Learning At The LRC

Reflections on Educational Journeys

Moving On

September 15, 2010 by · No Comments · Mrs. Garcia, Trials and Successes

Blogger (service)
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I have finally made the decision to move on. This is my last post at this location.  I  am very thankful to Edublogs for having provided a home for my blog during these past 3 years, but mine remains a free account. As the options have been repeatedly reduced  from free accounts over the last year, so too has my patience with the situation waned. As our school  is a Google Apps institution, it makes better sense for me to move forward with Blogger, which will soon become a part of our Apps Accounts. It also links in nicely with other Google Apps that we use with our blogs at school. In fact I am now officially climbing down, not without pain, from my Edublogs soapbox. I will now be promoting Blogger at school for all new blogs.

Those who already oversee one of our many school Edublogs accounts may also find themselves switching over, unless their departments are on board with shelling out the cash to keep their Edublogs in top form.

If anybody knows of a way to migrate (as some might say backwards) from Edublogs to Blogger, I would really appreciate a brief explanation, or link to a tutorial.

If interested, this is the link to my new blog.

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GarageBand, Jamendo and Creative Commons

August 20, 2010 by · No Comments · Trials and Successes, web applications

Last year a colleague of mine, who is a very accomplished musician, began to use GarageBand for recording and mixing music tracks. This work lead to the creation of an amazing album and didn’t stop there. After many hours of hard work he then uploaded the album, entitled Boats on the Bay, to Jamendo. Jamendo is an online musical platform community, that allows artists to upload their work and share it with the world. Listeners have the option to listen online as well as download the music to their computers. Jamendo automatically licenses all work under Creative Commons.

What a fantastic example of a teacher using digital technology to create, publish and share their work through one of the many great web services available. Not only is his work now published online for all to enjoy, but our students are able to access it along with all the other albums on the site, for use in their digital projects. You can imagine how exciting it must be for them to be able to use the published works of one of their very own teachers. The next step will be to focus on getting students involved in composing, recording and publishing their own masterpieces.

I have included a link to the album.  Please feel free to listen in.

Boats on the Bay1.200

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Back to School Resolutions

August 12, 2010 by · No Comments · Mrs. Garcia

Screen shot 2010-08-12 at 11.47.36 AM

My action plan for 2010-11 is pretty jam packed and possibly over ambitious. It would be impractical to mention it all, but when I think about the upcoming school year, certainly several goals come to mind.

  1. 3D Constructions-Sketchup is a powerful program offered by Google for Free. It is fairly user friendly and allows for  design and construction in 3D. The 3D Warehouse is full of great pieces that can be added to furnish, landscape and basically embellish work. The possibilities are endless really. All one needs is a topic that would be greatly enhanced through it use. One that comes to mind is an English unit which has students design an author’s room, as the culminating activity in an author study.
  2. The virtual worlds I want to use with my students are: Quest Atlantis -has some new units that would be perfect for work in Life Skills, Second Life, Google Maps and Earth to continue with the  virtual tours work we did last year (Did you know you can embed code into Google Earth text boxes!), Reaction Grid for working on in-world 3D thematic constructions, and possibly a compilation of a student gallery.
  3. Collaborative Projects are going to be big for us this year both internally and in conjunction with other schools. I met quite a few wonderful educators at ISTE who have already started the ball rolling on this by linking up their teachers with us. The next step is to begin pairing up teachers and projects at both ends. There are so many options for this: wikis, blogs, Nings, Elluminate, Skype, not to mention all the Google Apps.
  4. Programming with Scratch with 7th and 8th grades-We began this last year and made quite a bit of headway. We are now in a position to push up the Scratch learning curve for both teachers and students.
  5. PLN’s for staff-Okay this is terribly ambitious and I don’t expect to get everyone on board, but there are now certain members of staff who are ready to take this next important step in lifelong learning.
  6. We will need to continue to support current reading club through our Reading Club wiki and find new ways to promote reading with students.
  7. Update and expand the LRC, ABCICT and Web Fluency wikis and make best use of them with staff and students and parents. These sites are important learning hubs, full of activities and resources as well as one of your main means of communication with the school community.
  8. Continue with our push on information literacy for students, and bring new staff members on board.
  9. Continue work with student digital portfolio wikis and ensure that staff members are aware and on board with making best use of them.

It is all about teamwork and careful planning. Teachers are key to this, and the greater the variety the richer experiences become. It is also time to get the kids on board at the planning level whenever possible. When they have a hand in directing their learning powerful things happen. I have huge expectations for the upcoming school year and look forward to all the challenges and successes and yes even the odd failures when they occur. It is all part of the learning experience.

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ISTE: After the Conference

July 6, 2010 by · No Comments · Mrs. Garcia, Travel, Trials and Successes, web applications

ISTE always leaves me with a ton of new ideas crashing around inside my head. This year was no exception.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Google came out on top for me this year. Google Lit trips, whether those already created or those we create ourselves, will provide an important next step in using Google Maps  and Earth to enhance our book studies and digital story telling across subjects. I didn’t know you could embed text in Google Earth Place-marks! Just imagine the things you can add to your stories and tours with such an option. Voki and Blabberize narrators come to mind immediately. Here is a link for Google Earth for Educators for further exploration.

