The Colour Factory NY Experience

It isn’t news to many that I travel a lot mostly for work but sometimes I get a few days to do my own thing. An annual trip to New York has become part of my summer routine. I have done all the typical tourist experiences and just like to escape the craziness of Times Square.
This year when researching unusual things to do I came about The Colour Factory. Their website looks cool but I was totally unprepared for how amazing the experience would actually be.

Tickets cost $40 each and need to be booked in advance as they don’t sell at the door. When you go in you are asked to choose a complimentary Mochi. I had no idea what mochi even was but I need more!

Once inside you are taken from room to room where you touch, smell, taste different colours and experience different challenges and learn more about your favourite colours.
If Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory was real this would be it!

One of the main perks for me was that even as a lone traveller I was able to get photos of my experience emailed to me via their in room photo booths so I didn’t miss out.

The activity I enjoyed the most was where I was paired with a total stranger and we were asked to analysis each others favourite colours and draw a portrait of each other. This was so out of my comfort zone that I just laughed my way through it and so did she. I have since created a template to do a similar activity with students.

One thing that I found fascinating and really cool was that each room seemed to feature a product or activity from a local business. This seems like a great way of advertising and supporting local companies. I know I will definitely be sourcing some mochi from but also wonderful macarons from Mille Feuille NYC.

After you finishing your tour (believe me you don’t want to leave!) you get a map with other locations to visit in the area including a place where you can get a colourful manicure, an art vending machine and lots more.


Field trip adventures with ActionBound App

During a recent trip to Spain with the RED Project  I was introduced to Action Bound App. The idea is that you use your device to explore a new area. It guides you to various points in a location at which you need to then take a selfie or answer trivia questions. Basically like modern day orienteering. Bounds are easy to create for teachers and provide great interactive activities for students. There are bounds created already that you can use or you can create your own via The app works on all mobile device platforms. I am looking forward to using this more with my students in the future.

Creating your own tracks with GarageBand and MIDI files.

GarageBand is an app I used a lot on Mac in the early days but I never engaged much with the iPad version until a couple of months back when I found myself being asked to run workshops and CPD for teachers.

One thing that really helped was when I discovered MIDI tracks can be imported. Back in the day of learning to play a keyboard I used to do this and play along. The process of importing MIDI tracks into GarageBand is actually a whole lot easier but I don’t know how well known it is.

For a typical lesson I would suggest picking a song that students are familiar with then split them into groups. A good divide is to split them into instrument family groups. Then have each table group create the melodies for their instrument family then combine to see how all tracks sound together.

For me this discover of using MIDI tracks has opened up a whole pile of other ideas of what to do and ignited a new found interest in the app. I am looking forward to seeing what my students do with it.

Re-Evaluating Digital Technology to Enhance Learning

For those of us that use technology a lot in our classrooms we often take it for granted that we have the chance to use this technology. There is also that sense of confidence that we know what we are doing and we can often forget that others are only just starting to use technology.

When I was offered the opportunity to take part the ERAMUS funded Re-Evaluating Digital Technology to Enhance Learning Project I jumped at the opportunity. What sold this to me was not the fact that it was about technology but that the co-ordinator stressed that it was not just an opportunity to show off the tech that each of the schools had.

The project took place with partner schools from 🇮🇪🇷🇴🇹🇷🇪🇸🇩🇪🇱🇹. The first meeting I was invited to was in Bacau, Romania. This meeting focused on the learning styles that students have. At this meeting I presented on the learning styles as well as Apples Elements of Learning. This was a valuable week for my personal professional developed and helped me analyse my own use of tech in my classroom.

The next meeting took place in Talavera De La Reina, Spain a few months later. This time I presented on creating digital books and also on augmented reality. This meeting was even more valuable as some of my students had the opportunity to attend also and presented their experiences of creativity, accessibility and coding in the classroom. It was great to see them share these experiences with students from our partner schools.

What this experience has taught me to date is that technology needs to have a purpose and while of course I know the purpose sometimes that needs to be outlined for others in order for them to understand.

The RED project will continue for another year and I look forward to the eventual outcomes.

Everyone Can Code 🇿🇦

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by South African reseller Think Ahead to present at their Coding Summit in Johannesburg. Surprised by the invite I was making all kinds of excuses not to go but in the end it was too good not go.

The support I received from Think Ahead in the lead up to the event was incredible. They were great at checking in throughout the process and offering advise and assistance. At the end I was lucky to present to about 100 educators from across 🇿🇦. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences and hearing their stories. My favourite part of the day was when I got to see them prototype some apps they would like to create. Some of the imaginations and ideas were amazing and I can’t wait to see if they create them one day.

I was lucky to be able to explore 🇿🇦 a bit after the event and I think I left a little bit of my ❤ behind in that beautiful country. The food was so fresh and tasty, the scenery breath taking and the people were so friendly. I didn’t have long there but am determined to make it back there one day. Until them I am grateful to Think Ahead for giving me the opportunity to share my stories with their educators.

You can find a recap of the event here.

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.