Bad Dog: Exploring Hide and Reveal Techniques for the IWB

Does anyone remember the Sierra After Dark Screensavers from the 90's? My personal favourites were The Flying Toasters, swooping across the screen to the background theme of Flight of the Valkyries, and a character called Bad Dog, who would during periods of prolonged absence, sneak onto the screen and dig it up, pausing occasionally to glance for my approval, before plodding onwards in my continued absence to bury my folders, dig up bones he had left earlier, or chase the pesky cat. I hadn't run this software for sometime, and was asked to take a year 1 class last spring, being allowed to run the day from my own plans, I took as an opportunity to explore some of the affordances of the smart Notebook, and how I might use the tools it offers to develop a theme based day with children of this age group. Obviously the screensaver set, with some of it's content, as a resource was not appropriate to use, but bad dog as a character and his antics inspired me to think about how I might use him to engage the children, as we explored a text together.

Hide and Reveal

Hide and reveal activities are perhaps the most commonly used techniques with the object based Smart Note
book software. In hide and reveal the layering functions of the notebook are exploited to develop "interactive" tools to work with children. To be successful in creating tools and carrying out this type of activity we have to be able to visualise the software environment as if it were 3 dimensional. A useful analogy for using hide and reveal as a technique within this environment is to try to view it is as if the pages were constructed like layers in an onion. The page itself being the background layer and in the middle of the onion. Items added to the page by the user "piling up" one on top of the other, as they become additional layers in this digital root vegetable. Try drawing two rectangles on the page with the Notebook, and you will see that the last object you drew when dragged over the first one will sit on top of it. This is the basic principle of hide and reveal, an object placed on the page last can become a draggable mask, or by selecting objects you have created and using the layering tool from the menu, you are able to place these objects on different layers in relation to others. This opens a host of possibilities for how the tool can be used to support problem based teaching and learning. During the day I spent with this year 1 group, I tried out a number of these hide and reveal techniques with the notebook, using Bad Dog in part as my supporting cast!?*

Preparing Tools and Resources: Getting the Media Together

I love using stories to support and frame work with younger children. Examples from the past inclu
de using the "Light House Keeper's Lunch," and "The Iron Man" to support Design and Technology activity, and "Mr Gumpy's Outing" " The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark "and "Peace at Last" to contextualise science activities on Materials and their properties, sources of Light and Sound, as well as in their obvious literacy hour contexts. One of my favourite texts though is still Jill Murphy's "On The Way Home." This Shaggy Dog Story, tells how a little girl having had an accident in the playground walks home to tell her mum, but before she gets there she meets a number of her freinds, and tells them increasingly outrageous stories about how she got "her bad knee." I decided to use this text to support my day. First of all I scanned the text inserting the pages to a notebook to act as a shared text.

In additi
on to scans from the book I also needed Bad Dog to join me on my adventure. I downloaded a screenshot image from the web, and using the freeform select tool in the Smart Toolbox, ectracted only Bad Dog and the mounds of earth he had created from the image to use in my progressing tool. Using copy and paste, and the clone tool, I was then able to make a set of bad dogs and his mounds, to act as masks for various sections within the activity, or to act as sound buttons in the phonic tasks I would later develop as the book progressed.

(Update: 04/09: The original screenshot image I used to make my notebook has unfortunately been moved. I have been unable to find it again and so have uploaded my cropped images. Images originally from After Dark Screen Saver, Bad Dog published by Berkeley Systems 1989)

With all the objects I needed to create the book, I could begin work on the resource set itself. Within the book I included many hide and reveal activities all of which were slightly different.


