Tizz Visits the SS Great Britain and More

On Our School Website I have developed an area called Tizz's Travels. I posted previously about how he travelled to Spain and BETT, including how we had begun to experiment with various software environments and web based technologies such as geotagging to record his journeys. This has really begun to take off across the school, not just in Key Stage 1 where he was intended to replace Barnaby Bear, but also in Key Stage 2, where colleagues have begun to invite Tizz out on a more regular basis as students explore places closer to hand.

I have begun to open negotiations around the idea of Tizz having a blog of his own, like the amazing Max the Monkey who visited our website a while back from Australia. The idea being to develop empathetic writing by students in Key Stage 2 who could write a diary from Tizz's Point of view. I would also like to see some of our older students, using Tizz as a starting point in their work on a passport to the world, contributing imaginary visits to the school website, that younger students could explore. This could be a focus for web site development and multimodal text work, using 2 Create, 2 Create a Story, Photo Story and maybe even Podcasting. Our Geography Subject leader is currently applying for and putting together a Global School's bid, with the current excitement in some areas of the school about what the Tizz's Travels area is beginning to offer, and with the addition of web 2.0 environments and tools such as geotagging and empathetic blogging I can't help feeling this area of our website has powerful potentials in supporting development and evidencing this process.

Learning With and About Podium.. Our First Podcast Proper.

I have been playing with Podium for the last couple of weeks on and off. Last week I posted about how one of my colleagues had used the tool with her year 4 class, and this week I have been working with year 3 to draft visual scripts.

Presenting orally to a group can be really difficult, and many adults find this diffficult being heavily dependent on written scripts, with the inevitable consequence that we tend to read our slides, rather than use them as prompts to innovate our presentation around, and the resultant "death By PowerPoint" scenario. Observing students using PowerPoint to talk to groups recently I have become increasingly aware of this as an issue, and is something with which I felt I needed to begin engaging. I decided to use visual scripts with the year 3s because I wanted them
  • to become familiar with the content they were to talk about
  • pick out highlights and significant events from their visit
  • rehearse and share their content as they wrote
  • to engage with the oral basis for the written text they were creating
  • have a scaffold upon which to hang their text development process
I know from experience that having a group of students in a whole class situation who are familiar with how to carry out a process is always really useful. So I began the process, by working with a small group to model how we transfer pictorial and writen text into an oral text format, through a "pre teaching" session. The Podcast file was very quickly set up in about 2-3 minutes. Working together we scripted the podcast using photos from their visit and the 2 create a story files we had been working on previously as prompts. We used the scripting tool to share out the story we were going to tell, and then as a group we rehearsed the script. This was a really interesting experience, and why I referred to PowerPoint above. The tendency from the students, naturally I guess, was to use the script as an autocue. They however began to read the text very mechanically. This lead to a brief discussion about how our listeners might respond. Was the way we were reading interesting to listen to? This was particularly pertinent as the students had become so concerned in the performance to say exactly what they had on the page, they had not made the link between their writing, speech and the listener. We quickly recorded one or two readers, and the children began to see that they were not using expression, and returning again to rehearse the script, they began to think about how they were saying things rather than what they were saying. This for me has particualr significance, when we are thinking about comprehension skills, where we want the students to begin inferring from content what might come next, or reading on using the "gist" to help. As we rehearsed some of the children began to make small improvisations on the script, while others, took their time and rehearsed the whole text object, but thinking about how they might say what they were reading. The outcome of this session is something I am really excited about, the students were initially very self conscious about the sound of their voices and their reading. We were working in the library today, and as the session went on the work they were doing began to attract increasing attention from other students, drawn to see what they were doing, and asking when or if they would be doing this. The interest expressed by other students made them feel special, and seemed to spur them on to improve what they were presenting. In under three quarters of an hour we had completed the task, and for a first attempt I am really pleased with the outcome, in addition I also have a group of children who will be able to help me out when others have to record their episodes and a model I can share with their classmates. I have also learned one or two lessons myself about the quirks of the software, and a few additional things I will need to think about when managing the process with small groups working independently with my new class next year.

Points to Note:
Using the chapter tool to organise turn taking is still I think a really good idea, with emergent users, however what I didn't realise was that the script created was not for the whole episode, and each chapter needed to be scripted seperately. So next time, I will need to either encourage the children to record using the script to create a whole chapter, or encourage the children to create their script elsewhere and copy and paste sections into the individual chapter script windows. If you have used or have a copy of Podium perhaps you will try this out and see what I mean.

I also had some difficulties this evening uploading the podcast to our ftp space, and this is something I will have to explore further with my LA and technician, as I feel it probably has more to do with the firewall in school, than it does with the publishing process described. Eventually with a bit of playing around I managed to get the podcast so far published to a colleague's LA space, but this is not going to help in persuading my colleagues about how amazing this tool is. The learning benefits I have begun to notice this afternoon and from previous observed sessions, far outweigh the barriers that a few technical difficulties are currently causing, and I must get these resolved. If you are interested in having a listen, then here is the rss link for Y3's first report on their visit to the SS Great Britain. To subscribe to the feed, we are recommending to colleagues in school that they use iTunes as an aggregator, though some of you may use others such as Juice.

Subscribing to this podcast Using iTunes

click and drag to select the link and then copy it.

Open iTunes and in the advanced menu click subscribe to podcast, paste the link into the window that appears, then click OK. You may have to click the "get" or "refresh" buttons if the file doesn't download immediately, but we hope you enjoy, as much as we did. Why not pop by over the next few weeks and refresh iTunes to see if we have added other episodes.

Year 6 talk about awareness week


Making a Start With Web Design and Development

Over the course of the year, many of the students in upper Key Stage 2 have been working with a host of web based, enabled or modelling resources and tools. has been used as a learning community tool, PowerPoint has been used to model the principles of hyperlinking and how web like resources work and can be developed offline. They have begun to develop blogs as a class, and engaged with online resources and with think to lay the foundations for understanding what it means to be safe online. This term and last we began working with year 5 on a pilot project with Fronter, the LAs proposed learning platform, and decided that this should be framed by a unit of work I wrote a number of years ago that was adopted and adapted to become part of the LAs scheme of work for ICT.

The unit was originally developed with a year 4 class, as a challenge to help me redesign the school's website. It began as all design and technology units do with evaluation and disassembly activities. We visited a range of websites already available on the web, and created by or for schools. We explored the websites identifying features we liked or disliked, narrowing down gradually those that we might like our website to include. From here on paper we designed a navigation bar, including genreal areas we would like to appear on our site. Having established our website zones, the children worked in small groups on particular aspects of the site, collecting photographs, interviewing people, and using MS Word and MS Publisher to create pages, which were eventually saved as html, and linked into a frame set I had developed from their ideas in FrontPage. The project was so successful that I and Keith Ansell our ICT curriculum Support Teacher extended the project with other local primary schools, as part of an ICT project for the Success@ action zone.

This term however I have begun using 2 Create,(2 create a story's sibling) as a framing tool to engage year 5 students with the process. We began as above, by visiting other school sites, and then returning to our own existing structure. Using their community pages as a starting point I introduced the idea of how some aspects of the site were becoming reduntant, or were perhaps repeating other tools we were using. I asked them in their navigation bar design process to consider how we might change or reorganise the community pages, removing links we were not using, or perhaps adding new sections that were not there in their place. What would they like to have on their website. Instead of using a paper based tool, I opted to use 2 create to enable them to visually develop, hands on, their own version of the site.

