Session 7: Computing

I’ve always enjoyed playing around with computer programs, their coding and HTML coding to see how different programs work. A little bit nerdy, I know, but it’s something that’s always interested me – even from a young age! I was disappointed to have missed out on last week’s session but I managed to catch up by working from my laptop at home, using the class blog and directed tasks.

Scratch was interesting to play around with. I enjoyed looking at examples of Scratch projects, and attempting to make my own Easter Bunny Easter Egg game, but found it difficult to actually produce a working game. I was able to make the bunny move, and hide the eggs, but they just wouldn’t appear again – even when the bunny had found them! So irritating..

Session 7 was a follow on from last week’s session, actually, looking at gaming again. Like I’ve said before, play is so important to learning – especially in younger children! And, it seems, in boys. This link provides stimulating material to get boys creative writing juices flowing by using an game on the iPad about Motorcycle Daredevils on iPads.

Derek Robertson’s blog is also an interesting read, and has some inspiring posts which can promote gaming in education. For example, one post I read was about dancing games, and this kind of game could be used to enhance learning in PE maybe, or Music!

Anywho! This week, we look at Kodu! The website hyperlinked has some great videos showing an overview of Kodu Game Lab.

I was hoping for this program to be a little bit easier to grasp within the time limit I had.

I am a great lover of the XBox Kinect. At home I play all sorts of games like Star Wars Kinect, Dance Central and Kinect Adventures. They are so much fun, and really get you up on your feet rather than just sitting down and pressing buttons on a controller.

This programming software also works with the Kinect – you can play as Kodu using it! It was a shame I didn’t have my Kinect in lesson.

I started using Kodu Game Lab by, to my dismay, using a tutorial. I hate tutorials at the best of times, but I needed to learn the basic skills before I went in so I could have the foundations to explore the software in more depth.

It was a bit frustrating at first, because I couldn’t understand why my Kodu would not eat apples that I had given to him (!!!) but once I got over the first ridiculous hurdle I managed to work out how to use the programme.

Here is a game I made. It’s called… Evil Tree. I programmed the tree so that whenever Kodu touches it, the tree shoots weird pink things at him.

Personally, I would use Kodu in a classroom environment over Scratch – or perhaps introduce Kodu first. Kodu’s interface is much more basic than that of Scratch, but still teaches the children about programming. It’s also fun to be able to play the game easily by just leaving the editing screen.

I also think that Kodu is more suitable for both Key Stage 1 and 2 children, as opposed to Scratch which I feel is more suitable for Key Stage 2. If I was to integrate this program into a lesson, which I most like would do to teach Computing, as per usual I would need a TA on hand to help any children who have difficulty reading the words, or understanding how the program works. Kodu is pretty straight forward, but some lower ability children may be stuck with creating commands or even creating the game. There is, as I complained about before, a tutorial which gives a step by step guide into the basics which all of the children should watch, but there are also templates which, again, could be vital to helping children explore.

Back onto the subject of the Kinect though, I would actually like to use the XBox Kinect in my lessons. The Kinect promotes a very hands-on approach to learning. The XBox website actually says that the Kinect should be used in classrooms, as it creates a whole new experience for kids. I think these games would be good:

  • Kinectimals
  • Kinect Sports
  • Kinect Sesame Street TV (for the younger ones)
  • Body and Brain Connection

I’d like to be experimental with the Kinect.. but maybe I’m being too adventurous. We’ll see!

Anyway, that’s all for today! Tune in next week for… eSAFETY!

Jaz~

Session 6: The Intro to Computing … & Game Based Learning!

Unfortunately, I missed this session due to timetabling issues, but when I saw the session title which I had missed in the ICT handbook, I almost cried. (That’s an exaggeration of course.)

GAME BASED LEARNING?! But that’s my speciality! Gaming is something I love doing so much I actually lose sleep over it when engrossed in a game I am addicted to… (e.g. The Sims 3 – when I get to the point where I watch my latest Sims  sleep and notice it’s 3am, I know I really should be cutting down on playing it. See image…)

I did a little background reading on game-based learning by researching on t’internet, and whilst watching different talks from the ICT Handbook, and skim-reading blogs, one thing remained at the front of my mind: LeapFrog.

Every Sunday at Church, there’s one particular adorable 5 y.o. boy who has a little “LeapsterGS” thingie-majiggie. He got it for Christmas because his older brother and sister have Nintendo DSs. He was showing me how to use it, and I was impressed by how much he hd learnt through it – especially on his Disney’s Cars game.

