Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘2Simple’

Getting Better All the Time

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.

World in Union

Well, the 2011 rugby World Cup has started and I, for one, am pretty excited about it. Maybe it’s because I’m Welsh but I’m pretty sure others feel the same so I thought I’d share some resources and ideas you could use with your class. And I’m going to start with those super people at Purple Mash who are yet again ‘on the ball’ (excuse the pun) when it comes to current and relevant content to use in the classroom. There are a few resources to choose from here, including a great template for writing a match report , and all of the activities include fantastic themed clip art in addition to word banks or writing prompts. There are also other resources that would fit into this theme. There’s a Welsh Celebrity Profile writing frame which includes rugby themed clip art (great for writing about Shane Williams or your favourite Welsh player) and a Sports Star Profile (no rugby themed clip art but you could use the drawing tools). There’s a writing frame for describing the rules of a sport (rugby clip art included) and, if you visit the creative tools section, there are some useful writing frame templates available via 2Publish and 2PublishExtra. Make a rugby themed word wheel! Or a poster! Or a leaflet about one of the counties involved! Loads of lovely possibilities all in one handy online space. You could even use 2Investigate to create a graph about the top players. If you’ve not used PurpleMash before and would like to know more then get in touch with the bods at 2Simple or send them a message online (via Facebook or Twitter).

Of course the statistical information involved in any sporting event makes it obvious to link this topic to Maths and there are lots of possibilities. There is plenty of statistical information available on the official site but it might be nice to follow the event and come up with activities of your own. During the last Rugby World Cup a friend of mine used the pools as a sort of mini competition between the groups in his class. 4 pools – 4 groups. Pupils were in charge of keeping a note of all the scores recorded by teams in their pool and using little numbered rugby balls to keep their total updated every day. A bit of a competition with a smattering of basic number skills and place value thrown in – the winner being the table with the most points scored. There are also plenty of investigations that could be done based on the rugby field itself: area, perimeter, measuring etc. and a bit of fun to be had with angles (linked to goal kicking). There are also fantastic opportunities to link the topic to DT/Art (flag, kit or mascot design, build a stadium), Science (investigations of fabrics used in sports kits, forces), Geography (pick any of the countries involved) – you name it!

So what about activities linked to ICT? Well, in addition to the great stuff available via Purple Mash it would also be worth searching through resources available via TES Connect (there is bound to be something useful) and seeing what the teaching resource section on the official site has to offer. You could get pupils to make adverts, publicising the games ,using Windows Movie Maker, Photo Story or iMovie or use Pivot Stick Figure to make some rugby themed animations  I’ve put together made an ICT challenge pack aimed at KS2 (but you could adapt the idea) if you want to have a go. I’ve also added a selection of clip art to my posterous blog (it’s already included in the challenge pack) if you felt like creating top trump cards or something similar – in fact, why not get the children to do it. That’s far much more fun!

 

A Little Bit of Northern Soul

This time last week I was sitting in a hotel getting ready for Sunday lunch after a few days away and the Northern Grid Conference. It was a truly fantastically organised event: Simon Finch and his team had pulled together a group of people who all had great ideas and were truly inspirational. The fact that they considered me one of them and invited me to present a workshop was a real honour and I owe them a great deal of thanks for that. Although the day went past in in a blur of meeting people (both old friends and new) and listening to inspirational speakers, there was much to take away. Here are my lasting thoughts and the things I most remember.

