We have been working with Endless Ocean on the Wii for a couple of weeks now as crucial element in our Sealife topic this half term. I thought I would grab a few minutes and return to the surface to reflect on it’s impact so far.
Manta Ray by Kawa0310
The game has been perfect for our work in class as it is so open ended. There is no specific path or “levels” that need to be completed in a certain order. Once you are through the brief tutorial, which covers some of the basic controls, you are free to explore the ocean depths.
These open ended, sand box style simulations provide great learning opportunities for classes.
The currency of progress comes in the form of fish of course, or indeed any marine life you encounter. During our first week we organised a set of 5 activities in our literacy lessons that were rotated (a carousel) throughout the week. These included a teacher led (guided) reading session, some online research on the species we had already found and a group playing the game to explore it for themselves. It is important to allow children time to play it independently or in a small group.
I provided a simple factfile template (differentiated for a couple of levels) that gives the children some structure to their research and has proven useful for them to collate notes from the game. Here is a little video of some of the gameplay you would experience in Endless Ocean.
Each species that is found is recorded in the game’s Marine Encyclopedia (See 2:05 in the film above) which is proving a useful record. I also have lots of fish shaped card and written the names of what we find for display in the classroom. Children can then choose something from the display to go away and research without being tied to the game. I think it is useful to display your progress of discovery in this way. Taking the game out of the console into your room continues the engagement.
When you find a fish in the game you have to interact with it to learn something about it. In the film you will see each species has 3 facts to discover. The longer you interact with the fish and the more frequently you discover them, the more facts are revealed.
The children have been very engaged with the topic so far – we were using the Wii in our first literacy lesson in Year 5. A pretty interesting start to the year for them, not what they were expecting perhaps.
Many of the children have discovered fish during their time playing the game – you may have seen from our class Tweets of our dives we have been excited to find, amongst others, the Japanese Bullhead Shark, a Red Stingray and the Leopard Whipray. The children take great ownership of these discoveries. After I remarked on a certain type of fish I had not seen before, a boy proudly turned to me and stated, “I found that yesterday!”
Their engagement goes beyond the discovery. It continues onto trying to find out about the species in more detail. I think they make a connection between their simulated experience in the game and the desire to find out more. They want to find out more as they have invested something. With a trip to an aquarium planned for later in the term we will hopefully close this loop of experience with real life examples.
The experience of using the game so far shows me that a rich, games based simulation adds an ingredient that is hard to replicate in any other way.
I said in my last post I wanted an edge to our learning that provided moments of shared discovery and we have had many of those. For example, as a group has found a species like the Scalloped Hammerhead or the first sighting of a dolphin we have all downed tools and just enjoyed that moment.
In one shared dive with the whole class we swam away from the coral reef (which we have been learning about too) and in the murky depths I could see a large grey and white tail swishing away from us. We began to realise what it could be and I had to swim to catch up with it…suddenly we were surrounded by a group of Indo Pacific Sailfish. We thought it was a shark. It was a lovely moment of discovery we shared as a class and one that captures what is possible with these games.
You can probably see that these moments offer some excellent opportunities for narrative or recount writing which we have been exploring in the last few days. There be a story in them murky depths…
We do so much these days to try and engage our learners within our classrooms, to create content that is inspiring. But what about finding inspiring content for us. Teachers need to be inspired to go on to create great learning opportunities. We mustn’t forget about finding content that inspires us too. With the summer fast concluding concluded I feel energised, excited and inspired to begin our sealife topic. Here is a bunch of my ideas.
When you begin digging into this topic area you soon realise that there is SO much good content, resources and ways to work with it that maybe everyone should be doing it. I can’t wait to get my snorkel on! If you have been following me on Twitter then you have probably been awash with my notes about it all.
This is one of the major elements of our unit, and I suppose you might say that the topic is lead by using this game on the Wii. I already know games based learning is a powerful way to engage learners. Innovative work by teachers in Scotland continues to inspire me and I hope that our unit will measure up to their great work.
It is a very open ended game, allowing the player (a diver) to just swim around and explore the reefs, lagoons and open waters on offer. I love the fact that we don’t know what we might found in the murky depths. I began making notes as to the types of fish we discovered. But you know, I think the engagement and hook will be in those moments when suddenly, unexpectedly, someone finds a lion fish or a hammer-head shark. I recall these same moments of shared discovery when we played Myst, and it produces a great community of use in the classroom.
I want our play and our learning to have that edge. To emerge gradually as the map does in the game, I know which direction we are heading but what we find there is an unknown.
Steve Bunce has already used the game with classes and suggested I use a carousel of activities so that smaller groups can use the game on a more intimate level. There also has to be some time when we are sharing the discovery and exploration as a whole class. I will be planning the first week of work to include small groups working on the game and four other independent activities related to our topic.
We will use the game throughout the whole course of the 7 week topic and most importantly find out more about the species we catalogue in the game. As you discover a creature you are given it’s name and a snippet of information about it, this is then recorded in the game’s Marine Guide.
I am going to ask our kids to do something similar. A drawing, habitat, size, food – all entered into a small paper book. I want to keep it simple so we can update them quickly as we discover different creatures. I would like the children to explore some online resources to help them learn more about the different species. This ties in with the non-fiction strand of the literacy strategy.
