Monday, September 27, 2010

Voki - Online Instructions

Voki is a tool that allows you to create online avatars. These are great if you want to explain a process or even walk your students through an assignment online. You get to choose the hair, skin colour, accessories even the sound of the voice. This is an excellent way to nudge your students in the right direction for any online task or activity. It only takes about three or four minutes to put your voki together. You could even embed these into you class wiki or website. These are lots of fun and add another level of assistance for the students.


Wordle is an application that allows the user to create word clouds from selected text. You can either nominate a website address, a account, you can just cut and paste the text or you can type it into the box. This is a great way for students to visually represent how the words in a piece of text also have a heirarchy.

Wordle: Cubism

Friday, September 24, 2010


This is a little Web 2.0 tool that automatically makes 30 second, high resolution videos of your photos or images. This can be embedded into wikis, blogs or websites. There are multiple styles and scaffolds to chose from that will make it look like you have the skills to put together multimedia MTV style clips. These can be displayed within a frame or as full screen presentations.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Digital Diary - VAPD

One of the things that we need to do in Visual Arts is to keep a diary of our processes. This should articulate our ideas and images, record our media experiments, study the ways other artists have responded and track our solutions that we develop to our own artistic problems. The Visual Arts Process Diary is a place for the art student to reflect on their artistic processes. This is not something that normally comes naturally to boys. Reflection is not something that they do well and we have struggled in the past to get them to record anything but the absolute basics.

We have started to use our laptops as a way of documenting this process. So, near the end of each lesson the students get an opportunity to photograph, blog, podcast or video exactly what they had been working on that lesson. They might discuss or illustrate techniques, solutions to a problem or just document where they are it in the production of their idea.

The idea was that anybody could pick up their video and see how their work went from idea to product. We have never had responses like this. These are the most comprehensive and reflective diaries that we have ever had. The boys can see why we should record this type of information and are even starting to make links between the artists we study and their own work without it being explicitly spelled out for them.

Here are some small snippets from Digital Process Diaries or activities recorded on their laptops;


Web 2.0 Logins

One of the important lessons that we attempt to teach our students is to be proper digital citizens.

The major concept of this is online safety and information security. To this end we have recommended that the students set up a school gmail account separate to their personal emails.

They can do this very quickly. Most Web 2 tools require a email login and so for both ease of use and security we ask them to use this gmail account for nothing else. This means that at no time do commercial companies or third parties get hold of student's personal email information.

Of course we also have the conversation about not giving out any personal details at all and that if that situation comes up that the teacher is to be notified immediately.


Lots of people have heard of Glogster. It is a web 2.0 tool that allows you to construct interactive posters. It is great for students too and only requires a simple email login. The beauty of this tool is that it is truly multimedia. You can include images, text, music and video all on the one doucment. It is a digital collage that can have embedded hotspots that are activated by the viewer. This is literally a drag and drop tool that kids can be using within 5 minutes of introducing them to it. I just love the fact that students have to source the media, evaluate it's effectiveness and re-present it within a graphic context. A great way to achieve a deeper level of understanding than just using a traditional cut and paste collage.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


One of the initiatives that has been put in place at our school is the MacMasters. This group are a bunch of Yr 9 students who were identified as students who had shown a knack for the laptops or were tech savvy. Some students were nominated, some were invited to be part of the group. They now meet once a week with our e-Learning co-ordinator to be skilled up. The idea is that these students will become the experts for both staff and students. If a teacher would like to instigate a task that utilises computer technology or a Web 2.0 tool, one of the MacMaster students works with them as tech support. They will also be asked to contribute to our growing library of Jing instructional videos. on top of this they will contribute an article to online e-zine "A byte of the Apple". There is a social kudos that these kids have received at our school. Some that originally declined the offer have come back to request a place on the program.

Thumbtack Mic

I had tried to record a number of Podcasts with the inbuilt microphone on my MacBook but was not happy with the quality. If I was going to present this to students surely I had to model a good quality product myself, so I was on the lookout for a good quality mic. Then I found this sexy little thing. I love the look of it and I love the quality. You can get them from the States for $12 but it costs you a fortune to ship them out here. I got mine for $24 at a computer wholesaler. This thing works a treat. Your quality jumps by about 200% but I would have bought it anyway - just look at it. How cool is this thing!

