Tag Archives: google

Student-Centred Learning

A Brief History of Student-Centred Learning

Student-centred learning is not a new phenomenon. John Dewey outlined many educational theories including the importance of how ‘students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning’, in 1897. Project-based learning, Problem-based learning and more recently the apple launched Challenge-based learning all discuss the importance of student-centred learning, and inquiry being central to the learning process. What all of these learning styles have in common in today’s classrooms are that they naturally lend themselves to integrating technology. If the technology is available, and students know how to use it, it should be a part of the learning process.

My current conundrum is ‘If I want a student-centred, inquiry classroom, should my students should have access to technology all of the time?’

My Concerns

How much screen access is okay? Should ten year old students have access to iPads all day? I decided to find out what students and teachers thought. I used a great idea from @traintheteacher. A binary question for all students to answer as they arrive at school.

    I also tweeted a poll for teachers’ viewpoints:

An Experimental Inquiry

Our central idea

After discussing these issues in class we decided to try an experiment. A full day with unlimited technology, and a full day unplugged completely.

Below are some student reflections from our ‘Tech Saturation Day’.

Students were also asked to write a Headline (maximum of ten words) to sum up the unplugged day. Below are some examples:

Teacher Reflections

  • Beginner EAL students were able to work independently. They produced more work than they ever have before.
  • Some students were easily distracted with the iPad. They did however still complete all of their assignments.
  • Working on paper is time consuming. Ten minute tasks took at least four times that.
  • Students enjoyed drawing and paper-craft.
  • Our replicate social media account is the students favourite past-time.
  • Marking and photocopying work is very time consuming. This took up approximately two hours of my day (compared to minutes using google apps).


I will still have some parts of our school day tech free but will monitor for which learning engagements this is an advantage. I’m interested in hearing how other teachers manage the availability of technology in a student-centred inquiry classroom. Is it time to let the student’s decide?

Digital Stories

Digital Story or Video?

Digital stories are tricky to define. Is it a video of any length? Does a picture slide show count? Is a documentary a story? Does audio over an image suffice? Does it have to be fiction? What exactly is it? The University of Houston has a digital storytelling website that explains:

Digital storytelling at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.


This is still a very broad term and can include a huge range of digital works. The definition of ‘story’ itself is hard to pinpoint. Wikipedia defines storytelling as:

‘the conveying of events in words, sound and/or images, often by improvisation or embellishment.


Bradshaw rock painting

Photo from Flickr by Austronesian Expeditions. Aboriginal cave paintings are a form of storytelling.

Digital Story Count

If we assume that telling a story can mean any of these things (words, sound and/or images), when applied digitally we have a vast new medium for telling stories. When viewing YouTube statistics I found that:

YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views.


Internet Livestats claims that 8 billion YouTube videos were viewed so far today alone (30/09/15).


Livestats reports.

Impact in the Classroom

Viewing videos in classrooms and with students has become common practice for many educators. The flipped learning model means that students can watch these videos at home to maximize learning time in the classroom. In addition to this trend many students are also increasingly creating their own media at home. An internet connection and a device are all that is needed to become a director.

We are at the point now where anyone can create and publish very compelling content with nothing more complex than a web browser.


Many students are utilizing this technology to share ideas about their personal interests, to tell a story or to share an idea or skill.

Today’s students don’t think twice about generating original electronic content and sharing it online, and digital storytelling dovetails well with these modes of student expression.


A Class YouTube Channel

As an educator I want to maximize this new form of storytelling. Digital stories and/or videos can be used in limitless ways including:

  • to reinforce learning
  • to provide additional support (especially for EAL students)
  • to create a provocation at the start of a unit
  • as an additional lesson resource
  • as a student assessment tool

I decided to create a class YouTube account to experiment with different ways to share digital stories and videos with my students. Below is my first attempt:


Students and parents responded positively to the video and found it a useful link to home/school learning. I then decided to set an assignment using a digital story to explain the assignment. Here are the results:


The possibilities are endless!



Presentation Zzzzzz

The Journey from Zzz to Zen

Two months ago I delivered a presentation to class parents as part of our ‘Meet the Teacher’ night at school. The presentation contained all of the necessary and relevant information for the school year ahead. Here is the presentation:

After reading the Presentation Zen blog by Garr Reynolds , and laughing along at Life after Death by Powerpoint by Don McMillan I realised (and cringed) at the many shortcomings of my presentation. Below are my reflections on these shortcomings.


I have used a basic theme from google slides which seemed adequate at the time. I did not give much consideration to the design of the slides and I can see now that they are full of text and quite boring. 


