Bev's adventures in ICT

Archive for the ‘Mind Mapping’ Category

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.

Top of the World

Firstly – an apology for the recent lack of blog posts! I can safely say that it’s been a little bit busy!! Not so long ago I was in Newcastle at the Northern Grid conference; talking about ICT and inclusion. Then last week I had a whirlwind trip to London to pick up a TES Award where I got to put on a posh frock and chat to a lot of great people, including the famous Mr Thorne of ‘Mr Thorne Does Phonics‘ fame. It was a fantastic event and everybody I came across was really lovely, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to the TES team – you guys rock! Anyway, apart from the great excitement of the TES awards I had a few things that were going on just before and then just after: namely TeachMeet ThinkBig and Reflect and Share. Here’s a short report on each.

TeachMeet ThinkBig was small but perfectly formed. Due to the change of date we managed to clash with a few other things that were on but we managed to have a great time in any case. It was fairly amazing that anyone got to take part – our network crashed at 10am that morning and was still not working properly at 3pm. We managed it though and, thanks to the team at NGFL Cymru, it got streamed as well. Because we were in a fairly informal setting we managed to forget about the camera and have quite long discussions among ourselves – I’m sorry if this spoilt anyone’s viewing pleasure but there were a few newbies there and lots of questions were asked in between presentations. We had a number of virtual presentation from some great people I’ve got to know through Twitter, including this one from Mike McSharry (which had all of the attendees scribbling notes furiously), a couple from Alessio Bernardelli (including this one on using mind mapping properly) and a fantastic presentation on thinking skills in science from Claire Lotriet (there were many more great vidoes and I will add details to the wiki soon). We also had some interesting live presentations from Dave Stacey, who had some interesting ideas on how to use a text book, and Rosemary Davies, who shared a load of free web tools and talked about using Edmodo as a learning platform. I also gave a few presentations, mainly showing people a few things they may not have seen. One included a new variation of the old traffic light fans (I’ll talk about this at a later date in full) and later on I demonstrated 2Connect and explained why it’s such a great program for developing mind mapping in younger pupils or those with ALN. I also shared a few ideas that I’ve posted on here that I felt linked in with other presentations, especially ones that allowed for a bit of creativity or supported what was said in the presentations. In fact I probably talked way too much…(and that’s hardly ever the case).

Of course the Reflect and Share session, which took place on Wednesday, was quite different, This involved Year 6 pupils sharing their ideas about their learning and resources and activities they thought were worthwhile and eahc child involved made their own presentation or gave a demo to the staff who attended. We had presentation on a whole range of activities including developing problem solving skills by using Machinarium, using unusual images to inspire poetry, movement in art (inspired by work on Jackson Pollock), developing writing skills using Myst, using Wordle and other word based ideas and creating music using Incredibox and Isle of Tune (which I’ve talked about here). I don’t want to miss any presentations out here (pupils were brilliant and every presentation had something to offer) so the others were about the use of ebooks in the classroom (highlighting the books we have from Rising Stars), using Purple Mash at home and in class (everyone seems constantly amazed by how much content is available through it), using BlockCAD lego to link to DT, Prezi, Primary Pad and Primary Wall (this included live demos – staff were very impressed), our school library, how after school clubs have helped pupils improve skills, using Class Pet in class and at home (especially the maths activities), learning logs and Pivot Stick Figure. I was really proud of all of the pupils who took part (twenty one in all) but what I felt was truly fantastic was the way they had obviously taken on board things I had shown them or introduced them to and then taken it in their own direction. Hopefully it’s the sort of event that will take off in other areas – it was certainly worthwhile!

Let’s Work Together

So….the Easter holidays are finally upon us (okay, some of you have already been off school for a week or so) and it’s going to be a longer holiday than usual. As we’re not guaranteed to have great  weather (this is the UK after all) I thought it best to suggest to pupils some things they could do over the break. Now there are lots of things I could have suggested but there are some great tools available at the moment that allow pupils to work collaboratively from wherever they may be – all they need is a computer and the internet. So here are a few things that I’ve suggested.

After the break some pupils will be working on projects for our local Film Festival and it made sense for some of them to work together in small groups. We’ve already been using Primary Pad in the classroom throughout KS2 and now pupils have started to use it from home to connect with each other and work on ideas. Primary Pad is perfect for this and is so much more than just a collaborative word processor: it has a sticky notes section and includes Primary Paint for collaborative drawing. I’m really pleased that pupils are making notes and planning out their ideas in this way: they’re even thinking of using it to plan their script! Very cool.

Another collaborative project I’ve asked some pupils to contribute to was something started by my friend Simon who has the most fabulous blog and regularly contributes to a number of educational websites> He’s also fairly prolific on Twitter and is well worth checking out if you’re looking for great educators to follow. Anyway…Purple Mash updates all the time (do those bods at 2Simple ever stop???) and one of the great things on there is 2Investigate which now has a great collaborative feature. Simon has asked some of his pupils to add to a bird study database and I’ve done the same: a number of students are going to birdwatch for an hour and add their data to a collaborative database that has been set up. I can see this feature being very useful: a homework project like this is just the tip of the iceberg: think of the possibilities there are, setting up collaborative databases with schools across the UK, and beyond, and being able to collate, use and compare the results – fabulous!

