Get Your Blog in Shape

April 10, 2009

Finding your way with a Cell Phone.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pekina @ 7:39 pm

What is hidden in the code?

What is hidden in the code?

I have been investigating the use of Quick Response (QR) codes with cell phones to use in a Grade 5 Amazing PE Race at the school.  Students armed with a cell phone (that will scan and reveal information hidden in codes placed around school) will race around the campus to complete a variety of checkpoints in a one hour timeslot. This planning is in the very early stages as I myself learn about this interesting technology.

A QR code is similar to a barcode in that it can be scanned – however in this case the scanning device is a cell phone simply set to camera mode. Once the phone is placed over the QR code, as if about to take a photo, – the phone will read the code to reveal data – much like barcodes on supermarket items link to a price for that item. The data in this case can be text, an image, a website – basically much more data than is typically stored in a standard barcode.  This sounds like fun. Well it gets even better, as you can generate your own QR codes and link them to data of your choosing. So you personally create both the barcode and the associated data that it will reveal.

In my case I am setting up a physically active treasure hunt for elementary aged children where they will scan QR codes that reveal a set of tasks to complete including jump rope, chinese elastics, gymnastic stunts, throwing and catching tasks and even simple dances such as the Hokey Pokey etc. The code will also reveal where the next checkpoint is located.  

You need two programs to do all this.

1. The cell phone must have the software that will read QR codes (many new phones already have this – check here to see the list of existing phones that already support this ) but you can download the software free to your phone if you do not have it!

2. Generate your own codes using any one of a number of programs that do this.  There are several of these sites, including They are very simple to use and you have the choice of generating a URL, phone number, text or image. You then save the code as JPEG image or embed it in a website etc….See the QR code in the top left of this post.

My main focus is to first practice using this technology at home with my two children who both have new cell phones and are eager to use them. I am eager to get them physically active – so I am about to combine the two! We are about to have our first ever technology enhanced Easter Egg hunt using clues hidden as QR codes I have generated, printed and pasted around the confines of the house and garden!  Hard to know who is more excited – myself or the kids!

I am thinking of other uses for this innovative technology. Check out how one teacher is using this technology to make revision in a senior classroom more fun than thought possible.  The same teacher used this technology to learn the bones on a human skeleton!

Another thought on this topic, and this is probably worthy of another post,  is how do we overcome the risk of improper use of cell phones in schools and the resistance of schools to use cell phones in classrooms. I think the answer partly lies in educating ourselves and administrators of ways that cell phones enhance learning and engage learners. This is not unlike the use of calculators and other gadgets that have made their way into the classroom to the benefit of the different learners that exist in the classroom. This topic is discussed in more depth in Nadine Dickinson’s blog post  “Cellphones in class – yea or nay?” and also another teacher in Australia who successfully sought permission to use cell phones in the classroom and shares with us how this was done in his post “Our Class set of Video Cameras for Free”.  It seems to me to only be a matter of time until our cell phones are utilised in a myriad of ways both exciting and engaging for learners – like me!


March 8, 2009

PE and ICT – time to get with the program.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pekina @ 12:38 pm

reebok1Okay, still getting the hang of blogging here and not really feeling like I have put in the time to read enough before writing but I won’t let that stand in the way for now!  Starting to feel like I have embarked on a personal learning journey here of mammoth proportions…..both exciting and proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  

I was sent a link from Darren Murphy who used to teach here at ISM and is now in London. It was for a podcast from the Ed Tech Crew with an interview with a second year out PE teacher Jarrod Robinson who teaches PE and ICT in a small rural school in Australia. If you get a chance listen to this inspiring podcast on the fantastic and simple devices this guy uses in his classes to bring the digital world into the classroom. He also teaches Maths and Geography so not just limited to PE.  He speaks as a true digital native and the podcast includes interesting conversation on how his students are using cell phone technology at school. Rather than banning cell phones he discusses how he managed to bring them into the classroom to enhance learning. He also talks about parent information sessions to teach parents about social networking and personal learning networks, often using the common craft shows. Interesting to note that 100% of his students have cell phones – which I am sure is the case in many schools. This guy really knows his stuff and his blog includes lots of links to share his discoveries.

He has made me think that there is a need to use technology even in Elementary Physical Education – which perhaps seems the last place that technology might infiltrate – well… so I thought.  If technology in PE will inspire and engage children to be active then maybe I need to get with the program and see how to marry the two seemingly mutually exclusive parties. We do use pedometers in our Grade 5 Amazing Race at ISM and when we introduced their use the distances covered by all students increased dramatically! The kids also love it when we roll out the Dance Dance Revolution. So if it does engage AND  increase physical activity levels then I need to get with the program and see what technology exists and how it might contribute to meeting our standards and engaging children.  I guess that for many working parents like myself who already feel short on time then it is easy to resist new learning about new technologies as it one more ‘thing’ to do in an already crowded day.  I am only now beginning to understand that this need not be a tedious process once I have set up my own personal learning network and found reliable sites that relate to what it is I need to learn. In fact it was only a few minutes work to find a newsletter dedicated to Using Technology in Physical Education.  and another site with various software and gadgets for use in physical education.

 I am starting at home base with my two children and instead of having them turn off all electronics will investigate how we can take technology out into the playground. The amount of time and effort I spend as a parent trying to get my two children off their various gadgets is obviously not working so it is time to implement Plan B. I am off to buy a couple of the new strapless heart rate monitors for my kids – online of course…


N.B. I am not having a complete change of heart here and I still believe that there is a time and a place for unstructured play devoid of all gadgets. Even though we can be connected 24/7 (there is no need for any dead time as you can always listen to your podcasts on your ipods, text on your cell, play Nintendo DS) … is still important to just be in the present (listen to your immediate surroundings – the sounds, smells, breezes.) smell the roses occasionally and daydream….keep the balance. Meditate. Stay sane.

March 4, 2009

How to disengage!

3004527244_13f77149d71Okay back up on my soap box……just read Marc Prensky’s piece on ‘Engage or Enrage Me’. Sounds like we are talking about a spoilt brat, or a well catered client at the very least. Challenging and thought provoking! Where do I start….today’s children seem constantly engaged, or maybe, occupied might be more apt, – so much so that they come to expect it – and don’t necessarily know how to deal with life when it is not so engaging. This is not always a good thing. Just ask any 9 year old to turn off all electronics on the weekend and go play. What about a power outage for more than several hours! Luckily we have rechargeable laptops, Nintendos, Cell phones, IPod players – or else we might be bored!     

Children today grow up in a world where the big media giants spend billions of dollars on marketing technology to…..well……to children.  In 2002 Nintendo invested 140 million in research and development alone while the US federal government spent less than half as much on research and innovation in education. Children today are consumers like never before.  We have affluent parents who think parenting is a contest and treat children like a client…….catering to every whim, looking for the competitive edge so they will stand out, making sure they have access to all the latest gadgets, constantly offering a barrage of scheduled activities to keep them occupied 24/7, never wanting for anything, instantly gratified, always ‘engaged’…… this a good thing? I think not. Should we as educators be expected to do the same?

A kid can’t even go for a drive with the family and daydream out the window as there is a movie to watch and handheld on screen games to play so as they are ‘engaged.’ 

Many children have had piano lessons, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, the latest gadgets, (think Wii, Nintendo, Playstation), the list goes on,  long before the child ever wanted or asked for any of it. What does this lead to? Lack of motivation.  No passion.  Disengagement. But not boredom, they haven’t had time.  So we continue to rush around trying to ‘engage’ them. Are these the kids that Marc Prensky refers to as “tuned out”? They sit up the back, nothing excites them. As a teacher trying to engage these kids I would need to be a one man act, bring in the clowns; bells and whistles; swing from the chandelier and maybe they might take notice.  I have tried this approach and it feels like putting on a birthday party for 22 kids, repeat times 6 each day! We are not in the entertainment industry, we are educators, and while yes we do need education that is rich, authentic and real world experiences…there is a bottom line of what teachers can achieve in the restraints that we work within and what is actually good for us. Sometimes there is a lesson in itself by having to do an activity that is not ‘engaging’. Real life is full of these moments! Sure, the online world of gaming is a great escape from real life drudgery at times but it is an unrealistic expectation that every activity has to be’ engaging’ or we run the risk of enraging our students. This is setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.  I think we need to look carefully at the environment we are exposing our children to from an early age. It is a ‘hurried’ childhood for many, they get to do it all and see it all and have it all and then what? What is there to look forward to? So they ‘disengage’.  Maybe we are doing children a disservice by constantly engaging them in all manner of activities from an early age? I say it is okay to be ‘bored’, out of boredom comes creativity (ask any parent that has strived for balance and turned off all electronics for more than thirty minutes – the kids are at first ‘bored’ and at a complete loss as to how they might occupy their time…..but hang in there….wait another 30 minutes and watch the creativity begin….conversations…..connections….with people in the same room. ) 

Carleton Kendrick Ed.M.,  LCSW says

So when you see your kid “doing nothing,” whether she’s sitting on the front steps, seeming to stare into space, or making a space colony under the dining room table, or re-reading a comic book for the 100th time, let her be. She’s just taking a little time out of her busy day to have a childhood.

So seemingly not engaged. No, just taking time out to be a child.

Okay this blog is all over the place, I am thinking out loud, drinking red wine, and now need to get to the point! Find a balance in life.  Engage children but also let children be bored. My mother called it benevolent neglect – she used to snib the back door and we were not allowed in until it was dark. It allowed me to develop creativity, enjoy my own company and daydream.  Probably didn’t look like I was always engaged, I was not enraged either. Sure, the big media giants can engage kids for endless hours. That’s not always a good thing. Educators don’t always engage kids in everything we do, and that’s not always a bad thing.

March 1, 2009

Has ‘On Screen Activity’ replaced ‘Physical Activity?’

Filed under: Physical Education — pekina @ 10:08 am

img_09371After much time spent today watching “how to blog” tutorials and way too much time spent scanning various websites including podcasts, facebook, blogs and wikis I am ready to finally pull out my soap box blog, climb up on top and broadcast myself! I am still feeling overwhelmed and suffering from a massive dose of information overload. Blogging is not something I am really comfortable with (assuming I ever figure it out!) and I am probably more suited to be a wiki person than a blogger. I have been on the computer for 5 hours today and only just starting to feel productive. Although reading and searching for relevant sites is certainly considered productive it is not until I put pen to paper (well that’s becoming obsolete) rephrase that – not until I hit the  the keyboard does it feel like I have made a start. So here we go………my field is physical education so I initially set myself the task to see how technology has impacted physical education. I found videos and websites dedicated to motivating people to become more active (one hour a day minimum) ( I would have put a link here but after half an hour of unsuccessfully trying to link I am giving up – obviously all the time I spent learning to blog was not that successful)  The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified 12.5 million Americans as obese in 2004. The number of obese children has tripled since 1984. Senator Tom Harkin in a press conference in Washington DC to release a program called PLAY Everyday” (unbelievable that we have to ask children to play!) was quoted as saying

Expert’s say that there is a very real prospect that today’s younger generation will be the first generation in American history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

(Just unsuccessfully tried to use the quotation marks….this is frustrating) So this may be not surprising to some – it’s America right. Well, a search into literature emanating from Australia tells me that my home country Australia now leads the obesity stakes per capita. (another link needed here when I figure it out) This is from a nation who was previously stereotyped as leading a healthy outdoors lifestyle. Why is our nation’s heath so poor? Is it because  ‘on screen’ activity replaced ‘physical’ activity? Is being a kid no longer synonymous with being active? A look into the various videos and podcasts being made by health experts and PE students are primarily about motivating children to turn off computers and get active. Maybe these kids should spend less time making podcasts and videos about being active and actually be active! Would that be a better role model? Physical Education has undergone a paradigm shift in terms of curriculum and appropriate practice. It is not appropriate (never was!) to cater primarily for the naturally athletic child, it is all about catering for every BODY. We have come out of the draconian ways of PE past where teams were often picked by captains, children that were not naturally athletic often felt humiliated as they would be picked last, and were also frequently eliminated from games first (although were the ones who needed the most practice!) and exercise was used a punishment (drop and give me ten!) Think Mr Woodcock for those who are familiar with the movie. Games like Duck Duck Goose where all but two children were inactive for most of the game are gone from today’s PE curriculums.