Google Search Stories was a new one for me. I have to wonder why I haven’t come across it before. What a novel way to tell a story using Google Search!

I lined up for and was lucky to enough to get into the Google Wave BYOL Session, without a ticket (Yes it is possible and I did it a few times for different sessions, during the conference.). I learned a bit more about using bots with Wave for translations and other purposes. This is great as  I am hoping to use Wave as a collaborative platform this coming year with grades 6-8, but only after carefully planning out the structure.

Other things that got my mind revving were GPS and Google Forms for storytelling (choose your own adventure types, scavenger hunts). Now I have never used GPS before and have decided to face my fear and give it a whirl, but I have used Google Forms a lot, never however, in the ways the Google people where demonstrating. By adding pages you can incorporate many different routes within the same form for your students to follow. This is very cool indeed!

One of my fellow Poster Presenters reminded me about Webspiration, a great online idea mapper which allows for uploading media and collaboration, questioning, comments and chat. After a bit of digging around I realised I actually had an account with Webspiration!  I am now ready to say goodbye to my other mind mapping apps and welcome  Webspiration with open arms. Thank You Kevin from New Zealand!

There are too many sessions that I would have like to have attended, most clashed with other things I had to do. I haven’t really mentioned Keynotes or Poster sessions which were equally as powerful as the other sessions I attended. Really a team approach is necessary for optimization of the ISTE experience, but the amount of learning and number of connections that are created for even one person at this conference, are guaranteed to stir the educational pot and get things moving at any school.

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Coming to an End

June 1, 2010 by · No Comments · Digital Fluency Resources, Mrs. Garcia, Trials and Successes, web applications

It is the end of the school year, only a few more weeks to go. A time for relection amidst reports, grades and special activities.

When I look back on sy09/10,  I feel a  sense of amazing accomplishment for our school. This past year our students and teachers made incredible strides, in working with technology as part of their teaching and learning endeavors.

During this past year,  the LRC continued to support departmental and cross curricular projects, as well as teach normal ICT and web fluency lessons, but amidst this, something out of the ordinary occurred! On many occasions Teachers and students arrived, ready to work on  an array of web 2.0 and digital media projects, with the skills to implement them- and this is the clincher- with little or no support.

We have gone from a point of steep learning curves to a lesser incline in which our staff and students are comfortable with current technology. We as a school are now  building upon our new found skills and utilising well stocked digital toolboxes, to support and enhance learning across subjects.

Students are in a position to choose between a multitude of applications and tools, finding the one that is just right for their work. At any given time they may be creating a video, podcast, cartoon strip, writing a Scratch program or creating a Prezi all for the same assignment. What’s phenomenal  about this  is not that they can use the tools, but that they are taking their own approaches, choosing amongst appropriate applications, while embarking on these learning journeys. Equally as exciting is the fact that teachers are allowing,  no- encouraging them, to do so. We have reached a point in which students can take the first steps in directing aspects of their own learning, and teachers are fine with this.

I have been working on my End of Year Headmaster’s Report (which is probably way too long), over this past week. I found it hard to sit down to it initially, perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that needed including, not knowing where to begin.  As I began going through it however, I felt myself  thrown back in time and immersed in each of the experiences that I was recording. I was awed to see just how much has been accomplished this school year.

I realise that our school’s experiences are not totally unique, in fact I would be terribly concerned if this were the case. It is my hope that my colleagues around the world are taking a moment from busy schedules to reflect on their school year, whether half way through or finishing up for the year.  I would hope that they are overcome by smiles and a sense of pride in their institutions, when they too realise just how  incredible their school’s journeys  have been.

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Presentation-Research Using Social Networks

May 19, 2010 by · No Comments · Digital Fluency Resources, Mrs. Garcia, Trials and Successes, Uncategorized, web applications

Image representing Diigo as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

I will be presenting a poster session on the Research Project I did using Social Neworks,  at  ISTE 2010. I have included  a brief description of the topics I hope to discuss during the presentation.

Diigo

In this presentation we will discuss the the educational potential of Diigo as a learning network, showing participants how to set up and manage student learning groups, collect in homework digitally and encourage student collaboration through the creation of a learning network.In working with Diigo, we will look at: social bookmarking to groups, use of tags, highlighting and sticky notes, comments, following and being followed.

Twitter

I hope to demonstrate some ways in which students can use Twitter to take research notes and share them with others in their groups, using hash tags.  We will look at other alternative to Twitter, as well as the pros and cons of using each with students.

NoodlbeBib and EasyBib

I plan on sharing our experiences with using NoodleBib for generating citation lists, paraphrasing and creating outlines and discuss EasyBib as an free/paid alternative for generating citations.

Prezi

We will finish by looking at Prezi as a powerful presentation application, with a focus on how it can support presentation reform and empower students to create interactive presentations.