They began by starting a new project and inserting the first page, using this to install their navigation structure to. They used clipart as icons and buttons as well as text to do this. They had noticed how the navigation bar and banner section on the opening page of their community pages always remained the same, and in subsequent sessions I have been able to introduce how this is made possible. Our community pages are developed within frame sets. Although seeming to be one page, it is actually made up of three, when a hyperlink is clicked, only the page to the lower right is loaded the others remain in place. To enable this to happen on a single page layout like the one they are using in 2 create, the key is for the visual appearence of the page to remain the same, while only the content changes. Sometimes it is great being an old dog who can teach the newbies some tricks. How to make a 2 create page appear that it is a frame set. With the navigation icons and text in place, we have added coloured boxes to the left hand side of the page, and another along the top to look like the banner. We selected both of these rectangles and used the order tool to send them to the back. At this stage we still only had one page in our site, so looking at the number of icons we had in our navigation bar, which in most cases was 5, we inserted new pages. opening our first page in the viewer, we selected all objects by dragging around the slide, copied them to the clipboard, and then opened each of the remaining pages individually, and pasted these in place, so we had 5 identical slides, on which to present the content identified in our navigation bar. I know I could have skipped the copy and paste process by simply asking the software to insert duplicates, but I wanted the students to develop the select all and copy skill. I tools such as frontpage this would not be achieved efficiently by copy and paste either, but by saving each file as and renaming them.

The students then began linking the pages to each other, and inserting back links. To the lower right of each page, they now have a large clear space, and it is here they will place their page content, and when the link buttons are pressed, and a page arrives what they see appears to be like the frame set in the real school community pages, the buttons will appear in exactly the same place, as will the banner. The students are really enjoying this task, it builds nicely on their prior experiences with PowerPoint and Think, but here they have complete control over the objects and pages they are creating.

In addition what has been said above, what I think is really powerful about 2 create and the students will probably not fully appreciate this until the project is complete, is a built in tool it shares with 2 create a story and how the final project outcomes can be saved as Flash Files. Flash an industry and web standard tool, generates special movie files from projects developed, that can be embedded in to html or web pages enabling them to run as navigable files. These 2 create projects when saved as Flash Files will function in a similar way, with every small web project file the students have created running as if standalone websites within a single page on the school website. The children will be able to see and share their website projects live with each other, their teachers and their parents.

The structures they have identified will be used to develop the navigation and page structure for their VLE Space, somewhere we would like them to work next year. I will also be drawing on their ideas to refine the student community sections of the school website. By working on this project the outcomes they develop will influence a real web project.


Visual Scripting With 2 Create A Story

I have been thoroughly impressed with 2 create a story, as you can probably see from the posts I have placed on my blog previously. I love that "Infant News Book" feel about the environment, which probably says something about my age.

I have been using 2 create a story recently with 2 age groups. Year 1 are using it to write "Fantasy Stories", as digital picture books. We are combining the teaching of basic graphic skills with the use of emergent writing, to tell stories from out of this world. I have enabled the full tool set, and we are focussing in on the use of specific graphic tools during each session. During the first session children had to design an alien, and could only use the shape form tols to do this, they were allowed to change colours they used. They then had to work with their partners to draft a sentence or two to describe it. During our second session again the tool choice was limited for the opening part of the session, as the children designed a planet for their alien to live on, but on completion they were introduced to the flood fill tool and spray can to finish the graphic, before again being asked to annotate this with descriptive sentences, involving shape and colour. An excellent resource or starting point on reflection for this activity might have been the picture book "I'm Coming To Get You," by Tony Ross. We had a lot of fun discussing what the sky around the planet might have in it, for example a cresent shaped moon, might have been a banana, the stars and other planets apples, and oranges, and the use of the spray can was used to model how we might achieve this effect. One student suggested the moon might be made of cheese, this lead off on one about how the other planets might be made of butter or bread. Where did butter and cheese come from, perhaps we could have a cow jump over or orbit the moon. We will be moving on to develop the story gradually over the next few sessions, and perhaps next week I should share "I'm coming to get you," as part of the session. The images developed are really helping the students to think about what they want to write, and it is interesting looking at the texts they are developing in response to see how their phonological awareness particularly has developed over the course of the year so far. One chap had worked so hard on his two page story draft I published it to the year 1 community pages on Thursday.

Year 3 will be creating podcasts, about their visits to The SS Great Britain, and as a practice run and drafting tool to introduce the idea of scripting and oral presentation, I have decided to use 2 create a story to develop visual scripts to support rehearsal of the process, by creating a photo supported text about their visit. This will give them the opportunity,
  • to create voiceovers to support their written and visual text,
  • to explore and discuss the effect that their voice over has on the reader,
  • to explore how we use the microphone as an input device,
  • and discuss the purpose expression as a device to maintain our reader's attention and interest.
These visual scripts will then be used to inform the chapter structure of the podcast I woul like them to develop in Podium. Each group presentation forming an episode that we can publish on completion to our Podium Webspace.

"Where's the Any Key:" Reflections on learning by a self professed IKEA Man

Learning Styles, is not a phrase to be snuffed at, The number of INSET sessions I have attended where, I work diligently through the analysis presented by the course leader, only to find my self summarised as the IKEA or Flat Pack Furniture (FPF) Man.

The IKEA or FPF man it seems can be characterised as one who takes home their flat pack, gets out the pieces and and then skillfully ignores the written instructions. They set about recreating from pictures, experience and memories, an object, based on how they think it is intended to look, and the functions they perceive it to perform. Trial and error, and problem solving play a large part in the creation of any object for the IKEA man. And rather than a bane I tend to see the characteristic as a boon. I have to say I am usually very pleased with myself when I am finished a project (eventually). The object looks right, it does what I want it to do, before I like those around me tend to notice the pieces I have left over. Obviously this would be of immediate concern if I had been replacing the wheel on my car, but as a teacher and designer for learning the bits left over tell me more about the process I have gone through and the gaps in my learning than the object I have created ever could. As a learner I should not have Homer moments, but feel able to persevere, comfortable with the idea of playfulness as part of creative engagement with learning and so rather than walk away from problem feel able to evaluate and build on my mistakes

Using this analogy, while thinking about Podcasting, a recent process and tool I began to add to my toolbox, I thought I would witter a bit as I try to explore the process I go through when working with software tools for the first time, and try to unpick why the FPF approach helps me when designing new ICT mediated projects.

