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.

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