Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Skwirk Blog – December 2013 – SKWIRK 2.0 IS NOW LIVE!

Hi there Skwirkers,

After several months of exhaustive beta testing and input from staff at over 800 schools nationwide, we are delighted to announce that the new Skwirk is live and in the wild!

OK fearless Content Manager, what does this actually mean?
The launch of the new site means that all new school, parent and student subscriptions will automatically get access to the new site. All teachers and parents requesting trial access will also be given access to the new site.

I’m a parent or teacher and my children or school are subscribed already, when do I get access?
We will be migrating user information for existing parents, students, teachers and schools throughout September. Once your account has been migrated you will receive an email from us. This process will be done as quickly as possible, please bear with us!

The search by national curriculum code function is excellent; will you be adding the outcome codes for the NSW Syllabus?
Absolutely! We are already analysing the site content and tagging it with NSW outcome codes. We are committed to having K-10 English and Maths entirely searchable by the 30th of November, with Science and History on the way.

Features - what’s new?

Here’s a refresher on the new tools we’ve included in Skwirk 2.0:

Universal Bookmarking – Take your content organisation to the next level. Teachers and students can now bookmark anything from single images to entire units of work and save them to customised folders – find what you want when you need it most!

Earn points and unlock achievements – Students can now use Skwirk points to customise their own Skwirk avatars. You can also unlock hidden achievements, but you will have to explore the Skwirk site in order to access them!

Compete against other schools - Every month we will tally the points earned by Skwirkers at schools across Australia. There will be a new theme each month (year group, full-school) with prizes for the top-scoring Skwirkers!

Teacher tools – what’s new?

Content Calendar – Teachers can now assign Skwirk content to a particular date. Need that chapter for next week? Next month? Set the date and it will be waiting for you on your personalised calendar.  Teachers can also calendar chapter and assessments for classes or individual students

Search by curriculum code – We’ve been hard at work linking our English, Maths, Science and History content to the Australian Curriculum. You can search via these codes to make sure your transition to teaching new material is smooth and simple.

Lesson Editor –A powerful web-based publishing tool built into the site, the Lesson Editor allows you to provide your students with customised learning experiences. Create lessons and assessments utilising content from within the Skwirk site and across the internet.

Content – what’s new?
Throughout 2013 we’ve been taking advantage of the National Curriculum to make content previously limited to single state syllabuses available to users nationwide. Here’s a reminder of the new stuff you may find upon logging in!

Years 5 and 6

Exploring the unknown: ocean voyages – this unit for Years 5 and 6 covers the Age of Exploration, including profiles of Columbus, Magellan and Vespucci and details of their voyages in search of fame fortune and hidden lands. Features lots of maps and sketches from the period.

Media: Representation and Global Identity – this unit for Years 5 and 6 presents a great overview of how people form groups and how those groups in turn create cultures. It includes chapters on stereotyping, the role played by the media in the portrayal of various groups and how Australians have been represented in the past and the present. A great unit of work for media- savvy students who have been looking at Communities in Geography or text types in English Includes over a dozen animations and over 40 colour images.

Indigenous People: Culture and Changethis unit includes 17 animations and videos covering topics that range from the Dreamtime to the 1967 Referendum. This unit will be very helpful for English and History teachers seeking resources for next year’s implementation of the Australian Curriculum!

Years 7 and 8

Reduce, re-use or recycle – this compact unit for Years 7 and 8 Geography students is an excellent addition to studying the ways humans interact with the environment. The chapter introduces an extended ‘waste hierarchy’ to help students think beyond ‘Reduce / Reuse / Recycle’ and considers the huge variety of materials we throw away on a daily basis. Great for linking Geography to the Environmental Sciences or investigating global citizenship.

Origins of the Olympics – looking to combine your Ancient Greece studies with an upcoming sporting event or school Athletics Carnival? This unit for Year 7 and 8 students examines both the ancient and modern Olympics, the Melbourne and Sydney Olympics, and a number of famous Australian athletes who have competed over the years.

