Thursday, 2 August 2012

Learning with Android OS

Acer Iconia Tab a500 screensaver image by one of my students Mr T.Stewart, 2012
The title of this post rings true not only for the student but for teachers as well! I am not an ICT teacher or elearning integrator. My KLA (key learning areas) include Technology and Applied Science (TAS- Food technology) and RE (religious education) in Sydney.  I love learning and enjoy technology. Some would say this is a good marriage within education in todays world :)

My personal learning curve gaining a solid handle on the Android OS has been steep, yet satisfying. This is my story...

At the start of the Australian school year 2012, I was using our school PC laptops and personal Mac products at home (imac, mac air, apple TV, ipods, iphone) as well as starting the journey with our school based Acer Iconia tab a500 -read more about them here.  Three operating systems. The tablets were introduced as part of our 1:1 program for Years 7 and 9.  Years 8,10, 11 and 12 share Asus (EEC) and Toshiba 10 inch PC netbooks (kept in classroom trolleys).  Year 11 and 12 are also able to BYOD (Bring your own device- or in our case devices as students are allowed to use mobile smart phones at school).

My Year 8 RE class by @7mrsjames
Both year groups have embraced the tablets, especially the Year 7's who are new to high school.  They love the independence and responsibility in utilizing these devices. Ownership in one's own learning is an integral aspect, don't you think?  It certainly is for me. Students were quick to personalise their home screen space (some fancy animated wallpapers too) and add favourite apps.  Not all students have smart phones, but those that did and used Android smart phones were more than helpful in giving their mates some 101 advice. I enjoyed seeing this level of support amongst our students.  During term one, I quickly identified the students who were able to navigate the tablet proficiently and asked them to show me or other students basic operations. Due to time constraints and not having a tablet of my own, I wasn't able to discover for myself what Androids had to offer. I kept using my school PC laptop and Mac at home.  

I wasn't progressing.  Learning, on my behalf was slow.  This had to change.

Term one and two achievements: 
  • Basics (on/off, volume) using lock screen
  • setting a screen lock pattern
  • using homescreens (there are 5)
  • the homebutton
  • adding widgets
  • Using Kingsoft office was easy for me than the loaded "Documents to go" (thanks to David in Yr9 for introducing me to KO)
  • movie studio 
  • set a PIP (personal INTEREST project -planting a seed) Some kids made outdoor eating areas or restaurants on minecraft and enjoyed showing me their progress.
Love minecraft miss "Yr7" @7mrsjames
  • Astro file manager use
  • single tap and long press (tapping on screen and holding down-configure homescreen etc)
  • pinching (zooming in and out)
  • landscape and portrait orientation (and how to fix)
  • using the on screen keyboard
  • Green bar/stripe (under URL) across top shows loading page

Term two/three achievements:
  • Persistence and goal setting :) I asked to use one of the "hot stock" tablets and set about achieving my goal of using the Acer Android tablet solely for education. (I haven't used my school PC laptop for 2 months) I really wanted to feel comfortable and confident in assisting the students best use the device to support their education.
  • already had a  google account (set up google play store app so I could purchase own apps)
  • added my own apps (Favs so far picsay, kingsoft office, any DO, instagram, tweetdeck, tape-a-talk, playbooks, file manager hd) Mr 5 loves angry birds, NFS shift and istorybooks.
Mr5 also loves the portability of the tablet
  • using shortcuts on main home screen
  • use of notifications and increased knowledge of settings
  • added other browsers such as Dolphin, Opera, Chrome
  • trouble shooting (access to wireless, managing battery power, saving docs, copying docs, saving images, finding work, organising files etc)
  • Patience -wait for processes to run their course.
  • Tips for using our LMS (stock browser, dolphin for marking role, using Virtual classroom best to navigate webparts from LHS all site content (also better on stock browser)
  • ugraded to jellybean (4.1)  using SD card (thanks Ryan and Justin!) Students yet to achieve this. Ice cream sandwich (4.04) Honeycomb (3.0) Gingerbread (2.3)
  • Got a mad cover that acts as a stand
  • presented at a teachmeet using the Acer (android) only to assist with presentation (researching, setting up google doc, tweeting links, using tape-a-talk to learn script -sorta slam poetry).
  • enjoying seeing students having fun creating from lesson one. Term three saw a new rotation for Year 7 food technology and I set this simple creation task- create a picsay showcasing your favourite food and turn into Edmodo. (I use both school LMS and edmodo. Students download a free app for Edmodo, however web based version is more effective, app good for reading alerts, posts, replying and checking notifications) Kids also enjoy playing Ninja kitchen game learning about food safety) In our very first lesson, we created these picsays, downloaded a few apps, showcased some ideas, troubleshooting, overview of semester etc Kids were so pumped!
  • Year 7s and Year 9s have both used google docs to source data using their tablets (eg food allergies, past food prep experience)
  • Set up an Edmodo group "Android supporting learning" Click here to request joining (you need to have an Edmodo account) We have over 70 group members. I have also set up a google doc to share favourite apps See google doc here (Androids supporting learning)
@7mrsjames quick task to engage

First creation to be turned in using Edmodo by Adam T, Yr7.

  • Went on a mission to discover a way to either share my screen with students or project the tablet homescreen onto the IWB or projector.  After a few trials and errors, I was satisfied in achieving this.  Using a HDMI-VGA/AV component convertor and Micro HDMI D to HDMI A cable I am now able to show students how to use the tablet (not all kids have grasped usage as well as others) and how to use various apps.  It is very true that while kids many be digital natives, some still need scaffolding (as their teachers do!)  The option below cost $120 (the guys at Jaycar were fab! The convertor cost more but he gave me a great deal- AND IT WORKS!!)  I have since discovered the schools IT guys have purchased a similar product. Am now keen to try both and compare. 

@7mrsjames (notice HDMI A and D plug ends)

Like anything, immersion is often the best way to learn. Discovering things for oneself is another. 
1:1 for students is beneficial - as it is for teachers.  

Although I am happy that I am learning more about this device and the Android OS, I want to learn more.  I would love to hear your stories, advice, tips and ideas.  Has anyone used Splashtop for android? It is on special for $5 at the moment. I know you can use it with ipad devices. Does it throw your tablet on the screen/IWB or your computer (PC) on the tablet? (as I don't want the later)... My understanding is it streams your PC or Mac TO your phone/device not the other way around?
If you have tried, can you let me know?

Feel free to fire any questions. And share your experiences.


  1. Splashtop has a whiteboard app that allows you to write on your tablet and this will show up on your computer (then projector if you have your computer hooked up to your projector. A similar app to this is doceri- and they have a 15 day free trial.

  2. Thanks Mary. Have heard about Splastop, however understood that it displays what's on your computer screen onto your tablet or phone, not the other way around.. will given it a try. Have you used it?