A while back I began visiting this podcast site with students, as a means of introducing different voices to story time. Storynory, free audio stories for kids, hosts a wide range of stories, from fairy tales, to classics, from Greek Myths to Modern Stories. I have made a brief stop off to download a few of the stories for my niece to listen to with me over my Christmas sojourn. If you haven't visited before or subscribed to the podcast, I would recommend you do.

On my visit today I also picked up a link to an intriguing looking set of new online stories at Rockford's Rock Opera, that I will take a look at later, when finished the housekeeping.


Experimenting With Blogger and 2 Create a Story

I uploaded my students Henry VIII Biographies yesterday to the school website, and began thinking how great it would be to be able to embed an example or two here to share. The flash files were hosted already so there had to be a way of embedding them. Having played around for a bit, I have managed to meet my aim. Having borrowed some code from the Dummies Guide to Google Blogger Beta and "flash for blogger" following a bit of a fiddle, here are the results.

Now I am really excited about the further possibilities, this opens up for using 2create and 2 Create a Story. 2Create and 2Create a Story, both export to flash, can include embedded sound effects and animation, so with space to upload and host these files, inclusion to a blog space offers a new set of multimodal text publication possibilities. Am now pondering how we might do the same thing with the student's Wordpress blogs. Watch this space.

Post Script

After a visit to our y3 blog hosted by Ethink I have used the embed flash plugin to add one of the flash files created in 2 create a story to the blog. Can't wait to share this next term.


I'll Be The Narrator, And You Can Be Baby Bear...

Just a snippet from a learning conversation, but an exciting moment to end the term with. Three weeks ago we began our visit to playscripts and the presentation of speech. This culminated in the publishing of our class podcast performance of "On The Way Home" based on the story by Jill Murphy. Yesterday afternoon I had a request from one of my students, for he and some friends to borrow my laptop. This was a curious though not unusual request, as I often use it with students an additional classroom machine or in support of small group tasks, but obviously I wanted to know why only my laptop would do, when we have two other other PCs in the classroom they could use. It transpired that he and a group of friends, had decided they would like to make a podcast themselves, and my laptop having a nice internal mike, which they had used as a class would fit the bill beautifully for the task they had decided upon. They had found the book "Baby Bear's Christmas Kiss," by John Prater, in the school library, and bringing it back to class to share, had decided it would make for a good performance. Among the group, J had decided that he should be the narrator, (actually as it turns out he had also assigned himself the role of director) his friends being the voices of the characters, to who he had already allocated parts. Unaware of this initially but liking the idea I sent the children off to rehearse the story they wanted to tell.

The process they engaged with was really fascinating, taking the role of narrator in the story, J had decided to tell all the unspoken parts, referring to the punctuation in the text, to help delegate speaking parts, while he and his friends used speech verbs, and picture cues to help discuss how they would read the text. They spent a considerable amount of time discussing this and rehearsing so this morning we set up Podium to enable them to record their efforts. Each pair of pages was allocated as a chapter, in order to enable the children to edit each piece of the story in short chunks, or to delete sections and rerecord until they were happy with it. This part of the process is something which previously they had only done supported so I was interested to see what would happen. They were very keen to get the story to sound the way they wanted it, deleting chunks and sometimes whole tracks before rerecording it, replaying after every recording session, and using the wave forms they quickly identified overly long periods of silence, pauses or gaps in the soundtrack. After being shown how they began to delete these spaces independently. In order to complete the recording they finally asked if they could stay in at playtime. On completing the file, I helped them to copy and paste the clips in each chapter together, and we added the enclosing music file. The completed story went down a storm with their class mates, and tomorrow they have been asked to share their story with children in other classes. We also published the file to our podcast station, which added that extra wow to the outcome. We hope you enjoy sharing it too. Baby Bear's Christmas Kiss can be found by following this link to the Buzz. Merry Christmas from Year 3.


