Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interactive Whteboards

An interactive whiteboard is "an interactive display that connects to a computer and projector" (Wikipedia, 2009). Interaction and control over functions is enabled through the use of a pen or finger.

I have never seen an interactive white board in action before as was curious to see what they would look like in a learning environment. Like Bob Moore, Executive Director of Information Technology- Blue Valley School District Kansas (from the
first YouTube clip on Moodle) I was a little worried that these whiteboards were simply an electronic form of the traditional whiteboard and that teachers regardless of the expertise and skill would fail to meet expectations of how this technology could be used in the classroom. He put forth the notion that there needs to be a change in teachers' paradigms as well as training in the use of this technology in order for it to transform our classrooms.

However after watching MIT Sketching my opinion of this delivery mode began to change. I could understand the comments of Doug Brown, Head of Learning Technology, Department of Education and Skills for the United Kingdom. He stated that "in terms of some of the uses of the whiteboards pace of lessons was improving, motivation was improving, engagement was improving and teacher preparation was improving (ESN TechWatch: Interactive Whiteboards, 2007)".

As could be seen in MIT sketching, the whiteboards would be a valuable problem solving tool in the classroom. I can also see that the whiteboards could provide a base for both teacher directed and student centred learning. By allowing students to use the whiteboard it gives them a sense of ownership of their learning. I also believe that because the interactive whiteboard is more than something that notes are copied from students will view this as a valuable learning source rather than a giant canvas to draw on in free time.

"You will find some appalling teaching using (interactive) whiteboards - this is not about the technology; its is actually about the teaching" Doug Brown

The ability to save work to the whiteboard as well as view movies and web links on the screen means that it becomes very close to a all in one learning resource for teachers and students as per Oliver's Learning Design Construct.

Interactive Whiteboards are an expensive piece of equipment with prices starting from around $4000.00 per board and projector. As such I imagine it will be a while before this delivery technology becomes a regular feature across all schooling organisations. I would love to have this resource available to me in my classroom as its ability to give live demonstrations of concepts for learning areas such as maths and science as well as provide a link to other electronic resources would be invaluable.


eBeam edge and eBeam scrapbook -- by eBeam

Friday, August 21, 2009


Since starting this course I have discovered new technologies that can be used in the class room as well as opened my eyes to technologies that I use everyday that I didn't realise or think could make a difference in my classroom. Today's students reside in a media rich world. With so much stimulus for learning and games and activities available on the Internet we would be crazy to not take advantage of digital technologies to engage our students in the classroom. Today's students are Digital Natives (Prensky, 2001) and for Digital Immigrants there needs to be a shift in thinking that traditional teaching methods are going to engage students and give them the education that they need.

When I have my own class there are some technologies I have seen that will definitely be used in my classroom. These include Web quests, Wikis and You Tube to list a few.
Web quests will become a valuable learning experience. As a teaching technology they fit perfectly into Kearsley and Schneidermann's Learning Engagement Theory. Web quests enable students to be "meaningfully engage in learning activities through interactions with others and worthwhile tasks" (Kearsley & Schneidermann, n.d). Collaborative aspects of these quests help to develop motivation in students to learn as well as provide opportunities for group work with students from different backgrounds (Kearsley & Schneiderman, n.d). The project orientation and authentic focuses that are embedded in this delivery method are also key elements that keep the students engaged. Web quests also demonstrate Oliver's Learning Design Construct as all three areas (tasks, supports and resources) are inter-related and aim to achieve the same outcome.

I like the ideas of a class Wiki - and on-line learning classroom that can be accessed at school and from home. When set up correctly I think there is a real opportunity for students to band together in their learning and become more respectful and cooperative human beings. As I mentioned in my Wiki blog post, the online nature of the Wiki means that problems are more likely to be discussed and more solutions are likely to be found than in a traditional classroom setting. This in itself means that by searching for solutions and using problem solving skills students are engaging in higher order thinking, and this is with their own teacher necessary. I don't mean that it creates lazy teachers... I'm saying it would be great if this meant creating lifelong learners!

YouTube is another way of connecting with students. Studies show that "students learn better from animation and narration then from animation and on-screen text" and memory retention is "improved through words and pictures rather than words alone(Stanbury, 2008)." It is important though to use this technology (and any other technology for that matter) to its best effect and to not use it too often. We can become bored very easily when we are constantly being saturated with the same old, same old.

