Friday, 30 January 2015

10 interesting Google posts for teachers this week #2

Submitted by Fiona Beal
After looking through all the Google posts that were shared to my various subscriptions this week, these were the ten that caught my eye. 

1. Best Practices for Using Google Classroom - gCON for GAFE
This is an hour long video. Join Juan De Luca, Google Certified Teacher and Trainer, and learn how take advantage of Google Classroom in your school. This simple, but powerful, tool can help organize your classroom workflow and improve the productivity of teachers and students. The session will include best practices, tips and tricks on setting up and managing Classroom.

2. 20 collaborative Google Apps activities for schools
Ditch that textbook has a great list of collaborative activity ideas (also available as a PDF here). The way that Google Apps is interactive and easy to share is powerful. Students can share ideas in real time with other students around the world, an option that never existed before.

3. How to Disable Chrome's New User Menu
There's an update rolling out for Chrome right now that adds a new menu to the top-right of the app that lets you manage users.I can’t say that I like it – it takes up too much time - and I was glad to read about this way of disabling it. Here's how to disable it.


4. How to use Hangouts in the Classroom
Teachers can start using Hangouts simply by setting up a Google+ page and signing up for the Hangout feature. They can conduct virtual classrooms at a number of places; it allows a teacher to teach up to 10 classrooms at the same time. It makes classes interactive and students can ask questions whenever they want. They can use it to connect their classroom with other classrooms or to connect their students with experts across the world, providing them with connected learning experiences. There are many ways in which teachers and students can derive benefits from using Hangouts in the classroom. This posts names a few.


5. ‘Introduction to redesigned Admin Console’ from Google for Work

The Admin Console has a new look. The redesign comes as part of a Google-wide move to updated interface design standards intended to make products easier to navigate and use. This video highlights a few things that have changed.

6. What IS Google Classroom?
If you've been wondering what Google Classroom is (or is NOT), this video from moi is for you! Should you get ready for implementation? Can you replace your current system with Classroom? This video will help you answer those burning questions. Then, join the discussion below this post on Google+ to share how your school is using Classroom to improve instruction. Also, don’t forget to install the free Synergyse training for Classroom by visiting and clicking the large green Install button!

7. The Apps Show Shortcuts: Email Aliases
Keeping your inbox safe has never been easier! In this Shortcut, Charles shows you how to quickly create an email alias so you easily filter unwanted messages.

8. A Guide to Google Apps for the iPad
The infographic embedded in the post above details the most useful Google apps for the iPad in the opinion of Kasey Bell.

9. Get your FREE Google Classroom iPad App User Guides!
Get your FREE user guide for the new Google ClassroomiPad App!
Google just released an Android& iOS app for Google Classroom. It's not full featured (yet) so it's important that teachers and students understand exactly what you can and can't do with the app. There are two user guides – one for students and one for teachers.


10. A Curated List of the Best Youtube Channels for Educators
Michael Fricano’s PLN has helped curate this great list of educational Youtube Channels! Click to access the Google Doc directly. Create a comment or suggestion to add your favorite channels!


Google GEGs groups for teachers are springing up around South Africa. Why not join one?

We are pleased to report that the Google GEG (Google Educator Group) Kickstarter workshops have been taking place around South Africa. These workshops have taken place in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Emalheni, Uppington and Durban. The final workshop for 2014 was a two day Train the Trainer workshop held for the Edunova staff in Phillipi Cape Town. Two workshops are planned in the near future at Hoerskool Noorderland in Polokwane, Limpopo and at Uplands College in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga. GEG Dainfern in Johannesburg will be holding a regular Saturday training session for interested teachers. Our GEG (Google Groups in Education) Community now has 461 members. We invite teachers to join this community should they be interested in hearing about the upcoming events of the different Google GEG groups around the country.
image image
image image
image image
image image
image image

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Learning Gains Through Play – Playtime again!

clip_image001  clip_image003

submitted by Janet Thomson
Teachers and Senior management teams from the five project schools in KZN attended a two day workshop during the January 2015 school holidays. Thembelihle Primary kindly hosted the workshop which was attended by twenty five participants and a team of facilitators comprising Hlengiwe Mfeka, Tracey Butchart, Senzo Ngcobo and Janet Thomson.

