Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Simple assessment with Trello

A while back I introduced Trello, a simplistic task management app that was able to double up as a simple classroom tool (click here for the blog post on Trello in the Classroom). The thing that I really like about Trello is just how simple it is - boards, lists and cards - that's all there is to it. However, that means that it can be adapted very easily to suit any type of task. So, like many of the other classroom tools we have demonstrated to teachers, I have been shown additional ways that it can be used.

The image below shows an example of an assessment task, with the lists along the top representing a scale of ability i.e. if the children were solving problems involving patterns then the children could move their card to where they aim to achieve.
The Deep - draw the table
KC Stadium - neatly
Humber Bridge - answer the problem in a full sentence

Credit: M Boswell, Wold Primary School

It could then be revisited after to assess the completed work. The board could then be reset and reused for the next lesson with a new set of aims. If you have an interactive whiteboard you could leave the Trello board open and have the children move their cards themselves throughout the lesson, as they realise they are able achieve more of the task.

Simple. Easy. Effective.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Looking Deeper at Stream

We've talked in the past about the shift from the wonderful Office 365 Video to the new fangled Microsoft Stream and concluded that although it's probably going to be a pain, it is probably going to be better.


As a trial I've worked through an example here of uploading a sample video to the site. Initially it shows a placeholder while it renders (the video file which was HD quality and 2:30 long took about 5 minutes to render and to create an automatic caption file).

Once uploading starts you can add the video to either a group or a channel or both. This means a video can belong to multiple different places - which will complicate things for people - but that said, you can just allocate it to one channel and being able to put it in many places does give a lot of flexibility.


When you edit the video you can add text (which is searchable - but that is way less important because now all the audio is transcribed and can be searched) to describe it.


You can set who can see it - in this case I have added it to a particular channel to make it easier for people to discover, but I've also set it so anyone can see it - so if they find it in a search they don't need to know the channel to look in - this is a big improvement on 365 Video.


The autogeneration of a caption file is a really big deal - see below. I had to do nothing to make that happen.


Similarly to 365 Video you can share the video but not outside the organisation - either by copying an address to it, or embedding it in a web page.


The resulting video is well rendered and plays well on mobile devices as well as the web. The transcription is not perfect - it certainly captures most of what I said in the video but quite a few words are changed. That said, this was instant and importantly...

... it is searchable. So after we upload all the existing DRET.tv videos as well as being able to search by the titles and descriptions, people will be able to search according to the computer generated transcriptions of all the footage. This one change is worth the work of swapping over alone.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Google Case Study on DRET


Nice to see this case study about our use of Chromebooks at DRET - many people assume they only work on G-Suite or for "research on the web" - we find they work great for those things but also for Office 365, Citrix and much more.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Classroom to Classroom with Appear.In


There are so many possible uses for simple video conferencing in class - whether it be to speak to another group of students, ask an expert or perhaps make a presentation to another group. Outside lessons use for webinars, meetings, moderation can all save effort, travel and create a useful medium of communication that is more than email and phone, but less than a face to face meeting.

What puts a lot of people off is the hassle and complexity of making video conferencing work well - first time and every time. Sound problems. Camera not working. One of the people can't get the software working...

We chose to use appear.in with Star Classroom because it is just powerful enough, and remarkably simple and reliable.

Powerful enough

Appear.In allows up to eight computers (or iPads or smartphones using the app) to join into a single online meeting with good quality audio and video (that steps down in quality when the connection isn't too good). It allows any of the participants to share their screen with the others. The paid-for version allows up to twelve participants and better quality.

Simple

All the system needs is for all the participants to go to the same web address using Chrome or Firefox or the app. The first connection requires you to give permission for it to the camera and microphone but that is it. Agree a time and all go to http://appear.in/mymeetingname and you're good to go.

The web version of Skype for Business looks good and works well enough, but has too many issues to get started reliably.

Google Hangouts has got better and better and now is about as simple as Appear.In (you now can just all go to meet.google.com and agree a meeting code in advance for everyone to use). Unfortunately the slightly better quality and ability to add more than eight people is balanced against an annoying habit of constantly switching which participant to show full screen, the swapping being very distracting if it becomes a five or six way meeting with everyone speaking frequently.

There are many uses for the webcam in the Star Classroom design other than video conferencing, but the fact that any wall-display can connect easily to any seven others opens up so many possibilities - it will be really interesting to document how people use them.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Coding in Star Classroom iPad ideas

I'm very nervous of putting much out about Coding as we try really hard to explain to colleagues that "eLearning is not Computing." There is a lot that eLearning can add to help teach computing (and computational thinking) but we don't want to have that become too much a focus. That said, we do get asked a lot - so we will put out a few posts of ideas and help for colleagues looking to develop coding.

For the first installment here are some ideas for the iPad. All the Apps listed below are either already in the Self-Service or Meraki system for our academies, or can be in a matter of minutes - just ask your friends in IT Support. The iPad is perhaps trickier than the things we'll look at in the next post because it doesn't have Scratch, which has become by default "the thing you need to know about to teach coding in a primary school" (not true but certainly getting your head around Scratch, and code.org is a good place to start).

Episode 39 of the awesome Canvas Podcast is probably the best place to start in terms of ideas for coding with an iPad in school or at home - Fraser Speirs goes through the best options and explains them from the perspective of a teacher.

Some of the apps he highlights that we'd strongly support include:

Hopscotch
Hopscotch is not "Scratch for the iPad" but it hits all the same areas of learning and has a quite gentle learning curve for getting started. It excels for helping students build games, and the way the student can learn to package up some code they have written into a "behaviour" and then re-use that code in other places gets them thinking in terms of modules that will stand them in good stead when they move to more advanced languages.

Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds is probably the main claim Apple can have to say the iPad isn't just good enough to learn to code on, it is actually better. There are a wealth of eBooks that work alongside Swift Playgrounds that a student can work through, and instead of coding by dragging blocks, the students gets the experience of keying in code.

Scratch Jr 
Although it is nowhere near a full version of Scratch, Jr is really easy to use and ideal for 5-7 year olds - it makes no compromises in being a "proper iPad app" rather than some kind of half-baked version of Scratch itself, and the commands available are much more limited - but anything the student learns with Jr they will quickly be able to apply to the full version on the web.



Saturday, 8 July 2017

Week of Keep 6 - Extensions

Google Keep is a great tool for clipping stuff from the web, making lists, adding notes - but no software is perfect. Here are two Chrome Extensions we recommend installing to use with Keep to make it one step closer.

Keep Notes don't fill the screen - they sit very nicely looking like they are on top of the window. Looks great, but what if you want every possible pixel to type on? The Full Screen Edit extension makes it so that when you open a Keep Note, it fills the screen. Nothing more.

When you find a good web page and want to take something for notes for later, copying and pasting into a new window with Keep can be a chore. Instead install the Google Keep Chrome Extension that adds a small icon to your toolbar - whenever you click it the page is grabbed and added to your notebook for later.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Week of Keep 5: Voice Transcription in Keep on the iPad

Keep is designed to work on the web but it has a special trick in the iPad app.

In the initial menu you can start just typing a note, make a list, draw (it works very well with Apple Pencil if you're lucky enough to have one), take a photo and...

If you tap on the microphone Keep will immediately open a new note and wait for you to start talking.

Assuming you talk clearly at a normal speed Keep will transcribe your words pretty much in real time - and it is as good a quality voice to text system as we've ever used. The resulting note allows you to see (and edit) the text and to play back the original audio.

If you open one of these notes in the web view you get the additional option of saving the audio file - so if for example you wanted to record an interview you could record and transcribe everything, and download the audio for further editing.

Uses:
  • Marking work and leaving comments - record and transcribe them and then drop the text wherever it is going to be needed. Often with audio feedback the student may want to be able to read rather than listen (yes, we know it may be better to have to listen...).
  • Recording an interview or podcast.
  • Lecture notes.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Week of Keep 4 - Keep Notepad in Google Docs

So by now this week you have probably guessed that we love Google Keep.
Standalone, it's a great tool. Add in the ability to use Keep in Google Docs and for many it will become a game changer. Using your Keep notes within Google Docs is done via the Keep Notepad that is built into the tools menu in Docs, and allows to see your notes whilst staying in Docs.
Take a look at this video for some practical examples of how that integration is useful for workflow and convenience - a great addition.

click the icons above to see the video

Today is day 4 of our 'Week of Keep' - if you missed the first 3 see the posts here or if you are a DRET employee you can see all our training videos on DRET.TV

Coming tomorrow - useful extensions to use with Keep and a few top tips!


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Week of Keep 3 - Handwriting and inking options

We have turned Google Keep into a roving classroom whiteboard! The more we use Keep, the more we love it's versatility. In this short video we explore ways the handwriting/inking tool can be used in the classroom either as a whiteboard-esque working space or as a means to annotate student work for feedback.
Google Keep - the gift that 'keeps' on giving!

Click the picture to see the video

DRET staff can view all of our training videos on DRET.TV including a sneak peak of the next videos in our 'Week of Keep' series. More tomorrow including how to use Keep alongside Google Docs.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Week of Keep 2 - Taking photos with Keep

Our Week of Keep series continues today with an exploration of how you can use the photo features of Google Keep. Whether it be for collecting photographs from your team, organising photographs taken over a series of lessons, or using Google Keep as a way to get student work onto the big screen at the front of the classroom, this video highlights some really useful ways that you can use Google Keep in your classroom and/or with colleagues.

Click the photo to see the video
Stay tuned for further Google Keep ideas and ways of working with Keep, including annotating and integrating with other tools. If you are DRET staff, you can find all of our training videos at DRET.TV

Monday, 3 July 2017

Week of Keep: Introduction

Welcome to the eLearning Team's "Week of Keep" where we will be focusing our attention on Google Keep - a fantastically versatile note-taker that can be used in a variety of ways!

Everyday we will be posting ways to use Google Keep either in the classroom or for your personal workflow. To get things started, this video is an introduction on how to use Keep on your phone or computer and the basics in keeping things organised.

Click the photo to see the video
Check back every day this week for more detailed ways to use Keep in and out of the classroom. If you are DRET staff, you can find all of our training videos at DRET.TV
Can't wait until tomorrow for the next video? DRET staff can go to training.dret.tv right now to see the next video in the series (DRET login required).