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!

 

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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:

Blogging with Google

Way back in August 2013, I blogged about setting up our grade and student blogs, and about encouraging our teachers and students to blog. I still firmly believe in our reasons for blogging and I am even more happy that we are still on this journey. Our grade blogs are growing in momentum and this year particularly, we have seen an improvement in the number of posts and in the quality. We are really proud of these weekly updates, and we are encouraged by the ever-increasing numbers of parent followers.

We use WordPress.com for our grade blogs, and until August last year, used the Kidblog platform for our students. Unfortunately Kidblog did away with their free accounts and their pricing structure was not budget friendly (considering the Rand/US dollar exchange rate). As a result I had to go on a search for another blogging platform for our students. I considered WordPress, but then it dawned on me that since we are a Google school, we should look to Google for a solution – and there it was – Google Blogger! It is user friendly and simple in look and feel, so it would be perfect for our students. The only problem was that Kidblog had provided a very secure platform for children, with the students being very protected within its platform. I love a challenge, so I set out to create a similar environment with Blogger. This is the process I followed:

  1. Set up a class blog for the teacher eg. Pelicans 2016.
  2. Invite the teacher as an author and once accepted, change the teacher to an admin.
  3. Get the students to sign up for a Blogger blog with their school Google email addresses. (We used a set URL protocol so that all our student blog addresses are similar in format).
  4. Add the teacher as an author and once accepted, change to admin.
  5. Set up comments to be moderated by the teacher, always.
  6. Set the blogs to Public so that they can comment on each other’s posts and invite their parents to comment too.
  7. Get the students to submit their blog URLs via a Google form (per class).
  8. Use the form response spreadsheet to create a blog roll of the student blogs on each class blog.

Voila! Now each teacher controls a central class blog where all the student blogs are listed for ease of access by the teacher and the students. Instructions for blogging and commenting can be posted in the class blog by the teacher. It works like a charm – take a look at this example I set up as a test site last year: Pelicans.

Our guidelines for blogging are a minimum of a fortnightly blog post for Grade 4s and Grade 5s (until mid-year) and then weekly blog posts from mid Grade 5 and in Grade 6. Sometimes the teachers will provide specific topics and at other times the students are free to blog about a topic of their choice. Reflection on work is also important, so we will encourage this more this year. Our students are also expected to comment on three peer blogs after each blog post. This is to train them to comment correctly, in keeping with the commenting rules that they have been taught.

I am really excited by the Google Blogger set up for our students and I am confident that this is going to work well for us. (The only downside is the Blogger app that has been discontinued, but we are working on a Plan B). I look forward to sharing these blogs with our parents too, so that they can contribute their comments and take part in their children’s blogging experience.

*Update: We now blog with the BlogGo for Blogger app. It is a paid (but inexpensive) app that is very user-friendly and simple for our students to use. 

**Further Update – June 2017: BlogGo for Blogger has been shelved, so we now use Blogo (similar but not the same – and it’s free! It works for us!

pelicans

Skitch and Blogger Apps Discontinued?

skitchIn December I received notification via a website that I follow that Skitch, an image annotation app we that use, would be discontinued in late January. This was rather disappointing, as it was on our app list for 2016 and our teachers and students enjoy using it for its simplicity. I duly removed it from our app list and informed our staff and students that it would be discontinued, and that they did not need to download it.

Then, on Friday one of our students told me that Skitch was not discontinued and that it was still in the app store. I was a bit sceptical but today I checked, and I am happy to report that it is still there! I also checked the article on the AppAdvice website, and it definitely states that the app would be discontinued on 22 January 2016. It seems they have had a change of heart – good news for us!

bloggerOn another note, Google’s Blogger app was also on our app list for this year, as we moved our student blogs over from Kidblog to Blogger for this year. Once the parents started looking for Blogger in the App Store, I was notified that it was not there. I followed up and sure enough, it is not available anymore (I drew up the app list at the end of November 2015). I have scoured the Google forums for information about its disappearance, but other than coming across other users asking the same question, there is no reference to Blogger having been removed, and no explanation from Google itself.

I will look for an alternative, free blogging app, but for now Plan B is to blog through the Safari browser on the iPads.