24 articles Tag COETAIL

Teachers Portfolios – What Are The Options?

It seems that more and more teachers are becoming comfortable with technology and want to jump in feet first. This is great, because they are becoming more in control of their digital footprint. The first step a teacher can take when they accept the internet as a positive contributor to their professional life is to develop a digital portfolio. It’s becoming more and more common for teachers to have a digital portfolio, along with an online CV, details of work experiences and jobs as well as a range of other aspects about their career.

There are many options when creating an online portfolio. A lot of people have a blog and that is where they write reflections on their learning, reflections of what they have taught, displays of students work, etc. Sometimes they also have static sections where they list their work experience, contact details, references, etc. This is much more fluid and changes every day/week/month.

Others are more static, so it doesn’t change very often and is only updated when your resume updates. I think this is less effective as it wont show up very high in search engine results (you wont have many links on it or people wont have your page linked very much because there will be nothing to share on it, plus it’s not updated a lot. All factors which contribute to high search engine ranking). Also, this way of creating an online portfolio is much more like using new technology (websites) in old ways (static resume).

So here are some options when creating a professional teacher portfolio:

www.blog.com – This is a free blogging platform (with the option of a paid upgrade), powered by WordPress. It has advertisements but has good customer support and allows a lot of customization for a free service.

www.wordpress.com – A free blogging platform very similar to blog.com. Example – http://seanscoetailblog.wordpress.com/

www.weebly.com – A free service (with the option of a paid upgrade) that let’s you create websites/blogs. It is very user friendly as it uses a drag and drop system. Example – www.isshkjslibrary.com

www.pbworks.com – A wiki platform that you can easily use to create websitex (less visual modification is available). This is what I my course delivery site but it could be customized any way you like. Example – www.misternorris.pbworks.com

WordPress (with external host such as www.godaddy.com) – similar to WordPress.com, but it’s fully customizable, has no adds and allows you to make sure to fully constomize your URL. You have to pay a small fee each year for the domain (URL) and website hosting (about $50 a year). This also allows you to have your own custom email account (E.g. me@misternorris.com). This is what I use for this site.

As you can see, there are many options, depending on your needs, budget and how much customization you use. If you are using something else, be sure to share in the comments below.

A Laptop Cart At A 10th Of The Price

This school year, my school had two laptop carts. One in the elementary school and one in the middle/high school. The computers are house in a big, grey metal cart. When it arrived, the cart had no power capabilities, so basically we just purchased the structure and we had to set up the chargers and cables. From what I was informed, the carts are hard to source in Japan, so it had to be shipped to Tokyo from the US. I was also told that the cart cost roughly ¥3000. Or when put in perspective, three laptops. Now that’s an expensive grey box!

 

The current laptop cart, minus some laptops.

 

I for one think this is ridiculous! It cost three computers in the hands of students, just to roll the computers around. So myself and my department have been thinking of better ways to house and transport the computers. We tried static shelves. It worked but the computer had to be transported by the children, one by one before and after each lessons. This would have worked if the computers were being used by just one class, but they were a shared resource which made it tough. We sat the shelf in the hallway and students would pick them up, carry then to class, and return them when they were finished. We thought about the idea of putting the computers in tubs and carrying the tubs. The problem with this is that it was just way too heavy. Four computers in a tub weighed much more than was safe to carry. Not to mention how cumbersome it was and how easy it was to spill them.

After a few failed attempts, we put the ideas to rest and decided that the only way to transport our computers was to use an expensive cart. Until one of our team noticed what another school in the areas was doing. They were using pre fabricated shelving, putting wheels on it then storing and transporting their laptops on shelves. I had not seen the actual cart, just heard about it, but I was a little skeptical. It sounded very messy and a cheap way around the problem. But my boss was adamant that it would work and purchased all of the equipment needed. I set it all up with the help of the computer technician, on one of the last days of school so that it could be ready for teachers and students on the first day of next year.

When reading the box, I noticed that it said the shelves could hold up to 120KG. When looking at the flimsy shelves, I was VERY skeptical of this claim. I didn’t think it could hold the technician, let alone both of us on it together! So we tested it. I had the technician stand on it. I expect it to bend and come close to breaking, but it passed the 40KG weight test with ease. I then tried it. Once again, I didn’t think it could hold up, but it passed the 80KG test with flying colours. This is when I knew that this cart was going to be strong!

