Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Mini Documentaries in Grade 2

I have been wondering for some time if it was possible to teach documentary movie making skills to young students. With an iPad app such as iMovie it has been made very easy to create and edit a video. The focus here is not to just make a movie but to have students communicate specific content and to document their individual learning.

Up until this point the students have used the movie camera with Book Creator to create a movie and all students are very familiar with the story writing process.

My question here is:
Can you teach specific movie making skills without it becoming too complex for the age level of the learner?
To start the lesson I talked about how a movie is just like a story. It has a beginning - middle and an ending.

The beginning part will introduce the movie. It can be a question or a statement.
The middle part will show the process. You may wish to include photos that show plans as well.
The ending will show what was learned. It may also include any feedback from peers or the teacher.
On your iPad you can use the camera inside the iMovie app to capture the question and your comments regarding what you learned. The plans and process can be shown either as photos or small clips.

Step 1: Ask your students to prepare the photos, clips and other documents required to show the process.
Step 2: Create a poster that shows the hypothesis if your documentary is about an inquiry. This can be easily created in Pic Collage or another app and exported to the Camera Roll.
In iMovie on your iPad, choose New Project - Movie
Choose and simple theme that fits with your subject matter.
You can video record yourself asking the opening question and then again reflecting on the learning process at the end.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Character Study with Morfo and Drawing Pad on iPads

In Grade 2 all of the students have been writing character descriptions. This process has been teaching them to look beyond physical attributes and to learn about different aspects that influence a particular character.

In Grade 2 there is a new 1:1 iPad program this year. In the past these character descriptions would be written up and displayed on paper. By using iPads, students are able to make their characters come alive. To do this they combined two apps called Drawing Pad and Morfo.

Drawing Pad https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/drawing-pad/id358207332?mt=8 is one of my go-to apps on the iPad. It is easy to use and you can make beautiful artwork with just a little knowledge. To draw a character portrait all your need to do is follow these simple steps below:

Here is the actual character from Ruby's Wish.

Step 1: Paint the basic shape for the character. This is the head, hair and shoulders. Add a black background using the paper backgrounds and outline the hair using a pencil. Keep it simple. There is no need to add eyes or a nose as the Morfo app will do that for you.

Step 2: Add the rosy cheeks

Step 3: Use the smudge tool to smudge the red spot.

Step 4: Add some pencil details in the ears and on the clothing. You may wish to add a pink mouth as well but Morfo will make a mouth. Save your work to the camera roll by tapping the share icon.

Open the Morfo app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/morfo-3d-face-booth/id440560166?mt=8
Follow the instructions. Grab your script and breathe some life into your character. Take a look at the finished Ruby. This was created by a student from Grade 2.


3D Printing with Grade 4 at JIS

3D printing is rapidly evolving and becoming more affordable and easier to do. I have been reading up on the subject and I am very curious about how this can be applied in the Elementary classroom.

The book that I am reading is called 'Fabricated' by Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman. It covers many uses for 3D printing from household to medical to even printed food that can be eaten!

I was excited to learn that one of my favourite apps - Trimble Sketch Up has a template for 3D printing. This is a great free program that is easy to use.  I worked with a small group of students from Grade 4 for extension Math. 

To start the lesson I asked the students what they already knew about 3D printing. Some students knew a lot. They knew that you can print edible food, print a car and even print models created in Minecraft.

Next I asked them if they would be interested in making something to be printed. Well, the reaction was of high excitement!

So, onto SketchUp. In advance I had already downloaded and installed this free program on some laptops from the school cart. There is no version of SketchUp for iPad, so the students would need to use a laptop for this task.

Inside SketchUp, there is a special template for 3D printing.You must keep your object within the box as this is the printable size for most 3D printers. I gave the students a lesson on how to create a 3D object using the Push/Pull tool and then asked them to create the first letter in their name. Some students were really quick so I asked them to look at the symmetry and make sure that their letter was properly balanced.

Here is a screenshot of an 'A' created by one of the students. The next job was to Airdrop it to me so that I could further prepare the file for printing.

To prepare the file, I had to export it as an .STL file. This is the file type for 3D printing. It is a good idea to have that exported file checked for errors. In order for a 3D file to be printed, all the surfaces must close properly around the shape. If there are any holes, it will not print. After some research, I learned that there is a free cloud service that actually checks and repairs your file for you. That service is called NettFab. All you do is create an account, upload the .STL file and it will repair it for you. When the file is finished, you just download it ready to use.

