Thursday, 28 March 2013

Google #20: Six useful ‘Google in the classroom’ posts

There are just so many posts about how to use Google in the classroom that it is quite mind-blowing. Today I thought I would list a few of them that I have found helpful. Four excerpts come from come from one of my favourite blogs, the TeachThought blog. .

1) 5 Simple Ways To Use Google Docs In The Classroom (from the TeachThought blog)



This is a great post that you must read. It outlines:
  • how to introduce collaborative writing using the integrated reference tools and smart spell checker 
  • how to use Google Forms as an inbox for collecting assignments from students, 
  • how to use Google for online, collaborative brainstorming  sessions that provide students with opportunities to work together to develop to provide students with immediate feedback and increase motivation by creating a simple self-grading quiz with a Google Form.
  • How to use and create Google Doc templates as a virtual copy machine to save time.

2) 25 ways Google can help you to become a better teacher (from the TeachThought blog)



This post has 25 very useful tips on using Google in your daily teaching. It is definitely worth a read.

3) 21 Google Chrome Extensions For Increased Productivity (from the TeachThought blog)

Google Chrome is an amazing browser for both teacher and students for many reasons. One big plus is that you can sign into your profile from any compyter and have all your bookmarks, history, settings come up immediately. You’ll see all your extensions appear in a  shot and these make browsing an absolute breeze because everything is right there saving hours of time.

This post highlights 21 really useful extensions for encouraging productivityin the classroom.   You need to take a read of  21 Google Chrome Extensions For Increased Productivity

4) 20 Useful Google Search Tips You Probably Don’t Know (from the TeachThought blog)

Searching the Internet is such a vital skill these days. There is a lovely embedded plugin that shows the 20 useful lovely tips. (Would love to know which application was used to create this!)



5) 52 Tips And Tricks For Google Docs In The Classroom 
(from the TeachThought blog)


This post raises the question ‘Are you using Google to its fullest potential?'  It outlines 52 great ideas for getting the most out of Google Docs including awesome ideas and tricks for collaboration, sharing, and staying productive. This post is definitely worth a read….52 Tips And Tricks For Google Docs In The Classroom 

6) Paperless Classroom Series: Google Drive
Andy Marsinek shows how he moved from being a teacher who collected everything on paper, to introducing the paperless classroom. This is made possible with Google Drive. He says “students and teachers can access, edit, and work on assignments almost anywhere. And I am certain these mobile device features for Google Docs will only get better.” Take a read….Paperless Classroom Series: Google Drive

Monday, 25 March 2013

Webinar recording: So how does a Google hangout work? (25/03/2013)

Google hangouts are a free video chat service from Google, connected to Google +, that enables both one-on-one chats and group chats with up to ten people at a time. There are enormous benefits to this for education. This is the webinar recording entitled 'So, how does a Google hangout work?

Summary of the webinar

Google hangouts are part of Google plus. This video chat feature allows you to invite nine others (total of 10) to video chat, IM chat, watch YouTube videos together, share documents and much much more. These are perfect for professional development or planning sessions

An exciting, free digital storytelling course and writing opportunity for South African educators. Please sign up…

If you like, you can read about the exciting new African Storybook project before you sign up by clicking here

Friday, 22 March 2013

30 days of writing ideas #3: A request to share a true story based on Internet-sharing from Alan Levine

Submitted by Fiona Beal
If you are a South African teacher reading this we would like to tell you about a writing opportunity and a free online writing course that is coming up with SchoolNetSA  as part of the amazing African Storybook project and website that is being developed for Africa. Our 30 days of writing posts will lead up to giving more information about this. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Alan Levine is someone I have come to appreciate when it comes to writing ideas - in fact I would call him a digital writing guru! His two wikis, Cogdogroo (found at and 50+ Web2 ways to tell a story found at  give loads of wonderful ideas for writing. 

Purely by chance I came across this video of his on YouTube made in January 2013 asking people to… (he can say it better than I can) ...“Yes, it is another call for what I call "True Stories of Open Sharing" - examples of people's experiences of unexpected outcomes when they share something openly online. I will be building a new collection at - and if you have one to share, either make it a video response here or submit a URL for a video to”

If you go to Alan’s blog you’ll find a collection of these stories to listen to.


Listen to what he says on the video below and then decide….

