Sunday, 16 October 2016

Juggling Work & New Ideas

In the first week of the holidays I blogged about completing the wonderful Raising Readers course by the National Library.  I was wondering how I could find time to implement all the great ideas I was learning about.  In my post I talked a bit about time management - "The one that really stood out for me at the moment was about taking time for important, non-urgent actions...I'm going to have an hour put aside every Monday where I will close my doors, ignore emails and focus on library initiatives."


Last week, the second week of the holidays, I attended 
a conference for educators called uLearn.  I attended the conference showcase, listened to four keynote speakers, attended a breakfast session and seven breakouts...and had one weekend to digest them all before school started again.  And of course, now I have ideas from the Raising Readers course AND ideas from uLearn.  Not to mention the constant stream of ideas from Feedly, podcasts and Twitter.  For reasons that should be quite apparent I haven't ventured on Pinterest for a while!

The last keynote at uLearn, by Karen Spencer, provided me with some more things to think about in relation to the choices we make about what to focus our attention on.  Here are some of the things she said:

At times, many times, I think I spread myself too thin.  There are so many good ideas, activities, clubs etc that the students will love but I can't do them all, and if I try to then I can't do them justice.  I absolutely have to get better at making choices and giving myself enough time to work on a small number of important things in depth.

This seems obvious doesn't it but it is surprisingly easy to find your day taken up with things that aren't that important.  The idea about making an appointment to work on important, non-urgent goals ties in with this.

Yep, guilty of this one too.  I can very quickly get caught up in the next cool thing without thinking about the time required to do it properly or what I will have to postpone or give up in order to do it.  A pause is a great idea, difficult for someone as impatient as me but I will be giving it a try.

Note to Self

I sometimes listen to a podcast called "Note to Self", which is described as "the tech show about being human".  One of the episodes, that I've only recently got around to listening to, describes the benefits of "single-tasking" (click here for the episode, start at 5:26).  It basically says that multi-tasking is a myth.  To be more accurate we are actually just rapidly shifting from one thing to the next, all the while depleting our limited neurological resources.  The more often we shift focus, the more exhausted and stressed we feel.  Apparently, if our external interruptions are high in one hour then even if they calm down in the next hour, we will shift tasks on our own, interrupting ourselves!

So single-tasking is much more efficient, if we can make it happen.  Also useful is making to-do lists, so those tasks aren't competing for neurological resources (your brain is so clever it knows that once you've written something down you don't need to hold it in your head).  Other advice was to be deliberate so we don't let the environment tell us how to spend our time, and to prioritise the important things.  Part of the reason I wanted to put aside an hour every Monday to work on library initiatives was to try and take advantage of the benefits of single-tasking.  In fact, I actually decided after the conference that I really should have at least three hours to work on library intiatives.

The Reality

So what happened when I went back to work?  A teacher had trouble with her laptop, I had to track down a spare one but had to find the teacher aides to ask them where they kept theirs as they had moved rooms and then a new teacher started and she needed a laptop and her photo taken for the website and bio added and then we had to order new equipment for the staffroom but the kind we wanted didn't seem to be available and then another teacher's laptop had problems and then we had to swap over another one coming off lease...a lot things that were hard to plan for and many that were beyond my control.

I did get my one hour of single-tasking time, but not three.  You've got to start somewhere, don't you?!  I made my list, prioritised it and did my best.  Oh, and I helped start a new school TV channel, more on that in another post!


If you want to experience uLearn through tweets, I've embedded mine below.  Most are from the keynotes and lots are retweets, I'm lazy like that!

Friday, 30 September 2016

Reading for Pleasure - The Start of an Adventure

It's not something I've ever thought about wanting, but being in a press release is quite cool!  It also means I can finally talk about this exciting opportunity that has come my way.

Back in April, I read a blog post that really got me thinking.  It was by my friend Jeannie Skinner from the National Library and it described a visit from Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Reading Agency and Empathy Lab.  The article mentioned that reading for pleasure is specifically included in the UK national curriculum, there's a reading for pleasure civil servant in the Department of Education, and Ofsted inspectors (like our ERO review officers) have questions to ask schools around reading for pleasure.

