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 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!)

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.

Teaching the Teachers

November 24, 2012

This week I was asked by the head of our iPad trial group in school to run a session showing how I use my iPad in my lessons. As many teachers know, it’s one thing to stand up in front of a group of children and teach them, and quite another to standing front of a group of teachers and try and do the same. So to say I was nervous is putting it mildly!

I decided to run through the apps I use the most and give a short demonstration of each one.

The apps I decided to show are ones I have reviewed before, so I have included the links to the relevant blog post below.

Teacherkit – my main teacher planner
Keynote – an invaluable way of presenting (especially when teamed with Keynote remote) – although I think I need to do a proper review of this app (maybe next week!)
Doceri – another way of presenting, but more interactive.
Make my Own Puzzles – easy way to make crosswords and word searches.
Socrative – an easy to use interactive quiz maker.

I had lots of fun setting up my Socrative quiz, so that all the teachers could compete in teams whilst doing a general knowledge quiz. If you want to try out my quiz (and you have Socrative) then you can use this code to get a copy of the questions. Just click on ‘import quiz’ and type in ‘SOC-594748’

You can see the Keynote presentation I gave by watching this video (I am trying out Vimeo as a place the store my instructional videos, instead of my YouTube channel – so my pupil’s work can be on YouTube).

The slide change overs are quite fast(apologies), they were manual clicks but apparently Keynote makes them very quick when you export it to video!

Making Videos

November 17, 2012

This week my Year 10s (first year of GCSE) started designing for the first time. As I repeated my lesson on how to draw things in 3D for what seemed like the millionth time, it occurred to me that the pupils might find it useful to have this demonstration available to see again.

The previous day I had some pupils ask if they could video what I was demonstrating with their phones, so they could look at it later (we were going through setting up and using a Brazing Hearth, which if you are unfamiliar with the name is basically a giant jet of flame used to heat metal)

So armed with my iPhone, I decided to make a short movie showing my drawing demonstration again.

Here is the video I made, it’s been upload to my YouTube channel. I set this up to showcase the pupils work, as they often make videos when they have finished their project, to show how the product they made works.

I used iMovie to make it. And I was surprised by how easy it was.

I videoed 4 short demos for the various sections, it is a bit wobbly but it’s quite hard holding a phone in one hand while drawing with the other! I inserted a keynote slide for the changeovers and finally added a voiceover to explain what I was doing. (My colleague is adamant it sounds nothing like me! Maybe I had my ‘telephone voice’ on).

I wait to see if my pupils find it useful, but I am considering making more videos of demonstrations I repeat every year.

Interactive Whiteboards (Part 1)

November 3, 2012

Now that I have managed to get my iPad to connect to my whiteboard (see my post about HDMI and VGA connections), I wanted to use my iPad in lessons more. Usually I would use an interactive whiteboard software, as well as PowerPoint on my computer, so I wanted an app that could allow me to write on the board during class. I am already using Keynote on my iPad instead of PowerPoint.

I have been collecting whiteboard apps for a while (I wait until they are reduced or free) and amassed quite a few to try out.

I started off with Doceri, which also have a computer desktop program that allows you to link iPad and computer together. I only have the basic iPad app at the moment. The iPad app is free.

It was relatively easy to put my sides together. You can import pictures, change background and have a variety of pens and shapes you can use. The main disadvantage is that you can't add type to the page, quite frustrating when it is hard to write anything other than giant words on the page!

It was easy to annotate my pictures and simple notes during class, and my pupils were quite amused to see words appearing on the whiteboard while I wrote on the iPad with my finger!

When using the app version, you do get a 'Doceri' watermark on each page, which can be removed with in-app purchase.

You can export your slide show into PDF and also a screencast video, as everything you do is recorded (you can even add audio if you want to).

Will I be using it again? Maybe – if they introduce the ability to also type on the slides, otherwise I can't have as much information on the screen as I would need.


VGA Connection (at last!)

October 13, 2012

You may remember my blog post about connecting my iPad to an HDMI whiteboard. I mentioned the difficulties I was having connecting to a similar board, but with a VGA connector.

Well this week I finally solved the problem (with the help from another teacher who is genius with all things technical – don't tell him I said this!)

So to connect your iPad through a VGA connector to a whiteboard you will need the following:

1. A VGA Manual Switching Box, I got mine from Amazon.

2. 2 VGA cables (I found some cheap on EBay)

3. A VGA to iPad adapter which you can get from the Apple store.

You then need to connect them together:

1 VGA cable goes from the VGA connector box to the projector (Beige Cable in the picture), the computer VGA cable goes in one of the ports (blue cable into port A), and your 2nd VGA cable goes out from the other port (white cable, port B).

You can then easily switch between the computer and your iPad by pressing either button A or B on the front of the box.

To connect your iPad you just need to connect your VGA adapter into the spare VGA cable (white in my case) and then into your iPad. Press button B and hey presto – iPad projected onto the screen!

I mentioned before that I have to be able to easily connect between 4 different boards (2 of which are HDMI and 2 are VGA). So once I have my adapters, I can easily connect into any of the boards that have the cables pre-set up.

I know it would be easier with an Apple TV, but I still have to connect the Apple TV into the various boards before I can project by AirPlay (and I am not buying 4 Apple TVs!).

One annoying thing with the cable set up, is that there is no sound. But I have (another) cable coming that should solve that problem, if it works then I will share it with you in another post.