Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

What NOT to do with your iPhone 6, and then how to go about fixing it...

My husband spoilt me by getting me the iPhone 6, just after it was released, and went to great lengths to do so as he was interstate at the time, and I was preoccupied with all things reports. It was an awesome feeling to be finally finished the reports and able to crack into my new iPhone, delivered to me by my mother in-law. I loved it at once, and ignored all the bad feedback it was getting about bending in people's pockets. 

My little guy got my iPhone 5 as a hand-me-down and he too was on cloud nine, enjoying all the new possibilities. Life was sweet until... it fell out of my pocket and landed in ... the 'sink'. Ok. So it was the toilet. How can anyone be so careless with something they claim to love so much? I don't know, but what I do know is that in situations such as these, there is no time to pause and contemplate how stupid it was. And so, for those of you who make the same stupid mistake, you have no time to lose. 

Here's what to do:

Step 1: Get the phone out of the toilet. Yes, it's gross, but you have to do it at some point, so just do it.

Step 2: Turn it off. You don't need to watch it die. For me, even though only seconds had passed, the screen was already glitchy, and turning off was easier said than done. Remember that you need to slide along the top of the screen after holding down the power button.

Step 3: If it's in a case, remove it from the case, and wipe it down with toilet paper.

Step 4: Put your phone in a bag of uncooked rice. I put about a cup in a zip lock bag - enough to cover my phone completely.

Step 5: Leave it in the bag to dry out. This is the hardest step. 
Not just a bag of rice!

The results:
After 1 day it had a glitchy screen with white, grey, and black lines and was completely unreadable. I tried to turn it off again and put it back in the bag.
After 2 days the phone needed charging. At first it looked like it was all good, but there was a dark patch in one section, and the text became blurry within a few minutes.
After 4 days, the sceen was great, and functionality was restored, but the sound when holding the phone to the ear, was not. I tried using compressed air to clean the speaker but to no avail. I decided to start using it again anyway, relying on speaker phone when making calls. 

Over the next week, the ear piece went through a stage of buzzing, finally becoming clear and functional. Hooray!

After a quick look at Apple's support website, it appeared that they would be able to fix the problem outside of warranty for just under $400 in Australia. I was seriously considering this option at day 2, but am obviously glad to have been able to wait it out and save the money.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using Sketch Book Pro and iMovie to Retell a Narrative

As part of our literacy rotations, I have been working with groups to retell a narrative. The activity runs over three 1.5 hour sessions with some overlap of the activities due to student progression.

In the first session we read the narrative as a group. Students then read it to themselves. We discuss the main events and the language used. Students then write the story in their own words in their literacy book and edit this.

In the second session students use Sketchbook Pro on iPads to draw images for the story. Students are equipped with styluses and I demonstrate how to use zoom to improve the quality of illustrations. I explain how to duplicate the page (by clicking on the ++ icon) so that students can modify their previous pages rather than starting from scratch each time.

Once students have illustrated the key events in the story, they import the images to the Photo Library (using the flower/arrow icon). Students then open a new project in iMovie, using the 'Simple' template. They drag the photos into the storyboard in the correct order. I demonstrate how to modify the start and end positions of each image. Students make an audio recording of themselves reading the retell they wrote in the first session. They then modify the length of time each image is displayed to fit with the audio recording. Finally they add titles and share their work with the group using AirPlay.

In the third session all groups present what they have created in the first two sessions.

The second session is very ICT heavy, with a long explanation about the process at the start (with demonstration). Students are engaged in the task and work hard to complete it. For many, this is the first time they have used a stylus with an iPad and they are adjusting to writing/drawing in this format. The resulting movies look quite professional and students are proud of their efforts. I found that if I put more effort into my demonstration, showing how to draw, add colour etc, then students put more effort into their drawings also. I have included my basic demonstration images and video (the story is incomplete).

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Coaching Others - Aurasma App for Maths

In recent weeks I have been sharing my journey as I explore the use of Aurasma in the classroom. This week I share about a Maths rotation activity a co-teacher and I created. This is the infamous co-teacher who introduced me to Aurasma in the first place and encouraged me to explore it further. Together we designed a Maths rotation activity for students to use with word problems involving sharing money.

