Digital Video in the Classroom

All images within the above video were collected adhering to Creative Commons Licensing. Attributions are listed here.

Davidson, S. (2009). A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. Science & Children, 46(5), 36-39.

Harel, I. (2003). Building software beats using it. MaMaMedia. Retrieved February 25, 2009,

King, D. (2009). Video on the web: the basics. Multimedia & Internet@Schools, 14(3). Retrieved February 2, 2009, Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Technology Sydney

Kulla-Abbott, T. & Polman, J. (2008). Engaging student voice and fulfilling curriculum goals with digital stories. THEN: Technology, Humanities, Education & Narrative, Spring 2008 (5), 38-60.

Levin, H. (2003). Making history come alive: Students interview Holocaust survivors and publish their stories. Learning and Leading with Technology, 31(3), 22-27.

Schuck, S. & Kearney, M. (2006). Capturing learning through student-generated digital video. Australian Educational Computing, 21(1).

Skinner, E. & Hagood, M. (2008). Developing literate identities with English language learners through digital storytelling. Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, 8(2), 1-27.

Urban School of Technology, Telling their Stories: Oral History, Website:

To Game or not to Game… That is the question!

** Please NOTE: At the end of this blog is a VoiceThread. It would be great if you could contribute a comment to this thread after reading this blog. Thankyou. **

The use of using games in classrooms has been an issue of concern over the years. More recently the use of computer games has been heavily debated by teachers, parents and community members. Over time games are becoming more and more tolerated for use in education, and in many schools teachers are expected to use methods such as games to motivate and engage children in their learning.

It is obvious to state that the quality and quantity of educational games (often termed edutainment) is growing every year. We can see by comparing early games such as Reader Rabbit and Where in the World is Carmen SanDiago?, with recently created games such as I SPY Fantasy and Marble Blast Gold. Even the widespread usage of edutainment shows the changes in teacher’s opinions over time. Lipschultz writes about how games are being played in today’s libraries, something which many librarians would never have imagined possible.

Etuk notes that edutainment began in 1984 with ‘Math Blaster’, and that today’s products must be anchored in more specific pedagogical design principles. In “What Video Games have to Teach Us about Learning and LiteracyGee comprised a list of 36 principles that are used to make video games, that can be transferred to the education sector to enhance learning. Among these principles are active and critical (opposed to passive) learning, taking risks without real world consequences, intrinsic rewards, lots of (not boring) practice, and a variety of modalities. Gee states that edutainment engages children, asks questions, gives children safety to fail, is contextual and provides relevant learning. Children are learning through games without even realising it.

There is an extensive number of research that has been produced arguing for and against the use of computer games in schools. The European Parliament released a report stating that these games can teach children essential life skills, such as strategic thinking, creativity, cooperation and innovative thinking. The report urged parents and teachers to take a greater interest in games and to consider using them for educational purposes.

Egerfeldt-Nielsen outlined some of the problems relating to the use of edutainment, but he also states that the new generation relies on constructivist learning theories. He realises that computer games are just another tool for the teacher which can be dispensed with great success, but also have clear limitations. There is the understanding that computer games can be used effectively in classrooms to facilitate learning, if they are adopted in careful ways and incorporated into the curriculum thoughtfully. I believe that children should be able to see how the games they are playing fit into what they are learning.

Etuk states that games are being designed to teach, not simply to entertain. I believe that this combination (entertainment and teaching) is powerful and has opened up avenues for children to learn that have never been possible before.

As a teacher I will use games in the classroom to support learning. I will ensure that I create an environment which is supportive to learning by setting clear guidelines for behaviour and by making sure that games are used to enhance learning, and therefore are strongly correlated to the curriculum I have chosen. I will also endeavour to incorporate some of the principles of video games in my own face to face teaching to enhance learning. I will need to be cautious to ensure the games chosen are based on good pedagogy and age appropriate. I believe that it is important to inform parents about games that are used, both for their interest, and to justify how that game is educational. The NSW DET provides documents outlining procedures for consultation with parents over the implementation of computer games in schools. I really want to encourage parents to be supportive of games and be on the lookout for educational games that their children love for use in their own homes. I myself will be looking for free edutainment that I can recommend to parents, so that children are less disadvantaged by their economic circumstances.

