Thursday, 31 January 2008

Games Based Learning

As a keen advocate of games-based learning (first lesson in 1989!!) I was delighted to be able to hear Derek Robertson from Learning & Teaching Scotland speak during my recent visit to the UK. Derek is pioneering games-based learning with evaluative research in Scotland, and is envied by many, not just because he has a great job, but because he has a cupboard full of 500 Nintendo DS consoles!

At Kellett we have begun to immerse ourselves into games-based learning; P5 students completed a module stemming from the use of Rollercoaster Tycoon last year, covering a number of areas in their Literacy work. We hope to repeat this work during the summer term.

As time progresses more modules will be introduced, and as we move into secondary our students will look at aspects of game design.

Games companies are beginning to pay more attention to education in general and many games are now designed specifically with education in mind. Nintendo, for instance have developed a number of games which fall into the mental agility category, the most famous of which is probably Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for the DS. Derek Robertson's project on using Dr Kawashima in schools looked at aspects of Numeracy in three Primary Six classes. His research certainly makes interesting reading and food for thought for the sceptics!

The latest game which could make an impact in the 'Edutainment' stakes is another mental agility tool for the Nintendo DS; Professor Kageyama's Maths Training. This game aims to offer the opportunity to practise maths skills on a daily basis using the Nintendo dual screen to provide answers. If any pupil gets their hands on a copy I'd love to have a look at it!

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Digital Photography Competition 2008

One of the highlights of last year was Kellett School's first Digital Photography Competition. Pupils throughout the school entered, from Reception through to Year Six. A winner was declared for all the year groups and an overall winner also selected, pictured here.

The quality of entries was very impressive, making the judging extremely difficult. Hopefully, we will see an even larger entry for this year's competition.

The theme of the competition for this year is travel. Students are encouraged to take photographs having travelled 'somewhere'. This could be whilst on holiday during Chinese New Year, or simply whilst visiting somewhere in Hong Kong, e.g. Ocean Park. A few pupils have been a bit confused, thinking that the idea is to take a photo of a means of travel, such as an aeroplane! THIS IS NOT THE CASE! The theme of travel is as loose as possible so as to encourage as many entries as possible.

Pupils can use their own camera, or borrow somebody elses, but they can only enter photographs that they have taken themselves. If pupils wish to enter a portfolio of work rather than individual photos they may do so... quite a few did that last year.

The competition is a digital one, so paper copies of photos will not be accepted. Entries must be via a digital method, such as e-mail, or cd-rom or USB memory stick. If pupils would like to bring in the memory cards from their cameras, any one of the ICT team will help to download the photos. If you're a bit stuck about how to enter your photos we can help you sort them out...just ask.

The winning entries will be displayed around the school and on our web site and blog.

Well done to those pupils who have already entered. The closing date is the final day of this term; Tues 18th March

As usual in this type of competition, all judges decisions are final!

Good luck!!

Mr D

Monday, 21 January 2008

Overheard in the blogosphere....

"The thing is, if students are not exposed to technology then when it becomes so important it can’t be ignored they will be left behind, it’s that simple."

Music Sites

During my visit to the UK, some of the classes investigated and evaluated a number of music making sites. A number of students have asked me for links to those sites so that they can carry on their work at home.

There are a large number of mixing type web sites available, some of which offer the ability to save, share or e-mail your creations.

One piece of advice... don't forget to use your headphones!

Here are some of the links.

Blobprod Beatbox DJ Mixer

Radio 1 One Studio Sequencer

Radio 2 Songwriting Game

To name just three.

I usually try to avoid linking to sites that require payment, but I have to make an exception for Showmehowtoplay, one of the most effective uses of the internet I've ever seen.

The Multiplayer software that accompanies the site is free to download, but you need to purchase individual tracks to view how each instrument is played. The software allows the user to mute individual tracks in the recording and view solo work in full screen mode. Even if you have no intention of downloading the player, it's worth visiting the site to investigate the artists available. There are also tuition videos for various instruments and the ability to play along with jam tracks with your instrument muted.

