Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘hand held learning’

Are you an Angry Bird (addict)?

So…here goes with my second post of the day – I must be mad. I did, however, promise a few people I would share a few of my bonkers ideas for using Angry Birds as a basis for learning in the classroom. I’m sure many of you have some ideas of your own to go with this topic and I have a few friends who have already been using Angry Birds activities as a way of engaging pupils in the classroom. Now not all of these ideas are ICT based but I promised I would share them so…here we go…

First the mad part. I was sitting on the train the other day with my ipad and I saw a mum bring out some home made toys for her little one. Simple felt balls, about 6 cms across, (created as shown above) with little eyes and extras on. I thought how that would make a lovely idea for a school fete or similar and made a note of it.  Then she brought out a blue one that looked just like an Angry Bird – my mind went into overdrive. My initial idea was to get pupils to create them (or, possibly a friendly adult) and stuff them with a set weight of kapok so they could be used in maths for weighing/comparing/measuring. Maybe sort them so that the black one weighs twice as much as the red one which weights twice as much as the blue ones (if you know what I mean). After this, mind still in overdrive mode, I thought about creating a separate set of blue ones which had three mini blue ones inside – for times tables work or counting (but  I realise this might be pushing things a little too far…). Of course, if money is no object, you could always purchase a complete set of Angry Birds plush toys but I doubt many school budgets would stretch to them!

Let’s move onto my next batch of mad ideas then. After maths I moved onto science. How about using the little blighters you’ve just made for maths in a lesson on forces, complete with giant catapult. Too dangerous? Well it’s just an idea. Coming back down to earth with a bump (!!!! – sorry, couldn’t resist) why not use autoshapes, or another shape drawing program, to create your own Angry Birds? They could be as simple or complicated as you like. The one above is fairly straightforward – I bet the pupils could come up with something better. Another ICT idea I came up with involved the use of 2DIY (or maybe even 2DIY 3D if you have access to Purple Mash): creating games based on the Angry Birds story and characters. Maybe a journey game where the birds have to sneak past the pigs. Or a collection game for finding golden eggs. Again – the children are bound to come up with much better ideas.

And so to my final few ideas for today (and, I’m warning you, I have loads more): let’s link to literacy. If there are pupils who are really familiar with the game they could hone their instruction writing skills by creating walkthroughs for other children to follow. I think this would be a lovely exercise that could involve some really obvious peer assessment. I also think that the initial introduction to the game would make an interesting story starter and, if you want to get really into it, why not get pupils to storyboard and create their own game trailers, similar to the one seen here? I bet they come up with some corkers!

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Little Children…

Little people…they’re a bit different to big people aren’t they? Always busy, always curious and they say what they think too (Miss…I like your dress, miss. It’s all swirly…). Trying to get them interested in ICT though – that’s pretty easy, especially as there’s lots of stuff available that’s just for them (it definitely helps). Recently I’ve had some very young children in the ICT suite: we’ve had fun with BeeBots (as we always do) and Easi-Speak Microphones. We’ve checked out some pretty cool websites and checked into Purple Mash’s online creative space (more of that on another day). We even did a little work and printed it out. But mostly we’ve been having fun – here’s just a few things we’ve been trying out.

Poisson Rouge is one of my favourite websites: it’s packed with great stuff, there are no instructions, it’s suitable to use with all sorts of pupils (especially great for pupils with SEN  – even the older pupils like to pop in occasionally) and it’s totally intuitive to use. Although I’ve only mentioned it in passing before it is a website I like to return to. For a start; it’s just great for mouse skills and screen scanning as it has lots of interactive dot to dot or follow on type activities. It’s also got some nice musical activities on it and some lovely simple language activities which could also be useful for EAL pupils. Best feature, by far, is just the sheer variety of things available via the website: I’ve seen pupils (and adults – yes I’m talking about you, Ian Addison) get lost in the activities. Definitely worth checking out.