Bold References
Egerfeldt-Nielsen, S. (2007). Third Generation Educational Use of Computer Games. Journal of Educational Multimedia & Hypermedia, 16(3), 263-281.

Etuk, N. (2008). Educational gaming-from edutainment to bona fide 21st-century teaching tool. Multimedia & Internet@Schools, 10(4). Retrieved February 2, 2009.

European Parliament. (2009). Computer games ‘can teach children essential life skills. Education, 34(3), 2-3. Retrieved February 13, 2009 at

Gee, J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved February 12, at

Lipschultz, D. (2009). Gaming @ your library. American Libraries, 40(1/2), 40-43.


Why Filters? Which Filters?

Schools, governments and parents all around the world area currently talking about web filters. Why? They want to protect their children from exposure to inappropriate content that is all to easily popping up in internet browsers.

Current discussion suggests that governments should introduce free automatic filtering of the internet to block pornographic sites. Bailey writes that at the core of our technology infrastructure must be a strong set of access and filtering controls, detecting and preventing intrusion.

Leslie reports how Government tests have shown that often material that should be targeted will slip through, and much that should be allowed will be blocked. In addition to this, usually the better the filter is the more it slows down network performance (up to 86%). Miners writes that for this reason schools will need to look for ways to increase their bandwidth.

An article written by Wortham reports that Connecticut Attorney General Mr Blumenthal stated that almost 100, 000 convicted sex offenders (in America) are mixing with children on MySpace (shown by a subpoena), and for everyone of them, there may be hundreds of others using false names and ages. This scares me.

Bell discusses how some teachers strongly believe that some of the current filter systems block perfectly legitimate and valuable educational sources yet still allow inappropriate sites. She argues that teachers and principals are not given any power to unblock sites which causes stress for teachers who want to access them. This also restricts teachers ability to deal with cyber bullying issues as they arise since often teachers are unable to access sites such as MySpace to check out these incidents.

Bell suggests that children would be safer if schools reduced the strict filters and instead focused on teaching students good search skills and how to distinguish for themselves between good and bad sites. Bell also states that a current problem is students use the internet at school without having to think too much, they then go home where they are often unsupervised in their internet use, and suddenly become bombarded with spam and inappropriate sites.

Filters also provide a false sense of security for teachers and parents. Many sites manage to avoid becoming captured in filters and many guides are also easily available to give children step by step instructions on how to get around filter systems, E.g. Youtube clip.

In addition to this, teachers should teach children (and learn themselves) how to judge the reliability of sources of information found when surfing the net. Descy writes an article titled “Of course its true.. I found it on the web!” gives some attributes to look for when evaluating a site for accuracy of information, these are, authority of author, is the author/site biased?, credible references and is currency of information. Descy also suggests teachers give students many different examples of good and bad websites to help prepare them to critically evaluate information they see on the web.

As a teacher I realize the need to not only set up a filtering system that will help protect children from inappropriate internet sites, but also to teach children appropriate behavior and communication on the internet. Children need to be warned about people such as these, but more importantly children should be taught the skills to equip them with the knowledge of what to do incase they do become involved with such people or sites. I plan to always be alert when allowing children to use the internet, monitoring them and not leaving them alone. I think it is important to teach parents about the dangers of the internet, but also to equip them with the knowledge and skills to help set up a safe environment for their children to use the internet rather than to scare them into banning the internet in the home. It is disappointing that we live in a society that needs such filtering, however it is a reality and as a teacher I will do I all I can to protect the children whom I teach.

Bold References
Bailey, D. (2009). Safe surfing for primary education (new Technology & Learning, 4(1).Retrieved February 26, 2009 from Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Technology Sydney

Bell, M.(2009). Do you want kids to be safe online? Loosen those filters! (Column). Multimedia & Internet@Schools, 38(3). Retrieved February 2, 2009 from Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Technology Sydney

Descy, D. (2008). Of Course It’s True…I Found It On the Web!. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 52(6), 8-9. Retrieved February 5, 2009.

Miners, Z. (2008). Technology Overload. District Administration, 44(11), Retrieved February 28, 2009.

e-books… e-xciting… e-xcellent


An electronic book (e-book) is a paperback-sized gadget that lets users download books, newspapers and blogs onto a high-resolution screen (MX News, 10 February 2009, pg.9).

