Easy Mind Maps

April 27, 2013

The education year tends to be quite circular, so as my Year 11s finish their controlled assessment (and I am in the throes of marking and moderating) my Year 10s are just starting their controlled assessment.

One of the first things they have to do is analyse the task they have chosen in the form of a mind map. In previous years we have used PowerPoint to do this (as they produce all of their written work in PowerPoint), but this is quite a labour intensive process involving adding shapes to the slides and joining them with conecting lines.

My pupils were finding this quite frustrating, so I encouraged them to look for alternatives and they came across ExamTime. After trying it out with my two classes, and having good reviews from my pupils, I thought I would share it with you.

Examtime is currently free, and it looks like the current features will remain free. You can make a variety of revision resources, but most importantly you can make mind maps.

It’s also easy to set up your resources by subject. You just tap the + button to add a new subject.

I used ExamTime during the lesson to demonstrate how a mind map works. It was very easy to use, even on an iPad.

Here you can see the beginnings of a mind maps all about the design task to ‘Design and make a gadget tidy’

The mind map I created automatically saved to my area, so I could easily log in again to work on it some more. During the lesson one of pupils accidentally closed his Internet browser and was quite worried that he had lost all of his work, but because it saved as he worked he could log back in and continue working.

You can see here my saved mind map, ready to be opened again and worked on. When my pupils had finished they could either print screen the finished image and paste it into their PowerPoint, or they could export it as a PDF and do a similar thing.

We were really impressed with ExamTime, and how easy and intuitive it was to use. I will be recommending to pupils again in the future.


Sharing Files (the easy way)

April 13, 2013

As well as using Dropbox, which I posted about before, I also use another cloud service purely for sharing files with others. It is called Dropmark.

The main reason for this is I don’t want these files clogging up my dropbox (where I store my everyday files), plus it is extremely easy to share files through Dropmark.

Let me give you a quick guide tour:

The main dashboard has a series of folders called ‘collections’, which you can set individual permissions for.

So if you wanted to access my ‘Socrative Inset’ collection (which I shared the link for when I posted about the training I ran) you would need the link to the folder (which is right here).

Alternatively, the SOW789 collection is shared with just one other person, so they have been emailed the link through Dropmark. They don’t need to have a Dropmark account to view and download the files.

It is very easy to add new collections, the only limit you have (with the basic free account) is you have a maximum of 250MB space. As with all other cloud accounts, you can pay to have more space.

To add files to collections you simply drag and drop them (if you are on a normal computer) or click add file if on an iPad. There is also a Mac app which makes uploading to Dropmark even easier.

Becuase there are so many different cloud services available, it is really down to personal preferences as to which one you like to use. But for easy collaborating, I definitely prefer Dropmark over Dropbox.

Social Media with Pupils?

April 6, 2013

In a few short weeks, my GCSE pupils will be going on study leave. The exam for my subject is one of the last ones they will do, so once we start approaching the end of June I offer to run an in school revision session for those pupils who wish to come in. However, contacting them all has proved difficult in the past (sending an email does not always guarantee they will read it!). So I thought I would try and use social media (specifically Facebook) as a form of class communication.

We do have a very good intranet at school, which my pupils are used to using all the time to access resources. But they have to log in from home through the school website. I have been told by some of them that once they go on study leave, they only log in if they have to find something for their revision. Whereas they have Facebook on in the background almost all the time!

I know that there is a ‘safer’ form of Facebook in the form of Edmodo, but I don’t have the time to get them used to using it. I am planning on trialling Edmodo with my new GCSE class next year (as I will have 2 years to train them on using it!)

Anyway, back to Facebook.

I decided to set up a ‘page’ after reading this helpful explanation of the difference between ‘page’ and ‘group’. On my page I can post notifications, invitations to events (like revision sessions) and notes (like their holiday prep). Pupils can comment on individual posts I make, but can’t create their own post. However, unlike a group, a page cannot (to my knowledge) be set to private or invitation only. So in theory anyone could comment on the page, but I can delete comments.

It is still early days, but if this works (i.e if I get positive feedback from pupils) then I may use this more often. And if you are thinking of doing the same thing, make sure you check your school’s policy on use of the Internet and social media. I was pleased to find out that my school had the ‘use it sensibly, if in doubt don’t post’ approach. I also checked with our head of ICT before starting this endeavour, and he was quite supportive.

