“You should not be playing games in my lesson!!!”

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Games | Posted on November 22, 2012

Does anybody else recognise the problem with this? Yes, ok, I know that some children will go onto games that they shouldn’t be going onto, (for example those they may use at home) but there will be children who are familiar with educational games that could actually be utilised in the classroom. This is a factor that I have seen on placement personally, with teachers using ICT based games to support the children’s learning, and also in those ‘tricky’ situations where something has happened/gone wrong and teachers need a short 5 minute activity that children can do to keep them busy. Obviously it is best to avoid this but hey we all have to live and deal with it and lets face it, it is much better if an activity can support children’s learning.

 

So as I like doing little reviews on things, and providing you with some interesting resources and fun games (hopefully) I am now going on a hunt…. for games:

 

New York Times Set Daily Puzzle

This link takes you to a matching activity where all three pictures need to have ‘everything the same’ or ‘everything different’. “What?” I hear you ask. Yes it sounds confusing but is quite a teaser activity that is nice to get children to come up to the front (Interactive Whiteboard). I used it in a Y4, 5 and 6 class and they thoroughly enjoy it, becoming very determined as a class to find the solutions… and you probably will too.

Screen-shot of the Puzzle

 

BBC Bitesize KS1

So we should all be familiar with the BBC and perhaps Bitesize, with several of you perhaps using it before but they also provide a range of games covering a range of topics for; Literacy, Maths and Science at KS1. Whilst all games may not suit all classes or children their is a good selection so it would be worth checking them out to see if you can use them as either a starter or plenary activity. All of the games are nicely animated and come with sound effects to support them.

 

BBC Bitesize KS2

As you might expect, exactly the same as the KS1 resources… No, I’m joking of course these resources are aimed for children of higher levels (as they hopefully will be) but are also aimed a lot more at children playing them independently or in pairs on a laptop/pc rather than as a class on an IWB. Children can even create lobbies so that they can play each other.

 

www.ictgames.com

This website, aimed at early years and key stage 1, features some very interesting games to support both literacy and mathematics, some of which have I have seen on placements in schools. An advantage of this website is that each game outlines the ‘objective’ it aims to achieve and again are worth, in my opinion, having a quick look at with clearly labelled sections such as; number facts, counting, addition, money etc. making games very quick and easy to find.

 

Kent ICT games

This website also offers games for both KS1 and also KS2 as well as some useful animations including some created to support the rhymes of 5 little ducks and 5 little speckled frogs (which can also support children in the early years.

 

So that is a quick look at some examples of games to support some of the subjects within the Curriculum, clearly the list will not be exhaustive but they do provide many examples of useful games for many age levels and topics so I hope that you will find them worth looking at… And have fun playing them.

 

Just another movie maker?? iMovie on iPad, iRate it highly!

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, iMovie, iPad, Mobile Technology | Posted on November 21, 2012

So, iMovie?? Well as its name would suggest this app is all about the moving image, allowing users to produce both short movies and, following a recent update, movie trailers. However, with many other examples of movie making or photo merging software available, with some, such as Windows Movie Maker and Photo Story being free to access is this app worth getting?

Well, one major factor in this for schools would be the price, which may cause some issues because whilst the app itself costs just £2.99, it is made by Apple (thats the computer company) and therefore is only available on Mac’s and the iPad. This would mean that if the school didn’t already have iPads its realistic cost to use it would be at least £272.99 (the app plus the cost of a minimum spec iPad mini). However, with schools starting to implement the use of iPads and with the likelihood of more being implemented, in my opinion, increasing with the release of the cheaper iPad mini this app could become widely used in schools, providing it ‘fits the bill’.

 

So down to the ‘nitty gritty’… Is it good enough?

I would assume, like me, what you would want from any movie making software is;

1. Child-Friendly, ease of use

2. Useful help and guidance

3. Creative and effective results

All I can say is ‘look no further’, I would even go so far as saying “don’t read the rest of my review, just go buy it right now”. This app easily meets my requirements and now I will show you how.

 

iMovie Title Screen

So child-friendly? I know what you’re thinking, most technology isn’t, especially concerning videos and video editing with many buttons that, I swear, are just there to be clicked and have no obvious purpose.

However as can be seen in this screenshot (left) the buttons are clear for children to use, explaining their function and giving instructions very clearly.

