Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Life after Redundancy

Well it is one full term after I have been made redundant and my life has done a complete 3600 turn around.  I am not doing what I have been doing for the last 20-odd years but teaching English to Air traffic controllers and many more people needing to learn English either for their jobs, for fun or simply interest, at Language Lab in Second Life, and enjoying every minute! It is interesting to change jobs, I could not imagine enjoying anything as much or more than my ICT consultant role, and it is not quite the same, but there are advantages! On mornings like some we have had already, with thick black ice for miles around and snow in various parts of the area that make grateful to be working at home and not driving miles every day. I do not spend a  fortune of fuel, food away from home or  “working” clothes – jeans are my working clothes. 

On the downside though it is not and 8 – 6 type of job! The worst session timewise I had to do was between 2 and 4 am. I don’t usually get those, 1 – 2am was another cover I did, but on the odd occasion, as I do not have to get up early, it does not really matter! Then again I could always say no!

When I see newspaper and TV reports about people who were made redundant the same time as me and I realise how far removed from work many of those people are, when I hear about people sending off hundreds of job applications and not even getting answers,  and similar stories, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to use existing skills, and learn new ones to provide myself a part time job!

In January I think I have 12.5 hours a week scheduled, so far I have also done lots of cover work for things like Thanksgiving, when many teachers are at home with their families for the festival or covering other people’s power failures (we are totally dependent on both power and the internet, there is no plan B!) and as the teaching is so new to me it is still taking me more than an hour to plan and make resources for every hour delivered  (I am sure I will get better) so it is currently about a half time job. J

I spend far more time now as my teacher avatar than my normal avatar, that is strange, even old friends have got used to her now and see more of me as her than as me J I have not quite grown into my role yet though, experiential learning – doing, being part of, experiencing, living it, all quite different to experiential learning in the classroom and I need to get better at providing and living it!!

I am just so grateful to the many English teachers out there who share their resources and ideas, without them I think I would be really struggling to get through each week.  I have a batch of EFL teaching/ learning books and between those and the websites they inspire me to keep learning and have provided so many ideas that I can use in the classes their work is absolutely invaluable to me! Thank you one and all!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Which Devices?

I have been asked which devices a school should buy and am trying to formulate a list of questions that the school staff can work through to decide which would be best for them. There is no way I can simply guess what they need so I want to make something useful that anyone can use in any educational establishment.

Questions to consider

1.     Does the infrastructure have the capacity to add a new class set of devices?  (In the UK many networks were installed in the early 1990s and have been added to and bits replaced on an ad hoc basis ever since. It may be time to upgrade the whole wireless system before much more can be added to it.)
  • Who is going to add the devices to the network and provide passwords?
  • How to you plan stop outsiders using the network if a common password escapes into the community?
  • How often is the techie on site to sort out wireless access issues?
  •  What about filtering?

2.     Are pupils allowed to bring their own devices or technology (BYOD / BYOT) or not? If pupils bring all sorts they will not be compatible but each one will be able to add something, some maybe good for photographs, audio work, music, video or text, is the teacher happy to combine all offerings? Is school going to restrict the type of device so that only iPod Touches or iPads can be brought to and used in school?
  • Phones are an extra considerations – are pupils allowed to bring in their own phones? What are the rules for using phones in school?
  • How is their use going to be monitored?
  • Is there a policy in place? Does that cover insurance, e-safety, expected behaviour and sanctions?

3.     Is the staff confident about pupils using different devices and how to manage their classes using them?
Does the staff know how to combine all these different offerings?
  • Is staff training needed?
  • Has training been budgeted for in the cost?
  • Have you talked to prospective trainers to find someone happy to try to train teachers in using all of the different devices they may get in their class?

4.     What about equality and families who can’t afford their own devices?
  • Is school going to provide devices for those pupils who can’t afford them?
  • Is school going to allow school devices to go home with individual pupils?
  • Does school insurance cover home use / transportation? The school filtering will not work at home, and some homes may not have broadband. How does school intend to address that issue? Will filtered dongles be provided? Who is going to set them up and pay for the usage?

5.     If you are planning to use sets of iPod Touch or iPad devices
  • Do you intend to use apps?
  • How will you purchase the apps?
  • How will you synchronise the devices?
  • Will school purchase the apps for home devices?
  • Will schools ask parents to buy the apps and provide money for those who won’t?
  • How will you charge the devices? If you have a Parasync suitcase or similar for the class ones, how will you charge the home devices?
  • What about pupils who forget to charge their device or bring their charger?
  • Do you need more electrical points / sockets? Are trailing wires going to be a health and safety issue?
  • Do you have a budget for apps? A set of 30 devices even at a few pounds each is a considerable expense over a year or two.

