Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best education apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch

This list was published on the 29th of December.  It has the top ranked (in the United States) apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch in terms of paid, free and top grossing.  Check it out by clicking here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sir Paul Callaghan on how to educate New Zealanders for future prosperity

This presentation is fantastic and absolutely inspirational.  It's also a real eye-opener; New Zealanders really do need to get our heads out of the sand if we want our country to be one that we all want to live and prosper in.

The presentation isn't solely about education, in fact it only touches on the topic.  Nevertheless, Sir Paul does highlight these key ideas:

-  Tell the stories of job opportunities for New Zealand kids at home (Get kids and teachers visiting the smart businesses).
-  Significantly boost science and mathematics education in schools.
-  Build school programmes in entrepreneurship.
-  Boost university science and engineering capability.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What is a school decile rating?

In the weekend I spoke to a number of people who were looking to, or had recently done so, choose schools for their children.  All I spoke to were educated and successful in their field, as well as being quite nice and pretty easy to get along with.  However, overwhelmingly, they to suffered from one major misconception about schools, this being; the higher the decile rating, the better the school, the better the standard of education.

To clear up this issue I have gone to the New Zealand Ministry of Education website to find out the facts about decile ratings, which you to can access by clicking here.  To save you time, read the following line that finishes the Ministry's brief explanation on the subject:

'The decile rating does not measure the standard of education delivered by a school'. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

20 life lessons from Steve Jobs

If these life lessons worked for Steve Jobs, surely they're going to be beneficial to those of us in the education sector.  You can find out more about each lesson by clicking here to read Lance Ulanoff's excellent article.

  1. Don’t Wait
  2. Make Your Own Reality
  3. Control Everything You Can
  4. Own Your Mistakes
  5. Know Yourself
  6. Leave the Door Open for the Fantastic
  7. Don’t Hold Back
  8. Surround Yourself with Brilliance
  9. Build a Team of A Players
  10. Be Yourself
  11. Be Persuasive
  12. Show Others the Way
  13. Trust Your Instincts
  14. Take Risks
  15. Follow Great with Great
  16. Make Tough Decisions
  17. Presentation Can Make a World of Difference
  18. Find a Way to Balance Your Intensity
  19. Live for Today
  20. Share Your Wisdom

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advice on how to get your child ahead

I really love this advice from Howard Gardner for parents who want to get their kids ahead:

'Walks in the woods, visits to museums and building with tinker toys.  "You can't replace the human imagination," he said. "There's no app for that."

So put the iPad away and have some actual real life experiences!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Schools in cyberspace

This article from today's New Zealand Herald looks at using the Internet and computers in general to support children's learning.  Many interesting points are raised.  Here are a couple that caught my attention:

Point 1
Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs also recounts Jobs telling US President Barack Obama that education was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. "It was absurd," he added, "that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time." 

Point 2
Challenging as the idea sounds, it highlights another problem. Generally, greater use of computers hasn't shown significant improvements in science, maths or reading scores - a conundrum calling into question the whole idea of giving schools technological upgrades. 

Thought provoking stuff?  I think so.

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A 12 year old app developer

This is an interesting TED talk by a 12 year old who has started developing his own apps for iPhone,iPad and iPod Touch.  This is something that could be done in any schools through the use of an app development kit.

I really like the idea of students becoming the developers of apps, as opposed to solely using apps that have been created by others.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How often should kids exercise?

Check out this article from the Everybody Live to 100 website.  It's about the amount of exercise that kids should have each day; giving details on the physical, social, mental and longer term benefits.

Here are four key guidelines:
  • do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity throughout each day
  • be active in as many ways as possible; for example, through play, cultural activities, dance, sport and recreation, jobs, and going from place to place
  • be active with friends and whanau, at home, school and in the community
  • spend less than 2 hours a day (out of school time) in front of television, computers and game consoles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How video games make kids smarter

Check out this TED talk from Gabe Zichermann on how video games make kids smarter.  He presents a very compelling case.  The blurb for the talk from the TED site is:

'Can playing video games make you more productive? Gabe Zichermann shows how games are making kids better problem-solvers, and will make us better at everything from driving to multi-tasking'. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The positive side of peer pressure

This Google Talk from Tina Rosenberg is well worth 47 minutes and 44 seconds of your time.  It looks at the positive impact of peer pressure.  The talk centers around her new book, Join the Club.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why we need school libraries

I really enjoyed this article from the Stuff website about the roll of libraries in schools.  I think that it's a tragedy that any school would consider taking such a wonderful resource away from students.  The article starts:

'Schools do an incredibly difficult job. Students have complex needs and varied backgrounds, teaching is an exhausting and often thankless job, and the regulations are convoluted. There's the National Curriculum, National Standards, National Education Goals, and the National Administration Guidelines, to name a few (the last two are interesting reading if you have a school-aged child)'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why learn Maori? (and how to do so)

This article appeared in today's New Zealand Herald.  It focuses on making Te Reo Maori compulsory in New Zealand schools.  Many of the comments that follow it state that there is little point in learning the language, and look for barriers, such as funding and relevance as reasons not to.

The article starts:

'The use of the words "compulsory" and "Maori language" in the same sentence is enough to get some people's blood running hot. But the Maori Party policy announced this week is carefully worded: it wants te reo "compulsorily available" in schools by 2015'.

