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Posts Tagged ‘apps’

I came across a fabulous link the other day from Education Technology and Mobile Learning which is perfect for use with students by either English teachers or any of us working in school libraries.

The Digital Storytelling Wheel for Teachers post looks like one of those posts that will keep any teacher and their students busy for a very long time as they work their way through exploration of a huge range of iPad and Android Apps together with a host of Web tools.

I just love the graphic too!

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Ever keen to pick up new skills, I was really excited to receive advice via one of our online library associations that an innovative program called 12 Apps of Christmas would be run commencing December 1st this year.

12appsofChristmasmas logoAimed to personalize learning, both students or educators are able to pick up tips on how to become more fulfilled independent, self directed learners by exploring apps on either smartphones or tablet devices.  Over 12 week days starting on December 1st this year, 12 helfpul app gifts will be available to unwrap and explore.

To get involved just download the App: 12AppsDIT from the App Store and view it on either your smartphone or smart tablet or log onto the webiste: 12 Apps of Christmas to more fully explore.  By registering, both students and educators will be able to explore all that can be gained from this innovative learning program.    A bonus for educators will be a page detailing how students can utilize these apps to enhance their learning.

Check out this video to learn more about this innovative learning program.

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Love those cool pictures that talented barristers etch onto the top of your coffee?

Well ….. this art has been taken to a new dimension by Ripple Maker who have developed a coffee printing device which, with just the tap of a button, creates personalized greetings or pictures.

Pretty cool – no?!

And if that isn’t exciting enough, the Ripples iPhone app enables anyone to create an image in just a few seconds which can be printed onto the top of a coffee!  The Ripple Maker is part of a platform made up of your machine, the website and a mobile app.  The app, pre-loaded with a library of ripples categorized into themes, greetings, quotes and more, can even be customized.

Check it out:

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Convincing a school to buy into a product called Pencil, a messaging app designed for teachers to communicate with students and their families, was not as simple as it would seem says Jason Tanz in an article Your kid’s school is missing the Tech Revolution and it’s all your fault. (Wired, February 23, 2015)

Despite the Principal’s support, overworked teachers balked at the idea of having to learn a new system and parents were skeptical: privacy issues could be an issue.  Explaining what went wrong, Pencil’s CEO, Yogesh Sharma, said:

There’s all these stakeholders—the principals, the PTA, the teachers, and then there’s the district that has their own way of doing things. You’re in the middle of this crossfire and the ball doesn’t move because nobody has the ability to make a quick decision.”

Taking a closer look, Tanz commented on the struggle facing entrepreneurs and academics who are regularly “stymied by predictably sclerotic bureaucracies and overcautious government agencies” when attempts are made to introduce new technology into our schools. Instead, he notes, entrepreneurs have been taking the back door approach, targeting end users: students and teachers and thus avoiding ‘blocks’ laid down by administrators.

It’s an interesting scenario which Tanz suggests is

reminiscent of the way Apple invaded the workplace by selling so many iPhones to individual employees that IT departments had no choice but to incorporate them. Or to the way that Uber has quickly signed up so many customers that it has forced legislators to rewrite their laws to accommodate them or risk alienating their citizens.

This kind of argument certainly made me stop and think about what’s been happening in schools.

Could it be that teachers are being, unsuspectingly, manipulated?
Could it be that students are forcing change upon us?

With more than 750 million educational apps to be installed world wide on mobile devices this year, Tanz highlights the shift occurring in schools when he quotes John Doerr in The Wall Street Journal (August 21st, 2014)

The mobile technologies that have revolutionized the American workplace are now transforming our education system,” he wrote. “For years entrepreneurs and educators have been pushing to bring education technology into the classroom, but adoption has often been slow. Now the education tech landscape is shifting toward mobile devices and new, free and easy-to-use services.”

