Thursday, June 30, 2011

Celebrating Our Challenge Based Learning Project

As part of our ‘Edge’ (Educating the Digital Generation) Challenge Based Learning program we wanted to celebrate the first major Project submitted. We discussed the different ways that we could showcase the student's work. We wanted to highlight the successes of the program but we also wanted to acknowledge the great work that the students had created as part of their project. So we staged the Edgie's Award Ceremony.

In a way we wanted to lift expectations for the following project. We wanted to not only showcase the work of the students but also show them the quality and standard of work that was required. We sourced some props; bollards and red carpet, posters and some trophies. We issued the students with invitations and invited them to dress up in a funky hat or silly tie.

The day was a huge success. The students approached the whole event with an attitude of celebration and affirmation. We had comperes interviewing students on the red carpet, groups had their photos taken in front of the paparazzi -flashes blazing. On the back of the invitations was a voting form with a whole range of different categories for peer voting; Best use of Technology, Best use of Storytelling, Best use of Humour, Most Educational, Most Informative etc. The final award presented was the ‘Edgie’ - Best overall presentation.

It was amazing to see the effect of the Edgies on the students. The boys were full of energy for the sessions after the Edgies. We presented the next challenge and many used their time to start their research straight away. I think it had something to do with the fact that they had been made aware of the standards expected as well as using the really good presentations as a springboard for their own ideas. It is amazing what effect a $2.80 trophy can have.

All photos for the day credited to Simone Maciel ©2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Building Online Games as an Educational Tool

More and more people are exploring the idea of making games within an educational setting. The design, construction and planning of the outcomes is an excellent problem solving exercise. It makes for a fantastic collaborative project as well.

I had a student approach me today with a game that he has based around the unit of work that we are studying. Each of the students negotiate their own research based on their understanding of the concepts covered by the unit.

He has used Game Salad as a way of building a game where the player must safely transport a 19th poster to the print factory. The concept of the game is that the player must learn about the effect of technology on late 19th century art movements and how it changed artistic practice.

When I mentioned this to a couple of teachers over lunch they related that a couple of kids from the same cohort had created a synopsis of scenes from Othello using different gaming platforms for each new scene. Apparently it went down very well with their peers in the English class.

So what are some of the Web Tools your students could use to construct their own online games:

StencylWorks isn't your average game creation software; it's a gorgeous, intuitive toolset that integrates seamlessly with the Stencyl ecosystem. Exclusive collaboration and sharing features will have you making Flash games in a flash. For free. iOS support is on its way, too.


GameSalad aims to open the doors of game design to anyone who wants to create. With GameSalad's complete set of tools and editors, bring your game to market faster and easier than with any other development platform; and without coding a single line. That's development in days and weeks - not months. That's the democratization of game creation.

Thinking Worlds:

Thinking Worlds is a 3D sims & games engine and authoring tool. It enables novice and advanced developers alike to create and publish highly immersive simulations – rapidly. It has been designed from the start around the needs of designers and enables quick development of 3D sims & games. When you’re finished creating and building your sims, Thinking Worlds enables you to publish your project as either a standalone sim. Web-delivered sim or a mobile sim for iPad and iPhone requires a product purchase.


Scratch is a programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web. As young people create and share Scratch projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also learning to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively.

Want to make your own online games for free? Sploder makes it super easy for you to make your own free games online and share them with your friends. Make your own platformer games, spaceship shooters, space adventure games, and now, our fantastic new physics game maker has been launched for creating original minigames! is a fun and safe online community of really creative kids. We give you the tools you need to quickly create fun, online, multiplayer games that you can play with your friends, family, and other ChallengeYou members.

There are many many websites, blogs and wikis that explore this educational concept. I was lucky enough to participate in a workshop last year at Ulearn 2010 where Adrian Camm had put together a fantastic resource.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Challenged Based Learning

We have been using a CBL model to base our Yr 7 Learning Project on. I have posted about it once before - we are using the Al Gore multimedia iPad book as our inspiration. This video is a great explanation of the scaffold.

The basic Challenged Based Learning process.

