Posts Tagged ‘engaging’

It’s been a while since my last post, so my fingers are itching now, especially because what I am going to write about had virtually no input from me. My four boys have been completely immersed in Minecraft for quite a few months now. In particular, they love playing together on two iPads and an iPhone, so they can cooperate, send messages to each other and they’ve even made three beds in each of the houses they built, so they can sleep together in any house they find themselves in when it gets dark (and for those who are not familiar with Minecraft you better go to sleep when it gets dark, or zombies and creepers will come to get you).

A self organised geography lesson

One day my six year old invited the other two, four and eight respectively (the two year old can use the iPad very well, but on Minecraft he tends to destroy stuff, so it’s better to leave him out of a creative session 😉 ), to join him in his Olympic Games. So, they set off to build flags for each country (well, just a few actually, but I was pleased they added Italy). They found out what colours the flags for the countries they wanted to add were and made them out of Minecraft blocks. You can see the results below.

Italy

Japan

Japan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of Literacy

Then, they created various games. There was a ring for sword fighting, a hurdle race track and even target shooting. The boys also placed some signs with some basic rules for the games, as you can see below.

IMG_1623

IMG_1628

And finally a bit of numeracy

Now it was time to mark out the difficulty of the target shooting game, so they added some signs to show how far from the target the archers should stand for an easy, medium and hard shooting session. This shows how you can develop “using number and measuring skills” through a video game that kids find incredibly engaging. So engaging, in fact, that they set off to create what became (in my opinion) a great learning journey completely independently. I believe this is a really nice example of a SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment) that Sugata Mitra talks about and that the nature of the game, the intuitiveness of iPads and the ability to collaborate in real time from different devices facilitated this process many folds.

IMG_1620

The power of technology

I’ve always been fascinated by the way very young learners interact with new technologies, and it was observing my nephew searching the internet when he was ten that prompted me to start this Blog, but I have never seen anything as powerful as an iPad in allowing children to create their own learning journeys. I watch my two year old who can get in and out of the apps he wants, build helicopters in the Lego app and fly them, call my mum with FaceTime (it’s true! It happened several times), etc… Then, I see my four year old who since he was three could create amazing buildings and objects in Minecraft at a speed that makes me feel dizzy, or my six and eight year old boys who use iPads to search for information they are interested in, find video tutorials on YouTube that show them how to create portals in Minecraft that take them to other worlds, etc… and I see so much that I am proud of. But I also see a fantastic tool that empowers them to learn through play. If they can learn things by themselves using these amazing technologies, think about how much more could be done in the classroom with them!

Advertisements

There are a number of really useful and FREE Pre-school and early years Android Apps that really come to life on an ASUS Transformer for various reasons and most importantly because of its size! In fact, the very first advantage of an eee pad Transformer is to have dimensions that are similar to a book, which kids are used to handle, as opposed to a phone (that most parents are reluctant to let a child use, as they “could break it”). My boys can easily hold the ASUS Transformer with both hands, or simply rest it on their laps as they sit on the sofa! But as well as ease of use, my kids appreciate the larger screen, which really helps them to engage with the eee pad Transformer at a completely different level. In fact, anyone would tend to give a child a piece of A4 paper to write/draw on rather that a small notepad! And this is the same for the ASUS Transformer. The size of the usable screen gives them more freedom to express their creativity and they learn more effectively. The responsiveness of the touchscreen make things very easy too and being able to use their fingers to write, draw, or simply drag and drop takes away many of the hurdles that a pre-school child usually experiences as they try to do creative tasks like drawing. In fact, what is easier (if you haven’t mastered the use of your hands very well yet) drawing a circle with a pen, or with your fingers? Which one are children more likely to feel as they draw? And what about the shape of a letter, or a number? Using our eee pad Transformer my pre-school children can do tasks like tracing patterns and letters much more easily that when they try to do it using a pen.

