For many years we have had awkward and not always effective ways of drawing names for our large extended family’s Secret Santa gift giving rituals.

This year we are trying Elfster.  You may already know of it.  According to Wikipedia, it was created by Peter Imburg in 2004.  They say it’s “a social networking website for wishlists and gift-giving, and a free online organizer for “secret Santa” style gift exchanges.”

 What’s nice about it is it’s so easy!  With family at both ends of the country and in Australia, it certainly makes the pairing easier.  You also have options to create a gift suggestion list and to indicate which participants should not be paired with each other.  There is limited but relevant advertising.
Fully recommended!

#23TeachingThings – Thank you!



So the second #23Things course is now complete.  Let’s celebrate what we have achieved and thank Damon and the team for making it happen!  I have thoroughly enjoyed learning new ways of teaching with technology and exploring new sites and apps.

My top takeways are Videonot.es, Google Sites, Twitter and WordPress.  I will definitely use the two former in my classroom, in fact have already done so, and am thoroughly enjoying tweeting and blogging.  I hope to continue with both.  Twitter keeps me in contact with inspirational others and blogging helps me clarify my thinking.  As a bonus, it is certainly gratifying to know others are reading my postings from time to time.

E-portfolios and AssessmentforLearning



This year, for the first time, I have created an e-portfolio using Google Drive for the purposes of appraisal and as a record of my professional development. I created an evidence portfolio and linked my artefacts in this portfolio to the master document which was a school-created job description tht aligns both with my school-based responsibilities and with the Registration Criteria.  It inspired me to gather together all the digital documents I already had from the previous five years spent at my current school.  These are easily shared with my appraiser.

One issue that bears remembering, is that these documents are currenlty held on the school server.  If leaving the school, it will be important to make a copy and change the ownership of the folders which need to be created in my own private Google Drive.  What is neat about Google Drive is that none of the hyperlinks are broken when you do this.

Another type of e-portfolio that i curently use, is the assessment portfolio.  In Year Levels 1, 2 and 3 NCEA Languages programmes, there are two internally assessed portfolios, one for writing and one for interactions.  In both cases students gather together three or four examples of their language produced during the year and submit them for assessment against the standard.  Although my students still use paper for the multiple edits of their writing, their sontaneous interactions are videoed and uploaded to folders in Google Drive and selected as evidence for meeting the standard.

In order to teach junior students the principles behind portfolio assessment, we have created a log of their assessments so they can reflect on their progress and watch their improvement throughout the year, for example: Year 9 Passport 2015

Of course e-portfolios align with AssessmentforLearning principles.  According to TKI, “Assessment for learning is best described as a process by which assessment information is used by teachers to adjust their teaching strategies, and by students to adjust their learning strategies.”

WW1 Commemoration, Robots, and Language Learning

Library Display

Recently on a school trip to Europe, we were hosted by the Technology students at the Lycée Gay-Lussac in Chauny, Picardie, our partners in a joint WW1 Commemoration project.

Over a two-year period, students in both schools communicated online to learn each other’s language, to exchange symbolic care packages, to research a person in their school communities who had fought and fallen on the Western Front during WW1, and to respond creatively to that research.  The shared work was displayed in each other’s libraries and plans for visits were made.

In April this year, 42 students and four teachers set out from Auckland for France.  After the obligatory trip to Paris, we arrived by bus in the Valley of the Somme.  Our first duty was the New Zealand Memorial at Langueval, where we sang the National anthem in Maori and English to honour our ancestors.  Nearby, we found the names of fallen relatives at the Caterpillar Memorial.  Then we arrived in Chauny for our homestays, the best part of the experience, according to the students.

The first day we were taken on a tour of the Technology Department.  Four young men, very proud of their workshops and of their newly acquired English, explained all that they did, from concept and design to finished product, using materials from wood to metal to plastic to Infotech.  We viewed a variety of plastic items formed in an industrial press, several energy saving devices inspired by the solar powered compacting rubbish bin on display, and we enjoyed, in fact accompanied, the robots they had programmed to dance.

The final event of our stay was the unveiling of the ceramic and glass fresque created over the previous year by the students and staff.  It featured the art work and the poetic responses in French, German and English written by the students learning those languages.  It was a moving and fitting moment.


Using and creating audio and video


As a foreign language teacher in a BYOD school, I find that digital audio and video tools are indispensable. In my classroom, more often than not, these are in the form of resources I have purchased with a text or created by others more technologically able than myself.  I have long admired those who regularly create ‘How to’ videos, Youtube teaching units, or flip their classrooms with sound recordings or videos for their students’ lesson preparation.

