Jenny Hughes was in Bremen last week and showed me some of her favourite apps on the wonderful Taccle web site. Although the site aims at providing practical ideas for teachers in using technology in the classroom, it is also a great resource for anyone interested in technology for teaching and learning and particularly rich in mobile apps.
We found a number of broken links and looked at installing a WordPress plugin to check for these. In the end we concluded the plugins seemed to have too high a processing load and instead used free application called Integrity which worked like a charm. We also discovered that the Taccle site has over 2500 external links!
The other technical / design feature which interests me is the metadata / category system. This has undergone a series of revamps and I think gets in pretty much right now.
Anyway here is one of my current favourite apps featured on the site – Singing Fingers, created at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten.
Make a sound while moving your finger to record a sound-drawing. Touch the drawing you just made to play the sound back: forward, backward, sideways, or any way. That’s it! Singing Fingers lets you see music, hear colors, and re-see everyday sounds for the beautiful playground that they are. Singing Fingers lowers the floor to let beginners play with sound as if it was finger paint, and raises the roof by letting advanced DJs break out of the grooves of the records into a world where sounds take any shape you give them. Your own fingers are like the needles that play the sounds back. Just like records and tape recorders were breakthroughs in simplicity and power, Singing Fingers has no complex buttons, menus, or rules. One simple medium, one simple touch of the finger, millions of possibilities.How it Works
While you drag your finger across the screen, your voice or any other sounds nearby are turned into colors on the musical canvas. The pitch of the sound is translated into a color, while the loudness of the sound determines the size. If you start on a blank white space you are recording. If you start on a colored space you are replaying. Use up to five fingers to play back many sounds at the same time, forwards, backwards or sideways.
Making Instruments, Telling Stories, Performing, Exploring, and Drawing Pictures
Tap the keys of a piano or sing a scale while dragging your finger on the screen, and you’ll have just drawn your first playable musical instrument. Tell a story while drawing the story on the screen. Explore a sound in the world, like rain or thunder, visually and see what it sounds like forwards and backwards. Use your voice as the “paint” to draw a picture. Laughter and yelling gives dozens of colors, while whistling a note can give you a specific color.
Cross-Sensory Creative Thinking
When you holler out and move your finger around on the screen, Singing Fingers turns the sounds into a concrete visual object. By transforming the pitch of the sound to a color and smearing it across the screen, people can learn to “see music” and “hear colors.” What is sometimes referred to as “synesthesia” or “cross sensory thinking” becomes an everyday part of playing with sounds. One of the goals of the people behind Singing Fingers is to help people to see the invisible and re-see the everyday world as the beautiful playground that life is.The Next Evolution of Sound Recording and Remixing
A long time ago, only advanced technicians with handmade machines could record sounds. Exciting advancements like record players and tape recorders meant more people could play and record sounds, while cultural revolutions like scratching records and making summer mix tapes meant more people were mixing and remixing music. Computers have opened up many new ways to play with sounds, but none have been as huge a leap for people’s expressiveness as we would hope for: iPods let you play music, complex software lets you mix it together, and simple programs let you record sounds, but where is the big leap forward? We see Singing Fingers as a step toward the next big cultural transformation, putting all the power of recording, playing back, and remixing, literally at the tip of the finger for the most improvisational, fluid, sound interface we could come up with. Singing Fingers lowers the floor to let children play with sound as if it was finger paint, and raises the roof by letting advanced DJs break out of the grooves of the records into a world where sounds take any shape you give them and your fingers are like the needles that play the sounds back, with as fine control as your hand will allow. The scratching of records, the recording of tapes, the visualization of the graphics equalizer, and the remixing power of computers, in one little app that takes seconds to learn and years to master.
Just like record players and tape recorders were simple and powerful new ways to work with sounds, Singing Fingers simply gives you a blank page. To manipulate sounds you only need your fingers to smear them onto the page and to play them back. No complex buttons, menus, or rules. In fact, to record, play back, and remix sounds there are zero buttons or menus (the buttons are only for file manipulation: saving, loading, and getting a new one). One simple medium, one simple touch of the finger, millions of possibilities.
