A couple of weeks ago Scott Leslie (edtechpost blog) wrote a post titled: All I want for Christmas… and what he wanted was for people to buy a single Flatworld Knowledge textbook, before December 31. And then share it with the rest of the world. Why? because as of 31 December 2012 Flatworld Knowledge has decided to remove FREE access from their open textbooks.
So I decided to join in the liberation and purchase a textbook and FREE it. Easy decision not so easy to liberate! I purchased Understanding Media & Culture: An introduction to mass communication.
Firstly, my purchase was left pending on my Flatworld Knowledge account for over a week (However, I must say, once I contacted their help desk they fixed it within 24 hours). Secondly, their was no complete pdf of the entire book to download, there were individual pdf files for each chapter and the book I decided to purchase was 16 chapters. Thirdly, I then tried to find a FREE PDF editor that would let me merge the individual chapters into one file. I spent a couple of hours downloading free versions and free trials for PC without success. Some had “trial version” embedded across every page, others would only let me merge 3 pages and the most useful one I found would only let me merge up to 80mb. Unfortunately the entire book was about twice that size. I did not want to spend $50 – $100 to buy a pro version and was about to give up and come back another day to try and solve this dilemma. Then I read a comment by Stephen Downes explaining how he did it.
I had used the same process he did, except I didn’t have Adobe Acrobat (and it costs about $350 so I wasn’t about to buy it) . But his post sent me off searching in a new direction. Thanks Stephen! I use a PC most of the time because that’s what I’m more comfortable with. But I also have a Mac laptop so I thought I’d check it out to see if I had the “merge into a single pdf” feature he mentioned in his comment. No luck. But a quick Google search led me to the Macintosh Howto website that explained merging pdf files in Mac was easy and provided step by step instructions. All the latest Macintosh OSX versions have the ability to merge 2 or more pdf files and once I found how to open the thumbnail view in the side bar (the shift + CMD + D did not work on my OSX version, but I found it in the view sidebar menu) I had all the files zipped together in no time.
Here is the FREED version of the textbook: Understanding Media and Culture: An introduction to Mass communication
Over the past few weeks I have been visiting a local primary school to observe how ICT is being integrated in the classroom. In a previous post I described how students were creating maths quizzes, animated PowerPoint presentations and stop motion animated videos. Today I would like to explain the planning process the teachers used to design and implement an authentic history task about Ancient Rome. I hope this information will be useful for pre-service and qualified teachers who would like to implement authentic project-based learning approaches in their classrooms.
The first thing I noticed was the classroom setup. Tables are not arranged in rows like other classrooms, they are arranged in squares so students can work in groups of four. Ms Patton explained that students are allocated into different groups for each project so they have the opportunity to work with different people. She also mentions that teachers new to this interactive learning approach usually find it very messy, noisy and disorganised when first exposed to it. However, they soon realise that the lessons are well planned, the teachers have put a lot of thought and effort into creating a task that meets the Year 7 curriculum requirements and that the students are actively engaged in the learning.
The Year 7 curriculum provides a study of history from the time of the earliest human communities to the end of the ancient period, approximately 60 000 BC (BCE) – c.650 AD (CE). It was a period defined by the development of cultural practices and organised societies. The study of the ancient world includes the discoveries (the remains of the past and what we know) and the mysteries (what we do not know) about this period of history, in a range of societies including Australia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India. Prior to commencing this in depth study students should have completed the overview content outlined in the curriculum. The overview content identifies important features of the period as part of an expansive chronology to help students understand broad patterns of historical change. The overview content provides the broader context for the teaching of this in depth study and is used to give students an introduction to the historical period (Australian Curriculum, Year7).
Curriculum: Depth Study 2: The Mediterranean world – Rome
ACDSEH039 - The significant beliefs, values, practices of the ancient Romans, with a particular emphasis on one of the following areas: Everyday life, death and funerary customs.
