Meeting the World via Mystery Skype

One of my personal highlights of 2014 was the collaborative introduction of Mystery Skype with Mrs R. in Year 3. Integrating our Skype sessions into Geography, we made some memorable connections with Hello Little World Skypers and Global Classroom teachers from Argentina, India, Nepal, and the United States. We also were able to connect with ‘Flat Addy’, a little girl in Iowa, USA, who had sent us a Flat Stanley earlier in the year.

Mystery Skype proved to be a fantastic introduction for our students, who learnt how to communicate and share with authentic global audiences. As the 2015 school year progresses, I am hoping to introduce videoconferencing and Mystery Skype into more classes, as we work to build our students’ awareness of the world beyond their classroom walls.

Objectives

  • Students will use map skills to find the location of the mystery classroom
  • Students will use communication and critical thinking skills to ask questions to help them find the mystery location.
  • Classes communicate with other classrooms via Skype or Google+ Hangouts.
  • Students will learn to respect and appreciate the cultures and customs of others.
  • Students will be able to see the differences and similarities between themselves and others around the world.

 

Demystifying Coding and Programming – Just Scratchin’ Around

Scratch_cat_large

Jenny Ashby @jjash may not know it, but her Sydney #slide2learn session on Beebots and coding gave me the push I needed to take a risk, and experiment with Scratch programming in Years 4 and 5 in late 2014.

Openly acknowledging in class that I had next to no idea of how Scratch worked, and what it could do, I set my students a challenge to create a game, or tell a story. With the help of YouTube tutorials, older siblings, and coding enthusiasts amongst their classmates, the girls merrily set to work planning, problem solving, and coding their projects; and they were only too happy to teach me in the process!

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The Task

Challenge 1:

Use Scratch to tell a simple story which includes at least one talking character (sprite), and at least two settings or backgrounds.

Challenge 2:

Create a simple game where the user or player has to choose a key on their keyboard to make the sprite move or perform an action. This game could be a maze, a guessing game, or your own idea. It needs to include at least one Sprite (object/character), and a background.

Self Assessment Criteria

I have:

  • Storyboarded what my story / game will look like, and what will happen.
  • Created a simple story or game using Scratch
  • Included at least one Sprite and background
  • Used code blocks to require user/player action – e.g. IF the player clicks their mouse or presses the A key, THEN ….

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Some Results

Arcaine

Press ‘s’ to start, then use arrow keys as per in-game instructions.

Super Grandma!

Press the following keys to progress the dialogue: a, c, e, r, q.

Ask Katy Perry

Start by clicking on the green flag.

Fun Maze (Year 4)

Click on the green flag to start, then use your arrow keys to navigate.

What did we learn?

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Introducing Scratch programming to my students was a huge professional risk, as to the best of my knowledge, it had not been formally taught at the school before. It was also the first time I had ever attempted to run a coding/programming project, something which I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying before #slide2learn.

Through this project, I learnt a great deal about the power of play – allowing students to explore, experiment, tinker, and collaboratively solve problems as they pursued their coding projects. I was surprised by the level of student engagement – both in, and outside of class. Many went home to ask their older brothers and sisters for help and advice in coding their projects! I was also really impressed with the power of peer teaching and support in class, as we even brought some Year 4 students into a Year 5 class to explain how they used a particular Scratch tool !

Next time I run this, I intend to more formally stress the need the storyboard and planning aspect of the project, and include some higher level coding skills in the assessment criteria (drawing upon the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum). I’d also like to try and provide better summative feedback to students, beyond the whole class discussion and reflection sessions we ran last year. The peer teaching and problem solving approach worked very well for most students, encouraging them to think and learn from eachother.

Later in 2015, I am hoping to introduce Beebots and coding apps into Early Childhood maths / procedural writing, and explore how to integrate Scratch programming into other learning areas in upper primary. We are at the very early stages of teaching coding / programming at our school, but I am very curious to see where this little experiment takes us over the next few years.

Educating for World Futures (#TEDxPerth 2014)

It is a rare occasion indeed to have one’s work mentioned on the TEDx stage, which is why I’d like to share this talk from TEDxPerth 2014, which focussed on the future of education.

From the TEDxPerth website:

“The 21st century presents the greatest challenges and opportunities ever faced by humankind. It will span massive transitions in technology, society, human well-being, values and our world ecosystem.

Neville Bruce discusses how he must prepare our youth to meet these challenges with awareness, understanding, engagement, empowerment and above all action. That is what Education for World Futures (EWF) is all about: but it needs enacting now! So what is the EWF idea, where is it now and how can we make it grow?”

Unleashing the Power of @AdobeVoice

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to attend two #Slide2learn events, in Perth (2013), and in Sydney (2014). Despite being terribly sick for most of the Sydney event, it made a deep and meaningful impact on my teaching practice.

At the 2014 event, Tony Vincent @tonyvincent introduced me to Adobe Voice, an extremely powerful tool for telling stories, narrating procedures, explaining a concept, and so much more. I have now successfully integrated this rich digital storytelling tool into Year 2 and Year 3 ICT and English classes, most recently in collaboration with our Early Childhood teachers.

Last year in ICT, I had a class of Year 3 students script and voice creative ‘newscasts’ and narratives. We had originally planned to create iMovies, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to find a more manageable alternative. I chose Adobe Voice, and was absolutely blown away by the results …

Staying Safe Online

Then, in Term 1, 2015, seeking a simpler alternative to Explain Evrything (which we used last year), I introduced my Year 2 and Year 3 colleagues to Adobe Voice. Working on an online safety unit, and keen to integrate ICT into literacy, we taught our students how to use the app to create “Online Safety” presentations, some of which you can watch here.

What have we learned?

As we’ve experimented (played) with the use of Adobe Voice in the early years, we’ve discovered a few useful tips worth sharing:

  • Younger students need some explicit modelling of how to use the app, especially for how to add their first names to the final credits (to make identifying the work easier), and saving the completed product to the Camera Roll and Dropbox.
    • It is important to balance ‘learning through play’, with some explicit teaching
    • I intend to create a poster explaining the ‘Save to Dropbox’ process which we can post in the classroom for student reference.
  • Have students write out their scripts prior to using the app. Scripting the presentation leads to a more polished result, and also encourages students to ‘think’ carefully about what they want to say, rather than making it up as they go along.
  • We found we needed to encourage students to say only one or two sentences per slide – some thought they had to present all their information on one slide!
  • Students need to be taught how to match images and music to the tone and content of the presentation. For example, a horror music soundtrack is probably not appropriate for an explanation about ‘Staying Safe Online’!
  • Having an authentic audience and purpose is powerful – students learnt that they needed to speak clearly and sensibly when presenting an explanation video which will be viewed by people outside their classroom.
  • Build in some time for reflection and discussion. We found sharing the final products with the class, and talking about what they did well, and where they could improve, was a very valuable part of the teaching and learning process.

Where to next?

Given that I am in a new integration / support / coaching role this year, I am taking a slightly different approach to integrating iPads in the early childhood classes. Based on collegial feedback and my personal observations, I’m focusing on helping teachers become confident, independent users of just one or two creative / digital storytelling apps per Semester. I’m also trying to develop my early childhood pedagogy and teaching techniques through observing and team-teaching with my colleagues, learning and refining my approach as we go.

I am looking forward to seeing how we can integrate Adobe Voice next Semester!