Apple’s Swift Playgrounds is a fantastic app built to help teach programming. It is ideal for the classroom and it’s purpose is to help children from Y6 onward get started with coding and learn some of the fundamental concepts involved. It uses Apple’s own programming language, Swift, and is intuitive and beautifully designed. Furthermore, it is relatively simple to use and best of all – it’s free!
Once you have downloaded the app, you need to select the playground you wish to start in. To do so, tap on the featured button and then I would strongly recommend that you pick ‘Learning to code 1; Fundamentals of Swift’ before embarking on any other of the challenges . Simply because it will provide a basic scaffold on which pupils can start to build their understanding of the app and the Swift language itself.
Navigating The App:
Once downloaded, you tap on the Playgrounds and an in-built keynote presentation will walk you through the coding concept of each section. The first is commands and the presentation gives a nice overview before the coding starts.
Once the introductory presentation is finished, the first playground starts up and you are ready to start coding! The annotated picture below shows you what’s what.
To accompany the app, Apple have also released a brilliant teacher guide available in iBooks. The book is designed for use with students and is packed full of fantastic content to help teachers, including those that are less confident, use the app in the classroom. The materials included align with curriculum standards for computer science and provide lesson plans, learning objectives, key vocabulary, a whole host of activity ideas, a grade-book to track progress and achievement and best of all – the answers, in case you get completely stuck! Furthermore, the book also contains the following interactive features which really help when rolling out Swift Playgrounds:
The Keynote slides are very helpful and once downloaded, fully customisable. They contain interactive examples of children’s work, key vocabulary and explanations. There are also additional activities that are a great add-on to the playgrounds themselves; providing the opportunity for children to learn the key concepts unplugged. Or in otherwords, examine what the concepts mean without computers.
The grade-book is great for summative assessment, but for formative assessment Apple recommend that teachers use the awesome SeeSaw. SeeSaw is a fantastic, simple-to-use portfolio App that means pupils can hand in examples of their work in video or picture format. Teachers can then annotate, like, and provide feedback (verbal or written) to the pupils and they receive instant notification. All their work is stored in personal folders making it easy to monitor and very helpful for events like parents evening!
Swift Playgrounds really is a fabulous tool for the classroom. Whether you are a Computer Science wizard, or a primary teacher who has unwillingly been given the responsibility of running the coding curriculum, the App and accompanying resources provide a wonderful opportunity to engage, challenge and promote computer science in any school that is fortunate enough to have iPads available for their pupils.
Berlin is a city abound with character, history, contrast and wonder. This year Apple chose it to host the 2016 the Global Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. The week was quite brilliant and I’d like to share five things that I took away from a remarkable experience…
1. Technology can break down walls
Perhaps there is no other city in the world in which a wall has played such a prominent part in defining culture. The Berlin Wall was torn down over 25 years ago and it’s citizens now enjoy freedom of movement, ideology and expression. In a classroom, when used with well-planned instruction, technology has the power to unite classrooms, empower and amaze students and help turn teachers into global authors. Indeed, at the Apple Institute, educators from every corner of the planet joined together with a common goal – to use technology to change the lives of their students. From having breakfast with Brazilian ADE’s to working with ADE’s from the Middle East on global projects; the ADE institute highlighted that we are all truly global citizens and education is a force for good.
2. Swift Playgrounds has a LOT of potential
Apple, like many other technology companies, believe that coding is an essential skill and will only become more and more important in our evermore technology focused society. They have come up with a new iPad App called Swift Playgrounds that makes getting started with coding fun, interactive and achievable. The APP is released in
fall Autumn but to get a good idea of what to expect, Apple have released an iBook guide for teachers.
3. Running/walking is the best way to feel a city
A couple of runs in Berlin provided an opportunity to see parts of the city that were off the beaten track. The first was an early morning, 9mile adventure with Nathan Ashman. The second, a 6 mile random odyssey towards the Lichtenberg area of town. On the Wednesday, all ADE’s were given the opportunity to explore Berlin. Mark Anderson, Coby Reynolds and myself set off by foot to find the East Side Gallery. We roughly followed the path of the Wall from the Brandenburg Gate until we reached our destination. We filmed, took pictures, grabbed a couple of beers and sampled some local food – good times and great memories.
