creativity, student centered learning and web 2.0 applications

GoAnimate

Goanimate screen shot

In term 3 myself and my fellow music/ICT teacher Andrew Williamson were given the opportunity to work with a group of 30 grade 6 students for an hour a week doing whatever we liked in the area of ICT (computer’s). Instead of devising a curriculum for the class with an end goal in sight we decided to go the other way and hand over the power to the students and see where they would drive the curriculum. We proposed to them that they would be responsible to find web 2 open sourced software of the internet that would lend itself to some form of creative output -what form that was didnt matter it just had to be something that was of interest to them and would provide them with an opportunity to create something. They would then have to add this to a collective list. Each member was then rquired to investigate the applications that the others were discovering and write a review on them. All of this helped to instill in the kids a sence of responsibility to the group learning and hopefully a much more powerful group intelligence would emerge than anything Andrew or I could have come up with.

Once all the reviews were in the kids could then go to any of the programs they liked and start making thing, music, pictures animations, tessalations, game making, programming, cartoons films whatever. The medium is unimportant the process and ability to express ideas is the real thing of interest so discovering new mediums that will help you do this was exciting for all the kids.

We used Google Wave as our place to communicate as a class. A place to add your reviews and a place to chat about how you were going what you liked and didn’t etc. As this no longer exists you could create a wiki for your class to do the same thing

The kids loved this class, so much great stuff was made. I have quickly raced around and grabbed a couple of screenshots but it really doesnt give you a good reflection on the amount of diverse work that was being outputted from this class.

ToonDoo

Toondoo Screen Shot

This is a great example of what can happen when you simply set up an environment and trust that children have an inate desire to express themselves and to learn.

SOme online programes that were chose were

goanimate – a simple animation programe

Tagxedo – a tagcloud generator

Glogster – a poster creator

Aviary – a online image manipulator and music creator

Toondoo -a cartoon creator

Seashore – an image manipulator

SumoPaint – an online art program

NoteFlight – online music notation program

Scratch – Game maker

Scratch Screenshot

Scratch Screenshot

Aviary's music creator

Aviary's music creator

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Composing with Grade 5 and 6 children

As I have mentioned previously composition is at the heart of my philosophy when it comes to music education. It is also what starts to make your music classes exciting and moves them beyond the some times mundane experience of teaching skills or singing songs.

With the grade 5 and 6 students this term we are focusing on a number of compositional styles.

These include

1. Composing with Melodic Instruments

2. Minimalism

3. Chance compositions

4. Composing soundtracks

5. Composoing with Text

5. Composing Machine Compsitions

These are all styles that are very accessible to children and there are lots of great examples on you tube of composers using these ideas as the basis for their own music. Composers like John Cage and the concepts he introduced always fascinate children.

The first four weeks were spent on Composing With Melody and to do this we used our diatonic instruments. Initially to children almost everything sounds good when composing with diatonic instruments so it gets things rolling quickly and gives you a chance to help them refine their ideas.

I always get them to write four parts into this composition. A bass line a melody line a chordal accompanyment and a percussion part and initially explain the roles of each of those parts. I then get them to add a B section which we decide to be something different to the A section and something short. A chance to provide a point of difference in the music. At the end of each week I film the children and one quick viewing at the start of the next week is all that is required for them to remember where they were up to. Depending on your philosophy regarding notation you could get them to notate but I find that childrens ears are generally pretty good and notation merely slows the composition process at this stage.

In the following weeks I will blog about how I go about teaching the other musical styles and upload some video.

But here is a video of a couple of completed Melodic Pieces

Under The Sea Compositions with Junior Kids

In the Junior levels I find vocal soundscapes are a really effective way to get them to begin to think compositionally. Here is an example of a very simple lesson which ends up creating nice little pieces of music.

Using the IWB draw up a series of pictures and then have the children suggest appropriate vocal sounds for them. The children can also suggest what the pictures would be. So we had bird sounds, rustling sea weed, we made body sounds to represent the octopus, screaming for the scary fish, bubble sounds for the school of small fish and a scraping sound for the large rock. Then draw a simple submarine and explain that the sub is on a sound gathering trip under the ocean. When ever he reaches a destination a new sound will emerge. Using your mouse guide the sub around the ocean and let the children make the appropriate sound.

To turn this into a more effective composition add a few percussion instruments that might be appropriate, we addes chimes and marimbas. You can talk about how they are to be played, dynamics, large or small intervals etc. so that each part fits in with the original idea of the composition – under the sea.

Finally record the whole thing in Garageband. Once the recording has been done it is a good time to play it and reflect with the children on how effective the piece of music was and does it need any changes. I actually took this time to teach some of the features of garageband such as cutting and pasting to double up the effectiveness of some sounds and also adding effects. We added some delay into the bubble sounds.

Heres a video of what it might look like.

Radio Plays ICT and music composition

The project we worked on with level four in term one was to create a radio play.
We initially looked at the Orson Wells version of War of the Worlds.
You can find the whole thing on youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wf5TPVz56A

This leads into interesting discussion on the use of sound effects to crate realism as well as talking about radio plays and how they work etc. why they were and still are very entertaining and acting and script writing techniques that  create a sense of reality.We also discussed the genre of Science fiction – which can simply be defined as stories about a science or technology that doesn’t exist and the subsequent consequences of if it did exist.

