Memories are Made of This: Narrative Recounts and Photostory 3

I haven't been able to get to my Blog recently. The end of term is approaching all too quickly, but this alone hasn't accounted for my not being able to make space and time to write. December 16th is not only our end of term, but represents the end of an era for our current school building. When we reconvene in mid January, the buildings that were once Teyfant Community School, will begin to disappear, hopefully not too violently, beneath the landscape that will form the new BSF through campus site, known as the Bridge Learning Campus.

I have spent many happy years working here, interspersed with the odd secondment. Some of these were intended to lead to other things, but the place and its people have always drawn me back. This move comes during a year that not only means a new beginning, but also at a time when "the old school" has reached a significant landmark in its own service to the community, its 50th aniversary. To celebrate the life of the school we and our students have ended our time here with a themed fortnight looking back over those years.

Making A Simple Video Timeline

As a stimulus to begin work with my class I made a video timeline using Photostory, Moviemaker and CDex. To begin our look back over the past 50 years I spoke with colleagues about their significant moments and used these materials from connected Earth, to frame web searches for images use. The web based collect and store process, began with a google image search. These images were saved to the network, in a share folder, alongside images scanned from dated photographs we had of the local area, and school itself during the period.

Once the collection had been made, these images were imported to Photostory, and using the timeline feature here, each image was dragged into time order. Using the text tool, dates were added as ovelays to each image, before saving the project and exporting it as a video file (.wmv).

Using CDex, I "extracted" mp3 tracks from my CD collection to represent each era in the life of the school, then using Moviemaker began the prepare stage of the process,
  • Firstly the video from Photostory and the music tracks were imported to collection.
  • The video file was dragged to the timeline,
  • and each music track in turn dragged to the audio timeline.
Using the crop tool, each audio track was then adjusted, by dragging it to fit within the video clip it represented. The video was then previewed and "played about with" until I was happy with the audio and video.

Using the audio tools in Moviemaker I then clicked on each audio clip inturn adding a fade in and fade out to each clip, before finally exporting the completed video.

E Safety Point: I used music from my CD collection so I cannot publish the timeline here, but perhaps the process outlined above will be useful in helping others to make a similar tool for themselves. If interested I would be prepared to remove references to our school and upload the video minus soundtrack for others to use as a starting point.

Student Outcomes: Digital Narrative Recounts

In class we invited past students, some of whom were the children's parents and grandparents to visit and to talk about their experiences of Teyfant. As you will see in the video clip presented below the students gained a great deal from this process, interviewing and listening to voices from the past, not only provided insight to what the school was like, but also provided modelled voices in past tense to frame the script writing process for the video I wanted them to engage with.

We combined elements from the QCA art unit viewpoints, with a short literacy unit developed from the student's previous recount work to create their scripts.

Beginning from the students we discussed our favourite memories and places associated with these from around the school site and used view finders to frame shots, before using digi blues to capture the planned images. These images were then transferred to a share folder on the school network.

The students were then encouraged to compile a 3 image video montage, using Photostory, to use as a frame for their script.

Alongside this we used the relationship between colour and feelings to explore some of the images we had captured, sketching these, and using photocopies to apply different media types and colours to help us explore the vocabulary of feeling.

Using our vocabulary and representations we began thinking about our memories and feelings not only about our time at school, but about our views of the future, and the context for the student's script was set. We wanted the children to imagine that they were visiting the school site some time in the future, the old school had gone and they were looking back on their time here in the same way our visitors had when they came into school. The children were encouraged to write a short voice over, that would need to be written in three parts or paragraphs, that they would record to support the images they had placed in their photostories.

Once complete and reviewed/rehearsed in pairs, the students have begun adding these. Here are two example outcomes, with more to come as we complete the process.

It has been interesting to see how the students engage with the task. As well as the presenter role, they have also begun to assume directoral and editorial roles, one child recording and supporting the other to improve their presentation, talking about, deleting and redrafting the spoken writing outcomes, in response to what they hear. These video's may represent the student's thoughts on the end of an era, and their views of the future, but I find myself increasingly interested in and looking towards what they might afford as we move on. Now the students are familiar with the tools, it might be interesting to see what they make of them as vlogging tools, and ways to record and share community learning experiences.


On Downloading Video from YouTube

As a teacher I frequently encounter videos on YouTube that I think would be great to use with students, but because of firewalls am unable to use directly from the web.

There are a number of ways that videos can be downloaded from YouTube to enable their use directly from your computer. I tend to use Zamzar, following the process described toward the end this post. I like Zamzar because

  • The site provides the facility for the video files to be converted and downloaded in a number of different formats. This is important as not all media players will play all file types.
  • When a file is ready, a link to the file is sent by email, allowing the file to be picked up and downloaded from school, within a 24 hour time period after reciept.
Today in my feeds this post by Tony Karrer, points to another option, a "bookmarklet" that can added to the links bar of Firefox, or added to favourites in IE, and then used to download YouTube Videos directly as mP4s, when visiting the host page. A nice tool and shortcut for anyone with Quick Time installed.


An Animated Short: From Wrapping Paper to a Digital Greeting

I know, I know, its only the end of November, but as we all know preparing quality work takes time. For the last 3 weeks I have been working with my students in the school's ICT suite to develop graphics for use in their own personalised and Desk Top Published Christmas cards.

The process took the students through
  • Wireframing a draft Christmas Motif
  • Editing this to create a final coloured design
  • Copying and pasting this motif to create repeating patterns (wrapping paper style)
  • And finally experimenting with how different background colours and colour sequences in their designs effected the seasonal appeal of their image.
Bulleted ListMy favourite file name has got to be "complicated," expressing the students view of his work, as he included 2 colours in his background pattern and developed a similar process in recolouring sequentially the Christmas trees on his paper. Mathematically the task provided opportunities to use flip and rotate tools in MS Paint, enabling exploration of ideas around translation, rotation as well as line symmetry. Linking patterning to these ideas also provided challenges around rule making, and requiring visual prediction skills, and editing to ensure all spaces within the design followed the rules we had decided upon for our patterns.