  • I arrived a little late (although I did set out at 3,30am…blame the plane). No one was in sight. Rather than wander around aimlessly I decided to tweet that I had arrived and ask where everyone was. I had quite a few replies, all of them leading me to the room where Russell Prue was kicking the day off. I’m so glad I managed to get there in time to listen to him. He managed to be inspirational AND put everyone in a good mood, setting us all up nicely for the day ahead. No mean feat!
  • I wasn’t sure what to see before I set up for the morning workshop. Imagine my relief when I saw a few familiar faces: Jan Webb and Ian Addison. I decided to sit in on their workshop and catch up with a few other friends at the same time: Bill Lord (who was presenting a workshop at the same time as me later on) and Dughall McCormick (he appears to be the happiest bloke on the planet whenever I see him – that can’t be bad). Ian’s presentation (15 ideas in 15 minutes) was full of great ideas, some of which I’ve mentioned on the blog and others which are worth checking out for yourself. Jan Webb talked about collaboration and showcased some great ideas and tools, some of which come from the Partners in Learning network (including SongSmith which I mentioned on here only a short while ago). Jan finished her presentation with the statement ‘it ain’t what you do  – it’s the way that you do it’ and then, to underline the point played a snippet this 80s classic. Being of a certain age, I enjoyed this as Bananrama were quite significant style icons during my teenage years. I was fairly shocked, however, when I realised I had turned up in a rather ‘Bananaramesque’ outfit myself – at least my hair wasn’t back-combed 🙂
  • I was presenting in the same room as Jan and Ian a little while after they’d finished. I was pretty nervous at this time (possibly a little bit hyper too – I had been drinking a fair amount of coffee) as I’d only been through the presentation a couple of times since extending it in length (oh, how I missed Mary Farmer!). I felt an instant sense of relief when two people I had never met before but know quite well ‘vitually’ turned up to wish me well and watch the presentation. Martin and Rachel, you can not imagine how pleased I was to see your friendly, supportive faces. After more coffee and a storming introduction from Simon I was out of the starting blocks and everything to be over very quickly. I hope it all went okay – it was very difficult to tell from where I was standing. I was relieved to have finished… and then it hit me that I’d have to do it all again later on…
  • I thought it was great to see so many exhibitors were laid back and not at all pushy – quite different to some places I’ve been where everyone has a patter or a pitch and is ready to sell, sell, sell!! Equally nice to catch up with some some of the exhibitors I already knew, especially Alan from 2Simple and Karen from Rising Stars – you are fabulous.
  • Didn’t see any workshops in the afternoon: mine was repeated after lunch (which was scrummy, even thought there was a distinct lack of pie) and again it was soothing to see someone I knew sitting in front of me. After that (and a little chance to chat to more friends) I hit a brick wall (it had been a long day) and needed more coffee. This meant I missed the last round of workshops before heading off to the main room for the big finish…
  • …which was Steve Wheeler. I don’t think anyone could have done a better job really. Relevant, humorous and thought provoking in equal measures, he had some great things to say and put a different slant on many things that are at the forefront of the technology in education ‘debate’.  I felt like I was mentioning significant points from the presentation via Twitter every few minutes – there was so much worth repeating and sharing. And The Lord’s Prayer was fabulous!
  • Dughall did not win the raffle. Not even a pen.
  • After a bit of a rest in my hotel it was out on the town with a group of great people from Northern Grid, plus a few others who had been speaking at or attending the conference, for a few drinks and a bit of tapas. A lovely time was had by all and we whiled away the evening discussing Children’s TV of our youth and rock bands we had seen live (along with other pointless, yet enjoyable, conversations). At one point we were playing ‘guess the TV theme tune’ and discussing The Flashing Blade and its awful dubbing – surely life doesn’t get much better than that.
So, there you have it. My first Northern grid Conference and it was fantastic. If I’m really lucky they might invite me back!

 

The Northern Lights

I’ve heard people say that it’s grim up north. I’m sorry, but I really have to disagree (quite strongly actually) as I’ve just come back from the Northern Grid Conference in Newcastle and I can safely say it was a fabulous event. Not only was it organised to perfection by the wonderful Simon Finch (and his amazing team) it was also truly inspiring! This was in no small part due to the amazing presenters and the pure diversity of the workshops on offer and I will blog more about that tomorrow. Today I’m going to focus on my own presentation, which was looking at inclusion and technology, as I did promise a few people I’d pop up some information as soon as I could. So here you go…

Presenting at the Northern Grid Conference was a little bit nerve racking!

I was originally going to present a 15 minute workshop but this ended up being extended due to my good friend, Mary Farmer, being indisposed by an eye op a few days before hand. This meant I now had 30 minutes to myself  – a daunting thought (for both me and the people watching). To say I was slightly worried would be an understatement, but I did catch up with a number of familiar faces before my morning session (they know who they are) all of whom convinced me I’d be fine. I’m not sure ‘fine’ would be the word I’d actually choose but things did seem to go okay and I survived two workshops virtually unscathed!

There were a few things I mentioned that are already well referenced in this blog but Multimodal PowerPoints did seem popular and there is a short tutorial and information on those available here I also spoke a little about the importance of various round ‘a’ fonts and there are a bunch of them here that you might like if this interests you. I also touched on using games based and hand held learning but I intend to blog about this soon in more detail so stay tuned. One thing I did promise was that I would try and recreate my presentation in video format so people who couldn’t get there could watch it. So here you go -I hope it’s not too rushed and that you can get an idea of what I’m saying. There were other ideas I spoke about that I didn’t have time to include here –  look out for a more in depth blog post about the conference later in the week.

Shiver me Timbers!