This project requires students to assume the role of a history teacher. They step back in time to discover what life was like in ancient Rome and explore the links between our modern world and the ancient Roman world to teach their peers about a specific area of ancient Roman life. Many aspects of our life today can be directly linked to ancient Roman times. For example: many of the names of the months in the year and the planets in the solar system. This project will enable students to put their learning about Ancient Roman life into practical action. In groups they will research information to construct a PowerPoint presentation with quiz questions to teach their peers about a specific aspect of Ancient Roman life. Example aspects may include: sport & entertainment (The Colosseum), engineering (aqueducts), architecture (Roman buildings), culture & art (statues), gods & goddesses. At the end of the project each group will deliver their PowerPoint presentation on the Smartboard to the whole class and their students (fellow classmates) will complete the quiz to check their understanding of the topic they presented.
2 history lessons per week over 3 weeks = 6 lessons
- Lesson 1 – Task explained, group allocation, determine research focus questions, brainstorm plan questions
- Lesson 2 & 3 – Research information from focus questions (Books & Internet)
- Lesson 4 & 5 – PowerPoint presentation and quiz questions
- Lesson 6 – Presentations (in class to fellow students) on Smartboard
As with any well planned lesson the teacher needs to document the learning process, ensure all required equipment is available and booked and the necessary resources are located or created before each of the lessons. They also need to factor in contingency plans for program schedule changes or technology glitches and include extension activities for early finishers.
I observed very few teacher-centered activities over the three weeks I visited during this project and the main role of the teacher was that of a facilitator. As the students worked on their tasks, the teacher moved around the room checking they were on track, asking questions to encourage students to think more deeply about the content and the product they are creating and guiding them forward when they stalled or got side-tracked. It was wonderful to see how engaged the students were throughout the whole project and how the technology was used by students to support their learning.
I am looking forward to visiting this class again this term as they are commencing a new project about Remembrance day. Students will research and read about Remembrance Day and document their knowledge, understanding and thoughts about it. They will write a poem to express what they think the meaning of courage is today and present all of their work on their own wiki page on the class wiki. The wiki will be a tribute for our fallen soldiers that will be shared with the the whole school on the 11th of November.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Patton and her school for allowing me to visit and to write about the great learning experiences happening in their classrooms.
This is the sixth post in a series I am writing about the ICT in the classroom unit I am coordinating this semester. The aim of the unit is to give initial teacher education students the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom. The unit is based on authentic learning principles and students use a range of technologies as cognitive tools to produce a meaningful unit of work that they will be able to use in their future teaching studies and careers.
- ICT in the classroom: Course structure
- ICT in the classroom: Tasks overview
- ICT in the classroom: Task 1
- ICT in the classroom: Task 2 report
- ICT in the classroom: Task 2 video presentation
The final aspect of Task 2 is for students to complete four peer reviews. They will review both the written trends & issues report and the online video created by their peers for this unit. Students were given a specific date to have their draft reports and videos uploaded on their website so their work would be accessible to their peers. Students were allocated five days to complete the peer reviews and were encouraged to do a self-review of their own work before reviewing their peers to practice using the marking rubric. They then had three days in which to modify their work based on the feedback they received from their peers (optional). Students were advised to replace the draft versions with the final versions of their work before submitting the coversheet for marking.
The video below explains how ICT in the classroom students can access the automated online peer review marking system. Our sincere thanks to Dani Boase-Jelinek for creating this great system.
The purpose of the peer reviews is to improve “student learning while it is happening” (Pearce, 2011), to provide them with opportunities to practice interpreting marking criteria and evaluating student work. It will also give them practice at providing constructive feedback to students.
There is quite a lot of literature discussing the benefits and challenges of peer reviews and a few examples can be found on the Peer review page on the Technology Toolbox for Educators wiki. This page also contains links to resources about giving constructive feedback.
Note: The video was recorded using Sliderocket an online slidesharing website. The free online version allows you to upload video and audio files to your presentation and provides a range of editing tools and presentation settings. I found this technology very easy to use. I created the video using my iphone and the audio files using Audacity (free audio editor & recorder). I had to convert the audio file to mp3 format to upload to sliderocket. I did this using the free LAME mp3 encoder which integrates with Audacity.