Wix - Drag and Drop Website

Design and build your own Flash website. This is a free Web 2.0 tool with lots of features. Wix allows you to browse 100s of site templates and find one that is similar to the one you want. You then customise the template, adding your own media, fonts and colours. Change the page headings or add ones that your template doesn't have. This is a quick to build but very professional finished product. I especially love the cover flow picture gallery. Buy a $10 domain name and you are in business.

Use of a Class Wiki

I love to set up class wikis. Before they started to charge, we used to use Ning. Will have to find another one that offers the same features and flexiblility. For an art class wikis are good for uploading photographs of your works. These can be commented on by other people in the class, or even rated as part of peer assessment. It does not take long to create a safe atmosphere for this to happen. I also like to make an "Artwork of the Week" to showcase some excellent work or a innovative technique. Each of the students can have there own home page to personalise.

This can become part of a digital portfolio as the students can document;
  • what media they used
  • what were their intentions 
  • what e-tools did they use - if any at all
  • what was their audience reaction
  • what were they really happy with
  • what would they do differently next time

Quizlet - Online Study

Quizlet is a Web 2.0 tool that allows you to make fun interactive flash cards. You can set up words, definitions even images to commit to memory (images are an extra and cost you a small fee - $1.00.) It is a fun way for students to remember. My senior students use it to remember the names and artists of works we are studying in our case studies. There are three different modes; familiarise, learn and test. The best thing about the testing mode is that the students can time themselves. This introduces a gaming element and the students respond very well to attempting to beat their best score and time. Very addictive just like any good game, but your students just happen to be learning at the same time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Artistic Practice

This is another of the Digital Textbooks designed to maximise students understanding. Artistic Practice is one of the three notions that Visual Arts Syllabus is based on. The linking to the Syllabus documents and the creation of answers is the key here. The students need to locate, collate and then present the information. The iMovie activity was mentioned in an earlier blog. This was a highly successful learning experience.

Voicethread - collaboration

Voicethread is the perfect Web 2.0 tool to collect and share comments from your classes about a single or set of source materials. The source material can be text, images or videos. You can ask a question of them or ask them to reflect on a specific aspect of the image. The students can then type a comment, annotate the source material or even draw arrows and lines to emphasise their comments. The beauty of this tool is that all the comments show on the one page. This would be the quickest way ever to mark homework. I love this idea! If you register as an educator you can access some of the features normally reserved for the paid version.

Timetoast - Digital Timeline

Timetoast is one of the Web 2.0 digital timeline creators. It is easy to use and can be constructed quickly by students with absolute minimal instruction. I like the hotspots that are activated by the mouse when you scroll over them. This is perfect for adding another layer of information to your timeline. This is a great tool to use with any age when you want them to see an event of a series of events within a context.

Issuu - Online Publishing

Issuu is a Web 2 tools that allows you to publish PDFs. You can produce the documents in any program that you like - I prefer PAGES on the Mac. Once you have created a stunning document to impress the world, simply log on to Issuu and upload your PDF. The whole process takes about 2 minutes and you now have a digital magazine style document. This can be embedded into a blog or onto your website. The example of digital textbooks on this blog have all been embedded as stand alone documents. Give some thought to the tags that you attach to your new magazine so that plenty of people can find it in the online library. If you do not want everyone to see it tick this in the box when you are setting it up and only give the address to the people who you want to see your foray into the publishing world. This would be great for storybooks, illustrated stories or making picture books.

Web 2.0 #2 Writing Day

I had the opportunity today to attend the first writing day for the second instalment of the CEO Web 2 Course. It was attended by some great staff from across the Sydney CEO schools. There was almost as much resource swapping as there was writing. The outline of the course already looks good. Some of the groups completed a massive amount of collation in such a short period of time. It is always amazing to see how switched on these guys are around new and emerging technology, current educational theories and of course good sound pedagogy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Symbaloo: Visual Bookmarking

A great Web 2 tool for keeping all of your bookmarks in one place. This is a tool the allows you collect and store all of your bookmarks in a visual way. It makes for a quick and easy internet experience. It is also a great look for your browser homepage. This image is only about 15 % of your screen. You get about 70 bookmarking tiles on the screen at once but course you can set up links to other pages of connected sites.

iMovie - Creating Understanding

The Yr 11 Visual Arts class were using a newspaper article that discussed the different forms of drawing. A couple of the students did not really understand some of the concepts covered in the article. As a way to facilitate a deeper understanding of the individual concepts we decided to divide the article into the different ideas discussed. Each student had to research the idea, find examples of it in an artwork and re-present their findings as a 10 to 15 second iMovie. We then combined each of the individual iMovies to form a visual representation of the concepts.

