Tuesday, 28 March 2017


Today I want to share with you another great little app for ipads and iphones.  This one is called Snapguide.

This app allows you to make a set of instructions, step by step, using photos and short videos (using videos which are under 1 minute). It seems to be popular for making little recipe instructions or DIY projects but I think it would also be perfect for using in class to give instructions to your learners.  Having your instructions recorded allows you the freedom that flipped learning gives you.  Your learners can access the instructions 24/7 and at the time that suits their programme.

The guides are public once you have published them so be aware that anyone can see your guides. However, as a method of getting instructions to your students, they look clean and are easy to prepare.  It would be easy to embed them into your class blog or get them directly to your learners using email or Google Classroom.
Here is one example of a Snapguide.
Check out How to Set Up a Microscope by Colin Grandgenett on Snapguide.

As well as the set of step by step instructions, there is a "Supplies" page in each Snapguide which allows you to tell the students what equipment, devices, and other necessities are needed.

You can also use a web version to make a Snapguide but the web version does not currently have the ability to add videos, like the ipad or iphone has. Get started by creating an account.
Here is a quick guide from me to using Snapguide on your phone or ipad.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Using Adobe Spark Video

Another tool that I learned about when investigating tools for oral language development was Adobe Spark for use on laptops, Chromebooks or ipads.  You are given three options  when you sign in - Post, Page or Video, as shown here: -
 Each has its own great features but I am just going to focus on the Video function in this post.

This free tool allows you to add images, icons, text and also your own short videos to your slides.  The images and icons can be those which you search for, from within the app, or you can use your own. You can then talk for up to 10 seconds about each of the slides,  (default is 2 secs but it will change as you talk) thereby making a video, recording your voice as you narrate through each of the slides.  You can also add music to your video from within the app or upload your own background music, and change the duration that each slide is shown.
When you are ready, you can download your video as an mp4 and share that to whomever you wish to, or share your video to the world through a web-link.
For learners who find it hard to start, there are some excellent templates and examples to be used.  I think this application would be awesome for young learners, who are growing their oral language skills.  Talking about their artwork is a great place to start.
I can see a lot of other applications for older learners as well, including making a "call to action" if you want your learners to become involved in a special project, or sharing findings from a field trip or science project.  Or to prepare your learners for speeches.  Let them practice away through their visual prompts.
If you use the media search to find images or music, the credits will automatically be included, which gives learners a great opportunity to talk about digital citizenship as well.
Providing guidelines for your learners may be really useful, for example, providing structure to the task through limiting the number of slides, or the total time for the video and asking for a certain number of key points, or certain vocabulary to be used.  Limited to your imagination!
Here is a short video that I made demonstrating the use.

Try the online or the ipad app soon to help develop oral language.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Flipgrid - a very useful tool for learning.

I discovered Flipgrid recently when I was looking for tools to support oral language development.  I cannot remember where I found it, maybe just in a regular search, but this tool has been a hit for a number of teachers.  Here is the promo video that can be found on the website.
Flipgrid is a tool that allows you to ask a question on line.  You sign up for a free account and formulate your question.  Your question generates a code which your students can use to give up to 90 second answers on video, and all answers remain on that one grid.
You can allow your students to see others responses or just their own - lots of privacy features.
Image from Flipgrid website.

The video platform breaks down the barriers that shy students have when talking to others and their teachers, and allows us to observe and assess oral language that we would otherwise not be able to.
In addition, more than one person can orally answer one question which is just not possible in a class of 30 or indeed any number more than 1. Of course, you can also break down classroom walls by inviting answers from outside your class.  So this tool is really future focused.
The application can be used between learners, classes, between teachers, and opens up many possibilities of asking wider community opinion, including feedback from parents.  You can use the web interface or the app on your ipad, iphone or android phone making it ideal to use for older students as well.
You can make one grid at a time on the free version so you have to delete your old grid when you are done but for $65 (US dollars equivalent to around $NZ92) per year you can make unlimited grids and do a lot more besides.  See this comparison for the upgraded classroom version.  The free version also gives a transcription of the video response (not 100% accurate but pretty good).  You can share and embed your Flipgrids but remember that once you have deleted the flipgrid to make another that the sharing links will not work any more.
When I trialled it, 90 seconds seemed like ample time for an oral answer.  The paid version also allows you to reply to a video in a new discussion.  I think I would be very tempted to buy the full version if I were a classroom teacher.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Google Keep Now Integrated with Google Docs

