Friday, 18 January 2019

Everyone can Create - silhouettes


I recently was asked by Apple to run an everyone can create workshop during the latest “Kuala Lumpur Innovation at schools session”. The theme was student agency, but the team were also keen to have some sessions on the everyone can create books.


I had been reading and using the everyone can create photos book and have been doing some of the activities with my own kids at home and thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of the activities in the books.

We looked at techniques and strategies to empower students to take 'good' photos with iPads. We looked at variety, perspective, details, the rule of thirds and Backgrounds. Dave Caleb's book Stories through the Lens was a super resource for this.

We then explored three of the activities from the everyone can create book - photos including telling photo stories, pictorialize your name and silhouette portraits. It was very hands on, was well received and we had some discussion on how we could use these activities in our classes as soon as we got back to school. Here is a link to the participant created padlet of ideas.


The silhouette portraits is my favourite, I loved using it with my own kids. Seeing as though I was presenting on it, I thought I better try it with some students at school. The next time I had my grade 5 cover we started exploring creating our own silhouette portraits. 

Only using the class iPad's we took profile pictures with a plain bright background, basically we were doing the thing I have been telling my IGBTV students not to do "Don't video with a bright background as you can't see the person being filmed". By doing this we got side on images that we could edit and play with (crop, turn black and white, change the contrast, explore different colours) all using the edit button in photos.

I then took this to the next level, by combing this with another activity from the book. We imported our images into Keynote and then applied Instant Alpha to completely remove all of the background.

Once we did this, we used the add shapes option in Keynote to get the students to add their favourite things to their silhouettes. 

You can search via the magnifying glass and change the colour of the shapes / images, they are also all free from copyright and allow the students to be super creative.

The kids loved personalising their images.


I showed them how to export them as new images and we had a silhouette gallery of all the students in the class and their interests.


The students had lots of fun identifying each other and seeing other peoples interests. We got some insights into the students that we weren't expecting. It was a great way for the teachers to find out about their students and we got a few pleasant surprises. 

As they played with Keynote and shapes the students started exploring different ways to add images they worked out some pretty cool stuff including how to add graded backgrounds and create multicolour and image filled shapes.

The students now have ready made silhouettes that can be used over and over again for a variety of activities. Including
  • Exit Tickets
  • End of unit reflections
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Guessing games
  • Poetry (reverse the colours and fill the silhouette with the poem
  • Fill the head with a maths problem and solution
  • Class displays 
  • Add their artwork to the silhouette

The limit is your creativity

We can't wait to explore some of the other activities in the everyone can create books.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Save paper and time with Google Drawings

Creating Google Drawings worksheets


I found this great Factors and multipliers puzzle online here

It's one of those activities where students (or teachers) have to cut out all the bits of paper (right hand side) of the sheet. That means cutting 25 numbers and 10 headings. They then manipulate them on the puzzle sheet until they get the right combination. It is a hands on activity and encourages students to use a variety of problem solving techniques and think about different types of numbers.

When we did it in our 80 minute maths block, many of the students took more than 20 minutes just to cut out the bits of paper, (some took 60 minutes) then bits of paper went missing or were blown around by the fans and air conditioning. A couple of students finished, but then it took for ever for them to glue them in their book. Once the lesson was over, we then had to find a way to store the hundreds of bits of paper.

Rather than being the wonderful learning opportunity it promised, it ended up being an exercise in frustration. 

In hindsight it would have been better to make it a group activity and do the puzzle on A3 paper or spend hours cutting them out and laminating them for the students. Who has time for that? 

Then I got thinking, I could save a lot of time, paper and anguish by turning this activity into a digital Google Drawings worksheet (I hate the term worksheet). It will take me a bit of time to set up, but once it is created I will have a permanent version that can be used over and over again and I would rather spend my time playing with Google drawings rather than cutting out bits of paper.





The whole process took about 12 minutes,I sped the above video up by a factor or 8 so you get to see it happen in just over a minute

I started by creating a 5x5 table, then added rounded shapes for the headings, if you create one shape and format it exactly as you want it (Shape, colour, font etc) then it is easy enough to copy and replace the text. I then did the same for all the number cards.

Once I made my worksheet I could have grouped all the objects together (so that students couldn't accidentally move the tables and heading etc) but in Google Drawings I find it is easier to take a screen shot, delete the other images and add the screenshot as a single image.


Once the Google Drawing worksheet has been created it is then a matter of sharing it with your students I like to use a force copy link (I like to use Sir Links a lot) so each student has their own copy, the students can then move the shapes around to solve the puzzle. They can rotate the shapes and move them. Do pretty much anything they can do with a paper copy (plus a fair bit more).