I am hoping students will read this post and add comments about their experience using the peer review system and their thoughts about the benefits and challenges of doing peer reviews. I would also like to hear about other educators experiences with using peer reviews as a pedagogical approach. I invite you to add comments and share your stories.
I’ve had a great day today and wanted to share it with you. I’ve been at a local primary school looking at how teachers are integrating technology in their classroom and discussing some of the issues they experience. Some of the issues include: computers breaking down, useful websites being blocked to students (e.g. YouTube, the teacher has access but not students) and outdated software (e.g. Windows 2003). One student explained she could not work on her project at home as she had a more current version of Windows and the software she was using was not compatible across the different versions. These are just some of the issues graduating pre-service teachers will face in their future classrooms.
However, when I saw how engaged the students were in the activities that involved technology and how proud they were of what they had created, I thought the benefits far outweighed the issues. I visited two year 7 classrooms and students were eager to show me what they had created.
One boy who is doing extension Maths blew me away with his level of knowledge in Excel. He is doing some very advanced calculations, creating formulas, and functions and using conditional formatting to create an interactive Maths Quiz. He has even developed a range of levels for his players to choose from (very easy, easy, difficult and very difficult), I opted for the very easy level . The work he had put into it was amazing.
Other students are developing animated PowerPoint presentations with narrations and background music for students at the school next door that caters for children with disabilities. A very authentic and meaningful project for both the creators and the users.
The class next door (currently being supervised by a pre-service student doing her final 6 week prac) are making a Stop Motion animation video using Windows Movie Maker. They have read about creating myths, selected a myth, handwritten their script and developed a storyboard. Today they started painting their backgrounds and making the plasticine figures for their stopmotion video. Next week they will photograph each sequence, upload their photos from the camera to the PC and then use Movie Maker to turn it into a video. They are learning lots of valuable skills and knowledge and having fun. One student had created a stop motion animation video at a previous school and her video Cannibal blob was played to students to show them what the final product would look like. She also shared her knowledge with the class about how she created it.
I’m looking forward to next week as I’ll be helping students animate their photos in Movie Maker and watching their final creations !
This is the fifth post in a series I am writing about the ICT in the classroom unit I am coordinating this semester. The aim of the unit is to give initial teacher education students the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom. The unit is based on authentic learning principles and students use a range of technologies as cognitive tools to produce a meaningful unit of work that they will be able to use in their future teaching studies and careers.
- ICT in the classroom: Course structure
- ICT in the classroom: Tasks overview
- ICT in the classroom: Task 1
- ICT in the classroom: Task 2 report
This post discusses some of the technologies that students could use to create a narrated video with footage of themselves. For Task 2 students are required to research how technology is being used in their are of teaching (e.g. Maths, science, media etc.). Once they have found their resources and written their report they then need to create a 5 minute narrated presentation which includes at least a few seconds video footage of them self (for invigilation purposes). They then need to publish their video on a public website and link or embed it on their own website (see my mock-up history example on the Teacher info page on my Zohosites History Talks website). Students will then peer review each others work (reports and videos) and provide constructive feedback for improvements ( I will discuss the peer review process in a future blog post). This task is a stepping stone for their final task (Task 3) where they will develop an authentic unit of work for their teaching area and year level. The context for this task is about sharing their research findings with fellow educators e.g., publishing their report and presenting their findings (in real-life this is most often done in a face-to-face meeting with colleagues, however, virtual presentations are starting to becoming quite popular).