6.     Are the devices going to be used by one class, so one per table, pair or child, or several classes?
  • Where are pupils going to store their work if being used by several students? Is there are master computer with storage that they all link to?

7.     How do teachers want to use the devices?
  • For photographs, video or animation work?
  • For digital art work to be printed and put on display or displayed on an electronic photo album, Smart Screen, plasma screen, signage screen?
  • For music lessons?
  • As shared research / collaborative projects in groups or pairs?
  • Just for Office applications - Internet, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and e-mail?
  • For research using CDs or DVDs?
  • For watching video clips or listening to podcasts?
  • For using IWB materials such as SMART or Promethean Active?
  • For audio / SMS / photographs / Skype / internet research / note taking?
  • For on the spot, use as needed dictionary checks, fact checkers and searchers?
  • To access lessons after the event for revision, shared resources etc?
This is just a few questions, I guess there are lots more!

My recommendation would be for teachers to try to use what is already available really well, go through the cupboards and dig out the older sets of unused bit and pieces and see how they work. Incorporate them into lessons and encourage pupils to bring in their devices too, see how useful they are, see where there are gaps and look to buy to plug the gaps – but – I am a "play with techie stuff" sort of person, I don’t mind investigating, pulling bits together and making things happen. I like doing that! For teachers who can’t be bothered with that, have not been using the school digital cameras, video recorders, sensing equipment, IWBs, visualisers for years, bringing together a host of “odd” technology with little common software may be a nightmare.  I would be really worried about buying a class set of anything – unless the teachers really wanted them and planned to use them.  

On my actual working document I have added loads of links to hardware, synching devices etc., but have left them off here as they may considered advertising. If you have any essential questions to add to my little list though please do add them as comments, I do not mind bringing them altogether later and sharing the final doc with anyone who may find it useful :-)

Monday, 17 October 2011

On-line Courses - the sublime to ridiculous?

I have just finished my second on-line course. The first I really enjoyed, I found it a very valuable, pleasing experience and I would happily repeat the same course any time, so when a very sudden change of career
opportunity arose I had no hesitation in signing up for a second on-line course to acquire a bit of paper necessary for the job. I found a course, signed up, paid up and got stuck in.

I have just completed it, I have spent 18 days, almost non-stop, working on an advanced TEFL certificate course.  I have now received my certificate, I passed by a wide margin thank goodness, after being a teacher for most of my life, the bit that was new was teaching English as a foreign language rather than to native speakers.

What struck me as very strange though, was how difficult it was to try to guess what the required answers were. A huge proportion of the course dealt with the sequence of teaching all four language disciplines for various different types of English learners.

A typical sequencing task

Sometimes course recommendations were clear and sometimes not.  For all the teaching sequences, whether there were any hints of the expected order or not,  I could imagine situations where I would have done things in a different order to meet the needs of learners. I often changed the order several times having no idea if what I was doing was right or wrong and if I got one wrong then it is likely that the whole sequence and subsequent set of marks would be wrong.

In the following screen shots, apart from the unnatural language for example in the first sentence, two options are almost equally valid. Maybe there is a hint that three and four are the wrong way round with the repeat of the word individually and individual but in the light of the unnatural language I encountered in many questions I was not positive that would hold true.

There were things like this true or false set of questions:

Though I did not go back and check I am pretty sure that the last sample, "Walkie-talkies can be used in dialogue practice to mimic the sound of aviation equipment,” is “True” though trying to imagine a mobile phone producing the noise of a jet engine and many more aviation equipment sounds stretches the imagination somewhat.

Then there were things that I simply did not understand, I spent quite a lot of time in one exercise trying to work out how the word ‘assage” fitted in, it did, but it seemed so far removed from what I was studying it had me puzzled – suddenly I realized the p was missing and it was passage and the context and content of the question became clear.

I did not work out what the following actually meant and guessed it was right or wrong, true or false on a whim…

“Listening sections can have students write specific information they hear.”

Almost every time the word “example” appeared on screen it had a capital E – interesting…

Many, many screens told me that I would be marked on the answers I offered on this page – but there were no questions…

I was about half way through the course and had felt several times there was lots of missing information. Suddenly I found out that in some, though not all explanation pages, some words were hyperlinks to glossary type of entries, but there was no way of guessing, they were black typeface, the same size, not underlined... there was nothing to hint at a link! It was only when I ran my mouse over a couple of statements trying to decide something about the answer to a question that I found them. 

I came across many questions such as:

“Whereas uninterested students usually respond well to general chat at the beginning of class, students who are actively trying to avoid course material should probably not be asked such questions at the beginning of the lesson.” 

