Post 1: Expanding Learning Horizons Conference 2011

Normally when I return from a Conference or participate in Professional Development, I want to blog about it straight away. All of the ideas are buzzing around in my head and I feel the need to share them immediately. This year, after attending the Expanding Learning Horizons Conference, I felt that I needed to take some time to gather resources, follow up items and bring together the many wonderful ideas and discussions that took place over the three days, from Sunday 14th to Tuesday 16th August 2011.

I felt that the most efficient way for me to report back on this conference would be to use my first post to share the session resources and my second post to bring together the key ideas that will assist us in implementing our action plan.

All of the conference resources are available via my elh11 Diigo list.  You can click here to view the resources.

During each of the ELH sessions, I used Twitter as much as possible. By posting short updates, I was able to easily share conference resources as well as follow the valuable discussions via the #elh11 tag. A number of tweets were posted via our Ballarat Grammar Twitter account. You can click here to view the Ballarat Twitter page.

Apart from online resources, there were a number of very worthwhile print resources that were mentioned during the sessions I attended. Whilst we already have many excellent books such as A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink and The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, I can’t wait to get my hands on a number of books that were mentioned either during the keynote presentations or during “Why is change so hard?” the Critical Conversation with Jenny Little from Korowa Anglican Girls’ School.

Holiday Goodies!

graphic myspace at Gickr.com
Make your own animation

> Planet Orbis Project, especially avatar skins, etc…
> Intel Teach Course and PBL
> OpenSim on a USB Stick
> Holistic Education
> Jibe
> Cooking

Our Term 3 holidays will soon come to an end and, although a little more relaxation time would have been nice, I’ll be happy to return to school next week knowing that I’ve had a productive break. ūüôā ¬†I’ve been very fortunate to have the time to work on a variety of projects over the holidays and there have also been a couple of surprise inclusions thanks to one of my favourite tools, Twitter!

OpenSim Project
We had an exciting Term 3 with our TechnoSpirit Project and Term 4 will see us introduce Planet Orbis to a group of Year 5 Maths Students. ¬†We’ve had a lot of fun setting up some basic areas on the Planet Orbis sims and developing some extra terrestrial avatars for the students. (That’s right, their avatars will be aliens!) ¬†Students will be using the OpenSim building tools to create their own crop circle patterns as part of their studies in Geometry. ¬†Part of the fun of this project has been developing the narrative to present to the students. ¬†Keep an eye on our Begonia Island Blog for more details of this project.

Intel Teach Elements Course
Towards the end of Term 3, our Director of ICT passed on information about the latest Intel Teach Elements Course.  After looking into it I was interested in pursuing it further not just because of the ICT content but because the new course is based on Project Based Learning.  I thought that I would dread going through the online course during the holidays, however,
I’ve found it easy to work through and a good starting point for learning more about the PBL approach. ¬†Below is an example of what I’ve covered so far, a comparison between Conventional and Project Based Learning. ¬†This task alone was a very enlightening one!

conventional_vs_project-based_cropped

Cooking
My daughter and I always enjoy time in the kitchen during the holidays. ¬†We tried lots of new recipes, one of which was a delicious chocolate cup cake recipe. ¬†Hayley wrote a blog post about it and, believe me, these were no ordinary cup cakes! ¬†Hayley called her post, My Day with Chocolate Dreams. ūüôā

Virtual Worlds & Jibe
An unexpected surprise came when I read a tweet by Kyle Komboy, CEO of ReactionGrid, who invited us to try a new virtual worlds platform, Jibe. ¬†My understanding of this platform is very limited, ¬†however, I was excited to have the opportunity to try accessing a virtual world from within my browser. ¬†Normally, in order to access a virtual world you require some 3D viewer software. ¬†Could this be the future of virtual worlds? ¬†Open your browser, go to a URL and, with a couple of clicks, find yourself transported to another world? ¬†Things that amazed me about the experience were how easy it was to access, the speed and incredible graphics created with Unity 3D software. ¬†Months ago I recall accessing the Jibe test site and was excited to see how far the ReactionGrid team have come with this project in such a short time. ¬†I’ll be following the continued work of the ReactionGrid Team as Jibe will allow us to access worlds from mobile devices as well as embed players on our own sites. ¬†(If I look into my crystal ball, I can see parents accessing our Portal, logging into Jibe and walking through a school Art Exhibition in-world! ūüôā )

mini_jibe_player_reactiongrid_login_cropped

Virtual Worlds & OpenSim on a USB Stick
Another holiday surprise also came in the form of a tweet and was about setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick. ¬†I now have an entire OpenSim grid that can run from my USB Stick without the need for internet access and at no cost! ¬†There are a number of advantages with this type of approach and you can read more about this topic in our Begonia Island Blog Post. ¬†By going through the process of setting up OpenSim on a USB Stick, I was fortunate enough to learn more about Roger Stack, his work at Tasmanian Polytechnic and the Holistic Education Network. ¬†Until now, I wasn’t very familiar with the term “Holistic Education” and was excited to read about something with which I could identify.

Education with a holistic perspective values spiritual literacy.  Spirituality is a state of connectedness to all life, honouring diversity in unity. It is an experience of being, belonging and caring. It is sensitivity and compassion, joy and hope. It is the harmony between the inner life and the outer life. It is the sense of wonder and reverence for the mysteries of the universe and a feeling of the purposefulness of life. It is moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

I’m looking forward to heading back to school next week and to continue the challenges of promoting the use of ICT. ¬†I love the fact that, yet again, Twitter friends have had a positive influence on me as they shared their work, interests and lives.

Special thanks to Clare Rafferty for sharing the easy animated GIF tool used in this post, Gickr.

Part of the Global Movement at ACEC 2010

quote_steve_collis

Two years ago, I was extremely fortunate to travel to Canberra for the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008. ¬†Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference this year in Melbourne but, none-the-less, was excited to attended the final day of ACEC 2010.

It was like the final day was tailor made for me, with wonderful sessions to assist and inspire me. ¬†And, after such a frantic and sometimes frustrating first term, I felt I needed some inspiring! ūüôā

I had heard so much about Gary Stager and was keen to see his keynote presentation, You Say You Want a Revolution?
I know that Gary is sometimes controversial and his “straight talking” approach doesn’t appeal to everyone. ¬†However, I was in the right frame of mind for some straight talking and “tough love”, as he put it. ¬†Although Gary was direct in his presentation, I felt it was beautifully balanced with lots of humour. ¬†It was a reminder that, although there are some worrying things occurring in my school and in education in general, I must not give up. ¬†Not wanting to settle for an average 1:1 program but striving to help teachers create an excellent 1:1 program is paramount.

My next session, Virtual Worlds – their roles in learning, teaching and professional development, was with Lindy McKeown who “planted the virtual worlds seed” after her incredible keynote at the¬†VITTA Conference in 2006. ¬†I was truly amazed at what she showed us years ago in Second Life and I continue to be amazed today. ¬†My school is currently in the process of setting up our private grid, Begonia Island, so seeing how Lindy conducted her session entirely from her “Terra Incognita Island” was fascinating. ¬†Lindy was not physically present at the conference but “in-world” with Dr Bron Stuckey directing¬†proceedings¬†in the actual conference room. ¬†We examined the roles of virtual worlds, their potential and explored active or passive forms of learning. ¬†Getting the balance right when it comes to active and passive forms of learning in virtual worlds is important as we prepare to introduce our private grid to our students and staff.

In Virtual Worlds for Education – don’t just imagine the possibilities, experience them, I was excited to meet Kerry Johnson who I had previously met via Twitter. ¬†Kerry has been a real inspiration to me as I have followed her OpenSim journey. ¬†She is as friendly, caring and delightful in person as she is on Twitter! ¬†Six months ago, I knew very little about OpenSim and the work of ReactionGrid, let alone how to actually setup a grid for our school. ¬†Now I am coordinating the development of our private grid and loving the steep learning curve! ¬†I owe a great deal of this progress to incredible educators like Kerry. ¬†I was amazed to hear that Kerry also had very little experience when she started her work to establish the ImmersED grid and I came away with lots of tips and a greater confidence in my abilities. ¬†Thank you Kerry!

My final session for the day was Professional Development and the Web with Steve Collis. ¬†I have followed Steve’s work for years now and find him to be one of the most inspiring, innovative and giving educators I know. ¬†Without fail, he will prepare wonderful resources for every presentation that he conducts, making it possible for people to participate from anywhere in the world. ¬†Steve always speaks with such passion and I found myself with tears in my eyes as he invited Henrietta Miller to speak about how Twitter has inspired her in her role as a primary teacher. ¬†It confirmed for me the need to continue developing my Personal Learning Network and the importance of introducing wonderful online tools such as Twitter to my colleagues. ¬†Something that Steve said will stay with me…

I don’t think of myself as part of a school, but part of a global movement.

