Challenge Based Learning

January 25, 2014

This week I spent a lovely day at the Apple Education Summit in London. Whilst there were many things in the event that I felt I already know, there were several things that certainly made me think.

Delegates were allocated 2 workshops with demonstrations of how Apple technology is being used in schools. These demonstrations were given by pupils and teachers. I was fortunate to allocated a session with Bohunt School. After an introduction from the teacher, the pupils took us through a science lesson. This wasn’t a normal ‘chalk and talk’ lesson, instead it was based on a ‘challenge based learning‘ approach.

I had heard of challenge based learning before, but wasn’t really sure how it would work. Or more importantly how it could work in my subject.

Although I am still at the start of my investigation into challenge based learning, the basics are as follows:

  • You set an overarching challenge to the pupils (in the session it was that a disease had spread through Scunthorpe, but people were dying before the medication could cure them, we had to find a way to double the rate of reaction).
  • You give the pupils some guided learning (for example how to use equipment to measure the rate of reaction and how to run an experiment)
  • You then let the pupils devise their own way of solving the challenge (for example devising experiments with different catalysts to see if they can reduce the rate of reaction).
  • You give the pupils some guidance in how to document their work (using a range of tools, ie written work, video, ‘explain everything‘ etc.)

What I liked about this approach is that it uses children’s creativity and desire to find out things (or learn!). The pupils I spoke to at Bohunt told me that they really enjoyed this approach and they felt that they learnt much more than they did when they learnt science principles in the traditional way.

I am still reading and researching more about this methods of teaching, particularly how I can implement it in Resistant Materials. I have found some iTunesU courses that I am working my way through:

If you are already using CBL then I would love to hear about it.


Sketching – Paper 53

January 19, 2014

This week I have been trying out some sketching apps to see if I could find one almost as easy as just using paper and pencil. I tried out Autodesk Sketchbook Express, which I found quite fiddly to use, and Paper 53 which I am going to talk more about here.

Paper 53 is a very simple to use app. It has been designed to be a close to a paper experience as possible. Before you ask ‘why not just stick with paper and pencil’, I wanted to find some alternatives for those pupils who want to produce their controlled assessment completely electronically. Currently we have to scan in all the pupil’s designs, which is surprising time consuming.

Paper 53’s interface is very clean and simple, although you can have as many notebooks as you want.

Each notebook has several easy to rearrange pages. I also liked the fact that you can zoom in on the page to put more details in.

I felt that the best way to show how easy it was to use was to make a video. So here is a quick demonstration of Paper 53.

I’m going to keep sketching designs on Paper 53. If you are interested in seeing the designs I come up with then you can follow my tumblr.


Workflow (IFTTT)

January 11, 2014

I haven’t posted for a while for two reasons, first I haven’t been trying anything new (mainly because my use of my iPad seems to have reached an equilibrium in that everything I am using is working and I don’t feel the need to look for an improvement yet), secondly it has been unbelievably busy!

But this week I did try something new, and I think it is quite useful (and not just for teachers). I often find that I am repeating tasks on different social media sites, or saving information in a variety of different places (for example bookmarking websites, favouriting tweets).

One of my pupils told me about IFTTT (IF This Then That). This website enables you to create recipes so that is something happens on one website you belong to (for example I favourite a tweet) then it is automatically added to Evernote (thereby consolidating some of the information I collect).

There is also an app for IFTTT, which is remarkably easy to use. You can only create ‘recipes’ with ‘channels’ they have already got – but there is quite a lot.

You activate ‘channels’ through the app (so far I have activated Twitter, Evernote and Instagram). You can then either create your own ‘recipes’,

or you can use one that someone else has created.

You can view all the ‘recipes’ you have created and see how often they have been used.

You can see that I have already created two and they worked very well.

I am hoping that by automating some of the things I either do, or wished I was doing, then it will reduce the amount of time I spending on these things. Now if only I could find something to mark homework for me!


ThingLink

November 9, 2013

I've been seeing 'ThingLink' talked about a lot on my Twitter feed, but hadn't really seen how I could use it in my teaching. For those who don't know, ThingLink allows you to create pictures with interactive tags on them.

This week I needed to set up two new classes on Edmodo, as my year 9 classes had rotated round to new teachers. Last time the pupils had difficulty remembering how to submit their prep after they had gone home, so I made a ThingLink using a screen shot of the turn in page to help them. I was surprised, not only by how quick and easy it was to make a ThingLink, but by how much my pupils enjoyed using it.

So here is a quick tour or ThingLink, there is a very good website and also an app (which doesn't quite have the same functionality but still works fine)

They have an educator account, and you can choose if you want your ThingLinks to be publicly available, or private (you can still embed or share with a link if it's private).

Website
App
All of your created ThingLinks are easily available on both the website and the app. You can easily edit them whenever you want.
To create a ThingLink, all you need to do is:

Choose an image (from camera roll in the app, or by uploading an image in the website).

Tap wherever you want a tag to appear. On the website you have more choice of tag icons, but in the app you can easily add pictures as tags. There are a huge range of tags you can use, but I tended to use video and websites (as well as old fashioned text).

When you've finished save your ThingLink (it uploads to the website) or choose your sharing options, you can also access these again through the website but I couldn't seem to find them again in the app.

You can then open your new ThingLink and see if the tags worked as you want them too, you can always go back and edit if you need too.

I was really impressed to find that one of the automatic embed options in a ThingLink was Edmodo, but you are also given an embed code so it can be out wherever you want. I embedded a ThingLink about the Bauhaus on my school intranet.


This is the finished Bauhaus ThingLink. Although it is very difficult to embed things on a WordPress blog, so currently it seems to not be working. I will keep investigating how to do it (it took me ages to work embedding Prezis!)

 


An App to Avoid

October 26, 2013

It is not often I review something negatively. However in my recent browse of the App Store for new teacher apps, I came across another grade book app which has annoyed me so much in testing it that I feel I should notify you about it so you can avoid it.

As you may know, I collect a lot of planning and grade book apps (especially when they are on sale or have free 'lite' test versions).

So when I came across 'Lazy Teacher' (which had a free lite version) I thought I would see what it was like – even though I found the name slightly offensive.

When I opened the app to experiment with setting up some test classes, I was surprised to find that it was almost identical to Teacher Kit, an app I use all the time.

This is the first time I have come across a grade book app that is practically identical to another. If this was a piece of homework I was marking then I would be speaking to the pupils involved about plagiarism!

By now another (very irritating) thing had been happening. Every time I tapped on something; to start a new class, add a pupil to the class, change a setting; a pop up would appear.

I am assuming that this doesn't happen in the real app, but it doesn't make me want to spend money on this as it was extremely annoying.

After trying out 'Lazy Teacher' for a bit I concluded that 'Teacher Kit' was much better (and offered the app for free, with an in-app purchase if you wanted the reporting tools).

 


Teacher Kit Update

October 19, 2013

This week one of my most used apps received a very useful update. I use Teacher Kit every day at school, it is my register, mark book and behaviour monitor for each class.

The update came with an optional in app purchase to allow you to generate reports, it cost £1.99 but I think it is worth it.

Now when I open my class, I am given a breakdown of the class performance (attendance, grade book and behavior).

You can generate a much more detailed report by tapping on the report button at the top of the screen.

Instead of tabs to access the different areas in each class, you now have to tap a menu button at the top (slightly more long winded, which is annoying).

But the feature that I liked the most was the ability to generate individual reports on pupils (very useful for the upcoming parents evening!). For obvious reasons I have hidden all the pupils details!

I am quite interested to see how useful the data analysis becomes as the year progresses, especially as we are only 1/2 a term in.


Edmodo Quizzes

October 12, 2013

I like to use quizzes as a way of assessing how much theory work my pupils have remembered during our FPT projects (that stands for Focussed Practical Tasks and is a project in which there is no designing, just making something so you can learn how materials and machines work). We have now been working on a metal folder for the last few weeks, so it was time for a metal theory quiz. Normally I would have used my school intranet, which has a quiz function, but this was the ideal opportunity to try the quiz function in Edmodo.

Writing the quiz was very easy, they have a variety of question you can use. Most of them are self marking.

I liked the idea of the fill in the gaps question, but the pupil don’t get a word bank (which in my case was ok).

Written answer question have to be marked by you, but it doesn’t take very long.

I have a test pupil account, so I could take the test as a pupil. I found it very easy. The only question I found slightly difficult was the matching question as it was quite hard to drag the boxes around.

You can set a time limit on the quiz which is helpful is reducing ‘internet cheating’ (when a pupil taking an unsupervised online quiz searches for the answer).

The only disadvantage I found was that you couldn’t include picture in the quiz itself, you can upload files but then pupils have to view the file before answering the question. I wanted to use picture in the matching game (so pupils could match the picture of the tool to the correct name).

The pupils who have taken the quiz so far have told me that they liked it, and they found it easier than the intranet quiz (which they have taken with other teachers).

Now I need to find a reason to try out the ‘poll’ function!


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