In light of that is the following true or false?

“It is best to avoid general chat at the beginning of class with students who are uninterested in studying English, because they will become even less motivated as the class goes on. “

That bit was fun – I chose true but was I right or wrong? I am still not sure! They make the case for both starting with general chat and not starting with general chat, I changed my decision from true to false several times, knowing that once I could get a student talking I am pretty confident that I could inspire something constructive in the learning field but decided eventually that the course writers decided it was best not to start in this way J

During this totally on-line course I encountered missing words, wrong punctuation, missing letters, instructions to do something that was not there, subjective answer sequences to guess and ambiguous statements.  Before anyone points it out – I am completely capable of committing any and all of those crimes in everyday texting, chat etc, often when I am mindlessly chattering, mutli-tasking and the like but I do know the difference and if I am writing for public use I would expect to proof read it and hopefully get someone else to too after I have finished proof reading! If I was the only proof reader I would leave it a week between proof reads so that I did not read what I had just meant to write instead of what I had actually written – there is a difference!

This was an English course leading to a professional qualification, not necessarily for native speakers; I paid for it! I can’t help but feel that it should have been better!

And guess what,  there was no opportunity for feedback , maybe that says it all J

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Test the highlighter tool

After reading about a blog highlighter tool on Nicky Hockley's  blog: http://www.emoderationskills.com/?p=594 today I decided to try it. I went to the website  http://highlighter.com/ and signed up, got my code, embedded it in the page where it is supposed to go... and it does not work!!

I went back and read the instructions for Blogger - they are the same as for everything else...

So - does it work on a new post and not the old post? No!

Back to the drawing board ;-)

Hmm - come back to it and used two different templates....
driver touble - again!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

ePub - Children's St Lucia

I attended an Apple Regional Training Centre conference last week and was introduced to the ePub (short for electronic publication) format. It is an open source book format accepted by many reader apps. Apple iBooks will use it, so apparently will the Sony reader and apps such as Stanza and Kobo, hopefully loads more that are listed in Wikipedia though I have not started trying it on anything other than the iPad and iPhone yet. The file extension is .epub.

I have seen lots of a huge range of genre adult literature for all of my book reading apps, some free, some paid for and definitely in large numbers but have not seen loads of children books available. Admittedly children’s books need much more in the way of images and video, maybe sound files to make them interesting but unless they work out to be massive in files size so that they are hard to download I can’t understand why!

I decided to try to see what the benefit of using the ePub format instead of a website is. In the dim, distant past, I wrote several websites for schools.  These days however, I wonder if a format suitable for use on personal devices may be more useful - still undecided on that one as this is my first experiment. Also, looking towards the future I am not sure whether I should try to start developing apps or books! I have not worked out which is the best format for what.

This is a short account of my issues, if anyone is making an ePub book there may be bits here to help!

Very early Yesterday morning I started an ePub book on a topic which I created a website for years ago. I still have suitable images and video, so in theory it was going to be a quick test... I soon discovered there is no such thing as a quick test!

Having done the hour training session on my Macbook I needed to replicate the set up on my iMac - first problem how did I import the template into Pages! Having achieved that I started writing.

On the course we were told clearly to have one image and one lump of text on the page then move on to another page... I did that! No-one could say why, the tutor just said that that more “went funny, err did funny things.” I imported images and wrote a few words about each one. Next I added video files and a link to a Google map. I set the floating bits to inline - was told that is essential!  Saved - exported to an ePub - No, no, no you can’t do that! No clue why, but it was not acceptable.

I guessed that it may be the video format, so imported the videos into iMovie, exported to Quicktime and, success, my ePub book exported.

I synchronised my ipad to see it - hmmmm - okay but it neededs loads more work. Most titles were on the wrong page, there were huge gaps and an empty page. It had doubled the content on one page and that looked good.

So - back on the computer I doubled the content on the pages, two headings, two images, two bits of text. It looked better, a bit more like a book.

I added it to the iPad - and - it still looked dreadful and the titles were still on the wrong pages. Pictures or videos were placed inside text and all sorts of strange things. Half pages were mixed up on the wrong pages, something I would have thought was impossible.

So - back to the drawing board. Version number three was back to very short pages, as recommended, just a photo and some text, but, it still failed.

I realised that at the end of a passage of text the cursor needs to be on the next line down or it thinks the picture, video, link or whatever goes at the end of the line. Hitting the in-line status for a picture then places it in the middle of the last line of text, if there is not a new line after the image it carries on the text from below. I also thought that as the pages were short to have them centered was really going to look better. So I added a few space at the top and between items, it all looked lovely on Pages - but disastrous in ePub...

