Thursday, December 28, 2006

** Well Done to Cefn Fforest Year 6 News Team **

We had excellent news this morning in an e-mail from Jeff Howson from Making The News ( an online news site - where kids post their own news articles including multi media pieces), in a hectic run up to Christmas some of my Year 6 news gatherers had commited themselves to entering a UK wide News Competiton ( entires had to be in before 16th December!!!).

With concerts, parties and many other distractions as we approached the end of term, our lunchtimes became highly charged with upils grabbing camcorders and still camera's, rushing off to film and then upload and edit their work within the tight lunch 'hour' ( I can safely say that through November and December I never had time to sit in our staffroom at lunchtime - so missed out on 2 months gossip)

As the deadline approached we had a perenial problem for schools operating within an intranet run by a local authority - we found it increasingly difficult and in the end impossible to upload multiple video films ( we had a problem as the articles went to a central competition space - I couldn't retrieve them for more editing ) - In the end the pupils were writing and editing video ( thank goodness we got an Apple Macbook in November otherwise our task would have been almost impossible using WinXP) saving items to flash drives and then uploading the articles from home ( this calls for quite a high commitment from the kids - but they did it.
We failed to enter all of the categories that we had planned and had some disappointed people who just failed to meet their deadline, but that's a fact of life I guess.
Following all of the hype and panic we sat back and waited - results were due to be e-mailed to us by 23rd December. School closed for us teachers on 22nd December, and I set off home with my fingers crossed for the kids....... and nothing........Christmas Day...... Boxing Day.... nothing.... I gave in and posted an article for the pupils to pick up saying "I guess that no news is bad news but keep watching....."
Today 28th December an e-mail in my in box from Jeff Howson from MTN, I must admit that I opened it slowly hardly daring to look in case it was along the lines of "sorry..... better luck next time....." But no it was notification that a story posted under the heading of Best Overseas Story has won in its category (Yippee!!! well done kids!!!).
The pupils have won and have been invited up to our big Education IT Show called BETT at Olympia in London on Wednesday 10th January where their prizes will be awarded by Warwick Davies ( Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films )

I must congratulate all of my pupils who entered stories for the competition, they overcame the odds and put together some very good work. The winning group followed up a visit we had to school by a Nigerian Diplomat and his son Kay, by arranging shooting and editing a video interview with Kay using a JVC Camcorder and our new Apple MacBook, they took the final cut away on a flash drive and got together to upload their finished article - I for one am very prod of the work they produced and the reward is much deserved for all of their efforts over the Autumn Term - ( and I for one won't mind missing the Staffroom chatter at lunchtime for a while I guess !!!) .

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I have been blog tagged!!! by Chris Harbeck a Skype friend from Canada while I was not looking - gee thanks Chris!!. I have read a few of these by others and see that I am supposed to come up with 5 things that people may not know about me from my online presence so here goes...

1. I became a grandfather for the first time this year on the 17th January when my middle daughter Emily (18) gave birth to grandaughter Abigail on 17th January

Yes she is as wicked and as wonderful as she looks, and we have just celebrated her 1st Christmas, I won't need to tell any parents out there what this was like - enough said.

2. As I scarily approach the age of 50 next year, I find myself and my family deeply involved with life in our local town of Abergavenny. I still play field hockey regularly as captain of our 2nd XI side (currently 3rd in South Wales Division 3), I combine this with being club Chairman and Youth Co-ordinator( at my age I should know better!!!). The rest of my family wife and 3 daughters are heavily involved in local Amateur Dramatics ( of the musical type).

Mrs H and Daughters Sian (20) and Laura (16)

3. I long to own an MG sportscar again, I had to give up my previous Black 1979 MGB Roadster 5 years ago when we converted my garage into a bedroom for one of the daughters!!! - and I can't wait to have another one ( sad old ***!)

4. I enjoy cooking, nothing to ambitious but I cook our evening meals most days and could be found in the kitchen amongst the sprouts, carrots, potatoes et al during Christmas morning ( who said men can't multi task).

5. I have one big regret, that I haven't travelled around the world more - I am trying to make up for this now by making links with fellow teachers around the world. It is great to get responses from fellow education professionals from around the globe - it nearly makes up for not travelling ( though at present I am very keen to try to get to New Zealand in February for the TUANZ conference - where Shery Nussbaum-Beach will be giving the keynote and my podcast chum Allanah King from Nelson will also be presenting - sadly I am only lowly Welsh primary teacher and money doesn't grow on trees!!!) I also apologise to my aunt and uncle in Australia for being the only members of the family not to have visited them yet!!!

I hope that this gives an insight into my world.
Not wishing to be 'it' I now tag Joe Dale , Allanah King , Terry Freedman , Joe Papaleo

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Finally after what appeared to have been an eternity the Autumn Term ended for our pupils on Thursday ( we had a training day on Friday - so didn't finish until 3pm on the 22nd) - the upside of a late finish is that we won't be back in school until 8th January. We had some relaxation time in the final week of term and my Year 3 pupils were keen to show off their dancing and singing - I used our mini dv camcorder to record their efforts ( I challenge you to view and not to chuckle a little) and posted the video's to our Making the News page on - it is the article entitled 'fun in Year 3'. our carol singing soloist is posted on ( and I apologise for me mumbling away in the background!!!!! sorry).

