Thursday, 10 April 2014

Can Augmented Reality Improve Writing?

For inspiring and creating writing opportunities in class, I have found Augmented Reality to be superb. I have recently been using an Augmented Reality showcase app to inspire writing with a mixed Year 1/2 class. It has not only engaged and motivated them but provided them with an exciting visual stimulus that has created some incredible writing - read more here.

I wanted to see whether using Augmented Reality improves writing. So with a Year 5 class, I decided to try a little experiment.

I started the lesson by providing the children with this image and I asked them to write a description of it:

Despite having little to work with, I was impressed with some of their writing. However I wanted to see whether colouring the picture and then bringing it to life through Augmented Reality would improve the quality of writing.

Once they had finished writing their first description I asked them to colour their picture - 

Once completed, it was time to bring the picture to life using ColAR Mix app. This app is another fantastic showcase app that allows children to colour in the trigger images and see their creations come to life using augmented reality. There are a few free pictures and more can be unlocked with an in app purchase. But the potential for creative writing stimulus using the app is incredible! Here is an example of how @ThisIsLiamM and his class has used this app -
Once the children had closely observed their bird come to life, move and interact with its surroundings, it was time to have a go at writing another description. I was hoping that because children had coloured their bird and seen it move and come to life they would have more ideas and language to use in their descriptions. I wanted to see whether this process actually inspired the children to create better quality writing. Here is a video of the whole lesson:

Using Augmented Reality To Inspire And Improve Writing from Mr L Parkinson on Vimeo.

Here are some examples of the before and after descriptions, what do you think? Has Augmented Reality improved the quality of writing, giving children more precise language to use in their desctiptions? Personally, I think so and for some of the more reluctant writers, it certainly gave them a lot more ideas to work with, see what you think:


Let's do Mental Maths - YES PLEASE!!!!

It is that time of year again, when teacher's are desperately trying to prepare for SATs tests and looking for ways in which to get those all important results. The Year 6 teachers asked are there any really good apps to help with revising different topics. I have previously blogged about ways in which I use the iPads to make the SPAG more bearable - read here. I have recently discovered two new apps from Andrew Brodie, focusing on Mental Maths and they both are BRILLIANT!

The two apps are aimed at KS1 and KS2 and both are great ways for children to practice every objective of their mental maths.

They can enter their names and keep a running assessment of their progress through practise questions and a range of different tests.

Each test orally reads the questions for children who may struggle with their reading. They provide a variety of different question types and even has a hint button that simplifies the answer for the children.

What impresses me most about this app is the fact that children can pick a particular area they struggle with. When they click a area they want to practise they then see all the objectives building up by difficulty. Children can then click the objective and answer a range of questions linking to it. This means the app can be easily differentiated so children can work at their own level and pace.

They Year 6 team are using this app almost daily and the Year 2 teachers are also using it to help practise different aspects of numeracy in the run up to SATs. Here is what one Year 6 teacher thinks of the app:
"An incredibly useful resource for teachers and students looking at improving mental maths and rapid recall of a range of maths topics. Children are instantly corrected and can work at their own level with banks of questions differentiated linking to different objectives. It is also easy to monitor progress as children's scores are saved and recorded into charts for teachers to use for assessments. For competitive children, it encourages them to beat themselves and improve their scores. I would strongly recommend this app to Year 6 teachers preparing for SATs as a useful tool to have."

Both apps are priced at £1.99 and well worth the cost. You can download Mental Maths 6-7 here or

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Descriptive Tweets!

Last week, I trialled a new app with a Year 4 Class. The app Path On, allows children to creating a line or shape onto a picture, which they can then fill with words to create a really effective descriptive picture. The children enjoyed the app and the results were really effective -

I was really impressed with the rich description generated from the image, I decided to use the picture again this week with a different Year 4 class to attempt some description with a different twist.

I am a big advocate of developing writing through constraints - adding rules to make children play and experiment with language. I first came across these ideas through Alan Peat and some of his brilliant approaches linked with Oulipo.

I have recently been experimented with different constraints in writing such as creating stories with hidden messages and also using some social media trends that add constraints. Today the children had another constraint to challenge them!

Twitter is a social media platform that seems to be getting more and more popular! Why, because everyday it encourages you to play with language and words. You only have 140 characters to get across your message and so whenever you send a tweet it needs to be concise and direct. I decided to challenge my year 4 class to try and describe the picture in as much detail as possible only using 140 characters. I was strict with this, no more, no less. I provided a grid 14 columns by 10 rows as a template for children to use. I explained that 140 characters means spaces and punctuation count just as much as letters. I then let them have a go, it was great! Straight away they children got to the end but were either a few characters short or over. Then they had to look at some of their word choices, what can they change? What can they add? Which word will carry the most meaning rather than clutter with 3/4 adjectives? 

It also made children more aware of punctuation, they questioned apostrophes and commas, discussing whether they should be there? Suddenly children were adding ellipses and brackets to help them reach their target. 

It also made the children a lot more conscious of spelling. One word spelt incorrectly at the start of their writing would have a knock on effect for the rest of the description. Suddenly, dictionaries were out, children were checking and rising to the challenge. I was really surprised and impressed with how the challenge engaged and inspired the class. Maybe because I wasn't asking for quantity it grabbed their attention, or the idea of creating a tweet sounded cool. Either way it worked and the children relished in the challenge - here are some efforts:

There are plenty of other ways to use twitter as a constraint - create a book review in a tweet, evaluate a lesson or their learning, retell a fairytale in a tweet, retell different genre stories as a tweet or create a poem as a tweet. Any of these will have your children playing and experimenting with words!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Using Augmented Reality to Inspire Augmented Reality - Aliens in the Classroom!!!

The Year 1/2 class I work with had an extremely enjoyable day today when they discovered Aliens in the Classroom!

Using the App String, children were able to scan a picture and see an alien moving around the classroom - an amazing WOW moment! String is a AR showcase app, there are plenty on the app store and they really inspire some great writing opportunities. To see examples of this - click here.

The children then wrote short description about their new classmate and drew a picture. Using the iPad children then interviewed their alien using Morfo and also created a news report using Tellagami.

Then using Aurasma, the children's iPad work was then linked to the children's work. The children's writing was used as the trigger image:

Here is a link to all the other descriptions or trigger images that link to the children's videos - click here.

To view the Auras, you will need to open the Aurasma app, click search - find davyhulme and follow or like. You should then be able to then scan the above images and see the linked digital content! The future of displays in my eyes! How to bring displays alive by scanning pictures and writing to display all the digital work children produce on iPads. I have previously blogged about using Augmented Reality in the classroom and you can read it here. Otherwise enjoy the project below:

Selfie Carroll Diagrams!

I have previously used the app Doodle Buddy for children to sort data into a Carroll diagram - I have blogged using the app for data handling activities here.

Today I used another app to create a Carroll Diagram. The app Pic Collage is an app used a lot in schools but not always used to enhance learning, rather substitute what can be done on paper with colourful posters. I have previously blogged about different ways to use Pic Collage to enhance learning here. Today I used it with a class of year 1/2 to create some Carroll Diagrams.

First the children set their background as the blank Carroll Diagram then using the iPad camera took pictures of children in the class and sorted them into the necessary sections. The children loved the activity to create and sort data, the results were fantastic!

It wouldn't just be carroll diagrams that pic collage can be used for, venn diagrams and pictograms could also be created. Children may not necessarily need to take selfies of each other as data, it could be shapes around the classroom maybe? What is for sure is that this is another great way to use Pic Collage in the classroom!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Coveritlive - a great tool in the Classroom!

I have to start by thanking +David Mitchell (@deputymitchell,) @Cherise_Duxbury and @HGJohn for their ideas and inspiration with this fantastic tool.

Coveritlive is a web based live blogging tool that can be embedded into your school blog. It can be used in so many different ways in the classroom and as a whole school.

