Thursday, December 18, 2008

2DIY - You can Make Games and Teacher Tools Yourself & Easily 2

Last week Nicholas and I attended an advisers day hosted by 2Simple Software. I love these days as it is an excellent opportunity to network with others and spend a long day talking about we all love most, which is of course Primary ICT.

Traditionally the December day is a chance to see the new 2Simple products, and in the past there has been much excitement around 2Control, 2Paint a Picture and 2Puiblsih+. This day was no exception. On this occasion there was a real buzz in the room as a number of new and exciting Beta projects were shown.

My absolute favourite is 2 D I Y - nothing to do with home improvements, but everything to do with easily making electronic projects . This suite of tools empowers pupils and teachers to create leaning resources of their own, which can then be exported as a Flash file. These exportable flash files (swfs) are timely as currently we are all looking at helping children, make more creative use of their MLE space. What 2 DIY does is it allows them or their teachers to create a game, a puzzle or quiz and then embed this anywhere. A practical application of this would be children taking a photograph and then posting it as a jigsaw or a slider puzzle in their
Fronter room.

What I also love about this set of applications is that it is so maverick - it can not easily be slotted into the traditional QCA or NC ICT Primary Curriculum. Though we could argue that many of the outcomes will be multimedia applications. Furthermore, there is currently a ground swell of exploration into gaming in schools. However sometimes, games can be used very badly with the needs of just one user being served when the game is projected on an IWB. Or there are those games that are made by educationalists that try to dupe children into learning by presenting themselves as a game. Sometimes this works, though if the game is designed badly it fails as some authors fail to understand the needs of gamers. And what gamers want from a game is challenge,but at the right level, not too easy or too hard.

But what about if you turned the notion of gaming in schools as a covert learning tool on its head and gave children the task of creating their own games either individually or in groups. Therefore we now have another ICT genre to add to the list of slideshow, document, desktop published item, why not make a game or a quiz for a specific audience. The task has opportunity for talk, cognitive challenge and sits more within the pupils zone of relevance, though many of us geeks and gamers will also sit within this zone of relevance too! And to do this within a 2Simple package means that this is accessible by children in Year 2, as much as it is those in Year 5 or the kids in the 'Gifted and Talented Computer Club'. Certainly if you were using Scratch or Mission Maker, you would not get accessibility across the primary range. And yet there is the opportunity to stretch your gifted and talented game authors on this package, as there is the option to include Flash code for the movements of characters.

Another reason why this fits with the current climate is the need and interest in user generated content. Its no coincidence that this package comes at the same time as Little Big Planet.

2DIY as tool for the Teaching Assistants. It occurred to me while watching this demonstration that 2DIY offers teachers and TAs the opportunity to make electronic activities that enhance language acquisition, communication along with providing simple mouse or IWB activities.

Some years ago I used My World software to create drag and drop screens on the theme of transport for Foundation stage children. My World gave us the well-loved 'Dress the Teddy' activity. What My World would not allow me to do easily was to personalise the resource with my own pictures. Now I am able to draw my own teddy, child, plant and drag and drop the elements onto the relevant area. There are other labelling activities with clickable sounds and hotspots too and I am excited about the uses and applications of these tools, particularly if used with children with spacial needs. Unfortunately many TAS and LSA are still creating all of their word sort, sequencing tasks and general reinforcement activities using card and the overheated laminator. I hope 2DIY will be used as a way of creating electronic versions of these activities.

Last night I created a sequencing activity for Dylan around Toilet Training. The pictures we have used are the same he has on the back of the back door, and it is a sequence we are continually reinforcing. We have used similar sequence for dressing and hair cuts.

I suppose I should exaplain the above- basically Dylan needs to use the loo then wash his hands before he can get a sweet!!