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Saturday, 23 October 2010

New School Blog - Please Help!

Hello and thank you in advance to everybody and anybody who takes the time to read this post. I am taking a slight detour from my usual blog posts about our school's iPod Touch project to bring you this.

With the help of John Sutton of creativeblogs.net we have just taken the giant leap into the world of class blogging at our school and I am personally incredibly excited about the world of possibilities that this will open up to our pupils. Having explored some fantastic examples of blogging in schools, such as the class blogs at Heathfield Community Primary School - the brainchild of Dianne Spencer and David Mitchell - we were sure that we'd made a good decision.

We have begun introducing the blogs to pupils in the past two school days an some classes have already had some reluctant boy writers blogging as soon as they're home from school. Amazing!

Along with a few colleagues who have some experience of the benefits of blogging with children, I am doing everything I can to enthuse our staff and pupils about the exciting things blogging has to offer.

So, I am asking for your help! I have a mighty job on my hands trying to get around 70 members of staff and over 650 pupils blogging at our school - Bowling Park Primary School in Bradford. We have set up 23 class blogs and more are being set up for specific projects, clubs and members of staff to use! I would be so unbelievably grateful if you could do anything in your power to help convince our staff that blogging is as powerful tool as I know it is, and to help our pupils become hooked on it from the get-go.

What you can do to help

If you get a spare moment, it'd be marvellous if you could take a quick look at what we've got so far by visiting http://www.bowlingparkprimary.net/ 

If you're feeling really generous with your time our children would be thrilled if you could leave them a comment on one of their class blogs (which are all listed in the sidebar on the right of the homepage). Our Year 5 classes are learning all about the Victorians at the moment and are trying to find out as much as they can about Queen Victoria. Could you help them? Year 6's 'Big Question' is 'How can I live to be 101?' - they'd love to hear what you know about the way our bodies work. All of our classes will be blogging away over the next half term and so we'd love you to pop along to one of their blogs and introduce yourselves - they'd be thrilled to hear from you.

I also have a new school blog of my own - Mr. Mayoh - Excellence in ICT. It is really important that this blog attracts lots of visitors and gets lots of comments so that I can lead by example and prove to staff that blogging is a great way to provide a real audience for your work. Why not take a look and help me keep my job? :)

Finally, one of the easiest things you can do to help is to follow me on Twitter and look out for my tweets about the work our pupils are doing. If you like what you read we'd be delighted if you could retweet the link to give our pupils an even wider audience!

Thank you to everybody in advance. Your support is much appreciated.

On a related note...


Those of you who are used to seeing blog posts about our iPod Touch project - we will naturally be blogging away using these devices at some point soon. Look out for future posts which will hopefully combine the two worlds neatly! Exciting times.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Innovating with iPods - Learning with Apps Part 3 - Rory's Story Cubes

The next post in my series of iPod Touch app reviews will focus on the truly brilliant Rory's Story Cubes. (It is worth pointing out, if it wasn't already obvious, that almost every app featured is compatible with a range of iOS devices, including iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad).

A bit of pretty exciting context.

Aside from the world of iPods exists an exciting educational game called Rory's Story Cubes. The game, which can be bought for a measly £10, consists of 9 dice, each of which has a seemingly random image on each of its 6 faces. The idea is simple: to create a short narrative linking all 9 ideas.

The information from the official Story Cubes website states:

"Begin with 'Once upon a time', and tell a story that links together all 9 face-up images. Start with the first symbol that grabs your attention.

Rory's Story Cubes can be enjoyed solitaire or by taking turns with multiple players.

Remember there is no wrong answer, the goal is to let the cubes spark your imagination. It really is that simple!"

And it is. It has massive potential to be a great tool for providing an environment to nurture creative writing.

And as they say on the Apple ads... there's an app for that! Rory's Story Cubes is available in the iTunes store here for £1.19.

Here's a video from YouTube which demonstrates the app:



It's a really marvellous way to encourage children to become great writers. Of course it also has marvellous applications for other areas of literacy. Why not link ideas together using interesting connectives? Or use fantastic 'WOW' words to describe your favourite images? Work on improving speaking and listening skills by practising oral storytelling to talk partners, groups or the whole class? You could even record these stories using Easi-Speak Microphones or flip cams? The sky's the limit.

Have you got any other creative ideas for using this resource effectively? Have you used the cubes or the iPod Touch app with your class? If you have anything at all to share, I'd be thrilled to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Innovating with iPods - Learning with Apps Part 2 - Whiteboard Free

My next few posts will focus on specific app reviews. Some will be far more detailed than others. Due to some technical issues, I'm going to keep this one very short (whilst I mull over a move to a more competent blogging platform. There, I said it).

The first app I will review is Whiteboard Free - a free whiteboard app! (You probably guessed that, right?) It can be found in iTunes here.

This does exactly what it says on the tin in that it's a simple little app which allows students to write or draw away on a single 'whiteboard' which fits within the length and width of the screen (i.e. not scrollable. There must be a more geeky word for this?)

It's a simple way of jotting down thoughts, workings or answers. We use it as a quick AfL tool just like we would with regular whiteboards, for the teacher to check for understanding and provide instant feedback. 

The benefits over a regular whiteboard are threefold:

1. By pressing the home screen and power buttons at the same time, pupils can take a snapshot of the screen, saving their workings or answers into their Photos app. Pretty cool.

2. It is fully collaborative! I don't know what the physical limit is in terms of actual numbers, but automatically via the inbuilt Bluetooth, users within range of each other can wirelessly connect to each other's whiteboards. This means that pupils can work collaboratively with each other in real time (to play simple games or share ideas). That's a really cool feature.

3. It's really easy to share your whiteboards. The app is neatly set up to post to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr and has full email integration.

Top Tip: Take care with regards to e-Safety when using this app. Despite our largely successful efforts to educate pupils about safe use of technology, we have had one incident of a pupil writing inappropriate comments to other pupils using this app, so there is an inherent e-Safety issue to be aware of. Naturally, the situation was promptly dealt with and there have been no further instances of misuse.

The only limitation that I'm aware of with the free version is that you are limited to writing in red. Not a major stress, really. The Pro version is currently available for £0.59 if you're deeply offended by the colour red and need the option to write in black, blue and green as well.

For more information, check out the developer's information page about both versions of the app here.

Have you used this app with your students? Do you have any other ideas of how we could use it? Do you know of a better whiteboard app? Post a comment!