Learning spaces

December 20, 2011 at 12:00 am | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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My wife and I were watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition the other day. On this episode the design team built a school room in a house for two home-schooled children aged 6 and 8. These girls had an immune deficiency disease so they could not go to school due to the high risk of infection.

It was, as it usually is a lovely episode, but what got me was the school room. It was a great room with the latest technology such as laptops, an interactive whiteboard and video conferencing unit. There was science gear, art supplies and so on. What got me though were the two individual desks in the middle of the room with a laptop on each for the girls to work at. All I could think of was that it is so cliche to have school desks like this. Yes there was a table for doing art together, but those desks made it look like that was the place where work is done and done on their own.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think individual desks should not be allowed in classrooms especially children of this age. They don’t encourage interaction between students or collaboration. The video conferencing unit was great for them to interact with other students from around the world (fantastic!), but what about interaction with each other in the same room. Yes, I know it will still happen, but is it the same?

Modern classrooms should be built with this in mind. We should be encouraging interaction and collaboration. This is normal behavior in a work place, so these skills should be developed at school.

I like hearing about the learning spaces at places such as Albany Senior High School (link to Steve Wheeler‘s blog), or the different classroom layout that Andrew Churches (link to Andrew’s blog) has at Kristen School. These are just a couple of examples and there are many more. There is also probably no perfect classroom, but it’s so important now to ensure our learning spaces promote students building the skills they will need in later life.

Critical elements of e-learning: presentation

June 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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As part of my study this year I had to write an assignment about the critical elements of e-learning.
I decided to share my learning with my colleagues in a presentation. It is included below.

Christchurch earthquake – a teaching resource

March 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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My colleagues and I have set up a WikiEducator page about the recent Christchurch earthquake (February 22, 2011). We are collaborating with scientists, teachers and students from around New Zealand and the world. It is only in it’s very beginning stages, however the plan is that this resource will help lead students towards achieving the New Zealand NCEA Achievement Standard 90955 Investigate and astronomical or Earth science event. There is of course no reason why this resource could not work towards other qualifications around the world.

A big aim of the resource is that it will answer some of the questions that people have about the earthquake. A common question for example is, “What is liquefaction?” Hopefully, also, a resource like this might help people to be prepared for another disaster of this kind (if you can ever be fully prepared).

If you have something you are able to add to this resource, please do so. It is exciting to think we can collaborate on a project like this. Like I said before, it’s only in it’s beginning stages. It needs to have some structure given to it, but the hope is to have something prepared as quickly as possible – within the next 2-3 weeks.

Looking forward to the collaboration and the opportunity to work with a variety of different people!

Here’s the link: http://wikieducator.org/Earthquake:_Christchurch_2011

 

Our thoughts continue to go out to those affected by this tragic event.

Google Series – Part 4: Google Docs

June 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Education | Leave a comment
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Well I was thinking of heading to Google Docs for this post, and I will, but I’m not going to post much as a good blog post was recently made. It outlines new sharing and editing options in it.

So next time I’ll start to go into detail about Google Docs, but for now – have a look at this post from Free Technology for Teachers to see if you want to explore it further.

I will say this now – Google Docs has great potential for education, collaboration etc.

iEtherpad

May 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Education | 2 Comments
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I was just invited to observe/join in with a colleague using iEtherpad with an online class. Here are a few thoughts about it’s use.

iEtherpad is the latest take on Etherpad. Actually, only in the internet address is the ‘i’ used – I’m not sure why. Etherpad is a great free collaborative tool for working on a document. It is similar to Google docs, however the synchronous interface seems to work much better in Etherpad.

This was the first time my colleague had used in collaboratively with a class (and the first time I had seen it used properly). I would say the first important thing to remember if you want to use it with a class is to make sure you have already set up some key questions for students to answer on the page. This way they can work in groups and put together a document.

It could be used as a sort of ‘chat’ or question/answer area, but it does have it’s own chat function off to the side (which works well).

iEtherpad assigns colours to each person that is online, however it only has a few colours to choose from and these can easily be used up in which case doubleing-up of colours occurs. When in the main document the text is highlighted by the colour of the person typing it. This is fine unless there are 2 or more people with the same colour. It does not show the name of the person typing it in the document. One clever student actually suggested including their name with what they were writing.

Another issue with Etherpad is that as the number of users increases, the number of people dropping off also increases. Hopefully this issue will be able to be resolved.

The timeline function in Etherpad allows you to see everything that has happened on the document over time. You can go back to a certain point and work on it from there or just see the changes that have been made.

The document can currently be exported as txt or html, however this is not always great. It loses the colours of who has had what input. One way around this is to go into the timeline function and print to PDF. Of course not everyone is able to do this.

Overall iEtherpad is a great tool for collobarative work – and very good for students. It is well worth a look and a play.

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