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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Game Development in 8th Grade

The 8th grade students have been working on game development during CAL 1. The purpose of this project was to create learning games for Prepa and 1st grade students using Scratch programming language. The 8th grade students interviewed and observed the younger students and their teachers and took notes on what they found out. They then planned and developed their learning games. We will be sharing them with their end users, the younger students and their teachers, in the new year. Here are two examples of games the students have developed. You can check out more examples of their work in our Scratch Studio.

Fernando Argumedo and Anaik Chacon


Irma Choto and Daniela Castillo


Friday, 29 November 2013

Crazy Talk Rappers

This is our 4th year running the A Better World Project, and it is ageing very well. We have come a long way from that first year. When we first started out we were using Blabberize to produce rapping images, then we introduced student performances. Eventually with the arrival of our first set of iPads, we began creating characters with even more movement using Morfo.

This year the project has taken yet another turn. We have pretty much removed student performances. We thought in retrospect,  that while some were very good, others really took away from the focus of the rap video. We also worried that some may have been misconstrued as being insensitive to the topic.We have left performance work as an extension option this year, meaning that only the high fliers will be doing this.

We had intended to run the project exclusively on iPads this year, working with Google Drive for collaborative lyric writing, Garageband for music production, Morfo for digital rappers and iMovie for the final video production, however that too has changed.

We purchased Crazy Talk this school year for 13 of our computers and it has really revolutionised the project. Using Crazy Talk our kids are able to creating digitalised rappers from almost any digital image. These rappers are capable of a great deal and really come alive for the students.

So we are back on the Macs, using Google Drive, Garageband, iMovie, Crazy Talk and Wikispaces.  The kids are loving it and so are we.

I have included a video example from one of our recent projects below. You can access all the projects from this year as they are posted and from prior years on the project wiki.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Art of Storytelling and Illustration

We were fortunate to be visited by award winning author Janine Kimmel last week. During the 6 sessions she held, she spoke to our students about the writing process she goes through when authoring her books.

Do check out our complete post on the LRC Blog.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mega Weeding Rampage!

Every year we weed old, out of date, musty, dusty books out of the collections. Let's face it they are not being read for a reason. Depleting the shelves in this way sounds harsh but removing books that are no longer relevant or in conditions to be read without rubber gloves, is good practice for a school library. It makes room for new, interesting titles but also makes it easier for students to identify the hidden gems, as they are no longer buried away on the shelves. It gives the library staff a chance to refocus book purchases and build important, relevant collections for the community, some of which will be in print, others digital. 

This week we have been on a mega weeding rampage and spending a great many hours amidst the dusty yellowed pages. We have now completed our mission and successfully removed many hundreds of out of date, non fiction books from the shelves. 

Yes our shelves are a lot emptier, but they now contain relevant, up to date dust free non fiction editions. We can now begin the job of restocking with relevant titles, that meet the needs of our students and teachers. 

Not everything is going out the door. While weeding the shelves we discovered a few very interesting titles that will remain in the library as examples of very old literature. These titles date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.  They will go on display. We have also pulled a great many "cool" non fiction books that have been ordered in over the last few years, these are the gems that were hidden away and are now out in the open. They are going into a special "Cool Non Fiction" Display for students, which we hope will promote them and get them into the students' hands.

Here are some pictures of our piles of discards.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Library 2.0

On October 19th our wonderful Librarians and Library Assistant took the plunge and presented at the Library 2.0 Conference. They did a fantastic job both in preparing for and presenting at their first online conference.
During the presentation which focussed on our Learning Resources Centre, they shared  information about and images of the physical LRC, the different events and activities that take place here as well as the various displays and clubs that are run out of the LRC.  They also shared the virtual LRC, our centre's webpage and all of the resources within, including the online catalogue, The Shelfari Arrival Shelves, requests for resources and much more.

In addition to this they featured ABCICT, our teaching wiki, which is used on a daily basis by ICT Classes in the LRC, parents interested in internet safety resources, homework and areas of study, and teachers from around the world.

Another important area of focus during this presentation was the many applications that enable librarians and teachers to network, share ideas and resources, and learn from each other on a daily basis.

They also discussed the ways in which our Learning Resources Centre and its members of staff use web applications to maintain ever important channels of communication with the community and the world.

A few of the starring applications  that took centre stage in this section of the presentation were, Blogger, TwitterDiigoFacebook and Pinterest.

If you are interested in finding out more, do take a moment to check out the recording here.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Peace One Day at the LRC

One person can make a huge difference and Peace One Day's founder, Jeremy Gilley is living proof of that. Every September 21st, since it's foundation in 1999, Peace One Day has promoted peace around the world, through campaigns in the arts, sports, online and in Education.

The idea that "No matter how small, everyday acts of kindness can help make peace a reality..." (  is a power concept. If each of us can make a difference through our daily interactions with others, just imagine the change that can be brought about through slightly grander initiatives.