No wasting time cutting paper or gluing tiny bits of paper to a sheet, no worries about losing or storing tiny pieces of paper. The puzzle is stored on the students drive. 

You can share different versions for students at different levels. e.g. perhaps one version with the labels in the correct spot or the labels facing the correct direction or half the numbers in the correct position or some blank tiles. It offers lots of scope for quick differentiation, make a copy of the drawing then make the change, make another copy, make the change.

This technique works for lots of different worksheets and once you have created the resource, you have it forever and can share it or use it again and again.

The next maths lesson I used the Google drawings version and the kids completed it much quicker with less stress and we were able to have those valuable discussions about problem solving techniques and how different students solved the puzzle. I am now making many more digital worksheets for my Maths class.


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Google Innovator (still working on it)

It has been a year since the Sydney 17 Google Innovator Academy and talking to many of my fellow #syd17 alumni the common theme is that things are going slow. Honestly the same is true for me, although in the last couple of months I have managed to get a bit of momentum.


A couple of things have happened to help get me moving including

I have led teacher workshops at various conferences on how to get students creating AR and VR experiences, including 21st Century Learning in Hong Kong, the AIMS conference in KL, an apple innovation day as well as teachmeet KL and staff meetings and PD sessions here at school.


I was also asked to speak at the IB Heads world conference, just a small group of 1800 heads of schools and teachers from IB schools all over the world.



The most important thing I have been doing is testing out ideas and lessons with real life students here at school. I have been pushing AR and VR, especially AR and VR creation as an alternative to posters and wasteful paper displays that get pulled down a week later and can't be shared or stored for other people to see in the future.

We have had students playing with VR and AR all over the school including
Early years students using a merge cube to hold a beating heart or a brain when learning about body systems



Grade 3 students using Metaverse to create interactive AR experiences about a body system they have researched

Grade 4 students have been using Google Streetview to explore different cities and communities around the world

Grade 5 students have been using Google Expeditions to explore the effect that humans have on the rainforest

Grade 5 have also created AR and VR experiences for their PYP exhibition, several students used Metaverse to create AR experiences including a bullying simulation where participants were given scenarios and they had to decide what to do. Other students use roundme.com to create their own VR experiences, mostly to increase empathy and show their understanding by creating VR tours of the ocean and the rainforest.

In secondary school we have been using AR and VR in design classes, students were given the design problem of creating an AR or VR experience for someone at school. We explored several tools for creating VR and AR experiences including roundme.com, metaverse, creating 360 videos hosted on youtube and cospaces. (Google expeditions tour creator wasn't yet released)

The students created some incredible experiences including


While none of these are perfect or even in a format that can be published (yet!) they are a good start and the students came up with creative ideas. I even had several students teach themselves how to use the unity game engine to create AR experiences.

Now that Tour Creator has come out of beta, we have started playing with that as a student creation tool. I have some projects for students in mind and can't wait to get back into it.

My final product for my Innovation Project is my edu-create.com website, which is a selection of creation resources for teachers and students, including a database of students submitted experiences where students, teachers and parents can showcase all the cool things they have made using VR and AR. It is still being built but I hope to have it up and running before the EdTechTeam Singapore summit.



This should prove to be a great resource for teachers to get ideas on how to get students creating AR and VR experiences and a place where students can showcase the incredible work they are doing.

On the weekend I watched the Innovation Program Sydney Cohort showcase
And this really got me motivated to finish my project and get this thing running.

While watching this one of the things that stuck with me was when Les reminded us to fail often and fail fast, that is something I haven't been doing I have been living with the fear that maybe my site won't work, no one will use it, someone will do it before me. That is going to change now, I am going to get this site up and running and if need be I will fail, very fast and then innovate and modify and try it all again.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

MetaVerse - create your own AR Experiences

AR is certainly a buzzword in education (and elsewhere) at the moment just look at the updates coming soon to Google Maps to include AR and the new Google Expeditions AR is very cool

AR is getting promoted pretty heavily as the next great education tool, apps like hologo, Jigspace and civilsations AR add extra features and the feeling of being there when it comes to students engaging with content.

I love this stuff, BUT even better I prefer students creating this stuff, I want students creating as well as consuming AR experiences in the classroom.

Creation encourages higher order thinking and requires both the subject knowledge and the tool knowledge as well as promoting a more thorough understanding of the subject matter, this is why it is a the top of blooms revised taxonomy.


So how can we get students creating their own AR experiences.

One tool we have been using is Metaverse, while many may say that this is not true AR nor is it as cool as some of the purpose built AR apps. Metaverse is cool in many other ways. The main way being is that students can use Metaverse to create their own AR apps. It fits my paradigm of more creation than consumption.

