New Arrivals and EAL iPad Program – Lesson 1: Using Google Docs to work together to practice English, Google Translate in the Classroom, And Mr. Garcia gets beaten by a Grade 5!

Another one of my famous, overly long titles there.

So, we are still a little ways off from launching a 1:1 iPad program at our school but I thought we could get the ball rolling with a smaller group of students, but really the ones that would benefit most, our New Arrivals students. These are students that are not only new to our school, but also the country (most come from Iraq, Syria, Turkey) and I can tell you know, they are some of the smartest and funniest students to work with (if you get the chance I highly recommend it!).

Our New Arrival students work together for the morning and afternoon (they are from Grade 2-5) and then go back into their classrooms for the afternoon. Now I am lucky enough to work with them every morning as part of my new 1:1 program. My goal is to not only find engaging ways to use agile technologies and tools to help in working in Australian Primary Schools (i.e.: English) but also empower them with new skills to take back with them when the rejoin their classmates in the afternoon. Hopefully making these students fill more included, and show their classroom teacher some things that will help them also (and they think it is pretty cool that they have an iPad)

A little bit of background before I talk bout our first, very successful, lesson.

  • All students (11 in total) were given an iPad by the school, at this stage they will have them for the whole day and will be returned before they go home. After a few weeks of the program, we will extend that and allow students to take the iPad home with them (after some communication and permission with their parents).
  • All students have also been setup with a Google Apps for Education account for their email, document creation and online storage.
  • Finally, one important thing to note is the students in our New Arrival class have been given funding for 40 weeks, after that they are on their own, so that is my timeframe to work with them all (until a new group comes along in the following year)

Lesson 1:


Apps Used in this lesson: Google Translate, Google Sheets. Click images above to download.

In this lesson, I wanted students to get familiar with using the collaborative features of Google Docs, and also continue a lesson they were doing the other day – looking at words to use, a What, What Doing, Who activity.

What, What Doing, Who Activity. Students would put their hand up and offer their word.

What, What Doing, Who Activity. Students would put their hand up and offer their word.

I then adapted this in the form of a Google Doc (in this case a Google Spreadsheet – also be aware that the iPad versions of Google Apps have some restrictions when it comes to tables and images, so get familiar with those).


Google Doc – Web version on the left, iPad version on the right.

Now students were able to fill out their section, or work together if they needed help. They were also very excited by the prospect of being able to work together when they are at home (or as Stafro was happy to point out “eat food while working”), so we are definitely looking at the Augmentation stage of embedding technology into learning.
Using some simple features of the iPad we can now go even further. Students are still learning English and are all at different stages. I showed them some easy ways of helping them.
First, allowing the iPad to spell and define words. This way they can see if their English spelling is correct.


Using the define function left, and using the speak to type function right.

Then, using the free app, Google Translate, I showed students how they could easily use this to test their English. Google Translate let the students speak in Arabic and it would then speak the English translation. They could also type or hand write and it would do the same, and vice-versa. This they were very impressed with (but less impressed with my Arabic – see video below). We also talked about how this would be a big help when they returned to the normal classroom. They could, or get their teacher or classmates, to speak or write the word they were having issues with and see the Arabic translation instantly. The app also stores the list of words so they can practice these later.


Speaking in Arabic left, and the instant translation right.


You can also hand write or type words.

And that was the lesson. Yes, very basic to begin with but the students had a lot of fun while also learning some very powerful collaborative working techniques along the way. In my next lesson I wan to take this technique a bit further and see if we can work on a narrative as a group using Google Docs. I want to introduce them to using Google Classroom soon, so it is very important to get these fundamentals working first.

Okay, now I did say you will see me getting beaten by a Grade 5 student….here you go, your moment of zen:



The Apple Affiliate Program and your School – How to make some ‘free’ money


Hey, free money!, this post has to get me some hits right?

So, a little background. You would have seen posts on my blog over the years looking at particular Apps I may have used for a classroom activity, and you may have thought ‘Well, that is just great, I will buy said app and use it’, you may also be in charge of an App List that you use for you school and have a list of recommended apps that all your students need to buy for the school year. Students click on the link, go to the store and purchase the app. Apple get some money (because they need it of course) the App developer gets some money and the world is a happy place.

Well, this is where the free money part comes in. You see, you are actually doing some work for the app developer, by creating your app list, or running and promoting a session you did with a certain app online you are generating links and then purchases for that app, wouldn’t it be great if you go paid for your hard work?, well you can.

That is where the The Apple Affiliate Program comes in.

There are some technical details and a sign up process, but the basic premise is you sign up yourself or school to the program (which is free). Once you get approved (normally a few days turnaround) you will get an Affiliate ID. You can then use this ID to create custom links to any content on the App Store Apple also have a great Widget and Link creator that will do this for you.

Now when anyone clicks on the link you have created, and purchases an app, you will get a 7% cut, and here is the best part, your link remains active for the next 24 hours. So, if someone purchases the app you recommended (or doesn’t even) and then spend the next 24 hours buying other stuff, well, you get a 7% cut of that also.

Now we are not talking huge amounts of money here, but for the few schools I have set this up with they were looking at around $100 a month, not bad for some free fundraising money.

Really no one loses. If you didn’t setup the link to begin with that 7% would not have been seen, and know one knows that you have set it up in the first place. Of course, your school may have some moral or ethical standing on stuff like this so I would talk it over with your Principal, but hey, better than selling chocolate bars, and remember, you did the hard work promoting the apps in the first place!

Primary School Handwriting Book No. 1 on iTunes

topIn a quick followup to my post yesterday, it seems in the space of a few hours my handwriting book hit number one on the iTunes Charts (for Free Textbooks, no, sadly people still think the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is more interesting than Victorian Pre Cursive – go figure)

Now I am not highlighting this to say how awesome I am (though I guess that is exactly what I am doing), but to show how easy it is to reach a large audince of teachers and students with free, relevant and engaging resources, remember, the target market for this book is quite small – students in Victorian Primary Schools, but still its use can be far wider reaching – so get authoring…and sharing.


Primary School Handwriting: Victorian Pre Cursive Letters A – Z – Interactive Practice Book

iBooks_Store_—_FeaturedAll our students need to practice their handwriting (I say as I type this away on my keyboard) and all students are at a different level. So, how does a teacher cater for all that diversity?

I had a look at some of the hardwiring apps out there and was not to impressed, also, none of them are designed to use the Victorian Standard font (yep, states in Australia has a slightly different font, who knew? – I’m guessing all the primary school teachers out there…) so, I made my own.

Students can easily practice their handwriting using the Victorian standard font, with teacher examples playing as they do, easily share them with their teachers and more. As it is freely available on iTunes, all students can use it in class or freely at home with their prints.  This is a first in a series of books I plan on making focusing on handwriting . I am using them now with our Preps and working with our amwoemse Prep teachers work out what we need next.

Want to see more, check out the video below, and download it from iTunes here

Using Google Docs to create a staff booking system for classrooms, iPads, etc

So, I wanted a quick and easy way to set up a booking system for our school’s iPad carts. There are lots of complicated ways using scripts, or I could setup a calendar – but this wouldn’t give me the level of detail I needed.

The easiest thing? An embedded Google Doc, in this case a Google Sheet. Check out the video below to see how easy it is to set up and use, a shorty but goodie (no really, I got under 2 minutes here!)

Ubuntu vs Windows 7 on old PCs as a Chromebook alternative for students

So, here is something I have been playing around with on my lunch breaks (I mean, what else would you do?)

Our school, and many like it, are moving completely into the use of Google Apps for Education and it got me thinking about the stuff we currently use.

All our students will be using Google Apps for Education exclusively for their email, docs, etc and will have iPads for a lot of their other resource creation like video, audio, apps and more.

So, what do we need a PC for? We have a bunch of old desktop PC’s that are getting a bit sluggish, but you can easily change all that. With our current Windows desktops we are paying for a Windows license, Office license, have to have a server for students to store their work and more. Now, Ubuntu is a free operating system that works very fast, built on Linux it is very Mac OS X like in its appearance. As our students will be using Google Apps for Education they will have access to docs for their work, and drive for their storage so no need for any servers or expensive software (let’s just hope the internet doesn’t go down)

So, if you have any old machines around, or don’t want to invest in a bunch of new ones when your students will be using Google Apps for Education as their main platform, Ubuntu with Google Chrome installed is an option.

