iTunes U Version 3 – Annotating and Submitting Student Work

I have had a very quick play with the new tools in iTunes U V3, it has now become a more of a complete place for educators to deliver content but also assess, make and return work.

One of the new add-ons has been the ability to annotate PDFs, yes, I know this sounds simple and other apps have been doing it for ever, but the key here is everything can be done in the one iTunes U app, keeping students focused is much easer when they don’t have to bounce around constantly. It is also much easier to guide them in completing a task.

So, had a quick test. I captured this in the animation below. Basically (S: Student, T: Teacher):

  • T: As a teacher I added a resource (PDF) and turned on the ability for the student to hand it in and it be marked.
  • S: Gets a notification of some new work. After reading my instructors they tap on the PDF and it automatically has its editing tools. They can write, type, and more. All of this is editable. You can even save it and come back to it later, again, very handy to do this in the one app (and save Paper!!!)
  • S: When happy, student can submit the work, or have a private 1:1 conversation with the teacher.
  • T: Gets a notification when new work has arrived, I can mark it, edit it and send it back. Or can send some extra resources to help.
  • T: Can keep track of the work, what students have seen it, submitted it, asked a question, etc.
  • T: All of this can be done from the iPad, or any PC (Mac or Windows)

So far so good. Google Classroom also has their version of this, but due to the way their apps work on the iPad it requires a lot of back and forth, if you are going iPad only, this is a great advantage of using iTunes U.

And remember, students can also work in other apps such as Word, Pages, Keynote, etc. and submit these as assignments (if the PDF option doesn’t suit – I think the best, first step in using this would be using the PDF annotating to get rid of those hand-out sheets that still plague the world!)


click for a full-size (and clearer) view of this

Apple’s iTunes U gets 1-to-1 discussions, importing from other apps, PDF annotations, grade book, more


So, this is nice. PDF Annotations means iTunes U can really be a one stop shop for offline resources (students can submit work when back on Wifi). 1:1 conversations with students also opens up a great new discussion platform. For me, I am looking forward to seeing how this can be used as a way to deliver specialised courses (such as a wellbeing program) that normally have a lot of the dreaded ‘hand-out sheet’ The 1:1 conversations could then allow some private feedback and conclusion in an easy way to both teacher and student.
Timely, as I am working on this right now… Will keep you posted.

More details on the new iTunes U site here.

Originally posted on 9to5Mac:


Apple’s iTunes U service, a resource for teachers to create and manage educational content for students on iPad, is today receiving a big update that brings a long list of highly requested features. Starting today, teachers and students using the platform will get access to new additions including 1-to-1 discussions, homework hand-in & grade book features, PDF annotations, and more.

View original 143 more words

Games that do mental health right

Via Eurogamer 10/6/2015

An interesting video on the topic of video-gaming and wellbeing, by all means not an all-encompassing view (it does have rainbow pooping unicorns) but good to see people talking about the topic.

For some great research on the topic of wellbeing and gaming (with less unicorns) check out the paper by the Young and Well Research CentreGame On: Exploring the Impact of Technologies on Young Men’s Mental Health and Wellbeing.

iOS 9 and the Apple ‘News’ App – A New Platform for our Teachers? (And How To Sign Up as a Publisher)

Apple held their WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) Keynote today, a week-long affair that focuses more on the software and tools side of their business. And though they announced a lot when it comes to iOS 9, one thing stood out for me.

news iconNews.

Apple sum it up well in the series of images below (with some very pretty photography to boot) but basically:

iOS 9 adds a new app to your Home screen. News conveniently collects all the stories you want to read, from top news sources, based on topics you’re most interested in — so you no longer need to move from app to app to stay informed. News also combines the rich and immersive design found in print with the interactivity of digital media, letting you enjoy stunningly crafted articles just how the publisher intended.

Emphasis mine, but replace those two words in bold with ‘teachers‘ and then look at the images…

Teachers have been able to create some classroom resources with the interactivity of digital media for a while now, and have had a great platform in iTunes U to deliver that content, but I see this as another great way to push my ideal of teachers being authors, and now they will have a platform that highlights them amongst the best in the world. You can’t underestimate how a simple app like this could change the way our students interact with the content from teachers (yes, back to my other spiel of making the learning part of the distraction)

So, how does this shiny new thing work you ask?

It’s easy to get started with News. Anyone from major news organizations to magazines, blogs, and more can sign up to deliver their content to News. Register to submit your RSS feeds to News.

It is currently in Beta, but you can sign up now (I have – check out the process below) 

I am looking forward to see how this one develops….Click here to sign up now.

Google Image Search – Do We Need More Control to Protect the Wellbeing of our EAL and Refugee Students?

…or is that me being too Big-Brother and hiding the reality of the situation?

An interesting thing happened earlier this week. I was having a fun lesson with our EAL students using the green screen and letting go to new places around the world. A lot of these students have come from places of conflict such as Syria and Iraq, but have never been back. So, when I let the students find an image of where they would like to go, some chose their home country (others just wanted to drive a Lamborghini).

Now this is where something I didn’t think about happened.

You do a Google Image search for Australia and you get:

But you do the same search for Syria and you get:

Could you imagine what this would be like for a student to see?, especially one that understands that this is where they come from?

Of course Safe Search is enabled, and I understand how Google is simply ranking images and search terms according to what is searched more, but wouldn’t it be helpful, even if only for schools, that you could have more control over your searches. Don’t hide the images by any means, but maybe the default could be a greater selection of images (Flag, great achievements, food, animals, landmarks, etc) and by adding in a tag such as +war, +destruction, you see those images?

An interesting issue I know, and one that, when you have a 6-year-old Syrian girl in front of you wanting to search for images of Syria, makes you wonder how such instant and visual exposure to images like this may affect her outlook and wellbeing?

Help Your Students Travel Around the World with an iPad (and a Green Screen!)

I have spoken many times before about how much I love working with our EAL students. Some of the most interesting, smart and creative  kids I have met. Some of them may have fled from their home countries due to war and ended up in a classroom together, they have some great stories to tell.

Click here to download the Green Screen app.

Click here to download the Green Screen app.

But… a lot of these students haven’t had the chance to go back home, or to the many places around the world we may take for granted. Using the iPad, a Green Screen and a simple app; Green Screen we changed that.

I asked the students to pick one place in the world they would love to go: Syria, Italy, Driving a Lamborghini, playing basketball and more. I then showed them how to use the Green Screen app on their iPad, this is where we went:

What is Material Design and why is this helpful for Educational Design?

(You will notice I am using a lot more hyperlinks in my posts. People have asked for some more context on some of the stuff I ramble on about, these links will do just that)


What are the main areas of design that we need to think about when it comes to education and curriculum? and I don’t mean teaching a Design Class, but what facets of design are evident in all the teaching and learning that we do?

I am thinking of the main tools and platforms that our students use. For me, that is iPad (iOS) and Google Apps (Google / Android) both of these have very similar, but also at times very different approaches to design. For Apple, you can check out their Human Interface Guidelines – Apple like to focus on Deference, Clarity and Depth and for Google, their Google’s design page with their focus on Material Design.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away there were no ‘touch interfacesApple came to the party first with their iPhone and started the ball rolling. Now, us simple humans back then needed some help with using these shiny new things, so Apple used a skeuomorphic design language (a taught a class on this a while back) to aid in this tricky time. We of course are all now pros when it comes to touch interfaces, so Apple has moved on.

While all that was going on Google started to become a bigger player in the mobile device space with its Android OS and their Google Apps for Education (GAfE) platform which I am using (and a lot of schools) as their main platform for collaboration and communication.materialdesign_principles_metaphor

When I first started using Google products, I could often be quoted as saying “they make some great stuff, but I wish they had a few of Apple’s graphic designers” in relation to what I felt was a basic and very un-engaging looking platform (for my students at least). As the platform developed these things changed, and I have a whole new appreciation of what they are trying to achieve with their Material Design Platform (they also have some pretty great designers working for them too)

What is the point of Material Design?

