Posts Tagged ‘IPad’

I’ve had an idea for the next tech gadget; I apologise if it is already on someone’s drawing board – and if it exists already, I’d love to hear about it.

It’s a virtual desk. Well, a real desk, that does some ‘e’ things…

The idea came about this morning, while working on a uni assignment. My course is all online; the readings, the university website, even uploading my assignment. At the moment, I am working on an iPad and a desktop, switching between using apps like Notability (great for virtual highlighting and note making on the PDF documents I’m viewing), to stalwart programs like Word (where I’m writing the piece itself). Along the way, I’m dropping out of the virtual realm, making notes, thoughts and doodles on paper.

It’s not entirely satisfactory though, or at least it doesn’t feel right in the sense of a tactile and functional learning process is… or even the sense of the aesthetic. And that is where the virtual desk comes in. I got the idea, in part, from the Australian Museum’s virtual display of a collection of things that bite and sting – the blue ringed octopus, ants, box jellyfish, a shark etc – that you can prod at on a large table, with projections from above, and information pops up about the type of ‘bite’ you have received from your virtual prodding. The desk senses your interaction and responds, albeit in a relatively limited fashion, accordingly (try as I might, I couldn’t find a photo for this post!)

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer ...

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer interface he first designed as part of the advisory work for the film Minority Report. The system, called “g-speak”, is now real and working. Note the gloves Underkoffler is wearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The virtual desk would be a real desk that, when switched on, would allow you to have a Minority Report (and now I HAVE found a pic, using Zemanta, that seems to show that something approaching my desk, is on the way). But rather than having something vertical, I’m pitching for something horizontal… traditional. A desk where items, such as documents, would appear in front of you. Items that you could slide around, see at once, write on (whether that be with a stylus, like a pen or pencil) or in a way that leads to type being produced.

I would like to think that the desk could be an old one… even a leather topped one (which is something that I have never owned), or something befitting the title “bureau”. And when you’ve finished and switched it off, that majestic item retains its place in your house, rather than being another in a long line of ‘computer ware’.

Just a thought that I figured I would get down while it was in mind. Feel free to send me a pic if you have something like this at your house!

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!

iDevice

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

student_ipad_school - 024

It has been an interesting fortnight. School’s very much back and, along with a new, fantastic library, all of our students have their own devices this year. Year 7s have iPads and the rest laptops. We are by no means pioneers in all this, in terms of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) in a school, but that does not mean that there aren’t striking observations to be made.
Here’s one for you all – you don’t have to be a student or a teacher to appreciate this – anyone who has had a first day at school will recognise this moment. Remember that first day at school, the nerves, the sense of loneliness, perhaps coupled with some excitement, as you looked upon a sea of unknown faces? Whether you hastily looked for someone to strike up a friendship with, or waited until someone sought you out, you’ll all have a familiarity for this scenario.
However, it’s different this time. We have over 200 students in Year 7 and one staff member observed that, while boys would have boisterously chatted outside the classrooms during breaks, played handball and chatted at the tables in the lunch area last year, the place this time was eerily silent at recess and lunch breaks. Boys had their heads down – playing games for the most part, with fingers swiping madly this way and that.
So has the iPad stepped in to act as the salve to social embarrassment? And what does it mean for a generation who does not have to be thrust (for good or bad) into this social limelight where one looks to strike up friendships that may go on to last a lifetime?
I’m excited to be teaching at this time – I’m about to undertake a Masters in eLearning in a couple of weeks – but I’m interested and intrigued by some of these social considerations of our starting our voyage with BYOD. I’d anticipated that I would have to be working with a range of teaching considerations within the classroom, but less so on the ones that might be outside the class. As I said to a colleague, I wonder if this is that moment where you realise that there has been a seismic shift in how the world operates – you know, the “I remember where I was when X happened kind of thing…”
More to follow in due course.

A possible start of year address from a few hundred years ago…

Good morning students, and welcome back for the new school year. We certainly have an exciting year ahead of us. I have called this assembly to go over how the new iSlate devices will operate.
By now you should all have received your devices and, looking around, I can see many of you have brought them here today. Well done.
You will already know that the school has moved to implement these devices across all years. My aim this morning is to go over the process of this implementation.
Firstly, I want to thank your parents. They have outlaid a not inconsiderable sum of money to ensure that you have access to the latest technology. If you haven’t done so, you should thank them for their selfless act in putting you at the forefront of their thoughts. It is also beholden upon you to respect and care for your device. These slate pieces are quite robust but, as Worthington major found out this morning, tend to come off second best if dropped on the cobbled paving. We have asked you to get the wooden cork backing, but this will only provide a small level of protection. I encourage you and your parents to consider having specific insurance to cover possible damage to your device.

iSlate 1.0 From four shillings & sixpence. Available now.

