Sunday, July 12, 2015

Which platform to teach with?

When I started teaching technology, my focus was to teach the students how to use software to complete a certain project. That made sense - the students had access to computers with Microsoft products installed at school and home, and didn't bring their own laptops or tablets into the classroom. In the 15 (eek!) years that I have been teaching computers as a subject, the students have become increasingly more proficient in learning how to use the software. So much so, that now I can easily teach the basics of a piece of software within a single lesson (or less). For example, once a student knows how to insert a picture into a Word document, it is pretty easy to work out how to insert a picture into a presentation!

This year was a pivotal moment though. In the last couple of years, I had let students create a presentation in their choice of PowerPoint, Prezi, Animoto, while I highlighted the pros and cons of each one. Some students started with one and switched to another, as the limits of one program hindered their creativity. This year though, I have given free reign over how students tackled a project. 

One Grade 8 project is to research and create a new school campus. Students work in small groups to design how the school looks, collaborating on how schools have changed in the way that they teach and to focus on their interests. I have previously asked students to work in Google SketchUp to complete their models. At the start of the project this year, I decided to let students work in anything. Some stayed in SketchUp (one project far exceeded my expectations), others researched 3D room designers and taught themselves how to use them. A couple of groups worked solely in a slideshow presentation, and there was even a cardboard model! The wide variety of projects did make for an interesting way of evaluating the work, but the enjoyment and focus the students had while working was very rewarding. 

I understand that companies have to sell their products but students should work in what they feel comfortable in using and be exposed to as many platforms and software as they can. The list I present to the students will include the following:

Powerpoint, Slides, Keynote, Prezi, Animoto, Sway to present information. 
Word, Pages, Docs, to write. 
Excel, Numbers, Sheets for spreadsheets.
Photoshop, Paint, Gimp to edit pictures. 
Scratch, Hopscotch, Kodu, Macrolab for programming.
(feel free to add your own in the comments)

Personally, starting the school year I will continue to work in Google Drive with the students, Outlook on my iPhone for email, but I will use OneNote for my planning and marking.

I think that it is necessary to prepare the students of today for their world tomorrow, not rely on what we are comfortable teaching.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Microsoft Camp 21 - a reflection

Well, today I completed my two days at Microsoft Camp 21 and wow, was I surprised! I am relating to going to Disney; far better than I had expected.

I stumbled across the camp through a tweet from @mraspinall with only a week and a half before it started. I thought it looked interesting, and decided to check my calendar and sign up. 

My first confession - I don't use Microsoft products on a daily basis. Over the years, I have slowly moved over to Apple products; iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and AppleTV and Google products with Drive and GAFE. It's not that I have had anything against Microsoft, I just started to use other products more and it was natural, I found with Apple, to stay in the same family of products.

That being said, I had 2 take away 'wow' moments with Microsoft products. The first was with Sway. At the start of the Sway presentation (video here), I knew nothing of the software. It only came out at the end of last year and my first impression was that it was a cross between Prezi and a blog. Well, technically it is, but after using it, it is SO easy to use and VERY effective.

The software is like a presentation, but you can add images, text, headers, videos, tweets, as well as embed content. Content can also be grouped together, comparisons can be made between (think 2 images next to each other), charts created and added, presentations embedded, images stacked. I don't that my explanation is doing it justice, but I have only used it for a little while. 

The best part? Sway is free to use and only requires an email to get an account (not necessarily a Microsoft email). Oh, and it's multi-platform - computer, tablet, phone, browser.

Here is my first Sway - not bad for a quick experiment with the software I think! Proof that it is good software - I showed this to my daughter who spent time creating her own today - and it IS summer vacation!

The second 'wow' moment was One Note. This time I had used One Note before, soon after it's 2003 release. At the time, I thought it was good but didn't really use it too much, this was before tablets and smartphones which is where I see the value of the software now (ahead of it's time?)

Again, like Sway, One Note is free to use and is multi-platform. The basic premise of the software is the same as before - notebooks can be created with sections and pages. Text, images, audio, links and a whole lot more can be added to each page. All of this can also be shared as well. Office365 users can also do more - such as creating shareable pages and notebooks with students, and locking content to annotate over it. 

This time viewing One Note, I saw more potential especially as a teacher tool. Day books, anecdotal, file for emails - in essence this will eliminate my day plan binder, records binder, and my huge amount of saved emails. I am very much looking forward to exploring this further. 

So, 2 things to explore further this summer. And I am looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator

Last night I received an email to inform me that my application to become a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certified Educator was successful.

I discovered Common Sense Media a few years ago. Prior to that I had used a few different resources, but felt that my approach to digital citizenship was disjointed. 
Common Sense Media presented a complete, and FREE, approach, which started with middle school and now incorporates Kinder and Primary as well as High School. The curriculum has also progressed to cover the following topics:

Internet Safety
Privacy & Security
Relationships & Communication
Digital Footprint & Reputation
Self Identity & Image
Information Literacy
Creative Credit & Copyright

The Certified Educator program is aimed as an addition to the curriculum, to celebrate the educators that embracing technology safely and responsibly in their classrooms. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Computer Programming at Glenburnie School

Here's a blog post that I posted on our school website in June 2012. For schools shifting their focus to an emphasis on programming I thought it would be useful to repost here:
Technology has rapidly evolved over the past few years and is increasingly incorporated in all areas of learning in many schools.  One aspect of technology that has not been widely explored to date is the field of computer programming.
Glenburnie School has been proactive in this area, and has taken a multi-grade approach to engaging students in this field and introducing the world of programming in Computer Technology classes.
Formal instruction begins in Grades 1 and 2 when students are introduced to BeeBot and Roamer, robots that use the LOGO programming language to move around the floor.  Instruction continues in Grade 3 when students learn to utilize software which replicates their foundation knowledge, as well as building on additional coding skills, such as how to repeat lines of code.
Once these skills have been mastered in the early grades, students in Grades 4 to 8 are introduced to Scratch, a software program developed by MIT, which can be used to create interactive art, stories, and games.
Introduction of programming skills in Computer Technology classes is another way that Glenburnie School effectively prepares students to confidently meet the challenges and opportunities they will face in our rapidly changing world.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Teaching Ollie Jenga

Having fun with Ollie, Jenga, and a GoPro!

Google Classroom goes Mobile!

In the past week, Google announced that they are releasing a new app for their Classroom website. This is fantastic news, as I have found for students on their own tablets, or using a school iPad that they cannot easily access assignments sent through Classroom without previously opening it.

They have also added more features: the ability to take photos right in the app to add to a classroom feed, an assignments feed for teachers to easily view all assignments on one screen, and the ability to archive a class at the end of the year or course.

Using Google Classroom has become my number one go to to hand out and collect work. More and more I am asking students to upload their work to see, rather than navigating the school network. And the students are seeing the benefit: starting work in my class and then easily finishing it at home or elsewhere.