Friday, 7 December 2012

Text Analysis and Visuals with Keynote

In Grade 6 English, our students are reading a book called the Big Wave and are spending time analysing quotes for how they illustrate the atmosphere of the book. To support their analysis they created a visual essay with a voice recording in Keynote. The aim of the activity is to scaffold and develop the students text analysis skills. 


The Process

A nice approach we have trialled is taking quotes from a book and then finding images that depict the atmosphere. The process of finding images helps students analyse the meaning of the quotes and think in a visual way. It was also a nice way to introducing the concepts of Creative Commons, CompfightFlickr and the photo attribution.

Once students have found three appropriate images to support three quotes, they added these into Keynote and choose contrasting colours and appropriate fonts to layout the different slides. Once they have organised a layout we ask them to record their analysis using the voice recorder tool built into Keynote. They were allowed a few post-it notes to prompt their discussion, but the aim is to encourage kids to verbalise their thoughts in a less formal way and adhoc way.

Asking students to voice over their analysis is very powerful, as it captures the students thoughts in a different way than writing and supports different forms of communicating. Overtime these types of analysis tasks scaffold our students into writing deeper pieces of analysis, whilst at the same time being fun and a little different. 

A nice ending to this project was sharing the videos through a Picasa Web Album. This allowed the students to share each others work and celebrate each others successes. This time they really ran with the commenting functions, most students would have watched most of the presentations. In a traditional class setting it is impossible to show each students work to the class, but an album is a nice alternative.

  • Creative Commons Images - Compfight is perhaps the best way to search for photos that can be borrowed. Once you have searched for a topic, click on the creative commons filter. These Creative Commons images can be referenced back to the original photographer using an attribution page as a last slide. 
  • Voice Recording within Keynoteyou have a record button in the top menu bar. This allows you to record using the internal microphone and narrate over the slide show. You need to click the arrow button to proceed to the next slide and then click exit once you are complete. You must record from the beginning to the end, and not try pause or re-record over the top. 
  • Exporting as Quicktime Movie - Once students have saved the Keynote, they can click File then, Export. Choose the Quicktime option and then click save to place the movie on to the laptop.
  • Picasa Web Album for Sharing - from the link any staff member can sign in and create an album. You need to upload and image first using the top menu option. Once you have done this and labelled the album, chose the share option from the right hand sidebar. You can type students email addresses or just share to your class group from the contacts. See tutorial here on creating class groups in contacts

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Collaborating with Crocodoc

A nice classroom practise is to get students looking at example essays and analysing the associated rubrics and success criteria. This is a important tool to help students understand what they should be aiming for when writing pieces of course work.

Crocodoc Personal allows you to upload different examples of student work (PDF, Word Documents) and then use the built in tools for commenting, highlighting and annotating with drawings. The really nifty feature is that the application collates the comments under student names so you can filter and look at students engagement and thinking. Watch the video below for a quick explanation.

Click to enlarge
You can also use the clever highlighting tools by setting up some codes for each colour. Blue could be for highlighting clear definitions, yellow for analysis and green for evidence of evaluation.

Quick Instructions:
  1. Visit and sign in to create a teacher account
  2. Upload a PDF, Word document
  3. Click on the URL link and share this with students
  4. When students click on the link, ask them to open the righthand side bar
  5. Students need to change their name from anonymous. 
  6. See example Crocodoc here
Further ideas:
  1. Select the comment drop down to choose area commenting
  2. Try setting up some colour coding and use the highlighter - only works on typed documents.
  3. Create a shared Crocodoc folder and upload several examples.
  4. Filter comments on the sidebar by student or by page. 
  5. Ask students to reply to others comments, to create nested comments.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Troubleshooting Google Drive

Google Drive is currently being used very heavily in parts of the school and is a very good option for sharing files between teachers and students and vice versa. Everything however relies on the magic black triangle to keep synchronising the files back and forth across the internet. Once this triangle disappears from the status bar you are in trouble :)


Firstly reopen the Google Drive application from Spotlight, then wait for the status bar to change to spinning black. You can also check the the little green arrows are appearing within your Google Drive folder within Finder.

