Monday, February 28, 2011


One week ago we had another earthquake. I have been unable to blog as we have not had electricity, water or sewage. We now have generator power but still no water or sewage. Today is the first day we have seen any news (only had battery radio) and in some ways I am pleased not have seen it before. I just feel shell shocked.

Our house is badly damaged. Things are a real mess.

It is not nice not being able to have a shower for so long. Yesterday we went to visit some people some distance away (they had power and water). I used a proper toilet for the first time in a week and also had my first shower, LUXURY!! We have portaloos along the street and are also being asked to dig long drops. We have been using gas BBQs for cooking and boiling water. We have to go out to fill bottles etc with water (all need to boiled before drinking). It is really not pleasant but with so many dead it seems not so bad.

People have been coming together looking after each other which is fantastic although many have fleed the city.

Although it was only 6. something the devastation is far greater. There have been many deaths and the toll is expected to be a lot greater.

I am praying for Christchurch and all the people who are staying here and helping each other.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Critical thinking in the classroom

Critical thinking is an important part of today's classroom. With the amount of information now available to us it is important that children learn to access, evaluate and apply the information appropriately.

Microsoft and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) have developed an ebook for teachers to use 'Critical thinking in the classroom'.

In this ebook teachers will find information about literacy and critical thinking in the digital age and what this means for our children.

In addition teachers will find lesson plans - for example for students who are starting to learn the research process develop beginning skills for conducting an effective and efficient search of web-based information. To support the lesson plans are student worksheets and handouts as well as the class demonstration guides.

For those teachers who want to find out more about critical thinking there is a Critical thinking channel on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guest post

4 Free Online Learning Tools for Language Teachers and Learners
While the Web 2.0 has completely revolutionized the way that we teach and learn, nowhere is this more true than in the realm of language learning. Before, learning foreign languages was confined to rote memorization and conversation in class among learners and teachers. Now, the powerful interactivity that the Internet enables empowers students of foreign languages to connect with native speakers, in the process becoming acquainted with accurate pronunciation of the language in question. What’s more, online language learning tools motivates students who are often frustrated by the fact that they aren’t getting any substantive practice. Here are a few sites online that will be sure to make language learning fun, and can serve to supplement any curriculum.

1. Live Mocha
Live Mocha is very much like Facebook in that it’s a complete social networking site with added language learning modules. Live Mocha functions on a collaborative level. That is to say, when a student completes writing and speaking exercises, a native speaker of that language will make corrections, suggesting ways to improve. In exchange, you are expected to serve as a teacher yourself, correcting others who want to learn your native language. The more you participate in these exchanges, the more points you get, enabling you to unlock additional free language modules and tutorials. It’s a great way to make friends around the world, too!

2. Skype

Skype is one of the best ways to brush up on your conversation skills with native speakers. Using both instant messaging or full video chat, you can interact with native speakers of your target language who are eager to learn your language, too. Very much like Live Mocha, social is the name of the game. The best thing about Skype is that you probably already have the tool downloaded. To see how you can use Skype to learn languages, check out this resource.

3. Babbel

Babbel is a wonderful site for language learners, utilizing more traditional methods with some chat features. The trial period for Babbel is free, as are some additional features, but for full access, a minimal fee is required. Still, it may be worth it considering how many structured lessons, designed to track your progress and push your limits, are offered. Babbel also has voice recognition software that works to improve pronunciation. Another feature unique to Babbel is that it has iPhone and iPod touch applications as well.

4. Digital Dialects
Digital Dialects is one of my personal favorite online language learning tools, because the whole website is just games. For those students who are kinetic learners, this may be the best option, as it combines doing with learning. Younger language learners will be delighted by this site in particular. It also offers a very wide variety of language from Spanish to Russian to Swahili and more.

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Rogo Puzzle

Rogo Puzzle

Rogo Puzzle is a new Maths web site – free – that has a great puzzle for children. This puzzle is easy to learn how to play and will keep the children on task, motivated and learning. Rogo puzzle for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch was launched in December 2010. I am really excited as it is a New Zealand site so very applicable to our students.

