Heroes Among Us Digital Brainstorming Owning our Learning GAMING PODCASTING Digital Storytelling in Classrooms CHECK THE UPDATE! Realtime Behaviour Management in the Classroom Realtime Behaviour Management in the Classroom Augmented Education: Making Reality Real Angry Birds in the Classroom #Post Title
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Managing a Classroom Full of Angry Birds - An Interview with Lachlan Hull

I had the opportunity to speak with Alan November from November Learning about the work I have done this year with my class.  It was a great experience to share the learning that has happened in my classroom throughout the year.

  Managing a Classroom Full of Angry Birds - An Interview with Lachlan Hull
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Augmenting Education: Age 5 ½

Aurasma Lite
Making the Augmented World possible.

Yesterday was Technology Friday (TF) in our classroom.  For those not familiar with TF, I urge you to consider implementing it into your educational contexts.  TF was created by the students in my class to help them better understand technology. After some negotiating, it was decided that we would set aside time every week to learn ways which we can use the different Information, Communication Learning Technologies (ICLT's) in our classroom.

At the moment we spend from 11:30am to 3:00pm experiencing how ICLT's can assist us in our daily classroom interactions. My students wanted a time where they could form understandings of the uses of the diverse range of ICLT's in the classroom.  I took this as an opportunity to negotiate with my students such a time and begin to assist them in making ICLT's invisible in their interactions so they could focus more on their learning than the purpose of ICLT's such as iPads and laptops.

My respect for my students continues to grow as I experience their learning with them.  I remember small flashes of when I was 5 years old.  I was in no way as competent as my students are as digital citizens as they are now.  Many adults enter our classroom and are confronted by the flexibility and diverse student directed learning that takes place.  From afar it looks 'busy' and in a way 'un-organised.'  This is true and I won't argue that fact.  But upon closer inspection, my classroom reflects the learners who work within it, their diverse range of learning styles and ways of thinking.

I have worked hard to allow my students to create their own learning contexts.  I won't lie, there have been times where everything was a second from falling apart, however, when your 5 years old, you are technically invincible and nothing is too hard.  I have watched the way these brilliant learners negotiate how they want to learn and nine times out of ten, they can save themselves from what many would say is certain failure.

One of our latest projects during TF is our interactive display for our school library.  We were required to create a piece for a school display that reflected our learnings about the life of "Catherine McAuley."  It was suggested that each student draw a picture of Catherine.  When I told my students what they were asked to do, they didn't fail me.  Within seconds, a hand shot up into the air.

"Mr Hull, that's boring!"  said a child.  I laughed and asked this child what he would like to do.  Before long we were brainstorming as a whole class on the electronic whiteboard what type of piece we were going to submit for the display.

My students wanted to create a interactive wall that had pictures and sounds that told those who looked at it why they liked Catherine McAuley.  As my children always say "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."  I was a little intimidated by this challenge as I contemplated how much technology was going to be needed for such a task.  My job was to facilitate the children's learning and that's what I did.  I researched with the children if such a task had been done before.  A long story short, we came across an app called AURASMA LITE (AL) for Apple and Android devices.

Aurasma Lite
Click to download the app.
It's Free!

We spent a total of 3 weeks on our interactive wall, we learnt the best ways to record video on the iPad and iPhone.  We looked at lighting and how to get the best sound.  We looked at taking photos, how to make them clear and good quality.  We also explored how to use AL in the classroom and how we could embed videos into photos we had taken (trust me when I say everything in our room has been augmented by this app).

After I had faclilited the children's investigations, it was time for them to apply what they had learned.  I stood back and watched as the children negotiated what the wall would look like and what was required of each student for the piece to become a success.  The steps the children negotiated were:

1. Draw a picture of Catherine McAuley.
2. Laminate the finished product. (Yes, my children use the laminator).
3. In pairs record a short video (5 - 10 seconds) of why they like Catherine Mcauley on the class iPad.
4. Check they everyone has recorded video.
5. Take a good photo of everyone's drawing.
6. In Pairs, use AL app to put the video onto our pictures.
7. Help each other save and view the videos.
8. Assemble the wall with everyone's drawing.
9. Test the wall display works.
10. Evaluate whether the challenge was a success of failure.

Ready for publishing
An example of a completed and laminated drawing ready for video.

