Implications of iOS 10

small_logoWith the arrival of iOS 10 late last year, some of the older iPads were dealt what seemed to be a death knell, even if it was not an immediate one. Initially we thought it only applied to the iPad 2, but it later became clear that the iPad 3 and the iPad Mini (1st generation) were not included in the iOS 10 roll out because they simply do not have the processing power to run iOS 10 and they cannot keep up with the latest app requirements. As a school we were immediately faced with a problem – what would we now do with these devices? We have a bank of 25 iPad 2s in daily use and not all of our students have the latest devices either. In a school environment this could be very annoying. Would we have to replace our devices immediately?

Realistically one can understand this step taken by Apple. The iPad 2 was first launched in March 2011. At the rate that technology improves and rolls over these days the fact that it was still holding its own in 2016 as a five-year old device was impressive. At some point a device will go to technology heaven. The iPad 3 was launched in March 2012 with the same processor as the iPad 2, but with improved graphics. The first generation iPad Mini was launched late in 2012, also with the same processor, so now in 2017 these devices are by technology standards, “old”.

It is not all bad news, however. After doing a little research, it turns out that these devices will still work for the foreseeable future. How long exactly is not clear, but they will in all likelihood still receive app updates and be able to download older versions of most apps (the trend thus far has been two years). However, no apps requiring iOS 10 will be compatible. The latest iOS update for these devices is 9.3.5, but while these devices will need to be replaced eventually, this means that we can continue to use these devices as we were for a little longer, until planning and budgets allow for device upgrades. I believe there are still people using their old first generation iPads (2010), although the apps are now very limited. Typical issues displayed by an aging device are poor battery life, slow processing speed and inferior graphics.

Some of the latest, most current apps require serious processing power as only provided by the later iPads, the iPad Air and iPad Pro. One such app is the Apple Coding app, Swift Playgrounds which was launched in late 2016. We found out the hard way, unfortunately. After attending an Hour of Code workshop at a local Apple reseller in early December, a colleague and I were enthused and fired up to roll out Swift Playgrounds with our students in 2017 (our students used code.org last year). It soon became clear that the iPad 4 (Nov 2012), despite running iOS 10 with a faster processor and more RAM, would not run Swift Playgrounds either. We will now have to go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative plan, as there are a fair number of our students still using the older devices, especially the iPad 4.

To find out what model iPad you have, look on the back of your device. It is written in microscopic lettering. Alternatively on your device, go to Settings/General/Regulatory and you will find your model number at the top. Below is a useful table from www.macworld.co.uk which will clarify which model of iPad you have:

ipads

 

Balance and Best Practice

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Our students use iPads in the classroom. From Grade 1 to Grade 3 they use class sets and share devices, and from Grade 4 to Grade 6 (at our Senior Primary School) each student has a privately-owned device in a 1:1 environment. This means that our students have the benefit of a very powerful device as an additional tool in their learning toolkit. And that is exactly what it is – another option, along with the books, paper, pencils and crayons they already have. The iPad does not replace any of these and it should not.

In our 1:1 roll out we have been very intentional in stressing to our teachers that basic skills such as reading and writing are still very important in the whole education of a child. In designing and planning their lessons, our teachers are tasked with ensuring that they make use of the best tools available for that lesson – the tools that ensure the best outcome for the students and the most learning. If that means that a more conventional non-technology lesson is what is required, then that is the way to go. However, since our teachers are also striving to use the technology to modify and redefine their lessons (driven by the SAMR model), it also requires them to rethink their own teaching methods and styles and reimagine their lessons. That is a good thing! In doing so they incorporate many of the vital basic skills into their iPad lesson design and so our students are still reading, writing, drawing, counting, discussing, debating, contributing and LEARNING.

We do not stipulate the number of lessons or hours we expect our teachers to use the iPads in their teaching. Regular teacher reflection (vital for successful teaching regardless of methods or tools used) and open discussion takes place to keep the balance. Balance is extremely important and in a world where children are glued to screens for a large portion of their free time, screen time in school needs to be highly effective and for the best reasons. Our students need to use their iPads to create, show their thinking, collaborate, design and showcase, so typing up of documents and filling in online worksheets is not high up on our priority list.

Our whole approach is about balance and best practice – and so it should be.

An iPad Photography Competition with Google

Recently we ran an iPad Photography Competition at our school for the first time. It was a great success and the students took the most amazing photographs. We certainly have some budding photographers! (See the winning photos below). It also showed us what an iPad camera is capable of.

This is how we went about creating the competition and communicating with the students using the Google tools available to us as GAFE school:

  • Set up an iPad Photography Competition Google Classroom.
  • Create a QR-code for the Class Code to join the Google Classroom if they wish to enter the competition.
  • Design a poster to advertise the competition, showing the QR-code and the competition closing date.
  • Decide on the categories and number of entries allowed per category (we decided upon one entry in a maximum of three categories). We had a panel of four teachers working on this competition, so it was a collaborative decision. Share this to the Google Classroom in a view-only Google Doc for the entrants to access.
  • Create a Google Slides entry template, upload it to the Google Classroom and set it to download one copy per student. By creating a template with a place to insert the photograph and a prepared text box for the student’s name, class, category and photo title, it saved us a lot of time at the end when we saved the presentation as a PDF for judging, and all the important information was already on each slide.
  • Draw up a How To Enter document with clear guidelines and upload it to the Google Classroom.
  • Find sponsors for the prizes. This year Digicape was very generous in sponsoring six R1000.00 gift vouchers – one for each of the category winners! The school sponsored the runners-up prizes with six iTunes vouchers.
  • Launch the competition in style! We are fortunate to have a student teacher at our school who is a very keen photographer. He gave a presentation on how to take photographs, what to look for, what to avoid and other tips and hints, so the students were well prepared. It was clear to see which students had taken his advice with their photographs – and who had not! He also shared some of his own beautiful photographs with the students. The presentation created and air of excitement and as soon as the advertising posters went up, we had scores of students signing up to the Google Classroom.

After the competition closed, we were able to save the individual entry slides into one big Google Slides presentation and then we exported it as a PDF (to prevent any accidental loss of information or images) for judging. It was then easy to scroll through the whole presentation and see each image displayed full screen via a projector. The judging, done by five judges, including one of our Grade 11 Visual Arts students, took many hours and some tough decisions, but finally six winners, six runners-up and a number of highly commended photos were decided upon.

Why Google Classroom?

  • It is available to all our students and they are very familiar with how it works, as it is widely used by staff in our school.
  • You can create an assignment when sharing the Google Slides entry template and set a due date for the competition closing date.
  • All supporting information (categories, how to enter etc.) can be shared in one space, so that the students can easily find all the information they need. They then require no other teacher input (such as class teachers), as they can ask questions publicly or privately within the Google Classroom.
  • All the entries are submitted in one place, in the same format.
  • Any late submissions are marked as late, so you will know who missed the deadline.
  • If there are any additional announcements, they can be posted in the Classroom and each enrolled student will receive an email update.

Was is a success?

You judge for yourself ! Here are the top entries, including the winners and runners-up (click on the image):

winners

 

Thank you very much to Digicape for the fantastic prize sponsorship and well done and congratulations to the winners! This competition will definitely be repeated in 2017. Watch this space!

 

Finding Israel

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Pouring over the world map. (Notice the jackets turned inside out – just in case the other students looked up our school name on the internet. So funny!)

On Thursday another of our Grade 6 classes participated in a Mystery Skype, this time with a class in Israel. I put a call out over social media for a Mystery Skype partner and in no time, I got a response from a number of keen teachers. Unfortunately time zone differences made it very difficult to connect, but one connection really suited us well. Israel is an hour ahead of South Africa, so that was the deciding factor. We set up a date for 11 August and in preparation the Israeli teacher, Gali Lev Ari, shared with us the questions that her students would ask us. I shared these with the Grade 6 Kites class teacher, Mrs Kent, and she prepared her class for the Mystery Skype.

On the day the we had a crystal clear connection and immediately got to the task of finding out where in the world the other class was. Using iPads, Google Earth, Atlases and a good old-fashioned world map, our students put their heads together and got searching. It did not matter that our Skype friends were only in Grade 3 (from the Happy English School in Tel Aviv – they were participating in summer school, as it is actually their summer holiday now) and that English was not their first language. Through clever questioning (only yes/no answers allowed), slower speech and well phrased answers we were able to communicate well. Eventually, a clever guess led our students to discovering the location of the other class – in Israel! Just a few minutes later the other students found us in South Africa and then we ended off the Skype call with a question/answer session about our different countries and cultures. They were amazed to find out that we celebrate Christmas in summer!

Once again, through a simple yet structured activity, our students were able to call on map work (and other) skills learnt in class and apply them to find the other class. What a wonderful learning opportunity with many possibilities for future connections. The Kites class loved every minute!

 

Where In The World? It’s a Mystery!

Last week one of our Grade 6 classes participated in their first-ever Mystery Skype with a class in Argentina. What fun they had!

After a recent Mystery Skype connection fell through, I sent out an appeal over Twitter, looking for a class to Mystery Skype with and it wasn’t long when I received a response from a teacher in Argentina, Laura Bargas. Laura regularly does Mystery Skype calls with her class, so they are old hats at it. They were very keen to connect with us. We set up the call for the following Monday afternoon, taking into account the five-hour time difference.