Romeo and Juliet (Full text) - Skwirk loves the work of the Bard. We’re delighted to advise you that our new site features the full text of the immortal tragedy Romeo and Juliet, along with scene-by-scene analysis, images and video clips of the star-crossed lovers, and even a podcast of the entire play, performed by a full cast!

Years 9 and 10

Industrial Revolution – with the Australian Curriculum’s redesign of secondary history, this great unit now gets to shine on the national stage. Includes over 70 images ranging from maps of Britain’s global resources to diagrams of the machines that reinvented the production of everything from clothing to metal. This unit also examines the political and social events of the period and the effects on housing, employment and social structure. Podcast summaries at both the unit and topic levels provide teachers with a great tool to introduce or summarise the topic.

The Russian Revolution – a great depth study for teachers or parents looking to extend Year 9 and 10 students studying World War I. With over 60 images from the period including dozens of primary source photographs, this unit covers the rise of the Bolsheviks, the fall of Tsarist Russia and the eventual descent into Stalinism.

Conflict, consensus and care – Combining the Geography focus area of ‘Australia’s Regional and Global Links’ with a depth study of Australia’s historical relationship with Japan from Federation to the present day, this unit of work for Years 9 and 10 provides an excellent overview of the factors that have defined our dealings with Japan. Features content and images ranging from the days of the White Australia Policy to current debates about whaling.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Skwirk Blog - Late July 2013

Hi there Skwirkers,

18 thousand likes on Facebook! This was the news from our General Manager as we finished work last week. The whole team at Skwirk HQ is delighted that we’ve had such a warm welcome from the education community via social media – don’t forget that you can also find us on Twitter and YouTube.

Skwirk 2.0 news – open beta coming soon!

After an amazing level of interest in the new site we have been bringing teachers and schools online for closed beta testing of Skwirk 2.0. The responses continue to be very positive and we’ve had some schools give us wonderfully nuanced feedback – a special shout-out to the Early Years staff at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Ballarat for putting their feedback into a Word document complete with screenshots! You guys rock!

We are currently working with our development and web-hosting team to move from closed to open beta within the next two weeks. This means that new users will be get immediate access to the new site. We will continue to migrate existing schools to the new site on a state-by-state basis over the next few months.

Skwirk included on resources list for CapThat! captioning website

Two evenings a week your fearless Education Content Manager heads off to learn Australian Sign Language (Auslan). So far I can do little more than introduce myself and give basic directions, but a huge part of the class has been learning about the need take make educational resources accessible for students of all ages who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or have English as a Second Language.

CapThat! is a website run by Media Access Australia, who focus on ensuring people with a range of disabilities have access to all kinds of media content. We recently provided Media Access Australia with access to the Skwirk site and were delighted that they swiftly included the site on their list of educational resources.

Skwirk Surveys and winner of July’s prize draw

The online survey is still providing us with outstanding feedback on both the current and new site. Some of the comments we’ve received in the past month include:

“It's one of the best resources I have used so far and has been an excellent tool to use for my Japan cultural study. It's been fantastic!!! Absolutely love it

“The kids love the animations and videos while I have really benefited from the text, photos and images”

“The students love the animations, videos and photo. It helped them engage further in the unit of work by helping in visualising Australia in history.

If you are currently trialling the Skwirk site and want an additional two weeks free access, please take the time to complete the survey when you get the appropriate email. All teachers who complete the survey also go into the running for our monthly prize draw. We’ll announce July’s winner in the next blog entry.

Website of the week – World Without Oil

Waaaay back in 2007, an ambitious project unfolded online – simulate the first eight months of a global oil shock to see what kind of response the online community could create. Participants registered their location and were given regular updates as to how the sudden shortage would affect their home city, state or country.
The response was vast – the website (which now serves as an online archive) has 1500 blog entries, videos, voicemails and images – and the impact was long-lasting. 

A huge number of participants interviewed 12 months after the project stated that their way of life had been changed as a result of playing this ‘serious game’, ranging from new commuting patterns to starting vege gardens. The site has a HUGE section for teachers with lessons about how oil impacts every part of our lives.