One Year Old Today.. Thank You

Well this is it, today is my blog's first birthday, and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has visited, shared this space with others, offered advice, kind words and support.
The space was originally set up in response to coursework requirements at university, and if I am honest for a long time I struggled to find a purpose for it and so it lay abandoned and lonely. In September 2006, I found myself in the rarest of positions, I was without a class of my own, covering PPA with a colleague, while teaching ICT as a subject specialism across the school, in key stages 1 and 2 with the occasional adventure with foundation stage students. My learning took a steep curve, new strategies emerged or were required not only to manage students and their learning in the ICT suite, but also to share, store and evaluate their work, as well as opportunities to engage with tools first hand that I had not used previously. This space since last December, has become a valuable professional development tool, somewhere to think aloud, reflect upon, share, sometimes to sound off about but overall to log my thoughts, somewhere to wander and think about what might be, while celebrating the achievements of my students.

The tone and content may have changed a little since September with a return to the classroom full time and teaching and learning with a class of my own again but with this has come the opportunity to add continuity, whole curriculum context and the use of a base to apply and reflect on how earlier thoughts work during the day to days of classroom life.

I often visit my Feedburner account curious to find out about my visitors, subscribers, what they are reading and what they are searching for when directed to my blog. I have been interested over the time I have been writing to find that a common search query that leads folk here, even if only for a brief stay, goes something along the lines of...

"ICT Recommended hours"

What I have found increasingly exciting however are the number of visitors who now arrive here, not searching for ICT related issues alone. Although being primarily my thoughts as an ICT subject leader, what I hope my blog offers are embedded situations and thoughts that leave visitors much less concerned with the recommended hours per week or per year students should spend doing ICT , but stimulate thought about how ICTs could be used differently as tools to support work across the whole curriculum.

I cannot imagine many sites being visited through the search string

"pencil paper glue recommended hours"

Looking back over the year to date, as a professional development tool, deciding to keep a blog has to be one of the best decisions I have made as a teacher. Keeping a paper based "learning log" or "diary," as I used to do does not draw the same level of support or common interest. The journey I have engaged in over the past 12 months has not been alone, but thankfully has been enhanced by the support of colleagues who visit, have offered comments, shared their thoughts or through their linking to this space have encouraged and enabled me to share my work and adventures with a wider audience. I would like to thank everyone who over the past 12 months has supported and encouraged me, through their comments and promotion of the space. Hopefully you will continue to visit through 2008 and beyond. Thanks, :o)

Now for a song, courtesy of ErFinanza, GreyWorldwide and YouTube


Santa's Problem

Santa's helpers have gone HiTech, and this year as they have read children's letters, they have logged all the children's requests in Excel. Well spreadsheets are great tools for representing data aren't they? But wait.. Why do we create charts? What purposes do they serve? Who are they for? Do all charts work in the same way? And is the way they represent information always useful?

As is fairly typical of a group with a new toy they have published the results in all sorts of pretty formats, but as we know not all of these are terribly useful unless we are aware of their purpose, and the contexts in which they can be used. So here we are, it is Christmas Eve and Santa is now struggling to use the tools he has been given to help him load his sleigh.

Part of being a good mathematician is not just being able to do the math, but is also about reasoning and thinking about which tools and strategies match the task. This Bar Chart was the starting point for this weeks maths sessions with my class. Was this the right tool to help Santa with the jobs he needed to do before setting out on his journey? If not how could we use the information we had to help us devise another tool that would make Santa's job of packing the sleigh easier.

