Skwirk

As a teacher, I have taught in various high schools for 17 years. I, like my colleagues am constantly evolving my teaching pedagogy, looking for engaging, interesting and fun ways to challenge my students. One approach is getting onto the technology for learning wave! Every teacher knows that technology can be a powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students. There are many websites that teachers can direct their students to use to research the content but the list becomes endless!

Every teacher knows that technology can be powerful tool in assisting the content that we are teaching to our students

One such site was Skwirk Interactive Schooling, which was a useful tool for both teaching and learning. The benefit of using Skwirk is that the content is specific to the Australian state-specific syllabus and is written clearly and concisely for students to understand. I came across Skwirk when my school subscribed 2 years ago and was impressed by its clear layout of the units of work the students need to learn. Consequently, I started to incorporate Skwirk into my teaching last year and I would like to take this opportunity to make suggestions on how the learning objects can be used in classroom teaching and learning.

1. Each chapter usually has animations or videos which are designed to help students understand concepts being taught.

These animations can be used to cater to individual learning styles. This may include students who learn better with visual presentation rather than reading the content. Teachers can put together some questions based on the animation that students can answer. The animations are a great way to introduce the concept to the class. A short animation will always gain student attention and after the animation has finished playing the teacher can follow up with a class discussion or learning activities.

2. Students can apply their learning to the content in the chapter with different activities.

For example; a comprehension or worksheet can be designed. The current offerings of worksheets and many more in the pipeline are important learning resources for students to both gauge and apply their learning. Students can also work individually or in groups develop a multimedia presentation such as a PowerPoint, webpage, podcast or a short video. The student laptops issued in public schools enables students in Year 9 or above to make use of voice recording and webcam as well as video editing software. This is a powerful means to enable students to construct and develop knowledge to aid and enhance their learning.

3. Each Skwirk chapter also has a quiz, which consists of 5 or 10 multiple choice questions.

Students can complete the quiz after they have read the chapter. They can complete the quiz as many times as they like until they score 100%. The advantage of the quizzes is that students can go through the course at their own pace while giving the teacher time to assist students one-on-one. At the end of the unit of work, there is a final exam, which can be used as a form of assessment.

I hope this brief article gives teachers some ideas on how Skwirk can be implemented in the classroom as a teaching and learning resource.

‘DANIEL KING is a classroom teacher with extensive experience teaching Commerce.’

Our Worldwide Classroom reviews Skwirk for Homeschoolers

Since the school year has already begun I didn’t want to wait any longer to share with you some details about Skwirk.

Not heard of Skwirk?

This is an online, National Curriculum aligned, educational resource centre suitable for learners from Prep all the way through to Year 10.

It offers thousands of activities and lessons covering the subject areas of Mathematics, English, Science, Geography and History.

Skwirk caters to various learning styles through activities such as animations, video clips, colour images, reading passages, worksheets and games. Offering a flexible, easy to navigate learning resource.

Throughout the year I will be sharing with you the various ways in which we are utilising Skwirk in our homeschool. The flexible nature of the site and how my children, aged 6, 10 and 13 use the activities as part of their learning adventures.

We will give you behind the scenes glimpses into the site, an overview of the lessons, the reporting area and even a look at lesson planning.

Already my 6 year old begs to do ‘Skwirk’ at least a few times a day. I love that I can get him logged him, give him access to a learning area and from there he is basically independent.

For example I am currently writing this on a Sunday afternoon. My 6 year old was asking questions about water. I suggested to him that this week we have a look over Skwirk for some activities to do with water. Of course he wanted to jump on and have a go straight away.

Here we have logged into his K – 2 lessons and chosen the Science area. You can see he has already begun working through the first unit and has completed 100% of the first three topics. Next up is seasons and then, look at that, water! Exactly what we wanted.

The screen shot above is showing the lesson on seasons. Each part of the K – 2 area is laid out pretty much the same so the kids quickly get to know how to navigate their way around. The lesson on Seasons has 3 chapters, they simply click on a chapter, watch the animation, then do the game and complete the read along area.

Once finished the lesson, they can go back to see their 100% completion bar is full. My kids love to see that filling up!

In this final screen shot above the kids can easily see what they have yet to complete in their online lessons. So next time my 6 year old logs in and chooses science he will notice straight away that he has a lesson not quite completed. It really is that simple and on a Sunday afternoon, I’m truly loving that flexibility!

Would you like to sign your children up for a year of learning and fun with Skwirk?