I decided that as several of the headings were on the wrong pages it had to be something to do with page breaks, took them all out, put them all back... experimented with space, took them all out, put some back - tried all sorts. By this time I had probably published it 20 times and nothing improved it.

I knew it was driver trouble - though I was getting cross with the software by then. I was telling myself to think logically - I had homed in on spacing and line breaks but nothing made a difference, text from the next page entered the bottom of the page before the line break in several cases.

I was on the verge of giving up but thought of one more thing - I started to check the styles of each line - and - though my headings on two pages were the same size and colour as the other headings, they were called something different...

The styles are the key! As soon as each line was the right style it published and looked reasonable on the iPad - not nearly so good on the iPhone and the videos that play on the iPad don't play on the phone.

So I have my first short ePub made, it is called Children’s St Lucia, it is 12.3 MB.
Each time there is a line under a photograph saying who took it and it is on the left, it should be centered, each image should be centered. I have tried everything I can think of - centering the line before and after as well - nothing changes them.

At this point I am giving up for a while. The software is flaky! It is not just driver trouble.

However, taking into account it is never going to look like I want it to look it is still an easy way of making books for the iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. It should also work on other devices...

If anyone has time to test it on any device and tell me which ones it works on, which it doesn’t etc., I would be really grateful. We could all learn whether it is worth developing books for children with it or whether or wait ;-) To download the book Click Here, add it to your book library and synchronise with any device having a suitable reader :-)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Apple RTC Summer Conference

I have just returned from the Apple RTC Summer Conference, my head is absolutely buzzing with ideas.

I was particularly impressed with the workshops and need to practice and get to grips with so much!

ePub - Today I made my first ever ePub book, not to share as it is rubbish but to learn the techniques. I have so many ideas of ePub books to make I don’t know where to start! Embedding video, audio and images in a book is just such a wonderful way to make teaching resources available to pupils and for pupils to share information. http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4168 Many thanks to Oscar Stringer for the ePub session and his patience :-)

I have made my first iphone app with Dashcode - it is far too simple to be worth having, but it is a starting point. http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/AppleApplications/Conceptual/Dashcode_UserGuide/Contents/Resources/en.lproj/MakingaWebApp/MakingaWebApp.html . I have started working on an app in Quipper.com but I think this offers more functionality - the downside is that I need a developer’s license to move forward...

I saw a demonstration of, and want to investigate Hype - it is a flash type of program, far more intuitive than the others as it is basically drag and drop, simple logic but no programming :-) It is built in html 5 so should play a website on virtually device -  we shall see. Not sure that it is an app maker though, it may just be for making web sites in html 5!
http://tumultco.com/hype/ .

Also Padilicious looks to be a very useful app making site! Can’t wait to try them all. http://www.padilicious.com/index.html

David Baugh lead the Make an App sessions and he is going to add the workshop information to his wiki http://www.makeanapp.info/
I have ideas, too many probably - and not enough time. Roll on the summer :-)

The easiest workshop for me to keep up with an understand was GarageBand on the iPad.
GarageBand turns the iPad into a recording studio, so anyone without any musical knowledge can make music but with just a little knowledge masterpieces can be made!  There are a selection of pianos, organs, guitars, drums, and basses which sound amazing, Joe Moretti lead us through making a piece of music in an hour - not bad going by anyone’s standards!! It was great fun. Thanks again to Joe for the session.  I am tempted to subject all to my first effort - but like my app I am sure no-one would appreciate it :-)

An ePub book for children first I think!

Having logged into Blogger for the first time in ages I am delighted to see a mobile template available - so - to view my blog on my phone now and see what it looks like :-)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How useful an iPad?

I have been asked - on Twitter - "How useful is an iPad to an ESL teacher?"    A strange question! How useful any device is depends on what you want to use it for…

I should probably first clarify that I am not an ESL teacher, not even much of a teacher these days, but...
My iPad is most used frequently by myself to
    •    check and respond to e-mail and Twitter whilst I am away from home
    •    make notes in meetings, seminars and more
    •    listen to podcasts or videocasts
    •    read from RSS feeds, websites, news and books
    •    play on the Garageband app - current favourite
    •    play silly game apps whilst travelling or wasting time
    •    currently - whilst trying to get thinner and fitter it sits in front of me on my exercise bike so that I can read and exercise - takes my mind off the exercise bit ;-)

My iPad is in demand almost the second my grandson arrives in the house with a "Can I play on your iPad please nan?"
Woody uses it for loads of games, books, painting and music apps - he even investigates those I have downloaded for myself, once he hands it back apart from having a depleted battery (he does like the sound up full)  it has many apps still open. He flits from app to app trying them all out and having a fun time. He will happily play with it or on it whilst the adults are doing the boring coffee and talking bit, until someone offers to play with him!

