Thursday, December 8, 2011

PE Fitness Class... Cellphones to record performance

The goal of the PE class in the weight room is to teach students about maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.  In order to do that, Sueli Valades requires students to record their workout in terms of sets, repetitions, weight, heart beat, etc, and also write reflection journals. As we discussed ways to wave technology into the process to facilitate record keeping and engagement, the idea of using cellphones came up.

The use of cellphones in schools has been debated for some time and I have been waiting for opportunities to explore those for educational purposes. The idea of record keeping in the weight room seemed perfect, as students need to constantly move around a room full of equipment and therefore require an easy way to keep records on the spot. 

A Google Spreadsheet was then created to keep records online and therefore accessible anytime anywhere. The spreadsheet also provided an automatic calculation of target heart rates according to age. At the end of the semester, students will create graphs from their workout record tables to help evaluate performance. The spreadsheet also provides a template page where students can write their reflection journals and add links to images and videos of their performance, also taken from cellphones.

So the initial challenge was to provide wireless access to the weight room as that was a new place for such type of activity! The access was quickly provided by our Tech Department, so the next step was to actually test the use of student cellphones to edit the Google Spreadsheet.

Students were given options for record keeping, including not only personal cellphones but also personal laptops, the classroom desktop and even a printed copy of the workout sheet for later transfer to the online version.

It was interesting to see how students are unaware of certain functions of the cellphone like sending pictures and videos to themselves by email, or even keeping a web page open for later use. That seems to reflect the heavy use of cellphones for instant messaging. Slowly, more students started to bring cellphones specially for making videos of their performance. In the end, there was a mixture of students using cellphones, laptops and class desktop, being paper the less popular as it tended to get lost and it was harder to handle in the weight room. iPhones worked better with the Google spreadsheet while some Blackberry models did not allow editing, so students spontaneously used the notes feature on their phones for later transfer to the online document.


This was a new experience not only for the PE class but also for me. Students found the use of cellphones for recording convenient and the teacher reported a significant increase in student engagement in the workout. Students now choose a larger variety of equipment and exercises and they are more focused on the work. Applications written specially for cellphones provide the best type of interaction as opposed to a Google spreadsheet. So the next challenge will be to see if a similar type of application is available or hope one will come up soon, as it can really help in life long maintenance of physical health.
 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Road Ahead

We have started on a journey to transform learning at Graded and one of the stops along the way occurs in August 2012. At that time the high school will become a 1:1 laptop environment. Today we are providing an update on preparing for August. As you can see, much has been done and there is certainly work in progress on everyone's part. After today's presentation we'll split into small groups to discuss the prompts below. After the discussion we ask that you record your answers in the comments. Answers can be from the group, individuals or a combination of both.

  • What are you doing differently this year in preparation for August 2012?
  • What are the next steps for you professional growth?
  • What are you nervous about (if anything)?

Friday, November 18, 2011

English 9 and Visual Arts ... ePortfolio mix!

English 9 teachers, Geoff and Alissa, have been brave to start personal ePortfolio sites for their students! And so has been Jennifer C. for different Visual Arts classes. As we are together on the ePortfolio PLC, that has become a real trial of what it means to take the steps towards student portfolios. And there are many steps to that!


The first step was to help students explore Google Sites templates and themes and make a choice of their own design. As they add personal touches to the site, it becomes their personal learning space/showcase reflecting their style as learners.


The second step was getting specific pages created that serve their subjects well. Geoff and Alissa have the same pages for writing, reading, speaking, with product and process split up for those, and they are exploring slightly different structures for the writing process pages. Jennifer C. and I discussed web page structure at some length until a good option was found. This process in itself has been a learning experience showing how such type of conversations will be part of department discussions to come to a collective agreement that will benefit students. At the same time, departments will see themselves as part of a graded community eportfolio structure. So grade 9 students who have visual arts classes had the full experience of having not only writing and reading pages on their portfolio, but also visual arts pages. For the students, their eportfolio became an umbrella for all the work they may do at Graded.




The third step was to start getting student work on their digital portfolios. This is on an initial stage but it is a joy to see students engaged in the process and some starting to have some insights. Jennifer reported how one Visual Arts student was surprised to see the image of her work, as in "how good it is"! That for me shows the power of displaying work and being able to appreciate it, as a step towards deeper reflection. An example of that is how a couple of students in English and Visual Arts started writing a reflection spontaneously. 


When asked about the process of creating the Digital Portfolio, students said it was "fun", a "good idea to get organized" (I would not have thought about it myself). As we move forward with this process, it will be interesting to explore students' awareness of the learning displayed on their portfolio sites. Good job everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2011

PFL ... Podcasts for language learning




The HS PFL has embarked on a podcasting journey in the past few weeks which has focused on listening, writing and speaking skills. 


Their podcasts provide such relevant material for a real audience! 


As the students are foreign, the podcasts are about how they see the Brazilian culture compared to their own. Their podcasts are very interesting reference material for other foreigners and also for Brazilians to understand their culture from a different point of view.


This is the process that the students went through to create the podcasts:


# Learned about the podcasting style.
# Prepared a script.
# Recorded the podcast with music loops.
# Embedded their podcast as an mp3 player on their classroom site.


The next steps will involve exploring those podcasts with real audience feedback. Students will listen to each other's podcasts and make comments, generate discussions. For next semester, we may try a real podcasting subscription that will allow automatic feeds to iTunes that could be listened to and discussed by other PFL classes... and who knows what else!


To prepare the students, Laureana worked the style and also listening comprehension skills though a real podcast site about the Brazilian culture called Café Brasil by Luciano Pires. Students were able to listen to "radio-like" podcasts where music and rhythm play an important role to attract the audience. This style was picked up by the students who mimicked a real radio program.


Aviary was chosen as the application for audio recording and music loop editing. This application is now part of our Google Apps, so it is conveniently linked to our logins. Another advantage is its accessibility, as it is online and can be accessed everywhere, with no need for special software. Laureana was brave enough to agree on trying this tool in a HS classroom for the first time. There were some glitches concerning browser compatibility at times and uploading. Tips to help with such glitches will be explained soon in this blog.

Wrapping up the project so far, we have decided that next time students will be given the choice of online audio editing with Aviary and also computer based recording with Audacity, making it clear which are the benefits and drawbacks of each one. Laureana is also planning a "raising awareness" exercise with the students so they can reflect and appreciate their learning through this process. Some students were able to clearly articulate that writing the script was a difficult exercise for them and that voice recording practiced their fluency and pronunciation.

 I am excited to listen to the finalized podcasts and check the student web pages with comments.  Stay tuned and I will follow up this project on this blog!