Thursday, 31 January 2013

Google #16: Convert your blog to an editable file on your computer!


Submitted by Fiona Beal
Recently I have read a couple of intriguing blog posts about the importance of backing up your blog, and even using sites such as BlogBooker to make a PDF or printed book of your blog – and I thought that today would be the day to try some of these ideas.

What is BlogBooker?
BogBooker advertises itself like this: "BlogBooker: From your Blog to a Book."


The website says that “BlogBooker produces a high-quality PDF Blog Book from all your blog's entries and comments. Archives can be generated from any blog running on WordPress, LiveJournal or Blogger. The whole process takes about 3-4 minutes, depending on the size of your blog. Blogbooker is a free service offered thanks to donations.“

How does it work?
  • You submit an export file provided by your blog system to BlogBooker.
  • Your file is verified and all linked images are fetched.
  • Entries, comments and Images are assembled into a high-quality PDF.
  • The PDF is provided without any restriction and thus can be submitted for printing to third-parties. 
  • High quality images are only allowed if you donate.

The first step
Before you start you need to export your blog and download it as a .xml file and store it on your computer. Most blogs tell you how to do this under 'Settings'. 


How to export your blog to Blogbooker
Once you open BlogBooker and add your blog details it helps you with this process. All you have to do is follow the prompts and make a few decisions about the final outcome.

What happens if you are not satisfied with the PDF?
This is what happened to me! I wasn’t happy with the layout but was unable to edit it as it was in PDF format. So then I set about finding a free PDF to Word Converter. I decided on ‘Free PDF to Word Converter’, downloaded it and set about the conversion process.


The result was great. I could edit the pages and move the layouts and images around.


A SlideShare of the process!
I thought I would document my journey with this process on a Slideshare. Here it is...

Educational use
1. If you have a classroom blog you can export it, download it and give it to your students as a memory of their year with you at school.
2. You can also turn your blog PDF into a hard covered book format with one of the web services that do this. BlogBooker has a suggestion for this.
3. You can create a memoir of your year at school recording your journey in teaching year by year. Imagine how you'll feel at retirement one day with a collection of memories in this format.

Try it! It would be interesting to hear how you went about this. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Interested in creating media with your students? Why not enter this amazing competition


PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival Competition

New York, NY (January 23, 2013)-- The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations ( UNAOC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) again invite the world’s youth to submit original and creative videos focusing on PLURAL+ themes: migration, diversity and social inclusion.

What is PLURAL+?

Recognizing youth as powerful agents of social change in a world often characterized by intolerance, and cultural and religious divisions, PLURAL+ invites youth to address key challenges related to migrant integration, inclusiveness, identity, diversity, human rights and social cohesiveness, both at local and global levels.  Young people up to 25 years old are invited to submit short videos of five minutes maximum in length.

Michele Klein-Solomon, IOM Permanent Observer to the United Nations, said, “PLURAL+ videos touch very sensitive issues in a very real way.  They look at the realities that people are facing.  We like to see young people expressing their profound ideas in a manner that allows the opening of a dialogue.”

Jordi Torrent, UNAOC Project Manager, Media and Information Literacy, added: “PLURAL+ videos fit very well in this very relevant conversation: how to build more inclusive societies where we can all live together in harmony.”

PLURAL+ supports young people’s expression of their opinions by providing them with a variety of media platforms and distribution networks, including broadcasts, video festivals, conferences and events around the world.  PLURAL+ also reinforces the firm belief of IOM and UNAOC that youth are powerful and creative agents of social change.


This video was created with the YouTube Video Editor (

Competition information
A prestigious international jury will select three winners in each age categories (9-12, 13-17, and 18-25).  All the winners will be invited to New York, all travel expenses paid, to present their work at the PLURAL + 2013 Awards Ceremony at the Paley Center for Media in December 2013.

Mariana Araujo, a member of the PLURAL+ 2012 international jury commented“For me PLURAL+ is the best link between intercultural dialogue and intergenerational justice.  I can't imagine a better way to understand the other but through their own eyes and listen with their ears.   With these videos I can internalize their emotions and realities through their stories.”

PLURAL+ 2013 deadline for video submission is 30 June, 2013
Early submissions are encouraged.   Further information, including guidelines, regulations, awards, and the entry form can be found at the PLURAL+ website at:

2012 winners

You can watch PLURAL+ 2012 winners here

Plural website
The Plural website is worth a visit. It can be found at On the website they give some resources that you can use for creating a video.


PLURAL+ is organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration with the collaboration of many international partners, For more information, please

Why not give this competition a try! Your students will LOVE it! SchoolNet encourages South African teachers to enter this competition.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

More story starter sites to inspire your students to write

Submitted by Fiona Beal
One of the most popular posts to date on this blog has been one outlining a number of sites that can be used for starting stories '10 Story Starter sites to get your students writing’. I thought it was time to add to the list. The Internet is full of the most amazing tools to encourage our students to  write. To this end I created a containing the posts I find as I do research 

Let’s face it, as teachers we need and LOVE ideas that can help us to get more from our students and engage them to the full.

1. Scholastic Story Starters

This is for K-6th grade. Here you can choose a theme fir starting a piece of writing in one of these categories – Adventure, Sci_fi, Scrambler or Fantasy. The teeacher is given help to use the application. To me this looks like a good scaffolding application for writing. .


2. Flickr storm

Flickr is a treasure trove for a teacher. It is a collection of free photos. Flickr Storm would be a way to collect pictures and postcards on a topic of interest, save them to a tray and then write a story using them as illustrations. For example, I typed in the word ‘princess’ and was given a selection. Each one I then click on would be enlarged into the tray on the right hand side of the page.


3. 17 larger than life objects

This blog has a great number of photos with some objectos that are unusually large. This would certainly inspire a story!


4. 5 card Flickr


You start off by picking one of their images to add to your story. You continue in thisein till you have collected five images that you like. Then you write your story. There are a number of examples of stories previously written to look at with their selected images.


5. Wonder of the day blog

This is a site with pictures videos and words about something wondrous. The students could take a look around till they feel inspired to write.


6. 100 best first lines from novels

In this site the students could read the first lines until an idea strikes them.


7. The Newspaper Clipping Generator
Your students could use this newspaper generator  to generate a story from a list of headlines that you have collected. They write in the headline of choice and then start their report.


8. Story Starters from the Young Writer's Workshop

This site is the ‘Young Writers workshop’ Ther e rae plenty of ideas for younger students on this site. When you make a topic choice it takes you a template with a starting line and this can be printed.


Work through these and see how your class responds to them. Our biggest challenge as teachers is to get our reluctant writers taking an interest in writing.

Monday, 21 January 2013

South African teachers – a great opportunity with Adobe Youth Voices that you cannot miss!


Submitted by Fiona Beal
Are you interested in learning the inns and outs of Adobe Essentials and Adobe Premier, and then teaching a group of your learners the same programmes? You would then use these programmes to create a short movie with a message for youth. Keen to know more?

SchoolNet is facilitating an Adobe Youth Voices online course which is an international course run by Adobe. The dates are February 18, 2013 - April 15, 2013. We have six places available for South African teachers to participate in this course and then complete the media projects. The online course is facilitated by two international AYV trainers across a period of 8 weeks.

Previous blogposts on the Adobe Youth Voices project
We have a number of SchoolNet blogposts written about previous years in the Adobe Youth Voices project if you would like to have some background:

1. SchoolNet's Adobe Youth Voices programme sends a team to California
(18 August 2011)
2. A wonderful Adobe Youth Voices media opportunity for South African teachers!
(27 August 2012)
3Adobe Youth Voices in South Africa–teachers, you have to join this amazing project! (5 September 2012)

4. Congratulations to our Adobe Youth Voices project winners! (19 September 2012)
SchoolNet’s YouTube channel
You can view some of the media that was created if you look through these posts. Our SchoolNet YouTube Channel also displays the media.  Here is one of last years entries:

Title: Rise of Racism and Hazardous Stereotyping
Educator: Maropeng TL Monareng
Duration: 7.48 minutes


Your responsibilities as a participant
The AYV course is offered to teachers who have access to at least a laptop with connectivity who agree to:
1. Participate in the online course   (dates of this course- February 18, 2013 - April 15, 2013)

2. Teach your group of learners the skills learned through the online course
3. Help your learners produce some form of media for submission to AYV international.

There are a number of activities allocated to each week.  The course programme is attached. J The participating teachers have access to AYV forums and tutorials so that if they lack certain skills they have opportunity to learn them in addition to participating in the online course.


By the end of this course you will understand:
  1. The philosophy of the Adobe Youth Voices program and what is expected of you, your sites and the youth you are working with as part of the program.
  2. Models of instructional practice as they relate to working with youth and media.
  3. The value and methodologies of youth media making.
  4. The various media formats in which youth work can be created.
  5. Steps and strategies to facilitating effective youth media making.
  6. Community connections and strategies for building and engaging audiences.
More details
You can download these forms here to find out more information:
a) Educator application
b) Information Form
c) Course syllabus

Why not apply?
If you would like to apply, please contact

Friday, 18 January 2013

Have you started with a blog yet? It's definitely worth it!

Submitted by Fiona Beal
This morning as I was researching on the Internet the thought struck me that a huge amount of my professional growth over the past few years has come from reading blogs written by teachers. There are so many really fantastic teachers sharing what they do in their classroom with the world and benefiting so many others in the process. I would say that blogs play a very large part in driving the education revolution that is taking place world-wide. The incredible part is that blogs are free to create! So thank you to all those blogger educationists out there!

Useful blogging posts
I have noticed an upsurge in the number of blogs started by educationists. This morning I read about a blogger who has been blogging for ten years, Graham Stanely, and who is celebrating the event with two reflective posts. He calls his posts Reflections on ten years blogging - part one and Reflections on ten years of blogging - part two. In these posts he talks about his journey with blogging with his journey and all he has learned along the way. 

Another great post I saw recently on blogging is The ultimate guide to the use of blogs in teaching posted on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog. This is a comprehensive post which elaborates on the following headings:

1- What is Blogging ?
2- Difference between A Blog and a Website
3- Free Blogging Platforms for Teachers and Students
4- How to set up a blo
5-Things to Pay Heed to when Setting up a Classroom  Blog
6- Blogging Tips for Teachers
7- Advantages of Blogging in Education
8- Ways Teachers Can Use Blogs in their Classrooms
9- Examples of Successful Student, Class, and Teacher Blogs

In face this great infographic below comes from another post on the same blog. 

From Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog

The Edublogs Awards

Edublogs has done a major job in promoting blogging among teachers. Every year they hold the Edublogs Awards which has various interesting categories. A good place to start with any research on blogs is to look at those who were the winners in the Edublogs Awards for 2012. 

If one had to list the benefits of blogging I'm sure the list would get into the 100s and more! What is your view on blogging? Have you tried it? You won't regret it. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Why not turn your tweets into a digital newspaper!

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Today I was reading an article called ‘3 tools to turn your tweets into a newspaper’. I have already experimented with one of the tools mentioned,, and created one called ‘Fiona’s Technology Times’ which is a collection of tweets from people who I follow in the form of a weekly newspaper. In the process of doing that I created a blogpost for the Schoolnet blog ‘Curating with’. Today I thought I would create a different kind of weekly newspaper for SchoolNet with mainly SchoolNet tweets featuring on it. Let’s get started…

Join and sign in is a free curation tool that takes Twitter etc links from the people you follow on Twitter, and it organizes those links into a virtual paper for easy reading on a daily or weekly basis.   What happens is that you tell which sources to use. After you have signed in you will be asked to Start your paper. I chose Custom paper.


From then on it is very much a case of following the prompts. When it came to choosing sources I just added two – SchoolNet’s tweets and the tweets from the weekly South African chat for teachers #edchatsa started by Arthur Preston of Elkanah House in Cape Town.

Background photo
The idea of having a background photo came from Linda Lindsay from Hawaii who was with us on the Google Teacher Academy, New York last year in October. She started a called #GTANY Daily with tweets from those of us that attended the Academy. You can read her current one at Linda got her background photo right but I am still experimenting! Here is an image from Linda's Paper.Li

#GTANY Daily
The SchoolNet Weekly Times is created
Well, here is the finished result. The photo part is still to be worked on – but I think a newspaper like this is a great way to summarise one’s weekly tweets. If you would like to see our first edition of the SchoolNetSA Weekly Times here is the link:  Enjoy the read

The SchoolNet SAWeekly Times

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

#15: Using Google Docs & Drive to do your planning

30 Days of Google series #15

Have you ever wondered if there is an easier way to do your daily/weekly/year planning and lessons than either writing them out by hand (worst scenario) or typing them out and keeping them on your own computer? One of the best applications to use for planning and preparing is Google Docs because you can then access your files from any computer as well as share them with anyone else who has access to the Internet. Amazing!

Distinction between Google Docs and Google Drive
Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Slides are known as productivity apps. They let you create different kinds of online documents, work on them in real time with other people, and store them in your Google Drive online — all for free.

How to plan a lesson using Google Docs
1. Firstly it is free. If you have a Gmail account you have a Google Docs account which contains a great selection of applications to use. Anything created using these applications can be saved in Google Docs and the finished products can even be downloaded as Microsoft Word documents should you so wish!

 2. If you already have everything typed in Word or Excel etc. you can upload them to Google Drive. In that way you won’t have to carry around a flashdrive.  This means that everything you create will be available from any computer that you use and sign in to Google on.

3. If you want to create a lesson plan but you don’t want to make a template take a look at the templates supplied by Google. Just ask Google for ‘Google Docs templates and you’ll be taken to: be specific and ask for ‘lesson plans’. You will be shown a whole selection to preview and choose from. Once you have decided on one and click on it it becomes part of your Google Docs where you can customize it.


Keep all your documents in a folder in Google DriveYou’ll want to keep all your documents together in a folder. You could create a folder called, for example, Grade 3 English. In that folder you could put all the documents you need – calendar, timetable, year plan, term plan, week plan and daily plan. You could add your classlists, all your wordlists and assessment rubrics/sheets etc.

a)  To make a folder click the ‘Add folder’ button at the top of Google Drive.


b) To place the documents you have created into this folder find the document, add a check in the box, right-click on the document and choose Organise. This will show you the list of folders you have created. Choose Grade 3 English and your document will be added to the folder.



Keep one another accountable 
The beauty of it is that you can share every document with your colleagues so easily if you wanted to. What I like about this method is the accountability it could bring because if everyone in Grade 3 shared their documents you could see at a flash who wasn’t keeping up etc. etc. It could be shared with your HOD and Principal as well. 

Use Google Drive offline when you are at home
It would be very easy to work at home or at school without using a flashdrive even if you didn’t have Internet. You can access Google Drive offline and work on it. Your computer will sync the next time you go online.   

So, without a doubt I would say this is the easiest (and cheapest) way for doing daily and weekly planning.

Further reading
a) Tuesday Tech tips - Ideas for using Google Docs

b) Below is an interesting collection of things you can do using Google Docs in the Classroom started by Nik Peachy using a Google Presentation . Click on the image to be taken to the original Google presentation.


Yay! 19 000 visitors!

glitter logo -

Monday, 14 January 2013

Have you considered joining a Learning Circle to connect with global peers?


SchoolNet is a volunteer supporter and promoter of iEARN and we would like to give this project from iEARN some prominence since it will greatly benefit our  SchoolNet members. It is a call for participation in learning circles  - a project we have always supported. The original post can be found here.

Global Collaboration Made Easy!
Looking for a way to connect your students with global peers?  Sign up by January 22nd for the January 30 - May 25 session of iEARN Learning Circles. 

What is a Learning Circle?Learning Circles are highly interactive, project-based partnerships among a small number of schools located throughout the world. Over 15 weeks, you and your students will have a chance to work with a small number of classrooms from around the world on a Learning Circle theme of your choice.

The structure of a Learning Circle comes from its design of phases. The first phase, "Getting Ready" at the start of the course, prepares you for participation in the project. In the following phases you get to know other circle members and progress to working together under your selected theme, but with your own curriculum. Your circle closes with each classroom presenting a final product that demonstrates the quality of learning that has taken place. Learn more about Learning Circles.

How to sign up
Registration deadline has been extended to January 22. Sign up now before all spots are filled.
To participate in an iEARN Learning Circle, educators must first be registered in iEARN, and then login to the iEARN Collaboration Centre and fill out the January 30 - May 25, 2013 Learning Circles Placement Form.

The direct URL for Learning Circle registration form is

Teachers’ Guide

In addition to hands-on support throughout the session, educators have access to a comprehensive Learning Circles Teachers Guide to lead them through all the steps of participating in an iEARN Learning Circle.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Get to know Symbaloo as a bookmarking or curation tool


What is Symbaloo?
Symbaloo is a great free tool you can use to create multiple tables or tiles to organise web links of one sort or another. It thus becomes a visual curation tool or a visual bookmarking tool. Symbaloo can be found at if you are a teacher. by joining here you can enrol your students as well.
Symbaloo creates ‘webmixes’ which are basically a collection of your bookmarks. It also has already created tiles of popular websites so that if you want to use those to save time they are there for you.

My webmix
I decided to create a Symbaloo to use as an index page for 30 posts I had created on our SchoolNet blog under the headings of “30 Days of Webtools #1…” etc.

Here is a Slideshare of the process outlining the steps I used.

Here is my completed Symbaloo
This is my completed Symbaloo. Unfortunately a Symbaloo has to operate from the Symbaloo host page so to get there simply click on the image below.

Uses for Symbaloo in the classroom
1) You can find out what other Symbaloo users are doing and learn from them using the easy Share and Gallery options.

2) You can create a starter page of Intenet sites for your students to use on a project – or your students can create their own.

3) Symbaloo opens its tiles in a new window so that the original always remains as a reference point. It can be used really well with webquests. 

4) As a teacher you can save your favourite tools so that they are always handy for you to use.

5) You can use it like I did as an Index post for a number of blog posts you have created around a topic. 

6) I love the way this teacher uses Symbaloo in his kindergarden class.

7) Listen to this Grade 7 student from the post showing what she does with Symbaloo

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

30 Days of Web Tools #29: Index...using Symbaloo

Submitted by Fiona Beal
Recently on this blog we posted a series called '30 days of webtools' with a daily post featuring a different webtool that can be used successfully in the classroom. I thought that an Index post would be fitting for this series for easier navigation to a desired tool; and instead of the usual type of index post I decided to use SymbalooEDU.  This is a very useful curation or bookmarking tool. 

So, if you would like to access the different webtools used in that series just click on the image below and you will be taken to the alphabetically arranged webmix which is hosted at SymbalooEDU. You will be able to click on each block and be taken to the original post. 

There is still quite a lot about Symbaloo that I don't fully understand but in the next blog post I will outline how I went about using it for the webmix below. 

                 30 Days of Webtools index
Click on this image to be taken to the webmix

Two South African teachers highlighted in the Global Classroom Project awards

Submitted by Fiona Beal with permission from Karen Stadler
We, at Schoolnet, are very proud of two of our teachers from South Africa who have been highlighted as ‘Global Lead Teachers’ in the Global Classroom Project. Karen Stadler is the ICT Integration Co-ordinator for Elkanah House’s Senior Primary campus in Cape Town. She keeps a blog called All Things ICT.  Brenda Hallowes is from Cotswold Preparatory School in Port Elizabeth and we featured one of her posts on our SchoolNet blog yesterday.  I asked Karen if I could use the blogpost she wrote in response to the honour she and Brenda received and here it is…

Karen's blog called 'All Things ICT'
Karen relates:
“On Friday afternoon, 16 November, I took part in the Global Classroom Project 2012 -2013 launch presentation, which was one of the presentations in the Global Education Conference 2012, a free online conference connecting educators and organisations worldwide. It started on Monday, 12 November and ran around the clock for five days!

