Bringing The World To The Classroom With SMS

For sometime now I’ve been thinking of a genuine reason to use SMS in the classroom to gather responses from a wider audience and today was the perfect oppurtunity. After reading a blog post from Andrew Douch who completed a similar activity in his class last week, I set out to introduce a version of the activity into my VCE Outdoor & Environmental Studies class.

At the moment we are learning about the different values people demonstrate towards nature. So with this in mind I got the students to choose 3 people who they could SMS who would be likely to respond quickly within our scheduled classtime. They then had 3 questions they needed to include in their SMS with only one question asked per person. Chatter soon picked up as students begun talking about who they would message. In no time at all the students had sent all 3 messages out to their targets and the answers started rolling back in. It was fantastic to see the students level of engagement  in what could have simply been completed in a standard question and answer format on a piece of paper.


So why do I know for sure that this approach is better than the traditional. Here’s my thoughts;

  • The students were thinking about who would be likely to help them complete their questions, which ultimately helped them identify their own Personal Learning Networks.  Which is helpful for them establishing who they could contact for help in the future.
  • As answers started rolling in, they were sharing their responses with each other, comparing them and taking notice of the similarities and differences among the responses. This lead to a great level of discussion about the concepts the activity was hoping to cover.
  • The follow up discussion was much more richer than what had taken place in the past as I believe each of them was able to bring some sort of vested interest into the conversation
  • The students were able to use SMS to collectively gather responses from a wide range of people from outside the school community. As a result the broad range of views enabled a more diverse range of discussions to take place.
  • How else could  we be able to gather 50+ responses within the course of an hour that represented the views of the general public.
  • The engagement levels of the student group were through the roof.

After they had received all of their responses the students then added them one by one into a Google form so that we could view them as a complete list. The results were then feed into an activity that required the students to utilise the Flip cameras to act out and record a series of skits that will be uploaded to Youtube at a later stage.

So how could you use SMS with your students?

Why Skype Is The Most Valuable Tool I Use

It has recently occured to me that a tool I really take for granted is certainly the most important in my current teaching practice. Ive been utilising Skype now for well over a year since making the switch from MSN. The reason I decided to change was to create an instant message account that could be used completely for teaching and connecting with my students. After signing up I logged on in class and showed the students how I could make calls for free to other skype accounts, I then wowed them when I rang the school office asking to speak to the principal.

Now it was no suprise that as soon as I got home a heap of the students had downloaded skype and added me to their contact lists. Word soon spread throughout the student cohort that ‘Skype Was Cool’ and before long the majority of my students were online.

Instantly the conversations in the after hours happened and as my skype account is always open students have the ability to instantly contact me in regards to their school work. There are also the times when they just want to have a chat and to me this is the most important feature. The repoire I have been able to establish through conversations I have with students outside of school hours has been excellent.  The ability for students to seek answers to their questions at all hours has also been very powerful. Whether its asking if they have to bring a change of clothes for a prac session tommorow or a complex eplanation of a homework question it can be done with the help of skype. Some of them have even started asking me questions about subjects I dont even teach, which again proves the power of being connected.

Anyway below is a chat transcript from a senior student in my Outdoor & Environmental Studies subject which occurred at 9.30pm. Without skype and instant messaging how else would she have been able to seek an answer so quickly?


Never Miss A School Event Again

After seeing a tweet from @tombarret about how you can use google calendar to send reminders about events on your calendar to your phone via SMS. In his tweet he mentioned how he uses it to remind him of his yard duty or other activities. As I’m usually extremely busy (as we all are) I have been known to forget the occasional yard duty or important lunch time meeting (haven’t we all) so decided to head to to set it up for myself.

Watch the video below to see how you go about setting up this simply brilliant tool for your own reminders. The end of the video also shows what the SMS looks like when it reaches your device. Now think of the possibilities of this with your students……

The Web 2.0 Tools Behind The ‘How Fit Are Wii’ Program




After a lovely break from the Internet and my computer during the holidays it is now time to get back into regular posting. As I mentioned in an earlier post I have been included in an action research program around the area of ‘Gaming for Learning’. My particular topic is on how the Nintendo Wii and the Wii Fit game can be utilised in a Physical Education class to improve student understanding of fitness. The program will also seek to help students indentify their own fitness requirements and learn about ways in which they can improve them. The students will also seek to promote physical activity by creating vodcasts and hosting parents nights.

Anyway you can probably tell through my twitter posts that I’m extremely excited about the program and thought It would be valuable to share some of exceptional Web2.0 tools that are making this program possible. Here they are;

Wetpaint- A wiki website that is super simple to setup and allows an extensive amount of customization and individuality. This tool is the basis for the entire ‘How Fit Are Wii’ program with all of the information and student records contained on it. The best part about it is that the students are contributors to the creation of the wiki.

