Apr 18 2012

Three useful tips with Google Forms

Filed under Uncategorized

My first tip is how to use Flubaroo to mark the results collected from students through a Google Form. The video below gives you an overview of how you can use it. I’ve followed the step-by-step instructions on how to use Flubaroo from their site and it worked really well and in record time!  I can see this saving me HOURS of work.

My second Google Form idea came from an older post on the Google Docs blog showing how you can use Google Forms to create a ‘Choose your own adventure’ story. This would be quite a novel way for students to build their own pick a path stories.

Here are a couple of examples of this in action:

The lily pad

The woods

The final useful idea is using Google Forms to collect information which can be used to create individual letters (mail merge). This would be really useful if you are using Google Forms for administrative purposes.

Have you stumbled over any good Google Form tips recently or have you tried some of the above already?

Comments Off

Oct 04 2011

The importance of coaches

Filed under Uncategorized

I have just read a fasinating article about an experienced surgeon working at the top of his field that was looking for a way to continue learning and improving in his profession. He had a ‘aha moment’ when an unexpected tennis lesson made improvements to the speed of his serve despite having felt that his serve was the best part of his game. He goes on to look at whether other professionals make use of coaches once they are seen to be performing at a high level and talks to concert violinists, opera singers, and school teachers before asking a retired surgeon that he respects to be his own coach in the operating theatre. The results speak for themselves!
Some of the interesting quotes from this article in relation to the coaching programme that he observes in a school district are:

Workshops led teachers to use new skills in the classroom only ten per cent of the time. Even when a practice session with demonstrations and personal feedback was added, fewer than twenty per cent made the change. But when coaching was introduced—when a colleague watched them try the new skills in their own classroom and provided suggestions—adoption rates passed ninety per cent. A spate of small randomized trials confirmed the effect. Coached teachers were more effective, and their students did better on tests.

I also found it interesting that there was a lot of resistance to coaching by some teachers in the district where coaches are made available to them.

All teachers in their first two years are required to accept a coach, but the program also offers coaching to any teacher who wants it. Not everyone has. Researchers from the University of Virginia found that many teachers see no need for coaching. Others hate the idea of being observed in the classroom, or fear that using a coach makes them look incompetent, or are convinced, despite assurances, that the coaches are reporting their evaluations to the principal. And some are skeptical that the school’s particular coaches would be of any use.

The feeling of being ‘exposed’ while teaching is something that we have all experienced while being observed. As the article says, not everyone is a good coach so half the challenge I guess is finding that person that you are comfortable with and then being open to changing your practice.
I know that when I was working as a facilitator for a cluster, I was in the role of a coach but not all the teachers that I was working with had ‘bought in’ to the process and the level of contact I had with each individual teacher was not really enough to be an effective coach. I also had trouble getting into a lot of teachers’ classrooms with teachers more comfortable to work with me while released from their class. This was probably to do with the fact that it takes time to build up the trust required to be that ‘critical friend’ and many felt a little threatened by the process. Having read this article, it becomes even clearer that this was not an effective way of working with many of the teachers that were in that cluster.
Teaching online as I do at the moment, anyone can ‘drop in’ to my Adobe lessons but the timing isn’t always that great. I’ve taken to filming some of my lessons using screencast software on my computer so that these can be shared with people at a later date to get their feedback. I find this far less threatening than having someone in there during the session itself (which is something I am trying to work on!).
So do we have enough opportunities for quality coaching in our profession? Have you had someone that has been a ‘coach’ that you’ve been able to work with successfully to make changes to your practice beyond those first few years in the job?
There is a big movement towards teachers being involved in a continual round of upskilling through the teacher inquiry process but how many teachers get to do this with the input of a trusted and respected coach to help them through the process? Another thought – thinking around this also ties in with the e-learning framework which talks about teachers being mentored at the ‘Enabling’ and ‘Empowering’ levels of ‘Sustaining a professional e-learning community’. So what do we see this mentoring looking like?

2 responses so far

Jul 14 2011

Should we still value general knowledge or not?

Filed under Uncategorized

I am currently working with a group of eight teachers to work through a teacher inquiry process where they identify a curriculum need for their students and then match this to an ICT tool that can help them address this need.  Teachers have been sharing the curriculum focus with me over the last week and I have been helping them to identify possible ways of working with ICT that they will implement in Term Three. I deliberately set out to work with teachers who might be a little lacking in confidence and I am finding it interesting to see what they are deciding to focus on.