Press release:

Rogo is the new kid on the increasingly popular puzzle block. Though designed originally for pencil and paper, Rogo has made the touch world of iPhone its own. Rogo will soon be played on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in subways, in waiting rooms, and even in classrooms in the US, Japan and China as well as in its home town of Christchurch, New Zealand. Rogo is completely new and original, a mixture of a maze, word-search and sudoku, with an innovative and intuitive interface. Appealing and easy to learn, Rogo is solved by drawing a loop of a designated length, avoiding obstacles and adding up numbers to collect points.

Each Rogo puzzle has a unique solution, which has been generated and tested using a special computer algorithm designed by Creative Heuristics Ltd. The idea for Rogo comes from the outdoor sport, rogaining, which involves using a map and compass to design and travel around a large area in a given amount of time. The mathematics behind it comes from the field of Operations Research. Doctors Shane Dye and Nicola Ward Petty, senior lecturers at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, are the directors of Creative Heuristics, and inventors of Rogo. They have developed Rogo for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in just over a year.

Trials of Rogo have shown it to be popular among school children of all ages, and right through to senior citizens wanting to keep their brains active. A test group of 12 year old pupils enjoyed the challenge of the paper-based version, saying, “It makes me focus hard on them, but in a relaxed way and you laugh when you are frustrated!”, “they are challenging but fun and make you think”. Maths teachers use paper Rogos to help students develop numeracy and problem-solving skills.

From Rogo web site

Rogo develops a variety of skills such as number recognition, adding, counting, problem solving and geometry. The puzzles can be adapted to teach specific number facts.

Currently you can download a new printable Rogo puzzle to play; a new one is available each day. You will also find instructions on how to solve Rogo on the web site.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Using Classroom Tools

On the Classroom Tools web site (which has so many great things for teachers) was a video showing some children using the web site to reinforce their learning about fractions.

The children are working in groups and are showing obvious excitement about their learning - isn't that we all strive to do - enhance their learning and make it fun. You will find other videos on their web site to help you using some of their tools in your classroom.

I have used Embed Plus to just show a small snippet of the video on this blog post (another great tool for teachers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bit Torrent

I have always found Common Craft's videos very well done and useful for teachers to use to explain the technologies to students.

Common Craft have released a new video to explain Bit Torrent.

"This video teaches the basics of how BitTorrent's technology works to make downloads faster when more people are involved. It includes points on:

•How files are shared on the web and what makes BitTorrent different
•The BitTorrent application and how it's used
•How trackers, peers and hosts work together to deliver "pieces" of files
•How anyone can use BitTorrent to share or download files" From: Common Craft web site

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Microsoft has warned of a serious security hole in Internet Explorer. If you are using this browser you are at risk of having the computer hijacked, emails, credit cards and bank accounts hacked.

"Microsoft has issued a global warning that there is a security hole that allows hackers to install malicious scripts." Christchurch Press 2 Feb 2011

Users of other browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome are not affected.

If you are using Explorer:

Go to:

scroll down to fix it under the enable heading

follow the download and installation instructions

Embed Plus

A great web site for everyone (but especially for teachers) is Embed Plus.
Teachers often use videos from YouTube in their classrooms to enhance the thinking and learning. These videos can stimulate interest or illustrate a point. With Embed Plus you can edit the movie from YouTube to customise it for the needs of your class.

The slow motion is great for action videos or if you are teaching how to do something like a long jump in PE. The Previous and Next buttons let viewers skip forward and back within scenes that you’ve marked. The zoom will give viewers a closer look at wherever they move their cursor. You can also add your own annotations to the movies - something teachers will love where they can point out things that they want the students to take particular notice of.

A beauty of this web site is that it is all free! All you have to do is click the Get Started button and away you go.
I would love to hear how anyone is using this site for their classrooms.