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Nessy Apps

I’ve had a good play with all the Nessy Apps on my android Smart Ultra 6 phone and they all run pretty smoothly. The Hairy Words apps are particularly good for High Frequency Words. Check out more information on Nessy products.

 

If you use the code ‘red dragon’ at the cart, you’ll get 10% off.

#TMCymru & NGFL-Cymru Innovative Education Awards 2011 #ngflief

Last Monday I spoke at the South Wales chunk of #tmcymru in the WJEC building about how I have used some tech (Nintendo DS, MSPaint on a stylus-equipped Elitebook as a mini writing tool, MS Flashcards and NGFL-Alphabet) and non-tech (plasticine) to make letter shapes in the work I’ve done with a severely literacy-delayed pupil, and a bit about how Kodu has been a springboard for pupils’ writing. Thanks to @asober for all the efforts in trying to stream up to North Wales, but as @innovativeteach pointed out, we were disadvantaged by streaming uphill.

Thursday I went to Cardiff again for the NGFL-Cymru/Partners In Learning Awards as I had been forced, badgered,harangued, hassled, persuaded by Alessio to submit a project. I met/didn’t meet some twitter people for the first time;- @ngflblount, @ikeontoast, @owaingethin, and Ian Morgan, Dafydd Watcyn Williams from NGFL-Cymru, Carys from Llanedeyrn, @ritzertech and @davestacey. As I had won an award in 2009 I was just wondering which of the others would get to go to the IEF in Reading at MS Headquarters in November. I was utterly shocked and delighted I was one of the two projects selected! Congratulations to Owain Gethin Davies for winning the other place and well done to all the other projects, there were great ideas on display. I am really looking forward to going to Reading as the events in Birmingham 2009 and Manchester 2010 were fabulous networking occasions.

Social Media- Peers Help Spelling?

This morning I taught 2 year 7 pupils, one was late into school so I had some time 1-1 with Hanalise. I’ve just set up zondle logins for all my students so went through that first as an icebreaker. Every  now and then I check up how their High Frequency Words are coming on and they devise mnemonics or other ways of remembering tricky words. Just out of the blue I went over Hanalise’s check list and asked her to spell orally some she got wrong at the end of January/beginning of Feb, she scored 60/100 then. She spelled several correctly so I continued, at the end of the process I counted up how many she had correct of the ones that were incorrect lat time, she scored 94/100. I was intrigued but thought there has to be some reason that such a jump has been achieved.

I recorded this audioboo after listening to her explanation of why there was such a big jump in her score.

I was a bit under in my estimate of how many more she got right! I am always a bit skeptical about ‘test’ scores but her improved oracy and confidence (she was an elective mute in the past) and and inclination to participate has been quite something to behold. Obviously this is a snapshot incident, but it was exciting to witness her undoubted self-confidence in her newfound skills and also watching her imaginary ‘air- typing’ as she went through the process of remembering how to spell certain words.

Later in the day also, a year 9 became animated at the prospect that he could now blog from home as I set him up as a contributor to my Pupils’ Blogs. His comment? ‘oh,rather than writing on paper i’ts easier to write on keyboard’ < paraphrased, I did record his soundbite but mustn’t have saved it properly, doh!

An interesting day!

Callum’s Letters

Callum (year 5) is trying really hard to remember all the initial letter sounds and the digraphs sh, ch, th and ck.

He’s doing really well using a format based on multisensory methods and short lesson sessions as advocated by the Catch Up literacy program. I have no commercial interest in Catch Up, but as Callum in his baseline assessment knew 13 initial sounds and ‘ck’ (given that he’s now year 5) I thought I’d try the quite systematic approach Catch Up advocates. Obviously as he has such complex needs, I’ve adapted the program somewhat, using the Nintendo DS and MSPaint as recording mediums and one sound per lesson as well as revising previously learned sounds.

I’ve made him write using his ‘magic’ finger, and the stylus on the Elitebook Tablet. He’s written the letters on the desk, tablet, NGFL_alphabet, Nintendo DSi, the walls, the carpet and paper. I’ll post more as the program unfolds.

He blended a n d today to read ‘and’ and as he blended the sounds to make the word, he exclaimed it like it was the first time he had really read it, rather than remembering the ‘and’ word. ‘I’m getting good at reading now’, was his comment.

After a few weeks he’s now recognising and distinguishing between h, t, sh, n, m and u (which bodes well for the future but it’s early days yet!)

I am convinced he is more motivated and engaged in literacy using the Nintendo DS, NGFL Alphabet and the Paint/Stylus input, time will tell.

#TEDxCardiff 8th April 2011

TEDxCardiff

It’s been some time since I blogged but yesterday I attended my first TEDx event, it won’t be my last.

I’ve seen some TED videos such as Ken Robinson’s landmark talk on creativity in education here so knew there would be some great thinking, ideas and achievements to witness.