App of the week – Edmodo Mobile for iOS and Android

I have so much respect for the team at Edmodo – they have built a really solid social network for use in schools that pairs a clean, familiar interface with a healthy dose of respect for the issues teachers face when communicating online with students. And (for the moment) it’s still free! 

The app keeps all the key features of the site and puts them squarely in the hands of your smartphone-happy students. And HUGE props for launching an Android app side-by-side with the iOS version!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Skwirk Blog – early July 2013

Hi there Skwirkers,
Only a few days remain before most of Australia heads back to school for the start of Semester 2 (except for you over-eager types in Queensland!). Meanwhile the phones are running hot at Skwirk HQ as we bring schools and teachers online using the new site.

Skwirk 2.0 – now in closed beta – site testers needed!
We’ve already commenced tutorials for the site and responses to the new Lesson Planner tool has been overwhelming positive! If you are a school teacher and would like to be one of the beta testers for our new site, then please shoot us an email on teachers@skwirk.com.au. Additionally, we are offering walkthroughs of the new site using Skype’s free ‘share screen’ function to allow for the best possible site tutorial.

Meanwhile, the development team are putting the finishing touches on the Assessment Builder, which will allow teachers to create their own quizzes, cloze passages and extended responses for both existing Skwirk content and self-devised content. We expect these features to be live on the site within the next few weeks.

Another core decision has been to provide teachers with access to the raw HTML of the pages they create and manipulate. This will enable teachers to include a variety of HTML objects (images that function as links, any web video that provides an embed code). Teachers interested in developing some HTML skills should have a look at Code Academy, whilst those just needing a leg up can use this HTML ‘cheat sheet’ to get them started.

EduTECH articles now online over at ABC Technology and Games website
Along with being your fearless Education Content Manager, since 2010 I’ve had a semi-regular gig writing articles for the ABC’s Technology and Games website about technology and education. Our time at the EduTECH conference left me with enough material to write a two-part article about the highlights and focal points of the conference. Both articles are now up, you can find part one here and part two, which includes a discussion about the role that the NBN could play in the future of education, is here.

Skwirk Surveys and winner of June’s prize draw
We continue to have a strong response to the online survey we have asked teachers who are have trials of the site to complete. Over 87% of our teachers passed the trial access into other teachers within the school, and we continue to get great feedback regarding our resources – “interesting, bright, engaging”…“activities that involved even a reluctant student” – and our home-grown content - “It’s great to hear the Australian accent on an educational film”.

If you are a teacher currently trialling the Skwirk site, PLEASE take the time to fill out the survey when you receive the email – in addition to receiving an extra two weeks of access to the site, you go into our monthly prize draw. This month’s winner is Di Allen from Hallet Cove School in South Australia. Congratulations Di! You have won a $50 voucher for your choice of JB Hifi, Officeworks or Eckersleys Art Store. We’ll be in touch later this week.

Podcast of the week – Background Briefing
The Australian Curriculum for English includes a re-classification of text types, formally shifting to the more inclusive categories of imaginative, informative and persuasive texts. Radio National’s weekly current affairs program is an outstanding example of meticulously researched, carefully presented material that is easily approachable for Secondary students. Each program can be streamed or downloaded in mp3 format, and includes a full transcript and  links to sources and related articles.

Video of the week – Life In A Day
On July 24th, 2010, people all over the world uploaded videos to YouTube detailing the events of their day. The resulting footage was carefully whittled down from over 4500 hours (over 188 days!)  to a 95-minute documentary, capturing the lives of everyday people in over 190 countries. Life In A Day is an amazing spin around the planet, mixing the mundane with the remarkable. The link above takes you to a YouTube microsite that hosts the full movie, along with an archive of the separate clips and a short ‘one year later’ catch-up with some of the more colourful characters in the film. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Skwirk Blog – late June 2013

Hi there Skwirkers,

With Term 2 rapidly drawing to a close Skwirk HQ is a hive of activity. We are STILL calling and emailing everyone we met at the EduTECH conference – it has been great to touch base with so many of you in past couple of weeks.

