I was recently on a course looking at how you can bring programming into the ICT curriculum in a practical way. As part of the course we looked at some great hands on tools, as well as some fantastic web-based programming resources. A handful of these were the Mozilla based coding tools. It’s like someone delved into the mind of an ICT teacher and pulled out exactly what they needed! Can you tell I nerded out over these a little?!

x ray gogglesThe 1st is the X-Ray Goggles. To start with you need to install it as a bookmark on your web browser, the instructions are easy enough and on the webpage when you 1st load it up. Once installed you can visit ANY website and start to play with the coding behind it. Simply click on any element to start changing and altering both text, links, and images. This is a great intro to the world of HTML with pupils, and shows them the structures and scaffolding behind their favourite websites. The thing I like most about this tool is the fact that you can publish your changes as a URL, allowing you to send and share your work with others. Tip: Discuss the idea of copyright and keeping work appropriate when online. who knows what they could write left by themselves!

In a nutshell: It works great as a quick and easy way to see the coding behind a website, however it can be fairly limited, for example it doesn’t allow you to see the style sheet of the overall page. 

 

The second web tool developed by Mozilla is Thimble. Thimble is a web-based code editor designed to give complete novices a space to quick build, share and practice their skills. While there are other similar products out there Thimble is designed with the newcomer in mind. It really focuses on the teaching of basic HTML, rather than the more advanced side of things. For the more adventurous I would suggest something like Codecademy. Thimble runs as a side-by-side code editor and output, allowing you to instantly see your creations in real-time, providing you with instant feedback and tips if you do something slightly wrong.

As well as giving you the freedom to create and develop anything you like Thimble also offers a selection of ‘Remixes’. These are projects created by others and offered out for people to edit and play with. I tend to use these 1st with my pupils to give them some ideas and inspiration on what they build in HTML, before moving on to creating their own.

In a nutshell: Really simple and easy to use web editor, that offers some great instant feedback. However, for some security reasons it doesn’t support Java so be away before you get started. 

For those, like me, who are a little daunted by the world of programming and coding these tools can prove as a great starting point. Give them a go, and share what you think!

arounderLove love love this website. In a lot of lessons pupils spend time investigating or researching countries around the world, and this mainly happens on Google Earth. With younger children the issue can be that the scope of the maps are too large. Pupils can be easily distracted or get lost. Arounder works as a collection of interactive panoramas places on a map. Pupils can load up a country or a city and work their way through the most interesting and visually stimulating places available. You’re not even limited to this planet, you can even visit Mars!  There are thousands of images available, get you kids to have a play and explore! Enjoy.

This week Digital Leaders had a fantastic day at the National Media Museum in Bradford. For those who haven’t been, it’s FANTASTIC!  Floors full of historical technology and media, packed with a wide variety of interactive and engaging activities. We spent the morning walking through the museum looking at the history of the internet, and working or way through to playing on some vintage arcade games. Great Stuff. The museum has some great blue screen set up with allowed the children to go sky diving and even visit Coronation Street. They also had a go at news reporting for the BBC. The best thing about the museum was the sense of real world applications. They were able to see how technology has influenced the world of media, and the part they could play in the future.

We can do things that we never could before. Stop-motion lets you build tiny little worlds, and computers make that world even more believable. Nick Park, Aardman Animations.

For the afternoon though we had booked a session with their resident animation expert, Jack Lockhart, looking at the method of making a stop motion animation video.they loved the session and worked hard to produce and edit a short video file in the time given. Of course myself and my support staff HAD to have a go as well, (see video below if I can get it working!). The session was designed to show the DL’s how they could teach Stop Motion Animation to a younger year group. they took on all the information and had some great discussion on what  they could do at their ICT club. As we walked out my head was full of hints and tips from the day that I thought would be great to share with other people wanting to give animation a try, so here goes:

  •  Think about your set up. When we got back to school I instantly thought of different animation projects i could do with classes, but I needed to think about the logistics of it all. Where would the tripods go? what would keep them secure? Will my webcams be of good enough? Do I need to purchase any animation software? all of these things need to be considered before you can start to projects. The big thing I had to think about was a space where the set up could be left. If a group gets half way through a scene in a lesson I want them to be able to come back to it.
  • Get the right software. There are so many choices when it comes to animation software, you need to pick the one that suites your needs. If it’s for working with KS1 think about a simple program like 2animate. For the more advanced pupils something like iMovie or Zu3D might be more appropriate. Something I look for my KS2 pupils is the ability to ‘Onion Screen’ their work. This means being able to see the previous frame over the current one, a big advantage if something is knocked or moved. It also allows them to see how big the movements are between frames.
  • Planning. You really have to over prepare and make sure you have everything ready. This means things like the characters you will be using and the props you need to make. What are you going to use as a background? What are your character made of? Something like Plasticine is great because it remains solid, but it also easy to manipulate.
  • Set aside a whole heap of time! The process of capturing the frames, putting it all in order, adding sound and effects, and putting the whole thing together as one is a LONG process. Don’t expect to have a quality video done in a day! Try working with small groups at a time, taking it in turns to do small parts of the projects. Younger pupils can get bored with the process very quickly, so it’s best to split it up.
  • Think about the output. How are you going to present you work. This really needs to be considered in the editing stage. You should think about what file type you are using and the quality of the frames. The bigger the screen it will be played on, the higher the image quality needs to be. You could also think about putting it on your school website, so you could think about how you could store and stream the video online.