There seems to be quite a considerable number of species to find and I am not expecting the children to amass information on all of them. Perhaps on occasion they can choose from a handful of species we have found to record and then there may be those that we all need to record. I will see how things pan out.
This idea is very much from my RANDOM pile but I think it could work really well. John Davitt has created something called the Learning Event Generator that randomly selects a topic and a way to show it. For example: DO “How to make an omelette” AS “a play by play sports commentary”. The AS list is over 200 ideas strong and I would highly recommend it whilst you are planning.
So take a big list of the species we have discovered and an edited (can we really do that in the classroom, with these kids) list of the outcomes and you get…
Show me what you have learned about the SWORDFISH as a FINGER PUPPET SHOW.
Show me what you have learned about the LUMINESCENT SEA SLUG as a T-SHIRT DESIGN.
I would break the two parts up. Give the kids, in small groups, the species name and 10 minutes to gather what they already know and more. And then reveal their way of showing their learning and 25-20 minutes to work on it. I think it is going to be fun and will challenge our classes in different ways.
And that’s my idea for Fish Friday.
As you can tell from the game you take the part of a scuba diver. Apart from actually diving in the local pool I wanted the classes to better understand what scuba equipment is all about. I am hoping to arrange with the local scuba diving club to bring a whole load of gear into school so that the children can not only handle it but get to chat to real scuba divers. Maybe they can have a go on Endless Ocean with us too and tell us how realistic it is!
Google Earth > Ocean Layer
Google Earth never ceases to amaze me and before researching into this topic I didn’t look too far into what was on offer in the Ocean layer. It will prove to be a highly valuable resource for our children, helping them better understand the actual information geography of different aspects of the topic. But as we have seen in the past, Google Earth will just be one way for children to “find out”, others will prefer reference books or websites. The important thing is that the choice is there.
Here is a list of some of the features in the layer, plus my notes.
National Geographic comprehension quiz – would be good as a paired reading task.
Animal Tracking – would help to illustrate some shark and whale behaviour.
ARKive layer – lovely resource of endangered marine life shown in context.
Using different layers of info for reading text – perhaps creating a few quiz questions of our own.
Expedition Tracking – active expeditions are shown, such as Roz Savage the ocean rower.
Fishing stocks and UK fish factfiles – would be useful to explore some species native to our waters. Tie this in with the work on persuasive writing and sustainability of fish stocks.
Dive and Surf Spots – adding Panoramio layer to show diving pictures.
There is so much here to consider (there are many more layers I have not referenced) but just knowing that we can direct children to a high quality resource like this is great. Disappointingly most of the embedded video which helps depict the variety of life uses YouTube which is blocked in our Nottinghamshire LA. A prime example of why it shouldn’t be. Although the placemarks in the ARKive layer also use YouTube video, on their own site the video is hosted, and it is a vast collection of images and video too.
Augmented reality (AR) is the combination of 3D models, a webcam (if on a desktop or laptop), AR software and a printed symbol. The screen will show what is visible through your camera. The camera tracks the symbol you have printed off and then places the chosen 3D model on that position. Turn the printed symbol and you turn the 3D model.
This is a screen shot of me impaled by the Sydney Tower.
Whilst exploring the topic I saw a tweet about the 3D Top Trumps that have been released. I wish there was a Sealife set to buy! I have played a bit with augmented reality (AR) with our classes last year. It has huge potential for learning. I used the AR Media Plugin for Sketchup and Google Earth to support some of our work on India. Small groups looked at the Taj Mahal in 3D and it helped them get a better idea about the structure of the building.
For our Sealife topic I want the children to explore different 3D models of tropical fish and other creatures from the oceans. I discovered an amazing set of 3D artwork by Max Grueter in the Sketchup 3D Warehouse and in his collection he has some divers too with some lovely depictions of older diving suits. Just looking at the models in 3D is limited in it’s use, it will be engaging I know that – but I want the children to perhaps answer questions and engage more with what is displayed.
I am thinking through and developing some AR Comprehension Cards. Combining text, the 3D model and then questions to challenge the children too. Will be a great way to engage those reluctant readers and to look at reading comprehension in a different, augmented way!
This film could be used on it’s own as a central part to a sealife topic but we are going to concentrate on the more open, interactive Endless Ocean to guide us. But we will be using the film to explore some of the PSHCE issues uncovered within it: families, loss, friendship and growing up. I know the children will enjoy it and it is another way of engaging them with their learning.
If you have a copy of the DVD you will know that the bonus disc has some great resources that could be used in the classroom, such as the short film about the coral reef with Jean Michel Cousteau. I like Mr Ray’s Encyclopedia which gives a short narrated film clip about a handful of species from the film. I would use this in a notetaking exercise with the kids, or perhaps in 2s or 3s for a quiz.
For what it is worth I have published some of my more detailed thoughts about the literacy involved in the unit in this Google Doc. Let me know what you think. I have thought about the ways I would like to engage the children with the topic and then looked at the Primary Strategy references. If I followed the strategy verbatim we wouldn’t cover information text (Year 4 unit) but I want the children to create exactly that sort of thing, so it’s included.
