Monday, September 10, 2012

Scratching the Surface

I have always liked the idea of using scratch with students

  • to help them think
  • make them doers 
  • instant feedback.

I have been looking at an inquiry to find out

Is the use of scratch a way to increase student understanding of geometry?

Here was the First Project Challenge I gave students.

1. Create a Scratch script which tells a sprite to draw
each of the following shapes in succession.

triangle square pentagon hexagon octagon

So how did things turn out

Well with just a few basic introductions

like pen down
Movement and turning they got cracking

The group almost all were able to complete the challenge though it was interesting to see 
how they achieved it. Quite a few of them had really repetitive code to achieve it which 
presented a great opportunity to look for patterns and optimise it. Here is a solution that 
works and underneath it working.

Learn more about this project

The inquiry is showing some promise for scratch. In my next post I want to discuss with students some of their thinking around Maths.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Credible Self Direction 1

One of the students at my school has just bought his own computer. He wanted a little bit of advice as to how to get it going. The computer was old and incompatible with even the most basic keyboard we had. What impressed me was the effort that Callum has put into finding out about what he need to do to get this going. I offered to give him a slightly newer computer in return for a couple of articles and received the following first installment by the end of the day.

My favorite quotes are

I acquired a desktop computer tower for $1 at a garage sale in Tauranga it looked in perfect condition. 

It was a pretty bad pc i discovered

I ask my friends in the ICT lab for help, they point out how useless it is (because before i didn’t realise), but I’m still going to use it.

There are couple of discoveries here.
  • Students will persist when they are motivated by possible achievement.
  • Students are learning independently of us in areas that we can either choose or choose not to support and encourage.
  • Give students a chance to work and control real technologies let them show where they are at.

On Saturday 28th July I acquired a desktop computer tower for $1 at a garage sale in Tauranga it looked in perfect condition. Everyone asked me if I was going to take it home and open it up, I said I don't know. The next day I wired it up with the cables, power check, VGA check, sound check, usb for keyboard and mouse... there was none! So I opened it and saw a pretty empty case, but everything was perfect except no hidden usbs. I re-arranged all the ports so I could fit in an usb pci card and plug it into the motherboard.  However when I turned it on it gave a beep and loaded up the BIOS (basic input output system).  It was a pretty bad pc i discovered, no usbs because it is a Pentium 2, it has a quantum fireball hard drive, an Intel Celeron processor and 65536k of memory. I ask my friends in the ICT lab for help, they point out how useless it is (because before i didn’t realise), but I’m still going to use it.

System BIOS (Compaq screen is of another pc)

PCI card slot on motherboard

Pc turned on

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nexus S Jelly Bean

For those with a nexus s looking for Jelly bean update you can force it using this method.
Worked for me anyway.

You can force OTA update to be installed immediately using the following steps:
1) Go to the System Settings->Apps then hit the ALL tab at the top panel (swipe left if you don't see it)
2) Scroll down to Goggle Service Framework and open it
3) Hit the clear button and confirm
4) Go to the System Settings->About phone->System updates. The last checked date will be 1969 or 1970, this is ok
5) Hit the check button
6) Nexus S should now show update to 4.1.1 is Available
7) Hit install and enjoy

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Challenges Teachers see...

What the teachers of Hamilton view as the challenges facing them.
I was a little surprised by what they mentioned. Access to working technology still seems to be a challenge as does time. Have a quick look at the video to pick up the rest.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Standard Issue

We want people to reach standards! Having National Standards give us some new information that we are able to aggregate and compare.
One thing we all need to be careful of is seeing the standards as a goal above others. Thinking about and knowing how to administer the standards perhaps shouldn't be the central measure of professionalism.
When we hop on the scales every day  to check if we have the lost weight that Christmas bought us
we might be better served by going for a run or a trip to the gym. Change takes time and something has to happen to achieve it.

How often should we check for standards?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Growing Pains - A Bigger Network of Schools

I work with a professional learning community who has as one of its goals:

Interest groups who have not met previously are developing networks and increasing capacity across the schools

As it has grown we are needing to change
A key role of our regional group is to provide school leaders with information about leading change, engaging with and building community the power of networks and cross school moderation and sharing.
The scale and size of the community will be determined by what it means to principals, leaders and teachers. Communication methods have changed now that we have over forty schools who want to belong.

Push vs Pull
Communication structures are important and the balancing of push vs pull mechanisms are a challenge. Here’s how we see the conflict. Push being things we send (encouraging attendance, informing) without letting people decide if they want that information. Pull being things we can provide for people that have asked for them eg interest groups, web sites.

