I have just created a new page on this site devoted to programming in primary schools. It includes links to general resources, software, online tools and apps. Hopefully, it will be a useful source of ideas and information in preparation for the Computing curriculum in 2014. Please let me know if there are obvious resources I have missed!
Some news for teachers in the Cheshire/Wirral area and beyond: the next Primary TeachMeet, organised by the #teachmeetchester team, will be on Thursday 26th September at the University Church of England Academy (UCEA) in Ellesmere Port. TeachMeetEP is aimed at primary teachers (though all teachers and trainees are very welcome), but we have the opportunity to use the state-of-the-art facilities at UCEA - also, a great chance to look around this innovative new building!
If you are new to the TeachMeet idea, then this short video explains what they are all about. We already have some really interesting presentations set up, but are on the look out for more. Although TeachMeets are usually about technology for learning, you don't have to show and tell about ICT - come along and share any good idea for enhancing learning in primary schools!
TeachMeetEP will run from 4.30 - 6.00pm (with registration and refreshments available from 4.00pm) and there is plenty of free parking.
You can sign up and find more information here: http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/66917919/TeachMeetEP
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments. For news and views about TeachMeet Ellesmere Port, follow @TeachMeetEP on Twitter.
Thanks to Irritable Tech for pointing out the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Swiggle website, which has a Google-powered safe search tool on its home page. According to SWGfL, the tool 'is created using Google Custom Search with Safe Search functionality enabled. The Search promotes specific educational keywords in order to help provide results with an educational focus. In addition some sites have been blocked to help prevent inappropriate results being provided'. The site still suggests that filtering should be enabled when searching, but this looks to be a useful tool for primary children's research. It also links through to some of the best online e-safety resources, including some really useful child-friendly advice on effective searching.
Also, not a search tool, but yet another really good free online photo editor has come to my attention - Picadilo has all the usual filters and effects in a straightforward interace. Reminds me a little of the late, lamented Picnik; which is high praise!
Finally, an invitation to all primary teachers to a TeachMeet! Details in the poster below. If you would like to attend, please leave a message in the Comments box and I will pass it on.
Had a query the other day about safe, learner friendly sites for research in primary and teaching/learning about web searching. Everyone is so used to Google now as first choice for web search that other very useful sites tend to be ignored and (worryingly) Google is often used in schools and settings without an awareness of its potential dangers. First off, it is very easy to make Google relatively secure and child-friendly - on all computers that you are using, go to Google settings and set the SafeSearch filter to Strict (set a password, if learners are likely to interfere). Alternatively, set up a Google Custom Search for the topic that children will be researching - very easy to do (just make a list of sites that you want to be included), though it could be argued that it rather defeats the point of web searching by taking away the unexpected(?). On Bing, safe searching is set up in much the same way as in Google - trust Microsoft to be a copyist!
Always remember that image searching can never be 100% safe, so always proceed with caution - Google Safe Images purports to offer safe image searching, but should never be used without close supervision. The only site I would be entirely confident about is pics4learning.com.
Away from the corporate search tools, other specific tools for children include:
Its that time of year again when, among other things, we get top 10 lists and reviews of the year - guilty on the first count last year, but not yet on the second! Thought I 'd devote this post to sharing some new 'finds' plus a few favourites that I keep returning to.
First, a new find that I would have included in the last post about image editing if I'd been aware of it. Fotor is available in several formats for a range of platforms, but as an online tool it has a comprehensive selection of adjustments and filters in a Windows 8 style interface. It does nothing that can't be done with a number of other tools, but it does do it with a certain style. Picfull is at the other end of the image-editing spectrum, with an emphasis on simplicity. It has an interesting range of filters, however, and can quickly transform a dull photo into something more eye-catching. With so many free online tools now available, is there a future for desktop photo editing packages? Professionals will probably always need the sophistication of Photoshop and Snapseed, which is not yet available online, remains my favourite image editing app - it is still the quickest and easiest tool to create dramatic effects.