We are really excited about the Taccle 2 project – 5 hard copy handbooks and a website bursting with practical ideas on how to use web 2.0 apps and other e-learning tools in your classroom.
The project has reached its half way mark and we are so far on target. The E-learning handbook for Primary Teachers has just come back from the layout artist and is in its final proof reading stage. (There is a temporary version available if you want to take a look)
The E-learning handbook for STEM teachers is waiting for the layout artist to make it look pretty and the E-learning for Humanities is in its draft version. This will be available on the site within the next week.
The next book, E-learning for Creative and Performing Arts has just been started – we are still at the stage of collecting ideas but they are coming in thick and fast. The final book, E-learnig for Core Skills 14-19 is at the planning stage. All books will be ready for printing by April 2014.
Meanwhile, check out Taccle2 website It has 280 posts at the moment and our rough estimate is that there are well over a thousand ideas that can be navigated by subject, age, software, language, format and more. Even better, judging from the number of visitors who return and the number of contributions and comments, there is a growing community around the Taccle2 site which will expand rapidly once the Taccle2 training starts next month.
Please come and join us and spread the word – tried and tested ideas for using technology in the classroom, created by teachers for teachers. No theory, no research just inspiration!
PS you can also follow us on Twitter #taccle or on the Taccle2 Diigo group or on Scoop.it – so no excuses!!
Thought you may like to see this vid of pupils at Ysgol Gyfyn Gartholwg, featured on the Taccle2 website. The school is the local Welsh medium comprehensive school for Pontydysgu’s home town of Pontypridd.
The children are speaking in Welsh and I’m not going to translate it all but the theme of the video is about the need for good punctuation and accuracy of writing.
We love it – and it’s an excellent example of what kids can do left alone with a video camera and some editing software. E-learning at its best. We are hoping to feature YG Gartholwg in the future and use them as a test bed for more Taccle2 ideas – watch this space.
Meanwhile, many thanks to staff and pupils – Da iawn chi! Diolch yn fawr.
At the moment several contributors to Learning Layers project (from Pontydysgu, ITB, CIMNE, Bau ABC and Agentur) are participating in Online Educa Berlin. Pontydysgu will keep us updated on their contributions via live radio program (Sounds of the Bazaar), podcasts and via Graham’s blogs on Wales-Wide Web.
While the travel team is busy over there, the home team is doing some stock-taking on lessons to be learned from prior projects. As a first contribution I have collected some links to video interviews that I produced as the ITB partner for another European project (Coop-PBL in VET). As you see from the list below, the interview partners (from Pontydysgu and ITB) discussed issues that are relevant for the Learning Layers project as well:
It is not our intention to dwell in the past. But we do understand ourselves as part of a living tradition of innovation research and part of that ‘living’ is the ability to look back how certain ideas and cooperation patterns have developed. It is interesting to see new issues coming up in Graham’s and Ludger’s overviews. Moreover, it is interesting to see, how dynamic cooperation culture has developed in rather short-lived projects (as Jenny and Joanna & Sven tell in their reports of recent projects).
The story goes on …
Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.
The Wales Government has announced its plans to implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned earlier this year “Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in Digital Wales.” We are quite excited that Wales is one of the pioneers in developing a whole-country strategy for the promotion of digital technologies in school classrooms – including advocating the widespread use of mobile devices, a shift to a PLE rather than MLE focus and the use of social software for learning. There are one or two things we disagree with, such as the heavy emphasis on a ‘national’ collection of resources, but the rest of the report is exciting, forward thinking and realistic. There is a serious commitment to mass staff development at all levels – surely the biggest barrier to take up of new technologies in the classroom – including defining a set of digital competences for teachers. This report also recommends that these competences (personal AND pedagogic) be compulsory in ITT courses.
The other section of the report which will cause major ripples is the chunk entitled “External conditions for success” which seem to us to identify all of the brick walls which teachers come up against and suggests that they should be dismantled. I am going to quote the report in full because it is music to the ears of most of us involved with e-learning in schools.
Universal take-up of digital opportunities assumes that:
LEAs, take note!!
