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a site for serious play


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The power of popplet!

Popplet is a graphic organising tool that can be used to create mind maps, discussion boards, timelines, and storyboards. It can be used at various stages in the research process to plan projects, curate resources (text, image, weblinks, and video), organise resources and deliver presentations. For the latter purpose, it’s a simple, clean alternative to PowerPoint and Prezi that puts the focus back onto content creation rather than on the  “bells and whistles” of delivery. Here’s a quick overview:

Registration with Popplet requires a username, password and email (although no email confirmation of account is required). It’s free (with a limit of 5 popplets per account at any one time), very easy to use, and can be shared for online viewing (via URL, Twitter or Facebook), or editing. A Popplet app is available for iPad and iPhone.

Popplet is a great tool for the classroom. Teachers might post stimulus material to a popplet and then invite students to post their answers or comments by creating popples (individual content boxes). The teacher can then provide feedback via a popple comment function. Teachers might also use popplets to post class notes/resources, subject overviews, or create galleries of student work.

Students can create individual or collaborative popplets, and are able to present their completed projects online as a slideshow, or export them as a jpg or pdf. Popplets can also be embedded into websites. These export options are a useful means to back-up popplets.

As with any online tool, issues of privacy must be considered when Popplet is used for teaching and learning. An advantage of popplet is that, unlike tools such as Facebook, the default privacy setting for Popplet is private, so teachers or students need to take deliberate action to make the popplet “semi-public” to collaborators(by sharing the URL) or “public” for all the world to see.

As well as being very user friendly, Popplet offers support to users via a popplet blog and Facebook. Both offer tips on using popplet, along with technical support. There are also some great examples on the blog of how popplet is being used in classrooms across all grades.

On the home page of the Popplet website there are links to ‘Terms of Service’ and ‘Privacy Policy.’ As can be expected when signing up for a free online service, Popplet users give site owners everything bar the shirts on their backs. That said, at least the ‘Terms of Use’ clearly state how user information will be used. Should a user want to terminate their popplet registration they must make an email request to popplet admin. Popplet is at least up front in saying that such requests will remove the user from future Popplet activity, but will not necessarily remove user information from the site archives.

I particularly like the guidelines provided by popplet that: emphasise the implications for users of making a popplet public; caution users about breaching copyright; advise users to behave ethically; and suggest that users question the authenticity of information provided in popplets.

Whilst Popplet seems such a wonderful tool for classroom use, the Terms of Use stipulate that Popplet administrators are committed to protect the privacy of children, and for that reason, site users must be at least 13 years old. Whilst this would seem to restrict Popplet use to secondary school students, Popplet offers ways around this restriction for teachers wanting to use popplet with younger students.  One such way includes upgrading to a paid “edu” plan.

If you haven’t looked at Popplet, certainly give it a go. I think it has great potential to be used in the classroom in so many different ways by teachers and students.  I’m particularly fond of its presentation mode, which makes a welcome change from Death by PowerPoint and the nausea-inducing nature of Prezi.

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To publish or share?

I was really interested in the discussion that arose from the last PLN webinar as to whether blogging is a form of publishing or sharing. If I’m writing as a professional for a professional audience,  I want to ensure that what I’m putting “out there” is polished, and therefore I view it as publishing. This probably explains why I’m not an avid blogger–it takes me way too long to write something I’m happy to put “out there.” I also believe that  if you want to capture an audience, then you need to deliver something that doesn’t have people cringing over grammatical and spelling errors instead of engaging with the content.  If, on the other hand, my students were using blogs to draft and edit their work, then I’d consider it sharing (student-teacher, student-student) until such time as it was ready to be published and advertised to a wider audience.

So I guess that’s how I reconcile the topic of this post. Of course, now I’ve declared my position, you’re probably poring over my posts to spot the mistakes… please let me know if there are any 🙂


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Take it, pack it and tag it…

I’m moving house next week, so the notion of getting organised is near and dear to my heart right now. We’ve already moved quite a few times–twelve to be exact–and it occurred to me pretty early on how important it is to keep things organised and labelled. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of, “I know I put it somewhere!”

As I thought about the second aspect of this PLN course – organising information – it struck me that my current process of de-cluttering, organising, packing and labelling boxes, is a fairly good mirror of how we need to organise the mountain of information that we are asked to climb each and every day. I use a number of tools in an effort to work smarter not harder, but like anything, if I don’t keep up the maintenance it can soon get out of hand.

Here’s how I currently try to arrange my daily professional workflow…

Over a quick brekkie I usually start preparing for my work day with some electronic de-cluttering. I check my email, deleting anything that isn’t of interest, and give Twitter a quick look through to identify items of interest that have been posted overnight. I re-tweet anything I think might be of interest to my followers. Here’s a couple of posts on Twitter that I’ve saved to Evernote – I’m going to use these screenshots in an upcoming PD session on Twitter.

Most days I get to work early and use the quiet time before the hordes arrive to start organising what I’ve earmarked at home.  I reply to emails, and check out the flagged links that have come through on Twitter. I  use Evernote to save clips of useful/interesting web pages into various notebooks (the equivalent of my packing boxes), and tag them. If I happen to be accessing the Net on my phone, which seems to be happening more and more, I’ll either use the Evernote app or email the page URL to my Evernote inbox.

