I think we have a problem….

I think we have a problem….

Two conversations from the first couple of weeks of term are quietly but persistently nagging away at me.

Getting to know my new Year 7 students.
Q. What do you most enjoy doing in English?
A. When the teacher reads and we have to say if it is AT2, AT3 or AT4.

Students, in role as Michael from ‘Skellig’ settle down to write a diary entry.
Q. Shall I write down the Learning Objectives?

What are we doing if the joy of English is being squeezed out of our children by the cramming to get them through KS2 with the highest levels?

Of course I want to see literate children. But instead I am seeing stilted and stultified formulaic writing produced to include a variety of sentence lengths and a semi-colon every paragraph.

It’s English, Jim, but not as we know it.

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Showbie the way to go…

 

 

I recently posted a comparison between my much-loved Edmodo and ‘new kid on the block’ Showbie. Like most schools making extensive use of iPads, teachers here are looking for convenient work-flow solutions to students returning work and teachers returning feedback.

So, for the past couple of weeks I’ve added Showbie to do this. With a couple of groups I have students creating independent research reports on the life of Gandhi using ‘Book Creator‘ as a kind of publishing platform.

Using their given class code, students register with Showbie after downloading the free app. To submit work, they find their book, tap on share, open in Showbie and pick the folder it needs to go to. This whole process takes a matter of seconds.

Later, at home, lounging by the poolside (in my dreams) I can see from the class list who has handed in, then open in Book Creator before finally adding text or voice comments back in Showbie. Doing it this way seems to cause minimum down/up loading time.

On some other documents I’ve found annotating and giving voice feedback is also possible, but the cost is increased load times which can be a nuisance with a larger class.

By bouncing the projects back and forward between students and me I hope to be able to give feedback in time to improve the quality of the final presentation. It also leaves both me and the student with a trail of comments during the process which should prove useful.

If you haven’t taken a look yet, it really is time.

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Snow problem with iPad

With buses already unable to deliver students to school and the snow forecast worsening, I got the message that school is closed for the day. Brilliant! That means my students can get on with their Mystery Thriller writing instead of all that Maths and Science stuff that clutters up the day.

I’ve tried the small groups function on Edmodo this week, which allows the teams of students producing novels to collaborate away from the main group. They are able to use resources from the folder shared with them but I have also been able to direct some differentiated support material to those who might need it without it being too public.

My student really like the silly headers from fodey.com with the Talking Tomato being particularly popular! I like their newspaper headline too to brighten up my posts.

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Explain Everything is as good as I’d heard it to be. I used it first to create a reading of a tricky text my students needed to be able to access.

I was concerned that losing a day meant that one of my RE classes would miss the ‘feed’ for the assessment next week, but using Explain Everything I was able to give them a reasonable overview or what they need to think about and combined this with links to the videos I’d already put into realsmartcloud.  For those new to it, Explain Everything allows you to create a series of frames with text, images and sound that you can then save, send or upload to YouTube etc for sharing.

All in all, I think the potential damage of a missed day was largely overcome thanks to the 1:1 iPad scheme and a bit of help from some great apps. But more importantly, it brought home to me that producing resources is perfectly manageable and would be great when students are absent. Flipping the classroom then becomes a much shorter step than I’d feared.

 

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Edmodo vs Showbie Work-flow solutions?

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A few staff have been voicing questions about options regarding work-flow now that the iPads have been enthusiastically taken up by students.

What is a good way to set and receive assignments, give quality feedback and keep track of the students’ work?

I’m a huge fan of Edmodo, but Showbie is also operating in this territory so I thought it might be a good time to look at the two. Notice a said ‘a good way’ not ‘the best way’. I think that this will always be a matter of personal choice and so you probably need to take a look at both.

Edmodo handles the workflow described above and lots more too – but I’ll compare like for like by concentrating just on the assignment functions.

Signing up…

Edmodo and Showbie have similar sign up procedures for teachers and classes:  teachers create a class name and a code is automatically generated for students to use when logging on. This prevents unauthorised access.

Email addresses are optional on both Showbie and Edmodo.

Setting assignments…

Setting an assignment and a due date is absolutely straightforward in both.

A nice feature on Showbie is the ability to add a voice message of instructions in addition to other resources you wish all students to have access. Edmodo also allows shared folders of resources which are available at all times – not just when the assignment is set.

In Edmodo, assignments can be set from the iPad, but according to the app store at the moment at least this can only be done on Showbie through the website – which some users might find frustrating. However, version for iPad 1.0.9. seems to allow this. It is now possible to share video in the shared folder too – so it is looking pretty impressive.

Handing/turning in

Students then complete the assignment and hand it in / turn it in to the teacher through the app. Both allow the teacher to see who has and hasn’t submitted.

Giving feedback…

Feedback in Edmodo is by text comment or by annotation on the students work. At the same time the work can be graded and given a friendly little emoticon by both student and teacher and both can make additional comments. The really neat feature on Edmodo is that all of these marks appear in a cumulative class Progress or Grade/Mark book which can even be exported. This might replace the traditional mark book for many teachers.

Feedback on Showbie has its own appeal. Teachers can preview the work in the app or then open it in a mark up-app such as Notability or Explain Everything and add comments. Again, that voice feedback will be appreciated by many busy teachers in being able to talk through issues and give quality feedback quickly. The option is there too to give longer text based replies. Marks or grades can be written into the text document but I can’t see a way of integrating them into a markbook (but do correct me if I’m wrong on this. This feedback is only available to students though the Showbie for ipad.

Take a look…

If you want a visual guide though the Showbie app you’ll find it here or on their site; Edmodo you will find here.

In conclusion…

Here are two simple and effective solutions to work flow that will not require teachers to be particularly ‘techie’.

If work flow is all you are after, Showbie is a good solution. I particularly like the ease of adding voice messages. But if you are going down this route, why not go the extra step and adopt Edmodo? In addition to workflow, its ability to share work for peer review, communicate easily within the class and share resources just makes it the winner for me.

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The introduction of 1:1 iPads at KS3 Week 1

There has been a palpable excitement in classes this week. The Library had a ‘Full’ sign on the door at lunchtime. Student have taken on the role of patient teachers. Concentration, independence and resilience have been everywhere.

I always expected this to be a bit of a honeymoon week, but even I have been taken aback by the transformation. It has been a joy to see my Year 7 English students compiling digital anthologies of their own poetry to share and peer review. Using nothing more complicated than Keynote and the camera, they have brought together photographs of drafts and final versions, created illustrations and explanatory labels and added video clips of themselves reciting poems.

Edmodo has been fantastic! The classes have used it at home since September, but it has come alive as a place to share the work in progress on presentations and invite (and receive) helpful, specific and kind advice from their peers. This seems to be encouraging student to push themselves that bit further, be a bit more precise and to learn from each other. Final versions are going to be collected through the assignment Turn In function which will automatically set up a helpful mark sheet for me.

We’ve also run Edmodo as a sort of ‘back channel’ during the lesson: a place to record progress, pass on hot-tips or ask each other for help. Two students propped up their iPads on the corridor floor and made an excellent little tutorial on how to upload Keynote to Edmodo, uploaded it to YouTube and then linked it back to the class page ready for other student to learn from.

Meanwhile, the Realsmartcloud has been useful for several groups organising a trial in an RE project. Defence and Prosecutions teams are sharing comments and notes where all can see them. It’s comforting not to have to worry about bits of paper being lost or ,forgotten when we conduct the trial scene next week. And, as I said to the students, if any of us get eaten by lions in the next week we needn’t worry – because someone else can pick up their notes! They didn’t seem entirely comforted by that though for some reason.

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iPad 1:1 Week 2 already? Saving trees with Skitch

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When a student began with ‘Remember in the old days when we didn’t have iPads…’ I knew that things were moving quickly. Just two weeks in and the device seems to have been here forever.

I am trying to give students experience of various apps. so that they can make informed decisions about which is the most useful for any given task. It is good to see them realising that an app used in one subject can be just as useful in another and yet again seems to point to the process rather than the content of apps being the main deal.

As an English teacher, I often want students to be able to annotate texts and discuss their findings.
This week we have been substituting Skitch for the photocopying and highlighter open routine.
I made one copy of the texts and then students photographed the extract and found ways of annotating, colour coding and more before sharing their findings with the group. Afterwards they said that they found it very convenient and liked the fact that we hadn’t needed so much paper. he departmental budget should also be a bit healthier.

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Silent Communication

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/classroom-silent-communication-signal

Some of the teaching I do happens with groups of around 80 students. These are very active sessions which usually consist of a rapid sequence of activities done in pairs and small groups
before then feeding back to the group. Traditional classroom pedagogy isn’t always effective.

This source from The Teaching Channel was referenced on an Edmodo community and looked interesting. It features Madeline Noonan demonstrating silent signals. I’m still looking for ways to get responses from large groups where the usual ‘hands up’ doesn’t work. Might this be a way to quickly gain feedback from the group to see if concepts have been grasped and judge when it is time to move on? Because everyone is signalling at the same time, it might give students confidence to signal what they think and understand – rather than risking putting up their hand to find they’re with a group of people getting the ‘wrong answer’.

The other method I’d been thinking of trying was by using the traffic light colour cards the students have in their Planners, but this might be easier and we wouldn’t waste time remembering what the colours mean.

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/classroom-silent-communication-signal

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