Bev's adventures in ICT

Over the bank holiday weekend I made the five and a half hour trek from Pembrokeshire to Yorkshire to be involved in what ended up being the most enjoyable educational themed event I’ve ever been to: CampEd12. I can’t even put into words what ultimately made it so wonderful, I just know I spent the whole time with a smile on my face. What began as a little fun chat on twitter turned into a truly magical experience for all involved, and fo that thanks have to go to the terrific trio of Dughall, Bill and Helen. Pulling the event off was quite an achievement – well done guys!

So…let’s start with day 1. We were a bit late arriving to the actual camp site, so missed the introduction, and a lot of the earlier arrivals were out doing things already, but this didn’t really matter. I was met with one smiling face after another: James Langley and his geocaching crew, Penny Patterson, who leapt upon the opportunity to photograph my hair (this, I found out later, was something to do with Mission Explore), the blooming Helen and her family, an assortment of smiling, excited children and, finally, Kevin McLaughlin, his partner and his gorgeous baby girl. After the art equipment for Saturday’s activities had been unpacked and the guitar had been brought in ready for the evening’s sing song sesh, it was time for a mug of tea and a chat. My son, Matty, sat himself on a nice comfy bale of straw and got out his sketch book while Kevin’s little one had a bit of fun with the iPad. She tried out a few different apps but her favourite was definitely Draw Stars! Actually I was slightly overstating it when I said Kevin’s tot was trying out apps: it was more a case of us showing her apps and encouraging her to interact, which she did with varying degrees of success. What she really wanted to do though was turn the iPad over to see if she could work out where the twinkly noises were coming from! Anyhoo – it was great fun.

Eventually a few more people started to arrive and more chatting ensued. I had a great discussion with Vicki McCormick about apps that would work in a Foundation classroom and then, after what seemed hardly any time at all, we all decamped to the local to watch the FA Cup final. To be fair not a lot of football watching was done – we were having way too much fun chatting about other stuff! After the football (who won? what was the score?) it was back down ‘the hill’ (this blog post explains all about the significance of ‘the hill’) for a bbq and the aforementioned sing song sesh, as organised by the fabulous Dan Bowen, who showed unbelievable patience with us people pretending to be guitarists (okay – that would just be me). I believe all genres were covered (ish) by our little band although we did suffer the blow of ace guitarist TeaKayB leaving to set up his telescope (yes, that’s right, we even had night time activities). Despite this the band carried on and we’re ‘bulked up’ by the addition of a percussion section (mainly Tony Parkin with assistance from others), the additional vocal oomph of Alex Bellars and assorted backing singers. The band also managed to encompass all age groups: from the under tens to the previously mentioned Mr Parkin (now known as ‘the old bloke’ – more of that later). As we were among the group that were not camping the end of the night involved another trip up ‘the hill’ to get back to the warmth of the b&b: some people were far braver and camped on site. I salute you all!

And so to day 2. Matty was keen to try out geocaching while I set up and organised the art activities in the barn so he set off with Susan Banister, Penny and Tony in what I believe was a dream team scenario. Matty has never been good with names and later returned to tell me he’d had a great time with my friend with brown hair (Susan), the nice lady with white hair (that’ll be Penny) and the old bloke! The choice of activities was quite diverse: day two included den building, moor walking, football fun, paper folding, science activities, daytime astronomy in addition to the art and geocaching already mentioned! This was where I realised that running a session meant I missed out on trying out a few new things – something I’ll bear in mind next time ;). The main art activity was tissue paper painting but there was plenty of sugar paper and other resources available for younger children to just have messy fun with  as well (and that they did) – it was definitely an equal opportunities workshop!   The finished artwork was amazing – there was a little bit of everything and many finished images were inspired by the landscape, including the one below (an amazing piece created by Alex). It must be said that all the pictures were special in their own way. A particular mention must go to Steve Bunce’s rainbow stripe picture which many felt paid homage to Tony Parkin’s 80’s style jumper from the night before (I’ll let you make up your own mind…).

Day two finished with the ‘official dinner': lovely food and great company (Matty particularly enjoyed spending time with fellow Red Dwarf fan TeaKayB and  Emma) with much reflection on the events of the past two days. Plans were hatched, friendships were forged and ideas were swapped but the general feeling was the sort of warm fuzzy glow that can only come from spending time with people who are all pulling together to make something happen. It does your soul good to be part of something that is inspirational and it was wonderful how everyone just got along and made the magic happen. A big thank you must go out to everyone involved for making Matty (who is usually quite shy and quiet) feel part of things: he really got a lot out of the weekend and cheerfully talked with anyone who cared to spend a bit of time with him.

