The best things in life are(n’t always) free December 24, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Resources, Tools.
Tags: CPD, professional development
Since viewing the first one, I’ve always been impressed with the simplicity and clarity of Commoncraft videos, so when I became aware that the originator, Lee Le Fever, had released a book, I thought I’d check out how he approached their production. I also wondered whether the contents might have something to say about teaching … but that’s for a future post. Having thought about the tools and techniques that Lee suggests, I just needed a reason to put what I’d learned into practice. Fortunately I had just such an excuse which arose from the resources I’ve produced to support our forthcoming RiskIT professional development programme. In attempt to provide some background and history I included the video available on the RiskIT site, but got a little pushback from colleagues who said it was rather long to watch in its entirety. At atound 40 minutes I guess they had a point, but there didn’t appear to be anything snappier … so there was my opportunity to attempt a Commoncraft-style production, given that one of the primary goals is brevity.
Following Lee’s helpful advice, my starting point was to establish my intentions and decide the nature of the problem the video would solve; in this case it was to provide an introduction to RiskIT. From there I had to flesh out what would be the crucial points to convey, then write a script to cover them. The text has primacy, but given the constraint of an upper limit of 4 minutes length for the video, it was then a matter of editing the script until that criterion was achieved whilst still retaining the essence of the message. My ‘recording studio’ was Audacity which allowed me to record the narration and export it in mp3 format. Next it was on to the imagery which would be used to support and enhance that message and in the Commoncraft spirit, it needed to be simple, accessible and free from background noise. Although Lee advises the use of hand-drawn, expression-free characters, that was a little beyond my artistic skills, so I chose to draw a little help from DoppelMe, an avatar creation tool. The remainder of the images were then either screenshots or photos which were traced in order to extract the meaning and leave behind the noise.
With all my cut-outs ready to go and script by my side, I used a video camera (Kodak Playsport Zx5) mounted on a tripod and began shooting. A couple of hours later, everything I needed was in the can and I could begin editing. MovieMaker was the tool of choice, mainly because I had no other option … but it proved to be a costly mistake. To cut and fit the footage to the recorded narration took about four hours, after which I attempted to finalise the movie. Oh dear! Despite repeated attempts and in defiance of the fact that there was more than ample space on the hard drive, MovieMaker kept telling me that either there was insufficient space to store the video, or that one of the clips I’d used was corrupt (though naturally not which of the 30+ clips was at fault!). So I converted the source files from mp4 to avi, Googled a way to swap them without starting from scratch, then tried once more to finalise the movie. Still no joy. OK, one more try; resample the avi’s into wmv’s. Nope. Next it was onto another computer running Windows XP and the older version of MoveMaker and go right back to square one. Three hours later and I still couldn’t render the movie, so I wondered if I could produce it smaller parts, then stitch them together to produce the whole. Aha! MM would allow me to finalise the first 45 seconds, so I did that and then moved on to the next section. Nope. I trimmed it and trimmed it, even down to a single 5 second clip, but it still wouldn’t render.
Retrieving my dummy after spitting it out, I knew I had to ditch MM and look for something more robust but inexpensive, and came across Serif MoviePlus SE which is free to use for a limited period. Duly downloaded said item, installed it and another couple of hours later was relieved to have a finished movie. Woohoo! I was more than happy with the features and capability that MoviePlus offered and when the 14 day period expires, will happily shell out the princely sum of £4.99 to download the codecs pack to keep it working.
And the final product? Here ’tis:
Look out for further musings on how RiskIT develops as we get closer to our programme becoming ‘live’.
The skills are key. October 7, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Teaching Idea, Tools.
Tags: chart, learning to learn, pledges, skills
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Our Learning to Learn programme is currently being redeveloped by a colleague who joined the school in September and has set about using Key Skills as the means through which L2L can be supported. This will be known as the ‘Skills Pledges Programme’ and whilst rooted in L2L, naturally support students’ studies across the subject range. There are 10 skills:
- Critical Thinking
- Research and Investigation
- Planning and organisation
- Digital Exploration
Opportunities to explore and practise these skills will be provided through the L2L course and within all lessons. A series of assignments in the form of small challenges and tasks will provide a structure and progression through bronze, silver and gold levels will be made during the course of Key Stage 3. I’m grateful that the Digital Explorers project has been incorporated within the Skills programme, thereby raising its profile and hopefully ensuring more students undertake Digital Expeditions.
(The full and interactive version can be found here)
Currently we’re working on the framework within which all of this will sit. There’s the repository of challenges, mechanisms for monitoring progress (both student personal view and teacher overview) and providing feedback, an awarding system through which achievement of a level can be ratified and communication channels through which students can seek guidance from their L2L teacher and support from their form tutor (and each other?). Once we would perhaps have done this through a single interface – a Skills Pledges booklet. Useful though that single point of entry might be, it does of course have downsides: only a single viewer/editor at any point in time, can be in the wrong place when needed, potential for loss (esp. over three years). So delivering these needs by digital means is what’s been challenging us. You’ll perhaps not be surprised to learn that one tool/application to deliver all of that has proven rather elusive, so we’ve explored a range of options to cover different aspects. A database to contain and manage the ninety (or more) assignments or a list in our SharePoint Portal? Edmodo to manage the communications and recognise completion with its badging option … and maybe deliver the assignments too? An interactive image to provide a visual representation of the programme and offer introductions to the assignments – java-based? Image Mapper? Thinglink? So in the end we’ll settle for a combination of tools; a compromise yes, but only to be expected when you’re forging ahead with something new.
