Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I am amazed at the diversity of the many elearning topics that I have covered over the last few weeks. Tools that I didn’t even know about made me sit back and think ‘wow – this would be a great resource’. As with any resource, time and money play a huge factor, and unfortunately, computers and staff training don’t seem to be at the top of the list for the majority of schools. One of the largest hurdles I have been trying to overcome in schools is their band width and student access. Education Queensland computers are notoriously slow, and if an entire class is trying to download at once, more often than not, the system crashes. Having one computer room for a school of 700 means a 40 minute window each week for a class, and at least 10 minutes of that time is taken up in logging on. McKenzie (1998, p.1) states that using technology “only pays off if we provide enough computers, enough staff development and a combination of powerful tools with rich information.” Grove, Strudler and Odell’s (2004, as cited in James, 2006, p.1 ) further add that as more technology is available, “the need for knowledgeable teachers to use these tools effectively becomes a pressing issue.” Having four computers in each of our classrooms seems a great idea, but when there isn’t a projector hooked up to one of these, they may as well not be there.
During this task, I have had many conversations, both online and face to face with my peers that have enlightened me to new ways of thinking and using these elearning tools. They have always been light and social and extremely helpful, the course coordinator and the tutors at our campus have been speedy in their replies to the cries of help from myself and my peers. The discussions that we have been having have created a large collaborative tool of learning and resources, as my peers and I have shared our fears, ideas and triumphs. We have, without realizing it, been using Kearsley and Shneiderman’s (1999) Engagement Theory through these discussions alone. The three components of Relate, Create and Donate, have been covered by our Managing eLearning course group, which can then be divided into flex and on campus students, then campus sites, and then friendship and study groups; the create aspect is shown through our task of establishing our professional blog and reflecting on tools and our peers blogs’; and our outside ‘real life’ focus is fulfilled through the main aim of this course – to help us gather knowledge on many tools and use them in our classrooms.
Using these elearning tools correctly gives students “engaged, meaningful learning and collaboration involving challenging and real-life tasks” (Jones, Valdez, Nowakowski, and Rasmussen 1995, as cited in James, 2006, p.1). This statement also links with the Engagement Theory mentioned above.
Of the numerous elearning tools that I have briefly delved in to, I will aim use quite a few of them in my teaching. These are:
- PowerPoint: through the use of SlideShare so that these presentations can be completed in the students own time and individually.
- Google Earth: I would like to introduce a new place to travel to at the start of each day, linking it with the students’ current unit of work, and allowing them to explore with the help of this tool, I believe this is a great way to ‘hook’ students in at the beginning of the day.
- Class blog or wiki: To develop collaborative learning and reflection on tasks and for students to have the ability to show family and friends what they are completing in class
- Avatars: A fun way to engage students, to help present information and notices.
- ClassMarker: For students to complete online quizzes instead of the traditional ‘pen and paper’ style tests, and even create their own for the class.
- YouTube: An easy resource for students to use, with parental guidance they could each have turns in selecting an interesting clip, based on the current unit of work, to show the class – replaces the traditional ‘show and tell’.
- WebQuests: I will endeavour to create challenging, informative and fun WebQuests each semester, and will instruct the students on how to create their own.
- Wikipedia: A truly under-rated resource that is easy to navigate for students, use of this as a research starting point in classrooms is essential.
- Voice Thread: Collaborative learning at the highest point, even better than a Wiki, it is easy to use, monitor and embed into a class blog or wiki. Students can add their comments on the Voice Thread to enhance their learning and that of their peers.
Using these technologies within the classroom will take time and effort to establish, but once they are used regularly, they will become like second nature to the students, and the teachers. In conclusion, I will strive to overcome the hurdles of using elearning tools and bring technology into the classroom, so that we can open our mind through travels to distant lands; empower our thoughts through collaborative class blogs and wikis; and use the extensive resources that can be found on the internet to their full potential.
- James, W. (2006). Just Plugging In: A Critique of Mentoring Toward Technology Use. Retrieved August 19, 2009, from
- Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from
McKenzie, J. (1998).The WIRED Classroom: Creating Technology Enhanced Student-Centered Learning Environments. Retrieved August 19, 2009, from
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This is just one simple way to use this technology. There would be countless others, and they would all have the same aim - to get students thinking and working collaboratively, one of the engagement theory's components.
I didn't know about royalty free music before this course, but it would have come in handy for this, and for our recent ESS presentation where we used music to enhance our survey results in Windows Movie Maker. After reading about licences, I now understand that Moby (whose music we used) could have actually fined us for using his music in this presentation.
