Sep 29

Kids and Videos

So, we talked last week about YouTube and your kids. But there are a couple of other tricks you need to know about using videos at home.

Videos are great for learning. They are readily available, on pretty much any topic and offer a way for your child to research online.

We know kids love to watch videos

But we’re not talking Frozen here. We are talking about the types of video that are educational in some way.

Intro to GravityMaybe it’s this video about Gravity 









Brian Cox TedTalk ExplorersOr this TedTalk about Explorers








ABC Splash RhymingOr even this one about rhyming







 These videos are, of course, multi-media.

That means there are multiple things going on at once.

So your child is trying to take in information through video, graphics and spoken words. This makes it much more complex than your average, linear book.

So here’s what you need to do to help your child get the most out of the video.

  1. Have them watch the video – just watch it.
  2. Play it again – this time stop it after each key point and ask your child if they understand or a question about what they just heard/saw
  3. Play it again – let your child stop the video this time. They now get to tell you what they know

This is how teachers should be using video in classrooms too. Maybe forward this blog link to them if they are not sure.

What this all means of course is that a 3-minute video is now at least 15mins long. That’s ok. The amount of info you can get from a video is like reading a book on it (depending on the quality of the video of course). So it’s time well-spent.

Do you watch movies or documentaries and sometimes wonder – what was that all about….? Can you remember what you saw the next day? I know I struggle to retain all that info in one go :0) and so do our kids.

Sep 26

Why are your kids blogging @ school?

Lots of schools are looking into blogging with their students. I’m obviously a fan of blogging (ah hem, you’re reading mine right now) but there’s a big picture here too. Our kids need to learn how to learn beyond the classroom walls. And they need to learn how to interact and co-create with other people. And of course, how to problem solve and work through disagreements.

We’re finding that blogging lets kids do these things.

If you’re a bit unsure of what I’m talking about, here’s a reminder: a blog is a web-log, originally an online diary where someone can talk to the Internet and folks can come and comment on what you say. Today blogs are everywhere – they cover every topic and are in pretty much any language. They don’t always follow the ‘diary’ idea and can just be full of unlinked thoughts or ideas or even sell products…

blogging education learning writing connections web.20

With this in mind, here’s a few ways that our kids are using blogs in school:

  • Virtual pen pals. Set up and share a blog with another school overseas or here at home. They share their daily lives and learn about other peoples’ lives.
  • Shared research space. We all research our chosen topic then post our findings on the blog. I can compare my info with yours and can then ask outsiders to check out if we are accurate or not.
  • Creative writing. I’ll write the beginning of the story, you give me feedback and then we will write the rest together. Our family and friends can add suggestions and share ideas. They can even write too if we let them.
  • Explore complex concepts. We’ll create a blog to explain fractions (or photosynthesis or parallelograms). I’ll post my ideas and you put up your explanations. I ask you questions and add in vidoes I’ve found online. You challenge my thoughts and we create a definitive definition and resource to share with our classmates.

I guess you could do achieve the same things ‘offline’ with paper and pen, but I’d argue that the learning our kids get from interacting with multi-media and people outside the school is hard to replicate without the technology.

It’s also really easy to use – which is a massive plus. Both for kids and for us adults! No point setting up something so complex that the tool (the blog) gets in the way of the learning!

Are your kids bloggers? What do you think of blogs as a way of learning?

How do you think your learned best at school?

Sep 24

Haggis Hunting and the Web

It’s finally decided to be Spring-like in Melbourne today! Yay for sunshine. Hope it’s lovely wherever you are :0)

Fact and Fiction

Do your kids believe everything they read online? Unlike traditional textbooks that go through (hopefully!) several rounds of editing and fact checking, the web is open source. Meaning anyone can and will make up what they like. Great for freedom of expression, not so great for factual research.

Here’s an activity I’ve done with Primary aged kids many times in the last 3 or so years. So much fun!

The Haggis Hunt

Check out this website  on  Haggis Hunting. I’ve had great fun with this site that tells kids all about the annual ‘Haggis Hunt’ in Scotland. The website convinces them that Haggis are small Scottish creatures that are hard to find and highly prized by the Scots.

haggis hunting

The Fun Bit!

Of course, it’s all nonsense.

In the classroom I get kids to spend an hour researching Haggis Hunting online through a range of websites and then report back. There’s a mass of images, forums, advice columns and websites promoting the Hunting of the Haggis. Google it yourself to see what I mean!

Once they have compiled their ‘report’, the kids will usually tell me all about the methods of hunting strategies, trapping theories and the daily habits of the Haggis. Even how to skin and cook a Haggis.

Then I tell them it’s all made up.

After their loud protestations (the fun bit for me!) we talk about the web and how easy it is to make stuff up – how can we trust what we read online?

