Thursday, August 19, 2010

iPad and Special Needs

While on a recent trip to California visiting schools I was lucky enough to see a number of 1:1 iPod Touch classrooms. I've had an iPod Touch myself for a few years, and more recently an iPhone, but it wasn't until I saw these devices being used in classrooms that I saw the potential for use with special needs children. In particular I was thinking of my own 10 year old son Harry who has autism who at this stage was not allowed to touch my iPhone!

The timing of my Californian trip was perfect. As soon as I returned I persuaded my husband and started saving for Harry's own iPod Touch in time for his 10th birthday in July. An iPad would have been even better but was out of our price range unfortunately! In preparation for the big day I spent many hours trawling the iTunes Apps store looking for suitable applications to engage Harry in different areas including literacy, numeracy, creativity, images/video, general gaming etc. The big day came and the iPod Touch was a huge hit and we continue to add to his list of apps as his needs and interests change. He's already asking when he can take his iPod to school to use ...

So it was huge interest that I read this post on BlogHer recently. This mother has a son with autism and has seen enormous improvements in his development since he started using an iPad. Many of the apps Shannon mentions are not intended specifically for children with autism but they are certainly autism friendly. The app I found most interesting of all was Stories2Learn. Social stories are widely used by children with autism as they find it easier to learn visually and the stories can help with upcoming events and change in routines such as transitions to school, school trips, holidays etc. When Harry was younger I spent literally hundreds of hours taking photos, inserting into Publisher templates, adding text, printing them out in colour, laminating each page and binding it all together. It was expensive and time consuming. With apps like Stories2Learn social stories become not only free to make but also a much more powerful learning tool as you can add audio (and with other apps video). And instead of just one copy of the book you can have multiple copies at home, at school, in the car or anywhere! Shannon goes on to provide a long list of other applications to assist in just about any area of autism you can think of from scheduling (very important for kids on the spectrum to know what to expect step by step) through to symbols and text-talk apps to help with communication difficulties.

While iPads are obviously not the answer to all the difficulties that come with autism I can see a real potential for their use at home and school. And with the growing number of ASD kids in our schools today this is surely something we need to be incorporating into our strategic plans and budgets?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Still alive ....

Just to prove that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth I have to link to Derek Wenmoth's latest blog post as it mentions little old me!!! I have a number of posts for my own blog in draft but just can't seem to find the time or energy to get them finalised. I seem to be just running from one major event to the next at the moment both at work and at home! But don't give up on me, I promise I will be back soon ...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Edtalk: Joan Dalton

I am a huge fan of Joan Dalton and David Anderson. I've been lucky enough to attend a ULearn pre-conference workshop for facilitators run by them both a few years back and then in 2007 I spent a week with them on the Facilitating Highly Effective Professional Learning workshop (FHEPL) in Hamilton. It was a transformational experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested in facilitation. I was really excited today to find that Joan Dalton has an Edtalk on the topic 'Conversations for improving and transforming learning'. One phrase that resonated for me was "What you say is who you are". I think this is accurate and is also a very important point for facilitators/teachers to be aware of. The language we use with learners can send unintentional messages to them and they're not always positive! This is something I am improving on but need to keep in my consciousness otherwise I find myself slipping into old habits!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A new Ken Robinson TED Talk

Most people I know are very familiar with Ken Robinson's 2006 talk about how schools kill creativity. I've purchased and am currently reading his recently released book 'The Element: How finding your passion changes everything' and I also participated in a webinar presented by him last month. So I'm obviously a fan and was very excited to see he has a new TED Talk uploaded just this month. Check it out and see what you think (16 minutes). I love his low-tech presentation style, his sense of humour and the way he weaves personal stories into his message. I'll be reassessing my dependency on my wrist watch for a start!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

iPad + Velcro

I love this video - very clever. Thanks to MB for sharing with me.

iPad + Velcro from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Notes from Jamie McKenzie Workshop

Jamie McKenzie (
Howick Club, 12 May 2010

Session 1
Asked us to look at the course evaluation at the start so we knew what we need to be
thinking about. Able to make notes/collect data during the day. Modelling
classroom practice.

