Kids must code on iPads

hopscotch flappy

An important 21st Century skill

This post is about a topic and app close to my heart. Computer programming is the engine of modern life and dream maker for tens of thousands. More and more countries are introducing the subject as compulsory schooling at surprisingly young ages. The UK is introducing a national school programme in september this year whilst also funding yearofcode.org to increase momentum. Code.org is pushing an international message with big-name endorsement. Even small countries like Estonia have their 5-year-olds taking their first steps into logical problem solving. A site I’ve used for years is codecademy.com

estonia codeWhat learning to code offers young people.

Even I was surprised at how much my students have enjoyed their first experience of coding this year. In a number of ways, coding offers a ideal learning experience. Students receive immediate feedback from any attempt and can see the results of their endeavours without the need for teacher feedback. If the challenge is set at the appropriate level, coding automatically becomes a perfect example of gameification. It naturally encourages students to ask “what can I do next?”

code club ukAccessible to anyone 

Coding is problem solving and like any puzzle, it seems to immediately engage kids as long as the puzzle pieces are easy to play with and move around. That’s where Hopscotch comes to the rescue! I have been teaching coding for 10 years and have never seen such an immediate impact on engagement than that of touch-screen draggable commands. Hopscotch is a free app that has an online community to share your coding projects with. It’s easy and intuitive to play with and is appropriate from about the age of 4 or 5. You do not have to know anything about coding to give this a go with your class and of course there are Youtube video lessons.

hopscotch screeen Quick & keen

My colleague and I had written a typical coding introduction for our 12 & 13 year olds using Hopscotch but very quickly realised that the app negated traditional approaches as it was so intuitive. The students were creating shapes, drawings and characters within 20 minutes. They just wanted to play, discover and create and our teaching unit was far to slow. Obviously, we let them go for it!

codecademy“Let’s make Flappy Birds!”

Within the first hour, a 12-year-old had already realised the the ‘world issue’ that was “the death of Flappy Birds” could be solved with Hopscotch. It was great to see the students all working together and keenly sharing their discoveries. One student realised the the Emoji keyboard allowed for 100s more characters, another worked out how to colour the background in as sky and grass. The only element I had to directly help with was keeping score.

We were also amazed to get recognised by the folks at Hopscotch!

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hopscotch appPersonalised learning

One benefit of coding your own apps and games is keeping it personal. Students started twisting the Flappy birds concept into fish games or car games and it was as if I’d completely disappeared from the room. When using Hopscotch, students are constantly problem solving, working collaboratively and thinking creatively.

What’s coming next?

I have watched the development of this app and can’t wait to see the next version. There are a couple of significant programming tools missing but I am sure they’re on their way in future releases.

Here is a help sheet I produced from from my classes coding and I hope it helps.

Flappy Birds and code for other games in Hopscotch

hopscotch flappy

“School work is no longer school work when it’s recognised outside school” – @iPadWells

@ipadwells & OC on Hopsctch Blog

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!

How PD can make real change

scared_UserWriting blogs like this one and interacting with teachers on Twitter and the like can make edtech teacher types, like me,  forget that it is still the case that the majority of teachers are not confident or regular users of modern technologies (social, mobile & student-centred) and need effective introduction and explanation of their benefits. I would estimate this majority of the non-confident to still be around 80%.

I have been Head of Department in my current school for just one year and a number of my teachers have highlighted recently how far they’ve come in just one year. I thought I’d share my approach to providing PD and why it might be that it seems to work (well, some of it)

THREE QUESTIONS:

  1. Why does so much Professional Development NOT work?
  2. Why do schools make such slow progress with modern workflows compared with business?
  3. Why do some teachers refuse to budge from their tried and trusted methods?

FIVE COMPLAINTS

  1. “PD’s never to do with how I teach”
  2. “I always forget PD because I don’t use it immediately”
  3. “PD’s a waste of my time”
  4. “It’s always too much to take in”
  5. “I’m not confident with using technology in my teaching”

COMPLAINTS CAN BECOME SOLUTIONS

Choose an Tech-coach Teacher to work one-to-one with others and give them time to do it
Make PD to do with an individual’s current teaching – Don’t introduce an unrelated “new-way”
Give them a reason to use it immediately
Provide the PD at a time that suits the individual
Provide PD in small but frequent sessions
Confidence grows slowly, so only take small steps from current practice

SOLUTION ?

Every student is an individual and so is every teacher.

Providing standardised Professional Development to groups larger than 10 is just as effective as trying to teach a standardised curriculum to classes larger than 10, that is to say, not effective at all. The biggest missing piece in so many PD jigsaws is a reason for each individual to ‘develop’ in that way. As well as a professional reason, each individual will be looking for a personal benefit too. Some non-edtech teachers will need small conveniences added to their current practice.