Our idea
We wanted to use Aurasma as a self-check method for students on completion of some word problems. The aim of this was for us to practise using the Aurasma App to deliver content.

Our plan
Students visit displayed posters and try to work out the answers using their own strategies. Once they feel they have accurately answered the question, they use Aurasma to scan the poster and see a video of our explanation.

We made images with Sketchbook Pro and printed these to make posters, along with the word problem students were to solve. In this case the word problems were about sharing money between a group of students. We used an iPad to create a video overlay of our explanation, and created our trigger image by taking a photo of the poster. We saved all auras to a public channel for students to access.

In the Classroom
Four groups of students rotated through this activity. A lot of time in the first session was spent getting the iPads sorted and "following" my co-teacher. We then explained that students would use the toy notes and coins available to help them to find the answers to the questions. They could then check their answers using the iPad video explanation.

Unfortunately, I learnt a hard lesson about the need to use unique images for the trigger images. As I had reused my characters and just added to the slides when creating the images, students found that the wrong overlay popped up when scanned. We then had to do the second set of rotations without the Aurasma element.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Aurasma Studio with Maths

One of my coworkers has been trying to get me to look at Aurasma for quite some time, so I finally decided to take the plunge. After a little experimentation I decided to design a Maths lesson with it for our Maths rotation activities. My idea required greater functionality than the Aurasma app could provide so I went to Aurasma Studio instead. For more information on the basics of Aurasma, click here.

My idea
I wanted my lesson to involve problem solving with multiplication and division - possibly including money as a bonus. Our rotation groups are based on ability, so I wanted to embed different levels within the task so students could experience the task at their own level.

My plan
I wanted to use pictures from grocery store catalogues as triggers for pop-up questions, with secret bonus questions (as extension) to be revealed with an action. I visited the grocery store and got a group set of catalogues.

Triggers - I used my iPad to photograph images of the catalogue items and uploaded these to my iMac.
Overlays - I used Sketchbook Pro to write up question cards which I saved as images, also uploaded to my iMac. I made some 'special bonus question cards' and uploaded these to my Flickr account - as they needed to be located at a URL in order to make the task work.
In Aurasma Studio I uploaded a trigger image - one of the catalogue items. I then added multiple question cards as overlays (one a multiplication question, one a division question). Finally I added an invisible overlay over the item price which, when clicked, took the user to my Flickr image where an extension question was displayed.

In the Classroom
Four groups rotated through these activities. The first group was the extension Maths group, and while we took some time to get everyone loaded up and following my channel, they still managed to have a pretty good go at working through the questions and recording their answers in their maths workbook. I wrote the 'shopping list' on the board so that students knew which items to look for. Those students who made it through all the questions explored the 'secret bonus questions' as well. Students worked through at their own pace.
The two mid-range groups worked through the questions at varying degrees and without the need to get the iPads set up to begin with. For the support group, I asked that they begin with only the multiplication questions, returning to the division if they had time after that.
All students seemed to enjoy the activity, even with the technical complications with wifi, location services and 'following'. Some groups found it useful to capture a screenshot to refer to so that they wouldn't have to hold the iPad still the whole time. In order to mark the work with students it helped to have a copy of screenshots of all the questions.

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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Classroom Management with Lego

After years of using a rainbow path Goal Chart in my classroom, I decided to try something a bit different this year. I bought a Lego kit that can be assembled and reassembled in three different ways. When my students do something of note, they get a 'Lego build' which means they get to do a step in the book toward completing the Lego creation. Once the whole creation is complete the class gets a reward such as free time on the computers or extra play time outside.

It's simple enough, but also fun and my students put in the effort to get a Lego build. Lego builds are awarded for class achievements such as: walking quietly in line, working well on a task, keeping the bag area tidy etc

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Fun

Here I am, trying again to keep the Friday Fun posts happening. I think the trick is to write it as we work through the week. A little each night is much more manageable than a big chunk at the end of the week when I would really prefer to be relaxing with my husband, enjoying take-away Indian food and a glass of Shiraz!

