Saturday, May 25, 2013

Creating Stories - Making eBooks

Some students really struggle with narrative writing. Some struggle with writing in general. 

This week I began working with a class to create some interest around writing stories. We used technology to help us create our own picture books. Some students chose to find and use pictures from the Internet. Some choose to draw their pictures using the Doodle Buddy App. Some used Tux Paint (on the computers). Some even created their characters using a Minecraft Skin creator ( Once pictures and plans were created, we used Book Creator to compile and write the story.
This particular class is often unmotivated to work but once we introduced this innovative way to write a story, the attitude changed ten-fold! We found almost everyone of the students in this class were/are engaged throughout this writing process.

Not perfect!

These stories are certainly not going to be perfect narratives but this was an excellent way we could get them to buy-in to the writing process and begin to show some interest. From here, we plan to take it a step further and create some success criteria for writing a story. At that point, we can work on improving their writing.


The Process

The students were to plan their story with your typical mind-map style graphic organizer. Then they worked on planning the sequence of events. Once these were completed they started working on the making and compiling part.

Doodle buddy - Those that chose this app, drew their pictures then saved to the camera roll. The images could then be imported into Book Creator.

Tux Paint - Those that chose Tux Paint on the computer would draw their pictures in Tux Paint,  then export the image to their Google Drive, then - A fairly easy process once you've done it a couple of times. 

Minecraft Skin creator - These students created their [Minecraft looking] character then took a screen-shot of the finished person. They then uploaded to their Google drive, logged into Google drive on the iPad and then imported into Book Creator. There was also an option to then import Minecraft character into Doodle buddy to add more details or accessories to their character.

The interesting thing about using this website was that a lot of students who decided to find and copy their characters from Google changed their mind and began creating/making their own characters. What an amazing way to utilize a 'gaming' website.

The books are still a work in progress so will try to post more pictures as we go.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Connecting to Air Server

I've been wanting to mirror my iPad and those of students' for a long time. I have always thought it wasn't possible in our system due to our iPads and Laptops being on different networks.

As of today, I have got it to work and am now in a testing phase to see how successful we can make this.

It's not 100% foolproof but will work better than connecting via a cable. This is how I'm trying to connect the iPads in our school to Air Server for Mac. I downloaded the free trial for Air Server. I will try to test it rigorously before purchases the $11 license.

  1. First of all you need to have the iPad and the computer connected together. This can be either through the same network (not possible for us) or share an internet connection. I tried both connecting my MacBook Pro to ethernet cable (blue cable) and also through wireless. For this example I used wireless as most of us would not be near a network port when doing this.
  2. This screen shot shows how I shared the internet connection (the tricky part is being able to do this - You need administration privileges to start this process).
  3. Next, I connected the iPad to my laptop through bluetooth. These are the messages you recieve in order to pair the two devices.
  4.  Mirroring the iPad - Next is the fun part and true test to see if it works.
Today I also had to students successfully connect to my computer to share their work. This opens up so many doors for collaborations and reflection.

I have a couple of questions to try and figure out before we purchase the licence.
  • Is this going to be OK with our School Tech Support department? Will they be happy with the iPad sharing the Macbook Pro connection.
  • Is the connection going to work for long periods of time?
    I also have a few good points that I've thought about too.

    • This will be very cost effective if we get it working. It will cost about $12 for 3 computers. That would be we could get approximately 25 licences for the price of 1 Apple TV.
    • Students will only connect to share and then they can turn back to their CBE LAWN (iPad, students and BYOD network).
    • The wireless options allows us to utilize it where the SmartBoard is and it still works
    • To save any connection issues, we can try to connect on a 'need to' basis. This will help with timing out connections, hopefully.
    I would love any feedback about this post. Especially if you've tried this in any other ways.


    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Hear it from the classroom!


    This post is wordy - Much more wordy that I usually write, but well worth the read, I HOPE!

    Lately, I've really noticed a lot of interest from teachers that are just getting into using iPads in their classrooms or have them in their school and are wondering how they might use them.