Surveys for teachers trialling Skwirk
It has been just over 6 weeks since we uploaded a survey asking teachers who have trialled Skwirk for their thoughts, opinions and ideas about the site. The responses so far have been really interesting:

-          87% of teachers trialling Skwirk have shared it with other teachers at the school
-          83% of teachers trialling Skwirk have used our videos and animations during the trial
-          2 out of 3 teachers trialling Skwirk said the site would save them time in lesson planning

Some of the feedback we received included:

“Colourful and engaging, easy to navigate”
“It’s easy to use and has useful and simple animation. It fits our curriculum perfectly”
“The primary interactive resources are fabulous”
“I think it is a wonderful resource. I signed up for my daughter for 2 years.”

If you are a teacher currently trialling Skwirk, please keep an eye out for our survey email. Completing the survey gives you an extra 2 weeks of access to the Skwirk site, plus you go into a monthly draw for a $50 voucher for your choice of Eckersley’s Arts and Crafts, iTunes or Officeworks!

Which reminds me -  our winner for May is Jacqueline Maguire of Manly State School, QLD. Congratulations, Jacqueline! We’ll be in touch shortly.

New prizes in the Skwirk Store

Our friends at Professor Plum’s have just shown up with some great new prizes for the Skwirk store! These new prizes all contain a large dose of SCIENCE – we recommend wearing a lab coat and muttering about explosions whenever using them.

Salt Water Car
Fuel crisis? What fuel crisis? This nifty car requires no batteries – EVER. An easy-to-assemble model that demonstrates chemical reactions helps students explore ideas about alternative energy. Can you say “idea for Science assignment”?

6-in-1 Solar Kit
It’s a dog! No wait, it’s a windmill! Hang on…it’s a boat?  This model kit has 21 different parts that can used to assemble 6 different models, ALL of which run on solar power! No tools, soldering or glue required. A great way to inspire your young eco-scientist!

Solar Transformer
Michael Bay wishes he had these in one of the Transformer movies. Can switch between Robot and Tank modes, runs on solar power OR the light from a bright flashlight for night manoeuvres!
NB: This model is best suited for Mad Scientists Bent On Robot-Driven World Domination who are aged 10 and over.

New content for New South Wales, ACT and Tasmania
The Australian Curriculum has a cross-curriculum priority regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. As part of our ongoing nationalisation of content we have just made a great unit of work available to Year 5 and 6 teachers and students in New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania. 

Indigenous People: Culture and Change includes 17 animations and videos covering topics that range from the Dreamtime to the 1967 Referendum. This unit will be very helpful for Enlgish and History teachers seeking resources for next year’s implementation of the Australian Curriculum!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Skwirk Blog – early June 2013

Hi there Skwirkers,
The team at Skwirk HQ are still recovering from our AMAZING time at the EduTECH 2013 conference earlier this week . We’ll go into much more detail below, but first some news about the Australian Curriculum…

Geography added to Australian Curriculum subjects
On May 20th, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) released the final version of the Geography National Curriculum. This means schools will have the option of teaching the National Geography Curriculum in 2014 alongside English, Maths, Science and History. Your faithful Education Content Manager (a Geography teacher) is DELIGHTED that Geography has been given an earlier-than-expected release. Over the next few weeks we will be aligning our Geography content to the Australian Curriculum so the search-by-curriculum-code function of the new site will be applicable for all subjects covered by Skwirk.
OK, on to the main part of this blog…

Skwirk at EduTECH 2013
Early this week, the Skwirk team headed up to Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre for EduTECH 2013 – the largest conference of education leaders and change-makers in Australia. After an exhausting Sunday afternoon and evening of setting up the Skwirk stand (some photos of this made it to our Facebook page) we were ready to go! Also, we had a secret weapon…

Professor Skwirk himself, live and in the flesh!
EduTECH gathered together some of the best-known names in global education. As Skwirk’s Education Content Manager and resident teacher I had the privilege to sit in on many of these talks, including:
-          World authority on motivation and engagement Dan Pink, speaking about the latest research into motivation and how it impacts students and teachers.
-          Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, explaining his journey from virtual tutor to head of a global organisation devoted to making online education free and accessible.
-          Creativity and design expert Ewan McIntosh, calling for a new way of thinking about the questions we ask students in an age of ubiquitous information.
-          Celebrated primary educator Gary Stager, making a passionate case for combining technology with hands-on learning and encouraging students to create and invent.
-          UK education legend Stephen Heppell, discussing giving students the freedom to ‘hack learning the way they can hack technology’ and foregrounding the ability to create virtual live events.
-          Teaching guru Alan November, who offered a variety of models for ‘flipping’ the classroom using online video and issued a challenge to rethink the first five days of school.

