Journey’s Just Beginning

This time last week I was putting things in my suitcase, considering the British weather and casual dress code, and almost glad I was driving to Windsor and didn’t have to also worry about weight.

It was a beautiful, warm day on Tuesday when I got into the car and headed south. Not even the stop-start traffic on the M25 could take the edge off the mix of nerves and excitement at what lay ahead. The schedule looked full on – but I’d never been to a professional residential event to compare. I felt like a fresher heading off for fresher’s week, either way, hoping I’d fit in and not look decidedly dim amongst all the talent.

I’d been in the door two minutes before someone stopped me to ask if I was Kit, and the eternal question of ‘have we met before, or just on Twitter’ began! I was really glad to have participated in Tuesday night #ADEchat since my application, as I could recognise quite a number of faces both of class of 2017 and alumni. Putting them all physically in one room later that evening with both live hosting and questions on Twitter was at times mind-boggling. As the week went on, I felt I had underestimated how many people had met in person before – through working at RTCs, or from becoming AETs etc. To hear that this year’s Academies were smaller to help people network, I felt quite relieved, as although I said hello to so many people, I couldn’t help but feel I was grazing the surface quite often.

The workshops on Wednesday were one of the parts I was most looking forward to. It was great fun to try and work out how to get Spheros to flash or dance in time to music, and the long exposure light trails I’d seen in a Twitter photo were more tricky to film than code in the end. (Although we have earlier generation Spheros at school, I hope we might be able to apply the concepts with Tickle or similar, until we can budget for some updates.) The Lego robots were intriguing and I definitely enjoyed the crossover of subjects with computing.

It had been a really hard choice to pick workshops, and I was glad we were able to sneakily switch. I’d been using Clips quite a bit on the lead up to Academy, and a heads up at breakfast suggested my other shortlisted choice of Designing Educational Resources would definitely be worth going to instead. The talk was a kick up the backside for me – it was practice I knew but wasn’t putting into action. I’ve been so preoccupied with the content, accessibility and the basic design and low file size to get books produced swiftly in the first 12 months, I’ve not been pushing the boat out design-wise. With us replacing our original iPad stock this autumn (goodbye iOS 9 at last) and some increased storage on each device, I can afford to be slightly less strict with myself on the export size, and certainly I will need to start using the larger resolution images.

The showcases and stories shared from Wednesday onwards had us laughing, gasping, cheering, photographing and filming. I really hope they might be published again online as it would be very good to watch again and absorb them properly. There were so many interesting insights, ideas and experiences in there that would be applicable to colleagues across our 7-18 age range.

Thursday’s final workshop session of coding apps with Xcode was great. Although we jumped from bit to bit, it was an excellent overview and insight into what could be ahead if we are able to acquire Macs/MBPs in our computing department to trial. I’d also gone along to the fireside chat the previous day, but as we were not able to use Swift last year, I couldn’t offer experiences. However, I hope we’ll be able to integrate it as another language soon.

That afternoon I was pleased to join up with Sebah and Linda to begin a set of Clips on BookWidgets – something we each used but for different reasons! Within an hour and a half we had pulled together two clips from scratch, using Keynote for some additional content. Once the dust has settled, I look forward to figuring out a couple more to add to the collection – and BookWidgets were rather pleased at our efforts.

On Friday, with final showcases, instructions, presentations and photos it was all over, though I knew the journey was just beginning.

#BookWidgets #ClassroomClips

Featured on Imaginify!

My dear friend from university, Sarah Francis, has set up her own organisation – Imaginify.

  • Imaginify celebrates women who have a passion for technology and digital
  • Imaginify empowers women and girls to pursue careers in digital and technology.
  • Imaginify builds technology that helps women and girls reach their potential

As part of a showcase of women in STEM, Sarah asked me to do a little email interview:

Read the full Imaginify interview here.

GCSE Chemistry: Salts Book Published with Rosemary Houghton

Rosemary is a pioneer in the Chemistry department at BGS. She was the first member of staff to help me engage students in creating content for our multi-touch books (as opposed to just Book Creator). For this book on salts, she shot her own videos of experiments for inclusion, created self-marking tests with Book Widgets. I tied it all together ready for some edits and eventual publication.