I strongly believe that Maori should be taught in New Zealand schools, with these reasons for learning a second language from The American Council of Teaching supporting my view:

  • Has a positive effect on intellectual growth.
  • Enriches and enhances a child's mental development.
  • Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
  • Improves a child's understanding of his/her native language.
  • Gives a child the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to know.
  • Opens the door to other cultures and helps a child understand and appreciate people from other countries.
  • Gives a student a head start in language requirements for college.
  • Increases job opportunities in many careers where knowing another language is a real asset.
There are numerous websites that promote and enable the speaking of Te Reo Maori.  Two being my own site 'Let's learn Te Reo Maori' (a bit of self promotion here), and the excellent 'Toku Reo' series.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Election promise to provide computers to low decile schools

An interesting idea.  It would certainly be appreciated at decile 2 Lakeview School.  To find out more, check out this article from the New Zealand Herald, which starts:

'Labour's plan to give laptops or netbooks to 31,000 children in low-decile schools has been welcomed - but with a warning it doesn't go far enough and middle-class children could be left behind when it comes to e-learning'.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Zealand ranks top for education in the UN 21st annual Human Development Index

Way to go New Zealand!  It's great to be a part of the education system that ranks highest in the world according to the UN 21st annual Human Development Index.  To read an article from the New Zealand Herald re the Index, click here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Watch the amount of screen time given to youngsters

This article highlights the debate around the amount of time youngsters spend in front of a screens, such as tablets and computers.  This is based on research done by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The article starts:

Parents increasingly rely on tablet computers, such as iPads, to educate and entertain children but experts warn an overload could stunt a baby's brain development. 

To read the article in full, click here. 

Hindi introduced in a New Zealand school

This article highlights the change in the make up of New Zealand schools, with the introduction of languages, such as Mandarin and Hindi.  However, French remains the language that is the most popular being taught in New Zealand secondary schools.  The article starts:

A community movement to have Hindi taught in schools has highlighted the changing voice of Kiwis. 

Auckland's Papatoetoe High School announced this month it would become the first school in the country to offer Hindi as part of the curriculum. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A view on compulsary iPads in one New Zealand school

Here's an article that highlights parents' views who feel they are being bullied into having to purchase iPads for their Year 9 children in one New Zealand school.  One question that a parent asks is 'why iPads?'.  The article starts:

'A parent of a pupil at Orewa College says Christmas will have to be cancelled in her household if the school continues to push forward with plans to make expensive tablet devices compulsory for junior pupils'. 

To read the article in full, click here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers cheating on student tests

This is an interesting article that highlights the risks of high stakes testing, ranking schools and performance pay.  The article starts:

'More than 150 teachers and administrators from 44 public schools across Atlanta were caught changing answers on standardized tests used to judge student performance and rank schools, according to a state report'.

To read the article in full, click here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to learn Te Reo Maori online

This is such a great resource for learning Maori it needs to be shared.  Check out Toku Reo the best online language learning programme that I have come across for any language; and best of all, it's free!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Schools with no computers

At one end of the scale we have, as highlighted in my last post, the likes of Steve Jobs wanting to have textbooks on iPads.  At the other end we have schools that have no computers whatsoever.  Both provide compelling arguments to support their cases.

To read about schools that have no computers, check out this enlightening article from today's New York Times.

Steve Jobs' plans for school textbooks

This article from The New York Times brings to light Steve Jobs' plans for school tectbooks.  I think a lot of us were suspecting this anyway.

Hints of Apple Plans in Jobs Book

Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson will be published on Monday. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s former chief executive, was notoriously secretive about the company’s plans when he was running the company. But in a new biography, the late Apple executive offered a couple of tantalizing clues about technologies and businesses the company was exploring.

Mr. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson says in the book that Mr. Jobs viewed textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. His idea, according to Mr. Isaacson, was to hire textbook writers to create digital versions of their books for the iPad.

He held meetings with major publishers about partnering with Apple, the book says. If textbooks were given away free on iPads he thought the publishers could get around the state certification of textbooks. Mr. Isaacson said Mr. Jobs believed that states would struggle with a weak economy for at least a decade. “We can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money,” he told Mr. Isaacson.

In one other hint about the company’s plans, Mr. Isaacson describes the board meeting in August when Mr. Jobs resigned as chief executive officer, during which Scott Forstall and Phil Schiller, two Apple executives, joined the group to show off prototypes of future products. According to Mr. Isaacson, Mr. Jobs peppered the executives with questions about the data capacity of fourth-generation cellular networks, known as 4G, and what features should be in future phones. Apple hasn’t yet released an iPhone for 4G networks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tribute to Steve Jobs

The following is taken from the You Tube description of the Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.  The video is this blog's tribute to Steve Jobs, who has done so much to develop tools and applications to support learning achievement for students.

'Drawing from some of the most pivotal points in his life, Steve Jobs, chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, urged graduates to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks -- including death itself -- at the university's 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005.'

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exercise and Learning

Several of my posts have been on the benefits of exercise on learning.  If you are still not convinced, check out this interview with Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Google Tanslate - what a great app, but there is more to conversing in a new language than using a mobile app!

When I had my first go with the Google Translate for Android app I started to question the necessity of learning a second language.  After all, if translation is done for your with a free and easily accessible app for a mobile device, why bother going through the effort and process of actually learning French, Spanish, Mandarin or German, etc?

The fact is, there are many benefits to learning a second language, with this article pointing out several that go beyond simply knowing the language.  Take the time to check it out, then go to one of the countless quality websites that will have you on your way to conversing in the basics of, for example, French in no time at all.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Best family and kids websites of 2011

Check out these five family and kids websites, chosen by Time Magazine as the best education websites of 2011:

Cafe Mom
According to CafeMom, the "Cafe" in its name stands for conversation, advice, friendship and entertainment. That may be a backronym, but it's also a good summary of the site's appeal. Most of what goes on here focuses on the conversation, advice and friendship part: moms helping moms using features such as a Q&A service and thousands of discussion groups on everything from money and finances to religion and spirituality. There's also a splash of entertainment, in the form of a celebrity gossip blog called The Stir, and some casual games.

Dear Photograph
Some of the Web's best sites consist of variations on one simple idea. In the case of Dear Photograph, that idea is taking a snapshot — usually one featuring one or more people and dating from the film-photography era — and holding it up against the original setting so that past and present blend into a new work of art. The images contributed by the site's readers are wonderfully evocative. Looking at the family photos of strangers was never so transfixing.

