Teacher’s iPad 2015

iPadWells iPadDuring this coming academic year, the iPad will celebrate it’s 5th birthday. I decided to take a look at my own iPad and what systems, apps and activities fill up my school day as an iPad teacher 5 years on. I’ve produced a breakdown of my home screen and realised it can be summarised in 5 points.

  1. Being relevant as a professional
  2. Being relevant to my students
  3. Collaboration with students
  4. Collaboration with teachers
  5. Production of Interactive material.

My teaching emphasises the fact that I’m still a learner and still creative. I overtly discuss this with my students every week and showcase my own productions amongst their various presentations. I also showcase my collaborations with other teachers and the fact that reflecting on my professional life on my blog is important to personal growth.

I’m very proud that creative writing, Music, Art, Media and Coding all have a presence in my iPad teaching. You’ll also notice that each of the major social websites are utilised for different reasons.

I hope it helps some teachers new to professional iPadding. For more information about how I use the apps, use the search facility on the blog.

i4S 2015 iPad

 

Why recommend the iPad for schools?

ocKids-iPadThis blog is nearly 2 years old and I thought it was time to revisit the reason for its existence. I am still teaching 11 to 18 year-olds everyday in BYOD classrooms (not iPad only) and can claim a significant experience in the various pros and cons of all types and brands of devices. When I’m considering which students are supported the most in their learning by their device, I still conclude the iPad and its eco-system is my recommendation for handling the full breadth of activities and opportunities undertaken in 21st century schools.

I do appreciate that during the last 4 and a half years it has become fashionable in education to proclaim “the device doesn’t matter” but each week I experience a at least one moment where it does.

10 Reasons why I still recommend iPad

Issues 1 – 5  – Tablet format over Laptop

  1. Filming
    filming-iPadThe first one is easy and takes into account that an individual learner’s ability to film and edit, either to learn or reflect on learning is such a important tool these days that the device must be able to be used as such. Young people live their lives through instant access and ability to take photos and videos on the move. This is where my students on laptops and Chromebooks are left stranded at their desk. Photo Credit
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  2. Active learning
    outsideIt’s not only the resulting photos and films that come from tablet devices but that the learners can be on the move so easily during the process of learning. This extra flexibility that the tablet format offers my students allows them to move from inside to outside as they need, often on the spur of the moment . My students work outside for both the sake of the project requirements and/or that of just comfort. It’s often highlighted that if a learner’s not comfortable, they wont learn.  Photo Credit
    .
  3. Touch
    drum machineWho said you can’t teach both programming and digital citizenship with drum machines? I do. Be it a sliding control, a drum pad or an paint effect, the learning opportunities that touch offers far outweigh any outdated argument that young people can’t comfortably type vast amounts of text by tapping the screen. After all, they tap 30,000 words per year into Facebook alone, mostly on the phone! Touch offers a much more connected, real & enjoyable experience during activities. It often removes from the mind the fact that tech is even involved in the process.
    .
  4. Tilt & Flexibility
    spiritThe iPads ability to physically replicate so many tools in the hand, such as a spirit level, microphone, test tube, moving paint, bouncing ball and any number of physics experiments, never mind the wow factor of green screening on the move also means the laptop student is left to imagine and not experiencewhat physical effect one thing might have on another.
    .
  5. Augmented Reality (AR)
    iPad-ARAR is already becoming a major feature in education and iPads have made a great start with a a number of great apps and systems like Aurasma and Layar. To make the most of these systems and also create your own, you need a device that can be held on the move. This has become a major part of my arguments for iPads over laptops. Photo Credit
    .

