Category Archives: Design

Your own app – WHY not?

5791320785_0af75e63e5_bShe is now 3 month old almost 4 month old, our little one. It’s a gift and I’m very thankful that I get to experience this journey. On the other hand I definitely miss my work at school and as much the professional input and exchange I always got from my colleagues, my PLN through Coetail, Twitter, etc. It’s time to get into it again at least online. Time will tell whether I can make it regularly but nothing wrong with giving it a try. Here I am again.

 

Photo Credit: César Poyatos via Compfight cc

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So proud of my students … Course 5 Final Project

For a while already I’m so proud of my Grade 4 students (and about myself) and finally I can tell you about it. The two Grade 4 German classes advanced level published their eBook about interesting facts about the brain.

iTunes

Screenshot from the iTunes Store

The classes created, collaborated and contributed and it’s my hope that this publishing experience was something where learning started and future learning will happen.

Who can’t wait, here is the Link to the ebook on iTunes: Interessantes über das Gehirn.

Achievements

Here a quick overview of what was happening in the classroom:

The students …

  • read nonfiction as learning about the brain
  • watched videos as learning about the brain
  • inquired into features of a nonfiction page
  • inquired into a chosen topic
  • applied the reading strategy “determine importance”
  • summarized nonfiction information
  • organized and created a nonfiction page with Book Creator
  • practiced and improved their German by using the language

=>  experienced the publishing process of a book
=> created a resource that will be available for download across the world

Here again the link to the iTunes Store: “Interessantes über das Gehirn“. The students will be more than happy to see that people are actually download the ebook and maybe even write a review. Thx.

Planning

The whole planning started in mid december with an empty “Understanding by Design” unit template which was very helpful in terms of thinking through the entire project. I had done the unit before therefore I knew the content and could focus more on redefining and recreating the unit. If you want to have a closer look on the planning, feel free to do this here:

Reflection

The whole project ended with a video which describes it and reflects on it.

YouTube Preview Image

The students, my colleagues who were involved and I indeed had great learning experiences – we were all risk takers and learners in order to go a step further in terms of teaching and learning. Many things like learning through a flipped classroom, creating and publishing an eBook as well as working with a limited amount of iPads or own iPads students brought to school happened for the first time.

My colleague and I were amazed by the high level of motivation of the students. The fact that they watched movies to acquirer knowledge about the brain; the fact that they could chose their own topic to inquire into; the fact that the eBook will be published to a real audience; the fact that they got the chance to work with an iPad motivated them immensely. The students were learning and improving the German language through using the same.

One challenge I didn’t expect: the parents. The majority agreed to publish it on iTunes and also to mention the whole or only the first name. One student in my class didn’t even want create a nonfiction page with the iPad. “And my parents don’t want this either.”, he said. He couldn’t explain why and the parents never approached me and until today I don’t know what the reasons are. The student create then the page on paper.
Another parent couldn’t understand why it has to be published on iTunes. Unfortunately it seemed to be difficult for them to articulate their concerns. I have an idea of their concerns and maybe I still will get a chance to talk to them.

Obviously I took it for granted that parents agree to authentic and meaningful learning, partly also because they chose a PYP school for their child. I see now the need to let parents now even more and in detail what our ideas of teaching and learning these days are. Creation yes, (internal) collaboration yes, but I wonder now how important is contribution to a real audience for the parents (and for teachers)?!

Thank you COETAIL for a wonderful and exciting learning experience!

What comes next? Well, luckily the Coetail experience won’t end here! I’m excited to read and watch about the other final projects as well as to follow other educators within Coetail and around the world. Contribution will be a bigger part of my online life and I hope that once in a while I’ll inspire other people like so many great teachers and educators inspire my life.

So let’s keep in contact through Twitter (@blaho_blaho), through Google+, and email (blahoblaho at gmail.com) or whatever will be invented. It became so easy! Btw. I was the only one at our school who did the Coetail Course so I wouldn’t mind a Google Hangout to celebrate a little bit. Who is in?

 

Great to visualize “Visual Literacy” in my mind!

It’s my 4th year as a language teacher at a PYP (Primary Years Programme) school now and I’m still learning. Sure, an online course “Making the PYP happen” 3 years ago got me into this curriculum but the real learning is happening in school and through constant (re-) discussion and reflection with colleagues.

During the preparation of the Parent Information Evenings amongst others we came across the “Strands of language” in PYP (Making the PYP happen, page 73). One of the strands is:

Visual communication: viewing and presenting
Viewing and presenting means interpreting or constructing visuals and multimedia in a variety of situations and for a range of purposes and audiences. They allow students to understand the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs. Visual images immediately engage viewers, allowing them instant access to data. Learning to interpret this data and to understand and use different media are invaluable skills. In the area of visual communication, students will learn to:

– understand, critically analyze and communicate information and ideas through a variety of visual media
– make informed choices in their personal viewing experiences
– use appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.

In addition as one of the transdisciplinary skills I found in the same document page 22 the following:

Communication Skills

– Viewing Interpreting and analyzing visuals and multimedia; understanding the ways in which images and language interact to convey ideas, values and beliefs; making informed choices about personal viewing experiences.

–  Presenting Constructing visuals and multimedia for a range of purposes and audiences; communicating information and ideas through a variety of visual media; using appropriate technology for effective presentation and representation.