Yesterday I joined my students in standing back and watching as the final picture was placed on the wall.  It was one of those moments that if you had have walked in you would have seen 26, 5 year olds and their 21 year old teacher admiring their handiwork.  As silence fell over the class, a girl picked up our iPad faced it at the wall and chose a picture to focus on.  Suddenly a video bursts onto the screen of a child telling us why he liked Catherine McAuley.  I laughed as one boy screams

"This is so.... Awesome!"  To me and my 26 students this is a well deserved "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"  As my students continue to play with the wall and watch their videos, I took the time to evaluate what we had learned and repeat how the children had negotiated and driven the learning in our classroom.  They had capably turned a boring task into an interactive and attention grabbing display that shows the true ability of 5 year old learners.

The completed wall in the classroom
Our completed wall ready for transport to the library for installation.

Watching children owning their learning is a powerful thing.  This is an experience that will remain in their memories because it was personal to them and relevant.  As I sat down with the children we evaluated our experience (this is one of the most important parts of the process).  We always look for things we can do better and things we would keep the same.  The children also look for the next thing they can do with their new learned skills.

Here is a short example of one student testing out the class videos to assess whether the wall is ready to be completed.  If you look closely you can see the picture she points at turn into a video of another child talking about Catherine McAuley.

Our next challenge they want to attempt is creating an interactive comic book that tells the story of the Nativity scene.  As always I will facilitate them as they explore their capabilities as contemporary learners.  But what I look forward to most is what I will learn from them.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Class Dojo: Building Positive Classrooms in Realtime. UPDATE!

Previously, I had written about Class Dojo and its place in my classroom.  Over the past few days, my class has worked hard to re evaluate the behaviours they had chosen to work with in the classroom.  Previously we had negotiated 6 positive behaviours and 6 negative behaviours.  All of which are listed below.

Our Class Behaviours
100% Student Negotiated, 100% Student Owned.

Today, my students asked if we could look at the behaviours and write some new ones.  Nothing my students say to me surprises me anymore.  These are an amazing group of kids who I should have anticipated would want to re evaluate their behaviours.  It was simple.  I opened Class Dojo and navigated to the behaviour page and began to talk to my class about what they wanted changed.  Our discussions were deep and vast.  In the end we decided to change the wording of some of our already chosen behaviours.  We also decided that we needed to add another positive and another negative behaviour to suit the needs of our changing classroom.

My students decided they would add a positive behaviour called "Being Awesome."  To them, they felt they needed a behaviour that could be awarded to anyone in the class that completed amazing feats of awesomeness in the classroom.  Examples of this was one girls awesome dancing, or one boys ability to help anyone he works with without being asked.  To my class, the "being awesome" award was the holy grail of awards and those who earned it were allowed to wear a crown for the rest of the day all for being awesome.

We also added another negative behaviour "not working well."  My students thought it would be good to have a behaviour that made them work on trying to work well on every task they do.  I was proud of them for making the choice to add this behaviour.  Students owning learning is a powerful thing to watch and experience.  You can see our new behaviours below.

Our Class Re-Negotiated Behaviours
100% Student Negotiated, 100% Student Owned.

After our re evaluation of behaviours, my students were in a word inspired.  We have a deal that if they could keep their "circle" at 100% positive behaviours I would organise for each student to have an ice-block.  Well today my students did a powerful thing.  They worked together and earned 100% positive rewards.  I have never seen 26, 5 year old students so excited before in my life.  So tomorrow we are having ice-blocks at lunch time.  I have posted their behaviour awards for today below.  So heres a big congratulations to my class, we may not have 100% positive rewards everyday, but we work together as a community and we own our behaviour.  Click here to use Class Dojo in your classroom.  Trust me when I say, it amazing.

Our Class Report
Nothing was standing in the way of my students and their earning of positive behaviours.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TECHNOLOGY FRIDAYS! Made for Children by Children

My students wanted to develop a space of time we set aside each week to learn how to use ICLT's in our classroom.

I have stated previously that I work with a class of 26 students.  Over the course of the year I have developed a massive amount of respect for the 5-year-old learners in my classroom.  As expected, we encounter technology in our classroom every day.  We experience it in our daily routines, we experience it as we negotiate our classroom behaviours  (Read Me!) and we experience it in our learning.

Our school has put an enormous amount of money into Information Communication and Learning Technologies (ICLT’s) for our classrooms.  In my classroom alone I have:

2 Desktop Computers.
2 Laptops.
6 Mini Laptops.
1 Dual Pen Interactive Whiteboard.
2 iPod Touch devices.
2 Flip Video Cameras.
1 Digital SLR Camera.
2 iPad 2’s.
2 Webcams.
1 Wii.
Wireless Internet to all devices.

However, having this many ICLT’s in my classroom doesn’t ensure that my children will be technology literate by the time they leave my classroom. From experience, I think sometimes educators and educational planners can loose sight of the teaching and learning that needs to happen with these devices for them to become effective tools of learning.  About 15 weeks ago, I was working with my students to see how they thought we could improve learning in our classroom through technology.  It was at this time a quiet girl in my class said something that changed the way technology is used in my classroom.

“Don’t you think there is just too much?” A small voice chimed in. “Don’t you think there is too much technology in our classroom, it’s a bit confusing.” I looked at this child and immediately the rest of the students in my class started supporting her. It was like a mutiny against the use of technology in our classroom.  I was dumbfounded, until I asked” How do we stop making it confusing then?”

What happened next was amazing.  For a solid day I worked with my 26, 5 year old students to negotiate how we as a community can make technology less confusing in the classroom.  We negotiated how technology was used, when it was used, when we should be using it and when we shouldn’t be using it.  We negotiated what we wanted to be using technology for and what we wanted to see happen in the future with technology.

Then a boy said something that changed Fridays in our classroom.
“Can we have a day each week that we use to learn how to use computers and stuff?”  The class went silent and I found myself asking the same question in my head.  Why Not? I said.  We negotiated a day of the week that was easy to implement the learning of new ICLT’S and refine our understandings of old ones.

Behold the creation of


On Technology Fridays we spend the morning session of our day finalising any work left over from the week.  Then from11:30am on a Friday all we do until 3:00pm is learn how to use different pieces of technology, apps, websites, etc. We split into mini groups and are assigned mini projects that relate to the ICLT we are learning.

For example with the COMIC BOOK! App on the iPad we negotiated the rules of its use, learned its features, taught everyone in the group how to use it and then made a short comic book with it.  Before we rotate groups and ICLT’s we show the class what we made and explain to them the expectations the group had when using the app.  We spend approximately 30 - 40 minutes on each ICLT.  TECHNOLOGY FRIDAYS have assisted us in making ICLT’S invisible in our classroom.  The learning promoted on this day has become an integral part of our everyday learning. 

This post is a sign of respect to my students who have taken charge of their learning and developed a time for them to build on and share their understandings of ICLT in their lives.  We hope to share their resources with other students to promote effective ICLT use in classrooms across the world. 

Our first resource is below.  If you’ve ever wanted to used Little Bird Tales in your classroom this might help remind your learners of what each of the buttons mean.  It is made by children for children.  We hope you enjoy it. 

"Little Bird Tales Prompts"
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Class Dojo: Building Positive Classrooms in Realtime

Everything we do is behaviour.  I sometimes struggle to understand my own behaviour and I have had years of practice at monitoring, assessing and managing it.  One thing I have noticed as a teacher is that once you put a class of children together, everything is multiplied.

I have questioned myself many times on the fairness of pushing 26 or so students into a classroom context and expecting them to manage and negotiate their own behaviours.  Teachers do the best they can to outline expected behaviours and social standards of classrooms, schools and the greater societal contexts.  However, even the best teacher can't read the minds of each and every student in their class (if you can, call me, because we need to talk).  It can be hard to manage the behaviour of all students at all times, especially if their not sure of what is expected of them.

I have always believed that technology should be invisible in the classroom.  It should be something that just happens, not something that has to happen.  I also believe that when implementing things into the classroom, an excellent teacher negotiates his/her expectations with their class and behaviour expectations are no different.

I found Class Dojo by sheer luck and implemented it's flexible program into my classroom with the guidance of 26 five year old children.  For a while I had been looking for a pieces of technology that would allow me to monitor student behaviour as well as providing students with instant feedback.  Class Dojo does both of these things and more.

The interface is easy to use, there is a step by step tutorial on how to use the program on your internet browser and the best feature of all is that it is free!  Once you have signed up, the website asks you to add a class and input your students names.  From there you can assign them a cute looking monster or arrange to add a picture of them to make it more personal.  My favourite feature is being able to use my smartphone as a remote to award positive or negative behaviours.