The week was based on a teaching sequence that I hoped would allow students to explore how this information might be transformed and reprepresented, we carried out our own class survey, using a familiar device the pictogram, as a tally chart to help collect our data. We discussed the gifts that we would like for Christmas drawing and labeling these on sticky labels, then coming together to group and sort these on freize paper. We then discussed what we could see, focussing on the idea of this chart as a story. What story was our emerging "tally chart" telling us? Exploring the pictogram as a starting point and data source, we began to identify tools that were missing that might help our reader better understand what we had recorded. There was no title, and as the discussion unfolded an x axis was added, to label the gift categories. This too needed a label so our reader would understand that these were gifts, not random items. Since we had been working on scales, in one form or another for the last couple of weeks, one student suggested that another line could be added up the side and numbers marked in, our chart could have a scale and it could count in ones, (hmm perhaps we could add a y axis?) This scale would also need a label so readers could understand what it meant. The students were encouraged discussed the story again, and this time as the students commented these were recorded on the whiteboard as if responses to questions, before being asked to work in pairs to rewrite these as questions, rehearsing them aloud and remembering to include appropriate punctuation. Both our new hybrid pictogram, student comments and group questions were displayed to support the next session.

During session 2 we returned to the pictogram/tally we had developed yesterday, and the students were introduced to other ways of tallying, we could tick tally, this was abit like our pictogram as a data source, we had to count individual ticks, or images, but another way of representing the data we had collected the day before was to use a five bar gate system, and here we could use "clever counting," counting in groups of 5 and adding remainders. We began by asking how many students were in school yesterday. The children initially guessed, but were reminded of the tool we had used to help us think about gifts for Christmas. How could we use this tool to help us find the answer? If our survey was accurate, it would include one choice of gift from everyone who was here. The process of counting every block as with every tick, is laborious, but we soon agreed that there were 24 students in school. We began to talk about how we could have made counting easier, and I introduced the idea of five bar gate tallying, working through each column on our chart one at a time to build a running total, we had 5 sets of 5 and 4 left over this is 24. To model this system of tallying we carried out another quick but unrelated survey, using Mark Cogan's "Tally chart" ITP, observing what happened, when we reached 5. The students were asked why they thought this system might be called a 5 bar gate, and responses directed us to how the recording looked like a gate, with 4 uprights, and a cross through. Using our data from yesterday the students were encouraged to make their own tally charts, adding a total column. As a class these were then reviewed as we re represented this data, as a class frequency table in Excel, on the IWB. This final step in the session was a preparatory stage for our third session.

Session three involved us in looking at scales, and introducing the y axis. A helpful supporting rhyme for this came from my colleague as "y for the sky," an image which the children seemed to find useful. We began the session with a counting stick, counting horizontally in multiples of two, five and ten, before turning the stick to the vertical position as we had done with other scales last week and carrying out prediction tasks, eg if this is 0 and this is 100, what might each division in our scale be? How do we know? Where might 50 be? What about 20? 30? 25? and so on. 3 different images of yesterday's data were shared in the form of bar charts generated from the class frequency table and discussed. What could we see? What stories were they telling? This lead to children pointing out changes in the way the y axis scales were formed, one was counting in 2s, one 3's and the other 5s. The columns on the chart were all different, "no they weren't... they were different sizes but they had the same numbers in them.." beginning to refer back to previous sessions on scale some of the students began to recognise that even though the appearence of the chart content was different in each case, the scale on the y axis was determining how these numbers would be shown, and rather than each chart representing a different story, this remained the same, while how the chart represented the the story visually changed according to our choice of scale. This lead to a discussion of the importance of axis labels and titles. For the rest of the session the students were given paper charting frames, in which to represent the data we had collected, and challenged to include y axis scales, adding axis labels and good titles that would help their readers, understand the story their chart was telling.

With previous groups of older students I have used Excel to do this task, the students working in pairs to create charts and add labels at the computer. Although being pleased with the level of understanding the children generally achieved through this task the final outcomes showed some misunderstandings, not around charts, the visual representation was fine, but the paper based tool I had given for individual work. The label frames on the y axis seeming to cause particular problems, for some students who used this not to add labels, but to include their scales. On reflection, I think when I do this again, I will organise the group differently, having them work on the paper frame in pairs, and encouraging talking twos. We also need to consider the placement of numerical values on the y axis, we have not done any number track work this term, but student experiences, lead them not to mark intervals in some cases on the scale divisions, but in the spaces between, which may have been a confusion with how the x axis was organised on this chart type, or the tool they were offered, and is something I need to revisit and address in one more session. Although useful as an exercise in applying what they knew, it might have been better to build up the chart in stages, beginning with the addition of the scale first, moving to titles and labels as a class, before allowing the students to add the data.

