Bringing Geography to Life with Google Maps & Skitch

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There are times where a chance remark can lead to amazing learning outcomes. The use of Google Maps and Skitch in Year 2 and 3 Geography was one of those occasions …

A conversation about mapping skills led to a suggestion that we take a risk, and see if we could integrate Google Maps (which I know and love) and Skitch (which I’d never used with students) into my colleagues’ Geography unit. We soon had four excited teachers, and some incredibly excited students, learning about “bird’s eye view”, “street view”, voice navigation, and labelling maps with Skitch.

We gave a brief demonstration of how to use Google Maps (looking up our school), and then let students play – looking for their homes and local neighbourhoods. They loved the Voice Search feature, although some soon realised they didn’t actually know their home address … ! Others were a little frustrated that Google apparently didn’t understand them! We also encouraged them to explore Google Street View, and the photos that people upload to Google Maps and Earth.

We then asked students to take screenshots of the map, and gave them a basic introduction to the Skitch annotation tools. In Year 2, students annotated maps of their homes and neighbourhoods. In Year 3, students explored, and annotated photos of the natural and built environments in Papua New Guinea. These are some of the results! (Note: some slight edits / cropping to remove street names).

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Exploring Papua New Guinea

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Lily & Ilaria 3B

 

Next Steps

We were blown away by how quickly our young students learned how to use Google Maps and Skitch, and just how powerful a tool it can be for teaching Geography concepts. We will definitely use it more extensively in the coming school year, possibly in Maths (directions), Science, and Geography.

Please share how you use Google Maps and Skitch in your classes in the comments below!

Teaching, Learning, and Publishing with the @BookCreatorApp!

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Last year, working in a new ICT coaching role, I was determined to introduce our Early Childhood teachers to just a handful of creative iPad apps which they could use across a range of learning areas. We started with Adobe Voice, moving on to Pic Collage, Skitch (in Year 3), and Book Creator.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Book Creator – it is an integral part of my new iPad Creative Challenge workshop, which I took to ISTE 2015. I am also lucky enough to be a Book Creator Ambassador, helping to inform its future development.

Over the course of the year, we experimented with the different features of the Book Creator app at a variety of year levels. In Year 1, we used it at the start of the year for Online Safety activities, where students drew pictures of safe online behaviours, and made audio recordings of their learning. I blogged about this in April 2015. As the year progressed, our students and teachers learned how to import photos and videos, how to draw their own illustrations, and make use of the brand new comic book formats!

In Year 1 (Term 4), students worked in pairs to create a Book Creator page showcasing their favourite season, typing a sentence about why they liked it. They uploaded their creations as PDFs to Dropbox, renaming the files with their names for easy identification (and adding their first name to the page). Their teachers then printed them off for classroom display.

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In Year 2, students used the latest (comic strip) version of Book Creator to share their learning with BeeBots. They imported photos, videos, and made (some rather entertaining) audio recordings. I am planning to write another post on this, so I’ll only share a few pictures and one video here!

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In Year 3, one of our best, although somewhat time consuming activities, was a writing project, where students retold a fable and drew the illustrations in Book Creator. It took a little longer than we’d expected, and not everyone finished; however, I think the results are well worth sharing! Click on the links to download as PDF.

 Knights VS Dragons Abe m

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The unlucky penny Maggie

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Looking Ahead

2015 was very much an experimental year for our Early Childhood teachers and students. Now that most of our students are familiar with the use of Book Creator, I am confident that they will continue to surprise us with their creative works and book publishing in the coming year!

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Book Creator, please see The iPad Creative Challenge wikispace.

Establishing a Student Digital Leaders Program

At the start of the 2015 school year, I began working with two wonderful Year 6 students, who were appointed as our inaugural Digital Captains. Every week, for almost 9 months, we met for 30-40 minutes on Thursday mornings.

We didn’t have a formal structure per se, but over time, the girls helped define their role – learning how to blog; road-testing our new technologies (MakeyMakey and the Dash robot); and creating their amazing robot fashion show for our Open Night in Term 3. Towards the end of the year, they played a key role in running our lunchtime makerspace sessions, helping introduce our younger students to our emerging collection of robots!

In 2016, we will have four Digital Captains, voted for by their peers and teachers from a group of some 30(!) candidates! The program will definitely evolve next year, as I’d like the girls’ role to be more visible within the school, including presenting at school assemblies, and participating in robotics/ICT competitions. They will, no doubt, be involved in our makerspace program – where I am hoping to collaborate with our school librarian to run coding and design challenges.

In closing, I’d like to sincerely thank our inaugural Digital Captains for their patience, commitment, and sheer creativity. Girls; you helped pioneer what it means to be a Digital Captain at IPS. While there were many things I didn’t have time to teach you, we were able to achieve a lot together. Our school will be a richer place for your contribution. I wish you all the best in your future schooling, and look forward to seeing what you create with ICT in future years!

