went to a great session at ACEC 2006 about internet safety resources developed by NetAlert, an Australian Government initiative which describes itself thus:
Practical advice on Internet safety, parental control and filters for the protection of children, students and families.
Greg Gebhart presented the paper and scared us with some horrible stories and statistics before soothing our nerves with examples of some of the resources available to educate kids at all levels as well as parents, teachers and librarians. Most impressive was a dramatised story from their youth resource DVD Wise Up To It. These are free to schools and have great potential.

I guess the next thing is to nut out how we can best present these for best effect. What do you think?

More Parra People at St. Bernadettes' Conference

Thought I would throw on some more pics from the IWB Conference. We had beautiful sunshine for our lunch breaks. Any of these stars care to comment on memories of the conference?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Attending the Australian IWB Conference 2006

The Enhancing Teaching and Learning with IWBs Conference was held at St Bernadette's School, Castle Hill, Sydney on Thursday 10, Friday 11 and Saturday 12 August 2006.

It is well past time for reporting on this - what a busy year it has been - but here goes.

Our "gang of 4" from Patrician Brothers presented two sessions under the banner Learning Curve. The presentations are available on the IWBNet site, although you will need to join as an interested member to access these and other presentations from the Conference. It is free and painless and well worth the trouble for the range of resources available. These versions of the presentations include only screen shots of our in-school produced material and exclude the video clips of our students.

Our first presentation was called Teacher's Perspective where we shared a variety of activities which have formed the backbone of our IWB use. Our aim was to showcase the type of activities we have used successfully with our classes in an ongoing way, as well as reflecting on how our teaching has developed. After eighteen months we still feel we have much to learn - which was what the Conference was all about.

The second session, Student Perspective, reported results of our student surveys and included video of a Year 8 focus group and a Year 9 group using the board.

Some of the standout sessions of the Conference:

Kel Hathaway - for sheer enthusiasm and a wealth of good ideas built up over several generations of technology. Check them out at Edugator: Integrating technology into the curriculum . Included is a guide to podcasting, including a how to which has links to guides on the web as well as giving a few practical tips of his own.

John Pearce is another excellent teacher and technology integrator who did a session on Podcasting. We got to take away a CD full of useful tools. Science and ICT is one of the places you'll find him on the web.

Christy Dangerfield from Christ Church Grammar School in WA gave a very interesting presentation called PD Pathway describing the school's journey towards ICT integration.

We didn't get to see presentations by teachers from the host school, St Bernadette's Castle Hill as they coincided with our own, which was bad luck. They are doing great things by all accounts.