Category Archives: Tech

Using Piktochart in Class

Being a keen follower of twitter I was very pleased to spot a couple of tweets by  @ictevangelist about using infographics and in class.

I had toyed with using Adobe publisher for creating infographics and written about it in an earlier post, and if you want a vast variety of tools and colours and complete control over the layout, then that is the program for you. It is, however, a very technical program and it does take time to produce results. Unless you have a class with very strong design skills using a program of this nature is probably a step too far.

I enjoy pottering around with tech and trying new programs but I did find Illustrator tricky to get going and it took a long time, great if you have the time, but probably not ideal for a lesson.

I have a Y9 group who I see twice a fortnight, as a result, I do additional tasks with them that support the main teacher. The unit we are doing at the moment is Blood Brothers, building up to an exam later in the year. As it is the start of a new term, I am in the position that the main teacher hasn’t seen the group yet, and I am not covering the text with them, so I needed to think of something linked to the text for the two lessons I have with them this week. The obvious choice was some background research into some of the key elements of the play.

However, the prospect of watching a group copy and paste chunks from wikipedia or some other site, was not what I was looking for. To create a really effective piece of research, I wanted the group to select material carefully and think of ways to present the information in a more interesting way. That is where infographics seemed to fit the bill.

Having read about it on @ictevangelist’s blog, I decided to give Piktochart a go. I was a little concerned as there is sometimes a difference between what I can access as a teacher and what the students can. To cover this eventuality, I gave the group a choice of programs. The topics the students were to look at were: the 1960s – 1980s, Liverpool and Skelmersdale and the theme of fate. I showed the group several examples of infographics from the site 40coolinfographics to give the class a chance to see what they could look like. I then showed them the Piktochart site via the whiteboard and showed them an example I had made that morning. I showed them where the tools were and how to access them, and also how to move items and change colours, then they were off on the task.I hadn’t been aware that there was a limit of 1 image that could be uploaded, but that is really a bonus as it means they have to select their image carefully.

The vast majority of the group decided to try Piktochart, the remainder chose to make a Prezi instead. There was much more focus on the program than on copying chunks of text and some of the pieces in progress are looking pretty good. The group complete their work and printed it out to stick into their English books with their main teacher.

Definitely a real win, they class enjoyed using the program and it was very simple for them to use with minimal support.

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Creating Revision Resources Using Toondoo

As we are at the time of year that the focus shifts onto Y11 exam preparation, I have been looking for new ways to present the key information they need. I wanted to avoid dull presentation like printing out exam dates for display, as most of the time, students pay little attention. I decided that we needed something that is more visually appealing and that brought me  to one of @teamtaits tweets. The tweet mentioned using Toondoo as a free tool to produce cartoons of key ideas.

The site itself is easy to navigate and, although creating your own cartoon character does take a little time, it does save for future use, which wasn’t a possibility with some of the free sites I have used. I decided to create two cartoon characters, one very loosely representing me (Cartoon me has had a bit of a nip and tuck) and one for the Head of English. I created two posters, one as a teaser about key exam nuggets of information and one outlining the exam dates.

They were relatively quick to produce and easy to save onto my laptop, I also converted them to PDF so I could email them. We have printed them on A3 in colour for display. The future ‘nuggets’ will also include a QR code for the students to scan to upload further information.. So overall a very good set of resources.

Socrative – A Really Useful Addition To Your Teaching Tools

As seems to be the norm at the moment, I have been finding all sorts of useful tools on the internet. I found Socrative on a list of Web 2.0 tools. Although we have SMART response in school, I have only had a brief training session on them and need to learn how to use them. Socrative seemed to be similar, but without the fuss. One of the things I liked about Socrative was that I could set things up at home and use them in school.

I have completed three trials with Socrative, with a range of different classes to explore how it works and also how the classes respond to it.

Trial 1

My first trial was a quiz on ‘Of Mice and Men’ for my top set Year 10 class. As Socrative can be used on iPhones, Android as well as via 3G and on PC I thought I would try allowing the pupils to use their own mobile devices. As this was the first time I had used this, I tried to keep the task as simple as possible.

