The good thing about bad PD...

Recently I had the chance to attend a PD that was suppose to be on a series of cool tools you could use within (and outside) the classroom. The PD was attended by those from my school who were fairly familiar with integrating IT tools within their classroom and we went in anticipating a sandbox style session where we got shown a series of useful tools to then play/create with but instead we got a talkfest. In 4 hours we got exposed to only 3 tools and I spent most of it internally screaming for the speaker to "get on with it". At the very least it gave me insight to what it's like for our gifted students who sit through lessons on content they already know.

The tools shown were handy but nothing new or cutting edge, but the great thing that I personally got out of the session was a desire to do something better than what I was being exposed to. So rather than spending my time sandbagging the presenter I'm going to explore and share the tools on here.

Recording lessons for students.

Tools: Audacity, Screencast-O-Matic


Use Audacity to record a series of your very own podcasts, then upload them somewhere handy for your students to download and listen to. You can use your school's internal network, Dropbox or your own website/blog to host the files. The benefit of Audacity over other voice recording programs is that you can edit your work and add in layers. This means you can have a jaunty little jingle at the start of each podcast, sound effects or just connect a series of different recorded conversations together.

Screencast-O-Matic (website)

Screencast-o-matic allows you to select part of your screen to record what you're doing when you do it. Draw complex diagrams, use your favourite programs and don't be limited to what certain other screen recording programs have. The program is web based and requires flash (sorry iPad fans) but it's darn nifty in its ability to adjust to what you would like to do as opposed to forcing you into a corner like many free programs tend to do. The files save as a video naturally but you get three options on what you would like to do including uploading to YouTube or downloading for personal use elsewhere.

Website building


Now website building and hosting is nothing new for most of us, it's certainly nothing new for me. I went through the geocities craze back in the day with the feeling that I was clever being able to code and create my own website complete with animated gifs and midi files playing in the background. So it would be that we would eventually get introduced to one of the numerous free website creating/hosting sites known as Weebly.

Whilst the guest speaker went on about the virtues of Weebly (there are some) I decided I could sit bored with the experience or I could just get creating and see how much I could do whilst he continued to talk. I picked a potential class that I could teach in the future and got designing.

The pros for Weebly include:
Drag and Drop function to assist those (student or teacher) who have never built a website before.
Plethora of template and design options.
Minimalistic branding.
Offers a paid option to have your own domain name.
Anyone could use this.

The cons for Weebly include:
Drag and drop only assists in helping someone learn visual design concepts of a website, doesn't allow the option of challenging those who would like to further their understanding of website building.
Obsessive email updates. Like an over-attached lover that just doesn't know when to draw the line between connecting with you and smothering you I can safely say that since signing up (under 2 weeks) I've had 4 emails telling me that my website wants me to come back to it, that I can increase my viewing statistics and that there are other new key features.

A Weebly website attempt

So whilst our guest talked on I put together a website that had a home page, a code of conduct for class page, a blog page (added a blog posting on it once I got home), a resources page and an assessment tasks page. Safe to say that Weebly is dead easy to use.

To website build or to not?

Website building is naturally an easy thing to do these days in some regards (the harder part being to design well), however the conversation regarding website building is often one that isn't explored well by others. When getting students to create websites there needs to be the fundamental question of "why am I asking my students to do this?" If it's just for the sake of doing it... well then you're doing it wrong. If it's to allow students to explore a new way to express themselves... well then you're on the right path.
Another question worth asking is how will you support those who struggle with either poor literacy skills or poor digital skills? For students it's one thing for the teacher to read your bad spelling and grammar in an essay, and quite another to have it published for family and peers to witness as well.

As for the question on whether we as educators should have our own websites? My thoughts are simple... Yes only if you plan on using is consistently. It's not as powerful if you allow it to appear like your latest new gimmick only to be abandoned when the next cool trick comes rolling out.
I'm planning on running a weebly website next year for curiosity's sake to see how popular/useful it will be for my students. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Teacher and Peer Assessing using Socrative

I did an activity today in class that I felt I should share with my fellow educators. It involved using Socrative to assess a series of student created videos on Sexually Transmitted Infections (S.T.Is)... I know fun right!?

