New Year New Students

It’s already nearly the end of the first week and the students (see the header image) have settled in so well it’s as though they never went away. It’s been a bit of a slog, with lots of testing and assessments and the setting up of new routines, but the positive attitude and enthusiasm of the students have made the process an easy one. Unfortunately, this has meant that none of the “fun” stuff has started yet and we are still a few days away from getting all our ICT up and running, but it will all be worth it when we get there.

Next week, fingers crossed, the students will begin work on their own blogs. We’ve already started the essential preparations. We’ve looked at a range of student blogs (thanks to All Things Quebec) and made notes on what we like, don’t like and the things that help make a good blog. The next task will be to learn about how we stay safe with our blogs and the rules for posting, commenting and copyright. I’m sure this will be one of our best blogging years yet!

 

 

2016

A new year and a new beginning!

I have to admit that this blog took much more of a backseat last year than previously. 2015 was a strange year, it seemed to be busier than usual and was certainly very pressured with time a rare and precious luxury. With that in mind I need to make a more concerted effort to post regularly on this blog in 2016 (easy to say that now while I’m soaking up the sun on the summer break). In order to keep this blog “busy” I’m planning to diversify a little, perhaps post about local issues and events, or things that simply catch my interest, after all, that’s exactly what I tell the students to do! I still believe that blogging has immense educational value for students and I’m certainly not ready to give up on it.

For teachers, certainly for myself, blogging is all about the students, trying to give them a reason to write, a purpose other than the relentless mundanity of creating yet another text destined (at best) for the classroom wall. The blogs allow for freedom of expression, interest driven creativity, yet always with the pressure of trying to improve – after all, there’s a real chance that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins just may pop in to see what we’ve been up to. In fact, Australia is such a highly migrant rich environment that a number of my past students have used their blogs to keep in contact with relatives around the world. Admittedly, not every student takes to their blog, whilst some regularly keep their blog updated and grow a steady and interested following, others are lucky if they manage a post every couple of weeks. However, that’s often the point, the students who have lots to say and are enthusiastic to write need to be nurtured and given a ready outlet and that’s exactly where their blog comes in.

As my mum used to tell me, I’ll just have to “pull my finger out” and make much more of an effort in 2016.

I Can Animate

Recently, the students have been creating incredible animations using the I Can Animate app on the iPads. We’ve generally done a stop motion projects for the last few year, however this year it was a little different due to the app. In the past we’ve used webcams and a claymation programme on the laptops, but now we have our set of class iPads we thought we’d use the app and see how it goes. To be honest, the animations this year were as good as any we’ve done in the past, and the quality was excellent. The students planned their animations, storyboarded them then filmed. Using iPads made setting up much easier, although we had to overcome some problems, such as an inability to stand the iPads up easily for filming. However, we did overcome all the little issues and ended up with some great examples. Check them out: Sam, LilyBianca, Shantelle, KeenanJoe, Chloe, Cooper, Lisette.

Always Learning

Term four has seen everyone in LA19 learning together and planning for the future. When I say “everyone”, I mean just that – myself as well as the students. Education is such an ever changing environment that we as teachers must be prepared to stay up to date and evolve wherever necessary. By doing this, not only do we learn new skills, but we ensure we put ourselves in the best position to deliver the skills and understandings for the future of our students.

In LA19 we’ve been enjoying getting to grips with Lighbot and I Can Animate, two great apps on our iPads. Lightbot is a fabulous way to introduce the concept of coding through problem solving and understanding processes. I Can Animate is another great app that caters to the creative side of the students, allowing them to create stop motion animations. The students have to plan out the whole process in sequence, prepare their models (where necessary) and carry out filming. There are a huge number of problems to overcome and the process is quite time consuming, but the results are already impressive.

With technology becoming a major part of our lives we owe it to ourselves as teachers and to the students in our care to evolve with the times. To be honest, it’s all so much fun you’d be mad not to try!

Coding

Recently we’ve been dipping our collective toes into the subject of coding. This is a subject that we’ll be getting into in much more depth in the coming years. The opportunities for using coding skills in life are enormous and it’s an area that’s just going to grow and grow. There are loads of different ways to start getting to grips with coding and one that we’ve been using is Lightbot. Lightbot is an excellent app that we use on the iPads. It teaches students the concepts of coding, the repetitive instructions and commands and how to use these to achieve goals. If you want to see why coding is important watch the video below.

Next Stop MCG!

