Schools, Trains and Change Management

Today I was travelling back by train from a meeting in Manchester. Hot choc in hand I arrived at the platform and found that the train I was to catch had been cancelled.  No worries. Trainline App to hand (I wasn’t alone – another guy also had this) I worked out what I needed in no time. No worries.

In front of me was a chap who looked confused.  He asked another guy what was happening with the trains and he replied to say he had an app that said the next train was due shortly, quick change then onward no worries.  Chap was pleased to help and confused guy glad of the info and he hung around phone app guy in some sort of subconscious thankyou mode.

The platform soon filled with lots of other people.  One threesome couldn’t see their train on the departure board so they went off to seek a train person to ask.  There was shoulder shrugging and frowning in equal measure.

Finally the train arrived, we all piled in for one stop then piled out again at the next station to change.  The app people, including myself, stepped straight onto the connecting train on platform 3 quite confidently.  Elsewhere other voices could be heard asking the same question.

Is this the train for Preston?  Is it?  You think so?  Yeh I’m pretty sure it is.  According to this app it is yes.  Noone seems to know for sure.  You’d think they’d put someone on here to ask wouldn’t you?

Complete strangers reaching out for the right information and reassurance but sadly both were in short supply.  People were resigned to their fate now.  Doors shut and necks continued to crane looking for signs and confirmation that they were headed in the right direction.  Like a slightly smug individual I opened my laptop on a free table and got working.

Why the train story?  For me it illustrates what happens when there’s an enforced change and people have to divert from their usual trajectory.  Some people are in the know and can crack on.  Some people are good at finding out the answers and seek either authority or peers.  Passengers with access to the latest info at the point where it’s needed are able to cope with the change and even become useful to those who are less connected.

When social media is used proactively, responsively and strategically by schools to the benefit of their community it’s magical and empowering and it’s precisely why we do it; we’ve called it ‘improving the parent journey’.

For more visit Blippit Social

Google Apps for Education Single Sign On for Easy Blippit Access

Blippit is introducing a powerful new single-sign-on option for Google Apps for Education school users globally and ‘yes’ this latest enhancement is a free addition for all schools.

If your school already uses Google Apps for Educators (GAFE) to access various tools, such as email, Google Docs and so on you will benefit from this simple way of signing in straight away.

With GAFE

  • your school log in for Google Apps for Education is all you need to use Blippit
  • faster and smoother starts to lessons so more time for app making, computational thinking & collaborating
  • one less username and password to remember

What is Blippit?

We’ve got a HQ in England and Australia which means people don’t always know what Blippit is when search engines or other schools send them our way so here’s the low-down on what we have got going on in our coding and computational thinking journey.

  1. App Maker 
    Drag and drop or do some mark up language then publish your apps to Planet Blippit with your teacher’s approval and individualised feedback.
    .
  2. Blocks
    Drag and drop block programming to stimulate those computational thinking brain cells and even see the Python code behind the scenes. Create projects personalised to scaffold learning concepts for your children and much more to promote collaboration.
    .
  3. PureCode Python
    The next step along the coding journey from Blippit Blocks with a focus on text based programming using Python. Start with a blank Turtle project or create projects yourself to scaffold learning concepts for your students to use.
    .
  4. Spotlight
    The simplest and safest web based video conferencing tool available designed to support learning where experts are brought ‘virtually’ in to class or where classes link up to share learning. School firewall friendly.
Try Blippit out with the Google Apps for Education Login Integration

Here’s how to do it if you want to find out more and link your school’s Google Apps with your school Blippit account. Just click the button.

Log in with Google

Byte at the Museum

Yesterday I took Blippit to the National Museum of Computing – immediate neighbour of Bletchley Park.  To be invited as part of their Bytes Festival and work directly with their visiting families surrounded by such history was not half-bad.

Out of school you get such an insight into how parents relate to their children and learning as a whole.  They share insights with you quite openly and comment on your limitless patience with their child who frankly drives them nuts most of the time.

There’s noone marking, setting targets or observing when it’s just you and a family which makes for some very natural and easy steps forwards.  One young man (Year 3) made an app and learned what HTML 5 markup language was as he worked with me on the side and his mum making encouraging comments as he progressed. To say he was ‘off his seat’ with excitement when he saw his app on mum’s phone (she downloaded a QR code reader to get it) is an understatement.

Another young man’s Dad regaled me with stories of his son’s disengagement at school contrasting with his persistence, resilience and immersion in his favoured world of technology.  It’s not an unusual story and we all know children like this but seeing how he learned was interesting.  Essentially it was broadly like this

  • “listen to the expert”
  • “grab the basics”
  • “build and try out”
  • “go over bits as needed with expert again”
  • “build towards a result”
  • “publish”
  • “improve on published app”
  • “re-publish”

I’ve been lucky (no doubt about that) to teach in many different schools and environments over the years sometimes as a ‘regular’ teacher, sometimes as an ‘advisory’ teacher and more recently as the ‘Blippit Man’.

blippitio manThe ‘Blippit Man’ tag does generate extra attention and effort from children no doubt at all so my reflections are mindful of how children respond to people they view as ‘experts’ from the ‘real’ world.