  1. Rub and Reveal: Using the title page of the book as a background layer, I began by "sending it to the back" and then "locking it in place." I selected the pen tool from the menu, and then custom to increase the thickness of the nib, to the largest possible width, changed the colour to the same as the background, and then coloured over the whole image hiding it behind a layer of "ink". During work with the students they were invited to use the whiteboard eraser to rub out areas of the "ink," gradually revealing parts of the picture behind it. Encouraging inference from the picture about what they thought they could see, I questioned them about the reasons they had for what they thought they could see encouraging use of visual cues in the picture to support their suggestions. Only children who were following "quality audience" routines were invited to take part in the board based activity, which helped focus attention, and encourage engagement. Eventually as the whole image was gradually revealed we were able to identify all of the imaginary characters that the little girl in the story would meet.
  2. White on White: This was a technique first introduced to me by my father several years ago, for my own sanity, when I began sharing desktop published items with a wider audience. As a teaching and learning tool this technique also proves useful as a hide and reveal technique in the smart book environment. In this book I changed the page colour to dark blue, and drew a sky blue star in the centre, sending the star to the back using the layering tool I locked it in in place. This was now the frame for the rest of the activity design, which set out to be a look and say task, but has since proven useful in engaging younger children in Look, Say, Cover, Write and Check activities, using small dry wipe whiteboards as support tools. On the now background layer I inserted a collection of numbered High Frequency Words, selected from the text we were going to read. By default these were coloured black. I followed the following process to create a set of text objects. Firstly I created one text object, and used this to set the text size and font shape for all the objects I would use on this page. I then copied the text object pasting the number I needed on the page. I Then arranged the objects on the page, double clicking on each one to edit it. Firstly I changed the number, and then added the word. Highlighting the word only, I changed its colour to the same dark blue used on the page background. Clicking on the page, the number was now visible in black, but the word had become invisible against the background that shared its colour. I repeated this process for all the words I needed. In activities with the students children following "quality audience" routines were invited to choose a number, and encouraged to gradually drag the number into the sky blue star, revealing a letter at a time from the high frequency word. We invited predictions from the other students about what the full word might be, asking reasons for this, before revealing the next letter and asking if this changed their minds and so on. Eventually the full word was revealed, and a new child selected by the student at the board based on our "quality audience" rules. To help prevent friends, and children of only one gender being chosen we introduced the idea, that if we were a girl we must invite a boy and vice versa. On another blog recently I found a reference to a tool which looks great for helping with selection of students for tasks such as this, called the hat, this piece of currently freeware allows you to input a class list, and then to randomly select children from a list to take part in activities such as this. Recently I also used this hide and reveal activity to support whole calss Look, Say, Cover, Write and Check activities with year 2 children. Dragging a word into the star by student number choice, saying the word together, and then hiding it to try writing on small white boards, before checking and discussing what we had written in talking twos by dragging the word back into the star. I am sure that you can find numerous other ways that you could use this tool too, incuding missing word, number and sign problems in literacy and maths.
  3. Cover Up: In this technique a created or imported object is used to hide another, or parts of another in the notebook. This is where Bad Dog emerged as our companion, and engagement gimick or element within the text of the story. We all have heard of the story of how my dog ate my homework, but what about the idea of the dog sitting on my story, or digging holes in it. I began by inserting the images I had scanned from the book, sending them to the back, and locked them in place, to prevent accidental movement during the activity I had planned for the students. I then began dragging copies of Bad Dog and his mounds to the pages, placing them over the high frequency words I had highlighted and worked on earlier. I also placed them over frequently repeated words, later in the text. Working with the Students, hiding words in this way, supported prediction either by reference to the sound pictures being revealed gradually, or by encouraging inference and prediction based on textual repetition or through reading on and back. In essecnce the character helped create cloze procedure we could engage with physically, but with the added "Oh! Bad Dog," chorus from the students as we engaged with the story. For those who struggled in engagement the activity became a scanning exercise as they began to search the page for Bad Dog or his diggings, that they came to see would invariably emerge on the pages as we progressed through the book as we read. This tool could also be used to support activities with children where missing object questions are presented, in Numeracy or literacy, and the solutions revealed for shared marking and peer assessment later.
  4. The Magic Box: This techniques was introduced to me through a session with Keith Ansell from Bristol LA, from work done with a KS 2 teacher around odd and even numbers, and though not part of the activity book has been added to extension work on onset and rime, medial vowel sorting and counting tasks I have carried out with younger students. This technique exploits the layering tool by enabling some objects to be hidden behind another, while some are brought to the front, giving the impression that some objects go inside another while some are rejected. An example of how this was used in class was in a counting and subtraction activity, I used again with year 1 students. The back story to the task was based in Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf while waiting for the little girl had become peckish, and in grannies kitchen, found a plate of doughnuts she had made in anticipation of the Hoods visit. The plate was sent to the back, and locked in place, to avoid movement. The doughnuts were then placed on the page, all were selected and then brought to the front, to ensure all were on the same layer. Finally Big Bad the wolf was added to the book page, enlarged and placed to one side of the page, he was now the front layer. With the students, we used a "flash" object dice from the gallery to help decide how many dougnuts he would eat, used bead frames to calclate how many dougnuts would be left on the plate, and then checked our calculations by having the wolf eat them, dragging the doughnuts to be hidden behind the wolf layer as he gobbled them up to lip smacking support from the students, before recording the number sentence which represented the problem. This activity as described is very similar to the cover up task described, but what if we were to replace the wolf with one of the little pigs, and said he only collected objects that rhymed with pig, we could replace the doughnuts with objects that rhymed, and create another set of objects that didn't, bringing these to the front. Now when we dragged these over the pig, words that rhymed would go behind him, and those that didn't would would stay at the front, and be rejected by him.