We revisit (complete with video) and the Trip Advisor website for clues as to what’s made up and what’s not. We look at images and try and see where they may have been doctored. This is not easy to do and at least a couple of kids in each class usually try to convince us that they are real – right up to the last minute!

haggis hunting fake_websites

Haggis Hunting Protests

The remarkable thing about this activity is that it usually impacts on their future research. They tend to question more what they find and ask more probing questions of their classmates. And they never fully trust me again!!

That’s actually fine by the way – I want them to question, think and research for themselves. I won’t always be there to tell them when a haggis isn’t a haggis :0)

Could you try this at home?

I’ve had a couple of parents successfully con their kids and nephews/nieces! Great activity. Lots of fun and they never look at you quite the same again :0)

It’s all about independence in learning and knowing how to validate the info they find. Here are a few of the questions we use to check what’s real or not!

  • Who wrote the info?
  • Where are they from and what expertise do they have?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Who can you ask in person to check this info?
  • What other websites agree with you?
  • Who writes those websites – do you trust them?

Of course, it’s not foolproof, but at this age these questions really seems to lift their ability to challenge what they read online!

Now, I’m off to hunt the elusive perfect lunchtime sandwich…a rare creature indeed….

Does your child trust the web blindly? Let  me know some examples of what they search for online…





Sep 23

Web 2.What?

How are we today? I’m on ‘school holidays’ – which for me just means that one of my four responsibilities is quiet for two weeks. Just means more time for other things really! Does anyone else feel that free time just disappears during school holidays? Anyway, enough procrastinating…

Today we are chatting about Web 2.0. It’s a term that’s thrown around a bit and can mean a few things.

It’s important for us parents to know about Web 2.0 because of what it lets us and our kids do. Understanding what the Internet lets kids do today means we can prepare them and support them online. It’s about cyber-safety really.

But first  a quick history. The term Web 2.0 first appeared in 2004. It began with a techy/nerdy conference in the USA that brought people together to talk about all the cool stuff that the Internet was beginning to offer, like blogs, and Facebook and wikis. So it’s a relatively new concept.

While some people argue it’s not any different to what came before, the idea is that pre-2004, the Internet and technology was a one way conversation. Someone posted something or uploaded a web page and we read it. It took some serious tech skills to get a website going and that meant only those with the cash to pay or with the skills to do it themselves were posting online. Big corporations had websites for marketing and companies with big investors could launch social networking sites. Until that is, Web 2.0 developers started to create programming languages and software that let people like us in on the game. As the Internet became 2-way the new term was born: Web 2.0

Web 2 and cyber-safety

Web 2.0, to me, is anything online that lets us Communicate, Collaborate and Create. If it doesn’t have those three things, it’s not really Web 2.0.

It’s the communicate and collaborate that we need to think most about, asking, what are our kids doing online and with whom?

So think about the websites they are playing  on and ask yourself these questions:

Untitled design

Are they simply creating?

If so, who are they publishing to and why? Find our who they are thinking about as they create or build online. Check if there’s other elements going on. Like chatting with their friends as they create in Minecraft (not recommended by the way – read more here)


number 2Are they also communicating?

Is it an online community? Who is part of it? Ask about who they are talking with – and what about? Make sure you understand if it’s an open forum or behind an account. If they are logged into Club Penguin for example they might be chatting with others. It’s DEFINITELY not 100% safer than chatting on an open forum but these sites do have better ways to report problems and some do monitor the language and content. When our kids get to about age 12, they want in on these conversations and you need to know what they are doing. You might decide to block them from chat rooms. But you’ll only know what they are doing if you are online with them. At the very least, they should only be online in a ‘family space’ like the kitchen or family room. The ACMA suggest this makes it less likely they’ll do something dodgy and a bit more likely they’ll ask for help if you are right there.


number 3Finally, are they collaborating?

This is the educational bit. Teachers love the collaboration that Web 2.0 can offer and we are still working out how to find the best way to do this in a safe way. Websites like Edmodo offer private, virtual classrooms for teachers. Read more about Edmodo here. It’s key to preparing our kids to be successful in the 21t Century – they need skills like negotiating and working with others online and face to face.


Web 2.0 is basically all the exciting stuff. It’s Facebook and Twitter and blogging and wikis. It lets you and me contribute to the web and to interact with other people interested in similar things to us.

Web 2.0 is important to our kids’ futures too. They need to take advantage of all the online tools that can help them learn while learning about being safe and understanding who owns what online…

Do you use social media or blogs? Share what you think about Web 2.0 and your kids :0)




Sep 22

Online Classrooms – Edmodo

Our kids love social media – well most of them. It does depend on what the rest of their social group are doing. If everyone else in their class are Facebooking at night, our kids can feel left out.

