Friday, 16th November 2018
Mind mapping tool
Mind mapping is not a new technique and not everybody is convinced of its usefulness, but here is a handy app which you might want to try out. With the free version, you are restricted to three maps.
Download the app and it opens automatically, no password is required. You can also use your Gmail, Facebook or Yahoo account. A quick guide is available (click on the ‘help’ icon in the information menu in the upper right hand corner). There are many themes and layouts you can choose from or else just create your own.
Starting a new map is easy: click on the ‘central topic’ icon and a submenu opens up. The plus symbol adds another “branch” to it. You can then start defining the relationship by tapping on the ‘arrow’ and linking it to your branch. Undo and redo actions by clicking on the respective symbols in the upper left corner. This app works very much like a paper-based mind map, but its additional features make it attractive: add notes, hyperlinks, images (including pictures you take with your device’s camera), icons (such as emoticons, numbers, etc.), or task lists.
You can share the map, export it as an image or pdf, or sync it to the cloud. The presenter feature turns the mind map into a slide presentation, which reminded me of Prezi.
Could be used for: brainstorming or problem solving sessions with your students, when you are trying to analyse difficult texts or ideas.
What I liked about it: bad handwriting is not a problem here when you create your own mind map! And plenty of great examples on their website: https://www.mindomo.com/mind-maps
Watch out for: as always, be careful when taking material from the web.
Available from the Apple App Store, for Android and online.
More info here: https://www.mindomo.com/
Friday, 9th November 2018
This week, we are looking at an Irish project. ‘Science Apprentice’ was created by a team of researchers based in University College Dublin. It is to be used in conjunction with the books series, which will be available for download from the website: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice/ at a future stage. The aim of this initiative is “to explore science, technology, engineering and maths in a way that is tangible and inspiring”.
The books can also be collected with the Irish Independent in SuperValu stores, one published every Saturday throughout November. Additional experts and related researchers are being presented in each book and on the website, thus showing the wide variety of research areas (which might inspire some pupils to think about their own career choices). Short YouTube videos introduce each topic. Series 2 investigates the human body, the science behind flying, illusions and our senses, and a look at how things are being made.
The app opens with a short tutorial. The idea behind this app is that by pointing the camera on your device at certain pages in the booklets, additional information will open up. As I didn’t have access to the booklets, this app was unfortunately of no use. “Designed by the wonderful UCD VR Team, our Science Apprentice app will make the pages of your book jump up and come to life. All of the books have been specially coded so that when you find a “View in AR” icon you can see an awesome 3D animation which helps bring our stories to life.”
There are more learning and teaching resources on their website. Booklets from series 1 are also available: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice/about/series1/
Could be used for: science education and computer classes alike.
What I liked about it: Irish schools were involved in the making of the videos.
Watch out for: a good example of an app supplementing a written document, but the functionality is limited at present. Perhaps the next series can feature some more interactive elements?
Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
More info here: http://www.ucd.ie/scienceapprentice
Friday, 2nd November 2018
ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard
ShowMe is a creative tool for presenting information. This could be a once-off demonstration or as part of a course.
Download the app and you are ready to go. The basic version is free, but you might want to invest a little money to use more of its features, especially if you want to create a classroom for your students (Google Classroom). The default is to make your creation accessible to the public by sharing it on Twitter, by email or on the company’s website. Download is also available.
You can add text, photos and other images, documents or backgrounds, which include tables and charts. Use your finger to draw on the board. When you have added all your slides, save them as a draft or upload them as a video. You can review it and attach an audio recording explaining your work. Name your ShowMe and insert a description, choose which subject area it might relate to. At this stage you need to sign up. You have several options here, including using your Gmail, Facebook or Twitter account.
The playback tab can be particularly useful for students to check their work before sharing. Check out some of the presentations available online for inspiration.
Could be used for: flipped classrooms or for instant feedback – let your students create a presentation outlining one thing they haven’t understood during your lesson.
What I liked about it: very simple interface.
Watch out for: at several stages you will prompted to share your creation on a social media platform and to sign up for a paid version. There also might be some privacy concerns.
Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and the Chrome Web Store.
More information here: https://www.showme.com/
Friday, 26th October 2018
GoEuro – Travel Search
Heading off somewhere nice during the mid-term break? If you are planning to visit another European country, check out GoEuro. This nifty app helps you plan your journey across a variety of transport platforms.
Download the app and start looking up places. You don’t have to sign in, which makes it an anonymous service. You can allow the app to access your current location to save yourself some typing. “Top destinations” are being presented, but you can skip this step.
Add a departure and return date, and the amount of people travelling. If you have any kind of discount card (e.g. French rail card), you can also select this option.
Results are being displayed by cheapest first (which is also the ‘recommended’ tag) with other possibilities being ‘fastest’, ‘departure time’ and ‘arrival time’. Additional filters are available on the results page (e.g. amount of changes you would be willing to make and price information).
I tried a connection I use a lot and was surprised to find that one of the airlines going there was not showing in the results list. There also seems to be an over reliance on planes – the train between Dublin and Cork, for example, doesn’t exist according to this app.
