Overpowered is a gamer term that means an item or character in a game has more power or strength than it should have relative to other players or items. You get more “bang for your buck” when you use these overpowered items.
“That sword is overpowered when you cast these set of spells on it”
As educators, we are constantly looking for ways to have the maximum impact on those we teach. We are all searching for tools, training and techniques that can maximise our effectiveness as educators.
As a result, I have compiled a list of the Most Overpowered Edu Tools around. This list is completely and unashamedly biased! These are the tools I use in my classroom. I can vouch for them because I use them! I hope they are of benefit to those who read this post.
The Quiver App is an Augmented Reality tool! You sometimes see Augmented Reality referred to as AR. Augmented Reality is when you use a device, like an iPad and launch a specific app. You look at the screen and what you see is an altered version of what is really there.
Imagine having a worksheet with an image of a shark on it. If you hold your iPad over the image with an augmented reality tool the shark will visibly ‘come to life’. It will swim around the screen in your view of everything that is in the room with you. This is what happens when you use Quiver Vision.
In classrooms where this tool is in operation, the students are engaged, focused and doing what the teacher asks them to do. They are invested in seeing what happens next. Students have ‘bought-in’ to the lesson. They are often amazed at what they see come to life in front of their eyes. It can be magical. That’s when the teacher comes in with their pedagogical practice. Teachers can leverage this enthusiasm to produce an overpowered lesson that delivers quality results. I’ve enjoyed using this tool to produce detailed literary descriptions with great success.
MNEMONICS- Remembering those tricky Facts!
Sometimes students get stuck on content that they need to know or formulas that they need to remember. There are lots of ‘catchy’ ways we all know to help us remember these facts and crucial meta-language. Here are seven super simple apps that can help students remember key facts and new words.
Ditty – (this tip originally came from Mark Anderson). This app lets you type a sentence or two. It then at a simple click turns that sentence into a tune or ‘ditty’. You can change the music to a number of free songs or even pay to get the latest trendy music too. The app automatically selects matching images to make your ditty even more memorable for your students.
Pic Collage, Typorama and Canva all allow you to create fast simple visual reminders of key events. Students can create a meme of something important or a simple info-graphic to help them learn important content. Typorama is a great tool because it automatically only uses images that are copyright free. The other tools are great too but you’ll need to have a digital citizen talk prior to letting your students go free. The tools also have some age limitations due to the fact that they connect to images directly from the internet. It could be worth checking these out before you use them in the classroom.
Adobe Spark Video – (formerly Adobe Voice). This tool lets you create simple animated videos with voiceover and music in minutes. This is a super way to set goals for a topic or capture a summarisation of a topic that has be learnt.
Heads Up App – Build student vocabulary and topic meta-language by playing heads up. Teachers add technical language into a set of words. One student holds the device running the app but is unable to see the key word. Other students try to describe the word without saying it. The student who can get the most words in a minute is the winner.
Here is footage of Ellen playing Heads Up:
Aurasma – This has been around for awhile but I have used it quite effectively in the past as a student reflection tool. We all know that student reflection and evaluation is an effective way to impact on student learning. Well Aurasma allows you to create purposeful opportunities for this using Augmented Reality. I used this technique to develop student writing in the lead up to NAPLAN (Australian standardised testing). The students wrote a piece of work and I edited it as usual. The students then reflected on what they did well in their writing and what areas they wanted to work on in their future writing. We hung their work on the walls and they linked their video to their writing sample in an Augmented Reality ‘aura’ through the Aurasma app.
It wasn’t too long ago that the thought of going on a virtual reality journey was just a pipe dream. It was something that was way off into the future (Marty McFly style tech) and to be honest it was really the sort of thing that only those with a lot of spare money to burn could ever take seriously. It was not something that the education system could feasibly roll out on a large scale.
For me, this was highlighted most of all in the original Jurassic Park movie when the banker and the two small children were stuck inside the Jurassic Park car going around the Tyrannosaurus Rex enclosure. The small boy picked up special night vision goggles and the banker said, “Are they heavy?” To which the boy replied, “Yes.” The banker then retorted, “Well if they are heavy, then they’re expensive so PUT THEM BACK!”
How far have we come? Now, by using Google Cardboard we are able to slot in a mobile device and have a virtual experience. The potential for this is incredible. What this means for education is the teachers can virtually take their students anywhere around the world. A number of museums have already partnered with this wonderful initiative. You can take your class to the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian or even the National Museum of Korea. There is the ‘potential’ to take your ancient history class on a tour of the Colosseum or to take your science class up the side of a volcano, there is the possibility in early years to take your children to the sorts of places that can inspire imaginative writing that would have been on thinkable not very long ago.
Google with its feature called ‘Google Expeditions’ have turned the potential for Cardboard into a real possibility for teachers all over the world! Truly Amazing Work! The exciting thing is that this is just the beginning. One can only assume that the range of possible virtual excursions / field trips will only grow from here.
The trap here is that with Google Cardboard you need a phone as the device. Sounds cool until we remember that most schools don’t carry class sets of phones. Enter Mark Anderson, an inspirational educator from the UK. In one of his recent blogs he simply suggested using the iPad instead of a phone (a direction totally missed by most educators, including myself). Yes, you lose the magic of VR by taking away the Google Cardboard but you still get the ability to have students explore new places around our world. I can’t wait to try this in 2017.
PUBLISHING STUDENT WORK / AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE
It goes without saying that we all try harder when we know that there will be an audience for our work. If I was preparing to talk in front of the Queen I would prepare myself differently than if I was talking in front of a few friends. Giving students a real audience gives their work real purpose and can propel the quality of their work into new heights. Using Microsoft’s Sway a student can literally publish their work in moments and produce a high quality product that showcases the real work that they have done. I expect to see this app become a very common tool seen in schools in 2017.
Google Hangout and Skype Classroom:
‘Hangouts’ are Google’s answer to live video conferencing. Many people who use Skype can confirm the benefits of using Video Conferencing tools.
Here are two practical ways that Hangouts can be used with Students:
The simplest, most direct way to use Skype Classroom or Hangout. Last year I witnessed Kelly Hollis, a high school science teacher, link with two Primary School classes. She had her students present Scientific phenomena to a Primary aged audience. Both groups of children gained from the experience.
Previously I connected with a group of educators and we collaborated on a term long program (10 weeks), teaching students “Conservation.” We used Antarctica as a Case study. Seven classes from four schools met once a week for 5 weeks while teachers used Video Conferencing to explicitly teach the programmed content. We even crossed live to Casey Station in Antarctica as part of our study. Students were then given 5 weeks to collaborate in pairs to create their own case study on a conservation issue of their choice. These student directed projects. Special thanks to Danni Foster-Brown for her work to help make this happen.
In a more interconnected world, Video Conferencing tools like Skype Classroom and Google Hangouts provide a user-friendly web tool that allows teachers and students to connect and collaborate effectively. Put simply, this action in classrooms is definitely the way forward in my opinion.
As with all areas of school life, and life in general, technology has allowed information exchange and personal connections to occur at a speed previously unparalleled.
This has allowed for an explosion of pedagogical development where students are now able to do what earlier generations could not, but one area that has remained relatively untouched is the connection between home and school. Which is undoubtedly one of the most important areas to foster.
So what can we do with tech to connect to home better? For some schools the initial answer was to email the school newsletter but this is just a digital version of a long held tradition of a simplistic method of communication. Some schools have developed their own apps and utilise push notifications to send real time information to parents. But an app like ClassDojo allows you to do more. Like many Primary School teachers I first started using ClassDojo as a behaviour management tool. I liked it so much I even register to be a ClassDojo ‘Ambassador’ but since those early days the app has evolved to be much more.
I have spoken with a number of Australian high-school teachers who, are experimenting apps like ClassDojo by using it to keep in contact with their classes outside of the regular set class times. They are able to support students working on assignments and give clarity to set tasks amongst other things.
Teachers are now able to connect with students but we are also able to contact parents instantly.
I like that no contact information is exchanged. The parents never know private details of the teacher and all correspondence is done through the app. This feature is a real winner and has potential to build authentic community by allowing the two-way communication that a newsletter can’t do.
CODING / COMPUTATIONAL THINKING
There is a lot of good will amongst educators towards Sphero. It is a circular robot that is very hardy and built to survive the ‘rough and tumble’ environment of a classroom. The team at Sphero have set up an initiative called the Lightning Lab where teachers can get lesson ideas. Basically students are able to either remotely control the Sphero robot or even code it (very simply) on their custom made app and have the robot follow a student’s code.
The Tickle App is a one stop coding shop. It utilises a simple drop and drag ‘block coding’ concept that is similar to the set up you see in tools like Scratch. The real winning feature that it is super user friendly. You can drag and drop your code and then wirelessly connect to popular robotic devices such as Lego WeDo, a range of Sphero and arduino devices and my favourite; drones.
This video shows my Grade 6 Coding team’s effort in the Sphero Games
OneNote is already making huge waves across the educational world. I personally have only just scratched the surface of what this powerful tool can do, I am definitely no expert. My own son now organises all off his school notes in the simple to use file management process of OneNote. While this is easy to use, I think the commitment that the OneNote team seem to have for supporting students with learning needs is way is really changing the way educators can increase student accessibility to technology. One amazing example of this is the voice recognition and typing feature.
In OneNote a student can type with their voice. They can also add their voice to different diagrams and notes allowing them to capture their understanding in class and play those back when they are studying. The voice recognition is so advanced that when searching for a file you can type in a search for a word or phrase and OneNote will find the voice files that match. Truly a resource that can be exploited by students and teachers everywhere.