Do it! Clean those screens!

How many germs live on your screen?Go on, get out the microfibre cloth, the sanitiser, the cleaner and clean those glass screens. Fingers and glass are a bad mix until we invent self-cleaning screens. I have blogged about it before. We wash ourselves, our dishes, clean our clothes and our toilets but we don’t think about our screens. It needs to become routine. Which? has done some interesting studies to show that screens harbour more bacteria than toilet seats. The article offers a sensible way to keep your screens clean. There is another informative article here about what lurks on your screens. When you have read both of those, take the test at The Oatmeal!!

The screen protector challenge

One of life’s grand challenges these days is to put a screen protector on your device without it turning into a bubble landscape. My year 8s and I decided it was a really tough challenge but that screen protectors were really worthwhile on devices because they protected the screen and could be replaced to help assist cleanliness. Some had decided it was so hard , it was not worth having a screen protector. Some were like me and had found a shop where you could get screen protectors put onto your devices at a reasonable price. All my devices have cases which protect the screen when they are in transit. This video shows you some tips which might help you become more adept at installing screen protectors. Used to be the great book covering challenge, now it’s screen protectors. Life has some interesting ways of making you feel inadequate.

Load Windows on Linux laptop

I needed to change my laptop back to a Windows 7 laptop from Linux Mint because I am swapping laptops with my daughter. Not Windows 8. She is very clear about the fact she does not want Windows 8. Each to their own.  I’ll then be loading her laptop with Linux Mint. Loading Linux onto a Windows laptop is easy. You get the iso for the Linux Mint version you want and away you go. Doing the reverse is easy too but only if you know how. If you do a search for loading Windows onto a Linux laptop then you get way too much information about fdisking and this code and that code and dos boxes. All this is possible if you like doing it. Most people want easy. The video here shows the easiest way of doing it by using the Windows installation disk and using the custom set up. Works like a charm and makes it all very straightforward. The video can be back tracked if you didn’t quite catch the set of instructions because he does go quickly. Prefer that over someone who goes far too slowly with instructions. I then use Advanced System Care to get the drivers. Otherwise you have to wait for Windows to bring them to your machine or go out looking for them yourself. I don’t dual boot. I prefer to have just one operating system on each computer I have. Windows 8 doesn’t like to dual boot at all and other versions of Windows will dual boot  far better if Windows is loaded first.

Transfer a file from one device to another

file transfer Yesterday, I had a student chasing me down the corridor. “Mrs. Woods, Mrs. Woods, can you pleeeeeeeeeeze get my file off my USB onto my iPad. I have tried syncing it and it won’t work. I tried emailing it and the file was too big. I need it for our talk.” I was impressed with how organised he had been to be ready this early and also impressed he had tried to solve the problem himself. Shifting files to a device or one device to another is something which seems to block people on a regular basis. I generally use bluetooth and cloud storage as my preferred options. Direct connection is easy from computer to computer but devices can often thwart a file transfer and what works at home may not necessarily work on a network. Basically, there are these options:

1.Wired connection
2.Syncing device
3.Bluetooth
4.Airdrop (iDevices)
5.Cloud storage
6.Email

Yesterday it took me a minute to load his file on my MacBook and then share it with him on OwnCloud. He was so relieved because, like anyone else , he had spent a lot of time trying to transfer the file and it is both frustrating and annoying. It is why I impress upon students using technology to share and help. Share and help. If you don’t know, ask. Someone will know. We use devices differently and so our pool of common knowledge is very rich and productive. I have been pleased my classes have naturally moved into using the best device for the purpose and then learning how to file share. Some of my year 9s took photos on their phones of the little characters they made and couldn’t transfer the file to their MacBook. A couple came to ask me for wires because they could manage the file that way. Others could email because it was a small image. I am a great believer if you show students how to make good use of their devices, they will not use them for the wrong purpose at school. The discussion about wrong purpose is so much easier because there are so many good purposes they know and use.

Create the teaching memes

real woman This image came up on my Facebook feed this morning and made me laugh. It made me think too.There is so much that  this meme teaches – gender equity, humour, gender assignment, gender stereo types, predigested thinking, generalisations, change, role assignment , language use and all the other things you can think of. It is so important in the age of social media to use its strength to create an intelligent classroom. Memes can be videos, images, quotes. They can go far and wide and impact on the thinking of those who participate in social media . Those people in turn will allow those memes to percolate through real life. I put up a post with a video about how teachers need to create trail memes in their classroom. With content it is important to get the message across to a group of students who have been exposed to the internet since birth. They view the world often in terms of apps, memes, videos and sharing. You take critical and key components of what you want to teach and try to find the images, videos, quotes which will promote the learning and will want to make your students share. You can even create your own content along those lines. It is about attention grabbing, but when people react and share the memes they are then doing the time-honoured thing of circulating and promoting culture and learning. There is so much information and misinformation. There is so much content and poor content. The job of  a teacher is to shine the light and create the good trails through the information and spotlight the best information. Memes are a way of doing  this.

Digital Citizenship

digital citizenshipSociety sets out rules of conduct and behaviour through the law. It can then layer other behavioural expectations through its rituals, customs and social mores. What do we do on the internet? Some of it is governed by law. We shall eventually get to a stage where there are an international set of agreed behaviours for digital citizenship. One of the interesting things is the internet can be very successful as a self regulating social entity. Other times it is epic fail on model cyber-citizenship. Schools and education departments tend to spell out their expectations as a matter of course these days and that is good because it promotes clarity and an explicit expectation of those who engage with education networks. It helps ,though, to have these things discussed and clarified on a regular basis as new software and tools come into use fairly frequently and different groups of students have a different approach to devices and their use. Te@chthought has a very good graphic to help promote clarity and understanding of what digital citizenship can and might mean. You can download it as a pdf from the site and then the site further explores what digital citizenship might look like in real terms.

