Archive for the ‘education’ Category

I made this post for a few of my colleagues involved in a 1:1 laptop project here in HWDSB and thought that it might be valuable to a larger group. So, here you go…

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The Smart Sync software will enable you to better utilize the power of the 1:1 laptop project in a collaborative manner with your students. You will also be able to limit the distraction of the laptops (video games, music, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) and help keep the students on task by limiting or allowing internet connections as you see fit. Further, you can poll / quiz students for instant assessment and to gauge where they are at and where your instruction needs to go. The chat feature is quite dynamic and allows for the teacher to engage in conversation with a student privately, thus limiting the need to center out a student or draw public attention to an undesirable or off-task behaviour. Groups can be assigned for collaborative work between students and the broadcast feature will be very useful for celebrating student work or discussing exemplars for any particular task.

With your tablets (screen flipped around), you will be able to walk around the room with your computer as if it was a clipboard and monitor the screens of each student in thumbnail form. If you would like to focus on any given student, you could click the thumbnail and the “Observe” tab. This will let you observe what the student is doing and allow you to interact with them either collaboratively or by overtaking their computer and controlling it remotely.

Monitoring Screens

To demonstrate a concept or lesson, you could broadcast your screen to the students, or broadcast another student’s screen; you can also play media (i.e. video or audio) from your computer and have it play on theirs. This way, they can watch at their own pace and ask questions via the Chat Feature or Question tab.

Another powerful feature is the ability to collect assignments and hand them back all within the software itself. This is a just a few of the many tools available to you and will truly enhance your ability to utilize the laptops as an additional learning tool and to engage the students through their use.

Here is a screencast I created for you documenting the setup of the teacher and student software. The installation is a two-part process – one software installation for the teacher and one software installation for the students. This should help you set it up with the students.

Here, too, is a link to “Navigating the User Interface” of Smart Sync – http://onlinehelp.smarttech.com/english/windows/help/sync/9_0_0/Index.htm

Setting up Smart Sync for Teachers and Students

Smart Sync Demo

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The major hurdle to jump when considering podcasting is where to host your files. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, creation of your audio project is only step one. Back in the day, you would record your cassette tape and give it to someone. That person would listen to it and return it; or listen to it, copy it, share it, and return it. That process has been made far more efficient and it is much easier to share with an immensely larger audience that can access it when THEY want it, not when you give it to them. Consider this the “pull versus push” scenario. In the “old days” you would “push” media to people. Now, people can “pull” it from a hosting site when they want or need it. In this case, we are going to use Tumblr as our host, our cloud platform from which people are going to pull our material.

There are two ways to use Tumblr as an audio hosting platform. One, you upload a previously created audio file as demonstrated in part 3 of this series. Alternatively, you can use the iPod Touch or iPhone application to record and upload the file wirelessly or via 3G to the Tumblr website. The two videos below will demonstrate both scenarios; the first video will cover the former while the second will cover the latter.

Please comment below with questions, concerns, or comments.

Cheers!

Podcasting with Tumblr – Part 1  – Accessing Tumblr and Uploading Audio Files

Podcasting with Tumblr – part 2 – Accessing Tumblr with the iPod Touch or iPhone App

Assessment for and as learning is a key component of our work as educators.

Assessment is the process of gathering information that accurately reflects how well a student is achieving the curriculum expectations in a subject or course. The primary purpose of assessment is to improve student learning. Assessment for the purpose of improving student learning is seen as both “assessment for learning” and “assessment as learning”. As part of assessment for learning, teachers provide students with descriptive feedback and coaching for improvement. Teachers engage in assessment as learning by helping all students develop their capacity to be independent, autonomous learners who are able to set individual goals, monitor their own progress, determine next steps, and reflect on their thinking and learning. [Growing Success 2011]

One fantastic way of assessing students, gauging their understanding, and determining next steps is by utilizing assessment tools that offer immediate and authentic feedback of student’s learning and progress. The assessment tools of today that utilize the technology available to us are the best tools for this job. One such tool is the Smart Response System by Smart Tech. The Smart Response System integrates seamlessly with the Smart Boards so prevalent in today’s learning environments. The “clickers” give students the vehicle through which to demonstrate their understanding, their questions, and their concerns on any given topic, assignment, or unit. This tool does not need to be intimidating, though. Assessments  that have already been created can be easily integrated / imported into the Smart Response / Notebook software.

