Virtual Reality – Fad or Fabulous?


flickr photo shared by Steve Koukoulas under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Who didn’t spend hours as a child, gazing through their View-Master, clicking around the film cartridges which revealed 3d images of nature, super heroes and classic stories? The View-Master allowed us to escape into an imaginative world in a different way to books or television; by holding it up to our eyes, the whole world disappeared as our field of vision was completely taken up by these tiny slides.

The world has changed dramatically since my childhood, and technology now allows for an immersive experience light years beyond the simple View-Master of the past. Technology such as the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR are bringing Virtual Reality out of science fiction, and thanks to the incredibly cheap Google Cardboard Virtual Reality viewer, into the hands of everyday people. In some areas, virtual reality is seen as the natural next step to how we interact with media content, from gaming to movies and more.

I have written before on this blog about Augmented Reality, and explained the difference between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality has lots of potential for education, and free apps such as Aurasma and Daqri have enabled teachers to experiment with different ways to enhance learning using it.  However until the introduction of the Google Cardboard viewer, the chance to explore the potentials of VR in education has been extremely limited.

Before jumping into a discussion about whether VR is fad or actually fabulous for education, let’s investigate exactly what it is, and what the technology and tools entail. This video, gives a fantastic, simple explanation for those new to the idea of Virtual Reality. Click the image below to access it on the Time website.

how does vr work

Put simply, VR is the experience of a computer generated simulation or 3D image, made possible by the use of technology such as a helmet or viewer. The ability to ‘trick’ the mind into thinking that the individual is actually ‘there’ within the environment which is in fact ‘virtual’ is the amazing and fascinating aspect of VR, which removes it from other experiences of media. When viewing a VR App which features a rollercoaster ride, users may feel the same feelings of dizziness and displacement that they would when actually riding the real thing.

Of course, the more advanced the VR system, the more fully immersed within the environment the user becomes. Simple apps combined with a Google Cardboard Viewer provide enough immersion to make one feel a little ill, but the lack of audio stimulus and real interactivity limits just how ‘real’ the experience feels. This is a good thing for younger students – being able to pull the viewer away at any moment of discomfort is important. For older or more experienced users of VR, they may wish to trial technologies that provide a much fuller immersion; where sensory stimulation including the sense of touch (e.g. wind blowing through your hair as you fly) and audio (the rushing sound as you soar) as well as the ability to interact with the environment actually makes the computer disappear, as the brain becomes fully engaged with the virtual world. For a deeper explanation about how VR works, a great article that is easy to read is How Virtual Reality Works by

While it seems obvious that gaming will be where a large proportion of development will happen in the VR world, the ability to experience ‘being there’ from the safety of a classroom has obvious appeal for the educator. Having the ability to walk through historical sites, to experience times in history such as World War One or to investigate Outer Space are just some of the most immediate examples of how virtual reality might play a part in learning. The Google Expeditions Pioneer Program and Immersive VR Education sites are currently offering this experience to students – and one can only assume others will follow. For many schools, excursions, school trips and even hands on activities may be limited due to funding or safety concerns; using virtual reality, while not a complete replacement, may allow those students to experience what they would otherwise have never been able.

Research has shown that game-based learning environments, virtual worlds and simulations all result in varying levels of positive learning outcomes (Merchant, Goetz, Cifuentes, Keeney-Kennicutt, & Davis, 2014). However, this meta-analysis admits that the research available is limited in different ways. There is also not a great deal of literature available discussing the effectiveness of virtual reality based learning in the context of retention and being able to transfer the learning from the virtual to the real environment (Bossard, Kermarrec, Buche, & Tisseau, 2008). This is not surprising, given the cost of providing virtual reality experiences to this point. With the introduction of Google Cardboard, all of this is about to change.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

These apps are all available on the Google Play store. There are also apps available for iPhones through iTunes.

