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:

http://inspire2learntudors.wordpress.com/

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.

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