Google Keep has been one of my favourite productivity apps since its inception.  Now Google have integrated it with Google Docs so you can bring a Keep note into your g-docs and vice versa - you can bring a g-doc into your Keep notes.  This 5 min video runs through just some of the functionality of the app.  If you are just doing a shopping list or trying to coordinate a project for work, it is fabulous.  One of my favourite features is the ability to add a place to the note so that when you arrive at the place, the note will show up straight away on your phone to remind you.  Have a play.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Teachers Who Fall Through The Cracks

Check out your twitter feed, or the VLN (Virtual Learning Network) or whatever personal network you are part of and observe the incredibly inspiring conversations around teaching and learning.  From project based learning to innovative learning environments, from coding and robotics universal design for learning to future focused collaboration, from flipped learning to crowdsourcing resources. The list goes on.
  It is easy to believe in the evidence of a revolution changing our outmoded industrial model of education into one that is responsive to learners needs, and truly is future focused.  We are urged at every step to look out for those learners who might fall through the gaps. Who is failing the national standards, who needs extra supports, who could do with a little boost to their fragile understandings?And teachers all over the world are responding to the evidence that they see in their classrooms in the best ways that they know how.
But what about teachers who are falling through the gaps?  Most teachers have jumped on board the train, and are beginning to understand the need for being a lifelong learner so that their students will achieve the best outcomes that they can.  But there is a silent faction of underachievers in the teaching profession as well.  They are afraid of being shown up, after an age of being the one that their learners and parents look to.  They are represented in all age brackets, but they all lie low when professional development opportunities arise.  They cover up their lack of understanding by remaining silent, not asking questions, and keeping any conversation about their learners to a minimum, or alternatively restricting discussion to that of the behaviour of their learners.  They are afraid that teachers will think less of them if they answer "I don't know."  They present as a blank wall.
I don't identify these teachers to shame them.  I identify them to say, I know you exist, I know you feel afraid, I know it pains you to feel inadequate, but now is the time to step forward and say - "this is me."  EVERY teacher is a learner at the moment.  There is so much to learn, so much at stake, so little time in a year when you can make a difference to your students.  Stand up and identify yourself as a learner, too. As soon as you start asking questions, you will find yourself part of the most interesting conversations on earth - what does the future hold, how can we prepare the young for it, what skills and attitudes will they need and how can I be a part of it?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Changing the way that Parents see Education

One of the most popular schools that I have worked in, prepares its students for exams.  Yes, that is their self-confessed way of working.  And their parents love it.  They see their offspring getting as good a qualification that they can get.  Their children are taught how to memorize and get good marks in exams.  They wear uniforms and all look the same and get treated the same.

And therein lies a big problem for educators because we see our job as educating the students for the future.  Bernadine Oliver - Kirby has written an opinion piece about modern learning environments that has provoked many an educator to writing a response, rebutting her claims.    I am not going into this in depth because it has already been done well by Claire Amos and Maurie Abraham from Hobsonville Point Secondary School, but the issue is a trying one for educators.

Just how do we convince our communities that we are professionals, with the best interests of their children at heart?  It is a tricky one because politics and politicians are agin us for a start.  We have National Standards and NCEA drumming on the doors at every turn, because the government has chosen these ways to measure how successful schools are and, now, again, possibly how much a teacher should be paid.

Sadly, I heard Toni Street and Mike Hosking last night reinforcing the idea that you can give performance pay to teachers, despite very valid arguments from a number of educators, on their show, arguing to the contrary.  They listened to the arguments, said they were good arguments, and then said that they still believed in the concept.  What does it take?  They said that you could measure performance on how much progress the student had made.  Really.  Are we measuring this "progress" by NZQA and National Standards, by any chance?

So you see the popular media are agin us as well.  (Gosh, I hope I am not sounding all Trumpesque.)

So again I say, look to the future to find out what paid work will look like.  Are your children well prepared to be able to use technology to do survive in this world?  Are they well prepared to communicate, collaborate, connect, think critically, create,  and are they culturally competent to be able to respect and interact with people of other cultures?

If you do want to look to the past, ask this of yourself - what did you learn that still has an impact on you and how did you learn it?  Chances are that you were given choice and time to inquire into something that interested you.

And just in case you doubt that linear pathways to qualifications will not be going away soon, check out Sue Suckling, chair of NZQA on the future of education. (Courtesy of Morgan Ngata's youtube).

Education may not have progressed much while you were at school.  It pretty much stayed the same for 150 years.  But don't let that colour your view of the value of changing and what it will be in the future.  And, by the way, it doesn't matter if you lie on the floor for writing practice.  You don't have to learn to do pretty writing in straight lines any more.  We have computers for that.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Making Screencasts Using the Screencastify Extension

Great for making little instructional videos for you learners, or for your learners to make videos explaining their work on the laptop - the Screencastify extension.