Purpose of the workshop 

The purpose of the two new modules was to share the findings from the evaluation research with teachers and show how the research objectives are directing the project. Teachers appreciated this information because it gave them further insight into the effective use of the technology and allowed them to delve deeper into the interpretations of the CAPS documents. By the end of the two days, teachers were able to identify and explain the focus literacies of the project and how their development is enhanced through play. These focus literacies of the project are gross-motor, fine-motor skills, visual literacy and oral communication in English.

Fine Motor Skills – Touchgrind BMX
The first day was devoted to exploring the research-based value of developing gross and fine motor skills for academic progress and success. Teachers were in agreement in their responses to the readings and shared ideas around how they had been using play-driven learning in their classrooms using the Xbox Kinect games and tablet apps.
The requirements of CAPS relating to fine-motor skills were analysed and appropriate apps were identified to explore these further. Touch grind BMX was considered to be one of the most effective in targeting fine motor skills; teachers experimented with their own skills in the game, while having to accept that they will probably crash their BMX bike a lot more than their learners will. Videos of the teachers using the BMX app are viewable on the SchoolNet YouTube channel

Damon Shaw (Thembelihle)
TouchgrindBMX app
Mandla Mkhulise (Qhamukile)

Team relays with bean hags
What the research is measuring
Lively discussions followed the sharing of favourite apps and Kinect games as well as a debate around the differences between “teaching” and ‘training’ as well as the value of using rubrics. Teachers also explored the relationship between the project research instruments and the related content from CAPS. The presentation, “What are we measuring?” is available on Slideshare The famous “Little Boy” poem by Helen Buckley, demonstrating how important it is for teachers to allow learners to be creative was discussed. Teachers were unanimous in their support for creativity above conformity. Some concern was expressed by teachers who felt that their SMT members may not always in in support of sometimes noisy and seemingly chaotic classrooms.

Analysing Physical Education CAPS requirements 
All teachers formed teams outside, in order to participate in a quick shuttle relay race. The experience demanded a surprising level of spatial awareness and sequencing skills but an even more surprising degree of social interaction because heated disputes about the winners followed each race. J
Using the Gallery Walk methodology, teachers circulated around readings from academic papers written about the relationship between motor development and cognitive development which included a report by the UK Sports Trust on The importance of physical literacy on child development, an article entitled, More Active Play Equals Better Thinking Skills for Kids and a paper from Brazil, Inter-limb Coordination: An Important Facet of Gross-Motor Ability which included recommended classroom activities to promote gross motor coordination. Two of the exhibits linked these issues to the relevant compulsory content in the CAPS physical education. These were then related to the most appropriate Kinect games and apps and teachers subsequently explained that this gave them more confidence in selecting physical activities with a deliberate purpose.

Teachers were exposed to the Bartle Test, a gaming profile test which assesses one’s gaming personality; it categorises gamers into being one of four personalities: Killers, Achievers, Socialisers or Explorers. Participants were requested to take the test for homework and one of the comments on the evaluation form was how interesting it was to gain insight into how learners might be motivated.

Visual Literacy and Oral Acquisition of English 
On the second day of the workshop the literacies in the spotlight were visual literacy and acquisition of English oral communication skills and how their development is enhanced through play. Teachers considered the differences between additional language ‘learning’ compared to ‘acquisition’ of language and analysed the development of the 21st Century skill of Visual Literacy. Discussions related to opportunities or ‘teachable moments’ that present themselves in the Xbox games and tablet apps but this time for developing oral and visual literacies as stated in CAPS.
Teachers analysed their favourite games and apps, assessing their value in promoting visual literacy. This was further broken down into visual recognition, visual discrimination, visual interpretation and visual evaluation. Teachers surprised themselves with how many visual perception benefits they discovered in a range of apps and Kinect games.
The presentation for Visual Literacy is available on Slideshare here

Games about Emotions
The project research so far had indicated that many learners had struggled with visual interpretation of faces showing different emotions or certainly struggled with their recognition of emotion displayed on cartoon faces. Learners’ visual interpretations of the facial expressions predominantly and erroneously chose anger. Therefore time was spent on two apps that assist learners with visual discrimination and perception of emotions, one of which had been developed for autistic and Down syndrome children who invariably fail to evaluate and relate to social situations. These apps were Tuli Emotions and Kidoko My Emotions.

