Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Web ideas’

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!

Fun with Words

I thought over the next few blog posts I’d revisit a few old ideas that maybe some of you hadn’t seen before and I’m going to start with a few fun activities linked to words and spelling. Some of these activities would be simple to implement in the classroom and some take a little more time and effort but all of them would be useful to use in a literacy session. I’m also going to add some links to useful web activities you may not have seen before – hopefully there’ll be something for everyone.  And we’ll start with the picture above. This was created just by collecting lots of different styles of lettering from the internet – there’s plenty of it around and you could print out a whole load of different letters onto card (or use them digitally) to put a bit more pizazz into your letter cards. Let’s face it – they look a little bit more appealing than a set of plain cards with Sassoon Infant or Comic Sans letters on them. Of course their jazzy nature isn’t going to suit everyone (it’s possibly not the best idea for pupils with dyslexia) but it does look rather nice (might look good on displays too).  A similar idea can be found online at Iconscrabble: a simple but effective website that might appeal to older pupils.

Now one of the first ideas I ever posted on this blog was about creating pictures using the letters of what you wanted the picture to be of. It was inspired by the website Bembo’s Zoo and I focused on animals because I was trying it out with one of my grandchildren. I still think it’s a fabulous idea that could be used with pupils of all ages: the designs could be as simple or as complex as you wanted. If you want to make the images more interesting download a few cool fonts – there are plenty of free, funky ones available on the internet.

There’s lots of fun to be had with onomatopoeia, calligrams and mnemonics and it might be nice, particularly if you pupils are keeping spelling journals to help them remember words they have difficulty with, to let pupils make their own. Onomatopoeia pictures can easily be made digitally using clip art, or computer generated, art plus text and are especially useful if they are personal as this will help the child remember them. Calligrams, or tactile words as I’ve also heard them described, can be made really easily: you can either use a range of decorative fonts to help support the word meaning, as seen here, or try out the method explained here. I’m sure the children will enjoy it. When it comes to mnemonics I always think these work far better when they’re personal to the child, and they always come up with great ones. Once they’ve come up with their mnemonic they could try and illustrate it in the same way as with onomatopoeia: using clip art or computer generated graphics. After all – why not?

Pivot stick figure is another great tool to have at your disposal when having word fun as it includes all the letters in the alphabet so you can create words. If you click the above link you’ll see what I mean. Download the software and have a go yourself or, better still, ask the children to make some. They don’t have to be as colourful as the example above but it might be nice to load a background with some colour on it, especially if the animations are going to be used by pupils with dyslexia. If you’re feeling really creative you might like to make some more elaborate animations or videos for younger children, like the one below. Not really a spelling activity or anything to do with phonics: just something for when you’re possibly focussing on words starting or ending with a particular letter or sound. The video was created using the PowerPoint animation technique I talked about here. In fact, if you’ve got very young pupils you might also like to check out some of the word games available via Literactive’s Road to Reading section: it’s free to register and you can let them know you’re based in the UK (it will make a difference to certain things). Yes the website has an American voiceover but there are a number of fun activities to keep pupils occupied and I know a number of children (including some with PMLD) who absolutely adore the site.

 There a few more literacy based activities you might like to try here and, for a few ideas regarding spelling activities available online, take a look at this. I hope you’ve found something useful in today’s little bunch of ideas. As Barry Gibb so eloquently put it (or not): it’s only words…

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!


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.



I’ve Got the Music in Me

Everyone loves music. Be it classical, rock, hip-hop or something else entirely, every one I know can pinpoint a tune, a song or a style that they enjoy. Children are no different: they instinctively move to a groove and can tell you how music makes them feel. Music and rhythm is so ingrained in all of us that most of us dream about playing an instrument, writing a song or joining a band at some time in our lives. In the past this was not an opportunity offered everyone: instruments are expensive, reading music can be tricky, learners need time to rehearse and develop – great for those who money, time and energy to devote to it but not exactly inclusive. Luckily access to technology is changing this and now everyone who wants to can find a way to make music if they wish. Over the next few days I’m going to post a few ideas and links to show what is available: whether it costs nothing or needs to be bought and installed across your school system.  Today we’re looking at the freebies.

