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.