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Friday, 22 March 2013

Where We Are and How We Have Gotten There

We are now in the second half of the school year and I thought it time to reflect back on what we have accomplished so far. I have selected different sections from our thrice annual LRC Report, that I thought worth sharing with everyone.

Cross Curricular Initiatives
The LRC and ICT departments work closely with other departments on many cross curricular activities over the course of a school year. So far this year we have completed the following:

  • English: 6th Grade Quest project-working with sound effects and podcasting using Audacity and Garageband 
  • English: 7th Grade students worked on Digital Video Production with iMovie during the Little Brother
  • History: 7th Grade students evaluated Historical Resources in ICT Lessons in support of their History work.
  • LRC Induction: The 6th grade worked on a library scavenger hunt, using iPads and QR Codes.
  • English: The 8th Grade students took their Juliet a Room as a Character's Mind and Outsiders  Projects to another level, when they created their rooms as 3D models using SketchUp.
  • Science: The 8th Grade Students learned more about classification when they ventured into our new ABC El Salvador Virtual World located on, Jokaydia Grid.
  • Minecraft: The 7th grade students are currently in the midst of using their History knowledge of castles and fortresses to create their own group constructions which they will test out  in survival mode three weeks after the Easter holidays.
  • English Podcasts: The 8th grade students worked with iPad Apps, Garageband and Audacity to create journalism podcasts for their English lessons.
  • English Digital Poetry: The 7th grade students worked with MovieMaker on the laptops and  iMovie and  Story Kit on the iPads, to combine voice and images in digital video or storybook format, to create their poetry projects.

Cal 2 Cross Curricular Initiatives coming up

What is New in ICT?

Digital Books:
Students in 6th through 8th grade will be creating digital interactive books this school year. 6th grade will be using Book Creator on the iPads and 7th through 8th iBooks Author on the new Macs to compile their books. Research work will precede the development of these e-books.

Minecraft has now become a part of the 7th grade curriculum this year. We have purchased a class set of Minecraft Edu accounts and have set up an ABCICT server. Students are now working on their structures in teams, having reviewed castles and fortresses and worked on floor plans in Google draw. The 7th grade experts and team leaders have been putting in extra hours from 2-3:00 most days (purely out of choice) working on the main structures. These experts are a part of the planning process, will lay down the rules for testing day and mentor other students as they work on their tasks.They will also take on the more difficult challenges creating traps and other devices. The lessons focus on building castles and fortresses in creative mode and testing will take place in survival mode, possibly with PVP.

Minecraft Edu, allows the teacher oversee student work, turn off building and chat, switch modes as well as allow teleports and freeze students. These tools have proven very useful so far. The one problem we have encountered in the project is that of respect for the property of others. Certain students have accessed the server during build time after school (incognito) and trolled the work of others. They have all been warned that the after school blocks will be taken away if this continues.

Jokaydia Grid: The ABC Avatar Club was a great success with a small group of students from 6th to 8th grade joining in. The younger students picked up the skills very quickly and soon the half region was well populated with strange alien plant forms. Science classes in 8th grade have begun to use the region with each class going inworld for two lessons to classify alien plant life using Earthly classification methods. Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia are preparing a blog post on the activity.

Diigo: 6th grade used Diigo in January, as part of their research project and their research based presentations will be done and ready to present the weeks before and after the holidays.

Evernote iPad, desktop and browser versions are being used as part of the 8th grade research project, for web clipping and note taking. We are hopeful that students will adopt it for work in other subjects once they become comfortable with it.

Easybib: 6th, 7th and 8th grades have all worked with EasyBib this year using their ABC-Net accounts and Humanities is now adopting it with their 9th grade students.

iPads: The iPads continue to be used heavily for a variety of activities such as lesson starters, animation work, sound recording, research and Voicethread presentations, QR Code scavenger hunts, and short video recordings, web searches clipping with Evernote. Much of the 6th grade curriculum is moving toward work with iPads, the are used in both 7th and 8th grades, for certain units and creative carrousel work as well.

7th Grade Carousel: an ongoing animation project in which the students are asked to create a one minute animation about the ABC Traits and Values. As previously mentioned, the iPads have allowed us to experiment more freely with different types of animation which were too difficult and cumbersome to work with in the past.

Extra Curricular
ABC Jokaydia

The club constructed ABC Pandora during a period of 7 weeks. The club was made up of 6-8th grade students. The 6-7th grade students learned to build in a 3D environment in-world under the guidance of 8th grade, Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia.

Robotics Club, which is supervised by Mr. Gray, has been organised and run by several 11th grade students who are teaching students to build and program robots using our Lego Mindstorm Robot Kits.

The Animation Club is an ongoing extra curricular club which meets on Wednesdays. The club is open to animation enthusiasts who seek to learn more about animation; whether it be the history of animation, styles of animation and workshops on creating your own animated short feature. Some of the animation styles which explored in the club are: clay animation, paper animation, classical (drawn) digital animation, pixilation and recently looking into incorporating a course of 3d animation with a free downloadable software program called Blender. We've also purchased a light table and classical animation equipment, alongside reading materials which are relevant for teaching and learning animation skills.

