ISSN 1470-5524

Practical advice for colleagues who use, teach, lead or manage information and communication technology (ICT) in schools.

29 November 2011
 

In this issue…


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BETT Awards finalists announced

Each year at BETT awards are given out for the best ICT products and services in various categories. You can read the full list of finalists for 2011 here: BETT Awards.

I’m pleased to have had dealings with some of the ones named, but tempting as it is to list them all here in order to impress you with my sound judgement, I think it better to be as scrupulously fair as possible and say nothing.

Rebecca Law, from Rising Stars, drew my attention to this interesting discussion about “innovation” on the BETT Blog. If innovation is something you get exercised about, you may enjoy the short video featured in The Loneliness of the Far-Sighted Innovator?.

Incidentally, the BETT blog is worth looking at. It features some great articles by such luminaries as Dave Smith, Tony Parkin and Dan Roberts.

Collabor8 4 Change at BETT 2012

We had a fantastic three hours at Collabor8 4 Change at Havering on the 17th November. Variety is the spice of life, so with 56 topics to choose from in total, everyone was catered for. To give you a flavour of the event, here is a selection of the talks and discussions featured. (To avoid any accusation of bias, I have simply taken the talks and discussions from the very first session).
 

Now, if you are feeling really devastated that you were not able to be there, we have two bits of good news. First, parts of the evening were recorded, and that will be available on Tuesday. Look out for an announcement about that on the ICT in Education website  and also the new Collabor8 4 Change website – and that’s the second piece of good news. We are running the event at the BETT show in January, so if you’re going to that make sure you come to Collabor8 4 Change on the Thursday, ie 12th January 2011, from 6pm to 9pm. Russell Prue will be our keynote and Master of Ceremonies, and we already have several people attending and two people running table discussions. Bev Evans  will be running a discussion on the theme of Digital Literacy Tools & reluctant writers, whilst Russell will be addressing the issue of how to start a live school radio station from scratch for free. OK, here is the bad news: we’re limited to a total number of attendees of 150, so you will need to order a ticket quickly if last year’s “sales” are anything to go by. I haven’t promoted this beyond emailing the list of attendees at the recent one, so you have the opportunity of booking up before it becomes too widely publicised (just one of the many immeasurable benefits you enjoy by subscribing to this esteemed publication).

Also, if you would like to run a table discussion – which I highly recommend: everyone enjoys doing so – we will need to have the final details by 9th December (or even sooner if you need any special arrangements to be considered). That’s only about three weeks!

To register as a delegate and, hopefully, put yourself down for a talk, go to the BETT C84C website now!

Anti-bullying

It’s recently been anti-bullying week in the UK. (It would be nice to think that every week was anti-bullying week, wouldn’t it?! Still, it’s good to have a special focus on it from time to time.) Here are some facts, figures and links you might like to look at.

Types of bullying

Over 35,000 children aged 11 to 18 from almost 100 secondary schools were asked questions as part of the NFER Attitude Surveys about the types of bullying they had experienced over their last 12 months and why they think they may have been bullied. The full analysis can be found at:  www.nfer.ac.uk/asur, where you will be able to download the report for free.

‘Being left out’ is more common amongst girls than boys. However, it was found that the link between this type of bullying and poor emotional wellbeing is stronger in boys.

Other findings from the analysis include:

Pupils who have been the victim of bullying are most likely to mention ‘lies or rumours’ about them or their appearance as the reason they think they have been bullied.

Technology and behaviour

I don’t normally publish press releases as such, but the following one is interesting because of the approach taken. A data management and security company has teamed up with an educational charity and an e-safety software company to reduce cyberbullying. From looking at the Redstor E-safety website it seems that Redstor provides the technology to enable a school to monitor what’s going on, and, for example, capture the use of inappropriate words. The partnership it has entered into with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (see below) seems to me like a sensible way of going about things. I was especially impressed by someone saying it’s a behavioural issue, not simply a technical one. Anyway, Paul Evans, MD at Redstor, a data management and security company, writes:

The safety of youngsters online is covered extensively in the news. Child protection experts warn that increasing numbers of young people are leaving themselves vulnerable online.

38% of children between the ages of 11 and 17 have received an inappropriate message either through text, email or Internet messaging. As a result, many organisations including Local Authorities, Schools and private sector organisations have endeavoured to address these issues but have been unable to pool their resources effectively to create an all inclusive solution. Less tangible but equally important areas such as education, behavioural monitoring and the issue of how to act once a problem has been highlighted are being missed.

