Bev's adventures in ICT

Archive for December, 2009

On the 15th day of blogging…

So, we’re just about to bring 2009 to a close and looking forward to 2010. It’s been a great year for my adventures in ICT: lots of fun with free online applications and downloads, the ongoing developments from the bods at 2Simple (which leave me in constant awe and wonder!), a new blog, a club wiki, the collaborative power of Twitter, Google Maps and Docs, Etherpad (soon to be RIP but many appearing in its place), the list of high spots goes on! So I thought I’d recap a few of my favourite moments – hopefully it will bring a smile to your faces too ūüôā

Firstly I’d like to thank all the fantastic people I follow on Twitter for encouraging me to start this blog – the feedback has been amazing and I love reading everyone’s comments and ideas. I wasn’t really sure I had enough to contribute to the ever expanding use of ICT in the classroom (I know my OH would disagree) but I’m hopeful that I have¬†ignited¬†ideas and inspired ¬†some of you a little bit. It’s always nice to read a comment or see a tweet that refers to something in the blog – at least I know I’m on the right track and the help and support I have received from others has been most welcome. Thank you all!

I’ve also enjoyed using (or playing with) lots of the free tools available online or to download and fitting them into activities and planning. I’ve got a few particular favourites too: Ript – great for collecting and arranging research, Dabbleboard – collaborative brainstorming fun (plus all its alternative uses too), Mapwing, SumoPaint and so many others! Ongoing use in the fantastic range of products available from 2Simple software has also given me a huge amount of pleasure. It’s great to come across a collection of products that is so versatile and everyone enjoys using. If I’ve bored you with my ongoing waffles about the wonders of 2Paint a Picture and 2Publish+ (plus many others) well…tough! I will be boring you some more in 2010 with further ideas because I just love the stuff!! If you’re interested in finding out even more about 2Simple ideas then check out their own blog – it’s full of useful ideas and information!

I should name check a few people who have helped me along my way (with the blog and other ideas) – there are many and you all know who you are. I’d still be typing come Christmas day if I listed all of you now! Some, however, need to be properly thanked for their ongoing help and support to a relative novice. So…drum roll please… first up is Mark Warner (without whom I wouldn’t have even started tweeting or blogging): the man is full of ideas and runs a seemingly endless selection of inspirational sites (check him out if you haven’t already). I’d also like to give a special mention to the wonderful Tom Barrett for lighting a spark to get me started on creating a few curriculum linked Google Maps. So far I’ve created 3 (Pembroke Castle shapes, Amazon Rainforest and Castell Henllys) , but more are on the way (particularly linked to storytelling). ¬†Anthony Evans has also been a great inspiration for a long time – firstly through his Redbridge ICT blog and now through his work at 2Simple. He’s also the only person I have spoken to who is more obsessed with Doctor Who than I am (well – maybe) so, Anthony, I salute you. ÔĽŅFinally a couple of shout outs to a special gang of Twitter friends. Fellow¬†blogger¬†Nicola Stables (we started blogging the same week!), plus new bloggers¬†EDB35 and Simon Haughton (watch this space – they’re both going to be fab blogs that will be well worth following): you keep me going and I love¬†getting¬†your comments and feedback on ideas. Here’s to a productive 2010!!!

Poems with PicLits

If you want to have a bit of fun creating poetry with your pupils then why not try creating a PicLit? The PicLits website has a fantastic selection of high quality and unusual images that can be used to inspire writing. The website has two options: you can either use the drag and drop facility (as shown in the photo above), which has plenty of themed vocabulary for each image, or you can write in freestyle mode (this still has a few suggestions to help the children along). Some children can be very resistant to creative writing but  ICT is often a good way to get them motivated.

Start off having a general talk about poetry:it dosen’t need to involve a lot of writing so can be a good opener! ¬†Make sure you check for suitable images from the site beforehand. You could work as a large group together: initially looking at the drag and drop option but then progressing onto writing freestyle.

Think about which words could be used to describe certain parts of the image (e.g. How does the snow look? – white, powdery, fluffy etc. ¬†What can we say about the skier? He’s alone, male, brave, fearless etc.) and, if desired, note the words liked on small white boards. After creating a whole group effort ¬†split into smaller groups (of 2 or 3 pupils each) or individuals and see what the children can come up with.

To save work you can use print screen and paste the image with added text into a PowerPoint. PicLit does allow you to set up an account and save the created content and embed it into different sites but this is probably unnecessary, although it’s something that could be considered. The website has many good features although, in a perfect world, a more child friendly font in a larger size could further enhance the activity and make it more inclusive.

Thinking on this afterwards I thought it might be a good idea to create some type on PowerPoints, with similarly fabulous images or videos on the slides alongside a list of suggested¬†vocabulary, although this is still just a thought in my head at the moment. You’ll just have to watch this space!