4. Photography is for everybody
We were fortunate enough to listen to a fascinating seminar from the team behind the App – EyeEm. The App is used by 18million people from 150 countries across the globe. Any image that you are particularly proud of can be uploaded and shared with The World. The quality of imagery is exceptional and you even get a chance to make a little cash out of it as brands like UBER, The Huffington Post and ASOS may want to buy them! Fellow ADE Rachel Smith had already been tapped up by Getty Images! The seminar also included some top photography tips and with the remarkable technology that is readily accessible to people, most people can get a shot that was once only available to the elite.
5. Virtual reality works in the classroom
Perhaps the greatest thing about the ADE institute is the humbling experience of seeing the amazing work that goes on in schools around the world. I take my hat off to every single one of the ADE’s who present a three minute showcase and I never fail to take home a list of things that I have to try in my classroom. After ADE2016, very near the top of the list is Virtual Reality (VR). Like some elements of photography and film-making, only a few years ago using VR in the classroom would have been obscenely expensive, time consuming and impractical. However, after seeing some of the work done by educators such as Sarah Jones and Nathan Ashman using affordable tools like Google Cardboard, Streetview and Thinglink 36o, I am excited about getting some projects started in the next school year.
No matter where you live, there will inevitably a myriad of local stories in addition to places and people of great interest. However, it is not uncommon for local people to actually know very little about the secrets surrounding their locality. Indeed, this tendency is even more likely amongst younger citizens.
This iTunesU course, Local Knowledge – Building Community, is designed to break the trend and allow students to develop a deeper understanding and connection with their neighbourhood. It also should result in other citizens accessing the content that the students create so in turn, their appreciation of the wonders of their community are developed and enhanced.
The project is based around the concept of Challenge Based Learning and allows students to complete a range of engaging and meaningful activities based around the Big Idea of Community. The course is not about a specific app. It is designed to utilise digital technology, specifically the iPad to enhance instructional practice. I would really appreciate feedback in the comments section below from anyone who downloads runs the course with their students.
Has our iPad deployment worked? A simple question, but one that is often very hard to answer. There is no doubt that technology offers many means of improving teaching and learning in the classroom; the results of our recent pupil survey certainly reiterated this. However, as any technology deployment is unlikely to suddenly provide all pupils with 11 A* at GCSE, how do you truly measure success?
Personally, I don’t believe that success should be judged by a set of test results, but those that do will tell you technology is an expensive waste of time as there is no evidence it impacts upon ‘standards’. Simply, they are wrong. I am fortunate enough to work at a school where independent thinking and a love of learning are just as important as great grades and standards of all-types are valued.
Over the previous two years we had made considerable investment in the procurement of whole-school holistic WiFi. The Y6 iPad roll out in September 2015 was the culmination of many months of planning, training and decision making that had ultimate the goal of improving the classroom experience of our pupils; allowing them to do things differently and express themselves in a multitude of ways.
Eight months into the project, and with September 2016 fast approaching, it has been a time to reflect on both the successes (and failures) as we make preparations for the second phase of the deployment. We recently held an iPad information evening for prospective Year Six parents whose children are in the second year of our roll out. Therefore we compiled these two short films and completed a qualitative survey of parents to demonstrate the success of our 1:2:1 project so far from those who have experienced it first hand. The results speak for themselves.
I’m a huge fan of school blogging and also of Challenge Based Learning. I therefore decided to combine the two for a school project for Year 8. This post shares what we did and also contains links to all the resources you need to replicate the project in your school. Using the CBL wheel as our guide, we started with…
THE BIG IDEA
The Big Idea should be broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways. Furthermore, it should be important to students, and society at large. For this project, the over-riding concept was communication and with a little prodding in the right direction, the students decided to create their very own blog sites to share their writing with a potentially global audience.
The formation of an essential question is a fundamental part of any CBL challenge; it is something pupils can always use to refer back to and forms an umbrella under which they can all work. The students used Padlet to establish “Sometimes our writing never gets read. Can we use blogging to write for a real audience?”
The next task was for the students to embark on their specific challenge. It is imperative that the students generate an area of interest in which to work. By this point they knew they would be making a blog and creating content for it, however they needed to decide what they would be blogging about and organically work out whom they would be working with. Again, Padlet was the tool of choice. In the example below you can see that 4M loosely bundled their choices into video games, pets, cars, photography and sport.
