Saturday, 29 September 2007

Crazy Talk

Crazy Talk is piece of software which brings any picture or drawing to life. This is the first program we have reviewed that is not free, it costs about £80, however it is very impressive.

To create the movie, all you need is a recorded or imported audio and an appropriate image or photograph to be the avatar or presenter. Crazy Talk automatically works out the mouth movements to match the audio. It also makes the eyes blink and expression change. The combined movie-like end product can be saved as a variety of movie file formats.

The software is great fun to play with. You can transform a picture of a baby into a talking movie, making the baby speak. Educationally, the options are vast. In History, you could simulate a debate between political leaders with the students planning and preparing the discussion as well as recording themselves doing the actual debate with the politicians appearing to deliver it. In Modern Languages, the students can record themselves speaking. This is then combined with their photograph and the end product can be displayed on the interactive whiteboard. The students find that, instead of being embarrassed speaking in front of a video camera, they can focus on the actual speaking and still end up with video-like result. For any subject, using a photograph of themselves, the teacher could be seen delivering a previously recorded podcast.

This program is well worth a visit!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Internet Safety

The National Public Radio Network reports on their website that Virginia is the first state in America to make it compulsory that schools teach children about internet safety. This is an understandable move given all the news around children at risk when they use the internet either through the social networking sites such as BeBo or chatrooms such as MSN Messenger.
The article finishes with some guidelines for both parents and children and although this information is from an American site the good practice it describes also applies to Northern Ireland. However if you want more locally based information the CEOP site (Child Expolitation and Online Protection Centre) provides the UK version of all the information you may require.

Click here for more details.

A major conference on Internet Safety aimed at all those who work with children will be held in Belfast on 8th November please contact a member of the ICT team at Clounagh if you would like more details.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Second Life

Web 2.oh brought us such things as Podcasting, Wikis, Blogs, Videos, now Web 3.oh brings us a 3 dimensional world in the form of Second Life.

Second Life is a graphical 3D virtual world. In Second Life, citizens create an avatar, a visual representation of themselves, and this avatar can walk, fly, build, write, laugh, cry and act. The world consists of thousands of continents, islands, and spaces which range from fantasy to virtual reproductions of real spaces. Residents can buy virtual property, and make or buy their own virtual buildings, gardens, classrooms, filming backlots, television studios, and clubs.

Second Life is populated with educators involved in eLearning, artists creating new media, filmmakers who are creating animated movies, fashion designers creating clothes, skins, hairdos, shoes and jewelry for people's avatars, and many other people who bring their real life work into the world. But at the same time, Second Life is populated with people who have created fantasy characters for themselves, people who are engaged in role-playing, creating digital fictional, playing games, and exploring fantastical worlds. The cultural and social aspects of Second Life include raising money for real charities, real time musical performances, real time radio broadcasts, dance clubs, bars, casinos, virtual golfing, yachting, hang gliding, snowboarding, and many other virtual extreme sports.

Additionally, Second Life has its own virtual economy, trading in millions of US dollars each month. The maketplace is populated with virtual storefronts, selling virtual products to enhance the Second Life experience. Educators network, artists perform, people collaborate on projects and real people meet, make friends and fall in love. Whether you want to bring your real world into a virtual environment, or you want to escape your real world and create a fantasy world, Second Life is a unique venue for both. Second Life; Your World. Your Imagination.

Click here to see this in action for the Scottish Learning Festival (Sept 2007)

Emerging Issues from the ETI's report on ICT (2006)

The key features of the minority (14%) of schools where ICT is well embedded and its use is integral to the pupils’ learning across many aspects of the school curriculum are:

  • an accurate, up-to-date and agreed baseline of provision has been established;

  • a focus on good quality teaching and learning, and high standards of achievement underpin the improvement agenda in the school;

  • a clear strategic vision for the development of ICT exists and is a key theme in school development planning and the associated monitoring and evaluation processes;

  • the C2k managed service is complemented with significant, sustainable investment in ICT, often in new technologies such as electronic interactive whiteboards, wireless-connected portable computers along with the full integration of legacy computers;

  • the teachers have good access to ICT resources and there are effective support staff, with clearly defined ICT support and development roles;

  • the well-informed, supportive and effective leadership and management of ICT, often through a shared approach by a dynamic ICT development group;

  • the high levels of staff awareness and enthusiasm about the use of technology for teaching and learning, underpinned by the effective, targeted, and properly funded, continuing professional development of staff;

  • the technology is used well to support and inform the management and monitoring of the work of school;

  • ICT is embedded successfully and assessed across a good range of subject areas, and complements the ongoing work to enhance the pupils’ literacy, numeracy and broader skills.

The rest of this summative report can be found here.

The complete report can be found here.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Make all the text on the web interactive!

