Archive for December, 2009

A few weeks ago I introduced the E.M. Spectrum to my yr 10 classes (14-15 years old) by asking them to produce activities that we would broadcast on our very own online “TV” channel http://www.livestream.com/croesyphysics

Needless to say they were very excited by the idea, especially because they were given complete choice on the type of activities they could create, the groups they were working with and even the software they could use. So, we got activities ranging from News Reports and Revision Songs to Documentaries and Comics. The whole process was highly enjoyable for them, to the point that some pupils who normally would not be that interested in the subject and that would find it difficult to focus on the work given became those who were always working very hard at their project and even came back at lunch time several times to make sure they could complete the activity in time to be broadcast.

Our pupils used a range of sources of information to produce their activities. Many used the internet, but most also checked their facts on Science Textbooks and made sure that their content was both relevant to the AQA Specifications (our examination board) and scientifically sound!

As I mentioned above, all groups had complete choice on the software and format they were using. So, some groups used Photo Story 3 to record short documentary-like videos.Photo Story 3 is very easy to use and very intuitive. It basically lets you choose a sequence of photos and record an oral narration on each frame. Other groups used Songsmith to create lovely revision songs. If you are a teacher, you can download Songsmith free by joining the Partners in Learning NetworkSongsmith gives you a choice of musical bases and by singing to the software your voice is recorded and the base is turned into the melody you’ve created. You can then export your song in Movie Maker and add background images, text and effects, like our yr 10 pupils did.

One of the highlights of our show was the News Report created by our pupils using only PowerPoint 2007 and Movie Maker. Michael asked permission to ITV News to use their music and he then produced the most amazing PowerPoint presentation I have ever seen. In this presentation he included the videos created by the other Reporters in Movie Maker and it looked really professional, as well as containing really good Physics. I think the most powerful message we could get from work like this is that we don’t really need to spend thousands of pounds in highly expensive equipment, nor have a state on the art recording studio in our school, because what really makes the difference is the creativity and engagement of our pupils.

Some other groups used Community Clips to record their presentations directly from their computer screen. Community Clips is a very useful free tool from Microsoft Research that lets you record a video of whatever happens on your screen. You can also narrate what’s going on and your voice will be captured by Community Clips. A Good example of use of this software were the instructions made by our pupils on some useful websites for revision, towards the end of our show!

So, how did we broadcast? Well, we used a free software called Procaster that lets you broadcast live directly on your Livestream channel. But the great thing about Procaster, and what makes it stand out from any other free broadcasting tool, is that you can choose to show just your webcam view, your screen, or a lovely 2-D or even 3-D mix of the two. The result looks very professional and the quality and speed of streaming is also pretty impressive for a completely free service. Your Livestream channel is also free and there is the option to let your audience interact with the show and with each other via the chat built in the channel. You can also link the channel to your Facebook and Twitter to maximise advertising possibilities. Our E.M. Spectrum show went live on Thursday 17th December 2009 at 20.30 (U.K. time) but it’s now available on demand in our Croesy Physics Livestream channel. Please, watch it and have fun!

Croesy Physics Livestream Channel

Have you ever used live streaming software, or websites? What was your experience?

We had a very Special Viewer during our live broadcast, Les Foltos, the Director of edLAB
Puget Sound Center for Teaching
who commented: “Dude.  Really great.  Or as you said it, Bringing Physics to Life is Amazing.” Les also asked our pupils: “What is the benefit of sharing your work in this online show?” and this are some of their comments.

Michael: the benefits are that we are in control of our learning and the research that we did to produce the “TV show” allowed us to take everything in and understand all about what we were learning.

Niall: some of the benefits would be the new and great technologies and software and being able to watch the show on the internet.

Jess: the benefits are that your parents can see it and get involved with what you’re doing in school. Also, it was more fun knowing that lots of people can see it!

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We were thrilled to receive an email today to tell us myself and three of my Yr12 Students have been invited to BETT to receive our prize for the “Be a Reporter for the day” competition organised by the National Education Network. They competition invited schools to submit a news report about how they are using Technology in Education.  At the time I just started a Revision Club on Google Wave for my Yr12 Students and I knew that was just the right thing to submit… A project on Wave!

We are one of very few schools that uses Google Wave, as it is brand new technology and still quite few people have been invited to it! I got my invite from my brother in law and my Yr12 pupils from Michael (one of our sixth formers) who had some spare invites to give away.

So, how do we use Google Wave for revision? Wave is an incredibly powerful tool for collaborative work. Not only my pupils and I can communicate real time (and I mean real time), but Waves offer you many tools to enhance your experience, like gadgets and bots. And the best thing is that there are already many Developers who are busy writing new gadgets and bots, so things get more exciting everyday.

But what are these gadgets and bots? To any wave you can add various tools. For example, I added a mind mapping gadget (use the URL: http://cactus-wave.appspot.com/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.MindMapGadget/net.brucecooper.mindmapgadget.client.MindMapGadget.gadget.xml ) to decide what definitions we wanted to revise. So, each member of the class could contribute and group the definitions they found in their notes and specifications. This was a useful excercise because it helped them revise the different concepts and create links between words, definitions and topics.

