Seeking To Inspire: Draft Enrichment Projects for Phase 3 and 4

This week I have been working on a first set of project outlines for ourPhase3/4  ICT Enrichment sessions. They are intended to run for two terms, at an hour per week, to sit outside of the formal ICT curriculum, but to enable students to develop and extend their skill base through creative cross curricular activity. I would value any thoughts or feedback especially though not exclusively from colleagues working with students in Key Stages 3 and 4.  Thanks in advance:0)

Project 1  Digital Storytelling: Comic Strips  and Basic Animation:  In these sessions we will use a range of software tools to help us tell onscreen stories.  Pivot Stick Animator, graphic tools and movie making software will be used to create simple animated stories, and later Microsoft Publisher, online comic strip makers and video stories will be used to help us learn how comic strips work to tell stories.   Working on these projects will help you learn how

  • to use digital tools to plan sequence and tell stories.  
  • talk can be useful in rehearsing, drafting and writing stories,
  • Appropriately chosen images can add new depths to the things you want to say, 
  • to add callouts and captions to engage our readers with the stories we want to tell.

Project 2: Podcasting, Vlogging and Interactive Presentations:  This will be your chance to use multimedia to explore, share and celebrate with others some of the things that interest us.  We will use Audacity, Photoshop, Soundation, Moviemaker  and Mediator to create and share our own multimedia content to celebrate and share individual areas of interest or expertise. The content you create will either be presented through a web page style presentation created in Mediator, or depending on how things go perhaps even through use of class Wiki Spaces that will allow a wider world audience to get a glimpse.  Key messages and areas of learning to be addressed throughout our work will be e safety and decision we should make around the information we choose to share with others and how we can share it safely.

Project 3  Designing and Creating simple computer games.  During these session we will be exploring and thinking about computer games and how they work.  We will create a small group company, who will use a tool called GameMaker to design, program and create maze or paddle type games that we can share with friends and play on our computers.  There will also be opportunities to use graphic tools to create our own game characters, backgrounds and objects.  Because these games will be your own creations,  we can’t be sure exactly what they will be like.  One thing is for sure though we are bound to have fun, playing with our ideas, and hopefully each other’s completed games online.  To complete the project we will develop an advertising campaign for our new Best Seller, this may mean drawing on skills from earlier projects.


Man of Iron: Silent Movie Presentations From Phase 3

Last term I began working with colleagues and students in phase three, as a member of the Integrated Curriculum Team.  The young people in phase three are vertically grouped 11-13 years old (y6 to 8) students, and Integrated Curriculum Sessions involve them in engaging with cross curricular themed activities, developed around the focussed teaching of Personal Learning and Thinking Skills.

During term 1 we worked primarily on a project based on The Man of Iron, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his legacy in the Bristol Area.  The Key focus areas were rooted in developing key skills for Independent Learning and Research as well as facilitating situations to promote Team Work and collaboration.  Throughout the term, students explored a number of aspects of Brunel, his life and his legacy, using material from Primary and Secondary sources.  The following are a pair of video outcomes created using Internet based collect and store processes, and our first attempts at using MovieMaker to prepare and share the outcomes of our work digitally. 

In class a number of table top activities were used to prepare and plan the presentations, before using ICTs.
  • Inference squares were used to facilitate and support image based reading activities, and ground the raising of questions as starting points for research.
  • Mindmapping was used to record and help link and group key ideas collected from a range of text sources, including books, internet based texts, images and the reading of videos.
  • Timelines were used to chronologically order and sequence the major events in Brunel's life.
  • Desk Top Timelines then formed the planning frame that supported image searches and helped sequence the basic story we wanted to tell using Movie Maker
  • Images collected from the web were imported to MovieMaker and sequenced/ chronologically or grouped according to the preferred method of presentation.
  • The original intention was to have students record a voice over, so our paper based timelines were developed to become "storyboards" with simple scripts to support this.

As the video creation process evolved we began to think about how we could create video presentations in a "victorian style."  Silent movies/Newsreel arose as a possible idea, and in MovieMaker the credit tools were used to add captioned splash screens between clips.  To give the clips that "olde worlde" feel an aged film effect was applied to many of the individual clips, and music added as a soundtrack.  The students had a great time, and these are just two from our collection.  Hope they provide a little inspiration :o)

Video Attribution: Thanks to George, Maisie, Oliver and Katie


Bristol.... The Edam Is Stranded: Comic Strips, You Tube, Print Screen and Publisher

This term during ICT enrichment sessions, a colleague and I have begun to develop a sequence of activities working towards the creation of comic strips.

Comic Strips are complex text forms that I have explored a number of times through posts in my blog, but they are also great fun.  In introducing comic strips, how they are constructed and the features of the text type, we wanted to provide space for the students simpy to play and explore. This resulted in our initial session using an online comic strip generator.  Our choice for this was Make Beliefs Comix a site providing 3 frame strips, drag and drop characters and tools, and point and click editing. This allowed the students space to simply play and create in the style and genre while becoming familiar with some of the features we might expect to see supporting text development in a comic strip eg captions, speech and thought bubbles etc.  A key skill we also expect is the student's capability to take screen shots of their work, to support our APP process, so completed strips were copied,  using the prtscr before being pasted to a local application (MS Publisher) for cropping and resizing, the latter part of this process being a useful one for the students to use later as they create their own comic strips.

