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Top 100 Tools for Learning

Still on the Cool Tools theme, I liked this list of the Top 100 Tools for Learning from the 7th Annual Learning Tools Suvey

Lots to think about and explore here, including thinking about how is YOUR  school responding to the use of these tools by teachers, many of which involved social networking or the Cloud?

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The Tools I Use

Inspired by Darcy Moore’s round-up of tools he used this year on a regular basis, I thought it’s been a while since I wrote about the software and hardware I’ve been getting the most value from this year. Lots of similarities with his list, and some differences and lots of changes since I last did a list like this.

OneNote and Evernote

I can never really finally decide between these two great note-taking tools. Evernote is friendlier but OneNote is so tightly integrated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem that you can’t ignore it. Basically I use OneNote as my main teaching tool and meeting notes tool and Evernote as my collection of random snippets, how to guides, instructions, manual and web links etc. The nicest thing about Evernote is how beautifully it works on my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and my notebook PC

Ulysses and Scrivener

For writing articles, blog posts, poems and just notes I’ve moved to Ulysses on the MAC and to it’s IOS counterpart Daedalus Text Editor on the iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the nicest iterations of that minimalist writing interface that is so popular these days and I’ve moved from iWriter and WriteRoom this year, which I both like. Please note, the new version of Writer (Writer Pro) is terrible and a rip-off at $20. I also like SimpleNote a lot, for putting some text somewhere and being able to work with it in multiple places.

Twitter

As for many teachers Twitter is my de-facto personal learning network. It use TweetBot on the iPad and generally check Twitter twice a day and email useful links around; to Evernote or to …

Pocket

Pocket is a fantastic off-site reading app. I save interesting articles to Pocket to read later, on any platform.

WordPress

I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress a while ago and haven’t regretted making that change. The ads can be a bit annoying, but you get what you pay for I guess.

Diigo

I’ve been putting my bookmarks in Diigo for years. When I get a new computer, or change computers, I just login and they’re there. The tags are the things that make it work. I often use tags or specific lists to share with students. Here’s an example of a list, for my Literature class.

Feedly

Though I use Mr Reeder on the iPad mostly, all my RSS feeds are now powered by Feedly. Some folk say that Twitter has replaced RSS, but I still find the ability to subscribe to blogs and pages invaluable. For example, I can’t imagine how I’d cope with keeping up to date with my students who are blogging if I had to go in and check all those blogs individually.

Dropbox

I’ve used this for syncing my stuff between work and home for ages, but this year I set up a shared folder for my students to upload their essays and writing practice as they were mostly scanned and too big to email. It worked a treat.

Skydrive

This is Microsoft’s Dropbox, and getting better. I migrated all my PC files to Skydrive so I can access them from the Mac at home. It’s not failsafe yet, but has improved a lot.

GoogleDocs

Lots of teachers at my school are getting excited about Google Docs and I’ve used it for student and teacher surveys, for student group work annotating key passages and for collaborating with other teachers on joint presentations. It still feels a bit clunky to write in a Google Doc, but I can’t imagine where this will be in three years time.

Text Expander

This little text utility has saved me heaps of time. For example I type /lacg and out pops Learning and Curriculum Group. Multiply that saving a zillion times!

GoodReads

I keep my reading list on GoodReads and encourage my Literature students and writing students to do the same. I’ve vacillated between this and Shelfari over the years so I guess it mostly depends on where your friend are. I think they’re both owned by Amazon now.

Schoology

We don’t have an official LMS at school and use blogs and wikis extensively. Last year I had a look at Edmodo for a while but this year I’m going to try Schoology as the learning ‘hub’ for my class and see how that works. Will keep you updated.

Chrome

My favourite browser, especially with the number of great extensions like Evernote clipper, LastPass (password manager), Pocket, Readability,

Things

Things has replaced all my old to-do apps this year. It looks and works great on Macs and IOS but not on Windows. I used TaskPaper and liked it a lot but the lack of reminders finished that for me in the end.

Filemaker Pro

I’ve been using this database for years, sometimes for keeping track of student record keeping, my own writing or wine collection (!) or just a Christmas card list. It’s more powerful than any of those purposes but that’s okay; I’ve invested so much time in learning how to use it, I’m not going to stop now.

