Running a Maker Faire: Good Hard Fun at St Joachim’s

After being inspired by our fantastic day working with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez at the Invent to Learn day hosted by Brisbane Catholic Education (which you can read about in the earlier post, Resourcing the Maker Movement, my colleagues and I decided to run a Maker Faire at one of our schools. Being based at ResourceLink, I began creating kits of resources and equipment that we could use to run the Maker Faire, and which could then be borrowed by schools who wish to investigate using this style of hands on learning.

Running the Maker Faire

The plan was to run the Maker Faire at St Joachim’s, Holland Park West, where we could work with the Teacher Librarian who had also attended the Invent to Learn day, to introduce the Year 5,6 & 7 students to a range of hands on activities based on the ideas in Invent to Learn.

We organised the students into groups of 8, and timetabled them to spend about one hour on each of the activities, which they would rotate through throughout the day. cardboard alley

One space, ‘Cardboard Alley’ was open for the students to visit at any stage during the day, and offered the students the opportunity to use Makedo and Rolobox equipment with a huge assortment of cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. This was an important option, as it provided students a place to go and recharge if they completed an activity early, or if they just needed a ‘brain break’ from the more challenging activities.

During the Maker Faire, the students had fun with:

Lego WeDo – an introduction to Lego engineering and robotics, Lego WeDo allows students from Year 3 and up to build and program simple models such as cranes, cars and ferris wheels. Using either the Lego WeDo software, or the free programming app Scratch, students can experiment and develop skills in  language and literacy, math and technology, as well as enhance their creativity, communication and design skills.

lego

Arduino – Arduino is an open-source electronics  platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Using Arduino, students can write simple programs using  Arduino open source software to create projects using motors, gearboxes, speakers, LEDs, switches, cases and many other electronic parts.Projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish, suiting users from Year 5 and up.

arduino

Makey Makey – allows students to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. Simply use the supplied wires or alligator clips to connect any type of everyday item (such as fruit, plants, coins, play dough etc) to the Makey Makey board, and then plug the board into the computer, and you are able to interact with the computer by way of the attached objects. Students love playing computer games using fruit as the controllers!

makey

Squishy Circuits- by combining conductive and non-conductive dough with a battery pack, leds, small motors and buzzers, students are able to create innovative simple circuits of any shape. A fascinating way to learn about circuitry and basic electronics.

squishy

Interactive Cardcraft- students were able to make light up greeting cards by using conductive paint and copper tape along with led lights and small batteries to create simple circuits on the cards. The challenge was to apply their understanding of circuits and switches to the real-life application of the greeting card.

paper

Interactive Wearables – Using ideas from this wonderful soft circuits booklet, students created brooches and arm-bands that lit up by sewing circuits using conductive thread, copper tape, batteries and led lights. While the sewing was challenging, so too was the application of their understanding of simple circuits to another practical challenge.

wearables

During the day, the students had so much fun. Their smiles, their engagement and the question ‘is this really school work?’ was evidence that the Maker Faire was a big success. However, not only did the students have fun; they also learnt so much about circuitry, programming, robotics and simple electronics, as well as developing their creativity, their problem-solving strategies and their ability to collaborate and work together. We encouraged the students to ask each other for help, and to share their successes and failures throughout the day. Listen to the conversations the students are having during this short video:

Constructing the Invent to Learn kits: advice for libraries wishing to resource Maker Spaces

When creating the kits for the Maker Faire, I purchased equipment from a range of different outlets. As a library, ResourceLink cannot supply the consumable equipment required for these kits, and so I created detailed lists of what was included and what the user needed to supply in order to run the activity successfully. This information is included in each kit on a laminated card (copies of which you can download below). I also included where possible printable information and instruction cards, which you can download also from the links below. Being based in Brisbane Australia, please note that some of the suppliers are locally based, however some of the online retailers ship all over the world.

Cardboard Construction:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Squishy Circuits:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Makey Makey:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Arduino:2013-10-30_1217_001Lego Engineering:2013-10-30_1217_002Interactive Papercraft:2013-10-30_1217_003

Links to all of the resources you could possibly need to learn more about Maker Faires and creating maker spaces in a library are available on the ResourceLink Pinterest Board, Makerspaces and STEAM in Libraries or Anywhere, and also curated on this Pearltrees site.

For those who want to try running their own Maker Faire, I can only say: Go for it! The learning, the enjoyment and engagement is well worth the organisation, and the equipment is really not as costly as you would imagine. Start small, and build up. You may be surprised at what your school already owns, once you start investigating! For those in Brisbane Catholic Education, borrow these pre-made kits as a ‘try before you buy’ – contact ResourceLink find out how you can borrow these new resources today!

Understanding E-Textbooks – it’s not Elementary!

Many  schools are currently wrestling with the concept of e-textbooks. The traditional textbook provided a simple interface to support student learning; the e-textbook creates numerous complexities. However, like everything in education, we are challenged to provide whatever offers students the best learning experience.

The ability to publish books in a digital format is still so new; although we have had access to pdf versions of textbooks and texbook information available via a cd-rom for some time, the iPad, through which so many of us access e-publications was launched on the 3 April, 2010 – just 3 years ago! The Kindle became available in Australia just one year before that – on October 19, 2009.

It is easy to forget this fact, and also to overlook the fact that the physical textbook itself has gone through many iterations to become what it is today. One of the earliest textbooks is Ars minor (The Smaller Art [of Grammar]). It was written in the 4th century by Aelius Donatus, who was the teacher of Jerome who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Donatus’s Ars minor was one of the first items to be printed in Europe, on Gutenberg’s printing press.  By the time education was made compulsory in the 19th century, the textbook had established its place in the classroom; it sold approximately 2 million copies in 18th century America.

So a tool that has been central to teaching and learning for over 300 years is now being challenged by a new delivery method – is it any wonder that for those of us teaching during this time of transition, we are finding that it is not all smooth sailing!

The University of Queensland Library defines etextbooks as follows:

E-textbooks are a subset of the ebook format. E-textbooks are written for students, published for use by educational institutions. They cover core course content. This contrasts with ebooks bought by the library that support research, or to supplement the learning experience. E-textbooks generally come with features not available to print equivalents: assessments, such as quizzes; lecture slides; social media channels, facilitating student interaction. Until recently, e-textbooks have been digital equivalents of printed books…there is an increasing trend for e-textbooks to be born digital, and to not be released in print. (University of Queensland Library, 2012)

Unlike physical textbooks, digital textbooks can take different forms:

  • Hybrid textbooks – print textbooks with a cd rom insert with digital support material
  • Digital textbooks – replicas of print textbooks in different file formats
  • Enhanced digital textbooks – delivered online or in ebook format, these textbooks feature interactive elements such as quizzes, video clips or social media capabilities
  • Proprietary publisher solutions – online teaching and learning environments which contain textbook information as part of the offering (Hallam, G. 2012)

Some challenges may derive from the fact that the potentials of digital delivery of learning materials go far beyond the traditional textbook format, however currently some publishers are trying to replicate the textbook model, using digital tools.

