Working Together in Art

Last week our Elementary School had it’s annual International Day celebration.  It’s a fabulous day where we come together and celebrate our differences and similarities.  This year’s theme was One Day One World.  Our clever Art Specialists, Paz Molina & Trish Neubrand came up with a mural idea that would ensure that ALL the ES students could contribute too.


What Did We Decide To Do

All of the ES students contributed to a large mural during their art times. As the physical items for the mural were made and added to the mural, we decided to create a special time-lapse of everyone’s effort.

How Did We Do It?

It took just over a week for the mural to slowly come together.  Using the iPad app iMotionHD we set the iPad2 up each day to capture the putting together of the mural.  iMotionHD has a free version and it is good but the paid version allows you to export – so we purchased the paid version – this has been a worthwhile investment as it makes exporting finished projects a breeze!

Key Learning

Since we created this stop-motion movie over a number of days, it was very important to:

  • mark out (using masking tape) the placement of the iPad (on the table)
  • mark out the placement of the table the iPad sat on, and
  • mark out the placement of the Mural

This ensured that each time we captured an art session, the differences in capture were minimal.

Finishing Touches & The End Result

Using iMovie, all the exported iMotionHD captures were imported in, some still images were added, along with some catchy Creative Commons music called Spring the Swing by Papa_Zulu (found on Below is our International Day Mural creation – Enjoy!

Using Techxperts in the Classroom

Using Techxperts in the Classroom

Classroom management is a challenging skill at the best of times! Thankfully managing a classroom with technology is almost the same as managing a non-technology classroom with some ever-so-slight modifications. Today I want to share with you one of the strategies that makes a significant difference to my stress levels and the management of many digital devices in our classroom. 

It really isn’t necessary for you to know every single thing about every single device or tool that you use in your classroom. Granted, I usually do check out a new tool or device a little more before I introduce it to my students, but generally speaking, my knowledge is usually one step ahead of theirs! A way that I manage this in the classroom is to have “Techxperts” – usually two or three students that the class can ask for help when they are stuck using a particular tool or completing a particular task.

I know you will all understand this – I need to update the charts – it’s on my to-do list (or as we say in NZ the “round-tuit- list”) 

Round Tuit badges are actually available to purchase from here!

Finding Your Techxperts

There’s two main strategies used to find our techxperts.

Observation through Sandpit Time. Sandpit time is where a new tool is introduced and we just play (dabble) around with it seeing what we can find out in a set period of time. With middle school students, this is usually between 10-15mins – I’d let younger students explore the tool for at least 15-20mins.  At the end of our “sandpit” time we share what we discovered. Sometimes we do this “whole class” other times we set up speed-geeking tables and move around the class learning from each other. This really depends on how much time we have. After doing this, I can easily see who has picked up how to do things relatively quickly with a particular tool. I’ll approach those students who caught my eye and ask if they’d like to be the “techxpert” for that tool.

Specific Training. You’ll begin to find that you have students that always stand out during sandpit time.  As the year goes on, this makes it harder to have a variety of techxperts and I like to empower all students to be leaders or experts in a digital classroom.  To do this, I will ask a small group (usually 3-4 students) to be a techxpert for a particular tool or task. I use this strategy more when I need techxperts for a particular skill rather than knowledge about a tool. (But it does work for both reasons).  I will specifically teach this small group to become experts in a particular skill that we will be using a lot.  For example, I always teach a small group how to insert an image into a blog post (because we do that all the time when we’re blogging).  I always have techxperts that know how to do particular things in iMovie or glogster because we’re always using iMovie or glogster in our project work.  (You can insert what ever software/online tools you use here). A bonus discovery using the specific training method is that some students that normally wouldn’t volunteer, but did the training because I asked them to, really shone as techxperts and consequently being a techxpert made a huge difference to their own confidence!

Both of these strategies do take time, so I always allow for it.  The pay-off for spending time at the start doing either of these strategies really does make a huge difference to the way your classroom works when using the devices.


How Does Everyone Know Who The Techxperts Are?

I created a simple chart with velcro stickies on them (this quickly became two charts) as well as laminated name cards. The charts hung where they were easily seen. I also laminated the charts so that I could write tools on the chart (using a whiteboard pen) as some tools are likely to change during the year. In case you can’t see it, there’s either 3 or 6 velcro stickers per tool so that I could add the number of techxperts needed or available for either the tool (ie: iMovie or Blabberize) or the skill (ie: embed widget or embed image).

