Google Sites, Scratch and Fairy Tales

Simon Lewis is a former computer science graduate who decided to become a teacher after the dotcom bubble burst in 2000. Through a series of fortunate events, Simon qualified in the UK, passed his SCG and settled in Carlow, where he is now the principal of Carlow Educate Together National School.

Simon gives talks and courses to teachers in all aspects of ICT in education. He is a Google Certified Teacher and aims to create lots of tools for teachers to help them get the best of Google’s products. His main interests at the moment are Cloud Computing, Blogging and using ICT as a learning tool effectively.

Simon has designed lots of web sites. He has won several awards for his web sites, including Scoilnet Star Sites and Edublog Awards. He also writes a number of educational and other blogs on lots of different platforms depending on his needs. Anseo.net is his most popular.

I think when technology is at its best, it’s when it’s so intuitive that training is barely needed. For the last 3 months, I’ve been taking a group of 6th class students to do a project about updating classic fairy tales. The tools that I’ve used to do this are: Google Sites and Scratch 1.4. I setup a special Google Site and set up a page for each child. The page had a few questions:
  • Find a Fairy Tale on YouTube and paste it on to the page.
  • Explain why this Fairy Tale is out of date.
  • Plan a new way to update this story.
  • Write a cartoon or game and paste the link here.

I gave each child a username and password on the school’s Google Apps account. To make things easy, I popped the link to the site on the school blog. On logging in, I showed the children the button to press to edit their page and offered to show them how to embed a video. Only one child needed help to do this. The rest knew exactly what to do. It was the same for adding text for the next two points.

The children planned their stories with old fashioned pencil and paper. I told them the web site to go to download Scratch and none of them needed help there. Once the program had installed, I showed them the interface of Scratch. I also showed them how to create sequences and a condition using the blocks. Once that was done, I told them to mess around for the rest of the class, (about 20 minutes), and see what they could find. It was amazing to see that within this time, the children had already figured out the bones of most functions.

From the next session on, I was almost surplus to the classroom. Except for a question here and there, the children were able to independently work on their projects. Cinderella has been given a 21st century makeover, where she loses her phone rather than her shoe and The Pied Piper has become a Marvel Comic Superhero.

The children have come up with ideas that I would never have thought about and as we come to the end of the school year, I’m looking forward to seeing their completed projects.

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