iOS 12 – Some Features Parents Might Like

iOS 12 will be released later this month. I have looked at the new and improved features that are available and some of them look impressive. The one new feature that really caught my eye is the new Screen Time feature which will enable parents to monitor their children’s screen time. It can also give parents a breakdown of exactly which apps their children have been using and for how long. Parents can also set times for screen time and children can request more if necessary. Screen Time certainly looks useful for parents who are struggling to manage their children’s screen time at home.

For more information on the new features in iOS 12 and especially Screen Time, take a look HERE.

 

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Water is a Universal Topic

Last week the Grade 5 Rainbirds held a Skype call with a Grade 5 class in New Jersey, USA. They discussed the water crisis and Day Zero in the Western Cape, particularly in Cape Town. Our students shared how we are all working together to save water with measures such as short showers, grey water flushing, rainwater collection, etc. It was an eye-opener for the US students who were planning a fundraising drive to assist water stricken areas in Africa. The teacher had sent a set of questions for our students to discuss and prepare for in advance, so we knew what to expect as time was limited.

With Skype, we managed to connect despite a 6-hour time difference between New Jersey and Cape Town. We were ending our school day, just as they were beginning theirs. This was real-life learning across the oceans!

 

Bring Out the Magnificence

I recently had the privilege of listening to Steve Sherman (@livingmaths) speak at our school at a workshop he hosted for our staff. One statement he made really resonated with me:

“If you dismiss a child you might be dismissing magnificence in your presence”.

I found this to be a profound statement. It made me stop and think. The students in our care are brimming with untapped talents, possibilities and potential brilliance. It is our duty as educators to spark their curiosity, to awaken their passions and to tap into their potential so that we may all experience that magnificence. Yesterday I witnessed a snippet of what I believe Steve was alluding to in his statement.

Our Grade 4s have been learning about the nine provinces of South Africa. One of our music teachers created a little song for them to sing in order to learn the names of the provinces. The teachers, however, were mulling over how to create a video using the song, to show the students where these provinces are situated within South Africa, and they had not yet come to a solution for the video. One of the teachers, Mrs Duminy, mentioned their dilemma to her students and she asked them for their ideas and suggestions and left it there. One of her students, Alon, took up the challenge. He went home and, with the help of his sister, he put together a simple but clever video.

Alon went away having listened very carefully to his teacher’s needs and while I think the video is great, for me the “magnificence” of this lies in the process behind it. Alon acted upon his own initiative, he made his own choices and decisions. This was not a teacher-driven activity. He problem-solved by brainstorming the possibilities and then carefully chose the tools he thought would work best and put together a video that works – simple but effective! Not only that, but once he had created the video, he created a QR code with a link to the video in his Google Drive, printed it out, stuck it on the wall in his classroom and shared the video with his peers in this manner. In other words, he considered the needs of his peers too as he carefully considered the best way to share the video with them. To top it all he roped in his equally talented sister, Daniella, to sing the song for the video backtrack with him and it sounds delightful. In doing all this, Alon created a video that his teacher can now use as a teaching aid in the classroom. I do know that Mrs Duminy was delighted with the result because she excitedly came to call me to her classroom to come and watch Alon’s video.

Teachers need to create more opportunities such as this to allow the magnificence of the children we work with to shine through. We must not underestimate them, they need the space and opportunities to bring out their  “magnificence”. Our students will surprise us every day.

Alon used the following apps and tools for his video:

Piccollage

iMovie

Phonto

Google Docs

Google Chrome

Google Drive

Dafont.com

Documents 5

Photos

https://createqrcode.appspot.com/ (to create the QR code).

Below is the video created by Alon (click on the image below). Well done, Alon. I am very proud of you!

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Get your Google on!

In the past two weeks a colleague and I have written, and passed, our Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications! It’s been a whirlwind of Google Apps, training sessions, self-study and then two three-hour exams. It sounds awful but actually, it was not bad at all and is very achievable for all educators.

The first certification Google Educator Level 1, expects you to have a brief overview and basic working knowledge of G Suite for Education apps such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides and others such as YouTube and Sites. The online training provided by Google is very thorough and one comes away with much learning. For this certification, however, we opted to attend a Boot Camp hosted by an outside company during the school holidays, as we were unsure of the expectations or the level of knowledge expected. It was most enjoyable and inspiring – and not too difficult! We both passed the test well within the 180-minute time limit.

