Paperless Parent-Teacher Interviews, trialling Evernote and Kustomnote.

Forgive me for the down-time between posts, my energy over the holidays has been funnelled into pizza-eating, football-watching and very little exercise, rather than blogging and university assignments!

Evernote and Kustomnote

At the end of Term 3 I used these two resources to conveniently create and file my parent-teacher notes. This is just one idea, there are many others out there.

Firstly, some information below to familiarise you with the resources discussed in this post:

Evernote is a Windows/Mac/iOS/Web-based platform for taking notes and storing them in a cloud server for retrieval and synchronization across multiple devices. (See here for a great teacher blog, and many tips from an Evernote expert and enthusiast!)

Kustomnote is a web-based platform built specifically for use with Evernote. It allows you to connect your account and create multiple note templates for a range of needs (including anecdotal notes, guided-group notes and many more)

Now that we have the basics, this short post will be useful if you are, like me, finding resources that make things that we already do, even easier!

Once you have downloaded and signed up with Evernote, you are able to log in to Kustomnote using the same ID, which makes things much simpler. On the left hand toolbar, it was as simple as clicking ‘New note’ to customise the fields that I would be using before and during PTIs to record my notes, they looked like this:

  • Student & Parent/Carers
  • Interview Date/Time
  • Wellbeing & Celebrations
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Issues/Concerns
  • Requested follow up interview (Yes/No)
  • Teacher follow-up actions

You can view and clone my note here as I have made it available publicly. Please feel free to make changes, improve it and let me know!

With the Kustomnote template created, it was simply a case of creating a template for each student by clicking the ‘New Parent-Teacher Interview Mid-Year note’ button and entering the information for each student that I wanted to share with the parent. As I saved each new note, each student’s name and information conveniently appeared in my Evernote cloud across all my devices in an attractive, formatted note. I was able to use my iPad to communicate during interviews and add to existing notes.

Overall, I found the experience a great success. Although slightly time consuming to begin with (I spent a good hour experimenting with the templates and formatting) the process ultimately paid off and produced accessible, clear records of each meeting.

Evernote/Kustomnote :

Pros:

  • Cloud-based storage gave me secure, paperless records of each interview.
  • I was able to copy and paste whole anecdotal records into various sections that I wanted to remember to share with certain parents.
  • The formatting is attractive and professional and easy to use with my iPad.
  • Extra features in Kustomnote include the ability to set a reminder via email if there is a follow-up action required.
  • The information is instantly accessible at future meetings with staff/parents.

Cons:

  • The Kustomnote web interface can be slightly clunky and confusing at times – it does require some persistence to come to grips with the software.
  • There are only a limited number of free templates available – I am hoping for more!
  • Sometimes the formatting options are limited on the iPad.

I encourage everyone to have a look at the possibilities when combining these two excellent resources, and please share your uses for them in the comment space below.

Cheers, enjoy the rest of the break Aussie teachers!

Teddy.

How do you use Evernote professionally/personally?

What uses have you found for Evernote in the classroom that you can share in the comments section below?

Have you used any other software that complements Evernote?

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5 Awesome Excuses to Publish, Publish, Publish!

In an earlier post I wrote about publishing for a purpose, and giving students the opportunity to choose from a range of publishing tools/types to suit their writing. I have received some amazing feedback on Twitter and Facebook from my loyal PLN, and from my colleagues too. Here are some of the most talked about publishing resources I have discovered in the last few days.

Answergarden – Probably the best brainstorming, jigsaw tool that I have found all week. This site allows you to create a question for students (or staff!) and monitor their answers using the generated link. I love having this on the smartboard while small groups of students add to the brainstorm via a shared netbook. No sign-up, no obligation. Try one out here!

Flipbook – This tool is awesomely simple to use: create, export. It is as simple as that. Students can create a digital flipbook and export it as a GIF file to their email. I love the idea of this being integrated into a mixed-media publishing approach – e.g. students publish their flipbooks to their wiki or blog page.

Piktochart – An infographic creator tool that offers three basic templates and a video tour for students, which I think is a great starting point to introduce the topic. I am really excited to try this one out in the first week of Term 4, I’ll keep you posted!

Glogster – A big thank-you to Hana who posted this on the OpenEdToolbox Facebook page! I have not used Glogster in the classroom (yet!) but their .edu address offers simple templates which students can use to create an interactive poster including music, video, text and even data-attachments. Thanks again, Hana!

Sock Puppets – I owe another thank-you to Mary (Follow her @Mj0401Mary) who shared her experiences with this app in the comments on one of my posts. There are heaps of similar apps out there for iPad to animate and record, but I’m sharing this one because it looks great and I think Mary deserves a mention!

