Digital Approaches to Writing

FullSizeRenderThere have been some exciting writing projects going on at UWCSEA, which my colleague Dave Caleb and I really believe deserve a wider audience. This prompted us to begin writing a multi-touch book called Digital Approaches to Writing, which is now available on the iTunes Bookstore.

The book focuses on why we need to include digital approaches in a balanced writing programme, and highlights two projects we have worked with to incorporate digital approaches in the writing process. It is packed with tutorial videos and templates so teachers can adapt and modify as needed. We plan to add more chapters through the coming year.

As is our custom, the book is FREE, so please share!

Writing a Real Book Makes a Difference

I have been lucky enough to work with our Grade 3s in the publishing phase of their informational book writing process. What an adventure!

Steve Kay (the Digital Literacy mentor) and I both hoped the team might consider creating digital books with iBooks Author, and were thrilled when all 7 classes got on board.

We set up a time to take all the teachers through some of the features, and they practised creating their own book, complete with sourcing Creative Commons images, and experimenting with widgets. This step was crucial, as it meant we had a real partnership when introducing iBooks Author to the students.

One of our aims was to help students make connections between the functions available on Pages and those on iBooks Author. We began by getting students in pairs (and later, groups) to identify the similarities and differences between the two programmes. This encouraged them to explore the menus and try different features before getting started. We shared these as a class.

Prior to this, with their class teacher, the students studied non-fiction informational texts and noted the features common in the genre, such as labelled diagrams, images and tables. They chose something they knew very well to write about. There was a diverse range of subjects selected – from Christianity to Minecraft – and everything in between!

Students wrote their drafts in a Google Docs template provided by their teacher. It was peer edited using the commenting function. Words to be included in the glossary were made bold, and images they thought they might look for were identified in a different colour on the side (see example below).

Once the text was ready, it was time to transfer it to iBooks Author, and add the features the students felt would help convey an understanding of their topic to their reader.

Students used Creative Commons Search to look for images to use in their books. Referencing the majority of these images was made extremely easy due to the use of Cogdog’s Flickr CC image bookmarklet (drag the blue button to your bookmarks bar and click to attribute from Flickr).

Building on our work with the design principles of CARP (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition & Proximity), students worked carefully to make sure their choice of colours fit their content, was easy to read, chose a font which matched their content, and considered the alignment of their text boxes etc. They were very mindful and deliberate in their choices.

One of the excellent features in iBooks Author for informational books is the interactive image widget. It allows you to zoom into parts of an image, and provide more details. Labelling the parts of a flower, then zooming in to each part and getting more information is one example of how this can work. This was very popular with the students.

In addition, some students chose to add 3D images, which they sourced from Sketchup’s 3D warehouse. The ability to get just about any 3D image (from Touch Rugby pitches to the latest Lamborghini) made this a popular option!

Many pupils used the review tool to create interactive quizzes to check for understanding of their content. Being able to use images and labeling diagrams in the reviews as well as typical multi-choice questions meant there was a lot of variety.

Students added glossary terms they identified in their draft writing, and it was lovely to see their definitions written in their own words.

Some chose to record their blurb as their intro media to the book, while others decided to create keynote files to add.

Once finished, students exported their finished books as .ibooks files, and uploaded them to Google Drive. This allowed for easy transfer to the iPads.

I loved watching their faces as they opened their books for the first time.

When reflecting on the process, the students I spoke to were unanimous about their enthusiasm for using iBooks Author as the platform for writing their book. They were able to articulate many reasons for this, however, one student summed it up nicely by saying:

“Google Docs is good for drafting, Pages is good for posters, but iBooks Author is best for books, because we’re supposed to be writing a book! This feels like a REAL book, but better, because we can add all the extra features for interactivity.”

A celebration followed, where students showed their completed books to their very impressed parents. The final piece in the puzzle is our growing list of published authors on the Write Now bookstore. Follow this link for examples of our published books. More will be added as they come to hand.

A huge thank you to the tireless Grade 3 teachers for all you have done in getting students to this stage.

Photography by Dave Caleb

Writing a Real Book Makes a Difference

I have been lucky enough to work with our Grade 3s in the publishing phase of their informational book writing process. What an adventure!

Steve Kay (the Digital Literacy mentor) and I both hoped the team might consider creating digital books with iBooks Author, and were thrilled when all 7 classes got on board.