The main vehicle for turning the report into reality will be an organisation called the ‘Hwb’ (no, not a funny way of spelling Hub, ‘hwb’ means to promote, push or inspire). Its remit will be to lead, promote and support the use of digital resources and technologies by learners and teachers across Wales and create and develop a national digital collection for learning and teaching in English and Welsh. Both Pontydysgu and the Taccle2 project in Wales are committed to doing what we can to support the Hwb and will make sure that all our resources and experience in the field are freely available.
The driving force behind it all is Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education in Wales – with whose politics I usually disagree – but I am very happy to admit that he has come up trumps with this one! He is knowledgable, committed and comes across as a genuinely enthusiastic technophile with an understanding of what education could look like in the future and a clear vision of how, in Wales, we are going to get there. (“Just like Michael Gove!”, I hear my English colleagues say….). I must admit, that even as a card-carrying member of a different party (byddwch chi’n dyfalu!), devolution has been all good in terms of education and we have had two excellent Ministers. Look at the image on the top of this post and you may understand why we are looking forward to an increasing divergence and autonomy. Team GB? No thanks!
Last week we were in Cadiz at the European Conference on Educational Research. Amongst other things, we produced three live half hour radio programmes and I will upload the podcast copies in the next two days.
Today we had an online meeting of the UK Nominet Trust funded RadioActive project. This is a great new project, using Internet radio to work with young people in Hackney in London. the idea is for them to produce their own programmes, about whatever topics interest them. And in the course of the project we hope they will learn a series of different skills and competences, including interviewing, multimedia, producing and editing music etc.
The grant included funding for equipment, which we bought at the start of the work. Of course, we wanted to make sure we had all the equipment we might need in the course of the two year project (we will post this up soon in case anyone is interested). We adopted a cascade model for training, with Pontydysgu running a two day workshop for youth workers who would be working with the young people. Of course we wanted to show the best that could be done wit such equipment, using wireless microphones, a portable mixing deck and an Apple computer to broadcast a half hour radi0 programme. Although I was not there, by all accounts the workshop was a great success.
The idea was the youth workers would follow up by running their own workshops with young people. But as sometimes happens, contracting issues crept in to delay the live launch. And by the time we were ready for working directly with young people, the youth workers were not confident about using our advanced ‘outside broadcast’ radio set up.
Although we had taken a lot of trouble to design the workshop to scaffold the learning process around skills and competences such as interviewing and designing and producing media, in the course of today’s meeting it became apparent that we had failed to scaffold the learning around the technology.
This afternoon I did a one hour on line training session (using Skype) for one of the project staff. Instead of setting up the mixing deck and wireless microphones, we started simple, using just a USB microphone plugged directly into a computer and focusing on a number of simple first steps:
We did 3 things:
We exported all of these to iTunes and then dragged them onto Soundboard. Sadly we did not have the server settings for Nicecast but if we did we could have then instantly broadcast a programme.
Now I am thinking how we can build a series of activities which both scaffold the content of what we are doing but also scaffold the technology which we use.
Of course I should have done this when we started, but I think it is indicative of a wider problem. We have been working in several projects using Web2.0 technology and social software with teachers and trainers. I think we can get over excited about the possibilities such applications offer. Then instead of focusing on the subject or topic of the learning, learning about the technology overwhelms everything else. I had a conversation with Jenny Hughes some time ago about this and she suggested (if I remember correctly) that we have a develop a dual system of scaffolding – one for the subject and a second for the technology. Of course these two scaffolds will overlap at some point.
I have seen a number of attempts to develop schema or even applications which suggest the best software or apps for any particular learning task but am unconvinced they work or even that this approach is possible. In most cases there will be many different technologies which could be used. I am far more impressed by the format and structure adapted by the Taccle2 project, in which Pontydysgu are a partner. This project focuses directly on teaching and learning and the technology is an enabling factor, rather than the ’50 great apps for learning’ approach so prevalent today.
i will write more on this but would be interested in any feedback / ideas.
The Taccle 2 project web site has been launched. the project is developing 5 step-by-step guides to integrating ICT and e-learning in the classroom: primary education, maths, science and technology, key competences, arts and culture and humanities. It is also developing practical materials and ideas customised for different subject area and pupil age range and complementary training courses based on the handbook.