Here is a video to get you started……

NOTE: This video also demonstrates how to use the Dragon Naturally Speaking App using the iPod Touch or iPhone to capture text with voice without having to type – a great differentiated exercise to get students to express themselves beyond the keyboard.

To watch the clip in High Definition, click the “HD” icon to the right of the audio bar in the video. This will take you to the Vimeo site where you can view the view in the best quality possible.

Medea Playing with "Fluffy" - her Eyepet.

This past Christmas, Medea (6) received the Eyepet game for the PS3. What is an Eyepet you ask? Well….just the coolest little virtual pet you will ever see! Not only is he fun to play with but I am continually amazed by how much Medea learns while she is playing. The built-in language and social skills development is beautifully combined with the responsibility and nurturing reality of owning a real pet. Here is how Sony presents its Eyepet…

Are your kids clamouring for a pet? Take them home an EyePet™ – the fully interactive and magical new creature for PlayStation®3 (PS3™) from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Cool, playful, and just bursting with fun and games, EyePet is your new family playmate, and he won’t make a mess or chew your TV cables!

Interact with EyePet throughPlayStation®Eye, the interactive camera for PS3. PlayStation Eye will capture your surroundings and show them on your television screen, so your EyePet will appear in your very own living room. Call him with your Magic Card – a simple device that can create all sorts of fun and games for EyePet to play with – and watch as he hatches from egg and grows from a baby ball into a cub! Throw a ball and he’ll scramble after it, pat him and he’ll roll over for a tummy scratch. Use your Magic Card to select toys for him, including a trampoline, bubble-machine along with other fantastic toys to play with! See how EyePet can play and interact with his owners by watching the exclusive EyePet video here.

By completing daily tasks, you can teach your EyePet brand-new games to play. The more he learns – the more exciting new tasks you’ll get to teach him! EyePet is fully aware of people in the room, and will play with you and your family in your home. Poke him and he jumps, stroke him and he’ll roll over in contentment, tickle him and he’ll laugh!

Watch on as your youngsters play, learn and laugh with EyePet – just as if they would with a real-life pet. Kids and adults alike will love to customise him, dress him and see his various reactions: surprise him with a new toy, cheer him up when he looks sad or happy when you stroke him.

…he learns by pictures Medea creates for himOntario’s play-based kindergarten curriculum emphasized the Arts as one of the six key learning areas. In this game, she creates art, and interacts with new technologies that can imitate and re-create it in augmented reality. This is taken one step further when the pet can interact with the art she creates! In this way, pretend becomes that much more real and the stimulus to continue is profound! The kindergarten curriculum emphasizes drawing, painting, singing, dancing, and pretending as elements of the Arts and this game has it all.

Styling the Eyepet

Medea named her Eyepet “Fluffy” and he is very fun to play with. She dresses him up in different clothes on a regular basis and changes his hair colour and style, too. There are literally hundreds of outfits and combinations that can be used and more outfits are unlocked and awarded constantly by winning challenges. More on that in a second.