This week I’ve had a lovely time using 2Create a Super Story  (or 2CASS) with pupils in Year 2. As I’ve said before, it’s a fantastic program to use with pupils as it’s so inclusive, lots of fun and can be used across age groups for all sorts of projects. This week the focus was a little different: Year 2 were recapping copying and pasting skills. I wanted to make this as much fun as possible so decided to link to their current pirate topic and use a program that they’re familiar with. As it happened I also wanted to improve their knowledge and usage of 2CASS as they move towards year 3: we’ve recently invested in a community license project with 2Simple and 2CASS is one of the programs pupils are now accessing at home. A perfect opportunity then to cover quite a few bases with one program.

Now one of my golden rules (in life generally) is to be as creative as possible and I have to say I’ve taken a few liberties with some of the tools and items in 2CASS as I’m using them in a different way to how they’re presented in the program. I don’t think it matters – if you can find more than one use for something then go for it! Here’s what we did…

  • Firstly we choose the scroll setting: I felt this was pretty much perfect for the topic we were covering as it gave it a pirate map feel. We did discuss the other options available but the children agreed that the scroll was our best choice.

  • We filled the picture area with a nice blue colour for the sky. We wanted a similar colour for the water as the other blues were a bit too dark (although some children were happy with them and were able to choose them). By double right clicking the one of the blue colours we brought up the full palette  – this gave us much more choice.

  • We chose the boat animation template from the transport section. We filled it with our base colour (brown) and then removed parts of it with the clear (or, as the children like to call it, magic) pen. This makes a huge difference to the look of the boat. We use the filled rectangle to colour the sail and used it again with the clear setting to give the ship three sails. We added a simple animation of the sails flapping and we used the path follow tool to draw the route of the ship on our background.

  • We then used the fire animation template to create seaweed. The fire movement was perfect for making the seaweed move under the water. We right clicked to select copy and then right clicked to paste the seaweed up to three times .

  • Choosing the shapes option from the animated templates; we used the square to add clip art. I always suggest using this square shape to the children to add any extras to their backgrounds: it means they can reposition and resize things and animate them if they want to – far better than something static on a background. We added suitable weather clip art which some of the children choose to animate. We again used copying and pasting skills to add additional clouds.

  • To add more interest some of the children added some fish, using the filled circle and the pens to make their little creatures as realistic as possible. There is more information on creating underwater animations that is worth checking out  on Simon Haughton’s blog . I also showed the pupils how to move things to the front or send them backwards: this gave them the option of having the fish swimming in front of or behind the seaweed and is a skill they will use in a number of other programs as they go through school.

  • To save pupils having to draw out their backgrounds a second time I showed them how to duplicate a page. This meant they could use the same page, complete with animations, for the next part of the story too – the example included at the end of this post shows how an island could be added with very little effort while making a big difference to the overall look.

  • We created pirates using the same tools as we used on the pirate ship – this time on the human template. When one pirate was complete (animations included) we copied and pasted to create a second and then just edited the outfit. Using the clear pen allowed pupils to add things like peg legs and hooked hands – very effective!
Of course these projects are not finished yet and there are other things I’d like to mention. We talked during the session about which fonts might be appropriate, which led to many children using old fashioned looking fonts they felt were in keeping with the theme. We also had a nice long session to carry out the first part of the project: these things take time and if you want a piece of work to be worthwhile pupils have to be given time to try things out. An unfinished example of our work so far can be seen here and I’m hoping to add a few examples to the fantastic 2CASS Archive soon – a site well worth investigating if you’re using this software in school. Next week we’re going to be adding even more detail to our stories and I can hardly wait!

 

 

More Music Matters

It’s time for part two of my posts about music and technology. Today I’m focussing on stuff that isn’t free but is still great to use in your classroom. Some of these items you might have already but it’s always worth investigating what is available so….here we go. I’m going to start with one that I’ve been using for quite a few years and is always popular with the older pupils, and that’s Dance EJay. One of the reasons I think it’s so popular is that it’s really easy to use. There are loads of sound samples available, all colour coded. At a glance it’s pretty easy to see how many beats each sample lasts and is very helpful when putting together sequences and loops. In fact, until the pupils in Years 5 and 6 discovered Incredibox, Isle of Tune and DJGames, Dance EJay was easily the most popular piece of music software chosen during Golden Time sessions in the ICT suite. Like the ideas posted yesterday, this is something that non musicians can use quite easily to create something cool and rhythmic although, in my opinion, despite the huge amount of samples included the sequences that are generated can sound a bit samey. Maybe that’s because the pupils find something they like, share it around with each other and then replicate it. Also, there is a temptation to fill every layer with a ‘wall’ of samples; leaving few gaps or breathers. But those are just quibbles and, when used as part of a structured music based session, the software can be very effective.

Now, Dance EJay might be popular with the older pupils but it is certainly not as accessible or versatile as the next program on my list: the amazing Music Toolkit from 2Simple. It spans a whole load of age ranges and abilities with a selection of levelled activities that work equally when used with a group using an IWB or on individual PCs. Pupils in Early Years(and those with SEN) can enjoy and  participate in using 2Explore while those with a little more know-how can start building melody with 2Compose. The package also contains 2Beat, 2Play (which I really enjoy having a bit of fun with), 2Sequence and 2 Synthesize: all of which are great stand alone activities in their own right that can be used in a number of different ways. I’ve had great fun linking 2Beat to Maths and building soundscapes for stories using 2Sequence (which is also available via Purple Mash if you’re a subscriber) in the past so it’s well worth investigating in detail what each individual program does and how you can fit it into your classroom sessions.

Some software developers, of course, specialise in music. EPS Music is one such company and is the creator of the popular Compose World series. To be honest, I haven’t used this software in school for a while, mainly because there are so many alternatives out there that I feel are more complete or competitively priced, but it would be totally remiss if I didn’t mention the software here. Obviously, being music specialists, the individual programs are very good quality and easily slot in to music sessions and activities. The downside is that all the products have to be bought separately, although EPS have launched an online subscription service which includes free demos of their products to try out first. Have a look and see what you think.

To finish off today I’m going to share some apps that are available for use on ipod touches and ipads, making them great for music on the move. The holy grail of these, at least as far as I am concerned, is Garageband. It’s been around a long time and is constantly being updated and added to. It has great instrumentation and features and is equally at home in a primary school as it is in a secondary (or beyond) setting. You can have fun with it or use it in a very structured way. There are help sites and tutorial videos dotted all over the place to help you come up with ideas of how to use it. If you’re in a setting that has access to Apple technology then you seriously need to check out its potential and give it a go. For fans of ambient music I’d suggest you try out Bloom, a simple yet effective little app which, again, might be useful for creating soundscapes to link in with class themes or story writing. More apps worth looking at include the surreal but fabulous Magic Piano (a current favourite among my grandchildren) and the equally strange but lovely Shapemix. Both are intuitive and fun: let’s face it; if my grandchildren (aged from 18mths up) are fans already they have to be easy to use! Another musical app I’m pleased to see arriving is JamStudio as it’s been available as a web based subscription site for quite a while (in fact the site is free for creative purposes – you just have to subscribe to be able to download your creations). For those people who find it easier to compose using chord progressions it really is a fantastic find. There are, in addition to the apps listed, none of which are ridiculously expensive, a number of free apps which I should have mentioned yesterday. Some of my favourites include JamPad, Beatwave (quite similar to the previously mentioned iNudge) and, for very young children, Cutie Melody. Truly – as far as music and tech is concerned – there is something available for everyone.

 

 

All You Need is Love…

I’m not sure if you’re aware but there’s a bit of a shindig on this week. I believe it might be a royal wedding involving a couple called Wills and Kate. Now it occured to me that some of you might be looking for some royal things to do in school (if you’re indeed actually in school – my school is on hols until after the bank holiday!!) so I thought I’d gather together a few ideas of things you might like to do with your classes

I’m really pleased to see (although not at all surprised) that those fantastic people at Purple Mash have put together a small selection of activities for the event. There are some great Publish Projects with beautiful clip art created just for the occasion, including a fabulous newspaper template for reporting the event – some top ideas for pupils from Foundation age upwards. There are also some great apptivities available via Purple Mash that have could also be used to tie in with the celebrations: you could make a crown using 2Design and Make or use the castle or palace available via the Fairy Tales section of the Paint projects to create the perfect royal party venue. If you print off more than one copy of your palace you can get creative and join them together for a bit of small world play – just  look here to see what I mean! Of course Purple Mash are not the only online site with some great resources available for you to use. TESiboard has also added a range of royal themed resources: from creating royal wedding outfits to a cake creation sequencing activity. In fact, TESconnect has got a whole list of resources in one convenient list – why not check it out!

There’s also a whole load of great websites you could use with your students if you want to get them to carry out and present research on the British Royal family, including their own official website and Mandy Barrow’s really useful Project Britain site, which has loads of sections just right for researching all sorts of areas of the royal family. If you want pupils to present their work via PowerPoint you might like to download this template of the Union Jack or this one of London. You can even take a tour of Westminster Abbey online if you want to!  If you want to go down the design route, or do something completely different, why not get pupil’s to design wedding outfits using the ideas presented here or get them to actually plan a wedding, using spreadsheets to keep track of expenditure? It might just be the thing to get them interested! Other ideas you might try could involved designing place mats, wedding invitations or cards ( 2Publish+ or Microsoft Publisher would be good for this if you want the activities to be ICT based) or designing a menu fit for a princess (although possibly not along the lines of this activity!!!!). Whatever you decide to do I’m sure you’ll have a right old time!