Archive for iPads

Feb
04

Played with a new app today. Ubersense. It is a trainer app for fitness coaches but used in a PE lesson could be really powerful. I used it in gymnastics and when combined with our large all screen and airplay it really showed lots of potential. The ability to quickly video children doing something, and replay it back in slow motion gave them a good understanding of the skill they were  learning. Re-videoing them later in the session and playing both videos back side by side allows them to see the progress they have made.

Essentially the app is a repository for video, with the ability to play it at various slow motion speeds as well as annotate with hand drawn images or shapes, it also has the ability to compare two videos side by side or even on top of one another. Great when teaching a specific skill such as forward rolls, a particular throw or stroke – or even a turn/move in dance.

Even better it is free – have a play!

Ubersense-Coach Photo 04-02-2013 16 09 22 Photo 04-02-2013 15 49 20

Today I have finished marking my assessed writing from the end of last term. Most of my class have made a minimum of 3 pts progress since I baselined them in September. This isn’t that remarkable as most of them had dipped after the summer so many of them are just back on track. However a vast majority of them have made 4-6pts.
Some of this success I can attribute to having a 1:1 device. Their language has improved from having a dictionary and thesaurus to hand. The language they find and use from Dictionary.com is more varied than what they would find in our standard issue thesaurus’s.
The children have also been engaged by using more digital means of accessing the learning objective. We have used Myst. Previously I have used this later in the year, but we’ve rolled it out earlier this year and it has reaped benefits. Some of my harder to grab boys have been far more engaged. Inadvertently we used a different version to the one I had planned as I loaded the wrong DVD but it took us to worlds none of us had been. This brought enthusiasm on our part and a role reversal on the children’s as we all battled to solve clues to move on.
Anything we did as a whole class in a traditional way with Myst, was supplemented with sharing close ups and screen shots to the children’s iPads. This meant they were then able to explore at their own pace and zoom in to get more detail. It also allowed choice and self differentiation . We covered sentence structure, setting and character descriptions and time connectives this way.
The assessed write was the children’s opportunity to apply all they had learnt independently. I gave them the Epic Citadel App and a free 20mins to explore it.  They were also allowed to take three screen shots to use and given a further 15 mins to plan and write notes. They were allowed to use the screenshots in the writing session, but not the dictionary or any other functionality of the iPad. The assessed write is a 45 minute silent independent write.

Here is where one of my 3a writers ended up –

A huge grey brick castle stood silently as coloured stripy tents blue calmly in the soft breeze. Fluffy white clouds slowly floated across the dark sky, peering over the red spiky turrets of the castle while small orange trees waved at the brown dead grass. Flags blew wildly clinging to the top of turrets yet the blue birds carried on singing their beautiful songs.

Further down the alley a murky brown stream flowed hurringly towards the royal blue sea. Ginormous rocks towered over a skinny path which flooded the splashing steam. A great study bridge arched of the brown stream transporting visitors over.

A strange girl stood talking, her hair was black and covered in card beads which crawled down her spindly neck. Her top was a beautiful turquoise but unfortunately it was covered by a light brown rough jacket. A fine learner brown collar rested upon her small shoulders, it was patterned with stripes and a peculiar animal. Her thin bony hands gestured complicatedly as she spoke hopingly.

This was not by far the only good example. My previous 1a writers made 4 points, expanding nouns and using connectives. As for using the prompt (images) in an assessed write. I love Pie Corbets flute analogy, moving one step on, we wouldn’t not allow a child to take sheet music into a music exam or expect them to compose their own piece on the spot, so why rely solely on the imagination for a writing assessment.

 

Apps can be costly. Even 69p x a few add up. Multiply that by 160 and it adds up more alarmingly. Many developers don’t release a LITE version, so it is difficult to evaluate or try before you buy. (A longer rant due on this – publishers (both traditional and software) will almost always let educational establishments try products on approval for 30 days, imperative when looking at a £500+ spend – when VPP comes in proper I think App developers have to look at ways of allowing schools to evaluate before buying in bulk)

So to date I had relied on looking at what other schools had been using, via twitter. blogs and internet searches.

Then I stumbled on Apps Gone Free – an app that lets you know of apps that are free for a limited time or even just the day. I’m sure it is only one of many such products, but in a couple of weeks of following, we have acquired more than £20 worth of apps per device – for free.