This year, the LRC did it's part for peace, on the educational front. Our ICT team, the LRC staff members and a member of the English team continued our work with a very special group of teachers from certain public schools in the San Vicente area. This work is strictly voluntary and run in conjunction with a small group of Canadian fundraisers who have made it their goal to do make a difference in the lives of young people, their families and education in El Salvador.

A year ago we embarked on a journey, in which we targeted a talented group of ICT teachers from the San Vicente area. The project involves working with the group on a wide variety of learning activities, exemplifying current methodology in teaching and learning with technology. The sessions are intense, packed with fun, exploration and reflection. The hub for this learning is the LRC's ABC Inset page in which resources are accessible to participants 24/7.

Today's session was the 5th of 6 in total, which will be held at the LRC. The focus was online gaming in education and online learning projects. Two special guest speakers, from our 8th and 9th grades , gave the teachers a first hand look at the potential that Minecraft and World of Warcraft offer for learning. The teachers, all of whom were excited by these ideas, ended up spending over an hour busily building and working together on our school Minecraft server.

During the second half of the day, the focus moved to planning an online project. In doing so, participants had to reflect on the different learning experiences they had been involved in over the past year. There were no limits imposed. The projects could have been large, small, done individually or in groups.  The teachers were responsible for identifying the age levels and skills, they wanted to target. Their choice of tools reflected each individual teacher's  situation, teaching groups and school settings.The planning was done using a shared template in Google Docs.

The range of projects that they came up with are varied and interesting: social networking using a Facebook page, an arts and culture blog for the community, using social networks to focus on reading, production and editing of videos, audio and images and  Geography and tourism through images and videos.

This phase of the project is coming to a close. It will end on December 7th of this year. This doesn't mean it is over however. The journey will continue. The learning will continue, through the collaborative efforts of those involved. The learning will happen at their schools, online, and as part of the learning community they have become.

Happy Peace One Day 2013!
Who will you make peace with today and every day?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Fun with Chromakey Suits!

Chromakey technology allows film makers to create special effects in the post production stage, such as generating the illusion of invisibility and applying imagery to the green areas. This is achieved by compositing/layering images or videos together. 

Students in the LRC have made good use of  this technology over the years by filming in front of blue screens and green screens and editing their footage on iMovie.

This year the decision was made to  take things a step further. We were very excited by the arrival of our special green screen gloves and body suits last week. The students had a great time trying them out and creating some very special effects. Here are a few fun pictures from the set.

Here is a short video which explains how to do this.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Wevideo, An Alternative Video Editor

We have been playing around with a web based alternative to Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. The application is called Wevideo. It is powerful, versatile and free.  This program will not do chroma key work yet and doesn't allow you to split clips, but apart from that it is a very complete toolset for video production work.

We just have begun using it with our students for video work that can't be done in our Mac Lab, due to booking issues. It will be presented to 7th grade Humanities students as one of several options for tools they can use  when producing their slave diary projects this fall.

  If you haven't tried Wevideo yet, you should. Here is a brief tutorial on how to use this free, online application for movie making.

Wevideo is available in the Google Chrome App Store,

Monday, 26 August 2013

Jumping Back in with WoW!

The new school year is here and with it a new take on our gaming club. We are about to jump back in, after taking a year off, with our World of Warcraft  extra curricular club, which will run throughout  most of the school year.

Some things have changed however. This year the work won't revolve exclusively around a novel. That doesn't mean books won't be involved. It just means that we will open the club up a bit more to a greater range of language based activities.

Students who decide to participate in the club will have a chance not only to play World of Warcraft, but to engage in several other online gaming experiences including Minecraft. The lessons will involve game play time and a range of language based activities. Students will share their work and reflections on our ABC WoW Blog.

It should be an exciting year full of online gaming and language learning at the ABC. We look forward to sharing more with you as the school year progresses.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Blogger for iPad and Flipboard

Blogger App
This is my first post from my iPad. It is hard even for me to believe considering how much I adore my iPad. The problem is that I only just discovered the free,blogger app. This is quite remiss on my part considering it was released in November 2012.  To be fair, I had looked for it last summer, only to find there wasn't one. It was disappointing, but life went on and I kept blogging on my Mac. A few weeks back I searched for it again, and there it was. I was skeptical at first, as my experiences with Google Drive have been less than ideal. I doubted that it would be a game changer. I was wrong!
I love it. While it is not perfect in my opinion, this simple app is very friendly. I really like that allows users to switch between blogs with a tap. That is something we have come to expect from Google accounts.

When Looking ahead at the new school year, I can see how we are going to use this. Our 5th grade students are coming up to secondary with their own blogs in August. They are bloggers and we want to encourage them to keep it up and extend their blogging to include other areas of focus.  This app is going to facilitate the to work we will do with them involving sharing, reflection and digital portfolios.