The charts worked well especially for any substitute teachers that may be in class for the day. (In NZ we call subs, relief teachers.) The charts  are recycled each year which is a bonus! This is the third year I’ve used these particular charts – as you can see, I started off using the term expert and later changed it to techxperts earlier this year.

The Power of Skype and your PLN

The Power of Skype and your PLN

The Most Amazing PLN Anyone Could Ever Ask For

This post’s feature image taken by my good friend Rachel; I’m “sitting” on Amanda aka HeyMilly’s “lap” and AllanahK skyped me in! This is the power of skype & your PLN!

My fabulous colleagues back home in New Zealand have been enjoying the Learning@Schools09 Conference held in Rotorua.  When my good friend (and one of the first people in my PLN) AllanahK tweeted that she was organising a “Matt-style” dance at the start of Wes Fryer‘s Keynote presentation, I couldn’t resist the urge to tweet back “Can I skype in?”

Sure enough – at 7.15am Bangkok, Thailand time, and 1.15pm, New Zealand time, she did just that- skyped me in so that I could join in the dance too.  It was brilliant – almost like being there.  I was able listen to Wes’s Keynote until Allanah’s battery finally died.  I wish I could have been there in personal to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and learn new things from incredibly talented people.

Video Proof!

Unfortunately the background music “Dancing with Matt”, got pinged by YouTube as copyright material.

Putting it Together!

I originally used jing to capture the screen on my laptop (‘cos that’s all I had), then discovered that it saves as .swf. Drat! Because that means it’s not editable (without the Pro version – funny that?).  So here’s the master genius work around I used:

Step 1:  Grab Jeff Utecht on his way out the door – (‘cos he has ScreenFlow)
Step 2:  Replay .swf on his laptop and re-capture using ScreenFlow – saves as a .mov, edit as you go
Step 3:  Import into iMovie – add titles and credits
Step 4:  Play real “Dancing with Matt” video on YouTube to capture the soundtrack using Audio Hijack Pro
Step 5:  Import audio into iMovie – adjust sound levels
Step 6:  Upload to teachingsagittarian’s YouTube channel

(Did I mention that I love my mac laptop?)

Skype Connection-Fest

I’ve mentioned the power of using skype in the classroom before. We’re involved in Silvia Tolisano’s short, simple yet so powerful Skype project AroundTheWorldwith80Schools.  In just two short weeks we have connected with seven different classrooms in four parts of the world.  And we’re not stopping there!  By the end of our school year, I hope to share with you that we managed to connect right around the globe.

365/68 Skype with Benton Elementary School

As I reflect on our involvement in this project, I wonder what this has done for my students.  At first I thought that it really didn’t bother my students one way or another that we were connecting with so many different classrooms around the world.  But then, their excitement hardly ever shows – unusual I know, but seriously true.  I worry about that because they’re only 5th graders – what’s happened to their natural “wonderment and awe?”

However, my mother taught me really well – not to judge a book by it’s cover – so I decided if I was truly going to reflect on using this tool in the classroom, I ought to ask those that have the biggest stakehold – my students.

Here’s the questions I asked them and a sample of their replies.  You be judge of the value of using a tool like skype in the classroom with your students.

How do you feel stopping for 5-10 minutes, to skype with a class in other country?

Yes, we should keep on making connection around the world, because it helps us understand about different parts of the world and their cultures, but mainly because it’s fun.

Skyping with another class in another country for 5-10 minutes is great because you learn about their school, their way of life, their beliefs, and their culture. I have learned many different things about the topics in the previous sentence.

I like the idea of taking 5-10 minutes off to skype because it is a fast and easy way to communicate and learn about the other place we are skyping in a short time.

Do you learn anything when we talk to other students from around the world?

what the weathers like
what the other kids in that school play in recess
and other unfamilliar subjects we don’t do.

I learn about other people’s lives and it’s fun to compare them to mine.

I have learned about other countrys, culture, about them, and the location that they are in

Do you use Skype at home to connect with family/friends?

I’ve never connected on skype with my friends in America but I connect with my family in America except the skype that we do is we call them with our computer and it calls their real phone not their computer so that means that we can’t use a camera so that’s how it is different.