Xtranormal: Text-to-Movie

This is a fun little Web 2 tool that allows you to type in a script and it will automatically turn it into an animated movie for you. You can then set camera angles, camera changes, choose characters and even accents. It is a great tool for getting students to work with and creating dialogue or even to get them to see two points of view.

It takes a little longer to get the hang of all the available features of this program but you can still create scripted animations in minutes. Apart from all the obvious benefits of this web tool, this is just great FUN.

PREZI - The Zooming Presentation

This has to be my all time faviourite Web 2.0 tool. It is called the zooming presenter and for good reason. This is a non-linear presentation tool that is like powerpoint on steroids. It is perfect for making connections between disparate items and looking at the big picture. This is because you can actually zoom into and out off the canvas space. This allows the audience to make the overarching connections or conversely to focus of one particular piece of information.

It is intuitive to use and students can be creating presentations within minutes. The tool is continuing to add features and different styles to its already impressive library. You can access your presentation anywhere you have access to the internet or you can download your presentation onto your own computer. This is so simple it is beautiful!

Vuvox - The Digital Collage

Vuvox is a great Web 2.0 tool that allows you to create a continuous collage of images. The tool also allows you to create hotspots. A hotspot is an image that activates a text box, a piece of music or even a video. This is very effective when you need to add another layer of complexity to the information.  This tool is effective for creating narratives or even presenting numerous sources materials within the one image.

This may be a way that you present information to a class or it might be a task for students to collect, collate, evaluate and construct the collage to present a specific point of view. Most collages can be construct within a very short period of time once the images have been collected.

Jing: The Screen Recorder

We have started to use Jing as a way to give instructions for computer procedures. Jing is a Web 2.0 tool that allows the user to video what is happening on their screen and their voice at the same time. This allows the users to give verbal instructions as well as show the audience the procedure.

So far we have used it in a Staff Meeting for Professional Development and the Yr 9 Mac Masters are starting to use it to create a bank of short instructional videos.

Jason Hackenwerth Case Study

This is a case study that was used as a digital textbook for a Yr 10 Visual Arts class. The students were instrumental in the design of both the layout of the document as well as the activities. This was a unit that all students were actively engaged in, simply because they felt they had ownership of the material. We had done a lot of work on learning styles, differentiation and types of assessment. This became a sample case that tried to incorporate many of the principles from these three areas. This was a great learning experience for both the students and me.

Van Gogh Digital Textbook

This was a case study for a Yr 10 Visual Arts class studying Postmodernism. We reviewed the accepted position of Vincent van Gogh in history and then evaluated the accepted history from a fresh perspective. These activities where designed in co-operation with the students. It was the second of these collaborative case studies that this class had designed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jamie McKenzie Workshop

Attended the Jamie McKenzie Workshop today 15th Sept at the CEO Lidcombe office. It was attended by over 70 primary and secondary teachers. It was a workshop on "Managing the Laptop Classroom for Results". He is an interesting speaker that often contradicts the educational authorities on what should be happening in our schools. Although he is an american educational consultant he is well versed in both our current political situation as well as the social context in which we are teaching. He has all of his workshop material on his website

His primary concern is really better teaching. He discusses the trends that continue to cycle through education but wants the participants of his workshops to understand that the laptops are not the answer by themselves. He believes that we need to teach our students to think, to question and to create answers rather than find them on the net. He sees the laptops to be effective tools for teachers who have received the appropriate training.

He is a convincing speaker with many valid and arresting points to make about our own expectation of teaching and of our students. He believes that many schools are still in the process of producing citizens for the old world when really we should be making critical thinkers that are both verbally and visually savvy in this media saturated world.


I put together a small E-Zine in an attempt to ease the transition of staff with the one-on-one Mac laptop introduction. It was to be small private publication for the staff of Marist College Eastwood but a few people saw it at the ITSC Apple conference 2010 and asked if they could put it on the CEO Inner West website in the e-learning section. I have also embedded it here for convenience.

Happy for other teachers or students to send how-to articles for the next edition.