Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for October, 2007

How can a teacher integrate Web 2.0 technologies into the curriculum?
October 30th, 2007

Who do you teach? Primary school aged students? Secondary school students? Tertiary students? I teach secondary schools students. I teach history. I have also taught a number of other subjects. How can you integrate Web 2.0 technologies into a teaching and learning programme? How can you weave Web 2.0 tools into your lessons. I have some ideas I would like to share.

Recently I developed a teaching programme that I would like to call an Integrated Teaching and Learning Unit. It is incomplete. A work in progress.

It covers three different key learning areas (KLA) of the syllabus taught in secondary schools in NSW, Australia. The three KLAs are History, Geography and Technology & Applied Science (TAS). A number of Web 2.0 technologies are incorporated into the teaching unit. They include:

Google Reader
Google Maps

Additional tools include Excel, Photoshop and Comic Life for example. The ITLU is designed for a unit entirely conducted in a school with a One To One computing environment.

I am yet to develop assessment tools for the project. The teaching programme is designed to cover five weeks with 2 hours devoted to the project each school day.
Feel free to explore the sample ITLU which I have also linked to my Web 2.0 web page. I would like to hear what you do in your schools to embed Web 2.0 technologies in your curriculum. Feel free to provide feedback on the programme.
Setting up blogs for my students ~ how was it done?
October 29th, 2007

I wished to set up some blogs for my middle secondary History students. I did some investigation. I considered some of the educational blogging services but discovered, for example, that once I had exceeded 50 student blogs, that fees kicked in for the school. In other cases there was a lack of control. How could one set up about 60 student blogs? Well this is how I did it. This time. I will do it a little differently next time but this project has not yet completed.

I wished to assert a measure of control over what was published and how. Some readers may disagree with that. I am not referring to some form of political censorship. I have good reasons to justify the level of control I seek. Several years ago a case came to light in a nearby school in which students had utilised a blog to publish inappropriate images and comments. The term ‘blog’ became an unsavoury word in local education circles so I put the idea of establishing student blogs to one side and focused on projects using tools such as Photoshop, Comic Life and Audacity. As well, some students can simply not help themselves. They lack an understanding of the responsibilities involved with publishing. I needed to maintain close supervision over those students and their work.

Well, a couple of years have passed and last term I felt that it was time to set up the blogging idea again. I wanted my middle secondary students to compose online diaries as if they were living through the Great Depression and/or the Second World War. I explored some blogging possibilities and I went with Blogger.

I set up the Blogger accounts for each student. There were 54 in all. That took two separate evenings. I created a simple initial welcome post in each blog. I created a sample blog that illustrated the sort of product that I would like to see the students begin with as they started blogging. I was then hoping that they would become more creative as they proceeded with the blog.

The next day in class I asked the students to list their student email accounts in turn in a spreadsheet. I showed them the sample blog and how they would need to post a blog entry. I invited each student to pick a template for their blog as well.

That night I invited each student to be an author of their blog. i would be the administrator. The following day I had booked the students (two separate classes) into two separate computer labs at school to begin blogging. There were some technical problems but all of that has since been sorted and a subsequent visit was more fruitful. The holidays then intervened. I was away as well and now that the fourth term has commenced I shall encourage the students to start blogging again. I have a role to play there.

As a measure of control each blog is published to my own server. I am notified of each blog post via a RSS newsreader. Comments will come to me via email for vetting. Finally, I eliminated that problematical menu bar and Next Blog button. The Next Blog button had the potential to browse to a distasteful blog. I use the following code just before the default code and after the name of the template creator to block the Blogger Navigation bar:

#navbar-iframe {
display: none !important;

The exact detail regarding how to achieve this is described at this web site.

I added an additional level of protection by publishing the blogs in a directory that cannot be accessed by googlebots and the like due to the inclusion of a ‘robots.txt’ file with the appropriate code. The blogs cannot be found in a search engine. When the project is over the blogs will be published. This sounds like a lot of control and overkill and probably is but the unfortunate episodes in the past in our district called for this degree of oversight. The blogs will eventually be published and the school community will get to see them. Just for now I just wish to see the students enjoying the process of creatively writing via a different medium. They understand why I have set up these safeguards.

The students have started blogging and about a dozen have really sunk their teeth into the project. many of the students have only made one post. Others have not posted anything at all. I shall chase them up and seek out the reasons. That is my job. And an enjoyable job I might add. Squeezing this project within the normal programming of the subject is challenging but I am getting there, gradually. I have added some screen shots below.

From a historical perspective it is interesting as the blog entries are sprinkled with dating errors, anachronisms and other anomalies which will certainly provide a source of fruitful analysis when the students share their blogs in class. I hope that additional graphics and media such as audio and video are added to the blogs in future. I shall keep ypu posted on developments. I seek your comments on this process.

Annoying feature in Leopard ~ screen shots include a border
October 28th, 2007

I have taken a few screen shots in Leopard this weekend and I notice that when you do a screen grab of a window by pressing the space bar during the capture process it creates a border around the window.

As a png it is transparent but once you convert it to jpg you will see the border. This is annoying as I create a lot of screen grabs that I then copy and paste into word documents. This is a curious move by Apple. The border becomes apparent when you directly paste the image from the clipboard into another application.

With reference to the image above the app that must have crashed was Quick Look as I was previewing an image taken in PhotoBooth.

Blogged with Flock

Leopard update glitches
October 27th, 2007

Well, I managed to install Leopard on the Mac last night. I updated the apps this morning. I reinstalled most of the applications, not all. Time to rationalise. The installation was painless. Some of the applications have not behaved well. iMovie would not launch at all. I performed a software update and installed the latest versions of most of the iLife apps. iMovie performed well after that.

Another nice little application that I use to manage audio input and output from Rogue Amoeba called Sound Source is not functioning at all.

LastFM is also exhibiting an interesting reaction to the update. It launches fine yet it seems to open twice. You can quit the application yet the the ‘phantom’ copy will not quit. In fact one cannot even force it to quit. It finally gives up the ghost a few moments after an attempt at force quit. Will keep an eye on updates. Kevin Lim blogged on Leopard yesterday and elicited a range of interesting responses.

Leopard launched in Wollongong at Mac1
October 26th, 2007

Attended the launch of Leopard, the latest version of Apple’s OS. It was held at Mac1, Wollongong, this evening. I had pre-ordered a copy. Receieved a free T-shirt as well. All of the usual suspects were there.


David, Ken and David.


Bernadette, myself and Julie


Ken and myself


Ken and I posing for the camera… pathetic.


The T-shirt and the packaging.