Monday, 26 November 2012

Talk nerdy to me... using Siri, Dictation, Speak Text, and Google Voice Search

As I was prepping for a recent demo-slam event, I took some time to explore and rediscover some cool voice features on your Mac and iOS device. In this post, I'm going to highlight six cool things with you can do just by talking nerdy to your computer.

System requirements: Mac with Mountain Lion 10.8.x; iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device with iOS 5; internet



Dictation on iOS devices -  Dictation came along with iOS5 and is available on our new iPad 3s. Whenever the keyboard is visible, the dictation button will be just to the left of the spacebar. Press it and speak and whatever you say will be translated into text. Dictation gets to know your speech (and you'll adjust as well) so that the more you use it, the better it gets at transcribing what you say.

1. Write in Google Docs: using dictation on your iOS device, you can open and edit Google docs. Open the Google doc you wish to edit and press the "edit" button. Then, place the cursor where you'd like to write and press the dictation button. Speak what you'd like to write and it will appear as text in the Google doc. 

Dictation on your Mac - Dictation comes to your Mac running OS 10.8.x "Mountain Lion." By default, it is activated when you press the "fn" key twice. I'm actually writing the rest of this post by speaking directly to the computer. To use dictation on your Mac, you need to put the cursor in the document in the place where you'd like the text to appear. The next, you press the function key twice and speak. Your speech is transcribed as text.

2. Comment on a Google doc: use dictation to speak your comments. In the Google doc, highlight the word(s) that you'd like to refer to in your comment. Select the "Insert" menu and choose "comment." Then press the "fn" key twice and speak your comment. Press enter when you're finished an your comment is transcribed. 


Siri - OK, so Siri, Apple's voice activated personal assistant is not exactly new, but I really don't see people using it around campus. (Maybe it's because she can't understand their accents?) Siri is functional on our iPad 3s we have available for check-out. What you can do:

3. Open applications: ask Siri to "Open Brushes" and the brushes app will open automatically. This is great when working with younger children who would have difficulty navigating and finding the right app or searching using the keyboard.

4. Find answers: when you ask Siri a question that is part of Wolfram Alpha's vast database, (see examples) she'll return the answer to the question and valuable background information related to the topic. 

Speak Text on your Mac - allows you to select text from anywhere on your mac and have it read back to your. See this guide on how to set it up.

5. Give your eyes a rest: reading on screen (or in print for that matter) is not recommended for extended periods of time. Optometrists recommend following the "20-20" rule - take a twenty second break to focus your eyes on something distant every twenty minutes. Open up the web-page text you'd like to have spoken, highlight it, right-click and press "speech" and "start speaking".

6. Proof listen: by using text to speech, you can listen to your written work and sometimes catch mistakes that your visual processing centers would not have caught. 



Speak Text on your iOS device - works similarly to the way it works on the Mac. Enable it following this guide, highlight the text you wish to have spoken tap on it and select "speak".







Voice search in Google - this feature doesn't work from every localization of Google (google.com.sg for example) so you need to first type in the URL for the non-localized search http://www.google.com/ncr

Happy searching!




What wonderful ways can you think of to use voice tools on your Mac or iOS device?  I'm thinking a conversation between Siri, Dictation and Speech to Text is in order.



Sunday, 25 November 2012

Date Night with Your Mac



As promised here is a synopsis of what was shown during the Demo Slam at Date Night on Friday November 23, 2012. If you would like to learn more please see the person who presented



Phil Meehan share two of his favourite email tools. First up was 'Undo Send' which gives you a 30 second window to 'unsend' an email. You can turn this function on in your Settings menu under 'Labs'. (Undo Send can be found by clicking on the Gmail setting gear, then the Labs tab, search for Undo Send, click enable and save)
Next Phil shared Boomerang For Gmail an add on in Chrome. 


"Boomerang allows you to schedule messages to be sent or returned at a later date. Write a message now, send it whenever, even if you're not online. Track messages to make sure you hear back, and schedule reminders right inside Gmail"





Dave Caleb shared his favourite Mac tips and tricks
- Caffeine keeps your Mac from going to sleep
- Hot Corners - configure the corners on your Mac to do things for you
- Folder Clean Up
- Reflection - an app run on your Mac that allows you to wirelessly project onto your IWB (works like magic!)





Jeff Plaman focused on "finding your voice" during his slam.
- Siri (on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices) allows you to speak and dictate a wide variety of actions. Press and hold the "home" button and Siri can be used to dicate notes, write emails  and search the web. This could be really useful for students who can't type well yet to search for info. 

- Wolfram Alpha is a computational search engine that Siri calls on when you ask technical questions like "What's the boiling point of ethanol?" "How do you find the area of a right triangle?" or "What is the frequency of Middle C?" Wolfram gives answers and mini-lessons that explain the result. 

- iOS 5 (the most recent operating system on iPads etc) has the ability to do dictation. When you open anything where the keyboard pops up, you'll notice that there's a little microphone icon just to the left of the space bar.  Pressing it activates the microphone and you can speak your text and your device will turn in into type. (NOTE: you have to manually enter punctuation) This feature also exists in the newest OS on the Mac, Snow Leopard (you can get upgraded at IT Support).
Jeff showed how you can open a Google doc from your Mac running Snow Leopard, insert a comment and use dictation by pressing the "fn" key twice to speak your comment. 
(You can't actually write into the body of your Google Doc for some reason using dictation on the Mac, but you can do this from an iPad. Just open a Google Doc on your iPad, put the cursor where you like and press the dictation (mic) button and yammer away)



Keri-Lee Beasley shared the cool functions that can be done in Preview:
- get rid of a background on a picture
- adjust the colour of a picture
- annotate on top of a picture





Katie Day rounded off the sharing with a demonstration of Google Reader, managing your settings in Chrome, and using shortcuts to enhance a Google Search. 















We would like to say a special thank you to Jabiz for his inspiring opening about creating on line and off line spaces where our students feel safe and valued. Thank you to everyone who shared and thank you to those of you who came out to spend time with us on a Friday night after a busy week at work. We look forward our next Date Night in the new year.



Rubicon Reserve Wines had some awesome wine for tasting - a special favourite was the Maccari Prosecco. If you would like to learn more you can contact them by email: sales@rubiconreservewines.com

Friday, 23 November 2012

An Introduction to Google Docs

We make extensive use of Google Docs here at school and think it may be a great tool for our Class Parents to use, especially when there is a lot of organizing to do.  

This video 'Google Docs in Plain English' by commoncraft explains why we use Google Docs:




What is a Google Doc? 
Google Docs is a free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google. It allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_docs)



Why do we use Google Docs? 
These applications can be accessed and used by a number of people simultaneously. Since the information is stored on the Internet and not tied to a single computer, it becomes easier to share information. Working on a document simultaneously also saves time when undertaking large projects or collaborating across long distances. (http://curiosity.discovery.com/)

How do I use my Google Docs? 

We have put together a Google Presentation that works through the basics of using Google Docs. 



These are the things we talked about in our mini-workshop:

1) When you are in your Google Drive you can choose to 'Create' a document or 'Upload' a document. We recommend Creating, as sometimes formatting can get mixed up.

2) Think carefully about the name of your document so it is easy to find using the search function in your Google Drive

3) Think about your share settings - public on the web, anyone with the link or private

4) Think about editing rights - can edit, can comment, can view

5) You can share the document from your Drive in the share settings by adding email addresses and a message - or you can copy the link and put it in your own email. 

6) Revision history is a great tool:
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides have a revision history pane that allows you to view at a glance all changes made to a document by each collaborator. While it may not work exactly like a track changes tool, the revision history tool lets you view and revert to earlier versions of your document, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing and see which collaborators made edits to any of these versions. (support.google.com)
7) Using the 'Comments' can also be helpful:
Comments are a handy way of adding notes to your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that are visible to viewers and collaborators. These can be invaluable for communicating with collaborators about specific parts of the document, as well as making notes about changes you've made or would like to make. (support.google.com)
And that is the basics of using Google Docs. We will be offering a workshop in the new year that continues on from here and explores using Google Forms and Google Spreadsheets. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

HIgh School iLearning Share

We were fortunate to have four colleagues take time to share how they're using technology to enhance and support student learning. I think the days of sitting a large captive audience down in front of one speaker for an hour are numbered as a professional learning model. As so many more opportunities for how, when, and where people can learn skills (I'm looking at you YouTube), it makes sense to focus on providing context to the tech applications we're teaching. And, there's no better way to do that than from peer-sharing.

The model we used had about 60 staff together in a conference room. We had four teacher volunteers present an aspect of their practice to a small group in a short-sharp demo lasting between 5-7 minutes. Staff were free to select where they went and got to see two of the four presenters in a twenty minute period which was actually enough time for them to show their application and even take a few questions.  The only complaint I heard was that people wanted to see all four! #win

Here's a recap of what was presented:

Cameron Hunter showed how he is producing podcasts for his students using  Quicktime Player to make a screen recording. He mentioned that using the Apple iPhone earbuds microphone produces nice sound quality and cuts down on background noise. Cameron uses a variety of input devices including the Wacom Bamboo tablet. He likes it because it allows him to do fine writing (better than on an iPad) and is a comfortable way to input text. He also uses a Hovercam document camera to capture video of things like models as he explains them. Cameron has been sharing his podcasts by uploading them to the Google Drive and then providing the links on his class pages.

Jensen Hjroth demonstrated how visualization can be used to support learning using an iPad running the Doceri app and the Doceri Desktop software. Doceri allows you to control your Mac remotely via the iPad touch screen. In drawing mode, you can annotate on top of what ever is showing on your laptop. Jensen showed how he uses the digital microscopes to show students the standard of what they are expected to see on their own microscopes. He annotated and labeled things for them and then switched to a plain white background to show them how to sketch and label a diagram appropriately. This kind of modeling and visualization make instructions very clear to students. Jensen talked about a variety of thing you can do with Doceri on the iPad including passing the iPad to students to do the annotating. You can also record your annotations and voice to make a movie that would be great for student revision. This way doesn't require any additional work as you can record the lesson "live" as you teach it.


Jackie Price is using iPads and the Explain Everything app with her students. She showed how you can set up and record a movie with the app that allows you to produce videos with live drawings and voice explanations. This kind of tool is great for students to produce a style of video we call Learning Talks where students draw and solve a problem while explaining their thinking process. This is one of the best ways to capture student metacognition and it allows you quickly to assess the depth of their understanding. These videos aren't typically polished productions, rather they're short (1-2 min), rough explanations.

Ellie Alchin shared how she used Today's Meet as a "backchannel" chat to get short, sharp notes in 140 characters or less. As students contribute they can see what others write and learn that they don't also have to say the same thing. It's also good modeling for them as they can see what points others are latching onto that they may be missing  or dismissed as unimportant. Ellie likes to download the transcript and make it available for her students so that they can debrief it and use it in their notes. One technique she uses is to get students to really pick out example posts that show deep understanding.
Students can download the transcript of the backchannel chat in an editable format and then use that as the basis for their own class notes, quoting things taken from the chat.

I'd love to hear what ideas that you've got following this session and I'm happy to support you if you want to try any of these in your classroom. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Learning Talks


Earlier this year Jeff wrote two blog posts about using digital tools to capture what we call 'Learning Talks' - Tech to Transform Assessment Part 1 and Learning Talks Take Off. I really like how Jeff explains the term 'Learning Talks':

"'Learning Talks', (also explained by colleague Andrew McCarthy), allow us to see and review students' metacognition, or thinking about thinking. There are several ways teachers have always done this, using things like oral examination or less formally by questioning. Using technology however we can capture the student's thoughts in the moment, as they're working out a problem. This gives us invaluable insight into their understanding of a topic. I'm describing Learning Talks as a genre here because there are really many ways that they can be done. We focused on a few different ones during our session."

What are Learning Talks? Here are some examples... 

An Example from K1
This example was completed one-on-one with the student and the teacher. The children had been involved in a Unit of Inquiry that looked at how they grow and change and these Learning Talks were gathered as a formal piece of assessment. 


video


An Example from K2
This Learning Talk was created by the students at the end of a Unit of Inquiry that looked at our bodies, how they work and how we can keep them healthy. As the Digital Literacy Coach I worked with the class teachers to assist the students to create their recordings as we found working in partners in a quiet room enhanced the quality of the video. These learning talks were shared with parents at a workshare.



video


An Example from Grade 3
This is a math example from Grade 2:


video

We see a lot of potential for the use of Learning Talks. All you really need is an iPad and the App. You could take a screen shot of something and have the children explain it, you can use the camera and have the children explain that. So many possibilities! 

We have started a Google Presentation to gather ideas for how Learning Talks could be used in the classroom. If you have an idea we would love it it if you would add it to the presentation. 

Creative Commons Explained

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by A. Diez Herrero
As educators, we know that plagiarism is wrong, and we are very careful to share that message with our students. However, if you take a look at the pictures and images on display in most schools and classrooms, you will (probably) find hundreds of images that remain uncredited.
Why is it that so many of us think this is ok?

Legally, educators could argue that their usage falls under 'fair use' terms of copyright in educational settings. At UWCSEA (and many other leading schools), we believe that ethically, we have a responsibility to teach students (and teachers!) about academic honesty and what Rodd Lucier terms "creative integrity."

