Tena koutou katoa,

I am Allanah King and I teach Year Four and Five children at Appleby School near Nelson. Nelson is at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. New Zealand is a whole 'nother country to the east of Australia. Appleby is a rural five teacher school 10 minutes drive into the wine growing countryside from Richmond town so I get given nice bottles of wine at the end of the school year!

In 2006 our school was fortunate enough to be able to finance a pod of 12 Apple laptops that came in a COW (Computers on Wheels) that we are able to trolley around the classrooms on a shared basis.

This year the pod is broken up between classes throughout the morning tP2220111.jpgo allow support for reading/ writing/ maths programmes and available as a unit for whole class instruction in the afternoons. The COW is supported by wireless access through an Airport Extreme base-station and we all have eight wired access plugs in each classroom. All classrooms have access to our library collection catalogue through the class desktop networked iMac. Our internet access is filtered but our watchdog is happy to unblock any sites we ask within a couple of days.

In late 2005 I attended a workshop on On-line Learning Environments with Mark Treadwell who intrigued me by taking a photo of us and putting it on the internet while we were in quick discussion groups. That was my first experience with blogging. He said it was easy and that he used Blogger.

I went home and made myself a personal blog which I practised with over a month or so and after that felt confident enough to have a go with children. At first I did the writing and taking of photos for our class blog but as we got better at it the children took over! All classes now have a blog and all the school blogs link together with children encouraged to contribute to each other’s blogs through commenting. In my class each week we have a new pair of blogging monitors whose job it is to record at least one post per week but we often blog much more than that as interesting things happen and I contribute class notices and the like as a means of communicating with parents.

http://moturoa.blogspot.com/

I made this blog on how to add all the extras...

http://bling4yrblog.blogspot.com/

From the blog we have links to a myriad of Web2.0 tools. The most useful are

  • A Clock which lets us see what the time is in our collaborating classrooms in Wales and Binghamton, New York.
  • A Delicious Account which lets us all access websites without having to worry about typing URLs incorrectly. It is also a good way of archiving sites that children may use less frequently but that are still very useful.
  • A site counter and Clustermap- children get very excited when they see proof of just how many people are looking at our blog and where those people live globally.

http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=70735

We have also just started using Dave Warlick’s Class Blogmeister blog as a reflective tool where all children are able to post to their own blog at the same time and not be overly concerned with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as it would be in a more open published blog like Blogger. Blogmeister lends itself so well as a reflective journal for children to record their thinking and that is where we are heading with that when children get more confident in using it.

After this blogging I felt more confident with writing on the web and iWeb came out as an Apple web authoring tool. It is SO much easier and simpler than other methods so I was able to re–construct the school website to be more interactive and thought I might have a go at podcasting.

http://allanah.podomatic.com/

After considerable struggle I managed to get our podcasts subscribe-able through iTunes. Search for Appleby Airwaves.

Every week I have three monitors who podcast- one to concentrate on the technical side and the other two to do the talking. The children are getting better at the technical side and I am fortunate enough to have a couple who really took to Garageband (our podcasting application) and can do the business pretty much without input from me- I just do the tidying up at then end. I believe every child should have the opportunity to have a go so the quality of our podcasting fluctuates a bit- but hey- we are all learners here! Sometimes we do whole class podcasts so everyone gets a go.

A natural follow-on from this contact has been a number of Skype conversations, firstly with a local school and then further afield to Paul's class in Wales and Beth Sullivan’s class in Binghamton School, near New York. Again to start with I found one other person to Skype with and practised personally until I got the hang of it.

http://www.podOmatic.com/link/955819d13d8fb3dca3e9dec44b8a50a8

The biggest difficulty here has been the time differences but when there is a will there is a way and Paul invited his class in one evening so we could chat to them in our early evening.

Last year we used a wiki to record our learning on Flight. We tried to collaborate with a nearby classroom at another school who was also studying the same thing.

http://moturoa.pbwiki.com/

but I found it tricky to learn so would use wikispaces in the future as it seems a lot simpler for us to navigate.

In order to share our photos of our geocaching I started a Flickr account and have recently begun tagging photos and blog posts having been showed the simplicity of RSS and the use of Bloglines to aggregate the blogs I follow.

http://www.bloglines.com

We have a class digital camera that I allow children to take home and take photos with- of specific subjects- the child then posts it to our blog. A couple of children have recently started their own blogs which I am really pleased about and these are linked from our class blog as well.

That’s about it really. There are challenges in using web based educational technologies in the classroom but the rewards are great in the way of communication and engagement from students.

These tools were not all started at once and as Sheryl said- you have own something before you can give it away.

I think the answer is to become comfortable with the tools yourself and introduce them in a meaningful context and you are sure to succeed.

I made a little video that shows some of these tools in more detail.





Allanah King http://allanahk.edublogs.org/