Simple Wikipedia

simple wikipedia logo Okay, so we all use Wikipedia. I know some people don’t think it’s particularly useful – but really it’s just as valid as any other encyclopedia. It’s a great starting place for any research, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as the only resource for your work.

I recently discovered (I think via my brother) Simple Wikipedia. Basically the same content is covered when compared to regular Wikipedia entries, but simple English is used. This means the grammar and words used are “simple”, but not necessarily the concepts.

I think this would make using “the Internet” as a resource for learning and teaching a lot more achievable for younger students and their teachers, for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, and even for the rest of us.

100 Hours Project

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I just attended an inspirational video conference by Ewan McIntosh.

Honestly, it was one of those things that left me with very few words, but with a mind absolutely a-buzz with ideas.

Ewan talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule, mentioned in his book The Outliers, this rule claims that to succeed in a given field you need to spend 10,000 hours working on it. Coincidentally, that’s also about how long students have spent in school by the end of year 9.

But, we can still do pretty amazing things given a relatively small amount of time.

To get to that point of being an “expert” Ewan set us some homework.
This is to participate in the 100 hours project.  Pick a topic that you are passionate about and dedicate 1 hour per day for 3 months to learning about it. By the end of 3 months, hey presto! you will have spent approximately 100 hours on your project.  Ewan also challenged us to blog, tweet, facebook, or otherwise share our project so that others will keep us accountable. A lovely bonus of the project is that participants will have something else to talk about other than school 🙂

My project is my blog and wiki.
Both of these projects are in their infancy, however I can see real benefits for my professional development, my learning, my students’ learning, and for my colleagues’ learning.  I know this project won’t give me anything interesting to talk about to non-teachers or non-techies,  but it is something I am passionate about, had started doing anyhow and just needed to devote more time to, and can see the purpose for.

So that’s my commitment to the 100 Hours Project.  What’s yours?

[Thanks to Dean Groom for pointing me in the right direction re: 10k hours]
[Thanks to David Adams (my brother 🙂 ) for helping me out with more hours related accuracy]

Okay, let’s hope no more revisions…
[Just found this at BERG , which seems to be Ewan’s source material for this section of his presentation]

Our Moodle Training

Two lovely ladies from Learning Technologies visited out school for our second session on Moodle.

They briefly revisited the things we had looked at in our first session: labels, links to files, links to websites, scootle objects, choices, and journals.

Then they showed us some other things to add to our pages: books, light box gallery, and widgets.

They answered my more technical questions, my brain just goes into overdrive when I start learning about a new piece of technology, and they worked closely with our staff members who either couldn’t attend our first session, or who needed more help.

A couple of interesting resources were also shared with us:

I learned a few nifty things, enjoyed the chance to learn with my colleagues, and ate a lot! Thanks Miss W for providing snacks 🙂

If they were to run the session again I’d suggest handouts, as many of our teachers were madly trying to take notes that might not mean much to them afterwards.

All in all, it was a pretty useful Professional Development session.

Re-gifting is in, right?

Well, I have only managed to attend two sessions of #rscon10 (Reform Symposium) so far, but I managed to win a prize! I am so stoked.

The cool thing about my prize is that “I’ve already got one”. It’s a 12 month subscription to an edublogs pro account.

So, if you’re on the staff at my school and thinking about starting about a blog this is the perfect opportunity for you. Just comment on one of my blog posts to enter the draw to win it.

I’ll choose the entrant who can best convince me about why they should win this awesome prize (at a value of about $50 AUD) – regifting is in, right?

Mrs D, Mr W, Mrs H (from the CPC), and others I’m looking at you!

BTW if you are interested, all sessions have been recorded and archived. You can access them via the Meet The Presenters page.

PD in your PJs

It’s all over Twitter, especially if you follow @shellterrell – if you don’t you should!, and it’s being blogged about.

This weekend an amazing Professional Development opportunity awaits. Reform Symposium is the brainchild of Shelly and a few colleagues following an #edchat conversation. It is a free 48 hour online conference for educators. This year’s theme is Innovative Practices in Education.

I’m very interested and intend to attend, as much as mr2 and my parents’ visit (yay!) will allow. All you need is an Internet connection. There are easy to use ‘how-to’ videos on the home page, and honestly it’s so easy to participate I think you won’t need them. If you live locally and need some help just let me know 🙂

Shelly posted a really great blog entry about the event, along with 6 compelling reasons to

Her challenge, should you accept it is to attend at least one free session.

I will be, will you?

Hand Over Control

It can be very tempting, especially as a secondary teacher, to use the IWB (Interactive WhiteBoard) for Sage on the Stage work. You know, the lessons, or hopefully just sections of lessons, where you stand out the front and expect your students to listen. I’m the first to admit that I do this too often. Probably because it’s easier to emulate what I experienced when I was at school than it is to task a risk and hand over control to them!

One website that I’ve come across that gets my students out of their seats and actually INTERACTING with the IWB is Free Rice.