What you see in the planning is medium term and there every idea I had about the different literacy work. With only 7 weeks we will not cover everything nor do I expect to.
Since being in school I have discovered lots of books that we already have that will support our work and these (with the help of many people’s suggestions on Twitter) will also help supplement the work we do.
Baleen – Josephine Croser (A nice narrative but also would be good for information during “Whale Week” – yes we might have a solid week on learning just about whales. Amazing creatures. This might give us an opportunity to use our Google Sites, encourage the children to build a mini-site about whales.)
If you get a chance to look at the Dan Yaccarino book you will probably realise why that one gets a special mention from me. There is only a few sample images online of the picture book but I love the tantalising glimpse of the artwork it is made up of.
I contacted Dan about the artwork, which he said was done using stencils and an airbrush, to see how we might recreate some of it in the classroom. Layered tissue paper might work well and I expect we will spend a lovely afternoon very soon with copies of the book in hand and our creative hats on!
From the Expedition layer in Google Earth I discovered the ongoing coverage of the ocean rower Roz Savage. This is an ideal example for the children to keep tabs on throughout the next few weeks as she makes progress across the Pacific. The Roz Tracker is a lovely example of real time mapping and social media which gives a great insight into the conditions onboard and the state of mind of Roz.
The RozTracker is an interactive map that you can use to track Roz’s progress across the Pacific, and see exactly where she was when she posted various social media.
surrounded by sharky feeding frenzies. not the day to take a swim.
It would be good to spend some time with the children doing a couple of things purely based on this short message:
Find out what type of sharks might be there based upon her location, the fact there are many and their behaviour.
Based upon that information try and work out what type of shark she may be referring to. Send her a Tweet explaining what we found out. Are we right? Does she know?
Learn what sort of food the sharks may be feeding on and draw up some food chain information. Why might it be described as a frenzy?
Use this as a starting point for some descriptive fiction.
Explore newspaper coverage of shark attacks.
A fine example of how social media can put are classrooms in touching distance of people doing remarkable things.
Another fantastic resource that I discovered via Twitter is Tour de Turtles. The site tracks 11 sea turtles as they begin their migratory journey. Each turtle has a name and is depicted as a contestant in a race, competing with each other. The turtles are being tracked with GPS and you can look at a map showing their ongoing progress.
A lovely site that holds stacks of information for the children to explore, the opportunity to raise awareness of real issues affecting these creatures and big slice of fun and humour to engage young learners. We will definitely be checking in with the turtles. I expect I will ask the children to adopt one of the 11 for the next 7 weeks and see how things work out, encouraging them to learn more about them and keep tabs on their progress.
That just about wraps up some of my thinking for this next half term and as I said at the outset I am excited to get underway with it all. Just to finish you could always record your own dancing turtle like I have done. I know that after all the 7 weeks of hard work the dancing turtle will probably be the one thing the kids remember most!
It has been about a year since I began writing about using Myst 3 in the classroom. The last literacy unit of the term saw our Year 5 classes make their first forays into using the game and the second time we have used it in support of writing.
I love to use games in the classroom to support and inspire learning – at their best they are richly engaging and hugely motivating. This year we repeated much of the successful ways of introducing the game slowly; hooking the children into the narrative well before we switched on any computers. Myst 3 has such a rich narrative and back story this is not difficult to achieve.
One of the major differences in our class work this year was that I decided to take the more conventional route of working on descriptive writing. Last year we completed some great transactional text in the form of game guides. This year I began a simple task of improving on some simple sentences shared in a Google Doc for my students. The kids made such a good start to this that I invested the rest of our time on expanding on what we began.
Here is an example of one of my student’s work in Google Docs – you can see that I added a table of key vocabulary from the Myst narrative.
The smiley face and marking is something I added as the child progressed with their work. I used Insert>Comment in Google Docs for this (Shortcut: Control+M) These comments are useful in three ways:
Coloured to stand out and be distinct from the rest of the child’s work.
Timestamped automatically so that commenting and marking can be kept a track of.
Named automatically so that a comment belongs to a particular user.
The second comment as I am sure you have realised is from the student who has responded in kind and let me know the changes she has made since my comments. Additionally she refers to some peer assessment that the class did in pairs to help review and improve their writing.
Alongside this work we helped the Year 2 children with their Myst unit – similar in our approach to last year but with different outcomes. The Year 2 teachers wanted their children to create some poetry based around their seaside curriculum unit. The Year 5s acted as Myst guides and helped the younger children explore the island in more detail, develop vocabulary and language collections and ideas for their seaside poems. Once these poems were completed we supported them in some simple Photostory work as a performance of the poems.
It has once again proven to be a hugely successful and engaging unit both within the remit of our own writing and in the process of supporting the younger children to engage with the game as well.
This week we have been doing some writing from the point of view of Rosie Trilling, a character from the book Street Child by Berlie Doherty.
I wanted to help illustrate to the children the grand London house that Rosie was working at in the book. I thought that the StreetView layer in Google Earth would allow me some high quality imagery, I just needed a real location in London somewhere.
