Author Archives: john

Handwriting⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I didn’t ever expect to write a post with this title, but this has been stuck in my head for a while, I started writing it a few weeks ago.

Kenny Pieper is one of my favourite education bloggers. He doesn’t write much about technology but I don’t miss a post (his Book is a good read too).

In a recent post he writes about using google docs with his class and this bit brought me to a halt:

I would never use it with younger kids; they need to write accurately with pen or pencil before they should move on to more focused tools but for seniors it works really well.

From: What’s Up, Docs? Digital Technology in English.

I’ve recently finished my first year in a classroom in nearly a decade. A lot had changed! One of the thing that changed in my classroom is the children each had use of an iPad. I’ve blogged a bit about some of the technical aspects of the experience but not about some of the decisions made about when to use technology and any benefits. At the start of the year I didn’t introduce the iPads straightaway, but established jotters as normal. We discussed the importance of keeping using the jotters and over the year came to some sort of balance. I’d estimate about 1:2 iPad to handwriting ratio. Given that the primary sevens would be going to a new school next session where they would not have 1–2–1 devices I did not want to put them at any disadvantage.

It was a small class and only the older children, the primary sixes and sevens, did a lot of daily writing on the iPads. I’ve not got any statistics or real findings. I do feel that writing digitally has help with some of the processes of writing. In particular the ability and willingness to revise written work. Correcting ones own writing is a lot easier on a device and gives a more pleasing result in the main. Reorganising writing is easier too. Moving paragraphs around, or just creating paragraphs out of a block of text is a lot easier.

That should make improving writing easier? I hope so.

Kenny writes about his own experience of finding examples of his handwriting from the past.

I found a little piece of my own history when I came across the old notebook. Wouldn’t it be a shame if that same opportunity were to be denied to future generations?

From: What’s the point of handwriting?

Which was obviously an enjoyable experience for him. My own history with handwriting has been different.

All the way through school (and university) I got reminded that I would lose marks for my handwriting writing. I can’t recall ever feeling pleased with it.

Left handed, primary seven lessons with pen and ink were a smear. Even with a left handed fountain pen.

At sixteen, taking a shotgun licence form to the local police station my printed ‘signature’ provoked a ‘call that a signature son’, I’ve signed a scrawl ever since.

A gap of nearly 10 years between university and Jordanhill did nothing to improve the situation.

My first permanent head teacher gently suggested I practice writing on the board and at home. This I did for a few minutes at home (copied out the Tao Te Ching), and when I arrived in school. This improved my classroom writing enough to get by. Making Banda worksheets was an extended torture for me. Usually making a mistake right at the end.

When the same head suggested I improve my non-existent ICT skills by taking home a computer for the summer break I was not too keen, but I went along with it. I discover ClarisWorks and the ease of editing. I was much more interested now.

I write a lot. I’d not argue that I am a good writer, but I love blogging, as a way of sharing but more as a way of thinking.

The main difference between my blog and the few journals I’ve kept (I’ve found old travel ones) is that I can read the blog. I can search it too and find what I half-recall.

I don’t know if digital writing is better or worse for pupils literacy. I’ve read various bits of research but nothing conclusive. I certainly feel digital helps me and perhaps some learners.

Update: while this post has been maturing in drafts I read: Can’t Trust It: Typing vs Handwriting which indicates that the water is muddy.

WordCamp Edinburgh, thoughts #wcedin⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I just spent Saturday and half of Sunday at WordCamp Edinburgh 2017. This is only my third WordCamp, but I though it might be worth typing up a few impressions.

The camp was very nicely organised, ran to time, had good food, the venue was great. Minimal friction for attendees.

The vibe was quite like a TeachMeet although most of the presentations were an hour long and a bit more formal. I guess Wordcamp like TM has its roots in Bar Camp? Compared to a TeachMeet the sponsored were more visible and more part of the community. This felt fine as I guess most of the attendees were professional working alongside the sponsors. (I am not a fan of the over sponsorship of TeachMeets)

The talks were very varied, some technical, some business related. All the ones I went to were informative and enjoyable. There seemed to be a strong strand about using WordPress for the good, democracy and social change.

