Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Dabbleboard’

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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Getting Inspired

So there’s a  big box and it’s  just sitting under the IWB. What was in the box? Do you think we should open the box? Who does it belong to? What if…? I’m sure you know where this is going: it generates lots of ideas and discussion which you could string this out for weeks.Inside the box is a large treasure chest and this starts the discussion off again: should we tell others about it or keep it as a secret just for us? Should we share it with others in assembly? What if the contents are poisonous – what could we do? And so it goes on…

The chest it was full of eggs (which started off a whole load of What ifs…? and other questions yet again) and in the eggs were little creatures called Querks who come with their own little ‘accessories’ which turn them into more ‘normal’ every day creatures. There was also a book, and plentyof ideas of how the Querks could be used or the topics they could be linked to (Inclusion, PSE, Geography, Animal/Habitats…the list went on). Other ideas that could inspire the pupils could be making it look like a crater or spaceship had landed in the school grounds, leaving clues around the classroom that suggest someone has been there. I’ve also learnt this week how to create a string poem. If you’ve not heard of a string poem before, here are some instructions: String Poem

My ICT tip today is visual literacy themed  – the delights of Deviant Art.  It’s a good place to find interesting pictures (and occasionally videos) that could be used as a basis for visual literacy. Unfortunately it is one of those sites that gets filtered out at our school but it is a fabulous site and well worth exploring at home in the evenings to get a bit of inspiration. As a starting point I have searched through and found some interesting images the night before and prepared them in PowerPoint format. You can see the ones I chose – I split them into three slideshows: Visual Art – Portrait images, Visual Art – Landscape images and, my particular favourite, Visual Art – Into your world – great images of imaginary creatures, and their habitats, from an artist listed as Tommi_75 (who also has a lovely selection called mechanimals too).

To stretch the use of these pictures (and the links to ICT) I suggest people use a zoom tool (like ZoomIt or even the magnifier in Windows accessories) to zone in on areas, or use the spotlight tool on ActivInspire to reveal little bits at a time before revealing the whole image. Another idea could be to import the image into something like LinoIt or Dabbleboard so that the pupils could annotate around it or answer questions posed by the teacher (or each other). You might have other ideas for the images but the site definitely falls into my ‘must see’ category.

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 bubbl.us 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  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.

BETTcha by golly wow 2010!

Like many other technologically minded people I made the (in my case long) trek to Olympia last week to spend a bit of quality time at the BETT2010. My main objective was to get to the Teachmeet and pick up some useful and interesting tips from other like minded professionals but, I have to admit, the whole time I was there (and that wasn’t very long compared to some!) I felt on a natural high. The excitement of meeting (and trying to recognise!) people I had previously only spoken to via twitter, or educational forums, combined with the whole learning new things and seeing new products was unbelievably uplifting.

I arrived on Friday night just about in time for the Teachmeet (I did miss a little bit of the action but not much). The atmosphere was fantastic and there was a real community spirit in the room. As well as meeting, chatting and mingling with a fantastic group of people I’d never before met in person , one of the things that immediately struck me was the totally supportive nature of all that were in the room. And there were some great presentations too: some heartfelt and passionate (take a bow Mr Drew Buddie) others fun and informative (yes, Miles Berry, I mean you). If you weren’t there, you were really missing out on something special. Here’s the main things I took away from the Teachmeet…

1. If you’re in ICT (or just in education in any capacity) and not on Twitter, sign up now  : I’m not kidding, it will change the way you teach and, by following the right people, ideas will flood in thick and fast.

2. Someone else can give an old favourite a new twist and get you inspired: I was not particularly enthusiastic about Scratch (although I did use it) until Miles Berry made it look more accessible and fun filled – many thanks 🙂

3. There is so much out there, so investigate and ask others: Hadn’t tried Glogster (despite knowing about it) until Drew inspired me at Teachmeet Takeover on Saturday, and there were lots of similar presentations that showed the possibilities of things I had looked at in passing about but hadn’t tried.

4. We can achieve much more by working together: the number of collaborative projects that have sprung up in the short time I’ve been using Twitter have really changed the way I use certain resources (like Google Maps and Google Earth) with children (Tom Barrett’s Google Maps maths idea is one that instantly springs to mind).

In fact, the whole Teachmeet vibe is what got me through giving my own takeover presentation about the use of Dabbleboard in the classroom(thanks to Mark Warner for the above photo) on Saturday:  cannot believe I did it and that people stayed and listened. You can even see a video of my efforts (I’m not saying you have to here) and the other contributors to the takeover sessions.

On a personal level I had a great time hanging out with new friends and just generally discussing how we use ICT. It was great to put faces to names and realised that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Everyone is aiming for the same goal – how to get better at doing what they do and the atmosphere was certainly conducive to such an ideal. It was also amazing to discover that some of my pupils had won a 2Simple competition (a total surprise!!) and it was a pleasure to just hang out with the enthusiastic team that work at 2Simple, who are producing such wonderful stuff at the moment You only have to read the blog regularly to see how keen I am on their products!

So there you have it: my BETT 2010 experience. See you all next time (looking forward to it already).

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 🙂

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. Finally 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!!!

Planning with Dabbleboard

Mind mapping is big business! There are lots of fabulous free sites online that allow teachers (and pupils) to brainstorm ideas on the IWB in a meaningful and ordered way. All of them have their own strengths (and weaknesses) and an abundance of different features. Lately we’ve been using a website called Dabbleboard. It’s free to try out and, if you press print screen, you can save your plan by pasting it onto a PowerPoint (or an application of your choice).

You can  insert pictures (and documents too if you want) and the easy click and type feature is very appealing. you can also draw in your own arrows, unlike some applications which link things automatically. The application was easy to use and I really like the colourful way work can be presented. And it’s not just me who likes this application. I know a person who has been using the application as a starting point for some of his Myst work – inserting images taken from the game and building words and phrases around it. All in all I think it’s an application worth giving a try.