My top 20 apps for the classroom

It is a big deal to go with 1:1 devices. Whether you are considering iPads, chromebooks or other devices preparation is as important as the devices you choose.
One big part of this move is planning the apps you use. There are thousands of apps out there and finding the right one might not always be easy. There are lots of apps out there that educators love and sometimes they might not work for your classroom so it takes time to find your own apps.  I try to limit the amount I use so as not to confuse students. Below are my top 20 apps (in no particular order)

Socrative – for assessment purposes
Google Drive – for storage
Clips – for capturing classwork
Snapseed – for photo editing
Seesaw – for online journaling
Showbie – for eportfolios
Book Creator – for authoring multi-touch books
iTunes U – for sharing class notes
Twitter – for sharing classwork
Pages – for typing up projects
Keynote – for presentations.
Swift – for coding
Sphero EDU – for coding
ThinkLink – for VR
Stop Motion Studio – for stop motion
Green Screen by Doink – for green screen
Garageband – for audio creation
HP Reveal (formerly Aurasma) – for AR
Padlet – for brainstorming and collaboration.
Verso – for peer feedback

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Reflection on ADE 2017 London Academy

The new academy structure.

Call me a pole hugger but I was really unsure about how this was going to work. Having attended 5 institutes I did not want our geo to be split and was afraid that it just wouldn’t work and be too small. When we first heard that EMEIA was going to be split I was sad and somehow hoped it wasn’t true.

Fast forward to now and I have to say the academy exceeded my expectations. Yes I missed friends that attended amsterdam but I left feeling that this new structure gave me the opportunity to get to chat to and know a lot more of my region. I ate meals with different people, I had evening chats with different people and in the end I actually think I might prefer it this way.

That being said I really hope next year is a global so we can all get back together.

The showcases and Teachmeet.

I don’t know if it’s just me but i think these get better every year. I really enjoy mentoring and seeing them develop and this year there were some amazing stories that made me think, made me cry and made me proud to be an ADE. From the outside it is hard to imagine the time and effort that goes into these. The multiple drafts, the multiple rehearsals and the nerves but everyone did so good.

The workshops and guest speakers.

Due to running two of these i only got to attend the photography workshop but it was really good and gave me a lot of great ideas. I really liked Gill as as a guest speaker she gave a good insight into life as a photographer. A career path of very nearly choose for myself so it was definitely interesting to me. Will from Chase and Status was also amazing especially when you look at how he went from someone who hated school to someone involved in transforming education .It was a really inspiring story.

The venue.

I think the venue of the London academy was pretty amazing. Arriving it seemed so big part of me thought it might have been too big but the rooms were great for workshops and I actually liked the round table layout of the main ‘ballroom’ compared to the rows of chairs. The food was also really really good!

I hope that future academies/ institutes might be held in the same location.

The projects.

For me the big highlight of this academy have been the projects. In the past few years we have created books or courses and it takes a little while for the projects to be released but this time it was a matter of hours. I think that is the real job of Clips the fact that projects can be created and realeased so fast. Some projects from our Academy are already making their own dent on social media most notably Teach Tech Goals, One Small Clip, Clips Tours and Gimme 5.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the One Small Clip team and when I got home I made some coding clips. Little did I realise then that my clips would have a collective reach of over 50k views! The One Small Clip team are amazing and I am excited about what we can do in the months ahead.

Another group I absolutely love are the Clips Tours project group. They bring the world to life through these Clips. After learning about the project i immediately went through albums of photos and created 10 Clips within a long afternoon. I can see this project having real momentum over the next few months and being in a college that has over 40 Erasmus trips a year as well as a travel department I can see this idea being one I will share with colleagues when I return in September.

To conclude this may not have been what I had wanted from an Academy and I might not have gone into it too excited but I was totally wrong (insert failure bow!) and it exceeded my expectations. I don’t want to mention anyone because I know I will forget someone but thanks to everyone who made it a great academy!

Highlights from ADE Academy London

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App Development with Swift.

I first learnt about Swift in 2014 and having had some initial exposure to it, it seemed like an easier version of other programming languages I had already used. Back then it was very early days and not really in the hands of the non-developer so I forgot about it for a while until it suddenly resurfaced at  WWDC 2016.

WWDC 2016 was really the start of something new and exciting. The launch of Swift Playgrounds meant that Swift was now in the hands of everyone from 10-year-old Yuma Soerianto to 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya who both went on to release apps within the year.

Swift Playgrounds truly meant that Everyone Can Code and I enjoyed running playground workshops throughout the 2016/2017 school year. Working in Further Education though there was always that thought in the back of my mind that I would have to move beyond playgrounds and into the scary stuff. The scary stuff meaning the ‘real’ code as some would see it as several including colleagues just didn’t believe that it could really be that easy and didn’t believe that my students could code.