We have looked at various ways of matching written, email and website communication. Registrations and memberships are one thing but keeping a community up to date is another.

We have also approached the regional Principal’s group to try and get a face to face opportunity.
Placing our network within others and connecting through them is a goal. Relying on one central network we felt was unsustainable as was proceeding through gatekeepers to people who have their own connection points. Especially when it came to email communication

Why did this need doing?
This means getting the communications mechanisms right for a regional group if it is to be sustainable and effective.

What did we learn as we did this?
What we learned is that the systems need to be wherever possible streamlined and for the division of roles to be established with the administration group i.e. financial control, membership communication, e-mail communication, association with other groups eg principals groups. We see it is important to use face-to-face and person-to-person contact to establish an understanding of what membership has to offer. Offering other ways of communicating is vital to let friends hear the messages they want to and to talk back.
The ways to gather up a community needs to be varied so that we develop an overall effect of clear timely communication.

What have we achieved? What did this mean for you?
We have been working hard to get the contact addresses for members within the primary sector into categorise schools so that we might be able to send information appropriate to their needs such as secondary and primary groups. We have extended the belonging offer to Waipa, Matamata Piako and the Waikato region. This helps interest groups develop critical mass.

How do we know it's working?
We know we have some communications do because we only have six members schools from the secondary sector. Information from schools outside of the Hamilton district expressing interest in membership shows that they are watching us to communicate with them and to have an option for professional learning in the area of ICT. We also knew that we needed to address this issue and make decisions around how and when to communicate to members. Because of a greater allocation of funding was in the final year of the contract we are adding things to the programming as we proceed forward. Our previous mechanisms were insufficient.

What advice would you give others trying to do this?
Our advice to others and achieve this is to utilise automation tools and have ongoing reflection as to how we are reaching our community. We are looking to utilise mailchimp as a method of collecting addresses for contact and allowing people to choose what they wish to be informed about, how regularly etc. Event registrations through google forms are used to record contacts for updates and happenings.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Our Own time

When we give kids a challenge and some ownership they love it.
They learn as well. Having offered students a chance to come in at lunchtime and work with Lego robotics we have about ten committed students. 

They turn up consistently and work on this.

They are experiencing flow.

One of the ideas I am working on with this group is that
this is not a race and to acknowledge their own achievements.

The Temptation is to "borrow code" from others a little further ahead. 

With our own efforts well get there and when we do we'll understand more than borrowers.
With our own interests and challenges we are more likely to see this through.

Another quote to support this is "be a maker not a taker"

What Mckenzie had to say about Robotics and their Robot Storm.

Storm "So far we have built our robot. We are currently wireing and putting on our sensors. We downloaded the program we needed to use to program our storm robot.Our robot is basically made out of lego,  I like building Storm because it is a great challenge to achieve."

Finally Have a look at this clip that comes without sound.
5 seconds only. What it show is grandparents looking at the kids playing with robotics. I don't think the future is all about robotics but the looks on the faces of grandparents shows how different their learning and lives were.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Restore contacts - Gmail Help

I kindly offered to send a friend a group of contacts in Google. I unfortunately sent her my whole contact list of 1291 rather than a group of 18.

Restore contacts

If you make changes to your contacts that you want to undo, you can restore your full contacts list to an earlier saved version. This allows you to undo changes like:
  • Recovering contacts that have been accidentally deleted
  • Restoring contacts after an unsuccessful sync
  • Undoing a recent import
  • Undoing a recent merge

To restore your contacts to a previous version, just follow these steps:
  1. Click Contacts.
  2. From the More actions drop-down menu, choose Restore contacts.
  3. Choose the time you'd like to revert your contacts list to (e.g. 10 minutes ago, one hour ago, one week ago, etc). We suggest that you also make a note of the time that you restore your contacts, in case you'd like to return to where you started.
  4. Click Restore. You'll see a confirmation at the top of the screen when the rollback is complete.

To undo a restoration:
  • When the operation completes, a notification bar will appear that gives you the opportunity to immediately undo the restore. This notification bar will disappear if you leave Contacts or make edits to your contacts.
  • If the notification bar is no longer there, you can always re-run the Restore Contacts tool to take you back to where you started. Just set the tool to take you to the time just before you started the whole process.

