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On screen digital keyboard

| February 29, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Can’t get much more simple than this: a virtual keyboard, that can be used on whiteboards, in musical activities, …including playing along to X Factor!

Click the mouse pointer on one of the ‘piano’ keys, or press the letters on your keyboard. The ‘Chord Mode’ button allows you to select sets of notes. Click the ‘play chord’ button to hear it played.

Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School, Dublin

| February 29, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School

A wonderful opportunity to spend a day with the pupils and staff at Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School.

A huge THANK YOU to Susan Nic Réamoinn, Junior Infant Teacher for coordinating today’s sessions and to Tomaś Ó Dúlaing, Priomhoide of Griffeen Valley Educate Together National School for accommodating us and making us so welcome.

The VillageA full morning with 50+ 10/11 years olds, with their teachers, exploring a ‘Village’ setting in Myst 4: Revelation. Talk. speculation, sharing, thinking and taking ownership of this place, brought it from the virtual, into reality. Similes, and silences, enabled their ideas to flourish and take shape, forming images in our imaginations – gorgeous! We met characters, children up for tackling new ideas and risk-taking, found themselves becoming confident in their roles, expanding on fictional happenings with great detail and flare.

PlantIn our afternoon, we adventured with with the 6/7 year olds and teachers, adventuring through their creations, notions and persuasions, as we wandered through caves, climbed trees and became intrepid explorers.

The children in this group wondered, and enthused, about strange objects as we investigated Edanna, the helix plants and the birds inhabiting this beautiful world, talking and writing with passion and interest – WELL DONE.

CESI Conference 2016

| February 27, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

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Great to be in CESI, Computers in Education Society of Ireland, voluntarily supporting ICT in Education in Ireland since 1973. It is for anyone with an interest in the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning experience for all involved in education.

The conference is the highlight of the activities of CESI each year. It provides a welcome opportunity for those who have been communicating on line to have face to face time. There is a mix between presentations and workshops where practitioners have the opportunity to share with one another in a practical way. You can view the details of many previous conferences in the conference section of this website. Live streaming of the keynote and capstone presentations has occurred more frequently as bandwidth has increased. You can view some of these presentations on the CESI YouTube channel and see pictures from previous conferences on the CESI Flickr page.

We have been blessed to do keynotes before at CESI.

A recurring theme of today was the balance that is needed between planning what you want to achieve in lessons, and flying with ideas. Children can lead in many of the game based sessions, but you do need to have a clear idea of objectives and intended outcomes. However, it is important to take the brakes off and fly a bit as well. It is really crucial to explore game environments in a structured, but not overly planned, way initially. e.g. to have an idea about what kind of things you can cover but not predetermine a route or how long you are going to spend in each location. It is important to become familiar with the games yourself at first. Then, when you begin explorations with a class, to be prepared to cover less physical ground than you might expect.

You may only “move” one “pace” but the children will be able to see how a new paragraph can begin with just a turn of the head, or reaching out to move a lever. Standing outside a door is a classic example of how tension and expectation can be built within a writer’s, and reader’s mind.

ShipWholly without warning, wild wet winds woke us wailing weirdly -waging war with wind-tossed waters. We witnessed a wreck within this watery wasteland, where withering westerly winds, and waves wrought swathes of wretchedness.

Yet not one withering wallflower awaited us!

We witnessed wayfaring weather-beaten waifs, wearied & well-nigh weeping, worn-out from their wanderings. We worried for their well-being. This was wasted

Roller CoasterWaiting within wattled, withered & weighty wooden walls, these waterproofed weirdos, instead of wailing woefully, welcomed us warmly and wrapped us in wondrous words, wild with what wholly warranted ripples of applause.

Writing isn’t “working”. Word wizards waved their wooden wands – whittling, wringing worlds from words, sending them wistfully wriggling, wheeling, windmilling, & weaving in to the air!

We wished we could wend our way further, but with well-timed wisdom, we wound up our walks. Well done one and all. Wonderful!

On Saturday 27th February 2016 the Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI) held its annual conference. The venue for this year’s conference being Dublin City University (DCU). The conference was preceded by the now-traditional TeachMeet CESI event, which was heldat the Regency Hotel, Dublin.

