Friday, 20 May 2016

Teach Meet Christchurch

What a great afternoon. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to be in a room full of keen and motivated teachers who wanted to learn and wanted to share. This is my brief summary of the session, mainly for my own review, but there were a few things that I thought might interest others, so here it is in public.

Wilj Dekkers from STAC - Minecraft for Creative Writing

Wilj started by showing us a clip, The Piano , that he uses for students to be inspired to write about. I loved this idea and wished, just for a short moment, that I taught English so I could use this.
He talked about creating a Kiwiana theme park where students used Minecraft to create it and then they shared their learning with parents.
Picture by hobbymb
Using Pick a path stories, the students would write a story,  then create the world in Minecraft and then review the story. He found that using Minecraft helped write more content and more quality.
This year he has done this the other way. The students have made a rough sketch, then planned the story with Minecraft. He has seen the increase in motivation.
Maybe I do want to teach English....  no, maybe not.

Tom Neumann  - Riccarton - Using an alphanumeric self marking video game in Moodle to review content of Yr11 Economics (or any other subject)

Tom showed us a video of how he uses games for learning.
He has found that students are fully engaged and have total concentration for games. He says that they will keep trying to achieve, which I have seen before with gamification - suddenly students are not as worried about failing, they just keep trying until they get it right.
Using games and music for learning definitely strikes a chord with many students. I would like to investigate this further when I get time.

Sue McLachlan - Hagley - OneNote Learning Tools. 

I am passionate about these and feel they have a huge potential for classroom use. This was my presentation so I didn't take notes...
My Sway (awesome Office365 tool for presentations) can be found here.

Karen Gray - Haeata - Personalisation of Learning

Karyn talked about Personalization/Differentiation/Individualization and designing learning programmes that are flexible and responsive. It must be very exciting starting a new school with a clean slate to work from. She had many questions to ask of us as well and this is a great forum to share ideas.
#BFC630NZ - breakfast chat on Twitter at 6.30am each morning that is worth looking at. I may have to rearrange the shower order in our house so I can get to one of these, otherwise I will be a lurker and check them out later in the day.
She also talked about using the best device for the learning at the time rather than using 1:1

I loved the quote she used at the end:

John Holt - a perceptive educationalist

‘It would be to let every child be the planner, director of his own education, to allow and encourage him with the inspiration and guidance of more experienced and expert people, and as much help as he asked for, to decide what he has to learn, when he is to learn it, how he is to learn it, and how well he is learning it. It would make our schools,..... a resource for free and independent learning, which everyone in the community, of whatever age, could use as much or as little as he wanted.’

Tam Proctor - OneNote as a teacher planner
As I use OneNote all the time, this wasn't new to me, but a couple of things were reminders for me to look into. Using templates - I really don't do this enough. also, being able to hyperlink to other pages is something I need to look into. I also need to use tick boxes more.
For each class, she plans with 3 sections - Content, Observations and Reflections. A good habit to get into.


Shira Withers - Our Lady Star of the Sea - How we as educators can help students with low working memories improve their self-management skills using digital technologies, thus  allowing them to experience success and move from a fixed to growth mindset.

For self-management skills, Shira has the students using TrelloShe also uses colour coded Google Slides Timetable in which they can add a daily or end of week reflection. This helps students to stay focussed.
She mentioned Tony Ryan's Thinking Keys which I hadn't heard of.

Donna Jones -STAC - Using a 3D app to inspire creative thought and ideas for creative writing. Primary and secondary.

Donna showed us the app Quiver, which you can download for free onto your phone. You print off pictures from colour them in then use the app which will bring them to life.
She says that the student's writing gone to another level as they can see things in 3D.
She uses it for fantasy writing, science and geography as well. A great tool to inspire students.

I've gone mad on this. I loved the colouring in for a start, then had a great time showing everyone how it worked! I even coloured my Pukeko with black and white stripes to make sure it really did render the colours that I had chosen. It looks very cool! Some of the pictures cost, but there are many free ones to try this out. This has huge possibilities and I can see it being a very useful app. The next step is to see if we can commission specific graphics for topics....

Sam McNeill - STAC - Google Earth - adding images and doing Google tours

Sam had his students using GoogleEarth to do a tour of the Karate Kid clip. Students made their own tour of places in the movie. One device between groups. He showed us that you can add images to the tour to make it very interactive. This looks like fun - where to next??

Overall, I found this a really inspiring learning experience. Lots to listen to, lots of ideas and motivated, forward thinking teachers. Looking forward to the next one to be hosted at St Andrew’s College on Thursday 11th August starting at 4:15pm. For more information, check out TeachMeet Christchurch. If you can't make it, you can also follow on Twitter #TMChch.

Monday, 9 May 2016

SurfacePro 3 vs SurfacePro 4

As an MIE Surface Expert, I have been privileged to get a SurfacePro 4 to play with and have been doing so for just under a week now. It has been well worth the wait for this and I am enjoying the differences between the SurfacePro 3 and the SurfacePro 4.

The most obvious difference is having Windows 10 up and running from start up. I am used to Windows10 from my own personal laptop, so it is nice to have it at work as well (most of school is on Windows 8). It also means I can use the dictation in the OneNote Learning Tools!

The keyboard is a big improvement. The keys are spaced out and it is more like a laptop keyboard. Finally the space bar and the larger touchpad are actually in the middle of the keyboard.  I like the backlit keys (although it took me a minute to realise the screen wasn't getting brighter, but my keys were!!!) and overall I think this keyboard is awesome!

The bigger screen looks nicer. It does mean there is no windows link on the screen but for me this is no problem due to the fact that I wasn't really using it anyway on my SurfacePro 3.

The specs say that it's faster - I didn't have problems with my SurfacePro 3 so I can't really tell the difference at this stage.