The advantages of e-textbooks seem logical:

  • 24/7 and remote access
  • enhanced mobility and reduction in physical size
  • inbuilt features such as search, dictionary
  • enhancement of learning experience via inbuilt multimedia and interactivity
  • improved accessibility for students with sight impairment

However,  teachers and teacher librarians report challenges including

  • the need for digital  infrastructure including strong WiFi networks
  • the cost of providing/maintaining devices required to deliver digital content
  • the time-consuming nature and complexity of management
  • the inability to provide textbook hire or resale of texts

At present, there are many models of digital rights management, and each publisher retains the right to determine how users may access the content, and for how long. Textbooks may be licenced to individual students via registration keys which may expire after 12, 18 or 24 months, and the ability to transfer ownership should a student no longer require a text varies in complexity, and is in some cases not possible. Schools which previously operated a book hire scheme cannot offer this cost-saving measure when using digital textbooks. Students themselves often find that they find the traditional paper textbook easier to manage, depending upon the subject material.

It is not surprising that these challenges exist, given how recently digital textbooks have become available. As technology improves, and as publishers establish more effective models of distribution, these issues will reduce. In fact, one product which seems to address some of these challenges is LearningField, which is  a new initiative from the Copyright Agency. From the Learning Field website:

The website and application provide an industry solution for the distribution of digital textbooks to secondary school students. LearningField provides a resource-rich digital platform which allows teachers to select the best material to support the differing needs of Years 7–10 students across all subject areas. Initially content is provided by publishers Cambridge University Press, Jacaranda, Oxford University Press and Pearson.

While paper textbooks will probably exist for quite some time yet, initiatives such as this show that there is scope to move beyond traditional models of content delivery, and to embrace the potential that digital technology provides. The next few years will most probably be a bumpy journey, and currently e-textbooks are anything but elementary; but one good thing about the rate of technological change is that we certainly will not be waiting for too long!

For a summary of this post and for further resources, check out this interactive image: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/447617168394158080

References:

Hallam, G. C. (2012). Briefing paper on eTextbooks and third party eLearning products and their implications for Australian university libraries. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/55244/

The New England Primer. (2013, October 11). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_New_England_Primer&oldid=576716878

University of Queensland Library (2012a). E-Textbook FAQs. Retrieved October 18, 2013 from http://www.library.uq.edu.au/about-us/e-textbook-faqs

Resourcing the Maker Movement – ResourceLink ventures into the Makerspace!

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This is the first of two posts on the Maker Movement – inspired by a recent visit to Brisbane Catholic Education by two educational leaders, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.

Their ‘Invent to Learn ‘ day inspired the twenty or so fortunate educators who were participating in their workshop, including myself, to take up the challenge and bring hands on tinkering and making to learning.  Gary and Sylvia gave a fantastic overview of why the ‘maker movement’ is such a powerful way to bring learning to life in the classroom, before setting we teachers loose at a range of learning stations, where we could see for ourselves the enjoyment and reward of ‘making’, as well as the clear connections this hands on learning has for Maths, Science, Technology, The Arts, English and more.

Inspired by this day, we decided to plan a ‘Maker Faire’ for students at one of our schools, and how we did this and what happened will form the second ‘maker movement’ blog post. This post focuses on some of the many wonderful resources already available for teachers who wish to learn more about how to bring about this learning in their classrooms, and why it is so powerful.

The books mentioned in this blog post are all available for sale online, but are also available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for staff of Brisbane Catholic Education.

The seminal text in this area is of course Stager & Martinez’s recently published ‘Invent To Learn‘. Accompanied by a fantastic website, the book begins with ‘an insanely brief and incomplete history of making’, which brings readers up to date with the work of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert, exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach and highlighting how hands on learning has featured in classrooms during many periods of history, but has never been as accessible as it is now:

‘Today we have the capability to give every child the tools, materials and context to achieve their potential…thanks to the personal fabrication and physical computing revolution… unencumbered by the limited imaginations of today’s education policy makers.’

Stager and Martinez provide not only theory and sound arguments for why kids learn better by making – they also provide strategies, advice and resources for teachers who want to bring making into their classrooms.

The maker movement is all about hands on – and so the first titles that were added to our library’s collection are ones that inspire exciting, innovative and ‘dangerous’ projects – just the thing for those looking for something to make or do.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is a huge resource. According to the introduction by Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing,

‘it is the first kids’ book to truly encourage a hands on approach to creating a personally meaningful life –  a powerful antidote to those forces that constantly try to shape us into passive consumers of pre-made reality.’

With Chapters devoted to you, home, society and adventure there are over 350 different activities, games, challenges, story excerpts, comics and more to keep kids and adults entertained for months.

Visit unbored.net for a sample of activities and ideas from each of the book’s chapters, which are complete with exhaustive resource lists with further reading and websites.

 

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

Another terrific title we have added to our collection is 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler. Tulley is best known for his school, Brightworks which is a non-profit private school, currently catering for 30 students. The students learn through a hands-on pedagogical approach where students investigate their own ‘arcs’ – projects of their choosing which have three different phases: exploration, expression, and exposition.

In 50 Dangerous Things, Tulley and Spiegler give explicit instructions (with note paper provided to jot down observations, improvements and new ideas) for 50 wild and crazy things – things that some kids have never even considered trying.

These projects range from mastering the perfect somersault to constructing your own flying machine, and reflect the truly sheltered nature of some childhoods compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago. While some projects are challenging and do require adult supervision (such as changing a tyre or experimenting with fire), others, such as climbing a tree or walk home from school encourage kids to take back the childhood experiences many adults took for granted.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

For indoor making adventures, we purchased Super Scratch Programming Adventure! – a colourful, graphic based book which gives students step by step instructions for creating different games using the free to download Scratch program, which will run on most basic computers and enables kids to experiment with graphical programming. Scratch was developed and is maintained by the MIT Media Lab, and is a simple tool allows kids to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share these creations if they so choose with others in the Scratch online community.

This video is a great way to learn more about Scratch, directly from one of its creators:

The Super Scratch Programming adventure gives kids a starting point for making different games – and once they have begun coding in Scratch, they are free to iterate, improve and develop the games in complexity and quality. It’s the hands-on ‘getting inside’ of the computer game that empowers kids to explore and take an active role rather than passively consuming pre-created games; it also gives kids a huge kick when others play or interact with one of their own creations!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

Each of these hands on ideas books are open exciting avenues for teachers – but will your principal let you take this path?

