Veni, VIDEO, Vici

Ok, I admit it … the title is not that “punny” but it is a nod to my great passion for Ancient History. I have found myself recently making far greater use of video creation; especially as a way to both engage and assess students. I’m assuming that your visit to this blog means that you accept the significance of “creation over consumption.” Modern students are visual learners and they are also great consumers of content. However, in my experience, nothing offers greater motivation than the opportunity to create content for a wide audience outside of the classroom. For me, this imperative is best encapsulated in the following extract from my 2015 HTAWA Keynote but most especially in the Ruston Hurley quote

“… I believe that authentic learning simply must be paired with authentic audience. Constricted by syllabus requirements, most typically at senior level, too many teachers continue to tell students to submit hard copies of assessment items. By contrast, Alan November tells us that we need to “stop saying hand it in and start saying publish it instead.” … Yes, this publishing will often have to be in addition to meeting the more mundane requirements, but it allows students to showcase their work in the real world. It will, with apologies to Red Bull, give their work wings. Ruston Hurley tells us If students are sharing their work with the world, they want it to be good. If they’re just sharing it with you, they want it to be good enough.”

Image sourced from:http://static.highexistence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/create.jpg

Image sourced from:http://static.highexistence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/create.jpg

I recently took teaching colleagues from my school through a professional learning session which focused upon some of the lesser known features of YouTube. The prolific video sharing site continues to build staggering numbers for viewing but very few teachers know of the ability to create videos within YouTube. Not only that but you can easily convert any PowerPoint into a film, upload it to YouTube and then add commentary or music. When you become a little more proficient you can annotate your videos to include student questions or even hyperlink to other videos and create a “choose your own adventure.” My favourite feature however, is the fact that you can create several channels using just the one email address. I now have four channels; my own “Connected Teacher” channel, one for sharing resources with staff and two others for subject groups.

The last task for my Year 11 Ancient History students this year was to create a two minute video about an aspect of daily life in Egypt. These have been uploaded to our special channel, “Pharaoh’s Film Festival.” This is a public channel; so, feel free to visit, use the videos, subscribe, use it as a model for your own classroom project or, better yet, leave some comments for the students. The full playlist of student videos can be found here!

I’ve embedded the Student Playlist below.

Time to Subscribe!

Time to Subscribe!

Given that I’ve been waxing lyrical about video creation I should at least leave you with some resources. My recent article for Australian Teacher Magazine entitled “Creation Over Consumption” (Go figure!) can currently be found online at

http://au.educationhq.com/news/37183/technology-helpdesk-creation-over-consumption/

My school based session on YouTube was shared as Issue 12, “YouTube and You” as part of my Bite Sized Learning series. The whole series (so far) can be found on my other site at www.theconnectedteacher.com.au

Checking For A Pulse

“Let’s be honest now and admit it – we all feel lazy sometimes when we have to write a blog …” (from professional blogger Tom Jager)

This will only be my fourth blog post of the 2016 school year; I haven’t just been lazy but more so comatose. “Write a blog post” was added to my To Do List back in June, so you can see why I am regularly checking for a pulse. That’s something I haven’t done since my son was a teenager. It’s certainly not that I have nothing to say, I always have a lot to say. So, what has been the problem?

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

This printable To Do List (https://invincibleinc.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/printable_todo_list/) is clearly missing a NEVER column.

I think I finally have an answer. The mere fact that so many schools have an eLearning Manager (I only use this because “Full Time Multi-Tasking Tech Ninja” is not an actual job title. Note to self, must get that on a T-Shirt) is an admission of failure. If the much hyped Digital Education Revolution had succeeded, I should be back teaching History full time. More on that later. The reality is that I’ve become an actual “Jack of all (Tech) Trades” and consequently master of none. I frequently research tools for colleagues, trial them, pass on the key information and … repeat! I regularly visit classrooms to troubleshoot tech problems. My role has led to me having a little bit of knowledge about 100s of tools but few that I have mastered.

Given the necessary authority (… All Hail Imperator Simonus,) I would be insistent upon all teachers having the same digital toolbox. This would comprise six or eight tools that every teacher masters and uses in their classroom. We are forever reading about standardised tests and general capabilities for students. Surely this standardisation should also extend to the digital capabilities of teachers. But I already know the type of objections I would hear, “I’m a Maths teacher, why do I need to know how to screencast?” I know because I actually received this comment.

This term I have returned to teaching an Ancient Studies class and I’m far from comatose there; it looks more like caffeine fuelled hyperactivity. I suspect it is in part about using technology to increase the engagement of students with whom I’ve built a personal relationship. My first moves into technology came out of a passion to improve my teaching … if only you could teach passion to others! Still, like all good emperors, I will continue to build my empire,  protect the citizens and repel the barbarians at the gate. But, for now, I’m off to cross this post of my list. Another post soon … maybe!

