Archive for July, 2011

Today I had great fun with my four and six year old boys (my two year old was also helping) in creating a story using a mind map. The whole idea came from an inspiration I had earlier from the ThinkBuzan newsletter, which encouraged parents to do fun activities with iMindMap 5, one of them being creating a story. When I read their Blog post I though it was a lovely idea, but with none of my boys being a confident writer I though it wouldn’t really apply to us. Then, I started thinking straight and realised that in mind mapping little words and many images mean greated imaginative and associative power, especially with iMindMap 5, where all you need to do to add your images is Google for what you are looking for, copy and paste into your branch. And that’s exactly what we did!

We started off by thinking of a title for our story and that was a bit of a challenge in itself, because I realised Matteo (6) didn’t really know the meaning of “Title”, but once we got through the idea that it tell what the story is about he came up with a very suitable title for their Star Wars based story (and what else could it be about?). Then, we split our mind map into four main branches; Characters, Places, Weapons and Battles. I was very pleased to find out that Matteo (a very, very reluctant writer) was quite willing to write the words on the branches and that he was quite good too! It brought back to me the power of engagement and active learning… he was excited about writing his own story, about what really interests him, so writing all of a sudden became a pleasure and not a burden 🙂

The rest was easy, because all we had to do was to Google the images the boys were choosing to make their story and paste them in the relevant branches, as you can see from the mind map we created below.

A Mind Map Story by very young learners

With the battles I asked the boys to decide who was fighting who and in what places. Basically they were beginning to storyboard their story using the power of associations that this mind map gave them. We came up with some conventions. The double arrows show who is fighting in our story, but if the arrows are red, it means the villain wins, and if the arrows are blue, the heroes are prevailing 🙂 simple but effective. The battles will take place in the places linked to each battle by the dotted arrows!

As my first attempt to mind map with my little boys I was extremely pleased to see such interest and creativity going on. Mind mapping truly is the “Swiss Knife of the brain” as Tony Buzan often refers to, and I will try to transfer my passion for mind mapping to my children more actively in the future. iMindMap 5 is a really powerful tool for mind mapping, because it allows anyone, even bad Artists like me to create very visual and effective mind maps in very little time.

A feature that we will add in the next few days to our Mind Map Story is a narration of the story following branches and by adding audio comments, another great feature in iMindMap 5. If you want to download my boys’ mind map you can find it on my Biggerplate account.

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In this Blog I invite you to support my video entry to the O2 Learn Competition for three simple reasons:

1) I believe some of the videos that are winning the Fortnightly stages give a poor representation of Education in Britain

2) Many teachers who have submitted a video are cheating by creating false accounts to gain extra votes

3) The winning videos will be considered by the public as the best in British education, so I believe it is important that good examples are presented

So, if you like my video and you want your viewing to count and rate it, please follow the following instructions:

– Go to this website http://www.o2learn.co.uk and register (top right), or login if you are already registered. Remember you will receive an activation email and sometimes it might end up in people’s junk mail, so please check in there too!

– Login (top right) and click on this link http://bit.ly/o2learnvideo to watch my video

– If you like the video, please rate it by clicking on Rate this video below the video screen and give it 5 stars 🙂

Please remember that you need to be logged in for your viewing and rating to count!

As an educator I believe that engaging in these types of competitions is important to give a good representation of good practice in Education to the public. The teaching profession doesn’t always get a very good reputation from the Media and having good videos in the winning entries can help to change people’s views on teachers and Education in Britain. So, please support my entry only if you think it is a good video that would help learners to understand the topic presented!

Another way in which you could help is by spreading the word and passing on the link to this Blog post to your colleagues, friends, pupils, etc… and ask them to follow the instructions to support my entry.

Thank you in advance for your support and let me know if you are entering a video too, so I can support it!

So, it is finally here and I finally got an invite! I had a few days to begin to get my head around Google+, but nowhere near enough as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to check out this new “Buzz”. I have always been disappointed to hear about the fall of Google Wave, which I thought was a fantastic tool that would bring collaboration to a whole new level. But, unfortunately, it never kicked off properly, maybe because of the many bugs, or simply because the world wasn’t ready for it. Whatever, it was, my first impression about G+ is that it is a lot less pretentious and a lot less fuss has been made about it. So, there is a better chance that the users will drive how it develops, rather than having the presumption of telling the users this is their answer to everything they have ever wanted.

So, here are my first impressions about it. I like the idea of circles as it gives a good balance between a Facebook like experience and Twitter lists. Posting to a Circle to me sounds a bit like sending a Direct Message to a whole list on Twitter, which is quite neat. I also like the idea that now you can separate your professional updates from your personal ones. Other than that I have not done that much digging into G+, or rather I haven’t found the time yet, but there are a couple of ideas I’d like to share about how Google+ could potentially be used in the classroom.

