"Its Magic!" IWB Rub to Reveal in a Phonics Session

Friday's are great with my timetable including a day with one of our younger Phase 2 classes.  The students all aged between 6 and 8 are Year 2 and 3 and a lively group.  Their day with me includes a focussed reading session, which for the last couple of weeks has involved using activities to investigate spelling and reading texts and words including the phonemes they have been working on during the week.  To help with this I have begun collecting images from the web, that we can use as a starting point for the sessions.

Some of the phoneme groups I still think are a little obscure, and image collections not easy to compile. This week for example we have been looking at the various graphemes that can be used to represent /er/.  The collection included things like ferns, birds, a teacher, a winner who came first in a race, a collection of words, a Whirlwind and  screen capture of a wordsearch.

The images were used as an introduction to the session, and as a way of re-engaging the students in listening for the sounds they had been learning about, or thinking about what each image might represent within the rhyming groups they were working on.  In addition however the images were also selected to support engagement with the main task, which was to work in pairs on a "phoneme Spotter" activity before sorting and grouping the words according to the graphemes they contained.  I was concerned that some of the words might be unfamiliar to some students, and hence the choice of a fern, though the choice of some images as visual metaphors, such as a flame for burn was also interesting allowing discussion of what fire or flame might have to do with the /er/ sound we were working on.

Previously I have printed or copied the phoneme spotters we are going to use to a smart board notebook, to act as a shared read before asking students to find and code words.  For some reason I decided last week to present the spotter covered by a layer of digital ink, and to make it into a "rub amd reveal" activity.  The students loved it, and were completely captured as the IWB eraser was dragged across the text slowly revealing the text a word or sentence/phrase at a time.  "It's magic!"  seemed to be the common consensus, and the looks on the student's faces who had obviously not seen this before was great.  This week when I was passing the class I was asked if I would be making the computer write stories again.  Moments like this are the kind of thing we live for and I was happy to oblige.

What was really interesting today was  though that element of "magic" remained, the students were now anticipating the text appearing and began to read along with the rubber as the text was revealed.  This offered some interesting opportunities to begin playing with the text,
  • skipping on and revealing words later in the text while leaving others preceding it hidden.  Discussing what might still be hidden under the ink before revealing this and testing our predictions.
  • Stopping to ask what might come next, before reading and checking our predictions
  • revealing a few letters or a few words from the next sentence and asking what might appear next.
  • Revealing the initial phonemes and final phonemes and asking which grapheme or sound picture will be under the ink to spell the word we were reading.
Putting the "magic" aside for the moment, engagement with the text in this way prior to the spotter activity, improved student familiarity with it, while the use of the images to begin meant some of the stranger vocabulary had been introduced.  In pairs I asked them to use their own versions of the text to identify the words that contained the /er/ graphemes or sound pictures, and then pulling the group together we began identifying how the /er/ sound could be written and where each grapheme usually appeared in words.

After this, the students were asked to test our ideas and generalisations by soritng the words they had found in a table.  The group was pulled together again for a final review with a "drag and drop" version of the table top task used to sort the words as a class and check against the work we had done.  While discussing how well our generalisations worked.  E.g did "ir" always go in the middle of words, and "er" always come at the end.  From the examples we had the rules seemed to work pretty well, even though I did introduce at least one example from our photos that didn't match, eg shirt, first, girl and bird followed our rule, but the fir tree didn't, however as a rule of thumb it worked pretty well.

I'm sure for many colleagues the structure of this session is more than familiar, however for me what was interesting was
  • How use of "Phonic Photos" or text related images helped re-engage the students with phoneme and grapheme groups introduced and even though metaphorical in nature how some of these prompted discussion and inferential work, while also helping introduce visually, unfamiliar vocabulary
  • How introducing the spotter as a whole class shared text, and in a slightly different way, using digital ink  and rub to reveal techniques opened possibilities to engage students with higher order reading skills such as prediction and deduction based around an accesible and manageable text chunk
  • How student response and motvation seemed to increase through the "magic" created by a relatively simple extension of a previous task by the addition of digital ink and use of the rub and reveal technique.


Additional Stick Figures for Pivot

This week I visited students in a secondary phase ICT extended learning session.  The students were using Pivot Stick Animator, to develop short stories following on from previous sessions where they had planned and developed their own background scenery to help them tell these.  As I was talking to one of the students about their work from nowhere there appeared a beautifully crafted jet fighter that flew across the scene, needless to say I came away from the session with a new online space to share and explore. 

Droidz a webspace recommended by this group of students hosts collections of ready made stick figures and effects for use with Pivot, these include creatures, vehicles and weapons, as well as a forum and share space.  Though they may not all be everyone's cup of tea, and the existence of a forum and share space will have esafety considerations for direct use with students, the characters and figures available do provide interesting extension possibilities and variety for the existing set downloaded as part of this freeware tool.

I would recommend however a visit to the site in order that colleagues can review and check out for themselves figures available, and that primary colleagues might like to create collections using those they feel are appropriate to the activities they they want to develop with students, rather than giving free reign. Hopefully this space will make an interesting visit and add an additional tool set to your bookmarks.  Thanks go to the student group who pointed this out to me this week.  Can't wait to read your outcomes.

Revisiting Viewpoints: Working in the Style of Monet

In a previous post, Viewpoints: Working in the style of Monet I presented a learning story, showing how I and a group of Y4 students had used
  • images as discussion points around the work and style of the artist
  • drawn on these over a number of weeks to sequentially develop graphics using ICTs based on this work
The unit, involved the use of a common graphics package (MS Paint) to construct and manipulate student self created images while also consolidating functional ICT skills.  These include
  • limited tool choices to create image elements in the given style. eg spray can and colour pallette
  • Select and copy tools
  • Introducing and consolidating the "cascade save" process, using save as and "sensible file" names to build a portfolio of progression through each activity, and return points to which we can go if errors are made, and navigation of network drive spaces.
  • Understanding how we can use a graphics package to compose images by drawing together elements we create seperately
  • Using a collection of predeveloped (drafted image) elements and toggling between software instances, through the use of select copy and paste tools to arrange image compositions.
  • Explore cause and effect using rotation and flip tools (in Paint) or by extension to use more complex graphic tools, to investigate and explore filters and effects, before choosing images for our final outcome.

Previous units have resulted in students creating "IKEA" style Prints.  Using MS Publisher to import their final image before adding text and printing out their work on the colour laser.  This time around though I am intending to develop an entirely digital outcome by exploring Monet scenes that reflect seasonal change.  Working with KS2 Students the outcome and brief is to use graphics tools and the collect, store, share and prepare process to produce a short animated sequence based on a single viewpoint or landscape that shows how a scene might appear at different times of the year.