We started putting it together and at every level of the shelving, I stood on it to make sure that all the joint were in place. No tools required, just a Lego mindset and some imagination and you could make anything out of this stuff.

 

The new laptop cart, sold as a rock!

 

We set aside the bottom shelf for the chargers. The next shelf housed six computers, two stacked on top of each other. We had another two shelves the same then a top cover. It would have been quite easy to add another three shelves so that each row of three laptops had their own shelf, but we didn’t feel this was necessary. We put sides all the way around the cart so the computers would not fall out, on all sides except the front so students could slide the computers in and out.

The wiring took a long time to do. All up it took 2.5 hours and the construction of the cart took about 30 minutes, so about two hours to make sure the wiring was right. But we wanted to do it once, do it properly and not have to worry about it again. It was fiddly, but we made sure it was all cable tied into place and run along sections that computer would bump out of place.

 

Everything is cable tied into place.
Plug this single adapter into a power source and all of the laptops charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final product, I think, is actually better than the more expensive version. It’s lighter, more maneuverable, more customizable and much smaller. When compared side by side, it’s about half the height! This is a plus for students, as I know how awkward they consider the grey box to roll around. Some teachers even have troubles. So being smaller and lighter, it should be well received by students and teachers. The cables are easily set in place, unlike in the grey box. However, there are a few negative aspects of the new cart. If you are concerned about security, then the new cart can not be locked. But for our applications, we never locked the old cart anyway. One other concern we anticipated was that the shelves would be too low and skinny for teachers to get the computers in and out of. But my reasoning is, the computers are for student use, so the shelf is the perfect size for children’s hands. They can easily get computers out and put them away. The computers are for student use at the end of the day, so why not design the cart with the same principals in mind.

So despite the few negatives, I think the fact that it only cost $300 all up, a 10th of the price of the grey box and a saving of two and two thirds of a laptop, the new, small, customized, prefabricated cart is by far the better choice. What do you think? Have you seen other alternatives?

 

A side by side comparison. The new, prefabricated cart on the left and the expensive grey box on the right. I think it's clear which the winner is.

Open, Online Portfolios, One Year On

At the start of the school year, I set myself the large goal of implementing open, online portfolios in the form of blogs for all of my students from Grade Three to Grade Seven. I started them off with middle school (Grade 5, 6 and 7) right at the start of the year. I planned to implement the project with Grade 4 and Grade 3 a bit later in the year. As I only teach one 40 minute period per class, per week, it took a few weeks to get them off the ground. But this included constant revision and online safety lessons all rolled into the setting up of blogs for all students. Once we had them up and running, the students started to post in their portfolios and add some work to them. This was great to see and their reflections were always interesting to read.

I did spend a lot of time in those first few lessons reinforcing responsible online citizenship and what was and wasn’t appropriate and acceptable. I also constantly reminded the students that their blog was their professional portfolio, which means they could post whatever they liked, as long as it had to do with their ‘profession’. In short, it had to be about learning. All of the students really respected these rules and guidelines. They were very constructive with their comments on other posts. They always asked if it was OK to post something they weren’t sure of. Not once did I have to say that what they were posting was inappropriate. But at least I knew they were thinking before they jumped in and published which was great to see. Once or twice, I had to speak to a student and ask them how the 15 Taylor Swift photos they posted were related to their learning. After some thought, they usually just took it down. These conversation were really important as it helped reinforced to the students as to why they were creating their portfolios. And I believe, because they were given trust and responsibility, they all lived up to the high expectations that were set. Not once did we I find an instance of bullying. Not once did I find the students posting anything rude, derogatory, defamatory, etc. The fact that everything could be traced back to them, could have also helped with this situation, but I also think the fact that we trusted them, in an open and public forum really made them live up to expectations.

Student led conferences, another perfect reason to develop open, online, digital portfolios.