I first came across Free Rice a while ago, possibly through Mr Byrne’s Free Tech 4 Teachers, but was reminded of it more recently via Twitter 🙂

Free Rice started as a vocab building site. But, there are now lots of different subjects available. I’ve used both grammar and vocab with my English class, and Geography – capital cities in SOSE (Studies of Society and the Environment). I also trialled the vocab game with Mrs D’s 6/7 class as a 5 minute activity – they stayed after the bell to keep playing!

The questions are multiple choice, and the site automatically changes the difficulty level of your next question based on how well you’ve gone previously. Free Rice is an ad supported site – money from the ads goes towards purchasing food for the hungry via the World Food Program. For every question that you answer correctly 10 grains of rice is donated.

I ask a student to come out the front to be in charge of the IWB – I normally choose someone who has the potential to take attention away from the activity, by giving them a job I greatly reduce any SBM issues. The others all move so they can read the IWB. I randomly ask students to read the question and options – they may need help with pronunciation. Then, I re-read the options and ask students to raise their hands to vote for the option they think is correct – majority rules. We normally play until we’ve donated 100 grains – which can take longer than you’d expect.

You could also get students to play individually, but I’d question their ability to remain engaged. Even though it’s very obviously academic work my students are very excited and happy to “play” Free Rice. I think the charity aspect of the site really appeals as well.

Footprints on the web

This term I’ll be teaching two classes of year 8 IT. One of the classes is my home class and will also enjoy my company for English and SOSE (Studies of Society and the Environment).
As part of our work towards helping our students stay safe online I’m planning on doing a short unit of work on digital footprints. The assessment task I’m working on involves the students creating Facebook pages for someone else. Now, FB is blocked at my site – something I actually think is a good thing – so, I’ll get them to create a visual representation using another tool, maybe Publisher, Word, Glogster (if I get around to getting the edu version unblocked). I’m thinking I’ll let them choose their own tool.
My home group will create their FB pages for a character in the novel we’ll study in English, The Outsiders by SE Hinton. I had been thinking of getting the other class to do a page for someone important in the history of computing, Ada Lovelace etc. But, I might ask their English teacher if they’d like to do the same as my class.
This will involve taking notes as we read the novel, which is something I wanted to do anyhow as a few of my students really struggle to remember what they have read. The pages they create will need to include a list of their friends, status updates as the story progresses… so many opportunities for them to show detail from the novel – but not give it away!

What to read next

Richard Byrne of Free Tech 4 Teachers recently wrote a post about Your Next Read.

This is one of a few sites I’ve come across lately that will help you choose a new novel based on a title or author that you recently enjoyed.

Useful for: English Teachers, Home Group and class teachers (imagine no more arguments about SSR), students, parents, and librarians.

Now, I won’t steal Mr Byrne’s thunder, so you’d better head over there to read what he thinks.

Jumping back in

I’ve really gotten back in to reading online lately. And, I am really keen to share what I read and learn with my colleagues. So, I had started emailing them links to other people’s blog entries and webpages that seemed relevant to them. Quite few of my colleagues who have received these emails expressed their gratitude, which of course made me want to keep doing it. Let’s face it, we all like to hear compliments and “thank you”s every now and then.

I think it may be time to stretch them a little further out of their comfort zone, and quite frankly make my life easier. Thus I am revisiting my blog.

My driving idea is to collate and categorise my online reading to make it more user friendly for my colleagues. However, I’m sure I’ll come up with other things to blog about including my reading of more traditional texts.

Start with the idea and apply the tool

It’s always nice when someone else manages to clarify your own thoughts for you – saves a blood, tears etc. Today while scanning through my subscriptions in Google Reader I came across a post by Jeff Utech.

The line that rang true for me was “start with the idea and apply the tool”.

Because I am a “technology expert” in my school, and often for my students, I tend to try to find ways to teach them the tools (either online or pieces of software installed locally).  Instead, I should be coming up with authentic uses for these tools, so that the students can see a purpose in learning and using them.

I have always struggled with this idea because I’d really like my students to learn about IT for IT’s sake (it is a dedicated subject after all).  I know that I’d be a better (more capable and confident) driver if I actually knew how my car worked, so my thinking has always been that my students will be better “drivers” of IT if they understand more about “what’s under the bonnet”.

Jeff is right though, it just doesn’t work when you teach the tool just because you want your students to learn the tool. They’re not engaged, there’s no purpose, there’s no meaning.  Sure, it looks good. You can say “we’re blogging”, or “my students have a ning”.  But the content won’t be worth anything – there probably won’t be much content anyhow.

So, how do I come up with ideas to use the tools for? <– doesn’t make sense, because that’s not how it works. That’s like putting the cart before the horse.  I think I need to brainstorm the topics, subtopics, ideas, themes and other groups of stuff that I’d like my students to learn about (the content), then find the web2.0 tools to do this.

Jeff also says “allow the thoughts and ideas to control where you go”.  That’s pretty much my conclusion.  I need to redefine, re-establish, re-list, the thoughts, ideas, concepts, topics that I want to cover.  After all for Gen Y (both my generation, and my students’ generation) tools are irrelevant. It’s knowing how to access the tools, being able to choose which tool to use.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in the mindset of many of my colleagues.  Because the tools are buzzwords for them – they’re not digital natives – they don’t know how to access the tools when the need arises. So, they plan for the tool, not for the idea.