Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Accessibility for Young Learners

We have recently launched Easy Blog Schoolwide this year at JIS Elementary. I am so excited to get this moving. We trialled the app last year in Grade 1 and made the decision to roll out EYP to Grade 4 this academic year. Every child from EYP to Grade 4 now has their own Easy Blog. This is accessed via their iPad. I am a huge fan of the app that has been developed by a group of teachers at the Western Academy of Beijing.

The best part of Easy Blog is that it is visual and very simple to use and it doesn't take up very much time to make a post. Students can post as they are learning. Parents are connected and will get to see learning in real time as it is happening. Parents get a notification each time there is a new post added. They can easily view the blog on their smartphone. This makes it possible for the parent to see their child's learning anywhere, anytime. Over the last couple of weeks, classes have started blogging. The students have been making their first post and creating an avatar for their profile.

Example avatars from a young class made with the Drawing Pad app
Example avatars from an older class made with AvatarMaker.com 

What is really interesting is how the accessibility settings in an iPad can open up so much for young learners and for those needing support as new learners to English. The students are able to add a keyboard in their iPad for their mother tongue. This means that they can dictate and the iPad will type in their language. Being able to work like this in two languages helps learners make important connections. As young learners often struggle with typing, the dictation offers them a way to type quickly and to practice reading back what has just been typed by the iPad to check for errors. This also means that when parents comment in their mother tongue on blog posts, the child can respond in their mother tongue too.

The iPad is able to read aloud comments in different languages, but it does take a bit of setting up. A simpler way for young students to hear comments read aloud in languages other than English, is to capture with another device (their friend's iPad) and let Google Translate read the comment. Once you have used the Google Translate app a couple of times, it becomes more fluent and can translate even faster.

Here is a screenshot of Google Translate capturing the text from a screen. I tap the photo button and take a photo. Then I highlight the Japanese text with my finger to get Google to translate it.


Next, I tap the blue arrow to bring it to this screen where I get a sound button to read the comment aloud in Japanese allowing the young child to hear what has been written. This is so exciting and so accessible. I can't wait to see it develop across the school. Today already I am watching comments being posted from parents in different languages. 


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Dictation on the iPad with Book Creator

Book Creator is one of my go-to apps on the school iPads. I work at an international school with students from all over the world. A great accessibility feature of iPads is the dictation feature in the keyboard.

I have used dictation in Book Creator as a way for young learners to be able to get their thoughts typed up more efficiently. I find it really helpful for young learners to be able to speak aloud their sentences and see them being typed up by the iPad.

Well, did you know that this in-built feature works for languages other than English? In the screenshot below I have used the Indonesian keyboard to access dictation in Indonesian. It works so well! What a fantastic way for students to practice pronunciation. Go on try it now with a language that you can speak ...

Go to Settings - General - Keyboard



Choose any keyboards you wish to make available. 

Now open Book Creator. When you want to dictate, select 'Add Text' from the plus menu. 


When you dictate - click the world icon on the bottom left of the spacebar and select your language. Press the microphone icon and speak your sentence. It's works best if you only dictate short sentences with either a hands free microphone or work in a quiet space.



Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Little iPod

My mum suffers from advanced Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed 7 years ago at the age of 80 as the result of a routine memory test with our family doctor. My dad has been looking after her and was her carer until about 3 months ago when she lost her mobility and needed to be moved into a care facility. This was indeed a hard time for all of us. My parents have been together for 68 years.

I live in Jakarta with my family. I have two older sisters and they live far away with one in country NSW and the other in Far North Queensland. We rarely see each other. My parents live on the Sunshine Coast. 

I am able to visit each year with my parents and during the 2015 visit my mum was still mobile and talkative. My recent visit revealed to me just how much this disease has progressed.

My mum is healthy and seems happy but seeing her in a wheelchair was a big shock. My daughter came along for this  visit and we stayed with my dad who lives in a retirement apartment in the same complex. We were able to visit my mum each day. I am indeed grateful that mum is in a caring place with wonderful nurses and a very homey invironment. 

It doesn't quite prepare you for the reality of the disease. 

