28 February 2013

Year 4 Animation

This week Year 4s have been trying their hands at animation. They are working on a top secret story that will be told in next week's assembly. Here's a sneak peak at what they've been up to. This scene is made up of about 400 frames and took about an hour to shoot (no sound track has been added yet). Lots of concentration, creative ideas, trial & error and patience was needed. They've only got a few more days to shoot the remaining scenes and edit them together.  Good luck Yr4!

27 February 2013

Movie Making Club

We looked at the concept of shooting and editing for continuity today. We looked at some examples of using multiple shots to show a sequence, and the importance of accurate editing to create the illusion that it's all happening as a single event.

The challenge was to shoot a sequence of 5 shots and edit them. The end results were really good - for first timers. Here's an example...

Mad about Maths

Entering my classroom this morning for registration, this is what I saw. Most of the class were huddled together with their iPads getting quite excited. Was it YouTube or Modern Combat that had them so engrossed? No, it was Maths. Yes, Maths!

They are all signed up for World Maths Day, and what better way to practice number skills - competing against each other and other students around the world...on an iPad...for fun :-)

25 February 2013

Paperless Classroom

For the first time in Digital Studies, since we started in September, we have used paper. And in two year groups as well.

Year 7 have done some work on Film Language and understanding the way different types of shots are combined to tell a story, while Year 9 are shooting short animated adverts. The planning stages for these involved creating storyboards. By far the easiest way to do this is on paper, so off to the photocopier I went, realising that this was the first time I'd copied anything for any of my classes. Although technology has largely replaced paper in my lessons, there are times when it's the right tool for the job.

Some groups even went on to produce paper-based animations as well. They're already taking shape so I'll share some when they're ready.

24 February 2013

Writing on the Wall

In Yr7 we used a tool called Padlet to gather some ideas on being International Students. This used to be called WallWisher and I've used it many times in the past with different year groups. I guess the reason they changed the name was that it's now iPad compatible, which of course makes it infinitely more useable at ISP.

Just go to the website, padlet.com, and start a wall. You can add sticky notes to it, with tect or images, and it's easy to invite others to join in. I'm sure many of our teachers will find some highly creative uses for it.

21 February 2013

How secure is your password?

In our parent Tech Chat meeting we discussed passwords and how we may be relying too much on a system that is far from secure. A recent study revealed that 17% of Europeans have been victims of identity fraud, which usually involves stealing personal information from online accounts. As more and more of our personal data is stored or shared online, having a secure password is our first line of defense. So what makes a secure password?

We are often advised to create a password with at least 8 digits. This should contain a variety of numbers & letters. However, a modern computer is capable of crunching through every possible combination in a surprisingly short time. See the examples below, along with the time it would take a computer to find that combination:

8 numbers, eg 82630471 can be found in 0.025 seconds.
8 letters, eg pajdyebf could take just 52 seconds.
8 numbers + letters + capitals eg 29gh6R3T increases the time to 15 hours.

Still think that's too risky? Then add some symbols as well...
eg WH@tt1tw to provide 3 days of security.

To make it even harder, just add more digits. For example, go up to 10 and it should take a hacker 58 years to crack.

Other advise:
- Use a different password for all critical wed services, eg bank accounts, email accounts & social media.
- Use a digital vault like 1Password to securely store your passwords.
- Activate additional security measures, like Google's two-factor authentication.
- For so-called 'security questions' don't use your mothers real maiden name - make one up. Better still, give a false answer to every one of those questions. You'll never remember them, so use the same answer no matter what the question.

The chances are that at some point, one of your online accounts will experience a random cyber attack. But if you make access difficult, the threat will move on very quickly to find an easier target. And you'll never know about it.

17 February 2013

Online Discussions

With our International Week coming up fast, some of our classes have been thinking about what it means to be International Students.

To facilitate this discussion, Year 6 decided to use a Forum on Schoology, where students can express and share their views with their peers. A discussion forum allows everyone to have a voice and is particularly good for those kids who don't like speaking up in class. Students can also respond to what others have said - agreeing or disagreeing with statements or ideas. This provides an ideal opportunity to practice being good digital citizens - using technology to contribute appropriately and responsibly.

Having read through the comments, I'm impressed by the way Yr6 have responded to the question What does it mean to be 'International'? I wonder if we would see so many thoughtful ideas coming out if this was just talked about in class, or written on paper.

14 February 2013

Pimp Your Browser

I've been asked to provide details of our Parent Tech Chat meetings for those who couldn't make it. So here's a brief summary of what we shared at the first event.