Jen's Wishlist for the Blogger App:
Link and embed options would be fab!

 Lessons learned:
-Google Apps for iPad are evolving in a good way.
-Don't give up! Always check back for Apps you want that don't exist. If you are patient, someone will invent them. If you know your stuff, it could even be you.

My other new love is Flipboard. It isn't new really. It has been around since December of 2010. I downloaded it sometime last year after reading about and then proceeded to get busy and forget to play with it. A few weeks back I was getting frustrated in trying to keep track of all my feeds.There were too many. It was unmanageable. I was missing out on so much!

I solved the problem. The school had just lent me a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I added the Flipboard widget. It is fantastic! I brings everything together in one place as a digital magazine. it is oranised by the feeds of your choice, flips beautifully through them and is easy to share from to your different social networks. 

As I was sat at the breakfast table this morning, during the traditional wait for my kids to get ready, I didn't go to Twitter or Facebook, instead I opened Flipboard on my iPad. Yes the app was still there! (I am an App hoarder!) It is hard to describe how much I enjoyed the experience of flipping through articles from my chosen feeds. I was reading a magazine, for which I had chosen the content, based on my interests.

It struck me how lovely and effortless it was to bring so much of what I am interested in into one place. Not since I discovered Google Reader so many years ago have I had this experience and trust me, this is so much better. If you miss Google Reader, get over it and get Flipboard

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Friday morning started off with a small glitch. The electricity had gone out in the region. That in itself is quite common place in El Salvador. When the electricity goes off, you never really know how long it will be until it returns.  That of course means planning a day full of ICT lessons a bit more challenging. Sometimes you have to jump from Plan A to Plan C!

That's exactly what we did. Then iPads came out and the kids spent the first half of the lesson investigating ways in making short videos using puppet pals. Once they had done their first video, they then went on and explored various apps of interest that we had installed on the devices.

I have often found myself wishing for time to do just this with the kids. Timetables are tight and it is easy to "get behind" in one's plans. Sometimes a slight deviation from the intended route is just what is needed, even if it is, as this was, plan C.

Scratch Day 2013

The 8th grade programming class hosted the very first Scratch Day event last Thursday. During the event, they worked with the 4th and 5th grade students guiding them through a variety of activities using Scratch. Out little programmers really enjoyed themselves and the 8th grade students shone! The 8s were true stars and we as their teachers couldn't be prouder. Here is a short video from the event. We hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Voting on Student Videos

Our students have submitted their videos for the annual Digital Video Awards, and I thought it might be exciting to collect some votes from outside the school community. The kids have worked very hard on them, some on their own time outside of school, just because they wanted to. We have removed the credits from some of them for student privacy reasons, but apart from that their videos are original.

I know this is one of the busiest times of the year as we all rush towards the end of the school year. Do have a look it you get a chance. Voting is open until Tuesday or until we reach 200 votes on this poll.

Thank you and have a great week!


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Poetry Week Slam and Recital 2013

The grand finale to Poetry Week took place last week with a Poetry Slam and Recital.  Our ABC Poets and Musicians really knocked our socks off with their amazing performances. We would like to thank all staff members and students for the hard work they put in preparation for the event.

Please do have a look at our video.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The ABC DVA is Only 2 Weeks Away!

Hi Everyone, the 3rd annual ABC Digital Video Awards is right around the corner! This year's awards promise to be greater than ever. We will be sending out voting instructions in two week's time.
Have a look at our video add below and do consider submitting a video by May 10th.

Official ABC DVA 2013 Advertisement

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

6th Grade Discovers Audio Books

Last school year I began purchasing playaway audio books for the LRC. We had a nice cabinet put together for them, introduced students to them in assemblies and orientation lessons and then waited for the demand to become greater than the supply. It didn't happen quite that way, Some of the audio books became very popular and a certain number of students did use them often, but it wasn't the explosion we had expected.

Schools are busy places and initiatives, while important, can often get waylaid temporarily at certain crunch times. It doesn't mean they are forgotten and it is not necessarily a bad thing. Often we need to step back and rethink an initiative, weigh things a bit and decide on a new plan of action.

Just this week I was approached by a teacher in the English Dept. who wanted to broaden her students' awareness of the variety of resources we have on offer. Sometimes it makes sense to listen to a book, sometimes reading it is a better fit. For reluctant readers an audio book can provide a enjoyable respite, in which they can experience the story through an audio rendition, pick up new vocabulary, visit new destinations and live amazing experiences all through the eyes of the characters in the book.

We set up two lessons with the 6th grade today in which we sat down and explored the Playaways, as well as the other digital book collections we have been curating over the last few years. Everyone enjoyed this special reading/listening time.  We are hopeful that word will continue to spread,  and that our students will continue to use these great resources.

