Storybird- a change of mindset

I recently was preparing a workshop for teachers around Universal Design for Learning and student engagement and was doing some research. An article on TKI mentioned Storybird as a vehicle to engage reluctant learners in writing.

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I never like to recommend something without giving it a trial for myself. Fortunately I teach at a local school as well as being a LwDT Facilitator so had some willing learners to help me trial the tool.

I registered myself with a Storybird account and to keep things simple I manually entered the students names into Storybird and then set about changing the passwords that Storybird had assigned students and aligned them with the students’ Google Accounts.

This took a bit of time but paid off with fewer students having to be reminded of what their passwords were.

All of the writing activities we try need to be accessible on a variety of devices as I have Chromebooks, Mac Books and iPads to use and not enough of each to be exclusive. Storybird works well on all of these devices. To access the Storybird website on the iPad I made it into a shortcut on the home screen and on the laptops it was linked from our Moturoa blog.

Once all that was set up I made a practice picture book myself so that I would be one step ahead when we used it in class. In introducing the concept to my boys we said we will trial it for a few weeks and they can give their verdict on it.

We cracked into it. On first reflection I was underwhelmed. The idea is that you get a selection of images to use, select one and then use the images produced by that particular artist. You can search for images from a topic to get you started but my boys wanted to write of motorbikes and rugby and there were no images related to those sorts of topics to choose from. You cannot pick and mix the artist. Once you select one artist you can only use other images that that person has created.

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We pushed on as it was a trial. Although the illustrations were stunning some of the boys were reluctant to pick anything as none appealed. In the end they picked something and used that although it wasn’t a choice that initially engaged them. Few of the images lent themselves easily to building a narrative sequence so some of the boys just wrote  captions for the random images that engaged them.

Some however really engaged with the Storybird concept and managed to relate the images together to do quite a good semblance of a narrative.

After the writing and editing was done the boys pushed SAVE and PUBLISH and I was able to easily publish it with the provided embed code.

 

To spice things up a bit we also had a competition with voting via the blog to decide which stories we like best.

Please add your vote to the blog side bar to encourage the boys in their writing.

Our verdict

  • Stunning illustrations
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to embed
  • Intuitive interface
  • Works well across all devices
  • Limited mix of images- you have to use one artists’ images and cannot pick and mix
  • Limited range of images related to some of the things the boys wanted to write about
  • Once engaged some boys really involved with the process and showed an interest in working on it at home.
  • You can invite others to work on the stories collaboratively but we never really went down that track.
  • The teacher can leave notes on children’s writing as feedback on the process
  • You can read and reflect on other people’s writing by leaving comments which can be moderated.

As a final reflection I was thrilled when a parent joined in and made another book at home with her child and invited me to collaborate on it with her and she left a comment on the blog post.

 

Wonderful work and writing. This has opened up a whole new world of e-learning to me and I’m loving it I’ll be back for more!

 

Influencing Inclusive Practice

I feel a little like an alcoholic at an AA meeting.

“Kia ora, my name is Allanah. I am a blogger and it has been six months since my last blog post.”

Life gets busy and I don’t write unless I have something to say. Sonya van Schaijik posted a link to some blogs that she is linking to which alerted me to my indiscretion so I cross post this from the CORE Education blog.

Inclusive designPhoto: © Copyright wfmillar & licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Introducing Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to colleagues and supporting its use in our inclusive practice is a big part of my work at CORE. Recently Allanah King and I had an hour or two in transit together. Allanah is a Learning with Digital Technologies facilitator, classroom teacher and a passionate advocate of the difference technologies can make in learning. We got talking about how UDL is continuing to influence the way she works. Here’s an edited Q and A of our discussion.

Chrissie: So Allanah, how is UDL is influencing the way you think about planning learning?

Allanah: I think it has made me much more aware of things I do that might get in the way of other people’s learning. So for example it makes me think about barriers hidden in the way I teach or facilitate, or barriers in the resources I use or the way I organise the learning environment. At the same time, it is also helps me create much more user-friendly environments. I know now that there are things I can do from the outset to make learning experiences more effective for more people. A key thing is that I can build in support or different ways to access material or instructions at the beginning, rather than add it in later. And I can offer that support to everyone so that can use it if they need it.

Chrissie: That’s cool. I think that’s what I would call a “design to include” mindset. It’s like we know there is always going to be diversity. That’s a given. Someone in the room is always going to have dyslexia or will have forgotten their glasses, or easily loses attention if someone talks for long. Plus everyone will be bringing different experiences and histories. When we don’t have that design to include mindset, we can inadvertently design to exclude. We don’t mean to, we do it unconsciously.

Allanah: Yep, when I was first full-time teaching in a classroom of primary-school-aged children, I had never heard of Universal Design. I was teaching from the perspective of doing what I thought was best for all my students. I taught from a position from where I thought most children would succeed. Once everyone was occupied doing something, I would try and ‘pick off’ the outliers or groups of children who historically had been struggling to give them more support.

