Monday, 16 September 2013

Printing and Constipation

If you are having problems printing out files, the chances are the culprits are all those MASSIVE images you are squeezing into those documents.

Just dragging the corners and squeezing an image into a smaller hole does nothing to change the actual image size, it just squeezes it into a smaller hole.

Then when you send it to the printer it overloads its precious memory and you get printer constipation.

The solution is simple, before you print, reduce the file size, this is easier than you might think.

In Word, just choose 'Reduce File Size...' 

Or in Pages:

You will find similar options in applications like PowerPoint and Keynote as well.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

HELP! Tech support?

Tech support issues are by often by their very nature really frustrating. You might prefer one of those within easy reach of your desk, but the realities are that this is just not feasible. Hopefully you understand that that the school isn’t in a position to have a technical person on standby in every corner of the school, “just in case”. What would they do the rest of the time, when there is no emergency? 

For non 'emergency' the IT support system is working (email: But what happens if it is an IT 'emergency'?

First, let's define that word in this situation. Google defines it as:


  1. A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
  2. Arising from or needed or used in an emergency.
For our purposes this really means:

IT e·mer·gen·cy/iˈmərjənsē/

  1. A serious, unexpected, and often desperate situation requiring immediate action.
  2. An IT problem that effectively halts a teaching/learning situation.
The IT support team already have a system for escalating response time for IT emergencies, if you make the URGENCY of situation clear in your email, they will aim for a response time of about 15 minutes

As always, planning and prevention is the best cure, so with that in mind, please consider:
  • Always take some time to ensure that the technologies your are relying on are functioning before you need them.
  • If presenting to an audience make time to set up and troubleshoot any problems before the audience arrives. Bear in mind a class is also an audience.
  • If presenting to a large audience, eg an assembly, you can request IT support to attend before the start of the session to assist with any potential IT issues. Please provide plenty of notice though.
  • Always, always have a plan B, ideally an ICT Free Plan C as well.
  • Not ALL emergencies are IT emergencies. If you are unsure check with the IT support guide, here
  • Avoid reliance on one screen (like the IWB); lessons structured around multiple screens are better for learning anyway, and far less susceptible to computer catastrophe.

Last, but not least, always bear in mind ...

(of Computing)

  1. When computing, whatever happens, behave as though you meant it to happen.
  2. When you get to the point where you really understand your computer, it's probably obsolete.
  3. The first place to look for information is in the help section where you least expect to find it.
  4. When the going gets tough, upgrade.
  5. For every action, there is an equal and opposite malfunction.
  6. To err is human ... to blame your computer for your mistakes is even more human.
  7. He who laughs last probably backed-up.
  8. If at first you do not succeed, blame your computer.
  9. A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.
  10. The number one cause of computer problems is computer solutions.
  11. To screw up is human, to really screw up properly requires a computer. 
  12. A computer program will do what you tell it to, not always what you want it to do.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Chocolate, Broccoli & Minecraft ECAs

No doubt some parents are wondering, "Why is the School offering a Minecraft activity as an ECA?  Why is the Minecraft App on the iPads? There are many reasons why, but a short answer would be; for the same reasons we offer a Chess ECA. Of course the main motivation for this is the cold hard fact that I am a gamer, I love gaming - contrary to popular opinion I do not believe it is 'addictive' - although it is extremely adept at creating a 'flow' state that can easily be interpreted as addiction... So, as this article states so well, 'Stop Worrying, and Learn to Love the Cubes"!

I definitely believe that gaming has a great deal to offer. But this is not the post for this subject, this one is:

So where was I? Oh yes, that said, if I'm honest, Minecraft is not my kind of game, but it is a rare kind of game that both my son (Grade 5) and daughter (Grade 3) LOVE. It is a game they can play together, but very differently, and therein lie the benefits... I'm very wary of attempts to try and make any game 'educational' - this kind of gaming invariably has the attraction of what is known in the industry as 'chocolate covered broccoli'. 

Despite this, as a teacher, I could not resist the desire to attempt this anyway. For example I persuaded students to build a virtual maths museum, with exhibits that showcased ratio, basic 3d shapes, right angled triangles etc. but... But no matter how much metaphorical chocolate I covered it with, it was still broccoli - and I thought, do we do this with Lego? Channel their creations? "Hey kids why don't you build a Maths museum out of Lego?" No. We let them play, and let them take it where they want, just let them play, be creative, cooperate, collaborate, and that's good enough for me... 

All that said there are some great examples online of teachers who have been able to kids to create some delicious chocolate broccoli with it, even without realising it.  A colleague of mine in the UK let some of his students model homeostasis in Minecraft,  But the essential element here is that it was their idea, the teacher didn't even know what Minecraft was. He does now.

And that's what I love about it, it was student centred; their ideas, their motivation, he was the catalyst... That's what I'm looking for. That in a nutshell is my rationale for Minecraft, when people inevitably ask 'Why?' - almost all the reasons you could give me for the value of playing with Lego, can be said of Minecraft.

