Friday, 28 January 2011

Sounds to Inspire Writing

I am three weeks into a course being run by The Consultants-E called mLearning. In the UK I guess most of us would call it Handheld learning but in the current "down with ICT" message that I, at least , am getting from the Government I think it will be the only way for schools to go over the next ten years.

The course itself has been really interesting so far, we have been exploring what it is, our own contexts and experimenting with various techniques.

During the first week there was an exercise on sound and one of the delegates introduced the idea of a story in a sequence of sounds. It seems a very obvious way of using mobile phones, mp3 or 4 player in the primary classroom. I have taken the idea and created a few MP3s that could be downloaded and used on mobile devices to inspire writing.

How I would use them:

•    Listen once
•    Listen a second time and note down key words or phrases linked to the sounds
•    If necessary listen a third time filling out their notes
•    Pupils either work alone, in small groups to create a story
•    If pupils are working in a foreign language I may ask them to prepare to tell their story
•    If pupils were working in their own language I may get them to work in groups to make a “choose your own path through the story” in a wiki.

This exercise could be as easy or advanced as required, pupils could use only the main sounds and develop a story using them, or use every sound in sequence to make up a story, or in any other way a teacher can imagine!

Each sound files has a sound that does not really belong, e.g. the jungle has a cat’s meow and the shopping event has robotic sounds, some pupils may enjoy weaving them into a story if they hear them, others may choose to ignore the odd sounds, it really does not matter.

If you try them out please let me know if it worked, how it turned out, and if possible, share your pupil’s writing.

Jungle at Dusk
Cut Down a Tree
Shopping Event

Saturday, 22 January 2011

A mad few weeks

Well for various reasons it has been a few weeks since I wrote anything here - the main reason being my desktop computer died about a fortnight before Christmas and I have been juggling an old machine and laptop to get by! The desktop I have been using was the one I had before the one that just died, it is a bit old now and I had cleared all of my software off for my son who only used it to talk to his fiance whilst she was studying in France and he was here. Since she came over the computer has been sat idle upstairs as they use her laptop in their flat, so out it came and I have just about finished installing and updating everything again as I am going to put it back upstairs in the box room office tomorrow! However so much has been happening I feel as if I should have written a book in the time never mind a single, strange, rather mixed up, multi-themed post.

I went out to buy a new computer the other day. I had decided I wanted a nice neat all-in-one type. I found a good one, a Sony with everything I needed, but decided to have a last look around before buying, a bad move, I ended up with a big Mac, and not the burger sort :-)

It will take me a while to get used to it I think! I have loaded Parallels, Windows 7 and a new version of MS Office that I purchased and downloaded the day my old computer died. I have put a few favourite essentials on that just so the virtual computer so that I can do all that I need to do on a daily basis but where possible I am using the Mac software to start to get used to it. I am really impressed with how the Mac does things, I just wish I was a month on and knew a bit better where everything is and what to expect, I feel a little insecure at the moment!

It has been about ten days since I was at Learning Without Frontiers conference at the Barbican in London. Lots has already been written about it, it was an amazing few days with lots to see, think about and learn. The thing that just blew me away was Tim Ryland's green screen filming with children. He used the iPad app Epic Citadel as the background and started a story about two pickpockets. It was totally believable set in an "Oliver" style of old London. The children acted out the story, filmed against green, then the action was set over the old London scene. See lots more on Tim's blog posts and

I bought the software virtual world software for little ones called "All about Me" I love it! I have to pass it onto to my grandson but only when I have finished playing with it :-)
The DSi Excel was impressive, it does not have apps so is used in a different way to the iPod Touch.

See more about the LWF conference from colleague Nick at he has been much more productive than me ;-)

There are a lot of video clips at  and all  of Leon's clips are being made available at

From there we went on to BETT and sadly between meeting people, presentations and doing things for work I did not see as much as usual but the one piece of software that stood out above everything to me was the I Can Animate app by Kudlian.  The software itself has been around for a while but the app - for the new ipod touch 2s with cameras - amazing!!  It has green screen capability and I was thrilled with the small sized green board that the demos were being filmed on at their stand.  I bought the app on the train on the way home :-)  and my husband covered a small board with green felt that we just happened to have in the loft - green screen miniature studio set up and ready! When my grandson came last Sunday we created a story, he recorded the narration and we made the props. Sadly my spring loaded iPhone tripod has not yet arrived so we can't record the stop motion animation tomorrow :-( However it will be done very soon and then I will be experimenting with more ideas.