HOOK THEM IN FIRST

hookMy trick is to always emphasise the personal benefits or conveniences such as time-saving, less admin or increased popularity with students to the teacher before explaining any professional or pedagogical benefit. In addition to this, by mostly working with individuals, I can also add an immediate use for the ‘development’ by looking at the specific teacher’s current teaching programme. This gets them using it for a number of days after the session. If they feel there’s a personal benefit, they’re more likely to give it a proper go. The professional and educational benefits will be truly realised in time and the teacher will be proudly trumpeting those, whilst possibly keeping the personal liking for it more quiet.

Photo Credit Link

KEEP IT SIMPLE – SMALL BUT FREQUENT. STEPS MAKE BETTER PROGRESS

When I’m working with a teacher, I only work with something they are currently doing and try to reduce the development to 3 points or even 3 clicks if I can. I also ensure I only ever cover one task that they are currently doing but show how it can be developed to be easier, quicker or more popular with the kids.

LINK THE STEPS

chainI try not to jump around topics and tools between sessions. Try to link all the small steps together. For example, moving to Google Drive is good for this as steps are taken within one account and the format is similar throughout the Google eco-system. Google Drive is also enough like an old PC but introduces the use of Cloud storage and can then link to increased iPad use through the Drive app and thus mobile workflows.

If you jump from one topic to another, teachers can’t picture how all the ideas and tools link in different ways to their current practice. This is particularly evident with training that focuses on app after app. Most apps are isolated tools that might be great but when piled upon each other with all their various features, can overwhelm and produce little progress. This happens even if an app is covered each week or so. In the first 3 years, build a plan for how a limited number of apps will work together in the long term.

Photo Credit Link

HAVE A BACKBONE

Any school or edtech team should have a planned set of apps or eco-system that together get all the basics done. This plan can be ignored or added to by the more confident teachers but acts as a core safety net for the less tech-minded. These basics are:

  • Sharing
  • Collaborating
  • Photos
  • Video
  • Text
  • Project organisation
  • Filing
  • Animation
  • Drawing
  • (I’m sure you might have others)

Many teachers I work with have often wished they’d just been told one way of doing things whilst other colleagues have enjoyed playing with a variety of apps. So providing a core eco-system is important to get everyone onboard.

Building basic confidence in tech use is the first hurdle for many teachers.

AN EXAMPLE

My Step 1: “Don’t worry, the new way is like the old way”
helpCreate a department Google Account to log all the non-technical people into on both iPads and laptops. Demonstrate the easy dragging of Word and Powerpoint files into the Drive and how it acts like an “old” computer.
Then show how the docs appear immediately on the iPad App. This worked well for our Apple TVs as I needed a wireless way to present all their normal files. The apps and browsers log in permanently, so no password remembering and They only had to remember that dragging worked.

Photo Credit Link

Step 2. “I have a great reason to start using this”
“I’ve canceled the next meeting!” When I said this, they loved that I had freed up their time but you can trade that off against having to comment inside a Google document where all the questions, topics and discussion takes place over a week, when they each find time. Their browsers and iPads will already be logged in so emailing the doc link gets them all straight in.

Step 3: “We need to reduce the workload for all”
Indicate that sharing the same Google file structure means they can all use the same files and replication and movement of copies between teachers comes to and end. Groups of teachers can then add to the same files. This also works well for school or department policy or admin files that can be completed by the whole team, reducing workload further.

Step 4: “Explain Everything but just with photos and a laser”
The only standalone app I introduced was Explain Everything. Non-technical, traditional teachers could see it’s worth as again it only recorded what they’ d always done. The trick was reducing the app to just 2 features:

  1. This is how you add a photo/screenshot to a slide,
  2. This laser lets you point at stuff.

The videos will go to the same google/YouTube Account so no further passwords.
Don’t mention Flipped teaching yet as it scares/annoys many teachers. In fact stay away for edtech vocabulary all together. :-)

Step 5: “Stop! That will do for year 1″
Let teachers master 3 things each year and the school will have far more overall success. If all teachers in any school were using Google services and Explain Everything, it would be a real leap forward for most schools.

THREE ANSWERS

  1. Professional development often fails by forcing too much too quickly, not giving personal/human reasons for shifting and not personalising it to individuals’ current needs.
  2. Schools move slower than business because they lack the financial / survival incentives to change. Schools should work with personal incentives to encourage change. Educational incentives are a worthier cause but in reality, teachers are human before they are idealists.
  3. Some teachers have habits developed over decades, so don’t try to change them but show how what they do can be done more efficiently and save them time. This will start the long road to change.

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.

Why iPad 4 Schools [Poster]

Decision Making?

