Thursday, 3 December 2009

Climate Summit - Copenhagen


The Copenhagen Climate Summit is taking place next week. Write a letter to the Summit saying what you think should happen environmentally in the next 5 years.


1992 saw the first Climate Summit in Rio. They happen every 5 years. The first climate summit of the 22nd Century will be in what year?


Rio, Kyoto and Copenhagen are venues of three Climate Summits. Which are capital cities?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Waggle Dance

A short video of the waggle dance which bees carry out in the hive.

The bees are inside their hive when the do the waggle dance. How do they know which way the sun is pointing?

Each cell in a bee hive is a hexagon - that's six sides. If there are 20 bees and each has a cell, how many sides are there altogether? Remember, cells will share sides.

Apart from making honey, bees really help us out in other ways. Can you think of two things bees do that support human life?

Find out more

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Simple (FREE) Podcasting Software

Web Addresses

What you need

Audacity, Lame, a computer with microphone, speakers

Time to get to know software

About 45 minutes including 5 minutes to download software

Suitable Ages

Ages 7-14

Whole Class or Groups?

Probably works best in groups.

Key Features

  • Red button – RECORD!
  • Export as mp3 – sends you to LAME for conversion to mp3 – so you can podcast/email
  • Change volume – on each track so you can turn down music and turn up voice.
  • Help Menu – this has a simple guide to using Audacity and explains all the buttons.
  • Health Warnings
  • There are a lot of technical elements which are best left alone if you aren’t familiar with recording software.
  • This doesn’t create video podcasts but see PICASA page for how to use mp3 files to create videos!
  • Unless you convert through LAME then anyone you email the file to must have Audacity.

Introducing to your class

  • Download Audacity to your class computer and connect a microphone.
  • Open Audacity and explain that the class is going to complete a podcast.
  • Show the class the record button (red one) and record some sound – can be just class singing happy birthday.
  • Once recorded show the class how to increase or decrease the volume on that track.
  • Show them how to import an mp3 file to play music or other sounds over the happy birthday track.
  • Finally show the class how to export the podcast to an mp3 file for emailing or putting onto i-tunes.

Quick Activities

  1. Scripting and Recording : Working in pairs, ask children to create a script they can use to create a podcast – this could be jokes, revision questions, an interview. Ask them to record the script using both voices.
  2. Editing a Sound File: Using their sound file ask children to cut some sound (using the cursor tool and shift to select, then delete), import an mp3 file (make sure there are some on the computer) and change the volume of a track.

Longer Activity

See Germination Podcast for Year 5 Science

Where to go for more help

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Key Stage 2 Science Activity - Eco Cars



 Year  Group

Year 5

 Curriculum Links:            

Literacy/Year 5/ Present a spoken argument, sequencing points logically, defending views with evidence and making use of persuasive language.

Literacy/Year5/ Use a range of oral techniques to present persuasive arguments and engaging narratives

Science/KS2/Unit 5H Enquiry in environmental and technological contexts 


a) We are learning to present a spoken argument and use persuasive argument and engaging narratives to convince our audience.

b) We are learning to research an environmental issue.

 Classroom Organisation

Whole Class, and groups


a) Class debate on electric vs petrol powered cars (30 mins prep, 10 mins writing notes and 15 minutes debate)

b) Survey about car usage during the week (10 minutes discussion)



1)Introduce the lesson by playing the video about the Toyota Prius.

Teacher Fact: Toyota is the best-selling car brand in the world! If they are thinking about electric cars then it probably is an important concept!

2)Divide the class in half and then in groups of between 4 and 6 (a maximum of 6 groups). One half of the class will argue FOR ELECTRIC CARS the other will argue FOR PETROL CARS in a class discussion.

3) Children should work in their smaller groups and spend 30 minutes using books, the internet and discussion time to prepare their arguments.

4) They must then choose a spokesperson and write notes (on small cards) outlining their argument – here they should include their persuasive words! 10 minutes here.

5)Carry out the discussion using the remaining 15 minutes of the lesson using any rules you use with debates in class.

6) Close the discussion by summing up the main points made.



1) Play the stimulus again. About ½ way through the presenter explains that this is an experiment to see how far the battery will need to get the car. This is important if these cars are going to replace petrol cars and create sustainable travel.

Teacher Fact: Most electric cars can travel up to 100 miles before re-charging needed. The car in the film is a hybrid (both petrol and electric)and so only is planned to run on electric for short journeys.

2) As part of class research into sustainable transport the class is going to plan and carry out a survey which will determine how far our cars drive each day.

3) Pick 10 children with cars – if fewer than 10 don’t worry. Ask them to record how many miles the cars travel each day (they can do this by re-setting the journey clock and reviewing the miles travelled each day). Create a bar chart for the class and then work out the average daily travel mileage.

4) As they present their results as a class the children should consider the following questions in small groups and present solutions as if to the presenter of the show:

a. What is the most sensible battery life for an electric car?

b. Where could we put ‘Juice Points’ or ‘charging stations’ for electric cars?

c. How could we prevent other people ‘stealing’ our electricity from outside our homes?

d. What would make an electric car travel further? (speed, size, weight?)

e. What should electric cars have in case they run out of battery? (small amount of petrol to get them home, spare battery, solar panels?)


