Using an iPad and Pages app to improve student attainment #RGCdevicetrial

Recently my Higher pupils sat their Computing prelim. In previous years I have gone through the marking scheme question by question, describing the ‘best answer’ where possible and highlighting which my students answered a particular question well. Unfortunately their peers rarely see these answers, so have to rely on what I say or put on the board.

This year as I marked the prelim I created a spreadsheet showing how many marks each candidate gained for each question (using the CloudOn service for iPad). I do this to help me highlight areas of development when discussing prelim performance with individual students, but this year used it to help create a document the whole class could use:

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Part of the document, shared with students via our Edmodo group

The document replaced the marking scheme and allowed them to see the ‘best answer’ as written by their peers. There was one occasion where no student managed to achieve full marks for a particular question so I selected the best answer from the class and added some suggestions for improvement.

It was very easy to create using the Pages app for iPad and, although a little time-consuming on my part, took as long as going through that section of the prelim with the class. The advantage here is that I know all pupils have a permanent and consistent revision aid and I can use it when working with individual pupils on their areas of development. I also hope to use it next year to prepare students for their prelims by getting them to assess other student answers.

I entered the questions into the Pages app first, then used my spreadsheet to identify which student answer to add into the document. Taking photographs of their written answer using the iPad rear camera was so simple thanks to the ‘tap to focus’ feature and I was then able to crop the image quickly in Pages. The document auto-saves, which was very useful later in the process as the iPad ran out of memory a few times and crashed the Pages app. It caused a nervous moment the first time it happened but, once I was confident no information had been lost from my document, I put up with the inconvenience until all questions were associated with an image of a pupil answer.

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Exporting the document from Pages as a PDF file was a straight-forward process, however the file size was a whopping 40MB! The file can be sent to a variety of apps as a Pages file, PDF or Word document. Uploading that size of document from a home Internet connection takes a long time, especially galling when I compressed the file on a desktop PC to 1.4MB using Adobe Acrobat. If anyone has worked out how to compress PDF files on the iPad I’d love to hear from you.

Once complete I shared the document with the class via Edmodo. I immediately made use of it by setting homework with similar questions. The average score in that homework was over 30% higher than their prelim score. In a few cases it was over 50% up! Obviously you have to take into account the fact they had access to their textbooks and the Internet while completing the homework task, but I feel that this type of document has definite value in improving student attainment.

Augmented Reality using a webcam and laptop

I’ve long been jealous of those mobile smartphone types with their fancy embedded cameras and their Junaio, Layar and Aurasma apps. With my iPod Touch 2G I can get the apps but not the content and the closest I can get to mobile augmented reality is to watch cool videos on YouTube as I walk, or stick post-its to my headphones and play pretend…

I set myself a summer holiday target to find out more about Augmented Reality and to try and get it working on a laptop. I knew it was possible but Google searches tended to get bogged down with iOS or Android apps. However this evening I stumbled upon a web-based service called EZFlar. This site allows you to link an image, 3D model, movie, text or hyperlink to one of five fixed marker images extremely quickly (not too sure how it handles recalling the generated AR projects though – here’s a link to what should be an image of Bloom’s Taxonomy…), however this blog briefly discusses how to extend this by downloading the EZFlar program to your own machine and indulging in a bit of Flash ActionScript coding. Definitely something I’m going to try out!

I also put a tweet out asking for help in finding laptop-friendly AR applications. I had two responses, both suggesting http://www.arsights.com which uses Google Earth 3D models and a fixed marker image. It was really quick and easy to get started and I can see this being used with classes for quick and easy demonstrations of Augmented Reality. There’s a suggestion that you can use Google Sketchup to create your own 3D models and then submit links to the ARSights warehouse but I haven’t investigated it as I haven’t used Sketchup before.

So what could these applications be used for in my classroom?

  • a multimedia treasure hunt using EZFlar to store videos / clues to keep the game going
  • a fun way to display pupil work by pinning printed AR markers on the walls rather than a black and white print out of their graphic work / animation / movie
  • a method of allowing pupils to explore digital representations of computer hardware which is too expensive to buy or too fragile to hand out
  • a fantastic way of starting group tasks by using embedded audio / video on an AR-ready placemat in the middle of the group. Scanned by a webcam or mobile device, this could engage all types of learners as well as offering differentiation in the ability to replay these movies on demand (or offer extra AR markers if required)
I want to finish this blog post with a few videos I saw on YouTube. 110 Stories is an augmented reality app proposal currently attempting to get Kickstarter funding. I thought it was a great use of AR – I hope you do too.