Building furniture by this analogy I guess is a bit like building a jigsaw. The benefits of such an approach for a teacher designing for learning with ICT, is how it facilitates the exploration of software affordance as we go. In demos we can see what the designers or developers intended the kit to do, the picture on the lid, or sitting with the handbook by our side we can work through the kit step by step, and engage with how the software works. Understanding the steps involved, and the outcome intended however is only part of seeing how we can apply a tool in the classroom. At IKEA I might like the look of a particular kitchen, but it is unlikely that I would move it lock stock and barrel into my home, without first measuring it up, identifying what I wanted to do their or considering the location of utilities I couldn't move, and the appliances I would like to install. With ICT too, seeing the tool's potential affordances in the classroom requires a look beyond the technology and an exploration of how my intentions might be achieved with a particular group of students indeed how the kit or combinations of tools can be used to enable the creation of learning contexts which are meaningful to them.
As a learner, going back to my FPF Man analogy, I am also trying to demonstrate here that failure can be and should be an option, all that goes wrong need not be an end. The "bits left over" are actually not always a complete disaster but can be the beginning of an evaluation and review process, which reignites the learning process. For me they represent gaps in my knowledge and experience, as I begin to author relevance in my own learning, as well as that of the students. In engaging with the software as a learner I not only engage with the technical nuances but begin to preempt the difficulties I might have in implementing a software or hardware solution in the classroom. Often as a learner the bits left over represent whole new avenues for exploration, investigation and even exploitation, opening doors to what some may call creative use, but I would prefer to see as instrumentation, a process which many of our students engage with when given software tools to play or work with for the first time. This is also a process through which I often find new and diverse roles that an application might fulfill in addition to those it was intended to perform.
Planning for learning then is a design process and a learning process in itself, identifying what it is I want to achieve, and then seeking out the tools and processes that will enable me and my students to meet these ends. I think this is a prerequisite process if we are to unlock the creative potentials that ICT use in the classroom is purported to herald, if the learner is to be found at the heart of our planning, then we cannot avoid engaging ourselves as learners in the development of that planning. Embedding ICT is not souly about the technology, but the creation of contexts that enable relevance and meaning to be made from its use. I believe that the key to successful teaching with ICT is not about the delivery, or the technology but embedded in our preparation and design of the contexts for learning we intend to use, and the relationships we develop between ourselves and our students; and the tools and process that students engage in with us, in working towards the outcomes we wish them to achieve.
Working with a jigsaw it is easy to see at a glance which pieces are missing and where they go, though this is not always what we experience in the constantly changing landscape of the classroom. In the the collective mind of the classsroom the pieces and tools we are using may be clear to us, but what about the students, who throughout a session will be asking questions about what a particular bit is for? Where does it go? How does that bit relate to this and so on? Learning is not linear, but a networked series of iterative events. As a self taught ICT user, I am beginning to see how I come to terms with new kit, and for me being a Flat Pack Furniture Man has been a real asset in acquiring the skills and understanding I have. I have learned to take risks. As an adult building my new piece of furniture, and sitting next to the resultant pile of grommets and washers, I am more than happy to appraise the situation I am in, going back to the diagrams and those instructions asking questions similar to those above, looking for and evaluating the gaps in my project. Sometimes the pieces seem not to be too important, cosmetic touches perhaps when compared with how I will use it, and can be kept as is, but sometimes it means going back and re engineering parts of the object. Learning is messy, I do go to the instruction manuals and help files, but this is usually as a result of a question I have about how I get the kit to do something particular. I draw on my previous experiences in similar environments as I play, and then refer to the documentation to help me answer questions about unfamiliar aspects of the tool. This is perhaps something I do not share with many of my colleagues, whose experiences of ICT tools are less diverse. But why I feel the development of a generic skill base and tool box approach to the teaching and learning of ICT is more important in the development of Schemes of work, than the over use and product placement approach. With a generic skills base we can develop crossovers between environments and aid the making of connections between similar processes they use.
We can teach good habits and practices, such as cascade saving, a process which enables us to go back to a previous version of our project where everything was "working," and other skills such as copy and paste, or insert can then be used to recompile parts of the project, drawing on later saves if necessary, and so prior work and time is not entirely lost. When I learn new applications software and processes I intend to use in the classroom this is also how I tend to operate, and how I engage with the process of planning for learning with ICT. I tend to play with the bits in the box, using past experience and memories of the picture on the lid, or to identify how I would personally like to use the kit, I create relevance and contexts for use, frames around which I can make my play meaningful and productive, and on which I can hang my learning process. With the summer coming up I hope there will be enough time, to play with the loose end projects I have begun.
My big targets are to learn how to create podcasts for myself and begin to understand the hidden processes behind the publish button that make the difference between an uploaded audio to a website in Front Page and a subscription based serialisation. And secondly the biggy to complete my dissertation which will be cause for much celebration. No doubt the process will be messy, I will have bits left over, and may even discard tools as I go, but the journey will be as enlightening as the destination.


I Had My Doubts...

Last week Year Four, as part of their unit on persuasive texts, explored Film Trailers and the use of Rhetorical Questions. On Monday when I was timetabled to work with them, they were in the process of completing group storyboards for their own, using speech bubbles to script proposed voiceovers. The idea was that the outcomes should form a wall based display, I suggested it was a shame that such work should remain on paper and how it would be really exciting to have a go at bringing some of their work to the screen, from here they could actually discuss the effect that their writing had, and identify where the projects had been successful, or how their scripts might be improved, by seeing them in context. Photo Story was suggested as a tool that might support this task. Perhaps they could download supporting images from the internet, record their voiceovers and add transition effects, in order to support the images, before finally saving their projects as video files to be shared and reviewed . While waiting for the morning session to begin, and the students to arrive, I downloaded a collection of images from the internet, from the movie Shrek II, which they had used as a focus, cropping and resizing them before importing them to set up the Photo Story Project File which I wanted to become the focus for our Literacy Session.

I began the session by reviewing the work they had begun in the previous sessions as I returned the storyboards to the group. Drawing on the students comments I used My Photo Story Project and the IWB to focus on the purpose of the devices they had raised and were trying to use, modelling how this tool, might help us see how to bring their storyboards to life. The students helped me choose which images we would keep in the storyboard, and we deleted those we didn't want, we then discussed what might be said to engage our reader with the text we were trying to create. What I soon discovered was difficult for the students was not the choice of vocabulary, or even the genre, but actually linking the purpose of the text they were writing, with the intended outcome.

Over the course of the Literacy Strategy and its implementation we have focussed strongly on developing students as "traditional writers" in a range of genre, we have equipped them with the structural tools, grammar, and strategies to place our desired outcomes on the page, but in my humble opinion have neglected the most important aspect of writing and that is purpose. Writing is for life not just SATs. We do not write just for our teachers, or to ensure we have content in our Literacy Books, in life writing is used to share meanings with others. Meaning is not always represented as words on a page, in our multimedia world it often represents a preparatory stage for some other mode of representation. In the case of a Film Trailer, the written word plays a supportive role in preparing and planning, but a subordinate role in the final outcome which involves the combination of moving image, spoken word, and music to invite our readers to engage with the movie we have spent a small fortune to create. In using Photo Story as a tool I sought to help make this link, by playing the silent trailer we had just created, and inviting the students to use their previous experiences to discuss, rehearse and record the script which we might say in order to accompany my lifeless text. The students were encouraged in pairs to work on and record their written proposals in the writing frames provided and during the plenary, to share their voiceovers out loud as my previously lifeless trailer was played to the class. I discussed after the session how the students might use the template file in small groups to record their voiceovers on the class PCs, saving the project to the network for sharing later in the week.

