Monthly Archives: February 2010

Using tutpup in my classroom.

I was introduced to Tutpup through Year Six Teacher’s Blog in this article. It is an online mental maths and spelling game in which the children play against children around the world, in realtime. It is also free.

To begin, the teacher needs to sign up first as… a teacher. Once this is done you can create classes for your pupils to use. I currently have two classes, one for my class and one for my maths class. You set a class code for each of your classes and the children need this when they sign up. It would be possible for one teacher login to run many of the classes in a school but I wouldn’t recommend this. Each teacher would be better creating a teacher login as they then have access to the data on how their children are progressing, and can move their children onto the games which will develop their pupils skills appropriately. Once the teacher has logged in and created a class or classes the children are ready to be introduced to the program.

The children create their own login using this simple interface. They choose a colour, animal and then a number and that is their playername. They then need to create their own password – on a side issue password creation, remembering and retrieval is a skill that our children need so much now for their lives inside and outside of education, do we discuss this enough with them? – and the enter the class login that the teacher creates in their login process.

You may find that some of the colour and animal combinations have gone (i.e. they do not have any numbers left), but the children in my class really supported each other in this. As soon as one child had found a colour and animal that had numbers, they told the class who then went to that combination and created their login.

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Online quiz making program – ProProfs.

I was teaching a lesson on Lent to my class, and was looking for an approach which I thought would motivate the class. I’m a bit of a fan of quizzes and thought the children might like to create their own quiz/comprehension activity based around a non-fiction text about Lent.

I created a text using simple wikipedia and then discussed the idea of making a multiple choice quiz. We also discussed making  all of the answer choices plausible, so as to make the quiz that bit trickier.

Part way through the session I decided that it would be great to type up the quiz onto the class blog page, that idea developed into the more interactive idea of creating an online quiz and then embedding it into the page. A quick search on google led me to the ProProfs site.

Once on there I signed up (for free) and had a quick play with the software. It was very easy to use, so I shared the site with the class on the whiteboard and we set about creating our online quiz.

ProProfs has quite a range of styles for your quizzes as well as a range of endings to the quiz. These include creating a certificate for each entrant in the quiz.

The possibilities seem great. As well as using it with children creating quizzes for the blog, they could create one for their parents, they can embed them easily in a wide range of sites, as well as teachers being able to create them as a fun way to assess children’s learning.

My class certainly enjoyed making the quiz and entering up the questions onto the program and then seeing the results live, on the web, in a matter of minutes.

Have a look at the quiz so far here.

Web 2.0 Week 4/5

It was also a 3-day week in our authority, this being our spring half-term week. Despite this we had a busy time.  I did an update of my class’s blog page with 3 new stories based loosely on some Burns’ poems which an excellent group called Oor Rabbie came in and worked on with my children.  There was also a creepy tale about a bed, based on a story by Anthony Horowitz.

When entering these stories, I learned a new feature -the insert more tag – which I put to use on these stories. It means we can show more headings and postings on the front page of the blog. If you want to read more, you click on the read more link. I think in future I might mention this to my class and allow them to tell me where to put the ‘read on’ break. It will make them think carefully about the shape of their writing and create a ‘suspense’ spot from where the reader has to click to read on.

I also updated the Buddy Bear Blog with  a new adventure from Buddy, who visited Jacob’s house. The class are finding the diary being posted on the blog very motivating and look forward to publishing their entries. I have also added on some pictures now. If you have a look on the page,  a comment would be really appreciated by the class.

Drench.

A new game which I’ve introduced to my class is drench.  I’m not sure where how I found the game, I thought it was via the Guardian Technology Pages but it was actually via a comment on their report on ‘Games to relax you’.

The game involves the player selecting one of 6 colours and trying to change all of the board into 1 colour in 30 moves or less. Drench has proved very popular with many of the children in my class, although not with myself as I am very colour blind and find I cannot tell a 2 pairs of the colours apart from each other!

To find a winning strategy children (or adults) have to plan what colours lie around the ‘active’ area (the area which they can change the colour for) and plan 2 or 3 moves ahead. It develops spatiality and thinking ahead, and like many of the best games contains simple gameplay which remains challenging through successively harder levels.

I find using it in the final 2 minutes around play or break works really well with my class and I have tried children working in table groups to complete the puzzle as quickly as they can. I also  use it in plenaries and also introductions to maths sessions to revisit bit of spatial learning.

Spatial awareness, as I have mentioned previously, is an area I feel ICT (especially games based learning) can make large developments as children have the opportunity to explore spaces in an enjoyable context.

Using physicsgames.net for problem solving.

Physics games is a site I use with my class to develop thinking skills. It is a site which contains hundreds of free games which, as the name suggests have some degree of physics in them. This doesn’t mean that they are complex science games. The science involved is often simple use of gravity, although many of the games have an element of forces in them also.

The site has been updated recently to put the games into categories; block removal, construction, demolition, platform, projectile and stacking. Each game, as well as being free is easily embedded into a blog site and could be embedded into a class blog page.

I use the site for problem solving activities, with the children working in table groups and attempting to solve the puzzles on the IWB. This approach often leads to other tables seeing the solution as we collaboratively achieve the goals.

The games on the site are successful, I feel, because they do not require the ‘knowledge’ which I feel sometimes holds back problem solvers where a problem is based in maths (as I find many problem solving activities are). There is no need for number bonding, nor tables. The problems are solved generally through the problem being identified, the resources being evaluated and then a mixture of trial and error approaches. Within these trials, the children may identify changing an order of events as being required for example or using one set of resources to change to effect of another. In nearly all of the games I have used, the skills required are built steadily from one level to the next leading to a good progression of problem solving skills being required.

