Last week I had one of those lessons again. The ones where you get the kids going, take a step back and watch as massive learning begins. I got the kids set up with a Makey Makey and a few bits and bobs and told them I wanted a games controller making. Obviously I sold this to the kids as me wanting them to create a new Xbox style remote which hooked them immediately! The ability to make a controller for a game using an old cut up cardboard box and a few split pins is brilliant for the pupils. To give them something to work with they spent 10 mins creating a simple little game using 2DIY by 2SimpleSoftware. Quick to do and the only controls you need to play it are up, down, left and right. Makes things loads easier when the kids have only been using the Makey board for a few weeks.

After talking through my expectations and what they had to use I took a big step back. Floated around the room and tried my best not to get involved with the pupils. The discussions going on round the room were brilliant. Children talking about what wires they’ll need, where the connections should be, and trying to work out why things weren’t working. It was the mistakes that gave me the best bits of conversation for assessment. Pupils using logical reasoning to work out their mistakes and look for a fix. Is it a problem with their controller, or was it something wrong with the programming in their game? You can see from the pictures above how engrossed the pupils were, and I struggled to tear them away from the kits at the end of the lesson.

I really would recommend these boards to any primary school. The creativity, independent learning and computational thinking they generate more than repays the cost of the kit! Next week I think I might see if I can trust them to use the copper tape….

 

Introducing Year 1 -2DIY

October 21st, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in 2DIY | PurpleMash - (0 Comments)

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The first few weeks in my job are usually a nightmare with year 1. Spending a few weeks trying to get them used to the network, trying to write their own names and showing them how a password works can slowly drive you insane. A few weeks in now and they have started doing some ‘real work’, which is great as my sanity slowly drifts back.

This half term the pupils have been looking at game making, and how we can use simple software to make games based on their topic. At the moment they are spending their time in classroom looking at all things Space.

So far I have stuck fairly religiously to 2DIY. Great for game making at all ages as the difficulty level can increase or decrease as required. So far our most complicated has been the jigsaw puzzle. Technically all the kids are doing is creating a lovely image showing me either a rocket, alien or the Moon; and then 2DIY turns it into a puzzle for them. I get to see their computing skills when they look at adding a few simple instructions to the game, or think about how they can make it easier/more difficult for other people.

Now the actual work they produce isn’t a Van Gogh, I mean it’s year 1, but the conversations going on in the room are brill! Listening to pupils talking to each other about how to write the instructions, how to change the jigsaw size, and game swapping is what I’m really after. It’s definitely one of those lessons where the biggest noise in the room is from the chairs shuffling around as they try each others work out!

The beauty of using something like 2DIY is its simplicity. I know that even with year 1 pupils I can leave them to the work without having to do much technical help, leaving me to concentrate on the learning. If you want to see programming in KS1 just ask pupils to build you a simple Collecting or Catching game. Job done!

What’s your best 2DIY lesson with KS1? Anyone else share in my year 1 nightmare start to the year?!

An Afternoon of Kodu

January 15th, 2014 | Posted by AlwaysComputing in ICT Resources - (0 Comments)

koduAt the moment my year 6 classes are looking at all things gaming, and yesterday I introduced them to the wonderful world of Kodu. Kodu is something I have always been meaning to play with, but never been brave enough to. It always seemed a bit complex and fiddly. Our unit of work has looked at classic games, and what makes them great. Then we are moving on to make a variety of games using different programs. They are experts with 2DIY, which is brilliant to use and so adaptable, but I wanted them to move to something with more complexity. I’m working my way towards Scratch, and Kodu seemed like a nice middle ground.

Due to the fact that my knowledge of the program was fairly minimal I left the majority of the teaching down to the kids. I showed them the very basics and set them free to play, explore and make plenty of mistakes. When the lesson finished I realised that this was probably the best way to do it. Those who struggled stuck to what I had shown them, and with a little encouragement pushed themselves and added new details. The best part of the lesson was seeing those who understood it quickly without my coaching. The freedom of the lesson allowed them to flourish and make some fantastic worlds at their 1st attempt. It left me eager to see what they can do with more time, and more development from me.

The only problem I had with the lesson was that the kids spent a good chunk of the time concentrating on their world design and the aesthetics. Next time they are in their challenge will be to focus on the game side of it and try to make a working game in an hour. Seeing their minds working on the look of their work was good, but without the core game working their work seemed hollow. Another little tip for a lesson like this would be to give the children question cards. I limited my pupils to 2 each. this encourages the children to ask their peers for help and work with each other, plus it stops them from hassling you when you don’t have the answers yet!

If anyone else is a bit apprehensive about using Kodu in a primary school I would say go for it, but put the focus on the kids. Make them learn and push themselves to find what they can do. A good website to look at before hand is Planet Kodu, it’s filled with tutorials, downloads and some great inspiration for the children. Have you used Kodu in the classroom? Any helping tips for others or myself?!

gamification copyThis week at work I have been starting to plan and prepare a new unit of work on Gaming. Then on Saturday I watched a TV program about the history of gaming, and the leaps in technology we have had. It left me thinking of nothing but games, and how I could bring the world of gaming into my classroom.

