Winning!

stephen king book quoteYou know you’re winning when you catch students out for sneakily reading their ebooks in class. It was NAPLAN testing this week in Australia and by Thursday afternoon the Year 9s were all naplanned out. I had organised a simple, practical lesson for them where they could just do things that were easy but would add to where we needed to be by next week. As a bonus one of my students had offered up their phone to me before it got confiscated as usual because it was flat and of no use to them. I offered to charge it off my laptop as I had that on and the response was so worth it. Every week we go through locking the phone in my filing cabinet because it is a constant source of distraction. Responding in a kind way might see a difference. We’ll see. The lesson was underway and the year 9s settled into their work quite well. I wandered around to see what they were doing and one student was so engrossed in their ebook they didn’t even notice me next to them . So the ebook had to go away and then I noticed there was a print book on the desk. We had a little chat about books and then we moved on to doing the right thing in lesson. I wandered up the back…another secret ebook reader! No games, no nonsense just escaping into the wonderful world of fiction to soothe the naplan overload. That is the first time since we have had the one-to-one programme that I have caught students trying to sneakily eread. Love it. At the right time and in the right place ereading is the very thing. The devices are easily portable and quality dictionaries are available at the tap on a word. In celebration of reading I offer two free ebook sites:

Open Culture which has 700 free ebooks in print, audio and  in different languages.

The Literature Project

Okay, I’ll play your game

game earningsActually, I probably won’t. The one thing about people who play games is that they are very particular about which games they play and which device or devices they use. Some play Facebook games, others console games. Some just want to play on their smart phone. Some want simple games, others action and multiuser games. We all have very strong preferences and so it comes as a surprise in some ways that some games make squillions of dollars and there are gamers out there who can make huge amounts of money from their gaming when the opportunities arise. Those who invested in Grand Theft Auto 5 a while back would have found it sucked up their bandwidth and their money in excess usage charges. Those on unlimited broadband would not have had a problem, but those tied to a capped plan were finding no one else in the house could do anything because the data allowance had run out. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a high performance, cutting edge, state of the art game. The graphics and everything else to do with it are top of the range awesomeness. It is why it was awaited with great enthusiasm by those who play it. Game developers have a significant impact on hardware and software development because their games test what we can currently produce and their ideas drive the creativity to develop better components and ways of doing things. So take a look at the numbers:

1. 10 highest grossing free to play gaming apps
2. Top Grossing iPhone Games – by country (You will need to log in.)
3. 10 highest video games ever

Games are about the money, the market and what people seemingly want to do. Clash of Clans can earn nearly 200 000 million dollars a day in the US at the moment. The money around games is huge, the market penetration massive and our willingness to play never ending. So , what does all this mean for education? We really do need to start that discussion and robust debate. Game companies are not going to be at all worried that students are playing games in class or endlessly at home. My first thought as a teacher is we need to get some balance into usage first of all. Then we need to deconstruct games to see what educational purposes they serve and what technology skills they develop. We need to think about putting our teacher input and  making observations about what games do and mean. We probably need to teach the skills to create games and have some educational input there. We need to understand what games are, what purposes they serve and what the impacts are and then contribute to what they can become and how they can be used. We need to play games ourselves and talk to people about the games they play. Until we start doing these things it will take more than me to look at games and gaming in education.

You can’t win ’em all

desk No, you can’t win ’em all, but you have to persist with a can do mentality when it comes to technology. Today was not one of the best days with technology, but there were some really high spots. My new office has a new,clever desk so I brought an old keyboard from home and hooked it up to my laptop and am loving it. So much easier on me, so much nicer to use under those conditions and besides, it’s fun. Another monitor would make it brilliant. Sometimes you just have to have all the technology. By contrast, my classroom technology was a trial. Test, maybe. Test of my skills and lessons in patience and tolerance. This morning it was all good and I could make good use of all my files, the students’ files and my IWB. We achieved so much, covered so much ground and it was all so easy because we all had laptops. Even the student whose laptop would not boot was delighted I could offer her an iPad after she took her technology behaving badly to the technicians. For her it was a nice change and she was happy to use an iPad. It was different and fun for her. Then we came to last lesson which really put us all to the test. 31 very active year 9s and then an LMS which would not load so I could not do the roll, a board which would not connect and my whole lesson revolved around technology and what I had on my laptop and what they had on their iPads. You cannot put 31 year 9s on hold in last lesson and say , twiddle your toes because the board is not working. We don’t have books.We don’t have paper. So what do I do when it all seemingly falls apart like that? I teach! I got out my trusty blue writing stick and wrote things on the board. A to do list. First we were going to try the Edmettle site because it was blocked last week. Yes! We could get onto it and we did the things I had put on the board. The students liked using a new site and were asking some good questions. The lesson I was going to present took an interesting turn. Their electronic versions of the workbook and coursebook did not have the pages I wanted them to use. I checked in disbelief on their iPad and they were right. I always take screenshots of the exercises I am going to use on the board. Why? It means only that particular part of the page is in view. We are totally focussed on that and extraneous page information cannot interrupt cognitive flow. Like a comic strip I just focus their learning one frame at a time. Thank heavens. So I loaded the images up onto the LMS which was now available to me and did the roll while they were downloading them. Bingo. We were in the business of learning. The iPads displayed the images well so that they only focussed on each exercise one at a time. They were in control. I was in control. It wasn’t the lesson I had planned but when it comes to technology  work arounds are of paramount importance. While, at times, I was walking and talking them through the work, I kept trying to get a board connection. No HDMI connection, no Apple TV option but finally, 5 minutes before the end of the lesson, I got a VGA connection. They laughed. “You have a big board, why aren’t you using it all?” Good question. “Because it’s a VGA connection and I haven’t adjusted the resolution yet. Patience!” That lesson taught me and them a lot. I could get my content across but we were learning to haul as a team through a troubled spot without getting ourselves off task. You don’t always get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need.  The team effort was great so even though you can’t win ’em all ,you can capitalise on any given situation if you adopt a multi mode delivery option.

Sticky notes HD

Sticky notes HDSticky notes HDI am on my iPad and rather than read about the seven mistakes I could be making vacuuming (I kid you not), I have decided to share Sticky notes HD with you. It costs just over a dollar and I know there are other sticky notes apps for free. They are not colourful and flexible like this one. The range of colours is lovely. There are also filters you can apply or you can use your own image as a background. You can change the font size and choose between black or white and you can use your camera to add images. It means you can make a high powered, customized note for a specific purpose or just your common and garden variety. I could see it having a good use with the iPads in class but it is not something I can expect because it is a paid app. Your note can be viewed several ways so it means you can take screen shots for different purposes if you wish. Sticky notes HD is more interesting to use but also offers more options for making notes.

Geometry toolbox

geometry tools This is a basic online geometry toolbox for IWB and tablet use. I am not a maths teacher so I don’t know how useful it would be. It is recommended on the Teaching Ideas Facebook page and has hundreds of likes and shares so it probably fills a gap which teachers need. If you haven’t yet visited the Teaching Ideas site, then I encourage you to do so because it has so many practical ideas for the classroom. The Mr. Reddy site says this geometry toolbox might not work on mobile devices but if you read the comments on the Teaching Ideas site you can see this has not been as issue. This is the advantage of online sharing. You immediately get feedback about the merits or weaknesses of any pedagogical tools and sites. Mr. Reddy is a site which is designed to bring teaching resources to maths teachers.

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