Read All Among The Barley by Melissa Harrison 📚 ★★★★☆
Thoroughly enjoyed. Some lovely writing. Perhaps too many themes pulled in at the end.

This post has been brewing for over  three months now. I think I just need to post it.

More and more of our computer use involves networks and cloud storage. A while back I was joined on Radio Edutalk by Sarah Clark who spelt out the benefits of the cloud in the classroom.

This is great if you have the connection and bandwidth. Some folk do not. This was brought to the front of my mind by a tweet by Andrew Jewell:

Thankfully I am not in that position, but although my class are 1-2-1 iPads we don’t have the broadest band in the world. I do a few different things that mitigate against poor connectivity that I though worth sharing.

I want to cut down as much network traffic as possible so that when we use the internet we get the best possible connections.

We Don’t do iCloud

Out of the box iPads want to use iCloud for storing files. For my personal and school devices I would not be without several ‘clouds’, my phone uses dropbox, iCloud and OneDrive. I use iCloud and OneDrive on my school iPad and desktop too. As I am lucky enough to have a mac in my classroom I sync somethings with iCloud so they are available on both devices, mac and iPad. This is very handy. I can write a note on my mac in the Notes app, it syncs to the iPad and I then can drop it to a group via the Classroom. I can edit pages and keynote files on both devices seamlessly. I keep a lot of materials in OneDrive and the app keeps my home computer and school one in sync.

However I get my pupils to turn off most of the iCloud features. Since they do not use multiple devices with the same account they don’t need all their photos and documents syncing. Opening documents with the native iOS apps such as pages and keynote is a lot faster if the documents are local.

A couple of years ago I centred our document Workflow around O365, OneDrive and OneNote. OneNote especially is marvellous for this, the Class Notebooks in particular give you a tremendous amount of organisation. Unfortunately we spent a fair bit of time waiting for things to open and lost a fair amount of pupils work in OneNote 1 so don’t use it anymore. I will keep an eye on the app and out network and return to it if conditions allow.

We do do AirDrop

The answer to my handing out and gathering in of digital assets is now AirDrop and Notes. Notes has really matured over the last few years and has managed to keep its simplicity and gain features. I send out a lot of ‘tasks’ or success criteria via notes. I use it to share audio files along side text and pupils can send me notes easily. My pupils send me finished work, for example, recording of their reading alongside their self assessment2. If I had to guess the most use apps in my class would be Notes and Photos.

AirDrop is a really good way to distribute large files. A bunch of pupils watching video on the network will really slow things down. I can drop the same video to my class or a group amazingly quickly.

AirDrop avoids the cloud sending from device to device directly.

Apple Classroom

Airdrop is much enhanced by using Apple Classroom, this allows you to set up classes and groups of pupils, you can Airdrop to the whole class or a group. More importantly the teacher’s iPad can receive files from pupils without intervention.

Of course classroom does some other things but I love AirDrop the most.

What I miss from this system is the organisation that is built into multi-user cloud solutions. Reviewing pupils work and giving feedback was easier in OneNote. I may get the class to turn on iCloud for Notes at some point and see if sharing notes is practical for me. I suspect that the amount of data used by notes will be a lot less than OneNote.

A Cache in Hand

Here we are entering geekier territory, and you need a mac (there might be other ways I don’t know about). You can buy, in the mac app store, the Server App. Or if you have a newer mac than mine you can use the built in Caching Service.

The Server app can cache content locally so that if more than one device is downloading the same content the later ones can get the data from the local cache rather than going out to the internet. This seems to help installing the same app across multiple iPads. You can see from the screenshot that a lot of the data reaching our iPads comes from the local cache rather than from the internet. In my experience this seems to speed up updating a bunch of iPads or installing a bunch of apps.

A Web of One’s Own

Hand in had with the caching the server app can do it can also serve webpages locally. This is a good alternative to AirDrop to share piles of photos. Rather than send them all to all of the iPads I can set up a web gallery on the mac and pupils can visit it via their browsers. This is probably beyond what most teacher are willing to do but if you can it is a good way to distribute files where pupils can choose form a range of images. Better than giving them all 100 images to choose from and fill up their iPads.

Once you have turned on web-serving it is just a case of building a website in the same ways as you would create an external site. It would be very useful do be able to do that automatically. The local urls will not be pretty or easy to type, but the pupils don’t need to as I will AirDrop the urls to them.

I’ve briefly tested the wiki server that comes with the Server app, but I am not sure it is happy with several folk adding content at once. I believe the wiki server has been dropped from later versions of the Server app.

None of this is ideal compared to a fast connection and a cloud solution but in the meantime it lets us get the job done with the minimum of waiting for the network. When we do need the internet, and we do, we get as much goodness as possible from it.

