Archive for the Category ◊ Useful Sites/Software ◊

Streaming and Samba
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Author:

I don’t know why it came to me so late, but this morning I had an idea. Why not stream our concert live to the world? Today was our Listen to Me concert which is the culmination of a term’s music tuition from Hampshire Music Service. They give us weekly sessions in a range of styles and then for the last session, we invite parents in and we perform for them. We also performed for the other two classes in the year group too. This term’s concert was Samba drumming.

I’ve streamed things before but it can be a bit hit and miss depending on internet connection, software issues and other factors (such as pressing record to get a copy afterwards!) but today I thought about using Google+. Now I know that Kevin McLaughlin (@kvnmcl) is a huge fan of this and I gave it a go. I had to use an account that wasn’t part of our Google Apps domain, which is fine, I used a generic school account e.g. somethingsomething@gmail.com and loaded it up. I tried it first on a Chromebook but that was having WiFi issues and then switched to a netbook instead, using an external webcam instead of the built-in one. This worked fine. I simply started a Hangout, ticked the enable hangout on air option and started to stream it live. What I really liked was the ability to not only give a link out to everyone watching – the few people who had seen my tweets earlier this morning – but the ability to embed it directly into a blog. So I copied the code, pasted it into a new post and tweeted the link to our blog. This would make it much easier in future as I would know the URL of the stream before it was set up and I could give this to parents ages in advance if needed.

I set the stream up around 45minutes before the concert and muted the mic. There was a lot of silliness, showing off and playing up to the camera before we started, but hey, they’re children and it was a new thing that we hadn’t done before! The concert went well, parents loved it and the children were fab. Afterwards we looked and the children liked that it had put the video onto YouTube for us automatically. We discussed what to do with the 45minutes of ‘rubbish stuff’ at the beginning and we found the trim button in YouTube. We simply used this, removed the excess and saved it. An hour later (maybe less) the video was trimmed and of course, it was already embedded on our blog.

It must be noted that we also had a video camera in use too because we were checking it worked ahead of the Easter production this afternoon! All in all, it was very easy and we might look at doing it for future events.

The copy of the stream is available here and the version from the video camera is available here on our blog.

Remixing Videos
Monday, February 11th, 2013 | Author:

After our success last week with videos for news reports, we have looked to other ways of editing and playing with video online. Offline we were fairly limited to an old version of Windows Movie Maker, but on the web, we suddenly have loads of (free!!) tools to pick from.

Miles Berry (@mberry) suggested remixing videos using Popcorn Maker (https://popcorn.webmaker.org/) which is a free site to use. We had a bit of problem signing the children up but I think this was probably down to our email settings rather than the Popcorn site, so the children all logged in using my log-in. We worked in pairs and had 16 pairs using the same log-in with no difficulty.

The basic concept of the site is to find a YouTube (or Vimeo/HTML 5) video, add it to the timeline and then while it plays, add pop-ups, text, images and multimedia content.

This is an example from two Year 3 girls (note, they haven’t done a huge amount but it gives a small flavour):

We were basing this on our India topic and we were looking at the River Ganges. For this, we all used the same two videos to make it a bit easier, technically. Then, the pairs had to research facts and information about the river and add it to their video. Now, some have spelling mistakes, some are slightly inaccurate (the river is 2,500km and not 2,500m long!) but in an hour, we have produced some great work.

This was all fairly simple to do and within minutes the children were happily adding maps of Varanasi and pop-ups to their video. Once done, they simply saved it and it gives them an embed code and a URL to share them on a blog or website.

Francesca and Issy then went and added the videos to their own blogs too!

The next step is to finish the videos and publish them onto the class blog. The children have already started to suggest other ways to remix videos in other lessons. I think maths methods might be the next one…

Online Video Editing
Wednesday, February 06th, 2013 | Author:

Just a quick post but I found this tool (via the ICT Magic Wiki) that I had to share. The tool is WeVideo (www.wevideo.com) and it is an online video editing program. The first reason for loving it is that it uses Google Apps logins to sign in. This means that the children won’t need to register for new sites, they just click a button and they’re in.

