I discovered this app a few weeks ago when I was looking for something to use with Foundation Stage for an Early Years Switched On ICT lesson. The lesson “We have Confidence” outlined creating and playing a game using a Power-point slideshow. This would feature images of the class and associated sound files. Essentially - click on a picture of a child – listen and identify who is speaking. I knew there must be an app that would help us to do this in a more efficient and enjoyable way. The Powerpoint creation would essentially involve photographing, sound recording and formatting it all good but a bit of a pain.
At this point I discovered by Custom Soundboard – an app for combining pictures and short audio recordings to create a soundboard. The app works as follows:
Tap an empty square
Take a photograph or choose from the library
Record a short audio clip
Play back your audio
Redo or move to the next box
I tried this with our Foundation pupils a couple of weeks ago and by play timewe had worked together and created a class sound board which we then plugged into the AV system. The pupils loved tapping on their picture and hearing the playback of their little speeches, mostly “My name is and I want to be ….”. Unlike the same task using Powerpoint we could very easily edit or retry the parts of the board that needed rerecording or sharper photographs. I am hoping the children will now begin creating some of their own boards.
The other win in using this app is that you are actually hitting a greater number of ICT skills. We can sometimes forget about skills teaching or assume they are there innately, when we use iPads with young children. However just because Foundation Stage pupils can easily play games and progress through Learning apps, it does not always mean that they have some of the necessary ICT skills needed to create and/ edit their own media effectively. Consider the skills the children learned in this unit and with this app, versus the digital baby sitting / just playing that can sometimes be the diet of Foundation Stage pupils.
Gain familiarity with the function and buttons of a new and unfamiliar app
Taking a Photograph
Reviewing the photograph to ensure the full head was present and having the confidence to reject and retake the picture if necessary
Recording sound and editing/rerecording if necessary
Create a pictorial wordbank to aid spelling use images of words ( perhaps created in Keynote first)and speak/record the accompanying words. This would be very useful for children with English as an additional langauge or children with communication difficulties.
PSHE – ask children to collect positive and supportive comments about themselves from their classmates
Develop a personal set of alphabet Flash Cards
Collect views about an issue and present these to the class
Make notes about a science investigation or other problem solving exercise and use this digital record to aid in writing up
Use the app to create a mystery with each photo revealing a clue or part of a story – this could lead into story writing or perhaps Maths with clues being related to properties of shapes or even coordinates.
Though this is a great app it would be even better if there were some way to export the boards or add more than one.
This is not a long post or a detailed how to about Kodu. I merely want to flag up how great this software is for upper Key Stage 2. Essentially Kodu is about giving children a meaningful and quite exciting context to learn some aspects of programming. They have to compile strips of instructions based on when (a condition occurs for example see a red apple) and do (an action , for example eat the apple).
I have worked with two Year Six classes this week and the cries of “woah” and “sick” were many as they saw the games that others had built. In terms of this forming part of a coding/programming/computer science curriculum, Kodu is an easier and perhaps sexier way in for many teachers. Though do not expect to just leave the children to get on with it, as it is so much more satisfying if you get to grips with it yourself first. This week the task was to instruct the “Kodu” character to move with the arrow keys (though you can use Xbox controllers) and locate apples. They then needed to score a point for eating a red and have a point deducted for eating a blue. I gave some input but also added some challenges, which the children relished.
Their next task was to design an island, though we will move on to a Martian landscape, in order to help them get to grips with the design tools. This was perhaps down to the trial and error, the editing, improving and experimenting which the children were involved in. Working with Kodu does not feel like a million miles away from sitting at my desk in 2Simple Software. That feeling of creating something, of problem solving, of innovating on a piece of code, of breaking something and putting it back together, of looking online for answers… And then the satisfaction of looking back or sharing what you have made with others. That is what Kodu offers and that is what I would like to see more of this sort of challenging, mind taxing and yet creative ICT. As much as I love my iPad apps and my free online tools, there is still nothing quite so challenging and coding based on an iPad. If all we ever do is wheel round trolleys of iPads and present children with apps, then i think we present an image of ICT which is one of watered down simplicity. We also fail to equip them with the belief that they could build an app or a game.
It seems odd to be talking about something so analogue on a normally tech focussed blog,but sometimes we can overplay technology when something so simple and low fi can have amazing results. I am simply talking about sharing a book and the love of books with children.
For the last 2-3 years I have built into my own boys’ bedtime routine a simple story time and it is beginning to show dividends as they craft their own oral stories and nag me to read them treasured stories.
Pie Corbett endorses this passing on of riches in this Youtube clip and points out that this is when children learn the templates of story telling.
With my class this year, I am very lucky that they already love reading, but I want this love to continue. They tell me about books they enjoy and authors they love, sometimes I even have to remind them to put down their texts and focus on the next instruction. I would hate to kill this love by shoehorning reading into soulless guided reading. There is nothing worse than feeding children the literary equivalent of Tesco Value fish fingers, namely a processed “written for guided reading” text that has languished in the resource area for the last year.
My children want Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo and Roald Dahl. At this point I have to give a shameless but very deserved plug to Read and Respond by Scholastic. A tool which has greatly helped me and renewed my faith in guided, shared and group reading over the last 10 days. Quite simply well worth the money. You get a pack of books and a well written teacher book containing extracts and quality exercises.
In essence with this resource you can get up to speed with the context and content of the book very quickly and while presenting the children with meaningful and stretching response tasks that are not just – do a book review or draw a story map.
Read and respond is not the panacea, it is a good tool and needs to sit alongside sharing a story with the class and filling the reading area with books and magazines. I think if you get this sharing and infectious book enthusiasm right, you will see what I am beginning to notice which is a marked effect on the written output.
I have been working with my Year 6 children now for about four weeks. They have access to an ICT suite with networked PCS, but for cross curricular work we use IPADS. That is when we can get hold of them.
I just wanted to throw down a few thoughts and observations of my early experiences with these devices.