Secondly, you might be best reinstalling the Google Drive app. Click here to download. This seems to fix most problems and ensures that the app always runs in the top status bar. Watch the following tutorial which explains how to update your app.
  1. Quick the Google Drive app by clicking on the icon in the top status bar
  2. Delete the Google Drive application from within Finder -> Applications. Do not delete your Google Drive Folder. 
  3. Click here to download the latest version of Google Drive.
  4. Once the file has downloaded, open the .dmg file and then drag to applications.
  5. Finally open the Google Drive app from Spotlight.
Thirdly, please visit the IT Helpdesk on Level 4 of the Middle School Block and one of our technicians will be able to help you out.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Video Questions in YouTube - increasing student engagement

A current piece of research by the Digital Literacy team is looking at how video tutorials can be created and then shared to students. These ideas fit with the UWCSEA Learning Principles and the idea of providing feedback to students through the learning process. It also links to the idea of the Flipped Classroom to provide students with time in class to apply, discuss and evaluate ideas.

Currently YouTube is the best option for teachers to share videos that they produce, both to students and to the wider community. Some of the educational features of YouTube are outlined below.
  • Single sign-in to YouTube using your Google Apps accounts
  • Unlimited storage capacity
  • Ability to create channels to curate material for students.
  • Ability to add annotations and comments to videos.
  • Build in multichoice, popup questions to a video to enhance student understanding.
The last feature is the newest education idea that YouTube has developed and is the feature that we see the most benefit in. The following example from Grade 11 Economics demonstrates how this works.

The first question appears at 1.10. When you click on the correct answer "true" the video will proceed. 

If you would like to try these ideas in your class or develop some tutorial videos, please be in touch with Andrew McCarthy who can provide some guidance and additional resources. 

To turn on multichoice questions you need to be signed into your account and then click on this link. Video Questions Beta. This will activate the beta testing of this product, which has not been realised to the public yet. 

Future posts will explain how to create channels and curate material for your students. 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Notetaking with Evernote

Evernote is a great application for writing and collating notes and now it looks even better. Last week Evenote realised Version 5 of their popular product and have refined the layout to help you search and find your notes.

You can download Evernote from the App Store. If you already have a version installed on your mac you may need to delete the program from your application folder and then download and install the new file.

If you are someone who saves school work in separate word documents, Evernote is the tool for you. Once you sign up for a free account your notes are saved to the web. Your notes are also easily searchable by key words, tags and titles.

Some top tips to become an Evernote ninja

Left Hand Sidebar

The sidebar has been updated to help you navigate through your notes more easily. The most recent notes show up, plus any Notebooks you drag to the shortcut section at the top. Try drag notebooks from each of your subjects into this shortcut bar.


Tags are a way that you can label notes so that you can search them later. Much like tagging a friend in a photo in Facebook, tagging should be part of your routine when taking notes and researching. The new tab icon in the lefthand sidebar help you see an overview of your tags and work.


Within each note there are lots of features to support your writing. Think about using the check list icons, bullet points, table and different colours. You can use these ideas to collate ideas or summarise viewpoints. Also try the record button to save some audio or the teachers talk into the note.

Saving from the Web

Evernote Webclipper is a separate app you can download from within Evernote Preferences. This allows you to grab snippets from a website and save this research back into your Evernote notebook. 

Lastly... Evernote Clearly

Evernote Clearly is a greap app built into Chrome that allows you to save newspaper articles or blog posts. Once you click on the Clearly button in the menu, it will allow you to save the article back to your note book with all of your highlights. Very nice for those people who always lose and misplace research.

How do you use Evernote as a students... add your comments below :)

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Kids, Concentration & Boredom
Photograph: John Slater/Getty Images

An article in the New York Times on this subject has brought this issue to the fore:

"Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say"

See also

"Technology Creating a Generation of Distracted Students"

The general gist of the arguments could be summarised thus:

Teachers (from middle and high schools) say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

"There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers..."

".. roughly 75 percent of 2,462 teachers surveyed said that the Internet and search engines had a “mostly positive” impact on student research skills. And they said such tools had made students more self-sufficient researchers.

... nearly 90 percent said that digital technologies were creating “an easily distracted generation with short attention spans.”

... of the 685 teachers surveyed in the Common Sense project, 71 percent said they thought technology was hurting attention span “somewhat” or “a lot.”

That said, these same Teachers remained somewhat optimistic about digital impact, with 77% saying Internet search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ work.

Arguments abound, although ones like this strike me as quite strange:
"This could be because search engines and Wikipedia have created an entire generation of students who are used to one-click results and easy-to-Google answers."