I think I was kind of aware of it that there was something written in the curriculum. But on the other hand I have to admit it was not there consciously enough regarding planning, teaching and learning. The readings this week make me more aware of the importance Media Literacy. The students should have “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and produce communication in a variety of forms“, because I wish them to be a “thoughtful consumer and effective citizen” (Teaching Media Literacy Yo! Are you Hip to This?). Or even more like Jerry Christopherson said:

A visually literate person should be able to

– Interpret, understand and appreciate the meaning of visual messages;
– Communicate more effectively by applying the basic principles and concepts of visual design;
– Produce visual messages using computers and other technologies; and
– Use visual thinking to conceptualize solutions to problems.

What does it mean for me as a teacher?

The slideshow of Terri Sallee gave me great thoughts and inspiration for my own teaching. The Unit “Cultures” in Grade 5 was a good start for me to get more aware of the importance for the students for their inquiry within the classroom and even more important for their life as a learner.
In the German advanced class we decided to integrate through a German aspect: areas of the German culture. Later as a summative assessment the students will create interview questions, speak to people from other cultures and compare between the German and the different culture.  After a tuning in and brainstorm of areas of culture in general, amongst other topics the students chose to inquire more into gestures. Their question was What gestures exist in the German culture and what do they mean? My goal was to get them aware that there are same gestures but the meaning is different depending on the culture you are living in. Therefor we have to pay more attention using those gestures.

Photo Credit: ..Lobi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ..Lobi via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~dgies via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~dgies via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hmboo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hmboo via Compfight cc

 

Photo Credit: Timothy Takemoto via Google
cc

 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikipedia cc

Photo Credit: Jeremy Kemp via Wikipedia cc

 

 

 

 

To make sure that the students have a meaningful interaction with the pictures I wanted them to follow the visible thinking routine I see, I think, I wonder. It was important for me that first each student thinks by him- or herself and then shares with the elbow partner and the whole class. The students described what they see (I see), they read the picture (I think) and they questioned the picture (I wonder).

I could have done the gestures myself. By showing pictures I had the chance to get an idea of the prior knowledge of the students. During their talks with the partner I was able to observe the conversation.

The outcome of the whole class discussion was wonderful. It is the German advanced class, all students speak German fluently but there is a variety of culture and language backgrounds. They discovered and discussed the different meaning of the certain gestures with high interest because they could relate to their personal lives.

After a great discussions I gave them choices of non-fiction texts about other gestures. They could choose what they were interested in and practice the 5 key-words-reading strategy which was one of the language foci of the unit. Of course they also good a chance to share their understanding of the text later.

So far I concentrated on viewing visuals. Later towards the end of the unit, as soon as the students are going to prepare their presentation of the interview, my and their focus will change to producing and presenting visuals. It was not so easy for me to find really good and appropriate pictures which are free for use and share. My outcome – I definitely should contribute pictures I took more often.

Anyways … I’m excited to see how the students will visualize and message their understanding and I will try to support them as best as I can.

Small little changes of design

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication - L. Da Vinci

Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer via Flickr

In the article, Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design, Brandon Jones says,

“Good visual hierarchy isn’t about wild and crazy graphics or the newest photoshop filters, it’s about organizing information in a way that’s usable, accessible, and logical to the everyday site visitor.”

 

What actually does it mean – usable, accessible, and logical?!

Isn’t it related to the design of a web page as well as to the content? What is usable for who?! What additional information does the visitor want and how can I organize them? What does the reader wants to access on top of the blog post itself? How does the website make sense and is logical?

After reading the article mentioned above I got a little bit clearer in my mind. But at the same time I realized how complex this topic is.

Personally I always liked and preferred the minimalistic and simplified approach. Too many colors, to much advertisement, and too many information at the same time overwhelm me. Therefor from the beginning I chose a very plain and simple template for my own website. And still I wouldn’t change too much of the design which made me think more about the content.

Following what I thought about the past week and the small little changes I made:

The banner

Why did I choose the picture for the banner of the website?
Like teaching and learning, swing dancing is my passion although I go definitely not often enough. My first dancing partner drew this picture for me and it will always remind me to do things in life which I feel passion for. For me dancing means learning, moving, inspiration, being a risk taker as well as a communicator, and of course enjoyment and lightness. The picture doesn’t tell anything about the content of my blog though.

Well, I had two options: changing the picture or changing the title of the blog. It was/is a tough decision.

Decision for now: Let’s dance through life! Learning is like dancing.

The posts

The way each posts is shown on the website is not optimal yet. I like the idea very much to see each post with part of the picture of the post, the headline, and a teaser. That is a way easier way to scroll through the page and choose what you want to read. I haven’t found the right template yet but I’m working on it. Maybe somebody has an idea?

Information about me

Like I found on some other websites (f.e. https://cieradesign.com/blog/) I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself right on the first page. Being at the confrence #OERde13 this weekend in Berlin showed me again how nice it is when you can connect the great inspiration you get through faces. It becomes more real and personal. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a little bit. Of course that brings me to my “About me” page which could be improved as well.

Tag Cloud

By placing the tag widget at the top of the side menu, I felt it provides viewers the possibility to  scan the page and they might get an immediate idea of the blog’s content. I have never been really sure about the tags widget and honestly I neglected tags for my own blog post (or Evernote) as well. That will change because I see now the advantage of the tags.

Visitor Counting

Do I really need this? Does the reader really need this? Or is this just my ego which needs some confirmation? It’s nice to know that people read my blog but I came to the decision that I rather want people to comment on posts and to show that way their thoughts and interest. So I disabled it.

Design is still a matter of taste for me although there are certain rules and researches which describe the reading habits of visitors of a website. I try my best to focus on the content support by the design of this blog. Of course feedback is always highly appreciated. Thanks.