Aliens in Heathfields?

Last week when the DeFT digital meadow was up and running in the Winter Gardens we attracted a lot of public interest.  One member of the public expressed her disapproval of the uses of digital technologies in schools.  “Children should be outdoors, running about, getting muddy… not stuck inside in front of one of those screens all day!”

She would have been thrilled to see Rob Hobson’s project in action!

There was not much mud involved, but there was a lot of the “outdoors” and “running about”! Rob’s aim for the project is to “give children a wider understanding of how ICT use can be taken out of its usual constraints.”  He certainly did that!

His project was launched with a “happening” in Heathlands Park.  It was rumoured that a spaceship has crash in a bit of wasteland  not far from the school.  The children in Rob’s class reported on this event, giving news releases, photographing the crash landing, and interviewing the public who had witnessed strange occurrences in the neighbourhood.  All this information required imagination, creativity and technical know-how to produce! It was so exciting that some members of the class forgot they were reluctant readers and writers. Everything they created was put onto designated webspaces by the Y6ers and QR codes were fabricated to link to these websites.

When all this careful preparation had been completed, a chosen few placed the QR clues in carefully selected places in Heathlands Park.  You can see the QR trail here .  Finally the hunt for clues could start.

Later that Friday afternoon, two classes of children were accompanied to the park where they were set lose with ipods equipped with  QR readers.  Their brief was to locate the clues, access the websites, find out what had happened, and piece together the story.  Because there was no internet connection in the park, Rob had provided mifis which provided wifi access to groups of 5 children with ipods.  The group of five could not stray far from the mifi carriers, who were dressed in bright yellow jackets, so cooperation was essential!

Children shared information, discussed clues, and fed back their thoughts to a blog that had especially been set up for the occasion.  People’s versions of what really  happened can be read here .  If you happen to be passing Heathlands Park, you can find the clues yourself,  send in your ideas to the blog, and add to the stories.

It was an exciting afternoon, and everybody enjoyed it tremendously.  In the midst of all this action the treasurer for the Heathland Community Park wandered onto the scene.  He had never heard of QR codes, and thought it would be a wonderful way of disseminating information about the park.  He watched the children working with their ipods, and realised that the general public could also interact with QR codes in this way with their own mobile devices.

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Digital big melt: News from Winterhill

I have just come back from my visit to Winterhill school in Rotherham and I am very impressed with their progress on the case study where teachers and students are producing OERs for Magna Science Adventure Centre and are exploring the use of  QR codes in that context. The work on resources is in full swing and there are some great examples of incorporating OER creation within the curriculum, with students and teachers bouncing off creative ideas and working collaboratively. I first had a chance to talk to Chris, an art teacher who is working with year 9 and year 10 students exploring the creative potential of OERs. As part of their BTEC Diploma in Art and Design, year 10 students have visited Magna and took some photographs in the water and fire pavilions, drew field sketches and on that basis are now creating artwork which is informed by futurist paintings. As the teacher emphasised, what the pupils really appreciate about the project is that they are involved in a real brief for Magna and working on resources that will hopefully resonate with the future visitors and enhance the exhibits. At the same time, this case study is a great example of incorporating OERs within the curriculum and fostering collaboration between the students since in true spirit of re-use and repurposing, year 9 students are Photoshopping the pictures taken by year 10 class to create slideshows accompanied by soundscapes representing an industrial theme (see picture above for a sneak preview!). Even better, the soundscapes are created with freesound, a collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds.

I then had a chance to talk to year 8 English students who shared with me the poems and the short impressionistic writing they have created on the basis of their visit to Magna and also told me about the plans to interview a steelworker to create additional resources for the project. I was quite impressed about the range of creative ideas them kept bringing up as to how they could enhance the content, I must admit I sorely regretted not being able to record that conversation but I am hoping to go back shortly and to continue talking to the students and the teachers. Hopefully the students will also accept the invitation to share their perspective on the project through this blog and tell the readers a bit more about their fascinating work.