When it comes to physical activity for elementary children, the only word we should associate with young children and exercise is fun, and lots of it. After all we are now competing with Nintendo and other media giants for their time.  

When I first started teaching we had to occasionally justify the inclusion of Physical Education into the curriculum. I was often asked why consider exercise for young children at all? Don’t children naturally get all the exercise they need just by being children? After all, how often do the words “Why can’t they just sit still?” or “These kids are bouncing off the walls!” come to mind? Certainly, it seems as if young children were active enough. Not today! Recent studies (another link needed here- you will just have to believe me) cite the fact that children 2-10 years old spend an average of 25 plus hours a week watching television as evidence ‘being a kid’ isn’t what it used to be. And that statistic doesn’t include any time spent playing video games or on computers. For some children the only activity is “on screen activity.” The American Heart Association recommends one hour of physical activity per day. Sadly this seems to be difficult for many children to achieve. Of course it is not just the inactivity that is destroying the health of our children – it is as much about the food we eat and other lifestyle factors. What limits do we place on “on screen’ activity? How do we help ourselves and the next generation maintain the balance? Is ‘on screen’ activity now synonymous with being a kid? Has ‘on screen activity replaced ‘physical activity’ that we associated with childhood a generation ago?  I am logging off to go for a bike ride with two children – if only I can convince them to turn off the cell phone, TV, Nintendo. Wii, and laptop!

Okay I am coming back to this tomorrow to add media files (but need to figure out that one as well)…..unbelievable how much time this takes for someone new to blogging. Anyway I am off to work on my bod rather than my blog!

February 23, 2009

Does Web 2.0 change teaching and learning.

Filed under: Uncategorized — pekina @ 5:54 am

This is all new to me, didn’t even realise there was a Web 1.o – all these changes will impact the way we teach and the way we learn. The simple fact that anyone can broadcast news so readily, on any topic,  means that students have to be much more discerning readers than ever before. The whole concept of verifying what is a credible source and who is writing this information and for what purpose needs to be a conscious part of online behaviours – (writing as a parent here as well as a teacher. )

The ability to access and share and collaborate using technology changes teaching and learning in terms of content and peer and/or teacher support.  The skills needed today are not the traditional knowledge based skills of a generation ago where students typically rote learnt facts – as we can access any information about any subject at the push of a button. The skills are now those of how to efficiently access information, what is the information I need to access (as there is now so much information!) and who and how do I best colloborate with in the sharing and furthering of information now that geography and the tryanny of distance no longer exists!  

This is brief and only a starting point I imagine……

Aims For Tech Course

Filed under: Uncategorized — pekina @ 5:21 am

My aims for the tech course as a physical education teacher are centred on using technology to improve my teaching rather than having students using a lot of technology, especially when our focus is to have them actually be as physically active as possible by encouraging them to balance and set limits on computer time. I am interested in students making podcasts to share their learning with families, and to demonstrate and make a ‘how to’ tutorial to teach skills they may have learnt. I am interested in blogging as a professional with other physical education teachers as a means to staying abreast of best practice teaching within my subject area.  I am aiming to understand what is available in terms of the various toolboxes for accessing and sharing information with other professionals. The idea of efficient use of computer time by the use of a reader such as netvibes and a blog is an immediate goal. The use of a wiki or blog to share ideas and resources with parents is a long term aim.


Filed under: Uncategorized — pekina @ 4:51 am

Okay I have added links and categories and now nothing is showing up on my site, yet still showing up in dashboard. It seems the learning curve is steeper than first expected. I am spending way too much time online already watching tutorials and becoming more confused. Maybe learning online does not suit everyone – or do I need to get t a certain level of autonomy to be able to navigate and learn independently online. I am really thinking out loud on the post so as to simply test out if I can actually successfully make a post!!

I hate all this inactivity of sitting at a computer screen, especially in the learning process when I seem to waste an hour and have still not made progress. This is time away from an already overloaded schedule of parenting, working and studying., where time is valuable and needs to be carefully balanced.

Maybe it flies in the face of my profession as a PE teacher where I spend my days encouraging parents and kids to turn off screens.  On screen activity is the most popluar activity our kids seem to do…but not the healthiest without the balance of physical activity.

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