One teacher wants to concentrate on improving the students’ general knowledge. I found this to be a little challenging to my own beliefs about teaching and learning in a digital age. Should we still be trying to build up ‘general knowledge’ at a time when students can find out almost any fact they want by doing a Google search? How could I approach this subject in order to make the teacher feel her ideas were valued while still keeping the focus on effective pedagogy? Was I right to think that general knowledge was now not as important? Do my own feelings partly stem from the fact I can never remember names, dates or locations so I am truly terrible in a quiz night team?

So I did what I normally do – I started to search around the net using Google. In this way, I stumbled across an article titled ‘Is Google killing general knowledge’ I enjoyed the article and thought that it did a pretty good job arguing the point that we do still need to have a basic level of knowledge to be effective learners. Here is a quote from that article:


IS GOOGLE KILLING GENERAL KNOWLEDGE? | More Intelligent Life via kwout

This article still makes the case for knowing facts while also recognising that the internet is a game changer as it allows people to continue to build their knowledge over their lifetime by being able to tap into the great collective knowledge.

So I was feeling a little more comfortable with the importance of facts but still not sure about teaching them in isolation. As a compromise, I came up with an activity that would help to develop information literacy skills while students learn ‘general knowledge’. Here is how I described it to the teacher:

A group of students could have a category each week to research (eg Famous monuments of the world) and they have to write 10 questions that you put into a form tool for the rest of the class to answer (which they can also do by researching). The students writing the questions have to show that the facts they are using are valid using the ’3 sources rule’. Then the next group can have a turn.

To prepare for this, you could do some work with your class on knowing how to check the information you find on the net is valid. I have links and useful videos about doing this with students on my wiki.

At the top of the page, there are searching tips including some videos from Google.

Here is an example of a Google Form that they could use to put in the questions for the other students to answer (I ran out of energy after four questions but you get the idea).

So, have I sold my principles down the river in order to work in with what a teacher wants to do or is this type of activity valid? I would love your thoughts.

5 responses so far

Apr 05 2011

Skype for education

Filed under Uncategorized

This is just a quick late night post to share a video about how to sign up on Skype as an educator in order to find other educators to collaborate with. Very cool! I am going to turn over a new blogging leaf after my long period of silence :-)

How to create a profile and find a teacher from Skype in the classroom on Vimeo.

One response so far

Nov 15 2010

Organising the web

Filed under Uncategorized

OK – so I haven’t been very prolific recently on this blog but with my son Toby due in a week’s time and my 14 month old daughter Zoe to keep me busy as well, I guess some of my online life has taken a back seat :-)

Still, here is an article I wrote recently for a magazine that looks at two different tools for creating live collections of websites. They are both good tools for different reasons though I probably lean more to Live Bookmarks.

Organising the web

In education, there are many times you need to organise content from the internet. You might be creating a bank of websites for the students to access around a topic (or be asking them to do this), categorising useful teacher websites to be able to easily find them again, sharing great websites with other educators, or creating activities for students to complete as they move through different websites. Bookmarking sites on your own computer may help you to find them again but it doesn’t allow for many of the other functions.

There are online tools that allow you or your students to build up link resource banks that can be shared easily. Many people know about tools such as Delicious or Diigo for online bookmarking . However, there are now new tools that give you live versions of each bookmarked site rather than just a static link in a list. This article is going to focus on two such tools; LiveBinders and Jog the Web. Both are excellent options and have slightly different focuses.



The name of this tool pretty much sums up the way this tool works. You can set up an online ‘binder’ around a topic of your choice. Within each binder, you can have tabs containing live versions of websites. You can also create subtabs within each tab so you can break a tab topic down into subtopics. Below is an example of a LiveBinder I have set up to share Web 2.0 tools. You can visit this LiveBinder at this address: http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=26329

Live Binders subtopic

Live Binders subtopic

The live versions of the sites that load within the tabs or subtabs can be navigated through without leaving the Live Binder environment or you can click on the hyperlink at the top of the window to visit the site directly.

Clicking on ‘Edit Menu’ while working within Live Binders gives you a number of extra options. You can upload a file into a tab or subtab, change the position of a tab or subtab, insert media from sites such as Flickr, YouTube or Delicious links, change the layout of a tab or subtab so that you can include your own text or content, and change the properties of the binder including the title, description and colour scheme.

Text layout options

Text layout options

A LiveBinder can also be added to while surfing the net by adding their bookmarklet to the toolbar of your browser. Simply click on the bookmarklet (called LiveBinder It ) and you will be asked to select one of your binders to add the site to or be given the option to add it to a new binder that you can create on the fly.

LiveBinder It

LiveBinder It

Finally, sharing a LiveBinder is very straightforward. You can send people an email with the link to a specific binder or embed a visual link to the LiveBinder within a blog or wiki page.

