We were incredibly fortunate to secure this interview with Apple Distinguised Educator and UK edtech guru Joe Moretti. Joe discusses his recently launched coding app The Adventure Creator and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m a classically trained musician, with a BA Hons in Music; a classical clarinettist who then moved to jazz saxophone in the 80s, Big Band and quartets basically. I’ve also been playing electric guitar since I was in my mid-teens (following in my father’s footsteps with that.) I also have an MA in Creative Music Technology. I started teaching in Primary education in 1982 and have 6 years Primary teaching experience, then 7 years teaching experiencing in Secondary before moving to post-16 education for 8.5 years and finally Higher Education. Whilst lecturing at Bath Spa University, Apple saw me presenting on an education resource I devised for using Logic Audio in education and started to ask me to get involved in education events. Eventually I went independent with a focus on Apple in education and formed my own company.
What was your first experience using the iPad in the classroom?
Literally as the iPad was released I was heading up the content for the Apple Leadership Tour events across Europe. I’ve presented on over 80 of these events in almost 40 countries in 4 years, so the iPad was adopted into that immediately and we moved from laptops to iPads overnight.
In your opinion what is the most powerful change that mobile technology can offer an educator?
When implemented correctly, with a focus on teaching on learning with the right tech support in place, mobile technology allows for a shift in focus away from learning tech to where it should be, on pedagogy. If the tech is not becoming as transparent as possible, and it’s apparent where the learning is happening then it’s being implemented incorrectly in my opinion. It’s not about apps, or the number of apps, it about engaging students and facilitating enthusiasm and excitement - and the iPad is capable of that.
What is the most common trap that you see schools who adopt mobile technology fall into?
Thinking it happens through just handing out iPads. It has nothing to do with children being able to ‘do it’ faster, it has to do with a clear focus on the strategy and planning that the iPads are being brought into. It takes a handful of apps and clear planning to make a massive change in any school.
What core apps would you recommend to a school new to the use of the iPad?
Showbie and Book Creator with Explain Everything as the core concept explanation tool. Pages and Keynote if you want to bring your word and PowerPoint documents into the planning, Showbie will allow you to access these easily now from iCloud, DropBox or GoogleDrive.
On top of these, Socrative for immediate Q and A or Space Races or Nearpod for interactive presentations and assessment. Padlet is also great for brain storming sessions. These are what I would call the essential app collection, (especially the first three)
You're a musician too and have delivered iPad training tailored to music teachers. How can mobile technology transform the way music is taught?
I like the way that GarageBand makes it possible for ANYONE to create music, experiment with sound - put ideas, record tracks, chord sequences, write a song – it’s an amazing application. GarageBand on iPad can deliver a well-structured music curriculum - I wish I had the time to put one down on paper, or into an iBook! I have put a set of tutorials together to help teachers (and students) get into using GarageBand as simply as possible -
You've just released an excellent ebook on coding using the iPad. What advantages do you feel that mobile devices can offer to those learning to program?
Thank you! It started with the intention of creating a resource that was, as the title suggests, a clear, comprehensive resource for teachers to consult knowing it would accurately review the applications available for learning programming concepts.
I think the applications on mobile devices are on the whole well designed, allowing students to focus on the content and the ‘intention’ of the objects they are working with, i.e. just tapping and dragging ideas around a screen and experimenting with the possibilities.
You have also recently launched your own unique coding app. How did that come about?
That’s a great question! It stemmed primarily from a love of the old 8 bit graphic adventures. The Hobbit, Level 9, Zork etc where the emphasis was on your imagination, using your ingenuity to figure what was needed to solve the problems and puzzles of the game. When I saw Minecraft and how, despite its blocky graphics, it was being adopted globally, I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see that student were focusing on engagement, not being ‘dazzled’ by graphics, it was content and creativity that had them hooked.
In the 80s programming applications for creating adventures began to appear, but they were clunky and quite awkward to use. Applications such as Book Creator and Popplet exemplify how content can be created easily on the iPad and I wanted something that would students to create great graphic adventures EASILY on the iPad and share them with others, with a different slant to the other applications that deliver a coding element. Basically story telling meets coding, and TAC is very much about Boolean logic IF have sword AND chop tree THEN ACTION …. or IF wear GOLD RING AND IF USE SWORD THEN ACTION, that type of thing.
What makes The Adventure Creator different to other apps for learning to code?
Essentially it’s an application that will work in Primary right through Secondary, and work at their level. TAC allows you to create just two locations and walk between them, or add objects, markers and counters to add sophisticated elements, for example; when you wear a spacesuit a counter only gives you 5 moves before you are required to find more oxygen. Or needing a source of light to see in the dark because a DARK marker has been set! You name it, TAC will allow you to do it. In the demo game thats included in TAC we replicate the old Hobbit puzzle when you encounter a troll, if you hang around things don’t turn out well for you! What happens in the book of the Hobbit? How do you deal with the troll and survive?
With TAC you can start off with a few locations, share them via airdrop, collaborate with others, have them add images, ideas, some text, whatever. Then share it back. Simply and easily. It’s had a great response already.
What's next for you Joe?
A couple of things in the immediate future!
1 I’ve just submitted a new book called INTERACTIVE MACBETH, with over 100 activities for learning Macbeth in a (hopefully) engaging and stimulating way, test questions, quizzes on each act, matching quotes to characters etc.
2 I’m currently working on a new book - a comprehensive guide to Google in the Classroom with Alan Goldberg from Cape Town, he’s a great, enthusiastic and inspiring educator. I really enjoy working with Alan he’s full of ideas, and how new technologies impact on the classroom.
3 Producing weekly resources for TAC, these are a structured set of tutorials and activities. Each week you’re learning a new piece of content and all of it leads to creating a full game.
All of those resources are theadventurecreator.com on the Education page. It has video tutorials and support PDFs all all as free downloads. I’ll compile of these into a book at some stage.
4 Lastly, I’m planning some courses for programming apps on iPad, a new course called ‘Create a Game in Day’ using TAC which is designed to do just that. Several schools have already signed up for it, so I am keen to see how that works. Some of the classes are just 7 or 8 years of age. Exciting stuff!
How can our readers keep up to date with what you're up to?
My website makemoremusic.co.uk has just been updated detailing the new apps and books and will be complete by the end of January - but probably the best way is following me on Twitter @joe_moretti, as I tend to release information on a daily basis about anything to do with mobile technology and education.
Joe it's been an absolute pleasure to speak with you and hear about the development of your amazing app. Thank you for taking time out for us.