Once your class is added, the program asks you to create positive behaviours (these are green) and negative behaviours (these are red).  There are simple icons that are tied to each behaviour you make.  I have found that there are enough of them to assign to nearly any behaviour you can think of.

For me , this is one of the coolest tools I have come across, and after testing it now for over 2 months, it is the coolest thing my students have encountered.  Class Dojo rewrote our classroom behaviour system.  It allowed us to sit down as a class and negotiate what we wanted rewarded as positive behaviours and what we wanted rewarded as negative behaviours.  All 26 students were participants in this process and it allowed for each student to have a voice and develop an understanding of how to behave in the classroom context.

We spent hours on negotiating what a "good/positive" choice was and what a "bad/negative" choice was.  My class negotiated the language we would use when creating behaviours and committed themselves to creating an environment that was safe and where each member knew what was expected of them.  I was blown away by the deep discussion 5 year olds were having over what constituted a positive behaviour to them. I developed deep respect for them as learners and community members.  They now owned their behaviour, they owned the positive and negative consequences; its rewards, and most of all they respected each other because of it.

Our classroom behaviours are simple yet effective.  They are student decided and worded.  The technology didn't rule their decisions, it guided them and assisted them in becoming everyday expectations rather than punishments.

Our Class Behaviours
100% Student Negotiated, 100% Student Owned.

Another feature of Class Dojo is its ability to provide instant behaviour feedback to students. Other than the sounds played when a behaviour is made, or its visual pop ups, the program provides interactive behaviour graphs that show audiences the behaviours recorded for a given period. I was astounded when my class asked to see their graphed data.

When we first started the graph was approximately 50/50 in regards to positive and negative behaviours made.  My class were distraught and accused the program of recording their data wrong.  It was unbelievable to 26, 5 year old students that they had made so many negative decisions.  Since then we have had many discussion about how to improve our behaviour making, with the goal to make our graph 100% positive behaviours. I am pleased to say that since the beginning of this month we are at 90% positive behaviours.

Class Report for October
It's amazing to watch students negotiate how they can make more positive behaviours with informed knowledge of what they need to change.

In my eyes that is all I could wish for. No one is perfect; especially when you're 5 years old and you're still exploring your behaviours and their consequences.  I have promised an ice block to each child when we get 100% positive behaviours and I'm sure the day will come when this happens. When it does, I will congratulate my students for their efforts.  Until then, I am just happy with them owning their own behaviour.

My hat goes off to the creators of Class Dojo.  The most effective technology in classrooms is that which is unseen until it is needed to be used.  Class Dojo is one of those technologies.  It isn't 100% perfect, but the influence it has on students and their ability to negotiate and own their behaviour is priceless.  Myself and 26 students want to thank you, we look forward to using this program in our classroom for sometime to come.

If you would like to use Class Dojo in your classroom, click on this link > CLASS DOJO.  You won't regret it!  Share it with your friends and peers as well.  Technology such as this needs to be shared.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Digital Storytelling in Classrooms

Storytelling is such an important device that builds communication between other people.  As we advance further into the "digital age"  there are more opportunities for classrooms to build on and develop their storytelling skills through a diverse range of  Information Communication and Learning Technologies (ICLT's).

When using ICLT's in  the classroom, I believe they need to be seen as " invisible devices."  Just like the well used pencil and paper, ICLT's should not take away from the learning that is happening, rather, they should promote, challenge and refine the learning and the learner.  I also believe that age should not be a problem when it comes to using ICLT's as a tool for learning.

I teach prep (we're 4 1/2 to 5 years old, there are 26 of them and 1 of me; we are all capable learners). In our classroom, we have used a range of ICLT's to promote digital storytelling.  The class favourite is "Little Bird Tales."  Little Bird Tales is a free internet based program that allows students and teachers to create digital stories that replicate some structure as a real life book.

In the classroom, we explored a range of curriculum competencies that relate to the creating of texts for purpose and audiences.  Prior to using digital technology, we reviewed a diverse range of picture books and rated them on a class graph in terms of which book the class liked best.

We evaluated which parts of the books we liked best and why. For example there was a preference to books that were funny with pictures that were bright and colourful.  The children also liked books that had less text on each page but were long in length as opposed to books that were short in length and had large amounts of text on their pages.

In class we set out on an adventure to write our own picture books.  We storyboarded the events that were going to happen in our texts.  We investigated characters and their personalities, we became characters for hours on end; acting out our favourite stories.  We even explored if it was possible for characters in different books to meet each other and what they would say and do when they did.