For starters, on the web based front, there are a number of fun and free activities to get things going. Incredibox was one of the first I came across and I’ve been showing it and using it with pupils for a while now. A simple idea, that’s really well executed; it’s particularly good for showing pupils how to build up layers of sound and put them together. The bonuses add a bit of frivolity and silliness to the proceedings but children seem to love them and happily embrace the madness! The website has been advertising a move towards version 2 soon: I can hardly wait to see what it brings us. In addition to Incredibox you might also like to check out iNudge: a great little music pad type mixer where you just colour in different squares with your mouse and create something that can be quite magical. Great advantage of iNudge is that you can get a link to the tune you’ve created or generate an embed code so you can add it to your blog or VLE, making your creations available for others to listen to – like this

Another great free web based music generator, that I have to say is becoming a bit of an obsession for some of my older pupils, is Isle of Tune . It’s a music sequencer which is (kinda) presented like one of those internet based games you see on sites like Facebook – making it both appealing and familiar before you even start using it. I don’t want to repeat what others have said about this already, so it’s worth checking out this post on The Whiteboard Blog to get a bit of basic information.  What I would say is that it’s worth showing the pupils how to use separate bits of road to create their tune: one piece of road for the rhythm track (these are the street lights) and other road layouts for the main tune and supporting harmonies. The most successful tunes posted are mostly using this method and, after a bit of playing around, you’ll be able to get something together too. I’m warning you now – it is a bit addictive!

For those of you wondering about what’s available to use with younger pupils: there are still a number of nice free web based and downloadable options to try out. BGfL has a marvellous virtual keyboard, which I am sure would be great fun on an IWB as would this delightful raindrop activity. SEN teacher has a download link for Music Games (available for both windows and Mac) which is worth having a play with and, although I can’t see them listed on the site now, both this chimes activity and this tunes activity were ones that I originally found through SEN teacher (quite some time ago) and are absolutely great on a touch screen or and IWB. There are also a number of useful and simple musical activities available via the Tesiboard and Poisson Rouge: you’ll just have to look around to find them!

Of course, there are a lot more activities of this type available on the web: I’m just flagging up the ones I’ve used and found useful. And I’m going to finish with one which is a (ahem) ‘big hit’ with the boy in Year 6 and another that is just too good to leave out. The ‘big hit’ is obviously Ken’s Virtual Drum Kit which I first saw being demonstrated by the ever enthusiastic Kevin McLaughlin during BETT 2011 on a touch screen IWB. Since going home and having a play I found that you can also operate the kit with the keys on your keyboard and this means it is accessible to everyone in school regardless of the computer or laptop they’re using. As I’ve already said, boys in particular seem to take to it and I’ve seen a few of them writing out keyboard sequences for their drum riffs so that they can replicate them at home – how cool is that? And in case you’re wondering which activity I’m highlighting as too good to omit: it’s Microsoft SongSmith. Yes, I’ve mentioned it before but it deserves mentioning again (and again) as it is just so useful! Want to get the kids writing raps to help them with their revision? – it’s great for that. Want to write your own jingles for adverts linked to persuasive writing? – big tick again. I could go on.  The benefit of this program is not only the pure amount of support and guidance available via the website (and there is loads to look through and try out): it’s the fact that it is so easy to pick up and use in the classroom. And all you have to do to get this free is join the Partners in Learning Network. Really… you’d be silly not to.

Here’s Looking at You, Kid..

Creating an avatar is one of those activities that I always include as part of my sessions on internet safety. The fact that pupils find this a lot of fun is a bonus  and if it helps them realise how important it is in the quest keep yourself safe online then that’s all well and good.  A few years ago these sessions seemed to concentrate on using photo editing software to manipulate and alter a photo of yourself so that it was in some way distorted or funky looking, often using freely available software like Irfanview on online editors like Tuxpi but as more and more ‘avatar creator’ sites pop us it seems a shame not to use them – so use them we will.

With younger children I like to show them a few cool things they can use to make cartoon-like or fun versions of themselves. This might not immediately be linked with internet safety but it’s handy that when we come to talk about creating an avatar many recall these sites as possible options. Be Your Wild Self is a site I keep coming back to (once you’ve tried it I’m sure you will too): use it when looking at habitats and animal classifications or when creating fantasy creatures for literacy – so much fun and great for generating discussion.You could, alternatively, tie your face creating into a maths activity and create faces made of simple Autoshapes as shown here , after all, it’s always useful to have a few topics linked together and this is the perfect opportunity! For even younger pupils you might like to check out the Me Maker from Kent ICT Games. Like many of the activities offered via this website, the Me Maker will run online but is also available as a download and is a great introduction tool for an ‘Ourselves’ topic. Although both the above mentioned activities only allow you to print out your creations you could always use this as an opportunity to show pupils how to use the Print screen key or use a free tool like Gadwin Print Screen to capture the finished image.

I have to say that, for a long time,  one of the most popular avatar creators with KS2 pupils was the now unavailable site Simpsonize Me. I’m happy to report that you can still make yourself look like a member of the simpsons cast quite easily online by using the avatar creator included on the Simpson’s Movie Site. There are a number of other television programmes and movies that occasionally post such activities. I used to enjoy using the Wallace and Gromit avatar creator but this is another that is currently unavailable. But if you are a lover of all things clay I suggest you try Clay Yourself! which is just as much fun. If you would prefer to look a little more heroic in your finished creation why not try Hero Machine? I could see this site not only being useful as an avatar creator but additionally as a way of creating characters to inspire writing or discussion. Worth a look.

Finally, no selection of avatar creators without looking at some that reflect the avatars many pupils create to use on gaming consoles at home. My Avatar Editor and the Mii Avatar Creator both tap into this have proven popular with the pupils in my school, especially those at the upper end of KS2. Another site that the pupils seem to go back to is  Reasonably Clever  (Lego style characters)which they also used to create characters for storyboards and animation. The site contains a kid friendly version (not a funky looking but it doesn’t include things like cigarettes or guns) and a Blockhead version, just for faces. Even the Autoshapes idea can be extended into this age group: just use combinations of shapes to create cartoon style faces.

In closing, I’m pretty sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as finding web tools for creating faces goes. There a number of others I can think of that cannot be accessed in my school setting due to some of the social aspects of the site the rest in or the unsuitability of some included items. I’m sure this would be true of most schools and educational settings so I’ve chosen to concentrate on those I know can be accessed, albeit in my location. If you know of any really good ones I have missed out though I’d be really interested to hear about them

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. 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!

Fantastic Journeys

Every child loves having the opportunity to create fantasy stories set in imaginary places but it can sometimes  be difficult to inspire pupils and get their creative juices flowing. It’s much easier if they can visualise a setting for their story and some pupils might need a little extra support to do this. So here’s an idea to get them enthused; and it costs nothing and is lots of fun too. It just involves a bit of fun photo editing.

We all know that visual images can be used to stimulate the senses and get pupils writing creatively so this project involves them creating some of their own. Now you could get your pupils to search on the internet for suitable landscape images, or use a site like Deviant art (not a site for children to access but very useful nonetheless)to find them a suitable selection to adapt, but the pictures created here used a set of clip art images I had prepared and created (you can download a few samples, if you want to use them, here). Of course you could extend the activity by getting the pupils to design their own landscape using a suitable art package first (like the ones listed here and here) before they manipulated it using a photo editing package – that’s up to you. It’s just the effect we’re after here: allowing the pupils to customise their image to transform it into something special.

The choice of photo editing software is totally up to you but there are some great online tools out there, many of which I’ve mentioned before, that are great for the job and easy to use. Tuxpi has a number of different photo effects available (although not all would be suitable for this activity). I especially like the way the heat map effect transforms the space scene above and makes it look truly ‘other worldly’. I’m also a big fan of Pixlr, which was used to create the unusual lighthouse image (utilising the water swirl filter followed by the color lookup effect). It also has a fabulous kaleidoscope filter which can look tremendous on some backgrounds – try it and see!

Of course the images don’t have to be a riot of colour (although that’s what I appear to be showcasing here): simple filters that tweak the backgrounds slightly (such as altering the pictures hue and saturation levels) can be just as effective. Different editing suites have slightly different settings and it’s worth investigating a few yourself to see which you prefer. I like to give the pupils a choice so I’ve looked at a number of them including FotoFlexer, MyImager and Picnik (to name just a few). Choice is key and different layouts might suit different pupils in addition to which the pupils may already know of something else that they use at home – and I’m all in favour of finding out something from the pupils.

I’m not saying you have to use online tools though. If you’ve got suitable software installed just go ahead and use that! With younger pupils, and those who need additional support, I like to use Photo Simple as the interface really lends itself for use with that group of pupils and it has two settings (simple and advanced) that you can ‘match up’ the pupil’s abilities. Downloadable items like Fotosketcher and Irfanview could also be used for an activity like this: both are free and have different things to offer so they’re definitely worth exploring.