You're saying that if you can get an answer to a question with one click, that is a bad thing? Sure, there will be times when you will have to do a lot more than one click, because you have not been able to get a satisfactory answer to the question. But... if I could get a good answer in one click, believe me I would. If anything, access to the treasure trove of information that is the Internet, makes it much easier to get a multiplicity of sources, rather than only one, much easier than I could with books - yes I said it.

If your students can get the answers to your questions with one click... You're asking the wrong kinds of questions.

Image credit: TRF_Mr_Hyde

So. To the hordes of disgruntled teachers who are so quick to blame technology for short attention spans, I have this to say.

Get better. Get creative.

If your kids are bored, that is because, you are boring them, you are allowing them to be bored. Face it, move on, build a bridge, get over it, and use this as impetus to improve. As Dylan Wiliam said last week, teaching is the hardest profession because you can always get better at it; and, "A complaint is a gift" (Although it won't feel like that at the time).

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." 
(Widely attributed to Dorothy Parker)

Here's another article from TIME that might help to put this in perspective:

"Why Long Lectures Are Ineffective" Salman Khan

It is unfair to blame technology for short attention spans… We (the human race, not just kids) have had short attention spans for many years, it's just that students are now less inclined to put up with it. Certainly the Time magazine article cites research from 1976, well before the advent of digital technology as we know it - I was a (bored) 6 year old.

Attention span for direct instruction via @twoguysde 

I know this may come as a huge shock to anyone who knows me, but I have always had a short attention span; and that predated computers by at least a decade... I am not the only one. Chances are many of them are in your class (and are also your students' parents).
In 1996, in a journal called the National Teaching & Learning Forum, two professors from Indiana University — Joan Middendorf and Alan Kalish — described how research on human attention and retention speaks against the value of long lectures. They cited a 1976 study that detailed the ebbs and flows of students’ focus during a typical class period. Breaking the session down minute-by-minute, the study’s authors determined that students needed a three- to five-minute period of settling down, which would be followed by 10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus. Then — no matter how good the teacher or how compelling the subject matter — there would come a lapse. In the vernacular, the students would “lose it.” Attention would eventually return, but in ever briefer packets, falling “to three- or four-minute [spurts] towards the end of a standard lecture,” according to the report. 
Just in case you didn't catch that. Let me just make that a little clearer:

10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus. 

That's it.

Then what you need to do, instead of whinging, get creative.

Monday, 12 November 2012

GarageBand & SoundCloud

Got Grooves to get from GarageBand to share on the Web? Easy:

  1. Share the groove by going to the start screen, click My Songs, then click 'Edit' and choose a 'choon' while it's dancing (well, jiggling)

  2. Click the Share button
  3. Email it to yourself

  4. Now use a computer to download the track from your email
  5. Click on a link to a group you have created, or a widget like the ones below to upload your class files to Soundcloud for sharing:
Send us your sounds
Send us your sounds

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Dealing with Digital Distractions in the Classroom

Whilst we all believe that technology and the iLearn initiative is improving our student's learning experience, we have to be proactive and look at the issue of digital distractions. In the absence of laptops, students will undoubtedly find some other means of distracting themselves during monotonous classes, but the temptation to send and email, open a chat in Skype or dip into YouTube is more tempting than ever.

Doonesbury, November 2011

How do we know that students are off task?

Body Language is always the first hint. The student's head position, eyes tracking quickly over the screen and rapid clicking are all signs of off task behaviour. Secondly, flicking and flashing screens are a second hint. In a Mac system students use multiple desktops and misson control to quickly switch between screens and hide functions. It is also difficult to see what activities students have running in the background. It could appear that they are working on a project, whilst also arranging YouTube playlists in the background.

Below are a collection of five hints, that can help manage the digital distractions. If you have other ideas or thoughts, please leave a comment at the end of this post. 

Consistency of Expectations

Setting expectations within a digital classroom is very important. At the beginning of a term you can have a short discussion to establish a social contract for the use of digital devices in the classroom. 

As a school we don't mandate any specific rules, but teachers are free to establish guidelines within their classes. Personally I prefer that students have laptops turned on and sitting on the desk, but not open to begin a lesson. When I am speaking or discussing something with student's, I ask them to lower their lids to 45 degrees with a a silly crocodile hand gesture and then wait for every student to follow. After a while students understand what is a appropriate in your class if you consistently reinforce these expectations. Posters around the room are a good idea or stickers and hints on the desks.