As with other virtual pet games, it is necessary to keep your pet happy and healthy. Like real pets, the Eyepet needs attention and socialization. Medea knows that she must regularly check his status to see how he is and what he wants. The Eyepet Health Check is an x-ray scan of the pet’s internal status. A scan of the pet’s head indicates if he has had enough creative stimulus – if not, Medea knows that she must play some challenging games with him like “Snap”, or have him be artistically creative by drawing, singing, or dancing. In all three activities, Medea must show the Eyepet what to do and how to do it – she is the teacher. Prior to singing, Medea sings into the Move Controller (now a microphone on screen – the audio is picked up by the webcam) and Fluffy imitates her voice and melody. To dance, The Eyepet learns from the motions of the puppet Medea has created; to draw, he learns by pictures Medea creates for him. Ontario’s play-based kindergarten curriculum emphasized the Arts as one of the six key learning areas. In this game, she creates art, and interacts with new technologies that can imitate and re-create it in augmented reality. This is taken one step further when the pet can interact with the art she creates! In this way, pretend becomes that much more real and the stimulus to continue is profound! The kindergarten curriculum emphasizes drawing, painting, singing, dancing, and pretending as elements of the Arts and this game has it all.

Eyepet Health Scan

A scan of the heart also indicates if the pet is happy. An unhappy pet will just never do. To make her pet happy, Medea knows that playtime is necessary. She especially loves to play bowling with her Eyepet. Not only does play make the pet happy, but it also increases his exercise – another aspect she must pay attention to while playing (and another of the key learnings for the kindergarten curriculum); and, of course, the pet needs to eat. When hungry, his stomach scan will indicate such and she knows that it’s time to feed him.

The nurturing and responsibility aspects of the game (Social development – caring for others), combined with artistic explorations are just a small part what the game offers when looked at as a learning platform. The challenges built into the game develop thinking and inquiry skills (some of the challenges are quite hard and problem solving is the key to being successful), promote language development ( reading, comprehension, procedural writing / lists), explore mathematical concepts (cause & effect, trajectory, speed, two-dimensions vs. three-dimensions, patterning, order), and science and technology (the Eyepet itself is a fascinating product of science and technology and how humans interact with it).

After she read the list of instructions, I asked Medea to explain to me what she needed to do in her own word’s based on what she just read. This enabled me to check her comprehension.

Gardening Challenge

Problem / Inquiry Based Learning through Challenge
The Gardening Challenge – Day Eight 

I want to walk you through the excellent learning that I witnessed while Medea was playing the game the other day. It was the 4th challenge of Day Eight in the Pet Program (there are 15 days and 4 challenges per day – prizes are awarded for having a successful day and trophies can be earned for challenges as well).

Flutter By: This is another photo challenge. First off you need to put on your pets flower hat. Once you have done this get your garden set out and grow a flower. Then wait about a minute and soon you’ll see a bunch of butterflies on the screen wait for one to land on your pets nose and take the picture. This will give you gold and the trophy.

The challenge is presented in a series of steps. I had Medea read them to me (great language development exercise, procedural writing / lists, different writing forms).

  1. Dress your pet in its flower outfit
  2. Get your gardening set out
  3. Plant a tulip and wait for a butterfly
  4. Wait for it to land on your pet’s nose

After she read the list of instructions, I asked Medea to explain to me what she needed to do in her own word’s based on what she just read. This enabled me to check her comprehension. She explained to me what she was to do perfectly. Another great skill here is memory as she has to remember what step comes next after each step is completed (it does not remain on the screen). First, she had to go to the “Home” page where you can wash, style and dress up your EyePet. There she dressed the Fluffy in his flower outfit (NOTE: this outfit is only available if you completed a previous challenge. If a prior challenge is not completed, then later challenges can not be unlocked). Since the Eyepet uses the Move controller, Medea points at the screen and clicks buttons on the controller to complete motions. The hand-eye coordination necessary is combined with the previously learned knowledge of how to navigate the game itself. Each new skill is scafolded on the last.

Frustration does set in periodically, so its good practice to encourage taking a break and walking around a bit so that frustration doesn’t turn into anger – thus defeating any good learning that could be taking place.

Once dressed, Medea had to navigate out of the “Home” area and into the “Augmented Reality” portion of the game. She needed to remember that the Gardening set is located in the “Outdoors” area (we previously unlocked the gardening set in the first challenge of Day 7). Once in the “Outdoors” area, Medea selected the gardening set and Fluffy got ready for some gardening.