Now that I had all the prepared files, I needed to book a time for the 3D printer which is located in the Design Technology classroom in our High School. The teacher there was very kind and helpful. He made a further conversion of our files as the printer requires each file to be put through a program first. This conversion essentially turns each model into layers ready for the printer to process. 

On Monday we all walked up to the High School to see the printer in action. Luckily when we arrived, one of the files - this letter A was already in the middle of being printed. It takes over an hour for a 7cm letter to be printed! The printer is already 2 years old and I have read that the new printers are much faster. Here is a film that I made of the printer in action.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Making Apps in Grade 2 with Tiny Tap

Today I worked with a student to create a simple app using Tiny Tap. This came about because one of the students showed an interest to make an app. He had tried using Tiny Tap before on his own iPad but had not made a game for learning before at school.

I too was new to Tiny Tap.

I made a time through the Homeroom teacher to sit with the student to explore Tiny Tap further. We looked at the example games on the site and play with a few of them to further understand what you could do. We then made an agreement to find out more ourselves and to meet again to create an app.

As with all technology use, I like to document the learning or to create something that furthers the learning. The class had been learning a lot about counting money so we decided to create a game about counting coins.

In my mind I mentally went through the steps that would be necessary to create the app. I purposefully wanted to use real items so that the students would be having to count coins to create their different answers.
To make it simple I asked the student to create 4 piles of coins on some colored paper. He then grabbed some scrap paper to write down the total amount for each group of coins. This required counting and checking - good we are practicing the actual skill even whilst creating the app!
Next we had to take a good clear photo of the coins and crop it to tidy it up. Then we opened the app Tiny Tap and started to build it. You simply add the photo and make it the background and add the title using the Text feature.

Finally we added some voice recorded instructions such as 'Tap on the pile of coins that make 43 cents'. When all the instructions had been added the app was saved and uploaded to the Tiny Tap server by the teacher and made private which means that it can't be accessed unless you have the URL. The URL was copied and a QR code created so that it can be scanned at school by other students wanting to try out the app.

Here are some screenshots from the finished app!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Dictate a Story in Book Creator

When working with young students, typing can be quite a difficult thing for them to do. In Book Creator, you can easily make a voice recording of the child telling the story but often having the written text there can make that story even more powerful.

Just recently, I was training some assistant teachers on how to use Book Creator. I run a lot of workshops, and Book Creator is one of my most used apps on my iPad.

I love it when I learn something new. So I just had to share this with you.

During the workshop, I was doing my usual explanation of how to create a book, add a photo and then add some text. The participants were asking about the predictive text feature that is now available at the top of the keyboard. I explained that this can be very helpful for students as it can support their spelling. I also explained about the globe icon and how that can change the keyboard when you enable different keyboards in your settings. This allows users to type in other languages that require special characters like Chinese or Arabic.

Next I told the participants about the microphone icon and how that is used for dictation. You tap on it and speak, and the iPad will type whatever you say. I showed it in the moment and was very impressed with how accurate it was. If you say 'full stop' it will also type a full stop. If you say 'new paragraph' it will also skip a line. This is a wonderful way to help students understand about the function of punctuation. Honestly, even I was blown away!

So I am now thinking of how this tool can be used with Kindergarten students. Our young students can now type their own stories. Amazing. Our students in Grade 1 and 2 can dictate their stories with words such as 'full stop' which will help them to make that important connection to the function of punctuation. I am so excited about this and can't wait to see how it can be used. I made a short tutorial video for you to watch with the help of my son who was very excited to dictate his first book.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Documenting the Learning Visually

For some time now I have been working with children in authoring and publishing books. I am myself an artist so I have a lot of theory running around in my head in regards to design. I wanted to use this blog post to communicate a few techniques that I use when documenting learning.

I am really inspired by books created by Dorling Kindersley. These books have a clear 'artefact' approach in their layout. The books are full of photos of real objects that really allow the reader to make strong connections to the content. Here is an example page layout from a Dorling Kindersley book.
Taking inspiration from this approach, I have tried to apply it to how a student may document their learning. By using an iPad, with the built in camera, students can easily capture the real objects that they are using in their learning and place them on the page along with written descriptions. 

A couple of design pointers:

1. The page is read from left to right and top to bottom. Therefore to help the reader, we should follow that pattern. 

2. Contrast helps us to access the content. Light on dark and dark on light. Make sure that your text colour and background have sufficient contrast so that the words can be easily read. 

