Currently browsing Posts Tagged “animation”

Safe animations with Domo Nation

Certain web applications allow students to be creative and have fun while learning a foreign language. It is of paramount importance to educators that these applications offer a safe and suitable environment in which students can learn without fear of being exposed to unsuitable content.

Ever since I discovered Go!Animate, online animations have formed an integral part of my schemes of work. Tools such as this have allowed me to transform written tasks into creative exercises that students want to share and, most importantly, repeat.

Having said that, Go!Animate was never conceived by its creators as an educational tool. As its popularity grew, so did the wealth and breadth of its content, sometimes with undesirable consequences for the school environment.

This resulted in ever increasing demands of content moderation by educators. Go!Animate did not wish, as they viewed it, to censor or curtail its content in any way, but what they did do was to make another website available which would be version of their site that would not contain inappropriate content.

This website is Domo Nation. There, all animations are reviewed and users cannot upload their own assets, thus ensuring a well controlled environment. There may still be odd silly, pointless or immature animation, but you won’t come across an offensive one.

I have been using Domo Nation – or Domo Animate, as it is also known – for several months now and I can attest that it is indeed a safe environment for students to learn as they play. Next time you want to ask your students to write a dialogue for homework, get them to do it using this wonderful alternative to the exercise book.

What’s your experience using animation tools such as this? Do you know any alternatives? Please share :-)

Web 2.0 Applications in the MFL classroom

This video is also available on Blip TV, Vimeo , YouTube and Podomatic . You can subscribe to this series of video podcasts in iTunes.

Just before Christmas, I was interviewed by Naace about our use of web 2.0 applications to enhance the teaching and learning of Modern Foreign Languages at our school, Nottingham High School.

The interview focuses on the project we were working on at that time – scripting a dialogue and then using that script to create an animated film using Xtranormal, a free web application that allows users to create and edit animations using text-to-speech technology – and on whether web applications such as this one can successfully and easily be adopted by schools to improve learning outcomes, as well as enjoyment.

You can see examples of the final product created by students here.

Your comments and thoughts about this interview and the use of web applications in general are very welcome.

Ten tried and tested internet tools for teachers

Over the past academic year, my students and I have been experimenting with the use of a number of web based applications (often known as Web 2.0 tools). My aim has been to enhance our schemes of work by providing our students with new and exciting learning opportunities.

In my opinion, using technology effectively has clear benefits for both teaching and learning and can help to improve motivation by engaging pupils in activities which, perhaps, step out of their ordinary school experience and which show them that it is possible to teach and learn about a subject using tools similar to those they use daily outside school. In other words, we have tried to use the types of tools with which they are often already familiar.

I have written about each of these individual tools in separate posts, but I thought it would be useful to list the ten most used internet applications on one post. As ever, I aim to provide, not only a list of the web applications we have used, but also examples of practice which you may wish to follow or, indeed, improve upon.

Therefore, each of the entries below has links leading to lesson plans which have incorporated the tools as well as working examples of students’ work where appropriate. Without further ado, and in alphabetical order, my ten tried and tested internet tools for teachers are:

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Why do I use Web 2.0? Now that is a good question…

Leon filming student

I was delighted to welcome yesterday Theo Kuechel and Leon Cych who came over to my school to interview me and some of my pupils as they worked on a Web 2.0 project in our ICT room. Theo and Leon are filming a number of practitioners across the country in order to put together a number of case studies for an online CPD course on behalf of Naace for the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

Their questions made me reflect about why I use technology and Web 2.0 (nope, I don’t like that term either, but, hey, it’s all we’ve got) in my classes. Using web based applications has become so natural for me now, you could even say normal, that I always forget that those of us opting to enrich our pupil’s learning experience in this way are very much in the minority, for one reason or another.


My interest in using web based applications to enhance teaching and learning started early. Having used computers a lot in a previous incarnation working for a large transport and logistics company, I already felt comfortable with the idea of using computers to help me manage teaching administration, such as assessment data or lesson planning, by the time I started my teacher training,

But it was once I was placed in schools as part of my teacher training, teaching real students, that I realised that ICT could make my life easier as a teacher in terms of administration, and also that pupils were actually engaged and enthused by the prospect of using computers in learning languages.

The use of web applications also allowed my pupils to use software which they didn’t have to install and which could be accessed from any computer as long as it was connected to the internet. This meant that they could work on the same piece of work, the same project, both from school and from home, allowing me to bridge the gap in between the two.

Examples of Web 2.0 tools applied to school work

Looking back to only five years ago or so, it is obvious that I have incorporated Web 2.0 into my schemes of work more and more without really noticing or even without having made a conscious decision to do so. It just happened, because it worked for me and my students. Nowadays, my classes do a project every two or three weeks which involves the use of Web 2.0 applications in one way or another.

