STEM Week ‘escape room’ Showbie Group challenge…

Back in November, we had a ‘STEM’ week at school, which was an opportunity to celebrate the subjects of Science, Technology (Computing), Engineering (Design Technology) and Maths and the interconnections between them all. As a 1:1 iPad school, what better way to do this than setting up a virtual ‘escape room’ challenge using Showbie Groups?

Showbie has had ‘groups’ for a while now, which are basically a bit like a mix between an assignment and a class discussion, and has its own little ‘groups’ section in the UI separate from classes. They are created by a teacher, are joinable by both parents and students, and can be set to ‘announcements only’, thus preventing everyone else from posting in them (should you so desire). To join them, all you need is a 5-character Showbie Group code.

From this came the germ of an idea: students would be given a URL within Showbie to join the starting Showbie Group, which would explain the rules of the game as well as the code for the first subject’s Showbie Group, e.g. Science. Each subject would have its own group and challenge, with the outcome of the challenge revealing a-5 character code that would take you to the next subject’s Showbie Group. Once all of the tasks and subjects had been completed, children would then have successfully won the ‘escape room’ challenge.

We decided to differentiate by year groups/phases, as a Year 1 child would need a different level of challenge to a Year 2 child, as would lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3-4) and upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5-6). This required the creation of quite a few different Showbie Groups – 21 to be precise (4 different levels of challenge, 4 subject each plus a ‘welcome’ landing group, with a shared ‘celebration’ victory group)!

With this all this set up, each subject then began devising their activity and challenges. My computing team and I took on the T in technology and we came up with iPad tasks as follows.

Task 1: Pages

In Pages, we created increasingly difficult puzzles that mostly involved changing the colour of the text within a coloured box to reveal one of the characters in the Showbie Group code. We tried to include some instructions on what to do, to make it not too hard and not too easy.

Year 2 computing puzzle – I do admit it’s a lot of selecting and changing the font colour…

Task 2: Keynote

In Keynote, we wanted to make use of children’s skills in selecting, moving and rotating objects to make a literal jigsaw puzzle. And rather than just show the required Showbie Group code character, why not include a homophone instead? The hardest part was subtracting and combining shapes to create suitable ‘jigsaw’ outlines, before using them to mask over part of an image. A little fiddly, but certainly good fun.

Upper Key Stage 2 puzzle – the wise amongst you will figure out it’s a ‘Bee’ (therefore the letter B) before needing to actually piece the puzzle together!

Task 3: GarageBand

For this task, we wanted to use audio in some way. In Years 1 and 2, we just recorded something as a Showbie voice note, but for Key Stage 2 we made it more tricky by including a GarageBand project file. Years 3 and 4 had to know how to turn up the volume on a specific track to hear back the Showbie Group code and Years 5 and 6 had to reverse and speed up my dulcet tones for their answer. Certainly more tricksy!

Upper Key Stage 2 puzzle – with a nice little clue in the name of the track that ‘sdrawkcab ma I’…I am backwards!

Task 4: iMovie

This was possibly the most difficult task for children, particularly the older ones. For Key Stage 1, we just had a first-person video of me wandering around the school until I zoomed into the next character of the Showbie Group code. Lower Key Stage 2 had an iMovie project with a the Showbie Group code character inserted as a cutaway halfway through, which wasn’t too difficult. Upper Key Stage 2 had the real challenge, which was an iMovie project of a first-person shot down a corridor with no Showbie Group code character to be seen. What children had to do was select the clip in the timeline and then extend it backwards to reveal the missing character: I gave no clues that this is what you needed to do, so most people didn’t get it!

Year 1 – a flavour of what the ‘Technology’ Showbie Group looked like…

Task 5: Numbers

The final task for each year group/phase was a little Numbers spreadsheet that, once the correct characters were entered, would reveal the final character for the Showbie Group code. This was a fun little document to make, and was a useful check that children had solved the previous puzzles before allowing them to move onto the next Showbie Group. We made it harder/easier by the number of possible characters that appeared in each dropdown box and whether it gave feedback by changing colour if you selected the correct character. It would have been quite easy to hack the spreadsheet to reveal the correct code, but I’m not sure our students knew enough Numbers formulas for that!

And that’s how you crack the code!

All in all, I think children had a lot of fun completing all the tasks, solving the puzzles and engineering their way out of the ‘escape room’. It was a rather time-consuming little project, but worthwhile I feel.

iMovie Export Fix

The Year 5 teachers have been making exciting iBooks about the Greeks using iBooks Author, and as part of that they’ve been making some movies on iPads with iMovie.  However, we just hit a snag where the movies would fail to export to the camera roll.  Arrgh!