When the new audio books come in we will invite teachers to bring the students down and explore them as well as our online collections in the Useful Resources Section of the Learning Resources Centre Website.

Here is a small collection of images from the visits. For a more complete collection please visit the LRC Facebook page.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Minecraft Project Update-Fortresses and Castles

Where We Are
Our 7th grade students have been moving full speed ahead on their Minecraft projects. These projects involve teams of students, designing a fortress and castle, based on what they learned about such structures in 6th grade. They are using Minecraft to create the structures on the school server. We are one week away from testing them out in survival mode. Students are rushing to get supplies stocked up, ensure that their structures are well fortified, and are busy contriving and building traps for potential invaders. Needless to say there is a lot of strategic thinking going on!

What We Use We opted for Minecraft Edu which was a smart move as it allows the teacher control of a lot of what goes on in-world. Among the various options available are the abilities to freeze students, teleport them back and forth, mute their chat, bring them all in to the teacher, toggle between creative and survival mode and revoke student building as well as student creative mode. I am able to do all of this as well as work with them on our map.

We came up against two major challenges when beginning this project. The first involved constant server crashes which occurred when the whole class was logged in. We solved that by initially partnering the students up and then bumping up the memory on the computer that hosts the server. This was a great solution and we have not crashed since!

The second challenge had to do with demonstrating respect for others. With over 100 students playing on one map, on the school server, it can tricky to monitor the goings on. For that reason Student building privileges are limited to class time and after school for one hour. That way i am able to pop in and visit while I monitor behaviour and chat. 

Respect for other people's work is vital in an online project,  just as it is in real life. Griefing and  "trolling", are not unheard of and some kids do partake in it when playing on different servers. I spoke with the students about this upon commencing the project and come back to it in each lesson. Unfortunately,  there have been a few cases of griefing and trolling during the project. You can imagine my surprise when I logged in yesterday only to find out that my own structure had also been greifed at one point! 

I have to admit that it was a bit disconcerting at first, but these incidents ended up providing the basis for teachable moments. The whole project is about learning to work together online. The issue having hit home provided us with the fodder for a relevant discussion about griefing and trolling . 

I have to say that the kids should be commended. They are are amazingly flexible and despite the setbacks many have experienced, they remain very positive and even come in to work after school. They are quick to fix any damage that occurs and and then they move on. Let's face it, many of them, especially the team leaders are experienced gamers and have dealt with these problems before. It is great to see how positive they are about it all.

Our team leaders are doing a fantastic job of running the builds. They organise their teams, direct construction, teach others how to create more advanced constructions, all while working on their own building jobs, designing defence contraptions and meeting with the teacher to discuss the progress and the parameters for testing day. 

I was able to capture some video footage in-world, while a few classes worked on their structures. Please have look at the video to see what they have done.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Where We Are and How We Have Gotten There

We are now in the second half of the school year and I thought it time to reflect back on what we have accomplished so far. I have selected different sections from our thrice annual LRC Report, that I thought worth sharing with everyone.

Cross Curricular Initiatives
The LRC and ICT departments work closely with other departments on many cross curricular activities over the course of a school year. So far this year we have completed the following:

  • English: 6th Grade Quest project-working with sound effects and podcasting using Audacity and Garageband 
  • English: 7th Grade students worked on Digital Video Production with iMovie during the Little Brother
  • History: 7th Grade students evaluated Historical Resources in ICT Lessons in support of their History work.
  • LRC Induction: The 6th grade worked on a library scavenger hunt, using iPads and QR Codes.
  • English: The 8th Grade students took their Juliet a Room as a Character's Mind and Outsiders  Projects to another level, when they created their rooms as 3D models using SketchUp.
  • Science: The 8th Grade Students learned more about classification when they ventured into our new ABC El Salvador Virtual World located on, Jokaydia Grid.
  • Minecraft: The 7th grade students are currently in the midst of using their History knowledge of castles and fortresses to create their own group constructions which they will test out  in survival mode three weeks after the Easter holidays.
  • English Podcasts: The 8th grade students worked with iPad Apps, Garageband and Audacity to create journalism podcasts for their English lessons.
  • English Digital Poetry: The 7th grade students worked with MovieMaker on the laptops and  iMovie and  Story Kit on the iPads, to combine voice and images in digital video or storybook format, to create their poetry projects.

Cal 2 Cross Curricular Initiatives coming up

What is New in ICT?

Digital Books:
Students in 6th through 8th grade will be creating digital interactive books this school year. 6th grade will be using Book Creator on the iPads and 7th through 8th iBooks Author on the new Macs to compile their books. Research work will precede the development of these e-books.