At home I Skype with my Grandparents in the USA, and my parents have other contacts in their Skype “phonebook.”

I use skype a lot at home because i skype my dad a lot when ever he leaves the country and i really like to skpe my friends.

I don’t use Skype at home.


What have you learned about communicating with others using Skype in classroom?

I have learned that on Skype calls you have to speak loudly and clearly, so the person on the other end of the line can hear you and understand you.

I learned that communicating with other people around the world can be very easy and simple.

Should we continue to make connections with other classrooms around the world?  Why? / Why not?

Also i really think that this helps people in our class to because you finally get a chance to say things about yourself and were you live to other people around the world.

I think that we should continue making connections with other schools because you will get to meet more people and learn more about the place that they are at.

I think we should keep skyping with other classrooms around the world because you learn about other people’s experiences and daily lives. Afterwards, you can compare and contrast them with your experiences and life.

I think we should keep doing skype calls but a thing we could do to make it better is if the calls had a bit more purpose because right now we arent getting anything really meaningful about the country we skype with.

I was thinking this was pretty honest and valuable feedback.  My class are relatively well-connected with family and friends that live around the world – being International families means they need to, they like the fast and simple stuff, they enjoy learning about students just like them and comparing themselves and they like meeting new people.

My Takeaways/Reflection

Keep using skype to make connections and have conversations around the world.

Keep it short – skyping is fun but it needs a purpose.  Even in Grade 5 students are looking for the purpose in whatever it is they being asked to do.

Gr8tweets for the Month of March

For the month of March, a group of educators and lifelong learners will be picking a “Tweet of the day” and ReTweeting it with a tag: #gr8t

Hopefully, you will join us in doing this too.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to participate:
• To share what you value about twitter.
• To [[|see what others value about twitter]].
• To celebrate the power and wisdom of your Personal Learning Network.
• To find interesting people to follow on Twitter.

My choice for what to retweet with #gr8t will be a Tweet that I find interesting, or insightful, or humorous. It might link to something I enjoyed reading, or it might have something profound or even fortune-cookie-like that appeals to me:

There aren’t really any rules to participate: Find a tweet you value, and share it!


For Example, here is a Tweet I’d like to share:


And so I retweet it with #gr8t:


Then it shows up on the Gr8Tweets wiki and on twitter searches for others to see and share.
I’m looking forward to sharing the Gr8tweets that I find, at least one daily for the month of March, and I’m hoping you will join me and share what you find.
Feel free to follow Gr8tweets on Twitter and Gr8tweets will follow you back, (this part is totally optional).

Even if you aren’t on twitter or you don’t want to participate, be sure to check out the Gr8Tweets wiki and see some of the reasons why so many educators are finding Twitter a valuable tool!

Network in Action

Fellow COETAIL’s – we’ve been reading about personal learning networks and the power of connectivism.

Here’s a real life example of what is possible with a network.  New Zealand’s next door neighbour, Australia is suffering right now from raging bushfires.  These fires have already claimed the lives of many Australians, their homes, their schools, their communities. Bushfire  Australia

From Jenny Luca‘s Ning – Working Together 2 Make A Difference

Victoria, the State I live in in Australia, has been hit by a tragic natural disaster that is affecting the lives of many of our country communities. On Saturday the 7th of Feb., bushfires, fanned by fierce northerly winds in 46 degree celcius temperatures, ravaged our countryside, leading to the deaths of 173 people. This figure is expected to rise to over 200 in the coming days as they gain access to affected areas and search homes. Native animals, livestock and family pets were other victims of this disaster.

So how can we all make a difference? We would love to see our education community from near and far band together to support the communities in need. What is needed is money to help schools rebuild, families rebuild their lost homes and for communities to build the infrastructure needed that has been lost in these fires.

What can you do? Anything that will help your students to understand the need to help others when the situation is dire. Be it a sausage sizzle, free dress day, bake sale, whatever it takes to raise a few dollars that can be used to support others. In the next few days, with the help of Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and some words of wisdom from Clarence Fisher, we’ll be setting up a paypal account to direct funds you raise to the Red Cross appeal that has been set up to support those affected. Create a page here and let us know your plans. We can support one another and link our schools to a common cause. Let’s show the world how the education community can use the tools at our disposal to connect and support one another for a common purpose.

Let’s make a difference too and continue to show the power of a network by extending a hand to those that are in desperate need of our help.