Bring Out the Magnificence

I recently had the privilege of listening to Steve Sherman (@livingmaths) speak at our school at a workshop he hosted for our staff. One statement he made really resonated with me:

“If you dismiss a child you might be dismissing magnificence in your presence”.

I found this to be a profound statement. It made me stop and think. The students in our care are brimming with untapped talents, possibilities and potential brilliance. It is our duty as educators to spark their curiosity, to awaken their passions and to tap into their potential so that we may all experience that magnificence. Yesterday I witnessed a snippet of what I believe Steve was alluding to in his statement.

Our Grade 4s have been learning about the nine provinces of South Africa. One of our music teachers created a little song for them to sing in order to learn the names of the provinces. The teachers, however, were mulling over how to create a video using the song, to show the students where these provinces are situated within South Africa, and they had not yet come to a solution for the video. One of the teachers, Mrs Duminy, mentioned their dilemma to her students and she asked them for their ideas and suggestions and left it there. One of her students, Alon, took up the challenge. He went home and, with the help of his sister, he put together a simple but clever video.

Alon went away having listened very carefully to his teacher’s needs and while I think the video is great, for me the “magnificence” of this lies in the process behind it. Alon acted upon his own initiative, he made his own choices and decisions. This was not a teacher-driven activity. He problem-solved by brainstorming the possibilities and then carefully chose the tools he thought would work best and put together a video that works – simple but effective! Not only that, but once he had created the video, he created a QR code with a link to the video in his Google Drive, printed it out, stuck it on the wall in his classroom and shared the video with his peers in this manner. In other words, he considered the needs of his peers too as he carefully considered the best way to share the video with them. To top it all he roped in his equally talented sister, Daniella, to sing the song for the video backtrack with him and it sounds delightful. In doing all this, Alon created a video that his teacher can now use as a teaching aid in the classroom. I do know that Mrs Duminy was delighted with the result because she excitedly came to call me to her classroom to come and watch Alon’s video.

Teachers need to create more opportunities such as this to allow the magnificence of the children we work with to shine through. We must not underestimate them, they need the space and opportunities to bring out their  “magnificence”. Our students will surprise us every day.

Alon used the following apps and tools for his video:

Piccollage

iMovie

Phonto

Google Docs

Google Chrome

Google Drive

Dafont.com

Documents 5

Photos

https://createqrcode.appspot.com/ (to create the QR code).

Below is the video created by Alon (click on the image below). Well done, Alon. I am very proud of you!

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 2.07.13 PM

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Get your Google on!

In the past two weeks a colleague and I have written, and passed, our Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications! It’s been a whirlwind of Google Apps, training sessions, self-study and then two three-hour exams. It sounds awful but actually, it was not bad at all and is very achievable for all educators.

The first certification Google Educator Level 1, expects you to have a brief overview and basic working knowledge of G Suite for Education apps such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides and others such as YouTube and Sites. The online training provided by Google is very thorough and one comes away with much learning. For this certification, however, we opted to attend a Boot Camp hosted by an outside company during the school holidays, as we were unsure of the expectations or the level of knowledge expected. It was most enjoyable and inspiring – and not too difficult! We both passed the test well within the 180-minute time limit.

We left the Boot Camp very inspired and curious about the Level 2 certification, so almost immediately we began investigating our options. We decided to go it on our own and over the next week we worked through all the online training and reviews provided by Google in the Google For Education Training Center. Level 2 is a step up from Level 1 and requires you to have a more in-depth knowledge of the pedagogy behind effective use of technology in the classroom, as well as a deeper knowledge of the G Suite apps, including new ones such as Blogger, Google Hangouts, Google+ and a few others. The test is, however, still very achievable for educators who use the Google Suite apps regularly in their teaching and student learning.

So, on a sunny Sunday morning, we sat down in our school library with the musical sounds of the church service in the hall next door providing us with some divine background inspiration and wrote the Level 2 test. We again completed the test well within the 180 minutes and passed! We can now call ourselves Google Certified Educators – Level 2.

I can highly recommend these certifications for teachers interested in furthering their knowledge of effective use of technology in the classroom, or if you are a Google Suite for Education user and you would like to expand your knowledge of these apps. For your trouble, you will receive a certificate and a badge that you can display on your blog or website (see mine below). I have learnt so much during the past few weeks, and it has inspired me to pass on this knowledge to my fellow teachers at school.

This blog post by Kasey Bell provides some very valid reasons for becoming a Google Certified Educator.

 

An iPad Photography Competition with Google

Recently we ran an iPad Photography Competition at our school for the first time. It was a great success and the students took the most amazing photographs. We certainly have some budding photographers! (See the winning photos below). It also showed us what an iPad camera is capable of.

