eTwinning Ambassador Joe Dale attended the Future Classroom Lab course in Brussels on September 24th and 25th 2012, organised by European Schoolnet, all about the practical use of multimedia in teaching.
"Thanks to the UK eTwinning team, I had the wonderful opportunity last month to attend the European Schoolnet course Creative use of multimedia and devices in the classroom and collaborate with like-minded educators from all around Europe! The two days’ training took place in the Future Classroom Lab, a purpose built venue in Brussels designed to facilitate users’ desire to experiment with different pedagogical approaches using new technologies.
Aimed to cater for a range of learning styles and needs, the lab is divided into six distinct zones: Create, Present, Interact, Investigate, Develop and Exchange and equipped with a host of different technologies appropriate to that zone. As delegates, we were encouraged to bring along our own devices whatever they may be and to use them individually or collaboratively to achieve specific outcomes. Working on our own or in small groups in this way proved to be effective, as we were all pretty techno savvy and therefore could draw on each other’s creativity irrespective of the device we were using.
Pedagogical Adviser for the Future Classroom Lab, Bart Verswijvel welcomed us to the venue and delivered a thought-provoking presentation about how learning in the 21st century needs to adapt in order to meet the needs of young people today. This happened in the Present zone (of course) after which he introduced us to our tutor for the next two days, Apple Distinguished Educator, Kurt Klynen. Kurt kicked off proceedings by asking us to write down on a variety of interactive whiteboards and surfaces what we were interested in learning during the workshop. This gave a nice snapshot of personalised expectations and a framework from which to proceed. Next he showed us a couple of video clips containing inspiring examples of multimedia work and explained how we would be asked to complete a number of different tasks during the course. These would be done either individually or in small groups and we would upload the results to an Edmodo group he had created for this purpose.
We also talked a little about other publishing tools such as Posterous and Weebly for showcasing student work as well as other useful web tools and apps. I suggested that for those wanting to tweet about their learning that they use the hashtag #cuomw (short for creative use of multimedia workshop) and that we display these contributions on one of the boards using the tool VisibleTweets. Having a backchannel in this way seemed to work well as it allowed delegates to see what each other was tweeting about and to bring in comments from the outside world too.
Our first task was to introduce ourselves to each other through the use of animated speaking avatars using any web tool or app we wanted. Suitably challenged and with our collective creative juices flowing, we set off producing fun and engaging examples with such services as Blabberize, Face your Manga, Go! Animate and Morfo. Watch the video clip below to get a flavour of what we came up with.
I personally made two introductory clips using ToonCamera and iFunFace and was delighted to find out that I could upload my creations from the camera roll to the Edmodo group using the native app on my iPad. Cool!
The second task was a group activity and required us to plan and record a short radio show with our tools of choice. In my group, we decided to use both an iPad and laptop to record and edit with which produced pleasing outcomes albeit in a rather complicated and longwinded way. Having roughly scripted our masterpiece involving a weather broadcast and news flash about a shocking incident in a local restaurant involving a menagerie of escaped animals, we proceeded to record with the free Hokusai app on the iPad and the Samson GoMic connected via the Camera Connection Kit. Editing with our fingers took a little time to master, but the learning curve was fortunately not insurmountable. Once finished, we uploaded the recording to my Box account as a Wav file so we could download it on to my colleague’s laptop and use the Levelator to balance the audio levels.
For those who are not aware of the awesomeness of the Levelator, it is a free tool which analyses the volume of different speakers’ voices in a recording and raises or lowers them so that the finished sound is of a consistent level. Once launched, the Levelator appears as a black rectangle in the middle of your screen and all you need to do is to drop your wav file on to it for it to start to perform its magical conversion. When completed, a new file appears next to the original with the same name plus the word output to show it has been levelated. For a radio show like ours, the Levelator was an absolute boon as it balanced the volume levels of our different voices beautifully and made for a more professional sound. If I’m honest, it probably would have made more sense and taken fewer steps to record and edit the whole thing on the laptop, but it was fun to experiment with different devices which is what the workshop was all about!
Moving on, we imported the levelated version into Audacity along with a podsafe audio base track Acoustica we’d downloaded from Jewelbeat.com. I finished by showing everyone how to duck the music under the vocal track so it sounded more professional and exported as mp3. Easy! To finish, the groups came back together and played each other their collaborative efforts which was lovely.
Drained but thrilled after our day’s inventiveness, we successfully socialised in the evening with a slap up dinner and a few glasses of Belgian beer to help us get more acquainted!
Day 2 proved as engaging as Day 1 as we launched into storyboarding a simple fairy tale employing two lego characters, a small stone, some sticky tape and a lot of creativity. Within an hour, we had produced a heart-breaking, stop motion animation using the I can Animate app on the iPad about unrequited love and a woman scorned which of course everyone found very touching in the showcase at the end. Ahhh!
The onion skinning feature of the app where frames are made translucent and super-imposed on top of each other helped greatly when choosing the next shot and simplified the process overall. In fact, I would say using an iPad for animation in general is so much easier than a digital camera and Movie Maker which I’ve used in the past although the camera on my iPad2 meant that the close ups were quite blurred compared to what we could have achieved with an iPad3 which has a significantly better camera.
Our last task was to create a 3-5 minute movie trailer or promotional video about the Future Classroom Lab amalgamating all the techniques and skills we had learnt during our short time in Brussels. Arguably this was our greatest triumph of all as we worked together like a well-oiled machine, each member making their own contribution and feeding off each other’s ingenuity to achieve a polished finished product. Wow!
To round off the training nicely, I recorded a short podcast interview with Kurt where he gives his reflections on how he felt everything went. This includes his views on subjects such as the effectiveness of a ‘bring your own device’ policy (BYOD) and using Twitter for professional development. You can listen to our discussion here.
Kurt was then kind enough to take me to the train station where we continued to discuss all things iPad on the way to Leuven where I was picked up by Frank Van De Wyer who I had met previously at the UK national eTwinning conference a few months before. Frank drove me to Diest where he lives, introduced me to his mum, dad and four year old daughter and made me a lovely meal to boot. The following day, Frank showed me round the town including some amazing medieval streets before taking me to the train station for my journey home.
eTwinning made all of these connections possible so before I finish, I’d like to thank the British Council again for allowing me to go to Belgium and Kurt, Bart and Frank for making the whole experience so memorable. It was an unforgettable visit and I’m very grateful to have had the chance to meet and work with such talented and creative people. Cheers!