Bringing Geocaching to the classroom

I was introduced to geocaching by a friend last year, and immediately was intrigued. We checked out the main Geocaching site and found there were some treasures located quite near where we live. How exciting… we checked out the descriptions, and we were able to find our first one with very little trouble… although digging around at night in the root of a tree was not what I planned… then seeing all the bugs… but the squeals of joy (yeah mine not the kids… hehehe) when my digging revealed that plastic fruit container painted black… and trying to then be non chalant so as not to attract attention from nearby “muggles” on their evening jog. (Muggles are non caching folk). We managed a few more, then got a GPS, and found some trickier ones. I now have a lovely little Garmin etrex which has proved itself to be very accurate. The kids have fun as long as I do all the work, and they are handy to have around as there are lots hidden in parks.

It has been interesting reading the logs, seeing the number of caches lost during the Black Saturday fires, and comments from local cachers that leaving caches in fallen trees was now becoming dangerous as the council was very quick to remove any possible “fire fuel”. I have fond some tricky micro ones in magnetic key holders, one in a “fake rock” (so happy to discover it wasn’t a cane toad – I was in Queensland), small containers near freeways and huge containers in bushland. I recently sent my first travel bug on his journey to sail the seven seas Jack the Pirate Bear Tonight I placed my first cache, carefully logging the co-ordinates into my GPS so I could post them onto the geocaching site, and with it tell a little story.
As well as being many types of cache containers, there are many types of cache, some are straight forward, some involve several points to collect the final cache site, others have puzzles, or cameras, or focus on a natural feature (earth cache).
To start out you log the Latitude and longtitude of the cache you wish to seek into your GPS, then follow the directions. When you get to “ground zero” there is often fossicking around looking for that spot that could hide a treasure. Some are definitely easier than others. Once found you sign the log book to record your visit (then electronically). You can take something, as long as you leave something of equal or greater value. Trackable items are logged in and out, and you can follow their journey around the globe (how exciting would that be for kids to watch as their mascot travels the world) Many travel bugs have “missions” some may be to travel to a specific place in the world, or take photos, or one I saw the other day was to only be placed in caches starting with K.

I wondered how such a fun activity could be used in the classroom, and how and what students could learn by playing this global hide and seek. Geography, environmentalism, history, maths and even some fun thown in, this had to be something worth exploring. Last year Nadine and I attended a virtual meeting run by the Innovations team of the DEECD, where we had speakers who had used caching with their classes at Healseville High School. The seed was planted, and the excitement level was rising. When the opportunity arose for the Innovating with Technology grants this year, I hooked a couple of enthusiastic Year 9 teachers to think about running something with 3C9. Nigel and Nadine were keen, we got the application in, and were successful… so here the fun will really start.

I hope this has made the fun of geocaching a bit more sensible to those who were wondering. Do you cache? Have you looked to see if there are any near you? If you do cache, what has been your best experience? Nigel and Nadine, and the other 3C9 people… what do you hope to achieve starting on this venture…. Did you realise each campus has at least one cache within a couple of hundred metres of it? Want to come and find it with me?

Other resources:
A History of Geocaching
Geocaching Australia, Geocaching Australia Forum, Podcachers, Geocacher University

Autumn already

This year is speeding along already, and although I have been blogging, I have been a bit slack here…
exciting things in the pot… including being invited to be part of a group of schools to work with Stephen Heppell…. I would have loved to have been part of the team, but I need to share the knowledge, and get others out there trying new things, pushing boundaries. It will be fantastic to see how this project develops.
We have started to develop a GPS based Geocaching project with our year 9s which we have put in for an innovations grant…. fingers crossed on that one. We will be pursuing it regardless of the funding, will keep you posted..
Does anyone reading this use geocaching or GPS with students? any hints tips? I do geocaching myself… about to set my first cache hide… woo hoo, it is so much fun, and I am really excited to be able to get the kids hopefully excited. The team will be working with the Sandringham Historical Society to create some informative caches around the area.
eLearning around the college seems to be booming with many blogs and wikis and nings popping up all over the place. Sensational.
I am looking forward to the ACEC 2010 conference, and will be looking forward to getting some live blogging happening there… I will be presenting on the Redback Project, hope it goes well. Better make my conference program selection. There are some great VITTA sessions coming up too.
My VCAL ICT PD group have been using blogger to record their progress, we are getting there. Working on a number of tasks to create business cards, flyers and using some online web site creators. Next term we are looking at using a wiki to create an online portfolio to record their learning journey in all of their VCAL studies. Want to look at some mobile blogging with them.
Finally got around to adding an RSS feed and email subscription widget thingy. Hope it works…best to subscribe from the main page.