Now if you’ve followed any previous posts I’ve made discussing Open Badges, you’ll perhaps wonder why I’ve not mentioned them yet. Well yes, they clearly need to be in the mix:
Learning today happens everywhere. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen online or out of school. Mozilla Open Badges helps solve that problem, making it easy for any organization to issue, manage and display digital badges across the web.
During early 2013 we should have access to the results of the projects from the DML Open Badge Competition 2012 winners and maybe, just maybe there’ll be something to emerge which aligns with our Key Skills programme. Ideally it would help deliver the assignments, monitor progress, enable feedback, make awards and display them for varying audiences in varying ways. So we’re not asking for much really.
Long, long time ago … August 20, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Tools, Web 2.0.
Tags: history, physics, wayback machine, website
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When someone on Twitter provided a pointer to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (WBM), I never really gave it a second thought; it was something I was already aware of. Later however, I got to wondering whether the website I set up to support our Physics Department had been captured? It was a fair ‘way back’ and I couldn’t imagine that any archiving mechanism would have picked up something of such little global significance, but hey what the heck.
On visiting the WBM, the first hurdle was going to be to try and remember the URL of the site, but after leaving it and returning later, the grey cells had done their bit (They do say it’s the short term memory that deteriorates as you get older don’t they?). After typing in the string, jings, crivvens and help ma boab¹, the WBM elves had done their stuff and found my old site! OK, some of the images were missing (I guess they never got pulled through?) but the structure was intact, the links (at least the internal ones) seemed to work … and goodness me, what was I thinking when I made it?!
To be fair, this was the ‘olden’ days as far as the Web was concerned. I guess it was on the cusp between Web 1.0 and 2.0, where social interactions and user-generated content were just beginning to be made more accessible. The earliest iteration captured by the WBM is given as 30th July, 2001; I know I had things up and running before that, but I guess the crawlers hadn’t picked up the site any earlier. So this was just after Blogger had started, around the same tie as Wikipedia, a couple of years before MySpace, Facebook and Second Life, four years before YouTube and five before Twitter². To get anything posted on the Web in those days, you had to work a lot harder. I used some of the free website creation space I’d got when signing up with my first ISP (Lineone, which became Tiscali and later still TalkTalk) – school certainly had none at that stage and VLEs were unheard of in secondary education. I learned the rudiments of site creation and management using NetObjects Fusion (which is amazingly still going, but has moved on from version 5 that I used to version 12!), but as you can see, had little awareness of design consistency. Hey, everyone had animated gifs on their sites then … didn’t they? There was no way for students to submit work, comments or feedback other than by email and the email address I gave was a personal one; we didn’t have a school email address back then either. Looking back, how incredibly naive?
The glaring thing I guess was the pedagogy I was attempting … or the lack thereof. It was very much about providing resources online which we also provided offline; about supplementing and supporting the students’ studies rather than offering an alternative way for them to experience their learning. Or am I being too harsh? Three years before that in pre-Web days, I’d created everything needed to study the A Level Medical Physics module (because we couldn’t afford the books!) using Hypercardon the Macs. An ebook if you will. In the late 1990s! And it all fitted on a 1.44Mb ‘stiffy!’ (Remember them?)
In the eleven years since the website was archived by the WBM, so much has happened, both in the world of ICT and in my own personal development. Only 6 months after that first archive, I’d changed jobs to pursue that developing passion to explore what ICTs might offer and have had plentiful opportunities to investigate more appropriate and effective mechanisms for enabling online learning. Although I wouldn’t change things for a moment, I can’t help but wonder what activities I’d be planning and delivering now, had I stayed in the classroom? Would I have maintained my interest and kept up with the pace of developments? Or would I have burn’t out or become frustrated with the slower pace at which school was progressing?
No regrets. Unlike the Wayback Machine, I can’t go back.
¹ ”Oor Wullie” 1930s onwards
² Social Media Timeline – idFive
Pinterest: I’m afraid it’s time for the “Dear John ….” April 21, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Resources, Tools.
Tags: images, letter, Pinterest, tools
We’ve been together around 6 months I think and I’ve given it a go. I really have. I was shy at first, but eventually plucked up the courage to ask if I could join you. Yes you made me wait a while but then, to my joy you said yes. From that moment there’s lots I’ve ‘Liked,’ plenty I’ve ‘Followed,’ Pins I’ve made and other I’ve Repinned, but … well it’s just not working out.