I immediately started wondering whether having reading for pleasure as something that inspectors have to look at, was something that could be leveraged by school librarians.  If inspectors have to look at whether the school has "welcome and conducive reading environments" and "access to rich collections of literature," do schools then pay more attention to their libraries?  I am very lucky to be in a school which values its library, and library staff.  However, I know this is not always the case in New Zealand and I wondered whether it would be worthwhile trying to emulate the UK's approach.

I remembered that NZEI had scholarships for support staff and I took a look at their website to see when the applications closed for those - less than two weeks away.  A sign!  And now here we are, I found out my application was successful back in August and have had to keep quiet until after the announcement at NZEI's annual conference.

Here is what I will be doing for my scholarship:

  • Recording and disseminating the latest international research on the academic benefits and increased empathy skills that arise for students who are reading for pleasure.
  • Ascertaining whether the UK's increased emphasis on reading for pleasure has had a positive impact on the working conditions of its school librarians.  If so, I'll look at what could be done to replicate this in New Zealand.
  • Looking at the ways in which UK teachers and librarians are promoting reading for pleasure in their schools, including how they specifically include their culturally diverse communities in their reading for pleasure initiatives.

I booked my flights on Wednesday and I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.  I arrive in London on 26 February 2017 and leave on 17 March 2017.  I have somewhere to stay, thanks to Jeannie Skinner and a chance encounter at the IBBY conference last month.  I am beginning to put together some places to visit, thanks again to Jeannie and also to author Peter Millett, who thankfully does not seem to have a limit on the amount of favours he does for people.  

If you have any suggestions for schools/organisations to visit in the UK, or any book-related things to do, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 2

Creative Commons CC0 from Pixabay

Last week was the final week of the National Library's online course; I posted about the first couple of weeks here.  In weeks 3 & 4 of this five week course, we were put into seven different groups and given a list of scenarios to choose from.  My team chose to look at improving transitions between early childhood and primary, and primary and secondary school libraries.  We bounced ideas off each other and then our team leader pulled them together into a document and shared that with the other groups.  It was great to focus on different areas and then be able to learn from and comment on other groups' ideas.  I have a page of little notes saying things like "have a theme for holiday reading" and "take photos of origami made by families"!

During this time, I scheduled a meeting with my principal.  I had so many ideas from the course to work with but I focussed on our school's strategic plan and what I could do to support that.  It went really well and I am hoping that I will have more time to spend on library initiatives next year.

In the last week of the course we were asked to plan an initiative for our school and given a planning sheet that had really useful questions to consider.  I chose to look at increasing the amount of parents who visit our school library and take out books.  In particular, I want to work on a kit collection that I mentioned in a blog back in October last year (para.5).  If we have high interest items like telescopes, microscopes and sewing machines, to lend only to parents, then that will be a drawcard for them to come into the library.

The sharing of these initiatives meant I have access to detailed plans from other participants to refer to.  Some considered the same goal as me, bringing more parents into the library, from a different perspective.  Others had completely different initiatives.  All of them have given me more things to consider and their plans are a blueprint to how they can be done.

One of things I was concerned about was just how I was going to find the time to implement all these amazing ideas I was getting excited about.  Jeannie addressed this in one of her emails, and linked to a wonderful article by Robyn Pearce which gives her eight top time tips.  I have heard most of these before but it was great to be reminded of them and take stock of whether I actually do them.  The one that really stood out for me at the moment was about taking time for important, non-urgent actions.  Having a split role between library and ICT often means the urgency of an ICT "emergency" takes priority over library activities.  The advice to make an appointment to work on long-term goals is one I'll be taking in the new term.  I'm going to have an hour put aside every Monday where I will close my doors, ignore emails and focus on library initiatives.

If you have the opportunity to do this course then I would highly recommend it.  I think we have come a long way from the days when you learned only from your tutors.  These days smart course providers are also tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists in the other participants in the course.  The combination of Jeannie and Tino's excellent course structure, their in-depth knowledge AND the experiences and ideas of the other course participants has made this Raising Readers course one of the highlights of my year.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Raising Readers: School & Home Connections - Part 1

I've just completed two weeks of this online course offered by the National Library.  I've been on the back foot a bit, having recently finished running our Book Week and then our Book Fair.  The timing was not great to be starting a course, and I told myself not to, but one of the moderators is the wonderful Jeannie Skinner so I just couldn't resist. 