As I became a more experienced teacher, I tried to see the lessons from more of a child’s perspective. I started structuring lessons around the individual needs of learners and at the same time wanted to create an environment that worked for everyone.

As I learn more about Universal Design, I design lesson sequences in a way that supports all learners right from the beginning, rather than as an add-on. That’s quite a big difference.

Chrissie: That makes a lot of sense to avoid the retrofitting. Have you got any examples?

Allanah: At one point I had a student called Anna in my class. As Anna had low vision, I made sure that when I wrote instructions for everyone on the whiteboard I read them aloud so Anna could hear them. I also gave Anna her own copy in large print to take to her desk. I made sure when we played sport we used large bright coloured balls so Anna could more easily see the ball. When we worked with text in Google Docs, I increased the default font size of our Google Docs (video tutorial) so we could all see the text more readily as we typed. In my planning across the curriculum, I tried to make things work for Anna and, in doing so, ensured that all learners in the class benefitted. My teaching was enhanced, and all students could participate and were able to access the content independently.

Chrissie: That’s a great example of a UDL approach in action. For example, offering those instructions in different ways aligns with the principle of Representation. Not only did you provide Anna a range of options to support her understanding, you also offered them as a support for everyone. I can imagine in your classroom that students would also be encouraged to take photos using tablets to capture ideas for later or just to bring the information nearer to them. These approaches also support independence and provide students with opportunities to make good choices about what they need to support their learning.

The use of coloured balls was also a great approach. It’s such a small thing, but it can make such a massive difference to a student’s participation – it levels the playing field. The coloured balls could be considered an assistive technology, just like Google Docs – they both increase access. The beauty is that they can be used by everyone. This is really the Action and Expression principle in action. We recognise and minimise barriers to participation and create options and embedded supports for students so they can just get on with creating and learning and sharing.

Chrissie: So what about your work as a facilitator, how is UDL having an impact there?

Allanah: As a Blended eLearning Facilitator I facilitate a number of practical workshop sessions with teachers and endeavour to make sure my approach and resources are designed with Universal Design for Learning principles in mind. I try think of the sessions from the perspective of the participants. Whenever possible I send out a Google Form giving participants a taste of what to expect from the session and asking what they would like me to know about them. Here is anExample Google Form from a workshop from Chisnallwood Intermediate. I give people access to the resources beforehand so they know what’s coming. I make sure they have access to those same resources during and after the session so they can rewind bits if I went too fast, or if they missed part of the session, or were not able to attend at all.

I am also conscious that all participants will be at different stages of their elearning journey: some may be just beginning, others may be eLearning whizzes. So my strategy is to give participants a range of options during a session including an ‘escape lane’ where they can self direct their own learning or explore a line of inquiry that grabs their attention as I am working alongside others who wish to go at a more structured pace.

UDL has also really influenced my thinking when I am preparing resources for participants. Now I try to provide resources keeping in mind that people will have quite different preferences – some may prefer to watch videos, some may prefer to follow written instructions, some may prefer to have the resource on their iPad and some may prefer to be led directly as they walk through the material step by step. Others will use a combination of all the options. I also try to make resources that are rewindable and reviewable.

Chrissie: I can increasingly see how UDL is having a significant impact on how we facilitate and work alongside adults. So often workshops, staff meetings or professional learning sessions are scheduled in the late afternoon when teachers are exhausted and already “full up” with the day. Creating engaging, flexible, rewindable options makes so much sense. Designing to include seems to be an imperative in those contexts.

So that is a snapshot of our conversation. Huge thanks to Allanah for her openness and willingness to share her journey.

if you are interested in finding out more about Universal Design for Learning, visit:

Google Education Trainer

UPDATE: This process has changed with a name change and change of emphasis.

Here is some more info on the changes

In December 2014 I qualified to be a Google Education Trainer. This step is the latest on my journey to know more about Google products and how to support students and teachers in their use to support learning.

GoogleEducationTrainer_badge_RGB

There are essentially three kinds of Google certification that I have achieved, each quite different and I don’t think of them in any particular hierarchy- they are just different.

A Google Certified Teacher- To become GCT you apply and prepare an application video and written application to go to a Google Teacher Academy. Google select between five and ten New Zealand applicants for each Google Teacher Academy which accepts about 50 educators in each intake. Until this year were biennial so I hope they have moved to having one a year from now on. I applied to go to Sydney because it was closest, and therefore cheaper, for us here in NZ but you can apply to go to any GTA around the world. In 2013, when I became GCT, we had a guy from Alaska who was at the Academy! You have to pay your own way- flights and accommodation. It helps to get picked if you are active in leading the educational community- Twitter, Google Plus, that sort of thing- indeed questions about the number of followers you have is part of the application process. Many apply and few are chosen!

Google Educator – To become a Google Educator you take four compulsory exams (Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Sites) and one elective exam (Chrome, Chromebooks or Android devices).
You have to get over 80% on each exam to pass but if you fail one of the tests you have to wait for a time, seven days I think, to sit it again, pay the money again and have another go. You have to complete all five tests within a 90 day period. The content in the tests is easy sometimes and hard sometimes, depending on what you know. In total it would cost you about $100NZ.