How will this be achieved?

Using Microsoft Paint the students will create a landscape, showing skyline, mid and forground and develop a simple tree skeleton motif using the spray can tool to include trunk and branches.  The tree skeleton will be saved as treespring, treesummer and so on.

Drawing on discussions about how trees appear in images representing the seasons, colour choices made by the artist for mood and effect, the students will  develop their own representations of the tree motif during each season considering  colour choices and exploring the effects they can create by layering spray effects. We will maintain a copy of our original tree skeleton motif as a return point, and for later use in the project.

Using the original tree skeleton, students will be encouraged to create a single landscape starting point, by copying and pasting instances of it to the landscape they have created, composing their own particular viewpoint before saving four copies of this, named landscapespring, landscapesummer and so on. 

To each of these landscapes the students will apply the effects  they developed during their exploration of their tree images to show how they think they might appear during each of the seasons.  They might also explore further detailing, eg sky colour effects perhaps through the use of additional painting tools and the undo tool,  while using save as to keep copies.

Digital Outcome

Using Photostory and the images the students have developed I would like them to create a simple morphing sequence of change for their landscape.  They will be encouraged to select 4 of their images 1 representing each season and to import these to Photostory.  These will then be chronologically ordered on the timeline, before applying transition effects and times.  They will be encouraged also to choose one additional image from those created and to add text to this forming a title overlay.  To complete the project they will add a music track before exporting their completed video for addition to either their class or personal blog space within the VLE for review by colleagues and other students.

If readers have any thoughts about how this project outcome might be further developed I would love to hear from you.  In my new role this year I am also working with a number of Key Stage 3 classes and would be interested to hear from colleagues any ideas they may have about how this type of work might be adapted, extended or used as an element within projects for students in this phase of learning.    


Embedables: Jigsaw Planet

Following my previous post about embedables, I came across another that colleagues might find interesting and students fun through my Twitter Feeds. Thanks to ianinsheffield for this. Jigsaw Planet, generates an embedable jigsaw puzzle from an image uploaded to the space and then code to embed either the puzzle itself or a hyperlink to the hosting space. This widget requires the Java Browser Plugin, and the example below was made from an image I had previously downloaded, but
  • Can you see what it is or might be without using either the ghost or image tool?
  • What clues or evidence make you think this?
  • What strategies would you use to solve the puzzle?

Like Ian I was thinking this tool might be an interesting way to promote discussion in class in small groups and pairs or perhaps at home through the VLE, perhaps around a school visit, as a starting point/stimulus for a new topic, idea covered or to be begun in class. How about using it like an IWB hide and reveal activity, encouraging students without using the ghost or image tools to solve the puzzle, gradually building up the mystery image or object, what clues did they use drawing from these discussions to support vocabulary choices. Any other thoughts?


VLE Reflections 1: A few embedables to get started

It is a wet and miserable day outside today and having spent yesterday indulging in a spot of amateur joinery in the real world, I thought I'd put aside the hammer and saw before I do any real damage and spend some time banging on the keyboard instead. Its been a fair old while since I posted anything, though I have been dabbling in the background, preparing bits and bobs. Listening in on twitter conversations it looks like I have not been alone doing similar things to many of my colleagues, those mundane behind the scenes things, that many don't see when they log on but if weren't done would certainly be noticed. Hopefully some of the things I have been doing will make colleague engagement with the ICT tools available to them more appealing.

One of these tasks has been setting up class templates in our VLE, setting up themes and installing widgets to be edited by colleagues. This begun I hope it will be less daunting to begin using the space in earnest as we move into the new year. A major barrier to date as I see it has been beginning, since the spaces we buy into, whether commercial or open source must first be populated with content, and this in turn must be planned and prepared before publication. For some of us I guess this can be seen as "doing everything twice," this bolt on image of the VLE is far from my own view and vision. If we are to embed these tool sets successfully, an alternative perspective that weaves the various components offered by a VLE or Learning Platform as an integral part of the learning experience must be taken. Rather than a repository for resources we make, if we see and make an expectation that the VLE be an extension or integral part of the classroom, then the tools and resources we make available here should reflect our view of learning and pedagogy by adaptation to meet the needs. social and academic, of the tasks we set.

This doesn't however negate the need to begin somewhere, so in this post I want to share a few online spaces offering embedable tools, one where interactivities are readily available for immediate use, and one recieved today through feed that requires some user input inorder to generate it.

The Ultimate Wordsearch Maker

Thanks to Joe Dale and Jane Croft for pointing me to the Ultimate Wordsearch Maker. This online tool generates "interactive" wordsearches. Below is a quick example, and I apologise in advance for the seeming lack of imagination in its content, however as a demo it was incredibly quick to create and publish here.

Make Your Own Word Search

Creating the wordsearch itself was straightforward,
  • visit the site,
  • input each word
  • press the add button in between each new word.
Slightly more complicated but really satisfying will be when you have embedded a working interactivity to your page.

Once complete, your wordsearch can be added to your space in one of two ways, either
  • copy the embed code,
  • view your own web page as html
  • click where you would like the activity to appear
  • paste the code
this is what can be seen above;

or link to the page
  • select the link code
  • copy it,
  • open a hyperlink dialog box
  • paste the code
  • press ok
this latter process adds a hyperlink, that on clicking directs the user to a host page. This may not be the most effective route, having possible implications for access in school if the site is filtered by the firewall. I think there is also probably more of a wow, if the wordsearch is embedded directly to the page to play there and then, and well worth the achievement factor on your part when you display the page for the first time.

Playing the game is straightforward, once found, click on the first and last letters of the word to highlight it, and if correct the widget crosses it off the list. What I was unsure about was the idea that in this version the word in the grid itself is not highighted, but this does leave the grid uncluttered, and easier to read. As a start the day task, for introducing new or extending vocabulary, engaging students with spellings, a discussion based warm up session, or simply as a motivator for the more reluctant to visit the class home page once a week this is a really nice tool.

Embedding this in our VLE (Netmedia) was a bit more drawn out since it "didn't seem to initially like what I was trying to do," and required the making of an html page first that could be uploaded to a "file viewer" widget. To do this I used the Microsoft Notepad text editor. Creating my wordsearch as above, and copying the embed code, then pressing start/programs/accessories to find and open Notepad (NOT WordPad). From here
  • Click in the Notepad window,
  • right click and paste
  • press file/save as
  • give your file a name eg wordsearch1
  • delete the extension .txt and type .html
  • select all files from the save as file types,
  • press save
This file was then uploaded from the computer to the widget. Online tools and resources all have there own particular "quirks" and ways of doing things, the above worked in the tools I have been using today, eg Blogger and The Netmedia VLE, if the direct copy and paste processes don't work in your platform it may be necessary to play for a while in order to find the tool that works with your environment.