We looked at the way browsers have evolved in recent years and how they have become more powerful and central to so much of our technology use. They now connect us to so many essential services and may of us use a browser many times a day to access email, Facebook, our calendar, pay bills, watch TV or videos, listen to music,

It's often useful to start by looking back at how life used to be, and we're often surprised by how rapidly technology has changed. For our quick history lesson we saw that the first ever browser was invented in 1990. Many of us remembered Netscape that arrived in 1994, closely followed by Internet Explorer in 1995. Microsoft's dominance (which at one point claimed over 90% penetration), was challenged in 2003 and 2004 with the introduction of Safari & Firefox. Finally, Google's Chrome browser came along and has rapidly taken the lead in the Browser Wars.
Image: http://basecamp.com/help/guides/account/browser-requirements

So why should we want to Pimp Your Browser? Well think of buying a new car. You'll probably want to change it a bit, to make it work better for you. You'll make simple adjustments to the seat position, steering wheel and mirrors, use a cushion or add child seats. Or make more substantial changes - adding tints, GPS, leather seats, a bike-rack. All the things that will improve your experience and to fit your personal needs.

There are numerous ways you can tweak your browser to make it work better for you. Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Use tabs. Open new tabs for new sites so you can easily switch between them.
- For pages that you use daily, set them to open automatically when you open your browser.
- Chrome has a nice feature to 'pin tabs' so they always stay there - useful if you use webmail etc.
- Your browser may have the option to remember the sites you have open when you close down. They magically appear next time you switch on.
- Make an effort to organise your Bookmarks (or Favourites). Use the Bookmarks Bar for the most frequent sites you visit. Use folders to group them in categories.
- Choose a better homepage. You don't need to see the Dell or Apple website each time you start.
- Install web apps. Easy access to sites, apps and even games that run in your browser.
- Install extensions. Useful little tools that do a variety useful little jobs. Some favourites include YouTube Options, AdBlock Plus, Clearly and Hola.
- Other extensions link directly to other products that you use, like 1Password, Pocket, Google Drive, Evernote etc.
- Sync your bookmarks & preferences across devices. By logging into a browser you can mirror your settings between the computers that you use.
- Customise the tools along the top toolbar. Remove unwanted buttons & add more useful ones.

These are some of the things you can do. To find out how to do them, either poke around in the menus at the top, look in Preferences or Settings, or better still just Google your question.

Remember, with most modern browsers, you can type your search directly into the address box (if you have a separate search box, you may need to update your browser). And there's no need to start web addresses with www. anymore. Browsers can now work that bit out for themselves.

Note: not all browsers support all of these features. Everything mentioned above can be done in Chrome. Others like IE, Safari & Firefox each have other unique features.

Have a play around with your browser & see how you can make your internet experiences more streamline & user-friendly.

Long Distance Learning

Year 2 have been doing lots of learning based on the subject of 'Toys'. They wanted to know an=bout some of the toys that children played with in the past.  In their search for 'experts' they contacted Annabel's grandmother. She could remember lots about the toys she played with when she was young, and as she's in her 70s, that was a very long time ago.

Using the amazing power of Skype, she was not only able to tell the children what she remembered, but she even showed them old fashioned toys that she had kept from her childhood. The children were also able to ask questions that they had planned beforehand.

What a great example of using technology to connect children to learning opportunities far beyond the confines of the classroom. 

13 February 2013

Tech Chat

I recently held the first Tech Chat for parents at ISP. This is an informal gathering of parents who want to learn more about technology, discuss their need & concerns, share their experiences, and discover how to make the most of technology for themselves & their children.

We kicked off by exploring the many features of modern browsers and how they can be customised to make your internet experiences so much better or more efficient. We looked at using tabs, web apps, extensions, bookmarks and tweaking some of the most useful settings.

Attendance was good, participation & enthusiasm was great, and feedback was very encouraging, The next session will be on 14th Feb and will feature a brief introduction to Passwords.

10 February 2013

A New Year Begins

This week we've been celebrating the coming of a New Year - the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. This is a time when Chinese families gather together, often travelling great distances to join the reunion. Although SMS, Skype & FaceTime allow us to remain in easy contact throughout the year, technology can't always replace real face to face meetings.

But even when we're together, technology plays an important role in our celebrations. Video clips and photos are regularly taken and shared with ease. There are currently over 1 billion smartphone users worldwide, meaning documenting events is so much easier. Well over 1 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with an astonishing 1.1 billion uploads on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

I won't be uploading that many images, but it is my plan to update this blog on a regular basis, with info on what's going on in school, for example, how technology is being used and the amazing things our students and teachers are doing. Subscribe if you don't want to miss anything.