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Grants give go ahead for innovation

Last year’s Unisys Kidz Connect initiative handed out $1,000 cash grants to primary school teachers. Here’s how three of them spent their money.

Project: Little Language Experts

Name: Amanda Signal

School: Elm Park School

Little Language Experts was a collaborative languages project that took place between Jess McCulloch’s class at Hawkesdale College, in Victoria, Australia, and my class in Auckland.

Through video lessons and Skype, her class taught us Chinese and my class taught them Te Reo M?ori. The students planned the whole process from the topic to teach, such as colours, numbers, etc., setting learning intentions, planning the teaching and activities, to reinforcing the learning and assessment for the students. This was all collated onto a wiki for viewing.

What were your goals?

They were to reinforce the development of the language we both taught in our classes, for the kids to be involved in teaching other students, and to celebrate the year of the languages.

What were the main challenges you faced?

Getting a good Skype line with little interferences was quite hard and, at times, we had to reconnect to get a clearer line. It got harder to get everything up on the wiki and completed as the workload increased towards the end of the year. We also found challenges with the equipment. For example, we’re lucky to have good video cameras but found it time consuming to have to play the video back into iMovie.

How did the Unisys Kidz Connect grant help?

It allowed me to consult with the kids and decide on some good equipment that would support their lessons. They came up with two things. They thought it was hard and time consuming to get the video from the camera to the computer. So, I looked into purchasing a Flip camera, which is USB based and allows for quick uploading of files from camera to computer, and a wireless tablet, so the computer could be controlled by someone off camera, allowing the students to just teach while someone else controlled the computer.

How did it benefit the students?

There were several benefits to taking part in this project:

  • I found their knowledge of Te Reo M?ori was reinforced by the planning of their lessons and also by supporting the planning of others lessons;
  • The students gained a lot more knowledge of the amount of planning and preparation that goes into lesson planning;
  • They had a chance to take part in a collaborative project and get to know a class in another country; and
  • They worked with technology not readily available to them.

What did you learn along the way?

I learnt SO many amazing things! It was my first big collaborative project and I was really happy to be working with someone like Jess who was very supportive and forward thinking. I learnt many things, from planning lessons via Skype and learning new ways of collaboration, such as Google Documents, to managing a project and making it happen in class.


Project: Daily news broadcasts

Name: Sally Kent

School: Waimataitai School

The idea behind the project was to develop a class ‘TV station’ with daily reports on weather, local community and school news. Broadcasts were made in the form of a video or a podcast. Children worked in groups on a rotating basis to write, film and edit the daily broadcast, which was then posted on the current class blog (waimataitai.blogspot.com) for family and friends to view.

What were your goals?

The aims of project were to:

  • Build children’s knowledge of local current events;
  • Provide a meaningful opportunity for them to explore the use of a wider vocabulary;
  • Improve oral language through regular presentations;
  • Improve listening comprehension through viewing the broadcast on a daily basis;
  • Connect with a class of a similar age group in Auckland to share and discuss feedback;
  • Improve home-school communication; and
  • Improve cooperative work skills.

What were the main challenges you faced?

Initially, we had a few teething problems with uploading video clips from the camera as Windows Movie Maker would not use the file type from the camera. I downloaded a variety of file converters but found problems with this, too. Eventually, I found a movie editing programme that would accept the file type from the camera. The class started using Intervideo DVD Creator to edit clips together but it was still difficult to cut footage out. We finally moved onto using Pinnacles, which was a great, easy-to-use program.

How did the Unisys Kidz Connect grant help?

I was able to purchase a digital video camera that could stay in the classroom all the time.

How is it benefiting the students?

The daily news report has been a highly effective tool to encourage cooperative group work. The children work well with a small group, taking on roles and the results show real evidence of learning and work. They complete the task with very little teacher assistance and are now looking beyond themselves for news items. They think about their audience and what they would consider as news worthy. The children have to work to tight time-frames to complete the report by the end of the day and have learnt that if they don’t complete things in the given time, their news report won’t go online. They also enjoy seeing feedback and responses from others and take it on board when thinking about their next report. The daily reports are starting to take on more individuality as children’s confidence has grown.

What did you learn along the way?

I learnt just how great our kids can be!


Project: ‘Starting School’ DVD

Name: Tania McNamara

School: Lawrence Area School

The reason for doing the project was to create a ‘Starting School’ DVD for four-year-old children that will be joining our class as new entrants.

What were your goals?

The DVD was to introduce our starting school children to what they can expect a ‘normal’ school day to be, in other words showing the differences between early childhood education routines and school routines. I felt that this would help prepare both the child and their whanau/caregivers for what school will entail and to assist with a smooth transition. This is an important stage in a child’s life and the less threatening and more positive it is, the better it will be for the child, their whanau/caregivers, and the class. The other main aim was to introduce my class (and myself) to the process of making a DVD and the technologies involved (video, stills, sound, etc.) and to develop their skills in this area.

What were the main challenges you faced?

The main one was the lack of camera skills (both video and still) in the children. We overcame this through lots and lots of hands-on practice.

Another hurdle was my lack of knowledge of the process involved as it was my first time making a DVD/movie. I overcame this by seeking help from the ICT advisors from University of Otago College of Education (David Young and Andrea Robertson). They were fantastic and assisted at every stage.

How did the Unisys Kidz Connect grant help?

I used the grant to purchase a new hard-drive video camera plus accessories (camera bag and spare battery). There was approximately $200 left which I put towards purchasing a small video tape camera and tripod (remaining $200 paid for by school). I felt that this was wise spending as we have ended up with resources that my students and the rest of the school can use for many years to come.

We decided not to purchase new movie making computer software as we have access to Microsoft Movie Maker on all school computers. This proved to be an easy editing program to use. We downloaded a free audio recording program from the Web and the children all really enjoyed this stage of the project when they got to read their part of the script.

How did it benefit the students?

This project has been a huge journey of new learning for both me and my class of new entrants. A lot of time was spent initially on teaching the children how to use both digital still cameras and video cameras. They helped to plan what to include on the DVD and did a lot of reflecting on their own experiences. I’m pleased with how the DVD turned out and I think it retains a certain ‘character’ due to approximately 95 per cent of the video footage and photographs being taken by the students. They are all very proud of their achievement and were so excited to view the final product.

From a teaching perspective, it’s benefited my students greatly. They all learnt new skills and we will continue to put these to great use with projects using digital and video cameras. We even had a request from Year 7/8 students to assist them with making a movie about their Queenstown camp!

What did you learn along the way?

A lot of people thought that this was an ambitious project for five year olds but they surprised even me with how quickly they developed new skills and the extent of their thinking. I also learnt that although this project was daunting at the beginning (because I had no experience with what I wanted to achieve) it proved to be very enjoyable and achievable. All I needed was where to go to get help and then to practise the skills/processes that I had been shown.

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Categories: Article, Issue 17