    I have been showing how we use them in our school and most of those projects have had me helping in the classroom or learning commons. However, some might say, "that's all and good but you're non-classroom based and it's easier when there is more help". I must admit this is true, but in our building a major part of my role is a learning coach for teachers (in an informal way). I help teachers integrate many technology applications into their students' learning tasks.

    So, to keep it real and to also speak to the power that the iPad has for learning, I have asked our classroom teachers to comment on their experiences with using iPads for learning:

    Grade 1-2 

    My grade 1/2 class has not only had the pleasure of having access to multiple iPads but we are also fortunate to have a technology expert in our building who has helped us to maximize our time using them. We have found that using iPads in a small group work makes for an optimal learning environment. For the most part, students are able to navigate educational apps with little coaching from an adult . We began with a simple app called “Skitch” that allows the student to take a photo and then make a labelled diagram, ie. body parts, parts of a plant, etc. We also used the iPads for making short swimming videos that we shared with parents at interview time and then the kids created stories using Comic Life and Book Creator. The iPads are much easier for the younger children to use than the laptops and the interest and excitement surrounding them is always high. Introducing this type of technology at such a young age has helped our students represent their learning in a dynamic, innovative way.


    While the Kindergarten students first viewed the iPads as a tool to play games, they have quickly realized that they can also be used in various ways to demonstrate their learning. We have had the opportunity to use the iPads on a fairly regular basis. Lucky for us, we have an iPad “expert” (Mr. Steve Clark), who has supported me with finding new ways to use these in the classroom. We have used the iPads for various activities with individual students, small groups and whole class learning. Some of the apps that we have found most useful for this age level are Comic Life; which we used back in September to take photos of ourselves and type our name, Book Creator; in which we created a class book focusing on the season of Spring, Skitch; where students had the opportunity to take a picture of themselves and label their body parts, and Doceri, a recordable whiteboard app, which we used with our Grade 6 buddies to draw and label different parts of a plant. We also used Aurasma to showcase videos of the Kindergarten students swimming and the parents were able to view these during interview time. Needless to say, the parents were most impressed not only with seeing their child swimming but also that their child was using an iPad at school. The students are always very excited to use the iPads and I am thrilled that they now view them as something they can use to demonstrate their learning rather than just for playing Angry Birds!

    Grade 5 & 6 

    I teach grade 5/6 and have used the iPads for various activities. So far, my classes favourite and most useful activity was using Doceri for doing self-assessments and peer-assessments on some opinion writing that we did. The students were able to help themselves and each other made adjustments to their work so they could have the best final product that she can!

    Grade 5 & 6 

    Hesitation. Excitement. Steep learning curve. Defending this tool amongst skepticism of its application to education. Battling the gaming mindset. Researching apps. Filtering these said apps. Controlling the flurry of ideas. Troubleshooting glitches and misunderstandings. Experimenting and collaborating alongside my students in order to maximize their educational potential. Repeat.
        I have been through the above cycle many times in the year we have had iPads at Marlborough School. Despite the step I am going through in this cycle, two constants remain – that students are engaged and motivated in their learning. They are invested in communicating their understanding, they are eager to continue delving deeper into the subject matter and they continue to amaze me with their proficiency in using this tool to expand their inquiring minds.
        My personal journey to believing in the educational necessity of devices in the classroom was not always easy. The primary concern I had constantly lurking in the background, was time. How much more time can I squeeze out of our day to devote to learning this tool, experimenting, playing and finally applying their understanding to communicate the curriculum outcomes? What else do I have to give up to provide adequate exposure to each application? These were concerns I had to wrestle with and eventually let go of due to the positive feedback I received from my students in their ability to accurately prove their understanding to me. No longer were they regurgitating a series of outcomes, turning to me for feedback and affirmation of their success or failure, or completing a project to simply ‘get it done’. Students now have access to a multitude of ways to inquire, collaborate and prove their understanding.
        What I’ve come to realize throughout my uphill battle or success story is that it’s not about sacrificing precious time but investing in the the time now with the digital natives we have before us.

