Posts Tagged ‘google’

So, it is finally here and I finally got an invite! I had a few days to begin to get my head around Google+, but nowhere near enough as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to check out this new “Buzz”. I have always been disappointed to hear about the fall of Google Wave, which I thought was a fantastic tool that would bring collaboration to a whole new level. But, unfortunately, it never kicked off properly, maybe because of the many bugs, or simply because the world wasn’t ready for it. Whatever, it was, my first impression about G+ is that it is a lot less pretentious and a lot less fuss has been made about it. So, there is a better chance that the users will drive how it develops, rather than having the presumption of telling the users this is their answer to everything they have ever wanted.

So, here are my first impressions about it. I like the idea of circles as it gives a good balance between a Facebook like experience and Twitter lists. Posting to a Circle to me sounds a bit like sending a Direct Message to a whole list on Twitter, which is quite neat. I also like the idea that now you can separate your professional updates from your personal ones. Other than that I have not done that much digging into G+, or rather I haven’t found the time yet, but there are a couple of ideas I’d like to share about how Google+ could potentially be used in the classroom.

Simulating Historical Characters

In G+ you could create an account to simulate a historical character and assign different other characters to his/her Circles, so you could have a circle of people in his family, his colleagues, enemies, etc… Each person within these circles can interact with our famous character according to their relationship with him, so, for example, how did Darwin’s father influence his life choices? Or how did his contemporary Lamark dispute his theory, etc… There could be a moderator group who could could act as the Historian and challenge the conversations within the circles with probing questions and by presenting key facts in the life of this character. Speculations on how History could have changed, if different choices had been made by the people in our character’s circles, could be explored in conversations and questions created by the learners in this role play. Giving a profile picture that match the different characters would help learners to engage even more deeply in the game and it could really spark interest in the lives of these historical characters, as they would have the opportunity to impersonate some key people in History and the whole topic could become very personal for these learners. An interesting feature of this game is that apart from the Historian and the actual main  character other characters would not see the conversations between the main person and his/her circles.

Breaking down complex systems in Science

Often you can break down complex systems and processes like the human body into smaller chunks that are easier to explain, but that contribute to the functioning of the whole system. So, for example, you could create an account for the “Human Body” and break it down into Circles in Google+ like the Circulatory System, the Reproductive System, etc… In each circle you could have the organs that make up that particular system, like the heart and blood vessels in the Circulatory System. The body has needs that involve different systems depending on the situations in which it finds itself in. So, for example, when the body is exercising the heart will pump more blood around to supply the additional Oxygen needed to the muscles. The body could be played by the Teacher, or even better a group of learners, who will have to send messages to specific Circles explaining the activity, or need, it is doing and the circles will have to respond appropriately explaining the changes they are going through to supply that need. This role play could become quite interesting when a process that involves multiple systems is started by the body. You could also simulate a medical tracer, like radioactive Iodine, that could be added to all the “circles” in the body and find a malfunction according to the conversations that are going on in each Circle/Organ.

These are just a couple of ideas and I have had the chance to try them out in the classroom yet, but I would be very interested to know how the learners respond to them,  if anyone out there is having a go at trying them out. So, please share your experiences and ideas by leaving a comment!

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I attended my very first TeachMeet in Cheltenham at the Parabola Arts Centre (Cheltenham Ladies’ College) and it was a worthwhile experience. There were not as many teachers as I would have expected/hoped, but it was still a great opportunity to network with like minded educators and to see some great stuff in action.

The meeting kicked off with some lovely demos on 2D and 3D animation from Liz Pratten, Glenfall. What I liked about her presentation was the large amount of kids’ work she showed us. Nice, funny and engaging pieces of work from her pupils… can’t get any better!

Then, @mrjstacey took us through a nice Hystory lesson he made in Prezi. I liked the video hidden inside the photo and the showing off of the depth of zooming in that can be achieved in Prezi. I tried to get my pupils to use Prezi in class, but they found it very heavy and frustrating that they had to wait so long for things to upload, etc. This seemed to be @mrjstacey experience too I think. He showed this lovely Prezi on Chemical Scales too!