Here’s a nice ‘(2)simple’ idea, that’s a little different from just playing keyboard games to get pupils familiar with the keys. The picture above was created using the ABC setting on 2Paint a Picture: pupils have to type in their name using the keyboard (voilà: keyboard skills) then alter the style of font and decorate it using the selection of pens (developing mouse skills and using tools). The printed out images make a nice colourful display and parents coming into the classroom can see exactly what their child created – lovely! This idea could be adapted to make a keywords or topic based vocab display, which could be extra special if you hunted around for some interesting fonts.

When I’m looking for ideas to use with younger pupils I often test things out on my grandchildren. Recently they’ve enjoyed a number of apps on the ipad which I think could be just as useful in a school setting, especially at this time of year, With a number of pupils looking at life cycles this term there is an obvious link available in Eric Carle’s My Very First App. As you would expect the graphics are gorgeous and it was definitely a hit with my younger grandchildren. They also enjoyed Rumble in the Jungle: an interactive version of the famous book; read by Hugh Laurie and, one for the boys, Misty Island Rescue: it’s a must have app for all young Thomas the Tank Engine Fans! The final app I’m going to share with you is not really aimed at the children – although it did allow them to access and use Purple Mash and a few other child centred websites over the Easter break. This app is called Puffin and it’s just a great browser if you want to access websites which have Flash content on your ipad – great stuff!

Moving on…if you want to undertake some animation projects with young children there’s a great program available called Anithings. Using a selection of shapes, that can be combined together to make different shapes, pupils can make simple moving pictures that are really cute and engaging. It’s not stop motion – it’s far easier than that! Pupils can record motion or use the timeline slider to get their images moving. Pupils can make adjustments to the size of objects to make it seem as though they’re are moving closer, or further away, with just a few mouse clicks, Different backgrounds can be imported, it allows pupils to use storyboard techniques and it’s good for cross curricular activities. But for those of us of a certain age (okay… me) there’s untold pleasure in the mere fact that the click of a mouse can make it look like it’s made of Fuzzy Felts. Makes me wish I was a little person all over again.

The Magic Touch

Using hand held technology in the classroom is coming more and more popular in classrooms around the UK (and elsewhere), and with good reason. Some schools are using a lot of Nintendo DS activities to develop mathematical skills and problem solving (among other things). Other practitioners are using the ipod touch to engage pupils and a number of school have been involved in projects showing the versatility of the ipad in the classroom.  Many pupils find it easy to engage in learning when it is via something they find familiar, tactile, appealing and interactive and the number of apps being developed for classroom use , or being used in a classroom setting even if that wasn’t the initial intention, is growing and growing.

I’ve come across few apps that are particularly useful if you are in a setting where pupils need assistance in understanding their emotions and how to read other people’s faces. Emotion x has a great selection of faces that such pupils can explore in detail; independently or with a supporting adult. The expressions are clearly defined and zooming in on details like the characteristics of the eyes or mouth is a helpful inclusion. Once pupils are becoming a little more aware of different emotions and expressions they could move onto an app like  Micro-Expression trainer, although it’s trickier than it looks!

Of course, I like to tell people that the ipad is totally inclusive and good for pupils of all ages and all abilities: something I believe to be true! There are a number of apps that, on the surface of it, seem to do very little and yet have great impact and potential in the correct setting. The video above shows a short demo of an app called Cutie Bounce which, along with another great but simple app called Granimator, has just enough interactivity for any pupils who is at the ’cause and effect’ stage of ICT. These pupils might usually access technology using switch enabled technology or a specialised set up like Intellikeys: both of which can be cumbersome and are quite obviously different from the average computer set up. Using the ipad not only allows such pupils greater choice – it also, in my opinion, levels the playing field just a little (in the same way any great touch screen technology does).