At each visit I would sit and try to communicate with mum and at times I would see a glimpse under the fatigue of dementia and for a fleeting moment see my mum. 

It was a far cry from our last visit when she was still walking and talking. 

My dad is active and healthy. He drives, he cooks and he keeps busy as an active member of his community. 

Recently on TV there was a documentary called 'Music on the Brain'. http://youtu.be/oGmfPGg4hGQ 
My dad showed it to me and asked if we could try out the music therapy that the program was advocating. 

We went out and bought an iPod Shuffle and some comfortable headphones that would block out background noise. 

I showed my dad how to create a playlist of my mum's favourite songs and how to transfer that to the iPod. My dad got a whole bunch of songs, many from the 1940s, the time when they were first dating and would go out dancing at dance halls such as Cloudland in Brisbane. 

We were so excited about this little iPod but I must admit I was a bit sceptical as to how well it would work. I was worried it would be disappointing. 

We weren't disappointed. 

The moment I placed it on my mum's ears her expression changed. She became animated and started to move her hands. We were so curious about which song she was listening to. Then the song changed and she got a bit teary but still moved and was clearly enjoying the music. At times she would try to stand up or hold her hands together like in prayer. 

I did not expect this to work so well. 

We talked to her nurses and made an arrangement for mum to listen to her iPod for an hour each day. 

A week later my sister who lives in Port Douglas was able to stop in for a visit. She shared with me some photos from her visit when mum was really communicative and active for over an hour.
We believe that the music is helping my mum. She is not active every day but changes are happening. It's like the music is enabling my mum to reconnect.

I hope that by sharing this story it will help others. I also want to thank all the teachers out there that sing with their classes. You are creating memories and developing a love for music with your students. These powerful memories are so important not just now but in the future. 


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Vibrobots - Simple Robots that Move for a Maker Activity

Last Saturday I led some workshops at the Association of National Plus Schools annual teacher's conference in Jakarta. My workshop was all about Makerspace and Capturing the Learning in Real Time.

I used the term Makerspace in the perspective that it is a place where you can make something which could be really anywhere. I have always employed Maker activities in my classroom. I wanted to share about how making can unlock understandings in a way that viewing pictures or videos can't.

For this workshop we made a simple electric robot from recycled materials. I am really interested in robotics but I am even more interested in the mechanics and trying to understand how things work and why they work. These are abstract concepts but even young students can understand them when they get the chance to make it with their hands.

We started with the basic equipment:

a plastic cup
3 marker pens
two electrical wires with the ends stripped
a AA battery
a DC motor
electrical tape
sticky tape

About DC motors:
You can find DC motors inside many household items such as electric toothbrushes, battery operated fans or mixers. Here is an example of a motor inside a mixer.





Step 1:

Tape the markers to the plastic cup.

Step 2:

Make sure that the three markers are firmly attached with sticky tape. Put the markers facing downwards so that your robot can draw.

Step 3:

Prepare 2 copper wires by stripping (removing) the plastic from each end.

Step 4:

Connect one wire on each side of the motor. Thread the metal through the loop and twist to secure. Add a small weight to offset the motor shaft. This is to make the motor vibrate.

Step 5:

Tape the battery on the top of the cup. Tape the motor so that the spinning shaft is off the edge of the cup.

Step 6:

Using small pieces of electrical tape, tape on wire to the positive 'bump' end of the battery and one wire to the flat negative end. Using electrical tape is great because you can pull one end on and off to act as a switch.

Step 7:

Pull off the marker pen caps and place your robot on some paper. Watch it draw.



#Troubleshooting - Be aware that your circuit must be well connected or the motor won't run. Sometimes cheap DC motors can be faulty and you may have one that just doesn't work. Recheck your wiring too.

Make sure that your learners document the process with photographs and or video. Consider the 'Split Screen Learning Intentions' and focus on not just what you are learning but also how you are learning.


Extension Activities:

Try placing the battery on the centre of the cup end with the motor on top. Does this change the patterns that your robot is drawing? Try other combinations. Try using a different weight to offset the motor. Can you measure how these changes affect the drawing that your robot does? Consider how this activity can help your students understand about circuits and motion. Take some video and compare the differences. Identify how small changes affect the way your robot moves and draws.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Making Simple Paper Circuits

Today in Grade 2 we tried to answer a student question:

"How does a battery light up a light?"

