Monday, 21 March 2016

MinecraftEdu Maths - Ratio & Proportion...And A Whole Lot More

Me: "Right guys, 1 Minecraft block = 5cm x 5cm x 5cm in real me our ICT suite!"

Quite a few hours and a whole shed load of mathematical discussion and reasoning mixed in with a fair amount of calculation later and we had our ICT suite.

It seemed too good to waste so we developed it into an adventure map - a bit like this one.

Children now start in a hidden room to read the game instructions and stock up on equipment. They then emerge into the ICT suite charged with completing the tasks set in order to get enough redstone to complete the circuit and escape from the room.

It's got all the adventure map staples like parkour, a glass maze, more parkour, hidden doors, dead ends, wild goose chases, problems to solve and obviously - a bit more parkour.

They skills we learnt and developed while building the room pale into insignificance when compared with those we encountered creating the adventure map:
  • Redstone circuits aren't easy to make, especially those with timer loops and t-flip flops to turn buttons into levers.
  • Glass mazes need a lot of planning.
  • A quest of this size requires some serious story-boarding and scripting.
  • Doing all of this with 25 year 6 pupils takes a fair bit of communication and teamwork.
  • And on and on, you get the idea.
Now this year's Y6 are building level 2 - The Head Teacher's Office!

Friday, 19 December 2014

MinecraftEdu - Brief Intro

A brief intro, because I've got a feeling this blog will be a little Minecraft heavy this year!

Minecraft has unbelievable potential for use in schools if, like everything else, we use it when it really is the best choice and don't try and force it into the curriculum. That said, the more you use it, the more you see how it could fit with a little tweak here and there :)

If you are going to use Minecraft, I cannot endorse MinecraftEdu strongly enough.

The added features you get make the minimal fee absolutely worthwhile. Couple that with the ever-growing resource bank and other dedicated blogs like (@EduElfie's and it's a complete win!

What are you waiting for?

Award Winning Use Of Sketchup

A while ago I dialed in to the webcast of the National Digital Learning Event to see if there was a chance we'd win the award we were shortlisted for. I was greeted with this...

Innovative use of a digital technology - we'd used Sketchup.

Sketchup - free (love that word) 3D Modelling Software.

Ok, not technically a game so probably shouldn't be on this blog  - but you could make a game from your creations if you wanted! (Plus where else would I show this stuff off?)

If you've never used sketchup, here's how it works...

1) Start with a blank canvas containing 3 axis and a horizon (so you don't end up building upside down).

2) Draw straight lines...

3)...until they meet. When they do, the shape auto-colours to show you.
 4) Create another shape inside the original rectangle.
 5) Use the 'Push/Pull' tool to pull up just the outer shape. Can you tell what it is yet?
 6) Go on adding more shapes...
 7)...pushing and pulling...
 8)...until you have...
 9)...a structure resembling a house!
10) Carry on building until the structure is complete then use the online library to furnish the house and render textures and colours on walls and floors etc.

So What Was So Innovative?

  • Each child in Y6 used sketchup to build, furnish and render a house (LOTS of maths involved)

  • Then they scanned in and imported the work they were most proud of in Y6.
  • This work was then placed around the house - art work on walls, written work on desks and e-work on screens.

  • Then they created a fly through video to showcase their work, wrote a commentary and recorded the commentary over the video.
Have a look at the video below to find out more about the project and see the finished product.

National Digital Learning Award video from Ynysowen Primary on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

KenKen - Mental Maths Brilliance!

Although it may look like just another Sodoku spin-off, don't be fooled! Kenken is a serious mental maths workout. Ok, so the example given above is it little simple, but you need to start simple to learn. 

The rules:
  1. The numbers you can use in a puzzle depend on the size of the grid. If it’s a 3 x 3 grid, you’ll use the numbers 1–3. In a 4 x 4 grid, use numbers 1–4. In a 5 x 5 grid… well, you can probably figure it out from there.
  2. The heavily-outlined groups of squares in each grid are called “cages.” In the upper-left corner of each cage, there is a “target number” and a math operation (+, –, x, ÷).
  3. Fill in each square of a cage with a number. The numbers in a cage must combine—in any order, using only that cage’s math operation—to form that cage’s target number.
    Example: Your target number is 5, your operation is addition, you’re using the numbers 1–4, and the cage is made up of two squares. You could fill in 2 and 3 (because 2 + 3 = 5) or 1 and 4 (1 + 4 = 5). But which number goes in which square? Read the next instruction!
  4. Important: You may not repeat a number in any row or column. You can repeat a number within a cage, as long as those repeated numbers are not in the same row or column.

This is fantastic to use as a mental maths starter. You can get as many different difficulties as you like from the KenKen site. Try getting year 6 to work up to solving something like this...

...and in the process enjoy the benefits of having a games-rich classroom.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Garage Band (iPad)

GarageBand is incredible. For a few of your finest pound sterling you get a fully fledged recording suite with a whole host of instruments and a bank of preset sounds. And the children love it. What are you waiting for?

Some songs sound like they were made on an iPad using Garage Band. Others can be mimicked incredibly easy. I'm always on the look out for these types of songs as they are great fun to use with children in school. The children get a (at times instant) feeling of accomplishment as the iPad does the hard part for you. This makes it a great tool to practice the art of performance and, as you get more skilled, composition.

