Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

‘Wasting’ a friday afternoon

It is period five on a Friday and I have my Chemistry class. They are super engaged, collaborating, being creative and not doing any Chemistry.

The trigger was these kinex kit carousels that the year 7 class had made. They are doing a simple machines unit, and so had made the carousels to investigate gears.


To be fair, the carousels are really cool. I had been playing with them on and off all day, each one has a different sized gear that means it spins around at a different speed.

So of course my year 12’s wanted to play with the kinex. And given we are where we need to be, I decided to run with it and say sure.


It is still fascinating me as I sit here and type – they are soooo into them – especially the boys, although a couple of the girls have joined in. There was an interesting discussion about following the instruction versus using your imagination – or youtubing how to make something. There are rubber bands flying about as they test the rubber band guns that made, and go back and modify the design to see if they can make them go further. Cranes, tractors, wheels, guns, it is really nice to listen to the quiet hum of the class as they have fun and just have a play.

I don’t quite know how to get the same enthusiasm for exam revision… I wish I did. But for now, it is nice to be having a fun friday P5 with some engaged students – even if ewe aren’t doing exactly what we should be.

Maybe that is why it is so good 🙂

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 random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Do students need to be TAUGHT?

My L1 Science class has just finished up their Mechanics Unit. To try and gently shift this class into being more independent, I used a OneNote I had prepared for my class for revision last year as the main source of information. There were lots of relevant notes, videos, office mix walk throughs of old exams (eg)and some practice worksheets. As we went through, I also included a forms quiz at the end of each page to as a way to keep up with where the class was at with their learning. We also use the SciPad, which is has some good notes and example questions.


Some screen shots of pages in the OneNote and quiz results.

On the whole it has worked well. My biggest concern is that my students are still struggling with managing themselves and I was feeling a little like I was leading the horse to water, but not getting it to drink. I was hoping that I would be able to use more of my class time answering questions and doing some practicals (we did do some practicals – popping balloons for pressure questions is AWESOME….) but it just didn’t quite work out that way. When I surveyed the students, I got the common theme that they liked notes from the board. ARGHHHHHHH. That they liked how I helped them when they needed it, but they wanted more up the front teaching. I already felt like I did way more than I wanted to. And (as in the pictures above) some of the OneNote pages where even like writing on the board…. sigh.

So I am back again to the drawing board. How can I make sure students feel like they are still learning things if they are managing their own learning? The test results were ok, but even with that students didn’t feel like they had learned anything, even when they clearly had. Why do students feel that they need to be ‘taught’ things in order to have learned them. Do I need to listen to this student voice and be up the front more rather than deliberately staying away.

In pondering this, here are some ideas (I went for pen and paper… so I could vigorously scribble) around why maybe students feel they need to be taught something rather than learn it.

2016-06-22 09.50.17

There are lots of reasons why – to find out more I guess I need to ask my students some more questions around why the like to ‘learn’ in different ways.

And I need to think just a little bit more about how and why I am trying to model learning to my students.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.02.06

Of these two definitions, I definitely like the second one. So how can I better model learning by example  or experience? What learning experiences can I give my students that makes them feel like they are being taught?