Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Digging Deeper in Wikipedia

I love using Wikipedia. It is my first port of call as far as any type of encyclopaedia is concerned. The content is up to date and has been proven to be, almost overwhelmingly, reliable.

Wikipedia is more than an online encyclopaedia though. Just as I discovered Google is more than a search engine through my journey into Google Apps, Gmail, Voice and so much more.  I found out about Google providing a vast range of resources and tools by clicking on the 'more' link on the home page a few years ago.  Since then I haven't looked back and have become one of Google's biggest fans.

I believe that the same can be said for Wikipedia.  Scroll to the bottom of the Wikipedia home page and you will find the likes of Wikiversity, Wiktionary and Wikibooks, just to name a few.  My personal favourite is Wikiversity.  Take a few minutes to have a look.  Beware though, you may find the the few minutes you planned to spend browsing will turn into a few hours.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Google Docs on the Ipad

Last week I enjoyed working with an ICT specialist for the day. We spent some time looking at an Ipad. I was really impressed with what this device can offer as an educational learning tool.

I really like the way in which the apps are so easy to access once they have been uploaded from the Apple Itunes Apps store (In itself a very simple and easy process). You aren't reliant on the speed of your wireless Internet connection, as you are when using learning websites on a mini laptop. It's simply a case of turning on the machine and touching the app icon and you're away. How very simple for students at all levels of a primary school!

The one issue I had with the Ipad was that Google Docs could only be viewed and not edited. As we are a school that has chosen to focus on Google Docs this was a significant barrier to us choosing to go the Ipad way for our mobile technology. However, that very evening Innes (the abovementioned ICT specialist) sent me this link 'Editing your Google Docs on the go'. Google Docs can now be edited on an Ipad! (and other mobile devices).

I am now almost convinced that the Ipad is the perfect ICT learning tool for schools.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Teaching Kids Real Maths with Computers

Watch this Ted talk on how maths can become more practical and more conceptual.  Here is how Ted describes the talk:

'From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity's most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach -- calculation by hand -- isn't just tedious, it's mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. He presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.'

You might not agree with everything that Conrad Wolfram has to say (I don't!), but it's certainly worth 17 minutes of your time to have a look.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why learn a second language?

All New Zealand Year 7 and 8 students are required to learn a second language.  The Ministry provides superb language learning kits for this purpose for Maori, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin (Chinese).  Unfortunately, though, learning languages is often the first thing to be cancelled when the timetable is too cluttered.  However, I feel becoming bi or multi lingual should be seen as a priority, particularly is these benefits, highlighted on the Vistawide World Languages and Cultures website (click the link to read the full article), can be attributed to second language learning:

To increase global understanding

To improve employment potential

To increase native language ability

To sharpen cognitive and life skills

To improve chances of entry into college or graduate school

To appreciate international literature, music, and film

To make travel more feasible and enjoyable

To expand study abroad options

To increase understanding of oneself and one's own culture

To make lifelong friends

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What can a school learn from a top gym

The Les Mills Organisation is one of the most successful fitness organisations in the world.  This can be attributed in no small part to the quality and passion of their instructors.  Reading the book Fighting Globesity I came across the Les Mills group fitness instructors creed:

We are the warriors in the battle against sedentary lifestyle.
We are the warriors in the battle against apathy to learning.

We are here for the people in our classes.

We honour or programme, our peers and our club.
We honour or programme, our peers and our school.

We keep ourselves in peak physical condition.
We keep ourselves in peak mental condition.

We love music and exercise.
We love teaching and learning.

We welcome feedback.

We create magic fitness experiences.
We create magic learning experiences.

We strive to be star performers and remain team players.

By inspiring positive changes in our classes we can change the world.

By only slightly modifying this, with a change of words here and there as I have done in some cases with italic, we could take the Les Mills creed and create one that would be perfect for a school and education system that is looking to have a positive impact on all students.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Build your website with Google Sites

I read an article today on school websites and what is involved in setting one up and maintaining it.  There are many web creation businesses that can be hired to do this, with a charge for the initial work in creating the site, as well as an ongoing hosting fee and further costs to maintain the site.  The process seems to be both time consuming and expensive.

I believe that schools, with their limited resources, should use and alternate option, this being using Google Sites.  The Lakeview School site was set up by someone with limited ICT skills and is now maintained by staff and students.  It is very simple to set up a Google Site, and even easier to maintain it.  Best of all, there is no cost whatsoever; all that is required is enthusiastic staff members and motivated students (all schools have more than enough of these!).

I cannot recommend Google Sites enough.  If your school doesn't have a website, or does have one but it is not updated on a regular basis because the process is just too difficult, get on Google Sites.  You won't be disappointed!