Teach your students about coding and algorithms without a computer

To make a computer act like a human such as a robot, first we need to teach humans to think like a computer.  

Strangely enough this process does not, and and in some cases should not involve a computer.

CSunplugged is an excellent resource for teachers and students which is completely free and teaches students about computational thinking through a series of hands on activities.  

CS Unplugged is a collection of free learning activities teaching Computer Science through engaging games and puzzles that use cards, string, crayons and lots of running around.

The activities introduce students to Computational Thinking through concepts such as binary numbersalgorithms and data compression, separated from the distractions and technical details of having to use computers. Importantly, no programming is required to engage with these ideas!

CS Unplugged is suitable for people of all ages, from elementary school to seniors, and from many countries and backgrounds. Unplugged has been used around the world for over twenty years and should not be missed if you are considering teaching robotics or coding with your students.

Setting up a school Facebook page to communicate with parents

Schools utilise a range of traditional and technical platforms to communicate with parents and students including websites, newsletters, mobile apps and SMS messaging.

One option that is often overlooked by schools is creating a school Facebook page.  Facebook is by far the most popular social network platform and the majority of parents are familiar with it in some capacity.

School Facebook pages can be created for free by a member of staff in well under an hour, and used as a platform to broadcast information to parents which they can access on mobile devices and computers.  

Just remember that nearly all of your parents are sitting up at some point of the day with Facebook on their phone.  Whether it's the school car park, office or home.

You can tailor the level of interaction parents have with the page, from a completely one directional conversation being lead by the school, through to varying levels of interaction and feedback by parents.  As the creator of the page you also have the right to remove and moderate content.

Getting the setup process right is essential as you would not want to create a platform that could breed negativity about the school from parents and external sources.

I have put together this video which walks you through the set up process and highlight the areas of most concern to schools.  I hope you find it useful.

How Apple are hoping to rejuvenate the iPad's place in education in 2015.

Once upon a time the iPad changed the way in which we used technology in Education.  This shiny new device with a single button, easy to use interface and unrivaled 'App' store could do no wrong in the eyes of teachers and students and made us seriously rethink about what a computer was.

Since the iPad launched in 2010 we have seen the iPad's phenomenal rise and now it's slow fall as tough competition from Chromebooks and budget PC's and tablets closed the technology gap.  Poor decisions from Apple in regards to educational pricing and any significant improvements over six iPad generations aside from the obligatory faster processor, better camera and screen have left many schools questioning it's place in education as it is increasingly being used as a learning toy as opposed to a productivity tool.

Of all the big three tech companies (Apple, Microsoft and Google) Apple's future in education would be the most unenviable.  

Google's marriage of highly effective and cheap Chromebook's with Google Apps for Education productivity suite has bought them hundreds of millions of converts, and they are now the single biggest player in education.  The zero cost model of Google Apps for Education has been a roaring success for Google which will pay long term dividends when today's students are running tomorrow's economies.

Microsoft took a double hit in schools from the iPad initially and then Chromebooks.  They have regained some credibility with the integration of surface tablets and Office 365 for Education.  Surface tablet sales have grown year on year since release unlike the iPad which have fallen over the last two years.

Currently Apple's options for students are either an overpriced tablet or an overpriced laptop.  iTunes U is a poor curriculum delivery platform in comparison to Office and Google Apps and iCloud offers very little in the way of innovation and collaboration for educators.  The iPad is a train wreck when running Google apps for education and Office although both Microsoft and Google have deployed apps on the iPad to allow access to their productivity / learning platforms.  

In an attempt to re-energize the iPad's future in education Apple are planning to allow schools to manage iTunes accounts for students improve the deployment process for the iPad. 

They are also revisiting the manner in which iPads are managed when used by shared users in a school.  Unfortunately it does not look as though Apple are prepared to allow multiple logins on a single iPad yet, but we can live in hope.

The full details of this proposal can be read at 9to5Mac and it is expected to be rolled out in September 2015.  

Education is a huge space for technology companies and I am sure Apple will be working towards a product or policy change that will place them back at the top of the class.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


YouTube for Kids launches to make the net a little more family friendly

Today YouTube launched YouTube for kids.  In the United States anyway, but we are assured the rest of the world will come on board soon.