Day One

About eighteen months ago I started keeping a daily journal in Day One, available on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s a great little app with photo, location and weather data built in and it’s helped me write and reflect every day.

What are your favourite tools? I wonder how different this list will look this time next year?

 

Monitoring (and celebrating) class behaviours with Class Dojo

A little while ago I was lamenting with my Literature class that it wasn’t always easy to document how that class went and establish what to do next, both of which are critical for effective planning, reflection, and formative assessment practice.

I take notes on student progress (formerly in OneNote, latterly in Evernote) but it takes discipline (and time) to do that after every lesson, let alone in that lesson itself. I might do that once a week, so I often don’t even have a record of who I’d had a good learning conversation with each lesson and, importantly, who I hadn’t spoken to 1-1 for a while in class.

It’s something that concerned me again recently when, at the end of term, I asked the students to complete a short online survey of how the course was going for them. Most of the results were positive; the students felt they could learn, were challenged to think and participate and enjoyed the range of activities, though one wag suggested that I could improve my tech skills 🙂

However, the lowest response came from the question: ‘Do you have a good sense of how you’re going in this class?’. It’s something that is difficult for Year 12 students sometimes, especially early in the year when they haven’t done much School Assessed Coursework (SACs) and it’s one place where a short 1-1 conversation can have much more impact than any general or group activity you set up.

But, who have I spoken to recently? Is the problem I began with.

So, I was very interested in the possibilities of the unlikely tool named Class Dojo which promises real-time behaviour monitoring. I saw the program from Roger Zuidema on Twitter and recorded that I was about to invent this!

I was surprised to get a pretty quick reply from the people who make Class Dojo too, proposing a Skype chat sometime about how it could be improved, which I’d like to do sometime.

How it works is you set up your class, who get zany colourful avatars, and you record good behaviour or bad in the class very easily via web page, iPad or iPhone. They get +/s or -/s against their name and the tally adds up. Over the lesson, or the week, or the term or whatever period you decide.

I’m lucky to work in a school where disruptive behaviour is rarely a problem but I was very interested in how this tool might be used to record learning behaviours. Our school’s reports, for example, include a set of ‘Positive learning behaviours’ from ‘Participates in class discussions’ to ‘Is organised and up to date with set work’ that teachers are asked to record in terms of how often they’ve seen their students exhibit those behaviours? Always, often, sometimes, rarely? But how do teachers record those behaviours and could Class Dojo help?

One of the first things I did was enter my students names and then showed them how the class looked via the data projector in class. They’re Year 12 students but they loved the quirky little pictures, immediately wanted to customise theirs (you can’t) or swap with someone else (you can’t).

We then looked at the behaviours section, which is at the heart of the program. We looked at the default behaviours (out of chair!) and talked about what + or – behaviours might look like in our Literature class, and then added them. One of the nice things is that you can set the positive and negative behaviours yourself and can even vary them from class to class. So, I can set up a series of learning behaviours that suit my senior Literature class, which are different to the ones I want to establish with my tutorial group in the wellbeing program. Here’s the behaviours we agreed on.

 

We agreed on these positive and negative behaviours and I was ticking off some of the things in Class Dojo through the class. This year I’ve started using a student as ‘class blogger’, who records the class discussions, rather than doing that myself all the time in OneNote, (they’re put up on the class wiki) and that’s helped free me up more to direct discussions or take records like this. So you click on the student names and assign ‘points’ as you go and it even pops up on the screen with a cool sound if you want.

At the end of the class, you get a report something like this

or you can get a report for each individual student, from any duration (whole year so far, this lesson etc) and you have the option to email that report card to a parent or student or email all the cards (it remembers the email addresses once you’ve put them in once)

 

 

I don’t think our school would approve of zany colourful non-letterheaded reports being emailed to parents, but I was happy to send them to students, always in a positive way to celebrate some ‘points’ they’d gained during the class. I wouldn’t want this to be a negative thing, and I wouldn’t be showing negative scores a lot, or giving them I hope. But, ‘not doing the homework’ is a pretty clear – in a Year 12 year.

Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun, simple and useful way to clearly document and share the good things that are going on in class? Yes. You need to have internet access and more importantly, your students on board; to involve them in the discussion about criteria and be clear and objective about how you’re using it: it’s not an assessment, it’s a tool for improving learning.