There are some factors that need to be considered in this new look classroom. We will have classes with students from diverse backgrounds, including those who do not have access to a computer or the Internet outside of school, students who are from different cultures, students with English as a Second Language or Indigenous Australians. However we should try and view this not so much as a disadvantage but use these technologies to embrace the diversity in the classroom. Go on YouTube and pod casts to discover other cultures. Create work that celebrates diversity and allow before and after school access to computers for your students. As well as this there are also child safety issues to be considered when children are on the Internet. It is important that students understand the dangers and know how to protect their identity while they are online.

Today's students are not what they used to be. They are not even similar to University students who may have only graduated high school three or four years ago. Yes these technologies may be a little work to set up and yes for some teachers becoming a proficient Digital Immigrant will be a lot of effort. However if it means that our students motivation to learn is increased, their engagement in class is increased and they develop a joy and passion for learning...creating an e-learning adventure for students is well worth the effort!

Kindergarten is Fun - by Woodley Wonder Works

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are designed to be "a way of delivering, tracking and managing training/education...over the internet (Wikipedia, 2009)". LMSs such as Blackboard, Moodle or WebCT act as web-based resource that can enable access to "learning content...and enhance and support class room teaching (Wikipedia, 2009)".

Since starting University, Blackboard has become part of my everyday life. While I appreciate the ease of access I have to course information I can't help but feel at times that this is just an electronic source of the blackboard we used to copy from at school. Kearsley and Schneidermann () describe their engagement theory as a process of human interaction not just "individual interaction with an instructional program". The theory comes from the idea that "computers in education...(are)...communication tools rather than some form of media delivery devices".

Having said this it may be that I don't use Blackboard to its full potential however I can see the value of having a LMS for the classroom. Students are able to gain access to information they have missed out on at school and homework tasks can be found and completed within the system. The LMS could also become a place that caters for differentiation such as gifted ad talented learners, or lower level learners who may need just a little extra help. The LMS is also a great way of showing other stakeholders what is going on in the classroom. I like how Moodle for this course makes use of forums and all who are enrolled feel free to voice problems and offer solutions. Netiquette would have to be established before school students used forums and Kearsley and Schneidermann suggest students create a brief bio of themselves so that others can get to know them.

I personally feel that Moodle is a better example of a LMS and can appreciate that a LMS can be a valuable teaching tool within the classroom.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

File Storage

I used Media Fire to upload my Reference List for this blog. In a teaching context, a file storage technology would be great for storing class resources, such as posters, charts and learning activities and examples of student work. I would be careful putting anything to personal up there such as student report cards or any information about identities as I would consider that to be private and confidential information.

To see my reference list please go to

Voice Thread

Voice Thread is a technology that enables files to be uploaded and comments talked, written and drawn into them. I wasn't able to make a presentation however I feel that this technology would be really good for distance education students. Through this technology they are able to hear feedback from their teacher who is able to circle the areas that they are making comments on. Also by making the comments using speech there is no awkward misunderstandings about what the marker had intended to convey (We've all have those e-mails or text messages where we are not sure if some one is joking or not). This technology would also be really good as a scaffolding tool for students to refer to when completing assignments. Here teachers could give a sample assessment presentation that comments and highlights what the assignment should look like and also outline good and bad examples of the assessment.

Using music on the Web

The downloading of music from the web is today a controversial issue. In "Teens Just Won't Pay for Music", findings from UK Music showed that almost two thirds of 14 -24 year olds were illegally downloading music from peer to peer networks (Skinner, 2009).

Music can be downloaded legally from sights such as i-tunes and Bigpond Music however costs soon start to add up with most tracks ninety-nine cents each. So what options are available for those who wish to download music for free without breaching Copyright law? Here enters Royalty Free Music which is covered under the Creative Commons Licence.

After spending some time browsing the Royalty Free Music on INCOMPETECH I started to think that in terms of music I would own up to having on my i-pod there wasn't much here. However there were some short pieces that were bearable and could be used in the classroom to assist learning.

I chose a piece called "Laconic Granny" that featured the tuba, baritone, clarinet and drums. With its slow lumbering sound, the slightly humourous piece made me think of a slow fat cat plodding along in a cartoon. Which made me think, if that's what came out of my imagination what could come out of my students? These short pieces of music could be used as stimulus for creating character profiles or inspiration for short stories. Learning to write from stimulus is a valuable tool for students as they need to be able to do this in tests such as NAPLAN. Being creative and the ability to think quickly are also useful skills to have for success post schooling.