The partnership between Redstor, Securus (which produces e-safety software for schools) and the Lucy Faithful Foundation (a charity concerned with reducing the sexual exploitation of children) has been created to tackle all aspects of online protection.

Businesses must ensure they focus not only on the technology to monitor online activity, such as access to harmful web sites, the unsafe or inappropriate use of email, computer programs and online applications, but also ensure they are aware of who should be involved in this monitoring activity e.g. teachers, LAs, parents etc. and what to do when an issue has been identified.

Redstor has a very strong customer base in the education sector, which allows partners such as Securus to target their e-Safety technology more appropriately ensuring schools and teachers have the vital tools to identify and evidence inappropriate online activity. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation can then step in and provide appropriate support and best practice advice to those involved.

Sally-Ann Griffiths, Director of E-safety at Securus Software, believes it is very important for businesses to pool their resources and work together, she comments: “We shouldn’t just look at the technology when discussing online threats; there is a behavioural issue to address first, which is where education and training is crucial.” She describes Redstor E-Safety as a unique solution, developed to ensure a safe online working environment for pupils and teachers by capturing ICT issues and misuse.

It is important for all organisations to ensure they have the relevant systems in place to identify, protect against and support youngsters in relation to online threats. All stakeholders have to take their share of the responsibility to ensure each aspect of the problem is addressed appropriately and work together in providing an all-inclusive solution.

One thing people need to be wary of are systems that are too efficient. I once visited a school where most of one year group had been banned from using the internet because of doing “inappropriate” searches – for the “Bloody Tower” in their history lessons!

Lesson plans and resources: The Beat Bullying Website

I’ve had a quick look around this website, and it seems pretty good. It’s intended for the UK, but would work anywhere I think. See what you think.

http://www2.beatbullying.org/abw2011/dox/resources.html

Safer Internet Day

Pippa Green of Childnet writes:

As February 7th 2012 is rapidly approaching, with it comes Safer Internet Day. We are happy to be able to share with you the launch of the UK Safer Internet Centre resource packs for both Primary and Secondary schools. This year’s theme aims to encourage pupils to think about their internet use, and the way that other age groups user the internet, and internet-enabled devices. Pupils will need to consider the ways in which different generations can teach each other about the internet, and share their experiences with one another, to promote discussion and understanding across the age groups. Pupils will be inspired to discuss their experiences with their families, therefore facilitating opportunities for safety advice to be shared in a constructive way.

For this year’s Safer Internet Day, the UK Safer Internet Centre challenges your school to:

Secondary (High) Schools

Use the lesson plan to enable debate and discussion surrounding internet issues. Challenge young people to understand the concerns of other generations. Showcase your debate to peers, parents, carers and grandparents; and give them the chance to join in!

Create an awareness raising campaign in your school to encourage all generations of the local community to connect to the internet safely!

Primary (Elementary) Schools

Use the lesson plan to enable your pupils to share their internet knowledge with their peers and with a selected audience within the community, to facilitate an exciting and collaborative group   learning experience.

Create a class song / jingle / rap / short play or sketch titled “How we connect online and why we love the internet” IN ADVANCE of Safer Internet Day that can be showcased at the end of the SID assembly on 7 February 2012.

For full supporting material, lesson plans and teacher guidance visit Safer Internet Day Schools Pack, to ensure your school is involved in Safer Internet Day 2012!   

Share with us the great things you do on February 7th for SID 2012 by emailing us at enquiries@saferinternet.org.uk and don’t forget to send your logo and we will put it up on our homepage!

Articles you may have missed on the ICT in Education website

25 Features of Outstanding ICT Lessons

8 Observations on flipping the classroom

Does ICT Improve Learning?

Given that the site is updated virtually every weekday, and sometimes at weekends too, you may easily miss one or two. Why not subscribe to the RSS feed? (If you’re not sure what this means, have a read of What's RSS and why is it useful?.) Alternatively, have the articles delivered to you by email. Here’s a preview of what that will look like, with a link to subscribe. These subscriptions are free!

If you do subscribe and you’ve still missed a few articles, or you would simply like to find more articles to read, check out Finding stuff on the ICT in Education website, and How to find all articles in a series quickly. There is also a search box on the front page of the site, and I have been experimenting recently with a widget that suggests a random selection of articles within each article and article summary.

Articles you may have missed on the Writers’ Know-how website

The Writers’ Know-how website’s main focus is how to (better) use technology in one’s writing. Although intended primarily for writers, there are some articles which may be useful in an education context, especially for pupils, such as:

The basic rule of blog headlines 

4 Ways to Write Quickly 

Using Twitter for creative writing

To find other articles, look in the Article Finder menu, scroll down the list of the last 50 articles, or read How to find all articles in a series quickly.

