How to embed slideshows on a WordPress Blog

A few teachers have asked me how to get dynamic photo slideshows on their blog. So I thought I would share a couple of options. Right now, most of you know how to insert photos directly into your blog post. However, if you have more than a couple of photos, this gets a bit clunky. Here’s a sample slide show of what you can post in your blog:
https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf
1. One option (as seen above) is to upload your photos to Picassa (owned by Google) and as long as you are signed into your Google Docs account, you can easily do this. Make sure you don’t use the Picassa desktop version to do this though! Personally, I am not a big fan, this application is awkward and automatically goes through every single image on your machine and tries to upload them! Instead, go to your Google docs/mail and look at the top menu. Go over until you see the “more” menu and click on the little arrow. Scroll down until you see photo and click on this (see screenshot)

 

2. Once you do this, you will be directed towards Picassa’s online photo site. Click upload and name your album. Now drag and drop your photos from iPhoto or find them on your computer.

3. Next, you need to change the privacy settings otherwise, no one will be able to see your wonderful slideshow. You can choose which one, but I like to choose, “limited-anyone with the link”

4. Finally, you need to get the slideshow embed code to paste in your blog. This is a simple copy and paste. 

5, Last but not least, go to a new blog post and click on the HTML button. Now paste that code you just copied above. Now publish your post and it should appear!

 

How to create an ebook on an iPad

We have had great success with ebook creation on an iPad. It is fast and simple to use and suitable for all ages. There were even  several MS/HS students who created eBooks using solely the iPad for all content creation. At our school, we’ve had Grade 1 students teach other students how to publish using this app. We’ve recently started a school-wide project called Write Now 1000 to be the first school to publish 1000 ebooks across all divisions and have had quite a few early adopters embrace this goal. So far we’ve published over 100 books (and counting). Another big reason for this project is to begin to collaborate with local indonesian partner schools to begin to empower many disadvantaged youth to be able to be authors as well.

Reasons for using iPad for eBook Creation

  • When you are introducing the idea of eBook creating
  • When beginning with  younger students
  • When you are creating picture books with more multimedia

Resources needed:

7 Easy steps to Follow to Creating an eBook:

1. Begin by introducing the idea of an ebook to your students. You might want to have them browse some ebooks that have been published by other students so that they have some examples and ideas

 

2. Have a storyboard or plan for the book with work that has already gone through the writing process. Have students think about key content they would like to share and consider including title page, table of contents, About the Author, glossary, references

3. Introduce the app Book Creator. This is quite simple and easy to figure out. It is important for students to be able to play and explore the app before actually beginning the book. Give them challenges such as seeing if they can figure out how to change the font size, colour, add photos, voice and video.

 

4. Begin publishing the book. Ensure that the book is proofread by a teacher or peer afterwards. Leave spaces for photos along the way.

5. Begin adding media content to the book. It is helpful to do this after the content is in the book otherwise too much time is spent with the design component. To do this, you will need to get photos on each iPad. This can be done by doing a bulk sync (slow and tedious) or using the PhotoTransfer app (paid version allows multiple photos to be transferred at a time). Voice can also be added at this stage.

6. Students do have the option of creating their own artwork using Doodle Buddy or Zoodle. You will need to save the artwork as images to the photo roll so that they can be inserted into Book Creator.

7. Do a final check and then publish. Using this app, you can either share to iBooks to be enjoyed or saved to Dropbox to be transferred to other devices.

New Beginnings

Some of you may have known that I have moved schools this year and have just started my job as the Elementary School IT Coach at Sinarmas World Academy. It is located in West Jakarta, Indonesia. It is a relatively new school (4 years old) and an absolutely beautiful campus. There is lots going on technology-wise as we are a 1:1 school from Grades 4-12 and then shared laptops for Grades 1-3. We have over 70 ipads in addition to that. The school is warm, has a community feel and a strong vision. One of the things I enjoy about the school is the fact that there is a strong blogging culture and all students, teachers and administrators have blogs which creates a learning community.

 

 

 

Automator for Technology Teachers

I have heard lots of people talk about the benefits of Automator as a way to make trivial tasks automated. It does exactly that and so much more. From a Technology Facilitator’s perspective, you are probably dealing with similar issues of managing multiple computers/laptops/computer labs. One task that I always put off (if I don’t get students to do it first) is emptying the trash and cleaning up the desktop. Well, why not let Automator do this for you in one click of a button? If you are not familiar with Automator, it is super easy to use and figure out.