Thankfully, ResourceLink has also added to its collection books that give you the theory and the research that shows that operating in the makerspace is a credible and worthwhile investment.

Two of these books available for loan to BCE staff (and available for sale online) are World Class Learners by Yong Zhao and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Zhao argues that students leaving school today will be entering positions which increasingly require creativity and entrepreneurial skills – and that current educational systems which focus on standards and high stakes testing are not necessarily the best methods for developing these:

…existing evidence suggests at least that tightly controlled standardised curriculum, a uniformly executed teaching approach, narrowly prescribed and carefully planned learning activities, and rigorously watched and frequently administered high-stakes testing do not produce creative and entrepreneurial talents, although they may lead to higher test scores. Zhao, p17.

Zhao concludes that students who have autonomy to follow their interests and passions, who are given the opportunity to produce and create and who are not limited to working solely within the limits of the classroom will have a greater chance of developing the skills and qualities required by a 21st century workforce.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner echoes these findings, identifying schools, colleges and workplaces where cultures of innovation are nurtured through collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving and intrinsic motivation. Below is just one of the 60 videos created to support the text. 

The maker movement is innovative, exciting and has so much potential for learners – stay tuned for our next post about how we bring it to life in one of our schools.

Living ‘appily ever after in the library


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki
In education, mobile devices have taken a strong hold – and for good reason. They are less expensive than computers, more portable, and far more responsive for impatient learners who demand instant access. There are thousands of apps designed with an educational focus, and many more productivity and content-creation apps that can be used effectively by students to facilitate and enhance their learning. Like all new technology, apps bring challenges to the school library – the centre in the school for resource and information management.

The library’s resource management role

The school library may be given the responsibility for managing the school’s fleet of mobile devices, and is certainly a natural centre for managing the purchasing of apps. This is an opportunity for the library to develop another area of service for students and teachers, and to reinforce the resource management role of the library.

Managing apps can present challenges, as most mobile devices are designed to be owned and managed by an individual. When managed centrally, creative approaches are needed to ensure the device is set up to meet multiple users’ needs while complying with complex legal limitations.

Identifying apps

It can be overwhelming to keep track of recommendations for app purchases. Time-poor teachers often leave requests until the last moment, or request an app that meets the same needs as one already installed on school devices. One way to manage this is to create an online form that teachers complete in order to request the purchase of apps. You can see an example of such a form here.

Online forms may be embedded into webpages, meaning the request form can be built into the library’s online presence. Using a form such as this controls the flow of app requests, helps teachers to consider why they are requesting the app and how they are going to use it, and also gives library staff time to manage the app purchasing and loading process. Having a set time each week for app loading, and making this clear on the form, should go some way to streamline  requests and ensure apps are ready for lessons.

Cataloguing apps


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Glyn Lowe Photoworks
Once apps are purchased, the next step in effective management is to add these to the library catalogue.  As well as providing access to the range of hard copy resources that are physically stored on the library shelves, the school library catalogue should also be a doorway to a range of carefully curated digital resources, including apps.

By cataloguing apps, librarians are placing into the hands of users a way of finding quality apps that have been evaluated from an educational perspective and which, through the use of metadata, may be linked to other supporting resources and tools. Cataloguing apps also allows librarians to quickly identify whether an app has already been purchased and the device it has been loaded onto, which is an organisational boon for those managing large fleets of devices.

Curating and promoting apps

Of course, there also needs to be an awareness of the range of apps that are available on school devices. It is here that social bookmarking tools such as Pinterest and Pearltrees may be useful. These curation tools create appealing visual displays, and are popularly used by students and teachers to manage information. A Pinterest board of apps related to inquiry learning, for example, is a great way for librarians to advertise apps already purchased, and how they might be used. Similarly, Pearltrees allows for apps to be categorised according to learning area or topic.

Acquiring apps

One of the best things about apps is their relatively low cost. Although a few specialist apps can be expensive, on the whole paid apps range from 99c up to $10. In addition, there are many free apps available, some fully functional, and others as ‘lite’ versions that provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

The decision to choose the free or paid version is dependent upon the app. In many cases, choosing the paid version of an app results in a better experience for users. This is for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that, essentially, nothing is really free and, often, free apps are funded with advertising or require ‘in app’ purchases in order to reach full functionality. Secondly, some free apps allow the user to create content, but limit the ways of exporting or sharing the finished product. Other times, the app will watermark the content, or limit the number of times something can be produced.

Even though apps are relatively inexpensive, paying for apps to be installed on multiple devices can quickly increase costs. There is a misconception that one app may be installed on up to five devices; however, this only holds true for personal use, and schools must purchase one app per device. Accessing Apple’s volume licencing goes some way to reducing these costs for those using Apple devices although not all apps are available through this program.

Who manages the purchases of apps, and how they are purchased is also an issue that must be addressed. If apps are being loaded centrally by the library staff, then it makes sense that they should be in charge of purchasing. The budget for these purchases may be centralised, or may form part of the app request process (i.e. teachers must ensure they have enough funds available to purchase apps that they request). Often gift cards are used to remove the need for credit cards, which can add an extra layer of complexity. An added benefit of using gift cards is that these frequently go on sale, allowing users to save up to 20% on the cost of purchase.

Evaluating apps

Evaluation of Apps

Click on this image to download a printable PDF of an evaluation form

Ideally, every app should be carefully evaluated before it is purchased, to ensure the best use of school funds. When evaluating apps, there are three main aspects that must be considered: purpose, design and content, and process.

Quality teaching comes from using apps that are not just chosen because they were recommended, but when teachers recognise the app’s purpose and potential.

 
This includes teachers knowing and being able to articulate:

•    what added value the app brings to the learning context
•    how the app enriches and adds to the pedagogy being used

•    the potential for the app to amplify learning through creation, remixing, publication and sharing
•    a familiarity with where the app sits within Puentedura’s SAMR model and whether or not the app simply automates or substitutes for a traditional learning task, or if it brings about truly informative and transformative learning, that simply could not be achieved any other way. (based on the work of Rosenthal Tolisano, May 27 2012).

The design of the app is hugely important. The app should be intuitive to allow user independence. It should provide a secure and stable platform, with a variety of ways to share the content created. It is also worthwhile to check if student data can be stored, so that if an activity is interrupted partway through, work may be resumed from the same point at a later time. Ideally, the app will also be flexible in use, suitable for a range of learners, or for a range of learning experiences.

 

Finally the content and processes of the app must be evaluated. This evaluation will be dependent upon curriculum requirements, the classroom context and the experience of those working with the app. Criteria such as the authenticity of the learning, the connections to the curriculum and the opportunities for differentiation and personalisation should be considered. Many apps are excellent in providing rapid and effective feedback to learners, and allow learners to be creative and self-directed in problem solving.

There are many checklists and rubrics available online to guide this evaluation (some are available here). Schools may find that it is best to create individualised criteria, to reflect unique school needs and requirements. One of the best ways of managing the information gathered from this evaluation process is to use an online form, so that evaluations are collected in the form of a spreadsheet that all users may access. An example may be seen here.

e-reading vs apps

Another way libraries are using mobile devices is as e-readers. The distinction between an e-book, an e-audiobook and an app is becoming increasingly blurred, and an app may provide another way of engaging a reader. While there is some evidence to suggest students are growing to prefer e-readers to traditional books (Bosman, 2011 and Indiana State University, 2013), there is still a place for a physical collection. The decision to offer e-books and audio books via mobile devices is one that libraries might make as a way of meeting the needs of many different types of learner, and to offer a variety of avenues to access information. The evolution of e-books in the library space is one that demands close observation, and cannot be ignored by librarians who are operating at the cutting edge of this area.

Libraries are always being challenged to take on new and innovative ways of delivering information and resources to their patrons. Effective management of mobile devices and apps takes forward planning, but the benefits of having a well-organised and centralised system for evaluating, purchasing, cataloguing and loading apps will result in a service that is appreciated by all members of the school community.

References:

Bosman, J. (2011). E-readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://173.201.102.115/eslefl/miscstudent/downloadpagearticles/untitled5.pdf

Indiana State University. (2013, May 24). Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books. Newswise. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.newswise.com/articles/research-shows-students-perform-well-regardless-of-reading-print-or-digital-books2

 

This article was originally published in SCIS Connections, Issue 86.

You can view it online here:

http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_86/articles/living_appily_ever_after_in_the_library.html

 

Book Review: Educating Gen Wi-Fi by Greg Whitby

Educating Gen WiFi Book Cover To many in Catholic Education, Greg Whitby is better known as the Executive Director of the Parramatta, however his passion for 21st century learning, and for changing schools to meet the needs of today’s students is known to any who read his blog, Bluyonder, or follow him on Twitter (@gregwhitby). He has crystallised his thoughts on this in his recent publication, Educating Gen Wi-Fi, which extensively describes the challenges for schools who still operate in the ‘factory model’ of the 19th century, and some ways in which some schools have answered this challenge. With extensive case studies and chapters addressing who today’s learners are, learning spaces, assessment and parents as partners in learning, it is an easy to read book for anyone interested in education, but specifically for those who are keen to make a change to their ways of operating in the school arena.

The book begins with  a whirlwind tour of the development of education from Ancient Greece to present day. Whitby challenges readers with the fact that ‘we cannot continue to deliver an ‘analogue’ 20th century curriculum when the world is ‘digital’, exploding with information that can be accessed by increasingly smaller and more powerful mobile devices’ (p.50).

Heppell quote

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by _Fidelio_: http://flickr.com/photos/photogaby/4418959970/ edited using Instaquote

Whitby speaks about the use of digital tools to share learning to a real and worldwide audience, and the ability to harness this sharing of learning through the development of Personal Learning Networks via platforms such as Twitter. He explores how students today need to be critical thinkers and be able to analyse, evaluate and remix information in order to solve problems. As technology has flattened our world, there is an increasing the need for global literacy, as we work and play with others across the world.
The increased use of technology brings about challenges for schools, one of which is the need to develop a sense of digital citizenship within students and staff. The common solution for many schools faced with issues of cyberbullying and distraction by social media is to ban access to sites and tools such as mobile phones. Whitby argues that this is forcing an old model onto new learners – and that the connected learners of today should be encouraged and indeed able to use the tools that are most natural to them in their learning. He argues it is up to teachers to develop their skills and comfort levels with technology, and to harness these powerful tools that students use so naturally in their everyday lives.

The diversity of learners in schools today is one issue that is handled very well with technology. It allows teachers to collaboratively construct curricula that meets the needs of learners at a variety of levels, and indeed Whitby even suggests that the learners themselves should have input into what and how they learn – something leading educators such as Ewan McIntosh, and his work with Design Thinking echo.

It’s not just a room full of computers and tablets that makes for 21st century learning. Whitby makes it clear that it is the relationships between teacher and student, and the strength of the pedagogy that truly makes the difference. He bases these claims on the work of John Hattie, as well as his personal experience of over 30 years in education. Teachers should embrace new technologies as just another resource in their arsenal – and let student learning drive the focus rather than technology.

Learners

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by zoonabar: http://flickr.com/photos/zoonabar/3371660691/ edited with Instaquote

When it comes to assessment, Whitby is a great proponent of learning portfolios, and questions the place of external exams such as Naplan. Rather than focusing on teaching to the test, he believes that students who are encouraged to develop their critical thinking and creative skills through broad and engaging pedagogy will enable students to achieve in all manner of assessment. He is also quite critical of how the media and public relations generally focus purely on academic results, ignoring the many other terrific achievements that occur in schools, as well as the achievements and contributions made by those students who do not follow the academic path, but choose a vocational route. Emphasis on traditional areas of education such as numeracy and literacy narrows the focus and denies the outside world a true view of the many areas schools support.

Another area addressed by Whitby and one that is mentioned frequently in the research around contemporary learning is the influence of open and flexible learning spaces, which allow teachers and students to work collaboratively and in many different ways. A number of case studies illustrate how schools can be redesigned physically to allow students and teachers to escape the four walls of the traditional classroom. He writes also about the positive impact of close collaboration with parents, and how new tools including social media can be used to communicate and inform parents.

Whitby closes the book by reviewing the commonly held myths about the type of change in educational landscape he is suggesting. Responses commonly heard in the media and in carpark gossip including ‘it’s been done before’ and ‘the curriculum won’t allow it’ are addressed comprehensively. He suggests that hard questions need to be asked, and that for schooling to change, we must once and for all move beyond the information transmission model, a model that is clearly outdated in the age of Google.

Questions

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by alexanderdrachmann: http://flickr.com/photos/drachmann/327122302/ edited with Instaquote.

This book is an excellent overview and introduction to the challenges facing schools today. While some educators who remain informed about changing technology and who are actively implementing new ways of teaching and learning in their schools will find nothing new, for those who are just beginning the journey, or who want to find the words to express the impact of these changes to others, it is certainly a worthwhile read. The evidence he provides through the many case studies demonstrates the amazing things that can be achieved with creativity and vision, and hopefully schools will continue to take on this challenge and provide engaging, relevant and rigorous learning for this connected generation of students.

Making Inquiry Mobile – Apps for Inquiry Learning

Inspired by the work happening at St Oliver Plunkett Cannon Hill  (which you can read about here), I decided to undertake further exploration into how iPads might support inquiry learning. A followup post will take this one step further, focusing on using the inquiry learning process to frame workflows to stimulate deep and authentic learning.

The model of inquiry I chose to use was the LADDER model, which I developed several years ago in an attempt to create a model which had an easy to understand language that both students and teachers could understand.

What is LADDER?

The LADDER model takes it name from the stages of the process, which are not linear, but iterative, as learners work through the process of creating responses to the inquiry question. The stages are:Launch, Access, Develop, Demonstrate, Evaluate and Reflect.

Ladder

Linking apps to the inquiry process

Let’s examine each stage of the model more closely, and identify apps which might be useful during this phase.

L = Launch

The launch is a time when an area for inquiry is established. Initiated either by curriculum demands or student interest, a topic or issue is introduced and students are immersed in the content and context of this. Students’ prior knowledge of the topic is elicited, and ideas and planning for how the inquiry will take shape occur with varying levels of teacher support. During the launch phase, apps that provide immersive material such as images and videos, as well as brainstorming and mindmapping apps come to the fore. Great apps for this stage include:

Ted app The terrific TED Talks, inspiring and informative, terrific for inspiring questions and stimulating class discussion.
Lino it A collaborative pinboard where ideas, images and more can be added – use as a ‘wonder wall’ or for brainstorming.
popplet (Copy) Create beautiful looking flowcharts and mind maps to dig deeper into inquiry questions.
wikinodes (Copy) Browse Wikipedia though a visual interface which makes breaking open concepts even easier.

A = Access

When the inquiry has been generated, students need to access content knowledge and sources of additional information to meet the demands of the inquiry and to further clarify their thinking. Formal teaching of concepts and content may occur during this time also, so that students have the skills necessary to make links between the new content knowledge they are gaining and their prior experiences and understandings. If the students are being required to present their learnings in a genre or format which is unfamiliar to them, explicit teaching of this may also begin at this stage. Accessing and sharing information begins at this time, and so some of the apps useful during this phase include:

Google Earth  Use the Google Earth app to access geographical and natural science information.
Skype  The Skype app allows students to interview others from all over the world, for exceptional primary source information.
Merrium Webster Dictionary  Accessing information includes understanding all of the terms used throughout the investigation – this dictionary app makes it easy.
QR Reader  Product and company information is often accessible through QR codes on packaging. Alternatively, engage students in their search by creating a QR Code scavenger hunt.

D = Develop

When the information has been gathered, students can begin to develop their responses to the inquiry, and organise the information into the form required for presentation. At this stage students would be researching, designing and constructing their responses to their chosen inquiry. The role of the teacher is as guide, assisting students in developing a plan so that their approach to the inquiry is divided into manageable steps, and continuing to teach skills as they are required as part of the process.

Skitch  Skitch allows annotations over images, documents, maps and more. Great for developing plans and designing innovations.
Evernote  Evernote is an exercise book on steroids. Use it to keep notes, record lectures, add photos and to share information with others.
Comic Book!  Plan out a storyboard using the terrific comic creator app. This could form part of the inquiry response.
GarageBand  Create new music to be added to movies, to play behind presentations or to express understandings of concepts and ideas in song.

D= Demonstrate

By this stage, the students should have created some kind of response to the inquiry, and will be readying themselves to present their findings, research or constructions to the intended audience. This part of the inquiry process involves students communicating, sharing and presenting their new knowledge and understandings. The mode of presentation depends upon the inquiry. This stage may not form the major assessment piece – depending upon the ways of working that the curriculum is focusing on, other parts of the inquiry may form part of the assessment.

Videolicious  Use the Videolicious app to create short videos to capture demonstrations of learning.
Creative Book Builder  Creative Book Builder makes it easy for students to create their own ebooks to present their inquiry through.
Aurasma  Embed a video into a poster, book cover, painting or more, using Aurasma, the augmented reality app.
PicPlayPost  Pic Play Post combines photos and video – students can photograph their work, make a short video of themselves explaining or performing it, and combine the two to post online on a learning management system or webpage.

E= Evaluate

The evaluation stage is a vital and often overlooked part of the process. It is where students participate in self and/or peer evaluations and where what has been learnt is discussed. Students need to honestly evaluate their actions and take time to consider the strategies chosen and how effective they were.

Dropbox Using Dropbox is an effective way of exporting student work into a shared space for easy evaluation by teachers and peers.
Goodreader  Goodreader is a powerful tool to collate student work and to annotate pdfs, allowing teachers and peers to add feedback and improvements to student documents digitally.
Eclicker  E-Clicker is an interactive polling tool, where one user may send out questions to multiple other users who can respond in real time. Excellent for checking understanding of concepts and for gathering students’ honest evaluations of their learning and their thoughts about the learning process.
Evernote Evernote could be used at almost every stage of the inquiry process. Used as a digital portfolio, it makes collating student work for evaluation easy and efficient.

R=Reflect

The inquiry process is a cycle where each inquiry builds upon the skills developed in the previous one. Therefore at the end of each inquiry, students and teachers should take time to reflect upon the understandings and skills gained, and plan for future inquiries. Students may reflect upon processes and procedures that they would change if they were asked to complete a similar task in the future, and teachers could reflect upon the success of the inquiry and changes that might the process an even more effective learning strategy in the future.

Camera  Simply using the camera app that comes native to iPads and iPhones is a powerful way of creating a reflection of learning. If a student takes photos at each stage, they will have a great record of their learning to reflect on and to base changes for next time upon.
Twitter  Invite students to tweet their reflections using a shared hashtag. These can be collated using a tool such as Storify, to gather a whole class picture of the successes and failures, and how the process may be improved next time.
VoiceThread  The VoiceThread app allows students to create a narrated slideshow. Multiple students can add their narration to a single image, allowing for reflections to be compiled and shared with others.
KidBlog  Blogging throughout the learning process is a terrific way to build reflective strategies throughout the inquiry. Kidblog is terrific for younger students, as teachers manage the accounts and there is minimal personal data required.

But wait, there’s more!

Of course there are many other apps that would be fantastic to use throughout the inquiry process.

This poster may be a useful one to stimulate discussion and to introduce you to some apps that you may not have considered before.

Click on the image to download an A3 version. For links to all of these apps, go to http://pinterest.com/kayo287/inquiry-learning/

App in Inquiry

Click on the image to download an A3 PDF version of this poster.

apps poster

Making Creative Commons Easier: Greasemonkey and Flickr Creative Commons Images

Update! The script is now working again thanks to the incredibly fast work of Alan Levine – thanks so much!

PLEASE NOTE!!

Yesterday Flickr changed their entire layout, and as a result this script does not work in Flickr’s current form. Alan Levine has told me that he needs to change this script again for this to work – I’ll keep you posted on progress…this article comments on the constantly changing nature of Web2.0.

Flickr has a huge collection of images which users have uploaded and shared under Creative Commons Licences. This means that the owners of the images have licenced the images to allow others to use them, as long as they follow the conditions of the licence. If you have never heard of Creative Commons, you can learn more about it here on our Copyright Copyleft wiki.

The easiest Creative Commons Licence to work with is Attribution,  which means that the image can be replicated, republished or remixed in any way, as long as the original creator is attributed as such. The Attribution licence looks like this:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

There are thousands of gorgeous images available on Flickr under this licence, and attributing images is fairly simple; Creative Commons explains the process in detail on their website.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by steren.giannini

Although the process is simple, in practise it requires quite a bit of flicking from one screen to another, copying and pasting information. Alan Levine, known for his CogDogBlog decided to do something about this – and created an amazing little Greasemonkey script that places all of the information you need to correctly attribute an image on the actual image page on Flickr – pretty cool, huh?

Greasemonkey is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to install scripts that make changes to web page content.

Greasemonkey can be used for customizing page appearance, adding new functions to web pages (for example, embedding price comparisons within shopping sites), and numerous other purposes. In this case, we will be using a Greasemonkey script to alter the appearance of Flickr pages, so that the attribution information is available for each image.

Please note that this solution works most easily on the Firefox web browser. If you cannot use Firefox, it is possible to achieve similar results in other browsers, although the process is more complicated. For more information on this check out this PC World article.

A second caveat: if you try the process below on a school computer and it does not work, it may be that certain security settings have been established to block scripts from running. While some scripts are malicious, this script is not. Talk to your IT tech about making changes to allow this script to run. I have never run into this issue, however it may come up as each school sets up their security differently.

Below is a step by step process for installing Greasemonkey and the Flickr Creative Commons script onto your computer, for quick and easy Creative Commons attribution! Although the process seems long, you only need to do this once and it should continue to work forever. I’ve included the process as pdf to download, so that you can share it with others.

Download the PDF here

Once you’ve installed this script, each Flickr image page should have the following information available, ready for for you to either embed onto a web page, or to copy and paste wherever you use the image!

2013-05-14_0814
This is a closer look. These handy little windows of information will save you loads of time!
2013-05-14_0815

Creating Quality Presentations Part Two: Nuts and Bolts

 

nuts and bolts

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Pot Noodle: http://flickr.com/photos/maggiew/6121970836/

Now the previous post has given you  an overview of the basics for creating a great presentation, the following information will focus on ‘how to’ actually produce it.

Choose your Tool

Your first decision when creating a presentation is deciding which tool best suits the purpose. The main players for presentations are PowerPoint (Windows), Keynote (Mac) and Prezi (Online).

PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi

There are also mobile apps that create presentations, which are useful if you are on the move.

PowerPoint is the best known application in this area. Superb presentations can be created using PowerPoint – Nancy Duarte has created an amazing example of just how far PowerPoint can be pushed, which can be viewed here. PowerPoint is easy to use, although it can sometimes be a little unreliable when embedding video, (more on this later) and many of its pre-designed themes and templates are less than appealing.

Keynote is only available to those operating on the Mac platform. It performs the same role as PowerPoint, however some argue its design is sleeker and it is known to be able to handle video and music files more capably than PowerPoint.

What is Prezi

Click the image to go to a Prezi presentation explaining Prezi in further detail.

Prezi is a relative newcomer, but it is growing in popularity. Prezi is online, and stores your presentations ‘in the cloud’, although for a modest subscription you can download a desktop editor, which allows you to work in an offline mode.

Prezi is not based on linear slides, but has an unlimited canvas, onto which you place your content. As you design your Prezi, you create a ‘path’ which directs the order in which this content is presented. Being a canvas, Prezi is terrific for creating non-linear presentations, as you can zoom in and out to view the big picture or focus on smaller details, and the design is not limited by slide size. A tutorial on getting started with Prezi  can be downloaded here. Click the image to view a brief Prezi on what Prezi is all about.

A beautiful mobile device presentation app is Haiku Deck. The focus of Haiku Deck is to create image based slides, with minimal text. Built into the app is a search of Creative Commons licenced images, and it automatically places the attribution onto the image, which is a huge time saver. If you have access to an iPad, it is worth exploring. Below is an example of a Haiku Deck slide.Haiku deck slide example

Start Creating

    • Slide Layout

Avoid using the standard templates, if at all possible. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, they are not original or memorable. As PowerPoint is used so commonly, the layouts will make your slides seem just like everyone else’s. Secondly, the templates provided encourage the creation of slideuments – encouraging headings and subheadings, dot points and even two columns of information on the one slide.

    • Colour Matters
Ishihara colour perception test

Example of an Ishihara color test plate. The numeral “74″ should be clearly visible to viewers with normal color vision.

What looks amazing on the computer may not display as well when projected on a screen. The size and brightness of the room and strength of the projector can impact upon the colours, rendering some colour combinations unreadable. Another consideration is that approximately 8% of men suffer from colour-blindness (Victorian Department of Health and Safety,2013). Therefore the choice of background colour, text colour and the use of contrast are all important.

    • Finding Quality Images

The vast majority of images found through Google Images are copyrighted. When presenting to an audience, replicating images you do not have permission to use breaches copyright. Fortunately, there are a number of sources of images you can use, and these sources are growing.Creative Commons licenced images are an alternative to copyrighted images. Whereas copyright works on an all rights reserved model, Creative Commons licences allow the creator of the work to state which rights they choose to reserve (e.g. non-commercial indicates the creator reserves the right to prohibit commercial use of their creation). Images can also be labelled Public Domain, which means anyone is free to use them. These images are usually commonly used symbols, or images that have passed out of copyright.

A comprehensive explanation of Creative Commons, Public Domain and Copyright is available on the Copyright and Copyleft wiki.

If you have a budget for the presentation, you can purchase images from one of the many stock photo companies online. We have found iStockphoto to have an excellent range, and reasonably priced.

If you have no funds, don’t despair! There are many other excellent sources of creative commons licenced and free images and quality clipart.

Flickr Creative Commons – a huge range of photos all licenced to be used under various CC Licences.

Wikimedia Commons – a database of over 16 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.

Clker  royalty free public domain clip art in vector format and in image PNG format. It also allows you to make simple edits to these images.

