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.

IMG_4052

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: Location, Location, Location

There’s an interview with comedian Louis C.K. that really resonates with me about a lot of tech stuff. It’s called “Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy.” Take a moment, if you haven’t already, to enjoy watching (please note, it’s not suitable for children).

This interview makes me think about a lot of incredibly amazing tech stuff that gets taken for granted, but specifically, location based apps.
Here are 3 location-based pieces of tech wizardry I am grateful for:

GPS & Maps

Map PinsIn Switzerland, they happen drive on the other side of the road to each of the four countries I have lived in previously. Driving on the other side of the road feels like you are constantly making mistakes that may have dire consequences for you or the people you happen to be sharing the road with. In short, it’s terrifying. But with the GPS turned on, at least I don’t have to worry about knowing where I am supposed to be driving, and I can concentrate on important things, like not screaming out loud when a car comes the opposite direction on a narrow Swiss road.

True story: my kids gave me a round of applause when I first drove home. I think I’ll keep them.

Apple maps, Google maps, they’re both amazing! Take some time to appreciate the wonder that is location-based navigation! I do every day in this new country of ours.

Recycling Map

There are a lot of reasons to love the Swiss – chocolate and Roger Federer are but two of many – however, one has to appreciate their commitment to recycling. Recycling is expected, rather than encouraged, and I think that’s just great. Except for when I don’t know where to find the nearest recycling centre. Enter the Recycling Map. Simply type in your postcode, and what it is exactly that you want to recycle, and voila! The nearest locations are pointed out to you on the wonder that is Maps. Genius.

Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 9.29.14 PM

FourSquare & Swarm

FourSquareLooking on FourSquare (also available as an app) has become one of the first things I do in a new location. It provides information on places to eat (very important to me!), nightlife (somewhat less important) and things to do (yes, yes!).

Users leave tips and ratings on each location they visit through partner app Swarm. FourSquare uses this information to recommend locations nearby, complete with distance, address and contact details, opening hours, and a rating out of 10. This is alongside the tips from reviewers.

FourSquare has been responsible for some of my most memorable meals on holiday. Peskesi in Heraklion and Gelato at Cioccolat Italiani are two recent examples of places that would have gone undiscovered, had it not been for FourSquare.

I encourage you to start contributing to the pool of knowledge on FourSquare, by leaving tips about your favourite places on Swarm. That way, we all benefit!

so-this-just-happened-might-have-overdone-it-a-bit-gelato-milano_27578786134_o


“Trip planning.” flickr photo by Shawn Harquail https://flickr.com/photos/harquail/15866878743 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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

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.

 

7 Reasons Why Wunderlist Works

My colleague Dave and I work on many collaborative tasks. Our antiquated system for managing these tasks was a post-it note that Dave kept on his desk, that we would occasionally look at and cross things off.

Our MS/HS colleagues Adrienne and Jeff had been talking up using Wunderlist to stay on top of their To-Do List, so we thought we’d give it a go.

What we LOVE

  1. Working across multiple platforms – I can access my Wunderlist on my iPhone or on my browser. There are a number of compatible platforms (including Android, Windows and Apple Watch) that let you check off your task list from whatever device you happen to be using.
  2. Multiple Lists – I have a grocery list with my husband, a DLC Task List with Dave, a list with my sister in NZ who is visiting soon and wanting to know what to bring. The ability to have multiple lists makes it easy to manage the different aspects of your life.
  3. Adding Subtasks – There are many occasions when a big task needs to be broken down into multiple subtasks, and Wunderlist enables you to do this easily. Really handy to be able to feel like you’re making progress on those huge jobs!
  4. Assigning Tasks – Dave and I can assign our big tasks to each other, or leave them for both of us. It’s nice to be able to see quickly what you are responsible.
  5. Reminders – Time based reminders can easily be synced with your calendar. We are using Sunrise on our phones to manage our Google Calendar, which works a treat.
  6. Commenting and Notes – We can comment or write notes on tasks, clarifying new additions or reminding each other about things that are upcoming. Great feature.
  7. Attaching files – Adding a file, dropbox link or voice comment is another handy feature of Wunderlist.

What we WANT

  1. The ability to assign sub-tasks would be helpful.
  2. Linking to a file in Google Drive (although we can add links in the Notes section).
  3. The ability to undo the last action  – especially useful for accidentally checking off the wrong item! It can be retrieved with a few clicks, however undo or command + Z would be quicker.
Why not give it a go with your team?

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