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 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.

Habits of an effective iPad Teacher

Collaborative World

SteveLaiCanada meets New Zealand
I’ve recently had a very useful online chat with Steve Lai in Vancouver about not only the skills and habits but also the mindset required to make iPad teaching successful. I love the way social media connects me to these enthusiastic and talented teachers around the world.

I came across Steve (@sly111) on Twitter and noticed he was running a very similar blog to mine (teachingwithipad.org).  Steve’s blog is excellent and he teaches with iPads in quite difficult circumstances with numerous classrooms and students. Steve suggested it would make sense to do something together.

Common Ground

It seemed obvious in our conversations that we agreed that teachers knowing apps and workflow was not enough to make the integration of iPads successful and effective. Steve liked my previous graphics and suggested I put together a summary of the conversation he’d sparked about habits of an effective iPad teacher.

Here’s the PNG but it links to the PDF version:

iPad_Teacher_Habits_Poster_v2

Footnote: As the old saying goes: “When a Canadian and a Kiwi get together, a man in Istanbul’s never far behind!”

We were both flattered when @burgencay sent us this version:

Habits of iPad teacher - Turkish

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

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.

mzl.ccaroyky.480x480-75

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.

Managing those iPad videos

VIDEO IS THE NEW PEN! (…and it’s mightier too!)

The thought makes many people think the world has ended but for 21st Century kids, videoing their thoughts and creations and experiences and then publishing it to the world is as easy as picking up a pen. In fact, most are more likely to have a device ready to film, edit, add subtitles and music than a pen or pencil. I like to think we only ever used pens because we didn’t have a video camera in our pocket, sorry if that upsets anyone. For example, my kids do write poems but performing them as videos makes them really think about the effect their words have on an audience.

MANAGING THE NEW PEN’S SCRIBBLINGS (How to manage all the video)

The new issue that everyone in education is how to manage and share all this video content. I have all my colleagues and students uploading to the same account. The teachers use this one account for videos:

  1. Recorded by their iPads
  2. Recorded by Student iPads (Teacher Logs-in, uploads, logs-out)
  3. Explain Everything (App) whiteboard lessons
  4. Video tutorials for practical tasks
  5. Youtube videos discovered on Youtube itself and added to course “Playlists”

This allows the teachers to manage all the videos from one place. It also helps them share ideas and showcase work between classrooms. Here’s a 3-page outline to how we do it using Youtube’s management tools.

managing-ipad-videos

Making iPad Kids think big

I teach a unit to Years 7s and 8s on digital citizenship that centres on the theme of respecting yourself and others when online and using mobile devices. The opening lesson of this focusses on respecting themselves as people who can make a difference, especially with devices like the iPad and the new services online. I run through a series of examples where teenagers have made themselves successful primarily by having an “I can” approach to life.

I don’t like to focus on money making but it certainly grabs their attention.
Here’s a summary of the sort of things I discuss: (The icons are links)

NUTSHELL_IPAD_CAREER

1. WRITE A BLOG
All a kid needs to take over the world is an email! This is a simple idea but when you explain that blogging (WordPress or Blogger)on their favourite topic (Even if it’s Clash of Clans!), dividing up the topic into areas, such as tools, skills, strategies, training. Then writing for 1/2 an hour, twice a week on a new idea or lesson for your readers can make you a world name in your chosen area. I even use myself as an example!

You can spark their interest by explaining that A) Millions of kids around the world will be looking for a Kid’s perspective on the topic and B) Once they have readers, Google Adsense will bring home the money!

2. RUN A YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Making videos on the iPad is easy and uploading them to Youtube is a single button click! Again best on a single topic, kids can video their own information or lessons and build a following. Children always prefer watching their peers more than adults and learning is more effective and fun. This gives any student a potential audience of subscribers for their chosen topic. One girl in my class started a child’s channel on horse riding! Popular channels will be approached by Youtube to add adverts and the money might start rolling in!
Example (50,000 views a video!):

3. eBOOK YOUR STORY OR KNOWLEDGE 

Free publishing is the new thing and opens new opportunities to young people to make money from their writing and imagination. Amazon are now publishing free plus many others like Lulu.com. I find kids are happy to write on the iPad and should not be encouraged to think that their works wouldn’t be published or enjoyed by a large audience. Here’s 2 case studies: 1. Teenage Author 2. Young Author. If you make an informative non-fiction iBook then Apple will publish it but you’ll need to make it on a Mac computer with iBooks Author.
Example:

4. SHOWCASE YOUR FILMS

In a previous post I covered the idea that students should learn the 3 or 4 basic film production techniques including multiple angled camera work and foley sound production. With a little film making knowledge, the iPad really is the only thing you need and there are more and more film festivals mentioning the use of iPhone and iPad film makers, including famous directors. Obviously the films can be uploaded to Youtube or even better Vimeo (The thinking person’s Youtube) for more exposure.