(To) develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all first-class input methods.

materialdesign_principles_motionAs I have said before, I am seeing the device a student uses as merely a window to the online tools they use most, with Google’s Material Design approach, this will make it far easier for our students to pick up any tool and easily navigate and understands its systems. I think it is very handy for our visual and EAL learners to have one design langauge across the range of online platforms they use, learn one and learn ’em all, so to speak.

Another great thing about Google’s Material design is they want more people using it, as such, all the resources and design guides are freely available (all of their work is Creative Commons) for you to take advantage of.

I keep saying that our teachers should try to be the designers of their own resources, and now there is a great starting point and visual guide to do just that.

My tip for a first step…Icons.

Icons are a great, visual way to direct students to a particular focus or action. Starting to use these in your own resources will give students a visual clue that is easy to understand.  Here are Google’s Material Design Icons as a way to get you going.

Google Docs & iPad: The Perfect CRT (Casual Relief Teacher) – How-To

The CRT, an incredibly brave species that wakes early, enters new environments, and deals with hostile natives…

In the schools I have worked with, I think that being a new CRT must be tough. You have a whole new place and class to deal with, unsure of your environments and what to do. The last thing they would want is having to deal with technology.

It has been common practice that if a teacher is going to be away, they would leave work in a filing cabinet, or on their desk for the CRT to pickup and use. Even this can be a pain, if the teacher is sick they may not have left work. Even tougher these days, with teachers (like ours) using online platforms like Google Apps, leaving physical work can also be a hassle (and a waste of paper). Finally, as our teachers take their devices home so CRTs are given the dreaded ‘loner laptop’ (which may not have been charged by its last user)

How can we make life easier for our CRT Champions?, it only takes two things; iPad and Google Docs.

Google Docs is the platform (teachers share planners, work, comments – from anywhere and anytime, the CRT can leave notes and updates), iPad the delivery system (that lasts all week, is super portable, CRTs don’t have to deal with passwords and log-ins, and be customised for our needs)

So, how can you set this up at your school, just follow my simple 9 step program below…(batteries not included)

(download the full-size PDF here)CRT


(Apple) Watch your Wellbeing

Continuing on my Wellbeing interest, I thought of an interesting occurrence I witnessed over the past few weeks. People doing what their wrist tells them. Let me explain.

The Apple Watch is now in the wild (for those that managed to snag one) and I have been seeing some warning signs that yes, machines will rule the world.

1426620730392The watch has fitness tracking abilities that look at your heart rate, movement, and even standing, allowing you to set goals (the watch will also help you in deciding those goals – Just like the Terminator would – you have been warned). It even will give you a slight tap to motivate you, to say, stand every hour (and even give you a medal for achieving your goals, ’cause you know, everyone loves medals!) Now the funny thing I have been seeing is people doing exactly that. I was in a meeting the other day when all of a sudden a person stood up and took a slight stroll, why?, “my watch told me to”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is great, the positive effects exercise has on wellbeing is widely documented. So, it go me thinking, why not extend it to have a wellbeing focus. A simple app that does exactly what the Apple exercise app does, but focus on your Wellbeing goals (no, it’s my idea…(c) Garcia Corp.)

  • Have you had some time to think today?
  • Asked someone for help, or offered?
  • Given yourself 10 minutes of fun?
  • Talked with a friend or colleague (not about work)

AppleWatch_Process_Book_HI-kwc01-37-1024x691Things like that. And just like the exercise app, you set your daily goals and get a nice reminder to do one (with medals of course…more medals!)

I sure would love in my next meeting to see people get up, have a positive chat with another person and then come back saying “well, my watch told me to…”

Young people are surrounded with distractions, make a focus on their learning (and wellbeing) part of that distraction

Recently I have been thinking about how we teach our young people, both during classroom hours and beyond.

One thing I always focused on in my teaching was to create my own resources for my students. The teacher knows their class, they know that everyone learns differently, then why should they all be using the same textbook or resource? Were is the diversity, the engagement, the opportunity to speak directly to your students.

