Thursday, 8 March 2018

Innovation in Education - what is it?

I am lucky enough to be chosen to do a short TED style talk at the upcoming IB Heads of Schools World Conference in Singapore. I am presenting on innovation and how IGBIS is implementing an Innovators Mindset.

Before I started writing (or talking) I wanted to get a good working definition of what is "Innovation in Education"

I started by re-reading George Couros' excellent book "The Innovators Mindset" reading it again has reminded me of some of the excellent ideas I have forgotten and some things I have missed the first time round.

I love George's definition that innovation is a mindset, a way of thinking and that innovation has to be better, it is not good enough to just have or do new things, these new things have to make education better.

To broaden my perspective I asked my PLN (Personal learning network) via twitter how do they define innovation, I got some excellent responses.

 I love that most of the replies I received included the concept that innovation in education is more than something new, it is more than the technology; it is creativity, change and taking into account the learners needs.

Next I asked the staff with a quick one question Google Form. I got 12 responses but reading through those responses, they were pretty good.

Once again the topics of creativity, change to benefit the learners, improvement and because we are an IB school "Risk Taking".

AT IGBIS we are lucky to have educators with this innovators mindset, it is not about all the cool toys, gadgets, computers, iPads, subscriptions and resources. It is about what we are doing with them.

Sure it is cool to have VR headsets, students can participate in virtual field trips using Google Expeditions or visit landmarks using Google Street view, but we don't want to fall into the trap of doing the same old things in new ways. That is why we are exploring student creation of AR and VR experiences, taking these cool new tools and toys to the next level.

We have students in kindergarten using Panoform to draw their own VR scenes, older students are using the same app smashed together with Quicktime to create 360 movies of scenes they have drawn.

We have students creating AR experiences using Metaverse for other students to revise mathematics or to provide younger students a fun interactive way to check their comprehension.

We are also using so that students can create virtual school tours or virtual art galleries where students work, reflections and and creation videos are shared in a 360 environment.

The best thing is that because of our innovators mindset, this is only the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) we will have lots of new and improved learning opportunities for our students constatntly being trialled and developed.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Round ME - create your own VR Tours

Google has just launched its Expeditions creator BETA program that allows students and teachers to create their own Google Expeditions.

According to Google
"One of the top requests we’ve heard from teachers and students is the ability to create their own Expeditions. Today, we are excited to announce a beta program that allows schools and educators to do just that. Classrooms will be able to create immersive tours of the world around them -- their classrooms, their schools, their communities."

I have signed up for the BETA program, I can't wait and I hope we get to test it out. Until then though we will continue creating our own Google Expeditions via the website

Make your own Google Expeditions or even better get your students creating VR tours

roundme is really cool and very easy to use, it has heaps of possibilities for moving students from consumption to creation (one of my favourite things to do and right at the top of Blooms revised Taxonomy)

Creation of VR tours is a very simple process

Anyone can upload 360 degree images by dragging and dropping the image on to the browser window, with the free version of roundme, you can upload up to 15 images a week (which is plenty)

To get 360 degree images / photospheres you can use a 360 camera, the Streeview app on a phone or download Streetview images from the website istreetview.comSee here for detailed instructions. 

Sometimes when you download Google Streetview images the image is too large, Roundme has a photo limit of 10000 X 5000 pixels. To change the size of the image on my Mac I used ColorSync Utility which allows you to set the pixel size of an image to the exact proportions you want while keeping the scale the same. I am sure there are equivalent programs on Windows or Chrome.

Once the photospheres are uploaded you can then add content to the 360 photos including Youtube videos, images, text and links to other 360 images thus creating a tour.

Press a button to publish it and share the link.

There you have it, the teacher or even better the students created Google Expedition / VR tour.

Here is an example of the roundme that one of our grade 5 teachers created so his class could check out their camp location before they went on camp.

How can I use this in my class?

We have been exploring using student created VR tours in the following ways.