Next, was @isaachsenalex showing some fantastic work he did as a cross curricular  project with the Geography department using Macs and photographs taken by the children on school trips. There was a lot of good teaching and learning thinking and practice in the way photos were used by the kids.

To balance out the Apple presence @innovativeteach gave a very quick and snappy 2 min presentation on the many examples of free software available from Microsoft and the Partners in Learning Network. From Deep Zoom Composer to Autocollage, Songsmith, etc… I think most of the audience was literally blown away by these great examples of free educational software. And again the focus was on the pupils, not on the technology.

Then, @atomicjam showed us how Google Reader can be used to keep track of all the blogs and websites you are following. I had used it before, but I got a couple of tips I didn’t know about!

@mrjstacey was up again talking about a really nice blog he uses with his Politics class in WordPress. A great example of how blogging with your class can be a very useful and enriching experience for you students. I liked the was he builds up trust with his classes, e.g. starting from allowing only comments first and slowly handing the writing of the post to the students. I also learnt you can email your posts to your WordPress blog directly!

After the break I was up showing what I did with what I baptised “The Ultimate PowerPoint Macro”. My good friend Mike Ebbsworth (WJEC) gave me this PPT template and he got it from here. So, I showed a version of the Caterpillar learning journey I made using it for some of the resources I am working on at NGfL Cymru. This macro is phenomenal and it does a great deal of stuff, e.g. rotate objects, edit text in slideshow mode, resize objects… You can download it directly from the link below. I also quickly introduces the Stimulating Phyiscs Network and TalkPhysics.org.

dragadrop_new

And the @mrjstacey was up again to close the meeting with markup.io and with the thanks, etc. Unfortunately there was no more time for more presentations, but the experience was certainly worth living.

I am looking forward for the TeachMeet in Bristol on the 10th November were I will do a 7 min pitch on “Why is broadcasting your students’ work a confidence booster?” Hope to see you there!

We were thrilled to receive an email today to tell us myself and three of my Yr12 Students have been invited to BETT to receive our prize for the “Be a Reporter for the day” competition organised by the National Education Network. They competition invited schools to submit a news report about how they are using Technology in Education.  At the time I just started a Revision Club on Google Wave for my Yr12 Students and I knew that was just the right thing to submit… A project on Wave!

We are one of very few schools that uses Google Wave, as it is brand new technology and still quite few people have been invited to it! I got my invite from my brother in law and my Yr12 pupils from Michael (one of our sixth formers) who had some spare invites to give away.

So, how do we use Google Wave for revision? Wave is an incredibly powerful tool for collaborative work. Not only my pupils and I can communicate real time (and I mean real time), but Waves offer you many tools to enhance your experience, like gadgets and bots. And the best thing is that there are already many Developers who are busy writing new gadgets and bots, so things get more exciting everyday.

But what are these gadgets and bots? To any wave you can add various tools. For example, I added a mind mapping gadget (use the URL: http://cactus-wave.appspot.com/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.MindMapGadget/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.client.MindMapGadget.gadget.xml ) to decide what definitions we wanted to revise. So, each member of the class could contribute and group the definitions they found in their notes and specifications. This was a useful excercise because it helped them revise the different concepts and create links between words, definitions and topics.

Then, I invited the Wikifier bot (wikifier@appspot.com) to our wave, so that my Students could look up those definitions from Wikipedia directly on the wave. This is another powerful feature of Google Wave; you don’t need to leave the Wave to make something happen, as you can get most thing to happen and be stored there!

After that, I asked my Students to compare the definitions from Wikifier with those in their notes, books and the AQA Specifications, which I believe was not only a great way to revise, but also to encourage them to use more than one source of information when studying and researching! At this point, a great suggestion came from Alex (one of our Students). He said he was going to change the colour to green for those definitions he had checked, red for those he thought were wrong and orange when he wasn’t sure. In this way the Wave started to become more and more something owned and developed by the Students rather than directed and managed by me all the time. In fact, Alex’s suggestion became a norm followed by others too. Other suggestions and activities have been included by the Students since and our Revision Wave is now a lot bigger than the one we started with and our Students reported about in their award winning project, and we are getting very excited leading to January 15th when we’ll be at BETT to enjoy the great events and our boys will receive their prize, a brand new laptop each!