I ran a quick test on two of our very old desktops, one running Windows 7 and one running Ubuntu. Check it out below.

Automatically convert documents (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) into Google Docs format when uploading

Google Docs is a great format to allow you to create, share and collaborate on work, but what you must be aware of is that it is its on format (like how a .doc is a Word format)

You can very easily upload a Word document to Google Drive, but by default it will be just that, a plain old Word document that has no friends and won’t play nice on the playground – and by that I mean you won’t be able to use some of the great tools embedded in the Google Docs platform.

Though it is very easy to convert an uploaded Word document to the Google Docs format, new teachers to the platform can forget this step, in this video I explain how the Google Docs format works compared to Word, and most importantly how to enable Google Drive to automatically convert your uploaded documents into Google Docs format for easy sharing.

Teachers helping Teachers – Developing a teacher run, eLearning Team

teamtasticOne thing that will be quickly apparent to anyone in the eLearning environment of a school is there is never enough time. As much as I would like to spend all my time in the classroom working with teachers and students on engaging and exciting curriculum, you need to do all the stuff beforehand.

Something we have developed at my school is the formation of a Learning Innovation Teams. This team is made up of a teacher representative from each of the year levels. We will work as a team to develop how learning technologies will be a part of our school, provide training and support, feedback, and develop polices and best practice.

Having a representative from each of the year levels will allow each of those levels a voice, as well as allow us to develop a consistent and scaffolded program to best serve the needs of our students and the development of out new school curriculum.

I recently ran interviews for the Learning Technologies Team and was quite humbled by the amount of teachers willing to put their hand up for more work for the better of the school.

Attached is a very quick terms of reference for the formation of the team, which will no doubt be worked on in our first meeting:

Learning Technologies Team – Terms of reference.

Introduction to Google Classroom for the Teacher – Setup, Use and Integration with Google Docs

Google_Classroom_LogoGoogle Classroom is another great app in the Google Apps for Education suite. It allows the teacher to create virtual classrooms or lessons where they can have student discussion, post resources and lessons, and set assignments. All of this is easily trackable and shared.

The best part is its integration with Google Docs and Drive. All work set by the teacher or to be completed by the student is automatically put in the teacher and student drive where they can comment, mark, return and more. As all our students already have a Google Account as part of their class, there is no need to sign up, register, remember other passwords…you know, all that stressful stuff for a 12 year old.

Everything is integrated with all the Google Services such as Docs, Drive, email, contacts and just works. As, like the rest of the Google Apps platform, it is cloud based you can work on any device. Students can be using a device at school and be exactly where they left off when they sign in from home.

In this introduction video you will have the view of both the teacher and the student. I show how to set up a class, invite your students and set assignments, all integrated with yours and your students Google Drives


Google Apps for Education Student Permission Form – Australia… now with more legal stuff!

Yes, a post all about a permission form, you’re in for a wild ride here!

Google Apps for Education is a fine piece of kit but rolling it out to students requires a few things be done along the way (I will document the process as I go on the blog)

First up, permission forms. You see, you can’t just get an okay from parents to allow their students to use Google Apps but due to that pesky thing called the Australian Privacy Act, you need to get signed approval. There is a particular part of Australian Law (AAP 8 if you want to sound all smart and stuff) that states that you must let people know if there data will be stored off site. Google Apps, and most cloud based services store all their cloud data in huge data centres (which are not soft, white or fluffy). These centres are most likely located outside of Australia, as such you will need signed consent to use such services in Australia (well you don’t, but it will help in the whole ‘don’t get sued’ thing)

It can sound a bit scary, so also make sure you take the time to explain the what of it all.

But as I live to give, I have created a form that covers all this stuff (with some explanation to parents and other big words).

Feel free to use and edit it to suit your tastes (but in exchange, maybe drop me a comment on the blog to say thanks)

(Note: This is my first draft go this form and it will no doubt change over time)

Download: Google Apps for Education Permission Form

(For more info on Australian Privacy Principles, click here)