We are spending less time on learning and more on tests. Educators need to be more
politically active or we will be bulldozed.
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Synthesis - the ability to put pieces of a puzzle together in a new way.

Strongest readers use the following strategies:
  • inferring
  • Questioning
  • Picturing
  • Recalling prior knowledge
  • Synthesising
  • Flexing
(David Pearson)

Latest book 'Beyond Cut-and-Paste'

Jamie has developed a taxonomy for synthesizing - he is happy to email the PDF or
find on or (use search box to find it)

Questioning toolbox on - kids need to know the types of questions so
they can chose the best one for the task.

Essential questions also known as questions of import.

Eg Joan of Arc 'in what ways was the life remarkable?'
Examples on - other cool stuff - biography maker
Underneath that will be many many subsidiary questions.

What should we do about ......
Would you rather .... Or ........
Who is the better poet, ........... Or ...........

Topic based research leads to cut and paste thinking:
Lack of original thought

Cognitive dissidence good for the class!!!

Session 2
Watched A Dove Film 'Evolution' and then another that parodied it A Film 'Slob
Asked to align the second movie with his taxonomy of synthesising - justify your
Then watched a Greenpeace movie about Dove being responsible for 98% lowland forest
losses in Indonesia due to palm oil production.

The Gruen Transfer video

Even if you do nothing - change happens!

Be wary of fads or bandwagons that fail to change practice or student performance.

Avoiding haphazardous change:
  • Wreckage
  • Disappointment
  • Waste
  • Disruption
  • Disillusionment
  • Distrust
  • Disaffection
  • Alienation
  • Withdrawal
  • Insurgency

Session 3
Silence is powerful. If you keep filling the gaps kids have no time to think.

Virtual change:
  • Cosmetic
  • Fashionable
  • Trendy
  • Illusory
  • Untested
  • Diversionary
  • Seductive
  • Dramatic
Some wholesome change strategies:
  • Anticipating - What could possibly go wrong? What's the worst that could happen?
  • Testing - venturing, piloting, learning, adjusting, improving, expanding
  • Preparation - laying the groundwork, building capacity, exploring, explaining, analysis
  • Support - scaffolding, just in time support, barriers, resource expansion
  • Balance - not going overboard, moderation, modulation, restraint, focus
  • Pacing - plateaus, cruising, deep breath, consolidating, refining
  • Discernment - questioning, wondering, doubting, delaying, challenging, researching,
  • selecting, prioritising
  • Sheltering - reducing distractions, limiting new goals and projects, resisting
  • frivolity, encouraging, calming, filtering, embracing
  • Courtship - winning buy-in, what's in it for me, showing value/benefits, identifying and addressing basic needs
What are the tactics, strategies and tricks to promote questioning, wondering and learning.   
How must the repertoire change? 
Reflective practice 
5 year PD plan where teachers can chose from options to suit their needs
Building units around challenging Questions and problems

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I love my iPad

There will be many people out there relieved to know that I have FINALLY taken the plastic off the new iPad! It was bought a couple of weeks ago in California but I have refused to take the plastic wrap off until I purchased a case as the thought of a scratch on the back was too horrific to consider! Needless to say I have been subjected to considerable harrassment about this. I have given up hope of getting my hands on one of the highly sought-after official Apple covers and just bought a cheapie on TradeMe! Red of course ....


I was lucky enough to attend the ITSC Apple Conference on Friday and Saturday. One of the cool tools we played with was Fotobabble! We were using it on iPhones but there is heaps of potential for it to be used on iPod Touches (download the free App from iTunes), laptops, desktops - both at school and for EOTC. Would love to hear from anyone who is using it with their class?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Amanda Signal and Digital Photography

Our very own Amanda is even more famous than ever now that her EDTalk recorded at ULearn09 is now online. If you don't already know much about how to use digital photography in the classroom or 5 frame storytelling you should check this out! Go Amanda, we are so proud of you yet again!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gotta Keep Reading

A bit of fun to encourage kids to read adapted from the Black Eyed Peas 'I Gotta Feeling' and the flash mob dance performed for the Oprah Winfrey Show last year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Scholastic Kids Press Corps

I've been recommending this scholastic site to teachers recently. It has the tagline 'News For Kids, By Kids' which I love. Although it is US based the topics are sufficiently global to appeal to many primary aged students around the world. It is similar to the excellent news sites for kids on Britannica Online School Edition only much easier to access! Topics include current events (eg the Chile earthquake is one today), entertainment, book reviews, special reports.