I then encouraged other teachers to ask the students to post work from their classes in their portfolios. A few really jumped at the chance to be able to display the work they were doing with their children. Students and teachers started to comment on the posts which also made their learning more relevant, giving the students a real world context and purpose for their work. Not to mention meaningful two way feedback. Some teachers didn’t quite understand the concept or purpose and as a result, didn’t utilize the students portfolios to their full potential. But I see this not as a criticism of them, but more a criticism of myself and my explanation of the tool to the teachers. I also didn’t ask all teachers as I wanted the portfolios to have a slow introduction into the students learning. I also didn’t want to overwhelm the teachers and make them think it was extra work (it’s not, I continually reinforced to the students that it was their portfolio and their responsibility). This is fine and I hope it is rehashed with the teachers next year, encouraging all staff to get involved, now that they can see how it looks one year on. Another way that this could be approached is to have teachers developing their own portfolios so that they can see how meaningful they are in the learning process. If the teacher knows, uses and believes in the purpose of the tool, I would assume that the tool would be more widely used in the classroom.

One stumbling point that I came across was the parents reactions. I jumped in feet first, and didn’t educated them enough about the cause. I also didn’t educate my superiors enough because when parents asked them questions about the portfolios, sometimes they couldn’t answer the questions the parents had. As a result, in November, just a few weeks into the implementation of the portfolios, I led a parent information session titled, ‘Digital Citizenship – Educating 21st Century Learners’. Ideally, this should have been at the start of the year, before or as we were starting to implement the portfolios for all middle school students. If I had the chance again, I would implement more regular, informal parents sessions as well, just so they understood where technology integration and implementation is leading and to break down the fear that is sometimes associated with new technology. In the future, I have to remember to get the parents and admin on board, even if it is a project that I plan to implement myself, in my class time. I have to make sure all stakeholders understand why the students are making their own portfolios, why they are so important, what amazing benefits they offer and also the possible risks and how we plan to address these issues.

This was the main reason why I didn’t end up introducing the portfolios to Grade 3 and 4. I saw the resistance from parents as a sign that maybe we aren’t ready to go down into the junior school with portfolios just yet and if we can show how effective they are in the middle school, then maybe the junior school parents and teachers can also see the amazing benefits. I do think that the students could manage the portfolios very easily, but I think it would take some education to get all stake holders on board.

In the end, I was very proud of how the middle school students utilized their portfolios this school year. There are some amazing posts and they look great. The students are working things out for themselves (Maybe all caps isn’t a good way to write? Maybe a different colour text for each line isn’t really necessary?) and I feel it’s really showing their thought process and learning.

I would also really recommend it to any educator that started to think about doing this in their own classroom. The ways that work can be displayed is not possible on paper. The fact students constantly reflect and write to a huge audience is not possible on paper either. Having a real world audience, where teachers, principals, parents, grandparents, family, etc. can all read and follow a students progress is so powerful! Students understand the implications of a wide, authentic audience and want to perform at their best. Plus the real world digital citizenship experience and trust that I gave the students to have their own publish space online is a huge benefit to any classroom.

A quote from a keynote by Rushton Hurley. The photo is from Heather Durnin's class in the midst of a live radio show. From by Dean Shareski.

I urge you to read some posts by my students and give some feedback, they love comments as much as adults! Here is an RSS feed of all of the middle school portfolios, I hope you enjoy them!

 

MY RELATED POSTS

– Why open online portfolios?

– Community building around Technology

– Digital Citizenship – Educating 21st Century Learners

– 7 tips for writing a good reflection

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!

3 Essential Tools I Use To Monitor And Maintain My Computer

Owning a Mac, I find I have to do very little maintenance to my machine. It runs well majority of the time and only slows down when I have had it on for weeks or have 15 applications opened at once. However, I still find it important to monitor my computer to make sure it’s running at an optimal level. These are the tools I use to monitor and maintain my computer.

