Aug 15

Never lose a school notice again!

So it’s a beautiful day here. The conference is amazing and the food is… well, amazing too!
 Tech-TIp time – a quick one today.
Keep loosing those school notices or forms or permission slips?
Once you’ve returned them I find it hard to keep track – what was that I signed. Could have been anything really. Maybe I signed my kid up for the army or the circus. Who knows.
So my tip for today is to get Evernote. Such an amazing tool (it’s my external brain and has been for 6 years).
Get the free app on your computer, iPad, phone or any device really. You save something on your phone, it appears on your computer. So no matter what device you have with you your info is right there.
never lose a school note again
I love it. More than is reasonable probably.
So, how to use Evernote to deal with all that school paperwork your kids bring home? 3 steps…
  • Take those notes form school, gym club, footy club or whatever you need remember.
  • Open up Evernote and choose the ‘Photos’ option
  • Take a quick pic of the info
Evernote will save this and sync it to the cloud. The best bit? The whole thing is searchable. Right down to the text inside images. So take a photo of the parent helper roster and then search for your name and it will find your name inside the photo. So cool.

So it’s a Thursday and darling 8 year old says ‘I think its Italian day tomorrow, I think I need a costume or was it food… mum!!!!!’

No worries. Open up Evernote, type in ‘Italian’ and let Evernote work it’s magic. Up pops the original letter (likely sent a month ago) with all the details.
Relax, all you need is a Mario moustache and a pair of blue overalls and you are set.
How to win at mum-ing? Evernote, all the way. :0)
never lose a school notice again
Give it a go and let me know how you go. If you have any questions about Evernote, leave a comment below and I’ll get right back to you :0) Gotta convert me some folks to the Evernote-way.
Enough with the evangelical nutty-ness. See ya!!
Jul 13

Write a beautiful story…easily!

Happy Monday!  A very rainy and (relatively) cold day here in Melbourne. We were promised crazy weather and even an Antarctic Vortex…but no, we just got this –>
melb weather
Not that impressive but might get more exciting soon! I’ll keep you informed ;0)

Have you seen StoryBird? This is a fab website for creating your own online storybooks. Kids love it as they can make and share professional looking e books using beautiful illustrations.

My favorite part of StoryBird are the drawings, cartoons and illustrations that are part of the website – and free to use. Wonderful artists spend time drawing a ‘collection’ of images that you can use to tell your story.
Here’s an example…

See? Stunning, right?
storybird.com

some of the gorgeous art you can create with on Storybird.com

A couple of ideas to get your kids writing with Storybird
  • Have them plan their story first – then go into Storybird and choose the artwork collection that suits their story, write their story, taking care to place one idea per page and to match the image to their story!
  • Or (my favourite way to use Storybird with younger kids) – Have them choose their artwork collection first, and then create a story to match to the images. This way they have to really think clearly about the characters and settings!
Don’t forget to also read the Public ebooks on the site. I love sharing with kids how the same pictures can be used to tell an entirely different story!
Older kids love this too – I like to choose the artwork collection for them and ask them to discuss the emotions that different images convey. Great for working on deeper comprehension and trying to read between the lines of stories :0)
Hope you enjoy – maybe you just need to have a play yourself! If you make a masterpiece – be sure to share it here :0) We will make sure you feel like a winner!
***PS not sponsored in anyway – just love it!

What story could this image tell?

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Jun 12

Tech-Tip Friday – sharing a webpage

A quick tip today! Have you ever been looking at a website and thought ‘I wish my mum/dad/friend could see this – they’d love it!’

Well, there’s a quick and easy way to share a website with anyone that has an email!

Just find the URL and paste it into an email!

  • Ok, so first step – What is a URL?

A Uniform Resource Locator is a unique address that links to a specific ‘place’ on the in Internet. Every webpage as a URL as do all images and videos too. For our purposes we just need to find the URL of a page (although you can usually right-click on an image and find the URL for the specific image too.

  • Next step – find the address.

There are number of web browsers that let you surf the net, and each is set up slightly differently. But you can always find the URL or address of a website at the top of screen. Like this:

finding the URL

 

So you copy that ENTIRE thing (don’t miss bits off the end!) and paste it into an email! That’s it. Done. Easy peasy and no need to try and spell a complicated website address over the phone or in a text message (I’ve seen that done, not easy or fun :0(

So a quick and easy tip this week – but one I’ve been asked for a few times lately!

Want other tips or tricks? leave a comment below and I’ll see what I can do.

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Oct 15

Backup Your Precious Photos and Data – one tool that makes it simple

Today’s post is more for you than your kids (although it might be useful for both). But first, a question: When was the last time you backed up your computer, your photos or your iPad or smartphone?

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your computer blew up (maybe from a power surge) or your house was burgled (really hope not) and your computer destroyed?

Backing up your computer at home. would it survive

If you are like most of us, your precious family photos are on your computer. Or there’s a decade’s worth of documents, spreadsheets or email that you’ve got sitting on your computer. Sure you could live without this info but I’m sure you’d rather not!

It used to be that you had to have a physical hard drive to back up your computer. Or maybe even a USB.  But not any more. We all create so much ‘stuff’ on our computers, it’s just not practical to backup everything ever time you make a change.

And so we now have a range of easy to use tools that are ‘Cloud Based’. Want to know about ‘Cloud Computing’? See this post. But the shorthand is, you are storing your data on other people’s (or companies’) computers – all around the world.

