Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Explain Everything

Simple Video Creation for Young Children

I have written about Explain Everything (Classic) before, but it's one of my go-to apps due to how useful it is for a variety of purposes. My kindergarten son is now getting to an age where he wants to share his ideas with others and is looking for ways to do this. We recently used Explain Everything to make a review video for a Lego kit he completed. He wanted to ensure his face wasn't shown and this allowed us to put together a video with audio, images and videos. It also meant that he was able to record the audio in short bursts so that he didn't get tangled in his words or add more than he needed.

He then entered the Drone Challenge at his school, which involved putting together a proposal for how a drone could be used to help the community. They were invited to present their ideas in a form of their choice. As it turned out, I feel it probably took us less time to make a movie than it would have taken to make a poster!

Once he had his idea he drew some pictures in Sketchbook and saved them to his photo library. Then, using Explain Everything he designed a title slide, followed by a slide explaining how it would work, a slide pointing out the parts of the drone and a slide for who would use it and the purpose. As it turned out, the judges liked his idea and so he won the prize for his age group! Yay!

In the classroom

Students can make short videos to demonstrate content knowledge. These can then be combined in a video editor (eg. iMovie) to make a class video that can be shared with the community on school websites or by creating an Aurasma aura. I did this recently with Explain Everything videos students made explaining the nets of 3D solids. I made a classroom poster with the Aurasma trigger and students showed their grandparents using class iPads on Grandparents Day.

Teachers can also use Explain Everything to collate student work and audio responses into a class product. I have done this simply by allocating a slide to each child, photographing their work and recording their audio as they explain their work. We then shared the final product in an assembly. 

I'm yet to explore the Collaborative Whiteboard aspect and the Project templates. From a quick glance they look good, but may require an account. I'd love to hear from anyone who's already using Explain Everything Discover. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blogger Behind This Blog #7

Teacher Mummy

Bad mummy - son plays ipad while
waiting for takeaway dinner!
Today I thought I'd write about what it's like to be a Teacher Mummy or, depending on your perspective, a Mummy Teacher. Some days it definitely feels like the lines are blurred, particularly when I come home to readers and homework, or find myself comforting a student who has fallen over! As I drove home from work one night this week, I found myself puzzling over this situation and realised how much being a mummy changed the whole game of teaching.


My class used to be "my kids". I was with them all day at school and then they were in my thoughts all night. I worried over them constantly and spent my spare thoughts planning our learning experiences. As I spent all my spare time focussed on their learning, I thought they could be using their spare time to learn as well. I encouraged them to use online resources like Mathletics, SuperClubs, Spellodrome etc. When a student didn't get their homework done, or had a dodgy lunch, or even came to school when they were sick, I made a judgement - and more often than not, blamed the parents. At the same time, I blamed myself for my inability to fix all the problems the kids had with learning and behaviour. It took a while for me to realise that some things are just personality things that can only be guided, not fixed. 


My class are still my kids, but they are not my only kids. They get me during work hours, and still invade my thoughts, but when I am at home, the Mummy kicks in. It has to. There is so much to do, and so few hours. I don't have as much time to do all the extra bits. I still plan all the lessons and try to be creative and innovative, but it needs to be done with less time for pausing and pondering. I use the driving time to iron out the wrinkles. Haven't worked out the certificates for assembly yet? Think it through as I drive. Not sure how I'll play out the grammar lesson? Bounce some ideas on the way to work. Frustrated with how the Maths lesson went? Work out how to approach it next time as I sit and wait at the lights. Lunch is a quick breather, a bite to eat, and then an opportunity to get things done.


There are, however, some special benefits to being a Teacher Mummy, especially this year as I teach Year 1 and my son is in Kindergarten. My class benefits because I know more about the things that interest 6 year olds. I can talk to them about Minecraft and Pokemon Go. I understand about playing soccer on weekends or going to swimming lessons. I know what all the latest Lego sets are! I know what has worked to grab my son's interest in reading, and how to help him understand something mathematical - so can use this with my class. If I'm not sure how a lesson will go, I can test the lesson out on him first or run it by him and see what he thinks. 
Teacher Mummy - son plays a game
to learn about numbers!

The flip-side also has its benefits. I share with him the things that have worked with my class. His learning is stretched beyond what he gets in class. I'm usually able to weave learning into our time together without it feeling like learning. I'm able to prompt him as he reads or writes and feel confident that I'm not messing him up! When he needs to write a speech, I have an idea of what that should look like.

I understand now how parents feel when it comes to their kids. They love them, want the best for them and also have challenges when it comes to managing time. I get what it's like to try and get a kid out the door in the morning with everything he needs for the day. I get what it's like to deal with a bouncy kid in the afternoon when you just feel wrecked yourself. I get what it's like to have your heart break when your kid tells you that someone was being mean to him. There are times when I've forgotten to pack a fork and others when I have refused to buy another spare hat for the week in the hopes that the old one will show up. I've even stalled buying new shoes as it got close to the end of the year. It's nice to know how parents feel and to be able to relate to them with a different level of understanding.