This week most of the students have chosen their "favourite" wrapping paper design and used design wizards in MS Publisher to create their card, including this design on the front, and some including the smaller design motif elsewhere, personalising the greeting. They are very attractive as outcomes and even the simpest of designs, when repeated have produced some really intricate outcomes.

One of my students, building on our units of work last year, has developed a real interest in using Pivot Stick Animator to tell short visual stories. It's been a bit chilly this week and during lunchtimes he has been working away on this.

Very imaginative and creative yet somehow "Pythonesque" or "game like," he extended his use of the wrapping paper design to form a background and structure for his story including characters, who navigate a maze of santa's sleighs, falling between gaps, or limboing under others, transforming as they move shapes from one sleigh to another. This has inspired some thought about how easily we could extend this project to use images we have already developed to create digital online christmas cards.

To make this movie
  • The pivot animation file was saved as a .gif file
  • The gif was imported to MS MovieMaker along with a suitable sound track.
  • The gif was dragged to the timeline and sound track added
  • After some editing in MovieMaker to get the look and feel right, the completed movie was then exported as a video file in .wmv format.
I have posted previously about this and you can read about it by following this link. The completed movie can now be played standalone in a Media Player, or could even be uploaded to somewhere like Google Video for hosting and inclusion in a blog or school website like I have done with J's permission here. So J and I will begin the festivities here early and with no apologies by wishing you all a very Merry Digital Christmas.


Storyphones... The Listening Station Evolves

Thanks to Phil King from Ameeca, home of Storyphones for his visit today and providing update information on recent developments at the Storyphones Website. A reciprocal visit gave an opportunity to explore through video how colleagues are using these tools first hand, to support speaking and listening, MFL and outdoor learning. From a Key Stage 2 perspective these also offered some interesting opportunities for supporting differentiation and inclusion. Why not take a swing by and check out what the tool has to offer, and perhaps what my earlier excitement was about. Really hoping I can find the space in a buzy New Year to take a first hand look at BETT this year.


Amazing Grace: It'll Be Alright on the Night

We have been preparing material for our celebration assembly for parents. This has included compiling from our collection of photographs; a series of video montages. The tool of chioice for this has been Microsoft Photostory a flexible and easy to use tool, that I have used many times with students to compile for web display, graphic work carried out in class based ICT sessions.

Today a suggestion was made by the students that we use some of the images form our story telling sessions about Grace Darling to form a backdrop to part of the show. I instead asked a group of students to help me script a voice over, and had a student volunteer to record it in Podcast Voice with a partner. The following is their outcome.

The students who finally recorded and presented the story, did a cracking job as you can see and hear, but today, as with their other written forms, were encouraged to save some of their errors and bloopers. Clips from the cutting room floor are often used in shows such as "It'll be alright on the night" and "bloopers" are also often selected from movies in the making for inclusion on DVDs. They humorously show how even the most professional of us can sometimes get things wrong.

Today was a real treat when the students shared not only their "finished" product, but also their "blooper Clips." It seems that our narrator had a particular problem with one of the worms... words, eventually giving up on it to use another she felt was less of a tongue twister. It takes an amazing amount of self confidence to share these kind of mistakes, and is a sign of the maturity and self assurance that this group is developing through the use of Multimodal tools such as this. They are definitely moving beyond the self concious and developing a greater audience awareness. The safety they felt as "broadcasters" today was also evident in their willingness to share discuss and laugh along with their friends at the difficulties they had encountered and demonstrating how they had revised and edited, rerecorded tracks to produce the outcome they were seeking. A huge well done, thanks and tumultuous applause to both R and T for a job well done.

In sharing this story with you, we would like to acknowledge and thank the developers of the RNLI's "shorething" website, The Grace Darling Museum and the makers of the "Grace Darling" Flash Story, from where the images we used were downloaded and screen captured. We hope you enjoy our Story.


Diwali Resources from iBoard

The resources created and presented by iBoard are always a treat and delight to use with students. This month's free feature has been no exception. I have had a number blog visitors and colleagues in and around school looking for resources and materials to use in supporting work on Diwali and advised them to check these out. Have fun.


Reflections: Collect, Store, Prepare and Share

During the half term holiday I was asked by a colleague to consider expanding on and to present some of the ideas surrounding a principle that underpins much of my work using ICT for communication with students, and so how I hope to develop use of mobile and web 2.0 tools within and beyond the classroom in school.

This post sets out to introduce the principle of "collect, store, prepare and share," a concept I encountered at HHL07 but adding a personal twist, using a number of tools and examples to model and introduce the essence of the process as it relates to my work in school. In the first example the context is personal use, and the tools though not readilly accessible for use in school, nonetheless I hope begin to illuminate the possibilities and the processes behind the principle. The second example is a more practical and down to earth example of how the principle underpins everday practice and the preparation of material to use with students, before finally beginning to develop how the principle fits in with the mobile and home school elearning project we are beginning to develop.

Using Twitter and Twitpics: Using Public Tools Personally to Collect, Store, Prepare and Share

The first part of my story uses my mobile phone and the social networking tools Twitter and Twitpic, and begins early on the first Monday of half term, as the sun began hauling itself lazily over North Somerset's lower Mendips in to another day. On this glorious morning I found myself here, with friends on our favourite 18 holes.

It was a beautiful morning as you can see from the photograph. I really wanted to share it with my friends, not later but now. Not only the beauty of the place but the effect of the light on the alien object to the centre left, that gave the eerie feel to the space. I could have texted my friends, attaching the image, but wouldn't it be great if I could put the image in one place to share it with them simultaneously, and where I could go back to later, to download it or use as a reference point in other things we were doing like this?

