Monday, 30 January 2017

Starting from a topic in Sway

We first started talking about Sway as an easy-to-use presentation tool in the Star Classroom training. It was introduced as an alternative to MS PowerPoint, but unlike some of the other flashy online presentation tools on the market, it actually allows you to upload a PowerPoint you have already created. So within the space of a minute, you can upgrade a presentation to an online, sharable, professional looking resource that looks great on any device - especially interactive whiteboards and smartphones!

One feature of Sway that I have only recently discovered, is the ability to produce a pre-built Sway from just the title of a topic. For example, you give it a title (i.e. History of the Roman Empire) and Sway will build a great looking presentation outline, filled with suitable headings and pictures, which you can then add your own content to. I can see this being used in two ways, although I am sure more ideas will come from it.

  1. Planning a lesson from scratch - if you are preparing materials from scratch, a lengthy part of the process can be setting up the structure of a presentation - title, headings, pictures, formatting etc. In Sway, if you start with a topic already in mind, it will build an outline for you, you can then add more content or take out any of the parts that aren’t relevant.

  1. Student research task - in this scenario, you have set your class a task to undertake some research and have asked them to prepare materials in the form of a presentation. The first part of the task is usually dedicated to making sure the presentation looks good. Using Sway, all students can start from a topic by writing in the same topic title, which means everyone has the same starting point with a pre-built outline - minimising the time they would usually spend doing it.



If you are interested in learning more about Sway - here is a help guide to get you started.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Google Expeditions visits King Edward VI Academy





Google Expeditions allows a teacher acting as a “guide” to lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way.




All of Year 7 and 8 at King Edward VI Academy visited Mr Smith's Science and Miss Perry's Geography classrooms today for a series of Expeditions around the world, under the sea, and across the solar system - by way of a Google Cardboard headset which provided an immersive experience, guided along the way by the teacher on their device. They explored the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Pichu, The Great Wall of China and Christ the Redeemer in Rio just to mention a few places in Geography, and took an immersive trip across the Solar System and beyond in Science - all from the comfort of the classroom!



Google Expeditions is making the world more accessible for students to explore, providing an immersive and engaging experience that students (and adults!) of all ages enjoy.






If you would like to find out more about the Google Expedition classroom experience, get in touch. 

We can't wait for our next Expedition!




Monday, 16 January 2017

Using Office Mix to differentiate tasks and show visual demonstrations






We are working with over 100 incredibly talented and creative teachers as part of the Star Classroom program. As a result, no 2 training sessions have been the same, despite covering the same content in each session. Creative and innovative teachers finding new ways to use the equipment and software is always exciting. Recently, we found another great possible use of Office Mix:

In a mixed class (it could be a mixed ability class, or a mixed year group class etc) there are often differentiated tasks set for the group. In this example, we were experimenting with a handwriting activity where 2 tasks were set depending on the year group/ability of the pupils. All we did was set up a PowerPoint slide, and use Office Mix to record us demonstrating the handwriting task for each group. There was no sound. When pupils were sent off to work independently, the teacher could loop the single slide PowerPoint as a presentation to continuously play. 
As a result, on the big screen,  the pupils had their visual demonstration of what the task was. This was for both groups of students, for all to see, without the teacher having to switch between slides, or continuously having to demonstrate the handwriting. It kept playing on a loop without the teacher having to restart the video each time.

In this example we were experimenting - but this use of Office Mix lends itself perfectly for any type of task that needs a visual demonstration - it doesn't have to be a differentiated one: any task that you demonstrate on the board first, why not record the demonstration and have it 'looping' at the front for all to see and refer back to as-and-when they need it throughout the lesson - to save you having to keep doing it - allowing you to target those that need additional support or extension. Take a column addition demonstration for example - explain it, leave it looping at the front, and off you go to your support groups:



We've said it before and we'll say it again - simple and effective.

Office Mix is a free add in to PowerPoint available to all DRET staff. We have an Office Mix training video available to those with a DRET login here, or to see how we did this particular example, click here.


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Open Badges

As a Trust we've been on a bit of a journey with Open Badges, dating back to this work with Cred.ly at Eastfield Academy we did in 2013. Open Badges is an idea that promises so much but many of the tools available fall short of being easy for staff and students to use, integrating into our single-sign on (I would so love Microsoft or Google to add an Open Badges tool to their stack) or truly open.

After some careful looking around we now have a service to launch, at awards.dret.cloud.

The system is based on Open Badge Factory and whilst it isn't perfect by any means covers the side of designing and issuing badges to people brilliantly. It would be great to have a simple, suitable tool like Mozilla Backpack that was open to children below the age of 13, was ridiculously simple to use (accept badges, publish badges, the end) that worked with Google ID or 365, but we've had to settle on what is out there rather than what we wish someone would market.

Initially we're piloting the system for staff with a focus on eLearning related awards for the people on the Star Classroom programme, to recognise some of the skills and experiences they have, but we expect to extend it further very quickly.

This video shows the process of receiving an award from the member of staff's point of view - illustrating both how good the system is, and how there is still plenty of room for innovation and improvement in this area.




Windows Ink

We tweeted earlier this week at our excitement and interest to discover some of the new Windows Ink features during a Basecamp training session (the 21st group as it happens). We were running through the usual demo of Window 10 and the Iiyama touchscreen when a teacher pulled it on screen and started to use it (the best thing about working with clever people is that you never quite know what they will introduce into the mix - no two days have been the same).


I know some people who know us were surprised that we even specified Windows 10 mini PCs to hide behind the Star Classroom computers, after all we've gone on record as being very positive about ChromeOS and our fleet of PCs across our academies is almost entirely still on Windows 7.

Windows 10 though has so many features that come alive when used with a (big) touchscreen that it wasn't a hard choice, especially as products like Office Mix allow us to rapidly produce videos for our DRET.tv library so it wasn't difficult to decide it was the best value option when we looked at a long term proposition (also products like Airserver allow us to do in software a lot of the screen casting needed without being tied into hardware likely to go out of date in months).


Windows Ink adds a whole series of simple but powerful tools to everything you can do on a Windows PC, so if you are using a multi-touch screen it comes into its own. For any of our staff that already have a Star Classroom board in place and done the Basecamp training it is very well worth watching the video below and using the little icon hidden in the bottom corner of the screen.


Friday, 13 January 2017

New feature in Google Classroom

We are huge fans of Google Classroom. There are already many great features for students and teachers, and many of the changes/developments that have been made to Google Classroom over the last few years have been as a direct request from teachers and educators.


The latest development has been a long time coming but is going to be hugely beneficial. When posting announcements, questions or assignments, you can now choose who you post to: all students or selected students. This is now an easy way to differentiate tasks to individuals or groups of students. It means that only those people you select will be able to see the post on their stream, and those in the classroom not selected won't be able to see the post. A great addition.

See more details here, or if you are new to Google Classroom and want to know where to start - check out our training videos here (DRET log in required)




Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a fantastic tool for teachers. It allows teachers to communicate with students and parents both in and out of lessons, and allows for fast, paperless sharing of messages, assignments, resources, lesson plans, videos, homework, web links and much more.



In talking with Student Councils across DRET, it is clear that students want to be able to access lesson material and resources outside of lessons, be it for homework help, discussion, revision, keeping parents up to date or simply having everything in one place as a reference guide.

If you are making good resources and teaching good lessons, why not be able to share it with your class in only a couple of clicks? It makes so much sense!

Time saving, collaborative and communicative, with fast, simple set up means that teachers across the world are increasingly using Google Classroom as an integral part of school life. If you are already using Google Drive then Google Classroom is the next natural step, but even if you aren't using Google Drive, Google Classroom is still an incredibly versatile platform. It can be used with children of all ages, and can prove equally valuable using it as a tool for parental engagement.

Google Classroom works on any device - phone, tablet, PC or Mac, Android, Windows or iOS, meaning nearly everyone can access it somehow.

Best of all, it's free to all teachers and students with a DRET log in!

Interested in starting using Google Classroom? Check out our 2 training videos on dret.tv here or contact the e-Learning team to arrange a CPD session for your school or department, or simply to find out more.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Effective use of Office Mix


Many teachers already use Microsoft PowerPoint to deliver lesson content. Step forward, Office Mix!

Mix is a great add-in to PowerPoint that adds interactivity to your slides - it lets you record your slides whilst teaching so you can add annotations, voice overs and even film yourself/your class whilst doing so. It's great for recording yourself explaining concepts whilst drawing/annotating on slides, or recording student opinions or justifications, orr simply recording annotations with no voice-over.

Even better, is that once you have finished recording, you can save what you have annotated/recorded as a normal Powerpoint, or export the whole thing as a video file. Once it is a video file, you can add it to DRET.tv, share the video via Google Drive, One Note, Email, Show My Homework, Google Classroom etc etc - or whatever you use so that your students can access lesson content away from the lesson.




In this example, A Level History students were asked to interpret a series of sources from a historical event. A great activity for inference and deduction. After paired discussion, students came to the front and annotated the comic-style sources on the PowerPoint slide on the big screen using Office Mix, whilst talking and justifying their thoughts. Their voices and annotations were recorded.
At the end of the session, the teacher could export the video, and have a great resource to share with the group: The video included the original sources, the annotations over the top of the pictures, and the student's thoughts on the sources - in their own words. The teacher then planned on sharing the video to students as a revision tool, and to revisit in the next lessons.

Simple, quick, effective.

(Credit: L Cooper, Malcolm Arnold Academy)

Use Powerpoint but don't have Office Mix? Install it here
Want to know more about how to use Office Mix? See our training video here (DRET log-in required)