The weekend ended with emotional goodbyes, lots of ideas and the packing of cars. As everyone set off to their various home destinations we were already thinking about the next steps. If I could bottle the atmosphere of the whole weekend and take it with me everywhere I would. That has to be the mark of something very special.

This Sporting Life

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There are so many things going on this year – it’s difficult to keep up!!! This summer’s Olympics must rate pretty highly though and it gives so many opportunities for learning. Here are a few ideas that might inspire you to try something new or different in your classroom.

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Now I love Google Sketchup. It’s one of those programs that the children can grab hold of and just run with. What’s even better is that there are plenty of tutorials available for using it – just check out You Tube! And what better way to use it than to get pupils to design an Olympic village, sports facility or stadium? Or, if you’re trying to inspire your pupils to write, get them to design one of the above and then write instructions on how to do it for other pupils to follow. Genius.

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Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to get to the Olympic site. But you can take an aerial tour of what it looked like while being constructed. Tours from above is a great idea and contains many other useful aerial tours you could use in the classroom – perfect for those times when you want to whisk your class away to somewhere different.

The statistical data that gets thrown at you during big sporting events makes them perfect for linking to maths. Why not think about introducing some games based learning? Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games would be perfect for this and has already been used in classrooms for this very purpose. I know a number of educators have developed ideas for using this, including the ever wonderful Steve Bunce, so why not give it a whirl?

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Obviously there are so many more ideas that could be mentioned. There are numerous videos of past Olympic events that could be used to inspire pupils to write or as discussion points in the classroom. There are a whole load of links on the Project Britain and BBC sites that could be very useful. I’ve created an ICT challenge pack for UKS2, that includes PowerPoint templates and other bits and pieces. You could create news items, based on past Olympics using the BBC On This Day, as used here or design your own sporting outfits. Whatever you choose – I’m sure it will be fab!

 

A New Direction

Well, hello. It’s been quite a while since my last blog post, and with good reason. Last year I changed my job; no longer am I school based. These days I work at TES, devoting time to finding and creating quality resources that support pupils with SEN. I still, however, like to keep up to date on what is happening in education and spend time exploring lots of web based ideas I think might be interesting and I thought, what with today being the 29th February and therefore a little special, I’d share a few new finds an old favourites. All these sites have some link to inclusion (even when it’s not obvious – I will explain) and all of them are free to use. So here we go – a special top ten for a special day! Hopefully there’s something for everyone here.

1. Doorway Online: I love this site. I cannot stress how useful it is for so many reasons! All the activities on here have been created with inclusion in mind and would be useful across a number of different settings. All the activities have a clear font and an uncluttered layout. It’s just lovely :)

2. Poisson Rouge: If you haven’t indulged it the joy of the Red Fish you really need to check it out! No instructions and some areas are undeniable French (it is a French website after all) but within the madness there are some great activities The ‘School of English‘ (the castle) is quite handy for learning vocab and other languages are supported too – making it great for MFL. In the bugs section (flower on the windowsill) there are lovely basic mouse skills activities and matching games that would be useful to use with pupils in EY or SEN settings. Everything is brightly coloured and engaging. Some items might be a little annoying (the choir is distinctly odd) but there is a wealth of usefulness within the site – both ICT skills wise and across other curriculum areas.

3. Literactive: This is one of those websites you will either love or hate. It’s free to register and you can ask to register with UK English (the site is American). I just found that the Road to Reading  section had some really useful sequencing and memory based activities that some pupils with SEN found both engaging and enjoyable. It is pitched at a young audience but the animated content in the sequencing activities and some of the more cartoony elements mean that you could use it with some slightly older pupils if you needed to.

4. Help Kidz Learn: Another website that has been created with inclusion in mind (after all – it is from the bod at Inclusive Technology), this one has lots of beautifully presented and helpful activities across a number of areas. As you would expect, the activities are switch accessible and are all aimed at a basic skill level. This doesn’t take away from the beautiful design of them and I particularly like the creative section.

5. Bembo’s Zoo: I have a real soft spot for this website. It inspired one of my first blog posts and is truly beautiful. You would need to be creative to find lots of ways to include it in your teaching (although animal and alphabet focused sessions are a given) but it’s worth exploring. Even if it is just for fun.

6. TESiboard: I was a big fan of TESiboard long before I went to work at the TES. I’m still a fan. A plethora of great interactives from, EY to KS2, that can be used in a number of ways. And, from read aloud story books to creative activities (taking in lots of great curriculum topics along the way), there is so much here that’s available to support pupils with SEN. I remember suggesting this one to a 1 to 1 TA when the class were writing about their families – she needed something quick and accessible for her charge and this did the job brilliantly!

7. ARKive: A fabulous website with so much information included it’s mind boggling. It even has a layer you can use when accessing Google Earth! Loads of video and photo content, which is fabulous quality, and supporting teaching resources and games too. I think it’s just an amazing site that you (and the children) will want to explore time and time again.

8. Qwiki: It’s not perfect but any website that allows you to search for a topic then watch a slideshow about that topic while listening to audio content (a little fast but still useful) has to be a winner. Yes, the automated voice is a little annoying (but you can control the volume and pause the slideshow/go back over things) and the images are sometimes not the most accurate (check something before you let the children loose) but the pros still outweigh the cons as far as I am concerned. It even has read along captions with the slideshow which you can turn off if you want to.

9. Dabbleboard: There always seem to be new tools appearing that can be used to support collaborative learning and thinking skills within the classroom. Dabbleboard takes elements of both and fuses them together seamlessly. You can draw. You can type. You can add shapes, arrows and lines. You can share. You can chat. You can insert pictures and documents. Truly fab.

10. Teacher LED: Lots of nice, clear activities for your IWB. Many are maths based but other areas are covered too. I really like the new Word Circle activity, mainly as it reminds me of a similar idea I had using PowerPoint. I’m also a fan of the Map Maker. Some of the maths based interactives are the best I’ve seen – just take a look for yourselves.

That time of year again…

…so much happening. Lots to do. A constant emery go round of events, or so it seems. Anyway, I thought it might be time to remind you of a few art based, ICT ideas that I’ve highlighted previously. You might be creating firework images using a suitable software package, or looking for ideas based around Children in Need, but I’m going to focus on poppy based  ideas you could link to November 11th. So here we go…

You might like to create some mosaic style images: poppies (any sort of flower really) are a particularly good subject for this – you just need to find the right images. Andrea mosaic would be my tool of choice and there’s a bit more information about that here (including a poppy themed example). You could also try your hand at one of the art activities here or maybe create a stained glass or texture style image: all fabulous ideas in their own way. But what I really thought you might like was another quick clip art tutorial showing how to make simple poppy images using Autoshapes. So that’s what you’re getting…

 

So…here goes with my second post of the day – I must be mad. I did, however, promise a few people I would share a few of my bonkers ideas for using Angry Birds as a basis for learning in the classroom. I’m sure many of you have some ideas of your own to go with this topic and I have a few friends who have already been using Angry Birds activities as a way of engaging pupils in the classroom. Now not all of these ideas are ICT based but I promised I would share them so…here we go…

First the mad part. I was sitting on the train the other day with my ipad and I saw a mum bring out some home made toys for her little one. Simple felt balls, about 6 cms across, (created as shown above) with little eyes and extras on. I thought how that would make a lovely idea for a school fete or similar and made a note of it.  Then she brought out a blue one that looked just like an Angry Bird – my mind went into overdrive. My initial idea was to get pupils to create them (or, possibly a friendly adult) and stuff them with a set weight of kapok so they could be used in maths for weighing/comparing/measuring. Maybe sort them so that the black one weighs twice as much as the red one which weights twice as much as the blue ones (if you know what I mean). After this, mind still in overdrive mode, I thought about creating a separate set of blue ones which had three mini blue ones inside – for times tables work or counting (but  I realise this might be pushing things a little too far…). Of course, if money is no object, you could always purchase a complete set of Angry Birds plush toys but I doubt many school budgets would stretch to them!

Let’s move onto my next batch of mad ideas then. After maths I moved onto science. How about using the little blighters you’ve just made for maths in a lesson on forces, complete with giant catapult. Too dangerous? Well it’s just an idea. Coming back down to earth with a bump (!!!! – sorry, couldn’t resist) why not use autoshapes, or another shape drawing program, to create your own Angry Birds? They could be as simple or complicated as you like. The one above is fairly straightforward – I bet the pupils could come up with something better. Another ICT idea I came up with involved the use of 2DIY (or maybe even 2DIY 3D if you have access to Purple Mash): creating games based on the Angry Birds story and characters. Maybe a journey game where the birds have to sneak past the pigs. Or a collection game for finding golden eggs. Again – the children are bound to come up with much better ideas.

