Sunday, January 10, 2010

Free is the nice price

In March last year I attended the International Schools Technology Exchange Committee (ISTEC) Meeting at KIS International School in Bangkok. KIS had just undergone a transition to Linux and Open Source software, and Dr. Puk, their IT Director, was sharing the lessons learnt during that transition. The original reason for this move was to save money: approximately 20% of the school's IT budget was spent on buying software licences, and of that about 80% of the budget was spent on the OS and on Microsoft Office - leaving only 20% of the budget to be spent on educational software. At the time of the meeting, KIS had moved over to Linux (Edubuntu) and was only using free open source software. In addition KIS had designed its own web portal to let the teachers upload assignments and allow the students to access all the resources and to submit their work. The Windows servers were being replaced by Linux servers. This was quite an impressive achievement, and of course meant that more money was available in the IT budget which could be used to enhance the actual student learning.

This year, I've also come to appreciate that free is the nice price. The vast majority of what I have done with the students at school this year has been Web 2.0, which as well as being free allows us to collaborate with other students in other schools and countries. This is what we have used to support our students' learning:
  • Grade 5 students have all started blogging. Students have blogged about a variety of topics such as the benefits and risks of technology, cyberbullying and dealing with situations of personal conflict, how technology supports scientific inquiry and the IB Learner Profile. Parents have also been able to add comments onto their students' blogs - the students have shown them how to do it!
  • One class of Grade 5 have their own book club wiki where students share responses and discussions about the books they have read in the literature circles.
  • All the Grade 5 students used Bitstrips to design cartoon characters of themselves which they then used in comic strips about peace and conflict for their Sharing the Planet unit of inquiry.
  • One class went on to make peace posters, which they shared using VoiceThread using the avatars already created in Bitstrips.
  • Following a visit to a local science and transport museum, the Grade 5 students made timelines about technology using either xtimeline or OurStory to tie in with their unit of inquiry How the World Works.
  • The Grade 5s are currently about to make animations using Xtranormal about physical, social and emotional changes they are going through for their Changing Me unit. These animations will be the summative assessment for their entire Who We Are unit.
  • One class of Grade 4s decided to use Google Earth, instead of PowerPoint to present their understanding of how physical geography influences the life and culture of a country for their Where We Are in Time and Place unit of inquiry.
  • All the Grade 4s are about to start using VoiceThread to explain how belief systems influence our lives as part of the Who We Are unit.
  • Grade 2s have used ZimmerTwins to show their learning about healthy lifestyles.
  • They have used PhotoOp and Brushster to create wonderful artwork as part of their How We Express Ourselves unit.
  • Kindergarten students have made avatars of themselves for their Safety unit - these avatars represent safe and unsafe behaviour and will be used when the make their VoiceThread about safety.
  • With my Grade 7 Technology students, I have let them choose any Web 2.0 tool they like to design a presentation for teaching the Grade 6 students how to use Excel for the purposes of a science lab report. I'll be looking at the results as soon as we get back from the holidays.
Looking back on this first half year I really don't know how I would have done all this without some of the excellent tools mentioned above, which have truly allowed the students to develop 21st century skills.
Photo Credit: Logo 2.0 by Ludwig Gatzke

1 comment:

  1. What great projects! It sounds like you all are web 2.0 pros. Just like you, I can't imagine how I taught in the computer lab without these tools, they have become an integral part of how I work with my students. I am continually amazed by the free creation tools that are out there.