Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Connection, PD & Ako

EducampAKl was a complete revelation for me, attending for the first time I had a strong preconceived notion of what was ahead. I'd followed a couple through the twitter feed and had even contributed from afar. However, I had no clue of how much I would get from a day's free PD.

On a personal level, I got to catch up with several colleagues who I always enjoy chatting with and they always have something interesting for me to reflect on. Classroom twitter accounts was one such topic that gave me a lot to think about. PD these days is always an opportunity to get put a face to name and it was a pleasure to meet two of my fellow Kidsedchatnz coordinators. Juliet & Marnel, I look forward to the next time we can meet and hope there is a time shortly when all 7 of us coordinators can sit down to a coffee.

Watching and taking part in the Smackdown I still wasn't sure what I options I would choose to learn about. So I wandered off to the Code Club for Teachers module - fantastic choice!

An hour later, I'm part of a Google Community and have made more connections with teachers all facing the same issues and wanting the similar support. Plus we have some enthusiastic colleagues to help us with our support needs and they're setting us some deadlines for Code.Org! I made light of the fact they wanted an hour of my time over the next month (my wife argues I already spend too much time working).

A week hasn't elapsed yet and this is a summary of progress that occurred because I made a worthwhile choice:

  • I've completed 2 modules, including learning in front of my class who have all spent some time with me on Scratch earlier in 2014.
  • I've sat down with my self-assessed technology-challenged ex-Mentor Teacher and worked on creating a cool little block of code (results in the video). I love it everytime I engage him in an eLearning task but coding I never would have thought.
  • Demonstrated to my class that I can make mistakes, keep learning and fix them.
  • They're all interested in doing what I am and so as the final bell went we set up a class code so they could all join Code.org also. 
  • One of my boys is already on Code.org so I hope he's prepared to help me learn too.
Lesley, Tanya, Alyx & Sonya thank you, I was on the coding journey but now I have direction, support and best of all motivation as my kids and I will be learning together.

Monday, 21 July 2014

First Aid Training - Holiday PD

I spent my last day of the term 2 holidays doing professional development, not a problem in itself, but it does highlight some questions I have.

The PD was workplace first aid training and was organised by our health & safety guru, volunteer fireman and fellow year 5 & 6 teacher @Generalrudd. The course, run by Ambulance EMT, was the second he'd organised in my time at HNS, although the first was for the year 5/6 kids. This wasn't just teachers-only PD, it was set up as school-wide so all support staff were also required for the last day. I've ready many posts and plenty of tweets about the variety of professional development and whether school-wide is always appropriate and even this had some staff not wanting to give up the day or unwilling to participate.

Our training involved rescue breathing, CPR, defibrillator, bandaging, recovery position, epi pens and most of the basics you would expect from this type of course. As a school we're investigating purchasing a defibrillator, before I started at HNS a staff member had heart attack and it was through the knowledge and skills of staff that this person survived so one can understand the schools thinking.

My questions though are as follows:

Am I prepared skillwise to help a child with a significant injury?
Yesterday was the third time I have completed some first-aid training, not once have I ever completed a refresher or renewal course so the first two certificates lapsed well before I became a teacher. Here I am again having completed the training and in a better position to help others, especially with some of the child-focussed learning we did yesterday. I'm incredibly fortunate, @Generalrudd is far more trained and experienced in delivering first aid but this is a double-edged sword for a complete novice like myself. I would hate to panic or freeze if I ever got into a situation where these skills were needed so without testing myself I will never know.

In my time at HNS we've had a few broken bones and dislocations, none while I've been on duty so I had no involvement but last year a student did have a bad accident while my class were outside. Then, we deferred to @Generalrudd, just as I would now although I feel I'm in a better position to assist him. This has to be a good thing.

The double edge of this sword is that I know that it is unlikely that any school I move to in the future will have someone as trained (first aid / volunteer fireman) as my colleague, placing all pressure squarely back on my shoulders.

How do other schools approach first-aid and first-aid training?
The only other schools I have experience with were on my three practicums, none of these schools had first aid training while I was there. I also know that they didn't expect all staff to have first aid training. But what about other schools? I know one school that a golfing buddy is at has regular school-wide training facilitated by St. Johns.

But first aid training doesn't seem to be top of mind, I'd love to have people share with me the approach taken at their school.

Should first aid training be a basic requirement for all teachers?
We include the safety of our students as an absolute imperative in our job, we have all sorts of systems to cope with any number of interventions but how come we don't include first aid training as a basic requirement? I know the cost is significant to have all staff trained, but surely having only a few staff trained at every school is a rather haphazard approach also. Clearly, we can't be trained for every student need as this list would be quite large (without even worrying about first aid training). I'm just a little surprised that this isn't at the heart of caring for our students.

I fully appreciate that we have so many responsibilities, requirements and commitments in our ever-growing job description but having undertaken first aid training I felt the need to air my thoughts. Feel free to disagree, laugh this off as an inexperienced viewpoint or simply ignore...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Twitter in @Rm1hns 2.0

Reading tweets the other day my interest was piqued by Craig Kemp's blog post on using Twitter in the classroom. I'm in my second year of using Twitter in class and swear by its effectiveness as an ICT tool but the scaffolding that Craig used as he introduced his class to Twitter weren't how I had attacked it's introduction. I was impressed by what Craig had done and it made me pause to consider the different introductions I'd used between the first & second years using the @rm1hns account with my year 5 & 6s. My comments here are based on what I did for my second year.