Issues 6 – 10 – iOS, Apps, eco-system  & learning opportunities

  1. Technology for all.
    6228914346_a84141e62d_qApple has always maintained the same philosophy. “We want you to be you, whilst we worry about the tech.” You may have read my many posts on kids’ programming and think I’m one of those extra-techie types but I have a strong argument for the fact that most people are ‘normal’ and not interested in how it all works. They want to get on being the artist, author or scientist they’d like to be. I have found my non-iPadding students having to do far too much research into if an equivalent app is available or which plugin they require to carry out a task. This slows down to learning process, causes frustration and has many of my students leaving their device in their bag and pairing up with an iPadder. Yes, Apple’s walled garden of a system frustrates geek types, but for the huge majority it means immediate productivity. Photo Credit
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  2. Advanced App store with education focus
    app store edThe average teacher and student needs as much support as can be made available when introducing or keeping up-to-date with using their devices to learn. Apple has always led the way with providing this support for education, highlighted by their organised, categorised educational app store. iTunesU has also become a major educational system for many schools and allows for the easy management of content whilst developing student driven programmes. iPads have the advantage of being the primary educational choice and in-turn have the educational app developers investing more time and money into serving schools on iOS.
    .
  3. Kid friendly code learning
    hopscotch screenYou may already know me as a supporter for kids learning to code. There is an international push to have all students learning this craft that forms such a central part of everyone’s lives these days. You can code on both Android and Windows 8 but only in it’s full advanced code form. If elementary / primary school kids want to learn how computers think and how code works, the iPad is still the only tablet offering apps, such as Hopscotch to learn how code works and has many on offer.
    .
  4. Teachers supporting teachers support Students supporting students.
    ipad-helpUnfortunately for the other companies, most teachers I’ve met and know have an iPad (except the really geeky ones). When it comes to professional development, teachers prefer to receive ideas and recommendations from other teachers. This has led to a much stronger knowledge base in how to get things done on iPads than that of other devices. In Education websites, blogs and in professional social-media chats, the dialogue around tablet use will be centred on what’s available for iPad and someone venturing out on this road will find the transition far more easy if holding an iOS device. Photo credit
    .
  5. Technical Management for Schools
    iphone_configuration_utilityNot my favourite topic, but for elementary / primary schools, non-BYOD and any school wanting more control over devices, apps and multi-seat licensing, Apple has now produced a suite of management tools that make this easy. I wont go into too much detail but check out the MDM and iOS8 pages for more info. The competition is far behind in this area, especially in offering educational multi-seat licensing for those apps you want every student to have.

 

Extra thought – Google Account is a must.

I thought I’d just add that in addition to the iPad, I do still recommend a Google account. The cloud-based document sharing eco-system that Google provide, along with Youtube makes it a must for handling the bulk of traditional documentation, whilst adding the sharing and collaboration tools. The Youtube is also a must of offloading the iPad video content. It’s just a shame that Google went with the business model when designing their Chromebook device, meaning people would require a 2nd camera device to carryout truly active 21st Century education.

 ocKids2-ipad

Conclusion

I write this from years of personal experience and yes, I know that there will be thousands out there who know one of the other systems inside out and will argue that it’s just as easy and flexible on the other platforms. My experiences tell me that the key difference is the amount of technical information required to setup quickly to learn on the other platforms. This takes time that many teachers & students are not willing to invest.

One issue I’ve noticed is that where elementary / primary schools are more likely to be flexible, innovative learning environments, as students enter high school, teachers, concerned with what seems like a long list of content to get through, are more likely to be demanding lengthy written work after hours of lectures. This drives them away from considering the iPad as the appropriate device. I would ask those teachers to take a real look at how the world and especially the young people in their classroom go about their lives. Look at how collaborative, active & flexible we all are these days and consider how your content could be accessed and processed rather than delivered and simple duplicated by the students.

For me, the iPad is still the device to get. It’s not just about business tools and apps, it’s about learning and this is still the are where Apple leads in tech. Education needs it easy and the iPad just works!

 

 

 

 

 

The Myth of Device fatigue

6660040845_df16b08be8_mMy wife came home the other day and started describing a new problem arising in her school, where students were claiming to be tired of using devices for everything. The students were apparently saying “Can’t we just do a lesson on paper today or you just teach us.” As she told me this, my wife didn’t notice that she was simultaneously picking up her iPad to check Facebook and that made me think.

Photo Credit

In my observations around my school, it’s those same students claiming device fatigue in the classroom that are not hesitating to turn to their device for ‘life updates’ as they leave that very same room. I would propose that it’s not fatigue caused by device use but that caused by the pain of trying to carry out conventional, 20th century classroom tasks on devices that are designed for a world that conducts itself very differently.

20BD (Before devices)

When I was a student and my teachers were handing out the standardised task to every student, I too remember asking, “please sir, can we do something different today?” I wasn’t asking that we not do something on paper, I understood that in those days paper was always going to be the prefered option, but that the challenge was different and looking back, any task that had me working with my peers was always more engaging but a rare occurrence.

Some classrooms don’t suffer

6660083573_140106428b_mI have evidence from my current workplace that two teachers teaching the same subject will share very opposite quotes from students on this topic. Whilst one shared with me that the students were tired of devices, the other shared that students were asking how the subject was ever interesting before devices. What makes the difference?

Photo Credit

Device fatigue would mean life fatigue

Touch screen devices of all shapes and sizes have become a part of our existence and the way we now conduct our lives is partly shaped by them. Why should education be separate from this. To focus on the positives, the combination of mobile device and social media has made young people experts in:

  • Sharing ideas and discoveries
  • Debating those ideas
  • Communicating in groups
  • Organising events and resources
  • Working on the move.

14183121963_78c1c34ffe_mSchools and teachers need to embrace this and design learning around these strengths rather than fight against them. They need to look at how the world now operates and not attempt to rein-in these developments as bad things and attempt to shape educational activities with outdated moulds. The world is moving on and learning has to do likewise.

Photo Credit

Many classrooms still use numerous approaches which do not reflect the practices the creative industries, businesses, universities or even individual professionals expect to see in their new recruits and don’t do much to prepare young people for the rapidly changing reality of life after school.

5 tips for avoiding claims of Device fatigue:

  1. Keep the learning Active. Ensure that at least part of the task involves moving around.
  2. Keep it Social. Kids must discuss their learning as it happens. Only through reflection will true learning take place. 
  3. Keep it flexible. Don’t prescribe the app they must use. Lay out your expectations but allow for individual expression.
  4. Keep demanding. Have high expectations and be clear about the depth of evidence required.
  5. Make it personal. Ensure the task allows the kids to personalise the result. Have them link topics to their own experiences.

Final Thought.

The western world is no longer paper-based, factory-based or slow-moving. please ensure your classroom reflects this.

 

Analyzing iPad Myths in Education

iPad MythsAre you still trying to fight for iPads in your school?

Many obstacles that iPad cynics attempt to put in place when discussing a roll-out are based on untruths, poorly research and/or out-of-date information. I was delighted when my Canadian Twitter friend and fellow iPad blogger, Steve Lai decided to join forces, as we’ve done before, to combat this dis-information that floats around the education profession worldwide.

This Post explains how to argue a Case for iPads in the Classroom.

A collaboration between iPad Educators:

Steve Lai (@sly111, Canada) and
Richard Wells (@ipadwells, New Zealand)

Preamble: This article is to support iPads in teaching. However, it is not to devalue the benefits of a great teacher. The execution of iPads in class is only going to go as far as the passions and mindset of the teacher allows it to. In other words, the iPad will never replace quality teaching.

MYTHS vs. TRUTHS ???

  • Who needs an iPad? My laptop can do everything I need in class.

    • Steve: “While it is true that the iPad cannot run programs like Photoshop, laptops can’t be used as cameras or while standing. A modern, active learning environment can be hindered in options by laptops. However, the large majority of common daily tasks (web browsing/word processing/email) can easily be achieved with the iPad. If you don’t need to perform high-end projects, you might find it possible to rely solely on an iPad. However, most of us will still need the performance of a PC some time or another.”lap-ipad
      .
    • Richard: ” The camera is the new pen. People of all ages have started using photos and video to do many tasks they used to do with pens, such as: photographing signs, posters, & whiteboards instead of taking notes. Taking selfies instead of writing postcards; making & editing video instead of writing essays. Laptops can not be used as cameras and so will find their usefulness in general education decrease over the next decade.”

      filming.

 

  • Teachers will no longer be teaching, students will just be playing

    • gamingSteve: “On the contrary, teachers will both be learning on the go and teaching what they learn. Professional development is paramount in keeping up with the latest trends in teaching, and that is no different when it comes to technology. While there can be review “games” students do on the iPad, they must have an appropriate reason to be utilized in the class. Most students will undoubtedly play plenty of games at home on their own time; they are not meant to be played in class. Instead, the successful iPad teacher is free to work with students one-to-one on the tasks after lesson delivery, and will facilitate the learning much more carefully, negating the need for the students to just ‘play’.”