5. GET ON AND MAKE THAT ALBUM

I have singers, rappers, guitarists, pianists and drummers throughout my classes and they hold their iPads often without seriously considering that recording with Garageband could lead to big things. There are now crowd-funding sites and Justin Bieber was discovered singing into a Youtube camera.

INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION

Another issue I cover in this lesson and in general is appreciating the number of people on the internet. I like to point out that if 0.0001% of the internet buy your product for $1, that’s $5 Million! International promotion used to cost millions and was certainly only available through agencies. Now, social media makes promoting your products easy and even finding your target audience is easy.  I recommend new accounts for communicating with the world as a professional separate to their personal accounts.

SUMMARY

It really is just a mindset I feel I must instil in my students to appreciate that the age barriers that once existed no longer do. The iPad is all they need to conquer the world and why not start today!

Kid thinking big Example 3: (Programmer)

How to make iPad kids film better

camera ipadIt’s about time I add another post about my actual teaching practice and how my kids use iPads. One set of iPad skills that interests all the kids and gives them something fun to do is professional film making tricks. This would work well with students from the age of 10 to 16.

The lesson is divided in 2 :

  1. Sound (Sound effects / Dubbing / voiceovers)
  2. Camera work (Steady-cam / multi views per moment)

The requirements in general are that at least one student in 4 has the iMovie app or equivalent (There are free movie editing apps but they sometimes limit to 30 seconds export – check the App store).

I then take them through some remarkable facts in film making that they might never have considered. This gives them a new understanding about exactly what they see and hear on the screen.

STEP 1: SOUND

Foley – Dubbing – Voiceover

One of the difficulties when filming with iPads is that the microphone is too small and too far from the actor or subject to record it properly. First I show this Youtube clip that amazes the kids by explaining that no sound they’ve ever heard on TV or film is made by the things you are looking at. Every footstep, every bang, every animal noise is made after the filming has taken place. The extreme moment is the leather clothing noise as Russell Crow turns around – all added afterwards! I also explain that most voice is also added afterwards and dubbed over by the same actors.

The Art of noise making is called Foley, which you will see in the credits of every film. The Dubbing of their own voice challenges the students to be precise and, as I’ve found, take the process seriously to get the timing right (it’s done well by about half the students).Dubbing and voice overs using iMovie also solves the practical problems of both outside noise and also background classroom noise when filming inside. The students film themselves saying the lines in the appropriate location and then find a quiet area elsewhere to record the lines more clearly. Having clear dialogue makes kids films much more watchable.

STEP 2: CONTINUITY & MULTI CAMERA

The idea that 60 seconds of hollywood film can take more than a week of production and then more time in post production also amazes kids. I have a Keynote slide where a counter on the slide counts the camera angle changes in 25 seconds and ends at 12! My students have learnt to really tell the story of any 10 seconds. Even with one iPad between 4, the students have learnt to rerecord every moment from the required angel to tell the story visually. Example: “A student walks towards a door and opens it.” This took 4 recordings from 4 angles and included a close-up of the hand gripping the handle! Close-ups are important to emphasise. The total filming time took 4 minutes and editing took 5 minutes, the finished shot takes 5 seconds! … But the kids love it and are proud of the professional look to the film. The video below is a good video on continuity errors in Star Wars. The length of time it takes to make the shortest of moments means that objects in the shot often get accidentally moved or forgotten in some of the various camera takes. Unfortunately I have to skip over the video’s first example as it’s not actually a continuity error but just bad acting!

STEP 3: ALLOWING FOR TIME AND APPS

Sometimes a group might not have an editing app or you might not have the time for editing, so I also give a lesson in allowing for the limitations of filming with just a mobile device like an iPad, particularly when filming outside or in a classroom with noise. Using the diagram below, I explain that relying on the dialogue of the actors/presenters being picked up by the iPad’s microphone is not realistic and it’s best to narrate the events that are filmed. To allow for time, this narration can be done live during the performance, directly into the iPad’s microphone by another student works well in covering your topic.

iPad filming-live narration

SUMMARY: THEY HAVE FUN, LEARN & EDUCATE THEIR PEERS!

I was genuinely surprised by how much the kids took these techniques seriously and enjoyed the process. The students that started to add every noise imaginable and / or rerecorded until their dubbing was perfect made their videos clearer and more educational to other students I was showing them to. The topic they are filming about is the real educational target and having good sound and good visual story yelling is crucial to the learning.