Finally…

Search Cube – This one is a research tool, not a publishing tool. It is extremely cool though. My students love it! Give it a click!

I am also looking forward to posting about the shake-up of my classroom design and changes to my literacy block in Term 4, I’ll keep you posted!

Enjoy the last days of Term 3, Aussie teachers! To everyone else, keep up the good work!

Cheers,

Teddy.

Have you successfully used any publishing tools in your classroom that I haven’t discussed here? Share them in the comments section below.


Transum Maths Starter of the Day

I’m sure that the clever people over at Transum Software won’t mind me inserting their banner as a plug for their excellent Maths Starter of the Day.

I am a great believer in students having a daily starter to get their brains into gear, I am planning a future post on my grade’s morning routine. However, this great resource (which I also plugged on the OET Facebook page earlier this week) serves for a range of purposes.

The calendar view allows the teacher (or student) to select each day’s maths problem and present it to the grade in an IWB friendly format. I must stress that these are interactive and not all of them merely use the IWB as a data-projector, which is very awesome.

I have used them for mental-starters, found subject-specific problems for tuning in opportunities and also make the link available to students via our class wiki. These resources provide great opportunities for modelled and shared problem solving and working mathematically.

You can find the link to this excellent resource here.

Cheers,

Teddy.

What maths tuning-in resources have you found most useful?

Does your grade do a daily starter?


Relevance or Replication? Publishing for a Purpose.

First of all, sorry for the delay between posts. End-of-term-itis (self-diagnosed), combined with a major whole-school event and a master’s assignment, have pushed any potential ideas for sharing to the back of my mind.

I’d like to share some of the thoughts and reflections I’ve been considering lately while my class have completed several writer’s workshops, individual student/teacher conferences and ultimately, published pieces of writing.

All too often, certainly throughout my late primary and secondary education, the term ‘publishing’ has given too much emphasis to word-processing a finished piece of writing, adding a nice title and a bright yellow, unreadable form of ‘Kahootz’ font. I quizzed my students on what they thought ‘publishing’ was, and was fairly unsurprised to hear similar responses.

However, by taking my questioning a step further, I was able to tune them into my line of thinking a little more. Over the course of several tuning-in parts of our Reading and Writing lessons, I introduced my 3/4s to a variety of texts (online newspapers, YouTube videos, Twitter to name a few), explaining that books were just one example of a text that we can learn and gather information from. After giving them this as the ‘hook’, I was able to encourage them to volunteer what our understanding of other texts might be, their answers looked something like this:

In fact, my apologies, because this Popplett doesn’t do their original answers justice; they were much more detailed! It turned out that after all of the immersion, they did know about different types of text (with a few more than me, to boot). They were nearly as stoked as I was. This brainstorming activity had even more benefits, it encouraged us to to share some rich ideas and discussion about how we could mind map or categorise this information (see my post on graphic organisers). I followed this success with questions about why people publish their work in different ways. Trust me, some of the attention-seeking YouTubers prompted some very interesting responses!

This set the basis for the discussion that we have been having this term – what are the ways in which we are able to publish our ideas? As the title and introduction of the post indicates, I began to feel that students simply typing their work wasn’t enough to consider it ‘published’, and I wanted them to feel this way too. After all, if a student has already conferenced with me, received feedback and refined their writing – isn’t word processing it just replication of that final handwritten product?

Now that my students are grounded in new (and some old) forms of media, they are beginning to have a deeper understanding of how and why people did/do things that way. Now that we have a comprehensive portfolio of conferenced writing, and some resources available, there are so many options open to us for showing our ideas. We ended up using the first mind map to develop a classroom poster, ‘Ways we can Publish’ (photo on the way!). One of my Grade 4 girls hit the nail on the head just the other day:

‘Teddy, I’ve typed up my fictional recount and turned it into a podcast. If I publish it another way, to show someone else, that’s okay isn’t it?’


‘Fireworks! Excellent! Fantastic!’ I beamed, ‘Here is a year’s supply of stickers!’ After all, isn’t this what we want our students to be doing with their learning? Understanding how to use the tools that we have got at our fingertips to do something better, cooler, more awesome. Instead of replicating, we are generating something new each time, constantly adding new angles and ideas. This is what I call publishing for a purpose: turning old ideas into new forms that encourage people to become switched on by our way of presenting and thinking.

Where does this all fit in? To finish, let me refer to data generated from the 2009 PISA survey results showing Math data that has been compared with entrepreneurial capabilities by Yong Zhao:

Look closely and you’ll notice that the Asian countries leading the way in regards to testing aren’t achieving the same creative outcomes in entrepreneurial capabilities as Australia and the United States. I’ll reflect on this in more detail in a future post.