Captured on my Digital Camera I could share the image with friends when I got home, uploading it to a "share" space such as Flickr or Picassa. Since I had my Mobile phone with me, less bulky and cumbersome than my camera, and that I tend to carry for "just in case moments" I had the additional advantage of a direct network connection, and the possibility of using a space to store and share the moment directly and almost immediately.

Attaching the image to a message I sent it directly to Twitpic. From here friends following me on Twitter were sent a message and were able to visit it on the web, to see where I was, what I was up to, and were able to leave a comment about it or should they choose, to download it or link to it themselves. Twitpic also allows annotation and labels to be added to support the image, or titles and tags to be provided. In this process I "collected" the moment, "stored" it on my phone, "prepared" it for upload before "sharing" it. Several other images were also sent to share visually parts of the story of my morning, and these appeared chronologicaly in my Twitpic space. For esafety reasons we are unlikely currently to use a site such as this with primary age students, but the possibilities for a less public moderated space, specifically designed for use in mobile learning and combined with the widespread availablity of camera phones, or web access through 3g and wireless enabled devices and environments do open interesting possibilities for platforms such as this to be used on school visits and so on. In the the not so distant future our previsits could enable the design of virtual tours using mobile devices to structure activities around particular aspects of a place. Inspirational projects such as Mudlarking in Deptford, and the Create A Scape projects carried out through Futurelab have begun to explore and model the possibilities of such ideas and for putting the tools to do so in the hands of the learner. There are also a growing number of downloadable MP3 and phone based audio tours already, one of which over the summer I used to help me explore aspects of Bristol's Docks.

Going Local: Looking at the Process in the Everyday

The principle of "collect, store, prepare and share" relies on a multiple tool approach and underpins many of the processes I personally follow when developing and making multimedia resources to use in class, and the teaching and learning processes I plan to help students compile and make Multimodal Texts.

A Personal Professional context as a model for this might be useful and so I will use the example of preparing a whiteboard notebook. Before making a notebook I usually spend time compiling (collecting and storing) the elements I might need to design and make the tool. Links here are to both external websites and other posts on this blog that reference my use of them. This might include
  • Searching for and downloading collections of images. (flickrstorm, Google etc)
  • Using my digital camera or scanner to "acquire" or "collect" images that are more relevant to the students, or which they have collected themselves
  • Downloading and converting useful video files from for example YouTube via, or directly from subscription services such as Espresso
  • Inputting text, or copying, pasting and reworking relevant text from the web or CD Roms we have in school, or perhaps from services such as Espresso.
  • Locating useful websites to support our work, and bookmarking or saving their location (tumblr via Kwout or or alternatively by copying and pasting to word, then saving as a Web Page.
This would represent the collect and store part of the process, but as you can see from the twitpics example as a process the latter elements of this are fairly fluid and placing these materials in a shared network space at school will also allow for use by colleagues and students on later tasks, through adaptation.

The prepare part of the process is about how we use these resources to meet our decided purpose, it might involve
  • Importing them to relevant pages in a notebook,
  • Using the slide or page sorter to reorganise and structure the file to reflect the path we want to follow within the sessions planned
  • Further work on editing the text we copied and compiling examples from more than one source
  • Cropping and masking images to include only what we want
  • Reviewing video and considering how, as well as when we will use it with the notebook
  • Developing hide and reveal or other tasks that include the tools we have brought together in the notebook to meet our intentions.
The prepare part of the process is about adaptation, using materials we have found elsewhere and from multiple sources to create something new, personal or professional, something that meets our needs and designing for learning.

The share event will happen when we use it for the first time in class, or so proud of what we have done we show it to a colleague, who also wants to use the material and we involve ourselves in a dialogue about how the tool will be used, or might further be adapted.

What I find useful in looking at the process in this way is how easily I begin to see that many of the resources and tools I collected, prepared and stored, can be further adapted for sharing with and use by the students as extensions of the work we are involved in through the whiteboard as a shared space. Potentially framing ICT based multimodal tasks for students in local applications and tools or online environments. Since I already have the "raw material" I can develop and make tools to support table top tasks, to mediate talk for writing or ast as writing frames. Once I have undergone the "collect and store" process, the materials I have can be made available on the school's local network through a "shared space," or could be uploaded to an online share space such as Honeycomb, or our VLE, and from here the students can select, work with and use the material themselves to create and design new content. My own web searches will also give me some indication of the types of things that are returned from Internet searches, and help me structure, advise or support the children in the types of queries we might use to return the type of material we are looking for, or prepare me in advance to deal with the unexpected.

If my intention is to create a text type, based on particular research focus rather than the self search process, then the bookmarks I collected can also be shared to provide and frame the work I want my students to engage with and sites I know will help in the process.

This process I feel is a significant shift from what can be seen as teaching with ICT and technologically determined views that often see children plugged into the computer, practicing skills often out of context. It provides potential for an adaptable scaffolded approach, that challenges perceptions using ICTs to "hide behind." Collect, Store, prepare and share sees the user, the teacher in this first instance taking an active part in engaging with and modelling a process that uses a range of tools to support not only their own professional learning but also that sees the user as an active participant in the design and redesign of content, rather than a passive recipient looking for material that exists and just about meets our aims. It presents a model and expectation for our students that they too should learn to use a range of tools to engage with content available.

So why did I begin by wittering about Twitter? Why talk about local networks and file sharing? What has using a local application got to do with online or e learning platforms? The "collect, store, prepare and share," process outlined in various ways above are key features of the principles underpinning my evolving views and many I have read around e and mobile learning, and are central to projects I am currently juggling with, have set out to develop within school and wondering about how to illustrate concretely to colleagues.