Our Inquiry
As well as continuing our work on reconciliation this week, we have jumped further back in time to learn about Indigenous Australian lifestyle prior to European settlement.

On Monday and Tuesday I worked with each group on their reconciliation plan and helped them to do some fine-tuning. One great thing about using the Explain Everything app, was that it was fairly easy to edit and make adjustments - changing pictures which perhaps weren't as effective, re-wording phrases where inaccurate information was being shared.

Through the students' work I was able to see some common misunderstandings and correct these during class discussion. Some things that needed clarifying were: that the stolen generations were taken long ago and are now parents and grandparents, and that Indigenous Australians don't want our pity - but rather our acknowledgement of the past and a commitment to an improved future together. On the weekend I had found out about an Aboriginal health service in our local area, so we have tailored our fundraising proposal to that end.

In the afternoons we watched the "before time" episodes of My Place Series 2. Students took notes on the first day, recording facts and questions under the headings - "The video showed" and "It made me wonder". Part way through viewing, we paused the video for students to discuss what they had seen and wondered so far. We encouraged students to think about Aboriginal lifestyle prior to European settlement (food, clothing, shelter, customs, environment) rather than focus on the plot of the story. Students then worked in teams of four to create a mind map with the Inspiration iPad app. The My Place Website is a great follow on from the videos.

Here is a picture of my mind map:

As part of our 30 Days of Drawing project (not consecutive days for us - more like one a week!) students took the statements about the connection to the land from Idjhil by Helen Bell and illustrated what one of the statements meant to them. The quality of student images was very impressive.

We also discussed the central idea of our inquiry unit: Indigenous cultures change over time. We thought of other words that could be used in place of the words in this idea. Students then used Socrative on the iPads to log how they would phrase the inquiry in their own words.
This was a quick and easy way to compile our ideas in one document, print and display. It was my second time with Socrative after a miserable failure last time. This time we ensured we were all connected to the internet before starting the app.

In our Maths lessons at the start of the week, we worked on the four times tables. We looked at the strategy "double, double again" and students practised applying this method. We practised with the Tables Toons on Mathletics along with a dice rolling game and a card game.

For the dice game, students simply rolled the dice and multiplied by 4 (doubling, doubling again if they couldn't recall the answer immediately).

For the card game, they played in pairs with a standard deck of cards (K, Q, J = 10, A=1, Jokers removed). The first student shuffled the cards and fanned them out for the second student to select one. The second student multiplied the number by 4 and gave the answer. The first student then tried to work out the card number by dividing by 4. This game helps students to see the connection between multiplication and division and assists with recall of facts.

I encouraged students to use these games at home to practise their tables.

Students also explored fractions using resources on Scootle, as well as iPads. In one of our sessions they used Notability to compare fraction sizes. In another session they worked with fractions of a group and used Explain Everything to record their thinking. These lessons will be explained in greater detail for Tech Tips in upcoming weeks.

Students have been working on stories that they planned and began writing earlier in the term. We are trying to see these through to publication as books to put on our shelves. It is taking quite some time for students to complete the whole process, and we have had many interruptions.

We also read some Dreaming stories and students used post-it notes to jot down their thoughts on the following questions:
What are Dreaming stories?
What are their features and purpose?
Who is the audience?
We discussed these ideas and they were compiled into one document.

We've had another great week, full of new learning and challenges. Next week we head off on our school camp - hoping for warm weather and no rain!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Using Notability to Support the Teaching of Spelling

My current school uses THRASS resources to teach students to spell. Our methods work from a phonographic model, whereby the focus is on the phonemes (sounds) and the many ways these sounds can be represented in the English language. My class has been looking at the sound j like in jam, giant, cage and bridge. I grabbed a bunch of whiteboards and markers and sat down with my class ready to start a spelling activity, but then I started feeling guilty. Also beside me were the iPads we had used earlier in the day for research. So, instead so handing out the whiteboards, I handed out the iPads.

