Free HD Art from the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago has recently updated their website and included a searchable database of high-resolution art. What makes this so interesting is that a lot of the art is public domain, so you can use it however you want legally. As a teacher this is a really useful resource for Art and History lessons. As an added bonus they have also created teacher resource packs that cover specific works of art or advise and guidance on how to discuss specific aspects of art, such as nudity. It’s a great resource as a whole and it’s all free, which in these times of austerity is great.

Explore Ancient Monuments With BBC Ancient Invisible Cities 360 Degree Videos

As teachers and educators we like to immerse our children in topics to interest and excite them. With certain topics this is easy as we have to facilities and resources nearby to engage them, however with topics like History this can be difficult as the places we are discussing are often not within reach or simply do not exist anymore.

How thrilling would it be to be able to move around and navigate the site or place we are learning about? I've already spoken about the potential of VR and it seems to now be building on this potential to change education, however this does have some cost implications, but a new show from the BBC brings The Great Pyramid, The Hagia Sophia and The Acropolis alive through the use of the latest laser scanning technology. Ancient Invisible Cities is a 3-part BBC show that looks at these historical sites and examines what they would have looked like in their prime. To go along with the series the BBC has created 3 360 degree explorable videos on YouTube where you can navigate around the monuments and learn much. You can use it on your phone, but more practically for the classroom, you can use it on your computer and interactive whiteboard. I've been fortunate enough to visit the locations in my life and even though this isn't the same it does offer a cheap and effective alternative.

Check out the videos below and see if they would add some extra oomph to your lessons!

The Guardian VR App

I spoken before on several occasions on this website (see links at the bottom) about how VR could change the education system. As teachers and educators we like to immerse our children in topics to interest and excite them. With certain topics this is easy as we have to facilities and resources nearby to engage them, however with certain topics or concepts this can be difficult as the places we are discussing are often not within reach or not easily understandable.

At my school we have purchased a Playstation 4 and a VR headset and have used it in class. The results have extremely positive and many of the teachers have been converted, seeing the excitement and engagement such technology has brought into the classroom. However, at around 450 pounds the Playstation and PSVR may not be affordable for all schools, especially at time when budgets have been cut in education. This is where the FREE Guardian VR App comes in useful. The app is free on the Apple App and Google Play stores and doesn't require a powerful phone to work. Using Google Cardboard or any other VR headset you can immerse yourself in the various apps that are free to download, from exploring Hawaii's extinct birds to the wilds of Patagonia there are numerous apps and more are coming.

I have used the app with my own class, connecting it up to the interactive white board with relative ease. This way the whole class could see what the individual could see within the VR headset and they could also be part of the experience. VR is here to stay I believe and to get on board it needn't be prohibitively expensive.

LINK- Bringing Virtual Reality into the Classroom

LINK- Egypt 360

LINK- Egypt Round Me.

LINK- PSVR as a Writing Stimulus

LINK- Perfect PSVR Writing Stimulus Video

NASA Selfies App

The new NASA Selfies app allows you to take selfies, place it in an astronaut's helmet and select from 30 background images from around the universe. For those doing a topic on space this is a very fun FREE app. I've modeled a few myself below and yes I do look tragic but the educational potential is quite fun.

Google ‘Tour Creator’ Lets Anyone Build VR Tours Using Streetview And Their Own 360 Photos

Google launched Tour Creator a few days ago. The web-based tool lets you build a VR ‘tour’ using Google Street View imagery and the bonus is that you can even add your own 360 photos, if you have that available.

The interface is designed with educators and pupil in mind and is all simply drag-and-drop. The flexibility of tour creator is that you can choose any points of interest within the Google Street View maps and add extra texts, or points of interest if you like.

I gave it a try for the area I live near and came up with this in 15 minutes of quick playing around....

With the Virtual Tour you can save any tour you have made and also publish it, for public or private use. The ability to import tours to the Google Expeditions app is not available yet but will be very soon states Google.

Being able to create an Expedition and share it with a classroom of pupils is a great opportunity for technology being able to bring people closer, to understand other people worlds. Not every pupil will need a VR headset as this can be created and used on a laptop attached to an interactive whiteboard, but for those that are lucky enough to have a class set the sense of immersion and engagement would be outstanding I think.

I am a huge proponent on VR as we are lucky enough to have purchased the PlayStation VR last year and have used it in numerous lesson. The level of engagement and excitement is palpable when the technology is bought out to enhance the lesson and many examples can be seen in the links below.

Where's Wally on Google Maps

Google Maps seems to be on a bit of a roll, collaborating with different publishers to make their maps more interesting. Well, at the moment it has teamed up with English illustrator Martin Handford, creator of Where's Wally (Waldo in America) to add a bit of fun to proceedings. For the next week you can play the game in app to find Wally/ Waldo. I had a go yesterday and it was fun so if you're on the bog and looking to kill some time there are worse ways. You have a week to find Wally, Wizard Whitebeard and the rest of the gang.

