Will iPad purchases make a comeback against Chromebooks?

Untitled DesignThere’s been a lot written lately about the losing battle for the hearts and minds of schools between Google and Apple (not to mention Microsoft’s resurgence), mostly evidenced by the sales of Chrome Books beating iPads in the last few years. A lot of that chatter comes down to 2 points.

  • Price – Chrome Books are far cheaper and give schools a higher ratio straight off the bat.
  • Management – iPads are just not as simple to setup and share between students.

But this week there are signs that there could be a change to the status quo. Yesterday’s Apple announcement that they are releasing a new iPad was not super surprising news; this happens every year. What WAS a surprise is the price! The new updated version of the iPad Air 2, called simply ‘iPad’ has been listed on the Apple website in NZ at $539. While not AS cheap, it’s still much closer than it has ever been.

In fact, this article from 9to5mac suggests it may show signs of a change to the pricing of Apple’s products across the board. Time will tell about that.

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What I often suggest to schools is that when taking cost into consideration (and I argue that this is probably the last factor to take into account) they should always not look at just the purchase cost but the cost of the device over time. How long will that device last your students? Anecdotal evidence suggests that iPads last at least 30% longer in a school. If the cost difference is now less than that 30%, does that make the iPad price a little more shiny?


STEM Elements

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.06.59 AM.pngOne of our most popular regional events is the “STEM and Digital Technologies” workshop we offer. Teachers have a day to explore both the pedagogy of STEM and get hands on with a range of technologies, from Sphero SPRK+, to low tech gear like popsical sticks and ping pong balls! You can see a Twitter moment here which gives you a small window into the action!

This week I’ve been updating some of the material we share on the day and I’ve adjusted this graphic of the ‘STEM Elements’, based on based on the book, “STEM Lesson Essentials, Grades 3-8” by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, Michael Comer. STEM ELEMENTS (1)


These elements are a great way to make the important aspects of STEM stand out for teachers and I also encourage them to use these four elements as a planning guide when they’re preparing to engage students in STEM. When we have an empty box it forces us to fill it in! It’s a helpful way to help us engrain this thinking when we are starting out and a good technique to foster new pedagogies into our school culture.

STEM ELEMENTS planning (1).png

Here are some images from the workshop ran last Wednesday. If you’d like to host a regional STEM event at your school, or have me work exclusively with your staff, contact me here on Twitter or use the contact widget on this page.


Coding Resources Hyperdoc

There will be a load of teachers in Australia and New Zealand starting to think about planning for the year ahead with a new class and a new group of students. One of the things we are always hoping to do is to inspire and motivate them in those first few weeks.

What better way to do this than to launch them into the world of coding! If you’re after a resource to help you get started, here’s a poster with some clickable links to take you straight to the app or website you’ll need.


There are resources for anyone just starting out, through to more advanced users who are looking to develop their understanding of syntax coding. I’ve also written about this in more depth here, on our website at Using Technology Better. Click the links below to see the online versions and download your own copy if needed using the links at the top of the PDF.

Google Drive – Coding Resources Download

Microsoft OneDrive  – Coding Resources Download

My Favourite Video Site = Youtube

fav 1.pngThis is the first of a series of ‘My Favourites’ posts. There are loads of different options for things when it comes to tools and resources but sometimes it pays to have a favourite. One tool that you commit to, develop a real depth of understanding about and build up a profile of bookmarks and links within it.

This first ‘Favourite’ is one of my favouritist favourites. Here are 5 reasons why Youtube is the video platform to rule them all!

1. Shear volume of content – Youtube hasvideo a remarkable 500 hours of video upload every minute! That’s a LOT of watching, but the upside is that you are just about guaranteed to find what you are looking for. As a teacher (or if you want to learn about or fix anything) this is a gold mine of a resource.

2. Removal of visual distractions – one of the problems with video platforms are the distracting ‘suggested videos’ that they display and Youtube is no different. When you use a Chrome Browser, however, you can download extensions (like the DF Youtube extension) that will only show the video you want to show!

Screen_Shot_2016-09-06_at_6_22_39_AM3. Subscriptions and Playlists – when you have a Google account and have signed into Youtube, you can subscribe to a channel and receive notifications whenever they have new content or uploads. This is a great way of keeping up with developments from apps and tools you already use. As well as following your favourite up-loaders – here are some of my favourite channels.

4. Filtering Options – If you’re a GAFE school you now have the option of restricting videos to those approved by Google for Education, or even only those approved by teachers at your school. These settings can be found in the Admin Console and clicking on ‘Other Google Apps.’


5. HIGH Definition – Youtube has different settings for your device to get the best stream rate for your screen or wifi connection. You can leave the settings on automatic and it will set the stream rate to be best for your connection. Otherwise, choose the higher settings such as 1080 or 4K(if you have a screen that rates that high) and watch the video the way nature intended!

Screen_Shot_2016-09-06_at_6_29_25_AM6. Baked in Video Editing! – I’m not sure of any other video streaming platform that has an editing suite built into it. The Youtube Video Editor lets you upload video, add audio, captions, photos and transitions. It even has some free licensed music to add as soundtracks which has a huge range of tunes to choose from. Just go to My Channel > Manage Subscriptions > Create.


I’m such a Youtube Fan that I’ve subscribed to Youtube Red. This gives you no ads, save videos off-line and play videos in the background – perfect for screening to a Chrome Cast. It’s totally my fav!

The Power of Video

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 3.13.34 pmThis week I facilitated 2 sessions at the Mediamash Workshop day in Winton. This was a teacher/student day for everyone to learn alongside each other – a powerful theme for the day in itself!

My sessions were looking at the potential for videos as a powerful tool in the learning process. In our class we recognise 3 things:

1. Today’s learners are incredible visual in the way they like to learn.
2. Outside the school environment, we often use video to learn things – from gaming walk throughs, to instructional videos for building and fixing things. So why not at school?
3. Videos can be used at lots of different stages in the learning process.

In the slides below you’ll see some examples for how we use videos before, during and after which are just ways to describe the steps our students take in our learning pathways.

The before part of the process is where flipped learning emerges. Many times this year we have had students come to a learning workshop having watched a video we provided in the pathway with a much deeper understanding of the concept or skill we are looking at. This allows us to practise, or fill in the gaps they have.
During in this sense indicates the workshops that happen with a teacher and after is where the student goes away to consolidate, clarify or create their own videos.

Make sure you click on the images and links to access the movies and sites.

**Above image sourced from http://www.visual-learners.com/image-files/models.gif


The Power to Act – Agency

Well – my word for the year (ownership) is growing some really long arms and legs! Here are some of those ‘limbs’ and the impact they are having on our learners.
This video, by Derek Wenmoth, explains some terminology for me around the concept of ‘student agency.’ He explains agency as the ‘power to act’ and it has really captured my attention as we build our active learning approach at our school.

In this video, Derek explains how student agency involves 3 dynamics and I’ve added some implications for our classrooms.

1. The initiative – self regulation of the student.

  • this describes exactly what we are trying to do – engage the learner to be more and more independent and self starting.

2. The relationship is inter-dependent – mediates and is mediated by the socio cultural context of the classroom.

  • the importance of a collaborative culture is key here. How we work together, give and seek peer feedback and create an environment where students want to learn together is incredibly important.

3. An awareness of responsibility of the learner’s own actions and the impact on the environment and on others.

  • our learner licenses approach is working really well in facilitating the right amount of support for each learner and I’m wondering how we can use it better to have student’s mentoring / supporting and encouraging others learning behaviours.

I can see how this terminology is going to catch on as some shared vocabulary for our school. Especially with the parents. Interestingly – one thing I have learnt to do, when talking about this with parents is to emphasise the ‘active learning’ aspect rather than ‘independent learning’ as the latter has overtones of teachers trying to take a back seat to the process.

So – here are 2 aspects of our programme that we have recently invested in across our school to help develop the agency of our students. While not exhaustive, they both form some important pillars to help empower our learners.

Solo Taxonomy

One of our teacher only days this term was spent working with Pam Hook, exploring the ways to incorporate the Solo Taxonomy approach in our classrooms. Solo is an assessment method that involves students, at all stages of the learning journey, to help them see where their understanding is and what to work on next. Pam, @arti_choke, has a knack for explaining the approach in a way that makes sense for people and has developed some fantastic resources for teachers to use with their learners.

She is always very generous with her resources on her site and we have already started using the hexagons, thinking maps and assessment matrix tools. My goal for our class is to be able to use the assessment icons and levels to be able to understand and articulate how well they have grasped a skill or idea and what they should next. This should give us some important vocabulary to use during those crucial learning conversations.

e.g, “How well do I know how to use syllables to decode words? Well, my understanding is at ‘multi-structural’ but I need to understand when and why to use them when I read – that will move my understanding to the ‘relational’ level.”

Learning Pathways and Self Selected Workshops

Last week our Senior Teachers travelled to Dunedin to visit St Clair School and we were hosted by @msbeenz (Claire Buist) AP and teacher, and her team. We have been hugely influenced by Claire’s approach with empowering students to self assess their progress using Goal Sheets and then booking workshops with the teacher. We were very impressed to hear their journey with this approach last year and to see the development of this approach with her team this year.

Our Senior Team has begun to adopt this approach, with our own spin, and combined it within our team teaching approach which will have, I can already see, the following benefits.

  • increased student agency
  • increased quality and quantity of learning conversations to help guide and support the learner.
  • more active and engaged learners!
One of the areas to explore from our visit is how to best develop the home-school connection and whether our current ‘homework’ programme is the best approach. I’m expecting that the ability for the learner to engage with their next steps is something that could and should be able to continue outside of school hours. So, there is enormous potential for our use of google apps, Ultranet and our other online tools carry on this journey.
Here are 2 other links to some docs we sent home for parents that explain how our learning programme has developed so far. This ‘coalition’ between school and home is something we are always looking to grow and the conversations these documents have continued has been crucial to the learning culture we are developing in the school.
We are certainly in the midst of some exciting times and it feels like the pieces of the ‘Active Learning’ approach are falling into place. And when we combine all this with an increasing access to the learning tools we need (10 Chrome books arrived this afternoon!) then the road ahead just keeps getting more and more exciting. 
I hope our learners are starting to feel excited as well. I’m thinking it may be time for some student voice!

Planning and Assessment with Notability App

I replied to a question on twitter about how I use one ipad in the classroom. Last year we had 1 ipad (now we have 12 which is awesome!) and I decided to make the most of it as a teaching tool;

 – I achieved my goal of having a digital planning and assessment approach!

Here’s a video of how I use Notability for planning and assessment.

Time Lapse Fun!

During the last school holidays I edited and posted a movie on our class and school blogs. I wanted to showcase the ‘business’ of our days for the parents of my class – a push back against the ‘nothing much’ response to that age old question from our parents, ‘What did you do at school today?’

The video was posted on the Core Education blog here, a few weeks later.  It was great to see the comments coming in and a few questions asked and the gawker software I used to create the timelapse video is something I’m keen to use again.

The next video is something I made using my iphone and and old light mount on my mountain bike.  The video speaks for itself and was the result of a ‘play around’ day when the rest of the family was out for the day.

And here is a video that is truly inspiring! The power of timelapse to tell a story, especially one that is told over a long period of time, is fantastic. This is by Christoph Rehage and was created from footage over a year. A bit longer than our school holidays allow…

Have you used a time lapse sequence in a video? Are you inspired to give it a go? Why not join in the fun!

Blogging with Zing

Last week I spent some time with some teachers from our school at our first ‘iTips’ workshop. We looked at how to create some extra Zing to our classroom blogs and I thought I’d share 3 things I do to personalise them and make them stand out a bit more.

1. Headers

– I use Comiclife, which is a mac and pc programme, to create a lot of graphics and visuals for my blogs. Pretty much all my classroom titles, labels and posters are made on this. By downloading and inserting some images from google, even the examples in this picture of some free icons I downloaded (by searching ‘free icon download png’) to put behind the text. Gives it a bit more bling , I reckon.
The best kinds of graphics to download and put on your header is the ‘png’ file. These graphics have the file with ONLY the image in them. It;s like they have the white background sort of cut away with scissors. These are great to put on top of other images or even the text as there isn’t a white box around the image. Try it. You’ll see what I mean. Use the ‘arrange / bring to the front or back’ feature in comiclife to change the orientation of the images.
Here’s a review video of comiclife as a taster. Search around and you’ll find LOTS of tutorial videos on youtube to get you more confident!

