October 16

QR Codes and getting to know your way around the campuses

I guess it sounds like a bizarre title… probably even more bizarre if you haven’t heard of QR codes. Even if you don’t know what they are you have probably seen the little boxes in the newspapers and magazines which invite you to see extra bits of information. These are QR (quick response) codes. They work in the same way as bar codes, by using a QR reader to access more information on a particular topic.

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QR Codes

To access the code information you need to have a phone or other mobile which can take photos. You have to load a QR code reader application onto your phone, (so it does have to be a bit of a smart phone… mind you my phone is only a bit smart and it works a treat. I use Lynkee however I did have to test out a couple before I found one that worked well for my phone. There are heaps of Android phone or tablet and iPhone/iPod touch/iPad2  QR code reader apps, most of which are free. I have used QR Droid Private on the Acer and Lenovo tablet, and found it reliable and simple to use.


QRprocessWhy use the QR code? Why not just put the information out there in the first place? Many reasons – to engage the learner/audience – a hook with a need to investigate, to put a lot of information into a little space, multimedia content, web address…all without having to type anything into your phone/device… which can be a drag with some longer web addresses in particular.

The information contained in a QR code can be wide and varied – a simple web address as in the newspaper examples above, a v-card (virtual business card, with contact info which can be imported directly into the person’s phone/device contacts, textual information – words, paragraphs, stories, an entire book, etc… email details, images, an event (vCalendar), iTunes link, YouTube link, Googlemaps link and much more. How you can use it in the classroom will only be limited by your imagination.

A quick internet search will produce a ton of QR code generators. I have used
QR Stuff and snap.vu and Kaywa which are simple and straightforward. You simply put in your text, web address, phone number, etc and it is converted into a QR code. You can even change the colour your code is generated into.
I used the QR codes on handouts at our recent VCE Expo night, where the QR code linked to the VCAA website information on my subjects – VCE Design and Technology and VETApplied Fashion. It meant parents and students could “read” the code with their reader, and go directly to the information.

So on to the second part of the title of this post: after discussions about moving from campus to campus and people not feeling confident about finding their way around, I thought it could be fun to post some QR codes around the place with information about who, what where etc. I will be adding challenges as we go, so, started exploring and have some fun, maybe learn a bit about the different campuses. So start with decoding the QR code posted above, and join in the fun.

Some links to other examples of how QR codes are being used follow… how would you use QR codes?

Using QR codes to update out of date references

Turn a paper based book into an interactive book

41 interesting ways to use QR codes in the classroom

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October 5

Holiday meanderings, Google+ and Digital Story telling

I have spent these holidays catching up with reading and getting my head around the new Google Plus… which I had an invite to a while ago, but had few people I knew using it… so it was left on the backburner as the end of term chaos consumed life.

So Google + wow… I have been using Twitter since the early days, and have loved how I can expand my professional learning network by following people whose tweets I find interesting and relevant. I have eLearning connections all over the world now as a result. The only thing is that most comments are limited to 140 characters – which can be good, a bit like a haiku, you really have to think about how you say what you want to say, to get the full meaning and context.

Facebook I have mainly kept as a friend space… not wanting to bore my non techy friends with tech stuff… and vice versa with my other pastimes. I did create a “school” facebook account this year, because with a range of other tech issues and unreliability I at least knew all of my students would be able to log in and see my reminder posts etc.

The benefits so far with what I have played with and seen on Google+ is all the great things about twitter…lots of sharing of ideas with people you allocate to circles… you can also share publicly with the world. You can share your thoughts or ideas with as many or few people as you like by simply selecting the relevant circles.

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Google+ is still in testing… but so far it’s looking very good for educators wanting to develop their skills and knowledge with educators worldwide.

One of the features is a “Hangout” where you can get together with others and have a face to face chat over the internet. At the moment I believe up to 9 people can be involve, but this can present a great range of sharing opportunities not only locally but globally.

I was luck enough to participate in viewing a hangout session about Digital storytelling.  There were educators from all over the US who shared with us how they have used Digital Storytelling to get students to develop not only their literacy, but a wide range of skills including digital citizenship.

