22 November 2013

Yr5 Discover Robotics

Year 5 are just taking their first steps into the wonderful world of robotics and programming. And it wasn't just the kids who were exploring this for the first time - it's new to some of the teachers too. "I was more than a little apprehensive" admitted one teacher. But these fears soon disappeared, as once again the kids leap in and get on with it. By the end of their first session, they were not only programming the devices to travel around a prescribed route, they also used sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. The robot above was able to zoom along the table top and brake hard as it sensed the edge - stopping every time, with millimetres to spare.

Isn't it great how kids pick new skills up so quickly and once they enthused and excited by something, they'll run with it, often going beyond our expectations. I'm looking forward to seeing what they eventually come up with as they move through their project.

13 November 2013

Photo Editing

Having a digital camera (iPad) to hand all day has many advantages (see previous post), but the majority of photos taken are merely 'snap-shots' - functional but not necessarily creative. Year 7 have been learning how to improve the photos they take. So far this has been achieved in two ways.

1. Take a better picture.
To achieve this they have learned about the way a camera works and how the image is captured. An understanding of shutter speed, light levels, metering etc is essential in understanding the limitations of your device, and also guiding your decisions when choosing location, angle, light etc.

2. Edit to enhance
While we've not gone overly creative just yet, students are now using editing tools to make their good pictures better. This could involve changes to brightness, contrast, colour correction, lifting shadows and cropping. Some of these adjustments could be very subtle, with minor enhancements being made.

Occasionally we can go a little bit beyond enhancement, and move more towards transformation of the image. The example below shows how one fairly ordinary image can become quite striking with just a few simple edits. The majority of students edit directly on their iPad, using either the iPhoto or PicShop apps.

02 November 2013

iPad Camera

The camera is one feature of the iPad that we so often take for granted. We know it's there and we use it quite regularly. Teachers and learners take photos of their writing in books, collaborative work, artwork and even the information on the whiteboard.  Videos too are being taken to record learning, practice a language, or document an achievement. On just one day this week I saw students videoing a conversation in Spanish, making a stop-frame animation, and recording themselves 'perform' a project. To have this facility in your hand, to use at a moment's notice, is extremely powerful.

Today I showed my class or 12-yr-olds a roll of Kodak 35mm film. The majority had no idea what it was. Somehow it didn't really surprise me. I remember resisting digital photography for as long as I could, but even I had pretty much stopped using film when these kids were only 3! They have never known anything else.

The ubiquity of their iPad camera hit me the other day when my class came back from Science and told me how they'd used microscopes to look at onion cells. When I asked about it they said, "Here, take a look". Without being prompted by their Science teacher (in fact he hadn't even thought of it), the kids took pictures looking down the microscope. And they were surprisingly good too. To them, it was a perfectly natural thing to do...see something cool, save it and share it. And share it they did. Many showed their parents that evening, several blogged it, and one or two appeared on the ever popular Instagram.

This one was taken by Jason.

30 October 2013

Learning Live - Orchard Project

Our Orchard Group were invited to attend the FOBISSEA Leadership Conference in Penang at the weekend to run a Learning Live session. They rose to the challenge of sharing their views and ideas with the leaders of some of the top international schools across SE Asia. They impressed a very difficult audience with their passion and subject knowledge, and engaged the delegates in important conversations about their learning. Check out the video to see what happened.

25 October 2013

Tales of the Unexpected

Sometimes kids surprise us. They often demonstrate the ability to see tasks from a different perspective or they have ideas that we as adults/teachers had not considered. This especially so when it comes to technology.

An example of this happen just happened in a library lesson. The students were in small groups and had been given the task of reading the same book. They then had to summarise the story in the form of a Rap. Our Teacher Librarian expected a set of lyrics that would hopefully be performed with a few finger-click or hand-claps as accompaniment. The result was somewhat different. As the lyrics were being written, many students turned to their iPads for inspiration, and the phrase "There's an app for that" proved itself to be true once again. In the week that Apple announced that there are over 1 million apps available for iPad, it's not surprising really that there are a whole host of useful apps for Rap writers & performers.

