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 ? 

apple-on-the-desk-1428611-m

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.

city-people-at-sunset-1209081-m

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.

visible-learning-infographic-john-hattie-studie-460x400

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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AppSmash_icon_iPadWells

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.

POSTER: 20C to 21C Learning

I was asked by Tanya Avrith (@edtechschools) for some graphics to illustrate the new approach to teaching young people in the 21st Century and how the source of information and how we build knowledge has changed. I thought I’d rework them into a poster (as I normally do :-) and post it. Here it is:

I4S-FillingTheVessel-iPadWells

Positive Digital Citizenship

kids jumpMy last post focussed on the common topics that form many schools’ Digital Citizenship programmes (if they’re lucky enough to have one). It was quite popular and thanks for all the feedback but one clever Canadian called Tanya Avrith (you might know her as @edtechschools) pointed out something important.

Positive & Active

Many programmes need more focus on the positive behaviour and web activity kids can get involved with, as many Digital Citizenship programmes spend much of the time on the negatives, fears and safety concerns.

Same rules online & off

I decided to create themes that pushed the idea that being online does not change the rules of engagement in life. What you do and hope for from others in real life should be reflected by your overall “Digital Footprint/Tattoo.”

Here’s some ideas for getting kids to think positively about the possibilities of online life:

i4S Positive DigCit 2013

Individual Slides (PDF HERE (8MB))

Apple’s take on things

Apple’s 2013 Christmas advert brilliantly covers the topic of creativity and positive behaviour with devices. It also covers that common discussion about young people ‘wasting’ too much time on those things! Check it out:

Thinking Digital Citizenship

INSPIRED!

citizen slideMy colleague @lindarubens pointed me in the direction of a fantastic post on Digital Citizenship by Craig Badura. Craig’s ideas are simple but effective because they ask students to do a very important learning technique: Make a connection between ‘unrelated’ topics.

CONNECTING LIFE : ONLINE & OFFLINE

Forcing them to make the connection asks the students to think on a deeper level. I have found in the past that only using digital examples encourages some students to assume they know it all. Kids will say,  “I know all about Facebook, sir” without  considering properly, any wider ramifications of their online actions and switch off to some extent.

So, you know me! I couldn’t resist putting these ideas into individual slides that I could use as weekly topics aside my normal teaching. My favourite three are Toothpaste, Tattoos and “First impressions” as these will have increasingly long-term and  effects on young people from now onwards.

Here’s the PNG version but there’s also a full 24MB PDF is here

Digital Citizenship Slides 2013

Extra discussion: Used Creative Commons images and referenced them on each slide.

The “One iPad” Classroom

ipad04 005

If you have been allocated just one iPad for your classroom then you have very different issues to 1-to-1 classrooms as the iPad is not designed as a shared device. But don’t despair! There are apps for that!

I’m never one to push for the downloading of numerous apps as it clouds the workflow. The core skills of handling and organising information,  images and creative output from each student as the device gets passed around should be a first concern. Students like to have their own space to save things.

There are always a number of ways to do anything on an iPad but the organising and separating of student work on one device can be very easily organised with 2 cloud accounts:

  1. Evernote – Writing – Drawing – Images – Audio – screenshots
  2. Youtube – videos (including lessons)

The passwords can be kept by the teacher and students needn’t worry about the account itself. The material saved can also be managed from the teacher’s laptop for both accounts.

YouTube-for-iOS-app-icon-full-sizeThe camera, iMovie & Explain Everything apps can all be permanently logged-in to the Youtube account. This is important as video is the primary storage killer. Video is the new pen and once an iPad gets into the classroom the opportunities for recording evidence, performances and reflection mean the organisation of video becomes important. These videos can be stored as privately or publicly as needed.

evernoteEvery student can record their own work, including material from other apps within their own Evernote Notebook, all held and synced to the same  account. Evernote allows students to record web content, writing, images and record audio notes and arrange all that into folders of topics etc.

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penultimate_icon_256Penultimate is Evernote’s Sketchbook app. It allows students to add photos and screenshots freely onto unlimited pages and freehand draw on them. It also obviously allows for freehand drawing and has a choice of 4 paper types. These sketchbooks auto sync to the Evernote account. This means it’s also viewable by the teacher from their laptop.

This setup creates a cloud classroom for the teacher to monitor 24/7 and also caters for all the basic tasks that students might already be doing.

Below is my usual style summary of the apps and the roles they play in the classroom. It certainly acts as a solid starting point for collating and organising a class’s output. It also gives each student a place of their own on the shared device.

Here’s 2 PNGs that link to PDFs:

Page 1:

i4S-1-iPad-Classroom

Page 2:

i4S-1-iPad-Classroom-pt2

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Project Based Learning with iPads

projectKidsBringing learning to life – Bringing Life to learning!

To start with, I think Project-based learning is the future of education. It puts students into real situations where they have to:

  1. Act professionally
  2. be a team player
  3. understand their assigned role
  4. Stick to deadlines as a team
  5. Problem solve
  6. Project manage
  7. Communicate ideas

… I could go on for a while here!

Photo by USdagov

These are the skills the world,  employers, charities and universities are crying out for, far more than any specific content schools might have traditionally taught. The world is changing too quickly to be concerned with static content and these general skills that enhance one’s ability to learn new things quickly will be key to success in this century.

Fortunately, I don’t have to cover PBL in much detail as there are a number of sites and Youtube channels that do it brilliantly, especially EDUTOPIA and BIE.

Here’s Edutopia’s introduction:

Just one Important distinction!

Project-based learning is not ‘doing projects’. PBL is student-driven and specifically open to interpretation to ensure students learn through carrying out a project and not doing a project pre-designed by the teacher. They are driven to answer a ‘big’ question and carry out their inquiry and design in teams. They are also under pressure to present their results to a third party of some kind. The students decide on how to achieve the goals and are not carrying out teacher-designed tasks.

PBL APPS (version 1)

Here’s my quick representation of PBL by iPad App. The process is not necessary linear but the apps might help you start various stages and help students and teachers understand the task at hand.

i4S PBL Apps

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