All things Information and Communication Technologies based.

Free Customised Recording Booths for Classrooms

Getting creative with teaching and learning spaces is a challenge, especially when you need to record something.

Being able to record your voice quickly and easily is one of the best upgrades that classroom technology has had in the last few years. With an emphasis in schools on literacy, teachers are often looking for ways to improve student’s reading and listening capacity. There are countless apps to use to record student’s voice, but the most difficult thing is to find a place to record in the bustling classroom.

Enter the trusty photocopy box! I am always looking for a way to recycle and repurpose items in a school and this has proven to be a perfect solution to the recording problem. With a small semicircle cut at the top for the student to put their head into, the box becomes a perfect sound recording booth, with the iPad inside. I have been making these for many years and still get asked about them!

 

IMG_2077

With much emphasis on the open learning spaces in the classroom we want students to be flexible in where they can record, but still stay within sight of the teacher. It works particularly well with the smallest members of our schools!

Where did that come from?

We ask our students to reference information from print text, online text, magazines, videos and so on, from such an early age. But when was the last time you asked your students to reference an image? Should they? The simple answer:

Yes!

 

Usage Rights

There are plenty of tools available for referencing images and many usage types for images. Students can use search tools within Google to refine what usage rights an image has. It is very interesting to have a discussion with students on ‘usage rights’ and what they think it means- you will be surprised at what a clear understanding they develop. Awareness is really the key here.

You’re probably wondering about the term usage rights? So let’s break it down like this, there are 4 main usage types:

  1. Contracting for service directly
  2. Rights Managed
  3. Royalty Free
  4. Creative Commons

Each one has limitations and restrictions based ownership, costs and attribution that are detailed in the license for the image. Learn more about these types at ethicsingraphicdesign.org

So once students know and understand they cannot simply take images from the internet without acknowledging where it is from, it becomes the question of what to do next…

What to do next

There are 3 paths you can take with this and help students develop solid skills and processes moving forward.

1. Teach students how to reference images and use captions properly.

Well really, we should be doing this anyway. To make this work you will need to think of the following, What’s your school’s standard referencing system? Does it include images? How do we make it consistent across the school?

2. Get around it by encouraging students to take their own photos? Or create their own images?

Excellent way to make sure the image is relevant and build their skills in developing media. Honestly the best outcomes solution, it means your students can publish their work independently too. Though it does take more time and effort which might be hard to find in your classroom. There is also the question around quality, but you’ll probably be surprised by how good some of the hidden diamonds in your classes actually are.

3. Use attribution free images.

What’s this?

Does not require you to attribute its creator

Similar to Creative Commons Zero, it is basically images that you can use for free, for any purpose, including commercially without having to say where it comes from. Most attribution free will have caveats about not being used in vilification, pornography or being represented as someone else’s work. I use Gratisography, Life of Pix, and freestocks to name just a few and I encourage my students to explore these too.

More info

If you would like to know more about the licenses surrounding images in Australia, try Creative Commons, really helpful information to help understand it better.

Have a look through our blog posts, you will notice many of the images are from Gratisography!

Website Image Size is important

It’s like the old spy technology cliché Smaller is Better.

The smaller the file size the faster the load time. Thats pretty much the crux of it, and for schools you’re going to find that your demographics’ internet access speeds vary wildly. So small file sizes for images is pretty important.

At this point I could show you a bunch of speed tests and bench marks but you already understand the idea so instead I’m going to help you do something about it.

Image formats

From here there is a whole conversation about the right type of image format to use in each application depending on image composition. Other people have done it better than me and you probably only use JPG and PNG files. I’m guessing you probably only started using PNG files because of a non-white background somewhere. GIF and SVG have their places too but really lets just focus on the first two because there is weird caveats and complexity that you’r/I’m not interested in today.

Just use PNG

#badlydefinedconcepts OK that is a super generalisation but if you’re reading this then honestly save yourself the drama and get used to working with PNG files.

Compression FTW

Thats how we squish them down to make them smaller. There are a bunch of different types of compression and you probably don’t care about them because you’d need to know the composition of each image and the amount of horizontal or vertical repetition and … complex blah.

The point of this post then?

TinyPNG

This is the answer, it’s been in my bookmarks for so long that my link points to its original .org url. Now save it to your Bookmarks Bar, Favourites or Top Sites because you’re going to use this site alot. This is the finishing tool that makes all the difference. Forget about the rest of it this site is MAGIC.

Magic tricks

All images uploaded to TinyPNG where fullscreen screenshots @ 2880 × 1800 px.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 7.04.42 PM

TinyPNG

Eyks

Concern

Puppies

Kittens

It makes a difference to your users, you might be surprised how heavy websites are now and paying attention to the details is important.

Get Connected and Stay Connected

George Siemens, one of my favourite writers and speakers, tweeted a fantastic article the other day from Scientific American, on “How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought”. It discusses the nature of networks and how this adds meaning to existence. Of particular interest to me was the spread of ideas via social networks and the importance of having ties beyond our immediate network of friends, relatives and colleagues.

I have always promoted that we should develop our networks and the tools of today only make this easier. Twitter (where I am very lucky to read many of George’s tweets), among other social networking sites, all help to connect and ensure as a teacher, I can share and develop my ideas and maintain perspective in my very busy job. It’s so important to get connected with like minded individuals and stay connected with them. for example, it is one thing to join twitter, but we need to be brave to share ideas and mention others in tweets!

For me, these networks are important as I live in Perth, one of the most isolated cities on Earth, and the ability to get to conferences is costly. So by following certain people and reading widely, I am able to stay in touch with what is happening elsewhere. My own academic research is supplemented by reading of writings of those around the world to give greater meaning and ensure it remains in touch with what is happening in the everyday classroom.

So if you are not connected, try and get involved with those outside your regular networks. And if you are already connected, make sure you remain active!

TeachMeet – Digital Citizenship Presentation

Last week I presented at a TeachMeet #TMWA_DL in Perth, I’m always anxious when presenting to teachers. I’m not scared of teachers, it’s more like awe; I respect what they do and see the hours they put in, how much of themselves they give and this makes me want to do a very good job when I am talking to them. So I end up being anxious, also I’m a bit rusty with my presentation skills. Inevitably I didn’t get across the true nuance of what I wanted during the presentation. So in an more-than-likely misguided attempt, I will try to do so here and with any luck it might be worth sharing.

Also thanks @GabrielleTrinca for the opportunity to present.

teachmeet.001

Digital Citizenship Presentation

I’ve worked in Education for over 10 years, in a number of schools, and my most recent role was as an ILT Manager for a K-12 school. So I wanted to share with you a different perspective on Digital Citizenship in schools as my experience with Digital Citizenship is a bit interesting. I’ve written policies and organised PLDs yet the interesting part is I was only really involved in Digital Citizenship when shit hit the fan. When the principal, deputy or a parent called me directly.

  • “My 12 year old daughter has naked photos online”
  • “My 14 year old sons junk is on Facebook”
  • “SnapChat something something Tinder something something”

Mostly the calls were looking for “what do I do now” and I’ll write something about that later because responding to these type of situations really does deserve its own post. But that small sample is not indicative of the worst kind of calls I’ve had.

Why is it not surprising?

The really scary part here is you’re not surprised that those previous examples are the kinds of things that happen.

Your not surprised, but you should be.
You should be shocked, but you’re not are you?

If we take the first idea and leverage it into a bad “In Real Life” (IRL) example it would be something like this:

A 12 year old girl takes an inappropriate and compromising polaroid photo of herself. She then shares that photo with her friend, who then photo copies it and begins handing it around school.

Now thats not just surprising, its ridiculous and if it did happen “shocked” would feel like an understatement right?

So why is it shocking IRL but Online you’re not even surprised this would happen?

Before we consider this any further I need to define a term.

Online Reality

This is the term I use to describe the realm that your Digital World exists in. It is intangible but very real, it is where your social media interactions occur and it is where you leave your Digital Footprints. It does not have any feeling or sentience it just is, which makes it harder. It means it doesn’t care about you in any way, your age, gender, sexuality, religion or politics; it just exists.

Maybe at your birth your Parents took a photo and introduced you to the world through Facebook.  BAM welcome to your Online Reality you now have a Digital Footprint. Everyone lives here, also I should point out that the normal rules IRL don’t really apply here. The boundaries and restrictions are different or missing all together.

So it is no wonder we aren’t surprised by the initial examples, we subconsciously understand that our Online Reality is basically blank and the rules and boundaries are a bit sort-of-not-really-there.

Post Revolution Chaos

We have been through The Digital Revolution and we are now living on the other side, the ensuing chaos. Massive change happened and it happened too quickly for us.