The student's creativity shone through, with the support of the right technology to improve the whole process. I can't wait to see what results they come up with next week.

06 October 2013

Orchards Project

Get up early on a Sunday morning, come in to school & spend the day working hard with fellow students from across three year groups. Who would do that? A very enthusiastic and dedicated bunch of students, that's who.
Or maybe they are less 'Student' and more "Learner'. This was one of the concepts we explored as we began the first steps on our new & innovative Orchard Project. The team who are driving this exciting project are: Naomi, Nicolai, Daniel, Farah, Manett, Kelvin, Josh, Mei, Han-Yi, Shunna, Irene, Megan, & Melissa. 
Learner or Student?
The Orchards Project is an innovation being implemented by Apple Distinguished Educators in 3 countries - Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The students involved will become advocates - showcasing, modeling and speaking out with a credible voice - to help schools create and articulate a vision for connected, personalised learning.
The Orchards Project aims to create frameworks which will help schools to effectively engage learners and teacher-learners in an exploration of how technology tools can personalise learning, and how to better design learning experiences and spaces which connect to the lives young people live. This may include:
- working with ADEs within their country to create and publish examples of participatory, production-centred learning
- helping teachers to design learning experiences and spaces which connect to the lives young people live
helping teachers to understand how technology tools can personalise learning working with schools to test the infrastructure requirements necessary to support connected and personalised learning models (network access, appropriate productivity apps, appropriate communication & storage environments, etc).
The KL Orchard Group
There is hope that some members of the Orchard group in each of the three countries will showcase their learning in a live studio at regional conferences this term. For the Singapore Orchard Group this means participating in Learning 2.013; for the Malaysia Orchard Group this involves participating in the FOBISSEA Leadership Conference; and the Thailand Orchard Group will take part in the EARCOS Leadership Conference.

03 July 2013

More Global Connections

The children in Yr2 have been learning about 'Our Wonderful World', and this gave them an ideal opportunity to connect with other children around the world.
When I popped into their class they were chatting with children in a small international school in a very remote part of Russia (on an island in fact). They were able to share stories about their lives and identified the many ways in which they were just the same. Other aspects of our lives were also very different, and the children were all very curious about some of these.

02 July 2013

Our Global Connections

Year 7 have been exploring their digital online lives. We've considered our roles & responsibilities, issues of safety and security, and the concept and importance of our Digital Footprints. Today we looked at hoe technology allows us to easily be connected to our friends and family. The map below shows some of the connections we have around the world.

View Global Connections in a larger map

21 June 2013

Talking Art

For our student led conferences, Yr6 presented their recent Art project with a QR code attached to each piece. I was pleasantly surprised when I scanned one and immediately heard the voice of the artist, explaining the concept, inspiration and style of their work. I like the idea of this being an audio link, as it allows you to immerse yourself in the art as you listen to the description, rather than reading the information yourself. I'll be heading back there later to listen to a few more.

Audioboo was used to record the commentary. 

11 June 2013

Language Teachers Learning Tech

For the last 2 days our MFL teachers have been learning loads of cool techie stuff to use in their lessons. Mr Joe Dale, an expert form UK, has been here at ISP sharing his experiences and knowledge, particularly in the use of iPads. There some great iPad apps for language learning. Expect some exciting stuff in you classrooms soon.

07 June 2013

Tech Consultant

That's me. For just one afternoon I was hired as a consultant by Year 4. They had been producing their own digital guides for their upcoming Art Gallery. The idea is that visitors to their gallery are given an iPad, and they use it to guide them around the gallery, providing them with detailed information about the exhibits. The children have made these in Keynote, complete with photos, videos and audio, all hyperlinked from a contents page. 
The reason they hired me as a consultant, was because many had ideas of what they wanted to achieve, but didn't know how to get Keynote to do it. If this was the case, they made an appointment to see me, by signing up on a sheet, and had to wait for their assigned time. The process was slick and smooth and they all got their problems solved.
During the rest of the time, they were preparing for their exhibition, or having other appointments with their class teachers about other issues.
I thought this was a great model for giving them the responsibility to be more active in seeking support as needed.