Social Good

Two of the keynotes were to do with this idea of social good. The opening one on day one was by Leah Lockhart, who talked about helping community groups and local politicians to communicate. I felt there were a lot in common with eduction. Schools have embraced online communication in the same sort of way, veering towards twitter ( probably less Facebook that community groups) as an easy way to get messages out. In the same way they lose control of their information and its organisation. Leah spoke of the way WordPress could give you a better long term result.

Leah also explained that it is hard for community groups to be able to design how their information gets out. I think we are at the point where WordPress is easy enough to use the difficulty comes in using it in a strategic way that maximises its potential. I’ve got a fair bit of experience in helping schools use WordPress in a practical sense and there is plenty of online help for that. There is a gap to be filled in the preparation and planning. If this is solved for community groups it might be easy to repurpose the information and processes for education.

Bridget Hamilton spoke of Using WordPress to create social change. Her story of her site Verbal Remedy was inspirational. A blog provide effective communication without much in the way of backing.

Technical

I went to a few of the more technical talks.

Mark Wilkinson spoke of ‘a deep understanding of actions and filters’. Since I mess around with code in WordPress at a very basic level this was a really useful talk for me. It was just pitched at the right level. I’ve used these with only a basic understanding. I think Mark got me to the point I could being to understand things a lot better the next time I dip in. Mark’s Slides

Tom Nowell spoke about the WordPress Rest API for beginners, he meant beginners with the API not generally. I held on by the skin of my teeth. Luckily I follow Tom Woodward and had played with the API in a much simpler way than either Tom documented. Yesterday I added a wee bit to my homepage to pull in the last status from my blog! Tom’s Slides

Twitter vs Blogs

Franz Vitulli talked about aspects of the pull between Social media and blogging it was good to hear another view of the area I’ve been reading and thinking about from an indieweb point of view.

Progressive Enhancement

Ben Usher Smith gave this talk, at first I thought it was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but it became apparent that the process of progressive enhancement can be applied to any sort of enterprise. I hope to be more aware of this when planning for my class next session. Ben’s post Progressive enhancement — More than just works without JavaScript on medium.

Even More…

I went to a few other talks all of which I enjoyed. Even the ones I though I was choosing almost at random had something interesting to them. Often it was in thinking about how the ideas or principles fitted into my world.

I took notes during the talks using Little Outliner 2, this meant I could publish as I went along: Notes from #wcedin. I am really liking using an outliner for this process, although I don’t think an iPad was as good as a laptop would have been. There are a few different links and thoughts there.

After I got back I feed the twitter hash tag into Tags, Martin Hawksey’s tool. This gives me TAGSExplorer: Interactive archive of twitter conversations from a Google Spreadsheet for #wcedin .

I probably missed a few opportunities to talk to folk, I found myself feeling a bit less social than I do in my TeachMeet comfort zone. But the atmosphere was very relaxed and inclusive. I’d recommend educators with an interest in blogging to join in if there is a Wordcamp near them.

Adventures in microblogging part 3⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

It is a about three months since I started using the miro.blog app it has been really interesting, to me, to use this blog in a slightly different way. I’ve certainly not come to any earth shattering conclusions but am enjoying using the ‘service’ thinking about all sorts of associated things.

I’ve categorised 132 posts as micro here, compared to a handful of standard posts. These posts would have been things I posted to Twitter or Instagram in the past. Now they go to micro.blog/johnjohnston and Twitter.

twitter replacement

Not quite. I’ve posted more things straight to twitter. I’ve enjoyed the 280 character limit on micro.blog but still have used Twitter directly for posting education related things, joining in the #30daytdc ds106 tweetfest in July and replying to tweets. The stuff I’ve sent through micro.blog has been more general internet stuff and thoughts about microblogging/indieweb. I didn’t think about this too much just went with what felt right.

Instagram replacement

The Micro.blog app is a nice simple photo sharer. The fact that the image is posted on your own blog first gives a nice warm indieweb feeling. I’ve still posted the odd picture to instagram mainly for the other nice warm feeling that comes from likes. I get a lot more likes on Instagram than I do on photos posted here and to twitter even though I’ve a much bigger following on Twitter than Instagram.
I flirted briefly with Youowngram and a WordPress plugin before that but I’ve not settled on some way of incorporating Instagram into a workflow.

micro.blog community

I’ve enjoyed a bit of interaction on micro.blog itself and the associated slack channel. It is fascinating watching quite a small group of folk figuring out how this new service, or perhaps layer on existing services works for them.

indieweb

I’ve dabbled in indieweb principles for a while on this blog. The theme I use is build for it and I’ve a bunch of plugins that help connect this blog with other services. Using micro.blog has brought me into contact with a lot more indieweb folk and helped my understanding of how things could work. Again it is nice to see others exploring and thinking this out loud.