Monday, 18 March 2013

30 Days of writing #2: Get your students writing for 60 seconds with

Submitted by Fiona Beal
If you are a South African teacher reading this we would like to tell you about a writing opportunity and a free online writing course that is coming up with SchoolNetSA  as part of the amazing African Storybook project and website that is being developed for Africa. Our 30 days of writing posts will lead up to giving more information about this. WATCH THIS SPACE!

More and more one can see how amazing it could be if all the students in a class have tablets. Imagine having just one or two minutes each day to get the students writing! This website is designed for just that. All you have to do is:
  • You’ll see one word at the top of the following screen.
  • You have sixty seconds to write about it.
  • Click go and the page will load with the cursor in place.
  • Don’t think. Just write.

Advantages of daily writing practise:
  • This could get students into the habit of just writing and thinking out of the box.
  • By writing every day, the students gain fluency while getting a chance to practice important punctuation, spelling, and style skills in context
  • The students will soon start writing more fluently.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Get started with Twitter – a must for every teacher

 Nowadays, in the era of social networking,  it is vital for a teacher to get on to Twitter in order to find out what is happening in education. I have learned SO much from Twitter and am connected to fantastic educators all over the world because of using it.

How ten minutes with Twitter can get your creativity soaring
For example I was looking through my Twitter stream and I saw a tweet from Julian Wood, a teacher in England whom I follow. It said:


Since I am attending a TeachMeet on Tuesday next week, this sounded interesting so I clicked on the shortened link which took me to where I can across an amazing Mentor Mob collection of articles on the topic created by Wesley Fryer.


Well, that was very interesting and then when I scrolled down I saw the Wesley Fryer had just delivered a workshop on creative writing so I opened that link which took me to Alan Levine’s wiki post where he outlined a great writing idea using five photos. 


Very soon my mind was buzz, buzz, buzzing with new ideas for varied creative writing exercises that will inspire a student to write.

Another teacher’s post on what happened using TwitterIt All Started WIth A Little Tweet.....And Turned Into A Game of Jeopardy, Searching Together, Google Hangout, and Becoming Online Classmates in Edmodo 

How to join Twitter1) A YouTube video showing the process of joining Twiitter

Getting started with Twitter (a five minute tutorial)

2) A SlideShare from Maggie Verster to show you how to join Twitter

Twitter tips
  • If your account is hacked, all you need to do is change the password immediately.
  • Try to add a photo to your profile as "noone likes to follow an egg" (quote by Maggie Verster). An egg shape is the default icon.
  • Start by following @Schoolnetsa, @PILNAfrica, @maggiev. @fibeal, @micheleb2011, @artpreston  and see who they follow or who follows them. 
  • Try and send a tweet every day.
  • Join our Twitter chat for South African teachers on Monday nights fromm 8:30 - 9:30pm. It is great fun to have a debate using 140 characters.

See you on Twitter!

Further reading
5 Baby-Steps for Using Twitter to Begin a Personal Learning Network

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Join the Partners in Learning Network at


Submitted by Megan Rademeyer of Schoolnet
The Microsoft Partners in Learning Network has been re-launched and is well worth visiting to access the Microsoft Learning Suite tools and lesson plans; to get support from tutorials and online professional development and to connect with other teachers to share resources and to discuss hot topics. The Partners in Learning Network is also the place where teachers who are entering the 2013 South Africa and Lesotho Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum will need to go to upload their Learning Activities.

To find out more about what is available at click here…

To join the Partners in Learning Network, go to

Once you are there you can register using your Windows Live ID, Office 365, Facebook, Yahoo, or Gmail account. If you don’t have any of these, you can create a Windows Live ID.


The homepage gives a sense of what is available. See what new tutorials there are, join a popular discussion, stay connected, see what the focused teacher has been up to or access the free tools.


It is definitely worth completing your profile so that others can find you and see what common interests you share. This may lead to a collaborative project or other teachers finding you to discuss one of your resources.


You can join community discussions that interest you – or you can start your own discussion on a new topic.


So, let me encourage you to please join and take a good look around; and stay in touch with new developments on the Partners in Learning Network

Web Tools #30: Add speech bubbles to a photo online and then download the photo

Submitted by Fiona Beal. This is the last in my series of 30 Days of Web Tools series - but of course I continue adding many web tool posts in the days to come
I came across the coolest website today called (  It is a very easy to use tool where you simply upload your photo (or select it from Facebook), add your bubble and text and then save it.  Let’s go through it.