When you have completed the exam it is automagically marked and you know instantly if you have passed or not. It annoyed me though that you don’t find out which questions you got wrong so you could potentially be giving people wrong advice when they ask the same questions as were asked in the exams because you only thought you got the answers right.

You could learn as much by reviewing the learning modules and not actually sitting the exams but it does give purpose and a feeling of accomplishment if you know there is going to be an exam at the end.

Google Education Trainer- To gain the Google Education Trainer certification you have to have previously achieved Google Educator status and submit a record of Google PD sessions you have delivered, references to say you did a good job of them and make a training video outlining an aspect of Google goodness. You also submit an in depth case study of a Google PLD session you have delivered. In my case I chose to submit my case study around using Google Classroom. If accepted you are then added to the database of global Education Trainers and you get to put the Google Trainer Badge on your blog or website. You also get access to a global support group of other GCT or GET to learn and share your resources- that is where the you find the gold- learning from and with other passionate educators.

You can find out more through this site https://www.google.com/edu/training/get-certified/

Writing Books for iTunes

We have had some successes with writing books using Book Creator and publishing them to iTunes.

I thought I would outline the process here because it really is simpler than you might think.

Here is our workflow for this particular lesson.

It was Guy Fawkes and children had stories to tell of their fireworks experiences that we wanted to record and share.

Firstly we had a play with the Real Fireworks App that I had bought but I see that there is a free version as well. The app very cleverly lets you take a screengrab of the fireworks in action as you create fire bursts. These were saved into the camera roll and Flicked to me or using Photo Transfer to move whole sets of photos to the one iPad in one go.

To collect the children’s writing in one place for this lesson I decided to use Google Forms. I had found a cool video of a drone flying through exploding fireworks so threw that in the form as well to keep things lively.

Here is a link to the actual form. Of course the children needed to have access to the form so I embedded and linked it into a blog post in the Moturoa Blog. The blog is bookmarked on all the devices they children have at their devices and added to the home screen of the iPads so everyone knows where to access everything we might need.

http://moturoa.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/fireworks.html

The children were able to view the video independently and write their text in the form.

That night I had a bit of a play with copying the text from the form that I accessed via Google Drive/Google Sheets app on the iPad and pasted it onto the screengrabs that I had quickly out in Book Creator.

I matched the colours of the text with the colours of the Fireworks so it would all look lovely.

Next day I had the children record their narration of the text. To improve the quality of the recording I used my iRig Mike and my mike on the Apple ear buds, which worked quite well.

I wanted to have a little video in the book as a practice so used X-Mirage to reflect my iPad onto the Mac and record the fireworks using Quicktime. The video was small enough to email to my iPad but I could have uploaded it to Google Drive if I needed to to get it onto my iPad for inserting into the Book Creator. Boom! We were nearly ready to upload to iTunes.

I needed to do a couple more things before sending it off to iTunes. I needed to make sure the video was in mp4 format. To change it in Book Creator just select it and click on the ‘i’ and change the format!!

I also took a couple of screen grabs and made a copy of the book and took some pages out to act as a book sample for those who didn’t want to download the whole book.

I uploaded the whole project to Google Drive as it was too big to email to my laptop. Google Drive gave me a shareable link to the multi-touch book that I could then share with people directly via an email link or blog post to give them a copy of the book without sending it to iTunes.

STEP ONE: Create an iTunes Connect Account

I had already made a iTunes Connect Account to publish the Bling For Your Blog book so that part was simple. Book Creator has made a handy ‘how to’ on how to get started with an iTunes Connect Account. Here is the link to it. I think the process would be a lot more complicated if you wanted to sell your books but I decided that they were all going to be free!!!

STEP TWO: Install iTunes Producer

iTunes Producer is the software template that allows you to upload your books, previews and blurb. You connect the iTunes Connect Account with iTunes Producer. Book Creator again shares how to do this part.

STEP THREE: Upload Your Book

This is the easy part. You fill out all the information about the book for upload and if you get it wrong you will get error messages. This was the first time I had uploaded page previews and they had to be a specific size. I chose 748 x 1024 for the preview pages and 1023 x 1400 for the title page. Here are Book Creator’s notes on what to do for this part.

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iTunes then takes a look at your book and makes sure it is suitable to be in the iBooks Store and a day or so later your book is available for the world to download.

Do take a look- We think it’s rather cool.

https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/fireworks/id942796591?mt=11

Fireworks

If you didn’t want to go that extra step of publishing your book to iTunes you could easily export it to you Google Drive or Dropbox and get a shareable link from there. Here is the link to the direct download of the Fireworks book from my Google Drive.

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And if you don’t like to have the book upload to iTunes or as a download From Google Drive you could always export it as a movie and upload it to You Tube as I did here.

Easy Accents – Macrons- Google Doc Add On

A couple of days ago Chris Harte, who was in my group at the Google Academy last year, posted on Google Plus about an Add On to Google Docs ‘Easy Accents‘ that allowed writers to easily use accents when writing.