Conference Theme

2015 saw the launch of Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools which aims to “greatly enhance the learning experience and lifelong learning skills of all our students”. The foreword to the strategy calls upon all teachers “to use ICT in the classroom to bring learning to life for students; to give learners the tools to collaborate and to examine engaging problems; to research and analyse information; and to use ICT resources to communicate their ideas and to share what they create with others beyond the walls of their classroom or school”

With this in mind, the theme for the 2016 CESI annual conference was “Our Digital Strategy – making IT matter”. Ireland’s Digital Strategy for Schools was put into practice by the participants of this conference in the years to come. This year’s event focused upon an understanding of the importance of information technology in education, the potentials and problems that lie ahead in implementing the Digital Strategy for Schools, and the ways in which it can make a meaningful and magical curriculum for the learners.

Questionaut ~ an intriguing game

| February 19, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

QuestionautQuestionaut is a great game, we have mentioned before, made for BBC Bitesize from the makers of Samorost and Samarost 2.

 

Journey through strange worlds of Questionaut and test your knowledge of English, Maths and Science on this magical mission to recover your friend’s hat.

 

This is now an archived site, but well worth an explore.

Bath Spa University, Bath

| February 19, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Bath Spa University

A return visit to trip to Bath Spa University to work with their Primary and Early Years PGCE trainees.

Thanks to Emma Asprey, Senior Lecturer, at the School of Education for inviting us to the university, to spend precious time with her students,

Thanks to Emma for her thoughts: We were very pleased to welcome Tim and Sarah back to Bath Spa University to mark the halfway point in the PGCE programme and provide some extra magic and inspiration to our trainees as they embark on their final placements. It was such a treat to be immersed in Tim’s playful and imaginative world of learning. Staff and trainees enjoyed learning together, having fun and exploring their own creativity in a unique blend of virtual and very real experiences. We’re thrilled that so many children will benefit from these ideas being brought into classrooms to enrich their learning.

Encouraging confidence, and creativity, in children of all ages and abilities, CAN help them achieve

Analog principles are vital to make digital tools effective Energy, in some ways, is even more valuable than the books, pencils, and technology in our rooms. It’s about ethos, character and atmosphere. This energy starts with one individual in every classroom: the teacher. It is always good to remember, though easily forgotten, to show our classes we are glad to see them, and also show them how happy we are to be there, excited by what is going to happen, or could happen, if they join us. How important it is to greet your pupils as they arrive. Meet them smiling. Smile as much as possible during the session too. Then, and this is essential: Say farewell to every one of them, as they leave, past you, at the door, perhaps with a handshake. At least, with a smile. This can build a real positive confidence in a child: “Whatever I didn’t get, didn’t understand – whatever I became frustrated with, whatever I lost my patience with – whatever mistakes I made, my teacher STILL THINKS I’M ALRIGHT and TOMORROW WILL BE O.K”.

Exploratorium ~ the science of music

| February 8, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

The Science of Music collection will keep you experimenting happily for a while, and discovering lots about the theory behind real audio.

These online exhibits, from Exploratorium, will help you mess around with music in ways you probably haven’t before, and learn a lot too.

Kitchen Sink-o-Pation, explores the concepts of visual dominance, hearing sounds out of context, and playing with concrete sounds in an unusual setting.

Produce some mashed up music with Dot Mixer, playing with sound samples from different styles. An interesting investigation of the science of sound itself.

Take the Beat Back, and explore the everyday origins of some extraordinary instruments, or even form your own Online Drum Circle.

Head out in to the open with real and found sounds in the Headlands Experiments, or get even more physical with Step Remix, a fun way to explore rhythm, body percussion, combining beats of contrasting structure, to create complex poly-rhythms & dances!

Headphones are recommended, or at least a decent set of computer speakers.

Enjoy your experiments with some sound science about the science of sound.

Chirbit audio

| February 4, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Chirbit is a useful tool that enables you to record, upload & share any audio files easily. Embed your audio anywhere with the HTML5 player.

Record using a webcam or microphone connected to your computer, or upload an existing audio file, which can be in wav, mp3, ogg, amr, m4a, wmv, aiff, and 3gp formats. Upload 120MB of audio per file. That’s 2 hours of audio for each.

Record directly from your browser using a webcam or microphone, or post audio from any smartphone with a voice note app and email. It is also possible to get an instant QR code for each of your audio posts, & attach an image.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 2

| January 14, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Parklands Primary

A second day at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary, Manston Primary and Manston St James Primary Academy.

Well done to all of the children and staff for taking off with words, in magical and mysterious ways. A wonderous morning with courageous 60+ Year 3 and Year 4 pupils, their teachers, teaching asistants, and visiting colleagues.

… followed by a lively, talented Year 1 class …

 

Thoughts from Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher:

The VillageThe children are flowing in with a hubbub of anticipation as they gaze upon the screen. Already you can see them looking deeper into the mountainous realm wondering where it is, asking questions to each other.