The music that I downloaded of Incompetech was described by the website as an "erie, relaxed and somber" piece (Incompetech, 2001-2009). I decided to use this as a response to Melissa's comment about possibly getting my year fours to create a photo story on images they found of the effects of disasters on people. I feel this music would have been very useful as an overlay to the images. The piece is written by Kevin MacLeod and is named Unpromised it is the first piece on this list. It comprises of vocals, harp, flutes and percussion. I tried to find a way to upload the music to this post or the blog - but I couldn't! Does anyone know how to do this?
I will definitely use this tool from now on. It is another way of storing those important files that you have worked so long on - saving them from the inevitable hard drive crash! My mentor teacher recently had her USB stolen at school. Unfortunately she had years worth of work on it - including unit plans, a week long PD on Grammar (which she was going to share with me!), and countless lesson plans and ideas. She hadn't saved these anywhere else - so they are gone. Apart from the fact that she should have backed them up somewhere - I will be reccomending MediaFire to her!
I have uploaded a Maths investigation lesson plan which I used in Prep last semester, as well as a great resource for handwriting that I created. There are so many of us in Prep at Noosa, so I figured that these would be a worthwhile resource. Check out my files
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I am going to (when I have time) choose my best photos of the kids and use this site to share them with my family and friends. You can choose transitions, music and speed - a great way to give your photos that special touch!
Slide Share allows a much more engaging way of sharing power points than just the standard 'present in front of the class' shows. This site allows the user to upload their power point - much faster than emailing it - and then share it with others through the site or by embedding it in other web pages like blogs and wikis. With my presentation, I had originally wanted the students to gradually work through the power point at their own pace, on individual computers. This would have meant that I had to save the show onto the school's hard drive so that each student in my class could have accessed it. I had no idea how to do this, nor was I sure if it was possible, so I changed my presentation back to the boring 'present in front of the class' shows.
If I had have known about this program back then, I would have tried to use it for this activity. Students would have each been able to access my slide share account and viewed and worked through the show individually. Slide share can also be used for students to put up their presentations, which allow for individual viewing by their peers, teachers or parents and family at home. There is no need for lost USB's and CD's, just upload it and you can watch it from any computer that has the internet!
My year fours have to each create a power point presentation, that is to be marked, so by using slide share, marking becomes a much easier job as it can be done from home. Uploading students' work onto the web using blogs or wikis gives the students a sense of achievement and makes them work harder, as their work is there for all to see. Slide share gives both teachers and students the power to publish and view their work in this way.
This type of vodcast can also be listened to as a podcast and comes from a whole set of fun phonics songs and clips. Using this type of technology would have been great in my Prep class last semester, as the children loved singing and dancing - but they would have definitely benefited from the clip as well. I am sure if this type of technology is only supposed to be used for ipods - if it is, then Prep children at my school wouldn't be utilising it! I can see the benefit of itunes for the secondary school students, as most of them would have an ipod/iphone and definitely have computer and internet access. I am not convinced about using this in primary schools though, it takes a long time to download each podcast, and each computer would need headphones and its volume set correctly - we struggle to get volume on some of ours!
I found many podcasts from teachers to teachers, but not as many aimed at students. Maybe I'll have to start presenting my own!
One of the first icons that caught my eye on the homepage was 'real time earthquakes'.
The possibilities began running through my head of what I could have used this tool for a few weeks ago, then, when I selected 'Ocean terrain layer', you could see the faults under the ocean! My students would have loved this technology - if our school had faster broadband and they had easier access to the computers, and if they had more time on the computers - which would lead to a better understanding of them. Get what I'm saying? Unfortunately, unless I was showing Google Earth to the class using a projector and had a few hours spare, this would be a good tool. Only 'good' because it would be considered 'great' if they could have the access to it that they deserve.
The possibilities with Google Earth are endless. Imagine starting every day with "Today we are going to travel to......." Each time students have to present an information report, oral or similar presentation, the class could actually see where they were talking about. In 1998, then Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, made a speech about a technology that he called 'Digital Earth', a program that allows users to go to anywhere on earth, at any time of day or night (Gore, 1998, as cited in Grossner, 2006). This was his vision for the future; here is a small part of his speech:
local museum. After donning a head-mounted display, she sees Earth as it
appears from space. Using a data glove, she zooms in, using higher and higher
levels of resolution, to see continents, then regions, countries, cities, and finally
individual houses, trees, and other natural and man-made objects. Having found
an area of the planet she is interested in exploring, she takes the equivalent of a
"magic carpet ride" through a 3-D visualization of the terrain."
Google Earth has cetainly come to par with this. Sure, the data glove and head-mounted display are not included in the standard Google Earth experience - but they may be in the future. What an amazing way to open up our students' imagination and experiences.
