Monday, August 30, 2010

A Busy Few Days In Christchurch

I spent last Thursday and Friday (26 and 27th August) in Christchurch with my fellow E-Fellows for an extremely busy and jam packed session of learning, skill sharing, laughter and great company. What an amazing group to work with!
We shared 5 slides of what is currently grabbing and interesting us in E-learning and Florence shared how she is using solo taxonomy with her classes. I found this very interesting and want to explore this further to see how I can apply it to my own teaching.
Something from Nathan's sharing that grabbed me was how in his community in Warrington there is a bus shelter where residents can leave unwanted items for others to use and recycle. If the item is still there after a week the original owner must remove it. As we currently have our annual inorganic collection happening here in Greenhithe and I observe the number of people 'recycling' items I cannot help but think how practical Nathan's community's recycling system is.
Tara shared how to use Prezi and I plan to explore this further as I can think of ways I could use it with the children I am working with.
We spent time working with Matt Tippen from Core Ed looking at how to create a presentation (to help us as we plan what we will share at this year's Ulearn Conference) and later had to create several speeches in 5 minutes on ourselves and something we are passionate about as we learnt how to deliver a speech. It was a little out of the comfort zone for us all as we created, delivered and then were critiqued on these short speeches.
Matt shared his own E-Fellowship research (very interesting) and then shared with us two projects he has been working on - Booktalks and EdTalks.
I have a huge list of other things to explore over the next while as so much of interest was shared within the group and it amazes me how these things can apply across all levels of education, not just to the area each of us is working in.
On Friday one thing that I found amazingly interesting was when Michael Winter of Core shared with us a video by Prof. Sugata Mitra about his Hole In The Wall project - it shows so well how children can self direct their own learning without any adult intervention.
By the time I returned home on Friday night my mind was spinning, in fact I don't think I was much company for Tara on the plane as I was struggling with 'brain overload' as I tried to process the information I had gained. I have spent the weekend processing and following up and feel it is going to take me weeks to work through it all fully.
Thank you to everyone - the other E-fellows and Core - for such an amazingly fantastic couple of days, full of laughter and wonderful learning!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Creativity Killed In Schools?

Just in case any of you have not seen this - it is a classic I feel!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Animated Fun

Before embarking on my E-Fellowship I had developed an interest in exploring to a deeper level the use of animation with our children after using it during our participation in the ECE ICT PL Programme. I had only used it a handful of times, with great pleasure for myself and the children I was working with. To introduce animation to a group of children who had not previously participated in the process I decided we would try creating the frog life cycle using animation. This was a group activity with around 6 children helping, each taking on a separate role in the filming process and problem solving together. The trickiest part was the creation of the frog spawn and one of the children found the solution, using our 'googly' eyes that we put on puppets etc. A very successful outcome. There were a few problems, the first being that I have changed my operating system since last using I Can Animate and the software I was using did not work properly in OSX.6 and would not export to IMovie. Disaster I thought, after all the work the children had done. Luckily I attended an AKA ICT cluster meeting soon after and discovered the change and once I downloaded the new version everything worked. I was so relieved and was then able to edit and finish the movie to share with the children.

Shortly after completing the frog animation I was awarded my E-Fellowship and was now inspired to explore animation and its relationship to literacy to a deeper level. This is proving to be very interesting as I work on inspiring children to start creating their own movies. The first step is discussing with them what makes a story - how we need to have a beginning, a middle section and an ending. We have been looking at books and how every story in them contains these elements. Some children have said "I want to make a movie" but are still finding the story element difficult. I am therefore looking at recreating some of their favourite stories with them to further enhance this.
However two of our children understood the process from the beginning and have created wonderful animations in recent weeks, both of which have come from their own imaginations and using models they decided on themselves.

First is Cade's animation and when he decided he wanted to make it he came to me with the dinosaur models already in his hands and the story ready to dictate to me. We filmed it very quickly as he had planned it all out before he started. He chose his background in KidPix and after we edited everything in IMovie, he dictated his narration and it was done in one take as he was very happy with what he had done. We shared it with all the other children, and his mother and grandmother who came along especially, at mat time and the children have regularly asked me to replay it ever since. This was a great start for me for my current research and has provided the stimuli for the children to start discussing and thinking about what they could create.

The second animation is Ryan's. He was very keen to create an animation too and decided it had to be about his favourite Superhero - Spiderman. We discussed what models he could use and he had a look at the block area people and found a model of a surgeon to use as the Green Goblin. He then found a wooden man to use as Peter Parker back in his 'normal' clothes and we decided it would be best if he brought one of his Spiderman models from home to use for his movie. Ryan decided that he needed two Spidermen for his movie, for different elements he had planned. When we started filming he quickly 'acted out' each part before setting it up for the photography elements.

His story had developed somewhat from that he initially dictated and it appeared that he had every part of it planned out ready for the filming session. I was impressed with the thought he had put into planning his movie and the way he worked confidently and with each element already thought out. The only glitch for him was how he would get his Spiderman to climb up the wall (a piece of blue paper for the 'blue screen' to Chroma out with his chosen background) and we solved this with some handy 'Blutack'. He had thought that because his model had 'sticky pads' on his hands and it worked on windows etc it would work on the paper - another learning process for him.

Once filmed he chose his background in KidPix and then we exported his animation to IMovie to edit. Ryan told me what sort of music he wanted for his titles and of course the background of the title page had to be red. He dictated his story and it took two takes as he had trouble fitting all his story in with the first take. I love using the microphone headset when doing this with the children as they seem to be so much more focused on what they are doing than if I use just a microphone.

At the mat time at the end of the session when we finished Ryan's animation he shared it with all the other children and the final confirmation of his success was the spontaneous applause when it ended from everyone. The pride on Ryan's face was wonderful and he later shared his movie with his grandfather and his parents. I have made a Quicktime Movie copy on CD for the children of their movies for them to take home and keep as well. One interesting comment from a child was when I was asked if it was the real Spiderman - how wonderful children's imaginations are and it also shows just how visual images can affect children and how careful we must be in what we expose them to!

Things I have learnt so far -
  • I need to change my backdrop from blue to chroma green asap as when trying to add a background (especially with so much blue on Spiderman) it is difficult to keep all the image with so much blue in the models. I plan to get my husband to create a screen I can use in different places rather than having to use a screen on rollers as my backdrop.
  • The table we used for our animation was too wide and the next one will be done on a narrower surface.

I have several other children working on what they want to create - I'm going to interpret a favourite story book with a child next (he has chosen it) and I have two boys working together on a story they are creating themselves - watch this space!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Working With Robotics

I have spent some time working with the children creating robots using Lego WeDo. This product comes with software that shows a story about a model starring two Lego children, Max and Mia, and then instructions, displayed on screen, to create the model. When the model is completed the software shows the components needed to create movement for the model. The motors for the model are attached to a computer via a usb cable and sounds can be added to the movements.

The children chose to create a two part project, a pair of goal kicking legs and the goal with keeper to stop the ball. This project took place over two days, a Wednesday and Friday. A largish (6-8 at a time) group of children worked together, taking turns, to complete each of the robot models. The majority of the children participating were involved on both days. At the end of building the goal keeper we then really enjoyed setting up the two models (using two laptops) and using them together. Many of the children came to enthuse and join this part of the activity and helped the modelers to celebrate their achievement.

I observed a lot of conceptual language being used during the robot making process –
beside, under, match to, longer, shorter, middle, end etc. The children were matching – one to one, using discriminatory skills and comparison. We were comparing sizes – small, medium, large. Counting the number of ‘bumps’ on the Lego bricks and matching the shape of the bricks on the contents card. The children had two different visual cues to follow using a card showing all the pieces in the set and the picture on the laptop screen. Some of the children found looking at the pieces they needed on the screen easy to follow and others found me pointing to the pieces on the card an easier visual cue. Some of the children reversed what they saw on the screen as they put pieces together and found it hard to see the difference.

I found as the teacher that I was using a lot of rich language and did not need to be directional – I offered prompts, but the children were exploring for themselves. They were engaged and excited by what they were doing. The children watching were also helping and making suggestions, so everyone was feeling included. One child, because of his physical disability needed assistance to push the pieces together – all the other children did it easily.

There was a definite blend of literacy and mathematical skills used in the process. I had initially thought that it was a mathematical skill developing process, but observed the use of much literacy and this excited me.