My Meeting with Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in the UK

Abdul ChohanLast Tuesday I was lucky enough to be invited to Apple HQ along with some other ADEs to meet with Abdul Chohan, Director of Essa Academy in the UK  (and also an ADE) to hear his story on the  transformational change at Essa using agile technologies, passionate teachers and amazing teaching and learning resources.

To learn more about the school and Abdul’s amazing story, click here or check out the video below:

Once earmarked for closure, a school outside Manchester in England uses iPad, Mac and iTunes U to achieve a 100 per cent pass rate.

It was great to be able to chat to Abdul and hear about some of the great initiatives that are changing the lives of his students.

Essa’s teachers use a range of resources, one of them that has had such a huge impact on teaching and learning is the use of iTunes U. As you may know from many of my previous posts last year I was also a huge proponent of iTunes U and created courses for nearly all of my classes (along with iBooks) and saw first hand the power of this original and personalised resource (you can check out some of my older courses here)

A few things I took away from our chat was the importance that school leadership plays in making change happen. Abdul explained that the reason why iTunes U was such a success amongst teachers was it was a “nonnegotiable” and was “fully supported by the school’s leadership team”. This, along with great teacher training and support lead to such a high take-up rate by the staff. 

Abdul also spoke about the importance of having the infrastructure in place to support such an initiative. Doing things like getting rid of the school LMS, finding individual tools that did the things the school needed really well and focusing on key members of staff to use as exemplars and create some great courses. When it came time to rollout iPads all the students Essa already had a great collection of resources on iTunes U for students to use in the classroom instantly. 

Abdul also told a great little story that relates to the importance of getting the infrastructure setup (which, though I no doubt will re-tell it wrong, I plan on stealing)

A man form a small village went into the city and saw a tap, when it was turned on water came out of it. This was amazing, the man could now easily supply water to his village without having to cart buckets back and forth from the well.

So, he spent a lot of money and purchased his own tap. Excited he returned to his village and connected the tap into a wall. He gathered everyone around to show them what would happen when he turned the tap on. Of course, when he did nothing happened. There was no plumbing, no water connection – with no infrastructure the tap was useless.

ADE Global Institute 2014 – San Diego, California

ade-gi-2014-community-headerYou may remember that I was accepted to be part of the Apple Distinguished Educator program in 2013 after only my first year of teaching. It was a great experience to be able to work with so many like-minded educators from around the globe. I have even dragged out my video entry for the 2013 program for you all to cringe at….

In 2014, applications were open for the conference to be held in San Diego, California. Entires were written response only (so I couldn’t rely on any fancy video transitions this time…).

In my responses I focused on the work I did last year in creating original, personalised resources in the way of iBooks textbooks. I also spoke on my new work in creating these kinds of resources for students new to the country or with learning or speech difficulties.

Looks like that did the trick as I have been accepted into the 2014 intake. This will be the first time I will be heading to the USA so it is very exciting….now, I just have to figure out how to pay for the airfares…



Developing an iPad Program in a School Environment – Post 3: WiFi (or the lack of…) and setting up an Aerohive network

I have no idea what these means, but boy does it look impressive. Look at all those arrows!

I have no idea what this means, but boy does it look impressive. Look at all those arrows!

Having a bunch of new devices running around the school will be great, but having these all connected, talking to each other and the internet would be even better (and doing this reliably, 100% of the time). English on an iPad is always more fun when you can do it on the oval right? It will also open up our teachers to a wealth of freedom, having to not be tethered to the same spot in the class will allow the teacher to have a classroom anywhere.

Currently we have a very limited WiFi setup, but now I will be rolling it out across the entire school.

In researching my options there were two main choices, Xirrus and Aerohive. Both will provide us with all the infrastructure we need now and in the future. From my own research and talking with other schools in the area I choose to set up an Aerohive setup for our school, and in doing so managed to save quite a bit off our budget, which in turn will allow me to spend that money on other agile technologies and general shiny things. You can check out some case studies from schools here

I was also very impressed with a few apps Aerohive offer as part of their setup, Student Manager and Teacher View. After some staff PL, both of these apps will provide the teacher with a great deal of control over the way the network and internet will work in their classes.

As I have said in previous posts, teacher input and freedom is one of my priorities in setting up a successful program. Having each teacher having the control and freedom over how their classrooms will run will be key in teachers using the most out of the technology (that, and who wants to be at the beck and call of the IT Admin?)