I wish all readers and fellow bloggers and pocasters a very Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year - I plan to catch up with some Web 2.0 friends ( Joe Dale and David Noble ne Booruch) at the BETTT show in Olympia on Saturday 13th January ( I guess that as we hve never actually met we had better wear a red carnation in our button hole !!!! or have a secret password, joking aside, it will be good in this virtual world to actually have a face to face meeting in the 'real' world... see you guys


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday 8th December - photographer from the TES arrived at 9.30am, I had gathered a small group of pupils together and we were ready to Skype New Zealand. All of the technology worked and we were soon chatting, that included the photographer who joined in our 13,000 mile conversation while he snapped away. Allanah and the children were very patient as we were posed and photographed,the conversation continued, however it must have been a very strange conversation from the New Zealand end, however all went well, the Skype line held up, and we signed off when the photo-shoot ended allowing Allanah to go the bed...Well Done everyone, excellent work.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Interest in the educationl use of Skype has come to Cefn Fforest. Following a conversation with Joe Dale, and participating in a skype conference last Sunday evening, I had a follow-up conversation with Stephen Manning from the Times Educational Supplement Magazine.
Our discussion was wide ranging covering issues such as the 'open access' to Skype debate that is currently raging in the US, where some university campuses have banned or blocked the use of Skype. My view is that looking from Key Stages 1 and 2 in the UK access has to be controlled, as we are responsible for who our pupils speak/chat with.
Our use of Skype is that we have pre-arranged as much as possible when we will be available for pupils to contact us - our ultimate goal is to have pupil to pupil chat ( we have planned to do this next Wednesday evening when our school will be opened for pupils to come back into class at 8pm - 9am in New Zealand for pupils to speak to each other directly).
Another point of discussion was cost, obviously Skype computer to computer is free ( I like free), hence there isn't a budget implication to the se of Skype used in that way.
The use of Skype more widely between institutions will hopefully give a boost to childrens Speaking and Listening, in addition to the aspects of PSHE and Citizenship which come from talking to people who live in other countries, it also gives a greater opportunity for pupils to ask more pertinent questions of guests and 'visitors' to the school.

Following the discussion Stephen seemed to think that this should be published quite quickly and has arranged for a photographer to visit our school tomorrow (Friday 8th December) to take some photographs of the pupils Skyping our teaching colleague in New Zealand... watch this space...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Skype Chat to Podcast

Following a skype chat over the weekend, Moturoa Classroom at Appleby School near Nelson New Zealand and myself near Abergavenny in South Wales had agreed a time on Monday evening (8.30 pm Wales - 9.30 am New Zealand) for a chat.
The skype discussion was part of an ongoing e-pal link that we have with the pupils from my school ( Cefn Fforest Primary) and those 13,000 miles away in New Zealand.
With the time set I sat waiting for the call and sure enough along it came and I could hear the excitement in the classroom so many miles away.
Little did I realise the 'grilling' I was in for from the pupils in the class. They each in turn introduced themselves very clearly and politely asked their important questions - the range of subjects covered was wide, but I felt honour bound to answer their questions, as they had gone to the trouble of asking them.
the half an hour chat flew by as we chatted and all to soon it was time for them to return to their school work. Allanah King their teacher had recorded our chat and has now published it on her Podomatic page so it can now be found on .
The project continues as we plan to repeat the process from our school speaking to Allanah and 'grilling' her on a variety of subjects.
We are presently trying to work out how to speak to each other in 'real' time ( the 13 hour time difference doesn't help ), my guess is that we will have to have pupils in school at around 8pm in order to catch NZ at 9am in the morning -we will see.... watch this space.

** Thanks for your interesting questions kids **

** follow up to new MacBook, I am gradually becoming more confident in its use and have now started digital video work and podcasting using it more to come...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Well, well what's this then. It looks very much as if Christmas has come a little early to this corner of Wales.

After a request to our 'Friends of the School' in early June - followed by approval - followed by the ordering process ( why does it take local authorities so long!!!).

The whole process wasn't helped by the only Apple Reseller in South Wales (AT Computers) re-locating to the Morgan's Arcade in Cardiff - and being unreachable over the telephone, causing some panic on my behalf, as I had no idea where they had gone. Panic over though as just over 3 weeks ago we re- established contact and the order was back on track.

A follow up e-mail last week and Damian the manager of the new store told me that the Macbook was on its way.

This was followed yesterday ( Friday 1st December ) by the messgae I had been waiting for - the laptop was in store and ready for collection...

The only problem I faced then was a hockey match today ( as Team Captain no way out of that ), but very thoughtfully our opposition cried off the match last night, unable to raise a side - as you can imagine I wasn't too upset ( yippeee!!!).
So up and off the 40 miles or so into Cardiff at 9pm this morning, I resisted the temptation to speed, and kept to a sensible speed.
I was in store at 9.45, introduced myself to Damian who searched around and found the box I had come for.

After all of the time waiting - eventually after returning home I set to work finding out how to operate the Mac machine.

I do have a question for experienced Mac users - I tried to import a video from a JVC DV camera with a firewire lead. I could control the camera - but could only see a blue screen - no import !!!! in suggests moving the imovie project to another file out of the home file - but HELP - Mac Novice - How do you do that ???? Any assistance would be appreciated.
I'm off to play now : )
( tee hee )

A dear friend

It seems very apt to be writing this blog post in tribute to a dear, dear friend. The world has lost a true global educational  IT innovator...