And so to my final few ideas for today (and, I’m warning you, I have loads more): let’s link to literacy. If there are pupils who are really familiar with the game they could hone their instruction writing skills by creating walkthroughs for other children to follow. I think this would be a lovely exercise that could involve some really obvious peer assessment. I also think that the initial introduction to the game would make an interesting story starter and, if you want to get really into it, why not get pupils to storyboard and create their own game trailers, similar to the one seen here? I bet they come up with some corkers!

Well done to the bods at 2simple! They’ve just revamped their fantastic creative online space, Purple Mash, and, I have to say, it looks rather spiffing and works very well. New graphics, new menus, a lovely clear layout and an amazing array of content. If you haven’t tried it you really should: it’s inclusive, adaptable, cross curricular and a whole lot of fun. Pupils can have their own logins and save work in their own online space or to their own computer: meaning they can be creative at school and at home. Of course I’ve been a fan of Purple Mash for quite a while but, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, let’s have a look at some of the new developments.

Well, firstly, there are some nice little changes to the main menu and subsequent areas. For a start there’s the addition of links for the different educational phases, making it easier for teachers to see what content might be age and skills appropriate. As you hover over each icon a lovely, unobtrusive pop up menu explains what to expect when you click through. They’ve also included a link to the most seasonal activities, the most popular activities and their latest content. All these features make it far simpler to get find what you want which, for busy teachers or impatient pupils has to be a good thing.

One of the most anticipated developments in Purple Mash (especially among some of the pupils I know) has been the inclusion of 2DIY 3D – a fantastic maze game creator that has a cross curricular purpose while, at the same time, being a whole lot of fun. I’m not going to wax lyrical on this now (although I think it’s absolutely fantastic) as there is a fantastic post available for you to read right here that will pretty much tell you all you need to know. I will, however, say that I think this activity lends itself you finding interesting textures that can be used to create the stunning 3D landscape (as seen above). I quite like to use a site I’ve mentioned before called CG Textures and, in the above screenshot, I used a tiled sky texture to create the ‘roof’ of the activity. The walls of the maze were created using a tree image I created especially. I think I’ll probably make more elements like this and post them as a bundle at a later date. Finally, I used a picture of the grass in my garden on the floor: I was trying to get a foresty feel as the game I’m creating is linked to the fabulous children’s book ‘The Gruffalo’ and I will be posting about this some time soon. Of course games are to be played and need to be shared and 2Simple have even got this covered. Once games created with 2DIY 3D have been completed and saved there’s a ‘share’ option allowing you to link to the game or embed it in a blog post/school website. Genius!

Going back to the main menu, another addition which I think teachers will find really helpful is the new Themes section which can be accessed from the tabs across the right of the page. As more schools go down a creative curriculum route they need to be able to find resources on a given theme quickly and efficiently. This section is just the job: I counted over 30 themes available at the moment and, when you consider how often the team at 2Simple are adding new and relevant content, that’s only going to blossom and grow even more.

So there you have it: quick, initial thoughts on the revamped Purple Mash. I think it’s getting better all the time: have a look and see what you think.

Push the Button

I thought I’d give you a few pointers on using some of my favourite PowerPoint features today: action buttons, triggers and motion paths. I have often had emails or questions from people  asking how I create some of the PowerPoint activities available on Communication 4 All so I’ve created a few videos to get you started. The first one shows how I create letter and number formation PowerPoints using the ‘Magic Pencil’. To get you started on this you can download some letter images and some letter tiles in zip files. If you want to use the magic pencil image seen in the video it’s available here. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you letter formation PowerPoints!

I also use PowerPoint triggers when creating the majority of  the Self Registration PowerPoints found on Communication 4 All (those that don’t use triggers use the drag and drop macro seen here). If you want to have a play and try creating a similar activity then check out the video below. This also shows how to link to Shockwave objects into your PowerPoint and the objects I created and used are available to download: choose from the digital version, which includes the date, or the analogue version.

Finally, I’d like to share a really simple triggers activity. It’s a jigsaw reveal that’s really simple to do once you get the hang of it. This one is something that the children really enjoy on the IWB so give it a go!

 

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