What will you be doing in 2010

As the end of the year slinks in, many of us are not only wondering what the best way to deal with the students after the reports are written, but also reflecting on the year’s teaching and learning, evaluating what worked and what perhaps did not work so well. In effect what you want to “keep” doing, “stop” doing and then on to things you would like to “start” doing, in your classroom or your preparation.
Over the year I have presented a range of different options for how you can start using 21stC tools, now we may be able to find some time to help sort out the best approach for your situation.
– create your digital resources: podcast, slideshows, videos, prezi
– set up your course online: Moodle, myClasses, Ning, wiki, blog
– try out some new stuff, digital cameras, ipod touches, flip cameras iPods are booked through me, and there is a Flip camera available through the library on each campus.
– try something a little bit different – geocaching, I will have my GPS with me, and maybe some of us can go for a wander (with the kids) and find the very nearby hidden treasures… in the heathland, at the back of the oval…and just down the street. Not sure about what geocaching is – ask myself or Nadine as we attended (virtually) an inspiring conference about how Healesville High School developed some great and innovative work with their VCAL students using this fun approach.

Not sure where to start? Go back to the ePotential survey and check out the continuum. You will have resources and ideas specific to your level.
Need to find out more… I will be on each campus throughout the week, so add a comment here, or let’s book a time to sit down and get innovating.

Other resources include: the VITTA conference on the 23rd – 25th November, Tech Talk Tuesdays and the final Connecting Innovators session for 2009: Strategies for Personalising Learning online in elluminate. Book through Knowledgebank.
Keep the great conversations going too….

Success Stories

This week we are looking a some of the success stories over the year at Sandringham, and how staff across the college have, in many cases, overcome adversity to use ICT/eLearning/21stC tools in their classrooms. Hopefully their stories and more may inspire you to to explore further or start adding some of these elements into your own classes, not as an add on, but truly embedding the technology.

I hope that some of our high fliers will share their stories in the comments here. I know there are others who have raised the bar, and I am sure there are some quietly achieving… if I have missed you, please add your highlights here (click on the comments link beside the heading and date of this post, you will need to pop in your email and your name, it can be your whole name, or if you are shy with the info you put online, just a last initial, we won’t tell anyone 🙂

We will start with Moodle, which sadly had issues as the techs were not able to make the site “live” and we could only access it at school. Having said that, there are already close to 200 registered users, some of the gun Moodlers this year have included:
Sean Daley and Frank Mc – 3C9 Program
Mary Tonios – Year 9 Humanities and Year 10 Law and Order
OHS – Chris Martin
Suzanne R – Advanced Maths
Jan Everett and Ruth Dower – Science
Year 10 Dance Megamix
Year 10 Media and Media Production
Steve Morris – Specialist Maths

Log in to Moodle and check out their courses 🙂 and get started on adding yours for next year. The link is on the college intranet homepage, and the login is the same as your network login.

We have had a heap of power users of the Netbooks across the College, including Kerri Henderson, Vicki McQuilten, Linda Lane, Marnie Sparrow and many others across the three campuses (I know because they were booked everytime I was thinking about using them, which is fabulous)

Nings and things

VET programs wiki – Jenny Marks
Curriculum Ning – Steve Morris – have your say in the issues that count, see what others are thinking.
Leadership Ning – Wayne Perkins – yes, modelling how we can use the tools is coming from the top.
Travel nings – Noumea and Japan linking parents with their students as they went on camp, the feedback was incredibly positive, so thanks to Peter Hamilton and Frank MacNamara for setting these up and sharing with the community

VCE and VET Music, Art, Design Tech Nings – Ben Pisani, Fiona and Kylie in the Music area and Frank, Craig and the team in the Visual Arts

Jodie Shaw – IT /Environment – wiki and blogs creating links with students outside the classroom, giving them the passion, and the ability to fly high too.