One of my biggest problems in developing and embedding ICT in the classroom for learning has been the idea that class based PCs can and should be used for independent small group work within the timetabled day. I think this is largely due to perceptions that they will require teacher time to maintain and support children working on tasks, that will detract from other things. ICT is frequently seen by some as disruptive rather than supportive. One of the difficult things about not having my own class this year, has been the inability to follow things through to completion, and the students this time around did not have time to apply their scripts to the template file we had developed. The fact that they hadn't however was quelled by the excitement created during the course of today, as they and their teacher used a different tool for a similar purpose.

I spent half an hour last night with my colleague, introducing her to Podium, Softease's Primary School Podcasting Solution. She had been working for the remainder of this week with the class to develop scripts for Radio Advertisements, and decided she would like to give the students the opportunity to perform and record these. We talked through the interface and the process of setting up a file in the environment, looking at some of the features such as the scripting tool, and chapter tool. I suggested that as this was the first time the children and she had used the tool it might be a good idea to split up the script into chapters, and use these as a tool to support the students in turn taking as they recorded their voices. Each chapter could then be edited individually, or deleted and rerecorded in the case of problems. We plugged in a headphone mike set and recorded a simple sound file to demonstrate the process. As she became increasingly confident that the process of using Podium was less complicated than she thought, I suggested we might attach mikes to the classroom PCs and her Laptop and that she introduce the environment to the children using the IWB, and that during the course of the day, groups of children should be encouraged in pairs to "draft their recordings." We discussed how we might organise this with pairs who had begun and completed a file, working with new pairs until they were happy with the tool and how it worked, and the idea that as this was our first time, we might see this as an opportunity for the children to explore how the tool works. The session went much better than I think was expected, the students rising not only to the challenge of using ICT in a new way for them, but also in seeing the scripts for their purpose, something to be performed. During my PPA time this afternoon I was able to drop in and see how the students and my colleague were getting on with the environment first hand, and to find one very animated and excited colleague, as the students were working. Not only had they come quickly to see the value of breaking their project down in to chapters, to support turn taking they were beginning to discuss problems they were encountering as a pair, such as the volume of input from one partner opposed to that of the other, the length of run out and run in tracks, they were beginning to be to identify these on the visual track representation and to compare the volume of one user with another, and using this to help edit and crop tracks. The students were enjoying themselves enormously and were equally animated in thinking about how they would articulate the script, and reading with expression. I am confident from the reaction that this has had, and the quality of learning already evident from the task that this tool will be used again in literacy sessions, and hopefully as a result of the success she will try more small group ICT focussed outcome based tasks.

Popping into the pub on the way home this evening I was talking about the task with another colleague, who is currently developing our New School Project, and I guess excitement is infectious as he began musing about how he might like to use this tool with his group. This however will be another story, as I have wanted to discuss podcasting proper with him for a while to support multimodally the project he is developing. The success of today has got to be credited largely to the effective design and simplicity of Podium as an environment. I have created a Wilbur Helps Out guide, to support the introductory use of Podium. This can be found in the ICT resource section of our school site, and has been found to be useful by colleagues within our LA, in introducing podium to colleagues. Experience tells me how quelling the doubts of one colleague often have a cascade effect, on others. Hopefully this is only the beginning.


Doodly Doo

Have just uploaded the first completely independent animated movie, our students have ever made, and I am thrilled by the outcome. The movie was set as a challenge, based on the idea of doodling, last week in order to consolidate and practice our brief introduction to stop motion, in the previous session. The students began with a blank sheet of paper, and took turns to make marks, gradually adding new shapes and forms to the paper, directing each other about what to add and where, eventually building 5 frames at a time a group doodle. What makes this different to the others was the choice of effect. We had spent a great deal of time discussing during our previous activity involving the transformation of tangrams, how it would be important to keep body parts out of shot to bring about the transformation effects. In this short the students purposely shot holding frames, which contained the drawing hand and pen as static objects in shot. The effect although simple gives a fantastic effect to the images as they develop, making the new forms appear as if shot or shaken from the pen.

I am in the process of introducing a new self/peer assessment and review tool and this afternoon in pairs the students were setting up their files and discussing their input with friends and myself, as each pair finished they were offered free time, some opting to use or visit online games that the firewall will allow, while this group asked if they could use what had been briefly introduced last week about Movie Maker to bring the clips they had made together. They dragged the clips into the software as modelled and having sequenced them on the timeline, began exploring for themselves the effects available. This is something which I am happy for them to do, knowing that this is the way I learn how to use new software applications. In addition this will also provide me with the opportunity next session, to have these youngsters help me lead the session, as we introduce what was for them an independent choice, as an expectation as session outcome for their peers. The Movie called "Evil Bunny," can be found in the year 6 community pages of our school website.


Landscapes with Year 2 update

In our latest network rebuild, I forgot to have the shortcut to Microsoft Paint added, and found myself struggling a bit this week for that simplicity of access that this tool brings in composing on screen graphics. However never fear, I discovered a while back that PhotoFiltre, an application I downloaded on the recommendation of a colleague, to edit photographs is incredibly versatile, and can be used very easily for the purposes I intended to use paint.

I was reluctant initially to use this tool with such young students, concerned that they would find the interface problematic, after the pictorially based software they had used up until now. But taking the risk really paid off. I decided to structure the session to initially limit tool use. It is surprising I find how even in tight structures, students can be creative, when allowed to play and explore the tools available to them.

A lesson I learned early in using ICTs with students is how powerful a learning tool empowering them to teach me new things, can be in improving both my capability and their confidence. This sadly is not something with which many of my less confident colleagues feel comfortable, perhaps due to the accountaility pressures they feel, and a need to be in control of the learning they perceive they have planned for. However in ICT environments I feel strongly that pace and valuable whole class learning potentials are lost by allowing our fears to get the better of us, and as long as we are clear about our expected outcomes, there is frequently an enormous amount of space for students to achieve these by sharing alternative routes through a problem or activity. Anyway stepping down from the soap box, today the students were a revelation. I introduced PhotoFiltre as a grown up tool, and they rose to the challenge.

On the IWB we painted a background, using the spray can tool to provide a green grassy foreground, and a blue sky, with a yellow and orange fiery sun. With this in place we saved it, to be used as a template file for a series of images I would like them to develop over the coming weeks. During this process and before setting off to work we discussed, how when we look out of the window, we don't see blue at the top with an enormous white space between the sky and the earth. Indeed the two seem to meet. The students made their own landscape backgrounds, and we returned to the carpet space to discuss some of the shapes we find in buildings around us, identifying them as rectangular sometimes with triangular shapes on the top. I modelled the rather complicated way in which grown up graphics tools go about drawing these shapes, by using the select tool of that shape, and then the fill tool. We placed a series of black rectangles and triangles to develop building silhouettes, before adding coloured rectangles to form windows. The students were wowed by the effect, but began to point out inconsitencies in the composition of the image, suggsting that the colours in the sky needed to change if the tower blocks and houses we had made had lights on in the windows. I added a few reds and purples with the spray can, and they began to point out how the sky looked like the sun was setting. Before beginning to add their own tower blocks and houses, several children edited their backgrounds to add the reds and purples, but several others decided they would like to change their backgrounds to create a night sky effect. I loved the outcomes so much we have begun an online gallery in the year 2 community pages on the school website please visit. If you enjoy your visit, you are welcome to leave a comment on their blog. I am sure it will further inspire them, as they continue to explore the affordances of this package.
Thanks to Anthony Evans for pointing me to this cool digital display tool. I will be sure to try it out with some of the students next term.