If you've never heard of Poptropica, chances are you're a grownup. An inventive megasite for kids with a wholesome and slightly educational bent, it features quests, games and puzzles set on 20 themed islands, including Shrink Ray Island, Wild West Island and ones based on the Wimpy Kid and Peanuts franchises. As many as 10 million kids explore Poptropica each month, but the site also aims to please parents. The chat feature, for instance, doesn't permit free-form conversation. Instead, members can select questions to ask one another from a collection of family-friendly choices.

What if Facebook felt less like a daily diary and more like an autobiography? It might resemble Proust, a new site that lets you record and share a lifetime's worth of memories. Proust prompts you with questions such as "How did you break the news of your engagement to your parents and parents-to-be?" and "What was your first boss like?" You respond with words, photos and videos, and choose whether they're private or public. Little by little, you reconstruct the story of your life — and if your family and friends do the same, you might learn new things about people you thought you knew well.

The daily articles at the National Center for Family Literacy's Wonderopolis are allegedly educational and supposedly aimed at kids. Don't let that fool you. They're just plain interesting, and make for addictive reading even for those of us who are, in theory, all grown up. For example, "How Does an Eraser Work?" doesn't just explain how erasers work — did you know they usually contain vegetable oil? — but also reveals how people removed pencil marks before Englishman Edward Naime invented the eraser in 1770. (They used rolled-up pieces of bread.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Best education websites of 2011

Check out these five education websites, chosen by Time Magazine as the best education websites of 2011:

With Freerice, you can do good by having fun. Answer one of the multiple-choice questions correctly — on topics such as English vocabulary, geography or chemistry — and the site's sponsors will donate 10 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme. It doesn't sound like a major act of charity — but so many people answer so many questions that the site is responsible for the donation of hundreds of millions of grains of rice every month. That's enough to make a major difference for tens of thousands of hungry people in Haiti and other countries that need help.

Khan Academy
In 2004, Salman Khan started tutoring his cousin over the Internet. In 2006, he began uploading educational videos to YouTube. And in 2009, he quit his day job as a hedge-fund manager to concentrate on Khan Academy, a sort of one-man university. Today the site offers his free lessons in thousands of highly visual 10-minute chunks. Math and science dominate, and students are the primary audience, but Khan is adding additional topics and welcomes adult learners. It's a remarkable undertaking — and with funding from Google and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it has a bright future.
Who says that Ivy League educations are too pricey for anyone but the privileged few? Like Harvard, Princeton and other schools, Yale is making some of its lectures available in Web-based form for free. Open Yale Courses is a particularly rich resource, featuring 35 full-blown courses complete with downloadable classes in video and audio form. Fill up your phone or MP3 player with a course on art history or organic chemistry and you can learn from some of the finest teachers on the planet while you're at the gym or stuck in traffic.
Smarthistory focuses on art history, from cave paintings to Warhol. And while the site calls itself a textbook, it's not the text — or even the illustrations — that make it special. It's the growing library of videos that feature spirited, unscripted conversations among historians about notable works. You can start in ancient times and work your way forward or browse the collection by artist, theme or medium. In 2010, the site's proprietors made their engaging creation available in portable form, with an iPhone app called Rome: A First Look.
Stephen Schutz, the founder of greeting-card company Blue Mountain Arts, had trouble learning to read when he was a kid. So when he grew up and became a success, he used part of his wealth to co-found Starfall, a free site that uses phonics to teach reading to children from preschool to second grade. Starfall starts by introducing the alphabet, then follows with copious quantities of animated nursery rhymes, storybooks, comics and other materials. It's simple and straightforward, and not overly slick — and kids just love it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Does class size matter?

New Zealand secondary school teachers are looking to make class size an election issue through their union, the PPTA.  This is an interesting issue, as John Hattie has done research that, in his findings, place little emphasis on class size as a contributor to student learning.

My feelings are that John Hattie is only right if teaching is seen as a lecture, in which the teacher stands at the front of the class, with little personal interaction with individual students.  However, teaching is more than that; teaching is about building personal relationships with each and every student, finding out what makes them tick.

There is also that fact that the more students there are, the more out of class work that is required.  There is a big difference between writing 32 reports compared to 24 students, or marking books, reading essays, checking homework, and so much more.

So well done to the PPTA.  Good luck with this issue; hopefully it will lead to smaller classes and increased learning outcomes for students.

To read the article from the New Zealand Herald re the issue of class size, click here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Students riot in France to hinder their learning!

I read this article in the New Zealand Herald with considerable interest.  There are two viewpoints to take; one, the students; and two, the administrators.  Both have, from their own perspectives, valid points of view.

In regards to the students, it's easy to see their concerns.  They are having a week of their holidays taken away from them.  I am sure that this would be something that students from around the world wouldn't like.

In regards to the administrators, their point is even more valid in terms of teaching and learning.  This article from the Globe highlights the impact of overly long summer breaks on student learning and achievement, as you can read in the following paragraph: 

'A shorter summer break – of six weeks instead of nine – would be easier to plan for, and also help alleviate the effect of vacation on students’ learning. Many students forget math facts and spelling over the summer, and children from poor families also lose reading skills. An Ontario study found that children from low-income families who had only one month off in the summer did better in math and needed less time for review'.

Perhaps a compromise could be to have the same total number of holidays, but readjust the year calendar to remove those breaks that are too long in duration.  This way no one loses; the students get their holidays, while not being away from school for so long that content is forgotten.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Genius in All of Us - a great book!

I really enjoyed the book The Genius in All of Us.  It is extremely empowering, and fully supports my belief in the idea of the huge potential we all have, regardless of ethnicity, where we come from or genetics.  The message of the book it that we don't really know what our true limits are. 

