Lego EV3 & iPads 

  
There are always challenges with new “stuff” and from my perspective that’s part of the fun. Today we ran a session with two Year 5 classes using Lego EV3 robots that we had recently purchased. This was experimental. We have used Lego Mindstorms before, but this was our first venture using the EV3s and in teaming them with our iPads via Bluetooth. 

The sessions went really well. Preparation for this activity was crucial. We were dealing with a newly acquired app and a new robot. We also needed to put together a series of activities which would entice and challenge the children. It was also important to anticipate different capabilities and provide enough progressively for the children to complete in just under two hours.

Lesson overview:

Introduction:

  • The EV3 Brick – input, output, navigation, display
  • The Robot – physical attributes 
  • The App – lobby, robot educator, programs
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Programming – motors, forward, back, turning, rotations, angles, wait, loop (note: introduced sensors briefly, but not required for this lesson)
  • Bluetooth 

 
  

   

The greatest challenge, it turned out, wasn’t actually to do with programming or in completing tasks, but was actually about enabling the Bluetooth connection. This is where playing before introducing technology is vital. As soon as we started experimenting with Bluetooth on the EV3s we realised that all the robots had the same name and that with multiple robots and multiple children robots needed to be easily identifiable. We named each EV3 brick to avoid confusion. Additionally we noticed that sometimes the EV3 Programming App didn’t pickup the Bluetooth connection even though in settings the Ev3 and the iPad were paired. This was resolved by restarting the app (double click the home button on the iPad and then push away the programming app). Even the pairing process wasn’t simple when adjusting settings on the brick via the buttons. Here I must say that once paired the Bluetooth interaction between the iPad and the EV3 was brilliant – getting rid of clumsy plugging of wires made it easy. 

The short video below shows the students in action. The children worked, cooperatively, collaboratively and purposefully. There was full engagement across the two Year 5 class sessions. The other thing which was great to see was the perseverance of groups to complete tasks even following repeated failure. It was a rich learning experience for us all. 

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3D On The Horizon

It often takes a little time for innovations to mature enough to be considered viable in our learning environment. We have limited resources and we need to be confident that there is an educational need and affordability. By way of example it took us about two years before we were confident that “Stile” had matured enough to a viable learning platform and for us to be certain that our infrastructure would support the to and fro of files which “Stile” enabled. True, too, of our very complex journey to adoption of a 1:1 iPad solution across our classrooms. I mention these because we have toyed with introducing 3D printing into our school for some time. Certainly the 3D printing concept has appeared pretty regularly at conferences that I have attended over the last three years. The Horizon Report has also suggested that 3D printing is on the horizon too. 3D printing also fits well with STEM (or STEAM) and the growing demands of the Australian National Curriculum.  

I also recently attended a session with Gary Stager at The Museum of Contemporary Art. He is a leading proponent of “MAKING” and clearly 3D printing, along with building circuits, coding and robotics etc, fits right in. We are certainly committed to the idea of STEAM and recognise the need to involve “MAKING” as a part of what we do in classrooms. 

  
Above: Gary Stager at Museum of Contemporary Art (May 2015)

One of the providers that we have partnered with, for professional development, Datacom have also helped us to connect the dots. They have 3D packages via Makers Empire

  Above: Datcom display at AIS Conference in Canberra (May 2015)
The software crucially, for both student and teacher users, is simple to use and surprisingly powerful. We have learnt that for adoption to occur technology needs to be simple and intuitive to use. Certainly I am feeling that both the software and hardware have developed considerably and are now more accessible for students and teachers. Importantly, for us, the software is iPad enabled for our 1:1 iPad classrooms. Here I must note that 3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology and there are a variety types appearing. I would be cautious about investing too much in hardware yet. 

Our approach towards adoption will be purposeful and cautious. Enabling teachers will be crucial. Teachers will need to understand how this technology might fit into learning programs and how students can benefit. As with many new initiatives I envisage that some teachers will champion the innovation. Because we are interested in challenging students and providing more open ended learning opportunities we have asked Datacom to run a series workshops which will model an inquiry based approach to the 3D learning experience. Hopefully this will not only develop capability, but importantly will engage our teachers in a collaborative, purposeful learning environment themselves.