We have not had a set of iPads in a school situation but there are many similarities with the iPad Touch which we have been using for a couple of years. The web access, apps, instant accessibility and long battery life makes them a huge success in the classroom.

If I was wanting to use mine for teaching there are a few things that I would consider…
  • unless I "jailbreak" it I cannot share it with a class though a projector and screen
  • if I make great use of an interactive whiteboard and have made lots of interactive resource with the IWB software I can't load that onto my iPad
  • I can't share the games or websites created in Flash with my class
  • The camera flash card, USB type of added extra is underpowered - I was not particularly successful at things I wanted to do with it.
Compare with a laptop or netbook - that you can do all of those things with, and lots more…

The iPad is a lovely device with loads of wonderful apps for group work such as making stories, recording narrations, making animations, videos and other things with various different sorts of apps.  It is a delight to use. I consider it a personal device rather than teaching device, if wanted something to use for teaching I prefer a laptop…. but that is just me and my preference others would say otherwise!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Weekend Work for week 3 MobiMOOC

As I am away until Monday evening I may not even see a computer for
two days so I have rushed through the weekend work and decided I had
better post before I go:-)

What is your perspective on the OLPC programme?

It was a great idea but flawed!

What do you like about it?

I love the concept of being able to educate pupils with technology to
help them overcome some of the difficulties they have to get the most
basic education. I admire the ideology that pupils given a computer
will educate themselves and the amount of money that various people
have put into this dream. The fact that it was initially aimed at
those pupils who have virtually nothing and this was going to give
some sort of equality is great.

What do you think went right and wrong?

The foundations for this initiative simply were not in place. Pupils
and schools needed electricity, a support system, wireless
infrastructure, the internet, and staff training. Most of those needed
to be in place before there could be serious hopes of success.  Sadly
that lack caused huge problems, staff had little idea of how to
approach using them, often schools did not have the means to charge
them, did not have the repairs when they broke and the computers do
seem to have suffered even though the design was that they were to be

The project, in some places, suffered at the hands of man, crime meant
that the computers did not get into the hands of children, and even
where crime was not an issue still many computers did not get in the
hands of pupils.

 The assumption that children would learn proved not to be the case.
Children did not learn how to use them, look after them or repair them
as had been expected in far too many cases. Being aware of Sugata
Mitra’s work I can’t help but wonder whether there was too much made
available and to individuals not groups. He proved that groups of
children will support each other and work things out but his computers
had internet access, power and were hardy desktops not laptops being
carted about.

Possibly children who were given the computers were given too much too
quickly so that they could not get to grips with them. This is where
the SMS on the simple mobile phone projects teaching pupils to read
and write seem to have the advantage, they can do much less but what
they do is more structured. Mobile coverage is improving all of the
time and they are much cheaper.

I am not sure that much actually went right though I am sure that in
some places people are striving to make as much use of them as
possible such as Uruguay seems to be doing.

When compared with the statements:

“The cost of implementing an XO program, including the purchase of
laptops and other infrastructure, as well as development expenses, has
been estimated at about $75 per student per year. Even a less
expensive national program would be difficult to afford in a country
such as Rwanda, which currently spends a total of about $109 per pupil
per year on primary education.
If donors are expected to foot the bill, they need to consider how the
costs and benefits of laptop computers compare to the proven cost-
benefit ratios of other aid programs for improving social or
educational conditions; in short, opportunity costs. For example,
apportioning a total of $8 per person per year over the next five
years to basic health expenses could save 11 million lives in Africa,
according to projections of a prominent coalition.  A total
expenditure of $0.50 per pupil per year in Kenya on deworming was
found to increase school participation by 14 percent.”

One cannot help but wonder whether the money used in the initiative so
far may have been better spent!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Week 2 MobiMOOC

Hi MobiMoocers - I am not at all sure where I should have posted my mLearning project so will put it here :-)  already posted it on the wiki for week 2 but obviously no-one found it there :-)
Hope that is okay!!