19 May 2013

Animoto movie

Just knocked up a quick Animoto of our Yr7 trip to Langkawi. You can make short videos like this for free, but anything over 30 seconds has to be payed for. However, teachers can get free school accounts, so if you want to have a go, ask your teacher.

03 May 2013

Recording a VoiceOver

There are a number of ways to record a VoiceOver into an iMovie. Recently I've seen students record directly into their iPad, using app like Quickvoice, the emailing the file to themselves to drop into their movie. I've also seen students taking MacBooks into a quiet room and recording directly into iMovie (or even using QuickTime or GarageBand). Today, Year 5 were putting a short commentary into a movie and did it directly into the iMac. They found that if you speak quietly, up close to the mic (which is directly above the camera) you can get a good quality recording, even in a room full of busy students.

Want to the best way though? Do it at home on the iPad, sitting on your bed with a blanket over your head. Great sound quality, but you do gat a bit hot!

02 May 2013

Year 1 on iMacs

When Year 1 use technology it is usually through the use of iPads, as well as other mobile devices. Today, one of the Year 1 classes used the iMacs for the first time. They were really excited about their progression to the 'big" computers. I remember when I was teaching in the UK (a long time ago) it was normal to teach kids of this age how to use a mouse. Then gradually we realised that children were starting school already having developed those skills at home. PC use had become so widespread that they were quite familiar with clicking & dragging. However, there now appears to have been a reversal of this trend. Many children of this age no longer have access to a mouse at home. A quick survey this morning revealed that many of the children have access to a laptop, and virtually all have regular use of an iPad. So now the primary device for interacting with a computer is their fingers. As a result, this morning's lesson was more about holding, moving and clicking the mouse.

Incidentally, the photo shows a lovely example of peer support. Four children from another Year 1 class (who had already had a couple of lessons using the iMacs), came along as 'experts', and were busy helping their friends to log on and access the application etc.

30 April 2013

iPad for Research & Presentations

Year 3 have been studying significant children's authors, and today they were looking for information about them. A simple sheet guided their research and the groups carefully searched the Internet for a whole variety of facts.

This information was then used to create a series of slides, in Keynote, to support their feedback to the rest of the class in a mini presentation. I was very impressed with how efficiently they used their iPads. Research skills are very difficult to develop, especially from the wealth of information that's available on the Internet, so small controlled experiences like this are perfect for building this ability.

24 April 2013

Digital Citizenship in the Library

Our students use an online library system called Destiny Quest. As well as looking up books and writing reviews, it also includes a messaging feature. The kids can look up other users and send them a friend-request. Once accepted, that are able to communicate with each other - in theory sharing views on books or making recommendations to their friends. Of course, they could message each other about virtually anything.

Our librarian, Miss Mandy, has used this as the perfect opportunity to introduce the children to the importance of being sensible and politer hen communicating with technology. Within this 'safe' online environment, they can practice using social media in a protected space, which is managed and monitored by the library staff. Hopefully, this will lead to a culture of safe and responsible online use as they grow older.

22 April 2013

QR Codes in Yr4 Maths

Pick a code, stick it in your book & scan it. This reveals a problem that needs to be solved. When it's been solved, pick another. A lovely little introduction to scanning QR codes for these 8 yr olds.

Creating the codes is easy. Our code generator of choice is goqr.me, and our favourite scanner app is simply called Scan.

15 April 2013

Girls & Technology

I received a list today of the Year 9 students who have opted to study the ICT iGCSE course next year. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many girls had decided to take the subject. There has been a great deal of concern over the years about the lack of girls taking ICT, and even the Computer Clubs for Girls organization had little impact. But the girls will make up 60% 66% of our ICT course at ISP, compared to the UK average of around 40%. Maybe the popularity of Computer Engineer Barbie, launched in 2010, has actually made a difference!

