Category Archives: Laptops

All posts, lessons and resources related to using 1:1 laptops in NSW DET



I played around with Wallwisher with my classes this week. It has been on my ‘things to do with laptops’ list for over a year but I kept forgetting the name! Finally had time to look it up and think about how to use it. My first attempt was: What do we already know about essay writing?  This worked well in class, despite the number of kids who didn’t bring laptops on the first day of school or didn’t have them charged. After kids posted their notes we grouped the notes. Great tool for working out what the kids knew, misunderstood, thought was important and thought about the topic. My favourite note was the comment that we “write them in English”!

With year 10 I used it to get kids into our new unit on Young Adult Literature. Responding to a quote This time we worked in small teams (3 kids) who shared the availabe laptops. Kids were totally engaged and focused. Great example of what happens when you turn the lesson over to kids and laptops with a clear purpose.

I learnt that it works better if kids have think time; that it is a great way to get kids working in a small team and helps them stay focused when they are working in a team; that it is quick to set up on the spur of the moment in a lesson and you have to insist they use their names.

When using a new tool in the class room I try to use it in a number of different ways over a few lessons. I get better at knowing how I can use it and kids internalise how to use it. They use it more effectively after a few trial runs and then I can return to it periodically and it will work more smoothly.

#Ozengchat and Jog the Web via Twitter


Been back on twitter for the first time in ages. Besides amazing people online I found #ozenchat at Interesting things to read within seconds and then clicked on “Figurative Language” discovering Jog the Web. What a cool tool for preparing lessons. Fast and fun and great with 1:1 laptops! is a site where you can create your own online newspapers. I wonder if it is blocked by DET? Could be fun to do as a class.


School Certificate English Exam revision games, NSW


While we are celebrating the demise of the external exams as of 2012, we still have to get this lot through the exams for 2011.  I have been using games (mostly online freely available fun) over the last few years to keep Year 10 going when their minds are already fast forwarding to jobs, maybe HSC, car licenses, work experience, big Year 10 final overnight excursion to fantastic resort(!), leaving school early and summer holidays.

I have been using a Literary Terms jeopardy game I first found through Jefferson County Schools website and I sincerely thank whoever created it! We have played the Literary Terms Jeopardy game throughout the year, usually after lunch period on Friday afternoon, or whenever it was our faculty’s turn  to look after the ‘remainders’ when the rest of Year 10 were off doing something wildly exciting. While there were some aspects of the game that were useful to revise student knowledge for the Literacy exam, there was other material, relevant to our course, but not really useful for this exam. So I finally got around to creating a few more. I know – the exams aren’t on next year, but I figure some of it will still be needed for students entering HSC and we will still have bored kids left at school on Friday afternoons.

First I googled making jeopardy games and found Jeopardy lab – great site. It’s an online web template, free, and very quick and easy to use – make sure you don’t forget the password you used to create it! So I did one on language devices. Literacy exam revision is aimed more at reminding kids of the kinds of things they need to write about in both the short answer and should use in their own writing in the Writing section of the paper. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the previous game but still easy to set up, and quick. Once created you can send the url to the kids and they can do it on their own, in groups or as a class. It also has a handy scoring tool – adds and subtracts for you.

I also checked back to the original site where I had found the Literary terms games. Turns out there was a whole lot of templates you can use to create a variety of PowerpointGames The advantage of the Power point game is that you can add your own “bells and whistles” and there are some good tutorials out there for creating games. Powerpoint 2007 Hints helped me solve the problem of showing what questions had been already selected and I also experimented with downloading ‘wav’ files (legally) that could be added as sound animations to keep them interested and laughing. I set up another game based on the “language features” questions in the multiple choice section using terms that had appeared in the exam papers for the last two years, SC Language features jeopardy.

I think I can take this further by getting the kids to create their own games, of different kinds. They do seem to enjoy this approach to revision and they do learn the material – they get better each time we play!

Do let me know if you try any of these games in class, or create something to share.

Time flies!


