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.



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).

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!)


A New Resource for GCSE (and iOS7)

September 21, 2013

I wanted to show you 2 things this week, one is linked to the release of iOS 7, the other is a new resource I have made for my GCSE pupils.

As you may be aware in iOS 7 you can view your calendar from the lock screen. I thought this could be quite a useful new feature, especially since I have been trialling using my calendar as a lesson planning resource. Here is a screen shot of my calendar from my lock screen showing my lessons and activities for part of the day.

It is quite useful being able to see a quick overview of the lessons for that day, although only being able to see the next few hours was a bit frustrating. I have put the lesson synopsis in the location field.

The resource I wanted to show you is specifically for my GCSE pupils. During the controlled assessment my pupils have to assess their designs against Social, Moral, Environmental and Sustainability issues. This is something my pupils find very difficult, primarily because they find it hard to think of issues that relate to their projects.

So I made them some cue cards. The questions came from the textbook and the pupils themselves. Then I came up with some example answers. The cue cards now live on my stationery trolley, so they can be used whenever they are needed.

I thought that other D&T teachers would find this useful, so I upload my file to the shared Edmodo group and also to the shared D&T Dropbox folder.

A Day of Fun CPD (part 2)

July 27, 2013

Last week I started telling you about my day of CPD courtesy of Teach Design. This week I am going to tell you about the last 2 sessions of the day.

The James Dyson Foundation has a resource box that it loans out to schools. I had read about it on their website, but wasn’t sure how I could use it in my lessons. So I was very pleased that we got to experience part of the box during the CPD day. All of us got to disassemble a Dyson Vacuum Cleaner head, and Steve our session leader showed us the sorts of things he would do with pupils while this was going on. It was fascinating seeing all the different types of plastics used in the product.

Here you can see my vacuum cleaner head disassembled. But it was really easy to put it back together again!

After having seen how this tool could be used in the classroom, I am definitely going to be booking one for my school.

The last session of the day was all about circular economy. This was not something I knew much about, and even though I have a slightly better understanding now I am going to have to learn a lot more about it. You can read all about it on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website. But in a nutshell it is all about the importance of designing products and systems in which all the materials can be reused at the end of the products life, thereby creating a closed loop of material usage. The key impact on my teaching that this will have is to get my pupils to design products that can be easily disassembled (one way of doing this is to ban glue – a scary prospect!).

Something you can do with pupils is get them to disassemble broken products to see if they have been designed with a circular economy in mind. So this is what we got to do!

We paired up and collected a product, I got a DAB radio. We then had to see how far we could disassemble it (we were provided with a range of tools).

My partner and I originally thought that this would be quite easy to take apart, but we were quickly proved wrong! After trying to cut away the leather exterior we found a solid MDF structure that could not be opened. We tried accessing the inside through the speakers, but once again were foiled by soild MDF. Only by fluke did we discover that the back panel could be removed (but it was very difficult)

By now all the other teams had finished disassembling their products, however we refused to be beaten and proceeded to unscrew the unit (you can see we finally got inside in the last picture above!).

It was lots of fun, and something I am eager to try with my GCSE pupils. I need to go and hunt out some broken products!

It was an amazing day and has made me think a lot about what I am teaching my pupils. I am hoping to introduce lots of the concepts from the day into my GCSE curriculum.

A Day of Fun CPD

July 20, 2013

Last week I went to an amazing day of CPD (continued professional development) that was organised by Teach Design. They had organised lots of different sessions with various companies, and I wanted to share with you the things I experienced.

The day started off with an introduction into the future of Design & Technology from David Barlex (@DavidBarlex) (you can read his blog here). He introduced lots of interesting ideas, especially relating to the enduring ideas of Design & Technology. One of his questions ‘what is better? A good design, badly made or a bad design made really well?’ made me think. I know I will need to audit my projects for next year, based on his ideas.

We then got to build Robots! VEX Robotics works a little like the Mechano I used as a child, but it has the additional use of motor and Systems & Control so you can make it move using a controller. I am not a Systems & Control teacher, I don’t really understand how it works but I did find it fun and interesting to put the robot together.

You can see here the various stages of building our Claw Robot. Annoyingly, when we had finally finished we couldn’t get it to work. So we had to be rescued by some Systems & Control teachers. It turned out that our wireless controller was not talking to our robot, so we had to go ‘old school’ and control it with a cable!

Next up was the session that made me want to come to this day. It was all about drawing in isometric (something pupils usually find very challenging). The Drawing Tool Company had come to show us a new drawing aid called an IsoSketch.

The IsoSketch is a very simple template that helps you to draw boxes and circles at the correct angle for isometric drawing. After playing around with it for a while, we were set a challenge to design a tent for a specific user (we had a choice of 3, I chose the ‘train spotter’). The best design would win a class set of IsoSketches (so competition was fierce!). This was my design, drawn entirely with an IsoSketch:

(and no, I didn’t win)

I will definitely be ordering some IsoSketches for my pupils to use!

As this blog post is in danger of becoming extremely long, I will post about the last 2 sessions next week (they involve careful disassembly and some wanton destruction!)

Thank you Twitter

July 13, 2013

Today I am off on a free CPD (continued professional development) course that I found out about through Twitter.

It is being run by Teach Design and it is all about the future of my subject (with lots of fun workshops throughout the day). I will blog about this later!

I have talked about Twitter before but this is the first time I have something tangible from it. Of course what you get out of Twitter entirely depends on who you follow. I knew that I wanted to find out education resources and so I set about to look for Teachers on Twitter.

It has taken a while to build up my PLN (personal learning network), and I have only just started to find other Design & Technology teachers, but it is worth it.

So hopefully, if your not already on Twitter, you might take a look and see what it is like.

But for now I am off to the Design Museum to meet other teachers who are giving up their Saturday for something they found out about on Twitter as well (exciting!).

A Useful Little App

June 29, 2013

Please excuse the short post today, it’s the start of the summer holidays and I am very tired (and yet somehow have a very busy weekend).

A link to a design app appeared in my twitter feed this week. It is called Design Tools and is a very simple, yet effective, app.

It basically shows the sizes or values of digital and paper media (with a nice colour converter thrown in). This is quite a useful thing in my subject, especially when I am trying to look up the colour codes for my intranet pages.

It was very useful this week when I was making my business cards to hand out to new tutor parents (as the programme I was using didn’t have any templates).

A handy converter for resizing keynote slides to A4 paper (it’s how I make my handouts).

And the, previously mentioned, colour converter!

Simple, yet quite a useful little app.