#tmTakeover2015
Sunday, December 07th, 2014 | Author:

It’s that time of year again, BETT is only a few weeks away so it’s time to start getting organised. Once again Teachmeet Takeover is there as an avenue for teachers to hijack stands and share ideas. Each year we have some very generous companies and exhibitors who give up part of their stand to teachers who then give presentations about what is happening in their classroom. This can be on anything, the main point being that it is an idea that can be taken away and adapted for other schools and settings.

I have created the Wiki for this year’s Takeover and that can be found here: http://bit.ly/tmtakeover2015

Firstly, we need some exhibitors to volunteer part of their timetable. So if you know anyone, please show them this wiki and get them to add their details. Once we have some confirmed times, then teachers can start adding presentations.

Please use the #tmtakeover2015 hashtag too.

If you have any questions, please do get in touch.

PS: I can’t answer any questions about the “proper” Teachmeet in the evening. Please wait for information.

Sharing Links
Tuesday, December 02nd, 2014 | Author:

I am a little bit obsessed with finding tools that make it easy to collate and share links to websites. I had a look back through and realised I had blogged three times about this before. The latest, in 2010, being here. I think that it is very important for children to be able to load the internet, be presented with a range of stuff and then access it quickly. This helps to get to the learning quicker and will help reduce potential errors when typing long addresses. There is a time and a place for using Google to find things, but that is not every time you want them to load Education City.

I usually use 3x3links (www.3x3links.com/riders being our current page) to share links and this works well as the children access a website and on there are a list of tools that I want them to get to. I can adapt it in seconds meaning that if they find a useful resource, I can share with others too. This has worked for me for four years and will continue to have a place, but I needed something more. We have a range of online tools and some of them require usernames and passwords. Some also have school codes. One such example is Sumdog. If you go to Sumdog.com, you can’t login with a school account but if you go to a special URL – http://www.sumdog.com/sch/riders-junior-school – then it knows you are from my school and you simply login. Some tools, such as  BrainPOP, have provided us with a URL that includes our username and password so by clicking it, you visit the site but log in along the way meaning that there are no usernames to remember.

If I was to include these on our school website, they would be publicly available meaning anyone could get to our paid content for free. We’d be breaking all kinds of licenses too. So I needed a tool that was behind a login screen, but ideally linked to our Google accounts. The majority of children are accessing the internet via a Chromebook so they are logging in to get online and to have a different login would be a bit of a pain.

Around a year ago I became aware of a company called Airhead. They were offering a solution that gave children access to a page or launchpad with a variety of links. I could either use the pre-made links or I could create my own from the huge library.

airhead1

Adding a tile can sometimes give the option to store the username or password too. I have to admit, this can be a bit hit and miss as to whether it works, but it is improving. I’d like to see the option to add school codes as these are what we use for tools such as Sumdog and Purple Mash.

Capture

It takes seconds to make a new page and add it the list that I already have.

pads

 

I could have a pad for different subjects e.g. Art and photo tools. These can then just grow and grow over time.

art

Once I have made a page or pad, I simply share this with different users. This has already been setup through our Google Groups so this makes sharing easy.

share

The children simply click the link to visit Airhead.io and it knows their Google login and signs them into the launchpad that they need. There is also a new feature that removes the need to login at all. This is perfect for our infants, they will simply click the login on the desktop and be presented with a range of links. I have also used this option on our tablets. This is on the home screen of every tablet giving pupils a quick way to load the various tools they need to use.

The tech support has been fantastic so far with questions answered often within minutes. One teacher did point out that I could make a Google Site and only share this with certain users and this would work in much the same way, I just like the simplicity of Airhead so far.

So what do you use for accessing resources online? How do you manage the multiple usernames and passwords that are available?

Skitch
Monday, November 24th, 2014 | Author:

 

Another app that we have been playing with is Skitch.  This lets you annotate a picture, webpage, map or document but we have mainly used it for photos so far.

Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-58-39 Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-58-52

To begin, you open the app and then either take a photo or browse for an existing one. On the side of the screen there is an icon, clicking this will show a range of tools that you can use.

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These include a pen tool, a rectangle tool, one for drawing arrows and another for typing. On the left-hand side, there is a coloured circle, tapping this gives the chance to change the colour of your text or pen.

Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-59-32  Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-59-19  masons tricky triangles

We have used this in a variety of ways so far. In my class it has mainly been used for Maths. When we have children who have been working practically, we have been able to take a photograph of their work and then annotate it to show what they were doing. The examples above show children finding fractions and drawing groups or labelling the different triangles that they have identified. We don’t required evidence of every practical task that the children have taken part in, but having a way of annotating photos when we need to is very useful indeed.

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Once finished, the picture can be shared using the normal Android sharing tools giving us the power to blog it via WordPress or add to Google Drive to share it with others or to print it out and stick in a book or use for a display.

How else could you use this tool in your classroom?

