Friday, September 6, 2013

#VITTA13: Provoking Learning with ICT...a reflection

So last Monday week ago or two, I attended #VITTA13 at Caulfield Racecourse. Usually I use the VITTA conference to back up my VCE Information Technology teaching, however this year, I looked to change that up in line with the theme of the day. (It totally helped that a lot of the VCE content was to be held on Day 2, and I couldn't attend due to timetabling constraints.)

Onto the train I hopped, no problems (which is new) with swiping on and swiping off, and along for the ride is a friend of mine from the last school I worked at, and we have a good catchup about recent happenings and our discussion quickly changes to where our Software Development classes are at. Before long, we got to Caulfield Racecourse with a fair bit of time up our sleeve.

Get to the conference and you always see faces that are familiar around the traps. Sign in, get my care package and head to the first keynote. Bruce Dixon, founder of ideasLAB. Walking in, I spot a few people that I met at the #VITTA2011 and I know that we'll spend a bit of time catching up later. Bruce is introduced and speaks about the history of ICT in education and about provoking change in education.

He said that as teachers we feel intimidated by technology as if it will eliminate us at some point in the future, and that we should realise that it simply means our role in the classroom will change and evolve. He stated that we must start looking to the way our students live in the modern world and how the way they live impacts on their learning and the relevance of schooling. He also said that as a society we had been burdened by the Plague of Low expectations in relation to the implementation of technology in the classroom, which to a degree I agree with. My own thoughts on this however are that we don't make enough time to plan the integration into our classrooms...and it's our poor planning that leads to the low expectations.

Bruce finished with something that has stuck with me since and that was EXPECT MORE! This is something that I've believed in for a long time as I feel if we have low expectations of our students, they in turn only achieve to the expectation. Raise the bar and see them fly!

A statement he made about only having two or three individuals in most schools passionate about ICT also resonated with me, and made me think how lucky I am to be at the school I currently work in with regards to the number of passionate people we have.

I had originally planned on attending the following sessions:

  • The Power of Screencasting
  • Hospital space is an innovative learning place
  • 2nd Keynote: Mary Anne Williams
  • Creating Contempory Learning: The Imperative for Change is Approaching

However, as always, catching up with the guys (lets call it "networking with professional colleagues") means missing a session or two. So unfortunately "The Power of Screencasting" (sorry to the presenter!) was that session and the Williams keynote were the ones to miss out. That being said, the discussions that traditionally take place on the dining tables overlooking the racecourse are usually more enriching for me than anything else.

It's an opportunity to see where I could end up after a number of years and hear the guys talk about their dealings with vendors, respective school ICT policies and structures, and get advice about my own situation, which admittedly, I feel is at a crossroads of sorts (more on this another time).

Hospital Space is an innovative learning place
My school at present has a number of students that are currently in/outpatients of the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and it was no surprise that one of my colleagues also joined me in this session. Lauren Sayer presented a view of the RCH's education program for both in and outpatients. The RCH is a dynamic learning environment that is opt-in (i.e. patients choose when to learn depending on how they feel). The RCH educators form an Individualised Learning Program, in conjunction with the child's school, in order to ensure that learning occurs even when the child is both in and out of the hospital. Often, the educators use a series of project based learning tasks to keep the students engaged and learning about topics that are important to them (the patients). The tasks are structured around a series of cards (see below)

I think a number of teachers and schools could learn from the way the RCH conducts its education program. I know that I'm thinking of working on a set of cards for some mathematics assignments in 2014.

Creating Contemporary Learning: The Imperative for Change is Approaching
I found this one another interesting session, given my school's eventual move to Windows 8. It was a good opportunity for the Travis Smith, former teacher and now consultant with Microsoft, to showcase the potential of Windows 8, SharePoint and SkyDrive within the educational context. Not only did he talk about this but also classrooms of the future in which they look very different to the ones of today. The collaborative features of these three applications for both staff and students at any school is incredible and looks to match the features (if not identically, pretty damn closely) of Google Drive.

Anyways, all in all a good day had by all...and all things considered, I'm apologising for the fact this took two weeks to get out! Next post will come this weekend! Promise!

Until next time...May the Tech Be With You!

Jimmy V

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ups, downs and everything in between...A progress report for 2013...

At the start of the year, I outlined some goals for the year and here's a progress report on how each of them are going...