There are great and valid reasons to keep our kids off of social media until they are 13 – the big one being it’s not legal until they are at least 13 in most cases. But the engagement kids show with interacting online is something that teachers are keen to make the most of :0)

One tool teachers are using is Edmodo.

using edmodo for learning and teaching social media web2.0

This website lets teachers set up a virtual classroom that all the students access using a unique code. I like the student sign in because it doesn’t require each child to have an email address – which is a whole other kettle of fish to manage at home and at school.

Once you log in it looks like this –

using edmodo social media web2 online_learning

So you can see it looks a bit like Facebook – that’s on purpose. It has one feature that I love for teaching. There’s no individual pages. So one child can’t go and write on another’s wall and say something nasty. Everything that anyone writes, goes to the main ‘feed’ on the home page. As a parent you can set this up for a group of your kids friends and then see everything they are saying and sharing.

You can upload files, share links and even use the built in Library to find good resources.

You choose who you post to – that’s the adults role – or send to the entire group.

edmodo for learning

You might also love the fact  (I do!) that there’s an iPad app too that will send you a notification every time someone posts – so you don’ have to remember to go in and check what they are up to :0)


So now you know what Edmodo’s all about. Is your school using it? Maybe you could gently suggest it?

Sep 19

Intelligently foster…

Just a quick hello to say I love this phrase I read this morning. A great article on new pedagogy (ways of teaching). The paper is from research carried out on the Rich Seams of of deeper learning that are happening in some (but not many) schools around the world. Change is hard, but so is fighting against the tide of social and technological change.

Anyway, I think it sums up what 21st Century teachers are trying to do and so wanted to share. That is all. Go about your day now :0)


Allow and intelligently foster what is (1)

Sep 18

ABC Splash – we love you <3

How’s life today? I had a great day working at Melbourne Uni today. I was running some workshops with Masters students and they seriously rocked. I’m so lucky to work with these adults who are so passionate and dedicated to their new profession of teaching. Some schools are going to be very lucky with their new staff next year. Well done guys.

I was sharing some useful websites and one that they loved was ABC Splash.

I wanted to share this with you asap cos it’s just good to know about. ANd this blog is about helping your kids at home with their learning (and maybe giving them a leg up in the meantime).

So, ABC Splash –  It’s a video resource site with vids on a range of topics. It’s linked to the Australian Curriculum but most of the topics are transferable to other countries. The maths and literacy vids are worth a look.

With videos you do need to remember a couple of things.

Watching a video once is not enough! There’s a lot of info and videos give the benefit of a pause and rewind button. Yay! You can’t rewind the teacher but you can the video! Take advantage of those play/pause buttons!

Encourage your child to stop the video and make notes or mind map or ask questions. It’s meant to be an interactive experience :0)

So next time your darling calls out “Mum…what does this mean” give ABC Splash a go. Bonus: this could just save your sanity during the witching hour at home.


PS no affiliations here – just sharing whats been useful to me ;0)

Sep 17

Googleable or Non-Googleable

How are you going today? It’s freezing here in Melbourne. We had sunshine this morning and now there’s hail banging on the roof. Four Seasons in One Day. Crazy weather.

Today we are talking about Google. Mainly because we use it all the time and our kids do too. But the problem is that they often spend a LOT of time messing about and falling down virtual rabbit holes – hours are lost to these distractions and diversions and often ultimately end up without what they were looking for….

Google Rabbit Hole

When was the last time you looked up something on Google?

I bet it wasn’t long ago. Maybe yesterday, today or even just an hour ago. Google isn’t the only Internet search engine of course. But I’ll also bet it’s a long time since you used something like Alta Vista…Am I right?

Google’s even a verb now. And our kids learn quickly that Google has the ‘answers’. (What we consider answers and they do varies of course!).

In the classroom I have kids telling me they “found it on Google” all the time. Of course, they didn’t find the information on Google – they only found the list of possible sources.  Google isn’t a source of information – it is ‘simply’** curating the Web for you.

So there are a few things I think about when I use Google with kids.

  • Firstly, get them to be specific. I say this a lot. They need to think about what they want to find before they can find it – not rocket science I know!! So, don’t type in cars. Type in blue cars near the beach to find the image you want or the content you’re seeking. The more specific you are, the better the search results will be. And the less time you or your child will spend searching and the more time they can spend using the info they find for their learning.

Searching Online

  • Ask the right questions. When you child is working on homework or looking up how to play/fix their favourite game, ask it as a question. This often brings up Forums in the search results, where you often can find other people with similar issues!