BBC Bitesize Activities

BBC Bitesize interactivities are ready made tasks created to support revision tasks. You may already use the space with students in school, directing them here by URL, but what you may not have noticed is that these activities can be placed directly into your own online learning content. If you are looking for examples of ready made embedable content to share with colleagues and use with students as you set up and establish your VLE, these are a useful starting point. There are a range of tasks to support English, Mathematics and Science, though in choosing which to use you will obviously need review them in relation to your intended learning outcomes. These can be added to a blog or web page using the copy and paste processes outlined above, and looked good embedded in a page widget in our VLE after following the final process outlined above .

Other Online tasks and Interactivities

In addiditon to Bite Size embedables, there are a host of other online tasks, and games on the BBC Schools Website that I have found really useful when setting up home learning activities for students. These sites have formed a focus for class based sessions too, where spaces created in the VLE have been used to direct students to specific content I want them to use and engage with. To enable this I have provided hyperlinks to the page, and simple instructions about how and why I would like the students to engage with them.

Finding resources such as these can be onerous, this is one of the reasons I began using to collect my bookmarks in one place it was also one way I chose to share these with friends and colleagues. I also began to sort and group some of these as a resource bank here. Some of these are getting on a bit now, and the space is looking a little neglected but perhaps you will find a few nuggets here as starting points. In setting up a link list of this sort for the students it is always a good idea to visit the space, first of all to check that the site is still there but also to ensure that it meets the exact needs you are trying to fulfill.

End Thought

I posted about Bitesize interactivities a while back and despite being able to embed them sucessfully into my blogger blog, and getting them to run in our VLE today, I have to admit I still haven't managed to get them to work with our Wordpress blogs. If anyone can offer any help or advice with this I would be really grateful, thanks.


BECTA Podium video

It seems an age now since Softease (now Lightbox Education) received their Award in the Content-free tools category for Podium at BETT this year. Having been ill, away from school and my blog for a while, it somehow seems even longer since I blogged about the day my students and I were visited by the film crew tasked by BECTA with capturing the tool in action and our thoughts about how it has supported teaching and learning in class. Logging onto Twitter the other evening after an extended break with family I was grateful for this tweet from James Watson.

If you would like to see how the video short turned out, and what we had to say about Podium, then it can be found on the BECTA website by following this link. Thanks for the heads up James, look forward to seeing you soon.


Honeycomb 7: Writing like an Agony Aunt

Today the students didn't actually work in Honeycomb, but rather the "static site" and comments we created during our previous sessions were used as starting points and stimuli for the session.

To begin this morning we read together and shared the comments and advice we had left for William, Greg and Claire in our previous sessions using the Honeycomb Worry Website as a shared text. The children were asked to work in pairs to identify the ideas that they thought the characters might find helpful, and then to work with me as a class to create a model opening for a letter to one of the characters. Prior to the session I had created a Smart Board Notebook, that divided the letter into the three sections I wanted the children to use in framing their response, within this I provided sentence/paragraph openers that they could choose from, to discuss and develop as they wrote.

Using their Asus Web books in pairs the children were asked to open the wordprocessing package "write" to create their own advisory letters to the story character of their choice. They were allowed to "steal" openers if they felt they needed to and encouraged to use, add to expand and improve the ideas modelled by their friends to support the advice they gave. Throughout the session the students were stopped and encouraged to read aloud their letters as they developed. Suggestions were sought as to where they might go next, while this process also offered opportunities for other children to reread, review and edit their works in progress in response to what they had heard.

To end the session students were asked to attach and send their letters by email to me for moderation, review and printing. As web books the Asus Ees do not have a direct connection to our school network or print solution, they are intended to be used to support use of local applications alopngside the online learning tools and storage spaces we are providing such as the VLE. Drop boxes are the main vehicle for doing this in our current environment, however as I have mentioned in previous posts I really want the students to see our VLE as just this a Virtual Learning Environment, and a social tool to boot. The drop box approach seemed somehow not quite right contextually for this activity and the type of work the children have engaged in. The emails and letters are currently sitting in my inbox, awaiting a response. Being concerned not to lose the enthusiasm that this process has evoked, I am thinking after all their hard work that the pairs of students should recieve a reply from the characters they have sought to help. This should not be too difficult or time consuming, drafting a short standard reply from each character, that can be copied, pasted and edited to provide a little personalisation . Keeping the children hooked in this way I hope will be a really cool in and starting point to the next phase of our writing process which will involve the children using the ideas we have developed empathetically to write their own dilema based stories on these characters and evolving around similar themes. It will be interesting to see what response having an email from either Wiliam, Claire or Greg will have on Monday Morning. Hopefully next week we will be able to upload our letters to the class blog and share some of the outcomes. In the mean time here is a taster offered by two of the boys...

Dear Greg

We are sorry to hear that you have been having girl problems. This is something we don't usually have. We both have a sister and know all about the problems that girls can cause.

Why don't you start by talking to her at lunchtime. You can find out about her and see what she is in to. After that you can ask her out then if she says yes, you can take her on a date somewhere she might like to go. Perhaps you could go to the movies or for a walk in the park.

Good Luck

J and B

I wish I'd had friends like them when I was at Primary school.

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Honeycomb 6: Collecting Ideas For Empathetic Writing

The students had a fantastic time today using our Worry Web to engage with character problems presented from the text we have been sharing this week. I was beginning to worry myself that the work done over last weekend to set up the static site model would flop disasteroulsy if I couldn't get the technology to work for me rather than against as seemed to be the case yesterday.

The problems/dilemas the children were asked to consider were those of three children

William who thinks he is useless at everything...

Greg, who says "I like this girl. I like her very much. I want to be her friend. I want to be her BOYfriend. I've gone all red and shuddery and yucky just typing it! I hate all this lovey-dovey stuff. It really sucks. I don't want to feel like this. I generally HATE girls."

and Claire who says "I have this nightmare. Its really scary. I don't know what to do. I dream it every single night. Does anyone else have nightmares or am I the only one?"

The three problems stirred up active discussions, and it was interesting to see this evening which of worries the children had chosen to respond to in most detail, and how responses had divided along gender lines.

Greg got some really interesting responses from the girls, who interestingly set about replying by changing the perspective for him by reviewing the problem and presenting a way of dealing with what he wanted to do from their point of view. Several of the responses included a "Well as I am a girl," viewpoint, while sharing with him their wisdom and outlining some of the things they thought he might do.

Claire seemed to gain most responses from the boys, who were quick to point out she was not alone, they too had nightmares or bad dreams, they tended to explain the reasons they thought they had "bad dreams" and made practical suggestions about how they had overcome these. These included sitting down and trying to relax before bedtime, emptying their minds and thinking happy thoughts. Perhaps the problem stemmed from the things she was watching on TV. One of the students explaining how he asked his mum to help him decide if the things he wanted to watch might be too scary if close to bed time. There were also some interesting suggestions about what to eat and drink and ideas about how to make yourself comfortable before trying to go to get off to sleep, perhaps taking a waterbottle and teddy to bed, putting luminous stars on the ceiling and so on.

It has been really interesting reading the responses to see how the nature of the space seemed to affect the boys partiucularly in terms of the things they said. The sympathetic and open way they said they too had nightmares, and the suggestion of a teddy bear is something some of the "cooler" guys would probably not have suggested so matter of factly. There was none of the switch to "she could" we would have gained in discussion, but more of the "why don't you.?" or "you could try.." type of response, that is exactly what Iwant to develop in our writing outcome.
I am really pleased about how the task and environment engaged the students empathetically with the talk for writing process. It also began the initial drafting of models we will draw on for our guided write tomorrow.

During our writing task I want to build on today's using the comments collected as scaffolds to help us write Agony Aunt type responses to the characters. When we planned this process I was thinking how interesting it would be for the children to work with the responses we collected to write a Dear Claire, William or Greg Letter. I am now wondering about having the children create these collaboratively using a word processor and offering two publishing outcomes. One to be printed for display, the other publishing to their Blog spaces, in order to extend the conversation and commenting process as part of an AfL and review activity. Encouraging review of each other's letters not only in terms of the content or how they feel about the advice. But also in terms of our ongoing writing targets while extending our ongoing work around reading for meaning.

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Honeycomb 5: Beginning our Role Play Task

Today during our literacy session the students began their work using the version of the "Worry Website" I created in Honeycomb over the weekend. During this session our focus was on writing in role and how we might begin a conversation or response to character's problem. If these students/characters were in our class, how might we encourage them to talk or listen to us and the things we had to say?

The session was slow to start, even though the students are now familiar with the log in process to access our Wireless network and VLE from their Asus Ees, today was the first time we had visited Honeycomb in a while, and the first time we had visited it from the direct hyperlink added to our class page. Hopefully tomorrow the process will be quicker.

We did encounter a problem today however which we struggled to find a work around for, and currently I am not sure whether this is an issue with Honeycomb, something we will have to think about when using the Asus, or perhaps a combination of the two. The comment box in Honeycomb is fixed and does not float, its size in the browser, combined with the inability to scroll within this page element meant that the add comment button appeared in most cases out of view in the browser window. Thinking on my feet I was able to rescue the situation suggesting that for today the children draft their comments to Use on our Worry web pages in "write" to transfer later. This will mean students either going through a slightly extended process of tranferring these files to the network, and so as not to lose the work and impetus from today, adding these comments when we complete the task and engage with our comment reviews tomorrow.

One or two of the machines seemed to give different renderings of the environment, allowing use of the add comment button, and I thought I would share a couple of the outcome comments generated as part of the task today to give a flavour of how this task is beginning to effect the student's thinking process.

What I am really pleased with in these examples is the apparent empathy that the environment has begun to create in the two student comments. They have begun to put themselves in the shoes of Claire, and to draw on their own experiences as they offer advice and support about the problem using
  • "the you are not alone perspective," sharing how a similar event has affected them
  • "the in my experience approach" offering practical suggestions about the things that have worked for them.

It is still early days for this activity but these comments are useful beginnings to support the discussion I want to generate around language choices when we respond to others.
They also offer models we can develop or use to frame our agony aunt responses during this week's writing outcome.

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On Screen Sand Art

Loving playing with this creative space, a cool pick up from Twitter this week.

This image was captured from the space using print screen and then pasting to Microsoft Paint. Wondering what our students might make of this environment as part of creative afternoon sessions.


Honeycomb 4: Thinking Through an Online Role Play Project

This term we have begun to use our Asus Ees in the classroom, and during one of our VLE blogging sessions the students began asking when we were going to be working in Honeycomb again. Well guys the answer is this week, and here's some of my thinking as I am preparing the tools I want to use with my class.

At the moment we are working on an extended literacy unit based on stories with dilemmas, and during our planning time last week, my partner teacher suggested using the text "The Worry Web Site" by Jacqueline Wilson as a stimulus. I loved the idea and an immediate thought was how much fun it might be if we could get the students to begin interacting with the text as if they were "Agony Aunts." The writing outcome we have proposed for next week after we have engaged with some of the children's dilemmas together from the book is to have the children draft a reply, to help a character overcome their dilema. Thinking about this for the last couple of days and how cool it would be to bring a version of the worry website to life that they could engage with in real time I wondered first of all about our VLE and creating an imaginary user space. But then I began to think about Honeycomb.

The space we need for this doesn't need to be all singing and all dancing, but does need to provide an environment where the children can interact together safely and socially, while experimenting with their thoughts and how they communicate their ideas and structure how they might offer their advice. I have put together 3 simple pages to act as a stimulus for this, all of them are simple web page like mockups.
  1. The Worry Website Home Page
  2. and 2 based on the Worries of two of the characters in the book Greg and Claire.

My original thoughts were to create a Wiki and allow the children to engage directly with the page adding their ideas as the week developed, however after some thought I began to see that maybe this might not work in quite the way I wanted the sessions to develop. I began to think instead how this might be an ideal opportunity to develop the space for "Role Play," as an interesting situation for the children to practice their commenting skills.

Honeycomb does not currently allow the creation of internal hyperlinks between a users pages. But colleague John Sutton has suggested a neat workaround for this. By saving the Home Page I have made as a Honeycomb Blog I can transfer the contents of each page in the model "Worry Web" I have already made to create a post and so allow navigation between the home page and the individual "worries." This has involved a little reworking of the material I made earlier, but now I can use this space to encourage the students to work together to plan and share their comments for each of our "worriers."

Commenting on Blogs is a real skill, and something I am not very good at myself. It should be really good fun to work with my students as they practice this skill. I am really looking forward to exploring this process with the class this week. Perhaps using it as part of our "Speaking and Listening" focus to develop a list of dos and don'ts that can help us work together more successfully in our other online environments.