The lovely people at  Skwirk have very kindly offered all of you 50% Off a 12 month subscription, simply by using the code – worldwide – on sign up. This won’t last forever though so jump over to Skwirk and register now.

Happy Homeschooling,
Kylie

Disclosure: Our family has been given a subscription to the Skwirk Website in return for my reviews. All opinions regarding Skwirk are mine (and my children’s).

Skwirk is a fantastic resource for teachers and students alike. It lets students use technology to get a better understanding of the various topics in Maths. They can use it in class with their teacher and classmates. Then each student can go home and work through a chapter individually, at their own pace. Skwirk can reduce the workload on teachers by having their lessons prepared for them, particularly those lessons that use technology. It helps keeps students more focused during lessons and using the computer always makes students more motivated. The Skwirk website is easier to navigate than other sites and it provides a wider range of subjects and resources.

Daniel Willingham is a cognitive scientist who has written a book called Why Students Don’t Like School, which provides practical applications of cognitive science research to education. In his book, he makes the point that thinking is a difficult task and that most of us rely on memory rather than thinking or problem solving. He states that students will enjoy thinking and problem solving when they are presented with “cognitive work that poses moderate challenge”. Students find work that is too difficult or too easy to be unpleasant.

Of course, the challenge is to present material in a way that engages all students, particularly when those students are across a range of abilities. Skwirk lessons, in conjunction with technology such as smart boards, make it easier for a teacher to set work at just the right level for the students in their classroom. The material in each Skwirk chapter contains material that is pertinent to all students. The teacher can leave the content of a chapter on a smartboard or whiteboard. He or she can then set a variety of stimulus materials to meet the needs of each group within the classroom. Bloom’s taxonomy or de Bono’s six thinking hats could provide a scaffold for these stimulus materials. Alternatively, the teacher can prepare a range of questions and activities that are relevant to the content of the lesson.

Paul Larkin, Secondary Maths Teacher

Get your Skwirk teacher trial today, click here.

Find out how teachers are using Skwirk:

Being the Content Manager is a huge responsibility when working on a website like Skwirk. Teachers, schools, parents and students need to be able to rely on and trust our resources. We need to constantly think about new ways to supply content. A lot of this comes from feedback and the direction of the Australian Curriculum. Here’s an example of what an average day is like working as he Content Manager on Skwirk…

8:30am – Check overnight emails from the site’s feedback system. The back end of the site functions exactly like the Lesson Editor for teachers, which means I can make modifications to chapters and assessments within minutes of getting some feedback. Our favourite example of this is from the early days of the new site. A teacher emailed us asking if we could update a page of content about local government to show an Australian mayor. We were able to call her back 15 minutes later and show her the new page with a picture of Sydney’s Lord Mayor.

We also have a quick staff meeting every morning. Sometimes this is about what kinds of deals we’d like to offer parents and teachers; sometimes a member of the team has seen a news article that means I can update a chapter with interesting new information.

10:15am – Around recess we hit the phones to catch up with teachers across Australia who are current trialling the website. This is a really valuable process as we can get feedback from educators who are in their first weeks of learning about the site and how it can help them plan their lessons. We often use this time to give teachers a quick walkthrough of the site’s features in terms of building lessons and searching for content using Australian Curriculum codes. Our consultants have gotten lightning-fast at this – we’ve clocked one walkthrough at 12 minutes!

11:30am – Time to review content and media for whichever sections of the site we’re working on. Recently this has included updating Secondary Maths content, making additions to Primary English content, and adding Shakespeare to the English Texts section. I’m very proud of the way we can both commission new content for the site from great professional teachers from around Australia whilst making use of Public Domain and Creative Commons media from across the internet. I also take the time to review what other sites we love and respect are working on. There’s no right or wrong way to use Skwirk, which includes matching it with resources from places like the ABC Splash website.

1:00pm – Lunchtime! Being an information junkie I usually spend my lunchtimes walking the local neighbourhood listening to podcasts. I usually get back to the office with at least one new idea for a chapter or resource.

2:00pm – Back in the saddle to keep working on the site and take calls from teachers and parents. As Skwirk is used by parents and homeschoolers as well as teachers we always take the time to speak with parents who are interested in using the site to help their children get the best possible education. This is also the time of day when I’ll chat with team leaders about what kinds of questions and comments they’ve been getting from teachers as they trial and subscribe to the site. We have an excellent relationship with the schools who subscribe to us and many of the resources we develop are based on the discussions we have with our partner schools.

5:00pm – Done for the day!