Apple TV in Schools

appletv_smallsizeApple TV (US$99) is a box you attach to the projector / TV that picks up the screen of any iPad and displays it without the need for wires! The teacher can walk around their room and display anything that’s on their iPad screen on the Projector/TV. This means the teacher can display from anywhere and even use the iPads camera to show student work ‘live’ without gathering students around one point in the room

I have recently been setting up Apple TV in my classroom and know that many teachers will be having the problems with Apple TVs on networks that are setup with the type of security and extra stuff that one gets on a corporate style network.

Particularly in secondary schools, your ‘techies’ will be using all these silly techie acronyms like “VLANS” and “IP-ROUTING” and “APs”, so ignore them and read this, which I hope to be more ‘teacher-friendly’ (something many techies aren’t!)
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Apple TV setup

STEP 1: Connecting the Apple TV box to your projector / TV. 

vga-hdmi-convertBeing all ‘up-to-date’, Apple has only added an HDMI port to the box. That’s fine if you have a modern flat-screen TV as it will probably have an HDMI port on the back. Most school projectors however, only have the older VGA port, like the ones we’ve always had on our Windows laptops (sometimes blue in colour). Apple’s store provides a converter HERE.

For future decision making, I would recommend only purchasing 50″ plasma TVs and not projectors as they work without darkening the room, they last longer without replacing bulbs plus require less cabling setup. This lowers future costs and makes the Apple TV setup cheaper than the alternatives.

STEP 2: Putting the Apple TV onto the same network your iPads use.

configiconIf you have a simple open network that any device can join with a password then you can follow the instructions the Apple TV gives you on the TV screen. But most schools use corporate secure networks with proxy servers for internet. This means that the school network info needs to be loaded onto the Apple TV (a little trickier). On a Mac (either the schools or a borrowed one) you can get an App from the MAc app store called “Apple Configurator”. It’s used for setting up both Apple TVs and iPads in bulk.

The idea is that you setup a ‘profile’ for the Apple TV to store your network’s settings. When using configurator to design you profile the main 2 screens to worry about are 1. WIFI & 2. Certificate (See below). Here’s Apple’s Configurator’s help page

The WIFI page of a profile holds the basic name of the network and any login info the Apple TV box will need to join the network. You might need to get some info from a techie (smile and ask nicely!)

wifi config

The ‘certificate’ page is where you need to give a file to the Apple TV box to say the network and Apple TV are following the same ‘rules’ when talking. This part is the trickiest. On the mac, join the wireless network and you will get the Certificate file. To find the file you can use the Mac’s Keychain Access (1 use Spotlight to find that!) and search for the wireless name (2). See pic below.

cert find

Once you have added the network info and the certificate to the Apple TV profile, you need to ‘Prepare’ the Apple TV with this profile. To do this you use the USB cable port that’s on the back of the Apple TV. It uses the same cable as many cameras use. Once the profile is on the Apple TV and it’s restarted it should join the Network.

Apple Tvs are best on a network cable

Apple TVs work best if the Apple TV box is not actually using the Wireless but is on the network using the network Cable (ethernet). As long as the techie allocates the port in the wall to the same network as the wireless then you half the pressure on the wireless in the room but the iPads can still see the Apple TV box. The ethernet cables are that Yellow/Red/Blue cable the computers sometimes use for network.

3. Sending your iPad’s screen to the Apple TV
apple-homescreen-1

1. Make sure you can see the Apple TVs ‘Home screen’ on the TV or Projector first. (See pic)
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airplay

2. As long as the wireless is strong enough, a Double tap of the iPad’s Home button will bring up the Apps across the bottom (Where you might normally class apps or switch between them). A swipe to the left will send you to the Volume / Brightness settings and also the AIRPLAY options (If the Apple TV is on the network – see pic).

3. You need to switch “Mirroring” on and the iPad’s screen should appear on the TV / Projector.

4. With a really good wireless, even a movie’s sound playing on the iPad will play through the TV as if you had a DVD playing!

SUMMARY

I can’t guarantee that following this info will mean you don’t have other problems with setting up Apple TV on a corporate style network but it might help, so here’s that Apple’s Configurator’s help page again! I’ve had issues myself, particularly with the network being shared by so many devices and setting it up so the Apple TV is not fighting too many other students for access to the Wireless box (Access point). This might take a little classroom management and getting kids to turn wireless off on the iPads for a minute or 2. All I can say is Good luck and let me know if you are successful / or if I have approached it wrong and you have an easier way!

iPad Worksheets with Powerpoint

Many of you might have a Windows laptop and now have classrooms with iPads and are wondering how to start to make the switch. I know that most teachers are familiar with Powerpoint but not many are comfortable about working without paper or with digital devices in general.

Here’s a introduction into producing digital devices using an application you know well.
Click image to download.

PDFs with Powerpoint