As teachers in our school have access to You Tube, I decided to develop the sessions around creating new stories and narratives from familiar starting points.  To introduce the sessions we began watching a couple of movie shorts from the Aardman YouTube Channel, and the Cracking Contraptions series.  I chose the Snoozatron and Shopper 13, for my sessions partly because I love the sixties seventies space race puns in the latter, but also because Gromit's facial expressions throughout the snoozatron, just beg for and invite the use of visual cues to infer possible content for thought bubbles.

You Tube uses flash movies, which gives another advantage, in that they can be used. unlike many other online video formats, for direct screen capture from the web browser.  Prior to the session I previewed each movie and at significant or interesting points in the story, used the print screen key to capture these scenes.   Paused the movie, centreing the movie viewer in the window, I pressed the print screen key to capture scenes.  Using Microsoft Paint, the resulting images were then pasted individually into software, cropped and then saved to a folder as JPEG images.  In school the images collected from each movie were copied into the shared storage space for access during sessions by students.

Having watched the movies, I shared a prepared model for a publisher based comic strip with the students, (an available design) and modelled how to
  • Open Microsoft Publisher
  • Change the page orientation
  • Insert images from file and where the prepared files could be found
  • Change file view so they could browse image thumbnails to aid their image selection
Before encouraging the students to begin creating their own visual version of the story of their choice, the first steps in developing their creative recount.

Publisher being an object based package, is a really intersting way to allow students the facilty to draft and redraft visual story structures on the go.  Once images have been added the students can then begin manipulating their story, dragging and reorgnising images to develop and resequence their visual narrative.

During this process a number of fundamental DTP and graphic handling concepts become increasingly important to developing a quality outcome from the draft, and identified themselves as incidental teaching points.
  • Layering and ordering.  When using object based packages latter images added will tend to overlap and cover pieces of earlier images when moved and placed.  By using the order tool, images can be moved forward and backward on the page to overcome this.  
  • In Publisher clicking the view menu and then tools allows opening of a "context menu/tool bar" that appears when an image is clicked, that allows insitu editing of images from this "picture bar."  This tool bar allows images to cropped, colour effects to be applied, brightness and contrast adjustments to made and transparency effects to be applied to areas of an image.
  • Clicking on the image also reveals resize handles enabling drag and drop resizing of the images and use of the rotation tools on the tool bar also enable free rotation of images, or the possibility to change image orientation by flipping them,  giving yet more visual dimensions to image handling.
 With the images in place our next steps over the coming weeks will be
  1.  Further play with these tools enabling consolidation through talk of the narrative structure to be developed by the students.  
  2. Development of the use of callouts, stars and captioning to add oral text elements to the story.
  3. Use of peer assesment and review to identify HTIs before editing, revision and publication.
Image Attribution:  Images are either Screen captures from YouTube video versions of the Aardman Shorts
The Soccamatic
The Snoozatron

Shopper 13
or composite images created using MS Publisher by the author from images captured from these.
Wallace and Gromit are Nick Park Creations


Patterning With LOGO

Adding the National Geographic Photo of the Day widget to my Google Desktop and blog has been a real winner in terms of personal inspiration and as a creative spark over the last couple of years. Usually the images lead me to Language and Literacy ideas, but  this image from the 6/5/10 set me thinking about a possible context and and alternative in to working using LOGO with our older Phase 2 students next term. 

In previous posts I have explored the use of MSWLOGO a freeware tool and MS Paint within the context of the Mathematics classroom, developing ideas around the properties of shape, rotational symmetry and patterning, but using this image as a starting point and available design for the journey, what would happen if... this was extended to explore tessellation and repeated patterning, using copy and paste processes?

Image Credit: Hazrat Ali Mosque, Afghanistan  National Geographic Photo of the Day 06/05/10


Making and Playing Computer Games With Scratch: Episode 2 A keepy Uppy Paddle and Ball Game

In the last post we were left with a cliffhanger. We had used a series of given scripts to take our sprite for a walk and used imported, downloaded or self created backgrounds to provide a context or place for this to take place.  Some of the students had also experimented within scenes, changing sprites or adding additional characters and objects.  The questions being raised as we worked reflected how the students wanted something different to happen when their sprites met, we weren't quite sure what but we knew that when characters and objects meet or "touch in a "real" computer game something usually happens.

This week we began again with an empty stage, and a session outcome to develop or create a small scale project where one object (or Sprite) within the environment would be programmed to interact with others.  Building on student queries, I thought it would be a nice idea to build a simple game.  I decided to borrow from a Phase 3 task and to build a version of the arcade game "breakout," but that I would limit the outcome to using only the paddle and ball sections of the game building a  "keepy uppy game."  Keeping the idea as simple as possible I hoped would allow me to build on student excitement from the previous session, and allow discussion of events and outcomes as procedures were added to the game.

With the world cup coming up there may be some interest in this fairly straight forward set of scripts, and the editing and extension possibilities they afford for adaptation of the initial idea.  Theming the game from its origins into something soccer like, using existing scripts as the basis, and including a spoonful or two of creative playfulness by the students could make for some wonderful ideas.  This however is an extension idea to come back to at the end of this post.  Needless to say the game of "keepy uppy" is one of those things we probably use as teachers a lot in skills practice during PE, or have played as children ourselves in the garden, with a tennis racket and ball or a football.   What I think students will enjoy about this as a creative starting point is that essentially it uses two sprites and a background.  Both sprites are fairly simple in their purpose, while changes and careful choice of background gives us a visual backstory or context for our game.