But perhaps the key factor that makes this app easy and effective to use is that, on the iPad, all of the capability, is done at your fingertips on a tablet that can be taken almost anywhere, this means that video editing, and recording is no longer confined to the classroom or ICT suite. It is also important to note that as video and photos can be taken on the iPad itself, using both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and then imported directly into iMovie it can solve potential compatibility/connection issues that may have been experienced in the past between device and computer.

 

The Storyboard

So up next, will it help you when you get stuck? Let’s admit it we all have those moments where we are all completely perplexed by technology. It happens. However on many occasions we are left staring at a screen that makes no sense to us, not helpful in a class of 30 children all experiencing the same problem. However iMovie aims to change this by providing clear help and guidance. Too good to be true? For once, no. All users have to do is tap one little button and there issue will hopefully be solved. “Where’s this button for life in general?” I hear you ask. Whilst I don’t know about that the ell button in iMovie is shown as a question mark (yellow circle in picture right) and when pressed displays the yellow boxes that can be seen (right), with each providing a message to help the user. Whilst these do not provide a definitive guide on how to use iMovie they should be able to answer any questions they children may have, eradicating the issue of 30 children looking blankly at their computer screen.

 

Choice of Trailers

So as with most pieces of technology, the finished product, in this case the video, is perhaps the key judge regarding its success, a bit like Simon Cowell on all these talent shows. This app, in a word, produces FANTASTIC videos. The app offers a wide choice of themes for trailers (seen left) and combined with the ability to add both photos and videos from the camera roll, or take them directly on the iPad, offers a huge potential for creating dramatic, effective, creative and, in some cases humorous, videos. The integrated  storyboard also shows children the order in which their videos will be shown and also provides built in effects and transitions as well as background music or sound effects.

The video, can also be viewed whilst being created to see how it is progressing and once finished can be viewed in a number of ways. The first is for children to view it themselves on the iPad but, as can be imagined, the teacher may want to show the video to the whole class. This could be done by either connecting the iPad to the Interactive Whiteboard (requires a HDMI or VGA connecter that is bought separately) or by uploading the video to YouTube and then watching it on the internet.

A spy comedy made using iMovie.

 

So are there any iSsues with iMovie? (see what I did there?)

Well, as I am a massive fan of this app I would like to say no but there are one or two, although they are very minor issues. One I did notice, that is actually a glitch rather than a major issue is that when creating a video random pieces of video found there way into different parts of the storyboard, however these can be easily removed. Another issue is that as iMovie is not available on Windows PC’s transferring an actual file to one is very complicated and is best done with the use of iTunes and then exporting the video from within iMovie or, as mentioned, if a file is not needed it can be watched in a number of ways.

 

Its place within the curriculum?

Well, I could sum this really quickly by saying that potentially it can be used anywhere but here are a few examples to get you started:

Art – iMovie could be used to film work on a class display showing progress the unit, incorporating both photos and videos of the children working and also the finished article which could then be shown in a ‘Celebration/Family’ Assembly

Literacy – iMovie could be used to support a number of areas including; persuasive texts by filming adverts, non-fiction by producing a documentary and also reports by making a news report.

Maths – Children could produce their own ‘How do you solve a problem like…’ (No not Maria) a mathematical problem showing each step and how they used practical equipment to help them.

Science – The fact that iPads are so mobile make them highly useful for taking outside of the classroom, for example when carrying out observations or going on walks

PE – Routines in sports such as gymnastics and also dance could be recorded and played back to see where improvements can be made with a trailer then being made for events such as school dance and music shows as these could be placed easily on a school website/blog

ICT – iMovie could be used as a stand-alone piece of software that children are shown how to use (perhaps useful if future cross-curricular links are to utilised) but could then be used to make ‘How to..’ videos for other pieces of software

 

So that was my blog regarding all things iMovie, a great app that can be utilised vastly within primary schools, providing that the appropriate hardware is in place. Hopefully you enjoyed reading, please comment with any questions or queries. Thanks for Listening.

Can this app morf its way into the Curriculum?

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Mobile Technology | Posted on November 7, 2012

Now its time for a look at another app available for iPad called Morfobooth. This is a strange app in that its purpose is to either play around with one of the pre-loaded faces or to add a face to the app either by loading a photo or taking one. I say this app is strange as it seemingly has no obvious outcome or objective to complete and seems to be designed purely for entertainment.

