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Computer Science Week – 12 Games of Christmas is back!

Last year to celebrate computer science week I created the 12 games of Christmas. Basically I created 12 different types of games on Scratch and each day recorded a video highlighting a key part of the coding. I also featured some of my students games using Twitter and the daily video.

This year I’m going bigger than ever and taking it fully international – And I need help! If you teach computer science to kids aged 7-16, please pass on the posters below to share with the students so they can be featured this year or check out the promotional video!

To get involved, visit the website every day from December 1st. You can also submit games on the site or go straight to the studio on Scratch

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10 amazing ways to use Canva in your classroom

Canva might just be the biggest disruption to education since Google threw their hat in the ring and toppled Microsoft’s tools.

I’ve used Canva for a long while, and I didn’t think for a moment it would have quite such an impact in the classroom but the progress made in the last 18 months, and the investment and time they put into their educational provision has been outstanding.

Canva is currently FREE to all educators, it is web based and incredibly user friendly. Primarily a graphic design tool, Canva also offers some very interesting tools and tricks that can have an impact in every classroom.

1. A Presentation Tool!

Canva has so many great templates to use to create an engaging set of slides for any teaching subject. But of course it is also totally customisable and there are so many easy to grab elements and photos to add in that you don’t need to go searching off trying to find the right picture on Google. Even if you do – it is easy to import into Canva, you can just copy and paste straight into the browser editor, or use the upload tool.

2. Graphic Organisers – Templates Galore

Higher order thinking in lessons is the future and Canva have you covered with some already great tools – just hit search on ‘Graphic Organizers’ and you’ll be given a wealth of great starting points to create the perfect activity. You can even share the templates with a link so that students can use Canva to type their answers

3. Worksheets – or App Smash with Wizer

In the last twelve months Canva has exploded with ready to use worksheets, though many are simplistic, it gives a great first step into creating fun looking worksheets. Combine this with either (as above) sharing it so that they can access it through Canva, or go one step further and App Smash with Wizer, where you can import templates directly from Canva when creating your interactive worksheets

4. Google Classroom Banners

A great way to start the year or term – Send a template to the students (or use the ready made templates on Canva already, just search Classroom Banner) and have them come up with creative banners for their Classroom page. If you can, change the banner each week with a new student’s effort – it gets them excited about clicking into their classroom each week to see the new design

5. Remove Backgrounds!

PLEASE don’t use pictures with white squares around the outside, and teach your students the same. This tool is the same technology as the wonderful remove.bg but this has the added creativity that you can resize or even add more great effects to the image and then you could export it as a transparent image to use wherever you need.

6. Comic Books or Infographics for Summative Assessments

Let students get creative when they show off their final learning. Give them a push to improve their presentation skills by using Canva instead of slides or docs. Whilst Book Creator is still a wonderful alternative to comic books and has a more options for adding content, Canva has some great simple comic book templates with some pre loaded elements such as characters and expressions. Also students could present key information from a novel or a science topic using an infograph. There are tons of templates that can help inspire the students.

7. Data Analysis in Maths or Science

Did you know you can create simple pie charts and bar charts in Canva? Great tool for using in maths lessons, or having students present data charts in interesting ways. EVEN BETTER – link a current google sheet from your drive to your infographic and it will take the information from it and create the perfect graphic in your presentations. There is not as much flexibility for more advanced graphs – but should be enough for students to use.

8. Students Collaboration real time

This is wonderful, create a template activity – perhaps a brainstorming for a story idea – and then create a few versions, enough for one per group. Then share the links to the various templates for each group and the students work on those particular versions. Just like Google Slides of course, but in Canva. So much fun, though you still have the ‘who deleted my work!’ dilemma.

9. Class Certificates or Announcements or Videos

Make your own class certificates with the greatest of ease and also make engaging announcement messages for school social media or Seesaw announcements. If you really want to be creative, try creating a class blog and using Canva for inspiration on the blog posts. Finally, Canva has an amazing ‘present and record’ feature, allowing you to create your slide presentation, then record yourself over the top and have a link when finished to send to the community. A great way to make simple webinars!

10. Create Multimedia content for Google sites and Flipgrid and Video amongst others!

So many ideas! How about using the creative graphic design features to make your existing tools stand out. Create logos and graphics that can be used on your google sites, your video editing tools or even on Flipgrid as a sticker. Remember to choose transparent when downloading your image and you can create fun overlays to your videos on WeVideo or whatever other video editing tools you might use.

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3D Modelling Minecraft Style – without Minecraft – for FREE!

A user generated model built in cubical

This week I came across the most incredible tool: cubical.xyz

It is brand new and is basically a Minecraft world build editor that is entirely online and ENTIRELY free. The interface is a little tricky at first, particularly if you don’t have a mouse. The audience is not education, it is made for Minecrafters, but it basically emulates the fun of building 3D models in Minecraft, without the distraction of mobs, explosives and other elements.

If you like the idea of trying a minecraft project in your room but don’t like the gaming element of it then this is perfect.

In addition, this has so many great tools that when mastered, could help create some pretty incredible models. In fact in some ways it is better than Minecraft

Just a few cool features include:

The Tools: You can quickly cover an area in grass, trees, water or whatever block you need in just a few clicks using the brush tool:

The Generators: Play around with different styles of topology, great for geography and humanities projects.

The editing features: You can copy and paste selections! Like a house you’ve built? Copy and paste it all over your map to make a village. It also includes an UNDO button, something I wish existed in the real Minecraft!

The blocks: Most of the Minecraft blocks for building are in there and a new update is coming with even more!

Sharing worlds: A fantastic feature for education is the way worlds are set up. The interface is set to be improved, but as of writing, each world comes with it’s own URL. You can also set a template for the class to use, so they all start from the same point. The BRILLIANT part to this is that as soon as they open a web URL template – it automatically creates their own copy and then when they save their version it has its own URL ready to be shared to the teacher.

To see this in action, my colleague created a Google sheet for his class to open the template and then save and post their variations on it for anyone else to see.

I’ve not had an opportunity to use it yet in lesson, but have watched a Y4 year group use it to build some models of the starting of an ancient civilisation. I can imagine this can be used for sustainability projects, learning about volcanoes, 3D modelling, and much more. The world can be exported and used in Minecraft (though that requires some knowhow) or as an image.

I’m excited to see what educators and students can do with this fabulous online tool. To see more watch the video below:

Follow @cubical_xyz for more updates and information

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Multimedia – Audio – Chromebook Tools – Audio Capture

As part of our Year 5 unit “Breaking News. Spread the Word” we spend time looking at how digital technology can help create different elements of Multimedia. We recently looked at audio, and whilst we could spend months on just this one topic, we tried to pullout some quick tools that would empower students to create. I shared WeVideo as our go to tool for podcasting, but I’ve also used Synth as well. I’ll share how these lessons went another time.

Below is a few tools we used and most importantly our way of being able to save and record these using Chrome Audio Capture and the fantastic digital citizenship discussions that follow.

We wanted to create some digital audio and quickly. The most fun way to do this is by using Chrome Music Lab, which is part of the growing number of Experiments by Google.

There is so much to explore here – and a really easy way to create simple audio. My favourites are the Kandinsky tool. The Voice Spinner (great for distorting voice) and the Melody Maker. Our students spend twenty minutes exploring and creating the website to get an idea of what is available.

Then there is the fabulous Plink! by Dinahmoe Labs. Your students will love this great music making tool and it is brilliant for students with educational needs. We had one of our students with CP being able to use his eyes only to make music and join in with the rest of his class.

Whilst Plink! creates a bunch of similar sounding tracks, thanks to the same beat that runs behind it, it does have another feature that the kids go mad for. Anything that can be ‘multiplayer’ always encourages enthusiasm, but here they can join each others Plink! sessions and create music together – this works well because the more users, the better the production sounds. You can either try and use the original version and jump on at the same time, or try the new Plink app, which allows you to invite people via a link to your own private session.