To introduce the session I began at the end...  modelling through a prepared design what we would be looking for if we were successful in making our game.  The students were asked if their game needed to look like this in order for it to be a successful design?  There are many games that work in similar ways but that look very different.  What could we change before we begin creating and building the code?

The stage I used contained a star field, a rectangular space ship for a bat and an asteroidish type ball.  Pressing the green flag set the asteroid in motion, while moving the mouse dragged the bat back and forth across the bottom of the stage (the x axis of movement).  When the asteroid hit the bat it bounced off until it hit the upper sides or top edge of the stage when it bounced and changed direction.  If we missed the asteroid and it made contact with the bottom of the screen then the game stopped running and was over.  This process was described to the students in pretty much this way as the model was demonstrated.  Why?  As well as following instructions I want the students to be able to see and begin evaluating step by step what was intended to happen as the program runs. Describing the intended actions in this way, I hoped would encourage the students to begin reasoning aloud and visualising what the code blocks they would later be building were intended to do.  In turn helping us to focus on particular blocks and what might be happening if the project did not work as expected.   

The students were asked where else the game could take place?
  • In a cave
  • in the snow
  • on the moon
  • outer space
  • under the sea
  • in the kitchen
  • In the classroom
were among suggestions made.

What might be falling/moving or flying in these spaces?
  • fish
  • meteorites
  • planets
  • bowls or cups
  • food
  • snowballs

What might be used to hit, catch, bounce or keep up these objects
  • pans
  • polar bears
  • spaceships
  • hands

The students had some really interesting ideas, many possible "right" answers, but to begin the activity, and inorder to ensure our code blocks did as intended I added the initial design stage proviso, that the part of the bat that meets the ball must be flat. The reason for this being that during the opening part of the software based activity I wanted the students to edit and alter the sprites that they chose to use.

The students began with their stage and the game background,
  • either importing a background from collection that matched the idea they had
  • searching for a background on the web they could download, import and use to set the scene for the game.
  • or creating a background of their own
To the lower edge of the background a coloured line was added from one side to the other.  The reason for which will become clear later.

    The students then deleted the default sprite to create their "ball."  This was imported from the collection and edited to work with and be in keeping with their background and so the game's backstory

    Finally the students created or added a new sprite that would be their bat.   This was
    • either a sprite from collection edited to include a flat surface
    • or a new sprite painted from scratch and designed to fit with the backstory.
    With the background added and sprites created we were ready to code our game.  The students were provided with support sheets, to guide them through the addition of code blocks to control the ball and bat sprites.  We began with the bat or paddle.  This object needed simply to be able to move across the screen from left to right, following the motion of the mouse.  This was achieved by clicking on our bat/paddle sprite, then the script tab and dragging the following code blocks into the space.

    The students were then encouraged to test the procedure, clicking the green flag header block, and observing the onscreen effect, and sharing their ideas about what was happening with each other.

    With the bat/paddle/ working correctly we moved on to add scripts to the "ball" sprite, using the following script blocks.

    I have included comments in this image, the yellow caption blocks, to demonstrate a feature of Scratch shown to me by one of the students this week. I didn't realise this function was available, but right clicking in the script area reveals a context menu, from which a comment block can be added, and descriptions of a code block or procedure and its function added. Dragging the comment to a particular section of the code visually links it. Thanks to J, this tool has now been added to my session plans for phase 3 next week, when students will be asked to create screen shots of their game projects and to annotate them to support our APP process. Loving this...never too old to learn something new.

    The challenge in creating these procedures lies in the fact that some code blocks, require combining blocks from different areas eg using a control block with a sensing block, to create the forever if touching shuttle command, or combining a motion block with an operator to construct the point in direction or turn clockwise something degrees command.

    The students were really excited about the outcomes, and enjoyed playing each other's games and adding the score variable made a real difference to the feel of what they had created.

    The possible extension I mentioned earlier relates to the Soccer World Cup coming up in South Africa.  It could be fun with the scripting now done to import photographs of players to scratch and then edit these to include as the "bat" sprite.  How many times can "Rooney" keep up the ball.  Perhaps the head only of the character could be added to a painted sprite with feet and head, allowing use of both to be used in the game?  What might a keepy up game look like if it were an animal or intergalactic cup?  What might be used for a ball? What if our favourite players were practicing in the kitchen or our school classroom before a match? What might they use to play keepy uppy with.

    Hope this is useful.  Have fun.  If you use this with your students or any other creative ideas inspire you around this post please share these through comments.  Thank you for reading.

      Riddle Me Ree! What a Difference a Name Makes.

      Floor Turtles and Procedures..  Or Riddle me Rees?

      I 've been working on an iterative unit of learning with some of our Lower Phase 2 students this term, that seeks to build on their previous work using Beebots.   The unit has focussed on
      • routes
      • giving and following instructions
      • developing procedures
      • and prediction and reasoning about shape, space and measure
      while drawing on creative and imaginative work evolving through ongoing activities in class.

      There is enormous potential for cross curricular activity using control based activity within the primary curriculum to engage with the concept of routes and navigation.  Younger students have enjoyed creating games based on programming the Beebot to navigate mazes, collect and sequence objects, moving the floor turtle from point a to point b with as few breaks in the programming structure as possible.  Moving to the Probot should not be that different it seems to me.  The process of inputting procedures may be new with the addition of a numerical keypad, but the type of game or activity can remain quite similar.