Thankfully, Apple Discussion Forums came to the rescue, with the suggestion to check the privacy settings for photos.  The fix worked – yay!

Video Central now takes .m4v

LGfL offer a great video hosting service for schools called Video Central, which allows schools and children to upload video work for private or public sharing. All was well until I discovered that the latest iMovie now exports its videos by default in the .mp4 format. Which Video Central didn’t accept.

Now, you can pretty easily convert these video files into a .mov file (which they do accept) using QuickTime, but this is one extra layer of complexity that we could all do without. So I thought I would send some feedback about this via LGfL’s webmaster, only to then be told that they’ve now included the .m4v format. Joy!

In real iLife

Yesterday was fun and got to see a bit how useful iLife apps can be with children.

In the morning I was teaching music with Year 3, where we were doing some preparation for making a radio show all about saving the environment. I had pre-chosen some songs with an eco-theme and then got children listening to some of them to try out work out the environmental message and to decide if they liked them or not. To do this, I got children to search for the songs on the iTunes Music Store and then listen to the 90 second previews you can now get. It would have been more ideal if we had headphones for everyone as it was a little noisy, but that will have to wait until the next financial year.

After school, I had another instalment of iMovie club. We ended up having a go at using the ‘trailers’ feature of iMovie 11, which groups of 3 deciding which film genre they wanted to do, printing off a storyboard and then starting to film their footage using Flipcams. The final product may not make a huge amount of sense, but it’s definitely giving children the experience of sequencing shots together and trying to tell a story. We’ll see next week how good the final product is.

iMovie haters?

I’m probably alone in this, but I find software like iMovie amazing. As a teen making films on a Hi-8 camera, we had to edit either in camera with some judicial timing of the record button or try and stitch clips together with a hopelessly inaccurate VHS machine. We then graduated to using a two-deck VHS assemble editor when at Sixth-form college, which gave us the semblance of accuracy. The pinnacle of control was filming with Super-8 and then manually splicing together film, holding up frames to a lightbulb (hello burnt retina!) to find the perfect cut. So the fact you put together a video in iMovie insanely quickly is pretty insanely great.

When Apple ditched the traditional timeline with iMovie ’08, there was much uproar. Admittedly iMovie ’08 lost quite a lot of features and was a bit confusing, but over the next few updates it regained its skills and took things further. Tools like the precision editor and the advanced ‘cutaway’ option when inserting a clip let you do things that would be fiddly and confusing when using an older ‘timeline’ editor. I’ve never used Final Cut Pro X, but I can completely see why they’ve taken the iMovie ideas and extended them.

iMovie Club pt.2

iMovie club this week included a foray into the wonderful world of music video creation.  I showed an example of what you can do with just an iSight camera and then talked children through importing CDs into iTunes and downloading YouTube videos (thanks to ClickToFlash).

The technique basically was to start recording iSight video using iMovie, play the song in iTunes and then mime along to the song.  You then put the resulting video into the timeline and then add the audio of the original song as the background sound.  A double-click on the video lets you turn down the audio thus leaving just the CD audio.  If you use the precision editor you can then slide the video back and forth until the miming syncs up with the audio.  (Using a clapperboard would make this a lot easier, so maybe I’ll try that next time.)

Once the basics of the track was laid down, children could then import downloaded YouTube videos into iMovie and then select interesting clips to insert over the song.  If you enable the advance tools in the preferences, you can insert a cutaway by dragging a clip onto an existing video clip in the project.  This keeps the audio and the mimed video in sync between cutaways – it’s a pretty cool feature!

It did take quite a lot of one-to-one support from me, so hopefully next week children will feel more confident to continue creating their music videos and exploring

iMovie Club

I’ve just done an after school club today that I actually enjoyed! It was a ‘iMovie Club’, making use of a suite of iMacs and my misspent youth making short films.

The club is with a lovely bunch of motivated Year 5&6 kids and today we had a go at making spoof news programmes. We used Photo Booth to shoot the footage, dropping in location shots pulled from Google in the background, thus transporting kids from the news studio around the globe. They then imported these clips into iMovie and started editing from there.

It was only the first session, but I was really pleased with how confident many of the children were with the iMacs. Most KS2 kids will have done some sort of video project over the last year and it definitely showed. I’m looking forward to what gets produced over the term!