Exploring Activsoftware Inspire Edition

(Cross-posted at Think :: Learn :: Do)

Just recently I mentioned that Promethean had released the beta version of their IWB software, Activsoftware Inspire Edition. Like others, I’ve started to have a play around (Chris Betcher seems to be putting the software through its paces).  Here’s just a few things I’ve noticed that I like the look of:

Did someone give you a SMART Notebook file to view or use?  Whereas you had to previously resort to the SMART Notebook viewer, you can now import the notebook into a flipchart.

Some very common flipchart activities are now available as a quick menu selection, saving you finding the resources in the library to put them together.

Being a Year 1 teacher, I use the hundred chart fairly regularly in Mathematics lessons.  Once I choose “100 chart” from the menu, this dialog box appears for me to make my selection.

Finally, something I have been hanging out for.  Previously I’ve been frustrated, wondering why I can’t simply insert images, etc. in a similar way to Office documents (after all, it is pretty easy and straightforward).  Well now you can, with the Insert Media option.  Not only images, but sound, video and more.

Now it is really quick and easy to insert media files directly into a flipchart page.

I’m sure (in fact I know) there are many new features, but there were the first to grab my attention.  I look forward to using it some more.

New Promethean Software

(Cross-Posted at Think::Learn::Do)

Promethean has made the announcement at the BETT 2009 show in London that a brand new version of their IWB software is now available for preview.

Called Activsoftware Inspire Edition, it can now be downloaded my registered users (it’s free) from Promethean Planet. It’s a huge download though (it’s still not 50% done on my computer yet), so those with download limits at home may want to wait to download it at school.  The download is a trial prior to the official release in March

Promethean reports that it is a complete rewrite of its former products, Activstudio (which we use) and Activprimary, so it will be interesting to see what it can do and how it improves on its predecessors.

Back at work… sort of

Made a visit back to work today to start sorting myself out (mentally, at least) for another year’s worth of teaching and learning (and all the admin that goes along with it).

The Year 2 team were in busy planning the way forward for this year with the children I taught last year.  I would have liked to have spent more time with them to tap into their ideas.

The principal was in too, busy planning for our Leadership Team meeting on Wednesday when we’ll start drawing last year’s evaluations and ideas into achieveable and realistic goals.

“You look well” I was told.  At least twice.  A point was made of saying it?

Did I not look well last year?  With the amount of energy last year demanded of me (my blogging being one thing that suffered), I would not be surprised if I didn’t.

Wear that Badge With Pride

I didn’t think I’d actually see it.

I drove past a public primary school yesterday, only to see the message board out the front read:


Clearly this school sees it as its selling point.  I suppose there were schools that marketed themselves on the fact they had computers, or later, how many they had.  Some now even push that they have 1 to 1 laptop programs.

I suppose this also says something for the growth of the tool in Australia over the last few years.  It now looks like a boat that at least some schools don’t want to miss.

Now we can almost boast the same claim (I bet the school in question didn’t have 25 classes to install them in to!), but I’d rather boast about the learning that is achieved using them as a tool.

Not so easy to put up on the message sign, though.  I think we’ll stick with “Students Return Tuesday 14 October”.

Apparently it’s now called “School Refusal”…

… but at least someone shares my point of view.

I’ve just listened to the podcast of ABC Radio National’s EdPod episode from last month.  Brian Burgess, President of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, was interviewed and gave his take on what he calls a “lazy policy” of withdrawing welfare payments.

It’s worth listening to.

EdPod – Tackling Truancy

Who’s it for?

Our staff has a briefing every Tuesday morning, and this morning I considered it timely to start briefing teachers on the installation of their interactive whiteboards (they’re going into 4 grades, projectors only in 1 for now, the rest already have them); especially given that installation will start next week.

The briefing prompted a question on how high up the wall we install our IWBs.  Listening to the experiences of other schools further along this road than ourselves, we’ve based installation heights on how high the children in the specific grades can reach.  There was some conjecture this morning that this can be too low for the teachers to use effectively.  I have seen when IWBs are too high and steps and platforms have had to be built so students can reach – something which can be potentially dangerous, in my opinion.

I, being the glutton for punishment that I am, decided to express my own opinion through a potential teachable moment, responding with the question of “who are we installing the board for?”

Now I have no doubt that teachers can and do use the IWB.  I disagree with the notion that it should be completely built and installed to suit them.  In my opinion, it’s really not any different to why we put computers in classrooms – for the students to use.

The way I see it, putting the IWB up at “teacher height” (remembering that some primary teachers aren’t much taller than their senior students anyway) encourages a teaching style that is the “chalk and talk” of the 21st Century.  As for adapting for teachers when they do legitimately need to use it, there are several customisations within software nowadays (including the IWB software) that will put things in easy reach for teachers as well as students, including the Start Menu in Windows.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of some of my colleagues beginning to rethink how they teach and how their students learn in the 21st Century.

Sometimes You Just Have to Wonder…

… whether some things are thought through before one opens one’s mouth.

