WeChat – Essential back channel communication and free!

You may or may not have heard of the app WeChat, but if you have not it is something Add me!that you need to try out. You have Viber and WhatsApp and Messenger and iMessage and… but WeChat just seems to be that bit more. Plus, as the servers are hosted in China, you are able to access it without the need of a VPN. It is available on iTunes and Play Store and you can get desktop versions for Mac and PC.

So what other than the lack of VPN makes it good?

1. Simple and free messaging service, but it is not just text, you can also audio messages.

2. Video and Audio calls. I Video called my daughter in San Paulo Brazil from Nanjing China last week and the quality of visual and audio feed was spectacular.

3. The use of QR Codes to share contact details. If you scan my QR code and it sends me a friend request. Scan the image beside this text and I will send you a message back.

4. You are able to use it like a mircro-blog. This is the social media choice for my youngest daughter and shares her ‘moments’ with her friends on her own page.

5. It is request only. You can choose who you choose who you are in contact with and the level of what you share. You can also connect with people through groups and not be required to be a friend with them. You can also easily delete and block other users and share the way that people can find you – great security settings.

6. You can have a group conversation and you have a pretty limitless supply of group chats. I am in a Cricket and a Touch Rugby group and a China Tech Teachers group and it keeps everyone up to date with the information. If you get sick of being contacted every time a message is sent you can mute notifications, but if you have a question everyone in the group sees it and you get a reply pretty quick.

I am trialling a WeChat Group with my Under 12 Touch Rugby team. On the bottom of the latest parent letter  I copied a QR code for a group that I had just created. Parents just pull out their phone and scan the code when they get the code and they are added instantly to the parent information group – so far in 24 hours I have half the parents joined.


24 hour Skypathon #pvSkype24

Today we were lucky to be part of the 24 hour Skypathon (#pvskype24), which is theFynn talking across the world masterpiece of Beverly Ladd (@BevLadd).

We sat with baited breath waiting for the call at our set time and spent the next 40 minutes sharing and questioning each other. The time difference was exactly 12 hours behind and it was magical to connect Nanjing China with Wilmington North Carolina.

We began with answering the host classes generated questions, which raised a lot of post Skype discussion. Then we moved onto on the spot student generated questions and the connections and comparisons grew. They sang to us and we taught them Chinese finger counting. Next my class were greeted by a Chinese American girl and the Chinese Finger Counting lesson - Number 8language switched to Chinese for a few minutes.

There were connections, new learning was made and thoughts and comparisons were pondered long into the day. I look forward to hearing the students comments on Monday morning once they have had the weekend to think them over. It was a great example of global learning and I take my hat off to Beverly Ladd for arranging and to the students of Pine Valley Elementary School for opening their classroom to the world for 24 hours!

Check out the hashtag on twitter to see the amazing connections.

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Makey Makey

Today I received my first Makey Makey and I am excited about the possibilities and seeing what my class will be able to do with it.

Created by Eric Rosenbaum & Jay Silver at the MIT Media Lab.

If you have no idea about what a Makey Makey is then follow the link to the official website, but in short you connect it through your USB port and then using Alligator Clips and the Makey Makey board you have an external Key Board. The innovative and awesomeness begins when you choose what you will use to make the key board connections. Look at the website, watch the video below and give it a go. Better yet, get a couple for your class and see what your students can do :) As soon as my class have a play I will share with you all what they have done ;)

This is a great link to get you started guide with your Makey Makey at Spark Fun.


Your own Font

This  was shared to me by a colleague yesterday, it’s bit of fun and if you’re a bit geeky it might appeal to you.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 9.53.07 am

Go to the website, download the PDF template, add your own handwriting, scan, upload, download the .ttf or .otf file (font file) and install. Done! You have a font of your own handwriting!

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Screen Recording an iOS device

I have had a few questions about how to screen record of an iPad. With the new OS X Yosemite upgrade it is really simple.

1. First screen share your iPad or iPhone with either Airplay, Reflector or Apple TV.

2. Open QuickTime and select New Screen Recording.

To begin

3. You can either select the whole screen or highlight a part of the screen.

4. Start record.

Select Device Size

5. When completed click close QuickTime and it will allow you to save your screen record to the desktop.

How to SaveDone

6. You can now import to iMovie, edit the clip and add audio and titles.

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Students Creating their Homework

In our second Smack Down the brief was ‘share an App or Program or Website that assists you with your home learning’. One of 6 x 7the websites that was shared was a French website called Apprendre Memoriser that that was made up of  short clips of cartoons or animations that told a story of each time table with the goal of helping children remember difficult times tables. While most students thought it was just a funny cartoon, I could see real connections with helping dyslexic students learn their timetables.

One of the kids said “Can we make some?”

“We just don’t have the time this week”

“It could be our homework”, said another.

So I replied, “Sure, but it is an optional homework task and you can choose how you want to present your stories”.

So far we have had two movies, a poster, a story and a picture book all telling the tale of a times table. It has been great to see the class challenge themselves to make improve animations, apply their creativity and to drive their own home learning.

The story below is…

Two cars were traveling too fast and lost control. The first car hit the 3 squashing it into a 2 and the second car hit the 7 causing it to break off and form a 1, thus 3X7 is 21.


Students as the experts – Buddy Tech Support

A Year 1 teacher came to me with a problem yesterday. As it is book week, her class Where-Is-the-Green-Sheep-imagewere using ‘Where is the Green Sheep’ as motivation and writing their own version by taking photos of their sheep around the school with the iPads. They were then using Pages to collate their images and add the captions. They could have used Comic Life or Creative Book Builder or a range of other programs, but the problem would have still been the same – 5 year olds sometimes find it hard to format a page, use a text box and make sure that their creations are all in the appropriate places.

IMG_7333The solution was one that I had not tried before and it was very successful – instead of buddy reading we were going to have Buddy Tech Support.

I gave my students an outline of the Year 1’s learning task and paired them up then off they went. Each 5 year old had a 1:1 expert on their shoulder guiding them through the process.

As some began to finish they began tutorials in Puppet Pals or challenged them  to Maths and Literacy games. Their was connection between students, transference of knowledge and a very calm and caring buzz going around the class.

It won’t be a weekly thing as that would take away the power of the experience and make it routine. The next time a class is having a problem with an application the first thing I will not be doing is not working it through with the classroom teacher, but seeing if my class are able to help solve the problem.