I sent this Tweet out:
Anyone know of a London st of grand Victorian homes, with black iron railings + 3 or 4 floors high, want to look in GE Streetview10:51 AM Apr 22nd
And was pleased to get some great suggestions and this one from @didactylos the Director of Marden City Learning Centre. I was able to pick out a road to search from Roger’s Tweet and so set to it.
I did a quick search for Kensington High Street as he suggested and briefly scanned the area, I soon found a street that looked ideal.
I then switched on the StreetView layer and zoomed in and the first view was a beautiful 3 storey house identical to the one described in the book. Black iron railings and even steps down to the servants quarters and kitchen in the basement.
We turned the camera to take a look at the impressive row of housing and discussed what we could see in the image that might have been there at the turn of the century. We also discussed what we may have seen, heard and smelled if we were Rosie standing on that Victorian street.
The tweets allowed me to access exactly what I needed drawing upon experience I did not have, and StreetView in Google Earth provided the class with rich imagery to help with their diary entries that they continued with. Some of the children did some drawings of the houses we had seen and it helped to spark their imagination and provided a much better understanding of the sort of scene we were working with.
I recently had a great conversation with my teaching colleague Rick about the use of technology to engage children with reading comprehension. This post is about my lesson I taught today as a result of that brief yet productive talk.
Although we have been reasonably successful in addressing how we use our available technology to support the development of times table knowledge, reading comprehension has been much more elusive. This afternoon both Rick and I explored two different ideas we had, regarding the use of technology to engage and support the practice of comprehension skills.
Rick was using the Flip Cameras in his lesson, he had about 3 available to him and was looking for the children to generate their own questions about a text. After talking with a partner and drafting the question on small whiteboards they recorded the question to camera. When there were a few Rick showed these to the class and worked on modelling the answers and then setting the children off to find the answers in pairs. By all accounts an engaging way to explore text.
I worked with a Google Presentation and wanted to engage the children with the text through the use of the instant messaging window that is available. All of my children love using MSN and Google Talk/Chat, it is the one application that they all use very regularly. For two years now both of my Year 5 classes who have been using Google Apps discovered Google Chat in GMail by themselves and have got busy using it.
So how was this all setup? There are some things that we have in place that have helped. Firstly the children are using Google Apps for Education and have a unique login. Secondly we are working in my classroom on laptops.
I created a presentation, which is in effect our text, in my Google account.
I shared the presentation with the class as VIEWERS. This is important as it will mean that the children will immediately see the file in presentation mode and not in editing mode. Loading time was slow today, although once all loaded we had no other problems.
The instant messaging window will open when they click “View with others” (Bottom right hand corner) you will see their names appear in the “VIEWING NOW” box on your own presentation.
We then did some shared reading of the text about Spies and Gadgets. I used the “CONTROL THE PRESENTATION” tool available to me as owner of the document. As I clicked and moved through the presentation everyone’s laptops updated. This was immediate in every case, not bad for sixteen wireless laptops and proved useful for whole class work.
Once we had a good look through the text as a class, and some initial discussion, I then explained the question answer process. I would add a question in the IM window and they needed to navigate to the correct page and respond with their answer, also in the IM window.
As I typed I muted the projector image so kids didn’t get a head start, that was helpful.
The children answered in the IM window and I could see their name with the response showing ownership.
You may be thinking that some children may just look at other people’s answers. I talked to the class about this and encouraged them to engage with the text themselves, nevertheless seeing their peers answers proved a valuable function of this group IM session. Children were commenting on other answers and it caused some to question their own accuracy if they saw something different.
Of course there was the odd smiley! But that is what the children do when they IM, I was kind of entering their world. It is a delicate balance. I want to harness the engagement that IM brings and yet not make it too schooly so they switch off. I ensured that when they answered anything all of our usual literacy standards applied and the class responded well to that.
We worked on about 10 questions together and all of the children were totally engaged and motivated to find the answers and use the IM to form their response. They also maintained this engagement for considerably longer then when we work with paper and pencil.
As the answers rolled in I was able to immediately give feedback to different children, asking them to look again at what they had written. One particular question about the reasons why we use tables to present information caused the children to respond about the content and not the purpose. I discussed with the whole class what the correct answer might be, gave the children the start of the sentence in the chat window and asked them to answer again.
Beyond this one lesson I think that if the children were to use the Google Talk client then we could be looking at a variety of different texts and not just something created in Google Presentation. With the chat window open and a website or film playing it would allow us even more flexibility. In fact it could work with any other type of available application.
My target in the lesson was to engage the children with reading comprehension using technology we use in our classroom. I think we did that. It is taking what the children enjoy doing and harnessing that engagement, attempting to merge and utilise the skills they use outside of school to impact on their engagement with their learning.
On Thursday I finally had some time to sit with our Key Stage 2 (junior) literacy coordinator and talk about how technology can support writing outcomes for the Primary Framework for Literacy.
It was a meeting all about ideas (my favourite) and we discussed the best ways that technology could support the process of writing and drive the eventual outcomes. In this post I have included a list of 10 literacy/writing tools or outcomes that, in my opinion, teachers should currently be aware of. Many of them are basic yet still powerful tools in the classroom that support children’s writing. They are in no particular order.