I have heard many teachers saying they can’t understand, or see the point of Google Wave, but I can say it is a fantastic tool and a smashing online collaborative environment unlike anything we have seen before. As more and more Developers will join in writing gadgets and bots for Waves, we’ll see a phenomenon that could really change the way communications and collaboration happen in Education.

I have often wondered whether to use Office Live, or not! I tried it a couple of years ago with my Yr10 pupils and it just didn’t work for them. They would not upload stuff on the share workspace and some complained they couldn’t access the resources I uploaded, or could not log in. So, I gave up for a season, until a few months ago when I created a PowerPoint Template for my Yr 12 Students to use to create a massive mind map on various aspects of Quantum Phenomena and EM Radiation. I designed the template using PPTplex, a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to view your slides as if they were part of a canvas. You can then use the buttons and scroll on your mouse to zoom in and out of each slide (see my previous blog about it)

The result was that each pupil in yr 12 was assigned a topic and turn that into a mind map on a single slide. Thanks to the zooming features of PPTplex there was no concern about the font size and students could, therefore, fit as much information as they wanted in their mind map. Each slide was a new central concept within a much larger mind map whose template I designed in the background view to include all the pupils’ slides and show how each topic linked with each other! This way they could all work at the same mind map presentation and that saved the hassle to have to collect all their work and paste it in a single presentation afterwards. In addition, it allowed the students to use the amazing features of Office 2007, like smart arts and PPTplex and create really nice and visual mind maps!

So, did it all work so smoothly? Well, we live in the real work! I already knew about the problem of not being able to work simultaneously on the same file. If someone is currently working on one file another user can only open it as a read only. This takes away all the collaborative nature of sharing documents online, doesn’t it? No doubt, tools like Google Docs and Google Wave allow a much superior real time collaboration, but the tools provided by Google Presentations are quite limited compared to the range of features of PowerPoint 2007, which allows the user to create much more versatile and professional looking presentations, as example of which is PPTplex. Some students could not download the Presentation and work on it and one pupil experienced the frustration of not being able to edit the presentation because another student was working on it at the same time. Thankfully, he was quick enough to think of saving it with another name, make his changes and then cut and paste onto the Office Live shared presentation later.

So, is Office Live a useless online collaborative environment? I believe it’s far from that, because of the reasons I explained above. If they could merge the awesome features of Office 2007 with the collaborative power of Google Docs, or even better, Google Wave, that would come close to perfection. But we live in the real world where live can sometimes mean “wait a minute I am rebooting” and collaboration sometimes means “Well you both wrote on the same spot, so I won’t show any of it at all!”

What so you think? Please, leave a comment!

Hi,

This is my first blog ever, so I thought it’s just fair to have as a subject the person that introduced me to Web Logging, my 10 year old nephew. As an Educator with a passion for new technologies, I enjoy watching the behavious of my nephew as he uses technology in his personal life and how much positive impact this is having in his development.

For example, last year he needed to find out how to hatch a Dragonage (at least I think that’s how you spell it) egg, so he got to his computer and searched the net to find what he needed. It was just amazing to watch him reading and selecting the information he needed. He could quickly distinguish between links that would lead him to a dead end from useful sites and in a matter of few minutes he found a detailed explanation of the procedure, applied it to his “Viva Pignata” game on his X-Box 360 and got the desired outcome. In this exercise, which he enjoyed thouroughly, he displayed and developed very useful skills, e.g. he developed his reading and comprehension skills, analysis and synthesis, etc.

Today, he was showing me WordPress and he subscribed me to it. Then he showed me how to create a blog and how he uses his blogs. Then, he needed a code from another domain in his computer, so he logged off and logged into the other partition, found the code, opened his browser, emailed the code to himself, logged in to his other domain and used the code from his email. Some of my Yr 11 pupils would not know how to do that. What was impressive wasn’t the fact he can use online email services, but the way he made technology work for him and how he solved quite a complex problem for his age.

By the way here is his blog:

aaronwyn.wordpress.com

So, has technology made him a genius? Probably not. He has always been a bright boy and has an enquiring mind, but I am sure technology has had and still has a very positive impact on his development!

Alessio