I know it's Vespasian ... But I can see the resemblance.

I know it’s Vespasian … But I can see the resemblance.

Bite-Sized Professional Learning

As some of you would already know, I made a “tree change” last year and headed to the Barossa Valley. As the new eLearning Manager in my school, one of my first initiatives was to set up a fortnightly “newsletter” in the form of a Weebly created site. Each issue contained five items; no more and no less. There was, what I believed to be, an appropriate mix of topics; the latest theory or trend, new apps, video tutorials and a regular “How To…” column. This was an attempt to give teachers the opportunity for some regular professional learning “at leisure.” All the feedback was positive and I saw no reason not to continue in 2016.

For Weebly Pro Users there is the opportunity to access detailed analytics of your website traffic. In the first term this year I noticed that the readership of the newsletter had fallen away dramatically; to as little as five percent of the teaching staff. I wasn’t particularly miffed but did want to know the reasons for the drop-off. I brought up the matter at a committee meeting and I was certainly bemused by the three reasons I kept hearing in various forms …

  1. “People are tech-weary, we’re sick of hearing about it all the time.”
  2. “Your newsletter took too long to read; sometimes it was 15 or 20 minutes.”
  3. “I would have been more likely to read it as a print out.” (Seriously, a printed eLearning Newsletter!)

To me they each seemed like a version of that same old excuse which has long made me bypass miffed and go straight to “bl**** angry.” It surely can’t be acceptable any longer to say “I haven’t got time for this.”

IMG_2055

Pleasingly, it didn’t take me long to come up with an alternative; a Tip of the Week in poster form, created in the excellent Piktochart. (Hell, people can even print it if they want to!) I really enjoy the design process and so I’m happy to do this … in that sense at least. But seriously, how effective can it be to deliver bite-sized professional learning!

*If you would like to use or just check out my first two tips, just use the links below:

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/13743968-untitled-poster

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/14051589-week-2

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.28.37 PM

I Was That Guy

(#Bloggermore2015 6/26)

Friday, March 27 2015

One day in late June of 2013 I had a revelation, or an epiphany or maybe it was an aneurism! Up until that particular day, I typically referred to myself as “just a teacher.” I certainly knew more than most about educational technology but I didn’t categorise myself as anything special. The Banyo Campus of the Australian Catholic University had chosen me as one of several, experienced classroom teachers to become sessional tutors. As a group, our main responsibility was to help prepare pre-service teachers for their first practicum. When my passion for EdTech was discovered, I was invited to deliver a guest lecture. On the appointed day, a senior member of the Education Faculty introduced the guest speaker and each statement was met with a murmur, a comment or the occasional, “Wow!” Clearly, the attendees viewed their guest as someone special and … I was that guy. I realised that surviving over 30 years in the classroom was an achievement in itself and these young people were a willing audience.

In the subsequent two years, I’ve become increasingly “sought after” as a speaker and writer. Indeed, these first two hundred words (well, 197 actually!) were written on a plane to Perth where, tomorrow, I’ll deliver my first Keynote address at the annual HTAWA (History Teachers Association of Western Australia) State Conference. So, how did it all go?

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Launching In to My Very First Keynote

Wednesday, April 1 2015

I was pleasantly surprised by both the size of the audience and the number of familiar (Twitter) faces. My chosen focus “Turning Up the Heat: Teaching History in a Connected Digital World” was a “nice fit” for the conference theme of Connect, Engage, Respond. I did my best to provide attendees with a clear vision of what I believe a modern history classroom should look like. Most were duly impressed with the various apps and Web tools that I introduced: Haiku Deck, ThingLink, Trading Cards, TimeLine HD, Pinterest, Zaption, Nearpod and more. My main purpose however was to unveil a secondary Twitter account that I have called HEATT. As much as I normally loathe acronyms, this one stands for History Education Advanced Through Technology. (Clever, eh!) My idea is to make it a space for all History teachers to share digital resources. You can join that account @HEATT2015 It is an attempt to chip away at the image of History teachers as “parroters” of content. History must now be about collaboration and content creation. I would like to say more, but I will eventually upload the full text of my keynote.

Overall, I was pleased with my first effort as a Keynote speaker; I certainly received positive feedback. But, I was over-prepared and over-length. I lost some of the “natural ease” which I think is one of my strengths as a presenter. Either that or Alzheimers has rocked up! I do know I want to do more and better on a wider stage. After all, I am “That Guy.”