This bit of shine from an external expert isn’t sustainable and so it makes what teachers and children achieve together, day in day out, all the more remarkable.

The National Museum of Computing is an awe inspiring place for anyone with the slightest interest in technology and they’re pretty rammed with school visits and tours but if you’ve not been yet, do yourself a favour and go!

Colossus
Colossus

Guest Post: Porchester Junior School

Guest Post from Simon Widdowson. Follow @Xannov
See all of Porchester’s Apps on Planet Blippit including from this year…

  • British Trees – A branching tree database app to identify trees by leaf type
  • Helpful Maths – A student-voice app containing student made videos to teach maths

At Porchester Junior we tried out Blippit in late 2012, and used it initially to create a new version of the school app (we had created an iOS version, and an Android version previously), but the Blippit approach had clear benefits;

  • Creation – designing the app is, quite literally, child’s play. Simple Drag & Drop elements make adding pages a breeze.
  • Editing – in our previous iOS / Android apps a change to one part of the app required a rebuild and (for iOS) a resubmission before those changes could go out to parents. With Blippit, we can change as frequently as we want, and those changes are instant, the moment we hit the ‘publish’ button the updated app is available for all to see.
  • Ownership – the school owns the app, the school can edit the app, the school can take the app offline if needed. We are not at the mercy of any design company or app store.
  • Universal appeal – Creating a single app with Blippit works on a range of mobile and tablet devices. It means with the least effort we can reach the maximum number of users.

Webpage for our new school app can be found here; School App information on School Website

QR Code for the Porchester app
QR Code for the Porchester app

Our ICT / Digital Learning coordinator has been testing Blippit to destruction, and seeing just what can be achieved with it. We’ve looked at including video (from Vimeo), audio (from AudioBoo), as well as embedding HTML5 image slideshows, and have now incorporated these aspects into our school app.

We’re also looking at how to link app to app – making a seamless transition between the two. This will be used on a large scale project with our upper school children – where we are looking at linking all of their created apps into a single ‘master app’. More on this after the Easter break…


Project One: Monarchs and their Royal Houses

One of our Upper School classes of Yr5/6 pupils are currently learning about databases in their ICT lessons, and are building a database of the Kings and Queens of Britain since 1066. Once they have completed this, if we have time, they will be asked to create their own app for the King(s) or Queen(s) they entered into the database. We will try and link them all together.

This project is now live. You can download the app to your phone/device here;

 PJS Monarchs
Link to our Monarchs app

To enable this project to be completed quickly, I made a few changes to the idea of how it would work;helpsheet

  1. I prepared several of the linking apps beforehand (the “front page”, as well as all the ‘Royal Houses” apps)
  2. I tried out a single Monarch app, and once I was happy with the look and feel of it, I created a 2 sided pamphlet for the children to work through with a simple guide to completing their app
  3. For some of the sections within their app they would be presenting the same information (the link to ‘credits’ for example), and so for this I provided them with an RTF file on the school network with the code in. They simply needed to copy and paste it into the right area of their app.
  4. Along with RTF of the code, I also placed all the images that would be needed in a specific folder. This meant that the pupils knew where to go to find the image for their app, and avoided the timeless void of searching the internet for an image they thought would look good!

Screenshot

By specifying a theme to use, the children’s apps blended seamlessly into the apps prepared beforehand, and when you use the finished app you actually do not realise that you are jumping between 52 separate apps. A useful tip for anyone wanting to create a large project with many members, all working at separate times, or in different locations.

The children worked really well on their task, and although I had a group of only 9 children working with me, they completed all 41 apps within a single morning at the school. They did feedback that the guide pamphlet was really helpful – especially the screengrabs within it. It allowed them to follow a set, logical pattern and once completed once, they got the hang of it and were soon racing through subsequent apps with ease. Several of the children commented how easy it was to complete an app as a result.

The only issues we encountered were with one child who struggled to switch between rich text and HTML view in some of the widgets when entering code, and a few times where our network timed out the connection to the Blippit server. Fortunately when this did happen, the child was able to recover most of the work they had done as it saved work automatically.


Project Two: CYO adventures

Following on from the idea of linking separate apps together, I’m working with a small group of children on the old fashioned ‘Choose your Own’ stories. Remember those books you read that had a choice at the end of each page… “you come to a fork in the road, turn to page XX if you choose the left path, or page XX if you choose the right path…”

We’re looking at children creating apps for each “page” of the story, submitting it, publishing it, and then using its unique reference code to revise their apps and link the choices you can make at the end to the next app.

For example…

  • App 001 Walk along a path, choose to go left (App 002) or go right (App 003)
  • App 002 Turn left and come to a bridge. Cross it (App 004) or go past it (App 005)
  • App 003 Turn right and come face to face with a wolf. Run away (App 006) or stand still (App 007)

The only problem we can see is that all the ‘pages’ (the apps) would be viewable in Planet Blippit, and so we’ve made a request to be able to “hide” apps from discovery by others.