The variety of ‘traditional’ paper books that are now being published and marketed in digital form, along with well known authors (such as Stephen King) who are choosing to publish their new books online helps to display how e-books are taking off. McKenzie (2009) explains that the potential of e-books in schools can be forecast by the sheer popularity of e-books in society in general, with increases in sales of over 55% in the last year.
This popularity is beginning to make headlines in education around the world. Only a few weeks ago the Greek opposition leader, George Papandreou, demonstrated an e-book to his parliament and asked that free e-books, full of many thousands of educational books, be distributed to every student in Greece. This is an application that is a currently being discussed by teachers in Australia.
Already schools are adopting this new technology in their libraries with a wide range of electronic books becoming available for students to browse and borrow online. Childrensbooks is one example of a site that is targeting parents to buy e-books for their children. This is a reflection of the way computer technologies are being used to enhance children’s learning.
A test program using Sony eBooks was recently conducted at the Bi-Cultural Day School (in America). Headmaster Gerald Kirshenbaum stated that “this is an exciting, imaginative and enticing piece of equipment that will get to our goal of increasing their love of literature”.
Although some situations where the need for e-books are illustrated above, Bill Hill comments that the biggest problem with average [paper] textbooks is that they are a year out of date as they roll off the press. E-books become economical because the content can be continuously updated, paper is saved (as I suggested to a teacher blogger Damien Riley, who is passionate about saving paper), the material is always current and the cost of technology is so low.
I believe the biggest barrier at this point in time is the range of books that are available as e-books. Although books are being added at a rapid pace there are still many titles that are not yet available. In contrast, I believe the best function of e-books is the way they will aid children as they learn to read. Simple tools such as read-a-loud options, zoom, dictionary and key-word searches could effectively allow children to read and understand difficult books all by themselves.
I personally plan to incorporate the use of electronic books in my classrooms. I will teach children how to find appropriate e-books so that all children are reading material that is stimulating and challenging, and I will encourage them to look up the meaning of unfamiliar words (and listen to them pronounced). I will ensure I teach children about plagiarism because I believe that good habits are formed at an early age. I myself will build my own collection of e-books, and will use the resources available online in libraries to enhance my professional development. There is a possibility of extending the use of technology to gain information to the point of visiting an online museum such as the Tech Museum of Innovation, as described by Felix (2009). I will continue to keep up with the ever changing digital age as it impacts education enormously. I will advocate the use of e-books in any school that I will teach in so that this great resource can become widely available and used.

Bold References
Felix, Kathie. “Tech Museum online.(Net LEARNING).” Multimedia & Internet@Schools 15.6 (Nov-Dec 2008): 8(1). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Technology Sydney. 2 Feb. 2009

McKenzie, Deborah. “Ebooks and 21st-century learning.” Multimedia & Internet@Schools 16.1 (Jan-Feb 2009): 27(2). Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. University of Technology Sydney. 2 Feb. 2009 .

The Cartoon Images were designed and created by Janelle Rigby using ToonDoo.

Put your $$ where your mouth is!

I could not believe it when I read Sue Water’s blog recently about schools that are charging their students to use the internet. Apparently this has become the largest barrier for teachers who want to incorporate technology into their lessons – some students simply can not afford it.
I am both shocked about this revelation and scared. I believe that so many schools are struggling to fit everything into such ‘small’ budgets, and that it is therefore likely that many schools may follow suit. The schools that I feel are most at risk are the ones with high concentrations of teachers and staff who do not value or support technology in education. It is therefore essential that all future teachers realise the advantages that technology (and the internet) can have on education, so that when they are involved in such decisions they will be able to support allocating funds towards technology.
I also believe that all key stakeholders to education should put their money where their mouth is and financially support the provision of wireless broadband internet in schools. This is especially important when all experts seem to agree that technology is the most important basic skill that this new generation of children will be required to master in for the future of this nation.

Image made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: Available here.

constructiVism vs constructioNism

I recently read an interesting article discussing constructiVism and constructioNism which I believe is extremely relevant to my studies as a primary teacher.
Here is a video that I created to communicate my thoughts on this.