You could dig through my archives on this blog and see the approaches I took in this (making things up as I go being new to teaching). Creating original, interactive Multi-Touch Books (iBooks) and Online Courses, Recording my lessons, Creating original videos and animations, gaming, opening up discussion and collaboration, and most importantly, allowing the students to create and explore.

Wellbeing of our young people is of great importance, and one it seems that teachers don’t feel is their job*, they are busy teaching content. What I hope is teachers see that by changing the content you teach, and how you teach it, you will be doing wonders for student confidence, engagement, and more. If you provide your students a room (be it your classroom or an online space) that fosters creativity and choice, you’re going to make the room a great place to be in (our students have no choice in being there remember!).

*We don’t have time for mental health: teachers – SMH 4 May, 2015

This brings me to my main point. Our young people are distracted, and I don’t say this as something that they are totally responsible for or have complete control over. Society has changed, gone are the days when you would come home from school and all you had was the Power Rangers on TV and maybe the Nintendo (if you were lucky enough that your mate Ryan who had said Nintendo was home)*

*(Sorry about that small window into my childhood)

1Young people now are exposed to huge levels of distractions, from commitments such as sport, hobbies such as gaming, and of course the many social networks that surround us. These also extend to parents. Parents of our young people, the exact people that they look up to, may also be finding their time torn between these platforms.

This is an escapable fact of our society today, and one that can’t (and should not) be attempted to fix be limiting or removing these distractions altogether (that will not fix the wellbeing issue, as much as some people may think it will). What I am telling my teachers is to try to look at ways to make their students learning part of this distraction.

“Young people are exposed to huge levels of distractions, make their learning part of that distraction”

Let me give you an example. You want to teach your students Weather, you could set a homework task that is many pages long (or in most cases I have seen a poor photocopy from a well used textbook) and send that home. The young person has to actively set time aside for this to happen, all the while having those distractions beating down their door. You could create a wholly original, engaging lesson in the first place, but let’s start out small, why not try creating a short YouTube clip (or reference one of tha many out there) for students to watch, follow that up with a short blog post with some info, have an online discussion space for students to chat about the work, tweet out some positive comments of ‘how are you going?’, or ‘check this out if you need some help’, finally allow students to answer in a way that suits them, a post on the blog, a YouTube reply, movie, series of tweets, Facebook timeline…  these are platforms students are already using, and in most cases will be switching between as they do the homework. Young people are some of the best multi-taskers I have ever seen, give them something to put those skills to use in.2

I know what you may be thinking ‘well, that seems like a lot of extra work thank-you very much’. But, just like we tell our students, these things become part of your teaching, part of your workflow. If you ask me, going to page 144 of Humanities Now (circa 1998), making 30 copies, handing these all out, dealing with students that lost the sheet in the first 30 seconds, marking any work (feedback and positive comments optional), handing it back… is a lot more work than creating a new lesson and tweeting it out (not to mention you can then reflect upon and reuse your lesson next time).

The change will take time, but change is needed, if you need a hand, ask your class what they want, how they like to learn – I am sure they would be happy to help.

I encourage you to read a great paper by the Young and Well Research CentreGame On: Exploring the Impact of Technologies on Young Men’s Mental Health and WellbeingIts focus on link between technology use and men’s mental health and wellbeing can go right back to what I am trying to say here (I have used some of thier stats in this post).

One thing that stands out to me is the information presented in the table below:


Ways young men aged 16 to 25 years commonly spend time using the internet,by level of psychological distress.

The top areas that our young people spend their time on the internet (other that for school or work…but is a lot of this out of necessity?) are areas one could describe as a distraction, YouTube, Social Networks, Gaming, email and Music (I put the reference of Podcasts in there – something I use to learn everyday…and morning run).  

Social Networking is more popular than School Research, and an area they have chosen freely, our students are already in the room – let’s help put with thief learning and wellbeing while they are there.

This is not an all of nothing approach, and yes, I don’t expect a student to tweet me their major assessment piece on the Russian Revolution in 759 tweets of 140 characters, but small things can go a long way, especially with the connection to and wellbeing of our young people, so try to give it a go.

Where to start? – Well I have a handy list right here…