Minecraft has now become a part of the 7th grade curriculum this year. We have purchased a class set of Minecraft Edu accounts and have set up an ABCICT server. Students are now working on their structures in teams, having reviewed castles and fortresses and worked on floor plans in Google draw. The 7th grade experts and team leaders have been putting in extra hours from 2-3:00 most days (purely out of choice) working on the main structures. These experts are a part of the planning process, will lay down the rules for testing day and mentor other students as they work on their tasks.They will also take on the more difficult challenges creating traps and other devices. The lessons focus on building castles and fortresses in creative mode and testing will take place in survival mode, possibly with PVP.

Minecraft Edu, allows the teacher oversee student work, turn off building and chat, switch modes as well as allow teleports and freeze students. These tools have proven very useful so far. The one problem we have encountered in the project is that of respect for the property of others. Certain students have accessed the server during build time after school (incognito) and trolled the work of others. They have all been warned that the after school blocks will be taken away if this continues.

Jokaydia Grid: The ABC Avatar Club was a great success with a small group of students from 6th to 8th grade joining in. The younger students picked up the skills very quickly and soon the half region was well populated with strange alien plant forms. Science classes in 8th grade have begun to use the region with each class going inworld for two lessons to classify alien plant life using Earthly classification methods. Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia are preparing a blog post on the activity.

Diigo: 6th grade used Diigo in January, as part of their research project and their research based presentations will be done and ready to present the weeks before and after the holidays.

Evernote iPad, desktop and browser versions are being used as part of the 8th grade research project, for web clipping and note taking. We are hopeful that students will adopt it for work in other subjects once they become comfortable with it.

Easybib: 6th, 7th and 8th grades have all worked with EasyBib this year using their ABC-Net accounts and Humanities is now adopting it with their 9th grade students.

iPads: The iPads continue to be used heavily for a variety of activities such as lesson starters, animation work, sound recording, research and Voicethread presentations, QR Code scavenger hunts, and short video recordings, web searches clipping with Evernote. Much of the 6th grade curriculum is moving toward work with iPads, the are used in both 7th and 8th grades, for certain units and creative carrousel work as well.

7th Grade Carousel: an ongoing animation project in which the students are asked to create a one minute animation about the ABC Traits and Values. As previously mentioned, the iPads have allowed us to experiment more freely with different types of animation which were too difficult and cumbersome to work with in the past.

Extra Curricular
ABC Jokaydia

The club constructed ABC Pandora during a period of 7 weeks. The club was made up of 6-8th grade students. The 6-7th grade students learned to build in a 3D environment in-world under the guidance of 8th grade, Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia.

Robotics Club, which is supervised by Mr. Gray, has been organised and run by several 11th grade students who are teaching students to build and program robots using our Lego Mindstorm Robot Kits.

The Animation Club is an ongoing extra curricular club which meets on Wednesdays. The club is open to animation enthusiasts who seek to learn more about animation; whether it be the history of animation, styles of animation and workshops on creating your own animated short feature. Some of the animation styles which explored in the club are: clay animation, paper animation, classical (drawn) digital animation, pixilation and recently looking into incorporating a course of 3d animation with a free downloadable software program called Blender. We've also purchased a light table and classical animation equipment, alongside reading materials which are relevant for teaching and learning animation skills.

The following channels are those most frequently used to communicate with the ABC Community and share happenings at the LRC: Facebook, ABC LRC Blog
LRC Website, LRC Twitter, LRCABC Youtube, LRC ABC Flickr. These sites are updated by the LRC Staff members on a regular basis. The LRC newsletter has been discontinued in favour of the LRC Blog and Facebook Page.


Student visits on LRC passes: 1,203. (December 2012-March 2013).

The Top Read Books at the ABC from January to March of 2013

Friday, 15 March 2013

ABC Students Take a Trip to an Alien Planet

Written by Kenneth Horrocks and Jennifer Garcia

Science took an exciting turn at the ABC this week, as students from Grade 8 explored a virtual planet populated by alien plants and attempted to classify them according to Earthly classification standards. Each student used their own personalised avatar, kept a careful record of each plant identified in an online field notebook, and made a reasoned judgement about the probable taxonomy of each specimen. While exploring the virtual world, they had to content with mountains, carnivorous plants, floating islands and a giant monster pair of eyeballs which chased them around and stuck to their avatar bodies. The activity forms part of an unit called ‘Plants as Organisms’, in which student are expected to learn the fundamental properties and behaviour of plants, and is part of a new initiative in Key Stage 3 science to ‘theme’ traditional units in science in a way which will be engaging and related to current media or events. The theme for this unit is the multi-million grossing movie ‘Avatar’ by director James Cameron.

Planning and preparation for this activity began four months ago and involved staff from both the science and ICT department, as well as a highly talented and dedicated team of ABC students who used their virtual modelling talents to create many imaginative alien plants on Tuesday afternoons as an extra-curricular activity. Of course this is not as good as taking them to a real alien planet, but it is a lot safer and it fits into the modern pedagogical concepts of using problem solving approaches to learning.