Ingrid Scharer – Wiki/podcasting as a way for students to submit assignments, getting creative, using the tools to create the “hook” to Engage students

Skoool program – Steve Dixon and Jan Everett – an INTEL program run this year based on the use of Interactive Whiteboards and Web 2.0 tools

Mary Tonios – Monash program and ICT Bootcamp – what amazing energy she has to help these kids aspire to great heights. For those who don’t know a team from Sandringham beat all comers in the eGames expo to become world champs 🙂 I hope Mary will fill in the details.

Marc Lineham got the staffroom buzzing when he brought in the DSi to “play” with. Marc has been looking at using the DSi as a tool to work with his students to help them achieve. Looking forward to hearing the results.

Sandra Murphy is always ready to try new things, exploring and using flipcams to record some of her coaching sessions, and much much more.

Congratulations to all for some absolutely brilliant work across the college, and lets keep trying new things to Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.

Inspired but not sure where to start….add a comment here (have I mentioned I love getting comments, it lets me know I am making some sort of sense… or not :), shoot me an email to organise some time for a chat or check out “The Redback Project“. You could use your Tuesday PD time to check out Tech Talk Tuesday – an open forum for teachers in Victoria wanting to get started or further explore the world of 21st C tools for teaching and learning.
Tech Talk Tuesday “This professional learning network has been established to create an informal weekly discussion around technology in education. This session is open to all Victorian educators; we ensure a supportive environment and welcome people with all levels of experience with ICT. Bring along your own ideas and strategies to share, or simply come along and learn from the discussion.”

Take little steps, it will get easier.

Games in Education

Any one who has taught students using computers knows how quickly they end up on games sites… and often how totally engaged they become in them. Do they have a place in the classroom? Savvy 21st C teachers quickly learn to embrace the way games can be used to engage and enthuse students, and often find they are learning at a much deeper level than traditional ways.

Games can range from simple to extremely complex, and how and where you use them is up to you and your curriculum plan. It may well be a starting point to engage students and open discussions to on the topic and allow them to explore it more deeply. Such as exploring the life and culture of Ancient Egypt or Nobel Prize winners
A topic such as habitats has a wealth of resources available on the Digilearn site. You will need your Edumail login to access this. Digilearn can be searched according to a range of VELS domains, year level or keywords. The tools can be downloaded at added to Moodle, or a shared drive, for students to access them easily.

Games can be a way for the student to explain and elaborate what and how they have learned through creating their own game. Many students will already know how to use programs such as Gamemaker and will love the chance to showcase their game making skills. There are also online game creators which can be used by the novice game maker to create in interesting and effective tool for sharing knowledge.

You can use a quiz to evaluate the depth of understanding. Quizzes can be created in Moodle, through the use of a SCORM creation package such as Hotpotato or ExeLearning, or an online game generator.

What can you do when the gaming bug bites, or you have some students who really want to fly high and you don’t know where to startt with creating games??

Margaret Meijers (Tasmania) has put together a fantastic unit on game making – it is linked to the Tasmanian version of VELS, and I have used it and love it. The amount of higher order thinking which I saw in my Year 9 groups was very impressive, and gave me several AH HA moments.

Games like the Nintendo DS and now DSi are becoming used more often in classes for a range of purposes. I love the brain training games, and so do my kids, and my mum (71) The Wii is also being used in a range of subject areas, from sport to music – Wii Fit Wii Rock and Wii Idol
As far as music appreciation goes, my kids (who saved up to get their own Wii Rockband set) have developed appreciation for a range of music styles and a better appreciation of rhythm and melody. I have been told a few times now, that I “need to hit the drums in time to the music Mum”.

iTunes University has a range of online courses available for you to download to your iPod/computer/iPhone etc including one on Games in Education. I am looking forward to checking out the different units.

Second Life is used in a many secondary schools and tertiary training centres to provide students with access to a virtual world environment. Skills from social to design can be developed and nurtured in a safe environment.

