Monday, January 29, 2007

Global Links

Our links around the world and at home here in the UK are really gathering pace now. We have exchanged e-mail addresses and skype details with Kenmore Park First School, and one of their Year 3 teacher Pam Williams. We hope to develop our project along the lines of giving each other instructions for making design technology 'Moving Monsters', we also hope to create for each other a 'mural' made up of individual jigsaw images showing the views and customs of our own areas.( found in British Council booklet 'Learning World' issue 14 January 2007)

Our link with Allanah King and Moturoa Class Appleby School New Zealand is ticking over even though the they are currently still on their summer break - back soon...

We have dipped our toes into the E-Twinning Project - this is a site which puts together schools all around the European Union- allowing them to develop links between classes and pupils.
We are moving towards links with 2 schools in Italy ( one in Lazio and one in Lombardy)who are working with Lower Primary aged pupils, The school in Lazio has been working with schools all across Europe looking at customs and the toys and games that the pupils in each country play with. The other school uses a traveling toy to discover how people live in other countries.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Art Rage 2 - Great news that, on Friday during my PPA Time, this is known as non contact Planning and Preparation Time for Primary School teachers in the UK ( known as my IT Technician Time !!!!!! ) I managed to sort out one problem that has been bugging me, or our reception teachers for some time now.

The 2 classes have been fitted with new Smart IWB's ( a long story of over 40 workmen arriving over a month long period to i) check and find asbestos in the ceiling tiles ii) get asbestos specialists in to drill holes in ceiling iii)IWB installers to find that holes in the wrong place - so go through ii) again. iv) fitters visit v) installers visit vi) configuration visit and Hey Presto 40 gentleman later the 21st Century arrives in the classroom. )
The only problem which remained after this process was getting my local authority IT people in to configure our laptops with the county based intranet ( We have been waiting many months ), on Friday I finally lost my patience and - taking a lead from a current networked PC plugged it into laptop and wall socket - Eureka it worked ( no need for a technician (or is that me ?)

I couldn't wait then to download Art Rage 2 to the laptop and show the reception teacher and her pupils (with a paintbrush - because it is a Smartboard) how easy it is to paint using the whiteboard - I just wish that you could bottle the look of amazement and sheer delight on their faces ( and that was just the teachers :) ).
Next step is to gather all of our staff in this classroom and show them all the wonders of the **Free** art package that is ArtRage2.
My thanks go to Allanah King in New Zealand and Tom Barrett in the UK for introducing me to the software package, it is great for kids of all ages!!
Thanks guys...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

** Comenius Links within EU **

I have been considering for a while dipping my/our toes into this scheme, run by the European Community as a means of enabling schools within Europe to link or twin in order to help pupils and teachers learn more about the way in which another EU country/school operates.
To do this we need to find a partner school within the European Union with the same general idea - so this is by means of a plea to anyone viewing this blog within the EU to let me know that they would be interested in developing a link ( deadline for applications is March 2007, hence time is of the essence).
I also look forward to comments from anyone who has been involved in a Comenius Project in the recent past...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

**Skype Conference Call Rules**

This evening at about 9.40pm (10.40am Wednesday in New Zealand) I had a very interesting chat with 2 teachers from New Zealand in a 3 way skype conference call orgnised again by Allanah in Nelson. The other participant today was Jane Nicholls who podcasts under the IT Ucan name ( I was obviously tired because I didn't realise that I have listened to Jane's podcasts for quite a while - so apologies if you read this Jane for not realising who you were!!!)The conversation was conducted entirely via Mac technology and we all used Sound Recorder to make a copy of the conversation ( Hence probably - 3 very similar podcasts of the conversation very soon... watch this space)
Jane is based very much south in Dunedin South Island NZ, while Allanah is up at the top of South Island in Nelson - I was the odd one out sitting in a cold and wintery Wales ( I could almost fell the sunshine, which was quite frustrating !!).
Spread across the world as we were made no difference to the meeting of minds as 3 committed users of web 2.0 technology discussed how we began with the technology and also how easy it has become to make links across the globe, and more importantly to use the technology as a means of not only extending our pupils experiences, but also to improve the quality of the work that they produce.
We also discussed how some of our pupils 'get it' and seem to treat the new technology as their own, often becoming able to teach teachers how to use the various 2.0 programs. We also touched on the fact that the pedagogy of the classroom has to change in order to use web 2.0, it is no longer the case that 'teacher hands down the facts' and child learns the facts. Often when podcasting or blogging or using wiki's we are all learning together. This is often difficult for less confident teachers to accept and use, as you have to give over some/quite a lot of control to the pupils for their own learning - I think that Terry Freedman would appreciate this as a mainstay of 'Every Child Matters' where the pupils take responsibility for their own learning.
The conversation will undoubtedly make it to a podcast very soon, thank you very much to Allanah and Jane for a thought provoking conversation, I look forward to this happening again in the near future.