Now Prezi is not usually a site you might consider to be collaborative but you can invite editors to work on projects and also get pupils to collaborate by using a group or class login for all their projects. While this can be a little cumbersome at times (pupils make sure they include their names in the titles of their Prezis so I can check who has been working together) I have to say that Prezi is one of the online tools that has really caught the imagination of children in Year 6, with many signing up for their own personal accounts and using at home regularly. Recently pupils have been working on collaborative projects linked to internet safety; starting them in school and completing them in their own time. Really, you couldn’t ask for more.

The last collaborative site I’m going to mention is the pupils favourite online stickies site: Lino it. We use it for collaborations, brainstorming topics to record our prior knowledge or what we want to find out. It is also regularly throughout lessons and as part of plenary sessions. It’s truly useful, more inclusive than some other stickies sites (the font is clear, it is well laid out and the backgrounds are not distracting) and really versatile. Just give it a go and see if your pupils like it!

Celtic Times

Not all schools cover work on the Celts and there is very little out there on the internet for this topic. Now, as luck would have it, I do know a fair bit about the Celts having covered it in the past.. Luckily there are some great resources available via the BBC: the BBC Celts site (for schools in Wales) and a fabulous animation showing how roundhouses were constructed. These are a good starting point for a number of activities: you could plan a literacy one based around instruction writing and time connectives using the roundhouse reconstruction and an internet research and post it challenge on based on using the other site and comparing our life to that of the Celts. If your not going to be working with ICT, or even if you are, then it’s worth exploring a Celtic design theme, which could be loosely based around maths and symmetry, where pupils have to  design, sketch and paint their own Celtic style designs. You could use the internet (and books to) research designs: there are plenty of Celtic arts and crafts on display, many of them really beautiful and inspiring. But what if you want to tie all these activities together at the end of your session? Here’s a plenary idea…

Why not introduce an online post it too for recording facts? Now, you could go with Wallwisher, which is a fantastic tool and I’ve it used before, but I’ve recently come across something that is a little bit ‘friendlier’ looking called Lino it. Lino is definitely a crowd pleaser – everyone can engage with it at their own level and you can import images and other file types in addition to adding written content. And, the best thing, it’s free. So why not try it as a way of finding out and recording how much your children have got out of a lesson!

Thinking outside the box

Thinking skills are an ever growing and important part of classroom life. Mind mapping, brain storming, ideas explosion…whatever you call it it is increasingly being used in schools around the country. And there are great ideas out there, both free and internet based or bought in software packages, that help us cover this in our educational settings. I use a number of such packages and ideas in my lessons and everyone has their particular favourites. 2Connect, Dabbleboard and are the ones that many people generally flock to (and with good reason), but this week I’ve looked at two internet based tools to take mind mapping to a different level: Prezi and Spicy Nodes.

Prezi is something you may seen before. Some teachers use it in the classrooms (mainly as a presentation tool) and you can create shared ones on the IWB during thematic  sessions (e.g. when you’re bsgining to investigate a new topic) but the new educational options regarding licensing is going to lead to many more teachers using this with pupils in their classrooms. Recap or complete topics by creating mind maps showcasing images and information gained over a few weeks. Pupils can add video content while others can convert examples of their work (e.g. PowerPoint glossaries) and web pages they found interesting into PDF format so they could be included as well. There are lots of worthwhile ways you could use Prezi in school. From information scrapbooks on specific topics (created on the IWB and built upon from week to week) to using it as a self assessment tool to see how much pupils can remember and recall on a given topic.

Buoyed by people’s reaction to Prezi I decided to investigate Spicy Nodes: a new online tool still in the early stages of development. This was one of those great twitter finds that people flag up from time to time. Although I only looked at it briefly and had a bit of a play around with it I feel students would take to it and enjoy using it quite quickly. So much so that I’m going to try and use it more often so I can fully investigate the possibilities.

Get Better Connected

Thinking Skills are becoming increasingly important in Primary education. Mind Mapping, Brainstorming, Thought Explosions…call it whatever you like, it’s something that we are all using more and more in the classroom. Finding applications that are suitable to use with primary age children (and straightforward enough for them to us independently) can be a challenge. There are a lot of web based ideas and applications available online; some free (we’ll come to those later) and some incurring a charge, and it can be difficult to know what to choose. 2Simple’s solution to this is the brand new 2Connect. The application has a number of great features I’ve not come across in a mind mapping tool before and it’s well worth finding out about!

One of the  most positive aspects of this software is the ability to import images  easily: although you could do this using other ICT based methods they this program has the simplest method I had come across. There’s  also a thumbs up for the additional clip art that was included in the package.

Then there are the notes and attachment features: children can choose to attach relevant website links (see the image below) to their ideas or add a little note giving more information. The word bank feature is also fantastic; allowing you to use the mind map to assist in your word processing – how clever and inclusive!

Of course this solution might not be for everyone.  It’s not as colourful as some other mind mapping tools, like ,but the ability to include illustrations, notes and weblinks made up for this! That said, if you’re looking for a free mind mapping tool is an excellent alternative. Mind maps are saved online and you just need an email address to register for an account. Dabbleboard and MindMeister are also web based application that are worth looking at.

I have to say that,I am looking forward to introducing 2Connect to others. I think it will become an invaluable tool in the classroom for many people and will greatly enhance thinking skills activities.