The Digital Revolution was the convergence of hardware technology, the maturity of web services, economic growth and decline and bunch of different societal changes in a short period of time culminating in paradigm shift for our society. #badlyexplainedconcepts

Back to schools context – So for us in Australia at the same time as we are coming to terms with a Digital Revolution we see a massive influx of devices into schools. In fact the NSSCF wanted to help us get to a 1:1 ratio of computers to students in schools. Which from where we were was a massive undertaking, they came pretty close too, it’s yet to be seen if schools can maintain a 1:1 ratio (or near that). We were originally on a very slow path of technology adoption, one where we knew that “one day” computers would be a part of the classroom.

Unprepared

As Individuals we were unprepared for the immense changes that Online Reality had on us, not to mention how we tried to deal with this as Families.

It goes with out saying that Schools were super unprepared

We didn’t have wifi and internet bandwidth or sometimes the basic infrastructure to support a school network. Let alone providing training and development for teachers to integrate technology into their curriculum or how to use Digital Citizenship in our lessons and tasks.

This is still the case for a lot of schools

It shouldn’t be anymore

We have tools and resources available for Digital Citizenship that are brilliant; Check out Ribbles’ stuff http://digitalcitizenship.net. You probably should have seen it by now, if not then you’re in for a treat. Mike Ribble presents Digital Citizenship in clear and concise way, I implore you to explore the nine elements and review the 3 repetitions to see where you fit and what you can do to support and foster Digital Citizenship.

The 3 repetitions should be used to help your school understand the role it plays and its responsibility for its own Digital Citizenship. It’s a straight forward example of a framework for implementation of positive Digital Citizenship.

Why are we so bad at it?

Firstly my premise here is that most schools have terrible Digital Citizenship. This is due to a number of factors from blissful ignorance to bad implementations. I would sumize that the biggest reason for poor Digital Citizenship is:

We use traditional approaches and try to apply them to our Online Reality.teachmeet.008

It will fail, so why are you surprised? inherently you know that our Online Reality doesn’t have the same rules as IRL. Thats why we’re not surprised that the initial examples are things that happen. Yet we continue to try and use traditional approaches towards student behaviour and curriculum development in our Online Reality.

At best forcing a traditional approach into an Online Reality will have little to no impact. At worst the impact is massively negative to the point the student disconnects with the schools or teachers’ Online Reality. This creates a scenario where a students Online reality is orphaned from IRL and that means if things go bad there is no-one to connect to; and I might end up getting one of those phone calls, in the worst scenarios I don’t get that call.

There are places where it works though, why?

This is kind of the paradox here, a few schools do have positive Digital Citizenship. The active kind, not the “we don’t ask and they don’t tell” kind. The really interesting thing is you can’t take their lessons or what they’re doing and use it in a school with bad Digital Citizenship because it will fail. Mostly because it’s already the same thing, that is to say the two schools approaches are traditional, it just that in one of them it works.

In my observations of schools with good Digital Citizenship, it is a combination of being mindful of Digital Citizenship and being open to connection. It is less about how we teach Digital Citizenship and more about how your students connect.

Culture is the keyteachmeet.009

It is the Culture of the school that defines Digital Citizenship success, specifically the culture of the student body. Schools with positive Digital Citizenship have students that interact with their school differently.

Just talk to connect with me

So what is different about these schools:

  • They have open paths to dialog
  • There is no fear of sharing
  • Low risk of disconnect

Concern

Disconnect is scary, it’s not hard to imagine what kind of impact that can have and is part of the reason I created Concern. It’s a platform for students to self and peer report to a trusted adult in an online environment. It creates an initial path to dialog for students and though it is faceless (pun intended) it has what students care about, with integrity it provides safety without judgement.

Strong relationships need open communication

This first step removes the scariness and immediacy of connection. It begins a conversation that spreads from Student-Student to Student-Teacher, Student-Parent, Parent-Teacher and so on. This changes the dynamic of interactions at a whole school level, in the simplest terms it effects cultural change.

As individuals we need to be mindful of our Online Reality
As Teachers we need to be aware of our students Online Reality

Summative points

  • Positive Digital Citizenship can only be achieved through open communication
  • Connect with each other and create open paths to dialog.
  • Don’t need to reinvent the wheel, use the great tools and resources already available.
  • Be an Advocate of Digital Citizenship
  • Be mindful of your Online Reality
  • Act the culture your school needs.
  • You are the person that can make a difference.