As a teacher and a parent this is a real win for kids aged under twelve who Google have targeted this new app at on iOS and Android.

It contains a mixture of syndicated material such as sesame street and select user generated content.  Furthermore, it has features designed to make parents feel comfortable about leaving their children to use YouTube such as the ability to turn off the ability to search and specifically play educational material only.

This may be useful for teachers who wish to allow their students to view content as part of a study of digital literacies as they can really filter the content and options through the settings on the app.

From a business perspective this definitely allows Google to zoom in on a specific audience but we all know that there is no such thing as a free feed, especially on the internet.

This video below from Tanya Awith demonstrates some practical ideas oh how you can use this new app in your classroom.

Great resources to discover more about enquiry based learning

Teachers out there who are interested in inquiry based / interdisciplinary learning might want to visitwww.educatorsresources.com.au for some interesting free resources. The focus of many of the resources is on inquiry based learning projects and culminating ‘rich tasks’. The tasks are excellent examples of curriculum that is open ended, authentic and truly interdisciplinary.

The first sample  ‘Does Biodiversity Matter?” is a primary aged inquiry into biodiversity. It aligns with Australian Curriculum standards in Science (‘biodiversity’ and ‘adaptations’) but could also be used to assess progress against English outcomes along with the interdisciplinary areas of Communication and Thinking Processes.

The second sample is an inquiry for secondary students (years 8 and 9) ‘Can I Defend Human Rights?” The culminating task invites students to ‘take action that matters’ in relation to a Human Rights.

All of the rich tasks are examples of performance pieces that culminate a structured and well-scaffolded inquiry.

Feel free to download the two posters above and visit www.educatorsresources.com.au for more free resources specialising in inquiry/ interdisciplinary learning.

Teaching the vocabulary of Charlie and the Chocolate factory

Learning Intention / Overview

Understanding vocabulary in a text aids students in understanding events and concepts in a story.  Using context clues from stories also ensures that students look closely at text and examine word meanings. Once students comprehend vocabulary they are better able to make connections in text and in conclusion better understand the story.  This lesson will also provide students with the opportunity to practice using a thesaurus.

Methods / Teaching Strategies

  •  Group work
  •  Understanding Context Clues
  • Thesaurus Practice
  •  Personalized Learning

Assessment of Learning

·         Vocabulary Sheet (provided)

Click here to download the free lesson plan

Adobe Voice Teaching Guide and Learning Template for Reluctant Writers

For those of you who have reluctant writers in your classroom, you will appreciate how difficult it can be to get work from them demonstrating a clear understanding of what you have been teaching them.

Finding alternatives to written work is not always easy to come across especially if there are deeper issues than the student simply being a reluctant writer such as a diagnosed learning condition.

To counteract this issue I find Adobe Voice on the iPad to be an incredibly easy to use and powerful tool which as the name suggests relies mainly on visuals and images to share knowledge as opposed to writing down line after line of text.  Download it here.

The other great thing about Adobe Voice is the polish it adds to presentations that make them far more engaging than your traditional PowerPoint or Keynote presentation.

Simply giving students Adobe Voice and directions around a specific topic can sometimes leave them confused and seeking further clarification.

To remedy this I have created a template which you can download here that will ensure your students stay on task and have a clear direction about what they are supposed to be doing.  Best of all the template can be adapted to any age group or topic area.

For those of you who have no idea about Adobe Voice or what it can do I have put together this simple video that incorporates my template and also explains the functions and features of Adobe Voice and how you can incorporate this into your classroom right now.

It is suitable for students aged 6 to 96 and is dead easy to use if you follow my guidelines in the video tutorial below.

I would love to hear your feedback or thoughts around this so feel free to leave a comment below.

How to use the Google Research Tool to improve Essay Writing

Whilst the Google research tool has been a part of Google drive for a few years now  It amazes me how few teachers and students are aware of what it can do.

In short the research tool is the perfect accomplice for writing an essay or creating a project.  It will not only provide you with all the facts and answers you require but also cite them.  And that's just the beginning.

I have put together this six minute video tutorial to make every student and teacher an expert around getting the most out of using the Research tool but also assist teachers in identifying work that has basically been written entirely from this tool.

I forgot to mention in the video that this applies to Google Docs, Slides and Sheets.

Please leave any thoughts or suggestion on this below.