Nominated!

Recently I was informed by my colleagues and friends from the multi-touch project at Durham University, that they have nominated me for an award!

The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s largest professional association advancing innovation and technological excellence. It has more than 375,000 members in more than 160 countries and is:

a leading authority on areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics among others.

Dr Andy Hatch has nominated me for the society’s Award for Distinguished Service in a Pre College Environment. It has been supported by my good friends Ollie Bray and Doug Belshaw, which is such an honour as they are constant sources of inspiration to me.

According to Andy’s reasoning I have, “done a huge amount to excite kids about tech… possibly increasing the likelihood that they will think about computing-related stuff in the future.”

I am so grateful and excited to even be considered – it is all decided by committee so I will let you know what happens.

SSAT Primary National Conference – Connected Classrooms

Today I attended the 4th Specialist Schools and Academies Trust Primary National Conference. I was invited to run some seminars for the delegates. Situated in one of the conference suites of the Emirates stadium, the home of Arsenal football club, the event accommodation was spacious and well equipped.

SSAT Primary National Conference 2010

I ran my hour long session twice during the day, it was titled “Connected Classrooms“. I based my practical ideas on 4 different connections.

  • Student – Student (same class)
  • Students – Students (different classes, countries, cultures)
  • Teacher – Student – Learning (connecting with our curriculum)
  • Teacher – Teacher (using Twitter for CPD)

I tried to keep my presentation simple and coherent, with a clear message about the ways we can use technology to engage learners.

We used the Nintendo Wii and I spent some time playing Endless Ocean and talking about the ways we have used it in our recent topic. I highlighted classroom blogging as a simple means to establish meaningful connections with other classes around the world.

Drawing upon my experiences of Twitter I spoke about why it is the most important CPD I have had. The most important connection we need to facilitate is between students in our own classes. I went into detail about how Voicethread can do this, the ways we have used it in a recent sequence of writing work and why it is one of my classroom cornerstones.

I think technology has the potential to both perpetuate traditional notions of classwork and to in fact smudge the definitions of what independent work means.

If you were one of those attending the sessions, thankyou for joining me and please feel free to leave me a comment about your reactions. I really value your feedback.

#classblogs

Recently I have written a number of posts about class blogging and have begun using one again in our classroom. One of the things that I wrote about in my previous post is how useful it is to keep tabs on your visitor numbers and locations, and how children get very excited about this.

One big influence on this is a separate network that allows you to promote your class blog and drive traffic to it. I am aware that with a larger Twitter network you can drive a larger amount of clicks. I am going to put mine to good use and post on Twitter a class blog recommendation every single day.

I hope that this helps drives traffic to your class blogs, widens your audience and continues to spark curiosity about different visitor locations. But perhaps more importantly it might help you and your class make some meaningful connections with other classes around the world.

I have started the #classblogs hashtag to keep track of everything to do with … class blogs!

Here are the first 4 recommendations taken from various tweets and recent comments on blog posts.

If you haven’t already please drop by and leave them a comment, remember if they have a visitor map even if you just take a look you will add a little dot. That dot may lead to a question from one of the class…

If you have a class blog and want me to help spread the word about what you are doing I am taking examples from the existing comments on my previous post, otherwise just let me know the details.

Class Blogging – Joining Up the Dots

When I first began my own blog nearly four years ago I also had set up a class site too. We had a year of great fun and connections. The experience made me realise how easy it is for classrooms to have a global dimension through the power of this technology. No doubt many of you with class blogs experienced this realisation too.

I have had a fantastic week returning to classroom blogging and starting our new class blog >> Priestsic5. Before Christmas I wrote a post asking for teachers to share their experiences with class blogs. To explain what platform they were using and to share some reasons behind it’s use. As you can see from the link I have decided to use Blogger as our platform.

Why Blogger?

The two main reasons are ease of use and sustainability, and I think that the former directly effects the latter. I want the blog to be a well established feature of the classroom and for it to be sustained into the future. Blogger is extremely easy to setup especially if you have some blogging experience of your own – but even if you have not.

