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Rotorua Lakes Cluster Reflective Summary - Milestone 4: Ann’s Digital Journey – One Teacher’s Story

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About our cluster

The Rotorua Lakes Cluster consists of Rotorua Lakes High School (the lead school), Rangitahi College, Mokoia Intermediate and Whangamarino School. We range between decile 1 – 5 with rolls between 87 and 650. While we are a diverse group we have some similarities and we focus on sharing professional strengths and needs. Instead of a cluster facilitator, we have depended on the four Lead Teachers to determine the best path to take from our cluster goals.

Ann Eastcott is assistant head of English and runs a digital Year 9 class in 2011. She has a passion for the use of ICTs in education, and in particular in the English curriculum .image

In year two of the cluster, we are seeing the move forward from training the Lead Teachers to the next tier – the classroom practitioners, exploring new ways of learning with teacher inquiries.  Ann shared her reflections with us in this summary.

What has brought me to this point with my I.T journey?

Through being a part of the Rotorua Lakes Cluster I have been given the opportunities to attend conferences such as Learning@School and Ulearn.  I have been thinking about how this has impacted on my own knowledge, skills and my 'at-the-coal-face' use of ICTs. Yes, I have attended breakouts that have introduced me to useful and exciting tools and I have listened to some inspirational speakers about the changes that are taking place in the world and more specifically in education due to the rapid improvements in technologies, and the pedagogy behind using ICTs in the classroom.  Beyond this it is the personal learning networks which have resulted from those conferences, which have provided me with the knowledge and inspiration to keep me experimenting with old and new tools.

Blogging

How it began
Through Twitter, a 'tool' which I began using at my first Ulearn conference, I began following keynote speakers and breakout presenters. This has led me to learning from numerous educators from New Zealand and around the world, who are experts in their fields and expert bloggers.  I follow their blogs and the people they follow, including their classroom and student blogs. From them I have been exposed to different types of educational blogs and learned from their experiments and experiences.

What I did

Through blogging my goal has been to promote student voice in learning and learning process and, in a small way, promote global links with other learners. This year, for the first time, I set up a class Bookblog (http://anneastcott.edublogs.org/) with my Year 9 Extension class.  This was designed for students to write book reviews and comment on each other’s reviews. I also set up individual student blogs. There are links to these on the Our Bookblog sidebar. I allowed students to have initial administration permissions to their blogs, and once they were set up I restricted their rights, so that they could not waste time changing themes and adding extra widgets, rather than spending time creating blog posts. I gave students the freedom to give their blogs individual flavour in terms of the subjects of their posts, but recommended topics, particularly when the class undertook projects such as Fair Go Ad Awards, and their Enviroschools project. Students also had the option of posting pieces of writing as part of a novel assignment. For reluctant writers, the blogs have brought improvement in the quality of their writing, particularly in terms of punctuation and grammar.

In order to get a wider audience for our class blog, I put a notice in the school newsletter encouraging parents to comment on student blogs, and asked colleagues from other schools to read and comment on blog posts. Some interesting dialogue began between students and commenters.

Where to from here with blogs? 

Next year, although I will not be teaching this class, I will continue to follow these students via their blogs.  I am looking for ways to widen the audience and have added a cluster map widget to record traffic on the blog.  I will set up blogs for my Year 9 Extension class in 2012, and will encourage teachers of other subjects, to have students reflect on their learning via their personal blogs.  Already another English teacher has begun blogging with her class and I will work towards having all teachers of junior classes setting up a class blog.

Wikis

What I did

I have developed class wikis for the past four years and used them with varied success.  It is sometimes difficult to get the buy in from the students. Perhaps they think it is too 'geeky' to admit that they have used a wiki. I know that some students do use the class wiki, and if only one student benefits from it, I feel it is worthwhile. In addition I have set up an English Department Wiki(http://lakes-high-english-dept.wikispaces.com. A colleague and I have begun placing resources and links on it.

Where to from here with wikis?  

In 2012 my goal is to have all wikis set up in the first three weeks of term and I will take classes to the computer room to get them logged in and using it to enhance their learning.  Early in 2012 we will introduce it to our department and guide people through the process of adding links and files. This should assist teachers who would like to use more technology in their teaching programmes, but are not sure where to start, as well as go some way towards our cluster goal of developing and extending our professional learning community within our school.  I have assisted the HOD Social Sciences in setting up her first wiki and plan to do the same with other departments in 2012.

In the deep end in with the Fair Go Ad Awards

What I did

This project helped to meet our cluster goal of developing the capabilities and effectiveness of teachers with ICT for use in authentic learning contexts.

The Fair Go Ad Awards project provided a huge learning curve for my-self and my Year 9 Extension Class. As part of our Tuesday project day, where this class works on a single project for the day, we created videos for the Fair Go Ad Awards. The brief was to create a 30 second Ad for a Fantasy Phone Application.

We had four Tuesdays to work on the project. We had eight groups of up to four students. The students first brainstormed possible apps, and chose the app to be advertised.  After looking at target audience, and why somebody would want to purchase the app, students storyboarded, assigned roles within their groups and spent one day filming.

Up until this point it was fairly plain sailing. The school has six Samsung cameras (the equivalent of the Flip Video Camera). We borrowed a camera from a teacher and one student brought a camera from home. Filming was successful, but it was when we came to editing, that the challenges arose.

The video from the Samsung Cameras was in MP4 format. We discovered that with the current version of Movie Maker on our school computers, you cannot use MP4s. MP3s are required. We discovered that if our computers were using Windows 7 and the latest version of Movie Maker this would not have been an issue. Also, students who used different cameras than the Samsungs, needed their own formatting/editing software, which was of course not available on the school computers.

After many attempts at downloading conversion software and converting files, as well and using Adobe Premier, which we were able to access on a couple of computers, we had three completed ads. Our technician could perhaps have loaded Adobe Premier, or conversion software onto all computers, but time constraints did not make this practical.
Students have reflected on their experiences, and enjoyed the project as a whole, but were hugely frustrated with the editing process. A debrief should have us better prepared for this project in 2012.

Some suggestions are:
-purchased enough Samsung (or similar) cameras for a whole class.
-install Windows 7 on all school computers and update Movie Maker.
-install Adobe Premier on all computers.
-install conversion software on all computers.

I also discovered that putting a completed video project on a DVD is no easy task. With the deadline for submitting the chosen video for the Ad Award looming, it took four teachers huddled around a laptop, some with expertise and some providing moral support, to get the ad onto a DVD.

Although a huge learning curve, with more than its share of stresses and frustrations, this has been a valuable experience for both teachers and students alike. See some student reflections on their experience  - Rebecca's Blog (http://11065jenkin.edublogs.org/ ; Steven's Blog  (http://11008hasnip.edublogs.org/

View our Fair Go Ad Awards submission, below.

Where to from here

Next year, we will undertake this project again, having taken account of the various issues which we faced this year.