Some Pre-School Apps

So, here are some great apps for Pre-school!

The Intellijoy Series

Intellijoy has created a great series of fantastic apps that really engage young children in key skills like reading, writing and counting.

One of my favourite is Kids Learn to Read which has Tommy the turtle who helps you spell phonetically simple words, like man. You can tap on individual letters to hear the sounds, and also on the walking stick and Tommy starts moving along the bridge that is made by the letter blocks. As he walks past a letter lights up and its sound is spoken out by a female voice (the only problem is that the pronounciation is very American). As the child becomes more confident, he can send Tommy along the bridge with trainers and because he now walks faster, the word will be spelled out faster too! And eventually Tommy can cross the bridge on a skateboard and the word is read at normal speed. This is a lovely progression that teaches young learners how to spell and break down simple words into small bits (in this case single letters) in order to gain confidence in their reading skills!

Kids Shape Puzzle is another favourite of my boys as they love putting jigsaw puzzles together. In particular, my youngest (2) always wants to play with this great app. The different colours of the pieces makes it very interesting for him to drag and drop the pieces in the correct place on the silouette of the image and when the completed image appears he gets so excited and shouts “I did it! I did it!”

 

Then, there is Kids ABC Letters, which is a great game to learn how to recognize letters. In fact, there is again a jigsaw task where kids need to piece the parts of a letter (both capital and small) together and a lovely fishing game, where the learner helps a cat to catch fish labelled with the letters of the alphabet. The game tells you which letter the cat needs to catch and you need to press on the cat when the fish with the corresponding letter is passing by. At that point the cat lifts up the fishing rod and the hook grabs the fish, so you score points. If you choose the wrong letter, the fish goes free! All these simple tasks are very engaging because they give an immediate sense of reward and encourage the learners to want to learn more! And the great thing is that as they are playing they are learning an aweful lot 🙂

There is also Kids Numbers and Math which lets you complete some fun tasks to improve your Numeracy skills. You can start from very simple tasks, like counting up, or down, and number recognition, to more complex tasks like finding the greatest number from a pair, etc… Again, this is a very engaging App that enables very young learners to become excited about Maths and learning numbers!

Sriram Satyavolu

Here are a couple of very simple, yet very effective, Apps by Sriram Satyavolu! The first is LearnABC which is a simple alphabet which allows you to pick a letter and draw its shape over it with your finger. And here is when using an eee pad Transformer makes a big difference compared to an ordinary smart phone, because size matters after all! In fact, my boys can draw over the letters very well because they are showing nice and big on the ASUS Transformer, and as they draw the start recognising the patterns ready for when they will be in school and do it on paper.

The second app is WordBuilder which gives you the image of an object and the first letter. Then, from the alphabet you need to choose the letters that make up the word and drag them in the correct place. It is a really good way to learn how to spell. When you place a letter in the wrong space it gets crossed and you have a chance to try again until you get the correct order.

 

Google Sky Map

Perhaps this one is more suitable for older learners, but Google Sky Map is a really nice app that give you a lovely experience of the sky as it is seen at night! By simply holding your ASUS Transformer, you can move the tablet to see different parts of the sky, including stars and planets. The nice thing is that the planets are nice and big, so, although you loose the sense of proportion, you have a way to show young children where the planets are in our solar system and that they are not luminous objects like the stars. You could also use this app to get learners to tell stories about space missions, or star wars like adventures, by jumping from one planet to the next children can tell their story to their peers.

There are many more great apps for young learners and I discover new ones every day that engage my boys. Which apps have you used? Why were they effective? Please leave a comment on the post.

I am sooooo pleased to announce that the fantastic online TV show our Yr10 pupils produced last year, the one and only “EM Spectrum Show“, was awarded first prize at the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards at BETT 2011!

