Thursday, 29 January 2015

Get your Freak on - A review of Freaked Out by Simon Pridham

Freaked Out - Simon Pridham

Ipads seem to have hit schools at a tremendous rate, which may on the surface seem like a good thing. But what about those staff who are not as technologically confident? What about those who might be freaked out by this new tool for learning? Don’t worry...there’s a book for that!

It might seem a slightly odd arrangement that, having been given an Ipad, a teacher needs a book to find out how to use it. Isn’t this a bit counter-intuitive? How can a book even come close to reflecting the multimedia digital nature of the Ipad? Is there any point in a book like ‘Freaked Out’?

First things first. Reading the back of the book instantly raises my confidence. The comprehensive list of topics covered, including ‘what a 21st Century classroom looks like’ and ‘home-school links using digital learning’ along with the reassuring blurb discussing the cross-phase and cross-curricular nature of the guide, mean expectations are high.

The book begins with a simply written guide to the physical features of the Ipad. The freaked out will take confidence from the small step guide to switching on and explanation of the buttons and icons that face the user when the Ipad starts up; nothing is taken for granted which is a good place to start.

Next, apps. The friendly ‘arm around the shoulder’ text (I had an image of Simon sitting on my grandparents sofa with a cup of tea in their best china…) gently coaxes the reader through registering for an Apple account and on to searching for and downloading their very first app! Interesting that the choice of app is Aurasma.

Hang on...the next section is about Aurasma. Surely someone freaked out shouldn’t leap straight into Aurasma? If you haven’t guessed already, this is where the book comes alive, almost literally. We are talked through our first use of Aurasma and lo and behold there’s an ‘Aura’ ready for us to scan and there’s Simon talking to us! Brilliant, and really hammers home the possibilities of this new technology.

From Aurasma we move to QR codes and these are used in the remainder of the book to enhance the content and provide direct links to items discussed in the text. Simon has included a series of icons to represent the content that will be accessed when a QR code is scanned. This enables the reader/user to decide if they need to, or want to, follow the link. Maybe they understood the text well enough to not need to watch the video.

There’s a range of further chapters that provide information and stimulate creative and pedagogical juices. Each chapter deals with key areas of implementing digital learning in schools to empower the freaked out (who I’m sure are more likely to be ‘freaked in’ than ‘freaked out’ by now) with more QR codes and a continuation of the easy-going chatty type text. It’s all very well knowing your way around an Ipad and using a number of exciting apps but once the initial honeymoon period is over there are always questions...Fear not, Simon has included a FAQ section which is made up of genuine questions asked by real human beings. They cover an interesting range of issues from printing from an ipad to implementing with a small budget. Finally, an essential glossary and the book is done.

Although really it isn’t.

Not only has Simon provided a brilliantly useful guide to enable the freaked out amongst us to start their Ipad journey, there is such a wealth of content that this book deserves to be revisited a number of times - and I’m certain it will be popularly shared amongst colleagues for years to come.

So, is there any point to this book? Does it work in this digital age? Absolutely! The use of Aurasma and QR codes provides digital content to enhance (or should it be ‘augment’) the traditional analogue book. Simon’s friendly, non-patronising tone combined with his excellent knowledge of digital learning will empower any colleague, no matter their level of ‘freakedness’, to confidently begin their digital journey. This is an essential book for the staffroom. Download it to your bookshelf today!

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