      The students are currently engaged with a theme about Pirates... They are excited and stimulated by treasure maps (several making, designing and then aging these at home with their parents), huge wooden sailing ships, and the writing and using of riddles and clues, but one key tool was missing two weeks ago that would truly aid a successful pirate in navigating his/her ship, and unravelling and following the clues left for them.

      In my first session with the students I decided to create floor compasses with them. What self respecting pirate would head out on treacherous seas and high adventure without one. This was an entirely give and go session
      • modelling how to use the Probot
      • inputting instructions with the keypad
      • how to clear memory when we had finished
      • use of the pen holder as a means to record outputs from the probot
      • observing input and output in action.  
      This took a little longer than expected, creating the skeleton for the compass rose with the probot and pen was fairly straightforward, but the additional measuring and drawing tasks needed to create the rose from the skeleton were quite a challenge for the group.  Persevering and extending the session to allow for additional support, taking students out in small groups to complete the task however really paid off in terms of the student satisfaction and pleasure at their completed outcomes, and the discussion that evolved.  The students were asked to choose  3 colours with which to decorate their compass, and as they worked to identify the shapes and patterns they were creating within the rose.
      • What shapes could they see?
      • How many of each shape (triangles and quadrilaterals) could they find?
      • What was special about the shapes that touched?
      • Could they see any lines of symmetry within the shape?
      • Could they label the cardinal points of the compass?
      • What might be the names of the points in between? 
      The completed compass roses have been trimmed, mounted and displayed as part of ongoing classroom work.  

      During Literacy sessions the students have been working on writing riddles and solving clues.  To consolidate and link to this I decided to create some riddles that the Probot could be used to solve.  This would allow the students
      • to practice input independently, 
      • and to observe output.   
      Each group was given a support sheet containing a series of "riddles," procedures, that when the Probot was programmed would result in the pen tracing particular shapes on large sheets of paper.  I hoped that the students would enjoy the task, but was not expecting the excitement that followed.  Changing the name of the task to "Riddle Me Ree, What can I be?" and adding the idea that this was "Pirate Challenge" that we needed to work on as a "Crew" really motivated the group. They wanted to be first to finish, but when pointed to the idea that finishing first was less important than accuracy in following clues they worked hard to organise themselves
      • Taking Turns to enter inputs
      • Checking that inputs were accurate, 
      • Correct where mistakes had been made, sometimes this involved deleting the whole procedure and beginning again, and for some groups who had spotted you could navigate the menu, only removing parts that were incorrect and correcting them.
      The students were initially surprised by the idea that these instructions could produce recognisable shapes, but this further motivated them to see what the next procedure would produce.  Working with each group I encouraged them to look at what they were entering into the key pad, and the outcomes they had developed.  Could they predict what shape their next riddles might produce.

      eg You had four sets of  fd 10 rt 90 this had produced a square.
           You had three sets of fd 10 rt 120 this produced a ?
           What might 6 sets of fd 10 rt 60 make?

      The final riddles included repeat procedures, and the students had not had these explained to them, either what they were, or how to input these to the keypad.  This challenge was theirs, could they figure this out for themselves.  Several of the groups had few problems, but I have to admit to not actually explaining the how to any of the groups I worked with, yet they all managed to find out how for themselves, seeking help from others when they got stuck, another winner in this session.

      To complete the challenge the students had to label the shapes with their names and add the riddle that had lead to the creation of the shape.  These too are ready for display, perhaps in the ICT space.  I realy like this activity and intend to adapt it when I begin using LOGO next term with Years 4 and 5.

      This week the students began creating treasure island maps on large sheets of paper.  On these the students have again been encouraged to draw on their classroom work, to add mysterious and hazardous places with strange and spooky names.  I really want the students to add 10cm x 10 cm grids to these maps, though they may need some help with this reflecting on experiences with the floor compass, before using their floor compasses, their developing knowledge of input and output with the probot, their experiences of writing riddles and using my clues to create written directions to the mystery location of the treasure.  These will then be tested and evaluated by other students who will be challenged to use these clues to find where an imaginary X marks the spot.  Hopefully the students will be as excited and motivated by this challenge as they have been by the others.


      Making and playing Computer Games With Scratch: Embedding Games to Share

      This post is jumping ahead slightly, since most of my students are still involved in the design and make stages of the process, however one or two have begun to ask, how they can share their games when finished.

      After a search around I came across this solution in the Scratch Forums, and as I talk my way through the process for myself I hope that the content here will be useful for others.  One of my main reasons for looking into this was the evaluation process, within AF1 of phase 3 units of work, and wanting to make available outcomes created by students for peer assessment and review.  The obvious thing to do was to place finished games on the VLE or to encourage students to upload content to a wiki, and use commenting as a way of feeding back.

      The VLE with the above solution has been a no go, even with absolute link locations copied and pasted to seperately uploaded html pages, the VLE (Fronter) seems unable to deliver the content. Perhaps this ia an issue with the way files are stored or access rights managed within the platform, either way the html pages will open, but the same error message appears afterward, about being unable to locate the file, regardless of attempts to redirect file locations and so on.  I'm sure someone will be able to help, and I would be grateful for any comments that lead me toward resolving this.  I guess I also need to contact my colleagues at Fronter, to get their take on this, and to discuss this with our Primary VLE colleagues at ITs Learning, when we meet this week.

      SO! to the work around!