Thinglink is a tool for creating interactive images by embedding icons with links to text, video, sounds or other images. If you want to create an image from scratch using painting tools, Odosketch is an attractively designed online tool to rival some of the simpler desktop programs. Paper by FiftyThree for the iPad is an alternative - beautifully designed and a winner of this year's Apple Design Award. Draw Island is more child-friendly and mixes the conventions of painting and drawing programs by including lines and shapes alongside a free-hand pencil tool. Colour selection is rather non-intuitive, but the animation option is promising.
Mapwing is a virtual tour creator that locates images and comments on a map of a building or site - the map can be created using a basic drawing interface or by importing an image. Creating a tour is a straightforward step-by-step process and there is a gallery of tours to explore. Overall, the site does its job well, though the finished tours are a bit dull - this one being a prime example!
My Storymaker is a much more exciting proposition! Using ready-made characters and prompts, it helps young children to structure and write a simple story on-screen. The interface is well designed and appealing - reminiscent of Kerpoof, which is high praise!
Finally, if you are looking for good quality images that can be freely used in blogs, on websites and/or in documents, then try Photopin or Pixabay - two really well designed and useful sites.
Now for a couple of Top 10s - each in no particular order.
Below are some more tools for manipulating and editing images - all produce quite impressive effects using simple child-friendly interfaces. The final link is to one of the best educational games I have come across in a long time!
_An updated list to include a couple of new 'finds'. The list below isn't definitive, but it includes some useful tools for telling stories.
Storyboarding using comic strip software has great potential for developing children's narrative skills in literacy. As well as desktop software, such as Comic Life, there are several online resources available.
Some 'finds' for September. Mainly literacy-related.
Textivate is a simple, but very useful tool for literacy activities - simply paste any text up to 500 words and it creates a range of online tasks and games from it, ranging from ordering activities to cloze procedures.
Linxy is a smartphone app which uses augmented reality (AR) technology to quickly obtain information when reading books or magazines. Simply point your phone's camera at some text and zoom onto a word or phrase. Linxy will instantly obtain word explanations or definitions. Very simple. The app works offline and uses Wikipedia and Wiktionary as sources, which could be a blessing or a curse. Worth a try, though.
Write Comics is a simple comic strip maker that needs adding to my list of story boarding tools. Unlike Toonlet, it requires no login, but its simplicity may be quite restricting. Again, worth a try.
Domo Animate from GoAnimate is an interesting addition to the range of online animation tools.
PicLits is quite brilliant. Again a tool for developing literacy skills, users can choose from a gallery of images and then insert words suggested by the chosen image using drag-and-drop or free text entry. An example below.
Image: © Tony Pickford - The clock on Burton Church, Cheshire.
Following up a post on Twitter about online timeline creators, I searched back through these blog posts to find my own list and realised I hadn't done one! A fairly serious omission as timelines provide a particularly appropriate bridge between my interests in history and in web technology for learning. So, without further ado, my list of timeline 'apps' in no particular order - starting with some online tools which display, rather than allow creation of timelines.
On to timeline creators, all of which offer free basic accounts. Note not an exhaustive list:
As we approach a new school year, I thought the post below (originally from February) may now be very relevant for all those planning their ICT for 2012-13.
Although the disapplying of the ICT programmes of study in September raises some issues and concerns (see That Speech ... from 12th January), there is no doubt that it presents opportunities to re-focus ICT work in schools and create activities, schemes and frameworks which are innovative, creative and downright exciting! A blank slate on which to work can be intimidating, however, and most primary ICT co-ordinators will need support, if they are replace current National Curriculum-based planning with something better. Fortunately, there is plenty of support out there! Many teachers and local authority support services have, for some time, viewed National Curriculum ICT as a baseline and minimum entitlement from which to develop a rich, relevant, up-to-date activities and schemes. Below are just a few of the best documents to support ICT planning in a PoS-free world.
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.