Thursday, 17 February 2011

Apps in Education

Whilst at the Learning Without Frontiers conference last month I picked up quite a long list of apps that were recommended by speakers or delegates I got chatting to.

Actually, the term 'list' makes it sound very organised. When I returned home what I found I had was a scribbled pad full of jottings, and therein was my dilemma. How best to present this information to others (and to myself in the future)? In the end I ended up simply turning it into a list on Google Docs so it could be easily passed around to other staff at the CLC and others who asked for it.

Then earlier this week I put the link on Twitter, and quite a few people got in touch to recommend other apps to be added. I really wasn't happy with the list staying as a list, and so the Apps in Education wiki was born.

The apps are sorted into subject areas, with a short description of what they do and links to their iTunes page. It's searchable and I also included a page for links to projects based around apps, aiming to inspire others to give some a try. I'm really hoping it'll flourish into an extensive resource.

If you have any apps or projects you'd like to be included, please just let me know!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Google Sketchup

Over the last two weeks I have taught my first lessons with Y6 children using Google Sketchup and looking at graphical modelling.

We began last week by exploring the tools available in the programme and learning what a lot of them do by following instructions to build a simple house. This introduced children to the idea that they can draw the floor of a shape and use the push/pull tool to make it 3D. The kids love the fact that a cuboid can have a section cut out of the side from which you can enter the shape, and proceed to walk around inside it. To make a house like mine below the children had to use the rectangle tool, push/pull tool, line tool, move tool, eraser and then discover the different styles of paint available such as bricks, cladding, roofing and translucent.

This was a very tricky first lesson for the children, they were learning brand new concepts and struggled with some of the tools, consequently getting to know the 'undo' option quite well! Once I felt the kids had understood what most of the tools would do I moved onto our task for the session.

The children were given 5 minutes to use Photo Booth to take pictures of themselves, using effects if they wished. Once they had chosen a favourite picture they dragged it to the desktop and then imported it into Sketchup. They then used the offset tool followed by the push/pull tool to build a picture frame around the image. Some went further and created a mount for their picture for a more professional look. Each picture was then saved as a component and stored in a shared folder.

Today the children were given the challenge to design their own building which would become an art gallery. They could choose how many walls the room of their gallery had, and be creative with their colour scheme. Once the building had been constructed they learnt how to import their framed pictures from last week and put together their exhibition. Some went further and created a building with more than one room and there are certainly budding architects in this class based on the designs of their roofs!

The final step of the process was to add animation, enabling us to see the art gallery exhibition through the eyes of a viewer walking up to the building, through the door and stopping to look at each photograph.

I was truly wowed by the progress the children showed this week, especially after they struggled last week. Sketchup is such a simple programme to use once you get to know the tools, and it has the power to let the children be highly creative while they learn. I was genuinely excited that a couple of kids had been exploring Sketchup at home too, I can't wait to see what they'll create next!

Has anyone else used Sketchup with primary pupils?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Creative writing with Epic Citadel

After attending the Learning Without Frontiers conference last month, in particular seeing Tim Rylands' presentation (and then discovering Porchester Junior School's work), I was inspired to use the iPad and iPod app Epic Citadel with a group of children who were aiming to improve their writing through the use of longer sentences. The class consisted of 28 year 3 children and I was lucky enough to have them for three whole afternoons over one week.

The first session was spent entirely in our function room. I had made the room as dark as I could without turning the lights off and as we only have one iPad at the city learning centre I used this in conjunction with a visualiser and our speaker system. The class could hear the evocative sounds coming from the app as they approached the darkened room, which made them instantly curious about what was going on. Along the corridor to the room I had put up my three rules for the afternoon:
1. No hands up, if you want to say something just speak aloud BUT wait for a gap
2. Copying somebody else's work is ok BUT you must always improve it by adding or improving words
3. Spelling is not important today
As the kids sat down all they could see on the screen was a brick wall, but we began to explore the city, walking by the pub, into the church, out of the city walls to the tented area and finding the archery targets. The class asked some very pertinent questions about the city and spent lots of time talking to each other about what they could see and how they could best describe it. The opportunity to copy someone else's sentence and change or add words seemed to let the kids really fly and their ideas were impressive. We put one child in the hotseat, and she did brilliantly, making up answers to the great questions that the rest of the class came up with. It was only for the last 30 minutes that I sent the kids off to write (just ideas, words or phrases about what they could hear, see, smell, touch and taste) and they didn't stop for the whole time. The opportunity to talk about their ideas before they wrote them was invaluable.

Before the second session I took about 30 different screenshots of the city and transferred them to iMovie. This meant the children could pick their favourite 5 to put into a film sequence. In pairs they then wrote their descriptions for each picture, using their idea sheets from the last lesson as prompts, and concentrating on joining sentences together with connectives. They also evaluated another pair's work, taking the opportunity to copy and improve again. This led to the final session where they recorded their sentences as voice-overs for their film, adding transitions and a credit screen to finish the look, as well as editing the Ken Burns effect to emphasise the part of the picture they were describing.

I am so pleased with the work that this year 3 class produced, and they learnt many new ICT skills without that being the main focus of the sessions. It would be great to hear from anyone else who has used Epic Citadel in their teaching too!

Legal stuff:
Portions of the materials used are ®, (tm),(mr), and/or (mc) Epic Games, Inc., and/or copyrighted works of Epic Games, Inc., in the United States of America and elsewhere. All rights reserved, Epic Games, Inc. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Epic Games, Inc

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Clicker books on film

This week a year 6 group I work with completed their Victorians mini-project, carried out over 3 afternoons. The outcome was that each pair produced their own film of a Clicker book that they created about the Victorians.

Afternoons one and two involved the children researching the topic and creating their on-screen books, with the help of Clicker's pop up word grids (great built in support especially for the EAL children in the class) and links to websites such as BBC Primary History. This enabled them to be highly independent in creating the content of their books, especially when Clicker reads each sentence aloud once the punctuation is added. Self correction at its most effective!

The final afternoon was first spent creating a clean screenshot of each page of their book. These were then added to iMovie, along with their voiceovers, transitions, music and film effects. Here's just one example of what they created...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Starting again

Ok...yes...I know...I am a rubbish blogger! 5 months after I started this blog, and I only got as far as 2 posts that I wrote in the first week!

So a New Year and a new chance to try again. I WILL be a better blogger...Before I move forward though, I'd like to take this opportunity to look back at what I achieved in 2010. My highlights were:

  • Starting my new post as the e-Learning teacher at a City Learning Centre
  • Giving Twitter a second chance and really discovering it's powers to give me such a fantastic PLN
  • Attending the Apple Teacher Institute, meeting some fantastic people and learning more than I could have hoped for
  • Developing my own skills in using Apple technology in education
  • Filtering these skills out to learners of all ages
  • Taking part in my first #ukedchat; headspinning but brilliant
  • Falling in love with, and developing lessons to improve literacy levels using Storybird
  • Instigating and developing a pilot project of WriteOnline with cohorts of Year 6 children (when no funding was available)
  • Adopting the CLC iPad
2010 moved me forward professionally in so many ways. When I look back at this time last year, as I was just beginning this job, I wasn't expecting to be forced to move on again so soon, but with the change of government came redundancies, and in April I will be leaving the CLC and starting a new position (more on that later, see how I'm planning to carry on with the blog!).

Looking ahead to what 2011 has in store:
  • Attending the Learning Without Frontiers conference, and hopefully my first TeachMeet while I'm there
  • Seeing the outcomes of my WriteOnline pilot project
  • Seeing a fantastic team of dedicated people at the CLC being forced to disperse
  • Beginning my new role
  • And who knows what else...
So there we go, what will 2011 hold in store for you?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

My new favourite tool: Skitch!

It's not often that I come across a tool that I begin using straight away, but I only discovered Skitch last Friday, and I have honestly used it every day!

Basically it's an image capture tool. You can either choose an area of your screen to copy, or take a photo from an attached webcam. What I really love about it though is the ease of which you can edit and then send your finished capture. There are options to resize, add text, arrows, shapes or freehand draw over your picture. Then the finished image can either be simply dragged to where you want to use it (I've been sending a lot of emails with images in this week!) or with one click you send it to your page where you get a variety of URL's for sharing. You can also choose which format the program saves your image as: jpg, png, tif, bmp etc

It comes from the same people who make Comic Life, which means that it is simple and intuitive to use. There is a 3 minute intro video that teaches you how to find your way around, but you won't need it.

I can see so many ways in which both teachers and learners would be able to use Skitch every day. How about taking an image of the whiteboard at the end of a shared writing session, then dropping it onto your class blog or VLE? Or using it as a quick and easy way of taking a picture of finished artwork with children annotating their thoughts over the top? It could also be used as an evaluation tool, between students or teachers.

Oh, and did I mention it's free..

Is anyone using Skitch in class already?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

What's in a name?

Blimey, what a mission naming this blog was!
The first 3 names I wanted were already taken. Predictable I suppose, but having looked at these blogs I can see that 2 are now unused, their last posts being over 3 years ago. A shame.
So, was I being too obvious in my naming? Blogger helpfully tried to suggest some alternatives that included my name, but this wasn't what I was after.
The next title I tried was available, excellent! But this made me stop and think...why had nobody else thought of this one, did it have another meaning that I was missing that would cause people to stay well clear when they saw it...? The name being available actually put me off choosing that one. It looked dull and boring.
I then chose to look for inspiration from the blogs that I read each day. Some are simple, just the author's name, others use a play on words...maybe I could try that? An unreasonable amount of time followed where I looked up quotes that I could play with, and used a rhyming dictionary for a snappy title.
So I got to thinking, does my blog title really matter? Would the title put people off reading what I have to say? And in the end I decided that no, as long as its not too daft, no-one is really going to care what my blog is called.
I hope you enjoy my posts here. I'm going to be writing mainly about the learning that takes place when I work with students when they come in to the CLC and when I go out to support learning in schools.
I'd love to know if you stopped by!