      For the time being I have opted instead to create a web folder on our web server, to add the game files and applets to this space and then to use hyperlinks from within the VLE or from the school website to enable access to and sharing of these outcomes of learning.  So how did this work?

      First of all on my local machine/school laptop I created a folder called "scratch_games" and into this have copied completed student game (scratch) files.  These have been renamed to exclude capital lettersextraneous characters - the students for some reason insist on adding - and spaces.  They have been reduced to a common format eg

      • where si is the student's name
      • pacman is the game
      • .sb is the scratch file extension.
      Into this folder I have also placed one copy of each of the java applets downloaded from the site above

      • ScratchApplet.jar
      For each game a separate html file has also been created, also using the naming convention above but saved with a file extension .htm eg si_packman.htm

      The html files were created using this file template using code copied from the above site to a notepad document, that was then edited as follows.

      Using save as, selecting all files from the file type drop down, these were then saved in the file convention outlined above eg si_gamename.htm

      A home page or index file is the next step, created within the Pacman Project folder with individual hyperlinks to each game.  Though I will probably play with this idea a little if the embed code works here so that each game is accessible within a single project page.

      The "Pacman" folder containing all scratch files, java applets and html files were then uploaded to the school's web server clicking the following hyperlinks will allow you to see examples of how the games currently appear in individual html files.  Clcikcing the green flag will start the games, and use of the arrow keys will allow the games to be played.

      Unfortunately, for the time being at least, I am unable to embed the applet to run directly in my blog, but this is my next challenge.  I am sure there is tweak out there somewhere, something I am missing, and am hopeful that either another "blogger" user can help and leap to my rescue with this particular platform, or that some of my other more experienced visitors can help overcome the wider issue.  I hope this makes sense is useful.  I look forward to any comments, and thoughts from visitors.  Thank you in advance. :o)

      An Additional line of thought from a colleague

      After Posting at the weekend, I was contacted through comments about an additional means I could try to run the student's scratch games.  The above process still applies and is required for this idea and tool to work.  Having created the folder, added the scratch files themselves and created an html page for each file using the code above, these are then uploaded to the host web space as outlined above. Next an iframe within the new page.  Here is the code that I used in blogger...

      The file linked to above should be saved as is, and maintained as a text file, however changing the url and then saving the file makes it a template to be copied and pasted with minor editing needed to point the frame at what you want inside it.  Eg in the case of my iframe above the individual student games and so, all I needed to edit after copying and pasting was the html file name, in blue above.

      As of yet I have not tried this out in the VLE, but this is something to move onto next. Have a play and see how you get on.

      Scratch Embed Trial

      This is a trial space as I explore embedding some of my student's Scratch Games into web spaces for sharing.  Currently the scratch Applet is running fine within individual pages created for each game and placed on the school web server  These can be accessed via the hyperlinks if you'd like a look.

      The Applet itself is opening in my blog using the same embed code, but can't currently access the game files to run them.  Pondering whether this might be a firewall issue as files hosted on LA web Space!?  Any thoughts?

      Thanks in advance! :0)

      Building on comments from Sam R I have added an iframe linked to J's Frog Eating Thing.  This seems to have done the trick on Blogger as you can see below. The iframe links back to the holding page uploaded to the school web server, perhaps this is the solution to my other problems, will check this out, and update blog later with process.  Thanks to Sam R for all your help with this :o)


      Making and Playing Computer Games With Scratch Episode 1

      A while back I found myself downloading and playing with scratch, considering it as a possible tool to complement work I was already doing with Phase 2 students around Shape and Space and LOGO.  With a move to work with Phase 3 students I have been "encouraged" into the slightly steeper learning curve of using Scratch as a programming platform in its wider sense, resulting this term in a series of sessions exploring arcade games and working with students to use the tool as a basis for designing, making and evaluating one or two of our own.  I have decided however, as an offshoot of this and to support my personal professional learning to use some of the materials from Phase 3 sessions with my phase 2 ICT club as well, and to see how they got on.  Our first session worked really well, and I was impressed at how creative some of the younger students were with the basic scripts in hand.

      The first Session involved students familiarising themselves with the layout of the tool's interface.  Following given instructions and scripts to bring about increasingly complex animation effects. Within the session students used the default "sprite" initially and blocks from the control, motion and looks scripts areas only to bring about 3 different types of animation.
      • Activity one bringing about movement as a flip in position using an on mouse click event.
      • Activity two bringing about continuous movement of the sprite from one side of the stage to another, with an image swap to add interest to the sprite's actions and a change of direction when it reached the edge of the screen.
      • Activity 3 using four separate scripts, that on click or use of a keystroke would allow user control of the sprite to move it around the stage using the up, down, left and right keys on the keyboard.
       Within the session the following scripts were were provided for students to use.

      Activity 1
      As the students worked with the above script they discovered that the sprite didn't simply flip, but rather rotated as it changed direction.  The students were encouraged therefore to explore what would happen if... they changed the settings of the motion buttons highlighted in the image above.  Could they
      • make the sprite mirror as it turned
      • stand on its head 
      • step forward and back?

      Activity 2

      Running this script, the sprite walks back and forward across the stage when the green flag is clicked, its moevement repeated because of the forever loop until the red stop button is pressed.  Again in running this script students were asked to explore the effects of changing the position of the motion buttons, but in addition to explore what would happen if we altered some of the variables in the motion blocks.
      • Could we slow down the sprite?  
      • Could we speed it up?  
      • Could we make the sprite's speed vary so during some parts of the routine the sprite seemed to be moving faster than at others?  
      • How did our changes effect the way he/she looked as they moved?  