I’ve also managed to train myself to write notes in Evernote so I can access them from anywhere, and I try to store and read documents electronically rather than print off everything – good for the environment and good for my desk!  Other ways I occasionally use Evernote include uploading a photo of whiteboard notes or PPT slides. I found Evernote so incredibly versatile and useful, that I upgraded to the Premium account, which, amongst other things gives me more storage space and offline access to my notes.

I’m currently also running a Dropbox account for online storage and sharing. I’ve been wondering whether I could do in Evernote what I do in Dropbox, but this article  convinced me it’s worth keeping both. Just as the article’s author keeps his music in Dropbox, I have my photos backed up there. Also, there are some apps on my ipad where I can send to Dropbox, but not Evernote. So for the time being I’ll keep the two.

Before Evernote, I used Diigo to store my bookmarks, but now tend to see that as double-handling. I appreciate that I’ve lost the community facet of Diigo, but to a certain extent the ability to share through Twitter and Evernote  makes up for that. And where I formerly created pathfinders for students in Diigo, I now direct them to Scoop.it, which I think has a more engaging interface.

I use Twitter as my primary means of professional development and have the Yoonoo sidebar browser that gives me access to my Twitterstream. As well, my iGoogle homepage curates my RSS feeds and the blogs that I follow. I know it looks horribly crowded, but it’s a one-stop shop that saves me an enormous amount of time.

IGoogle

To share resources with my teaching colleagues, and others “out there,” I curate two Scoop.its  and follow quite a few. I’m the teacher librarian for the Geography Department and they just love Geography in the Classroom. I also guide Geography students to this Scoop.it and show them how to filter the posts using a tag search.

Last, but certainly not least, we use Libguides to host the Barker College Library website, where each teacher librarian has certain areas of responsibility. We have deliberately made this a public site so that we can share our resources beyond the immediate school community.

So to answer the question, “How have digital technologies and internet access changed the way we organise ourselves?” I guess my answer would be that they have helped me [us] work smarter not harder. The work that we do is more accessible and more easily shared; it’s more quickly achieved and more visually engaging; and there’s more time to spend on higher-order activities such as creating.There is, however, a danger that we feel compelled to keep up with the myriad tools that flood the “market,” and soon we can actually be working less smart and harder. I’m happy to test drive most things that come my way, but if the benefits don’t kick in early, and if it’s not user-friendly, I’ll let it go and move on.

It concerns me that many students don’t seem to appreciate the benefits of organising and improving their workflow. We seem to have a constant stream of students looking for a lost USB that has the only copy of their assignment on it — backing up in the cloud hasn’t come onto their radar. They also seem happy enough to spend considerable time re-searching for the website they used a week ago, rather than have access to an online bookmark in seconds. As for the idea of  being able to share work and create together online – it just doesn’t seem to be high on their agenda (or perhaps, their teachers’ agendas).

I suspect to date a large part of the above problem has arisen from the the hassle of  students having to work on shared computers,  which means they’re always having to sign in to services such as Evernote and Diigo. This year, however, we’ve introduced BYOD, so hopefully students will start to see how 24/7 online services and being able to personalize their devices can work to their advantage. We can’t assume, however, that they know these services exist and how they work, so it’s up to teachers and teacher librarians to be fluent in their use and show the students some real-life examples of what can be done.


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Time for serious play!

I’m Di Laycock and in my tenth year as a teacher librarian at Barker College in Sydney. Before coming to Barker, I’d been a Geography/Legal Studies teacher, Drama teacher, and PE teacher (not all at once) over a LOOOOONG period. Half of my classroom teaching time was spent in rural NSW and the rest here in Sydney.

As I’ve said on this blog’s ‘About’ page, my colleagues would probably refer to me as digitally obsessed and possessed. I use digital tools extensively in my personal and professional life, and love to try out “stuff”.

My current PLN is a mix of online and face-to-face. Online I am an avid user of Twitter for professional purposes, while Facebook keeps me in touch with friends and family.

I have another blog that I keep private for my research ideas, and subscribe to half a dozen other blogs that have a library or technology focus – Jenny Luca’s Lucacept would have to be my favourite. I follow quite a few Scoop.its – again with a school library, reading or ICT focus, and curate two of my own – Geography in the Classroom and Graphic Novels in the Classroom.

In terms of my face-to-face PLN, I work with a wonderful team in our library and people are ever so willing to share ideas, ask questions and provide support. We have fortnightly hands-on PD sessions in the library, which we run ourselves, but most of our professional learning in the library tends to be on the fly, when and where we need it.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found one of the best face-to-face sources of “organised”  PD  is the TeachMeet. It’s great to see one’s colleagues giving short and sweet presentations and then having the chance to chat about them, ask questions etc. I’ve really gone off formally organised professional development opportunities that require lots of sitting and listening, and deny me the chance to reflect and talk about what has been delivered. That’s why I’m looking forward to this course. It’s going to give me a chance to talk about my learning, broaden and deepen my PLN, and get down and dirty in what Michael Schrage terms, “serious play.” Says Schrage in his book, Serious Play:

You can’t be a serious innovator unless, and until you are ready, willing and able to seriously play. ‘Serious play is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation.

Here at Barker we’re currently planning a Digital Literacy Program for implementation across the secondary school and the teacher librarians are leading the push. So my primary goal in undertaking this course is to ensure that I can confidently consider myself digitally fluent, and be in a position to support teachers and students to meaningfully and effectively integrate ICT into both their professional and personal worlds (because in the digital landscape, the reality is that the border between the two is blurred).

AdultPlayImage courtesy Niall Kennedy (Flickr)