If you need something short and sharp to convince decision makers on why it should be iPad and not an alternative, this poster might help. Laptops and Chromebooks make excellent business tools for those writing documents, sending emails and using Skype (not available for Chromebook) but for creative options in schools, it still has to be iPad.

iPad 4 Schools Poster

A Teacher’s 3 Twitter Accounts

shareButtonTwitter is the simplest system available to interact with the web and share resources. Twitter is built into the iPad’s operating system and so an account allows you to share any photo, website or resource immediately without fuss. Its system is the opposite to Facebook and expects you to operate numerous accounts for different purposes. Once you have something to share, the iPad will allow you to pick which account to Tweet with and thus which group will receive it. Below are 3 account ideas for how iPad teachers can get the most from Twitter.

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@EDUCATOR – Tweet as an Educator

TwitterAcThe first account is your ‘Educator’s’ account (mine’s @iPadWells) with which you interact with other teachers and share resources. This is the account you build your personal learning network with and discuss matters and ideas with other educators. Here’s a list of the benefits and uses for this account:

  1. Follow other like-minded teachers doing exciting things.
  2. Follow the world leaders in education to inspire your pedagogy and approach to teaching.
  3. Ask teachers directly how they achieved success in their classroom.
  4. Share your own teaching resources and inspire others.
  5. Share photos of good practice and successes in your classroom.
  6. Share useful websites, video links that have inspired you.
  7. Follow your subject’s multiple hashtags such as #EngChat for English teachers.
  8. Follow the weekly chat hours for teachers in your geographical area or school subject such as #EdChatNZ for New Zealand teachers or #1to1TeChat for 1 to 1 device teachers.

@TEACHER – Tweet as a classroom teacher

TwitterTeachCreate an account for your classroom activities with your students.  Use this for quick, live sharing of photos and and resources to the kids you teach. It’s important to remember that it’s available to the whole world but can be useful for creating a live news feed of the work going on in your classroom. This account is separate to your professional connections so as to not annoy other teachers with day-to-day classroom activity. Here’s a list of classroom uses:

  1. Take photos of good student work during any day. Sets example to others.
  2. Share a new resource or website discovered during the day for students to try or read.
  3. Share websites and video links for class preparation and future lessons.
  4. A Dropbox account allows you to instantly share links to your files too. Great for those last minute things you forgot to pre-upload.
  5. Senior students can use this account to ask extra questions directly after a lesson either publicly or privately.
  6. A class or topic #Hashtag can instantly create a discussion group.
  7. Senior classes can set up small group accounts with which they can easily blog their progress with all 4 or 5 students logged-in and sharing their team’s project.

@Dept – Tweet as a Department or School

TwitterDeptThis is something I’m just setting up now. All the staff in my department (15 Tech teachers) can now publish the successes as a department. This works well for many schools but I think it’s going to be useful to present my subject of Technology as a team effort and as such, create a stream of examples for both the students and the staff to see. It will be important though to make staff aware of issues regarding privacy, spam and general good social media conduct.

Here’s the list of ideas so far:

  1. All colleagues get to see best practice within the same department / school. This is great for starting professional conversations in the staffroom.
  2. Parents can follow if they have their own account or just view the account’s web page to see great work completed or in progress,
  3. Students get to see what’s going on in your area of the school and this helps future choices of subjects and careers.
  4. The best work in one classroom can inspire those next door.
  5. Announcements that effect more than one class can be given using this account. Good for trips and deadlines and last minute changes.

Conclusion

The whole iPad is now designed to be the perfect management tool for organising these 3 streams of information as you go through your day. Activity on one account can influence what you do with the others. The Twitter system is simple and a great start for those new to iPadding or professional use of social media. It doesn’t have the considered organisation of running a website or blog but for minute-by-minute live updates and interaction with like-minded individuals, it’s perfect! Connect your accounts within the iPad’s settings and connect your teaching with the world.

Here’s the summary Poster (PNG links to PDF with links)

Teachers 3 Twitter Accs

New Year: iPad First 5?

After getting lots of positive feedback about a visual interpretation I did of a blog post by Holly Clark (@HollyEdTEchDiva), I also had a small number of requests and suggestions for other ideas that would be ideal for a visual summarising. I’m currently working through them but one came from the talented Beth Holland, who let me know she was writing a post for Edutopia.com based on the theme of “First 5.” This idea can be applied to many scenarios and asks experts to consider what one might do in the first 5 minutes, 5 days and 5 weeks when introducing a new initiative or technology. I loved the idea and got to work immediately. Here’s the result and I hope it helps some classrooms get going in the new academic year.

iPad First 5

Teachers who just got iPads

83006d6bd421cf420a2fd1aa1e0329eeI had the privilege of holding a Google Hangout with Holly Clark (@HollyEdTEchDiva) and Tanya Avrith (@EdTechSchools). It was a great chat, where we compared US, NZ and Canadian school systems. Afterwards I was checking out Holly’s stuff and came across her great introduction to iPads in Classrooms. I checked with Holly and she was keen I do one of my visual representations of the ideas. So here it is, my visual, albeit briefer introduction for teachers who just got iPads:

Holly Clark
EdTechTeacher.org

9 Starter Tips for Teachers Who Just Got iPads
PNG (No links – 1mb)   PDF (Links – 2mb)

Teachers New to iPads

Teaching Math on an iPad

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mathiPad

1. HIGH SCHOOLS

AS IT WAS…

In my High school, one of the last departments to realise a use for iPads was the Math department. Note: As a UK born New Zealander, writing Math and not Maths is difficult but as most my readers are american, I’ll persist!  Also…. I’m not a Math teacher, so sorry if I upset anyone.

Their thinking was that Math had to be hand written and there was no digital functionality beyond a calculator that suited the learning of Mathematical problem solving.

Certainly things like movie making, animation and group work did little in the genuine learning of Math reasoning. Plus the age-old excuse that the exam was hand written and so experience was needed and the iPad was only a distraction from this vital practice.

THE CHANGE BEGINS…

ExplainEverythingThe first change came with using the app Explain Everything. This is often a comfortable first step into new pedagogy as it mimics the whiteboard but offers new functionality and workflow. This allows Math teachers to hand write their mathematical working whilst recording the lesson, including their voice. Uploading these skills videos to Youtube saves hours of time in the classroom repeating oneself and allows students to come preprepared or review after a lesson. Either way moving some or all of the standard Math teaching online saves time.

LET THE FUN BEGIN!

Now what can a Math teacher do with more time and a little more imagination? Here’s another popular starting point in the shape of a TED talk by Dan Meyer (Math teacher). He explains how challenging the students more and using multimedia to do this can hook the students into a genuine interest in Math, as apposed to the compulsory one they currently have to show:

After watching Dan’s talk, I realised that Math teaching could be more about students finding their own problems to solve in rather creative ways. Students could be freed from the classroom to challenge each other with videoed problems and limit the information provided. Remember the iPad’s app store can provide apps that just about take any type of measurement and mostly for free (See below).

“Best Math App” lists like this one focus on that Math Dan talks about that kids have to learn in school without worrying about why they might need to know it. In my mind, it now becomes less about finding the best Math teaching / learning app and more about building a set of measurement tools for life. These tools can then be used to make Math learning come to life and seem relevant.

MEASUREMENT APPS

MathApp1 MathApp2 MathApp3
Easy MeasureThere’s math to be learnt in the way this app works alone! iHandy LevelGreat general carpenter’s tool Measures HDLots a measurement tools in one including Seismic!
MathApp4 iphone-camera-icon MathApp5
Sprint TimerFilm moving objects / people with time stretched image Film with CameraJust video things happening and students find the maths! Home Design HD – Free
Lots of Math possibilities in planning and developing building models

For most students, this applied Math approach is far more meaningful and fun and can highlight the subjects significant place in their lives. Something that is not always apparent in traditional Math teaching.

2. ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS (PRIMARY)

The ‘real-world’ approach mentioned above could certainly apply to any student from about the age of 8. Before that, the library of basic Math and Number apps in the store comes into it’s own! Apps make Math fun from an early age and remove the fear factor whilst giving the all important instant feedback.

Nearly all basic Math apps are free and it’s just a matter of trying them out, Start by typing “Math” into the App store but sorting by popularity. Here’s a selection of the most popular. I personally liked the simplicity of “Summed Up” ($0.99) and the animation & game concept in “Hungry Fish”. I included Hopscotch, which is a kids drag and drop programming app as it allows kids to experiment with algorithms in a fun way and try out a lot of Math on the way.

mathapps3

SPECIAL KIWI SHOUT-OUT

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.50.48 AM100s Board ($2.99) is  ‘simple as’ (as us Aucklanders would say) but in it’s simplicity comes flexibility and a nurturing of children’s natural talent to invent their own games. It presents a simple 100s board and will highlight numbers to help young people count in 2s, 3s, 4s etc. It also has coloured & monster counters that you can place on numbers to invent games with. It hides numbers as well as highlights on touch. My 8 year-old immediately started inventing games for my 6 year-old including  “Higher-Lower” where in 7 goes, the youngest had to find the chosen number, whilst all prior guesses were highlighted. The face that it’s not a game in itself is actually a bonus as it extends kids’ imagination. Check it out!

100s Board is made by fellow Kiwi @MattJamesThomas.

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SUMMARY

The age and ability of the individual student will decide the best approach, be it applied discovery of Math or more rudimentary game play. Regardless, the iPad has much to offer in Math learning and I hope this helps those Math teachers who weren’t sure where to start.