Slide Share

Slideshare is "world's largest presentation sharing community (". Members are able to share their work publicly or privately.

I uploaded a presentation from a past University assignment. It was quite a simple process, including downloading the wma to mp3 converter. This would be a great way of sharing ideas between teachers, or creating a public place for all shareholders to view teacher or student achievements.

Web Quest

Web Quests are an inquiry based e-learning activity aimed on engage students by researching a key question to which there is no one clear answer. Web quests can be the basis of authentic tasks whereby each class member can take on individual or shared real-world roles. Web quests are particularly useful in the SOSE learning area. It enables students to explore events, environments and people from many different viewpoints.

Web Quests can also alter the way the classroom works. Rather then being concentrated at their desks with books and pencils students are in front of computers. The computer acts as a link to the outside world; a link to outside resources, real life videos, live discussions...endless possibilities for learning.

It is important that some scaffolding takes place before a web quest is undertaken by the class. Students (particularly lower years) will need to learn how to navigate back and forth and in between different web pages. If group work is not a regular occurrence in the classroom and there are shared group roles then some "get-to-know-you" activities will need to be done. Surprisingly, not much work needs to be done on getting students to stay focused on the task at hand. Although no one has been able to pin point why this is so I believe that it is because the students are involved in an authentic task and they can see the relevance and the rewards of discovering a solution.

A web quest is a time consuming and also sometimes complicated delivery method to design. It is important that it is designed so that it effectively covers at least two learning areas in order for it to be an efficient learning tool. English and SOSE are the two most likely contenders for web quests as students will research on a topic and generally use some form of literacy media to show what they have learnt. A web quest does however suite Oliver's Learning Design Construct as the learning task, resources and supports are all inter-related.


WIKIpedia is a controversial topic for me. It is a site where anyone can add to or create items for the free online encyclopedia. I use WIKIpedia for my own learning about trivial things like famous people or events and I often use it as a starting point for topics I'm not familiar with. However apart from this assignment I have never quoted it for a University assessment piece. It was acceptable to use WIKIpedia in high school however we were encouraged to find other sources for information. I guess WIKIpedia is controversial for me because of the double standards placed on its use (OK for primary and high school, do not use it at University or do so at your own risk!).

For students wishing to use WIKIpedia (or any other piece of research) my advice is to use the CARS method.
  • C - credibility - is there enough evidence to support the claims? Where is the evidence coming from?
  • A - accuracy - how does it match up to other articles? Is the date recent? have things changed since time of publishing?
  • R - reasonableness - who has produced this? Are they being objective? Are they using objective language?
  • S - support - has the author supported their work with references? Is any contact information provided?
In the Student Centred Technologies on Moodle it suggests that students could contribute to WIKIpedia. This to me is a much better idea as students will have to become thorough researchers. Students would be able to work together to come up with a class page on a topic. This would require them to co-operate with each other an would also provide students the opportunity to work with students that they may not usually associate with. As well as collaborative work experience students will also be participating in a task with an authentic focus. Kiersley and Schneidermann (n.d) suggest that as students are participating in learning with an authentic focus "students learn skills and knowledge with higher transfer to work settings". They also state that team work skills can also be acquired as well as skills for client interaction "that are often not taught in courses (but probably should be)".

Pod Casting

Even though I own an i-pod I have never explored Podcasts before. Assuming that you had to pay for everything I didn't give it much attention as why watch something on my i-pod when it is on TV or YouTube for free? (I guess I harbour today's generations attitude about paying for things on the Internet)

Podcasting is essentially where audio files (or video files, changing the name to Vodcast) are uploaded to a podcasting server (like i-tunes) and can be downloaded (often for free) to a computer or mp3 player.

Looking through the huge variety of topics that were available I became quite excited when I saw that I could learn other languages via Podcast. Interested I downloaded Lesson 1 of Learning French however I discovered that I am more of a visual learner than I thought. It was quite difficult for me to grasp these language concepts by only listening - I was craving to have some sort of text in front of me so I could see what letters made up these words and start seeing the patterns of pronunciation.

