Sunday, 29 March 2009


I had a conversation with a teacher recently who said that a certain syllabus for GCSE stated that the students were required to use Powerpoint to produce a presentation. It was only after a few probing questions that she accepted that Powerpoint wasn't actually named. We have reached the stage where the word presentation is synonymous with Powerpoint. Teachers feel that they are expert in its use and so we get Powerpoint used everywhere, by the teachers and by the students. Using Powerpoint is not the only, and very often, not the best software for presenting ideas. Instead, we should encouraging our students to use alternatives remembering that we, the teachers, do not need to be 'trained' in its operation. The students are more than capable of working out all its nuances. Prezi is one such alternative. is a website that allow you to create dynamic presentations. You create a map of your ideas which can include text, images, videos, etc. You can then show the overview of your presentation and zoom to see all the details! It is very simple to use. Words can't do it justice! Go to the site and check out the showcases. The site also includes a manual.

For the free version, you get 100Mb of storage and the off-line editor. The small prezi logo will appear in the initial screen but it certainly doesn't interfer with the display.

To Twitter or not to Tweet

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? I have joined Twitter and I find it really fantastic.

I joined Twitter a few months ago using the name "ballyvally". It seemed strange at first. You have no friends (or followers) and you aren't following anyone. Who do you send your tweets to?

The first thing to do is to follow people who have the same interests as yourself (you can always follow me!). If you go to to this site, you can type in the area you are interested in. From the list of Tweeters, select one and read some of their entries. If they seem interesting, you can follow them. Repeat the process.

The idea is to state what you are doing using 140 characters (letters, spaces, etc). Initially you might be thinking, who wants to know what I'm doing. Who wants to know that I have just cut the grass or am just about to take a walk along the river? But if I was attending an ICT conference somewhere in Europe, there will be numerous people who would be interested in the details of the conference, step-by-step as it is reported live. I could be reading a really interesting article from a particular website and be able to share it with my followers - did you know, for example, that pupils in the UK are to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools. This article is one of the links that was passed on to me through Twitter!

When you log into your Twitter account, you will see a list of the most recent tweets from the people you are following. I am following some great people - olliebray, mwclarkson, russeltarr, John_Howarth, to mention but a few. Every so often, I will also check who they are following, read some of the posts and again, if I like what they are saying or if they point to useful websites, I will follow them too.

The amount of really useful information I have obtained from the people I am following has been unbelievable. Here are Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter!

Some Tips for Twitter: a great beginner's guide for new users
Click here for 100 Tips, Apps, and Resources for Teachers on Twitter.

Join Twitter now!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Breathing Earth

At you will find a lovely simulation of the aspects of the life-cycle on Earth, including global birth and death rates, as well as CO2 emissions.

I love the organic sound effect that accompanies the visuals. And having the birth and death rates pointed out in such an obvious way really was quite shocking to me.

It indicates an exploding population, with the continuous counter on the site showing births going up at twice the rate of deaths. Given global concerns about CO2 emissions, the figure underneath those is somewhat worrying too.

You can find out the details for individual countries by hovering the mouse over them.

The aim of this site is to raise awareness of environmental issues. You can find out at the bottom of the site about the data's origin and how you can make a difference to the planet.
Article by Kate Russell (