Available for FREE here on iTunes Bookstore

Experimenting with Clips

With all the news of #ADE2017 still fresh, had to give Clips a bit of a play. It’s definitely rather addictive. I’ve found myself mucking about with it, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it’s capable of.

The app feels like a sibling to iMovie on the iPad, while bringing the handy editing features of Photos together. Once I’d mucked around a bit everything felt familiar.

The voice dictation is an exciting feature, and it’s handy to know you can edit the text, as it’s not always spot on.

Definitely need to play with it on the iPad and create some good examples with students and colleagues. Might be a new addition to our Year 7 work on Inside the Computer. 

Here’s an example of one embedded in a tweet:

Apple Distinguished Educator 2017! #ADE2017

I’m in!

I let out an excited squeal when the email arrived from California. I’d just got home from school where I’d been working solidly in the Easter holiday peace when it arrived (us Digital Design Creators still toil while corridors fall quiet).

With only 9 months of work behind me when I made my 2 minute pitch video, I thought I was an outsider.

Still not come down from the ceiling – what a Monday!!

CyberFirst Girls Competition & Cracking Codes

It was an honour to support two teams of Year 8 students to take part in the CyberFirst Girls Competition run by the National Cyber Security Centre. The girls were at the very youngest end of the age range and figured out everything from how to geolocate a photo, read Base64 messages, sniff packets and a whole lot more.

Following on from a week of intensive code cracking through lunchtimes, we had a go at some Python to investigate Caesar’s Cipher. We sent messages to each other and then changed the code to brute force attack the code – making our programs print out every possible outcome so we could spot the decrypted message.

#HarpurTeachMeet

I had the pleasure of taking part in the second Harpur Teach Meet today. Our Teach Meets are open to staff within the Trust, and it’s good to meet people from our sibling schools. This time it was our turn to host.

This was my first ever Teach Meet, and the format was strictly 3 minute presentations! Both a long or a short time depending on what you chose to talk about.

There were some fantastic talks from how to engage students to explore their literature study, to feedback reflection, nature photography, spaced learning and a live demo of Kahoot!

I chose to speak about multi-touch books and their use in creating flexible learning materials.

My plan was to create my presentation as a book and use Air Server to present, but even technologically adept schools such as BGS occasionally have their hiccups. I used Quicktime instead to record my iPad screen as I interacted with the book, capturing the iPad’s speaking and other interactive items. This meant my presentation was bang on 3 minutes, but I had to try and match my words to my previously recorded interactions! In retrospect it probably needed more rehearsal, so in my growth mindset – not there yet.

Google Expeditions

Following James’ visit to BETT 2017, he managed to arrange a visit to school from Google Expeditions. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Expeditions, its a free VR app available on Android and iOS which is designed to work with Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is a low-end VR device, made of cardboard which works with a smartphone.

Together we took over two Junior School classrooms for the day, armed with about sixty Asus devices and Cardboards, a couple of Android tablets, two routers and an army of charger cables.

In half hour or so sessions, we took the whole Junior School (Years 3 to 6) and some volunteer sixth formers through immersive 360 degree images of the International Space Station, volcanoes of the world, Barcelona, Egypt, Beijing, the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, Antarctica and rainforests.

It was amazing to hear their reactions, bowled over by how immersive they found it. They reached out instinctively to touch penguins only to find their adjacent classmates, gasped at how high they were in space over the Great Barrier Reef.

Each individual Google Cardboard and Asus device allowed the student wearing it to look in any direction they chose, while we ‘drove’ the experience from the tablet. We were able to access more information about each scene, point items out (the students saw arrows guiding them to the targets) and stop and start the experience for everyone. We could see where they were looking at any point with a swarm of smilie face icons.

The girls didn’t want to stop exploring, and it was hard to prise their teachers away from the same to come and try controlling the expedition!

As snow fell outside the classroom window,  it didn’t quite compare to the Antarctic Expedition scenes inside. Proof it was a truly unusual day for all.

One Cat's Adventures in Technology and Teaching