There are lots more apps I could talk about (maybe I’ll discuss some more on another occasion), including some great ones that can be used to compose music or find thematically based information but I’m going to finish off with some ideas that could be used to engage pupils in story writing and creation, some of which you might already have heard of. Puppet Pals is a particular favourite: pupils move record their own little movie created by using their own voice, a few characters, a background and their fingers. I can’t explain it any better than that really – I just love watching the pupils excitement when they realise what the app can do! You can use your own backgrounds and characters if you want to (and could, therefore, create movies on whatever your current topic happens to be) or use some of the characters included. You can, for very little money, purchase additional character sets to extend the use of the app even further. My friend @ebd35 blogs about it here and every teacher I’ve shown it to has been able to see the potential to develop its use in their classroom – in short, it’s a keeper! Other fantastic apps include Strip Designer: a great comic strip generator that uses your own illustrations and photos (similar to the fabulous Comic Life), Tootastic (which, along with Puppet Pals, has been spoken about here) and Rory’s Story cubes – fabulous for getting the creative juices flowing!

You might notice, while checking out these apps, that not all of them are free. There are a great number of free apps available and some of them are useful but you should never limit yourselves to what is freely available – you would miss out on some amazing things that could really change things within your setting. So, if you’ve got an ipad or ipod available and feel like using it creatively just give it a go. And if you find something REALLY cool and useful, please let me know!

Quick as a Flash!

Flash cards. Vocabulary cards. Word cards. Whatever you want to call them every classroom has them and a lot of teachers scour the web to find something already created in an effort to save time. In truth they don’t take a long time to create: some people just find it a fiddly job or just don’t feel confident enough with software to have a go. But there will be occasions when the vocabulary you want will not be available elsewhere and you need a quick alternative to get you sorted. Here are a few ideas.

One of the things that can make or break a good word card (in my opinion anyway) is the choice of font. I prefer to use fonts that include a round lower case ‘a’ and there are some good ones around if you don’t have the option of  Sassoon fonts. My preference is for a free font called Lilly: it’s not perfect but it is much more ‘grown up’ looking that something like Comic Sans yet still has a child friendly look about it. For other ideas on good free fonts with the correct shaped ‘a’ have a look at Free Fonts – Round A: a list of fonts I put together that offer and alternative to the usual fonts you might use.

Now…to the cards! I prefer to use Microsoft publisher to create flash cards as I think it gives me the most control over the look of the cards. I’ve recently changed over to the 2010 version and while it did take a little getting used to I’m quite happy with what I can achieve using it.  A short video clip is above and the method is adaptable to other versions of Publisher. I find I have much more control with Publisher or PowerPoint for this sort of thing: Word does not give you the same options. A particular thing I like about Publisher (and Powerpoint for that matter) is that you can make picture cards (using the same method as outlined in the video) and just right click your original image to change the picture for the next card!If you’re not confident using Publisher, and I know not everyone is, there are online options you might like to try as an alternative.

SENteacher.org is a fantastic site for all sorts of things, including creating flash cards. Please don’t be put off by the SEN tag – the site is full of fabulous things that teachers everywhere can make use of! There are great templates available for both Literacy and Numeracy (some would be suitable for cross-curricular use too) and they are all free and adaptable, with different colour and size options on many of the templates. Another useful site to add to your favourites is Brendan is Teaching: full of all sorts of activity generators (including flash cards). The site also includes lesson plans, classroom tools and other downloads you may find handy. It is definitely worth a look!

If you are looking for something that can support pupils with SEN (especially if you don’t have any symbol supporting software at your disposal) you might also like to look at the printable cards section that is available via Do2Learn : a great site with lots of resources that can be used with pupils who might need a little extra help (you might also like Ispeek: no flash cards to print but a great symbol site that is based in the UK). This site is not for everyone but is useful and does contain a number of freebies that you might be able to make use of.

There are, of course, other avenues available if you are creating your own cards. 2Publish+ has a handy Multi setting that supports images and text: use it to make multiple copies of cards one at a time. Writing with Symbols and Boardmaker are both useful, especially if you are working with pupils who required picture or symbol support. I’m sure you can think of others! It’s worth exploring your options to create something that is truly your own! Before I go, I’d just like to mention Flashcard Machine:a site that brings flash cards right into the 21st century! The site is free to register and allows to you tocreate study cards and use their ipod and ipad apps to view them when you’re on the move. How cool is that!