david weston

Recently I was introduced to the new (and helpful!) features that Skwirk has incorporated into its users’ experiences.

In the past, I’ve been an avid user of Skwirk as a reliable and engaging source of information. Any secondary teacher would agree that trawling the internet for ‘hubs’ of relevant information for students is a time consuming task. That’s where Skwirk, for me, came in handy. It was a place where information had been aligned to the NSW syllabus subjects (for me, junior history) and I could rely on it to be accessible for students of varying levels while also being thorough enough to be a launching pad for further work with varying classes.

Now, with their new features and tools, I find that Skwirk is now even more of a time saver! While still being a hub of information, the ability to manipulate the content to better suit my classes and their needs has made the whole process of preparing a lesson even easier.

Broadly, and simply, the Skwirk tools that I find myself using to the students’ (and my own) advantage (and which help me save time in my preparation and teaching) fall under these three areas:

  1. Engagement through multimedia
  2. Catering content to students’ needs
  3. Explicitly addressing the syllabus/curriculum

Generally when one comes up with a list, it helps to go through them one-by-one, so I’ll start with …

Engagement through Multimedia

Skwirk has always stood out in my mind as being one of (if not the) first Australian-based education website that has effectively and meaningfully integrated multimedia elements into their content. I distinctly remember using animations for junior history topics in the ‘old curriculum’ to really help provide more than just a written/text-based experience for students. Visual learners could understand how causes lead to effects, how Federation came about, and how World War One affected Australia and Australians.

What was also extremely helpful was the fact that these animations and the multimedia elements were already there and designed to address the syllabus and curriculum areas that I was aiming to cover (more on that later). I didn’t need to modify or take time in a lesson to bridge the content – I was saving time both in and out of the lesson!

Now with the changes to Skwirk, the new features that have been integrated into the users’ experiences allow for the teacher to develop more engaging and more meaningful lessons without taking any time away from those other important areas of our work.

Everyone’s pressed for time these days – teachers (arguably) more than most. In between exams and marking, reports and interviews, administration and paperwork, the fundamentals of lesson planning and resource development sometimes can be pushed to the back-burner. That’s certainly not to say that teachers are neglecting their classes or not putting in their best – they are.

Yet I’ve often found that engagement in a lesson is one of those things that takes the most effort. A well designed lesson with relevant and connected content, combined with the genuine learning experiences, all work towards creating those engaging lesson.

Now, on top of the already great multimedia and animations that Skwirk has had in the past, teachers can now develop class-specific pages that combines the Skwirk content and additional content of their own choosing.

This is what I love most about the changes: I can now integrate all those disparate sources of information – like YouTube videos, like images I’ve randomly saved, like audio clips and other animations – to create the engaging and interactive lesson that I need without taking more time!

I’m saving time and making genuine learning experiences for students.

I’ll describe the in’s and out’s generally here and if it sounds complicated don’t worry: It’s infinitely easier when you’re working on the dashboard when you have a subscription.

So let’s say I’ve started the year, and I’ve got a year 7 history class (which isn’t far from the truth right now!). I want them to be excited about history, to develop a passion for the content and the skills, and to really want to come to my classes because they know they will be learning for the long term. Rather than piling up the textbooks onto the cart and wheeling them in, or firing up the photocopier (all of which require time and resources that – as any teacher knows – sometimes we don’t have), I log onto Skwirk.

My school has a subscription, so I can easily get online and start to generate the first lesson. I navigate my way through the vast resources and content that Skwirk (all easily organised under the national curriculum topics and dot-points) until I find the first area year 7 is going to look at: Investigating History – What does history do for us?

The content that the students need is all there, but I know that, in the past, I found a couple of great YouTube videos that are great lesson starters and finishers (a YouTube search for ‘Why is history important?’ and looking for the video by the user Mr. Corwin will do you no wrong) and a few images that really provoke student discussion (quotes from historians that describe why they think history if important).

From the ease of my own computer, I can begin to edit that content that Skwirk has made available to me and integrate the videos and images that I want to include. It takes a few seconds to link to each of the resources, a few minutes arranging the structure of the page, and in no time I’ve got the bulk of that first lesson ready!

I can save that page (as it is) to my own dashboard so that when I walk into class I can have it all up for the kids on my data projector in class or they can access it themselves on the computer room I’ve booked for them. We/they work their way through the content there, being able to watch the videos, discuss what they think, and engage with the content in a way that textbooks and reams of photocopying just doesn’t allow.

Let’s face it: A 21st century kid almost expects there to be a video to accompany whatever it is you’re talking about! Not only can we meet their expectations of an engaging lesson with Skwirk, we can actually exceed it – and it’s quicker to do than ever before!

It might sound simple, but that’s because it really is. I’ve found I’m saving enough time with preparing for each lesson that I’m able to prepare more lessons in each of my ‘planning sessions’ (code for: Late night preparation) and get ahead faster, freeing up time in-school to complete the more time-sensitive and immediate tasks. I am able to give my students more attention.

