Is there an app for that?

ewot on iPad This blog looks really cool on an iPad2. That was the first thing I learnt about iPads. They make websites look fantastic and the display is very sensible. The graphics and text are very clear. I borrowed an iPad2 because I wanted to see what it could do compared with a MacBook and an iPod Touch. On the down side it doesn’t run Flash and that’s a problem for sites like Voki. The other thing which turned me off was it was location, location, location. Every 5 minutes there was a location message. No I don’t want to locate everything I capture and do. Settings became my best friend. I turned location off. I could turn my iTunes account on and off and my home network. It sent me the French24 news in English because of its location obsession. FRENCH news. Hint. I want it in French. Bottom right of the screen I could turn it into French. Good.Oh – it cannot do anything with screen shots. You take a screen shot by pressing home and on/off button. Click. iPad2 screenThen you cannot do anything with it other than email it. So the iPad is like my iPod Touch. It has to be tethered to a computer from time to time.I thought I’d have trouble typing because I am such a touchscreen klutz but I turned it sideways and could clatter away quite well on the touch keyboard. That made my life so much easier than on my iPod Touch. I downloaded some free apps for French. I am just wondering how schools will manage payment of apps for different things and if iPads are shared how that will be worked out. When I showed my year 11s the iPad and what I had put on it for French I was an instant cool teacher. I then wanted to see what they would do. While they were working on an exercise on their laptops I said they could try the apps out. It was interesting to see how much they all wanted a go. Then those who got a turn were totally absorbed. I realised it was harder to see what they are doing than if they are on a laptop because they lean over the screen on the desk. They were so excited and absorbed. They have begged me to bring it into class again tomorrow so they can try some more things. I have downloaded another half a dozen free French apps and we’ll see how they go. I can see they would have a good use in a French classroom for verb conjugation, dictionaries, language practice, vocab practice, language extension , research. I have had it a day. Already the iPad2 has worked hard for me. I’ll try it for a bit longer and see.

Phun for physics

phun physics software If you actually knew what you were doing with physics principles you could probably build a working image far better than mine. In 5 minutes I had downloaded Phun, put in a background, inserted some physics objects and then had a working contraption which was sloshing the water about according to the laws of physics. It was fun! I can see how you would find it addictive and how you would want to make an even better contraption. I think physics teachers need to work out the best possibilities for this. For me it will probably become a cool desktop toy! There are plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to get the best out of it.

Back up now!

Back up now! Students are often caught out with not having their work backed up. It means no result or applying for an extension and then redoing the work. Most students get it right. When students are on laptops it is really important to remind them to make back ups. They also need to remind themselves to make back ups. It saves time , energy, worry and keeps the system running smoothly. Our laptop students are all issued with an external hard drive to back up their computer . They can also back up their files on the external drive. Backups need to become a habit and I am not going to stop saying that. It is also possible to find free and paid for online storage if you do a search for it. I don’t store my files online in a particular place but belong to groups and run blogs where critical classroom files are then stored. If you are using computers you need to have more than one place for accessing your important files. Online storage can be a good option. It is not a waste of time! Back up now!

TeFL Domain 3 Challenge 13

TeFL domain 3 Challenge 13Challenge 13: How do you help your students learn critical thinking? Teaching critical thinking has to become second nature. It is important when students are using technology they can learn how to muster the best information and the most reliable resources. They also need to know how to produce something which is less than routine because the world is not very keen on ho-hum effort these days. There has to be a dazzle factor and there has to be a an eye catching aspect to anything you produce. We are visually saturated so we have to know how to get the best out of our ideas, information and software. I have trained my classes to look for what makes them learn and look for what makes them notice. We have presented things to each other and we have looked at how we can improve our efforts and make them even more interesting and better thought out. Since this is my approach we have become far better at being honest about how to improve, how to eradicate mistakes, how to create something which will wow others with its palatable and worthy information and graphics. We have to think and plan. We have to get it right. We cannot just slap something together. We know that now . So the Thinker’s Keys have been a useful tool and you can download a free copy from the link. I also use Twiducate so that students can record what they have learned and share help and advice so that they have support in their thinking. When it comes to complex language tasks the concept webs and graphic tools because it helps them think out their ideas. When I show them videos in the target language I give them things to listen for. They need hooks into thinking and discerning information. With technology I have found it is important to give them things to look for as they go along and then teach them how to extract value from what they are doing and HOW they are doing it.

Challenge 12

Minecraft for class?

MineCraft siteWasn’t sure what to make of a student request to use Minecraft as part of our house exercise in French. The students have to take me on a tour of a real or imagined house , talk about it in French and let me ask them interview questions about it. One girl wanted to use Sims and take screen shots. I know Sims very well and what it can do because my daughter has played it forever. Minecraft was unfamiliar ground and I could neither say no nor yes. I said I’ll give you 10 minutes next lesson to show us on the whiteboard what it can do. Other students might be interested and will be able to see what you can do with it. Act of faith on my part but then I had to spring into action. So what do you do if your want to be open to technology in a classroom but don’t want to put yourself at risk?

1. Search for it in more than one search engine. Minecraft came up easily and I could see what others were doing with it and go to the official site. This game is huge is what I learnt and seemed liked electronic lego.

2. Search for it on Twitter and see what comments are being made. Having done that I felt like it was okay and probably safe for my classroom. I still wasn’t a hundred percent certain though.

3. Talk to the technicians. This gave me a chance to get information I might not have known or hadn’t thought of. Technicians are a fount of thought and information so the next tips are theirs.

4. Look it up on YouTube. What comes up could well be indicative of the sort of programme /software it is and you get the comments on YouTube as well.

5. On the USB sticks left behind in our computers Minecraft has featured very heavily. That could be good or bad. I asked the students why that was. They like it . It is a good game. I asked them if it was violent. They said zombies came out and attacked them in the house and village they had built but they could switch that off.

So now I was ready for the student to show us for 10 minutes in class and what he showed was really interesting and it had a real retro game look and feel but all the students could relate to it. He could use screenshots or take me on a tour as he was doing in class but do that in French. For secondary students it would make life quite interesting and Minecraft could be used in the way I shall be using it in class. Mine is but a modest contribution!

6. If you are going to use a game or screenshots from a game – how are you going to prove that this is student work and not that of a Net friend or expert gamer? That is a very good point to think about from one of our technicians. We need a work in a process approach and we need to have some idea of how games work. I could tell from the way the student was talking that he was new to this game and was doing the sort of things newbies do but could recover as you do and was very good at thinking on his feet.

So now I look forward to going on French tour of his imaginary house and he’ll be happy because he really likes that game.

7. If I still felt insecure I would not let it go on the whiteboard. I would get the student to show me on their laptop which this student did at lunchtime after he’d asked me if he could use it. That is how keen he was!

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