1. The Big Idea
Every challenge starts with the selection of a big idea — a broad topic that has importance to students and their community. Topics like democracy, the environment, or sustainability.
2. Essential Questions
Students explore their big idea by asking questions that reflect their individual interests and community’s needs. How does food impact our health? How do our diets impact the environment? What are the benefits of organic farming? 
3. The Challenge
From the essential questions a challenge is developed to guide students toward a real-world solution. Like, let’s improve what we eat.
4. Guiding Questions and Activities
To meet their challenge, students need to ask guiding questions. What exactly do we eat? What nutrients do we need? What foods can we grow locally? To find answers, teachers work with students to identify guiding activities they can do at school and in their community. Students can interview people about their diets and analyze nutritional data etc.
5. Guiding Resources
Students take advantage of websites, podcasts, apps, audiobooks, and other resources to help answer guiding questions and develop solutions.
6. Solutions and Presentations
With their research complete, students choose one solution to develop. In this example, creating a school garden. To showcase their thinking, they can build an engaging presentation. Once the solution is approved, students implement it in the real world.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Can you really use Twitter in your Classroom?

Twitter was one of those things that I just ignored. I thought it was a little bit indulgent and frivolous, that was until I got shown how teachers are using it for Professional Development. It is interesting how often it is now my first port of call if I am looking for a new Web 2 tool or an App that does a specific task. So how can you use twitter in the classroom. This has been cross-posted at Appsineducation

1. Make your own Textbook

We have used twitter in our class as a way of creating our own textbook. It was really a book for those students who wanted to complete some further reading around the subject we were studying. The class was studying a unit of work on Picasso and the Development of Cubism. 

We created a class twitter account and then each time any of us found another online resource we retweeted it back to the school account. We then configured our Flipboard to feed from this account on to one of the content pages. The students had access to all of the resources in a format that easily resembled a magazine. 

We actually found out about an exhibition that we were unaware was on and the gallery had these fantastic education kits that accompanied the exhibition. That alone made this a great activity.

2. Develop a whole Book with Chapters

Zite is similar to Flipboard. They both provide content that is provided by your twitter feeds. I like Zite because also like Flipboard you can set up different chapters or areas of interest. This would be ideal if you were doing a collaborative project. Each group could produce a chapter within your book by retweeting the relevant tweets they identify around a specific concept or issue. It is a great way to quickly produce an e-book that is specifically designed for your unit of work.

3. Crowd Source a Solution.

Wouldn't it be good to Crowd Source a real problem in your class, school or community. The students could start with brainstorming possible solution themselves and then they could ask the question of other classes who are also using twitter or even the classes of other teachers that are in your PLN. We all have some parents in our classes that are experts in their fields, we could rope them in as well.

4. Create a Class Newspaper.

Use your a class twitter account in the same way you did with Flipboard or Zite to create a class newspaper. This can be on a whole range of topics that you are studying or on a specific area that you are focusing on. is an easy to use and visually appealing solution for creating these. You can have text sites, photos or even videos in your digital newspaper. These can be updated daily, weekly or whenever you change topics. Your Newspaper can be accessed by students in your class, your school or around the world. It is also a great way to let parents know about the topics you are studying in your classroom. I use them for Professional Development as well. There are a number of good ones around like Edtech and Web 2 tools.

5. Create a real or online Scavenger Hunt with clues distribute via twitter.

I normally like to use QR codes for the clues in a Scavenger Hunt but just to mix things up I sometimes use Twitter. These Scavenger Hunts can be online like a WebQuest or a series of clues stashed around the school that lead the students to a series of pieces of information that lets them decode the artwork or artist we might be studying that term.

6. Crowd Source a Story in Class.
This is an activity that you could do with paper and pen but it would be so much more fun doing it on your iPad or Laptop. Each student has 140 characters to add their part to a story. When they have finished they send a tweet to the next person. This is a great way to develop creative writing skills as well as making writing a fun activity for those who might normally struggle with a task like this. This would be even better if you then had the students who had already completed their 140 characters to animate it or drawing illustrations for it using Puppets Pals or Toontastic.