One big plus is the associated services and tools that can be utilised alongside your Blogger (Google) account. The most important is perhaps image hosting in the form of Picasa Web Albums. Used alongside the desktop Picasa 3 application it is a good solution. Amongst other things I can blog directly from Picasa, synchronise local image folders to the web automatically and upload photo videos directly to YouTube.

Synchronise

Just to unpick the image folder synchronisation a little further – on our blog I have created an Art Gallery slideshow in the sidebar. I want this to be a collection of all that the class create and so I will be regularly updating the set of images. Currently all I have to do to add another image to this slideshow is add it to a local folder on my class computer – that’s it. I think this is a really useful feature as we are often managing lots of images from a whole class set of work. Using the Art Gallery example here’s how to do it:

  1. Upload you images to your computer, Picasa should automatically pick these up and display them for upload.
  2. Create an Art Gallery folder for the images (usually done during upload process)
  3. In Picasa next to the folder, on the right hand side of the screen, click the Sync to Web button.
  4. Sign in to your Google account.
  5. Your images will be uploaded to a web album.
  6. Click on the newly created online  album – click on “Link to this Album” in the right sidebar.
  7. Select “Embed Slideshow” and copy the code.
  8. Paste this code in your blog. For ours I used “Add Gadget” (HTML/Javascript type) from the Layout settings.
  9. Save and refresh your blog to check it is working OK – you can manually change the size in the code.
  10. Now every time you add an image to the original local folder (on your computer) it will automatically update to the web and consequently update your slideshow too.

In the remainder of the post I will be explaining a few additions and changes I have made to our class blog that I consider to be important.

Next Blog Link

One of the features of a blog with Blogger is the top navigation bar that appears. This has a “Next Blog” link button which takes you to a random blog. Naturally this is not ideal for a class blog as you have no control over what you are linking to.

The first thing I did was find out how to remove it. It is a pretty simple case of adding a small piece of CSS code to the Template code. I found this site’s explanation exactly what I needed. Here is a short screencast from the same website illustrating the process:


Remove Blogger NavbarMore free videos are here

How Many Visitors?

By simply tracking the number of visitors you are able to illustrate to your class that we have an audience. There are people out their in the world reading what we post. These numbers are important in helping you establish rules for writing posts and comments. Children have a better appreciation that their work is going to be viewed by more than just “us”. A visible visitor counter like StatCounter provides some useful analytics for your blog that you could use in maths further down the line

Dots on a Map

In my experience one of the greatest ways to hook your class into the use of the class blog is to display a map of your visitors. In the past and in the last week I have found this to be a great focal point for the class when they are looking at the blog. I have used ClustrMaps for years on my own blog and with classblogs.

It is simply a case of creating an account and then embedding a short piece of code in a blog sidebar. After 12 hours or so the map will begin to be populated with visitor dots. It is these simple marks on a map that become points of intrigue for the children in your class. After 24 hours of our own blog we had about 400 hits – I displayed the full screen map and just listened to the children pointing at the different countries and chatting about where their visitors were from. There was a buzz of excitement.

There is something so powerful and yet so simple and wonderful in allowing your class to realise that those little dots are people who have just visited your blog and read about work you do in your classroom. They begin to realise the connections we can make and begin to develop an awareness of things beyond their own community.

I know it is only a little map, but it really is a powerful aspect of class blogs and I would strongly recommend you display something too. Can you think of any other way that your class would willingly look at a world map every day and ask questions about where places are? Have your class blog displayed when the children come in first thing and leave room for their geographical curiosity to shine through. What you do with that natural curiosity afterwards is up to you!

Video of my Voicethread Presentation

During BETT 2010 we, the teachers, tookover commercial stands to talk about free tools for the classroom. Here is rare footage of me in the wild (!) presenting about “Why I think every primary classroom should be using Voicethread.”

Here is the Interesting Ways doc for Voicethread. A big thankyou to everyone at BrainPOP UK for letting me takeover their stand and for sharing the video footage.