Grossner, K.E. (2006). Is Google Earth - 'Digital Earth'? Defining a Vision. Retrieved August 18, 2009, from
Monday, August 17, 2009
Most students wouldn't understand the concept of wikipedia, unless they were participating in their own class wiki and had probably had the connection pointed out to them. For me, realising this connection was a 'light bulb' moment, one that I am sure students would have too. I feel that using Wikipedia as a hook to begin a class wiki would be extremely engaging - they can actually see the end product, on a massive scale. Wilipedia is an excellent starting point for research, the information is quick and easy to find, and it is also easy to see what is and isn't referenced. Numerous links to other Wikipedia pages provide extensive coverage of the one topic, and the simple to use contents area in large topics makes it even easier to navigate.
It is imperative to guide your students in the use of Wikipedia, to explain about referencing, how anyone can chage the information, and to begin to get them to understand about plagarism. In saying all this, an ideal wiki task that fits both the engagement theory and Oliver's, would be for each student to start their own wiki page and begin to conduct research, using Wikipedia and other sources, on a topic that fits within their unit. They would need to include references, images and video, and to then give input to their peers' wikis about their chosen topic. My class could have used this idea instead of a power point presentation and an information report on a disaster that they get to choose. This would be much more engaging, and the input from their peers covers the collaborative working component of the engagement theory (Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1999).
Overall, Wikipedia is a winner for me - if it's referenced!
Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning. Retrieved July 17, 2009, from
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Mahara is a file storage system that also acts as a resume builder, RSS Feeder (like Google Reader), and a social site - similar to Facebook. It took me a long time to get used to the layout and all of the links within links on Facebook - so I guess that I will gradually get to that point with Mahara.
So far, I can see that you have a profile about yourself, that you can add personal information like goals to - which makes it a more personal experience. You can add and search for friends and form groups, hence the comparison to Facebook. It provides a large amount of file storage for $5/annum, which can be upgraded for a small fee. You upload your own work (artifacts) and then create a view, based on what you have uploaded. You can then choose to share what you want with your friends - a great source of collaborative teaching! I am part of the CQU Moodle group, we are creating a large; collaborative piece of work, and, it has an authentic focus (our future) - what an excellent way to get us thinking and using the engagement theory without even realising it!
Mahara gives the user many options, and as a student, I have slowly begun uploading my 'good' work that I have created for my classes. This gives me a safety deposit box for my creations, and the ability to share them with my friends. As a teacher, Mahara acts in the same way - but I am honestly unsure of how to use this with my students?? Possibly as an e-portfolio of their work? I will have to do more digging and discovery.
- school's internet speed
- availability of projectors
- availability of computers
- teacher time in researching for appropriate material
- safety of students
In my school, if our entire class logged on to YoTtube and tried to watch a clip each - the internet would probably collapse. I am sure that in other schools, this is not the case, and that would be great, but I have to use this tool on a projector (lucky we have one) and show the entire class at once. The download time is a huge factor, I recently had to give up my lunch break (I'm sure that won't be the last time!) just to make sure a 47 second YouTube clip was ready for the class. It takes time for a teacher to find material, which I am sure that some teachers' don't have. Of course though, the number one factor with YouTube is safety. YouTube is a site that anyone can put clips onto, and these can then be seen by anyone - including our students. It would be an excellent idea to send your class home with homework to find a clip on this site that relates to the current unit and share it with the class. But - you have no idea what they may stumble on in their search - a truly engaging task. TeacherTube provides more safety, but I personally am still apprehensive about even this.
I recently used the following clip to 'hook' my students into a topic on earthquakes. Pardon the corny music, but they loved it! I embedded this hyperlink into the power point, and will definitely use it in the future. The engaging nature of YouTube makes this a great tool, but it is a rather large minefield, that I am sure will not be accessible through school networks for much longer. This is where programs like keepvid come in handy to download and save clips from home and use them in the classroom - a much safer option.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
We all know and love Google, so they have also included a Google search engine for when you are writing your tests - just to make sure you have the correct answer! You can also add images to your questions, which provide a visual clue for learners who like this form of stimulus.
Oliver's learning design theory is about combining tasks, resources and supports, to create learning among students (Australian Universities Teaching Committee, 2000). Creating an online quiz is an excellent way to scaffold learning, either as formative or summative assessment. In the context I would have used it in, my PowerPoint presentation would have provided the resources, the quiz was the task, and both myself and the web links were the support.
The only down side to the site that I could see on my first (but not last!) superficial visit, was that the instructions on the home page are not clear enough. For 'digital immigrants' this can lead to problems, as they would have no idea where to go to get to the next step. So for those of you who have yet to visit, read the instructions, then 'have a play' - you will find where you need to go!
Here is the URL to my quiz - see what score you can get!
Australian Universities Teaching Committee. (2000). Learning Design - The Project. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from