eTwinning Ambassador Filippa Magor attended the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels this month about Creative Use of Multimedia.
"As an eTwinning ambassador, I was very lucky to be offered the opportunity to participate in the Creative Use of Multimedia course at the Future Classroom Lab in Brussels. The course tied in particularly well with our school improvement plan targets which are to develop writing, particularly boys, through the creative use of ICT. This course couldn’t have ticked more boxes for me as a member of the senior leadership team and thankfully my head agreed to my two day jaunt (for purely educational purposes of course).
My journey was eventful to say the least, in part because of the ‘model lego’ plane I flew on (ha), also the lack of Sunday night trains and poor directions from the hotel. Fortunately, upon arrival at the Thon Hotel, my worries disappeared as I stepped in to the funky, brightly coloured interior and sank gratefully onto my super queen size bed for one! If I were to travel to Brussels again, I would most definitely take a morning or afternoon flight as Brussels is not the type of place you want to walk around alone at night.
The first day began with a super duper breakfast and a catch up with the delightful Joe Dale. This particularly excited me as I knew, without a doubt, I was going to learn a lot and get the opportunity to work with some talented and like minded people. A couple of steps across the road from the Thon Hotel, we arrived at the aptly named ‘Future Classroom Lab. As a teacher I can dream that one day my classroom could look this. The lab is divided in to different areas Create, Present, Interact, Investigate, Develop and Exchange and each is has a variety of different technologies suitable to its zone. The areas are very much a free flowing space which encourages movement between zones and flexible approach to pedagogy.
In the present zone, Pedagogical Adviser for the Future Classroom Lab, Bart Verswijvel welcomed us to the course and delivered an inspiring presentation on the future of education, how we will need to adapt to keep up with technology and provide pupils with skills they will need in the future. Pressing upon us the importance and need to inspire children through the use of the tools they love. Bart then introduced us to our tutor for the next two days, Apple Distinguished Educator, Kurt Klynen. (Wow! How much does this guy know and what would I give to have been a kid in his class?!)
Kurt quickly directed us to Edmodo. Edmodo provides a safe and easy way for classes to connect and collaborate, share content, access homework, assignments and resources. This was to be our mode of communication for the duration of the course and in a quirky twist we were to be given assignments for each element that was being covered which would then be uploaded to the Edmodo site to be shared. At this point we also discussed other options for publishing work through blogging or web pages such as Primary Blogger, Posterous and Weebly. Top Tip: I must say I was hugely impressed with Weebly. What an easy way to create a website and blog! Simply drag and drop the elements you require, such as gallery, slideshow, picture and paragraph, poll, video and many, many more in to the chosen place on your page! It could not be easier and I am using it for both my class blog and eWizzards eTwinning Project. Children are creating the web sites and blogs with little or no help from me, excellent!
The first task was to introduce ourselves through the use of animated, speaking avatars. There was much discussion about the various tools which could be used to achieve this as everyone had been asked to bring along our chosen device to use on the course. I had brought along my laptop and iPad. Being a pretty techno savy group, there were many suggestions of apps and programmes to use and Kurt began to discuss a top tip that has really made a difference within our school. Having an excellent business manager at our school, means we have recently been able to procure 60 iPads for our pupils. As with any thing exciting, we dived straight in and had 100s of apps! However, Kurt advised it was best to have around 10 apps that every teacher understood, confidently how to use and which, as a result, would be used effectively within their teaching.
With my creative juices flowing and ready to rise to the challenge of my first assignment I used Face your Manga (free) to create a comic image of myself which I then downloaded and saved. Blabberize (free) was my chosen site to add audio and create the animated version of myself. Another good option to use would have been Morfo, with this app you can animate a photograph which you have taken and edit in lots of different, cool ways! Our finished animated avatars were uploaded to the Edmodo site and we proceeded to have a good chuckle at the results! This has much potential for use within the classroom. For example, I cannot wait to for children to write a speech for King Henry VIII when we cover the Tudors and then to animate it! It will really help them develop their ICT and speaking and listening skills! Exciting!
The second task was a collaborative assignment which required us to plan and record a short radio broadcast complete with catchy jingle. Working as a group, gave us the opportunity to try out different tools to achieve our aim. We used Audacity on the lap top which is a very easy and effective way of recording and editing sound recordings. Luckily our laptops had inbuilt speakers but if this is not the case you can get some really cheap USB plug in microphones. The only downfall with Audacity is that it does not come with any music clips for you to use as backing tracks. As a result of this, one of our team had the GarageBand app already installed on their iPad. This does come at a small cost but has the added ease of knowing there is an inbuilt sound recorder, a good range of music tracks and even many instruments for you to make your own music! Our radio broadcast was much more about getting hands on learning with new tools rather than the finished product, ha! A handy little tool suggested by Joe Dale was the Levelator which would be of great use for children when recording sounds as it does what it says on the box; levels the various sound clips so there are no shouty or mousey voices.
After a very productive but draining day we were treated to a top meal at a local restaurant. Sipping on a couple of glasses of Belgian wine and tasting the local fare we were able to discuss our activities from the day and reflect on what we had learned. Great company, good food and wine made a lovely, relaxing evening.
The second day proved just as engaging as the first. Our assignment was to create an animated cartoon. With the Ipads, I have found there are many different apps to achieve the same the same thing so I was determined to explore a range of apps to see which would be most suitable, user friendly and effective. In my opinion, the best by far was Toontastic. This app enables users to create engaging, animated cartoons with music and recorded sound. The story was set out in parts and there were lots of characters and scenes to choose from. You are also able to purchase additional options or even take photographs of your own characters and settings to add to you animation. This was a simple app to use but the finish product looked and sounded great. Experienced users may be better with an alternative however this was more than adequate for primary aged children and it certainly entertained me!
As an extension to this task we were then required to create a stop motion movie of a traditional tale. Creative Block comes to mind! Kurt had recommended storyboarding the parts of the story first to make it easier when it came to physically creating the film. Well, this was more difficult that it seemed with each member of our group having different ideas. No wonder we have to teach effective team work to children when a group of practitioners found it so difficult hehe! Finally, with two lego characters, a roll of brown sticky tape and a lot ‘interesting’ sketches we created a tale of forbidden love, with the main character turning in to a stone! At least, that is what we had planned. The final product, however, was questionable and definitely threw up a lot of good teaching points for consideration before attempting this with children. Planning, planning, planning!
Phew, I was introduced to a wonderful world of ICT tools by the Future Classroom’s Lab. The course finished with my head absolutely brimming with ideas of how I could incorporate all these new skills in to my teaching and the possibilities for exciting eTwinning projects are endless! In fact, as a result of the course I have collaborated with Kurt (from the Future Classroom’s Lab) and Dan Weber, a fellow eTwinning ambassador, to create a new eTwinning project eWizzards! The eWizzards will learn to use all the wonderful tools we practiced with in on the course, and then act as experts for the rest of the school. They will run training sessions for teachers to learn to use new tools. In addition, the eWizzards will also be helpers in class when groups are using the tools within lessons, in an aim to reduce the stress for teachers when trying to introduce new ICT tools and technologies!
Thank you for the experience in Brussels, I can’t wait to get going with the eWizzards. Be sure to check out our website and comment on our blog: http://ewizzards.weebly.com/index.html"