Friday, 27 January 2012

Interactive Language Teaching Resource

Welcome to Coco and online interactive language teaching environment. A friendly ape/gorilla/monkey called Coco performs user directed tasks in a series of brightly coloured scenarios with onscreen text in French, English, Polish, German, Spanish and Chinese. 

Children listen, click through each scenario and repeat. Its aimed at children between the ages of (3-6 years. Words are spoken by natural speakers in each language. You need a decent computer with sound and a Flash plugin installed in your browser for it to work.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Creating a 3D image using GIMP

3D Thandie with toy Megaphone
You will need a pair of anaglyph glasses - the one's with the red lens for the left eye and a cyan lens for the right eye.

I will talk you through how to turn a digital image into a 3D one! GIMP is an easy to use  powerful free image editing software. You can use Photoshop or any app that lets you edit and recolour you image using layers.

To complete this tutorial, you need to have the latest version of GIMP installed and image to work with (images where the foreground contrasts with the background work best) and a pair of 3D specs.

1. Open up you image in GIMP. 

Note:  Make sure you can see the layers menu, if not go to MENU-WINDOWS-DOCKABLE DIALOGS-LAYERS  move it to the right hand side of the screen for easy access.

2. Duplicate your image so you have two layers  - click on the 'duplicate icon, two small squares overlapping, at the bottom of layers panel next to the green up/down arrows.

3. Select each layer then COLORS - DESATURATE. Make sure you have the 'eye' icon selected to see each layer.

4. Select the top image layer and turn off the bottom image layer eye icon.

5. COLORS - COLOR BALANCE move the top slider towards cyan so it reads -100, we want to make the blue a bit richer so move the middle slider towards Magenta -50.

6. Turn of the blued top layer eye icon and turn on the bottom layer eye icon. The image should still be black and white if not repeat step 3

7. COLORS - COLOR BALANCE move the middle slider towards magenta so it reads -100, again we want to make the colour a bit richer so move the bottom slider towards Yellow so the number reads  -59.

Now here comes the exciting bit!

8. Turn both eye icons on, select the 'move' tool (it looks like a blue cross) from the TOOLBOX palette it should be open, if not go to MENU-WINDOWS-DOCKABLE DIALOGS-TOOLS

9. Select and move your top blue layer to the left slightly - 3 or 5 millimetres - we are trying to recreate the space between your right and left eyes!

10. Put your 3D specs on.

11. Make sure both layer 'eye' icons are showing then move the opacity slider of the BLUE top layer, in the LAYERS menu to about 48.3

12. With your glasses on you should be able to start seeing the 3D effect. You might have to revisit steps 5 and 7 and reapply with cyan and magenta sliders so the colours are richer and brighter. You might have to slightly adjust the top blue image back or forth to get the desired effect! Enlarge your image VIEW-ZOOM- 200% it will look great!

13. Save your work

14. Your image will probaly look best on a monitor or as a high quality colour print.  

You can purchase 3D glasses from Amazon or make your own out of card or recycle some old specs!


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Teachers - Publish Your Own Books!

Hot off the press from Apples big show and tell event is news of the release of the iBooks Author, a free app for iPads which means we can all become publishing moguls! 
Those of you with experience of the books function of iPhoto will know that you can create beautiful looking books and calendars using the free software that arrives preloaded on macs.  Well it seems like the new iBooks Author app lets you go further to create interactive images and text in the large colourful format that the playful interface of the iPad offers.

iTunes U already allows educators to distribute lectures and educational resources to students, now there is a new app to extend this functions further.
It seems Apple is ushering in a new era of publishing electronic content for learners and only time will tell if it will profoundly change the way we teach and learn. What do you think?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Most Exciting Thing to Happen in 21st Century Education?

The Raspberry Pi computer has the potential to become one of the most important things to happen in 21st Century education and transform they way we teach and do business.

Imagine two secondhand PCs running a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) powerful enough to drive several rooms of Raspberry Pi work stations as 'thin clients'. Your £30,000 tri-annual IT spend just dropped to £2,000!

A starting price of $25 puts it firmly in the price bracket of the cash strapped IT heads looking to cost save.

The credit-card sized computer is built by the The Raspberry Pi Foundation (a UK charity with a dream of producing cheap computers for kids) and based on an ARM processing architecture with onboard audio and video outputs and USB, HDMI and SD card slots. Unbelievably, it weights 45 gram and plays High definition video!

This makes it ideal for web surfing and web 2.0 apps, web-design and everyday IT tasks but will struggle with processor intensive applications such as video and sound editing.

Educationalists see the Raspberry Pi as a chance for school's to get pupils into programming - an important skill for this decade.

It comes Linux ready meaning it can access open source software (mostly free) which already offers the productivity of Windows software with very little learning curve - right in line with the Education Secretary's vision of an 'Open Source' future.

The machines specs include a 700MHz ARM11 CPU and 256MB of RAM. It arrives case-less, a barebones circuit board allowing users to personalise the look of their machines. The 'B' model the higher end version, comes with a $35 price tag.

The prospect of 'cheap as chips' (pardon the pun!) computer is a dream for schools, offering the possibility that parents could purchase them buy them for their children just like uniforms, stationary and pen drives, thus relieving heavily stressed budgets  - they are small enough to fit in a primary school book bag or even pencil case!

We could also be at the and the beginning of a truly personalised learning system with children sharing their machines between school and home well, until cheaper tablet computers arrive. 

Schools could enter a fully interactive educational relationship with their children. When pupils connect, teachers could grade and archive work, leaving pupils free to complete course and homework tailored to their learning needs. Pupils can work at their own pace reviewing class lessons using the textbooks and learning materials held on the device or online without clogging up the family computer.

Will it be a game changer? Will it usurp the big tech players and take their user base? Will it allow universal computer access for individuals and families in areas of social deprivation - the so called digital divide? If its robust enough to satisfy the wishes of so many users, maybe.

A powerful and capable computer using open software for a fraction of the cost of an Xbox - you can even use your TV as a display. It may become as ubiquitous as game boxes, just add a keyboard and mouse. If your IT suite needs a refresh, you could do a lot worse and purchase a few to run a test network.

We'll find out very soon when the first batch of 'Model B' is released anytime now, whether its a brave new world or same old present, IT lesson time definitely won't be boring!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Digital literacy- The Guardian's Campaign

The Guardian's campaign to upgrade computer science, IT and technology teaching in schools @TheGuardian

How narratives can aid memory

"A compelling story line, however off the wall, can help us remember the facts we're trying to learn ... Stories, then, are at the root of our ability to communicate and understand what's going on around us. Because understanding and memory are intertwined we shouldn't be surprised that they are also very powerful mnemonic devices." @Guardian

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Apps in Classrooms = Power!

If Michael Grove proposes genuine 'out of the box' teaching re digital literacy, giving school kids the means of digital production, the tools, the understanding to analyse, pick apart, innovate, build and share - it could be  a powerful thing.. only 'if' though!