Sunday 13 August 2017

Pond Life

I couldn't find a Pond song title, so have decided this is good enough.

This post is about the Pond, a New Zealand (N4L - Network 4 Learning) website that allows educators and providers to connect and share resources and findings from around the web. It also allows you to curate collections of resources in Buckets. This is the bit that has suddenly lit up the light bulb for me.

One (maybe two or three...) of my earlier posts was about the pain of bookmarking all of the cool stuff I find on the interwebs that will be of use with classes. I have tried various different things, including keeping all of my bookmarks on my Chrome browser, but I have about 1300 bookmarks as a result and there is no easy way to visualise them all to get a feel for the content. I tried Symbaloo but was put off by the pricing, and while it was nice to create collections of bookmarks, it was still not what I was looking for.

The next attempt was creating OneNote Notebooks to keep all of the information, and while it was visually appealing, it was still not what I wanted (I have had issues with OneNote, enough to make me wary as much as anything). Also, the links etc within the OneNote notes are inactive as the web-clipper effectively stores the images as PDF files on the page. They were also not as easy to share with colleagues and students from OneNote.

Now I've had another look and play with the Pond. I have uploaded resources to it before, but it really is a great place to store all of those videos and articles I find online to use with classes. Added to that, there are resources and lesson ideas from other educators, as well as the connections with other educators around NZ (and some further afield). I'll be digging in and using this more and more, maybe I will come back to another post, or update this one sometime in the future once I've had more time to dig into all of the uses. I have created a Bucket called Human Evolution, and the posts shown above are all in that Bucket, so I know where to head to when I want to look at one of the sites. Buckets are shareable and can be added to someone else's Bucket as well. I find regular useful articles from +Tony Cairns which end up in my Buckets too!

The only downside at present is that it is only available to teachers and administrators, students will get access eventually, and I suspect it is limited to NZ as one needs an NZ school domain to create an account (this may have changed, happy to be corrected if anyone knows better).

Saturday 8 July 2017

Land of confusion

Whether you are a young whippersnapper and thought instantly of the Disturbed song, or are a little longer in the tooth and remember the original (with Spitting Image created video) from Genesis, it is basically describing a whole load of things about the way I am thinking currently.

Image result for wordpress vs blogger'The first is that after a hiatus and brief dalliance with Wordpress, I am coming back to this blog. I am keeping Wordpress for my genealogy stuff now, having found that it does not play as nicely with other Google toys as Blogger does! So yes, I will now be posting my educational / technology ramblings here again. Having said that, my average of 3 - 4 posts a year is testament to the fact that it doesn't matter what platform I use...

Secondly, the school I work at chose a few years ago to embrace Microsoft tools for educational purposes, which is fine by me. We have been promoting OneDrive, OneNote, Class Notebooks and latterly Microsoft Classroom. For whatever reason, we have experienced sync issues, fragmentation of OneNote notebooks (especially with Chrome extensions running - the IT guy told me to use Internet Explorer... seriously!) At the start of the 2017 school year we gave staff PD on using Microsoft Classroom. It looked like it was a little late to the party (it was a rehash of a product they used to call Teacher Dashboard, no relation to the Hapara tool), but it was working after a fashion. But then we noticed that posting a message in the stream was a seamless experience for teachers, but involved going to another app for the students. One or two other small woes appeared. Then Microsoft allowed Class Notebooks to be shared with parents and guardians - excellent job. Unless you created the Notebook via Classroom. What did this mean?
In a nutshell, Classroom was dropped  with about one month's notice at the end of June. It was to be replaced by Teams, which was launched to much cheering from the community. But, and there always seems to be a but, it was launched before it was ready and several of the features teachers want are not available yet. In the fullness of time, it will be a good product.

Our feeder schools are all Google, and with all of the issues we have been having, we have started to make the move towards going Google too. We plan to still give the staff and students access to the Microsoft tools, and yes, I will be revisiting them at some stage, but for the mean time, confusion reigns!