The second phase will certainly involve a small commitment to 3D hardware. The extent of this will be informed by the reaction of our teaching staff to the 3D printing workshops that are referred to above. At this stage it is about providing capability and opening possibilities. What we are hoping to see is 3D printing becoming an option rather than a necessity. In much of the more open ended learning, which we are encouraging, it is about providing choice. Certainly as problem solvers, thinkers and designers we want to provide choice and 3D printing could be a powerful option. 

Frenetic Activity – PBL in a Year 6 Classroom

  

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my current role is visiting classrooms and working alongside our wonderful teachers and students. Last week I spent most of the week working with our Year 6 group. For much of the time the children were engaged in a project based learning environment which leveraged their open plan activity space, collaborative groups and technology (iPads and MacBooks). 

The children’s work related to Science – Natural Disasters. Students had selected events such as tsunamis, bushfires, cyclones etc. The children were investigating their chosen event and then worked together to produce information / script, a stop motion claymation and a news report. 

Apps used: Pages (word processing), Stop Motion (animation of claymation), iMovie (combining video, sound etc.) , Safari (research, connection, collaborative tool), Stile (content delivery and upload), Veescope Full Live (green screen – news report scene creation).

This short video shows activity underway in our Year 6 classroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stbaWzIbvFg

Stile: A Few Impressions

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Early in Term 3 we commenced a trial of an application called Stile. You can read in more detail on a previous post https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/a-stile-ish-journey/
Since my first introduction to Stile, over a year ago, I have toyed with doing a trial. I think, now that we are concluding our trial, that Stile might be the truly robust teaching / learning solution that we have been seeking to team with our iPad Program. I must stress here that nothing is ever perfect. I still like Edmodo, Dropbox and iTunes U etc. I also keep stumbling on great new options like the new Glogster app. Possibilities are growing and the ground is constantly changing. One of the things that appeals about Stile is that it can easily fit into an eclectic environment like ours. When choosing something new, to use across K to 6, we need to take a firm step particularly as this application (Stile) will cost the school money.

When we came to undertake our trial, during Term 3, we needed a reasonable amount of time to really get the trial up and running across the K to 6 classes. This was provided. We also needed to run our trial across all of our classrooms. We wanted to know whether Stile would be suitable and be adopted by all age groups and potentially by all teachers. We wanted to know if Stile would make a significant difference wherever it was employed. I must say that the Stile team have been very helpful and supportive throughout and their willingness to accommodate our needs has helped to make our trial a meaningful one.

As our trial has drawn to a close we have sought teacher impressions. These are provided below via an exit survey which we posted in Google Forms. We sought responses from teachers who had really engaged in using Stile as part of their regular classroom activity during the trial period.

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A ‘Stile’-ish Journey

We have just started to initiate a trial of the web application ‘Stile‘. This is a relatively new application (Australian) which makes it possible for content to be easily delivered to students via a web based workbook.
What does Stile offer?
*Stile can be accessed on any web capable platform
*Students can respond directly and teachers can review, respond and record within the application
*Stile may have the potential to act as a student digital work portfolio
*Stile can handle all sorts of files, media, etc
*Unlimited storage
*On iPads ‘Stile’ can interact well with most apps via camera roll and email (it is possible to email directly into Stile work spaces)
*The simplicity of Stile appeals especially in a Primary context.
*Easy for teachers to set tasks and easy for students to respond

In our trial we will be using Stile with children from Kindergarten to Year 6 and it will be interesting to see how the younger children manage within the ‘Stile’ workspace.

Stile isn’t a free application so, to justify the cost, we will need to see substantial benefit and real adoption by teachers to improve learning opportunities of the students.

We have an early adopter year group (Year 4) leading into our trial.
The screen shots below:
These screen shots are from a workbook / lesson produced by Year 4 teachers as part of a Science unit. The screen shots provide a student view of some the possible types of activities in Stile.

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Improving the Journey – Airserver

Until recently we were using a VGA connector to display our iPads on our Smartboards. This meant that we were tied to a physical connection to a computer. We considered using Apple TV, but found that many of our projectors didn’t have an HDMI capacity. We then explored the idea of an HDMI adapter. This wasn’t a cheap option and the quality wasn’t great.
We then found Airserver http://www.airserver.com . Airserver is proving to be a brilliant display solution. Here I must stress Airserver isn’t Apple TV. Airserver is really just provides the airplay capability that Apple TV enables.
The reason that Airserver is a good solution for us is that it is cheaper than Apple TV, it interacts well with old projectors without HDMI, it can display multiple iPad screens (up to eight without too much distortion), it provides good quality audio and visual wireless display via a PC.
If you go with the Airserver option you should install a couple of additional programs (free) which are recommended during the Airserver installation such as Bonjour.

We have installed Airserver on several PCs which we have connected to Smartboards and the application is being used actively by students and teachers. In general it has been pretty reliable.
The other evening our PA (Parent Association) were doing a cooking evening. We were able to use Airserver in conjunction with iPads and a projector to display close up images of the food preparation to the audience in a large hall area. It may also be useful to provide close up vision of our band in action during performances.
In small group work it has also been useful as the teacher can keep an eye on the work being done on several iPads at once.
Clearly though the big advantage is being able to gain mobility and for students and teachers to use the displays from anywhere in the space.

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I must emphasise that Airserver isn’t a complete entertainment and display system like Apple TV. It is just a simple airplay option.

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Above: The PA cooking class in action.

Reflecting On The Journey

Our school is a Primary school (K – 6). We embraced a 1:1 iPad roll out in 2013.

Powerful Transformative Learning: Ideas around Workflow, SAMR (http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/) and TPCK (http://www.tpack.org) can become a reality in a 1:1 iPad program.

A host of different applications are in play across classrooms. Our school hasn’t attempted to be prescriptive. Allowing a degree of freedom amongst teachers has opened possibilities and teachers are also offering students options which expand the learning opportunities to individualize and to differentiate. We have tried to tailor applications to class needs, however certain apps are staple across most grades including all the Apple Applications iMovie, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, also Book Creator, Creative Book Builder, Edmodo, Explain Everything, Puppet Pals and Visualize. The more “open ended” applications are the most useful providing greater scope to both teachers and students. Student-centred, authentic, project-based learning experiences are being enhanced and inspired by the application of iPads.​

The capability of delivering content quickly through iTunes U, Edmodo, Showbie and Evernote has made opportunities for blended learning and of flipping Classrooms a reality. Teachers are developing class blogs or arranging Skype links with classes in other countries and bringing experts virtually into the classrooms and into children’s homes to support learning

Teachers are also actively using iPads to augment their assessment of student progress. The capability of the iPad to record learning moments, collect, collate and report is impressive.​
Our library has developed an eBook collection and borrowing system which means that students can access digital books virtually on a range of devices. This has opened access for students and learning opportunities in our classrooms.

Curriculum
In Australia there has been substantial change with regard to the Curriculum. The new Australian National Curriculum is seeking to integrate technology across all strands of the Curriculum. Our provision of iPads to all students in years K to 6 has provided the capability to achieve this. Teachers are redesigning their teaching programs to reflect the integration of technology, and in particular the integration of iPads, as the New Curriculum is released. Our school has a Curriculum Coordinator helping to coordinate change. The process is very much a collaborative team effort.
The Australian Curriculum includes seven General Capabilities as can be seen in the diagram below ICT Capability is identified as one of the seven General Capabilities to be addressed across the Curriculum.

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© Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Teacher Development
Our mission as educators, at our school, is to transform the potential technology offers to improve teaching and learning practices and ultimately, student outcomes.
The school has committed to developing a strong culture of learning aimed at developing learners for the 21st Century.
Our teachers have been actively involved in a comprehensive learning program. A Whole School approach was undertaken which targeted several key areas.
Differentiate teaching to meet specific needs of students across the full range of abilities.
Teachers undertook to complete a number of learning opportunities presented in an iTunes U Course and demonstrate differentiated strategies in programming of Curriculum including the use of technology to individualize and differentiate
Technology – Effective integration of iPads and other technology resources within the Curriculum.
Provision of an Apple Certified Educators (via external providers) to provide a structured mentoring program and workshops.
Crucially the school has continued to develop a Culture of Thinking (both amongst teachers and the students) where learning is more purposeful, deeper and more meaningful to students. ‘Thinking’ is an integral part of the learning process. Visible Thinking is tied strongly to our use of technology, Project Based Learning and broader Curriculum Outcomes. http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org
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Changing Spaces
The arrival of real mobile technology via the iPad has opened possibilities to change pedagogical practices. The way that classrooms are working is changing too. Escaping from traditional classrooms to more versatile spaces is another great by product of the iPad Program. Entering classrooms it is common to see children on floors, sitting in pairs, in clusters or just moving and doing, as well as working in traditional formations. What is clear is that spaces need to be able to accommodate many ways of learning and collaborating.
We are starting to think about how we can achieve this using existing structures, by adapting furniture, creating movable walls, using glass to open the environment, as well as reviewing timetables and student groupings. The school is engaging in a process to identify and plan, so that our existing and future buildings and spaces can be designed to accommodate for the changing needs of students, teachers, curriculum and the community.

A Few Apps in Action in the Classroom – Part 1

Year 4 Novel Study (English / HSIE)

These examples relate to a Year 4 class doing a literature study. There is a range of activity occurring around using apps as tools in response to the novel – “Home to Mother” (an abridged version for younger readers) by Doris Pilkington Garimara. The apps and the range of activities, planned by the class teacher, provided for achievement at various levels of Blooms Taxonomy and of the SAMR model. Additionally the students had a scope of activities from which to choose.

Below is a brief overview of the sorts of choices being provided to the students.

Create a quiz based on the novel using a combination of short answer and multiple choice questions using the Socrative Teacher (app).

Use the Popplet (app) to create an argument plan for why readers should read the novel. Use this plan to create a Keynote (app) to persuade an audience to read the
novel. Present to the class.

Create a trailer using iMovie to bring out some key moments in the novel to entice viewers to watch a movie created about the novel.

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Use Comic Book (app) to recount the main events of the story in a seven box comic strip.

Use an online crossword maker to make a crossword using vocabulary from the novel. Save to Camera Roll and publish in Pages.

Imagine you are one of the main characters use Pages (app) written or iMovie (app) oral and visual (bring in pictures to support the oral work) to record a diary which reflects on the main events in the journey from your characters point of view.

Using the Pages (app) write your own beginning and your own end to the novel.

In Pages (app) create a table to compare Home with Mother with another book you have read recently. Your table should show the names of the books and the similarities and differences. Think about plot, characters and setting.

Year 5 Microorganisms (Science / English)

Our Year 5 students have been investigating microorganisms. The process has been supported and enhanced by an app called Creative Book Builder. Originally Year 5 had used Book Creator, but Creative Book Builder has greater capability for older Primary students enabling them to add not only pictures, video and text, but also has a more sophisticated editing and organisational capacity.

The students have used Creative Book Builder to record their investigations. They have recorded research on the topic, followed Scientific procedure to record experiments and their observations and conclusions. The portability of the iPad combined with camera capability really enables the students as they record experiments with yeast, mouldy bread etc. Students are observing and recording all over the place as they investigate a host of variables. My office fridge is currently home to a number of slices of mouldy bread.
The work is collaborative, engaging and exciting. The learning is rich – filled with process and real experiences.

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Year One (English – punctuation)

In Year One students are working with a couple of different apps and learning to apply punctuation.
In the first example they are using Comic Book and using exclamation marks.

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In the next example the students are using Popplet to apply their “camera words” and using question marks.

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Year Two (Languages – Hebrew)

In this example students were creating a poster on Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) using Visualise (Viz app) Note: in 2015 we replaced Viz with Pic Collage (app) as Viz no longer works in iOS 8. Pic Collage offers greater functionality and is stable. They sourced images using a safe browser K9 (app). They used the International keyboard set to Hebrew for the writing.

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Apps for the Journey

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I have been using an iPad for about two years and it is interesting to reflect on the apps that I use most actively myself.
One of the immediate realisations is that it really isn’t that many. I do have a load of apps on board, but often these are apps that I am trying out or are apps which are used very occasionally. Many apps end up lying dormant.

The Top 30 (my) most commonly used apps (in no particular order).

Safari
Mail
Camera Roll
Camera
Pages
Numbers
iMovie
Visualise
Zite
Flipboard
HootSuite
Twitter
Wordpress
Dropbox
Notes
Calendar
Evernote
iBooks
Kindle
The Weather Channel
Music
Cloudon
YouTube
Maps
Qrafter Pro
Google Drive
App Store
Calculator
Flixter
iTunes U

The posts below identify some apps that I think are useful in the classroom.
A Few Favourite Apps | Learning Journey
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/a-few-favourite-apps/

An App Journey | Learning Journey
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/an-app-journey/

A Few Favourite Apps

We are now well into our iPad program. I am often asked about the apps that I would recommend for use in the classroom. Reflecting on this, it really isn’t a straight forward question to answer. Apps provide capability, but in the end it is application of the app that really opens the possibilities. Also the app might be used quite differently depending on the age and capability of the students.