Visible Lesson Planning

A good lesson that keeps students involved, contains authentic learning experiences that are collaborative and interactive will obviously maintain student engagement. Lesson objectives can be listed on the whiteboard to highlight were the learning is heading, and what skills the teacher is looking for. Not every lesson will be action packed and full of excitement, but structure and purposeful activities will improve engagement.

Circulating around the Classroom 

Try teaching from different points in the class and avoid sitting at a desk at the front. You can use a laser pointer or clicker to teach from different parts of the room. This will let you see what the students are doing more easily. Be prepared to sit within and among the students when they are doing independent work. Sitting beside students in a casual fashion allows them to ask questions when they feel ready. Also think about the arrangement of the desks and the relative position of your desk. Manage the class by walking around, being visible and by rotating where students sit and grouping on a regular basis.

Use Timers to build focus

Students work better when they have some idea of the time expectations. Try interactive tools such as Triptico to set timers and keep kids focused. The free app has a range of cool activities to flash up on your projector. Ensuring a mixture of activities including group work, independent work and quick assessment are always a sure strategy to keep kids on their toes.

Pick your Battles

Obviously some indiscretions are worse than others. When a student is checking out a website and other students become distracted then most teachers would step in. Small warnings, and system of yellow and red cards could be appropriate. Laptops are a privilege so be prepared to remove the laptop for a period of time from a student who has ignored warnings and pass on this information to a Tutor and Head of Grade. Also rewarding students with good attitudes always works and letting them listen to music on occasions is also fine. 

If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment below. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Digital Leaders in the Modern Classroom.

I remember when I was a primary school student and the buzz that surrounded the arrival of a computer to our small village school. It think it was an Acorn BBC Model, which at the time was a big deal in the UK. I remember the thrill and excitement in the school community about this new, intriguing and somewhat alien arrival. The individual classes got the computer for one week a term and what a week it was! It was indeed a brave new world in education.

A cartoon from 1986.

However, by high school, the image of the "computer geek" had been born and most students at my school didn't choose to do "Computer Studies" nor were they encouraged to do so. Indeed there were more students in my Latin class than there were in CS. Most of us were beginning to get technology in our homes (my first computer was the magnificent Toshiba T1000) but this and my academic life were distinct and separate. Computers were eventually part of university life of course, whether it was Word for the work and Doom for the play but even then, my knowledge of this area was solely for my own use. Only recently have I been sharing what I know (and often admitting what I don't) with my peers and students as a tech mentor and I have been wondering what I could have learned and shared before now.

In the past few months I have read numerous blogs and articles about "Digital Leaders" being appointed in schools. These are students that can offer insight into what they think is important in their digital learning. They give advice to teachers, discover the new things that we as educators do not possibly have the time to do and are committed to peer to peer mentoring in the classroom.

In short, not only are they being chosen for their love and interest of all things technological but they are being celebrated for this. One school has even started this in the infant school. The teacher created a blog asking children if they would like to be a Digital Leader. The response was overwhelming, even from the younger children. One child simply stated that they want to be a digital leader because "I like helping people. I like meetings. I like computers." (Note the order!)

Scouring the web, we can find a remarkable amount of blogs and references to students in similar positions in schools. They are proud of their role, committed to becoming part of something innovative and exciting and happy to be an active participant in their own learning. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Research Skills for our IB Diploma students

Throughout the past few months the Digital Literacy Team has been working with the Secondary Library to deliver a series of workshops to all Grade 11 students, about research skills and information literacy. It is a central aspect of the UWCSEA Profile that our students are able to critically solve complex problems based upon informed and ethical decisions. Part of this theme relates to the ability of students to analyse and synthesize information which is a constant part of their IB Diploma course work, including Extended Essays and writing in the Theory of Knowledge course.

The resources for our workshops at the following public site. Please have a look at this website, explore some of the tutorials and discuss some of the material with your child.


The first workshop looked at potential sources of information focusing on academic sources including electronic databases and academic journals. We outlined the available databases from within the UWCSEA website portal (Encyclopedia Britannia, SIRS, NewsBank) and then looked at the eResources available from the Singapore National Library.

