Monteney Primary School is located in Parson Cross, in the north of Sheffield and is a larger than average primary school with 471 on roll. It serves a primarily white, working-class community and 25% pupils are eligible for and claiming free school meals [DfE School and Local data]. The school was rated ‘good’ in the most recent Ofsted Report (2012), stating that the pupils had made particularly good progress in English.
22.214.171.124 Digital Literacy Practice
Peter set up a Moodle for the work that he wanted to undertake. He aimed to develop a set of resources that would enable children to undertake a series of activities independently, which they could access from both home and school.
5.1.6 Peter talking about Scratch from deftoer3 on Vimeo.
He also hoped to develop a set of resources that could be used by other teachers undertaking similar activities. It was essential that these resources were open source and could be accessed across all platforms.
In developing children’s digital literacy skills, Peter planned activities that would integrate these skills with meaningful practice; they would not be developed in isolation. He therefore conceived of a project focused on monsters, which enabled him to develop a series of activities that were linked by theme and enabled children to work with a wide range of tools.
First, Peter set up a programming activity using the MIT program, Scratch. He used a site called Screenr, a free web based screen recorder to create screencasts that detailed the procedures children needed to follow in order to make their own monsters (see video above). In this way, children were able to work independently and at their own pace. This also enhanced children’s ability to follow instructional texts.
As the project progressed, Peter ensured that the children were able to program a conversation between two monsters. For children beginning programming, this was an important element to understand, as it required them to program each turn in a conversation so the speech of the monsters did not overlap. Click here to view this work.
b. Using 3D design software
Following completion of the programming activity, Peter moved on to a site that enabled children to create their own 3D monsters using a program developed by one of the authors of the Sims, called Spore. Once the children had designed the monsters they used Fotobabble to talk about their monsters.
c. Digital music composition
Next, Peter set up a series of tutorials that would enable the children to create a musical score to a clip of Godzilla, using Aviary’s music creator, Roc. Schools need to be aware of any copyright issues that can arise in the use of such clips, but there are online resources for films and music that can be used in schools without copyright problems, for example British Pathe and Audionetwork.
Click here to access the children’s musical scores.
Some of the tracks composed by the children were then added to the relevant film clips.
d. Monster acrostics
In this activity, Peter asked the children to develop an acrostic poem about a monster and use the tool Voki to create an avatar to recite the poem.
Click here for more examples.
e. Monster descriptions
In the final activity, Peter created a video of himself in the role of an Amazon explorer who had mysteriously disappeared in the jungle. Using a link to Google Earth that enabled pupils to link notes, he set them the quest of finding out what had happened, leaving various clues such as a gigantic footprint and the recorded roar of a creature.
The children were invited to create a drawing of the creature using either Sumo Paint or Pixlr. They then noted what they thought the monster looked like using Lino It which enabled them to write on a sticky note attached to a photograph of the Amazon.
To view this work click here.
The case study resulted in a range of work produced by children that demonstrates the skills, knowledge and understanding developed in the project. A collection of resources has also been created for teachers that will enable them to undertake work of a similar nature. The blog will ensure that work can be shared with a broader public.
126.96.36.199 Reflections on Teaching
From the outset Peter wanted the project to be about accessibility: not just for the pupils but for any teacher or parent who wished to try out the activities with their children:
Often, the opportunity to try out a new and exciting learning opportunity can be stymied by a reliance on a particular operating system, a piece of kit or a level of technical expertise Mr. Zuckerberg would quake at.
With this in mind, nearly all the resources used were:
- Open source
- Cross-platform (Windows, Mac or Linux)
- Web based
- Able to be used at home
I used Moodle as the platform. Although it requires expertise to set up, it has the ability to display Scratch programs without having to download the software. A range of other platforms could have been used just as effectively, e.g.WordPress blog. All that is needed is something that would glue the various elements together: ‘this is the age of the embed’.
Peter chose well-established web-based applications, likely to be in existence for the foreseeable future, although this can never be guaranteed. For example the popular Aviary Tools for Schools is already being phased out. In addition he ensured that for every choice he made alternatives were available, for example, VoiceThread or Fotobabble.
The screencasts Peter made of resources used helped children’s understanding and allowed them to work independently and at their own pace. Instructional text had an audio equivalent and procedures had a video tutorial that mirrored teacher instruction.
Supporting children in the initial learning stages with these aids meant that they were able to acquire the procedural skills (linear learning) needed to access the task efficiently and began to express themselves through exploration and adaptation (nonlinear).
188.8.131.52 Reflections on Learning
At the start of the project, having only ever used Scratch with older children, Peter was a little nervous about whether the children could cope with it. This concern turned out to be groundless. The magic of creating a sprite and then making it move generated such enthusiasm in the children that they were desperate to learn the skills to be able to do it for themselves. As the project progressed, several children told Peter that they had downloaded it at home and were making their own ‘Scratches’. One of the boys and his mother had made a program together.