Are you tech savvy?

tech savvy Are you tech savvy? Does it matter? Is a child better than you? Is that true? You can try the test here. I got it form an article about 6 year olds being more competent technologically than adults. It is a British study which is being reported on and the article is worth a read because it discusses digital trends in the young and how they use technology. As a teacher that kind of information is invaluable. I knew my Year 8s were trying to get on SnapChat in lesson time. I only had to have them at my desk looking at their iPad work when a little message came up. I then had to show them how to log out of SnapChat so it would not disturb their attention during lesson time. Has not been an issue since. The test itself is very vague and general and I would have expected to score above average on it. Digital awareness and understanding are umbrellas for so many skills and capabilities these days. People do tend to group around certain aspects of technology according to their age. The backbone of Twitter is mainly older people. Pinterest is largely driven by women. Will your lessons collapse because you don’t know about SnapChat or Instagram? No, they won’t, but you might fall foul of the negatives of technology if you don’t have some awareness of what software is popular with the young and how they are using it. The research seems to promote the notion you are more digitally competent if you can use cognitive interaction really well. YouTube, Spotify, Chatting, knowing apps are all consumer activities. Knowing where these things might fit in to something else you are doing is good. Knowing you can use them might help you make a more productive use of your devices. In a classroom we should always be aiming for explicit interaction. One of the first things I noticed when I had year 8s this year with their iPads was that they knew a lot of apps, were using the iPads as toys, thought if they had an iPad it was more important than anything or anyone around them, thought the iPad would run the lesson, they could use their iPad to annoy and undermine others, they loved their iPads. The journey began. We know now that the iPads can be put away and down when someone is speaking. We know we can crowd source help and information  impressively across a class using our iPads. We know our knowledge of apps can help us get a really good list of resources to work on an assignment. We know there are other apps like QR code readers, voice synthesisers, word reference, audio editors, image editors , animators, sites for uploading work, LMS messaging which can enhance our knowledge and skills. My year 8s now understand it is a team effort. A child has a way of doing things but an adult has life experience and a brain which has developed fully. Add that to performance standards, teaching experience, life experience, teaching guidelines, curriculum guidelines and technology is used far better. It is a team effort based on knowledge sharing.

DIY robot

Robots are becoming more prominent. They are here. A number of jobs have been replaced by robotic machines. At the moment , there is a real passion for building robots and some of them are now becoming quite sophisticated. In the real world there are people who enjoy making little robots and fortunately they share their ideas online so that others can see and learn. This is how robotics will grow. Mr. Moo is an Indonesian who has a very popular little robot which everyone wants to make. I have used Jaidyn Edwards’ YouTube clip and his site offers tutorials and further information.

The getting of wisdom

Knowledge wisdom information Image: Nelio A/B testing

I love the internet. I found the first picture and looked at it for a while and wondered whether it depicted wisdom properly. I then discovered we have diagrams and explanations for the Intelligence Hierarchy and they seem to apply to financial management. I was so impressed with Barry Ritholtz’ blog I subscribed. Here was someone who had a real clarity in explaining things and the comments which came under the post only opened up that discussion and explanation further.Intelligence Hierarchy As a teacher I am thinking this has to apply to education. Where do we place data, data collection and what do we do with it? As teachers we have to be creating the information trail memes so students always access good quality information and can see why some information is not worthy of serious attention. We are trying to give our students knowledge and a capacity to manipulate all this data and information into a life where they can contribute and thrive. So where do we stand on wisdom? Do we know what it is? Do we want to achieve it ourselves and encourage our students to achieve it? How do you do that in a world driven by big data and swamped by information good and bad? One of the people who commented said it was insight. We ought to be looking at insight as a significant component of wisdom. That is why I like the first picture. It says it clearly. You can be launched into the vast array of data and information but you can sort it out into components which can be used or discarded and you have the capacity to drive through all of that and have good outcomes. The first picture spells out clarity of thought and focus. What do you think?

Share your practice

we are teachersI keep telling you, the internet has a tried and tested way of promoting growth and development of ideas :

Create content
Share content
Get feedback
Grow content

It is a self perpetuating method of resourcing our world with ideas. We can now readily share experience. We can readily find authentic help when we need it. The We are Teachers blog is one of those places where teachers can constantly find a wealth of ideas and experience. Our own professional standards site ,aitsl, in Australia is getting very good at sharing real and valuable ways of encouraging us to work with the performance standards and then share those experiences. It is connecting us but it is up to us. We need to share our practice as teachers no matter what we are doing and at what stage of our career we are. That authenticity rings clearly through cyberspace and generates invaluable content for those seeking it. For an isolated teacher it is crucial. Not all teachers are a part of a big ,dynamic school. When we share, we reach out to others and offer them our experiences and knowledge. It can only  broaden everyone’s practice. It will put us all on a stronger footing and we will make natural and reliable connections with each other. This week We are Teachers put up a post by a new teacher. It will help other new teachers. It will turn a year’s work into something which will go into cyberspace and add to our common knowledge and improved professional practice. Social media is now a place where new teachers can quickly get help and support from more experienced teachers no matter where they are teaching. It is also a place where you can quickly crowd source ideas for projects you have in mind. Technology has added something we have never had before and that is an opportunity to have a wide, positive impact for the benefit of all.

Digital citizenship

Digizen Digizen is a UK site with information on good digital citizenship and ways and means of developing those skills. It has resources for educators specifically and then resources and information for the general public. The New South Wales education site also has some good information on digital citizenship.

Getting the best from Google

Atari BreakoutIf you are into retro gaming , you can play Atari Breakout on Google. You can get more information about it here from Gizmodo. There are also some really good Google Map tricks shred here at LifeHack. LifeHack also has a number of helpful Google tips to keep you well up with Google developments. It is far more than a search engine. You might like to know the interesting facts about Google.

Free software for Mac

Mac FreewareMac Freeware is a good site to look at if you are trying to find apps/software which will suit your needs at purposes at work or home but you want to try something out first. I have just downloaded iBooks because you can use it to publish e-books and read them too so it is handy to have an e-book reader on my MacBook and , later, I might just want that capacity to publish e-books too. Students can use e-books to advantage because iBooks, like other e-readers, will quickly bring up dictionary definitions of words. It takes the pain out of reading and understanding. It is particularly helpful when you are trying to master a language. Having the e-book provide such comprehensive definitions just by hovering is such a literacy breakthrough. There are plenty of other apps/software on the Mac Freeware site which might be helpful to you.

