Oct 03

Improve your skills with Coach’s Eye iPad app – not just for sport!

So just wanted to share a quick app recommendation today. I saw a PE teacher using Coach’s Eye last year and it’s so fun I thought I’d post it here. It’s not just for sport though – I’ve since seen it used for dance, theatre and oral presentations. Great for helping your kids practice at home!

It’s a camera app that lets you review action in slowmo, shows two videos at the same time and annotate videos as you talk.

The PE teacher I saw was using Coach’s Eye to teacher Grade 4 kids how to shoot a basketball. He video himself doing it, then video the kids in the class. Then on the big screen he played his ‘demo’ in slow motion alongside the kids’ attempts. They could see straight away where their form differed from the teachers. Then it was a case of try it again and see how you go!

With more physical learning, often words can’t express what we are trying to demonstrate. How many times have you said to your kids ‘Here let me show you’ when you’ve explained something a million times to them?!?!

I used this app with some students rehearsing a dance last week. I’m in no way a dancer. Like really – in NO way. But I was supervising a lunchtime dance lesson as a favour for a friend (eek!). They wanted to create their own dance based on a YouTube video – taking ideas and movements and re-choreographing them.

So being tech-know savvy (and it being the only way I could help!!!) I pulled up a few videos and showed them in Coach’s eye. They gave the moves from the video a go – (and did sooooo much better than I could do) – and we compared their video to the YouTube ones. I felt like an *expert* without knowing anything :0)

We really used the app as a coach for their dance – which they performed at assembly this week. I hear they were awesome!

I can see how Coach’s Eye could help kids prepare for oral presentations as well. They present twice and show both videos to compare them. Did they jiggle or move too much (a primary school-kid tendency) or never look up from their notes? We teachers try to drill in the basic practices of public speaking, but it is really one of those things that they need to see for themselves – and what better example to learn from than themselves!

It’s a free download and well worth playing with! Let me know how you go with it – would love to hear from you :0)

Nov 03

Kids home? Need 10 minutes? Try this iPad app!

So today is an interesting day in Melbourne – we have a public holiday tomorrow (Melbourne Cup Day) and so families take advantage of the potential for a four-day weekend and have Monday off too.

Happy (almost) Melbourne Cup Day!
Schools in Melbourne sometimes have a professional development day today – but not me!
I work for the central department of education and today – as you read this – I’ll be at my desk.

So today I’m just saying hi and giving you a great iPad app that might be of use if you have to work but your kids are home this week! Kids love it – and at school we use it for a range of things, from science experiments ordered by photos to finding symmetrical things in the real world and making a poster…

(ps. I’m not advocating babysitting-by-computer – but in the real-world sometimes we just need entertainment for our kids so we can get all. the. things. done. :0) )

Pic Collage
This one is a great one for kids who love to use the camera. Take photos and put a collage together, then add ‘stamps’ (clip art) and text. Got a family birthday coming up? Have your kids make a card and you can save it as a photo and print it off – instant homemade card!

Kids can also create a quick comic – take four sequential photos and use the text tool to add the story.

Or, for younger kids, ask them to take 5 photos of a certain colour, red maybe, and they can make a collage of their findings.

Kids home? Need 10 minutes? Try this iPad app!

It’s really easy to use and it’s open to your (and their) imaginations :0)

So when you need 10 minutes this week  – because our work doesn’t stop when schools do – give this app a go. It’s not ‘online’. It’s really easy to use. And kids love making stuff!

Do you have a favourite app for your kids ? We’d love to share your recommendations. Leave them in the comments below.

Oct 21

Help your kids write…with mindmapping software

Us primary school teachers know how important it is that your kids know how to write clearly and accurately. They need to be able to write lists, instructions, letters, emails and be persuasive, friendly or formal. All depending on the audience for their writing. That’s why we focus so much on story writing – all that creativity in writing stands them in good stead for any kind of writing. If you can create a narrative with story line, characters and setting, use paragraphs, adjectives and adverbs, you will not only better understand the stories you read but you can transfer those skills to writing a request letter, a good resume or a clear account of an event.

Supporting our kids to write

But how do we support our kids to write? Whether its fiction writing or not, all good writers begin with a plan. They map out what they want to say and then create a detailed structure for their writing.

We seem to see more boys than girls that tend to struggle to get started with their story. “I don’t know what to write” is a fave phrase in many a primary school classroom :0)

Mind Mapping

So, we can use Mind Mapping to make sense of their ideas and thoughts. Properly done, Mind Mapping is a thinking tool that uses the brain to its best ability, it’s based on neuroscience research and was developed by a guy called  Tony Buzan. (He has a great website here). But for today’s post, we just need a quick beginner’s guide:

How to Mind Map

  • Write your topic or idea in the centre of the page
  • Make sure your paper is blank – no lines or grids allowed
  • Take one colour and draw an ‘arm’ off of then central idea.
    Write ON the arm -NOT at the end of it (that’s a concept map, a good place to start with young kids but not mind mapping)
  • Now draw an arm off of that one – in the same colour – and add another thought.
  • Keep going!
  • Go back , with a different colour, and add another ‘arm’ – this one should be focused on another idea…

So Mind Mapping works by getting kids to think around a framework of ideas. They work because our brains really, really don’t like empty ‘arms’ on this kind of thing. So, we write ON the lines so the end is open – this makes our brains want to add more, and we tap into our imaginations and ideas. Clever, hey?

