Posts Tagged laptops4learning

NSW Laptop Tweets

For those of you out there who are about to receive (or are lucky enough to have already received!) one of the NSW DET issue Lenovo Laptops, this list of Twitter contacts may help you build your Personal Learning Network.

The following is a list of Twitter users that wove their hands about with great enthusiasm when asked who wanted to discuss and share resources for teaching with the new laptops:

You can join Twitter and start following these excellent people at

If you’d like to be added to this expanding list, add a comment with your twitter username and some info about your role and region.   There seems to be a lot happening in the Hunter/Central Coast region, surely the rest of us can give them a run for their money 😉

Also let us all know if there are networks springing up in other spaces – for example, English teachers can now join the Teaching English with Laptops ‘Ning’, a site specifically focussed on using the laptops in the English classroom.

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Great expectations

As I wait with baited breath to receive my new laptop courtesy of the NSW DET, an invigorating post by Melissa Giddins has got me planning how to introduce change to my faculty. Only where Melissa as Head Teacher has the authority to set the pace of change in her faculty (laptops used in some way every lesson for the first few weeks, then moving to every second lesson on average – I love it!), as a rank-and-file classroom teacher I can only lobby for such change.

My major strategy will be resource sharing at our faculty meetings – a new teaching idea each fortnight, starting with using features of Word to annotate texts (using formatting, comment, track changes etc.) and moving through to more time consuming activities such as making a digital story.  Luckily the teachers in my faculty are all quite excited about the arrival of the laptops, though some will need more tech (and moral!) support than others.

Download my handout on using comments in Word

Download my handout on tracking changes in Word

During these meetings I’ll also be able to model some key pieces of software starting with Audacity (for making podcasts), Adobe Premier Elements (for movie making – most staff are familiar with MovieMaker…), and taking a look at where to find things in Word 2007 (most still working on 97-03 versions).

Another important strategy is to share work samples from my own classes and discuss what worked, and what didn’t work.  For teachers to feel confident in explaining a task or activity to student, I think they have to have a picture in their mind’s eye of what the product will look like.

All very ‘lead a horse to water…’, I know.  So far though, so good – I’ve been doing this kind of thing (without the software modelling) all this year, and the mood in the faculty is feeling far more positive these days.

But…what could people a bit higher up than me initiate that may bring about change more rapidly?  How about:

  • Head Teachers set high expectations for their faculty – laptops to be used in some way every lesson for the first few weeks, then moving to every second lesson on average, sounds good to me
  • Paper based ‘Daily Notices’ and ‘Staff Bulletins’ be sent electronically – ensures that teachers check email daily/weekly to retrieve these
  • Form a Technology Leadership team, with representatives from each faculty, to meet regularly to share ideas/resources and take ideas back to the faculty level
  • Add links to resources for teaching with laptops to school intranet homepage (e.g. TaLe, Curriculum Support)

I’m sure there’s loads more.  What can you think of, or what have you been doing already, in whatever role you are in at your school?



Narrative Unit: Texts

An update on how things are coming together for my unit of work on Narrative, which combined more mainstream print and visual texts with ‘new technology’ texts.

The texts I have selected to study are:

  1. The Raven – Edgar Allen Poe (poem)
  2. And antoher thing – Anthony Dennis (Sunday Life opinion article)
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (novel)
  4. Fairytale and fable selection, possibly using a webquest
  5. Fox – Margaret Wild (picture book)
  6. Inanimate Alice (multimedia)
  7. and, if time permits, The Castle – Working Dog / Sitch (film)

After/while studying these texts, students will be creating their own narrative compostions:

  1. An individual digital story on the theme ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ (term 2)
  2. A group drama enacting a fairytale of students own choosing (term 2)
  3. A short story using hypertext to link to flashbacks in the story (term 3 – using new laptops)

I’m loving teaching this unit – so far we’ve looked at the poem and the magazine article, and are now reading Curious Incident…if we finish looking at the book by the end of week 5, that will leave plenty of time to look at the other texts (not a ‘close study’ – just exploring select aspects of narrative) and do some work on the assessment projects.

More updates to come!


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Laptops 4 Learning

Wanted to get down some of the big ideas (and fast facts) that have come up over the past two days at the Laptops 4 Learning Forum.  There is so much I could say – and will say, in some more blog posts over the coming week.  For now…

Big Ideas:

  • Schools should work toward developing a ‘digital culture’ by using technologyas a tool, rather than scheduling technology events.  The laptops should become part of the learning environment, like pens, papers and whiteboards.
  • Laptop use in schools has the potential to make classes and projects more student-centred.  The increased capacity for project-based learning through connectivity (and nifty software) can mean that the technology can have a positive impact on pedagogy.
  • Teachers will need to develop their skills in classroom management to accomodate problems with the technology…but this is no reason to give up or shy away.  We already do this when the photocopier breaks, or the OHP bulb blows!
  • Laptops are exciting, and the potential for student engagement is huge.  Rather than facing their work and asking  “why do I have to do it?”, this will get them asking “can I do it this way?” (This great point from Steven Plummer, who is leading the English KLA project)
  • Barbara Bober gave us a great metaphor – some teachers will be like Formula 1 drivers with the technology; most will ordinary, but competent and perhaps even excited drivers or smaller vehicles (to extend the metaphor for those who worry about teachers losing control in laptop lessons – in this metaphor, the teacher is still the driver!)
  • When planning, we should consider how the laptops will impact on the students, the teachers, the pedagogy, and classroom management.  All are important factors
  • There isn’t a need to re-invent the wheel.  As well as imagining new and foreign possibilities, we should be looking at current curriculum and pedagogy and asking: what can be enriched?
  • Ken Olah explained that feedback to kids has the largest correlation (1.4) with increased student learning.  Imagine the opportunities for feedback that constant access to personal laptop creates!
  • It will be a bit messy to start off with…but it is worth it.

Students Talk:

In one panel discussion two students talked about what they saw as the benefits of having and using laptops.  They suggested:

  • Being able to do bits of work ‘here and there’, rather than only being able to access desktop computers at certain times will relieve some stress around homework and assignmetns
  • Homework etc. will be more easily recorded in a school diary or calendar on the laptops
  • Work can be saved, and easily shared – no more lost sheets or notes if you are away
  • Having computer access at school.  Students reported often having trouble getting into a computer lab or finding a free computer in the library
  • Assiting group work outside of school hours
  • Better access to whole school information – they suggested school notices being distributed electronically.

Fast Facts:

  • Students will get their laptops in Term 3.  Teachers will get theirs before students do, probably in July.
  • Wireless is getting installed in April, and this is bound to be a bit disruptive.  Libraries plus one classroom will get it first.
  • Every school will get one full-time technical officer to support laptop use.  There is a 4 year funding commitment from federal governemt for this, and this person is employed regardless of whether your school already has ‘an IT person’ – their sole job is to support the laptops
  • Schools will have spare batteries and laptops for students to use if they don’t have their laptops (and policies will be in place to curtail repeat offenders)
  • Students are expected to charge their laptops overnight and bring them charges to school.
  • Operating system is Windows XP
  • Software installed is Microsoft Office 7 (standard suite plus One Note) and Adobe (Connect, Presenter, Captivate, Photoshop Elements, Premier Elements, Dreamweaver, Flash and Acrobat Professional)
  • Disk size is 160 GB, but about 50 GB of this is used up with the software
  • The Lenovo laptops have two USB ports,  an Ethernet port, Bluetooth an SD memory card reader, and an inbuilt webcam

As I said, there is so much more information to come.  In the meantime, enjoy a peek at the new laptop 🙂

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