      .
    • Richard: “The 21st Century has given the young person tools and services that offer a power to drive one’s own learning. Teachers nowadays need to consider their role and how much they are developing young people to either rely on them for each step or achieve a deeper learning from discovery, experimentation, collaboration and reflection. I try to design programmes that ensure students are not asking “what do I do next’ or ‘can you tell me how to do this’”
      .
  • iPads cannot play Flash
    • flashSteve: “In truth, there actually are apps that allow Flash to be played on an iPad, but the real question is why are certain people making this “issue” their argument against iPads? This may have been a strong argument back in 2010-2011, but these days, websites have adapted to suit the iPad. I rarely encounter websites that require Flash, and when I do, I just move on to a more updated one. HTML5, which plays just fine on iPads,  has more or less replaced Flash in the modern Internet, and is a very suitable alternative.”
      .
    • Richard: “Most computing & business these days is mobile & personalised. Adobe themselves have stopped developing Flash for all mobile devices to focus on HTML5. It is important to future proof your courses and reliance on Flashis risky. More importantly, it should be the students who are offered the freedom to experience learning in a more personal way. My students often show me newer tools, sites and apps that do the same job better.”
  • Students interaction will decrease; they will rarely communicate effectively with each other.
    • class ipadSteve: ” In groups of two or three, students have shown tremendous ability to work together on iPad projects. In my experiences, they have no qualms about sharing the actual iPad use, and, in fact, teach one another very successfully. Even in a one-to-one setting, students are willing to help each other when needed. When projects are completed, they are very excited to share them with the rest of their classes.”
      .
    • Richard: “Active learning increases the need for teamwork. The iPad offers opportunity for student driven learning and thus increases the amount of communication between peers as they create material and connect to learning outside the classroom too.”
  • There is no USB connection on an iPad: How do I save and import my files?
    • usb ipad Steve: “USB drives came in very handy a few years ago. They replaced the disk, and could fit much more storage. Students would hand in their assignments via USB. It was, needless to say, tedious to keep track of all of them! Nowadays, Cloud storage of files replaces USB drives. Using Google Drive, saves are instantly made, so students don’t need to worry about using (and losing) their USB keys. Another cloud storage solution that have become very popular is Dropbox. In fact, most productivity apps will already have Dropbox integration. With online storage, you never need to worry about losing that USB key. Need to transfer a file from one device to another? AirDrop is also a relatively new and easy way to do so.”
      Further reading:
      Dropbox for Dummies – Why you shouldn’t need your USB again
      AirDrop: iOS 7’s most important new feature for teachers
      .
  • You can’t easily print with an iPad
    • print ipadSteve: “Almost all new printers have wireless (Airprint and WiFi) printing. Most printers are affordable, some costing as little as $30. No, your laserjet printer from 2005 won’t be able to print off your iPad, but the next printer that you (or your school) purchase(s) will. Having said this, printing has become less of a necessity, as intelligent educators would rather have electronic copies instead of piles of paper.”
      .
    • Richard “There are many free tools and services that allow students to publish their digital work online. Thousands of schools are asking students to blog their school work and reflections. This publishing is important for a number a reasons and can negate the need to print. Teachers, parents and peers can comment on the work and I have my students offering praise and assistance. This more personal approach to feedback can also increase engagement. Paper still has an important role to play in education for a number of creative reasons but the one of them is not to duplicate the work from an iPad.”
  • Apps are expensive!
    • ipad costSteve: “Apps cost a fraction of what we used to pay for computer software. We understand that teachers don’t particularly like to spend their own money on apps since they do purchase a lot for their classrooms already. However, with proper research through online networking and word of mouth, teachers can purchase only the apps that are deem worthwhile. Most apps will cost less than your average latte at Starbucks. Before purchasing, say, a $10 app, talk to people who have used it, or read several reviews of that app in the App Store.”
      .
    • Richard: “All the essentials for a modern learning environment can be found for free. Students can film, edit, draw, write, publish, record, and share for free. Let the students do the work of discovering the best free tools and make that an important part of their learning – they’ll need it for the rest of their life!” 
  • The iPad is only a consumption device.
    • Steve: “While the common use for the public for iPads is definitely for consumption purposes, there is an ever-increasing amount of creation-type apps for iPad. The possibilities are literally endless using apps such as Garageband, iMovie, Sock Puppets and Explain Everything.  It is amazing to see students use their imagination to create projects beyond our expectations. The large majority of iPad owners will use their devices almost solely for consumption, but with proper professional development and encouragement, educators can unleash a sky’s-the-limit approach to what can be created with the iPad.”
      .
    • Richard: “Adults are often happy just consuming information but young people soon get bored. From Minecraft to Green-Screen filming, my students much prefer making things to express what they’ve understood from the teacher, research and each other.”
      Further Reading:
      Creation vs. Consumption: Which iPad user are you?
      Content Creation Apps

