QwertyTown is the Sumdog of the typing world, and that is meant as a great compliment. The website aims to teach that all-important skill of typing in a way that is motivating, enjoyable and meaningful for children.
As a teacher, set-up is easy, and a free 30-day trial is available. Real-time feedback is available when you track your classes, as below, and enables you to see who is doing well and who is struggling, at a glance:
The children are picking up good habits from the beginning - and some will struggle with the notion of using their little finger to type the letter 'a' - but persevere and the benefits will be clear to see.
Another very useful feature is the ability to select your own Achievement Levels for what constitutes a gold, silver, or bronze medal. This means the site can differentiate effectively between older and younger classes - a gold medal for a Y2 child could be 10 wpm but for Y4 could be 15 wpm, for example. This means the children can be rewarded appropriately based on what might be expected for their age. That is for you to decide as a teacher:
The gaming elements stop this site from becoming 'just another typing ' - and will keep your students motivated way beyond the classroom. Performances in the keyboard drills are rewarded with Qwerty Coins - the more accurate and nimble, the greater the reward. These are used to customise an avatar with a range of clothing and accessories:
So, give it a go. You'll be working out how to pay for a subscription....!
Hacking. That's right. This lesson is taught just before the children go outside for their g̶r̶a̶f̶f̶i̶t̶i̶ Art lesson. Not really. In fact, don't forget to stress that hacking is a constructive, collaborative process, and not a destructive one. I have found this works well with my Year 5 children - somewhere around 10 years of age. It is not a how-to guide as such but pointers after having used this in the classroom.
8 tips for using X-Ray Goggles in the classroom:
1. Make sure you are using a modern web browser. Preferably not Internet Explorer 7. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox generally work well, and I am told later versions of IE are OK, but have yet to test this theory.
2. Spend some time as a class looking at a website or two with a few images and areas of text that can be changed. Websites such as bbc.co.uk or nationalgeographic.com work well for this and can be modified easily.
3. Why not remix (hack!) your own school website? It is at this point that it should be stressed to your class that the actual website itself is not being modified - just what is being displayed in the browser. Have a bit of fun with your class, though, before you explain this fact! Oh, no, we've changed the main headline on CNN for whole world to see...etc etc.
4. Giving your children carte-blanche to remix (hack!) their favourite website is not a great idea in my experience. Some websites do not lend themselves to easy manipulation with X-Ray Goggles and may make for a frustrating experience for the child concerned, over the child who chose bbc.co.uk and is now giggling at their new headlines...
5. If you don't have one, make sure they create a Mozilla account to save their remixes. This is easy if they already have Google Accounts. They sign into their Google Account and then click 'Sign in' as below - easy!
6. This one may seem obvious, but make sure the children have an outlet for their remixes - a class blog, website or even display. They will be so proud of the end results it is a shame for them to sit gathering metaphorical dust in their Mozilla accounts.
7. This project is great for emphasising e-safety and general positive digital citizenship and anti-cyberbullying. Again, an obvious one, but worth pointing out that remixed stories/images should not cause offence to anyone viewing it. I always say - imagine the head teacher is displaying your work to the entire school in assembly - would you be happy for this to happen? They will then generally self-police and think again!
8. Use this handy guide for assessment taken from here:
Enjoy, and don't hesitate to share any great remixes!
We've all been there. For those that have used Pivot Stick Animator, you will know children from as young as Year 1 can come up with something akin to the top animation in a jiffy. Often this may be the extent to a Pivot journey, using only a small part of the software's potential. Here are 5 tips that go beyond the basics:
1. Paint your own background:
Use a program such as Paint, and create a scene for your stick figure to move in. White background? Less exciting unless you're doing a snow topic perhaps. A pretty sophisticated background can be developed in a short period of time:
*remember to save as a .bmp file
2. Convert another image file to a .bmp file to use as a background:
Recently my Year 5 students were allowed a lesson to revisit Pivot - most had used it in Year Two. We searched for platform game backgrounds such as Mario or Sonic and realised you can't just File>Load Background. This lead to some discussion about file formats. To convert .jpg files to .bmp files we used the following site:
The main things to remember when resizing are:
(a) to click 'Custom Size' and type in 506 x 415 for the image size. This is the size of the Pivot Stickfigure background in pixels.
(b) to make sure you select BMP as here:
(c) press the yellow button:
(d) Voila! This image can be added to Pivot now as in File>Load Background. Your Pivot Animations will now have something of the 21st century about them...
3. Saving your animation as a .gif file:
Many Pivot animations do not end up being used outside the software. When saving an animation, look at the drop-down selection box as you see here:
Save your animation in this way as a .gif file and they can be added anywhere images can be added - how about a class montage using your favourite movie-creating software? Or added to a class page on your blog?
4. Use the keyboard to speed up the animation process:
If you drag your character slowly using the central orange dot, AND AT
THE SAME TIME tap the enter key or spacebar, every keyboard press will create one frame of your animation. Drawback being the rest of the character's body is not moving, but useful for gliding/floating. Saves clicking Next Frame all the time.
5. Use a website such as Droidz and YouTube to use as an inspiration for your students:
This one requires discretion and I would not suggest you show this website to your class necessarily. However it does give many ready-made characters that can be incorporated into longer Pivot projects - suitable characters and props that you could download ahead of a lesson for your children to use. It will inspire them to make their own too. Indeed, YouTube has many Pivot projects (many with just white backgrounds?!) but again preparation ahead of time is necessary, unless you are happy with your class watching a violent stick battle....!
So have fun with Pivot - it's so much more than:
VLEs. Online Porfolios. All great (!) but what happens to the content when pupils leave school? A lot of the time not a lot. But that needn't be the case with bulbapp.com - a place for teachers and students to collaborate, and reach a wide audience at the same time. They can even access their portfolios after they leave, apparently.
You can read about 'what makes bulb different' here and see some example portfolios.
Back to my classroom. I am 'experimenting' with my Year 5 students using this service. We have been examining different forms of making online stop-frame animations, and want a way to pull together their findings, whilst learning some new skills, and avoiding Microsoft Office. Bulbapp.com allows me to set a task - almost flipped-learning style (brownie points for insertion of current buzz-phrase) and watch them develop a pretty nifty way of showing what they have learnt in this 'topic'.
So, to set a task is pretty easy:
I can set this so just my classes can see it, or open up to a wider audience. Bulb are running a pilot program for 2014-15 with access for half price - $25USD (16GBP), but it is free to sign up and see if you like the feel of it:
The layout is nice and simple, so you won't spend hours changing font colours and sizes and the like - save that for another time - and it's something that if you like the look of it, isn't going to break the bank. Have a look and see if it is something you could use - I will update with how it works in the classroom in a later post.
These are interesting websites, great for whole-class use for those unexpected 5 minute slots you need to fill. Here's hoping there's at least one you have not seen before.
In no particular order:
1 - Barry Martin's Hopalong Visualiser
Create a vortex journey to travel to a new world. Great for those moments when you need your class wound up a bit more. Move the mouse/press on the screen to change direction.
2 - Rainyday Screen
Fool your class into thinking it is raining inside your classroom. That's it.
3 - incredibox.com
Create some cool jams by clicking on individual characters to make them play a certain part of a song loop. Choose from Beats, Effects, Melodies and Voices. A minimum of 10 recorded loops is required to save and share/download a composition.
A classic game (well, I think I've seen it before) - divide your class into two teams and let battle commence. Or something like that.
In fact, one of the above sites does not rely on any interaction at all. But still looks pretty cool!