Time for Dinner

Want a quick Christmas idea for younger pupils – what better activity than to design table mats for the¬†occasion¬†using 2Publish+?¬†Use the Borders setting to create out table mats, choosing template number 5. Then click on the¬†square¬†black arrow at the bottom of the felt pens to get to the additional tools, as these can really enhance the design and look of your table mat. Then create a repeated border design within the magnifying glass, using the fill tool to add a background colour first. A good idea is to use the fluffy cloud tool on a dark background to replicate snow: the effect looks amazing and is definitely the right choice for a snowy picture! The other details can be added using the felt tip pen tool. Of course it doesn’t have to be a snowy scene: you could create a tree using the fuzzy brush or draw other Christmas images. The important thing is to get the children to experiment with the different tools rather than just draw a design with the felt tip pens.

Onceyou are ¬†happy with the design apply it as a border. The background colour really helps the border stand out (and they look beautiful when printed off – even if I say so myself!). Then it’s time to add the text!

In the upper text box the write a Christmas greeting. Get them to change the style of font (you could also made it Bold, italic or Underlined) and the colour. You can even change individual letters, or groups of letters, into an array of different colours, which looks really eye-catching. Then ask the ¬†children to write their names in the lower text box and make changes (choosing different fonts and colours if desired). ¬†If the font appears too small (even at pt 72) you can type in a higher number (100) and the font will be automatically sized to the largest size possible. The text in both boxes looks best if centralised and then it’s¬†time¬†to draw the central image.

Again, add a background colour with the fill tool and then create a seasonal design. Again use  a selection of different tools to create designs Р the finished designs will all be different, even when some have similar elements.

Name that Tune

We all like a bit of fun at this time of year and here’s a fab activity that should go down well with younger pupils. Using 2Play, from the 2 Simple Music Toolkit, play a¬†Christmas¬†version of the old TV classic ‘Name that Tune’.

Set up the screen so that it shows the keyboard with the numbers and letters on (as above) andthen raise the keyboard and octave using the arrows at the top of the screen. I’d suggest getting your little ones to choose the vibes : I just think it sounds more Christmassy. Then show the children a line of ‘code’ on the IWB and work out together which famous Christmas tune it is. ¬†Once you’ve worked on an example together ¬†hand out some post it notes with lines of letters and numbers on. I have created ‘codes’ for 7 well known Christmas songs (including Jingle Bells).

Because the keyboard on 2Play uses both the letter ‘o’ and a zero I would make sure the numbers are coloured on the post it notes: much easier for the children to follow. Everyone needs to work on the same song at the same time. Pupils can ‘play’ the code a few times to get the hang of it and then they can record it. Once it’s recorded it they can play it back to see if they can work out which song it is.

It’s a whole load of fun! Have a go and see if you can work out the tunes posted here!

Tell me a Story

There are a number of free applications that allow pupils to log on and create mini stories or books online. These applications can really help develop creativity or can just give pupils a new perspective and ideas to carry through to their other creative work. These applications do not take very long to set up in class: just set up a free account and off you go.

The most recent and definitely the most visually appealing (in my opinion anyway) is Storybird: just sign in, choose and artist or a theme and get creating. It really is that simple. Drag your chosen art onto the page and start writing about it. The application automatically generates a front cover (although you can edit this). Storybirds can be made by an individual or can be collaborated on: maybe one child could start a story and another could finish it, or children could share ideas on a joint project. You could even work on them with children from another school (as I hope to do in the new year with my media club pupils). Finished Storybirds can be embedded into class blogs and shared ¬†with others (via email and a number of social networks). However you use it I’m sure it will enrich your classroom experiences and enthuse your pupils.

Another great free online tool, specifically developed for myths and legends work, is the E2BN Myths and Legends site which contains a fabulous free Story Creator application. With this you can choose backgrounds, add images (including uploading your own) and even add recorded sound.

Unlike the Storybird application, which I feel could be easily used by all pupils including those with SEN, the Myths and Legends Story Creator is probably best suited to those in KS2. It’s not as straightforward to use and some pupils may have difficulty understanding all the options available to them. That said, however, it is a brilliant free tool that should be utilised by teachers. Created stories can be shared with others via the Myths and Legends site.

While we’re on the subject of stories a site that I found very inspirational was Penguin books We tell stories, which contains 6 takes on different classic stories/story types. Year 3 pupils particularly enjoyed using the Fairy Tales themed one last summer but the others are all excellent and innovative in their own way. Penguin have since developed We Make Stories with schools in mind. This isn’t a free service (although you can sign up to a free trial) but might be something you feel is worthwhile in your own classroom.

All this fabulous story making stuff got me thinking. What if I wanted the children to create stories, in a style similar to Storybird, but wanted them on a specific theme relevant to what was going on in class? My initial though was to maybe contribute some art to the Storybird site but, as a stop gap while I consider this some more, I created a few Story Creator PowerPoints. They were easy enough to make: just lots of art around the edge of the slide for pupils to drag onto the background (obviously they also have the option to resize, flip, rotate etc.) and some text boxes to type into. So far I’ve created ¬†Christmas Story Maker 1 (based on the nativity), Christmas Story Maker 2 (just some Christmas fun) and a few others.

I thought that maybe one of the advantages of this method was hat the children could use the characters as a starting point but could also insert other images (from clip art or elsewhere) and change the backgrounds fi they wanted to extend the possibilities for their story. I created the On the Farm Story Maker (as seen above) thinking it could link into some of our traditional tales work at school (e.g. retelling The Little Red Hen) working from my original idea (Story Maker 1) which I created just for fun. The templates aren’t difficult to make, I made a master slide and used Ctrl+D to duplicate it, and you could link the stories to all sorts of things. I was thinking of making a few factual ones linked to humanities topics, specifically thinking of pupils with SEN but I’m sure others would enjoy using them too. I’m also going to make some linked to our Foundation Phase topics so that class teachers could use them on the IWB as a collaborative tool; maybe with a small group or the whole group. Why don’t you have a go and see what you can come up with?

The Christmas Story

It’s that time of year again. Time to go over ‘the greatest story ever told’ with children of all ages and record it in some way.¬†You can use 2Create a Story to allow pupils to record their own version of the Christmas story. I know it sounds like I enthuse about 2Simple software a lot (maybe because I do!) but it has a huge impact on the type of work younger pupils, and those with SEN, are able to create when using ICT. A quick tip I always¬†encourage children to click the edge of the frame first – it allows them to set a background colour before starting to draw and can make a big difference to their finished piece of work.

The application makes it easy to add simple effects (both visual and audio) to their stories and it’s very straight forward and¬†intuitive¬†to use if you’re already a user of other 2Simple programs.

its also a good idea to have a collection of sequencing images that could be imported into 2Publish+, using the layout setting (or other programs). The ability to copy, paste and import into this program really extends your opportunities to use it in a cross curricular  and structured way. After all, not all pupils are adept at drawing their own images in small boxes on the page (although the range of tools does give a lot of scope for this).

The final ICT based activity I want to share is a book-style PowerPoint Show with type on slides and individual word banks on each slide. This uses the same set of still images as above; I considered adding animations but felt this might be too distracting, so still images it was.

This activity is probably the most appealing choice for older pupils; I think the fact it is in PowerPoint format possibly helps it feel a little more age appropriate.. I also think that the addition of mini word banks is also key as it means pupils do not require a word mat to assist them. Try it out and see what you think.

Letters to Santa

If you’re looking for a quick Christmas theme activity to carry out with some younger children then writing a letter to Santa is always a popular option. And using 2Publish+ to complete the activity gives it a lovely personal touch.

You can start by using the borders setting on 2Publish+ to give the letter an individual twist. One of the choices available for use is the perfect letter layout, with space for the child’s address in the upper right hand corner. The thing that makes the activity is the child’s opportunity to create a beautiful custom border, particularly when you use the additional tools available. The child just draws their design in the magnifier and this is automatically added to the page when you click onto the document.

I¬†suggest you take the¬†time¬†to model some suggestions for the border on the IWB, creating the images out of basic shapes that the children can easily replicate. This can help get the creative juices flowing but I also think that a good design doesn’t need to be fiddly: showing the pupils how to add a coloured background using the fill tool (I always think it makes a difference) and some ideas using basic shapes (e.g a Christmas tree from a basic triangle) helps them appreciate how a simple design can look effective. Of course the¬†fabulous¬†range of tools help tremendously! The ‘fuzzy brush’ (well that’s what I call it anyway) gives a tree or robin an extra dimension, the ‘splash’ tool makes a beautiful instant star on the smallest setting and the cloud tool produces a great snowy or fluffy look for your snowman or¬†Santa.

Once your custom border is applied it is time to compose the letter. you could encourage the children to use a funkier font than usual and to change the colour so that it really stands out. you might like to install a few free Christmas and fun fonts to give the pupils even more scope for creativity.  You could also add any vocabulary they require to the IWB (I always use the handwriting recognition tool on ActivInspire for this, especially with younger ones).

The finished letters will look lovely and colourful when printed out and you could even print some extra ones for a special Christmas display!! All in all it is a really lovely¬†Christmassy¬†activity ūüôā