  • Establish and support a student ICT technical support program
    • The "Tech Crew" has been established with the help of @_TarrynKennedy, with a roster of approximately 12 regular members. We're now at the stage of the Crew about to present on an ICT topic/s to staff and students during lunchtimes.
  • Organise myself better
    • The organisation has been 100% better, with almost no school work being done at home. I'm getting to work earlier in the mornings and being more productive with my "planning time". 
  • Present more (Part I)
    • Presenting to my peers at school has been a great success so far. My full day Internal Professional Development session titled "Web 2.0 in the Classroom" has been delivered once so far with another two days fully booked. It starts off with a general introduction to various tools and allows participants to explore these at their own leisure with the intent of implementing the tool or tools into their units of teaching.
  • Establish a class blog
    • Unfortunately, my class weren't as enthusiastic about this as I was. We got as far as establishing their goals for the year. I'll try again next year - poor organisation and dragging the setup over a few weeks didn't help.
  • Present more (Part II)
    • Unfortunately though, while my Professional Development facilitation has blossomed at school, my external PD facilitation and informal PD attendance (such as TMMelb) has taken a downward spiral. Let's see if I can get into it again soon!
The In-betweens
  • Support my students better with the use of ICT
    • This year I've introduced my students to a range of new (and old) tools, and look to continue this into the future. Some have been hits, some have been misses, and some somewhere inbetween. Look out for posts about these soon!
  • Write blog posts on a more regular basis
    • This year has rocketed I thought it would. That being said I'm now at a point where I'm re-committing to blogging on a regular basis. So much so that I already (in the space of a week) already have drafts started for at least 5 new posts...more on these very soon. This post itself is the second in a week...what the....!!!
So that's me so far in 2013. They were always lofty expectations and goals however I still think most are achievable. I look back to the quotes I used at the start of the year for inspiration once again...

I look to the future because that is where I am going to spend the rest of my life.
George Burns

It always seems impossible until it's done
Nelson Mandela

So until next time...May the Tech Be With You

Jimmy V

Friday, August 2, 2013

Back to the Future? Great Scott......

I know its been a while since the last post (and I know that in the last post I promised to finish the Excel tutorial) but I've been a busy little bee at school, trying to focus on my core business which (surprisingly to some) is actually being at the front (or back) of the classroom, while being casually distracted by almost everyone's requests to "teach me this or that", "develop this or that for me" or "write this unit or assessment" (or four). Anyway enough of the excuses - I am going to try my absolute best to make up for lost time though!

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I was directed to a website that a number of you might not be aware of....Old Apps! (Thanks Mark Kelly)

Basically, you'll find the old versions of all your favourite (free) software on all of your favourite platforms (Win, Mac, Linux). Audio & Video utilities, IM's, browsers among the few. Betas are also available for some applications


Don't like the new(er) interfaces of iTunes or Winamp? New version of Firefox not 100% compatible with your computer (for some stupid and unknown reason)?

Simply go to the website, find the application and version you want to revert to, download the file and install the program. You'll also get some "cool" information about the application at the top of the page.

Until next time...and hopefully it won't take so long...

May the Tech Be With You!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013...a year of change...

So if 2012 was a year of excitement and rejuvenation...2013 will be even better. Both on a personal and professional level. But this blog isn't about the personal stuff...more about the "professional"! This post is about the goals that I will be striving for in 2013.

My goals for 2013 are and these are in no particular order:

  • Establish a class blog
    • Secret project this one for various reasons...I'll elaborate on this further when I can. Think along the lines of students discovering what's happening in the world around them and writing about it.
  • Establish and support a student ICT technical support program
    • This one is happening at my school, where we have just begun the implementation of a 1:1 notebook program. The plan is to have a small student tech group where they support their teachers and peers, in the use of ICT in their classrooms.
  • Organise myself better
    • Planning of lessons, balancing my personal and professional life more effectively - the plan is to do more work at school during regular hours and less at home. Also, with more time on my hands, means more time for experimenting with ICT and other things.