Google Cardboard is a low tech, cardboard viewer, that holds users’ to smartphone, so that the screen of the device is viewed through the lenses. There are a growing number of free and paid apps that are being made available to be viewed through the viewer, ranging from the aforementioned rollercoaster (not for those who experience motion sickness!!), an African safari, several space adventures,and the original Google Cardboard app, which features different experiences including a simple animated story, a tour of Versailles, a 3D artefact that can be examined from all angles and the opportunity to fly over the Earth.

war of wordsOne of the apps that shows the way VR might potentially link to literature is the beautiful War of Words, which features a reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s  poem ‘The Kiss’. This app demonstrates a way VR might be used to engage students in poetry through the immersion in an atmospheric experience that conveys a tone that a simple reading may not provide. Enabling students to almost physically enter the world of the text opens up immense possibilities. A hybrid sitting between the book and the movie, books could include points during the story where the reader is encouraged to put down the physical book and pick up the virtual visor, to experience an adventure along with the characters. Combining the two technologies (book and VR) would enrich the experience, while providing new ways to encourage beginning readers to interpret the text.

Although this article in Mashable focuses less on reading and more on the storytelling experience, those who work with disengaged readers can easily make the links between experiencing storytelling of the calibre described here, and the desire to the engage with text that further extends the story.

cardboardTo support the exploration of Virtual Reality, ResourceLink has purchased a set of six I Am Cardboard Viewers, and will be offering them for loan along with our other Makerspace kits. Teachers will need to provide the phones loaded with appropriate apps, however with most students today owning their own mobile, this might just require some pre-planning. Primary schools wishing to explore might choose to host an afternoon where parents are invited to join in with the learning, bringing their mobile phone with them! Some apps work on iPod Touches, however phones provide the best experience, as generally they are more powerful.

In the kit, I have included two documents to assist users; one outlining tips for using a Cardboard viewer in the classroom, and one suggesting apps to get users started.

Virtual Reality is still in the early stages of adoption, particularly in education. Limitations in budgets, bandwidth and accessibility mean that it may take some time before VR is a commonplace part of learning – an observation supported by Pano Anthos, Founder and CEO, GatherEducation who states:

True virtual reality and augmented reality technologies will be slower to go mainstream, since the effort to put on glasses of any type means costs and changes in user behavior. When such technologies become seamless and unobtrusive accessories, they will move toward mainstream.
(drawn from the article Future Thoughts by Jonathan Blake Huer)

Despite this, teachers, librarians and administrators involved in education are challenged to play with and investigate new technologies. Becoming informed about,and exploring ‘horizon’ technologies such as VR, and observing developing trends in pedagogy helps educators respond more effectively in a changing learning environment, and with students who demand a changing lvr flipboardearning experience.

Intrigued and want to know more?

I have created a Pinterest Board which has a range of links to apps, articles and research, and if you wish to keep up to date, check out my Flipboard, to which I will be adding articles of interest. For Brisbane Catholic Education staff, the Google Cardboard kits will be available for loan through the Oliver catalogue; simply search the lists for Makerspaces, and you will find it, along with all of our other Makerspace kits and resources which you can book for use.

References

Bossard, C., Kermarrec, G., Buche, C., & Tisseau, J. (2008). Transfer of learning in virtual environments: a new challenge? Virtual Reality, 12, 151-161
Blake Huer, J. (2015, June 22). Future Thoughts. Retrieved 29 October 2015, from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/future-thoughts
Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.07.033
Newspoll Market and Social Research. (2013). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media. Prepared for Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/About%20Cybersmart/Research/~/media/Cybersmart/About%20Cybersmart/Documents/Newspoll%20Quantitative%20Like%20Post%20Share%20%20final%20PDF.pdf

Creative Commons Images in this post used with thanks to:
Oculus Rift – Developer Version – Front” by Sebastian StabingerOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Samsung Gear VR” by http://www.flickr.com/people/pestoverde/http://www.flickr.com/photos/pestoverde/15247458515. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Assembled Google Cardboard VR mount” by othreeGoogle Cardboard. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Augmented Reality in Education – update

About 3 years ago, I wrote two posts describing Augmented Reality and exploring the potential of Augmented Reality in education and the workplace: Augmented Reality – Even Better than the Real Thing? and Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace.

Take a moment to re-read these posts, or, if time is short, watch this great video  which will quickly bring you up to speed on what Augmented Reality is:

As you can expect, a lot changes in three years – resources such as String, which I explored previously have morphed to embrace new concepts, while tools like Aurasma have continued to develop the quality of their experience, providing more reliability and better results than ever before. What’s more, tools like Google Cardboard are moving beyond augmented reality, and providing a completely virtual reality experience – more on this in a future post!

But back to Augmented Reality (AR) – where technology allows you to create a ‘layer’ of information over a person’s experience of the world. When you think about it, educators are the original ‘augmented reality’, providing an overlay to student’s perspectives!

Tools such as Aurasma  enable learning to be engaging in a completely new way, and this post aims at providing some ideas as to how AR can used by students to raise their expression of learning to a new level.

As I introduced in earlier blog posts, Augmented Reality apps come in two main forms: the first is where a printed trigger image initiates an interaction through the camera of the mobile device, and the second where the app uses the mobile device’s GPS capabilities to ‘layer’ digital data over the location where the user is.

It is the first type where students can really get involved in the creation of AR, as they can either create both the trigger image and the overlay, or just overlay their own creation onto an image (or item, e.g. a book cover), through using an app such as Aurasma. There are a few other apps which allow for this AR creation, one notable one being DAQRI (you can see its potential here).  However, Aurasma appears to be the most stable and currently the best on the market. Access to the Educator’s 4D DAQRI Studio appears to be currently unavailable.

Check out just some of what can be created using Aurasma in this video:

In education, creating an overlay which enriches resources is the most obvious way to use this technology. Imagine being able to embed a book trailer video directly onto the cover of a book, so that students could simply open their phone or other mobile device to the AR app, scan the cover of the book and immediately view the trailer; AR makes this totally possible. Even better if the book trailer is student created – a way to bring student voice directly into the reading experience!

Another option would be to augment a student’s artwork with a video of themselves explaining the work, or a montage of the pieces that inspired their creation – again, not only possible, but easily and quickly done.

A third option is to record a student performance, and then embed this directly onto the criteria sheet, so moderating teachers simply view the sheet through their mobile device to review the student’s singing, dancing, acting etc – what a powerful way to bring assessment to life.

With creativity and imagination, the options are endless. What about using a video to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of foreign language words for a LOTE class, and overlaying these on the flashcards, or researching the plants in the school grounds and overlaying videos with this information onto signs near those trees or plants for others to view. Bring the map of the school’s local area alive with videos of elderly residents sharing their stories of how the area has changed, or link the school choir singing the school song to the logo on your newsletter. Even better, link newsletter photos with video, so parents can experience the moment as it happened.

Younger students could create slideshows of images all beginning with a particular letter or blend and then embed these on alphabet cards, while senior students could list the properties of elements and develop an interactive periodic table..it doesn’t matter what age or stage, AR can allow students to demonstrate their own learning, and then easily share it with others, creating useful resources that other learners can benefit from also.

These are just some examples of how you could use an App such as Aurasma to bring AR into your classroom.  Aurasma is one of the easiest ways to create your own AR overlays. You can do it within the app on your mobile device, or, if you want greater flexibility, download the Aurasma Studio to create on your computer.

Augmented_realityThe steps on this PDF take you through just how you do this (click on the image or click here)

Once you have developed confidence with creating the overlay and combining it with the trigger image to create an AR experience, you can then distribute these either via email to specific users, or more broadly by creating your own ‘channel’ to which users can subscribe. Either choice is easy to set up either within the app itself, or in the online studio environment.

