Visiting BETT, Software to die for and a geography lesson to boot.

Saturday last I spent at Olympia. I would have liked to have had more time obviously, but as a practicing teacher this rarely seems to be available. Instead a 6.30 start found myself and Tiz the ted, spending quality time together over coffee and a bacon sarnie at Temple Meads, and planning our day with the biggest and the best in the world of Educational ICT.

After photographs over breakfast, on the train, and in a variety of other poses and opportunities with British Giants like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and that marmalade loving bear, at Paddington, teddy clearly became concerned by the sheer volume of people and asked to be tucked away in my back pack. With Tiz safe and secure, I felt able to mingle and browse the items I had planned to see to my hearts content.

Visiting BETT with no pre planning, I have discovered to my peril, is counter productive. There is literally too much to see, and this visit I was intent on returning home with both my arms the same length. I was particularly interested in two software environments, but also demos from one Software house in particular. Anything else was a bonus, and as is usual on days out such as this I still managed to come back with a host of free goodies, keyrings, biros and mousemats by the score. However I am proud to say that this time I was able to say no, and only return with order forms and publicity materials that were the focus of my visit.

The highlights of my day were visits to the Softease stand and a live demo of their soon to be released podium software package, watching a several demos on 2 simple's stand, and seeing some of the new material developed for the IWB by Mark Cogan's Interactive resources.

Podium was of particular interest as I have given considerable thought to some of the ways podcasting or even just audio recording, using digital means, might be developed to support teaching and learning within my school. I had a flight of fancy in the Autumn Term, after visiting, when I considered the idea of encouraging year six children to record bedtime stories for sharing from our school website, with younger students. I wondered if digital publication in this way, might help them to develop a sense of audience, help them to think more about the purpose of expression and intonation during oral presentation. In thinking about how writing is for reading, and a recorded form of speech, it interests me how some of our children still seem to have the impression, that reading as something they do to or for their teacher. How do we encourage a love of reading if it is solely seen as work, and something we have to do. This was one of the things that really excited me about Podium, as despite its obvious power as an audio recording, presentation and publication tool, it seems at first glance very easy to use and accessible.

We are in the process of developing a new library in school, and I am working with my school technician to create a smaller networked space for use with focus and target groups. Podium does not only enable web based publication, but also publishing to a local network. One thought that crossed my mind was the possibility of creating a small talking books library, focussing on the ideas presented above, to encourage older children to record for younger children, the text from their favourite picture books. These could be played back through classroom PCs, or perhaps through MP3 players with speakers attached in book corners. They might also form a useful resource for a small group activity during a literacy hour. I am sure seeing the enjoyment others got from their reading aloud could be a real motivator, and combined with the ability to find the story that matches the talking text, would facilitate the younger students ability to access and make links between the words on the page and those spoken by a reading buddy or familiar older face. As a school we are also working to increase community involvement within the school, it would be intersting to involve community members in reading stories for inclusion in the school library, and using this technology as a resource to increase their understanding and knowledge of the technological world.

The obvious Radio Teyfant has struck a chord too, as we are part of a BSF project where our school is to be rebuilt within a larger campus structure. Documenting this process with the children we feel is key to establishing ownership and the future sense of community we hope this structure will provide. We have considered blogging, and timelapse video as two ways of documenting this process, but are now also thinking of including a weekly podcast about what is happening. A multimodal online newsletter. We are lucky in that we can see the changes from our classroom windows, but one of the schools to join us on site, is currently quite a distance away, and we want them to feel central to the project too. Before looking at Podium this seemed like a task too far, but I am beginning to see possibilities for using the tool to support this project, and further explore the potentiality of this new medium.

2 Simple provided another stopping off point and after a number of demos, the package I wandered away with for trial was 2 email. As I said in an earlier post, about control, I would like to see ICT based activity included in the role play areas of our younger children. I pondered on the making of baggage labels and tickets in the travel agents, but seeing 2 email fired another imaginative moment about how we might use this software tool with younger children. In the real world e mail is becoming a central part of communications, but it is not easy to simulate without giving some degree of internet access. 2 email it seems does just this, installed on a local pc it allows children to log on and go through the process of writing, sending, and replying to email in a simulated environment, where the files they send never leave the computer, classroom or school, but which can be picked up and replied to by other users within the class, and returned to their pc based inbox. I could see all sorts of possibilities for this within the Key Stage One classroom, as part of the office, or home developed for role play, with an adult taking the role in the hotseat, responding to topic or thematically based questions, perhaps simulating the role of Tiz the travelling bear during topic work, writing to the children in response to their assumed location. Perhaps giving clues for use with a preestablished and labelled map of the world. "I have just had my photograph taken with a very famous bear, he shared a marmalade sandwich and a cup of cocoa with me, before waving off my train from the station, a place that shares his name. I am in the capital city of England. Can you find me on your map? " Perhaps they could ask Katie Morag about her Island, the weather and the things she likes to do. Using the internet to look up weather conditions on the Island, we could send these back for the children to log on a weather chart comparing weather conditions in the Hebrides with those around school today.

Anyway, keeping my imagination in check for a moment, I also did lots more on my visit, but to be honest Tiz is getting a bit restless, and wants me to write about how we followed up her day out in school with the students. On our journey, as I said earlier we took some photos of Tiz. In school I copied these to the network, and our Key Stage One staff spent some time sharing these with the students as a slide show through Windows Photo Viewer. The students enjoyed talking about where she had been, what she had done and the statues in the photographs. Later in the week I used PowerPoint to create a travel log, inserting the photographs we had taken and sequencing the day to tell the story from Tiz's point of view. On our school website, we have a micro site space called Tiz's Travels, where we will be uploading and sharing her journeys with the wider community, but drawing on an idea presented in Anthony Evans Blog about Geotagging, I was inspired to include my first geotagged map in this space too along with the travel journal to show this particular day out in its Geographical context. Logging into quickmaps I used the zoom and search tools to help tag and label the main landmarks on this journey first, then zoomed out until I had the map view I wanted to display in the site. Pressing save and display code, the site generated for me the html I needed to include in my web page in order to access the map I had created. In combination with the travel journal, this tool I feel now broadens the context for discussion and sharing of the day out. We can locate the Journal in space, see roughly how far apart the locations are, zoom into the places where the photographs were taken, and see where the places are in relation to each other. If Geography is about understanding our place in space, then these tools together are very powerful tools in enabling this understanding to be developed. I have uploaded these resources to our Tiz's Travels microsite, but here is a direct link to the page in question, let me know what you think. Well back to the everyday, a haircut, shopping, and maybe with the supermarket's permission a few pictures for my new control and monitoring resource kit.

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