The key tool in developing our projects will be the Asus EE "webbooks" we have invested in, not to work as standalone platforms, but to function as "collect, store, prepare and share" tools. The principle which underpins our their role does not see them as the sole devices that students will use in supporting learning with ICT, but as part of a wider tool set. As a platform it is envisaged, students will learn to use their Asus, as a local applications host in the first instance, a place to "collect and prepare" material to work on other projects, as a tool they can use in school and away to compile, edit and "collect" the resources and material they will need either for inclass use or to support the development of collaborative projects with peers. The process as envisaged will require web access and a networked view of learning as a process. The wireless enabled devices should allow us to use online tools such as our VLE, and plugin spaces we are currently working with such as Honeycomb and to enable students to prepare and share together the work that they are doing. The local model provided above is an illustration of how we as teachers can begin to engage with the principles and modelling process, and how the model works with tools we are already familiar. However we need to look beyond the technology, to see it as an enabler for changes in pedagogical perspective, a social as well as technological tool. The use of Twitter and Twitpics earlier is intended as an illustration of the potential immediacy and accessibility of online mediating and social sharing tools, how accessible and available we can make resources even in the remotest place. While the webbook and VLE represent a point somewhere in between, where we can begin work with colleagues and students alike in testing and exploring the possibilities and challenges to pedagogy these tools represent, while working from the familiar. I would value any thoughts and contributions readers might have around this that would help develop and extend thinking. The principles are intended from my point of view to help guide through the longer term aims and expansion of our project. They have implications for CPD, which have been raised and highlighted by colleagues. It is this alongside comments from colleague Doug Dickinson who suggested I should try to outline what I meant by the process that has prompted this post. I have referred to the principle in several previous posts, and the ideas behind it he suggested might be be helpful to share with other colleagues. I hope that this proves useful in terms of what he suggested, it has certainly helped me to begin to pull together some of my thoughts and tie together a number of previous posts.


Smart Table

Russell Prue, demonstrated his proposal for use of a smartboard at the South West regional ICT Conference in July. Suggesting we take it from the wall, lay it flat on a desk using a short throw projector to enable students to work together on tasks and activities around it. How about this, SmartTech, have added multitouch functionality to what looks like a horizontal back projected board and produced this. Perhaps an overlerly symplified view, but perhaps what is inside the grey box is less important in this instance than the possibilities afforded by the tool, to develop and support emergent social and collaborative learning in the spaces around it.

"Small hands in a big space," in this case more than one, and direct physical engagement with the interface, opens up a host of opportunities for our younger students to engage directly and perhaps more naturally with the interface. Rather than the mouse as intermediary, that relies on hand to eye coordination, fine motor control and the ability to translate horizontal to vertical movement. everything in this context will be in the same plane, and at the end of the student's finger. The technology is very cool, but what is most interesting in this short clip, is how the small group context, shifted my view and how the tool became secondary to the interactions and engagements between the students, mediating the action rather than driving it. My MSc project drew into perspective and focus the mediating role of ICTs in social learning situations and the potential here to look at learning beyond the interface is a really exciting possibility for this tool and one that I feel should really excite colleagues.

I want one one of these! What are the chances? The possibilities are endless.


Cleversheep's Top 20 Ideas For Using Wordle

In this short post I would like to direct readers to The Clever Sheep Blog where Rodd Lucier has recently compiled and shared his top 20 uses for wordle. Many thanks for the heads up.


Honeycomb 3: News, Thoughts, Reflections and Tools From Other Places

Thanks to James Watson for pointing me last week to the new Honeycomb Blog a space where Softease will be sharing news and views around the tool as it emerges.

I have also enjoyed tweeting and chatting with colleague John Sutton, about his views on the tool and how he has been implementing and using the space. His recent post outlining introductory work with his Year 5 and 6 groups is a really good read. I like particularly his idea of using lists to create autobiographies, something he has posted on previously in using blogs with students. Keeping these lists short and around themes seems a great way of allowing children to affirm who they are while providing oppportunities to consolidate and discuss further esafety and netiquette issues.

I was thinking how useful they might be to support student response to web based and book based research. Perhaps as John has done initially encouraging students to read together from a range of material, before using a list or series to record, highlight and share the ideas they think are important and comparing these across texts.

A recent post from Angela Maiers, on "Determining Importance" in texts by listening to the author's voice and responding, highlighted again the importance of bringing multimodality to the texts we share, but has come to the fore here through John's post and his reminder of the need to consider bias when working with students in an online world.

Helping students to understand the nature of fact and opinion, and the higher order skills required to sift infromation from disinformation. Deciding what is valuable and what is not,
what is important or trivial are key and critical skills for students using the web, but it is also important to remember, that what is important to us may not have the same value for others, and to consider why this may be.

Angela's post and the video that accompanies it shows how she likes to use the author's name when thinking about and formulating questions and responses. Simple enough you might think, but do we place as much importance on the author and their voice as we do on the way the text is written, and its content? How often do we bring personality and voice into the work we share? Do we do this at all with Non Fiction? Angela's approach here gives a personality to the writer, the text representing the author's voice in the learning space where she and the students are working, and enabling a role for the author in the conversation to be had. With my class we have worked to develop a sense that what we write reflects what we have to say. Angela's video moves this on bringing the author as a person into the space, as she encourages her students to ask and direct questions toward them through the text as an interface, seeking to find what it is they are trying to say, before asking the students if they feel the important points have been made from their perspective. Since the author is not actually there, the students are required to infer what the response might be, and to challenge whether the text provides the outcomes and information they may be looking for.

Looking at John's work using All about Explorers I was wondering what my students might make of the "spoof website," when guided through a process of responding to the texts as a starting point, for critical web literacy work. For those of us unsure or still uncomfortable with linking ICT tools directly to units of work as writing outcomes, this would be an ideal way to use critical reading as a starting point in the process perhaps through notetaking and discussion to begin, using comparison charts and lists to plan and create simple non fiction texts that could be shared online for comment and discussion. The frame provided by Angela, could be adapted to support peer review and commenting work, since it consolidates the presence of the person behind the voice/text and key to what we are looking for in supporting students in understanding the relationships between reading and writing, their purpose and function.

Online collaborative learning tools, (eg Honeycomb,, VLEs) are not single applications but rather composite toolsets. Honeycomb specifically is intended as an open and flexible environment, that can be used on its own, but which I can see working well and progressively in tandem with others, either "plugged in" or used as a standalone to meet a range of "pedagogical outcomes." Most of the ideas I have been using with my students this term for example have been adapted from previous work carried out in other places, or as in this post built around those borrowed from colleagues. Many of these ideas were initially developed while using with students, and in turn were adapted from table top tasks used with students as community builders and collaborative/cooperative activities pre web. These links to previous posts present some of these tasks, and are posts that hopefully readers may find useful.


Not Just a Matter of Neatness: Something to Ponder


Don't usually do this but wanted to give it a go today. I picked up this article from the Times Educational Supplement this weekend, via twitter and colleague @yearsixteacher. It is interesting how things come round, and as I read I was reminded of the work of Charles Cripps, who I had the priviledge of seeing talk on the subject of the link between handwriting and spelling hmm hmm years ago.

It is only recently I began thinking again about how handwriting is more than a presentational thing and how as a key skill it has increasingly taken a backseat to initiatives that focus on textual content and processing. Don't get me wrong here, writing as a contextualised process of composition, for audience and purpose and as a representation of voice is still what I want for my students, and I am not backtracking on my multimodal work. However in multimodal work representational modes are what we need to consider and their fitness for purpose. I wouldn't want to send my students on a marathon without having engaged in a regiment of fitness and technical training first, so why would I want to send my students off to write in any format without ensuring they had the experiences, skills, endurance or motivation to do so.

Experiences in the classrrom have often shown how children who do not have a comfortable and fluent handwriting style find prolonged periods of writing uncomfortable. Just like PE if we we do something we are not used to or perform and act incorrectly it hurts. Writer's cramp the precursor of repetitive strain is a possible outcome of incorrect keyboard posture and students who lack familiarity with a keyboard will also find the generation of content slow and tedious.

I recall an interesting activity at Mr Cripps' workshop where he demonstrated how being distracted part way through a word, often leads to difficulty in reconciling the look of what we have written with the word we are trying to spell. I am sure I am not the only person in the world who has found themselves saying a word doesn't look right after we have written it! It seems to occur with more regularity these days as I spend so much time in fromt of the computer too.

In this article the statement "handwriting is a language act and not just a motor act" chimes bells with me. Indeed this term I have revived a practice of starting our class day by combining handwriting practice using Look, Say, Cover Write Check with joining rhyming patterns, eg and.. hand, sand, band, bandage, sandwich for example. I have been drawing on Catchwords and A Hand for Spelling to help with this, intending that as the children improve their letter formation, they should be able to bring increased stamina and pace to writing tasks, and inturn the ability to record what they want to say more acurately and with out losing track of their thoughts.

I have also been thinking about how this process could be used and integrated with literacy sessions to support and contextualise keyboard practice, not as familiarising students with the location of keys alone but as part of a process for developing motor memory and helping to visualise spelling patterns. Some commercial and academic software already includes wordbanks based on learning common spellings as we practice keyboard input, but these could be structured to supplement and support work such as the handwriting and spelling activities outlined above by including rhyming and pattern at there base. Familiarity and consoldiation are dependent on repetitve acts.

Asking children to type up their work on a wordprocessor after the drafting phase has been done by hand still goes on. Just as children drawing letters neatly when asked to publish work for the wall. Could it be we have missed the reason behind this, and that in both contexts the reasons are similar time, pace and stamina, the requirement to run before we can walk, and that we can inherently do what is expected, or wanting to replace one set of skills so desparately with another, that we have forgotten what it was like to learn them ourselves. In the case of ICT based composition there is a danger in assuming that everyone has the tools to enable writing, redrafting and publishing when they desire. Not every child currently has one to one PC access. Some might argue that handwriting is dead, and long live the PC, the PC has certainly been the death nell of my handwriting as the children have commented, but is this because they do not join their writing and so cannot engage with mine because they do not need to engage with their own? Do we want children to draw letters or form them, if we put all of our eggs in over dependence on the computer heaven forbid all children could draw them as comic sans? What happens when the computer is not there, or even more demoralising what happens when the handwriting recognition software does not recognise our input? Would love your comments and thoughts? Ponderous!


Honeycomb 2: Students innovating on a teacher tool

Before I began working with the students last week I had a play with some of the tools that Honeycomb had to offer for myself, including the "wikki" and page share tools.

Using page share I set up a page about Grace Darling the Victorian Heroine we would be using as the focus for our Newspapers and Reconts unit. While planning this I had created some screen captures from a flash based tool found on the Shorething Website, to support IWB based "talking for writing" tasks and to assist in sequencing events, and added these to the shared image bank.

Using the share space ("wiki"), (image above) one of my students J, has has created a tool similar to that we had used on our Smartboard to engage and involve us actively in recreating the story for ourselves, dragging these screenshots onto the page and adding a label asking can you sort these pictures? This is something I have to admit I had not thought of, but what a great idea, an online interactive storyboard... This is a tool I feel sure we can work more on later. Thanks for the inspiration J:-)


Honeycomb 1: Peer Review or The Joy Of Commenting

Popping into Honeycomb this evening was an absolute joy... Its official and from the mouths of babes, I can design cool pages. Greeting me when I logged on was a comment from C, who is as chatty in text as she is face to face.

Visiting her space to reply I was greeted with her home page now with the addition of a poem she had written in school today, and a browse around leading to a blog she had added that included an additional poem innovating on one developed in previously in class about Morning.

In addition to her own work, C had also been busily visiting her friends leaving encouraging comments and stickers too. What I was particularly impressed with was her use of the "assessment Sandwich," A slice of well done, followed by a filling of astute and insightful things to help her friends make their work better and sealed inside a further slice of encouragement. These will be really great tools to help others see how we can work and learn together in this space. Thanks C you are an inspiration.


Preparing to Work Online With Honeycomb

This term I have been working with my students to revise and review how we use some of the communications tools we have previously engaged with while waiting for the return of all their e safety agreements to begin work with a new, and very cool tool Honeycomb.

I first saw and played with this environment during the pilot stages following preview release at BETT in January 08, and was excited by the potential it seemed to afford for online collaborative and home school learning activity. This week most esafety agreements returned I was finally able to get most of my class logged in for the first time.

In the build up to this session we have spent time working on the web, practicing the skills we need to find, collect and store materials for use while working in Honeycomb. This has been done by working in local applications to consolidate skills that would be useful when agreements were returned.

To begin we spent some time exploring and working together on the Simpson's Movie website. Here the students designed and saved "avatars" that they could use as online representations of themselves. We also resized and cropped these to make smaller "icons" that we could use alongside our work on the class blog or perhaps to represent our work later in wiki pages developed within the Honeycomb environment. This has been part of an ongoing process of introducing the importance of keeping our online identity safe. We have considered and discussed how, if we can use images like this to represent ourselves can we be absolutely sure of who we are talking to online. Introducing the concept of how "stranger danger" in the online world might be dealt with as we do in the "real world," through seeking advice and help from an adult we trust, has been a key teaching and learning point for these activities. It was interesting to see how many students tried to create avatars, that were charicatures of themselves but a really great device to further consolidate the main e saftey teaching point of this process was when some student avatars outrageously moved away from the physical person they really were.

In addition to this, we also began modelling the process of collecting visual material to support topics and themes we were working on in class. This included beginning to make with the students local network image banks or share folders from photographs the students had captured on visits or downloaded from the web. We initially used these in local applications through the file insert process. This was intended to prepare the children for the collect and store process needed in learning how to upload images to publish to their Honeycomb pages. To practice and familiarise them with the browse to find, and browse to upload process, we used local applications with which they were familiar such as 2 create and 2create a story, developing multimedia texts around for example our visit to the SS Great Britain. In order to develop these the students were required to download images from cameras and the web first and then to use the browse and insert process to include their images in their documents.

What I am already loving about Honeycomb is that despite its ease of use, it does not wash down the process of getting material onto the web. In order to get an image into a page it must first of all be imported or uploaded to the webspace. As with most current online spaces images cannot simply be copied and pasted, as with local tools, and this is something I feel is really important for students to understand. To get an image from a web page to Honeycomb it must first be downloaded and then uploaded. This provides a very physical opportunity to introduce students to a key esafety aspect, that of intellectual property rights. It is all too easy when using local tools to simply copy and then paste images from the web. I hope the process of using Honeycomb will provide an opportunity to discuss and help students understand the importance of saying thank you, acknowledging the person/people or place that has provided any materials we use. This is still to come, in the course of our work but is key reason I hope the environment's developers, softease, do not seek a route that would make image inclusion possible simply by copy and paste. The principle of "collect, store, prepare and share," on which the above is based, is also key to the elearning projects to be developed using Asus Ees as generic tools and web books over the coming year.

This weeks session was intended to be simply introducing how to log in, log out and to set up our first page. Our preparatory work carried out using local applications and previous work on blogging has proven incredibly useful in enabling the students to work with the tool. Here is one example created by a student who currently has no internet access at home. This was her first attempt at using an online authoring environment beyond the class blog where importing images had been largely supported.

During this first paired 45 minute session J managed to log in, create a new page, customise the background, upload and insert her avatar, give her home page a title, spending some time playing with font style, size and format as well as browsing the available image bank to include a few images a short piece of body text asking her friends what they think about her avatar? The students have begun to make suggestions about how they would like to use the tool beyond school to support home learning tasks, something I hoped would begin to emerge later as they worked with the environment but that is extremely encouraging in terms of supporting development of future home/school e learning projects.

I began today visiting pages and leaving comments on student pages only to discover that I been pipped to the post, discovering on my page a nugget that had been left already. Thanks J:o) I'm quite fond of my avatar too!

There are one or two things that I personally still need to sort out and explore. allowed access to review work published by students in one page, and when blogging we can use RSS feeds to pull together material for review to one space, to monitor engagement or to remove/flag for follow up. A message today from a colleague reminded me that this was something to be further investigated and a potential management issue within Honeycomb. Maybe we have missed a tool that will enable this to happen, but nonetheless is something to explore further if I intend to use the tool with students beyond the school day. Currently I have set the environment so that children can only publish and comment within their year group, which hopefully will make this manageable, but also begun to extend previous online experiences by asking that students leave a comment on my pages when they have published, so I and other children can see, share and check out what they have been working on.

The students were certainly fired up by the tool and I hope we can maintain this level of motivation. This is potentially the start of an exciting experience, one that I hope will allow me to develop further the online pedagogies I began using in, I also hope that the students will begin to use the tool to extend their classroom learning experiences as it is perhaps linked to activities set for home learning within our upcoming elearning project and as we move towards the opening of our new school in the spring term. I look forward to any comments. :o)


Amazing Grace:Empathetic News Reports From Multimodal Beginnings

Last year I borrowed aspects of the adapted QCA history Unit "Why do we Remember Florence Nightingale?" to support literacy activity and non fiction work around the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This term working on recounts and newspaper reports we again delved into our history theme on life in Victorian Britain, for inspiration and context for our work. This time the heroism of a young Northumbrian woman, Grace Darling lit our fire.

Being a Northumbrian by birth I remember being captivated as a child by the story of Grace Darling, the 22 year old lighthouse keeper's daughter who, with her father rowed out from Longstone Light on the remote Farne Islands to rescue the stricken passengers and crew of the SS Forfarshire. The story is a cracking yarn and as such I decided to use this as the starting point for a series of talk for writing activities, some empathetic writing tasks, before using our experiences to create headlines and a newspaper report on the events that surrounded the rescue.

The "Shorething" Website from the RNLI contains a subsite about our Heroine. Much of the work we developed in class grew through "talk for writing" stimulated and supported by the flash based literacy resource linked to above. For colleagues in Key Stage One, perhaps in the North East this space and resource might be a useful starting point to explore and consider an adaptation of the above unit of work to consider why we remember Grace Darling?

Our Unit began however with a "Newspaper Foray." In groups children were given a local newspaper, and challenged to find, cut out and collect a given newspaper features, and these were used to chart the kinds of things that appear in the text type. We cut out the paper's name, its price and publishing date and used these to make a large front page, onto which we stuck the various elements we had found, moving on to label and name them. The key feature we wanted to work on first were headlines, and so some initial discussions around what they were and how they worked began.

In pairs the students were given collections of newspaper headlines and asked to discuss and predict what the stories behind them might be. What clues had lead them to believe this? The children were asked to share the predicted stories behind one headline of their choice, and others were asked to identify the headline they thought the story came from again giving reasons why they thought this, and because we are once again revisiting punctuation, they were asked to use actions to indicate the beginning of their sentences, and to show where these ended.

Following this students were asked to use a collection of photographs captured from newspaper stories, firstly to discuss what the story behind the image might be, before choosing one and then creating a short headline for their image. The children then shared their headlines, while we as a class tried to identify the image that had stimulated it, giving our reasons as we had before.

Building on these tasks we began working with the "Shorething" Flash File, as a visual stimulus and secondary source to engage with the story. In addition I provided locational information, to provide a sense of remoteness for the Islands. Using Quikmaps, I tagged a satelite image of the UK and the North East Coast, showing Bristol, and then Bamburgh and the Farne Islands. This first of all allowed the students to see where they lived and how this related to where the story took place. Zooming in on the Farnes and the Longstone Light, added to the sense of scale and a certain wow to what they were seeing. What I didn't expect however was how this "real setting" combined with the story we had shared already, would stimulate "speculation" and "inference." As we zoomed the map in on the islands, and the rugged nature of the coast began to become apparent, a series of very animated discussions began children suggesting places around the islands as they appeared where they thought the Forfarshire might have sunk and the reasons why. This was completely unprompted but really exciting to hear, the real setting drawing the children into the scene.

As well as using the "Shorething" Flash file as a shared text, I also used screen captured images to support sequencing tasks on the IWB, and to support the talking for writing and drafting process for students. We used them as a focus for discussion and the generation of vocabulary, and then used zones of relevance tasks to consider what vocabulary would be best to use to apply in particular scenes. The images were also used to support visually the recount and story telling process through inclusion in writing frames and storyboards, to stimulate planning and vocabulary choice and discussion of interesting paragraph or sentence openers. As we were writing the children were also engaged in tasks that challenged them to make their points as short sentences that captured the flavour of what they really wanted to say. This is the opposite of what we tend to expect in story writing using VCOP, where children are encouraged to flower up and expand their sentences, the real challenge here was for the children to select carefully from a powerful verb bank to support their shortened and punchy sentences.

After writing their final reports the students were encouraged to create headlines for the story, pulling back again to our starting point, to summarise their stories. The children not only had a good time playing with the genre they learned much about Grace Darling and the event for which she is famous. I feel that their writing outcomes were really impressive too. Their turn of phrase, vocabulary choice and general style of the work, lead to some of the children being asked to share their work with the Y6 children who were about to start a similar unit, with their writing being used as the starting point to refine and extend engagement with the writing process by their older peers. A number of students also asked if they could share their work on the class blog and a couple of examples can be found by following this link, and this one too. I hope you enjoy.


Grasshoppers on Blog: First Day at School, Poetry on a Theme

We have been back at school for two days, and my class have settled in really well to the routines. I was hoping they would, having agreed or asked to take them on into year 4 for a second consecutive year.

Last year I began my year with them exploring poetry, and this year have also taken this approach. A way to get them into the swing of things and playing with words. Our starting point is creating images. Developing the use of adjectives and figurative language, through the use of familiar frames and language games.

Our first pair of sessions, has involved innovating on a short poem called Butterfly Hatching, borrowed from this DFES document. We read the poem, and worked in small groups to act it out, exploring the differences between words that described action (verbs) and those that described the appearance of the creature. Taking the idea of the butterfly emerging, we developed this to think about the idea of us arriving at school, and in the classroom.
What would the door look like?
How would we/ did we feel when we arrived in school today?
How might the way we feel effect the way the door appeared or how we opened it?

We worked in groups to role play and act out the different ways we might approach or enter the classroom, according to our feelings. Together we drafted 3 opening lines for the poem based on the structure of Butterfly Hatching, thinking about and catching wow words as we went.

The modelled starter looked like this:

Back To School

The cracked blue door clicks open
I skip happily in
Bouncing and excited.

The students then worked in pairs to draft their own starters. After a readaround, this is where we ended yesterday's session. Today we moved to the ICT suite, to complete and refine our poems, reviewing and refining before thinking about the actions that were to follow and how we would end our first day, thinking about how it had turned out for us. The completed outcomes were published to our new class blog this morning and there are still more to come. If you have time please pop by, visit, and perhaps leave a comment. Our poetry can be found on our blog by following this link. As the unit evolves we will also begin podcasting again, inorder to engage and develop performance aspects of some of the poetry we intend to create. Look forwadr to hearing from you.