The students were very keen to use their phones, but not all could access this – even students with the same types of phone. In the end, they got into groups with someone with a device that worked and completed the quiz that way. They enjoyed the task and being able to show them who had responded was useful. Even more useful was the option on Socrative to download an Excel spreadsheet of the results, allowing the teacher to review the responses.

Due to the technical issues, I decided not to carry on using the program during the lesson.

Trial 2

For the second lesson, I tried the program using a class set of laptops. I planned two tasks – a quiz and an Exit Ticket. It was much quicker loading up the program on the laptops and generally the program worked well, but for the reasons outlined below we only did the quiz.

I encountered two main difficulties, firstly the randomise answers option seemed to move the answers but not which one was correct, so students were marked wrong for correct answers. The second problem was really down to my choice of class. This was a group of Year 10 students who I see once a fortnight. I thought that they would enjoy the change of task, but in retrospect my relationship with the group was not good enough to trial something new. However, several students did say that they had enjoyed using the program.

Trial 3

My most recent trial was with my Y12 Film Studies class. I decided to use the quiz tool as a starter and to assess whether the group had been covering the revision topics they had been given. Using the downloadable Excel template, I created a 20 question multiple choice quiz. The template was very simple to use, allowing me to write the quiz and check it belore uploading it to Socrative.The feedback form would show me student responses, allowing me to make revision tasks more targeted.

I also decided to use the Exit Ticket tool. This asks students:

  • How well did you understand today’s material?
  • What did you learn today? – very useful to check that what we think a class are learning and what they think they are learning are the same!
  • Please solve the problem on the board – a final plenary question
  • There is also an option to pass the Exit Ticket to another student, great if they need to share a device.

With an iPad it is very straightforward, as the App sits on the desktop and one click allows the student to login, unfortunately for me, we don’t have them so my trial was done on laptops.

The Y12s reacted very well to the quiz, they enjoyed it and the whole class found it easy to login.

The Exit Ticket was the best part, each student worked through the prompts and identified the areas they felt they needed more work on. This was very simple to view through the Excel feedback form – I could see at a glance who was confident and which specific areas needed more work.

Final Thoughts

Socrative is an excellent program, currently free as it is in the beta testing phase. It has some very useful features and is simple to use. Definitely worth a try.

Infographics

It has been hard to ignore the rise of the infographic on the web. The colourful and exciting presentation of information turns data into an art form. There are plenty of sites that you can search to find examples that would help in your teaching, for example visual.ly:

Many infographics are designed to be viewed on the web, but they can also make interesting posters to introduce or revise a topic.
How Easy is it to Make an Infographic?
While there are hundreds of fantastic examples available online, sometimes I can’t find exactly what I was looking for. So the obvious solution was to try to make one myself.
I decided to make a revision infographic for my Year 10 and 11 classes who are studying ‘Of Mice and Men’ for the OCR A663 exam. This was a bigger task than Word could cope with, so I chose to use Adobe Illustrator – the only problem, I had never used the program before. A little web-surfing turned up a helpful tutorial to use as a starting point. From there, it was a matter of trial and error. It has taken a few hours to get to this point, some of which is down to my lack of familiarity with Illustrator, but overall I am happy with what I have produced so far.

Partially Completed Infographic

I’ll upload the finished piece when I have completed it – I need to decide what to put in the final sections.

Using SideVibe in Class

In my last post I wrote about my experiment with SideVibe, as suggested by @coolcatteacher. I had decided to try it with two groups – a Year 9 class, during lesson time, and a Y12 class for revision homework.

I have now used SideVibe with my Y9 class, looking at some short stories – below is the verdict, mine and theirs!

The Lesson

I had selected two very short stories from Short Stories at East of the Web – the site allows you to search by genre, age range and length. I then prepared a series of relatively simple questions on each of the stories for the students to comment on. I used the ‘Written Response’, ‘Ranking’ and ‘Discussion’ task options. I also used the ‘Multiple choice’ option and a free text  to get feedback from the class.

Logging In

Getting the class onto the site was relatively painless. I had produced a Powerpoint showing them what to do and included the teacher reference. We did find that, when they went to the first ‘vibe’, the website did not show up. This was down to the school system not fully downloading the page and was easily sorted.

Classwork

The class worked through the tasks at varying speeds as the tasks allowed them to work at their own pace. I could keep track on their work by circulating and also by checking the feedback option on the teacher site.

Feedback

I had only spent a short amount of time producing the ‘vibes’ and some of the tasks were a little repetitive, however the group as a whole seemed to like what they were doing. They particularly enjoyed the ‘Discussion’ task as it brings up the responses of their classmates and allows them to respond. This would need to be used carefully and with clear rules, with some groups, to avoid rude comments, but each comment is logged to an individual student and therefore any misuse provides clear evidence! As it was, only a couple of the group made silly comments and they were daft rather than malicious.

The ‘Feedback’ option allows teachers to feedback to individual students – this is something I will explore with the Y12 homework task.

Via the ‘Feedback’ option, it was also possible to create reports of the student responses for all tasks or for each individual task – this could allow you to stick the work into their books. It also means that you could evaluate responses from a whole class pretty quickly, so if the tasks were designed to test particular skills you could use it as a snapshot diagnostic tool.

About 75% of the class said they enjoyed the tasks – although, I would certainly work on improving the tasks when doing this again. I also gave the group the chance to tell me what they thought could be  improved – here are a selection of their comments:

Comments From Y9

Overall

Definitely worth using. The tasks are easy to set up and allow students to work at their own pace.

Teaching 2.0 – Prezi and SideVibe

It is often said that one of the only constants in education is change. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes anything but. Technology is rapidly developing and becoming a core part of many classrooms.

When I started teaching (a mere 11 years ago), the height of technology – at my school – was an OHP, a bookable computer suite and a photocopier. Go back a few more years, when I was at school myself, we had a typing room and ‘the’ school computer.

The danger is that technology is often used without any thought of whether it is useful or practical. Hours of my time have been spent on resource creation for VLEs, and other forms of technology, that have then been discarded almost before the resources have been used, so I always like to run a few trials before committing myself to a new piece of teaching kit. I will try a new piece of tech, or a new teaching idea, with a class or two and ask the following:

  1. Does it engage the learners?
  2. Does it help them make progress?
  3. Is it easy to use?
  4. Does it take longer to produce a lesson or resource than the students will take to complete it?

I am going to explore some of the technologies available to classroom teachers.

Prezi

I have been toying with Prezi on and off for the past couple of years. Prezi offers teachers and students a free educational licence at prezi.com . It certainly impresses the students and allows a smoother transition from text to YouTube clips than Powerpoint does. Although easy to use, it can be time consuming to create. Used in a lesson, it really just does what Powerpoint does, in a rather more attractive way. However, for me, where Prezi really comes into its own is through the use of the ‘path’ tool that allows you you direct the viewer. This is great for tasks where a series of clips are being explored – for example for analysis in Media Studies – or for revision materials to be viewed outside school. It is also very useful for students to create interesting presentations.

This is an example of a revision Prezi I created for WJEC Film Studies FM4 Urban Stories.

SideVibe

This is another idea I picked up from Twitter, this time from @coolcatteacher. SideVibe is a free tool that allows you to create online worksheets that ‘float’ over webpages. Teachers can sign up for an account at SideVibe.com and students can get a free account.

Screen Shot of SideVibe Sign Up Page

When you sign up you download a toolbar that allows you to select any website you brouse. This ‘companion’ will let you select sites and create mini worksheets that allow you to ask students to respond to the material.

It can be used with a whiteboard, but my initial trials will be restricted to a series of homework revision tasks for my Y12 Film Studies class and a lesson on short stories for Year 9. I created 6 revision ‘vibes’ pretty quickly; the ‘vibes’ for Y9 took longer, mainly as I had to come up with a series of questions the group could do in class. As a back up, I have decided that we will look at the stories on the whiteboard if there are problems with students logging in. I have also decided to be brave and ask for feedback both on SideVibe and what would make the lesson better – a bit nervous about that, but nothing ventured…

I will feed back once my classes have had a chance to use them.