The Four Seasons

In an earlier post I began talking about how year 4 and I have been working in the style of Monet. Using Photofiltre we have working on the concept of layering initially building up progressive file saves of our graphics a layer at a time through cascade saving images as we go.

File layer 1 was the background layer: Including a spray painted sky, and foreground, mixtures of shades of greens and blues.

File Layer 2: Was the background layer with a tree trunk and branches, constructed by varying and experimenting with the nozzle size, spray dispersal and can pressure controls, using shades of brown and black.

Using File Layer 2 as a template, the students have been exploring further, spray fill effects, by thinking about how the two trees and the landscape surrounding them might look during different seasons. After each seasonal image is completed the students have been cascade saving them, with new names, eg autumn, winter, spring, summer. The effects have been qhuite stunning, and so today we began to create a short animation using the images they have developed.

To do this we used MS PhotoStory 3. Importing the images, and then rearranging them on the timeline sequentially, before adding transition effects to the show. Finally we added a short music clip from the sample sounds provided, before previewing. I was really impressed with the outcome of this simple yet effective presentation technique.

It will be interesting to see whether we can duplicate or use a similar process to explore the reflection technique I would like them to explore with Paint, and perhaps combine the two sets of graphics within a show. Photostory, combined with the child developed templates, really helped me support the children in achieving the effect I was after as these simple images and scenes seemed to morph from one season into another.


Playing With Word 2007: This Is Really Useful, and Becoming Increasingly Exciting

I am not always as vigilante in writing my posts as perhaps I should be I have become increasingly aware recently in revisiting some of my previous posts of the number of typos I make (not to mention the glaringly obvious spelling mistakes I make here and there too). I still use the wrong "there" occasionally, and the wrong form of "to", in my eagerness to express my thoughts. If you notice these when scanning, they probably make you cringe as much as me. I am terrible at remembering to use the spell checker, and tend to skip this part of the word processing event, trying instead to make sure my thoughts are clear before I publish, and that I have worded things in a way that doesn't offend, but as I am going this afternoon the contingent spell checker is continually reminding me, like right now, of words or terms it is unfamiliar with, oops a repeated word. In many ways maybe I'm probably more like my students than I think, and sometimes just want to get what I'm doing done and out of the way, and when I'm writing some things take priority over others.

I do a great deal of writing for other things that I could publish using this tool, for example our school's ICT News blog, and it will be really useful not to have to do things more than once. Perhaps having circulated a letter or memo to staff created in Word at school, this can now be opened in Word 2007, edited and posted directly to the blog. Using this process I will also have a local version of the body text, which I have not got currently for most of my blog content. I have wanted a more productive way of publishing the same content to more than one blog, than copying and pasting, and this now seems to be a solution I could get used to. I know that I could do many of these things in previous versions of Word, by drafting offline, logging into my account and then using copy and paste to upload. I am sure many colleagues do this anyway, but being a relative newbie to this, I have tended to work online. I am also however aware of some of the problems in previous versions of Word associated with style sheets, and the effect these can have on text copied and pasted to other web tools, and so have not previously done this without, using Note Pad to remove formatting first. This especially when developing web pages, using tools such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage, has been in the past a laborious process, though recent versions of these environments have helped by including tools to clean up code. My next step is to get this uploaded to both Blogger and Ethink, and then get back to the job I set out to do today, get my PCs talking to each other and prepare for the Graphic sessions I have with Y 4 tomorrow.

Playing With Word 2007: So That’s How You Do That!

Well managed to successfully upload the first post. Having gone through the set up process to enable word to talk to my Blog Host, it was a simple matter of pressing the publish button on the ribbon, and then selecting whether to publish as draft or simply to publish. Since I am playing this afternoon I opted to publish as draft first, and see what happened.

I also have a wordpress account with, so wonder whether I can publish to there from here too. Have set up the account details, and here goes. That's interesting now below my header I have an account indicator and a drop down menu, so I can choose which account the blog entry is intended for, lets try uploading to one and then sending to the other, and see what happens.

Playing with Word 2007

I have just bought a new PC and with it came a special offer to include Office 2007 and Norton 360. Ever playful I was interested to see that it could be used to create blog content offline and post this to my blogger account. I wondered how this worked and so this entry is my first trial run to explore how the process works. Get back later no doubt with more, as the afternoon goes on.


Animating Discussions in the Foundation Stage

Much early language work in the primary school is emergent, using negotiation to build on existing day to day experience and vocabulary from home to extend and develop language use through student/teacher talk. As KS 1 and 2 teachers we have much to learn from our colleagues in the foundation stage around this issue. I was working in with a Reception class the other day, quite an experience for me, and one from which I took a great deal. Previous experiences had involved using BeeBots, to talk about numbers and counting through numberline games, but today I felt adventurous and took along my laptop and a digi blue. I had decided to make a short animated movie to be called, "The House that Moth Class Built." I had decided early that the technology would not be the focus of the activity, but rather small group social activity, and language development around prepositions.

I set up the camera and laptop on a group table, with a duplo base and asked the children to help me find the construction kit I needed to work with. We began by my modelling how we were going to build a magical house, that would look like it had built itself, using the digi blue and placing bricks before shooting 5 frames at a time, inbetween each brick. We talked about how we would need to take turns, and after making one short film we watched it together. They seemed fairly impressed. One chap who had been watching me shoot the frames asked if he could do that bit, and was asked if he could count to 5, he assured me he could and so he bought himself a job. The other children became instruction followers, going off to find bricks of described colours, and then placing them on the board, beside, next to, ontop of, behind, inside the shapes and bricks as we went, and when we had placed our bricks, my new colleague the cameraman clicked and counted his 5 clicks. When we had finished, I exported the animation clip, and we watched it together. As you can probably imagine they were very excited, and wanted to share straight away what they had done. Unfortunately it was now playtime, and we had to tidy away... There is another problem, taking apart and putting away something you have just made.. We were Ok though because we had a picture not only of the final model on the laptop, but actually how it had been made step by step.

Over playtime, I imported the film into Movie Maker, and saved it as a wmv file, and after break we watched the film together. The House that Moths Built, went down a storm, but what was most important for me from this experience, was not that the children were learning how to make an animated film, it was the discussion and potential for language development and social play which evolved as we made it. I was very much in the drivers seat (well for most of the time), directing and supporting student actions as they identified bricks of a particular colour, and as they followed simple instructions using everyday prepositions to guide the placement of bricks, but as the activity developed I began to realise also the emergent mathematical development possibilities that were arising from one to one corresponding mouse clicks, and patterns of turn taking, the possibility for perhaps encouraging through structured play, the students to develop repeating patterns, of colour and shape, using pegboards and coloured pegs, or perhaps how these might be used in video mode to tell stories during imaginary play, or timelapse scenes with growing seeds, or during sequencing activities such as dressing a teddy bear or doll. Could we use this with younger students to make and tell simple stories using toys such as playmobile, or duplo. What if the class had its own digi blue, and children were able to use it to capture images of their completed projects, to be used perhaps in a class blog, devoloped by their teacher or nursery nurse acting as scribe, with children using talk to tell the story behind the image, while in the process seeing their words appear in print. Making this connection surely is a key to helping students understand why we write. This type of activity seems to me to have alsorts of possibilities that might be used to support emergent discussion and enable children to see the link between these three semiotic modes, graphics, words as symbols and talk. I have no early years or foundation stage experience to speak of beyond 3 or 4 years teaching in Year 1, so maybe my imagination is just running away with me again, I realise also that variety is the spice of life, and we would not want to be using these tools all the time, but I would love to hear what early years colleagues think, or are doing with video and digital photography, and how practical they feel they are. Unfortunately some of the students involved in this activity do not have digital permissions and appeared in shot, so I have not been able to upload and share this video, or any of the photographs taken during the session. Hopefully we will have a chance to share these in a school assembly though, before I have to delete them in line with our school policy.


