Classroom Research Talkie Time


This is our third classroom trial and we took Talkie Time to Ashmount Primary Reception Class. Despite being June it was a very wet day and the classroom had flooded the day before but the Ashmount school and staff took it in their stride.
Ruth Chalmers and I arrived at 8.30. We played one sketch, Super Sorting from the DVD, which the teacher was seeing for the first time, and set up the classroom. The teacher has to stand at the right-hand side of the whiteboard (as you are looking at it).
Ruth’s camera was low at the front left hand side to get the children’s reactions, mine higher at the back left to get shots of the whiteboard and the teacher.
It’s a large class. They filed in and sat on the carpet. Quite lively and curious. Most of the children had parental permission to be filmed but a couple couldn’t be on screen.
Ms Cussell told the class she’d made a new friend and was going to introduce him on the whiteboard.
We hit play and we couldn’t get our DVD to play, despite it having played 30 minutes ago. Memories of the classroom VCR disasters of the 1980s came back vividly. The delay went on and on and on. The children were kept completely absorbed though by the Teaching Assistants who, with no fuss, got them playing singing games on the mat. Wish I’d had those in the 1980s. The pressure could have been increased by the fact Saul Nasse, the BBC’s new Head of Learning, was sitting at the back of the class observing but he was very calm and said it happened all the time when he was Editor of Tomorrow’s World.
Amazingly, randomly, at some point after eventually deciding to open it in VLC instead, we hit the right button and the “Super Sorting” sketch started with no notice. Ms Cussell coolly made the class sit. Fortunately this sketch has about 18 seconds of Rodd talking to a plastic dinosaur with a feather boa so by the time Rodd came forwards from the back of the set and said “Hi, how are you doing?” many of the children said hello back, immediately and instinctively. Despite having lost a few seconds of sense, the show rolled on. The children responded with increasing confidence and Ms Cussell, following the words on the screen for the first time, gave a very assured performance.
At the end the first words I heard after ‘Bye..bye” were “I want to do that again.”
During the sketch some children gave the ‘wrong’ answer twice as a couple of our items are potentially ambiguous. But 95% were so clear that it was a done deal. And Ms Cussell was instinctively improvising, correcting gently and swiftly, keeping it all positive and purposeful.
The pace was very good, no longuers and the children keeping up.
We then played “Letters in the Air” which went down very well. This requires the adult to single out two children to do a special job and the children picked to come out drew the letter on Rodd’s back on the whiteboard. In this sketch Rodd demonstrate making the letter once by himself but I think the children’s instinct was always to do the drawing with him and if we do more we should look at this.
The children were still very eager to have more. We asked Ms Cussell if the children could count up to 12 so we could do the Time Quiz. Telling the Time isn’t in the EYFS, it’s only in KS1 of the National Curriculum so we were prepared for it not to work but this Reception class had no problem with it.
They went out for a break and we got some vox pops and an interview with Ms Cussell.
The children said they loved Rodd and wanted to do more. The teacher confirmed this and said she found the sketches very easy to use, having only had one insecure moment when she didn’t know the ‘pick a hand’ rules for choosing who started the game. And she improvised well enough for it not to matter in context.
After break they were still up for more and we played Drum Count as a finale to get rid of a bit of energy as it has a lot of clapping to time.
The video of this classroom trial will be edited and posted shortly.

Whiteboard clips for 4-6 year olds


Rodd Christensen

Talkie Time is our new show for the BBC for 4-6 year olds, their parents, teachers and carers. It’s fronted by Balamory inhabitant Rodd Christensen (aka Spencer). You can watch a clip of parents and teachers using it on the BBC website
It’s the nearest thing linear video can get to game playing – a bit of karaoke/panto in these videos that adult and child can play together, reacting and having a conversation in role. The class supplying one half of the playful learning experience, by using the on-screen cues, the presenter supplying the other half.
Each short educational video will remain on the BBC website along with support materials
There are seven short ‘lessons’ to be played on a whiteboard or a laptop. We’ve had strong positive feedback from the classrooms and homes we’ve tested it in. It supports speaking and listening, turn-taking and increasing confidence for children as well as curriculum targets. It fits into EYFS and KS1 in England, the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, The Foundation Phase 3-7 in Wales and the Foundation Stage for Northern Ireland

Mscapes and drama in role


Mscapes (mobile games, stories and tours triggered by your location) are great ways to develop Dorothy Heathcote’s ‘Drama in role; and ‘Mantle of the Expert’ techniques. 

She taught me that you could teach many areas of the curriculum through drama  – history, science, maths, geography. It is in many ways the antithesis of early online teaching methods with its fragmented bits of factual knowledge and its need to focus on the easily measurable. But role playing games have always had a touch of her wisdom in them, whether I’m beating up an enemy in GTA or remembering I have to play with the kids in Sims, I am choosing to step into the shoes of another character, to inhabit their world and to make the kinds of decisions they would make given the amount of available evidence. She was very keen on ‘available evidence’ as a way of focussing and then developing holistic learning. I think she would have liked the new moves to create Mscapes, where your mobile phone or other handheld device can feed timely information to you as you move through a physical landscape either within a school’s boundaries or on the site of a great historical or geographical event. Based on this incoming information and the developing scenario you can make choices about how to act or you can take that exciting step into interaction with another character in role, committing yourself to go with your instincts until the next piece of information arises, and learning something about why decisions might get made.  Two of the finalists in the BTween Exploding Narrative competition show this possibility. 

Both The Detective and Night Bridge demonstrate how drama in role could be developed using handhelds.

Whiteboard and mobile clips for drama, english, history


The drama of p-ause for thought

An Arts Council initiative at B-Tween is encouraging people to pitch interactive ideas. I like this deceptively simple one by ‘Catra’ for KS2 teachers

The idea seems to be that kids aged 7-11 receive footage and are encouraged to use it as the basis for a KS2 creative writing exercise. So it’s a bit like story starters from Teacher’s TV, a bit of film that can inspire investigation and creativity.

The TTV videos are much more structured as dramatic starters while Catra’s is much looser and purely location based, serving more  to provoke the imagination.

There is no particular reasons why it has to be an age-specific experience. Although it is a good way of generating creative writing or exploring genre or ‘other worlds’ in the primary curriculum it can also have application for all ages and for cross-curricular purposes. 

It could stimulate work in geography, or art. In one sense it’s a postcard propped up on the desk, but the delivery mechanism and its capacity to be moving, developing footage makes it so much more laden with possibility – receiving a random bit of footage, possibly away from your desk turns you into a detective immediately – why this piece of film? what could it mean’

The effect could be generated by teachers sending pictures to mobiles or PDAs, or, in the classroom, by using video on whiteboards or sent to individual workstations. If pupils have access to individual devices, handheld or not, it would be possible to let the pupils send a choice of video to their colleagues. You could have a chain reaction and have each participant sending a picture or video on for exploration. It’s a very simple but powerful idea for generating stories, poetry, or what the proposer calls ‘what-if’ writing.

I would like to use this method for teaching Drama. The late great Dorothy Heathcote’s teaching method was one in which pupils and teacher assumed the ‘mantle of the expert’ and created the story as they went along, with very loose prompts to react to. That teaching method would be enhanced by the ability to play off short video clips that would inspire new possibilities for participants to weave into their dramas.

Nice idea for History – or Geography?

This is a great idea for the teaching of history – it’s only possible if you have access to an existing asset, postcard, footage or graphuc, showing a scene from the past, which pupils can view on their hand held as they walk around a site. Excellent for historical monuments or locality studies but I would like to see this developed for Geography – if you could stand in a spot and see what it looked like last year, twenty years ago, a hundred years ago, five hundred, a thousand you could see both the change over time wrought by events e.g. The Industrial Revolution, and the consequences for the landscape.