But, what’s just as helpful: If your school keeps that subscription for the next year, all your material is ready to go day one, term one! There’s no reinventing the wheel or scrambling to find that worksheet that worked last year. It’s all there, saved online, ready to go.

I know I’ll be thanking my past self next year when I have even less initial work to do and am able to focus my efforts on refining and improving my material from last year based on my reflections of the lessons.

I can’t throw my support behind Skwirk enough with their new changes. They are an absolute time saver in terms of preparation – both in the short and long term. You won’t go wrong, no matter your technical level and experience with Skwirk in the past. Find out more below:

Get 25% off an Individual Teacher Skwirk Subscription today with the discount code ‘teaching’. Click here to get started.

Thomas Elley is in his sixth year of teaching, having attained a Bachelor of Education with First Class Honours and a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in History and English) from the University of Sydney. I currently teach junior and senior history in a government NSW school.

From Movies to Shakespeare

No need to spend hours making PPPT’s or searching for info on film techniques or background to Elizabethan Theatre…How you ask? SKWIRK! It’s done.

As a very busy English teacher I can speak first hand at how Skwirk has saved me hours of time a week. I know longer have to spend time going through my own collection of resources that are from 100’s of different places or creating resources for each topic. Skwirk has it at the touch of a button. I have access to notes on Shakespeare in general, then specific texts like Romeo and Juliet. It doesn’t stop there, I have access to notes, tests and summaries on topics like poetry, film, alliteration, reading and essay skills. There is not only great notes for students to use but animations, tests and interactive activities available as well.

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 15.05.53

Skwirk breaks down English between Skills and Texts. If you are teaching a skill set, like film, where the students need to make notes on something like camera angles. On Skwirk, you click on the link (yes it’s that simple) and at your fingertips you will find content on different techniques with an image to show students exactly what they are looking at, along with animations for elements like camera movement. All the resources are linked to the national curriculum so you know exactly which content descriptors and achievements standards you are covering.

Screen shot 2015-03-18 at 15.06.45

Who has time to create notes for half of what we cover? That’s where I found Skwirk beyond helpful! There are notes, which are easy to print or display for students to make their own notes (which you can also personalise to expand or simplify for each class). It allowed me more time for marking and the students loved it! If they missed a class or notes they could login and access without any hassles in their own time. No more digging for notes that a single students missed 2 weeks ago while still trying to prep for the lesson that has already started! I honestly LOVE Skwirk. I cannot wait for new resources they continually add.

Teachers can get 25% off an individual teacher subscription during March with the discount code ‘teaching’. Click here to get going.

Natasha, Secondary English Teacher

As a teacher, I know too well just how expensive it can be to purchase quality, relevant resources for my students. If you are fortunate enough to be allocated an allowance by your school for purchasing teaching resources, this budget is usually minimal at best and is often a rare luxury. For most teachers, quality teaching and learning resources are an expensive but necessary part of their occupation, more often than not requiring them to dig into their own pockets to pay for them. For this reason, teachers have many important criteria that they adhere to when selecting quality resources to supplement their teaching practices. This will include but is not limited to: resources that are Australian and curriculum oriented, comprehensive and value for money, easy to read and follow, fast and simple to access, engaging and appealing to students, differentiated and suitable for a range of learning styles and abilities. This is where Skwirk, the online interactive learning platform, is a teacher’s best friend and a highly valuable all-in-one learning tool. So how does Skwirk save teachers and schools money? Here are just a few ways:image2

  • Skwirk’s resources are national curriculum aligned and created by experienced educators

Skwirk currently encompasses over 18000 educational resources across subjects such as Mathematics, English, Science, Geography, History and Commerce. These resources include over 2000 animated ebooks, 1000 educational videos, 1000 interactive activities and thousands of podcasts, images, pop quizzes, exams and printable worksheets. Furthermore, these teaching and learning resources are created by experienced teachers and link to the new Australian curriculum codes. With this comprehensive collection of quality, diversified resources all located in one secure location, it is very cost-effective and saves teachers and schools money by decreasing the need for multiple resources.

  • Skwirk’s resources are accessible across different technologies

10502536_620336494730231_7737354430165643814_nThe Skwirk teaching and learning resources can be accessed anytime from home or in the classroom. They can also be utilized across different technologies, including tablets, laptops, projectors and interactive whiteboards. Being able to incorporate Skwirk’s resources into a variety of lessons at any time is not only really convenient but reduces the cost associated with providing individual print material to each student to support the learning program.

  • Skwirk’s resources can be customized according to student or classroom needs

Teachers have a responsibility to ensure that all students are catered for in their classroom. This involves implementing differentiated content and teaching methods to suit the various learning styles and abilities. Skwirk’s resources are suitable for students from foundation/ kindergarten to year 10 and enable the teacher to select content, games, assessments and other resources from either their class’s own year group or differing year groups to accommodate the diverse learning abilities in a classroom. Teachers can also assign individual students specific work without the student/s realizing that the work is from another year group. In addition, the range of relevant and interactive resources available on Skwirk caters for differing learning styles including the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learner. This means that teachers and schools do not need to purchase additional resources to meet the varying student needs. Skwirk provides a positive, differentiated learning experience for every student.

  • Skwirk listens to feedback to provide quality and comprehensive resources

Not only does Skwirk continually encourage feedback from teachers, parents and students, they use this input to ensure their resources are relevant, up-to-date and in line with educational standards. This means that teachers and schools do not need to continually up date and replace their teaching resources which is often a costly and time-consuming exercise.

Once you spend money on resources covering different subjects and different materials, it can end up costing hundreds of dollars per student. Skwirk offers all subjects and resources at $6 per student! That’s $6 for a student to access Curriclum relevant Maths, English, Science, History and Geography material, all in one place! I can’t think of many better deals then that. For these reasons alone it is evident why Skwirk is one of the leading educational websites and provides great value for money. Grab a free teacher and school trial by clicking here.

Written by Rachael Ingram, primary school teacher K-6

Alternatively email us asking for a quote, teachers@redapple.com.au

 

Early literacy learning in the modern classroom has been redefined with emerging digital technologies and the ease at which information can be accessed. The increasing use of technology in our everyday lives impacts greatly on literacy instruction and the role of the teacher.

Skwirk, the online learning portal which provides educational resources for foundation (kindergarten) to year 10, supports children in developing fundamental early literacy skills in the current digital age. Early literacy skills do not only entail the development of traditional fundamental knowledge and skills of the past print media world, including reading, comprehension, writing, phonemic awareness and spelling. In today’s society, it is critical that children from an early age are taught computer and technology basics to become confident, informed and safe users of technology. Skwirk not only provides opportunity for the development and consolidation of literacy skills with curriculum aligned resources but at the same time, young children are learning important online skills including how to navigate through a site, use a keyboard, mouse and touch screen technology. Skwirk promotes the interrelatedness of literacy learning and is therefore a valuable learning tool for early learners.

There are a number of ways that Skwirk supports the development of early literacy skills.

  1. Skwirk provides a multi-sensory learning experience

The resources in Skwirk for stage 1 (K-2) provide a highly interactive learning experience for young children. There are over 300 dynamic and engaging animations and games in Stage 1 that teach key concepts such as spelling techniques including sounding words out, breaking words down into smaller parts or blending sounds. In the Skwirk English section for stage 1, there are 9 units of essential early literacy concepts covering more 55 topics. In each topic, the animations and games encourage active participation with the use of questioning techniques, simple instructions, rich, meaningful language, engaging graphics, and interactive games, requiring student participation. In addition to the animations and games, there are also ‘read alongs’ which provide the written text or script for each animation. Students, particularly younger ones, enjoy the variety of multi-sensory games Skwirk offers. Skwirk’s resources encourage enjoyment for learning and when a child is engaged, it is well-documented that they are more likely to retain information and grasp a clear understanding.

 

  1. Skwirk supports a range of learning styles

Skwirk caters for a wide range of learning styles by encompassing a variety of methods to suit different learners. Younger students are more visual learners requiring colourful, eye-catching images and entertaining sound. Skwirk recognises this and uses bright, quirky characters and funny sound effects to engage their young audience. These multi-sensory educational games/ activities stimulate learning by engaging students on many levels, helping them to learn by using more than one sense. Unlike traditional teacher instruction which typically only engages two senses: sight (visual) and hearing (auditory), Skwirk accommodates the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (touch) learning styles. With the kinaesthetic learner, they prefer to ‘move and do’ in order to learn. They perform best in a learning environment where they can interact. Skwirk’s incorporation of interactive technology such as flash animations, interactive buttons, and drag and drop technology appeals to the kinaesthetic learner. For example, stage 1 students can develop their literacy skills by using the mouse or their finger to hover over a word to hear it read, click on a noun or verb, drag sentences to place them in order, clicking on the initial or end sounds in a word. Early learning of essential literacy skills is more effective when all three learning styles are engaged.

 

  1. Skwirk encourages a self-directed and self-paced

Skwirk allows children to complete games and move through the resources at their own pace and according to their individual needs. Within a classroom, there is a vast range of abilities and needs in literacy learning , particularly in the early school years when children enter formal education with such substantial variation of prior knowledge and skills in reading, phonemic awareness and writing. With Skwirk resources, the learning is individualised. Students are able to select literacy concepts or topics they would like further practice in and attempt these until they have master them. By allowing students to select games and work at their own pace, Skwirk encourages children to have ownership and can take responsibility for their learning.

With the multi-sensory learning experience, the range of learning styles and individual needs Skwirk caters for and the curriculum aligned interactive resources, Skwirk is a powerful online learning tool that can foster the development of early literacy skills and provide a positive learning experience for young children.

Teachers you can get 20% off Individual Teacher access until the end of March with the discount code ‘literacy’. Click Here to get started!  

Teachers/schools/parents, get a free trial to Skwirk by clicking here. 

Written by Rachael Ingram, primary school teacher K-6

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,