If your child is Grade 3 or older try Freemind  – an online free mindmapping software tool. Really easy to use and just works.

Here’s an example…

freemind mindmapping buzan school education use of mind mapping


Starting Small…

But our kids in primary school, are often not quite ready for full on mindmapping – so we start small and focus on building their skills in brainstorming first.

To do that there’s a really great, free website called Popplet that you should go have a look at. Here’s an example from a Grade 1 student who was planning a story the other week:

monster story popplet

Great isn’t it? There’s his story structure – introduction, problem, solution – and there are his characters and the story setting. This child went on to write a great story that he didn’t know he could produce :0) Win all round.

These ‘Popplets’ are great for non-fiction writing too. Next time your child has a project or story to write and they are complaining about having no ideas – try Popplet.

It’s an app on your iPad too and it really easy to use. Share them by printing them or saving a screenshot :0)

This one tool can make a huge difference to your child’s learning – and can give them a step up in what they can achieve :0) Always nice to be able to offer our kids a tool that is so useful in so many ways.

Does your child struggle with writing? What have you tried to get them going? I’d love to hear your thoughts :0)

Oct 13

Kids and iPads – Learning from this mistake cost us $200

I lost $200 bucks at a school. It wasn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but it was to us. And the thing is it was my fault and I should have known better. At home I hope you can learn from my mistakes and save some heartache and trouble.

The Story :0(

We were 3 months in to a brand new and shiny iPad program – giving iPads to Grade 2 kids to use at school. I wanted to see where they’d go and what they’d do as part of the trial so I let the kids manage the iPads. They could add apps, take photos, share things via email.

They could also spend our school’s hard-earned money using in-app purchases.

In-App Purchases are often seen in games but you also find them in ‘free’ apps that let you upgrade or add new features for a small fee.

We had given the kids the iTunes password so they could purchase, but they needed to ask for our permission before installing.The iPads were only used at school so it seemed ok…

The students were really, really responsible and would ask before downloading any app – even free ones. They were doing a fantastic job in choosing a mix of fun and educational apps. And we were (and are) really proud of the way they were working.

One day a student let us know they could no longer buy apps. There should have been a lot of money left in the account… But no it was all gone.

That’s when we discovered that the money had all been spent on “in-app purchases”

We hadn’t explained to the kids that they needed to ask before buying anything – even when they were in the middle of using an app and it popped up a message saying – do you want to upgrade?

So we lost $200 and couldn’t get it back. Luckily our trial was still a great success without that cash. BUt I’m really gratefull the money wasn’t mine but from a grant!!!

To avoid losing cash the way we did, remember these three things:

1.One thing we did RIGHT was to use iTunes vouchers in the iTunes account – instead of putting a credit card number in. Thank goodness we didn’t do that. I hate to think what would have happened (and how much they would have spent) if they had access to the entire credit card limit!

2.Talk to your kids about it being actual money – just like their pocket money – they are spending and the money has to come from somewhere. It might seem like play money but someone somewhere has to pay real money!

3.Turn off “In-App Purchases” if you’d like. The instructions are below!

So we did learn something here – sometimes it’s not the kids’ fault but ours! And $200 was spent on learning how to use in-app purchases!

Want to turn off In-App Purchases Right NOW?

turn-off in-app purchases

Sep 16

Notes, notes and more notes! iPads for the win…

So I want to share a quick recommendation with you  – about note taking! (No affiliation here, just love the product). Yep, it’s exciting, I know. But it can really help. Promise.

Have you been to a meeting at school or at work lately and found yourself wishing you could just push pause on the speaker? Maybe rewind and think about what they are saying for a moment?

Me too.

I often seem to get so. much. information. All at once, and then I’m asked to talk about it or answer a question. So here’s my advice. On your iPad or smartphone get yourself this app – Notability.

Notability App

There are lots of different note-taking apps, I know. I’ve tried at least 10 of them. But I come back to this one each time.

Here’s how it works.

  • Open a new document and push Record. Yep. It will record the audio around you.
  • Now start typing your notes. You can change the background, font, size etc…
  • As you go you can add in drawings or charts.
  • AND (best bit) you can take a photo of the screen or presentation or whatever and it will become part of your notes there and then.

So there you go…

But wait, there’s more – my other favourite bit. Play back the note at any point afterwards and then click on your notes/drawing/photo. You’ll find the audio recording will jump to the exact point that you wrote your notes.

So when you write, “look up www.jojiojij.com” and realise you have no earthly idea what you wrote, play the audio back from that point and hear the presenter and what they were saying at that moment.

This is a lifesaver if, like me, your notes sometimes wander into the realm of the absurd. I’ve also used it with students in Grades 5 and 6 when they are trying to take in a lot of info. Hopefully, there’s no real ‘lecturing’ going on in a Primary school classroom, but sometimes we get visiting speakers or we are watching a complex video. This app helps.

This kind of app is also great for kids who need some help with focus and attention in class too. It can support their recall and take away some of the pressure they can feel when they are trying to listen, take notes and understand all at once.

Do you have a favourite note taking app? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have you used this app? Love or hate?