There are also an RSS feed and an email subscription options.

3D and haptics in education

By Terry Freedman

Unless you’ve been walking around with a bucket over your head for the past year or three, you must have noticed that 3D is definitely the “in” thing. It’s almost de rigueur for new movies to be in 3D, and there is even at least one smartphone which has a 3D display. But what about educational applications?

Before thinking about that, consider also that 3D isn’t confined to seeing. There is a growing range of 3D printers too, which produce three dimensional objects. They are used mainly for rapid prototyping at the moment, but universities are researching the possibility of churning out 3D hip replacements – see 3D Printing for more about such applications and other developments. But again, what about the educational possibilities?

There has been some research into the possibilities of using 3D display systems in schools. See, for example, How to use 3D in the classroom effectively. I have also come across research which concludes that pupils who are taught about real world objects in a 3D environment gain a more accurate knowledge and understanding of those objects than pupils taught using the traditional 2D approach (ie photographs, diagrams or videos).

Perhaps there are some other, less obvious, areas where 3D viewing or 3D printing could be effective. Take Economics, for example, a subject I know a bit about and used to teach. Many of the graphs presented to students represent snapshots in time, but should really have a third axis: time. What if you could actually print out a 3D facsimile of the three-dimensional graph? Or what if you could use 3D viewing software to explore a 3D image of a graph, in much the same way that you can, say, explore a landmark. (Try this out for yourself: download and install Google Earth, which is free, and then look http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/ to find images to view in Google Earth. You can then examine the object from all different angles by changing the compass setting, and zoom in and out.)

Another interesting development is haptics, which is to do with touch. I recently visited the HapTEL lab in Guys Hospital, London. There, under the auspices of Professor Margaret Cox, dental students are learning to practice their skills using a computer set-up that gives them feedback on whether they’re drilling in the right place and at the right pressure. Moreover, it’s a huge cost-saver: a real tooth costs £16, and once damaged can’t be re-used. Virtual teeth, on the other hand, can be used over and over again, saving the dental school at least £16,000 per term.

For more on the HapTEL project – which has, by the way, been shortlisted for an ICT Award in the “Innovation in ICT” category, see my article ICT gets all touchy-feely.

Again, is there scope for a haptics application which enables you feel particular things? There’s the obvious, of course, such experiencing what it’s like to be in an earthquake, but what about less obvious applications? What does an economic recession feel like, for instance, or the growth cycle of a plant? Is there even any merit in these kind of ideas?

Before becoming too carried away it’s as well to remember the technology effect, which is to say that it almost goes without saying that any new technology is likely to get the pupils more excited and, therefore, more engaged. Engaged pupils tend to learn more, and retain more, than non-engaged ones, and the more engaged they are, the better the outcome. I experienced something of this sort of effect myself, when the demonstration of exploring 3D on a SMARTBoard 885 interactive whiteboard had me gripped.

There is also the experimenter effect, which is that people, in this case teachers, tend to get the results they are expecting. In other words, a teacher who is enthusiastic about using a particular technology is almost bound to see good results from it. This ties in with something that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: the teacher effect. Everyone knows from their own experience or from anecdotal evidence that the teacher makes all the difference, but it’s more than that. There was some research carried out over thirty years ago into using technology in the teaching of economics. It was found that some teachers really flew with the new technology of the day, whilst others did little or nothing with it that was new or particularly interesting. In other words, what made the difference was not so much the technology on its own, but the technology in the hands of the “right” teacher.

Oh, and what was that new technology? The overhead projector!

It seems to me, though, that the challenge there is to go beyond the initial “wow” factor and find genuinely appropriate educational uses for these new technologies. When it comes to education, the key question to be asked is “so what?”. That is, what is so special or important about this particular technology? I don’t think it’s enough to say that it will motivate the pupils. As I said in an article about 15 years ago, so would a pair of Reeboks! You have to go beyond that I think, and ask:

What can we do better or easier with this technology?

And, even more crucially:

What can we do with this technology that we otherwise could not do at all?

If you’d like to explore the possibilities of 3D printing without breaking the school bank, have a look at Shapeways. You can create and upload your own designs to be printed, or use the ready-made ones available. The cost is quite low, although obviously if you were to order class sets of objects the outlay would escalate rapidly. I see this being useful for particular activities in school. For example, a Young Enterprise company might want to order a couple of different prototypes of its idea in order to obtain feedback from focus groups before going full-steam ahead. Perhaps a school could even make some money by selling personalised cufflinks (say) at a small profit.