The original idea came about when Mr. Horrocks mentioned that he was interested in creating a virtual alien planet. Now this may sound  like a rather odd request, but it makes perfect sense if that planet is to be used for Science students to investigate and classify life forms. In less than 10 minutes we had a plan. In fact the idea for the club, the region and work flow for the project all came together very nicely.

We new upon conception that this project would work extremely well in 8th grade science.  It just happens that end of each school year the 7th grade learns to navigate and build in-world in an Open Sim grid. This meant that we already had several skilled builders in the current 8th grade. The LRC had already arranged to lease a region on Jokaydia Grid and it made perfect sense to use Jokaydia for the Science project too. ABC Pandora was launched!

The club took off with a small group of dedicated students from 6th to 8th grade, Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia. The younger students, despite their lack of experience, picked up the new skills very quickly and soon their imaginations took flight. During the 7 weeks that the club ran, he team created a large variety of virtual 3D Alien life forms, out of basic 3D shapes. In doing so, students chose their shapes care, then modified and linked them to others. They applied textures, effects and even scripts if they wanted their creations to move about. The new life forms were placed within the assigned region, in  their own small micro systems. There they were then named and cloned. Soon ABC Pandora had morphed into a region rich with alien plant forms, as well as a few very strange creatures and was ready for action.

Here are examples of the forms used by students to take notes and annotate their findings.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

SketchUp Walk Through Videos

Each year our students work on a piece of writing in English lessons in which they describe a character's mind as a room. Once they are done the recreate these rooms in SketchUp as models, creating some of the components as well, and record a walk through video. This year they worked on rooms for the characters from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as well as S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.  

The following playlist contains walk through videos from the last 3 years, starting with those which were done in 2013. We hope you  enjoy them.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Scratch Work and Side by Side for iPad

I have mentioned my zeal for Diigo many times over and have developed a fondness of  Evernote over the last year. They are the perfect tools for so many jobs. There is however a new app in town, a new discovery of sorts (New for me that is.), that I think will place right up there with the other two. I don't think it will steal the limelight, but rather emerge as  the perfect tool for note taking of a different kind.

There is no perfect note taking app for all jobs.  It is a matter of the  right tool for the right job really. If you or your students are frustrated with taking notes on the iPad by switching between apps, then this is the app for you.  Enter  Scratch work for online note taking. What a great idea! The browser window sits side by side on the iPad screen along with the notepad, allowing you to take notes without switching back and forth between apps. What a great tool!

It also allows you to  open a browser window or the notepad in full screen, link notes to the web pages they came from, Insert images, graphs and drawings, input math characters as well as email your notes as plain text or pdf files.

The fun doesn't stop there. There is yet another app out there which works in a similar way, but with even more windows!

The Side by Side app allows you to open  up to four windows and arrange them in different ways, up to a quarter of the screen each when four are open. With this app,  you to web browse in up to four windows, open a note window and take text notes by typing them in or copying them into the notepad with one click. Using Side by Side you can search search items you have starred by keyword and even save files for viewing offline using the filing cabinet and bookmark items if you haven't quite finished.

Again if you haven't already tried it out, you should. Here is a short video which demonstrates all of its functions.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Completing the Set

Building on my pervious post, I have gone ahead and attempted to compile a list of reasons for investing in more iPads for student use in lessons. I am currently interested in bumping up our pilot collection to a full class set, 10 of which would be iPad Minis. 

So here we go.
These are my 20 reasons for implement a class set of ipads. This is by no means an argument for their implementation of iPads as desktop or laptop replacements. iPads and computers, both desktop and laptop are very different different devices with different strengths and weaknesses.  Instead this list exemplifies the reasons I see as important for bringing iPads into the classroom for use as the best tool for many jobs. 