  • Art students create a virtual art gallery of their creations, this could include videos, images and a reflection on each piece.
  • Science students can create virtual tours of inside the human body, explaining different parts and their jobs.
  • PE students use a 360 image of a Soccer field and then annotate it to explain who is in position and what each player should do next.
  • Social Studies students create virtual tours of modern buildings, ancient ruins or geographical features with their own embedded explanations including videos.
  • Host Nation students explain the cultural significance of buildings and areas around Kuala Lumpur.
  • English students retell a story or trace a journey using different 360 images to create a tour of literary novels they have been reading. 
  • Elementary students can retell a fairy tale or make a 3D tour version of their own stories
  • Maths students create a virtual problem wall, a 360 image filled with problems, they then add hotspots with links to the solutions (videos, written or images).
  • Design students have been creating VR and AR resources for teachers in the school, they had to pick a teachers and ask them what type of resource they wanted and then create it for them.
  • English students can create VR versions of their stories, with each location being a different 360 image 

We have only just started this process and I feel like we have only scraped the top of the iceberg, so to speak. Maybe next I will make a VR tour of all the different VR experiences our students have created.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The really easy way to make your own 360 videos

If you (or even better your students) want to create their own 360 degree videos with nothing more than a computer check this out.

Some of our students are using this to
- create virtual tours of important buildings in Malaysia
- display their poetry in a 360 world - students choose the location and read the poetry
- explain the different things they see in an ecosystem or different parts of a structure
- reflect on an excursion or field trip
- share their understanding of a geographical feature
- create a "where am I puzzle" for their classmates (great for ESOL learners)

The really easy cheats way to make your own 360 videos with nothing more than a computer

1. download a Google Streetview photosphere (360 image)

The first thing you want to do is find and download a 360 degree image, To do this we used Street View Panorama downloader. (Software here) This nifty little program allows you to download Google Streetview panoramas.

Searching on streetview downloader isn't great (nor very accurate), so I find it better to find the location on Google Maps and then load the panorama into the downloader.

To download the panorama you copy the Panorama ID into the downloader program, select the download location and name and hitting the download button.
make sure you label the panorama as from Google Street View and give the correct image credit.

2. Import the image into iMovie.

(or any other movie editing software)
Once the panorama is in iMovie make sure you change the cropping to fit, so that it doesn't cut off any of the 360 image.

You can then add titles and a voice over, you can even have multiple panoramas so that it acts more like a tour.

Adding the voice over is the big win for us, we want students describing features in the panorama or explaining what is happening while someone watches the 360 video. Students can also create virtual tours with themselves as the guides.

We then export the movie, making sure to keep the aspect ratio in tact, so that when youtube detects it as a 360 video everything is there.

3. Add 360 video metadata to your video

To ensure your video is turned into a 360 video on youtube, I find it is best to follow these instructions to add the 360 metadata (video information) to your video.

You download a small piece of software (spacial media metadata injector) which adds the information to your video
It is a simple as opening the video and pressing the inject metadata button. (it is also very quick)

Once you have the video with the injected metadata, you can .....

4 Upload it to Youtube

Once you upload the video, youtube should detect it as a 360 video. It can now be viewed like any other 360 video on a computer, tablet or with Google cardboard.

This is also a handy way to add music and titles to student created 360 videos. It would also be cool to use green screen and have a avatar (you could use gabsee or snapchat) talking as people scroll around the 360 video.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Merge Cube - AR in your hand

Late last year, I was reading someones Christmas wish list and it included a Merge Cube. This was from a thread about AR on twitter. My interest piqued, I did a quick search for Merge Cube. It was brand new, Augmented Reality and looked like a lot of fun.

Quickly searching all the online retailers in Malaysia and I couldn't find any, a quick check of Amazon found a seller that was willing to ship to KL (it was about 3 times the price you can get them in the US). I figured it was still worth having a look at. To my extreme pleasure the Merge cube arrived in less than a week.

The Merge Cube is a foam cube about 7cm by 7cm it acts like an AR projector screen. Using any of the Merge Cube apps, you can project a 3D image on to the cube, as you move the cube the image moves.

The kids and I got straight into it, we started downloading some apps and started playing. Some of the apps were not available on the Australian or Malaysian App store, but we still managed to find a few.

One of the first apps we played with was Anatomy AR+

It was pretty cool to be able to hold a beating heart in your hands or to turn a skull around to see it from every angle. The cube is very responsive and tracks the image very quickly.

We then downloaded Things for Merge Cube this is basically a set of 16 demos and game, you select the demo by turn the cube and selecting the game you want to play. My son loves the fireworks demo and my daughter loves being able to see the moving people and cars in the city
We downloaded a few other apps Mr Body and Defused, but the above two are my kids favourite.