Podcast resource issues
Before, we look at presentation tools, I want to discuss an issue some students have raised regarding the difficulty in finding an audio podcast related to their area of teaching that discusses how technology is being used to support student learning. For most topics (e.g., maths, social sciences, english etc.) this is not too difficult, but for more uncommon subjects (e.g., legal studies, music etc.) finding a podcast that explicitly discusses how technologies are being used in the classroom can be very difficult. In this situation, I encourage students to look at the content of the podcast and think about what technologies could be used or how the technologies mentioned might be used in a classroom to support student learning. For example; the audio podcast I found is called “Teaching Australian History“. This podcast does not explicitly mention any technologies, except videos, and then the focus is on students passively watching videos to absorb information. However, the presenter and guest speakers do talk about getting students to “do history in the classroom“. This is the concept of authentic learning where students become historians which involves researching historical events, places, or people, doing oral history interviews and getting involved with others. So, we might think about how does a real historian works and what technologies they would use. We might also reflect on one (or more) of the other resources we located. For example, the article I found discussed using the Internet to research historical events or people. Therefore technologies that would support student learning might be; using the Internet (& other resources) to research their subject, using recording devices to capture oral interviews, using word processors to write notes, transcribe their audio transcripts and produce their historical story. Videos are mentioned briefly in the podcast, which may lead us to think about students using technology as cognitive tools and having them create a video, or maybe a podcast to present their historical stories. The podcast also mentioned how popular genealogy has become and there are lots of free technologies available for researching family data and producing family trees. The main aim of the research is to gather and generate ideas about how technology could be used in the classroom to support student learning in a specific area of teaching. So if the selected teaching area is a bit uncommon students might have to be encouraged to think a little more creatively
Why we included a video presentation in this task
Videos are often used by educators to provide information to students. However, they can also be powerful cognitive tools when used by learners to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a concept, process or theory by creating their own video. Students employ higher order cognitive skills such as analysing, synthesising, and creating (Churches, 2012) to produce video presentations. Creating videos provide learners with the opportunity to articulate what they have learnt to a broad audience. There are many free online presentation, screencasting and video tools available so having students create their own videos provides them with the opportunity to; explore different technologies, make critical decisions about which technologies are the most appropriate for the task context and gain hands-on experience using video tools.
Creating an online video
There are many free applications and online video tools that you can use to create a video that includes footage of the presenter and an audio narration. Below are a few examples:
- PowerPoint, iphone & authorStream. One of the easiest methods for creating an online video is to create a short video of yourself (using your iphone, ipad or computer webcam) and then embed it into a PowerPoint presentation. You then record a narration for each of the slides in your presentation and upload the finished presentation to authorStream, a free online slide and video sharing website. View my mock-up history video. Note: The PowerPoint audio narration is not the best quality, but it is sufficient for this task.
- PowerPoint, webcam & Jing. Another simple method is to create a PowerPoint presentation, embed your webcam video footage of yourself and then use Jing to record and narrate your on-screen PowerPoint presentation (ProfKelly, 2010). When you download and install Jing, you will be advised to create a free screencast.com account. When you have completed your Jing screen recording, your file will be automatically published on your screencast.com account. View my history mock-up video.
Note: The maximum recording time for a Jing screencast is 5 minutes. The re-recorded webcam video quality is not very good (but it is sufficient for this student task) and it takes a few seconds to stream, so please be patient. You could also use Keynote, Prezi or any other presentation software as the basis of your presentation.
- PresentationTube. Download the free software, open your PowerPoint presentation (inside presentationtube), select camera settings and record your presentation. Once you have finished, go to PresentationTube.net and follow the instructions to upload your video files. View my history mock-up video.
- Screenr. An online screen recording technology. You could create a PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi or other presentation and then run it on-screen and use screenr to record your screen and audio narration. Or, you could just record your screen and go live to the 4 resources you located. View my history mock-up video. Note: My other half was working outside my office window and I managed to avoid most of the drilling and hammering, but you will hear a loud crash at the beginning of the video. My apologies, I was lazy and did not re-record it
- Camtasia studio (download free 30 day trial), webcam & PowerPoint (or Keynote or still images). Camtasia Studio is more complex because it provides lots more features and includes editing tools. Features such as; transitions, adding title slides, zoom-in and lots more. You can upload your completed video to your YouTube.com or screencast.com account or save it as a file on your computer. This is my favourite video recording software but unfortunately it’s not free.
You will find more information about presentation, screencast and video technologies on the Technology Toolbox for Educators wiki. If you have any examples of how video technologies are being used by students as cognitive tools I would love to hear about it
This is the fourth post in a series I am writing about the ICT in the classroom unit I am coordinating this semester. The aim of the unit is to give initial teacher education students the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom. The unit is based on authentic learning principles and students use a range of technologies as cognitive tools to produce a meaningful unit of work that they will be able to use in their future teaching studies and careers.