With Hyperwords, you can make all the text on the web truely interactive. Highlight any text on a web page (you MUST use Firefox), and you can translate it into a wide variety of languages, search Wikipedia for more information on a word/person, Search Google for pictures; all by selecting from a menu:

Having installed and opened 'Firefox', you need to install Hyperwords as an Add-on:
1. Select Tools, Add-ons
2. Select Get Extensions (Bottom right)
3. In the search box, type in 'Hyperwords'
4. Click on the Hyperwords link and select 'Install Now'.

This works for any web page for example a blog, a wiki, etc. You can even open a basic word processor such as 'Notepad', type in the text and save it as 'Filename.html. If you open this from Firefox, you can use Hyperword to translate the text into another language, or search Google for an image relating to the highlighted word and so on.

This is really worth a try!

Note: This is currently only available for a PC.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The wiki way - wikinomics

The Red Lake gold mine covers 55,000 acres of western Ontario, amid mountains, creeks, and pine forests populated by wild caribou. In its main shaft, which plunges 1,023m into the earth, drilling machines called jumbos extract gold ore, along with massive quantities of muck and rock, which is hauled away by "scoop-trams" and 16-tonne trucks. Twice a day, an electrical blasting system sends explosions through the mine, shattering the walls to release more gold. Mining at Red Lake, in other words, is pretty much the definition of heavy industry. So one can only imagine the despairing looks that must have been exchanged among the geologists at Goldcorp, which owns the mine, when their chief executive, Rob McEwen, bounded into the office with an idea....

The Red Lake gold mine covers 55,000 acres of western Ontario, amid mountains, creeks, and pine forests populated by wild caribou. In its main shaft, which plunges 1,023m into the earth, drilling machines called jumbos extract gold ore, along with massive quantities of muck and rock, which is hauled away by "scoop-trams" and 16-tonne trucks. Twice a day, an electrical blasting system sends explosions through the mine, shattering the walls to release more gold. Mining at Red Lake, in other words, is pretty much the definition of heavy industry. So one can only imagine the despairing looks that must have been exchanged among the geologists at Goldcorp, which owns the mine, when their chief executive, Rob McEwen, bounded into the office with an idea.

It was 1999, and times were tough: Red Lake's gold was drying up, and the firm was in serious danger of collapse. But McEwen was just back from a conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he'd had the kind of giddying brainwave that irritating people like to call "thinking outside the box". Why not do gold-mining on the internet?

Clearly, this was a stupid idea....

Goldcorp did use the internet to mine gold: in 2000, it abandoned the industry's tradition of secrecy, making thousands of pages of complex geological data available online, and offering $575,000 in prize money to those who could successfully identify where on the Red Lake property the undiscovered veins of gold might lie. Retired geologists, graduate students and military officers around the world chipped in. They recommended 110 targets, half of which Goldcorp hadn't previously identified. Four-fifths of them turned out to contain gold. Since then, the company's value has rocketed from $100m to $9bn, and disaster has been averted....

Click here for the complete article from the Guardian.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Clounagh VLE

Since May 2007, we have setup our own Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Initially we set up resources for ICT from Primary to GCE levels as well as having resources for the Creative ICT tools available such as Podcasting, WIKIs, Blogs, etc. We are now extending the resources across the curriculum for the likes of Technology, Geography and History.

The VLE allows us to show our Media Channel in action as well as our bookmarks.

The development of the VLE will be ongoing, so keep checking it. If you have any ideas for inclusion, please let us know.

The VLE is open to anyone. To log in you only need to fill in a simple form and have a working email address.

Visit us at:

ICT Coordinators Day

On 19th June, we ran a programme for all the ICT Coordinators in the SELB. The aim of the day was to update ICT coordinators regarding ICT developments.

The day comprised of a variety of sessions covering:
  • Review of Empowering Schools – what has been achieved so far and what still needs to be addressed
  • ETI survey of Post primary – the outcomes
  • CCEA – assessment at KS3 in the revised curriculum
  • An introduction to ePortfolios
  • A scheme for ICT at KS3
  • Benchmarking in Yr 8
  • A new look at control - Scratch
  • Practical group sessions on podcasting, wikis and blogs
  • The Self Review Framework and the ICT Mark

The day proved to be very successful with a lot of very positive feedback. We will be looking forward to discussing and developing these areas over the coming months.

YouTube - Educationally sound!

YouTube is an unmoderated web site that allows anyone to upload any video. It gets a lot of bad press as there are many 'unsavory' videos uploaded. However, there are a hugh amount of videos which are extremely useful in an educational context.

It is quite easy to extract any appropriate video and 'embed' it in a web page. This can be achieved without cost. There are two steps involved in the process. The first is to extract/download the video to your computer and the second is to upload it to a web page.

In the following article, we will look at the process of extracting an appropriate video from YouTube and then uploading it onto the web using a piece of software called ‘Splashcast’.

Extracting a Video from YouTube
(Please note that this will only work on a non-C2k PC)
To carry out this operation, you will need to download, for free, the latest version of Real Player (11). This can be found at: (

When you have Real Player downloaded, anytime you play a video on your PC you will be offered the choice to download the link. This will save the file as a ‘flash video file’ (flv) usually in the folder called ‘My Videos, RealPlayer Downloads.