I had a handout with all of this information on so I can see it wasn’t necessary for me to also have it on the screen (I fear I may have just read from the slides too). My personality and character does not come across at all in this presentation. 

UOI circled

Although I’ve attempted to highlight the key points there is still too much information on the slide.


The presentation is essentially a list of ‘do’s and don’ts. I haven’t considered the big picture of how students and parents may be feeling, instead I just focused on the content of what I wanted to get across.


Whilst talking to the parents I explained my passion for teaching and the privilege of teaching the final year of primary school- but this doesn’t come across in my presentation at all. 

Layout of Slides

I haven’t used any images in my presentation. I have used bullet points excessively where it isn’t necessary. I also didn’t consider the exact purpose of each slide.

Home Learning circled

An over dependency on bullet points.

no images

No images used.

After learning about the principles of presentation zen I can see that I may have been sending my audience to sleep. An interesting article in the Guardian by Andrew Smith ‘How PowerPoint is killing critical thought‘ has also made me question the purpose and content of my presentation. When discussing a procession of endless slides he states

In the face of such a procession, we switch off, because nothing is being asked of us.

I missed the opportunity for my presentation to include parents thoughts, fears and questions- which are usually covered in a haphazard question and answer session after the presentation.

So now begins the process of improving my presentation to include all of these suggestions. I can now see the benefits of spending more time in preparing a more effective presentation. I am planning to include images whilst using the ‘Rule of Thirds‘.

And here is the first page…

meet the teacher compressed

The beginning of my updated presentation.


Image Conscious

Images are everywhere. It is estimated by tech firstpost that there are 1.8 billion photographs being shared online everyday. Internet Live Stats reports that 2,699 instagram photo’s are uploaded every second. As images play an increasingly significant role in our society, should we as educators be valuing and using this exponential resource more effectively?


Internet Live Stats

Images are often quickly selected in classrooms as an add on. Perhaps to add ‘a bit of colour’ to a display board or to ‘liven up’ a text. There is of course value in supporting text with images, but could we be using images in a more significant way? Are we utilizing this resource? Images have the potential to provoke and inspire students. A powerful image of a social problem can spark interesting debates immediately. The presentation zen website has some excellent views and suggestions about visual literacy. Garr Reynolds advises on the purpose of using visual imagery:

Visuals that surprise people, touch them, delight them, and support your story are best because they affect people in an emotional way.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen. The Power of the Visual

I wondered how I could be using images in other areas of my classroom to provoke thinking. I usually launch new Maths units with questions to spark inquiry. I decided to experiment with launching a new Maths unit using just one image. My concerns were:

  • will this hinder vocabulary development
  • can mathematics be reflected effectively in just one image
  • will the image limit connections to Mathematics
  • is there an available image for our needs

I used the creative commons image search to help me find an image that had the potential to lead students into a maths investigation. I found the following image which I hoped would spark inquiry questions related to symmetry and the properties of 2D and 3D shapes.

Electrical Symmetry

Image from flickr by Fillipi Pamplona

The central idea for our Maths unit is:

The interrelationships of shape allows us to interpret, understand and appreciate our two-dimensional and three-dimensional world.

I decided to present the image using google slides. This was to allow students to share their ideas instantly and collaboratively.  After reading the excellent post by @tracyblair on ‘Visuals in the Classroom‘ I decided to also use a visible thinking routine to support the students exploration of the image. We used the ‘See Think Wonder‘ routine and recorded our ideas on the following google slide presentation.

By discussing each stage as we went through this process I was able to ‘channel’ the students thinking towards possible Mathematical investigations. As a group we filtered through the comments that we felt lead to a Mathematics inquiry. When we reflected on the ‘I wonder’ section together the discussion prompted some excellent investigation ideas. We created this poster of the highlights of our thinking routine.


A summary of our ideas.

Was Using an Image Successful?

I found using an image to launch a Mathematics inquiry was an effective way to begin discussions as well as assess some prior knowledge of vocabulary and understanding of shapes and symmetry. Students who are new to English surprised me by being able to contribute immediately. They were able to learn from their peers comments which effectively modelled sentences. Using an image also left the scope for inquiry more open. If I had begun with specific questions students would have been searching for my answers. The image enabled them to construct their own inquiry without my influence. And by filtering out the questions I felt were not relevant I was still able to guide the inquiry into a mathematical context.

Interestingly the inquiry took a slightly different path to the one I expected. Students became interested in the structural side of the tower and wanted to find out if different shapes also created strong structures. Our study of shapes is quickly becoming an engineering project. Let the inquiry begin!


Where will the inquiry take us?