Find your Peace and Quiet!

I am a lover of the outdoors. Hills, mountains, moors and woods, I always feel more at home when outdoors than I feel anywhere else, so recently I jumped at the chance of a few days walking in North Wales. I went with a few friends and we travelled up in one of their cars, a Scandinavian model of safety on wheels. It was a new car and packed to the rafters with features to keep even the most inattentive of drivers safe. It bleeped to let you know your seatbelt was undone, to let you know if you went too fast, if you got too close to a white line, if you got too close to the car in front, if the car in front broke, it flashed a light to tell you you were being overtaken and the sat nav even points out which direction around roundabouts you should travel. It struck me on the journey that we are bombarded by stimuli in modern life and like the owner of the car we get used to it to the point of excepting it as normality. I am as bad as the next man, I have watches with GPS, phones that talk to me, camera’s with wifi and even my outdoor equipment is full of gadgets and modern materials. I would never suggest technology is a bad thing as I am a huge fan and believe it is only as good or bad as those who design it’s use but I do believe we have walked blind folded into this modern world. It is rare now for us to be out of communication for more than a few hours at most and many are slaves to checking emails, messages, social networks and the like but none of that brings peace. That evening laid in my tent far from phone signal I remembered why I love tents so much. You know you are outside, you know you are in the wilds and only a thin layer of fabric keeps it at bay but you also know no matter the weather or time of year inside that canvas cocoon you can find peace and quiet. No matter where you find it, get out and experience it whether it is found in windy woodlands or on cornfield brushed finger tips make sure you leave some space in your modern 24 hour lifestyle for peace. A good book, a friends embrace, a child’s smile or a tent away from it all, never forget how precious peace and quiet is!

tent

Are iBooks the next “big” thing in education?

Generation X shared in the Post-War technological advances of the 1950’s, which saw the 16th century invention of blackboard and chalk left firmly in the past and replaced by slide projectors, overhead projectors and the humble whiteboard. In educational terms nothing much changed for the following 30 years until the 1980’s saw the birth of “Generation Powerpoint”. Microsoft Powerpoint and LCD video projectors were invented in the 80’s and other than a brief spell of “smartboard fever” nothing has really changed since. Well if history tells us anything it’s that our 30 years is up and it is time for a game changer, something that changes and improves the way we teach and the way our students learn. So what will this next generation be? I think I know the answer and its “Generation i”!

I know for some the mere mention of Apple will inspire groans and PC based rhetoric but I believe Apple have endowed us, as teachers, with an amazing opportunity and resource, that if used correctly could shape a generation of learners. I am talking about iPads and specifically iBooks. Over the years I have been looking for the perfect tool to present and teach with and that journey has eventually brought me to iBooks. What I want is a method of producing resources that are interactive, not only for the student but also for me, as the presenter, so I can alter and adapt my teaching to suit the audience. I do not want to be shackled by predetermined animations so Powerpoint has long since been left by the roadside. I travelled down the video route but again there is little interactivity, files sizes can become huge, they take time to create and on large networks don’t always work. I taught myself HTML, Java and CSS code to make websites. Now the interactivity was becoming possible but they took ages to create, can become very large with video and unless your very clever never quite fill the screen how you want when on projector. I wanted a program that looked cool on the screen, was easy to make, didn’t take forever to create, was quick, didn’t lag or go slow when showing video’s, could store all my SOW’s, lesson plans, videos, pictures, audio and most importantly was truly interactive and didn’t involve learning programming to achieve it. Finally a program that did all this appeared and it is the not so humble iBook.

iBooks are created in iBook Author on a Mac and then downloaded to iPads, where they can be used to present to a class or used as a student resource. Within these iBooks you can have video’s, pictures, powerpoints/keynotes, pdf’s, word/pages documents, website links, email links and best of all widgets which are interactive apps that work within the book. Even better all of this content is contained within one file stored on the iPad. This all means all your resources are literally at your fingertips and work seamlessly on the iPad, no searching around the network, no lag, just resources that work when you want them to. You can even include quizzes, drag and drop images that you can move around and 3D images that you can manipulate in real time in front of your class. The possibilities for interactive personalised resources are literally endless with iBooks.

If there isn’t a revolution, this coming generation will be the first since the war to be taught using the same technology as the last. I believe iBooks will be that revolution. The opportunities they offer are unsurpassed by any other program or piece of tech available, which is why many of the top Universities are using them as well as large numbers of educational publishers. It costs nothing to make one but offers so much to our students in return. For examples of what can easily be done using iBooks search “Creative Teaching with Interactive Books” on the iBook Store or click the link below and download a free example.

Creative Teaching with Interactive Books

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