TeachMeet Aberdeen October 2011

On Wednesday evening I once again found myself at MacRobert Building, University of Aberdeen six months on from the last one organised primarily by Stuart Brown. The wikispace advertising the TeachMeet can be found here and, in addition to this, Stuart made use of social media to extend the reach of the promotional material. This approach, along with the assistance of Jim and Linda at the University in selecting the optimum date for engaging PGDE and BEd students, resulted in over 60 attending the evening. At times the online stream had viewers into double figures but we were beset with technical issues, most disruptive was the lack of constant wifi and this seriously hampered our online impact as well as preventing the planned link up with TeachMeet Strathclyde. However the evening could be considered a success and as we were able to record most of the presentations on the laptop I hope we can – in time – share the talks with a wider audience.

To whet your appetite, here is a YouTube playlist of the May 2011 TeachMeet Aberdeen presentations.

When I find the time to edit and upload the individual presentations to YouTube I’ll update this post but I’ve included my notes on each presentation and relevant links to the web sites mentioned.

Stuart Brown – “Why de ye bother with aww that?’ – Justifying the use of ICT in the classroom

Stuart Brown: "the way we communicate is changing"

I felt this was an excellent start to the night. Stuart highlighted the fact that 19C teaching methods and environments are not suited to 21C learning. That most pupils have access to instantaneous information using devices which are often more technologically advanced than the computers and resources available in school puts today’s teachers at a disadvantage. I agreed (through gritted teeth as I recognised the phrase “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” from many unfocussed, confused presentations on implementation of Curriculum for Excellence) with Stuart on the need for all teachers to adapt, not rebuild to ensure that we are serving our learners sufficiently. I recommend you watch Stuart’s last TeachMeet talk (May 2011) which is a stepping stone to this presentation.

I loved the phrase Stuart used in the presentation “to stratify education” – but felt it needed explanation. Internet searches show this to be standarisation of education or use of standard tests and tracking methods.

Ian Simpson – “Becoming Orson: Podcasting the War of The Worlds”

I did this so I won’t comment for long on the actual presentation. On reflection this talk was a little early, my lunchtime podcasting group had only been working on this for about 5 weeks (30-40mins per week) and despite their excellent progress there was little evidence to share with the teachers present. However it was a good starting point for a future presentation (maybe TeachMeet Aberdeen October 2012?) on how these learners have self-organised themselves into an amateur radio drama production group. After working with them the day after the presentation and seeing how they continued to innovate and collaborate with the newly-arrived high quality microphones I have high hopes of achieving our ambitious target to have recorded and shared the full radio play by next October. Follow the progress via this blog or my twitter stream @familysimpson.

In addition Dave Adams, DO Curriculum and Quality Improvement Service for South Lanarkshire, got in touch in September and kindly sent his ideas based around the 1938 Orson Welles War of The Worlds radio play for CBS. I’ve emailed Dave to see if these lesson ideas are publicly available and will update the links section if this is the case.

Nikki Stobbie – Random Name Generator

Nikki Stobbie describes how she uses classtools.net with her classes

A presentation from a press-ganged student! Nikki showed us http://www.classtools.net and, in particular, the random name generator. Great resource to use in class and a great 2 minute presentation!

Mark Hay – ‎”Look what I did…” E-Portfolio’s using glow wiki

I didn’t see this presentation as I had to run to the shop for supplies but will update once I’ve extracted the presentation from the video clips currently sitting on my laptop.

Martin Coutts – “Maths is just a game”  – Using GBL to raise attainment

Martin showed how he used Mangahigh with an Access 3 / Foundation class to improve their motivation and attainment. Pupils were taught maths through combination of games and Prodigi technique. Competitive aspect through bronze, silver and gold and school leaderboard. Martin especially recommends sigma prime.

Kathryn Roper – “GeoBus – A mobile Earth Science Resource”

GeoBus: based at St Andrews University but a national funded resource for secondary schools (or P7 at a push). Kathryn seems very passionate about Earth Science and claims to be able to develop activities to suit your curricular area.

GeoBus launches January 2012 but those interested can get in touch with Kathryn now via kathryn.roper@mac.com

Gretchen Perk exemplified how she uses the Frayer model to enhance literacy

Gretchen Perk – “Frayer Model in Literacy”

Meldrum Academy English teacher Gretchen spoke about the Frayer Model which is a “vocab aquisition graphic builder”. She found it great for more effective learning of keywords through use of higher order skills such as analysis and synthesis. I personally found the use of non-examples especially useful. Gretchen highlighted the fact that it is a good teaching strategy for all subjects I’m already thinking about how to use this with Computing classes.