7. Create Autobiographies.
Wouldn't it be an interesting exercise to get your students to write a 140 character autobiography. What would they say. How do you cut everything down to 140 characters. Talk about practicing writing a concise piece. This would also be a lovely insight into how your students see themselves. As you know yourself sometime it is harder to put everything into a set word limit than what it is to ramble on. Great way to get to the core of person.

8. Create a 140 Character Biography.
If you are doing a research task about artists, explorers or figures from history wouldn't it be great to get your students to complete a biography of that person or people within the 140 character limit. Again this is about writing in a concise manner - no room for waffle. This is another great opportunity to match up your activity with a drawing or sketch of the person made on an online drawing tool. Couple this exercise with a Voki avatar to then bring your character to life.

9. Summarise Your Work.
How many times do we need students to summarise a paragraph, a concept or a newspaper article so we know that they have an understanding of the issues discussed. Can they do it in 140 characters. This would be a great way to motivate a group of students to complete this task. Maybe they could do it in a series of tweets. You could even peer assess which are the best for each section and then publish a class set of study notes for an end of chapter review or before a end of unit exam paper.

10. Conduct a twitter debate
Now this is a favourite of mine. I love the fact that the students have to be very clear about what they want to say before they start to tap away. With only 140 characters at a time the arguments necessarily need to be lean. This makes for a more lively debate. I also find that the students who do not always vocalise well within the larger group are often happy to participate in these debates. This debating format has been a confidence booster for more than one of our students.

11. Follow a Topic or Issue:
Use Tweetdeck to follow specific # hashtags. Tweetdeck will filter the world's tweets and only send those back to your Tweetdeck that contain the # hashtags that you have chosen. 

This is a great way for students to follow the public opinion of an issue or event. It is also a great way for them to ascertain what are the concerns of those people who are for or against an issue. You can add or delete columns for # hashtags as many times as you like. This would work perfectly in conjunction with a tool like Archivist - which we profiled in a previous post.

The added advantage of a tool like this is you as the teacher can set up your own columns to keep abreast of new Web 2 tool, new Apps for Education or Edtech talk.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The use of Google Forms in the Classroom

Google Forms are an excellent way to collect, collate and interpret large sets of data. Many of the existing templates in Google Forms have already been set up to report the results the second they are finished. We have used them at our school as multiple choice tests and within seconds the students have been sent a copy of their results with averages, means and standard deviations. You can use them to collect names as a sign on sheets, parent teacher night interviews and so on. Have a look at the great google doc below for some other interesting ways of using them in your classroom.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can Students be Curators of their own Information?

In a continuing pedagogical experiment we have had our students design and then construct their own textbooks. We collaboratively design and construct the e-texts for each group that comes through. We find it is the discussions, decisions and sense of ownership that working with the concepts and ideas brings that is the most important thing. We have two groups working on them at the moment, both Yr 11 and Yr 12. The Yr 12 students have just started constructing an e-book on Architecture.

This particular situation has been set up so that each page of the publication will be up for grabs. The pages on the individual topics decided on will be peer assessed. The group will decided which of the pages is actually presented in the e-book.

We are a boys school and the element of friendly competition seems to work constructively for us. The boys also love the fact that other people get to view, critique and even use our textbooks. One of our existing e-textbooks can be seen at The students are allocated three (3) lessons for each of the activities that will make up one page in our e-textbook. Enjoy!!!

I thought it might be good to put out some examples of the publication we are currently working on.

The first lot are from Fabian (Embedit - Flash)

These are from Daniel

One from Jarrad - I initially struggled with this concept as I didn't think that it fitted in with the e-book concept, however Jarrad was able to negotiate it with me. He convinced me that this was as valid as any other form of presentation - I so glad I am such a push over.

We also have a number of students who are designing their own Art Gallery in Google Sketchup. We thought it would be worthwhile for them to actually design a structure that has certain constraints. The idea is that they experience the artistic practice of an architect. We will also try to put some of these up when we work out how to upload them as working images.