I have to just mention that after the Wednesday preso in BETT, about Second Life, a Second Life colleague whom I have only met once was at the end of a queue of people who wanted to talk after the event. I was so shocked I could not believe it was her and had to check her name badge - what a lovely surprise!! It made the whole weekend for me!

Our team and centre is due to become an Apple Regional Training Centre over the next few weeks, it has taken a while to set up and now the time is just about here I am quite excited ;-) Whilst at BETT we talked to the Apple people that we are working with and they are going to put some of the new iPod Touch 2s into our kit so hopefully at least in this one aspect - miniature green screen video creation we will be able to do something wonderful!

Our e-safety course has started again in Second Life, join us Tuesday evening for week 2!

The EVO VILLAGE 2011 is running and with so much going on at work at the moment I really am not doing nearly enough to help the team, but we did have a lot of fun outfitting everyone with new clothes last weekend! For video of that see

There is more to come for the last fortnight - but tomorrow :-)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

QR Code Investigations

I have been experimenting for a few weeks with using QR codes to make class puzzles or quizzes. They are ideal for out of school use where you can read one on the side of a building to find out information or open a web link explaining more about the building but I feel that children would enjoy getting used to using them. As we have a set of iPod touches that go out to schools I am hoping to write a curricular puzzle for the next school that has them but how to do it, how to plan and run a quiz or create a classroom puzzle has been a bit of a trial in itself!

I have just pulled a set of QR code investigations together into a document and wonder if there is anyone out there who would like to try them! I tried to make a quiz before Christmas, based on the story of The Night Before Christmas, but I felt it was boring so not good, I will try to refine it for next Christmas, I may know what I am doing by then!

There are issues to consider when trying to make a classroom QR code quiz, investigation or whatever, one of the hardest to deal with is that sites which use plugins, Flash and Shockwave etc. can’t be used in the work as the plugins are not available on the Apple products. ANother is reading the codes. When I had printed off my first set of QR codes to try out the quiz several did not read and I thought they had failed – but no – the way I was holding them or propping them up to try them out was what failed, the paper was floppy so bent slightly meaning the camera could not read them accurately enough.

This document The Ancient Greeks QR Code Investigation is a set of open ended investigations for older primary children who are studying the Ancient Egyptians. The differentiation in this case would have to be by outcome, I have not set differentaiated tasks, I may in the future if this sort of activity would work. It could be an extension activity for more able once they have finished the core work, I guess there are many ways in which it could be used according to the facilities available in a classroom. The pupils need internet access through a phone or iPod Touch with a QR reader such as the free one at to access it.

The investigations are written as QR codes, so are the websites that pupils may use for the study! Pupils may just find the investigation title with the QR reader then go and look up information on the computer to formulate their answer, which would give some better sites for this age pupil, sadly the lack of flash on the Apple products means that many interactive children’s sites are not available on the mobile devices.

Teachers should print out the sheets and cut out the images which need to be laminated to make them rigid enough to be read by a phone or iPod Touch with a QR reader such as. The laminated code images need to be put around the classroom so that pupils can look around with the QR reader, find an investigation that they like and then find the website to help them with their answer.

The instructions code says when pupils have done 6 of the 10 investigations to go to the teacher for their prize. The answers may be as short as a sentence or could be a much bigger investigation depending on the age and ability of the pupils involved. The prize may be house points, a star or something more substantial but if that is not how you want to use the puzzle don’t put the instruction code image out. You could use a website such as web site to create your own instruction!

If you use it please let me know how you use it and how it goes! If you have ideas to improve it and you have time to feed back please do that too!! If you use it I hope your children enjoy it. If it fails - I am sorry it is only and experiment but I am lacking children to try it out on these days :-(

QR Code Links

Things to try to make use of QR codes
Treasure hunts, maths trails, nature trails, history trails – text posters around the school.
Messages for the local community posted outside school for schools to read.
As a stimulus from writing -  take the maps of the school, plant a virtual world on top, set a quest around the school.