How to build a computer animation

This is not a proper computer. The focus was on creating an animation which simulated putting together a computer. 1500 hours of work , it says in the comments, and the use of software taught at his school. fenderlove01 has created something remarkable. For a start he has mastered some very complex software and there is a wow factor to his animation. He has taken something he loved and pushed it into a new arena to drive his learning objectives. Explicit learning at its best.He has now published something which has connected with a lot of other people and they have come in with suggestions. He is creating a better version of the animation, he says , but it’s 3 years and it hasn’t happened. He has moved on to other things ,most likely. He has also demonstrated with this video, that were it to replicate exactly how to put together a computer , it would be a very effective teaching tool. His use of design, software, knowledge and music has created the blueprint for how you could teach skills like this in a virtual world and thereby save real lesson time and real life time. Animation has the potential to be a powerful skills teaching platform.

Tellagami for visual voice recordings

Tellagami Tellagami is like Puppet Pals and Toontastic. You can build little videos and make voice recordings. Telligami allows you to add emotions and backgrounds and there’s a good opportunity for students to customise it , which is what they like. Great app for oral language development in any language. This is an app that students enjoy using.

The Ergonomic Times

The Ergonomic Times

The Ergonomic Times is a paper.li designed to bring you up to date and good information about technology and ergonomics. There are plenty of things to read, consult and consider so that we look after ourselves better and more easily as we use technology. There is even a link which takes you to a video on classroom ergonomics. It’s not just about occupational , health and safety . It is also about making good decisions and choices and developing good habits so we don’t create an unnecessary burden on our bodies as we use technology.

iHurt – iPad ergonomics

This is the only video I could find about the ergonomics of iPad use. We have had training and information about how to set up an ergonomically sound desktop computing arrangement, but we haven’t addressed new devices very well. It only takes a look at this video to know we can do better. We can pay attention to how we position an iPad or tablet and help our bodies avoid stress and strain. It has implications for classroom use. If we are unaware of how things can create problems then we won’t make the right recommendations to our students. It takes an expert, like this physical therapist, to tell us what we can improve on and all of Steve Meagher’s suggestions are practical and easy to implement, at home at least. In a classroom we don’t have cushions but we can recommend that students get the cases with built in stands and I am pleased to say most of my students do that anyway.

Video and audio magic with Handbrake

Elly Awesome introduces you to video shrinking on a Mac using Handbrake. This is the reason most people use Handbrake or come to know Handbrake. You can get older versions here because the new version doesn’t have the Target Size option which is easier to use. The new version has the Constant Quality slider which you have to fiddle with to get the results you want. Slide to the left for poorer quality and to the right for superior quality. The presets in the right sidebar allow you to automatically arrange settings for different devices. Handbrake can do a lot of things with audio and visual files. You can create DVD chapters, change file formats, optimise files for specific devices, add subtitles and , of course shrink files.

Handbrake

Syncing audio and video

I have used it to correct a syncing problem between audio and video in my video editing programme. I was importing the file and then the sound and video were slightly out of sync. You open Handbrake, select the file in source, select the folder to put it in when it is finished by using browse,check CONSTANT frame rate and then start the conversion. Handbrake is software you need to get to know and there are tutorials on YouTube and the site has help as well.

Sound recording template for class

sound recording template Strictly speaking this is a sound pre recording template but that is an uncomfortable mouthful for class so I’ll be calling it the sound template. I want students to put more thought into how they put their sound assignments and tasks together. I want them to think about the equipment, location and the things they will need to make an effective recording. They will probably prefer to do it without this kind of disciplined thinking but it is not getting the best quality sound. We need to play a bit more with sound effects, style of presentation and clarity of sound. This first template is to help guide them through the process. I say first template. I’ll probably change it as I work with students and get their feedback. Look upon it as a work in progress and you are welcome to a copy of the doc file by clicking on sound recording template.

Serious audio recording on an iPad

Epic tutorials takes audio on an iPad/iPhone very seriously and this 16 minute video gives you a lot of information about how to manage more professional quality audio on an iPad. The tutorial is clear, straight forward and easy to follow. If you look at the comments below the tutorial then you can see that the willingness to help others is there. He speaks about the Rode Rec  which is $7.49 from the app store. There are free audio recording apps like the ones I mentioned yesterday and there are other paid ones like bossjock studio which I have and posted about previously.

Sound recording apps

Voice recorder pro There are three free, decent apps you can use for voice recordings on your iPad/iPhone and it will come down to personal preference in the end. My voice recording app of choice is Wave Pad so that I will be able to use it with the Wave Pad software on my computer. The truth is, if you want good quality sound it needs to be processed on a computer. The Audacity Fan Site explains why Audacity is not available as an app and the reasons why the best sound quality comes from using a computer. You can read it there because it is explained well and so I won’t repeat it here. So, the three good sound apps for the iPad are:

Wave Pad

Recorder Plus HD

Voice Recorder Pro

Sound files can be saved to the cloud and then processed elsewhere. The files can be saved as mp3 files so they can be listened to on any mobile device easily as well as computers. Recorder Plus HD has some good editing features so you can smooth out the sound recording before you forward it anywhere. iPads and iPhones may not be as good on the sound quality as a computer but they are mobile. It may be all you have, all you want or a good option under particular circumstances. You could, for instance, be recording a podcast on an iPhone while you are trying to kill some time somewhere. You can then bring that to your computer and give it some polish.

Sound improvement

I didn’t have it  quite right with the connections from my mixer to my computer. What an improvement! This video demonstrates a very similar mixer to my own. The instructions are simple and you understand how to connect this device properly. There are more complicated mixers and I might be interested in one of those down the track, but for now, my little mixer is sufficient for me and what I want to do. It has made a vast improvement to my voice recordings. I still have to thank Travis Townsend and his excellent video for getting me on the right track in the first place. You Tube is where I always end up if I am trying to do something since I am a visual learner and I am always better if I can see what needs to be done and if I can hear someone explaining the reasons why. If I put that together with my own knowledge I am then able to take big steps forward. There are some easy things you can do to improve sound quality. One of my best investments was the dynamic microphone. I can get a pretty good sound with my headset and microphone but it nowhere near compares with the clarity and quality of a dynamic microphone. The are some sound tips on Top Ten Reviews for improving audio quality in voice recordings. One of the things I have learnt about myself is that I cannot just talk into a microphone. I talk easily in face to face or   phone contexts but when I have to talk into the faceless, voiceless void I find it hard. I shall improve the more I do it. At the moment I put a little list together so I sequence my ideas properly. I have then learnt the important skill of how to delete silences and unnecessary bits in a voice recording. That in itself makes for a better recording. I have noticed my students are very thorough when it comes to voice recording. They prepare carefully and they will rerecord things to get a better version of their task. The repetition helps them to retain content.With the information I have learnt I can shortcut some of that for them and one of the things I’ll be looking for or making is a checklist/running sheet for voice recordings. It would be the equivalent of a story board but needs to be simpler or it would interrupt the speech flow.