My son who is in early years (3 and 4 year olds) wanted to take the Merge Cube to class to show his teacher because they were learning about bones. Once we showed the teacher she got excited and asked me to bring it back so the whole class could experience holding a skull when their grade 6 buddies came to visit.

We used an iPad air in a stand so that the kids didn't need to hold the iPad and the cube, sometimes they found it a bit tricky to see the image and hold the cube, but they got there in the end.

The kids had a blast, holding different body parts, turning them around and experiencing first hand what a heart, brain and skull look like. The next best thing to actually holding these things (not that any of us want to hold an actual beating heart)

It was just good timing that the Early Years class were learning about the human body when the Merge cube arrived.

My next challenge is to try and find a way to get reasonably priced cubes here in Malaysia and explore other apps that could be used in other classes and subject. It would also be very cool to use a Merge cube in a and maybe even get a merge cube VR headset.

Sidenote - I just started playing with defused and it is excellent, great problem solving - this is one app I want to use in class.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Emoji Stories

My kids love their Rory's Story Cubes, there is even an app (I haven't purchased it yet as I prefer them rolling real dice and telling stories to each other in real life). Story Cubes are fun, creative and improve literacy. Story tellers roll a set number (usually 6) of dice and then you attempt to tell a story using all the images on the dice.

The cubes are not cheap, but they are lots of fun and are a great classroom activity. I have seen teachers make their own paper story starters using random images and distribute these to their class.

This got me thinking, could this be automated using Google Docs, Sheets and some add ons?

I started playing and created my own Emoji story workflow. Users (students) fill in a form with their email address and they are sent a Google doc with six emojis they use to write a story.

For the story writer it is as simple as that, enter your email address and get a set of emojis.

Because it is a Google Doc, the writer can either type directly into the Doc or use the voice typing option to dictate their story. As the teacher I am the original owner of the doc so I can see what my students are writing.

Try it here

How I created this awesomeness

The basic workflow is Google Form to Google Sheet, then copy down a formula to randomly select an emoji from another sheet. These emojis are then inserted into a Google Doc using Autocrat and the Google Doc is shared and emailed to the email address entered in the form.

1. Google Form

I created a Google Form with two questions

  • Do you want an emoji story?
  • Email address

(I probably don't need the first question at all)

That is the easy part

2. Template

I then created my Google Doc template, this template composed of a simple title with a six column table, in each column I put the merge tag

3. Emoji list

In my Google form responses sheet I created a new sheet called emojis, this is where my library of emojis is stored. Basically it is six columns of emoji, these are the emojis (images) that are randomly selected for each box in my Google Doc. One Emoji is selected from each column.

To find and insert the Emoji into a Google Sheet I created another Google Doc and used the Insert Special characters tool
Then searched for Emoji that I wanted to be available for the Emoji Stories
I could then copy and paste from the Google Doc into each column of the Google Sheet. Here you can add different Emoji and set it up the way you like. You might want to have 2 columns of characters and two columns of objects, or just use three emoji picked at random or one column of 100 emoji picked six times. 

In my version there are 16 emoji in six different columns, that gives a possible 16777216 different story combinations.

4. Random selection of emoji

In my Google sheet, I added 6 extra columns numberd 1-6 (these match the Merge tags in the template doc)

In each cell I used the following formula to randomly select an emoji from the emoji sheet. 

=index(Emojis!$A$2:$A$17, randbetween(1,counta(Emojis!$A$2:$A$17) ) )

index returns the contents of the cell selected from the range A2-A17 on the emoji sheet. 
randbetween randomly select a number for the second part of the index formula.
counta counts the number of cells from cell A2 to A17 (I could have just put the number 16 in here)

As you add the formula to each column, make sure you change the reference (where the formula will be searching) to reflect each column in the emoji sheet. i.e. change is from A - B - C

5 Copy Down

Once you have created your formulas, you need to set up the copy down add on. This add on copies the formulas to the next row once a new Google Form response has been added. This is important because Google Forms doesn't add the data to the next row, it inserts a new row with the data. Copying the formula all the way down your sheet will not work. (You could use an array formula on another sheet to do this, but copy down works well)

Copy down is pretty easy to set up and there are plenty of tutorials and help online.