My Learning Project 

Define your objectives:
  • Why do you want a mobile learning project?
I am still exploring the possibilities of mLearning and take every opportunity of trying new things out for the primary classroom
  • What unique result do you want to achieve?
To motivate pupils to explore local history and get involved with researching, finding and sharing information in groups to make presentations for school assemblies.
  •  How you will know when you have met your goals?
On presentation day and by talking to the pupils and their teacher
  • How will you evaluate your effectiveness?
By talking to the pupils and their teacher and looking at the pupils’ work, how they worked, the motivation levels etc. all anecdotal

Define your audience:
  • For whom is your mobile initiative intended?
Primary school pupils at a local primary school
  • What user support do you need to provide?
Nothing extra to normal classroom support, I doubt that the pupils will be phased in any way

Define your budget
  • What do you need to get the project done?
  • How are you going to fund it?
  • How long will you be able to sustain it?
Apart from my time the project is already funded – the school have 30 iPod Touches for the class.
The class have the iPod Touches for 12 weeks, this will be a small project within that time
Identify your Instructional strategies
  • Is it an interactive team / community network?
  • Is it a broadcast distribution framework?
  • Is it for formal learning programs or informal learning assets?
It will be informal learning, assessment will be by outcomes i.e their presentations
  • Who is going to produce the content (e.g. is it going to depend on community or commercially produced content)?
I will do the research and produce the content
  • Where is the content going to reside? N/A
  • Who is responsible for placing content in repository? N/A
  • What content distribution methods will be used (e.g., web delivery, copyright, registration for use, charges, etc.)?
I will distribute the qr codes
  • What content management mechanisms need to be in place?
  • How will you assess learning?
I will teach the pupils only how to read the qr codes and let them explore the local are 5. Identify your stakeholders
Primary school children, their parents and their teachers

Identify the technology
  • Who will provide the service?
School wifi
  • What kind of reception technologies will be used?
iPod Touches with QR code readers
  • What content creation tools will be used?
Any of the presentation / story making apps or Quick Office on the iPod Touches – pupils make their own choice
  • What network will be used for distribution?
School wifi / DropBox
  • What security mechanisms will you have in place?
The county filtering system
  • What kind of user interface will you use?
The iPod Touch and an Interactive Whiteboard
  • What user support will you provide?
Normal classroom support – I do not anticipate that anything extra will be needed

Determine Intellectual Property

My own – shared freely with the pupils and anyone interested under s CC license. I am still experimenting with mLearning and examining what excites pupils and motivates them to really get involved with a project.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Folk Songs on the iPad :-)

I have been playing with Garageband on the iPad for the last two days.  I need to learn the program properly so that I can make podcasts and more with it but even though I have had a Mac for a couple of months I have not yet devoted any time to it finding it much easier to return to the well known Audacity for sound work that I have had to do - mostly because of time constraints!

I thought using the app version of it on the iPad may give me some insight, it seemed a good plan as we have had a few days of beautiful weather and it was great to be able to start the learning journey outside. However I was not bargaining on finding and getting hooked, within seconds, on the acoustic guitar synthesiser  which sounds very realistic. I was so delighted with it I starting to work out the chord sequences of dozens of old folk songs.

It has a full range of keys both major and minor and a preset selection of finger picking rhythms which seem to be set in a straight 4 time, any speed but not any time signature, not that I have found so far anyway!! Consequently I abandoned the presets but am enjoying playing myself.

Having a few iPads in schools would give children comparatively cheap opportunities of playing a large combination of instruments together. With preset chords it should sound lovely and allow pupils to add real instruments with with an in-tune chordal accompaniment. We have had the drums being played on a class set of iPod Touches but Garageband opens the field much wider. I am not sure yet whether the built in recording facility would be useful in this situation but I guess not as it would only record what was being played on one iPad.

Here is a You Tube example of a piece of music composed on the iPad - somthing like this but with  real instruments, flute or clarinet for eample playing a main melody would be great in school giving great opportunities for improvisation too.

Teachers who use songs in class to aid teaching such as those who teach languages to very young children would really find this app useful - not having to carry a guitar to and from school, having it on-hand at any time and so easy to play - simply a dream :-)  Not only that it is very easy to record a song so that the teacher could just start it playing then be with children doing actions or whatever without having to play at the same time.  I would have loved this at school!!

There are a few blog posts to share ideas for this very new capability

From the comments on the following blog clearly not everyone shares my opinion… http://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/garageband-for-ipad-7-things-musicians-need-to-know-391104

Experienced musicians can get quite an amazing sound from this app, my favourite so far is this version of Let it be but the walk through here  and other demos may be much more useful!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Images and Sounds for use in Educational Presentations or Podcasts

This week it seems that I have been asked almost every day about free images for use in schools so I decided to start to compile a list! There is a Creative Commons Search Engine: http://search.creativecommons.org/ which can be used to search many different creative commons sources from one page. Google images and Flickr have settings that can restrict images offered to those with a Creative Commons licence, it is worth exploring the settings. The following should be an embedded Google Doc - I have never done this before so it will be interesting to see how/if it works!