 

  • “iPads will be perfect for note-taking whilst I deliver my teaching”
    • Learning is not something that gets delivered. iPads, particularly in a 1-to-1 environment, allow a teacher to work with the students whilst they create their own approach to learning content and skills for life.
  •  “There’s no Microsoft Office on there, so why would I bother?
    • Steve: “Well, actually, yes there is, as of March 2014. The caveat is that you need a Microsoft 365 subscription to be able to edit documents. Some schools may offer their teachers subscriptions, while other teachers will need to decide whether or not the $99 annual fee is worth it. If they are already current 365 subscribers for their PCs at home, then using Office on the iPad will not cost anything extra. There are also apps of MS Office “suites” that you can edit all your MS Office files, such as Quickoffice and Polaris Office. Finally, Apple’s own iWork suite is now free for all new devices, and is a viable and more affordable alternative.”
  • iPads are too complicated to use with elementary age students
    • imovSteve: “Right: Grade 4 students created this green screen movie:
      My students are a prime example of how the above statement is not true. I teach students in an elementary school with a set of 16 iPads, and I have been impressed at the work that has been done with them. With proper instruction, students are eager to not only master the basics of what is taught, but also to go ahead and strive to exceed teachers’ expectations. This could be from the fact that the large majority of my students will have at least one iPad in the family already. But with the intuitiveness of age-appropriate apps, most students do not have difficulty with doing at least what is expected of them.”
    • Richard: “Adults often think some apps are not intuitive because they approach all new adventures with a lot of hesitation and fear of ‘getting it wrong’. Kids don;t suffer this hesitation and learn apps amongst themselves very quickly and are always willing to share their experience with other. Classes of any age students soon sort themselves out.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far then thanks for reading all our information and I hope it helps. In my experience, the central theme to any negative viewpoint on iPads is a lack of awareness of:

  1. Young people’s habits and practices since the birth of devices & social media
  2. 21st century priorities and that IT has become integrated in all life and not a separate school subject
  3. 90% of people don’t want a technical relationship with the device and want the simplicity that so many school technicians realise would remove much of their workload.

I would hope most schools and teachers have moved beyond fighting these myths but I know it’s not the case.  It’s worth noting that I work in  a BYOD school using all devices and can report that the teachers, students & technicians agree in our daily comparisons, iPads do just work more often and with more ease that all the others. They are also capable of achieving 100% of most students educational needs.

Thanks Steve for another fun collaboration and for all your work on the theme & images etc.

 

 

Photo 1: Creative Commons

Why App Smash?

i4S - APPSMASHING.001

Inspired by the last #1to1iPadChat , I thought it was time to post on the world craze that is App Smashing. The term App Smash was coined by the great Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) from EdTech Teacher fame. It is a hot topic in EdTech and obviously has its own Hashtag – #AppSmash.

What is an App Smash?

Content created in one app transferred to and enhanced by a second app and sometimes third. Preferably the final product is then published to the web – remember, digital presence is the new résumé (CV).

Reasons to App Smash:

  1. It demands creative thinking
  2. It demands more from the technology (value for money)
  3. It turns the issue of not having a ‘wonder app’ into a positive
  4. It removes any restrictions to take a topic as far as it can be taken.
  5. It often results in more engaging learning products
  6. It’s a fun challenge for ‘digital natives’

Key rules for successful App Smashing:

  1. Use the Camera Roll as your main conduit between apps
  2. Leave the app choice to the students
  3. Have a list of apps capable of smashing content together (See below)

Key Apps when App Smashing:

i4S - APPSMASHING.005

 

Examples I’ve used:

SMASH 1:

Comics Head + Explain Everything + Youtube = Thinglink
This creates an online interactive poster that launches extra content using hotspots.

i4S - APPSMASHING.002

 

SMASH 2:

Garageband + Soundcloud + iTunes = Student radio show
Give your students a voice and experience great digital citizenship with running a radio show.

i4S - APPSMASHING.003

 

SMASH 3:

Camera or iMovie or iMotionHD + Pages or Pic Collage = Aurasma Posters
Make video creations more accessible to other students using Aurasma posters that come to life on the classroom wall !

i4S - APPSMASHING.004

For more examples check out Greg’s excellent presentation from last year’s EdTechTeacher Summit.