Bearing this in mind I started searching for something that would be suitable for my Year 1 class. There were some Vodcasts on science experiments but these were either too long and the students would become disengaged or were better off as live experiments conducted by the students. Hooked on phonics also had some Vodcasts but with their black and white graphics and dull voice over I couldn't imagine my students remembering much from the segment. Switching over to Podcasts there were many sites dedicated to stories for children. Scrolling down I came across a story called "In the Dark" by Pinky Dinky Doo. The author's name seem interesting enough so I downloaded the podcast through the i-tunes store (for free!)

"In the Dark" opened with a great catchy theme and very quickly introduced the 'great big fancy word' of the story..."reluctant". A definition of the word was given in children's terms and each time this word was used in was cued by a trumpet fanfare. There are examples of what it is to be brave and also some problem solving skills. If you go to the Pinky Dinky Doo website there are also great activities such as the Great Big Fancy Word Game that help build on things learnt during the story.

This activity would work well for my classrooms it is useful to both upper and lower level learners. For my upper learners they are able to add new words to their vocabulary and follow on activites would require them to use the word of the story in a meaningful way in their writing or their speech. For lower level learners, podcasts help to scaffold the link between oral language and reading. By combining the podcast with something like a quiz from ClassMarker it is possible that all three areas of Oliver's Learning Design Construct are in action. Students can undertake an online quiz after watching the podcast. With guidance the teacher could then scaffold the necessary processes required to create a role play or to undertake a problem solving activity based on the Podcast.

Students can also create their own Pocasts and upload them through a web Url. This could be useful for publshing oral activities on other e-learning places such as wiki's or webquests.

Podcasts and Vodcasts are useful learning tools for twenty-first century learners. In most cases today's students "have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age (Prenksy, 2001, p1)". Prenksy also states that for most college grads less than 5000 hours have been spent reading compared to over 10 000 hours on video games and more 20 000 watching TV. This does not mean that reading should become irrelevant for students but in order to install the motivation to learn to read it is important that we provide our students with resources that are engaging and provide stronger links between what they have access to at home and access to at school.

Google Earth

Google Earth is an online, virtual globe. Features of the latest version include the ability to access historical images of places around the world, view the ocean floor and other data provided by marine exerts and tours of the globe audio and voice recordings (Google, 2009).

I was a bit dubious about the program and its accuracy but was soon shocked when I typed in my workplace and it located it. Although the photo was taken three years ago significant detail was given in the picture. I then searched the surrounding areas and again the attention to detail was quite surprising. I looked up a friend's address in America and it was interesting to look at her University Campus as the size and set up is completely different to what we see in Australia. Finally I had a look at Tokyo in Japan. Zooming in on the inner city I added weather and traffic layers and made the buildings 3D. I also added the interesting places layer and photos. The program was really simple to use and provided the address is typed in correctly it will easily find different locations. One concern I did have was the ability for others to see where you live and as such it was a wake-up call about being careful of what information others can find out about you on the Internet, particularly from social networking sites such as Facebook and My Space. Internet safety, identity fraud and ensuring personal security would have to be discussed in the classroom so that students are aware of the possible dangers lurking on the Internet.

In the classroom Google Earth would be a great learning resource to assist students with their learning tasks. As a visual aid it would be great to use when looking at different cultures from around the world as students would be able to see how cities/towns are planned, what resources are available near by and get a feel for how big or small an area these places cover. Tokyo for example has a population of 12 million people however it wasn't until I zoomed out over the Tokyo Metropolis that I could even begin to comprehend what a 12 million people city would look like. In this way Google Earth provides a support for visual learners. The program could also be used to help understand co-ordinates for geography however as this is determined by where the mouse is on the page I'm not sure that I would use it to answer test questions (e.g: give the co-ordinates of Melbourne City, Australia). It would be great however if places could be sought by co-ordinates. On the other hand students could still answer questions and provide short responses about different places by searching for city names.

You Tube

You Tube is a website where anyone can upload and share videos. These can be videos that individuals have made or even television segments that have been uploaded by television stations and production companies. You Tube has become a regular haunt for most of today's generation as they can watch interviews with celebrities, view fan tributes, see hilarious skits, crazy stunts and view clips on things that interest them.

