Half a world away. VR helping to cross the cultural divide.

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I live on the Isle of Man and this is going to be our year of going global and yet we aren’t ever going to leave our classroom.

I was fortunate enough last year to meet a fellow teacher Rosie Kolster, she came to the island from Muscat, Oman to see how we use iPads in our MFL classrooms.  It was a great couple of days and at the end we agreed to attempt a project between our students.

Sometimes with real beginners in second language learning connecting with native speakers can be difficult for them and as result I have found that making connections with other early stage language learners can be highly motivational. Rosie and I decided that our students would make ebooks about themselves and we’d simply swap them.  Rosie’s class filmed some fabulous videos using green screen whereas my class decided to show our Omani friends our school and our town through the use of 360 photography . Our work was added to bookcreator app and once complete, exchanged.

 

The mere mention of 360 photography or video is often followed by groans from educators around the world as it is seen as extremely costly.  The cheapest 360 video cameras come in around £300 and most school simply can’t afford to have sets of them in their classrooms but working with 360 photography needn’t be expensive and  it can still provide those wow moments for students.

When my students made their 360 photos they used 2 tools;

  1. Google street view app
  2. storyspheres.com

Making 360 photos using street view is very easy. Open the app and tap the big yellow camera. Next select camera; a white circle appears on the screen move your screen until the white circle aligns with a yellow dot, once aligned a portion of the 360 photo is taken.  Continue to do this whilst moving around in a circle; don’t forget to look up and look down so that you get a full 360 experience.  Once you have taken your photo it appears at the bottom of your screen, tap it and then tap the export button.  Select share privately and add the photo to your camera roll.

Now it’s time to add the photo to storyspheres.com

At this point I should like to point out that like all the best ideas, this one is ‘stolen’ When I say stolen, what I mean is that someone far more experienced and knowledgable pointed me in the right direction with easy VR for the classroom.  I’m lucky enough to be able to call her my friend and she is undoubtedly the person to follow on twitter for any help or advice regarding VR in the classroom so, stop reading for a moment and start following @virtualsarahj and tell her I sent you🙂

Storyspheres allows you to upload 360 photos and add a sound file to go with your photo – which makes it perfect for use in the languages classroom.  You need to make an account then follow the simple steps and upload your photos and sound files.  Now that you have your story in storysheres you can share the link.

For our project with Rosie’s class we didn’t add a sound file as the children were adding voice recordings in the Bookcreator app. In order to share our photos the students took a still photo for each 360 photo and we used this in Bookcreator to link to our 360 photos in Storyspheres.  Rosie tweeted me yesterday to say that all she could hear in her class when her pupils opened the photos was ‘wow this is so cool!’ it enabled our Omani friends to become immersed in our world. They could stand on Ramsey beach or at the harbour or in out assembly hall and get a really good idea of what our town and school are like.  360 photos and VR can help to build empathy and understanding and help us to cross cultural divides.

Here are some of our 360 images made using Street View and uploaded to Storyspheres

School Playing fields

Mooragh Park, Ramsey

Ramsey Harbour

Ramsey Beach

Some of my students have never left the Isle of Man so projects like ours with the British School Muscat help to open their eyes to a whole world, one that they could never previously conceive and although VR is no substitute for the real thing it’s certainly one step closer than a still photograph or a film.

If you are interested in using VR in your classroom. There are a number of resources that are well worth a look at.  YouTube now supports 360 videos and there are  numerous videos worthy of a look.  Street view meanwhile, will show you how many 360 photos there are in any particular area.  So, you could look up the Eiffel tower and tap on a 360 photo and be taken there.  Google Expeditions ,a new kid on the block but brilliant for use in class.  This free app allows you to lead your class on an expeditions pointing things out as you go.

If you’d prefer your students to create rather than consume take a look at cospaces.io Here,  students can create 360  virtual worlds which they can then ‘walk’ through using the cospaces app.  Please note that students have to create using a desktop or laptop but they can add sound and labels. I have yet to use it with a class but it has great potential and I have booked our computer suite this week so that Y8 can give it a try another blog post will no doubt follow…

In the meantime enjoy throwing the windows and doors open on the world with your students using VR let me know how you get on!

