Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making holograms – Molecular shapes

Watching Hack the Classroom on Sunday, I saw ‘a hack’ on how to make hologram videos. The hack was by Tomas Milicka, and he used a combination of office paint and powerpoint to make his own (or to get his students to make their own) hologram videos. I didn’t quite see the potential at first, but then I remembered some GIFs of 3D shapes I made using ChemSketch at a Peter Hollamby workshop in my first year of teaching (8 years ago) and I wonder if they could be used to make some holograms of 3D chemistry shapes that are required as part of the L2 and L3 NCEA Chemistry curriculum. Visually molecule shapes in 3D from a 2D drawing if often a challenge for students, so any hook or tool to help them is AWESOME.

So I had a play, and success. I inserted the gifs and aligned them changed the background to black, and then made a slide recording with no sound. Then exported the slide recording as an mp4, loaded on to youtube and away we went.

Screenshots of the powerpoint slides in production

I am STOKED with how they have turned out, and how easy they were to make. So now I have another tool when trying to demonstrate the 3D nature of molecules, which some students do struggle with.

And I’m stoked I found a fun wee idea I could run with, it will really only be a ‘hook’ for my classes, but it was a really nice motviational boost for me at the time of year when I feel like all I am doing is EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS. So a massive thanks to Tomas for sharing this idea, it gave me the wee boost I needed to do something fun and learn something new.

Feel free to use this videos in your class, there are loads of websites that show you how to build the ‘viewer’ including this one. I will keep adding more shapes as I make them.

I’ve made them into a playlist on youtube, so you can find them all HERE

Have fun





Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Using Microsoft Office Mix

It is nearing NCEA exam time in my world. And so I have been busy making exam question walk through using Microsoft Office Mix and the snip tool on my surface pro 4. Office Mix is a super handy add in for powerpoint that lets you make video tutorials with ease. The surface stylus just makes writing these answers and equations easy as. It has been a while since I blogged about how I use Office Mix in class (you can see one of my first goes HERE, or some more about the features HERE and if you want to earn more about it I suggest you check out the Office Mix web page) so I thought I should give an update on my favourite go to tool. You can also add PhET animations with ease, or include webpages for students to browse. And after the recent #hacktheclassroom hack from fellow kiwi Subash my mixes might just get a little neater – I’ve put a link to his video at the end of this post 🙂

Making the exam walk throughs

My go to for Mix is exam walk throughs. To start with, I head over to the NZQA web page and find the exams and schedules I want. Then I take a picture of them using snip, and make the picture the back ground on the ppt slide so I don’t accidentally grab it and move it during my recording.

Then it is as easy as hitting the record button and away you go

Once you have finished the recording, you can either save as a video file to upload to youtube etc, or upload them to the office mix site. I tend to just upload to the mix site, and then share the links.

I also try to remember to tell my students to pause the video and attempt the questions first…. not sure how many do though!!

Here are some examples – feel free to share them with your class if you think they would find them useful.

Student Mixes.

I have also played around with getting my students to make a mix to explain their thinking behind the exam answers. These have also been shared with the class so they can use them for their revision too. Some students are definitely more theatrical than others 🙂

Mixes for feedback

Again, a quick video to provide feedback for students works really well. I have found this particularly useful for the (sadly, this year too many) times I am away. Students will email me a photo of their work, and I will complete a mix for feedback for them

Mix for relief

It has also bee really good for relief – the students seem to really like a video of me talking and will listen better than if I was talking to them live. Sigh

So while none of these are especially bright and shiny, they are really useful ways I use this tool in my teaching and learning, and can make the arduous task of exam preparation a little bit less stressful. Students appreciate being able to rewind ideas.

And with the awesome #hacktheclassroom hack from NZs own Subash, my mixes have gotten a little neater – although I still ignore the gridlines at times. You can see his hack and how to make the mix presentations neater below.

Posted in coding, Minecraft, Professional learning

Getting my code on at #kiwipycon

This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a session at the Pycon conference being held in Dunedin. I have been playing around with coding for a little while without ever really getting a grasp on it, and thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some time on it. Python is a language that can be used with Minecraft, the conference was in Dunedin, it didn’t require relief as it was a Saturday morning, it cost $10, perfect professional learning really. And I learned loads.

I took this photo partially to hide my confusion – it has been a while since I went to a conference where I knew NO ONE to talk to…. thankfully there was tea 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-09-10 at 9.50.41 .png

Firstly, I meet lots of cool people. The session was a mix of people which meant a range of skills. I was a little disappointed there were only 2 other teacher there…. but there were several programmers looking to find ways to help schools, or to help their kids learn how to code. So there was a whole lot of skill in the room.

We were working on computer that we running off a raspberry pi. I knew those we machines were grunty, but I didn’t realise how so.


To start with , we got a series of tasks to work through – it was based on this book which I have now ordered.


Doing this task I learned about the language around programming. For example, how important syntax it – I kind of new this, but a lowercase where an uppercase letter should be causes chaos in the code. But it was cool to be fluffing around and getting the hang of things. And teleporting all around the map was cool to – Sitting next to a pro programmer meant I got some additional help and got into writing some loops (this said, I was able to show him how to move around in Minecraft… was awesome). He also teleported to 0,0,0 and got stuck as he went to where the world was generated from (we think…).


We also learned how to create blocks – which was very exciting for me as I would like to make some ion blocks and use minecraft for Ionic formula. So I am going to talk this through with my Yr 10s next week and see what they can do 🙂

The second part of the task was AWESOME.We got to ‘hack’ into the raspberry pi and do a little bit of electronics stuff using a bread board.

