Replied to Re Minetest by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (Read Write Collect)
This sounds really promising Chris.

Hi Aaron,

My class dipped their toes in minetest recently: Christmas Challenge 1 – Minetest – Banton Biggies.

Setting up a local server was really simple. I managed to get the class having a little fun without really knowing much. These types of games are always a bit daunting for non-gamers like myself but the low entry barrier means I can tread carefully. I’d be interested to see what other schools are  doing with minetest and the similarities and differences with minecraft.

Geese on a Blue October Sky

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  

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
Replied to Susan Ward on Twitter (Twitter)
“Why social media ain't all that when it comes to engaging parents and how schools can unlock its real potential https://t.co/mRBaxMi5xc @ITLWorldwide @SBCEducation1 @DigitalscotNews @DigiLearnScot @Wilson722Wilson @TESScotland @TeacherToolkit @TeamSCEL @pedagoo”

Great stuff Susan. I wonder if blogging is a better approach to sharing than twitter. Easier for pupils to be part of the process? I know twitter is seem as simpler but I worry about encouraging pupils to a service which may not haver their best interests at heart.

I was interested in this app when I read about it on micro.blog when the developer @becky posted about. I didn’t have a phone that took live photos at that point, so put it in my memory.

Today it popped back out and I installed it. I looks like it will be a useful app. It allows you to choose either live photos or videos and stitches then together. you can add title screens and audio, either from iTunes or some built in tracks1.

This solves the problem with how to share live photos. I have exported these as gifs from photos on a mac but the files are huge.

You can export 30 second watermarked videos for free and a £2.99 unlocks that limit 2.

I guess the app will mostly be used with live photos, to knock out a quick video and these will be short. It might be interesting to experiment with a little DIY ‘Ken Burns’ I an certainly thinking of holding the camera for longer when taking photos.

Anyway I really like the app,  the interface is great and it performs a useful task really nicely. I imagined  I’ll use it  to summarise a walk or a get my class to record a  school activity.

I think this could be an interesting classroom app, its simplicity and lack of features will, perhaps, be a better solution than the likes of clips or iMovie for a quick movie. Most of the iPads in my class are original Airs, too long in the tooth for live photos, but we have a few newer ones so I hope to give it a go.

Here is a quick video I made the morning while Christmas shopping.

  1. Most seem to be by Kevin Macleod a long time favourite of my classroom.
  2. I think 30 seconds is plenty for this sort of video, a few live photos, but I paid anyway. If we use it at school we will stick to the free version.

Geese on a Blue October Sky

Some links I’ve put on my virtual pinboard recently. Ready for the new term?

There is a lot of nice information in image capture.


Daring Fireball: Sometimes It’s Better to Just Start Over With iCloud Photo Library Syncing

Next, I wanted to delete every single photo and video from my iPhone. To my knowledge there is no easy way to do this on the iPhone itself. (There are a lot of tasks like this that are easy on the Mac thanks to Edit → Select All that are painfully tedious on iOS.) I connected the iPhone to my Mac with a Lightning cable and used Image Capture to delete all photos and videos from my phone. Image Capture just treats the iPhone like a regular camera. Image Capture crashed three times during this process (I’m still running MacOS High Sierra 10.13.6, for what it’s worth), but after the fourth run the iPhone had no photos or videos lefp.

I just deleted all the photos from a school iPad yesterday by selecting a couple and the dragging to select the rest. Worked with ~3000 photos but a bit clunky. I’ll use Image Capture in future. It’s an application I don’t remember very often.

In a 1-2-1 iPad class I do get a lot of benefit from having a mac in school. There a several things that can be solved with a quick airdrop to the mac and back. Given the iPads and mac are of similar vintage (2012).

I’ll edit a note on the mac, it syncs to the iPad (instantaneously it feels like) and I can Airdrop to class or group via classroom app. Now the Classroom app is available for the mac I need to think about upgrading the ageing mac to Mojave. I think it is new enough but spinning hard disk and skimpy ram might be a problem?