VoiceThread allows you to collaborate via text voice or image as you and your class discusses images, either as a starting point, or analysis of an artwork. There are education versions, which allow students to post with more security http://ed.voicethread.com/

Youth Voices Youth Voices is a school-based social network that was started in 2003 by a group of National Writing Project teachers. They have found that there are many advantages to bringing students together in one site that lives beyond any particular class. It’s easier for individual students to read and write about their own passions, to connect with other students, comment on each others work, and create multimedia posts for each other.It’s also an opportunity for educators to develop their knowledge about curriculum and digital literacies.

Storybird is a lovely site which has artists who collaborate by providing artworks which can be used to stimulate and illustrate story creation.

Teachers Teaching Teachers check out here for the next talk

GoogleLabs is being phased out… but has an amazing set of resources… imagine 3D Google earth for the body…or the Google Art Project, giving you tours of the worlds greatest galleries…Get in quick!!

Sketchfu is an online drawing and sharing program… very easy to use, and some great artworks to stimulate ideas.

Handling the enormous amounts of information is something we have to try to help our students resolve… Where do you find reliable sources? How do you know what is reliable? Where do you store the information. The easiest way is using a social bookmarking platform such as Diigo, Delicious or Google, where you can save your bookmarks on the cloud, and always have access to them, using keywords and tags to search for them.

Another couple of apps I came across over the break have been Scoop.it and Storify both allow you to create a “feed” of information on a specific topic.

With Scoop.it you can have a tool which sits within your web browser, and allows you to scoop any relevant topics for your area of interest. You then add new links each day or week, or when ever. Others can follow your topic, and add further relevant “scoops” to your page. You can in turn follow others who are “curating” topics which interest you. The topics are wide and varied.

Storify uses a range of social media such as Twitter, facebook, Google+, YouTube etc to draw information together to form a “story” on a specific topic. This could be a unit of work you have created with your students, or it could be the information you want your students to explore.

Both of these would be great ways for students to collaborate and sift though information to create a really useful knowledgebank of information.

Whatever way you want to delve into the digital classroom of the 21st Century, don’t imagine it can just happen… it needs a lot of pre-planning and organising by the teacher to ensure students don’t get lost in the information, or the technology.

Well… some correction to get done…..

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March 14

Podcasting

Podcasting is a fantastic tool for educators and learners. It provides opportunities for teaching and learning using different ways of learning to what traditionally is used. This provide scope for learners to engage in learning a range of places and times, not just in the classroom.

What is Podcasting?

Podcasting was initially an audio file which was shared through the internet. Now technology advancements have meant other rich media including images and videos can also be included.

There are many different sites for you to find podcasts on a wide range of subjects including language, history, science, education, radio shows, tv shows, technology, commentary etc. You can subscribe to podcast series you enjoy through iTunes etc, and they are automatically downloaded into your iTunes library when new ones are added by the creator. Podcasts can be downloaded to your computer, then put onto your iPod or MP3 player and listened to or watched when you wish.

Or you can create your own podcast, by pressing the record button on your computer’s sound program ( Audacity – PC or Garageband – Mac), or iPod or MP3 player or other digital recording device, create an MP3 (audio only) or Mpeg4 (audio and images), send the file via email or direct upload to their iPod or MP3 player, to share with specific people, or to the internet to share with the world.

How to use podcasting in your classroom

Podcasts can be used in many many ways, here are just a few.

