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.

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