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Showing posts from 2018

Will VR and AR ever be anything but niche?

I remember a few years ago being blown away by virtual reality. I had just spent 4 minutes or so in a dystopian future watching protestors clash with robotic riot officers, drones hovering overhead, the chaos of permanent night and a brilliant soundtrack to match. This 360 music video by Muse that I was immersed in whilst wearing a Google Cardboard headset was the future of everything I had decided. Via the VRSE app (now Within) I could also take walking tours of NYC or fly through an asteroid field. "The future is here!" I proclaimed and felt much like Marty McFly when about to be eaten by that great white.



Since that memorable occasion, I have been a big fan of VR and increasingly AR. I have played games, watched films, taken expeditions and discovered artifacts all without actually leaving the room. I have hunted Pokemon all over town and led children on AR treasure hunts. The quality of the picture, the realism, the experience is getting better all the time and more and…

Linear versus Unstructured Tools for the Teaching Wall

For a long time I've had a recurring problem. Every time I show a tool to use on the "teaching wall" at the end someone always asks "yes, but can I play my SMART Notebook files on it?" or "yes, but what about Powerpoint?"


I must admit to having a soft spot for Powerpoint, particularly when combined with Office Mix but for my own work have pretty much gone over to Google Slides just because I can access them anywhere and they have all the features I need, plus sharing tools. SMART Notebook though has always bothered me, partly because it is so expensive in the grand scheme of things - and so often, when I watch someone using it, they are using it very much like Powerpoint with some extra touch-widgets thrown in.

In advance of the same chorus when I show people the new Google Jamboard tool I started to think about why people find it so hard to move on from those tools, other than the simple "but all my lesson resources are in that format."

Whe…

Jamboard - New Tool

Jamboard has been around for a while as a high-end piece of digital office furniture from Google but the software is now part of G-Suite and therefore available to all dret.cloud users.

Staff or students can either go to jamboard.google.com for the web version (which is really only useful for viewing and sharing boards) or use the iOS app available on the Self-Service store.

What Jamboard provides is a lovely app to pull different kinds of documents from Google Drive or web pages, move and resize them and annotate over the top with different pen tools or a number of icons.

I plan to do a couple of blog posts about Jamboard in the coming days - one about the whole premise behind this kind of software and other comparing it to what up to now have been my go-to pieces of software, Google Keep and Microsoft OneNote.

If you'd like to see what Jamboard looks like in action, this (staged) teacher demonstration from Tom Mullaney gives a good overview.


Be Internet Legends

For a long time I have been a huge fan of SWGFL's Digital Literacy Curriculum resources and continue to be so. From a primary school viewpoint, they are a great starting point for ensuring whole school coverage of digital literacy and citizenship in age-appropriate ways, and staff generally like the out of the box resources and lesson plans which can be adapted accordingly.

I was recently introduced to Google's new 'Be Internet Legends' scheme of work. Aimed primarily at Key Stage 2 (but looks like it can be adapted down or up pretty easily), the scheme of work has been developed by Google and Parent Zone, along with PSHE Association and Internet Matters which, in their own words, is a "multi-faceted programme designed to teach children the skills they need to be safe and confident online."




There are lesson plans and resources, all themed around 5 main pillars:

Think Before You Share (Be Internet Sharp)Check it’s For Real (Be Internet Alert) Protect Your Stuff…

EAL tools

The thing we love the most about the best digital tools is that they are easy to pick up and use for the novice, but allow more experienced users to find ways of using them to a greater depth, either for teaching and learning purposes, classroom impact, or to aid workflow.
A workshop we have been offering recently to EAL teachers and departments uses a tool that does just that. More specifically, Google Docs.




Using the built-in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in Google Docs, you can turn images with text into text documents, and then using the translate tool, convert that text into whatever language you need for your EAL students.

Imagine the scenario - in your lesson you are studying a couple of pages from a text, perhaps identifying certain parts of speech or grammar. You have a student or perhaps a few students in your class with English as an additional language who you know will struggle with this particular text or the homework task that follows, but you don't have the p…

Google Sites - an easy way to collate and share resources and information

Google Sites is a tool in G Suite to create websites - no programming required. You can build multi-page websites or platforms from scratch in no time at all - just by dragging content onto a page. Once finished, you can share the websites link with other staff, students and parents. It's a great way to collate material together to send out in one go, and easy to keep updated with new resources and information where required. It's also compatible with other Google products like Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms etc which you can embed into a page - you can also add anything you have stored in your Google Drive such as PDF's and images too.

Here's a few ideas for using Google Sites to get you inspired. . .

Revision websites 
A teacher at Havelock Academy has used Google Sites to build a GCSE Science revision website to collate useful revision material into one place. Each page on the website is focused on a specific topic, organised into relevant sections and exam papers and i…

Week of PowerPoint (3) - Professional looking presentations with ease

It’s been around for a while, but it’s a tool that I use all the time, especially when creating a new presentation from scratch. The Design feature in PowerPoint works in the background to match your content to professionally designed layouts, as you are putting your ideas onto a slide. As you start adding content such as pictures and charts, the designer will pop up to the right of the screen and show you different designs, that change as you start adding more. If you don’t see design ideas you may need to turn it on. 
1. To turn on Designer go to the File menu, click Options. 2. In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, click the General tab on the left, then scroll toward the bottom and check the Automatically show me design ideas checkbox.
Once turned on, try adding some content to a page and see what happens.
Here are the type of designs the Design feature suggests from a blank slide with some text and a few images.



If you close the designer at any point you can always open it by selectin…

Unexpected changes to schedule easier to manage with digital tools

We recently posted about Snow Days not being what they used to be, and now that the 'Beast from The East' has hit large parts of the country, we are again faced with schools up and down the country closed for the day.
Not to go over old ground, but we again find ourselves using tools such as Google Drive, Drive File Stream, and various video conferencing platforms to be able to access our files and communicate with team members. Whilst face-to-face contact is largely off the agenda, it doesn't necessarily mean that admin and planning are out of reach.

We have recently started using Microsoft Teams for much of our team communication and it is proving rather useful. We will blog more at a later date on the whys and wherefores of Teams itself, but let's just say that today is a day where it has come into its own:

We were due to have a team meeting in person at HQ, but most team members were affected by the snow and unable to travel. A few quick clicks later in Microsoft T…

Week of PowerPoint (2) - Screen Recording

In part 2 of the ‘Week of PowerPoint’ we are going to look at another useful feature that allows you to record your slides, with the option to simultaneously record audio, video and screen annotations. A simple and easy-to-use tool that transforms your presentations into useful videos for your students to watch and study later.

Important Update for Office Mix Users
In previous blog posts we’ve talked about Office Mix, which is a PowerPoint add-in that allows you to record your slides. The ability to install the Office Mix add-in is no longer available, due to the fact that Microsoft decided to integrate it as a built-in feature to PowerPoint - no add-in needed! Instead, all you need to do is turn the Recording Tab on. Click here to see how. Once you can see the Recording tab along the ribbon at the top, you will be able to create a screen recording, export your recordings to a video file format or even export your video directly to Microsoft Stream (DRET TV).

Here are a few ideas of ho…

Week of PowerPoint (1) - The iPad App

PowerPoint: the go-to presentation tool in most classrooms. 
It’s a favourite with a lot of teachers, it does everything you need it to and it’s easy to use. Over the last year PowerPoint has undergone quite a few updates, and added in lots of new features to help in the classroom. In case you missed anything, this week I’m going to round up a few of my favourite additions in a blog post series ‘The Week of PowerPoint’. 
I’m going to kick off the series by introducing you to the PowerPoint iPad app. It’s been around a while and most of you will have it installed on your iPads - but do you use it? Granted, it’s difficult to build a whole presentation with text and images on the iPad version, however as a tool to just display presentations you already have, it’s definitely a game changer. 
When presenting a presentation from the iPad app you can use your finger as a pointer to focus on key areas, you can draw with your finger directly on the slides and navigate through your slides whilst s…

Training Updates - constant evolution

So just like floppy discs, VHS and Betamax, USB storage is no more within our Trust. Many people had already moved away from memory sticks; but for some, this term was a major shift in the way they stored information such as lesson plans and teaching resources.
As we have already written about, we didn't take the decision to ban USB storage lightly or without thought. We knew that cloud storage such as Google Drive is a far more efficient and safe way of storing our files, and this is reflected in the fact that large amounts of time have been dedicated this term to training staff on how to use Google Drive and Google Drive File Stream effectively. Staff from Edward Heneage Primary Academy, Havelock Academy, Humberston Academy, Malcolm Arnold Preparatory, Barnes Wallace Academy, Eresby School, Fairfield AcademyCedar Road Primary School and Kings Heath Primary Academy to name but a few have had Google Drive sessions and workshops this half term which have been engaging and impactfu…

Life after memory sticks FAQ

It's only been a few weeks since we said goodbye to memory sticks at the Trust, and it's great to see how many have adapted to a new way of working. However, we appreciate that there maybe some occasions whereby a USB or hard disk drive is necessary, for example, when a visitor comes to your school or when you have to send student work off externally. On those occasions you will need to get approval for either a one-off or permanent exception by emailing ITSupport@dret.co.uk.

For other questions or queries, we have put together a 'Life after memory sticks FAQ' document, which we hope will answer any other questions you have or point you in the right direction to speak to someone that can help you and your teams.


For any questions or queries that you can't find an answer to in the document, please don't hesitate to get in touch with one of the eLearning Team:
Ben Thompson (BThompson@dret.co.uk) Yasmin Tuck (YTuck@dret.co.uk)

Life After Pen Drives

From 1st January 2018 external hard discs and pen drives (essentially any storage connected to a computer by USB) are no longer permitted on David Ross Education Trust IT systems.
Survival Guide We've shared a number of articles and videos about good alternatives to USB storage, there really is no reason to carry on using them.

Using Google Drive instead of a pen driveHow to use FileStream - adding Google Drive as a G: drive to your PCAn online course in using Cloud StorageBook Training for you, your team or indeed your school.
But What If? The "ban" is a change to the terms of use of IT systems across the Trust. Initially at least, there is no technical block - if you plug in a USB drive tomorrow it will work (but don't, you'll be in breach of our terms of use and your account will be suspended).

If you have a legitimate special case (eg an exam board requirement) contact itsupport@dret.co.uk and a written authorisation will be given to cover that situation (and …

Two Stars and a Wish from 2017

Looking forward to 2018, here are three of my favourite posts from 2017. Thank you to everyone, both colleagues at DRET and from the wider education community that have shared ideas with us and given us feedback on the materials shared here. Remember some of the very best material is collated at http://tips.dret.cloud

Moderation Using Digital Tools was a really popular post by Ben in March. It arose from groups of colleagues asking for ways to do something important and useful in a less time consuming and more effective way. Technology often promises to make lives easier and work better but doesn't always deliver: this approach building on two tools that have become mainstream for us in 2017 - collaboration on a document online and video conferencing lived up to the bill.

One from Yasmin that I think marked an important step forward this year concerned DRET.TV - introducing DRET.TV 2.0 - Office 365 Video surprised us by the speed it was adopted in the second half of 2016-17 with te…