A useful resource I’ve found is Chris Aldrich’s Opml list of indieweb RSS feeds. I’ve subscribed to this in Inoreader and added as a tab on my River5 setup not only have I seen some familiar faces from the ds106 universe I am getting to read lots of great content about this stuff.

Colin Walker’s blog Social Thoughts is another great resource (part of the indieweb opml too). Colin has been narrating in great detail both technical and philosophical ideas surrounding microblogging and he has a great Microcast too.

I am beginning to see how conversations can cross domains and belong to participants rather than the silos they take place in.

Still tweekin’

I am still trying to more fully understand how this all works and how best to organise things here. I do think it is still fairly complicated to set up a blog following all of the indieweb principles. It also looks like it is getting simpler all the time. The indieweb WordPress plugins are getting regularly updated and the future looks bright.

The whole microblogging experience is leading me to re-thinking my approach to social media, podcasting and blogging and I am really enjoying the process.

I’ve also enjoyed the minor geeky things I’ve been playing with, posting to microblog from drafts on iOS using the workflow app and using AppleScript from a mac. Not big or interesting to many other folk but it is how I get my fun.

 

The featured image on this post is of a conversation from this morning that took place on microblog and reflected in the comments here.

iPad in my classroom 2016 – 2017⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Although there is over a month left of my first year in the classroom for a while I though that I’d start writing this as if I leave it till the summer… 1

I am lucky enough to be teaching in a 1–2–1 classroom. 15 pupils spread across primaries five, six and seven.

I’ve probably not done as much with the iPads as I could have this session, stepping back into the classroom after a few years out has been ‘interesting’, teaching a multi-composite has had it challenges too.

The last time I was in school the classrooms had 2 desktop PCs, we shared a lab of desktops and a trolley of laptop. This was a great provision, but 1–2–1 is quite different.

The iPads are original Airs. They have individual ‘school’ iCloud accounts and the pupils use their glow accounts for emails, online storage (O365) etc.

Apps are distributed via a free meraki MDM account. The devices are not in DEP. I ask pupils to request app that they want. And not to install them themselves. Obviously they could if they wanted to. We have a few restrictions, movie age for example, set from meraki but the devices are pretty open.

App notes

Some brief notes on the main apps we have used this session.

  • Drawing, Brushes Redux & Tayasui Sketches
    • learning about layers, illustrating, art. Tracing images of all sorts is very popular with pupils in spare moments. 2
  • Whiteboard Some of the pupils prefer a real one though.
  • Camera
    • recording learning (photo & video)
    • illustrating work (poetry) 3
    • presenting work (markup)
    • photography, casual learning about craft
    • video, casual learning about craft
  • Notes
    • writing, as the year has gone on we have written more in notes and less in other apps.
    • drafting, especially useful for blogging as removes any distractions.
    • collaborative writing, it is easier to airdrop a few notes that setup online document.
  • Safari, having an always to hand reference book, media library etc. Brings a lovely set of problems with it, copyright, fact checking and distraction. Updating the school blog and e-portfolios should be easier when everyone has a browser to hand.
  • O365 through glow. I’d decided to use these office tools this session. At that point I could have used the Apple ones, but would, then, have had to pay for the apps. I could have used Google, but would have had to organise accounts.
    • Microsoft Word, used for writing, especially for presentation and if work needs printing. Now we often start in notes. Early on we tried a lot of handing in of work via sharing in O365. Had a lot of problems with work going missing, documents not fully syncing. Some of this might have been confusion round saving (locally, Onedrive,auto, manual) some due to poor bandwidth. Now I ask pupils to start in notes, moving to word for formatting and adding images.
    • Microsoft OneNote, after early problems with Onedrive & word I decided to use Onenote as a virtual, handout/worksheet/jotters solution. When it works it is great. Unfortunately, for us, it doesn’t work consistently. I have persisted, for months. One of the most frequently used apps, but am probably going to look at other solutions next session.
      • I’ve blogged about the problems and spent a fair amount of time trying out solutions suggested by other glow uses, twitter folk and the Microsoft team.
    • PowerPoint, we have used a little. Most often as a choice for personal projects. I think I’ll try Keynote next session as is now free.
    • Microsoft Sway, we have dipped into sway, I’ve not found the pupils as excited by the app as other glow users have reported. Might be the way I’ve explained it?
  • LEGO® Movie Maker, a nice free stop motion app. we used this for some maths shape work and a whole class Tam O’Shanter movie. 4 I think the app has been discontinued a great shame
  • iMovie, for editing videos, science reports, animations. Some of the pupils are very keen on trailers in any spare moments, golden time and personal projects. 5
  • 5SecondsApp – Animated GIF Create & Search – Animated GIF Create, occasional fun for the blog often in combination with MSQRD. 6
  • Padlet has great potential, but our bandwidth seems to be too poor for this.
  • MyScript Calculator – Handwriting calculator – Handwriting calculator, some of the class like this, others prefer the google one in the browser.

If I was limited to the number of apps I think we could have got by with stock software, Safari, Notes and Photos will get you a long way. I’d add iMovie next.

The app I’d like to find is the simplest audio recorder that would allow pupils to listen to, record and share audio. It is a pity that Apple voice memos is limited to the iPhone. We have used boss jock junior a bit this session, but I think I’ll try the free version of ferrite next, unless I find something simpler.

Workflows

Attempts to distribute, gather and organise.

Over the session I’ve used OneDrive, OneNote and latterly experimented with Apple Classroom. These all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Pupils creating documents in OneDrive and sharing with me was the way we started. The obvious problem is organisation. We tried both sharing documents through OneDrive and emailing back and forward. Emailing proved to be the most successful, we had a lot more failures with sharing, as noted above, it’s hard to tell if these are problems with the syncing, pilot error or due to lack of bandwidth. Emailing brings organisation problems.

The main app I’ve used this session for distributing and collecting information has been OneNote. Apart from a few dislikes of the way the software works, no grouping in particular, the concept of how OneNote should work is great. Unfortunately We’ve lost data, had slow syncing and a lot of errors thrown. Even when working with a small group of 10 pupils, getting work to review back from all of them in a timely fashion has been a struggle. We have quite often lost work completely.

The possibilities of the class notebook are wonderful. Pupils record and assess their own reading on the one page. I can use the classnote book tools to click through them all listing and adding my 2 pence worth easily. I can had out maths ‘worksheets’ with a video of myself working through the problem embedded. The pupils work can organised and accessed easily. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work for us.

Recently I took the iPads out of meraki management to allow us to test the Apple Classroom app. The best practise for doing this is to have the iPads in DEP, The Device Enrollment Program, and supervised in an MDM (e.g. meraki). Unfortunately our iPads are not in DEP and they would have to be wiped to do that. I am not doing that at this stage in the session.

Instead I got the pupils to remove the MDM management and join a manually created classroom. Compared to the onenote workflows described above the classroom is quite limited. There is no organisation of media, text etc. The killer feature, for me, is that sharing is done locally, via Airdrop, without needing to get data out to the internet. So far I’ve just used it to distribute and collect files, notes and media files of all sorts. This is lightning quick, and so far I’ve had no problems. Longer term I need to figure out how pupils work could be organised, both on their iPads and mine. Notes has a simple folder system, but it could get pretty messy over time. I wonder if iOS 11 out this autumn will help, either with improvements to the Notes app or the new Files app that integrates with OneDrive?

Next Session

There is a lot to think about. I avoided the Microsoft classroom this session, it felt a bit too complex for me and seemed to still be evolving. Quite glad as MS classroom is going to be replaced by Teams. I am wondering it if will be any more successful than OneNote in my situation.

Next session Glow will also give use access to the Google suite, I’ll be interested in seeing how that plays out. My personal use of google apps has lead me to feel that they are lighter weight and faster to sync than O365 but I’ve not used them in the classroom.

I am also, now they are all free, thinking that switching to the Apple ‘office’ apps would be a good idea. I certainly find pages and keynote easier to use on iOS than Word or PowerPoint. 7

I am tempted too by Apple classroom, the quick local transfer seems like a good idea.
From the distribution to pupils, just using the notes app with the classroom Airdrop, where you can send to the whole class or a group is a great improvement over OneNote. On iOS or mac the OneNote classroom lacks the ability to send to groups which Apple Classroom has. The success and speed of Airdrop beats O365 via the web hands down (not surprising). Tables I’ve missed a little and it would be nice to be able to record audio straight into notes. It is simple enough to record in another app and insert into notes.