Since You Tube is so popular with today's children it would make since for us to incorporate it into our classrooms. There are plenty of clips on You Tube and its spin off Teacher Tube that can be used for educational purposes. For littlies there are numerous clips from shows like Sesame Street, Word World and Play School. For older students there are news reports, documentaries and short films. You Tube is appealing as it offers a more engaging way of communicating concepts to students. If the right clips are selected there can be the balance between education and fun. What I mean by that is that often movies are seen as time fillers or if thy are used in an educational context the gains are limited as most times the film is followed by a basic question and answers sheet.

The clip that I have chosen is Part 1 of the Coral Seas episode from The Blue Planet series by BBC, narrated by David Attenborough. The clip details how most of sea life depends on the coral reefs. Attenborough discusses how coral is formed and the life of polyps. At ten minutes in length, this is the longest I would want any clip to run for in my class; if the clip is too long students can tune out. This segment of the show would be the basis of investigation into the sustainability of the reef. Students would act as environmental researchers to explore threats to coral reefs and what can cause coral to die. Students would then develop scenarios of what would happen if we had no reefs. Students would finally use this information to develop an awareness brochure and ad campaign.


Quizzes can be a great form of diagnostic testing for teachers to see how their students learning is progressing or to find out what their students already know. ClassMarker is an electronic testing resource for teachers. Teachers are able to design an online test and enrol their class into the virtual classroom so students can complete the test. From here teachers are then able to view students results. Teachers can choose from different styles of questions such as multiple choice, multiple response, free text, punctuation and essay.

I created a test called "In the Dark" which would be used in conjunction with the "In the Dark" podcast. I chose a variety of questions including free text. I like the idea of the question style as it eliminates the chance element that is present in other question options like multiple choice. One problem I did find with the free text question however was that you have to enter in a variety of correct answers. Unless students match one of the responses the teacher has entered word for word they will get the question wrong. I did find that if you labelled the question as an essay than you could mark the students' responses manually.

I can see how this technology could be used in the classroom however as I said earlier I would only use this for diagnostic testing and unless students were writing an essay response I do not believe that this technology would contribute to higher order thinking.
Writing Exams - by ccarlstead

Image Manipulation

There are two different types of image manipulation. One is where photos are simply corrected or re-sized using a computer. The second is where the picture is edited in order to create "an illusion or deception (Wikipedia, 2009)".

I used the Picnik software to edit my photo. There were many things that could be adjusted however I kept the changes to my photo quite simple. When editing my picture I changed the photo from landscape to portrait and added a sepia tint. If you upgrade your subscription there are even more ways that pictures can be added to.

Picnik is a user friendly way to edit pictures and generally suits the purpose of resizing images so they are more suitable to be used in other applications.However there are more complex programs available. Adobe PhotoShop is a very popular image manipulation software package and one only has to look on Youtube to see the multitude of tutorials showing you how to make the most of its tools. Programs like Adobe Photoshop are used for simple image editing however they are more often used to adjust the content of the picture. Here are two examples.
This photo was published on the internet shortly after the September 11 Bombings. The photo was quickly dismissed as fake and if you take a second look you can see why.
- The plane is coming in from the wrong direction.
- The plane does not appear to be moving as you would expect
- The shadows indicate the photo was taken pointing north, however the North Tower had no observation deck.

In 2004 Keira Knightley's publicity posters for the movie King Arthur were edited for American audiences but left untouched in England. What does that say about different societies views on body image?

As a teaching tool I think it would be very thought provoking to use this second type of image manipulation with students. Students could analyse the impact that image manipulation has on the beauty industry and even create their own "touched up" pictures. It would be very interesting to uncover the make-believe world that the advertising industry creates for us.


I first remember using a PowerPoint presentation in Grade 6 or 7. We had to do a group presentation on another culture (we chose Mexico and made nachos for everyone!) and we got marked on our PowerPoint. Now I will admit that I am someone who is easily distracted and I can remember even back then spending ages changing colours, inserting pictures, making things move, adding noises..oh and of course the content we actually got marked on...however we never really received much guidance on what made for a stand out PowerPoint presentation. In fact it wasn't really until University that the contents of a PowerPoint Presentation was discussed.

When I was at Queensland University of Technology there was a compulsory subject called Learning Networks. It could have been really (and I mean REALLY) boring because the course focused on making sure we were all equipped to use ICT's (and that we actually knew what an ICT was) ...however I am starting to ramble. The point is, our student cohort was saved from going brain dead from boredom by our lecturer Michael Ryan. He used to have the most well prepared PowerPoints. PowerPoints that gave just enough information so it was relevent to what he was talking about, but not so much information that meant we could skip a lecture (smart lecturer!). His PowerPoint's always had awesome links and I am sure that he never posted the full presentation on the web because there were always extra slides at the lecture.