      What would happen if...

      we changed the green flag header block for the

      "when [something] key pressed,"

      or "when sprite clicked"

      header blocks.

      Activity 3

      Here students were encouraged to recreate a script that would enable them to control the sprite using the arrow keys, so that for example when the right arrow key is pressed and held down the sprite walks towards the right side of the stage. This example with the addition of a cap block will bring about movement towards the bottom of the stage by the sprite when the down arrow key is pressed.

      Having completed one of the scripts the students were shown how to duplicate it and then how to edit the values according to given models values in the images below.  The addition of green flag caps to the procedures, meant that on clicking the green flag the program would run, allowing the students to control the sprite's movement across the stage in the up. down, left and right directions.  In effect they could take the sprite for a walk.

      These were then tested to ensure that they worked, and then further edited if need be to correct them.

      To engage the students in evaluating this Focussed Practical Task, they were asked...  If we were making a computer game of our own...
      How might this set of procedures be useful
      Where might we use them, and what might be happening in our game?
      Following discussion several familiar gaming type scenarios arose
      • Perhaps we might want to move our character around a room, perhaps colecting things.
      • Perhaps we might want to move our character around a maze.
      What seemed to excite the students most however was that they now had a working model that they could explore and play with, and this lead to our extension activity... 


      Having copied the scripts and set a scene where the sprite could be moved with the keyboard the students now wanted to play with what they had done..
      • Could they change the sprite or character they were animating?
      • Could they set a scene for the character or sprites actions to happen in?
      With the model in place the students 
        • explored importing new sprites to replace the cat. 
        • investigating how they could get their new sprite to follow the instructions they created for the cat.
        • Adding an extra sprite and having it move using one of our earlier scripts at the same time as the original sprite.
        • Editing, recolouring and changing the sprites they had imported.
        • Importing image backgrounds from collection or from the web as well as creating background images  providing context to the action.
        The session created a great deal of excitement and raised towards the end an important question we need to address if we are to make a game of our own such as.. 
        • How do we get the characters to do things when they meet or bump into each other?  
        • How do we get sprites to interact with each other?..

        This seems right now a good place to stop.. As it was with the students... Leaving them with a cliff hanger and waning more next time, when I have promised them with this as the prerequisite scene setter, that during our next set of activities involving the use of "sensing blocks,"  we wil be creating a very simple game a "keepy uppy type" game.  This will involve creating a "paddle" and "bouncing ball" the first steps in creating our own versions of "breakout."  Hope you drop by for our next installment.


        Email Consequences: Virtual Snowballing collecting ideas and framing ideas for writing.

        Over the last few weeks I have been working with our older Phase two students, reintroducing our Netbooks, how to access the Network and VLE from the classroom, laying foundations for next term when I am intending to have a big push on their use in classrooms through a data handling project.

        The students as I mentioned in a previous post have been blogging and leaving comments on posts while writing journal and diary type entries about recent events in school including a school journey.  They have also been using file storage spaces and learning how to upload images and files in order to add them to online work, or access them in ongoing projects both in and away from school.

        This week a change of tack and a revisit to using our email accounts.  I wanted to practice primarily entry of email addresses, and use of the reply to and forward processes choosing to do this in the context of writing a collaborative story plot and as the basis for this, a variation on the game consequences to get us going.  The students worked in pairs, each pair linked with another somewhere else in the classroom.  The students knew who they were working with, but were separated physically by distance.  It took a little while to get the task off the ground so to speak, something new and slightly unfamiliar often leaves them a little wobbly, but once in the swing of things the lesson soon took off.

        So what did we do?  How did this snowballing thing work?

        I began simply with an opening idea..
        " two characters meet somewhere, who were they and where did they meet?" The students had a time limit of 5 minutes discussion and writing time before the "opener" was forwarded to the partner pair.

        "Something happened?  What took place?" With a click of the reply button, the students had 2 minutes to share the opener and a further 5 minutes discussion and writing time before sending to their partner.

        "suddenly...." as above.

        " how did the characters react?" repeat.

        "what happened as a result?" and so on

        By the end of the activity the students had in their inboxes the skeletons of two bizarre tales for each pair.
        Comments from the session review included

        • " I really enjoyed it because we worked together and we could use each others ideas."
        • " I was worried I would get it wrong but some of the things people wrote were really funny and it was fun."
        • "I liked having different steps to follow"
        • "I thought we were going to send our work to everyone at the start, it would have taken ages, but working in pairs was really good because I got ideas from other people to help me."

        At first some of the group were a little resistant to the pace of the activity, the time limited nature of each step in the process or game leading to comments about not being finished.  So it was interesting to hear how during their reviews the adult lead, stop/send/start process "the different steps to follow," featured so highly in the things the students liked about the session, providing security and scaffolding but also pace and movement to the activity. Within the group there are one or two boys I know who often say they don't know what to write.  So again it was interesting to hear one or two of these ask if we were going to do this again next week.

        Reflecting on the task as a collect and store process. I am wondering how a slight change could help students get into a "writing frame" of mind.  Making a start is often a problem for some students, we immerse them in the genre, we box up the structure of the text together, provide writing frames, but still that barrier can remain. Even with a structure how do I get started. The huge white mass, however we partition or divide it up can still be a put off.