I've uploaded some slides I made for you to have a look at. You can get theme here through google drive or here through the TES resources site (if you use TES you'll get the tracks embedded to play along with). 

They cover the songs 'Don't Stop Believing', 'I'm a Believer' and 'Smoke On The Water'. All you need to know is that for 'Don't Stop Believing' you need the smart keyboard, on Grand Piano, autoplay #1 at 100bpm. 

Apart from that, listen to the tracks, work out the drum beats (or a simplified version), master the guitar and bass riffs and have a great time with the children performing some anthems!

Other songs that work well but that I haven't created resources for:
And If you're feeling really bold try these (I haven't yet):
As you can probably tell, my method for finding songs that 'work' in GarageBand is to get on youtube and have a good look around.

Combine lessons spent on these songs with discussion and analysis of the musical elements we need to cover (pitch, dynamics, tempo, attack & decay, timbre, texture, silence, duration) and you'll end up with some great music lessons.

In my class, after we'd perfected a couple of songs I asked the children to experiment and make their own cover version by changing any musical elements along with instruments. We worked out pretty quickly that a nice soothing cover is possibly by using strings and acoustic guitar. How you record this process is up to you/your children but you can be very creative.

I also played around with class structure, moving from experimenting in groups to working pairs to introduce them to the basics of multi-track recording. You'll be surprised with what they come up with, I guarantee it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sim City

When using games in the classroom, you can use those that have a really clear learning outcome or those which facilitate further learning acting as more of a stimulus. Sim City is one of those games which does both brilliantly. In fact, I began using it as a game to tie together a topic and ended up seeing a whole host of direct learning outcomes which I just didn't realise would be there!

Note: I used the iPad version although I'm sure the PC version would suffice.

If you've never played it, you start with a blank landscape. You can edit the position and size of the water and foliage (something that users will want to do after they've played the game for a bit - position of these can be quite crucial). From there you can select the year your city will come into existence, give it a name and declare yourself mayor. Now you set to work constructing your new utopia.

Another note: If you elect to start in the year 2000 you'll have pretty much everything unlocked and open to you in terms of energy sources, sanitation options etc. If you start in 1900 these become available as time passes in line with when the developments were made originally. This means you can effectively play through the 20th century and see how developments and advances in certain areas affect your decision making processes. It also opens up great discussion around how the decisions world leaders are affected not only by the benefits of new developments, but their financial and human costs as well. Pretty deep for a £4.99 app - and we've barely scratched the surface!

As you  (and students) play the game you'll learn first hand about so many things. Here's a short list of the main challenges I saw students face when using Sim City.
  • The need for balance between residential, commercial and industrial areas - with supply and demand constantly shifting as population fluctuates.
  • The need to balance the books by changing taxes, ordinances and departmental budgets.
  • The different options available for powering a city and their environmental and cost implications.
  • The need for effective town planning in regard to public services (schools, colleges, universities, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, prisons, libraries, museums)
  • The need for effective town planning in regard to transport links (road, rail, air, sea).
  • The need to ensure water supply and sanitation to all areas of a city.
  • The need to budget to replace items that reach the end of their useful life.
  • The political issues that confront leaders when trying to please the masses (advisers and petitions come rolling in regularly).
  • What to do with waste.
  • How to manage pollution.
To be honest the list goes on. And on. For a long time. The outcomes and outputs that arose from these challenges were fantastic and where further clarification or depth was needed, we'd had the perfect introduction. 

The game is complex. It does take a little while to get off the ground with a new city. But we all know that games teach problem solving really well - and this is no exception.

So what are you waiting for? Get this loaded onto your iPads and turn your upper KS2 class into a games-rich classroom. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fantasy Football (FPL) is the official website for fantasy football in the UK and it can be used to great effect in classrooms!

Firstly - it's fun! And if we don't have fun we might as well go home.

Secondly - it has numerous ways to be used in maths. I'll run you through the way I used it.

We began with a few football themed maths lessons. I made the broad statement, "I like football because there are lots of goals scored." This is nice and vague and can generate some good discussion. It allows for debate and opinions but can also be investigated. After pulling up the scores in the premier league for the last few weeks, we studied mean, mode, median and range and drew some conclusions.

But I wanted a way to keep this ticking over, so I introduced the class to fantasy football. I set up my team (with their help) and we discussed the need for a balanced team and also managed to stay within the £100,000,000 budget that the FPL website allows.

Once the team was picked I sent letters home inviting parents to set up teams with their children and enter the school league and see if they could beat the teachers. With the competition element, engagement was high and we were off to a winning start.

From then on we checked the scores on a Monday morning to see who the movers and shakers from the weekend were. I'd then use data from the league or teams within the league to set mental maths starters, generate questions in lessons or even base whole lessons on throughout the season. Some of the regular warmup activities were:
  • What was the mean/mode/median/range of this week's scores?
  • Which class has the highest mean this week?
  • Who did best this week - girls or boys?
  • What was the mean score or each player in a specific team?
  • How many points behind Mr Hills is Mr Rothwell? 
You get the idea.

So from very little in terms of time invested by me, we got something that rolled on all year, fed nicely into lessons, got children using maths skills of their own accord, engaged parents, captivated pupils and all for free! 

It's year round ideas like these that will create a genuine buzz and will bring longevity to your games-rich classroom