12 April 2013

Spanish Lesson

I was in a Spanish lesson this morning and was interested by the activity the students were doing. They've been learning the names for rooms and common features of houses and homes. Their task is to present their learning in any way they like. Around the room students were working in a wide variety of ways, using different methods - some involving technology, some not. In the picture below, two girls are creating a 3D house in SketchUp, which will be labelled and presented in digital form. The other two have gone completely down the hand-made route with drawings, scissors, glue and hand-written labels. I just love seeing lessons where the kids get to choose what tools they use and where they can go with whatever they feel fits best for the task. The technology just becomes another tool to select as needed.

17 March 2013

iPad Art

Our Yr7s have been experimenting with an application called ArtRage to create artwork on their iPads. They started by doing a pencil sketch on paper and them imported this image into ArtRage. They then added colour & texture within the app, with the aid of a stylus. Their Art teacher, Mr Daniel, said "Considering that digital painting is new to the students and they have never used the ArtRage app before, they did exceptionally well!" I have to agree.

15 March 2013

iPads in MFL

I realise this is not necessarily innovative, but here's an example of how technology supports learning in a relatively ordinary & invisible way. I was in an MFL class today, Bahasa Melayu in fact, and noticed how the students would use their iPads to quickly translate odd words that they were unsure of. In the past they might have used a dictionary, which would have involved fetching it from the shelf, flicking through alphabetically and reading the (often) tiny text. Using the iPad just seemed so much quicker and more instinctive for theses kids. They always have them to hand and a were using a number of tools like Google Translate, websites, online dictionaries and a variety of apps. It's a natural and seamless way of finding out some information. It's the simple things sometimes that can make a difference.

14 March 2013

Another Animation

This is the next animated advert to come in from my Yr9s. A cute, simple advert for Stabilo Sharpeners. Turn the volume up to appreciate the cool sound effects.

12 March 2013

Year 9 Animations

After studying the art of animation and the many styles and techniques that can be used, we opted to go for real-life 2D or 3D stop-motion animation. The brief was to make a short advert, promoting a product or service. The Yr9 students used their iPads to shoot their frames, mostly using the free app iMotionHD. Above is an example, made by Amelia, Jacqui and Vy Wien, which was shot and edited completely on the iPad. Pretty good, eh?

07 March 2013

Teachers Geeking-Out

- a dozen great teachers
- heaps of creativity
- a stack of Apple technology
- an endless supply of food & coffee
- piles of energy and enthusiasm
- loads and loads of quality learning

That's how I spent the last 3 days.

28 February 2013

Year 4 Animation

This week Year 4s have been trying their hands at animation. They are working on a top secret story that will be told in next week's assembly. Here's a sneak peak at what they've been up to. This scene is made up of about 400 frames and took about an hour to shoot (no sound track has been added yet). Lots of concentration, creative ideas, trial & error and patience was needed. They've only got a few more days to shoot the remaining scenes and edit them together.  Good luck Yr4!

27 February 2013

Movie Making Club

We looked at the concept of shooting and editing for continuity today. We looked at some examples of using multiple shots to show a sequence, and the importance of accurate editing to create the illusion that it's all happening as a single event.

The challenge was to shoot a sequence of 5 shots and edit them. The end results were really good - for first timers. Here's an example...

Mad about Maths

Entering my classroom this morning for registration, this is what I saw. Most of the class were huddled together with their iPads getting quite excited. Was it YouTube or Modern Combat that had them so engrossed? No, it was Maths. Yes, Maths!

They are all signed up for World Maths Day, and what better way to practice number skills - competing against each other and other students around the world...on an iPad...for fun :-)

25 February 2013

Paperless Classroom

For the first time in Digital Studies, since we started in September, we have used paper. And in two year groups as well.