In addition I have also included 10 alternative tools that either offer a different perspective on digital writing or are a little known tool, that may have huge potential in the classroom. Not everything is free nor is it online – but the list will hopefully provide food for thought when you are looking at your next non-fiction or narrative unit with your class.
1 – Photostory – in my opinion one of the simplest and yet most powerful tools for primary literacy. I particularly appreciate the linear structure of the software, the ease with which you can incorporate speaking and listening and the quality of the multi-modal outcome.
2 – Powerpoint – I have never been a fan but PPT does offer a wider range of tools a functionality then some other presentation software. Children could create a non fiction text with linked contents and glossary – including the use of film and audio. There are of course heaps of online equivalents including 280 Slides, Zoho and Google Docs.
3 – SMART Notebook – in the same family as Powerpoint of course with the same sense of a non-chronological text could be created with it. This has proven a very effective tool for the children in our school as they have been watching Notebook in action since 2003. The children enjoy the ease with which you can work with the object based interface. A recent example of use in Year 4 in our school saw the children using screen capture to find, within a text, examples of language features and they then authored their own linked information texts.
4 – MovieMaker – (and Apple equivalents of course) simple and in the same boat as Photostory – it just gives you the complete package of allowing children to incorporate film into their texts. We have used it to create responses to the Aiden Gibbons film The Piano. The children added text, spoken word, soundtracks, film, still images (+effects) transitions etc.
5 – Word Processor – simple word processed documents could be done in Word or Google Docs. This year we have completed an instruction text on how to create and play a game in Sploder.
6 – Short Podcast – using Audacity or other recording/podcasting software children could create short scripted podcasts. They could be part of revision or even as an example of a balanced argument. The audio could then be imported and used in other applications.
7 – Film – there are lots of simple mini digital video cameras available now and ideally with lots in the classroom the children could create their own original films. They could present an interview, part of a story, balanced argument or an explanatory text for a different topic. We are looking at getting as many Flip Videos as we can get our hands on.
8 – Voicethread – still not that widely used, but one of the most important speaking and listening tools I have used in the classroom. Films, images or text can be explored – comments can be added via text, webcam, audio or even by mobile phone (!) – as the pupil is adding their comment they can also use a pen tool to highlight the feature they are discussing. Children could use Voicethread to model interview questions, structure responses to a narrative or to share ideas for story starters as we have done earlier this year. The collaborative feature provides them with a pool of ideas and support from their peers. Huge potential.
9 – Kar2ouche – you have to pay to use this but our Year 6 teachers have had great success with Kar2ouche to support their Macbeth work. Scenes can be storyboarded from a bank of illustrated graphics, audio can be recorded directly in or layered on top from a resource bank. There is room for the children to write a fuller narrative for the scenes or just to add speech bubbles. In the same category as Photostory due to the storyboarding but much more powerful.
10 – Myths and Legends Story Creator 2 – a free online version of Kar2ouche that focuses on a specific story type. Classes can have unique logins and they can record audio and build scenes from a set of graphics, their own images can be imported. A great alternative to Kar2ouche and perfect for the Myths and Legends unit.
No doubt that not much of that is new to many of you, however I hope that the next 10 alternative tools gives you further food for thought and something to explore for next terms’ writing units. It is an exciting time to be encouraging young children to enjoy writing as there are so many free tools that engage and take a different perspective on it all.
1 – Google Earth stories – the imagery presented to us in Google Earth provides a rich platform to inspire and develop stories. Work could be written into the placemarks or indeed media created elsewhere could be embedded within them like we have done. Information text located in the correct context would of course be ideal, for example an explanatory text about the features of a river system using the River Nile as it’s location or indeed the Valley of the Kings as the location for information in an Egyptian topic. Why not do a WW2 evacuee story and find a train station in a large city and then follow the line out into the countryside? Endless contexts for writing.
2 – Wordle – I thought this little tool would be great to analyse written stories in the same way Steve Kirkpatrick has done with his class. A Wordle could be a great way to introduce a text – exploring what is emphasised to help understand the type of writing it is taken from. Is it instruction, explanation – how can you tell? Another idea is that the children create a poem as a Wordle, it would certainly be challenging the form of conventional poetry.
3 – PicLit – this great creative writing tool allows you to drag vocabulary onto an image. Although you cannot upload your own images, the picture gallery is well stocked with inspiring pictures to explore. Children could try and tell the story within the picture or create some poetry in response to the image. PicLits can be saved, emailed and used elsewhere.
4 – Tag related search – using tag related searches can help children to understand the family of vocabulary that they could use. The relationships we generate between common words could be tapped into by a class to not only explore the images from Flickr, as in Tag Galaxy, but also broaden their vocabulary for written work. Don’t just focus on the images but explore the language too.
5 – Woices – place a recorded piece of a story audio on a map, combine the pieces into a route or journey. Woices will allow you to create a geotagged story or journey with audio being the main medium. Work could be narrative based or a simple recount of a recent class trip or journey into the local area. More informative tourist guide type outcomes could be scripted and added to the correct locations on a map.