Bill And Ben's Outstanding Adventure: Closing One Chapter to Begin a New for Online Learning

Another lively week has come to an end. An evening with Alan November on Tuesday was an enlightening and thoroughly thought provoking experience, but as I am sure he would agree from the sentiments he expressed regarding Networked learning the highlight for me was my DT challenge group's Airbus event on Thursday, Sorry Alan, I will get back to my thoughts on what you had to say later, but this event and the processes leading up to it backed up strongly many of the powerful things he had to say about the power of ICTs to support collaborative online learning, even if still at a very embryonic stage in our school.

From the beginning I was keen to tie ICT to the development of the project, and members of the team were expected to use their think spaces regularly in to develop and share ideas about the vehicle they were developing. Each of the older students particularly installed "Airbus Project pages." In the beginning they all developed very different ideas about how the space should be used, doing simple research about the aircraft that the company makes and uploading images, while other's used the space to keep simple blogs of their activity. As the project developed however, they also began to install brainstorms and question and answer spaces so they could talk to their friends about and share what they had been doing, including hyperlinks as referrers to the team's project blog, and the web page we were building iteratively around the project as it unfolded. As the project drew to a close and we were preparing for the challenge day, thinkspaces gradually became a hub of activity for our presenters, who used the space to share the PowerPoint presentations they were developing with each other, and as a way of geting home developed files into into school. The students also used email as a means of keeping in touch with me, asking for advice and seeking support about how to do some of the more adventurous things they wanted to achieve with their PowerPoint shows.

As well as online activity a number of really nice activities emerged from the project as it developed. I love cross curricular work and so this "off Curriculum" project was a real diamond for me. Design and Technology as a process rather than a subject is often seen not as a guided series of interelated activities, but chunked into Focussed Practical Tasks, then Investigative, Disassembly and Evaluation activities, before an independent or group based Design and Make Activity. Design and Technology for young students particularly is rarely seen as an ongoing iterative series of interelated events, we expect our youngsters to plan make and test from the outset, though as research by colleagues such as Gill Hope suggests, this is something which many young students find problematic, while I know from experience that teachers find more iterative processes difficult to manage and keep track of. Using Webpages and Blogging enabled us to faciliate this through the recording of our Practical DT activities through text supported digital photography, and to plot the process as a "narative of learning" as we worked, through tasks as they emerged. From the outset students had a clear design brief, this was chunked and success criteria identified, before we engaged with the required scientific concepts, or the making skills required to develop our vehicle. Disassembly and evaluation activities were mixed in with focussed practical tasks as required, and the internet used as a source to find examples of ideas used in the real world to meet our needs in developing the project. Working in small groups the students developed prototype designs, and these were tested unpowered, using Excel to help us make our tests fair, testing each vehicle several times before finding the average distance travelled. The students then redesigned or borrowed aspects from each other's prototypes to improve their designs, before retesting in the same way, and chosing one final vehicle to develop as a group. All of this developmental work was photographed and included in the ongoing learning story.

Once we had our final design came the development of presentations to share our work, the back story to the project and so on. We used PowerPoint to create a supporting frame for oral delivery, the children used content from their think spaces, the group blog and project web pages to do this. We delegated and shared out roles, and two of the older students spent out of school time developing this aspect of the project as I said above using as a mediating space. One of the students independently also chose to use photostory at this point to create a video slideshow, which he uploaded to his think space, and which I felt needed to be shared. Since he had already digitally shared this online, with his permission I was able to download it and include within our project web pages. The two students working on the PowerPoint Presentation, in school were shown how to combine their shows and in class sessions spent time together improving and removing repeated content, choosing the pieces they wanted to use in the challenge day on Thursday, and adding animation effects to support their delivery.

As well as this 3 students made an animated short using Digi Blues, PhotoStory and Movie Maker. They used the Comic Strip from my previous post, in PhotoStory to make a video clip they could include, adding a flash effect after the explosion of the volcano. Using Lego, and a can of gunge they had brought from home, they added a short stop motion clip to create the "run away, run away" scene, before exporting the finished animation to the network for inclusion in the final film. Using Movie Maker, the two clips were brought together, and the borrowed music track, titles and credits added. Albeit short, I think the effect was fantastic, and have chuckled several times at the outcome. In our final presentation to students in school during a celebration assembly this also gained gasps of appreciation from other students too, who spent much of Friday playtime either asking me about when they would be doing things like this or asking th students how they did it, while students in Year four and six who have been using the tools themselves, suddenly seemed to see new things they would like to try when they next do animation work. It was also an incredible learning curve for me, setting my mind racing about possibilities for the next time I set out to plan either an animation unit or better still how I embed this into a series of literacy Sessions. The PowerPoint students were so impressed that they went off to find the file on the network, and embedded it into their show.

The Project has been enormously successful on a number of levels.
  • Modelling the value of structured use of online learning environments, with physical practical outcomes I can share with colleagues
  • How the careful choice and use of ICT tools can support and motivate student engagement
  • How ICT can be used not only to develop and support student learning but also to provide and suppor the development of evidence bases to track developments and support assessment and evaluation
  • How use of Online learning environments can motivate out of school engagement and independent work mong our students.
So how did we do? Well we didn't win overall, but our vehicle did win the prize for travelling the furthest, arriving in one piece with our heroes safely strapped inside it 7.2 metres away from catapult initiated starting point. The students were amazing, polite, courteous and gracious, a credit to us and their community. once again they have taught me a number of lessons, which I have been able to bring back and share with colleagues. What more could I ask. Congratulations and thanks one and all!


Revisiting and Innovating on Playing With Sound With Year 3

This term I am returning to Playing with Sound with Year 3. We were intending this to be developed in term one, and indeed we did some small group work using Garageband and the Mac, but whole class work was halted when we discovered many of our headphone sets were broken. Unfortunately previous budget spends meant we were unable to replace these and so plans had to be altered.

