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Using screencasting to explain a concept / revise

This is the 3rd entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

I have become a huge fan of screencasting, especially since I discovered screenr – a free web based tool, that is really easy to use for this purpose. I often use screencasts as a way of producing ‘how to videos’ as part of my work. In a previous post on this blog, I highlighted how this idea could easily be used to create revision aids. Which either the tutor could create for the learners, or the learners could create themselves (and then share with their peers?)

Another slight twist on this would be to challenge the learners to create a concise screencast (which if you use screenr limits you to 5 minutes) that explains a concept succinctly and accurately to other people. Maybe setting a series of criteria against which the screencasts will be judged, and offering a prize for the best one (out comes my trusty air guitar that I keep giving away). Criteria could be things like accuracy of information, artistic merit, communication skills used, etc.

If you had students working in small groups where they had to plan what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, who was going to talk etc. then you have a really good activity, covering lots of Personal Learning and Thinking Skills, as well as some Functional Skills. You may need to think about where the learners actually do their recording, as doesn’t work having lots of people in the same room, but if you have access to another small room nearby which once prepared the learner(s) can sneak into to do their recording then brilliant.

If you don’t want to use screenr, which is web based and therefore needs accounts etc, then the free camstudio, would be an option – this can either be installed onto the computer or run from a USB memory stick (and is part of the eduapps suite). This will allow you to create more than 5 minutes of recording, and keeps the output off the internet (unless you share it later) so some may prefer the extra ‘safety’ of this method, but it is more fickle to set up and get the audio settings right etc. Or you can use screenr, but in a way that you keep the end products private, as shown in this screencast.

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Creating a quick fire PowerPoint (Pecha Kucha)

This is idea 2, in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning‘.

One activity that you can ask learners to do in any subject or topic, is to ask them to create a PowerPoint presentation that explains a topic or subject, which they then present back to the rest of the class. The problem with this, though is that the learners often produce very bad presentations (based on having seen many bad ones delivered to them) which they then proceed to bore the rest of the class with, which if you have lots of learners in the group, then takes about 3 weeks to sit through each presentation.

One idea to help reduce these problems would be to introduce the idea of Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha was an idea from 2003, where the presentation is limited to 20 slides, each of which is on the screen for 20 seconds exactly, limiting the presentation to 6 minutes and 40 seconds, and with presenters rolling on one after another during a Pecha Kucha event. More information can be found at http://www.pecha-kucha.org/

The presentations become very punchy, to the point, and non-waffley. At first some learners will probably find it challenging, but all the learners will be in the same boat, and as long as it is managed in a light hearted way (and don’t assess them, or at least not at first attempt) it should be more engaging than sitting bored through each others 10 minute presentations of lots of text that no-one can read.

An example Pecha Kucha on Pecha Kucha can be seen at

The easiest way to manage this, would be to give them the starting PowerPoint template which has the automatic slide transitions created, so all they have to do is to add the content. I have created a Pecha Kucha template that can be used by others. This has the timings already built in, as well as a black horiztonal bar at the bottom which acts as a 20 second timer on each slide. All someone has to do is add the content (e.g. images) to the slides.

We then need to encourage learners to use graphics more than words – so I would point them to image searching techniques such as Xpert, and Compfight which I have blogged about before. Show them how to do screen capturing, and then cropping images, resizing etc. This can be simply done using the PrtScn button on keyboard and then pasting into PowerPoint, then using the formatting options to crop, resize, rotate if desired. You can even blur parts of the image by placing a semi transparent shape on top of the image, to blur parts, leaving the important bit clear etc, but basically you can let the learners artistic ideas to flourish, and if using this technique a few times, it would develop higher order thinking skills, as the learners have to think about what the key pieces of information are, and how best to represent them visually and to communicate them succinctly etc.

Using ‘game’ and activity templates in education

This is idea 1, in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning‘.

One of the changes to the Inspections framework within FE within the UK, is that inspectors are now looking to see if students are enjoying themselves whilst they are learning. This is actually proving a really big challenge for some educators.

One way that technology can be used to bring an element of ‘fun’ back into the learning process is by using game type activities as part of the process. I am not talking about high-tec immersive type games, but much simpler, types of activity, were the tutor enters the basic information about their subject and the computer converts this into an activity. We are lucky that there are many different game and activity templates out there, so we can use a wide variety in our teaching and learning (learners will quickly get bored of doing lots of crosswords, or lots of multi-choice questions).

