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Recently a student of mine sent me a link in an email with this title….

”¬†This teacher made me instantly think of our class ūüôā have a good holiday”

He was talking about this post http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/10296-A-Different-Kind-of-Teacher

Where Cari talks about the relationships she has formed with her students by having a common interest and my student was making the same point. Telling me that I have formed an interesting classroom for students to come in and learn. If you have read my previous posts you will know of some of the ways I have done this but there is lots more when I think about it. What are they, well I will tell you and see if you do something similar. 

1. Youtube Frday: In my class when the students have learned(worked) well during the week I reward them with a twenty minute session allowing them to watch a YouTube clip I have seen recently. It can range from something amazing to something highly hilarious but I usually try to have them entertained. For example look up Virtual Barber Shop and put a set of headphones on! This makes them interested in what we are doing during the week because my students know that they will get a reward at the end of the week. (nb. they dont always get a reward)

2. Interesting examples: Try teaching SQL and QBE to seniors. It is a dry boring subject and they get over it very quickly. To motivate them I try to find the weirdest clips from the internet on the subject. What happens is two things……1. They look at me with a weird look and then start laughing 2. They subliminally remember the video when being examined! Its like when I tell you “Don’t think of an orange….Don’t think of its texture….¬†Don’t¬†think of a sunset…..you can’t help yourself and so can’t students. A bit of reverse¬†psychology¬†doesn’t¬†hurt anyone especially a hormonal teenager!

3. I froth: Froth is a term to describe you being stoked! Everything that I try to do is exciting. No Matter What! When I stand up in front of students I am excited to be doing it. No Matter What. I believe that if I am motivated, they will be. For example: I teach year 9 databases first term every year and I start by saying “I love Databases” and by the end of the course the students do too. I know because they tell me in their evaluations.¬†

4. I am interested in them: When my students speak I listen to what they have to say. If they are frothing, so am I. This does lead to side tracks but then the students use self discipline to get the learning back on track. I once missed a entire senior class because I miss read my timetable. At the end of the lesson the students came and saw me and explained that I wasn’t in class. I asked why they didn’t send for me and they said they didn’t want me to distract them from getting their work done! (I am a distraction?????)

Lastly, I let them play. The other day a student was meant to be completing his database project and when I was wondering around the room I noticed he was on Mindcraft on his iPad. When he saw me coming he quickly switched it off and began working. I said to him that I am not that sort of teacher and that if he wanted to take a break and play Mindcraft during a lesson it was fine by me. If he had the self discipline to get back to work and complete the project work assigned then feel free. I’m not an ogre but I can be if you don’t learn!

So this is what my student meant when he sent me that link and I dont blur it. What I mean is I have seen teachers blur this relationship. They become students friends and then when a student crosses the line they then cancel the relationship. My son came home from school just before Easter suspended because he threw a grape at a teacher. When we dug down into the reason why he did it it was because he had formed a teacher student relationship that was too friendly. The teacher had a nickname that he encouraged students to call him and he actually called kids names. A bit of friendly banter…….in my sons case he jokingly called him a retard. Then in the playground the banter continued until my son threw a grape at the nicknamed teacher. The teacher didn’t like it, went and reported my son and the next minute my wife gets a phone call saying he is suspended. We are yet to have the return meeting with the school but I will CALMLY explain the circumstance of the suspension so that blurring never happens again.

Thanks for reading.

Andrew

Teach your students to code!

Teach them to code!

A couple of days is a long time when you are online and today is no exception. Yesterday I saw this video posted by +Peter Vogel but since then myself and many others have shared it as well. 

Since watching this, now viral video, I have got my year 10 class to join in a class I made at http://www.codehs.com and they are absolutely loving learning to code in this way. Why? Because Code.org makes it so easy to learn. The explanations and the tutorials make so much sense and they increase your ability in such a simple way. Plus it uses gamification to motivate the students (and me) to continue to learn because you can see the levels you are achieving. 

Coding, I believe, is an important skill to learn if you are using a computing device on a regular basis (can you name a job where you don’t need one?) and coding is not easy to learn. I have triedhttp://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0¬†¬†with classes and the students felt it was tedious and the hoops were too high to jump through.

So I encourage us all as educators to pass this on to our/your students so that we benefit our own lives with technology. Imagine you could say “I taught (insert name here) head of the biggest company on the Internet how to code and look at how they have changed society” I know that the lecturers at Stamford and Harvard can say that but imagine you could. I am even allowing my 9 and 5 year to learn code so they can pay mummy and daddy’s mortgage. It even works on an iPad

Thanks for reading.

Google Plus my experience.

A few months ago my brother inlaw sent me a message “Do you want a Google Plus invite?” my response……YES PLEASE! I knew that the benefits of having an account and now, for me, as an educator has exploded. I am sitting here at the moment on a two week school holiday break and I am amazed at how much information is actually streaming through my account. ¬†Plus it is all quality information rather than quantity. For example I get information such as this which was posted by +Jenny Gilbert explaining the Flipped Classroom and I had to instantly share it.

http://knewton.marketing.s3.amazonaws.com/images/infographics/flipped-classroom.jpg

Or how fast it took Google+ to reach 50 Million Users:

https://plus.google.com/photos/112418301618963883780/albums/5656420702779611649/5656420703284464898

It has been very refreshing and the discussions have been innovating, motivating and inspiring.

Its interesting to note that I haven’t logged onto Twitter since I got my Plus account and I still get notifications that people are still following me on it. The same people following me are now migrating over to Google+ and are sharing regularly their information. I have noticed that some do their blog posting right on the status update because you are not limited to 140 characters. Plus you can post links to websites and Google+ shows the thumbnail and description right there. There is no need to go anywhere else. I am only posting here because I wanted to talk about Google+ to people whom may not have experienced it yet and ask if you want an invite.

A lot of debate has been raised on Google+ in comparison to FaceBook, Twitter and Google Plus and my opinion is that they compliment each other. My wife and I still have friends that we keep in contact with on FaceBook and I mainly use Google+ for reading the latest teaching resources with a few status updates about whats happening in my life. Such as I took this photo from my veranda the other day and someone asked was it Photoshopped!

So Google Plus is advancing my teaching through obtaining valuable resources and sharing them however the age restriction at the moment is 18+. So it is impossible for me to implement it into the classroom YET! I do see its benefits as teachers could use the Flipped Classroom concepts and use the tools embedded in Google Plus such as: Hangouts Screensharing, Sketchpad, Google Docs and Broadcasting as outlined here…http://www.edukwest.com/google-hangouts-add-screensharing-sketchpad-google-docs-and-broadcasting/

Finally I think that Google+ is here to stay and if you want an invite to see its benefits send me your email address in the comments and I will send you one. Be sure to add me to your circles when you get there.

Thanks for reading.

Andrew

On Google+ I wrote a comment about this and I thought I would share it here.

This week in my IPT class we have completed the Trail HSC and all of the content needed to sit the HSC. At this period in time I am usually struggling to keep Yr12 motivated to revise for the HSC and there are only so many Past Papers Past Papers Past Papers you can go through before you start to loose a good group let alone a difficult bunch (mines a good group btw)

So I thought I would practice what I preach and create a game using gamification techniques! It was easy….

I called it “Pro Speed Ball” after a level I used to play in CS. All I did was go to the syllabus and get some definitions and ask the students to be the first to post the answers on our Ning Site. I would then give them an XP out of 10 for their speed and an XP out of 10 for their accuracy. This gave them an XP level and this was ranked. We have had two rounds so far and the students have become EXTREMELY competitive and I have a 100% attendance rate. Next lesson is round three and they are going to form groups this time and upload their findings. Its interesting that the leader after two rounds isn’t the student who is first all the time rather the student who takes their time and is more accurate with their findings.

Try it yourself. This is adaptable in a number of ways and I am sure I will be using this in other years in other classes. It would be how I would teach Maths!

Thanks for reading

Andrew

Hello all,

A few months ago a student of mine sent me this link to this video on how to gamify education. The words gamification and gamify don’t even exist (according to Google Chrome it is a spelling error and it suggest “ramification” – interesting). The video goes onto explain that people (note that I don’t say Students) become obsessed with playing games on computers because of many reasons. One in particular is that they achieve. These achievements are loosely translated into reaching higher levels in that game. Along the way they gain experience and this leads to the gamer wanting to achieve more. In society we call this addiction. Yet to a gamer its a sense of “I can stick my chest out gloat to my fellow gamers and look down at the newbies”.

So what if we took a look at our classrooms and gamified it?

How would you do this?

It something that I have been looking at recently and I believe it is achievable and relatively simple to set up. With a little tweeking I am sure that the students would be able to adapt. This is how I am going to do it:

1. Marks.

As teachers we all need some form of measurement in assessment. A lot of the projects that I ask students to do I give them a mark out of 100. Inside this allocation of 100 marks there is a break down of what they need to do and what it is worth. What if I translated this into XP which is what the video is talking about. Plus add bonus XP to the students that achieve more and bonus XP if they help others to achieve this. An example would be a student is able to put a pull down menu bar on a HTML document and teach someone else how to do it yet the assessment¬†doesn’t¬†require that. Also relevant research assignments, homework and topic test based on a subject could also covert marks into XP as well. You may give students a tick if they achieve something this also could be converted into XP based on how many ticks they achieved.

2. Reporting

Measuring the students performance by accumulating XP would be translated into grades and comments easily. The higher the XP the higher the grade and a pleasing result will ensue as well. Students who strive to achieve XP through advancing through levels of achievement and learning content knowledge and acquiring skills won’t have ¬†comments reflecting poor performance. If a student is struggling on a particular topic then his peers gain XP to assist him and therefore once the knowledge or skills are acquired the XP is lifted and hence their report is better.

3. Curriculum and Programming

The content of the curriculum in every subject remains the same (until the National Curriculum is implemented) therefore there are no changes necessary. Adjustments to programmes is simple based on sample assessments could reflect the use of the XP levels.

4. What do you think?

Can you see where this may fail?

Can you see where other areas need to be explored?

Do you think this is where we should be heading?

Do you know anyone who is already doing this?

5. Now I am committed!

Now that I have posted this I am going to Blog my results. From planning to implementing and then finally feedback! I am a bit nervous about this but¬†that’s¬†because I am at the cliff about to jump off. Come with me!

 

Tchwolcom Island Update!

The moderators of the island have made an experimental start to creating the Island and here are a few pictures.

We have started building the Holland Building:

What it looks like for real

My class is the top right of the white section

Here is the current look:

Also we have started working on a Newcastle Australia landmark Nobby’s Lighthouse. Here is what it looks like originally:

And here is where we are at:

Other moderators have been assigned roles to complete other landmarks around Newcastle. These include:

 

 

 

Ambitious………Maybe. We’ll see how we go!

 

Thanks for reading

Andrew.

Hello all,

This week I sent this email out to the students of my school:

Subject: NGS has bought an Island

Dear Students,

Just recently Newcastle Grammar School purchased an Island for us. An Island that I have always wanted and I want you to join me and build it into something spectacular. I will be holding a meeting at Lunch Time on Friday the 25th of February in HF3 to discuss you joining me and my team in working together to create this Island into a world we can enter and enjoy. To be part of this you can apply in two ways…… Tell me why I would call the island Tychwolcom Island or email an application explaining why you wish to be part of this adventure. ¬†Initially I will only be taking an elite crew to the Island so I am looking for specific students who would be eligible.

It started a buz around the school that the we had bought an island off the Pacific and NGS was going to fly students out there to help build it (well thats what I was told from some of the students begging me to take them with me)

I have just finished the Friday lunch time meeting where I worked with about 20 students explaining to them the inner workings of Opensim and how we were going to turn my tiny speck of an Island into a massive learning environment. I have given them a form to fill out asking them why they want to be part of this experience and also to get their parents aware of what their child is up to.

To me they seemed pretty insprired and when the meeting had finished they wanted to play with “Hippo Viewer” and see what my Avatar could do. But when I told them what I wanted to do thats when they really got inspired. I cant take credit for all the things I list below (I can thank Steve Collis for this) but here is what I want to do:

  1. Create a code of conduct
  2. Create uniforms for the avatars similar to our sports uniform
  3. Create terrain similar to the city of Newcastle Australia
  4. Create the Holland building (A building on our campus here at NGS)
  5. Create virtual learning environments (such as Fort Scratchley)
  6. Create an Art Gallery (To post student work)
  7. The possibilites are endless

These are just the beginning and once we really get up and running I hope that other teachers will use the space for the benifit of learning. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading Andrew

ps: its called Tychwolcom Island because it is a combination of the street names surrounding our campus (Tyrrel Church Wolfe and Newcommen). Some of the students got this instantly. Some very bright students out there!

The two of me

My wife and I have a friend on Facebook (we actually have more than one but I want to talk about this one in particular). For the few years that we have known him we have read his very cryptic status updates and watched his life fall apart around him. Literally. We have¬†struggled¬†¬†to remain friends with him on FB because sometimes we would often shake our heads in bemusement as to what he was doing on the social networking site. When we saw him in real life he would be a totally different person and we couldn’t figure out why everything in his life was either destroyed or about to be. So we blocked him as a friend.

My wife every now and again would search him on FB to see what his status was like (I think she was trying to find out why he was the way he was) this would lead to more frustration as she could see his very destructive behaviour. Then one day we saw this:

Andy Scott

New posted added to my blog. Please be aware that this is confronting and detailed.

apscott-story.blogspot.com

Our friend had created his own blog detailing his life struggle with his mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). To me it was like a missing jig saw puzzle. Regardless of the harshness of the subjects that he spoke about it gave me a detailed insight into the struggle that one faces living with a mental illness. If an adult is struggling this way then what is going on in the minds of our students. Better still how can we get students to portray these feelings and struggles to us so that we can provide them with the support that they need.
I must say that I can’t tell the emotional state of a student in my class unless it is completely obvious. I dont know if other teachers are like that and I dont think it is because I am ignorant its just that as teachers we are trained how to deliver content not be concerned with a students emotional state. Now I am realising I need to be to get students to learn to there full potential. If we as teachers can tap into our students mental state them maybe the support comes with this. How do we do this……????????
Andy’s blog is titled “The Two Of Me” which is the title of a book written by a famous Newcastle Knight Andrew Johns. We are rugby league mad here in Newcastle Australia. Despite all of his achievements at the highest level he struggled with Bipolar. Andy’s blog is a key into the minds of a person who struggles with Bipolar and if he can put his life out there for all¬†to see so that we can be tollerant,¬†supportive and empathetic then is it possible for our students to do the same? The boundaries are different because they are students but if I knew what I now know about Andy in the past I am sure that things would be different between myself, he and my wife. This I am sure could be said about students I have taught in the past that I wasn’t tollerant of possibly because they had a mental health condition. I have taught a lot of Aspergers students.
Is it possible to use the technology that we have available in our classrooms in this situations? Has anyone tried it? I am thinking about trying it to see if it works. (Change the system you get a different result) I’ll keep you posted how and if I do this.
Been majorly busy since last post (Aren’t we all) but I want to keep you updated that I have built a server to run my Opensim virtual world called Tychwolcom Island (A combination of the four streets surrounding our campus). So next post will be all about that.
Thank you for reading
Andrew

Okay,

So this is indirectly related to the title of the post. It was the subject of a recent presentation that I did for staff at my school. I felt it important to let staff know how I use the Internet as a valuable resource for my learning for the benefit of my classroom and my students. Globally there is a wealth of information being generated every minute and educators are becomming less transparent and more willing to share. Where do they share this, well each of us have our areas where we go to gain knowledge and share it. So my presentation was about how to educate staff abot where to get this information. So below is an explanation of what I do and the links are provided as well.

PLN’s

A personal learning network or PLN is a network of people that we can gather information from. I have my own and you can read about how I have developed my in my previous blogs but here are the links that I have mentioned in the Prezi.

Twitter

Over the past two years I have been on Twitter using it to find people who have similar interest as me. I dont care for those that want to tell me that they have just brushed their teeth. That is, those people around the world who wish to partake in reshaping education through the use of 21st century tools. I have started following those people that to me MATTER. I am constantly building my PLN through this. I also click on the links that they post and subscribe to their feeds (more about this soon).

WordPress

This is where I write my blog. Not only this but I like to search through the millions of blogs and find interesting things that a relavent to my teaching. If you search you will find others around the world that can assist in your learning on any subject you choose.

Wikispaces

Wikis are a site that allows anyone to create a website and people can visit and gain information. I use it to allow students to start creating their own digital footprints. Now, other  teachers are starting to create their own Wikis so that you can benefit from what they want you to learn in your own time.

Ning

Ning is similar to Wikis and each of them have their own abilities which can be explored. Originally to create a Ning it was free but now you have to pay a monthly fee which NGS pays for. I use it to teach my HSC subject IPT and develop a massive resource for students to use as a study aid. Not only this but I keep regular updates and recently I have developed a virtual classroom using Smallworlds. This is allowing me to run classes out of the normal rhelms of a school timetable.

There are literally thousands of Web 2.0 applications out there  and the picture in the Prezi shows this. The problem is…..now that you are starting to develop a PLN how do you keep track or all this.

The solution is simple: Subscribe to the RSS feeds of the sites that matter to you! This can be done using different methods. I subscribe to RSS feeds using my email account. This means that all of my subscriptions are placed in my Inbox of my Outlook 2007 account. They are transportable and I can read them anytime I wish. However, if you dont have Outlook you can use Google Reader: or Delicious as Suzanne Figures showed you.

Have a watch of this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6ILQrUrEWe8 

and this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A-ZVCjfWf8&feature=player_embedded

Thanks for reading

Andrew

Digital Footprints

Hello all,

Last week I was asked to present information at my school¬†to year 10 about Digital Footprints and PLN’s. The best way to educate them about what I have to say is to direct them here so they can read the dialogue of the presentation and rewatch the clips that I show. As well as that they can click on the links and browse the information. I am hoping that they can use this as valuable resource to start developing their PLN’s for preparation for their global studies.¬†Here¬†is my Prezi and as all of us are aware there isn’t much dialogue so I have outlined it below.

 

However Digital Natives have a wonderful opportunity to use the technology available to them for the benefit of their learning:

PLN’s

A personal learning network or PLN is a network of people that we can gather information from. I have my own and you can read about how I have developed my in my previous blogs but here are the links that I have mentioned in the Prezi.

Twitter

Over the past two years I have been on Twitter using it to find people who have similar interest as me. I dont care for thos that want to tell me that they have just brushed their teeth. That is, those people around the world who wish to partake in reshaping education through the use of 21st century tools. I have started following those people that to me MATTER. I am constantly building my PLN through this. I also click on the links that they post and subscribe to their feeds (more about this soon).

WordPress

This is where I write my blog. Not only this but I like to search through the millions of blogs and find interesting things that a relavent to my teaching. If you search you will find others around the world that can assist in your learning on any subject you choose.

Wikispaces

Wikis are a site that allows anyone to create a website and people can visit and gain information. I use it to allow students to start creating their own digital footprints. Now, your teachers are starting to create their own Wikis so that you can benefit from what they want you to learn in your own time.

Ning

Ning is similar to Wikis and each of them have their own abilities which can be explored. Originally to create a Ning it was free but now you have to pay a monthly fee which NGS pays for. I use it to teach my HSC subject IPT and develop a massive resource for students to use as a study aid. Not only this but I keep regular updates and recently I have developed a virtual classroom using Smallworlds. This is allowing me to run classes out of the normal rhelms of a school timetable.

There are literally thousands of Web 2.0 applications out there¬† and the picture in the Prezi shows this. The problem is…..now that you are starting to develop a PLN how do you keep track or all this.

The solution is simple: Subscribe to the RSS feeds of the sites that matter to you! This can be done using different methods. I subscribe to RSS feeds using my email account. This means that all of my subscriptions are placed in my Inbox of my Outlook 2007 account. They are transportable and I can read them anytime I wish. However, if you dont have Outlook you can use Google Reader:

Or similarly you can use Delicious which does the same as Reader and Outlook.

I would strongly advise that you visit these sites:

National Library of Australia (become a member)

Andrew Douch (find him on iTunes)

Ten Marks (sign up)

Mathademics Channel

Now the rest is up to you to become a 21st Century Learner:

I wish you all the best for your upcomming future senior years and if you listen to the advice that is given to you now a great teacher once said to me “You get what you deserve”. Therefore start now and work hard so you do.

Thanks for reading

Mr. Andrew Blackwell

 

“Its a Small World after all”

Hi all,

I have a Ning Site which my School pays for and I am very grateful. I use it to document student discussion and to keep tabs on how they are travelling as far as completing set tasks and homework. Each year a new student body will join the site and continue adding to the tasks. I hope that when preparing for the HSC the students will log in and use it as a study resource.

The other day my year 12’s asked if I was going to delete their work and were happy that I said no because they had a wealth of knowledge regarding the subject that they are studying. This can be added to and used as a study aid.

To improve the site I started renaming the tabs to make it more user friendly and I discovered a couple of things:

I can embed Prezi’s! Its not that hard to do and it allowed my students to have the notes I made in front of them when I was delivering them as well as refer to them later. Also if a student was away they could log in and follow the notes with reference to the text.

Then I discovered Smallworlds . Smallworlds is a mini Second Life which promotes a safe virtual environment. The major difference is…ITS FREE! I am in the process of building a virtual world using Opensim but Smallworlds has been embeded into my Ning and I am able to set it up how I want it. I have created Blaangs Virtual Classroom and as you can see from the screen shot there is computers to post responses to questions/tests/exams and we even have a lounge area so that we can meet and discuss any issues outside of our normal timetable class. We had a meeting the other night and the students (surprisingly) were completely focused on the topic of discussion.

Smallworlds has a number of advantages:

  • Ease of use
  • Free
  • If anyone does anything innapropriate you can report/ban them
  • You can earn money easily to buy things (such as computer and chairs)
  • Its adaptable
  • I don’t have to be in the room to monitor a students progress
  • Rooms can be members only
  • You can buy more room if you need it
  • If a student is absent they can log in a check/discuss our lesson

Its a very big learning curve and the students appear to be enjoying it. They even wrote their own policy on acceptable use in the classroom which is adapted from Google’s policy of “Don’t be Evil“.

At this stage it is a learning curve to see what we can do with it. At the moment there hasn’t been any hiccups but no doubt there will be. Once they are discovered it will be up to the class to resolve them.

So if you are interested in setting up a virtual classroom and dont have the money or the infrastructure I do recommend you give Smallworlds a try!

Thanks for reading.