Know knows and unknown knowns

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I have always wondered if it’s possible for students to teach themselves a modern foreign language.  My concern has always been that it would be so tricky for students to find their way around the complexities of language learning without becoming frustrated or despondent.  Moreover, I always wondered how they would cope with trying to pronounce words that they had never come across before. With all this in mind,  I set about a little experiment.  I have 2 Y8 (students aged 12-13) classes.  I decided I would allow one class to teach themselves with guidance from me for one lesson and the other class would be taught by me.  It was hardly the most scientific of experiments but I was keen to see what would happen.

Prior to the lesson:

Each class had revised how to form regular -er verbs.  I felt that had they not had this grammar knowledge the task could have become overbearing for those that were ‘teaching themselves’

The lesson:

Objective: to be able to say where members of your family work and what job they do.

The class that were not having the traditional language teacher imput were given specific things to find out.

How to say he works/ she works as

How to say she is/ he is

How to say he works/she works in

How to say 10 places of work

The class could use whatever materials they needed.  I left them to it.

My classroom is set up with tables in groups of 4.  The class soon got to work looking for ways to discover the words required for the task.  Many used iPads but others rather more cannily selected text books and in a large number of cases traditional French dictionaries were used.  Inevitably some students declared the task to be easy and went straight to Google Translate.

After 5 – 10 minutes I started to discuss each group’s findings with them.  Most groups struggled with the tasks that included a verb (note to self, more verb work needed) but the discussion that ensued was really fruitful.  How do we work out each element of a regular verb?  What do we need first?  Where will we find the infinitive? All of this reinforcing work that we had previously done in class  and all very valuable.

When it came to the nouns questions arose about gender and how to find out if a word was a noun in the first place (further note to self more dictionary work required!) Some groups looked words up using an online dictionary and then double checked using a paper dictionary.  This gave them confidence that the words they had found were correct.  Google translate user largely found (mainly because I told them) that what they had written was nonsense.  Google translate was soon sidelined by most groups – this was a good lesson to learn!!

Pronunciation was the tricky bit, as predicted, for all groups.  The French word to work is travailler and is reasonably hard to pronounce. Most students tried to rely on their knowledge of French to get them through this element of the task some students used the accessibility feature voice on the iPad that enables text to be read out to the user.  Text to voice has come a long way and although the French accent isn’t perfect it’s pretty good. Try it out for yourself. In my view, students would need much more time with this tool in order to perfect the pronunciation.  In fact, activities would be required to help students achieve the pronunciation required and one asks oneself whether it would be worth giving up the required time to achieve this when it could be achieved in more efficient ways.

Conclusion:

Is it possible for students to ‘teach themselves’ French? Yes it is.  I say this with the caveat that pronunciation undoubtedly suffers.  The class that I taught in the traditional way have a better grasp of the pronunciation than the independent learner group.  Both groups of students retained the information well but I think the independent learners have shown better recall overall of all elements of the task especially the grammar aspects.  As a teacher, I enjoyed having the time to have the conversation with students and being able to push them in certain directions without giving them the answers, I think some really strong learning took place at these points in the lesson and I need to find more ways to ensure that this happens more regularly in class. The independent learners worked at a much slower pace and there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact I applaud this but the curriculum is packed an we have to get through ‘stuff’ in order that students can sit tests, exams and all the other usual education nonsense.

Would I switch to this method of working from now on? No, not all the time but it clearly does have value and I will continue to incorporate it into my planning from time to time. I enjoyed the discussions with students and they enjoyed the discovery element of the task but the poor pronunciation from the independent learners concerned me a little.  One thing this has made me consider more strongly is the idea of flipping my classroom which will enable the discussions but should cut out some of my concerns about pronunciation so, watch this space.

