Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sparkshop AKL

I am always blown away by the innovation of our educators. New tools, apps and activities are constantly being designed and there are so many teachers who are willing to share aspects of their practice. Last weekend, Clarelle and I attended Sparkshop Auckland, an 'unconference' for google educators in order to connect with some of these educators.

I learnt so much throughout the day, from both the workshops that I attended, the teachers I connected with and the Slam! session that ended the day. Here are some of my favourite pieces of learning from the day:

Bitmoji:  Although this is something I would perhaps use in my social life more than my teaching life, it is rather exciting being able to create your own avatar, which can be used in email as well as through social media. The image of your avatar (there are a range of positions that your character can take) could be used on a class site, as a blogger profile and so on. I thought that they could be used quite well in the place of stickers - my learners would certainly laugh at the site of a 'well done' stamp featuring my avatar!


Crafty: I got pretty excited when I found about about Crafty because I could immediately see the use of the extensions. The most useful for me, CraftyLevel allows you to highlight a piece of text and find out its Flesch-Kincaid reading age. This is of great use when I am searching through supplementary texts for my reading groups. I have also downloaded and started to use the other Crafty extensions. CraftyText displays large text across the screen (great for when my laptop is connected to the projector for displaying quotes or short pieces of text). CraftyCursor turns your cursor into a spotlight (again when my laptop is connected to the projector I can point to areas of my screen using this as it is more visible). CraftyRights ensures that your image searches return images that are free to use or share.

Draftback: This is extremely simple to use yet I have found it really helpful when reviewing my students writing. It is an extension that allows you to play back the process that the students went through when creating a Google Doc. Like revision history, but Draftback creates a video that illustrates what the children have typed on the doc. I have used this to view the students writing process,  the amount of collaboration that has occurred and to ensure that they have not been cutting or pasting! 

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard: Although this is no where near as sophisticated as the likes of the Oculus Rift, google cardboard gives your students a 360 degree view of their virtual surroundings. You simply place a smartphone inside the cardboard headset and set it to display a compatible program such as Street View in Google Maps and you will be able to set foot in new surroundings. As the first version of Google Cardboard is pretty cheap, I am intending to get a couple of pairs for my learners to use when we learn about new places. They could also be used to aid writing, particularly when describing a setting. 

Breakout EDU: I had a lot of fun using this tool and "breaking out"! This is essentially a game in which you must solve a series of puzzles to open a series of locks attached to the break out box. The puzzles can be presented in a number of ways, from QR codes to diagrams and can be related to any subject area. It is very much like one of the Escape games that are very trendy at the moment (like this one here) yet with an educational twist. I thought that this would be a great way of introducing new mathematical concepts such as Algebra, with the children having to find different values and solve maths problems. It is possible to build your own Breakout kit or to buy one from the US (hopefully a kiwi kit will be created soon) and there are hundreds of puzzles available on the website. 

Saturday, 28 May 2016


As an adult it is easy to forget how much fun it is to be creative, to mould plasticine or create a story with figurines. During this weeks MDTA day I reconnected with my inner child and had a blast - this could be my favourite session yet!

Our aim for the day was to create a claymation video to support an aspect of our students learning.  This term my learners have been studying the native bush and we recently went on a trip to Arataki. I decided that this would be a fun topic to use as the focus of my claymation. Here is the process I followed to create my video:

Step One: Planning

I started by creating a storyboard of my video to ensure that I had a clear idea of what I would be filming. As our learners have also been looking at narratives I wanted to structure my video just like a narrative, with an orientation, problem and resolution. I also included information about the type of shots I would take, the characters and scenery I would need to include.

Here is an example of a storyboard template

Step Two: Making a Mess!

I then created the background and characters for my movie. I really enjoyed creating my trees and props out of clay, even if they made quite a mess! I attempted to make some of the animals out of clay as well, but I realised that this could take quite some time.  Next time I will be having a go at creating my own characters, but given my time limit I quickly sketched my characters instead!

Step Three: Photography

In order to create an effective claymation video, you need to take a photo to illustrate the smallest movement. Each photo will only be displayed for about 0.1 of a second, which means you need to take a fair few to shoot an effective movie! I took around 500 pictures of my characters, although there are times in my video I should have taken a few more images to make the action sequences run more smoothly.

Step Four:  Editing

The editing of this video was not too challenging, as I simply had to sequence the images in order and record my voice over. When importing my images, I selected them all and set the time of each to be 0.1 of a second. I also ensured that they were set to 'fit' the screen rather than Ken Burns which would have disrupted the flow.

Check out my final product here:

After learning about claymation this week, I have been able to support my learners to follow the same steps in their own artwork. As a few of my learners designed clay characters as part of their art inquiry, I encouraged them to film their characters complete a few actions before their clay dried.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


One of my main aims since starting at Glenbrae has been to take my learners out of Glen Innes, figuratively speaking. Our learning usually begins with concepts that are familiar to my learners before we move on to explore the unknown.