My first attempt was far from beautiful. I gave a brief introduction to Notability and then asked boys to simply write the four graphemes we had identified (j, g, ge, dge) and then type in words under the right  headings as I said them. I wished that I could set it up in a table, but in hindsight, I think that was just a bit of residual from years of working in a word processing environment. I needed to find the way to do this in a note taking environment.

I had a bit of spare time one night, so played around a little with it, and found a way to make it work well. This new method involves using a sticky for each of the graphemes. As I played, I also realised there was another common grapheme, dg as in budget - b like in bird, u like in bus, dg (like in budget), e like in garden, and t like in tap. When I taught my students this grapheme, they struggled to understand why it wasn't just dge, given that combination is there. What I needed to show them was that in this group of words the letter e had a different sound it represented, whereas in bridge the e doesn't represent another sound, so can be grouped with the dg. Tricky!

So....the steps are:

  1. Students make a new note and change the title to something relevant by selecting the heading when in typing mode. 
  2. Students click on the plus symbol and make a "typing" sticky for each focus *grapheme and label these. To change colour, tap away from sticky, then back on sticky, and option tabs will come up above. Choose "paper" to select the sticky background colour.
  3. Teacher calls out words with focus *phoneme and students type these on the appropriate sticky.
  4. Students share their work with a partner and discuss their reasoning. Students can make changes.
  5. Teacher shows correct groupings. Students make changes as necessary.
  6. Students use the highlighter tool to show the focus grapheme in words.
  7. Students select a word from one of their stickies eg. Judge. They click on the plus symbol to add a figure and draw a relevant picture. They crop the picture and then select "done". They move it to the appropriate box and then tap on "Add a caption" to write a sentence about the picture (with appropriate punctuation). Repeat for each grapheme.
  8. Students who finish early can record audio of them saying and sounding out words from their page.
  9. Students share their work - showing iPad, using Air Play, printing screenshot, email...

*grapheme - letter or letter combination that represents a sound in a word
*phoneme - unit of sound

What's the point?
When I try to integrate ICT I often find myself asking, "What's the point?" Is there a significant reason for using this strategy over pencil and paper, or whiteboard and marker? Is this same old but just with fancier toys? I'm still not 100% sold on this idea, particularly because it takes so long I the early phases, but there are definitely some benefits.

Reasons I would do it:

  • Next year my students will be required to bring their own iPads to school and will be using this app. By helping them grow accustomed to it now, they will be ready to use it independently in the future.
  • My students are highly motivated when using the iPads
  • Students are learning how to use technology to create documents to record their thinking  and learning
  • The spell check function supports students with their writing and placement. If they spell a word incorrectly, they will have this information immediately and can consider other options.
  • When you have students record their sounding out of words, it makes it easier to identify their errors with breaking the words down into sounds

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Fun

It has been quite some time since I wrote any Friday Fun posts. Generally, my school has had other ways to share learning with families, thus I haven't had time to double up. At my current school, I started writing up weekly reflections for families, which highlight the main learning in the grade level, some class specific items, information about events coming up, and some snapshots. This takes a bit of effort to put together each Friday, and needs to be left fairly broad in order to cater for all Year 3 classes. When I do Friday Fun posts, I like to add more detail, and give a better sense of the task, its purpose and how we went about doing it. In doing so, I hope to make it interesting for students and their families, as well as the teaching community. I make no promises in terms of whether this will return as an ongoing feature, but I thought I would give it another go this week at least!

Reconciliation Week
This week we launched into our new Inquiry unit, "Why Say Sorry?" The central idea of this unit is that Indigenous culture changes over time. Given that Reconciliation Week is this week, it seems very good timing on someone's part - though I think there was quite a bit of luck involved this time! 

On Monday I read Idjhil by Helen Bell to my class. This story shows the connection Indigenous Australians have with the land and tells something of the impact of European settlement in terms of loss of land and the stolen generation. I chose this narrative to give students a glimpse of these concepts through the eyes of a boy of their age. 
Once we had finished reading, we used a modified version of the thinking routine "Step Inside". Students imagined they were Idjhil and wrote down the things they thought he knew and believed. They then wrote down the things they thought he cared about. A second column labelled "What makes you say that?" prompted students to give evidence from the book for their ideas. I moved around the room marking student work, and those who finished early glued their sheet in and illustrated the border with symbols and images that were important to Idjhil. 
To conclude the lesson - we played "Hot Seat" where one student took on the role of Idjhil, and others asked him questions. It took a few questions before everyone engaged in what was happening, but by the end we were getting some well thought out questions. 