The Singapore National Library subscribes to a vast array of scholarly articles and also several more mainstream publications such as Time Magazine and The Economist. Our Grade 11 students have all registered for a Digital Account with the National Library, allowing them full access to the eResources section. Whilst this may not be something they will access very often, it is a good point of reference when they begin writing about more in-depth and focused topics such as an Extended Essay. This resource is also available to parents who can sign in with the relevant ID Card or FIN pass at the registration page.


The second workshop looked at referencing and academic honesty. We covered the principles of quoting, summarising and paraphrasing and reinforced referencing styles. The main form of referencing used across the High School is the Modern Language Association style, unless guidance is provided otherwise from individual teachers.

A key tool introduced in the second workshop with all Grade 11 students is an application called Zotero. This is citation tool that helps students collate sources of information as they progress with research. They can either manually add a reference by typing in the essential meta data (author, title, publisher, date) or use the connector within an Internet Browser. The connector is a nifty gadget that grabs data from a academic journal about the author, title, publisher etc, and places it back in the student's Zotero library. It also attaches a PDF of the original journal.

The final wow factor is left for last. Zotero will let students to extract a bibliography in their format of choice from the collected resources, and a small plug in allows students to complete the in-text references. Whilst we still focus on teaching the principles of referencing, tools such as this help student's manage the process and focus on the analysis and evaluation skills.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Assessment for Learning and Socrative

Throughout our Middle School we have been referring to the PIPE lesson structure, where teachers focus on the following techniques to support learning and to develop enduring understanding.
  • Preparing the Learner
  • Input new learning
  • Practise
  • Evaluation and Feedback
Online tools such as Socrative, support teachers in setting quick exit quizzes, or to set more in-depth open questions to elicit deeper thinking. Any quiz which is created can be archived for future use, or shared via other teachers who have a Socrative account. At the end of the quiz, you can receive a copy of the results in a spreadsheet or anonymously show responses through the projector. 

The product is free and does not require student login. Bonus!!



You need to sign into the Socrative website to create and share quizzes. When you sign up you are allocated a class number, which is the unique code students use to access your online room of quizzes. Students complete quizzes by visiting the website and then type in your number.
  1. Click on the button to Manage Quizzes
  2. Click to Create a Quiz
  3. Name the quiz, then click to add questions. You have two options, either an open question or multiple choice question.
  4. You can click on the correct answer and also give students optional feedback on each question. This is a nice tool to experiment with and give rich feedback.
  5. Once you have finished click the save button.

Once you have saved a quiz, you can click back to the main screen.
  1. Click on Start Quiz
  2. Choose you quiz from the drop down
  3. Select the option of either Teacher Paced or Student Paced Quiz. Teacher paced is nice if your using in class and if you want to stop and show the results mid survey. Student paced is good for quizzes that are focused on deeper thinking or longer multiple choice assessments. Either format gives you the same spreadsheet at the end. 
  4. Once kids have entered the room using the link and your code you can begin the quiz.
  5. You have the option (if plugged into the projector) to either show or hide the results, once the students have begun. This is nice if you wish to stop and discuss the outcomes and link back to prior learning. 


One nice idea is to gather student responses and then select the text and then copy into a website like Wordle. This will show the pattern of responses and be a great discussion point, or poster for the wall. Plus the kids will think your are amazing :)

Apps not Abaci: Using iPads in the Primary Classroom

This term, Grade Two have embraced iPads in the classroom and are trialling, testing and reflecting on their use. It is easy for the hardened iPad lover (like myself) to see the good in every aspect of tablet use in teaching and learning. From simple planning on "Notes" for Writing Workshop to assessments using "Screen Chomp" and don't forget the wealth of number apps- "Math Bingo" anyone?
But as with all things new and shiny and Apple's desire to "reinvent the textbook" it is easy to forget the bigger jpeg. Are the students actually learning by using tablets instead of textbooks, apps instead of abaci?

It is very encouraging to see the first rounds of data coming from the USA indicating increased Literacy scores in Kindergartens that use tablets:

The downside of course is to consider the schools that need help with raising Literacy scores are the schools that have limited access to technology. Does E-Learning come at a price, saved for the "E-lite" learners? Time will tell.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Creating Infographic Visuals with

A previous post about using Gapminder World to visualise data, highlighted lots of ways to consume and analyse patterns in data. The most powerful way for students to understand a concept is to use data to create a visual representation. This technique encourages deep thinking and forces students to draw out the main points and then convey them to an audience.

This post therefore looks at creating an infographic with This is the easiest and yet most functional tool I have come across so far. allows you to drop and drag from collections of symbols, change colours, annotate and duplicate. If students log into the website they can save edits and then download a jpeg of their work.



Before you begin a project with your students it is important to step back and look a few infographic examples. Websites such as and the work of David McCandless and his website Information is Beautiful provide some great examples. Ask you students to rate them using the following criteria, which I have borrowed from the following website - Rubric for Effective Infographic (UMW FSEM)

Usefulness: A useful infographic should have a clear purpose present, the data should come from a reliable source, the display of data should be proportional to the values (i.e., it should avoid data distortion), and the graphic should relate to the audience (i.e, it should meet the needs of the intended audience). 
Legibility: A legible graphic should have a general aspect in the areas such as labels, axes, font, and contrast. Font would vary in size depending on the importance of the content and be an appropriate type. Axes and labels generally go together so use them when needed; include a scale when appropriate. Contrast should help with the clarity. So these bring a basis for what makes a legible graph. 
Design: An effective infographic must use most of the available space, utilize color where needed, and present the information in the graph in a useful (containing a purpose), legible (conveys the data clearly) and aesthetically pleasing and interesting way. The choice of graphic needs to be appropriate for the data. 
Aesthetics: In order to make an infographic aesthetically appealing you need to first make sure all of the data is organized. That is, avoid clutter or information overload. The organization of the infographic should have clear purpose to the viewer, avoiding confusion. Once the infographic is organized, it directly correlates with the overall attractiveness. If it’s easy to understand, it is easy on the eyes; in other words the infographic is attractive. Once the organization and attractiveness are achieved, the interestingness comes naturally. Add colors or small images to ultimately make an infographic aesthetically pleasing.

USING EASEL.LY FOR CREATING INFOGRAPHICS comes with a series of themes, which are either useful starting points for students or they will constrain the students thinking. My feeling is that a clean slate is the best starting point for a creative project. 
  1. Ensure students login with school email address so that their work can be saved
  2. Click on a the first chart to begin and then drag and delete the object
  3. Explore the objects button and explore the different category
  4. Change the colour on an object
  5. Add text boxes, graph outlines, or even maps from objects.
  6. Click on the save button
  7. Then click home button once finished. 
  8. Click on the share button to download or to send someone a link to your infographic.
  9. You could create a Picasa Web Gallery and ask the students to upload thier image, and then use the commenting functions and the above rubric for guiding feedback.

Simple example which I created from this Economist Article on Japan

Visualising Data with Gapminder World

Data is an important quantitative tool in many subjects including Geography and Economics and it helps our students understand trends, patterns and the contrasts that exist in the world. Student's ability to visualise and therefore interpret data is becoming an important skill at the intersection of the arts, maths and humanities disciplines.

This blog post, looks at ways to help students interpret data through effective use of the Gapminder Tool. A subsequent post in this series "Creating Infographic Visuals with Easel.lyexplains how to create infographic visuals with which help them showcase their understanding.

Techniques for using Gapminder in the classroom

Gapminder World is the utopia of online statistical tools, that enables students to construct and interpret scatter diagrams with a range of human development statistics. The amazing aspect is that they can drag the data back in time, showing a 4th dimension to the pattern. Our students also have GapMinder Desktop installed on their MacBooks, enabling offline access.

Top Tips for using GapMinder

  • Remember to change the indicator on each axis
  • See this link for the full list of indicators, or to download the raw data.
  • If you like a graph, save the URL into a Google Doc for future reference
  • Click on two or three different countries to simplify the view.
  • Drag the timeline back, and see the trails of data. 
  • Ask students questions about the direction of change, what is the correlation, cause and effect.
  • Hover the cursor over each circle to see the data and to see the axis statistical values.
  • Need a lesson on correlation and causality? See the brilliant Khan Academy.

Going deeper with GapMinder - Skitch

  • Try using programs such as Skitch with students to help them annotate the GapMinder diagram to highlight correlations and the main points. This technique forces students to think more deeply about the data, trends and patterns.
  • Students can save these into their notes or assignment. 

Screen Recording and GapMinder - Quicktime

  • To really push students, you need to make them think more deeply about the connections an trends in the data. Ideally you want to glimpse into their thinking processes (metacognition).
  • You can do this by asking them to use the Screen Recording functions within Quicktime, and to answer a question such as "describe two countries, one that follows the correlation and another that does not and the relationship between the data"
  • The student will record a short clip of them speaking, whilst also clicking and dragging the GapMinder gadget. Whilst you might not access this video explicitly the level of thinking required really pushes students who are comfortable writing something but find it harder to verbalise thier thinking. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Simple Slideshows in Preview

Sure you can spend hours constructing a visual masterpiece in Keynote, Prezi, SlideRocket, or even, if you insist, PowerPoint... 

If you do want a slide show with images and video, import it all into iPhoto and run the slideshow from there. 

But what if you just want to create a slide show, no transitions, no titles, no fuss, no faff? 

What if this slideshow can contain all sorts of visual media, images of course, but also PDFs, text documents but ... not video. Well not yet. 

So, you have a folder stuffed full of the slide show content, (including content in sub folders) how does this magic work?

Easy, open Preview if it isn't open already - Grab the folder and drop it on the Preview icon in the dock.

Or, if you're drag and drop dysfunctional, go to Open, and browse to the folder you want to use, just click on the folder (not its contents) and click open.

Now all you do is choose View > Slide Show from the main menu.

If you have got something you want to include in the slideshow that Preview does not like, eg, an Excel spreadsheet - just 'print' it and save it as a PDF. Sorted.

To loop a slideshow, and include video. 

Dump all the media (video/image/pdf) in one folder (no sub folders)

Select it all, and press the spacebar to launch Quickview

Then go to full screen and press play.

Finally, make sure any media you want to use for a presentation is on your local hard drive (on your computer), not on a shared drive, unless you like the spinning beach ball of death that is.

Keynote simplicity

If you really want to use Keynote, this can be quite painless as well—not as quick as the methods outlined above, but maybe only few minutes longer... 

Just select all the media (including PDFs, but it will only display the first page) and drag and drop it into the navigation panel on the site. Keynote will place each separate item on it's own slide, it will resize large images to fit, but smaller images will be left at original size.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Important Notice: Software Update Crashes

A software update named "Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2" was released yesterday and some users have reported that their macs have crashed while running it, resulted in the dreaded kernel panic. (Also known as the Black Death.)

While we wait for a fix for this, please refrain from running software updates (or if you're adventurous you can uncheck the Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2 option and continue with the rest) until after the summer break.

If you, or your colleagues / friends have been affected by it, odds are that your data is fine, it's just the OS itself needs to be reset, and can be done by bringing your laptop to the IT Support Helpdesks located on either campus.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Maths, Stocks & Spreadsheets in Grade 5

Michael Wheeler's Maths class have been getting a crash course in Economics courtesy of $1000, well one thousand 'Wheeler dollars'.

Earlier in the year Michael handed out iPod touches, and showed his class how to use the Stocks App to search for any company that makes a product they could think of, from Billabong to Nintendo, from Yamaha to Converse...

Throughout the year the student tracked their purchases using a Google spreadsheet, selling and buying as necessary to see who could make the most money by the end of the year. Here are a couple of examples. Click to enlarge ... 

Almost all students were able to boast in making some profit by the end of the year, one or two even making as much as $300!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Popplet in Grade 4

The 'All Systems Go!' unit in Grade 4 as an ideal place to explore the use of a mind mapping tool in an on-going (or what we like to call an 'ongoingative') way. That is, to use it as a tool for formative assessment, which naturally evolves into a powerful summative demonstration of a student's understanding by the end of the unit.

Our central idea is that systems work together to support life functions in human beings.

In Week 1, before any teaching has begin, focussing on the Key Concepts: connection and function, the students brainstorm everything they already know, (or think they know) about the systems of the body.

Brainstorming focused on the lines of Inquiry:

• What body systems do you know? How do you think they function.

• How different systems of the body are connected?

• What choices can we make to maintain healthy body systems?

As the unit progressed, week by week, students return to the popplet to add to, adjust and remove information in line with the feedback they receive from their peers, their teacher, and their improving understanding of the central idea.

Finally by the final week of the unit, the popplet has evolved from a formative tool, to a powerful representation of their learning in the unit, it has in effect, become a summative assesssment. This is an 'ongoingative'.

Popplet is particularly powerful for this as it has a timeline tool, that allows students to rewind back through time to appreciate the way their understanding as developed over the course of the unit.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Prezi in Grade 4 Science

Prezi is cloud-based presentation software for exploring and sharing ideas on a virtual canvas. It is a powerful plaform for bridging linear and non-linear information, and as a tool for both free-form brainstorming and structured presentation. As such is is a powerful tool for allowing our students to formatively develop their understanding of the Science Process.

Traditionally students would have tracked and recorded their investigations using paper, which while being a very powerful medium, is not dynamic and it does not provide animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. If a student 'messes up' on paper, they either have to try and 'fix' it without ruining it, or ... start again... with ICTs this process is not only painless, but actually helpful, as it facilitates the feedback process of using assessment for learning.

In the Grade 4 'In the Mix' unit students gradually developed their own Prezi over the course of the unit.

So, after the initial weeks of guided enquiry, we wanted to find a way for the students to be able to effectively present their understanding of the Science Process as a result of their class investigations.

For this unit I also wanted the teachers to free from the 'tech' and focus on the Science, so I utilised a model of teaching the students to teach each other.

We used what we call the 'Techsperts' model, I ran one sessions per week at lunch time, and invited 3 to 4 students from each class to attend. These students in tun become the 'experts' in their respective classes, effectively coming the 'teachers' for the specific tool. 

Integration of ICTs into this process allowed for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the actual steps that are critical to a Scientific investigation, and the reasons why they have to happen in a rigorous sequence.

Prezi was an ideal choice to allow the students to formatively record and ultimately present their understanding of the scientific process, and easily incorporate images to document their inquiries, something which would be far more difficult on paper.

In addition, the fact the Prezi is 'cloud based' allows the students more:

flexibility - not tied to one platform/machine
real time collaboration
ease of sharing (eg, emailing a keynote/PowerPoint is fraught with complications)

Finally often the fully featured programs like Keynote are usually overly complex for what we need as educators, the problem with these programs is they are so feature full that kids get lost - distracted/confused by the 90% of what it can do but they don't need. Prezi (and other cloud based presentation tools) focus on doing the 10% of what we actually need/use.

An especially powerful aspect of the work in this unit was teaching the students to take advantage of a feature known as 'Embedding'. This is a technique whereby a student can copy some HTML code and 'embed' it into a post on their class site.

This facilitates a powerful process of peer sharing, as it is now a relatively simple matter to view, reflect and formatively assess all the class Prezis in one place.

ScreenChomp in Grade 3 Mathematics

ScreenChomp is a basically digital whiteboard that users can write and draw on with the touch of a finger, just like you would with an ordinary whiteboard, so "Why use it?" I hear you say. 

Well this whiteboard allows you to also record audio, while you draw, and you can draw using different pen colours, thickness etc. You can also easily add an image via the iPad camera, or an image on the device in the camera roll. Try doing that with a whiteboard.

All this awesome activity on ScreenChomp can be easily recorded, and the videos produced in ScreenChomp can be downloaded as MP4 files, making them easy to share (and then if you want, edit on your Mac). sharing with any audience is just a as simple as sending an email, which automatically included an link for the recipient to view, or even download the video if they choose, perfect for sharing with parents.

Even better - ScreenChomp is free! This means you can encourage your students to nag their parents to download a copy onto an iPad at home, so they can come to school already to create and collaborate and let the actual tech become transparent. It is the ultimate in 'ease of use' - very few commands (not even undo - just wipe and try again) and no account creation required (unlike the Show Me app).

A digital whiteboard has a whole host of educational uses, it really is what I call 'tech with mileage' - ie, just like pencil and paper there are so many uses for this kind of app, in almost any curriculum area you can think of.

Grade 3, have been putting it to good use, to allow students to describe their understanding of the various strategies they have been learning in Maths, in this way even though a teacher may find if difficult to 'conference' with each student, students can describe their understanding via ScrenChomp and the teacher can review this at a convenient time, helping them to point point which students require further assistance or extension in following lessons. Assessment for Learning, in action. Here are some examples from some of the students in 3JRy.

This video can be utlised in a whole host of ways, eg, to share with other students, to share with parents, or even to compile into a resource to help teach or review strategies with other students.

The examples included in this post where created by students in Julie Ryan's class, feel free to view, who knows, you might even learn a new strategy?