Keynote (or how to avoid death by PowerPoint)

January 12, 2013

The Spring term started this week, and after such a lovely break it was a bit of a shock to the system! Fortunately we started with an inset day, where the teachers have meetings and training sessions. I had been asked to run a 1/2 hour session on using Socrative. So I spent some of my holiday writing a general knowledge quiz, presentation and handout.

I have mentioned Keynote before, but only in passing. And I suspect that this post is going to be quite simaler to last weeks post in Pages.

Keynote comes with a good selection of templates, although I tend to stick to the first 2 (black or white) for my lessons as I think they look better on my whiteboard.

As before it is really easy to add content, and editing things are the same as in Pages. The main addition is the ability to add animations, and this is where (in my opinion) keynote is better than PowerPoint. It is really easy to add subtle (or obvious) animations to give your presentation that certain something.

If you are interested in the resources I used in my Socrative inset, you can download a copy of the hand out and keynote from my Dropmark Folder (review to follow). And if you have Socrative, you can have a copy of my general knowledge quiz by using the code SOC-699726.

Christmas Apps (to get you in the holiday mood!)

December 22, 2012

I thought that this week I would post about some Christmas apps. I know this isn’t strictly education related, but I guess you could link it to Geography or R.S.

Term has ended, holiday baking is underway and presents have been bought and wrapped (and yes I am feeling a little smug!).

So to the apps, first up we have NORAD Santa.

Every year my daughter (who is now 12) loves to track where Santa is on the NORAD website. We would have the laptop out on the table while we prepared sprouts and other Christmas lunch things. It is great fun seeing where in the world Santa is, especially as he starts to get closer to the UK! So this year we are going to try out the app, I don’t yet know what it will be like, but I am hoping it will be as cheesy as the website!

Next up we have Apple’s ‘12 Days‘. 

Every day during the 12 days of Christmas, there will something free for you to download from the iTunes or App stores. Again I don’t know what it will be like, and based on the free taster app of a Rod Stewart video, I am a little skeptical! But I’m not going to say no to the promise of free stuff.

So I hope you have a lovely Christmas, I’m off to get and get Mince Pies out of the oven (yum). 

How to Videos

December 1, 2012

I realised this week that I have now been blogging once a week for 6 months (let’s ignore the little blogging blip at the beginning)! So ‘happy 1/2 birthday’ blog.

After the excitement of ‘Black Friday’ (I may not be American, but I can still enjoy the massive app sale that happened), I managed to get DispRecorder for free (it’s normally about £3). This app enable me to record my iPad screen, and what I’m saying. So I can now demonstrate how to use some of the apps I’ve been posting about.

The app itself is very simple to use, basically you click the record button, leave the app, wait for the red bar to appear at the top of your screen and then start your video. You can save the video you made to your camera roll, or even upload to YouTube.

I decided my first how to would be about making QR codes, which I posted about before. So armed with DispRecorder, I set about making a short ‘How To’ video (it turns out that trying to make a video while a class is using drill and hammers in the next door room is a bad idea).

I didn’t want to use my YouTube channel for the video,as I have decided the separate out my pupil’s work from my own demos so I uploaded the video to my Vimeo account using the free Vimeo app I found. The whole process was amazingly simple.

So is this going to encourage me to make more ‘How To’ videos, definitely! Making, uploading and linking (twitter) took less than 20mins all done using the apps on my iPad.

Another MOOC (Curriculum Design)

October 20, 2012

In my recent Diigo in Education feed, someone had posted about another MOOC that will be taking place. It is being run by the Open University, which for those who may not know is a university where teaching is mainly through correspondence. I studied with the OU and worked through my degree in design whilst working a full time job. Without the OU I know that I wouldn't have been able to complete my degree (and subsequently train to be a teacher), so I am a big fan.

Anyway, back to the MOOC. The name of the course is 'Curriculum Design with OERs' (Open Educational Resources). You can find out more about the course on their website, or on their Cloudworks press release.

It is a 9 week course, starting in early January 2013 and looks like it could be very interesting. I will certainly be signing up, although how much of the course I am able to complete is questionable as it is the busiest time of the year for me (the joys of GCSE controlled assessment).

To quote the press release ” The course aims to

(1) provide a rich open learning experience for teaching and learning professionals

(2) build greater skills and understandings of Curriculum and Learning Design theories and frameworks, with an emphasis on the reuse of OERs

(3) help participants appreciate the need for careful educational crafting of learning experience and associated curriculum structures and

(4) empower participants to become more effective educators and change agents in their own context.”

Sounds intriguing doesn't it?


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