Doing a Google search on the book unearthed this presentation by the author, David Shenk.  Check it out, it's well worth a watch.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why kids should be doodling at school

This Ted video explains the virtues of doodling, a practice that can, apparently, improve our creativity and comprehension.  It's great to see that such a simple, common occurrence can produce such wonderful results.  Convinced?  Perhaps you will be after seeing this:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Motivating teenage students with studio schools

The studio school aims to address these two key areas:

  1. Bored teenagers dropping out, no job, no hope, no line of sight.
  2. Annoyed employers complaining about poor employ-ability.

In the studio school, work and learning are integrated.  80% of the curriculum is delivered through real life, practical projects.

The point of the studio school is that many teenagers learn best by doing things, working in teams, and doing things for real.

The results; the students love the system, and, perhaps more importantly for the sake of accountability, the students moved into the top quartile for national exam results.

To find out more about studio schools, check out this Ted presentation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

iPads replacing textbooks in schools

This article is well worth a read.  The short term costs of replacing textbooks with tablets may be high, but the long term costs and practicalities to schools and students, I believe, is well worth the initial outlay.  The article starts:

'For incoming freshmen at western Connecticut's suburban Brookfield High School, hefting a backpack weighed down with textbooks is about to give way to tapping out notes and flipping electronic pages on a glossy iPad tablet computer.'

To read the full article, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Classrooms too noisey to learn

This article highlights the need to create a classroom environment that is conducive to children being able to hear.  The premise is pretty simple; if a child can't hear, the child won't learn.  The article starts:

'School classrooms with similar acoustics to cafes are hindering children's ability to hear properly during lessons.'

To read the full article, click here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making the most of sleep cycles to improve student learning

This presentation from the Brain Rules website highlights the need to change the school hours to meet the physical learning needs of students.  Perhaps we could start the day at 8.00am and finish at 2.00pm.  Alternatively, set aside a time to nap in the afternoon.  The benefits of doing this are emphasized by this fact from the Brain Rules website:
  • Taking a nap might make you more productive. In one study, a 26-minute nap improved NASA pilots’ performance by 34 percent. 
Instead of writing off afternoons as a time in which students aren't at their best for learning in the core curriculum areas, maybe we could get that 26 minute nap in and have our students increase their learning and productivity by 34%.  If it's good enough for NASA, it should be good enough for the local primary school.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Using iPads, trimming textbooks

This article is an interesting one on the use of iPads as a means of accessing electronic textbooks to support learning programmes in some American schools.  The article starts:

'For incoming freshmen at western Connecticut's suburban Brookfield High School, hefting a backpack weighed down with textbooks is about to give way to tapping out notes and flipping electronic pages on a glossy iPad tablet computer.

A few hours away, every student at Burlington High School near Boston will also start the year with new school-issued iPads, each loaded with electronic textbooks and other online resources in place of traditional bulky texts.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Using Twitter to teach children how to write

After featuring an earlier post on this blog an article on how a British teacher used blogging to encourage students to write, check out this really interesting article on teaching children to write in France using Twitter.  Great to see web 2.0 tools being used for such a worthwhile purpose in schools across the world!  The article starts:

'Seated in front of the family computer, with his mother watching him, Lucas, 7, let his 30 Twitter followers know that "my cousins Eva and Léa are coming to my house tonight." It's just like he does at school. In 2010, Lucas was a pupil in the first primary school class in France to use Twitter to learn how to read and write.'

To read the full article from Time Magazine, click here.

Microsoft Education Roadshow

I attended the Microsoft Education Roadshow in Wellington earlier in the week.  I must say, even as a Google fan boy, I was very impressed with what I saw.  Microsoft may have been late to focus on cloud computing, but they have obviously thought about their new strategy with the upcoming Office365 and Windows 8, both of which products look like a great option for schools.

I found the presentation that looked deeper into Word 2010 to be a real eye opener.  Scratch the surface and you will find a lot of great applications; two of which being the scientific calculator and the ability to generate mathematics tests at the click of a button.

As a learning tool I found the Kinect device to be fantastic.  The Dr. Kawashima game is a great brain gym application.  There is plenty of evidence highlighting the benefits of moving while learning; this being an integral part of the Dr Kawashima / Kinect experience.  One such example finding that children learned to tell the time in a matter of minutes.

Overall the day was a very enjoyable and enlightening experience.  It certainly opened my eyes to to company that appears to be putting the learner at the centre of it's vision for the future.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More on relationships between parents and students

This is part 2 from the CNN discussion / article on the relationship between parents and teachers.  It includes some interesting points from both 'sides' in the debate.

As I stated in the previous post, it's great to have discussion and debate provided that the ultimate outcome for all parties is the success of children in our schools.

To read the article, click here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teachers and parents - work for children, not against each other.

I read this thought provoking article on the CNN website.  It made me think how much I do appreciate it when I am supported by parents when issues arrise with students.  The best results for children are achieved when schools and families work together, not against each other.

Click here to read the article.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Physical activity can boost student performance

There are so many programmes that are available to teachers and educators that boast of being able to boost student achievement.  Most of these are unproven and soon disappear as their lack of worth becomes obvious. 

However, there is one strategy that time and again is proven to enhance student learning and engagement in schools, yet is often cut from classroom programmes to allow more time for the key areas of numeracy and literacy.  This proven method is exercise and physical fitness. 

This article is one more example of research that highlights the benefits of physical activity to boost academic performance.  It starts:

'Going to PE class and recess can be a win-win situation for students.

Physical activity improves kids' fitness and lowers their risk of obesity. And now a government review of research shows that kids who take breaks from their class work to be physically active during the school day are often better able to concentrate on their school work and may do better on standardized tests'.