Sound progress

recording Progress! I have my own little sound studio which packs up under my arm to put away and then I have the lite version with just a headset and microphone. The learning journey has been worth it already:

1. I can make MP4 videos with clear sound
2. I can make very clear voice recordings
3. I can do clever things like play with peak and clearing pops and clicks
4. I did not have to spend a fortune to achieve this
5. My learning path is now very clear

From all of this I am now in a better position to help students with sound recordings. I am a French teacher. It is important we can get clear sound on our audio tracks, particularly if they are for external assessment. I have to say I have found Wave Pad has accelerated my learning because as software it is just so helpful. It is software I shall be able to grow into and learn more with. The free version is more than adequate but the added extras with the paid version are worth it when you have a better understanding of what you need. With the free version I’ll be able to get students to improve the quality of their recordings which are often too soft or muffled. I have progressed to putting voice recordings into little videos with other sound effects and music because that will be the creative side of all this learning. I have proven you do not actually have to learn much, as it turns out, in order to improve what you are doing with sound. What has taken me so long is learning what I needed and why and then how to put it all together. Even at this early stage I feel confident enough to use my sound knowledge in class and put it to good use. Can only get better from here.

Audio editing software

I have just found Wave Pad. Normally I use Audacity because it is cross platform, my students can use it easily and know the software and it is basically fuss free and effective. In class I use Audacity and Garage Band because we have MacBooks and iPads. Wave Pad is now an other option.Once you show students how to add the effects in Garage Band then their recordings really come up a level because they like using sound effects and it spurs them on to doing better. Audacity is handy in class for straight out  voice recording. Remember, I am no sound technician and I am teaching French. I am looking for things to help me improve the quality of what I can produce and thereby increase my options as a teacher but I am also looking at how anyone can make better quality sound files. Wave Pad is for Windows , Mac , Android , iOS but not Linux .I have found already that it has improved what I am doing even though I am currently just using a microphone with speaker attached. I could record something, enhance the voice, clean up the track and get a better sound…all in 10 minutes. If I can use this software, then anyone can. It does make a difference. There is a paid version and choices. That is good marketing. For a start I can have a really good look at this software without feeling it will disappear off my computer, be so limited I would not really have a clue and have no chance of really understanding how the software will benefit me and those I share sound files and sound file making with. Wave Pad comes with tutorials, helpful hints, ideas, clear explanations, You Tube support and an opportunity to grow as I learn without feeling like I have to push myself when I am not ready to. This is the crux of learning new technology. You need time to explore and gain confidence, you need help if you want it, you need a vision. I have the cables now for my mixer and so I am looking forward to using Wave Pad. I’ll still use Audacity because I am cross platform but my desktop and netbook are what I use at home and my NetBook made a really nice sound file last night just after I had downloaded Wave Pad. If nothing else, others who produce software should take some tips from Wave Pad as to how to introduce new clients to a platform.

Sound recording 101

Home Recording Studio has 6 easy to follow tutorials for making classier sound recordings than you normally do. It was going to be my project this year to get better sound recordings in class. I am half way through the year and I have done some sound recording work with students which they really enjoyed. I still haven’t set up my recording equipment at home , though, so I can improve my skills and knowledge. This video is where I am up to. I have all the equipment and as I was putting it all together today I realised I cannot connect the mixer to my computer to record. I don’t have a lead. I now need to work out which lead. When I put myself into learning something I am clueless about I do it one step at a time and make sure I know what I am doing before I go to the next step. I have all the other leads, some nice microphones, a sound mixing board, a microphone stand and I do have headphones with a mike as back up but the sound quality won’t be as good as when I finally get this all sorted! One more cable. When I learn this way I can see I have come a long way because I now have some idea of what I am talking about and realise I could have made some better decisions along the way. That doesn’t worry me. The fact I now know this has made it a worthwhile journey. I have some very good video software, a good computer and now some good sound equipment. It has not cost me a fortune. I have also had a good chance to look at “how to” videos. This guy is good because he is not too fast, not too slow, has pictures, information and best of all he explains why you should be doing something . He is even better he gives you a chance to choose. Hate the word empowering, but his videos have the added benefit of empowering you with some knowledge so you will choose one thing above something else. This means you are engaged in the process of learning. So, shopping trip for me to get my last cable and I am glad I have come this far. It has made me very aware when I am teaching not to take anything for granted and to support my content with sound, images and good explanations.

Ambient sounds

Soothing sounds and musicLeigh Haggerwood is a British composer and sound designer. Now there’s a clue as to how jobs and careers will change as we continue our journey into the age of technology. Would students know they could become a sound designer? Would we know so we could tell them? You can use the Calmsound site for free and play whatever you want. The videos with sound are really nice and very soothing. If you cannot get away or you are feeling like you need a break , then this site is worth bookmarking so you can take a short break. You could even use it to play calming background sounds in class. I can use it to teach weather and nature. Again, I have to thank my Facebook feed and Teaching Ideas for recommending this site.

123D Sculpt

123D Sculpt This app for the iPad comes highly recommended by my year 8s. Those using 123D Sculpt are achieving images quickly, effectively and with a great deal of enthusiasm and interest. I am teaching them French and am always looking for good apps which will create a visual aspect in their work or will be quick and easy to use to enhance their learning because my main focus is French. We are making comic strips at the moment and we came up with a list of recommended apps. My year 8s could not speak highly enough of this app and when I asked them to show me what they had done and then checked again to see what they had done I could see it was very effective for them and they could do what they wanted and get the French going . I have to avoid getting lost in apps which divert them into other things. In another world I could do it differently. It has been such an instant hit I have to recommend it highly to you! What I like about it is that it gets students away from cognitive learning very quickly and straight into the explicit learning phase so that they are creating original things of their own for their own use. One of the good things about using iPads in a classroom setting is you can teach students they are not just toys. They are not just for consuming: they can be used for productivity and creativity as well.