Luckily for me Apple expanded their selection of resources to accompany Swift and Playgrounds and the latest additions in April meant that these resources were finally relevant in FE and I could move outside the safety zone of playgrounds (even though I really wanted to stay there!). There was still that fear though of what if after all this I really didn’t know how to do it. However, a workshop in June gave me hands on experience and since then there’s been no stopping me.

Initially, I found Xcode to be a little daunting but the interface once I navigated around it was really intuitive and the resources were easy to follow. Going through the resources lesson by lesson I was able to follow the progress and write my own code. I may not have my own App yet but watch this space…..

For Swift Resources for Primary Schools visit here 

For Swift Resources for Secondary Schools visit here 

For Swift Resources for Further Ed and Higher Ed visit here

 

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Hands-on with Happy by Tuniversity.

Tuniversity recently released their iBook featuring Pharrel Williams song Happy. This iBook guides readers through the processes of composing Happy in Garageband.

Having never used or even heard of Tuniversity before I wasn’t sure how good this resource would be but for €5.99 I figured it would be worth the try.  The 79 pages of the book bring you through the composing process. What I really liked about this is the book doesn’t just immediately jump into the how but also explains the why. By figuring out why you might like to compose a song like this will open up readers and students minds to composing their own songs at a later stage. Another feature that I really like is that the Garageband files and not only this but you get the Live Loops file and also the tracks so whether you use tracks or live loops or both you can find your own way to follow these lessons.

While being released at the end of the school year meant limited time to try this out I did manage to squeeze it into one class before finishing up and the reaction was great. Quite often when using Garageband in class there can be difficulty connecting with students who just want to be able to see what the finished project looks like and don’t want to go through the steps of composing all the tracks. Well, these files are perfect for this and also a song that students will know. Students can then take these tracks and break down the composition and in a way reverse-engineer their own tracks.

Packed with videos and interactivity the book is one where the 79 pages fly by and before you know it you have your track. The structure of the lessons are clear and engaging and definitely fun.

I am looking forward to seeing what else Tuniversity come up with and hope that their collection grows in the very near future.

To buy the book visit here 

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Hands-on with Apple Clips.

Released over Easter break Apple Clips was just a week too late to integrate into my full-time classes but just in time to integrate into my summer class and because the summer class was just 10 weeks long I figured I would integrate Clips as much as I could.

So for anyone that had never heard of it Clips is a simple video making app launched by Apple. While I use the word simple there that shouldn’t be misinterpreted for basic because it is beyond basic. Putting this into perspective in the past this 10-week course used to feature the likes of Final Cut or apps like Animoto…well with Clips we didn’t need either this year.
Using a combination of simple effects, photos, videos, text and music videos take just minutes to create. The fact that they can be created so fast means more time could be spent gathering the pictures and videos.

Throughout the course students had to create a Clips video featuring the college exhibition and also a Clip featuring the city. While these were literally just the basic Clips I required I found the classes creativity surpassed this and I got to see it used to create stories and fun animations.
Take a look at some of their examples below.

To download Apple Clips visit here 

A quick animation by Nathan using a water bottle and emojis.


Short story animation by Nathan.

Slow motion with Clips by Kay


Promotion by Emmett



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Navigating a maze with Swift Playgrounds and SPRK+

I have had Sphero since they were released 5 years ago back before they were readily available and back when they were seen as ‘toys’. I am lucky to have had a set of Sphero in my class for the last 4 years have had these on hand through the evolution of Sphero from a toy into a learning accessory. I have used Tickle, Lightning Labs and more recently I have switched to Swift Playgrounds for controlling the newer SPRK+.

While Tickle and Lightning Labs primarily run from block-based coding (with Swift integration) Swift Playgrounds works with the language we have all grown to know through our adventures with Blue and Byte.

Navigating a maze puts this language into practice combing angles with directions and our well know moveforward and turnleft.

To start off you will need.

  1. An iPad running the latest version of Swift playgrounds.
  2. Some tape
  3. A SPRK+ or BB8

Step 1. Open up Swift playgrounds and navigate to Accessories. Choose Sphero template.

This template allows you to create your custom code for your Sphero.

In this template, you can write in your code. Press play to test the code. You will have to pace the Sphero and see how fast it goes.

If Swift Playgrounds seems too advanced for your class you might want to try navigating a maze through Lightning Lab instead. Younger kids might draw the outline whereas older kids might drag blocks of code.

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CESI 2017 and CESImeet.

This year I decided to take a trip back to the CESI conference run by the Computers in Education Society of Ireland. Admittedly it had been several years since I had been to a CESI conference because the previous wasn’t really innovative to me.
In fact my first event EdTech conference was a CESI conference which I presented at back in 2012 by which stage I was barely teaching.