It actually quite incredible how much children learn through play – and I really believe there isn’t much wrong with young people gaming. Of course, there is this issue with super-violent game which look at the themes of sex, drugs & rock’n’roll. I wouldn’t let an 18 y.o. play it, let alone an 8 y.o. but even the most violent games can be educational. For example, Grand Theft Auto teaches young people about crime, and what is considered to be illegal – like mutilating an innocent old lady and nicking her car. I wouldn’t let kids play it though…

Grand Theft Auto is actually available on iPhone, Android and iPad now, which makes it even more accessible to the wrong kinds of people but never mind! iPads, though, are generally fantastic for using in schools. In fact, a lot of schools are investing in them to enhance the learning experience. This website is an interesting read to give a little insight into how teachers can use iPads.

I think iPads are great for using in schools throughout all the curriculum. I used iPads in other lessons like Art and Music. In Art, we created images on the iPads, and in Music, we, obviously, made music. They were great to play around with and simple to use, whilst being educational. Personally, I feel that all schools should have some kind of tablet, as they are seemingly the way forward at the moment. A lot of people these days own one and use it a lot as their form of IT – sometimes instead of a laptop or computer.

Fraser Spiers, Head of Computing in a school in Scotland, gave a very interesting statement in Craig Grannell’s blog which also backs up my view of bringing iPads to all schools. He describes the iPad to be “not just a textbook or an instrument, or a set of art tools – it’s all of those things and more”.

Anyway, moving on. The programme this Session looked at in particular was Scratch. Using Scratch as an introduction to computing is a good way to ease children into it. The interface is easy to handle and you can achieve some great results through using it, without much effort at all. Above all, though, Scratch helps the user create a cute little game that anyone can play!

Whilst I was messing around with it, discovering what it can do, I decided to make an Easter Bunny Easter Egg Hunt Game (Yay! Bunnies!). Of course, Easter related because, well, it’s Easter time (ish). The aim of the game was to drag Mr Easter Bunny about a woodland area backdrop and try and get the beautifully coloured Easter Eggs to appear. Cute, huh?

The process of making it wasn’t cute though.

To be quite honest, I found it a bit of a struggle to use the bloomin’ thing. Dragging and dropping commands into the script window, and trying to get the rabbit to move about without giving myself an epileptic fit. The eggs wouldn’t appear, even though I knew where they were! I will probably have to come back to that one and try it again in the future.

I think in order to be able to teach this, I would probably need a little bit more practice and research into how Scratch works. From looking at the examples, I get inspired to create something beautiful! Yet I couldn’t quite make something of good quality this time round. Never mind. In Primary Education, however, we are always learning, so I may just learn so many more things, whilst teaching myself how to use the basics of Scratch.

Similarly, I would need to think about differentiation. This is quite a challenging program so I would definitely need to be on hand, as well as a TA, for all children, and, more importantly, those children who are less able. Early Years, Key Stage 1 less able children and children with EAL also may find it difficult to read commands which you can use for the script of the game, so it would be very important to make sure there is additional support there at all times. I wouldn’t really recommend the program for use with Early Years or KS1 students anyway, as it is far too complicated, but could prove a challenge for those children who are particularly able! I think a template would be needed here to introduce the program to the children, but, as they become more familiar with it, they should get the opportunity to experiment using their own sprites and ideas for games.

I’m going to go away and watch these little lessons now… click here to see them

And so.. the finished product:

Learn more about this project

Admittedly, my finished project is a little disappointing, but never mind. If you have epilepsy, I am very sorry! This game is not for you, I am afraid. Anyway, for those of you who aren’t having fits – that’s all for now! Goodbye.

Jaz~

Session 5: …Data ‘n’ fingz

Data. Not one of my favourite subjects. The word haunts me in my darkest nightmares. Even the sound of it just screams “extreme boredom”. I had to get over it for this session, though. Especially considering it was what it was based around.

Actually, the title of the session was, more accurately, ‘Data, Modelling & Simulations’. Fortunately, it was more down my street than I expected. Infographics! I love design, and creating digital graphics, so I was happy.

An Infographic is, basically, a graphic that provides information on a particular topic. Being a Pinterest user, I was used to seeing this kind of thing. As seen in the 1st two pictures I’ve inserted onto this blog post, they can be either quite amusing and used for comedic effect, or are genuinely created to show information which can usually be interesting! I’m a coffee fiend so I find the 2nd picture quite interesting to read.

We got the chance to make our own today and began by looking at some websites provided through Helen’s Pinterest Board for Infographics and Data.

First, my group started off playing around with a chart tool called the Pictograph Creator. This was fun, but very simple, and only a low level of customization. I like to have full control when designing graphics so was disappointed.

Moving swiftly on from that, we began using Piktochart. Piktochart was fun to use, although the free templates weren’t exactly inspiring! As you might have picked up on, I’m quite the critic when it comes to design. Which isn’t really all that necessary considering the career I’m going into. Though it could be argued that this could help to create a new breed of super creative teachers with an eye for design and technology! Maybe I should begin recruiting…

But I digress.

To create the Infographic, we had a bit of a mindmap and decided to ask the question “What is the most popular favourite colour in Group 4?” Although it wasn’t particularly original, it was something we could work with and could provide us with the freedom to explore all that Piktochart and Pictograph Creator could do. This was the outcome of our project:

Wasn’t quite finished by the end of the session, but I think it was close enough to upload! We not only played about with the infographic creator, but we also wrote about what steps we had used, and how we’d gone about achieving those steps.

If I were to use infographics in lessons, I think I would make one from scratch, if I had the time, using Adobe Photoshop/InDesign/the like. The websites, however, are very good for a quick fix if time-limited! I like this idea of using an infographic to put across information to the class.

Infographics really provide so much opportunity as a stimulus or just to enhance the learning process. They could also work well in differentiation if the children got an opportunity to make one themselves. Children who were more able could explore all the websites making infographics, and children who find using technology more difficult could use the more simple websites, like Pictograph Creator – which is simple but definitely effective!

Whilst doing some further reading, I found Tony Vincent’s Pinterest Boards interesting for other ways using data in the classroom – which is worth a browse! He, with some other people, have pinned some great websites. Similarly, by reading TechChef4U’s blog, I picked up lots more inspiration for creating infographics, and built on my resources by browsing the links that the writer had inserted. I was aware of some of the websites already, like Visual.ly and Edmodo (the latter mainly from Tony Vincent’s Pinterest).

So, all in all, I had my eyes opened in this session to the variety of things I could do with data in lessons. Maybe I should be open-minded more frequently…

Jaz~

A Techno-Music Lesson

We had 4 sessions on Music and the final one focussed on using ICT! Which was very exciting because I LOVE THE INTEGRATION OF MUSIC AND ICT.

I really enjoy listening to music, playing music, singing music and performing music. I am a guitarist, a singer, a saxophonist and an avid GarageBand-ist. Fortunately, at the beginning of the lesson, I could use GarageBand, as I’d brought my laptop along and everyone was encouraged to use Audacity.

I don’t really like the interface of Audacity as much as GarageBand, because, in my opinion, I think it looks clunky. GarageBand has a cool, modern look and I find it a lot easier to create a decent bit of music on it than Audacity, which has so many ridiculous buttons which don’t really make much difference.

Here is a ridiculous video I made about 5 years ago now (originally I wrote 3 years ago, but the video said I uploaded on 2008. Wow. Time flies). The song I created using loops on GarageBand and based the song around the ‘Downtempo Sexy Bass’ loop, which you can hear throughout the song. It was a lot of fun but it really does not make any sense.

I hope you enjoyed that little nugget of happiness! I think this kind of thing might be both fun and entertaining in a classroom environment – making music then creating a music video… There’s also an app for that – VidRhythm <– this app is seriously so much fun! You just record what the app tells you to using whatever you want (I used mainly voice) and it turns it into a cool little video! I wish I had an iPad…

So anyway… we were introduced to Tiger in a Tropical Storm by Rousseau. I recognised it from previously lessons I’d attended for other subjects – it’s quite a widely used painting. In groups, we had to create a sound landscape to represent the painting. This means to create lots of sounds at the same time to create a ‘landscape effect’ and represent the painting as we saw fit in a musical way. Here is our finished product!

I think it’s very tigery myself. Created by myself, Katie Stanbrook and Bethany Mendham – upcoming experimentalist artists! Watch out…

Recording voices on Audacity or GarageBand can be really helpful for children, as they can come to terms with the sounds that they can make. Music making, too, is a great expression of creativity that children can immerse themselves in, so I think sound landscapes provide a great opportunity to enhance learning.

We moved swiftly onto working with iPads, and looked at Music related apps which we could use in the classroom. First of all, my group looked and experimented with VidRhythm, and after that Virtuoso.

Virtuoso is a great free iPad app: it is basically a transportable dual-layer keyboard, and could be used in the classroom to get the children started with playing some music! GarageBand for iPad is very similar, and both are great to inspire children to get playing.

I also looked at the Drum Kit app for iPad. I’m not really a drummer so haven’t played around with a drum kit before, but the app gave me that experience to explore the different sounds that the kit makes. I think it is also important for kids to explore that aspect of the drum kit, as they may never get the experience to explore a real drum kit – but who knows. This app could be used in an Early Years setting for a Phonics session, as children can explore the sounds that each piece of the kit makes, and part of Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds is to learn about all the sounds made by the things around them.

Here is a selection of reviews I found for different musical apps on the iPad.

That’s all from me today.

Adios!

Jaz~