    • Inserting Video

Insert video optionsInserting video in PowerPoint can be problematic. PowerPoint offers three options for inserting video.

Inserting a video from file is essentially the same as inserting an image. You browse to where the file is located, and click insert. There are a number of caveats on this simple process.

a)   Keep the video file and the PowerPoint file in the same folder. The video is not embedded into the PowerPoint, it ‘links’ to it, so if you move the PowerPoint (say onto a data key to transport to the presentation location) and you don’t move the video file as well, the video will fail to load. Moving the entire folder with all linked files goes some way to resolving this (although it is good to test at the presentation location, as sometimes videos need to be ‘reinserted’).

b)  If you have a video stored as a file on your hard drive, you should either own this video or have permission to store it. Downloading YouTube videos without the permission of the creator is a breach of copyright.

Inserting a video from a website
can be problematic. There are multiple requests for assistance online from PowerPoint users for whom this process just simply doesn’t work. The process seems simple:

Step 1: Copy the embed code from the video you wish to include. Note you must choose the ‘old embed code’ option.
embedding YouTube: finding the embed code
Step 2: Paste into PowerPoint in the appropriate field under Insert Video from Website.

paste into powerpoint

This process has never worked successfully for us, on a range of different computers. The video appears as a black box that will not play, or there is an error which requires Adobe Flash to be updated (even when the latest version is installed).
Fortunately, there are two alternatives:

a) Hyperlink to the video

b) Use a third party plug-in such as AuthorStream

Hyperlinking to the video means you temporarily leave the presentation, and go to where the video is situated to view. This can be disruptive during a presentation, however it does mean you can link to any video on any website (YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube etc). You can also link to a video edited on SafeShare TV, so that all of the annoying ads are removed. A tutorial on how to hyperlink to Safeshare TV can be downloaded here.

A third party plug-in such as AuthorStream allows you to embed YouTube or Vimeo videos directly into the slideshow so that they can be seamlessly displayed as part of the presentation.

Download Authorstream and follow the directions to install. Once it is installed, in PowerPoint a new tab will appear on the ribbon at the top of the screen.

Embedding the video is simply a matter of pasting the video hyperlink (not the embed code) into the window, as below.

embedding video using AuthorStream

Please note that embedded videos require an internet connection to operate.

Embedding video from clipart is quite straight forward, however the limited range of videos available from clipart means this option is rarely chosen.        The videos available are generally classified as animations, and add little to formal presentations.

If you have many videos to embed, it may be easier to choose Prezi as your presentation tool. To embed video into Prezi, simply paste the link where you want the video to appear, and as long as you have an internet connection, the process is complete.

  • Fonts are important

Choice of font is essential if you wish to have readable slides. If at all possible, choose no more than two fonts; a headline font and a text font. Make use of bold and italic options if you need further differentiation.

Nancy Duarte explains font choice very well in her book, Slideology. Essentially, there are two types of fonts; serif and sans serif.
Serifs are the small strokes at the end of letters that aid readability – you can see them

example of serif font

Serif fonts are good for long chunks of text. San Serif fonts don’t have the serifs, and are

sans serif font example

Once you have selected the font, don’t make the mistake of keeping it too small. Even though it may be readable on the computer screen, once projected this may change. As a general rule, stick to 24pt and above, larger if you are presenting in a large room and some audience members may be seated far from the screen.

Choice of font does not have to be limited to those available in the application. There are several websites where you can download free fonts for maximum impact. Two excellent sites are

DaFont logofont squirrel logo

(click on the logos to go to the sites).

One thing to note if you are using downloaded fonts – they will only work on the computer where the fonts are installed. This is vital to know, as many presentations are created on one computer and transferred for presentation onto a different computer. If you know the presentation is going to be moved, it is best to stick to one of the pre-installed fonts, or save the presentation in PDF format, which will prevent the fonts from changing no matter what computer is being used.

Avoid the overuse of bullet points!

Slide19

Want to know more?

These two posts on creating presentations that work have drawn on the work of several experts in this area; Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Seth Godin. A full bibliography of references used is below for further reading and information.

5 Ways to Make PowerPoint Sing! (And Dance!). (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2010/01/5-ways-to-make-powerpoint-sing-and-dance/

Department of Human Services, Victoria. (n.d.). Colour blindness. Better Health Channel. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Colour_blindness

Duarte, N. (2008). slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations (1st ed.). O’Reilly Media.

Godin, S. (2001, January 10). Really Bad PowerPoint: (and how to avoid it): Seth Godin: Amazon.com: Books. Do You Zoom Inc.

Hooker, D. (2012, March 25). Get Started with Prezi. Prezi Support. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from https://prezi.zendesk.com/entries/23448918-Get-Started-with-Prezi

Lessons from TED: 5 Simple Tweaks. (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2009/02/lessons-from-ted-5-simple-tweaks/

Reynolds, G. (2011). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition) (2nd ed.). New Riders.

Creating Quality Presentations Part One: First Steps

Death by PowerPoint

Every day, in conference rooms and offices around the world, people are dying. Death by PowerPoint is the commonly used term for presentations of endless slides, filled with dense text, complex diagrams and poor design.

The simple tips in this two-part post will help you transform presentations into tools of communication that will engage the audience, and provide a memorable accompaniment to your message.

The first post  will give you four simple steps to improve the overall impact of your presentations. The second post will focus on specific strategies to aid in the creation of effective presentations, as well as a tutorial for the PowerPoint alternative, Prezi. You can download the printable booklet of both posts here:http://tinyurl.com/presentationsthatwork .

You can view the presentation that accompanies this workshop here.

First Steps

First Steps

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Thomas Leth-Olsen: http://flickr.com/photos/thomasletholsen/6050828458/

Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author and public speaker admits that he has seen a lot of presentations in his career; and is adamant that most are poor. His simple rules for creating effective presentations have formed the basis of what I call ‘First Steps’.

Step 1: Keep Text Minimal

One of the common issues with slides in a presentation is ‘cognitive load’. Cognitive load is essentially how much your brain can take in. Our working memory is limited, and we process words and images separately, and therefore, when a speaker is presenting to an audience, and there is a slide full of text behind them, the audience must make a subconscious choice about which to pay attention to. They simply can’t take in both.  Seth Godin says absolutely no more than 6 words per slide; however if this is too rigid, at least try to limit the text to the main ideas. The audience came to hear the speaker. If all of the content is on the presentation, they could have just stayed at home and had the slideshow emailed to them!

Step 2: Use Inspiring Images

Now that the text on each slide is minimised, you have room to include amazing images! The content of the presentation is made richer when it is accompanied by images that engage the audience emotionally. An image smokestacks belching into the sky is far more memorable than a list of dot points about pollution. One key thing to remember when choosing images is that the image should illustrate the point you are making – design, don’t decorate. For example:

An example of a poorly designed slide, with too much text and 'decorative' clipart.

An example of a poorly designed slide, with too much text and ‘decorative’ clipart.

An example of a slide with better design. Limited text, and an image that illustrates the point of the speaker.

An example of a slide with better design. Limited text, and an image that illustrates the point of the speaker.

Step 3: Keep it Simple

PowerPoint is fitted out with many features that are not conducive to good design. Animations that have text swooshing across the slide, transitions that blink and flash and overdone backgrounds that distract from the text simply confuse your message. The best presentations are simple, clean and free of distractions.

Step 4: Put the Information in a Handout

Like this! The audience will be relieved to know that all of the information being communicated during the presentation will be theirs to walk away with at the conclusion. This frees them up to truly listen to the presenter – rather than scribbling down notes. It also means your slides do not have to contain all of the information, and can be used to engage the audience using the tips above.  It is important – vital! However, that it is handed out at the end of the presentation – otherwise the audience will simply read the document, and ignore the presenter.

Presentations which contain the entirety of information being delivered are known as ‘slideuments’. They are a terrible hybrid of document and slideshow presentation. While it may take a little longer to create a document and an accompanying presentation, the results are worth it in audience engagement and quality communication.

More is coming!

This has been an overview of the basics for creating a great presentation. The following post will detail more specific strategies for actually producing presentations.

Creating Quality Web Content – Tips and Strategies

Nowadays it is easy for everyone to publish to a world-wide audience. Blogs, wikis and simple drag and drop website creators  enable even the youngest students to have a voice online. This is a blessing and a curse!

When it comes to web content, students need to understand both sides of the coin – how to critically analyse and identify quality content, and also how to create and publish quality content. In addition, teachers are often encouraged to build a web presence – for professional development, as a means of communication with parents and community, or to share resources. Creating and publishing quality web content requires skills that don’t necessarily come naturally, and are not part of teacher training! Therefore this blog post aims to give a very simple introduction to basic tips and strategies for creating web content that is useable and accessible.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Paul Veugen

Design

Good design, driven by a clear purpose is key in successful web publishing. Design extends beyond visual design (although this is very important) and includes page layout, text design and accessibility (including navigation).

Visual design

Principles of Design

Used with permission from Paper Leaf Design

Web content that adheres to the elements of graphic design will always be more visually appealing and thus more likely to encourage users to spend more time on your site. This handy poster outlines the main principles of visual design (and you can download your own pdf or .eps copy free from the friendly designers at PaperLeaf.

Page Layout and Text Design

Page layout and text design work hand in hand. A clear page layout, with plenty of white space and well spaced text will enable users to find what they want quickly. Your most important information should be clearly visible and easily accessible. Any inclusion on a page should serve a purpose; in web design, as in fashion, it makes sense to follow Coco Chanel’s advice:

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

Users want to access your content to find information, to solve a problem or to connect with others. Anything that does not enhance or enable these actions is unnecessary and may even detract. This could be as simple as using too many fonts which confuses the reader.

A nice, simple article for further reading is Good Web Design is all About the User.

Accessibility

Accessibility is very important for all web content. It is the inclusive practice of making websites usable by people of all abilities and disabilities, as well as ensuring your web content renders correctly across all browsers and devices.  This includes making sure images have text equivalents so that people using text to speech readers know about the images, as well as having meaningfully named and highlighted links, and the ability to enlarge font sizes for readability. All of these considerations are important to enable access for all users. More information on accessibility is available on the World Wide Web Consortium pages.
This video is also a great summary:

Navigation

Navigation is how users find your all important content. Poor site design and navigation will frustrate users.  If users cannot find the page they are searching for, or get ‘lost’ and are unable to return easily to the home page, they may well never return.  Link titles should be brief, but descriptive, and take users where they expect to go. If a page does not contain the information that should logically be on that page, many people will just stop searching.

This terrific short video outlines key tips for effective navigation. Essentially, navigation should be:

  • compact
  • logical
  • clear
  • intuitive
  • fast
  • future proof and
  • compatible across devices and browsers

Communication

Of course, terrific design will only take you so far – users are accessing your site for the content. Janice (Ginny) Redish is a world renowned expert on writing content for the web. Letting go of the words by Ginny RedishShe sees communications on the web as a conversation – between the publisher and the user. Using this conversation analogy, the users strike up a conversation with you each time they come across your content. How do you communicate with them? Obviously in order to have a quality conversation, you need to know the who you are speaking with, and this is where knowing your audience is vital. Is your audience young or old? Are they technical, or are they more likely to be new to technology? What have they come to your site to obtain?

Meeting user’s needs is the number one goal, and the way you communicate your content is vitally important in this exchange. If the content is too complex, buried deeply within the site or is simply boring, users will quickly move on. Redish suggests using short, simple words wherever possible (readers are busy), keeping the tone ‘active’ (by using verbs) and conversational. Redish’s book, Letting Go of the Words, is a must read for anyone publishing to the web and wanting to improve their content. For employees of Brisbane Catholic Education, this title may be borrowed from the ResourceLink library. Some of her presentations are available on Slideshare.

Don’t Forget!

Copyright and Creative Commons

When you publish online, you are publishing to a world wide audience. Even if what you are publishing may be for educational purposes, you still need to be aware of copyright. Fortunately the number of images licenced under Creative Commons is growing exponentially, and it is also much easier in this digital age to contact owners of images to ask permission to use them. For example, the Principles of Design poster earlier in this post was not licenced under Creative Commons, but a quick message on Facebook requesting usage was responded to in a matter of days.

When using Creative Commons images, be sure to attribute the images correctly. It is best practice to place the attribution on the image or very close to it, so that users can immediately see how the image is licenced. You can find more easy to understand information about Copyright and Creative Commons on the ResourceLink wiki Copyright and Copyleft. You can also read how to attribute correctly on the Creative Commons website.

Sometimes, as in the case of YouTube videos and the infographic at the end of this post, an embed code is offered for those who wish to use the content on their own page. An embed code is like a more complex hyperlink – the content remains on the content-owner’s page, yet is also embedded and shows on your own site. Using embedded videos and graphics does not breach copyright, as the content is still residing on the owner’s site, and the code simply links to it. Embed codes are particularly useful when publishing to Learning Management Systems.

Creating web content is easy and fun. With planning and forethought, your web content can be highly useful, attractive and effective. The infographic below sums up everything you need to know.

Have fun creating!
What Makes Someone Leave A Website?
Source: What Makes Someone Leave A Website?