In it's basic form it is pretty easy to use and students can start to use it straight away, when recently using it with grade 3 students, It took me about 7 minutes to get each group started and then they played for the next 30 mins creating AR experiences on their chosen body system.


A Metaverse experience is made up of a series of scenes, these scenes can be 3D images, text, uploaded images, audio files or recordings, links to youtube videos, 360 photos and portals, polls plus a heap of others.
These scenes can then be connected together to form the experience, you can add multiple choice buttons, text questions, timers or even just press here buttons to allow the user to navigate the experience.

There are a heap of youtube tutorials on the Metaverse Youtube channel . So I wont go into details on how to make stuff with Metaverse (I will leave that up to the experts). Although here is a sample of a couple of their excellent tutorials to get you excited.







The important stuff


I will share how we have used it to add value to our teaching and learning. Innovation is not about the tool, it is how the tool can be used to improve teaching and learning.

Our grade 3 students used a simple scene with a graphic 3D or 2D, some text and an audio track of them giving more information. Like any of these activities, the hardest part is the content research, writing the script and planning out the scenes. Once the kids had this it was easy enough to create their AR experience

The kids, their parents and their teachers loved the experiences and there were QR codes (pre made in Metaverse)

In grade 5 for their IB PYP exhibition several students created Metaverse experiences to share their understanding of their chosen topic, one I particularly enjoyed was a Metaverse game that showed a series of bullying scenarios where the user had to choose what to do if they were being bullied in different places or in different situations.

In our Grade 9 design class students had the opportunity to create a VR experience or an AR experience for a client at the school using the design cycle. Some of their projects include


  • a choose your own adventure style game
  • a game to help students find evacuation routes / fire exits depending on where they are in the school
  • a game for grade 9 students to revise some of their maths content
  • a quiz for grade 5 students to check their understanding on environmental issues
  • adding quizzes to picture books to add extra content and to check comprehension

We have only just touched the surface fo what we can do with Metaverse and student created content and I can't wait to see the projects and experiences our students will create next year. Viva the AR creation revolution.







Wednesday, 9 May 2018

How to help students stay focussed


The school counsellor and I recently ran a workshop for parents entitled 'weapons of mass distraction'. The theme was of course how to help students to reduce distractions when working on digital devices.

While we didn't have a huge turnout, we had some really positive discussions and the parents shared stories about how they are helping their kids avoid digital distractions. We also got the parents to reflect on their own digital distractions and how their distractions might effect how their kids see responsible and appropriate use.


One of the underling themes was parent frustration with students easily getting distracted while on computers and mobile devices. There was also a feeling that the parents were helpless and there was nothing they could do.

While we might feel this is true, especially after learning how smart phones are designed to get us addicted.

It is not all doom and gloom.

We spoke about a few specific strategies, but the point of the conversation was cooperating and mentoring our students. We spoke about working with the students rather than enforcing strict rules or guidelines.

If we enforce rules on our kids that they don't agree to or buy into they wont own them or use them and will find ways around them.

Our main piece of advice was to work with our kids,  help them to understand that there is no such thing as multi tasking or that auto play and infinite scrolling are designed to keep us on screen and suck us into the wormhole that the internet can be.

If our kids understand this and understand that there are apps and techniques to help them stay focussed they will be more likely to own their distractions, make an effort to stay on task and they will be the ones who choose to use the apps, extensions and websites that help avoid distractions.

When we combine this with good old fashioned parenting, i.e. consequences that we follow through with when guidelines or rules are ignored, we can help our kids to keep on task and be less distracted.

I recommend sharing some of these apps and settings with your teenage kids and letting them choose (with your guidance and cajoling) which to use and when to use them.

Set up these tool WITH your kids NOT FOR your kids


1. Parent controls on a Mac


These can be pretty restrictive, but do allow parents to set time limits, bed times (when the computer wont work) track internet activity and block particular apps and websites. For many this is seen as the nuclear option or option of last resort

how to set up parent controls
parent controls for iPhone, iPad or iPod

2. Self Control

SelfControl is a free and open-source application for macOS that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click "Start." Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites—even if you restart your computer or delete the application.
https://selfcontrolapp.com/

3. Stay Focussed

A Chrome extension that increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.

Stay Focussed

4. Strict Workflow

A google Chrome extension that enforces a 25min/5min workflow: 25 minutes of distraction-free work, followed by 5 minutes of break. Repeat as necessary. This uses the pomodoro technique to increase productivity

Strict Workflow

5. Take a five


Another Chrome extension that  allows you to take a break without falling into the internet rabbit hole. You select a time and then where you want to take your break. At the end of the time, the tab will automatically close and you will be prompted to get back to work. 