Secondly we looked at Jeff Waynes 1970s take on War of The Worlds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyWReM986gw

Here you can discuss the impact of adding music to a story, does it add to the story or overwhelm it.

From here the project fell into a number of steps.

1. write and practice your own science fiction radio play.

2. record it. This can be done in garage band. I tend to use the podcast template because it allows simplicity. It has a male and female voice preset that the kids can record straight onto. Just highlight the track you want to record onto and push the record button. Picture 1

3. add sound effects. Garageband has alot of great samples which can be accessed on the right hand side of the project window, they are labelled under the category of stingers. you can also use the jingles samples to add authenticity to your radio play, eg if you want to cut to an add etc. Sound effects can also be recorded in in the same method that you used to record your voice. This is always an exciting and slightly more authentic way to enhance the students projects.

4. Add a soundtrack. This is always an interesting part of the project and often it is advisable to discuss the role of music in soundtracks. It is used to enhance the main format which in this case is the narrative that is being delivered by the voice. It is being used to enhance the desired emotional state and if it is doing anything else it is being counterproductive to the project. Placing limitations at this stage of the compositional process is a useful thing for many students. The variety of choice that programs like garage band offers can become overwhelming for many beginner composers and quite often leads to boredom.

5. Finally render the project down into an mp3 format and upload it to your blogs.

The kids loved this project and created some amazing things. Here Are some examples
Robin and Eden
mary, alex, honor.

Some of the ICT skills that get covered here according to VELS are

Familiarization with basic skills programs (word)

Using spell checks

File Naming saving locating and file opening

In depth understanding of editing programs such as garageband

Understanding of networks

Use of concepts mapping programs and graphic organisation programs

Advanced web searching

Use of ICT equipment – microphones, mixing desk, etc.

Create products that document original ideas

Web Uploading ability

Familiarization with basic skills programs (word)
Using spell checks
File Naming saving locating and file opening
In depth understanding of editing programs such as garageband
Understanding of networks
Use of concepts mapping programs and graphic organisation programs
Advanced web searching
Use of ICT equipment – microphones, mixing desk, etc.
Create products that document original ideas
Web Uploading ability

Demonstrated Learnings in Movie Making

Since uploading the last movie I have been involved in a number of discussions with parents who are concerned that traditional learning methods are being forgotten when we focus on things like movie making.

So I took the trouble to create a list of demonstrated learnings according to VELS that are demonstrated in he movie example I have below. (This follows on from my previous post about film making in the classroom). The areas I looked at where ICT, Literacy and The Arts and while the initial learnings are quite low level skills based learnings it quickly develops into deeper learnings

Here is the list feel free to add or argue against it.

Demonstrated Learning According to VELS  in the areas of Literacy, ICT

Music and the Arts (Up to level 6)

1. Mouse Skills

2. Ability to locate websites (to upload video)

3. Ability to create graphics

4. File Naming and saving

5. Linking and communication between up to three different programs

6. Search engine familiarization

7. Use of Digital Cameras and tripods

8. Rendering

9. Use of concept mapping tools

10. Use of graphic organization program

11. Developing electronic portfolio

12. Understanding Networks

13. In depth use of formatting ideas to suit an audience

14. Demonstrates original ideas

15. Documents original ideas

16. Sharing information with peers

17. Demonstrate an understanding of 2 dimensional art

18. Use of code to imbed data

19. Editing to better represent ideas

20. Script writing with intended audience

21. Demonstrate understanding of narrative

22. Cinematography

23. Apply music and other abstract concepts to add meaning

24. Applying imagery to infer meaning

25. Working collaboratively

26. Student centred learning

27. Demonstrate problem solving skills

28. Storyboarding

29. Character, plot and setting development

30. Note taking

31. Summarizing notes

32. Analysis of a popular genre

33. Synthesis of a popular genre

34. Vocabulary demonstration and spelling strategies

35. Preparing a case

36. Annotated storyboarding

37. Use of visual symbols and camera shots

38. Editing to distinguish core from peripheral ideas

39. Contextual understanding

40. Cohesion

41. Viewpoint

42. Control of linguistic structures and features

43. Appropriate choice of language

44. Use of flashback

45. Resolution of a text

46. Inclusion of complex sentences with embedded clauses and phrases

47. Complex text which may include experimentation with different techniques

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7384819&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=00adef&fullscreen=1

EYT MOVIE from North Fitzroy Primary School on Vimeo.

This is a movie created by North Fitzroy Primary School grade 6 students as part of a Extend Your Talents program.

Movie Making and literacy skills

In term 3 this year I worked with a group of year 6 children with the idea of creating a movie. Movie making is fantastic because it works on so many levels that I think are important in regards to education.

The most basic level it works on is ICT skills. Kids will learn how to use hardware such as cameras, lights, tripods, zooms, microphones, mixing desks etc. They will also learn how to use software programs such as IMovie, final cut etc.

I Movie is a great place to start but if your moving into some more indepth learning in regards to multipl camera, the importance of sound etc you will quickly become frustrated with it and that is where a far more powerful program such as final cut express will become very useful. I was initially doubtful about the kids ability to use a more high end product such as FC but once again I was surprised to discover that with a very short introduction by myself the kids were all over the program instinctivly.

Other ICT skills include uploading, downloading, saving to a server, cutting of files, manipulation of files, integration of different software etc etc all part of the VELS expectancies for ICT.

But that is all base level learning on a far deeper level kids will be expected to create a narrative, manipulate that to suit the format of film, storyboard, gain an understanding of the language of film which includes ideas such as power that a camera angle can generate, rule of thirds and other film concepts. They are also learning the importance of music to the medium of film. Music is fulfilling a very different role to what they might be used to and should be treated differently. Also this is a great time to use sound as music that they might not normally associate with music. Scraping or scratching sounds or anything you like can all be arranged in a meaningful and powerful way to enhance the visual concepts. These are all powerful literacy concepts.

But beyond that againg there is the ideas of student centered learning. The kids are creating personal, meanigful things not another task set by the teacher. The teacher is acting merely as the facilitator, guiding the learning to a deeper place. The ownership of the product gives the students motivation and a greater sense of enjoyment which always enhances learning. In my role as teacher for this project I introduced the idea, showed them some simple concepts and ten basically handed it over to them, always assisting when needed and giving guidance when appropriate

Kids also need to learn how to create as part of a group. One person needs to be the director or leader who takes ultimate reponsibility, others need to fulfill important roles, such as actors, camera men editors etc for a successfully created product.

Finally filmmaking is a great way to use ICT to provide another medium for children to express their creativity and their thoughts. Creative expression is one of if not the most iportant part of life.  Humans have a desire to create and if we can use ICT to better enable children to do that while effectivly communicating their creations to others than that is fantastic..

Here is the movie.

Kynan

This is a movie created by North Fitzroy Primary School grade 6 students as part of a Extend Your Talents program.

The Success Of Student Blogging

The success of student blogging.

As the joint ICT coordinator at NFPS along with Andrew Williamson we initiated a blogging program this year. In the space of six months we have managed to have every staff member start their own blog, every class room has its own blog, most departments have a blog and every student in the 3 to 6 levels have their own blog. While the process has been a large one in regards to organisation and PD it has proved to be extremely successful in a number of areas.

We have been looking for a way to integrate ICT across the school curriculum. Where it becomes an integral part of each curriculum strand rather than being a separate unit. This is how it is in the world and how it should be within a school structure as well.  Blogging has been one of the platforms that has helped us achieve this aim.

Secondly we were trying to move the school to be much more in focus with Web 2.0.

While the world has rapidly understood and accepted this change, bureaucracies are always slower on the uptake merely because of the way they are set up. Issues such as control and fear are constantly hindering the effective teaching of up to date practice in regards to ICT. While our school was doing OK in regards to creative use of computers (making movies, animations, podcasts etc.) these things were merely taking up server space and students and teachers were never sharing their learning and teaching. Blogging has become the platform that has allowed us to instantly overcome this issue (along with helping us solve our space issues). Teachers and students are now constantly posting their work weather that be in text form or using more of the digital literacies such as film, music etc. All of a sudden our podcasts became real podcasts that people from all over the world could hear rather than merely simulations.

This has had a flow on effect into other areas of interest to me. I am a big believer in not teaching applications. Applications should only be learnt at a point of need. When there is a demand the learning becomes more effective and real. Staff and students are now demanding more use of the digital video cameras because there is a real use for them rather than the trite reason of doing some subjects in teaching IMovie. All of a sudden cameras that have been still for years are now constantly booked out and we are needing to buy more.

This sharing of learning and knowledge is also something that excites me. As teachers we can move our profession on to a far deeper level if we combine our knowledge and it is through blogging that our teachers are able to simply and effectively do that. Successful lessons are filmed and instantly uploaded. This has also had the effect of introducing new communities to many of our staff and students. Social networking is the way the internet has moved in regards to communication yet it is still something that is frowned upon by our educational institutions.  The blogs have been a great introduction to many of our staff into the world of social networking and how it can be used beneficially.

The blogs have also been really beneficial in helping to link the various curriculums through the school. In my other role as a music specialist I have always been keen to find ways to link specialist programs into the who life of the school (rather than merely be seen as and APT provider for classroom teachers). Now the students are happily blogging about what they might do in my classroom or their art programs and specialist teachers can video or record classes or work upload those files to what ever file sharing program you use (we use fliggo for our school but if you have utube unblocked use that) and then email the classroom teachers the relevant URLs which can be passed onto the kids. This has greatly increased the profile of the work the kids are doing in specialist classes. Parents can see, classroom teachers can see and plan accordingly. This also applies to our support teachers and their programs.

There are numerous other benefits such as pushing towards student centred learning, authentic learning, allowing for greater display and pride in work, helping those with ICT phobia to get onboard etc and there are many ways to go about setting up your blogging program at school. We chose to go through the globalteacher global teacher program which I cant speak highly enough of.

Feel free to comment or pass on any advantages or disadvantages you have found with similar