6 – Cartoon strip – Tools such as Strip Generator and Make Beliefs Comix give children the opportunity to quickly generate short cartoon strips. The simplicity allows them to quickly explore aspects of narrative and speech as they take seconds to figure out how to use. I used Make Beliefs Comix today with my class to support their understanding of direct speech. Thanks to willie42 and MrKp for first suggesting these, we had a good lesson.
7 – Museum Box – Thanks to smilin7 for suggesting this one. Museum Box is a tool from the makers of the Myths and Legends resource above. It “provides the tools for you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box.” Children can add text, files, video, audio and images into the box and it looks like a really unique way to explore an event or historical figure. It would be good to help the children explore characterisation – what would we put in the box to help us understand Aunt Sponge? I look forward to exploring this more in the future.
8 – Textorizer – This is an online tool that allows you to upload an image, add text and then the image is recreated using the writing. It would be a good exploration of imagery and written text – perhaps a short poem created over series of lessons with a bold or distinctive image as a starting point. Then textorized as a final emalgamation of text and imagery. Thankyou to nzchrissy for pointing out this one.
9 – Bookr - I have always liked the pimpampum applications and in fact one of the very firstblogposts I wrote was using Bubblr their comic strip tool. Bookr is from the same family and it is very easy to create a simple book using Flickr images, add some text and then publish.
10 – Adventure Island – Another resource that I discovered through Twitter, the thanks going this time to helenrf, Adventure Island provides a platform to write a reader defined adventure story. “Pupils create challenges and puzzles for the visitor to solve. As the visitor travels around a created Island, descriptive writing for each area encourages them to explore further. Will they be able to survive, and leave the Island, or will they remain forever … trapped?” This resource is based around a Y6/7 transition unit on Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo but could be used detached from that context – there is plenty of supporting ideas and tips on how to use it with a class.
Phew! It is always good to get all of those ideas buzzing in your head down in a blog post and I hope that there is something here for you to consider next time there is a writing outcome in a literacy unit. Throughout a writing unit I look to use at least one application that encourages speaking and listening, and refining of recorded speaking as a precursor to writing. I wouldn’t use these tools in isolation and some compliment each other very well.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it certainly helps to illustrate the breadth of opportunity currently available to explore literacy in a digital form. As always, please let me know your thoughts, what you might add and what classroom experiences you have had of using them.
There has never been a better time for finding online resources to support learning. I subscribe to the RSS feed from my delicious network and my Google Reader is regularly bulging with useful links to sites that can support the work going on in the classroom. Here are three highlights that use video as the central media to help support curriculum work.
Spelltube brings the weekly spelling list into the technological age.
Spelling videos have been created for each of the 3000+ words in the National Spelling Bank, from which teachers can generate and assign a word list to their Key Stage 2 pupils. Memorable characters help to reinforce spelling concepts in an enjoyable way that will appeal to various learning styles.
The site allows a teacher to sign up for a free class account, which then provides children with individual login details. Spelling lists can be assigned and scores tracked within the site. It is tailored towards the UK national curriculum and supports the spelling objectives within it. I think it provides a great alternative toSpelling City.
The idea of SIMPLE SCIENCE is to have informative music video presentations for use in the primary school classroom.
They are designed to be used as part of a lesson to reinforce learning objectives and scientific concepts and also as a useful revision tool for the SAT exams. They work particularly well on a large whiteboard but can also be viewed on the computer screen and TV.
Once again the resources support the Key Stage 2 QCA Science units in the UK and each of the sections provides a video of the science behind the topic and a song to help the children too. The films can even be bought as a DVD or the songs on CD. There is no sign up or login needed to watch the films.
The site uses Vimeo embedded films and you can see Simple Science on Vimeo here. The fact they have not used YouTube makes it much more accessible in schools. Apparently they have a whole stack of early years songs and films planned for next year which should be worth looking out for.
Learning Clip is an online resource to support teachers, teaching assistants and parents implementing the renewed primary mathematics framework.
The resources are structured to follow precisely the learning objectives of the renewed framework. For ease of navigation the resources are also listed by topic.
They all have the same easy to use format. Each clip comprises of, a short introductory video, an interactive activity, a worksheet and a set of notes.
After an initial registration a user needs to login to access the resources. It is worth noting that on the home page it states that the resources are being made available to teachers for free “during the development phase”. I assume from this that there may be a time when the resources require a fee to use them.
I hope you find the three resources useful and find a place in your classroom for using them. Please let me know of any other video based resource sites that you know of or have found useful in the classroom.
Our week of storytelling in Google Earth has finished however I wanted to wrap up my reflections on working in this way. In this post I look back over the process and review the benefits you will reap and any challenges that you may face in implementing a similar unit.
A piece of Google Earth storytelling is definitely manageable within a week (5-6 hours) and in that sense is very flexible. The completed outcome from each child was a set of 6 placemarks that included:
An embedded Vocaroo audio snippet of a rehearsed and planned piece of the story from James’ point of view.
A written sentence that was a second draft of that first audio clip. An improved version that built in the language work we had done as a class to support the story.
You can see these two story elements in this screenshot of a child’s work.