  • Is it Googleable? So when your children come up with questions to ask Google, it’s likely that they’ll ask something fairly obscure. They need to understand that some things are Googleable and some just aren’t. Why did Australian first settlers live in Sydney? is quite a tricky one to find an answer to on Google. First settlers in Sydney will get more info and closer to an answer. Google can’t form opinions for them (at least it shouldn’t!!) – they have to find the info they need to inform their own point of view.
  • Think about key words and phrases. Google doesn’t keep words in the order you type them. So if you search for Chicken Recipe with Lemons, you get every page that has those words – lemonade recipe with chicken kebabs for example, or lemon squash drinking bottles for feeding chickens. This is important to understand.
  • Which brings me to – Use Inverted commas to get Google to search for entire phrases. So “Chicken recipe with Lemons” will only bring up those exact words. So lemon chicken recipes WON’T appear. Give it a go. Makes searching much quicker if you know exactly what you are after.

These quick tips are useful for you but they are invaluable for your kids. The Internet is a big place. They need strategies to navigate it quickly and easily!

Can you share this with someone today? Who could use this info to get them to what they are looking for asap?

Let me know what you do when searching online? Any other tips?


** Nothing about Google’s algorithm is simple. (Algorithm = how they decide what to show you when you put a word or two in the search box.) There are some ways to play the system a little – by using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – but ultimately it’s a very complex, and well guarded secret formula that many guess at but no one really knows.
Sep 16

Notes, notes and more notes! iPads for the win…

So I want to share a quick recommendation with you  – about note taking! (No affiliation here, just love the product). Yep, it’s exciting, I know. But it can really help. Promise.

Have you been to a meeting at school or at work lately and found yourself wishing you could just push pause on the speaker? Maybe rewind and think about what they are saying for a moment?

Me too.

I often seem to get so. much. information. All at once, and then I’m asked to talk about it or answer a question. So here’s my advice. On your iPad or smartphone get yourself this app – Notability.

Notability App

There are lots of different note-taking apps, I know. I’ve tried at least 10 of them. But I come back to this one each time.

Here’s how it works.

  • Open a new document and push Record. Yep. It will record the audio around you.
  • Now start typing your notes. You can change the background, font, size etc…
  • As you go you can add in drawings or charts.
  • AND (best bit) you can take a photo of the screen or presentation or whatever and it will become part of your notes there and then.

So there you go…

But wait, there’s more – my other favourite bit. Play back the note at any point afterwards and then click on your notes/drawing/photo. You’ll find the audio recording will jump to the exact point that you wrote your notes.

So when you write, “look up” and realise you have no earthly idea what you wrote, play the audio back from that point and hear the presenter and what they were saying at that moment.

This is a lifesaver if, like me, your notes sometimes wander into the realm of the absurd. I’ve also used it with students in Grades 5 and 6 when they are trying to take in a lot of info. Hopefully, there’s no real ‘lecturing’ going on in a Primary school classroom, but sometimes we get visiting speakers or we are watching a complex video. This app helps.

This kind of app is also great for kids who need some help with focus and attention in class too. It can support their recall and take away some of the pressure they can feel when they are trying to listen, take notes and understand all at once.

Do you have a favourite note taking app? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have you used this app? Love or hate?

Sep 15

Social Media & Our Kids

Did you know…

Social networking is over-taking email and instant messaging in popularity with our students?
In a recent survey I did of the student population at my local primary school, 60% of students from Prep – Year 6 are members of at least one social network – and a large number of the remaining 40% had seen a social network and interacted with others online in some other way. And that’s when you ask the kids to identify what is (and what isn’t) a social network – some things they don’t count. Like Club Penguin, which is definitely a social platform…

This info is good to know!

Club Penguin & Cyber-Safety

In Software/websites like Club Penguin and Moshi-Monsters, your child can become ‘friends’ with anyone and most children work around the ‘safe chat’ functions (even students as young as Prep have done so!). So they are chatting with anyone about anything. BUT – and this is important – it’s not all bad! They just need boundaries and to know what to do and how to behave online.

That’s because our kids often think and learn quite differently to us.

They can learn through social interaction, both online and off. And unfortunately, just unplugging the computer isn’t the solution! Unplugging your child just leaves them isolated and – as we all know – more likely to go behind our backs. The advice for the Australian Communications and Media Authority is to work with them and to supervise!! The ACMA is a great resource if you haven’t seen it. Try out the parent page.
So, what do we do? Well, here are my suggestions:

  • Continue to talk about their online worlds with them
  • Spend 20 minutes a month just watching what they do online
  • Moderate what they are accessing using filters.

Online social networks offer a world of learning for your child, but we wouldn’t let them navigate a busy road by themselves without help and training, so we should also support them in navigating their busy cyber-worlds with the same help and training.

Have you had experience with social media and young kids? Let us know your tips and tricks…I’d love to hear from you!