3. Use open and easy to read fonts. Curly, handwritten fonts can be harder to read which means that our audience/readers can't access the content. 

4. Make sure that there is space around  the words. The readers need space so that they can easily distinguish the text from the pictures. 

5. Include the real objects and the method. Ask the students to teach the lesson or skills learned back to the teacher. This will help them to be able to think about their content. 

For this example, I used the Pic Collage app. After all parts have been completed ask your students to add a reflection so that they can think about what they could do better or do differently next time. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

My Top Apps for this Week

My top 3 apps for this week have been:

Book Creator - to create Learning Stories

We have started making these. The students all created their own covers and first section which was titled 'About Me'. 

Explain Everything - to create Math Stories

The students learned to create talking, animated Math stories. This was a follow up to their learning in class. It was a very exciting session. The students used the hands-free headphones and mics to record their voice.

Merriam Webster - dictionary with voice recognition

Things I like:

It allows the student to search for words by speaking.

It gives you examples of how the word can be used in a sentence.

The definitions are simple.

It also gives you synonyms and antonyms.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

iPads in Maths

What does learning with iPads look like?

In a typical Math classroom you will see lots of manipulatives. This is so learners can make connections when handling objects. In an iPad classroom this practice can easily continue. With an iPad, the learner can document that hands on learning in such a dynamic way that can further personalize their learning.

When teachers ask me 'What does iPad learning look like?',  I tell them that it mirrors what happens in the room. Just today, I have been asked to go to a Grade 2 classroom to help consolidate the learning.

Where do you start?

Learning with iPads in the classroom doesn't change the way we learn as much as it personalizes it. Using technology allows the learner to capture what they are understanding as they move up through the different levels of Blooms.

You could argue that iPads can follow the entire learning pathway, but I personally prefer students to have some degree of front loading first that is 'low tech' and less distracting. That analog experience is so important for a young learner.

The current learning in the room is Math stories and learning about how to write a Math equation as short story. Here is an example from a Grade 2 classroom that was created today by a student. The lesson prior to this was all about writing the Math story and drawing a picture. The students had essentially got to the creating level as they had indeed already done some creating on paper with drawings and writing sentences about subtraction. With young learners, it is a good idea to go over the learning pathway multiple times. Now with an iPad and using the app Explain Everything, the students were able to take it even further by making an animated Math story to further consolidate their learning.

Here is that example:

I was very happy to see this example. This is the 3rd day that I have been working intensively with this grade level to get them settled into learning with the iPads. This for me is the first spark. If I can quickly get this kind of documenting happening across the whole grade level then I have met my first goal.

Going further ...

In the next lesson I plan to help all the other students who didn't yet get the opportunity to create their personal Math stories. What a fun and interesting way for students to consolidate their understanding about subtraction. In the meantime I can spread the enthusiasm with the other members of staff. The teachers are very active in the room every step of the way. iPads are new for them and it's exciting to see just how quickly we can get things to happen.

Once all the students have created a digital Math story, they will place these animations in the student's learning story journal. The student will write a small reflection about the process. What I need to consider is how the teacher can add some extra parts about the objective of the learning and also some feedback for the student without it causing too much of a hassle. The next step is to consider the data flow and how to make it easy and intuitive.

So glad to be back in this Tech Coach position. Today I'm also getting questions from other grade levels. It's paid off for me to be physically located just outside the classrooms. I expect that I will keep this model and just become the roving Tech Coach. I just wish that my bag of stuff wasn't so heavy!!

Goal Setting (for me)

In this grade level there are 6 classes of 1:1 iPads. My personal goals for Grade 2 the next few weeks are the following:

Iron out any issues with iPads, Apple TVs, apps and passwords
Get some real practice examples happening across the grade level in Math and Literacy
Data flow solutions
Seeing teachers asking for more practical examples of what the learning looks like, not what app to use :)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Drew Berry - An Inspirational Look at the Brain

I was very fortunate at the Global Apple Distinguished Educators Institute in San Diego to attend a keynote presentation by Drew Berry who is a Biomedical Animator. That means that he takes foremost biological research and creates animations to communicate that research visually. His animations are all done to scale and being able to listen to his working process and watch what he has made was mind blowing.

Take a look at his animation about the brain. The last part is amazing as Drew Berry explains what is happening on the screen.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Published Books to the Apple iBooks Store

I wanted to share with you all my list of published books. I have created a List.ly to make it easier for people to access.