After we each had a completed storyboard of our picture book I asked the students what we could do with them.  We talked about publishing our books.  We explored how real books are published and sent to shops so we could buy them.  It was only a matter of time until our discussions were on how some books can be downloaded and read on computers.  We decided that making books on computers was an excellent way of telling stories, because it was a lot easier for everyone to have access to our stories.

After long discussions, brainstorming, creation of word walls to develop our subject relevant vocabulary, we then set our eyes on exploring the similarities and differences between printed texts and digital texts.  We wanted to answer questions such as:

  • Is storytelling the same on the computer as it is if we read a printed book?
  • Is it easier to read a printed book or a book on a digital device?
  • Which is better for the environment, printed books or digital books?
The classroom turned into a research laboratory.  I provided students the task to research how storytelling is different on digital devices and printed books.  The outcomes were fascinating students explored how to find digital books.  They asked questions like if we find books in the library at school, is there a digital library on the internet?  Can we download an app?  And my all time favourite, "Ask google, he knows."  

In the end, the results were about even.  My class had negotiated with each other that digital storytelling is lots of fun, some books have moving pictures, some have sound and some you can click on different things and you can find hidden items or characters.  However, what amazed me was most of the class realised that holding a book is very important to them. The told me that sometimes the characters voices weren't what they thought they would sound like.  Sometimes the picture moved and it was hard to try and read the text.  Sometimes there were loud sound that made you jump when all you wanted to do was read a nice quiet book.  

Suddenly, this small project was now a major focus in my students learning, technology had influenced their thinking and was assisting them to ask valid questions of what they were viewing.  They were evaluating the purpose of different texts.  They were giving different stories both digital and printed, ratings on their validity of being a good book.  All throughout this experience, the ICLT's used were invisible to them, they were a tool for learning not a tool  to be learned.  The students were the learners, I was their teacher and technology was the tool and that only changed when somehow I became the learner and they were the teacher.

After our research came to and end, we wanted to use our hand written storyboards and make them into digital books that were good digital books that we could share with everyone.  We had purpose to our learning and had objectives in our mind, that's where Little Bird Tales came to our aide.

As a class we explored the features of the website and looked at how the features assisted us in developing our digital stories.  We gave the website a rating of 4 stars out of 5 on its practicality and ease of use.  We decided that there were a lot of buttons and it would be best if we made a class chart to remind us what the buttons meant and what they did if we pressed on them.  You can find a copy of our final version  by clicking this link: Little Bird Tales Prompts.

Over the course of 3 weeks we slowly worked on our stories, my students made their own schedule of who did what and when they did it, who had access to the computers and for how long for.  We constantly discussed what we liked about the website, what was easy to do, what was hard, we even explored concepts of how we would make the website better if we were to make it.

Overall, the students don't really remember making their digital books as the best part of our investigations, they constantly talk about how they found out how books were made (both digital and printed), how they found out answers to their questions and how they made digital books that didn't have hard to read get or how their books didn't have silly loud noises or how their texts were made to share with others for free not for money.

As a teacher Little Bird Tales allowed my students to further the learning that was already happening in the classroom.  It fulfilled its purpose as a tool for learning,  it was never the teacher.   The tool itself is easy to use and best of all free! It allows students to add text, voice, images and drawings to the pages of the books.  It allows students to have ownership of their work and If you're really keen, you can create a teacher account and add each student to give them a personal log in code.  We did this and each student had their access details on a lanyard which we called our research passes.  And if you're really, really keen, you can print little QR codes that the students can scan on the computers webcam that takes them directly to their account.  This was "Very Cool" and simulated the feeling of being a real researcher to the students.

Since it's implementation in the classroom, we have used Little Bird tales countless times to tell a story, sometimes it is teacher initiated, other times, students feel they have a story to tell and they know that Little Bird Tales is a tool that helps them do that.  Below is the link to our first ever tale (click the duck to have a read).  The students each had jobs, some drew the pictures, other directed the voice recordings, others made sure that the appropriate buttons were being pressed and that most importantly the save button was pressed frequently.  My students didn't need my help to make this story, they made it themselves.  They are extremely proud of their work and I am proud them.  It is 100% student created.

How are you promoting digital literacy in your classroom.  Do you believe ICLT should be invisible?  Comment below, maybe your insight can help the learning of another.
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Play some Tetris!

Or try some Pacman!