One of the suggested extra tasks is to share a blog post about some of what we have been learning.  In the first week, we had several articles to read and a few videos to watch.  A report from ERO on parents' views on engagement with schools brought up the fact that many parents would like more contact when students do positive things, rather than just when their child does something wrong.  I see this as something that libraries can do really well.  I started a Facebook album called "Stories from the Library" which had photos of students reading and doing other positive things in the library.  It has fallen by the wayside a bit as other things have taken up my time, but I can see the benefits in this context.  

I am really keen to ask a teacher to do our own school version of this awesome video, showing parents how to get the most out of sharing books with their children:

There are over thirty of us doing the course and it is interesting to read in the discussion forum what others are doing to connect with parents around reading.  There are so many great ideas!  

This is the end of second week, and I think everyone got a lot of interesting information from the self-review and "reading walk through" worksheets.  Going through your school thinking about how your reading culture is made visible to visiting parents is a very worthwhile exercise, and the questions on the worksheets quickly brought to my attention areas that can be improved.  Our foyer could definitely have some more messages and displays that show how much we value reading.

I'm also keen to attract more parents to our library when we are open before school on a Friday, and to promote to them the importance of reading aloud and reading for pleasure.  One of the worksheet points was about communications with new entrant parents and I see this as a great way to hook them early into visiting the library.  I'm going to approach our new entrant team leader and see if it's possible to talk with new parents on their transition visits.

Well, that's it for the first two weeks.  Next week we start a group project, which I am looking forward to.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week

In earlier posts I have talked about how I got started with my "Spies and Detectives" theme for Book Week and some of the things I learned while filming videos for it.

Last week, our Book Week began. The week started with the video from author Peter Millett, which was shown prior to morning tea.  Pete obviously knows how to make videos look good and it was a great way to start things off:

Students were encouraged to come up with their own code names - I made a Random Code Name Generator for if they needed help with that.

Then at lunch, we showed our first "Spy School" video:

After that video, our Year 3-6 teachers hung up a poster about Morse code and another advertising our "Design a Gadget" competition (one of our teachers complained that students left her huge note after lunch, written entirely in Morse code!).

The next day, we showed our "Channel Z News" report:

To tie in with the report about a theft from the "elves that live in the forest", our artist, Jenna, added some extra pictures to our Reading Wonderland mural:

The News report showed a clue found at the scene of the crime, written in Morse code.  The pattern of getting a clue and then finding out how to answer it by watching one of the Spy School videos, continued until Thursday lunchtime, when the last clue was decoded and GPS coordinates to the location of the missing jewels could be "passed on to police" by the teachers.  I deliberately made the location of the jewels outside of Hamilton so no students could be tempted into going and having a look for the treasure themselves!

Friday's videos were another Channel Z News report, describing the apprehension of the thief, and a final video from Peter Millett congratulating the recruits for helping solve a crime and welcoming them as junior J.S.A. agents.

This week, after a viewing for all the spies and getting their permission to share it, the classes had a good laugh watching the Bloopers video:

Illustrator / Poet Visits

I told both our guests for Book Week about our theme and asked if they could incorporate something to do with spies or detectives.  Both of them were happy to do so.

Illustrator Daron Parton talked with our Year 3-6 classes.  He drew a cool spy wearing a hat.  Then he took suggestions from the students and drew different spy gadgets coming out of the top of the hat.

We also had Poet Judi Billcliff come and work with our Year 1-2 classes.  She created a new song to do with looking up, down and all around, based on the Hokey Tokey.  She also had the kids play the "Hot and cold" game to find a couple of simple clues to work out.

Guess the Book Title

Another activity we had was a competition to guess the book title.  Our younger students just shared with each other what the books were, while the older classes filled out entry forms.  I encouraged everyone to have a go and announced there would be random prizes for anyone who entered, as well as prizes to those who got the most right.

Junior School Book Week Activities

We issued "Where's Wally" and other puzzle books for our Year 1-2 classes and gave them some laminated Where's Wally characters to hide in their classrooms in different places every day.  The students loved this!

Many of the classes also watched the Spy School videos, but didn't watch the Channel Z News Reports or decipher any clues.