There are a number of different seeds to choose from in the gardening area, so Medea needed to remember that she needed to plant a Tulip. If she planted any other seed, the challenge could not be completed. Fortunately, she remembered the right seed. Frustration does set in periodically, so its good practice to encourage taking a break and walking around a bit so that frustration doesn’t turn into anger – thus defeating any good learning that could be taking place.

MRI and cognitive studies reveal that the brain “evaluates” the probability of effort resulting in success before expending the cognitive effort in solving mental problems. If the challenge seems too high, or students have a fixed mindset related past failures that they will not succeed in a subject or topic, the brain is not likely to expend the effort needed to achieve the challenge. [Source]

After planting, the seed it is necessary to water it. This is where the Move controller really shines! Once selected, the Move controller turns into a watering hose with a duck-head nozzle on the screen. Water sprays from the nozzle and, so realisitcally, fogs up the inside of the screen and drips down too. You’ll swear there is water in your TV! Talk about realistic pretend activities!

There are multiple chances to succeed, as in all video games, and this is the power of them as learning tools.

As the flowers grow, butterflies emerge and fly around the flowers. The next step of the challenge is here. To complete the challenge, Medea had to take a picture of a butterfly on Fluffy’s nose. Some patience is needed here. She had to figure out herself that Fluffy had to be close to a butterfly before it would land on his nose. Also, to take a picture, she had to click the “Start” button on the side of the controller (this activates the camera). Then, at just the right time, when the butterfly lands, she had to click the “X” button (this takes the picture).

If successful, the challenge-completed music plays and awards are given. Some challenges are time specific and others increase in difficulty to achieve a bronze, silver, or gold medal. If unsuccessful, the level must be replayed. There are multiple chances to succeed, as in all video games, and this is the power of them as learning tools. Practice and new skills always bring future successes and Fluffy is very encouraging 🙂

Art Comes To Life – Pretend and Imagination Soar!

What child hasn’t wanted her art to come to life. It does with Eyepet in a very cool and interactive way.

In the Dance Moves challenge of Day 15, Medea needed to teach Fluffy how to dance using a puppet / marionette of her own creation.

First she had to draw the puppet on a piece of paper. Next, we held the drawing up to the PS3 webcam and, taking the crayon in his mouth, Fluffy drew the same image on his paper. After showing the art to us (“Good Job, Fluffy!”), the puppet popped off the page, expanded to three dimensions, and attached to the Move Controller, now a holder for the puppet’s strings. Movement instructions appeared on the screen for Medea to follow, demonstrating dance moves to Fluffy who proceeded to dance for us. This ability to interact with a virtual pet in augmented reality adds an amazing sense of realism. It also gave Medea an immense sense of pride. Drawing something that became part of the game, and teaching her pet how to draw in the process, was further enhanced by the challenge created from it and the trophy earned as a result of the success.

I am constantly amazed by her growing skill set and increased ability to solve rather complex problems.

Another great example of art coming to love in an interactive way is the Balloon pop challenge of Day Eight. In this challenge, Medea had to draw an airplane (this time she chose to do it with the Move Controller on screen). When she was finished, the 2D drawing popped into three dimensions and Fluffy hopped on it, ready for a ride. The challenge started – this time she needed to pop 115 balloons to get this challenge at the gold level. The problem solving involved and the trial and error of plane construction (straight lines and precision are necessary for the plane to fly correctly – science & technology), combined with the challenge of actually playing the game and popping the balloons offer great learning experiences in the form of play.

She even earned the “Stunt Pilot” trophy for her aviation skills!

