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.


Wow, Thank You Apple!

October 5, 2013

Instead of a post about what I am doing in my classroom, I wanted to share with you something that happened last weekend that made me appreciate my Apple products that little bit more (I promise I am not one of those Apple evangelists).

My daughter is soon to turn 13, like most teenagers she is very attached to her technology. Last year she spent months saving up her allowance, birthday money, Christmas money as well as working odd jobs to earn extra so that she could buy herself an iPod touch. So finally in January 2013 she was to purchase it, and since then it seems like it has become surgically attached to her.

Just to give you an idea of how much it is used, here is a short list of some of the apps she uses on a regular basis (and not just to surf the internet or listen to music):

  • iAWriter – she is writing her second ‘novel’ on this (and is determined to be a published author)
  • Crunchyroll – where her current obsession with Japanese Culture and anime can be fulfilled.
  • iStudiez Pro – so that she can keep track of her homework.

She is unbelievably careful with her iPod, keeping in a zipped pocket of her school blazer and in a case to protect it. However through a series of horrible coincidences her iPod managed to fall out of this protection and bounced off the flagstones outside her school. Fortunately it only dented one corner of the iPod, but this happened to be the corner where the power button was.

From that moment on her iPod kept trying to randomly shut down, or take screen shots whenever she pressed the home button. So we decided to make out first ever trip to the ‘Genius Bar’ at an Apple store to see if it could be fixed.

The Apple store ‘Genius’ took one look at her iPod and said ‘that can’t be fixed, you need a new iPod’. My heart sank because I knew we couldn’t afford one and while he went to speak to his manager I explained to my daughter that she might just have to cope with a broken iPod for a while longer.

Imagine my surprise when he returned holding a new iPod, handed it to her and said ‘here you are try not to break this one’. Now I realise that they are probably going to refurbish her old iPod and sell it, but by giving her a new iPod for free to replace one that she had broken was amazing.

So we used the money I had set aside for repairs to buy her a better case for her new iPod.

It’s a Speck Geoskin which she chose for the simple reason that it protects the buttons.

And in case you wondered, we had backed her iPod to iCloud before we went, so when we set up her new iPod we used this back up to it up. So all her apps were back, with all ther data. Even her background picture was in place. It’s so nice when things work!
So thank you Apple, you have made my daughter (and by extension, me) very happy!

Setting up Edmodo

September 7, 2013

This week I have been meeting my new classes (and saying hello to some of the classes that I have kept on). With my new yr 9 and yr 10 classes I have decided to trial Edmodo as a means of setting and collecting homework.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Edmodo in my Twitter feed, but I’d never seen it in use, so I wasn’t really sure how it would work. All the screen shots are from the iPad app. However the app doesn’t yet have the same functionality as the website.

First of all I set up my teacher profile, you can do this by clicking on the ‘I’m a Teacher’ on the sign up screen.

Your pupils can see your profile page, and the other teachers you are connected to (my yr 9’s were very curious about these other teachers.)

You can then set up your classes. Each class has a group code which your pupils use to join your class.

During my first lesson with each class I explained what Edmodo was, showed them how to join, and reminded them that the shared wall in our class space on Edmodo was an extension of our classroom – not somewhere to post inane comments to each other.

At the end of our first lesson I set homework through Edmodo (in my school it is called prep). I made sure to show the pupils how to submit their prep through Edmodo, and most of my pupils have successfully done this (some didn’t quite understand the process, so I may have to go through it again).

When the pupils see this assignment post it has a button labeled ‘turn in’. When they click on this they can upload their prep (and rate it with a smiley face?!). I can then mark it through Edmodo, but more on that (possibly) next week.

I can keep track of the preps I have set, and how many have submitted it through the progress page. You can see here that there are 2 preps under my GCSE RM group. This is because I have 2 small groups within the class, as I have separate sets. By having smaller groups it enables me to set prep to the individual set, while still being able to post to the whole group.

Last of all, you can upload things to your Edmodo library. These files can be included as part of the prep set, so next week there will be a worksheet for my yr 9’s to complete as part of their prep.

It is still early days, but so far I am quite liking Edmodo. Although next week I have to help one of my pupils log in again as he has forgotten his username and password! (Fortunately I can see everyone’s username and reset passwords).

I will keep you updated with how this Edmodo experiment goes.