If you would like to hear the audio, see the other 5 placemarks and the work as a whole then you can download the KMZ file here. During the week I worked with a supported literacy group and here is the audio work we completed together.
Challenges of digital storytelling in Google Earth
Saving - this has been the biggest issue for us as the children will encounter temporary files saved locally in Google Earth. This is especially true when working on different laptops over a period of days. As the placemarks were the same, it led to confusion. If I was to do another unit of work with GE I would ensure that the children save work with their name included and I would also purge the local files at the end of every session. Another option is to explore the use of Google Maps.
Uncertainty - as with most applications the more confident you are as a user the more you will get from it. Google Earth has a lot going on with various menus, folders and windows. The children often ran into a sticky spot if they could not find the item they were looking for or generally felt unfamiliar with the layout. If I was to repeat this unit again I would probably ensure there has been equivalent hours put in before hand that doesn’t just orientate them to the basics but allows them time to work with files, saving and the various layers of information. This would raise their level of confidence, consequently the layout of Google Earth would not be a hurdle to better storytelling.
Benefits of digital storytelling in Google Earth
Visual - beginning with such a rich visual stimulus as Google Earth imagery gives the children such a different experience of storytelling then what they are used to. In this unit we benefited as a class not being straight-jacketed to a written, paper based plan. We were free to roam and explore the imagery we had, there were constraints that we agreed, but the plot was there in that imagery waiting for us to tease it out.
Control - the children had control over the way they explored their story. They moved, tilted and zoomed, they controlled how their journey looked to them. I walked around the room during the week and they were all exerting this control over how the narrative space looked to them. I suppose in a small way this personalises the journey for them.
Discovery - we began with a single location, a place I believed would be good to tell our escape story. It needed that decision, but from there we decided as a group what would happen. The snakey line you see in the example files or images could have easily taken us in another direction. The children discovered the elements of the story we included. In the first sessions we explored the local area in pairs and the children noted and discussed possible places of refuge. One child shared with us, by zooming in on the SMARTBoard, the building yard that we eventually chose to hide in as James. At that point int he lesson we had not even decided which way to turn from outside his house – but it was clear that the yard would provide us with lots of opportunities so we included it our escape. Let the children find their path, their journey – let them discover what is out there and allow the plot to be formed as you go.
Embedding Media – Google Earth placemarks allow a whole host of media to be embedded in support of your story. We have added a simple audio player but you could easily have some drama work filmed and uploaded to a video hosting site, then embedded. That would be a great extension to what we have done and not too difficult either.
Geotagged Narrative – beyond the huge variety of imagery children have as a starting point the sense of making your narrative happen in situ really appeals to me. You have to consider the tense that you work in, however the combination of narrative types in one place is a huge benefit to working in Google Earth. You could have written, spoken, filmed and drawn media all in the very location it is occurring.
Where do we go from here?
In my opinion I think that this week has challenged me to think of storytelling in a new way. I think I have a good understanding of digital narrative, but working in Google Earth and defining the plot in response to the environment turns it all on it’s head. My class were not trying to conjure up some bright idea, they were inspired by the images in front of them, by the landscape and make up of the location. Just think of all of those locations…just waiting to be a location for a story. (You could even do one on Mars or The Moon!)
Somewhere local to the school to begin would also be a great starting point – perhaps a trip to somewhere near the school and the children do a recount of the day. I would also like to explore the potential of social stories, children generating small snippets of narrative roughly under the same plotlines, in different placemarks but again in roughly the same location. These could then be shared and the individual child chooses a path for their character to take adding their peers narrative parts to form a whole.
Tear up the paper, be a location scout, let the landscape guide you, tip storytelling upside down and give it a shake – most of all let the children discover their own journey, their own path. You never know where it might lead.
In today’s literacy lesson, the third in our Google Earth storytelling unit, we made the leap from audio or spoken parts of the story to some written work.
The use of the mapping in this story has provided us with a structure through the escape route we chose and also it has provided us with a rich visual stimulus for story content. The bushes James has to break through in his bid for freedom have caused scratches and bruises and ripped his clothing. The building site we have seen has caused James to be covered in dust and mud. In our story he hides between two large lorries and we stretched out with our senses (Jedi style!) and saw workmen chatting on a tea break, heard drills banging into the ground and the smell of diesel fumes from machinery. All of this has been generated from studying the satellite imagery in our story location.
Over the last few days we have been working on generating a bank of good vocabulary for the escape, which we have on our WOW WORD display. Through discussion and thesaurus work we have gathered lots of verbs and adjectives that have already proven valuable for the children to use in their stories. We have also tried to generate lots of different alternative sentence openers – many of the recorded audio sentences began with “I”. We used the verbs we had generated and coupled them with adverbs to generate powerful sentence openers. Again these are displayed on the wall for the children to see and use in their work, and in fact many of the improvements made today included many of the examples you can see.
Today the children used this language work to improve the sentences they had begun in their Vocaroo audio. Underneath the code for the Vocaroo player they added <p> for a paragraph and then wrote an improved version of their audio. We encourage them to make small changes to the original sentence, so just add a WOW word or begin the sentence in a more interesting way.