Our final stage of the task was to ask which if any of these charts would be helpful to Santa when he began to load his sleigh. The discussion was great and the conclusions of the class resounding, all of the charts help him load it, but would be of little use when he came to deliver. He would need something more. Getting the gifts on the sleigh at one end was fine, but how would he know where to deliver them, and who was to get what. He could use a tally chart, or a frequency table with a check list/tick box to ensure that he had the right number of each gift, but to be extra safe he would need a list of addresses so he could unload at the children's houses when he got there.

Number play and exploration of the relationships between number and data, during my research project literature review, has been shown as something we rarely get to as an inherent part of data handling activity. A growing body of research shows that students involved in data handling activity, frequently spend more time drawing and colouring in graphs, than they do engaging with them to support questioning and reasoning and so rarely have time to use these for their intended purposes, as problem solving tools. The discussion, questioning and reasoning activity that began to emerge from this series of tasks was really useful in laying the foundations for future work, and I am looking forward to further work later, building on these foundations when we use data handling software together to engage with investigational activities around other themes later.


Low-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard using the Wii Remote

Just picked this up from my feeds, again as something to return to later and follow, how Johnny Chung Lee of Carnegie Mellon University, has used the Wii Remote, and pens modified to emit infrared to create a portable multitouch whiteboard that also works as an input device for potential collaborative engagement on a host of other work surfaces. With the excitement that Microsoft Surface generated for me when I saw it earlier in the year, this solution, is a really interesting idea. It does not have all the bells and whistles, that "surface" as a commercial solution is likely to provide, but from a classroom perspective the ability for more than one student to work on the same surface at the same time, with tools we already have available to us, means this is a potentially exciting resource. In addition, as is demonstrated in the video below, using tools based on this, every surface in the classroom onto which you can project a computer desktop, becomes a potential multiuser interactive space. Currently using the solution may mean a visit to Tandy or Radio Shack, but considering the costs of installing IWBs, this solution, will surely require some rethink or redesign on the part of our current providers. I was made aware a few weeks back that the most recent Hitachi Board model includes multitouch features, but have not seen any proposals or demonstrations with other boards so far, it will be interesting to see as this idea emerges further if commercial producers will make or develop an infrared stylus, that can be sold separately for use with the Wii remote. What will also be interesting is how or if the cost of such tools will equate with the £40 to £50 pound price tag that this solution offers as is, in posts published by Ewan McIntosh and Will Richardson that directed me here.

There is still the cost projectors to consider, but this initial solution cuts potential costs considerably. Maybe with the addition of an open source, cross platform, object based software suite, that enables use of legacy file formats from other IWB software suites, this will have an impact on the solutions offered by IWB providers. Below is a video of Johnny demonstrating his innovation, you can also find his original you tube post, here amazing and inspirational.

Oh what Fun it is to ... Elf Yourself

Thanks to Keith and Scott for pointing me to OfficeMax's Elf Yourself, it really cheered me up. My first problem was to find a picture. Though you don't need one, and can use presets, I decided on a new use for a Y6 Caricature created of me last Summer, and made this. Really good fun, must try to find a space for my class to have a look next week and see what they can do.


Geotagging with Lucy

Just talking through, sharing and bandying some ideas with a colleague about how we might use Quikmaps to support our geography project next term. How to organise use of this tool with the whole class has been flagged as a potential issue, but by planning in and developing table top tasks as research activities allowing data collection before creating class or group maps as a final or ongoing outcome, should help with this. Look forward to writing about and sharing these later.


