Monday, August 30, 2010
After the first full week of school with the students, which included a back to school night, I decided the weekend would be just for myself and that I would use the computer as little as possible. On Friday night I went out with friends - just into our local town, but it was a nice and relaxing evening. On Saturday I went with my husband and a friend around the organic market along the lakeshore of Zug. There was an "Open Gallery" evening, so we went to view some artwork. We'd heard there was an upstairs restaurant where you could sit out on the balcony and get "the best sunset in Europe" (according to a local guidebook), so we did that too. Then yesterday I went into Zurich and spent about 6 hours in the Kunsthaus (Art Museum) looking at a wide variety of paintings.
Today I went back to school probably less prepared for my lessons than anytime since I started here, yet the day went smoothly and the classes were productive. I was more relaxed too and am already starting to feel the benefits of becoming more balanced.
Photo Credit: Sunset over Lake Zug, taken from the balcony of the Taberna la Paloma.
Our Grade 5 students wanted to go further and add on photos. I didn't have any idea how to put on photos that didn't already have a URL. We could get these photos onto Picasa, but they didn't end in .jpg so when we tried to add them to the maps it did not work. Thankfully I was able to contact another educator who had attended the GTAUK, Mark Allen (see his blog Ed in the Clouds) who was able to let me know how to do this. I am sharing the instructions below for those who, like me and my students, would like to customise the placemarks or to add their photos to their maps.
Once you have navigated to your Picasa page with the photograph you want to add to Google Maps, you have to right click (Control click on Macs) and click "Copy Image Address" from the drop down menu. This will create a URL that ends in .jpg and which can be added to the Google Map.
To add to the Google Map, click on the placemark and then click Rich Text, where you will be able to paste in the copied URL of the photograph. The image above shows me adding a photo of myself and my children onto the placemark of Zug, where we live. The beautiful town of Zug is behind us in the photo.
For more ideas of how to use Google Maps in the classroom, check out this great resource by Tom Barrett which is full of interesting ideas and tips:
Photo Credit: The top photo is the view from one of our Grade 2 classrooms - it was taken while the students were working on their Google Maps.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Last week I read George Couros's blog post entitled Our First Staff Days: The Gift of Time. George, the principal of a Canadian K-12 school, talked about the need to give teachers time to get their rooms ready, and that many meetings in the first few days of school are unproductive because teachers' minds are in the classrooms.
Another post about meetings I read this week was the Pipedreams blog. Zoe Branigan-Pipe, who is also a Canadian educator, offers the following suggestions for meetings:
- Don't start the first staff meeting of the year with a PowerPoint - instead model new strategies such as using wikis to transmit what is mostly "housekeeping" business. Zoe also suggests using a backchannel. I love these ideas but reflecting on our first week of school they are possibly too revolutionary to be taken on at my school right now. Our first meeting of the year actually had 4 PowerPoints and at one other meeting I was told to put away my computer when I was using it to look up something directly related to what we were discussing!
- Use a secure school Twitter account to communicate, rather than email. Twitter promotes ongoing discussions and is not just one way communication. Again I like this idea, but we haven't had a very positive experience with Twitter at our school which has led to some teachers protecting their tweets.
- Start the first staff meeting by showing your staff your new blog. At my school I know there are some teachers who blog. There are others who are interested in setting up student blogs. Some teachers read my blog (including some of the new ones who just arrived and said "So you're Maggie!") I have no idea whether anyone on the admin team blogs or reads blogs. I did a Google blog search on the names of all the admin and came up with nothing, so I'm assuming none of them actually have their own blogs.
- Survey your staff - ask them what kind of PD they want - use a Google Form. I'm trying to get Google Apps into our school. It's a slow process. We have done some online surveys though, including one this very week.
- Be willing to ask an expert, even if that expert happens to be a first year teacher. At our school I think there is recognition of the fact that some of the teachers have expertise in areas the admin does not - for example some of our teachers are very proficient using IWBs. I would imagine our admin would be open to this suggestion.
It is a staff effort to kill a professional meeting. To do it you must have certain ingredients in place such as whispered conversations, lack of agenda, limited follow through, and overall stressful teaching days. I do not think that any staff sets out to arrive here, but once at this dead-end destination, those staff meetings can be hard to resuscitate.