I need to stop thinking of myself as the Staff ICT Trainer at an Independent School.  Perhaps that is why I lose faith and feel frustrated when progress is slow or does not occur.  I am part of a global movement in education and that is a wonderful thing!

Of course, there is so much more to a conference than keynotes, presentations and workshops. ¬†Having the opportunity to meet members of my Personal Learning Network is always exciting. ¬†These are people who assist, encourage, share and make me laugh. ¬†I’m not sure if they realise just how far reaching and valuable something as simple as a tweet can be, but it is something that I truly appreciate.

To the conference organisers, presenters and participants – thank you! ūüôā

Building an ICT-Rich Environment

I am very excited to be visiting our City Cite Campus this week!  It will be my first visit and I am keen to meet with the staff and see the unique learning space. Part of the reason for our visit is to look at ways that we could assist in helping City Cite to continue in the development of an ICT-rich environment for the students. Given the location and nature of the programs that run at City Cite, it lends itself beautifully to a variety of exciting computer-based and mobile learning activities.

The following sites and tools are some suggestions:

Twitter

Create a City Cite Twitter account to share events and activities with others.  Twitter is an excellent way to connect with educators (and their students) around the world.

Flickr

Flickr is an excellent way to store and share your photos online.  Image from City Cite activities can be uploaded and shared publicly or privately.  Staff and students can even email photos to your Flickr account from a mobile phone!  There are also many exiciting online image manipulation tools such as Big Huge Labs that can use images directly from your Flickr account.

Animoto

Using their own images, students can quickly create and share professional movies with Animoto.  Animoto Education allows teachers to register a class allowing free access to full-length movies.

SAM Animation

At our school’s recent Lorne Conference, I had the pleasure of running a hands-on SAM Animation session with a small group of staff, including teachers from City Cite. ¬†This free download allows you to create stop-motion animation and even time lapse sequences. ¬†It’s simple interface makes it easy to use for students of all ages. ¬†You can click here to read the post, Play, Create & Animate with SAM Animation, featuring examples created in this 45 minute session.

Edublogs

Blogging is an incredible way for students to build literacy skills, share ideas, reflect, publish work, connect with a global audience…the list goes on! ¬†There are many sites available to create a blog but Edublogs is one of my favourites.

Utterli

Once you have a blog, it opens the doors for other exciting activities with your students like mobile phone blogging.  Sites like Utterli allow you to call a designated number, record a response then have it automatically posted to a specified blog.  Click here for some examples of mobile phone blogging.

Snappr

QR Codes provide a simple and exciting way to share informtation with students via their mobile phones. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of QR Codes, click here to read a previous post about this technology. A treausure hunt around the city could be set up making using of QR Codes linking to online resources such as web sites, images and audio.  Below is an example of a QR Code generated especially for City City. (Click to enlarge the image and use a QR Code reader on a mobile phone to read the code.)

Trail Guru

Trail Guru allows you to plot a journey using a GPS device.  An excellent, free iPhone app is also available, making it simple to record a journey along with photos and a number of interesting statistics which can then be posted an analyzed on the Trail Guru web site.  Click here for an example of a journey plotted with Trail Guru.

A complete list of resources mentioned in this post is available via my Delicious links.

Addendum:

We had a great day at City Cite! The staff were very enthusiastic and open to new ideas. It was also fascintating to hear about the program that is run there and the unique experience that is offered to students.

Whilst there, we were able to illustrate uses for the above tools and especially the iPhone, Comic Touch and Flickr. Click here to view the City Cite photos on Flickr. An Animoto movie about City Cite, using the iPhone app, was also created.  You can click here to view the movie. Special thanks to Nathan Burgess for introducing me to the fabulous Animoto iPhone app!

Nathan also mentioned another great iPhone app called AroundShare. This app allows you to take a photo, post it to the AroundShare site or another site such as Twitter.  Your image appears alongside a Google Map showing your location and other geographical information. Click here to see City Cite on AroundShare thanks to Nathan.

We are really looking forward to returning to City Cite in March to take the first steps in introducing more technology. Getting staff started with Twitter, creating a Bluetooth server and exploring bulk SMS tools are the first items we are hoping to explore.

Loving the Possibilities with QR Codes!

During our January school holidays, I enjoyed reading Jarrod Robinson’s post¬†about QR Codes and their possible uses in education. ¬†Prior to reading his post, I had seen QR Codes but had no idea of their purpose or possible uses.

Since returning to school, I have continued to follow Jarrod’s journey via his tweets on Twitter and have had very worthwhile (and fun!) discussions with my colleagues, Nathan and Stephen.

If you are not familiar with the concept of QR Codes, these sites are all an excellent introduction. A comprehensive site for information and news about QR Codes is the 2D Code site. Links to the Code Readers and Code Generators are particularly helpful.

For me, the first step was being about to use my mobile phone to read QR Codes.  I tested a number of QR Code Readers for the iPhone:

  • 2D Sense (free, includes move and scale feature)
  • Barcodes (free, includes move and scale feature)
  • iDecode (free)
  • NeoReader (free)
  • QR Reader ($2.49)
  • UpCode (Free)
  • Snappr (Free, includes move and scale feature)
It was an interesting exercise as its success appeared to be quite random. ¬†In general, I found that readers with the ability to “move and scale” the code image had a better success rate. ¬†The bigger the code, the easier it was to successfully decode it, whether it was on a computer screen or on paper. ¬†The readers also differed in their speed of decoding.
Overall, my favourite iPhone QR Code Readers were:
  • Barcodes – free, has move and scale feature, decodes quickly, like the way it displays results in a simple format
  • Snappr – free, has move and scale feature, takes a little longer to decode but is able to read a variety of codes that other readers had trouble with
  • QR Reader – if the image is correct, does read the code very quickly

After working out how to actually read a QR Code, I started looking at creating my own codes. Snappr is a great site to generate your own QR Codes. ¬†After signing up, I was “like a kid in a lolly shop” as I explored the different types of codes that could be created!

Snappr allows you to create many types of codes that fall under the headings of Classic, Social and Snappr. Codes can be created quickly and easily then embedded into a site, downloaded to insert into a document or printed on an item.  (Yes, people are printing their own QR Code t-shirts!)  The content of a code can even be edited later so that the actual QR Code image looks the same but the content is different. There are so many exciting possibilities for sharing information on this site.  It is definitely well worth a look! Click on the codes below to view a larger image and see if you can read them! There are four different types of codes to give you a taste of what is possible:

       

So now the big question is, “How can QR Codes be used in education?” ¬†Again, Jarrod has some exciting ideas in his QR Codes in Education post. ¬†We are particularly interested in looking into the following uses:

  • “The Amazing Race” using QR Codes: Codes could either be printed on a sheet and given to students or displayed in different locations. ¬†Students could then access clues that are not just text-based, but include images, web sites, etc… ¬†This adds a whole new dimension to this type of activity.
  • Sharing resouces with students: Because you can create QR Codes that link to content such as images and audio files, students can easily access these items via their mobile phones. ¬†This could have exciting possibilities for student access to content such as podcasts.
  • QR Codes on library books: ¬†During a Twitter discussion, Jarrod suggested QR Codes on library books with a link to a web site, audio file, etc… with additional information about the book. ūüôā
  • Add QR Codes to printed materials: If you need to give a printed copy of information to students, you can add QR Codes with links to online resources. ¬†Students are then able to easily access this extra content without the need for a computer.
  • Voting via QR Codes:¬†Snappr allows you to create codes that link to an online voting system. This is a great way to quiz your students or gauge their opinions. ¬†¬†
  • Create a Snappr Micropage: Snappr also allows you to create a Micropage. This is a basic web page with a title, images, text and URLs. ¬†The page is optimized for viewing on a mobile phone.
This is just a starting point. As I have discovered on so many occasions, educators are amazing when it comes to “thinking outside the square” and I am sure there will be many more suggestions for innovative ways to use QR Codes in education.
For a list of sites about QR Codes and related information, please go to my links on Delicious.
You can also view some screenshots about this post on my Flickr set, QR Codes in Education.
At our school, I am looking forward to displaying some QR Codes in our Computer Centre and around the school to generate some interest in this exciting technology. ¬†I think this prize might be the first reward I offer: ūüėČ