Another reason for loving the site is the ease of use. Apart from having a very detailed guide holding your hand, the site is so intuitive, it all just works as you’d expect. You make a new project, choose a theme, upload your videos and then drag them onto the storyboard/timeline. You can then add audio backing tracks or trim the videos as required. Our Year 5/6 team were looking for a way to piece together videos for a news report. When I told my Y3/4 class, they asked if we could have a go and so we quickly made ours too. Ours isn’t as well rehearsed or scripted as the 5/6 versions will be, but for 20minutes work with a Flip camera, I’m pretty happy!

I simply asked the class what we had been doing this week and then asked who wanted to be on camera discussing it. Volunteers were quickly chosen, they went and filmed (including an outside broadcast) and then as a class, I showed them how to put it all together. I had nothing to do with the filming, I just put it all together for them. One thing I couldn’t get working very well was the direct upload-to-YouTube option, so we published the video to the WeVideo site, downloaded and then uploaded to YouTube manually. This might just be because I was doing  it under the pressure of having 5 minutes before hometime! With more time, we would cut back to the “studio” after each snippet and we would also include some interviews. But for our first attempt, I’m over-the-moon.

The class were so keen to make it, they have asked if we can do it again tomorrow as a “special report” as part of our Outdoors Day.

Have a look at the video, if you have any comments, head over to my class’ blog to leave them for the children.

My First Geocache
Sunday, November 04th, 2012 | Author:

Today I went on my first geocaching experience. For those that don’t know, a geocache is a container that is hidden somewhere in the world. It has coordinates assigned to it and then using these coordinates (or an app) people go and look for the boxes. Inside the box could be a number of things, but usually there is a notepad to sign to show you found it.

Why did we do it? I’ll come back to this later.

We started with getting an app. I used the official geocaching.com app called Groundspeak. This is £6 which in app-world, makes it very expensive, but consider the fact that I was out and about using it for two hours today and it only cost me £6. Plus I get to use it over and over again. It is well worth it in my opinion.

Once we found the app, we found some friends who had never been before and they came along too. We looked for caches in their local area and went exploring.

Our first was a 1star (everything is out of 5) difficulty so it seemed perfect to start with. They also knew the coppice it was in so that gave us a bit of a head-start. Apart from the coordinates, the only clue we had was ‘Under the snake’. So we chose the cache, set the compass and walked. Of course we weren’t just treasure hunting, we were spending time with friends and being outside too, so it’s all good. After a while we found the coordinates, the compass helpfully counts down until you are a metre or so from the mark. We saw a wooden bench carved to look like a snake. We tried lifting it, rolling it and generally looking around it until we saw a large stone. Although when we picked it up, it wasn’t a stone but one of those ‘hide your keys’ stones. Inside the ‘stone’ was a money bag with a rolled up piece of paper. We signed it, put it all back and chose another one.

For the next cache, we upped the stakes to a 1.5 star difficulty and we walked the 500m or so to find it. It took around 10minutes to find as the clue wasn’t that helpful and it was hidden in a ditch. This cache was bigger (2/5) and was like a small lunchbox. Inside were a few small objects and geocaching rules state that we could take something provided we replace it with another object or equal or greater value.

The third cache was 2.5/5 and was MUCH tougher. First we had to follow the coordinates and they led us to a gate. There was a question about how many rivets were in the gate. Depending on the answer, you then followed one of three new coordinates. Once there, you would see a tree and the question was “how many trunks emanate from the main one”. Counting 8 we could then use these clues in the final coordinate to find the last cache. We had some coordinates e.g. N50 51.A56 and the A related to the number of rivets in the gate.

We had to go off the main path into the woods, but soon found a camouflaged bag containing a larger tub. Inside, another logbook and another range of goodies.