  • direct recordings of a lesson. Just press record at the start of the lesson, and students will have your notes to go over as they need it. Great for exam revision or students who are not present for the lesson.
  • using podcasts to generate discussion topics. Find a relevant podcast, and share with your students. Discuss issues etc.
  • Exam revision/key concepts – use simple slides and voice recording to highlight key points students need to revise for exams etc. They can then listen anytime any place – how much cooler to be listening to your iPod on the bus than reading a textbook or school notes.
  • Specific skills – whether threading a sewing machine or using a lathe, it is very handy to have a visual aid to assist  when students are required to complete a task independently. I have seen some very interesting podcasts used in TAFE to assist students in the building trade areas covering a range of skills and OHS issues
  • Presentations – instead of writing responses they can be spoken and submitted, this can be particularly useful for students who have difficulties with the written word, thus catering for students individual differences.
  • In language classes students can listen to authentic sounding linguistics of the languages they are studying.
  • Classroom radio – issues facing the students are discussed and uploaded to share with other students, great for preparing debates or analysing issues.
  • Excursion reflections – as podcasts can be made on many portable devices including mobile phones and iPods/MP3 players real time reflections of an excursion can be made as they are happening.

There are of course many more potential uses.

The nitty gritty

Creating your podcast – you can use a range of tools, the simplest (unless you have a cool mobile phone or voice recorder) is to use your computer to record it, as you can edit it – I usually get it quite shorter taking out all of my ums and ahhs. Creating a podcast was once to domain of Mac users, who were able to seamlessly create and upload their podcast to iPod. It did not take that long for the PC users to catch up and it is just as easy now on either platform. I have created vodcasts (video) and podcasts on my PC, and now am exploring using the Mac.

On a PC you can use Audacity – an opensource audio editing software. Record your audio, to add images I have added my audio track to either Moviemaker or Photostory3. Save your file as an MP3 (audio only) or if you used moviemaker the smaller file size movie file, there are a range of options with differing results, best thing is to try what works best for you.

On a Mac you would use Garageband – File -> New -> new podcast. This gives you a series of options. The top track is for images, then you have different audio tracks and  a track to add accompanying music. You then “Share” and can add it straight to your iTunes library, or save it to your computer as the appropriate file type as with the PC version, ready to share with the world via the internet.

Getting your podcast onto the internet.

You can set up an account with a site like Podomatic which is a repositry for you to upload your podcast files. Once you have uploaded your file, you will be able to share the URL (web address) with people you want to share your podcast with. You are also able to have your podcast added to the iTunes Podcast list, through your podomatic account.

You can upload your podcasts to your blog

You can also share your podcasts through places like PodcastAlley, where you add your podcast’s URL to their site, and others can listen/watch your podcasts.

Useful sites

– Your blog, a useful place to post your podcasts

Podomatic, allows you to set up a space to upload your podcasts

Podcastalley, showcases a range of podcasts

– iTunes, huge range of podcasts allowing you to subscribe to them, importing them straight into your iTunes library

I hope this rambling has made some of the potential of podcasting more understandable for new users. I have added some podcasts created in a few minutes using both Audacity and Garageband, so whether you are PC or Mac you can have fun either way 🙂

My Podcasts

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November 19

Weeding through some tools

This end of the year should be winding down, but somehow it always ends up being crazier than usual. Anyway, next Monday and Tuesday I am presenting at the VITTA conference, one session on Cool Web 2.0 tools and the other sharing the “Redback Project” engaging staff to explore some tools, and show them how they can actually make life easier. I always get a bit apprehensive when I present at something like the VITTA conference, because although I use all these tools, and I guess I have become a bit of an early adopter, and innovator in the classroom…. I am generally talking to IT teachers…  They know… stuff about computers… way more than me… anyway I generally go in over prepared, and nervous, and hope my point gets across….

The theme for this year’s conference is “Shift Happens: Technology alone will not save us”

The Redback one hopefully will be good, I hope it makes sense to other educators, and I know those of us who have already embedded so much of these we can forget what a challenge it is to get started with these tools, I think that is the kep point, keeping it all simple, taking little steps, and before they know it the participants have completed a range of tasks using Web 2.0 tools, and are starting to feel the confidence, and the desire to take them further.

Where do you start with the amazing range of tools available to us? I am going to take people through some of my favourites, and looking specifically at how they can be used in the classroom…

  • starting with blogs and wikis and moblogs
  • communication and sharing – del.icio.us, Diigo, Twitter and Clipmarks
  • Keeping track – RSS and Google tools
  • Social stuff – Ning
  • Other stuff… mobile technologies, fun stuff, and where to go to find things Go2Web2Go2Web2 Blog  and Killerstartups
  • Global Teacher

I only have an hour, and I think I will be racing to cover it all… so will put my thoughts, discussions, links on my Redback wiki, as some good starting off points for that as well.