Me in Morfobooth

   So… Can it be used in the Curriculum?

 In a break from the norm perhaps, I’ll get straight to the point. In my view it can, but   in a very limited sense, especially when compared to other apps. This is because the limited functionality of the app leaves me wondering, for quite a while, about uses for this, particularly outside of ICT. One benefit of this app however is that videos made within it can be used in iMovie (an app that will be looked at in a future blog that has great potential and functionality) meaning that this software can be used alongside iMovie to create effective videos. However this, apart from using it as a stand alone app for fun, is the only beneficial use of this app within ICT.

The only other use I can spot for this app, that could be quite effective, is to use it to add a character into an activity, for example a narrator of a story or an interviewer. The only drawback being, which isn’t actually based upon the app, is that there are many other ways of doing this in a classroom without using this app that could be more fun and also more effective, such as; using video cameras for recording children’s work or other resources such as costumes and masks or perhaps the best resource possible (as they say) the imagination.

 

To wrap this up, as we all like a blog that is short and sweet, whilst this app admittedly can be fun, I think the fascination would soon wear off (and it certainly did on me). I think it could be used in conjunction with iMovie and possibly within other tasks but beyond this its usage, for me, seems very limited so I wouldn’t be in any rush to go and buy it (69p). If you are interested try it on a UoN iPad before paying for it yourself.

So its goodnight from me and its goodnight from him (the picture version of me).

Always wanted to say that.

Who said that being the scribe was boring? This app changes that!

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Mobile Technology | Posted on November 7, 2012

Videoscribe is an animation tool available for the iPad. It differs from normal animation tools in that the animation is literally drawn on screen by a hand after users have chosen the images to be placed within the video. Whilst this app costs £2.99 it can be useful in different ways within the classroom.

Screenshot showing the buttons for the using Videoscape

This app allows users to be able to drag both images and text into the animation as well as backing tracks to accompany the video.

This picture shows how the different buttons in Videoscape are used to help create a video with clear buttons showing how to zoom in and out and also how to change items already added into the video.

Whilst this software is easy to use it is definitely suited as a tool for teaching with KS2 predominantly, that is KS2 children will find it a lot easier to use the software as I feel that KS1 children will be confused by all of the buttons as it took me time to get used to them.

 

Uses In The Classroom:

1. This could be used as a very nice way of introducing topics in the classroom, for example using the clock image as a way of introducing children to telling the time, asking ‘what may we be learning about today’?

 

2. It could also be used as a discussion point for children looking at a picture from several aspects, including perhaps developing a storyline or discussing emotions, possibly even leading to some drama.

 

So thats a quick look at Videoscribe and it’s uses. This is an app that I had no previous use of prior to the session but after briefly having it demonstrated to us in session and not having time to use it, I decided to buy it on my iPad and I would recommend it to anyone with an iPad as it is fun to see what you can create. Whilst there is a desktop version of this app using it comes at a cost after a seven day free-trial so I would personally stick to the iPad version. Once again, as usual I would like to say thanks for reading and have fun playing around with this app. More great stuff coming your way soon.

 

 

Scratching for a Purpose

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Computer Programming, Scratch | Posted on November 6, 2012

So scratching for a purpose.. Funnily enough I don’t mean when we have no clue what is going on so sit scratching our heads. In fact, what I actually mean is using the Scratch software (discussed in my previous blog) to create something that can have a purposeful use within a classroom and also to describe where it could potentially fit into the curriculum.

 

So, I guess the first thing to say is that whilst animations are fun to create, games created using scratch, in my opinion, can be a lot more purposeful in the classroom as they use the same techniques as building an animation, but with a little extra sizzle (a few more buttons) they can be used to further support learning in many areas of the curriculum.

