Saltford Lock: 1st Play with Disgo Camcorder

It has been a beautiful evening and visiting a friend we decided to have a drink at one of our favourite watering holes. The Jolly Sailor, is on the bank of the River Avon, next to Saltford Lock, between Bristol and Bath. The activity around the lock and weir became the focus for this very short movie and first try out of the Disgo Camcorder I bought the other day.

This very short movie was compiled from 5 x 10 second video clips I shot, and then put together using Microsoft Movie Maker. The sound is actual footage, recorded by the camera. The clips were imported directly to Movie maker from the camera's SD card using a USB card reader. Some of the clips were trimmed, before adding clip transitions, a title and short credits. As an experiment, to explore the ease of use, quality of video and sound this has proven a really useful activity. I am really impressed with the outcome considering the relatively cheap cost of the camera. Fancy a class set of these to supplement other digital capture devices, really got the creative juices flowing. What to do next? Are you ready for your closeup ...?


Disgo Video

At £24.99 the disgo Video camcorder, I found in PC World this afternoon seemed too big a bargain to miss. A pocket sized camcorder with built in Microphone the unit is powered by two AA bateries and comes with a 1 GB SD Card, that holds approximately 1 hour's video stored in avi format. The card is upgradable to a maximum of 2GB. A 2.0 inch tft screen acts as a viewfinder and playback space, and an internal speaker allows for audio playback and review.

I am pondering just how useful this tool might be as part of a "collect, store, prepare and share" toolkit. Granted it does not take stills, but these can be captured from video using the provided editing software and also through MovieMaker. I wonder also how useful the tool might be as an audio capture device. There seems to be quite a lot of space to play, and explore. A little something else to delve into over the break.


To Type or Not to Type 5: So Many Fish, So Little Time!

The Open Source Tool "Tux Typing" comes preinstalled with the Asus Ee's Linux Distribution, and I and the students have had lots of fun zapping fish and the like while practicing our keyboarding skills over the last couple of weeks, heaven knows I need it. On my web wanders today I noticed that this software is also available for download and use with the Mac and Windows. You can download Tux Typing here from

Lookybook take a look see.

Thanks to Angela Maiers for the heads up on Lookybook, a lovely site that enables browsing and sharing of picture books through an online viewer. As a pedagogical tool it has enormous potential, several of which are highlighted in Angela's post.

For those of us thinking about how web 2.0 tools such as blogs might be used as content management and learning spaces, or engaged in longer term projects involving the use of virtual learning environments, and looking for online content to support population of these spaces, resource banks such as this have enormous potential. The site allows sample texts to be embedded to other web based resources through the copying and pasting of html, allowing for the addition and publication of extension activities. Check it out.

This Morning I Have Been Mostly Playing With Joomla 1

Joomla looks like being the tool of choice to manage our Web Site and its Content as we become part of the Bridge Learning Campus. I downloaded a copy a few months ago to play with, having read an article in a magazine, but I haven't done much with it other than exploring online live demos until this morning. Watching Video demos it seemed pretty straightforward, but as with many best laid plans, this morning my inexperience would come back to haunt me.

Following online tutorials I got off to a flyer
Step 1, download xampp from Apache Friends
Step 2, download The Most Recent version of Joomla
Step 3, Set up a localhost Server on old laptop, by installing xampp
Step 4, unzip and copy Joomla Files to new folder called Joomla in xampp/htdocs

But then my inexperience hit in with
Step 5. open localhost/joomla and install

When inputting http://localhost/ didn't find the xampp server space on my c:\ drive. Referring to the xampp read me I found an alternative ip address and used this instead allowing me to move on.

Now I could install the instance of Joomla before
Step 6. deleting temporary installation files and
Step 7 running localhost(or ip address)/joomla and login

If I am honest I am now feeling really pleased with myself as I now have a space where I can practice the skills and processes I need to learn in thinking about how to transfer useful content from our existing website to form the beginnings of the Primary Pages in The BLCs Web Site.


Summertime Has Come

Well the summer break is here, we had our introductory workshop and the new year 6 students have scurried home excitedly with our new 1:1 machines, to play and explore. I have set a diary project, and pages have been uploaded to to support this, with accompanying bulletin boards, for suggested ideas and to share communaly and direct each other to the things we have uploaded. I guess all I can do now is sit back and wait or watch with baited breath to see how the projects themselves emerge and develop.