More information as we start to piece this idea together…

Oh, and as before with the Monarchs project above, I’ll prepare a piece of text to place in the footer of each app that the children can just copy and paste, and suggest the same theme is used throughout to give the impression of a single app being viewed. In addition, we’ll have a default icon image that the children will be able to load into their app too.

Here’s a test idea for how it could work. You’ll notice that the front page has the potential to act as a library for many different CYOA tales that are created.

 CYOA_QR
CYOA QR Code

I’ve approved each app – and in doing so that has issued each one with a URL. The end of each URL has a unique ID, and they were noted and recorded for each chapter, allowing the student to return to each app and add the ‘Click here’ link that allows the story to work.

I selected three “guinea pigs” to work on their own CYOA tales to test out this idea. One of them went on holiday, and has been off school for the past fortnight. One of them keeps forgetting his planning sheet and hasn’t finished all his chapters! But my third guinea pig has been a star, and worked really hard on his story. He’s completed his plan, and end of chapter options, created an app for each one, added a credits page and a thumbnail image that points out that each app is part of something bigger, and published them all.

After a little bit of checking, correcting wrong ID’s, and looking for grammatical errors (capital letters always look good at the start of sentences!) each app was re-published and re-approved.

The final step was to create a link from the CYOA app index page so that all could read it. Why not give it a go – use the QR code above and then read ‘The Planet of Choice’. It’s a voyage into the weird and wonderful imagination of one of our pupils!

…and a final idea.

Why keep to creating a CYOA tale with text on each app when you can imagine a different approach?

  • Using an app like Hokusai for the iPad a range of sounds could be recorded and mixed together to create a realistic ambient background for each chapter. The audio itself could be placed on top of the background sound, and then the whole file uploaded to a service like AudioBoo where each ‘chapter’ could then be embedded into an app quickly and easily.
  • Using iMovie on an iPad, pupils could quickly and easily record short video clips (in different locations maybe) that could be uploaded to a site like Vimeo and then embedded into an app to create a visual CYOA story.

These are just a few ways that we have been trying out Blippit within the school, and there are plans in place to ensure that it is used in the new school year to enhance work carried out across a range of subjects. We hope that sharing our experiments has been useful to others.

Student Voice Videos in MfL from Ormiston Sudbury Academy

It’s very very difficult to beat authentic student voice and to be honest it’s even more difficult to describe the ‘W’ Factor that can come with it AKA the ‘wince’ factor.  Students don’t ‘dress it up’ or typically use political speak so try to imagine if you will how I watched these videos through one eye!

FrenchThe context is that they were taken by MfL expert/teacher Jen Turner @msmfl from Ormiston Sudbury Academy last week during an MfL lesson – not an ICT lesson.  Jen originally used the videos in her demo app shared at the Language World conference in Nottingham in a workshop p’unnily entitled “Making it Appen – making a language app with your students.” (See full session lists here – it’s impressive)

So, you can watch these with two eyes and two ears wide open I hope – they’re talking about us not you 😉

SB-apps from Jen Turner on Vimeo.

JH-apps from Jen Turner on Vimeo.

JH-demo-apps from Jen Turner on Vimeo.

TL-demo from Jen Turner on Vimeo.

CR-apps from Jen Turner on Vimeo.

[UPDATED Yr 8 added] Yr 9 Scheme of Work from The Fernwood School

[UPDATED 10th September 2014]

Just added today is a new PDF document from Alex Young at The Fernwood who’s sharing a big chunk of his Year 8 Computing resources now too via the link below. Look out for ‘!NEW! App making folder.pdf‘  in the DropBox when it opens up.

“Looking forward to another successful year of app making!”

More and more people are sharing their plans where Blippit’s App Maker is being used as part of computing.  If you have some that you’d like to share out like Alex from right here on the Blog let us know via Support@.

[Original Post Below Nov 12th 2012]

Alex Young is a relatively new Head of Dept at The Fernwood School in Nottingham who has been busy revolutionising the Computer Systems curriculum.

“We do a lot of programming based courses and other relevant topics.”

He recently started to bring together a 7 week scheme of work about apps for year 9 on Blippit and very kindly agreed to share it here with any interested schools. It certainly beats facing a blank page and while Alex will be trialling the scheme from mid-November 2012 he is adding more to it shortly.

>>Get the 2014 scheme here<<

The Fernwood

Blippit Launch!

It’s about time this blog got started but launching Blippit has been a bit of a handful and helping users has taken priority.  From now on the blog will be where you’ll get

  1. resources
  2. ideas
  3. future stuff
  4. a channel back to Blippit as well as the website & twitter

Here’s something you maybe didn’t know:

If you need another Admin for your school to help with the role just contact support_at_blippit.co.uk (_at_ with @) with the details of that person and we’ll sort it out for you 🙂

More soon!