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Taking A Break

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Roaming Educator will be away from the blog for a month. I’m cycling touring down the west coast of the northern USA.

You can follow my trip at http://cyclestories.wordpress.com

When I return I’ll be taking about Edcampfv (edcamp Fraser Valley.) You can follow tweets at @edcampfv

Tech Integration Post #8 of 10: Live Streaming

This post was inspired by @gcouros and Forest Green School in Alberta.

Broadcasting live feeds to the Internet, or live streaming as it’s known, and allowing other students and professionals to watch events is guaranteed to increase engagement levels in your classroom, tenfold. There are many Internet broadcasting options available completely free of charge. Here’s a short list:

1. USTREAM
2. Livestream
3. Veetle
4. Freedocast

I like to use Livestream because it allows broadcasts to be streamed with increased quality when using the Procaster rather than the online webcast option. Livestream like many of the above has its downfalls.  Perhaps the most frustrating of these downfalls are the advertisements which pop up at the most inopportune times.  If you streams are fairly short you may gat away with it but if you stream live for any length of time you have to deal with the advertisements.  The free version of Livstream doesn’t allow you to transmit HD quality images even if you have a HD webcam which is somewhat disappointing, but I’ve learned to live with it.  I’m sure you will too.

This term, I’ve used Livestream in the following ways:

1. Present a weekly student news broadcast once a week: CETV News

    • You can follow the broadcasts live at 1pm PST on Friday’s here
    • I have a small broadcast-journalism news team of 5:
      • 1 technician, 2 newsreader’s, 1 script writing, and 1 researcher
    • On Monday morning I allow the researcher to research 5 segments including international, national, community, school, and sports news stories
    • Once the news stories have been identified, the researcher fills out a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How table
    • On Tuesday and Wednesday the script writer uses the above table and adds his/her own unique touch to the stories.  It’s important to use a script writer who is comfortable using powerful language.  The script writer hands the final script to both newsreader’s by Thursday at recess.
    • This enables the newsreader’s to practice pronunciation and fluency in preparation for the broadcast the following day
    • During the broadcast we use hand signals which encourage the newsreader’s to slow down, speed up, smile, and speak louder. The cycle repeats itself again on Monday
    • Student engagement is high with this activity, and the fact that the broadcast may be viewed by anyone with the link means there is an increased level of professionalism from all involved.

2. Streamed live presentations of political candidates in the electoral riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon

    • To coincide with the Canadian General Election which took place on May 2nd, 2011 my teaching partner and I invited all 6 electoral candidates for our riding into school to present to our grade 5/6 classes
    • The plan was to have candidates deliver a kid-friendly synopsis of their party platform to our students, and our students would then vote at the end of the week.
    • After further consideration we decided to invite other schools in our district to join us in the voting process.
    • Livestream enabled us to stream the presentations live to eight elementary schools in our district.  The live presentations offered an additional sense of authenticity for students, and resulted in a higher voter turn out.
    • Presentations can be view here: Central Election
I experienced several challenges along the way, but I persevered and was pleased by the end results.  It is critical to hardwire to the network rather than use a wireless connection when streaming.  We found that it is best to stream in a room as small as possible to get the best audio results.  I also found it was better to use the microphone built into the webcam rather the microphone built into my computer.  Finally, it extremely helpful to conduct several tests before going live to ensure audio levels and video quality were optimum.
If you plan to try this please feel free to contact me for help if needed.

My New Home

After working as a collaboration teacher last year, traveling from school to school without a home school, I’m relieved to have found a permanent classroom for the year.  This year I’m working at Central Elementary Community School in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada.  I’m teaching grade 5/6.  I worked at Central two years ago but the school looked very different then.  Sadly, I don’t have any comparison pictures to share with you but imagine 250 students jammed into several poorly designed and irregularly heated porta cabins for the year.  Today the school is the flagship school in the district.  The building has been fully renovated but retains its old 3 storey school-house feel.  The grounds of the school are both vast and well-groomed.  Within the grounds of the school we have a full-size field suitable for hosting soccer games and field events, a 250m running track, a fully enclosed ball-hockey rink, basketball nets and tether ball stands.  In addition we have various climbing structures for both primary and intermediate playgrounds, and several sets of swings.  I’m really excited to be back at Central, and to be working with the diverse learners in this inner-city school.