We set up a time to take all the teachers through some of the features, and they practised creating their own book, complete with sourcing Creative Commons images, and experimenting with widgets. This step was crucial, as it meant we had a real partnership when introducing iBooks Author to the students.

One of our aims was to help students make connections between the functions available on Pages and those on iBooks Author. We began by getting students in pairs (and later, groups) to identify the similarities and differences between the two programmes. This encouraged them to explore the menus and try different features before getting started. We shared these as a class.

Prior to this, with their class teacher, the students studied non-fiction informational texts and noted the features common in the genre, such as labelled diagrams, images and tables. They chose something they knew very well to write about. There was a diverse range of subjects selected – from Christianity to Minecraft – and everything in between!

Students wrote their drafts in a Google Docs template provided by their teacher. It was peer edited using the commenting function. Words to be included in the glossary were made bold, and images they thought they might look for were identified in a different colour on the side (see example below).

Once the text was ready, it was time to transfer it to iBooks Author, and add the features the students felt would help convey an understanding of their topic to their reader.

Students used Creative Commons Search to look for images to use in their books. Referencing the majority of these images was made extremely easy due to the use of Cogdog’s Flickr CC image bookmarklet (drag the blue button to your bookmarks bar and click to attribute from Flickr).

Building on our work with the design principles of CARP (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition & Proximity), students worked carefully to make sure their choice of colours fit their content, was easy to read, chose a font which matched their content, and considered the alignment of their text boxes etc. They were very mindful and deliberate in their choices.

One of the excellent features in iBooks Author for informational books is the interactive image widget. It allows you to zoom into parts of an image, and provide more details. Labelling the parts of a flower, then zooming in to each part and getting more information is one example of how this can work. This was very popular with the students.

In addition, some students chose to add 3D images, which they sourced from Sketchup’s 3D warehouse. The ability to get just about any 3D image (from Touch Rugby pitches to the latest Lamborghini) made this a popular option!

A Dad correctly guesses a review question

Many pupils used the review tool to create interactive quizzes to check for understanding of their content. Being able to use images and labeling diagrams in the reviews as well as typical multi-choice questions meant there was a lot of variety.

Students added glossary terms they identified in their draft writing, and it was lovely to see their definitions written in their own words.

Some chose to record their blurb as their intro media to the book, while others decided to create keynote files to add.

Once finished, students exported their finished books as .ibooks files, and uploaded them to Google Drive. This allowed for easy transfer to the iPads.

I loved watching their faces as they opened their books for the first time.

When reflecting on the process, the students I spoke to were unanimous about their enthusiasm for using iBooks Author as the platform for writing their book. They were able to articulate many reasons for this, however, one student summed it up nicely by saying:

“Google Docs is good for drafting, Pages is good for posters, but iBooks Author is best for books, because we’re supposed to be writing a book! This feels like a REAL book, but better, because we can add all the extra features for interactivity.”

A celebration followed, where students showed their completed books to their very impressed parents. The final piece in the puzzle is our growing list of published authors on the Write Now bookstore. Follow this link for examples of our published books. More will be added as they come to hand.

A huge thank you to the tireless Grade 3 teachers for all you have done in getting students to this stage.

Photography by Dave Caleb

Heartbleed Headaches & How to Make Them Go Away!

My favourite quote about passwords has always been:

Passwords are like underwear“Passwords are like underwear: we should not leave them lying around, and should change them regularly.” 
- Unknown

Most of us manage the first part quite nicely and keep our passwords hidden, however changing them regularly? That is another kettle of fish entirely!

I’m sure by now you will have heard of the Heartbleed Bug – a serious vulnerability in OpenSSL encryption, used by significant numbers of popular websites to protect data. This weakness can allow access to confidential data, including names, passwords and cookies. For more information about the Heartbleed Bug, please check out Heartbleed in a Nutshell.

This vulnerability has been active for over 2 years, making it incredibly likely you need to sit up and take this seriously!

Mashable produced a list of affected websites, so please check there for a more comprehensive overview, however many websites you use everyday are among those affected, including:

The thought of changing your passwords for all of your accounts is very overwhelming. Overwhelming, but necessary. As I was pondering possible password combinations, I saw a twitter post detailing a 50% sale on 1Password – a piece of software that can help you store, generate and protect your passwords, while you only have to remember (yep, you guessed it) 1Password!

I decided that in the interests of managing all of my passwords for various accounts, buying a license for 1Password was a sensible decision! It is also available for iOS, which helped seal the deal.