It’s been a busy period for Skwirk. Highlights over the past few years have included helping the site take on a bold new form with amazing features, aligning our thousands of resources with the Australian Curriculum, and making great connections with educators from all over the country. Remember we are always looking for new ideas for content. Please contact us with any information you have on Skwirk. Contact the team, (02) 94383637 or email us, teachers@skwirk.com.au

Happy Skwirking!

  • Bill Cohen

With the 2015 school year kicking off in just a few days the Skwirk team wants all of our teachers and parents to know what we’ve got for them to start the year right! Here’s a few reminders of recent additions along with the freshest content:

*          Dream a little dream of Shakespeare – Are your students bored by the Bard? A reminder that Skwirk offers the full text, analysis and full-cast podcast performances of four of the most popular Shakespeare texts for Year 7-10 students: Romeo and JulietJulius CaesarMacbeth and our latest addition – A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

*          More in-depth Maths for Secondary students – our qualified and experienced Maths teachers are continuing to add more to 7-10 Maths. We’re offering more detailed explanations, animations with worked examples, and more than doubling the number of practise questions for every chapter, including both multiple choice and short answer options.

Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 07.41.30

*       Make mine interactive – here’s a HUGE announcement that we’ve been working on for some time. ALL of our Maths and Science units for Years 3,4, 5 and 6 now have interactive activities for accompany the quizzes, videos, worksheets and images. Want something to help your students understand basic Chemistry? There’s an activity for that! How about basic algebra? Yup, we’ve got that covered as well! Biology? Check! Geometry? Check! These are just a few examples of the huge variety of activities we have on offer to make learning engaging and fun. And using the bookmarking tool you can save ANY of these activites to your personal folder for later use.

Kid on tablet

*       Tablet Ready Content – Tablets have become a key classroom tool in the past few years. With the introduction of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) into many schools, making content available across multiple platforms is extremely important. Over the past few months Skwirk has been working on converting our content to make them mobile ready. In the next few months, most of our animations across the site will be available across all devices, with Skwirk being 90% mobile ready within a few months. Not only that, but all new activities and games will be developed to ensure they work across these devices as well. Check out our Boomerang Maths game as an example, click here.
Screen shot 2015-01-21 at 07.43.20

2015 is shaping up to be a HUGE year for Skwirk. We now have over 18,000 educational resources available all in one online location. And there will be even more coming your way. We are looking forward to it and are delighted to have so many schools, teachers, parents and students along for the ride with us. Strap yourself in – this is going to be amazing!

If you are interested in getting Skwirk into your school or home this year, contact the Skwirk Team via phone (02) 94383637 or email teachers@skwirk.com.au or find our more information at http://www.skwirk.com.au

Happy Skwirking,

With school off for 6 weeks, the Professor decided to take a holiday after a ground breaking year, by indulging in his passion for history by exploring from Kelly Country to the Grenfell Goldfields.

The Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour. A must do for anyone with an interest in Australian Military History

The Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour.
A must do for anyone with an interest in Australian Military History

After spending the day wandering around Seymour on the Heritage Walk, at the Australian Light Horse Memorial Park and the Vietnam Veteran’s Commemorative Walk, the first night found the Professor staying at the Harvest Home Boutique Hotel in Avenel. This rather nice hotel has beautiful gardens, Damian the landlord is an absolute champion and the pizza shop next door is arguably one of the best in Australia, they even slice the prosciutto fresh!

Any fan of Ned Kelly needs to visit Avenel, as it was here that Ned saved the life of Richard Shelton, went to school and his father passed away. The green silk sash that the 12 year old Ned was awarded by the Shelton family for his act of bravery in saving Richard’s life, was worn under his armour many years later at Glenrowan. Hughes Creek, in which Richard was drowning, is classed as a fugitive waterway (not a pun at what Ned became). A fugitive waterway constantly shifts course and the amount of flow through the seasons, which is why it looks so empty and small in our picture! The professor then continued the Kelly country exploration with a visit to Glenrowan. It was here that Ned was captured by the police after the siege and the other members of the Kelly Gang were killed.

profsummer2

The Harvest Home Boutique Hotel in Avenel. Exquisite gardens, beautiful rooms and next door to the best pizza!

Moving north and keeping on the bushranger theme, Professor Skwirk decided to relax at a farm stay near Caragabal, in the Central-West of NSW. The farm actually occupies what was part of Ben Hall’s station of Sandy Creek, of which the police inspector Sir Frederick Pottinger burnt down Ben’s house, and is quite close to the Wheogo range of hills where it is believed Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and the gang divvied up the loot from the Escort Robbery at Eugowra.