Youtube & Vimeo - Although Youtube is my preferred choice it is blocked at school. So I utilise Vimeo for any elements of ‘How Fit Are Wii’ that need to be viewed by students.

Twitter - The key towards promoting the program and connecting with contributors from around the world. The twitter handle for the program is @howfitarewii  .  I have also embedded an RSS feed widget of the twitter stream on the website , which will be used as a way for the people to keep up with whats happening in the program.

Cover It Live - This web2.0 tool allows live blogging of an event. Basically I will run a Cover It Live session for each class that I and the students will use to post anecdotal comments about how the program is going. The session and comments can be viewed live or simply replayed at a later stage. You can find the Anecdotal Records for the sessions here

Ustream-  Ustream allows people to create their own live show. Simply use your webcam and Internet connection to run a show that can be viewed by people all over the Internet. Ustream also provides a back channel that allows people to interact with the shows. Occasionally we will run a live event showing the students completing the ‘How Fit Are Wii’ program.

Google Calendar - A way to embed a calendar on a website that can be easily updated. This will be used to highlight what the sessions are and when they will be required to submit pieces of work.

Stat Counter - A free simple stat counter that requires no embedding, perfect for tracking the visitors to the site which will help us form discussion about how a person’s  location may affect the physical activity they complete.

 Skype - Will potentially use this video conferencing tool to host virtual guest speakers who do things such as introduce new concepts or simply give the students their exercise program for the Nintendo Wii for the week.

Podbean - A podcast hosting website, simple to use and easy to setup. I will use this to co host a podcast with Tristan Mether  (Thanks Tristan for setting it up) a fellow participant in the ‘Gaming for Learning Trial’ who is utilising the Nintendo Wii in his grade 5/6 class. We will use this as a forum to discuss how the program is going and to assist others in completing something similar in their own classes.


Anyway I would love to hear about how you have managed to use some of the above tools in your own classes, so leave a comment if you have a story. I would also really appreciate people following my students involvement in the ‘How Fit Are Wii Program’.

How I’m sending my students around the world

During my Year 7 Geography class next term we will be embarking on an exciting new unit of work entitled ‘Where in the World’. The unit will see students drawing a monster on a piece of paper that is laminated and attached to a travel bug. The travel bugs and monsters will be sent to a variety of locations around the world via good old ‘snail mail’ and then they will be geocached by the recipients in their local area.

Once they have been hidden I will go online at www.geocaching.comand report them and their GPS co-ordinates and sit back as people scatter around finding them. Once people find them they report it on the website and attach pictures and a story of how the whole process of finding it occurred. The people who find them then need to move them to a new location with the process continuing over and over again. My class will be watching the whole process from the other side of the world via a Google Map.

In class we will be learning about the locations of our monsters and writing stories from the monsters perspective about how it must feel to be visiting these overseas locations. Really looking forward to getting it up and running for April 20th and seeing where the students monsters end up. For a more detailed explanation and a look at the monsters and the travel bugs you can check out the video below. I must also thank @thecleversheep, @lkolb, @jshults who have offered to hide the first lot of travel bugs in their respective counties. So obviously this unit could be further developed and extended so if you have any ideas about how this could happen or you would like to participate them please let me know.

Introducing the ‘How Fit Are Wii’ Program

Last month I was invited to participate in one of the Knowledge Banks Web 2.0 Collaborative Learning & Research Program action research groups. This round of trials includes 20 other participants from around the state, all of whom are looking at how gaming can be used  to improve learning. My particular focus question is as follows;

“How can students use Wii Fit to assess their own fitness levels and implement strategies in order to improve their own fitness and that of others”

Now in order to get this program up and running  I required a few additional resources, thankfully there was a  4,000 grant attached. So far I have bought; 3 X Nintendo Wii Units, 3 X Nintendo Wii Fit Games, 12 X Controllers & 4 x Flip Ultra Video Cameras.

Anyway the project will focus on teaching students a variety of different ways in which they can improve their own fitness through physical activity. The program will cover the National Physical Activity Guidelines ,with my students creating vodcasts with the Flip cameras detailing how much physical activity each age group of the community needs to complete daily. The videos and other class work will be hosted on a website I’ve setup for the program which the students will help build.  It can be found at and should prove to be a useful homebase for all of the students and the wider community. I’ve also setup a twitter account @howfitarewii which will be used to publicise the program. Second to this will be an evening session where the students bring in their parents for fitness assessment with the Nintendo Wii Fit. This will ultimately allow them to advance their own knowledge and understanding of how physical activity can improve fitness. 

To finish up I’m really excited about the 2nd term and getting this up and running in my year 8 Physical Education class come April 20th. I would also like to hear  any suggestions you have for the program and would appreciate you following the program via twitter and the website. For a further explanation on how it will all work make sure you view the video below. (Just gave me a chance to use the Flip cameras)