Why Have a Class Twitter Account?

Digital GEMS templatekey.001

There are a whole host of benefits to having a class Twitter account. Allow me to present you with my top 5:

1. Access to Experts

By following the Tweets of experts, such as NASA or Dr Jane Goodall, a class can access up-to-date information in byte-sized packages. Most often, links are included to videos, articles, blog posts and images to explore in more detail

 

2. Connect with Authors

Remember writing letters to authors, mailing them off and never hearing anything back? Today, a significant number of authors are on Twitter, interacting with their readers.

Last year, a G5 class was thrilled to Skype with Gary Whitta (an author of Rogue One, the latest Star Wars film), who spoke to us about the writing process, diversity in film and answered student questions. Talk about relevance! This got the whole class hooked on writing!

Some lucky students in G4 tweeted an author of a book they were reading, and were thrilled when they got a reply. What a motivator for developing literacy skills!

3. Share our learning

We can make a difference to other people’s learning simply by sharing our own. Tweets of student sketching a character’s development, might give another child an idea about how they can represent their own learning. Parents love seeing examples of their child in action during the school day too.

Adding hashtags can allow us to reach a common audience, where we find ideas related to topics we are learning about too, such as #writingworkshop

4. Develop International Mindedness

Part of the PYP is developing International Mindedness, where we seek out and value perspectives from different cultures and communities, and consider the impact of events around the world on different groups of people.

By way of example, @littlemissflint became a powerful role model for taking action after she began tweeting about the water crisis in her hometown of Flint. Now she continues to take action on issues important to her and her community

From a class Twitter account, you can follow the United Nations to learn about what school is like in different parts of the world, for example this school in Gaza.

5. Model Digital Citizenship

We know that modelling positive and appropriate use of social media helps students learn how to be effective digital citizens. Through a class Twitter account, students can see how to interact positively with others online, they can learn to compose Tweets, and develop digital literacy skills such as appropriate writing conventions in digital medium (e.g. use of the @ symbol to reply, and use of hashtags). Having a class account lets students learn these skills with their teacher as a guide and role model – almost like having a safety net there for them as they learn.

A class Twitter account shows that teachers value writing in digital as well as print form, adding weight to the writing students are doing in their lives outside the classroom.

The bottom line is that teachers are there for kids.
We want learning to be relevant, contextual and engaging.
A class Twitter account is just one of the ways we teachers support today’s learners.

3 Things I’m Grateful For: Camera & Photo Tricks

I know, I know. You’re a power user of the camera. It’s one of your most used apps. But stay with me – there may be a use you haven’t tried out just yet.

Markup

This little-known feature in photos is an absolute winner, for so many reasons. Markup lets you sketch, zoom and add text to your photos.

You can access Markup when viewing one of your pictures. Click on the following buttons, which appear under your photo:

Edit photos.001Here’s where the super-cool part comes in… I needed to take note of the dimensions of various places, to see whether the items we wanted to buy would fit properly. Yes, I could have written them in a notebook, but there’s something about being able to visualise the space that helps when considering items.

Space for Microwave

I used markup to annotate the photos I needed, and what I loved best, was that when I was sketching on the photo, it took my wonky lines, and asked if I wanted to make them straight! So helpful! (Makes me appear way more professional, right?) I did sketch the numbers too, but quickly found adding text made them more legible. Whether I was buying a microwave, or figuring how long I needed the hallway carpet, Markup was there to make the process that much easier.

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Memory Making

It’s important not to underestimate the importance of memory making, when in a new country (or anywhere, for that matter!). So whether it’s documenting those firsts (first photo on the lake, spending time at the park, eating some great Swiss chocolate) or sharing photos of your new home/school/workplace with friends and family back home, the camera app is there for you, every step of the way.

Comparing Potential Purchases

Obvious, perhaps. But no less useful. In my humble experience, there is only so much furniture shopping two kids and a dog will put up with, so it’s inevitable that at some point, you and your significant other will not be shopping together. Camera and Photos to the rescue once more!

IKEA Wardrobe.001

Shopping decisions can be made when the kids are in bed, perhaps with a beverage in hand (if you’re into that sort of thing)… Considerably more relaxing (and efficient!) than the alternative.

The humble Camera and Photo apps are powerful allies in the move to a new country, so dust them off, and give them a workout!

 

 

 

3 Things I’m Grateful For: Language Learning Edition

The Alps, fondue, chocolate, skiing and neutrality – these are some of the features of my new host country. Yes, my family and I have taken a great leap and moved to Switzerland. This is our first country move in 12 years, so it’s kind of a BIG DEAL!

With our kids, my husband and I usually spend a few moments each night sharing
3 things we are grateful for. I thought I’d share some ways I am grateful for technology making our lives easier as we transition to our new culture.
Today’s edition is all about language learning.

LANGUAGE LEARNING

We now live in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. Slight problem: I don’t speak French… yet! I am a firm believer that to know a culture, you must make an effort to learn the language. Enter Duolingo, Google Translate & the French keyboard on iOS.

Duolingo
My daughter (11) created a family French club on Duolingo, and each morning, we complete at least 3 exercises. It’s quite simple to motivate the littles – they aren’t allowed any screen time until they’ve done it, so it gets done in record time! They also love the club aspect – seeing where everyone is, smack-talking about who is taking over the leaderboard, and commenting on the activity.

Although Duolingo is brilliant (and free!), I am mildly frustrated that while I can tell you “The boy is calm,” and “The duck is eating a fly,” I don’t yet know the days of the week, or how to ask where the bathrooms are. Still! Great app, which has been super helpful so far.

French Keyboard on iOS
Adding the French keyboard to my iPhone has certainly helped too, particularly the predictive text feature. It automatically helps me spell words I am trying to type, and helpfully adds the right accents, making me feel more professional in my written communication. I do need to pay close attention when typing, because the placement of the letters on the French keyboard is a little different!

Google Translate
For everything else, there is Google Translate! I know, language teachers, I know! It’s not a long-term solution, but it has helped us find baking powder at the supermarket, decipher descriptions of everything from BBQs to cars, and tell the delivery people we are running late. We couldn’t do without it.

I recently downloaded French as one of my offline translation languages, which is helpful when trying to avoid over-using data packages!

I’m sure there are many other language learning tips you could give me! Any great apps I need to load right now? I am willing to give everything a go!


“Aletsch_36” flickr photo by Gipfelwanderer https://flickr.com/photos/150752905@N08/35375628573 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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 🙂

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

adobe-spark-20
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]