 

Category: Android Apps  | Tags: ,  | 3 Comments
Hi-Q Audio Recorder
Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Author:

We wanted the ability to record audio on our tablets. There was an audio recorder built-in but once recorded, the file was saved within the file structure and was a little tricky to get back. So with a bit of Googling, I found Hi-Q audio recorder. I did try a few others, but this seemed the best one. We have decided on the free version as we have no need for more than 10 minutes of recording.

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You simply press record and then stop.

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Once done, you press the menu icon (below).

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This then shows you all of the recordings and gives you the option to play them back, delete them or of course share them. I blogged before about Google Drive, so we could store our recordings online for others to get to if we wanted or we could email them to our radio station team and they could put them online too. It all works very quickly and easily!

Screenshot_2014-11-15-16-00-19    Screenshot_2014-11-15-16-00-23

By far my favourite use of this so far has been by a teacher with a child that found writing difficult. She gave him the audio recorder, he spoke his sentence and then played it back, over and over before writing it down. I love this idea and it has now spread to other classes and they have started to orally rehearse their work before writing. They did this anyway, but hearing how it sounds when spoken will hopefully help to improve the quality of their work.

This could be used as an alternative to the Easi-Speak microphones that many schools have used in the past.

Google Drive for Sharing Photos
Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Author:

Google Drive has been around since the middle of 2012 and although at first I was sceptical, it really has come into its own this week with the tablets.

Every one of our tablets has Google Drive installed and is set to go to the tablets@ourschoolname.co.uk account that “owns” the tablet. We logged onto a PC and went to Google Drive and created folders for Infant and Junior as well as a few other things we needed. Inside each of those, we created a folder per class. This was the start and teachers (very) quickly added sub-folders for whatever they wanted.

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So, you simply take a photo. Press the share button share and then if the tool you want isn’t there, press see all. You can then upload to a whole host of different services. We of course want Drive.

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You are given the option to add a title. You can then press the folder name and be presented with a list of folders:

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Browse to the folder you want to upload to and press Select Folder. That’s it, your image is magically winging its way to Google Drive.

As mentioned before, all of our tablets are assigned to one user – tablets@ourschooldomain.com for example and there are potentially 100+ tablets taking photos at any given point. One thing we were concerned with was how we actually did anything with the pictures afterwards. I mean you can blog, tweet or whatever directly from the tablet, but sometimes y’know, you want to just…print them. Printing can be seen as a dirty word by some people who want a paperless world, but for us, we want stuff in their books, on the wall or for them to annotate. So we have fiddled with Google Drive a bit and now have an awesome solution.

We installed the Google Drive desktop app from here. To begin with, I installed this on two class computers. You install the program and it then asks you for your login (tablets@ of course) and then sets about downloading everything from your online Google Drive to your computer. This worked ok, but every morning I had to re-sign in before it would sync the photos to my computer. This was a pain.It was also set to download the images, currently at 4gb, to My Documents meaning that my profile was getting quite big.

So we installed it onto our server instead. We set it to put Google Drive onto a folder that all teachers and pupils can access and now, it works brilliantly. We timed it yesterday and two minutes  after a photo was taken, it had uploaded to Google Drive and downloaded onto our server for us to print out. In just two days this has been a game changer. It means that anyone in school can access and print the files, create Animoto videos with them, easily show them on their whiteboard and lots of other things in seconds.

The speed is key. It’s great having photos that you can take, share and print in minutes as it cuts down on any wasted time. In one lesson this week, we were investigating different types of triangles. Some children used the sheet and colour-coded them, others just wrote on the sheet but some boys decided to cut them out and write on tables. We then took a photo, uploaded and printed it and it was stuck in their books with notes before the end of the lesson. My LSA works with a child and they often use models, cubes or whiteboards and having a quick way to take photos and stick them into his book is really helping to share the learning he has been making.

masons tricky triangles

Oh and another Google Drive bonus? Unlimited storage. Yep. As much as we want. Wow.

 

PS: Before someone says, please check photo permissions for your children before uploading them online.

PPS: Oh and yes I know Google are evil and will harvest your images/soul/first-born, but their terms for file uploading are here. Please ensure that you read any terms and conditions and that you check with the powers-that-be before uploading your content online. There, that should do it.

Category: Android Apps  | Tags:  | One Comment
Android Apps – WordPress
Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Author:

To enable us to blog on our Android tablets, we have installed WordPress. We already have a self-hosted WordPress site so this is by far the best app to use to help us blog directly from the tablets.

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Once installed, it will ask you to sign in. This is for users with a blog at wordpress.com. Here you simply type your username and password.

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If you have a self-hosted site e.g. www.ridersblogs.co.uk then minimising the keyboard shows the option to add the self-hosted information too. Here you add the username, password and the address of your blogs.

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From here you are provided with a slimmed-down version of the WordPress site but it gives you everything you’ll need and you can browse comments and pages or simply press the “+” to add a new post.

Skitch    Screenshot_2014-11-15-16-44-11

Clicking on the screen will bring up the keyboard and clicking on the gallery (the red arrow) will give the option to add photos (right). Minimising the keyboard gives the option to publish when done.

