Ideas for Shared iPads

How lucky are we? We recently added 6 iPads to each G3-5 class, augmenting their existing 1:1 Macbook Air laptops.

Planning for valuable use of shared devices requires some creative thinking, particularly when you are used to 1:1 devices. That said, the small number of devices provides a great opportunity to differentiate for powerful learning, maximise small-group rotations and engage in collaborative activities.

Together with some of our wonderful Digital Literacy Mentors (Mike & Jocelyn), Dave and I developed some ideas about how to best manage shared devices and use them effectively to support learning.

We hope you find these tips for shared devices useful.

Learning How to Focus

Take a look at the photo below. What does it tell you? What do you notice?
It tells me that with close to 60 tabs open, this student was so distracted by the extension that he/she wasted a significant amount of time being off task. The worrying thing is that if this student continues these patterns of behaviour, he/she will find it increasingly hard to focus on learning. Let’s face it – learning is our business!

But how much direct teaching goes into helping students learn how to focus? I’m willing to wager not enough. We need to be fair to our students: we can’t expect them to pick it up through osmosis. As teachers, part of our role is to teach into how to focus, not merely that one should focus.Telling students to delete distracting elements such as non-educational chrome extensions is not enough; students need to understand the reasons behind the request – why is it unsuitable for learning?

After all, they’re not doing this maliciously – they have a genuine curiosity and love making their devices feel like their own. The trouble is, many of their choices have a negative impact on their ability to stay on track and focused.
Helping students to identify what helps their learning and what hinders their learning is a great place to start.
Chrome Extensions
Recently, we had a number of students install a Chrome Extension called Tabby Cat. It’s a cute, harmless-looking extension that shows a different cat every time you open a new tab. You can interact with it, and sometimes you will get little gifts to play with. Sounds ok, right?
I asked the class to tell me what they liked about this Tabby Cat. Predictably, the responses were as follows:
“It’s cute!”
“It’s fun because you get toys to play with if you keep opening new tabs.”
“Every new tab is different.”
“I want to see what is going to happen next and if I will get any gifts”

Helping students understand that each new picture of a cat is essentially rewarding distracting behaviour, can help them make better choices.One recommendation is to replace Tabby Cat with the Chrome Extension Momentum, which gives one new picture a day, together with the question: What is your main focus for today? This personal reminder prompts students that they have a task to complete, with a beautiful photo that doesn’t change every tab.

Vision and Movement

“Vision trumps all other senses,”  according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules. Approximately half of the brain’s resources are dedicated to processing visuals. Our brains are attuned to noticing colour and movement, so moving backgrounds, animated gifs and scrolling advertisements draw our attention.

 

In a G3 class recently, we did an audit of our visual noise. Common things we saw were:
  • Animated snow falling on Gmail backgrounds (or similar)
  • Desktop backgrounds where the picture changes every 5 seconds
  • Highly pixelated images used as desktop backgrounds
In pairs, students helped each other make good decisions to remove distracting movement – that was the easy part. The hard part was making good decisions about their desktop backgrounds. Saying goodbye to their favourite sports star or cartoon character was more of a challenge for some.

We discussed quality resolution of images being more pleasing to the eye. We also introduced the idea of colour association. Green is a calming colour (think, Green Rooms backstage in theatres) and blue can help with productivity. Encouraging students to choose a green/blue-based image that is high quality helped them see they still had some choice and the option of personalisation, but not at the expense of their focus.

Number of Desktops

Students using school laptops that don’t go home, really have no need for multiple desktops. Deleting extra desktops will help to remove the temptation to swipe between apps.

 

Reader View (Safari) or Readability (Chrome Extension) 
When looking at websites, particularly those which have articles, using Reader View in Safari or  the Chrome Extension Readability can help strip away those annoying advertisements and other extraneous and distracting material, allowing us to focus primarily on the text and images in the article. Check out the tutorial below:

Effective Digital Reading using Safari Reader View from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

Tidying your “Room” 
When in a rush, it’s easy to leave your desktop background as a cluttered disaster, always thinking, “I’ll clean it up later.” Many of our student’s desktops look like this (not unlike my teenage bedroom):
A secondary-click (right-click, or 2-finger tap) > Clean up by > Kind, helps organise files into groups of the same type. See below:
Once organised by kind, it’s easy to trash all the screenshots and/or arrange files into folders.
We recommend moving files/folders to Google Drive or Documents on a Mac (depending on file type) rather than keep things on the desktop, so as to make startup as smooth as possible. Aesthetically, it’s also more pleasing!
These suggestions are aimed at helping empower our younger students to make better choices by being well informed about distracting elements on their laptop. If you are interested in specific apps and Chrome Extensions to take managing distractions one step further (blocking specific sites etc), you may wish to check out our recent Parenting in the Digital Age resources.
Do you have any other great tips for managing distractions in primary? We welcome your ideas!