There is also this useful Word Wizard tool which allows the students to double click on any word (or type it in the box) and it gives detailed definitions.

The reports are all kids and I see there is an application process for future journalists although the current ones all live in the US. I can't find anything that says students from other countries can't apply so maybe it's worth a shot?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Learning at School: Day 3

Breakout 6: Action Research as Professional Development - some tales from the field Vince Ham

What do I want to get out of this session? Ideas for implementing AR with cluster ICT lead teachers this year. (eg Helen Renne-Younger)

Ultimate purpose of action research is to improve practice NOT to know something. Sustainability.

Puzzle - around practice, research question, my/our

Process - act/reflect/observe, data collection/evidence eg observation/video/survey, personal journal/blog - date on ME

Conclusions - results, coutcomes, resolution, answer to puzzle

Presentation - public, sharing

Collaboration needed at some stage eg observations.

Evidence based practice.

  • Davey & Ham (2010), The Six Ms of Mentoring Self Study - Journal of PD in Education
  • Joan Dalton

e-Portfolios: A Case Study

Along with TP, I presented at the Learning at School Conference last week. We were pleased to find out that our breakout was fully registered and here is the blurb we used:

Elm Park School has been using e-Portfolios school-wide with Year 1-6 students for two years. The portal we use is KnowledgeNET but the content of this presentation is valid for others choices such as Ultranet, blogs, wikis etc. The focus of this session will be on our journey from research, through to trial and implementation. There will the opportunity to view some student examples. The pitfalls we found along the way and some implications for infrastructure, NZ Curriculum and National Standards will also be discussed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning at School: Day 2

Breakout 4: Nick Rate

Breakout 5: Building a School Based Curriculum: How to use SOLO Taxonomy to co-create rubrics for self-assessing learning outcomes
Pam Hook and Julie Mills

80% of feedback a student receives about his/her work is from a peer - but 80% of that feedback is incorrect or invalid. (John Hattie, 2009)

Students giving peer feedback based on SOLO assessment rubric.
Students developing (co-constructing) their own SOLO based assessment rubric.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Learning at School 2010: Day 1

Welcome: Nick Billowes

Opening: Anne Tolley
Ultra fast internet access 50 times faster than what we currently have. When will all schools have this? This access will increase capability for classroom use as well as administrative purposes, formative assessment (e-asTTle) and online resources. Budget allocation to upgrade individual school's infrastructure in preparation for the fibre rollout - through the School Network Upgrade Project and part of the National Education Network.

Keynote: Dr Stuary Middleton: School looks good but is it engaging?
Manukau Institute of Technology

Epidemic of disengagement in NZ education. If we keep doing what we've always done we will get what we always got. Australia, Canada, UK, USA have the same shared issues. All have shared a similar path of education systems, English speaking, English background. The pattern:
  • social/political unease with education
  • disconnect between education and economy (skill shortage)
  • unprecedented levels of disengagement
  • NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) for 15-19 year olds

External factors: an education system resistant to change, a changing demographic, a changing economy.

Who do we find to be a challenge:
  • low SES status
  • NESB background
  • recent migrants
  • first in family/first generation
  • lack adequate academic prepartion for next stage
  • second change students
  • older age groups
  • part time students
Challenging group is increasing dramatically and those groups that have been traditionally successful are shrinking.

Perhaps in the future schools will not be organised as clearly on an age-cohort basis.

Language is at the heart of learning - bi-lingual brains are better. Being bi-lingual is normal - although not always the case in NZ.

