Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Google Hacks

I delivered some training sessions at my school including a Google Hacks workshop. During this workshop I helped people hack Google Forms and Google Slides, and also taught them how to take control of their Gmail inbox (mine is now pretty much empty for the first time ever! Also I have color coded labels and filters and all sorts of magic making it work well for me).

Here's the presentation, Google Hacks:

On every slide it gives step by step directions for completing the different hacks. I also have linked video tutorials for every tip too.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Voice Typing in Google Docs

Super easy to use! Great for taking notes quickly...and also helps people, like me, to practise speaking slowly and not mumbling! It's not 100% accurate yet, but it will get better!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Gamify Your Life (ATLs)

Improve your approaches to learning with gamification tools

Gamification is the act of adding game playing elements, like competition with others, rules, point scoring, leveling up, to a non-game related task. There are loads of great tools which educators use already which do this. For example when a student works through Duolingo they achieve badges for getting to certain levels and also they earn points for achieving certain streaks, (playing for X days in a row). Students who use Boomwriter in class will also find that when they earn more points, and can customize their 'Boomer' (their avatar). For people who have FitBit, you will have noticed that you can also earn badges through this, for things like walking a certain distance in one day or for taking a certain amount of steps.

Duolingo achievements and Boomwriter's Boomer

FitBig Badges

Recently I have been thinking about the IB's Approaches to Learning,  a set of skills created to support students to become good learners. The ATLs are broken down into five main categories, then split into smaller clusters, then individual, skill specific strands. Skills for our students to 'learn how to learn'. These ATLs should be developed throughout the course and provide a common language to help our students to learn in any subject. I realized that I don't have perfect approaches to learning, and need to improve some of my skills, including my self-management skills, (usually related to prioritizing and procrastination!) The gamification tools that follow can help me, my students and other teachers to develop their self-management skills.

The main ATL skill categories

Each category has a huge range of small skills. 
Here are some of the skills I believe you can learn through some of the apps below.


Screenshots from my EpicWin. 

Epic Win is a fantastic tool to gamify any element of your life. Once you download the app you pick an avatar and then set yourself tasks. When you set your tasks you can allocate points to them, have them repeat and also decide which skill they help you improve. Once you have finished a task, you hold your finger down on the points next to the task and an animation appears which literally battles the task! It then dissappears and the points are added to your characters skill set. The more points you have, the more cool things, Loot, it unlocks, as well as props and costumes for your avatar. Your character also levels up as you achieve more points. You can add any tasks you want, so they could be 'write reports' or 'cover Mr Sahib's class' or you could set yourself reminders that repeat like 'pop into another teachers class for five minutes' or 'empty inbox'. You can of course set yourself tasks for anything, so could include things to do with fitness or chores in the house. Students can set themselves This is a great app for both students and teachers. 

Forest/Stay Focussed

Screenshots from the opening of Forest, Stay Focussed.

Forest, Stay Focussed is a tool available both as an App and also through Chrome (as an extension).
It is a very simple, but effective tool, (if you buy into it...or like plants). The app basically helps you to stay focussed when doing something not on the phone, for example: I mark on my computer at home, but then get distracted and end up checking messages on my phone constantly. You open the app, select how much time you want to stay on task, and then a seed is planted. During that time the plant grows into a lovely tree, which you can add to your daily forest. However, if you exist out of the app, the tree dies!

There is also a fantastic Chrome Extension acts in a similar way, but your tree dies if you visit any of the blacklist website. You can add as many websites as you want to this list. If you have a student who can't help themselves look up sports news or check in on a social network, then this might be a great tool for them!

SuperBetter helps students develop emotional and social skills too, 
which covers a couple more ATL strands!

When you first log into SuperBetter it asks you what skill you would like to improve or which problem you would like to tackle. This includes managing stress, depression, losing weight and more. Once you have chosen this there are a range of tasks already programmed in. You can always delete, change or add your own tasks, but by choosing that initial setting the app will be generated with lots of resources to suit your needs. Not only do you have tasks, but there are also strategies and lots of useful tips. You unlock points and increase levels by completing different tasks, including tackling Bad Guys, (big obstacles to overcome, like being a self critic),  completing Quests, (these help you level up) or doing small tasks, called Power-Ups.
This is a really lovely app and perfect for staff who are struggling with a heavy workload or finding their working environment stressful. Equally it can support students who are in the middle of writing their Extended Essay, Personal Project or revising for exams. It is also a perfect tool for any students with emotional and social difficulties.  This is the perfect Self-Care tool.
Lastly, this is also available on the browser...and it's even more beautiful there:

Enjoy these tools - let me know if you use them or share them with other teachers or students.