Submitted by Fiona Beal
Quite a number of TeachMeets have taken place around South Africa recently. I have been privileged to attend two in the last month in person and one virtually! Just a reminder about what TeachMeets are again– they are informal free gatherings where the teacher attendees are the presenters in matters concerning technology-integration in the classroom, and the focus is on the needs and wants of those attending. They are normally directed 100% to those attending, and teachers come away excited and stimulated with new ideas. The presentations at TeachMeets are usually 3 minutes in length and whatever is shared is usually made available to the attendees. At TeachMeets we talk about ‘enthusiastic lurkers’ (attendees) and ‘keen beans’ (presenters).
The first ever Kwazulu-Natal TeachMeet was held at St Mary’s DSG School in Kloof on 29 May at 18:00 and was organised by Linda Locke and Sheryl Gordon from St Mary as well as Anne Maw from Crawford Preparatory, North Coast. Microsoft sponsored free learning Suite DVDs, and other items to all the attendees and Obami sponsored a R5000 training voucher for all the staff at the winning school in their product.
When you drive through the gates of St Mary’s you are immediately awestruck by the views. The school is at the top of a rise with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside all around. The TeachMeet was held in their beautiful ‘Creativity Centre’ where each Grade spends a day every couple of weeks being exposed to all sorts of creative tasks. There were about 40 teachers from around Durban and we all sat in groups around tables with three screens in front of us. One was for the Twitter backchannel, one was for the presentations from a PC and one was for the iPad presentations. I rather liked the way the types of presentations were mixed – some from iPads and some from PCs.
|This was our table deep in dicsussion|
|Charli Wiggil from Durban, and Deb Avery from Pietermaritzburg|
While one of the presenters was getting ready, Jonathon Manley, the principal of St Mary’s, showed us how one can easily switch to taking over the data projector screen and presenting from an iPad from wherever you are by means of a little gadget called an Apple TV.
There were 15 presenters, or should I say 'Kean Beans' and I am sure you would be interested to hear what they spoke about.
Margie Hartmann gave a presentation on how she uses Scoopit (http://www.scoop.it/) which scoops the web on the topic of your interest and creates a gorgeous online magazine with the topics you ‘curate’. You can follow Margie’s Scoop.it on this link: http://www.scoop.it/t/bee-bot-lessons-and-ideas
Anne Maw demonstrated how she uses Microsoft’s Songsmith in the classroom. This is a free karaoke programme that picks up your voice and backs it. It is great for educational use. It is available on Microsoft’s learning Suite CD and is also free to teachers who join the Partners in Learning network http://www.pil-network.com/
|Sheryl Gordon (left) and Anne Maw (right) tweetpic photo|
Charli Wiggill demonstrated how his class went about creating their project making tape aids for the blind using cell phones. (They made MP3 Aids for the Blind from in teams of two with cellphones.) His project wiki can be viewed at http://pay-it-forward-for-the-blind.wikispaces.com/. Charli was a winner in the recent PIL Forum competition with this project. As Jonathon Manley commented on Twitter ‘Cellphones in the hands of children and a visionary teacher influences a blind world. Outstanding!” This project is now operating in 10 countries.
Helen Lass who lectures at a local Teachers’ Training College spoke on the neo-millennial brain of the adolescent and how to access it. This was a very inspiring talk. She said, “Up until the age of 23, learners and students have not developed a fully functioning pre-frontal cortex. As a result, I use videos to facilitate understanding and provide for brainstorming and application of theoretical knowledge”. Helen encouraged us to read the work of Cathy Nuny http://www://brains.org
Jonathon Manley, principal at St Mary. showed how easy it is to do video splicing using the VLC media player http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html. He showed how to use VLC for recording clips and then add voiceover. You can also play videos and then record parts or even take screenshots. He said it is very easy to use.
Betsy Kee showed how she uses SMART Notebook to introduce puberty lessons.
Jo Kinsey demonstrated her use of CAM studio to create podcasts of Maths lessons http://camstudio.org/
Des Dunstone illustrated how she uses the Book Creator App on the iPad with her junior classes to create beautiful books. The learners choose the shape, insert text and add page colour. Photos must already be uploaded in the camera roll. It looks so easy to use. These can then be published to iBooks.
Lindy van der Meulen showed how she uses the Inkling App on the iPad for sourcing interactive textbooks for her music lessons. The Inkling site also has the most incredible selection of books relating to other subjects in the curriculum. These can be downloaded with video and sound embedded. There is a small cost involved but also a lot of freeware.
Sally Goldman illustrated her use of Obami as a classroom learning management system in her Maths classes. http://www.beta.obami.com/. Sally sets Maths problems and the students comment and try to solve them. She also talked about Brainpop: short educational videos that can be used to introduce concepts in all subjects. They have some free videos and "focus for the day" clips. www.brainpop.com (American) or www.brainpop.co.uk (Incidentally, one fortunate teacher ‘lurker’, Tanya, won a voucher from Obami valued at R5000 for all the staff at her school to be trained in its use).
Michelle de Beer demonstrated her use of Symbaloo which is a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) to visually organize and share the best of the web with students. http://www.symbaloo.com/. This looks great for bookmarking sites using categories and it is accessible anywhere. It is very visual and seems easy to use.
Fiona Beal showed how Classroom Dojo can be used as a motivational tool in the classroom. http://www.classdojo.com/
Hayley Calverley showed how she uses a Galaxy Tablet in the classroom as well as Wizteach: WizTeach is interactive teaching software designed for use with any interactive whiteboard, any interactive projector and any touch screen hardware over a wide range of subject areas. http://www.wizteach.com/
Sue Ausmeier spoke about the amazing TES website www.tes.co.uk. You register for free to be able to access incredible resources. It is great for downloading PowerPoints e.g. on the Olympics and customising them. Sue showed us how she did this with the ‘Who wants to be a millionaire” game (PowerPoint) from The TES website.
What I loved about the twitter stream that evening was that TeachMeeters from Cape Town were following the Twitterstream and they kept popping in and adding their greetings and comments. Arthur Preston, a principal from Cape Town who is the originator of the #edchatsa tweetchat amongst South African teachers on a Monday night from 8:30-9:30 invited the KZN teachers to join the chat. Sheryl Gordon, one of the organisers, asked me to explain this invitation to the group since I was from Cape Town! I do hope that many of them will join in the conversation on a Monday night.
All too soon the TeachMeet was over. All the people at my table loved the evening. Melanie Whillier’s comment on Twitter summed it all up “What a fantastic experience, my first teach meet. Learnt so much and came away feeling so inspired.” The organisers assured everyone that they would be organising another TeachMeet in the third term.