Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Design for Informational Writing

Recently, I worked with the Grade 4 team to help them present their informational writing.

The students had all chosen a non-fiction topic to write about and done some research. They had then gone through the writing process and created a piece of writing. We wanted to help them to take their writing and display it in a way that was clear and interesting for the reader.

Working with the Grade 4 tech mentor, Haidee Betts, we started with a mentor text about bulldogs that the students had used for this unit. It had one small picture and a chart, but it was far from appealing to the reader.

I then took all the words from the text and put them into an A3 Pages document in separate text boxes. I found some Creative Commons images of bulldogs and used Preview to select the part of the image that I wanted to put into my document.  

Once I had a number of pictures and the text in the document all placed when I wanted them, I decided to try to make a few tweaks to the document. But I didn't want to change my original document, so I made sure that the page thumbnails were visible by clicking on the view button on the top left of my Pages document, and selected Page Thumbnails. I then selected the first page and selected Edit > Duplicate or the keyboard shortcut, Command (⌘) D. 

This is a crucial stage in the process for the students. Now they have the chance to try out some different things with the layout and design of their page and still have the ability to go back easily to their original layout. Most importantly, they can continue to duplicate their pages and this is a great record of their learning

To support the teachers and students, I decided to make a number of tutorial videos to help explain some skills that might be used when creating this type of document in Pages. I put these tutorials on the school Vimeo channel and arranged them into a portfolio.


In one of the videos in the portfolio set, I talk through my design thinking in relation to the bulldog article. This is one of the skills that students need to continue to practice and work on in everything they do. We can't have one unit during the year on design and never talk about it again. We must cultivate the skill of design in our students in whatever they are doing. This goes for our teachers too who, whether they realize it or not, are modeling their understanding of design in everything they produce. They are our best resources when it comes to helping students get their message across clearly.

After working with some of the students, it was great to see them work to create some great informational posters.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Great PD Offerings for Digital Literacy

We are excited to inform you about some wonderful opportunities for professional development in Digital Literacy that are coming up this year. Please see below regarding details, and remember to fill in a Professional Development Application Form should you wish to be considered.


Google Apps for Education Summit  
SAS, Singapore
6 & 7th September 2014
Target Audience: K-12 Teachers & Administrators

This two day event focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education and other Google Tools to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education. Do check the pre-summit offerings as well, for topics such as Google for iOS, Google Geo Teachers Institute and Google Certified Teacher Bootcamp.
ISKL, Kuala Lumpur
26th & 27th September 2014
Target Audience: K-5 Teachers

The conference will provide participants with skills to:
  • Integrate iPads into Early Years and Upper Elementary learning programs 
  • Become fluent in and teach several iPad applications
  • Engage young students in meaningful learning using the iPad
  • Understand how to assemble a "starter kit" of iPad applications that will satisfy Tech Integration standards at your school
  • Manage iPad imaging and handling


NIST, Bangkok
2nd - 4th October 2014
Target Audience: K-12 Teachers & Administrators

This year’s theme at Learning 2.0 Asia is Empowering Community. From encouraging student entrepreneurship to helping parents in this time of constant connection; from creating a community of empowered teachers to connecting with the nontraditional student, this year’s conference promises to help you Empower Community in your classroom and in your school.

Learning 2.014 is a conference with a unique format. It has Extended Sessions (3 hour deep dives into an area of your interest), Cohort Sessions (where you meet with others in a job-alike session), Workshops (45 minute sessions on a huge range of topics) and Unconference sessions (which unfold over the conference). There is a pre-conference, which you may wish to consider as well.


Hong Kong
12th - 13th December 2014
Target Audience: K-12 Teachers & Administrators

At the 21st Century Learning Conference, there is something for all educators. The annual conference, now in its 7th Year brings together a diverse world class line up of keynote and featured presenters to network and learn together about how to most effectively use technology in education.

Please talk to your friendly Digital Literacy Coach if you would like more details!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Grade 5 Exhibition - Printed Display Boards

This year at East we are lucky to have access to a large format printer. I say large, and I mean HUGE! It is about the size of a piano (see the door in the picture as a frame of reference!).

The Grade 5 students were given the option of printing their display boards in one piece using the large format printer, or they could assemble their boards by printing individual sections, as usual.

The majority of the groups chose to print using the large format printer, which was quite a leap of faith. Time was tight, and deadlines were shorter for those wanting to use the printer (we had to factor in time to print, after all).

I presented to students about: 

  • The elements of design (CARP - Contrast, Alignment, Repetition & Proximity)
  • How to pull people in by maximising visuals and making numbers pop
  • Choosing a font which is clear and easy to read
  • The importance of a minimalist colour scheme
I showed some boards which had been poorly designed so they would know some pitfalls to avoid. I showed some board makeovers, so they could see the difference CARP can make in a viewer's understanding of a display board.

We created some blank Pages templates for the students to use, which were set the right size for their display boards. From there, the groups decided on colour schemes, images, statistics, and most importantly - which information was the most important to share on their board.

Some tips which helped students included:

  • Breaking information into sections, so that related information was in the same section (Proximity)
  • Having a semi-transparent shape behind a text box to make text stand out.
  • Arranging text in columns or chunks, instead of going all the way across the page.
  • Using Creative Commons images, such as the wonderful ones found in The Noun Project.
  • Searching for the largest image size, so no pixelation occurred in the finished poster.

My colleague Dave Caleb and I touched base with as many groups as we could to give suggestions. It was lovely for us to see the different ways the groups chose to display their understanding. The other powerful thing was seeing the students' faces fill with pride when they saw their printed work. 

One student said, "I never thought I would be able to create something THIS professional!"

Some of the advantages to using printed display boards include:
  • An understanding of proportion and scale of the finished product. A big blank space on the page equals a big blank space on the poster. 
  • The ability to experiment and make changes easily. Want to know which font is easier to read? Duplicate the page, and test them out - look at full screen view to see which is clearer (see image on right by way of example - 17 pages of changes!).
  • The range of colours available to use was wider than the colours of backing paper we had available in our store room.
  • Access to tools like the colour dropper in Pages, which meant we could customize colours to images used on the boards.
  • Tools such as the edges and midpoint alignment rulers, which enabled students to align objects easily.

We were very proud of the students' efforts, and hope that even more will take up the opportunity to choose a printed board next year.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Nice to Know - Infant Digital Literacy

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." - John Dewey

We no longer question whether or not the use of digital technology improves learning; there is a large body of research that clearly shows that it does.

The vast majority of our students arrive at UWCSEA with a solid understanding of how to use technology for entertainment. Our challenge is to help show them how to leverage digital tools to enhance their learning.

We believe the use of technology at UWCSEA should be purposeful and directly connected to learning outcomes. In our Nice to Know parent session, we highlighted examples of some learning experiences our students are engaging with, so parents would have a chance to try them out first hand.

UWCSEA Profile connections: Creative, Self-Manager

Documenting a child's view of the world is a very powerful thing. The ability to capture great photos is fast-becoming an essential skill. Anyone can turn a phone on and take a photo, but there are a number of skills inherent in taking wonderful photos (ones that are in focus, for starters!) that we think are important to teach our students.

Digital Literacy coach David Caleb (a published photographer himself), worked with K1 students to show them the basics of how to hold the iPod Touch, how to focus, and some tips around perspective. Click through the presentation below to see his examples.

Once students know how to take good photos, then this learning can be put to great use. By way of example, students can:

  • Become shape detectives, photographing examples of 2D and 3D shapes in the real world.
  • Show their understanding of letters or sounds by taking photographs of things that start with M or L etc.
  • Photograph places in the school that have forte sounds or piano sounds in Music.

Publishing & Researching
UWCSEA Profile connections: Communicator, Critical Thinker, Collaborative

Encouraging student reading and writing is something we are very passionate about, and we have explored using the app Book Creator to support literacy. 

Grade 1 students created anthologies of their poems, by taking a picture of their handwritten poem, which they then read aloud. This allowed them to gain experience not only in publishing poetry, but also reading it aloud with a storyteller voice. 

Grade 1BRo piloted the publishing of their class poetry collection to WriteNowBooks.org - a site dedicated to publishing student-created digital books. We hope to have more books on the site as the year progresses.

Book Creator is a very versatile app, and can be used for many different educational purposes. In their Non-Fiction reading unit, Grade 1s read in book clubs; reading a number of books around a specific topic. Taking notes can be a challenge for young readers, post-its can fall off and students can forget which book a specific fact came from.

We used Book Creator as an oral note-taking platform. Students worked with their book club buddy to take a photo of a book's cover, the page their fact was on, the page number, and recorded their facts. Here is an example of what they came up with:

Documenting Learning
UWCSEA Profile links: Communication, Critical Thinker

Technology provides us with a unique opportunity to collect evidence of student learning. This can be used as formative assessment in order to make instructional decisions, or simply as a tool students can use to reflect.

In K2, students have used Sago Mini Doodlecast to explain their thinking as they looked at the pile of rubbish the class generated over a period of time, and to share and explain a counting strategy.

Primarily, we look for opportunities for authentic experiences with technology that get children to actively create and be engaged. We want to have students be content producers more than content consumers. We don't use iPads as digital baby sitters.

There is still a place for reinforcement of skills taught, and there are times when small groups will use apps for consolidation purposes as part of a maths rotation for example. This type of technology use is purposeful and deliberate. Students are directed to a specific set of apps to explore during such occasions.

Digital Citizenship

The UWCSEA goal is to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world. This applies in all aspects of their lives - especially when using technology.

We include Digital Citizenship lessons as a part of our Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum. We used the Common Sense Media curriculum as a base for our lessons. We introduce these lessons where they best fit over the scope and sequence for the year. For example, it makes sense to do a lesson on keywords when students are searching for images for their endangered animals research.

Balancing Technology Use at Home

We often get questions from parents around the issue of technology use at home. How much is too much? What's an appropriate amount of screen time for my child? What happens when they have a tantrum when it's time to turn the device off?

There are no hard and fast rules for these sorts of questions. Like bedtimes, they are often different for each family, and that is okay. Journalist Lisa Guernsey, author of the book Screen Time, advocates 3 Cs - Content, Context and the individual Child, when thinking about screen time, which we believe is a very common sense approach:

Think first of the Content - is it age appropriate for your child?
Next, consider the Context - does this screen time form a relatively small part of your child's interactions with you and the wider world?
Finally, think about the individual Child. As a parent of two very different children, my approach to screen time needs to take into consideration the sorts personalities and needs of each child. My daughter isn't that phased by having to turn devices off, however my son responds best to predetermined, clearly defined time limits.

We DO recommend parents take some time to interact with their child using technology. Have a go at Minecraft and see what all the fuss is about! Show them you are quite a dab hand at Angry Birds, Dance Dance Revolution or whichever game is capturing their imaginations right now. Children respond very well to spending time with you, and playing together in this way can be very rewarding.

Further Reading

You may be interested in the following articles around technology use, gaming and screen time limits:

The Touch Screen Generation
How to be a Fun Dad But Still Be in Control
Video Game Addiction: Does it Occur? If so, Why?