BBC Civilisation Augmented Reality App Brings History to Life

Civilisations is an amazing new BBC Two series that looks at the influence of art throughout the course of human history. The nine part show,presented by Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga, is a fascinating programme and as a history buff (with a degree in Anthropology, because why not?) really appeals to me.

What really has me excited is that alongside the show there is a free to download app which allows users to explore and examine 37 artifacts from a digital download device, such as mobiles, tablets etc. The artifacts include the Rosetta Stone, the Reliquary Casket of St Thomas Beckett and a mummy in an Egyptian coffin among many others.

As a teacher the potential for exciting children about various eras of History is huge. To enable pupils to examine the artifacts by zooming in, x-raying and checking out the provenance is a wonderful opportunity for learning an more immersive than just books and . I hope to use the app in my class over the next couple of days and will relay my findings here but why not try it out yourself in the meantime?

The app is available free to Apple users via the App store and Android users through the Play Store.

LINK- Egypt 360

LINK- Egypt round.me website

LINK- Explore Ancient Egypt in VR

Assassins Creed Origins is a Boon for Education

As a teacher and an avid gamer I like to have my PUPILS be excited and in awe when teaching. This is not always possible but there are many tools out there to engage pupils in a variety of lessons, however video games are a great way to immerse children. Assassin's Creed is a game series that takes place in various historical periods, including the Renaissance, Victorian England and the time of the French Revolution. As someone with a strong history background, these games are wonderful in portraying the settings but the games are rated 18 (or M for Mature) and so using them in class has not been possible. However Ubisoft, the creators of Assassin's Creed, have released a Tour Mode for their latest game, Assassin's Creed Origins, which takes place in Ancient Egypt and as a result you can go on 75 'tours,' which show all the key sites but doesn't't involve any video-gamey narrative, killing  or missions.

The possibilities of this kind of mode, either as part of future Assassin's Creed games or even as its own entity, could be great a educational tool AND fun. If Ubisoft apply it to future games that would be great but also if they could go back to previous locations from past Assassin's Creed games, remaster them and give them this treatment in a new Discovery Tour package then that would be wonderful. Imagine getting to explore the original Assassin's Creed's Crusade era Jerusalem, the Age of Piracy from Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag or the sprawling worlds of Unity's French Revolution and Syndicate's Victorian London.

The game is rated a T for Teen and so couldn't be used in primary schools but might be useful to engage and excite pupils in secondary school. I haven't purchased the game yet but hope to very soon, once I've worked through my gaming 'pile of shame.'

The Tour Mode is available as a free download for people who have the game or as a stand alone package for PCs at the price of £20.

The Amazing World of Gumball in Your Living Room

Jonathan Forder, a developer at immersive media studio Discover Studios, has used ARKit to bring cartoons into the living room . His prototype, which uses a clip from on of my favourite cartoons The Amazing World of Gumball (a cartoon which is animate using mixed media), shows the two main characters walking in his living room singing away. I am very impressed and with iOS11 enabled products having the power and tools to use AR apps the possibilities are truly exciting.

Paper Planes App Brings People Together

Every time you turn on the news you are greeted with stories of great sadness and horror. However the world is not all doom and gloom, there are moments of joy and beauty and it is important o remember that. There are more things that unite us than divide us and sometimes we need to be reminded of that fact.

Paper Planes World is a free app that allows you to throw planes around the world to other people through their screens.

In their own words:

Paper Planes started as a simple thought - “What if you could throw a paper plane from one screen to another?” The heart of this concept is to bring people together from all over the world, using the power of the web and Android to create an instant connection.

NASA Release Visions of the Future

Back in my youth I'd watch sci-fi shows and see people wearing skintight silver lycra spacesuits, robots cleaning the house and imagine that I'd one day ride a hoverboard. Alas that future has yet to come however Imagination is our window into the future. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have created a series of posters advertising trips and excursions to 14 alien worlds. These futuristic tourism posters are exciting, bold and intriguing and would make an interesting stimulus for writing. Coupled alongside a space exploration computer game (Elite Dangerous or Eve Online for example) and you could create a real contextual hub for learning. JPL have made these posters available for download for free so why not give it a try and stimulate the pupils in your class! In JPL's own words

Imagination is our window into the future. At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality. As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.

Explore Ancient Egypt in VR

As teachers and educators we like to immerse our children in topics to interest and excite them. With certain topics this is easy as we have to facilities and resources nearby to engage them, however with certain topics like history this can be difficult as the places we are discussing are often not within reach.