Watch me here chatting about App Smashing

I had the amazing privilege of being the first guest on Courtney Pepe’s show “The App Smashing Chronicles”. It was a great chat full of ideas.

Final thought

The challenge of app smashing keeps students on their toes and can increase collaboration between them. It adds a layer of creative problem-solving and also can lead to competition around out-smashing each other. The key when encouraging App Smashing is to make very clear the assessment criteria and ensure the students know that the final products will be judged on their effectiveness to prove their level of understanding and not just in their technical wizardry.

Keep an eye on Twitter using the Hashtag #AppSmash for other ideas and apps too.

Other links:

http://www.edudemic.com/app-smashing-education/

http://edtechteacher.org/blog/?p=2191

Why & How to Green Screen in class

Green ScreenThis is my new must-have for all classrooms!

Finding interesting ways to evaluate, reflect and report on work and projects can be tricky. Many students struggle to engage with the reflection properly as it is often a dry, unentertaining end to any unit or project. But that’s where the Green Screen App can help. (How-to help sheet below)

Remember:
People don’t learn from experience.
People learn when reflecting on experience.
People learn more when they can witness their own reflection.

 

It’s not all about being Superman!

Hopscotch Green Screen reportBeing able to place moving images as well as still behind the student reporter / reflector makes the report far more engaging for the viewer. Any student work or objects can be filmed from all angles and got up-close to to show details. This footage will display large in the final product in a way that is not achievable in most other formats.

Making tiny reference points on your green screen (cloth) can also allow students to point at specific things behind them.

The possibilities are endless and can be used by any subject at any grade.

Ideas:

  1. Use the camera to simply record a computer screen playing a Youtube clip. Then interview the student about the clip.
  2. History footage is discussed
  3. The aims or process behind Art work is explained
  4. Students can analyse their own pre-filmed sporting performance
  5. Book reports can now include large shots of the illustrations
  6. 3D objects can now be walked around whilst they’re talked about
  7. School tour videos can include someone welcoming you to the school as the camera roams the site.
  8. Worlds built in Minecraft can now be toured with a tour guide pointing out features
  9. Still images can be used whilst a student narrates their own story.
    etc. etc.

Students who don’t necessarily write well or in-depth enough can be interviewed about their work, where teachers will often get more from them as they can tailor the questioning as details come up in the background.

Green Screen clothGreen Screen setup

The Green Screen app is made by DK Pictures (@DoInkTweets). It’s US$2.99 (NZ$3.79) and is a tiny price to pay as you only need green material on-top of the app purchase. Although the app allows you to select any colour, Green works best as it does’t interfere with skin tones. So far, I’ve only worried about having the app on my iPad and can record a whole class worth of reflections in one lesson.

 

HOW TO GUIDE

Here’s my how-to on producing the basic report with either still image or video backdrops.

Green Screen Helpsheets

 

Happy times.

Have fun reporting, interviewing and showcasing the best of the students output and projects.I run a technology department where our tech products from apps to robots to food can now be showcased in detail and given a face to regarding its creator. Evaluation is now fun for all.

 

 

The Power of Comics

Comic Heads10Comic apps are an important addition to any student’s learning armoury and I know that many classrooms are already engaged with them but I wanted to:

  1. study the various uses for them in general education and
  2. focus on a specific example app that takes things a little further than the others.

Alongside the obvious use in creative narrative writing, the comic format can be utilised by many areas of study. Anything we do in life can be seen as a narrative and the comic is a great way to both summarise and reflect on any experience.

Why do they work with kids?

It is tempting to think that whether you like it or not, a combination of the internet, TV, Computer games and mobile devices has made the current young people heavily rely on visual presentation and images in general. But this is not a new phenomenon. As Mr SAMR has highlighted, humans have always found the most success and progress when tools allowed for visual representation and story telling. They have also always had a desire and practical need for using visuals before text.

graphic novels

Only for young kids? … No.

If you haven’t noticed, graphic novels have hit the mainstream and are being discussed as having considerable positive effects on teenage engagement and ability in reading. This is also feeding onto them reading standard novels in greater numbers too. Here’s a nice panel discussion of that very topic:

Just for English and creative writing class? … No.