 

 

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I love teaching grammar but this is an area of language learning that students often find tricky to master.  One of the things that I tend to do when teaching grammar is lots of discussion with students and worked examples on the board, I’ve found that this works well for students as we can discuss problems and misconceptions easily.  The disadvantage of this over a pre prepared power point presentation is that it all your lovely worked examples and discussion notes are tricky to share with your students.

This week Y9 were learning the future tense in order to be able to discuss future food habits and health.  For my teaching of this I decide to use the app Explain Everything and mirror it the board in my classroom via my Apple TV.  We discussed verbs and endings and infinitives and we did plenty off worked examples. The difference this time though, was that I could easily save the Explain Everything slides and whilst the students were working through some exercises in their books I could upload all of our ‘board work’ to Google Classroom before our atual lesson had even finished.  Now my students have a record of our grammar lessons with notes on all the problems and misconceptions that we discussed as well as worked examples.  

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the use of technology in the classroom but this week in my classroom technology helped to support teaching and the learning of my students, without it we’d have been resorting to taking notes from the board.  

ADE Institute 2016 – A Reflection

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I’m writing this from seat 20D of my easy jet flight from Copenhagen after a fantastic 2 week family holiday in Denmark. I’m guessing most reflections have been written & read but family first and so 3 weeks after the event and with tunes from the ADE soundtrack blasting in my ear here are my reflections on a week of learning, laughter & friendship.

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Those who want the world the stay as it is don’t want the world to stay. I found this quote as graffiti on the Berlin Wall, it sums up exactly what an Apple Distinguished Educator is not. ADE’s believe in pushing boundaries, collaborating not just within their schools or school districts but across the world. They want to put a dent in the universe, they truly believe that they can change education for the better. The first thing that hits you when you go to an ADE institute is the friendship. Our hotel lobby was full of hellos and ‘so pleased to finally meet you in person! You see, most ADE’s don’t wait until institute to collaborate most have been doing it virtually for years but it is at a global institute that they get to meet face to face so you can only imagine the force of nature that is a group of ADE’s working together.

Collaboration is key at these events. During the week we all work on a project of our choosing with other educators. My chosen group was the sketch noting group. We were made up of 2 Brits, 1 Irish, 3 Americans, a Canadian & a Colombian. Our aim is to show via an iBook how we have incorporated sketch noting into our work as educators both in the classroom and for our own personal use. I am not artistic in any way but I love sketch noting & I learnt so much from the many brilliant teachers that I worked with that week. I came away inspired by them with a real desire to try & improve my own sketch noting as well as trying to incorporate it more into my work with students. Thanks goes to Sharon Drummond who showed me her 100 days of sketching in which she learnt a new German word a day & sketched it. I’m definitely going to try that with students but we’ll start smaller 7 days of sketching most probably🙂

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During the week we were privileged to be able to attend sessions given by our fellow ADE’s I was lucky enough to be able to attend firstly a session on podcasting and then a session on 6 word stories. The podcasting session was lead by Kelly Croy. Despite having listened to his podcast I have never previously connected with him online but as soon as I entered his ‘classroom’ I was bowled over by his warmth & passion. I have dabbled with podcasting in the past but thanks to Kelly & his fantastic presentation it is something I intend to persue with this coming school year! Thanks Kelly it was truly lovely to meet & chat to you!

My next session was lead by Don Goble another incredible teacher, like Kelly I really warmed to his generous spirit & enthusiasm. Don told us how he & his students went about creating six word stories, again this is something I intend to emulate in my foreign language classroom this year. Thanks Don for the inspiration – can’t wait to share our French 6 word stories with you!

During the week we were also treated to sessions from Apple experts on GarageBand, Keynote, Swift playgrounds, iMovie, iBooks and Final Cut Pro. I’m definitely going to animate using keynote this year with students & maybe see if we can enter Simon Pile’s school’s film festival with one of our films! Also watch out for more Dupstep MFL. I’ve use GarageBand live loops in class before but having had hints & tips from the experts expect bigger & better grammar songs from my foreign language classroom this year!