Well, to say we were absolutely astounded is an understatement. The girls’ cricket team has achieved one of the most amazing feats I’ve ever known as a primary school teacher. What started as a local competition between several local schools has gone so much further than any of us imagined (although we always hoped). Having won their first tournament, the girls proceeded to the district competition, as mentioned in the previous post. A victory there secured their place at the WA finals at the WACA. So, last Friday the girls picked up their bats and off they went. You could have knocked us over with a feather when the principal announced to everyone that they’d only gone and won the whole thing. This means they’re officially the best girls’ primary school cricket team in Western Australia! The girls now have their biggest date ever – the Australian finals at the famous MCG in Melbourne where they’ll take on the other states. Amazing! Well done, girls.

Cricket Tournament

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Students from LA19 and several other classes took part in a major cricket tournament. We had as boys’ team and a girls’ team participating and the prize was a big one – a trip to the WACA to play in the state finals, the winner of which travels to Melbourne! We were there because we were originally successful in our area competition (mentioned earlier in this blog). However, the further you go, the stiffer the competition gets. This was certainly the case for the boys who, despite a great performance with two victories and two losses, were knocked out of the tournament. However, it was better news for the girls who won all their matches and now travel to the WACA. Better luck next time to the boys, but best of luck to the girls.

 

Podcasting

There’s no denying that when it comes to podcasting there’s more than one option. However, we chose to create ours using a particular combination of technologies in order to get the most out of our experience. Whether we can truly call the items we produce “podcasts”, I don’t really know, but that is what we call them –  and anyway, why not?

At the moment, our class is the main one creating podcasts in the school. Two other teachers have dipped their wary and tentative toes into this exciting process, but generally most can’t seem to get the value that this particular integration of technology offers. Anyone who does podcast will recognise the benefits:

  • Opportunity for oral language activities
  • A permanent record of oral language
  • Allows shy students to build confidence
  • Independent and group discussions
  • Formal and informal activities
  • Allows for creativity and personalities to shine

This is by no means the full list!

But let’s get into it!

The first activity we do is we create our own personal theme music. This is created on the iPads using Garage Band and will become the students’ individual theme tune for the year. This is only short (about 20 to 30 seconds) and is initially uploaded to Soundcloud. The next process is a little convoluted, but this has been because of the way our school system is set up and may not apply to anyone else. Also, it’s just a one-off action. The problem is/was (we’re in the process of updating) the theme tune is not created as an mp3, so we had to convert it as the version of Audacity that we use to edit the whole project only accepts/accepted mp3 files (fingers crossed for the update). So (long story short), we converted them on Zamzar for free. We then store our theme tunes on Google Drive so we can access them all year, wherever we may be.

To record the actual spoken part we use the fabulous Easi-Speak Pro Microphones. These are great tools, mobile and easy to use. We bought stands for the whole set to cut down on external noise. The great thing about the microphones is that they simply plug into a laptop via the USB connection and the saved mp3 audio can then be dragged off. Easy!

The final process involves loading the theme tune and the speech onto Audacity and editing it to create a professional product. As an extra, I created a set of instructions and made this a reading activity. When finished, the podcast (or whatever it is) can be posted on the blog.

I know this probably isn’t the way most people do it, but it works for us. We get to integrate a variety of technologies and create a personalised product.

[podcast]https://chrishopesblog.edublogs.org/files/2014/09/Miss-Svein-Podcast-24a7exi.mp3[/podcast]

 

Holidays

Holidays should be fun! They should be a time for relaxing and recharging before we begin the long haul of the next term. Sadly, as most teachers can tell you, holidays can be no fun at all. We spend so much of our evenings and weekends at home marking, planning and simply working during the school term that the usual jobs that need doing around the house get ignored. However, these jobs don’t go away. No, they gather together, plot their evil plans and gang up, lying in wait until they see their chance. Then, on the first day of the holidays they pounce! The weeds grab you first, dragging you down like monstrous triffids (ask your parents). Then, the horrors of D.I.Y. rear their ugly heads, not just in ones, but as a wild group, pawing and clawing at you until you break down, give in and have to reach for the toolbox to fend them off. Wives (or husbands) and kids wave lists in front of your face, dazzling you with words like “car” and “shelving” until your head spins and your knees become weak. It all becomes too much!

After this holiday I’m going to need a holiday!

Our Amazing P & C

This is a very brief post to just say a huge “Thank You” to our amazing Parents and Citizens Committee (P & C). The work they do is tireless and provides opportunities for the students and staff that they normally wouldn’t have. In fact, our P & C have become one of the biggest assets in the school.

A while ago the P & C gave the teachers an opportunity to create a wish list of things we’d like to buy for the school. Well, if your given a wishlist you may as well wish big – and that’s exactly what I did. Not imagining I ever had a realistic chance, I asked the admin if they’d put forward a proposal for 5 iPads for each year 5 and 6 class. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the P & C said yes! We just recently had the iPads land on our desks along with all the apps we asked for, all thanks to the P & C.