Phillip Cowell

Jul 182015
 
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With all the buzz surrounding the arrival of Easyblog.org, a lot of people have been asking what the differences are between all our other apps and Easyblog.org.

So here is a break down of how it, well, breaks down.

Our apps are tools for uploading content (photos, video, text etc) to a blog hosted somewhere else. “Easy Blog” and “Easy Blog Jr” both upload content to a blog hosted by a WordPress site (self-hosted or other such as Edublogs). “Easy Blogger” and “Easy Blogger Jr” upload content to a blog set up on Google’s Blogger platform.

What is Easyblog.org?

Easyblog.org is a combination of our very popular blogging apps AND a host. In other words, it’s a one-stop-shop. You DON’T NEED a WordPress or a Blogger blog. Everything is included at Easyblog.org Please click here for a PDF outlining the main differences.

What is the point of Easyblog.org? Why did you make it?

Hosting the blog instead of relying on Blogger or WordPress has significant advantages for the end user – YOU.

First, it means that YOU don’t need to set up a WordPress or Blogger blog. That’s a good thing because, frankly, setting up a blog is a bit of a hassle and is not something many people really want to do. The setup for Easyblog.org is super slick and written in language familiar to teachers.

Second, because we have developed the app to work with our hosting service it means we can add many cool features that aren’t possible to do with WordPress or Blogger. A good example is that we can now sync class profiles between devices. You only need to input your students once instead of on each iPad as you have to with the current apps.

Finally, by hosting the blog ourselves we are not affected by changes that WordPress or Blogger may make to their setup/functionality. An example is when Blogger changed the way Google Drive worked with video. This meant that overnight Easy Blogger/Jr stopped working until we could come up with a new solution!

What exactly are these “cool features”  on Easyblog.org?

We think the following changes will rock your blogging world;

  • No more tedious setup – set up your class once, then whenever you log in on any iPad, all your students are automatically synced.
  • Brilliant for when you’re sharing iPads with other classes. One teacher logs out, the next logs in and their students are all there.
  • No more going to Safari to view blogs. Student’s can view and edit posts from within the app.
  • Easily organize posts – Teacher can define ‘subjects’ that students can post to for easy searching and classification, including a “Portfolio” option.
  • Easy to moderate – Teachers can quickly view all posts pending moderation within the app.
  • Ensure security and privacy – Password protect both profiles on the app, and the blogs themselves.
  • With over 60 more exciting updates planned, many based on your feedback, including direct student-to-student commenting within the app and the ability to pass a student’s blog forward to their next teacher. We think you and your students will absolutely love the simplicity and improved functionality of Easyblog.org

The new app is extremely similar to all our current apps in both design and workflow, with the intention of providing a seamless transition for existing users, while maintaining the simplicity of use that makes our apps the #1 choice for so many teachers.

If you are currently using any of our blogging apps but would like to try Easyblog.org, please email us and we will give you a year’s subscription to a premium class pack for free! 

We hope that helps to make things clearer. If you still have questions, please comment here or contact us at theteam@easyblog.org

 

 

 

 

May 192015
 
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Do your students blog? Sure, but does that mean they actually have an audience?

As part of a PYP How We Organize Ourselves unit, our grade 2 students were inquiring into the role technology plays in the way people communicate and collaborate. This was a perfect opportunity for us to tackle a challenge that faces many blogging schools – how do we ensure people are actually viewing our blogs?

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 9.06.59 AMWith the goal of increasing audience size and ensuring that student blogs and email were being used as truly collaborative tools, we created these series of 9 challenges for the students to work through independently. Each challenge was created as an individual post on our resources site and linked with a QR code that was displayed on the poster shown to the right. Most challenges include a video tutorial, and practicing following an online tutorial was in and of itself a very useful component of these engagements.

Tbe 9 engagements were;

  • Challenge 1: Create a QR code linked to your blog, print it and stick it on your locker
  • Challenge 2: Visit one blog from a student in every grade from grade 1 to 5 and leave a comment (5 in total)
  • Challenge 3: Get 5 people to subscribe to your blog
  • Challenge 4: Send and receive an email to 5 people not in WAB asking them to visit your blog and leave a comment. (test)
  • Challenge 5: Create a “Favourites” Padlet, share the link with your friends, and collect 5 replies.
  • Challenge 6: Send a teacher (not homeroom) an email telling them what you most like about their class, and what you find difficult. (test)
  • Challenge 7: Take a virtual field trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, create a PicCollage and share it to your blog.
  • Challenge 8: Edit to improve 5 posts on your blog
  • Challenge 9: Contribute to a page on a class memory book

The students thoroughly enjoyed the challenges, and from a teaching point of view,what I loved most is that each engagement is an authentic and worthwhile task.

For more ideas on growing an audience for your students, check out this video from the Easy Classroom Blogging series on YouTube. This channel has many excellent ideas, and I recommend subscribing to it.

Please feel free to use all or any of the engagements – you can find the posters in both PDF and Pages format on our resources site. 

 

Apr 232015
 

As highlighted in this post, classroom applications for Minecraft are virtually limitless. In this particular engagement, grade 4 students used Minecraft to explore the connection between the width, height and depth of a regular shape and the number of blocks it was constructed from.

After watching the video below, their task was to;

  1. Construct several regular shapes using any number of blocks they wished.
  2. Record the width, height, length and number of blocks used to build each shape on a sign.
  3. Find a connection between the measurements and the blocks
  4. Express the connection as a formulae or rule
    (eg. W + H + L = B)
  5. Test their formulae at least 3 times using different sized shapes.
  6. Create a screen cast using Quicktime proving their formulae to be correct.

Here is a student’s response used with her permission. She is in Grade 4 and has done an amazing job! If you would like to leave a comment on her blog, I am sure she would appreciate it.

What went well: 

  • Students were highly engaged (Duh, it’s Minecraft! Go figure!)
  • Students could easily create different shapes to test ideas or gather data
  • Using the signs to record measurements and theories was handy
  • Each Minecraft block is 1 cubic meter, so even thought they’re virtual, this somehow made it easier for the students to grasp the idea of volume than using cubic centimeter manipulatives.

What we should have done differently:

  • These students hadn’t done much with finding rules, so many struggled as they didn’t understand what a rule was. To rectify this, we wrote “W ? H ? L = B on the whiteboard to give them a clue. Many still struggled, so we then had them replace the W,H and L with actual measurements from one of their shapes for example “2 ? 2 ? 4 = 16 and most were then successful.
  • Had math books out so they could write down their measurements to look for patterns.
  • Many students would always have height, or length or width as “1” meaning that they were finding rules that would only work when this was the case.

What we did do differently (for the 4th time I did the lesson:)

  • Practiced finding rules using simple patterns like A+B=C before starting.
  • Students drew W H L = B tables on their whiteboard tables and wrote in a series of measurements (see image). They then built in Minecraft using these measurements and counted the blocks to fill in the “B” column

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or other cool ways to use Minecraft.

Mar 262015
 
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iPad apps such as DoodleCast and Explain Everything have become invaluable tools for schools with mobile devices. Being able to explain an image while drawing on it makes visible thinking as easy as 1,2,3.

But what if your students have MacBooks and not tablets?

Well there is an answer – and although not as effective as the tablet apps – it many situations it may be all you need. This workaround was suggested by @DoakShannon – a master innovation coach currently working in southern China.

The solution involves “Mac smashing” 2 free pieces of Mac software; Omnidazzle and Quicktime 

Once you have those installed, you are ready to screen cast. This short tutorial will show you how it’s done. If you know of any other clever ways to make screen castings that can be drawn on, we would love to hear from you!

Feb 162015
 

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 5.42.33 PMPadlet is about the coolest free web app you will ever find, and if you’re looking for an easy way to collaboratively brainstorm or share text, video or images from a single location, look no further. Padlet is quite possibly the most useful website for schools since a couple of Harvard boys asked “I wonder if there is a better way to do search?”

I have used Padlets to share class haiku, brainstorm what bullying can look like, and compile lists of technology students have in their houses. If you love using using Padlet, add your favourite uses on this Padlet!

Once a Padlet is done, you can embed it in a blog by grabbing the embed code, as I have done below. However I prefer to use them in full screen directly from Padlet.  In this instance I used Padlet to create a visual glossary of some terminology used in video production. This Padlet was used in a grade 5 unit where students wrote a poem to evoke emotion and then turned it into a video. You can find the full unit here. 

Padlets can either be locked down to view only or fully open to add new stickies with or without moderation. They can be hidden with private links, password protected and shared with individuals via email. There’s a bunch of other features on Padlet, including a school account, although I can’t quite work out exactly why you would need that when you can do so much for free.

Feb 072015
 
oureasyblog

If you’re looking for a fun and engaging way to kick off a new unit or activity, a video provocation might be just what you’re looking for. With apps such as iMovie and Green Screen by Doink, the only limit is your imagination. Coupled with Easyblog.org, uploading to videos to the class blog takes seconds. The idea of a video provocation is to create the context or challenge in which an engagement will be placed. It’s a call to action,  and it’s amazing how a simply fantasy video like this will grab your students like almost nothing else.

In this PYP How We Express Ourselves unit, grade 4 classes were inquiring into the central idea “People create and manipulate messages to target specific audiences.”

A full list of the engagements can be found here with links to online activities,  but the highlight for me was creating the video provocation for the Club Tropicana activity. Maybe it’s the big kid in me. Or the big screen wannabe. I don’t care, I just know it was creative fun to make, and inspired the kids towards some rich inquiry and amazing results. Thinking back on it now, it was really project based learning with some design thinking thrown in to boot!

Anyway, sit back and enjoy possibly the worst acting in history.

A few days later we made this one for Grade 4 students that were about to “embark” on this great project based design challenge from Bob Ennenberg.

Jan 202015
 

easy blogBee Bots are a fantastic way to introduce lower elementary children to coding and like a all robotics based activities, bridge the abstract/concrete gap in a way that Piaget would whole heartedly approve.

If you haven’t used Bee Bots before, you might want to watch this first;

Although there’s lots of buzz (no pun intended) around coding classes in schools, there is no need to introduce an extra coding class in the lower years. In this instance, our grade 2 classes were already investigating directions and coordinates and the Bee Bots were

Our 6 Bee Bots in their recharging nest - which has broken twice already!

Our 6 Bee Bots in their recharging nest – which has broken twice already!

the perfect way to explore those ideas – supplementing or replacing existing lessons.

On the management front, we split the class in half – one half used the Bee Bots app on their iPads while the other half were paired up and each given a physical Bee Bot. We have this set (see image right) and although it is convenient, our charger base has broken twice within a few months!

The Bee Bot groups were introduced to their Bee Bots and I quickly showed them how to use the controls to program their movement. There is certainly a case to be made for letting the students investigate the controls by themselves, and if time had allowed it I think I probably would do that.

I then introduced some simple challenges to the students – for example, “Program your Bee Bot to go around a book and back.”

What many students found difficult was the idea of completing the code before hitting go. They would click forward arrow 4 times, then Go, and if it hadn’t moved far enough,they would click forward a few more times. The objective is to preprogram the Bee Bots movements in advance before hitting go. One of these ideas is concrete, the other is abstract. Piaget would say “Of course a 7 year old will struggle at first with this”

15cm Squares gridded cardboard. Click to enlarge

15cm Squares gridded cardboard.

After 10 minutes or so with these kinds of challenges, we introduced the gridded mats we had made from stiff cardboard. Each student also was given a booklet of challenges, a treasure icon, home icon and brick icon. (Click here for all media)

Please feel free to use these resources, and if you have more great ways to use Bee Bots, leave us a comment!

Aug 192014
 
Comic Bingo

Having seen this great post from Miss Smith’s brilliant and informative blog, which includes this much retweeted and favourited image, get to know you

I was inspired to share some ideas of my own so here they are – 

1. Email Interviews – a great way to introduce students to email for the first time. After creating email signatures and a brief discussion of email etiquite, everyone emails 3 other people in the class asking them a question about them. At the same time  3 others students are emailing them, so here comes the lesson on how to reply! Click here for the full activity. 

2. Holi-Blogs – In this first writing task for the year, the students make a blog post about something interesting they did in the summer vacation. Taking full advantage of the power of the link, the post should include links to things such as the places they stayed at, Google Maps, multi-media inserts and so on. Click here for the full engagement which includes links to examples from students at WAB.

3. Comic Bingo – With a twist on the traditional bingo ice breaker (find someone in the class that…speaks 2 languages…was born in the same month as you…likes pizza etc) this fun activity has the kids utilize their device’s camera to include not only a name, but a photo in each bingo cell of each of their classmates. Click here for the full lesson which will need some adapting depending on what devices and software you have, but you should get the idea.  

4. Coming up in Grade X – Using an iMovie trailer template, the students create a trailer about what they hope the highlights of the year will be. Makes for great reruns in the last week of school:) 

 5. Class-Word – Students use an online crossword generator or wordsearch makers  to create crosswords or word searches based on their classmates. They then can take turns completing each others. 

Jul 232014
 

NOTE: Since we wrote this post, we have now created Easyblog.org, which is also a free hosting service, offers everything the Global2 platform does and much, much more. Check it out!

If you are teaching at a public or catholic school in Victoria, did you know that you can create a PREMIUM level blog for your class using the amazing Edublogs platform for free? (Also known as “Global2”)

Combine that with the easiest to use blogging app available, Easy Blog Jr  and your students can be sharing their learning easier and faster than you ever thought possible. 

Here is what one teacher wrote: 

I had three teachers at my house today and showed them my edublogs site (which they were excited by) but then I showed them your app and how BASIC and easy it was for early years kids to blog, and well they were falling over themselves to get your app and begin blogging. They thought blogging was for upper primary and was too hard but I showed them your app and they were literally jumping out of their skins!” Jasmine, Western Australia

To get started, visit the Global2 website and click “Create your first blog”. Once you’ve done that, add another user called “students”. Here is an excellent step by step guide to getting started with Global2 created by Kathleen Morris.

At its simplest, we recommend just having one class blog with 2 users – yourself and another called “Students”. You can also create a blog for each student, but this takes much longer.

Once you’ve done that, go ahead and set up the student profiles on the class iPads or iPad using Easy Blog Jr. You can have as many students as you want on each iPad, and when they post to the blog using the app, it will automatically add their name to the title of their post! There is an easy o follow setup guide here. 

If you have any difficulties, don’t hesitate to contact the Easy App Company Team at: support@theEasyAppCompany.com. They are all teachers, so will understand you are probably in a rush and get back to you with an answer as quickly as possible. 

If any of you are wondering why a 4 year old would want to share their learning with the world, watch this. And smile.  🙂