What I like about #4 and #5 is that is programs breaks into working time, this still gives students the opportunity to check Youtube, snapchat etc and then get back to work. It takes into account kids needs and wants to get distracted while offering incentives and reminders to get back to work.


Here are some other articles and advice on how to help students minimise their online distractions



Here is the slideshow from the presentation.



Once again I can iterate enough that we should be helping kids to self impose / use these tools, they need to be responsible for their own acceptable / productive / distraction free use of technology. We want to give them skills for avoiding distraction for life, not just when we are around to enforce our rules on them.

Good luck and keep on fighting the good fight.

Feel free to add any comments or extra ideas below

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

New Gmail my first thoughts



Gmail has just undergone a major redesign and like most of these upgrades you get the chance to try before you buy. So that is exactly what I did.


At my first look I thought YUCK, it looks horrible, babyish, it is the same but different. After a couple of minutes my mind and eyes adjusted and I started playing with it. 

Once I got used to it, the clean simple display was warming to me, some of the changes that I like include

1. In default view attachments were clearly visible and looked good.


I have now switched back to the comfortable view just to get more on my screen, but I can see that some might like the default view.

2. Calendar, keep, tasks and add ons can be accessed directly from the right hand side of Gmail.

I use Calendar and keep all the time, so it is mega useful to have it right there, I also appreciate being able to easily access Gmail add ons

3. Smart reply is super useful, 

I use smart reply on my phone via the gmail app, now that it is available on the web version I seem to be replying much faster and it is making me more efficient. It does mean that Google is watching all my emails, but I new that already. It is also useful to start a message with the smart reply and then add a personal touch or some extra information.

4. Quick tasks 

When you mouse over an email, you get a series of quick task options on the right of the email. 

This makes it really easy to archive, bin, mark as unread or snooze the email

5. Snooze, you can now snooze an email so that it returns at a predetermined time just like using the boomerang add on.


This could be really useful if your inbox is getting a bit chaotic or you are in the middle of class, often I will see an email, read it, think I need to do that later but then forget about it or can't find it.

There is supposed to be another AI powered feature called nudging  which reminds you when you haven't replied to an email in a couple of days. I haven't seen it in action yet but look forward to using it.

After a couple of days of using it, I am really starting to like it and it has already made me more productive and given me more time to do the really useful things at school like teaching and talking to people.




Thursday, 8 March 2018

Innovation in Education - what is it?

I am lucky enough to be chosen to do a short TED style talk at the upcoming IB Heads of Schools World Conference in Singapore. I am presenting on innovation and how IGBIS is implementing an Innovators Mindset.

Before I started writing (or talking) I wanted to get a good working definition of what is "Innovation in Education"

I started by re-reading George Couros' excellent book "The Innovators Mindset" reading it again has reminded me of some of the excellent ideas I have forgotten and some things I have missed the first time round.

I love George's definition that innovation is a mindset, a way of thinking and that innovation has to be better, it is not good enough to just have or do new things, these new things have to make education better.

To broaden my perspective I asked my PLN (Personal learning network) via twitter how do they define innovation, I got some excellent responses.



 I love that most of the replies I received included the concept that innovation in education is more than something new, it is more than the technology; it is creativity, change and taking into account the learners needs.

Next I asked the staff with a quick one question Google Form. I got 12 responses but reading through those responses, they were pretty good.

Once again the topics of creativity, change to benefit the learners, improvement and because we are an IB school "Risk Taking".

AT IGBIS we are lucky to have educators with this innovators mindset, it is not about all the cool toys, gadgets, computers, iPads, subscriptions and resources. It is about what we are doing with them.


Sure it is cool to have VR headsets, students can participate in virtual field trips using Google Expeditions or visit landmarks using Google Street view, but we don't want to fall into the trap of doing the same old things in new ways. That is why we are exploring student creation of AR and VR experiences, taking these cool new tools and toys to the next level.

We have students in kindergarten using Panoform to draw their own VR scenes, older students are using the same app smashed together with Quicktime to create 360 movies of scenes they have drawn.

We have students creating AR experiences using Metaverse for other students to revise mathematics or to provide younger students a fun interactive way to check their comprehension.

We are also using roundme.com so that students can create virtual school tours or virtual art galleries where students work, reflections and and creation videos are shared in a 360 environment.

The best thing is that because of our innovators mindset, this is only the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) we will have lots of new and improved learning opportunities for our students constatntly being trialled and developed.