While this process sounds simple enough, the blocks to progress continue.  The range and quality of new apps and services regularly leave parents, teachers, eLearning leaders and school administrators scratching their heads as they try to figure out which apps are best to bring into school programs.  And, as Tanz suggests, getting teachers on board is not quite as easy as it sounds. Giving an analogy of teachers to physicians who resisted the adoption of electronic medical records, Tanz suggests that teachers feel threatened or annoyed by incursions into the ‘sanctity of their classroom’.

It’s my strong belief however that there is more to it than this.

Teachers are time poor and way too overloaded to easily adopt and adapt new technology into their lessons.”

Exploring apps to determine how they can be incorporated into the curriculum, picking up news skills and re-learning how to present lessons using new technology are all time consuming tasks.  Tagging this discovery and learning onto the end of a very busy, demanding day in which teachers are constantly on call is no easy ask.

Few other occupations demand as much of their employees as does education.  It is incumbent on school administrators to look at the big picture and to consider how teachers can be relieved of the constant time pressure they face.  It is essential that learning opportunities which are pleasurable, enjoyable and exciting be created within the school day.  Teachers should be encouraged to take up opportunities to experiment, discover and explore tools, skills, and pedagogy of their own choosing.  Rather than being required to focus on per-determined learning programs prescribed by the school, teachers, just like the students in our schools, should be required to set their own learning goals and to determine the own path to achieve these goals.

In this way, teachers can become role models to their students in the exciting journey of lifelong learning.

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It’s hard to believe, but the first term (which translates as the first half of Semester 1) of the 2015 school year has already been and gone!   Like my other Australian teaching colleagues, I’m enjoying a little respite with a two week vacation before heading back to school, books and work.

It’s most probably a reflection of my age, that this cartoon, which I came across last year when I was ambling around the web, made me giggle, reminisce and reflect – all at once.  This 1952 Disney short follows Goofy’s attempts to teach, and control, his students.   It’s an old-school cartoon slapstick focusing on old school education, with apples for the teacher, kids using catapults and lots of pointing at maps of the world.

Education sure has moved a long way since we were in school. Yes indeed, as said at the start of the video, teachers must be fair, understanding, honest and intelligent. But we all know that the demands today are so much more than this.

So, even now, when we are taking a break, thoughts continue to swill around:

  • How can we do it better?
  • How can we create more enthusiasm with what we do?
  • How can we ensure that we retain our relevancy in the classroom?

The questions keep coming – don’t they?

Earlier this year I read a great post via my LinkedIn account, a post by James Shea: Facebook and the e-lephant in the room – are you still their teacher?  (January 15, 2015) With a rare clarity, Shea describes the very real situation which all teachers face repeatedly: our students are using apps and web tools that we’ve yet to master.

What you do need to know is that students are using the latest technology to tap into more knowledgeable others: whether that more knowledgeable other is an app, a website or a learning community. Once you realise this you can encourage your students to better evaluate the learning they are getting from this technological more knowledgeable other. You can flip the classroom and get students inspired to use their technology to enhance your lessons, not hinder them.”

How confident are we to let our students enhance what we do in the classroom?  How confident are we to work together with our students, calling on their skills to enhance the lessons we present?

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I come from a family of Esher lovers!  So when one of his classic lithographs  – Waterfall –

Escher - Waterfall

Escher – Waterfall

was listed as the inspiration behind a new app which has just been released, I couldn’t help oooh’ing and aaah’ing along with others in my family as we sat around a smartphone ‘playing’ Monument Valley.

So beautifully crafted.   So nice to ‘play’.   Clearly this is the kind of app which can turn any of us into ‘gamers’.

Being mesmerized by illogical paths that link up when clearly they shouldn’t, the developers take us on a whimsical journey with the little princess who lives in the land of M.C. Escher.  Released just a few days ago, the app is destined to be a phenomena.  Just a few days ago it hit #1 as a top selling app on Trials Fronteir, PadGadget and AppShopper.

A review I read on the Collosal website says it so succinctly:

The hype surrounding the new iOS game Monument Valley by ustwo has been almost impossible to ignore the last few days, and after downloading the puzzle game last night I was able to see why after about 30 seconds of playing. This is simply unlike any game that has come before it. Heavily influenced by the drawings of M.C. Escher the game is so aesthetically beautiful the developers include an in-game camera that lets you take pictures you can share as you play. But this game isn’t just about pretty architectural landscapes, the gameplay is as entertaining as it is brilliant—instantaneous changes of perspective and gravity propel the game forward in unexpected ways.

Collosal: Step inside an interactive M.C. Escher Drawing wiht Monument Valley.  April 3, 2014

Take a look for yourself – you’ll be hooked!

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New toys are a joy!

Like many the world over, I too had a heap of fun when I first got an iPhone and then sometime later an iPad.  It was fun, initially, having a look-see at different apps and trying to decide which I most needed.   While back then, I downloaded quite a number of apps, sadly, with so much to do, see and read, and so little time available, I’ve been guilty of not slowing down long enough to play and explore the mind boggling world of apps more fully.  So, the activity set for this assignment has provided me with legitimate, guilt free time to sit back, relax and explore, explore, explore!

First up, my exploration began by checking out Quixey, a search engine

designed to find applications across all mediums – phones, browsers, ipads, etc –  based on performance. That is, phrase your search in terms of what you want an application to do, ie edit video, take notes, find restaurants. You are then presented with search results that are derived from blogs, forums, review sites, social media as well as application marketplaces so that you can see what each app does, who uses it, how it performs and how people use it.

Quixey was a real bonus.  By entering a ‘plain English’ search, it’s possible to select an app of interest and read about it before downloading it onto the iPhone/iPad.

Getting myself organized has long been an aim, so the obvious first search was for the perfect ‘to do’ app.  After a little wander and a bit of experimenting, I selected Wunderlist which is available for iPad, iPhone and computer.  With entered data being stored in the cloud and synced automatically onto all three devices, I’ve discovered that this app is a breeze to use.  I’m also enjoying some of the bells and whistles that comes with this app, like being able to email a shopping list off to the family shopper.  Cool!

Recommendations from others then saw me idle away quite a few hours downloading a wide range of apps including:

Dictionary and Dictionary.com to help me locate all those words I don’t know.

News channels including BBC News, CNN, New York Times as well as a range of Aussie news apps including the very cool ABC iview.

To ensure I make the most of my leisure time I grabbed Showtimes so I’d know where to go to see movies and IMDb to help me figure out the best movies to see!

Although mostly intended as a travel assistant, Currency is a converter which I know I will use frequently at work when organizing the purchase of overseas books and periodicals.  Google Translate, however, is one I know I will use often when travelling overseas!

There were also a heap of amazing educational apps which I explored including HSW, a cool look at how things work, Brain Pop which I’ve used often on my laptop and Science360 for Ipad which has mind boggling videos and text based information on an astounding range of topics.   And a very cool tool, which totally removes the complexity of creating a bibliography is EasyBib – so fast and so easy to use!  Having just scratched the tip of the iceberg, I can see that there are so many other incredibly fantastic apps that have literally transformed education for the Gen Z students in our classes.   Let me know your favourites so I can go explore some more!

To ensure I make the most of both Dropbox and Pocket which I explored last week, I’ve download their apps onto both my iPad and iPhone!

Having all these apps at my fingertips is one thing, but being able to find them easily on both my iPhone and iPad is another.  So for more than a few hours, I fiddled around creating folders to logically arrange the apps into categories such as reading, writing, news, social, organization, entertainment, media, utilities etc…   While in the ‘tidying up’ frame of mind, I also spent time checking that what I’d downloaded onto my iPhone was also on my iPad.

All in all, the hours spent huddled over my iPhone and iPad have been really great.  I’m feeling quite chuffed at having these incredible tools at my fingertips and that I’ve taken the time to organize them into logical, ready to find folders.   Now to make use of them – regularly!

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