We’re welcoming Tim Rylands and Sarah back to day 2 at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. Whilst this will be a mesmerising session for the children, it is the teachers that are sat with notebooks and ‘writing sticks’, in eager anticipation of new teaching techniques and resources to inspire over the coming year.

Mr WalkerTim has just introduced ‘Mr Walker’, his back up walking stick (sadly number one has started a new journey with a thief). In the space of 3 minutes, Tim has got the children thinking about the holes in Mr Walker. Children are conferring; “Mr Walker has holes so he can breathe” one child says, “A fox with long, sharp teeth bit right through it” says another. Personification at its best.

By giving permission for children to ‘go for it’ and rewarding answers with ‘a ripple’, every child in the room now wants to give their answers and there is an ocean of hands up in the air – 80 different reasons why Mr Walker has holes in him. This is testament to the power of allowing ‘silly answers’ and welcoming them the same as any other. Children are engaged, encouraged and excited.

The children had almost forgotten about the mystical land dancing away on the screen behind. Often there is a fear in the teaching profession about technology distracting children – stopping them from thinking independently and discussing ideas. Yet that idea has been thrown out of the window here. What is clear, is that with the right guidance, it can only enhance the fantastic imagination that children already have. We sometimes forget that children WANT to speak and they WANT to be involved in the now. They are proud of their ideas. There is a child next to me, laughing because he can’t get his idea in for the amount of children sharing their ideas. He’s even standing now. Too late, but point proven.

WritingWithout ‘permission’, children are scribbling ideas into their books. This is exactly what we want children to be doing; Writing because they can, rather because they have to. And now…competition time – When we hear Tim say a ‘simile’ we have to go really high and screechy! Re-enforcing children’s understanding through games is a fantastic way of embedding knowledge. It’s now the children’s turn and in the space of 1 minute we have 80 similes soaring around the room like… (pop your similes in the ‘Add your Thoughts’ at the top of this blog!).

Writing time, and the scratching of ideas is magnificent. Children believe they are immersed in the setting – not because they can see it, but because they have talked about it and have shared ideas with explanation rather than just a ‘title of their idea’. Byron is going to share his description (with a name like that he best be good). ‘Smoke as hot as lava. I can hear a rattling of leaves and see a building, black as people’s hair. Nailed it. Well done Lord Byron.

We’ve talked about paragraphs, personification, similes, metaphors and now we’re using rhetorical questions, but the children don’t even know they are using them! Far too often we introduce a literary skill by introducing it by name, e.g. ‘This is a rhetorical question, does this sentence need an answer?’ rather than discovering it through talk. This way, children take ownership of it and are much more proud to use in their writing. One thing to stress is that these are not all new singing and dancing teaching techniques. Rather, Tim is reminding us of the importance of questioning and not stopping when we get to a ‘good’ answer.

PaperAs teachers, ideas are thrown at us from all directions and as we pick something up, inevitably other ideas will go from our minds. I remember my teacher training, leaving with so many fantastic ideas and enthused to use them in the classroom. Yet the reality of day to day teaching is that things are left on the side. Tim has reminded me of the wealth of resources, skills and ideas out there. His techniques are nothing new; they are solid and herald good practice. Yet the resources enhancing these techniques are constantly evolving. We must not rely on electronic resources alone, yet we must not dismiss them as ‘things for home time’. A whole world can be unlocked to journey through, and you’ll be amazed at where the children take you!

By Tom Cunliffe, Year 4 Teacher.

A massive THANK YOU to Tom for his reflections, and again to Head Teacher Chris Dyson for having the passion and vision to invite us to his school for these two days.

History Cats ~ find your cat’s ancestors

| January 13, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

As your cat snoozes serenely by the fire, have you ever wondered who its ancestors were and what they did in their lifetimes?

Have you ever wondered what their family tree looks like?

At History Cats you can quickly find your cat’s ancestors, and their characteristics.

Just enter your cat’s details in the boxes and click search. It will trawl their historical records & identify one of your cat’s ancestors. It couldn’t be simpler, so give it a try!

Jekyll, for example, tugged Nelson’s boot to get his attention, the Admiral was struck down by a sniper’s bullet.

Horrified, and feeling slightly responsible for distracting Nelson at such a vital moment, Jekyll felt morally obliged to take the place of the Admiral. Putting on Nelson’s jacket and hat Jekyll bravely directed the rest of the battle, confirming the victory. Instead of basking in the moment of glory though Jekyll made sure he got ashore as fast as he could. He’d lost his appetite for sailing.

A fascinating glimpse in to building a character description and background.