However,  on Saturday 21st of May our school were given the opportunity to take 30 students to an exciting day in the city. They participated in the OMG!Tech Rangers event which was held in the Spark offices in the CBD.

Throughout the day the children took part in a number of workshops that were related to Science and Technology. They had an absolutely wonderful time and learnt a lot in these areas. I also had a lot of fun and will be recreating some of the activities that we participated in with the whole class.

Check out the video that we made of our day:

Friday, 20 May 2016

A day in the life of...

After weeks of filming footage of our inquiry project,  I collected my class iPad and connected it to my school laptop to unveil... a complete disaster. Various scenes had mysteriously disappeared, the audio quality left a lot to be desired and the video; we had several shots that contained the green screen and half of the action.

Fortunately, my learners are resilient; they quickly learned from our mistakes and created a short trailer depicting all that our original movie had promised, in under an hour. And fortunately for me, my last two MDTA PLG meetings were concerned with the creation of videos, so I will be better able to support them when editing.

In this weeks session we were challenged to film and create a short "Day in the Life of" video about learning in our schools.  I found it quite challenging to find the time to film my learners while in the midst of teaching, and only managed to take footage of a few of my lessons. However, it was great to learn from my mistakes and experiment with iMovie.

Check out my video here:

After the PLG sessions and my previous attempt at filming with my learners, I feel more confident about filming in the future.  Here are some of the things I will consider:

Top Tips for using iMovie with Learners

  • Give your learners a time limit in which to plan the movie, before checking in with you for feedback. This plan should not only include a storyboard, but ideas about the types of shots and a rough time limit for each scene. Younger children would need a lot of scaffolding in this area!
  • Set a time limit for filming and get children to replay their footage often to ensure that no mistakes have been made with either the video or audio.
  • Avoid Vertical Video Syndrome! Remember to turn your phone around to film in landscape, otherwise your footage will not fill your screen. 
  • When transferring files from a phone/ipad/camera, be aware of the amount of time it will take to upload your footage to iMovie or to your Google Drive.  Large files especially can take some time to load to your drive. 

Friday, 13 May 2016

Explainer Video

Today's goal was to create to learn, with our "create" taking the form of an explainer video. I definitely feel that I learnt a lot about creating video's - I now understand why my learners become so invested in them and how challenging they can be (when you take on something too ambitious!).

As soon as Fiona introduced our learning intention I immediately began to recall the number of groups in my class who are in the middle of creating videos at the moment. I am extremely proud of the work that my learners have put into these videos, particularly a group of my writers who decided to plan a story through drama, as they created and recorded an effective movie in a short time frame.  They also created some wonderful pieces of writing because of this.

Due to this groups success, I asked my reading group to create an ongoing movie which synthesised the texts that we read in the latter part of term one around Victorian England. It is now term two and I still have had to devote a bit of our reading time for the children to re-film sections of their script! I saw that they became very invested and eager to finish this beast of a video, but it was only today when I stepped into their shoes that I understood why; I made the exact same mistake as my learners, taking on a project that was too ambitious and becoming too invested to let it go.

I had originally planned to create a stop motion whiteboard style video, using a variety of images and then filming a voice over commentary on top. I planned each image quite carefully and photographed what I wanted to draw and when to support me when filming the real video. However, I had numerous technical issues arise - my practice run took me 20 minutes to draw, my phone did not properly record much of my footage and in the end refused to take videos altogether.

With ten minutes to spare, I called upon Ashley to film my video in short sections through my laptop, which she had to carry around in order to capture different areas of the whiteboard! Due to the time constraint I simply removed the majority of my drawings from my previous take and added some detail to each. Editing this footage together took sometime and I found that because my new clips were quite short, I couldn't fully explain what I wanted to say without making them painfully slow.

Although my finished product is unlike the video that I originally planned, I definitely learnt a lot about creating videos and feel like I will be better able to support my learners because of this!

Monday, 9 May 2016

A Different Kind of Ending

As I approached the stage at my graduation on Friday,  I began to consider where I might be if I had not undertaken this degree. In fact, there was a chance that I might not have gone to University at all, as I am the first person in my family to gain a degree and one of only a handful from my old primary school.  Although I like to think I would have found a job that I would enjoy, it would be such a shame to let my dream of teaching go simply because I was not brave enough to enroll in tertiary study.

It felt a little surreal returning to the University of Auckland city campus on Friday to graduate. I know that at other universities graduation is held at the end of the year, yet mine was held after I had finished my first term as a teacher. Although the celebration felt a little belated,  I really enjoyed catching up with my old classmates and I had a wonderful day.

The highlight of my Graduation was when I went to dinner with my family as we discussed my time in the classroom and what I had accomplished since gaining my degree. My Dad ended up creating a cake for my learners so that they could celebrate my success alongside me. They enjoyed hearing about my ceremony and particularly liked the cake which didn't last long at all!

I am so excited to see what I will accomplish next with this degree and my current postgraduate study. Although studying part time while teaching is difficult now, I can see how much it will pay off in the long run.