Instead of playing with sound in terms of composing we instead used sound in another way, and I opted to do this through multimedia authoring, exploring how we could find, download and attach or embed sound files to simple texts. As it turned out this had greater benefits during this, the first term, in raising student skill levels, not only in using the internet as a resource, as they learned how to download and save images and files, and navigate pages, but also in supporting the establishment of Online Classroom routines, and the "Cascade Saving" model I wanted to establish for students working together. For many of them logging on and navigating the local network was still a problem. The students were also expected to do something at this stage they all found problematic, engaging with the idea that when we come to the ICT suite we are here to extend classroom learning activities.
From what I have said in my blog so far, it is easy to assume, that this has always been the case, and that embedding ICT sessions in the day to day work of the students was a common approach. However this year has seen a radical shift in philosophy and approach to the idea of teaching and learning with ICT, rather than teaching ICT in isolation. Historically ICT has been more or less a bolt on to the curriculum provided. Once a week the students would go to the suite to be taught ICT skills through the allocated QCA or locally constructed Schemes of Work unit, often regardless of relevance to what was happening in class. This year however I have been engaged in a crusade to shift this viewpoint, and to contextualise what we are learning about ICT in the Online classroom within the wider classroom curriculum. Developing a foundation that sees students and teachers utilising this hour long space to prepare them to use and apply tools worked with during intersession tasks in ICT area activity within the clasroom, or to see classroom based activities as a preparation for extended use of the suite space to develop ICT based outcomes. This has not always been smooth sailing, and amid all the excitement around the progress students have made as ICT users, there is still some frustration regarding ownership of the ICT tasks students engage with. But this is another story.

Returning to playing with sound, the sequence of activities we eventually developed enabled us to begin establishing how we could reuse Internet based materials to support simple text development. In Music the children were talking about instruments from the orchestra and using the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Music Room as a starting point, we explored together instrument families, downloaded shared collections of images, and soundfiles. We listened to samples together at the IWB (not the ideal solution, but the only one available at the time), and in pairs developed slides in Textease Presenter about some of the instruments we had discussed. The students learned how to insert images we had downloaded together, and to link soundfiles to their slides. They compiled simple texts about their instruments drawing on what we had read about them, revising and reviewing during shared times, and in the final week shared these shows with each other in the suite, and with their teachers in class.

As the above unit evolved, small groups and our LSA worked with Garageband on the Mac, to compose 30 second music samples with the students. The children thoroughly enjoyed this, as they were using loops, and composing what they saw as "real" music. I love Garageband, and have spent many hours "playing" with the software myself, to create "tunes." Within the interface, at the bottom of the screen you are provided with a bank/collection of sample loops, played on a variety of "real" instruments, some everyday, and some from the world of folk and roots, and sorted and grouped according to musical genre as well as instrument family. In the main window, are the tracks, into which the loops and samples can be dragged, when composing. There are indicators as to what key each loop is played in, to help make decisions when mixing. The potential for mathematical work is embedded within the timeline which runs across the track window, setting the time challenge meant children needed to consider when they would introduce the fade out in their track, and whether they would have a fade in. Being able to drag loops about meant thinking about what position in the track each loop would fit for the effect they were trying to create. The visual representation of the track, began to enable the students to see their sound file outcome as a layered image and to identify how the music tracks they listen to everyday, are composed as a texture of sounds. Completed tracks were exported to iTunes and then converetd to MP3 to be played on the computer, and compiled into a class CD, they could play on the CD player. Their LSA was also excited by what he had produced while exploring the software before using it with the students. The students enjoyed playing their CD in class during Golden Time, identifying the tunes they had composed, though I guess after a while the experience became less enjoyable for the adults around them, through repeated exposure. The tracks they produced were also provided for our Year 2 students to choose from for backing tracks to their BeeBot Boogy Videos, making the Year 3s composers for a real audience.
Web 2.0 has introduced a new way of "playing with sound," and this term I am intending to revisit aspects of this unit, as the children make podcasts with Podium about their class based topic work. We will again be taking a multimedia approach, using photographs and images as starting points and scaffolds for language development. We will use 2create a story, as a tool to develop material for web publication collected on school visits, but also to develop visual scripts for their podcasts, before working again in small groups to rehearse and share their news stories or documentaries for publication. I also want the students to use this material in their class Blogs and think spaces.


Working with Year 1: Looking Back Over an Academic Year

It only seems like yesterday that I was working with our year 1 students in small groups, logging them on, opening software for them. teaching mouse control and developing that most essential skill which many of us forget, the acquisition of hand to screen coordination.

It is likely that unless you work or have worked in the early years or lower key stage one setting that you will encounter this, the strange phenomena of linking the moving of a mouse and something happening on screen. It is quite an abstract idea really. Using physical objects such as a pencil, pair of scissors or paintbrush their is something tangeable about something happening as a result. I drag a pencil about a piece of paper and I make a mark, but their is something abstract and magical, a bridge to be crossed in linking the remoteness of a mouse or a keyboard with an onscreen event. I mention it here because so many assumptions are made about understanding with regard to peripheral tools, and the making of this link, despite being aware I have been facinated by the many encounters I have observed as children develop the skills neccesary to control an onscreen pointer, and the tasks required of these young learners before they have fully come to terms with this.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the excellent resources in the iBoard suites have offered support for this while linking and engaging the students with theme based activities. They have proven a real winner, alongside CD Roms such as Barnaby Bear, Fizzy's Frst numbers (check out the Woolly Washer) and the flash based web sites we have used to support learning about ideas while enabling the drill and practice of mouse and keyboard skills so essential in these emegent stages of ICT development.

Promoting the need for an ICT area, where the children can access and use the computer throughout the day, every day, to engage with set activities has also added to the skill development of the students. At our school all classrooms have at least 2 networked PCs and an Interactive Whiteboard. My less confident colleagues have found it beneficial to use software tools in the main part of lessons on the IWB, and then to run instances of the programs in the ICT area for students to follow up shared tasks in a semi structured activity, before setting up the software for particular tasks later. The ICT area although being available for children to choose activities in free time, is not a freeplay zone, and it has taken a great deal of time for me to unpick even with older students that in the online classroom we are not there to play on the computer but to work in a different way. Using tools the students have worked on with me in the suite, or in this fashion has not only improve the students' independence and confidence, but has also enabled them to see ICTs as tools to help us with our work and our learning.

Tizzy's Tools has become the standard classroom suite for the children. They are beginning to identify which tools to use for certain things and to choose to use these independently for certain tasks. The interface in the suite's tools is simple, with large icon representations of common tasks, it is uncluttered and standard across the suite. It could be seen as an office suite for the newbie. Thinking about the progression of generic tool use across the school, I am looking to use a set of software suites, Tizzy's for the emergent learner, through the object based softease suite to the global use of MS Office in the developing and independent learner. Being able to choose the correct tool for the job I feel is an essential skill to be promoted, and will best be served by taking a generic tool based aproach across the network and redevelopment of our scheme of work. With Tizzy's we have data handling tools in the form of a very simple spreadsheet type package and a branching data base, a presentation package (like powerpoint), a writing tool/desk top publisher, a drawing package, and an onscreen turtle package called Move. The latter is a bonus, but essentially familiarity with the interface and cross package linking means the children are unhindered by needing to learn to read new symbols. They can instead focus on the skills of keyboard and mouse control, and the learning content of the session.