Thought it was about time we had another of these. I just found this crowdsourced collection of tips, ideas and ways to use mobiles for learning (click here). It says in the classroom but we all know that mobiles are for using on the move and that the majority of learning happens outside of classrooms so take advantage of the good weather (unless you’re in Wales) and do something fun!
(PS more ideas here)
Pontydysgu are coordinating the production of the first handbook, for primary education. This work is being led by Jenny Hughes, Angela Rees and Nick Daniels. Nick is an experienced primary school teacher and author of childrens’ books (check out his very cool web site) and produced the following magical activity for the handbook.
Everything produced under the Taccle project is available under a Creative Commons License. So please feel free to translate this into other languages. And, if you are a primary school teacher, try it out. We’d love your feedback.
Dream Weaver 5-7yrs
This activity really encourages learners to express their wildest imaginings as they recall and describe their dreams. Here, the software is used as a visual stimulus and to encourage pupils to express opinions.
As an introduction, ask learners to tell you everything they know about dreams. Ask them if they know what dreams are, where they come from and if they think they have any meaning. Select learners to describe a dream they’ve had to the class.
Explain to them that they’re going to be weaving their own dreams but in order to do so everyone must go to The Land of Wild Imagination!
You will have loaded the online software on the interactive whiteboard, explain to learners that the software, like us, has dreams! In the box you’ll need to finish the sentence starting “I dreamed that…” You can continue in one of two ways. Either you can type in a concise description of a learner’s or your own dream (there is a maximum of 140 characters), or you can type in key nouns, verbs and adjectives only e.g. “I dreamed that… Ghost scream, wolf howl, rocket whirring, red moon, gold stars, boy running, scared, home, mother, safe.”
When you’ve done this click on ‘Max My Dream’. The software will take a few seconds to weave the dream so use this time to ask the children what images they think they’ll see in the dream. Ask them to name everything they see appearing in the dream as it appears.
After the dream has finished, discuss with the dreamer if it was similar to their actual dream. Ask what was different also. You can replay the dream or re-run the activity as many times as you like using different learners’ dreams.
To finish, explain to the learners that over the coming week, they are going to create their own dream collage. They will need to think of their best dream ever (for those who cannot remember a dream they’ve had, ask them to create a dream they would like to have) and write a list of all the things in their dream e.g. ‘me, dog, moon, rocket’. Next, they’ll need to find images for each thing on their list, they can do this either by searching the net or by taking photographs with a digital camera and printing them.
Give each learner a large piece of card and ask them to decorate it with glitter, paint, sequins – anything they would like to use to create a background or ‘dream-board’. When their dream-board is ready and they have all their images, they can cut them out, arrange them on their dream board and finally glue them into place when their happy with it.
When they’ve finished, ask them to present their dream and dream-board to the class.
Meatadata – to be added
What do I need?
Internet access, interactive whiteboard, large card (A3?) and as much art and craft stuff as you can find… the brighter and gaudier the better!
www.maxmydream.com/ (for dream making)
www.creativecommons.org/ (for license-free images)
www.images.googlecom/ (for images)
Dreams are difficult enough for adults to comprehend, for children they can be both wonderful and terrifying. This software is incapable of creating horrific dream sequences, regardless of the dream description you put in! The dreams created are often very silly causing the whole class to laugh! It can help children make peace with their dreams and nightmares. Obviously, dreams are very abstract in nature so this software allows learners to create a visual representation of something which is sometimes very difficult to articulate. Therefore, creating the dream visually and then describing it supports the development of oracy skills.
Hints and tips
You know your class, and you know if you want to steer clear from nightmares altogether. In the description above, we focussed on ‘best dreams’ or ‘a dream you’d like to have’. You may prefer to stick to this idea.
If you’re doing the craft activity with one or two groups at a time, you may want to have other pupils experimenting with the software, typing in their own words and phrases in order to create brand new dreams!
Depending on your internet connection and your hardware, the software can be slow to load; this makes the recap of ‘what we expect to see in the dream’ very useful.
Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.
The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.
Social Tech Guide
The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.
The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.
In a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.
The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”
Code Academy expands
The New York-based Codecademy has translated its learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.
So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.
Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.
The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.
Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.
Open online STEM conference
The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.
To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB