I have downloaded the game Symphonica totally by chance. After tinkering around with it for a while I realized what an amazing app it is to teach rhythm to kids. So let me give you some details about this game.
In Symphonica you are a conductor, named Takt. You are given an orchestra and all you have to do is following the rhythm of classical tunes by tapping on the screen. Sounds simple and similar to Guitar Hero. Below you can see a screenshot.
As you see different notes scroll from right to left and whenever they reach the staff line you need to tap on screen (anywhere you want). Timing is the issue here. Four levels of rating are defined; Bravo, Good, ok and Miss. For a beginner not having a Miss during play is a reasonable object. When you start mastering your skills you can raise the bar and try to get as much Bravos as possible. Each song has two difficulty levels. Second level is unlocked when you get an “SSS” achievement for the first level. I can say that first level is a warmup and the second level is the real exercise. By the way if you play “Stars and Stripes Forever” please let me know when you get an “SSS” from second level. It seems very hard to get it.
Symphonica is a paid app but you can play the beginning part of the episode mode free. If you enter store you can buy different song selections from the AppStore and play the game freely in the concert mode.
PS: You can double the fun if you project the game on a big screen as I do ☺
Recently I have discovered a great app which can help you flip your classroom or simply will help you and your students to prepare videos for your lessons. You might remember that I had mentioned ShowMe, Educreations and Knowmia earlier. All these apps serve same purpose but they have different features and usability levels. AniMoby seems to be a perfect combination of simplicity and professionality.
When you look at the main page you don’t see a lot of options, right? Well, look what happens when I touch the little pads on four sides of the screen;
As you see AniMoby hides lots of features some of which can’t be found in most of the alternative apps. On the left side you can see a standart tools menu. Pen, Highlighting, Line, Arrow, Text are standard tools in every similar app. Additionally AniMoby has a hand tool which is activated when you press record button. This tool is very handy when you need to point what you are talking about in your notes. Also picture library is very easy to use and more advanced. You can choose predefined pictures from different categories or you can choose one from your Photo Library, camera or from your Dropbox account. When you insert a picture into a slide that image is stored in “storage bar” which can be found by tapping on the top pad. You can see it in the above picture (which is empty for now). When a picture is in storage bar you can use it in other pages as well. If you need to use a picture or a symbol very often in different pages then you’ll find storage bar very useful. By the way editing images is also very easy. Simply double tap on the picture and you have the options to change its layout, scale and rotation.
On the bottom menu you can find Page Index, Add Page, Page Options and Background Chooser on the left side and record options on the right side. You might think that menus are stealing your free space on the screen and might look bad in your video but during the recording these menus are not shown. This means you can open and close these windows as much as you want and no one will see it happening. In other similar apps menus are not shown as well but usually they can’t be removed from the screen and this limits your space.
On the right side you can find settings of your current tool. This is actually a quick access menu. If you tap on your tool a second time (not a double click) a more advanced settings menu will appear. I guess developers thought that during the lecturing it might be hard to manipulate a tool with advanced settings so they put this simple menu there.
If you look at the empty screenshot you will see that the name of the project (Emre’s project) is in the middle of the title and next to it you can see the size of the project. How cool is that! You can see how much disk space your project occupies in your device and according to that information you can divide your project into parts during the recording. I sometimes had problems in sharing my videos because during the recordings I couldn’t predict the size of the file and at the end I came up with really large files which were hard to share.
When you are done with your project you can publish it or email it or post it to your facebook page.
AniMoby has a free version which has full features but in pro version there are no limits to the duration of recordings and also you can publish your project in “private” mode where only other invited AniMoby user can access. With the free version, the limit for recording is two minutes and your projects are saved publicly.
I have been using videos (especially Khan Academy videos) in my lessons for a while. I realized that I haven’t shared a case with you yet so last week I gathered some pictures and notes and prepared a “video” to show you how I use videos to increase learning.
Before watching the following video let me give you some details. Our topic was from trigonometry; Law Of Sines. In one of my classes I didn’t use any video. Instead I used my old notes and moreover I designed the lesson in the traditional way where I was in front of the board all lesson, lecturing, asking, answering etc. In my other class, I designed the lesson using videos and group discussions. At the end of both lessons I gave my students 2 questions to see the results and also asked them some questions to understand if they enjoyed the lesson or not. Below you can find the details and the comparison of the results of the test questions.
Here are the results from two classes. Let me give you the traditional class results.
And here are the results of the other class.
According to these numbers it is possible to say that second group is more successful than the first but two questions is not enough to measure the learning. So I’ll comment on not numbers but overall lesson.
In the traditional class students were not as engaged as the others. I had students who were yawning, who were having trouble in following, who were bored etc. While I was talking about the special case this group got moving a little bit because the topic was interesting.
I also asked students if they enjoyed the lesson or not. Can you guess which group said yes?
Whenever I give a speech about educational technologies I ask this question to the audience. Usually they respond like it is a site where you can find instructional videos about math, science, history etc. At a first glance this answer seems to be correct and enough but I tell them that they underestimate Khan Academy’s potential and impact.
Khan Academy represents a major change in educational philosophy. We can talk about many tools and methods which take part in revolutionizing education in 21st century but Khan Academy has a unique place among them. It changed the paradigm of teaching. It made teachers think about reinventing teaching. I suggest you watch the following TED talk and get inspiration from Salman Khan himself. Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education. You can visit https://www.khanacademy.org/coach-res and check out resources for coaches. You can also find real world examples on how Khan Academy is used in real-life.
As I mentioned above Khan Academy represents a shift in teacher’s mind. Instead of being the only source of information you can now be a guide to your students in their journey to learning. When you realize that the classroom time is not the only time where students can get the necessary information you start thinking about creating more creative and engaging activities. Also you can now focus on higher thinking skills in Bloom’s taxonomy since first steps can be handled by Khan Academy.
In my future posts I’ll share how I use Khan Academy in my classes with you.
Last week I had the chance to observe a 1:1 classroom in a different school. I was told that this is their pilot year and they are still working on some details. During my observation I took some notes and I wanted to share them with you so if you are planning to implement a 1:1 program these notes will be a good start for everyone.
- Students were using Samsung tablet PCs with Win8 installed and there was a main computer in the room which was attached to an interactive smart board. Teacher was using a classroom management software so she was able to manipulate students’ laptops. Although it was a 1:1 classroom the lesson was quite traditional. I saw that technology changed the environment but not the minds. Nevertheless I kept in my mind that this is a pilot year and they are aware of the fact that there are lots of things that should be done in the upcoming months and years to fully implement a 1:1 program.
- In the beginning of the lesson teacher started lecturing and asked students to listen to her. During that time lids of the laptops were fully open and it was hard for the students to see the teacher. Also having a laptop screen in front of them was quite a distraction. If you will have such a situation please tell your students to close their lids, not fully but with a 45 degree angle with the keyboard. Now they will be able to see you and you will be able to see their faces. Also they won’t see a laptop screen and they won’t be distracted.
- Interactive whiteboards are great but their surface area is not sufficient enough to hold necessary information. I always advise that there should be additional normal whiteboards on either side of the interactive whiteboard. This will not only comfort teacher but also give him/her the ability to keep some information which is necessary through the lesson.
- Furniture design is one of the crucial part of 1:1 laptop programs. 21st century classrooms have a very different design than traditional ones so this change should also be taken into consideration. Here is my article about classroom furnitures: Importance of Classroom Furniture Technologies.
- Using digital materials serves a purpose but this purpose is not getting rid of pencils, papers and notebooks. On the contrary new and old technologies should work hand in hand. Learning is a complicated process and we can not rule out the importance of having a proper physical notebook.
- Classroom management software was not very powerful. Although it had good features I found it hard to manage. Having a proper CMS is another issue. My advice would be finding a good CMS but not sticking on that forever. There are lots of Web2.0 tools which will do more than your CMS can do.
- Teaching the 21st century skills plays a vital role in every 1:1 program. Teachers should have a pre-knowledge about what these skills are and why they are important. Without these skills why are we bothering ourselves with such a huge work load?
- At the end of the lesson you should be able to give an answer to this question: What difference did using technology make in this lesson? If you have a satisfying answer then everything is fine. If you can not spot a real difference then you should question your methods on using technology.
- Last item is something I always mention. Students never use their pencils, textbook, notebook or any other material continuously for whole lesson. During a lesson period they take notes, read, listen etc. and same idea is applied for teachers too. It is not possible to follow a single method for whole lesson. You use different methods according to content and students. Just like this idea using technology for the whole lesson is not realistic. Why are you pushing yourself to make students use that device for 40 minutes? Don’t forget that technology is a tool not a learning outcome.
Here is a fresh service from Google: Helpouts! Basically you get an online help from other people about almost anything or you provide help to others. You may wonder why Google started such an initiative. I think it’s not so hard to make a guess. Google search engine has had a dramatic effect on how we reach information but I can say that this tool is very passive. I mean when you search for anything you find some information which was written some time ago. If you have certain search skills you can reach the latest, freshest news but they are still written in the past (even 5 minutes is considered as past time in this crazy, fast evolving world) and you might need someone to talk to and ask specific questions or to get specific information.
Today, Google provides interactivity by combining a search engine with Hangouts. When you go to Helpouts web site you can get help from other people over live video. Unfortunately this is not a free service but I saw some people who claim they provide help for free but you must get detailed information before you start getting help. Payments are done by Google Wallet so you should have an account. Also you can give your own Helpouts and earn some money.
For the content, main topics are as follows;
You can get more information from Helpouts web site and don’t forget that this site is powered by Google Hangouts which is the top online communication/video conferencing tool.
Are you having problems with iOS7? Is your screen freezing like mine? Are some of the apps not working anymore? Does your iPad not responding time to time? Is the performance too low? Here is a very simple method to solve all these problems at once: Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings. Be careful this process will reset your settings but won’t erase any media from your iDevice. You need to enter passwords and do other settings manually. I know it looks tiring but do it once and get rid of all your problems.
“Digital Natives” … For some people this is a nice and romantic definition of today’s students. For me it is not. Today’s students are not digital natives but digital consumers. They don’t use technology in a productive way but I can not blame them. These devices and tools were not introduced as objects which can help them to improve their learning, organize their life etc. They were introduced as entertainment objects so kids are entertaining themselves by consuming it. These thoughts came to my mind again because I had a small problem recently.
I had assigned a homework through Moodle. I set the rules strict; they were supposed to download a worksheet, solve the questions on a paper and submit it by taking a picture or scanning the paper. I told them that they should submit only one file. I wanted to keep each student’s answer in a single file which would make things easier to handle. Nevertheless some of my students tried to submit more than one file and when they couldn’t do it they sent the missing part of their homework as an e-mail attachment. You may guess how it became so hard to follow homeworks.
If these kids were really digital natives then they would make a Google search on “how to merge multiple image files into a single document” and they could find so many different ways. Also these kids are using laptops for more than 5 years to do their homework and all of them have Microsoft Office Suite in their laptops. Is it too hard to realize that they can insert images into a Powerpoint or Word and save it as a single PDF file? If they use iPad they can use apps like PDFConverter and with a few clicks they can solve the problem. If they don’t have any software on their laptops they can use online PDF creation tools. The solutions are endless.
Within a couple of years real digital natives will be in our classes and I really wonder what is waiting for us…
Collaborating with people on a Google Doc is awesome but cleaning up the mess is a little bit tiring. In my latest post I showed you the way to get rid of comments by making a copy of the file but some friends told me that they don’t want to have copies of copies. They simply want to work on the same file without comments. Although the solution seems simple, deleting the comments, it is not that easy.
First of all you can delete only the ones which belong to you. So if you want to get rid of every comment you should email collaborators and ask them to delete their comments.
Second, if you check the comments section you won’t see a “Delete” button. I assume that some of you have never realized that there is a small, tiny, weenie arrow which is next to “Re-open” link. If you click on that link you’ll see Delete option.
Recently I had a small incident so I thought it would be better if I share it with you so you won’t live that nasty situation.
I was using a Google Doc in a lesson which was created last year. Instead of making a copy and working on it I cleared student answers and shared it with this year’s students. During the lesson one of the students said something about my last year lesson and I didn’t understand what he meant. When he saw my curious face he told me that he can see the comments that students made last year!!! I suddenly felt like I was paralyzed.
Keeping my calm and serenity I kindly asked students to stop whatever they are doing on their computers. I went to my desk, opened the document and clicked on comments. Fortunately there were not many comments and they were all about solutions of the questions.
This could be a disaster if there was any delicate or personal comment about someone or something in the menu. So I can say that I escaped with no harm but I was lucky. Please be careful with your documents and double check if you are sharing a copy of the original document. As you know when you make a copy of a document the new document doesn’t hold the comments and revision histories.
By the way same thing can happen when you share your documents, presentations with your colleagues. If you have sensitive content in comments make a copy of your doc and share the new one with others.