teachers

This month, we discuss the value of using graphic organisers or mind-maps to enhance and improve learning. its use for learning and teaching is limitless. Mind-mapping has the following important uses:

Consolidate learning: At the end of a chapter or topic of learning, recall all the information you have gathered and present it in a mind-map. You will surprised how the process of mind-mapping will help you remember your learning better.

Brainstorm: Stuck for ideas? Got a big project but not sure where to start? Well, mind-mapping allows you to develop ideas quickly and in a logical way. It allows you to change, link, delink ideas as you gather your thoughts and analyse the task on hand.

Keep adding: With a mind-map there is no limit to how much information you can add. The more you read and come across, the more you can add to your mind-map as relevant. Encouraging growth of knowledge, its something you can can keep returning to!

Note-taking: Can’t keep up with your teacher? Mind-mapping offer a quick and easy short hand for developing ideas as your teacher discusses them.

Exam frenzy: Exam jitters outside the exam hall, pull out a piece of paper and create a mind-map of ideas, topics, issues you need to know for the exam. It’s a handy tool for revision and enables visual ease of remembering content!

Don’t forget, find out more about Skwirk, click here.

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.’

Why We Love Skwirk at Charlestown East Public School

Skwirk was brought to our school after a presentation by a local school who showed us how the resources had not only transformed their teaching and learning program, but more importantly, how engaging and relevant the content is for all students.

As a result, Charlestown East purchased Skwirk and it is now used on a daily basis with our interactive Smartboards and computers (Kindergarten to Year 6) to explore, explain, and engage students, so they can understand key concepts in depth.

Drew Janetzki using Skwirk in the classroom

All of the major KLAs (Key Learning Areas) are covered including Literacy, Numeracy, Human Society and It’s Environment as well as Science and Technology. A unique feature of Skwirk is the Australian voices, as well as the depth of content of all of the above mentioned KLA’s. This was not the only appealing aspect to the program; it was also the excitement students experience from Skwirk.

Students love Skwirk; whether it is playing a game, reading along or playing an animation. Skwirk has cleverly created an educational product that is relevant and meets syllabus outcomes. It is also highly engaging and appealing to all of our students.

Within the English section, students are exposed to highly engaging videos that relate to every strand of the curriculum. Spelling, text types, writing, grammar, reading, handwriting, computer skills, talking and listening, as well as language, are all covered under Skwirk.

The Numeracy section features highly engaging videos that relate to the curriculum. Measurement, Space and Geometry as well as Numbers are all covered.

The choice of animation, the ability to choose an activity, and the option to read along is very appealing to all forms of learners.

Within HSIE, our students in Stage 1 are currently investigating Workers in the Community and in Stage 2, they are exploring Machines. Our Stage 3 students are exploring Global Connections.

All of these concepts have become more engaging thanks to Skwirk.

The unique aspect of Skwirk to our teaching staff, is that all of the units are aligned to syllabus outcomes. This re-assuring aspect ensures that there is no guess work or re-programming for any staff member. It is almost fool proof for any teacher, including those with limited ICT knowledge. From our experience as teachers, there are only one or two clicks and you have the exact content your students require to start their lesson or enhance their learning.

With the introduction of portable tablet computing, Skwirk is being used at the touch of a finger and allows all of our students to follow up on concepts being taught.

With Skwirk being in the palm of our students hands, it has changed the way they learn, engage and interact with technology. Our school librarian has been over the moon because of Skwirk’s vast eBook range, which features over 2, 000 animations that cover all stages.

Luke Dunford, one of our Year 6 leaders and Minister for Technology thinks Skwirk is

“a great classroom asset and is one of the most educational websites that helps me learn.”

Our teacher/ librarian, Mrs. Donna Reinhard, uses Skwirk to target specific Stage 1 outcomes in the strand of Measurement. Mrs Reinhard believes that , “Skwirk is a very enriching and engaging program for all of our students”, and regularly uses Skwirk in library lessons.

Thankyou Skwirk for bringing back the fun to learning for our students at Charlestown East Public School.

Drew Janetzki
Assistant Principal – Charlestown East Public School

Find our more about Skwirk, click this link to get a free trial. 

Check out our teacher tour below:

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.

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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

Hello Skwirkers,

As Skwirk moves into it’s 9th year and crosses the 1000 school subscribers mark, I felt this was a good time to reflect on how far we have come.

Rod Salmon - The Founder of Skwirk

Rod Salmon – The Founder of Skwirk

The idea of Skwirk, or the ‘online learning thingy’ as I called it then, first came to me whilst I watched my son playing rugby. He had been struggling with some Maths homework that week which I had sat down and talked him through. Now I am the first to admit that I am no teacher or tutor, but I know my Maths skills are fairly strong, and I helped him through this time. If he had asked me to help him with his English skills it would have been a different story.

I felt like there had to be a better way to do this. Children learn in a variety of different ways including visual, auditory, textual and kinesthetic learning styles. Using learning resources online was nothing new, but I felt like we spent hours trying to find good content, and hardly any of it was Australian. That’s when it came to me, what if parents could go to one website which had all the core subjects for their child’s school year covered using a variety of different learning resources? I thought I have something here.

So I contacted a few colleagues, and before long, we had a number of investors on-board. Online Learning Thingy was a go! To be clear, this was pretty new territory, not just for us, but in the education industry in general. There was no blueprint for a project like this. What we did know was that content was key. And that was the main focus, quality education content.