I can’t quite believe my last post was so long ago! Life has been racing along at its usual hectic pace. Perhaps I haven’t felt the need to blog because I have been having so much fun playing with Edmodo with my classes and hanging out in the Edmodo language arts community and on the English Companion Ning. If you haven’t tried Edmodo yet and you have classes with DER laptops you have to try it. It makes life so much easier! Without a great deal of effort you can be “integrating technology”, sometimes without even trying.

My Year 11 class have been handing in their writing assignments this term using Edmodo assignments feature. This has been a revelation. A high rate of return, straight from laptop to me, no messy email attachments, and I have actually enjoyed marking them “online”. I could have used Word comments or got them to save to PDF and used various markup tools but that would have meant saving their work and attaching a file to the “Note” I left for them. Too many extra processes. So, I opened the file, read the work and began commenting on their work in the “Note” box as I read – a bit like a think aloud. It didn’t take long, my comments were much longer (and probably easier to read) and I found myself putting more responsibility on the kids. For example, since I couldn’t underline spelling mistakes I would say “You have five spelling mistakes”. This put the onus on the student to find them, a learning experience in itself. Interestingly by the last piece there NO spelling mistakes in any kids writing.

I also found that my comments were more explicit. Perhaps because, even though they could only be seen by the student, it was after all cyberspace and we all know that once something is in cyberspace it is there forever and will come back to haunt us one day. I think I was careful to write comments that were clear, supportive, constructive and that I would happily defend now, or anytime in the future. That is, they were clearly evidence based and I used the evidence in the comment.

The kids seem to enjoy using Edmodo. We have a bit of ‘chat’ going on during lessons which is minimal, not distracting, comes up on the IWB so I get a laugh too, and probably keeps the real world chat to a minimum. Using Edmodo everyday has also meant ALL of my Year 11 students bring their laptops to school!!!!! How cool is that!

Too many balls in the air


It’s the last day of the New Year long weekend in NSW and the first time for a while I’ve had the time or inclination to look at other people’s blogs or write my own. As I mentioned in my last blog I have been grappling with some trying times and some really wonderful stuff too. My Dad has had to go into a Nursing home and I’ve spent some time going back and forth to ‘home’ to support my Mum(8 hour drive!) This will continue into 2011. My daughter also got her first prac report – truly excellent and I am so proud of her.

As we all do at the end of a school year I have been rethinking the things I’ve done in 2010 and thinking about the things I’ll do in 2011. The laptops have certainly posed some new challenges and I am busily thinking about how I will tackle those challenges in 2011. My first priority will be getting kids to use them! Year 10 2010 made some insightful evaluation comments on their use of laptops so far. The bad news was that few of their teachers seem to be using them – me. They also commented on a school rule we have that students must bring a notebook for every subject as well as the laptops – in case the laptops weren’t working or the teacher wanted the kids working in their books. Their complaint about the ‘weight’ and the pointlessness of bringing both books and laptops was significant I think. Needless to say- we worked out a compromise pretty quickly. In 2011 notebooks will stay at school.

Another comment was on teachers’ level of comfort with laptops in the classroom – they had clearly recognized that asking teachers to use a tool they themselves were not experts in was asking a bit much. This was said kindly and respectfully – not as a criticism of their teachers which I found quite endearing. While they were willing to bring their laptops on days when they had English, many had dispensed with them on the other day. This is an issue I have already taken up with my colleagues and executive. While we have had plenty of professional learning opportunities for teachers there is some generational resistance to insisting kids use the laptops and more leadership is needed in this area.

The kids also did not see the laptops as something that had any impact on the quality of their learning, while IWB’s were considered to have added to their engagement in learning and quality of learning. This is an area I would like to explore a lot more in 2011. I have been thinking about how to get kids using the Web 2.0 tools more effectively and ‘organically’ – because they choose to not because I tell them do do it this way. I am going to start with edmodo again and really spend more time on teaching kids to use it, before moving on to other tools. One thing I will try to avoid this year is trying out too many tools, which is what I did in 2010, hence the title of this blog.