Assuming you have Apple Remote Desktop client and server installed (another fabulous program), all you need to do is open Automator on the client computer. Click on Workflow and then go down to Utilities. In here, you will discover many tasks that Automator will do that you probably didn’t even think of.

A couple of workflows are posted below:

Here’s the workflow I did to empty all desktop items:

Here’s another one to quickly force quit all open applications (which inevitably happens with students):

Another one I used was to set the sleep time and wake up time. Handy if you are having computers falling asleep at times you don’t want them to.

 

There are probably tons more that would be helpful to Technology Directors or Teachers, if you have a great one, please share.

Why International Schools Should Remember Maslow

I’ve been working at internationals schools for over 10 years now and each one has been an incredibly rewarding but each one a very unique experience. I am about to shift schools again and will be working at an international school in Jakarta. As I enter the last 7 weeks, you start to go through that transition period between past and future. I really want to do a good job and have a lasting impact at my current school but part of my brain wanders to the future. It’s inevitable and human nature.

I think that I am a pretty adaptable person and embrace change easily (that’s part of the draw to international schools). But I know that with change comes the grieving process as one desperately tries to get over feelings of loss and embrace the new. I am also busy finishing up graduate courses online and one is a leadership course on change in international schools.

One of our questions was to think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see figure below)We needed to think about all humans have these essential needs and you can’t really move up a level until your basic needs are fulfilled which makes sense. Think about a classroom and your students and how you can’t really move forward with learning and the curriculum until students feel safe and a sense of belonging.  That’s why so much emphasis is placed on learning routines (safety and physiological needs) and building community within the classroom (belonging needs).

Moving to a new country and working at a new school forces everyone to seek out all these needs. You need to find a new home, car, friends and learn the culture before you can even think about the school. I believe administrators need to really consider their faculty and where they are at any given point in the school year. Obviously, the goal is to have all teachers at the top at self-actualization where people feel a genuine sense of purpose, intrinsic rewards and contributing to the community.  During the 1-2 weeks of new teacher orientation, it is critical that administrators help teachers attain their basic and safety needs BEFORE even trying to talk to them about the curriculum.  The other challenging is building community and helping new teachers integrate into the new community and feel a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen at one of the schools I worked at and resulted in new teachers being extremely stressed, frantic and behind the 8 ball from day 1. International schools need so spend that time supporting teachers in finding housing, setting up utilities, finding nannies, places to shop and eat, etc.

I’m very fortunate in that my new school has already started this process and have been extremely supportive. This only means that we can quickly transition and reach Maslow’s highest level-self actualization.

Have a story to share about transitioning into a new international school or place? Would love to hear your comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minecraft-A new virtual tool for learning

I just read a great post from this blog on Minecraft and thought I would add my thoughts on the subject.

Whenever you mention the word “video game” to a parent, it often brings quite a few negative connotations. Usually the negative words associated with this are: blood, shooting, waste of time, and mindless.  As an adolescent, I remember trying to justify to my mother that hours of playing Nintendo’s Zelda were actually beneficial to me. I would say, “but it improves my hand eye coordination Mom!”  She would often let out a sigh, roll her eyes and give me another 15 minutes to try and complete another level.  At the time, improving hand eye coordination was really the only apparent benefit of playing video games at the apparent cost of so many.

As part of my graduate research,  I have recently been doing quite a bit of academic research on game-based learning. Typically, with any new type of technology, there is a bit of resistance and usually group of critics who often propagate myths without having done the research themselves. I have encountered similar resistance when we first started doing blogging in the classroom (how can blogging possibly improve academic skills?), ipads and mobile devices (they are a distraction and waste of time) and now games.

Fast forward 20 years and gaming is still a huge market.  Video games have evolved into highly sophisticated multiplayer games and strategy-based games that require much more than trying to rapidly tap A, A, B, B, select, start, up, down as fast as you can. Sure, those games certainly exist but new genres have hit the market that require higher-order thinking skills, complex communication, collaboration and problem-solving.  One of those genres, simulation games, is beginning to overlap with other fields such as medicine, military and education.

Watch this fantastic video that paints a nice picture of the role of simulation games in education:

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what are simulation-based games?