In my last post I spoke about the web based tool Socrative and its usefulness in regards to gathering feedback from students to improve the content and skills we as teachers deliver. So now it's time to flip the idea on it's head and talk about how this tool can be used to provide feedback to students regarding their own progress.
In previous lessons my year 9 class had been exploring STIs and sexual health, this led into their main assessment piece which was for them to develop a video/cartoon/podcast that focused on one STI of their choice. They needed to cover signs & symptoms, treatment, prevention and how it could impact on their lifestyle. They also needed to introduce interesting facts or statistics regarding their chosen STI. Students were told that their finished product would be shown to the class with their mark coming from both their teacher and their fellow classmates.

Today was the day of their video presentations. Prior to the lesson I set up a quiz on Socrative called "STI - Peer Assess Quiz". I also had in the room their other HPE teacher (we share this class) and a Pre-Service Teacher. As each video played I would open the quiz on Socrative and students would vote through a series of key questions such as:

  • Your name
  • Name of the group presenting
  • How engaging is this presentation?
  • Have you learnt anything new?
  • Does this presentation cover signs and symptoms?
  • Does this presentation highlight how the STI is treated?
  • Overall what did you think of this presentation?

Each question was multiple choice (except the first two) and students quickly filled out the quiz at the end of each video. At the same time as they filled their quizzes out my colleagues and I would tick our own marking criteria sheet and them compare our answers. I gathered all the marking data from my colleagues and was sure to email myself a copy of the students responses to each quiz.
Rubric with a combination of 3 scores two teachers (highlighter)
The student results came through as separate Excel documents so I placed the data into an easy to read grid (google document located here)that also turned the results anonymous. Students will receive both sets of mark sheets back in their next lesson.

What we found most valuable and interesting from the whole experience was that everyone was engaged in the process of reviewing and that everyone felt they had a chance to comment on what they thought was good practice and what was in need of improvement.
Other things we liked included:

  • Instant cross marking and discovering that we had similar "marks" for each group presentation that we assessed as teachers.
  • That students were honest in the process and marked their peers to a similar grade to what their teachers had done.
  • Everyone was engaged.

I'm doing this again tomorrow with my other year 9 class, can't wait to see if the results fall similar again!

Exit Tickets for differentiation!

Using Socrative for Differentiation within your classes...

What is Socrative?
Socrative is a free web based application that has become very popular in education in the last couple of years. The best thing about it is that only the teacher needs to sign up for an account and students only need to know their teacher’s room number.

What does it do?
You can create quizzes that are either teacher paced or student paced. The quizzes can be Multiple choice, T/F or Short Answer in nature. You can also create Exit Tickets which are the main focus of this blog post.

So differentiation is involved how?
Exit Tickets gauge exactly where your students are at by the end of a lesson with a quick series of questions for students to answer. This information is compiled in a excel file for you to skim over at the end of a lesson or series of lessons. This will allow you to alter lesson ideas to suit students and their learning needs.

So just what is an “Exit Ticket?” you ask? Well in it’s simplest form it is a short survey filled out at the end of a lesson. They are becoming common practice at the end of most sessions at any PD conference to allow presenters and hosts to gauge how successful the sessions run were. Questions are usually in a poll or short answer form and are designed to be completed quickly by participants leaving your lesson.

So let’s have a look at how it all works.

You will need to create/sign up for a Teacher’s Account, and then it’s all systems go!

Students will need access to the internet and either the website or they can have the Student version of the app (available free on both apple and android devices). I have both apps on all my devices in case I ever need to be a “student” as well.

When you sign into Socrative as a teacher you are greeted with this view:

Click to enlarge - Exit Ticket is 2nd from the bottom of image.

There is a standard or default Exit Ticket already available and does the job nicely (I use it). When you select it, it will become active in your "Socrative room" and students can now join your room to fill out their Exit Ticket. You get an overall live view that allows you to see how many Tickets have been submitted as they happen it looks like this:

The student log in is really basic, they only need your room number which is always visible on your summary page. I place my number (which never changes) on the board and ask the students to record this down in their diary or in a note on their device for future reference.
Student Log in view.

Students filling out the default Exit Ticket available will be asked the following 4 questions:
  • Their name
  • How well did you understand today's material? (Multiple Choice)
  • What did you learn today? (Short Answer)
  • Please solve the problem on the board. (Short Answer)

When they fill out the last question they have an option to just Finish the Exit Ticket or to Finish and then allow someone else to fill it in out after them. The flexibility of this meant that I could use this in a class with a limited number of devices or a class where everyone had a device.

The results are compiled and you have the option of downloading the report or emailing the report to yourself for later viewing. If you are using the mobile app you only have the option to email to yourself.