On a personal front. I have to complete and submit my dissertation, but amid this I have a couple of additional missions. I want to make space to play with greenfoot, and also explore mobile web access that students can tap into in the wider city, linking this to the project I have set for them, while I explore a spot of moblogging, something I got excited about while at HHL07. This hopefully will be easy enough to fit in among other things. I am pondering a change broadband provider and considering whether to supplement this with a mobile broadband account, or whether choosing a provider that offers wireless time might be a better option. I would value any thoughts on this. In the mean time a spot of lunch and a potter in the garden seems appealing right now.


Greenfoot: A Summer Project

Came across Greenfoot, while I was floating around the web the other day, thinking about a control environment or microworld creation tool that we could perhaps make available on our Asus Toolkit for students. I was really looking for a version of LOGO or pondering Scratch, but what interested me about this environment was its use of Java as a development framework, with its ability to compile executable programmes to control elements introduced into the space. Even if we can't use the environment with the Asus platforms, the possibility of involving students in building interactive object oriented games, seems really appealing right now, though whether it will later or not I'm unsure. As an absolute novice programmer this tool looks really interesting as a personal in, so have downloaded to play over the holiday, and explore the possibilities. The video tutorials look really useful. If all works out perhaps this could be another tool to add to our simulation and control tool box for older students, its certainly a recommend and look see for secondary colleagues.


Joining the Asus Club

I have spent the last couple of weeks playing with my own Asus Ee, and preparing for this evening. I have just arrived home enthused from the launch event with parents of our current Y5 Students, where we introduced our new e learning scheme, based on the platform as a "collect, store, prepare and share" device.

I am now looking forward to introducing the devices formally to the students themselves later this week, sharing guidelines for their use and maybe setting some short summer playtime projects for them. We use as a collaborative learning space, and am wondering if perhaps they could use this as a temporary blog type space, though I am also tempted by using the web cam to keep a short video diary or the use of the sound recorder to capture audio soundbites that could form the basis of a podcast on return to school, perhaps around places they have visited or things they have done supported by web images.

The project overall is an exciting development. Perhaps what I am most excited about is the prospect of putting into the hands our students a standardised toolbox and the prospect through 1:1 access of opening opportunities for all students to access the online tools and resources we began to use last year. It will also be interesting to work with my year 6 colleagues, to see how having access to 1:1 tools impacts on subject design initiatives and student engagement. Hopefully there will be much to share as the project develops and emerges over the coming year.


Year 3 Have Fun With Pivot Stick Figure Animator

Last week I began exploring Pivot Stick Figure Animator with my class, they spent their first session playing with and exploring the environment, sharing with each other how various tools worked and what they did. Today we discussed how we might use background images downloaded from the web to help us tell simple stories. I am so pleased with the outcomes and how hard they worked I thought I would share a couple of todays outcomes here.

Our Swimming Movie By T and P (2008)

Our Mad Movie By W and T (2008)


Catapult Chicken And Talking For Reasoning

I was playing on the iboard site tonight and came across this brilliant activity in the maths trial Pack. First of all the name appealed, but then came the visuals. Picture three chickens, a stack of weights and a catapult! What to do? What to do? A serious Homer Moment arose, but with an inevitable outcome. As I expect any self respecting student would do, I put as many weights as possible on the trap door, loosed these on the catapult and then sat back as each chicken was thrust skyward beyond their roosts before, slowly drifting back to mother earth assisted by a parachute.

Putting aside for a moment the humour and obvious fun I had, my initial free and semi structured play engaged me in a series of trial and refinement processes, as I visually evaluated the effect that the simulated masses had on the catapult and its aility to raise the chickens to their roosts. Further play and I found myself estimating what masses would be needed to lift each of the three different chickens to various levels on the tree and this in itself became a bit of an art.

Devised as a tool to support problem solving in context with year 1 students (5-6yrs), "Catapult Chicken" is part of iBoard's developing tool kit to support the Primary Mathematics Framework in Foundation and Key Satge One. As with other tools developed by the team, beyond its surface entertainment value is a well thought out in, to solving problems with inbuilt space for teacher and student creativity, and oppportunities to extend the face value tasks through "talk for reasoning" and estimation.
  • How could we arange the chickens largest to smallest, in the branches?
  • How could we do this from top to bottom, or bottom to top?
  • How many weights might we need to boost the largest chilcken up to the middle branch?
  • What would need to happen if...? we wanted to get the large chicken to the top branch?
  • Can we order the chickens largest to smallest, bottom to top?
I like the possibilities presented by the game to differentiate activities iteratively through variation in the complexity of language use, while allowing visual modelling and discussion to take place around a shared text as we think and begin reasoning together.

