So, our Founder (UK) has been busy - now she is back from maternity leave. First she hosted the Twitter Bett Show Chat on eSafety before Christmas. After the break, she then was asked to speak at The Bett Show 2017 in the popular Futures Area. Here she was filmed by Innovate My School for their new YouTube Channel (below) - and then she was on a panel with App Develop, Tom Minor of DoodleMaths and Founder of The Educational App Store, Justin Smith. The three of them discussed the future of apps in Primary, against the funding cuts.
This has led to Nicole working with a host of app developers. If you would like her help, or Julie's, please contact TechnoTeachers or each of our Founders, individually.
Jules Says . . .
Education technology expert, Maddy Kadish, stopped by our virtual office the other day with a spot-on and timely post on Virtual Reality. Settle back and let Maddy tell you what’s on the horizon with VR and the implications for educators. Here is her post, which grew out of her presentation with Neil Kendricks at Sundance this past January.
(On a personal note, as Maddy’s former professor, I am so proud of her smarts and all she has accomplished.)
Much has been made of the promise of virtual reality (VR) as the newest “new media” and its potential in the classroom. VR is a computer-generated reality -- users don headsets for a 360-degree immersive user experience putting the user in the middle of an environment, real or imagined, with which they can interact. On Monday, March 28th, Oculus, a VR company that Facebook bought in 2014, released the first consumer version of its VR system, called Oculus Rift. HTC and Sony plan to release similar products later in the year. Although VR is still a burgeoning field, it is poised to have a big impact on learning. A survey conducted by TES Global in January and February 2016, reported that 10% of teachers would most like to see virtual or augmented reality headsets in the classroom, a 5% increase from last year. The survey represents the opinions of nearly 1,000 American teachers on technology.
Sundance Film Festival, the largest and probably best-known film festival in the US, featured VR technology prominently in the festival’s future of film section, called New Frontier, in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, New Frontier’s 10th year in the festival, VR exhibits immersed viewers in imaginary dreamscapes, gritty scenarios, and simulated environments. Neil Kendricks and I explored some of these artist visions at Sundance in January 2016, as originally reported in The Independent.
In the Eyes of the Animal
In the Eyes of the Animal, by a production company called Marshmallow Laser Feast, artistically depicts the point of view of various animals – a mosquito, a dragonfly, a frog, and an owl - traveling through the forest.
The work is based on aerial 360° drone filming and
remote sensing technology recorded in Grizedale Forest,
in the Lake District in England. It originally exhibited in a forest in Yorkshire, England, where users sat on tree stumps to experience the virtual reality of life in the forest.
Each section is dominated by a new color to indicate a new animal. The 9-minute VR experience includes a vibrating pack that users wear for a new dimension to the journey.
Watch the In the Eyes of the Animal teaser below.
A History of Cuban Dance
The VR piece A History of Cuban Dance, from documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker, immerses users in a virtual 360-degree environment filmed on location in Havana, Cuba with a sample of distinctly Cuban dance styles ranging from Rumba, Salsa and the Mambo to more contemporary trends like Reggaeton.
Throughout A History of Cuban Dance, the voiceover narration provides context as viewers find themselves in the middle of a series of spontaneous dance performances. The piece, approximately 7 minutes long, sustains the illusion of dancers moving around the user, as it moves from one location to the next. We jump from a circle of young dancers in the streets to couples finding a groove on a rooftop at dusk to riding in a vintage automobile along the streets of Havana.
Job Simulator, from artists Devin Reimer and Alex Schwartz, with the tone of the movie Office Space and graphics stylized like MTV in the 80s, immerses users into the world of 2050. After pulling on the VR goggles, users see their hands – as white thick gloves – in the VR environment and use them to interact with this new (and imaginary) world – interacting with robots as their bosses. I made coffee, logged into my computer, threw a paper airplane over the cubicle at a colleague. My robotic boss walked over and told me that I needed to work over the weekend. Job Simulator‘s interactivity adapts as each unique user interacts with it. The humor and unpredictability bring levity and fun to the VR environment.
Most consumer versions of VR headsets, similar to that of Oculus Rift, are still in Beta, including Google Cardboard, a virtual reality viewer made of cardboard fashioned around a smartphone with a VR-enabled app. Google's Expeditions Pioneer Program, a pilot program for students and teachers in schools around the world, brings the field trip to the student though Google Cardboard and virtual reality. According to an article in eSchool News, over half a million students have tested it since September 2015.
Lingoland is another example of early VR technology in the direct hands of consumers. The startup company utilizes Google Cardboard to immerse language students in 3D scenes to practice a foreign language and learn about culture. Users can experience ordering at a restaurant in Spain, for instance, in a virtual environment before their trip. Lingoland CEO, Tony Diependbrock IV estimates that almost 1,000 people have signed up as beta testers with 40 people using the system daily.
