October 12

Use of Games in the Classroom Classtools

Click here for Industrial Tech Game

I’ve just been trying out ClassTools.net, which is a website where you can easily make interactive flash games with no knowledge of flash programming. I think this is a great idea to make interactive content for your classes very easily. The game above took about 5 minutes to make, and  is easily accessible for both teachers, and even very young students.

The above game is simply the syllabus dot points of one of our topics that we do “Government requirements of Industry” for Industrial Technology. Basically, it’s just the first 3 industry study factors. All I had to do was type in (copy and paste) the dot points in the syllabus into different categories, and hit create. The website then creates the interactive game. Knowing a fair amount about flash programming, this would have taken me a couple of hours to do if not for this website.

They also have a number of different templates that you can use, including a labelling, timeline and venn diagram that looks very useful. It’s so easy that you could even get students to create games themselves and then get them to submit them to a wiki, and students can play each others games.

May 3

IT for Teaching

A definitive List of 30 things?

What would be the 30 things that you would add to a course on Web 2.0 Tools for the classroom?

  1. What is Web 2?
  2. Blogs
  3. Tagging
  4. Wikis
  5. Google Docs
  6. Animations
  7. Comics
  8. Video
  9. Social Bookmarking
  10. RSS
  11. Randomness
  12. Google Earth
  13. Flickr
  14. Other Google Stuff
  15. Social Networking
  16. Presentations
  17. Podcasting: Using
  18. Virtual Worlds
  19. Podcasting: Creating
  20. Twitter
  21. How to use IT with a terrible internet connection: ie, non web based stuff
  22. Creative Commons: Search Responsibly
  23. Combining rich media in blogs, wikis etc.
  24. Drawing Online
  25. Mind mapping
  26. Graphing
  27. Video conferencing
  28. Questionaires
  29. Online Quizes
  30. Just for fun: Applications to the classroom?
November 28

Lightning Writing

One strategy that has been used to great success in our school is Lightning Writing. This is intended for students to increase writing efficiency, depth and is a really great end to the lesson for students to consolidate their learning, or at the beginning of a topic for a pretest. (with no effort in designing)

Students are given 2 minutes to write as much about a topic as possible. They are to continue to write for the whole two minutes, no matter what they are writing. They aren’t allowed to stop.

Students then count the following:

  • Words: Number of Words
  • Difficult words: Number of words with 3 or more syllables
  • Technical Terms: Number of technical words.

Students are then given a second opportunity in which they are to select a goal to improve the rate of words, difficulty, or technical terms.

Students then get another two minutes to write, count the total, and determine the difference.

This is very good for increasing writing speed, complexity and increase use of terminology, which are essential for HSC success.

Image Attribution

November 25


One strategy that I have used extensively now is the crossword. Students are really highly motivated to complete them, and it’s a great way to get subject terminology across. Particularly because in my subject (industrial technology) key terminology is very important, particularly in exam literacy.

One way to do this and make it more difficult is to do a Reverse crossword. You give students a copy of the crossword, with all the answers filled out, and students need to fill  out the clues. This way, students are generating their own definitions of the terminology. Really, it’s just a tricky way to get students to be excited about doing a glossary.

An option then is to either give students the blank crossword then, swap cluees with a friend and to see if they can complete the crossword. You can also get students to enter their own clues into a program such as Eclipse Crossword, which is a free crossword puzzle program, which then generate a totally different puzzle based on the same clues, which a friend can then do. This then gives students instant feedback on whether their definitions are clear enough for somebody else to do.

Eclipse Crossword can even generate an interactive HTML puzzle for students to complete, if you have access for longer on the computers, or can simply print the puzzle to do.

November 22

Affinity Diagramming/Card Sorting

A PEEL Strategy that I learnt to do from the Usability Research branch of the University of Technology, Sydney was Affinity Diagramming. UTS/Usability labs used this to summarise primary research, where important points within the research were placed onto post-it notes, and then sorted and categorised into different sections. I found this really useful, and have since used it for any research or essay I have written.

I recently stumbled across this post (link) in the Content Literacy Ning which inspired me to write about my experiences.

I have also used it quite extensively within the classroom. Students are presented with different information resources on a topic, and a packet of different coloured postit notes. Students are asked to record each of the main concepts that are presented within their resource on a separate note. Students then group their cards into related categories by physically moving them around. They then summarise the information within each category into a paragraph, using the category as their topic sentence and post-it notes as supporting information.

This PEEL strategy is used to teach students how to analyse and synthesise information obtained from multimedia resources. It teaches students essay and extended response writing skills and how to organize information into categories. This strategy aids all ability levels, particularly students who struggle with the organisation of information, Kinesthetic learners benefit from this strategy, as they more effectively learn when given the opportunity to move out of their seat and physically interact with the content. Similarly, this strategy assists visual learners who have the ability to visually conceptualise the information and therelationships between components assisting the retention of content information. By simultaneously catering for various academic abilities and multiple intelligences, this activity identifies itself as a learning strategy that can promote effective learning.