GoEuro did better when I did a search in Germany. My reservation was passed on to the relevant transport provider.
Could be used for: travel planning.
What I liked about it: it is very straightforward to use.
Watch out for: it seems to be limited to certain companies, so perhaps use additional websites, such as www.transportforireland.ie, when travelling.
Available from the Apple App Store, on Google Play and online.
More info here: https://www.goeuro.com/
Friday, 19th October 2018
This week I am looking at an app for students helping with revision and learning aids: StudyBlue. From their website: StudyBlue “is the largest crowdsourced study library, with over 400 million flashcards, notes and study guides from students like you. Make and share study materials, search for recommended study content from classmates, track progress, set reminders, and create custom quizzes.”
Download and log in with your Facebook or Gmail account. When you first sign up, you need to decide whether to be logged as ‘student’, ‘teacher’ or ‘lifelong learner’. I signed up as a student in order to try out the teaching and learning resources. It asks you for your school, but you can skip this step. Check out all Irish institutions who have a presence by browsing their international section on the website: https://www.studyblue.com/notes/ireland-schools/ie
The main menu gives you an overview of recently studied material, has a search function and allows you to make your own cards. You can invite friends to join you. At this stage I switched to the website, which I found easier to navigate.
You can register areas of interest and the system suggests related materials, which are basically cards created by other people. There are class materials and other recommended resources. You can browse them by clicking on an US state or by selecting the country in the drop down menu further down. Try out some of the study revision sessions, look at the review sheet and take the quiz afterwards. If you want to create your own revision aid, write a term on a blank card, then browse or borrow similar cards. Audio and video files can also be added.
Could be used for: making notes of things you need to revise more.
What I liked about it: it is fascinating browsing other people’s cards to see what they are interested in or studying at the moment. This could also trigger new ideas for the learner and the teacher alike.
Watch out for: it is easier to create cards using the website rather than the app.
Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
More info here: https://www.studyblue.com/
Friday, 12th October 2018
This nifty app makes pictures come to life. You can animate parts of the image with a few taps on your screen.
A short tutorial shows all features: create path across your picture to animate that part of the image. ‘Anchors’ help define the area and ‘freeze’ blocks other areas from being animated. There are also predefined visual effects you can choose from to overlay your image, such as sparks, snow flakes or butterflies. Speed and type of movement can also be determined. If it’s an outdoor image, try adding a different type of sky. Or a different type of camera angle.
Choose your own picture from your IPad or take a photo (‘new project’ logo in the right hand corner). The app needs access to your tablet for that. Alternatively, select a stock photo.
When you are finished you can export your photo as a video or to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.
Could be used for: creative classroom sessions or as an addition to your website.
What I liked about it: very intuitive.
Watch out for: the paid for version is put prominently at the beginning and it’s easy to sign up by mistake (close that screen by using the ‘x’ in the left hand corner).
Available from the Apple App Store.
More info here: https://www.pixaloopapp.com/
Friday, 5th October 2018
GoClass: Redefining the classroom
From their website: “GoClass is a classroom application that adapts to the way you teach. Using common mobile devices and an Internet connection, GoClass helps you improve student engagement, classroom management and your effectiveness where it matters most—in the classroom.”
GoClass is a cloud-based teaching and learning platform. First, you need to register with a free instructor account on their website (the paid version has more features). It allows you then to log in with your Google account or any other email. Sessions can also be joined using a PIN. Students download the app on their own devices.
A sample lesson plan offers you some ideas of how your session could be structured. Create a new lesson on their website by adding a title, grade level, subject, course details, skills, duration and start date. You can also include images to make it more visible. Students can be enrolled individually (this will send them an email) or by bulk using a csv file. The system asks whether or not students have Gmail accounts (and their individual passwords), but you can use any email address (without password), which might be safer.
The basic version includes 4 courses with 12 lesson plans. Lessons consist of different elements, which are basically different slides. Each can be timed. Videos and instructor notes can be embedded. Additional explanations can be incorporated. The ‘ask’ function enables you to add formative assessment questions though instant polls. You can decide on different sessions: ‘flipback’ allows students to browse teacher broadcasts while in session or you can allow for sessions to be bookmarked. There is also a ‘sleep mode’ and the option of having a PIN based session.
The logs and reports section holds information on attendance as well as individual student and class results of assessments. All activities are recorded on student devices and can be checked later.
Could be used for: interactive classrooms as the whiteboard is where teacher and student devices are coming together. As GoClass states: “From here, you can begin broadcasting media, notes and more to student devices while simultaneously projecting the same or different content to the screen at the front of the class.”
What I liked about it: a short tutorial of the main features is available at the ‘log in’ stage. It is also available when you’re logged in. Plus plenty of instructor notes for each step.
Watch out for: courses need to be created on their website, not using the app itself, which might be a bit confusing.
Available from the Apple App Store and on Google Play.
More info here: https://goclass.com/
Friday, 28th September 2018
Seesaw: The Learning Journal
Seesaw is a tool which helps students to capture and reflect on their learning. As a teacher you need to sign in with a Google Email account. The basic version is free, but if you want more in-depth reports and statistics you need to upgrade to a paid account.