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve discussed with teachers in schools:

Students enjoy using the comic format for :

  1. Recording science experiments with photos and reflecting on processes within each comic frame;
  2. Storyboarding media studies projects from short films;
  3. Recording the process and decision-making during project-based-learning;
  4. Explaining Historical events with the thoughts of key characters as they took place;
  5. Recording the design process behind product, fabric, and food productions;
  6. A good way for teachers to move away from front-of-class presentation and have the students engage with content individually.

Taking it to the next level. Which app?

comics headI thought I’d mention one app as it works well with all ages and especially caters for the older kids looking at producing more professional graphic novel level material.

The app I like the most is Comics Head. It is the Explain Everything of comic apps. It has every option imaginable, whilst being easy to use and publish with.

You can:

  • Choose between blank layouts and completed templates
  • Add images from any source or draw from scratch
  • Move and rotate anything instantly
  • Choose from a massive library of characters and objects.
  • Full suite of editing tools.
  • Crop to various shapes
  • Save comics as templates for others;
  • Share to Social media and save directly to Google Drive;
  • Fine tune and refine elements to professional standard

comic2.001 comic2.002

For the students who get serious about comics or to give every option needed when recording/teaching a process or event, Comics Head is great fun to use and hasn’t the restrictions of other comic apps.

Many teachers would benefit from opening up to the use of comics as a format that definitely engages students in dealing with any kind of content.

Happy story telling!

SAMR + Design Masterclass

Happy enough…

I’ve always been happy that I could visualise ideas for others and have had fantastic feedback from my readers, particularly in that area. Thanks readers! But…

Back to the drawing board

I also know when I’ve been outclassed by a talent on all levels. Below is a ThingLink poster that itself contains interactive elements to fill anyone with a complete understanding of the SAMR model for integrating Technology in the classroom. The fantastic Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U) has combined knowledge, resources, (one of them’s even mine), and a flare for design to produce a toolkit for educators to start understanding where to go with technology integration.

This has inspired me to up my game further and definitely start using ThingLink properly!
I’m also jealous that her site looks so slick too.

The WordPress rules are blocking the interactive bits so checkout the ORIGINAL:

Here is the excellent design work that embeds on any site with the link in the top corner. Thanks Lisa!

SAMR success is NOT about Tech

Quick refresh

If you aren’t aware of the S.A.M.R. model (devised by Ruben R. Puentedura – @rubenrp) then in simple form it explains the common journey teachers go through when introducing technology. It’s popular for introducing iPads in schools. More info here.

Quick version:
Substitution: Do old paper task on device
Augmentation: Do old paper task digitally but now using an extra app feature
Modification: Students benefit from the versatility and combine new digital tools for new outcomes
Redefinition: Students are collaborating and learning in ways previously not imagined

Slow Progress

Even in my school, the speed at which the staff as a whole move through the SAMR model from substituting tasks for their digital equivalent to redefining how they help students learn is slow, sometimes seeming to stall completely. My school is good at providing professional development but after 4 years the conversations by tech leaders contain the same frustrations.

i4S SAMR Mindset

New Focus

I was thinking today that I had to make it clear that competency with technology is not the first issue you should worry about if you want to make SAMR progress. The issue to tackle first is the teaching conventions and mindsets amongst the staff, and for this you need some pretty simple and effective arguments.

So here are some I’ve used to move staff on a little:

1. Question the effectiveness of “Teaching/lecturing”

The aim of lecturing is that all leave the room with identical understanding. All teachers, secretly or not, know this has never been true but you are guaranteed to have to repeat information to the “bad listeners” and simultaneously waste the time of the “top” students who already know the material. Students listen at different levels and understand at different levels, something quietly ignored by many teachers.

2. What’s your strategy to ensure your students can cope & learn without a teacher?

Many teachers who moan about students’ inability to “think” are often expecting them to arrive at the same conclusion as themselves and thus attempt to painstakingly guide them to that very same point. This teaches kids to rely on well-rehersed guidance and not seek their own understandings. Employers and universities then complain that too many applicants seem to lack independence and drive to solve their own problems.

3. Can you tell me your course content is more important than other courses?

No matter what exists or is important in 10 years (the world seems to be changing quickly for some), students are guaranteed to need independence, willingness to help, imagination, teamwork, digital skills for staying connected, problem solving strategies and confidence. I believe that any course content is only a tool to achieving these far more overarching skills and mindsets. If students develop these, any content or learning becomes more enjoyable and thus seems more manageable and they will connect with what is appropriate at the time.