Our new network will be rolled out over the second week of the Easter Holidays (Monday 14 April) and I will be sure and keep you updated on the process and any issues that may arise (i.e.: portable classrooms, of which we have a lot, are metal harbingers of WiFi death….)


Vowels and Consonants – Part of my new series of Multitouch iBooks to focus on Students with additional needs

That was a bit of a title hey?

I’m sure you have seen some of my older Multitouch Books I created for my classes when I was teaching in a Secondary School last year (cough, No 1 on iTunes…)

As part of my new role I have been given the opportunity to develop resources for our students with additional needs or language barriers. The goal of these resources is to personalise them to the student. Part of that process has been to sit in on PSG meetings and help teachers as they create their ILP (individual learning plans).

One of the key concerns of teachers is the time needed to spend with these students on tasks, as it takes them away from the rest of the class.

For example, one student needed to work on his letters (in this case Vowels and Consonants) and requires a lot of repetition. I looked at ways I could create an engaging resource that the student could use independently and also at home with their parents.

I have found the interactivity and ease of creating Multitouch iBooks is prefect for this. I am also in the process of setting up an iTunes U channel for the school which all school iPads will be subscribed to. This way as I create new books they will be download automatically to each iPad.

You can check out an overview of the book in its basic stages in the video below and also download it directly to your iPad by tapping here on your iPad

My goal will be to develop a whole series of these catering to different student requirements and accessible to all.


Developing an iPad Program in a School Environment – Post 2: Don’t forget about the Tech you have now

DSC_0002Yes, iPads are shiny and new, but as we are in our first steps of developing this program they are still a while a way. One thing I am aware of is all the ICT we have in our school now, what the teachers are using every day and how best can we use what we got.

My first mission was to get our laptops in order. These machines still have a lot of life left in them, they just need some love.

The quickest fix was to re-image all the laptops with the latest software, Free being the word of the day here. A lot of students were only using the machines for Word Processing but that is about it. As much as I would love software like Photoshop and Premier it is very pricey and most likely offer more than we would really need. Instead I sourced a bunch of free alternatives that will do the job and easy to use.

Some examples of free SOFTWARE to use in schools:

Audacity – For music and audio editing

Autodesk 123D Make – A fun 3D model making program (and printer)

Blender – A very powerful 3D Modelling and Animation Package

Game Maker Studio (Free version, but also currently Free to update to the next version) – A powerful game development program

GIMP 2 – A image editing program similar to Photoshop (but with a lousy name)

Inkscape – A vector based image program similar to Illustrator

Kodu Game Lab – A very easy and visual game development program from Microsoft

Lego Digital Designer – Design and create 3D environments out of virtual Lego (also check out Lego for Chrome)

Microsoft Movie Maker – A simple movie editing program

Photo Story by Microsoft – Create movies from your pictures

Picasa – An image editing program from Google

Google Sketchup – Create 3D models and architecture

Developing an iPad Program in a School Environment – All the steps along the way… Post 1: Introduction

iPadI have been given the go ahead to develop an iPad program at my new school. As you know by following my blog, I am a keen supporter of the device and its potential in the classroom. I also know all to well that it takes time, support and training for everyone to get the most out of it.

One of the key reasons I took on my new role was to get the chance to setup an iPad program, in what I believe, is the right way and use some ideas I have picked up form my years using the iPad, talks and training I have presented at other schools, work I have done for Apple and my connections from being part of the ADE program.

What I will be doing is documenting the entire process on the blog (I have setup a new category for it) so hopefully it could be used as a guide for others in the future (my process, things that worked, didn’t work, stuff like that)

Some topics I will no doubt cover would be research, hardware requirements (school wide wifi, server loads, apps, volume purchasing)  student purchasing options (BYOD, school purchase, lease?) teacher training and PLT, class trials, program evaluations, student use and engagement, teacher use and engagement (that is the important one), creating original resources (one of my big things), personalising the device for students and much more.

I believe one of the keys to the success of developing a program such as this is inputinput from leadership, staff and students should not be ignored as everyone has experience and knowledge to share.

So I encourage you to add your own input to any of the posts I put up. This is not an exact science and will be different for every school, but hopefully my experience, perspective and unique style (c) my be a help to others.


Creating original resources for the iPad to help students with language difficulties

There are many resources out their to help EAL (English as Another Language) students and students that have language difficulties but these can be very time-consuming and often require one on one supervision and direction from a teacher.

By creating some simple interactive resources you can take some pressure away from the teacher, cater to the individual students needs and be able to provide them with an engaging resource to use outside of the classroom and practice at home, making the time spent with the teacher or aid more valuable and rewarding.

I quickly put together some interactive iBooks as an example. These are using images taken from around the school so the student will feel more connected and familiar with the resource. You can also take advantage of the built-in features of the iPad such as speak selection, note taking, and more to further the learning.

This video offers a very simple example of what can be done (view full screen for more detail)

Building staff knowledge in blogging – take something they have to do and make it easier!…

Screen-Shot-2014-02-25-at-12.36.29-pmStaff creating their own classroom blogs is a great way to provide resources to your students. This could be extra resources for a lesson, a video, or more. Did a student miss you class? well, you can have a recording of the entire time as well as any resources you sent out. Students can post information and comments and be part of an online community.

The trick is getting started. Some staff my have been blogging for years, others, never. A way I am getting staff new into blogging is to take something they need to do (PD or Professional Development, reporting and discussion) and make it easier, by using a blog setup just for it.

I have created a school blog (using the Global 2 platform, an initiative of the Victorian Government that uses WordPress as it base – more details below). Then I enrol all of our staff as students. This will allow them to sign into the blog with their unique details and make posts.

Or, as I put it on the PD blog:

We will be using this blog to post your findings from any recent PD you have been on. It will be a great way for you to share and collaborate on your hard work. It will also be handy to come back to for your own records.

You can use the categories that have been setup to help people find your work, also you can tag your post with relevant info so users can find other topics related.

Be sure to add your comments to other staff members posts if you have any questions or want more info.

As blogs are a connected, media rich tool try and add some images, videos and other media from your day (such as PDF documents, PowerPoints, links and more)

Thanks for your hard work, knowledge and input, it will help all of us grow!

All staff will be responsible for creating their own posts (I will of course provide training and assistance if needed) as opposed to one person being in charge of this process, this way they can begin to build up their own skills, knowledge and confidence to go out and create a blog for their own class.

More info on Global 2:

Global 2 is a blogging platform -

Global2 is a blogging community for Victorian schools. It allows teachers to manage an individual blog or manage their students to manage their own blogs.

Global2 can be accessed and used on Mobile devices and features technology allowing users to blog, Wiki, message board and add (or embed) and connect other technologies.

This blog will be updated regally by staff that have gone on professional development days.

What you present is up to you. With the ease and flexibility of a blog such as these you can add text, images, video, links, interactivity and more.

iPads in Grade 1

Going from a 1:1 iPad to a 1:750 iPad school (I’m using mine) is a bit of a change (and something I am working on).

But what is great is seeing students that may have never used a device such as this (in a school context) pick one up and instantly interact and engage with it.

In the videos below, students had worked on an activity that involved drawing a story. I brought in the iPad to see ways we could quickly add more depth to their projects. The students created these using two apps (Keynote and Shadow Puppet). I gave them little guidance and tried to let them work out the steps on their own. Students were so excited to be able to bring themselves into their work.

New Role – First Post

Sitting in Prep classes has been fun, I drew a Turtle, I am now popular...

Sitting in Prep classes has been fun, I drew a Turtle, I am now popular…

I have been quiet the past few weeks, busy getting the hang of my new role. The change from being in a Secondary School and spending most of my time in the classroom to being in a Primary School and spending a lot of my time behind the scenes has been interesting (and there is more hugging).

I have been spending a lot of time popping in and out of teachers classes and constantly impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to embed ICT in their classes, the students even more so.

I am working on a lot of different things at the moment; working with teachers and students, working on new resources and looking into the potential of things like iPad programs and implementing other agile technologies.

All my resources from the past two years of my lessons are on the blog (I will put my 2014 lessons, of which there only were a few) into that archive shortly.

Soon the new posts will role in, for those that have subscribed to my blog you will no doubt see a change in what I post (I have learnt quickly that I need to speak.. much… slower…) and will focus on eLearning implementation with a whole school approach (In a Primary School Setting), I hope that some of you may still find it useful.

Bon Jovi