Sunday, 29 June 2014

One classroom - one ipad

Sadly our class set of iPads has been taken away from us and reassigned to Heads of Departments to use, I suspect, largely as personal management systems.  I have had one iPad since November and this recent reassignment of the school's class set of iPads has got me thinking about how my colleagues can use their iPad for more than managing their time and reading online. 
Of course, many schools are now embracing new technology and have gone down the route of 1:1 iPads.  This has not been the case for me (yet) but I have still been able to use my iPad creatively in my classes.  I have been free with the iPad I have been given.  I have always taken the line that I am lucky that school gave me the iPad to use and I wanted to repay the gesture by ensuring that the pupils I taught also benefitted from it.  This desire, coupled with my increasing awareness through my studies of Digital Technology for Language Teaching, has enabled me to see how my one iPad could be put to good use.
In the first instance I have handed my iPad to one or two pupils to do research on the internet.  As a linguist there is always a need to search up definitions and WordReference certainly does that job well.  I have the app on my iPad so access is easy with one click.  Or maybe pupils are not sure of a particular grammar point so French Language does an excellent job at covering lots of grammatical points in good detail.   I am sure that there are similar apps for all subjects.  For example  Poetry from the Poetry Foundation will give students of English access to classic and contemporary poems or in science  3D Cell Simulation and Stain Tool   which enables students to learn all about the cell and its structures with an ability to rotate the cell and zoom in.  The key is to be generous with your iPad and give one or two pupils access to it whilst others are getting on with research or other classwork you have set.  Over the course of one week with one class each pupil can have access to the iPad. 
It is even possible to download as an app.  To read more about Get Kahoot (great learning starts by asking great questions) and how to use it in class  read this engaging tools post. Admittedly, with only one iPad is not as effective but it can work.  Two pupils work together to answer questions displayed on the Interactive Whiteboard using the iPad whilst the rest of the class write their answer on a mini whiteboard.  My pupils have enjoyed trying to beat the iPad user in getting in their correct response more quickly than the pupils with the technology. 
In modern languages using an avatar is a great way to overcome anxiety when speaking and I have allowed my pupils to hide behind an avatar of their choosing (and there are plenty) to create short videos.  This is a first effort using  Morfo.  It is rough around the edges but I have improved since then and know more about how to enable the pupils to do good work with appropriate apps.
Over the course of one or two lessons students can get on with preparing what they are going to create and given a time limit with the iPad a whole class can produce and create something.   With a Green Screen app, the possibilities are endless:
- In geography a report can be filmed about a natural disaster with an appropriate image embedded behind the reporter.
- In politics a report about some political crisis straight from Downing Street
- In English a sonnet recited straight from The Globe
- In History a news report from the Normandy beaches...
 (thanks to @ICTevangelist for some of these ideas)
An iPad can give you a chance to prepare some amazing tools for use in class. In addition to green screening, screencasting is also a possibility.  For this my favourite tool is Explain Everything which costs a small sum but is worth every penny.  Once you have added an image and annotated them and then recorded your message your creation can be saved as a video for your pupils to access again and again.  It could be the basis of a flipped learning module.   This first lesson on using ĂȘtre in the perfect tense was created in Explain Everything and was accompanied by some worksheets with questions to help guide the pupils' learning. 
This was my creation but there was no reason why I could not let my pupils have access to my iPad to create their own screencast.  The very process of preparing to present via screencast enables pupils to internalise information and knowledge and such a process has been shown to have positive learning effects on pupils.  Other tools such as ShowMe or Doceri are free and have similar functionalities.
If you can organise a way to reflect your iPad screen on the Interactive Whiteboard then there are also other possibilities.  Two apps that come to mind and that are great for starters, mini-plenaries or plenaries are Decide Now and Make Dice Lite.  The first comes in at a hefty £0.69 but is well worth it.  It is a spinning wheel with content chosen and created by you.  Some key dates for discussion? Some questions about home life in French?  Some character names that need to be discussed?  The list is endless.  Make Dice Lite is free and as with Decide Now you can decide and create the content.  Roll the dice and let your pupils discuss whatever topic you have chosen that has appeared on the face of the dice.  You can have as many or as few dice as you wish.  With two dice, in English for example, you can get pupils to talk about the relationship of one character to another.  In languages the dice can be starting points for pupils to create sentences.   In maths the dice could hold a selection of problems to solve which would be great for revision. 
These are just some ideas and I am sure you will have many more of your own.  Please share these with me on the comments underneath.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Making Genius Makers

Recently I enjoyed a wonderful day at PedagooSW where I heard +Nick Dennis talking about the Multiplier Effect* and its role in shaping the way people lead.  The question is are you a genius or are you a genius maker?  I was inspired by his talk and the points he had to make and I am looking forward to reading the book and exploring how I can enable my team to develop and lead more effectively.