To get started on your Mac (or PC), you simply purchase the license, download 1Password and enter the license information. Their support website is helpful in getting set up.

Installing the 1Password browser extensions for Chrome, Safari & Firefox, made the next stage in getting set up a lot easier. For each of my accounts (e. g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), I would change and save a new password. With the extensions installed, 1Password prompted me to see if I wanted to save this new password. Easy.

I also downloaded the 1Password app for iOS, and it was super simple to log in to my account and do a wifi sync, meaning I can now access all my 1Password information on all of my devices.

1Password offers a host of other features, including the ones outlined in the image below.  So far I have added extras like credit card and passport details. Really handy for when you want to do some online shopping, but don’t have your credit card on hand. Same goes for booking flights when your passport is at home…!

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 4.26.09 PM

Next on my list is to use Strong Password Generator to help me create sensible passwords. As I only have to remember ONE, I feel much less concerned about making a password too difficult.

Have you used a password management tool before? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Image Credits:
Underwear - by Keri-Lee Beasley (made with paper by 53)
Facebook, Flickr
Twitter
All other icons freeware found at iconarchive.com

Getting a little Headspace

My mother calls it Active Mind. You know, when you can’t sleep because your brain is just ticking over with so much STUFF! The bills that need paying, friends that need helping, that thing you had forgotten that you had to do for work that needs to be done by tomorrow, reflecting on failures in parenting, or even pondering possible holiday destinations – all of these things can help keep sleep at bay. Nearly all the women in my family have suffered from this ‘affliction’, and we all joke about not being able to turn our brains off or being unable to wind down.

I am not really into fluffy stuff like meditation or “going to a happy place” or visiualisations or the like, but at the (relatively!) advanced age of 37, I am willing to give something new a good old college try in the name of research. I decided to do what any self-respecting Digital Literacy Coach would do – I turned to technology!

I know what you’re going to say… Technology with its screens and lights doesn’t sound like a logical choice, but stay with me!

Headspace AppA colleague (Nora) recommended an app called Headspace. “Keri-Lee!” she proclaimed, “Have I got an app for you! You have to try Headspace.”

I began downloading immediately, and then asked, “What does it do?”

“It’s a meditation app,” my colleague replied.

Well, that’s something different, I thought, and promptly forgot about it. However, the holidays rolled around, and I stumbled across it again. Why not give it a crack?

It was 5am. My son had just woken me up (apologetically, at least), and having settled him back to bed, I was wide awake and in need of more rest. Time to try this app. I watched the 3 or 4 short starter animations (which were very good, I thought), then lay back to listen to the actual meditation part - 10 minutes in total.

At the end of the first meditation, I actually went back to sleep. That is simply UNHEARD of for me. I felt very refreshed when I awoke, which was a definite bonus.

I was putting the kids to bed later that night, when it struck me I should try it with them too. How nice to think about potentially breaking the cycle of Active Mind with my daughter and son and teaching them the skills of quietening their minds! They were quite excited about getting to use the iPad close to bedtime (it’s the little things..!), and both seemed to enjoy it, though the soporific effects it had on me were somewhat lost on them.

StatisticsThe next morning, they both proudly announced they had slept longer than they usually do, by about 30 minutes. Well hey! That’s better than a kick in the head!

We have created a nice little routine now, where we have a story, then get them tucked up ready for their Headspace. We’ve just had day 3, and all seems to be well from their end of the house.

So to the nitty gritty. The app is free – for the first 10 days of meditations. You can choose to sign up monthly, annually, biannually or forever. I have chosen to get a yearly subscription, I am so enjoying the quiet time at night. It seems a reasonable price to pay for my sanity!

Another thing that drew me to the app was the whole design concept. The simplicity of the images and the colour scheme really appealed to me. Their website: getsomeheadspace.com is also well set out, with a straightforward design concept which really helped me. If the design was poor, it would have turned me off the app itself for sure.

The infographics it includes in the progress tab are simple, yet effective. I can see this will be an excellent app/site to show students learning about infographics and design.

Check the video below to see the first animation in the series, or download the Headspace app and get started!

 

Design Secrets Revealed

Design Secrets RevealedHave you ever been disappointed by the quality of student-produced posters? Do you want to make great posters yourself, but they always seem a little lacklustre?

If so, then my most recent (FREE) multi-touch book, Design Secrets Revealed, can help!

It will take you step-by-step through each design principle, and provide you with examples and suggestions to help guide the teaching process for your students.

I would love your feedback, so please let me know if you find it useful.

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