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App of the Week - Tweetvox

Written by David on April 23rd, 2012.      0 comments



This new app is designed to be the next big thing. It’s aim is to make it bigger than Twitter. Despite the hype that surrounds it, the app actually has some great potential for the classroom. Its name is Tweetvox and as it name implies, it enables a user to send audio clips via social networks.

Obviously a school will have to enable access to Twitter, Four Square or Facebook for the app to fly.  This will mean that schools will have to think through all of the potential issues associated with Twitter accounts in classrooms, but for those that have already thought this through, this app has potential, especially when combined with the new timeline feature in Facebook.  I can see lots of Drama potential in using a tool like Tweetvox in conjunction with Facebook for example.  I can also see how debates and other oral language skills can be recorded, disected and examined as a series of tweets and Facebook updates.

Perhaps best of all, for those using Twitter to communicate with other classes, for collaboration around the world.  Tweetvox offers the potential to escape the 140 character limit and open up a recordable, archiveable collaborative dialogue for students and school administration alike.



Draw Something

Written by David on April 13th, 2012.      0 comments


Draw Something is the latest craze in the world of iOS and Android apps.  If you have not heard about it the basic premise is that you are given three words to choose from, you then have to draw the word and share your drawing with your friends, who then have to guess the word associated with your drawing.  To help, you are given a selection of scrambled letter tiles which include all the letters needed for the word you are trying to decypher from the image plus some others.  A screen looks like the following:


DrawSomethingHairtie DD 03052012

The purpose of the game is to earn coins which will enable you to unlock more colours to make your drawings more varied. However this is not the point for education. I think that this game, could be used as fantastic literacy warm up activity for students of any age. Students could all be able to set challenges for each other, so in one session a student could pick up a challenge from one student, guess it and then set another challenge for someone else. All of which would take less than 5 minutes. Using this game in class is a good example of using tablet devices to do more than busy work. By setting word challenges that have to be solved as an image, children are forced to think in terms of homonyms, to think of visual puns and the recipient of the challenge has to do this too and also has the added chalenge of using the letters to decypher anangrams. All of which are higher order thinking skills and make children focus on the meanings of words, great for vocabulary building and fun to boot.

As you earn more coins you can also unlock more words which get progressively harder and each challenge is graded as a one, two or three coin challenge. I have been playing this game with four others for a couple of weeks now and in all of that time I have only found one word which may cause some slight concern for a teacher and hilarity for the students. This app is a good example of how a tablet, or iOS device can be integrated into an existing class programme and have identified learning outcomes related to the curriculum and at the same time engage students in a task they will find engaging and authentic.




The Hunger Games

Written by David on April 3rd, 2012.      0 comments

Hunger games

Last week I was working in a school where they had asked me to help them integrate elearning into their class programme, specifically focussed around literacy.  I was working with two year 8 teachers who wanted to collaborate together on something over a long period of time, like a term.  As part of my usual ‘interrogation’ I learned that they had ordered a class set of “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins for their classes to read.  And that was all I needed to come up with a plan for elearning in their respective classes.  By the end of the planning, the work had stretched out to two terms but the teachers were so excited about the learning and literacy potential of the unit,  I have no doubt that it will be a success.  I can not wait to get back to the school next term to review their progress and to tweak the plans accordingly.

This whole unit is based on the BIAM challenge, which is traditionally held every November.

The unit of work unfolds like this.  The students will read the book as a class set, we have even ordered an audio copy for those that might be challenged by the level of the text and have also purchased copies to be read on the tablets in the class via the Kindle app.  Pretty standard stuff at the moment.

However what I have proposed is that the two classes then plan and write their own fan fiction extension, back story or parallel story to the Hunger Games.  They will have to collaborate between classes.  This will mean that both classes will have to story board the work carefully to ensure that all are clear on the progression of their story, the characters, their attributes, mannerisms and style of speech.  All of this will be researched out of the original as they read it in literacy activities designed by the teachers and I.  Plus, this same planning rigour will have to be applied to any new characters they want to introduce to their story, again we have planned a series of language based activities to enable the students to have a large lexicon of descriptions, vocabulary, moods and settings to populate their story . As the students flesh out their ideas they will put all of these on a collaboratvie mind map using Mind42.

Running parallel with this planning work,  they will have the chance to read and review other fanfiction work related to the Hunger Games.  Fanfiction has a massive following, the Hunger Games itself has 13 618 stories posted to the Fanfiction site for those fans who do not want to see the series end and want to keep the stories and characters alive.  This will provide an almost limitless resource bank of teen generated written content, which the teachers can use with their students to hone their own editing skills and also their feedback and feedforward skills, as the students will be encouraged to give feedback to other fans on the site about the work they read.

To ensure that the students collaborate, their fanfiction variant of The Hunger Games will be made up of 10 chapters, with five groups in each class being responsible for writing one chapter.   The twist is that one class will write the even numbered chapters and the other class writing the odd numbered chapters.  Therefore, to ensure that there is an overall consistency the students will have to collaborate with each of the groups writing the preceding and following chapters to ensure consistency of style and plot.  I have even suggested that for those less enthused by the writing of this fanfiction genre, these students could create their own graphic novel, using tools such as Comic Life or ToonDoo.

I have also proposed that the teachers use the fanfiction site as a space for the students to launch their draft and completed work, in order that they get feedback and comments from a genuine audience that will know the work they are studying inside out.  They will have a authentic audience  for their work and the feedback will help them to improve the work as they write it.

Finaly when the book is complete, we have planned a J K Rowling style public reading of the first chapter, and not only that the completed book will be self published to the Kindle store where anyone will be able to download and read it for free.  Our students will become published authors.

Watch this space!


Integrating iPads into Literacy

Written by David on April 2nd, 2012.      0 comments

I have been working with Tanya at St Joseph’s today.  Most of the day has been focused around integration of iPads into the curriculum.  Consuming content is easy on an iPad, and there are a plethora of paid and free apps that enable you to do just that, passively consume content or never get past enrichment exercises.  The trick with the closed eco system of the iPad is to find quick and easy ways for students to create content that demonstrates their understanding and to post this work to a public space rapidly.  In all of my research with apps for the iPad this is my focus, can students create content easily and how easy is it then for them to share that learning on a wiki, blog, LMS or website of their choice.

Today I worked with some of Tanya’s class to show them the ShowMe app, a free screen capture and annotation app that enables students to write and speak their thoughts and ideas on screen.  We captured a block of text from a book in the library and then had them identify the text features on the screen.  The app is easy to use and within seconds the students were proficient at the tool and were demonstrating their learning.  Now Tanya has a record of what each student knows and this work has now been embedded into their wiki page.  The ShowMe site is a whole community of teachers and you can follow the videos of others, so if you want to scaffold students through concepts that they find tricky there are lots of videos up there for you to choose from and to passively consume.  However it is better to be the ones creating the content in my opinion and sharing it with the wider ShowMe community.  Below is a video I took of the students at work.





David has been a specialist in the field of elearning for over 12 years. He has presented on elearning at conferences in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. His consultancy work includes education and business clients. READ MORE


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