Our Federal Government intends to introduce legislation that will see parents lose welfare payments for up to three months if their children are found to be habitual truants.

I’m sorry, I know I’m only a humble teacher, but even I can see that not only won’t it work, but it misses the point.

Firstly, since when has any principal had this discussion with a student?

Principal: “Why are you skipping school, Johnny?”
Johnny: “Because my parents are on welfare, sir.”

A quick Google search uncovers articles such as this one that remind us there are multiple reasons for student truancy.  Family dysfunction, cultural misunderstandings, substance abuse, bullying, poor health, and (goodness, gracious!) poor quality schooling and/or student disengagement are just some factors.  Family poverty or ineffective parenting skills are only one piece of the puzzle.

Secondly, given the multitude of reasons for truancy, the government’s proposed “solution” will fail because in many cases it will not address the root cause of the problem.  Stopping welfare payments is an easy way to satisfy voting taxpayers and give the appearance that something proactive is being done for the good of all.  A far more challenging, yet effective solution would be to drop the “Digital” from the government’s Digital Education Revolution and broaden the revolution to bring learning, not just the technology, into the 21st Century.  Has anyone considered that truancy would be reduced if all schools were safe places that every student wanted to attend?

Finally, this breaks the first rule of good classroom management, namely label the behaviour, not the child. This policy perpetuates a stereotype that truants come from families on welfare, or vice versa, that families receiving welfare payments produce truants.  Is there evidence that none of Australia’s truanting students come from well-off families?  Or is it that their truancy is not an issue because their parents aren’t costing the taxpayers of this country in social security?  Even if majority of truants come from low socio-economic backgrounds, they need support, not punitive punishment.  For a political party known as the champion of Australia’s working and lower classes, this policy could be considered to be not just ill-conceived, but offensive.

As a postscript, a survey of visitors to Yahoo!7 indicates that more than two-thirds of people think parents should lose welfare payments “for their kids wagging school”.  Of course, this survey has all the statistical integrity of a Today Tonight or A Current Affair phone poll.

Perhaps this is a topic that I should have treated with the contempt it deserves.

Putting New Things to Good Use

USB Flash Drive

Originally uploaded by Ambuj Saxena

Following my recent post, I’m now pleased that I received delivery of my new flip ultra video camera on Friday.

So why does this post have a picture of a USB flash drive?  Because it has everything to do with what I’m now going to do with my flip ultra.  The children in the class have speeches to present in the next couple of weeks (it’s an annual, whole-school initiative).  Mine will be the first class where the students’ presentations are recorded (using the flip).

This will not only provide us with a record of the speech to support our assessment data, but I’ll also be sending home each child with their speech on a USB flash drive.  The parents can then see exactly how their child went, and even copy the file to their home computer.

Now yes, I know, this could be very easily posted to the web in this Web 2.0 world.  We could even provide password-restricted access to them if we wanted.  We have given the parents some access to the Web 2.0 world this year, with our class’ homework blog, Travelling Trevor.

This project, however, may help to ease our parents in a little at a time rather than confront them in a huge way.  The way I intend it at present, it’s all pretty easy and non-threatening – play it on your computer, praise your child, save a copy if you want, and send the stick back to school.  Next term, I intend (with some colleagues from other grades who also attended the IWB conference), to prepare a much more technologically-rich learning unit with a digital portfolio as part of the deal.

So, for the rest of this term, I might work bit by bit to lead them up to that.

In Melbourne for IWB08 Conference

Today I’ve arrived in Melbourne for the 2008 Interactive Whiteboard Conference at Firbank Grammar School in Brighton, Melbourne.  It was a fairly last-minute decision to come, along with two other colleagues from my school; a decision helped by the recent increase we now have planned to our IWB rollout for 2008.

For me, this is my 2nd IWB conference, the first being two years ago at Castle Hill when we knew little of the tool and were looking forward to installing our first one in the library.  I’ve now worked with an IWB for about a year.

The hope for myself then, is that I can take myself further and go away with ideas to use the IWB to encourage even deeper and more effective learning in my classroom, rather than get the starters (although that’s where my colleagues are at, and we’re taking some different workshops accordingly).

I also hope that this conference is also about more than just the board.  Castle Hill was great two years ago because it had a broad spectrum of content that looked at a range of applications of technology in the classroom.  It was in a workshop led by John Pearce at that conference that I signed up to Edublogs and started up what is now Learning Curve (it didn’t have such a catchy title then; which means you’re now thinking “good grief, what on earth was it?  Surely it couldn’t have been worse!”).  I was introduced to blogs, wikis and podcasts – things I have used since and seen the difference they’ve made in the classroom.

Finally, I hope I can continue to stregthen existing, and make some new connections out of this experience.  I’ve already met up with colleagues I was introduced to at Castle Hill, and hope to meet some more people sharing the same journey.  The networks are what really helps us as professionals in feeling supported, encouraged and motivated; not to mention broadening and extending our own learning.