How would you like this data you have just collected?
The information is sent to you in an excel document with each question/answer in a column and each student/responder in a row, you can simply scroll across to see how a student went individually or scroll down to see an overall result for a certain question.

This works well in both theory and practical classes as the main aim is to assess whether students have felt that they have learnt something or have been challenged in their way of thinking. You might find in the first couple of attempts of doing this that students will be tempted to be silly or even untruthful in their answers especially if reflecting and reviewing their progress isn't a regularly occurring practice for them. Don't be put off though, instead ensure that this practice is a regular event and that it is always consistent. Students will come to develop self reviewing skills as a result and you will soon find that they are quite descriptive in their responses to the answers in their Exit Ticket, thus building on the class practice with you as opposed to waiting for you to just deliver the content and hoping that it is something that will engage and challenge them.

The great thing is it also provides feedback to the teacher instantly that may help them determine why a lesson wasn't as successful as they thought it would be when planning it.

Give it a go! You could be surprised at the results.

Handy Online Tools

So recently I've been exposed to a host of online tools in my quest for better tools to use in the classroom. My goal was to find things that can slide seamlessly into what I do in the classroom without having to spend a lot of time explaining to students how to use the application. So here's what I've found to be super handy!
This website is handy when you want to get a quick response from students. The results are displayed as a pie chart and update as votes roll in. You can make the chart visible as students vote or you can show at the end of voting if you want to avoid number persuasion. Simply visit and fill out the blanks.

Today's Meet
If you're looking for a way for students to quickly respond to a scenario and to briefly discuss, might be a great choice. It allows you to set up a room, create a name and to choose how long the room exists for. Great for revising something just covered or for introducing a new concept.

I've been wanting to make informative videos in my quest to ensure that important information delivered in class can be accessed by my students who are absent from key lessons. The website allows users to create up to 30 free videos which can be uploaded straight to YouTube. It's fairly flexible in its use and has a variety of templates to play around with for the less adventurous video maker. I trialled it last night making a short video on HIV for my students:

So what online tools are your favourite?
Props to   for introducing strawpoll and TodaysMeet to me at a recent PD.

How I keep student work - Digital Portfolios

So I'm back! It's been a very busy year this year with my school making some big changes but I'm here tonight to share what I've been doing in the classroom. I've been wanting a more permanent way to monitor my students progress as I work with them throughout the year, I also wanted to model a practice for my Year 9 students who each have access to an iPad.

I’ve started using  the app  “Easy Portfolio” which was developed by #pegeek MrRobbo. This app has changed the way I record student progress within my class. It did involve a little bit of setting up at the start (entering students/classes) but I’m so glad I took the time. Now I want to share with you all what I’ve been doing with it (see the comic strip below).

Firstly  I  created my  classes  as  “groups”  and  then  created  a  “portfolio”  for  each student  within each group/class. Now when I tap on a student’s name I’m presented with a portfolio that is broken up into file types (Video, Images, Audios, Notes, URLS, Docs). So when my year 9 or 10 classes submit work I ask them  to send  their  files as a PDF document  (Pages, Keynote etc will offer this option) and I save their attached  work  into  their assigned portfolio. This has been  fantastic as  I can monitor student progress whenever  I want  to. I can have students submit what they have done in the day’s lesson every time we meet or I can simply ask them to submit assessment tasks for me to save as a record.

When I mark a rubric  I save a copy of the rubric to their portfolio as well. As for my classes that don’t have iPads I just simply take photos of everything. I recently had year 7’s complete an assignment on Melanomas they all handed in their proudly constructed assignments and  I photographed  the work and then photographed the  hard  copy of the rubric I marked prior  to handing back to students. This ends up being a great resource when parent/teacher interviews come around.

Some of the uses of the Easy Portfolio App

What I really love though is that I can film my students performing skills in a variety of skill development lessons which I can then use to review one-on-one with the student. Video analysis is a powerful tool when used right and can correct technique issues faster than any verbal or demonstration style  instruction given by a coach. The goal for me is to film regularly enough to then hopefully capture skill improvement during a unit of work. I can then keep  this database of videos for reporting as well as parent/teacher interviews. The app also allows me to email any items in the portfolio to the student, parents or homeroom teacher. I can also back up my files using my Dropbox account.

So that's what I've been up to recently, tell me how you keep track of your students, do you have a great suggestion for us fellow #pegeeks? How important is it to track student progress in a Phys Ed class? What do you like to have on your table when meeting parents at interview time?

Stay tuned, my reporting period is nearly over and I aim to update this blog again soon!