For now though, we have success among creative entrepreneurs in our education system. Let’s encourage our students to continue publishing ideas in these new and exciting ways.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Of course, this idea of presenting our knowledge doesn’t just stop in the literacy hour, it extends into every area of the curriculum. This publishing focus was begun after students were immersed in the inquiry writing process for Term 1, and spent time learning revision and editing techniques in Term 2.

I invite any responses and feedback to this post as I would love to see what you are doing in your Literacy classrooms and offer some feedback of my own.


What is working for you in your literacy classrooms this year?

What have your students have really taken hold of and enjoyed?

Are there any publishing resources that I haven’t mentioned here worth sharing?



What I’m Reading – Procrastination

Image

Okay so I’m writing this post to avoid doing my master’s assignment, but I thought it would be interesting.

I always tend to be reading a few books at once, I like to try and keep a work/life balance and I’m always appreciative of the books that I can pick-up, put-down (such as Hattie’s brilliant Visible Learning adaptation below).

Ballarat has a top-notch selection of commercial book retailers and various second-hand book stores, my favourite being The Known World in Sturt St – I can spend hours in there! Anyway, listed below are some of my current reads.

Engagement Matters, Personalised Learning for Grades 3 to 6 (Kathy Walker & Shona Bass, Acer Press 2011)

This inspiring resource is a follow-up from Play Matters, and offers educators an overview and step-by-step instructions and resources for implementing the Personalised Learning approach in your school. I read this book at the beginning of the year and find something reaffirming and new every time I come back to it. A practical guide for all teachers which I highly recommend.

Visible Learning for Teachers, (John Hattie, Routledge 2012)

Speaking for itself as ground-breaking research, me and my colleagues aptly refer to this book as ‘The Bible’ (Which leads us to ask, ‘is John Hattie God?’). Dispelling myths about some strategies, and providing concrete evidence to support others, this is a book that I constantly refer back to throughout the year to affirm and inform my practice.

The Gringo Trail, a darkly comic road-trip through South America (Mark Mann, Summerdale 1999)

Pulled off a dusty shelf in the ‘Travel – South America’ section of The Known World, this account of three friends’ journey across the turbulent continent has been a stepping stone in my future travel plans for 2013. This book lends itself to the rich history, culture and drama of a range of South American countries and inhabitants.

The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain De Botton, Penguin Books 2000)

De Botton has recently become one of my favourite authors. He has an extraordinary capability to work philosophy and its thinking into layman’s terms. He does this by exploring some of history’s great (and sometimes not so great) characters and exploring their lives in incredibly succinct, relevant detail. In The Consolations of Philosopy, De Botton offers consolation for: Unpopularity, not having enough money, frustration, inadequacy, a broken heart and difficulties. He is also author of a number of other subject-specific books.

Until recently I used Fishpond for my online orders. A colleague has recently recommended Book Depository for their quick postage and excellent prices, but I cannot speak for them myself.

Please use the comments section to add any feedback. I have posed some questions below to help with discussion.

Back to my essay!

Cheers,

Teddy.

What is on your teacher bookshelf at the moment?

Have you got any particular educational researchers/writers to recommend?

What do you read in your spare time?

Have you found this post useful? 

Please share your feedback in the comments, I am always on the lookout for a good read!


Graphic Organisers in the Classroom

One of my favourite things about graphic organisers is their application to a wide range of topics and student abilities in our classroom. I find that students learn best when they are made to feel as if they have some choice in their planning approach and, when appropriate, I find that offering a range of planning alternatives is a great way to cater for each individual.

I gradually introduce various graphic organisers through the tuning in part of my lessons throughout Term 1, and encourage their use in reading groups (scaffolded and independently). As the school year progresses, students begin using their prior knowledge to select templates that suit their task. I also have a small window display that I provide for student reference.

There is a huge, potentially endless, range of resources out there. I have narrowed this list down and added some of the ways I integrate them into our classroom learning. Great news for techies too, as there is a growing range of graphic organiser apps being built and shared for iPad-based education!

Websites:

Freeology (Graphic Organisers) – I like this website because of the huge amount of effort that has gone into giving ideas for almost every graphic organiser template. If you want to introduce these to your reading/writing groups there is a great range of ideas located here.

Eduplace – The templates here are clean and simple. They are useful in the Adobe Reader app for iPad, as students are able to annotate and save their work using the app. These are predominantly the templates that I use on my displays and offer to my students.

The graphic organiser BLMS look best when they are printed on to coloured cartridge paper. I have considered colour coding them in the past, but I’m not sure how useful that would be. I’ll get there eventually.