Simulation games are virtual games that simulate a real-world experience that are often difficult or dangerous to take part in real life. Some of them are life-based simulation games such as the Sims and others are more construction and strategy based games such as Civilization, SimCity World of Warcraft, and Minecraft.

Games (not just video games) have actually taken quite awhile to be taken seriously by educators.  Games, by themselves, are obviously highly engaging, fun and motivating. However, these reasons alone are not enough to use them educationally. For example, Uno is a fun and engaging game but this alone doesn’t mean that it should be used in the classroom. There needs to be careful planning, goals, integration into the curriculum and reflection built into any type of technology or innovative practice.

I have recently been using Minecraft in the classroom to help develop some important mathematical concepts as well as those higher-order thinkings skills. As a teacher and a bit of a gamer myself, I can clearly see the advantages of leveraging games for learning.

So what is Minecraft?

 

Minecraft is a virtual 3D simulation game in which players need to look for resources to use to craft and build just about anything. There is a one player survival mode where it is just you alone in the world and there are monsters out there so you need to survive. There is also a creative mode feature where you have access to all resources in the game.  There is also a multiplayer mode (my favorite) where you interact and collaborate with people in real-time. Creativity is absolutely endless and I have seen people build ancient pyramids, castles, and even whole cities!

So how can you use Minecraft for learning?

Math-Since Minecraft is in a 3D virtual world, it is very easy to link in geometry and measurement concepts. I had 5th grade students complete a series of challenges involving fractions and percents. I built some structure and students had to figure out what percentage of each material I used. Then, I had them build a house involving some specific percentages of blocks. It is very easy to explore concepts such as volume, area, perimeter, coordinates and measurement. I had 3rd grade students build a real construction of a garden project they did in which they had to use specific perimeter and areas of their garden (planned ahead of time). Then students actually got to grow their own crops in the garden! Video of my idea will be posted below:

 

Geography-Geography is an easy way to explore using Minecraft. Difficult concepts such as topography, mapping skills, types of maps are a natural part of Minecraft. I found a great video by a fellow teacher in which he explored contour maps show below. I am planning out a series of lessons shortly

Economics/Math-Minecraft has plenty of multiplayer servers. Recently, I joined one and I am absolutely amazed at the kind of learning that happens on this. One server has an economy built into it so players receive money from selling their items. People also begin opening up shops selling and trading items. This opens up a real life (sort of) context where students could learn the idea of supply, demand, market prices and how economies are built.

Science-I have been following a high school teacher in Australia who uses Minecraft to teach concepts in biology. For example, he has students construct 3D models of eukaryotic cells. He uses a multiplayer mod to explore how neurotransmitters work.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple’s Education Announcement-What does it mean for educators?

Yesterday, Apple announced a further commitment to investing its products in education. Apple would like to get a cut out of the multi-million dollar textbook industry.  Its vision is to make textbooks more interactive, easier to create and more accessible to teachers and students. The three big changes are that they have created a new free app called iBooks Author, revamped iTunes U along with updating iBooks to iBooks2.

Educators who use iPads in the classroom have been collectively holding their breath for an announcement like this as there have been a share of frustrations using iPads in the classroom.  Firstly, there is no easy way to download and manage apps on a large number of devices. Although Apple is slowly changing the volume purchasing program, it only seems to be rolled out in the US, leaving many international schools hanging out to dry.  It has also been frustrating for synching updates and managing large number of apps. The problem is that the iPad is made to be a personal content device rather than a shared device which is how many schools use them.

So with the news that Apple does want to commit to helping education, this is certainly a step in the right direction. So what does this mean for educators?

1. iBooks 2-This is really just an update to iBooks rather than a separate app. The idea behind is that textbooks can be downloaded for subjects which has movies, images and interactive content. This is great as an educator as content needs to be engaging to students in order to be effective in today’s age. You can download Life on Earth for free to see what it looks like.

2. iTunes U-Now educators can now customize content for students so that they have assignments and videos related to the course they are taking. I have yet to see this in practice but it sounds great.

3. iBooks Author– This is probably one of the most exciting changes for me. This app allows for students to actually create their own interactive book and create content rather than just consume content. Although this was technically possible before using the share e-pub feature in Pages, this app does it all for you. Keep in mind that this is an app from the Mac App store and not a mobile app.

I am going to begin exploring these features and see how well they actually work practically. What are your thoughts on these new changes? Please share you comments.