One week later and I have had further cause to reflect on last week's talk.  Interestingly my reflections are based on a classroom experience as opposed to any departmental or whole school issue.  I found myself with a small year 8 class who are bright and incredibly keen to learn.  We had spent time over the year learning how to talk about our past and now I wanted them to create something with their knowledge and I wanted them to be able to go beyond writing something on paper.  I had one iPad at my disposal.  So not a 1:1 experience at all.... more like 1: 20. 

They decided to talk about the differences between now and then (when they were so much younger!) and then they would create some kind of film.  Using images they found on google images and PhotoCollage  they then imported into Yakit Kids where they had fun choosing the mouth and eyes for the picture.  Once the picture was just as they wanted it, they then recorded their message and went through the process again with their next picture.  With all the recording organised students then imported the whole thing into iMovie  where they cut and edited their work and chose some background music and titles.  Here's the first attempt:

For all of us, the process was a new one; we were all app smashing novices.  In the absence of a class set of iPads and a way to mirror my iPad I demonstrated to my first pupil what to do. Here's where, even though it was unwittingly, the Multiplier Effect came into play.  With the rest of the class to deal with, I left the first student to demonstrate to the next student how to create their video.   Here's the second video:

This next student then reciprocated for the third student and so on.  The process worked remarkably well and they learnt a bit more French as well as some digital skills.  It was a successful experience for us all and one that I would definitely repeat.  Undoubtedly the videos are excellent evidence of what can be achieved by students given the right tools.  However, most of all, for me, the main lesson was realising how exciting it is to enable others to become a "genius".  To help anyone to move out of their comfort zone and tackle something new and feel in control of this new skill is incredibly rewarding.  There was a successful educational outcome here and I am looking forward to empowering others to do the same with their classes and their teams.

*The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools by Wiseman, Allen & Foster

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Why this tool and not another?

We all know that there are a plethora of tools available out there in the ether that can be used for a variety of purposes.  Sometimes I become overwhelmed with the choices available.  How to proceed?  I have a small window with my Year 8s and I want to do a speaking task.  Should I use "voice technology tool that allows users to discover, collect and convey thoughts and expressions on-the-go over voice in 30-second audio snippets ...".  This would be perfect.  Each of my students would be able to access the tool and complete the task within a 40 minute period.  I know it's possible as I have done it.  Then on the other hand why not use Audioboo I can "capture [my students] thoughts by giving them access to Audioboo - the easiest, simplest way to let students express themselves".  Of course, if I do not go with these options there's always Tellagami a mobile app that lets you create and share a quick animated video.  With this last option I can add so much more to the speaking exercise.  So, which one should I use?  I will just have to ignore the other options available (Voice Record Pro, Sock Puppets, Yakit, Buddy Poke) as the list is endless and I could go on forever.
You see, sometimes, it feels so difficult to make a decision about which app or tool to use.  This dilemma I present here is for oral work only.  Don't get me started on other projects involving other skills and other technological needs.  Actually, do get me started.  The whole point of this blogpost is to talk about this issue that can cause so much procrastination. 

The main point is to choose your poison and stick with it.  Explore that option to the full, make your students confident to use it so that it enhances their learning.  If you do not do this there really is no point.  A technological tool should augment what you are already doing in the classroom and should provide opportunities for your students to do things that they are not able to do easily without technology. 

I have heard tell that colleagues have given up on this tool or that tool because the students did not like it or the students said there was something better out there.  Oh how easily they have given up.  Did they give up this easily when the students told them they didn't like studying the set text, or they did not want to write that essay, or the grammar book was no good?  I think not. 

I have just come back from a fabulous day at #PedagooSW - so much fun but so educational too.  I had lots of thought provoking moments but for me my "oh yes, I get you" moment was in @lessonhacker talk on "better teaching and learning (with digital stuff)".  He has confirmed my beliefs and given me the strength to go back and encourage those who want to give up at the first complaint of a student.  It is important to remember that a tool has been chosen for a reason.  So use it and use it well.  If other options are presented then explore them in readiness for another project at another time.  However, please do not give up on a tool at the first sign of dissent.  Ask yourself, did you give up on using the CD when the CD player first came into use.... or the ipad... or the laptop....