Wordlewww.wordle.net – This fun tool lets you play around with texts that you provide and create a ‘Word Cloud’ that gives frequently occurring words more notability. Before reading a news article I copy the content into the Wordle and my grade hypothesise what the news story might be about.

Apps:

Gliffy – http://www.gliffy.com/ – (Requires signup – Free 30-day trial) A handy resource both professionally and for students’ use. This one requires some time investment but it produces some pretty darn cool results.

Popplet (lite) - iTunes Store – A colleague introduced me to this student-friendly app with a neat, simple interface. Multiple graphic organisers can be saved in one app (Full version only) and then exported as PDF or JPEG files. The lite version allows for one local copy and you can still export your files – I find that this is workable if you are only using it in small groups or have a 1:1 iPad/student ratio.

iMindmapHDiTunes Store – A step up from the simplicity of Popplet but it makes up for it with some trickier user features. The free app is quite restricted but still provides enough options to be worthy of a mention and make the list.

Teacher reference:

Take a Look  (Kath Murdoch) – A colleague introduced me to Murdoch’s inquiry-based teacher tools. Her reflective tools are no exception. This text is well worth a Google.

WA First Steps (Reading, Writing, Viewing) - A formidable resource that we use in our annual, term and weekly planning. They aren’t cheap, but are worth a look from a team based/whole school planning initiative.

Finally…

Today I was in the world of Twitter and I stumbled across this article on the (extremely awesome) tech website, Mashable:

http://mashable.com/2012/07/09/how-to-create-an-infographic/

This has inspired me to lead my Grade 3/4s down the infographic path in Term 4, what possibilities! I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Thank you all so much for your support and kind comments so far. Please use the section below to share some of your uses for graphic organisers in your classrooms, here are some questions to get you started:

Do you have a favourite resource that I haven’t mentioned? How do you integrate it into your practice?

Should we be working towards making everything tech-based (iPads, apps etc.) or do BLMs still have a place in our students’ planning and brainstorming?

Do you have a blog? Share it with us below!


News Shorts, Ed Tools and more.

I’m going to draw from my weekly notes and favourited Tweets to build a range of links into this short monthly section that cover related news, interesting blog posts and recommended Ed Tools. I’ll try my best to experiment with some of the tools offered. If not, I’ll take care to ensure that they are re-blogged from reputable educational sources!

News Shorts

ABC News – ‘What’s in the Gonski Report?‘, is a well constructed article that includes relevant information, some interesting infographics and a pop quiz! (via @wombatlyons)

ABC News – Peter Garrett alluding to the the fact that it could be several years before an overhaul of school funding takes place (video) (@abcnews)

Blogs and Bloggers

The Great IWB Swindle‘ – A thought-provoking, well written blog article that prompted me to reflect on my use of the technology in my classroom. (@richielambert via @kathleen_morris)

Edgalaxy.com – A blog that I have browsed in the past. Regularly has interesting posts and valuable links and ideas. (@AnaChristinaPrts via @mgraffin)

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom – An inspiring blog that led me to many other intriguing resources that I plan to investigate and blog on in the future! (via the author, @kathleen_morris)

That’s all for now. I am planning to investigate Sqworl and Storify for my next post. If you’re an expert or you have any comments please use the comments section for any feedback or tips!

Cheers,

Teddy.


App of the Month – Criteria

Colleague: ‘What apps should I get?’

Rotate iPad 90 degrees, shuffle across to them,

 

Me: ‘Well…’

 

The reality is that there are just so many apps out there, for such a range of purposes, that it is not always possible (in the same time it takes to drink your lukewarm coffee) to pinpoint to a colleague exactly which apps are relevant, useful and practical for them. My current experience of app-based technology in education is an enthusiastic group of professionals spending precious time integrating apps that actually make their lives more complicated! Personally, I have done this and later found myself spending more time re-reorganising files and folders, notes and photographs to get everything back into one, accessible space. I can say the same for so-called lesson enhancing apps.

Reflecting on this, I’m sure we all agree that our focus is best directed when we find an app that does a better job for us than we are doing already. I’d like to clarify my future posts by categorising apps under three simple terms – those being that the app makes things easier, faster or cooler.Because every student will tell you that if it (the lesson) is easy to interact, fast or cool, they’re in. And teachers? Well, I can only speak for myself…

With this in mind, I’m going to choose an app each month that achieves one, two or all of these criteria, to share and evaluate them. Perhaps by explaining their usefulness under these simple terms, I can make them more readily accessible to you.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, experiences and suggestions for alternatives so that this monthly section can become a forum and resource for others. Please feel free to use the comments section to direct future posts or any app categories that you would like to discuss.

Happy Apping!

Teddy.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an Apple expert. I will only present apps that are tried and tested.


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