A journey of creation

6th May 2005 at 01:00
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John Galloway reports on how a primary school in Fulham is bringing geography alive with software from 2Simple

Flat Stanley is off on his annual holiday again. Every year, Class 2 at All Saints School in Fulham, London send him around the world as part of their geography studies. Gill Nott, their teacher, has a large laminated folder of photos of Stanley in different places with messages from him.

The difference this year is that the class are telling the story of his travels through interactive books using 2Create from 2Simple.

Fred and William have captured the idea brilliantly by having an animated Stanley literally circle a map on their opening page, crossing the flags of Australia and Norway before returning to Britain. OK, it's a map of Europe, but Fred explained they couldn't find a map of the world.

This is the fourth lesson the class has had using 2Create. Gill started them off with a storyboard of six slides. She taught them how to use the software on the interactive whiteboard in the classroom, gradually building up to adding animations.

"If you select him (Stanley) and you do this with this button - it's got a fish on it," Fred says clicking on the Actions button. "Then you do the movements and you press OK and it does this thing." At which Stanley spins off around the world again.

Meanwhile, over in the corner Eleanor is polishing up page five. "We've just got to add a few more pictures and some writing," she explains as she directs activities and her partner controls the mouse. "Not there. Not there. Not there. There." She then instructs: "Let's get a different colour."

"I get to choose," responds her workmate, Lulu. "Yellow." Which is a good choice as the writing now stands out on the dark blue background. Eleanor types in, "Next Stanley went on a picnic."

This co-operative spirit is evident throughout the room, pupils working happily within and between their pairings, reminding each other how to use the program or where they found a certain image. A pupil is even summoned from an older group to help identify the Belgian flag. Seldom is a hand raised or the cry of "Miss" heard as they very adeptly change the position and size of images, animate them and create links to new pages.

Gill Nott thinks this is for a couple of reasons. "Partly it is the interactive whiteboard in the classroom. Things like making the images smaller and changing colour I used to have to teach explicitly." However, she also thinks it is the software. "It is more visual. The tools are easier to see. It's a simple thing -the fact that it is a felt pen they are choosing. The planning section is really clear. I moved pages around and the links looked like elastic. They really liked that."

She also thinks it is useful across the curriculum. Although this project is ostensibly a geography one, she finds the benefits are broader. "It is very useful for motivating boys in literacy. The enthusiasm is massive.

They are talking about it outside."

Max and Tom seem to prove her point. They have no reluctance either in sending Stanley off to see "pengwins in Antateca", "Afrikon elefonts", and "dolfins on the coast of Amerreca" or in tackling some difficult spellings.

The class is also comfortable with reviewing and criticising each other's work.

Back in the classroom Gill Nott puts Fred and William's book on the whiteboard for everyone to see. They run through their creation and explain their decisions. As the Norwegian flag tumbles from top to bottom William explains, "That was my idea. We hadn't used that action." The class then chip in with their views. They liked the idea of Stanley moving around a map: "It looks like he's travelling around the world." But also "the snake was really good because the snake was moving about" and "they really thought about their actions".

As for improvements, one idea is to add a shark to the Australian page and to correct one of the linking buttons - which they had already found and done.

Gill Nott believes these plenaries are important for a number of reasons, not only for evaluation and reflection but also to get across the concept of improvement to infants. They also emphasise the importance of thinking about the audience. Apart from their classmates these will be shown to other classes and to parents during the open morning.

The children are pleased with what they have achieved. As is Gill Nott:

"They have done much better than anticipated. They are working at the advanced level, as the basic one is too easy for them."

Advanced they are, not just in their use of the software but in the very creative way they have used it - taking a simple idea of a journey around the world and illustrating it with text, images and animation. Next week they're going to add sound.

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