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.

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Ebooks revisioned with the launch of “The Boat”

The Boat is a book of short stories, authored by Nam Le, which has been extensively used in education to stimulate discussions and elicit challenges about the way Senior students (aged 15 and up) might think about concepts such as war, refugees, resilience, family, intercultural perspectives and more. Extensive teaching guides are available via AustLit & Reading Australia. As a text, it is powerful, and critics admire how Le writes with authenticity across a variety of worldviews and experiences.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, SBS has launched an interactive graphic novel, specifically for online audiences, which brings the title story, ‘The Boat’ to a whole new audience, in a whole new way. The work, in Le’s own words,

” is strange and powerful. More importantly, it opens up new ground.”

Using a combination of illustration and movie-making techniques, the online story draws the reader in, as they scroll down at their own pace, immersed in a soundscape that engages the senses and following text that flows across the screen like the ocean the boat is traversing. Experience it here.

As a librarian, this is what I imagine ebooks truly should be. To use Puentedura‘s terms – this is not just a substitution – backlit text on an electronic page – but something that reimagines and redefines storytelling and the experience of story, taking advantage of flexibility in form and function, and drawing together word, image, animation and sound.


flickr photo shared by laura pasquini under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

While movie sound designer, Sam Petty, reflects on the challenges he experienced while creating in this new media form:

“I’ve had to break up what I do into very specific moments that relate to a particular drawing, extend the mood for as long as someone lingers and provide atmospheres that blend into one another. It’s been fascinating… and quite a technical challenge.”

it is clear to see that this style of publishing requires a whole new literacy to be taught to students. No longer just dealing with alphabetic fonts on a static page, readers must move with the text in a non-linear way – sometimes fading into dreams which feature a collage of line drawing and historical photo, then returning to the main storyline, simultaneously combining their understanding of the interplay of many different forms of expression.

Screengrab from 'The Boat' - click image to access the site.

Screengrab from ‘The Boat’ – click image to access the site.

Will there be more re-imaginings of the ebook, and even more interactive and engaging stories being shared via changing technologies? I hope so. I also hope that educators continue to deepen their definition of literacy, so that students are able to not just consume, but begin to create innovations such as this.

shape-of-text-cover-250-320

 

The shape of texts to come by Jon Callow as well as the work of Anstey and Bull are great places for teachers to begin exploring multiliteracies and the development of visual literacy. Another avenue to explore is that of graphic novels – the format which shapes The Boat – as complex, stand-alone plotlines are developed using text and sequential art. You can read more about the potential of graphic novels in the classroom in this recent ResourceLink blog post, Getting Graphic.

So please, take the time to explore ‘The Boat’ – both interactive and traditional versions. Introduce it to your students (even younger students can access the story as retold on the site); and consider how literacy has changed, is changing, and the impact this has on your practice. Share your thoughts below!

 

 

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

 

iPad uPad wePad; Going 1-1 at St Oliver Plunkett

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to St Oliver Plunkett to be a part of their 1-1 iPad rollout to the very excited Year 6 class.

Oliver Plunkett logo bannerLed by their fabulous teacher librarian, Ann-Marie Furber and fearless class teacher, Brooke Maguire, with consultation from the very dedicated and talented Education Officer Learning and Teaching Technologies, Danielle Carter, the Year 6 class participated in a series of workshops in order to develop their skills before they were officially given management of their very own devices.

While the school maintains ownership, the students manage the purchasing of additional apps, and the care and maintenance of the iPads for the time they are at the school. This means the students have 24-7 access to their learning. The rollout has been a carefully managed process, with a great deal of professional development and pre-planning being done before the students had access to the devices.

The bootcamp itself was a terrific opportunity to work with a group of enthusiastic and excited Year 6 students. The workshops they participated in dealt with simple tips and tricks for managing their iPad, Email etiquette, run by Ann-Marie Furber, Teacher Librarian, Successful Searching, run by classroom teacher Brooke Maguire and Copyright and Creative Commons, run by myself, Kay Cantwell, Education Officer Digital Learning. Once the students had completed these workshops, they were officially licensed to take ‘ownership’ of their devices.

Evidence of the planning undertaken prior to this 1-1 rollout was the well established resources that had been developed in order to maximise student learning. Rather than be overwhelmed with apps, or being seduced by limited, content focused apps that had all of the bells and whistles but little quality pedagogy, lists of Core Student and Core Teacher apps were developed, as well as a list of apps suitable for Inquiry Learning.

Core Teacher AppsCore AppsInquiry Learning Apps

This, along with a ‘workflow wall’ which creates a visual list of apps the students need to access in order to complete a task, allows students to make use of their iPad as a tool, rather than as a source of low level learning or as a time filler activity and games device.

The students loved both the Bootcamp, and of course the idea of having these devices to aid their learning; some of their feedback after the sessions included:

I give today a 5 because learning all these new things about this amazing device
& that we are the class to be chosen is pretty cool.

I give today a five because we had lots of learning opportunities and it was totally AWESOME!!!!!!!!

I give today a 5 because it was fun and cool way to learn

I give today a 5/5 because it was a very good learning experience for me.
Thank you to all the teachers for making it a great day!

This is a list of what the students learnt:

Bootcamp Summary

I’m sure the 1-1 iPad rollout at St Oliver Plunkett is going to be a huge success – due to the careful planning, the focus on learning, and the fact that the iPads are not being viewed as the be-all and end-all, but just another (albeit incredibly powerful) tool for the students to utilise in their learning journey.

Postscript:

See below for the Copyright Resource that I created to help the Year 6’s begin to understand the crazy complexities of copyright, and the potential of Creative Commons. With a content creation tool such as the iPad at their fingertips, it is vital that the students know how to access resources that they have permission to use when creating multimodal works. Link to the Presentation and Booklet.

copyright_cool

Does the Apple fall far from the tree? – Sharing one iPad among many users

2012 K-12 Horizon Report

2012 K-12 Horizon Report

The 2012 Horizon Report identifies mobile devices  and tablet computing as technologies expected to enter mainstream use in education within one year or less. The mobility of these devices, their almost instant accessibility, the ease with which the touch screens promote interaction and the huge range of educational apps available for very reasonable prices appeal to both teachers and students. Research has found that the use of iPads and other mobile devices in the classroom  improves engagement, supports multiple ways to access the curriculum and enhances assessment practices (Government of Alberta, 3 October 2011).

The flexibility of mobile devices is undeniable. They have been successfully rolled out in 1-1 programmes, where students have 24/7 access to the devices, and have equally been found to be powerful learning tools when used in a one to many scenario. In fact, Kristin Redington Bennett says in her recent article, Less Than a Class Set , that having fewer iPads not only challenged teachers to be more creative and innovative in the way they designed learning opportunities, but also that having a small number of iPads in a classroom facilitated individualized and tailored instruction, as a class set of the devices may encourage more traditional whole class instruction.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by flickingerbrad

This scenario, of having one iPad shared among multiple users is likely to be far more common that the 1-1 scenario in most schools, as the technology is still relatively new, and education budgets grow increasingly tight. Often, it is the school library which manages the mobile devices, loaning them out to teachers and classes on a needs basis.

Sharing iPads among whole classes and small groups can still lead to effective learning. As Bennett suggests, the teacher may use one iPad with the whole class as a moveable digital display, moving around the classroom with it, or having the students pass the tablet around. It may also be the focus of a small group challenge, or  as a part of a learning centre. They can be used by individual students for extension, or provide engaging practise for students who are struggling with specific concepts. Futaba, a multiplayer appApps such as Futaba, which allow multiple students to play together on the iPad are also terrific options, and the list of these multiplayer apps is growing.

The iPad is designed primarily as a personal device.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by flickingerbrad

Apple in particular has had  massive success in the education market; with sales data in the United States finding that in the most recent quarter, iPads even outsold Personal Computers in the K-12 Market. Despite this success, and the enthusiastic take up by teachers and students, the iPad’s design remains that of a personal device.

This provides a range of challenges to educators who are using the device as a shared  technology between multiple users.