Grenfell, just 40 kilometres from where this all happened, is probably best known for being the birthplace of Henry Lawson (as an aside, it is also where Stan McCabe, the Australian Cricket Legend, grew up). The Professor spent plenty of time checking out O’Brien’s Lookout, which still has some of the original mines and crushing equipment from what was once the richest Goldfields in the colony. He also visited the birthplace of Henry Lawson, spent time with the brand new statue of Henry in the main street and took a walk up to Ben Halls Cave and the historic Seaton’s farm.

The spot that Ned was captured at in  Glenrowan

The spot that Ned was captured at in Glenrowan

The Professor chats to Henry Lawson, in the main street of Grenfell.

The Professor chats to Henry Lawson, in the main street of Grenfell.

“You were born on Grenfell goldfield – and you can’t get over that.”

Said Grenfell to My Spirit, Henry Lawson, 1911

The summer holidays over, the professor is now back at work ready to help.

Checking out the plinth marking Henry Lawson birthplace. The sugar gum in the background was planted by Henry’s Daughter, Bertha.

Checking out the plinth marking Henry Lawson birthplace. The sugar gum in the background was planted by Henry’s Daughter, Bertha

The Glenrowan Inn burned down when police set it alight to get the Kelly Gang

The Glenrowan Inn burned down when police set it alight to get the Kelly Gang

When we first launched the new Skwirk upgrade over 12 months ago (how time flies) we were met with an overwhelming positive response from teachers. After all we had taken their feedback and handed teachers an enormous amount of power and freedom to use our content any they wanted.

Flexible Learning and differentiation are key terms being mentioned frequently in the education world at the moment. They come up frequently when we talk to teachers. There is a need to be able to provide an environment for students to learn at their own pace, making sure they are neither held back or rushed. Catering to mixed ability classes shows how far we have come in our understanding of how children learn.

Screen shot 2014-09-23 at 16.14.36

Classrooms can have mixed ability levels.

But at Skwirk we believe that to encourage flexible learning, you need to provide as much flexibility to teachers as possible. This philosophy did not come to us over night; it came from feedback we have received over the years. We knew our content was doing what it needed to do (otherwise schools wouldn’t be subscribing and renewing each year), but we felt that we had to provide more for teachers.

Setting different work to different students in your classroom is far from an easy process. In place of planning for a class of 30, you may have to now plan for 3 classes of 10 students within the same room. How do you go about this? Would it be 3 different resources (or more) aimed at three different learning abilities? Would the students be aware that they are studying a higher or lower level then other students in their class.

To provide different resources means more research for a teacher, which means more lesson preparation and planning. Then how are you going provide that content? Will it be in textbooks, worksheets, computer accessed resources, iPads, Smartboards or projectors. And of course it would inevitably also lead to more marking.

We now feel that we have tackled a lot of these teacher issues in Skwirk’s teacher portal.

Firstly. We give teacher access to multiple year groups and subjects from one log in on Skwirk. This means teachers can assign students work from different year levels, and this stays between the students and the teachers. So you could essentially assign every student in your class a different piece of work on Skwirk, encouraging that differentiation.

Secondly. Our new Skwirk lesson editor gives you the ability to edit, delete and add to our resources. This is a hugely powerful tool. How often have you wanted to edit a textbook, or merge two textbooks together? Skwirk have given teachers this ability. You could even bring in you own multimedia and images & create your own assessments (which our system marks). Editing educational content to suit the class or student you want to assign it to is the ultimate tool when it comes to flexibility in the classroom.

Thirdly. Tracking student progress is vital to this system. With different students completing different tasks in the same room, you need to make sure you monitor their progress. If they are struggling with concepts, the sooner you know the better. That’s why we have a live Skwirk reporting system, which will show you how students are performing with assessments whilst they are doing them in the classroom. Or you can of course receive updates if they complete the work for homework.

Lastly, you can access Skwirk across different platforms. You can use interactive whiteboards, iPads, computers, and even print off our worksheets, chapters or lessons you have created.

So there you have it. Teachers can use Skwirk any way they see fit. As we say to all our teachers, ‘there is no right or wrong way to use Skwirk. Dive in, create, and most of all, make your life easier. Get a free trial today and let us know what you think: Click Here to get started.

The Skwirk Team is also on hand to show you how to use these tools, (the tutorial takes 15 minutes, it’s that simple!). Check out our teacher tour below:

If you have any suggestions on what we can add to the site, please let us know. It really does help us set our priorities.

Happy Skwirking

David Weston

General Skwirker