This is how we went about creating the competition and communicating with the students using the Google tools available to us as GAFE school:

  • Set up an iPad Photography Competition Google Classroom.
  • Create a QR-code for the Class Code to join the Google Classroom if they wish to enter the competition.
  • Design a poster to advertise the competition, showing the QR-code and the competition closing date.
  • Decide on the categories and number of entries allowed per category (we decided upon one entry in a maximum of three categories). We had a panel of four teachers working on this competition, so it was a collaborative decision. Share this to the Google Classroom in a view-only Google Doc for the entrants to access.
  • Create a Google Slides entry template, upload it to the Google Classroom and set it to download one copy per student. By creating a template with a place to insert the photograph and a prepared text box for the student’s name, class, category and photo title, it saved us a lot of time at the end when we saved the presentation as a PDF for judging, and all the important information was already on each slide.
  • Draw up a How To Enter document with clear guidelines and upload it to the Google Classroom.
  • Find sponsors for the prizes. This year Digicape was very generous in sponsoring six R1000.00 gift vouchers – one for each of the category winners! The school sponsored the runners-up prizes with six iTunes vouchers.
  • Launch the competition in style! We are fortunate to have a student teacher at our school who is a very keen photographer. He gave a presentation on how to take photographs, what to look for, what to avoid and other tips and hints, so the students were well prepared. It was clear to see which students had taken his advice with their photographs – and who had not! He also shared some of his own beautiful photographs with the students. The presentation created and air of excitement and as soon as the advertising posters went up, we had scores of students signing up to the Google Classroom.

After the competition closed, we were able to save the individual entry slides into one big Google Slides presentation and then we exported it as a PDF (to prevent any accidental loss of information or images) for judging. It was then easy to scroll through the whole presentation and see each image displayed full screen via a projector. The judging, done by five judges, including one of our Grade 11 Visual Arts students, took many hours and some tough decisions, but finally six winners, six runners-up and a number of highly commended photos were decided upon.

Why Google Classroom?

  • It is available to all our students and they are very familiar with how it works, as it is widely used by staff in our school.
  • You can create an assignment when sharing the Google Slides entry template and set a due date for the competition closing date.
  • All supporting information (categories, how to enter etc.) can be shared in one space, so that the students can easily find all the information they need. They then require no other teacher input (such as class teachers), as they can ask questions publicly or privately within the Google Classroom.
  • All the entries are submitted in one place, in the same format.
  • Any late submissions are marked as late, so you will know who missed the deadline.
  • If there are any additional announcements, they can be posted in the Classroom and each enrolled student will receive an email update.

Was is a success?

You judge for yourself ! Here are the top entries, including the winners and runners-up (click on the image):

winners

 

Thank you very much to Digicape for the fantastic prize sponsorship and well done and congratulations to the winners! This competition will definitely be repeated in 2017. Watch this space!

 

Blogging with Google

Way back in August 2013, I blogged about setting up our grade and student blogs, and about encouraging our teachers and students to blog. I still firmly believe in our reasons for blogging and I am even more happy that we are still on this journey. Our grade blogs are growing in momentum and this year particularly, we have seen an improvement in the number of posts and in the quality. We are really proud of these weekly updates, and we are encouraged by the ever-increasing numbers of parent followers.

We use WordPress.com for our grade blogs, and until August last year, used the Kidblog platform for our students. Unfortunately Kidblog did away with their free accounts and their pricing structure was not budget friendly (considering the Rand/US dollar exchange rate). As a result I had to go on a search for another blogging platform for our students. I considered WordPress, but then it dawned on me that since we are a Google school, we should look to Google for a solution – and there it was – Google Blogger! It is user friendly and simple in look and feel, so it would be perfect for our students. The only problem was that Kidblog had provided a very secure platform for children, with the students being very protected within its platform. I love a challenge, so I set out to create a similar environment with Blogger. This is the process I followed:

  1. Set up a class blog for the teacher eg. Pelicans 2016.
  2. Invite the teacher as an author and once accepted, change the teacher to an admin.
  3. Get the students to sign up for a Blogger blog with their school Google email addresses. (We used a set URL protocol so that all our student blog addresses are similar in format).
  4. Add the teacher as an author and once accepted, change to admin.
  5. Set up comments to be moderated by the teacher, always.
  6. Set the blogs to Public so that they can comment on each other’s posts and invite their parents to comment too.
  7. Get the students to submit their blog URLs via a Google form (per class).
  8. Use the form response spreadsheet to create a blog roll of the student blogs on each class blog.

Voila! Now each teacher controls a central class blog where all the student blogs are listed for ease of access by the teacher and the students. Instructions for blogging and commenting can be posted in the class blog by the teacher. It works like a charm – take a look at this example I set up as a test site last year: Pelicans.

Our guidelines for blogging are a minimum of a fortnightly blog post for Grade 4s and Grade 5s (until mid-year) and then weekly blog posts from mid Grade 5 and in Grade 6. Sometimes the teachers will provide specific topics and at other times the students are free to blog about a topic of their choice. Reflection on work is also important, so we will encourage this more this year. Our students are also expected to comment on three peer blogs after each blog post. This is to train them to comment correctly, in keeping with the commenting rules that they have been taught.

I am really excited by the Google Blogger set up for our students and I am confident that this is going to work well for us. (The only downside is the Blogger app that has been discontinued, but we are working on a Plan B). I look forward to sharing these blogs with our parents too, so that they can contribute their comments and take part in their children’s blogging experience.

*Update: We now blog with the BlogGo for Blogger app. It is a paid (but inexpensive) app that is very user-friendly and simple for our students to use. 

**Further Update – June 2017: BlogGo for Blogger has been shelved, so we now use Blogo (similar but not the same – and it’s free! It works for us!

**LATEST (2018) – Blogo no longer works for us, so we blog through Safari on the iPads and this works well enough.

pelicans