To this end, we encourage our students to:

1. create their own content first.
2. If this is not possible, we recommend searching for Creative Commons licensed content.
3. If they still can't find what they are looking for, the next step is to use a copyright image with permission from the original creator.
4. Only once they have exhausted the above steps, will we accept the use of copyright images, with attribution.

(For a PDF of the respecting creative work poster, please click here)

What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that provides alternative licenses to Copyright. Creative Commons licences allow individuals to identify how they wish their content to be attributed, reused, remixed and/or shared.

Mission
"Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation."
Vision
"Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity."
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/about

What are the Creative Commons Licences?

Each of the four main Creative Commons licences are described below
(descriptions sourced from http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons).

Attribution
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work - and derivative works based upon it - but only if they give you credit.


Non-Commercial
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work - and derivative works based upon it - but for noncommercial purposes only.


Share Alike
You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.


No Derivatives
You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.


The licenses may be used in conjunction with each other, for example:

This licence means you are allowed to redistribute, both commercially and non-commercially, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

More information on the licenses can be found here. Details on how to license different types of content (multimedia and more) can be found here. The video below is a very clear explanation of the licences in action.



How and Where do I search for Creative Commons Licensed Content?

The most straightforward source for Creative Commons Licensed content is to use the Creative Commons search engine. This way, you can select whether you're looking for images, music or video.
http://search.creativecommons.org/

Searching for Images
http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced/
 Flickr Advanced Search is my favourite place to find Creative Commons images, however you must remember to select the box underneath which says 'Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content' (see below), or you will just be carrying out a regular Flickr search.
Compfight is another good site for creative commons images, with a very visual interface.

www.compfight.com
 Picol & The Noun Project are both great for searching for icons - perfect if you are creating an infographic or presentation.
www.picol.org

www.thenounproject.com

Searching for Music

There are a number of great sites for finding creative commons music. Check out the ones below:

http://www.jamendo.com/en/

http://dig.ccmixter.org/

http://opsound.org/
http://soundbible.com/
Searching for Video

Most video sites now have an option for users to upload their content under Creative Commons licenses. Searching through the Creative Commons Search site is still the best bet though.

Using YouTube editor you can select the CC tab to search within Creative Commons licensed content on YouTube. This is good for remixing videos.

http://www.youtube.com/editor
Vimeo allows you to search for creative commons licensed videos. Choose which license you would like to find content under, then click browse. From there, click the magnifying glass to search within results.
https://vimeo.com/creativecommons

How do I reference Creative Commons Licensed Content?
There is a lot to remember in referencing Creative Commons licensed content (which I will outline below), but the good news is it is becoming easier and easier to do so.

You need to:
  • Include the title of the work
  • Credit the creator of the work
  • Provide the URL where the work is hosted
  • Include the type of license, and a link to the license conditions*
*if relevant, any copyright notices need to remain intact too.

Many of these details can be easily sourced from the Creative Commons website, together with the location of the work in question.

Alan Levine created a fantastically helpful Google Chrome Extension called Flickr CC Attribution Helper that integrates with Flickr to generate attribution strings for Creative Commons licensed photos.


Installing Flickr CC Attribution Helper in Chrome from UWC South East Asia on Vimeo.

You just copy and paste either the html code (if you want it on a website), or the plain text (for presentations & other print media).

There are several guides which have more detailed information on referencing Creative Commons Licensed content. Click here and here for more information.

How do I License my own Content under a Creative Commons License?

There is a very handy License Chooser at http://creativecommons.org/choose/ which guides you through the process of selecting the right license for your needs.

You can then get text or html versions of the license to put on your work.

Why Creative Commons?
I believe in the value of sharing. In education, sharing is crucially important. By using Creative Commons content, and licensing our content as Creative Commons, we show our students that we are willing to assist others, share what we create, and acknowledge the input of others. Pretty important messages, in my opinion. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Science, iPads and the Early Years

“We are wondering if you would be available to help us out with some science investigations that we will be doing? We are going to do this in an elective type of way where children will sign up for the 2 that interest them the most. The aim of the activity is for the children to gain a better understanding of the scientific process which we will all use. If you are able to help out you would need to come up with an experiment/ activity that could use this process.”

This is my absolute favourite kind of email to receive - it allows me to propose a project for a small group of children and there are very few restrictions in place. What’s not to love?

I started to think about what I could do that would interest the children, be based in science and use a digital tool. I looked through the science apps that we currently have on our iPads.



Not bad choices, but a little too much consuming and not enough creating for this project. So I had a look through our other apps but was not feeling very inspired. Then I remembered that Zoe Page had talked about using a microscope app with her Kindergarten class (loved spending time with Zoe at Learning 2.012 in Beijing).









I quickly went to the app store and found 4 microscope / magnifying apps that I thought may work. We have some digital microscopes (DigiBlues) at school but I only had 6 available, not quite enough for a group of about 20 children. A microscope app could be the answer because then I could give each student their own.





I set the experiment up like this:
1. Ask a Question:
Are there microscopic living things in our playground?

2. Make a Hypothesis (What do you think will happen?)
We thought yes, there are microscopic things living in our playground

3. Do an Experiment (Test your hypothesis)
We used a microscope app on the iPads to get a better look.

4. Record the Results (What did you find out?)/ Draw a Conclusion (What did you learn?)
We found out that there are many living things in our playground





On the day of the science exploration the 15 children and I went out to the playground to test out our iPad apps. This is what we learned:


- iPads are a little tricky to see in a bright sunny playground
- the magnifying apps work very similarly to the zoom on the iPad camera
- we couldn't see in very close up detail like we could when using the Digiblues

And

- it did get the students thinking in scientific way and it helped explain the scientific process
- it was great for each student to have their own device

The next step is to go back into the classrooms and visit this again with both the Digiblues and the iPads. I might also continue my search for the perfect app for this learning experience!





Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Learning at a distance.

Our Middle School is going to have "distance learning day" during parent-teacher conferences where students will be expected to continue their learning away from school. This day presents challenges and opportunities for us to create engaging learning experiences while raising questions about the nature of learning, the role of school, the possibilities of connection and communication via technology. Here's a list about 5 ways we might engage students via distance learning.


Make it Experiential
Singapore Flyer by Eustaquio Santimano 
One of the great opportunities of having a day where students don't have to come to school is that they can go out and experience learning in other settings. Singapore if full of learning environments that are conducive to learning in every academic subject and across our "Five Pillars." A morning at the Botanic Gardens, or Singapore City Gallery would create a rich learning environment for students to do a variety of activities. Many of the Singapore museums already have suplemental site-based learning resources that you might use as a starting point for developing activities.

Additionally, groups of student could gather and continue the learning from previous lessons i.e. organize a game of touch rugby where students play and rotate role of observer/documenter with video that students can use to augment the feedback that they give.


Capitalize on Collaboration
Motion Gears -Team Force
 by ralphbijker
Learning is a social endeavour. In a distance learning situation, capitalizing on the social nature of learning is possible through the use of collaborative platforms like Google Docs. Many students are already using collaboration features of Google Docs such as commenting for peer review and collaborative note taking.
To take it another direction, one option could be to have students write a collaborative story. In teams, one student takes the lead and writes an introduction, another student picks it up and carries it forward and so on until the conclusion is reached.



Show your Learning
student_ipad_school 057
by flickingerbrad
Students can demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways and on the distance learning day, it could be a good excuse for you to throw something new in the mix. Allowing for choice in the way student show their learning accommodates for differences and allows for differentiation by the students. All students have their ePortfolio sites that they could use to write down their goals. In addition each student in Grade 7 & 8 have a blog that they may write to while reading and commenting on others.

Many of our students are quite handy at producing short videos or capturing images to convey their learning and could publish their work over YouTube, Picasa (accounts associated with G Apps), or by sharing them via the Google Drive.

One of the exciting ways for students to show their learning and practice the metacognitive skills is by producing a 'Learning Talk,' a voice-over screen recording or drawing where they show their working out while explaining and defending the choices they're making.

Join them Online
If you're able, during a break, you may want to schedule a Skype or Facetime call/chat with your students where you can check in with them, they can ask you questions and you can check in on their progress. You can also join them if they're working in Google Docs by using the chat function.
It's quite powerful to leave comments in the spaces where students are working. It doesn't have to be lengthy or in depth, rather something that shows 'I'm here and I care' can be quite motivating to students. Leaving a comment just to let them know you've read their blog post can do a great deal for validating their effort.

"Plus est en vous"
Everest and Nepal Service
Our students are capable of doing amazing things, we've all seen this in the classroom, on the climbing wall and during service. On this day we have an opportunity to try a new way of learning. Sure it may be uncomfortable for us to think and plan this way. But, I'm convinced that quite often we underestimate what students can do to learn themselves. Utilizing the world's information at their fingertips and framed by a motivating, relevant challenge, they will surprise us and show us that 'there is more in you than you think.'