As I often do I emailed myself the link so I could look at it more when I had a moment.

This afternoon I had a moment.

Dan Baker had originally posted that he had updated the app but sadly the accents didn’t include Māori macrons, only French, German and Spanish. I took it upon myself to ask Daniel if there was a possibility of adding Māori. Dan lives in Missouri and the time zones must be compatible with a Sunday afternoon in New Zealand so there followed a quick flurry of emails and a shared Google doc and within the hour the job was done and being pushed out to Google servers globally.

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So now go to a Google Doc- ADD ONS- get add ons and look for ‘Easy Accents’ or click here directly to add it to Chrome.

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I have not been able to contribute much to Connected Educator Month because of other work commitments but I think that this is what being connected is all about.

I am so impressed with Daniel’s responsiveness I donated to help him along and encourage young developers like him.

Embedding You Tube Videos from an iPad

A friend who had got herself into a bit of a loop recently wanted to know how to embed an Explain Everything exported video into a Blogger blog and only use an iPad. I have found that if you just use Safari you can get caught in a loop of using the You Tube App and you can’t get to the embed code as you would be able to do easily on a laptop.

To make the original test video I used Explain Everything.

You will also need to have Chrome installed on your iPad.

To record the tutorial I mirrored my iPad onto my laptop using Reflector App.

To make the finger taps visible  on the iPad I used Mouseposé. Mouseposé is a Mac App so I tapped the Mac screen with one hand while tapping the iPad screen with the other hand at the same time to make it look like I was opening apps etc on the iPad. Any other ways of achieving the same affect would be much appreciated.

I also added this as a resource to Bling for Your Blog to make it easy to find. Hope people find it useful.

After making this tutorial and sharing Deon Scanlon from Australia suggested an even simpler way of embedding a You Tube video into Blogger that didn’t even need an embed code. It’s funny isn’t it. You always do what you’ve always done. I had used Deon’s method for photos but hadn’t noticed it for videos.

Adding Keyboards in iOS 8

This is cross posted from my Boys Writing Blog

Over the holidays I updated my iPad to iOS8 which allows for users to install new keyboards from app developers. I have had Swype on my 3G Android Camera for some time and liked it. I wondered how it would go with kids. Some liked it and some didn’t. I think if you are very much a struggling writer then tapping each letter as you go would be a better option but for those who have some writing skills under their belt Swping would be worth persisting with to get the hang of it.

Play the video in full screen to see what T is saying and Swyping to see how it is supporting his writing.

T doesn’t know how to spell through and spelt it as thought but when he spells operation as operasion the app leads him to the correct spelling and gives him close choices should his Swping be less than accurate.

I also liked the way that he pauses to think of the word in chunks to better help him break down the writing process- the video helps make the learning visible.

I notice that T is also pushing the space bar for spaces between words. The app knows where the spaces are as he takes his finger off the screen so he doesn’t necessarily need to do that.

The other keyboard that I think that would be good to install as a choice with be Lower Case Keyboard by our very own Matt Thomas.

Matt has made the lower case keyboard with the Open Dyslexic font so as to better support learners who find differentiating letters tricky.

Just a note though that there is a bit of an iOS bug at the moment and you need to turn off guided access before you can install the new keyboards. I am sure it will be ironed out before too long.

ULearn14 Mobile Day: Dice Activity

This year at ULearn Mobile Day Barbara Reid and I shared our learning around ‘Transforming Learning with an iPad’. We wanted to make the event as engaging and useful as we can, modelling self directed learning and collaboration amongst participants.

One of the ideas we had was to lead participants in combining apps on their iPads to create and share new learning artifacts. I had used the same idea at Newmarket School Teacher Only Day earlier in the year and it worked really well.

I thought I would share the share the process and resources here so that others could take that same idea and run with it themselves.

Firstly we chose six apps that were more about the collection of information: the camera, Safari web browser, taking screen grabs, Drawing Pad, AR Dinopark and Pattern Shapes. These apps also could pretty much be used for a variety of purposes, not limited to one curriculum area or level. We also tried to pick apps that had light versions so people would not feel obliged to buy apps before seeing their potential.

Then we chose six great creative apps: Book Creator, Pic Collage, Popplet, Puppet Pals, Show Me and Write About This NZ.

I took screen grabs of all the app icons and used the app Foldify to make a dice with all the apps on them. If you would like to use the nets yourself to replicate the  activity here are the links to PDFs for Dice Set One and Dice Set Two.

Foldify

 

I photocopied the PDFs from Foldify onto good quality photocopying card. Cutting and gluing the nets took quite some time but it is something you can do while multi-tasking.

All the dice

The idea then was that people rolled the two dice. You use what ever two apps roll together to create and share the artifact.

To support and encourage independence and discovery I had made short tutorial cards to support individuals who may not have been familiar with the app design and use. Copies of these are able to be downloaded here.

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Some of the participants chose to work on the activity outside of the table space we were allocated. I think next time I would encourage more people to move outside and use their environment more.

