23rd June 2013 – The Piano Alternatives, Geography App, Videos 2 iPads & Mr Mood idea

Each week my Flipboard app, Twitter responses, my kids, my Kindle Fire and my Google reader deliver a collection of new web tools, apps, books, crazy experiences, random rants  and must read articles or books.

An Alternative to the Piano

Don’t you just love the National Literacy Strategy Unit on the Piano. I never tire of the Aidan Gibbons film and all the great talk and writing you can inspire from it. But it is down as both a Year 5 and a Year 6 Unit. It can happen that both Year Groups want to cover this unit, so is there anything else that could be used.

I had given this some thought and was reminded on Twitter of a very powerful film that throws up a lot of questions and has no conventional beginning, middle or happy end. Last year, I showed my Year 6 class Replay and their writing was amazing. It may not be a flashback narrative, but it does lend itself to voice overs, explorations of emotions and a wealth of unanswered questions to discuss and back stories to fill in. Thank you to @Tomsale on Twitter for reminding me of this one.

And then – thanks to another very kind Twitter pal, @garethk007, I was alerted to these two fantastic animations. He claims that that this one made his TA cry and the kids loved it. Well see what you think:

Gareth must have been on a bit of a role as he gave me this one from Vimeo too. Though Vimeo is blocked in my school, so I will need to download it first. This film, Ruin by Wes Ball, is a post-apocalyptic vision of a world that has been overrun by nature. It feels like an action movie and there is not a hint of old men tinkling the ivories anywhere. But, there are lots of unanswered questions and an engaging if albeit brief chase narrative to stimulate some amazing writing,


RUIN from Wes Ball on Vimeo.

An App that Gamifies Geography Knowledge

I have been playing with Geo Brain 2. An app that quizzes you on Geography and by that I mean locations and facts about countries and cities, not oxbow lakes and cliff erosion. What I like about this app is that it not only corrects you, it also gives you direct links to Wikipedia pages about the place you are being asked about. It feels like the ICT lesson we have all done, where you ask a child to do some research about a place except with this app you have more direction and frankly more fun.

I made a short video / screen grab below to give you a flavour of just part of it.

BTW it is free.

Continue reading


More iPad Helpsheets


helpsheetAs I am doing some training for Teaching Assistants, I needed to make some help sheets PDFS.

I used a mixture of Skitch and Pages for iPad to create these and I do hope they are of use to you.

Do keep in mind that they are created for basic users and they are version 1- feedback and amendments are always welcome

I am adding these to a growing collection on the downloads section of the site.

Creating Trailers with iMovie for iPad

iPad Guided Access

Using safari to Search

App of the Day – iMovie


I would actually buy an iPad just for this app. It makes digital video so easy and accessible for everyone.The results make you look like a pro and it calls for no extra plug-ins or connections. I remember some years ago, John Davitt  talking about how schools had the power of the BBC in their classroom through the use of ICT related technology, or something like that (apologies John). With iMovie on your iPad you can have the power of the BBC in your bag/iPad cover!!!

wmmfailI think I have been here before with excitement around the ease of video creation with Digital Video. Some years ago, the Flip Camera was the new craze in our schools and I bought a number of these for schools in Redbridge. We ran a film competition and someone called Stephen Heppell judged it all.

What struck me was how great the quality of the films were and the imagination of the young screenwriters and directors. The Flip made shooting easy, but there was still the plugging it in, editing and post production aspect. This slowed the process somewhat and on some occasions you lost it all that you had done so far!  I am not going to use this post to slate Windows Movie Maker, as it is a tool that has served me well for many years, even in my commercial work, but when I made the switch to iMovie, first on Mac and then on both Mac and iPad, I was struck by how Tesco Value Movie Maker felt in comparison. With iMovie you use the same device to shoot and edit the footage, you can even publish straight from the iPad to video sharing sites. However if you want to put the video on a network then you will need to get your USB lead out.

One of the winning films from the Redbridge Film Competition – for more inspiration – see this blog.

Recently, I worked with my class to make use of iMovie during our residential trip to Norfolk. I wanted to see what would happen if we took some iPads with us, and apologies but I had not given this much thought or even planned the learning objectives. When we were on the beach, in the drizzle and fog, an experience that was new to many of my pupils, I hit upon the idea of trying to make a film. One of my class took up the challenge and with 30 minutes she had shot, reviewed and edited a short trailer using the trailer templates from iMovie.

I think this experience, if any, deserves the title mobile learning as the children gained new digital creation skills in quite an inhospitable environment. For my class the video, which is now online now serves as a poignant reminder of their great day near the sea.

Last Sunday,  I experimented myself with creating a film of a great day out rather than simply snapping a series of Facebook ready shots. I took Dylan to nearby Excel and Greenwich and used my iPad, iMovie and the landscape to create a mini trailer. Creating a trailer that looks even reasonably good is made simple by the inclusion of the templates and the clip guides, These show you which shots you need to include and in what order. A sort of film making writing frame. I managed to get lots of wide, landscape and action shots, though I did have to truncate the project as Dylan, water and cars are not always a good mix.

You may find these storyboard planning sheets from Timothy Jefferson helpful if you are going to have a go at making your own iMovie trailers.

Aside from creating trailers this week I have been working with colleagues on creating teaching videos. With a Vimeo account an iPad, a plastic whiteboard and a pen; this can easily be put together. Many of the parents at our school had asked to see the modern methods that we use in our lessons. Though we could do this in workshops and at open evenings it is something that can be forgotten quite quickly and not all parents can make these events. With this in mind, our Maths Coordinator came up with the idea of putting videos of these methods on-line. I am not sure he had heard of Salman Khan and his Khan academy , the same idea but on a larger scale!, but it proves great minds think alike.

So we used our after school CPD session to go through both the school calculation policy how to make and publish a video with iMovie.  A few days later and we now have almost all the videos we need from our teachers, so we  will soon be able to complete our webpage featuring a progression of videos from Foundation stage to Year 6.

You can view our first attempt at creating a video below and if you want to do this yourself, then you may find the help sheet we gave out quite helpful.

Help Sheet

Year 6 Multiplication from St Aidan’s Catholic Primary on Vimeo.

App of the Day – Action Movie Effects

Today’s app of the day would add excitement and  drama to any iMovie project. Action Movie Effects are a series of  science fiction. war and natural disaster overlays that can be used while filming. My boys have had lots of fun creating scenes of falling rocks and tornadoes indoors, but after much messing about I have realised that this app probably works best outdoors, rather than the lounge or the play room.

The finished piece can be very effective, though unfortunately these clips do only amount to around 5-7 seconds. You would need to export the movie to camera roll and then import them into the timeline of iMovie or other editing suite in order to create a longer masterpiece.

Here are some of my attempts at filming and applying some of the overlays outdoors.

Creating mini movies like these would have a natural fit with news projects in school.Here clips of a crash or a flash flood could form part of a wider news programme, which is very straight forward to make if you use the news theme in iMovie.

The app is free, though like many free apps it can be enhanced by a number of all too easy to add 69p in-app purchases. Do be aware also that this app does have a 9 rating on it, so you should not use it across the school.