This is temporary and experimental

For all the reasons Sarah went over, the cloud is, long term, the way to go. I hope these things help make the technology less visible in my classroom in the short term. I’d also be interested in other and better ways to improve my classroom connectiivity.

 

see: OneNote Help Wanted
Notes and Airdrop to the rescue  

The other day I took the opportunity to test out my new Shure MV88 mic (Christmas present) with it’s dead cat. It was not a particularly windy day but there was a stiff breeze higher up the hill whee I recorded this.

I think the mic worked very well I would have expected it to be too windy without it. I am not sure how much is down to the Shure and how much to the dead cat.

Using the mic you need to use the Motiv Audio app if you want to set the mic. I used the Mono Cardioid pattern with the gain turned up. I left the wind reduction off.

I I had 5 pieces of audio to edit together after a brief fling with ferrite 1 I switched to GarageBand which did the job. Exported to a shortcut that uploaded to my blog.

I think that microcasts should really be one take rather than multitrack, but keep getting tempted to edit. The Motiv app allows you to pause audio and then record more, but I wonder if that would be lost if there was a large time lapse, other apps switched to etc.

Map and a few photos: Glen Douglas Trio 4-1-2018

fn1. Ferrite only supports 3 tracks in basic version.

I do like a gif. I like to make them in all sorts of ways. Recently I’ve been messing about with Live Photos. The mac Photos app will export gifs from these but they are huge. To my mind a gif should be as small as possible. The other problem wit Live photos is my hands tend to move. Today I tried the iOS app Motion Stills:

Motion Stills is an app from Google Research that uses advanced stabilization and rendering to turn your Live Photos and videos into GIFs

The only problem is that the files are pretty big. I took a photo of a squirrel in the botanic gardens this morning and ran it through the app. The stabilisation was great but the file size for the image was 8.7MB for a 480 × 360 image!

I decided to see if I could shrink it a little and got it down to 331kb. This is how:

  1. I opened in the Gif in FireWorks
  2. The gif had 54 frames at 3/100 of a second and one at 6/100 of a second. I deleted every second frame and doubled the length of each.
  3. The gif was set to have an exact pallet with 256 colours, i changed that to Adaptive and 128 colours.
  4. I set the loss to 20%
  5. I made a new layer which was shared across the frames. copied the first frame to that layer and cut out a space for the squirrel in the top layer. This froze most of the image except for the squirrel.

The featured image of this post is the shrunken gif.

 

Scratch is now at version 3.0. I’ve been looking forward to this as it will now support the iPads my class uses.

I gave it half an hour or so on my iPad and am delighted to say that it does what is says on the tin. The iPad I am using is an Air 1 so a good few years old. It was a little laggy now and again but nothing that I worried about.

I was especially delighted to see that old scratch embeds still word and now work on iOS too the Scratch Embed example on Glow Blog Help just worked.

I also tried exporting a Pyonkee project and then importing it into scratch 3 on the iPad that worked too. Pyonkee is an iOS app that is based on scratch 1.4 that my class have been using.

I look forward to introducing the class to scratch on iOS in the new term.

Here are a couple of useful links:

Since I have an on this day page on my blog I’ve been finding old me interesting.

Yesterday I notice quite a few end of year reviews published on the last day of the year1.

Blogging highlights 3, followed 1 & 2 in 2006 but focused on the blogging my pupils (primary 6 ~10yr olds) carried out that year.

The links go to the internet archive now. Images and some links were broken but I enjoyed reading them.

I was surprised at the comments on the posts, from adults, pupils at other schools and classmates. At the time the idea of an audience and conversation was one of the main reasons I had pupils in my class blogging. We were posting photos, video, microcasting and writing poems.

It seems harder to get comments on pupils blog now. I admit I’ve not commented outside my own class lately.

This was the year before I was on twitter. A lot of the online conversation about what happens in classrooms has moved to there. While a lot of this is interesting and valuable it has mostly removed pupils from the publishing process 2. This is I believe a loss.

  1. I was thinking of writing one for 2018 but got lost in following these old posts.
  2. see also ‘School social media has been terrible at engaging parents’ | Tes News by Susan Ward

Liked Must Do Better (Just Trying to be Better Than Yesterday)
...There are loads of issues linked to the poverty gap, health and well-being issues and attainment, but I’m not convinced that school is always the place to solve them...

I am not convince either. Kenny has, as usual, a lot more intelligent things to say on the matter. A good end of year read.

Kenny goes on:

And we need to find a balance between thinking that Scottish Education is going to hell in a handcart and those who refuse to acknowledge that and believe that all is a shiny brochure and a Twitter feed.