  1. The auditory, kinesthetic and visual aspects of the iPad appeal to different learners and learning styles.
  2. Students can work collaboratively in learning pods more easily with iPads, than they can in a traditional computer lab. Collaborative work is facilitated either on one device or across devices depending on the task and the apps being used.
  3. Students already use  a wide range of different smartphones and tablets. They are familiar with touch screen technology and take to them easily. Our students also see the potential of the tablet and not only choose them as their tool of choice in lessons, but also book them outside of lessons often for audio and video work.
  4. We are beginning work with Evernote this year and it runs flawlessly on the ipad for research, notetaking and the gathering of multimedia resources. 
  5. The set or partial set would be available for booking by other departments when not in use in ICT. Our English teachers have already started using them at times for their digital storytelling assignments.
  6.  iPads are viewed by many as devices for content consumption. That is a very shallow view of the potential the tablet offers.  I would argue that their greatest value in education is content creation. We use them extensively for content creation, such as work with digital video, digital books, podcasts and digital presentations using apps like Voicethread and Storykit. The beauty of the iPad is that this type of work can easily take place from start to finish on one device, with no need for external cameras,card readers, cables, or desktop computers.
  7. Having a class set will allow them to be used more effectively in lessons. At present students are partnered up, which works well for some activities but not all. 
  8. With careful planning a class set of iPads will free up our iMac lab for for certain lessons and even entire units of study.
  9. Initial work with the younger grades, involving audio and video can be done on the iPads, instead of the iMacs. The applications are much simpler to use, and although they do not offer all the bells and whistles that iMovie and GarageBand do on the iMacs. There is sufficient there for our youngest students to explore and apply creatively, without overwhelming them. 
  10. iPads  are great for starter activities in lessons and we have experimented with online apps like AnswerGarden and Quizlet with great success. Right now our students must share iPads, so responses are not always individualised.
  11. Our iPads are well on their way  (in some cases already have) becoming student personal learning studios.
  12. Notably, Server storage for projects including heavy multimedia is no longer as necessary as storage solutions have moved to the cloud.
  13. iPads are brilliant for Mobile learning. Students can take them any place anywhere at anytime. This means for example, that they can be down at the pond taking photos and recording their observations with Evernote or Fotobabble, annotating their findings with Skitch, showing their understanding with Explain Everything all on the go. 
  14. A lesser investment in hardware spending may result. Not as many desktops will be required, and those we have may last longer. There are no mice or keyboards to break or go missing. 
  15. iPads are inexpensive in comparison to a desktop computer and more powerful than many and apps are relatively inexpensive and often free.
  16. Storage and space issues are minimal, desktops take a lot more space and a small set of iPads can be locked away in most cabinets.
  17. We already have a system in place for app purchases. Developer support is great. There are so very many apps to choose from many free for our needs, and these are updated constantly.
  18. After the initial sync, a small set can be synced ever few months usually in under an hour.
  19. Little maintenance is needed and application installation is easy.
  20. We already have systems in place for student use of the devices, which includes a device email address and dropbox account for transfer of work.

I hope that this list is useful in illustrating why a class set of iPads is a sound educational investment. I would love to hear back from others on this, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

IPads and/or Chromebooks

I have been spending a few hours this weekend looking at iPads and Chromebooks. I have run a pilot on a small number of iPads and played briefly with a Chromebook. I am no expert on Chromebooks, having had little exposure to them, so I wanted to see how they measured up when it came to iPads. It is a bit like apples and oranges really. Here are my findings so far.

“The iPad 4 and Samsung Chromebook 550 represent the “best available” models, respectively.

  • Boot times measured in seconds
  • Battery life of 10 hours (iPad) or 6 hours (Chromebook)
  • Weight of 1.5lbs. (iPad) or 3lbs. (Chromebook)
  • Limited access to the file system
  • Streamlined updates of the operating system, apps or extensions
  • Built-in cameras, microphones and speakers for video conferencing
  • Ubiquitous connectivity, thanks to WiFi or WiFi plus cellular data connections.” (Wolber, 2013)

wifi needed for certain appswi-Fi-only
encourage mono-taskingrun a single application - a web browser - complemented by user-added extensions and web apps
touch screen and voiceover (external keyboards available for a price)conventional trackpad and keyboard
changes orientation no orientation changes
back-facing camera: 5 MP, 1080p HD with video stabilization, face detection, flash
Front-facing FaceTime camera: 1.2 MP, 720p HD
front-facing camera: 153,600 pixels, VGA (640 x 480)
mobile Device Management of iPads with third party software
Google Apps’ control panel provides controls for management of Chrome OS devices
email and basic document editing, reliable and powerful mulitmedia creation with a variety of free and paid apps (no flash)
Advanced doc editing with pages, sheets with numbers and presentations with keynote. Alternative free apps available.
email and basic document editing, no multimedia except through chrome apps,
Alternative free apps available.
Microsoft Office, is not availableMicrosoft Office, is not available
Google Drive create and edit Docs and SheetsGoogle Drive works fully
no file managerfile manager
Easy Transition for Mac UsersEasy transition to chromebook for Google apps users.
multimedia creation tools in the form of apps readily available, usually for free but upgrades often for a price.

A stable internet connection is required to transfer any large files from an iPad elsewhere. Smaller files can be transferred through email.
Chromebook are ideal for those who work
primarily on the Web, not designer, developers or those creating multimedia projects. The necessary tools aren't available, can be found in the Chrome store but many are not terribly reliable, especially when a less than ideal internet connection is available.

Primary useage: write, send and receive email, work on google docs and other Web applications, play some games, and browse the web.
Working with one app at a timeWork by flipping between app tabs
The iOS is not internet dependent, most apps run without a network connection. No file manager is available.The linux based OS is designed for people who spend the majority of their time on the Internet.