You can sign up for a free account and then upgrade to an education account which gives you all the features for free. I first came across Coveritlive after seeing it used with @Deputymitchell and @PieCorbett. The idea that children can have a live writing session with a real author and have some of their ideas commented on and be given feedback immediately. You could see instantly the immediate impact it had on the children and their writing and the quality coming through.

For some examples of session from David and Pie - Click here and here.

I have tried some live writing with a number of classes all to a great reception from the children and some quality writing. Having the opportunity to feedback immediately to children and them see how they can improve their writing within the lesson is a great tool to have. I have currently only ran the sessions by myself so to do it with a special guest or even another class would be something really special. Here is an example of a live writing session I have completed with a Year 6 class:

Another example of how we have used Coveritlive was part of a recent eSafety week with thanks to @HGJohn for the idea. We duped a Year 5 class to believe they were having a online chat with a special guest - a young girl from America. We wanted to test how much information the children would share but also to shock them into realising that people online are not always who they say they are. I acted as the young girl Maddie and chatted with the class. When I revealed to the class that they were actually speaking to me, the penny really dropped. They were shocked but quickly realised the lesson behind the activity. Here is the session:

Coveritlive also provides an iPhone app that allows you to run a session straight from your phone. This was perfect for broadcasting our school sports day. For parents who couldn't be at the event or family members who live further away, they could enjoy the sports day live as it happened. The app allows you to add text, pictures, audio and video recordings meaning every race was filmed and added to the session for all to enjoy. Here is the session:

There are plenty of other ways this can be used in the classroom. A teacher or TA could pretend to be a book character, famous historical figure or celebrity for children to interview as a coveritlive session. An interview with Father Christmas perhaps? I am sure there is a a wealth of professionals on twitter who would love a Q&A session with an enthusiastic class! Either way, this tool is an absolute must for the classroom.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

KS1 Topic "9 to 5" on the iPads

Each week, I work with a split Year 1/2 class. Since September I have been using the iPads to try and enhance learning in all the subjects I have been asked to cover. Although most of the children have access to iPads or similar technology at home, it has been a tough task getting quality work from the class using iPads. Even though most children can navigate around an iPad, turning the children from consumers to creators has been the challenge.

It has been a journey from September which has been more about getting children to follow instructions and working with independence. But with perseverance, I feel we are now at a stage where children are creating quality on the iPads.

The recent topic for the class has been "9 to 5." A topic based around working and different jobs. The children went on a trip to a local Krispy Kreme shop. To recount what the children did on the trip, they created slideshows using the app Shadow Puppets. This app allows you to add pictures and record audio while zooming and highlighting the picture.

A really simple yet effective app and one KS1 children seemed to be able to use and create some great recounts of their trips with. Here are some of the children's efforts:

As part of the topic, children have also been learning about different jobs within the school by interviewing different staff. To share and showcase what the children have learnt they used the app Morfo and brought pictures of some of the staff to life. Although it doesn't do the members of staff any justice and I apologise to them for that, the children loved this activity. 

It is a interesting and enjoyable way for children to share what they have learnt. Made the learning so much more captivating and by encouraging speaking and listening skills which can then help develop the children's writing. Here are some of the children's examples:

After the children had interviewed and learnt all about different jobs it was time for them to think about what they would like to do in years to come. To help inspire the class, they created pictures of themselves as the job they want to do. To do this they used the app Pic Collage. The children loved seeing themselves as a doctor, footballer and others. I have put all their pictures into a film using Animoto:

After the pictures were created, they were then used as a backdrop to a Tellagami, where children recorded an animation explaining why it is their dream job and what they need to do to achieve it. Again as a way to inspire the class and create a video which can be used to aid the writing process, it was a great activity. Now I feel the children are at a level where their listening skills and independence is at a point where they can focus on the quality of their work rather than knowing how to use certain apps. I look forward to some of the other work we will be doing using the iPads in KS1. Here are some of the children's tellagamis: