The No-Stress Way to Remove Backgrounds from Images

I love what Photoshop can do with removing backgrounds from images, but it is complicated to use, and not available on the iPad. I wanted something that even our youngest students could use to level-up the quality of their Book Creator books.

Thankfully, my colleague Dave Caleb discovered the iPad app Photoshop Mix. This incredibly easy-to-use app makes removing backgrounds from images a breeze.

Photoshop Mix requires users to create an Adobe ID, so for our under 13s, we use a class or grade level account to log in. You only need to log in once, then the app remembers your details.

Below is a tutorial which shows you how easy it is to remove backgrounds using Photoshop Mix, and add the exported image into Book Creator, so you can make really professional looking books, in the style of DK Find Out.

Photoshop Mix for Removing the Background of Images from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

You can also use Photoshop Mix to blend images or change the opacity of an image – more features which would work well in combination with Book Creator.

Good Design Could be a Matter of Life or Death

After the snafu at the Oscars this year, people became a little more aware of the role poor graphic design can have on people making errors. The following video highlights this, along with poorly designed voting ballots and medical pill bottles.

But what does this have to do with schools?

At our school, like the majority of schools I know, we have a number of students with serious allergies – some of them life-threatening. Knowing which students have allergies and how they need to be treated is extremely significant.

Our sharing procedure (following meetings at the start of the school year) was to have this list of students up around the staffroom and in key areas staff gather (names/photos have been blurred for privacy reasons).

On an A4 sheet of paper, each student photo is about the size of one fingernail. Pretty hard to distinguish in a hurry. The text was also tiny, so if a quick assessment of a student’s allergies was required, a teacher would have to read through a tiny font to find out the details.

I thought about what information was most important for staff to know about the students with allergies. I came up with bigger images, an icon to represent each allergy, together with the class & grade the student is in, and a description of what to do if they are having an allergic reaction.

I designed icons using Keynote and used Pages for the template.

My redesign looked like this (borrowing my son’s name/image for template purposes!):

The finished template is also an A4 piece of paper, but is much easier to recognise students and allergies due to the size of the image and icons. Names and class information are also easier to see, along with descriptions of students’ allergies and medical plans.

Graphic design could be a matter of life or death. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to see if your health and safety information is as clear as it needs to be.

I would love your feedback 🙂

The Power of a Small Idea

I was checking Twitter one day, when this tweet by Anna Davies jumped out at me, with its striking red and black colour scheme and professional-looking images.

It turns out that Anna had been inspired by my Dover colleague, Nicki Hambleton, who created posters with her Middle School students, based on the work of Designer, Graphic Artist and Photographer, Barbara Kruger.

When I see an amazing idea, like the images in Anna’s tweet, I always want to try it out. As I don’t have a class of my own, I have to pitch the idea to my colleagues and hope that it sparks an interest.

As it happened, our school was just embarking on a PSE unit around the Power of Words. Tech Mentor Mike Bowden jumped on board and took the idea to his Grade 3 team.

Students prepared for the poster by finding a quote that resonated with them about the Power of Words. They took a photo of themselves on a plain background, ensuring to leave enough space to fit the quote.

In Keynote, students added the image, then reduced the saturation to turn it black and white. They used the limited colour palette of red, black and white for the text, experimenting with placement and rotation as needed.

This was a very rich learning task for our students. There were a lot of technical and design skills that we were able to build into an authentic context that met our curricula outcomes.

Naturally, we shared examples of our finished posters on Twitter – these examples were from Mandy Whitehouse‘s class.

What happened next is what I LOVE about social media. Jose O’Donovan saw our examples on Twitter and got his students to make their own – this time, posters about Kindness.

So in case you are the sort of person who worries about sharing the learning in your classroom, take the plunge! You never know the power of your small idea and the impact it may have on others. 

Reducing Distractions on Digital Devices

Distractions are as old as time. Think back to high school when perhaps you were doodling on a pencil case or passing notes to friends. What is different is that the very tools that allow us to access such wonderful learning and communication opportunities, can also have the power to distract us.
In the presentation below, you will find ideas and suggestions on helping students develop good work habits, practice self-tracking, and also provide suggestions for parental monitoring – IF it gets to that stage. I hope you find something of value for your family.

We also have a Padlet where we are collecting your great ideas! Please feel free to add a suggestion.