Storage - same as my Surface Pro 3. As I use mostly cloud storage, having only 128Gb is not an issue for me. You can add a card to increase storage which some people might want to do.

The Surface Pen works better - more like a pen than a stylus. Apparently you can get a Pen Tip kit as well, to change the tips. I don't think I'll go that far.  I don't like the eraser being at the top therefore having to flip the stylus, I preferred the SurfacePro 3 pen better in that respect, but I'll probably get used to it in time, it's only been a few days!

  • Press and hold the eraser - opens Cortana
I haven't used Cortana much, so will have to work on this - not sure I want to talk to my computer much in my classes....
  • Click the eraser - opens OneNote

I had to change where this went for OneNote as I had OneNote2016 installed with the Learning tools and Class Notebook Add in, so wanted the double click to go to OneNote2016. It opens a new window if I already have OneNote2016 open and it also just goes to whatever page I happen to be on in OneNote2016, rather than to a specific quick notes page - it would be nice to have the option to be precise. 
Took me a bit to remember there was a Surface App - very useful if you want to change any pen settings. You could have that single click go to any App if you want and it's easy to change. Not sure why it's not under the general settings though (Settings-Devices-Pen) - having a Surface App just for this seems a bit strange. It might make sense if there was more in the App (apart from a survey), but there's not.

  • Double click the eraser - opens screen capture where you can do a whole screen, or a clipping which is good.
But.... I can't configure where it goes, so it automatically opens the OneNote App again, but I'm using OneNote 2016 so it's not much use to me for now. Definitely something that needs fixing!

You can also store the pen on the side of the SP4 easily. This was possible on the SP3 but it seems much stronger now and doesn't come off as easily. I actually don't store mine there, as I have a portable case that came with my Surface Pro 4 kit and it has a pen holder. In saying that, it's a pain unless you are left handed! Really it's storage only as I have to double handle it. When I'm using the stylus a lot, I just pop it to the right of the screen via magnet. I think I will go with the old case I had with my SP3 (although it doesn't fit exactly, may have to do some home maintenance on it or buy a new one *sigh) as I prefer it. It looks nicer and the pen sits in it nicely and doesn't get caught in my bag. It is also a lot more comfortable when using the keyboard with it on your lap.

I like the new login. You can unlock the Surface Pro 4 with your face, iris, or fingerprint. All I have to do is look at it and it unlocks. Love it. It's like magic. My kids tried as they thought they might be able to get into it as they look like me, but they only succeeded in locking me out completely as I mentioned in my last blog. Unfortunately I only got to play with that for a bit before school bound it to a domain and now I have to use my school login. Ah well...

So my time has been spent opening my Notebooks for OneNote, downloading a few apps I use a lot, and getting to know my stylus. I'm having issues with getting StaffPad installed again due to 2 different Microsoft login accounts, but hopefully all will be resolved soon and I can hand back my SurfacePro 3 and be totally reliant on this wonderful machine.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Surface Pro 4

I've been waiting...

Ever since I found out I had been selected to be a Microsoft Innovative Educator Surface Expert, I have been very excited about getting a Surface Pro 4 to play with.

It arrived today.
I had primed our wonderful receptionist to let me know as soon as it arrived at school and she called me at lunchtime today. So excited!

Luckily I had some time this afternoon to unpack the amazing box of goodies. Not only was there my new Surface Pro 4 and stylus, but a whole lot of extras:
A useful "how to use your kit" instruction sheet - I'll be working through this!
  • Digital inking display board
  • Brochures, posters and information sheets on the Surface Pro, as well as Think in Ink stickers. The posters also let you advertise workshops for Surface Pro.
  • A lovely sticker for my Surface that says I am an MIE Surface Expert for 2016 - very nice :)
  • Wireless Display Adapter - already using one of these, so it will be great to have another in my second classroom - save moving it from one place to another all the time! (Now all I need is another in my 3rd classroom and I'm all sorted).
  • USB bracelet - great idea, unfortunately it's a bit big for me - It slips on and off my hand without undoing it, so maybe it will be on my desk not my wrist :( Need small wrist size ones as this is unfortunately not adjustable)
  • A nice bright red keyboard - might take me a bit to get used to the colour but it's kind of cool.
  • A Brenthaven BX2 Edge case. I tried attaching the pen by the string they sent but decided against it, but good to have that option, especially for students who lose things! I notice that this case is not available on the NZ Microsoft store yet, so it's fun to trial something you can't get here! My only comment at the moment is that the pen is on the wrong side! I have to take it off with my left hand - great for the left-handers out there though.

So... I managed to get some of my school accounts sorted - got Office365 up and running, downloading the awesome free software onto my Surface Pro 4 so I can do work while offline - this is a real bonus. The one thing I noticed in even in the first few minutes of use, was the keyboard, trackpad and stylus were a lot better than the Surface Pro 3. Really looking forward to using this.

Managed to lock myself out while trying to get my kids to see if Windows Hello would recognise their faces instead of mine! Took a fair bit of stress sorting that out as it kept asking for my PIN but had no way of entering it. Finally I pressed the Power and the up volume together - with the intention of doing a forced shutdown, but as soon as I touched both a screen appeared for me to put my PIN in - whew!

Next steps are to get used to the new stylus - I'm not sure about having the eraser at the top, I'll have to see how that goes.

Must install my OneNote Learning Tools and Staffpad tonight and hopefully get the rest up and running tomorrow.

I am also going to invest in a Bluetooth mouse - I find a mouse useful in a lot of situations, but don't want to lose the USB port. Thinking about adding more memory via card as well - will wait and see what I need once I am all set to go. Most of my work is online, but video and audio files for my music teaching takes a lot of space.

Lots to do - more blogging will have to wait.