We must take ownership of the meetings and create the type of environment we would like to be taught in. We ask our students to do this ,so why is it as adults that we do not hold ourselves accountable? Whether it be a back channel, a protocol or simply renewed energy; keep in mind that you are the controller of a staff meeting as far as that your energy for that meeting is replicated and mirrored by those sitting around you.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I'm constantly amazed at how this blog has grown. From my very first post, back in mid-December 2009 to now, I have had thousands of visitors. I only really started tracking the visitors the following month - how exciting it was to see the little red dots appearing on the map. I have had amazing support from the iLearn Technology Blog Alliance - what a wonderful PLN I have. I find it incredible that my blog has been read by people in the Maldives, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland, countries I have never been to and probably never will. On average about 100 people visit my blog each day - how great it is to be connected to the world in this way! And how much I have grown as a teacher along the way. I think more deeply, I question more and for sure I am definitely a better teacher as a result.
Photo Credit: The Letter "L" by Justin
Sunday, August 15, 2010
As I read through the comments I came across one by George Couros. I followed the link to his blog and read his great post You Don't Need to be Brilliant to be Wise. In this post George talks about the need to make wise decisions, not just follow the rules and he posted this TEDtalk by Barry Schwartz.
I found the metaphor about the jazz musician to be very powerful. Barry says:
A wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule .... a wise person knows how to improvise ... a wise person is like a jazz musician using the notes on the page but dancing around them, inventing combinations that are appropriate for the situation and people at hand ... you need to be allowed to improvise, to try new things, occasionally to fail and to learn from your failures.Photo Credit: Sonny Stitt - tenor saxophone by Tom Marcello
Saturday, August 14, 2010
I have written about the IB Learner Profile before and how one of its strengths, as I see it, is that it applies to all members of the community. The IB believes "we must all strive to put into practice what we believe". Therefore this summer I started to look at the different attributes of the Learner Profile with the aim of working on my weakest one this year as part of my personal goals.
They understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.
- Only do the things you are really passionate about and what you are really good at
- Make a priority list of all the things you need to do and then chop the last 20% off the list as they are the least important
- Start with a blank page - think of the things you are doing right now and try to imagine you were not doing them but just about to make a decision about whether or not you would start doing them. If you would not, right now, make the decision to start doing them, then they are things you need to stop doing.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
As well as this, I also started to work through some of the different activities and presentations that took place during the Google Teacher Academy last month. As one of the other participants said, we were introduced to new ideas every few seconds and it was quite hard to keep up with everything. For me, the best way to learn something new is to play with it, so this afternoon I started to look at the presentation by Zoe Ross on Google Docs. Zoe had come up with several activities for us to work on in small groups, unfortunately our group ran out of time so I wanted to go back and try them all out again. She had an activity using Doodle for Google, one that involved making a presentation about London landmarks and one that involved adding favourites into a spreadsheet. This afternoon I had a good play around with these trying out lots of different features until I felt confident with them.
Zoe had provided us with several useful links and classroom examples, one of which was Tom Barrett's presentation (below). Tom was another of the Lead Learners at GTAUK. I can already see how I can use some of these ideas, for example the spreadsheet about pulse rate data. Last year I worked with the PE teacher and the Grade 2s during their Who We Are unit of inquiry to measure the students' pulse when resting and following various types of activities, which we then graphed. Each student was only able to graph his or her own data, and I can see how great it would be to actually graph the results of the whole class by having them collaborate on just one spreadsheet. Another idea I would like to use is #10, the backchannel, using the chat window during presentations.
Later in the day I attended another session by Tom Barrett on using Google Maps. I have been playing around with that too and will be blogging again later on ideas for using that with our students.
Image Credit: 9/13 Roald Dahl's Birthday by bangdoll@flickr
The Google way of working was amazing. Everyone gets 20% of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. This has led to a number of new features and apps being developed. It makes you think if there would ever be a way we could get this into schools. You must be motivated so much more when you literally have ownership of what you are doing.I have written before about our school's mission statement (Respect, Motivate, Achieve), and it strikes me that, just as Tim said, having ownership of what you are doing is very motivating and empowering. This has set me thinking about what I would like to do in my action plan and how I could present it to the school, and I think I would like to try to introduce a little bit of the Google 20% into what the students are doing in IT. Each year our students, who are doing the IB PYP, study 6 units of inquiry. I'm thinking about giving them one of these units as their IT 20% (well not quite 20% of course since 100/6 is actually 16.6%, but you get the idea). Perhaps for just one of these units they could have the choice of showing their learning in any way they choose. Perhaps letting them work on a project of their own choosing will lead to greater motivation and therefore greater achievement. It's definitely worth a try.
Photo Credit: Salcombe: 20 by Kevin Paul Jones
Monday, August 9, 2010
If all this seems a bit confusing, Google for Educators has classroom lessons and resources to help teachers and students. These lessons have been built by Google Certified teachers and are broken down into different grade levels and modules. This is certainly something I am going to be showing to the teachers in my school once I return to work next week.