Dice in action

 People came back with some great creations showing their combinations of apps. We attempted to Flick the artifacts to the iPad on the main screen with less success than I would have liked. I think the wifi was a bit pushed by the size of the movies etc being Flicked around.

Dice Combination

When we do this again we would make a third dice that would extend the activity to include curriculum learning areas, so you might have to combine screen grabs with Popplet and create an artifact that supports learning in Mathematics.

Dot Day You Tube Slide Show

Yesterday was International Dot Day. I love Dot Days. Our last effort was using the iPads. I love the concept of schools all over the world being joined together through sharing children’s art work.

As we were learning how to use Google Drawings better I thought I would have my boys draw their dots in Drawings. I wanted to show them our effort from previous years but to my horror I found out Photopeach is now blocked at school because we have recently moved to using N4L (Network for Learning). I don’t know how to get the fabulous Photopeach Slideshow Maker unblocked so I could use it to show previous dots and share this year’s dots.

And with a bit of help from N4L Photopeach is now unblocked at school. I rang them on 0800LEARNING http://www.n4l.co.nz/contact/ and it was sorted lickety split.

So I had to find another way and You Tube isn’t blocked. You Tube Slideshow Creator! To get there just go to your YouTube Upload Page.

Upload_-_YouTube

Here is a video that shows you how to do it.

You upload your photos en masse, select a sound track and Boom. Job done. Slideshow on blog!

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CORE Education Modern Learning Channel Interviews

In cased you missed it Anaru White and I were recently recorded chatting about our use of Google Apps for Education in schools.

The series of three short podcasts are now live on the CORE website along with lots of other interesting conversations.

CORE Podcast

 

If you would like a direct link to the podcasts you can listen on Soundcloud.

 

Mawhera Taniwha- Google Drawings and Google Slides

Today we were learning how to make Google Drawings and layering them with transparent png images. We were going to ‘TOOLS- Research- Images- Free to use’ to find our images.

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We used ‘taniwha png’ as the search term so we would get images with transparent backgrounds.

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We found our background image and layered it and went to ARRANGE – send to back, to made sure it was at the back. Then we went and got the taniwha image and put it over top. The Taniwha of the Mawhera caves lives on!

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Then we took it a step further. We made an animation in Google Slides of the taniwha swimming up the river. The original image I used for the taniwha was black and it didn’t show up very well against the dark background so when I got home I imported it to Pixlr Editor (Chrome Web App) and changed the colour to white so it would show up.

Instructions for how to make transparent images and change the colour with Pixlr Editor are linked here.

To make the animation we made our first slide with the Taniwha on it, duplicated the slide and moved the taniwha image slightly, duplicated (Command + D or CTRL +D) and ever so slightly moved the taniwha again, repeating it. Then we just scrolled through the slides really fast and the taniwha swum up the river. Try it it’s lots of fun.

Kids will have a ball!!

You can also take it a step further by embedding the presentation into a blog or Google Site. All you have to do is publish it to the web and change the timings a little…..

Go to FILE- PUBLISH TO WEB and change the size to small and tick the box that says ‘Start slideshow as soon as the player loads’.

Take the embed code and copy it to where you want the presentation to load and change the timing. For where it says 3000 change it to something like 300. And publish.

So this way the animation will play without having to tap away to progress the slides.

Google Educator #alwayslearning

I have been busy lately learning and studying for the Google Educator Exams. The deal is that you have 90 days to sit four compulsory exams: Gmail, Google Calendar, Sites & Drive and a choice of either Chrome or Chromebooks. I chose Chrome.

Last Friday night I felt inspired and took the last exam and got a Google Educator Certificate to add to the portfolio!

Google Educator Logo

As Google is still rolling out the new Google Drive and the exams are more aimed at the old Drive I decided to not to move to the new interface until I had passed them all and got the certificate so I have only been playing around in the new Drive for a week.

I must say I am loving it but you get used to old ways of doing things and some things are in different places and they take a bit of getting used to.

Alice Keeler has been tweeting some good little tutorials that help with the new interface and I have listed some on my Google Site.

I was asked this week how to copy files in to multiple folders in the new Drive and it was a bit tricky to explain with screen grabs so I made a couple of screen recordings to show what Jon Keelty and Monika Kern were trying to tell me to do. Or at least this is what I thought they were trying to share with me!

The Drag and Drop Method!

The Move To Method!

Let’s Write About This

I can’t recall how I first came across the Write About This app but liked it immensely from the very start. The concepts behind this app grabbed me straight away and I could see the potential. How it works is this…

Children select a photo prompt that engages them from a good selection of categories or they could potentially take their own photo.

They are then prompted with a choice of three levels of questions of increasing complexity with an audio overlay in case reading independently is an issue.

They then write their stories and if they want to they can then read their stories aloud and export them as movies for publishing on the web. How motivating for learners!

The only problem with the app as it was when I first saw it was that many of the images were distinctly American- aircraft carriers, men in uniform, yellow school buses, grid iron football- and the voice over was in an American accent. And the spelling- all those favorites and colors!