Epson interactive whiteboard

There is now a new Epson interactive whiteboard in my room and it caused quite a sensation on Monday. Why not? New technology, new look and it really is dressed to impress. The board area is bigger and that is a real advantage for students and staff when they are teaching. The sound and image are HD quality and it shows. It makes such a difference in a classroom like mine which is dark in winter and acoustically bonkers. There are fewer wires and the whole installation is tidy and neat. The best bit is the projector is closer to the board and so you don’t get blinded by the light as you teach. It runs very quickly from whiteboard to computer display and so you can interchange the mode of approach really quickly which is important in a lesson…. just sit there and watch my computer load, please. My students were very excited and pleased because it was so much better for them. Other staff who used the room were excited and one in particular, who has good art and mobile phone skills had a head full of ideas as soon as we got it going and he could see how easy it was. It has a USB connection to load images from a flash drive. This is good for me. I often use images and then will be able to write over the top of them myself. You can save screens from the board to the drive or computer. You can print if you want to . The whiteboard can work without the computer if you need that. There are lots of options and they are all easy. The video shows you how easy and there are other videos on YouTube to look at to show you the functions. I can still use the things from my other IWB and that is good. My next step is to connect the Apple TV and see how that goes. I stopped using it because the screen was too small on the other projector . This one ought to be better and the Apple TV ought to be able to benefit from the sound and visual capabilities of this projector. I have used it for one day and it has created a real chance to grow again. New technology can do that, especially if it fits our needs as teachers.

Meet Poppy

Every school should have a Poppy! Ultimate in robotic cuteness. She has to be created. How she is assembled is in a fast motion video on LeMonde site. Students need to have a good understanding of robotics and robots. It will be their world. The Poppy project is designed to build an open source humanoid platform but it is designed also to be accessible. Robotics can be extremely expensive. Building your own humanoid could be prohibitive in its costs. Poppy is built from things you can easily buy and uses 3D printing. The more who build a Poppy and contribute to the programme , the faster they will understand how this is done and what it means. Poppy will then grow and change as our knowledge is used in collaboration with others through the Poppy project.

Team effort on the iPad lesson salvage

IYanMy year 8 double lesson was going really well until we hit a pothole. I have been so pleased the Year 9s were making such good progress with GoAnimate and like it. WITHOUT CHECKING FIRST I assumed it would work on the iPads. My mistake. I plead end of term brain fatigue. Always prepare properly with technology. GoAnimate does not work on the iPads because it needs flash. I had the class all ready to use and explore it for our next assignment and then we fell in a hole. The beauty of technology is you can dig yourself out pretty quickly with a team effort on the problem solving. We put our iPads away and had a 5 minute think tank. The best solution seemed  to be to go to the app store to see what free alternatives there were. They had another 5 minutes and had to tell me when they had something good so I could make a list on a PowerPoint slide as we discovered suitable apps. They were so impressed with themselves and so serious about problem solving. I asked them to find free apps because we would be trying them out and  they could be comic strip or animation apps. These are the apps they valued:

IYan
Comic Puppets Lite
Comic Maker HD
Toontastic
Animation Maker HD
Caption Distraction Lite

Some took a photo of the list because they were going to try them all. We all got started on an app to see what we could do and how well we could practice the French we had learnt this semester. We included ComicLife (paid )on our list because a number of students had it and wanted to use it. Once we have done our assignment we shall do a review of these apps because I am pretty sure we are now trialling them all. GoAnimate is going down really well with the year 9s but they have MacBooks. It will be great if we can find something as well thought out for the iPads.

GoAnimate

GoAnimateAny paid application worth its salt needs to have a decent trial/lite/free version. You cannot simply buy software, walk into class,  and then find out it will do what it wants and not what you need. Most teachers have the brakes on when it comes to texts ,software or new materials. Rightly so. Plumbers wouldn’t just use anything to fix your taps and a surgeon wouldn’t trial a new technique on you. We need safe options to have a chance to look and see. This year I am looking and GoAnimate .I have only just started using it with students and I like what I see. We have been labouring through the perfect tense in French. It is complicated, it requires lots of practice and my students have done well. I thought by way of reward we’d make an animation of “le weekend dernier” (last weekend). I found a ready made one on GoAnimate which the students loved and so they were keen to find out about this site. We spent a lesson just looking and learning. They loved it. They went sooooo quiet. I looked and watched. Some were naturals at animation. All were involved and enjoying it because it has plenty of tools and options. Some wanted to look at other people’s animations on the site and explained that would help them learn. It did. They were learning all sorts of content as they watched animations and then their own mock ones became good very quickly. It got the big thumbs up so we are pursuing it. I don’t let students progress into animations and comic strips without doing a storyboard first. You can search my blog and get some or look on a search engine and  storyboarding templates come up quickly. I took 3 into class to see which one they wanted. They wanted them all! They wanted to see. They are not quite sure how to use them so that is today’s lesson because it will come back to the French. They need to know what their screens will be , how their story will progress and what French they need. It is easy for them to get lost in things like this and if time were limitless I’d let them follow that path. It is natural learning. I put the storyboard in to accelerate the learning and task completion. It keeps them focussed on the French. GoAnimate has a paid version and a school version with support. I do not yet know if it would be worth it, but I can see they have given me the opportunity to trial it in the wild and find out whether it is worth financial investment or not. That I appreciate.

Clean and restore a whiteboard

whiteboard cleaning It took a teacher, didn’t it? At last, an intelligent and sensible use of those animated gifs which have been plaguing the net recently – because they can. They are rarely inserted with  thought and purpose and the whole visual loop thing is hardly ever used to add to and enhance content. This is a wiki about how to clean your whiteboard. It is not only helpful and practical, it shows you clearly how to do it by using gif files. How did I come across this information? On my Facebook feed. One of the good uses of Facebook is you can sign up to pages which will add interesting information to the feed. I’ve signed up to the Teaching Ideas Facebook page and it always has something practical. I had chosen that particular whiteboard cleaning post because it used animated gifs  well but also because it used WD40. I use WD40 for everything but had not thought to use it to clean and restore a whiteboard. There are  5 other whiteboard cleaning options here.