The apps I have chosen are ones which have the potential to really extend the learning experience of students of all ages.

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iMovie: This needs to be seen in context of using the onboard capability of the iPad to deliver a camera. Having the capability of being able to immediately film and then create a movie easily is very powerful. iMovie also has the capability to form a part of a workflow in which it might be the finished product or a part of the process. In the classrooms teachers have also used the trailer format to create rich, punchy reflections on work. iMovie is probably one of the most actively and widely used apps across the grades.

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Explain Everything: The name says it all. This app is really versatile. It can be used at a basic level as a simple whiteboard or at a very sophisticated level involving a number of slides, animation and media. It interacts well with many other apps and has the capability of being a part of a workflow e.g. bring in PDFs, web pages, pictures, video etc or can be the finished product.

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Puppet Pals: It is really worth purchasing the Directors Cut version of the app as it enables the user to include their own puppets and backgrounds. So many possibilities and very engaging. Create a narrative or an informative documentary Puppet Pals is flexible enough to do both. This is also a very engaging app. Able to be shared on YouTube.

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Showbie and Edmodo: Relative newcomers to our classrooms. One of the challenges for teachers using iPads has been to be able to easily move work to and from iPads. Showbie and Edmodo help with this process and also enable teachers to interact with students. While the apps are similar they aren’t quite the same. I particularly like Showbie’s capability for students and teachers to directly record voice and video within the app along with the simple uncluttered interface. Edmodo on the other hand can provide polling and interactive discussion. Both have good compatibility with other apps. Both can be used as a flipping tool as they are available on the web as well as an app on mobile devices. (I would like to mention iTunes U here too as it is a great delivery tool, but it lacks the two way capability of these two apps and also is restricted to an iOS app form so students can’t access the information on any other but an iOS device.)

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Visualize and Skitch: Two apps with similar capability. There is a cheap paid version of Visualize (Viz) which is worth the investment. We haven’t used Skitch since we discovered Viz. Skitch has, I think, evolved and probably has greater capability since updating, but don’t know if it is yet as good as Viz. Viz has been very popular amongst students. Students can essentially create a poster page which can include pictures, text, drawings, annotations etc. Work produced could form a part of a workflow or be a product of a workflow. Both apps are really easy to use.

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Book Creator and Creative Book Builder: Great apps with the capability to create multimedia eBooks. Students can bring in text, pictures and video. Once again a great workflow apps. Creative Book Builder is a more complex application and would be better suited to older students. (For younger students I also really like Scribble Press because of its rich drawing pallet and it has some templates to help students to create a story.

These are a few of the really rich apps that I have seen regularly in action. There are many others that provide great possibilities or which add to workflows e.g. GarageBand, Pages, Comic Book. It really depends on the outcomes being sought. I do like the idea when thinking about apps that “less is more”. What I mean by that is to target apps for specific purposes. Too many apps can be confusing. It is better just to use a few apps that work together really well and that you know how to use. That being said having a rich pallet of apps for students is great for differentiated learning.

A few lesser known apps that might be really useful.

Paper Camera: This is a great app for altering appearance of pictures quickly. Pictures can be altered to various preset formats and brightness, contrast, lines can be adjusted too. A useful way for students to bring a creative touch to photographs.

Side by Side: This app is great for multitasking / researching because a number of different windows can be opened at once in the app including a browser. It is also possible to bring in content such as PDFs from Dropbox.

Cloudon: A great app for accessing cloud storage Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SkyDive. Possible to view a large number of different file types. Has a great Microsoft Office type workspace for editing files.

Greenscreen: This app enables you to put a different background behind movie action. Available on the iPad, but really an iPhone app. Great possibilities for short movie snippets in different locations.

Qrafter Pro and Aurasma: The paid version of Qrafter allows for creation of QR codes and reading of codes. The free version only allows reading of codes. Giving students the ability to create their own codes means that they can easily add additional elements such as video commentary to their work. Aurasma is also worth mentioning as it adds similar capacity, but can react to images instead of QR codes – great for commentary on art, literature etc.