Once at school, there are some expectations that we have with how you will use your device. I wish to go over some of these here with you now:
1. In starting, it is important to see your iSlate as a tool and not a toy. Certainly, you have the potential to use it for its novelty value, for its newness. However, we hope that we will see you use this as a device that aids in your education, as a content creation device and method of storing your invaluable notes. Social media, such as doodling is fine in itself; just contemplate where and when you should consider its use. Leaving your iSlate lying around with inappropriate observations about staff and students could lead to serious long-term repercussions for you and for others.
2. Practical considerations are important with using your iSlate. You will need to supply your own chalk and be attentive to how you manage it. It should be kept sharpened to make the most of your iSlate. You should not fritter away this resource with pointless doodling and, I need not say, borrowing the chalk of others will be regarded in the same light as stealing.
3. iSlates are to be kept in locker areas for safe keeping when not in use. As mentioned before, think carefully about how you intend to transport your devices to and from school. Again I remind you of their monetary value and the need for care. You should think carefully about ‘wiping’ your iSlate each day and what erasing this information will mean for your revision. Back-ups are, obviously, prohibitively expensive at this time.
4. In class, it is important to realise that the iSlate may not be used all the time. There will be times when its use is inappropriate, and your teacher may request that you put your iSlate ‘face down’ on the desk. The expectations regarding respect for all, and especially staff, remains unchanged.
5. Finally, it is important to realise that, all things considered, your iSlate device is only another tool to help you learn. It does not replace the most important tool that you possess in your arsenal, namely, your brain. It cannot do the thinking, the questioning, for you. Only you can do that. In addition to this, it will not make you a better person. Your values and what you stand for come from within. It may help your productivity, but will not replace your personality.

Certainly there are exciting times ahead and the staff and I are looking forward to some striking work as always. Rest assured, we will all be reviewing the use of these devices in coming months. Students dismissed.

 

iSlate 1.0 replaces the A-book as the new “device to have”

Looking to do some drama in your English class – perhaps something more developed than a warm up game? Then I present the Robot Game – which I originally saw in Peter Moore’s When Are We Going To Have More Drama, now out of print.
This is probably the most requested (long) drama activity that I have done with students. The ‘performance’, which takes most of a lesson, can often be hilarious, as students who have not prepared sufficient ‘actions’ realise that there may be some tasks that their ‘robot’ will struggle with.
In doubling in this post, I have also decided to upload my first Explain Everything video, created to introduce the task to the students – so I am looking to explore the practicalities of this app (part one) in the English/Drama classroom.
So, before any embedded videos, here is the ‘print’ form of the task, aimed at teachers:

Premise: You are captured in a prison on an alien world. Your only resource to help you escape is a ‘robot’ that does not speak English. You must learn its language in order to guide it through a ‘maze’ in order to retrieve a set of keys.
Procedure: DAY ONE: Divide students into groups. At first, the students work together to create a fake ‘language’ of about 5-15 commands (you don’t need to tell them this) in order to pilot the robot. Foreign languages are out, or other simplifications of English (eg Left = L). In the past, things like Simpsons characters, car brands and jibberish have been popular. Students then rehearse/test the language with the robot (the robot will NOT have the commands on the final run).
DAY TWO: While you set up the course with the course planners, drivers have a final practice run. Robots sit outside until called. Drivers are brought in and the course is demonstrated to them. Then each robot is brought in and the drivers have to pilot the robot around the course.
THE RUN THROUGH: A robot (that is, a student) is brought in and sits down on a chair. The two drivers (the other two students) ‘sit’ on their hands, with the instructions in front of them and can only offer the rehearsed “commands” (i.e. no eye contact ‘offers’, no pointing etc). Any use of English (e.g. accidental calls of “NO!” or “Stop!”, incur a 5 second penalty. The total amount of time is (usually) 5 minutes. A robot may get ‘stuck’ at a point and you may offer the drivers the option of a one-off, 30 second penalty to ‘advance’ past this procedure. The total time having expired, may see robots finish while still on the course, so keep tabs of where they finish (plus penalties).
Other Observations: The only ‘caveat’ is that robots will need to be outside, for up to (in the case of the last robot), the bulk of the period. This has never been a problem for me, but could be an issue, depending on your class. The lesson is usually hilarious, based on the absence of necessary commands, with students walking “into” tables because they haven’t thought about climb over or crawl under in their set up. You can make it as hard or as easy for your class as you need. I’ve usually run this with year 7 but it would work up to year 9 potentially. You will need to keep the changeover of robots tight, otherwise you’ll easily run over time.
Possible Marks/Extension: You can use this as a group mark, based on their ability to work in a group (esp in period 1) effectively. A reflection task can be to have the boys discuss ideas of communication and how they were challenged by expectation and what happened.