So what did Michael Ryan's lectures show me about the use of PowerPoint as a teaching tool?
  • Less is more - don't crowd each slide with text, pictures and garish colours - "too much sensory input can lead to cognitive overload" (
  • Don't rely on rely on the PowerPoint to do the teaching - why should your students make an effort to listen if you have made no effort to engage them?
  • Let your PowerPoint be a stimulus for learning - provide students with links to other sites that will have interesting information,YouTube, games or quizzes are just some examples
As a teaching tool PowerPoints can be really powerful (pardon the pun). Once you discover how to present your content so that it is both relevant and engaging the world is at your feet.
A study by CISCO systems shows that where visuals are added to texts (written and aural) there can be "significant gains in basic or higher order learning" (
The Metri Group, drawn from the work of Richard Mayer, Roxanne Moreno and others created a report that outlined the learning principles for Multimedia.Two are especially relevant to PowerPoint presentations.

Multimedia Principle - Retention is improved through words and pictures rather than through words alone Modality Principle - Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
(Quoted directly from

Watching PowerPoint in the classroom with Jim Jingle and Special Sue I was certain that Andrew O'Keefe had got his own web page. While the script was a little corny (and I could not help imagining game show music in the background) I have to admit that the site did engage me however the information may be more beneficial to those who have never used PowerPoint before.

I would definitely use PowerPoint in my classroom. For older students I would provide them with handouts so they can take notes as we go along. With younger students information would be much simpler and explicit and also the presentation would be shorter.

As a student centred technology PowerPoint is still valuable. An effective PowerPoint presentation requires the student to use a range of higher order thinking skills including problem solving and deciding what information should be placed on the slides, experimentation with layout and the creation and design of the presentation. They should also make time to reflect and evaluate the effectiveness of their Presentation.


...or more truthfully, the site where I can look at pictures of places I would love to visit as well as other interesting (but maybe not always relevant to this assignment) stuff.

At first it took me a little while to get my head around what I could use from Flickr. I had heard of the site before and knew that I could access pictures could be used freely on the web however all of the pictures I found where fully copyrighted. After much searching I discovered a tag down the bottom of the page that allowed you to search within the creative commons and ta-dah! I now have my own travel album and I haven't had to hop on a single aeroplane.

The pictures that I selected are all able to be published and reproduced as long as the orginal work is attributed to its owner (this can be found at the bottom of this post).

Having decided that the pictures I selected would form a make believe photo album I opened the pictures in Picnik (which is next to be discussed) and gave the photos the polaroid frame treatment.

Flickr is an online photo library that aims to "help people make their content available to the people who matter to them" and "enable new ways of organising photos and video" (Flickr, 2009). As I mentioned earlier photos that are fully copyrighted are also on the site. It is important that we abide by copyright laws and also provide our students with an understanding of the legal issues of using other people's work. Here it would be useful to use a YouTube clip that explores the differences between copyright and creative commons.

As a teaching tool Flickr provides a photo bank for teachers to access free of copyright hassles. Pictures can be used to help support learning, or branching off from my travel photos idea could possibly be used as stimulus to learn more about another culture.
Flickr also provides students with a wealth of pictures that can be used for different tasks. In terms of presenting pictures within a task that will be posted on the web, students may find (as I did) that they are more inclined to create something of a high stadard as they are aware that their work will be seen by their peers (Kearsley & Shneiderman).

Night View Eiffel Tower, Paris, France by
eustaquio santimanos
Gelativa Brivido by amstrks
Santorini Greece by billandcathy
St. Basil's Catherdral by itsray