Write Better-er With Grammar-ly

(#Bloggermore2015 3/26)

This is my 34th year as a classroom teacher of History and English. I shudder to think how many student drafts and completed essays I must have read. But, I’d hazard a guess that it would be closing in on 100,000 pages. And don’t even get me started on the number of spelling and grammatical errors I’ve struck through with a flourish of red pen. Would it be a million? Or more? I know that it was common these past few years for me to be grammatically outraged.

... and this is just one week's worth! Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

… and this is just one week’s worth!
Image: Copyright Chris Morgan at www.cxmedia.com

So, with that particular rant done, let me turn to the actual subject of this post. Grammar-ly is a comparatively new arrival into the realm of web applications which we call “grammar checkers.” The developers proudly boast that Grammarly will locate ten times the number of errors, in spelling, punctuation and grammar, than a word processing program … and you know what; they’re right. Having experimented with a test document, I decided it was worthwhile to include some screen shots. As you’ll see in the first, Grammarly did locate a large number of errors.

Just look at the errors ... fortunately it wasn't me that made them!

Just look at the errors … fortunately it wasn’t me that made them!

 

The feature that I most applaud is the explanation given as to the nature of the error. Take a look …

The error explained.

The error explained.

I can certainly see a whole range of benefits for authors, students (especially at senior secondary and tertiary levels) and education professionals. Grammarly conducted a study amongst freelance writers which concluded that writing ability (and accuracy) can have a considerable effect upon career opportunities. The results of the study were presented in infographic form in The Huffington Post. Pleasingly, Grammarly have given me permission to include that infographic here.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.

Proof that writing skills certainly do matter.

 

Grammarly has already attracted more than four million users around the world. There is a great Chrome extension and further versions and updates are on the way. If you want to know more than my bare bones review then please use this link grammarly.com/grammar-check

PS: I do wish auto correct wouldn’t keep changing Grammarly to Gram Marly … sounds like a Jamaican reggae star!

PPS: Yes, I did run this blog post through Grammarly … no further comment will be made on the errors!

My Top 5 iPad Apps For 2015

(#Bloggermore2015 2/26)

To Australian readers … I hope you are enjoying our national holiday; even though, in most parts of the nation, tomorrow will see students returning to school for the first day of the new school year. I thought this might be an opportune time to share five of my favourite iPad apps; apps that will have a big role to play in my year. One is new (at least to me) while the rest are returning for another year of great service.

1. ThingLink continues to introduce new features at regular intervals. The ability to take an image or video and add a variety of links (such as further images, information, video or questions) has countless possibilities in the classroom. I have found ThingLink particularly useful for teaching visual literacy and interpretation in Senior History. If you’ve never seen a ThingLink, this link will take you to one of mine

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/311319169452736514

2. Socrative provides teachers with the opportunity to quickly create quizzes or polls. Students can easily respond either from the companion app or from any Web browser. Socrative will even email you the results with valuable analysis. Great too for exit tickets and for younger students there’s the Space Race game … which I’ve been known to play with very enthusiastic Year 12s!

3. Trading Cards quickly became one of my favourites. As the name would imply, teachers and students can make trading cards for a range of uses. The cards are especially useful for student revision but are also a novel way to deliver otherwise “dry” content. A great app from ReadWriteThink; the partially completed example below shows you the possibilities …

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

Trading Cards; great for History but suitable for all subjects and ages.

4. Weebly will undoubtedly be familiar to many of you and it continues to be my “go to” app for building websites. You will also find that students quickly adapt to the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design method. Once published, the site can be accessed from any device. The available features in Weebly are too numerous to list here but the link below will take you to one of my sites as an example. (*You should consider, as I have done, buying a PRO subscription for even more features.)

http://elsinoreinashmore.weebly.com

5. Workflow is the new kid on my block. I’m certainly not an experienced user of this app but I’m excited about the possibilities for time impoverished teachers. Workflow allows you to “connect apps and actions together to automate things you do on your device. To build a workflow, just drag and drop.” You can add any workflow to your home screen as an “app” and then launch it with a tap. Check it out; I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and excited (or is that relieved?) as I am.

Well, that’s it for #Bloggermore2015 2/26 … I’ll be back within two weeks for another exciting instalment.

ACEC 2014: Riding the Social Media Wave in Education

The briefest of posts … Today I had the opportunity to present at ACEC 2014 in Adelaide; my first public appearance in my new home state. My chosen topic was the use of social media tools in the classroom; with a special emphasis upon Twitter, phrase.it and Chogger. Below you will find, as promised, the SlideShare upload of my slides. Of course, I would be more than happy for attendees to make whatever use of these that you may wish! I welcome comments and questions from all; not just those who were present.

PS: It was great to have Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock) present for my session … and nodding in agreement. (I think!) PPS: Apologies for one or two misplaced images … a consequence of creating in Keynote, exporting to PowerPoint and then uploading to SlideShare.

The Arrival of the iPadEd Evangelist

This will be the very quickest of updates; I’m busily working on two upcoming conference presentations … and tomorrow I’m delivering a guest lecture at the McAuley Campus of the Australian Catholic University. That particular assault on the sensitivities of Pre-Service teachers is called “Smashing Your Classroom.” (Check back later in the week to see what that is all about!)

July, much like June, was a BIG month! I’m a huge fan of the iAnnotate app created by Branchfire; a great option for annotating PDF files and especially assessing student drafts. Their interview questions gave me an opportunity to write about a number of aspects; not just my use of the app. But, I do like being labelled as a “power user” and an “iPadEd Evangelist.” Let’s not talk about how shallow I am … that could take days.

If you haven’t discovered the delights of iAnnotate then now is most certainly a good time to do so. In the meantime, the following link will take you to my profile on the iAnnotate Blog:

http://www.branchfire.com/simon-mckenzie

Distressingly, this could actually be me as a 7 year old

Distressingly, this could actually be me as a 7 year old

Tuesday, August 5 … well my guest gig at the Brisbane of campus of ACU is “done and dusted.” As in the past, I found the large audience of pre-service teachers to be thoroughly engaged, enthusiastic and receptive to my cabaret. But then, I did read somewhere recently that “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.” (Gail Godwin)

As much as I revel in presenting to any audience (and the high rates of university pay) I would do it for nothing (don’t try to hold me to this!) simply in return for the feedback from those who attended. It’s great to feel genuinely appreciated.

Thanks for the great review Anna!

 

Thanks for the Feedback ACU

Thanks ACU

For the students themselves, or indeed anyone who may be interested, here (via Scribd) is my lecture on “Smashing Your Classroom.” Please, as always, feel free to make use of this presentation in anyway … and I’d welcome your feedback and questions.

 

Smashing Your Classroom

The Meteoric Rise of a Rockstar

It has been a crazy week; an even crazier past 48 hours. Yesterday I visited three schools in my “district” looking at various approaches to BYOD with a view to 2015. In the afternoon I was fortunate enough to attend the Gold Coast’s first ever (much anticipated and long overdue) Teach Meet. I’m pleased to say that the event was everything I had expected and more. Close to 100 teachers were present at the Guardian Angels Primary School in Ashmore and I was amongst the ten presenters. I took the opportunity to outline the “Innova8” program that I have been conducting for one hour per week with my Year 8 class. This project is based upon the well known Google 20% Time, although you may also have heard it referred to as Genius Hour or The Passion Project. I had promised to upload my presentation for the benefit of those who attended but I hope others will also find it beneficial. If you are interested in starting a similar project I would certainly welcome and respond to your questions. You will also find a link within the presentation to take you to the students “Innova8.1 Showcase” … this site will continue to grow. Do use the presentation if you wish and by all means “show off” our showcase.

Innova8 (Google 20% Time)

During the afternoon I was referred to as an “EdTech Rockstar.” Now, I have to admit that I do revel in fancy titles and the odd dose of adulation. But, more importantly, it gave me a great opening for the guest lecture that I delivered this morning at the Banyo Campus of the Australian Catholic University. Introducing myself as a rockstar I was able to follow up with

“But just one look at this pasty old white guy, tells you that I’m far more Mick Jagger than Flo Rida.”

No need for you to agree with me, I do own mirrors! I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to speak to an auditorium full of our next generation of teachers. My chosen topic was “Create, Collaborate, Curate … and Become a Connected Teacher.” Although some aspects of my presentation are directly linked to the requirements of the unit, I hope other readers will also find my “musings” worthwhile. Once again, I am more than happy for you to use individual slides or the whole presentation if it is of value. I welcome also your questions and feedback.

ACU Lecture: Create, Collaborate and Curate

Using Technology to Combat the Boys’ Literacy Problem

A few months back I was approached by Robin Canedy who works with the Pathways Charter School in San Diego. Specifically, Robin had teachers who were interested in contributing a guest post to my blog. After several delays (all of them mine!) I now want to introduce my guest contributor, Alanna Gasser who is a teacher and freelance writer in California.
Her post seems particularly pertinent given the subject matter of my recent workshop on visual literacy at the Queensland History Teachers’ Association annual conference. Alanna quite rightly, in my opinion, points out that boys “…will generally respond to visual and kinesthetic teaching strategies more effectively.” I ask you to give Alanna’s post your full consideration and as always, please do post comments.