Hopefully these tips should give you a bit of a start, and help you avoid some of the pitfalls. Enjoy!

 

 

 Friday I attended a course with the lovely @bakingmadmummy as we attempt to lead a project within our school, and become the leaders we were born to be! Great start to the course, with initial ideas shared and some great networking with other teachers and schools.

The idea of the course is to lead a project in your school based on one of the items in the School Improvement Plan. Through the process of developing the project you should encounter and overcome any problems that crop up, similar to the world of school leadership.

The development point we chose to look at is actually the 1st point on our SIP, to improve the level and quality of communication with parents. At the moment we struggle to get in touch with parents on a regular basis, and to give them a platform where they can be heard. Our project hopes to solve many of the issues we face by creating a new branch to the school website, one dedicated to the needs of the parents. So I thought I would share we are at and our plans. I don’t think we can be the only school who needs to improve on this area, so hopefully it should give you some ideas.

  • We started off by broaching the idea with our SLT. Thinking about what they thought about our current provision for parents, and where they would like to see it going. Getting them on side is always a great starting point! We had a good sit down and looked at what we currently provide for the parents. We found that it really wasn’t up to scratch, and didn’t give the parents access to the information they need or space to interact.
  • Our next step was to talk to the parents. They are the ones who will be using the website on a daily basis. They are the ones who will need to access the information as well as interact with it. Get their input! We started off with a simple meeting with the school PTA, asking them the simple question of what features they would like to see on the site. Great starting block, and our next meeting with them will be before the launch event. We want to get their feedback on the finished article to see if any changes or tweaks need to be made.
  • Initial Planning was next on our to-do list. This involved outlines of what we want the website to do, how we will be separating the tasks, and creating an action plan to make sure we stay on track. With my time keeping this was a must! In order to get a clear vision of the site we started to create a map. This map came in the form of a flow chart, showing which pages will link to which, and any cross links. Having this to refer to has been great and one of the best things we have done in the planning process.

That brings us up to where we are working currently. So what next, what the heck are we gonna do!?

  1. To start of with I personally need a bit more training. Our website is currently built using SharePoint 2010, so to make sure the website has all the functionality it needs I need to be able to use it!
  2. Design meetings. Me and the @bakingmadmummy need to have a good sit down with a box of wax crayons and come up with some stylings for the site. What do we want the links to look like? What should the layout be? I’m expecting a notebook full of scribbles and annotations!
  3. Surveys and feedback. In order to track our progress and impact we need to analyse every move we make. Starting off with a quick survey of the parents, and tracking how the current parents site is used. To do this I’m going to use some simple analytics software, maybe even Google Analytics. This should give us a starting block to measure the impact we have on the school and parents.

Ok so hopefully that should give some other people a quick starting point if they are in the same boat as us. What do you guys think a parents website should do? What do you think, as schools, we should provide for the parents. Is there a point that we give parents access to too much, with too much interaction? Hit that comment button!

Before the holidays I had an extra sessions with my year 1 class and had to come up with the lesson on the spot. My go-to for this kind of lesson has to be 2DIY. So many activities in just one program (on a side note I think that any of the 2simple programs are a MUST for any primary school). This half term year 1 have been following the topic of Superheroes so with that as inspiration I got the pupils making a collecting game.

The collecting game will be instantly recognizable to any classic gaming nerd, and it has 3 elements for the pupils to build. A background for setting, a hero character and falling items. It nice and easy to play; Items fall, hero catches them. Easy.

for my class this meant a background of a burning building, the falling items were people leaping out of the building, and the hero character was the super hero they had been working on all half term. The loved creating the characters, and everything is so easy to do they can help each other with ideas. For the more advanced pupils they can add things like an instruction page to share with others.

The best bit of the lesson though is the last 15 minutes. This is when I get them to swap machines and have a go on another computer, trying out a different game. They love sharing their work and evaluating each others work. You always get some great discussion when they share ways to improve their games.  Loads of fun, give it a go!

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