Google For Schools

Received an envelope full of glossy goodies from Google this morning, introducing Google For UK Schools. The space includes some interesting project ideas starting points and support materials for using Google Earth and Google Maps involving geotagging as well as search tutorials for students, and presenting some gadgets that may be of particular interest to teachers. I like the idea of the "Fair Trade and Chocolate" project, which seems to me to have some interesting possibilities for using geotagging to help students understand the origins of the foods they eat.

Next term we will be engaging with a geography based topic where we will be trying to integrate work on food and eating. This has set me thinking about how it might be interesting to adapt this to think about the journey of a meal. Perhaps beginning with food labels researching the origins of the ingredients, or even making a visit to the local supermarket, to photograph and note where the fruits and vegetables in our local five a day come from. The countries of origin could be geotagged by students using my quikmaps account, or following table top tasks as part of a shared session, for inclusion in our class blog or year group community pages. Maybe we could add these to our growing interactive school atlas, and be embedded in Tizz's Travels. Well some "food" for thought anyway. There are some interesting possibilities for this idea, and I am sure this would make an interesting starting point, not only for supporting understanding of our "place in space," but could be extended with older students around issues of global responsibility, sustainability and fair trade.


Spell With Flickr

Just found this great link, Via Twitter, and a visit to Thinking Past The Square, a blog by a Y3-4 teacher in Auckland. Spell With Flickr, enter a word, after a short wait, if available it returns image tiles from Flickr that match your search. It also returns code enabling the images to be embedded. This is what was returned when I typed in my name.

S seconds I M O_McElman_070709_0156 n

It reminded me of the fun my Y3 class had a while back with hieroglyphic writing tools on sites such as this at the University of Pensylvania's, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where I made this Cartouche showing my name.

And also a Y4 class who loved using Viking Rune tools like the one I found here on the PBS Network, (unfortunately I couldn't embed my new found Viking name "Longshanks.") Students do find it fascinating and fun to play with ancient alphabets. To add another dimension to spelling and handwriting sessions, I downloaded a Futhark alphabet font set from Simply the Best a while back, and used these to make decoding games that really challenged some of the students thinking about how our alphabet works as a set of "sound pictures."


Food For Thought: Personalised Learning

From my Twitter feeds this morning I followed a link "challenging Assumptions," to a site colleague Linda Hartley had recently read, and as a result was directed to this thought provoking animation about personalised learning, provided by personalised learning now. Thanks Linda, I am flagging the site and animation here as a space to return to, and the animation as something to share with colleagues, when we think about the potential affordances of learning platforms. I feel we need to find a frame for showing that although these tools may mean additional work in learning how to use them, in the long term they require us to look beyond the technology, and not to see them as teaching and delivery devices that we fit into our current models of practice, but as resources and spaces that can enable and facilitate means of looking at teaching and learning differently. With a new set of technologies, perhaps we can find space to begin to reflect upon and explore new views of the "classroom."

I like the context for the animation, which embeds the historical context of current schooling within the Forster Act, the view continues through out the animation showing how schools and schooling, but particularly how cultural views of the learner and learning seem to have have changed little, despite changes and technological developments since that time. The confused Martian from a world where distributed knowledge, networked learning, conversation and shared meaning making are recognised and day to day features of personalised education, provides a powerful image of the differences between personalised catologued curricular, and the one hat fits all delivered curriculum paradigm we are currently so fond of. I apologise in advance if my interpretations and this summary oversimplify the presentation, check it out. I guess what excited and stimulated me most was how what is presented herebegan to help me link ideas that emerged during recent inspirational presentations given by Professor Stephen Heppell and Lord Puttenham. Thanks again Linda.


On The Way Home: Podcast Published

This evening I have published our latest class podcast episode, "On The Way Home." The episode is the outcome of a writing unit I reflected on in my post "Talking For Writing", dated 22/11/07, and can be found on both my learning to podcast space, and our class podcast station. I am incredibly proud of the outcome, the students worked really hard to achieve the performance. Well done Y3. I hope you enjoy.


Text Jumble

Have just picked this online fridge magnet and text tumbler tool up from my feeds via Joe Dale. Already got my mind whizzing with the possibilities it has for talking for writing, sentence and text rehearsal tasks and generating silly sentences on the interactive whiteboard.

Units of Measure: Might quikmaps help visualise big units in the locality?

This week we have been thinking about the relationships between units of measures, presenting an image of a cm and a m is fine, but how do you present a picture of 1km to a group of 7 year olds? I was pondering this evening on how useful quikmaps might be for this, estimating and plotting out the distance in the locality. Driving into school this morning I used the odometer in my car to help me rough out a kilometre so I could share it with my class, and this evening have set up a blog to use as a modelling tumble. What do you think, this map features a prominent landmark and an imaginary walk which is approx 1km long?


Tracking Santa

Check out this years Tracking Santa offering from NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). This year they seem to have teamed up with Google. Thanks to the Witshire ICT Nuggets Blog for the update.


Repeating Patterns and DT: A Christmas Card Project For KS2

Even though I often express concern about our over reliance on the QCA scheme of work units, they are still incredibly useful starting points for thinking about activities or sequences of work we might develop with students. Unit 4b developing images and repeating patterns is a nice starting point for developing images, in a range of graphics packages while introducing the sometimes bizarre vocabulary that relates to how these tools work, and one which I used to frame my favourite unit of work for Y4 students.

The about this unit section says in this unit children will

  • learn to develop visual ideas
  • realise these ideas using ICT.
  • use a computer graphics package to explore and experiment with ideas, amending and modifying their work to meet specific outcomes.
  • learn to save their work as they go along (I would hope that by Y4 they are consolidating this).
  • learn to use ICT tools appropriately and to select areas of an image to cut, copy and change. learn to export their work to other packages and import images from sources such as clip art, scanner or digital camera.

The key statement for me in this whole introduction is that "children will apply what they have learnt in this unit... to produce pictures, plans and maps in art, design and technology, and.. (or).. geography." When I originally designed my unit of work the series of tasks that evolved focused around the Design and make Process for a Christmas card, embedding the ICT skills in moving towards this outcome.

The outcome for the "integrated task" says that children should use

"a variety of materials, created on and away from the computer, and use them to make a final image." This I interpreted to mean, drawing on available designs as well as the use of additional ICT tools and resources. The remainder of this post describes the process in its DT context, through ICT

IDEAS (Investigative, Disassembly and Evaluative Activities)

This unit was designed to fit with and work alongside a mechanisms unit for Design and Technology, where the design brief was to design and make an animated Christmas card. Students were provided with examples of existing cards, to evaluate, discussing and drawing from these common themes and ideas. In ICT sessions we also used the internet to explore Christmas scenes and images. We began also to use tools in Microsoft Paint to develop wire frames, of common Christmas Motifs. We focused on how shape tools could be used to form skeleton structures around which to develop our images, saving individual images, that might later be used as "stamps" in the composition of larger Christmas scenes.

FPTs (Focussed Practical Tasks)

The intention of any DT project is that all children should be able to realise a quality outcome, and in order to achieve this they must be provided with available designs to evaluate , innovate on and or develop. In class the students engaged in a range of making tasks, that involved them in constructing predefined mechanisms, rotary window type designs, the use of cams and lever based mechanisms, pop ups and sliders. As we engaged the students were required to evaluate as a class the outcomes they were creating. Drawing on previous experiences with cards, which parts of the images might we be able to animate, and which of the mechanisms might we use to enable this to happen. In my classroom I see FPTs as early prototyping activities, spaces and activities through which students can begin to visualise the relationships between the skills input, and the final design outcomes they hope to develop. Gill Hope, presents some really interesting ideas about design and technology in the Primary School, and the dangers inherent in requiring young children to draw and record what they want to make before they begin, design as a process is an ongoing sand iterative process, evolving continually as we evaluate and appraise our progress, and solve problems. Prototyping is a key area in the design process, and one which I feel should be as practical as possible. During DT activities, I am never without my digital camera, as I find this is one of the most powerful tools I have available to record and document student activity, and frequently use images captured through the use of Powerpoint to document learning stories. DT it seems for many is a real issue in terms of maintaining evidence, where do we store it? I find my hard drive or flash drive is ideal!?

In ICT sessions the students, were also encouraged to prototype, as we developed our wireframes, using fill tools, brushes, zoom copy and paste to add detail to our motifs. Our outcome in ICT was also to make a Christmas Card, but to use a desk top publisher to eventually achieve our design outcome. The children were taught how to use their motifs to construct a Christmas scene, and to use copy and paste techniques to develop a simple repeating pattern based on example of Christmas Wrapping paper designs we had discussed. This gave opportunities to discuss layering and transparent or opaque selections, and their effects on the images we were producing, to discuss how new layers pasted appeared on top of previous images pasted and the need to pre think and plan sequentially the order in which we would import, or paste our motifs to the image using our chosen tool. Using the transparent select tool we were able to make underlying layers show through, but once the imported section of our image was deselected, the only way back was through the undo tool. This really brought home the reasons why we need to "cascade save" after significant changes have been made. When we had made our wrapping paper designs students were encouraged to experiment with different fill colours, and to think about which made their paper appear most christmassy!!!

The DMA (Design and Make Activity)

In DT sessions the students, made "mock ups," and working models which were separate initially from their cards. They went through processes of trial and error, drawing on the mechanism designs they were familiar with to bring about the effects they were trying to achieve, and when happy that their designs met the success criteria we had established earlier from our design brief, applied their mechanism to a card. These cards then were decorated to match the effect required. Some children used images and objects developed in ICT sessions to apply to their cards.

In ICT, the children now had a range of motifs and design types they had developed that they could use to make their Christmas Card. We used Microsoft Publisher to do this, beginning from a design Wizard, the students used the the step by step process to generate their own Christmas card writing frames. Choosing from the images they had developed they were able to recreate the card the way they wanted it to look, innovating on the presented design to include/import their own images, and to drag them around the page to where they would like to put them. They could also include text in the form of text boxes or through the use of Word Art, and add borders and boxes to break up the pages they were making. Using Publisher in this way the students were also engaging in visual prototyping, discussing the effects they were creating and and making decisions about which images they would like to include and why? Considering text effects, and how these impacted on the overall design and personal aesthetic they wanted to bring to the document. The students were able to use clipart to reform the border art they wanted to apply, or to bring in additional web based or clipart images. When completed the students were asked to publish the card they wanted to keep and take home to the "Published Work folder" on their home drives. We only allow monochrome printing in the ICT Suite, so black and white mock ups were printed by each child to learn the making process, but each child's individual card was also printed out to card on the Colour Laser Printer we have for special work.

Using the tools on the iBoard Christmas site, our year one students last year were also encouraged to make Christmas scenes. See my very first post Photofiltre and screen printing. I used the print screen function to capture and save the images they had developed, pasting these to a graphics package, cropping them to be saved as .jpg files using the student's names to index them. Using MS publisher, I later imported and printed cards individually, that they were able to fill in with their own greetings. They loved the quality of the output, and were really excited that they were able to give something they had made on the computer to a special someone .

Just thinking now how amazing and exciting it might be to develop this further to combine the DT and ICT elements through the use of the plotter cutter we have recently gained...

A Christmas present From iBoard

I used this set of resources primarily with students in Year 1 last year, though some of our older students also enjoyed playing with this fantastic collection of object based flash tools from the inspirational iBoard Team, at Electronic Blackboard.