We will let you know when we have published our finished Architectural Digest.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Top 100 Tools of 2011 - Voting

The C4LPT site was set up by Jane Hart as a free resource site on the use of new technologies for learning and performance. There are some great list of Web 2 tools as well as resources for the classroom teacher. Each year they create a list of most useful Web 2 tools for the classroom teacher. Voting has started for this years list. 

Not only do I like to vote but I always use the list to see if there are new tools that I have not yet tried in the classroom. This is a great resource for teachers to evaluate their own practice and to get a insight into what others are doing in their class. Have a look at the list and then vote for your favourite learning tool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

HOW TO: Make Your QR Codes More Beautiful

I have written before about using QR codes in my classroom and how much fun they can be. Whether it is a treasure hunt, information gathering exercise or even clever graffiti QR codes area great way to get your students communicating. This is a great article on making your QR codes a little different, a bit more user friendly in a way. Have a read and see what you think. Enjoy!
The QR code: A thing of beauty or an eyesore? The magical barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone to launch an offline-to-online experience are often criticized for their black and white checkerbox appearance. Those who doubt that QR codes will go mainstream are quick to point out that the look of QR codes will deter marketers and advertisers from using them.
Fortunately, QR codes are malleable and can be redesigned in truly extraordinary ways, while still maintaining their scanability. The truth is, QR codes no longer have to be checkerbox in appearance. We’ve entered a new phase of “designer codes” that can be integrated into marketing campaigns in an attractive way that isn’t an eyesore.
QR codes have so much potential from a design perspective, so let’s take a look at a few tricks and techniques you should keep in mind when designing a code to enhance your brand and appeal to your audience.

  1. Add a colour Palette
  2. Soften Hard Edges with Round Corners
  3. Incorporate Dimensionality for 3D Impact
  4. Use QR Codes with 30% Error Correction
  5. Apply a Trial and Error Process

Full Article:

Related Articles:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

10 Best and Shortest URL Shorteners

This is an article put together by SIETSE over at All you need is It is an interesting site with multiple lists. This is a list of really useful URL shortening sites.

Shortening your URLs is fundamental these days, for sharing links on Twitter without having it clog up your entire 140 character span for example. Other than a better appearance, most proper URL shortener services also offer click-tracking and some even support custom URLs.











Friday, June 17, 2011

FramebyFrame Stop Motion Freeware

FrameByFrame lets you create stop-motion animation videos using any webcam/video camera connected to your Mac, including iSight. Just take some pictures and in a matter of seconds you‘ve got your very own stop-motion QuickTime movie!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Using Track Changes in Pages

Many of my students send drafts of their writing tasks for advice and assistance. Instead of printing them out and me writing all over them, I ask them to email me their draft. Because we use Pages on our Mac I then use Track Changes to offer suggestions for improving their writing. I often see staff doing this with pen and paper so offered this as a 5 minute PD at our last staff meeting.

Embedded document produced using (Flash-based software)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1000 Tips and Tricks for Your PC

This is a great resource for teachers kindly put together by the guys at Technobuzz. There are over 1000 cool tips and tricks for your PC computer here. It takes a while to go through this list but is well worth it. I have put it in my bookmark bar and check a couple each day. There is something for everyone. Enjoy!

Refreshing Reminder Of Why We Teach

A big thankyou to Helen @elenischool for introducing me to this on her blog -

Monday, June 13, 2011

Google Lessons

This is a site that Google has put together where teachers can submit lesson plans and resources for lessons. All the lessons follow the same format. It works really well and the lessons are very well resourced. They incorporate Google Apps into the classroom lesson with ease. Well worth a look.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

20 Youtube Features You Need to Know

Almost activity task or activity has a how to video on Youtube. Any historical period, major event or art movement has a mini documentary uploaded. Almost any scientist or scientific experimented has been documented and shared. At this stage we should all be embracing the knowledge and shared information that is Youtube. This is a great article that shows you from Niall Harbison is from over at Simplyzesty

With over 3 billion Youtube videos watched every single day and 48 hours of footage uploaded every single minute to the world’s most popular video sharing website we wanted to produce a useful guide for getting the most out of the service. You’ll struggle to find somebody who uses the web and who doesn’t watch Youtube videos on a daily basis but there is so much more to Youtube than just little funny videos of cats. The list also provides tips and tricks for publishers who are the people who make the site what it is today. Over the coming years we can expect Youtube to continue it’s growth especially on mobile and possibly even on to our smart TVs in the future to form a core part of our daily entertainment experience. Here is how you can get much more out of Youtube…
  1. Leanback                                                                                                                            Youtube introduced this feature so as you could watch all the great footage on Youtube tailored to your tastes without every having to click a button. It serves you up videos based on what you have watched before and the idea is that you can “lean back” and just enjoy the content without worrying about searching for new videos.