I got in touch with Brad Wilson, the app developer, and asked about the possibility of making a kiwi version. He was keen so I enlisted the assistance of the Learning with Digital Technologies team for support. Monika Kern took me up on the offer and together we worked on identifying images that we needed to change and sourcing new ones with a distinctive kiwi flavour.

We did try to record the audio prompts ourselves but it was taking too long and we were unsure of the consistency so Brad organised a Kiwi voice over artist. And here we are now with the app being launched in the iTunes store. How awesome is that.

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I am chuffed that they used a photo I took on the way home from working in Blenheim earlier this year as a cover photo. The youngest member of the fire brigade team proudly stood by the truck to have his photo taken while the rest of the team were giving him cheek.

Here is a quick recording I made to show you a finished story. I would love to see what you and your students come up with.

You can also purchase Tell About This from the same team which focusses more on oral retelling.

Here is one we made with the Kiwi version of the app…..

Let’s Booktrack

If you were anywhere near Twitter over the weekend you would have seen the tweets in a tsunami like wave pouring from the #edchatnz conference held at Hobsonville Point in Auckland. I kept an eye on the Twitter #edchatnz hashtag stream while I was working and the learning session that particularly interested me was that by Craig Wilson sharing the features of Booktrack.

I have had Booktrack Classroom Reader as an iPad app for ages after seeing an interview on the television some years ago when the app first got publicity!

In a nutshell Booktrack layers an ambient soundtrack over a text so that you listen to it as you read and the soundtrack keeps track with the pace of your reading. I remember back to the first book I read – the Selfish Giant. In the book a door opens and I heard that sound of a door opening in the text at exactly the right moment. I was impressed that the sound track matched the reading experience.

I Googled it and found this segment from Seven Sharp more recently in March 2014.

Seven Sharp

I asked participants at the conference via Twitter if someone could Skype me into Craig’s session but no one was able to. Craig, however, picked up on my tweet and offered to show me more via Skype in the following week. This was a perfect solution to finding out more about Booktrack and fill in the gaps of my knowledge of its uses and features- from the expert and just in time for an advanced Google Apps workshop I am leading in a couple of weeks.

The first point to be aware of is the difference between Booktrack Classroom and Book Track Studio and the Booktrack mobile apps.

Booktrack Classroom is for education with a school sign up and the books are for general consumption and safe for students to read and view. A teacher creates an account- adds students who can log in with a password which the teacher can change. This is a fabulous feature as you can make your own version of Single Sign On and have fewer passwords to remember. Craig also suggested making a parent account so parents can log in to read the works that children in the class have made. Books created in Booktrack Classroom cannot be linked to or generally shared without a log in- a walled garden. You don’t have to have made a Booktrack account to read the bookshelf books.

With Booktrack Studio books can be shared via a URL and the content could potentially contain more open content. There is the ability to flag inappropriate material which is a another great feature.

The Booktrack Android and iPad apps are both readers only. If you want to create your own soundtrack you need to do so on a laptop or Chromebook.

As well as the web app I like that it is also a Chrome app linked to your Google Account. Here are the links to all the different ways you can access Booktrack. You can’t say they are limiting access!!

When you first open the app you can read books that others have written as exemplars and just plain engaging books to read. But the creative side of me loves that I can write my own text and create my own soundtrack and publish it to the bookshelf for others to read.

Here is a sample book, The Farmer, the Rooster and the Jewel, that I put together. The workflow that I used was to have a student write a narrative in Google Docs- proof read, get feedback and improve it. I then copied the text into Booktrack and highlighted the text where I want the sounds to be placed. I can then layer from a zillion music, ambient or sound affects to add to the text. When done I publish.

Booktrack Example

I like this process for students as you have to read, re-read and make knowledgeable choices about which sound track or effect best fits with the text. I like also that readers can rate the book and see how many reads they have had.

Booktrack were also able to supply some research that shows how reading with Booktrack promotes reading and improves readability of texts.

Here are few video tutorials of the creation process

Very motivating.

I extend a big thank you to Booktrack and Craig who so willingly and passionately shared the process with me so I can on share it with others.

Here is an example recorded in class.

You can embed your Booktracks into a blog as well. How cool is that.

Collaborative Device Resources

Over recent weeks I have been nurturing and curating a couple of Google Presentations that put together some tips and tricks for using a variety of BYOD devices.

Here they are below. Hope they are useful and please add your own resources to them.

Click here to edit the Chromebook Tips and Tricks Presentation.

Click here to edit Microsoft Surface Tablet Tips and Tricks Presentation

 

 

The Right Tool for the Job

Lynne Crowe recently posed a discussion question on the VLN Chromebook Book Group.

“We are just starting with some Chromebooks and wondered which one is the most popular/reliable in schools. We would appreciate any advice. Thanks.”

This led to a conversation around whether you would want more than one device in your classroom.

This got me wanting to further explain my mantra of late- “Use the right tool for the job”.

I liken it to using my kitchen knives. Would you want to limit the use of your kitchen cutlery to only using one kind of knife? And if you were only allowed one knife in your kitchen what kind would you choose to have to do every thing?

