Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Introducing Aurasma

Put simply, Aurasma is the prettier version of a code reader with augmented reality elements. When you point your device at a trigger image (with Aurasma open), it performs an action that has been determined by the creator of the 'aura'. Unlike the Q code, however, in order to view an aura, the user must first follow the creator of the aura. Aurasma's appeal is in the 'magic' of finding hidden treasures in the world around us.

One of my coworkers has been trying to convince me to look into Aurasma for quite some time, but I just hadn't found the time. However, on a sick day recently I decided to give it a go, and was excited by the possibilities. It took a good day to get my head around both the Aurasma App and Aurasma Studio, but from that I developed a plan to implement the technology initially in Maths rotations, with further plans for Literacy later in the year. Initially I am working to create resources for students to access, but as we progress I would like to provide ways for students to create their own auras.

Basic terminology
Trigger - the image that Aurasma recognises which then triggers an action.
Overlay - the action that takes place when triggered. This could be an image, video or website.
Aura - the combined trigger with overlay, which someone can experience.
Channel - a collection of auras. This may be public, for others to find through search, or private.

Possible application


  • pop up questions for items in a grocery store catalogue. This can allow for opportunities to differentiate.
  • video teacher explanation for Maths questions posted around the room - to be used for self-checking
  • pretend notes and coins with information about that denomination, and or questions relating to it.
  • students create their own word problem to go with a number sentence and demonstrate how to solve it. Other students can then view these.
  • students order images by their perceived capacity and then scan the image to see a video of the measurement to check their estimation. Groups could be responsible for photographing and recording the measurement of one container.
  • posters of shapes or solids with a video of students labelling the parts and describing the features. These could be displayed in room.
  • students print graphs of collected data and attach an overlay explaining their findings. To extend, there could be a pop-up questionnaire for people to share their opinions.
  • Book reviews which are displayed when the cover is used as trigger image.
  • Students reading a short story aloud when the cover is used as trigger.
  • Comprehension questions which pop up on some pages when students are reading. Students can record their thoughts to a group wall using Padlet when they tap on a specified area of the page. (Need Aurasma studio for this idea.)
  • Book Study - students could add graphic organisers (eg. story map, sociogram, Venn Diagrams) to the texts they are reading and make book marks to show other readers which pages the Aurasma links are on.
  • Character profiles could be linked to the cover or pages of a text.
  • use artwork as a trigger image and a student explanation as the overlay
  • include Aurasma items in newsletters or classroom reflections
Some Concerns
As always, the technology provides a fun way to engage in learning, but needs to be monitored to ensure that quality work is still produced and a high level of accountability is maintained. Any use of technology is costly in terms of time and effort, particularly when learning something new. Some of the difficulties I have found so far:
  • Aurasma Studio and the Aurasma App offer different options in terms of setting up channels and adding overlays. Once you know how they both work you can make decisions to use the one most practical for the situation.
  • There is a time delay between the creation of an aura and its availability to other users. Therefore, you may not be able to create and view items in the one lesson period.
  • It may take a little time for students to find and follow you the first time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Comparing Styluses

A couple of years ago I bought myself a 10-pack of cheap, colourful styluses to use with my iPad. I think that so far my little boy and I have used three.  One lost its stylus tip. One got bent at some point, and the clip snapped, but the stylus still works. And the third is still going strong. I bought myself a set for my class this year and labelled them with student names so each is responsible for their own. We had one go missing in the first week, and a couple are looking a little sad, but they have been the best solution for cheap simple styluses for kids.

I, however, a great lover of all things stationery, would like something that does a little more. So Mobile Zap sent me a couple to review. The beauty of both of these is that they are both pen and stylus - a very handy tool for a teacher who wants to mark student work whilst recording notes on an iPad. I decided to give each a week in the classroom.

Olixar Laserlight Stylus Pen
I didn't spend much time determining which to test out first, and in fact, the first got tested out at home before I even had a chance to take it to school!

The Olixar Laserlight Stylus Pen is the fun choice. With a laser pointer on one end, it's hard to go past! I had my little guy in stitches at bedtime as I pointed the laser around his room using a very authoritative teacher voice to explain the posters on his wall. I also used the laser to point out features (albeit tongue-in-cheek) as we read Flat Stanley on the IWB. My students loved it! 

Also included in this stylus is an LCD torch (which I didn't have much use for in my week with it in the classroom) and a black ballpoint pen.

The stylus itself works fairly well and while the tip was wider than others I have used, it didn't seem to have a noticeable impact on my handwriting. It also felt like it stuck or gripped a little on the glass when I wrote, making it harder to write with for longer periods of time.

The frame of the pen/stylus is thicker, or wider than other styluses I've used, which may have greater appeal to some users. The stylus tip is on the cap of the pen, which also has a clip. It has a pleasing appearance and looks like a normal pen at a quick glance. It comes in a little black box making it an easy gift for a teacher.

Note: When using this pen for the first time you need to remove a little plastic tab from the battery capsule in order for the torch and laser pointer to work.

Week 2: Elago Stylus Ball and Pen
Elago Stylus Ball and Pen
This sturdy stylus has a sleek and stylish design and comes with a spare stylus tip. I tested the stylus with both writing and drawing on the iPad and found that the tip was very precise. In particular, it worked well when using the paint fill tool in small spaces - accurately filling the selected area. It moved smoothly across the iPad screen with no gripping.

The black roller ball pen is also of high quality, and handy to have on the other end of your stylus. This pen would make a great gift given the sleek design and dual functionality. It is the ideal pen for the minimalist and is unassuming in its simplicity.

The Verdict
I enjoyed using both of these pens, and found it hard to make a clear decision on which I would prefer. I love the multi-functionality of the Olixar, and thus would choose it based on these features, however the stylus tip itself is not as easy to use as the Elago. Given that, I find myself leaning toward the Elago Stylus Ball and Pen which gets the most important features right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Experimenting with Book Creator

At my little guy's Mothers' Day celebration, his class of 3 year-olds (and a couple who are 4) read a big book called "The Cat Sat on the Mat". They then read a class made book on the smart board "The Frog Sat on the Log". We decided to make our own version on the weekend using the iPad to take photos of my little guys teddies sitting on a chair.

Each page an extra teddy is added to the chair until the first teddy roars and scares the others away! After taking the photos and adding the text I got my little guy to narrate for the book, adding an audio recording to each page. These play when the icon is touched.

What I liked:
  • Simple to use
  • Allows for images, text and audio
  • Grid lines appear to help you line things up
  • Exports nicely to iBooks for easy reading (and listening)
  • Can be exported to PDF (without audio)
My gripes:
  • I could have saved time if there was a simple way to duplicate pages and then switch out the photos. It was hard to ensure that pictures were the same size and that the text sat in the same position, particularly once the pages had been turned.
While it did the trick, and pretty quick, I'm not yet convinced it's the best way to go for making books on the iPad. I must say though, it was nice to be able to publish it so easily to iBooks and see it in a "library". I think this is a big bonus for students who need that motivation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Fractions with iPads

This week I thought I would share some simple ideas for using iPads to explore fractions. The first session uses Notability to compare fraction size. The second session uses Explain Everything to explore fractions of a group.

Comparing Fraction Size
In this session, students are exploring a problematised situation involving fairy-bread (bread and butter with sprinkles on top). I told my students that my son loves fairy-bread, and that I was offering that he could have 1/4, 2/4, 1/8 or 4/6 of a slice of fairy-bread. My students needed to work out which of these would be the best deal for my son. I demonstrated how this could be worked out by drawing the slices of bread. I pointed out the need for the slices of bread to be the same size, and the pieces on each slice to be of equal size. I modelled how this could be done on the interactive whiteboard. I then gave students a new set of fractions to compare.
Students were given iPads and a stylus to work through their thinking. While I gave them some freedom to explore how to use Notability to solve this, and to discuss their strategies with friends, teachers who want to explicitly teach could follow the following steps:
  1. Create a new Notability file and name it something suitable eg. Fairy-bread Fractions by tapping on the heading which says Note [today's date]
  2. Tap on the + symbol and select "Figure" from the drop-down menu.
  3. Tap on the first symbol and select the square shape from the drop-down menu.
  4. Make a square shape (to represent the fairy-bread). Tap "Done".
  5. When the square shape has handles on the corners, select "Copy" from the options above.
  6. Tap and hold on the screen until "Paste" is given as an option. Paste as many times as necessary. (In my case we used 4 slices of fairy-bread).
  7. Again, when one of the square shapes has handles on the corners, select "Edit".
  8. Tap on the first symbol and select the line from the drop-down menu.
  9. Draw lines to divide the square to match the fraction. 
  10. Tap the first symbol and select the squiggle from the drop-down menu. Colour/shade the required fraction. Tap "Done".
  11. Repeat this with the other squares.
  12. Tap on the pencil tool and use finger or stylus to label the fractions.
  13. Circle the fairy-bread fraction that is largest
  14. Some students are selected to share their work using AirPlay on the interactive whiteboard.
What I liked about this:
While this work could quite easily be repeated with pencils and paper, I like that this task supports students to develop skills in creating shapes and using technology to divide spaces equally and shade with (their new) styluses.

