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.