Using technology

Using technology

Think – it’s all in the preparation
Connect – use technology to talk with your audience
Know – know your audience and your subject matter
Understand – do you know what they need and what they are looking for?
Convince - what you are teaching is beneficial to them.
Conclude - tie up the loose ends, connect the dots, join up information
Hold something back – leave the lesson with the next logical step ready to be learnt

We have some good choices in technology now so it is important to think out what you want to use and how. Yesterday I split the whiteboard screen to show a doc on one side and then use the interactive whiteboard on the other side. We then went to practising what we had done using a flashcard programme on the whiteboard which had sound as well. From there to a new programme we are learning so we can animate our next assignment. These students like active, like big visuals and they like a gaming approach. They will work hard and learn the content if I offer it to them in a way which really enables them. My year 11s and 12s had a surprise the other day. My Year 11s had to do an exam. So I had set that up. At the same time I was required to teach the year 12s. I could have sent them else where or told them they were to work silently for 2 hours. They are, after all , Year 12s. I thought about it. We have missed lessons for various reasons. Their year is a short one and the tasks are demanding. I told the year 12s there were two assignments we were going to get organised in that 2 hours. I had the Year 11s up and running with their exam. I had my laptop where I could see them and the time. Every 15 minutes I got up to supervise. Every 30 minutes I announced the passing of time. In between my year 12s and I wrote little notes to each other so I could help them and they messaged me rough copies of their work over the learner management system. With more students I could not have done that. With different students I could not have done that. You look at your classes , your capabilities and your tools and you work out the maximum use of technology to achieve something for those students and yourself. Sitting watching students for 2 hours is a poor use of me and my capabilities. Making sure everyone’s needs are met in an educational context is a good use. My year 12s were amazed how much we achieved so it was a good lesson in focussed learning for them. My Year 11s were comfortable because they knew I was there and looking after them but I was not looking at them all the time. For my year 9s we have the animation story board to prepare on Monday, for my year 11s I have their exams to return with the learning they will now need very clear and the year 12s can ramp up and start their big oral assignment. Preparation is everything and content is king.

Connect external speakers to a TV

Not everyone wants a fancy sound system. Not everyone can afford one and not everyone has the room for one. You can easily boost TV sound with a set of computer speakers which are cheaper than sound systems and take up less room. If you are running a TV screen in a school, that might be all you need to create a better sound quality for the audience. The other problem you might have is the one I had. My new TV would run the sound for DVD and blu ray players through my sound system but it refused to play sound through external speakers on TV until I connected my PC speakers. It also means when I run my computer off the TV it has better quality sound. Happy now.

Two good video playing apps for iPad

VLC playerMy year 8s couldn’t play the teaching video I had shared with them. I told them to download VLC player or GPlayer or both. They are both good apps for playing videos on the iPad. Could not believe the excitement when they could instantly play their videos as soon as they had the apps. The snowballing effect will work with this. Now they have the apps they will tell others and then everybody will be enabled for playing video on their iPad in class. I share the videos from cloud storage in MP4 format since that suits mobile devices.

Give them what they need

verb tablesHow am I supposed to know they learn this way? Easy. Try it and see, go back and alter that grand thought or plan of yours and try it again. Try something different. Try what is there. Get the combinations right. Tinker and fix. Share, get feedback, improve the content and reshare. It is constant movement. The year 8s and 9s are different. They have specific learning needs and technology is a part of it. So is game-based theory and visual content in class. It is important to follow that paradigm if you are looking to get the best. So it is from easy going to a bit harder ,  to a bit harder, having more options and then achieving the level but alls the while going over the same foundation content. I am teaching the year 9s the perfect tense in French. We looked at past participles. We looked at how that works in a sentence. We looked at one group of verbs, another group of verbs but all the time I was being consistent – teaching the sentence structure and repeating the model. I can do that with slide presentations and I can vary the content with each slide presentation. I can make it bold and colourful or just plain old black and white because I want them to focus on the construction of the sentence. I moved on to a board of lists – when? verbs? where? with whom? what was it like? The last bit is important. It was an introduction to the imperfect and a revision of adjectives. From the board we made sentences. They just had to choose from each list. They had to say them. They had to make one of their own not using my verbs. I kept coming back to this list as I added another layer of understanding. The words on the lists became shared knowledge and learnt easily. They didn’t like la semaine dernière (last week). It was too hard to say and meant nothing really. I chose le weekend dernier (last weekend). They like real things and things they connect with. They are emotional learners. I wrote up a little thing about the weekend using the lists and a couple of other new but easy expressions and made them write their own. We did it as an oral. Big success. Easily pronounced and well written. At the start of each lesson we do very matching tables. They have to match the French with the English. My year 8s love it and don’t even realise they are doing grammar. My year 9s can do 2 of them in less than 10 minutes. Not bad. We are getting faster. Use what is there and build your lesson around different ways of presenting the same material and ensure there is a bit of a challenge. My year 9s now want to do a bigger presentation on le weekend dernier. We have leveled up again

and here are two examples:

J’ai regardé le requin à l’ aquarium.
C’etait génial.
J’ai acheté un grand sac bleu pour ma mère et un petit sac bleu pour ma sœur au marché.
J’ai mangé du gâteau au café avec ma famille.
Quel bon weekend.

 

 

Le weekend dernier je suis allée à Mount Gambier. J’ai visité mes amis. C’était fantastique. J’ai acheté le dîner dans un restaurant. J’ai regardé le film The Fault in our Stars. Quel bon weekend!

 

The confident writer wrote it as a paragraph but the other student stayed in control by doing one sentence at a time. The students sent me these pieces of writing over our LMS. Use what is there and make it easy.

So, who are the millennials anyway?

the new millennium

The Future Generation

I would have thought the Millennials were born in 2000 and beyond. Not so. The boffins have different names for these people and the best they can do for children born in 2000 or beyond are the Two Kays. According to those who know , the Millennials are coming into the workforce now and have a specific set of needs. They were born 1980 to 2000. These Millennials need a can-do approach and like team work. Children born from 1995-2010 are Generation Z and there is a really interesting article here to put them in perspective and look at their specific needs and skills sets. As a teacher, there is a wealth of information to help guide and enhance classroom practice. I have been thinking a lot about my year 8s and 9s. To me they are Millennials because they were born in 2000 and beyond. They are different from my older students. They respond differently and they need differing approaches so they can succeed and feel encouraged. I plan to blog about it because technology has been central to engaging and educating these students. They are new. They are different and they have an interesting way of going about their work. We are coming up to the end of the semester so now I feel I have observed them closely enough in order to make some good breakthroughs with teaching them. I’ll be back with some of my ideas. The more we share, the faster we’ll pool our knowledge to shift over to this new generation.