Image Attribution: http://flickr.com/photos/cannedtuna/1423599488/

November 3

Go Animate

Have been checking out GoAnimate for the last hour.

I read about this on http://www.teach42.com/ a blog that I’ve just recently discovered, that I’m loving. At the moment, I’m trying out their “30 days to a better blog”…but more about that later.

Since I have a fair amount of knowledge in Flash, I approached GoAnimate quite skeptically. After about 10 minutes fiddling around with their very simple interface, I think that it may be a great animation tool for those that know absolutely nothing (and don’t need to) about the technical skill of animation. I’m definately planning on implementing this into my Year 7 Technology (Mandatory) class, but also see it as a very simple tool for effective implementation of ICT into any curriculum.

I’ve done some claymation in class to teach complex problems, and have found this really easy to do, and very motivating for students. The best tool for this is JPEG Video, which is a free program that takes a sequence of images (for example, from a camera) and automatically pieces them together into an AVI.

Some ways to use this in the classroom involve:

  • Digital Storytelling: English, HSIE, technology, Science, really any subject that involves any kind of narrative.
  • Idea Communciation: A tool for presenting an idea that may (hopefully) stimulate conversation by students. Eg, “create a video presenting safety issues in the workshop”
  • Responding to ideas: You could create a video log, responding to each others animations.
  • Awareness Programs: Students could create awareness programs for relevant issues, such as health issues for PDHPE, Environment in Science, TAS, HSIE
  • Interpretation of texts: Converting different texts in English to an animation. This could also be used for fairly fact based texts by presenting them in an unusual way.
  • Mise en scene: Creation of animation helps in the understanding of setting the scene.
  • Drama: creative interpretation


  • Students can collaborate on ideas.
  • Great for literacy skills
  • Students plan out their animation before creating. Allows for development of storytelling/narrative skills.
  • It’s very motivating. Students get really excited about it.
  • You avoid the inevitable “But I can’t draw!” Comments
  • Good for kinesthetic students that need to move things around to understand concepts

Overall, aside from being a little slow (on my connection), Go animate seems like an excellent tool for students and teachers, as they don’t need to know anything about animation, and is extremely easy to use.

For comments: What experiences have you had with animations in the classroom? Do students find it motivating? Is it a good learning tool?

October 31

Our E-learning meeting: Attitudes to technology

We had our E-learning co-ordinator come out from the big bosses today. Lovely guy, quite knowledgeable on the e-learning stuff. Like the old one, he was also good about acknowledging other people’s work publically, which I see as a sign of good leadership.

What I thought was quite funny though, was the meeting with one of our co-ordinators, who obviously thought that the meeting was a waste of time, in his arrogance, tone and body language. E-learning guy talked about wikis, and the other guy asked “I’ve seen wikis before, and really…I haven’t seen anything useful for them in the classroom”.

Fair enough.

E-learning guy: Well, you could construct a collaborative essay response, so that each student built on an answer to an essay, until you had an exemplar.

Me: I use it for collaborative summaries, where each student gets a section of the topic they need to summarise and post.  I know you do this in the classroom already, Co-ordinator guy, is just an easier way to do it.

Co-ord guy: So what you’re telling me is that I can more easily do it on paper with better learning?

Me: Well, I use wikis, becuase it means that the better kids can also build and comment on the weaker sections, without targeting particular students.

Learning MeetingHis attitude after that totally changed. He crossed his arms across his chest, and steadfastly refused to be involved. It was funny to me, because while E-learning guy was presenting stuff that would still centre classroom focus around the teacher, he was fine, but when it was more student centred, he put his hands up and went “Bad Learning!” and “Hard”.

I consider him a good teacher too, so it was a funny thing for me to observe. How do we react to these sorts of attitudes?

Image from Flickr/ Creative Commons

Attribution: http://flickr.com/photos/maebmij/

September 27

Jamie Mackenzie Questioning Scaffold

I just found a great article from Jamie Mackenzie on questioning presented concepts called “The evidence gap” http://questioning.org/oct08/evidence.html He gives three different examples of how this now permeates our life, and gives a scaffold for students to evaluate ideas at http://questioning.org/oct08/Wait.pdf

He uses the example of how Captain Cook “looked after” the indigenous people in countries that he visited, the Obama vs McCain Oil debate, and an example from the Medical field.

He breaks down each argument from McCain and Obama and finally determines (from facts rather than speeches that):

It turns out that the biggest problem is our dependence on oil, not our dependence on oil from “countries that don’t like us very much.” Once we close the “evidence gap,” a very different picture emerges than the one McCain hoped to evoke.

The scaffold would be a great tool to give students to discuss web based resources and the authenticity of such, and also to increase critical analysis of ideas.