Being part of the future today

Just a quick link here to some work that we have been doing at Zetland Primary. They have been using their ipods in Y5&6 to develop work about the regeneration of the seafront which includes the Hub, the Pier and the new leisure facilities. Working with Anne Simpson who co-ordinates the Redcar Regeneration education and engagement programme, pupils have been on site visits, developed their own flyers and worked on ideas for a Time Capsule. The fact that they have been out and about plenty has meant that the ipod touches are a god send as they can hoover up any information or create work while outside the traditional classroom. Their blog is here:

Although broken up for the Summer holiday I know they have big plans for more work including a QR trail along the seafront, all ready for production September.

Check out the WHY? section of the blog to see the videos of how Redcar is transforming.


Bringing History to Life

Dormanstown Primary have a wonderful new building to work in following its official opening a few weeks ago. ICT has been a constant focus in the school and the staff are continually trying to use new and engaging technology to support the children’s learning. The pictures below are taken from a flyer that Year 4 produced based on the history of Dormanstown. They used the iPods that were loaned from our Centre and the expertise that the children gained from our little QR code project (see below) to achieve some really interesting results. I’ve taken some screen shots from the flyer they produced.

Bigger and better?

I constantly return to this theme in my blog, which is most appropriate for learners iPod Touches or iPads. I am genuinely open minded about it. As can be seen below, the general consensus has been iPods because of the portability. However, I felt it was worth revisiting the debate following some discussions I had recently with children.
On my rounds picking up the loan sets of iPads and iPods from various schools I always try and get some feedback from the teachers and the children. Sadly, with it being the last week of term it was hard to get hold of teachers much but I did have some interesting conversations with the Year 5 children at Saltburn Learning Campus.

The jury was split over use of pod or pad. They would love either and described how it was much better writing digitally (the boys were particularly keen on this) then using a pen and paper. All of the children I spoke to preferred writing on the iPad as the keyboard was bigger (but then we did open up the discussion of using an iPod and typing in a “texting” way with your thumbs). As writing was something that they tend to do a lot of in their daily school work this was seen as very important (although sadly they will actually have to be coached a lot with a pen and paper as that is how they are tested at the end of Y6). When I raised the question of portability and carrying the device around they all agreed that the iPad was a bit cumbersome (and expensive to drop was one comment) but there were still half of the children still preferring the iPad.

I then picked up kit from a school that has had iPods and iPads on loan at different times over the past few months. The teacher was adamant that she preferred iPads as they were easier to use in school. When I asked her to factor in portability she still came down on the side of the iPads.

In Riverdale Primary, where the iOS devices have ben used very effectively 1:1 for nearly two years now, several of the Y5s who will get their devices after the Summer break (sadly they didn’t arrive in time!) have opted for iPads instead of an iPod. I will be continuing my CPD sessions (my CPD, not the children or teachers!!!) there until October half term so will continue to report on how those children find the experience of using the larger device alongside the other children with iPods.

If only it was always that easy…

Got quite a few posts to produce over the next few weeks following some hectic weeks as the schools broke up for Summer. This first post is based around the work we did about three weeks ago here at the Inspire2Learn centre.
The Year 4 children from Galley Hill came and did a “Tudor day” here. We always aim to offer schools something that can’t be done back in school and it was nice to make great use of the giant 3D projector facilities and the 3D Medieval street software. Despite multiple requests from the children to “get them to throw poo at us out of the window” we escaped not only unscathed but also somewhat more knowledgeable about what a street during the Middle Ages would have looked like. The children spent the morning working with DM and Mrs J but I had the pleasure of the afternoon session.

As ever I wanted to be a little bit experimental and decided that it would be a challenge and an experience to use the iPads to create a short movie on Puppet Pals to reflect something of what we had learned. To be honest I wanted the children to have more purpose for their presentations then simply “make a movie” so we decided to pretend that the 3D street was a real place called TudorLand that would be a fun day out for all of the family. The movies would advertise one or two aspects of the venue.

The challenge was this:
we had 40mins to work with
some of the children had never used an ipad
the order of work was – create a weemee (as your presenter because the work would be going on the blog and we wanted to be esafe), visit the skydrive and select your backgrounds, write a short script, create in Puppet Pals

I took a gamble and decided to show the children the whole process from start to finish. It took me about 6 mins to demonstrate everything in a superficial way (saving the avatar in the correct place was the most complicated bit). I checked at each point that the kids were with me (I used the Apple TV on a plasma screen to demo each step) and they nodded a lot. I also quickly asked them to recap the steps before I let them loose. By and large they seemed to have got it. So off they went…
The result in on the front page of their blog of the day:

I condensed their work into one movie to make it sit on the blog more nicely (quick theme in iMovie on the macbook, nothing too strenuous!).