My New year’s resolution is to juggle one ball at a time.

Missing in Action


I haven’t blogged for a while and you probably didn’t notice. My husband and I are at the age where our parents’ health is an issue. Unfortunately my mother in law became ill and died recently and not long after my beloved Dad had a stoke. Life does go on. At the same time my beautiful daughter did her first prac as an English teacher and loved it, after doing many other things over the 12 years since she left school. We have had lots of great talks about teaching, what I do, how I do it and more importantly why I do things in certain ways and my teaching philosophy. She has certainly heard most of it before but until now hasn’t really understood the context. While I was away from my desk the wonderful team of teachers I work with pulled together and managed all sorts of difficult situations. I am so grateful to them and so proud of my team.

At this time of the year we are all reflecting on what worked and what didn’t and evaluating our programmes. I’ve been thinking about my first experience with laptops. I can see why some teachers might still be avoiding. They can be so frustrating. The issues around sites not working or kids not having their laptops multiplied throughout the year. Learning lots of new software programmes and trying to manage electronically “handed in” work, not to mention Moodle were all not highlights. Despite this I am still enthusiastic. Fantastic slideshows by students on all sorts of things and are useful starting points for next year. I’m also rethinking blogs, wikis and how I introduce new programmes. Somehow mindmapping online is not so much fun as big sheets of paper and lots of coloured pens. What I have learned is to start slow, do one thing at a time and teach the software with lots of demonstration. I’d be interested in other people’s “first” impressions after our first full year of 1:1 laptops.

Edmodo, and Student teachers.


I discovered Edmodo last week and am in love with it already. What a great site! Perfect for working with 1:1 laptops and easy to join, for kids and teachers. I began by creating groups for my year 10 and year 11 classes and sent them a group email with the join codes. It doesn’t need kids to register with email addresses, you can keep it closed or make some posts public and is not blocked by DET!!!! I especially like the file sharing Library and that students can upload assignments. Another great feature is posting assignments and then as students upload their work it tells you how many have responded. Have you used it? Any advice for a first time user?

I had planned to ‘enrol’ kids in class time but as usual, a technical hitch. For some reason my IWB internet connection has gremlins. Very frustrating and after three service calls this week, no change. Despite this kids have been joining up – their wireless connection works fine!

We have a school Moodle but I think Edmodo is much easier to use – very simple to share files through the library and you don’t need to do a course to learn how to do it. I like to do a lot of my prep at home because I am too busy at school and get a bit tired of the amount of download I have to use to organise material with Moodle, not to mention how slow it is with satellite broadband.

One of my daughters is currently studying to be …. an English teacher. I have really enjoyed hearing her thoughts and ideas over the last few months and her questions have ‘tested’ my memory, assumptions and philosophies. Her questions about how I plan my lessons were a real test. After 30 years of teaching I don’t seem to write much down. I know I walk into the classroom prepared, knowing what I am going to teach and what I expect kids to get from the lesson and how I will do it – it just seems to be all in my head! I had offered her and some of her Uni friends some ‘work experience’ time, mainly because she had expressed her concerns about not knowing what to expect and not remembering much about the classroom because she is a ‘mature age student’!

Yesterday she and a friend visited our school for the day. I really enjoyed having them both in our staffroom and classrooms. They had some time in some classrooms, looked at resources, visited the Library to look at our new Senior Learning Centre and played with the IWB for a while. I made sure I ‘planned’ year 10’s lesson in a bit more detail than I usually do!

I think it is really valuable  for potential teachers to ‘visit’ schools. I know they do a couple of pracs (professional experience and internships) but I think time spent ‘helping out’ in a school would be very useful and create a stronger teaching service in the future. They have so much insight and a different perspective and we older experienced teachers have much to ‘pass on’ that is lost when we retire. It’s like we keep reinventing the wheel. If you have a Uni nearby why not open your doors to some student teachers? Or maybe you are part of a programme already running?