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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Inspiring locational writing using Google Street View

As with most recent posts I must start by recommending the great "Apps gone free," app for inspiring this post. This app has been a god send for schools working on a budget to find apps that for a limited time have gone free.

A couple of weeks ago an app caught my eye which looked like it could be very useful as a stimulus for writing. Panorama 360 cities (£1.49) allows users to upload their own panorama photos of places all over the world. Within the app, children can bring up these beautiful images and explore every inch and angle of a particular setting. Here is an example:






High tide mark. Gili Trawangan in Indonesia

Children can also create their own panorama style photos but I think the real potential for using this app in the classroom would be as a visual stimulus to inspire locational writing.

While this is a great app for free, I do believe it has now returned to full price. So an equally enjoyable and useful resource to use would be Google Street View.

Google maps allows you to drop the street view icon on to nearly street in the world and allows to see a panorama street level image. Alongside streets you can explore famous landmarks, natural wonders and even explore the inside of certain buildings. This can open a whole world of possibilities to where a story can be set and provides the children a visual image to base their writing. For some inspiration of where to visit click here and click here.

From an iPad children can investigate Google street view within the Google Earth app however this is limited compared to the version through a desktop PC. An example of one of the Google Street images can be seen here:



Within Google Maps, children can also further investigate nearby images that people have taken and uploaded to the site. The interactive approach from the panorama means children are able to navigate the picture to explore every part. This helps the children become more immersed in the setting. They will be able to then describe what they can see, hear, smell and feel more easily as the illusion makes the children feel that they are actually there.

I am forever using and promoting Alan Peat's approaches to developing writing in the classroom and this article from his website provides some perfect activities to help develop children's writing of settings while linking to these types of pictures. You can read the article here.

So next time you are wanting the children to really develop the setting within their story, use a panorama photo and inspire them to explore every inch and immerse themselves in the setting.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Starting our blogging with a BANG!

So a new school year and while I have started my very exciting venture as a part time consultant, I have also started back at school! Even though I am only working in school for 3 days a week I want to make the most of the time I have with the children. This year, I really want to focus on embedding blogging alongside learning in the classroom especially with using iPads. Blogging is the perfect platform to showcase work produced in the classroom, in particular work produced on iPads (animations, podcasts, films etc.) Last year, I saw snippets of how effective blogging can be and the impact this can have on children's learning. Some examples of this can be found here and here. For information on how blogging has impacted on writing follow @DeputyMitchell.

In my quest to find a topic that I want to ignite the children's passion to write and share work through the school blog, I watched a very moving and interesting film over the summer called Blackfish. The documentary exposes the dreadful life of Killer Whales in captivity. Although I don't feel the film is appropriate for children to watch and have emphasised this point with them (some scenes of the whales attacking trainers etc.) The message that it portrays, however, is one I wanted to share with the class. I wanted to use a real life issue to inspire writing and this is one that the film has really brought into the public eye.

I wanted to start this topic with a 'BANG!' and create something that would grab people's attention. So I discussed with the children about creating an awareness video. I thought it would be something that would bring a lot of traffic to the blog, hence show the children the audience for their writing that would follow over the next couple of weeks. I also wanted to involve the children in this process and let them decide on how our video should look.

After the children had researched some of the effects captivity has on whales we noted them to use in our video. We discussed how to present our video to get the biggest reaction from the audience. We knew that people wouldn't let it happen to children but were happy to let it happen to these beautiful animals and that was something we wanted to bring out in the video.

We then looked at other features such as video effects and emotive music to support our message. What we hope for now is that the video is seen by as many people as possible and see our message. In turn, the children will realise the power blogging can have to share a message and give them the power to express themselves.

So please share, tweet, pin, like, link, Google+ do whatever you can to help share this message and inspire the children to write with a real purpose for a real audience.

Here is a link to our class blog - http://davyhulmeyear5.primaryblogger.co.uk please visit here to keep updated with some of the work produced by the class.

Here is our video:

UPDATE - 24 hours later - WOW! Just had a glance at the number of views for the video and it has just surpassed 1,000!

The reaction has been quite stunning! Endless comments and feedback from people all over the world, showing just how powerful the internet can be as a way to share a message.

After sharing on Twitter and Facebook, I was taken aback by some of the messages we received, especially from some of the cast of the film.
Imagine my surprise when I then received this message from Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of the film Blackfish.
I am so excited to share this with the class and the other comments from the YouTube video and the class blog. Some other awareness websites have even wrote about it - SeattlePI, Ecorazzi and Orca Aware.

UPDATED - 12/09/2013

So after a week of amazing messages about our video, the children were simply gobsmacked at how many people had visited the blog and left comments, they were so inspired to see how global the video had gone! Within the week I had managed to arrange an interview with an ex Seaworld trainer and star of Blackfish, Samantha Berg. The children were so excited to speak to her and prepared a range of questions to ask. We used Google Hangout to connect which live streams the talk to YouTube and saves it as a video. Here is our Q&A session:




It was such an inspiring session for the children who revelled in the opportunity to ask and learn from an expert and someone who has worked with and now supports the movement to end captivity for these animals. I have to say a MASSIVE thank you to Sam who woke up early (5am) to speak to us. But it has definitely had a impact as the children are already busy blogging away about what they have learnt on this topic. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read and comment on the children's work to help encourage their writing - http://davyhulmeyear5.primaryblogger.co.uk/category/whale-project/

We are hoping to organise another hangout with Sam, Gabriela Cowperthwaite the director of Blackfish and another trainer, Jeffrey Ventre. I want the children to continue to write about this topic knowing that they will be able to share their work with these experts!