1. Open


2. Add your photo
You can import from Facebook, upload one or use a random stock photo. I added one from the TeachMeet in East London on Tuesday. I notice that the image must be over 400kb. gives you little messages as it uploads – it goes very quickly. I am using a photo from the TeachMeet at East London on Tuesday.


3. Add your speech bubbles


4. Preview what you have done


5. Save and download
You have various options. One is to email it. I chose download. A little box comes up as you download to see if you want to display it on any social media.  There is also an option to make an optional monetary donation.


6. View the final result


I must confess, I need to play around with it a bit. I couldn’t get the speech bubbles to go any smaller, for example. I also couldn’t raise them so that the end bit didn’t overlap with a person’s face. But I love this idea of adding speech bubbles to photos quickly. is quick and easy.

Classroom use
1. Use this in the classroom for a board display.
2. Let your students upload a photo of themselves and add something that says something about themselves, their charactger, their opinion etc.

2. Just have fun with it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

SchoolNetSA at the National Teachers Awards

Submitted by Janet Thomson CEO of SchoolNet and Omashani Naidoo of SchoolNet
The National Teachers Awards was held at the Gallagher Estate Conference Centre on 7 March, 2013. This event is in its 13th year and is growing annually. A number of finalists are nominated via our nine provinces in the following categories:
  • Excellence in Primary School Teaching
  • Excellence in Secondary School Teaching
  • Excellence in Primary School Leadership
  • Excellence in Secondary School Leadership
  • Excellence in Grade R Teaching
  • Excellence in Special Needs Teaching
  • Excellence in ICT - Enhanced Teaching
  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Naturally the category for Excellence in ICT – Enhanced Teaching is closest to SchoolNet’s heart. Pictured here, Warren Sparrow of Rondebosch Boys Prep, Duma Nhlumbini of WillowVale High School and Mabore Lekhalaka of Toronto Primary were all finalists in the Excellence in ICT-enhance teaching category. These teachers have all experienced SchoolNet-facilitated training offered through both the Intel and Microsoft Education programmes. Warren and Mabore have participated in the Adobe Youth Voices International programme. The eventual winner in this category was Anita van Vuuren, Universitas Primary School in the Free State and who had also benefitted from SchoolNet’s programmes. Anita was a finalist in the 2012 Microsoft Partners in Learning Forum Awards which SchoolNet always helps to coordinate, and she has attended innovation workshops. as well as the peer coaching programme both offered through SchoolNet

image image

image image

Mr Derick Petersen, of ImiZama Yethu Secondary School won the category Excellence in Secondary School Leadership. (Mr Petersen  received a tablet from a project that SchoolNet embarked on with the Western Cape Department of Education in December 2012.) He is pictured here with omashani Naidoo of SchoolNet. 


Congratulations to all South African Educators who work towards creating young free thinking individuals. We salute you

Intel sponsors professional development for teachers at Thembelihle Primary

Submitted by Janet Thomson CEO of SchoolNet

Thembelihle Primary School is a small school, recently established by the Methodist Church in Howick for the benefit of learners from severely disadvantaged backgrounds. The school has expanded gradually from just being a play school and with the help of some overseas funding has built additional classroom and employed new teachers. It is now in the process of registering as an independent school with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. The majority of learners receive sponsorship of their school fees; otherwise they would not be able to attend any school.

In an attempt to foster innovation and excellence in teaching the school intends to equip the teachers with laptops and data projectors. The aim of this intervention is not only to provide technology and skills for teachers but also to allow teachers to access valuable lesson resources and to enhance their teaching in the classroom.

Learners at Thembelihle School

Starting in the 2013 second term Hlengiwe Mfeka from SchoolNet South Africa will conduct professional development training for all the teachers that will be sponsored by Intel. Teachers will study the Intel Teach Getting Started course initially and then progress to the Intel Teach Elements courses for project based approaches.