Netbook news

netbook TV My netbook may not be looking any better but it is certainly working hard and I am really getting it sorted. Just over a week down the track it’s one of my best friends because it is little, manageable and can do whatever I want. This Acer Aspire One is very well made and sturdy. It means I compute very comfortably. Tonight I tuned the TV channels into it using my USB TV stick. I have downloaded Open Office and that’s because it was too annoying trying to install my bone fide Microsoft Office . The netbook decided it wasn’t going to read any CDs from my external CD player. It appears to be reading it as USB storage and I shall have to sort that out later. In the meantime Apache Open Office from sourceforge is probably going to be more than adequate. At the weekend I had the RAM upgraded to 2GB and it makes a considerable difference and was worth the financial outlay. The netbook can now do more than one thing at a time, downloads and uploads very fast and there is little wait time on page loads. The graphics are adequate, the sound is adequate but I do have external speakers should I want better sound. I can get most files I need from the cloud, USB or external portable drive. So, my netbook journey is progressing. Right now I have all the software I need really for my purposes. The TV is a nice little addition! I can stay fully functional on this netbook without being super fancy. That’s okay.

Back up Thunderbird profile

appdata Thunderbird1. Press windows key and then  r

2. Type %appdata%  in the run box and press enter key .

3. You will come to this screen.

4. Scroll down and find Thunderbird.

5. Double click on it.

Thunderbird profile This screen will then open. Copy the Profiles folder to the desktop. From there you can save it to elsewhere. I keep a copy on my computer and a copy on my backup drive. Until now I have never had to use it but the updates with Windows 8.1 have destabilised my computer. One day I came onto my desktop computer and Thunderbird had been reinstalled. You could not imagine these sorts of things happening but they do now. It meant all my emails and contacts were gone. I set up my account again and then found my profile back up. I removed the Profile folder and replaced it with my back up one. Problem solved without boxes of tissues.

Showbie

Showbie I am trialling Showbie with my year 8s and their iPads because I was asked to. OwnCloud has been a bit glitchy and for that reason , frustrating to use. Students love OwnCloud and I could have loved it too if it didn’t keep dematerialising the assignments as it was syncing over wifi. OwnCloud is local server storage and local MacBook storage. That has some real advantages but not when work vanishes right before your eyes and the first time it happened was when I was with the IT people so until we sort that out I was looking for an alternative. These year 8s want what they want when they want it. They want cloud storage. They want to be  able to upload any file format they want. They want it to be easy. With Showbie you create a class folder and then give students the code. Ha! Then you give students the code and then you give students the code. You never stop giving students the code.No matter what you tell them they never can find or notice the code. I need a Showbie code show app! Or a soundbite autoloop of the code. I am sure we’ll get past that. In OwnCloud you set up the class and invite students to join and submit work. In Showbie they make the class and use the code to add themselves. Sometimes they add themselves twice because they feel like it and then find it fun when you ask which log on they wish to be. Year 8s just like playing with technology and what it can do. I have blocked the double entries so they cannot do it again. Apart from that Showbie has worked easily for me and them. What I really like is the amount of support around the app and the number of educational ideas the site itself has. There is a commitment to getting you going as a teacher and there is a commitment to sustaining you as a teacher. The blog is really great. Showbie has to have an internet connection but it’s an anywhere anytime app or site. OwnCloud is not available away from school. That part frustrates students because they like to be using their gadgets when they want to use them. Millennials have not got the same sense of work/life separation. To them it is all life and they want to choose when they will do things. It is important to acknowledge that if we are to teach them according to their needs.

How boring is your desktop?

NetBook

Doesn’t get more boring than this.

I can guarantee that this Aspire One netbook has the most boring desktop on the planet. You are not allowed to change the desktop background. Not allowed. Awful things will happen to you and your netbook if you dare try. It has been quite an achievement to get to this boring desktop and to even be blogging from it. Times have changed. I inherited the netbook from my daughter who is so in love with her iPad for quick and easy netting. I have spent a few weeks watching paint dry on the netbook as I have updated files, removed files and generally made the supreme effort of actually getting it going so I could actually use it! There will be more posts on my netbook journey. At the weekend it will be upgraded from its one gigabyte of RAM to 2GB. That ought to improve things considerably. In the meantime I should love Microsoft to relent and let me colour my netbook world. Seriously, that desktop sucks.

You never, never know

QR code er verbs

You, too, can learn er verbs in French!

You never know what will happen in a class using technology. It is true, like any other lesson you can rigidly control the input and sequencing of events. When you do not  , it is important to allow a natural flow of learning and discovery to occur and it will surprise you just how much you can achieve. You need to remember the pattern – create the content, share the content, get feedback, reshare the improved version. It’s how it naturally flows in a lesson with ICT. In my double lesson with Year 8s I needed to introduce the concept of verb groups and then focus on ER verbs in particular. I also needed to ensure the students were doing their bit for the languages world challenge. I could go from images of verb conjugations to using my Promethean board to explain it with custom flip charts and my own explanations with the electronic pen and then back to the slide presentation I had with all the key information. After that we got our iPads up and joined the class I had made on Showbie. Half the students picked that up really quickly and the other half got there with a bit of help from their friends. We were then ready to work on the assignment to hand in. About 15 mins into it some students realised they had no idea what we were doing and were getting muddled. I looked up a good online explanation with a video of verb endings in French with an exercise. Those who didn’t know how to do what we were doing were so happy but it was hard for them to read the URL from the board . It was very long. I cut and pasted it into Powerpoint and made it huge text. Then I went to my favourite QR code site. I made the code (left) and bingo! Some had the phone app or could get it. Some could get it on their iPads and very quickly they could share that information. They were so pleased. These year 8s really like to be actively involved in their learning and using technology to speed it up. As a teacher you just need to be able to make it all happen.

Ignore the moaning and groaning

Comic Life You haven’t got it right if they are not moaning and groaning. A challenge is not that easy. I can remember one year teaching my Year 9s how to use Comic Life. It’s great software for student literacy and creativity. Our Macbooks come with it already loaded. Plasq has an interest in the educational use of its software and provides some good support. That year I had taught the Year 9s to use slide presentations, iMovie and other things but students wanted to know how to use Comic Life. One student moaned the whole time and expressed  frustration and annoyance at every opportunity. We persisted. When we are learning new software I run streaming conversations. Everyone has to be talking their tips and what they have learned. We learn out loud so everyone gets a chance to pick up on what they don’t know. I gave her some personal help. Other students helped our head complainer but the moaning and groaning persisted. The student was not happy with the A for the assignment because of having to suffer an intolerable set of lessons. I met this student again in year 11. We were doing another assignment and after I had taught the content and explained the criteria for assessment, I told them they could present it as they wished. It was a story. I looked at what this student was doing and was surprised to see  Comic Life on the MacBook screen.