Year 7 have done some work on Film Language and understanding the way different types of shots are combined to tell a story, while Year 9 are shooting short animated adverts. The planning stages for these involved creating storyboards. By far the easiest way to do this is on paper, so off to the photocopier I went, realising that this was the first time I'd copied anything for any of my classes. Although technology has largely replaced paper in my lessons, there are times when it's the right tool for the job.

Some groups even went on to produce paper-based animations as well. They're already taking shape so I'll share some when they're ready.

24 February 2013

Writing on the Wall

In Yr7 we used a tool called Padlet to gather some ideas on being International Students. This used to be called WallWisher and I've used it many times in the past with different year groups. I guess the reason they changed the name was that it's now iPad compatible, which of course makes it infinitely more useable at ISP.

Just go to the website, padlet.com, and start a wall. You can add sticky notes to it, with tect or images, and it's easy to invite others to join in. I'm sure many of our teachers will find some highly creative uses for it.

21 February 2013

How secure is your password?

In our parent Tech Chat meeting we discussed passwords and how we may be relying too much on a system that is far from secure. A recent study revealed that 17% of Europeans have been victims of identity fraud, which usually involves stealing personal information from online accounts. As more and more of our personal data is stored or shared online, having a secure password is our first line of defense. So what makes a secure password?

We are often advised to create a password with at least 8 digits. This should contain a variety of numbers & letters. However, a modern computer is capable of crunching through every possible combination in a surprisingly short time. See the examples below, along with the time it would take a computer to find that combination:

8 numbers, eg 82630471 can be found in 0.025 seconds.
8 letters, eg pajdyebf could take just 52 seconds.
8 numbers + letters + capitals eg 29gh6R3T increases the time to 15 hours.

Still think that's too risky? Then add some symbols as well...
eg WH@tt1tw to provide 3 days of security.

To make it even harder, just add more digits. For example, go up to 10 and it should take a hacker 58 years to crack.

Other advise:
- Use a different password for all critical wed services, eg bank accounts, email accounts & social media.
- Use a digital vault like 1Password to securely store your passwords.
- Activate additional security measures, like Google's two-factor authentication.
- For so-called 'security questions' don't use your mothers real maiden name - make one up. Better still, give a false answer to every one of those questions. You'll never remember them, so use the same answer no matter what the question.

The chances are that at some point, one of your online accounts will experience a random cyber attack. But if you make access difficult, the threat will move on very quickly to find an easier target. And you'll never know about it.

17 February 2013

Online Discussions

With our International Week coming up fast, some of our classes have been thinking about what it means to be International Students.

To facilitate this discussion, Year 6 decided to use a Forum on Schoology, where students can express and share their views with their peers. A discussion forum allows everyone to have a voice and is particularly good for those kids who don't like speaking up in class. Students can also respond to what others have said - agreeing or disagreeing with statements or ideas. This provides an ideal opportunity to practice being good digital citizens - using technology to contribute appropriately and responsibly.

Having read through the comments, I'm impressed by the way Yr6 have responded to the question What does it mean to be 'International'? I wonder if we would see so many thoughtful ideas coming out if this was just talked about in class, or written on paper.

14 February 2013

Pimp Your Browser

I've been asked to provide details of our Parent Tech Chat meetings for those who couldn't make it. So here's a brief summary of what we shared at the first event.

We looked at the way browsers have evolved in recent years and how they have become more powerful and central to so much of our technology use. They now connect us to so many essential services and may of us use a browser many times a day to access email, Facebook, our calendar, pay bills, watch TV or videos, listen to music,

It's often useful to start by looking back at how life used to be, and we're often surprised by how rapidly technology has changed. For our quick history lesson we saw that the first ever browser was invented in 1990. Many of us remembered Netscape that arrived in 1994, closely followed by Internet Explorer in 1995. Microsoft's dominance (which at one point claimed over 90% penetration), was challenged in 2003 and 2004 with the introduction of Safari & Firefox. Finally, Google's Chrome browser came along and has rapidly taken the lead in the Browser Wars.
Image: http://basecamp.com/help/guides/account/browser-requirements

So why should we want to Pimp Your Browser? Well think of buying a new car. You'll probably want to change it a bit, to make it work better for you. You'll make simple adjustments to the seat position, steering wheel and mirrors, use a cushion or add child seats. Or make more substantial changes - adding tints, GPS, leather seats, a bike-rack. All the things that will improve your experience and to fit your personal needs.