2. Pictures as links
The side bars on blogs are a great way to direct your readers, students to the sites you want them to visit. One obvious way is to use text as a link and there are a few different standard gad
gets to help you do this. I use these for lists of links but one of my favourite ways to link on the sidebar is using a picture as t
he link. I think this is far enticing for the reader and adds some visual effect to the look of your blog.
You can insert a gadget called PICTURE and use a screen shot of the site you want the link to go to. There’s a space to include the website link (URL) and away you go! Screen shots are one of the greatest things ever – hold down shift / command / 4 and ‘frame’ the image that you want to capture. (For PC users the keys are different. Try this link)
3. Installing a ‘third party’ blogger template.
This is one of the greatest tips for revolutionising your blog – and one that I’ve noticed is not readily used by many teachers. Third party refers to a source away from the original, in this case blogger. You can alter your blogger blog (or most other platforms*) inside the design feature which can look great. But for an even more custom, original look you can search through a massive range of templates by google searching ‘blogger templates download’ as an example.

Here’s a site I’ve used a few times – btemplates.com. It has some great search filters that help you find the template for you, such as searching by colour, structure or even key word tags. There are a lot of videos that show you how to complete this process and, with a little playing around (a few templates might have some gadgets that aren’t working or might not allow you to add you’re own zingy header at the top) you’ll find one that suites you.
Here’s a tutorial from a guy with a fascinating accent. There are plenty out there!
So, there’s just 3 little techniques that can create a great blog. One last thing to get you going even further is to look at lots of other blogs and see what they’re using. It’s a great source of inspiration to ‘borrow’ another person’s idea. Just click on the gadget or look for clues at the bottom for a website where it originated. There’s nothing like a little google search to satisfy that curiosity of ours.

Here are some links of some blogs to inspire you!
* This is my new ‘Bazinger‘ footnote – a word I’ve stolen from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and my signal for a jargon word.
Platform – in this sense it’s a form of blogging programme that you can use. Examples could be blogger, wordpress, tumblr or posterous.

Improving our teaching practice

Ever since I started training as a teacher I realised there was lots for me to learn. Now that I’ve been teaching for a while I’ve realised that I didn’t know the half of it! Any teacher who thinks they know it all – or even feels satisfied with their own practice – probably looks like this guy!

There’s a saying I started using a while ago (and have probably used on this blog a few times over the last three years) and repeat often – ‘Every teacher has a veneer of confidence covering a sea of insecurity!’ Every time I use it with another teacher I see a wry smile of familiarity with a touch of relief thrown in that says, ‘Oh, …I’m not the only one!’ We feel insecure, I think, because teaching is such an art with so many constantly moving variables… many of which are out of our control. But – many aren’t, which is why we are always learning and striving to be our best – or should be.
This year our ICT cluster has begun a journey of using the Teacher Inquiry Model to improve the use of eLearning and ICT in our classrooms. The focus is the area of student learning we would like to see developed with improved outcomes while the strategies are the tools / practises or techniques we will use to achieve those outcomes. The shift that many teachers are making this term is seeing an ICT tool as the strategy, not the focus. So, podcasting becomes a strategy to improve my focus of engaging reluctant writers rather than wanting to use podcasting in my class and seeing how it benefit the students writing. This has been an important part of the process and many teachers are beginning some amazing projects – from yes, podcasting to blogging and all sorts of other ‘mashups’ of technology that are looking like making some fantastic gains for our students.
This graph, below is something I’ve been creating in popplet – a mix between wallwisher and mindmeister (or a graphic organiser and online yellow stickies). It’s been a brilliant tool for guiding a teacher to create some strategies they will use to help them achieve their focus. The inside (coloured) ideas are some different forms that strategies could take. The outside (grey) ideas are the kinds of eLearning strategies that could help those strategies.
This example of the popplet is just a screen shot of the dynamic version – which you can embed into a blog and people can add to. Because I’m adding to it as we go I’ve posted a jpg as an archive. I imagine that this chart could be used to reflectively examine our teaching practice at any time, regardless of whether we are completing a formal teacher inquiry or not.
Some questions to ask…
– in what parts of our practice are we simply missing the mark?
– what kinds of strategies could we try using to improve it?
– what or who could help us?
– how are you sharing / reflecting your ideas?

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