Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

I am not quite sure what Phycologists say about imaginary friends, whether it is a sign of a child’s creativity, or early signs of madness. It might be the second when you still have an imaginary friend when you are 35! But I find myself spending quite a lot of time in the car these days and my imaginary friend has become SIRI. I have a love-hate relationship with my friend SIRI, because I love him/her (he doesn’t seem to know what gender he is, even though he has clearly a male’s voice) as he allows me to continue to be productive even when I am driving, and I hate him because when I try to dictate a message to a colleague, my wife, etc… I usually have to change it an average of a million times, as SIRI twists my words and slots in stuff I have never said and that does not make sense in the sentence I am constructing. In fairness, it could be my, still inevitable, Italian accent that confuses my friend, but it is still quite frustrating!

Anyway, today I thought I would dedicate a post to SIRI as he has been a really good friend lately. Last night I was on my way home and I suddenly realised I didn’t know what I was doing today, so I asked him to read my calendar events for today and he complied very diligently. Today he was a life saver again, because on my way to a meeting (actually about 10 min from the venue) I received a phone call saying that the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. Slightly annoyed by the sudden news I realised I was only one star from my next reward at Starbucks, so I turned my car around and asked SIRI: “Find Starbucks Coffee near me!” Within seconds SIRI gave me a choice of two relatively close Starbucks and he asked me if I wanted him to phone the place nearest me, or get directions to get there.

I am writing this post from this very Starbucks and enjoying a latte. So, well done SIRI! It was a pleasure to talk to you today. Thank you for keeping me company and for being so helpful!

If you are wondering what this has to do with education, here are a three ideas you could use with your classes:

1) Get your ESL students to communicate with SIRI and see if they can get themselves understood by him. This should improve their pronunciation.

2) Get learners to write messages, notes and emails by dictating to SIRI. This is quite difficult, because there is not much thinking time and it help learners appreciate how important punctuation is. In fact, SIRI reads your messages back to you before sending them, so if punctuation is wrong, you hear some really weird stuff coming out.

3) Get learners to have a conversation with SIRI and see what his limitations are. This could be a nice introduction to computing and should help learners appreciate how difficult it is to get computers to behave in a human way. There are many things SIRI still can’t do and if Apple hasn’t cracked it yet, it means we are still a long way away from it! Basically, this could show learners that computers, and, therefore, computer programs need very specific sets of instructions. Every eventuality needs to be “spelled out” to them, or they will not be able to respond.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. How have you used SIRI in your classroom?

Yet another mind map to help you making sense of the Guide for Schools: Part 2 of the NSP (Phase 2). This map deals with the content of the NSP Toolkit aimed at supporting school in the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

NSP Toolkit

This is another mind map you might find useful when thinking about what will happen in phase 2 of the National Support Programme for the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

Stages of Phase 2

I am preparing for the 2nd Cluster Meetings in my role of NSP Partner and I am going through part 2 of the Guide for Schools and since I understand things better when I mind map them, here is a mind map of the Phases Activity diagram on page 38 of the document. I hope you will find it useful.

You can download the iMindMap version of the image below from this Biggerplate page, or navigate the Mind Map in this web view.

Phases Activities

You might have noticed from the changes in my profiles across the social media world that my role is changing and that I have been appointed as a National Support Programme Partner in Wales by CfBT. I will work with them four days a week and developing as an independent consultant for one day a week, so if you are looking for CPD training in your school give me a shout 😉

But back to the focus of this post. When I was preparing for my interview I was trying to get a clear picture in my mind of what the National Support Programme offers and what the role of the NSP Partners involve. If you have come across me before, you probably know that the process of getting a clear mental picture of things to me means only one thing – Mind Mapping :-). So, I made two Mind Maps that really helped me organise my thoughts around these issues. I have added the images of these two Mind Maps below, but if you are an iMindMap user, click on each image and you will be taken to the Biggerplate page where the maps are stored and where you’ll be able to download them and use with iMindMap.

The National Support Programme

National Support Programme

The role of the NSP Partner

NSP Partner Role

I hope you will find these tools useful. Please leave a comment below as feedback.

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.

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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.

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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!

In my previous post I showed the first part of my boys’
story mind map, i.e. the mind map we designed together to tell the story they
were creating. We used iMindMap 5 because we wanted eventually to narrate their
story by recording audio comments on branches. That turned out to be a really
effective and creative process. Having the mind map as their main structure for
the story allowed the boys (4 and 6) to not only see the whole picture, but
also to break down the story in little chunks that they could narrate very
easily. In fact, on each branch they could record their voices narrating what
the branches represented. This was telling the story itself and by playing back
each branch’s audio comment they could listen to their story and show Mamma
(Italian for Mum) their creation and impress her!

We couldn’t upload the new version of their mind map (with
audio comments) on Biggerplate, because it is too big, but you can watch a video of their narrated story below.

I believe that this process could be extremely useful in
story writing, as it helps learners to design a coherent story and see how the
whole story unfolds in their mind map, as well as splitting the story into
branches that the learners can narrate. It will then become very easy to
transfer their story from their iMindMap 5 audio maps into paper, or a blog!

Please, leave a comment to my boys mind map, as they will be
very pleased to see others appreciate their work!

Thanks!!!

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.

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.

This sound like a really interesting competition. Get your kids to Rap about Science! Writing poem, rhymes and songs is a really engaging way for students to remember and understand Science concepts more deeply. In fact, writing a song which has certain parameters and with rhymes is a fantastic tool that helps learners to develop not only Literacy skills, but also thinking. A Rapper often uses his/her wit and humour to get their message across with the interesting way they have to play on words. Transferring this skill to Science is really useful, because it can help learners to represent difficult scientific concepts in a more memorable way and think deeply about the meaning of physical, chemical and biological processes as well as building their own models to consolidate understanding.

A good example is the first verse of this poem written by one of my yr 12 pupils last year:

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

You can download the full leaflet about this competition launched by Hands on Science here HOS Rap competition A4