        The class teacher came up with the idea that having seen the children work she might like to use the process to help the class get started with their writing of myths and legends next term.  Perhaps presenting the task as a writing game, following or to support the box up or planning process. Key elements of the text type could be used to organise the teacher lead "consequences idea."  Working in pairs of pairs the students could be involved in discussion and use the email game to engage the students in short burst writes leading to a skeletal story structure as an outcome, getting down the key ideas.  The students could then choose from the plots that they have to be copied and pasted to a wordprocessor, where they would be encouraged to develop and reshape the ideas they had collected together to shape their outcomes.  Nice idea and look forward to writing later about how this pans out.


        Header Images, Wordle, Wikipaedia and Image Search: 2

        Over the weekend I waxed a little around a project I had begun with my ICT club.  We used Wordle, Wikipaedia and Google image search as tools in the collect and store phase of a web page header or banner project.  This week the students engaged with the prepare and share phase, completing some of the banners they are hoping to see exhibited on the school website and class blogs, as devices that will add to the house style while individualizing each class page in school.

        I decided to use MS paint in the end since this is a tool the students were already familiar with, and thought I'd share one or two of the outcomes here.  The students are really pleased with them, and actually for a first attempt by them at something like this I think they are very cool.  Looking at the objects it is interesting how even beginning with the same tools, playfulness and freedom to select final outcomes for display has lead to a deal of creative variation.  I hope you enjoy.

        Woodpecker Class Y 4 Student

        Dove Class Y4 Student

        Hawks Y5 Student

        Kestrels Y4 Student


        My Digital Wish

        I was pointed to this widget maker from the Digizen website by one of my students recently.  Its an interesting tool and one I think I'd like to use to indroduce and support discussions around what it might mean to be a global as well as a cyber citizen.  Rather than an outcome though I was wondering how it might function as a starting point for work with students.  As an embeddable device, this widget, by copying the embed code can be inserted quite easily by many students to their personal blog spaces.  This has lead me to wonder how I might use the widget maker with the support of VLE based student blogs and commenting to share and explore our thoughts and values.

        This week my Y4 and 5 groups have been using their blog spaces to write about and share their experiences from a school journey. As part of the session plenary students were asked to visit each other's blog spaces and to read what had been said.  They were then asked to leave a simple comment on each of the posts they read
        1. about something they liked about the post, perhaps how the text was presented, how they had enjoyed a particular part of the journey mentioned too, or focussing in on the literacy aspect of the presentation and perhaps the way the author had used particular words or phrases and why they liked them.
        2. to suggest one thing that they might do if they were the author to improve what they had read.

        I was interested to see how unprompted some students had begun to take part in short conversations as they worked.  Replying to comments left.  This notion of commenting as a conversation has left me wondering about the possibility and potential for using short outcome based tasks such as this as a way to promote online discussion, and  using commenting around the text free post itself as the vehicle to drive the central learning outcome for blogging activities.

        Previously I have used discussion widgets to promote this type of activity, collecting student views around particular issues allowing chained and direct comments to be made that are visible to all. I am wondering about how allowing space for students to select from a limited menu of options such as that provided by the digizen widget maker, embedding the completed object to a blog post before initially providing students with particular spaces to visit and comment might be an interesting way to develop learning conversations through commenting.

        Following the process the students have begun, perhaps they could find something as digizens they share with the author.  Being limited to choose a particular number of items from the provided list need not mean they they do not share ideas presented in other digizens displayed.  To break the ice and start the conversation they could ask questions about one or some of the choices that the blog author has made seeking responses and to identify what choices made by the author mean to them.

        As a starting pont for work combining citizenship, literacy and ICT this could be an interesting stimulus for a longer term piece of Persuasive or Discursive Writing, the notion of an ideal world or a starting point to ground and discuss the many changes that are going on around us right now and how we see them.  I am sure there would be much disagreement about some of the more personalised possibilities, but this would provide opportunities for students not only to express their "wldest ideas" but perhaps more importantly to be asked to explain, explore and express their reasoning behind them opening up space to debate and see more than one side to the argument, while identifying some of the shades of grey.  As a collect and store process the blog comments also could form a useful resource as the presentation of a wide collection of modelled thoughts and opinions to be drawn upon in later writing, reading and speaking and listening activities.  Something to further pondered.

        Feedback and review: A chance encounter between WALT, WILF and Google?

        Recently with my phase 3 groups I have begun thinking about the self and peer review process as an area for development in my classroom practice.  I know this will be a key process if  students are to take ownership of their learning in ICT. I am also accutely aware of the need to monitor and review this, to collate evidence of oucome and to scaffold and support students as we develop this aspect of classroom work. One of our ongoing plenary activities among classroom discussion has involved using a prepared evaluation grid, that requires students with reference to session WALTs and WILFS  to comment on and set next steps based on learning during the session.  In reviewing these however I have frequently found students commenting on things that were not the "focus" of the session, but that were incidental to and emerged or developed out of the tasks as we worked.  These comments often refered to practical key skills, as opposed to the process skills that often surround session tasks.  Unpicking my WALTS and WILFS alongside these reviews I began to see the need to explicitly identify and review these skills, some of which were assumed and incidental  within the WALT for each session.  This is where my use of Google Forms has begun to take shape.