I had some lovely feedback from these teachers.  Their students were building spy gadgets out of Mobilo and spying on each other in the playground.  One group of Year 2 students had been pulled out of class to work with a visiting maths consultant.  Unfortunately, a parent wearing black shades walked by and the students cried out "It's a spy!".  When they got back to their class their teacher asked them how it went and their answer was "we saw a spy!".

One teacher got so involved she printed out her own spy ID badges for her class:


Here are all my resources if you would like to run your own Spies and Detectives Book Week:

  • The plans I shared with our Year 1-2 teachers and our Year 3-6 teachers.
  • The list of items I put into an envelope for our Year 3-6 teachers.  A number of them shared out the ID badges at the start of the week instead of the end.  If I did it again I would create a different badge for J.S.A. recruits to wear.
  • The clues (you'll probably need to change the one that says "fridge" - that was a reference to our Book Fridge.  If you choose a location you have control over you can keep track of which classes have solved all the clues).
  • The script for the Channel Z News episodes (if you want to do less filming you could just film these two short clips and change the place where the thief has taken something).
  • The scripts for the Spy School episodes (I did cut some scenes out of these, and change words that students had trouble with).
  • The script for an adult (I asked our Principal to do this so that I wasn't giving vital information about solving the clues to our student actors ahead of time)
  • The Certificate of Appreciation was a Word doc and looked like this:

It came from the "New Zealand Crime Fighters Association" as I didn't know the legalities of saying it was from the police!
If you do have a go running your own Spies and Detectives Book Week I would love to hear how you get on.  And I'm happy to help if you have any questions.

Lessons Learned

I kept the videos unlisted and this turned out to be a good idea.  There were a few students who had a look on Youtube to see if they could see the videos ahead of time.  I did get caught out with students looking at the spy books we put on display.  It wasn't a good idea to put the ones dealing with codes in the display, there were some very keen students who used them to decode one of the first clues!  After that we took those books away.

The timing of the Book Week was really unfortunate.  There was a LOT on for the teachers in that particular week and I would definitely try to have it during a less busy time of the year so that the whole school could get completely involved in it.  

While some of the Year 3-6 teachers said my plan was easy to understand and follow, others were a bit confused.  It would have been better to attend team meetings and explain it verbally.

Final Reflection

The Book Week worked really well.  I loved having a theme - it generated ideas and tied everything in together.  I had students mention books that were talked about in the Spy School videos, and actively search for spy books - yay!  

Overall, everyone seemed to have a great time, and although it was very time-consuming it was a lot of fun for me to put together.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Disrupting a Conference

I have spent the last two days at a conference with fantastic keynotes, or 'provocations' and wonderful workshops.  However, what I was inspired by the most was the unique way the conference was organised.  I suspect you're thinking 'huh?' so let me explain.  I went to the #edchatNZ conference, organised by the amazing Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher) and her team of passionate teachers. 

The organisers claimed the conference would "disrupt conventional conference practice".  Here's how they were planning to do that: 
We believe that quality conversations are the key to a transformative conference experience.  Therefore at the heart of the conference will be our "learning tribes".  Conference attendees will be grouped in tribes and guided by a tribe mentor.  This will ensure that every single participant will have the opportunity to make personal connections and to be pushed in their thinking.
They went further and issued a challenge to the tribes "to create an action plan (a Possibilities Project) of something that you will work on collaboratively post-conference".  To support this the tribe mentors all received mentor training from a sponsor.

So what did this look like in practice?  At registration we were given the name of our learning tribe (they were named after NZ birds).  Straight after the conference welcome we had 45 mins to get to know our tribe better.  The tribe was made up of primary and secondary teachers plus any support staff and also sponsors (we didn't have a sponsor in our tribe but as far as I could tell those in other teams were well-behaved and didn't try out their sales techniques!).  From there we went to our workshops, but we arranged a meeting place so we could share lunch together.

I often attend conferences or unconferences aimed at teachers, and one of the problems I have is finding people to eat lunch with as I inevitably end up going on my own.  I get to mix with a fantastic group of educators, and I've been slowly getting to know more of them, but I'm quite shy so I still get 'lunchtime anxiety'.  Having a place to go for lunch was therefore a huge bonus for me.  I think this idea alone would be hugely reassuring for anyone considering attending a conference on their own, something that primary school librarians, who are usually sole charge, often have to contend with.  Even at a library conference, where I know loads of librarians, I think having a learning tribe is a fantastic idea to meet and make connections with even more people.