Resources include
  • Christmas Shape and Space Activities
  • Getting ready for Christmas: (label and wrapping paper makers, dress up Santa, and mend or even "supe up"his sleigh, being among the tools available here)
  • Christmas Writing: (drag and Drop Writing frames for letters and so on)
  • and a collection of Christmas Shopping activities

There are 19 activities in all available to use free here, the students who used them loved the tools, I hope you do too, and that your experiences encourage you to explore further the fantastic Foundation and Key Stage One focussed tools they develop.

Christmas is Coming 2: A Thought For The Day

Using Podium for students to hear their internal voice, might be a powerful use for the tool in guided reading time. I am already beginning to see the benefits of using Podium to help my year 3 students recognise the importance of expression when reading aloud, but a lovely idea I think at this time of year, would be for older students to engage either with bible stories, or familiar and Traditional Christmas tales. Choosing stories that perhaps give a particular message and recording these to share, as either a "thought for the day," type program or series, or that might be used by younger students on the classroom PC as a listening centre. Perhaps by including the PC or teacher laptop as one of the Guided Reading options, students could share a book or text alongside an older students performance, enabling younger or emergent readers to hear a model of how the text can be read.

Hearing Thoughts for the day, short expressions about the things I like or look forward to about Christmas, memories of previous Christmases or even colleagues and community members recording their thoughts and memories about Christmas when they were a child, would make powerful tools for thinking about what this festival means to different people, and how it has changed over time, enabling and supporting discussions about the significance and meaning of the festival. I have to admit to being curious too, about how a public might react to primary school students sharing Christmas messages through this type of public broadcast, in tandem with those we often hear from Politicians, religious figures and celebrities at this time of year.

Christmas Is Coming

Just spent the last couple of hours adding the finishing touches to our school's Christmas Pages and resource share space. Last year we also had a set of Christmas Pages on our website, but it in its format at the time the site was only a couple of months old. By this time last year our visitor count was around 1000, but since then has risen to over 25000 hits. I am hoping that the addition of these pages will draw not only our students to visit with their parents, but a host of other visitors from around the world, as we set out to send our "greetings to the World," and work to develop our image as a "Global School."

Our "greetings to the World," are developing slowly, but some of the students have begun to Use as a community space, practicing their email, internet and emerging web 2.o skills, to create Christmas pages of their own. The idea being that they will either, download images from the web, or create their own, uploading these to their Think spaces, adding a wish or greeting for the world, before sending a message to me that it is ready for inclusion in the school website. Adding to the website is a matter of download, copy and paste or insert using my choice of Web Development tool Ms FrontPage.

Some students have begun to expand on this remembering the pages we had on display last year, sending Christmas Funnies, or simple poems they have developed, and these too will be added to the space to celebrate their independent achievements.

Within the pages I have included links to some of the Websites I have used to support ICT activity in the classroom, these links are generally cross curricular in nature, but include things such as clipart site, links to pages about Christmas traditions around the world, and favourite site used by me with students from KS 1 last year, the iBoard online activities pages. There are also a number of resources and tools developed, for use with students, and some links to sections of the school website, describing and displaying student ICT outcomes around Christmas themes.

This year I am also interested in how we might begin to use the space to encourage colleagues to have a go at using Podium to develop simple podcasts, though time is short, and space to share this with colleagues limited I am convinced that the simplicity of the tool will enable colleagues to see how quickly they can prepare and develop a performance piece for publication. One idea I have shared is the notion of students performing their sections of the school performance, in class with these being recorded for upload. Another idea which has had mixed reaction is the idea of students creating a thought for the day type program, that could be developed during Guided Reading sessions, based on either reading from an available text or performance of something they have written and prepared. I have also proposed that if colleagues are unsure about the tool, if students rehearse and refine their performances, recording could be done using laptops during student Golden Time, and that I would be happy to work with small groups during this time. I would also be interested to see the quality of output from this tool, if we try to record students singing Christmas Carols and songs in real time, but this is an experiment for later.