Sunday, August 29, 2010

Google Apps Beliefs Reaffirmed!

Last week I went on an ICT tour of schools in the Palmerston North region.  For some time I have been a believer in the power of Google Docs as a teaching tool in schools (an earlier post on this blog goes over my views on Google Apps).  It was reaffirming for me to see that a number of other schools have clearly seen the benefit of using Google Docs.  This was particularly evident at Ross Intermediate, where all students in the laptop programme class enthusiastically use it as their main word processing package.

Following on from this topic, I was please to see a letter I wrote to the magazine Interface ( a New Zealand magazine of the year) was used as an article in the latest issue.  I hope that our Google Apps journey will inspire others to see the benefits of this fantastic set of applications.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Key Ideas on Praising Children

I'm reading the excellent book 'Drive' by Daniel Pink.  Pink highlights key points on praising children, these being:

Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence
An earlier post on this blog outlined some research done by Carol Dweck on the negative impact of praising students for their intelligence, and the positive impact of praising children for their effort.

Make praise specific
Give students useful information about their performance.  Avoid generalities.

Praise in private
Praise is feedback, not an award ceremony.

This is one area that I don't necessarily agree with.  I believe that praising in public will encourage others to do the same thing that the praise is being given for.

Offer praise only when there's a good reason for it
Don't kid a kid; they can see through false praise in a second.  Pink says 'Be sincere, or keep quiet'

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Internet tools supporting Mandarin language programme

I have been teaching Mandarin to a group of Year 7 and 8 students since the beginning of last year.  The plan is to have two 30 minute (which are often shorter, as sessions tend to start at least five minutes late as students come from various classes to attend) classes a week for about 30 weeks of the school year.  However, many of these 60 sessions are cancelled for various reasons.

The problem with so few sessions is that our students find it difficult to retain what they have learned, especially as the sessions take place on Thursday and Friday, meaning that there can be up to six days between sessions during the school term, and even longer over the term break holidays.  There have been many occasions in which my group has performed very well with assessment tasks, but have struggled to retain knowledge over an extended period, despite regular revision sessions (although revision sessions can be quite brief because of the already limited time available to introduce new content).

To address this problem I have set up a blog to support student learning (click here to check it out).  This will enable my students in their own time to check out revision material on current and past topics.  In finding relevant content material my first port of call was You Tube.  Here I found a video on the colours in Mandarin, perfect for what I needed.  Students will be able to comment on posts, enabling me to see who has visited the site. 

My Mandarin blog will become a key part of the Mandarin language programme.  I am confident that it will both enhance learning and engagement of a group of already motivated students.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Flip Video and Imovie - Intuitive Products!

I love intuitive product that can be used at school to enhance learning and engage students.   Two such products are Imovie and Flip video cameras.  For some time now I have been planning to learn how to film and edit a movie, yet had never gotten around to it because it always seemed too difficult.  However, recently our school bought a Flip video camera.  Yesterday I took my dog for a walk and got my six year old daughter to come along and film our walk together on the Flip (it took me about 60 seconds to show her how to use it).  When we got home we uploaded the video footage and set about creating a simple movie on Imovie, which included scene changes, music and sound effects, a title, and a credit sequence at the end.

All this may seem very simple to many of you out there who happen to read this post; but to a lot of us who have limited technical knowledge, it is very exciting to see what can be achieved with some relatively inexpensive equipment.

I decided today that I would show my eight year old daughter how to create, edit and publish her own movie.  I spent about 15 minutes showing her what to do, then set her and her friend loose with the camera as we went on a walk to buy ice creams.  It's all very well saying what I managed to do in creating my movie; I'm a postgraduate qualified teacher.  What is far more impressive is what a couple of eight year olds can achieve.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Those Magnificent Polgar Girls

The story of the Polgar girls is an inspirational one for anyone who believes in nurture over nature (as I do).  Laszlo Polgar raised three daughters; Susan, Sofia and Judit, who all have gone on to achieve amazing success in the field of chess.

Before the girls were even born Laszlo wanted to set about proving that anyone could become a champion, that all have extraordinary potential given half the chance.  To demonstrate this he chose to have his children focus on chess from a very young age (Susan was four, Judit and Sofia were five).  Chess was chosen because ability can be measured objectively; your ranking and stature is based on how many games you win and lose. 

Despite being no real expert chess player himself, Laszlo created an environment for the three girls that enabled them to play a considerable amount of chess, whilst ensuring that the girls developed a love for and an enjoyment of the game.

Through hard work, a supportive environment, and belief in human potential, Laszlo Polgar has been able to prove that anyone can on to achieve extraordinary success.  There was no natural or hereditary talent that his girls were born with.  However, what they were born with was a family that believed that they could go on to become great in a field in which they applied themselves to.