Fraction of a Group
In this session, students are using counters to explore fractions of a group and recording their thoughts using Explain Everything. Students took 24 plastic counters of a variety of colours and used iPads with styluses.
  1. Create a new Explain Everything file by tapping on the + symbol, and save it as something suitable eg. "Fractions with counters" by tapping on the folder symbol in the bottom toolbar (next to the house).
  2. Tell students to divide the group of counters in half. Demonstrate.
  3. Students take a photo of their counters by tapping on the + symbol in square on the left toolbar, and then selecting "New Picture". If they are happy with their photo, they select "Use Photo". If they are happy with the image as is they select "Done", if they need to crop it, they can use the crop tool to select what they want to keep before selecting "Done". The image can be resized with pinch to zoom and moved to a suitable position on the page.
  4. Students write "1/2 of 24 is 12" using their stylus and the pencil tool.
  5. Students press the red circle to record their audio (and drawing if desired) and explain what they have done in their own words.
  6. To add a new slide, students tap the + symbol and then repeat the previous steps with a new fraction.
  7. Repeat with 1/4, 1/8, 1/3, 1/6.
  8. Some students are selected to share their work using AirPlay on the interactive whiteboard.

Extension: If desired, students could then look at the colours of counters, sort them and then create slides that describe the fraction of each colour used.

Here is a sample of student work that one of my students was willing for me to share:

 What I liked about this:
Students were able to use the language to explain what they have done with their counters. They also created a pictorial example and a written number sentence. At the end of the lesson I watched these videos and could see the students who had really grasped the concept, and those who would need further follow up. It was useful to hear the language students were using and it made me realise how few were actually describing this process in terms of fractions when recording their audio. While many had the right pictorial and written response, they tended to say "I had 24 counters and divided them into 3 groups," which while accurate, is slightly different to "I had 24 counters and divided them into thirds." It is good to see that they are making the connection between these ideas, however I hope that they CAN use the fraction terms as required. I would try this again with further emphasis on how we can describe the process using fraction terms.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Explain Everything for 3D Solids and Location

When my husband was planning a trip in Japan, I worked on the part of his trip in Kyoto - at Shijo Dori. After typing out all my instructions and inserting screen shots of Google street view, I felt there should have been a more effective way! I decided to have a go at Explain Everything for iPad.

I used images from Google street view and a map from a Lonely Planet book to create a video with Explain Everything. This video could then be saved to the camera roll, or exported to YouTube. My husband was able to take the video with him on his iPad to help him navigate the area, and while not perfect, it was a good guide given the available information.

As my students have been learning about mapping, I decided to use Explain Everything with them, so that they could give directions from their house to a location in their local area. We don't have Google Maps, so students used Google Maps through Safari to capture their images, and then they recorded their audio and pen strokes. Students shared their work using AirServer. To improve this: I would like to get the Google Maps App on the iPads.

The following week we used Explain Everything to record our exploration of nets of a cube. Students were give construction materials to build their nets. They took a photograph of their proposed net, made a video of themselves trying to fold it into a cube, and then labelled whether it was a net of a cube. They repeated this on additional slides. While the videos were great, I need to do further research into how this production could be put together into one video. To improve this: I would talk to students more about the sort of vocabulary they could be using in their videos.

So far I am impressed with the potential for using Explain Everything in the classroom.