The conference ended with an address from Sir Ken Robinson, live via satellite from New York. Robinson renewed his call for refocusing education to address creativity and offered examples from both his personal and professional life.

EduTECH gave us an invaluable opportunity to have face-to-face contact with educators from all over Australia. We were showing off both the new site and the Skwirk app and the responsive was INCREDIBLE. Our search-by-curriculum-code feature for the new site was a huge hit, and the “MyLesson” publishing feature with integrated YouTube video embedding produced more than a few jaw drops!

We also had some help at the conference from some great hardware providers. Electroboard made sure we had an interactive whiteboard, and the team at HeuLab graciously lent us one of their brand-new Heumi interactive tables - the 46" full HD touchscreen which was quite an attraction on it's own!

Your friendly Education Content Manager also made a presentation in the main exhibition hall at EduTECH. I gave a talk about the opportunities for cross-curriculum connections in the Australian Curriculum and how online learning can be used to create these connections. Naturally, I was also showing off what the new Skwirk site is doing to make creating these connections something that teachers, parents and students can do on a day-to-day basis in their teaching and learning. The audience was lovely and receptive and we had a number of people make their way straight over to the Skwirk stand to chat with the team.

All in all, we felt that our time at EduTECH was a great success. A huge thank-you to everyone who took the time to stop by and chat (and those who snapped a picture with the Professor). We also need to extend a MASSIVE thank-you to our Admin Manager Alice, who kept the home-fires burning brightly at Skwirk HQ whilst the rest of the team were interstate.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Skwirk blog – late May 2013

Skwirk blog – late May 2013

Hi there Skwirkers,

As the cold weather sets in the team at Skwirk HQ have been learning all about online videos. Our new site has the ability to link to or embed video content from a range of video sites ranging from YouTube and Vimeo to TeacherTube and the TED website. We are looking forward to implementing this functionality to help teachers and students find more and more resources to increase their teaching and learning.
Meanwhile, your fearless Education Content Manager is heading to Uluru and Kata Tjuta this week for a brief holiday; I look forward to experiencing these unique World Heritage Sites and (hopefully) snapping some Skwirk-worthy pictures to be uploaded to the site!

New and updated content on the Skwirk Site
The Australian Curriculum is the hottest topic of conversation amongst the teachers we speak with at Skwirk HQ. We’ve unleashed more state-specific content for a national audience as schools all over Australia continue to prepare for the ‘big switch’ next year. Some of the new units of work you’ll be seeing on the Skwirk site include:
-        Cultural and Historical Science – Featuring 11 chapters of content, all with our custom-created Skwirk animations,  this unit for students in Years 5 and 6 is a great resource for teachers looking for ideas for the new ‘Science as Human Endeavour’ thread of the national Science curriculum. The unit covers the major fields of Science and the role Science plays in areas ranging from Medicine to Art!
-        The Great Barrier Reef – A great compact unit of work for lower Secondary students, this Geography unit can be used to examine marine biology, the role of tourism in World Heritage Sites, and managing a fragile marine ecosystem. The unit features over three dozen images, animations and videos and a handy unit summary.

New rewards on the Skwirk Store
The evil geniuses at Professor Plum’s have outfitted us with some awesome pocket-sized prizes for you to take anywhere with you. Check them out below:

Sherlock Magnifier
Elementary, my dear Skwirkers! Keep this great magnifying glass on hand to examine insects and solve crimes. We have already used one of these in Skwirk HQ to solve the Mystery of the Missing Tim-Tams (it was Jordan).