4. If you deliver your course, they’ll only ever check the mailbox to learn something.

Be less definite & ambiguous with your questioning. This makes it harder but kids are resilient and allowed freedom in how they tackle problems independently or in teams will develop the skills that so many feel school fails to encourage, and in some cases kills.

Learning the tech side of things comes quickly when teachers can see a reason for doing so. This is achieved when old habits are shown to be less effective in the modern context and that change is a must and not an option. Keep your teaching colleagues questioning their own habits and connecting with each other to collaboratively design active, student-centered learning spaces.

iPad teaching is NOT about iPads

Priority no.1 ? 

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I’ve covered technical and workflow ideas on this blog a lot but it’s time to properly summarise a teacher’s first priority when the kids have iPads. Now here is where I have an issue with terminology…

Maybe not an issue of “Pedagogy” (As many know it)

Until a few years ago, I would have used the word pedagogy in this post but this now has the wrong connotations for me as it is linked more strongly to ‘teaching’ and not ‘learning’. To many I’ve worked with, the word pedagogy still implies “the way in which I deliver the content to the students”

The tiers collapse

The one-way ‘dumping’ of teacher knowledge into students has never inspired and is just not the way the world operates anymore. Traditional hierarchies of age, resource ownership and societal prejudice are being eroded and we need new generations to be adapting and not waiting for information from the tier above.

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What really matters?

In numerous surveys and studies, employers and universities say they desire the following qualities, which many of them say often seem quite absent in young people:

  1. Creative thinking
  2. Independence / self-drive
  3. Teamwork
  4. Problem solving strategies
  5. Confidence to try new things

These are all skills and traits that are not evident in many school leavers either because they were never given the opportunity to develop them or that they existed in elementary school but the classroom routines lacked a need for them and they were lost over time.

Try, fail and develop

Many teachers need to try something that I will admit is scary to think about. Namely, handing over the control of the classroom to the kids! All young people need to experience the pressure & excitement of sorting themselves out, especially within a team. The iPads add a further layer of possibilities and individual power for discovery and presentation and teachers will always be surprised by the quality of student output as long as some freedom is offered in what a team focuses on within a topic and how they demonstrate their findings.

They will fail some of the time but as far as what matters is concerned, these moments become the most important learning opportunities. Developing keen learners who see failure as opportunity must be our first target. This requires freedom and support from the teacher.

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Let the kids decide

I have an apps page and make a point of talking about my list’s theme of general purpose and it not being content specific. But it should be the kids who make this decision. There are many apps that my students are excellent on that produce fantastic output in a format I’d never imagine but of course their peers respond to much more genuinely.

Also, in a major meta-data study by John Hattie, the number one driver in student performance was self-reported grades / expectations. (See Info-graphic – the full version can be found with a google search)

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What I often do now…

  • Divide my topics into important sub topics
  • Get the kids into groups (3s works best for me but 4 if I have to)
  • Pose a ‘driving question’ to the class that doesn’t have a specific ‘correct answer’ E.g. “Should everyone contribute to the web?”
  • Offer supportive questions to spark the groups conversations and give them areas to look at.
  • Get the groups into the habit of recording their discussions and discoveries in their favourite format. (Some group message, some audio record, some mind-map)
  • Have a shared class “success matrix” for every group to add to which outlines what would make a successful group product in general when covering the topic, answering the questions plus also product quality.
  • Challenge them to “AppSmash” their learning as a way of sharing with the class. “App-Smashing” is where content created in one app is used in a 2nd app. This forces a little more creative thinking in how to present their learning.
  • Most of the time we then upload, share & comment on other groups’ creations.

Time consuming ?

My time is now spent crafting better and better questions for my class to deal with in ways that suit them best and give them a genuine experience of crafting their own learning and enjoying the process. If we continue to push the idea that you need a teacher to learn then we’ll maintain the same small percentage that develop a real passion for learning right through high school and beyond.

The iPad Effect.

It’s the iPad’s versatility, portability, camera, app selection and user-friendliness that keeps it ahead of the others for education but it’s the approach taken by the teacher to learning within the classroom that realises these benefits, not the iPad alone. Worry first about what you are asking of your students and how much they are reliant on the teacher.