We did this by exploring simple circuits. The students used copper tape, sticker LEDs and a button battery.  First we had a talk about batteries. The students were given a button battery to try to find the positive and negative sides.

We made a connection to how we use batteries in our toys. The students had a lot to say about how important it is to get the + and the - the correct way around. Next we used a template. This can make it easier for beginners as this was our first time to make a circuit. We used copper tape for the wires.





The copper tape can be bought online or at a hardware shop. It is best to use narrow tape for beginners as it will go around a corner more easily. If it is a young child, be aware that the edges of the tape are sharp and can cause a paper cut.




I made a quick circuit diagram as these learners are beginners. It was easily photocopied and all the students had to do was follow the lines for the tape. You need to note that the lines between the battery and one side of the LED must be strong and continuous. At the LED there is a break. Make sure that there is a little break here at that part between the positive and negative sides.





Put the sticker LED on after you have put down the copper tape.You can add extra copper tape on top if you need to make a stronger connection.












Once your circuit is complete you can add the battery to test your light. If it is not working, add some extra copper tape on the corners and either side of the LED light to help make your circuit stronger.




 
Here is a video of a finished circuit. The students added a drawing on top which featured a light to light up using their circuit.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Painter Meets Apple Pencil

I have had an Apple pencil for just under a week and I wanted to share my thoughts. I am a painter. I prefer to paint really large pictures using acrylics (mostly because oils take so long to dry in the tropics) and because the colours are really bright. 

I have had an iPad since they were first released. I have tried sketching with it but honestly I found the screen to be too small. I also hated not being able to rest my hand if I needed to. I have a variety of stylus. I have a fine stylus, a paint brush one and a bunch of regular ones. Not really a fan. I think it's because of the small size of the screen and the feel just didn't match up. I also didn't like not being able to see past the stylus. 

Enter Apple Pencil and iPad Pro

When I first heard about these two I became very interested. I did wonder about how my style of painting would translate. I like to use bold strokes with not much blending. I wondered if I could get the same look. 

That's where I made my first mistake.  Painting on an iPad offers a range of tools that you can't get with regular painting. This is what you should embrace. I am slowly realizing that I need to re-learn how to paint. How to paint with an Apple Pencil. 

I am really liking the experience, but I have a long way to go. 

What I like:
Being able to easily pick colours and store them. If I want I can easily colour pick colours already used. 
Love being able to reposition and resize. 
I like the huge choices of the paint types and being able to app smash different apps. 
Love that I can undo and redo with just a tap. 
Being able to see past the pencil and to be able to hold it like a real pencil (on an angle). 

You are probably wondering why I didn't think of learning to use the smaller iPad for painting? To learn to adapt. To just embrace it. Two reasons, the screen size is just too small and the Apple Pencil really does respond well. It feels much more like the real thing compared to a general stylus. 

I wonder how using these tools will influence my painting style? 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Visual Storytelling with Book Creator - Conflict Stories


Today in Grade 2 we made Conflict Stories using the new comic tools in Book Creator on our iPads. The students were able to take examples from small conflicts that they had experienced in the classroom.

Outline

The outline was - Title - Beginning - Problem - Conflict - Solution. The class has been learning about conflict resolution as a unit of work. Using Book Creator, every student was able to take a conflict and easily turn it into an illustrated story within a lesson.

Design

As a part of the design, we learned about the Law of Thirds for the cover of the book and to use facial expressions to help tell the story. The students also learned about choosing fonts that are easy to read and colours that contrast well with the backgrounds. We also learned the difference between speech bubbles and thought bubbles.

The students really enjoyed working in small groups to act out each conflict theme. Most of the themes were about sharing. It is really easy for students to quickly build a story that draws together photos with text to support the storytelling.

Next Steps

Our next steps will be to finish the stories by creating voice recordings and then exporting the finished work as a video to upload to our blogs.
Title - Cover of Book
The Beginning
The Problem
The Conflict
The Solution

Monday, 9 November 2015

Makerspace - Electric Textiles

I am a Maker. I love all kinds of arts and crafts and so I have developed a lot of skills through my making. I am a curious person so in order to make sense of how a Makerspace may be best utilized in a school, I needed to explore some projects myself.