Parklands Primary, Leeds ~ Day 1

| January 13, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Parklands Primary

Fantastic indeed, to be at Parklands Primary in Leeds joined by staff from Grimes Dyke Primary and from Manston Primary, for a 2 day visit. Our first day spent with the Y5, Y6 and Y2 pupils and their teachers, followed by a twilight with all the staff and colleagues from the visiting school.

A massive THANK YOU to Head Teacher Chris Dyson:

Chris DysonParklands Primary School (Seacroft Leeds) were all set to ‘Boldly’ go on a writing adventure to inspire the love of writing. The scene was set; a cold, grey winters morning at Parklands Primary School, Leeds. …. the lights were dimmed at 915 am as 64 excited, nervous, apprehensive Y5 Y6 pupils, their teachers and teaching assistants walked into the magical, mystery world that was known as Tomanha. The eerie music made the hairs on the children’s necks stand to attention like needles on a cactus plant. Something strange was to occur, something mystical, something suspicious perhaps…..

The children sat in awe and wonder as a strange image rose from the front of the stage and greeted the pupils. The image shuffled to the front of the stage, his hairless head reflected the light from a strange light source as his face, his eyes and his smile told of a hidden secret that he seemed desperate to share with the children. If anyone could put this man’s pain to ease, it was the children of Parklands Primary School. The strange man was desperate to share what he had seen, what he had experienced and what he had found out from his old friend Atrus. He needed someone he could trust, he needed someone who would not let him down, he needed some razor sharp writers who would help him with his quest and to be entrusted with his prized and sacred journal……… After his travels around the world, to places such as Hong Kong; Vietnam; Arizona; Sweden; Dubai and Ireland, the man known simply as Tim Rylands had arrived at Parklands Primary School, hoping and pleading that these children would have the answers to the questions that he had been seeking for so long all over the world!

Parklands Primary School is proud to welcome the one, the only, the King of Inspirational Writing – Tim Rylands. For every Lone Ranger, there is a Tonto. For every Ant, there is a Dec. For every Dean, there is a Torville….. For Tim, he has the brilliant Sarah….

Parklands Primary school is a larger than average, 1.5 form-entry maintained school, located in Seacroft, an urban area in the east of Leeds. Our brilliant, beautiful children need opportunities to shine. They need experiences to inspire and challenge……. They need Tim Rylands……

Let us baldly go into a world full of suspense and intrigue …….. Let the writing begin!

Thoughts from James Haddock – Year 5 Teacher – Parklands Primary School, ably assisted (and worth a mention in despatches) by my three Lieutenants: Riley, Reece & Lauwureance; by Charli from down the way and Olivia the Sylph of synonyms.

SurvivedStanding here, the four walls of the classroom were closing in on us. Claustrophobia took a tight grip on our hearts; ignoring this the roll call was taken and relief flooded through us as we saw how many of us had survived the night. Some of us stole furtive glances up into the void of the ceiling, ears straining to hear the tip tap of footfalls as the mysterious animals crept and frolicked within our space. Fear was replaced by a sense of anticipation that spread like spring blossoms through our serried ranks. We were to meet someone…someone that could finally give us the key we needed to unlock our hidden talents. Help us to escape to the meaninglessness of life without simile, metaphor and the solid foundation of a well-constructed sentence.

PrisonWe departed our prison, moving like panthers down the straight, partially lit corridor. None of us knew what to expect. Eyes bright with anticipation the young ones looked towards their leader. Their looks implored him to tell them more, but his shrug, nonchalant yet stern like a modern day Chevalier quietened their questioning looks. A raised eye brow and the crease of a smile, playing like fairy dust, around his visage showed admittance that he knew as much as them. What was to await them? Would they receive the answers that had eluded them for so long? For the time being, as they dispersed throughout the cavernous room, that was to be home for the next two hours, these questions would remain unanswered, skulking like Victorian urchins in the shadowy corners of the room.
CharactersThe man positioned himself at the head of one of the provided tables. He was surrounded by three of his most treasured Lieutenants. He felt confidence flow through him, these fine boys would not let him down, come Hell or High Water. A girl joined them, from one of their neighbouring clans admittedly, but a doughty literary warrior nonetheless. She was welcomed amongst them. But what was this? A pale figure strode towards the table. Confident. Pride in her abilities showed through her every facet. A conjuror of words, a sylph of synonyms; the high priestess of homophones. She had selected our table. We were honoured indeed. Nervous glances were exchanged.

The VillageWe looked into the distance surveying the vista that stretched towards the towering volcano that glowered like an angry giant on the horizon. A hush descended like dusk in winter, covering the room with a blanket of silence. The object of our morning come into view, his voice soft and lilting as he recommended us to listen to the wind (was it wind?) smell the smoke (was it smoke?) that snaked lazily up from a distant chimney and look downwards towards a glistening and glimmering pool of water (was it water?) that moved like silk beneath our feet.

Simile“Those leaves look like they’re struggling to break free from those trees.” he whispered towards us, his voice undulating and flowing like oil into our ears. “Are they…are they really struggling to break free?” The gathered troop looked at each, all unsure, what did he want us to say? We shook our heads nervously and looked around for guidance. There was none. His eyebrows raised, almost concurring, at our shaking heads and a grin almost cracked his face in two. “But it doesn’t stop us from saying does it!?” No we thought, it doesn’t. The spell was cast the blanket was lifted and the room erupted into life. We magiced similes and metaphors out of thin air and sent them spiralling giddily around the room. We listened and responded with shouts of “Aaar….Simile Timbers!” and “Rark….Metaphor” while contorting our faces into almost Woosteresque naivety. The talk…the words flowed like fine wine. All of us to a man (or woman) contributed and not one of us felt the fear. The fear of talk, the shadow that had haunted us for so long. Our guest from down the corridor raised her voice, silence…the floor was hers She delivered her lines like a Shakespearean. Loud and confident. A smile on her face as she realised she’d done it. The man, at the head of the table, could not have been prouder.
WritingWe talked longer and longer delving around the Kingdom that we found ourselves in. Casting thoughts and feelings about with reckless entusiasm we relished in the sounds of our own voices, not wanting to let go. But stop it did. The time for talk was over. It was truly time for those individuals to prove their mettle. They all reached out and grasped their pens and pencils, feverishly ripping open their books (some of them did not even write a date or learning objective!!) and they started. To. Write. All of them. Grownups. Young ones and all those in-between and above. The quiet fell like the frontage of a house onto Buster Keaton.

There was no sound, but if you listened carefully a scratching faint at first, but raising…the sound of pen connecting with paper…There were no complaints – no one exclaimed they couldn’t do it, no one asked for help, they just wrote. When it was time to hear these musings, what things they had written. Carefully crafted similes mixed with the sights and sounds (and smells) of this unfamiliar land we had entered. Nuggets of the finest descriptomite dripped from every page, oozed from every line, exuded from every pen-tip. However, what hung onto every mouth were not similes, but smiles! Smiles as broad as they were long and long as they were broad. Smiles that lit up the room, showing off not only the whites of teeth but the joy of just writing.
CelebratingSo it had ended, the troop had returned to their natural environment. Prowling back up the corridor confidently, like Lions, voices soaring like swallows they swarmed home. The trick, the man thought to himself, is to keep this going…
…and that I think is the point. To keep it going. To allow children to be excited about writing and the process of writing. To talk about what they will write and give them purpose and reason in their creations. To allow their characters to come to life and for them to give birth to settings that are as real and as integral to their stories as possible.

To slow them down and describe every fairies wing beat and pixies breath, every detectives’ decision and every villains motive, every pirates promise and every cabin boys heroics…to allow them to forget (for that writing moment) what a fronted adverbial is, but to use them with wild abandon in their writing. Writing is a beautiful art, one that if we are taught well stays with us for a lifetime. It can sometimes be forgotten, but thank you Tim and Sarah for allowing me to remember…

A massive THANK YOU to James and his team for these reflections.

Biblionasium

| January 5, 2016 | Add Your Thoughts 

Biblionasium

BiblioNasium is a reading-centric, “safe, social network for children aged between 6 and 13″. Particpants can log their reading, play games, complete reading challenges and earn rewards within a safe social network built especially for them, connecting kids in an encouraging community of friends, family and their educators. BiblioNasium excites, engages and encourages a love of the written word.

Children’s safety online is a top concern. BiblioNasium does not allow children 13 years of age or younger to have an account until a parent, legal guardian or an educator creates one for them.

“Our aim is to help children, parents & teachers to find “just right” books for the children’s school & pleasure reading.”

joinOnly approved friends and a child’s registered educator can see a child’s name and school. Other signed-in users can see a child’s anonymous username, books, and other non-personal information. People who are not signed in to BiblioNasium are unable to see any information on the site. No users can see your information or that of your child without your authorization.

A with any social element, care is always needed, but they assure “The website is free and safe for children to use.”

On an adult only basis, this coud be a fun, and useful, way of encountering new, and appropriate books organised in interesting ways.