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.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mid-March 2013

Hi Skwirkers,

With Term 1 more than half-gone (how did that happen?) the team at Skwirk HQ has been super-busy getting registrations out for all of our users. In fact, we are proud to report that February was our biggest month EVER – a huge welcome to all our new Skwirkers!

New and updated History content

As a national education resource, Skwirk has always tried to offer different content in keeping with each state’s syllabus requirements. The upcoming Australian Curriculum has given us the chance to make sure this content becomes available to all our users. Some of the units of work you’ll be seeing on the new Skwirk site include:

-        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.

-        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 gives 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.

One of our Olympic Animations

-         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.

Achievement system for new site

As a huge gamer, I’m delighted to announce that when our new site launches later this year we’ll be making an addition to the points you can earn for completing quizzes and home work (homeSkwirk?). These achievements will be TOP SECRET so the only way to earn them is to have fun with the Skwirk site and discover everything we have to offer. There may even be some prizes for our most adventurous users…

Happy Skwirking!

Bill Cohen
Education Content Manager