These are some of the projects on which we have worked in the past year:

What makes these applications so special and why should you care?

The visual qualities of web 2.0 are very important. When I was a student, I went home after school and relaxed watching tv or reading a magazine. In comparison, the first thing my pupils do, however, is switch on their computers, not the tv. In their computers, they are faced with a world which is bright and visual, rich in images, video and sound.

Using web 2.0 at school taps into this world of theirs and allows pupils to express their creativity in a way which they find familiar, because these websites operate on the same principles of social networking and content creation and sharing to which they are already so used to. So, if we teach them in a way that reflects how they live their lives when they’re not in school, and if we help to ensure that the gap between their school life and real life is minimised, we then become better able to guarantee the commitment and engagement of the vast majority of our students.

Perhaps Prensky had a point after all…

In my experience, pupils come into secondary schools nowadays having already become very familiar with computers and able to easily navigate websites and communicate using the internet. If they are faced with new tools, they have a go and generally learn impressively quickly how to use them.

Yes, of course, this doesn’t apply to every pupil and, of course, they still struggle with spreadsheets and, of course, they don’t really understand what internal computing processes make the animations in Go!Animate come about. And does it really matter? If you think about it, they don’t have to know: you manage to drive a car perfectly well with only a basic understanding of how a gear-box operates or how the fuel is fed to the engine; you are probably perfectly fluent in English but, unless you’re a linguist, you might struggle to tell the difference between the indicative and subjunctive mood or the passive and active voice.

This doesn’t mean you can’t really drive or that you can’t really speak English, just that you don’t need to know the internal workings of how it is achieved, just in the same way a Formula 1 driver does not need to know the width of a piston or a writer does not need to know how many phonemes the English language has. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a Flash developer.

My inkling is that my younger students come to us already having developed something akin to web sytax, an internet universal grammar if you like, which they have often already mastered by the time they make the transition from primary. We, teachers, therefore ought to be able to make the most of what abilities these students already posses so as to transform the way we teach them.

Many thanks again to Leon and Theo for coming to see us and for making me think about why I do what I do. As ever, do feel free to let me know, by way of comment, what your thoughts are.

Photos by Theo Kuechel

When your opinion won’t be heard…

I have managed fora in the past with my students and am no stranger to cases when users have abused the forum by using inappropriate language, adding inappropriate content or simply generally being unpleasant. Imagine my surprise then when I found myself last night with the tables turned on me: I had breached the guidelines of a well known MFL resources forum and got a slap on the wrist in the form of an email from the forum administrator. My post was subsequently deleted.

The thread which prompted such inappropriate response from me dealt with Go!Animate, a tool which I reported on a couple of months ago and which allows the user to create animations. The thread discussed its usefulness in the teaching of modern languages and some negative views were expressed by other forum participants who did not think Go!Animate presented a good opportunity for language learning. One of the participants also suggested that students would be wasting their time because they would be learning some ICT alongside their foreign language.

This was my response (verbatim), the tone of which was deemed inflaming and not thoughtful or generous by the administrator:

Hello all,

I have been following this thread with interest and have been quite
honestly shocked at the negativity in display towards using ICT in
your classroom.

We are forever complaining how kids are not opting to do languages yet
we don’t do much to help ourselves on this respect.

Here is a way to connect with students, to exploit the tools they are
already familiar with through the likes of Bebo or MySpace, a chance
to work in their territory.

Here is a chance to make ourselves relevant to them, to motivate
students who would otherwise be reluctant or too shy (you can upload
voice recordings) to produce their own dialogues.

Yet we still refuse to engage with them… our students! How do we
expect them to engage with us?

Anyway, worry not, rant over. I, for one, have been using GoAnimate
with my classes quite successfully, my Year 8 students now look
forward to their homework for a change… they want to write in
German. I don’t know about you, but that is a big plus in my book.

If you are interested in reading more about my experiences please read
my blog post about it

J Picardo

The removal of my post, above, was followed by an exchange of emails with the forum administrator in which I tried to ascertain what exactly had caused its deletion from the forum. As far as I understand it, as well as the perceived lack of thoughtfulness and generosity on my part, the forum administrator objected to my using the word rant, on the grounds that “there are other fora which allow ranting – but this isn’t one of them!”

Needless to say I don’t see anything in my post which might cause offence to anyone. I was rather hoping instead to challenge some entrenched attitudes which I believe are endemic and hopelessly counter-productive in the teaching of Modern Foreign Languages.

Perhaps I am wrong and my post is totally out of order. Judge for yourself. What do you think?

Picture from Flickr - benandjenn
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