Archive for July, 2008

Gifted and Talented Action Research

In my school I am part of a group of beginning teachers that are completing action research projects in their gifted and talented classes.  Our school is half-selective, meaning half of the students had to sit an academic exam for entry.  The rest of the school is made up of local students, but we also run a G&T class in years 9 & 10 of the local stream.  The class I’m using for my action research is my Year 9 G&T class, and the unit I am studying is the videogame unit…fun research 🙂

In our school there is a focus on developing three traits of giftedness as identified by Renzulli:

  • above average though not necessarily superior general ability;
  • high level of task commitment or intrinsic motivation;
  • and creativity

The students in my class certainly do display above average ability, and my aim is for my teaching units thie year to boost their levels of task commitment, intrinsic motivation and creativity.  The videogame unit so far is proving successful in these areas – in today, the third lesson of the unit, students worked in their groups for the first time, taking turns at playing the games (Need For Speed: Carbon, and Street Fighter II) and at creating an account on our class wiki and making some new pages.

So far the level of task commitment and intrinsic motivation is sky high!  The creativity is off to a slow start in some respects, but I think we did some important work today in laying the foundations for creativity.  I spent a lot of times with the groups on the laptops today, making sure students were comfortable with their roles as writers/authors on the class wiki.  This creating of information, along with activities in later weeks where students will create their own video game concept and characters, is all designed to lead students into higher order thinking.

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Year 9 Wiki

I’ve just finished creating a new wiki, this time for my Year 9 class, and this time it is one that I am actually going to use!

I’ve created two other wikis before – one for my HSC class, which I made using wikispaces.  My Year 12s were struggling with the blog as it was, so the wiki never really got a start there.  The other wiki I made was a general purpose one, which I imagined all of my classes would contribute to, on every subject that they studied.  This way all of my classes, from years 7-12, over time would come to access this kind of mega-source of information.  What a plan!  What a community! But I decided not to run with the idea, because I don’t think the students really will go for the idea…I’m not convinced it’ll be so much fun adding to the site unless you really know the others that are making it too.

I’ve added a couple of YouTube videos on using PB wiki to my vodpod (click here or in the right-hand side bar).  Anyone else out there using a wiki ATM?  What is (not) working for you?

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ACMI games resources

Just found this great page of games resources on the ACMI webpage.

I’m going to use information from their pages on games genres as well as an excellent essay by Matthew Sakey on ‘understanding character in videogames‘.  Here is an extract:

The protagonist, however richly conceived, is ultimately a cipher for the player. The less we know about the character we play, the more possible it becomes for us to project our own personality onto them. Developers are reluctant to force a persona onto the player, but they do also want to accomplish their creative goals. The challenge of interactivity lies in encouraging players to take control while still experiencing the story that the game developers want to tell.


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Yes, you are in fact a digital immigrant

Many presentations at this week’s AATE conference referenced Marc Presnky’s research on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.  In a conference where many papers and worshops discussed multimodal texts and the changing (increasingly digital) nature of texts and classroom practices, this is unsurprising.  What was a bit surprising was the backlash that I witnessed, paper after paper, from teachers who resented the label ‘Digital Immigrant’.

I can see where people are coming from on this – especially teachers who have invested a lot of time in learning about new technologies and increasing their technological proficiency.  However, learning or knowing about the digital world just does not make one a digital native.

I have found it very helpful to think about the other aspect of Prensky’s argument – that Digital Immigrants can of course learn the Native language, but they will always “have an accent” (for a great explanation of this, see Mike Jones lecture on Blogs, Wikis and the New World Order for the ScreenSpeak series for NSW HSC English teachers.)  In fact, I think that in a lot of ways the Digital Immigrant who ‘learns the language’ will often learn to use the language better than a Native speaker – just so it is when Japanese speakers learn English, or when the English learn Dutch!

I didn’t have my own computer until I was about 14, and even then it was a computer that my boyfriend set up for me and helped me to use.  But before that I did own an electric typwriter.  I have never really been interested in programming or electronics.  I am still happy to buy CDs (although I will then put the tracks onto my iPod).  At only 27 I am in fact a Digital Immigrant…but I am learning the language quickly and my accent is becoming less broad 🙂  And in so many ways I have mastered the digital language far better than my Digital Native students; this makes me an ideal teacher for them.  I also have a deep empathy with the students who, through economic or social disadvantage have not engaged in the same level of technology as their peers; these students are in fact Digital Immigrants themselves, despite their young age.




The most engaging keynote that I saw at the AATE conference would have to be Daniel Meadows’ presentation ‘New Literacies for the Digital Age’. Daniel is an artist/photographer/storyteller from way back, and his keynote was about the power of storytelling, specifically the power of the digi-story.

A digital story, or digi-story, is a story that is told using a series of photos or other images, with narration and other sound layered over the top. Ideally they should only be about 2 minutes long, and use about a dozen images and a narration of about 250 words.

Daniel shared a number of digi-stories of his own, and from the Capture Wales project – what was refreshing was that his keynote was actually based on these digi-stories, with short explanations in between each to provide context, to highlight theoretical frames and positions, and make connections between the stories. I was so inspired by Daniel’s keynote that now I plan to use digi-stories in my year 9 class next term. I’ll still be basing next term’s work around ‘making meaning’, and the first 5 weeks will definitely still be focused on video games. But now in the second half of term, rather than students using a collection of digital resources for composing, I’m going to get them to make a digi-story!

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Tips for Blogging

Excellent post on Sue Waters’ Edublogger with tips for writing good blog posts.

Not to spoil the surprise (I encourage you to go and read the full post), but her first ‘top 5’ tips are:

  1. Use short paragraphs
  2. Use headings (and bullet points etc.)
  3. Remember to hyperlink
  4. Always comment back to readers on your own posts (eek!  I haven’t replied to one of mine yet, and it was a great comment from Forth!)
  5. Subscribe to your own blog feed.

I’m going to use Sue’s post as a resource with my Year 9 students when they begin making their own blogs.  Anyone have any other tips or hints?

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AATE conference

I’m down here in Adelaide for the AATE/ALEA National Conference – the conference just finished today, but I’m going to blog a few posts about the papers and keynotes I went to.  I was tempted to take the lappy into the lecture halls and just write notes on the blog, but it never seemed to work out!  I’ve still got a couple of days here for the AATE Council meeting, and then back home to do some PhD writing next week.

Happy School Holidays, eh?  I reckon we should take up what a few independent schools do and just call it ‘non-term time’!

Seriously though, the conference has been good…I’m brimming with ideas now for teaching next term 🙂


Blocked Site

I am so over all of the sites I want to use at school being blocked by the DET server.  Anyone else go into a violent fit of rage when they see this page pop up?

The thing I most regularly want to access at school is YouTube – there are so many excellent clips that can be used in all aspects of the curriculum.  The DET block on Blogger also means that all of my school blogs have to be made through WordPress or Edublogs (OK, no real complaint there!), but it also means that I can’t access OTHER blogs that are made with Blogger.  Wikispaces is also blocked – I assumed that it wouldn’t be, because it is affiliated with Edublogs, and spent a whole weekend one time making a wiki on Wikispaces, only to find out on Monday that is was blocked… grmph.

Teachers who keep even a half decent eye on their kids should be able to see if they are up to no good.  And kids know how to get around these blocks anyway by going through alternate sites!  Please DET, UNBLOCK OUR INTERNET!