Within months we had the shell of this idea in place, starting to fill with content such as animations, activities videos, text and worksheets. I had never seen anything like it, with hundreds of resources produced on a weekly basis. The name ‘Skwirk’ came about through an in house competition among the staff, and after someone said ‘school work’ very quickly, the word just stuck. We had a name! Our first ‘promo-video’ highlights how we intended Skwirk to be used. I admit we were a little rusty then:

It was around this time that the team started to think about approaching schools with our resources. That would be a key point in Skwirk’s timeline. I had never intended Skwirk to be a classroom resource. To be honest I didn’t know much about the education industry. But the feedback we were getting from teachers was incredible, and this changed the model of the company considerably.

It has not always been plain sailing. Since those days, the industry has been flooded with competition. Some have lasted the pace (Mathletics, Reading Eggs, Maths Online), whilst others have found it tougher.

Plus you are in an industry which is both stuck in time and constantly evolving. What I mean by that is on one hand you have schools with slower internet connections (this was before any mention of the NBN, which is still not available to everyone today), and out-dated computers and software (of no fault of their own, school budgets are always tight). On the other hand you have other schools starting to adopt tablets and other newer learning technologies and philosophies.

The toughest challenge has always been getting Skwirk in front of educators. Teachers are busy. I mean, really busy. Our processes have been tweaked and changed more times then I care to mention, to evolve with the times and teachers timelines. Bottom line, when we show teachers Skwirk, they get excited.

With all these challenges over the years, I believe it is testament to the Skwirk Team and our product that we are still here and still growing. In fact, we are now growing quicker then ever. We have a loyal customer base and Skwirk is considered valuable with 85% of schools renewing Skwirk every year. Although I love all the new teacher and school tools we have added over the years, I believe that the key to our product was and still is top quality educational content. And we have so much more coming next year.

To finish off, as I look back at the past 9 years, it is with great pride that I can say that we are now used in over 1000 schools in Australia. We are supporting over 20,000 Australian teachers. We are helping over 280,000 Australian children develop their knowledge, enhance their skills and improve their grades. We have now expanded outside Australia, into the UK, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Bali, New Zealand and Dubai. But what fills me with pride the most is visiting a school, sitting at the back of the classroom and seeing the teachers and students interact with Skwirk in the classroom. This is where it really matters. And as you can see in the video below, we have come along way since those early days.

I hope this highlights the passion and work that has gone into Skwirk. If any schools or teachers want to find out more, contact us. The Skwirk Team are always happy to help.

Thanks for sharing the journey, and watch this space, there is a long way to go yet.

Happy Skwirking,

Rod Salmon

Chief Skwirker (Director of the online learning thingy)

On average we talk to around 200 educators and teachers a day. These discussions could be an introduction to Skwirk, teacher training on our resources, gathering feedback and setting up a new school on their Skwirk adventure.

We talk with Principals, Assistant Principals, Teacher Librarians, Curriculum Coordinators, ICT Coordinators, Heads of Department and Classroom Teachers. One thing which stands out head and shoulders above anything else, it just how little time teachers have. Whether before, during or after school, it amazes us how many extra hours educators put in. This is not new news, but it is something which can be overlooked unless you aFeatured imagectually work with educators.

According to the Teachers Workload Survey, teachers are spending an average of 18 hours a week planning, preparing & marking. When we mentioned this on Skwirk’s Facebook page, the response was mainly, ‘It’s often more’. Some teachers said 20-25 hours a week!!

Where does that time go? Well there is obviously the huge amount of marking on a daily basis. Then there is the time spent searching for relevant resources. These resources can include textbooks, worksheets, DVD’s, apps and online resources. Online resources could be in variety of locations, whether they are free (YouTube, TeacherTube, Wikipedia) or paid subscriptions.

And finally teachers have to put these together into a clear lesson plan. Whether it will be something which is used on Smartboards and projectors at the front of the classroom, or accessed by students in textbooks, worksheets, computers and tablets.

So, it’s not very hard to see where all that time goes!

We took all this feedback on-board at Skwirk, and brainstormed ways we could try and make teachers lives a lot easier. We came up with a new teachers portal which adds three unique areas:

1. Content – All subjects and resource types in one place

One thing we have always done at Skwirk is covered all the major subjects in one online location. But we have now added all the year groups to just one login as well. Through one login, teachers get access to Maths, English, History, Science & Geography content from Years Kindy/Reception – 10. Essentially in one login, teachers get access to over 18,000 resources, including videos, animations, interactive activities, worksheets, games, and more. This means teachers can now assign individual students work from different year levels, using differentiation in mixed-ability classes.  Watch our tutorial on how to assign work to students:

2. Automated Marking

Yes, Skwirk will mark assessments for you. Skwirk contains over 4,000 assessments including Quizzes, Spelling, Grammar and Vocab exams. Plus you can even create your own! When you assign lessons to students through Skwirk you will receive an instant report when they have finished the assessments, with their marks on 1st, 2nd and more attempts, so you can measure progress. You can find out how to access the reports in this tutorial:

3. Lesson Editing & Planning 

Lastly, comes our new lesson planner. We love demonstrating this feature when visiting schools; it shows the teachers the unlimited potential of Skwirk. The new lesson planner and editor gives teachers the ability to take any content on Skwirk and edit it to suit them. So imagine picking up a text-book, taking any page, and then chopping up the content, deleting what is not relevant for your lesson and then bringing in your own resources. You can even bring in your own videos and images, create your own assessments, and then save to our own profile to use and add to year after year. We have also added the ability to share lessons with other teachers in your school. Once again we have created a tutorial to demonstrate this new feature:

These features have been created after gathering feedback from the teachers who use Skwirk. We exist to make teachers lives easier and to try and help claim back some more hours by providing quality and extensive resources which are simple and effective. Join Skwirk today, click here.

Happy Skwirking,

The Skwirk Team