 

iStat Pro

iStat Pro is a free widget that is installed into your dashboard. It helps monitor your system so you know what is happening on your computer. The features include:

  • CPU usage – to monitor how much your processor is being used as a percentage.
  • Memory usage – this is great as it can usually help you determine why your computer is running slowly. If the graph is completely blocked out in a single colour, it means you need to reset your computer to free up some memory, or use FreeMemory (see below) to help you out with that one.
  • Disk Capacity – you can see how much space you have used and how much space you have free for any disk you have attached such as your computers hard drive, an external hard drive, a network drive, a USB drive, etc. I try to make sure I stay under 80-85% capacity on any drive I use to help prevent crashes and keep my computer running fast. Whenever a drive gets full, it significantly decreases it’s speed.
  • Temperatures – you can monitor the temperature of any part of your computer. If you have your laptop on a soft surface, it may block the fans at the back of the computer and make the computer very hot. This is not good for the computer so this section allows you to monitor the heat of any part of your computer and act accordingly.
  • Fans – I don’t monitor this section very much, but this can also help you understand why your computer is loud or heating up.
  • Battery – this helps you determine your battery health (how much of the original capacity of your battery that it can now be charged to), cycles (how many times your battery has been charged when it has reached below 50% capacity), charge percentage and remaining time before it’s empty. To keep your battery healthy, make sure you fully charge it, then fully drain till it shuts down and full charge it again at least once a month. I set a pop up reminder in iCal and have it pop up once a month to remind me to do this.
  • Uptime – this is one section I use a lot. I rarely turn my computer off (looking at my uptime now it’s up to 22 days), because I usually just close my laptops lid to put it to sleep. This allows me to start up my computer quickly from it’s sleep and my machine seems to run well doing this. However, when my computer is running slow, chances are it’s because it has been on for too long. To correct this problem I have to restart my machine to free up some memory and make my machine run fast again.
  • Processes – these are the applications that are running and how much CPU power or memory they are consuming. You can see what applications are really stretching your computers performance or see whether all of those applications being open at once really effect your machine.

I find iStat Pro invaluable for monitoring my computers performance. A quick peak at it usually tells me why my computer is not performing at it’s optimal level and I can act accordingly.

 

FreeMemory

FreeMemory is a free Mac OSX app store download. That means it can be accessed from the app store that is on your Mac desktop or Mac laptop. This is not to be confused with the iTunes app store. The OSX app store helps you download a range of software to your computer, even iWorks (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) can be downloaded in the OSX app store so it’s very convenient. However, the apps are generally fairly expensive. FreeMemory is one exception to this rule. It works the same as the memory usage section of iStat Pro but it displays your memory usage in your menu bar all the time. So if your computer is running slow, a quick glance to your menu bar can help determine the problem. The app also helps you clear memory, but that feature takes a long time to complete. To clear the memory fast and more effectively just restart your computer. But for monitoring your memory usage in real time, it works great.

 

 

Broom

Broom is a great app from the same makers of FreeMemory that allows your find and delete large files on your computer. It only cost 99 cents US and is a cinch to use. It helps you locate files in three sections, Places, Folders and Files. The Places section is handy because it searches your caches, logs, trash and downloads folder and tells you how much space each of these sections are taking up. You’d be surprised how many files end up in the caches and logs sections! To delete them, just select the section you want to delete and click the ‘Remove Selected’ button at the bottom of the app, couldn’t be easier!

In the Files and Folders sections, it makes a list of all of the files and folders on your computer and how big they are, so you can sort them by size order and see which files are really taking up a lot of space.

 

These are just some of the tools I use regularly to maintain and monitor my machine. Do you also use these tools? Are there any that you use regularly? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Finding A Problem and Solving It

After watching the TEDx talk below by Dan Meyer, I was inspired to try something like it in my class.

But I didn’t know what problem we could work on. I wanted the problem to be meaningful to the students. I wanted them to come up with a problem to solve and I think I knew the answer. In one of my classes, one of my students was looking through a pile of old yearbooks. She found on of when she was in Grade 1 and we had a chuckle at how cute the now teenagers looked when they were young. Then we started seeing some people we knew but no longer go to the school. We counted how many students that attended the school that were still enrolled now they were in Grade 8. There were only about six students… Six students! My student found this fascinating and asked me how many I thought would be left at the end of Grade 12. This gave me an idea…

I developed a unit where the students would follow this same process of seeing how many students are in the class that also attended in Grade 1. Then from graphing the results and looking at past data, they could estimate how many of them would be left in a couple of years time. All of the data will be really easy to attain by simply flicking through some past yearbooks. I think my students will really enjoy this unit and I can’t wait to teach it!