As I said earlier I love using stories to frame work with younger students. Using the IWB and these Notebook techniques we can with some prethought engage students with the texts we create. In the final example three forms of representation were used to support development of one concept, involving all students. A frequent criticism of IWB use in the classroom is that they are used as teacher boards, essentially as projection surfaces. The assumption is that in order to support learning the whiteboard must somehow be engaged with by all children, the idea that interactivity only involves engagement physically with the board is a nonsense, as we all know that thirty children can not touch the whiteboard at the same time, so we must engineer and design learning contexts which enable whole class participation. This invariably means a multiple tool approach, where one child or the teacher can engage with the board physically while the other students use other classroom tools to engage with the activity developed for them. My favourite resource for this is the small dry wipe whiteboard and paired talk, though as we saw in the last activity we could equally use bead bars, number lines, number or letter fans, or laminated printouts of the screen we will be using, indeed any tools we have available which will involve the other students in interacting with the task/text we have created and each other.

In the final session I began to develop above, the whole activity set again was based around a story. As the students were exploring fairy tales in Literacy, I developed the introductory numeracy session around Little Red Riding Hood, firstly picking flowers for grandma in the wood, and using this to count and then create subtraction sentences as she picked flowers, moving to the big bad wolf, eating doughnuts both working on the take away model. Later I included a competition between two of the three little pigs, collecting apples in the orchard, to explore the difference model, and subtraction as comparison.

A common concern I encounter is the idea that the ICT resources we need in the classroom or for the IWB must already exist on the internet. If they don't then it seems we may be prepared to we make do with something that is close, even if it doesn't meet our needs completely. Teacher imagination, creativity and innovation in the classroom is instrumental in the outcomes we gain, and tools such as the smart notebook, which is available for use as a suite for anyone using the whiteboard type, can enable rapid creation of tools which meet our needs and requirements more directly, if we engage with it in combination with other sources. The step by step approach deployed above makes the process of resource development appear very slow, but these activities were put together relatively quickly once all the elements I needed were together in one place. Now I have a collection of these with different characteristics, I am also able to use what exists already as templates or starting point for innovation in the development of others. My watch word would be that in learning to use a tool it always takes some time, but as we become familiar with the processes involved we become quicker and more efficient. Try out some of these techniques for yourself.


Anthony Evans said...

Hiya Simon

I am going to use the blue star idea on Monday during a CPD day on SMART- I also like the back of the finger tip- I was always a promethean user so I have had to learn Smart quickly and these little ( actually they`re quite long) tips ae very helpful.

Do other teachers in your school take as greeat care over their notebooks?

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I have been trying to find that screensaver for years, however, when i click on the link to it, it says Error 404- not Found. Could you please comment as to exaclty how you found it, rather than the shortcut?
Thanks, it was a great article!

Two Whizzy said...

Thanks for your visit and your comment. It is a while ago since I published this post, and with the image link gone I need to update it.

I found the image link through a google image search for sierra after dark - with - bad dog - or - flying toasters I think. I know it took ages to find one I could use and I have not been successful so far today in finding a replacement.

Re the screensavers, the published applications are not it seems compatable directly with versions of Windows later than 98. This morning while I was searching for another copy of the image to link to I found "whatever happened to Berkeley Systems" at There are obviously other folk looking for ways to run the screensavers. Don't know if this is of any help to you as a starting point. The comment string is very long (September 2000 to April 09).

Thanks again for your help.