By using Voki, children who could not transcribe their thoughts in text could use the audio recording facility to fully participate in the activity. The text-to-speech facility was also very useful as a drafting process, as the children could hear when their spellings were not quite right and went back to edit.
Creating Spore creatures was so visually exciting. Children loved the way they could morph and change their creatures’ bodies and it prompted raging debates about how a particular body part or anatomical feature would help the animal to survive. They were able to actually test out their creature designs and to observe how their design choices would affect their animal’s mobility: for example, Spiky Bols (see right) found it particularly hard to walk.
184.108.40.206 Reflections on Digital Literacy
The project enabled the children to develop digital literacy skills, knowledge and understanding, including the ability to use a range of digital tools for the purposes of creativity and self-expression in a range of subject areas, for example literacy, music, art.
A significant aspect of the study was that the digital tools and sites were not used in isolation; they were part of activities that embedded meaning-making and creativity. For example, children did not learn programming for the sake of programming; they used Scratch to create monsters that would be shared with others on an open access website.
A further point to note is that using of screencasts to lead children through the use of digital tools was a means of developing their independence. They were able to stop, rewind and replay these as and when needed. Peter’s work has been the focus of academic analysis in the past. The pedagogical model developed by Bob Lingard and team in Australia was used to illustrate how Peter used productive pedagogies to foster high-quality learning (Marsh 2007). This model also offers insights into Peter’s current project.
The productive pedagogies model was developed in the Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study (Lingard et al 2001), in which observational data from approximately 1,000 primary and secondary classrooms were used to map pedagogical practices across a number of elements. These elements were derived from statistical analyses of classroom observation data and were drawn together across four dimensions: intellectual quality, connectedness, supportive classroom environment, and engagement with and valuing of difference. These dimensions constitute productive pedagogies which can facilitate social justice in schools, ensuring learner agency, relevance and challenge.
Lingard et al (2001) suggest that one of these dimensions, connectedness, involves the following elements:
Knowledge integration: does the lesson integrate a range of subject areas?
Background knowledge: are links with students’ background knowledge made explicit?
Connectedness to the world: is the lesson, activity or task connected to competencies or concerns beyond the classroom?
Problem-based curriculum: is there a focus on identifying and solving intellectual and/or real-world problems?
The project was strong in relation to the first element of this dimension, the integration of knowledge across subject areas. The monster project enabled children to draw from knowledge across a range of areas, including literacy, technology and art. The characteristics of the technology meant that a cross-curricular approach was an integral part of the work, with the children accessing a wide range of online sources and variety of software throughout the project.
In terms of the second element, explicit links to the pupils’ background knowledge, Peter ensured that the project drew from well-established knowledge about digital practices that had been developed inside and outside the classroom.
The third element, connectedness to the world, was fostered through the use of open source software. Some of the children accessed this from home and were thus able to develop their digital competencies. While the project was based on an imaginative topic, monsters, the skills developed were very much related to concerns beyond the classroom, as the children developed competencies in relation to a range of online tools.
The fourth element of the connectedness dimension, identifying and solving intellectual/real-world problems, was also central to the project. For example, Peter encouraged the children to try to solve problems when programming using Scratch, such as making the monsters speak sequentially. Other examples of children being challenged to address a range of technical and intellectual problems included creating musical scores using software they were previously unfamiliar with, investigating the process of linking notes to the Google Streetmap and working out how to create 3D monsters using design software.
220.127.116.11 References/Links to Further Information
Lingard B, Ladwig J, Luke A, Mills M, Hayes D and Gore J (2001). The Queensland school reform longitudinal study, vols 1 and 2. Brisbane: Education Queensland.
Marsh J (2007). ‘New literacies and old pedagogies: recontextualizing rules and practices’. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 11(3): 267–281.
Links to Further Resources
British Pathe: online resources for films and music that can be used in schools without copyright problems
Fotobabble: a free web based service that allows voice to be added to photographs
Fotobabble tutorial, add your voice to any photo
The MagPi: A monthly electronic magazine , with articles from higher education and commercial sectors to stimulate ICT development activities using the Raspberry Pi
TES (2012) Using Lino it in the classroom: teaching resourceMoodle: Open Source Virtual Learning Environment. The homepage and other aspects can be customised for the needs of the school. Functions include enrolment of students on courses, teachers being able to set and mark assignments, manage forums and create wikis.
Pixlr: free online photo editor
Redware: (2012) 10 Resources to support Scratch Day in the classroom (website, May 2012)
Roc Aviary’s music creator
Scratch: free programming language
Spore: a commercial game that allows users to create creatures using principles of evolution
Sumo Paint: Sumopaint is a free online art package with a comprehensive set of creation tools
Voki: a free service that enables users to create customised avatars, add voice, post to any blog or website
Voice Thread: a commercial service that allows the creation of collaborative presentations by collecting text and voice comments