Charlie Barrow – An outward facing classroom using Augmented Reality – Junaio

Charlie repeated his May 11 talk on using augmented reality in the classroom but wanted to inspire teachers to build an Aberdeenshire channel for augmented reality. I’ve included the video of his presentation from May and hope to be working with him in the future on his vision for an Aberdeenshire channel.

More information on his own use of augmented reality in the classroom can be found at http://www.charlesbarrow.com

Stephanie Orr – Medieval Law and Order

Stephanie gave a quick 2-min presentation on using games in class to motivate and educate by stealth. http://www.tudorbritain.org/joust

Ed Walton – Fusion, Meta-cognition and The Learning Story

Presentation written during teachmeet! Ed shared how Fraserburgh Academy used Glow effectively to dissemenate work to pupils unable to attend school during snowdays. Three themes; fusion, meta-cognition And the learning story. Ed showed snow work posted for AH on glow featuring embedded prezis for self-directed learning, stagework.org which allows users to be the director for a scene from His Dark Materials. It looked fantastic! Ed showed Comic Life which he has used with classes and whole-school assemblies to explain meta-cognition. Finally Ed explained how Fraserburgh Academy has been using Honeycomb / I Can as a trial school to build an ePortfolio which remains with the child as they progress from primary through secondary. I was interested to note that because data is stored on a separate server from Glow there is no upload limit so videos and large image files can be posted. To be honest the presentation was actually 3 or 4 but there was lots of useful information.

Darren Gibb describes how he uses a variety of ICT tools to enhance learning and teaching in the English classroom

Darren Gibb – ICT teaching and learning tools

The last talk of the night was delivered by Darren Gibb, teacher of English at Banchory Academy. He exemplified many ICT tools that has augmented his learning and teaching. Again the audience was treated to a suite of presentations on different services from Todaysmeet to Evernote, Wikispaces to Glow.

Using iPod Touches in the classroom #3

Thanks for your comments, tweets and face-to-face discussions regarding the previous posts on using iPod Touches in the classroom (part 1 / part 2). This blog post concentrates on the issue of using QR codes with a mobile device that doesn’t have a camera!

I met with a colleague from the Aberdeenshire iPod Development Group this week to share what we were doing and to see if there was potential to work together. They discussed an idea to use the iPods in an outdoor learning exercise and wondered about using QR codes to allow pupils to access educational resources while exploring a forest.

I’d also been reflecting on using QR codes within the school for an iPod treasure hunt and we had both realised that the lack of a camera on the iPod Touch 3G made this tricky. Tricky but not impossible. The BeeTagg Reader Pro app (currently free) can read QR codes (and other types) from the iPod Photo Library!

I had successfully tried this app before but wanted to know if I could put more information into the image containing the QR code. This would allow the pupils to be able to differentiate between them in the Photo Library. I tried adding some text underneath the QR code and transferred this image to the Photo Library.

It worked! However the text is a little difficult to read on the small screen, especially when you only have the smaller tile view of the Photo Library. So next I tried colour-coding the QR code images.


It worked as well! I imagine that colour-coded or labelled QR codes could be printed out and placed in appropriate locations (either in the forest or within the school. Or even within your classroom!). The pupils could match up the QR code to the ones pre-stored in the Photo Library and then access the material on their mobile device. This method also enables use of mobile devices with cameras, so has longevity if planned correctly. The material linked to the QR codes can also be modified without having to reprint the labels so resources can be tweaked to improve pupil learning at will.

There are more pressing concerns as to how the content will be stored on the iPods or accessed from within a forest (I imagine you’ll need a 3G signal for internet access unless you can set up some kind of adhoc wifi network in the trees!) but allowing pupils to access this content quickly means mobile devices already have a significant benefit to classroom teachers.

Using iPod Touches in the classroom #2

In my last post on this topic I described the hardware setup process involved in getting iPods ready for the classroom. This week I had my first development day dedicated to the setting up appropriate processes for teaching staff to bid in to use the iPods with their own classes.