Is this safe? Well, yes. As far as safety on the Internet goes. There are a range of different services and I have heard good things about many of them.

But, I was asked the other day which back-up system I use so I thought I’d share. I use Dropbox. This isn’t a promotion but just a recommendation from a fan!

Dropbox

 

It works this way:

  1. Sign up for an account on their website
  2. Download the Dropbox Folder to your computer (every computer you own & your tablets too)
  3. Sign in to Dropbox on your computer
  4. Add any files to this Dropbox folder and they automatically sync to the Dropbox website.
  5. Done.

 

So how safe is Dropbox?

Here’s what they say –

Dropbox uses modern encryption methods to both transfer and store your data.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and AES-256 bit encryption.

This may be gooble-dee-goock to you but what it means is that your documents/photos whatever are encrypted (turned in to code)  when they are sent to Dropbox. So quite safe. But…

The Internet is NEVER a place for personal info though – so credit card numbers, bank details or any private documents don’t belong in the cloud. You need to back those up separately!

You family photos and documents are part of your family’s history. It would be very sad to loose all of that because a power pole goes down and the power surge fries your computer.

Try a cloud back up system and you don’t need to think about it again!

Every time you are connected to the Internet, Dropbox will synchronise your files.

This also means you can access your documents or photos from anywhere. So you started that birthday invite on your laptop at home and want to finish it on the desktop at work?

Go to the Dropbox website and find the document – anywhere, from any Internet-connected computer 🙂

Let me know how you go! Do you use Dropbox or another similar service?

 

 

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 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 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!

questions

 

  • 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 11

How can we use technology to help kids learn?

When we make decisions about technology – at home or at school – we need to consider why we are bothering. It’s usually a good amount of cash and most of us aren’t millionaires.

What a lot of schools are doing these days is using a kind of chart to understand how they are using technology.

One of these ‘models’ is called the SAMR model.
Here’s what it looks like:

samr

You can see that the SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. It’s a way of thinking about the ways we use technology – rather than jsut what cool app or new iPad we have in front of us!

So when we think about teaching with technology we have to thinkg first about what kids are actually doing with it. It’s lovely to buy our kids an iPad or laptop or to fund the school 1:1 program but how do we know that it’s making any difference to what and how our kids learn?

So we think about the four main ways that tech can be used.

photo 1

It could just substitute what we already do. In a classroom, that’s something like asking kids to type up their story in Word but then print it and hand it to the teacher. At home, its downloading and iPad that lets them practice (over and over and over) their timetables. The technology is just replacing what we already do. No new learning there.

 

 

 

 

 

photoNext we could add or augment the way our kids learn. This might be using spell check or adding in website links to their Word story. On an iPad it might be an app that self-corrects and sends kids to harder questions if they get enough right. So it’s adding a little something but when it comes down to it – the activity and learning is just the same.

 

 

photo 2Then we get into the top two levels of SAMR. These ones are most likely to result in actual learning benefits – which is what we want to see when have forked over $500 for an iPad/laptop.

Modfiying learning means just that. You could do the task without a computer but it would be hard. The kids audience has changed. Instead of printing off their story, they post it on the school website for anybody to read. They have more purpose to their work now.

 

redefindFinally, we can use tech to Redefine the learning our students do. This means thinking about changing the audience (who the work is for) and the owner (who’s work is this and who gets to make decisions about it). You’ll know your child is working at this stage of SAMR if they can’t possibly complete the learning experience WITHOUT the computer. The tech becomes vital because of what it provides – connection, audience, interaction beyond school.

So next time you wonder what your child is doing online – have a think about it against the SAMR model. Is it worth the effort they are putting in?

Have you heard of SAMR before? What do you think about this way of learning ? Please share with us – we’d loved to know more about you and your experiences!

Sep 08

What’s this Cloud all about? Google Drive for Learning

Lots of kids and schools are looking at Cloud Based storage these days. But what does it mean? And why should we know what it’s all about?     Mainly because there are privacy issues inside these fantastic tools that you need to understand.

 

My dad reckons that everything on the Internet is stored in a big hole in the middle of the ocean. I’m not sure about that but he kind of has a point – whenever we store a document, image or video it has to be saved somewhere. Most of us store things to our computers.

This means that if someone steals our computer or iPad all our documents are gone. Big problem. So that’s where the cloud comes into action. Google Drive is one of the big providers of a cloud service and the one we will look at today.

So when you save things to Google Drive, you are storing your work on Google’s computers that are connected to the Internet – they call them servers.

Remember that the Internet is really just a massive network of computers connected together by cables.

The Cloud allows us to save our work on other peoples computers and they backup your data without you doing a thing – once it’s set up. AND every time you make a change to your document or photo or video, it’s saved. Finally, it also saves all the drafts you make so if you delete a paragraph, for example, and then want it back you can go get it – no problem.

These features are fantastic for our kids who leave even their hats and coats lying around and are perhaps less likely to remember to back up and secure their documents online!

3 Things To Remember

1. Once it’s on the Internet it’s no longer just yours. Check the user agreements. Who owns the documents once it’s on their servers?

2. The Cloud is no place for any secure information or private details – i.e. your credit card numbers!! Nothing is failsafe and safe is better than sorry

3. If you don’t have Internet, you aren’t backing up. So if you work offline then you need to connect to the Internet to get the cloud storage benefits.

Have fun – and make good choices :0)

Let me know how you go – do you use any Cloud storage at the moment?

Which one do you like best? (I use a few!!)

In the meantime…how does it work? Glad you asked…

Items available.