Previous Honeycomb Posts


Storytelling: Podium and Talking Texts

Last week we decided to extend the work we have been doing with our students on Talk for Writing by developing a series of sessions focussed on Oral Storytelling and Performance. The students have enjoyed using the storytelling and oral recount process during previous narrative units to rehearse and frame ideas before writing, and we wondered how they would react to developing one story in detail, where the "writing Outcome" would actually be an Audio recording of their performing it. The Story we chose to use was The Glass Cupboard By Terry Jones. As a tale with a moral it relates closely to work we had been engaged in on recycling and sustainability, but would also give us an introduction as we moved towards next terms exploration of stories with dilemas.

My Students have had a great deal of experience using Podium, the Educational Podcasting Tool developed by Softease (now Lightbox). Prior to this week the work they had done with the tool was largely based on Scripting, rehearsing and then reading their work. This time however I decided to take a different tack. During our unit of work on Persuasion and the making of the video I had noticed how some of the students had begun to read on during the performance of their script, including additional words and phrases that seemed to make sense to them as they performed and were arising naturally from the context. This however had affected their natural flow, rather than carrying on with their innovation, they had tended to go back and correct themselves, disrupting the flow and making their presentation less clear. What would happen if they didn't have a formal script I wondered?

The week began with my playing an audio performance of the story I had created, and the students listening to it. We discussed what the children thought of the presentation? before introducing the idea that this week they were going to try to improve on my performance. Did they recognise the performer? How had he tried to make the story interesting? How might they achieve this? After a couple more play throughs the children were asked to retell the tale as they had heard it to their partner. How did it vary from one child to another? As a class we shared the main points of the tale by "boxing up" the events and charting these as simple drawings. We then listened to the story again, picking up on points in the story we had missed, and adding these to the plot that was unfolding as a simple story map on the whiteboard. With these elements in place I modelled a retelling of the story, using actions we had previously borrowed from Pie Corbett's work to help, eg opening a book for once upon a time, Standing a gape for surprise, or all of a sudden. I also added actions of my own such as bending my arms to show strength, and placing a crown on my head as the king appeared in the story. In pairs the children were encouraged to work together to think about what actions they could use to help with their story telling, and to help me add these to the class storymap.

In the second session the children were encouraged to draw story maps of their own, as they listened to the audio file I had created, played several times on a loop. As the session developed the children who were growing increasingly familiar with the tale, were able to predict and record what would happen next in their own story maps. We worked as a class to tell the story aloud before the children were asked to retell their stories to each other using their maps and actions to help. Their partners were encouraged to review the performance by pointing out things they had missed, or sharing ideas about additions they could make. The children were also encouraged to draw on our learning wall, to consider choices of story opener and wow words they would like to include in their telling, words and phrases that would link sections of their tale or add interest to it. They were encouraged to jot these in the parts of the story map where they thought they would help their story along. One or two of the students wanted desperately to write sentences, but were encouraged not to, since this was not the purpose of the activity. As a plenary to this session the children were asked if anyone would like to have a go at telling their story to the class. We had three volunteers and it has to be said they were not three bad.

During session three the class was split into two halves, by now the students knew the story really well. While half of the class worked on another activity the others were encouraged to work in pairs to rehearse, refine and perform their own version of the story, using storymaps and actions to scaffold, before using Podium to record and save their performance.

Session 4 was set up as a carousel session, in order to allow the students to listen to and review each other's Podium Performances. Laptops were placed on table tops and the students worked in home teams to open up and play the stories created by the others, rotating from table to table when they had finished. The students were quick to notice how even though we had all told the same story each was incredibly different. The examples of what could be taken from the cupboard in the introduction to the story varied from recording to recording for example, but also the reasons for why the king went on his journey (I like the one where he went to his nans for tea), what happened when he got back and how the length of time was exaggerated while the greedy robbers raided the cupboard. What was really interesting for me was also how the means of presentation changed the way the students used language structures. All of the students engaged with the use of expression as an integral part of the performance process. Both I and the children thoroughly enjoyed the process, and the outcomes are really interesting too. They can be found as part of the May 2009 archive on our class Podcast Station as a series of files called The Glass Cupboard Retold. This is a process I will be using again, and sharing with colleagues. Great fun.


Lego Digital Designer: Another LEGO based CAD environment.


LEGO Digital Designer : Virtual Building Software

This tool and free download has been all the rage in school recently. Discovered by a couple of our Y 6 students, who having used it at home managed to download, install and get it to run from one of the shared drive spaces on the network, it initially gained attention as the focus of some firm but I hope fair discussions about our acceptable use policy and argeement.... The ingenuity of it all!

I hope you'll agree with the resolution, too good to miss as a tool, but also because I want our AUP to work within the realms of trust, I agreed to download and look into an installation of the tool for them to use, on the proviso that in future, they should share tools like this that they would like access to in school with me first. This situation was an ideal opportunity to discuss the reasons why we do this and esafety issues such as licensing and copyright.

The Demo provided by the students and the brief play I have had with LEGO Digital Designer only scratches the surface of the potential uses I think it could have. It includes an extensive library of components that include Mindstorms and Creator kits. On a basic level the tool could be used in ways outlined in this previous post about the Freeware tool BlockCAD. Digital Designer is quite a different beast however, and with the inclusion of Technic and Mindstorms components could be used to support design work or recording from control activities using nxt. In addition the interface allows the user to switch betwen a number of different onscreen viewing modes.

  • Build mode where models can be developed from existing prototypes or from scratch,
  • Viewing mode where the model can be placed on different backgrounds, rotated, exploded and in some cases animated,
  • Building guide mode, where completed models can be put together step by step, using a walk/step through video presentation, or building guides exported in HTML format.

My brief engagements with the tool don't as of yet I feel do full justice to this potentially powerful freeware platform. To get your imagination whirring and creative juices flowing I'd recommend you download it and check it out for yourself. Certainly the students who recommended it to me, J and T love it and this has got to be the best starting point for thinking about how the tool might be exploited further engage them. I would love to hear your thoughts, and ideas about where and how you might use the platform.


Bees In A Pod: Our New Class Podcast Station

Last Summer I began a series of posts, exploring how I intended to use Blogger as a podcasting platform. At last I have managed to clear some space, transferred the content my students had previously published to Podomatic to our school's web host and got this new space up and running.

Today alongside existing content I have begun to publish some of our more recent video work too and later today am hoping to complete final file conversions from Podium, to add our recent adventures in Storytelling.

It has been interesting today listening back over these episodes, to hear the progression that has been made in performance and production since we began using audio and video to support and develop our reading and writing outcomes. This post is a thank you to everyone who has visited, subscribed to and followed the student's work to date, and an invitation to join us on our new Podcast Station at The Buzz (Bees in a Pod) where we hope you will continue to enjoy our work.


Getting Persuasive: Creating TV Style Advertisements with Photostory

This term we have been working on a science based theme around materials and their properties. To engage our students with cross curicular persuasive writing we decided to adapt parts of this to focus on the "three Rs." Hmmm Back to basics ay! A real vote winner in the past, but in this case not "readin' 'ritin' and 'rithmetic" (though we have done lots of this too) rather the Three Rs in question have been how we can "reduce, reuse and recycle."

Getting Persuasive

We began our literacy unit by reading and reviewing a range of texts, posters, leaflets and letters, and using these to identify features of the text type that drew our readers in. These included visual and layout features such as
  • headings
  • emboldening
  • the use of logos
  • slogans,
  • and bulleting,
that would identify these text formats as being part of the non fiction genre. Moving on to identify language features such as
  • emotive imagery,
  • the use of rhetorical questions
  • cause and effect and logical connectives.
  • and looking at how these devices were used to support the expression of opinion
Literacy sessions have taken on a slightly different perspective here focusing on developing and engaging with the "functional aspects" of the text type, and considering
  • What persuasive texts look and sound like?
  • Who might write these and why?
  • and How they work?
It is difficult to be passionate about something unless you have experience of the ideas behind it. In order to give context and purpose to the outcomes we wanted to develop the students were immersed in "topic based activities" beyond the literacy hour to support their knowledge and understanding of the key ideas they would need to engage with in the process of writing.

Persuasive writing is an interesting and complex sub genre, in that even though classified as Non Fiction, texts are constructed around the feelings of an author. They may appear to find their origin in "fact" but are usually driven by the emotions and opinions of an author based on their interpretation of facts as they see them. They may appear to be objective, but usually present only one side of a potential argument. Helping students to understand this, requires that they attempt to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and begin to develop some empathy with the other side of the case, inorder to choose relevant ideas they can express that appeal to both sides or those without their experience.

To help with this and our exploration of the genre we presented a simple "marking ladder" that we could use to help evaluate the texts we engaged with, and that could be unpicked and developed as we worked to reflect the key features of a persuasive text as we saw them. This included ideas presented above, but also set out to frame generically success criteria for the writing outcomes that students would develop later, and that could be used to frame comparison between their work and the texts we had explored. These texts we decided should
  • Open with a strong statement of opinion
  • Provide 3 key points to support this supported by facts
  • Close with a reassertion of the opening statement using either a slogan, an assertion or a question.
Within the overall process of exploring texts and developing our writing, we made audience the key focus for our work. Moving into phase two of the unit we gave the students an audience and practiced and applied the ideas we had been developing through the guided and shared writing of letter to our caterers. This sought to persuade them how composting of food waste was a great idea, giving our reasons why, and inviting a response. We know that many of the materials we discard in school are recycled or reused, but what about our food waste? Our new grounds are vast, so we decided to look at how composting as a process could be used to enhance our surroundings rather than perhaps ending up in a landfill? To make these more "official looking" the students also wordprocessed them, allowing them to use some of the visual features we had discussed to be included during the publishing process.

Working Towards A Digital Writing Outcome

In building up to our final Writing Outcome, which was to produce a TV advertisement or Video Presentation, we also read these British TV advertisements with voice overs by Eddie Izzard and Jane Horrocks, as well as this interesting stop motion project by simondo89 I discovered on You Tube.

Refering back to our Marking Ladder and success criteria for "writing," we investigated how these videos used similar ideas to persuade. The students identified the use of slogans and Logos as key tools to stating opinion and asserting ideas, but also how the use of visuals such as gesture alongside music were used to persuade us that "recycling was cool." We used comparison charts to review the three videos gradually over several sessions, looking at one initially to identify features that supported our big idea. If the advertisements are telling us that recycling is cool how are they doing this? What makes us think or feel this way?

In The Eddie Izzard Example, the voice over was seen as cheeky and quirky, presenting a casual almost throw away idea. We got to this point via the expression by one of my class that the voice over was "idiotic." This invited discussion around what she meant by this, and lead to time spent unpicking the idea and why the voice might have been prersented in this way. In addition students mentioned the type of music chosen, the bright airy look of the scenes, the shiny newness of objects and the fact that the "new everyday objects" presented were highlighted in the video as the cans they were made from. This added to the "coolness" because no one would have anything like them in their homes. The young fellow who was the focus of the story told also had a slinky, casual way about him strutting about the scene, casually casting his can into the recycling bins, and going about his business as if it was everyday. I was really pleased when a number of students after several readings mentioned how the advert also began with the character throwing away his can and ended in the same way... The advert itself was "kind of recycling." As can be seen in the outcomes later, many of the ideas in this video were borrowed as available designs to use in the works that developed as a result.

Looking at the other 2 advertisements we began with these ideas looking for similarities. The Jane Horrocks Advert from the same series used very similar ideas, Here the character from the previous video was seen playing a computer game, skateboarding and collecting points as he collected bottles to recycle. As a result the "coolness" of recycling glass was expressed in almost identical ways, but also afforded the questions around the idea of audience and who the advert might be aimed at? Using clues such as continuity of the central character, the music and visuals we decided that the video was probably directed at us, and how we could persuade our parents and grandparents to recycle. Though the main idea that it was cool, the use of the game perhaps lead us to see how recycling needn't be such a big thing, or get in the way of how we usually behave.

The final stop motion project, I think really excited the students as they had recently done some stop motion work, and could see how this advertisement had been been put together. A fantastic tool in as it turns out for engaging them crosscurricularly with the oft neglected ICT curriculum strand 4 statements around "Reviewing, modifying and evaluating work as it progresses." In this video using simple visual tools such as the recycling symbol, items from the bin, an image of the world, lettering from an old newspaper, and a piece of carefully selected music, a really simple message was transmitted by reusing material that could have been found in our bin to persuade, no voice over just a litter dance using throwaways, slogans and captions. The message portrayed used a number of familiar processes, and as such enabled them to begin drawing on prior learning to begin discussing how this had been achieved. It also began to open up the task we wanted the students to carry out. Helping identify with them the transferable skills we could use from a variety of ICT based processes such as animation, podcasting, video storymaking to contextualise the writing outcome.

Getting Persuasive with PhotoStory

The final phase of our Literacy Project was to make a short TV style advertisement./video presentation aimed at persuading our parents and other adults that we should recycle. For this we decided to use PhotoStory, the reasons for this I hope will become clear as the process is outlined and you view the completed outcomes .

In making the advertisement the children worked in groups of 4.
  • Firstly they planned and then scripted their voice overs using the structure and success criteria above.
  • Using the script as a frame we used Flickrstorm and Google Images to locate and save 5 images that we thought would support and help express our ideas.
  • These images were imported to Photostory and sequenced.
  • The text tool was used to place our slogans or key message on the first frame and to add credits to our final one.
  • The children then rehearsed there voice overs, considering how they would express their ideas before..
  • Using the inbuilt voice recorder and microphones to record each child's contribution over the appropriate image.

I love the outcomes of which these are only three examples. They are starting points on a journey that I feel reflect the children's emergent and growing understanding of how these text types work.
  • Slogans and opening statements include ideas like "Don't Turn Away," "Prepare to be Amazed," "Our World Could Look Like This." Attempts to grab attention!
  • An appropriate choice of Emotive images or bold and borrowed ideas to open and close their advertisements.
  • Use of simple cause and effect sequences such as, how composting feeds worms, who feed the birds and this is Good for them and must be "GOOD FOR YOU!"
  • and assertions of ideas such as "It is up to you!"
  • The sense of fun in the experience from a student perspective is also eveident as they attempt to include features they experienced in reviewing advertisements eg singing part of a script, and how their reading process is developing with experiences from storytelling and podcasting sneaking in as they find themselves inadvertently inferring and improvising through prediction rather than verbatum use of scripts.
These videos were entirely self produced and I feel indicate an increasing understanding of how advertisements use paritcular features to atttract an audience in order to persuade. Underpinning this is the student voice and their rehearsal of concepts and ideas from beyond the text as they work to organise their ideas as sense making structures. They are I think nice examples of first steps in the use of video as an independent tool to express ideas, and as starting points for evaluation and review as we plan the next steps in our learning.

In supporting the development of this unit, the immersion of the students in a theme,
  • involving visitors,
  • auditing classroom and staffroom bins,
  • asking questions around school about what happens to our "rubbish,"
  • discussing and exploring how materials can be reused, the process of recycling materials and the possible consequences of not doing so
have developed a sense of ownership around the work we have developed. The students have begun offering their services to help recycle, if other classes sort their rubbish, delivering it to appropriate places around school during break and lunchtimes.

As a result of a "bin audit" from the staffroom this week, students have suggested the need to create posters that offer advice to staff and other students about how they can improve their 3 Rs. Our completed advertisements have been placed on the VLE to share with our parents at home, though not being able to wait it seems one student arrived yesterday, knowing we were about to make our advertisements with a flash drive, so she could take her group's home to share after school. Another student out ill yesterday, but knowing we were going to be making our advertisements yesterday, used photostory on his home PC and sent the result to me by email. The students have clearly been excited and highly motivated by the projects with the images throughout this post reflecting the level of engagement and fun associated with developing the outcomes. Next week following the excitement of this process we hope to launch our campaign a little wider with a first public airing during assembly.

These videos also present themselves not as an end product but rather potential starting points for future work as reference tools for others as well as ourselves. I was privileged last week to experience some of our secondary students working on OCR Nationals coursework, and in addition to use within the Pimary Phase, have begun wondering how as an all through school, these could be used to promote and support continuity and progression, acting as evaluation tools and starting points for older students to evaluate and develop video based projects of their own. The idea of beginning with the work of other students regardless of age, in order to illustrate processes and identify steps for self improvement and development in the quality of outcome would be fantastic. In an all through environment such as ours it would be a really exciting to involve older students taking on and helping to move forward the work of their younger peers, extending work such as this and developing it for their own benefit, while perhaps sharing and presenting new resources that can further enhance the learning and experiences not only of themselves but other students and the colleagues who are learning alongside them. Perhaps in closing my thoughts truly are running away with themselves... However in recycling these videos the Possibilities do seem truly endless.


BlockCAD: Modelling Onscreen with "Lego" Style Blocks

I have had lots of fun playing with BlockCAD in between my other dabblings this week. This freeware tool has been pointed to for a while now by colleagues, with referals through feeds from and my colleagues on Twitter. Having seen it used in school on a Teachers TV programme this week I thought it was time to have a play for myself.

BlockCAD, is a computer aided design (CAD) environment allowing its user to build onscreen, 3d models using LEGO type bricks.

Screenshot From Anders' Corner of the Web home of BlockCAD

On opening BlockCAD the user is presented with an empty base board in the main design window onto which bricks can be laid. The dimensions of this board are not fixed and can be changed by typing the desired dimensions into text boxes to the bottom right of the window labelled base. To the right of the design window is a component gallery. To begin your creation, select your block clicking and dragging it to the baseboard. Clicking the left mouse button locks it in place. Rotating a block is achieved by right clicking the mouse before placing it. Within the gallery are a wide selection of blocks, that include many familiar components including wheels, windows, doors and so on. The colours of these components can also be changed by clicking the colour pallete above the component window.

I found that it was easiest to place bricks accurately if the baseboard was rotated to a plan view. Rotation tools on the tool bar allow the models you build to be turned through 360 degrees in both vertical and horizontal planes at any time during the construction process. There is no undo button. Deleting a brick requires the use of a mouse and del key combination. Pressing the del key before clicking on the brick in question, highlights the brick with a frame and hitting the del key again removes the brick from the model.

Throughout the making process the 3d model as a whole structure can be viewed from diffferent perspectives using the rotation tools. Using the capture tool, images of these various perspectives can also be captured and saved. Clicking the capture tool opens a dragable window that can be dragged around like a camera viewfinder to frame the image and view of the structure you want. These in turn can can be saved in a number of different image formats for use in other software environments.

I really like this tool, and as freeware students can access it and download it away from school too, opening opportunities for them to extend their creative uses and learning away from school. It uses as a model a construction kit type that we have readily available for students to use in school, and that they themselves may have at home.

The tool has obvious cross curricular applications within DT, where it could be used in the IDEAS and FPT phases to model outcomes and facilitate evaluation onscreen before students begin construction. If included as part of an onging design and make process by groups of students it could also be used through a cascade save process to track, monitor and present changes they make as a result of difficulties or considerations within their making processes. The images could be used in DTP outcomes for display or included alongside photographs in learning stories presented in Powerpoint or even photostory.

I also like the idea of the environment being used as a scaffold for onscreen instructional writing, mediated by talk. Images exported from the environment could be used to help students create and design new models, and frame instruction leaflets for others to use as reading tasks. Context, purpose and audience for their work. I'd like to add this to our modeling and simulation tool box and see what the crew make of it.