Breakout 2: Building a School Based Curriculum: How to use SOLO Taxonomy to develop the Key Competencies
Pam Hook and Julie Mills

Managing Self
  • Pre-structural - mum hangs my bag and takes my things out to take into the class
  • Uni structural - tacit use - I can hang up my bag when I am asked
  • Multi structural - aware use - I can hang up my bag and take my belongs into the class
  • Relational - strategic use - I can hang up my bag, take my belongings into the class and I know why and when I need to do this
  • Extended abstract - reflective use - I can hang up my bag, take my belongings into the class and I know why and when I need to do this and I can help others do the same
The more rubrics you write the easier it gets. Same for students. The student self-assessment provides a snapshot and is more meaningful than when teacher directed.

The Hooked on Thinking wiki has hundreds of examples of Key Competency rurbrics that have already been developed in schools (

Breakout 3: Recording the Real World Digitally - Assessment
Stuart Hale

Using Keynote for e-Portfolios.
A place to put media created by students.
Use Smart Builds to add 'thumb through' and drag multiple images onto a slide.
Media Place Holders - format - advanced - define as media place holder. Add mask so graphic can be cropped dynamically.
Photos - add detail with shadow, reflection and stroke.
When movies are inserted - go to QuickTime on Inspector and you can use Poster Frame to select the image to appear at the start. Can also choose start and stop point without editing the movie.
Can be uploaded as podcasts.
Could use iPod Touches for students to take home and share their e-Portfolios.
Graphs/charts - Click on Charts then add data (can copy and paste from Numbers/Excel/SMS). Use 3D scene to adjust angle/tilt of graph. Can drag and drop images onto bars in the graph!
Using shapes - insert a star and adjust number of points. Drag and drop photo onto star!
Stuart has a gadget to use the webcam with a mirror - usually $16 each.

Good website for photos -

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

National Standards

I've been working on setting up numeracy and literacy graphs as part of reporting to parents based on examples provided on the National Standards documenation. Some of the graph examples provided were very good but unfortunately they were only available in PDF so I started from scratch in Excel (with a lot of help from my husband). Here is what we have come up with so far for numeracy. Eventually we hope that assessment data from our student management system (eTap) will feed directly into our student e-Portfolios (in KnowledgeNet). In the meantime each student will have one of these graphs which will be updated by the teacher at the beginning and end of each year and then loaded manually into e-Portfolios.

Teachers enter the student name and the relevant numeracy stage/reading age into the cell. The graphs does its job to look something like this.

I would be very interested to to hear about or see examples of what other schools are doing?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

NZ Curriculum For Sale!

Check out this auction on Trade Me. Someone is selling off their copy of the New Zealand Curriculum document as it is no longer needed thanks to National Standards. As I write this the bid is up to $78 and it doesn't close until Wednesday. You have to read the comments - they are hilarious!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The fringe benefits of failure

Love this speech JK Rowling gave at Harvard in 2008. It is 20 minutes long but well worth the time ....

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Holiday Reading

I've been catching up on my reading including RSS Feeds but I have a long way to go still! A couple of tools have caught my fancy:

Google Squared
This has been mentioned on quite a few blogs recently and looks pretty cool. I've played around searching for various key words and think it's a great educational/research tool especially for teachers and middle/upper primary students. Here is a screen shot of a search for 'planets' - the planets are displayed in grid with columns for comparing information. You can add as many columns as you like choosing from the drop down menu or adding your own. I added temperature and satellites. Love it!

I read about this on AllanahK's Blog. If you want to upload a PDF for other to read online this tool allows you to display it like a book. Once embedded, readers are able to view it full screen and turn the pages - just like a real book. A user friendly and fun alternative to having to download the document to your desktop before being able to open and read.

This one is really useful for ICT lead teachers in particular! If you're anything like me, as soon as people in your professional and/or personal life find out you know anything about computers they start asking you to help them out with their technical woes! If you log into this site it gives you a URL to pass onto those needing help. With the click of a button the user can make a screen cast (video) showing the problem on their computer screen including audio if they have a microphone. The screen cast is then emailed back to you (the helper) so you can work out what the issue is and give the appropriate advice. Here's a demo to give you a better idea of how it works (under 2 minutes):