Podfather's podcast

Give it a listen

Enjoy! -- Paul Harrington

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It seems to be one of those days where bloggers from around the UK are beginning to warm to the task. Not only today did I find Ewan's blog fascinating, but then followed this up by following a thread to Tom Barrett's Blog.
Tom has for a while now been blogging about the 'seemingly' insatiable need for Interactive Whiteboards ( the dreaded IWB's - fed by The Powers from Above!!!) in education ( particularly noticeable if you have been to BETT over the past few years where IWB's are everywhere). I know that there are companies out there who can see the drawbacks. ( such as Promethian with their voting handset - and those advocating the use of a mobile wireless tablet as an input interface which can be out amongsat the pupils - not stuck at the front of the class!)
But if you watch Jeff Han's presentation to the TED conference in Monterey I am sure that your mind will immediately begin to see ways in which the touch sensitive interface which he demonstrates can be used within an education setting. It got me thinking immediately about its possible application in Key Stage 1 classes and in classes with learning/motor difficulties where I am sure it would prove extremely useful. I am very grateful to Tom for posting this piece, do take a look and make a comment on Tom's blog I am sure he would appreciate it. Thanks Tom
A big thank you to Ewan McIntosh ( follow link on Blogroll on the right ), for putting me onto Keith's blog . Keith who is based in/near Bristol has worked tirelessly to accumulate information on a range of ICT topics, including a wide and very easy to use -Links Section- (take a look), in addition to the thrust towards Digital Video work which Ewan mentioned in his blog this week from Film Street, who have information on their site for those about to get involved in dv work ( also worth a look for their resources and ideas)

** Look also at Ewan's Blog regarding the need for creating Networks of various types from your immediate local ( school perhaps ) network out to a Worldwide Network. It is also worth reading what Ewan has to say about an authority's need to be proactive in the use of New Web 2.0 Technologies in education. **

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Many thanks to those who left comments re: yesterdays news!!!! ( now the hard work begins!!!)
Back to business, Pam our new link teacher in Harrow and I finally managed to make contact using skype between classes this afternoon when I, having just finished a year group meeting popped online at about 4.45pm, to find that I had a call almost immediately - after a few headphone issues, Pam and I were able to discuss some more details regarding our link project.
In addition to our general multi-culturalism discussion between the two schools, Pam has found a link regarding Craft, Design Technology and our joint 'Moving Monsters' topics. The idea from the US is to get pupils to e-mail sets of instructions to each other allowing their link partners to follow them and make a monster to their partners design. I think that this sounds like it will be a very interesting project to include in our inter-school link - we will keep you posted on how we get on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

News to my Blogging friends wherever you may be - excuse me for being a little tired at the moment (and behind with blog posting)- My middle daughter gave birth to her second child last night (12.45am GMT) a beautiful boy called Jacob. So, my wife and I find ourselves grandparents for the 2nd time in 12 months ( Jacob's sister is 1 year old today also!!!!)- and me not 50 YET!!!!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

**3-Way Skype Conference Call**

For the first time yesterday evening (Saturday morning in New Zealand) 3 teachers, 1 in Harrow North London, 1 in Nelson New Zealand and 1 in Gilwern South Wales - held a 3-way discussion. It was completely unplanned, I had been using the Instant message feature of Skype, as usual to carry on a conversation with Allanah King in New Zealand, when Pam Williams a teacher new to Skype came online for a chat. Unfortunately in Skype when this happens and you go to a full telephone/video conversation each person is put on hold while the others are speaking. The way around this was for us to disconnect and then one of us to start a Skype Conference call and to invite the others in - Hey Presto - a 3 way conversation over Skype.

The discussion was wide ranging among the school topics we are working on at present - namely developing school links. It was a great improvement on the K12 online Skypecast the previous weekend where interference from visitors not linked to the conference is beginning to hinder the conversation. our conference call was secure and clear ( only interrupted by our own telephones and front door bells ringing).
We plan to carry out another conference call soon watch this space...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Having just read Chris Fuller's comments re BETT 2007. I have to mainly agee with his conclusion. The show has for the past few years flattered to deceive namely that you will find what you need to remedy IT in your school within the confines of the show.
I first visited the show 3 years ago as the introduction of Interactive Whiteboards was taking hold - you couldn't move for the things, they were everywhere. It would have been easier to name those who didn't have them. This time I noticed in my 3 hour jaunt that Learning Environments are the name of the game along with complete packages ( at a price!!!) to solve all of your woes.

I am a great believer in making use of the 'free web 2.0' tools and was very interested as Chris was to see how the pay to use services stacked up against our trusty free tools - software manufacturer Softease have come up with an 'easy to use' podcaster Podium an interesting piece of kit but - at a price ( where there are sites such as Odeo and Podomatic and the like which are completely free -and have very large amounts of storage space)
I also checked out podcast hosting services such as Radiowaves who host podcasts in an education community - at a price - I discussed with them funding for a small podcasting club run in school ( the price £999 oh yes for the price apart from the hosting service - a recordable MP3 player plus microphone ) I think that I will stick with my £26 Logic mp3 player and the use of as a 'free' hosting service ( David Noble has also started a free podcast directory, in addition David Warlick also host EPN another 'free' service).

Cefn Fforest Primary School visit BETT 2007

On Wednesday 10th January - Four pupils from Cefn Fforest Primary School accompanied by Headteacher Mr Nick Gannon and yours truly were invited to attend an awards ceremony for the 2006 Making The News internet journalism Competition. The 4 Year 6 pupils won in the category 'Best Overseas Story', they had organised, filmed and edited an interview with a visitor originally from Nigeria ( it was very fortunate for the pupils that our school recently purchased an Apple MacBook - without it ( and using a PC laptop) the editing process would have been almost impossible within the time).
For their efforts the pupils were invited to London to be awarded their prizes by Warwick Davis ( the diminutive actor who played the lead in the film 'Willow' and more recently Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films ) - they received a cheque for £100 and a goody bag containing mugs, T shirts among other things. The more exciting day for the pupils was the chance to browse the exhibition floor collecting promotional pens, rubbers and other stationary ( each having gathered at least 40 pens!!!!!) - great sport for all.
From my point of view, I had the chance to do some networking of my own, I had arranged prior to the visit to meet up with Chris Fuller a well known blogger and podcaster in the mfl field ( Chris has most recently been in negotiations with the BBC over its online resources BBC Jam ). It was really good to finally meet up with a 'real live' blogger in the flesh, my pupils had the chance to have a quick chat with Chris before we all had to go our seperate ways and head home. Unfortunately I missed Terry Freedman on Wednesday but I am sure that I will bump into him soon. ( I did visit the NAACE stand Terry however you had not arrived )

Chris made a good point while chatting that he was surprised that there weren't more blogs about BETT 2007, I must admit that I haven't had time to check this out. I believe that apart from Chris, Joe, Terry and myself there must surely be others and I wait to be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

TES Magazine Article 'Scope for Skype' by Stephen Manning

I have to thank Joe Dale for letting me know that the article was published in the TES Magazine on Friday 5th January ( I missed it as I believed it was to be published on Friday 12th - but received a pleasant surprise today ). The second reason for thanking Joe, is that having met him while using Skype, and having joined in a skypecast or two with him, it was Joe who mentioned the work that we were doing in school to Stephen Manning who then contacted me in order to write the piece - Thank You very much Joe, the desired effect hopefully of widening our colleague's understanding of the new Web 2.0 technologies.
I am in the process of listening to Graham Wegner's K12 online 2006 video podcast on why Web 2.0 is useful in the classroom and how it enables teachers to achieve using web 2.0 tools, in preparation for a skypecast this evening - Graham puts a very good case for the use of Web 2.0, explaining that it will only become more widely used if the technology is relevant to our colleagues.
This links directly to Skype as a tool, the connections that we have made is nothing new, teachers, classes and schools have been linking for years - it's the potential for linking and talking ( and seeing - using a webcam ) to people anywhere in the world via the internet that is an added bonus ( a much cheaper and less 'techie' method than going for full blown videoconferencing ). The K12 online planning wiki is at

What has Skype given us - number one from my point is that it has given the children in my class a voice, it has enabled them to frame questions, and ask them ( asking a person sat 13,000 miles away ), and responding to the reply they get and formulating a further question - so a big boost the speaking and listening in my classroom.

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