 

Made with Padlet

Cross-posted at GreaTechxpectations

Podcasting our Book Club Conversations

Book Club conversations are an important part of a UWCSEA literacy education. Thinking deeply about a shared text, sharing understandings and connections, and – crucially – listening to the perspectives of others, all contributes to our reading experiences.

As teachers, we know these conversations are valuable, but we can only be in one place at one time. Listening to one group’s discussions has the opportunity cost of missing out on the other conversations.

Podcasting book club conversations has a number of benefits – not least of which being teachers have the opportunity to gain an insight into more conversations.

Knowing a conversation will be recorded adds a layer of accountability for students, meaning they tend to take it more seriously. They consider their word choice more carefully, ensure they provide evidence for their assertions and listen with greater consideration.

G5 teacher Andrea McDonald began the podcasting process for her students by listening to great examples. Book Club for Kids has a whole host of age-appropriate options. They also listened to a charming episode of the Modern Love podcast called ‘What it’s like to fall, quite literally, in love’.

Andrea provided an A3 planning sheet for students to write sentence starters to use as prompts for their discussion. The class wanted natural sounding conversations that were largely unscripted, to give it that sense of authenticity they love when listening to podcasts.

Here are some documents Andrea created in support of the planning and preparing, including some examples of student work.

 

Once planning had been completed, the groups found quiet spots to record. We decided on using iMovie for easy editing later, however, GarageBand would be another great choice.

To enhance the quality of audio, we used headphones with a microphone placed in the middle of the group. Students recorded their discussion in chunks on a shared iPad and airdropped their footage to their individual laptops afterward.

One thing we learned (the hard way!) was not to record in 1080p, but to change the settings to 720p instead. We had some difficulty getting the footage to individual computers due to the sheer size of the files. The students were very patient with this frustrating aspect of the process.

Next, it was time to edit. Adding clips to iMovie was pretty straight forward, so we just showed them how to detach the audio from the video clip, and replace the image so the emphasis could be on the conversation itself.

Making decisions to cut aspects of their conversation was really hard for many! But always good practice to learn about cutting to strengthen the overall process. Most podcasts ended up between 10 – 15 minutes in length.

Below you will find a few examples of our finished podcasts. It was our first attempt, but a great learning experience for us all.

 

Kanopy Streaming: Movies & Documentaries

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UWCSEA East recently got a subscription to Kanopy Streaming – and what a treasure trove it is! (UWC Teachers, click here; everyone else, try this link). If you have never heard of it before, let me tell you a little about it.

Kanopy began selling DVDs to universities in Australia, but has moved with the times to deliver a video streaming service to education providers worldwide, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. They have over 26,000 videos available currently, which are added to regularly.

So why should you care?

It is no secret how much students love learning through film. Kanopy has an incredible range of documentaries available: from  BBC’s Shakespeare Collection or its Planet Earth Series, through to Gravitas’s Food Choices: How Our Diet Affects the Planet, there is – quite literally – something for everyone.

A lot of the content is more suited to older audiences, but there is plenty in there to support Elementary learners. We’d encourage Elementary teachers to search Kanopy for a subject/unit they have upcoming, and preview the content before use with students.

One of the features that we love is the ability to clip and share a section of a video, so students don’t necessarily watch the whole video, but a pre-selected segment that most closely relates to what they are learning.

Teachers can also create playlists of videos and share those. For more details on this process, check out this help section on the Kanopy website.

If you are a UWCSEA Teacher who wants to watch at home, you just need to log in with your Google Account, and you’re away.

If you would like further information about Kanopy, just contact one of the DLCs, or have a chat to our friendly Librarians!

[Cross-posted at GreaTechxpectations]

Coding in Grade 1

The resources around Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are just begging to be used. There are so many developmentally appropriate entry points for every age level – it’s a no-brainer!

In Grade 1, we began with an unplugged activity. As a class, we created a code to use, and in pairs, they took turns being the coder (who created the code) and the robot (who carried out the code). It was great to see them role-play being the robot, and carry out the instructions the coder had left for them on whiteboards.

Following that, we got our iPads and explored Course 1, Stage 4 of code.org‘s amazing resource for 4-6-year-olds. To say they enjoyed the Angry Birds Maze activity would be an understatement! Many of them reached Stage 7 in only a very short window of time, so it was impressive to see their computational thinking skills strengthen!

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Below is a short video of our exploration with Coding. We would love to hear what you are up to with Coding in the Early Years. Please leave us a comment below.

 

[Cross-posted at GreaTechxpectations]