Or to quote a sentiment commonly being expressed about '21st Century Learnng', we are preparing students for a future in which the 'three Rs' are embedded within the 'three Cs', communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving *(Thornburg, 1998). Minecraft is one example of students doing precisely that.

Think Lego, but with unlimited bricks, space, and best of all, no need to demolish it all at the end of each session. 

Some examples from our students:

The Minecraft game is available on almost all game platforms, even iOS. In fact playing Minecraft on an iPad (or even iPod touch or iPhone) is the easiest (and cheapest) way to play it, and multiplayer could not be simpler, up to 4 players, in the same room, on the same wireless network, that's it.

Friday, 6 September 2013


Hapara is a cool tool for teachers to use to see 'inside' their students' Google Drives, Gmail and Learning Journals. Sounds great but how does it all fit together?

Here's the video from Hapara themselves to explain what it does.

But how does it work for us at UWC? Watch this presentation to see how the different elements fit together. 

 There are a few components: 

1) Gmail - this is how many Junior school teachers will communicate with their students (sharing homework, resources, etc). Using Hapara teachers will be able to see all emails in their students' inboxes

2) Google Drive - This is the main place for students to save their work. Saving work here allows students to access their files from anywhere (as long as they have the same programme on their computer e.g. Pages or Numbers). If the file was created within the Google suite (Google document, Google spreadsheet, Google presentation, etc) then no external software is needed. Saving a file here is the same as saving to anywhere else on your computer (click Save then choose the Google Drive folder). By creating folders for each individual unit of work files will be kept organised and easy to locate.

3) Learning Journals - this year we are moving to a digital portfolio of student work. This can be a mixture of final pieces, the process and steps along the way to achieving the final piece, photographs, videos and self reflections to name just a few. You will find many ways of capturing student work in your classes. Remember that you have many tools at your disposal (iPod touches, iPads, iSight cameras in the MacBooks). Folders have already been created for the students in their Google Drive so please encourage your students to create individual unit folders inside the relevant one. 

How this all fits together is like this. Work gets saved in folders in Google Drive. The folder then gets inserted into the students' Learning Journal. Three times per year the Learning Journal will be opened up to parents so they can view the work. As more work is added to the folders it becomes visible on their Learning Journal automatically

Cheryl has created this video to show you how to create folders and insert them into her Learning Journal. 

The main takeaway from this post is to capture the work being created in your classes and save it in the correct folder. We'll help you with the next step when you are ready.

Any questions? Feel free to speak with Ali or Sean. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

iPhoto Prints with Captions

I get a loads of requests from teachers along the lines of...

"What is the easiest way to turn a bunch of photos into posters with a simple title/tagline?"

 Here's how I do it in iPhoto:

  1. Select the Photos
  2. Give them a caption (if you haven't already)
  3. File > Print
  4. Choose the Contact Sheet Option
  5. Customize
  6. Change to one photo per page
  7. The caption is wrong, and it is too small
  8. Choose Settings (not Print Settings)
  9. Untick Title, choose comments (this displays the captions you wrote earlier)
  10. Change the Size of the text, and font if you like...

Slightly fancier is instead to select the images, and choose the create option where you can use a bunch of Apple templates, but instead of paying Apple to print the book at the end just print it as a PDF, then print it yourself. This is probably better for a year end year book than posters, but I'm sure you can make it work for either if you really want to...

If you really insist on something prettier, resize them in Preview, then drag and drop them all into Keynote, they will all be placed on separate slides,  choose a theme you like, and then add the text yourself.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Google Groups and GAL

GAL is a powerful feature within GAPPs, that makes the tedious typing of email addresses a thing of the past. All you have to do is start typing a name, and GAL will attempt to 'autocomplete' the address for you. The more you type, the more accurate the guess gets, until ou can just choose the one you want.

GAL is not automatic, our dear colleagues in IT support manually upload these lists into Google for them to become accessible. For this reason you may not always find that they are ready when you want them, especially at the start of the year. 

When class lists are active in GAL (Global Address Lists) you will know, because if you start typing something like 'anf' in the address field in Gmail, the class list will come up, you may need to wait a few seconds for it to appear, patience, patience, patience!.

It will look something like ''

Only teachers can use these lists, not students.


If you're wondering who is in a list, or even if a list is active, go to Groups on the black Google bar, search, and click Members on the far right to view the list of members if you're in the group. 

If you're not a member of the group, just click where it says 'You may view the list...'

If you find an anomaly, you can't change these lists, but IT support can.

If you need to make student group for a teaching group, like your Maths class, then:

  1. Log into the CIMS system from the UWCSEA Staff Portal 
  2. Navigate to 'My Staff Profile' then select Teaching Sets, click a class 
  3. Click on the email student button at top right 
  4. Copy the students email addresses - click Command + A, then Command + C to copy all 
  5. Open a new tab with GMail and select Contacts from top black menu bar 
  6. Scroll down to create a New Group from the sidebar 
  7. Name the group with something that is precise 
  8. Click at the top + symbol and paste in the students email addresses...  

To learn how to make a group, check out this link here.