Nick Dennis's Blog

Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: RTC

Apple RTC event at Felsted 16th September

The first Apple Regional Training Centre event at Felsted is approaching. I am particularly looking forward to it as it will start our own research project into mobile learning and we are delighted to share some of our thinking and work using Apple technologies.

We will cover:

1) A pedagogical framework for thinking about using technology and mobile devices in schools
2) Hands on session – using the framework to improve student contextual awareness and performance (Comic Life and Wikipedia)
3) Mobile learning project at Felsted (discussing use of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches for pastoral and academic support)
4) Hands on session: iPod Touch Mobile Language Lab (please bring iPod friendly headphones)
5) Finance of mobile solutions and environmental considerations
6) One more thing…

If you would like to attend, please fill in the form below. The training is *free* and the only catch is that we will ask you to fill in a survey about the session. I look forward to seeing you on the 16th September!

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Past, future and present: mobile musings

Where should I be?

Typically for this time of year, I have put off doing non-essential things like updating this blog to focus on the ‘business end’ of the year. My IB History students have now finished their exams, I have marked/moderated the A2 History coursework and I have been prepping my Year 11/Year 10 for their GCSE exams. The hardest thing I have had to do this term was coming to terms with the fact that I am not Rick James and should not attempt to sing ‘Super Freak’ to help a student’s Music Technology coursework (I have asked him to use the ‘autotune’ function liberally). If it were not part of the Assistant Head job description, I would never have done it (I am praying it does not make it on to Youtube).

Another enjoyable but less terrifying aspect of my work this term has been the reading and planning in preparation for the mobile learning project that will be launched at school this year. I am really looking forward to see how we will use the technology to enhance the learning of the students and to the professional dialogue surrounding it; there certainly is a ‘buzz’ around the proposal and I hope to elaborate on the specifics in a few weeks. As a happy coincidence, the Languages Department have bought into the idea of mobile learning and are moving towards a new Language Lab next year that will be made up of iPod Touches and Flip Video cameras. Combined with the upcoming use of the new information management system and Moodle across the school, it is easy to be carried away with big plans for the future and forgetting the pull of the immediate. I was reminded of this earlier this week when I returned an iPod Touch to a student. He clicked on it and I noticed a strangely familiar picture on his screen. He noticed and said, ‘It makes it easier to find out what class I have’. He had taken a screen shot of his timetable from the school website and saved it as a background picture on his iPod. Genius.

Innovative and effective ways of teaching and learning using mobile technology is great, but sometimes it is more than enough if it can help you get to where you need to be. I went back to my office and did the same thing. Now if only I could find out a way for cover lessons and appointments to show on it…

Image: Leo Kan @Flickr

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Comic Life and changing life in Germany 1933-1939: an update.

Today was the day students used the Regional Training Centre MacBooks and Comic Life to create the display/revision guides for changing life in Nazi Germany. Overall, I was pleased with the end product and the historical thought that went into the process of creating the pages. However, there were a few issues:

  • Lack of time meant that I could not show the students all the features they might need. When I do something like this again, I’ll make sure I give enough time to go through the program properly.
  • I did have to cajole them to think historically more than I wanted too. I think they were really excited by the activity and the technology and this detracted from the thinking process somewhat. As the lesson went on, many went into their books and notes to make sure they were using the correct information and they were making sure that the images they were using were appropriate for the subject matter. I firmly believe that when we use Comic Life again, concentration will be at the level I usually get from them as the ‘newness’ of the activity will wear off.

There were minor issues and they will be addressed. However, I thought the first attempt was pretty stunning and conveys the concept of change fantastically. What do you think?

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Comic Life and changing life in Germany 1933-1939

We have almost come to the end of the first unit of the new GCSE and I want to help the students revise some of the topic and create a wall display that is more than decorative. My first plan of attack was to use the pictures/graphics from the excellent Schools History Project book ‘Essential Germany’ to illustrate change through the use of representative characters in 1933 and then their position in 1939. However, I thought this would be too passive and students would move into ‘cutting and sticking’ mode and not really reflect on the process of change. Dale Banham, one of the authors of the textbook, was kind enough to send me his presentation from the Schools History Project conference in 2009 and in it he had photos of students representing different stages of medical development through time aided by props and clothing to help identify the period/technology. Normally,  this would be an excellent idea to represent change but in the context of Nazi Germany, I wanted the students to take the subject seriously and also think carefully about how the lives of different groups (women, workers, children, Jewish Germans) were affected during this period.

A representation of Banham's change graphic on women in the 'Essential Germany' book (made with Balsamiq Mockups).

To help them really think about the topic, I decided to change the focus slightly by asking the students to create/bring in items that represent the lives of the people in 1933/1939 and photograph them. Text boxes (like the ones titled in the graphic above) would still explain the changes between two dates but the information in them would build on the image rather than just explain it. As great as this sounds in terms of the learning, it does not make for a particularly effective display and this is where Comic Life comes in. This great piece of software on the Mac (and now on the PC) allows you to create stunning comic/graphic novel pages easily. By placing the images and text within this format, my students will be able to take away something visually appealing, reflective and creative. Their understanding will be demonstrated not only by what they write but also the images they choose to represent change and after each group has created their page, I will be able to combine them into one graphic novel/revision booklet on changing everyday life in Nazi Germany. I hope to publish some of their work within the next week and would appreciate comments as this may be one of the things we look at as an Apple RTC…

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We are now an Apple Regional Training Centre!

I am very pleased to announce that my school has now become an Apple Regional Training Centre (RTC). Basically, this means that we will offer free training (to any school) using Apple tools to help enhance teaching and learning but with a slight twist…our RTC will focus on History as a specialism and will specifically look at how technology can support historical understanding of change/continuity, causation and other historical concepts using tools like BeeDocs Timeline 3D (as used in the example here and explained in more detail here). Of course, we will offer training covering all subjects and general creativity in the classroom but I am particularly pleased as it will allow me to share my love for the subject (and all things Apple). The second exciting aspect for us as an RTC is exploring how mobile technology can be used in the classroom to enhance learning and assessment.  I hope to showcase some of the work at the Schools History Project conference this July but will blog about/discuss what the school plans to do over the next few months. Get in contact if you would like to come to a free session!

Image: kyz@Flickr

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