IQ Fit and IQ Puzzler game packs
Did your iPod touch run out of battery? Is there a blackout at your house? Are you tired of not being able to throw game pieces at your annoying siblings? Then rejoice! These great portable brain-testers slip into your pocket or backpack and provide hours of challenging puzzles from easy to expert difficulty levels.

Podcast of the week – A History of the World in 100 Objects
Originally broadcast in 2010 on BBC Radio, this podcast tracks human history across time, space and place using artefacts from the vast collection of the British Museum. Hosted by Museum Director Neil MacGregor, each podcast last for around 15 minutes and features experts in fields ranging from biology to fabrics. There is also a lovely companion site with an interactive time-line.

Video of the week – Sir Ken Robinson on escaping education’s ‘Death Valley’           
Education theorist Sir Ken Robinson is one of a number of world-renown speakers who will be presenting at the EduTECH Conference in early June. Speaking here at the TED Talks Education Special in April, Sir Ken makes the case for thinking about education as an organic system that can be grown and adapted, rather than a mechanical system that needs to be fine-tuned.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Skwirk blog – Early May 2013

Hi Skwirkers,

With Term 2 officially underway it’s time for students to break out the winter uniforms, teachers to start thinking about mid-year reports, and EVERYONE to get excited about the new Skwirk site. We are talking non-stop with the development team to make sure the Skwirk 2.0 will combine all the existing features you love with a range of new functions, including a powerful custom-made lesson creator tool for teachers.

New partnership: Digital Farm TV
Skwirk is delighted to announce our latest partnership with Digital Farm TV. DFTV is an online news platform for the Australian agriculture industry, with connections to farmers and regional advocacy groups all over the country. Skwirk will be using DFTV footage and reports to develop video resources and increase student awareness of the historical, geographic and commercial role of  farming in Australia.
DFTV has already provided us with two video great resources, including a video from Canegrowers Australia that details the “paddock to plate” processes for growing Australia’s second largest export crop. You can see it below:

Skwirk @ EduTECH 2013
As we mentioned last month, Skwirk will be in attendance at the upcoming EduTECH conference on the 3rd and 4th of June. We’re now proud to announce that in addition to showcasing the new site to teachers from all over Australia, your humble Education Content Manager will be giving a seminar on cross-curriculum connections in the new Australian Curriculum. This is one of a series of free seminars that will be taking place in the exhibition hall over the course of the conference, so if you are attending the conference or stopping by, feel free to join us!
We’re also terrified delighted to announce that after years of working behind the scenes our mascot, fearless leader and benevolent overlord Professor Skwirk will be joining us for EduTECH. The Professor will be wandering the exhibition hall handing out treats and challenging the conference-goers to the ultimate battle of wits – GIANT CONNECT 4. Be sure to give him a high-five!

Website of the week – The Girl Effect
All over the world girls are being born into circumstances that lessen their chances of being healthy, getting an education or earning a living. The Girl Effect website exists as a collection point for a host of data, videos and inspirational stories about the steps you can take to raise awareness of this massive global issue. The website’s approach to sharing content is incredibly generous, stating repeatedly that ‘this site is yours’ and offering zip files of themed resources.

App of the week – Fotopedia Heritage for iPad and iPhone
The UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites is a comprehensive catalogue of the greatest natural and cultural locations on Earth. Every continent (except Antarctica) is home to dozens of these amazing places, and they are a central part of teaching key concepts for both History and Geography. Fotopedia Heritage allows you to explore World Heritage Sites using images sourced from the global Fotopedia community and linked to explanations from both the UNESCO site and Wikipedia. And if you are feeling inspired to visit them in person, the app also integrates information about local accommodation from TripAdvisor !