Monday, 11 March 2013

30 days of Writing #1: Welcome to the African Storybook project

If you are a South African teacher reading this we would like to tell you about a writing opportunity and a free online writing course that is coming up with SchoolNetSA  as part of this amazing African Storybook project and website that is being developed for Africa. Our 30 days of writing posts will lead up to giving more information about this. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Submitted by Fiona Beal. Portions of this post are adapted from the Saide December 2012 newsletter.
Saide (South African Institute of Distance Education) has launched an exciting new project aimed at contributing to the improvement of reading and literacy for young African children. The project, known as the African Storybook Project,  is funded by Comic Relief in the United Kingdom. The exciting thing is that SchoolNet is participating in this project so you'll be hearing a lot more about it from us!  I have previously submitted a post on the initial workshop of the African Storybook Project in Johannesburg – Introducing the African Storybook Project.  Tessa Welch of Saide is the project leader in this exciting venture.


What is the African Storybook Project?
The African Storybook Project (ASP) is a project that will create and encourage the use of a digital library of stories for the first few years of reading in digital formats, openly licensed, with a process and tools for translating and versioning stories for local African languages and contexts. These will be shared on a website which is in the process of being created. This will enable users to upload and share versions of the stories in their local languages, providing numbers of stories in a range of languages way beyond the scope of conventional publishing.
In this way we aim to provide African children with sufficient familiar language stories for enjoyable reading practice to create a firm basis for literacy development.  The initial pilot will take place in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda.

The initial workshop
An initial workshop was held  on 10th November 2012 to explore the key issues before starting the project. The poject leaders thought it would be a good idea not only to discuss but also to experience different ways of creation, presentation and translation/versioning.

The presentation on the Japanese art of Kamisihibai by Jemma Kahn held us spellbound, and this was followed by a discussion  of how the techniques and rules of Kamishibai could work digitally for children’s stories.

Jemma Kham illiutrating the japanese art of  Kamisihibai

A session of games, riddles, and tongue twisters was led by Sheila Drew. One of the activities involved taking a portion of a cut up puzzle picture, finding the group members with the rest of the picture and creating a story together. One member of each group related the group's story to all the participants.

Sheila Drew
The group creates a story

The presentation of child created/illustrated stories, with ideas for how this kind of project could described and replicated was given by Glynis Clacherty. Glynis elaborated on the process of story development she used with refugee children during a holiday programme in Johannesburg.

Glynis Clacherty
The translating and versioning of stories session was based on a humorous story called Refiloe and the washed chickens. It centred around performances of a section of the Refiloe and the washed chickens story in Setswana and isiZulu with a discussion of translation issues in treating comedy led by Nicholas Welch and Jeremiah Mntonga. We were exposed to improvisation techniques which encouraged all the workshop participants to contribute to the version.

Nicholas Welch and Jeremiah Mntonga
Jefferson Shabalala led us in a humorous performance of the Xhosa weatherman.

Jefferson Shabalala
A project of partnerships
The African Storybook Project will be a project of partnerships - we do not see ourselves in competition with other projects, but cooperating with and complementing existing initiatives in ways that are mutually beneficial.

Through the work of Judith Baker over a number of years, the project has a list of over 40 potential partners in the three pilot countries of Kenya, Uganda and South Africa, but also in Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone,South Sudan and Zambia. In addition, there are possible partnerships through organisations that work across Sub Saharan Africa such as the TESSA programme and the Canadian literacy organisation, CODE.

Judith Baker
Judith Baker leading a discussion
Story Acquisition
We need a critical mass of stories in a range of languages in order to be able to start work in the pilot countries in the middle of this year. We are aware that there is quite a lot of free material already on the website and we already have a process for exploring, assessing, downloading and categorising this material systematically.

We are also inviting all interested parties to submit stories to us. If you are interested in helping us by donating a story, here are the guidelines:
  • Our main interest is stories that children can read themselves when they're in the first stages of reading - a few words or a sentence a page, with an accompanying illustration - although there is place for more difficult read-aloud stories as well.
  • We're looking for African stories in languages spoken in Africa that will appeal to African children up to the age of 9 or 10.
  • You can send us typed up stories with or without illustrations, or scanned PDF stories with illustrations, or recordings of stories, songs and games.
  • When you send us a story, please also send the information about the story as per the attached form.
  • Send the stories to: and
  • If your stories are too large to email, let us know and we'll invite you to our Dropbox folder where you can upload large files free of charge.
If you are a teacher that would like to get your class writing stories for this project, please consider participating in our free online four week course Digital Writing for the African Storybook project which starts in mid-April. Please watch the SchoolNet blog's Free online courses page to sign up and to see the requirements for the stories that are subitted. . A teacher from the school that submits the most useable stories will be invited to accompany the African Storybook project to an international reading and Writing conference in Niarobi in August 2013. 

