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Archive for the ‘digital learning activities’ Category

If ever there was a digital tool designed to boost basic literacy that can be used across curriculum areas, is easy to use with multiple applications MS Learning Tools, featuring Immersive Reader and Read Aloud functions, is it!

To truly embed digital technology in our classrooms, we need to find generic tools that can used across curriculum areas that benefit core skills such as literacy and numeracy. Learning Tools offers assistive technology that meets both these goals. It is also a great option for time poor teachers keen to use more digital technology but lacking the time to investigate and trial options.

Learning Tools isn’t new but has recently been updated to make it more user friendly and available across a wider range of MS platforms. Learning Tools (which includes Immersive Reader and Read Aloud) can now be accessed via OneNote (desktop and online), Word (desktop and online), Outlook Office Lens and Windows 10 Creator.

The Immersive Reader function is potentially a game changer with the ability to vastly improve reading comprehension. Selecting Immersive Reader in the ribbon opens the text on a page in a new window and gives the student options to make visual changes for ease of readability as well as breaking down the text via three icons in the top right corner of the page.

Students can change the column width, page colour and text space.  This is great for dyslexic students who find it easier to read with sepia background and comic sans font and great for the teacher who doesn’t have to spend time preparing separate handouts.  The library icon gives students an option to break the text into parts of speech as well as showing the text broken down into syllables – so great for ESOL students.

Writing fluency and accuracy is also catered for via the Read Aloud function. Students could literally have text read aloud – their own writing or text scanned and saved electronically.  Updates mean that students now have a voice selection option through the setting gear icon so thaey can change the speed of the voice narrating the text as well as the gender. This could enable students to “hear” mistakes in their own writing and then correct syntactical and grammatical errors.

Here’s a link that includes a great introductory video of how to use Learning Tools in OneNote (note it makes reference to the dictate function which I have been unable to locate since updating to Office 2016).

And here’s a link to an explanation of updates that occurred late last year which might supersede some of the above but gives another good overview of what’s available.

And some FAQS. Scroll 2/3 down the page to find links showing how to access the different components of Learning Tools in various platforms. It’s a shame that the interface isn’t consistent across platforms but if you delve into View or Review in your task bar, you’ll find these tools!

 

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Quite often in the teaching and learning process, we become focussed on the end result. I’m not a hug fan of assessment that simply “tests” a student’s ability to retain knowledge and thankfully, we are moving away from that towards providing students with more authentic opportunities to apply what they know. Surely, that is the real purpose of C21 learning?

Year 9 and 10 provide great opportunities to step away from “end of unit tests” and review students’ learning in a range of contexts.

While English students still need to know who to write a visual text essay, I’ve added a group based assignment that allows junior students to apply their knowledge of a visual text (film!) at the end of the unit of work. The finished product then becomes a revision resource containing engaging, multi-media material they can apply to essay writing.

It is fascinating to observe how the group dynamics unfold. With some classes, I’m needed more for communication support than technical help! It’s also a great task for developing resilience – one of me, many of you I’m fond of saying! Who else can you ask for help? Have you tried trouble shooting via the online prompts????!!!!

We used PowerPoint online and the Office Mix add in. I allowed the students to work in groups of 3-4 and provided a range of activities to include in their Power Point. These were designed to cater for a range of learning styles. There was an extension activity as well for those requring extra challenges. In 2016, a class of higher ability learners completed this task for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and last year, a mixed ability class worked together to complete presentations for Shane Acker’s fantastic film, 9.

Students can collaborate on their presentation and work on their slide at home. The steps to creating a collaborative PowerPoint are as follows:

  1. Choose the PowerPoint icon in the Microsoft splash (to access online version)
  2. Get one member to set up a basic presentation adding title pages and a presentation title so everyone is clear who is doing what
  3. Share with other groups members using the share function (make sure to assign edit rights)
  4. To open students either click the link sent to them in an email OR select share with me in their class notebook
  5. They can use the desktop version of PPT if they wish and changes made will still save into the online version

I allowed three class lessons and homework time to complete. Some of the slides required audio recordings so they had to leave the classroom and find a quiet space. Their instructions were to create a presentation that included:

  • Character trait analysis – matching characters to proverbs and explaining why a proverb applied to a character (more able students)
  • Setting analysis – sketch the setting and label key locations (great for visual learners)
  • Film techniques  – label and explain techniques used via a still shot/screen grab (analytical)
  • SEXY para – write a SEXY Para persuading me WHY Year 9 students should watch the film (writers)
  • *extension – explain why the film would fit the requirements of a coming of age film. Draw a Venn Diagram connecting 9 to other coming of age text(s) you have read or watched. Include links to those other texts on the page and an audio recording of your explanation.
  • Include a bibliography acknowledging third party sources

OfficeMix will soon be included as a feature in PowerPoint so it won’t need to be downloaded as an add on. As such the online repository for office mixes is migrating to Office Stream by May 1 this year. If you have a gallery of several mixes online, it would pay to ensure you migrate them over to Stream.