The following channels are those most frequently used to communicate with the ABC Community and share happenings at the LRC: Facebook, ABC LRC Blog
LRC Website, LRC Twitter, LRCABC Youtube, LRC ABC Flickr. These sites are updated by the LRC Staff members on a regular basis. The LRC newsletter has been discontinued in favour of the LRC Blog and Facebook Page.


Student visits on LRC passes: 1,203. (December 2012-March 2013).

The Top Read Books at the ABC from January to March of 2013

Friday, 15 March 2013

ABC Students Take a Trip to an Alien Planet

Written by Kenneth Horrocks and Jennifer Garcia

Science took an exciting turn at the ABC this week, as students from Grade 8 explored a virtual planet populated by alien plants and attempted to classify them according to Earthly classification standards. Each student used their own personalised avatar, kept a careful record of each plant identified in an online field notebook, and made a reasoned judgement about the probable taxonomy of each specimen. While exploring the virtual world, they had to content with mountains, carnivorous plants, floating islands and a giant monster pair of eyeballs which chased them around and stuck to their avatar bodies. The activity forms part of an unit called ‘Plants as Organisms’, in which student are expected to learn the fundamental properties and behaviour of plants, and is part of a new initiative in Key Stage 3 science to ‘theme’ traditional units in science in a way which will be engaging and related to current media or events. The theme for this unit is the multi-million grossing movie ‘Avatar’ by director James Cameron.

Planning and preparation for this activity began four months ago and involved staff from both the science and ICT department, as well as a highly talented and dedicated team of ABC students who used their virtual modelling talents to create many imaginative alien plants on Tuesday afternoons as an extra-curricular activity. Of course this is not as good as taking them to a real alien planet, but it is a lot safer and it fits into the modern pedagogical concepts of using problem solving approaches to learning.

The original idea came about when Mr. Horrocks mentioned that he was interested in creating a virtual alien planet. Now this may sound  like a rather odd request, but it makes perfect sense if that planet is to be used for Science students to investigate and classify life forms. In less than 10 minutes we had a plan. In fact the idea for the club, the region and work flow for the project all came together very nicely.

We new upon conception that this project would work extremely well in 8th grade science.  It just happens that end of each school year the 7th grade learns to navigate and build in-world in an Open Sim grid. This meant that we already had several skilled builders in the current 8th grade. The LRC had already arranged to lease a region on Jokaydia Grid and it made perfect sense to use Jokaydia for the Science project too. ABC Pandora was launched!

The club took off with a small group of dedicated students from 6th to 8th grade, Mr. Horrocks and Mrs. Garcia. The younger students, despite their lack of experience, picked up the new skills very quickly and soon their imaginations took flight. During the 7 weeks that the club ran, he team created a large variety of virtual 3D Alien life forms, out of basic 3D shapes. In doing so, students chose their shapes care, then modified and linked them to others. They applied textures, effects and even scripts if they wanted their creations to move about. The new life forms were placed within the assigned region, in  their own small micro systems. There they were then named and cloned. Soon ABC Pandora had morphed into a region rich with alien plant forms, as well as a few very strange creatures and was ready for action.

Here are examples of the forms used by students to take notes and annotate their findings.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

SketchUp Walk Through Videos

Each year our students work on a piece of writing in English lessons in which they describe a character's mind as a room. Once they are done the recreate these rooms in SketchUp as models, creating some of the components as well, and record a walk through video. This year they worked on rooms for the characters from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as well as S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.  

The following playlist contains walk through videos from the last 3 years, starting with those which were done in 2013. We hope you  enjoy them.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Scratch Work and Side by Side for iPad

I have mentioned my zeal for Diigo many times over and have developed a fondness of  Evernote over the last year. They are the perfect tools for so many jobs. There is however a new app in town, a new discovery of sorts (New for me that is.), that I think will place right up there with the other two. I don't think it will steal the limelight, but rather emerge as  the perfect tool for note taking of a different kind.

There is no perfect note taking app for all jobs.  It is a matter of the  right tool for the right job really. If you or your students are frustrated with taking notes on the iPad by switching between apps, then this is the app for you.  Enter  Scratch work for online note taking. What a great idea! The browser window sits side by side on the iPad screen along with the notepad, allowing you to take notes without switching back and forth between apps. What a great tool!

It also allows you to  open a browser window or the notepad in full screen, link notes to the web pages they came from, Insert images, graphs and drawings, input math characters as well as email your notes as plain text or pdf files.

The fun doesn't stop there. There is yet another app out there which works in a similar way, but with even more windows!

The Side by Side app allows you to open  up to four windows and arrange them in different ways, up to a quarter of the screen each when four are open. With this app,  you to web browse in up to four windows, open a note window and take text notes by typing them in or copying them into the notepad with one click. Using Side by Side you can search search items you have starred by keyword and even save files for viewing offline using the filing cabinet and bookmark items if you haven't quite finished.

Again if you haven't already tried it out, you should. Here is a short video which demonstrates all of its functions.