The current topic of Multimodality linked with the new literacy framework, has enormous implications for learning to use ICTs, and what the ICT curriculum means for the emergent learner. We have in the past bandied the phrase computer literacy about freely, when we talk about adults particularly, but what does this mean? Working in the onscreen environment is without doubt multimodality in practice, to engage in a WIMP world (a place filled with windows, Icons, Menus and pointers), we need to make links between the changing of a pointer and the effects it will bring about on screen. as we are immersed in a world of metaphor and symbolism. Iconic recycle bins represent places where files are temporarily stored for deletion, and folders as places where we store and group work more permanantly. We open windows in which to view our ongoing work. We have tools on a desktop, each with a specific purpose originating in a world of work up to 12 years away from these youngsters. In supporting our learners we have to somehow translate and transform this additional complex place into a tangeable and understandable environment drawing unfamiliar paralels to their existing day to day experiences.
Looking back on the achievements of these youngsters this year I cannot help but be impressed by the progress they have made. They can log on to a network, locate folders on screen and open applications independently. They can relate the symbolic representations of events, engage with icons and travel along hyperlinks to virtual places, understanding the relationship between cursor shape and the event which they hope to unfold.


Ready, Steady, Shoot

Have been asked by my year six colleagues to carry out a film making project with their students this term, in preparation for their leavers service. Not having done any film making before they began today with the stop motion animation exercise I carried out with our year 4 students way back in the Spring, using digi blues and chinese tangrams. The result were actually very nice, so added them to their community pages on the school web site this evening so they can share them with their parents. As we were working however I began to think about where to go next, as we are looking to create some quirky little, " now for something completely different" moments for their presentation.

I suddenly thought of the TV show Ready, Steady, Cook; and how the chefs each show are challenged to conjure up quick and tasty meals, with quirky names, from seemingly random ingredients, and hence the title of this post.

For next week's session I have set the students in groups, the "Ready, Steady, Shoot" challenge. Building on the Tangram Dance from this week, the students have each been asked to bring a small eveyday item from home. Working in groups, they must use every group members object, in an animated short. They will have the whole afternoon session to carry out their shoot, and hopefully will compile their clips as a class film using Movie Maker, and downloaded "creative commons" music tracks. It should be really good fun. Can't wait to see what they come up with. Hopefully they will cook up a treat.


Viewpoints: Working in the style of Monet

I began one of my favourite units of work today, one which I have carried out a number of times with year 4 students and which we have found has some delightful outcomes.. Linking to the QCA Art unit Viewpoints, and developed through the use of the simplest of graphics packages, MS Paint, our final outcome, built in steps, is a landscape, including reflection and rotations, working in the style of Monet. Throughout the unit the tools that children may use to create the modules from which the final landscape is made up are limited to only the airbrush tool, though the size of the nozzle, its dispersal pattern and colour can be varied.

We begin by reviewing images by the artist, and discussing how they are composed, where was he sitting when he made his sketches, or began painting? How do we know? We also discuss what was hapening beyond the frame, such things as where in the sky the sun may have been, refering to shadows, catches of light and the reflections we can see. Other interesting discussion points emerge around issues such as whether he may have worn a coat or not? Even though many of the images we look at are sunny and bright, there are other clues, like ripples on the water, whisps of mist, shades of dark and light, perhaps the sparkling of leaves, which may infer other conditions in the weather? We also compare two or three similar images such as the Japanese Bridge series, and discuss seasonal changes between them and so forth. I have compiled some of these images and supporting questions into a powerpoint slideshow. I was recently posted a link through to slideshare, wanted to have a go at using this, so I am sharing my first attempt at this here. Alongside the Monet's this show is also a Narrative of Learning and shows a progression through the unit of work.

Throughout the unit, concepts such as layering are introduced through copying and pasting. The final graphic is built up by adding new transparent layers to a background image, by copying and pasting from other open instances of Paint.

In previous years I have used MS Publisher to make Frameable Prints, which were very effective for display and made lovely gifts for their parents. This time around however I am considering an additional digital element, building on the learning story. Playing with Pivot Stickfigure Animator this weekend, inspired me to consider encouraging the students to use their digital monet's as backgrounds on which to take stick characters for a walk. Recent versions of PowerPoint, allow the use of animated Gifs, and I wondered about creating a class show, including single slides made by each of the students using their pivot animation. We might even add speech or thought bubbles, to give depth to the image. The slides could then be imported into one PowerPoint show, to make an animated story using their images, perhaps timing the animation in each image, and inserting a transition as the image motion stops. Seemd like a good fun thing to do, and something which I think the students would enjoy as an extension of their previous animation work.


Pivot Stick Figure Animator

Waiting for lunch before half term, I and a group of year 1 students sought a moment or two's entertainment. The thought of thirtyish 6 year olds all trying to wash their hands at the same time was to say the least disconcerting, they were not in the mood for a story, so we made our own entertainment taking turns, with the Interactive Whiteboard, making small adjustments to an on screen stick figure, inserting an additional frame, choosing a friend who was being a quality audiences before washing our hands for lunch, and then returning to watch our friends. By the time we had finished we had had a wild time creating a figure who when the play buton was pressed seemed to dance and hurl himself about the screen wildly. If you have not heard of or played with Pivot Stickfigure Animator it is freeware, really good fun, and can be downloaded from here. You are not limited to black and white, indeed you can import backgrounds, select from a number of prepared pivot figures, and change their colours. Frame speeds can be slowed down and speeded up. Your very own onscreen flick book. On the recommendation of an LA Technician, we downloaded and installed this on all of our machines in school. The gif above was the year one creation. This on the other hand is a little something I threw together myself...


Learning Curve

I have made several updates to our school website this week, it has been an interesting and self affirming experience, as I have been worried recently about how far we have actually moved against our ICT targets for this year. Ownership of the wider ICT curriculum has been my largest concern. But it has been interesting to reflect on the benefits and effect our school website has had on attitudes to ICT, and how increased skill development and breadth of exposure to the use of ICTs by students has potentially contributed to this.

In September we didn't have a website, but over the last term it has begun to take on a new lease of life, acting as a portal and support for our students and staff, as well as framing new directions for us as a school to move in. With the use of and Blogs with students one or two staff are beginning to to tinker with and explore these technologies for themselves, even though I had hoped they might, I didn't think I would hear just yet anyway, suggestions that we might use these spaces linked from the website as a means of sharing professional learning or as a news source by coordinators. From the beginning I had decided to create a resource bank, and recently I was approached by a member of staff for the first time to ask how she could publish some of her self made resources to the site. She spent several weeks preparing and sorting files before bringing them to school proudly, on a flash drive, for me to install to the website.

Interviews with students reflect how they enjoy sharing new content on their community pages with parents and teachers, and it has been great to recieve positive comments not only in person but posted to class blogs, which have excited students and motivated them to write more. Our year sixes have a rota, and know when it is their turn to write up blog entries. They can't wait until it is their turn, as comments by one particular student shows. For our younger students, the websites and games linked from their community pages have been really popular, once their parents have them on the school website, they have enjoyed engaging with and sharing activities they have done in school at home. Perhaps the biggest success has been I have popped in and out of the space all week, and have been amazed by the number of students who have been using the space over the holidays. The space as a resource has been recieved very well by parents too who have been surprised by what their children are able to do. This space as a discussion point has not been limited to the year groups who use it, a year 2 parent recently asked about when their child would have access, as she had heard the older students talking about it and was really excited about when it would be her turn. We are also seeing an increase in the number of students who have access to a computer and the internet out of school. Interestingly a number of students had PCs bought for christmas, though some are accessing the web by choice through family visits or through community access points. Maybe I shouldn't worry quite so much.