Join me for the Creative iPad Challenge Workshop at #iste2015!

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Do you have limited numbers of iPads?

Are you wondering how to use iPads to support student collaboration, learning and creativity in literacy and the language arts?

 

Join me for the iPad Creative Challenge, and explore the possibilities!

ISTE 2015, Philadelphia

Tuesday, June 30, 5:30–7:00 pm EDT

Marriott Franklin 1

Register NOW!

 

As a result of attending this workshop, participants will:

  • Understand how to use the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition Model to support their professional growth in relation to the implementation of iPad learning projects in their classrooms.
  • Gain confidence and integration skills through a hands-on collaborative learning challenge, exploring and creating an iPad literacy project which relates to their current teaching and professional learning needs
  • Contribute tips and teaching ideas to a collaborative online document showcasing successful iPad literacy and Language Arts project ideas, which can be adapted to suit their curriculum and grade levels.
  • Commit to taking on one iPad literacy challenge in their own classrooms following the conference.

Sharing Stories and Learning with the @BookCreatorApp

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Last year, I had the opportunity to (finally) use Book Creator with our students, working with the Year 2 teachers to help their students plan and publish their first eBooks.

Students were learning about Australian Indigenous Dreamtime stories, and had the opportunity to create and illustrate their own – e.g. “How the Goanna got its’ tail”. Students started out by drafting and editing their story on paper, before typing out and illustrating their story in Book Creator. We asked students to hand draw their illustrations, which they photographed and imported into their books; however, some soon discovered that it was easier to use the pen tools  to create their pictures.

Work Samples (2014) – ePub format

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How the Goanna got its’ tail

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Staying Safe Online – Book Creator in Year 1 (2015)

Moving into an integration role in 2015, I had the opportunity to experiment with the use of Book Creator with Grade 1 students, who were just learning how to write. Working with their classroom teachers, the Year 1 students learnt how to record their voices / short movies of themselves using the app, as they shared their learning from our ‘online safety’ activity.

Book Creator proved to be the perfect choice, as students found the tools easy to learn and use, and took great delight in creating their books. We taught them how to add their name and class to the title of their completed books, and showed them how to export their completed creations to their class Dropbox folder. We will need to keep practising this workflow; however, it should help save us an extraordinary amount of time later on!

What did we learn?

  • Book Creator is a powerful, yet intuitive eBook creation app which can be easily integrated into Early Childhood learning activities.
  • Older students would benefit from learning how to source and attribute Creative Commons / Public Domain images for their eBook projects; however, early childhood students love to draw their own images.
  • Photographing and importing students’ work could potentially make Book Creator useful for digital portfolios or for keeping a record of a learning experience.
  • The option to export books as a .mpeg movie is fantastic when students have recorded their voices in the book, but not so useful if the book is primarily text and images.
  • We will need to keep refining and practising our eBook workflow, especially for saving to Dropbox. As with many iPad activities, saving and sharing students’ work can be time-consuming, although very worthwhile.
  • I am hoping to create an Apple iBooks publisher account – I would dearly love for our students’ work to be published for a global audience, but this is something I will look at later in the year.

Mashing up @HaikuDeck & @ExplainEverything: Year 2 iPad Information Reports

downloadLast year, my Year 2 colleagues and I embarked on what turned out to be one of the most (over) ambitious #ipsict projects to date, creating Information Report videos about Australian animals using a mashup of HaikuDeck and Explain Everything. Now we’ve discovered Adobe Voice, I now know that there is a far simpler way to do this, but at the time this appeared to be a good idea!

Firstly, our students researched their animals, using a teacher-created scaffold to answer questions about where their animal lived, what it ate, what it looked like, and so on. Students then created a HaikuDeck presentation, choosing Public Domain/ Creative Commons images to match their questions. This part was relatively simple, although time consuming.

Using a shared class HaikuDeck account, students’ presentations synced across the iPads, so we made sure that students’ put their first name and class in the titles. We did try to ensure that students were allocated a numbered iPad for each lesson; however, the constant syncing of all the presentations was a nuisance. Until HaikuDeck brings out management tools for educators, this is something we are likely to have to put up with when using a class account.

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After completing their HaikuDeck presentations, we taught our students to screenshot their slides, and import them into Explain Everything. Here, we worked out how to add and edit our voice narrations, and how to export our completed products to Dropbox. The beauty of Explain Everything is its ability to export screencasts  / videos to cloud services for sharing beyond the app and the company’s website. That said, we barely scratched the surface of what EE can do in this activity, and I hope to experiment further later in the year – with a MUCH simpler activity!

Work Samples

What did we learn? 