This time round there was a TeachMeet to go with the CESI conference. TeachMeets have grown in popularity in Ireland over the last couple of years and I have really enjoyed them. At a TeachMeet teachers usually get up and talk for a couple of minutes about a topic of their choice. Usually the selection of presenters is random so it’s always a nice surprise to find out when you are. This was my third TeachMeet and I really enjoyed it. I presented on Virtual Reality and the audience engagement was great and the enthusiasm of everyone was really motivating.

At the CESI conference, I was running the Swift Playgrounds session alongside Apple and iTeach. Swift Playgrounds is something I had been heavily involved in the previous year and so it was great to run this session.
The attendance was really good and again the audience engagement was great. I always enjoy seeing the look on peoples faces when they write their first line of code so there were definitely some star moments here.
The other sessions throughout the weekend included topics like learning journals, movie making, augmented reality and lots more. There was a heavy focus on Microsoft in a few of the sessions but overall I felt a lot more at home there than I did at my previous conference I have to say the conferences have definitely evolved with technology and I will be attending again next year.

For more information visit cesi.ie

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Loopy Case – Review.

Loopy Case for iPhone 7 plus

When it comes to iPhone cases I am pretty difficult to please. I like protective covers but the also have to be light and well they can’t be ugly! Having had the snap-on hard back cases in the past I have avoided them since cracking the screen of my iPhone 5. When it came to my iPhone 6 I resorted to the full coverage 360 type covers and found them great so when I upgraded to an iPhone 7 plus late last year I automatically ordered the same type of covers.

Well….I don’t know what it is with them and the 7 plus but I cracked two covers in the space of two weeks so had to go shopping for something else. Looking for my typical light protective, stylish type cover I stumbled across Loopy cases and they had all that.  IThey were colorful and protective and the loop feature came with the promise of ‘no more drops’.  They were also originally funded through Kickstarter like a lot of great products. What more did I need? So I ordered one and waited. ….patiently!

Now the shipping did take a couple of weeks but I received updates from the Loopy team along the way. The case arrives in a nice little bag and came with a personalised note from the creators. It’s the little things that count!

When I first tried out the case I did wonder whether I would like it. The loop was a little further down that I would have liked so my first impressions were that this would never work but I was proved wrong. Less than 24 hours later and  I love my case. I don’t know how I ever did without it. It’s great for selfies, for out and about, it’s already received a lot of positive comments from others and they were right ‘no more drops’. Yep my phone hasn’t dropped and I find it’s also a lot more comfortable to hold.

I am definitely a Loopy case convert. I got the purple one but think I might have to get the turquoise one too now. When you pay out so much for a phone you don’t want cracked screens and with Loopy cases this is no longer a worry.

Oh and if you reached it this far they also sent me discount codes for friends. So if you are interested in getting a case and would like 15% off then drop me a tweet at @mircwalsh and I will send you the code.

Check out Loopycase for more info.

Loopy Cases | StoptheDrop™ from Loopy Cases on Vimeo.

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Octagon 4D+ apps and cards review

This week I was lucky to be able to try out the Octagon 4D set of apps and cards. As a massive fan of augmented reality I was eager to try these after spotting them at #BETT2017.

Shipping only took a couple of days and there was a good deal if you ordered the full set of cards.

The set I got included Dinosaurs, Space, occupation, and animal themed cards. The animal cards also featured the letters A-7 so would be perfect in a pre-K classroom.

The cards came with a great selection. The dinosaur pack includes lots of different types of dinosaurs and each card features interesting facts, interactivity and audio features. The animal pack was pretty good with some of the cards interacting with food such as the monkey who eats bananas if you put the two cards together.

My favourite set is the occupation set which features a set of jobs again lettered A-Z and each of them have different interactivity features. The X-Ray technician is probably my favourite.

Although I don’t teach K12 or Pre-K the cards were also a big hit with my class of adults who used the cards as inspiration to create some of their own AR card ideas.

Cards can be bought online from Octagon Studio. 

Some of the cards in the series.

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#BETT2017

I hadn’t been to BETT since 2015 and back then I was left feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. There were an awful lot of attendance apps that year and I recall very little else!

Not having been there in 2016 I decided to attend again this year and really enjoyed the trip. There were a lot of virtual reality, augmented reality and coding based stall and products so I was immediately drawn in.

I picked up some great tips and explored some great new coding accessories. One of my favourite new finds is Marty the Robot who even took the time to shake my hand.

There was a lot of great representation from big tech companies like Google, Microsoft and of course Apple but it was also a great platform for new startups. One being Tip Tap Tap which I had heard about during completing my MA in E-Learning last year but it was great to see it in ‘real life’.

As always I came home bursting with ideas and while my bank account isn’t deep enough to fund a lot of them others like Meetoo will definitely be making an appearance in my classroom in the very near future.

Selection of what was found at #BETT2017

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