On Tuesday we read Walking for Reconciliation By Beth Hall. This followed on nicely after our story of Idjhil, and helped students to gain a better understanding of what Reconciliation is about and why it is necessary. We followed this reading with another thinking routine called Making it Fair: Now, Then, Later: Finding Actions. We talked about the stolen generation and students discussed how things could have been done differently in the past to make things fair, what we can be doing now, and what could be done in the future. Students used Google Docs on the desktop computers to record their ideas. I was a bit frustrated by some of the nonsense I got when students were contributing anonymously and had to keep on top of everyone to ensure they weren't erasing each other's ideas.

On Wednesday we looked at our Google Docs list (teacher edited) as a class, and everyone chose one idea that they would like to expand on. They wrote their individual responses in their Inquiry books and wrote the steps that would need to be taken in order for the plan to be enacted. These ideas were shared with the class and we sorted our ideas into things that could be done now, and things that could be proposed for the future - both for the school and for our city.

On Thursday students worked in teams to put forward their proposals. One group focused on writing a letter (using Google Docs simultaneously) to our local government about how we would like our city to celebrate at NAIDOC week, one focused on a fundraising proposal for our school and two focused on proposals to our SRC. The ones for our school used Explain Everything on iPad as we felt that a video presentation would be more appealing to the student audience.

On Friday I gave feedback to students and helped them to edit their proposals. I still feel that some need a little reworking to create a more professional product, however I'm impressed with the quality of their efforts and technical ability.

This week students learnt how to work out their three times tables mentally by taking the double and adding one more group. Students practised their three times with a friend. We then worked on times tables using an erasable multiplication chart and songs from the Mathletics website. Some students were extended to multiply two-digit numbers by three, and also to investigate the divisibility rules for 3. We will continue with this next week.

We also returned to some fraction work that we began earlier in the term. Students practised writing fractions along a number-line. In our computer time, students completed fractions activities from Mathletics including Rainforest Maths.

We revisited Idjhil by Helen Bell, and discussed:
  • What was the author's purpose?
  • What does she want us to take away?
Students then wrote their personal response in their books using the prompts:
I think the author wrote this to...
I learnt...

It was definitely a busy week, particularly with parent/teacher interviews in the afternoons and planning for school camp. I look forward to seeing how things progress next week, particularly as we further explore our Inquiry unit of work.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Reviewing the KeyFolio Executive - Zipper Folio with Keyboard for iPad 5

My previous iPad cover had been getting a little tatty around the edges and, while an improvement on the baby-proof cover, I was ready for an upgrade yet unwilling to do the research. Fortunately for me, I was approached by Mobile Zap to write a review for one of their products. 

When I checked out the Mobile Zap website, the KeyFolio Executive - Zipper Folio with Keyboard for iPad Air sparked my interest immediately. With its sleek black "leather texture" it looked professional and not too bulky. The iPad stand seemed sturdy and I liked that it could be removed and used separately. As a lover of all things stationery, I liked the removable business card holder and stylus loop as well. 

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived, and all those in the staff room saw my excitement as I pulled it out and started playing with it! In "real life" it was even better than the pictures on the website. 

The iPad Stand
I love that there are multiple positions for the iPad slant. As I've already mentioned, I like that it can be removed and used independently of the case. It has a strong magnetic strip to make this work well. It is handy to be able to remove the iPad quickly to take photos. 

The thing I like less, is that the iPad has to be stuck to the stand. My concern with this is that if I am to upgrade, I'm not sure the "stickiness" will still work. It also means that when typing etc, the iPad is in landscape and can not easily be rotated to portrait orientation. 

The Keyboard
I've stubbornly avoided getting a keyboard for iPad, just as I stubbornly avoided getting an iPad in the first place! I thought an iPad was an unnecessary extra - like a big iPhone. However, I've come to appreciate the functionality and ease of a bigger tool. And now, I've come to value the benefits of a bluetooth keyboard. 

