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Storytelling with cartoons

February 13th, 2014 by Angela Rees

Always on the lookout for practical ways to use technology in the classroom, Pontydysgu were scoping out new ideas at Bett 2014.

We liked the new Lego storytelling kit. One set gives you a tray of Lego bits, there are minifigs, cats, frogs, brooms, Christmas trees and more.  You also get a book of lesson plans and ides and the accompanying software. There’s also a spinner to help choose a genre or character for storytelling inspiration.  The idea is that children work in groups to tell a story, each group has a kit with enough lego bits to recreate the same scene 5 times only each one is slightly different as their stories progress.  They then take photos of their scenes and upload them to a computer where they can drag and drop the photos into a comic strip style template, add backgrounds and captions and print their story.

The software is nice and simple to use, the lego kit has been carefully selected for optimum storyline coverage and it has the lego brand – guaranteed to spark some interest in even the most reluctant of storytellers.

Now, here at Pontydysgu we like a good idea, but what we like even more is a free idea.  So in the tradition of those catwalk-fashion at highstreet-prices magazine articles I bring you “BETT on a budget”


To create your own comic strip you will need;

A collection of small-world-play or dolls house characters and accessories.

A camera/ webcam/ cameraphone with the ability to transfer your photos to a computer.

Internet access.

An app or web based tool for comic strip creation using photographs.

Here are some I’ve been trying out this week;

Web based

Toondoo – Free- You need to create account but it is easy to do. Upload photos, edit, cut shapes out and save, then go to  cartoon creator, choose comic strip layout and you can put your own images into a cartoon, choose layout template, drag and drop backgrounds and cliparts, callouts and thought bubbles to create a story.


Lego Storystarter software – for creating comics, and other styles Newspaper, old manuscript £107.99 inc VAT (the whole kit based on a class of 30 is £779.99 in VAT)

Comic Life – Cost £11.99 for a single user license or £1,049 for a site license.

Apps for iOS/Android

Comic touch – Free – From the creators of comic life this App cartoonises one photo at a time with no comic strip mode so you would have to print them and reassemble into a comic strip or download the pictures after editing and then use a different tool to put your story together.



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August 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

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Teaching and Learning with social software

November 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
Now I think Michael Idinopulos from Social Text is going a little over the top when he claims the approach below is unique. But he is right in saying that traditional approaches to training using social software don’t work and we need to develop new pedagogic approaches.
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Suppose you were trying to train someone who had never seen a telephone before. You could teach them how to dial, how to put someone on hold, how to work the mute button. But until they actually make a call and speak to another human being, they won’t get the point. And that’s exactly what happens when you use traditional training methods for social tools: they learn how to push the buttons, but they don’t get the point.

In traditional training, you interact with technology. In social training, you interact with other people by means of technology. The technology becomes a medium, like a telephone or a videoconference room, rather than the object of your interaction, like an MRI machine or a Boeing 777.

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Are we still in a pre-digital capitalist world?

September 19th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
there was an interesting discussion on twitter this morning. @patparslow said “I suspect we are so early on in the meteoric rise of digital technology, pre-digital would be a better description.” In the discussion that followed he cited the present confusion over copyright law as an example of how far we have to go before society adjust to the disruptions engendered by digital technologies. But i suspect it goes much further. Present financing of companies is ill suited to the needs of the creative and software industries as this quote from Jimmy Mulville, co-founder of Hat Trick Productions, makes clear.
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“I would never again sell to a purely financial institution. I don’t
believe it works when banks invest in volatile creative companies,” he
said. “There was nothing nefarious about [August’s expectations] but
the leverage involved in these deals is so punitive. It puts a tremendous
pressure on producers – look at Endemol, look at All3Media [both of which
have substantial debt]. It was very distracting to be embroiled in.”

Jimmy Mulville, who co-founded the business and was part of a management team
which sold a stake to August Equity in 2003 before wresting it back again in
2009, said there was an inherent mismatch between creative companies and the
relentless focus on growth demanded by financial investors.

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The perverse effects of governement policies (2)

September 9th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
From an editorial in Time Higher Education. The article explains how under the original government plan funding for the arts and humanities was slashed. In responding to protests they have announced for funds for these subjects but at the expense of expenditure on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is hard to see any real direction in government higher education policy – other than a desire to privatise universities. But the perverse effects of these policies may very soon have a considerable economic impact. Not for nothing are countries with a far lower GDP than the UK striving to expand education, especially in STEM subjects.
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Now we hear that international student numbers for taught postgraduate STEM courses have almost doubled in eight years whereas those for home students have risen by just 1 per cent, leaving departments vulnerable to fluctuations in the overseas market and the ludicrous vagaries of our visa system.

From 2012-13, science departments will find themselves with only £1,500 per new student on top of the increased tuition fee, despite STEM subjects being far more expensive to teach than classroom-based ones. The AAB policy has delivered a further blow: a number of science and engineering subjects have low proportions of AAB students, leaving departments that teach them open to greater competition.

Mr Willetts was at pains to reassure everyone that there was no cause for alarm as the arts would in fact get a good deal. What he failed to tell us was that this would come at the expense of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

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Its official – surfing the net is good for you and good for productivity

August 22nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell
A study on the “Impact of Cyberloafing on Psychological Engagement,” by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore, presented last week in San Antonio, Texas, at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, an association of management scholars, claims that surfing the net can increase productivity.
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According to a new study, Web browsing can actually refresh tired workers and enhance their productivity, compared to other activities such as making personal calls, texts or emails, let alone working straight through with no rest at all.
Why is Web-surfing more restorative than, say, responding to a friend’s email? When browsing the Internet, people “usually choose to visit only the sites that they like—it’s like going for a coffee or snack break. Breaks of such nature are pleasurable, rejuvenating the Web surfer,” wrote Dr. Lim, in an email. By contrast, workers can’t control the kinds of email they receive, and reading and replying to each message is “cognitively more demanding, relative to Web surfing, as you need to pay attention to what is said on the email,” she added.
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Saqueos are contagious

August 17th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
The impact of last weeks riots in London will be long lasting. And after the outpouri9ng of reaction from the propertied and privileged classes slowly more sane voices are emerging.

This is an excerpt from an excellent column in today’s Guardian newspaper.

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Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.

Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.

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Developing mulimedia in history

July 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
I have been thinking a lot lately about how new technologies will change the practice of traditional disciplines such as history. And this new web site is showings some of the possibilities of using media in history.
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Hundreds of interviews with former activists from the 1968 revolutions which shook Europe have been analysed and put online by an international research team led by historians at Oxford University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Nearly 500 activists from more than 100 activist networks in 14 European countries have been recorded discussing how they became involved in activism, their experiences in 1968 and what they now think about their activist past.

The interviews have been put into an online database called ‘Around 1968’: Activism, Networks, Trajectories’, which has been launched at Oxford University, thanks to funding from the AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust.

The website can be accessed at

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New ways of research and learning

July 1st, 2011 by Graham Attwell
This is interesting. We are slowly moving beyond using the web merely to replicate previous paradigms of learning – or i9n this case research – to find new and innovative approaches to collaborative emploration.
Incidentally the experiment below found that until Kaggle showed up “the best science to date had a prediction rate of 70% – a feat that had taken years to achieve. In 90 days contributors to the contest were able to achieve a prediction rate of 77%. A 10% improvement. I’m told that achieving an similar increment had previously taken something close to a decade.”
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So first, what is Kaggle? They’re a company that helps companies and organizations post their data and run competitions with the goal of having it scrutinized by the world’s best data scientists towards some specific goal. Perhaps the most powerful example of a Kaggle competition to date was their HIV prediction competition, in which they asked contestants to use a data set to find markers in the HIV sequence which predict a change in the severity of the infection (as measured by viral load and CD4 counts).

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Greece is standing up to EU neocolonialism

June 27th, 2011 by Graham Attwell
At last – a sensible article in the popular press about what is happening in Greece.
As the article points out the rates of interest being charged are akin to lean shark rates. Furthermore these loans are not to pay Greek civil servants or maintain the standard of living in Greece. they are going to the banks – predominantly in Germany and France. So Greek people are being asked to pay high interest rates and to sell off their economy to support bad loans made by banks around the world.
What is happening is a scandal and will rightly be regarded by history as such. But where are all those commentators who welcomed the Arab spring – now that the struggle is on their doorsteps.
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After months of attacks on the supposedly feckless Greeks, the western media, intellectuals such Amartya Sen and Jürgen Habermas and the United Nations have finally woken up to the fact that the catastrophic austerity imposed on Greece is unsustainable. It was about time. This is an unprecedented and morally odious type of collective punishment imposed on a majority of Greeks, who did not see a penny from the profligacy of their rulers and who live close to the poverty line.

Syntagma has become Tahrir Square in slow motion. It is a peaceful, democratic revolt that was easier to start because the fear of brutal repression is smaller, but will be harder to complete as it faces the enormous might of the European Union and global finance capital. Now that the indignant have changed the rules of the political game, it is perhaps time to revisit some basic facts that have been seriously misrepresented.

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    Cyborg patented?

    Forbes reports that Microsoft has obtained a patent for a “conversational chatbot of a specific person” created from images, recordings, participation in social networks, emails, letters, etc., coupled with the possible generation of a 2D or 3D model of the person.

    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.

    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

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    fascinating history of Bulgaria’s computer industry …I wonder if the authors of the uk’s plan for AI dev should read it…

    About 9 hours ago from Graham Attwell's Twitter via Twitter for iPad

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