There is a junior version available which needs more investigation.

ASUS Minibook in HK

I managed to track down some ASUS mini books in the Wan Chai computer mall at the weekend. They're currently priced at just under $3000 but I suspect that price might give a little with some persuasion.
They're certainly worth investigating as they're a handy extra PC to have around the house for those times when everybody wants to use the computer!
Unfortunately, one of the stores I visited only had pink mini books in stock... not really my colour!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bett Show - Day Three

Friday is traditionally the busiest day at BETT and this year was no different as Olympia was full to bursting shortly after 10.00am... many would have been keen to get inside to avoid the awful January weather infliciting itself on delegates.

It's the third day and there was still a long list of things to see. First of all it was off to talk to various bodies regarding our secondary curriculum. How the new National Curriculum will fit in with the OCR Nationals and various other awarding bodies such as the Diploma in Digital Applications is a challenge, but one which will allow our students to access a wide ranging, creative curriculum. It's a challening, but exciting venture.

Another round of VLE discussions. First Class are at the front of the queue and their product has certainly developed since I used it around ten years ago. Lots of discussion about how their software aids collaboration and some of the nice tricks available. Then it's RMs Kaleidos learning platform... will it put us in a whirl? Well.... not really. VLEs are hardly the most excting things in the world to look at, they're all much of a muchness and what's far more important is the quality of the collaboration and communication that they allow.

Fronter are a company I know little about, they're Norwegian apparently and they've just won the London Schools contract so that's a big deal. They have little experience in Asia though and their BECTA Learning Platform Provider status may not be quite the status of approval it might have been.

So that's five, or maybe even six I've looked at closely over the three days and with the info I have it's now back to HK for another step in the procurement process.

I'm tipped off by a friend that I need to visit the Softease stand. Not just to look at their range of software, including the podcasting package Podium and the newly released Honeycomb, but to meet up with Danielle Markland who taught ICT at Kellett seven years ago. We have a good old natter about the school and mutual colleagues. I guess things have changed a lot in the past six years since she left.

TTS are one of my favourite software companies and Reception and P1 pupils have been using Bee Bots enthusiastically since their arrival. They have some great new products for sale, including a hand held battery microphone for younger pupils where the sound files are saved to an internal USB drive, which means that the device simply needs to be plugged in for the file to be transferred. There's great scope for using these with many aspects of the curriculum e.g. describing outcomes of a science experiment or annotating an image with an audio file.

Traditionally, pupils have used Roamers in Key Stage One to learn about Control Technology. However, our stock of roamers have seen better days and they're finding it difficult to keep up. They're also incredibly heavy when they have their batteries inside them and TTS appear to have come up with the perfect product for schools looking for an alternative solution. Their Pro-Bots build upon knowledge, skills and concepts introduced by the Bee Bot allowing students to tackle more advanced Control techniques. Sourcing them in Hong Kong may be a little tricky, but they look like a really useful addition to our Control Technology equipment.

Back to the RM stand to have a look at their ASUS minibooks. Mobile computing is the theme of many suppliers at BETT. EDAs or PDAs have previously been flagged as a potential solution, but the companies involved in this technology appear to be developing mobile phone technology rather than the EDA/PDA, which is perfectly understandable. How do you use technology quickly and efficiently in a non-classroom environment? The ASUS appears to have much of the answer, plenty of disc space, internal camera and incredibly light. The analogy used is that it works like a notebook or a draft book might do in relation to a literacy book.

The real eye-opener here is that RM are producing a computer that uses open source software instead of that provided by Microsoft. The ASUS comes bundled with Open Office, a free, downloadable Office suite compatible with other major products. With many schools looking to move away from Microsoft, the idea that one of the largest UK based educational technology companies is now providing a product without Microsoft Office provides plenty of food for thought.

I'll be looking out for examples of good practice and case studies before we investigate further. One of the main attractions of these machines is that they are amazingly competitively priced, so the provision of a pack for mobile computing is an affordable option.