     

Altogether we were out for about two hours and definitely worked hard enough to get some lunch at the pub.

So, back to the question of why. Why did we do this?

1) It’s a lot of fun. I know people go out and do this with their children and I can see why. We had fun, we got muddy and we chatted with friends. All for £6 (lunch not included)

2) For a school project. There are a few steps to this project. The first is to try and place a few private caches (not available on the geocache website) around our school grounds for the children to hunt and explore. They will use our Blackberry Playbooks and the coordinates to hunt them down. The great thing about the Blackberry app is that it doesn’t require WiFi or 3G as it just uses the coordinates. The second step is to leave our own caches with descriptions, be devious with clues and so on. Think of the writing opportunities when we write the descriptions!  The third step is as part of our local area topic in the Spring. We could leave geocaches all over the village. That’s as far as I’ve thought so far…but I will keep going with the idea later!

Anyway…if you’ve never been geocaching, try it. Spend £6 on the official app or download a few cheaper alternatives. Start local, the nearest cache is 80metres from my house. Take a pen, notepad and a camera. Have fun.

David Rogers made a great video for my Under Ten Minutes site, that is available here: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=193

 

Some Resources for a New Year
Sunday, September 02nd, 2012 | Author:

For many teachers, this week sees the return to the classroom and I have found that there are so many places to get great ideas and resources so I thought I would share some that I have been using lately. Some are old favourites, some are relatively new sites.

Literacy Shed – http://www.literacyshed.com (created by @redgierob)

I love this site. It is beautiful and I can’t believe how quickly it has grown. The site comprises of a range of videos covering different areas of Literacy such as Adventure, Fantasy or Mystery. There are also loads of other videos that cover other cultures or inspiration or animation and there are often ideas of how to use these videos in the classroom. One of the earlier examples was the animation from Pixar showing the birds on the telephone wire. This video could be used to discuss bullying. This can be found here. Another example is the clip from Finding Nemo that shows Nemo going to school for the first time. I will be using this tomorrow with my class to discuss feelings about the new school year and talking about any worries the children might have about joining Year 3.  (I must say that not all of the videos are from Pixar!!)

Videos are on YouTube and/or Vimeo so providing that is allowed in school, you’ll be fine.

7PuzzleBlog – http://7puzzleblog.com/ (created by @7puzzle)

This is a site that I will be using every week. Each day there are three (or four) challenges posted related to various different areas of Maths. These challenges are great for the start of a Maths lesson to get children thinking. I will be using these with my top-set Year 3/4 and although the site is only a few months old, there is a huge stack of challenges already.

An example challenge is below.

From the following list:

3   7   10   11   15   16   17   27   30   32   36   48   49   56   64   72   80   81

find the ONLY number left remaining when you eliminate:

  • square numbers
  • multiples of 8
  • factors of 60
  • prime numbers

Teaching Websites – http://www.teachingwebsites.co.uk/ (created by @markw29)

This is a collection of sites created by Mark Warner that include useful appz for tablets, great videos and also teaching news. There are loads of great tools here and it is well worth having a look.

Ideas to Inspire/Interesting Wayswww.ideastoinspire.co.uk (also Mark’s site)

I love the Interesting Ways series and these could be used for staff meetings and you’d still not be able to use everything in one year. There are tips for using tools from Wordle to Prezi and from Nintendo DSs to Visualisers. These are great crowd-sourced tips to get anyone started.

QuadBlogging – http://quadblogging.net/ (created by @deputymitchell)

We will be blogging (via www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk/class8) and one of the first things I did this Summer was to sign-up to the Quad Blogging movement started by David Mitchell. The aim is to link your class blog with 3 other classes to help promote the blogs to an audience. This project has had a massive impact to schools across the world and this term there are over 100 quads that will hopefully be blogging and commenting! Our quad consists of schools in Australia, New Zealand and the United States so it will definitely be bringing our learning to a wider audience.

100 Word Challenge / 5 Sentence Challenge – http://100wc.net (created by @theheadsoffice)

Another project that I have never really got involved in before is the 100 Word Challenge. This is a weekly challenge where Julia will set a prompt containing a few words or a picture and the children then write 100 words on that prompt. The 5 Sentence challenge is a similar concept, but for less-able writers. The children then write a blog post containing their 100 words and post the link on the 100WC page. Our aim will be to blog as many of the entries as we can but we may start by using it as a morning activity during the register.

Rethinking ICT – http://rethinkingict.wikispaces.com/ (created by @chrisleach)

There has been a lot of talk about the ICT curriculum and thinking about how we can approach this in a new way. Chris’ site has been developing a lot recently and is well worth a visit. As the year progresses, more content will be added and it will be a key tool in planning exciting ICT lessons.

 

And a few of my sites…

ICT Planningwww.ictplanning.co.uk

I have been trying to get this up and running for a few months now and it is coming together now. I have been adding some how-to guides, lesson plans and blog posts about different tools that we are going to use. I have also linked other ICT curricula on the site too. I hope that it will be useful for anyone that is thinking on changing their ICT curriculum this year.

Under Ten Minuteswww.undertenminutes.com

Another job in the coming weeks is to add more videos on to this tutorial site. I have added a couple lately and the idea is that there will be videos to cover a range of software and websites that we use in school.

 

What sites and resources will you be using this year?

 

Horrible Histories
Friday, August 31st, 2012 | Author:

This term in Year 3-4 we are learning about the Tudors so I have made a playlist to share all of Horrible History videos I could find.

The YouTube Playlist is available here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL572B96B358463707 and I must say thank you to @tomhenzley for helping to create this list.

If you find a video that I haven’t included, please share it with me.

Photos in school
Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 | Author:

You know all of those photographs that you take in school? What do you do with them? We take thousands, in fact last year it seems we took 28,000 of them. Many of them are never edited and are simply uploaded onto the Photo drive on the server. So what happens to them?

We use them there and then to show the children and we put some on the blog either as standalone pictures or as part of a Photopeach/Animoto slideshow, but then what? Most of the pictures that we take are ‘action’ shots of the children learning and we don’t really need to keep them all year after year, but at our school we produce end of year reports made by the children and the children add their photos to this. We also like to share photos when the children leave the school in Year 6, so we would like to keep them but they are too big. The 28,000 photos from last year represents 49GB of storage space. The server we had in school 3 years ago only had 50GB of Hard Drive space, so it shows how many we have taken!

I think my top tip for cameras and storage in school is to collect the digital cameras, find the size/quality setting and change it to 3-5mega pixels. After all, how many pictures do you need to be bigger than this? This handy chart shows how big pictures can be printed and still be in good quality. So a 10MP camera will happily give good quality 20x30inch pictures. Most schools wouldn’t print colour photographs A4 size, let alone any bigger. Now if you only need them for the blog, they should be resized. But which tools can be used?

I’ve always liked using Microsoft Picture Manager as it quickly sorts one folder and lets you resize images, but what about subfolders? I don’t think it does these too, so I needed to look for something else. It took a while, but the Free Picture Resize tool (yeah I love the names of these too…) does just that.

To resize pictures in bulk, simply:

  1. Load the program and choose Batch
  2. Choose ‘Copy to my computer’ – This leaves the original large photos and makes a copy containing the smaller ones
  3. Browse to the folder where the originals are and where the copies should go – you have to make the new empty folder first e.g. “2011-2012 resized”
  4. Make sure ‘Subfolders’ is ticked and press Next
  5. Add effects or rotate etc if you need to
  6. Choose a size – 800×600 or 640×480 should be fine for printing
  7. Press Next and you’re done.
Remember that it will take a while if there are loads of photos! You can then backup or remove the original photos.
I would say that we do use some high-quality images and these do need to be more than 3MP. Last year we had canvas prints made up to go around the school, but these represent 10 or so photographs (out of the 28,000).