Imagine you were trying to cut a loaf of bread with vegetable knife! It would turn out badly with nothing close to the desired result.

If you wanted to carve a roast you wouldn’t choose a bread knife.

Even having something like a Swiss Army Knife with lots of knives built in doesn’t really do the cutting job you want done done properly.

Liken this scenario to your classroom devices. As you are probably aware I am a big fan of using iPads and Google Apps in the classroom but I avoid using ‘the Google’ for anything apart from searching on my iPad ‘cos it is all a bit too fiddly and you loose a lot of the functionality that you get when you are using Chrome on a laptop. I have the choice of devices and I know which one is the best for which task because I have had experience in using them all.

I really need a mixture of devices so I can learn what is the right tool according to our needs. I want Chromebooks for Google, iPads for portability and diversity, Mac Book Airs for power, iPod Touches for portability on the move.

I also want a rich mixture of traditional classroom resources- pens, felts, chalk, pencils, paint, paper, cardboard etc……

To find out what was best for my classroom I would heed more the advice of other teachers and practitioners about their experiences with devices rather than being swayed by the preferences of well meaning tech people who might be good with technology but have little idea of the complexity and challenges of classroom teaching. I get cross when I hear of tech support companies and commercial sellers advising schools of what they think would be the best solution for them. I would rather listen to the advice of someone without a vested interested in selling me something than a door-to-door snake knife salesperson.

I would visit other schools and learn of their experiences. I would join Twitter, attend Educamps and conferences like ULearn and learn from and with people who are on the same journey as me.

 

Ngā Mātāpuna o Ngā Pākihi

Today I am sharing some of my learning around using iPads to create learning artefacts and extending Google thinking at Ngā Mātāpuna o Ngā Pākihi Cluster Conference at Lincoln High School.

Cheryl Doig was keynoting and used the acronym of WYOD (Wear Your Own Device). I was thinking of smart watches and Google Glass.

Mary-Anne Mills followed with reference to me wearing my QR Code earrings. I hadn’t thought of them particularly as wearable technology but I suppose they really are!!!

Also here is the link to my iPad presentation that I am going to use. Hat tip to Fiona Grant for cleverly showing me how to link to the iPad Google Slides. New learning from #gafesummit.

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Connections, diversity, coherence: Three vignettes exploring learning with iPads in primary schools

After much deliberation and collaboration I am delighted to be able to share a research paper exploring learning with iPads written by Karen Melhuish, Tania Coutts, Tara Fagan and me!

The paper was published as a special iPad focussed edition by Otago University Centre for Distance Learning

The paper’s abstract follows…

In New Zealand, there are growing numbers of schools which are investing in iPad
deployment, ranging from schools who have made a strong commitment to iPads
through to those who have purchased a small number for student groups to use. Recent
studies have comprehensively reflected the kinds of affordances that iPads offer, such as
mobility, flexibility, ease of use, and range of applications. It is timely to begin to
consider the type of education that might be afforded by such technologies. Using three
future-focused themes—diversity, connectedness and coherence (Bolstad, Gilbert,
McDowall, Bull, Boyd, & Hipkins, 2012)—as lenses for analysis, this paper presents
three vignettes from junior classes that reflect the way iPads might afford deep,
personalised approaches to learning to support young people effectively as they move
through their school years. The analysis suggests that, where educators adopt a
learner-centred pedagogy as part of a whole school systematic vision for learning,
iPads can offer a powerful tool for engagement.

You can read the whole paper by clicking on this link.

There are quite a few other well researched papers in the edition that make them well worth a read. Click here to read more of the iPad research.

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Ask Before You Post

I regularly start conversations with people about how important digital literacy, cyber safety and understanding the nature of the web is for them to understand but I learnt a couple of good lessons myself this week.

They revolved around asking permission to use other people’s images and work and the other was about the length of time things stay on line.

I was sharing some of my learning around using iPads and numeracy at a school this week. I thought things had gone well and everyone was leaving when one of the teachers came to me as I was packing up and we got into a conversation around other resources of mine she had used and one in particular on taking good photos.

She astounded me really as I have not shared that stuff in ages and it was of the first things that I shared in any sort of public way quite a number of years ago.

Back in the days when digital cameras were new I had made a Powerpoint for my class on how to take good photos using the Rule of Thirds. I had used all my own family photos apart from a couple that I had ‘borrowed’ from the ICT facilitator of the time, Jocelyn MacKay. I don’t recall asking Jocelyn if I could use her images and I had no idea where she had got them from- I assumed from some anonymous internet source.

I hadn’t asked my family members either if I could use their photos cos I reckoned they were my family and wouldn’t mind but on reflection I should have asked them too! It was in the days before I worried about whose images I was using and whether I should ask first.

Anyway this teacher said she was surprised to be viewing a the Rule of Thirds Powerpoint I had shared and see a photo of her nephew at the age of about six. Her nephew is now twenty-five and living overseas. She was OK with it and didn’t mind but I was still embarrassed that it was there.