  • We won’t run this style of mashup in Early Childhood again. It was far too complicated and time-consuming for our young students to complete within a reasonable amount of time. For this style of “information report” activity, Adobe Voice is a much more suitable app.
  • That said, I believe HaikuDeck has enormous potential for use in education, perhaps from Year 3 up. Our Iona PS ICT Scope and Sequence requires us to start introducing students to slideshows in Year 3, and I think HaikuDeck has great potential in class.
  • We barely scratched the surface of what Explain Everything can do. There are so many tools and options – you need to know (and teach) which options and tools students need to use to complete your activity, rather than do what we did, and try to work it out as we went along!
  • Ultimately, your choice of iPad tools / apps comes down to your teaching and learning purpose, and what is best suited to the age and level of expertise of your students – an important lesson I learned the hard way.

Meeting the World via Mystery Skype

One of my personal highlights of 2014 was the collaborative introduction of Mystery Skype with Mrs R. in Year 3. Integrating our Skype sessions into Geography, we made some memorable connections with Hello Little World Skypers and Global Classroom teachers from Argentina, India, Nepal, and the United States. We also were able to connect with ‘Flat Addy’, a little girl in Iowa, USA, who had sent us a Flat Stanley earlier in the year.

Mystery Skype proved to be a fantastic introduction for our students, who learnt how to communicate and share with authentic global audiences. As the 2015 school year progresses, I am hoping to introduce videoconferencing and Mystery Skype into more classes, as we work to build our students’ awareness of the world beyond their classroom walls.

Objectives

  • Students will use map skills to find the location of the mystery classroom
  • Students will use communication and critical thinking skills to ask questions to help them find the mystery location.
  • Classes communicate with other classrooms via Skype or Google+ Hangouts.
  • Students will learn to respect and appreciate the cultures and customs of others.
  • Students will be able to see the differences and similarities between themselves and others around the world.

 

Demystifying Coding and Programming – Just Scratchin’ Around

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Jenny Ashby @jjash may not know it, but her Sydney #slide2learn session on Beebots and coding gave me the push I needed to take a risk, and experiment with Scratch programming in Years 4 and 5 in late 2014.

Openly acknowledging in class that I had next to no idea of how Scratch worked, and what it could do, I set my students a challenge to create a game, or tell a story. With the help of YouTube tutorials, older siblings, and coding enthusiasts amongst their classmates, the girls merrily set to work planning, problem solving, and coding their projects; and they were only too happy to teach me in the process!

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The Task

Challenge 1:

Use Scratch to tell a simple story which includes at least one talking character (sprite), and at least two settings or backgrounds.

Challenge 2:

Create a simple game where the user or player has to choose a key on their keyboard to make the sprite move or perform an action. This game could be a maze, a guessing game, or your own idea. It needs to include at least one Sprite (object/character), and a background.

Self Assessment Criteria

I have:

  • Storyboarded what my story / game will look like, and what will happen.
  • Created a simple story or game using Scratch
  • Included at least one Sprite and background
  • Used code blocks to require user/player action – e.g. IF the player clicks their mouse or presses the A key, THEN ….

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Some Results

Arcaine

Press ‘s’ to start, then use arrow keys as per in-game instructions.

Super Grandma!

Press the following keys to progress the dialogue: a, c, e, r, q.

Ask Katy Perry

Start by clicking on the green flag.

Fun Maze (Year 4)

Click on the green flag to start, then use your arrow keys to navigate.

What did we learn?

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Introducing Scratch programming to my students was a huge professional risk, as to the best of my knowledge, it had not been formally taught at the school before. It was also the first time I had ever attempted to run a coding/programming project, something which I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying before #slide2learn.

Through this project, I learnt a great deal about the power of play – allowing students to explore, experiment, tinker, and collaboratively solve problems as they pursued their coding projects. I was surprised by the level of student engagement – both in, and outside of class. Many went home to ask their older brothers and sisters for help and advice in coding their projects! I was also really impressed with the power of peer teaching and support in class, as we even brought some Year 4 students into a Year 5 class to explain how they used a particular Scratch tool !

Next time I run this, I intend to more formally stress the need the storyboard and planning aspect of the project, and include some higher level coding skills in the assessment criteria (drawing upon the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum). I’d also like to try and provide better summative feedback to students, beyond the whole class discussion and reflection sessions we ran last year. The peer teaching and problem solving approach worked very well for most students, encouraging them to think and learn from eachother.

Later in 2015, I am hoping to introduce Beebots and coding apps into Early Childhood maths / procedural writing, and explore how to integrate Scratch programming into other learning areas in upper primary. We are at the very early stages of teaching coding / programming at our school, but I am very curious to see where this little experiment takes us over the next few years.

Powerful Learning with iPads – iMovie Book Trailers in Grade 3

As I look back over the past six months, one teaching and learning experience stands out as a true highlight – the Year 3 iMovie Book Trailer Project, which was developed and brought to life by the amazing students of Year 3B, and their wonderful teacher. 

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The Process

This project was run in Term 3, 2014 as a team-teaching project over six weeks, with roughly 90 minutes (2 lessons) each week. Neither the classroom teacher or I had ever done anything quite like this before, so it was very much a collaborative learning experience – and not just for the students!

Students worked in small group “book clubs”, choosing their favourite book from the Australian Children’s Book Awards Shortlist for 2014. They worked to identify the main events of the story, holding detailed discussions about the book as they set about creating visual storyboards.

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When we started this project, we weren’t sure if we’d have students’ filming scenes from the books, or using Creative Commons/Public Domain images off the Internet. We eventually decided to go with the (somewhat) easier option – filming. Prior to formally filming book trailer scenes, we gave students time to simply play with the iPad camera, Photos, and iMovie app, discovering how they all worked. The stage was set for one of the most intense, but rewarding teaching experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

On filming day, I knew we were in ‘trouble’ when I discovered a group of students setting up with piles of cardboard boxes in the library – before school had even started! Students brought in costumes and props, and set to work filming their scenes. This proved to be a fascinating process for us as teachers, as we noticed some groups found it much easier to work with each-other than others. We tried to maintain a hands-off, over the shoulder approach, and let the students work through the creative process relatively independently; however, we did have to step in with one group on several occasions.  We weren’t overly sure how many lessons we’d need, and eventually spent about three (very intensive) hours in total.

The Results

Our students blew us away with their passion, creativity, and sheer enthusiasm; and the videos they produced were of exceptionally high quality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask for parental permission to share them on my personal blog, and I ran out of time to put them on the school website! Next year, that won’t be such an issue, as student publishing will be one of our major whole-school ICT focus areas.

Reflections

As this was very much a collaborative ICT integration project, I asked my partner teacher to share her thoughts on our teaching and learning process –

It was a pleasure to work with Michael on this Book Trailer project. His excitement was shared by the children and myself. I came to the table with little experience so he was involving me in the learning process along with the children. With his guidance the main elements were discussed as a whole and then the children were encouraged to play and experiment. Other Book Trailers were critiqued by the children, the children became confident critics and through the process the children developed an eye and an understanding for what was required to produce a powerful and successful Trailer.

The children were supported with their learning at all times by Michael as he moved with ease from one group’s individual need to another. Michael allowed the children to be creative and encouraged them to solve problem themselves learning from each other. The parents were impressed with their children’s enthusiasm for the Book Trailer project. Some children asked to have a permission note for their parents, to allow them to come to school early so they could get started on their filming. The project was then able to be viewed by all parents during Open Night. It was a huge success where we got to how learning became fun and effortless for all involved.

The children came into this project with no experience with this type of technology or using iPads in a collaborative project. The children chose to be in a group that they had a common interest, the interest was their favourite book from the Book Week nominations. As a result group sizes were varied along with a variation in literacy ability. This could have been very challenging for most teachers but through this project I believe we got the most from all our children. They are looking forward to the next project with Michael.

My Thoughts

As I look back at this project, I am immensely proud of what we achieved in a relatively short space of time. I was blessed to work with a gifted, enthusiastic classroom teacher who was prepared to take risks, letting the students take the lead in their learning. We were able to forge a close working relationship, building on our respective strengths and expertise to enable our students to create something special. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do together next year!

Challenging Students to Respect Copyright

Many students, and many teachers, are unaware of, or not completely informed about how copyright law works online, and most have never heard of Creative Commons or Public Domain media. Yet, these concepts are critical to developing understandings of digital citizenship, and form part of the ICT General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum.

As part of my classroom program, I designed this presentation to clarify some of the key issues, and developed a reference list for PD/CC sites suitable for use in middle to upper primary. Creative Commons and copyright awareness is one of my ICT priorities for 2015.


Copyright is Messy: An Introduction to Creative Commons – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Other Teaching Resources

These infographics are quite handy for explaining the difference, and I have personally used the Creative Commons one in upper primary classes.

Source – http://www.gcflearnfree.org/blogbasics/6.2

 

Infographic: "Creative Commons - What does it mean?" (by Martin Missfeldt / Bildersuche.org).

Infographic: “Creative Commons – What does it mean?” (by Martin Missfeldt / Bildersuche.org).

 

Examples of Student Solutions to Copyright Challenges

Faced with the challenge of respecting copyright in their work, two groups of Year 4 students excelled themselves in thinking outside the box, creating their own images for their iMovie book trailers. For some other excellent copyright friendly iMovie examples, please see my recent post “Lessons learn working with iMovie in Upper Primary“.