I like how easy you make it to Pin things; click on the bookmarklet, choose a board, add a bit of text (if I want) and that’s it. Marvellous! I also liked at first how you were always telling me what others were pinning and liking and what they thought of my pins – it helped me know whether what I was doing right and how to link with other folks … but to be honest, it’s beginning to wear a bit thin. Actually yes, maybe that’s it? It’s just too thin … no wait, shallow. Sorry!
I began to think there’s got to be more to it than this. Why am I pinning all these things? For whom?
- You? Well I have to say you worried quite a few people on that front, but at least you realised and tried to put things right.
- Other people then? There’s no denying you’re popular; quite the centre of attention in fact. But your circle of friends is just too … well, too girly! It’s all about cakes and clothes and, well you know I like cooking, but you’ve seen the way I dress! Yes you make it easy to share with others, but don’t you see you’re inflicting your choices on them instead of making it easy for them to choose what they take away?
- Me? This gets to the heart of things really. Yes I can choose my own stuff and yes you let me make boards to keep it in. But darn it, you make it so hard to keep track of where I’ve put things! Finding the stuff I pinned a while ago is next to impossible; why couldn’t you just let me tag the things I’ve found? That way I don’t have to put this stuff in this drawer, err sorry board, and that stuff on that board. Sometimes I want stuff to go in more than one place … because it just should! We’re back to the shallowness again aren’t we? Find stuff, share it around, have others ooo and ahh, then it’s move on to the next thing.
So I’m sorry. I really am. You know it’s not you don’t you? It’s me. I’m too demanding and just can’t change.
Can we still be friends?
Edtechcc Assignment 3: Comic Strip February 5, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in edtechcc, Resources, Tools.
Tags: cartoon, comic, edtechcc, edtechcca3, instructions, projector, ToonDo
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You know how sometimes you set off down a road and you’re not quite sure it’s the right route? I’m sure there’ll be a mathematical formula for balancing how far you travel, thinking there might be an off-shoot that’ll set you back on to the right track, weighed against the further you go, the further you’re going to have to back-track when it all goes pear-shaped. It’s occasionally happened to me whilst out cycling or running and it certainly tripped me up on this assignment. Kept pressing on regardless until I eventually realised I wasn’t even in the same postal district as where I wanted to be.
Anyway the starting point for our assignment was:
Make a comic-strip style set of instructions for a practical task. The task you choose is entirely up to you. It could be something that relates to your subject area, or alternatively you can do something more generic like starting up and shutting down a computer, how to set an alarm clock, or how to use the office photocopier.
My stimulus came from an issue we’ve been trying to resolve at work where colleagues have been struggling with classroom projectors not displaying the output from their laptops. Since we changed staff laptops (and the docking stations went) this has been quite a problem for some. The time was due to re-issue a reminder of the most efficacious way to connect a laptop; unfortunately the assignment came just too late, but it got me wondering how I might have provided the instructions if it had been in comic format … and how that might have been received by colleagues. My planning in one sense had already been done since I’d laid out the content whilst producing the instructions I issued a short while ago. Mistake 1! This is a different medium and demands a different approach. OK, I may have had a notion of the information I needed to convey, but ended up bending it into the comic medium. Was that the right thing to do?
I opted to use ToonDo rather than Chogger, simply because I already had an account, had used it before and thought I could get up and running a little more quickly. Mistake 2! It was so long since I’d last used it, there was definitely a lag whilst I got back up to speed. The real time-sucker though, was finding the image which best conveyed the message I was trying to deliver, whether from searching the Internet or browsing the extensive gallery in ToonDo. Eventually I got there, but soon hit mistake 3: I didn’t have enough panels and quickly discovered that ToonDo only provides a maximum of four … it is after all a cartoon creator rather than a comic one. As always, “Fail to prepare and be prepared to fail!” Anyway here’s my effort:
Maybe there’s a plus-side to only having four panels though. It does tend to focus your mind more, in the way that condensing a message into 140 characters often requires you to think carefully about what you want, or rather *need* to say. Or, OK so I went down the wrong path, but hey, the view from over here’s not too bad after all.
What have I learned:
- More!! Making mistakes meant I learned an awful lot more than if things had gone more smoothly.
- I went for the easy option of a familiar tool, but missed an opportunity to learn a new one.
- If you’re heading down what might be the wrong track, back up quickly and take a look down the other possible routes. A few moments spent here may just save you time in the long run.
- If I was going to be using ToonDo with students, I’d want to think carefully how I introduced them to it, building in time for experimentation so they can explore all the features at their convenience. It would be so easy to waste away a lesson changing characters, poses, backgrounds, objects and the like, whilst the real focus should be on the learning activity. Maybe set them a homework ‘taster’ activity so they can come prepared to the lesson, knowing what features they’re going to need to use.
Images used in the Toon:
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Phil Hawksworth: http://flickr.com/photos/philhawksworth/5114743884/
cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by CraigTaylor1974: http://flickr.com/photos/49333396@N06/4796073717/