    Grade 5 & 6 

    I admit to being a bit of a technophobe. I get easily frustrated with technology when it does not work (which is all the time) and wonder if we are using our brains less because we have "an app for that." Well, this year I've been converted. The main reason for this is that I like to push my students to be creative when they show their thinking, and ipads allow me to see more of my students' creativity than when they use pen and paper. My students use animation apps to demonstrate what they understand about the properties of air, for example, and each animation has an original twist to it even though they are about the same topic. Even reading is made more creative with this technology. In my classroom, I record students reading and then file it in their own folder in the ipad. Other students can then listen to their classmates reading and comment on what they should be working on and what they have improved on. The comments they make are specific and creative, I think, because students are working with concrete data. This former technophobe can't deny that ipads have provided each of my students with a tool to be creative and represent their thinking in an original way.

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Exporting an ePub from iPad to computer

    This a video tutorial of how we export our Book Creator App ebooks from our iPads to a computer.

    If you watch this and it makes sense, let me know. If it doesn't make sense, let me know too :)

    Step 1: Exporting the book to iTunes on the iPad.

    Step 2: Copying ePub files from iTunes on your computer to another folder on your computer.

    Augmented Book 'Reviews'

    Augmented reality keeps blowing people's mind. Every time I show the things we do with Aurasma and QR Codes, people can not believe what they see. The concept of augmented reality is really quite simple (in idea anyway). It simply layers images/videos over a 2D image. In Aurasma, the trigger image essentially acts like a barcode.

    This project was mostly conducted on Macbook Pros and iMacs as the students created videos using iMovie Trailers. We decided we wanted to look at book reviews/reading response in another way. I saw a tweet on Twitter where someone was showing their book trailers in iMovie. I wanted to step it up and make book trailers and then attach them to a book cover so other's could see what that student thought of that particular book.

    Planning the Trailer
    First, students had to plan their trailer. This proved very difficult as these grade 4s had not used iMovie before and did not have a clue how it worked or what was involved. In the end, we scrapped the on-paper plan and just started building the iMovie project. This gave the students an idea what was required in iMovie.

    We didn't actually make any crieteria until our first couple of groups were "finished" their first edit. The reson for this was that the students didn't know what a good trailer would consist of. We looked at a couple professionally made animated movie trailers and discussed what made them awesome. From there we made a checklist then went on to building a rubric.
    Target Rubric - Succes Criteria for our Book Trailers

    Co-created checklist of how professional movie trailer are made
    Students then went through and peer assessed each other's work. The feedback each student was important as they would base their editing on the feedback they were given. We developed a timeline of events so students knew the process that was required to finish their final trailer.

    The Self Assessment, Peer Assessment and Feedback loops timeline

    The Finished Product
    Here is an example of the finished trailers using the Aurasma App. 

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Questions and Comments for Inclusive Learning Sharing

    Tweet Steve at: @SteveWClark

    I will leave this post up for anyone interested in asking questions about this blog or the learning we showcase that we have completed on iPads in our school. Feel free to add a comment, question and your email (if you wish) so we can continue the conversation!
    Use this QR Code to link to the blog on your iPad or Phone

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Real Math, Real Shapes

    On Fridays in our Kindergarten class, we have our two classes (AM and PM) join together for the morning. It can be an intense time with 30 kinders all in the same small room.

    To help alleviate the pressure on everyone in the room, I help with centre time. I usually try to do something on the iPads but sometimes struggle as we only have centre time for 45 minutes at the most.

    This week I tried something that would hopefully take 45 mins at the most.

    We wanted the kinders to relate 2 dimensional shapes with real world objects. To do this we used three apps; The camera app, PicCollage App and Doodle Buddy App.

    Drawing in Doodle Buddy
    First, the students drew a shape in the Doodle Buddy App. We kept this simple to save time. Once finished they exported their drawing to the camera roll.

    Taking pictures of Real World Shapes
    Students then found an object that matched their chosen shape and took a picture of it.

    Putting it all together in Pic Collage
    Inserting images and text into PicCollage is an easy process. The students mastered this within a couple of minutes. We used a word list for the shape names each student needed.

    Exporting from the PicCollage App
    The usual export button (the box with the arrow popping out) is the important button in this app for exporting the Pic Collage to the camera roll. See the images below to see what it should look like. 