Heritage Explorer via Kwout

Thanks to Steve from Wiltshire LA, for this "Nugget." A collection of interactivities, teacher's notes, web and IWB resources, based around historical images. A swift play myself, and I found some great starting points for talk and guided investigational work; using images as both primary and secondary sources. Our History theme this term is on the Victorians, and there is a host of material to support this. Using images as secondary sources, there are also materials on the Tudors, castles, the Romans and other common themes, and subthemes. A site to come back to and definitely one to share with colleagues.


Blogger Navbar and Esafety


One of the biggest concerns I have had and read about in using blogger with students is the what "might" be returned when/if they press the next blog button on the blogger nav bar. I was prompted to think about this again today through a message from Doug Dickinson.

We have no control over what blogs or blog content is returned from pressing the next blog button. So I wondered today if their was a way to remove this from the page as it is diplayed, and found this blog post from "Blogger Templates." Following their guidelines I managed to insert the code given at the location suggested in the blog template and hey what do you know, no nav bar...

I have inserted this code in the podcast challenge blog I have been setting up, however, it is important that in using a blogger blog to drive this space we acknowledge this. Hopefully in prominently displaying a blogger Logo and backlink at the head of the blog's widget column this will be achieved satisfactoraly. Perhaps I should also state the reasons I have chosen to remove the nav bar. Any thoughts?


My Class Podcast Station Challenge: An Invitation to Blog before We Move On

Previously I used Filezilla Portable to set up the web space I need to host the audio and video files for my podcast challenge. Now I want to create a visible space, with a web address that visitors can come to, to find out a little more about us, review the content of our show. We may want to share our favourite podcasts but first and foremost we want to be able to customise it and provide a shopwindow where our visitors can sample our work before hopefully subscibing to our show, in order to watch or listen more often. This latter process requires an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed.

Even though I am trying to be more adventurous my personal experiences with coding is not wide. In my first post in this series I talked about how "blogging" like posting to Podomatic was, but as I progress I am aware I may be rushing ahead, and beginning to wonder about just how familiar some of my readers./visitors might be with what blogs are and how they work, so in this post I am going to take a step back, invite you to have a go at setting up a blog space to play with before moving on to show you how I have set up a Blog to act as a Podcast Station.

How does a Blog P
age Compare to a Podcast?

I don't want to spend a lot of time here saying what a blog is, how they work or how they might be used. This video from the Commoncraft Show does this much more eloquently than I ever could.

I also have a few notes from a session I lead introducing colleagues to blogs for use with students and some points to consider around esafety here.

The page that you arrive at when you visit the buzz (beesinapod) station, that I have been working on in these posts, is a Blogger Blog. The image below tries to share how a blog page is made up, and how these elements of the blog page will eventually relate to and compare with the features of a Podcast.

  • In this case as we create the station the "blog" will change its purpose, becoming the "podcast"
  • Each post in the Blog becoming an individual episode in the overall show.
What will make each "blog post" different is that as "podcast episodes" each one will use hyperlinks from the post to video or audio files hosted on the FTP space I set up in the previous post,and with a little behind the scenes tweaking at anothe website, (feedburner) will use the blog's existing RSS feed to allow visitors to subscribe to the podcast, in a podcatcher, but more about this later.

Blogger is the platfrom with which I am most familiar, so is the tool I have decided to use, though I don't see any reason why a similar process, to the one I am using here could not be used with other blogging tools.

So How Do We Set Up and Use a Space Like This?

If you can...
  • set up an online email account
  • write an email,
  • attach and send a file,
then you essentially have the skill set you need to set up and use a blogging tool.

For this project I have used Blogger, a free service from Google. You can set up a Blogger account by following this link.

Once at the Blogger home page you will be guided through the set up process. Click the Create your Blog Now link, and follow the steps.

Essential Blog Space Tweaks and.... Playtime

Once your account is created, there are one or two things you might want to play around with for esafety reasons, especially if you are going to use this space to publish student work. Certainly one of the things I have changed are the comment settings since I want to review comments before they are published, to ensure they are appropriate to the site. I did this by
  • Clicking the Dashboard Link
  • Clicking the settings tab
  • Clicking the comments tab
  • Scrolling and then clicking to turn comment moderating on, and and selecting the always option.
  • Scrolling and including an email address allows me to be informed if a comment has been made and needs moderation
I have also turned on "Show word verification for comments," so any one deciding to leave a comment must type in a word, presented as a random picture before they can send it. This is a really good idea, since it prevents machines using forms and what is called spamming.

Essentially that is it for the blog side of the Podcast station set up but---.

Why not play with the space for a while now the environment is set up.

Try changing the look of the space by visiting the "Layout" tab
  • Change theme
  • Change Colours
  • Add some Gadgets

All of these things can be removed and undone later, and were among the main reasons I decided to have a go at this project in the first place.

Before sharing how to use this space to publish a podcast maybe you should try it out as a blog for a while. This Blog published by New Zealand Teacher Allanah King, is a fantastic resource and point of reference while you play. If you like the space you create, and don't want to change it, then you can always create another space, by adding another blog to act as your podcast platform. As I have already said if you can send an email, you can blog. The Blogger Posting tool is really easy to use, and as you can see from this image is not unlike an online wordprocessor.

If you are already a blogger, then maybe you can see where this is mashup is going. My "Learning to Podcast" space, from last summer was the prototype for this project, and there are number of links here that will help you to move on more quickly. If you are new to this, then have a play, familiarise yourself with the blogging tools, and pop back later if you want to see how I have used this tool to develop the podcast station. I hope you will come back and share the remainder of this process with me, or offer comments about what you are thinking. I would also love to have a look at any spaces you are developing, leave a link so I can share.

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