The app explains all steps, which are easy to follow: name your class, set a grade level and add students to your class. Seesaw then offers a bank of creative tools in its “activity library”: they were created by other teachers who circulate free of charge to this community. You can select a resource and share it with your class or other teachers (on social media or by sending them a link). Students need then to sign in and respond – you can check this in real time. Of course you can also create a new activity – this is being explained in a step-by-step guide. Instructions for students can be text-based, but you can also record your voice, which might work better for some learners.
On the right hand side of the main screen you can choose between the following options: “journal”, “activities”, “inbox”, “skills” and “blog”. Students’ work and responses to the tasks you have set can be seen under the “journal” tap. “Activities” hosts the above mentioned library. They can also be scheduled, but this option is only available in the paid version. Contact your students and their parents using the “inbox” function. These are private messages for your community. Award your students by tagging their work in the “skills” section. The blog feature allows you to paste students’ posts into a public website.
Could be used for: all age groups and types of learners.
What I liked about it: Your students can sign in with either their email address or by using a QR code, which you can create easily.
Watch out for: you need to tap on the little green hook to confirm an action.
Available from the App Store and for Android – and by logging into their website.
More info here: https://web.seesaw.me/
Friday, 21st September 2018
Numbers – create spreadsheets
With the start of the new school year you will probably be inundated with spreadsheets. Here is a handy app called “Numbers”, which can help you make sense of them. No log on is required.
You can collaborate with others by editing a spreadsheet in real time. The app also has in-built tips on how to improve your data with interactive charts. Furthermore, it allows you to add graphs and images. Arranging your data in one of the many visual tools is easy.
Creating a new spreadsheet is simple: there are basic templates, personal finance and scheduling examples as well as spreadsheets for business and education. This last category lists, among others, an attendance sheet, a grade book, and a school savings template.
I tried the personal monthly budget sample. The cells in the sheet can be changed quickly according to your needs and dates, time and comments can be added. “Quick formulas”, such as “sum” or “average” are available under the “cell” tab.
Columns can also be changed and sorted. I added a graph showing how my expenses have changed. This is very straightforward: select a two- or three-dimensional shape or even an interactive one. Then drag your table onto it – voila! You can also use Apple pencil.
Could be used: as an administrative planning tool or for writing reports (by exporting the final product).
What I liked about it: the graphs outlining your data change as soon as you manipulate the spreadsheet, which is visually very appealing and intuitive.
Watch out for: you might need some basic understanding of how a spreadsheet works.
Available from the App Store.
More info here: https://www.apple.com/numbers/
Friday, 14th September 2018
Learning platforms, such as Blackboard or Moodle, are familiar to many who work in schools. Schoology is another content management system (CMS), which teachers might find helpful. The basic version is free. You can log in through your school (if an account already exists) or else sign up through their website. I’ve requested CDETB to be added to their approved schools.
There are videos (for instructors, students or system administrators) on their website explaining all the features. You have space to import and export files as well as learning objectives (based on US criteria, but you can add your own).
The courses you develop can contain assignments, discussions, files, texts, links and quizzes. Students are encouraged to give feedback, so it is quite interactive. Also, once students are enrolled, you can email them through the CMS. Rubrics and badges can be added for formative and summative assessment.
Privacy settings in the ‘group’ function allow you to control access. A calendar page helps with planning. There are plenty of public resources shared by other educators, which are listed not only by subject area and grade level, but also by resource type, including assessment, games/puzzles and lesson plans.
Could be used: as an alternative to Moodle.
What I liked about it: the interface is clean and intuitive. Students who spend time on social media will probably like it.
Watch out for: as always when uploading material from the Internet, be aware that some resources might be copyrighted.
Available from the App Store and for Android – and by logging into their website.
More info here: https://www.schoology.com/
Friday, 7th September 2018
Actionbound is an interactive scavenger hunt programme that allows you to go on an adventure with your class. Tours include guided walks and “treasure hunts” – they are called “bounds” here. Download it and agree to its terms and conditions. Actionbound will need access to your location in order to guide you using GPS.
You can find a bound, scan a QR code, check out bounds nearby or create your own. I searched for bounds in “Dublin” and got plenty of hits, each indicating whether or not they were created for single or multiple players.
Some displayed additional information, such as the approximately distance a player would have to cover and the approximate time it would take to complete the hunt. You can download a bound for offline play.
Creating a new bound is easy. Sign up, give it a title you can remember and decide on single or multiple player modus and on whether the stages of play are fixed or flexible. Add some text, your first quiz or mission now – or else request that your players have to scan a code or find a spot.
You can allocate points for each completed task. Every step is well explained. When you are finished, you can test your bound before you publish it.
There all kinds of extra gimmicks, but the basic version can be set up fairly quickly.
Could be used for: orientation week for new students; outdoor activities combining (local) history and geography lessons with physical exercise.
What I liked about it: extremely easy to use – try some hunts without logging in.
Watch out for: there are paid versions, e.g. for schools who qualify for an educational license, depending on the type of organisation you are working for. You might be able to use the free (private) version with your class.
Available from the App Store and for Android. There is also a PC version.
More info here: https://en.actionbound.com/