After a couple of false starts (including putting the LED in the wrong orientation – teacher fail) We got this little puppy flashing 🙂 So very satisfying 🙂 Especially when changing the times meant the flashes slowed down or speed up 🙂


I didn’t get up to the stage of then turning the LED of and on in Minecraft as I ran out of time, but I will ask the robotics teacher at school if we can set this up so I can have another go.

So it was an amazing 90 minutes. I got to play around with some of the tech people keep talking about and actually see what it can do. How easy it could be to do the same activity in a classroom – and I am sure my kids would be way ahead of me.

So moving forward, I want to make some time to keep playing around. And for next year, re think how I teach our electronics unit for yr 10 – currently we build some circuits and solder a device that gives an electric shock. But if we can solder up an arduino and then incorporate some programming into it, it would SUPER rock.






Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Uncategorized

Taking a deep breath…

On Friday I went to a TENZ mini conference hosted at Tahuna intermediate. I had meet Bill at the 21 st century learning design session in the last holidays, and was honoured (and flattered) to be asked to open the conference by talking about strategies for implementing change in Education. And while I could only stay for a while as I had to get to the uni to sort stuff for Hands on at Otago (I can not recommend this for your Yr 11 & 12 students enough) and then back to work,  I got to hear some super cool stuff that these Tech teachers were doing and the how they were working around challenges.

I thought a LOT about the presentation I was to give. Once I had decided what to talk about and what angle to take, it didn’t actually take too long to prepare. And, as always, forcing myself to take stock and arrange my thoughts was far more beneficial to me than I had imagined, and I hope my audience got something useful. I chose the Koru based on a presentation from the awesome Nikkie talking about unfurling ideas. And I chose some Kea’s for my ‘pack’ as a reminder not to be too destructive

Because when I thought about it, there are an amazing array of resources out there to help teachers upskill themselves. I have used some, and (as always) mean to use more. When I thought about it, things are changing. Maybe not with the urgency or pace I would like, but I also need to remember to change what I can and try to not let the rest bother me so much. And to not let frustration cloud better judgement and inhibit what I am trying to achieve.

And talking to this amazing group of tech teachers and how they are looking to move their courses and learning forward was super inspiring. Often, the tech teachers in intermediate schools are isolated from the rest of the staff. While they see a lot of students, they only see them for a short time and relationships are hard to build. They are specialists in their particular fields, be it art, hard materials, music, textiles, food, and they were all amazingly passionate about their areas. Job security, funding issues, communication with the main part of schools, or secondary schools they were trying to prepare their students for, where all talked over as challenges with possible solutions.

I was super impressed with how some of the school were doing their reporting. It was live, real, all online and collaborative. If internet access was an issue for the family, printed versions could be made. I am so jealous – especially as I am coming up to report writing time in a couple of weeks.

Also present was Otto, who is Auckland based in industry and is reaching out to schools who are wanting to build there own 3d printers rather than just buy one and run with it. Really really cool stuff.

So while I could only go for a couple of hours, it was very well worth it. It made me remember I am not alone. That there are passionate, awesome, fiery educators the country over who are working hard for change. And while it is frustrating that there isn’t more support for all of these amazing educators, it was inspiring to see them still working towards their vision for better experiences for their students.

Posted in Techie stuff

Searching through folders – Sharepoint continued

We have continued to make some excellent progress on the SharePoint front, with several departments having got a wide variety of pages, subsites, document libraries and resources available for their staff to use. We are on track to have SharePoint as out learning management system for next year. As the staff have gotten more confident they have been more daring in giving things a go so some of the designs for their pages are looking really good. So far the buy in has been good with some departments doing more than others, and a key factor being the ability to customise the site to their needs rather than being stuck to a template. However, a big request I have had is how to keep the traditional folder set up while making use of the meta data tag. Happily, SharePoint let us have the best of both worlds, although it still isn’t perfect it is making people much more likely to use SharePoint which can only be a win.

Searching through folders

I commented at the start of this process that there was a little resistance to using the metatag to sort data. Folders are ‘safe’ and familiar so people went ahead and made lovely folders in their SharePoint document libraries and used metatags on the documents (as this was one of the things you were prompted to do when you uploaded a document). Now people are finding the search terms really useful, and are frustrated that if a document is in a folder, it gets skipped over in the search. Thankfully (with some help from the ever amazing Liz Coup and Kevin from my school) you can change the search setting so the meta tags can be seen through the folders. The discussion was along the lines of ‘ if it gets people using it, then do it’ rather than keep resisting/forcing just the tags on staff.

I made a Mix to show how to modify the view that you can watch HERE.

Or, all you need to do is scroll to the folders button on the modify view option, and click show all items without folders


Eventually, I am probably going to go through and do this at the ‘top’ level for documents as this completely removes all the folders. But as people are learning, changing the ‘views’ seemed an excellent intermediate step. This way people can see how one document can fit into several different boxes, but still have the traditional file structure too.

Posted in Techie stuff

Small things making me ridiculously happy – MonkeyJam Stop motion Polymers video

Today is the last day of term. I am shattered

So as a nice easy option, I did polymers with my Yr 13 chem class using Molymods to make the molecules up. Really, I was just wanting them to physically see where the water molecules come off, and how you can easily form long chains and the side chains don’t matter

To try and inspire my super tired self, I took some photos and thought I would pop them into monkeyJam to make a stop motion movie. I had heard about MonkeyJam on a web forum between some drama teachers and it was free and pretty easy to use, so I gave it a shot.

And it was ridiculously easy. My movie is way to short, and next time I can think of heaps more things we could add. But is added some excitement to a day and lesson that had real potential to drag, my yr 13’s bought into it quite well

I recommend you give it a go – simple, fun, and hopefully a record so the students still remember after the holidays