This week in #23 Teaching Things, we have been introduced to a really simple tool that makes the creation of audio and video resources more viable for me.  It is VideoNot.es.  It syncs instantly with Google Drive, the online environment I most use with my students.  You can either annotate an uploaded video as you watch, or, as I have done here, add the transcribed words to the Youtube video of a French song in order to get my students thinking French again at the start of a new term.

I have added instructions for the task they have to complete as they listen using the simple voice recorder that comes with Microsoft Office.  As a separate file, this also plays in Videonot.es.

Together, these audio and video tools could be useful resources when I am absent, or simply to release me to attend to individual student needs as they listen and complete a task at their own speed.

I am keen to share Videonot.es with my colleagues.

Another tool that I have often enjoyed using in the past is Voki, which allows you to create an avatar and put words in its mouth.  Here’s the same message I recorded above using Voki.  The students enjoy creating their own avatars and inputting the audio which can be pre-recorded and uploaded, phoned in, or typed in.  If you choose the latter you have the ability to choose the language and accent when the Voki speaks your writing.  Great for those too shy to create an online video revealing their own profile!  And it’s very intuitive.

All OneNote Doubts Quashed

OneNote Tags

I have finally populated my OneNote folders with all the qualitative data collected over six months in four schools.  Laborious to say the least.  All the while I was thinking, “Am I wasting my time here?  Is this programme sophisticated enough?”  It was certainly user-friendly enough.  No training needed at all.  Totally intuitive.

Having input the data, I then customised the tags with a first cut of tags and clicked Find Tags.  Hey presto!  It was a very exciting moment.  I now have no doubts that this tool will suit my purposes very nicely thank you!

It was a moment worth tweeting about.

Does ICT assist learning?

Source: Does ICT assist learning?

This article by Derek Wenmoth is an enlightening and challenging response to the OECD findings that ICT makes no difference at all in students’ achievement.  That’s no surprise really as a computer is just a tool like pen and paper.  If the majority of teachers are using technology in the same way they did pen and paper then of course there will be no change in achievement levels.  However, Derek points out that if technology is able to transform teaching and learning, perhaps that’s when change in achievement will occur.  He also reminds us that there is value in learning with the tools that students will need to become integrated members of today’s world.  No use teaching using slates and chunks of chalk anymore!

Question to self:  Has technology transformed teaching and learning in my classroom, or am just doing the same old things but with more expensive tools?

Webspiration for organising thinking

From July to October this year, I have been taking part in two online courses from the same team, 23 Things for Research and 23 Teaching Things.  Because some sessions overlapped, I decided to create a table that tracked what I did for each.  That has worked very well but I have been a little unclear as to what has been duplicated. I thought perhaps a Webspiration comparison diagram would be an ideal instrument to show me and a good way to reaquaint myself with a tool I was much enamoured with in the past, having used Inspiration before it went online and when it was cost-free.

What I have learned is that for some information, tables suit me much better.  I have also learned that although I did achieve discovering the overlap through the diagram, I was unable to export it in a readable manner either to Google or to Word in order to share it with others who don’t have access to Webspiration.

 Webspiration Diagram

The time it took to discover this information with Webspiration was also extremely wasteful.  I achieved the same information in much less time by simply colour coding my table.

Colour Coded Table

Webspiration, however, is a very useful tool for thinking and then transferring that thinking into an essay.  Being a linguist, my natural thinking tool, however, is a table in Word.

#23Research: A valuable course

On consideration, the 23 Things for Research course has been inspiring.  I enjoyed looking forward to each Monday’s new offering and getting my teeth into new tech programmes and tasks.

I discovered the pleasure of clarifying my thoughts through blogging, getting connected with colleagues and resources through Twitter, discovering OneNote for gathering together qualitative data from my four research sites and analysing it using tags, and I am looking forward to using Voyant corpus text analysis tools to analyse this data further.  Through it all I have also discovered Bitly, which I love.  I am pretty sure I will continue to blog and tweet but will try to connect them more consistently in order to increase my follower base.

What do I think CreATE should be exploring further?  Perhaps beginning the course with a diagnostic survey of those who are participating to see where they are at before they start and therefore what might be valuabe to include in the offerings.

Perhaps there could also be one #23Research Thing which is collaborative, where participants share some new techy thing they have found valuable for their research, or a forum where they share where they are at in their research and what they are getting stuck on, so others can suggest technologies that might help.

Overall, I have found this one of the best professional learning and development courses I have taken part in ever.  It equals my first ever collaborative action research experience.  Both will go down in my PLD book of greats.

Many multilingual thanks to Damon and the team at the University of Auckland’s CreATE.

Thank you