Adobe Voice, A Powerful New Presentation App

Earlier in the month, Adobe launched a new app for iPad called Voice. It is a very easy easy to use way to make presentations that are visually stunning. It has everything you need (pictures, clipart, music, etc.) stored within the app itself, so there is no need to flip between apps and save pictures to your camera roll just to create a slideshow. I think it is a very powerful tool for use in classrooms and could be used for a range of purposes, such as:
– A way to show evidence of a project
– A way for students to reflect
– A way for students to show their learning in a topic
– A fast and easy alternative to Powerpoint or Keynote

I made a short Adobe Voice presentation to outlines some of it’s features. This took me a minute or two to make, watch it here:

As you can see, you can publish the final video and even embed it, making a very powerful tool for any teacher or student with access to an iPad.

Game Based Learning In Action

Currently the Grade 6 students have just started a unit on diseases. Before the unit started, the ESL teacher approached me with the idea of incorporating game based learning into this unit. She showed me the iOS app called Plague Inc. I had a play around with it and realised that the students could use this app to help them learn about the spreading of diseases, curing diseases, climatic, geographical and socioeconomic factors that effect disease spread and fatality as well as putting into context a whole range of vocabulary. So the ESL teacher and myself decided to trial it in her class with the students in groups to help facilitate more conversations. The lesson went great and it was amazing to see the children talking about complex concepts so openly and freely. I would highly recommend it to any teacher is teaching a diseases unit, not only were the students learning in context but they absolutely loved it!

Plague Inc.

Slowmation Workshop

At our annual professional development day, I hosted a double session on Slowmations. Slowmations are stopmotion animations, but instead of taking 20-30 photos to make 1 second of footage, you only take 1-2 photos per second. This makes the final movie more jerky, but much less time consuming and accessible to students of all ages.

Here is the detailed handout on how to make a slowmation. Click here to download it.

Below are some great examples of slowmations that teachers in the workshop made:

This is Todd, Eb and Susan’s tsunami slowmation. It looks super fun and I’m sure their children would LOVE to make an animation like this themselves.

Jens, Tony and Gregg on how to use a rowing machine. This one is interesting as it’s the first slowmation that I have seen use real people. I think their’s is very polished and came out great!

A great chemistry slowmation by Antoine and Cameron:

This is a great video from Shauna and Bruce in the math department. I love that they have really made a possibly dry topic very interesting and engaging.

As you can see, the animations can be used for a range of purposes, age groups and subject. Get your students making slowmations in class to really engage them and solidify the concepts learned in class.

I am also planning to present on this same topic at the up coming Association of German International School conference in January. I’m really looking forward to turning some more teachers onto the powers of using slowmations to really solidify understanding of a range of topics.

Evernote For Extended Essay

Evernote is a great too for staying organized and I think it would be excellent for any research assignment such as the IB extended essay. This tutorial explains the basics of Evernote and how to use it as a research tool.

 

Evernote for IB Extended Essay from Mister Norris on Vimeo.

Allowing Students to Develop Self Control

Self Control is a great, free app for Mac that allows you to block website that are distracting to you for set amounts of time. Say you are having trouble concentrating because you can’t stop checking your Gmail account. Then add www.gmail.com to your black list and the app will not allow you to access the site for the time that you set. You decide what is blocked and for how long. Here is a video tutorial by one of my students explaining the features of the software:

You can download Self Control here.

Wikipedia Is An Educators Fantasy…

Wikipedia

Part three of my quote series. I found those quote quite fitting as I just read this article explaining that Wikipedia is just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. I really don’t know why teachers have such a negative image of Wikipedia, it’s has to be the least bias and most up to date source of information in existence as people from countries, religions and all walks of life edit and modify it.

The Battle Of The Browsers

Chrome VS Firefox VS Safari, which browser do you use? Which browser offers the best experience? I get asked all the time what browser I use and why. I also ask people all the time why they use certain browsers. It’s interesting to hear peoples opinions. My favourite browser is Chrome, I find it fast, reliable and it can handle anything I throw at it. I am always running multiple tabs, opening links in new tabs, loading multiple videos at once, etc. And Chrome takes it all in it’s stride. But other than that, I find it hard to explain why I prefer Chrome. It’s the little things that make a difference I find, so I decided to go into more details and think a little deeper about one of the most used and useful tools on a computer, the browser.

 

Modified from University of Wisconsin Archive Images with inspiration from www.businessinsider.com.

 

ADDRESS BAR

When Chrome was first released, I LOVED that I no longer needed a search bar and an address bar. Anything that you typed into the address bar that wasn’t a URL, Chrome does an instant Google search for you. It didn’t take Firefox long to catch onto this idea and integrate it into their browser a few releases later. It took Safari much longer, but Safari 6 now offers this as default in their browser. One thing to note is that not all ‘omnibars’ are created equal. While Chrome and Safari can search anything in the address bar, Firefox has some troubles sometime when using special characters as the first character of a search. For example, if you wanted to search a hashtag in Firefox, it would return the result as an error. To circumvent this, you have to go Googles homepage first, then do the search from within the browser.

 

TABS

As I mentioned above, I use a LOT of tabs in my browser. I think Chrome handles tabs the best out of any other browser for a few reasons. One reason is that it can simply fit in more tabs than any other browser. It consenses the tab and makes them really small which is a great feature. Firefox and Safari’s tabs will not shrink past a certain size, which means you have to scroll through your tabs from a button on the right of the screen. Less than ideal.

Another great feature of Chromes tabs is that when you are closing them, they don’t change size until you move your cursor. This makes it really easy to close multiple tabs fast. Just hover over the close button and keep clicking. You do not have to move your cursor around finding the correct close button on each tab. On Firefox and Safari when you close a tab, the other tabs resize immediately, making it inconvenient to close multiple tabs in a row.

The final thing that I like about the tabs in Chrome is the ability to pin them as app tabs. If you right click a tab and pin it, it will then shrink and stick to the start of your row of apps. I use app tabs for sites that I visit regularly like email. This feature is also available in Firefox, but not Safari and is one of the main reasons I don’t use the new Safari more often.

 

PDF

It’s important to have your PDF’s open natively in a browser window. It’s a hassles to have to download them and then open them in a viewer. I think Safari was the first browser to support this, but Chrome also now has this feature integrated. Unfortunately Firefox has still not caught up. It’s possible in Firefox but you have to modify the original software with an add on to allow this function.

 

SYNC

When I first started using Firefox’s sync feature, I could stop lugging a computer between work and home and work totally from the cloud. This sync feature is great as it allows you to save all of you passwords, history, cookies, bookmarks, etc. in the cloud and sync it with any computer you use. So when you have your browser synced, the saved passwords that you used at work, are now also saved at home on your browsers. Firefox offers this, but the inital sync up is hard as you have to enter serial numbers that seem to expire, so you really need both computers at the same place, at the same time to initially make this happen. Chrome uses your Google account to sync your information, making it really easy to use. Safari offers a syncing feature through iCloud, however it only syncs opened tabs, no other information.

 

APP STORE

Once again, Chrome shows how advanced it is by creating an app store. You can download a range of different apps into your browser. My favorite is offline mail, incase your away in a distant land without internet connection, you can still view, read, compose, send and reply to mail (obviously the mail you send to will not be sent until you reestablish an internet connection).

 

REMOTE DESKTOP

The final nail in the coffin is Chrome’s remote desktop feature. If you wish to, you can use Chrome to control a remote computer, anywhere in the world, as long as you and the computer you want to access has Chrome, an internet connection and someone at the other end allowing the connection to happen. Just download the app and it walks you through the whole process. This is a super powerful tool that usually costs a considerable amount of cash. However, Chrome allows the download of this app for free!

 

SUMMARY

In summary, as you can see from the table below, Chrome comes out a clear winner in usability and innovation. I highly recommend using it on any computer you have. Firefox comes along close behind, in second. Unfortunately, in my opinion, even with the recent advancements, Safari 6 has a long way to go if it wants to be competitive.

Chrome and Firefox can be download for free from their respective website:

Download Chrome here

Download Firefox here

Safari comes preinstalled on all Mac computer. Safari 6 comes free with OSX Mountain Lion, is available in OSX Lion, but is not available on any other version of OSX .

FEATURE

CHROME FIREFOX

SAFARI

Address bar search

✓ (only with Safari 6)

Fully function address bar

Narrow tabs

Tabs don’t move when closing

Pinable app tabs

PDF viewer

with add on

Sync

only tabs

App store

Remote desktop

Teachers Portfolios – What Are The Options?

It seems that more and more teachers are becoming comfortable with technology and want to jump in feet first. This is great, because they are becoming more in control of their digital footprint. The first step a teacher can take when they accept the internet as a positive contributor to their professional life is to develop a digital portfolio. It’s becoming more and more common for teachers to have a digital portfolio, along with an online CV, details of work experiences and jobs as well as a range of other aspects about their career.

There are many options when creating an online portfolio. A lot of people have a blog and that is where they write reflections on their learning, reflections of what they have taught, displays of students work, etc. Sometimes they also have static sections where they list their work experience, contact details, references, etc. This is much more fluid and changes every day/week/month.

Others are more static, so it doesn’t change very often and is only updated when your resume updates. I think this is less effective as it wont show up very high in search engine results (you wont have many links on it or people wont have your page linked very much because there will be nothing to share on it, plus it’s not updated a lot. All factors which contribute to high search engine ranking). Also, this way of creating an online portfolio is much more like using new technology (websites) in old ways (static resume).

So here are some options when creating a professional teacher portfolio:

www.blog.com – This is a free blogging platform (with the option of a paid upgrade), powered by WordPress. It has advertisements but has good customer support and allows a lot of customization for a free service.

www.wordpress.com – A free blogging platform very similar to blog.com. Example – http://seanscoetailblog.wordpress.com/

www.weebly.com – A free service (with the option of a paid upgrade) that let’s you create websites/blogs. It is very user friendly as it uses a drag and drop system. Example – www.isshkjslibrary.com

www.pbworks.com – A wiki platform that you can easily use to create websitex (less visual modification is available). This is what I my course delivery site but it could be customized any way you like. Example – www.misternorris.pbworks.com

WordPress (with external host such as www.godaddy.com) – similar to WordPress.com, but it’s fully customizable, has no adds and allows you to make sure to fully constomize your URL. You have to pay a small fee each year for the domain (URL) and website hosting (about $50 a year). This also allows you to have your own custom email account (E.g. me@misternorris.com). This is what I use for this site.

As you can see, there are many options, depending on your needs, budget and how much customization you use. If you are using something else, be sure to share in the comments below.

Shortcuts Desktop Wallpaper

I realized that a lot of people struggle remembering shortcuts. So I wanted to come up with the easiest way possible for people to remember them. In the past, I made posters and hung them around the school. But for the average user, they would need to print it out and stick it at their desk. This wouldn’t really be something I would do so I tried to think of better ways. Then I realized that if I made a desktop wallpaper, everyone could have it on their computer, with instant access. What a great idea! This is the result:

DOWNLOAD LINK

So now all you have to do is click the download link above. This will open the image in a separate tab. Now right click (hold control and click) then image and select ‘Set As Desktop Background’. Now all you have to do is remember or write on a small piece of paper the shortcut of fn + F11 and it will hide all of your windows so that you can now see all of the shortcuts! I would recommend writing the hide all shortcut on a small piece of paper and sticking it to the bottom of your screen so it’s always there.

I designed the poster with some black space on the right so that you can have some documents on your desktop. I think this poster will also give you incentive to keep your desktop clean or else you wont be able to see the shortcuts!

If I have missed any important shortcuts please let me know in the comments below. I would have liked to add of the mouse/trackpad shortcuts, so maybe I’ll make another version in the future with those in it.

Please let me know if this was useful to you by leaving a comment below. If you like it, please share it and spread the word.

A Brief History Of The Internet

The internet, it’s economy and it’s ramerfercations have come about in such a short time span it’s hard to know to put it into perspective. For most of our students, being digital natives, they have no idea that there was life before the internet. They have no idea that MySpace dominated before Facebook and that the idea of having affordable internet on a mobile phone (thanks to the iPhone) is also a very recent manifestation of technological advancements. I also think it’s good for us that were around when all of these amazing technological advancements came about to remember when it all happened.

So I was researching to see if anyone had made a timeline of when these technological advancements came about but I couldn’t find anything decent enough. So I decided to make my own. I hope you enjoy it and can use it in your classrooms.

I used Prezi to develop the timeline as I’ve had the idea to use Prezi for a while. I love the three dimensional features of Prezi, being able to not just move up, down, left, right but also in and out. I think for a timeline this is a great idea as it can give the viewer some perspective and infinite amount of detail can be added to the timeline as each section can be zoomed in further and further to add new events and details. In reality this worked well, but I did have regular problems importing images. I love that you can search for and import images straight from inside Prezi. But that feature was a little glitchy and didn’t work 100% of the time. Dragging and dropping from my desktop was also not effective at all. The best way I found adding pictures worked was finding them online, saving them to my desktop, then uploading them in Prezi. This was a little time consuming. But over all, I’m very happy with the results and would love to see someone use Prezi as a timeline in more detail to see how the zooming in and out of events could really change the way we write and view timelines.