Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘2Connect’

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!

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Sound Affects

We all know that pupils need choice when it comes to recording and plan their ideas. The written word can be the only outlet for some. Using pictures and bullet points might suit others. But simply speaking about your ideas, directly onto a digital recorder or another device, like an Easi-Speak microphone, can be a revelation for those children who have difficulty with traditional recording methods. Obviously the use of Audacity in the classroom could also enhance this and there are some ideas for this here but when we want to put the recorded sound together with visual content it might not be as easy for some as others, and we want their ideas and thoughts to be recorded in a way that suits them and makes them feel like they’re achieving. So which pieces of kit are best for this?

My first suggestion would be to use Photo story 3: it’s free, easy to use and the results look fabulous. There are a number of simple tutorials for this online but basically the program allows pupils to import photos, add basic effects, text, music and narration to make a short movie. It’s a very versatile, if simple, piece of software and can easily be used by pupils in KS1 (with support at first) and pupils with varying levels of SEN. The results look professional and ‘grown up’: pupils can be proud of their achievements and share their efforts with others easily. It’s great for topic based or diary type work but is just as good for tasks like story sequencing and retelling. I’ve used it many times with pupils where the pictures of a well known story have to be imported and rearranged in order, allowing for a retelling of the story in the child’s own words (and it’s even better if the child uses a program like 2Paint a picture to create their own images from the story first).

There’s only one trouble with Photo Story 3 (and it’s not really a problem with the program itself): if the pupils have used it in KS1 and lower KS2 they will want (and need)to move onto something different eventually! Some pupils, however, find that transition difficult: particularly those with recording difficulties when it comes to the written word! They want to put their ideas down but get frustrated when they can’t do it with the ease of others. The natural step would be to move to Windows Movie Maker but this is not always the best piece thing to use in a busy classroom (it’s not as straight forward or intuitive to use, it tends to crash or freeze, some pupils lose patience with it…). My solution is to get the pupils to record their ideas and speech directly onto PowerPoint – it’s easy to do and it gives pupils who may need a bit of extra time to get to grips with something like Movie Maker.

The technique is great for lots of topics but can easily be used to assist with literacy, particularly planning stories. Pupils can use a PowerPoint Storyboard (or perhaps something a little more jazzy, like the Movie Style Storyboard ) to help plan their stories: instead of adding written captions to their storyboard they could record their own comments instead. This would also work with a template like the Story Mountain Planner style one above – pupils could just use a microphone to record their ideas directly onto the slide and the need for written text is minimised.

From an inclusion point of view there are a number of other programs available that allow pupils to record spoken content directly onto their work: 2Create a SuperStory springs to mind, as does 2Connect, and there are others available. But if you don’t have those yet, and you need to give pupils opportunities to record their work in different ways (ways that suit then) then this is worth a go. Every pupils I have shared this with has been thrilled with the independence it has given them. I’m not saying they don’t need to write: I’m just allowing for the fact that some pupils, for whatever reason, are better at verbalising ideas. This is one way of making sure their contributions are as valued as everyone else.

Background Information

Another Day – another PowerPoint Project. Today looking at designing your own PowerPoint templates.Now if you want to start creating your own PowerPoint templates there are tutorials for 2003 and 2007 available online to walk you through the process. For maximum impact it’s also an opportunity to use art based or photo editing software – I’m using Microsoft AutoCollage! Firstly, make a new folder and searched the internet and resource bank for suitable images for your theme. . You’ll need  about 20 to 30 images but  Microsoft AutoCollage allows up to 50 images to be used and will discard any that are not large enough to be included before you create the actual photo collage.

Once you’ve created your collage use photo editing software: installed stuff like PhotoSimple or internet based applications like Tuxpi; to make changes. You might like to colourise or posterise. Sepia and Greyscale can also work well. It’s just a personal choice. Now time for the next stage – creating slide backgrounds!

Insert your collage or image on a blank PowerPoint slide and trim it to fit exactly using the crop tool. Then use autoshapes to add a focus area for the main title,  making sure the fill colour or gradient fill compliments the colours in our image. Then group these two elements and save them as a jpeg image. But one background a template does not make (did I sound like Yoda then?) so you’ll needed to work on.

For our second background add a rectangular autoshape the exact size of the slide (again using a suitable colour or gradient fill).  Follow that by inserting your image and cropping it to a banner or sidebar, possibly adding an additional autoshape for a title spot. You could create both a banner and a sidebar combination on two separate slides. Again, the items on the slide were grouped and saved as jpeg images, giving at least two backgrounds to use. You can then save this as your very own design template to use in your PowerPoints.

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  bubbl.us ,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 bubbl.us 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.