Plickers

Have you heard of Plickers? This is a new app that works on all platforms, which is a clicker without a clicker. You download a set of A6 cards which have unique shapes on them. The orientation of the card corresponds to a multiple choice letter (A-D, or however many you want to add). You open the app, point your device at them and it records the answers – if you have a class set up, it keeps a record of the answer against each child. You can create questions on the fly, or prepare them in advance. Definitely worth checking out! This is the low tech high tech solution to exit polls.

Pinelands High School blog

Yup, PHS is finally entering the digital age in a big way. I’ve been added as an author, so will be blogging over there on various events and things not necessarily directly related to Life Sciences. For those who follow this blog, where I post the LS resources I’ve found and am using in some way, you might want to follow that blog too, to pick up tips on other stuff. The url is http://pinelandshighschool.wordpress.com/.

Enjoy!

EdTechConf Extended @ Elkanah

What a blue the two days passed by in! As with last time, there was too much info to take in. The first day was fine, but by day 2 my brain was in overload mode, and I found it really hard to be an active listener, even though I was taking notes. Actually, taking notes really helped me to concentrate.

At a work level I came away with 2 things I really want to try (I’m not going to be an Ambitious Alice!) – using Diigo properly (as opposed to the half-hearted effort after the last EdTechConf), and playing with Edmodo/ Obami/ Google Apps for Education, to make a decision about a way forward for our school. Our teachers are keen to have subject websites, so I think this is something we really need to look at.

Oh – wait, there’s a 3rd thing – I want to investigate interactive projectors. Depending on how well they work, we can rather spend our limited cash on them, than on IWB’s.

Other highlights for me included having one of my BFFs at the conference (totally unexpected!) and meeting several people I’ve only known in cyberspace. As usual, having my DH at the conference with me was a real highlight. I ADORE the fact that we are interested in (some of) the same things, and that I have someone like-minded and easily accessible with whom to bounce around ideas long after the conference has ended.

On a personal level,  I came away with only one thing I want to try – I’m going to look seriously at the MS Innovative Teachers Competition. I’m sure there’s a way that I can turn what I’m already doing into a project that could be submitted. If so, I think I would gain tremendous satisfaction from entering.

Data management

Oh. My. Word. Data management is a big deal. I mean, I always knew it was, but suddenly, being on the inside, as it were, I’ve been given a new perspective on just how big a deal it is. While data management isn’t exactly what I was appointed to look at, I’ve fallen into it because it does have implications for teachers’ time.

At the moment, we use EduAdmin because it is an incredibly powerful reporting structure and because it has the ability to cope with the complexity of our timetable. The down side to it is that it is modularised, which means that it’s a pain to get information out of. To see one child’s address, telephone number, email, timetable, etc, etc, etc you have to go into a new section or module for each and every piece of data you want to view. It doesn’t have a dashboard approach that many of the newer systems have. It also doesn’t talk to other programs very well, which is another problem.

However, a while back we took the decision to stick with it because EduAdmin have promised that they were working on fixing that. They have come up with another module that is their first attempt at a dashboard approach. It’s still not perfect (e.g. when you look up a child’s email, you can’t just click on the email and have a new message open up in Outlook), far from it, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

As a result, one of the first projects I’ve been involved with is trying to move our DT system and intervention register (register of all intervention strategies employed for individual students) into the EduAdmin database. We’re also looking at moving one of our other systems – late for class – into it as well. If it all works, which I think it will, it will mean that (using the new “dashboard”) it becomes easier for teachers to see all the information they need for students with only a few clicks. Let’s hope so, because I’d like to get an early ‘win’ on the job.

Other things I’ve achieved have been to help one of the departments with their spreadsheets. I’ve also been able to help one of the new teachers get her head around EduAdmin, and I’ve helped another teacher learn how to create shortcuts on her desktop and to install Dropbox, so that she’s now confident and is teaching others how to do the same!

IT survey

As one of my first tasks in my new post I conducted a whole school IT survey (nearly 1000 kids plus about 50 staff). Because we haven’t yet bought a membership on SurveyMonkey and the free membership only allows 100 respondents, we did the survey on paper. I then had a team of kids who helped me to summarise the data. (I still have to pay them in chocolate for their time.) There were some really interesting results from it, so my next task is thinking through the implications.