Using Technology to Combat the Boys’ Literacy Problem

It is a rather well-known educational issue that boys tend to fall behind girls when it comes to reading and writing skills. National studies including those in the USA, Canada, and the UK show that boys’ literacy scores are lower than girls’ on standardized tests, that boys are more likely to be placed in special needs programs, and more likely to drop out of school. It is also fairly well recognized that most boys will generally respond to visual and kinesthetic teaching strategies more effectively. Could embracing visual and social technologies in the classroom be just the thing we need to help boost boys’ literacy scores?

The Problem

Robert Lipsyte argues in this New York Times essay “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?”, that part of the problem lies in the female domination of the book publishing business, schools, and more specifically, school libraries. He claims that boys are generally more inclined to read non-fiction, and that the kinds of books boys are interested are not the same kinds of books supported by the education system.

Judith Kleinfeld, founder of the not-for-profit Boys’ Project, has similarly argued that the literacy gap between boys and girls is far wider than the sciences/maths gap for girls which has, in the past, been another hot education topic. Astonishingly, she claims that more than 25% of American male high school students cannot read and understand a newspaper article. A summary of her Boys’ Project findings can be found here, as explained by Richard Whitmire.

A common complaint amongst male students’ parents is that they wish their son would drop their video game controller, turn off the computer, put down their smart phone…. and pick up a school book! Something a few educators have begun to catch on to is the idea of using this kind of excitement and engagement with technology, and turning it into a tool for student success.

Image Credit: www.weskids.com

Image Credit: www.weskids.com

Video Games

Why not, for example, let role-playing video games play a role in literacy learning? These games certainly involve a degree of reading and comprehension, as the player must read the back story about the characters and purpose of the game, and understand the tasks he is being asked to complete.

One assignment could involve having students create their own video game world, and write the script for the game’s back story. Another assignment could be for students to write a short summary explaining the back story of their favourite game, or an episode from one of their latest role-playing video game adventures. In this way, the students are engaged by the visual and kinesthetic excitement of video games, and the teachers get to sneak in some very complex reading comprehension and creative writing practice.

Bitstrips

While we are at it, why not turn to boys’ love of action-packed comic strips/graphic novels into yet another technology-based literacy tool? This is essentially the premise behind using Bitstrips, a web-based, teaching-friendly tool which allows teachers and students to easily create unique and interesting comic strips for the classroom.

Teachers can use them as another medium for presenting content to students, or as a creative writing assignment for students. One of the main reasons Bitstrips are so effective for teaching literacy is because the student (or teacher!) can choose from banks of images rather than relying on artistic skills, and can thus focus more time and attention to the written content of the comic strip. Boys in particular will respond to the visual element Bitstrips provide, and students will enjoy sharing and discussing one another’s work.

Text Messaging

Another popular topic in the field of technology and education is the debate surrounding the use of cell phones in the classroom. One camp is prone to arguing that cell phones are a constant distraction and that their use only hinders effective teaching and learning. The other camp argues that their use is inevitable – text communication is so pervasive that fighting students’ engagement with it is a losing battle – and that educators should embrace the technology instead. In fact, one report claims that 54% of teenagers opt for text-tech communication, and that most of them choose this form of communication over face-to-face or oral communication methods.

Image Credit: ryanrmartinez.wordpress.com

Image Credit: ryanrmartinez.wordpress.com

A few resources have come about which limit the number of privacy and ethical issues associated with text messaging in the classroom. For example, Celly, a mobile social networking application, allows teachers to keep phone numbers private/anonymous, and gives them the control to keep messages on-topic and appropriate.

There are many ways of using text messaging in the classroom. Teachers can encourage students to use text-messaging shorthand when taking notes, they can compare text-messaging lexicon to formal writing as a means of discussing audience and purpose in texts, they can use text messaging to promote conciseness and brevity in writing, and text messages can be sent as a medium for class discussions and debates. The possibilities are virtually endless, and because students are already so very involved in the texting phenomena, these assignments will be ones that they can relate to, and which they will be more motivated to participate in.

Despite some popular concerns related to the availability of resources (not every student will have video games, a computer, and a cell phone), privacy (sharing phone numbers), and with the possibility of cyber-bullying looming in the background, the possibility that technology can improve boys’ literacy rates is promising. Boys respond to the visual elements of video games and comic strips, and the conciseness/brevity of comic strips and text messaging make literacy more accessible to boys. If technology makes literacy skills practice more interesting and accessible for boys… well then, what are we hesitating for?