Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Interactive Learning

Interactive learning is a new web site dedicated to improving student performance through interactive learning. Here teachers can find how schools are integrating technologies into the classroom to enhance the thinking and learning.

There is a very interesting article which gives a ten year update on technology and education. The article points to how, after 30 years with technology in the schools, there has been a lack of change in the classrooms:

"The reality is that advocates have over-promised the ability of educators to extract a learning return on technology investments in school. The research studies now suggest that the error was not in citing the potential of technology to augment learning – for research now indicates that the effective use of technology can result in high levels of learning. The error was in underestimating the critical need for the system changes required to use technologies effectively in learning."
Here in New Zealand, we have a similar scenario. Although we have some schools where change is evident and the teachers are using the technology as a tool in their classrooms to build 21st century skills we also have others where the technology is used as a 'reward' for good behaviour or for word processing a story but little else.

I was teaching some students in an intermediate school last term. The students in this group came from every class in the school and were learning new skills to be able to show others in their class as well as using the skills in their own learning. Every Web 2 tool I went to use with the group was either blocked or was not able to be used properly on the school's network - very frustrating for the teachers wanting to use these technologies. Staff professional development was offered to the teachers in this school on a needs basis and was held before school in the morning. Few teachers took up this offer 'we are too busy in the mornings getting ready for the day'.

The research states that the real potential of the technology has still not been realised in education.
"Overall,across all uses in all content areas, technology does provide a small, but significant, increase in learning when implemented with fidelity and accompanied by appropriate pedagogical shifts. While this is generally encouraging, the real value lies in the identification of those technology interventions that get significant positive results that warrant investment."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Classroom of the future?

The New York Times has an online article (a version has also appeared in print) about whether the use of technology in the classroom does in fact improve the education for the students.

The article discusses Kyrene School District where digital classrooms are the norm. Here the aim is to transform the classrooms with the teachers facilitating the students' learning. However standardized tests of student performance in reading and maths have stagnated here while they have risen in other areas. They suggest that there is little convincing data to show that spending the money on technology is improving basic learning.

Teachers need some research which clearly shows the effect of technology on teaching and learning.
A question plaguing many education researchers is how to draw broader inferences from such case studies, which can have serious limitations.

Educators would like to see major trials years in length that clearly demonstrate technology’s effect. But such trials are extraordinarily difficult to conduct when classes and schools can be so different, and technology is changing so quickly.

And often the smaller studies produce conflicting results. Some classroom studies show that math scores rise among students using instructional software, while others show that scores actually fall. The high-level analyses that sum up these various studies, not surprisingly, give researchers pause about whether big investments in technology make sense.
I would be interested in what other teachers think of the article and their ideas of the use of technology in schools.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Adventure Maker

Adventure Maker is free software available for download.

This software is great for use in the classroom. Children are able to create their own multimedia games. Included in the download is Creative Painter (a draw tool). Children do not need to be able to programme as this software just requires point and click. A great tool to encourage higher order thinking skills.

This video will give you an overview of the software as well as a tutorial on how to use it.

While there are examples of some games that have been made using Adventure Maker on the site you need to be very careful in your selection of the ones you download as examples for the classroom.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Zamzar is a quick and easy online web site where you can convert files from one format to another.
Their mission is
"To provide high quality file conversion
for as many file formats as possible"

So many times I have wanted to convert files to another format to send to someone or to use with other software (e.g. put a video in a PowerPoint presentation - PowerPoint will only allow some formats to be used). This tool is free to use - there are options ranging from $7 to $49 per month - but most teachers are not usually wanting to use the service enough to warrant the expenditure. Just to convert files is free and will take files up to 100mgs.

Steps are:
  • upload the file
  • choose the file format you wish to convert to
  • put in the email address to receive the converted file
  • press Convert

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reading programme

I have been helping with entering data from a research project about a reading programme which is becoming widely used here in New Zealand. Availll is a research based literacy programme for the classroom. It uses films in a series of scripted lessons to teach skills in three areas of literacy:

  • comprehension strategies
  • vocabulary
  • fluency
Availll was developed by Dr. Alice Killackey (previously from Northern Arizona University) who had found, when teaching in the classroom in 2001, that while students had a good understanding of video they did not have good reading skills. She was inspired to use the students' strengths in video to bring up their weaknesses in reading. A range of activities were created, tested and re-tested with dramatic experimental results.

The researchers have found that students are highly motivated to use the programme. Originally this programme was only available in New Zealand but is now available internationally at a very low cost. For those teachers who are looking for a reading programme to motivate their children this is very worthwhile. Some of the books used are available as free downloadable ebooks.

A list server I am on is currently discussing the use of this programme and here is what one teacher had to say:

We found that the students were all very motivated and they found it
exciting to 'read' a DVD. After a term of the programme we found
students listening skills had improved and when we did the PROBE testing
we found most students reading and comprehension levels had improved by
between 1 and 3 years (great result after a term)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Brainshark

My Brainshark is an interesting site for teachers to use.

Using this site teachers can upload their PowerPoint presentations and then add their audio to it to then embed the presentation in their online course or email their students to share the presentation.

You can also upload other documents, photos or video clips and add audio to these.

While this site has been developed for businesses but can certainly be used by teachers for educational purposes.

It is free to sign up.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I have used YouTube (like everyone else),TeacherTube (which I love) and now have just found SchoolTube.

This web site was launched some time ago and is a teacher moderated video sharing website.

They are dedicated to supporting educational institutions and have a range of videos for educators to show how a range of ICT tools and software can be used in the classroom to enhance the thinking and learning as well as motivating the students. Teachers are able to share concepts, ideas and lesson plans with others.

There are various channels you can use starting with the free channel for teachers. There are other options which will cost the school e.g. a Premium channel costs $US495 a year.

I was disappointed to see on the main page of the site showed this video (title). I am not sure if the teacher moderated this video. While I know it is fashionable not to correct a student's work it is possible to discuss the spelling of something like this before it is uploaded to the site.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Online networks

Not all agree with the last post. In our Saturday Press is an article "facing up to Facebook" by a university lecturer from New Zealand. He is a lecturer in Marketing but also has an interest in 'what makes people tick' - how people interact and express themselves in online worlds such as Facebook. He highlights how these sites can be used in positive ways but also warns that there is a 'dark and dirty side'.

It will be interesting to see this research when it comes out.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Learning together online

Steve Wheeler has just put up a new slide share about Learning together online. This presentation discusses how social networks are an important part of the culture of many young people. In light of this teachers need to exploit the power of these tools to engage students to enhance the thinking and learning in their classrooms.

Here in New Zealand, we have had some instances where a social media network (such as Facebook) has been used in a way where the outcomes are probably not what was envisioned by the young people using it. Teaching how to use the tools in a responsible way is also important.

Monday, September 5, 2011


What is Diipo???

Education 2.0: Social networking for your class

Diipo connects the teacher with their students making it easy for the teacher to communicate with their class. Diipo also connects teachers with other teachers as well as their class with other classes. Diipo uses an easy-to-use and familiar user-interface which is similar to Facebook and Twitter. One of the aims of Diipo is to help students stay connected and engaged.

Teachers can connect with other teachers to share and exchange ideas as well as best practices on how to get the most out of Web 2.0 technologies. In addition teachers can share educational content with each other or brainstorm ideas for collaborative projects.

This is an ideal site to use with the students so that they can also learn to use a social networking site in a responsible way.