As well as developing these skills, the games on the site are extremely popular, I find, with many of my class working on them at home and asking to stop in through playtime to work on them.

The link is in the sidebar under the category thinking skills.

Delicious Bookmarking

I came across the delicious bookmarking site a few years ago, probably through reading the Guardian’s Technology pull out on a Thursday. (Sadly this is now only available online). I signed up for an account, saved a few bookmarks into it and probably didn’t really see the point. In the last couple of months I’ve revisited it, having seen its use on various educational websites.

If you’ve not used delicious before I’ll try to summarise what it does. It is a website which collates bookmarks for you. You need to install the delicious bookmark widget into your browser, or install the bookmarklet into google chrome. Once that is done any site you wish to bookmark can be bookmarked by clicking on the tag button (or bookmarklet in chrome).

Once this is done a window appears and you are invited to add tags to your bookmark. Tags are keywords which relate to the website your bookmarking. They are more flexible than just putting a bookmark into a named folder as they not so restrictive. For example a website about algebra and problem solving for upper juniors could be tagged as ‘algebra’ ‘ks2’ ‘maths’ ‘upper’ ‘juniors’ and ‘problem_solving’. This means that by searching for any of those tags the site can be found. I find that on my browser based bookmarks that link either goes in an overburdened ‘maths’ folder or either algebra or word problems but not both.

A further advantage of using a browser based bookmarking system is that your bookmarks are easily accessible on any computer you use. Until about 4 years ago I only had a web connected computer at home, so I didn’t need to access my bookmarks in school on a different machine. With the advent of school laptops this changed and for a while I found myself e-mailing links to my g-mail account for me to ‘find’ at school. Now I just need to log into my delicious account and all my bookmarks are there.

The ability to share links between computers opens up the possibility of having  a school delicious page. This would mean that rather than put pieces of paper on the staffroom noticeboard with good links on, people can save their links onto the school account and then other members of staff have access to them at school and at home and don’t have to type in a fiddly url. Using a similar idea, it is possible to create a page of links for classes and for children to then use at home for projects/revision etc.

Finally (for my delicious discoveries so far) it is possible to add other users to your delicious account. This means that you can view and use the links that other teachers are using for various ideas around the UK and beyond. When you are on the delicious site, you can search your own bookmarks, your networks bookmarks or the whole of the delicious network to find what you are looking for. However, when you are logged in you can decide whether you want to share all or some of your bookmarks with other people or not (this means that my Derbyshire Cricket links can be hidden away!!).

As ever, the best way is to have a look at the website itself, make an account (if you have a yahoo account you simply sign in with that) and have an explore.

Prezi

My class are working on a topic which will involve a lot of research from the internet, and maybe some research from books. I was trying to think of ways for them to present this research to the rest of the class, and also if viable move away from a program like Powerpoint.

I’d seen prezi recommended by a few people on my PLN on twitter and had a further look at it. It’s an online presentation tool which allows the user to place words, pictures onto a larger space rather than using a slide based approach. It allows the presenter to zoom in on certain words or details of pictures as they wish. The Prezi approach seemed to rely a bit more on the people presenting their ideas and these being enhanced by the presentation, rather than the people speaking reading the text of the presentation to their audience. This idea of presenting rather than reading was something I wanted to aim for in the class. I also liked the fact that it didn’t lend itself too much to having too much text on the pages. This, I felt would encourage the children to be discerning in the information they put into the Prezi and what information they wish to tell their audience.

Many of the ways of working with Prezi are standard. Double click to place work on the space for example, but it’s when work needs to moved or resized that there is a slight difference. Prezi uses a tool called a zebra for this. By clicking in the centre of the zebra you can move your selected object, the middle ring allows you to resize an object and the outer ring allows you to rotate an object. I found it really simple to pick up how to make small presentations, as ever the best way is to go to the website and have a go yourself. Here is the link for that. Prezi.

We had a look at Prezi last Wednesday (after which I came down with a virus and have been off school since – not related to Prezi though) and after an initial 10 minutes when we had no internet access we made a start.

I began by explaining that we were going to learn how to use a new program which they would use in their topic work. This went down well, my class are very confident at using ICT and are developing good skills for learning about how to work with different programs. We had a quick look at the introductory video and then I made a Prezi to show them in around 3 minutes. I then allowed them 15 minutes of exploring time.

The exploring time is an approach I use a lot with ICT, and my class respond well to it. They seem to spend a few minutes exploring on their own, before their own Personal Learning Networks appear. Soon there was a buzz of ‘Look at this’ and ‘How did you do that?’ and ‘Come and look at this Mr.Drummond’ going on. The children’s enthusiasm and sharing of skills meant that no-one was getting left behind with the basics of using the program and some children were extending the possibilities already.

After the explore, I set the context. In this case it was presenting some ideas the class were working on around the history of movies, famous actors and making movies. The class spent the remainder of the lesson working on these.

In the plenary part of the lesson we discussed the positives and negatives we had found in using Prezi and I also discussed the idea that the skills used in learning how to use a new piece of software, in using a learning network within the class and in knowing when a program is the best fit for the job were equally as important as the skills they had learned directly connected to Prezi (such as using the zebra tool).

As we complete some Prezi, I will attempt to embed them onto my class’s blog page.

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