Parenting in the Digital Age – The Conversation Continues

Being the first group of people to parent the iPad generation certainly is an adventure.

On the one hand, we are amazed by their capabilities to navigate between applications, create movies, build websites and FaceTime their grandparents. On the other hand, we may feel anxious about buzzwords like ‘screentime’, ‘game-addiction’, ‘distractions’ and ‘cyber bullying.’

Keep in mind that advances in technology have helped families in numerous ways. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Communication – We can communicate quickly and easily with people around the globe via messages, email, FaceTime, FaceBook and instant messaging. In our international school setting, this is a huge benefit.
  • Efficiency and Organisation – GPS has changed the nature of travel. We can find any address easily, even if we haven’t been there before. We can use apps to organise our shopping list, to sell our used goods, and let’s not forget do our banking.
  • Learning – Now we can teach ourselves anything with the powers of YouTube, Pinterest and Google combined! Lost the rules to your board game? No problem! Need to change a tyre? Can do! Learning can be 24-7.
  • Entertainment – It’s only in the last few years that Netflix came into being! Developments in movie and video distribution, the gaming industry and the explosion of apps means there is a little something for everyone when it comes to entertainment.
  • Medical – At the consumer end of the scale, fitness monitoring is now built into many devices, and made it easier to be aware of the need to keep exercising regularly.
We are, however, realistic about the challenges facing parents too. We have put together a resource that has information, articles, and apps around common pressure points for parents. We have tried to provide a balanced perspective around some of these key issues so that you as parents can find an approach or strategy that best fits your parenting style.
We encourage you to keep the lines of communication open with your children. Inspired by the Key Jar, we have put together a list of questions that might help you begin some conversations with your child around some of these issues. Perhaps print them both off and mix them in together?

Common Sense Media has a lot of resources around parent concerns, so that is also a great source of information.At the end of the day, each family is different, and you need to find the right combination of solutions to challenges that works for you. We hope these resources are a step in the right direction.Please let us know any other resources you think might be useful, and we will do our best to add them.

Documentation Using Technology

“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” 

– Loris Malaguzzi

Inspired by the work of Reggio Emilia, UWCSEA East infant teachers have been exploring documentation to make learning and thinking visible. The role of the teacher in this process is to observe the students carefully, look for those significant moments, and capture images/videos together with examples of student voice.

This documentation is brought to their teaching teams so they can interpret it, explore options for next steps for the students involved, and make connections to the curriculum where relevant.

We had the opportunity to present to the infant teachers about ways technology can help support the documentation process. As you can imagine, technology is a natural fit for this sort of process, so we had lots to share.

Our presentation is below. We would love to hear your ideas about ways technology can enhance the documentation process. Leave us a comment!

A Beginner’s Guide to Google Apps for Education

At a recent parent forum, we had requests for a workshop on Google Apps, so parents can understand what their child is doing at school and support them at home.

We focused on Google Docs, Google Drive and GMail. You can see a summary of what we spoke about in the presentation below.

We used the context of Favourite Restaurants in Singapore to show some of the features of docs. Check it out!

For more self-directed learning with Google Apps, try the Google Apps Learning Centre.

Top 10 Tips for Tech and Travel


Travel Journals using Book Creator

 

What a great way to have a record of your summer vacation! Spice up the regular travel diary with Book Creator.

 

Kids will have fun writing a daily log of their travels and including recorded sounds, photos and videos.
Google Maps Offline

 

I can’t imagine my world without Google Maps and I use them all the time.

 

When travelling, we aren’t always connected to wifi or data. The solution is to download the map while you are connected and then you will have access to the map offline.

 

Packing Apps
I swear by my favourite Packing apps Packing Pro (free, $4.48 for premium) and Pack Point (free, with in-app purchases).

 

The premium Packing Pro generates expert lists for each family member – perfect when you’re travelling with family. You can add/remove items as needed. The checklist really helps to make sure you’ve remembered everything.

Pack Point can generate lists too, but for 1 traveller only at this stage. The interface is considerably nicer, however!
Packing Techniques

 

The good folk at LifeHacker have collated a series of tips on packing techniques to help you save space and carry more.

 

There is a little something for everyone, including my favourite tip: Invest in packing cells!
Google Translate

 

Google Translate is a fantastic tool when you are travelling somewhere where you don’t speak the language.

 

It is a free app and can even be used when you aren’t connected to the internet if you download language packs.
TripIt
This amazing app and website easily organises your travel plans. Simply forward booking confirmations to plans@tripit.com to have an itinerary automatically created.

 

Maps, directions and details are all in one place. Super handy if you have a busy itinerary. You can add plans as needed, and it prints out beautifully if you need a paper copy.
Where to Eat
The FourSquare website and app are a hungry traveller’s best friend. Do a location-based search to find the best restaurants (or coffee, nightlife, fun, shopping) nearby.

Partner app Swarm allows you to check into places and have a record of your visit. Swarm links to FourSquare, so you can leave reviews for your favourite places there too.
Where to Stay
You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of AirBnB, the popular vacation rental website and its accompanying app. While we love AirBnB, you may not have heard of a similar service, called VRBO. VRBO does all the same things, frequently with different properties, so make sure you check it out – you might find your perfect holiday home there.
Photo Scavenger Hunt

 

Creating a photo scavenger hunt is a great holiday activity for kids of all ages. Grab some ideas from Pinterest, or build your own interactive one using Klikaklu.

 

Klikaklu is a fun app designed for creating photo treasure hunts on your iPhone.
Summer Digital Projects for Families

 

 

Everything from starting a family blog to coding and creating photo albums.


Have we missed anything? What are your favourite tech and travel tips? Please share below!

Breakout EDU Migration Edition

BreakoutEDU is the brainchild of Google Educator and High School teacher James Sanders. Observing his students playing Escape the Room style video games, he was amazed at how engaged they were and wanted to create that same level of engagement for learning and problem solving during class time.

Enter BreakoutEDU.

James flipped the idea of escaping from a room on its head, instead getting participants to attempt to break into a box with a series of different locks attached. Clues to each lock could be hidden around a classroom, encouraging “critical thinking, teamwork, and complex problem-solving” across a range of content areas.

I first played BreakoutEDU at the Google Apps Summit in Singapore in September, and knew it had a lot of potential, particularly for the development of the traits of the UWCSEA Learner Profile. My MS/HS counterpart Jeff Plaman worked with DT teachers to build Breakout boxes, and we managed to procure a range of locks with the help of Head of Chinese Wendy Liao.

We played one of the pre-existing games with teachers at our Tech Mentor retreat, and have been searching for some opportunities to create games in the primary school ever since. Grade 3’s unit on Migration gave us the perfect opportunity.

G3 teachers & TAs playing the Migration Breakout

Grade 3 Tech mentor Mike Bowden and Unit of Study mentor Kim Duffy worked with Jeff and me to design a game to help G3 students develop collaborative group work skills, while also gaining some insight into what it is like for new immigrants to navigate the language and culture of a new location.

We tested the game out on the G3 teachers and teacher assistants (who performed admirably and broke out in the nick of time) before we tried it out on students in Mike’s class.

We divided the class into 2 groups of 11, and had 2 facilitators in each class (a teacher and a TA). Aside from the huge level of noise that came from each group (seriously!), we found it hugely successful in that they were thoroughly engaged, motivated and determined to break out.

One of the most powerful aspects of Breakout is the reflection afterwards. Students learned a lot about how they participated and contributed to their group – not all of it positive! Every child I spoke to wanted to do it again, and each could give insightful reasons as to what they would do differently next time and why.

Of the two groups, one broke out, and one didn’t. Sometimes, as teachers, we want to make it so that all groups are successful, but there is learning to be had, whether or not a group gets into the box or not.

If you would like to get started with BreakoutEDU, I’d encourage you to join the BreakoutEDU Facebook community, and explore the existing games on the BreakoutEDU Site. We are also happy to answer any questions or share resources.