Are Standards Needed If Technology Is Used As A Tool?

In 1998 the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) released National Education Technology (NET) standards “for the purpose of leveraging the use of technology in K-12 education to enable students to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital society.” Today the standards are widely accepted as the benchmark for educational technology. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, coaches and computer science educators, which makes them very broad and encompassing. These standards are excellent for when you have a stand alone model of technology education, much the same as at my current school. I see every class from kindergarten to grade seven for their own technology lesson once a week. In this session, I can spend time creating learning experiences for my students that help them meet the NET standards. However, what happens if your school has an integration approach to technology education? Maybe your school has a coach and that person works with teachers to integrate technology into the class. So who is responsibility for the NET standards in a circumstance like that? Is it all the teachers of a specific grade? Is it the coaches role to make sure each class is meeting the standards?

A Swiss Army Knife, like a computer is a versatile tool for many applications. So should it have it's own learning standards? Or should we use this tool to helps us meet other goals?

To answer these questions, I think you have to think about the school and it’s philosophy regarding technology. If technology is seen as a set of skills that each student must learn before they progress onto the more complex skills, with each skill requiring the previous to succeed and progress, then I guess you will need to rely on a detailed map of where, how and when each skills is taught. This could be compared to a senior Mathematics class, you can’t learn algebra if you don’t know basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This style of addressing technology education is much more suited to stand alone technology lessons as there is one teacher that is responsible for the teaching of the skills and standards. The problem I find with this model is that modern computer skills are rarely the type of ‘build upon’ skills that they used to be. Sometimes you need to know how to use a mouse and keyboard, but sometimes you don’t. You may have a trackpad or a touch screen device which makes the mouse lessons taught earlier on irrelevant. The same thing applies to software. One example is keyboard shortcuts, what you learn in one piece of software may not work in another. And these two examples, hardware and software, are constantly changing. Skills we learn are usually stand alone, or need to be modified significantly to be transferred over into other applications. Or these skills change with a new software update or the integration of a new tool. So I believe teaching specific ‘skills’ and not seeing technology as a tool make the use of technology irrelevant to the 21st century learner.

If, like many schools, technology is expect to be integrated and used as something to supplement lessons and the curriculum, then chances are you have a tech coach that helps teachers develop learning experiences that incorporate technology into their classrooms. Some would say this person should be responsible for students meeting the NET standards. However, I think if your philosophy is that technology is used as a tool, then possibly the idea of technology standards needs to be rethought. We don’t have curricular for other tools we use at school such as pencils, base ten blocks, books, etc. We use those tools to help us help the students meet other standards. Isn’t technology supposed to be a tool that we use to help students learn content in other areas of the education? Just because it is an expensive, sometimes daunting tool, highly sophisticated tool, doesn’t mean it should have it’s own curriculum does it? Or am I way off?

What are your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Original Compositions By The ‘Remix Generation’

In most situations in life, I think it’s always important to know and understand the rules before you go ahead and break them. This is especially important in music. Before you can make that cutting edge track, you must first know why the basics work and have been so popular. So in one of my Grade 4 class, my students listened to, studied and deconstructed the song, ‘Hella Good’ by No Doubt. An amazingly effective song (try not nodding your head when you listen to it), but so simple in it’s structure and composition in the same vein as ‘Billy Jean‘.

 

After we listened to the song, how it starts, the basic layers of the song, etc. We noticed a simple pattern. The students had already seen this pattern happen over and over again in new song and songs of the past. So we set out to create our own track, based on these simple but effective practices.

The students opened Garageband and laid down a kick drum track. Some went for a simple 4/4 beat while some went for a little bit more of a Hip Hop style. After this, they added their snare track. Then some cymbals. Then some type of percussion ‘flair’ like a hand clap, rim shot, a big crash, etc. This was hard for the students, as they wanted to add EVERYTHING to every track they made. As a result, the songs sounded very cluttered and over the top. So we came back to our example, ‘Hella Good’ and had another listen. The space between the percussion is what really makes this song so effective, so they went back and recomposed their percussion.

