Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Moving Help Sessions.....

So the Wednesday afternoon help session has become the Thursday afternoon help session to cater for people's meeting commitments.
Today we did work about Google sites. I covered some basics to start with, which were the questions that I am always getting asked by staff.
  • How to make the navigation on the top and not down the side.
  • How to add pages to the horizontal navigation bar.
  • How to make pages drop downs from the horizontal navigation bar.

This was good for some of the staff who came, as these are the things that you don't do every day so you forget and need refreshers. It was also no hardship for those who came that didn't really need this.

What got people going during this session was the work we did on "blinging" your site.
This was for people who are sick of the Google theme choices and want to make their own but who don't have any Photoshop skills.
We used online resources that can be used and accessed anywhere and on any machine.


We went over taking a screenshot of a chosen background from then putting it into PicMonkey and resizing it so that it would fit on their site. We then played with all the bits you can add to an image in PicMonkey, like shapes, lettering creatures and critters etc. This took a while as the choices are pretty wide and you can spend / waste a lot of time on these 2 sites.
I hit a frustration corner when I was trying to show the group how to change the width of the site so that it fits with the size of the graphic they have made. We discussed 900px being a good site size for a netbook, which is why we made the header that size.
Google, in their drive to change things and confuse us, have changed how you alter the width of the site and I guided the group to the wrong settings area for a while as we hunted for the correct setting.
We found it across the top of the "edit site layout" option of "more".

Thanks Google!!.....not

We then had a quick look at using 3 columns instead of just one on the layout option so that it is easier to layout buttons that you can make on to link the site to other pages on the site or external web pages.

Not bad for an hour and the chocolate biscuits always help...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Using Google Apps to collaborate on Film Planning

I am a Year 9 tutor this year and I asked my tutor class if they wanted to make a movie for the Manaiakalani Film Festival. Some of them were keen to as they have been part of it for the last 5 years while they were at intermediate and primary schools.

Who wants to do what...

The first job was to find out who wanted to do what job. I did this via a Google form with a list of jobs they could sign up for.

You will have to scroll through this one....

The results came in from this so I could see how many of the group were keen.
It seems like a small number at the moment but I think once we get started, the others will want to jump onboard.

The Theme

We did the next job last Friday, which was talk in tutor time about possibilities for a theme for the film. We started putting those up on a Google drawing, which was shared with them all so they could continue to put their ideas on over the weekend. Some "interesting" suggestions came in which we had a laugh about this morning.

Voting for the Theme

These suggestions have been put into another Google form and sent to the group so they can vote on their top 3 choices.

This has been emailed to them tonight so that there is time for the results to come in and be ready for the script team who are having their frist meeting on Wednesday after school.

The plan for the the script meeting is to do the planning on a Google drawing then to move to a shared Google doc for the team to input into.
It is interesting producing a project this way as I dont actually teach my tutor class and I only see them in the morning and afternoon tutor periods.

26th June

We had the first meeting of the script crew. These are the students who put their name down on the form to choose what they wanted to do.

The winner is...

We kept checking every day on the voting results coming in and Google forms presents it really nicely as a graph for you so you can see straight away what the results are.
Here is a screen shot of the results :-

So Vampires, Zombies and a last minute vote for fruit and veg it is...!!!!


They had the three main ideas to go with so they started a Google drawing to put down any silly idea they could come up with so we could talk about them. We sat around one computer talking with one student doing the typing of everyone's ideas. This drawing has been shared with the script crew so they can add to it in their own time.

The favourite at the moment is a film trailer for Plants vs Zombies the Movie.... we shall see...
The next meeting is Friday so we can start a story board to work on over the weekend.

3rd July

The planning team met to do the scene breakdown plan.
We did this on a Google doc that os shared with the team and we broke it down into the action, who would be in it, what we would need and where we would film it.
This breakdown will help the props team who need to start work next as we now know what we need.

What do the students think about the room changes?

My classroom has been changed around for a couple of weeks now and I have been chatting to my students about what they think about it.

The back tall table...

The boys gave me comments like :-
"love it"
"it's easier to work at"
"it is more comfortable to draw at"
"I feel like the man sitting up here"... ( please feel free to ignore that one !! )

This table has been a popular option for the boys when they are coming into the room, to the point of having a few "words" with each other as to who sits there.

The comfortable sitting area at the front ...

The students have said :-
"We like that we can work on our netbooks in comfort"
"We feel like we are in prison at the normal tables"
"it's kick back" ... ( but I hasten to add that they work in this area and I have only had one "kick back" example to deal with in two weeks ).

I have not told the students where to sit when they come in. They have moved to the normal tables naturally if they have drawings to finish and have gravitated over to the the couch area when they have netbook work. It has been interesting to watch them decide for themselves without being nagged.


It is that time of year again when I have to start thinking about the Manaiakalani Film Festival. Actually, we are starting a little earlier than usual this year and I am so pleased we are. In previous years, my team and I have made a variety of movies for the festival but the thread running through them all has been music and dancing. This is the first year that we have actors and a script.
We have had our script meeting, which was a very funny session with everyone throwing their ideas in, however silly they were. These were sifted and we settled on a story line and came up with the script, which done on a shared Google doc, so it has gone through a bit of "adjusting" since then. This is the first time I have used a script so this is very exciting and I am wondering how much we can keep to it when we start filming and how much we will "wing it".
The script threw up a number of things that we had to get together before we can start filming, including main character costumes, props and sets.
The set building is the main reason we have started early this year, but it is well underway.

Here are some in progress shots of students preparing the sets.
I hope they don't reveal our theme this year as that is a secret!!

We love glue guns, card and masking tape...

Covering the wall with card and painting it...

The lovely boys from the furniture making course helping us do the heavy building....

You can never have too much paper and glue to hold all the bits together!!!

So far, we have involved the English department for the script writing, the Furniture making boys for the big building job and students from a variety of year groups.
It is turning out to be a year of quite a few firsts for us while making our film festival entry.

I am not sharing the script with you......spoilers.....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Late Night Chats on Google Docs

I had my first experience this week of talking to a student on a Google doc late at night.
I had set my tutor class their blog homework this week to write about respect. I always give them them the option to send their homework to me either via an email or a shared Google doc. The deadline as always was midnight on Thursday ( so that it gives me Friday to kill them if they don't do it..!! ).
This Thursday was the night of the big thunder storm, so at 11.10 I was still up on the couch, browsing about on the net. An email came though that one of my class had shared a doc so I clicked on it to do my usual copy and paste onto their class blog. Link here.
When I opened the doc, Caroline was still writing on it, so I went further down the page and sent her a little comment. This opened the door to half an hour of back and forth fun. It was nothing educational but I found out where she lives and the fact that she has to get the train in every day. We had a joke about me expecting being paid for things in chocolate or pictures of Johnny Depp. ( Can you believe she didn't know who he was!!!..I soon put that right ! ). We then reached an agreement that as this was the first week that the the whole group had hit the deadline we would celebrate with a fish and chips shared lunch.
Like I said, nothing educational and if this had been a piece of work where the doc had to be marked, then I would have used the comments down the side. As I copy and paste the relevant bits onto their blogs, I wasn't bothered about typing directly onto her page.
It was an interesting insight into when the students are online doing their work and that they appreciate a bit of back and forth feedback, educational or not.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bloggidy Blog....

It's the second week of our Wednesday afternoon help sessions, and we covered blogging basics today.
I had a group of staff who had never blogged before, so that made it an easy session with no differentiation needed.
We started right from the start, finding blogger, starting a blog and finding a url that no one else has. We covered writing a blog post, inserting a picture, then moved on to getting the html embed code from YouTube so they could embed a video.
What really caught everyone's interest was the use of labels and a label gadget down the sidebar. As first time bloggers, this interested them the most as they are planning on doing whole class blogs so will use this labeling system with the students names in order to find al the posts by individual students. I showed them how I do this with my Year 9 tutor class. Link here.
The hour session went over quickly with everyone logged onto a computer, making their own scratch blogs and having a real hands on go at everything. They all went away with plans on which classes they were going to use this with so they can have a go with the "proper"stuff.
We had a good selection of chocolate biscuits this week too!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Afternoon Help Sessions

Recently. Russel our DP in charge of the whole blended learning thing ( and its a LOT to be in charge of!! ), sent out a Google form to get staff feedback about their PD needs.
It turns out that the consensus is that after school sessions and department sessions are what people want! So we sent out a google doc, with a list of sessions each week for the rest of this term. Here is the link. Staff can sign up to what they want as to where they judge their needs are most after doing this for over a year now.
Our first session was today and it seemed to go ok. I had 6 people interested in working on Google calendars and they were so keen that they got there before me !
We covered real basics like making an appointment and then moved on to sharing calendars with others, putting in information that can be seen by others and then we had a go at inviting each other to made up events.
What was popular next was making multiple calendars and then embedding them onto a Google site so that students can see the course planning on a calendar.

