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2011 Horizon Report K-12

The 2011 Horizon Report K-12 has been posted to the New Media Consortium’s Website, and it has the writing that’s on everyone’s wall in education these days: Cloud Computing and Mobile Devices are imminent in K-12 education, listed as 1 year or less to implementation.

I happen to know that the TDSB is experimenting with moving the load for office applications and even the OS itself off of the individual computers and into the “cloud”, which will surely be a test of our network infrastructure, but might save enormously on the cost computers.

I, for one, am excited about the possibilities and potentials of both these developments, but they are not without their causes for due concern.  With so much now riding on our network, will the infrastructure be able to handle it?  I know from speaking to elementary colleagues, that moving to web-based reporting has been a nightmare – slow-downs and hanging connections being the major headache, as thousands of teachers try to complete reports at the same time, straining the network capacity.

Cell phones are another very contentious issue.  While I feel I am easily able to adapt my pedagogy to suit the new TDSB direction, I know there are others who will be disappointed by the decision to allow cell phones in school.  There are a number of excellent teaching opportunities that come from this, but there is also a great deal of trepidation, fears of increased distraction amongst an already distracted and disengaged student body, and risks of cheating on traditional tests and assignments.

My personal belief is that we have already been dealing with these fears, as students have been widely ignoring the old board ruling that forbade the devices in the first place.  The new board ruling still allows teachers the discretion to ban the devices whenever they feel it detracts from student learning, but it also allows teachers such as myself, who have been dying to exploit these valuable resources for all they are worth, to do just that.

Everything must begin with teaching appropriate use – this is a teachable skill, and a very necessary one if what I’m hearing from university experiences are any indication.  Our students will graduate, go on to own Smart Phones, and if we don’t teach them about appropriate use, there could be major ramifications for their post secondary achievement and/or future careers.  Let’s teach our students how to be polite phone users, engaging and paying attention when appropriate, and using their phones only when it is acceptable to do so.  We can teach the good habits our students lack, and in my opinion, we have an obligation to do so.

One part to getting students to buy in is to allow them to use their devices – as dictionaries in English class, to reference Google Earth for geography, to pull dates and figures from the web in a history class, to record the results of an experiment in science.  We can even use these devices to conduct multiple choice diagnostic tests using websites like Poll Everywhere, share calendars with due dates, and (god forbid), tweet or text reminders to the class for field trips and special events.

If we leverage everything that students are bringing to school in their pockets, we stand a much better chance of getting to that coveted 1:1 ratio of students to devices needed for paperless classrooms, e-texts, and full integration of IT throughout the school curriculum.

Let’s take from the report the positives of these changing times, and approach our challenges as necessary to reap the extensive rewards in the end.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Inspiration

 

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Game Making

As I was looking at the idea of gaming in education, I came across an excellent post on game making for kids: http://www.squidoo.com/gamemaking

I had a browse through, and started looking to Game Maker, so maybe there will be more to share soon.  The post is quite complete, and has numerous different links to game making software and tutorials to get you started, so I recommend checking it out.

 
 

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Minecraft

I was cruising the ICT conference today for new articles and ideas to use with my IT and Innovative Learning students, when I came across a fascinating article about a lego-style network multiplayer game called Minecraft.  A teacher by the name of Joel Levin has effectively used the game environment as a teaching tool with Grade 1 and 2 students.  I applaud his courage in implementing this, especially with such young children.

You can read the Ars Technica article here.

Levin has his own blog as well, The Minecraft Teacher.

Finally, I checked out the minecraft website, to see that there is a free version of their older software, along with server software to allow you to host your own games in a controlled environment (essential for education).

Following Levin’s own advice, I am not about to try to adopt this in any haste – I’ll take a look at it over the summer to become comfortable and confident before leaping into a classroom application of the software.

Exciting things are afoot in game-based education.

 
 

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Moodle Tool Guide

I got this document from a colleague some time back and think it is a great way to introduce someone to the basic tools available in the default install of Moodle.

Enjoy!

MoodleToolGuideforTeachers_May2010_JS

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Resources

 

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Popplet – Web 2.0 Graphic Organizers

There’s some absolutely fantastic stuff being done with Popplet right now, and accounts are free.

Popplet is a web-based collaborative mind-mapping software capable of creating flow charts, graphic organizers, and other visual aids.  It incorporates the best of the Web 2.0 world – it allows for collaborative editing, can be shared easily, and pulls in rich content from Youtube and other websites.

It is to softwares like Inspiration and Smart Ideas, what Prezi is to Powerpoint.

I have some examples here. I’ll post a warning to other wordpress users trying to do the same thing: you need to use gigya code to embed them, the embed code that popplet uses won’t work in wordpress.

Instructions are here

At any rate, some work my ICT students did in 20 minutes today:


 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Inspiration, Resources

 

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iPad as an Interactive White Board

I recently had this article brought to my attention by a colleague.  It very practically discusses how to set up a computer, projector and iPad to function similarly to an interactive white board (IWB) using screen-mirroring software.  The big benefit to this being firstly that it is cheaper than the costs of a full IWB, and secondly, that it can be more versatile than other portable IWB alternatives.

On the surface this sounds like a fantastic idea, and worth some consideration.  The portability of the iPad, and the relatively high access to computers and projectors in my school makes this an appealing alternative to outfitting every room with expensive IWBs.

Of course, IWBs have their place in a school as well, and if placed in the proper classes, with teachers who have the passion and training to use them, they will and do pay enormous dividends for students.  If you doubt the efficacy of these devices, see Marzano’s 2009 study published in Educational Leadership.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Inspiration

 

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Creating Maps with National Geographic Tool

Just got this link from a colleague and had to share it. It allows you to create printable pdf maps of most places in the world – you can make blank ones for history and geography courses too!

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/

I wish I had a tool like this 5 years ago. It can be surprisingly hard to find blank, printable map templates for some regions. This is a fantastic resource that fills a that basic need.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Resources

 

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