Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Collaboration’

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.

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It’s Your Letters

I wasn’t going to blog today. Honestly, I wasn’t. But then I thought, following on from yesterday’s post, I’d make some letter cards to share with everyone (and you can download them here). What struck me while making these was 1. – how difficult it was to find letters that were not watermarked or copyright protected and 2. how few lowercase letters were actually available. I had the most success looking at craft and home furnishing sites and I ended up creating some of the letters by using word art and filling them with unusual textures.

With this in mind I had a bit of a brainwave. Why not send children out and about (around school or possibly when you’re offsite) with a wordlist, plus a camera or mobile device, and let them find the letters required and take photos of them. You would have your own bespoke set of funky letters to use. It would be a really hands on way to support spelling and I’m sure the results would look great on a display.

 

I Wanna Tell You a Story…

There are a whole host of online tools, downloads and websites around that are really useful when you want children to get creative with their story writing. Some are very simple and others are absolutely astounding but, as the spotlight seems to always be one the literacy (and numeracy) skills of pupils I thought it was about time I shared a whole bunch of them on here. Many of them you may have come across or used before but I’m hoping there might be a few tools here that you can use in your classroom to inspire both you and your pupils. So, here we go…

Getting Inspired…

  1. We Tell Stories: A site well worth mentioning if you haven’t come across it before; We Tell Stories includes six different stories told in six different ways. Each has something to offer, depending on the age of your pupils, but the one I really like for primary school use is the Fairy Tales one. The child needs to make a number of choices to complete the story and, if they don’t agree with how the story turns out, can write their own epilogue at the end. Every class I have shared this with has loved it – including the boys, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect given the genre.
  2. Lightning Bug: This is an Australian website, full of  ideas to help with the story writing process. It includes a Teacher Resource section and numerous links to useful online content; including author sites and things like a plot bank.
  3. The Story Starter: This is very simple – it does exactly what you think it would do. You click a link and it generates a sentence to get your story started. Could work in conjunction with a story mountain or a ‘BME’ story plan structure. There is also a version available for younger children but be warned – some of the sentences (on both versions) are not what I would choose to use!

Creating Story Books Online

  1. Zooburst: Zooburst is a really unusual 3D Story book creator that I’m sure pupils will find really cool and (hopefully) inspiring. The 3D pop-up really brings a story to life and gives this site an extra something when compared to other book creating sites. You can rotate around the book in 3D, add your voice to the characters and use a webcam to introduce a bit of augmented reality. You can register on the site for free and there are a number of stories in the gallery you can check out before you get started. I would suggest you have a few goes yourself with it before unleashing it on a class but it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor and could get a few of your reluctant writers interested .
  2. Storybird: If you haven’t checked out Storybird before you need to visit it sometime soon. Again, it’s free to register and they have accounts specifically for classes. What sets Storybird apart from some other sites is the inclusion of beautiful and breathtaking original art – enough to inspire pupils to create wonderful things.  Whatever their age or level, students (well – everyone really) can create something that looks beautiful and can easily be shared with others. Check out the About Us section of the website and get inspired
  3. ArtisanCam Picture Book Maker: This picture book maker is a very simple online book creator that is both unique and beautiful. There are not many options here but the artwork is homely and childlike and it could be useful with younger children.
  4. E2BN Myths and Legends: Free and cool to use, the Storymaker tool available here has loads of options (recorded speech, added sound effects etc.) and you can register for a whole school account. Completed stories can be downloaded and can be short and sweet or far reaching epics. I think the style of clip art included here would really appeal to the boys but girls would enjoy it too.
  5. British Council Storymaker: A fabulous little tool that could be used to inspire older  pupils with SEN or used with younger pupils. It is not quite the same as the other activities listed here but deserved inclusion nonetheless.  This is an activity that guides you through the story writing process by giving you choices, starting with the three different types of story you could write (fairy, horror or science fiction). It’s simple but effective.
  6. Picture a Story: This activity might look a little twee, with it’s old fashioned styling, but it still allows pupils to use the items at their disposal (backgrounds, characters, props) to create a story. Stories can be written or recorded using a microphone (making it suitable for inclusion purposes in a class of pupils with differing abilities) and can then be shared with others via email.
  7. Little Bird Tales: This site is fairly new and was brought to my attention by the fabulous Tim Rylands. All I can say is it looks fabulous and is worth finding out about – check out Tim’s blog for more information (as there’s no point me repeating it!)!
  8. Kerpoof Storybook: Beautifully presented and appealing story creating activity with six themes of story included. Similar to the Myths and Legends site, but a little more modern in appearance, I like this one for a few reasons. Firstly, you can fill the pages with a background colour if you want to, possibly making it a suitable tool for pupils with dyslexia. Secondly, it has really been designed with children in mind and is pretty intuitive to use. You can easily change the size of your font and there are three fonts included. Story characters are included in a range of positions, there are loads of backgrounds and it also has speech bubbles you can add. To access the site fully, so you can save work, you have to register (again – it’s free) and there are lots of other great activities available via the site.
I hope you find something that will inspire your learners in that group of tools. Tomorrow I’m going to share a whole load of online animation tools and comic book creators! There will be something for everyone!