To read the full article, click here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A web presence for your school

I read an article in the newspaper today about the need for businesses to have a website to maximize on the potential of the company.  I believe that the same applies to a school, for which a web presence can do the following:
  • Promote the success of students
  • Share examples of work done by students
  • Share news about the school
  • Post photos and video for the school, and wider, community to see
  • Provide links to any media publications about the school
  • Post newsletters on line
  • Share useful websites for students and parents
  • Share a calendar of upcoming events
  • Provide information on people associated with the school; e.g. staff, BOT, PTA, student leaders
  • Provide information on the direction of the school through posting the Charter and Strategic Plan on the site.
The problem many schools have is getting started, and once started, keeping their web presence up to date.  To make a start, I suggest the following four means to establish your web presence.  Each method is used by my own school, Lakeview School (clicking gon the link will take you to the Lakeview example of the application).

Google Sites

Two things that I really like about the four examples I have provided are the cost (they're free!), and the ease of use (I am no computer whiz, yet I have set all of the applications up myself). 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brain Rule 6 - How to enhance your long term memory

These ideas from John Medina would certainly be worth trying out in a classroom as a means of having students retain what is taught to them, boosting their long term memory:

  1. Lessons are delivered in 25 minute bursts, with the content repeated three times a day with 90 minutes intervals between sessions covering the same content.
  2. Every three or four days would be review days in which the content covered in the previous 72-96 hours would be revisited and reviewed.
  3. Critical pieces of information are reviewed on a yearly or bi yearly basis.  The example that Medina gives is the reviewing of the multiplication tables, fractions and decimals.  As competencies increase in sophistication the review content is changed to reflect greater understanding.

These strategies will lead to long term memory being more reliable through incorporating new information gradually, then repeating it in timed intervals.

To find out more about Brain Rule 6 in John Medina's wonderful book 'Brain Rules', click here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to be a better listener.

For all of you leaders, teachers, parents, spouces and friends out there, use RASA to be a better listener:


For more on how to become a better listener, check out this TED talk.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cloud computing in schools - a very successful example

I came across this presentation in edtalks.  It is about the journey that Albany Senior High School has made with it's implementation of cloud computing technology.  There is a lot in this that any school could take and use.  The best thing about it is that it is all free!

Click here to watch the presentation from the school deputy principal, Mark Osborne. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Deepak Chopra creates a video games for neurological development

This article discusses an interesting concept on the use of video games for neurological development.  The article ends with Deepak Chopra stating:

"It's all do-able now," said Chopra. "We just have to bring it all together. If we can measure what's happening in your body, your heart, your emotions, your breath and your mind, then there's no reason why we can't create a new generation of video games that can help accelerate the personal, psychological, emotional and spiritual development of human beings."

To read the article in full, click here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Repeat to remember - more on Brain Rule number 5

Repetition is important to remember something.  If a certain type of information isn't repeated within 30 seconds, it disappears.  If it is repeated, it moves into working memory, where it will stay for an hour or more.  If it isn't then repeated within this period, it will again fade.  The important think here is the time frame; don't expect to repeat something quickly three times to remember it, repeat something over an extended period and it is more likely to be embedded in your memory.

Check out this brief presentation to embed this post in your own memory, then repeat what you see, then watch it again in 60 minutes.

How to remember something - or make someone else remember

Brain Rule number five focuses on short term memory.  A key point that is highlighted in this rule is the necessity to ensure that you understand the meaning of what you are trying to learn.  As teachers, this obviously means that we need to ensure that students understand the meaning of the content covered, otherwise it simply becomes a case of trying to remember the shape of letters or numbers in, for example, a word or number problem. 

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, explains it as follows:

'If you don't know what the learning means, don't try to memorize the information by rote and pray the meaning will somehow reveal itself.  And don't expect your students will do this either, especially if you have done an inadequate job of explaining things.  This is like looking at the number of diagonal lines in a word and attempting to use this strategy to remember the words.'

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Iconic education leaders give their advice on creating a great education system

This article comes from today's New Zealand Herald.  It shares the ideas of two iconic New Zealand educational leaders, Sir John Graham and John Taylor, on what should be done to get the best out of school and country.  The article starts:

'The following suggestions for debate and action are based on our experiences and observations as secondary school teachers and principals over the past 50 years.'

'We appreciate that times have changed and that, as revealed in the recent NZ Institute publication, "More Ladders, Fewer Snakes", the under performance of our disadvantaged youth in our schools is as much a societal as an educational problem, and a key cause of NZ's being anchored in the bottom half of the OECD.'

In brief, the five key factors for improvement identified are:
  1. We need to be far more pro-active and bold in attracting, retaining and rewarding high quality teachers.
  2. The role and importance of the Principal needs to be more effectively recognised, supported and rewarded.
  3. NCEA should be fixed to make it more acceptable to, and adopted by, all secondary schools throughout NZ.
  4. The Board of Governance structure set up under Tomorrow's Schools 20 years ago should be reviewed and enhanced.
  5. There should uniformly higher expectations and insistence on basic disciplines and respect for the rules

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What to teach a child about how to be successful

This TED presentation is a condensed three minutes of a talk that Richard St. John gives to high school students that usually lasts for two hours.  He does do a fairly good job of getting his point across in the limited time, going over the eight steps to become successful:

Passion - Be driven by passion.  Do it for love, not money.  The money will come anyway!
Work - It's all hard work.  Nothing comes easily.
Focus - Focus on one thing.
Persist - The number one reason for our success!  Persist through failure.
Ideas - Listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, problem solve, make connections.
Good - To be successful put your nose down in something and get good at it! 
Push - Push yourself physically and mentally.  Push through shyness and self-doubt.
Serve - Serve others something of value.

To see what Richard St. John means, watch the presentation.

Rupert Murdoch's views on education

Rupert Murdoch might not be flavor of the month right now, and deservedly so.  However, this doesn't mean that he hasn't a useful thing or two to say,  This is certainly the case with his speech on education at the G8 Forum in Paris.  Murdoch makes a lot of interesting and valid points that you can read by clicking here.

One point that he does make that I have often read is the following:

'Think about that. In every other part of life, someone who woke up after a fifty-year nap would not recognize the world around him.

In medicine, doctors who once diagnosed patients with tools they could fit in their leather bags would be astonished to find their 21st century counterparts using CAT-scans and MRIs.

In finance, brokers who once issued old-fashioned share certificates have been replaced by online brokerages allowing people to trade across the world at any hour of the day.

In my industry, editors who put out newspapers the night before now marvel at the sight of readers getting news delivered to cellphones and tablets.

But not in education. Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution. The person who woke up from that fifty-year nap would find that today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age: a teacher standing in front of a roomful of kids with only a textbook, a blackboard, and a piece of chalk.'

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am a big fan of the use of technology to support education.  However, when I read what Rupert Murdoch highlights in the above excerpt I think to myself that all of the advancements that he gives in the fields of medicine, finance and news (interesting to see where advancements with the last two have led to lately!), have come about and been developed by those who have been through an 'old fashioned' education system.  This is certainly something to ponder before significant changes are made to the way in which we teach and expect our students to learn.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Schools logging on to online learning

The Sunday Star Times today featured an article (which, ironically, I can't find on the online version) about small New Zealand schools taking advantage of online learning opportunities.  The gist of the story is that small rural schools that aren't able to physically provide the teachers for a broad range of subjects, are able to provide online courses in these subject areas.

The upside, according to parents and students, is that it is more motivating to learn through an online environment.  This coincides with a feature article from the other New Zealand Sunday paper, The New Zealand Herald.  Deborah Coddington highlights the underachievement of many New Zealand students.  She suggests that underachievers should be provided with a broader range of strategies to motivate them, one of which being online learning.

At my own school we support class programmes with online strategies, two of which being for Te Reo Maori and French.  The sites are an excellent way to reinforce class content and to prepare for upcoming units of work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Replacing textbooks with digital media

With the current debate about Orewa College adding the iPad to the stationery list for Year 9 students in 2012, it's interesting to see what is happening in other countries, particularly South Korea, as outlined in this article from the Associated Press that appeared on the Stuff news website this morning.  The article starts:

'Outside the classroom a hot summer day beckons, but fourth-grade teacher Yeon Eun-jung's students are glued to their tablet PCs as they watch an animated boy and a girl squabble about whether water becomes heavier when frozen'.

Click here to read the article in full.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Google Sites v Wikispaces

I attended a course today in which I ran a training session on Google Sites.  My presentation followed an earlier one on Wikispaces, with both presentations aimed at introducing teachers to a means of having an online presence.

Having experimented with both I have a strong preference for Google Sites.  I find the whole interface more user friendly and intuitive.  My preference is reflected in the fact that during the Wikipedia presentation I found that I had already set up a long forgotten Wikispace for my school, before moving onto Sites, which is the platform that I use for our school website and student portfolios.

Another factor that influences my preference is the whole Google package, with Sites tied up with Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, and so much more.

However, I do acknowledge that there are schools that are doing fantastic things with Wikispaces, one in particular being Apiti School.  Whatever your preference is, it is important that something is used, as an online presence is a great way to share what is going on in your school.

For anyone interested in using sites, I have set up a number of lesson plans to help you get started.  The lessons are specific to my school's Google Apps accounts, but from about step 6 for each lesson plan you will find that they are applicable to any Google Account.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why we should use mobile devices in the classroom

The Pew Internet@American Life Project has completed research that has found that American consumers are adopting smartphones - faster than just about any hi-tech product in history.  The research has found that many households are now using smartphones instead of computers for Internet access.

In my own useage I have found that I am now using my iPod touch as my main means of checking emails and surfing the Net.  I have also found that creating content on the smaller devices gets easier the more I do it; thumb typing isn't as difficult as I though it would be on small touch screens.  Additionally, apps that have traditionally been available only for laptops and PCs are now available for smartphones and mobile devices; three examples being iMovies, Pages (for Macs) and Google Docs.

To me this sends a clear message that schools who want to be seen as game changes need to move away from the big expensive devices and lead the way with mobile technology.  There are two key advantages in doing so: buying power - more devices per child (three iPod touches for the price of one cheap laptop), and the fact that children exposed to the mobile way of thinking and working are being better prepared for ICT usage in the future.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brainrule # 4: How to keep children's attention

This brain rule is particularly relevant to teachers.  The way to keep a child's attention is to understand that they will only pay attention for 10 minutes.  The same applies to adults; I recall many occasions in which I have drifted off in meetings or during powerpoint presentations.  According to Brain Rule # 4 I needed to be refocussed every 10 minutes.

The secret to refoccusing your class or audience is to do so in a way that stays with the topic or theme of what is being taught.  A good example of this for me was when I was on a Web 2 course for principals.  The presenter broke the presentation up with the fantastic You Tube clip, 'The Book' (a great choice, as most in attendance were ICT strugglers)


Without being aware of the rule I have applied it myself in a presentation that I did on the always enthralling topic of assessment triangulation / overall teacher judgement.  Checking through the presentation you will see that I have added clips that are related to the topic in an attempt to keep the attention of those I was presenting to.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Google making us stupid?

On the 1st of January I completed a post titled 'Does the Internet make you stupid?'  I was interested to see a similar article in today's Dominion Post titled 'Web frees up brain power for analysis'.  However, the thing that caught my attention for the article was the flyer on the front page 'Is Google making you stupid?'

As I stated in my earlier post, I believe that we could become little more than over reliant dumb terminals if we're not too careful.  The brain isn't like a computer with a limited memory.  The more we use it, the more it grows and the more powerful it gets. 

The Internet is a fantastic tool, but there is an even more impressive one between your ears!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

30 day class challenge

Watch this TED presentation and be inspired to try something new in your classroom for 30 days.

If you do a 30 day class challenge, it would be great if you could comment on this post to let me and other readers know what it is.  My 30 day class challenge will be to take a photo of my class every day for the first 30 days of Term 3, starting on the 1st of August.  You will be able to see the photos on my class blog.