VR technology may have a long way to go before being fully embraced by consumers, but its possibilities for learning – whether used to simulate a new situation, environment, or technique - are endless.
Click here for the other sources Maddy drew from in writing this post.
Want to hear more from Maddy? Follow her on Twitter and check out her website.
Let us know about your experiences with virtual reality
and your predictions for its future in the classroom!
Jules Says . . . Bilingual Books for Children--Plus Learning a New Language (10 Minutes per session)Read Now
For many years I was caught in a conundrum. On one hand, I was always urging families to spend at least twenty minutes a day, four days a week, reading interactively with their child. Research bears out that reading to your child, on a regular basis, is the single most important thing you can do to help him or her succeed in academics—and in life.
On the other hand, I was aware that many of the immigrant families I worked with would appreciate being able to read with their child, if they could share books in their first languages. I would suggest that they visit the city library and check out the bilingual children’s book section. But were there enough titles? And would all families’ native languages be represented?
My wish for bilingual books in many, many languages has come true via a new initiative called Bab’l Books. This far-ranging project, developed by two Harvard students with support from LearnLaunch (an accelerator that focuses on early-stage education technology companies), addresses this issue head on.
“More than 20 million school-aged children in the U.S. live in multilingual households, but few children’s books are available for small language groups,” the creators’ welcoming statement says. “We aim to make bilingual storybooks available to anyone, anywhere, in any language.” What a boon for children and families! They can take turns reading to each other in one or both languages, such as Chinese, Tagalog, Hindi, and Vietnamese.
Are you fluent in one or more languages.? Help Bab’l Books translate their next round of books by clicking here. Stay up to date on their newest offerings by following them on Twitter.
Try out some books with families you know who long to read books to their children in their native language(s). Let us know how it goes!
While we’re talking about language learning, check out LinguiMind Apps. These apps are designed to inspire children to learn a new language (in 10-minute sessions) by providing practice. Here’s a link to an app that focuses on ABC’s, Numbers, Colors, Letter Flash Cards, in English, Spanish, and French ($1.99 at the iTunes store).
Again, try it out with a child who would love to learn Spanish and/or French. Write to us about your experience! Write to us about your experience!
Maybe you’re on a train and somebody sees you reading an edtech journal. He leans over and asks if you can recommend good multiplication apps for his nine-year-old. You have a few vague ideas, but you’re not ready to endorse any of the apps you’ve seen so far. It’s too important a question to be taken lightly.
Or perhaps your Uber driver is dropping you off at a tech event (like mine last night, on the way to LearnLaunch in Cambridge, Mass). He tells you his three-year-old is a whiz at using his iPad; he knows all his alphabet letters and can count to twenty—mainly because of the time he spends interacting with various apps. He wonders if you know of any other good apps his son might enjoy. You do, but are the apps really beneficial for children, or just based on drill-and-practice routines?
As educators we need to always be on the cutting edge. But with the edtech landscape changing by the minute, it’s hard to be on top of everything.
Enter Balefire Labs, a group of dedicated educators who review apps for you and share their findings in various categories (e.g., Math, English Language Arts). In reviewing each app they rate, they draw from very specific criteria (e.g., “error remediation” and “clearly-stated learning objective”), which you can learn about here.
Founded by Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D., Balefire Labs aims “to offer a solution that saves people time and money and alleviates the guilt that parents feel.” Some of that guilt comes from not being able to distinguish the good from the bad when selecting apps. As Dr. Mahon says, “It’s nearly impossible to tell apps apart when you’re in one of the app stores.” True enough.
Given my interest in early literacy development, I clicked first on the “Five Best Phonics EdApps for iOS.” I was not surprised to find “Bugsy Kindergarten Reading School” and “Sky Fish Phonics,” but I didn’t know about Eggy Phonics 1, 2, and 3, all of which made the evaluators’ cut. When I clicked on each product name, I was taken to the review and several screenshots of each of the five apps. I left this section of the website with a much greater sense of top apps than I had at the outset.
Balefire Labs is not the only website that carefully reviews educational apps. You probably already know about Common Sense Media, which many parents and teachers rely on for reviews of apps, movies, and a wide range of media offerings.
How about it TechnoTeachers? Take a look and let us know what you discover. Have you tried any of the top apps for kids in various categories? If so, does your thinking square with reviews on Balefire or Common Sense Media? Or do you disagree? Let us know!
Thanks for the heads up on Balefire, Ann Kaufman-Fredrick, Ph.D., innovative educator and member of Balefire’s Advisory Board
Lucky us here at TechnoTeaching. Craig Badura jetted into Nicole’s and my cloud office all the way from Aurora Public Schools, Aurora, Nebraska, where he is the PK-12 Integration Specialist. Craig is too modest to say so in his interview, below, but in 2014 he was named one of the Top 10 Digital Citizenship Bloggers by Common Sense Media. One of Craig’s passions is the importance of digital citizenship. He has many cool tips to share with you, TechnoTeachers. Read on!
TT: Why did you initially become a teacher?
CB: I had a couple of teachers that I really looked up to in high school. I thought it would be cool to be able to coach, interact and teach young people. To surround yourself with curious, passionate students was very intriguing to me. And the fact that I would have my summers off! In all seriousness, I realized that teachers had the ability to truly make a difference each and every day that they are in school. I wanted to do that. Plain and simple.
TT: How did you move from being a classroom teacher to being a consultant / writer?
CB: Even though I don't have a "classroom" full of students per se today, I still consider myself a classroom teacher. I guess I now have a classroom that has 1,200+ students in grades K-12! I love the fact that I now get to interact with all of our students instead of just one grade level. Prior to my current position I taught social studies for eleven years. When an administrative opportunity opened up for my wife, I found a position as a media specialist/tech integrationist at a neighboring school district. I'm grateful for the vision of that school district to take a chance and hire a "tech integrationist" as not many schools realized the need for that position at the time. I originally applied for their social studies position, but their administrative team saw how I was integrating technology into my social studies classroom and wanted me to be their new media specialist/tech integrationist. I didn't know anything about being a media specialist, and thanks to some awesome para-educators that knew the intricacies of the media center, we had a really great two years in the media center. A position for an integration specialist that opened at my wife's school is what brought me to where I am today. We are in year four of a 1:1 iPad initiative and I am excited as we move forward in the realm of educational technology.
TT: How have you gained your following on social media do you think? Top tips?
CB: To tell you the truth, I was VERY hesitant when it came to getting involved with social media. I was afraid of "being out there" on the internet. I didn't really get it until an English teacher sat down with me and showed me the power of having a professional learning network on Twitter. I dabbled at first, then I started sharing what I was doing in my classroom, blogging about activities, sharing my thoughts and connecting with other educators from all over the world. And before you know it, here we are. My top tip to teachers today is to not get caught up in numbers. Numbers on social media mean absolutely NOTHING. Too often I see teachers not wanting to "jump in" or interact with other people on social media because they feel that their numbers don't warrant enough clout. I was once there. I can totally relate. I'd encourage teachers to follow teachers that are teaching the same subject area. Find a hashtag that is relevant to them and connect with other educators that use that hashtag. It can be very intimidating at first, so do some lurking. When comfortable, begin sharing and engaging in conversations.
TT: Why do you think it is important to grow as a teacher / share your work with others?
CB: Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing about the "sad state of education" in the United States from our politicians and various reports on the news networks on television. There are some AMAZING things happening in our schools across the country. It's time for us to start sharing our stories! I've learned that if we aren't going to share our stories in education, someone else will....and we may not like that. So let's start sharing the awesome things happening in our schools!
TT: What are the top 3-5 pieces of work that you'd like us to share in this blog? Why?
CB: One of my more popular pieces of work would be my blog post about my "Digital Citizenship Survival Kit." It was a crazy idea, and it has been great to have teachers from all over the world send me emails and pictures detailing how they have used the kit in their classrooms. I'd also like to pass along my blog and the website that I created as a resource for the teachers in my district. I often share lessons that I have crafted on those two sites.
Jules Says . . .
My colleague, Beth Holland (also one of our edTech stars) sent me a link to an article in The Guardian that ties in with our upcoming webinar for EdTechTeacher. (Join us if you can on January 25, 7:00 p.m. EST!) Titled “Five ways eTwinning can transform students, teachers and schools,” the article invites teachers to join a global community of learners.
At first I didn’t get it. What is eTwinning? And how can it transform your teaching? Here’s the deal. eTwinning is a program managed by the British Council in the UK. Designed for teachers in Europe, eTwinning offers a way to connect with like-minded professionals and collaborate on projects. According to the article, eTwinning can boost student engagement and achievement; improve student motivation; provide excellent training opportunities; foster a wider school community; and broaden students’ horizons. Click here for free access to educators from over 40 countries.
Ah, but you are not teaching in Europe, you say. Here’s another idea: Skype in the Classroom. On their homepage you can choose from three different activities: Play Mystery Skype, Talk with a Guest Speaker, and Take a Virtual Field Trip. According to Time Magazine Online, teachers are creating innovative ways to connect their students to others all over the world. Take Amy Rosenstein, for example, a third-grade teacher in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Ms. Rosenstein has arranged for her students to learn about culture and geography by connecting them to interviewees in Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Kenya, Brazil, England, Albania, Albania, and more.
How can you take advantage of these tools for global education? Write to us and let us know about your project, and the big “a-ha’s” for you and your students!
Jules says -- Gather ‘round TechnoTeachers, to hear what Beth Holland, Communications Coordinator & Instructor at EdTechTeacher has to say about her career as an innovative educator and the insights she has gleaned along the way. Be sure to hear her thoughts on the value of asking “what if?” in her Tedx Talk, “Packing for the Age of Digital Exploration: Beth Holland at TedxMosesBrownSchool.” It’s a winner.
Oh, one other thing. Beth is one of my former Masters students at Harvard. I’m inspired by all she’s accomplished since that time and delighted that we’ve had this opportunity to reconnect.
Write to us! Let us know your thoughts.
TT: Why did you initially decide to become a teacher?
BH: Even in high school, I had a drive to help others learn. I volunteered to tutor middle school students and really enjoyed building those relationships. During college, I worked in the summers as an instructor with an adventure learning program, ActionQuest, and continued to be involved in tutoring programs through Boys Hope/Girls Hope. Entering the classroom ultimately seemed like a logical step.
TT: How did you move from being a classroom teacher to being a consultant / writer?
BH: After my first year as a 9th grade English teacher, I was never really a traditional classroom teacher. I worked as a full-time substitute for a year, then as a government consultant, and finally as the Director of Academic Technology before joining EdTechTeacher. When I moved from a school environment to the EdTechTeacher environment, it had more to do with scale. I really wanted to be able to support a larger group of teachers beyond just one school. I now have the opportunity to travel and learn from educators around the world.
This same drive to make connections and offer support also drives my writing though I’ve loved to write since I was little. In fact, my initial career ambition was to be a Muppet! In January 2011, I broke my leg and spent seven months on the couch. The only way that I could keep contributing and sharing was through writing. I just haven’t stopped since.
TT: How have you gained your following on social media do you think? Top tips?
BH: I find social media and the notion of “followers” to be strange. I honestly have not spent any time trying to build any sort of following. Over the past few years, I’ve used social media as a way to connect to other educators, engage in conversation, and try to be as helpful as possible to other teachers. By sharing resources, writing posts, and answering questions, it seems as though people have decided to follow me. I see that as a really huge responsibility. It means that if I say something via social media, it should have value. I am honored to know that anyone who follows me actually thinks I may have something valuable to contribute to the broader educational conversation.
TT: Why do you think it is important to grow as a teacher / share your ideas with others?
BH: I think that as teachers, we have to model what it looks like to be a good learner. The world is constantly changing and adapting, so as teachers, we need to as well. Additionally, there are always so many new technologies and resources becoming available to make learning even more engaging, dynamic, and fun. It feels almost like professional malpractice to not be trying things out and sharing new discoveries.
TT: Which are the top 3-5 pieces of work you'd like us to share in this blog and why?
BH: That’s a really tough question! I’m proud of the work that I’ve published with Edutopia. It’s exciting to be part of that community because everyone shares a similar passion to support teachers.
I also really like this article on Using Design Thinking to Bridge Theory and Practice with Digital Portfolios because it afforded me an opportunity to reflect on the process of teaching reflection. In a lot of ways, this article shows my growth and shift in thinking about how to teach reflection. I’ve changed a lot of my approaches over the past few months as a result of that experience. In particular, I really focus on the notion of empathy. I try to encourage teachers to experience learning in a similar manner as their students and to consider how their students might choose to demonstrate their understanding.
Finally, I gave a TEDx talk a few years ago. I think I spent more time preparing for those 12 minutes than any other talk I have ever delivered. However, I think it also represents a significant shift in my thinking as it may have been the first time that I crafted a message that got beyond the concept of a single device or platform. In preparing for the talk, I was really inspired by Grant Lichtman’s book, The Falconer. He challenges that beyond asking why, we need to start asking what if? That single notion made me start thinking about the critical skills for success in a digital era because what if students could learn any time and anywhere, what if students could demonstrate their understanding through a number of modalities, what if teachers could virtually transport their students anywhere in the universe… Planning for that talk inspired me to think beyond the immediacy of the technology and towards the potential of teaching and learning.
What shifts in your own thinking have you reflected on, and what are some things you'd like to put into practice in 2016? Let’s hear from you!
To get the latest blog straight to your device, please either use the RSS feed or enter your email below to subscribe.
This is where Jules and Nic will post articles, links to interesting sites and things that we think our TechnoTeachers will like.