It seems ages ago that I blogged about an idea I had to get my S4 pupils to create resources that could, eventually with some finessing, become resources available to French speaking visitors to Huntly.
As usual the best laid plans never quite work out as intended, but we have managed to put together something. Preparation of this has been dragged out by trips, sports days, college taster days etc., etc and pupils have got fed up of me reminding them that page 131 of Equipe will be of invaluable assistance. The original idea was for the kids to record their guided visit, but time ran out. However, as is often the case a relatively simple solution presented itself via the web. Readthewords.com, a text to speech service which read english, french, spanish and german...and it free. I think the voice quality is not bad at all and the recording can be embedded or downloaded to an mp3 player perhaps.
The other part of the -plan was to create a google map for each group's tour. Sounds simple doesn't it? Well maybe not too simple, but something which should be do-able by "digital natives" (sorry Marc Prensky but this weeks lessons are proof positive that kids still have to be "taught" some of these skills, that they are not simply born knowing how to deal with these things.
Anyway, the first thing each group had to do was to create a google account. Quite straightforward if they have a personal email address accesible in school (hotmail, gmail, yahoo etc), impossible if relying on school email because the required verification message takes over 24 hours to navigate its way through the server filters. Next challenge was simply to use the interface. The screens in the ICT room were a bit on the small side and didn't make the task 0f positioning placemarkers all that easy.
Another challenge which needed a solution was that of photos. For IPR reasons I didn't want to (couldn't) use photos already on the web and each group needed photos of their places to visit to add to their map. I had wanted to send them out with their camera/phones and take their own pics, but on taking advice I found I would have needed 6-7 adults so ensure an adult accompanied each group...grrr! So what did I do? Got on my bike and killed 2 birds with one stone. I was going to do some training at lunchtime so I just did a bike ride around Huntly and took the pictures myself. I then uploaded them to drop.io. The beauty of dropio is that not only is it free (up to 100mb) but you can get embed codes for the pictures, but also I was able to write the instructions as a note added to the drop...not that any of the pupils actually seemed to read them, plus ça change.
Thus the kids were free to use photos which they could then embed on their placemarkers. Luckily (for me) no one got as far as adding lines on their map, because that can be a pain.
Having gone on about all the problems faced I am really pleased with the results. If time had allowed I would have spent more time in the computer rooms and gone through all the skills needed to do this before letting them start the task itself.
I'm not sure whether I was surprised or not but the girls engaged more with this activity. The boys were really quite frustrating at times, constantly opening up new windows to play games. When I asked whether they had ever done anything "creative" on their computers at home not many were able to answer yes, mostly content to play games.
As I said at the beginning the idea has not quite turned out as expected but here is an example of what one group created. Perhaps in the future, now I know the issues involved, my classes can produce a resource which visitors could access on their mobiles via the web so as to enable them to follow the maps and listen to the tours at the same time...I'm thinking it might be something my Higher class could get its teeth into when we get to this topic area.
Let me know what you think. How could this be improved on?
Here is what Sarah, Louise, Samantha and Katrina came up with. (Thanks to Juliett in Readthewords for her lovely voice.)