A Simple Animatic: Digital storyboard Using MS Paint and Photostory

Preparing materials to use in class next week, including a storyboard model to help my students frame their thinking as they plan a short animation about materials and change. To begin I created these four simple, sketch like images using Microsoft Paint. Using each through a copy and paste process I then compiled six further sketch like images figuratively representing the melting and freezing process to use in a smart book.

As I was working I wondered about how the images might work as as part of a simple "animatic" story. The result of my wanderings, is this video clip created using photostory and my story board images.

A similar process has been used previously to help students think about the changing seasons, by creating landscapes with PhotoFiltre and MS Paint. Through a "cascade" saving process the students were encouraged to revise and edit a template image they had prepared to show what they thought the same scene might look like at different times of the year. Completed images were then imported to photostory, chronologically sequenced and background music added before export to video for sharing. The process also supported documentary work and recount development with my class earlier in the year as they told the story of Grace Darling. and shared their feelings as we left our old school building behind. MS Photostory is a really nice tool to use with students and these simple techniques great starting points for thinking about animation and digital story telling if keen to have a try but concerned about the process and how to begin.


This week I have been mostly playing with Joomla!

Not bad I suppose its only taken 8 months to get back to this. The summer holiday was a busy time for me, one where I set out with every good intention of "getting to grips with Joomla" or at least how it works, unfortunately other deadlines kept me busy too and the project was shelved in the interests of completing my dissertation.

Why Joomla? Well essentially because this platform has been chosen to host, manage and develop our new campus web site. Having spent considerable time managing and establishing our exisiting primary school website as a resource, I was keen to engage with and learn the quirks of this new environment, in order to think about how to integrate this existing space with the projected new.

Joomla is an open source content management system. My personal experiences of building pages for the web have developed through using tools such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver to build and organise html pages before uploading work developed on my desktop to the host server by FTP. As such I might still be considered on so many levels a beginner. Joomla is a very different onion and experience for me in that it is a server based solution using a data base, among other less than familiar tools to manage and organise content created within it. I blog, code a bit when I need to, but have never really taken the plunge and dabbled too far behind the scenes so to speak. In beginning this project I therefore had some personal reservations about the experiences I was bringing to the process, how useful they would be and considerable trepidation about the gradient in the learning curve I would need to follow. I was however determined to have go. As with the students we work with I needed to start from the things I know, and a establish a frame to hang my new learning on. This post then represents my think around, and how I have tried to visualise and organise my thoughts comparing previous experiences while trying to relate these ideas to what was happening as I worked on and played with my experimental site and Joomla this week.

A Clean Slate

In beginning the project again I decided to start with a clean slate,

  • I deleted my previous installation,
  • Downloaded xampp afresh and the most recent version of Joomla.
  • And decided to devote a little more time to watching these tutorial videos than I did last time.

Working through the process outlined in the videos,

  • I set up the server and data base locally on my laptop :o),
  • Installed Joomla :0)
  • And followed the wizard like process to get the space ready to host my site:0).
A Different perspective on a familiar Viewpoint

Following the video tutorials in sequence the next part of the process was to set up sections and categories for the site. I wondered what this was all about initially, and it has taken a while for me to get my head round this.

My previous work developing our school site has been visual, each page built by hand, ocassionally using themes but usually by editing and revising templates and using these to frame and include content.

In essence, Frontpage enabled this process for me by combining the affordances of a Windows Explorer type environment with a wordprocessing like tool. A Folder pane allowing my "local server" or "site" to be managed like a hard drive. I could visualise and then create the folder tree where I wanted to store the files for each section of the site in response to the navigation structure I was physically constructing on my home page. The WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor (the wordprocessing element if you like) allowed me to create the hyperlink and navigation structure for the site on the index page side by side and corresponding to the folder structure for the site. Using familiar drag and drop processes I could also copy, paste, open and save files as when editing or in reorganising the space.

In trying to understand how Joomla works I have been trying to reframe my thoughts within my existing model, this is probably really obvious to everyone else, so forgive me as I say I think I've just about cracked it even if an oversimplified view.

Pages in Joomla managed sites do not exist as pages per se, but are compiled through a data base when a visitor arrives at the site and begins their navigation. Administrator defined categories and sections within the data base, allow this to happen. Approaching site set up I decided to try to visualise these categories as if they were folders in my existing tree. First of all setting up categories, broad groups that match the folders and subfolders I previously created for our existing site, but modifying some for clarity. To allocate articles to the correct pages within these categories, I created sections using first of all the category list I created enabling each broad space to have its own page before adding further sections that correspond to other pages I would like within each section of the site.

Why was this so important? I guess this was the question I was asking myself when I began the project? It all seemed a bit back to front in relation to how I was used to working. I needed a way of seeing. The menu system within Joomla drives the page creation or generation process. To compile "pages," through the data base a menu manager is used to create items by linking these to categories and then sections, (in my minds eye corresponding to a folder and a page). Clicking on a hyperlink leads to a request for the data base to behind the scenes pull all these elements together along with style sheets and such to present the content as a page in a visitor's browser.

Where Next For Me?

The next phase for me if my model works is to begin exploring with colleagues the things they would like the site to include and perhaps what they want from it, setting up formally a space based on categories and sections that arise as a result.

Creating user accounts for colleagues and classes will then enable them to log in and use a WYSIWYG editor similar to those they have used in our existing VLE and blog spaces to write, upload files and contribute directly to the content and maintenance of the site, using the sections and categories defined for them eg year4/class name, to post items to the page allocated to it.

Additional modules can be plugged into the space for example breadcrumb trails and RSS feeds to aid navigation or subscription. The addition of common themes through use of shared style sheets will enable a corporate feel for the campus site to be added providing the whole with a consistent look and theme for pages generated across the space.

What has really excited me as I played this week was the ability to add items such as Windows media video directly to a page, and how with the addition of rss feeds, pages within the site could be allocated to support podcasting, while through the use an aggregator content syndicated across the site could be drawn together as a single feed published on the front page through a latest news module.

I still have a lot of playing and exploring to do and apologise wholeheartedly if what I say here is obvious to some or even overly simplistic. I'm not entirely sure what my feelings are right now about the solution as a whole, it does not provide for all of our needs as I see them. I am still wondering how much of what is provided could be achieved through other platforms such as self hosted blogs with the tweaking of design templates. For me the process has been a useful experience, and one I am sure I will be able to draw on further as we work with and develop use of online learning tools for ourselves.