ACTIVITIES / RESOURCES
Once the groups were formulated (via subject choice not friendship) their initial task was to plan their blog. To do this I provided a blog planning sheet for each group. Each group started with a discussion and then took to their computers. They then used OneDrive to begin work on the planning sheet collaboratively in real time and left it in a shared folder for me to check and provide feedback.
Another key aspect of the project is the blog design. We are fortunate to have a whole school WordPress site, hosted by the fantastic Creative Blogs. I am a huge fan of WordPress and knowing how to use it properly is becoming an ever more valued skill. Therefore, a significant part of the project is an introduction to some basic skills that can enhance their blog and help them to meet their objectives.
Once the subject of the blog has been decided, students then begin to design their blog. This design checklist details things that all students should do and a few things they could do, therefore taking care of differentiation.
I also created some tutorials below that will help the students (and teachers) with the could do section. Flipped learning really does change the dimensions of the classroom and empowers pupils to work independently. Please note that each template within WordPress may have slightly different functionality but the tutorials should certainly point you in the right direction.
Customised Background Image:
There are a couple of ‘Could Do’ options on the deign checklist that don’t have tutorials; that is because if the students get this far they should be able to start to work things out for themselves! The beauty of working with technology is that it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong, but it is hugely important to experiment and take risks. Of course, if it does go horribly wrong; hit the undo button or don’t save and start again!
Once the site is designed and up and running, it’s time to get blogging! Each group should have a theme for their blog that they opted to write about. This should promote enthusiasm for the task. When you set up your blog, students can be assigned different privileges. Good practice is to ensure that they are contributors as opposed to editors. The reason being contributors can not publish articles without approval from the page administrator which should be the teacher. This should also encourage a good standard of English as only well-written and thoroughly edited posts should be published.
Students can add images and even embed videos within their posts relatively easily. The following tutorials are available should assistance be required with this.
Embedding Video In Your Post:
Inserting Images In Your Post:
Evaluation does not have take place at the end of the project. As soon as the first blog posts are published, pupils can start leaving comments on each others work. Using the comment function of blogging is arguably the most important part of it. Comments provide each author with feedback from a variety of sources. It is also authentic evidence of an audience and has the effect of improving standards as students realise their work has a true purpose. The comments are all moderated by the administrator (teacher) and should be useful and constructive. It’s worth spending time looking at comments and what makes a good quality comment, and indeed a poor comment. Teacher feedback can also be provided via comments and by using social media, comments can even be collected from an authentic global audience and should provide a successful, contextualised answer to the original Essential Question.
Here our some example comments taken from our ‘Blog On’ project:
In September 2015, we rolled out 1:2:1 iPads across our Second Form (Year Six). This was a huge step for King’s, a school which only adopted WiFi in 9 months earlier in January.
After the WiFi install, all pupils in the Prep School had access to a bank of 20 shared iPads and although they proved incredibly popular for staff and pupils alike, the limitations of shared devices was somewhat frustrating. Device set ups were changed, work was lost and functional attributes like contacts, calendars and email were unavailable. Nevertheless, 99% of pupils agreed that lessons had become more enjoyable when iPads were used to enhance their learning experience, yet 90% also agreed that their experience would be improved further still with individual, personalised iPads.
Happily, we were able to respond positively and with a mixture of parent-owned school managed devices and BYOiPads our 1:2:1 vision became a reality in September. Second form (y6) Pupils are now routinely using iTunesU, regularly using Apps like Padlet, Explain Everything, BookCreator and iMovie and even working from digital iBooks and submitting their work via ShowBie. It has been an exciting journey for pupils and teachers alike – lots of mistakes have been made along the way, but we have learnt so much. We have come along way in a short amount of time but before we start making plans for expansion of the project, has it actually made a difference to learning? Does the theory that real change can only take place in a 1:2:1 environment ring true? We put it those in the best place to answer these questions: the students of Year Six…
The results of the survey are pretty conclusive. The pupils all agree that their learning experience has improved since adopting 1:2:1 iPads. Having access to information at your finger tips has fundamentally changed the dynamics of the classroom and the role of the teacher. However, it must be remembered that although the role of the teacher changes in a 1:2:1 environment, their importance does not.
Teachers need to know how to create courses, share resources and suggest Apps through which students can both demonstrate their knowledge, understanding AND creativity. Teachers need to know how to set work, collect work, annotate work and return work to students therefore it is imperative that in any 1:2:1 model, teachers are provided with the necessary equipment and training to make the project a success.