After they had a solid percussion arrangement, they went ahead and added some melody. This is where I crashed and burned as a teacher. I have absolutely no musical experience or background, so I could not teach them to play a melody. But almost all of the students play an instrument and can read music so they managed to lay down some interesting melodies with synths or pianos or horn sections.

I then showed them how to add voice recordings and how to manipulate them. They had a field day with this, singing and speaking into the computer mic, manipulating it to sound distorted, high pitched, low pitched, etc. They had a lot of fun!

After this they were just about finished. Except their song didn’t last very long and were very repetitive. We had another listen to ‘Hella Good’ to see how they added an intro and outro to their track. They noticed No Doubt slowly built up the song so that it didn’t start straight into the chorus. So they worked on structuring their songs to make them more interesting, to build up and down.

When they had finished, they surprised me and I think they even surprised themselves at how great their songs were. They created their own original composition, without the use of loops or copying other peoples music or ideas. I am extremely proud of them and their work. It just goes to show, the ‘remix generation’ can actually develop their own original work too. If Grade 4 students can do it, anyone can.

The Relationship Between Piracy and Sales

I just started a unit with my G5 classes on Copyright and Creative Commons. We always have vigorous discussion on the issue and it’s interesting to hear my students point of view. As there are a lot of numbers that get thrown around when talking about Copyright, Copyright infringement and piracy, I thought it would be a good idea to find an infographic for us to discuss as a class. I stumbled across this inforgraphic title, “The Sky Is Rising” by Tech Dirt (if it’s too small, click it to enlarge).

It’s very interesting to see that despite the entertainment industry really showing their disdain for piracy (see SOPA et al.), and claiming such large losses as a result, they aren’t doing too bad with digital sales. And as Peter Nowak seems to suggest, piracy and legal sales seem to have a very interesting relationship. In his article “The counterintuitive truth about piracy and profits“, Nowak lists the most pirated movies of all time.

 

“Leading the list (of most pirated films) were Avatar, The Dark Knight and Transformers, all of which were mega-hits in theatres.”

 

It’s interesting to hear that some of the most pirated movies also did very well at the box office and on DVD sales. Now I’m all for Copyright and giving the original artist the credit and the money they deserve, but with figures like these, does piracy really have the negative impact we are made to believe? Are movies suffering at the box office and in DVD sales, or are popular movies at cinemas equally as popular as illegal downloads? I’ll be very interest in seeing what conclusions my students draw from these statistics, I have a feeling it works in favor of a lot of their arguments already.

Teaching Design Through Presentations

As an ICT teacher, I feel I am responsible for teaching the middle school students a lot of what they need to know about presentations. When it comes to presentations, I find that their technology skills are fine and they are easily able to use Powerpoint or Keynote to make a presentation. The problem I see with their slideshows is that they have a lot to learn design wise. With effective design comes effective communication.

To help my students develop effective presentations, I like to educate my students on some simple principals of good design. I use a range of resources for this, but the one I like most is Jesse Desjardins’s (the Social Media Manager for Tourism Australia) presentations on Slideshare that outlines the bad elements of design and gives great tips on how to improve it. The following slideshow is my favourite as it not only tells us what not to do and how to improve design, but it also sets a great example in itself.

 

View more presentations from @JESSEDEE


Another issue I see arising is that students regularly complain that their content lets them down and that it’s hard to make a boring topic interesting. To that argument, I like to turn to The Oatmeal, who is known for making some very funny comics on the internet. He is most passionate about punctuation and has made a range of comics on how to use specific punctuation conventions in a fun and engaging way. My favourite is the semicolon tutorial which he developed. This would be perfect for a middle school English class. To view the comic click the image below.

I also try to use good elements of design in all of my presentations. It takes a long time, but I think it’s important to show the students good examples. You can see my examples on my Slideshare page. The slideshow I am most proud of is my passwords lesson, I think it’s visually engaging and incorporates a lot of good elements of design. Plus now I’ve spent the time to make a great presentation, I can use it over and over again each year.

How do you teach good design in your classes? Do you always set a good example? Do you give the students any specific, real world examples? Leave a comment below and let me know.