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Archive for the ‘digital learning activities’ Category

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 you 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 but 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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I’m not one for fads and one I’m hearing a lot of at the moment is mindfulness. At a recent English Teachers’ conference in Christchurch, keynote speaker Nathan Mikaere Wallis gave an entertaining presentation on the adolescent brain – pre-frontal cortex development, gender differences and the now widely-accepted fact that the brain doesn’t fully develop until the early to mid-twenties. At the crux of his presentation was communicating with young people in way that validates their feelings, and hence we hope, increases the likelihood of forming the types of positive relationships that are so crucial for learning.

Nathan’s three tips are:

  1. Calm the brain stem
  2. Validate emotions
  3. Cognitive training

I started thinking a lot about the first step in regards to a Year 10 class I teach this year. My class of 27 learners have many and varied literacy issues which makes English a challenge for many. Their not naughty so much as really challenged/intimidated by the subject content. They arrive late, take ages to settle, need lots of bathroom breaks (?), struggle to follow simple instructions and do not readily engage with many of the activities we’ve trialled this year – and we try lots. To be honest, some days, I feel as if I am in a scene from Monty Python…

In your writing journal X…

The one you write in …

Because we are writing ..

No about your holiday, not my holiday …

No not refill, your journal. With the red cover…

No you can’t go and get it from your locker, we’re 20 minutes into the lesson …

Okay, just use refill …

Yes you can use some of mine!

The amazing thing is that despite these challenges, our relationship is still generally positive. But I feel a sea change brewing. At the mid-way point, I fear I’m in danger of losing them as assessments mount and frustrations rise (for all of us).

I scribbled in my conference guide mindfulness activities and then, in a very unmindful manner, rushed off to the next workshop for more Aha! moments but never enough time to put them all in action. To be honest, I think I mentally shelved it after returning to school, surviving Week 1 and thinking, those kids will never go for that bumph.

But if the status quo isn’t working, you are forced to look outside the square. After scanning a set of podcasts, giggling at the image of practicing mountain breathing together, I’ve found a site I can see working. Not only will it enable me to incorporate mindfulness into the lessons, I can link activities with curriculum goals. The site is Mindful Teachers and it features heaps of ideas and resources. Here’s a few that could work for my cohort:

Five senses activities – precursor creative writing. Some of these we already do (like the eating one) and some we have trialled before (going for a walk and making lists of what you hear etc) but some are new (love the rainbow walk idea).

THINK Questionnaire – I plan to teach formal writing skills this term around cyber bullying using some really awesome NetSafe DVDs that will hopefully connect with a talk all Year 10s had last term from local police on this topic. The questionnaire will be a great starter and the focus questions can become quick writes for their journals (or refill?!) As these students often struggle with developing ideas, the more thinking they do around the subject, the better.

Non-competitive games – goes without saying that these guys prefer to be moving. They also have some pretty dysfunctional relationships and I’ve noticing more cliques forming in the class as well as the odd put down so anything that encourages a sense of unity/team building could also be helpful.

Community service projects – After hearing Jo Weggery (Mt Aspiring College) present at an Otago English Teachers’ Association day out last year, I’m very keen to do similar. Jo had also noticed how disconnected with the wider world her Year 10s were so developed a community project idea that involved a series of planning and promotional activities allowing some scope to tie in with required assessments but also build their sense of self-worth and community links. After exams last year, my Year 10s attempted their first NCEA Level 1 assessment, the Static Image task. It was a disaster. None of them passed (great intro to NCEA), we were moving around classrooms after a fire in the school hall meant our normal class had to be used for NCEA exams (and will gain this year). I would much rather do an activity like this later in the year. They can still make a static image but not for assessment. Because Taieri College is located in a small community outside Dunedin, there is plenty of scope for community service projects. We already have links with the Mosgiel community and just need to tap into them more. I see this as being more meaningful than a half-hearted attempt at a poster and much better for their personal growth and development as they prepare to head to NCEA in 2017.

So lot’s of scope there and I’m sure there are plenty of other resources with opportunities to look beyond bell ringing meditations to stimulating some synapses, calming that brain stem and awakening that pre-frontal cortex. I’d love to hear about resources others have tried too.

 

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Back in May, I shared my plans for a Year 9 film analysis assignment using Microsoft 365’s Notebook and Office Mix. The last week of term was probably never the best time to execute this ambitious plan but nothing ventured nothing gained!

Overall, the class of able, very self-managing learners completed comprehensive analysis of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi via shared pages in a class notebook. The notebook also supplied them with extra reading on the role of religion in the film and commentary on coming of age genre as well as podcasts of interviews with both Ang Lee and Yann Martel so plenty of extra activities for early finishers 🙂

I’ve uploaded half a dozen of the finished products to the Mix Gallery and on reflection, now the dust has settled, I’m pretty pleased with their efforts. We skipped an essay assessment (which we’ll complete next term) so the overall learning objective was for them to create a presentation that showcased their knowledge and understanding of the film, it’s messages and the effects of film-making techniques. (I’m hoping the hyperlinks work because you generally have to sign in to Microsoft to view stuff. If not try searching under Other – Life of Pi).

I briefed the students thoroughly before we embarked on the Office Mix creation about the need to help each other out, be patient when waiting for my assistance and encouraged them not to panic if technical issues prevented them from completing to the standard they wanted. This made a huge difference to how the next three lessons progressed as they proactively supported each other so was far less stressful than previous my experiences with other learners. In short, they are the exact right group of stuents to trial such learning opportunities.

I’ll summarise the pros and cons and you can judge for yourself if this was a worthwile use of two weeks of a jam packed term:

Pros:

  • all five key competencies were demonstrated by all students
  • students have a comprehensive set of class notes for revision later in year
  • range of learning needs and styles catered for
  • students worked at own speed
  • collaborative environment flourished – students became teachers as we trouble shot technical issues together
  • students had a chance to work in a team and create an interactive presentation that will also form part of study notes (and may be easier for some to keep track of!)
  • when I was away for a day, this assignment was ideal for relief

Cons:

  • some groups had issues working on the shared PowerPoint consecutively, especially when doing tasks for homework
  • some groups were unable to save their finished product to the school network (saving issues)
  • audio option was random – cut off while some students were talking. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the random cut offs – some recorded fins for over a minutes some cut off at 38 seconds?!
  • we used streams not surface pros so no access to stylus for annotating the plot graph although some tried free hand
  • I still have to teach them to write an essay!

Our next step will be to talk about creative commons. Only one group attributed their use of content from a secondary source. If this type of assignment becomes the preferred method to consolidate learning, it seems we need some school-wide education about the use of third party content.

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