I don’t just mean bring computer games into the classroom, the wonderful @TimRylands has been doing this with the likes of Myst. The definition of Gamification is the use of game design and mechanics to enhance non-game contexts. I want to bring this ethos and mindset of a computer game into the way I teach, and the way the pupils learn. As children growing up we learnt so much from the world of video games. We learnt timing, organisation skills, morality, and more importantly, right from wrong. The biggest thing I would like to see though is the sense of achievement in the pupils. As a gamer I like nothing more than getting some obscure, challenging achievement point in my latest Xbox exploits, and I want children to feel the same in my room. So I started thinking of how. How could I change my teaching style to accommodate this, and what resources will I need. After a bit of thinking and tinkering I have come up with 3 points below.

Achievement Points 

One of my 1st steps was to think about how I could use gaming to assess the pupils progress and track their work. Badges are popping up everywhere in games, with players collecting achievements as they progress through games. A great online resources for this is Class Badges. The site provides both you, and your pupils, an account you can create your own badges to pass out to pupils. Pupils can login to see how many they have, and what they need to do to get the next achievement badge. To make this resource as effective as possible I wanted to make sure the badges went beyond the small and trivial. I decided to go through level descriptors and fit them to the badges. This means that when the pupils receive one they get a fun badge to collect, but I get a quick and easy way of knowing where they are and how they are progressing through the levels. Something that I really concentrated on was the descriptions. I wanted my pupils to know what they needed to do to get to the next level, and understand what they needed to show me in order to get it. I am hoping this will really promote pupil engagement, and see a good increase in motivation.

Add a little competition

leaderboardI personally don’t feel we offer enough competition in schools any more. In my experience small tournaments or challenges work fantastically at incentivizing pupils and getting the most out of their work. Everyone wants to see their name at the top of a leaderboard! Challenge classes or pupils everyday when they are in your classroom. These can be simple little tasks like making sure they bring their homework, or seeing who can get onto the extension activity. I plan to award my classes Experience Points based on their behaviour and work level in my room. How well do they listen to instruction? How many skills can they show me in their work? All of these things could add up to points on a leaderboard. Which class will be top at the end of the term or year? To give the EXP points more gravitas I want to keep them up to date at all times, maybe a job for my digital leaders. I also want to publish them online, either as part of a gaming blog, or on school website. Has anyone tried working with something similar?

Think about the language

One of the smaller changes I want to make is the language I use in the classroom, and how I use it in things like displays. The world of gaming has it’s very own language and this is something I want to embrace and adopt in my ICT lessons. When trying a new program with a group I will have a class of Noobs. Instead of pupils I will have players. I want to have Zones in my room or on my network. Could I bring in Hardcore or Legend levels of work for my more able, or help out the lower ability with beginner or intermediate level work. Our pupils are already using this language on a daily basis, and have a full understanding of what it means and how to use it and apply it in their computer games, why not do it in the classroom?

What do you think about Gaming in the classroom? Have you used something similar or are you already running a gamified classroom? I would love to hear from you! I hope to report back in a few months with how it all went, and hopefully some more tips and tricks as I go!

 

game over

Ok, so I know it’s a bit late in the day, but I thought I’d share a few of the teaching ideas I have used for Roald Dahl Day. One of my favourite days in the school calendar, where children get to enter some of the most fantastic worlds.

1. Character blogs – allow your pupils blog on your VLE as one of Roald Dahl’s famous characters. Get them to enter the minds of The BFG or Matilda and share their experiences and thoughts. Add some images to their text and share it online, you will be amazed with the feedback you get.

2. Gaming – Use some gaming software like 2DIY to make a Roald Dahl themed game. This year my class have been playing as Danny the Champion of the World trying to catch pheasants! Why not make a game where you get to collect Snozzcumbers or Fobscottle bottles? The possibilities are endless!

3. For older children why not try a quick hot seat using Skype. Get pupils to dress up in an adjacent room and Skype the rest of the class. Get the pupils to interview the character on their motives and emotions.

4. Character Creation – One thing Roald Dahl always got perfect was the creativity in his characters. They were always fantastically odd and never boring. Try to make some new ones with your class. You could you try and add them to one of his stories, maybe make a sequel! Use something like paint.net or 2Publish so that pupils can bring their creations to life.

5. I have saved the trickiest till last, for only the bravest of teachers! For those that don’t know Roald Dahl did all his writing in a little shed at the bottom of his garden. It was the perfect writing space for him, warm and cosy in the winter, peace and quiet, and a pencil and paper on his lap. Get your pupils to think about where they could write, what would be their ideal space? When they have come up with some different ideas get they to try and create it on Google Sketchup. Use the modelling software to make their perfect little hideaway!

 

‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’

-Roald Dahl

iPad Screenshot 5This week I have been given the task of making the teaching of ICT more mobile and physical in Reception. Sounds fun at 1st but then the reality sets in and I have to find enough work to do on fairly short notice. One of the things I have planned to do is using the iPads a lot with them, looking at some different apps, and different uses in the classroom.

Daisy the Dino is a control based app that works much in the same way as Scratch. Pupils create lists of where and what they want Daisy to do on the screen, it gives the pupils the chance to learn the basics of programming with a fun cartoon! the app is free and easy to use with drag and drop features. Kids of all ages can animate Daisy, making her move, dance or grow as she moves across the screen. The children should grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the challenges set by the app. using the app can be developed further by pupils downloading a program on their computers with more functionality, but personally I would use this as an intro to Scratch.

Give it a go and see what you think, overall I think this a great introduction to the world of programming for younger pupils.

iPad Screenshot 4iPad Screenshot 3

 

 

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