It has made it much easier to type emails, notes, and annotations in iDoceo. What's more, with this particular model, the keyboard is magnetised, so can easily be slipped out if I don't want to carry it on a particular day. I love the top row of the keyboard with one touch keys for home, search, volume, music control, Siri and lock. 

I struggle a little with the power button, as it is small and thin and needs to be held down a couple of seconds until the lights come on (green and blue light when you turn it on, flashing blue light when you turn it off). In my early excitement with turning it on, this key slipped under the keyboard shell and took some convincing to get back into position. I feel that it was probably my error, as it hasn't happened again, and I take greater care with it now.

The battery life is amazing, as there have been times when I have left it on, and I've come back to find it still ready to go. It supposedly has 960 hours of working time and 180 days of standby. At that rate, it may never need to be charged!

The Verdict
On the whole, this is a professional cover, padded for protection but not too bulky. All the bits are removable so you can choose what you want and where you want it. When people see you open it, they say "Oooh" and think you're someone who knows their stuff (the kids love it too). If I didn't already have it, I would be happy to put it on my birthday list, but then again, I probably would have bought it because I couldn't wait!

Getting Started
USB cable found in here
If you do buy this, here are a few tips for getting started.
  1. The USB cable (for charging the keyboard) is tucked into an unusual spot in the packaging. You will need to remove the internal piece of cardboard to see it. You should be able to see it through a peephole cut-out circle.
  2. When you stick the iPad onto the stand, ensure that the power button, volume control and camera are at the top when in use. 
  3. To set up the bluetooth keyboard, turn the keyboard on with the power button. Hold down until the green light comes on.
  4. Go to Settings on the iPad and turn bluetooth on.
  5. In the Bluetooth settings, under Devices, tap on Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard 'Not Paired'.
  6. Using the bluetooth keyboard, type in the code that you are given.
  7. Now you're right to go!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Life After NAPLAN

Having taught Year 2 last year and Year 3 this year, I feel that my work over the past two terms has been distracted by preparing students for NAPLAN. In my heart of hearts, I know this should not be the case - that teaching shouldn't be about preparing students to take four tests over one week. But at the same time, I want my students to feel confident as they sit down to the test, and to be able to show what they know. Also, with the pressures of the My School website and the newspaper league tables, I feel that my performance as a teacher is on parade, in the form of our results.

So, what did I do to prepare?
I ensured that I explicitly taught students how to write both Narrative and Exposition in Term 4 of last year and Term 1 of this year. I taught students to use paragraphs (with an introduction/orientation and conclusion/resolution), include interesting vocabulary, and edit their work for punctuation.

In Term 1 of this year, students went onto Mathletics and sat NAPLAN practice tests. I used the results data on the site to inform me of the areas of strength and weakness in my class. I used this information to focus firstly on improving the areas of weakness.

In the weeks prior to the test, I gave students a NAPLAN practice test for Numeracy. On completion students worked in small groups to mark their answers. Where there were inconsistent results in their group, I told students which was the correct answer and those with the correct answer explained to those with the incorrect answer. With common errors, I demonstrated to the whole class how the correct answer could be found.

I also gave students a practice Spelling and Vocabulary test which we marked together as a class. At this point, the practise was more about familiarity with the style of test than using the information to support learning.

How were the tests?
Generally, my students were quite happy working through the tests. There was no grumbling about them, and they were actually excited to be setting up their desks with barriers and following a set procedure. Some students even went home and told their parents that they enjoyed taking the tests.

Personally I found the Reading and Numeracy tests enjoyable, as did many of my students. My students love to read and the texts in the Reading test were interesting and varied. For me, the Numeracy test was filled with fun puzzles to solve.

I was happy with the writing task given that I feel my students are stronger with exposition writing than they are with narrative. As I wandered around the room, looking over shoulders, I felt that for the most part what I saw was a fairly accurate representation of what my students produce in a writing lesson.