Efficient Google Search Techniques

Are your students getting the most out of Google search?  Probably not!  Here are some simple and efficient search techniques you could teach your students when searching/researching information on Google:

  • Phrase Search – by surrounding your search string with quotation marks (”Terry Fox Birthday”) you inform Google to search for the exact phrase in the exact order it appears between the quotation marks.
  • Wildcard (*) Search – using the wildcard (*) symbol in a search string allows Google to fill-in-blanks where it sees the wildcard symbol.  For example, the search, (Google *) will return results about many of Google’s products.
  • Exclude Search (-) – when searching, students may become inundated with results that are similar to the desired search result but are actually not useful.  For example, when searching for information on the big cat, jaguar, it is not useful for students to see search result relating to Jaguar motor-vehicles.  Use (-) directly before unwanted search string, (jaguar -cars)  Note: Multiple omissions can be made in the same string by using multiple minus signs, (bears -football -baseball -sports)
  • Search Specific Websites (site:) – Allows your students to search a specific website or group of websites for a phrase or string. For example, to search British Columbia’s government webpages on the environment use the following search string, (environment :.gov.bc.ca)
  • Definition (define:) – Uses Google to find the definition of unknown vocabulary words (define: unknown word)
  • The OR operator (OR) – Google’s default setting is to search for all words in a string. For example, the search string (Queen Elizabeth I II) will return results for both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II on the same page.  The search string, (Queen Elizabeth I OR II) will return results on one or the other.
  • Calculator – Google may be used as a calculator by typing in a number sentence such as, (2*8).  Google will return the result 16
  • Unit conversion – Google search is also able to compute unit conversion.  For example the search string, (10cl to l) returns the result 0.1 litres

Here’s a link to a selection of useful Google poster’s you could print out and display in your room/computer lab, all about solid search practices: Google Posters

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In The Classroom

8 Ways To Keep Current With Technology and Technology Integration In the Classroom

  1. Create a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and use technology as a method of communicating, collaborating and sharing ideas.  Your PLN may be local: educators in your school, nearby schools, or district wide. Alternatively, you may also decide to develop a virtual or global PLN using social networks such as Twitter , Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, or for Canadian content CEET.
  2. Use a social networking tool such as Twitter to communicate with other education professionals.  Twitter is a micro-blogging web2.0 tool where education professionals share ideas, resources, ask for help, and provide opportunities to collaborate.  Updates, or Tweets as they are known, are restricted to 140 characters.  Therefore communication is to-the-point.  To find education professionals already using Twitter follow the link: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AmdX57Dqx0tEcE1fWkU1QlMwU2dxRGFibmhsOFoyYUE&hl=en_GB
  3. Participated in Twitter chat such as #edchat – a weekly discussion about education issues at 4pm PST on Tuesday’s, or #teachertuesday
  4. Use an RSS reader such as Google Reader.  An RSS reader brings all your favourite blogs to you instead of having to go out to the Internet to view them.  Once you’ve subscribed to some educational technology blogs, you can share your feeds with other educators.  My Shared Google Reader Feeds
  5. Take advantage of social bookmarking.  Social bookmarking tools such as Diigo and Delicious allow users to store their bookmarks on the web, which makes them accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.  Additionally, these tools allow users to share bookmarks with others.  In other words, if you find a great resource site and you’d like to share with your PLN you can do so with one click of the mouse.  A very powerful tool in the PLN arsenal.
  6. Participate in Virtual Professional Development (VPD).  Sometimes as educators we need to take control of our own learning because our Districts are unable to provide differentiated professional development for all teachers.  With this in mind, I’ve found workshops, webinar’s, and webcast’s covering a wide range of technology related topics everyday of the week.  Here is a link to view upcoming events.
  7. Join and participate in technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and blogs.  These spaces are kept current by educators who believe technology integration should be the norm and not an add on.  Here are links to my technology Ning’s, Wiki’s, and some excellent technology blogs.
  8. Take some time to share your ideas with other teachers in your school.  Soon you’ll be learning from them.  Sharing and learning with and from others educators makes it easier to keep current with technology and technology integration in the classroom.

The Power Of An RSS Reader…

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RSS stands for Really Simple syndication.  An RSS reader is the inverse process of visiting your favourite bookmarked sites.  Rather than spending time searching your favourite websites and blogs for new postings an RSS reader allows you to follow updates and track new posts from one single easily navigable page:  You’re reader homepage.

I use Google Reader but there are several other equally powerful options such as Newzcrawler, FeedDemon, OmeaReader, and Bloglines. Most websites/blogs have an RSS button  for you to click to follow, but if no RSS button is present Google reader still allows you to follow updates by clicking on the Add Subscription button and pasting the url into the box on the left hand side of the page.

Once subscribed to a website/blog you create an RSS feed.   The name of feed will appear in the left hand plane, under the heading Subscriptions.  A number will appear next to the subscriptions which indicates the number of unread items associated with that feed.  Clicking on a feed will open a list of posts, in chronological order, in the main window.  When a feed is selected for viewing it may view it in one of two ways.  Expanded view allows for the reader to see the headline and the first few sentences of the post, whereas List view allows the reader to only view the headline. These options are located in the top right hand corner of the main window.

One of the most exciting options in Google Reader is the ability to share feeds with other people.  This is especially useful when building Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s).  To share an item, click the Share or Share with note button underneath an item.  These items will appear in Your shared items.  You can also click the Email button to send individual items directly to your friends.  You have the option to automatically share your shared items with a list of friends or with your Gmail chat contacts.  Click the Sharing settings link to customize who can see your shared items and whose shared items you’d like to see.

It’s also possible to follow someone else’s Google Reader feeds as along as they first share their feeds publically.  If they’re choosing to share publicly, you can just search for their name using Reader’s People Search.  To search for someone, click the Browse for stuff in your left hand sidebar.  Next, click the Search tab. Finally, type in the name of the person you’re searching for under the heading Find people to follow.  You can also search for a topic or interest.  People Search is also available in your sharing settings.

Instead of wasting valuable time searching the Internet for resources, let Google Reader do the work for you.  To sign up for Google Reader click the highlighted link.  Happy RSSing!

Suddenly I Seem To Have A Voice…

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Since joining #edchat on Twitter several weeks ago I’ve suddenly developed a voice on educational related topics.  I feel more connected to my profession than ever before.

This is my fourth year in the British Columbia school system and as a continuing status employee of the Chilliwack School District (SD33) I’ve found it difficult to establish myself in a continuing full-time classroom. The economic climate has taken its toll!  I used to hear the masses say, “This is a great time to enter education.  All the baby boomers are retiring.” Well, not in my district.  The point I’d like to make today is that the majority of jobs I’ve had in the last four years have not allowed the kind of skill development I would have preferred.  Instead of honing my craft in a classroom and interacting/collaborating with staff in a single school, I move from school to school on a daily basis.  I find it difficult to relationship build with students, staff, and the community in this role.  Twitter, more precisely, #edchat helps!

To counteract this situation I’ve attempted to build my own local PLN which is slowly taking off.  I also use the Internet as a way to communication with educators around the world.  Twitter provides me the opportunity to help other educators and at the same time allows me to feel valued as an educator.  A quality which rarely happens in my current situation.  Other web2.0 tools which help me stay on the cutting edge of my profession are delicious (social bookmarking tool) classroom 2.0 (educators Ning site) and educator’s PLN (International Personal Learning Network.)

Perhaps the most impressive of the web2.0 tools I use to communicate with other teaching professionals is #edchat#edchat is a weekly meeting held on Tuesday’s at 12pm and 7pm EST.  Topics range from “What does student ownership of learning look like?” to “How much has the Internet change content and the role of prior knowledge?” Here is a link to last nights chat transcript for those interested.  For those unfamiliar with Twitter before you can participate in #edchat you need to first sign up for a twitter account.  Once an account is created search for #edchat in the twitter search box and you’ll be able to join the conversation.

For more information on collaboration tools you may view the cwkPLN document on technology.

Clear Communication

I wanted to restart the Roaming Educator blog the a posting that would shake up the education world and attract a plethora of new readers, but I soon realized that wouldn’t be the case.

Instead, I plan to use this blog as a reflection tool.  I’d like to share the success in my classroom as well as the failures, and I’d like to develop a dialogue with other educators from whom I can learn.

One of most important skills a teacher needs is that of clear communication.  I recently came across the following website and use it in my classroom whenever possible.  Common Craft (http://www.commoncraft.com/) offers three  minute videos to help educators introduce complex subjects.

See the following video on blogging:

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