22 November 2013

Yr5 Discover Robotics

Year 5 are just taking their first steps into the wonderful world of robotics and programming. And it wasn't just the kids who were exploring this for the first time - it's new to some of the teachers too. "I was more than a little apprehensive" admitted one teacher. But these fears soon disappeared, as once again the kids leap in and get on with it. By the end of their first session, they were not only programming the devices to travel around a prescribed route, they also used sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. The robot above was able to zoom along the table top and brake hard as it sensed the edge - stopping every time, with millimetres to spare.

Isn't it great how kids pick new skills up so quickly and once they enthused and excited by something, they'll run with it, often going beyond our expectations. I'm looking forward to seeing what they eventually come up with as they move through their project.

13 November 2013

Photo Editing

Having a digital camera (iPad) to hand all day has many advantages (see previous post), but the majority of photos taken are merely 'snap-shots' - functional but not necessarily creative. Year 7 have been learning how to improve the photos they take. So far this has been achieved in two ways.

1. Take a better picture.
To achieve this they have learned about the way a camera works and how the image is captured. An understanding of shutter speed, light levels, metering etc is essential in understanding the limitations of your device, and also guiding your decisions when choosing location, angle, light etc.

2. Edit to enhance
While we've not gone overly creative just yet, students are now using editing tools to make their good pictures better. This could involve changes to brightness, contrast, colour correction, lifting shadows and cropping. Some of these adjustments could be very subtle, with minor enhancements being made.

Occasionally we can go a little bit beyond enhancement, and move more towards transformation of the image. The example below shows how one fairly ordinary image can become quite striking with just a few simple edits. The majority of students edit directly on their iPad, using either the iPhoto or PicShop apps.

02 November 2013

iPad Camera

The camera is one feature of the iPad that we so often take for granted. We know it's there and we use it quite regularly. Teachers and learners take photos of their writing in books, collaborative work, artwork and even the information on the whiteboard.  Videos too are being taken to record learning, practice a language, or document an achievement. On just one day this week I saw students videoing a conversation in Spanish, making a stop-frame animation, and recording themselves 'perform' a project. To have this facility in your hand, to use at a moment's notice, is extremely powerful.

Today I showed my class or 12-yr-olds a roll of Kodak 35mm film. The majority had no idea what it was. Somehow it didn't really surprise me. I remember resisting digital photography for as long as I could, but even I had pretty much stopped using film when these kids were only 3! They have never known anything else.

The ubiquity of their iPad camera hit me the other day when my class came back from Science and told me how they'd used microscopes to look at onion cells. When I asked about it they said, "Here, take a look". Without being prompted by their Science teacher (in fact he hadn't even thought of it), the kids took pictures looking down the microscope. And they were surprisingly good too. To them, it was a perfectly natural thing to do...see something cool, save it and share it. And share it they did. Many showed their parents that evening, several blogged it, and one or two appeared on the ever popular Instagram.

This one was taken by Jason.