This field is changing all the time, so the best thing to do is just jump in and try it! Now that many students have access to mobile technology (either at home or at school or both), the implementation of AR is likely to become more common (at least more common than it was three years ago when I first wrote about it!).

If you would like to learn more, check out this Pinterest board, which has a growing range of links to different ideas, apps and information about AR – and if you bring AR into your classroom, drop us a line in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

How to Haiku!

Presentations that work

I was recently asked to run a workshop on how to develop effective presentations. I had run this workshop last year, but of course, last year’s work needed updating, as so much changes so quickly that workshops from even last week seem out of date! Some things remain the same:

Of course, a lot of things have also changed; and one of the most important updates I made to my workshop was to introduce participants to Haiku Deck.

What is Haiku Deck?

Originally an iPad app, and now available on the web, with future plans for access on other platforms, Haiku Deck is a gorgeously simple slideshow creator, that enables the user to create presentations that easily meet all of the tips for presentations mentioned above.

The creators behind the app focus on three words: simple, beautiful and fun.

Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.
Click this image to view a simple Haiku Deck example.

A ‘deck’ or presentation can be created in four easy steps, and the finished result can be shared on social media such as Twitter or Facebook, embedded on a blog, website or in a learning management system, emailed or opened in PowerPoint or Keynote for further editing (if necessary).

How to Haiku

The steps to create a deck are incredibly easy. The process described below is for the iPad app – but it is very similar using the web-based app, and extremely intuitive.

First, click the plus sign in the centre of the bottom of the screen to create a new deck.

Then, give your deck a name, and choose a theme. Don’t worry – if the theme doesn’t suit, you can always change it again at any time during the creation process.

The different themes run across the top of the iPad screen. Simply scroll through to choose your favourite.

2014-06-30_1109The deck creation process is determined by the four images you will see on the left hand side of the screen. These allow you to (from top to bottom) add text, add images, arrange your text and add notes.

Adding text is very simple, and the beauty of Haiku Deck is that it encourages you to keep the text to a minimum. Yes, they have made additions, to enable users to input dot points, or blocks of text, however the deck is most powerful when text is used sparingly.

One exception to this is using the block of text option  for quotes, which can be quite powerful when combined with the right image – see this example below:

quote eg

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choose from selected keywords, search with your own keywords or upload your own image!

Choosing images is the fun part. Haiku deck cleverly identifies key words in the text on the slide, and automatically allows you to search a database of thousands of images using these words. You can also choose to search using your own key word, or upload your own image. The thing that really stands Haiku Deck apart from other presentation software is that if you choose a Creative Commons Licenced image (read more about this type of image here) it automatically includes the attribution on the slide – saving an enormous amount of time.

You can also choose from a range of pre-formatted charts, or choose a solid background colour (handy for those quote slides or for when you do need to include a lot of text). In addition, in the iPad app, you can purchase stock photography right from inside the app, with images costing $1.99 US.

Even if you are not wanting to create the entire slideshow in Haiku Deck this automatic attribution is powerful. Why not  create a deck of awesome pictures, complete with attribution in Haiku Deck, and then export the slides to PowerPoint or Keynote (say if you wanted to also embed movies, music or other features not currently a part of the Haiku Deck suite).

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

Choose to add a headline and subheading, or add dot points or a block of text.

The third stage is to place the text. Here you have a number of options, which are useful for working around the image in order to best combine image and text. Although the options are somewhat limited (you can’t freely place text anywhere you wish on the slide, you must choose one of the set positions), this restriction actually frees the creator, as it enables the focus to be on simply word and image, and speeds the creation process.

The fourth step is optional, and is the addition of notes. You can make these notes either private, or you can publish them along with your slides, for sharing with others. This is a much valued addition to Haiku Deck, as it really enables the tool to be used for much longer or more complex presentations, and is a godsend for those of us who get nervous when speaking, and like to have a visual prompt!

When to Haiku

Haiku Deck has been designed to be used for any type of presentation, however it’s ease of use and the simplicity of the slide design lend itself particularly well to the following uses:

2014-07-01_12431. Prayer/Reflection/Meditation: when you want beautiful images and few words, nothing beats a Haiku Slide deck. Being based in Brisbane Catholic Education, many of our meetings and gatherings begin with a simple prayer or reflection; and often these are required at short notice. Even the most familiar prayer can be given new life when it is paired with amazing imagery.

2014-07-01_12422. Conference reviews: when you attend a conference, you hear many nuggets of wisdom. What better way to capture and share these, than by using Haiku Deck. When you return from the conference, and have an amazing looking presentation to share with colleagues, no one will know just how quick and easy it was to create!

There are so many other creative ways to use Haiku Deck; young students could easily create a deck for a show and tell item, use as a simple way of sharing visual instructions, create awesome looking flashcards to learn a foreign language, and then share the great holiday snaps upon return from said foreign location; the list is endless!

You can find many more exciting and wonderful applications for Haiku Deck on the Haiku Pinterest Page. Better still, share ways you have found to use this beautiful piece of technology in your classroom, library or beyond!

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Tools for Christmas Classrooms

santa-in-sled-with-reindeer-hiIn the last few weeks of school before Christmas, it is often challenging to find quality resources that are engaging enough to keep over-excited students involved, and yet of educational value. This time of year is also extremely busy for teachers, who are writing reports, devising class groupings for next year, meeting with parents, directing Christmas concerts and more.

To meet the needs of time-poor teachers, I’ve devised a list of apps and digital tools that might be useful for keeping students challenged and engaged right up until the last day of school and even perhaps beyond into the Christmas break; please feel free to share your own ‘lifesavers’ in the comments below!

1. Caritas Advent Calendar

Click to download App or PowerPoint version.

Click to download App or PowerPoint version.

This beautiful Advent Calendar is available as a mobile app for iPad or Android tablets, or as a PowerPoint for those without a mobile device. Beginning December 1st, users are able to click each day on the marked button, and read reflections, consider social justice issues and pray about different causes and concepts. Go to http://www.caritas.org.au/advent or click on the image to learn more.

2. Holiday Time Machine


This app is amazing, and at 99c, will provide hours of entertainment and learning for students of all ages. This app has over 2500 videos including holiday specials, commercials, music and movie trailers dating from 1896 to 2013. This means students can view anything from original footage of a snowball fight filmed in 1896 to 2013 Christmas television commercial – and so much in between. Needless to say, having this much historical footage at one’s fingertips lends itself to fascinating historical inquiries, awesome visual literacy and critical literacy learning opportunities, comprehension activities, cultural literacy investigations; the list goes on. It also provides wonderful discussion starters for considering how our views of Christmas have changed, whether Christmas has become more commercialised, and how advertising reflects societal mores. Overall, a wonderful tool with many uses, and also entertainment on Christmas day – prompting memories and conversations across the generations! Download the app here.

3. Norad tracks Santa

Click to learn more.

Click to learn more.

Broaden student’s geographic knowledge using the Norad (North American Aerospace Defence Command) Santa tracker, which goes live on December 1st. Each day there is a  countdown, different games and activities, videos, music and more.  The site has been updated for 2013, and will feature  a 3D globe and new interactive games. Available as an app in the Windows, Apple and Android stores, it is also online at http://www.noradsanta.org/ . Tracking opportunities are also available on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+  by  typing “@noradsanta” into each social media tool to begin.

4. Yummy Christmas

Click to access this app.

Click to access this app.

This free app presents very simple recipes to encourage young students to get involved in cooking this Christmas. Cooking offers many learning opportunities, not the least measurement skills and the chance to discuss healthy eating and the importance of a balanced diet during the holidays! The recipes are beautifully presented in a visual format, and feature easily obtained ingredients as well as a focus on healthy choices.

5. Christmas Nativity Scene

2013-11-28_1548

Click to download this app.

Another free app, this one would be useful when teaching about the different versions of the Infancy narrative in Luke and Matthew’s Gospels. Students choose from a range of scenes and characters to create a Nativity scene; what they choose to include could be used to determine the differences in the different Gospel versions. Images can be saved to the photo roll on the iPad for easy sharing with others, or to be imported into a different app to be added to further.

On behalf of the ResourceLink team, I would like to thank all of our readers and followers, and wish you all a  very happy Christmas and a refreshing holiday break.  I look forward to sharing more interesting information with you in 2014!

Making Multiliteracy Manageable: Movies, iPads and Kids Connect

Tech on the Edge image(84)Recently ResourceLink staff have been involved in two Kids Connect conferences: Key to the Sea run by Unity College and Tech on the Edge, run by St Thomas School at Camp Hill.

Unity College hosted Key to the Sea at Underwater World, the well known marine aquarium at Mooloolaba, while Tech on the Edge was held at The Edge, which is  an initiative of State Library of Queensland which provides space and equipment for users to  explore creativity across the arts, technology, science and enterprise.

This year, we decided to implement some recent work we had done with Michelle Anstey and Geoff Bull on multiliteracies, focusing particularly on supporting students to develop a multimodal text, in this case a trailer for a movie, using the iMovie app, as well as supporting apps such as Word Foto and Storyboarder.

This was the blurb which described the two day workshop to the students:

Edge of Your Seats: The Movie Mystery Box!

Be taken to the edge of your creativity by diving into the Movie Mystery Box. Armed with a mobile device and the contents of the Mystery Box, you will be challenged to create a short film inspired by a famous movie.

Become a professional movie maker as you script, shoot and star in your own film, created entirely on an iPad. Learn tips and tricks from movie making professionals to start you on your way to Hollywood.

The key to assisting the students to develop really quality end products lay in the learning that took place prior to the students beginning to film.

We began by showing the students a short and amusing advertisement.

After the viewing started deconstructing it using the five semiotic systems defined by Anstey and Bull:

  • Linguistic – the screenplay, the script, any text on screen
  • Visual – lighting, editing, pace and transitions
  • Gestural – acting, setting, props and costumes
  • Audio – sound effects, soundtrack, dialogue
  • Spatial – camera movement, shot type, camera angle

Once we had discussed each of these semiotic systems, and identified them in the advertisement, we asked the students to create freeze-frames where they used their bodies to depict them. We then edited these images in WordFoto, using the words that describe their representation in film:

Students model the audio semiotic.

Students model the audio semiotic, and edited in Wordfoto.

Once the students had explored each of the systems, we focused on the visual and spatial semiotics, particularly on camera angles and types of shots, as these would be the things the students would have most control over when creating their trailers.

To introduce the idea of different camera angles and shot types, we used a series of flashcards which depicted each of the main types of shots used. Students then watched the Tyre Commercial again, identifying the different shots, and then created their own, using Lego figures.

These are the flashcards used to teach students about different shot types.

These are the flashcards used to teach students about different shot types.

The images the students created using the Lego figures were then shared with the group, and we evaluated them using the 2 stars and a wish strategy, where students shared two things they liked and one thing they would improve about their shots.

Next the students revised the concept of a story arc. Using the well known short film ‘For the Birds‘, the students were encouraged to identify each of the phases of the story, as seen below:

The story arc sheet, completed with images from 'For the Birds'.

The story arc sheet, completed with images from ‘For the Birds’.

Now the students were ready to receive their mystery box!

Opening the mystery box

Opening the mystery box

Inside the mystery box were a range of props and a well known quote from a movie. The students were challenged to use at least one of the props as well as the quote in the construction of their movie trailer.

Creating a movie trailer meant that the students had to plan the entire movie using Storyboarder, and then draw from this plan the key ideas which they would include to tempt viewers to see the film.

After taking time to plan their story and scout for locations, the students dove into film making, applying their new knowledge to create trailers that displayed a wide range of film techniques.

Here is an example of what they achieved:

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

 

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