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Skwirk Blog – Late April 2013

Hi Skwirkers,
It’s fun and games in Skwirk HQ – not only have we had to deal with the end of daylight savings (our office manager Alice has been contemplating bringing a doona to work), but the early Easter has led to different school holiday times all over Australia! So:
·       Welcome back to our Skwirkers in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory,
·       Happy holidays to everyone in New South Wales, the ACT, and South Australia, and
·       Hang in there for everyone in Western Australia and Tasmania – nearly at the finish line!
 New content for national site
As we align our content to the Australian Curriculum we’re continuing to remove the geoblocks on content that was previously only available to a few states. This month we’ve got some great content for students across years 5-10:
Media: Representation and Global Identity – this unit for Years 5 and 6 presents a great overview of how people form groups and how those groups in turn create cultures. It includes chapters on stereotyping, the role played by the media in the portrayal of various groups and how Australians have been represented in the past and the present. A great unit of work for media-savvy students who have been looking at Communities in Geography or text types in English. Includes over a dozen animations and over 40 colour images

 Stereotyping Animation

Reduce, re-use or recycle – this compact unit for Years 7 and 8 Geography students is an excellent addition to studying the ways humans interact with the environment. The chapter introduces an extended ‘waste hierarchy’ to help students think beyond ‘Reduce / Reuse / Recycle’ and considers the huge variety of materials we throw away on a daily basis. Great for linking Geography to the Environmental Sciences or investigating global citizenship.

Industrial Revolution – with the Australian Curriculum’s redesign of secondary history, this great unit now gets to shine on the national stage. Includes over 70 images ranging from maps of Britain’s global resources to diagrams of the machines that reinvented the production of everything from clothing to metal. This unit also examines the political and social events of the period and the effects on housing, employment and social structure. Podcast summaries at both the unit and topic levels provide teachers with a great tool to introduce or summarise the topic.

This. Site. Rocks. Showcasing a project that launched in 2005 and is still going, the Genographic Project combines bleeding-edge science with the ultimate story of discovery – mapping the origins and spread of humanity across the globe. The website includes an interactive ‘Human Migration Map’ and HEAPS of resources for educators. If you have EVER wanted to design a series of lessons that combine History, Geography and Science, look no further.

App of the week – World of Goo for Android and iPad, around $5
Forget Angry Birds. This four-year-old game (originally designed for the PC) is the best physics emulator game in the known universe. Help the insanely cute little Goo balls get to the end of each level by making them into structures that can traverse each level. The game has a perfect difficulty curve and students get immediate feedback on how well built and well-balanced their creations are. Add several doses of sweet, wacky humour and you have an amazing game that parents can play with their kids. I know at least one Science teacher that uses this game in his Year 10 Physics class!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Skwirk Blog – Early April 2013

 Skwirk Blog – Early April 2013
Hi Skwirkers,
Well, here we are already nearing the end of Term 1 (how did that happen?). I hope you enjoyed the long weekend over the Easter period and haven’t eaten too much chocolate! Things are rolling along at Skwirk HQ, March saw a number of brand-new schools sign up for whole-school memberships, and a spike in teacher subscriptions. Welcome aboard to all of you!
Our mighty General Manager spent all of last week onsite with the development team for the new website and has come back incredibly excited about everything it has to offer. I’m personally looking forward to the new system for adding and updating site content, which I was told is ‘as easy as updating the blog’.
Great new media content for Stage 4 Science
The Science content for Years 7 and 8 includes units across Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Science. Our ‘Ecology’ unit is a monster – over 12,000 words spread across 16 chapters, with plenty of cross-curriculum connections for Geography.  We’re adding a heap of new media to this, including dozens of hi-resolution images, animations and videos, including content from the ABC. If you’re subscribed as a high-school teacher or student, head over and have a look!
Achievement unlocked – achievements!
Just before I started writing this I hit ‘send’ on the email containing the first 20 achievements that will be a part of the new Skwirk site. These achievements will cover a range of activities on the site and will be TOP SECRET on the launch date. The only way to unlock achievements will be by using the new site and looking around. And yes, there will be some prizes!
Professor Plum Rewards
Our recent additions to the Skwirk Store have been a huge success with all of the Liquifly Rockets and Construct-a-Clocks being claimed in a matter of days! Our friends at Professor Plum’s were delighted and will be providing us with more ace stuff in the coming months. Don’t forget that if you live in the Sydney area and are looking for some fun activities for the coming school holidays, the Professor Plum team runs science workshops that you can check out here.
Skwirk at the 2013 EduTECH conference
EduTECH is the largest education technology event in Australia. With over 3000 delegates from all states and territories coming together to hear from the likes of Alan November and Sir Ken Robinson. The Skwirk team is delighted to announce that we will be at the conference in force, showcasing the new Skwirk site and demonstrating everything that you can achieve with Skwirk. If you are going to the conference, please swing by and say hello!
Website of the week – The Opera House Project
The Sydney Opera House has always had a great sense of history. In 2011 the Ships Song Project combined an intimate look at the famous building with an all-star cover of the legendary Nick Cave song. 2013 is the 40th anniversary of Australia’s most iconic building and the SOH has teamed up with partners including the State Library and the National Film and Sound Archive to create a stunning virtual site tour. The website includes full-length documentaries, interactive timelines and 3d modelling of the building at every stage of construction.
App of the week – WWF Together for iPad
The WWF is a global voice for endangered animals of all shapes and sizes. They’ve released a lovely app that provides stories, information and gorgeous images of a broad range of these at-risk creatures. Every fortnight a new animal is unlocked, many with unique features – try using your iPad camera for ‘Tiger Vision’.  For an added bit of fun each animal is rendered in origami, along with instructions on how to fold your own! The WWF Together app is now available on the iPad. It’s free!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Skwirk Blog - Late March