Embedded LiveBinders

Embedded LiveBinders

Jog the Web


Jog the Web has less customisation than LiveBinders but what it does, it does very well making this another useful tool.

You can create ‘steps’ within a ‘Jog’ which are basically live versions of the sites listed in a sequential order down the left side of the Jog. You can either use the arrows to move through the sites in order or click on each site listed on the left.

Jog Interface

Jog Interface

You can add text to the top of the live website so that you can give information and instructions related to the site. I do think that the interface on Jog the Web does this function a little better than LiveBinders which is why it lends itself particularly well to building web challenges or guided tours of sites.

Jog Step

Jog Step

You can also choose to add your own content pages as a step within a jog. You have different layout options for these pages and the page editor gives you lots of customisation options within the page. You can even edit the html so I was able to embed content such as Slideshare presentations.

Jog your own content

Jog your own content

Embedding Slideshare presentations

Embedding Slideshare presentations

If you are using Firefox, you can install an extension that allows you to add to a Jog while browsing the net. As yet, there is no support for other browsers.

Firefox Jog Extension

Firefox Jog Extension

Finally, you can share your Jog easily by giving people the URL to visit the Jog. The embed option creates a ready made hyperlink but does not give you a visual object to embed on your wiki or blog. You can access the URL from the final page called the ‘End Page’.

There are a couple of downsides in that there is quite a bit of advertising on the Comment and End pages which are added to every Jog created in a free account. You can also not control the comments that are added to a Jog, which can become an issue if people leave inappropriate comments. Overall though, I think this would be a handy tool to use in the classroom.

2 responses so far

Sep 17 2010

Wall Wisher – online brainstorming

What is Wall Wisher?

Wall Wisher is an online Web 2.0 application that allows someone that has signed up for an account (free) to create a digital wall.  Once given the URL of the wall, a number of users can simultaneously post virtual sticky notes to the wall making it a great tool for gathering contributions during a brainstorming session. A big advantage is that the users do not need to have accounts themselves to post a sticky note so it is quick and easy to use in a group situation. Sticky notes can contain up to 160 characters and can include hyperlinks to other sites. Multimedia that is hosted online on other sites, such as images, videos and sound files, can also be added to a sticky note by using the URL. Once a wall has been created, you can also embed the wall in other online spaces such as wiki pages or blog posts.

How can you use Wall Wisher in your classroom?

This simple yet effective tool has a number of classroom applications. Here is a list of some ideas to get you started.

Use Wall Wisher to:

  • brainstorm knowledge about a topic before beginning a study
  • brainstorm key questions to investigate during a study
  • summarise key learning points about a topic after a study
  • collect student feedback on a lesson
  • have students collect feedback from their peers on the work they have completed
  • create ‘to do lists’
  • link to online resources for a given topic
  • link to work that students have completed that is available online
  • create a multimedia space for a topic where students can view videos and images or listen to sound files as well as add their own
  • brainstorm ideas on how to deal with issues that have arisen in the classroom
  • have students document how they are demonstrating the key competencies

To see Wall Wisher in action and add your own ideas to the ones above, visit the wall set up at this address: http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/interface

Example of Wall Wisher

Example of Wall Wisher

How does Wall Wisher work?

Visit http://wallwisher.com and sign up for a free account. Click on ‘Build a wall’ at the top right of the screen. You will then be given a number of options for your wall.

Wall Wisher interface

You need to add a title, subtitle and image for your wall.  You also need to choose the end of the URL for the wall and decide who will be able to leave sticky notes on the wall. Once you have completed all of those steps, click on ‘Done’ in the bottom right of the screen. The wall will be created and you will be sent an email containing the URL of the wall to give out to other people.

To add a sticky note, users need to double click anywhere on the wall.  You can type up to 140 characters into a sticky note. You can also add an image, audio track or video link by pasting in the URL of where these are hosted online.When you have finished adding your content to the sticky note,  need to click on ‘OK’ on the bottom right corner of the sticky note to ensure the note is visible to others and remains on the wall.

Close up of a sticky note.

Close up of a sticky note.