Kidoko My Emotions
Tuli Emotions

Videos of teachers experimenting with these apps at the workshop are viewable on the SchoolNet YouTube Channel -

clip_image014Language Acquisition
Teachers used the learning stations teaching method to study a number of videos about the 5 stages of language acquisition as well as theories around comprehensible input. A great deal of debate was stimulated by the quote from Elliot W. Eisner (2002) Our language abilities do NOT define the limits of our cognition” and from Lynnell Burmark, “The primary literacy of the 21st century will be visual: pictures, graphics, images of every kind. It's no longer enough to read and write. Our students must learn to process both words and pictures. They must be able to move gracefully and fluently between text and images, between literal and figurative worlds”
Teachers analysed the language levels of their own learners according to these theories and the 5 stages of language acquisition. They were in agreement with the findings. The table on the right indicates findings so far both in the W Cape and in KZN.

Prizes and awards
Coincidentally there was a visit from Mr Thami Nkabinde, Deputy Chief Education Specialist for e-learning at the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Basic Education. Mr Nkabinde was requested to present prizes to those teachers who had been most supportive to their colleagues. He was also asked to say a few inspirational words about the status of e-learning in the KZN province and how the Learning Gains Through Play initiative might align to it.

Teachers listening to Mr T Nkabinde (KZN DoBE)
Ms Joyce Ntuli and Mr Nkabinde

Ntabiseng Hlela, Janet Thomson and Mr Nkabinde
Mr Nkabinde addressing the workshop

Project website and curation of artefacts
Unfortunately there was insufficient time for teachers to experiment with uploading evidence for badges to the website. However, there was time for Tracey to explain three exciting project initiatives.
1. Learning Gains Through Play Publication – Games to Develop Foundational Literacies: A Collection of Authentic Learning Briefs
2. Video Diaries – completed by teachers on a monthly basis for the Video Diarist badge.
3. The Reflective Journal – this is organised by creating a ‘Two Stars and a Wish’ entry each month. A Star is a classroom lesson, activity, teaching/learning moment or incident that worked well, while a Wish is a classroom lesson, activity, or incident that the teacher wished could have happened in a different way – or worked better.

Foundational Literacies finding
being short of time at the end of the last day of the workshop meant that schools were only able to take away hard copies of their learners’ performances in all four literacies; the discussion around these results and how they relate to the future of the project will have to be included in the next workshop.

More photographs of the workshop are available on the SchoolNet Gallery
Day 1
Day 2

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts heading for Global Microsoft in Education Forums

Microsoft global

In November 2014, sixteen teachers from South Africa and Lesotho were selected as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEs) based on the innovative and impactful ways that they are using ICTs to enhance teaching and learning. From this group, eight Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts have now been selected to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forums taking place in Dubai in February and Redmond, USA in April 2015. In addition to developing and sharing great learning activities on the Microsoft Educator Network, these MIEs have been particularly active on social media, some have run training sessions for colleagues and some have shared their skills for using technology in education through blog posts. Representatives from Brescia House School will also be participating in the school track in Dubai as a Showcase School.

Congratulations to the following Microsoft Innovative Educators who will be representing South Africa at the Global Microsoft in Education Forums:

Dubai Global Forum MIE Participants (in alphabetical order):

Karen Stadler, 
Kathryn Riva, 
Lyneth Crighton, 
Phuti Ragophala

Microsoft - Global - Dubai

Redmond Global Forum MIE Participants (in alphabetical order):
Linda Foulkes, 
Mabore Lekalakala, 
Mokhudu Machaba, 
Warren Sparrow

To find out more about the Microsoft Innovative Educator programme please visit the Microsoft Educator Network, follow Microsoft in Education – Lesotho and South Africa on Facebook and follow @MicrosoftEduSA on Twitter. Also look out for guest blogs by some of the Microsoft Innovative Educators on the SchoolNet SA blog.

How to create a signature for your emails in Gmail

With many schools turning to Google Apps one of the first things that will happen when everything is set up is that teachers will receive their new email addresses which use Gmail. Setting up a signature is something that you might like to do as a teacher to give context to your email. Gmail allows you to add custom signatures to every email you send. You can add links, images, and completely change the formatting of the text.

1. Log in to your Gmail account


2. Go to Settings
Open the Settings menu. Click the Gear icon in the upper-right corner of the window, and select Settings from the menu that appears.


 3. Find the Signature section 
Scroll down the Settings/General menu until you find the Signature section. You will see a text box where you can add words or images. The default is set to No signature so change this to the button below it.

4. Add links to your signature
If you have other websites that you want to link to in your signature, you can add them by clicking the Link button at the top of the signature text field. It looks like a chain.
Clicking the Link button will open a new window. You can enter in the text that will be displayed for the link, as well as the actual address. You can also link to other email addresses.


Finish off the process by clicking on Save changes at the bottom of the page. Whenever you start a new email you'll find your signature automatically appears.

Why not give this a try!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Android #13: Free (mostly) and useful Android Apps for the younger learners

This is a quick overview of a few apps that apply to fine motor skills, oral skills, writing, reading and Visual Literacy /Visual Perception skills in very young learners.

Fine Motor Skills

Create customized handwriting lessons. Like other Android apps designed to teach handwriting, School Writing has number, letter, and word tracing activities.
Big Fat Canvas is a freedrawing app optimized for use on Android tablets running Honeycomb. Big Fat Canvas allows y ou to draw free-hand on your Android tablet. The app offers some good options for altering the size, color, and opacity of the lines you draw.

Oral skills

image Moshi Monsters Village - The dastardly Dr. Strangeglove is catching innocent Moshlings and turning them into naughty Glumps! It’s your mission to save the Moshlings and bring 'em back home to your village. With help from Buster Bumblechops, build unique, adorable houses & care for all of your rescued Moshlings in your very own Moshi Monsters Village.
image Moshi Monsters Music Follow the on-screen lyrics as you sing along to insanely catchy songs by your favourite Moshi gooperstars, from Zack Binspin and Blingo to Coco Loco, Iggy and Big Bad Bill. These vids are monsterific!


image Colour Note
Color Note offers a sticky note environment, a calendar option, to do list options, and the option to share your notes via email and sms.
image Book Creator
Book Creator is the simple way to create your own beautiful ebooks, right on your tablet.
image Moshi Monsters Colouring In: A new-ish online game called Moshi Monsters – it is one of those very safe for young children web games that is both entertaining and social. There are 12 chibi monsters drawing canvas in our coloring book.You can do detailed painting with rich toolbar menu as long as you like in this game.


image Cool Reader
anyone can use to read a variety of ebook formats including ePub, .mobi, and html. Through the Cool Reader app you can browse for books in public collections like Project Gutenberg or import your own books. The Cool Reader app has some handy features including bookmarking pages, clipping text, searching for text, and skipping to chapters.
image Learn to Read . iStoryBooks is a free Android app that offers two dozen free digital storybooks for kids ages two through eight. Most of the stories in the app are adaptations of classic children’s tales like The Ugly DucklingThe iStoryBooks app gives you the option to read each story or to read along with each story while listening to the narrator. Children can practice reading and recognizing words by going through the stories with the narration turned on.
Animal Book is an app designed to help young children learn to recognize animals. Children can go through the book to see and hear the names of the animals. There is also an option to hear the animals’ sounds although some of the sounds were less than perfect when I went through the app. There is a simple quiz mode on Animal Book that present four pictures that the child has to pick from when an animal’s name is read by the narrator.

Visual Literacy (Visual Perception Skills)

image Kids ABC Jigsaw Puzzles is a set of simple jigsaw puzzles that when constructed correctly show a letter of the alphabet with an animal whose name starts with that letter.
Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 7.29.47 PM Visual Math is a free Android app designed to help pre-K and Kindergarten students learn to recognize numbers. The app contains a series of matching, comparison, and pattern recognition activities. Some of the activities that children can try are comparing numbers on a number line, choosing the number that is missing from a series, and simply picking the number that represents the number of objects shown on a card.
What’s Different is a simple game of identifying patterns and picking out the object that doesn't fit the pattern. Children using the app are shown four objects and have to identify the one that doesn’t fit the pattern. When the correct object is selected, a ladybug moves across the screen.

Android #12: How to move Android Apps to an SDMicro card using APK downloader

Have you ever wondered how to easily share free apps with others in a way that the apps won’t take up a lot of space on a tablet?  This post highlights a great way to share your free apps without having to download them again. All you do is install them from the SD card on to your Android device using a special downloader called APK downloader (, and then share the SD card with someone else. When the app is to be used it is installed from the SD card.

Step 1: Use your PC for this process and not the Android tablet in this case.

Step 2: Search for the apps you like using the Google Play Store

Step 3. Open APK downloader from

Step 4: Find the app you are looking for
Search the Google Play store and find the app you want to download to your SD card.  In this case for Kidoko Free the URL is


Step 5: Type this URL into the APK downloader page and press GO.


Step 6: Find the download button

It will take you to a page with plenty of details and where you can download the file.


Watch the file download


Add this file to your folder of Android apps on your computer and then transfer these to your SD card. Whenever the app is to be used click on it in the SD card and install it.