A Mystery Skype works like this: Only the teachers know where in the world the other class is. The students have to, via a series of clever questions, find out exactly where in the world you are. These questions may only be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions and have to be cleverly thought out to get the most revealing information from the other class. All members of the class are involved. The class is divided into smaller groups and each group plays a different role. We had  Greeters  who said hello and told something about the class without giving away our location, Inquirers/Answerers who asked the questions and provided answers, Question Keepers who kept track of the questions and answers, Mappers who used maps, an atlas, Google Maps, etc. to hone in on the clues, a Digital Photographer who captured the call with an iPad, Logical Reasoners who used the clues to eliminate countries or cities that did not match the given clues and Runners who ran between the Inquirers and Logical Reasoners getting the answers and delivering them to the Answerers. It sounds complicated, but it worked like a well-oiled machine as the class teacher, Mrs Copeland, had prepared them well for their roles. This is important for a Mystery Skype to be successful.

Both teams asked good questions and it took only fifteen minutes for each class to discover the correct location of the other class – they we in Buenos Aires, Argentina! We then spent the next fifteen minutes sharing information about our cities, our schools and the climate – it was 8 degrees Celsius in Buenos Aires and about 15 degrees Celsius in Cape Town. This was a great learning experience for everyone. Our students loved it and are keen to repeat the experience. Mrs Copeland teaches all the Social Sciences classes for Grade 6, so we are on the look out for more Mystery Skype partners around the globe for the other three classes, for August.

If you’d like to learn more about Mystery Skype, I found these links to be particularly helpful:

Mrs Morgan’s Superstars – Skype Etiquette and Mystery Skype

Pernille Ripp – Mystery Skype Jobs Created by My Students

The Mystery Skype Call Lesson Plan

Here are some of the photographs taken during the call:

 

Apple Classroom – Now This Looks Interesting

Classroom+icon (1)iOS 9.3 has brought with it a number of features specifically for education. The one that interests me most at this stage is Apple Classroom. It does not hold much interest for parents or students specifically, but teachers might be very interested in the possibilities it holds for them in terms of iPad classroom management.

I find the name of the app a little annoying, especially when Google Classroom has been around for a while and now Microsoft has also bringing out Microsoft Classroom. This could be very confusing for teachers who are still trying to wrap their heads around the use of tools such as Google Classroom (as would be the case in GAFE schools), especially as they won’t yet have an understanding of exactly how different Apple Classroom and Google Classroom are until they actually work with both, and understand that they could use both quite effectively. However, iPad classroom management will look very different with the implementation of Apple Classroom and this is what, in my opinion, will appeal to teachers. I look forward to learning more about this product in training later this month.

Fraser Speirs, Head of Computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Greenock, Scotland, always gives very honest and straightforward feedback on Apple initiatives. His blog post about Apple Classroom is a very informative read.

Note: It has been brought to my attention that Apple Classroom only works on iPad 3 and later models. This might be a problem for schools where there are staff members and students still working with iPad 2s (such as our school). Also, the devices have to be supervised in a Mobile Device Management programme (which makes sense).

#PVSkype24

For the second year now, one of our classes has participated in the 24-hour Skype marathon hosted by Beverly Ladd and her Grade 2 students from Pine View Elementary in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. This year it was the turn of the Grade 5 Pelicans class and as before, it was a huge success!

Beverly started planning this all months ago – I received an email from her in October last year already, and once I had identified a class to participate in the Skype marathon (Skypathon). We were tasked with some preparation too. Out students had to prepare answers to some very thought-provoking questions, and this is where true learning came in. Not only were we going to learn about a class in a country on a continent thousands of kilometres away, but in preparation we were learning about our own community too. The questions posed by Beverly’s class were:

  1. How do students at your school get health care, education, and access to clean water in your community or country?
  2. What are the needs or wants of students in your school or local community? How can they be solved in a month from now, a year from now, or twenty years from now? (An example would be fundraiser to help cure diseases.)  
  3. Does your community or school receive support from any groups or individuals (i.e. school supplies, volunteers, financial support, etc.)? How does this make your community or school a better place.
  4. What do students at your school do to help protect the Earth? What could students at your school to make a greater impact?
  5. How can we positively take action and make decisions that support and nurture our environment and animals?
  6. What other global issues affect your school/community/country and how can you make a difference now and in the future?
  7. Teach or show something that is unique or special about your culture or your state/country that others should know.

On the day we were blessed with a crystal clear connection – even the visuals were clear. We were very thankful for our upgraded, fast and efficient fibre internet connection. We took turns to share the answers to our questions. We were interested to learn that their communities face many similar challenges as the communities here in our area, such as poverty and homelessness. We found it interesting that they have doctors and nurses at their schools so they can get medical care there, if necessary.

A highlight for us was when the US students sang their National Anthem for us. It was very moving – especially since they were about 20 hours into their 24-hour marathon!

Click on the image to view the video:

anthem

Our students greeted the US students in all 11 official languages and then two of our girls showed them what traditional Zulu dress looks like.

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I am now being pressured by our students to host our own Skype marathon, but I’m not sure if I’m up for a 24-hour stint. Twelve hours seems a good starting point. Watch this space!

A huge thanks to Beverly and her students for a very fruitful experience. They had some very tired little bodies, but it was wonderful to experience learning across the miles and around the globe!

Here are some more photos taken from our side: