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Virtual toolkit: Jane Shields surveys digital resources for teachers and their classrooms.


Cost: free

A lot can happen in twenty-four hours--many new experiences, lessons learned and memories made. The Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF) has encapsulated this idea beautifully through its app MY:24, which allows users to create micro-documentaries and share stories by employing basic filmmaking codes and conventions. The app can easily complement a number of curriculum study areas including, but certainly not limited to, English, Humanities and The Arts. I was even happily surprised to see a downloadable study guide on the ACTF's website outlining strategies to support the use of MY:24 in the Health and Physical Education curriculum area. The app is inspired by the ACTF's factual-entertainment ABC3 series, also titled MY:24, a collection of stories from young people who have experienced one day that changed their lives forever. Like the series, the MY:24 app encourages self-reflection and storytelling by putting the user in the role of director, writer, cinematographer, interviewer and star as they tell the story of their own twenty-four eventful hours.

The app is divided into six sections that are very intuitive, making it easy for even younger users to use. The sections guide the user in building their micro-documentary in layers' before the app transforms the content into a three-minute production that can then be shared online, or saved and transferred off the iOS device. Section 1, ABOUT YOU, requires the user to provide basic information like their name, age and location, which then forms the documentary's introduction. In the second section, LIFE BEFORE MY:24, the app asks the user to upload eight or more photos that shows them growing up, which establishes their life before the influential twenty-four hours occurred. The user can also record a voiceover to complement the photos. Section 3, MY:24, is the core of the documentary--the all-important life-changing twenty-four hours. Here, the user can record another video explaining, or maybe even showing through re-enactment, the important day.

The next section, WHAT OTHERS NOTICED, embeds an interview within the production. This interview is meant to be with someone close to the creator, who can help reflect on the day and offer an alternative perspective on the twenty-four hours' influence on the user's life. Section 5, MY LIFE AFTER MY:24, turns the camera back around towards the creator and asks them to record a video discussing their experience and how they have changed. The self-reflective nature of this process is extremely valuable, as it encourages users to explore their identity and how important the documented experience has been. In a classroom environment, it could be a great way to get every student to acknowledge that they have a story, that their life matters and that their experiences are unique. The final section, THE PEOPLE WHO HELPED, creates personalised thank-you credits. The user provides the names of people who inspired or directly assisted them before, during and after the twenty-four hours in question by answering questions like 'Who made the biggest difference to your life?', 'Who is your mentor?' and 'Who challenged you?'

Although the sections prompt the inclusion of quite specific content, what's great about this app's template is that it can so easily be adapted to make a number of different documentaries. For instance, the photos uploaded in the LIFE BEFORE MY:24 section can be used to tell the story of someone else (such as a historical figure): these images could be sourced online and aligned with significant historical events. Alternatively, if there is a special event coming up in the students' lives, they could design a documentary in preparation for that event and use the app to record it as it occurs, feeding actuality footage into the MY:24 section rather than a re-enactment. Another great factor is that the process only requires one Apple iOS device, with the microphone used for narration and voiceovers, and the camera for interviews, already built in.


In addition to the Health and Physical Education study guide, you will find associated teaching resources on the ACTF website, including a 'how-to' guide and study guides for English and Humanities. With the app linked to episodes of MY:24, you already have access to microdocumentary examples that students can refer to before they venture out and create their own productions. With finished productions able to be shared online, you even have an opportunity to hold lessons about cybersafety and online reputation, sparking discussions prior to production about what kinds of information and content are appropriate to upload online.


A$3.00 (Android)

If you're trying to get kids excited about reading, you need to try this tablet app. Book Creator lets users create their very own interactive books with text, image, video and audio features. Beginners employing just the basic functions will still be able to create an impressive product, and as you become more familiar and confident with the app you can start recording voiceovers, adding music, embedding videos and hyperlinks, annotating, and sharing your creation via cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive.

This award-winning app is marketed as the number one book app for the iPad in eighty countries, and it's not difficult to understand why. Suitable for learners of all ages, Book Creator has an extremely easy-to-use interface with a variety of functions, but not so many that users are distracted by adding 'glitz and glamour' to their creation rather than focusing on the actual content. Book Creator has many cross-curricular applications and can be used not just by students but also by teachers--with it, you can produce simple picture books through to more complex subject-specific textbooks in which you can include, say, glossaries at the touch of a button, hyperlinks to external references, and much more. For more creative users, the app enables personalisation through a range of fonts (over fifty in total), colour choices, three book formats (portrait, landscape or square), the use of the tablet's in-built camera, the insertion of interactive pictures, and a pen tool for annotating or drawing.

Whether teacher- or student-created, the finished book can easily be shared or, as long as all copyright regulations have been adhered to, published to the iBooks store. If students are creating their own books for assessment, submission of the task could be completed in a number of ways including emailing, saving the book as a movie file and uploading it to the web, transferring it to iTunes, exporting as a PDF, or printing (such as through Apple's AirPrint). The app is even compatible with free programs such as Readium, an ePub reader for Google's Chrome browser, meaning the books aren't restricted to tablets and can be viewed and interacted with on desktop computers.

The other great thing about Book Creator is that it can be used collaboratively. The app's COMBINE BOOKS feature allows pages and even entire books to be merged, so in a classroom or homework context this means a number of students can work on the same book using separate devices--students could share the workload of creating a book by being assigned particular pages, and then combining their work. There is no limit to how many pages each book can have, and projects can be saved as you work.


All of these functions and more are clearly outlined in the app's 'Getting Started' manual, and with the addition of an online support forum there is plenty of assistance if users are unsure of how to achieve something in the app. You can even try out the free version of the app, Book Creator Free, first to get the hang of it before introducing it to students. The free app only accommodates the creation of one book, whereas the paid version doesn't have this restriction.



Cost: free

When you take a classroom of students and add Lego, an iOS device, stop-motion animation, music and special effects, you end up with some extremely fun lessons and very eager, engaged and satisfied students. Lego remains a clear leader in the toy department, so it comes as no surprise that the LEGO[R] Movie Maker app is a dynamic world of fun and creative learning. The app is simple to use and can be used to teach the basics of stop-motion animation to beginners, while also being sophisticated enough to allow more experienced creators to make intricate animations.

The premise of the app is to prepare sets and scenes using Lego (both building blocks and figurines), then create a seamless stopmotion animation using the iOS device's in-built camera, but there's no reason students can't create productions using any toys or figurines. Once the individual frames have been captured, students can add music, titling and special effects. But, in my opinion, the best features of this app are the GRID and ONION SKIN tools. These two features ensure optimal production quality as they guide you to frame each shot effectively and consistently, with ONION SKIN showing a faded version of the previous shot behind your current shot so you can precisely line them up. It's this attention to detail that makes the most seamless stop-motion animations. No additional equipment or apps are required to polish and finalise your work--though I do recommend using some sort of tripod to stabilise your device while photographing--and your high-definition animations can easily be saved to your device or uploaded straight to YouTube.

In the classroom, an app such as this is an engaging tool for teaching basic movie-making skills and conventions; as these productions are made without dialogue, they challenge students to be both imaginative and focused, relying heavily on visual storytelling and sequencing. Alternatively, the app can be a fun way to learn the fundamentals in other subject areas--students could re-create scenes from novels or significant moments in history, or demonstrate principles in Science or Maths, for example and can be used in other practical ways, such creating announcements related to social issues or school life. A quick Google search led me to a range of websites offering lesson plans and activities that incorporate the LEGO[R] Movie Maker app. A variety of brilliant examples are also available on the movie gallery on the Lego website, and if you happen to struggle to understand the app's features, you will find a very clear set of instructions within the app.


Cost: free

Portals like Scootle are a teacher's best friend. Whether you're a new or an experienced teacher, or somewhere in between, you should definitely be a part of online education communities like Scootle, as they offer valuable conversations, connections, inspiration and resources. What makes Scootle so practical for Australian teachers is its direct alignment to the Australian Curriculum, with digital resources available in a highly organised and practical fashion--there is a resource to support each content descriptor within each year level for the published Australian Curriculum. This currently includes the study areas of English, Maths, Science, and history and geography (covering Humanities and Social Sciences).


Scootle contains more than 22,000 teaching resources, which already makes the portal such a helpful tool, but it doesn't stop there. There are opportunities for teachers in all states and territories to set up a profile, join discussion groups, blog, ask guestions, share expertise, connect with subject-specific networks, find professional-development opportunities, access free resource trials, develop formative-assessment quizzes, and set up an engaging flipped classroom' by creating and sharing personalised learning paths. Scootle is now available to all Catholic, independent and government schools, and registration is very simple.

Scootle offers far too much to summarise in a short review, so it's best to check it out for yourself--but I am confident that you will find something relevant to your specific needs within minutes, possibly even seconds. The range of digital resources is impressive, including interactive multimedia resources, assessment resources, examples, open-ended templates, entire units of work, and audio, photo and video resources connected to national agencies such as the ABC and the National Archives of Australia--and all the resources on the site are quality-assured.

If you're interested in 'flipping' your classroom, you should create a learning path specific to your classroom and each student's needs. Your resources can be annotated with comments, students can access them anywhere, anytime, and you can show off your hard work by sharing your learning path with other teachers. If you're not confident enough to make an entire learning path from scratch, you can search in Scootle's bank of resources to find an existing one, which can then be repurposed. Or if you aren't ready to go fully digital, learning paths can be printed as handouts.

According to Scootle, 50 per cent of Australian teachers have already signed up to the platform. If you're part of the 50 per cent not yet registered to access this 'one-stop shop', do yourself and your students a favour and take the time to check it out. You might just find that Scootle can help make that highly-sought-after work-life balance a little more obtainable.
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Title Annotation:TECH'D OUT
Author:Shields, Jane
Publication:Screen Education
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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