We left the Boot Camp very inspired and curious about the Level 2 certification, so almost immediately we began investigating our options. We decided to go it on our own and over the next week we worked through all the online training and reviews provided by Google in the Google For Education Training Center. Level 2 is a step up from Level 1 and requires you to have a more in-depth knowledge of the pedagogy behind effective use of technology in the classroom, as well as a deeper knowledge of the G Suite apps, including new ones such as Blogger, Google Hangouts, Google+ and a few others. The test is, however, still very achievable for educators who use the Google Suite apps regularly in their teaching and student learning.

So, on a sunny Sunday morning, we sat down in our school library with the musical sounds of the church service in the hall next door providing us with some divine background inspiration and wrote the Level 2 test. We again completed the test well within the 180 minutes and passed! We can now call ourselves Google Certified Educators – Level 2.

I can highly recommend these certifications for teachers interested in furthering their knowledge of effective use of technology in the classroom, or if you are a Google Suite for Education user and you would like to expand your knowledge of these apps. For your trouble, you will receive a certificate and a badge that you can display on your blog or website (see mine below). I have learnt so much during the past few weeks, and it has inspired me to pass on this knowledge to my fellow teachers at school.

This blog post by Kasey Bell provides some very valid reasons for becoming a Google Certified Educator.

 

2017 iPad Photography Competition Winners

Last Friday we announced the winners of this year’s iPad Photography Competition. The judges had quite a task to judge the winning entries, there were so many stunning photos.

Miss Crous blogged about the winners on the Elkanah House Senior Primary Creative Arts blog. Read all about it HERE or click on the image below

We are very grateful to our sponsors Digicape, Think Ahead and Chrome Import & Distribution for their fantastic prize donations.

Let’s Get Hyper About HyperDocs!

A HyperDoc is a Google platform to encourage deeper learning and ensure that sound pedagogy is at the centre of learning tasks. It can be in the form of a Google Doc, a Google Slide Deck, a Google Map or Google Sites. Recently educators have also been using other tools such as Book Creator and Deck.Toys (an interesting new tool that has been brought to my attention) to deploy their HyperDocs. Teachers are innovative beings and it is for this very reason that HyperDocs appeal to them. They allow for creativity in design and offer students an enriched learning experience.

Originally developed by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, HyperDocs have been around for a little while. However, as with anything technological, especially in education, they took a while to gain momentum, particularly in South Africa. However, after attending the last Google Summit, I just knew I HAD to share HyperDocs with our teachers. I knew they would find them exciting, and I wasn’t wrong.

 

IMG_3049

My very own copy!

 

To prepare myself, I bought my own copy of The HyperDoc Handbook written by the three ladies I mentioned above. I was very excited when it arrived and I had reason to be. What a well-written, clearly explained, hands-on book it is. There is no way you can go wrong if you follow the steps in the book. There is solid pedagogy behind the concept of HyperDocs.

HyperDocs are NOT worksheets. They do not replace worksheets. Although they might sometimes look like worksheets, they demand far more from both the teacher and the student (if correctly constructed).

A HyperDoc is:

  • a launch pad or platform for engaging teaching and learning – almost like a stepping stone to deeper learning.
  • “A great interactive and engaging platform that should be used to launch a learning rocket!” – I loved this quote from one of my colleagues made after our first HyperDocs session. I think he summed it up beautifully.

HyperDocs should contain or reflect:

  • sound pedagogy.
  • a learning cycle – either the HyperDocs Learning Cycle or another of your choice.
  • the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning – communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
  • scaffolded learning in cleverly designed tasks – both on paper and including the use of various tech tools. Not everything has to be done on an iPad!
  • interactive opportunities for the students, including videos, texts, links and other resources.
  • possible differentiation for students to work at their own pace.
  • vibrant, attractive appeal for students – no more boring worksheets! The possibilities are endless.
  • adaptability to the needs of both the teachers and the students.
  • a greater understanding of the SAMR model and encourages moving through the different levels to Redefinition.

After the very first session in which I introduced our teachers to HyperDocs, I could see that I had offered them something that really sparked their interest, and that evening, even though I had not yet completed the HyperDoc training with the staff, I already had the first one shared with me by one of the teachers! That has never happened before. Since then we have completed the HyperDocs training and a number of the other teachers have also created and shared their home-grown HyperDocs with me. Are they perfect? No, they aren’t, but they are certainly on the right track and with guidance they will get there. Their lessons will evolve, problems will be ironed out and their teaching and learning will change in ways we never imagined. The important point to note is that the students enjoyed the new approach and enjoyed participating and completing the tasks set by the teachers. Should all lessons now be presented in HyperDoc format? No, I don’t think so. They lend themselves to a project-based learning approach and so themes and concepts that require deeper learning that can be spread over a longer period of time are most suited to this approach. Having said that though, there is no harm in creating a short, punchy, to-the-point HyperDoc to cover a single topic or smaller section of work.

The authors of the HyperDoc Handbook have created a website full of resources, examples, tips and advice for creating HyperDocs. I urge you to go and take a look, but beware – it’s like jumping down a rabbit hole! You won’t be sorry though.

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 12.05.01 PM

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A very simple example of a HyperDoc about HyperDocs.

 

Three Years of 1:1 iPads

Penguins_ Inserting graphs into keynote

This July marked the three-year anniversary of the introduction of our 1:1 iPad program at the Senior Primary.

What a challenging, interesting and eventful three years it has been! It has been a steep learning curve for the teachers, as they adapted their teaching to include the use of the iPads. For some it was easier than others; some faced personal fears and technology inhibitions, but they all embraced the iPads and invited them into their classrooms, embarking on a journey of discovery, learning and innovation. It has not always been an easy journey and tough questions have been asked along the way, but after three years we can honestly say that we are not sorry that we made the decision to infuse the use of technology into our teaching practices and we certainly do not regret that the iPad was our device of choice. While there is much competition now from other tablet brands, it is still the leading tablet used in education around the world.

The implementation of Google’s  G Suite and Google Classroom has completely changed the way in which teaching and learning happen in our school. To assist our teachers we implemented Friday FaceTime sessions in which professional development around the use of technology in the classroom takes place. These sessions have been invaluable in informing the teachers about best practice and focusing mostly on pedagogy, not the technology. Most recently the teachers were introduced to HyperDocs, a Google platform to encourage deeper learning and ensure that sound pedagogy is at the centre of learning tasks. The teachers were enthused by HyperDocs and many of them jumped at the opportunity to create their own. It was wonderful to witness their excitement and it really drove home the point that teachers are lifelong learners.

Our school is considered to be a leader in the field of technology use in the classroom and we often get visiting teachers from other schools who pop in to come and talk about our approach and how we have implemented the use of iPads over the years. It is only when we have these conversations that we realise how far we have come since our pilot project was launched in 2012. We definitely do not profess to getting it right all the time, and our journey is far from over. As a school, we constantly reflect on our practices and question our methods and intentions. In a recent teacher survey, the teachers were asked to look back at the past three years and reflect on their learning and teaching with the iPads. Here are some of their comments:

  • The constant training and support available for the teachers are wonderful.
  • In my class technology is always used constructively. We have never just ‘played’ on it.
  • I think we have a lovely system is in place. The children use and look after their iPads as if they are part of them. They have become part of our learning day. The children understand when they are to be used as an educational tool and there is a very definite line when they can be used for other purposes.
  • The discipline and problems with games have improved over time. The pupils are more confident using technology and are in touch with using their devices on a daily basis.
  • We have a balance between iPads and working in books. iPads have become a necessity in our teaching. They make lessons interesting and enable children to create in different ways. Google Classroom is a great platform for sharing.
  • Looking at learners coming in from other schools, we expose our children to amazing technology usage and skills.
  • We are constantly improving and moving forward. Integrated Learning Tasks and Deeper Learning Tasks are wonderful. Having someone push us and keep on track is important.
  • The students coming up now are way more competent than in previous years. Reliable Wi-Fi has made the world of difference.
  • The Technology Superhero Stop Motion project is excellent!
  • The children understand that the iPad is a tool that must always be at school, and many of the tasks both teach the kids and make them excited to be involved.