As I have been using my calendar A LOT and have loads of different ones for all sorts of things, I didn't think it best to show the start up basics on my own, so I made a dummy account today.
It is under the name of my dog, Bobby.
What is worrying me now is that when students are sharing their work with me they will accidentally share it with Bobby instead, as he is in the system as Bobby Ferguson. Never mind, as long as he does the marking!! So far Bobby has a gmail account, a calendar with appointments on ( apparently he does Social Studies ) and a Google site with his calendar embedded into it.
Next week he will be making a blog as that is our next topic.

The general feeling as they left today, was that they need to practice in order to get it firmly in their heads, but that is the same with all of the this Google stuff. If you don't use it regularly and do it, then the next time you try you have forgotten how to. It explains why I have to show the same people the same things over and over again.

This Pd session was powered by timtams supplied by management :D

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

All Change......

I was inspired this week by a visit to the room of a fellow teacher. She had turned half of her room into an easy seating, couch area, where students can sit comfortably to use their netbooks in a different atmosphere and environment.
So today, I had a re-arrangement of my own furniture. I already had a couple of items of furniture that I could use from when TCTV did interviews for assembly.
My room was laid out in groups of tables with 6 computers around the sides of the room.

Here is how I have changed it....

A couch and easy chair in a set up with a small table. This is near power sockets for their netbooks and next to the bookshelf. I plan to get a couple of bean bags for this area too, as there is still plenty of space. Here, students can sit comfortably to either work on their netbooks or access the design books on the shelf. They can sit on the floor on the rug, using the low table, or use the bean bags.

I have added a high table at the back of the room, with a couple of stools. This table can be worked on stood up too.

I still have groups of tables, as the students need to be able to sit and do their design work on paper. The desktop computers are all down one wall now.

I thought that this would make my room feel cramped, but there is still plenty of room to move around, which is important as my students need to be able to move around the room to get things that they need.

Here is how it was used when my senior students came in this afternoon.

Working at the tall table...
I am not convinced I like seeing their backs ( being suspicious!! ) I may pull out this table from the wall so the stools can go on the other side.

On the couch with a netbook...

On the easy chair by the book shelf...

A more unusual use of a low chair with the high table. Chin level with his netbook!
He says he was comfortable!!...hhmmm...

I didn't get to see the changes used a lot today, as a lot of my senior classes were out on work experience and most of them are in the middle of design drawings, where they need the tables.
The reaction of the students who came in and saw it was interesting, as they were interested in the changes and what I was trying to do.
I look foreword to seeing how it changes how they use the space in the room and how this affects their work.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Designers and Slaves....

It's exam week this week and while other subjects are sweating under the pressure of external exams, we are having a bit of fun in DVC. ( Design and Visual Communication ).
Instead of trying to keep on task for 2 hours on project work, we are doing design activities.
The first one we are doing is being designers and slaves.
This activity was inspired by watching a video of the architect Frank Gehry working in his workshop with his team.
The students are sitting in pairs and one is the designer, who is only allowed to explain what they want. They are not allowed to help or do any of the work. The other student is the slave ( or "bum boy" as they put it !! ), and they can only do what the designer tells them. They are not allowed an opinion or to make decisions themselves.

They have white card, a pair of scissors and some tape. That is all.
Their task is to design and make a model of a road side bus shelter.
They have 40 minutes to create their design then we swap over.

Here they are just as they were getting to the end of the first session.

Feedback from the students is that it is hard to just give instructions and not do it themselves. They are frustrated at not being able to help and do it themselves and find it hard to just describe and explain what they need someone else to do. It equally hard for the slave, as they have to try and understand verbal instructions about a design they know nothing about.
They didn't realise that I was checking out their communication skills!!!
I am interested in the fact that they did not find the 40 minute time constraint to be the main issue. If this is the case, why can't they get their course work done on time when they have weeks!!.
Watching them during the second session, it was really evident that the students who had just been the slaves and were now the designers were finding it really hard to keep their hands off the work. 

For voting, they have been asked 3 questions on a Google form.
1) Which design will best protect the passengers from bad weather?
2) Which design looks like it will fit onto the side of a normal road?
3) Which design is the best overall looking shelter?

I was reading out the results as they were coming in to the Google form response sheet. It inspired them to get the voting done if they didn't agree with what was coming in. I suspect a mild bit of cheating here even though they weren't supposed to be voting for their own ( note to self - collect emails next time!! ).

Here are their designs...