The 24 hour rule for Chat contacts:
When you delete a contact in Contacts, it will also get deleted from your Chat list. After the contact is deleted, Chat still remembers the invitation status for that contact for another 24 hours. So if you restore a deleted contact within 24 hours, it will be fully restored in Chat. But if you restore a deleted contact after 24 hours, you'll need to re-invite that person to your Chat list.

Restore contacts - Gmail Help

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Set Gmail as Your Browser's Default Email Client with a Simple Hack

Set Gmail as Your Browser's Default Email Client with a Simple Hack

Took me a couple of goes but this from Lifehacker is easy. One important note, do this from a gmail window, and then when you click the link, that has to be in the same browser (or shut all windows and reopen) as you just applied the "try this" link.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Personalised and Formative

There are a lot of places on the web that will help students build Number knowledge and basic facts recollection.

Sites like Xtra Math offer a few keen advantages.
  • It is intelligent enough to help develop what students don’t know; personalising their learning
  • It focuses on what basic math facts students can recall, not what they can calculate. Three seconds is a carefully selected compromise that is long enough that a relatively slow typist can enter a recalled answer, and short enough so that most finger-counted responses are not erroneously considered fluent. If you increase the interval then you are no longer measuring fluency.
  • It is able to manage a class of students calling each in turn to participate.
  • It is able to help in the communication with parents and provide formative information for parents
  • It has class email updates
  • It comes at no cost although donations are welcome

Have established this now and will begin adding students soon 
Here is the teacher overview video if you want a look.

Getting Started with XtraMath -- for Teachers from XtraMath on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Digital Stickers

This idea of digital stickers was first introduced to me last year by Jacqui Sharp Jacqui had a number of great ideas for the 21st Century Classroom.

I used this with a group of year 4 students some who were motivated by collecting a sticker or two that was individual and appeared in their digital work. Read Emma's work which Was given the Magic imagination sticker. Add stickers or ideas to a collection here in an open google doc . How to do it is copied from a support document after Emma's wonderful story

Emma's Happy Place
My happy place is free with rivers, streams and it always has a great big rainbow. It’s my favorite place because I can go in it whenever I want. The people in my happy place are tiny and they only eat  vegetables.Only on Monday they eat ground beef.They eat vegetables    because they don’t like eating animals.The only animals in my happy place are kittens, puppies, butterflies, rainbow birds and unicorns. The grass never turns brown. In the middle of my happy place, there is a big river that has clear, blue, sparkling water that is fresh enough to drink straight away.There are no houses in my happy place so the people sleep under trees. The trees look like huge umbrellas. I never share my happy place with anybody! In my happy place, I feel free because it’s out in the open. The only time it rains is on Thursday and Saturday. My happy place has 1 more day than the real world. Its called Flowerday.My happy place is in my head. :D
One of the new features of Google docs is the web clipboard which allows users to copy to a web clipboard and then paste into a Google doc, spreadsheet presentation etc. I have been using this to make digital stickers for students writing.

The web clipboard menu in google docs

There are a few specific cases in which the best way to copy and paste is using the web clipboard menu. When you copy a selection using this menu, the content that you copy is stored and associated with your Google Account. That means that you can copy more than one selection and then choose which one to paste later; it also allows you to copy something on one computer and then paste it on another. To copy a selection using the web clipboard menu, follow these steps:
  1. Select what you'd like to copy.
  2. Click the Web clipboard menu that appears in the toolbar of your doc.
  3. server clipboard icon
  4. Click Copy selection to web clipboard.
  5. In the destination document, click the web clipboard menu; you'll see the selection that you previously copied. If you copied multiple things, you'll see a list of the items that you've recently copied.
  6. Place the cursor where you want to paste the content.
  7. Click the Web clipboard menu.
  8. Select what you want to paste. Depending on your selection, you'll see different formats that you can choose from to paste what you've copied (for example, HTML or plain text).
  9. Select a format.


You can use the web clipboard to copy shapes from drawings and paste shapes into drawings embedded in Google spreadsheets, documents and presentations, or to copy and paste a drawing from a doc into the standalone drawing editor.
Click the web clipboard icon and select Copy shapes to web clipboard. Then, open the doc that you want to paste the drawing into. Click the web clipboard icon and select the drawing that you want to paste from the menu.


You can't use the web clipboard to copy and paste standard text and images in Google Docs presentations yet. You can select entire shapes on a single slide and if the shape is a text shape, the text will be copied to the server clipboard.


You can use the web clipboard to copy and paste charts from a spreadsheet into a document or drawing.

Here are some more of the stickers.