One response so far

Aug 25 2010

Voicethread gets better and better

Filed under Uncategorized,web 2.0

Anyone that has been to workshops I run on Web 2.0 tools knows that I am a HUGE fan of Voicethread. To my mind, the three big online tools are blogs, wikis and Voicethread. Other tools that I speak about are great but they are not as central to me as these three (though Google Docs would come close!) I am always impressed at the ways Voicethread continues to innovate (and they’ve just given the site a makeover too!). Here are a couple of features of Voicethread that I think are really valuable. They might have been around since last year but I’ve just tripped over them. I read about them within the Voicethread blog https://voicethread.com/blog/#20090911

Searching within Voicethread for Creative Commons images in Flickr

This is a new development for adding images to Voicethread straight from Flickr that have a Creative Commons license. You do have to have a Flickr account to link to your Voicethread account for you to be able to make access this feature. Here are the steps involved.

Step one

Upload optionsMedia source optionsClick on ‘Create’ to make a new Voicethread and then click on ‘Upload’ and select the option’Media Sources’ and then choose the ‘Flickr’ option.

Step Two

Click on the link to import Flickr images from your Flickr account into your Voicethread. If you have not done this before, you will be prompted to link your Flickr account with your Voicethread account.  Once you have done this, the option to search Flickr for Creative Commons licensed images is at the top of the screen.

Flickr CC search VT

Step Three

You can click on the ‘i’ next to the title of an image in the search results to see more details such as the specific Creative Commons license.  Click on each image you want to add to your Voicethread and then select ‘Import’.



The brilliant thing about this option is that Voicethread automatically adds a link back to the image on Flickr on the Voicethread slide so there is no need to worry about attribution.

Changing the order of comments on a Voicethread

I have wanted to do this before but didn’t realise I could.  This is a direct quote from the blog:

If you are the creator or editor of a VoiceThread you can now reorder the comments by moving your mouse over any comment segment on the timeline beneath the VoiceThread.  Just hold down the shift key while over the timeline and then click-drag to move a comment segment to another position.  This will allow you much greater control over the quality of your conversations.

So basically, I continue to be impressed at Voicethread and look forward to ongoing future improvements.

One response so far

Jul 05 2010

The Twitter Times

Filed under web 2.0

I’ve just found out about a handy Twitter tool that helps to ‘mine’ information from your Twitter contacts. One of the best things about Twitter is that you can access a huge number of interesting links that people Tweet about. However, if you are not watching Twitter 24/7 then you are going to miss a lot of that Twitter goodness. The Twitter Times goes through all your contacts and puts together a top list of links ordered by the number of people in your network that have tweeted about it. As most of the people in my Twitter network are educators, this list of links becomes very interesting from an educational perspective. Try making a list of links from your own Twitter followers.


The Twitter Times

The Twitter Times

You  can also see my own Twitter Times page to check out the links there:

Comments Off

Jun 11 2010

Updated keynote presentation – Confident and Connected

I have recently presented to a conference of teachers in Palmerston North looking at the connected world we are a part of, considerations for when starting to work online in school contexts, and great examples of kids being connected through technology. You can view this below:

6 responses so far

Apr 14 2010

Comics and Comic Life in the Classroom

Filed under Uncategorized

I’ve just responded to a question about the value of using Comic Life on student outcomes to the ICT English mailing list and I thought I’d put my thoughts here too so that others can join the discussion in this blog.

Karen Mulhuish asked the question:
Why use Comic Life over pen and pencil? What kinds of learning (or ‘affordances’) does it offer students?
For example, does it help students understand sequencing because of the ease with which you can manipulate images? I guess what I’m driving at is, how do we know that, by choosing Comic Life (or any software, for that matter) we will add value to the learning experience?

This was my response.

For me, presenting information through a tool like Comic Life comes down to what the value is of comics and graphic novels within education.Comic Life egs There are a number of sites that believe that information presented graphically helps to motivate students but there are plenty more advantages than just motivation. Personally, I think one of the biggest advantages is that students have to reprocess information in order to change it from a text platform to a visual platform. This removes the ‘cut and paste’ option for presenting work and requires higher order thinking to be able to represent something graphically with minimal text while representing the key information. Obviously, for visual learners, graphical representation of the work may be more effective for learning and retention than straight text.

In terms of why a software application is better than comics with pen and paper, for me the benefit is that it takes away some of the time required to manipulate the images and information so students can focus instead on the learning behind the task.

Here is the page of Comic Life in Education examples I’ve put together:

Check out some of these other links.
Read, Write, Think – has a number of comic based activities and has an article discussing the benefits of the comic form (if you haven’t explored Read Write Think yet this is an amazing resource)
Eek! Comics in the Classroom! – an article from Education World
Comics in the classroom: 100 Tips, Tools and Resources for Teachers – a very useful blog post
Cartoons and Comic Life- a blog post containing video interviews with teachers about how they are using comics effectively (and Comic Life) at secondary level.

So how would you answer the question Karen posed?

2 responses so far

Older Posts »