 

Appy Together

Yesterday I spent a few pleasant hours with two of my grandchildren. The weather wasn’t great so I came armed with a plethora of techy stuff that I know would amuse them and keep them busy: a laptop loaded with software, and ipad full of apps and my phone. The boys, aged 4 and 6, are really typical boys: they love trains, cars, the Wii, Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ben 10, Lego (well, anything construction based really), hand held gaming, rugby, football, swimming, the park and pretending to battle each other. They have an old laptop at home and use it for half an hour each per day and to help them with any homework. Although they’re close in age, and get on really well together, the younger one is always trying to do what his older sibling can, with varying degrees of success (and often a bit of frustration!).

Lots of fun with Misty Island Rescue

The first thing they actually asked as I came through the door was ‘have you got the ipad?’ I brought it the last time I visited and they’ve been waiting to get their mitts back on it ever since. The last time they used it the app that had fascinated them most (especially the younger one) was Talking Tom, but this was old hat now. They’ve seen Talking Tom on the phones of quite a few family members now so it didn’t hold the same appeal. The same could be said of Angry Birds: both still had a go but were more impressed by the fact I now had it on the laptop!  It was pleasing to see that the apps they had remembered from last time and wanted to revisit were mostly story based apps: Misty Island Rescue, Rumble in the Jungle and Toy Story 3. Although these apps are not free I do think they are good value: you get the story (read aloud or self read) and a number of supporting activities (colouring, matching, puzzles etc.) to go along with them. As the boys (and other grandchildren) have enjoyed them so much I had supplemented them with a few more, some of which would be great to use in the classroom. I particularly like Elmer’s Special Day but my grandsons really went for Cars 2 (‘it’s like the movie…but a story!!!’ commented the older one) but then they are mildly obsessed with Lightning McQueen, so that was pretty much expected.

Puppet Pals is always popular

Another app they revisited was Puppet Pals, which I’ve mentioned before and is my favourite app to use with youngsters: from EY to Year 6, they all seem to get something out of it. This time I got the boys to use ‘cut-out’ versions of themselves in their stories, which were strangely surreal but still entertaining. I’ll pop some links up to some of them later on (I would do it now but haven’t bothered to export them yet and OH has taken the ipad to work today). The older brother tends to base his stories around things he already knows: he made a cowboy story where all the characters were named after characters in Super Mario Bros and a couple of others where he borrowed quite liberally from Handa’s Surprise and Ben 10. Lovely. The younger brother likes to use the monster characters and pretend they’re eating or killing each other. He loves how he can make the characters really big or small and work this into the story. Not that there is a lot of narrative going on in these: he is HI and has articulation difficulties. His sound effects are spot on though and you can easily get the gist of what he’s trying to say! They even had a few joint attempts at creating stories: these made me laugh the most as every so often one or the other would say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want that to happen’ and it all ends up on the soundtrack – priceless.