If you have any sites to add please go to Google Docs to add them and share the page with anyone who may find it useful - visit https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QHJoG7pbZxQPNEzIhCNIuLwxQIydlyIcINdLLD5xOkg/edit?hl=en

Re the embedded Google doc - I had to add some code to give a bit of height and width, it started off very tiny with no measurements in the original code. It is pretty usless - but an interesting trial :-)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Educational Origami

 http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/  - I visited Educational Origami and was amazed and perturbed that I have spent so many hours on the internet, supposedly learning about teaching and learning with ICT, looking for and understanding theories, searching for ideas, facts, good ideas and ways of assessing and more and have never before seen this wiki offering Blooms Digital Taxonomy!


From the site:
“This is an update to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy which attempts to account for the new behaviours and actions emerging as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous. Bloom's Revised Taxonomy describes many traditional classroom practices, behaviours and actions, but does not account for the new processes and actions associated with Web 2.0 technologies, infowhelm (the exponential growth in information), increasing ubiquitous personal technologies or cloud computing.
Bloom's Digital Taxonomy isn't about the tools or technologies rather it is about using these to facilitate learning. Outcomes on rubrics are measured by competence of use and most importantly the quality of the process or product. For example. Bookmarking a resource is of no value if the resource is inappropriate, invalid, out of date or inaccurate.”

This information on the site helps to place all aspects of ICT onto the developmental continuum. The quick sheets give examples of ICT exercises and how they fit into the the progression of the taxonomy. I would love to map these into the learning objectives of the National Curriculum so that we have a clearer method for assessing the ICT work of our pupils - if and when we get the new curriculum I may do exactly that but there is no point at the moment.

There is a downloadable PDF giving lots of information, ICT ideas and examples for each level that would be so useful in assessing a pupil’s ICT work.

Not totally convinced I am really for primary school children to be hacking and reverse engineering - but hey ho... 

and more...

The same wiki does loads of work on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Cyber Safety

Interactive Whiteboards and Pedagogy

The whole site is a little gold mine of interesting things to investigate it will take a while to get through!

 Thanks to Cyber Placebo for mentioning it in the SL VRT11 :-)

Monday, 4 April 2011


One year on I am attempting to take part in another MOOC and having failed miserably last year I am not too hopeful :-)

I do really want to do this one though, it is about mLearning and started April 2nd and is running until May 14th. Two days in I am overrun with e-mail, all interesting but just too much! I have done loads of week 1 reading and answered the week one questions. So – up to date on the 3rd day ;-) Long may it last.

Anyone still wishing to join visit the wiki http://mobimooc.wikispaces.com/a+MobiMOOC+hello!
And join the Google Group http://groups.google.com/group/mobimooc/topics

One of the videos for week one was the 2007 Teacher’s TV on the use of mobile phones in school – I watched it when it came out but had not revisited and it is quite astounding that even though the statistics will have increased dramatically since the film was made the attitudes of the adults probably hasn’t in many cases, it could have been made yesterday! http://www.teachers.tv/videos/mobile-phones-mobile-minds.

The survey carried out very recently in the States and reported on today would appear to uphold that view http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/what_do_kids_say_is_the_biggest_obstacle_to_techno.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+readwriteweb+%28ReadWriteWeb%29
"The results are pretty fascinating, as they show great adoption of technology among even very young students, but lingering resistance on the part of school administrators to sanction some of those tools into the classroom."

The report on the survey finishes with the most telling quotation:

"74% of high school teachers, 72% of high school principals, and 62% of parents of high school age children said yes, they thought their school was doing a good job using technology to enhance learning and/or student achievement.
Only 47% of high school students agreed."

I am looking forward to taking part as much as I can in the MobiMOOC and hopefully learning more about what is probably the most fascinating aspect of educational technology for the near future.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

mLearning History - The SMS Project

I did a very interesting course run by The Consultants-E that I have already written about see http://carol-carolrb.blogspot.com/2011/03/mlearning-completley-on-line-course.html. That course http://www.theconsultants-e.com/ spawned a very small project to see if SMS and mobile phones could be used to inspire reluctant readers and so improve their reading.

This project is still in progress!

SMS for reading project - a journal

Week 1
I visited the school doing the SMS project and was shown by a very excited and willing group how to use the phones, talked through all they they have been doing etc. There is lots of enthusiasm within the group that are taking part but they were really upset that a new message had not arrived to coincide with my visit.

It is very early days but the children are clearly very involved in receiving texts and sending replies. The text they got earlier this morning was "How many months have 28 days in them?" they all have responded "February" - so it will be interesting to see what they make of the answer "12."

It is interesting to note that the children have been told that they are only allowed to use the texting facility. Yesterday their teacher was with us at our ICT Conference all day. Today when she got in she found that they had all been using the camera while she was away - it does not take them many seconds to work out how it all works! While the cat's away… We have promised them that if they behave we will use the camera facility for the treasure hunt so I must try to spend time at the school soon to write that!!

Whilst the teacher involved was talking to other teachers at the conference yesterday she was amazed that there were secondary school teachers who had never thought to ask the pupils to use their phones in the classroom, apparently a few went away quite excited by the idea... let us live in hopes that we get a few more converts, they are quite hard to come by!

Week 2
I visited the school again at lunchtime today and was able to take some video of the children getting, reading and replying to the messages. They are very enthusiastic - whether that will pay in terms of reading or spelling improvements I am not at all sure  They seem to have an understanding now of what a riddle is. Next week the messages will be based on the Greek Myth of Pandora's Box. The answers should be longer than the one or two word answers to the riddles. It will be interesting to see if their interest diminishes with the need to type in more words. Friday I am going to create the Treasure Hunt for the following week.

Week 3
I visited the school on Friday and planned the treasure hunt, they are going to use the Learning Platform for this project. I made up a sentence of brightly coloured huge words and cut them up putting them into tiny envelopes. Their teacher is going to take pictures, real close-ups of tiny images from the classroom. Pupils have to find the image, photograph it and send their photo of it to their teacher, close by they will find a tiny envelope with a word on it! The words need to be collected, they can be assembled into a sentence on the last day and their sentence sent back to their teacher. So 13 words, 13 picture clues to lead them to their envelopes!

The words given to the pupils for the treasure hunt make up my sentence:
Little Red Riding Hood and how she beat the big, very bad wolf. The children will have to end up with a similar sentence. The treasure hunt is running next week.

This week has fallen apart somewhat! On Friday I did not talk to the children, they were playing Red Nose Day Games, when we planned the visit I should have had about 20 minutes with the children and then done the treasure hunt but they were otherwise occupied, we had forgotten Red Nose Day.

Week 4
Today (21st March) I sat them down, started the camera and asked them to tell me the story of Pandora’s Box so far. They denied having it, they said the messages they had were the riddles....

I read the first message to them
•    We are going to work through the story of Pandora’s Box over the next day or two. It is a Greek myth. See if you can find out what Pandora’s Box is.
- yes they had all had it and answered - they all told me it was a metal box. When pushed a little further apparently there was a Pandora’s Box episode in Dr Who! So I asked what that story was but no-one could tell me. I asked what this story was about and no-one realised they had had the first part of a story in the next four messages. They told me they had received something about the Romans - close but not close enough and not enough of it. I mentioned a sacrifice - they knew about a bull - and a god - really no idea at all. So - I read them the story, explaining it as I went, they were fascinated as one would expect but unable to take enough meaning from the text episodes to get the gist of the story.  I have left the teacher to send them the last 6 messages, the next two they have already heard but the last four are new, what was in Pandora’s  box when she opened it and that hope was left etc - I have asked them to tell me the story next time I visit!

One rather strange thing is that the children do not seem to be bothered by the fact that they don’t understand. I asked them what they would do if they did not understand a text, they replied they would ask.... but they didn’t! When I pointed that out they seemed pretty nonplussed, as though they had not realised that they did not understand... hmmm difficult to see how to encourage them to think about it to decide whether or not they understand. Answering questions should provoke thought.... maybe the riddles are working against thinking for understanding!

I chatted to the teacher about this story, it is simply too hard so we are finishing it quickly and getting on the the treasure hunt. The teacher had an idea for sequencing another story, a traditional tale. I have used Red Riding Hood for the treasure hunt so we agreed on the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I have split it into texts and mixed it up as requested but not sure what the teacher envisaged - numbering the texts and sequencing them by number? Waiting to see what she has in mind. Meanwhile I need loads more riddles and one liners :-( That seems to be the level of understanding, reading capacity etc..

Week 5 - sadly the teacher was away ill when I got there. Knowing that there would be no messages to look at, talk about etc, I did not even go in the classroom, the pupils involved would have rushed to me and grabbed their phones and been disappointed!

Now we are headed towards week 6. The pupils should have done their treasure hunt and we should be on to a sequencing activity, In theory this little test finishes on Friday - must talk to the teacher before I talk to my boss on Monday to see whether we want to carry it on, whether the teacher is able to put up with the disruption, whether the pupils are making any advances in their reading - though I am already sure that their attitude to reading has improved - and more!!

This is a link to the presentation re the SMS project presented at BETT 2012
Videos that were embedded are now linked to You Tube for ease of viewing.