Hi Skwirkers,
A few people have asked me recently how I’m finding my new job here as Education Content Manager. My response has always been “I had no idea how much stuff there was on the site, now I manage the site I can see EVERYTHING – it’s amazing!”.  Finding out how many videos, animations, worksheets, podcasts and quizzes we have has been a real eye-opener. I hope that in the coming weeks and months you take a few minutes to have a look at everything Skwirk has on offer.

Access to English secondary content
Previously on Skwirk we’ve kept the English content for Years 7-10 in two separate groups based on age level. However, with more and more teachers and parents wanting the flexibility to compare texts or extend their more able students, the new Skwirk site will make all of our English text resources available to all year levels. We’ll also be linking our three Shakespeare text studies to our great overview of Shakespeare’s world which examines everything from the fashions and law of the time to the language and themes that helped make the Bard’s work so timeless.

New rewards in the Skwirk Store
Skwirk is delighted to announce a new partnership with Professor Plum’s. Based in Sydney’s Lower North Shore, this AMAZING store has a huge range of toys, games and gadgets that are ideal for the young scientist (or anyone who enjoys explosions!). They also run great workshops for primary-aged children during the school holiday periods, covering everything from electricity to medieval warfare. We are celebrating this great new relationship with two new rewards in the Skwirk Store:

Primary students reward – Heebie Jeebie’s Construct-a-Clock
This great activity can be put together in as little as ten minutes, with the finished product being a working clock complete with swinging pendulum! The clock is spring-driven so it requires no batteries. A great project and the perfect way to teach children basic mechanics.             

Secondary students reward – Liquifly water-powered rocket
ROCKETS! We need someone to claim these quickly before our office manager Alice starts firing them off inside Skwirk HQ. This is a complete DIY rocket kit that only requires water and air to send it flying – it can reach heights of over 30 metres! If there’s a more fun way to combine a day in the park with some basic lessons about water pressure, I can’t think of it.

Website of the week - National Geographic’s new “Found” tumblr
Everyone in Skwirk HQ is a sucker for some great National Geographic photography. As part of their 125th anniversary celebrations, the Nat Geo team have launched their “Found” photo page via the microblogging site Tumblr. This site showcases some of the fascinating images from the National Geographic image archives, most of which have never been published. Needless to say, any teacher looking for stimulus material for English or primary sources for History should check this out. Just be warned, they’ve put the “purchase prints” button in easy reach.

App of the week – ‘Explain Everything’ for iPad
Sometimes a tablet app comes out that blows my mind, something that glues together several different basic functions to make something genuinely different.  Explain Everything is a screencasting tool that allows you to import just about any kind of file from a host of local and cloud-based sources, and then tie them together into a presentation that you can record for later playback, complete with audio. You can also pre-plan a presentation and edit it together as a short movie. The app is currently $2.99 in the App Store. I’d suggest an iPad 3 or later to take full advantage of everything it can do - there’s obviously some heavy-duty processing going on.