” I thought you hated Comic Life.”
” Where did you get that idea?”
” All the complaints when I was trying to teach you how to use it in Year 9.”
” It’s a great programme. I am really good at it. We learnt a lot but I didn’t know what I was doing.”
” You didn’t ever say you liked it.”
” Well, I felt lost. The others could use it and I couldn’t. It felt all wrong because I couldn’t do it. I used it for other things, though, and am used to it now. It’s fun and really good. I just needed to play with it myself a bit.”

When they are stumped by difficulties and tough learning , it is not a reason to stop and do something else. If they really don’t understand you have to step in and smooth the way but you have to observe with technology and look at what they are doing and how they are expressing themselves. Moaning and groaning can be a way we express our frustration when we feel swamped but we often moan our way through challenging learning and arrive safely at the next level with all that knowledge and those skills in our toolkit. I don’t take a lot of notice about complaints about how students can’t do something. If I run the open conversations then they invariably will move on and get to the next level of frustration or solve the whole perplexing mess and get some insight. It’s about getting them to the next step. I always make sure they have moved forward either with my help or the help of a class friend.

Get your interactive whiteboard out

Promethean PlanetCan’t get your Promethean Board working with Mavericks? I couldn’t either. Each time I have upgraded the MacBook OS I have had to fiddle around with the Promethean Board software and this Mavericks update has been the most challenging. The fix for Lion did not work on Mavericks. The active logo top left of the board was not calibrating the board .It was bringing up the file menu and that was all. My pen wouldn’t work. I removed all the software and downloaded the new version of the software on the Promethean site. I was really impressed with how nice it looked and how much better it had been set out. Drag and dropping files onto the flipchart was easy, searching for files was easy and inserting media was easy. My pen was still not working. You also discover you type straight onto the flipchart from the keyboard. I like that. The board image is clear and functional in a classroom setting. In the end the technician sorted it all out for me. She changed the display setting to 1280 x 800 and recalibrated the board from the menu in the top toolbar of my MacBook desktop. Technician magic! It was all working again. My year 8s were so happy in the lesson at the end of the day. They especially love it when we use the Promethean software and they can see my awful drawings as I teach them French. They love and value interactive learning which is why I was pleased to see the Promethean software looks better than ever. My year 8s seem to like to run a conversation with me as I teach and the Promethean software allows you to do that. They will pay attention to things on the board for a little while but past that point they want to be actively engaged and so you have to have  tools to teach them according to their needs. An interactive board does that. In actual fact it is making far better use of my resources than before because I can aggregate them on the board when I want to or just focus on one thing. It’s all easy and effective.

What’s the difference between a geek and a nerd?

Hannah Fry’s video from Head Squeeze is fascinating. It does have implications for schools because we are teaching both geeks and nerds , we are driven by both geeks and nerds and we might be a geek or a nerd as a teacher. The disconnect in an educational context can cause frustrations, communication blockages and a simple case of delivering the wrong content with the wrong tools to the wrong audience and wondering why it didn’t go well. I’m not particularly fond of stereotypes but there are times when using them can help clarify the picture so you can go back to treating others as individuals. What I really liked was the section on the scatter graph where you can see the language differences we make ourselves in social media. Basically, you cannot fake being a nerd and that was a light bulb clarification moment for me and something worth knowing.

Surprise classroom benefits with iPads

iPadDon’t you just hate it when your lessons keep getting interrupted? My Year 8s were having another round of immunisations. To be honest, I’d rather know they were keeping their lives healthy so I had steeled myself to the fact my double lesson was going to be a constant stream of students coming and going to get their injections. As it turned out, I could run my lesson as if nothing were happening thanks to the iPads. I can claim no genius for this idea in classroom management. It just happened and so for days like today I shall save it in my repertoire of tools for salvaging disrupted lessons. I had decided we would work on a conversation. My students are so in love with the Puppet Pals app most of them wanted to record their conversations on their iPads in Puppet Pals so we could watch them on the board. Some of them are very good at manipulating the figurines/avatars so the conversations are quite funny to watch. It meant I had to give them a bit of extra time for the recording. They were so enthusiastic about it I could not say no. It came to the time we would have to listen to the pair conversations. This is when I realised the iPads had been my best friend. I was expecting to have to listen to a number of conversations in the following lesson. No! They had recorded them!  It turned out there was at least one of every pair there and so even though some had had to go to their appointments for the immunisations I could still assess their oral skills. Using puppet pals to record their work also meant they were fully focussed and I didn’t have wriggly students worried about injections. The iPads solved a logistical problem for me and an anxiety problem for the students. We were winners all round today!

GParted is a winner

Toshiba portable drive Remember my MacBook had killed my Toshiba portable drive? And my WD drive. I wrote about it here. In that post I was saying I wasn’t sure what I was now going to do with my little Toshiba portable drive. Well, truth is, I have resurrected it thanks to Linux Mint and GParted. You can actually download it from the package manager on Linux if it is not already installed. My Toshiba was dead. Windows, Mac and Linux refused to mount it so it was useless. I got GParted out at the weekend on my Linux Mint laptop and looked at the drive. You have to know what you are doing or you might be looking at the wrong drive. To be certain, look at what is available on GParted, disconnect the portable drive, notice what is missing and then reconnect it. Windows could see it too. Just couldn’t do anything with it. With GParted I chose the option to partition the drive and selected the FAT 32 file system. I could have chosen other systems but FAT 32 seemed to be the best one since I could work between my operating systems. It will not be going back onto my MacBook. I have reformatted it which took about 5 mins and then I saved files onto it from Linux and have saved more files from Windows. It is running quietly and smoothly and plugs directly into the USB ports on both computers. It would only connect to the MacBook via a USB hub. So, I am happy now and have so much storage to back up files I’m glad. It  is small enough to  easily use in my car so I could shift my music and podcasts onto it and just use it for travelling. Main thing is GParted solved my problem effectively. All you need is the right tool for the job. I never tie myself to one operating system because that way I have options for problem solving.