Collaboration isn’t just about work & you work hard at institute it’s also about getting out of your classroom with others and discovering and so on Wednesday we went out in groups to discover the amazing city of Berlin. Our group decided to create a BookCreator book about our adventure based on the ‘Where’s Wally’ books we called it where’s ADE, the basic premise being that an ADE hid in a crowded scene in Berlin, a photo was taken and readers had find them. It started as a bit of a giggle but by the end of our day we were all thinking that this project would work with students too! This is typical of institute, ADE’s just try stuff no matter how daft, after all it might just work!IMG_4322.JPG

Team ‘Where’s ADE?”

The highlight of institute for us all is ADE spotlights. Each morning starts with a selection of ADE’s telling their stories in 3 minutes, no more, no less. There’s a huge clock with 3 minutes on it that counts down as each ADE speaks and when 3 minutes is up the spotlight dies and the mic is cut whether they have finished or not! This year I loved  Shaun Kirkwood‘s 5 minutes of fun Brit Morgan & Cathy Hunt‘s art work Simon Pile & Stuart Hammersley‘s video work as well as my roomie, Sarah Jones‘ fabulous work with 360 VR. I loved the work of many teachers taking their students out of their classrooms & documenting their work via iPads.

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Spotlights are incredibly inspirational & scary as hell as I found out on the last day as it was my turn!!!! I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have done right from conceiving an idea to talk about right up to the presentation itself. It makes you focus & reflect on your work in the classroom. It makes ensure that your story connects and the your slide deck is of A1 quality – this is Apple after all!

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ADE’s try stuff, push boundaries, collaborate, inspire, share & support not just each other but all educators and that’s how we put a dent in the universe!

Let’s make some noise. Using GarageBand Live Loops to make verb songs

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In spite of being a lover of music I am not particularly musical and as such the app GarageBand has always frustrated me as, I am of the view that you need to be reasonably musical to make the best use of it.  Imagine my delight then when earlier this year Apple added live loops to the GarageBand tools.  So what are live loops?  Essentially Live Loops is a simple way to create DJ style music using loops and samples.  Apple have made it super simper for us non-musicians to use as the loops are laid out in a grid format. You can activate single loops by tapping the box or whole columns of loops and samples by tapping the arrow at the bottom of the iPad.  The good news for the non musical amongst us, you don’t need to worry about beats or timing as GarageBand does it all for you!  There are plenty of different styles of music to choose from.

To begin tap the plus sign in the top right hand corner of your iPad now tap ‘Create New Song’

Make sure Live Loops is highlighted at the top of the screen and scroll through until you find a style that you like. 

Now it’s time to start playing to stop a loop from playing simply tap in the box and it will stop tap it again and it will restart.  You can only play 1 box from each row at a time.

Recording into the live loops grid.  This is the important part especially if you are making a verb song like we did.

Firstly, slide your finger along the bottom row of the iPad where the arrows are until you find a blank column.  This is the column into which you are going to record your voice.  To do this double tap on a blank square and the option record into cell appears tap this and you are taken to a recording window.  From here you can choose a variety of effects to add to your voice, if you don’t want to do this then select the option dry.  I would suggest that you turn the metronome of at the top of the screen as you will hear this when you record.  The backward looping arrow, once tapped, allows you to re-record your voice.  Once you have done tap the little grid icon in the top left of the screen to return to your song.  Tap another empty box in the same column and repeat the whole process. It’s really important that all your voice is in the same column as this will give you flexibility as to when you play it. 

Once you have recorded all parts of the verb you can make your song.  Simply play your favourite loops adding in your voice as you go. 

http://www.slideshare.net/smith_rachel/slideshelf

Above is a link to a powerpoint how to guide

I complete this task with my Y9 classes this week it took 2 lessons but we all know the verb aller now!  They loved this activity even going as far as to say that it was cool.  I was pretty impressed because as far as they are concerned I am right up their with the kings of uncool themselves, their Dad’s most of the time!

Have a listen to one of my student’s verb songs 

Tutor period – the time that learning forgot.

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Teaching and learning time is precious, we should covet and treasure every minute of it because students don’t get a second chance at school and yet it strikes me that every day we are losing precious teaching and learning time during tutor period.

Most schools that I have worked in have had 15 -20 mins tutor time each morning and in most schools that I have worked in this results in students sitting gossiping with their mates, playing games on phones and generally waiting for time to pass.  Of course, planners are signed, assembly is taken, messages are passed on and tellings off are given (do your ties up please and fasten your top buttons!) Even if we take make a conservative estimate that tutor time lasts 15 mins that’s an hour and 15 mins of missed learning a week, which equates to around 50 hours a year! 

I am not advocating that we teach subject specific material during this time but we should use tutor time to better educational effect.  Tutor time usually takes place first thing in the morning so rather than sending our students off to class half brain dead and partially asleep why not use this time to wake them up and get them ready for the day of studying ahead? Here are a few ideas:

Play a game

There are some great duel games where one player tries to see off the other.  Plug an iPad into the main screen and get battling, winner stays on. You could even create a league table.

Count battle is and addictively simple app in which have to tap the numbers in order 1-15 however the numbers keep moving on the screen!

Math duel 2 players try to beat each other at maths.

Quizlet live students collaborate together to find the correct answer.  You have to have ‘sets’ ready made in quizlet first but there are lots and lots that others have made that you could on a multitude of topics that you could easily use.  Make sure you’ve ‘copied’ them first.

geoguessr.com makes use of google maps.  You are given a photo of  a place and you have to use the world map to guess where you are.  You earn points by guessing closest to the actual location.

Jenga app has a pass and play feature where 4 people can play at once.  You could of course play actual jenga.  A cheap jenga style game costs around £3 a set. 

Heads up app is a hilarious game where students hold the iPad or iPhone on their forehead and their classmates have to give them clues as to who they are when they guess correctly they tip the iPad forward and the next name comes on screen.  If they tip the screen backwards they pass and the next name appears.  You could of course play it the more traditional way by using post it notes on foreheads!

Keep it newsworthy

Thanks to the internet you now have the news at your fingertips.  Why not display some Front pages of the day and discuss them?

Newsround

This is a great website for short news clips and news quizzes.  Also at the end of each week they do a round up of the weeks weirdest news which is guaranteed to raise a smile

Flipboard

Use this collation website and app to create a magazine of news topics that you think your students will find interesting.  They are simple to make and you can share the link to them via your VLE, Google Classroom or via QR code.

Podcasts and podcasting.

The only subject in the school curriculum that actually teaches listening is MFL. Most students will probably only ever listen to music so why not expose them to the spoken word too?  Here are a few to take a listen to:

Question of the day – short 15- 20 mins at the most each discussing a specific question eg. Could Donald Trump be a good president?

Freakanmoics radio.  Similar to question of the day but a little longer at 30 mins

TED talks audio – TED talks

No such thing as a fish – a comedy podcast from the QI elves

More or less from Radio 4 which looks at stories behind stats

From our own correspondent also from Radio 4 – interesting stories from radio correspondents around the world.

It goes without saying that you should check each podcast for suitability before you share with your students!

If you don’t want them to just to listen to podcasts you could get them to make their own using the super simple podacasting app Opinion and then share their work with the school community or even the world.

Finally, there are many, many inspirational and thought provoking videos on YouTube that you could use to promote discussion here are some of my favourites.



With a little thought and a smidge of preparation, tutor time can become an even more valuable time of the school day.

Revising using edtech

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Over the years I have tried a number of apps and web 2.0 tools in order to facilitate revision with my GCSE classes.  Listed below are some of my favourites.

Vocabulary

I love using Quizlet to help my students learn or revise vocabulary.  This web 2.0 tool allows you or your students to make flashcards. In the case of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) I put the French on one side of the card and the English on the other but for other subjects it could be words on one and definitions the other.  You can also search the website for other ‘sets’ that you can copy and use.  In this way, you are not constantly reinventing the wheel.  The site has a variety of activities that the students can engage in including a couple of games.  My students really enjoy the game scatter and Quizlet has a recently introduced a new collaborative game called Quizlet live which all of my students have enjoyed playing.