My Yr10 students put together a really creative programme of resources that we used to broadcast live as our “EM Spectrum Show!” on the 17th December 2009. The original plan was to broadcast from the school, but unfortunately our school network filtered the stream from our classroom, so my students and I decided to record their work and broadcast the show live from my house. In many ways this turned out to be a very valuable alternative, because it meant the world to our children to be able to watch the show from their houses and know that leading Educators like, Les Foltos (Director of edLAB Puget Sound Center for Teaching), from across the globe were watching and praising the educational value of their work. Also, the students’ parents could watch the show with their children and become involved and engaged with their learning on a completely new level.
What I like most about this project is that our children chose to use free software for the majority of their work, but still produced a really engaging, creative, rich and fun programme that contained a wealth of really good Science in it! We used mainly free Microsoft software like Photo Story 3, Songsmith, Movie Maker and Community Clips, and we created our very own online TV Channel with Livestream (http://www.livestream.com/croesyphysics). Some people get the impression that to create really innovative and engaging activities for our children they need state of the art equipment and spend large sums of money, but I believe this project proves just the opposite. In fact, all our students had was a laptop between two, or three, and a headset with microphone and still got involved in true active learning!
Winning the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards is simply amazing, because we know we were against other fantastic projects.
We would like to thank all the people who supported and believed in our project and especially ASUS for their overwhelming generosity, which will allow us to continue to engage even more regularly in projects like this one! In fact, we will now have the really difficult task to choose from their amazing range of great hardware and spend the £7500 award they so kindly offered to support these awards. By sponsoring an initiative like the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards ASUS has shown that they put innovation and education at the heart of what they do and I am proud to be sponsored by such a company!

I have touched on the idea of using Poetry in Physics on my blog post My top five list of features in Office 2007!, but this looks at the issue in more depth and it was a must to write it just one day before the National Poetry Day.

October the 7th will be the National Poetry Day and people across the UK will celebrate poetry. What better way to celebrate than getting your students to engage in Poetry in ways and areas they might have never thought possible?

Last year I used the Math Add-in for Word 2007 to create graphs of the Photoelectric Effect and then asked, in the same worksheet, my pupils to put in rhymes what the graph meant and how it explained the Photoelectric Effect. Obviously, it would have been unfair to ask them to do Poetry and coward away from it myself, so I created the instructions for their task as a poem too (a pretty bad, but maybe not so bad for an Italian with English as a second language). The results were quite remarkable and I was pleasantly surprised to see such good Physics in their explanations and such nice rhymes too.

Here is the task I set for my students:

Equation and graph created with Math Add-in

The red line was added by one of the students in response to the second part of my rhymed instructions, see below.

If this is the Photoelectric equation,

Name its parts with some persuasion!

Kinetic energy, Planck’s constant and even work function

Which symbols and Greek letters go in conjunction?

At this point they had to list the symbols associated to the Photoelectric Effect equation. Then the task carried on:

Ok, you know your symbols and letters in Greek,

Another challenge lies ahead for you Geek!

The metal is swapped with one of work function much higher,

In red the new graph draw, if this knowledge you want to acquire!

Now, about this can you rhyme?

Don’t rush it and take your time

To have some fun and give it a go

And make your explanation flow.

And it doesn’t end there, because one of the best poems came from a student who was supposed to be Dyslexic! His poem is below.

The photoelectric effect is easy

UV light hits the metal causing it to become a little queasy

The metal releases a photoelectron without a fight

More electrons are released when the intensity is increased of the light

As long as the threshold frequency is met

The electrons would be emitted I bet

The threshold frequency for a given object

Is the minimum frequency needed for photoelectric emissions to collect

To escape the potential well

The electron must do a certain amount of work to excel

The work function can be defined

As the minimum work needed to remove an electron blind

That is all you need to know

about the photoelectric effect and potential well

When u hear of this effect

Just think how it could be in your subject

The students went on to merge the best parts of each poem created to form a rap that they then sang and recorded using SongSmith, which can be downloaded free of charge from all teachers on the Partners In Learning Network.