The device runs apps through a browser and it comes with with media player and a file manager. That dramatically limits its utility when you're disconnected from the Internet. Some apps such as Google Drive Offline and Notepad will still run.
The iPad mini (starting at $329) is considerably smaller and lighter than the iPad, but lacks the “retina display” of the larger iPad.

Mini $329
7.9 inches screen
0.68 lbs
10 hour battery life

1.4 GHz Apple A6X (ARM-based) SoC (system on a chip), PowerVR SGX554MP4 quad-core GPU
Samsung built US$249 is half the price of the least expensive 10-inch iPad
Chromebook: 2.42 lbs, 11.4" x 8.09" x .69", 11″ screens and slower performance are available  such as the Samsung Chromebook at $249.
It weighs 2 pounds and measures 0.8″ thick.
16GB standard on board memory, 2GB of RAM, a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 port, HDMI output, a .3MP web camera, dual 1.5w speakers and a 6.5 hour life expectancy of battery

1.7 GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (ARM-based) SoC, ARM Mali-T604 quad-core GPU

A less-expensive  alternative is the Acer C7 which offers a conventional hard drive  and costs $199.

Google includes 100GB of online storage for up to 1 year, after  which a fee must be paid.
aluminum unibody construction and solid glassaluminum-colored plastic
iPad 3: 2048 x 1536 pixels
ipad mini 1024-by-768 pixels
1366 x 768 pixels,
Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technologyBluetooth 3.0
ipad 3 : 45.0 secondsChromebook: 9.1 seconds
Wake from sleep
Wake from sleep
RAM and Storage not expandableRAM and Storage not expandable, has built-in SD card slot for extra storage
Audio, Bluetooth, dock connector/LightningBluetooth, USB 3 (1 port), USB 2 (1 port), HDMI

“In a browser-and-app world, you should be able to seamlessly switch devices. The device matters only to provide access to data and an application. The data lives in the cloud; the application is either a browser or installed app”(Wolber, 2012)

“The perfect device is the one that does what you want it to do.”

In Summary

Any purchase of ipads and/or chromebooks should be based on their intended use of said devices. Both differ in many ways, and offer advantages over the other depending on their intended use. Similarities do exist, such as cloud storage, apps, powerful batteries 6-10 hours), bluetooth, the use of apps and cloud computing.

Understanding each devices limitations and strengths is vital when making a decision to purchase. For example, Chromebooks are not the best option for any work involving multimedia. Instead they are they are the ideal option for basic document (text,sheets, presentation) work, emailing  and other forms of communication as well as web browsing. They use internet dependent apps in most cases, so work best where the internet connection is strong. My experience with Chrome apps so far has been mixed. Multimedia apps can be slow and at times unreliable. I have found the same thing true for some of the basic Google Apps, such as Drive, Sites and even Gmail at times.  An investment solely in Chromebooks brings with it certain limitations. I would not want to attempt to run any class in which student work was dependent on Chrome store multimedia apps dependent on a stable internet connection. I think that generally teachers would find this a frustrating experience if they did not first understand the limitations of the device.

Ipads on the other hand will run word processing, presentation and spreadsheet apps independently of a wifi connection. They are the more powerful devices, but for a higher cost. They perform all the basic tasks as well as  excel at  powerful multimedia activities, all of this on just one device. They are the more complete solution, as they offer greater versatility, and are quality devices that will last for many years. The majority of students are familiar with how they work, and with the introduction of the ipad mini, the cost has come down considerably while and portability has improved.

Ideally a school might consider offering both of these powerful devices to teachers and students, budgets allowing. Once those planning the learning experiences, the teachers,  understood the strengths and weaknesses of each, they would be in a good position to plan and deploy lessons which optimise their use in learning experiences.

It is my suggestion that the school pilot a set of Chromebooks whilst providing teachers with a roaming set of mini iPads simultaneously.  We have piloted ipads successfully in ICT lessons as well as English and there is a great deal of potential for other subjects as well, assuming a sufficient number of devices were made available. In the case of a dual investment, teachers should receive a brief orientation session with the devices that would focus on how to best maximise the use of each in the educational setting.

Wolber, Andy. "Chromebook or IPad: Choose Your Post-PC Device Wisely." TechRepublic. CBS Interactive Inc, Dec. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.

Sande, Steven. "TUAW Smackdown: Google Chromebook vs. Apple IPad, MacBook Air." TUAW. TUAW, 3 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.

Steve. "Decadent Waste." Http:// Squarespace, 12 Mar. 12. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.

"Why Choose a Chromebook or Chromebox? - Chrome OS Wiki." Why Choose a Chromebook or Chromebox? - Chrome OS Wiki. Google Sites, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.

Wood, Joe. "Chromebook Caution." Web log post. JoeWoodOnline. WorldPress, 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.

Julian. "The New Google ChromeBook Is Ready To Be Explored, Priced At $249-$329." DFRAGG. DFRAGG, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. <>.