I plan to keep using it with my Literature class and wellbeing class this term and see how it goes.

 

learning:now

I enjoyed a short session this week UK educator, Stephen Heppell, under the heading, ‘learning:now’. It was a kind of meandering tour of projects he’s been involved in, with a particular emphasis on learning spaces and some key messages that resonated with me.

I liked the way he used his desktop as the presentation tool, (see his website image above for a sense of that) pulling up images and doucments and movies as he thought of them (or that’s how it seemed) and now a powerpoint slide in sight. It did mean that at times the talk lacked the dotpoint focus that comes with those tools, but it was a lot more interesting and engaging for it.

He showed lots of learning spaces he’d been involved in co-constructing with students, or he just thought showed the kind of surprise and delight that thoughtful spaces give us. I liked his image of the UK system of everyone stopping for lunch at school at the same time (‘the only place in London where you can seat 1000 people for lunch is the Dorchester and every high school’) and what that meant for how the day involved. He was all for immersive learning, teach the first week of February for a month, and time at task.

The classroom spaces he showed were ‘shoeless’ places, often where every surface is a writing surface and where the student work was celebrated and maintained. He wanted places where students could sit, perch, slump, lie (did anyone ever choose to sit up straight to read a book he asked?) And what was the point of staff rooms, he asked. If we’re all learners, why have a special space for old learners?

He talked a lot about a classroom space at Lampton, UK, that the students had designed: mood lighting, writable surfaces, skype enabled but, signficantly, the students didn’t want the room filled with technology. We’ll bring our own, they argued, and plug in. That way it will be up to date! He drew a lot on the idea of family, showing us a school that had a bread oven near the entrance so that students could smell that fresh bread cooking as they arrived and talked in this way of ‘a learning family, not a learning factory’ and schools that moved beyond placement of students in age-related groups to peer support and peer learning. He argued for ‘in-betweeny’ time, keeping the day fresh and inviiting and playful ways to do the hard stuff.

He was in favour of social technologies like Skype and Twitter (he tweets here) and flipping the classroom, so that the routine work was done at home and the interesting and challenging stuff done collaboaratively at school. He showed us some slides of stupid things that schools ban, mostly mobile phones which were often the most powerful computers in the room, turned off or banned completely.

And he DID have some key messages that resonated with me:

  • Listen to the students
  • The most risky thing you can do as a school or a system is to do nothing.
  • Teachers needs to lead this discussion – the future competitors to our schools will be Pearson
  • If you can astonish kids with the place you create and the expectations you bring, they will astonish you

ACEC 2010

I had the interesting experience of being home and online this week while the ACEC Digital Diversity 2010 Conference was on in Melbourne and for the first time I felt that I could be pretty connected the goings on from a distance.

The Twitter stream coming out of that conference was detailed and reflective. I used Twazzup or a specific search column in Tweetdeck to keep up to date with what educators were thinking about live sessions, and even the official conference website incorporated the Twitter updates right up on their front page. It also helped that Steve Collis was live-streaming some of the sessions from his notebook computer. The audio was great and while I couldn’t read all of the PowerPoint slides that presenters were talking to, I could keep up very well with the presentations.

And those presentations and thoughts aren’t lost in the ether either. Do a Twazzup search for #acec2010 and you can re-live some of the  conversation and finds links to longer blog posts reflecting on the conference and resources like this page from Gary Stager. where I found his article debunking the New York influence on our current curriculum agenda and his Amazon list of books for combatting Julia Guillard. Nice stuff! And I could sneak out for a bike ride and check out the live surfing webcast from Bells Beach as well!

combat books

Expanding learning horizons 2008

Just arrived in Lorne this afternoon for the Expanding Learning Horizons 2008 Conference, which I’m looking forward to. I haven’t been for a few years so I’m looking forward to connecting up with old friends, making new connections, learning a lot and presenting with a colleague on online safety and ethics.

I took the ferry across from Sorrento to Queenscliff, and drove down in the rain listening to This Week in Tech on the ipod to get in the mood. I hope to blog a little about the conference as it develops, or even send some twitter updates as well.

Meanwhile, conference details, program, etc. are online HERE