    The Finished Pieces
    Approximately 30 minutes later, this is what the students had produced. AWESOME!

    Easy eBooks - Book Creator App

    We discovered Book Creator App a couple of months ago and since then it's really catching on as a great option for creating beautiful looking ePub Books. We currently have a few different grades doing projects with this App.

    This particular project is a grade 1-2 class who are writing their own books inspired by Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

    The Process

    Pictures of puppets: 
    The students took photos of their puppets in the pose they wanted. For the most part this was an easy task but we sometimes needed to talk about how to take good pictures using an iPad. We are finding that our students have improved so much with their iPad picture taking skills. As it often does, practice makes almost perfect!

    Inserting Pictures: 
    The Book Creator App just underwent a fairly major update and it changed the way that pictures can be inserted into books. Previously, we had to take all the pictures in the camera app and then insert them. Now, users can insert them directly from the app by taking pictures on the go. 

    We had the students inserting all the pictures into the book first before they entered any voice, or text. I think this strategy helped develop the framework of the book so the students could see how much they had completed and how much was left to do.


    Entering Text:
    We then entered text using our collection of words we had previously written on sheets of paper. These sheets of paper were scattered over the desks and students were encouraged to find the words themselves. Some students required the base sentences written down as a guide.
    _____ ______ WHAT DO YOU SEE?
    I SEE A _______ LOOKING AT ME.
    I wrote these in capital letters as some of our emergent writers had trouble locating letters on keyboard as they are upper case on most keyboards.


    Recording Voice-Over:
    The voice over recording was the most exciting part. Students loved recording their own voice and doing so with expression. Once finished, students listened through their recordings to see if they wanted/needed to edit anything.

    Exporting to iTunes/iBooks:
    As always, the important when working on iPads is taking the work off the device. Book Creator allows you to share books by opening them in another ePub friendly app such as iBooks or Kobo. The other option for exporting the book is to Send it to iTunes (see image below). This worked best for us as I manage the iPads and it was easy enough to move a copy of the book (PDF and ePub) to a computer. Once off the iPad you can share with other people or put it on the classroom iPad as a reading activity. 
    This shows the export window and the options of 'Send to iTunes' or  'Open in Another App'.

    Here is an example of a published book in action. Please note: this example was from a kindergarten project using the same App.

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Collaborative Research, QRCodes & Google Docs

    One way we have experimented in using the new CBE GAFE (Google Apps For Education) Google docs was to create a Google form to collate the collective research efforts of an entire class. This way, we could collaborate to gather a lot of information (about Ancient Greece). 

    Students who researched online would just open another tab or separate web page to access the Google form. For those who were using text books and other non-fiction books from our learning commons, we assigned a QR code to the form and students opened the form using a QR reader on the iPad. This allowed then fast access to the Form so they could easily enter their information like everybody else.

    Like I have mentioned before, we use the QRafter app for our iPads but there are many free QR readers for iPads and other other mobile devices. A bonus to the app would be the ability to create QR codes too - In my experience, this is usually a paid feature or upgrade.

    The form was a simple way to collate information that the students gathered. We used a drop-down choice for the research category so we could easily sort the information afterward. After the information was gathered students then used the collaborated information to create their own project of choice about democracy in Ancient Athens.

    Below is the collated information we collected:

    Finding Text Features and Explaining

    Doceri is a screen recording App that allows the user to take pictures and then discuss or explain their understanding of what the picture is about.

    In this class we used Doceri to explain our understanding about text features in non-fiction books. Students took pictures of the text feature and then explained what they thought/knew about that particular text feature.

    Doceri seems to be a little tricky to use to start with. The navigation of the App is a little tricky to follow. However, once used to it, the App itself is incredibly powerful as it has the ability to post/share on screen using a computer and projector. So far we have only used it on the iPad and then exported it to the Camera Roll to take it off the iPad.

    The idea behind this project was to gather a a collection of explanations of different text features and then share them with each other by posting their explanation on their class blog. The posts should soon be created  and posted in which I will link to from this blog post. Here is one example of what these Grade 4 and 5 students made using Doceri.