Now comes the question: How come I showed them a series of steps, each not too complicated on its own but as a whole, a lot to remember, and they all succeeded? Teamwork undoubtedly played a part, the fact it was going on the web made a few gasp with the honour and the audience implications, and the fact we had three staff helping was a bonus. My wonder is, would I have been as successful teaching them that many things in one go in a traditional way? My experience tells me no.
So what implications does this have for use of the devices? I think the key thing is that you always use the device as the support to the outcome. What do I want to achieve as a literacy focus for example? Then you work backwards and identify the ways in which the device can support that writing.
With Puppet Pals the fact that your writing becomes a movie immediately alters the dynamic of the writing. The role of the audience is enhanced in the child’s mind. Where possible we also try to then use the movie somewhere, and explain this to the children before they write. So in the example above we explained that Mums and Dads, Aunties and Uncles, in fact the whole world could potentially see what they would produce. The reaction of the children certainly suggested that they were going to ensure this was a fantastic piece of work (would this interest be sustained if every piece of work was put up there every day…?).
Once you have established that audience and purpose for the writing, ensuring that the children really focus on the “script” is the key factor. This is the bit that seems to get missed when people suggest that using devices in the classroom is dumbing down writing skills, distracting learners from focussing on the literacy. My argument is quite the opposite. Children vey quickly learn (and it is worth doing it both ways if you have the opportunity to show children by doing) that a written script produces a much better outcome than simply talking off the cuff to an app. Be it Storyrobe, Puppet Pals or Morfo a quality script is essential. In all of our schools using devices these types of activities are giving children a new and fun dimension to their work that wasn’t possible before but it still requires a quality piece of written work sat behind it.

Getting to the point

Had an interesting day working with Y7-10 children from two local schools yesterday. They were a “gifted and talented” group who I was asked to work with using film. Initially we were going to get them to “play with” the green screen and develop some work from that but it struck me that this group would benefit from some focus on film technique and general media literacy. I took inspiration form the experience of letting my own Y9 loose on iMovie (see earlier post). I wondered if the fact that the camera and the editing device being one and the same might allow me to focus more on the content rather than worrying if I had the right firewire to get footage to a machine.

I tried the structure the day into two halves, the first “half” lasted about an hour and a half and I basically asked the kids to use the Trailer function to create a trailer on any subject or genre they wanted. This was their time to get to grips with the framing of shots, sequencing of ideas and so on. The groups really seemed to enjoy the task and it was a seamless process using an Apple TV to stream their finished videos onto a plasma screen. This allowed some discussion of shot angles, choice of image and so on. In one day we didn’t go into this too deeply but clearly the seeds were sown…

The next task, which formed the bulk of the day was to use the basic “create project” function in iMovie. Several of the children had expressed frustration during the first task as they wanted to change the music, remove required shots and so on. This was now their chance to take proper control of the project. Creating a project from scratch also introduced the ability to edit clips to the length that they wanted, addition of titles and all the other tricks of a video editor. It doesn’t have all the features of a full blown Adobe editing package but I see that as an advantage, there is more than enough to do what the children need and this focuses them on the actual product rather than what technical wizardry they can apply.

The format of the task was to choose from four poems and shoot a promo for them. The poems were in fact four Beatles songs (While my Guitar Gently Weeps, The Long and Winding Road, She’s Leaving Home and A Day in the Life). I chose them carefully as She’s Leaving Home allows quite a literal promo if that is what the children want to do, whereas the others move more and more toward the metaphorical. I purposefully gave them the texts without playing the music as I wanted them to think about the content, not just pick the tune they liked best. Once they had decided they went off in pairs to plan and film. In hindsight I think I may actually have given them a larger choice of songs so that every group did a different one, the reason being that when we watched them back at the end we saw a LOT of long and winding roads!

I suggested ways of storyboarding or mapping ideas but was more concerned with letting them plan how they wanted to for this particular task. Some children DID use simple storyboards but most jotted down the key things they wanted to shoot.

The results were all very watchable. It was nice to see that some had literally filmed it all and pulled it together, others had used stills of texts (with a Ken Burns pan effect) or imagery off the web. They were all very different and the children are now expert in using the software..they really are (thank you to one lad who showed me how to access the Titles menu). It is s shame that it was only one day as the finished products are now a brilliant place to start on the next session, identifying strengths and weaknesses in what they had made. It was brilliant to see that some of the groups had taken on board the discussion following task one and had varied camera angles and heights for purpose and effect. Sadly the children do not have permission to be shown on the web so I cannot show their films here…