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.

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