Voki Avatar

Before this course I had never seen an Avatar before and what funny little creatures they are!I had so much fun creating my little person...perhaps too much fun as I could have spent hours fiddling around with all the different options (the accents are the best fun...especially the different languages! I wonder if they are accurate enough to be used to learn a second language?) Anyway these are a awesome, fun tool that can be used to engage students in their learning.
My character Dr Byrne is a chemist and I have given her features that challenge the traditional scientist stereotype. Her words are used as the hook to engage the students
and I hope that her appearance shows students that all types of people can be scientists. In a class context students would become co-workers with Dr Byrne and assume the role of a chemist/researcher thus providing them with an authentic task. They would also develop skills that could be transferable to other learning areas.
Avatars would fit perfectly into a web quest. In the web quest I would use Dr Byrne to explain scientific concepts, give interesting facts and also use her to pose questions that provide research topics.
Avatars also suit modern student's learning styles. Students lives today are full of media enrichment (Prensky, 2005). They expect to be constantly engaged and when put up against computer games, i-pods, movie-maker and other digital technologies, older teaching styles simply don't cut it. By developing avatars we can connect with students on their level. We can provide them with something that captures their attention, sucks them into a world of learning. These avatars are quite simple to create however text structure is important as this is what really engages learners. Prensky (2005, p64) agrees that it is not so much the quality of the graphics but rather "what they do and learn.In gamer terms "game play" trumps "eye-candy" any day of the week". Avatars are definitely something that should be included in e-learning activities and are a teaching tool that can be used across all age groups.


...As a teaching tool
Bronte and I actually set up a Wetpaint account last year with the intention of using it to create a web quest. We ended up using PowerPoint instead and so I never became familiar with the Wetpaint site.
So wanting to learn more about Wetpaint I created a Wiki with them. Establishing the site as home of TEACHER (The Educational And Creative Http of Exciting Resources...and yes that took me ages to think of!) I suddenly realised the enormous potential for teacher collaboration by using this site.
If a collection of teachers were to subscribe to this group, effectively we would become a community of practice. Etienne Wenger (2006) defines communities of practice as "groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly".
As for a Wiki's role in the classroom? The question really should be does a Wiki need to be part of the classroom routine? Initially, students will need some scaffolding in how the Website works, although the informative help button is always close at hand. Once students now how to add to the site there should be few problems.
Wiki's would be perfect for problem solving actvities, reasearch and planning. The Wiki could be created as a whole class where smaller groups can work on different aspects of the one topic or many topics worked on by many groups.
...for students
Students have much to gain from working with this sort of site. The YouTube Clip found on Moodle is a great example of student interaction, however as mentioned above, this site is also the perfect setting for collaborative learning.
Before we go on, it is important that we now recognise that learning is not something that takes place solely in the classroom. Wiki sites enable students to be physically separate but mentally together. This has both advantages and disadvantages.
  • Students can become part of a collaborative learning environment whereby they are engaged in "active cognitive processes such as creating, problem solving...and decision making (Kearsley & Schneidermann)"
  • Students are more likely to be motivated to learn within a group setting
  • Collaborative learning forces students to voice their problems however there are many brains available to help find a solution
  • Students will work with others who may have backgrounds that are quite diverse from their own, allowing social skills and different view points to develop.
  • Students who cannot regularly attend school can still be a part of the learning environment and be actively engaged in learning tasks
(Kearsley & Schneidermann)
  • Not all students will have access to internet or computers at home
In this case students will need access to computers at the school either before or after school (however, family situations/commitments/outside factors may prevent this) or during school hours.
A Wiki, when facilitated properly can be a valuable learning tool for both teachers and students.

Setting up an e.portfolio

An e.portfolio as the name suggests is a portfolio that is available electronically. The advantage of this is that it is a resource that can be easily updated and added to at any time. Employers are now also keen to have staff that a e-literate and an e.portfolio is a way of demonstrating that you are capable of using computer technologies and also show how these would be used in a classroom.
Both teachers and students can use this resource to display their computer savvyness and as Kiersley and Schneiderman (n.d) point out when work is put up on the web there is "more incentive for them to do their best possible work, since they know that their work will be viewed by their classmates..(and peers)...and possibly the whole world".
I have begun creating my e.portfolio which I will continue after my course and use to pursue my ICT pedagogical licence.

Starting out...

Ok! So I have set up my first ever blog and established an RSS aggregator. I feel as this assesment flies in the face of all other university assessment pieces I have done in the sense that we (students enrolled in the course) can all read, comment on and share our ideas and work with each other before the due date. We have all been discouraged from these types of practices...odd really since we are told that teachers should share more of their work with their peers. As I set out on my e-learning adventure feeling a bit self-conscious knowing that others can see how my brain works (or sometimes doesn't haha) I hope that I can discover and learn how to implement e-learning tools in my lessons to make my classroom a more exciting place!