Using your Internet Browser, go to the YouTube web site: In the search box at the top, type in the area you are interested in, for example World War 2. You will see a list of videos that match this criteria. Click on the picture or title to view the video.
While the movie is playing you should see the RealPlayer’s ‘Download This Video’ link. Click on it to download a copy on to your PC.

Uploading and viewing the Video
To upload the video, you can use SplashCast: ( Splashcast allows you to create your own media channel. Within this channel, you can create your own 'show's and within each show you can have one or more videos.

In our school context you might create a channel for History. You might then setup shows for the different topics within the History syllabus, e.g. ‘show1’ might be entitled: World War 2. You would then upload the appropriate videos you have downloaded from YouTube into this show.
(Note: You can upload any video, for example one produced by a group of students or one produced by the likes of PhotoStory.)

Technical bit!
You have now downloaded the video from YouTube or produced your own. You then uploaded the video to Splashcast and, as a result, you will be given the ‘embedded code’ to put in a web page in order to easily view the channel/videos. This code can be placed within a web page on your LNI course or your own VLE or on your own school’s website.

Contact the ICT team at Clounagh for further details.

An Example
To see this in action, go to:
In this example, the channel has one show and this show has two videos. You will also notice, I hope, that we have used Google Pages to create a free website to view our channel without having to have an understanding of HTML or FTP!.


Create, share, set, mark and analyse assessments for your students using Yacapaca. The interface is very pupil friendly. You have access to an ever growing number of quizzes produced by fellow teachers across the UK. You can join a specific group and have access to 100s (sometimes 1000s) of questions from which you can create your own quiz. You can also add more questions to the group hence increasing the question bank for other teachers.

You can use Yacapaca to:
  • Write your own tests;
  • Use tests already created by teachers;
  • Get tests automatically marked;
  • Analyse the results;
  • Create ePortfolios.

The benefits of Yacapaca are that it:
  • Encourages ICT use in every subject;
  • Saves on marking so frees teachers up for more productive work;
  • Enjoyable and motivating for students;
  • High quality analysis of results leads to better-targeted teaching;
  • Helps implement Assessment for Learning across the school.

Click here to see for yourself.

Yacapaca can be used for benchmarking. The SELB has set up an ICT survey to help analyse the ICT standard of students when they first arrive in their post primary school. The survey would then be taken at the end of their first year to see what improvements had been made.

The ePortfolio aspect of Yacapaca is excellent. It is very easy to setup. Students can add their ‘best’ work for individual subjects. When finished their work can be zipped as a series of related web pages. The students can even change the ‘skin’ of their final product.

As more and more teachers contribute/produce their various quizzes, the number of accessible quizzes increases. There are a large number of quizzes covering all areas of the curriculum.

Click here for the Yacapaca Website.

SCRATCH - imagine, program, share

Scratch is designed with learning and education in mind. As young people create projects in Scratch, they learn many of the 21st century skills that will be critical to success in the future.
These include:
  • thinking creatively;
  • communicating clearly;
  • analysing systematically;
  • using technologies fluently;
  • collaborating effectively;
  • designing iteratively;
  • learning continuously.

Basic Ingredients of a Scratch Project
Scratch projects are made up of objects called sprites. You can change how a sprite looks by giving it a different costume. You can make a sprite look like a person or a train or a butterfly or anything else. You can use any image as a costume: you can draw an image in the paint editor, import an image from your hard disk, or drag in an image from a website.
You can give instructions to a sprite, telling it to move or play music or react to other sprites. To tell a sprite what to do, you snap together graphic blocks into stacks, called scripts. When you double-click on a script, Scratch runs the blocks from the top of the script to the bottom.
When you are happy with the final piece, you upload it to the Scratch website.

The Collaborative Approach
Any Scratch project can be downloaded from their website. You will be able to see and edit any of the scripts or images involved. This means that you can take someone else's work, change it to suit your needs and then upload another version of the project.

Scratch Website:

Digital Curriculum - Their Space

The way young people use technology outside school is changing and so are the ways they learn. This is synopsis of a report carried out by ‘Demos’, funded by the National College for School Leadership in the UK, which explores how schools should respond to children's informal learning with digital media such as games consoles, the internet and mobile phones. The report looks for strategies that would equip school leaders to understand what young people are learning outside the classroom and how schools can build on it.

You may want to listen to the "Their Space - education for digital education" podcast.

Report Summary
The baseline finding from the research was that the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation, and it is now fully integrated into their daily lives. The majority of young people simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites. However, there is a gap between a smaller group of digital pioneers engaged in groundbreaking activities and the majority of children who rarely strayed into this category. Meanwhile, contrary to society’s assumptions about safety, this generation is also capable of self-regulation when kept well informed about levels of risk.

Finally, many children interviewed had their own hierarchy of digital activities when it came to assessing the potential for learning. In contrast to their teachers and parents they were very conscious that some activities were more worthwhile than others.

For the full report go to the demos site.