Sunday, 25 January 2009

Eight Reasons to use FREE (Open Source) Software

Having blogged about specific software for the past week, I thought it might be useful to come up with some reasons why it is worth spending the time reading the blog and then downloading the software and trying out with your class. 

1) It's free!
Well this goes without saying but by my reckoning just by using free podcasting software and an eBook creator (rather than downloading software to help you or getting someone to do it for you!) would save you between £350 and £500! Money better spent on, well, whatever you want really.

2) The software is robust
Much of the free software mentioned here and elsewhere, has been in development for years and has had large investments in time and people. Audacity (podcast software) for example was developed out of a US University and over 100 people have contributed to the software over the last 4 years.

3) The software is always being developed
As open source software relies on donations, keen users and programmers to study the software, make suggestions and add elements. Because the code is 'open source' (anyone can see it) then you get lots of great ideas implemented from users across the globe.

4) The people who developed it want to make 'great software'
If you are offering your software FREE the people are always going to say "What is the catch?" This means that the developers have a tougher nut to crack. They have to make really excellent software that has true value - not the value placed on it by a marketing department.

5) Increasingly schools are being catered for by Open Source Software makers
As open source software has become more widespread different markets are being targetted and schools is one of them. At this year's BETT Show there were stands or talks from these people and Its not cheap to exhibit or run a seminar at BETT so you know these organisations are serious.

6) Home access becomes easier
With free software there are fewer demand on parents to pay for home licences or dial into your VLE. They can just make it happen with a computer and internet access and a little bit of time. Watch out for Parents Guides coming on this blog.

7) It works!
I have been using all of these tools with my children and in the schools that I work with. My experience has been that children are able to take even some of the more sophisticated software and run with it and create amazing projects. Feeling confident in this aspect of the software is critical to making it work.

8) Did I mention IT'S FREE!
Pretty important given budgets can be an issue throughout the year. Free software and a bit of time can save hundreds of pounds which might get you an extra set of books, some pencils or even just a longer school trip!

Ebook Software from Microsoft

Ebook Software

Microsoft Reader

Minutes to get familiar with

35 minutes (about 5 minutes to download Reader)

Ages suitable for

Any but most suitable for Y5-Y9

Key Features

  • Reading and reviewing eBooks comes as standard with Reader.
  • You need Word to create the eBooks – once the software is downloaded you get an icon from that appears in Word menu bar. Click this to view your eBook.
  • You can add annotations, questions, images and a dictionary too.
  • Children need Reader installed to be able to read eBooks.

Health Warnings

  • You need a few goes with the formatting to get it right in Reader and every time you change the text size pages can move. Its best to create a template that works (in Word) and ask children to use that.
  • Text to speech ends up with a computerised voice which isn’t so nice.
  • It is easy to add weblinks but make sure you are on an internet connected computer.

How to introduce

  • Download Reader and put onto class computers and also in ICT suite.
  • Open Reader and view a professionally produced eBook (see or
  • Show the class how to read the book, search the book, view annotations and answers and make their own annotations.
  • Now with Reader installed pairs of children can create their own eBook in Word and converting into an eBook by clicking the icon.
  • They can amend and correct in Word and re-convert as many times as they like.

Quick Activities (skills)

1) Planning and Preparing : Using a Word document is a great way to plan and prepare to create an eBook. Children should create chapters first and then build text and images under each chapter heading.

2) Adding annotations: Children should be encouraged to feedback on eBooks by leaving annotations. Encourage children to respond to each annotation quickly and let the person giving feedback how they helped!

Longer Activities (capability)

Creating an eBook about a school even can be a whole class activity. Each group can write a particular chapter and the whole project can end up on the school website.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Simple Surveys

Minutes to get familiar with

30 minutes (2 mins to register online – they don’t send you emails!).

Watch the first video:

Ages suitable for

Any but most suitable for Y4-Y9

Key Features

  • Design your survey – you can name your survey and create questions in different formats.
  • Edit your survey – you can move questions about, change the colours and make questions compulsory to answer!
  • Collect Responses – if you click the first option then you get a link that you can email to the class or parents or anyone else – they do the survey online.
  • Analyse Responses – this gives you the raw data but on the free version you can’t download these.

Health Warnings

  • Certain features aren’t available on the free version and you can only get up to 100 responses to surveys.
  • You can’t upload artwork or logos.

How to introduce

  • Register for survey monkey and open the home page – you should be logged on instantly.
  • Explain to the class that you are going to create surveys (for whatever purpose) and use Survey Monkey to create, distribute and collect responses.
  • Add one or two different questions - showing children the different types of questions.
  • Change the theme.
  • Save your survey and click “Collect Responses” tab. Email survey to yourself so you can see how the survey arrives.

Quick Activities (skills)

1) Preparing your survey : Using paper and pencils or Word work out the purpose of your survey and the questions you want to ask. Remember to keep the questions specific and to the point.

2) Improving your survey: You can improve your survey by; editing the question and questions types, offering an incentive to people that complete it, keeping it short! Once you have completed your first draft, test it with your teacher and another person. Then ask them what they think and make any changes.

Longer Activities (capability)

Create a survey to find out your teacher’s favourite holiday destinations. Remember to ask about weather, location, activities and distance travelled.