PLN as PD

Over the course of the last year, I’ve found myself engaged at various levels with a personal learning network (PLN) mostly via Twitter. It’s been wonderful! I’ve heard different perspectives, had people visit my classroom to present to the class, connected with people both close and far. But one of the most overwhelming differences that the PLN has introduced me to is the wealth of online reading of blogs and articles from around the globe. Articles that, unless I dedicated my life to it, would never be able to find otherwise.

So this got me thinking about the educational benefit this has for my career and how I can attempt to possibly explain this to anyone who’s not on Twitter, who’s not experiencing the same wealth of knowledge and generosity from like minded professionals. I wanted something I could refer to for personal use, something I could show current colleagues and employers and for future employers. I searched the web for some online reading logs, to no avail. There are tools such as Shelfari but this is really just for books. Nothing that I could find seemed to fit as a quick and efficient tool to log online reading. Except one that was under my nose, one I’m already using.

The solution – Delicious! The tool, not the taste 🙂

I’ve set up yet another delicious account where I can bookmark any readings that I’m doing. I wanted this one separate from my personal account and from my class account. One just for logging my online reading. So here it is.

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Curriculum Planning: Bringing it together with Google Apps

So I’ve recently been playing around with the tools of Google Apps for Education to test the possibility of creating some form of Curriculum Mapping – or at least curriculum document gathering.

It turns out that, with a little set-up time, it’s actually quite possible to make use of Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites to create a centre to complete backward-by-design planners and long range planners as well as to gather resources and specific lesson ideas. So, I will do my best to explain the simple set-up that I have so far and how I got there.

So my initial goals in undertaking this endeavour were to:

  • Make more consistent use of backward-by-design planners for math, reading and writing units.
  • Develop a more thorough, consistent and coherent long range plan.
  • To bring all curriculum area planners into one place, including PYP planners, math, reading and writing.
  • To allow better collaboration of planning amongst the team.
  • To bring resources together with planning documents.
  • To have one, continuously updated version of planners and resources, rather than a new document every year leading to years of unused files and folders being lost on the abyss of a network drive.

The basis for all of this is around a Google Site specifically for the team’s planning. It a very simple site with most links made from the home page (click the image to the right to see the layout and links). Included in the site are resource pages specific for each curriculum area (eg. math resources, reading resources, etc). These pages are ‘File Cabinet’ pages where documents and other files are simply attached ready for download when needed.

The next most heavily utilised App is Google Docs. I have made use of this for two specific types of planning documents:

  • Spreadsheet Form: a form for each curriculum area has been created to complete new unit plans. This is where the backward-by-design planning comes in to play. The forms have fields such as Central Idea (enduring understanding), Key Questions, Assessments, curriculum outcomes addressed, etc. When a new unit is being planned, the form is filled in by the team and when submitted is entered into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet can be viewed as a list (View menu -> List view) which allows for easy sorting according to date, subject area, unit topic, etc.
  • Doc: A doc is also created for each specific unit (eg. Writing – poetry, Maths – fractions, etc). This Doc will have more specific learning outcomes or objectives, learning experiences, and link/refer to resources that can be websites, books, other docs or files on the resources page in the Site.

Each of these planning documents can then be added to, updated, changed – ultimately improved – each year.

The final part of all of this is use of Google Calendar to create a long range plan. The calendar is used to create events lasting the length of a specific unit (eg. Maths – fractions). This is simply to give the team members a sense of how long the unit should be and what’s up next. One of the good features of this however, is that within the event details you can link to a Google Doc. So, within each event (eg. Maths – fractions) there is the specific unit planner with all of the learning outcomes, activities and resources (as mentioned above). Very handy! Ultimately, I would love it if an event could be created based on the spreadsheet items from above, but at the moment it is a matter of entering it separately.

I hope this is as clear as mud!

I do realise that there is other software out there, such as Rubicon Atlas, but this gives a free alternative to schools who don’t make use of this type of software. With the developments that occur with Google Apps, I can only see the capability of these type of curriculum development ideas enhancing.

Please give this a go and let me know how it goes. I think the more people working to make creative use of the tools offered by Google, the more creative the ideas will become.

Breaking News Made Easy With Twitter and Nambu

With so much content flying around the web, keeping up-to-date with breaking news can be hard these days. However, this task is made easier thanks to Twitter and Nambu Twitter client for Mac.

As soon as you catch wind of a breaking news issue or if you are interested in news related to a particular person, company or issue all you need to do is type in the keyword(s) as a search in the top right hand corner of the Nambu screen, and the search automatically is added to your quick access toolbar on the left.

Whenever anyone tweets a message containing your key words, you are notified of the tweet (including a handy new tweet counter also displayed).

Breaking news made easy!

I heart google!

If you have followed any of my discussions on twitter or classroom20.com then it will be no secret th

at I am quite the fan of Google and the free, excellent products that it provides.

I found another reason tonight when looking for a document in my google docs list. Tired of clicking on the folders I have created to find the document, I gave the search box at the top of the page a go. Thinking that I would type in my keyword, press return and be presented with a list of relevant documents, I was VERY pleasantly surprised when down popped the dynamic search results for all of the relevant documents. All I need do now is click on the file I’m after.

Google continues to impress!

For those of you not aware of, or not signed up yet, go to www.google.com/a/edu and get your school signed up!