Friday, June 25, 2010

Fun on Friday #77: Fun With Music

The Tone Matrix web site says it is a: "Simple sinewave synthesizer triggered by an ordinary 16step sequencer. Each triggered step causes a force on the underlaying wave-map..." Sounds exciting? ...No, it doesn't attract me either. But go to the site, turn up the volume, click some squares and now tell me you are not having fun!

Screenshot of ToneMatrix

And while we are on musical fun... have you ever been Rickrolled? Have you been Rickrolled in type? No? Well have a look at Dancing Typography!

[Note: Since this is the last school day before the holidays in Scotland, this will be the last (official) Fun On Friday for a while.]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

iPad in Education

I had a reasonably extended play with the iPad and I am very impressed. I think it has real potential as an educational tool.

Originally uploaded by JaredEarle
It's worth getting a few of my niggles out of the way first before writing about my generally positive reaction to it:
  • A few of the issues I have relate to the way the iPad has to be tied to an iTunes account. I am not sure how this will work with school machines. It is possible to create an iTunes account without a credit card which may make parents/schools feel happier but I think a more comprehensive solution is required. For example, is it possible to set-up and sync a class set of iPads with a standard build of apps and data?
  • Another niggle that may be connected with Apple's insistence that pretty much everything has to go through iTunes is the way they cripple Bluetooth! I have a Bluetooth enabled printer and had hoped I'd be able to print to it directly from the iPad but apparently I can't! It seems daft to make iWorks available on the iPad but not allow printing so hopefully that will be addressed soon.
  • The decision not to include the clock and calculator applications seems odd. The stopwatch and timer functions in particular would be extremely useful in the classroom.
  • There is apparently no way to get the video signal out of the iPad in any generally useful form. (See Fraser Speirs' excellent video for an exploration of the limitations.)
  • Finally, I have a couple of difficulties with navigation in Safari. First, is it possible to choose to open a link in a new window? Secondly, can you drag and drop items in a Safari window? I worked out that you can scroll through a list in a page by using two fingers to drag the list but can't see how to drag items on a page (e.g. Photos in Flickr's organiser view).
Reading the above over, it seems to be a very long list of niggles but I don't want that to distract from my overall perception - that this is a stunningly useful bit of kit and that it has huge potential in an educational context. Some of my positive observations are:
  • The battery life is outstanding - easily lasting a whole day of fairly heavy use without needing a top up charge.
  • It is relatively light (lighter than a laptop and lighter than many textbooks that students are currently carrying around) and so easy to carry all day.
  • It is great for taking notes. There is no tactile feedback on the keyboard, so I don't think I'd like to write a dissertation on it but I took it to a couple of meetings and I was able to record extensive notes without problem. I also created a couple of blog posts without difficulty.
  • Despite my niggles over navigation in Safari, it is a fantastic device for web surfing. The screen is the right size: readable without having to enlarge and scroll, however, the smart double tap to zoom in on a section works really well if you need it. Also, there is something that feels right about pressing a link with your finger to follow a link. This is a device that can genuinely give ubiquitous access to the Internet... assuming school policies can cope with always on, unrestricted access! (And if they can't, I suspect students will just use the 3G version to bypass the school system anyway!)
  • It is a stunningly good device for reading eBooks. The screen is big enough and clear enough that I can read it without my specs! Having the dictionary available at all times so that you can check the definition of any word is brilliant! And the availability of a range of classic, out of copyright texts for free is great. Add to that the ease with which pupils/teachers can create and distribute their own eBooks and you have a stunningly useful resource. I suspect to see a cottage industry of education/revision books spring up and look forward to some innovative creations (e.g. including pictures, links, audio and video in eBooks).
  • And then there's all those Apps...
Have you tried them in a class yet? What do you think? If you haven't tried them, do you have any concerns about their use?

My first impressions are very good. My problem now is how am I going to get someone to fund me to buy a set of iPads so I can try them with a group of students?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fun on Friday #76: Brick-by-brick fussball

I'm not a huge football fan but I am a fan of both Lego and animation. So Lego animation is a wining combination in my book... even when the animation is football based:

It seems a shame to focus on England's opening match of the 2010 World Cup when there are happier times that are also recorded in Lego: Brick-by-brick fussball: England v West Germany.

Are there other sporting events that could be recorded in Lego?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Evaluating the iPad

We bought an iPad to see what it can do. Can it find a place in schools or is it a gimmick that will go the way of the Newton? At the moment, I see it being most useful in schools as a data collection pad and as a textbook replacement device. (Opinions are subject to change after prolonged exposure.)

iPad Helmet
Originally uploaded by Joe_murphy
The idea is that a number of people will get to play with it, both primary and secondary, and as many subject area specialists that want a look. We've been trying to specify a range of apps to show off what it can do. I'm going to list here what we've added so far and I'd welcome your comments and suggestions. What have we missed? Have we included anything we shouldn't have?

I have deliberately skewed things towards free apps - this is deliberate! Cheaper is better and free is best!

The Basics (and the paid for apps!)

If it is to be used in schools, the obvious place to start is with the iWorks suite of apps: Keynote; Numbers; and Pages (£5.99 each). It seemed obvious to add Documents To Go (£4.99) to allow the easy distribution and editing of existing documents. Finally, in the "obvious" section, we've added The Elements (£7.99) because it is gorgeous.


We've obviously added a bundle of free/public domain eBooks but we've added a few more literacy related apps.


Other Subjects

Interesting Stuff

Note Takers

Looking at the list above, we're light on a number of subjects, including Music and Computing. Any suggestions on how we should plug the gap? Also, I want some games on there. Any suggestions from the Game Based Learning contingent?

Looking forward to seeing what people come up with

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fun on Friday #75: Productivity

This pretty much sums up my life at the moment:

Pearls Before Swine

Is there a cartoon that does the same for you?

Friday, June 11, 2010


At first thought, Karaoke and education might not seem natural bedfellows but recently I saw someone at a conference taking about TunePrompter - a free program that lets you create your own Karaoke videos. You import a song, find and add lyrics and then, as it plays, tap the spacebar to sync the lyrics to the music.

The chap who talked about this package said that it wasn't hard to see the educational potential of creating karaoke files... so I asked my Twitter network:

Some good suggestions came in, with an extended suggestion from Relativism and another from Catriona_O:
  • Health and Wellbeing (HWB)/ literacy/ Expressive Arts (EXA) rewrite a song as expressive activity relating to relevant topic e.g. HWB 2-08a, Literacy 2-02a, EXA 2-18a. Model lyrics example by creating a whole class song then set group tasks by using an existing song as a base pupils already have a grasp of the music. (Depending on class you may provide small selection.)
  • ikaraoke in any other language surely - is it possible to switch languages?
To answer Katriona's question - you can paste or type whatever lyrics you like, so the choice of language is up to you.

Two great suggestions. Do you have any others you could add?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Fun on Friday #74: 222 T-shirts

Thanks to a video that was brought to my attention by Daughter Number 2, I return to animation as the subject for a Fun On Friday:

I discovered that this video features on a top ten list of stop-motion animations on the Mashable site. All ten are impressive but the t-shirt one is my favourite.

Now it may be that you are intimidated rather than inspired by videos like this as videos this complex may be beyond the resources of most schools. However, I am sure that pupils can come up with ideas that are just as creative.

As always, if you know of good school produced examples, please share them here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

TeachMeet Comes of Age

I have been involved with TeachMeets from before the name was invented and have always found them to be fascinating and challenging in roughly equal measure. (For a history lesson, see TeachMeet Beginnings … in Falkirk? and TeachMeet – The Story So Far...)

Ewan @ TeachMeet
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
The next one I'm going to attend will be TeachMeet Computing Edition. This is an event created especially for Scottish Computing teachers and it is a good example of the way the TeachMeet idea has grown and developed. However, although there have been many positive developments (such as specialist, regional and international TeachMeets) occasionally things have gone adrift. It is pleasing to note therefore that Ewan McIntosh, who was so important in establishing the TeachMeet concept, is challenging people to look at what is happening and re-energise the TeachMeet ideal.

To this end, he started an online conversation (which I have been following but haven't got organised enough to reply to yet) and also co-ordinated a simultaneous blog post which sets out concerns, questions and seeks comment (which I wasn't organised enough to post on this blog - are you spotting a theme yet?). You can read the post on Ewan's blog or on one of the umpteen other blogs that carried it. It seems to have been successful in stirring up a debate!

I'm not sure where we will end up but I am sure that TeachMeet will be stronger in the future thanks to people like Ewan.

If you haven't done so already, drop by his blog post and join the conversation.