I feel that the challenges for me relate mostly to my connections with my son's teacher and school. 
I find I'm always trying to evaluate whether he's in the best place - and that's even when he's at the same school. I rarely get to any of his excursions or special events (even when I was at the same school). I barely know his teacher and how he's REALLY doing at school.

Time is also a challenge. There are times where I feel a terrible parent, dropping my son at before school care as soon as the doors open and picking him up from after school care after a staff meeting. When I've been at the same school, it's been just as guilt-laden. I struggled to get work done in the afternoon once he was in the room, asking for afternoon tea and wanting to play with me. There are also times when I really want to be able to spend more time working on something school related and just can't fit it in once I'm home.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you balance your home life and work life? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tech Tips Tuesday

Lego WeDo 2.0

This year I took on the role of STEAM facilitator for my area. This hasn't been too large a role, but has prompted me to pay more attention to what we are teaching and programming in the STEAM subjects. I have also been considering how to make connections between the STEAM subject areas, and how to set tasks for students that will involve them in solving problems using skills and knowledge from a variety of the subject areas. With this year's Science Week theme "Drones, droids and robots" we thought we would take advantage of this to get students involved in robotics.

Towards the end of Term 2 we purchased a class set of WeDo 2.0 Lego sets. With these sets students can build and modify a variety of Lego robots and programme them using the WeDo 2.0 app. I can't recommend these sets enough - they are simple to use, the app walks you through what to do and they don't take too long to build and enjoy! Students collaborate while working with them and learn to solve problems together, make adjustments and get creative in their designs. They learn basic engineering and programming skills and explore scientific concepts through experimentation.

Getting Started

When the sets arrived the Lego pieces arrived in their little plastic bags and needed to be sorted into the sections of the container. We had purchased 12 sets (a class pack) and so this was no quick job. I managed it by taking a few home at night and sorting while I watched TV! The benefit of doing this sort yourself is that you quickly learn where the pieces are stored and how many of each piece there should be. This means you are better able to help students find what they need when they get stuck.

In preparation I also charged up the Smarthubs and numbered each kit with a sticker for the lid and base. I followed the instructions from the manual (available on the website) to rename each Smarthub to make it easier for students to connect to the right robot. I learnt the value of this the hard way! I kept the cardboard boxes to store the kits in and found somewhere to store them.

Introducing the Kits

I introduced these kits to my students and walked them through the first couple of sessions to teach them the basics. They built their confidence with this and then I guided them in coaching the other Year 1 classes using the Kids Can Coach approach described here. I explained the importance of taking care of the kits and gave instructions on how to organise the workspace when using them and how to pack up properly at the end.

Science Week

Once each class had completed the basics with their coach from my class (1.5 hrs), we were ready to attempt another project. We found a project related to some science we completed earlier in the year, which involved building a tadpole and transforming it into a frog (1.5 hrs). Two classes paired up and went through the process together. I used the interactive whiteboard to walk students through the early steps in the project - thinking about the changes during a frog's lifecycle and documenting these changes - and then let them go when we reached the building stage.

The app takes students through building a tadpole and then adding the back legs. It is then up to them to consider what changes to make to turn it into a frog. It was exciting to see the variety of ideas students used for front legs and the modifications that were made as they began programming their robots to move. For those who progressed quickly through these stages I suggested thinking about how the robot could "see" (using the sensor) and croak (using the sounds available).  Students explored the programming side of things, initially beginning with the code provided and then making modifications to suit what they were wanting to achieve.

To finish off the week we had a timed challenge where 2 students from each class built and programmed a frog in 25 minutes and then raced them in front of the grade. The tension was great as the frogs raced off and classes cheered for their representative!

Going Forward

My plan now is to find opportunities where the robots will link in to the science units we are covering in class and to add it to the programmes for next year. We will also use the sets in our STEAM lunchtime program with students in Kindergarten and Year 1. Our students are very excited to use these sets and are benefitting from the learning experience.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More Movement

I made another big move this year, but this time it wasn't just my place of employment. 

Rather, we packed up all our belongings and moved state. As always, there's been a bit of an adjustment period but now we're coming out the other side and I feel like it's easier to do the day to day living as well as take on the challenges that spark interest and infuse energy into my teaching practices. 

I'm very happy with the school I've landed in. The people are friendly, the students energetic and easily motivated, and the resources are fantastic. When I look at what we're doing and where we're headed it sits well with me. 

This post is really just a quick one as an update, but I hope to put a few more out in the coming weeks to share some of the new things I've been trying with my teaching.