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.