 

Game-Based Learning and Simulations

Games are nothing new for technology.  We’ve always had a variety of types of games from action-adventure that started in Atari and Nintendo to more strategy-based games such as Warcraft and Command and Conquer.  For the most part, educational games have been developed but often lack the depth or complexity of games intended for entertainment.  There are plenty of flash type games online that educators usually use for low-level thinking skills such as math computation and spelling and vocabulary type games.  Although these certainly have some educational value but as a teacher, I’ve usually don’t allocate too much time to these in the same way that I don’t spend too much time on drill and kill skill worksheets. However, games are coming increasingly complex and realistic and a more recent genre of games has emerged including simulation and 3D virtual games such as Second Life, Sim City and most recently, Minecraft.

These games have captured my attention. I must confess that I am a bit of a gamer myself and really enjoy strategy type games or simulation type games such as Civilization or Myst. I love the challenge and the thinking skills involved with these games.  I also see the educational value of these games as well.  The Horizon Report (a publication that discusses emerging technology in education) predicts that it will play a significant role in education over the next 2-3 years. For an excellent read on this topic, read Marc Prensky’s article “What Kids Learn that’s POSITIVE from video games” .  To sum up he points out that kids learn the following real-life lessons from video games:

  • Cause and Effect
  • Long term Winning vs Short-term Gain
  • Order from Seeming Chaos
  • Second-order Consequences
  • Complex systems behaviors
  • Counter Intuitive results
  • Using obstacles as motivation
  • The Value of Persistence
In other words, kids (and adults) are learning things like: creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, persistence and lateral thinking. All essential skills for working in today’s 21st century.
I have recently been exploring a game called Minecraft. At first glance, it looks like a game in which you run around mining rocks and hiding from monsters. However, if you actually play it, you’ll see that there are so many other possibilities. It allows for users to create, design, explore and craft different buildings and structures. It introduces users to a simulation where you need to find resources and use your imagination to design just about anything you want. Another value of this game is that you can work in “creative/peaceful mode” and use multiplayer functions to allow multiple users to create things together.
I continued to explore this game and education and found out that there were already a group of educators using it in the classroom. Check out some of these great links to sites:

 

My current plan is to start using it with 3rd Graders to create a Math project in which they designed a garden with limited resources and calculated the area and perimeter. I am also starting an After School Activity with some students 3-5 in which we are going to design the new campus for our school in collaboration with some High School students.

QR Codes-Linking two worlds

I recently attended a conference in Singapore called Learning Roundtable which was essentially how to effectively use iPads in classrooms and schools. One of the most interesting workshops was by John Wolfe and using QR codes as learning tools.  I really liked it as I could immediately see the educational value of QR codes as it helps link the real world to the digital world and also takes advantage of mobile devices. I had seen QR codes around but really didn’t understand what they were or how they were being used.

So what are QR codes? 

QR codes are a lot like bar codes that on food products. The difference is that they use both horizontal and vertical lines of axis so can hold much more information. By using a QR reader on your phone, you can scan it and it takes you to a digital link.

What possible educational value do they hold?

I think there are so many. Students love codes and there is a certain amount of mystery surrounding codes. Here are some ideas:

Literacy-There are ton of possibilities. John Wolfe mentioned a few ideas on his site but one effective way that he had used them was he had students create 60 second book talks using Photobooth, created a QR code for it and then printed out the code and put it on the inside of the cover of books. What a fantastic way to link print to digital media!

PE-I thought there would be lots of possibilities if you already have iPod touches in your school as you can download a free QR reader and you could use it in PE for orienteering. Have students find the codes around a field which give you clues and directions to the next location.

Social Studies/Humanities- For field trips, students could go to actual locations and using mobile devices, they could record a video or text about what they learned about particular works of art. Then, create QR codes to link this information for other students.

Math- John mentioned that he has seen teachers create QR codes which link to online videos for Math textbooks. What a fantastic way of making textbooks more engaging!

 

Resources

If you would like to start creating your own QR codes, you can set up a free account on Snap Vu which allows you to edit the content but maintain the same code (so you don’t have to keep printing out new codes). It also tracks how many people have actually used your code. The one little glitch is that when you put in your URL sites, make sure they are already shortened by a site like bit.ly as I tried to copy and paste a long URL from my google site (see above) and it didn’t work.

Are you using QR codes? Leave a comment with your idea!