VLN Group – maths teachers sharing ICT ideas & resources

If you’re a Maths teacher in NZ, check out this group in the Virtual Learning Network. I encourage you to join the group, steal others’ ideas and share your own!

Google Sketchup: Inquiry learning in Maths

Excellent article… Helpful in my ongoing quest to find ways to encourage students’ creativity and inquiry learning in Mathematics. Try this activity and share your experiences here so we can all learn from them!

International Schools and ICT

Shafer, K. (2010). Prisms and Pyramids with Google SketchUp: A Classroom Activity. In D. Gibson & B. Dodge (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2010 (pp. 3505-3507)

Google SketchUp is a free program that was developed for the purpose of creating 3D models. SketchUp can be used to support student sense making through an inquiry approach. The authors first describe how elementary education majors were able to use specific tools in SketchUp to reconcile issues of perception when creating a prism and investigate the various dimensions within a given pyramid (height, slant heights(s) and edges).

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Enabling e-Learning: ICT education network

I was kindly invited by Karen Melhuish from Te Toi Tupu and CORE Education to write a guest blog post for the Enabling e-Learning: Teaching Community blog… you can read it here. Comments / feedback are welcome!

The “guest blog” post is about my trip to Ireland in November 2011, for the AEC-NET Conference. I will be posting in this blog in the very near future about that conference and reflections on what I learned… so watch this space 🙂

Enabling e-Learning is a group in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), which is an interactive web resource for New Zealand educators. Enabling e-Learning is designed to be a hub for ICT-related education resources and programmes in New Zealand. If you’re an educator in NZ and are not yet a member of the VLN, I encourage you to join up!

Reflections on a snow day

I’ve changed my mind about the structure of my blog… I had planned to “tell my story” chronologically. The first few posts would be historical until I caught up, and from then on I would post as I learned or discovered new things… but it’s been two months since my first (and only) post, so in the interests of actually getting my thoughts out I’ll just post them as they come! From now on the “journey” narrative will be mixed in with my current musings.

My back yard this afternoon… it rarely snows here!

Today’s musings are on the topic of surviving… I am slightly drowning at the moment in assignments and reports, so my use of engaging and worthwhile ICT activities in my lessons has slowed to a trickle. For several weeks it stopped altogether, while I was in “survival mode”… until I remembered my own advice that I give when trying to help colleagues with ICT: Start small, but start somewhere (or “start simple, but start something” as I wrote in the last post). In the last week I have made an effort again to do little things (very little in some cases!) in each lesson with ICT. I was reminded again how worthwhile the time investment is when I saw the students’ engagement improve!

Thankfully we have the day off school today due to a rare snowfall. It’s a welcome opportunity to get some reports and study done, as well as to reflect on the chaos of the last few weeks and the effect of that chaos on my teaching. Of course it’s also a great opportunity to finally add another post here!

Today’s question for reflection (and comment):

Start small, but start somewhere what are some ideas for small things you could do with ICT in your lessons? For those of you who are just beginning your ICT journey, this could be a starting point; for others, this could be a baseline to fall back on when in “survival mode”, rather than letting your ICT use disappear altogether.

A slightly bigger question, and one that definitely needs to be constantly kept in mind at all times: Where is the line between using ICT in lessons for the sake of using ICT, and using ICT in lessons to maintain a baseline on which we can build engaging and worthwhile activities as we feel able?

How it all started…

Well here’s the first post… the first few posts will be more of a historical narrative I guess, sharing what I’ve learnt in the past four years. After that I’ll post the current steps of my ICT journey, as they happen.

I did my teacher training at the New Zealand Graduate School of Education in Christchurch, and started working at Linwood College in October 2008. The week before I started my new job, the school had 2Touch interactive whiteboards installed in each Maths classroom. I think that’s what really got me into the ICT game – I had to get used to the technology at the same time as getting used to being a teacher, simultaneously learning both from scratch. So for me, right from the start, classroom teaching and ICT have been woven together.

Using the IWB at Linwood College

One of my students using the IWB at Linwood College

The first thing I noticed was that the way I imagined using the IWB did not match the way I could actually use it… In my head I was Tony Stark in his workshop, dragging and flipping virtual icons and text around the board with ease. In reality, I had calibration issues, couldn’t write legibly with my finger so that the software could pick it up properly, didn’t know what the buttons were for on the toolbar of the new software… and I always had an audience of 30-odd (some more odd than others) teenagers to keep me humble!

I realised pretty quickly that even though there were plenty of flashy tools already at my disposal, I would never be able to use them effectively or fluently if I didn’t nail the basics first. So I spent at least a term (roughly 10 school weeks) just learning how to calibrate the board quickly, write on the board legibly, and save the document (called a “workbook” in the 2Touch software) at the end of each lesson. Literally, that was all I did – just used it as an ink-less whiteboard. But since I wasn’t trying to get my head around everything at once, I became really comfortable with the basics. And the more comfortable I became, the bolder I grew about trying the other features available. It started with inserting an image onto the slide and annotating it in class with the students, then I tried preparing a workbook before the lesson to use in the class, and pretty soon I was creating re-usable resources with all sorts of features that made the lessons much more engaging and interesting for the students.

Resource for introducing angles    

A workbook for introducing angles

Algebra resource

An algebra workbook

The lesson here, I guess, is start simple. I have met plenty of teachers who have expensive tools available but have never used them, because it’s such a huge job to learn how to use it all and become comfortable with it. That’s understandable, but then there’s the old adage about how one eats an elephant… one bite at a time.

Start simple, but start something.

Of course, I was still using ICT in a very teacher-centric way, to deliver static information… but it was the first step in my ICT journey.

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