Download Free Picture Resize Starter: http://download.cnet.com/Free-Picture-Resize-Starter/3000-12511_4-10297789.html

Looking forward we are wondering what could be done with the photos to extend their life even further. Could we use a tool such as Picasa to share the photos online? After all, 100GB is less than $5 a month. We could happily keep a year or two’s worth of photos online, made available only to parents and pupils. This could mean that they could see them at home and download them if they wanted to keep copies. There must be photos of every child if we have 28,000 on there! I’m not sure if this is possible though due to child safety and Facebook. Although we wouldn’t have children’s names on there, what if a parent downloaded a picture from our library and posted it online but it contained other children too? The same thing could happen if they came to sports day and took photographs themselves, but we wouldn’t be helping them to do it. Maybe we try it and see if it works?

We did run a small trial after a residential the children went on. I uploaded all of the photographs to a Dropbox account and shared the link with children in that year group so that they could see them and download them if they wanted to. This didn’t lead to any issues from parents but if we did it on a larger scale, would there be issues? Obviously we wouldn’t be sharing photographs of the few children in school whose parent’s permission we do not have.

Does your school share photographs with parents beyond the blog? Can they order copies of photos that the school has taken? Could online galleries be used easily enough? What do you think?

My First Scratch
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 | Author:

I know that this will shock many people but until about 24 hours ago, I’d never used Scratch. Never. I have seen Miles Berry present on it twice and have also worked with many others (Pete Stuart, Simon Hunt etc) who have talked about it, but I have never sat down and actually had a play. Until this morning. The reason? We were due to appear on Brazilian TV.

I got an email a few weeks back asking if I knew of any schools near London that were coding and teaching game design with primary children. I didn’t, but after a while it was decided that we were near enough London and the camera crew were coming in. On the last Tuesday afternoon of term. Hhhmmm. They were due to have a short interview with me about programming – the normal sorts of questions including:

  • Why do we teach programming?
  • Why is it important?
  • Will the Raspberry Pi change anything?
And so on. We do have a progression of skills throughout our school starting with simple Roamer/on-screen Roamer style tools to teach instructions and sequences and this then feeds into 2Do It Yourself which is an excellent tool for the basics of game design (along with Simon Widdowsden’s excellent 2DIY Archive for more advanced use including elements of coding) and then the plan is to include Scratch and Kodu for older children too. That’s the plan, but we’ve never got round to doing that bit until today.
I thought about using 2DIY with the children this afternoon but as the video was going to be shown in Brazil, and I wasn’t sure of 2Simple’s influence in South America, I thought I’d stick with a freebie program that could be available anywhere. Also, it would be great to see what my children could come up with in an hour on a tool they had never used before. Turns out that they were amazing.
We started with the video of the fish tank from Miles Berry and then we set out to replicate that. My thinking was that if we could all manage to create a fish tank with two fish in it that moved of their own accord, as well as a predator that would eat them, then we would know the basics. Then they could move on and explore further on their own. We made the fish tank in about 45minutes and then the children started adding text boxes, speech and other sorts of characters to make it more interesting and varied.

So why have I written this post? I just wanted to say that it isn’t wrong if you haven’t tried every piece of software in the world (I’ve only just started using Storybird and have never used Voicethread…in fact my first use of Sketch-up was only last year). This is normal. But these tools aren’t scary, they are simple to pick up and as I said in my interview, don’t worry if the children know more than you do. It’s great not being the expert in the classroom. Today was my first experience of that for ages and I loved having two Year 5 pupils on hand for some Scratch tips, they’d been shown it once at their secondary school transfer day last week and have since downloaded it and played with it constantly. So give it a go, watch the video below and let me know how you get on. The final piece for TV will be available in a few weeks and I will post it when I have a copy.

Miles Berry’s video is here: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=256 and Simon Hunt’s (@smnhunt) website about Scratch is here: learnscratch.co.uk