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!

Barclays Coding Playground

When you think of Barclays what do you think of? If it was fat cat bankers who ruined the worlds economy and got away with it then correct. But aside from that they do something for the community, apart from taking all our money or playing with foreign exchange markets illegally.

Barclays Coding Playground is a chance to attend coding sessions run by their experts. In their own words:

You rarely see it, but computer code runs our world. Everything from the website you’re reading to the traffic lights on our roads relies on the mysterious world of code. It’s even part of the national curriculum now, and learning what makes tech tick could give your kids a head start in the world of work.

Give them a helping hand by bringing them along to a coding session with our Digital Eagles – experts who’ll guide your children as they take on fun challenges that introduce them to the basics of coding.

Seems like a good opportunity for people to learn coding for free, it might just light the spark that children need. There are sessions across the country and simply by entering your postcode you can find the nearest session to you. Better than a kick in the teeth, or a overdraft fee of 30 quid!

Barclays Coding Playground

Pulseboy- The Free Online Chiptune Maker

For those in the know chiptunes are cool and are overground, gaining traction and fans through bands like Anamanaguchi. Well if you would like to make your own chiptunes then you should check out Pulseboy, a simple in-browser tool that allows you to create and save your files as wav. Check it out and start your own Dr Wily Stage music from Megaman 2!

Even the Star- Space Exploration Game

Created during a game jam, Pol Clarrisou's space adventure allows you to explore a universe by entering 6-digit coordinates into the spaceships sat-nav.You might find something wondrous, or nothing at all but there is an exciting element to the exploration as each time you warp you lose fuel and grow a little older. As a teacher I believe this could be used as an interesting stimulus to create a story or discuss space exploration is Science etc.

Have a look yourself, the game is free to download or play (as long as you have Unity installed)

British Pathe on YouTube

British Pathe, which documented the first 70 years of the 20th century in cinema newsreels, has uploaded its entire 85, 000 films to YouTube. Altogether that's just over 3,500 hours of footage! The news reels range from the sublime (like the Wright Brothers First Flight) to the ridiculous (like the Chain Smoking Chimp).

This is an invaluable resource as it does have some fascinating video, I've selected a few that I thought could be useful for teaching but obviously I have only scratched the surface. Enjoy!

Do Ink Green Screen

I've been using Green Screen by Do Ink to create a background for my classes performances using finger puppets. Gren Screen has been around for a while but has been expensive until quite recently. This app costs just £1.99 but achieves great results.

In their own words;

Green Screen by Do Ink makes it easy to create incredible green screen videos right on your iPad. Classroom-tested by kids and teachers, this app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity while still enabling you to get fantastic results. With Green Screen by Do Ink, you can tell a story, explain an idea, and express yourself in truly creative and unique ways.

If you are interested to see what can be achieved quickly and easily look at my article where I share the work done in my class by one group.

LINK- Green Screen Do Ink

Photosynth

Photosynth is a powerful set of tools for capturing and viewing the world in 3D. You can share your creations with your friends on Facebook, publish them to Bing, or embed them in your own blog or Web site. 

Photosynth is available on lots of different hardware but I Ioved using it on my recent trip to Pompeii and Rome on my mobile phone. As an educational tool it really brings things to life. I'm hoping to use the images I made as well as the much better images other people have uploaded to the website for History and Geography lessons. Give it a try, it's free and amazing! 

Here are a couple of images made using Photosynth (not mine) but to really engage with the images click on the links below to see the images I took in more detail, you can navigate and zoom in on the picture too! 

It's really simple and free to use and the results are great... what's not to love?

Meet the Somali's Comic Resources

I want to highlight a new website which went live today. 'Meet the Somalis' is an excellent resource which could be used in a variety of subjects including PSHE and RE. In this time of religious and social tensions 'Meet the Somalis' offers a great way to discuss the various issues in a classroom setting. The website contains 14 stories presented in comic book form with an art style is reminescent of Marjane Satrapi, author of the amazing 'Persepolis', itself a study of identity being an alien in another country. Check out the website below!

Meet the Somalis brings to life the issues many Somali's face, but done in an art style reminiscent of 'Persepolis' or 'Maus'

In the words of the website creators: 

Meet the Somalis is a collection of 14 illustrated stories depicting the real life experiences of Somalis in seven cities in Europe: Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Leicester, London, Malmo, and Oslo.

 

The stories allow readers a unique insight into what everyday life is like as a Somali in Europe. Meet the Somalis is based on the firsthand testimonies of Somalis in Europe interviewed during six months in 2013.
The Somali community in Europe is a vibrant, diverse minority group, including people of Somali origin born in Europe, Somali refugees and asylum seekers, and Somalis who have migrated from one country in Europe to another. There are no accurate figures for the number of Somalis in Europe, but on the whole they are among one of the largest minority groups.
The illustrated stories focus on challenges faced by Somalis in their respective cities in Europe and issues raised in the Somalis in European Cities research, including education, housing, the media, employment, political participation, and identity.
Meet the Somalis depict experiences many of us will never know, like fleeing a warzone with your children or, worse, leaving your loved ones behind. But more often, these stories portray the values shared amongst many of us, like the importance of family, well-being, and identity in an ever-changing world.

 

Touch Autism Website

Touch Autism is a brilliant website which lists great apps on iOS and Android for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome and Special Needs. 

Touch Autism- a wonderful website with many tools for autistic pupils.

In their own words;

Touch Autism began to build mobile device applications for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities and other special needs after discovering how incredibly useful this type of technology can be.
Some of the many advantages of these apps are that they suit visual learners, they allow for non-verbal and non-written responding, they provide immediate and consistent feedback, and are very motivating, because they are just so much fun!

Having used a couple of their apps over the past few months I can say that there are some excellent tools here... have a look and enjoy!