Here is an example of what one of the placemarks looked like and a second image of what the same item had included in the placemark properties. You can listen to the audio for this example here. The children coped well with writing in this way and had no problems with the coding as it is so simple.
The combination of audio and written text has allowed the children to really improve their writing. I have always been very encouraged when the children have used Voicethread and I think that a technology based audio element can be a powerful way to scaffold the writing process.
I believe that in this unit there have been a few ingredients that have contributed to improved storytelling:
Google Earth’s imagery provided the class with ample inspiration for what to be creating in their story – they could see and explore it in front of them. They were not looking at a piece of paper and trying to drum up something.
The confidence and comfort that they have with the main character and the background to the story.
A clear and purposeful backbone to the tale – James is escaping.
An agreed escape route. The whole class can then discuss the various moments in the escape. The sharing and peer support is vital.
Easy audio recording has provided the children with a quick avenue into generating story content. There is no password/login/signup/complex method/knowledge/skill barrier to using Vocaroo. The children were recording their ideas immediately.
Audio and text situated on the image at where it happens in the story brings, often disparate, storytelling elements together.
In our writing sessions today I took both classes, all 60 Year 5 children, over two sessions and we continued and completed our work begun yesterday. The children were completing the task of adding 6 audio recordings to the correct placemarks in Google Earth, please see Part 2 for details of the process.
This post is concerned with some issues that have arisen from working with Google Earth and some classroom strategies I have found effective during my work with the application.
There is no better way for children to be successful then to have time to complete their tasks – today was a chance for them to consolidate the process they had begun yesterday and to once more practice embedding code in the Google Earth placemarks. All too often we want to rush the children onto the next great thing, it was useful today to take a breather and just ensure we had done a good job of the audio we worked on for our escape story.
Although a powerful and popular application, Google Earth is not used daily and so some children struggled to find their way around the different task panes and views. Having more time allowed them to become more confident.
As both classes were running into difficulties about what they could or could not see. Often they would think that all of their work had gone, or it has just disappeared – when in fact the placemark had just been unchecked in the Places window. Today I consolidated their basic understanding of the task windows and how to switch between them. I demonstrated the different possible views you could have within the Places window – and pre-empted some of the possible problems based on situations that may or may not have already arisen.
An issue that is well worth knowing about prior to working in Google Earth on a class laptop set is that of multiple content. For our escape story we have 7 placemarks and a path that loads up and is visible – when another child begins their own work another set of the placemarks is loaded up. Today some laptops had 3 sets visible. Children were saying they could not right click any of the placemarks but they had not realised (as the placemarks are identical) that there were multiple placemarks on top of each other. Again I reinforced checking only those placemarks which you need to be visible in the Places pane.
One of the disadvantages of working in Google Earth is that it is intended to work on a local level – as in the placemarks and items saved in My Places remain on that machine. This causes every laptop to have a different looking Google Earth Places pane, which naturally leads to some confusion. It is worth spending some time keeping on top of what files should and should not be there. My children would be using different laptops everyday and it is unfeasible to try and work with the same one everyday which would have been a time sapper of an organisational problem. Saving work is a little tricky due to the nested nature of the placemarks and content, however this is what we had to do.
I gave myself a good slice of time at the end of each session over the last few days to walkthrough the saving process with both classes.
Any opened work from a network drive will begin life in the Temporary Places folder.
Find the main folder for your work, all of your placemarks should be below it in a list. Select it.
Right click this main folder to bring up the sub-menu.
Click “Save to My Places”.
The folder moves up and out of Temporary Places.
Find the main folder for your work again. Select it.
Right click this main folder to bring up the sub-menu.
Click “Save as…” or “Save place as…”
Navigate to your network folder.
Name the file appropriately so you know what it is.
If saving over the top of previous work allow it to replace the older file.
We wouldn’t have been as successful if it wasn’t for about 6-8 children in each class who became the experts. These children had completed the tasks set them and had a very good understanding for what we had done. They knew their way around Google Earth. I would encourage you to seek these children out and empower them to support their peers.
The class experts for the saving routine above, were simply those who had been successful – I just called upon them to go and support someone else doing it. They were willing and supportive with their peers and guided them rather than taking over an important difference which I am always pointing out. This supportive ethos has always been with us as we help the children to understand how to problem solve with their class laptop resource. We try to encourage them to ask two other class member to help before talking to an adult.
The slightly tricky nature of local content in Google Earth and saving work can cause younger children to get a bit disorientated.
Take plenty of time with younger students to demo and walkthrough the save process to a network folder.
With panes and folders open or closed the views can be very different on different machines so it is worth having confident children to help support their peers and to try and pre-empt some issues.
As everyone in this set of activities is altering the same placemarks, multiple copies can arise and can confuse. Ensure the children only have one set of placemarks checked.
Take time to consolidate Google Earth skills and confidence – use outside of the writing time and just allow them to explore. Reinforce the basic layout and structures.
Encourage a general sense of independence in problem solving – ask 2 friends for help before an adult. Do not underestimate the impact low level informal peer support can have on a technology rich lesson or environment.
Empower those confident students to actively support their peers, call them experts and make them feel special.