I was invited to take part by Michael Graffin (@mgraffin), co-founder of the Global Classroom Project and I was truly honoured to do so. I spoke about why global interaction and collaboration in education is important and I also reflected on her own project, Crazy Crazes, which is currently underway ( and other highlights of 2012. Four of our Grade 4 pupils also shared their experiences and they did so well. I am so proud of how well they spoke and how they handled themselves! This was a wonderful opportunity and we were very proud to promote our school on this global platform.

This excerpt from Michael’s post in the Global Classroom Project blog, brought a lump to my throat. He says:
But perhaps the most emotional moment was when we handed over the microphone to some of our #globalclassroom students – from Elkanah House, in Cape Town, South Africa. THANK YOU to Sarah, Abigail, Tyra, and Matthew – you did yourselves proud! And thank you to their wonderful teacher, Karen Stadler (@ICT_Integrator) who made it all possible." 

Michael Graffin's acknowledgement of Karen and her students
To read more about the presentation and listen to the recording of this event, look here.

At the end of the presentation Michael Graffin announced the inauguration of the annual“Global Classroom Lead Teacher” Award, which recognises teachers who’ve made an extraordinary contribution to the development and success of the #globalclassroom community over the past year. Imagine my surprise when I saw my name on that list, along with 25 other amazing, dedicated teachers from around the world! Brenda Hallowes from Cotswold Preparatory School in Port Elizabeth and I were both named – the only two teachers from Africa!

So now I get to add this lovely badge to my blog:


Please pop on over to the Global Classroom Project blog and see what amazing connections are being made and how, as a #globalclassroom community, we can make a difference to the way in which our children learn and how they see themselves as global citizens of the world!”

Thank you Karen, and a million congratulations to you and Brenda from PE from all of us!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Why not consider a ‘Mystery Skype’ session with your class this year?

Submitted by Fiona Beal with permission from Brenda Hallowes...
This is a guest post from a SchoolnetterBrenda Hallowes, who teaches ICT at Cotswold Preparatory School in Port Eizabeth. Brenda has a blog ‘Cotswold Lab Notes’ and when I read this post in November I asked her if I could use it as a guest post since it highlights the practice of ‘Mystery Skype’ in action. Mystery Skype can also be conducted using a Google hangout! 

Brenda's blog 'Cotswold Lab Notes' 
Brenda relates:
“We live in a global village. Technology has opened up so many opportunities for connection and collaboration. In the computer lab we have been taking advantage of the opportunity for global connections via the Global Classroom Project. I joined the Skype chat group for GCP. Due to time differences the group is active twenty-four hours a day.  The chat is lively and informative. 

One of the fun activities of the group is a "Mystery Skype".  Two teachers connect their classes in Google Hangout without telling their students where the other class is in the world. The children have to ask questions that elicit a yes or no answer in order to work out the location. 

Brenda's Grade 2 class during the session

The Grade 2 class in Indonesia during the session

One of the first things the students have to understand is the concept of a continent. Once we have established which continent the other class is on they then have to pinpoint the country. If they do get really stuck they are allowed to get clues such as the capital city or the hemisphere. I was surprised and delighted when one of my Grade 2 classes guessed Indonesia after they had established that it was in Asia. After trying the larger countries like China and India they began to study the map more carefully. They could barely pronounce the word Indonesia but  they learned that it's a country in Asia and they met a class of real live students from there.  Some of our students demonstrated good thinking when trying to find the answer and then I had one little girl who kept coming up and saying, "Johannesburg! or East London". It's a whole new world out there. Our students are young and many of them are lacking exposure to the world beyond our school and homes but I believe that we can offer them opportunities for enrichment beyond their present development through technology and good scaffolding.

We are coming to the end of the academic year. This has been the first year at Cotswold that I haven't worked through a set curriculum purchased by the school. It's been an adventurous year and I have learned so much. I'm looking forward to what the new year brings. Technology is changing so rapidly and the trend is towards the "Read Write" web where we discover how to construct our own new knowledge using online tools. It certainly is a great time to be involved in education.”