Students do not have to create an account in order use Quizlet simply share the link to your ‘set’ with them and they are off.  One of the features that I do like is that Quizlet easily links with Google Classroom – simply click the share button and select classroom. . If you want to more functionality  you can sign up for a pro account for which there is a cost involved.

If you like Quizlet you may also like Memrise

Kahoot

If you have never used or come across Kahoot now is the perfect time to make its acquaintance.  Kahoot is a quizzing game that is highly addictive and competitive.  My current GCSE class is made up mainly of boys and they practically beg me to play this game every lesson.  Kahoot allows you to make or search for quizzes by topic.  The quiz question is displayed on the main screen in class and the students’ tablet, laptop or phone becomes the key pad.  This tool enables you to set a time limit for each question and once the quiz is complete you can download results to your Google Drive or your computer – thus enabling you to see very quickly where student misconception lies.

If you like Kahoot  you may also like Quizizz or Plickers 

Listening and Reading

Socrative

This web based tool also has an app.  If you want to create questions you need the teacher app and in order to answer you need the student app.  Socrative is a bit like Kahoot with less gamification.  I find it really useful when talking about metacognition with my class. 

You can make different types of quizzes with Socrative; multiple choice (I use this function the most as most reading and listening exam papers are made up of multiple choice questions) short answer questions or true/false questions.  One of the brilliant things about Socrative is that you don’t actually have to have made a quiz up before hand you can do one on the fly with the quick question function. All you have to do is ask the students a question and they use their tablet/ phone/ laptop as the answer pad.

You can follow the students as they answer questions in real time via your laptop or tablet.  I find this particularly useful as you can see who races through questions which often leads me to think are they reading the questions carefully or not?  The students answers turn red or green for incorrect and correct so at a quick glance you get an overview of how your class are getting on.

Once students have finished a test you can view the results.  The thing I particularly like about Socrative is you can click on the question number at the top of the results page (seen below in yellow) and see  what percentage of students gave which answer. 

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This always allows for some interesting discussions particularly about how to approach the question, where difficulties lay etc.  There are many other elements to Socrative, so much so, that it probably deserves a blog post in itself.  Some other features are exit tickets, voting on answers and the space race game.

If you like Socrative you might also like Google Forms and the marking script Flubaroo which I have written about here.

Edpuzzle

This Web 2.0 tool and app allow you to insert questions into video clips which is really useful for creating listening exercises for students.  It’s really easy to make a task by simply clicking the create button and adding the video URL code.  Once loaded, you can  trim the clip if required then simply play the video and add questions; multiple choice or short answer by clicking the green question button as you go along.  Edpuzzle integrates with Google classroom but if you aren’t a GAFE school fear not, as sharing your work is dead easy simply share the URL code or by embed it in a blog or VLE. Students need to create an account in order to use Edpuzzle.

If you like Edpuzzle you may like Playpostit

Metacognition

The might app Explain Everything is perfect for all things metacognition. Firstly mirror your iPad to the main screen in the room using Apple TV or even better in my opinion AirServer.   I then use the app in combination with the iPad camera app to take photos of the students’ work and  use the drawing tools to highlight good and bad elements of an answer.  I also screen shot exam questions from the exam board website and discuss with students how to tackle the question again using the drawing tools to write all over the exam paper. I can also use this app to import the results from a Socrative quiz  (email yourself the results from Socrative) and then discuss and again highlight good answers, poor answers vocabulary and grammar issues  with students.  You can also view websites within the app and annotate them again, perfect for going through exam papers.

The real magic with this app however is that I use the record feature of the app in order to record my every move and discussion using the app.  Once the lesson or session is finished I have a video of all the work that we have done and this can be easily shared with students via Google Classroom, iTunesU, a blog or VLE  which they can then use as part of their revision tool box at home.

Before I end this post one generic revision app which definitely deserves a mention is Gojimo. This app is broken down into school subjects then exam boards and then questions and is well worth a look. 

As with all edtech use don’t just use it for using its sake.  Edtech in the classroom only works well when it is well thought out and has real pedagogical purpose.