Next, on to the British Computer Society to look at their e-Type touch typing software. The product looks great but is very expensive and not likely to arrive at Kellett any time soon. With the large number of online typing sites, most of which are free, available, there's no excuse for not practicing your keyboard fluency!
Having spoken to Adobe earlier in the week, it's now time to visit rivals Corel to see what they can offer us in terms of new graphics software for our older pupils. Their acquisition of Jasc's Paint Shop Pro has given them a great opprtunity to break into the education market as many schools have historically used PSP, a much cheaper package than Adobe's Photoshop suite. Their pricing is extremely competitive and will mean that the Art and ICT Departments can access an industry standard graphics package.

Real Allusion's Crazy Talk software is something I've been interested in using in classes for some time. The idea that students can find a relatively easy way to animate photographs and models opens up a world of possibilities in Literacy work. Imagine writing a story from the point of view of a dog maybe, and then being able to read your work out so that it looks like the dog is talking! The latest version of Crazy Talk looks even better and I'm hoping we can use it during the next academic year.
As this post is now incredibly long, I'll add any more items of interest from BETT in new threads.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Teachmeet 08

I'm currently sitting in the Teachmeet seminar at BETT in London, there are various other live feeds extending from the "un-conference" including Second Life and Flash Meeting, but I'm using good old fashioned blogging! The current prsentation is on Year One blogging.

A busy day three at BETT and lots to report on, but there's another 23 presentations to go before we finish so there wont be an update tonight.

This post was purely made because I wanted to prove that live blogging from an event can take place. It's very exciting.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Bett Show - Day Two

The train takes the strain on day two and for the benefit of Miss Everett... panini, cheese and ham..cost the earth.

A good start to the day; a meeting with Tim Rylands... we discuss various aspects of visual literacy, swap some ideas, and I continue in my efforts to get him to come and visit us in HK.

A few bits of software to look at today and I start with Kudlian's I Can Animate as we need to stretch what we do with our Digital Blue and still image cameras. The product works beautifully and the time lapse feature means it will work well in other areas of the curriculum, especially Science and Geography, but the fact it will only work on Macs means it's an unlikely purchase.

2Simple's software gets plenty of plaudits and this year's offerings are no different with 2Publish + receiving positive reviews from many I spoke to. We started using Simple City last year in Year 1, and I was very impressed with this new package. Clearly this could have a major impact at Kellett and I now have a number of evaluation copies in my bag, including their animation solution, 2Animate... note to self; remember to evaluate software.

2Simple's collaboration with Lego Education shows great foresight, and well aware of the fact that we have much progress to make in areas of Control Technology, I wander off to the LEGO stand, pausing briefly to gawp at Bob Geldof along the way (he surprisingly fails to remember me from 1979). LEGO continues to come up with some wonderful products and we will clearly need to dust down our intelligent bricks later this year. There's a clear need for this type of product as our secondary curriculum continues to develop - we already have work on Flowol planned, but this is an area I'm keen to expand.

Next it's back on the VLE trail and a visit to the Studywiz stand. They have a strong prsence in Hong Kong and their product looks to do most of what we require... more to ponder although their gift of a flask is much appreciated!

The simple ideas are sometimes the best apparently and nowhere was this more obvious than on TAG's stand. Their Gorillapod flexible tripod is a great idea and I can't wait to get my hands on one. It may even solve some of the problems we have with attaching a tripod to a wheeled chair.

There were plenty of other great things observed on Day Two (more details when I return to HK), the highlight of which is below, but it's also worth mentioning the work of Shooflypublishing. Their Angel Boy graphical novels look very impressive on a whiteboard and there's huge scope for innovative Literacy work at KS2 and 3. Evaluation copies are winging their way to HK as I speak.

Joe Moretti's presentation on using Garageband in the music classroom was simply stunning. He is clearly a guy far too talented for his own good but his demo was inspiring even for those of us with two left ears (if that's possible). Mr Cox made a great start with our use of Garageband last year and now we have our new Mac suite, we'll be looking to really push on with music and ICT. Joe really showed the wow factor in his presentation and it was a good way to the end the day, if a little daunting!!

By the end of the day the feet were beginning to hurt a little, but I'm all ready for a mammoth day tomorrow, with the Teachmeet not likely to finish until after nine. Because of that there will be no BETT update tomorrow, but avid reader(s) can console themselves with the fact I'll be finishing off my BETT report, including all the things I missed out, after I return to HK on Saturday.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

BETT Show - Day One

It's been two years since I last visited BETT and the thing that first struck me when I arrived this morning is that the show is even bigger than ever.

There's a bewildering array of exhibitors and a well thought out plan of attack is needed before jumping in to the action... first stop then the International Lounge for a cup of coffee and an exhibition plan! First person I see in the lounge is award winning teacher Tim Rylands. Tim is one of the most influential voices in ICT teaching in the UK. Kellett students will have seen his play "A Load of Rubbish" performed by P6 last year. Having been in regular touch with Tim on a variety of subjects in the last six months, we agree to meet with the hope that we can arrange for him to visit Hong Kong in the future.

Into the action and a chance to catch up with a few ex-colleagues to pick their brains about "must-sees" for the week. Nick Langley's company iTeachers have produced planning and training materials to support teachers in embedding ICT within the wider curriculum. As enthusiastic as ever, Nick gives me an in-depth demo and his product is certainly impressive... I can see that our staff would find it really useful.

Next stop Lincolnshire's Schools-Online product and another ex-colleague, Clare Mugridge. A very simple web editing tool that creates clear, effective web sites. Clare recommends some of TAG Learning's products, so they're added to the list.

Paul McMahon's work in Hong Kong has been mentioned here before and he remains an enthusiastic advocate of collaboration between HK schools. Paul and I will both be attending Friday evening's Teachmeet and we'll be chatting during the week to keep an international perspective on the show.

The first in-depth visit of the day is to Altman Technologies to look at their P-Counter software as a way of monitoring how much we print at Kellett. This software will not be popular if and when it arrives at school, but is essential for the smooth administration of ICT resources. It looks like it will do all we need and we'll be evaluating the product at some point this term.

Apple Distinguished Educators Tom Barrance and David Baugh are always worth talking to and I hassle Tom about providing me with some of his high quality video materials to aid our video editing work. He doesn't give in, but surely it's only a matter of time! David Baugh's presentation on the Mac OS Leopard has plenty of food for thought for us as we look to implement our Mac environment, and I'll be back to the Apple stand before the end of the week to find out more.
As usual at BETT you can't get a decent sandwich in the place and I ponder bringing one of my famous packed lunches on the train tomorrow...

Next visit is to Adobe for a look at their Digital Schools Collection. We desperately need to upgrade our old Photoshop Elements 2 graphics software and the Schools Collection comes bundled with the excellent Premier Elements. Distribution in HK is a problem, but it's still on the wish list for next year.

English Heritage used BETT to launch their new web site, Heritage Explorer. This is a great site and will be very useful for a variety of history topics such as the Victorians, with interactive resources and teaching activities.... and it's free!!

Schools in the UK are now required to provide an online learning space for their students and Kellett will be looking at Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) to enable pupils to collaborate and access resources from anywhere. Early days in the procurement process, but a good chance to discuss some of the issues with Uniservity. There are at least another four suppliers to discuss matters with in the next couple of days, after which we'll hopefully be better informed about our decision.

The real eye-opener on day one, and the must-have gadget so far is the short-throw projector. These beauties look great and get round many of the problems associated with glare from the bulb. The Promethean model even clips to an adjustable whiteboard, allowing even the smallest pupils to access more of the board.

Promethean's multi point input system was also present, but it's one for tomorrow as the bus was about to depart!
A longer day in store for tomorrow with an appointment with 2Simple Software and a look at some Visualisers.

It's great to be able to spend an extended visit at BETT as there's simply too much to see in one day and I'm looking forward to discovering more tomorrow.