        I have begun to explore and use Group Google Spreadsheets relating to units of work we are involved in and which collate response to I can statements around the activities we are developing.  From these I have also generated multiple choice forms, using radio buttons and a red, amber, green system against which students can begin to evaluate their own  performance.  At the top of the form is a text box where the student enters their name, and at the bottom a further 2 text fields allowing the student to free enter comments on what they feel they have enjoyed or learned that has not been included in the "quiz" and a space to enter a target.  To ensure completion before submission each field has also been marked as a "required field."  Once set up a hyperlink to the Google Form is then added to relevant pages in Class Learning Paths on the VLE.  Students are encouraged to complete the form and then submit it. Submision results, including free text  responses, are automatically added to relevant cells in the Google spreadsheet associated with it. In addition a time and date stamp are provided to show when the form was completed.

        The Google Spreadsheet attached to each form has also been conditionally formatted, so that as data arrives from the students the spreadsheet shows me at a glance through colour coding what the student responses have been.  Green colours a cell green, Amber colours a cell amber and so on.  At a glance I can also pick out patterns or areas to develop and revisit,  eg red either still needs to be taught explicitly or is poorly understood, and Amber needs to be revisited to secure, hopefully green can be assumed and consolidated.  Students text responses are sent to the relevant cell in the spreadsheet to for review later. The Spreadsheet file can then either be downloaded and saved in an appropriate file format for editing locally, or can be printed directly from Google for inclusion in the class evience file.

        This obviously cannot stand alone, however as a possible ARR tool and part of my evolving APP and AfL process this curently seems potentially powerful to me
        • Allowing students at the start of a unit to see where we are going and what we need to learn next term and before the unit begins
        • Carried out as a survey before a unit of work commencesperhaps it may be useful in establishing a common starting point for skills based work with the students in particular groups, and supporting differentiation/extension and progression
        • Carried out at the mid point working in pairs or with learning buddies alongside works in progress and revisiting at the end of a unit may also allow plotting of progression, support review of ongoing learning targets by the students, and the possibility of using these tools to support teacher student learning conversations. 
         I would be really interested to hear any suggestions or thoughts from colleagues, in both Key Stage 2 and 3 around my reflections and thoughts here.  Thanks in anticpation.


        Header Images, Wordle, Wikipaedia and Image Search

        Having spent most of this week culling the content of the current Primary Phase website, I began pondering a simple way in which students could be involved in supporting the development of the site theme.  Primary Phase classes are named after birds, and within the learning communities section of our website I want first of all to create a gallery section  for each class that will enable outcomes and processes behind longer projects, ICT tasks and digital works to be displayed, as well as providing spaces that students and colleagues can update themselves.  The intention of the latter is that colleagues and students take greater responsibility and ownership of the content we publish, reducing the expectation that one person maintain the entire space, which has been the historical context.  To this end the galleries for the time being at least will remain as standard web pages, locally developed and then updated by FTP, while each class will be provided with a blog space.  I hope to create an aggregated feed for these allowing updates to be fed to the site's home page.  However the subject of today's post is not this but a simple project I began this week to create class header images.

        I began the process with my ICT club on Thursday, as we worked through the collect and store phase of the project.

        Step 1 of the project was to collect and store from a Google Image search a number of graphics representing class birds.

        Step 2 was to open an instance of Wordle in their web browser and to open a second tab where they accessed Google.  Students were encouraged to choose a class bird from the school list and then to search for information about their chosen bird.

        Step 3 and the next phase of the creative process was a copy and paste task, transferring text from the web pages that contained relevant factual information about their bird to the create "text box" in their Wordle tab.

        Step 4 involved the create button, and time spent manipulating the resulting word clouds until they liked the outcome they had developed and discussing the appearance.  Why were the words presented in different sizes?  What were the key and most common words?  What did they tell us about our bird?  Within the creation process students could change font and layout, with the only real limitation that the word clouds as a group should have a consistent colour scheme.  ( I have to admit to not being overly successful or persuasive in this matter, so we will have to wait and see how this pans out in the longer term, but such is the creative process and who knows!)

        Step 5 Students placed their finished Wordle central to the browser window and rather than saving it, we used the print screen key to copy the browser window and then pasted this to Photofiltre, where we cropped our images and saved them for use later.

        Our next step will be the prepare and share phase, involving provision of a blank header frame, and the use of either Photofiltre or Microsoft Paint to combine elements, the class bird we have collected with its Wordle.  Yes I know... Microsoft Paint again... but it is quite interesting what can be achieved with this tool.  Using more than one instance, images can be copied from one and pasted to another containing the template or frame and then resized within their selection boxes and moved around the canvas before deselecting and releasing them to the background.  The above sample in fact was created in just this way. Using Photofiltre the images can be opened and then resized or scaled before copying and pasting for placement in a prepared template of a standard size, for placement in the completed web pages.

        To finish the project students will be encouraged to export their finished header images as .jpg files and to upload them to a shared space on the VLE.  From here they can be added to the website's image folder and also added to class pages on the VLE.  Once on the web server and included in class gallery pages they will also have a URL enabling them to be included as header images in class blogs.  Though I am still in two minds about which tool I will finally use with the group to compose the final images, I hope that the students will begin to identify with the website through their creative ownership of static page elements such as the headers, and with the inclusion of these objects and ongoing online activity through blogging in the VLE take a proactive role in developing class ownership of the blog spaces to be provided and also including their designs.


        ICT CPD 4 Free A new web based resource from NAACE

        Passionate about ICT and how it can be used to support and enhance learning across the curriculum then perhaps these online courses Launched by NAACE at BETT this week will be of interest to you.