Dinahmoe Labs have some amazing tools for music creation and they are all super easy to use – The Rick Astley remix tool is great fun, and students love ToneCraft (for obvious reasons). I really like the Exquisite Theme music maker, which is great when discussing with students about choosing the right type of music for a project.

Recording and Saving the Music

A fantastic way to save the audio that the students create is to use the free Chrome Audio Capture extension:

It is SO EASY to use – and only records audio from the chrome tab – not the microphone – meaning you can have a full blown riot in the classroom and the recording will still just be the audio you want.

You simply click on the extension, start capture and then when finished, click to stop the capture. Then once it is loaded, click Save.

There is no editing feature, no paid features (there is a limit of 20 minutes, but for students that probably isn’t an issue) and it creates an Mp3 which you can share or add into other projects.

Digital Citizenship

A lesson on multimedia and audio then quickly descends into a fantastic opportunity to talk about copyright and fair use. Here I discussed what we can and cannot record from the internet. We talk about giving credit to DinahMoe and Google, about the wonderfully ambiguous meaning of “For educational purposes only” and what that means for us in school. I go on to talk about original content creators and how if you plan to make money then the rules change dramatically. It links so well with ISTE Standard, and is an important reflection on how we must not abuse other people’s creations and use things in an appropriate and legal way.

Further Ideas:

Use Chrome Lab to create a soundtrack to a scratch game or animation

Use for intro to a podcast

Create sound for a live performance

Learn how music affects mood and create music for different audiences, like Horror, or Comedy.

ISTE Standards covered:

2c Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

6.a. Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

6. b. Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

7a Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #13

I am continuing to share on this blog more great tips and updates as we all continue on this journey!

Rivet – Google for Education

During school closures, it can be extra tough to be there for our children who need extra support in their learning. Google continue to improve on their offerings to help in this area and I am excited about this tool called Rivet. It seems free for now and it supports reading – with some very different books – some including Youtube stars and popular shows. the app is supported best at the moment, but there is a web version too.

This is invented and supported by engineers familiar with machine learning and with access to Google’s superpowers. I think this is only going to get better. Currently you can click on any word for it to be read out loud, and it will find a definition too. Just think- this software is collecting information about words that children struggle with and then can teach itself how to best help similar age students. Big future ahead.

This book is based on the very popular Tic Tac Toy Youtube channel.

Createability – More Google Education

Another Google project is Creatability which is still in development but is geared to supporting anyone with accessibility issues.

Creatability is a set of experiments made in collaboration with creators and allies in the accessibility community. They explore how creative tools – drawing, music, and more – can be made more accessible using web and AI technology. They’re just a start. We’re sharing open-source code and tutorials for others to make their own projects

https://experiments.withgoogle.com/collection/creatability

We’ve used a couple of these before and they are just super cool to play with. There will be more on the way I am sure.

Teacher Virtual Summits

With many Educational conferences being moved or cancelled – ISTE 2020 is the big one for me 😦 – teacher empowerment can not be stopped and there are various online summits coming up that offer some great PD from the comfort of your home. Be warned – these don’t hang around, so set your calendars. Here are the ones i’m ‘attending’ so far. Or at least trying to:

Whole Child Virtual Summit – with a number of key speakers thinking about many social aspects of education. This set up by a growing player in social-emotional learning, Character Strong.

Research Ed – Limited time only – UK based summit on research within education – it also features some support on school closures

Wonder Workshop – Like to use more computational thinking in your classroom? Ever used or heard of Dash/Dot/Cue robots – this has loads of great talks about programming and STEAM and all things techie!

And Finally

Dav Pilkey is doing his thing online to help make more interesting activities at home. I appreciate Joe Wicks and Oliver Jeffers and Julia Donaldson are already doing their bit and so well too, but, well, y’know, it’s Dav Pilkey and 20 million+ kids are pretty happy about it.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #12

I am continuing to share on this blog more great tips and updates as we all continue on this journey!

GooseChase EDU

I came across this from the wonderful Cult Of Pedagogy blog in January, and when I considered new and interesting tools for the current closure – this came back into my mind, particularly as many teachers are setting scavenger hunt style activities already. GooseChase EDU allows teams of students or individuals to work on completing activities set by teachers. Then they photograph evidence via the free app and collect points. Teachers review the evidence and give bonus points (or return as incomplete).

Okay, so you can still use Seesaw or Flipgrid or Google Classroom to have students upload evidence of work, but this is different, gamified, with leaderboards and an option of choice. You can set questions, challenges or use the pre set ideas like ‘have someone take a photo of someone else taking a photo of you’. You can set locations (using GPS!) or just set an answer that needs to be typed in correctly. A definite option during closure.

Flipgrid Continues to be Awesome

Some companies have gone all out to support teachers during this closure, but none more than Flipgrid, who already offer a fantastic fee educational tool and promise it to be free forever. They also keep responding to teacher requests and have introduced another fantastic upgrade: Screen Recording – from Flipgrid! We can also do 10 minute recordings too – which is fantastic for teachers – not so much for a class full of 10 minute student videos!

Cospaces

Another great tool to be creative, and this one is LOVED by kids. There is so much opportunity to extend in this great app, with various level of coding but a very simple to use interface for beginners.

This is designed for students to create great 3D virtual scenes, that can be added to to have animations play from the characters added in. Adding in the feature that anyone can then enter the world created using Virtual Reality, and students fall in love with the idea. Projects for: historical scenes, curating a VR museum, retelling a story, creating mazes and much more.

And Finally

Check this out for a hack to present your own writing during a video conference:

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #11

I am continuing to share on this blog more great tips and updates as we all continue on this journey!

Google Meet Multiscreen Grid / Gallery View

A big debate at the moment in our school of whether to switch to Zoom, or stick with Meet. This feature created by someone who isn’t Google, just might have swayed us to stay with Meet. The free chrome web extension here: THIS LINK means when you next sign into Meet, you will see a new icon in the top right hand corner:

Screenshot 2020-03-27 at 17.04.49.png

When you click on this button you will get a grid view of all your Meet participants. I am not fully sure of how many images it can handle, but this looks promising:

The only small issue is if another participant on the Meet needs to present the screen, you need to make sure you turn off the grid view if you want to see their screen full size. But it does not interfere with you presenting your screen. With thanks to my colleague @MoriartyAngela for testing this out!

Formative

Amongst the many free edtech tools being offered, Formative is a very powerful and well respected tool that allows for some pretty impressive assessment. Having said that – many of its features are replicated in other formats, albeit across different platforms. This brings it all together, and has a piece de résistance – the ability to convert any worksheet into an online one, with automatic feedback. This may be your best option for assessing students in the coming months. Here is the page on the home learning slide for more information and tutorial video

World Book Online and Audible

As some of you are already aware, Audible has announced it will provide free audiobooks for children and teens while schools are suspended.
Here is the link: https://stories.audible.com/start-listen

Also available now is World Book Online bit.ly/2QsQs1E

And Finally…

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #10

I am continuing to share on this blog more great tips and updates as we continue on this journey!

Celebrities

So as the western world struggles through lockdown, more celebrities are taking to offering what they can to support families. Of course as one does it, the others start to copy, so expect many more. The best for schools are the book readers, and authors, but there are plenty of ideas and suggestions to share with your family communities. This article links a few of the current offers including Josh Gad and Lin Manuel Miranda. And Twitter is full of helpfulness:

Interestingly, Authors are not allowed to give you permission to share books online. In fact for most books it is not advisable to record and publish to an open online platform. Please be mindful of publishing rights if you are sharing stories online – although some publishers have been offering temporary solutions.

Shapegrams

This looks fun – and is easy to share for your students, if they are likely to have access to technology and use Google for education.

It is about drawing simple shapes using Google Drawing, but of course the real secret here is the improving of several key formatting skills, like resizing and using colour tools, duplicating things and much more. The first 4 are free and come with a video which talks through the process.

It’s a simple idea – but a fantastic one for a simple home learning challenge.

Flipgrid

Forgot to mention this a while ago, but when recording on Flipgrid using the app, you can keep music playing in the background of the device, and it won’t stop when you hit record. It may seem like a minor thing – but now you can add much better audio quality to your Flipgrid video all from the same device.

Lip Snyc battle anyone? What a great home learning challenge!

And Finally!

I hope teaching and learning is going well for everyone. As a parent and teacher – it’s been tough old seven weeks, and I feel like things probably need lightening up. Now more than ever is the time to jazz up your learning videosmake a fool out of yourself and get creative. Don’t forget to promote creativity to your parents too – let them work together on a great project – this is what we did at home recently on Wevideo for a habitat activity. Having fun is of course one of the most important parts of a successful classroom. How are you managing to keep that going?

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #9

I am continuing to share on this blog more great tips and updates as we continue on this journey!

Google Meet

Google are always updating their education apps (frustratingly for us teachers doing tutorials!) but this one is great:

No pesky kids kicking you out anymore! A great new addition. Puts it back into contention with Zoom as the go to video conferencing tool. As with all Google updates – it may take a few days to be available. Keep an eye out for when it changes!

Whereby

For something a bit more professional, Whereby have a very good reputation and one big selling point that may turn you to using them – is that you do not need to download any app to use it – or require any log in. The other big advantage of this is that there is a feature where you can lock your room, meaning new people joining have to ‘knock’ to get in.

This will work brilliantly for teacher conferences – especially as it is free for 4 or less people in the virtual room. Also, if you do pay the extra – you can use it fro up to 50 attendees and one cool tool is that you can play Youtube videos to all the people in the room without loss of audio.

Epic!

Epic have been great with schools so far, but since the outbreak of COVID-19, they reevaluated and realised that they can’t share books through the school set up, at home, due to publishing. So current access is not available through school codes. HOWEVER, Epic have offered 3 MONTHS free access to parents.

The unfortunate downside is a bit of work for the teachers as you will have to invite them using individual emails. At our school we are providing teachers with a list of emails from our management system, but that is as far as we can go. Once parents receive the email they do not even have to enter any card details – they will be provided with 3 months free to access at any time.

WordWall

I’ve spoken before about this great tool – but they are offering free Pro access if you get in touch. Wordwall gives you a link to share fun mini activities to help with retrieval practice. Best of all, when you complete a set of flashcards, Wordwall automatically creates various different games with the same learning information, giving you up to ten different activities with the click of a button, including matching activities, crosswords, anagrams and more.

There is a maximum of 5 activities in a free account, but you can create more if you upgrade to Pro.

Daily Tips

Daily Tech Tidbits #8

Each day, whilst the school is closed, I have been sending daily tips and advice to our staff to support with their online learning provision. Sometimes it is in response to common questions, and sometimes it is just great tips and tools. I’ve decided to share them in light of the ongoing global impact of Covid-19.

Best practice:
Seesaw: I’d like to share with you an activity from Alex in which he is teaching Maths using Seesaw. What he has done is when creating the activity – he has created a multimedia example, and so then he can create either a set of slides or the task that children have to complete. He has then recorded his voice, but most importantly, he is writing or adding shapes live whilst speaking. If you didn’t know this was possible in Seesaw – now you do! So you can essentially use it as a whiteboard – even better if you have a stylus. (we can arrange for you to borrow an LT chromebook for a few weeks if you would like a stylus and touchscreen). Then this is added as separate to the actual template provided to complete the tasks. Again this means that as the student completes an activity on their template – they can refer to the instructions at any time without leaving their work, by clicking view instructions at the top of their page.

Top tips: Use the arrow shape in Seesaw as a pointer.  Also you can pause at any point, add in some text on the screen, then play to have it magically appear.

Research online:

Just a reminder from Mel that whilst we wait for BrainPop’s free access, you can also use Britannica Online as a place for children to do some research. I think this site warrants a tutorial video for kids (and teachers) so I’ll make one this weekend – some of the tools when using this include changing your reading level, being able to cite correctly, and as a teacher, posting articles direct to a google classroom.