Thursday, 22 March 2012

Simple Machines Inquiry - My Initial Planning

Affordable computers have great potential to stimulate creativity and develop excellent problem-solving skills.

Thinking about my next Unit of Inquiry. This one is all about Machines.

I want to tap into the current craze amongst my Grade 5 students which is Minecraft. I am thinking that I will get the students to create a roller coaster in Minecraft that doesn't use any power rails and the challenge will be to see how many hills the mine cart can travel over with only the using the motion from down the initial inclined plane.

We can measure the height of the slope by counting how many blocks high it is. I would then like to translate this into a real live activity by getting the students to create a marble run in the shared area between the classrooms using a flexible hose and marbles of different weights. We could try to compare the two by making a decision based on a scale that one Minecraft block equals so many centimeters. This is based on the height of our roof which would allow a maximum height of 3.5 M. I'm going to try creating a roller coaster tonight in Minecraft that is 35 blocks high to see how far it gets me.

Given that Minecraft uses a mine cart and the marble run uses a marble we need to scale it down. Perhaps we could compare the height of a mine cart with a marble to get a better break down? I'll leave those decisions for the students.

Here is a great example of what I hope to re-create.

For my second hands-on I would like to start by using Angry Birds online to explore a catapult and then get the students to make their own catapults. We will start by throwing soccer balls of different weights to see how far it will go. This we can then compare to using a catapult.

Here is a You Tube video of what we hope to create.

Actually I am still planning this but I do like to leave certain things open to happen in the moment. I'll certainly post about it when we get started.

Monday, 5 March 2012

AirPlay Mirror iPad to Macbook with Reflection App

I use iPads a lot in classes but it can be quite difficult for students to project their screen as the VGA connection for iPad sometimes takes a little while to kick in.

On the weekend I downloaded a new app for Mac called Reflection. This app is very easy to setup and use. I was easily able to download the trial version which worked straight away on my own home connection.

My school uses a Proxy server so I wasn't able to just connect to the system like I can at home.

What I did was the following:

In System Preferences I opened the Internet Sharing option.

In the Sharing options check the box for Internet Sharing and choose WiFi.
Make sure that this is OK with your school ICT Manager first :)

Then in my WiFi tab on my Mac I created a network called jane_ross
This was so I would know which WiFi to join from each iPad.

On each iPad I joined the new jane_ross network. After that I was able to double tap my home button on the iPad and swipe to the left to see the AirPlay button. You need to make sure that the Reflection App is active first - or you will not see any AirPlay button.

This morning at school I tried it out with 6 iPads at once. Here is the result. It is quite easy to change the size of each iPad by dragging a corner.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

New Life for iPod Touch Generation 2

Technology is continually updating and gadgets that were once the latest thing - are soon replaced by newer ones with more options. So was the fate of the 15 iPod Touch Generation 2 at my school. These iPods are only a couple of years old - but cannot be updated anymore.

So new apps won't work :( And the books that were made with my favourite iPad creation app Book Creator - WON'T WORK! These iPods can only be updated to iOS 4.2.1
This is a problem. I can't use the iBooks 2.0 app with iOS 4.2.1. I need the iBooks app to read the books that the students are creating. I am in the middle of a publishing project. As an ICT Coach, I have been working with several classes to create talking books.

What's the solution?

I went on Twitter - I tweeted about my problem. This is what Twitter is for me. It's my help line for Tech. I think that if I can share as much as I receive then I will have restored the cosmic balance. So I sent out a tweet - an SOS for help.

The app creator of Book Creator, Dan Amos @redjumperdan answered my tweet. He suggested that I try using iBooks v 1.2 but it's not easy to get a hold of an earlier version of an iPod app. Most links on the web direct you to the iTunes Store and the most recent version is the one that is available.

Where do you find past versions of iPod apps?

Dan kindly sent me a copy of the version 1.3.2 but it didn't work with my iPod. What next? I even managed to get a copy of the iBooks .ipa file 1.2.2 but it still didn't work.

So why do I need these 'old' iPods to work ...

I love the talking books that my students are making with Dan's awesome Book Creator app but I needed a solution to create more access in the school community for viewing these books.
We are creating these books using the school iPads. We have a set of 20 iPad 2 and these iPads can be borrowed by teachers to use with students. In the beginning the iPads were very popular but as time went on they were being borrowed less and less.

As an ICT Coach, this is a concern of mine.
How can I get the iPads used more? How can I get the class teachers more interested to use iPads in their teaching and learning program?

I have taken on this challenge by making a publishing project. I use the Book Creator app to create the book and the Drawing Pad app to create the pictures and as well as this I use photos taken by using the iPad camera.

Book Creator App

Drawing Pad app

This works really well. We have been creating books in all Grades from 1-5. I have been working very closely with the Chinese teachers in the school as by using the Pinyin setting in the keyboard, the students are able to type in Chinese characters. In Indonesian language classes in Grade 1 we have also made several books. Soon Kindergarten will start to create books too.

Here are my students working in Chinese classes using the Book Creator app.

The Book Creator app is so user friendly and allows students to put words, pictures and voice recordings. It produces a book that can be read by the free app iBooks. iBooks works with the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

So what's the problem?

The iPads have become rather popular ... now it's quite difficult to borrow one. This has prompted me to look for other ways of how the students might be able to view each others stories.

So - solution?

Jailbreak the iPod Touch ...

I am very fortunate to have access to a school Genius Bar aka iQbar. The iQbar is available to anyone in our school community. The guys that work there know a lot about Tech. Today I learned from them about how to jailbreak an iPod 2 using Green Pois0n , load Cydia - then update it, add the AppSync for 4.0+ and sync the iBooks 1.2 that I found online. It's also possible to add a source such as to download that version of iBooks.

So the ending to this story ...

Yes! Now all I have to do is get the other iPod Touch jailbroken and set. It means a new life for the iPod Touch Generation 2 in our school.