Inspiring children to create their own content!

In this post I want to reflect on a range of issues explored in our University sessions from this and last year. In an earlier post I discussed the fact that I explored the use of iPads to create films in Year 2. This was done as part of my second year ICT assignment and I will re-synthesis my ideas from this to support this blog post.

The poster gives an example of how ICT can be used to make films to support teaching in History (click the image to download it). The approach incorporated a variety of different apps to help children engage in the filming from conceptualisation through making to releasing to the public. The use of film is pertinent in history because it helps to enhance children’s historical understanding through developing their communication skills.

Due to the immense benefits of film to the History curriculum, the poster does not specify a particular topic. This is to emphasise that it could be used to support work across Key Stage 2. Furthermore, the History national curriculum does not prescribe fixed topics for certain year groups and this means that it would limit the benefits of the poster for teachers if it was restricted to one fictional example (DFEE and QCA, 1999). As such, the poster has been made open-ended to allow teachers to adapt the poster to their own requirements and topic.

The open-ended approach is furthered by the fact that there are no instructions on how to use the apps on the poster. This is because I wanted to encourage teachers to experiment with the apps themselves and come up with their own creative ways to use them, instead of prescribing a set process. Additionally, apps constantly change and this could mean that my instructions could have a limited shelf-life due to a change to how the app is organised.

From creating this blog in ICT sessions this year I have come to see the importance of the final stage of the sequence – publishing it for others to see. I have commented elsewhere about the benefits of sharing resources online and I really think this is an important thing to do.

Undertaking a project such as this requires the teacher to have confidence in the children’s ability to use different types of technology. Green and Hannon (2007) state that developing children’s ability to use these types of technology is vital and that adults need to have more confidence in children’s ability.

This reminds me of a feature film that was written, filmed and produced by a group of sixth-form students. The producer, Nathan Craig, said that the support of the college’s Film Department helped to support the process. This was an out of school project, with a budget bigger than any primary school could provide for filming (although we are talking £3000 here – itself not a vast sum in the film industry).

The film is called “Strings” and you can watch the trailer here:

The film has been nominated for Best Debut at the 20th Raindance Film Festival, for a BIFA in the category “The Raindance Award”  and played at the International Rome Film Festival.

The success of the film can be partially attributed to social networking sites, especially Twitter. The cast and crew tweeted the premiere of the film in the month leading up to its release at the Raindance Film Festival. This helped to contribute to tickets selling out for the screening.

The festival itself benefited from social media within a wider context, with Elliot Grove (Founder and organiser of Raindance) stating that social networking site impressions were reaching about a million daily, with admissions up 33%. For further insight into Raindance you can watch the awards ceremony here:

There are two points that I want to take away from this example and the overall post. Firstly, social networking can be an amazing way to promote ideas with the wider world (of course they only spread if they are good)! Secondly, ICT is a bit like a pen. It takes practise to learn how to use it and is annoying when it breaks. But when it does work the possibilities are as limited as one’s own imagination.

And finally, the success of this film could mark the start of my acting career… 😛

Paper-based references:

DFEE and QCA (1999) The National Curriculum Handbook for Primary Teachers in England. London: HMSO.

Green, H. and Hannon, C. (2007) Their Space: Education for a digital generation. London: Demos.

Hoodless, P. (2008) Teaching History in Primary Schools. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Session 5: Mobile Technology – curriculum applications

In this session KerryLindsay and I worked together to produce a lesson using mobile technologies. We decided to combine the idea of a scavenger hunt with using QR codes.

The scavenger hunt was set up around the University campus. The purpose of the lesson is for children to scan QR codes to get a clue about where the next QR code is located, along with a word. Once the children have completed the scavenger hunt they have to re-arrange the words to create a sentence.

This picture shows an example of what would be seen if you scanned the first QR code in our scavenger hunt route.

The rest of the QR codes and corresponding pictures are arranged, in order, in this PhotoPeach spiral. The words have been redacted to avoid spoiling the surprise sentence for you!

The ICT skills required to produce the scavenger hunt are quite simple. You need access to a computer in order to visit to create the QR codes and a QR reader (such as an iPad or iPod touch) to read the QR codes. This animation, made in VideoScribe, summarises the process.

As you can see this is a straightforward process. Combining text and photographs did slightly complicate things, as we had to merge the text and original photographs to create a single image. These then had to be uploaded to Photo Bucket and linked to the QR codes.

However, we have no doubt that children in Key Stage 2 could make QR codes, progressing to embedding quite sophisticated information within them. Classes could make QR code scavenger hunts for each other. For example,  Year 5 could make a Scavenger hunt for Year 1 children using simple audio clues. This would give the Year 5 children a real purpose for their work.

The Year 1 class could evaluate how well the scavenger hunt works. For example, our scavenger hunt may have been easier to set up if we colour coded the order that the QR codes go in (instead of them all looking the same). The order of the colours could be kept secret by the people who made the scavenger hunt.

Session 4: Mobile technology – skills and techniques

In this session we looked at a range of different mobile technology applications, such as using QR codes, making films and using animation software. I decided to focus on using QR codes in the classroom, as I had not used them before. I have used iMovie to edit movies before; indeed this was the focus on my Year 2 assignment (which I will discuss in a separate blog post).

QR (Quick Reference) codes are funny looking things that look like barcodes. However, they provide much more information than old fashioned bar codes. The information contained within them can be accessed by using a QR code reader available on iPads and smartphones.

They can be used to direct you to simple text, a website, an image or even a spoken message (recorded on sites such as audioboo or Record MP3). The latter provides a great opportunity for differentiation, for example they could be stuck in exercise books and played back for children to gain a recap of instructions, if they need them.

This extract from BBC Click gives an insight into how QR codes work and can be used. It’s from a few years ago now, but it gives a good general introduction to them.

To start exploring how these work I used the Scan iPad app to read QR codes in a maths puzzle from Helen. The maths puzzle is presented here:

When the individual QR codes are scanned a sum shows up for the children to answer.

The individual QR codes could be cut out and placed around the classroom for children to solve. QR codes can be presented in different colours, allowing for differentiation, with different teams completing different trails.

After exploring how QR codes work, I had a go at making one of my own using

My example is inspired by the ancient Egyptians. It could be used as part of a classroom museum, focused on the class’s topic for the term. The children could create the QR codes themselves for different objects and this would give them a sense of ownership of their work, which is important to help children remember the information they have learnt (Jeffrey and Woods, 2009).

The following picture shows you my mock-up of a classroom museum, including the object and it’s QR code.

If you tried to scan the QR code in the picture of the classroom museum you may have found it hard to connect (at least I did). The Primary Ideas blog discusses that recognition can be a problem when using QR codes. They suggest the use of URL shortening services (such as TinyURL or to shorten original URL addresses when linking to websites. This makes the QR code simpler, making recognition easier.

Another benefit of making the URLs shorter is that these can be typed directly into the address bar, for example if someone doesn’t have access to a QR reading device.

The use of these two services in a school newsletter is a really good idea because they would allow parents to be directly taken to examples of their child’s work. This can be supported by a textual explanation in the newsletter to set the work in context.

There are some great additional ideas available on this Google Docs Document about using QR codes in the classroom. I particularly the following two ideas:

  1. Children’s targets: A quick audio or video extract could be stuck next to children’s targets in their exercise books. This could provide a simple summary of their targets and what they need to do next. This might be more helpful for some children than just seeing their targets written down.
  2. Tour of the school: QR codes could be placed in key areas of the school, providing information about the different areas. The use of videos, pictures and audio information would help to provide an insight for visitors into life in the school at different times of the year, for example a QR code in the hall could show a short film of the school’s Christmas play.

In my Year 1 e-portfolio I discussed the use of QR codes in Bordeaux Southern France. You can read the discussion point by clicking here. Unfortunately, the interactive version of the document cannot be uploaded as my blog doesn’t support the file format I exported the finished product from eXe to.

In my e-portfolio discussion point I discussed the issues of using technology in school, including the problems of recording evidence of children’s progress. I think that the use of QR codes provides opportunities to evidence children’s progress because their completed QR codes are saved online for later retrieval. Furthermore, individual codes can be printed off so that they can be easily scanned for people to see the progress children have made.

Since writing my e-portfolio discussion point I have seen a rapid increase in the use of iPads. I have also seen an increased uptake in life outside of school. For example, I saw this advertisement with a QR code on it when I was on train the other week and other mobile devices in schools. I think this helps to address the issues of access I mentioned.

I believe that mobile devices have a lot of potential for use in the classroom and I look forward to working as part of a group in the next ICT session to create a classroom resource.


Paper-based references used in this blog post are available here.

Jeffrey, B. and Woods, P. (2009) Creative Learning in the Primary School. London: Routledge.

We’re going on a scavenger hunt!

Last week in science we went on a scavenger hunt in the University’s forest school, as part of our exploration of teaching ecology in the primary school classroom. During the hunt we collected samples and took pictures of our surroundings.

There are several benefits to taking pictures of items on the scavenger hunt list. Firstly, it means that you do not damage the environment by picking lots of things to bring back to the classroom. It also helps to avoid items going missing or blowing off in the wind.

The pictures can be looked at in the classroom and discussed. Pictures can be easily added to the working wall to support children’s learning and they can be shared on the class blog to support home-school links, with parents able to look at the pictures with their child.

I uploaded our photographs to PhotoPeach. This is a great resource to use to create something impressive with pictures collected during the school day in a few minutes. I have created a “spiral” display of the photographs, but there is also an opportunity to make slideshows with text describing what’s happening in different pictures.

We’re going on a scavenger hunt! on PhotoPeach

Where English, History and ICT meet

This week in our core English session we looked at Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker, who also wrote the fabulous book Window.

The next part of this blog post contains spoilers  so if you haven’t read the book buy it now from here, or here or any good bookshop!

As the blurb on the back of the book states, this story helps to bring together the past, present and give predictions for the future of a beach in North Queensland, Australia. I thought that it would be a great idea if the same sort of thing could be done for our locality. Then I remembered I’d spoken to someone from English Heritage at the Midlands History Forum last weekend who recommended the use of HistoryPin as a way to physically see how our locality has changed.

There are some very useful features built into the HistoryPin website. For example, you are able to select different localities to view in Google Street View and then fade in and out between different time periods. The calendar features allows you to select a date range to focus on finding images from.

Currently, the site is lacking in pictures. Some locations have many more available than others, with some places only having a handful available. This is a shame; however it will hopefully improve as more people add more images to the site.
The most common words in the HistoryPin "About Us" section

The word cloud in this blog post (made using Wordle) gives you a snapshot of what HistoryPin is about (it’s made up of the most commonly used words from HistoryPin’s about page).

You can also watch this short video to find out more.