There are numerous ways you can tweak your browser to make it work better for you. Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Use tabs. Open new tabs for new sites so you can easily switch between them.
- For pages that you use daily, set them to open automatically when you open your browser.
- Chrome has a nice feature to 'pin tabs' so they always stay there - useful if you use webmail etc.
- Your browser may have the option to remember the sites you have open when you close down. They magically appear next time you switch on.
- Make an effort to organise your Bookmarks (or Favourites). Use the Bookmarks Bar for the most frequent sites you visit. Use folders to group them in categories.
- Choose a better homepage. You don't need to see the Dell or Apple website each time you start.
- Install web apps. Easy access to sites, apps and even games that run in your browser.
- Install extensions. Useful little tools that do a variety useful little jobs. Some favourites include YouTube Options, AdBlock Plus, Clearly and Hola.
- Other extensions link directly to other products that you use, like 1Password, Pocket, Google Drive, Evernote etc.
- Sync your bookmarks & preferences across devices. By logging into a browser you can mirror your settings between the computers that you use.
- Customise the tools along the top toolbar. Remove unwanted buttons & add more useful ones.

These are some of the things you can do. To find out how to do them, either poke around in the menus at the top, look in Preferences or Settings, or better still just Google your question.

Remember, with most modern browsers, you can type your search directly into the address box (if you have a separate search box, you may need to update your browser). And there's no need to start web addresses with www. anymore. Browsers can now work that bit out for themselves.

Note: not all browsers support all of these features. Everything mentioned above can be done in Chrome. Others like IE, Safari & Firefox each have other unique features.

Have a play around with your browser & see how you can make your internet experiences more streamline & user-friendly.

Long Distance Learning

Year 2 have been doing lots of learning based on the subject of 'Toys'. They wanted to know an=bout some of the toys that children played with in the past.  In their search for 'experts' they contacted Annabel's grandmother. She could remember lots about the toys she played with when she was young, and as she's in her 70s, that was a very long time ago.

Using the amazing power of Skype, she was not only able to tell the children what she remembered, but she even showed them old fashioned toys that she had kept from her childhood. The children were also able to ask questions that they had planned beforehand.

What a great example of using technology to connect children to learning opportunities far beyond the confines of the classroom. 

13 February 2013

Tech Chat

I recently held the first Tech Chat for parents at ISP. This is an informal gathering of parents who want to learn more about technology, discuss their need & concerns, share their experiences, and discover how to make the most of technology for themselves & their children.

We kicked off by exploring the many features of modern browsers and how they can be customised to make your internet experiences so much better or more efficient. We looked at using tabs, web apps, extensions, bookmarks and tweaking some of the most useful settings.

Attendance was good, participation & enthusiasm was great, and feedback was very encouraging, The next session will be on 14th Feb and will feature a brief introduction to Passwords.

10 February 2013

A New Year Begins

This week we've been celebrating the coming of a New Year - the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. This is a time when Chinese families gather together, often travelling great distances to join the reunion. Although SMS, Skype & FaceTime allow us to remain in easy contact throughout the year, technology can't always replace real face to face meetings.

But even when we're together, technology plays an important role in our celebrations. Video clips and photos are regularly taken and shared with ease. There are currently over 1 billion smartphone users worldwide, meaning documenting events is so much easier. Well over 1 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with an astonishing 1.1 billion uploads on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

I won't be uploading that many images, but it is my plan to update this blog on a regular basis, with info on what's going on in school, for example, how technology is being used and the amazing things our students and teachers are doing. Subscribe if you don't want to miss anything.