Or how about this for putting ICT on the school map? I have long believed there are grounds for raising the game as far as marketing the image of ICT is concerned, which you can see from my suggestions in The Case for Print-On-Demand. Why not purchase, for each member of your team, a fully-functional QR Code steel tag which can be put on a key ring? This costs $65.80, which comes out as just over £42 or just under €49. The QR code could take you to a URL which had links to all the ICT policy documents, scheme of work, resources and anything else deemed to be useful. Is that too profligate in these straitened times, or a worthwhile (one-off) investment?

Some schools have already started experimenting with different aspects of 3D, and some of the people involved have been kind enough to relate their experiences in this newsletter. I hope you find their articles interesting.

There is also a very useful article in this newsletter by Inition, a company which lives and breathes 3D in all its forms. It very kindly gave me a guided tour of their workshop, which was fascinating in its range and complexity.

Amongst other things, Inition does work using Augmented Reality, which apparently the Barbican is exploring for use in plays. Augmented Reality glasses are being developed, for use in head-mounted displays to put the wearer in an immersive environment. Obvious applications include games, defence and warfare, but there are potential medical applications too, such as in helping the rehabilitation of stroke victims.

If any of your students show an interest in this line of work, then maths and physics are key skills, but not the only ones. For instance, one person we spoke to is a human interaction specialists, which sounds like a training in psychology would not go amiss. Programming skills are an obvious recommendation, but as Augmented Reality, 3D and haptics all have application in, and can “join up”, several disciplines, no doubt a whole range of skills and qualifications can be useful in this fledgling industry.

Do read the Inition article, The 3D Landscape, for some facts and terminology relating to some of the concepts discussed here.

Also, visit our 3D page for exclusive photo and video content for readers of Computers in Classrooms.

Some further reading you might like to explore:

If it prints, I’ll let you know

Could 3D printing end our throwaway culture?

The 3D Landscape

This is a sponsored article from Inition.

3D and the Education Market

Recent changes in the 3D technology landscape are transforming the way we visualise and interact with 3D data and the real world. 3D applications and technologies have reached a level of maturity that are starting to add a real value to the education sector.  Inition brings over 10 years experience of integrating 3D technologies alongside expert consulting and training services.  Here we outline a few of their examples, from 3D displays through to scanning, 3D printing, motion capture and haptic interfaces.

3D Projection and Display Technology

MATTU, the internationally recognised centre of excellence for teaching innovative laparoscopic surgical techniques, are using 3D camera and transmission technology from Inition to beam live broadcasts of surgical procedures from Royal Surrey County Hospital Theatres to surgeons in remote viewing locations.  3D displays enable surgeons to immerse themselves in the operation just as the surgeon would see it, and give feedback to the students throughout the procedure.

Other examples include Petrie Museum, who have taken the technology on the road, using 3D techniques to transplant a database of 3D scanned artifacts from their current location on the University College London campus to the British Library, allowing students to explore the items using stereoscopic 3D projection.  Westminster School found ways to bring science teaching to life within the classroom, using portable projection systems linked through to educational content.

Motion Capture

Motion Capture is another technology fast being embraced by the education sector.  Following on from live stereo broadcast, MATTU sourced cutting-edge motion tracking technology to record the exact movements of the surgeon, improving training simulation and increasing accuracy, safety and performance.

3D Scanning and Printing

Scanners and Printers are both rapidly maturing technologies.  The 3D scanning and printing team has worked with a range of higher education establishments, helping Earth Scientists at Durham University to produce 3D geologic formations and detailed models of surface ruptures related to the earthquake devastation. The results of the project are hoped to help improve the understanding of quakes, their timing and likely magnitude.  Glasgow Dental Hospital are using a 3D scanning and printing workflow for their research into craniofacial imaging and training.

Haptics

Haptic devices allow a person to feel computer generated virtual objects and are at the cutting edge of 3D technology.  Most of the demand for haptics devices and services in higher education has been generated by the medical, dental and surgical departments where there are an increasing number of practical applications.

hapTEL, a collaboration between Kings College and Reading University, deployed haptic technology for a system which allows dozens of trainee dentists at a time to learn their trade on virtual teeth, presenting an effective and repeatable experience along with cost saving benefits.

Other examples of haptics in education can be found at Reach Out Lab set up by Imperial College London, this is for school children from age 6 – 18 to engage in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) projects through experimental work.

Haptic devices were supplied for a week long summer course where the students were given the task to work in pairs to produce a mini-game, this involved students programming the devices using C++ or Java.

Dr Fernando Bello, Senior Lecturer in Surgical Graphics and Computing at Imperial College London said of the week that “It seemed to go very well and we were certainly impressed with student performance.”

The Future

The education sector is forever adopting new technologies and becoming increasingly IT savvy. 3D technology and services have a vast array of practical applications in the classroom and higher education research programmes and we are already seeing an increased demand for 3D technology across the market.

The latest Europe-wide research supports this with claims that 3D in the classroom has improved test results by an average of 17%. The research found that 3D-enabled learning tools helped children concentrate more, so we expect to see a greater uptake in 3D projectors and learning resources off the back of these important findings.

About Inition

Inition is a pioneering creative 3D technology and production company. We provide independent advice on a broad range of 3D technologies, along with systems integration, bespoke software development, consultancy and training.  We have relationships with a wide range of higher education establishments in the UK and abroad and often form partnerships supporting research and development on a contractual basis.

Further Reading & References:

Imperial’s Reach Out Lab: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/outreach/reachoutlab
The Petrie Museum's project: http://petriemuseum.com/blog/nintendo-3ds-aint-got-nothin-on-us/
MATTU’s Live 3D Surgery: http://www.royalsurrey.nhs.uk/3DSurgery
Haptel: http://www.haptel.kcl.ac.uk/
Research backing 3D in Education: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11891753

Educating in the Third Dimension

By Graham Quince

Firstly a bit of a confession, I’m not a fan of 3D. I honestly don’t think it adds anything to the movie experience. Plot makes a movie worth watching, not 50ft robots smashing debris into the audience. I’m not in the minority either, ticket sales keep proving most people aren’t interested in sitting for 2 hours to watch a theme park attraction. I first saw modern 3D in the Terminator 2 show at Universal Studios. It blew me away. It was amazing. It was 10 minutes long and things kept jumping out from the screen. And that’s my point, 3D is a gimmick. It’s very cool, but like a rollercoaster, it works best in short doses.

3D when used correctly is impressive, dramatic, spectacular adding a “wow” factor to any event. And in school that “wow” factor can be (and is), used to inspire students whenever it has been applied. I have used 3D to launch topics in Maths, Humanities and Media. We’ve inspired students and teachers alike and it has become a staple of our school musicals. In analogy, we’ve used 3D like a smart bomb, targeting it to the points in the curriculum where its impact will be most effective.

Our journey began in 2008, as a new section of our school was being built. Funding from the Project Faraday (a body set up to encourage innovative uses of ICT in teaching) enabled us to look at 3D systems. We approached Inition and they recommended and supplied a Passive Stereoscopic system. The benefit of the passive system is the very low running costs, as the glasses used are of the cheap, plastic variety. Perfect for idle hands. At the time, active shutter systems were exorbitantly expensive, but they do have one benefit over passive; the system is portable and the lighting conditions do not have to be optimal. That said, if I was buying a school system today, I would still buy the passive system. We can have 300 students watching 3D with our current system and it’s very low maintenance.

We make almost all of our own content. I used Maxon’s Cinema4D to create computer graphics. C4D is a relatively cheap 3D product (£250 education licence) and it has quite an easy learning curve. In addition, we’ve bought a Panasonic T750 camcorder which comes with a 3D lens attachment. The video shot by this camcorder is side-by-side and can be edited directly in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. The footage from it is very impressive and gives a real sense of depth. We hope to use this more and more, especially for things like debriefs on field trips. Unfortunately, we’ve struggled to play 3D Blu-ray films using the passive stereoscopic system. The Blu-ray Standard does not allow for two projectors, instead only providing interlaced (read more expensive) playback. There are various software “hacks” that can be used but they are time-consuming. The final part of the arsenal is my NVIDIA 3D Vision monitor I use to test the footage I make. This comes in very handy for preparing footage and saves me walking to and from our presentation space when correcting errors.

In terms of Teaching and Learning, the students love it. I have really seen them so engaged en masse as at the start of one module in Mathematics. The launch of term-long topic entitled “how can Maths save the planet” could have been delivered by PowerPoint easily enough, but I doubt it would have excited them in quite the same way. I made a planet Earth (with some really beautiful textures from NASA’s free galleries) and we placed a series of questions in order around it. The audience then flew from question to question while Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire” played – cheesy, but cheesy works with 11-year-olds. To launch a week-long off-timetable investigation about modern cities, we filmed a local architect against greenscreen, then placed him in a futuristic, Matrix-like city. He spoke for 12-minutes, broken up into chunks as the camera flew through the streets. He was accompanied by a small droid which would hold up relevant images and come out of the screen to greet the audience.

It is in our drama performances where I think we’ve had the most fun with 3D. For the last few years, our musicals have been accompanied by 3D visuals. In Return to Forbidden Planet, we had the monsters lumber up and reach out to the audience, before joining in the choreography of Monster Mash. In Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Joseph’s dreams leapt out at the audience and for this year’s We Will Rock You we’re planning to up the game. The nice element of this is that it provides an enthusiasm boost for the performers, as the visuals are not seen until the dress rehearsals. After weeks of rehearsals, it brings a novelty and freshness for them. Of course, it also entertains the younger siblings during the performance too.

In future, I’d like to use the Panasonic camera more, to film close-ups of experiments for Science, to provide virtual field trips and to generally open students’ eyes to what is possible. Thinking about it I suppose I should retract my original confession, it turns out I am a fan of 3D after all.

Graham Quince is the VLE Coordinator and one of three web designers at Cramlington Learning Village (Academy). He works primarily with the Science, Mathematics, ICT and drama departments at the school. A large part of Graham’s role is R&D and he has helped develop the use of video recording, greenscreen filming, 3D production and interactive surfaces within the school. Before Cramlington, Graham worked for the BBC in London. He started in the streaming video department of BBC News Online, before moving to CBBC’s Newsround. Graham runs an e-learning blog http://grahamquince.wordpress.com full of tips and advice on software. He has also contributed several articles and tutorials to online publications.

Cramlington Learning Village

Cramlington Learning Village is a Comprehensive School in the North East of England. We have been graded 'outstanding' in the last three OFSTED inspections.

We have a commitment to personalising learning which means putting the learner and learning at the heart of everything we do

3D at Oakington Manor Primary School

By Ophelia Vanderpuye

In 2006 following a visit to China by the school’s headteacher and ICT Advanced Skills Teacher, discussions took place about the possibility of building a new ICT suite as the then suite had become too small for the growing children. In the years that followed plans and visits to new build schools to give inspiration for the design of the new building In 2009, we took a bold leap into the unknown as our discussion with our architect and ICT suppliers started to show a design that was totally different to anything we had seen in the schools we visited.

Oakington Manor has had a long history of innovative use of ICT and this new build was an opportunity for us to ‘think outside of the box’, and build something that was functional, spacious and flexible. We strongly believed that there was still a place for dedicated ICT suites as it helps to focus the use of discreet ICT, which could sometimes get lost in the integrated approach.

Our decision to go 3D came after looking at a variety of resources and possible equipment that would enable us to inspire and take the children to another level in their use of ICT and its resources. Through Research Machines, we invited a company called Amazing Interactives to come and demonstrate to us how 3D could bring learning alive for our children. At this time we all still a little sceptical as it was very difficult to visualise how the whole ‘3D thing’ would work in a classroom setting.

On the day of the demonstration six of us sat and waited whilst the equipment was set up. When the show started, Oh my goodness, we were screaming and laughing and shouting “Whoa’! How did they do that?” The demonstration of the human body with various organs right in front of our eyes, very close up was absolutely amazing! We could almost touch them. They also had the ‘eeerrr factor’.

That’s it, we were all sold on the idea. The decision was made and we purchased the 3.2m x 3.0 3D screen, projectors and 3D film kit. Since the building was completed and opened in September 2009 we have been using 3D resources to support science looking at the solar system, healthy eating, functions of the organs, maths, Tudors, and more recently phonics and spelling. The experience we have had with using 3D resources has been fantastic as it brings alive the topics in a way that other ICT resources does not.

The creativity  of the children in years 5 and 6 (10 and 11 year olds) in the last year has shot through the roof because of the film work we have been doing. Don’t get me wrong, our school has been making films with children for many, many years but now they have the prospect of creating films in 3D, the ideas they have been coming up with have been absolutely weird and wonderful! Our first 3D film was made early in 2010 to test out setting up the equipment and to see just how filming would work.

Setting up the equipment has to be precise and requires two of us to set it up. This is primarily because we are still new to the set up and we need more practise at setting up the two cameras. The Sony camera equipment has a sync unit which enables both cameras to be switched on at the same time. It is all very technical…but fun. The learning curve for the ICT team has also shot through the roof.

We held our very first film festival week in July 2011and due to its success, we will be running another in July 2012. In preparation for this, each year group has been given a genre of film to make to be screened at the festival. Making a film in 3D has been offered to year 6, who are due to be making a documentary. We are at the planning stage of the process and expect it to take a number of weeks before the ideas are polished, scripts written and filming started. The children are being taken through the whole film making process which covers the basic skills such as camera use, looking at camera angles, deciding who will do what etc, etc. There are a number of considerations we found we had to make when filming in 3D and the first was how we moved across the camera to give the ‘coming at you’ effect, use of the clapper board at the start of the film- as it aids the editing process. All in all we are quite excited about making these films for our film festival week. It is a long process but very creative and the children involved love to be involved.

Ophelia Vanderpuye is the school's ICT Co-ordinator and Advanced Skills Teacher for ICT. Follow the school on Twitter, and visit the school’s website. Also, read A Visit to Oakington Manor Primary School for an insight into how inspiring Ophelia’s work with the school is.

Our hopes for 3D

By Neil Drury

Editor’s note: Neil’s school has not yet implemented the 3D technology it has bought, but I asked Neil to say a little bit about it. Here’s what he told me.

I’m the Subject Leader for Design & Technology at Hyde Technology School, Tameside (now known as Hyde Community College as we move to the new build at the start of January).

Having little input into the new build, I have tried to get some sort of 3D modelling facility. In the new build we have a 3D scanner, CNC router and a 3D printer – we already have 2 laser cutters that are being moved with us. To enhance the 3D facilities I looked at virtual clay modelling and purchased from Inition 2 Haptic arms and software.

We have had the devices for over a year, but not used them because our current network facilities are not able to support these extra bits of equipment at the moment (we’re hoping this will change by next term).

On open evening at school we have managed to get them working, and some of the more able students helping out have quickly (about an hour) got used to it and modelled some simple characters.

In the new build the systems should enable us to use them regularly, and we are also having a Mac suite installed.

Neil has offered to update us on developments in the new year.

Review of Problogger’s Guide To Blogging For Your Business

Before looking at the book, written by Mark Hayward, in detail, it’s worth pointing out what the book is, and is not. It is, as the title implies, concerned with blogging  in order to promote your business. It is not about blogging as a business in itself. It’s an important distinction, not least because once we take money out of the equation then “business” can be used as shorthand for any type of enterprise, including a charity, a cause – and a school.

The book is written in a style which is friendly without being patronising, and without appearing to try too hard to be the jovial host of the party, as it were. The structure of the book is well-considered too. Each chapter explains what you have to do or think about, and then leads on to a tutorial in which you have to to put your new-found knowledge into practice. It’s a good approach, although now and again it seems a little laboured and repetitive of the chapter itself.

I’ve read or browsed through quite a few books on this subject, and this one stands out in a few important respects. For example, it considers the issue of whether your blog should be separate from your website, or one and the same. Now, that may sound like a piece of trivia but it’s actually an important business decision. A website is a place to go for information that doesn’t change or need to change too often, such as what the business is about, or an online catalogue. A blog, on the other hand, really should be updated regularly, and preferably frequently, to keep people coming back. In other words, it is not immediately obvious how one should go about squaring this particular circle. I was both pleased and relieved to learn that, in keeping the ICT in Education website and blog as one entity, I made the right decision for my business!

How might this be applied in a school context? Well, if you are wondering whether you should have a school blog, a school website, or some combination of the two, this book should help you make the right decision for you.

Hayward also looks at how to use Google’s Keyword tool, and makes it sound easy and straightforward. Which it is, but some writers seem to delight in making it appear like rocket science (possibly because that’s how they earn their living? Oh such cynicism in one so young!).

There is a lot of good, practical advice scattered throughout the text. For example, you’re advised to look out for discounts on domain names. Now, that may sound obvious, but to the uninitiated even just the mention of the term “domain name” can cause the onset of a cold sweat. It’s very easy to pay over the odds for a domain name because you’re too frightened to look for bargains. Fortunately, there are a few suggestions for reputable web hosting companies, and inexpensive domain name sellers, so the reader is not left entirely on her own. Oh, and that’s another thing: there are several useful links sprinkled throughout the book. This section may not be relevant to every school, but if you are looking to use a special domain name for your school then this book does a good job of demystifying the process.

If you are convinced of the need to blog but are not sure what to blog about, you don’t have to look too far to glean some ideas. Hayward has provided 52 topic suggestions, including “Draft a helpful post or tutorial specifically to help others in your industry”, “What are ten ways money donated to your non-profit is spent?” and “Describe any improvements or upgrades you have made to your business”. You can see immediately how these ideas could be adapted for a school blog, although not all of the suggestions will be useful. However, 52 suggestions outnumber the 7 things to blog about back in school I suggested a while ago. There is also a simple mind map to help you generate more ideas of your own.

I do have a couple of niggles, though. The biggest one is the devotion of two chapters to Wordpress. Now, for all I know, Wordpress may be the most popular blogging platform. It may even be the best, according to some criteria yet to be revealed to me. However, there are other platforms out there, and in my opinion it would have been far better for the author to have provided a list of links to books or online tutorials concerning blogging with all the widely-used platforms available.

Apart from anything else, that would have left him room him to do something about my other criticism, which is the absence of exemplars for some types of blog post. For example, I for one would find it hard, despite years of practice, to write a blog post on the topic of “What makes your business different?” without making it sound like an advertisement. OK, I tell a lie: I could write an engaging article along those lines, but it’s not easy. Given that this book is aimed at people who are new to blogging for business, I should have thought some guidance on this would not come amiss. I have to say, though, that I think this sort of idea might work better in an educational context. A post entitled “What makes our school different?” sounds slightly less potentially obnoxious to me (but only slightly!).

Similarly with “Why do you love doing what you do?”. How do you overcome the sense of “why on earth would anyone be interested?”, and then how would you write about that in a way which didn’t sound hopelessly self-centred?

In fairness, Hayward does come up with some reasons that such posts may be worth penning, such as :

“People love to read about other people.”

Even if you accept that sort of statement (I don’t necessarily), it doesn’t help you actually write the darn thing: knowing that others find it hard to write about themselves does little to help me write about myself.

Here again, though, this sort of thing would work well in an educational context. A series of blog posts by teachers along the lines of “Why I love teaching history” and so on could be incredibly inspiring, not just to potential pupils but also currently enrolled pupils and potential staff.

On the whole, there is far more in the book to like than to dislike, and I have found myself coming back to it several times to look up the odd thing or to gain some inspiration and ideas. It wasn’t written specifically for the education market, so not all of the suggestions will be able to be used out of the box, as it were, and you would need to try and adapt them. The price is $49.99 USD. However, if you buy it and decide it isn’t for you, there is a 30 day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose by purchasing it. Definitely one for the virtual bookshelf.

Problogger’s Guide To Blogging For Your Business

Review of 30 Day Blogging Challenge

If you're looking for a handy, no frills book of suggestions for blogging, this book should meet your requirements. Having been designed as an email course, 30 Day Blogging Challenge, written by Nikki Pilkington, consists mainly of 30 very short articles on different aspects of blogging. Being able to buy the whole lot in the form of a book is excellent for those of us for whom deferred gratification is an alien concept.

Having looked at several "Improve your blog in 30 days" type articles and books, I wasn't holding my breath expecting anything too different, but I was pleasantly surprised. The main stand-out feature is that several of the suggestions made are unusual in the sense that I have not seen them mentioned elsewhere.

For example, on Day 6 we are told to write a blog post saying something nice, whether about a product, a client or whatever. A “nice” idea, although perhaps not one which comes easily to a person like me who, I am constantly told, has gradually turned into a grumpy old man (what's with the "old"?).
Other ideas include taking inspiration from a song (I've used a variation of the idea occasionally myself, and I think it works well), and a number of other suggestions which made me sit up and think "Oh, I hadn't thought of that!" I also learnt about the correct way of using anchor text (the text used for a link), and there is good, easy-to-implement advice on search engine optimisation.

There are some excellent links included too, such as 25+ places to which to submit your blog, in order to promote it, and a handy list of places where you can find free high-quality photos with which to illustrate your blog posts.

I like the fact that the advice is byte-sized. You can open the book at random and find and read a suggestion very quickly. Should you wish to delve deeper into a particular aspect, there is usually a link back to an article on Nikki’s blog. There are also a few longer articles towards the back of the book.

There are a couple of niggly things. Sometimes, especially when you’re somewhere without internet access, the byte-sized chapters with links to a more in-depth article can be a bit frustrating. Also, the section on tags is particularly weak. We’re told that we absolutely must put them in our blog posts, but to find out why you have to buy another book. Still, these are relatively minor concerns.

Does this book have any educational application? If you’re looking for a way of raising your school’s profile through blogging, whether to promote pupils’ work, drum up more interest from parents of current pupils, or to raise awareness of the school’s work in order to attract potential pupils, I think this book would help. Some of the advice would be less relevant in an educational content perhaps than a business one (search engine optimisation comes to mind, although having said that I have sometimes had quite a job finding a school’s website through search engines). On the whole, however, there is a lot of good advice here that could easily be adapted by a school for its own blog.

The book would prove useful, too, for schools that teach pupils about the business potential of blogging as a marketing tool.

The 30 Day Blogging Challenge ebook is available for £5.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to all of the contributors. This newsletter is (c) 2011 Terry Freedman, but individual contributors retain ownership of their copyright. Please send items of potential interest to me. Please enquire before sending me a complete article.

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