A small activity first up on Day 2, to sit in a random group of four and have a quick chat about the previous day, was another idea that worked really well.  I met even more people, we had plenty to discuss, and it set a nice, friendly vibe for the start of the day.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the "Tribe Possibility Planning" event following afternoon tea on Day 1.  I found out about what was discussed when I caught up with my tribe the next morning and then they did their "pitch" and we listened to the pitches of other teams.  New teachers who were attending just on the Saturday were invited to join up with tribes whose pitches caught their interest, and we had a few more members join us later that afternoon when we met up with our tribes again.  This meant an infusion of new ideas, always a good thing!  

There were some things about the conference that worked better than others.  I think if you're experimenting with a new format that is always going to be the case.  #edchatNZ has always been, as they say "the little hashtag that could" and I am so pleased that they were willing to head fearlessly into the unknown and change the whole way they ran their conference.

I would love for all the future conferences I attend to have learning tribes, even if they don't have the time in their schedule to take it further and have the tribes collaborate to create action plans.  Just the act of putting people into new groups and letting them talk to each other is a fantastic idea and really enhanced my whole conference experience.


As a side note, there was also the opportunity to pay just for the conference and not for any meals.  You could bring your own food and pay a mere $30 for the two day conference.  I love this idea because it makes professional development accessible even if you don't have the support of your principal (I did, but that isn't always the case and at $30 I was prepared to pay for the conference myself if necessary).

I learned a great new Google sharing tip -  first, allow anyone with the link to view.  Then go into the URL and change the word 'edit' at the end to 'copy' instead.  That way it will force the people you share it with to make their own copy.  If you need people to make their own copies of your work so they can make their own changes, this is a great way to make that happen.  See it in action here with a random Google doc.

I didn't tweet a lot at this conference, but I did re-tweet a few gems and they are worth having a look at.  The double photo in the first tweet doesn't seem to come up, which is a pity because the tribe were pitching the idea that what we need is a way to connect with other people who can mentor us for certain things, so the slide was about having a Tinder for teachers to match others with your superpower!  Click on that tweet to see the other image.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokémon Go

Just caught a Meowth!

I probably don't need to tell you that Pokémon GO is HUGE.  If you need a bit more help understanding it, here's some good information:

How to Play Pokémon Go
Official Site

It is definitely worth learning a bit more about this huge global fad.  Your students will be talking about it so it's nice to have the terminology sussed out and not look clueless.  Plus, it's fun!  And it gets my fifteen-year-old out from his bedroom.

There have been some cautionary tales however.

School Library Journal had a great article about how this might affect libraries - Pokémon Go:  What Do Librarians Need To Know?  They also had a link to a more advanced article about Pokémon GO.  WAY more advanced.

I've bought a few more Pokémon books as I'm sure demand for these will increase.  I've also found a few Pokémon colouring pages that students might like to use:

Super Coloring
Morning Kids! (this one has the Pokémon listed by number and it corresponds with those in your Pokédex).

Have you had a try yet?

Updates:  Just saw this fabulous post by the New Zealand Book Council - Gotta pun 'em all:  New Zealand books with Pokémon

And fortunately, we can use them if we want:

Here's a cool activity if you know your way around Google Maps:

Mark has now done a post about how to customise a Google Map.

This is a fantastic place for teaching ideas - Ways to use Pokemon Go in the Classroom

Other links:

Pokemon Go Brings Augmented Reality To The Mainstream

Here's The Inspiring Story Of The Creator Of Pokémon GO, John Hanke.
List of Pokémon (Pokédex)
Help! Pokemon Go isn't working: How to fix common Pokemon Go problems
Pokemon Go players: you have 30 days from signup to opt out of binding arbitration

Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - Filming

For our Book Week this year, I have filmed six spy training videos and two news reports!  You can find out more about how this came about here.

I have no training in making videos, although I did make a couple years ago.  The image quality is awful, best not to make it full screen.  Fortunately, I have upgraded our video camera since then.

I have learnt a few things from my filming this year, that may be of use if you're ever indulging your Steven Spielberg tendencies:

  • Think about whether you want good actors or "friends of the library".  Every time I film I know the smart choice is to go for actors, but I end up picking "friends of the library".  If you are going to pick library people and not actors, then have personal knowledge of their capabilities, or hold auditions.  It is still really important that they be able to speak clearly and understandably.  
  • Don't be afraid to ask people to be in your video.  I only had one student turn me down, and even the principal agreed to join in.  Author Peter Millet also agreed to film a couple of short videos for me.  Never underestimate the power of a fun project.
  • Be mindful of the times that you are filming:  
    • I chose the weekends to cut down on external noise, but one Sunday there was a netball tournament on and we had to avoid the times they made announcements on their loudspeaker (fortunately they weren't on it constantly).
    • One of my filming sessions was in the late afternoon and during filming the sun moved and started streaming into our library from an angle which affected the quality of the film.
  • If you go outside, take your keys with you!  On one freezing morning, I took the boys outside to film and then couldn't get back in.  Fortunately, the aforementioned netball tournament was running and I was able to go to the other end of the school, beg for a key, and get back inside.
  • After you have hit the record button, use your fingers to count down from three before your actors start speaking, and give another count of three after they finish and before you push stop.  That will give you a bit of leeway if you want to use transitions between your scenes.
  • If you have a student filming, make sure they don't bump the camera during recording and check EVERY TIME that they have actually pushed the record button!
  • Make sure the students understand that they need to be familiar with their scripts!  I had a few tell me they hadn't read them....arrgghhh!  Also, reconfirm times with parents, I had a couple of students still at home when they were meant to be filming.
  • Have fun!  And don't expect perfection.  Don't compare your amateur school video with a professional production.  Depending on the time you have, it may be unrealistic to expect your actors to have memorised every line.
  • Be careful with the words you choose for the script, and don't be afraid to make changes.  One of our girls could not say the word "espionage" so I changed it to "spying".  After that, if I had harder words I spelled them phonetically in the script to make it easier for the students to learn.  I had the word "loitering" in one script and the students didn't know what it meant, which was a good indication it was not the right word to use.  I changed it to "lingering around".
  • Allow plenty of time for everything.  Writing a script, filming it and then editing it will take a lot more time than you think.  My scripts were around about a page and a half long, my videos have come out at about 5-6 mins long and that took about an hour and a half to film.  Editing has taken about that much time again (I'm still learning though, it might be quicker for those who know what they're doing!).
  • Let the students add their own ideas.  The kids were keen to add their own touches.  I was mindful of the content I needed to get across, but was happy to let the kids decide to spin their chairs around at the beginning, or add a sign-off, or create some extras for the bloopers video.
  • Oh yes, have a bloopers video!

The students have been very keen and have been good at keeping their scripts 'Top Secret'.  Some of them don't know who else is participating, some don't even know there is an author and news items involved - it's good to give them surprises as well!

I'm learning as I go and it won't be polished but it is fun and the students will enjoy seeing people they know pretending to be undercover spies with exotic code names!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - The Beginning

Last year, I attended a SLANZA conference workshop by Cathy Kennedy about how she approaches Book Week at her school.  I was inspired by a number of her ideas, in particular choosing a theme and keeping activities manageable for teachers, so you're not adding too much to their workload.

I decided our theme should be "Spies and Detectives", which would then allow me to promote mystery books.  I didn't want to encroach on too much teaching time, so I thought about using our 'eating for learning' time, the ten minutes that the students spend eating their morning tea and lunch.  Perhaps I could have a series of little activities for the teachers to do.

Then I delved into learning about spies.  They are so cool!  In particular, I liked learning about various ways of encoding secret messages.

When it came time to choose an author to visit during Book Week, my first choice was Peter Millett, author of the popular Johnny Danger books.  Unfortunately, he's in Auckland and we're in Hamilton and we couldn't make it work.  In a decision he might come to regret, Peter said he liked our theme and offered to Skype in or to record a video answering questions from students.

At the same time, I had decided that we could have a spy school and teach various spy skills as well as promoting our spy and mystery stories.  But it would be more fun if there was a practical application for them - how about some secret messages for students to decode?  Of course that led to an idea to have a news item about treasure that's been stolen from the elves who live in the Reading Wonderland.  Our lovely artist, Jenna, agreed to come in the weekend beforehand and add some little elves to our mural.

I decided the only clue located at the scene of the crime could have different coded messages on it.  Then we could have some students introduce some short videos about codes that I could find on YouTube and show a different clip at each eating for learning time.  Only there weren't any videos that were the right length and handled the way I wanted, and isn't it better to have one code lead to another clue in a treasure hunt kind of way?  And then, what about other spy skills, shouldn't we teach them?  Oh, and we can't have a student teach about the codes anyway because then they might be able to decode them ahead of time...  And that, dear friends, is how you go from a simple idea to scripting, filming and editing two news reports and six spy training videos, with additional footage about codes provided by your principal dressed as 007!  Not to mention having the temerity to ask an author if he wouldn't mind filming a couple of short videos pretending to be head of the J.S.A - the Junior Spy Agency.  Although if you've read the Johnny Danger books its pretty apparent Peter has a good sense of humour!

So, that's what has been keeping me busy lately.  I have filmed all my spy training videos and just need to avoid having the police called in after sunset as my son dresses as a robber and uses a torch while breaking into the Reading Wonderland and taking off with the elves' treasure.  I think it may be a good idea to let my principal know what's going on ahead of time!  I think my filming experiences could fill another post, so watch out for that soon.

Book Week starts on 15 August and before then I still need to do all my editing and work on some activities for our younger students.  Once I've recovered from the event I'll do another post, update you on how it went and link to all my resources in case you want to do something similar.  That's all for now, remember, this information is extremely TOP SECRET!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Sharing Tech Tips with your Students, Staff and Community

One of my new projects this year has been working with our Student Digital Leaders.  I emailed my principal about this idea last year and have been fortunate to work with Renee, one of our very I.T. savvy teachers, on it.  We are working with two students from each Year 5 & 6 class (16 students in total) and showing them troubleshooting tips and how to use particular creation apps.

One of the things Renee and I talked about was how to educate the teachers as well as the students.  Like all schools we have a range of abilities amongst our staff and we wanted to make sure that whatever we taught our students was also available to our teachers.  Initially we thought we would offer drop in sessions after school, but we didn't want to add to the many time demands that teachers already have.

I suggested that we record a series of very short tech tips and promote them so not only our students and staff benefit, but we also provide useful information for parents.  We have started with troubleshooting for iPads:

Next up is how to update apps and iPads, followed by how to check how much storage you have (and what to do if your iPad is full).  There are a number of topics that can follow that, and they won't all be about iPads.

We decided to do the Tech Tips separately to our normal Digital Leaders' meetings.  We asked for volunteers and then I gave them a short script to learn.  I had our I.T. guy check the script to make sure I hadn't got any advice wrong!  We could have covered more but I wanted to keep the videos short, and teaching kids how to restore an iPad to factory settings, for example, seemed a bit dangerous!

I made an introduction that we will use for the whole series.  I used PowToon, which took a bit of getting used to but was a lot of fun to learn.  I think it looks quite smart.

The process took longer than I imagined - we needed more than one lunchtime to get the recording done (if you're observant you'll notice that there are continuity errors!).  Just filming the iPads up close was troublesome, you have to watch the angle or you get reflection from the lights.  The school bell went off during one recording, as did the alarm on one of the boys' watches!  Recording at lunchtime also meant there was a lot of outside noise to contend with.

Afterwards I had to piece it all together in iMovie.  Again, it took longer than I anticipated, partly because I'm still learning with that as well.  I was pleased that I had allowed three seconds of recording before and after the dialogue, as this meant it was easier to get the transitions right.

I think there are many things we can do to improve, but at the same it will never be the same quality as a professional production.  However, at a primary school level I think parents are going to be forgiving of errors and will enjoy seeing their children share their knowledge.

I've scripted the next episode but fortunately another teacher will be filming and editing it (I have a Book Week to prepare for!).  I've also made posters with a QR code that links to the Tech Tips playlist, which I will be giving to all the teachers.  It is exciting to see this idea coming to life and I look forward to building up a bank of Tech Tips videos that our students, staff and community can refer to when they need them.