I love textiles. I can weave, sew, knit, crochet, knot and print and paint on textiles. My next challenge is to learn how to embed technology into my textiles. I am also curious to learn more about this to encourage more girls to work on Makerspace projects, although these kinds of projects could be also of interest to boys. Instead of a flower, you could make a robot.

Just last weekend I tried to create a circuit in fabric. One of the greatest challenges here in Jakarta is finding the resources needed for these types of projects. I decided to start with a simple circuit that requires using a coin battery, battery holder, a switch and some LEDs.


I was able to buy some conductive thread and some tiny LEDs. The first thing I did was test the LEDs with the thread and battery. I was not able to buy a battery holder for the coin battery. I know that using a AA battery is not a good idea as the power could burn out the little LEDs. I decided to break open an old toy to get the battery holder and it worked just fine.

Equipment Needed:
felt - various colours
sewing thread
needle
conductive thread
needle nose pliers
LEDs
3V coin battery
Battery holder
metal press stud clasp

Sew your felt picture. You can do this by hand or on a sewing machine. You could even just glue the felt together with fabric glue. Next check all your electric parts.









Check the positive side and negative side of the battery. Put the battery into the holder so that the wire brackets touch the matching + or - Note that the positive side also runs around the edges.




The LED has a long and short side. The long side indicates the positive.



Bend the wire on the LED to make a little loop to sew through. Simple pointed pliers will do.
Here is the bent LED ready for sewing.







Test your LED, thread and battery to make sure it works. Make sure you connect the thread securely to your battery case. I placed it under the small screws and tightened them.




















Next you can start sewing the circuit.








It's a good idea for students to draw a diagram for their circuit to work out where the positive and negative connections will be sewn. This diagram is showing that placement for just one light. The other lights can connect to the circuit. They don't have to go all the way back to the battery.
Use the metal snaps as a switch. Make sure that you sew the positive connections but leave one break for the switch. This will allow you to switch your lights on and off.













Here is the finished project. 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

How to Get Your Signature on Your Email using Preview on a Macbook

Have you ever wondered how to get a hand drawn signature on your email? You can do this using the Preview app. For this tutorial I have used capturing your signature that you have written on a piece of white paper using the Macbook iSight camera.

Before we start, please update your Macbook to the latest version of Yosemite 10.10.5



Monday, 11 May 2015

Digital Citizenship. How Can We Say 'Thank You'



I am keen to act upon a recent recommendation to further develop digital citizenship practices at PIE. I must admit I have been focusing on the iPad roll out this year so this dropped off my radar.

Looking to next academic year, I would like to put some good practice into place. One of the biggest challenges is not only developing understandings about good Digital Citizenship practices but to sustain those good practices.

I have always believed in authentic experiences last the longest so I need an approach that would reflect this. Ongoing discussion is key.
Living in Indonesia it can be difficult to maintain the right perspective. You can readily buy pirated CDs at most shopping centres. Our students have difficulty in learning that just because you can access media, doesn't mean that you should take it and use it. Just because you bought a pirate CD or grabbed a resource online, doesn't mean that you can ethically use the contents. Some kids think that because they 'paid' for it (paid = spent $1 for the pirated copy) or found it themselves online - it's OK to use.

My message to students is citing information and media is like saying thank you to the one who made it. When someone does something for you, it's good manners to say thank you. Here is a way to say 'thank you'.

I am mostly working with the younger grades so I need some visuals to help bring the message and to give the class teacher a resource that they can refer to often. I have started working on some Info Graphic posters to be copied and put up in the classrooms. It is helping me that the current theme in Grade 4 is one of Digital Citizenship. I have been involved in talks with classes and from that I have a better perspective of the current situation.

I have made a start with posters for the younger grades. Take a look. I hope to build on this and level it up for older students. My first 3 are Recording Resources, Safe Information Searches and Safe Picture searches. I am looking for easy to follow accessible information. These posters will help classroom teachers get the message across and help them to remember what to do.