How real world engagement can benefit students

A couple of weeks ago my students asked could I teach them podcasting. I rarely say no so I nodded and smiled and promised ‘next week’. I figured I would google it teach myself how and then show them but didn’t really share their same enthusiasm.

Luckily for me I have a good educator friend Martin Coutts who agreed to FaceTime in and show them how. So that Friday they had about 40 minutes of a lesson from Martin who unlike me shared their enthusiasm of podcasting.  Fast forward a few days and they had produced their first podcast all by themselves the only thing I had to do was listen to It if I wanted.

Using Anchor they were totally independent and two students took it on themselves to create a weekly podcast. Something they enjoyed and looked forward to each week.

They discussed real world issues like mental health, equality, homelessness in the city and more. They also used its as a source for interviewing creatives like Marty from ShadowDraw App.

Without this real world engagement and them having learnt from a pro they would have never had the skills to know how to do this. Sometimes it is difficult to look beyond the four walls of the classroom but when you do you might be surprised by the results.

Creating reading books with Keynote.

It is really easy to create personalised reading books for students using Keynote shapes and slides.
First take some time to build up the slides using shapes relevant to the theme of the book. The book can be on any topic you are covering in class whether it is history, geography, languages or even maths equations.

Using text to speech students will be able to read through the text and practice along before recording their own audio recording of their reading and inserting it into their slide. This will give you a record of their progress.

While this is a great way of practicing reading skills you can also use links in Keynote to create an interactive quiz to text their comprehension of what they have just read.

You can link each of the boxes to either progress to the next question or have students try again.

Because these keynotes are easily editable it is possible to have various versions with varying difficulties so you can reach all learners.

While the process of building up a library of keynotes for leaners can be time consumer you can engage the creativity of older students by getting them to help creating the books for the younger students or their peers.

Creating student authors.

Each year I teach digital media and that includes the creation of all kinds of digital media by my students ranging from photos to videos, websites and multi-touch books.
My one group have four subjects including Work Experience. This is a subject I never chose to teach but one I found myself taking on a few years ago.
Because it was new to me and I got it half way through the year I have to admit it I winged it that first year. Second time the students all got work experience and then last year they also got work placements. The work placements while fulfilling the criteria of the module didn’t give them digital media experience. They would often find themselves in non-profits or stacking shelves in shops. Both valuable experiences but not opportunities to put their class learning into practice.

Fast forward to this year I had a very different group. A group who longed for a little more and who really wanted ‘real world’ experience in the area of digital media. While finding work experience for 1 or 2 would have been possible finding similar experience for the whole class was proving to be quite the challenge and so we came up with the idea to simulate a real work placement experience whereby they create and publish their own monthly newsletter.

In the 11 class weeks before Christmas the students learned all the skills they would end up putting into practice and just three weeks ago started their 10 week placements. These placements are just for 60 hours (1 day per week) and after a few ‘staff’ meetings they each found their roles from editor or as they like to call him ‘boss man’ to photographer, videographer and social media co-ordinators.
As a teacher I was cautiously optimistic about their enthusiasm but when the time came felt confident enough to cut the strings and let them work unsupervised.

After the first day they came to me with a draft asking for my ‘expert’ advice.
After the second day they said ‘we think we will be finished next week’….insert my shocked face 😲
After the third day they were true to their word and sent me their completed newsletter to proof read later that day.
The next day we uploaded the proof read (with a few minor typos corrected) newsletter to the Apple Books Store and they celebrated it’s official release a couple of days later.

As I have shown the newsletter to other teachers I have been asked what my input was, what template did they use, how much of it did I do and I can proudly say that it is a 100% student created publication.
Over the next couple of months more issues will be released and I am sure their creativity and confidence will grow.

While Peek has proven a valuable experience for my students it has also taught me that work experience doesn’t just have to be one of those ‘tick the box’ modules and can be creative.

You can find Issue 1 of Peek to download for free here

Motion Blur Photography

In the past I would have always carried along my DSLR and taken motion blur shots on it but when I recently upgraded to an iPhone XR I was inspired by all the #shotoniphonexr shots and decided that I would focus on using my iPhone more than my DSLR because after all it is a whole lot easier to just use the device that’s on you all the time.

So then came the motion blur challenge. I use the Slow Shutter Cam app that I had previously only ever used to create light paintings in swift. The first trip out captured a mini waterfall with the motion blur setting activated. I played around with the shutter speed and blur strength.

Below were a couple of the results.

Photoball photography

A few months ago I saw ads pop up on social media for Lensball. At the time I didn’t know how good they would be and my summer adventures had just ended so I didn’t order but was later gifted a ball (unbranded) the ball I got was 30mm so one of the smaller sizes. I got to use it a bit over the last couple of weeks and have already put in an order for one of the larger 70mm balls.
While the clarity isn’t quite there with the smaller ball size I think there would be some great results with the larger photo balls. I have also ordered a selection of sizes for students to use as part of their Everyone Can Create Photography assignments.

Everyone Can Code Light Shows

During code week students coded light shows using a mix of Sphero EDU, SPRK+ and Swift Playgrounds. Over the past couple of years I had students create individual light shows but this year students did them in groups of 2 or 3. This actually worked a lot better although the discussions over which song to choose often took a little longer.

The main benefit of this is if a group felt challenged I did have spare SPRK+ to give them so they could use more than one for their videos.

Below are a couple of the results of using multiple SPRK+

Everyone Can Code App Prototypes on Keynote

This year we celebrated code week as we have in previous years. The focus was still on Swift Playgrounds and introducing all students to code.

In past years I would have asked students to list their favourite apps and then put a few app ideas on a post-it before discussing. This year started out pretty much the same but students progressed to sketch out their app ideas on Keynote templates (that I was lucky to gather at the Berlin Swift Summit)

Below are a few of the results. This activity helped students question what features are most important and what features from their favourites apps they would like to bring in to their own apps.

Everyone Can Create Logos

Inspired by the logo activity in Everyone Can Create: Drawing students created logos using Keynote.

In learning about logo design students discussed colours and each choose three different colour palettes from Adobe Color. They were able to copy these colours into Keynote using the color picker tool in Keynote.

Next up they discussed font types and used inspiration from DaFont. They were able to bring these into Keynote and create their own variations.

Finally they added Keynote shapes to complete the mix. Below are a couple of examples.


Everyone Can Create Hybrid Animals

Students this year have been very interested in using shapes in Keynote and drawing in Keynote and so when I saw a tweet mentioning combining animal shapes I knew it was something we had to try.

For this activity the idea is that students will combine two or more animal shapes in Keynote. They can group them, lower the opacity and draw around the silhouette before filling it in with their own colours or patterns.

A simple activity overall but one that helps to improve students proficiency and competence in Keynote. Below are some student created examples.

Some students took the activity one step further and created worlds for their animals to live in like this one.