Finally, I’d like to emphasise that this activity, while providing a useful link to ICT in the classroom and being a lot of fun, is really a way to get pupils engaged in their creative story writing. Once they’ve created the settings pupils could print them out and brainstorm suitable vocabulary (using post it notes), or do the same thing online by importing the picture into Linoit or Dabbleboard and doing it that way. You could even extend the activity into character creation to go with the fantasy backgrounds. How about displaying the finished images onto your IWB and giving the pupils sentence starters? Or using them as a starting point to work on similes? Take it wherever you need it to go – I’m sure the children will love it!

Keeping it Interesting

Hello all. It’s been a little while since I last blogged and you might have been wondering what I’ve been up to. Well I’ve been busy: gathering some new ideas and reworking some old ones too but my main focus has been trying to develop some ideas to keep lessons interesting and challenging for all pupils. It’s something that needs to be at the front of our minds at all time – we want children to do well and we want our lessons to be as interesting as possible. Some topics generate more interest than others but it’s important to have high expectations of the pupils while giving them every opportunity to shine.

Now something that really interests me is Formula 1 racing. This started when I was just a young girl. At that time Texaco was a big name locally and they arranged for one of the F1 cars they had sponsored to be on display in the town. I think it could have been Mario Andretti’s car (although I could be wrong) and the sight of it parked in the middle of the local supermarket car park was something I remember as quite exciting and other worldly: a definite wow moment for a young girl in a very small town. So it was with great excitement that I went on a fact finding mission about a project that sounds interesting and engaging on so many different levels: the Formula 1 Technology Challenge . What a great project: building and racing cars against pupils from other schools, not just in your own area but possibly on a global scale. What a fantastic idea!! There are so many elements to the project that take it in different directions and call on differing skills. There’s the scientific enquiry aspect: finding out about aerodynamic design. There’s the ICT/DT aspect: using Solidworks , or similar software, to design your vehicle, printing out a 3D model of your design and then constructing it in more traditional manner. Added to this is the opportunity to develop entrepreneurship skills: marketing, developing merchandise and sponsorship are all embedded in the challenge. I think it’s definitely something worth investigating further!

On a more day to day level I have decided to improve and refine the challenge area in the ICT suite. In the past I have had some quick levelled activities on hand (well, actually on my desk) to hand out to those pupils who perhaps finish a task quickly or need to move on to the next step. I’ve decided to now devote an area of the room to this and have duly bought some rather spangly and sparkly gift boxes of different sizes to give the area a bit of pizazz. The smallest box will contain challenges for pupils in Years 1  and 2 and the boxes get progressively bigger as the pupils get older. Within each box I’m planning to put a number of ICT ideas that I’m going to colour code: red for e-safety, yellow for research etc. That way I can offer up a suitable challenge, to any child who is ready for one, and just send them off to the challenge area to collect a suitable activity card. Of course this is going to start after Christmas, so I’ll have to see how it goes, but I am hoping that it’ll help keep things ticking along nicely.

Broadcast News!

As you know, from previous posts, I do enjoy a good TeachMeet. You’ll also know that many of them are quite far away from where I actually am, so I quite often watch them online and contribute virtually. In my opinion they’re an excellent way of generating ideas and meeting new people – there’s always a ‘something for everyone’, quality about each event. I try to do everything I can to encourage more people to join in and attend these events but there seems to be, unfortunately, often an element of ‘preaching to the converted’ about it. Some people have the opinion it’s all about the tech, but it doesn’t need to be. I’ve seen many presentation that doesn’t involve any technology whatsoever and is still awe inspiring. So  try and get along to one if you can – they are the place to be for CPD

For the TeachMeets I can’t get to, but still want to take part in, I’ve been creating a few videos using a great piece of screen recording software called Camtasia. I’m just using it as a way of sharing ideas, but some of the videos have been quite popular and quite a few people have been asking for links. So, earlier this week, I decided to launch my own You Tube channel for TechnoStories so that the links are all in one place. Now I’m aware that many local authorities block You Tube in schools but I thought it was still a handy way of sharing the ideas and, in any case, many of us look for ideas or inspiration when we’re at home in the evening. So there it is. Done. Videos available for you to watch at your leisure. Now I know that there are only five videos at the moment (I’m sure that number will grow soon) and that many of them have greetings and cheerios at the end (wasn’t really planning them for the masses when I made them) but I’m hoping you’ll find them useful. Just promise me one thing. If you do find them useful please pass the ideas on to others. And try and find out when there is a TeachMeet near you so you can attend and get even more inspired.