Stunt Pilot 
Break 140 mph in a model plane without smashing into the ground

For every growing kid in today’s generation, …games are a staple in their life. Technology is now kid-friendly enough that even kindergarten aged kids play games on the computer. Grown-ups who grew up without such innovations often frown upon this trend, seeing these games as disturbing elements for the child’s growth. However, if you analyze these games closely, you’ll be surprised to find that they actually provide positive benefits and help kids to learn things that aren’t in their schoolbooks and daily class lectures. Combining fun and learning is one of the best advantages offered by online games, helping them to grow and educate by their own pacing and effort. (Source)

Every time I sit and watch Medea play Eyepet I am constantly amazed by her growing skill set and increased ability to solve rather complex problems. She looks after her pet very responsibly and nurtures it with care, love, and play. In her interactions with Fluffy, she is challenged to accomplish tasks that are increasingly difficult and broad in scope.

The Eyepet truly covers the Six Key Learning Areas of the Ontario Play-Based Kindergarten Curriculum: Personal & Social Development, Langauge, Mathematics, Science & Technology, Health & Physical Activity, and the Arts.

Sony markets the Eyepet as magic and I totally agree!

For more on how video games should be seen as a model for best teaching strategies, see this excellent artcile by Judy Willis, “ A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool“, at edutopia.org.

I particularly like….

In humans, the dopamine reward response that promotes pleasure and motivation also requires that they are aware that they solved a problem, figured out a puzzle, correctly answered a challenging question, or achieved the sequence of movements needed to play a song on the piano or swing a baseball bat to hit a home run. This is why students need to use what they learn in authentic ways that allow them to recognize their progress as clearly as they see it when playing video games.

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Podcasting Made Simple – Part 3 – Audacity

Posted: April 14, 2011 by Aaron Puley in education, podcasting
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The first platform that I want to discuss for recording podcasts is Audacity. This easy to use, free, open source software is available for download at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. Version 1.2.6 is the latest stable version as is for the Windows 98/ME/2000/XP platforms.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 are not supported in Audacity 1.2.6. Please use Audacity Beta for these operating systems. All Audacity downloads can be found at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/windows.
To export your completed audio project as an MP3 for uploading to webhosts, you will also need to download the LAME MP3 encoder. Full instructions can be found here http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=install&item=lame-mp3 and I will post a screencast in one of the upcoming posts.
The following video is my introduction to Audacity for you, using a Blue Snowball Snowball Microphone. This example demonstrates the laying down of three voice tracks with one audio track, some effects, simple editing, and the exporting of the file to the .mp3 format needed to upload to most web hosts. 

Part 1: Introduction to Audacity and the Recording of Audio Tracks
 

Part 2: Simple Editing, Moving Tracks, Adding Music, and Exporting to MP3

Podcasting Made Simple – Part 2 – Recording

Posted: April 12, 2011 by Aaron Puley in education, podcasting

Close-up of the Mini Microphone

The first step of any podcast is to record the speaking. This can be done in a variety of ways and the number of different microphones on today’s market is somewhat overwhelming. Here, we will focus on the Blue Snowball Microphone, The Blue Mikey, Thumbtack Mics, iPod earbud/microphones , and, of course, standard headset-type microphones, and internal computer microphones. The sheer number of microphone types are endless. The key is finding the right one for the job.

Podcasting is all about sharing your message with everyone that wants to listen, and it doesn’t take much to get your ideas from your head into your computer and online for the world to hear. Lots of computers include built-in microphones, and inexpensive headset mics are easy to come by and easy to use.

The Mini Capsule / ThumbTack Type Microphone

The mini capsule / ThumbTack microphone are inexpensive (I bought mine for $2.22 – the ThumbTack is a bit more at $12.99) and handy little devices that can provide recording capabilities to earlier iPod Touch Units. These units provide decent enough sound to record vocal audio (but don’t expect concert hall sound). Also, these units work best when they are pointed directly at the speaker. Ambient sound isn’t well received.

Along with the mini microphones, you can also use the Apple headphones that have a microphone attached. This earbud / microphone combination ships with most iPod Touch units these days but, if they don’t, they retail for about $35.00 at the Apple store online and at your local Future Shop / Best Buy. Apple also has a funky new set of earbuds that has the microphone built right into the earbuds themselves ($79.00 from Apple.com).

iPod Touch Microphones

Another great microphone that can be used with iPod Touch and iPhone units is the Mikey by Blue. The cool thing about the Mikey, however, is that it can make an iPod Classic a recording device. Without it, it is consumption only – able to play music and podcasts but not make them. The Mikey retails for $99.99 but is often on sale for $45.00 – $50.00 from Amazon (as it was during the time of this post).