    Also included is information about the following features;
  2. Disco
  3. Charts
  4. Create
  5. Editor
  6. Creative Commons
  7. Annotations
  8. Captions And Subtitles
  9. Watch Later
  10. Quiet Tube
  11. Live
  12. Watching Videos On Your TV
  13. Stabilize Your Videos
  14. Youtube Test Tube
  15. Creators Corner
  16. Tube Radio
  17. Feather Mode
  18. Audio Swap
  19. Check Your Youtube Speed
  20. Youtube Gadget

Read the whole article:

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Glossary of Instructional Strategies

This is an excellent list of instructional strategies to be used in a classroom. I think they have something like 1270 different strategies listed. I must say that I found reading the list a reflective process. I know I use a couple of these strategies but I must say I felt a little awed by the sheer number. Anyway I am going to set myself a goal of using at least two of these a week over the next term. I love experimenting with these strategies to see which are a good fit with my current groups of students. Sometimes I like to design activities where they get to negotiate their own strategies.

Anyway, have a look and see if any of these appeal to your own teaching style or to the learning styles of your students.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More Shortcut Sheets - PC Applications Today

I know some of these are old but we still use Office 2007. I know we should have updated but you tell the bean counters that. I think I saw some 2010. I will put a link to them when I remember where I saw them.

It is a known fact that if you want to commit something to memory, continuous revision is the key. You read something every time you are at your desk and within days it becomes second nature.
To be able to revise quickly and often, it helps if the information is terse and to the point highlighting only the important aspects. Something like an application cheat sheet or a poster that you can print and pin to a board or keep on your desk.
Here are some application cheat sheets for commonly used software that will hopefully make you more productive.
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • Excel 2007
  • Word 2007
  • Powerpoint 2007
  • Outlook 2007
  • Firefox
  • Twitter
  • SEO
  • Photoshop

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

I have had this printable handout from Macmost on my desk for 2 years. All the other staff are always coming to check it when they are working. In the end I just printed one off for everyone and stuck it on their desk. I thought it might be useful. Thank you to Macmost!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introducing Voki Classroom

I have used Voki for a couple of years now. I like to use it as a prompter in Assignment sheets so my struggling stidents get verbal cues about the different sections of an assignment. I also like my students to use it as a way of presenting information about a famous artist, architect or historical figure. The good news is that there has been a major upgrade to the Voki platform - Class Voki Accounts managed by the teacher. This will make using them in class a lot simpler.

Class Accounts. They are finally here! No longer will your students need to register with Voki to create their own accounts, using their own email addresses. Now you, the teacher, will be the one to assign each student’s Voki login information (created automatically). Since there is no need for students to register, you can spend more time on the lesson, and less time on creating accounts and helping students log in.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Build your own Video Game

This is like the ultimate differentiation or challenged based learning task. How much fun would it be for a student to develop, design and construct their very own video game. Talk about getting students engaged with their own learning. This is from the guys over at Readwriteweb
Although it's getting a lot easier to build your own video games, many of the tools out there for doing so require you have a background in programming. Not so with with Stencyl, a new game creation studio that launches today.
"Our goal is to build the ultimate game creation experience, one that democratizes the game creation process by eliminating all technical barriers, leaving one's imagination as the limiting factor," says Stencyl co-founder Jonathan Chung.
For those familiar with MIT's Scratch, Stencyl's game design tool will look pretty familiar. Stencyl uses a similar drag-and-drop system, where users pull together different building blocks in order to create programs. More advanced users can also create their own building blocks that can in turn be shared with others.
Read the full article at: