Learning about communication

A final fanfare for the wonderful year 9S geography group of 2013-2014 has produced some great results. Following a course of ‘world development’ all year, student has been on a journey from general concepts through to specific examples. We ended up in the USA, examining a few important issues such as whether development posed environmental difficulties related to water supply in the arid western areas around Phoenix and the issues of international migration into the USA from Central America.

The idea behind this final piece was to present some findings from their research. Probably too often teachers present students with a task to do. A step on from this is to give them a choice, a graduated menu, from which to choose. As a final piece in the year, and as preparation for the notion of research and fieldwork investigation in subsequent years, students completed a proposal form to outline their own task. In this case, work was then going to be marked according to the extent to which the students met their own objectives (assuming, of course, that they were ambitious and academically demanding enough – and they were!).

One option that we discussed was to use the Adobe Voice app to capture and guide their ideas. It’s a great tool for learning because the app itself is designed to support the idea of communication of a message.

Students record their own voice and match it to images from a databank of ones provided or select something from their camera roll on the iPad. Brevity is encouraged and a tightly shaped argument evolves, supported by the structure which Voice recommends (unless students wish to make their own choices).

Students therefore had to think carefully about their message and their target audience – exactly the skills that are necessary in any communications and marketing campaign. Learning some great geography therefore, one more, had a secondary and important focus on equipping students for their next steps in education but also for the world beyond school.

Once more, the students rose to the challenge, thought carefully about the materials available to them, their core idea and how to communicate it. Technology simply helped them to realise their vision and was a support to their learning.

So, two examples here. First (at the top) from Mila, Eloise, Olivia and Hermione uses Adobe Voice. The app is very good at giving prompts for how to cover the salient parts of a message, although do note that the sharing options on the app are very limited, so these are grabbed through screencast.

The second is from Niah and Immy and shows what can be achieved if you incorporate your own video editing.

Find out more about how to use iPads in Geography classes

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Explain Everything: the ultimate app in any classroom?

There has been so much written about Explain Everything that there is absolutely no need to write an extra blog, which is fantastic! A quick view of Dan Edwards’ site will give you an instant flavour of how important this app could be in your classroom.

Video is from Learning Technology at Ohio State

Explain Everything in the geography classroom

  1. Don’t just annotate a fieldsketch, talk about it as well. Yes, you can do this in Notability but you are not going to get an MP4 file out of it that you can pop onto your YouTube account as an unlisted link with Notability. You are with Explain Everything. Much more versatile and better for longer term storage.
  2. Use a template map and talk information onto it. How often do students refer to different places in the world but not really know where they are or how they fit into a bigger picture? This example is plotting the ‘made in’ locations for a piece of work about ‘My Globalised Home’.  
  3. Compare and contrast two images on the screen at the same time. It’s so simple to do and students can talk their way through their explanations as well as adding written text.
  4. The student that just won’t or can’t write enough to access higher marks? Get them to do an Explain Everything video to add to their work. Show them that they can unlock their own learning!
  5. Role-play write ups. I am fairly traditional in that ‘pretend you are a farmer in Mongolia, tell me what your life is like’ sounds pretty improbable if you live somewhere like rural England! However, there is a bit more of a chance  if some multimedia can be embedded into the work. There is a point in getting students to empathise with issues in far distant places. Adding some images and perhaps a video from YouTube as well might just help.
  6. What taking an existing video from YouTube and overdubbing a new voiceover? You could do that in iMovie by adding your own audio file, but with Explain Everything you could combine written notes on the side in your final video output.
  7. Go over exam scripts in class question by question? Never again. What is the point of boring students telling them how to get the marks that they already know about? You need individual advice so do some screencasts of each question and direct the students to look up the ones that they need. Then spend your (saved) time helping students one to one or in small groups. Win, win.

May be your finished product could be displayed as a QR code or as Augmented Reality so the whole class can view it?

See a finished example project using a mix of Explain Everything, iMovie, Tellagami and another app or two.


The Geographer’s Notepad – Notability

Notability is one of the most commonly used note-taking apps and one of the best. Taking typed or handwritten notes on-screen and wight he ability to insert images or pdf documents.

This is the geographer’s dream because there is instantly a seamless continuum between materials gathered online, diagrammatic work and written (or typed) notes. Finally everything can be integrated and everything is flexible.

Voice recording can be added in the app if so wished and it can all be backed up on cloud storage (automatically) so there is no fear of losing the work if the iPad is mislaid or damaged – GoogleDrive, Dropbox, Box or Webdav. Or you can email out in PDF format or as RTF or Note (Notability’s own format)

  • Think diagram work
  • Think fieldsketches
  • Think annotated photographs
Annotations plus a 'post-it' note and a screenshot of a relevant website to prompt revision.
Annotations plus a ‘post-it’ note and a screenshot of a relevant website to prompt revision.

In class, a lot of students incorporate their own photographs taken of the whiteboard or of their rough notes. This becomes ideal for carrying on the class discussion in homework as all the notes from the day can be pulled out of the iPad’s camera roll.

I am finding that it help students to be more involved in class, encouraging them to write their ideas onto the whiteboard. Ideally, this might be in from our innovation room where every wall is covered in whiteboard ‘paint’. The whole class get get involved, then take photographs of their work and of the work of other groups. Slotting these into Notability can be a great way forward.

Also consider how this could be incorporated into fieldwork. May be use a 360 panorama app as well?


Collation using Flipboard

You know that you have something special going on in your geography classroom when the students are more aware of what is happening in the world – they are actually following some news items!

Social media might be a way forward for them but you might have some concerns about encouraging your students in this direction too soon. Yes, they could be following some key feeds relevant to geography on twitter but there is another way forward.

Flipboard allows the teacher to compile a set of information from the internet – it could be from anywhere but I like to use news feeds for most of the time. Sharing the Flipboard with the students is as simple as giving them a hyperlink. They don’t have to join Flipboard. They can then view the content on their internet browser in this attractive format, or open in the app if they have an account.

If this works well for you and you feel able to get the students to get involved creating a Flipboard you can invite them to contribute to something that you have set up (they will need their own account to do this).

Here is an example Flipboard for a unit on USA geography

The class can thus draw up their own set of resources and you can guide them to the source areas. Each item that is ‘flipped’ into the board can have a comment added. This is easily long enough for a student to convey some context or to answer a short question posed by the teacher or by another member of the class.

Co-resourcing your lessons with your students. A very powerful way to promote learning.

If you are thinking about using twitter, follow this link.


Animated presentations – Tellagami

Tellagami bills itself as an app that allows you to make a short, animated video.

My own experience using this was quite surprising. My initial reaction was that this was a gimmick but on closer inspection and looking at some examples of teachers using it, I was more intrigued. Students in my class had a similar reaction. They could see that it might be quite fun to have a little animated character on-screen speaking their voice but it would also perhaps be quite annoying.

The real value came when they realised that the character could speak (in an accent of their choice) typed text. This meant that students could, literally, have a voice in their presentations without being distracted by hearing their own voice played back to them.

Dialogue and debate within the presentations then came alive as characters took on different voices.

This means that students are more likely to listen back at what they have written. How many times do teachers plead with their students to read over their work before handing it in? In this case, students are compelled to listen to their own work and will do so repeatedly to ensure that the content is correct.

See the final result of the work here.

See more iPad in Geography materials here

meandering through learning – digital, international, academic, creative


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