With Android there is also the option to publish directly from other apps such as the Gallery or Skitch by pressing the share button share

From here you get a list of ways you can share (below) and one of these is WordPress. We found a slight problem with this as the default image for WordPress is set to 2000 pixels wide, which is huge and looked ridiculous. After much Googling, we found a (really obvious) solution.

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So we went into the settings page by pressing the menu option and then clicked on the name of the blog and changed the default image to around 400 pixels. This seems to be working for us at the moment.

Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-57-04  Screenshot_2014-11-15-15-57-17

 

 

 

Category: Android Apps  | Tags: ,  | One Comment
Mobile Devices – Part 3 – Our Setup
Saturday, November 15th, 2014 | Author:

I blogged before about how we have setup our Android tablets so that we can manage them and how we have installed Meraki to do this. I have had questions about what we have done next. There has been an interesting learning curve, it hasn’t been difficult, in fact it’s been rather enjoyable. Someone comes to me asking how they can achieve a certain goal, I then set about trying to accomplish it.

Before the children (or staff) got their hands on the tablets, there were a few things I needed to install. My plan is to blog about each app separately and will add to the list as I find and use more key apps, but we basically needed tools for the following:

These core apps are then installed onto every single tablet. Teachers can install their own later on or ask me to deploy some, but I needed these as a basis. It also helped with staff training for the less confident! These were all installed via Meraki.

I also needed to setup a “homepage” so that the children could get to key links such as Sumdog, the school blogs, Educaiton City or whatever without having to constantly type in the address or remember a login for each one. We have used Airhead to create a page that contains links to the sites that we use. The address for this page is then put into Bit.ly to make it shorter. This is not essential, but when you are typing it in on 100 tablets, every letter will save time! Once we visited the page we wanted, we added it as a shortcut and then put this shortcut on the main page of the tablet.

You can see below that the “blue head” icon is on our home page. This will take the children to a page containing the links that they will need. Incidentally, along the bottom are the other key apps that I mentioned above.

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To ensure that we could access the sites that we wanted to use, we have installed FlashFox. This is a Flash-enabled browser which unlike Chrome, will give us the ability to load Purple Mash, Education City and other tools that are still Flash-based.

As I said above, I will blog separately about the different apps we have installed, but this is how our default tablets look at the moment.

 

Which Blog Plugins?
Saturday, November 01st, 2014 | Author:

There is an old post where I listed the plugins that we use on our school blog to keep it ticking over and after a few emails with different people recently, and considering it has been three years since that post, I thought I should update it.

At school, our blog site is www.ridersblogs.co.uk and we use WordPress Multisite and this post goes into a bit more detail, but it means that I can install small pieces of code, known as plugins, that will help my site to run in a different way. Some of these are vital, some are cosmetic, some are free and others are paid-for.

If you have any questions about blogging, or if you think I have missed something obvious, please let me know. I am always trying new plugins to see how they work and how they can improve our blogging experience.

Akismet - This should, in theory, catch all of the spam and prevent it from reaching your comment page. Some does occasionally get through but it does a good job of stopping most of it.

Custom Meta – Very simple but on the normal WordPress page there is a small menu giving 5 options such as log in and the RSS feeds. With this plugin, I can choose which of those 5 to show and for most of the time, it’s just log-in so that teachers and children can easily get to the sign-in page.

Diamond Multisite Widget – A huge discovery. So much so that I blogged about this plugin when I found it. When you have 20+ blogs as we do, it can be hard to curate a menu of the links to them all. What if someone accidentally find a a Year 6 blog, you’d like a link on there to other blogs in your school, right? This plugin does that. It puts links to all of your blogs on the side of each blog ensuring that there is always a list of the blogs that are active across the whole school. Before this plugin, I had to manually edit a list of links on each blog. Urgh.

User Role Editor – Another favourite. With WordPress you can different levels of user e.g. administrator but there are times when you only want children (or staff) to be able to do limited things such as write and edit their own blog posts. This plugin lets you create a role for the children and assign different capabilities to that role.

Unfiltered MU – Occasionally when a user wants to embed a video from a site such as Animoto or some sound from Soundcloud, WordPress was removing the HTML embed code. This plugin helps to prevent the code being removed.

Feedjit - This is a simple display of the last 10 or so people to visit your blog. This is great when showing it to a class as more often than not, at least one will be a non-UK based visitor leading to a discussion about where in the world that city or country might be.

WPMU Dev Dashboard (Paid for) – I have subscribed to the WPMU Dev package as it provides me with a range of plugins and themes that I have setup on different blogs within the school. I have also made a few blogs for other schools too so having extra, high-quality themes is very useful.

Easy Blogging (Paid for) – This is an amazing plugin. It is part of the WPMU DEV package but you can also buy it separately. What does it do? To put it simply, it can be set so that users of a certain level e.g. children, only see certain options when they sign in. So I have this set to allow children to only see “New Post” and “My Posts” and that’s it. They won’t get to see the comments or any of the other options that are potentially available to them. When combined with the User Role Editor, this becomes a very useful plugin. There is also the option to turn this on when logged in as a teacher meaning that the less-confident teachers can log-in, click “Enable” and be presented with a cut-down screen with just the things they need. Awesome.