Friday, 18 January 2019

Everyone can Create - silhouettes


I recently was asked by Apple to run an everyone can create workshop during the latest “Kuala Lumpur Innovation at schools session”. The theme was student agency, but the team were also keen to have some sessions on the everyone can create books.


I had been reading and using the everyone can create photos book and have been doing some of the activities with my own kids at home and thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of the activities in the books.

We looked at techniques and strategies to empower students to take 'good' photos with iPads. We looked at variety, perspective, details, the rule of thirds and Backgrounds. Dave Caleb's book Stories through the Lens was a super resource for this.

We then explored three of the activities from the everyone can create book - photos including telling photo stories, pictorialize your name and silhouette portraits. It was very hands on, was well received and we had some discussion on how we could use these activities in our classes as soon as we got back to school. Here is a link to the participant created padlet of ideas.


The silhouette portraits is my favourite, I loved using it with my own kids. Seeing as though I was presenting on it, I thought I better try it with some students at school. The next time I had my grade 5 cover we started exploring creating our own silhouette portraits. 

Only using the class iPad's we took profile pictures with a plain bright background, basically we were doing the thing I have been telling my IGBTV students not to do "Don't video with a bright background as you can't see the person being filmed". By doing this we got side on images that we could edit and play with (crop, turn black and white, change the contrast, explore different colours) all using the edit button in photos.

I then took this to the next level, by combing this with another activity from the book. We imported our images into Keynote and then applied Instant Alpha to completely remove all of the background.

Once we did this, we used the add shapes option in Keynote to get the students to add their favourite things to their silhouettes. 

You can search via the magnifying glass and change the colour of the shapes / images, they are also all free from copyright and allow the students to be super creative.

The kids loved personalising their images.


I showed them how to export them as new images and we had a silhouette gallery of all the students in the class and their interests.


The students had lots of fun identifying each other and seeing other peoples interests. We got some insights into the students that we weren't expecting. It was a great way for the teachers to find out about their students and we got a few pleasant surprises. 

As they played with Keynote and shapes the students started exploring different ways to add images they worked out some pretty cool stuff including how to add graded backgrounds and create multicolour and image filled shapes.

The students now have ready made silhouettes that can be used over and over again for a variety of activities. Including
  • Exit Tickets
  • End of unit reflections
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Guessing games
  • Poetry (reverse the colours and fill the silhouette with the poem
  • Fill the head with a maths problem and solution
  • Class displays 
  • Add their artwork to the silhouette

The limit is your creativity

We can't wait to explore some of the other activities in the everyone can create books.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Save paper and time with Google Drawings

Creating Google Drawings worksheets


I found this great Factors and multipliers puzzle online here

It's one of those activities where students (or teachers) have to cut out all the bits of paper (right hand side) of the sheet. That means cutting 25 numbers and 10 headings. They then manipulate them on the puzzle sheet until they get the right combination. It is a hands on activity and encourages students to use a variety of problem solving techniques and think about different types of numbers.

When we did it in our 80 minute maths block, many of the students took more than 20 minutes just to cut out the bits of paper, (some took 60 minutes) then bits of paper went missing or were blown around by the fans and air conditioning. A couple of students finished, but then it took for ever for them to glue them in their book. Once the lesson was over, we then had to find a way to store the hundreds of bits of paper.

Rather than being the wonderful learning opportunity it promised, it ended up being an exercise in frustration. 

In hindsight it would have been better to make it a group activity and do the puzzle on A3 paper or spend hours cutting them out and laminating them for the students. Who has time for that? 

Then I got thinking, I could save a lot of time, paper and anguish by turning this activity into a digital Google Drawings worksheet (I hate the term worksheet). It will take me a bit of time to set up, but once it is created I will have a permanent version that can be used over and over again and I would rather spend my time playing with Google drawings rather than cutting out bits of paper.





The whole process took about 12 minutes,I sped the above video up by a factor or 8 so you get to see it happen in just over a minute

I started by creating a 5x5 table, then added rounded shapes for the headings, if you create one shape and format it exactly as you want it (Shape, colour, font etc) then it is easy enough to copy and replace the text. I then did the same for all the number cards.

Once I made my worksheet I could have grouped all the objects together (so that students couldn't accidentally move the tables and heading etc) but in Google Drawings I find it is easier to take a screen shot, delete the other images and add the screenshot as a single image.


Once the Google Drawing worksheet has been created it is then a matter of sharing it with your students I like to use a force copy link (I like to use Sir Links a lot) so each student has their own copy, the students can then move the shapes around to solve the puzzle. They can rotate the shapes and move them. Do pretty much anything they can do with a paper copy (plus a fair bit more).


No wasting time cutting paper or gluing tiny bits of paper to a sheet, no worries about losing or storing tiny pieces of paper. The puzzle is stored on the students drive. 

You can share different versions for students at different levels. e.g. perhaps one version with the labels in the correct spot or the labels facing the correct direction or half the numbers in the correct position or some blank tiles. It offers lots of scope for quick differentiation, make a copy of the drawing then make the change, make another copy, make the change.

This technique works for lots of different worksheets and once you have created the resource, you have it forever and can share it or use it again and again.

The next maths lesson I used the Google drawings version and the kids completed it much quicker with less stress and we were able to have those valuable discussions about problem solving techniques and how different students solved the puzzle. I am now making many more digital worksheets for my Maths class.