I found the Spelling test frustrating, as I don't agree with this method for testing spelling. I also find that many of my students are still representing the sounds - but with the wrong grapheme. I always find spelling a frustrating thing to teach. As a child, I could just memorise the spelling of words, but as an adult, I realise that is not the case for everyone. I was hoping that THRASS would be the magic answer to that dilemma, but I'm not convinced. Maybe one day, I'll create the magic answer! Or realise there is no such thing! Or realise that it's part of our lives already in the form of spell check!

Is it all pointless?
When I look at the past two terms, I don't see it as wasted teaching, or pointless teaching. It definitely hasn't been ALL about NAPLAN. And really, there were some great teaching moments. My students really enjoy writing stories and they can confidently write an exposition to put forward a point of view.

It felt really good to be working on areas of Maths I knew my students needed rather than just blindly going through a set curriculum. I think that they learnt a lot from that process as well, as we went through the answers together and developed a much stronger understanding of the content.

Now that NAPLAN is over...
  • I can teach the other text types as they relate to the Inquiry unit that students are working on.
  • I can teach the other areas of Maths and return to a stronger focus on problem solving combining the use of manipulatives and mental strategies.
  • I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders as there is nothing more I can do about it now!
  • I feel free to be creative - to explore and to go with the flow of learning.
  • I am excited to experiment more with the iPads in the classroom.
  • I am keen to work more on applying thinking routines across curriculum areas.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Notability for Observations

Last week I wrote about using the Inkflow App for iPad to record observations of a student teacher. When I saw him on Wednesday, he said he'd really liked the format of the observations - in particular the combination of text and image, and found it helpful that the notes were in digital format which was emailed to him, and thus harder to misplace! He asked if I could do similar again for his lesson on Fairy Tales.

Instead of using Inkflow again, I decided to give Notability a try as it seems to be a more popular app, was recently free as App of the Week, and seems to have more features available. I was pleased with my experience with it, and decided to use it for my soccer team's training session in the afternoon as well.

Features I love:

  • It's very simple to add a caption to photographs as you add them to your page.
  • The zoom function with the magnifying glass is helpful when writing by hand. Alternatively, zooming and moving can also be accomplished with two finger touch.
  • It has audio recording for the page and multiple voice notes can be recorded and managed with the settings button.
  • Audio can also be sent via email - resulting in a zip file.
  • When typing you can choose up to three favourite fonts to select with one touch
  • The highlighter is handy
  • You can easily set up folders to manage the notes more efficiently
  • Notes can be automatically backed up
  • Files can be duplicated, meaning that if a template is set up for regular types of notes, students can just duplicate the template and create a note according to the same structure.
  • The search feature allows you to search typed text in all notes

My struggles:
  • I found it hard to edit the pictures after I moved away from them. I couldn't find a way to get back into them to resize etc without undoing the previous moves until the handles returned. This would be annoying if I'd continued to write etc before trying to edit the pictures. After additional research, I found that the double tap on an image with two fingers is the answer to this dilemma!!
  • New to a hand rest section, I am finding it a little bit of a struggle to adapt. When using it I kept finding that my hand kept switching me between open apps!
All in all, I am finding Notability very useful as a teacher, and would like to see how students could use it to record their thinking in class as well. 

Screenshots taken from National Football Curriculum being read in iBooks.
Student names removed for privacy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tech Tips Tuesday

Inkflow for Observations

At the moment I have a student teacher working with me on Wednesdays. It has been going well and he has been trying out some creative ideas which bring the learning to life for students. This week I tried using the Inkflow app on my iPad to record some snapshots of the lesson he taught and jot down my observations and suggestions. I felt that it was great to be able to record the photographic evidence along with my notes. It was also easy to go through with the student teacher and send on to him.

As I haven't used it for awhile, I found that there were a few things that I didn't remember to take full advantage of eg. Zooming in and moving around using two finger touch. I also found that as I turned the iPad landscape, I neglected to fill the whole page before moving onto a second page.

I recently got Notability and plan to try it out as I make the observations this week. It seems to have more options for recording, so I look forward to seeing how I can make use of the additional features. Hopefully it will be just as useful for sharing the page/s.