If you want to know more about the Math Add-in and how you could use it with your classes have a look at the Innovid I made below!

You must have guessed I have a soft spot for comics and Superheroes by now. So, when @russeltarr (look at his excellent website here) twitted a link to a video made by his 14-years old Historians (as he calls them) I got immediately interested in this new video creator with animated characters; xtranormal.com. Believe me, it is really good fun and very easy and quick to use. The below video took me about 15 min to make and it was a simple attempt to create an example for my Yr 10 pupils, so that they could also use this tool to create fun videos about an area of Physics we have studied (if you can’t see the video from this blog click here). Because we have been amused by the Physics of Superheroes in a number of lessons, I though they would like the video I created to understand and remember the difference between Speed and Velocity!

The intent, however, was never to use this video creator as a teaching tool, but rather as a lovely way to get my pupils engaged with Physics and to get them talking about processes by explaining them through unusual situations (a bit like the Marvel Comic on Momentum).

Unfortunately there were two problems I had not anticipated:

1. To publish your videos you must buy credits

2. Our network let us down for the 1000th time and even this really useful tool was blocked

I might be able to get the IT Technician to unblock it, so the kids can at least use the story board and the effects. But I think I will use this great website to create one of those stories where each group writes a line and the next group continues it, so by the end of the lesson we will have a story about Physics that is created by the whole class. It would be even nicer if this  became a quick revision movie about all the topics covered made with the contribution of the whole class! I will let you know how it goes, but if you have some good stories with Xtranormal, please let us know by adding a comment to this blog post.

Have you ever read a superheroes comic? Watched a superheroes cartoon, or at least watched one of the great Marvel movies? I bet you have done one of these at least once. If you ask you pupils, most of them would go to the cinema to watch these films as soon as they are out and would really enjoy them! What a great opportunity to get some Physics in it.

You might think, what Physics? Superheroes defy Physics and would just reinforce silly misconceptions. And that’s where we need to ask a different question, i.e. what would need to happen in this situation, or with this superhero, to be physically possible?

A good example is X-men 3 (DVD only £3 in Tesco). You can use this very popular film to introduce Momentum. The Juggernaut has a very cool power, i.e. “If he builds any momentum, nothing can stop him”. This sentence is in the maximum security lorry scene, when the Juggernaut gets freed. This power can be used to generate interest in momentum. The Juggernaut had to be confined by being tightly bound with extra strong metal restraints, so you can immediately ask: “What do you think momentum depends on?” Obviously, he cannot be allowed to move, or we would build momentum and become unstoppable. So, momentum depends on the velocity of the Juggernaut. What else then? Well, just look at the guy! He is massive, so momentum also depends on the mass of the Juggernaut. Great you can now introduce the momentum equation.

In the last fight you can add juice to the lesson and make momentum really memorable, although you might also want to mute the rather unkind name this villain gives to Kitty. Here the Juggernaut is featured in an amazing scene where he smashes through lots of people, heavy vehicles and walls, so again you can reinforce the concept by asking what causes the Juggernaut to build so much momentum. Get the kids to think about different ideas, e.g. is it his speed? He doesn’t seem particularly fast when he goes through walls, so it must be his mass. But, although he’s very big, he doesn’t really look like a huge giant. What should happen in the Juggernaut body to make this physically possible? Well, he probably has the ability to change the density of molecules in his body, so that his mass increases greatly and he can build enormous momentum and smash into things.

When he eventually tries to crash into Kitty and the “Cure” , they dodge and the Juggernaut (who actually is quite stupid) crashes into the wall and falls unconscious, because the “Cure” is the boy who has the power of taking away the powers of any mutant who is near him. So, the mass of the Juggernaut must have become less here…

I hope you like this idea and you will share other ideas on the Physics of Superheroes. Please, let me know if you will use this idea and how your pupils responded to it!