Schools need to embrace cloud computing

I read an article in yesterday's Dominion Post titled 'Small firms need to get heads in a cloud'.  The article starts:

'A survey of small businesses in New Zealand has shown a "surprising" degree of ignorance about cloud computing technologies available for businesses.'  (click here to read the full article)

I would argue that 'small businesses' could be replaced with the word 'schools' in the article.  I recently attended the Interface Magazine Expo Day in Palmerston North.  In a straw poll raise of hands, a vast majority of attendees signaled that cloud computing was something that they hadn't yet introduced in their schools.

The good news is, it's never to late to start.  The bad news is, if schools don't start soon a large number of students will be as ignorant as their teachers!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Plus for my School - I can't wait!

I am really looking forward to introducing Google Plus at Lakeview School.  I believe that the implications for sharing and support are huge.  One possible example could be to set up times in which teachers will be on line and avialble to support students outside of regular school hours; for example, a regular 5pm to 6pm weekly slot to help with homework.

For an introduction to the Google Plus project, click here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Give me a pushy parent over a neglectful parent anyday!

This article from the New Zealand Herald comments on how gifted children are susceptible to becoming anxious when their pushy parents fill up their schedules with too much extra curricular activities.

My feelings are that I would much rather see this type of 'abuse' than the other extreme, with parents who neglect their children by not providing them with any extra stimulus whatsoever.  However, there are some interesting points in the article, which starts:

'Gifted children often feel pressure to over-achieve in order to excel later in life - and teachers and parents are often responsible.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Phonics - not the answer to teaching reading?

This article from The Dominion looks at research that demonstrates that the explicit teaching of phonics beyond a certain point is not beneficial to the long term reading development of children.  The article starts:

'Having children "sound out" words is not the best way to teach them to read, a new study says. 

A joint project by Victoria and Otago universities has found that learning through phonics, or "sounding out" words, does not help children to develop their reading after the first few weeks of school.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All brains are wired diffferently

I have just finished reading Brain Rule number three in John Medina's excellent researched based book, Brain Rules.  The key point with this brain rule is that all brains are wired differently, develop in different ways and at different rates.

Taking school children into account, the idea of national standards does not fit comfortably with this rule.  A stringent set of aged based standards assumes that we all develop brain wise in the same way.  John Medina uses only scientific evidence based research in Brain Rules to negate this.  The following statement from his website highlights the point I am trying to emphasise:

'Regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people. The brains of school children are just as unevenly developed as their bodies. Our school system ignores the fact that every brain is wired differently. We wrongly assume every brain is the same.'

I think it's time to look at the education of our children in a more scientific way.  I strongly believe that this isn't the case with national standards, which to be seem to be little more that fear mongering that goes against PISA findings which rates New Zealand's education system as one of the very best in the world.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The virtual classroom

This is a very thought provoking article from today's Dominion Post.  At the very least it tells me that teachers need to adapt to using new technologies in their own practice.  The article starts ...

'Pupils could be downloading their own teacher hologram in the classroom of the future, as technology changes how they learn.'

To read the article in full, click here.

Microsoft Office in the clouds - an option for schools?

This article was published in the New Zealand Herald this morning.  It gives a brief overview of the Office 365 cloud service, a possible option for school ICT software needs. 

In the article you will see a link to a response via a blog from Google; 365 reasons to consider Google Apps. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to come to grips with a difficult child

This article from the New Zealand Herald is a very insightful one; full of good advice about dealing with stroppy, difficult and wilful children.  It starts:

'Trying to get to grips with your stroppy child? Well, rest assured, you're not alone. The No 1 question parenting advocate Ian Grant comes across is: How do you deal with a strong-willed child'

To read the article in full, click here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Using a MacBook to increase student engagement and boost college enrolments

I found this article and video on the Apple education website profiles page.  Obviously it's going to paint a positive picture of Apple computers, but the statistics on the graph below that cover the period of time in which the programme has been in place are pretty clear; the implementation of the MacBook for every child programme in Greene County Schools has led to a significant increase in academic performance and college enrolments. 

To see the video and read the article, click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Google Docs v Apple iWork in the Cloud

Last night I watched the latest Apple Keynote, paying particular interest in the iCloud in relation to the productivity tools: Pages; Number; and Keynote.  I wanted to compare them to the Google Docs equivilents: Document; Presentation; and Spreadsheet.

There is no denying that iWork is superior to Docs in terms of the bells and whistle, the quality of what can be created from a visual perspective.  However, I was disappointed to see that the iWork cloud doesn't make your work everywhere on any device, or even any Apple device.  Accessibility is limited to the Apple devices that are owned by the creator of the documents.  Yon can leave your MacBook at home, but you do need your own iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone or MacBook with you to access work.

With Google Docs work is available on any device with an Internet connection.  Students could be working on the iMac at school, then go to the local library to work on the same document on the old library desktop PC.

Where Apple certainly has the edge is when there is no Internet access.  On an Apple device you can work offline on a document, which will then sync with the cloud when Internet access is available, updating the document on all of your own Apple devices. 

Regarding the latest Apple Keynote, overall I found it fascinating.  Lion, IOS5 and the iCloud look like awesome, game-breaking products!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brain Rule Number 2

I have just finished reading about the second of John Medina's Brain Rules.  These points, from the Brain Rules website, sum up the key points of the chapter.  Points 3 and 4 are of particular relevance to teachers and learners.  These two points are about relationships; how it is important to understand others to get the best out of them.

Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
  1. The brain is a survival organ. It is designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment and to do so in nearly constant motion (to keep you alive long enough to pass your genes on). We were not the strongest on the planet but we developed the strongest brains, the key to our survival.
  2. The strongest brains survive, not the strongest bodies. Our ability to solve problems, learn from mistakes, and create alliances with other people helps us survive. We took over the world by learning to cooperate and forming teams with our neighbors.
  3. Our ability to understand each other is our chief survival tool. Relationships helped us survive in the jungle and are critical to surviving at work and school today.
  4. If someone does not feel safe with a teacher or boss, he or she may not perform as well. If a student feels misunderstood because the teacher cannot connect with the way the student learns, the student may become isolated.
  5. There is no greater anti-brain environment than the classroom and cubicle.
John Medina highlights an example in his book in which the reaction that a flight instructor has to a mistake made by a top student has a very negative impact their relationship.  Had the instructor had a better understanding of the student, his reaction would have been a lot different.  Whilst still providing corrective feedback to the student's error, it would have been done in such a way that the student would have learned from the mistake, as opposed to taking offense from the instructors 'dressing down'.

Brain Rule 2 is about how we have survived as humans due to our ability to understand and get along with each other.  These are certainly skills that are very applicable in any relationship between teachers and students.

Click here for an overview on the survival chapter from the Brain Rules website.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cloud computing - the Google approach and the Apple approach

I am a big fan of cloud computing, and have on many occasions stated that it is the future of ICT in both schools and the wider computing world.  This morning I was sent an article (thank you Rohan) that compares the Google approach to the new apple iCloud approach.  It is definitely worth a read.  Click here to check it out

Monday, June 6, 2011

The consistency of Google Docs

Last week we had a visitor at school taking our students for a digital camera focus (pun not intended) day to introduce them to a range of photography skills.  All of the students involved had a fantastic time; those in my own class gave the day ten out of ten. 

I had the pleasure of sitting next to the photography teacher during morning tea and the conversation pretty quickly moved on to ICT, and eventually which platform was better, PC or Apple.  Our visitor had a strong preference for Apple, with one of the main reasons being that when he goes to an Apple school he knows exactly what he will be getting in terms of what the computers can and can't do; there is a real consistency.

This made me think about the benefits of using Google Docs.  No matter where you are or what platform you are using, the interface and features will be the same. 

Recently I had a Office 2010 installed on my work laptop.  Although I am sure that there are many great features to this programme, it can also be extremely frustrating.  For example, today I was trying to put an arrow on a document.  In the past this has been a very simple process, but today I simply couldn't work out how to do it.  The consistency that I would like to see between the old version of Office and the new version simply isn't always there.

The beauty of Google Docs is that there is only the one version, this being the one that is online in the cloud waiting for more people to be liberated from the constraints of Microsoft Office to sign up to.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Google Generation Classroom

At Lakeview School all of our year 5-8 students are set up with their own Google accounts.  This is our first step towards preparing for the 'Google generation'.  This article, from The Sunday Star Times, has inspired me to lead the school's ICT programme in continuing on the journey to give our students the opportunity to have access to the learning, the learning tools and environment that will prepare them as citizens for the 21st century.

The article begins ...

'In the classrooms of the future, students will use their phone as a computer and instead of raising their hand to ask a question, they'll simply send the teacher a tweet. Imogen Neale reports.
Some schools demand students leave their digital devices at home, but Albany Senior High School, north of Auckland, has taken the opposite approach, BYOD. "That means, Bring Your Own Device," explains deputy principal Mark Osborne.'

 To read the article in full, click here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Using an Ipod Touch to flip the classroom

A few weeks ago I did a post on 'flipping' the classroom. I followed this up by creating and using a blog to share upcoming content for French to flip my own classroom practice.

This You Tube post shares one teacher's experiences flipping his own classroom with the perfoect tool for it; the iPod Touch. Check it out.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brain Rule Number 1

I bought the book Brain Rules today. The Amazon reviews are extremely positive and I'm looking forward to reading it.

The thing that caught my eye was the rule about exercise boosting brain power (a drum that I am often beating). This You Tube clip is a link to the book, and briefly explains the connection between exercise and increased brain power. It's a little cheesy, but still worth a look.

Click this link to visit the Brain Rules website for an overview on the exercise chapter. The points in the overview clearly highlight that we can't afford not to have our students exercising regularly as part of the classroom programme.

The importance of self-control

The findings of this article come as no surprise to me.  Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

Teaching self-control to children as young as three can set them up for healthy, wealthy and crime-free lives, researchers have found. 

Physical health, alcohol and drug addictions, personal finances and criminal offending in adulthood can be "significantly predicted" by how a child acts up to 11 years old.

For the full New Zealand Herald article, click here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The case for learning statistics

This presents an interesting perspective on where we should be heading in mathematics education, in which we should aim towards a greater understanding of the use of statistics in everyday life.

More confirmation that cloud computing is the way of the future

Although I am already convinced, here is more evidence for the case supporting cloud computing. 

IBM opens $80m data centre
IBM says it is on track to meet the growing demand for cloud computing services after opening an $80 million data centre in South Auckland last night. 

The 5200 square metre facility, located in the Highbrook Business Park, is the largest commercial data centre in the country and will sell services to both New Zealand and off-shore clients. 

The facility was due to be opened by Prime Minister John Key in March, but was put on hold after the Christchurch earthquake. 

The centre allows for companies to securely store and access digital information, removing the need for them to own and maintain computer servers. 

IBM New Zealand's managing director Jennifer Moxon said the centre would help foster business innovation.
"As economy continues to grow, IBM's data centre will provide a platform for businesses to drive increased efficiencies, improved productivity and greater innovation," Moxon said. 

The building contains a 1500 square metre raised floor, able to hold up to 720 server racks and is kept at an even temperature by 1.4 kilometres of air conditioning pipes.

The server room hooked up to four electricity generators, capable of producing enough juice to power 266 homes. 

Despite this, IBM stressed the centre was energy efficient and designed to minimise the impact on the environment. 

NZICT group chief executive Brett O'Riley said the centre was a good example of where information technology is going. 

"The IBM data centre reinforces the importance of green ICT for New Zealand in seeking to host data nationally, and for major international players. Coupled with planned new international connectivity, New Zealand will now have an extremely compelling proposition," O'Riley said.

By Hamish Fletcher