A lot of it is not applicable, I won’t go into my criteria for an acceptable app here, but if you are selective you can pick up some gems. The thing I like most about it, is that it puts apps that you might not otherwise consider into you consciousness – or even your hand… and allow you to use them creatively  in ways that the developer had probably not intended!

So far we’ve loved Scrap It! (was £0.59), Lost Winds – for Literacy (was £2.99), Ice Age Story Book (was £0.59), Minature Cam (was £0.59), Fox Tube (was £1.79), Pic Caption (was £0.59), Colour Vacumn (was (£0.59) and templates for Pages (was £2.99)

Penultimate vs Explain Everything
Today I asked children to do something in Penultimate (they have Writing notebooks, and I had asked them to start a Science notebook) Several children asked whether they could use Explain Everything instead. I said I had no objection except they needed to explain WHY they preferred this. If they could persuade me then they could use Explain Everything instead. What ensued was a short lively debate about the merits of both. Primary preference was the ability in EE to be able to type as well as handwrite. My less able children said they liked how they could record what they thought. I appreciated their evaluations so I gave children the choice.
However it is re-raising my concerns about handwriting.

Jul
25

Well two days into the holidays so far and I have enjoyed a couple of days of meetings with interesting and inspirational people. It has been a good way to make the transition from the circle of teaching, marking and planning to the other things I want to do these holidays. I always thought my days as a graphic designer and years in educational publishing would eventually combine with my teaching experience to give an unique insight into both sides of the fence and this is starting to come to fruition. I do think it combines all my interests well and I am starting to realise I do have some valuable skills and thoughts to offer.

So now the real work begins.

After months of researching, deliberating and costing we are embarking on a 1:1 ipad trial in September. This is both exciting and scary. I currently have several ipads, imacs and 15 ipods in my classroom and I know how time consuming these can be to keep maintained and up to date. The thought of the responsibility of dealing with an excess of 150 frightens me somewhat! All our Year 4’s (70) will receive an iPad, there will be other pockets in every year group throughout the school for class and SEN use and every teaching staff member will get one. Apple TV is being placed strategically throughout the school, along with some new smartboards and electrics to go with it! As much as the infrastructure changes I am nervous and concerned at how our teaching will need to change. There seems to be few guidelines out there for cooperative facilitation with mobile devices, especially in primary schools that I feel this is going to be a bit of an experimental year. One where iPads will be used alongside some traditional methods – I do not want my attainment to suffer through shiny distractions. So I’m going to blog my journey – hopefully it won’t be too much of a roller coaster ride.

In addition to setting up the iPads, I have changed ICT maintenance support suppliers, finally choosing a small but dedicated company called Infratek. I needed a company who could support our current pc based network and infrastructure and proactively and knowledgeably support our burgeoning Apple arm. So they need to spend a couple of days at school, hopefully sorting out our cabling (see below), servers, new active directories, backup systems, and our independent web filtering. I have moved away from LA broadband and we should be getting at least 40mb on a contained line rather than the current 2mb!

On top of all of those changes comes a new website and learning platform. After much deliberation individually and with local partner schools, we are the first of our partnership to go with e-schools. It looks like a good all round package, and finally sold itself to us on the basis of their commitment to working on mobile devices. We are going to be their flagship iPad school, I hope we do them proud. Unfortunately I still need to populate the website to meet the new government guidelines – no small job in itself.

With all of the above changes I am running a staff inset day on the 4 September, I’m trying to work out the best way to not overwhelm a predominantly technophobic staff and leave them with tools that they can go back and refer to independently afterwards.

If all of that was not enough – I have my work with the NHA to do, newsletters to produce and some exciting publishing opportunities which may open up. I’m also preparing for some formal research into iPads and attainment, it’s been a while since I did my doctoral research, but I’m looking forward to doing that in partnership with some other like-minded people and being able to add some empirical research to the countless notes of anecdotal evidence out there.

And last but not least my new Handwriting Apps will be completed and released. This is exciting and has been almost another full time job on top of the teaching for the last 4 months. However most of it is now with the developers and I just need to produce a website, some videos and some marketing to go with it.

So a busy busman’s holiday!