Simulating Historical Characters

In G+ you could create an account to simulate a historical character and assign different other characters to his/her Circles, so you could have a circle of people in his family, his colleagues, enemies, etc… Each person within these circles can interact with our famous character according to their relationship with him, so, for example, how did Darwin’s father influence his life choices? Or how did his contemporary Lamark dispute his theory, etc… There could be a moderator group who could could act as the Historian and challenge the conversations within the circles with probing questions and by presenting key facts in the life of this character. Speculations on how History could have changed, if different choices had been made by the people in our character’s circles, could be explored in conversations and questions created by the learners in this role play. Giving a profile picture that match the different characters would help learners to engage even more deeply in the game and it could really spark interest in the lives of these historical characters, as they would have the opportunity to impersonate some key people in History and the whole topic could become very personal for these learners. An interesting feature of this game is that apart from the Historian and the actual main  character other characters would not see the conversations between the main person and his/her circles.

Breaking down complex systems in Science

Often you can break down complex systems and processes like the human body into smaller chunks that are easier to explain, but that contribute to the functioning of the whole system. So, for example, you could create an account for the “Human Body” and break it down into Circles in Google+ like the Circulatory System, the Reproductive System, etc… In each circle you could have the organs that make up that particular system, like the heart and blood vessels in the Circulatory System. The body has needs that involve different systems depending on the situations in which it finds itself in. So, for example, when the body is exercising the heart will pump more blood around to supply the additional Oxygen needed to the muscles. The body could be played by the Teacher, or even better a group of learners, who will have to send messages to specific Circles explaining the activity, or need, it is doing and the circles will have to respond appropriately explaining the changes they are going through to supply that need. This role play could become quite interesting when a process that involves multiple systems is started by the body. You could also simulate a medical tracer, like radioactive Iodine, that could be added to all the “circles” in the body and find a malfunction according to the conversations that are going on in each Circle/Organ.

These are just a couple of ideas and I have had the chance to try them out in the classroom yet, but I would be very interested to know how the learners respond to them,  if anyone out there is having a go at trying them out. So, please share your experiences and ideas by leaving a comment!

This morning I drove to Bristol to facilitate a lovely TeachMeet organised by the really thorough Manchi from the Institute of Physics. This was the first subject specific TeachMeet I had seen… well the first I could actually understand, because the first one I witnessed was for Welsh 2nd Language teachers 😉

We had the ambition of broadcasting the event live and I had done this before many times with NGfL Cymru (in fact, we used their Livestream Channel), but the reception on my 3G dongle in the lecture room where the TeachMeet was held was very poor, so the videos are only available in Mobile Quality. This means that you can watch the videos on demand even from a smart phone, but the quality of the video and the frame rate is not the best. I hope you will still enjoy watching what we could stream, because the presentations were all really inspiring. I would have hoped for better reception, as I believe broadcasting events like this TeachMeet is a great asset for educators worldwide. In fact, you can use some of the ideas you can now watch on demand in your classroom, with your deparments during departmental meetings, or even with your whole school during INSET days. However, the most important people at these event (although it is very nice to have people being able to follow from anywhere) are the attendees and presenters, as without them there wouldn’t be a TeachMeet and it is also about the power of networking with each other and share ideas and good practice during and after the event! So, my Phylosophy on broadcasting is always “We’ll give it a go and we’ll do our best to broadcast, but if it doesn’t work we still have some great educators here with us!”

So, if you are still interested in catching up with what went on this morning in Bristol Univesity, you can go to the NGfL Cymru Live channel on Livestream here livestream.com/ngflcymrugcad and you will find all the bits we could broadcast as on demand clips that you can click on and watch at your leisure. They are named TeachMeet IoP 1 to 17 as my connection kept breaking 😦 but I managed to capture the most of each presentation and for the majority all of them. These clips are just below the main screen as you get to our online channel. A word of warning! When you open a new clip you get some adverts that last a few seconds, so don’t give up… the clip will eventually begin.

Below are the presentations from some of the presenters which you can download.

Andrew Bruno – Teaching Circuit Electricity

Andy Haywood – Capturing Interest

Owen Grinter – DVD Spectroscopes

Yeasmin Mortuza – Dynamo Lamp as a StarterDynamo Lamp

Helen Rayner – Finding the speed of sound in air

Alessio Bernardelli (@asober) – Death by Prezi and Kinetic Theory Mind Map (in Prezi)

Kevin Betts – Hoverboard (see video below)