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Earth Day is Coming Soon

April 10, 2010 by · 1 Comment · Mrs. Garcia, Trials and Successes

Earth Day Canada logo
Image via Wikipedia

Easter is over, spring break has officially ended and the next big focus is Earth Day, coming up on April 22nd. For the second time in a row our school will be celebrating it as a part of Earth Week.

During Earth Week classes from across the school find interesting ways to focus on taking better care of the Earth. As well, short workshops are run each day after school for students and teachers. Last year we worked on making recycled bottle blocks, recycled paper creations, we held a butterfly release, worked out our carbon footprints and planted a tree in front of the Learning Resources Centre. This year we are hoping to create a recycled materials structure with the help of students and teachers from across the school.

While thinking about this, I felt compelled to begin compiling list of great Earth Day resources for teachers and students. The initial work is now parked on our LRC Website with new additions due shortly. These sites contain a rich variety of interactives, videos, photo galleries and lesson plans. Most of these are for 6-12 but there are a few lesson plans and resources for Primary school teachers and students too.

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Google Custom Search Tool-Hats off to Google Yet Again!

March 24, 2010 by · No Comments · Trials and Successes, web applications

Yet another reason to adore Google!!!

I have just come across a spectatular way to create pathfinders for students. Leave it to Google to empower use with such a simple yet potent tool.  I am referring to Google Custom search. Screen shot 2010-03-24 at 9.04.01 AM

Through Custom Search Google enables you to create two different types of search tools, one that includes only sites you specify, and one that focuses on sites you specify, but also searches the rest of the web.  Basically you determine your search topic, websites to search within, keywords, and yes you can alter its look as well. Once done the embedding code is made available along with multiple options to edit and refine your search tool further. Not only that, yes like most things Google, you CAN collaborate on it.

I was playing around with a very rudimentary WW2 timeline and picture pathfinder which I have embedded below. Anyone feel like collaborating on it?

Loading

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Gabcast and Podcasts

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment · Mrs. Garcia, Trials and Successes, web applications

The icon used by Apple to represent Podcasting.
Image via Wikipedia

I have been on the lookout for a place to host our student produced podcasts for quite some time now. Originally I intended to use a blog  for this as the podcasts could be uploaded as posts and RSS’d. I’ve changed my mind!

I’ve started to read  Toys to Tools by Liz Kolb, and in doing so came across Gabcast. Gabcast is great for uploading podcasts from phones, it allows you to create different channels, but more importantly it allows you to upload your podcast episodes, painlessly.

I have just started to use Gabcast, but I like what I have seen so far.

Did I say you can also link to and embed your podcast episodes?
(A word of advice, set the height of the podcast player to 90 instead of the default 76 or the play button may not be visible.)
Gabcast!

ABCICT #1 – Welcome to the ABCICT Podcast Channel

Our Welcome Message

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Virtual Field Trips

March 9, 2010 by · 4 Comments · Trials and Successes

Second Life
Image via Wikipedia

I have long been fascinated by the potential that Second life and other virtual worlds hold for educational activities including virtual field trips.

Whyville is great for the younger kids. It gives them the chance to get used to virtual worlds, in a safe teacher manageable environment and provides plenty of educational activities for students and teachers to engage in. Many of our 6th grade students took to  it so much last school year, that they would log in from home when it wasn’t a homework assignment and meet up to work on different activities with their friends.

Quest Atlantis is another virtual world that offers students carefully scaffolded learning quests to embark on as they work their way through different teleport locations. I’ve done the required courses and am excited about taking a group in. We are hoping to begin with a class of teachers who we think will be inspired enough to build quests into their curriculum.

I came across Reaction Grid very recently and have only begun to investigate its potential for working with students, but there are already a lot of great destinations to visit. My impression from my very limited experience of it, is that many teachers at present are using it for learning about construction in virtual 3D worlds. I would love to hear from people who are using it successfully with their students.

Second Life (including the teen grid)!  Wow comes to mind every time I think of it. I have been using Second Life on and off for the last 2 years, mostly as a way of learning how to get around on the grid, attending workshops and investigating what is available. I left it for about 6 months and when I returned Wow had become WOW!!! There are so many new places to discover, meet at and learn from. I tend to fixate on applications that wow me and Second Life has certainly stolen a  large chunk of my attention lately.

Once hooked anew, I decided to continue with my previous quest of searching out destinations with field trip potential. I soon found that the grid had expanded to the point that I needed to begin cataloging in some shape or form the many destinations I came across. Enter wikispaces, my all time favourite for wikis. Its nice to know that whenever you need to bring content together in one place you can quickly create yourself a parking lot using a wiki.

My hope is that the wiki will become more than a parking lot however. I would like to see it grow, and am hoping that others interested in virtual worlds will help me with that.  So far I have put everything together on this page, which is expanding  so quickly,  I might need to begin linking off of it soon, to new pages for housing content. If you are at all interested in virtual worlds in education and virtual field trips in Second Life, please take a look at the links I have gathered and request access to the wiki, so we can build the collection together.

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