      That's completely reasonable right?
  • Support my students better with the use of ICT
    • Through experimentation and improved organisation, I'm hoping that I can introduce more innovative teaching methods for my students so as to improve their learning experience. I plan on using new and existing Web 2.0 tools to do this. Let's see how this goes...
  • Write blog posts on a more regular basis
    • I don't think 14 posts in 6 months was good enough even though now looking at it, its around one every 2 weeks, which really isn't so bad. Let's see how we go though as this year already seems to be rocketing by...and the year seemingly more full on. I have no idea how I coped in my first year...but we all notice these things...apparently a sign of getting older I'm told.
  • Present more 
    • Last year with the encouragement of some colleagues, I presented at my school on a Professional Development day, and then followed up with a presentation at #TMGeelong. While they were nerve wracking experiences, I decided late last year that in 2013 I would "hit the conference circuit" as one of my colleagues had worded it. So for the time being, I'm presenting at #ICTEV13 in May, and I'm sure a TeachMeet or two will be another avenue.

      Professional Development days are also something I'll be doing at school offers internal PD days for staff to run and others to sign up for. They called for some new blood and I thought why not. While not the newest technology, I'll be offering PD in the way of Google applications, such as Drive and Sites.
So that's me in 2013...or so I hope. They're lofty expectations and goals however I don't think that they're unachievable. I think a couple of quotes would be fitting here

I look to the future because that is where I am going to spend the rest of my life.
George Burns

It always seems impossible until it's done
Nelson Mandela

So until next time...May the Tech Be With You

Jimmy V

2012...the year that was...

So it's been a while since I posted on here. I won't say that I had better things to do than blog about what it is I blog about here, however I will say that blogging was never far from the mind - most of the time....

Anyway, so where did 2012 go?

2012 was a year of new beginnings for me. Teaching new subjects (again), associate Head of Technology at my school (in my 2nd year of teaching)...and once I'd been to the #ICTEV2012 conference, it was like a rebirth in terms of my life in eLearning and education.

As I've written previously, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed, and had a buzz that seemingly didn't go away for days. This blog was then started in the days afterwards after a conversation with @_TarrynKennedy, and I'd decided that my then "dormant" Twitter account (@jimmygunner) needed to be given a 2nd chance. At #ICTEV2012, I remember seeing the follower count at around 70 after being on there for 6 months, I've increased that by 10 fold and have met & contributed to discussions with educators around the world. It's definitely been an eye opening experience.

The blog had a few posts last year and I remember saying that I was going to blog weekly over the school holidays...that didn't happen. I then said I'd blog before the start of the school year..that didn't happen. Only because I was helping everyone else be ready for day one, when I probably wasn't ready myself...big mistake. No excuses this year. More regular updates this year...PROMISE!

Anyway to look back some of the "projects" I wrote about and never followed up on:
  • Class App for my Maths class
    • Never got to implementation and the kids weren't happy. The app was "fully" developed and ready to go. The kids knew I was looking at making them an app but they weren't happy when the project "couldn't go ahead because there was no clear benefit to them" (for some of those looking at the project from the outside) and the fact that "the school rules aren't meant to deal with this sort of you might get into hot water; best not implement that" or something along those lines...
  • QR Codes
    • Was told there was no official support for this initiative as our students didn't have laptops at the time, and the school rules don't allow for mobile phones to be out in the classroom.
  • Presenting
    • First eLearning/Tech presentation to my peers at school and also my first external tech/eLearning tool presentation happened this year. I won't say they were great successes but more like toes into the cold ocean...but I did enjoy the sessions. Thanks to @_TarrynKennedy for the help :)
Well that was my educational life in 2012...and it was an awesome year personally as well. But we won't go into that. Thankyou to the following people who were an amazing support and sounding board:

Finally I would like to thank my amazingly supportive girlfriend, Jess, who without her support, I think I would have cracked under the anxiety/stress/buzz of my year. While she was sometimes frustrated and annoyed by all my tech talk, she supported and heard me rave & rant about frustrations at work and elsewhere. She is literally "the best, Jerry, the best"! 

I'm looking forward to 2013 and I'll be writing on this in the coming hours :)

Until next time (which won't be too far away...) May the Tech Be with You

Jimmy V 

Friday, November 2, 2012

A great find...

Hey guys

Thought I'd just let you all know of a great resource that I stumbled upon months ago via Twitter (@tesResources), however only just required a use for it... is a collection of free resources, submitted by teachers all over the world. Over 500,000 resources are available, with the ability to search by keyword which then splits the matching resources in subject areas and school groupings. By the way, the TES are the crew behind The Times Educational Supplement in the UK. (I'm presuming that the TES is somewhat similar to the 'Learn' section in Melbourne's Herald Sun)

My use came out of the need for my Year 10 Wellbeing class where they will be required to discuss what it means to be the "perfect" male or female according to the stereotypes that currently exist in society via the media.

Within seconds, I had 303 resources at my fingertips, some useful for this particular, some not at all. I eventually settled on this one..Human Outline

Anyway, the resources also appear in Google searches so you can also search via Google :)

Anyway that's my "short & sweet" post for the time being.

Until next time...May the Tech Be With You

Jimmy V

UPDATE 10:10am 02/11/12 (AEST)
Just did a quick search of Twitter and noticed that the TES crew have around a dozen Twitter names based around different subject areas and different sectors of education!

Full list (I think) below:

  • tes Resources - Resources across all subject areas  
  • The tes - News and views from the editorial team from The Times Educational Supplement in the UK
  • tes New Teachers - Resources/Support/Advice for new (and "old") teachers
  • tes English - English resources from the site
  • tes Ed Tech - Tips and Tools for Good ICT practice
  • tes Maths - Maths resources from the site
  • tes FE Focus - Links and discussion from the TES Further Ed team
  • tes Science - Science resources from the site
  • tes Primary - Primary geared resources from the site
  • tes Special Needs - Resources for Special Needs teachers from the site

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#TMGeelong & Web-based Audience Response Systems

Hey guys and welcome to another post from May the Tech Be With You!

On Saturday 20th October, I had the privilege of conducting the first presentation at the first TeachMeet Geelong. This presentation was held at Western Heights College (Vines Rd Campus) and organised by @MarkOMeara. The video can be seen after the brief explanation of what audience response systems are, how they work and how I use them in my classroom.

What are Audience Response Systems?

Audience response systems allow groups of people to provide an opinion on a topic or an answer to a question. Traditionally they required dedicated remotes, receivers and software, however its now much more accessible for all on the Web.

How do ARS work?

Traditionally, they required each person in the audience to have a remote that connects to a receiver, which in turn is connected to a database. Presenters would display a question to which the audience members would respond and the results would be displayed on the screen.

With the Web-based systems, all you need to do is set a question, topic prior to your class, ensure your students have access to a mobile device (whether it be a PC, laptop, iPad or web-enabled mobile phone).  They require the students to open a dedicated URL which will take them to the question/topic and they can then respond to the question or topic. The results are then displayed on the screen automatically in real time.

Benefits of ARS

  • Engaging for students
  • Automatic/instant feedback
  • Reports generated for each quiz
  • Multiple Choice quizzes can be automatically corrected
  • Cross Platform compatibility
  • Can inform our practice as teachers

Examples of ARS

Differences between Poll Everywhere & Socrative

·         Poll Everywhere
o   More appealing to younger student audience
o   Larger range of response types – not just web based
·         Socrative
o   More appealing to an older student audience
o   Better reporting package under the “free” account
§  Multiple choice responses are automatically created
o   Bulk importing of questions/answers

A slight warning
As with any new tool or tech, you will know that there can be downsides or conversations that you may need to have with your students. One such downside, with both of the tools that we have seen is that there is no filtering of the open ended response questions. They will simply come up on screen regardless of whether the student response is irrelevant or inappropriate.

Depending on the age of the students that you use this with will depend on the conversation that you have in relation to appropriate & responsible behaviour.

My use of ARS in the classroom...

Depending on the group that I have, I use either Socrative or Poll Everywhere. For my Year 9's I use Poll Everywhere, while with my senior students I use Socrative. I just find the interfaces appeal to their respective  audiences.

I have used both to do the following:

  • find out from each of my students a range of information including how they feel their learning is tracking, what progress they have made, whether they understand particular concepts, opinions on different topics...the list is endless
  • inform my practice using this information - if a number of students feel they weren't able to grasp a concept then usually we spend a bit of time at the start of the next lesson recapping
  • test my students as learning is taking place (formative assessment) as well as at the end of a unit (summative assessment)
I also feel that with these tools that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface with the amount of data that I have collected from them...

If you have any suggestions or uses of ARS, feel free to comment below!

The video!

Ok, so its nothing's only my second "formal" presentation on ICT, and the first to those outside of my "home" school setting. It's fairly safe to say that I know that I have a fair way to go with regards to my presentation in the comments below please.

The video can be seen after the jump courtesy of Mark O'Meara. I wouldn't normally present in shorts however it was quite a warm day in Geelong not to mention a Saturday!

The next post will be coming soon...and will be a reflection on #TMGeelong.

As always...May the Tech Be With You!

Jimmy V