New venue this year… so I think I get to go on the new freeway… Looking forward to it 🙂 I always get a heap of great ideas… and love being able to give back with some ideas of my own.

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September 22

OK… I have been slack

This past week has been a whirlwind…

having been offered the wonderful opportunity to become eLearning leader at a new school, which has a strong focus on the arts, and the emotional turmoil that comes with that, after having been in Langy for 21 years…

So my head has been a bit crazy…. plus a busy end of term, with Year 12 folios coming in, and now finally maybe I can take a breath…. on holidays… up at 6am to welcome the pool diggers and electricians.

It’s windy and diggy and noisy, and they have hit a pipe that wasn’t there on the plans… ughhhh… so now waiting for the plumber while they dig the rest of the pool out.

Back onto theing more eLearning…. the Redback project is going well, those who have taken up the challenge are having a ball… many way out of their comfort zone… but it’s a good thing…

I had some great feedback on the video tutes I have created, and will spend some time making more of those. I have found Jing to be really great… but a bit dodgy when trying to upload at school…. thank goodness for mobile broadband…

welll I better go and organise things… still just flitting around…

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August 30

Teachers are learners too

Learning really is a lifelong thing, and what a wonderful and challenging (in a good way) time we are living in as there is so much to learn. Time is such a valuable commodity however, it can be a need to know basis that learning happens, or for a subject where you have a love or passion.

For me I know I had to learn scripting and HTML a few years ago to teach my Multimedia students, I found that challenging, and my kids have a giggle when I tell them I have to put on my other “head” (left brain) when I work through Action scripting and programming (my brain is not too logical,very right brain, – and I love the creative side, very much a wysiwyg kinda gal). I had to learn it, and I did, and it still surprises me when random logical thoughts when scripting come out. I think, scarily enough, my work with the programming stuff has actually trained my brain to see more from both sides. In the Dancer test I can make it go both ways….   ahh but I digress… I found lots of reasons to avoid completing the scripting stuff I had to do, yet, when there is something I am interested in, I will find the time, currently I have been working on using essential oils as an alternative therapy for a range of stuff… and created a wiki, and create blends and research oils and so on… learning, what I want to.

Where this path of exploring and embedding new technologies has lead me, is in a role of staff ICT support across the college. This has been a challenge in that other people are not necessarily seeing learning and embedding new technologies as a priority, after all they have been teaching successfully for a number of years, why should they get involved in this new stuff? Where would they find the time? what is the motivation? Getting this motivation to explore beyond their comfort zone has lead me to suggest a project which has got the support of the principal and the major curriculum drivers at the college….. and it starts next Tuesday.

The Redback Project Redback Project

The project is based on the Learning 2.0 project, or 23 Things, developed and used by librarians in the US. A similar style has been created by Michelle Martin in her Bamboo Project. I have also seen a few other similar projects around, but none of them were just the right fit for my staff. I wanted something that would not be too intimidating, and was available at school. There are many blocked sites (both from the department and ISP) so trying to explore something like Flickr would be frustrating, as there are still a number of staff who do not have access to the internet at home.

So my challenge was to provide something very accessible and usable, and yet provide challenges for those staff who may want it. And so the Redback Project was created. Why Redback… well I didn’t want anything tech in the name, and Redbacks are beautiful and alluring in their webs. So with the aim to entice more staff into the web to see some of the beauty, fun and maybe a little silliness.

The project will be running over 10 school weeks, with the term 3 break it will be 12 weeks. We will look at blogs, wikis, image generators, RSS, social networking, social bookmarking, tags, Moodle and other stuff. Tasks will be kept achievable for basic level skills, but also issuing challenges for those wanting a bit more. And the lure…. prizes, looking at a range of tech gadgets to give to those who complete the project, as well as weekly draws for those on track and trying out the challenges or just trying something outside their comfort zone.

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