Logging in:

In May 2012, Apple Insider reported that the lack of multi-user support on iPad is a ‘known issue,’ which was  ‘being investigated’ by Apple. While there are apps that allow multiple users to access different accounts such as Facebook or cloud based document libraries, there is no way for multiple users to have their own personalised profile in the way that users can log into a shared PC. This would be useful in situations where teachers and students share the device, as the teacher could have a profile that allows them to access their emails, class and assessment data, teaching apps etc, while students could log into a generic ‘student’ account, which provides access to educational apps and a student email for exporting from apps.

Deployment:

Deploying multiple iPads to a generic user base is one of the most challenging aspects of their introduction to schools. The initial set up of multiple devices can be extremely time-consuming. There are ways to deliver email access, wireless network and other functions over the air, strategies which are detailed in Apple’s business solutions package, however the establishment of the Apple ID required for each device takes some time, particularly entering in the numerous details required by Apple’s strict security. The Apple Configurator app goes some way to simplify the process also (although this requires a Mac computer), however all of these options require not only an administrator with a fairly good basic set of IT skills, but also a robust WiFi network or the time needed to plug each device into a central (Mac) computer.

Configurator

None of this should (or indeed does) dissuade schools from adopting these mobile devices; however they are good things to be aware of for any school looking to move into the mobile device area; deployment takes time and skills.

Management:

Managing iPads in a one to one setting is much simpler, as each student is able to manage the download of the apps they require. In situations where the device is shared, the process is a little more complex.

It was with great joy that Australian educators received the news that we finally had access to the Volume purchasing program for apps that had been available in the United States for several years. This makes purchasing large numbers of apps and installing them far more manageable.

Apple Volume Purchasing

Previously, to abide by licensing requirements, apps had to be purchased individually for each device, and then installed in this manner. The volume purchasing program, although somewhat tedious to set up, allows for the purchase of multiple apps with one credit card (although sadly, not with an iTunes card, which is how schools commonly manage the financial aspect of purchasing). A distribution code is then made available, which is then used on each device to download the app from the iTunes store. While this makes management easier, the code must still be physically entered on each individual device – which may take some time for 60 devices. Students can easily do this process, but for younger users, teachers may prefer to manage this process themselves. Not every app is a part of this program; app creators must nominate for their app to be included. For those apps which are not available through volume purchasing, individual purchases are still required.

Syncing and/or charging multiple devices is possible through the use of a professionally created solution, however for those with limited budgets, ideas on home-made docking stations are available.

Mobile devices continue to grow in their influence in education. As time passes, they are becoming easier to manage on a school basis, and hopefully these improvements will continue to develop. In the meantime, schools looking at managing multiple devices should be aware of the time this requires, and plan strategically in order to get the best out of their investment.

 

Apps for Autism – new resources to explore!

Apps for Autism

ResourceLink has recently purchased a title, Apps for Autism, which is an extremely comprehensive guide to over 200 apps that have been carefully chosen to assist students with Autism develop communication, social and behaviour skills. You can meet the author, Lois Jean Brady on this video below:

 

We have experts within our Brisbane community also. Recently my colleague Ben van Trier and I were privileged to attend a training session with Bronwyn Sutton, a well known Brisbane-based Speech Therapist, who has a particular interest in Early Intervention, and has done extensive research  in identifying a large range of apps that are useful when working with children who are on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Her book, Apps for autism and learning : making an informed choice is also available to staff of BCE through the ResourceLink library. One of the features of Bronwyn’s research is that she has an Australian focus, and so wherever possible, she suggests apps that are either developed in Australia or that are not distractingly accented.

Bronwyn suggests that when working with students with Autism, the device is used either as a learning tool or a gaming device, as these students do not always have the cognitive flexibility and impulse control to resist the simple click required to access a game. Also, the ease to close an app is tempting for students with impulse control issues – for students with these challenges, she suggests using BubCaps, which make the button more difficult to click on and off.

One of the key messages that Ben and I took away from Bronwyn’s workshop was that with the huge number of apps available, effective evaluation of apps is vital.

Apps for Learning
Available to borrow through the ResourcLink library, or to purchase through Amazon (click the image to access details).

While quality titles exist that go some way to provide lists of useful apps, such as Apps for learning : 40 best iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone apps for high school classrooms  by Harry Dickens and Andrew Churches.

The difficulty with books is that they are dated from the moment they are printed. Therefore, it might be more useful for teachers and schools to develop their own evaluation tools, which can be applied to apps as they are discovered. The next post on the ResourceLink blog will explore the process of evaluating iOS apps for iPads and iPod touches, and provide some frameworks and strategies for implementing this process into your school or current practice.

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Mobile Learner

The flexibility of mobile devices is without doubt what affords them their great potential.  Whether you have a 1:1 tablet arrangement, a bank devices or a single device per class, there are many possibilities for creative use. A mobile learner takes advantage of this flexibility; they use it individually, with a buddy and in groups,  taking it to where the learning is – to the playground, to the library, on the excursion – and using it in a variety of ways – as a source of information, as a tool for recording learning, as a method of expression or a channel for collaboration. This post aims to exemplify just some of these modes of use.

The SAMR model developed by Ruben R. Puentedura encourages teachers to move beyond simply substituting the mobile device for what they might otherwise do with another tool, and

‘enables teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences to lead to high levels of  achievement for students’ (Beyond Substitution, 2011).

The SAMR model

SAMR, a model designed to help educators integrate technology into teaching and learning , was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

While this model is excellent in encouraging teachers to imagine creative new ways to engage students in constructing new understandings, it also provides a place for apps that simply present more traditional teaching strategies in innovative ways. The key as always is balance – and the seamless use of technology – so that it does not dominate the learning but merely enables it. Just as picking up a pencil does not disrupt the ‘flow’ of a lesson, but just enables the student to record their learning, so too should opening up an app on a mobile device not be the focus of the lesson, but just the process through which students access the information or learning opportunity.

The presentation below ‘A Day in the Life of a Mobile Learner’ seeks to present the many ways a mobile device (in this scenario, an iPad) could be used throughout a ‘typical’ day for a student in the middle years of primary school. Below the presentation is a more detailed account of the day, with suggestion as to how each of the activities fit within the SAMR model, to enhance understanding of how the model looks in action.

If you cannot view the Prezi (above) please use this link.

A day in the life of a mobile learner: the adventures of Kid A

The app images link directly to the page where you can download these apps. For other useful teaching apps, check out the ResourceLink Pinterest board for apps.

Before School:

Kid A goes to the school library, and borrows an iPad from the ‘Gadget Garage’. He then chooses ‘Fred and Ted’s Road Trip’ to download  onto the Overdrive Media Console.  When the bell rings, he returns the book on Overdrive, and then returns the iPad, before moving to class.

First up Kid A participates in Literacy Block.

Kid A participates in a number of different activities.

The first thing Kid A does is practise his morning talk with a buddy. He recorded the talk using Dragon Dictation, and then pasted the text into the the VisioPrompt app, which converts the iPad into a teleprompter. Having his talk on the teleprompter enables him to feel more comfortable when talking in front of the class, and also gives additional reading practise. This is an example of Augmentation, as the apps allow Kid A to do the same task (morning talk) but with functional improvement.

Kid A has a spelling list of words that he practises by typing into WordFoto. The act of typing the words in and searching for a picture that connects or represents the words helps Kid A remember them better. When he completes his wordfoto, he places the picture into the Dropbox app, so that his teacher can print it out later for him to take home. Having a visual stimulus assists Kid A and encourages him to spend more time practising his spelling words. This is an example of Modification – although the task of recalling spelling words is the same, the method used is significantly modified by the Wordfoto app.

Kid A now joins with three classmates and plays Futaba, using the pre-prepared list of vocabulary words and images his group compiled the previous week. Futaba is unique, as it allows four students to participate in a game using the one iPad simultaneously. This is an example of Substitution, as there have always been word games that students have played where they match words with images – the iPad in this case simply provides a different channel for delivering the game.

Next week, the students in Kid A’s class will be exploring the instructional text type of recipes. In preparation for this, Kid A works through the Cookie Doodle app, reading each stage of the recipe and noting the verbs used at the beginning of each instruction. The Cookie Doodle app is an example of Redefinition – the task is redefined through the use of this app, as it allows a level of interactivity with the recipe that would only otherwise be possible through actually cooking.

After morning tea, Kid A starts his maths rotations.

During this time, he works individually and in groups, completing number skill activities and also more open ended problem solving tasks.

First, Kid A practises his ‘add to 10’ skills, playing the game Mathris, a number facts game based on Tetris. (Substitution).

Working with a partner, Kid A then uses ScreenChomp to develop an explanation of how to multiply by two digit numbers. This whiteboard app records the verbal explanation and the writing on the screen and converts it to a video, which Kid A emails to his teacher. The video forms an excellent piece of evidence for the teacher in assessing Kid A’s understanding of multiplication. It also allows the teacher to pinpoint if and where there are any difficulties (i.e. if Kid A needs more practise with basic maths facts, or in remembering the strategy for multiplying double digits etc). Previously this opportunity to watch and listen as a child explains the process of completing an equation was limited, as teachers did not have the time to sit one on one with every child – therefore this is an example of Modification – the app provides data gathering in a way that was previously extremely difficult.

To wind up their maths rotations, Kid A leads a whole class game invented by the teacher,  using the speaking calculator app. Another example of Augmentation, as the presence of the app allows for a functional improvement on previous games using calculators, by the presence of the ‘speaking’ feature.

Time for the class to begin working on their integrated unit, which is one on sustainability.

The class is exploring ways that they can change their school environment so that it better reflects principles of sustainability.

They begin with a simple ‘substitution’ exercise – working in small groups to complete a KWL graphic organiser on the iPad, using the Tools  4 Students app. This is emailed to the teacher for later use in a whole class activity.

Next, Kid A buddies up with a friend, and walks around the school, using the iPad to take photos of parts of the playground where they think environmental practices could be implemented. They return to the classroom, and use the Skitch app to annotate their photos, explaining why they took the photo and what change they believe is needed. This combination of activities is an example of Modification – although it could previously have been completed using a digital camera and pen and paper, the use of the iPad camera and Skitch app have made the learning far more about the process rather than the tools.

Finally, the class adds the finishing touches to a display for their upcoming parent morning. This display is two-fold. Firstly, the students wrote poems about the school environment, and published them as posters for the classroom walls. They then recited these poems to the class, while a classmate recorded their presentation using the video recorder on the iPad. Today, the students use the Aurasma Lite app to attach the video to the posters, so that parents can view through the Aurasma app and see their recitations. This is an example of Augmented Reality, and is definitely a task that falls into the Redefinition category of the SAMR model, as it was not in any way possible prior to the use of augmented reality apps in the classroom.

Further information on Augmented Reality and augmented reality apps will be featured in an upcoming blog post, so if this activity has intrigued you, stay tuned!

The afternoon session brings Health and Physical Education and Art.

The HPE and Art activities are simple examples of how basic substitution apps such as PE Games and FacesiMake can be used in creative ways that encourage higher order thinking and collaboration skills.

The PE Games app is essentially a HPE Games book that is accessible on the iPad. The flexibility comes from being able to add your own games to the ones already included. Students can be encouraged to work collaboratively by providing them with access to the app and the required resources (e.g. balls, hoops, beanbags), and asking them to work together to understand and play a game that is randomly chosen by shaking the iPad/iPod touch gently.

The FacesiMake app allows students to exercise creativity in designing a face using innumerable number of items, including pieces of fruit, household implements, stationary items…the options are endless. Suggesting that students use this app to create a new character for a story that they are to write, or to imitate a famous work of art adds another layer to what is essentially a very fun and non-messy way of creating unique images of faces.

Kid A’s day is over too soon! He has never been as engaged, and during the  day, he has worked independently, in partnership with his buddy and in small groups, as well as in whole class settings. He can’t wait to see what apps he might use tomorrow…but that is a blog post for another day!

References:

Beyond Substitution: The SAMR Model. (n.d.).2011 Summer Tech Institute. Retrieved August 1, 2012, from http://msad75summertechnologyinstitute.wordpress.com/beyond-substitution/
Please note: The Prezi in this post was embedded using the very helpful tips found at https://boisebarbara.clarify-it.com/d/62kpct