Apps in Action: Skitch Lesson Ideas

Hands down, one of my favourite apps to use in the classroom is Skitch. It’s versatility makes it useful in so many situations. Most of the tools are quite basic, however I feel that this is one of the factors that makes it effective for both student and teacher use. The possibilities in terms of the ways it can be used are endless. When the app is opened for the first time, the user is presented with a screen like the one below which introduces the range of tools available:

This is useful for teachers as it means they don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining to learners how the app works: it’s very intuitive

Here are just some of the ways I’ve been using Skitch in my lessons.

Annotating images

Skitch is a fantastic tool for annotating images. It enables the user to precisely point to features of interest and add text. There are many ways this could be used. One instance is like the image above where I have added key questions to an image. This provides more focus than merely presenting a blank image and prompts discussion. Following on from this, I have given learners the blank background image and asked them to annotate theirs by answering the questions. Alternatively, a teacher could present a blank image and ask students to identify the key features and annotate it live, based on students feedback. Although this could have traditionally been done by projecting an image and annotating it using a whiteboard marker, the great thing about Skitch is that all of that great feedback is not lost: it’s stored in a clear way which can then be distributed to students as a point of reference.
Skitch is also a great tool for students to annotate their own work. I have found that learners are more willing to take risks when using Skitch as opposed to annotating a diagram using pen and paper. The most common reason I have found for this is some learners do not want to commit to writing something if they are in any doubt as it will ruin their work. This app overcomes that problem as it enables learners to edit annotations at any time without impacting on the presentation of their work. However, I feel that it’s important to get learners to submit their first draft and then make alterations where necessary based on either teacher, peer or even self feedback so the teacher can track their progress and see their learning journey.

Digital Mini Whiteboard
Mini whiteboards are a fantastic assessment for learning tool for teachers. They ensure that every child participates and has a voice, making it easier to assess the understanding of all and identify any misconceptions before moving on. However, I (as many others I’m sure) have found the practicality of using them fraught with problems like the time taken to hand them out and the inevitable fact that pens and/or erasers will either be missing or have run out.

Skitch offers an easy solution to this. When the app is opened, a series of options appears along the bottom (see image above). By selecting “Draw” tool, the user has access to a blank canvas which can act as a mini whiteboard. Whilst on the surface, this appears to be just a case of substitution, with devices replacing mini whiteboards, it does offer many advantages. Firstly, it negates the issues with analogue mini whiteboards that have already been mentioned. However, I believe one of the most powerful aspects of using this is the fact that it provides teachers with the opportunity to share individual students responses with the rest of the class. If a room is equipped with a projector and Apple TV, the teacher can simply ask a student to AirPlay their device to the screen enabling all to see: a great way to stimulate discussion in the classroom and question pupils about their knowledge and understanding.

Top Tip: when you select the draw function in Skitch, it will automatically display a page with portrait orientation. By selecting Settings (three dots at the top of the screen) > Rotate, the page will switch to landscape and take up the whole screen.

Peer assessment

Skitch is a great tool for annotating and assessing work to provide formative feedback on the fly. The example above us from a Key Stage 3 Humanities lesson, where learners where preparing to produce an extended piece of writing explaining the reasons why William of Normandy won the Battle of Hastings. Firstly, pupils were given success criteria for their introductory paragraph which they would be producing. Following this, pairs of students where given the model introduction above, with some intentional mistakes, and asked to provide feedback on it: identifying the strengths (green) of this piece and areas where it could be improved (red). Pairs of pupils were then randomly selected to give a piece of feedback, which I then collated in real time with my iPad projected on a screen. Students then used the success criteria and the model answer, complete with feedback to formulate their own introductory paragraphs.

One of the reasons why Skitch is such a great tool for this purpose is the way the finished article is presented. The different colours and the ability to type text mean that the feedback given is very clear. Also, the arrow tool enables learners to be precise in their feedback. Rather than making generalised comments like “include more detail“, learners can use questions as prompts and point to exactly where this feedback applies. Finally, the use of the Pixelate tool allows students to blank out unnecessary bits of text: a feature I find works very well with Key Stage 4 students working on exam style questions.

Alternatively, I have used Skitch for the same purpose by using an app like Evernote Scannable (Free) to scan students work and annotate it as a class to demonstrate how to provide effective feedback. Despite this, I would not recommend using this to provide feedback on an extended piece of writing as I think an app like Explain Everything does a better job, as expertly demonstrated by Mark Anderson (@ICTEvangelist) here.

IMG_0790Skitch – Snap. Mark Up. Send. by Evernote is available for free on the App Store.

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