Explain Everything – a reflection

Below you will find my first ‘attempt’ at Explain Everything. All up, it probably took about an hour of solid work to get it done, and I beg your indulgence at my efforts! There were a few issues with crashes (and some odd slide clashes) that probably made the process a little more frustrating than one would hope and expect. My aim was to create this solely using my iPad – so that the idea of lightweight, portable content creation became the focus.
Here are some other observations about the app from my first go:
1. Ensure that you have your ‘script’ created beforehand. I did this, which worked well. Having all of the images, photos and the like set up (my son drew the rocket ship) before, rather than stopping and sourcing/creating them as you go, would also be advisable.
2. Overall, the feel and use of the app is great. It is easy (the help ‘manual’ is good, although perhaps not as extensive as one might like) to use and mostly intuitive. I would liked to have seen the ability to copy images from one slide to the next (unless I’ve missed how to do this), as this is a common trait that makes the iPad a boon in most areas. Instead, I sometimes tried to duplicate the slide and erase elements that I did not want. The only downside from this was that (for some reason), some of the erased elements would magically re-insert themselves later on – frustrating. I’m sure this is a glitch that will soon be fixed.
3. Consider how you are going to ‘animate’ it ahead of time. I found trying to make it look ‘smooth’ while doing any voiceover (again, apologies for the tone that suggests “I’m concentrating here!”) at the same time. However, it is relatively easy to pause and break the animation and thus the voiceover.
4. Practical uses for the English Class. Thus far I can see two main uses. The first is for something like this, where you can make it a story tied to a series of instructions. Students could look at this the night before (reflecting possible ‘Flipped’ class models), work online together to come up with their “list” of commands, and come in ready to go with the rehearsal/performance the next day. The second would be as an explanatory tool. At present at my school, Year 9 are working on a unit studying a range of sonnets. Explain Everything would work quite well as a ‘study guide’, that covers the structural elements that make up a sonnet. The advantages would be that, despite some time investment (several hours), you would have a resource that you could use again and, perhaps more importantly, a guide that students can visit more than once in order to help with their study of the form.
I think I’ll see how I go with that as my ‘second attempt’. In the meantime, the first attempt is below. Let me know if you need any clarification with the task, or wish to make suggestions about other ways Explain Everything might work in the English (Drama?) classroom.

war·ran·ty

noun /ˈwôrəntē/  /ˈwä-/
warranties, plural

  1. A written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of an article by its manufacturer, promising to repair or replace it if necessary within a specified period of time

Educational “contracts” have been around for years and I recall the (attempted) introduction of the green desk system at my school in my later years. This basically revolved around William Roger’s Discipline Plan that saw students given ascending punishments such as being given a warning, being moved to an isolated table and being removed from the room for ongoing poor behaviour. At the time, it had mixed success at the government high school that I attended.

I recently came across this great blog post at English Teacher Confessions, which lists 13 pet peeves – number 12 reads:

The day after a major essay is due, ask your teacher if she’s graded them yet; if she balks, ask her if she’s graded yours yet; ask every day until they’re returned.

This followed on from seeing this cartoon at the start of the year:

from Joe Bower’s For the Love of Learning Blog

So perhaps student behaviour is a timeless, known quantity and the changes in society and the expectations of education have evolved. As more mobile devices become used/available in the class room, should we be exploring what the expectations are for student and teacher alike? Schools are developing the ability to allow students to access their files on servers at any time and many have contact with staff via email and class portal pages. What are the expectations for being able to contact staff at any time and, in being able to do this, what are the (time) expectations for staff to respond? In writing this, I am exploring the idea of the motivated and probably more able student, rather than the disruptive or indifferent one. Certainly, the days of a student heading off to the nearest major (university?) library to spend the day going through all the reference and stack items are endangered if not gone already. The issue is not what can be accessed, but how best to do it and how to develop a student’s curiosity, as well as the ability to discriminate with information that is available online.