- ICT in the classroom: Course structure
- ICT in the classroom: Tasks overview
- ICT in the classroom: Task 1
This post provides an overview of Task 2 and discusses the report students need to write. In a following posts I will discuss the video presentation and the peer review components for task 2.
Task 2 overview
First, students need to find four resources (one article, one video, one website and one audio podcast) related to their specific area of teaching. They then write a report to summarise the content and identify the technologies mentioned in each of the four resources. They also need reflect on and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using these technologies in the classroom. Once they have completed their report they then create a 5 minute video summarising their research findings. The video must include a few seconds video footage of the student and a narration by the students that runs from start to finish. The report and the video are attached to the teacher page on their website. Finally, each students is required to complete a peer review of four of their fellow students reports and videos using the Task 2 online peer review system and provide them with constructive feedback for improving their work.
Full details for Task 2 are available on the ICT in the classroom companion website and below is a 10min video discussing the report requirements.
In my next post I will discuss some of the technologies students could use to create their video.
This is the third post in a series I am writing about the ICT in the classroom unit I am coordinating this semester. The aim of the unit is to give initial teacher education students the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom. The unit is based on authentic learning principles and students use a range of technologies as cognitive tools to produce a meaningful unit of work that they will be able to use in their future teaching studies and careers.
This post describes the first task students completed (Task 1) and provides general feedback about the task.
Firstly, students needed to research key design and implementation issues for creating a website. Suggested design issues included: website navigation, layouts, fonts, colours and readability. Suggested implementation issues included: copyright, accessibility and credibility. They then needed to research the affordances of a range of web creation technologies to determine which technology they would use to create their own website. Next they needed to create a three page website which included basic information, an image of them-self and a three page report about their research. Finally, they were introduced to three social technologies (Skype, Diigo and Google Docs), asked to join the Skype and Diigo groups created for this unit and to add their website details to the Student website file on Google Docs. All students were encouraged to add their own website and other resources they thought were relevant for this unit to the Diigo group and to share ideas and questions with their peers on the Skype chat. Full details about Task 1 are available on the ICT in the classroom companion website.
Why Skype, Diigo and Google Docs? The main reason is they offer students the opportunity to explore different types of online tool; Skype for text, voip or video communication, Diigo for content curation, highlighting, commenting and sharing resources and Google Docs for online collaboration. There are many different tools available, however, I find these tools offer a variety of useful features and they are easy to use.
Task 1 was generally very well done and we were impressed with the quality of the websites and reports. It was clearly evident that most students heeded the advice they read about design issues as all web sites displayed good design choices, user-friendly navigation and a professional appearance. Implementation issues were not as well addressed as quite a few websites lacked acknowledgments for images or included images that appeared to be obtained from copyright protected sources.
Copyright can be very confusing, however, anyone publishing on the web should understand what work created by others they can and can’t include on their own websites. The Technology Toolbox for Educators has some good resources to help educators learn about copyright and creative commons. It also includes lots of links to help people find creative commons licensed work. I think I will do a followup post about copyright and include a “Copyright: crash course” video to help educators identify images they can use and ones they shouldn’t use. The main message being if you cannot determine who the original author is – do not use the image.
The best reports provided a brief introduction and then clearly identified a range of key design and implementation issues. After identifying the issues they went on to discuss how these issues could be addressed to create a professional looking web site.
Most reports included information about design issues. However, the best ones covered a broad range of issues whereas the weaker ones only discussed a few. The best reports also included a good discussion of the main implementation issues. However, quite a few did not address this aspect at all, or only very weakly. Finally, the best reports included APA style references to acknowledge where they sourced their information which enhanced the credibility of their paper and provided readers with the opportunity to explore issues of interest in more depth.
Overall the quality of most students work was very high.
In my previous post I described the structure of the unit: ICT in the classroom that I am coordinating this semester to assist 2nd and 3rd year pre-service teachers learn about authentic learning principles and using technologies as cognitive tools to support student learning. In this post I provide an overview of the assessment tasks and explain how they fit together to achieve the overall authentic task context and the unit learning objectives.