The activity besides being really good fun, would work realy well with students working in pairs or individually during "give and go" main sessions interspersed with mini plenaries that followed on from free play. Here the children could also discuss and devise problems and challenges for the class to work on, with students sharing solutions on the IWB and explaining processes or giving reasons for their choices. I can also imagine some of the students in my current maths group enjoying the use of this tool to support modelled reasoning and estimation tasks in plenary sessions or as an introductory thinking activity and starting point for a puzzles and problems sessions. The environment I would suggest is one that in developing inclusion strategies, and thinking about what the learner needs is as applicable to the stage of development as it is to age. Perhaps I am only 7 at heart rather than a multiple of... but I loved it!


Planning My Classroom Learning Wall: Learning and Thinking Together

Previously I have posted about our School contract and online charter, which use the principle of 3 Bees, "be responsible, be respectful, be safe" to support students understanding of why we have these guidelines. In class we unpick what each principle means to us, and work together to form our classroom learning contracts from these, discussing what they might look like in action, sometimes using digital images and captions to model these processes and routines in action, providing students with visual frames of reference and models of what we think desirable classroom behaviours and actions look like.

As a staff we recently began discussing how we could develop these using the bees as characters to help students link learning behaviours to targets for curricular learning, support self and peer assessment and help develop autonomy and ownership over personal and group learning paths. I thought I'd post today this draft centrepiece for my classroom learning wall, and current thoughts around how I'd like this to work in my classroom. Its a bit tatty at the moment as it is lying on my study floor. Each child is represented in the display as a "bee." The honeycomb in the centre is where we will be displaying our learning to learn and speaking and listening targets for class and group work. These will be unpicked with the class to help identify the smaller steps that describe the learning path we need to follow towards them. Personal targets I am thinking could also be displayed here as "keys to learning," "honeypots," or individual student "flowers." This still needs some thought and discussion with the students though to enble ownership and so the display does not become too contrived.

Anyway expanding the metaphor, and building on colleague sugesstions, since bees tend to work cooperatively within a hive, each hive here represents a student home team or group. I would like the students to extend work we have already begun to develop greater ownership and responsibility for reviewing and evaluating their progress together towards and within these targets, and am currently pondering how we might extend use of tools like comic life, digital imaging, audio recording and our class blog to enable and encourage this.

I was struck the other day by Wordle, and how the visual representations of text had helped me see ideas differently, am considering thispart of the mix to promote talk around learning. I am pondering how the creation of weekly or monthly text files to gather thoughts and ideas during review, might be useful in encouraging and supporting learning about learning. Asking students to use one word to sum up their groups feelings about how they worked together, their learning tasks and outcomes, or to record student descriptions of what they have learned or now understand from a particular activity could be really powerful for later discussion and as evidence of progression in the use of process skills. Student repetition would be really valuable in this case highlighting through the "cloud" commonalities in their ideas and thinking. Perhaps these could also help to support development and use of the vocabulary we need to describe features of learning and thinking together in tasks. They might also be great to display on our learning wall, visually representing aspects of our learning journey, forming starting points for discussion as we develop our grow our common language of learning. They could also be an interesting way to post to our class blog as a starting point to mediate discussions with parents and other stakeholders in our learning community about what has been going on in school.

I also want to link the use of this classroom tool with how we further develop and embed learning within and beyond school through the use of online community tools. A nice tool to use with this would be Honeycomb, for obvious metaphorical reasons, but a new look at home school learning that sees these virtual places as flexible places to extend ongoing classroom projects and activities collaboratively will be an interesting place to start in developing a modelled framework for use of our VLE as we approach the huge changes due to our school in January 2009.

This is only a starting point and a bit of a ramble, but I would value any thoughts or contributions you might have.


Podcasting in the Classroom

Wanted to flag up the new home of colleague James Watson's Podcast Station, "Podcasting in the Classroom."

In James' words the space is

"A podcast about the benefits of using podcasting as a transparent tool for learning and teaching in school classrooms."

Featuring interviews with teachers sharing their use of Podcasting and Recorded audio to support classroom learning, the site promises to be a fantastic resource.


Wordle: Thinking About Time Poems and Calligrams

Over the past fortnight, a number of posts and tweats have circulated about Wordle a "Word Cloud Generator." This morning a backlog of work out the way, and the arrival of rain when I was gardening left some time to explore the tool for myself and ponder on the uses I might have for the tool. Word play seems a great place to begin, perhaps using Wordle to develop poetry tasks, or to collect and present WOW words during class talking for writing sessions, in a different way.

A favourite poem to use with students is "Morning" by Grace Nichols. I first used this with my class supported by a series of activities I found in a book by Ray Barker and Christine Moorcroft called Developing Literacy: Poetry Year 4. The activities presented here, have worked really well as starting points for work with students of differing ages and across the ability range, including my current class. Here is an example Wordle, generated from this poem.

The poem if you are not familiar with it has a repetitive two line structure, and is it evolves rhythmically "Morning comes with a .." series of nouns and onomatopoeic verbs to describe their actions. Innovating on and adapting this poem with students I have enjoyed initially brainstorming and collecting morning objects and the actions they make. The children taking the skeleton of the poem, and changing the noun verb phrases using new words we have collected. It seems to me that interms of wordplay and presentation of the words we collect, a "Wordle" cloud would be a really interesting way to display these for the students to use.

I particularly like the way the tool displays repeated words in larger fonts, and how the more times a word is used determines how large it will appear in the Wordle. I find my class often repeat words, and so entering them as they arise, no matter how often it is repeated could present an interesting starting point for the talk for writing and initial drafting of their works. We could discuss our favourite words, since these will be the largest, but also highlight the less frequently used words, perhaps adding some of our own to the mix.

Returning to the morning poem:

Morning Comes
With a milk float jiggling

The students could be encouraged to use our class wordles to innovate on the format to write their own Morning poem using the word cloud for inspiration. M
ost of the students could begin selecting suitable words from anywhere on the cloud while others could be challenged to use the less frequently used vocabulary, the smaller words in the cloud. The Cloud helping to support diferentiation and challenge.

The milk float jiggling, might become birds chirruping, sunbeams dancing, toast burning, brothers and sisters squabbling and so on.

What I really like about this poem though are the expansive possibilities, and the temporal nature of the subject. "
Morning" might just as easily be night as in the text mentioned above, but could also become hometime, playtime, assembly, Saturday, Summer, Christmas.

Once familiar with the original poems structure, and the Wordle enviroment it might be a fun place for the students to begin collecting, playing with and arranging their ideas using a word cloud on their own or in small groups. Thinking about events and objects that occur at different times?

Wordle clouds are potentially interesting ways to collect Wow Words for display and use not only on the wall or IWB, but in terms of collaborative wordplay they could be useful places to play with and explore multimodally other ways these words might be be presented. Changing font style, colour and orientation, to match the subject of the poem being developed providing further challenges to support talk for writing where in plenary or review students present their Wordles and reasoning for the final presentation style, the outcome of the word cloud itself recieving treatment as a poetic form.

An After Thought

As I have beeen drafting this post an interesting thought about linking these activities to mathematics work and the passage of time has come to mind. A class timeline of our day, our week, the seasons or even the months of the year, using either the poem or wordle to help seems an interesting idea. They would also look great as a new or end of month post/summary on a class blog, a collection of thoughts, memories, feelings to prompt and engage studetns in talk with each other or parents about the learning that has happened during that time. This is a tool that I realy must share with my colleagues, and which would make a cool addition to the year 3 Calligrams and Shape poems unit we developed with students in the Autumn Term last year. Thanks to all who shared..

Update 30/10/08

Since publishing this post I have worked with my students to write innovations on Grace Nicholls' poem morning, example outcomes can be found on the student blog by following these links.



Can I thank everyone who attended my session at South West Regional ICT Conference this afternoon, and the organisers for the opportunity to share my experiences with you. I hope that you found the session useful. Much of what I wanted to say this afternoon is presented here, plus a few things I missed, a back list of control related posts from this blog and links to some of the tools I mentioned. Over the next few weeks as the rigours that are the end of term wind down, I will hopefully begin to add some of the other tools and materials I have to this space perhaps including some "unit plans" if there is an interest. Please feel free to leave a comment, I look forward to either hearing from you or meeting you at next years event. :O)