Engaging ICT

Focusing on student achievement – My Focus Book

It’s been quite a while since my last post on Engaging Educators. Over the last year, I’ve had a baby, learned how to be a Mum (sort of) and returned to work. Over this time. I’ve tried to keep in touch with the classroom via Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Whilst I found myself occupied for 99% of the time, doing things that new Mothers do, from time to time, I found myself with a bit of time to read Flipbook on my iPad and find great initiatives and ideas from teachers across the globe. However for my first post back, I wanted to focus on a great idea that is closer to home.

A fantastic teacher that I work with came up with a fantastic idea whilst in the midst of trying to keep up with the ever changing, ever improving nature of student achievement. Great teachers take notes about student achievement each and every day. Whether it be hand written, digitally stored, audio recording or video, assessment ‘as’ learning revers to the ever changing ideas, developments, reflections and achievements of students as they learn each and every day. The challenge however, of tracking students and monitoring their improvements in literacy, numeracy, inquiry, social learning…the list goes on, is hard for everyone. Great teachers direct their teaching at the point of need, and the ability to know this depends on their ability to monitor student learning, whether it be big or small.

As a classroom teacher, I always struggled with the way in which I kept anecdotal notes. I’m not a paper person to say the least, and I always found it difficult to ensure that I could maintain a proper workbook that was both practical during class time and useful when writing reports. I always wished there was an easier way.

With the introduction of mobile devices in the classroom, the idea of using iPads or iPhones to take anecdotal notes seemed to be a match made in heaven. Sonia Murdaca, a classroom teacher in her second year, came up with the idea to create a program that would do just this. With the help of her software programmer fiancé, they have developed a simple yet effective program that allows teachers to use mobile devices, as well as standard computers to take notes about student achievement.

‘My Focus Book’ is a great initiative that stores notes easily.  Features include:

  • It allows teachers to create various groupings of students for different learning areas.
  • Student lists can be imported for easy set up.
  • Notes can be shared with a variety of teachers to assist with shared responsibility and transparency.
  • Information can then be brought up when completing reports about individual students.

‘My focus book’ is a great idea that has stemmed from a teacher who saw a need in her own classroom. The fact that she has developed this idea into a real life learning and teaching tool is inspirational.

For more information about ‘Myfocusbook’, visit their website here.

OutRAGEous Art – Art Rage for iPad 

Art Rage is a fantastic App that allows users to create interactive, detailed artworks on your iPad. It allows even beginning artists to use a range of authentic tools to create and replicate artworks with ease. There are a number of amazing clips and videos available on the internet to show users the potential of using the program.

The app certainly brings canvas to technological life! It certainly has the ability to replicate the look and feel of painting in real life. It would fulfil the requirements of the beginner to experienced artiste. The added addition of painting tools brings the techno painting experience to life!

The new update allows users to share their creations to itunes and drop box and export in a wider range of formats. At $4.99, reviewers have described this app as the most realistic painting experience on the iPad. Certainly an exciting prospect for Primary Schools around the world!

Click on the movies below to view youtube a youtube tutorial and review!

Tag Clouds with Style – Tagxedo  I have always been a huge fan of Wordle. Displaying thinking in the form of word clouds creates a unique and interesting summary of ideas that captures interest and imagination. Recently, two amazing teachers at my school (aka Belinda C & Sonia M) worked with a group of students who had stumbled across what they called ‘a better version of Wordle’. These Grade 4 students were so excited by the possibility of being able to use the Wordle concept in a more interesting way. Like Wordle, Tagxedo displays keywords in a cloud like image. Words that appear in text more often appear larger. The orientation, font and colour of the image can be edited and personalised according to your taste. However, Tagxedo allows the user to create word clouds based on an image that is selected from a base library, or uploaded from their personal computer or mobile device. The other great aspect of Tagxedo is the ability to share, save and print creations easily. Furthermore, Tagxedo creations come to life by the scrolling of a mouse over specific words within the cloud. Being able to embed the cloud within blogs and websites would inspire many students to use this in their learning and in presentations. The brings about a new dimension in the way that word clouds can be used as a fantastic reflection tool in the classrooms. There are a variety of great blogs that focus on how teachers have used Tagxedo in their classrooms. The following are a few examples with fabulous ideas:  Captivating Classrooms 101 ways to use Tagxedo in the classroom Move over wordle – Tagxedo is here Ideas for Tagxedo in the classroom Furthermore, to view a demonstration of Tagxedo in action, click on the following video: ‘Discovr’ apps like never before!   Recently I came across an amazing app that helps anyone to sort and classify apps according to keyword search terms or popular categories. ‘Discovr Apps‘ gives users a unique alternative to itunes to search for apps in a creative and visual way. Discovr apps is available for iPad and iPhone and displays app searches in the form of a concept map. This concept map can be easily expanded by clicking on any app to then refine the search for additional items. Users can instantly see a range of options available to download, rather than sifting through apps in a linear fashion. As a visual learner, this app has transformed the way that I search for apps. Discover apps also allows you to review each app by simply clicking on the icon. This then takes you to a description and review of each app.

‘Discovr Music’ also allows users to search for music genres and artists, much in the same way that itunes functions. This app simply provides users with a great alternative to the itunes search engine, and as educators of thinking, is a great way to display the ‘search process’ to students. Click on the video below to view a demonstration of ‘Discover Apps’ in action! Wordfoto – Pictures are worth a Thousand Words! Everyone knows the old phrase – pictures are worth a thousand words! A colleague of mine (thanks Aleisha!) certainly proved this to me this week by introducing me to another cool App that blew my mind! Wordfoto brings together pictures and words to create amazing works of art. Pictures literaelly are transformed into living stories that jump off the page! Being able to add a message, slogan, feeling or idea to an existing message creates an intruiging sensation for the viewer. This idea has been seen around the world on various advertising bill boards and posters at trainstations and airports. However the ability for any person to create instant works of art is something that is unique. Users can choose to take a new photo or use an existing one from their photo library. Clever templates allow first time users to seamlessly create new images based on various layouts, colours, fonts and styles. Styles include Classic Colour, Classic Grey, Comic, Prankzter and Romance. Each giving a unique spin on the image effect.Custom styles can be created giving a personalised effect. Text be entered by creating sets of up to ten words at a time. Various word sets including ‘Love of My Life’ and ‘Live Laugh Love’ allow the user to play and experiment from the first go! Each image can be fine tuned and edited to give the desirable effect. Each created item can then be saved to the library, shared on Facebook or emailed to any user. This App has the potential to bring to life an photo taken by an user at any age. Any art classroom could harness the ability to create art works on mobile devices and use this amazing App to create personalised art in a second. Personally, I have spent the last few hours creating amazing images that I hope to hang as a canvas on my wall! All I can say is…thanks Aleisha!!! For more information on wordfoto, click here To view a review on wordfoto, view the video below: Google Squared – helping our students see the web through new lenses Every now and then, a great tool, strategy or idea comes into our inboxs’ and changes our world forever. Google Squaredis a tool that I believe may do just that.  Google Squared is a search engine that searches the web for information relating to a specific search term and then classifies and catergorises the content into a cross classification chart, or tabular form. Unlike a normal search, which lists key information in a list, Google Squared organises key information relating to the search term, displayes in a visual way the allows the reader to sort through new ideas simply and clearly. Helping our students to understand how to use search engines effectively has long been a challenge for educators. Raising awareness about ‘boolians’ and ‘search engine optimisers’ has brought about an understanding of how to find exactly what you are looking for, however students (and teachers) are still left with the task of scrolling through endless lists of information, with no comparison or connection. For example – if you search the term ‘planets’ – Google Squared creates a cross classifies information on the web and creates a table comparing the planets according to common factors including size, weight, distance from the Earth etc. If you search the term ‘saints’, it creates a chart with information about various saints including name, date of birth, country of birth, feast day etc. It simply creates a visual table of all the important information relating to your chosen topic after searching the web for it!

Google Squared brings searching the internet to life. It brings together a vast amount of information, compares and classifies it in a way that allows you to cut the searching time in half. This tool I believe will radically change the way in which students view Google as a place to find facts, ideas and knowledge.  I am very excited about exploring the possibilities of this tool in the classroom and would love to hear what educators think about it’s potential. To understand more about Google Squared – view the following video Flipboard for iPad – Brings your web community to life!   I am simply obsessed with Flipboard for iPad. A friend recommended it via twitter and like most tweets from colleagues, there tends to be a never ending array of tools and resource that make life easier and more enjoyable.  Twitter and Facebook allow each of us to remain in contact with like minded people who are trying to develop a passion of learning in their students. Each an every day I am presented with an amazing variety of links, ideas and suggestions that bring learning to life.  However this day, I was presented with a tool that does something even better, it brings to life the never ending list of suggestions from the very people who send them. Flipboard presents media content in the form of magazine like format. It creates a personalised magazine from your personal interests and networks. Flipboard allows you to link your favourite news outlets, magazines, lifestyle and entertainment feeds. However it also allows you to tap into your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and presents tweets and status updates in the form of a magazine layout, complete with direct links and feeds to relevant websites, images and documents that are currently being fed live. The fact that you can isntantly view and read these tweets, brings about another dimension and sense of interaction with your network. It draws your attention to the very ideas that are being reccomended to you through Facebook and Twitter but in a more visual way. This means that the time you would normally take, clicking and connecting to these resources is shortened dramatically. The suggestions from your network of peers comes to life and presents itself to you in the most simple, yet magical way. In 2010 Flipboard was names Apples top App for the iPad. Flipboard truly has the potential to revolutionise how we view social networking sites as real forms of professional development and reading. The fact that you can now see the ideas rather than imagining them, to me does something that is truly special. I can only hope that this app comes to the Macbook sooner than later. For more information visit www.flipboard.com. Click on the video below to view Flipboard for iPad in action. QR Codes –fad or fabulous? QR codes are everywhere. They appear on cereal boxes, on bill boards and now, even picture book authors are placing QR codes on the back of their stories. Even though QR codes appear in many places, many people (including many educators) do not notice them or do not know what they are! Recently, I have asked many colleagues and friends about QR codes and I am presented with puzzling looks and questions. What are they? QR codes are not an optical illusion or a puzzle. They are, in fact, a clever way to engage people in the search for answers, resources and knowledge.   According to Ollie Bray:  ‘A QR Code is a two-dimensional bar code created in Japan (where it is currently the most popular type of two-dimensional code). QR stands for ‘Quick Response’ as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be downloaded at a high speed. QR Code is very popular in Japan and is starting to catch on in Europe. Some phones come with built in QR code readers and for other phones you can download QR readers for free over the Internet’. (Check OllieBray for more information). According to the 2009 New Horizon Report , six key technologies were identified in terms of their predicted impact over the coming years.  Amid the predictions were ‘smart objects and devices’. According to the report, ‘Smart objects and devices are able to connect the physical world with the world of information. This can be done very simply — for instance, by printing out a quick response (QR) code and attaching it to and object…the effect is to connect that object to the larger world by linking it with other objects, information and media’ (pg. 5/6). These ‘quick response’ codes therefore can be a means by which to link web resources instantly. The code itself is a ‘pixilated like’ image, embedded with information pertaining to the link.  When a viewer uses a QR code reading on their mobile phone or mobile device, the information is instantly recognised and the viewer is taken directly to the website or resource. This image can be created very simply by using a vast number of QR code generators online. By simply submitting the relevant url or web resource to the generator, it creates the QR code in the form of a png or jpeg file. This file can then be inserted into any document to be printed and then scanned by the viewer. To scan the QR code, the viewer will need to use a relevant app on their mobile phone. Scanners such as ‘Optiscan’  allow the user to easily read the code and view the link directly on their phone or mobile device. Alternatively, you can also download a desktop scanner that can be added to your dock or desktop to use instantly (see instructions). The question then remains as to whether or not QR codes will have an impact in schools? Why would educators choose to use QR codes rather than directly giving students the link? The answer is engagement. Whilst recently at the ADE camp in Sydney we used a range of mobile applications together to create and engage in interactive learning. The use of  QR codes for example as a link to educator web profiles, youtube clips and questions engaged the group in an exciting way that simply giving the link could not do. Some educators spoke of the use of QR codes in scavenger hunts and team challenges. A Melbourne Catholic Secondary College used placed QR codes in specific shop fronts around the Melbourne CBD (with permission of course), and these formed points of reference for students throughout the task. Each QR code contained information that led students to the next clue and so on. The ability to engage students with their mobile devices brought about a sense of wonder and motivation that had never been achieved before. It’s not so much about the QR code itself, but the engaging way in which it is used. Just like any technology, it is only as good as the opportunity it provides. Other Primary classrooms use it as a visual tool to help students remember commonly used websites such as Mathletics. By using a simply QR code reader on the desktop, students scan the code and go directly to the site. No more need to remember the url! I see the use of QR codes as an interesting opportunity for educators to get their students moving, thinking and collaborating. If there are any educators who have had success in the use of QR codes in their schools and classrooms, I would love to know! Relevant links for information about QR codes: www.olliebray.typepad.com www.blogs.educationau.edu.au Downloading a QR code reader for your desktop Click on the video to see an interesting use of QR codes in a junior primary class Evernote for Everyone!   During my recent time in Sydney I was amazed by this simple tool which allows users to easily capture, connect and communicate ideas, resources and conversations! For me, Evernote has three key factors that make this app a must for any educator: 1. It allows you to capture anything. It allows you to take photos, store documents, pdfs, take notes, record podcasts…anything. Whether it be recording learnings from a Professional Development session, staff meetings or discussions, student performances or presentations…Evernote is a great tool to keep ideas safe. You may be using the web to search for important information about a presentation, building a house, planning a wedding or creating a portfolio! Evernote allows you to capture information from a range of resources and store them in a way that is easy and accessible. 2. It is accessible across time and space.  Evernote allows you to access stored information from anywhere and at any time. You can access information on your Mac or PC, on your mobile device or on the web! 3. It helps you find things you need – fast! Evernote makes it easy to find important documents or ideas. Evernote even recognises key words from within documents that you are using to make it easily integrated. What an amazing way to organise and classify important documents or ideas. Evernote was used by ADE’s to easily record and capture inspiring presentations and Keynote speeches. Whilst recording, the user is able to take notes and jot down insights and new learnings. This can easily be emailed or uploaded following the presentation. Users can be allocated to groups, files can be password locked and information shared easily. This application has a multitude of uses that would make the modern educator / learner’s ability to communicate and collaborate a simply task! If anyone has experienced this fantastic application in the classroom / school setting…please share your ideas and thoughts about this program! The following video is a snapshot introduction to the program For more information (including introduction for PC), visit www.evernote.com Musical Magic – Garageband for iPad Garadeband for iPad is simply amazing. Being a previous fan of Garageband for Mac, I was keen to see how Apple had updated the application to bring about new excitement and curiosity. The new ‘smart’ capacity allows students to interact, emulate and sample various instruments with ease.  The program allows you to change so many factors that change the sound of a huge variety of instruments brings about an amazing sense of confidence that anyone could feel as though they could be the next Eric Clapton!  The beauty of this application is the way that it seamlessly overlays sound tracks to create your own demo with ease.  Previewing and sampling ideas is just the beginning.  Hidden tools such as ‘quantisation’ allow any user to create perfect melodies without the need to ensure that you can keep a steady rhythm – it corrects any mistakes for you!  Plug in an electric keyboard or sampler guitar and the program really comes alive.  Provide a group of students with an iPad and an instant orchestra is formed!  A fantastic mix of newly improved features, together with the previously clean track format brings this amazing program out of the expert’s hands and into the minds of any child or adult that simply loves music.  Garageband for iPad is simply the best app that I have come across and is a gift to teachers and students everywhere! View the following Apple Demo video to see the program come alive! Using Wordle in the Classroom – How creative can we be? A inspirational colleague of mine – Helen Otway – posted a great link to Twitter today to a site that explored various ways of using various applications in the classroom. Wordle is a fantastic, visual tool that allows teachers and students to create word cloud expressions of text, ideas, brainstorms, keywords – almost any  literacy task that requires publishing.  The visual aspect of such a program draws your eye to key words based on colour, size, font and layout. This tool helps students to share their ideas in a very simple yet creative way. The program itself is also easy to use (as long as you have the correct java settings in place). This program has been a staple tool in many classrooms for a couple of years. However seeing this link made be think about whether or not we are taking such common and simple applications for granted. Are we seeing the full potential in using such tools or are we always trying to move onto the next best thing? Are teachers going back to their old tags and bookmarks and seeing new and exciting ways of using common tools in their classrooms to engage their students in learning? It is so important to keep an open mind and be aware of new ideas and improvements in technology in education, however I think that sometimes we forget that there are some tools that really do engage our students if we use them in the right way at the right time. I know I am guilty of forgetting this! This link provides teachers with 52 ways of using Wordle in the classroom – many of which you may not have thought of before! Thanks Helen for this great link! 52 Interesting Ways & Tips for using Wordle in your Classroom Edmodo – Engaging Students in a safe online environment  A friend of mine introduced myself to Edmodo recently.  This portal it seems, is our solution to the ever growing need to generate student awareness in using social networking sites in Primary Schools.  Popular sites e.g. Facebook require students to be thirteen years of age, but the ability for children to simply ‘tick a box’ enables access to a world sometimes far beyond their years. Yes the technical skills may be there, however young students sometimes do not understand the rules relating to social etiquette and communication.  Cyber safety is of paramount importance at present. The ability for schools to protect their students through education and developing awareness about how to stay safe is an area that I fear may be overlooked by many, simply because they believe that students have this skill, or parents know what their children are doing at home.  We all need to ensure that we are doing what we can to protect our children and work together to develop community awareness about safety for all online. Edmodo presents schools with the ability to interact safely through private spaces, much like private wikispaces. The benefit entails a format that replicates that of facebook, with status updates, profiles and the ability to upload media content.  This term I am going to explore the use of Edmodo with our senior students. I would love to hear from anyone that has experienced success in using this or any other social networking site that is safe for Primary School Students. Click here to visit Edmodo


5 Responses to Engaging ICT

  1. Nathan says:

    Hi Kate,

    Great blog!! Perfect timing for me given that the previous week the Year 5’s at my school were involved in a QR Code Maths Hunt. The lesson was centred around having fun (a surprise these days) especially after an intense week of NAPLAN tests. They also had the chance to further explore their iPad2’s. The lesson involved searching the school grounds for QR Codes that had Numeracy Equations embedded in them. The students scanned the code, took a screen shot with the iPad and filmed or took a photo as evidence of what they were doing.

    From here they returned to the classroom to solve the 14 equations and make a short movie on the iPad with the events of the session. The students could have solved the problems whilst outside, however, the Melbourne weather held us back!

    The social interaction was amazing and given it was something new it was a very stimulating and rewarding event.

    The iPad2 is going to open up many opportunities for QR Codes within the curriculum. One area I have been suitable impressed with is the scope that QR codes can be used. I showed the PE teacher how to generate a QR Code for the Interschool Sports fixture. This was place on the Sports Noticeboard. Parents/students could scan this code, open the PDF and if they had an iPhone or iPad, they could save the document to their iBooks. This is sustainable, provides good communication and allows students to be better organised, rather than have a piece of paper printed and then misplaced.

    Within the library and other curriculum sections of our school, I plan to educate/inspire these teachers in how to use QR Codes. My personal opinion is that within the library I think QR Codes will increase the use of print media. Placing QR’s in the back of novels that have an authors website in them or other link, book reviews created by students, podcasts and more.
    My vimeo link to QR activity.

    The other aspect of your blog I truly enjoyed was Evernote. I am a massive fan of Evernote, I will admit probably more a fan since the ADE Conference in April. I have been using it in class with my 1 to 1 reading sessions. Recording the students as they read to me and taking notes on the same Evernote Note. This has given me another form of recorded assessment. I listen to them reading and ask questions at the end. Record notes through text format, as well as audio format. I have also recorded PD’s within school, taken notes and sent them to colleagues in an email. It is a fantastic FREE tool.

    I hope I haven’t rabbled on too much.

  2. Sonia says:

    Wow!! Wordfoto is amazing. I can really see that working in my classroom!! Especially to engage the visual learners, in order to get them thinking ‘outside’ the square in order to generate writing ideas!

  3. Really educational and I definitely appreciated the write-up. I’ll be waiting for more that are just as intriguing.

  4. One of my all time favorite quotes seems very fitting here “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgments that leads us to either fortune or failure.”–Jim Rohn

  5. I was truly impressed with Engaging ICT |. It is actually very similar to my blog. However I am only a beginner. Keep up the great work. Sincerely, xbox kinect reviews.

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