 

As a result me, and Claire Atkinson (Yep, I can’t take all the credit… Most of it should also probably go to her) created a game featuring several underwater creatures, that when clicked on disappear, along with a sound to associate with it, and a score is made to see how many can be clicked. To make this we started with the key foundations as those mentioned in my previous blog changing the background and animating a sprite. However as can clearly be seen we needed to add more sprites (Clicking one sprite wouldn’t be much of a game) so this is done by pressing one of the star buttons above where sprite 1 is displayed, these give you three options;

1. Painting a new Sprite

2. Choose a new Sprite from file (pre-made sprites)

3. Get a surprise Sprite (Chooses a random pre-made sprite)

Scratch Game In The Making

However in making a game there are also several more key commands that will also need to be included such as; making sprites appear and disappear at random and also making them disappear when clicked, and accompanying this with a sound effect. This can be seen in the game (pictured left) where the command buttons are split into three distinct sections; the first controls the left-right movement of sprites, the middle section controls how sprites appear and disappear at random with the final section controlling how the sprites disappear when clicked, playing a sound at the same time. Below is the final completed scratch project made up of several sprites that follow the same commands… Feel free to have a play around with it.

 

 

Learn more about this project

This game can be used in two main ways within the curriculum both in the Foundation Stage/Year 1 and also in upper Key Stage 2. Within the foundation stage the main focus of this game would be to reinforce the learning of counting from 1 upwards, the number being determined by the score the child gets. As well as counting upwards to the score that the playing child achieves, children can also practice counting down along with the timer displayed in the top left of the screen.

In Key Stage 2 the use of this game would be a lot more related to computer programming with children using this as a template to create their own game. There are however several ways in which this can be delivered to the children to develop it in stages; children could be given the original game and asked to change the background (an important starting point for creating a game) before investigating the commands used to create the movement of the sprites and seeing if they can replicate it for a new sprite. Another interesting way of developing children’s knowledge of scratch could be to let them explore for themselves for a little while to see if they can create anything. After this children could be guided through the software step by step, however this would take time to build up to a finished product (perhaps 8-9 sessions).

However this game could have been further improved/adapted to make it more suitable for use in certain areas of the curriculum; for example changing the game to require children to click on the sprites that would live in a certain habitat, an idea that another group made a game for (Can’t remember who to give them the credit however).

 

So there we go, a quick look at how to use a game to support the curriculum and, perhaps more importantly, have some fun whilst doing it. If anyone has any questions feel free to comment (starting to sound like Facebook) but I guess thats all from me, for now, and as Arnie would say.. ‘I’ll be back’

 

Having fun Scratching

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Posted by Shane | Posted in Animations, Computer Programming, Scratch | Posted on November 5, 2012

Hello again, so in this session we started to look at the concept of computer programming and how it can be made accessible to children of a primary school age. Most people would arguably state ‘how can you teach computer programming to children? Its far too complicated!’ This view will stem from ideas that computer programming involves developing complex video game consoles or pieces of computer software that have vast amounts of capability. This however is not the case as computer programming involves entering any command into software in order to produce an outcome, meaning that computer programming can in fact be used to produce more simple animations and games.

 

In terms of making programming accessible for children there are different pieces of software that can be used including Scratch and also Kodu. Within primary schools however, Scratch is a more suitable piece of software for children to use as it is simple to use, although guidance and support will be needed to start with, but can also be used to produce to very fun animations and games.

 

Scratch is a very nice piece of software to use, hopefully most of you agree, as it features; buttons that clearly demonstrate their purpose with appropriate labels, sprites (moveable characters) that children will find interesting, cool sound effects and also an interesting command bar.

As of yet this sprite (the cat) has not been animated and therefore we need to add buttons that program the cat to move. To do this the buttons/commands are simply dragged from the list onto the left into the middle box which will create the chain of the command that will animate the cat

As is, hopefully, rather self-explanatory these buttons mean that when the green flag is pressed the cat will move 10 steps to the right (as it is positive 10). The last command is a rather interesting one, ‘if on edge, bounce’ refers to the edge of the white screen, which without the command, the cat will disappear off and as such this command will mean the cat will turn around at the edge of the screen.

Now I know what you are all thinking, ‘thats all great but that white background is awfully boring’. Luckily we can change that very quickly by pressing the ‘stage’ button (as shown by the white box in the above pictures) located next to the ‘sprite box’ (bottom right). When choosing to change the background children will be given three choices; to import one from a file already on the computer, to take a picture with a camera or to paint a picture (which children should be familiar with as it is similar to other painting software)

So that is a basic guide for how to animate a ‘sprite’ using scratch, a piece of software that can be downloaded for free on pc and mac, and allows for children to make simple but effective animations but also start to build games, which I will cover in a future post as well as where this could fit into the school timetable. Thats all folks (for now).

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