Some people think that games shouldn’t be used in education as they question the learning value of them, but one thing that a good ‘game type activity’ can do, is encourage repetition, which for learning basic facts, is recognised as an essential part of the learning process, yet one that is hard to achieve in FE and HE.

I used to use QUIA (see below for details) a lot in my teaching, and because I taught sport science students (who are naturally competitive) they would often repeat activities many times to try and get a better score (especially if I did the activity first to set a target) – this for me was a great way to cover key information, e.g. names of bones, muscle actions, definitions of physical terms etc.

Here I will describe 3 examples of web based tools that can be used for this purpose


Quia

http://www.quia.com/ is an excellent resource, although it does have a cost attached to it of $50 per year if you want to create your own activities.

  • You can create activities, where you enter the information, and it turns that into a game type activity for you. Activities include battleships, matching pairs, wordsearches, ordered lists etc.
  • There are quizzes, which even has built in tracking so that you can track which students have done what.
  • There are survey options which are easy to use and easy to analyse afterwards, and many other options.

I personally think that the $50 per year is worth paying due to the amount of time that it can save and the quality of the final products, but even if you don’t pay, there are many activities that are on their site which have been shared by tutors which you can do for free, if you go to http://www.quia.com/shared/ you will see the list of subjects covered, then looking into any of them will reveal thousands of created resources, that you can use with learners, by just copying and sharing the URL.


StudyStack

http://www.studystack.com/ works on pairs of information (e.g. capital city and country, author and book, psychologist and theory etc). You can either use an activity that has created by someone else, or create your own for free. Once created the pairs of information are turned into various game types, including anagrams, crosswords etc, but also simple kinesthetic type games such as hungry bug, which is like the game snakes that used to appear on early mobile phones. Young people in particular will sometimes play these retro type games for hours at times, so if we can use this for education then brilliant. The output isn’t a polished as QUIA, and the site does have advertising on it, but for ease of use and to provide variety, and being free is an excellent site. An example of a hungry bug activity created by someone else is http://www.studystack.com/hungrybug-49086 – if you then click on the icons below the activity you can play different games with the same sets of words.


Jigsaw Planet

http://www.jigsawplanet.com/ is a web based jigsaw creating site. You can either do one of their preloaded jigsaws, or more likely we can create our own. All we need to do is upload an image, select the number of pieces, and the piece shape and it will convert this into a jigsaw for us. So for example if we wanted the students to learn a table of important but uninteresting information, we could convert the table into an image (by just doing a print screen, or using a tool like Snippy to capture a region of the screen containing the table), upload this to Jigsaw Planet and away you go. An Example of this, using a simple table of information based on countries can be found at http://www.jigsawplanet.com/?rc=play&pid=29a2685d793d


There are many other tools out there, but these are 3 web based ones (and therefore easy to manage) that I particularly like.

Putting the fun back into ‘fundamental’ learning

Later this month I will be contributing to an LSIS Learning fair in the East Midlands where I am running a session titled ‘Putting the fun back into fundamental’. The session will focus around changes to the Common Inspection Framework, and the fact that inspectors are now looking at whether the learners are ‘enjoying’ their learning experience. I have worked with a few providers where this is proving problematic. Some teachers quite simply do not have the skill to provide enjoyable learning, and others have the skills but are afraid of the culture change, and afraid that if the learners start to have ‘fun’ whilst learning then the lessons will become rowdy, they will lose control, and the learners will stop respecting them as the pillars of wisdom and knowledge that they as the tutor obviously are.

During the session that I am running on this topic, I will be providing short examples into 9 different examples of how technology can be used to easily bring in an element of fun into the learning environment,  in a way that enhances learning. Theses can be used at the end of a session to reinforce the learning that has taken place, they can be used as additional ‘stretch’ type activities, or in some cases can be used as the main method of teaching and learning of the subject.

I will blog about each different idea over the coming days, and the links below will become live as each post is published. The blog posts on this topic will all be tagged with the word ‘fun’ so all the posts within the series will be located at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/tag/fun/

The ideas that I will cover are:-