6 Autocrat

Autocrat is a Google sheet add on that allows you to run merge jobs on a Google sheet that does a variety of tasks.

I use it to create a Google Doc from the Merge doc and then share the doc with the email address shared. It also sends an email saying that you now have an Emoji story ready to write.

That is about it, pretty simplish and it can be used as it or make your own from all the resources here.

If you create your own you get to set it up the way you like and you become the owner of the Google Docs that are created, that way you can easily view and give feedback on the stories they create.

A few classes here at IGBIS have been using it and the kids love it, as long as they put in their correct email address.

Have fun and play and please share any thoughts or your own version of Emoji Stories. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Turning students green

Green screen is not anything new, it has been around since the 1930's. Green screen technology has also been available to a mainstream audience for a while now, pretty much since iPhones and iPads came on to the market. there are a myriad of apps and techniques for creating your own Green Screen Movie effects.

You can use iPad apps like Green Screen by DoInk (paid app) and TouchCast studio (free app, but you need an account and internet connection, it is also a little bit more complicated for students)
There is also movie making software like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker that you can use for Green Screen effects.

There are thousands of teachers and students using green screen techniques all around the world every day. It is pretty easy and has lots of opportunities for innovative classroom use.

You will probably want a screen!

You don't need an expensive / professional green screen or green room (we have some green walls at school that work very well as a green screen)

Three cheap / easy options for a green (or blue) screen are 

Some green material / sheet and a couple of bulldog clips
A data projector showing a full size green slide
A minature green screen made with some cardboard

How to do Green Screen

Here are  instructions for some of the popular Green Screen Apps

Green Screen by DoInk

Touch Cast Studio

Green Screen using iMovie

Green Screen using Window Movie Maker

Last week I did a quick Teach Meet session on innovative ways to use Green Screen in your classroom. For me Innovation in education as not just doing new or different things, but doing new things that add value to the learning experience. 

Being Different

Some of the innovative ways we have been exploring with green screen in our classes (beyond the usual news reports and cool photos) include

Putting green material or a green plate on the floor to make a portal to another world or a massive volcano in the middle of the classroom.

Having students wear green clothes or wrapping green material around themselves to disappear, be a floating head or adding their face to an animal body. You can also do some pretty cool ghost pranks with this effect.

You can download green screen videos from youtube that have action scenes with a green background. Then use these to add dinosaurs to a playground or a shark swimming around a classroom. Wonderful for provocations, story starters or for student created movies

Students can also use apps like Explain Everything, Tellagami or even Keynote to create animations with a green background, which they can then add to a Green Screen Video. That way they can interact with cartoon objects just like in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"

Anything can be a green screen so one of my favourite green screen projects has been using green shirts or aprons on early years students and projecting the human body or skeleton on to them. It looks like they are seeing inside their bodies. They can then use another app or seesaw to annotate the images of their insides

If you are lucky enough to have a drone and a green field / oval you can create some cool effects, you could have your class standing on an ice berg or standing in the middle of the dessert.

(I haven't done this one yet, but hopefully a video coming soon)

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Amazing race revisited part 2 - make your own

This is a continuation (how to post) following on from this post

As I stated earlier I began with this Google Slide Presentation

All of the resources can be found here

The main features of the Amazing race are

  • Email sent to the participants with a link to -
  • Google MyMaps to show tasks and locations
  • A form is filled out to complete the task
  • Another email is sent out with the next location / task
  • Add ons are used to automate the process
For all of this to happen

I created

  • 6 Google MyMaps (contain locations and task instructions)
  • 7 Google Forms (used for the teams to submit their evidence or answer questions)
  • 7 Google sheets (used to track results and send emails)
  • 1 starting slide show

Collecting the team information

To collect team information I used this Google Form (1 form per team)

That way I get to collect all the email addresses and team names.

I could then go to each Google Form (6 of them) and add the teams names as a drop down menu or I could automate this using Form Ranger.

I prefer to automate this so I use the Form Ranger add on, Form Ranger allows you populate questions on a Google Form from a column (range) on a Google Sheet.

I used the column 'Team name' from the sign up sheet as the data source for the team name drop down question on each of the 6 Google sheets.

You can set up Form Ranger to refresh the questions on form submit or every hour, the problem is that I want the form to be refreshed as soon as the Amazing Race starts. To do this I need to go into each form and just start the Form Ranger Add on and the questions are populated (you occasionally may have to use the refresh button).

I have a copy of each question form open in a tab and then just go from tab to tab and start the Form Ranger Add on. This might seem like a hassle but it is much easier than updating the question as a drop down myself. I do this as soon as the race starts when the teams are sharing their chants.

Once you have done this (and started the race), everything else runs itself.

The Start

To send the emails (and start the race), I use the Form Mule Sheets add on. Form Mule allows you to send personalised emails either in bulk or when a form is submitted (automagically). For the first form (sign up) I want to send the email all at once (when the race starts) for all the other sheet I want the emails to be sent as soon as the form with the task evidence is submitted.

Once I preview and send to all, each team gets their first email with a link to their first MyMap.

The MyMaps

Google MyMaps look cool (like an Amazing Race route) and are pretty easy to make. I added different icons in different colours and lines to show the route. The tasks are markers in the Map You can add Youtube videos, images, links to Google Docs, Forms or drawings, in fact you can add links to pretty much anything you want the participants to do.

Once you have made your first Map, you can easily copy the map and then add the extra marker and a route line from one task to the next, that way you slowly build up your map and end up with something looking like this  

This quick video shows you how create your own series of MyMaps for your own Amazing Race

The Tasks

The tasks can be anything really, depending on your subject area. In this Amazing Race I made each task a skill or tip on how to make your own Amazing Race. Each task needed evidence (a link to a Google drive resource, uploaded file ) or correct answers to questions before the team could proceed.

The tasks included

  • How to take a screenshot and then upload it to Google Drive, including finding the link, giving correct permissions and adding the link to a Google Form
  • Creating a Google MyMap 
  • Answering questions in a Google Form. The form can not be submitted until they get the correct answer (using Response Validation - text contains)
  • Giving some ideas of how they could use an Amazing Race in their subject, they could not submit the form until they completed the required number of characters. (response validation - Length minimum character count)
  • Finding a blog post on how to make an Amazing Race. The form could not be submitted until the team correctly posting the URL (Response Validation - text contains)
  • Creating a flow chart in Google Drawings and uploading (using the file upload function in Google Forms) 
Each MyMap task had a link to a Google Form (often extra instructions and videos are added to the form) where the participants had to complete or add their evidence.

Forms and Sheets

Once the Form was submitted with the evidence, it was sent to the Google Sheet. I (once again) used Form Mule to send out the next task (link to the MyMap) in another email. This time I used the Form Trigger - Send on Form Submit
That way as soon as team completed the task, they were sent the next task.

This continued until they had completed all the tasks and were sent the last Email / Congratulations video.


In the past I have had a team of scorers who keep an eye on the google sheets when the answers come in and give each teams points depending on the quality of their answer. This is a great way to do it if you have the person power available. Usually I have another Google Sheet linked to the spreadsheet that has a running total / grid of each teams score. Students are great as scorers and it is always fun to give the students some power over the teachers.

I didn't have the helpers so I wanted to make the scoring automatic and simple, I just wanted a visual representation of where each team was on their journey.

That way we could make it a bit more competitive and get some energy flowing. This ended up being harder that I thought.

I started by adding some extra sheets (tabs) to the sign up sheet  one for score total and one for each task. I then used the Import Range Function to import the responses from all the sheets into this one sheet.

I then needed some way to determine / record if a particular team name appeared in a sheet. i.e. I want a cell (next to their name) in the scores sheet to show a number 1 if the team name Kool Kids appears anywhere in the sheet "KL". Their name will only appear if the team has completed the task.

I tried a few things, but finally Jay Atwood came to my rescue the day before I was due to present. 
I used the Countif formula
 Here the formula is counting the number of times the term in cell A2 "Kool Kids" appears in column C in the sheet KL. That way if the term "Kool Kids" appears in the sheet a number appears in cell C2. I then used conditional formatting to change the colour of any cell that has a value greater than 1
That way I get a nice blue visualisation of where each team is at during the race.

To insert the sheet into your Google Slide it is as easy as copying the cells you want to be seen and then pasting them on the slide. You will be provided with an option to link to the spreadsheet.

If only Google slides had the ability to auto refresh an embedded spreadsheet, that would be great. At the moment I need to manually press the refresh button. It works and it will have to do for now.

I would love to hear about other Google Amazing Race's people have created.