Therefore, I am (lightheartedly) proposing a school warranty. You’ll notice that I copied the definition that came up for ‘warranty definition’ on Google at the top of my post and this covers the noun. I like the verb – warrant –  to justify or necessitate (a certain course of action), even more so. It suggests an active ‘doing’ rather than something set in place. I have no legal experience, but how about, as Draft 1.0, something like the following?

This understanding is made on the basis that we live in exciting technological times and you are a student looking to do your best, wanting to discover new ideas and thinking and you are ready to work. To this effect:

I warrant that I

  • will look to challenge the way you think, in order to open up your mind to fresh ideas and ways of working
  • understand that you have those mobile devices and that we will look to use them to further the ideas and content creation of the class
  • will continue to learn myself and challenge the way that I think and teach in order to promote both our positions
  • can learn from you and that together we will both benefit
  • will commit to giving you the best service that I can, through preparation, resources, feedback and direction and that this will often occur out of class time
  • am human; that (like you), I will make mistakes and I will endeavour to make amends and learn from them in future
  • will sing your praises from the rooftop because I can be so proud of your efforts

In accepting this Warranty, you undertake to

  • question everything and accept nothing at face value until you have scutinised, analysed, and tested it
  • bring your brain as well as your iWhatever along with you to use to benefit the work of all in the class
  • not try to add me as a “Facebook Friend” – we can be friendly, without having to be Friends
  • commit to fully participating, including completing the tasks and readings set, respecting the efforts of all and not shortchanging yourself through shortcuts
  • produce your own work, including attributing all sources you have used, to the best of your ability, which may involve re-drafting a piece of work at a later date
  • respect my role as teacher, including realising that, while I have may be able to access your communications at any time, I am not necessarily going to respond then and there
  • teach me as well with ideas that you have, apps that you come across and possibilities to explore

There’s probably more, (quite possibly less too!) but it’s a start. As a colleague said when I mentioned the idea for this post, “Not sure about the idea of the extended warranty!!”

Would love your thoughts and perspectives, as always.

A short post from me this time, and I start with a confession:
I have not used Prezi as I feel I ought to have done. Never being a PowerPoint aficionado, I thought that I would rectify the deficit – but now looking back, I see that time and application has been lacking.
And so I am proposing building a bank of teaching ideas and strategies with (in particular, new iPad) apps.

Presents
At present, it feels a bit too much like Christmas, and I am a six year old. I’m looking at posts on Twitter that promote “the 5 best apps for the classroom” or “50 Edtech tools” and I’m eagerly reading about them, often downloading them and using them – briefly. Then, unless I persevere (and going back to the Christmas analogy), I tend to become entranced by the next present in the pile. I’ll give the instructions a cursory glance at best and some of these items deserve a little more attention. A good case in point was the ShowMe app – I had a quick look, dreamed about it for a little while, and have not got ‘back’ to it since.

So, working on a few premises; that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, that education is still about content, content, content before technology, that the way it operates in the classroom and the way a class ‘operates’ (and is taught) cannot be replaced with a gimmick or something only half utilised, I am looking to make amends. No death-by-powerpoint by reducing a resource to its most mundane level.

And so, the idea is that I will road test a number of apps in the (predominantly) English class room. I’m thinking that spending about half a term (five weeks) would be about right, starting after our September school holidays (Australia). From this I hope to:

  • Review those apps that are most useful to teachers, those for students and those that work for both
  • Compare those that are similar to other apps out there (and perhaps, where an app falls short in the classroom)
  • Collate any other information that is out there that you can offer.
  • And after all this, I hope to Create a series of lesson ideas and strategies that help utilise an app to the fullest extent.

Currently, I’m not sure where to start – suggestions gratefully accepted, as will be re-tweets to a wider audience and pointers to places where it may have already been covered. Only relatively new to blogging, so am not looking to unnecessarily reinvent the wheel!

I’ll look to provide a later blog per app, with any and all appropriate information and resources collated. Hopefully it’ll stretch beyond the English classroom to broader teaching and learning use.

Looking forward to hearing from you in the meantime…