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this exciting project in the months ahead.

Upcoming March and April TeachMeets around the country


TeachMeets are places where teachers teach teachers about what they are doing in their classes to promote technology. We love to keep track of where this happens in South Africa so that we can promote them. Here are three that we know about for the months of March and April .
1) TeachMeet in East London

Two schools in East London are taking turns in holding the TeachMeet. Last year Stirling Primary was the host and now it is Clarendon Primary's turn on Tuesday 12 March from 3-5pm. Read more about this event on the TeachMeet South Africa wiki and please do consider participating if you live in the area. 

When: Tuesday 12th March 3-5pm
Where: Clarendon Primary School, East London

2) Brescia House, Johannesburg ‘How I do IT in my class’ Day


Brescia House in Johannesburg is holding a ‘How I do IT in my classroom’ Day on Saturday 16th March at the School. They have a very exciting programme planned. You can find out more on their website

When: 8 am —1 pm Saturday 16th March 2013
Where: Hosted at Brescia House School , 14 Sloane Street,  Bryanston
Who: ANY & ALL teachers teaching grades R –12; Heads and IT Administrators
Participate  in the “Experience Hall” of technologies used in class
There will be wireless Internet access should you bring your own laptops, iPads or mobile devices.
Cost: R50 per person

3) St Mary’s College, Kloof


St Mary’s in Kloof is having their third TeachMeet in Kwazulu-Natal. You can find out more on their wiki:

Date: Wednesday 17 April 2013
Time: 18:00 for 18:30pm
Where: St Mary's DSG Kloof - Creativity Centre

Join us for the rest of SchoolNet's March webinars

Our SchoolNet webinars usually take place from 6:00-6:30 pm on a designated week evening,  and these will mostly link to the free online courses that are being offered which is currently 'Use Google for Professional development'. Here are the details of the two remaining webinars for March 2013. Please join us if you can. 

Get to know Google +
Google + is Google's social network designed to let you share up-to-the second updates, ideas, thoughts, links and media with your friends and the public. Google always does things at a slightly different angle and this is true of Google+. Join this 15 minute webinar to find out more...

Meeting NameLet's explore Google +
SummaryThis webinar takes a look at Google plus and its interesting features. It covers
*What is Google +
*Highlights of interesting features
*How to write a post
*How to receive a notification
*Benefits to education

WhenThursday 14th March 6:00 PM
: 15 minutes
Presenter: Fiona Beal
To join the meeting

So, how does a Google hangout work?
Google hangouts are a free video chat service from Google, connected to Google +, that enables both one-on-one chats and group chats with up to ten people at a time. There are enormous benefits to this for education.

Meeting NameSo how does a Google hangout work?
SummaryGoogle hangouts are part of Google plus. This video chat feature allows you to invite nine others (total of 10) to video chat, IM chat, watch YouTube videos together, share documents and much much more. These are perfect for professional development or planning sessions

When: Tuesday 26th March 6pmDuration: 15 minutes
Presenter: Fiona Beal
To join the meeting:

Test your system first
1) (Must do this) Test your connection:
If you have never experienced an Adobe Connect  webinar before all you really need to do for  is test your connection before the time as you might need to add an add-in:

2) Click on the link, log in as a guest and write your name
Then on the evening just click on the link, log in as a guest and write your name.

3) (Optional) Get a quick overview:

Google #19: Google glasses? This is INCREDIBLE technology!

What are Google glasses?

submitted by Fiona Beal
I have been reading bits and pieces about Google glasses, and today I thought I would investigate further. All I can say is ‘Wow, wow, wow’. it is quite mind-blowing. You wear them like glasses but they appear to give information, record experiences and allow you to connect with others.



Take a look at this video that Google has put on YouTube about the glasses ‘How it fees through glass’ that I have embedded below. First, here is their write up which was first of all published on Feb 20, 2013:
“Want to see how Glass actually feels? It's surprisingly simple. Say "take a picture" to take a picture. Record what you see, hands free. Even share what you see, live. Directions are right in front of you. Speak to send a message, or translate your voice. Get the notifications that matter most. Ask whatever's on your mind and get answers without having to ask. All video footage captured through Glass. Welcome to a world through Glass. See more at

Now for the video…you MUST watch this!

Well, the future is definitely changing very rapidly. How do we keep up!