Then, I invited the Wikifier bot (wikifier@appspot.com) to our wave, so that my Students could look up those definitions from Wikipedia directly on the wave. This is another powerful feature of Google Wave; you don’t need to leave the Wave to make something happen, as you can get most thing to happen and be stored there!

After that, I asked my Students to compare the definitions from Wikifier with those in their notes, books and the AQA Specifications, which I believe was not only a great way to revise, but also to encourage them to use more than one source of information when studying and researching! At this point, a great suggestion came from Alex (one of our Students). He said he was going to change the colour to green for those definitions he had checked, red for those he thought were wrong and orange when he wasn’t sure. In this way the Wave started to become more and more something owned and developed by the Students rather than directed and managed by me all the time. In fact, Alex’s suggestion became a norm followed by others too. Other suggestions and activities have been included by the Students since and our Revision Wave is now a lot bigger than the one we started with and our Students reported about in their award winning project, and we are getting very excited leading to January 15th when we’ll be at BETT to enjoy the great events and our boys will receive their prize, a brand new laptop each!

I have heard many teachers saying they can’t understand, or see the point of Google Wave, but I can say it is a fantastic tool and a smashing online collaborative environment unlike anything we have seen before. As more and more Developers will join in writing gadgets and bots for Waves, we’ll see a phenomenon that could really change the way communications and collaboration happen in Education.

Hello,

You are invited to watch our online show on the E.M. Spectrum on Thursday 17th December at 20.30. You can access our online channel at:

http://livestream.com/croesyphysics

Our Yr10 Physics students have worked on different activities of their choice to produce a “TV show” to be broadcast on the internet. The show will include various Physics demonstrations and revision activities on the Electromagnetic Spectrum and it should be very suitable for other Yr 10 pupils who are preparing for that topic and for Educators interested in the use of new technologies in Education. So, please forward this email to your pupils, colleagues, friends and relatives who might be interested!

Croesy Physics Channel

Croesy Physics Livestream Channel

I will broadcast live from my home the work of my pupils, which has been pre-recorded in class. My pupils and I are quite excited about this project and they are putting together a nice set of resources. It is the first time we attempt something like this in the Physics Department at Croesyceiliog School and we would really appreciate your participation and feedback on the outcomes!

Please, join us on Thursday 17th December at 20.30

http://livestream.com/croesyphysics

Thanks,

Alessio Bernardelli (Deputy Team Leader of Science, Croesyceiliog School)

I have often wondered whether to use Office Live, or not! I tried it a couple of years ago with my Yr10 pupils and it just didn’t work for them. They would not upload stuff on the share workspace and some complained they couldn’t access the resources I uploaded, or could not log in. So, I gave up for a season, until a few months ago when I created a PowerPoint Template for my Yr 12 Students to use to create a massive mind map on various aspects of Quantum Phenomena and EM Radiation. I designed the template using PPTplex, a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to view your slides as if they were part of a canvas. You can then use the buttons and scroll on your mouse to zoom in and out of each slide (see my previous blog about it)

The result was that each pupil in yr 12 was assigned a topic and turn that into a mind map on a single slide. Thanks to the zooming features of PPTplex there was no concern about the font size and students could, therefore, fit as much information as they wanted in their mind map. Each slide was a new central concept within a much larger mind map whose template I designed in the background view to include all the pupils’ slides and show how each topic linked with each other! This way they could all work at the same mind map presentation and that saved the hassle to have to collect all their work and paste it in a single presentation afterwards. In addition, it allowed the students to use the amazing features of Office 2007, like smart arts and PPTplex and create really nice and visual mind maps!

So, did it all work so smoothly? Well, we live in the real work! I already knew about the problem of not being able to work simultaneously on the same file. If someone is currently working on one file another user can only open it as a read only. This takes away all the collaborative nature of sharing documents online, doesn’t it? No doubt, tools like Google Docs and Google Wave allow a much superior real time collaboration, but the tools provided by Google Presentations are quite limited compared to the range of features of PowerPoint 2007, which allows the user to create much more versatile and professional looking presentations, as example of which is PPTplex. Some students could not download the Presentation and work on it and one pupil experienced the frustration of not being able to edit the presentation because another student was working on it at the same time. Thankfully, he was quick enough to think of saving it with another name, make his changes and then cut and paste onto the Office Live shared presentation later.

So, is Office Live a useless online collaborative environment? I believe it’s far from that, because of the reasons I explained above. If they could merge the awesome features of Office 2007 with the collaborative power of Google Docs, or even better, Google Wave, that would come close to perfection. But we live in the real world where live can sometimes mean “wait a minute I am rebooting” and collaboration sometimes means “Well you both wrote on the same spot, so I won’t show any of it at all!”

What so you think? Please, leave a comment!