Collaboration between brothers using Puppet Pals

So, onto some new apps that we tried out for the first time yesterday. Clicky Sticky is an app that allows you to add bits of clip art to a background scene. You can add your own backgrounds and make adjustments to the clip art provided. You can save what you create. So far, so average. What really grabbed the boys attention was the addition of sound effects as you created your scene: simple but very effective and the clip art provided was really colourful and appealing to both boys. The themes were good too: all the usual things that little ones are interested in (dinosaurs being the boys top pick) – great! The boys also loved Lego Creationary (let’s face it: most boys, young and old, do love Lego) and the free Kid Blocks (the older brother loved this but found it tricky starting off) , Cars Painting and Simon Says Cars (see above re: Lightning McQueen), Photo Speak (like a basic version of Crazy Talk), My Very First App (gorgeous if you’re a fan of Eric Carle) and Create a Car. Yes – the majority of these apps are probably ones that are aiming to engage boys rather than ones that would be used equally by both genders but to balance it out there are plenty of ‘girl focussed’ apps available too (Peppa Pig Stars anyone?) and I have many of them installed. The boys just didn’t choose them…

And, just before anyone accuses me of getting ipad obsessed, we didn’t just do techy things all day. In dispersed between the ipad and laptop fun (Purple Mash! 2Paint an Picture! Red Fish! Help Kidz Learn! ICT Games! Incredibox!) we also managed to read some stories, build an array of models (Lego, Zoob, Techno Toolbox, Georello – you name it , they can build with it), played on the Scalectrix and did some painting and a bit of colouring in. We watched a bit of mindless children’s TV and cooked some bolognese. At one point we pretended to be pirates and finished off every sentence with ‘Arrrrrr’ (or a variation of it). Growing up is about having opportunities to try out different things and variety is the spice of life. They still think the ipad rocks though.

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!

It’s a Celebration!

I’m really feeling on top of the world today! I returned home from work to find the blog has made the shortlist in the Education Blog Awards! I am absolutely flabbergasted and would like to send out a heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted – you’ve made my day. I’m also feeling rather pleased about a couple of things I’m organising during July, and I’m hoping you will be too.

Reflect and Share is about giving pupils a chance to speak about the lessons and resources they have loved using within there classrooms. The children involved will be sharing their thoughts on learning with teachers in an effort to let the teachers know what they children think really works well. Although the final date is not set this is an event I’m really looking forward to organising and I’m hoping to get a few goodies for all the children who are willing to present as I think it could be a little bit nerve racking . Here’s hoping it goes well…

I’m also looking forward to organising my second TeachMeet as the first one was a really enjoyable affair with fantastic presenters and supportive sponsors. This time the event will be in term time (it’s so hard to sort one out in the holidays with everyone going away) and will be focusing on developing thinking skills and creating independent learners. As soon as I’ve got everything in place I will add it to the TeachMeet site but I have to say I’m feeling pretty enthused already and I hope people will enjoy contributing and being involved – I can’t do it without you.

Finally, I’m pretty sure you all know how proud I am of being Welsh and one event I’m really excited about attending is TMSwansea . It’s going to be a great opportunity to pick up new ideas and share some of my own, and I’m really looking forward to catching up with some fellow Welsh educators. In fact, with that in mind, I’m fortunate to be attending what I feel could be a really ground breaking event for Welsh educators on Friday – to discuss the development of #addcym. Inspired by Colin Hill ,and his great organising and vision surrounding the #ukedchat discussions, I’m now involved with a group of other ‘Welshies’ in developing something similar for Wales. That said, we’re quite happy for people from elsewhere to join in so if you’re on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm on a Sunday evening do look out for the #addcym hashtag – we’d love for you to vote in the poll and join in with the discussion – the more the merrier! There are exciting times ahead in the world of Education and I, for one, intend to be a part of it. And I’m hoping you’ll join me for the ride.

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!