Ideally I’d love the simplicity and speed of Notes and Airdrop to be extended to add some of the organisational features on OneNote classroom.

I am a bit disappointed that I’ll start next session still unsure about the best way forward. Google will not arrive in Glow until September. MS teams is not yet ready for use.

I am looking forward to trying all of this out, but mindful that swapping out workflows is not as easy for our digital natives 8 as it is for me.

  1. Yup, this post has taken at least 3 weeks to mature. It is a bit of a grab bag but has helped me think things through.
  2. Art Gallery – Banton Biggies a lot of this is made in Brushes.
  3. Kennings, we know about animals – Banton Biggies
  4. Scenes From Tam O’Shanter – Banton Biggies
  5. Video – Banton Biggies
  6. RedNoseDay Animated Gifs – Banton Biggies
  7. Personally I am not a frequent user of office apps. I would never open word, pages or google docs just to enter text. Drafts would be my iOS productivity tool of choice.
  8. I found the pupils are really quick in learning some digital things, but I don’t think that includes organisation.

Microcast 8: Thoughts On Sonant Thoughts Ep 29⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Audio comment on the Microcast Sonant Thoughts – Episode 29: Focused

This is a quick try of an iOS workflow. The idea is to quote and comment on a podcast. The content was a one take job. Steps:

  1. Listen to podcast
  2. Copy URL to audio file (I grabbed it from my RSS reader FeeddlerPro
  3. Open in safari
  4. Save to Dropbox
  5. Open in Ferrite
  6. Trim to quote
  7. Add audio comment
  8. Save to iCloud
  9. Back in Safari upload to blog, create post etc

Could probably speed things up using workflow to create post.

Id love to see an app to simplify this. I don’t think it is really a practical solution. Much quicker to move to desktop.

iPads: Words and Pictures⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

This is pretty basic stuff but I’ve found it useful in class.

I’ve often combined writing poetry with digital tools in the classroom. There are a lot of short forms that mean even the slowest typist can produce something good in limited time. From a pupil blogging perspective pupils of varying ability often get great results they can be proud of publishing.

When I started using iPads in teachers training and with pupils, I started using simple poetry forms as a way to produce something quickly that could develop from text be combined with images, video and audio.

Good, IMO, forms are kennings, lunes, haiku and six word stories.

Back then we used skitch and comic life to added text to pictures. More recently I moved on to the free version of pic collage 1.

When I arrived back in the classroom with a pile of iPads I’ve been using the technique quite a bit.

More recently 2 I’ve cut out third party apps to use the newish built in markup in the Photos app. Recently I demoed the process at an interview and saw Jenni Robertson show it at an Apple event in Glasgow. On both occasions I was surprised to find that it was a new concept to most of the audience. I though it might be worth a post here. There is a video embedded at the bottom of this post, but here are some written instructions.

Start with an image

This is a good opportunity to talk and demo a wee bit about copyright and attribution. In class we often use the Morguefile or my own FlickrCC Stampr.

write some words

I believe it is best to use the notes app for this, avoiding thinking about how the text looks, where it goes etc.

Copy the text to the clipboard.

Combine the words and pictures

Open photos

Select and view the image.

Click on the adjustment icon

When the photo opens click on the ellipses and then Markup

On the markup screen click the T tool to add a text box and then press on the box to edit it.

 

Paste in your poem.

Adjust the size, colour and placing of the text.

Bonus Tip – drop shadow

Duplicate the text, change the colour of one and move the top one over the bottom leaving a nice ‘old style’ drop shadow. I think this is worth it as a intro to layers in graphics. It can also hep readability on complex backgrounds.

 

 

Although this is a very simple lesson I think it give the opportunity to teach a few different things over and above literacy involved in the writing:

  • Copyright and creative commons
  • Combining apps (safari, notes, photos) in a workflow.
  • Layers

It has the potential for being extended into video & audio editing (groups pictures perhaps) and sharing the results.

Here is a quick screencast.

 

1. Some examples from my class using pic collage Frosty Photos and Poems – Banton Biggies

2. For example Kennings, we know about animals – Banton Biggies

above