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Getting ready for iPad rollout at school – exploring apps and thinking about Apple’s new iBooks Author

Unexpectedly, and on the last day of school (for me, as teacher librarian – all the classroom teachers were on holidays the week before), our principal announced at an informal meeting that we were going to put iPads in the hands of students and teachers at school, starting with all our year 9 and 10 students. Okay, so I get my iPad1 upgraded, not bad at all. It seems our school is the first to gain approval to use the government funding for technology on iPads.

As happy as I am, and as excited about the possibilities for innovative, hands-on, mobile learning, I can’t help wonder how it’s going to work – with teachers coming back to school without preparation time, time to think and plan, time to play (I don’t think too many teachers have used iPads), time to collaborate within faculties to decide on a plan of attack. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting new direction, and with Apple’s recent announcement of the iBooks Author, I wonder if digital textbook creation will ever be possible on the iPad. I’ve saved in my Diigo only a few of the many reactions from people after having read Apple’s license agreement restictions.

I’ve been doing a little thinking and researching myself. Last year I put together online resources for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom in our library’s new LibGuides. You can access these resources here (don’t forget there are 2 tabs) – yes, I’ve mentioned these before but I’ve been adding links here and there. I’ve also created other LibGuides pages which support the use of mobile technologies, eg 21st Century Learning and Digital Citizenship (multiple tabs) and these a work in progress.

Having the time to myself these holidays, time to meet with family and friends, to shop and explore, I’ve (perhaps foolishly) decided to tackle the 365 daily photo blog again. Yes, I have. But this time I decided to do what some of my online colleagues are doing, and that is use a few choice apps to quickly and easily upload photos to a blog, usually without text. I figure, yes, I miss the description and reflection, but at least this will be an easy way to document my year as well as play with photo apps on my phone. So it’s Posterous that I’m using and the app PicPosterous to upload the photo, or else you can email the photo straight to the blog. My blog is called Going round again (yes, I know, not very original). In most cases I’m not including any text, just throwing up a visual snapshot of my day.

There are so many apps for photo editing which sometimes transform a mundane subject matter into something a little more interesting. As you can see at the top of this post, I’ve been playing with an app called Kinotopic – I’m sure that photo is driving you nuts by now. You can read about what this app can do on the website but as far as I’m concerned it creates pictures like those hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, moving pictures. Very cool. Less cool is my skill at colouring what needs to move without disconnecting things that shouldn’t be disconnected. Have a go if you can, it’s fun. Heaps of possibilities for students for creativity here.

I’ve included screen shots of my photo apps –

The apps I’ve used the most are PhotoStudio, Instagram, PhotoShake, and more recently, after Kim Cofino‘s recommendation, Camera+. It’s easy to go from the photo itself on the phone to the editing and finally posting to Posterous (via PicPosterous app or email). The effects are fun and make an otherwise mundane photo look a little more interesting or at least look better with a frame.

Of course, there are so many more apps for whatever purpose, and here’s the link to the links I’ve been saving over time.

Gimmicky apps aside, teachers are interested first and foremost in applications which enable them and their students to function as they always have, eg word processing, document saving, etc. A recent Twitter discussion confirmed the popularity of Evernote to do – almost everything! Andrew Maxwell shared 100 uses for Evernote which is a handy little checklist. The Apps in Education ning has a good selection of Apps for Teachers.

Google has a suite of apps for all its different tools.

I’m getting ready to present to staff and I’m happy to do the research for what they need, but I’ll also be recommending they build their personal learning networks, join Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, so that they can ask their own questions and share knowledge and expertise. I’m hoping that the new challenges will convince them that social networking is a powerful way to learn rather than something other people do when they have no life.

If your school is using iPads, I would be very happy if you would share some of your experiences and your favourite apps for teaching and learning.

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Thank you and goodbye, Steve Jobs

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New start – second week at Melbourne High School

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo Elorza on Flickr

As far as new starts go, this one feels good. Not one to go with the flow of things usually, change for me is often like a dentist’s visit I want to avoid. I admit the first few days weighed a little heavily with new procedures, finding my way around, new names and the loss of friends and familiarity of my old school, but one day into the second week and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Today we had 2 interesting visits in the library. At lunchtime Adele Walsh, Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature, came to talk to our Reading Group about The Inkys’ shortlist. (Sorry, I have forgotten the name of the lovely person who accompanied Adele and also shared her experiences of the listed books). Some people talk about books in a way that makes you want to drop everything and read all of them simultaneously, and this was one of those times. When you can talk about books without sounding like an academic, and without relating plot or analysing characters (without mentioning teenage angst!!), then you have the students listening with interest.

After school my head of library had arranged for Simon Shaw from Apple to come and talk to teachers about iPads as tools for learning and teaching. I’ve been to sessions about iPads before, and Simon’s session was probably the best one I’ve been to. There was no hard sell, just a focus on how teachers could do what they already do only better on the iPad, and a range of impressive apps, plus a hands-on session using iMovie. It was good to see a decent turnout too.

Wednesday I will be running an after-school session on Google apps. I have a serious problem when faced with ‘presentations’ and hope to improve with more practice. The research and preparation I do is excessive. Basically, I find it difficult to select a realistic portion of what’s possible. I’m sure the ridiculous amount of research is a procrastination technique. Finally, yesterday, I decided on what I might talk about and what I would exclude. At the moment this is all sitting on a page in my wiki – and looks awful. When I have time I should put this into a slideshow. If you’re brave, here it is. It’s not exhaustive but I wanted to showcase a range of tools. It’s difficult to prepare things like this when you have no idea of what your audience knows or expects, but hey, whatever.

Tomorrow lunchtime I will be meeting with the group of boys I’ll be working with as part of the Creative Writing group. I have inherited this group from my predecessor, and I’ve heard people refer to this group as the Competition Writing group which is an obvious clue in terms of what they do. I had a quick chat to the school captain who is a leader of this group today – lovely boy. I assured him that I didn’t want to change anything they were already happy with, but what did he think about also creating a blog so they could have an audience for their writing. Happily, he thought this would be a good idea. I’m really looking forward to working with these boys; I’m sure there is much passion and talent amongst them. In terms of the blog, I thought it might also be a space for any of us to share anything and everything about writing. Just now I received a Facebook update from the Facebook group, ‘The Wheeler Centre for books, writing and ideas’. I want to include this in a post to encourage the boys to join the group, and to show them what Facebook can provide besides chat.

The Wheeler Centre Facebook group also put me onto Australian Poetry, a Wheeler Centre resident organisation which is celebrating National Poetry Week with a different theme every day this week. There really are so many wonderful programs happening locally, and it will good to share these.

Well, that’s it from me. Just checking in after week 1 in the new job. My blogging has been slow lately, and this has a lot to do with the unsettling leadup to leaving one school and venturing into another. At this point I feel that I will have the opportunity to get involved in some interesting projects, and look forward to telling you about it all.

Have good days!

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