First tweet of the year:
I introduced Twitter on day 1 of the year.  Day 1 has so many requirements, I thought that giving the class a chance to "meet" their twitter account was a worthwhile interlude amongst some of the more mundane activities. The class account was put onto the bigscreen and we had a little chat about what they knew of Twitter. A handful of my class had been in @rm2hns so were well versed in Twitter but they were the minority. We talked about the Anatomy of a tweet and then I gave them a paper template to write their first tweet. The template was an excellent way to engage them in writing at the start of the year and knowing that your teacher only expects 140 characters has to be less of a shock than some first-up writing activities. After the usual writing process took place, children had included a twitter handle, experimented with hashtags and begun to grasp how much can be said in 140 characters.

I can't pretend that the first attempts were perfect tweets but some progressed to being tweeted while others remained in their paper form. All were displayed on the wall for the children to read. They needed to comprehend that once it was tweeted anyone could read it, an important digital safety lesson.

How we use Twitter:
We use Twitter regularly in the classroom. Any brainstorming or mindmapping session across a topic will often involve someone tweeting their ideas or questions. Microblogging what we're up to as a class and using twitter to share work with the teacher or others are both popular uses also. Recently, I connected with a colleague through twitter to have our students communicate around book discussions. This was massive for one of my students who is reading well above level and I need to keep engaged. But our most common use for twitter is Kidsedchatnz.

@rm1hnsis an enthusiastic member of Kidsedchatnz and I'm a coordinator of the programme but my experience with Kidsedchatnz and @rm1hns involvement was such that it could be somewhat confusing for the children due to its fast paced nature. Routinely over 500 tweets can be sent in the 45 - 50 minutes it operates. This is where Tweetdeck becomes almost a necessity to participate in a chat session.

I experimented with using Tweetdeck with my class in our first year of twitter, the kids didn't like the column look and preferred to use Twitter's own platform to follow chats. This year, chat sessions have been even more fast-paced and occassionally difficult to follow. I introduced Tweetdeck by simply having my tweetdeck up on the smartboard, by demonstrating how much easier this makes it follow a chat session many of the kids were eager to give it a go. Tweetdeck is now installed on the desktops in Room 1 and the kids use a column to follow Kidsedchatnz. Because this app is always open, the spur of the moment tweet is easily sent also.

As the students have become better at following the chats and their general ability on Twitter, we've had the odd revision session. Sitting down looking at great tweets and breaking them down has been beneficial for my little tweeps. As year 5 & 6s I don't expect perfection but I do encourage them to always be lifting their standards of communication.

@rm1hns is a BYOD classroom. Many of the BYOD kids, after proving their responsibility, have installed Twitter on their devices and therefore are able to participate in Kidsedchatnz on their own. This allows our class to have up to 10 - 12 devices engaged in Kidsedchatnz. I watched a developing writer send his first tweet independently last Thursday on his own device, he was so proud it made me feel this is the right decision. The children are all happy to act as tweeters on behalf of others or the class as needs determine and several of them prefer to share their work via Twitter rather than emailing it.

I recognise that not all teachers would be comfortable having a class account loaded onto personal devices but I have my reasons. Firstly, I know that some of my students have created their own twitter accounts and I don't want to enable the use of these for class purposes, especially that occasionally there is contact between myself and @rm1hns. Because I know some have @rm1hns loaded on their devices I will intermittently send them a tweet promoting a free app, I wouldn't do this to their personal accounts.

The @rm1hns account is loaded onto all of my devices so I can easily check the activity but to this point it has never been an issue. Come the end of the year I will need to change the password and ensure the students remove it from their devices but that is not difficult.

Where to next:
I don't claim to have my students using Twitter perfectly, but I do know that as you introduce it into your class the second time you'll definitely do things differently. Craig's post made me reflect on how I'd changed the way I went about things in my second year of Twitter in the classroom. I'll be changing things next year too no doubt. I can see an earlier introduction to Tweetdeck, more emphasis on positive responses and a session where children can just have a chat session amongst themselves would be incredibly beneficial prior to taking part in Kidsedchatnz.

I haven't made the most of tools for curating social media, a couple of my students have been introduced to Storify. I would like to make more use of it as it has lots of creative uses in the classroom especially around the structure and sequencing of writing.

The use of Twitter is constantly involving and I loved the suggestion of a colleague recently about her students creating a book club using twitter. Maybe that book club is in my students future also...

Thursday, 3 July 2014

NZ Geography - my way

Next term at HNS we're going to be focussing on NZ geography. My kids are a little bored of looking at NZ so up to me to make it more fun, thankfully my love of ICT & by previous life in tourism education should help me out here. I discussed some ideas briefly with colleagues today & as I drove home the knowledge & experience from that previous life came flooding back to the surface. What was especially exciting was the way that I could see so many opportunities for eLearning to be integrated.

Rather than just share with them, I thought that others might appreciate some different approaches to this subject.

I've put these few ideas together and welcome any additions you might want to make, here's the link for the slideshow . I've mentioned a couple of apps specifically in the slideshow but recognise that they by no means can be considered an exhaustive list.

If you're after any help with Thinglink check out my earlier post.

My brain is still ticking over so I'm sure that I'll be adding more to this list as the next few days transpire, or add your own.