Everyone’s image on the internet is their own and I should always ask first before assuming it is OK to use other people’s stuff.

It is a lot harder to retrace your steps once the image has left the privacy of your camera.

I need to think more about these sorts of things and be more vigilant.

Chromebook Update Review

I bought myself a Samsung Chromebook for $450 inc GST in October because that’s what early adopters tend to do and I like trying and learning new things.

I wrote a Chromebook review on a borrowed device last year and I can thankfully say that the device is much improved- a different kettle of fish entirely from what I used last year.PicCollage

Here are some of my thoughts around using Chromebooks and Google Apps- appreciating the fact that I am Google Certified Teacher as well as a Blended eLearning Facilitator. My perspective on teaching and learning is flavoured by teaching mainly from year four to six so I can’t discuss how they might look in a secondary school situation.

  •  I think that they are a good, cheap device for doing the sorts of things that senior students often want to do- writing, collaborating, researching, connecting, recording, learning!  You have to have a Google account or create one on startup and some internet to get the device working.
  • It is really easy to use as a shared device as you log in to your Google Account you get all your services at your fingertips- just log out and pass on to the next person if needed.
  • The battery seems to last a good while and I love the ‘instant on’ feature- you lift the lid and the thing is on.
  • I like the decent sized keyboard that my fingers know where they are supposed to go unlike silly little netbooks where I was forever typing the wrong letters- it was driving my crazy!
  • It is lightweight so easy to carry around, backwards and forwards to school if needed as a personal device.
  • I really like that anything you do on it is never lost- with things going to Drive which autosaves you can never lose your work.
  • I think it is robust enough to take the knocks but I look after mine cos I paid for it with my own money- not sure how it would handle the rigours of being bashed around all the time- only time and a trial could tell that I suppose.  
  • I also like that there are never any updates to do or viruses to check for- all that sort of thing is done for you by launching Chrome which automatically checks for updates as it starts up.
  • Yes they are good at searching the web but so much more than that- with the use of Google Docs and potentially Hapara Teacher Dashboard to manage the use of docs, blogs, curriculum areas etc for teachers it can be a really powerful tool.
  • You can easily add other apps and extensions to Chrome to enhance and empower your experience. You get the basic tools like docs, presentations, spreadsheets, forms and drawings as standard but can add other powerful apps like We.video and Video.notes which can add even more functionality to the experience and if you add Chrome extensions as well you can do some quite amazing things.
  • I splashed out and bought a Chromecast as well. A Chromecast is a bit like an Apple TV in that you can wirelessly mirror your browser onto a data display. I had to order it through Amazon and YouPost and cost my $87NZ delivered to NZ. Here is a video that shows you how to set it up. I like that as well because as you mirror one tab you can do something else on a different tab! At the end of the year you could show your class a YouTube video in one tab and be writing your reports in another!!!!!
  • On first starting up the Chromebook I had to quickly learn to do some things in new ways…..

It is a different way of thinking though and it took me a bit of fiddling to do some of the things I do without thinking on my Mac Book Pro.  

My first hurdle was to remember my really strong Google password. I use OnePassword to store my passwords and it is a download on my Mac so I had to copy it from my iPhone app when I first opened up my Chromebook. After a quick tweet to OnePassward I was able to access the rest of my passwords because I have them synching in Dropbox

Talking of Dropbox you can’t of course have off line access but I was able to add the app and have it sitting on my bottom toolbar like in the photo collage above.

To take a screen grab I had to add an extension and then I had to figure out where the screengrab actually went when it was captured. I Googled it and found there actually was a FILES folder for things that you want to save for things like PDFs so I have that sitting on the bottom tool bar as well.

I couldn’t use Skype because that is a download so can use Google Hangouts instead. You just think to yourself how can I do this a different way!

My Chromebook is stand alone as it my own personal one but as a teacher I would want the management console so I could push out settings, websites and those sorts of things to the students but I am not sure that you would need to in a secondary setting- you would have to ask other Chromebook users for their opinions on that.

In saying all that I have only really used my Chromebook where I know there is good strong wifi or tethered it to my iPhone. I think that without that connectivity then it would be nothing more than a rather lightweight, funky looking brick!

There is a lot for me to learn yet as I explore and play but I’m underway.

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  • Here are my Google resources that you may like to have a look where I remember and share all things Google.

https://sites.google.com/site/ggwg2011/home

As an on-going keeping abreast of what is happening with Chromebooks you may like to join the Chromebook group on the VLN to ask questions and learn through other’s experiences.

http://www.vln.school.nz/groups/profile/826377/chromebookchrome-user-group

And here are my Chromebook on line bookmarks that I have saved as a resource.

https://www.diigo.com/user/allanahk/Chromebook

I store my bookmarks in Diigo which is an on line social bookmarks curating website. If you find the site not working at school it is probably because your filters are blocking it because it is social and you may have to look at my bookmarks at home!!!

I would be interesting to hear how you are getting on with your Chromebooks.

What advice can you share about how you are using them.

What questions do you want to ask?