Using games in your classroom is nothing new… we have all set students a board game creation task at some stage, this just takes the task into the 21st Century, and can be another way to avoid that death by Powerpoint I discussed last week. As we move towards 1:1 computing in the classroom, using games is one of the ways we can help develop a range of higher order thinking skills, and stimulate and engagestudents to WANT to learn, and sometimes to even learn without realising it.

Have you used games in any form in your classroom? What are your experiences? Positive or too complex to think about? What would engage you to take your steps towards playing a little in your classroom? What can you see as the upsides and downsides? Have I forgotten anything you feel is important? Feel free to leave your comments and generally open discussions both in the virtual online world and the real world.
Game On….

Death by Powerpoint

Within the next couple of years (by 2011) students in years 9 – 12 at every school will have access to computers in every class, this is a promise by the government, and part of the Digitial Education Revolution for which we are getting funding. Why? Because ourr students are heading into a workforce which will mean that regardless of what career they take on in life, from educator, doctor, tradie or postie technology will be a part of every aspect of their lives. The technology WILL change before they get there, so our job is to support them to become independent learners who can take on the changes they will face in the future.

This means we have a very short time frame in which to plan for and implement how we are going to address this requirement across Sandringham College. The eLearning team will be looking at how we approach this, and there will be consultation with staff, students and parents to ensure the best decisions are made, particularly in regard to how we implement the physical aspects.
It will mean a change with how we look at our classrroom, and most importantly a change in the way we teach.
So…. if you think the only way to use technology/computers/ICT is by creating and showing Powerpoints or using Google to research you may well have some very bored students who will no doubt (as Lesley pointed out) have a nice snooze while the powerpoint is showing.
Some people just don’t want to use the technology in their classrroom – “But I don’t Want to Teach my students technology”

How we use technology in our classrooms is the biggest challenge teachers face, how to make it interesting and relevant, and not bore them with yet another powerpoint?
This is where the ePotential survey, the continuum resources and myself come in to play. By looking at where you are on the continuum (the chart after you complete the ePotential survey) you can set yourself goals and challenges for how you can start to use a range of technology in your classroom. For example your class may create a moblog for their project, where they take a range of images with their phones and post them online. You could have them creating podcasts, or present their work in video form taken with their phone… The list really is endless, just takes a little thinking outside the box sometimes, exploring what others are doing, and not being afraid to try new things. Not sure where to start??? drop me a line and we can book a chat time, and work through the best approach for you, whether it’s the basics or high flying users. We are expecting our students to embrace change, so let’s model that as well, and embrace the change, try new things, and grow a little.

Please add a comment to this post, how do you use technology in your class already? What ways have you used it to create exciting and stimulating environments? What would you like to explore?

My 21st Century children

I shouldn’t really be suprised that my kids (9, 10 and 13) are comfortable 21st C learners and users of technology, as my children have been exposed to a range of web tools since they were little… #1 son created his own Yahoo page – linked to mine – when he was 4 (with a little help from me, but he was in control) All three of my kids are aware of piracy and why it is not a good thing, and shouldn’t be encouraged, even to the point where they told off my Mum, when she bought a dodgy DVD at a market. Mr 13 wants to be involved in Game Development as a career down the track, so he can see how piracy can endanger that as a career path. They are very articulate when it comes to security and privacy when working or playing online – little Miss 9 informed me I shouldn’t call her by her real name, when I made a comment on her blog post on Imbee (a social networking sitee for little ones, along the lines of Facebook, but restricted and supervised to ensure only children access it).

So, what was the first grown up social networking site Mr 13 wanted to join??? Facebook??? MySpace??? no… Twitter. And this threw me. I love my Twitter, my Professional Learning Network has become global because of it, but I found it difficult to get my head around how teens could use this tool… apart from the self obsessed ramblings you see from some media outlets… What was the point???? The answer – Games!!!
He plays Adventure Quest, an online RGP game, and has done for a while, all 3 of them do. Well….. the Game designers from AQ worlds, have Twitters, and were encouraging their users to follow them…. So Mr 13 created his Twitter account… He added his favourite game designers and even Game shops, like EB Games. Spending the weekend watching two gamers reflect on the conference they were at on and off, from my perspective was interesting.
We talked about the privacy, and that the comment about there being “another slice of pizza left” was viewable by the whole of the Twittersphere… was that what he wanted??? He had already had people try to add him, so he locked himself up nice and tight, protecting his tweets – although that did make it a challenge for me to add him… we managed in the end.
He found his cousin was using Twitter… so added him. I recommended not adding me, as my Tweets would bore him 🙂 being mainly eLearning stuff…. and he was fine with that.

