New year new conferences

What better way to start a new year than with some new conferences.
January began with MiTE 2018 in Galway where I presented on Virtual Fieldtrips and Coding. Both have become big interests of mine and I was honoured to have been asked to present at them.
The great thing about conferences like MiTE is that it is a global conference so educators from all over the world come together to create content, collaborations and meaningful conversations.

My coding workshop at MiTE was just a warmnup for the main event of the month which was an amazing opportunity I was given to present at the Apple store in Regent St during BETT week.
The workshop was a couple of months in the planning and featured both my story as an educator as well as the impact coding has had on my students followed by a workshop in functions and loops.
Opportunities like this don’t come by often and I was really grateful to have been given the chance to present at this one.

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Forecasting the weather with Sphero Edu and SPRK+

For this, you will need the Sphero Edu app as well as a Sphero or SPRK+
This activity will demonstrate how you can use loops, functions, colours and sound to code a weather forecast.

Each weather type is a separate function an example of which can be seen below.

The full activity can be downloaded from here 

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The Learning Games Project & App

The Learning Games project was an ERASMUS funded project which examined the use of gamification in education. The focus was to develop an App that would allow for gamification in all classrooms from secondary to university level.

The project had partners from Spain, Germany, Ireland, Hungary and Turkey. I was lucky to be part of this project and to attend some of the planning meetings. Our college was responsible for the website design which I helped develop while in Hungary and I also gave a presentation on gamification to the partner schools and students.

The final application is both teacher and student based which each playing a significant role in the testing and development of the app. Involving students meant that the app would be developed according to their needs and would hopefully be more engaging for them to use as a result.

BETA versions of the App were released in June 2017 with a public releasing following in October.

The software application, called “Classquest” was successfully completed and is now available free of charge on both google play and the apple store.

The application was nominated in the top ten gamification software products in this years European Gamification Awards and the regional Educational administration in Asturias Spain have indicated that they would like to further develop the application into the future.

Download Classquest here. 

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All about me in the classroom.

A few weeks back Apple launched the All About Me templates on the Apple Teacher Platform. The templates ask students to use the new shapes in Keynote to captures their favorite pastimes. These came at a perfect time just as my classes were starting but having students who were newbies to Keynote I waited a couple of weeks before using them. While this might have seemed a little silly especially when you would think all students would know each other by then they actually ended up being great ice-breakers. As a teacher, you might often presume that all students know each other after the first couple of weeks but this is not always the case. The All About Me templates really helped with this.

Students were able to find common interests. For example, two students were interested in astronomy. Without this exercise, I don’t know if they would have ever discovered they had this in common. The templates also allowed them to express their creativity. One particular student is the only male student in a class of females. Instead of filling in the silhouette of himself with icons he decided to leave this blank and fill in the area around it. When asked why he did this he said he wanted to show he was different and that he doesn’t always follow the rules.

The All About Me templates can be downloaded from The Apple Teacher Learning Centre. 

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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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