Tablets in the classroom

The Pedagogy Podcast

Image: The Pedagogy Podcast 

Teachers are not the media stereo type, vacuous nincompoops with 50s hairdos in front of perfectly groomed, smiling students with their hands up as they teach from the board often with their arms folded or a weirdo lean. Teachers, in my experience , are real people with a wide variety of exceptional talents and competencies who hone in on detail. They are like Patrick Trowse (@wklifebalance) whom I got to know in the #aussieED teacher chats on a Sunday night. Teachers are sociable and they want to learn. Over a year ago Patrick started his blog wklifebalance and I just pointed him in the right direction. The blog is valuable because he looks at the sorts of things which affect the work – life balance of teachers, how to stay healthy and how to manage a very demanding, rigorous job. Since then he has grown and developed himself into a podcaster and his podcasts are well made, interesting and about the sorts of things which teachers need to know and manage. You cannot replace experience. You cannot beat information from someone who has been through the process and you cannot do without podcasts! I load up a USB stick with all sorts of podcasts. They help me to keep my other language skills up, they teach me about health and ecology and they provide things to think about and practical ideas for education.I play them in my car as I commute. Patrick’s podcast on tablets in a classroom, where he speaks with a technician, is invaluable because it covers the issues The podcasts on The Pedagogy Podcasts are then reinforced with written information to check and consider. That is a teacher. A teacher knows you have to provide information in multiple modes so everyone can learn.

You can tick the boxes on the Professional Standards for Patrick as he develops himself, collaborates with others and shares his knowledge:

1.1 Lead colleagues to select and develop teaching strategies to improve student learning using knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.
1.3 Evaluate and revise school learning and teaching programs, using expert and community knowledge and experience, to meet the needs of students with diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.
2.1 Lead initiatives within the school to evaluate and improve knowledge of content and teaching strategies and demonstrate exemplary teaching of subjects using effective, research-based learning and teaching programs.
2.2 Lead initiatives that utilise comprehensive content knowledge to improve the selection and sequencing of content into coherently organised learning and teaching programs.
2.6 Lead and support colleagues within the school to select and use ICT with effective teaching strategies to expand learning opportunities and content knowledge for all students.
3.1 Demonstrate exemplary practice and high expectations and lead colleagues to encourage students to pursue challenging goals in all aspects of their education.
3.3 Work with colleagues to review, modify and expand their repertoire of teaching strategies to enable students to use knowledge, skills, problem solving and critical and creative thinking.
3.4 Model exemplary skills and lead colleagues in selecting, creating and evaluating resources, including ICT, for application by teachers within or beyond the school.
4.2 Initiate strategies and lead colleagues to implement effective classroom management and promote student responsibility for learning.
4.5 Review or implement new policies and strategies to ensure the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.
6.3 Implement professional dialogue within the school or professional learning network(s) that is informed by feedback, analysis of current research and practice to improve the educational outcomes of students.
6.4 Advocate, participate in and lead strategies to support high-quality professional learning opportunities for colleagues that focus on improved student learning.
7.4 Take a leadership role in professional and community networks and support the involvement of colleagues in external learning opportunities.

In 2016 the Professional Standards are supporting and encouraging teachers to develop and share their skills. In 2016 a contemporary teacher can use technology to improve themselves, improve others and engage with the real world in a way which benefits others and impacts on student learning in an effective way. It is all based on sharing and collaboration. Creating the content, joining the dots and getting feedback.

I have a plan

telligamiNothing like a full on, steam rising off keyboard session of #aussieED PD to get the thoughts and ideas flowing. Last Sunday’s session was whizzing by and the amount of energy created would probably have lit up Sydney for the night. For me, it unblocked at least one area of thought where I was stumped and couldn’t find a way forward. Having done that I magically unlocked a second baffling stuck thought. Conversations work. PLNs are life blood and it’s being with empathetic people of your own kind which help you solve problems and create growth in your thinking. Teachers need time to talk! As we chat on #aussieED a lot of side conversations take place and often these resolve issues for people or , at least, allow them to see a path they can follow. For a year now I have sat and wondered what I’d make a video about as a teacher and then, I had done all that work on podcasts and I can’t think of anything to podcast about. Still can’t. That one may remain a mystery for longer. In the meantime, more and more and more and more information has come out about data retention. Enough to make me not want to put my voice and self online incase they pop up somewhere unexpectedly.Nor do I want anyone trawling through my voice  or videos recordings which I have not published…because, basically, they are mine. There’s another issue, though, and I was not alone in that one. I don’t think I am the right person for a video or a voice recording. Some people are naturals at it and some people can learn it but some things can’t change easily. My voice cannot change. I do not like the sound of my recorded voice. I don’t like how I am on video. I have taught enough students to know that some students are just brilliant at video. Others are brilliant at voice tasks. We all have our shiny bits. So Sarah (@sarahtirtilas) suggested Tellagami to me as a way around this dilemma of mine when we were tweeting out our #aussieED answers. I vaguely remembered Tellagami from my year 8 class last year but the students had favoured Puppet Pals and Sock Puppets so we didn’t pursue Tellagami. I have downloaded the free app and dressed my avatar but got no sound when I was recording. That may change because sometimes apps need to settle in. It may not, but still, I shall pursue this and now know I have a way forward with some aspects of what I could do in terms of a voice and video recording. I can put this into iMovie too and enhance it. As I play with that I now have an idea for something I really could do as a video . Not for French. There are millions of good quality online resources for teaching French . I supplement  these with content movies and animated presentations. No. I am going to do something for English. This where the #aussieED PLN broke my stuck thinking. I was thinking French . I was thinking my own voice. #aussieED asked us to think of good activities we had done before which always worked. As it happens , I have a poetry one. I probably won’t use Tellagami for that, but Tellagami will suit other things and a voice synthesiser is what I need to use if I am not happy with my voice. Toys ot play with and things to do. Happy now.

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.

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.

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