Then… he discovered his cousin was also on Facebook… so that was next. He added me as a friend, and as a friend pointed out, what a wonderful position to be in as a parent… not stalking, or helicopter parenting, but having the lines of communication open, so as we head into the teen years, I will be kept in the loop in some way, and be able to support him in the best way possible, by being there when he needs me. I will have to make sure I don’t overstep the mark and invade his space too much though, as that is the biggest criticism my senior students have of their parents using Facebook.

What I love is that the kids can see the tool for what it is, beyond the media hype, it is a way to source and gather information, which is exactly how I use it.

Creating your Digital Footprint

This week’s thoughts come from the concerns raised by a staff member when exploring the Redback Project (getting started using Web 2.0 tools), and starting to have to put information online.
“How much is safe?”
“Who will see what I post?”
“I don’t want to share so much of myself with the whole world”.

Try Googling your name – what do you come up with? I used to just get me, but now there is some person in Tennessee on Facebook with my name… hmmmmmm, however, if I Google “Starnott” I get mostly my own posted stuff – in fact the first 4 pages, and only one random one on page 5 – I did come across stuff I had forgotten doing, which was helpful.

Check out the sorts of information you may already be sharing Your Digital Footprint

How much is enough?, and will you be opening yourself up for identity theft? are very real issues which one should consider when venturing into the online world. The amount of information about you is called a digital footprint. How large you make this footprint is entirely up to you, as is the type of information you share and with whom you share it. The bottom line is no matter what level of information you share you need to be comfortable with it, never divulge more than that, and there are the obvious don’ts such as home address, phone number, credit card, license number etc. I will take you through a few points which should, hopefully, help you to make a positive digital footprint, while maintaining your security.

Creating a generic email.
When signing up for blogs, wikis, Nings and other Web 2.0 “stuff” you will be required to give a username and an email. Although it may at first appear easier to use the one email for everything, it is a good idea to keep your work or home ISP email separate and create a new web based email account for your web2.0 journey. I have always done this, just to provide some anonymity when I add my email address to various sites, as both my work and home email accounts include my fullname. You can easily create a web based email account using Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, or a host of others.
My preferred one is Google’s Gmail because of the power of the linked accounts at your fingertips.

Creating an online identity
This can be as much of you or as little of you as you care to share. I have, for most of my online eLearning sites, given myself the online name “starnott”. I know others who have used their whole name, some just a first name and others a made up name entirely. To start building your digital footprint try to use the same name, and this will become a presence you can find. A Twitter friend who uses his whole name also uses that to tag anything he posts online, so all of his information becomes linked to him, and if he has posted something online which he wants to access, and can’t remember where it was posted, a quick Google search will usually turn it up.
You can link your online name/identity with your web mail by using the same name for both.
When filling in your name on random sites I tend to play it by ear a bit, depending on the “quality/reliability” of the site I may use my real name – such as on iTunes, but for the most part I just put a letter, or a couple of letters. Date of birth is the same… you can go a year or so either way, in most cases it is just to check you are either over 13 – laws in the US state children under this age are not permitted to give certain information to web sites, or hold accounts – COPPA – or over 18
No one is going to know if you shed a couple of years, making you… 30 instead of 52…hehehe, again, just think about who may use the information, and why, as to how honest you want to be.
I wasn’t sure about Twitter when I first joined up, and chose a different name, however, I do share my blog updates and information through it, so many of my followers know “who” i am.

Passwords
Clearly these should be kept safe and private – I have a little black (well green) book where I keep all of my passwords and login details for different accounts, which is not kept anywhere near my computers. Handy for those random sites I know I have joined and can’t remember the password I may have used.

These are just some of the ways you can safely create and develop your digital footprint. If you have thoughts or other ideas, please feel free to add your comments.

We do need to think about safety, even as adults, and be aware of the information we post online to create a positive digital footprint, as well as staying safe

I hope this helps you on your journey.