How would much more thrilling would it be to stand in the place we are learning about? We can't take our classes on an educational visit to Egypt for example when we are learning about the Pharaohs but what if we could take them there virtually. Well, with the power of Virtual Reality we can. I've already spoken about the potential of VR and it seems to now be building on this potential to change education.

There are many useful resources online which now allow your children to explore the ancient ruins and temples of the ancient Egyptians and most are free.

I will be introducing VR into my school within the next couple of weeks and creating Google VR packs for cheap so they can be ready for the arrival of this technology when it becomes widely available this year. As usual I will post here about any good pracise and share ideas I have come up with. In the meantime explore the links below and engage in the world of ancient Egypt!

Internet Archive Just Released 1000 Windows 3.1 Games Online

The Historical Software Archive has just released over 1000 Windows 3.1 games online, free to play and in-browser. I've already spoken about the sterling work done to save our digital gaming history and this is continuing that great work to ensure that our legacy is not forgotten. This is a great chance to play those games you never had a chance to so head on over

Teach Kids To Code With Minecraft and Star Wars

One is the video game phenomenon that took the world by storm and has enthralled millions through its sandbox game play and pure creativity. The other is a sci-fi film that defined the term blockbuster and created a whole cottage industry in special effects and merchandise. Together they are working to promote and encourage people to engage in programming. Code.org is a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage pupils in schools to learn the basics of coding and take up Computer Science, through offering themed coding lessons on its website. By using the Minecraft and Star Wars license it hopes to promote the skills required to code and create.

As a Computing teacher for many years this is definitely a step in the right direction, after the secretarial skills curriculum promoted in the 90's there is a severe lack of coding expertise and anything that encourages pupils to learn this in-demand skill is most welcome. I was playing the Minecraft and Star Wars Hour of Code sessions and found them to be highly enjoyable, progressing at a good pace with supplementary video help and guides to support those who need it.

The link is provided below and I will be using it in my after school computer club.

Batman Day Resource Pack

To honour the world’s most popular super hero and global pop culture icon DC announced Batman Day; a day to celebrate all things Batman from comics to video games and more. Now the day was 26th September 2015 (yesterday as of when I'm writing this) and people were invited to partake in festivities with thousands of comic book shops, bookstores, schools, libraries and other retailer participating in the bat-centric events. Unfortunately I couldn't attend any of these as I was in Worthing, Brighton visiting friends. However, if like me you missed out, commiserate not as you can still celebrate with the DC Batman Activity pack, which is available free to download from the official DC website (linked below). The pack contains drawing tasks, word searches and other such activities. It is a great resource and I am going to print off the pack to put into my book corner for the more reluctant readers to encourage them to read comics and engage with the writing. Why not do it for your class to, maybe for wet-play activities?

Year Walk Fairy Tales Collection

Year Walk is a brilliant game by Swedish team Simigo, released 2 years ago the game was based on dark Swedish and Scandinavian fairy tales and stories. Well, to celebrate the release of Year Walk onto the Wii U Simigo have released a free to download pdf of 5 newly written ancient folk tales from the dark woods of Sweden

A wonderfully illustrated E-book is translated to English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Sweet nightmares!

The illustrations are suitably scary.

Unreal Engine 4 Is Now Free

The internet is ablaze with the news that Unreal Engine 4 is now completely free to download and use. I have attached Epic Games own statement below to explain the situation better.

Epic Games is committed to supporting students and schools, and helping companies that license Unreal Engine 4 find and hire qualified developers.
Free to use, Unreal Engine 4 can be downloaded and installed to classroom computers as well as student home systems at no cost. With full access to the complete source code and tools, Unreal Engine 4 levels the playing field to give everyone the resources needed to learn professional-quality development.
In addition, schools and their students receive regular updates, making it easy to stay current with the latest and greatest in game development.
With UE4, student developers have unprecedented opportunities to use the skills they learn in class on their own projects at no cost. Launch of commercial products is still subject to the 5% royalty.

This is amazing news for educators and students alike as it levels the playing field and provides industry standard resources to all. For an idea of what people can create with this engine check out the GDC Unreal Engine Promo Reel below.

Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games stated that "We succeed only when you succeed" and that sounds about right, with 5% royalty on commercially made products this is a massive game changer for the industry. I'm very excited to have a go at it!

Ten Pieces by the BBC Brings Classical Music to the Mini Masses

Music is taking a bit of a kicking under this government. With cutbacks across the board one of the subjects suffering is music, however to bring the zing back to the subject check out this resource by the BBC. It aims to bring classic music to the masses by showcasing some pieces from baroque to modern classical. We just did it in our school and the excitement was palpable, especially when children heard the "Alton Towers music" (Griegs 'In the Hall of the Mountain King')

So if you are looking for a fun and interesting way to inspire children and get them responding to classical music this could be just what you are looking for!