The first speaker, Dr Kelly Page spoke about friendships and asked has Facebook changed the nature of friendship? She illustrated her talk with examples of friendships via Van Gogh’s letters, Lucille Ball and Viv Vance, and Steven Strogatz and the remarkable The Calculus of Friendship. She showed an amazing video of one of her student’s videos about her friend, compelling stuff. To finish, she left us with ‘it’s friendship counts, not friend count’. And you can actually get the t-shirt here.

Here’s a tweet from the moment- ‘Enact share celebrate = friendship. It’s the meaning not the media #tedxcdf

Tim Robertson spoke about some of the amazing art that prisoners have produced through the Koestler Trust. Illustrated with award winning art from offenders at prisons throughout the UK, many of the works provided thought-provoking insights into how life inside has been represented by art.

Solarference provided some stunning mucical concepts via their MspMAX-inspired software and laptop performance. Using snippets of sound captured by the software and resampled, they create sometimes trancy backbeats mixed with folk melodies, here and here are a couple of clips but I apologize for the poor audio, HTC Wildfire’s video camera a bit lacking, but you’ll get the idea of what these uber-creative musicians do.

Hans Rosling’s brilliant talk on washing machines was shown, watch it here. I tweeted ‘washing machines help you read’.

Clive Bates from the Welsh Assembly spoke about how climate-change targets can’t be agreed and how e.g. a carefully managed carbon tax might help. Maf Lewis and Rome Viharo gave an entertaining talk on ‘Is Google Concious’?

Kevin Chesters, Head of Strategy at Weiden & Kennedy(creators of the Cravendale cats with thumbs ad) rounded the first half up with a great talk on imagination in education, citing his own Eno And imaginary world from his childhood as an example. Arguing we should tailor education to children’s needs and stop stifling the creativity out of them, quoting Einstein’s ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. Gove take heed.

The second session opened with Tori James, the first Welsh woman (and youngest British woman) to climb Everest. Her talk on the internal battles she faced, illness to overcome and the ‘I can’ mindset in reaching the summit was inspirational. ‘Success comes in cans, not in can’ts’.

Pete Lawrence ran through a great slideshow on the history of The Big Chill, how it was a good example of using social media and how festivals generate a sense of belonging and community, linking this to his upcoming project Pic-nic Village.

Warren Fauvel and Luke Khan demonstrated the award winning t-shirt/webcam project PlayAirGuitar. Have a go yourself!

Mark Chataway spoke powerfully about how anti-vaccine campaigners are way better at social media marketing than better informed health leaders. He gave us food for thought about choices to be made. ‘…even though there are great medical advantages we still choose disease’.

From the TED archives, we were shown this astonishing talk by Dr Anthony Atala http://www.ted.com/talks/anthony_atala_printing_a_human_kidney.html

To finish, author Alastair Reynolds spoke about how science fiction gives us tools to explore big ideas. He talked about space and if advanced civilisations from other planets get so advanced, do they annihilate themselves before they have chance to contact us? His talk reminded me of this great infographic on The Scale of the Universe.

It was a great event and I’ll definitely be attending TEDxBristol in September.

Thanks to Neil Cocker and Claire Scantlebury (whose dad I’ve played jazz with) for organising it all, great work.

PS. If you take a look around my pupils blogs HERE (use the links on the RHS) they’d love a positive comment from you.

DSi and Games Based Learning – some more

Last week I asked my pupils  to bring in their Nintendo DS games consoles in to lessons and some of them did this week. On Tuesday, my small (3) group of pupils (all identified as having SpLD) used them to play a spelling game using the Pictochat feature. I gave 1 pupil a word to give another (ck endings in this case), the pupil wrote it down and zapped it into the Pictochat screen. The asker then copied the word and also zapped it into the screen. All the pupils could then see if the spelling was correct. The next pupil took his turn and so it went on. The pupils reviewed and acknowledged success and helped correct inaccuracies with not so much a sense of ‘that’s wrong’, more of a ‘it’s right this time’ positivity. I felt a great satisfaction from removing myself from the scene once they were up and running, the pupils’ motivation and engagement in the task was, to say the least, intense.

Obviously the same task could be done with pencil and paper, but I firmly believe the fact they were holding these little boxes increased their participation and sense of  ‘flow’ in an activity that I had previously not witnessed. As only one pupil had brought his in, the other two said they had lost theirs ‘in the house somewhere’. It will be fantastic if they find them for next week!

There was a similar pattern to lessons on Wednesday, but today was probably the most exciting development.

H, (am keeping her anonymity for the time being, hopefully the PTB will assent that I can start these pupils blogging asap but there appears to be some red-tape to pass through first….) is a year seven pupil I have taught since September. She is very timid, almost an elective mute, rarely speaking but reads quite well albeit barely audibly.

The week before last she asked were we bringing our DS’s in? I said yes but last week the whole school was on ‘theme day’ so I didn’t have any pupils. This week, the other pupil who attends with her was absent. She  had been learning spellings with the ‘or’ letter pattern and sat down and immediately got her DS out and fired it up. I noticed a picture of a hamster on her start-up screen. She wrote this with no prompting;-

H1 (Medium)

As well as the dialogue on the DS she appeared hugely more animated than usual, and as we started checking her  ‘or’ spellings  this then appeared.

H2 (Medium)

And smiled, this sense of humour had never revealed itself before, the spelling dialogue continued. Here are some more images of the screen towards the end of the lesson.

H3 (Medium)

I used the opportunity to correct some High Frequency spellings which she then altered, each time noticing what the mistake was.

H4 (Medium)

This final screen I think illustrates the power that this little box could have on her learning.

H5 (Medium)

I couldn’t help being genuinely flabbergasted by the amount of interaction, intensity and motivated engagement she showed in the activity. This was the first time I had used the DS with this pupil. The multi-modality of the communication, both her increased speaking, and the dialogue via the DS was quite extraordinary in comparison with previous lessons.

To witness a pupil using the entertainment technology they use everyday to enhance their learning, was possibly never more powerfully apparent to me than today.

games based learning for spld and dyslexics- post ukief10

I’ve written nothing since my new job as a teacher of SpLD, dyslexic pupils and pupils with literacy difficulties, but here’s an update on some ideas that I’ve posted before on but with a fresher slant, and especially after #itmeet and #ukief10. Some fabulous mini-presentations from @janwebb21, @dawnhallybone, @deputymitchell, @mrstucke, @jdeyenberg et al at the #itmeet evening session and it was great to put faces and bodies to lots of tweeps. I’ll reflect on the Tuesday a bit later.

I try and turn everything into a game where I can and have found the following have engaged the pupils in their learning-

  • Phonics- letters recognition for the very young, feely bag, a few letters in the bag ( the ones they don’t know only), score points for correct sound and name
  • Spelling solutions- after dictating a test passage pupils score each others dictations proof reading from the original text, helps scanning, reading carefully and throws up the specific spelling anomalies for each pupil
  • Mnemonics- they do work-get kids to make funny ones and score on laughter rating.
  • As I have Android I use Talking Tom Cat (like Talking Carl) to speak back, kids love it on early trials and the fact you can record video is a bonus (I wish Talking Carl would work on an htc wildfire  devs ;-)).
  • Wordshark– still so excellent for quick find spelling pattern reinforcement.
  • Nessy– shedfuls of rich content-serve it digital or print but save ink and use it on whiteboard- great.
  • The ipod Pocket Phonics leads the pack for me in apps because of the British accent (come on you app developers, get a UK British accent on your literacy games, you’d sell tons more!!!)
  • I’ve yet to try the Pictochat thing on the Nintendo DS in the current job (but did before) however I think the pupils will enjoy spelling and story telling using that feature (rather than paper, just because they like it!)
  • Swap cards-reading, speaking and listening card games- very useful and the pupils love them
  • Story telling with USB Smartmic to record.
  • Xtranormal- have used this today to create a spelling dialogue here, very first trial, huge potential for engagement and scriptwriting, and both a year 7 and a year 9 said it was ‘very cool’.
  • Thanks to @chickensaltash for the heads up on these next tools…
  • Blabberize– great fun for speaking and listening activities.
  • Fuzzwich– an animation tool for dialogue added to pictures.
  • Dvolver– direct your own movies.

but also general things you can do in mainstream classrooms to aid the SpLD/Dyslexic pupil

  • Change background clour on whiteboard-
  • Word 2007/10 (-> Page Layout>Page Colour> select colour)
  • PDF doc (-> Adobe Reader>Edit>Preferences>Accessibility>Check Replace Document Colours box>Choose Page Background) to pale yellow, blue, whatever colour suits (even if there is no discernible difference, why not have a pastel background.
  • Photocopy texts onto pastel coloured paper.
  • Word banks- can be on wallcharts, put in a file, on a Wallwisher, Dabbleboard, etc.
  • Spelling journal, carry it around with them.
  • Coloured overlays, you can buy a set of 10 A4 sheets from Crossbow and cut them up into 5cm by 2/3cm rulers. Get a mini-set of all colours, lay them out over a page and ask the pupils if any colour make a difference reading-wise, the extensive research in this area doesn’t matter one way or the other in my opinion, if a pupil feels one is good/better than reading black off white then give them their own mini reading ruler.

Just a few things I have found useful which I hope some of you find useful, and to quote  a widely read book , ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing and the main thing is learning.’ Steven Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (thanks Dan again). And keep learning dangerous and naughty- thanks @daviderogers.

And its all horses for courses, what works for one might or might not work for another, let the pupil lead the learning, light the fire rather than fill the vessel.

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