I began by creating a proforma for booking the iPods but wanted to keep it as short but as informative as possible. Therefore I sketched out a design for a database I want to build which will help me keep track of where and when the iPods are required but also keep track of how the iPods have been used and how well the teacher involved thinks their project impacted the learning of their pupils. Once I’d done this creating an appropriate single page was much easier.

I also reflected on how these proformas could be introduced to staff. A twilight training session might be involved to show the hardware but I felt that the best way to fill in the form was to provide an example for my colleagues to take inspiration from – much like we do with our pupils in class.

This is the initial draft which will be used to kickstart a dialogue with colleagues and SMT.

I have also been thinking carefully about how to ensure iPods and their accessories are used appropriately and safely by pupils. I can’t be with every class that use the iPods, nor would I want to be, but I do want to give the classroom teacher enough information about the resources they are issuing so that they can be used by pupils in a safe and responsible way.

For example, each iPod Touch comes with its own set of bud earphones. Sharing these between pupils is a health issue that must be considered. Buying one set of earphones for each pupil in a school of 900 if not an option. Luckily there are a number of individuals and companies out there who realise that using the earphones (and touch screens) in an educational environment needs to be addressed. From my research, there are a number of products which could be used to remove dirt and germs from the iPods and their accessories but costs are quite prohibitive. The solution I decided upon is to use gentle antibacterial wipes for the earphones and touch screens and provide hand gel with the iPods for pupils to apply before use in class. I spoke to other workers in other sectors who share IT equipment and this seems to be standard procedure now. Perhaps IT labs in schools also need to consider this more (but after their breakfast).

I don’t doubt that the processes and procedures I’ve come up with will evolve over time as the iPod administrators in each school share their experiences. However it is much easier to adapt an existing process than an ad-hoc idea and I want to ensure that my colleagues have the opportunity to investigate the iPods and reflect on how using them could positively impact on the learning of their pupils.

In the afternoon I had fun – there is no better way to describe it. I can imagine a fantastic INSET training day just using iPods to create content for individual subject areas.

I researched a number of other schools who use iPod Touches in the classroom – mostly primary / early years focussed to be honest – but got some great ideas for apps from them.

* Bump – originally great for transferring photos and contacts between iPods, the app has now been upgraded to allow sharing of music suggestions, app ideas and calendar content too. You need to have a wifi connection to use this obviously and this is an issue at my current school but I think it is possible to create a suitable wifi network (with no internet access) using the MacBook.
* Evernote – this has just been updated (1st March) and the difference to the iPod app is amazing. This requires that the iPod Touch has internet access to synchronise the account but can store local text, audio and image notes in the meantime. I’ll dedicate a blog post to my ideas around how Evernote can be used with classes in the future.
* SonicPics – this app (paid, but a cut down Lite version is available) allows you to create a photo slideshow using images stored in your Photo Library then create a video file with an audio track – basically a screencast with static visuals. Very simple to use, very quick and very very good.
* Comic Twist – again, use images from your Photo Library to create content. This time you can add speech bubbles, thought bubbles and captions to let your pupils create a story or a summary of a concept they have learned in class. Very easy to use with primary schools.
* Strip Designer – this has been mentioned by a number of my secondary colleagues as a good app to have. I feel that it is slightly more complicated than Comic Twist so could be used to differentiate on a task to create a visual learning resource.

Once I’d downloaded these apps, I set about creating an example exercise which could be easily replicated during a staff training session. I used a creative commons image search to find a suitable picture of Stonehaven then imported it into comic twist, opting for the two panel comic layout. I added a few captions and exported it to my photo library.

Then I used the same photo, a map image of Stonehaven and a few other random pictures from my photo library in Strip Designer. I found that there were much more options available to allow you to customise your comic strip. Again I exported it back to my photo library then used SonicPics Lite to create a photo slideshow with voice over. Here it is!

It was so quick and easy to do I think that pupils will find the iPod apps far more intuitive than traditional software packages. The limited menu options and functionality due to the small screen size could actually be more beneficial to an educational setting!

If you are interested in finding out more about how iPods are being used in primary / secondary education in Aberdeenshire there is an internal Aberdeenshire iPod Development Group in GLOW but, as that has restricted membership, I set up a wiki http://aberdeenshireipods.pbwiki.com where educators from anywhere in the world can read (or share) their own ideas or experiences of using iPod Touches in the classroom.