A 3.5-millimeter stereo input jack allows you to record audio output from another device directly onto your iPod. Use this feature to record radio broadcasts, CD playback, or most any other audio source. (Amazon)

The Blue Mikey

I have been very impressed by the quality of the Blue Mikey and use it regularly with my iPhone and iPod Classic to record my presentations and voice memos to myself. The quality is very crisp and CD in quality.

Mikey’s recording head is hinged with seven locking positions, providing a 230-degree adjustability range. You can direct the microphone toward your sound source without changing your position. For instance, if you’re sitting on the top tier of an auditorium and want to record your professor’s lecture, you can rotate Mikey toward the sound source to obtain a clear, intelligible recording (Amazon).

The Mikey can be used during class discussions, small group presentations, or individual student reflections and / or reading. Just plug the Mikey into the bottom of the device and start the Voice Memo capability. It’s as simple as that!

With the Mikey, those iPod Classic units that you might be trying to find a use for just got a whole lot more attractive. Also, if students have iPod Nanos or Classics, then they can have an instant recording device just by plugging in this microphone.

The Blue Snowball Microphone

Another microphone that is fantastic for podcasting, and for recording the contributions and conversations of a group is the Snowball Microphone by Blue. The Snowball microphone is a simple plug-and-play device that is easy to use and easy to set up. The cool thing about the Snowball is that it is an omni-directional microphone –  it will pick up sound equally from all directions. Just put the microphone in the centre of a group of students while they’re having a learning conversation and listen to it later for assessment or post on your website (or other hosting platform – to be discussed in Part 3 of this series) to be shared by students anytime / anywhere.

The Snowball microphone is also an excellent choice for video conferencing via platforms such as Skype and Adobe Connect as all you have to do is plug it in and place it on the table close to the conversation. Multiple people within 360 degrees of the microphone can contribute without having to physically walk to the microphone. There are a few settings to tweak but nothing that onerous (I’ll post some tips in a following post).

The Snowball microphone retails for $99.00 but is often on sale for $45.00 – $60.00 depending on what colour you would like – choice of Aluminum, White, or Black. The Aluminum is very sharp – the white, however, is always the least expensive.

In the next post of this podcasting series, we will look at podcasting via Tumblr using Audacity to record and edit vocal tracks for upload. We will also look at how to easily create and post a podcast to Tumblr using the iPod Touch / iPhone App. There is an App for that afterall!

Podcasting Made Simple – Part 1

Posted: April 12, 2011 by Aaron Puley in education, podcasting

Livescribe paper-based computing platform includes a smartpen, dot paper and software applications that changes the way people capture, use and share audio and visual information with pen and paper.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Podcasting, posted with vodpod

MicrophoneToday, I presented on a variety of Podcasting tools that can be used in any classroom. The key here, is to present podcasting in the simplest manner possible, to make it easy, and to make it practical for any classroom teacher. All of the ideas and tolls posted herein can be used in small or large settings, with access to lots of technology or with limited access to the same. I particualy like the idea of podcasting in stattions. This provide students with an outlet to express themselves in new and creative ways in a focused and purposeful manner.As the culmination of an activity or as a place to reflect on a lesson or activity, podcasting is a perfect fit for enhancing lessons and the learning process; for providing a differentiated tool to motivate and engage students; and to increase the conversation among teachers and students, students and their peers, and students with their parents. The very nature of the podcast allows for files to be accessed and shared on the internet via simple hyperlinked text that directs to the location of the hosted file. As the following slideshare shows, the only things you need are a microphone / audio recorded, editing software such as Audacity, somewhere to host the podcast, and imagination / inspiration.