Here are links to three of 9TD’s presentations from last year…

9 An Overview

9 Character, Theme, Technique Analysis

9 An Overview

The film trailer for 9. It works on so many levels – environmental and historical links, philosophical questions re use of technology, rife with symbolism. Can’t recommend it enough for Year 9:

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Who doesn’t love a good infographic? They’re a great way to summarise data in a form that appeals to a range of learners.

While watching a series of tutorials on helping students get more out of Office 2016, I discovered the People Graphs add in. As an English teacher, what stood out was the presenter’s description of the add in as enabling “story telling with data.” Now that, I get!

Firstly, make sure you’re working with data that can be logically transferred to visual representation. Think data that would work as a bar graph. You’ll also need to have that data saved in an Excel Spreadsheet. In Excel, go to the Insert button then select Store then choose Recommended. From there, find the People Graph add in.

Once installed, you’ll find People Graph option under the Insert button. The add in will instantly create chart in the spreadsheet which you can edit using two icons in the top right of the chart created. The icon on the left allows you to create the chart with your data so you can select the columns you want used, change the title etc while the gear icon allows you to change the layout – colour schemes, icons used etc. Just keep in mind the audience and the type of presentation you’ll be using the infographic in before getting two carried away!

The completed chart is a jpeg so simply save it to your clipboard by right clicking and saving the image generated wherever you want to use it -Word, Sway, Powerpoint or OneNote.

I’ve been surveyed several times by our Economics students and imagine People Charts would be great for them when analysing data collected. The visual nature of the add in would also be ideal for young learners to help them grasp how raw data can be transformed and applied.

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Surveying students about their learning preferences and progress used to be a cumbersome process involving screes of paper and (from me at least), a calculator. But there are tools and apps that make the process much easier – for teachers and students who need to conduct surveys as part of their learning/for course planning/professional development.

  1. Excel Survey Tool – Firstly, log in to your OneDrive account then select the New Excel Survey option. Excel will prompt you through the steps which involve giving your survey a title/subtitle, selecting the response type (you need to tick required to make the question compulsory) and adding new questions. There’s a text box option if you want longer form answers, and if you’re like me and create surveys organically, you can re-order questions by dragging and dropping individual questions. Save in View to preview the survey and edit before sharing. Like other MS tools, there’s a Share option in the top task bar to the right. This creates a URL linking to the survey. You choose where to send the link – it could be in an email or in a class notebook , in a word document or on a website. Just type in the names of the recipients and voila! You can open the results in the Excel spreadsheet and from there create charts.
  2. Microsoft Forms – This app is part of Office 365. My Media Studies students have used it successfully for the past two years as part of planning to create film trailers and short films. Again, you need to log into 365 then select the Office Forms app to get started. We brainstormed questions together on the board based around the requirements of the Achievement Standard we were working from and, to ensure individual students could share their results when they got together in groups of three later. The surveys can be shared like Excel Survey via the Share button. Once you have reached the respond by date (it pays to have a cut off), Forms will collate the data and create charts highlighting key findings. Here’s a link to one of my students blog posts based around their survey results.

Whichever option you choose, both Excel Survey Tools and Microsoft Forms are ideal for helping learners to gather and analyse data. Just remember you can only share with people within your organisation. This worked for us as at Level 2  our brief was to make a film/trailer for our peers. Slightly trickier for level 3 when the brief was to make a short film for the wider Taieri community. Students included staff in that survey.

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This year my school purchased Adobe licenses enabling our Media Studies students to use Premiere Pro. While I had previously worked for a TV production company (in Comms!) so understood the production process, the murky depths of editing suites were not places I spent lots of time. Not surprisingly, coming up to speed with industry standard editing software on my own proved to be a steep learning curve.

It’s good to be reminded of how our learners feel when faced with new material and skills which needs to be developed to a measurable standard within a required time frame. So when in doubt, start at the beginning.

Adobe’s website offers a range of short tutorials that explain the process from a basic starting point (importing footage) to more advanced Premiere Pro features (using After Effects).

After watching the beginner tutorials, I devised a series of worksheets and then played the tutorials over the TV screen as we worked through the answers together. This meant I could pause and re-watch parts that the students

found confusing while a couple of students who knew the basics watched some more specialized tutorials.

The beginner page enables you to download footage of a hoover boarder and then play around with that. I downloaded the footage on all 8 of our class laptops and once we finished the beginner tutorials, we used this footage as out first play around. Students worked in pairs and then presented their short clip to class.

Overall the standard of their trailers and short films produced this year were vastly improved on last year when we didn’t have Premiere Pro. Most of the class just scratched the surface with what the software can do but a few really pushed themselves using Green Screen, experimenting with colour saturation and frame rates.

 

Here’s a few basic tips based on our seven week foray:

  • make sure students import their footage onto a local network drive – working with clips off a USB means although you think you have started saving a rough cut on your timeline, next time you log in, the computer won’t be able to locate the footage.
  • become familiar with the interface – there are four panels to work with and each has its own purpose
  • the tilda key is a quick way to view in full screen. There are other short cut keys, plus drop down options for various editing features. Students soon work out their own preferences.
  • in the timeline, the coloured lines above the video and audio tracks show you what has been rendered. When scenes are glitching, you probably need to render them. Select the in and out points, then render in to out (in the Select drop down). The red line above the offending footage will change from red to green. I encouraged students to render individual scenes before adding into the timeline.
  • time – how I wish we had more. Ideally, I’d get students to have a week practising filming in Term 1 then use that footage to put together a practice clip in Term 2 before even starting to film and edit their own project. Sadly, this wasn’t possible in the time available.
  • there is pretty much nothing you can’t solve by watching a tutorial – except poor camera work and sound recording although even then, you can sometimes make a silk purse with a sow’s ear although this is time consuming and not the recommend approach!

 

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As our school heads down the path of being a 365 learning environment, I’m starting to expand the range of learning tools I’m integrating into lessons. It also helps that my department has improved access to computers this year so suddenly, digital learning becomes more achievable!

Sway is a Microsoft app that enables teachers to create audio visual presentations for students, parents and colleagues. The best place to start is with a Microsoft in Education tutorial. The Teachers Academy site provides dozens of online tutorials which talk you through the various features of a range of Microsoft apps as well as providing some great professional learning opportunities  and subject-specific resources.

Having used Office Mix, Sway is quite similar but, from my way of thinking, more aesthetically exciting. It’s a fantastic way to flip or tilt learning by providing students with key concepts while catering for a variety for learning styles and then providing opportunities for students to consolidate their learning through quizzes or other activities. You can embed tweets, stack pictures, embed video and podcasts.

My first attempt is pretty basic and is based on the novel The Outsiders by SE Hinton for a Year 10 class. I’ll use it at the end of the year as a revision tool.

I used a template and then customized it through the design tab by selecting a colour scheme and font I thought would work best for my class. The next step is insering title slides followed by text slides to break the presentation up into sections. You can then insert pictures selecting from Sway’s recommendations or uploading your own. In the same way other media such as YouTube videos can be inserted. The navigation bar sits at the left of the screen with the work space in the middle. You can easily flick between the two or expand various sections and hide others.

Progress can be previewed at any stage to check and tweak the layout. You can also select remix from the top tool bar and let Sway work its magic on your presentation by applying it’s own design and layout.

My first Sway features a mix of content, set activities and extension activities. Like Office Mix, there are examples on the Sway website of other presentations. I recommend browsing in case there is one that could work for your class – or perhaps for a relief lesson if you need one at short notice.

Your finished presentation is saved on the Sway website and stored on the cloud. From there, it’s just a matter of projecting and playing or sharing the link in a Class Notebook (you can embed directly there) and letting students work through at their own speed – just make sure they have headphones first!

 

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With our seniors heading into practice exams next week, there’s been the usual flurry of emails this weekend from students in various stages of panic. While I am more than happy to give feedback to students who have come to class, contributed, met milestones and generally brought something to the learning table, it’s a little harder to know how to help those with questions like”Can you help with dystopia? I’m really confused.”

Like I said, difficult to know where to begin.

We’ve a got a few months yet ’til externals so I hope their questions will become a little more refined in the near future! In the meantime, I’ve had a go at summarising an Achievement Standard via a web based presentation tool called mysimpleshow. This allows you to explain topics using a range of templates to create a short video. You supply the script (there’s a word count limit per slide so it tests your skills in brevity). The programme then matches your words with visuals which you can keep, delete or replace and even reads the script for you. If you don’t like the male American script readers, you can record your own. Each step is navigated via a set of tabs at the top of the page logically labelled: Summarise, Visualise, Add Audio, Finalise.

I’ve used similar tools in the past – ShowMe is a great one to use on iPad. I’ve used it for Slide the Corner,  The Whale Rider and Level 2 ConnectionsOfficeMix will do similar for Microsoft people. These programmes enable you to project directly off the site or if you’re worried about WiFi connectivity, you can download and save your presentation. Another plus for time-poor teachers is these sites feature collections of presentations made by others so you might find what you need ready to use! (A bit like SlideShare).

Curation sites such as ScoopIt, which I love for students looking to elevate their thinking and make independent reflections on the text, are also helpful at this time of the year. It’s also handy for saving all the sites you bookmark for a topic in a more visually appealing space.

Mysimpleshow combines text, visual and audio elements catering for a range of learners. You can elect to turn subtitles on or off – I put them on – and choose the speed of the speaker. I view it as a starting point to get students focused on key concepts. For my subject area at least, students will always have to engage with material, develop their knowledge and then synthesise and express their ideas via a well structured written response but as we all know, starting if often the hardest bit!

Next time I teach these topics, before writing a practice essay, I’ll get students to hone their thoughts by creating their own  Simple Show – flipping the learning should enable them to reflect on the content in a meaningful way AND ensure they create their own revision resource for later in the year.  I’d call that a win:win.

 

 

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