Ideally when creating an authentic learning task we aim to set one complex task that students can complete over a few weeks or months. By completing the task students are required to use higher order thinking skills to learn relevant concepts, knowledge and skills to produce a polished final product that articulates their understanding of the topic. Due to university assessment requirements the overall task needed to be broken into three smaller tasks. However, each task builds upon the previous one to produce the final end product.
Each task requires students to research and analyse information, make decisions about what to include and how to present it, and resolve problems that arise during the process to produce a polished meaningful product that could be used by other teachers.
Task 1 enables students to learn about the concepts involved in creating a website. Students research web design and implementation issues, produce a written report to articulate their understanding of the issues and create a website to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. The website produced in Task 1 becomes the presentation space for the remaining tasks.
Task 2 provides the opportunity for students to explore how other teachers are using technology to support student learning in their chosen area of teaching and to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of integrating these technologies in the classroom. Their learning is articulated in a written report and in a 5 minute narrated video presentation they produce using the technology of their choice.
For Task 3 students draw on the knowledge and skills from the previous tasks and continue researching information and resources to create an authentic learning project for their selected teaching area and year level.
In Tasks 2 and 3 students review each others work using the marking rubric they will be assessed with (Task 2 rubric) and provide constructive feedback to each other on how to improve their work. The peer review activity provides the opportunity for students to critically reflect on the criteria for each task and cooperate with their peers to share their understanding and ideas about the task requirements.
Creating a public website enables students to access and share a range of authentic learning projects that they could use and/or adapt to create meaningful learning experiences in their future classrooms. Examples of authentic learning projects completed by previous students are available on the Task 3 page on the ICT companion website. Do you have other examples that you would like to share with fellow educators?
This semester I am coordinating an optional second/third year unit for pre-service teachers which is part of an Open Education trial being conducted by Murdoch University. The unit is called ICT in the classroom. “The main purpose of the unit is to give initial teacher education students in the primary, secondary and post-secondary programs the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom” (UILG, 2012. p.4). Unlike most ICT courses, the focus is on learning “with” technology, not learning “from” or “about” technologies.
The unit is based on an authentic learning framework developed by Jan Herrington. Details about the unit can be viewed on the Teacher page on the ICT in the classroom companion website. The teacher page contains a description of the unit, the unit aims, teaching philosophy, unit structure and information about using open educational resources.
My intention is to use this blog to reflect on the course structure and progress. To document my ideas for future improvements and to record my thoughts about what worked and why.
Off to a good start
The semester has started and most students have accessed the Murdoch Open Education Moodle LMS and the ICT in the classroom companion website. Instructions were emailed to students advising how to access the Moodle LMS and the ICT in the classroom course. The email included a link to a short (5 min) video that explains how to login and navigate around the Moodle site. All students were able to access the LMS without further assistance and Moodle reports, student emails and Skype chat posts indicate that students are exploring many of the course resources. Quite a few students have already joined the unit groups (Skype and Diigo) and posted their reflections about 2 or 3 of the unit readings.
One question I have been asked a couple of times is where can I find the Unit Diigo Group? I have answered this in the LMS forum so all students can benefit from the question and my response. I’m not sure why students are having problems finding this information as it is included in point 5 on the Task 1 instructions page on the companion website. However, I realise students are bombarded with a lot of information at the beginning of semester and so I thought a “course structure graphic” might be useful. I have included this visual road map of the course structure on the Teacher page of the companion website. I have also recorded a short screencast that explains the course structure and essential unit resources and uploaded it to YouTube.
This post is to advise that I have created a dedicated “blog page” here on my eThoughts website to assist pre-service teachers explore and learn about a range of new technologies so they can confidently use ICT in their future classrooms. I use this information continually in a range of units so I thought a “page” would be more suitable then a “post” because I can go back and update the page as I come across new information, tools and examples. More pages in progress.
Other students, teachers or people interested in creating their own blog might also find this post of interest.
Did you find the new blog page useful?