Images (in the video) made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: Available below:
Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4, Music.

EXAM + Internet + Phone + iPod = Cheating??

This semester I have been learning about ways that computer technologies can be used creatviely in the classroom. I have experimented with different programs and tools that I had never used previously. I now have some great ideas of how I could use these technologies in my future classroom. However I wonder how society has (and will) react to this change in the school environment. This reminds me about the Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Crodon who recently gained media exposure. Year 9 English students were allowed to use the internet, their ipods, and mobile phones (to ‘phone a friend’) during an exam. To summarise the response: the media was shocked.
The teacher Dierdre Coleman rationalised this new form of assessment, stating “In their working lives they will never need to carry enormous amounts of information around in their heads. What they will need to do is access information from all their sources quickly and they will need to check the reliability of their information”. Ms Coleman then introduced something that I myself have recently been learning at university: plagerism. [these tasks] test their skills in finding information, assessing the reliability of the information and then citing it correctly, so they are not involved in plagiarism… Learning to manipulate the information requires higher order thinking skills to answer the questions.
Suprisingly (for some) the exam is not as easy as it may appear. Students admit that it is hard to make sense of all the information available in the time given (40 minutes).
The idea for these exams was initiated by Peter Reimann who pointed out that computers and the internet are now being used in schools and classrooms everywhere and yet when it comes to assessments teachers are removing those resources and going back to a 19th century mode of testing. I am thankful that this school has reflected on this and made changes to the way they approach assessment. In this way I believe that this school is one step ahead of many others. The exposure gained from the ‘shock’ of this change has impacted on others. In fact the Board of Studies is now looking at ways it could incorporate the use of computers in the exams. This has forced me to think about how I will use technology myself for assessment purposes.
I pose the question: Will the University of Technology follow? Will future teachers soon be allowed to use new technologies in their own exams?

Image made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: Available here.

The sleep program

I have always dreaded class presentations. Not so much giving them but watching them. This is because people tend to rely on the powerpoint and do not give much thought to the presenting. Often they simply read word for word the text on the screen, and add some sound effects, transitions and pictures. They hope this will score them good marks; the audience try to stay awake.
Edward Tufte writes about this. He states that rather than supplementing a presentation, powerpoints have substituted them. I agree with him. Powerpoints are being used in nearly every school. But what is this teaching students? I think it is teaching students to use little words and focus on decoration rather than content. No wonder technology is getting a bad reputation. Teachers should be very careful in their use of powerpoint in the classroom. It could even be avoided… there are so many other great software programs available.

Made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: Available here.

Mind changing… Inspiring!

Two teachers share their success with the learning program “Inspiration”. I admit that I thought the idea behind this program was a bit pointless. I thought.. why would teachers use a computer program to make a mindmap when paper and pen works? The project ideas shared by these teachers has changed my mind… within minutes. It sounds as though the program can do all sorts of things, including transforming a mindmap into an outline, giving students structure for a task such as writing a report. One point that I had not thought about previously is that using mindmaps helps students to see the links and connections between their ideas. In this short article I have been inspired to use mindmap software myself. I believe that it can not only help students generate ideas but also helps them organise them.

Made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: Available here.

Short Quiz…

Would you learn to make a cake better by:
a) Reading a recipe
b) Watching Huey’s Cooking Adventures
c) Helping your mum make a cake

Think about it. Check your answer, are you sure you want to lock it in?
Did you pick (c)? I wonder how many people picked (c)? I did.
We learn best when we are actually involved in the process, in a meaningful way. This is the basic idea underlying the constructive learning theory. Freya comments on the article ‘Building software beats using it’ by Idit Harel, expanding on how children can ‘build’ in the classroom using new technologies. I agree completely with Harel and Freya, but I am a little skeptical how it will work in practice. This is because I have seen very little use of computers in schools (during my prac experiences). Teachers appear to be so stretched already trying to include all outcomes into the planned curriculum. I believe that people need to put more thought and resources into creating units of work that teachers can pick up and use, that use technologies in the ways outlined by Harel. In my opinion if teachers had access to step by step instructions on how to actually teach this then they probably would actually teach it.

Image created by Janelle Rigby.