Tag Archives: communication

Emoji Story

I am starting to wonder how emoji (expressive characters) might affect the way students learn to communicate. As an experiment, I am going to ask my Year 7 students to produce an “Emoji Story”, using the instructions below: Emoji Story I imagine that they will copy and paste emoji into a slideshow, and when they present, they will talk through the slideshow, narrating their story. The slideshow can then be read by others without narration, to see how differently it can be interpreted.

Blindfolded Team Drawing

I have recently been mixing things up in my classroom, offering games at the end of a lesson when students have really engaged. To keep them on their toes I have had classes play computer games where the student in front of the computer is blindfolded, and the rest of the class must give them directions. Some students asked to play again today, but I thought I would add a little variety, making the blindfolded student draw an image that their classmates could see. The result was a quick win on a simple circle, but much laughter and shouting in trying to recreate John Lennon’s famous face doodle. Team work definitely benefits, as do self expression and leadership.

Blindfolded Team Drawing_web

Learning Online

The aim of this unit is to equip students in Years 7, 8 and 9 with the skills needed to manage their own learning in an online world, including research, presentation, reflection and communication. The unit centers around student blogs, and the integration of other technologies.Whilst it is an ICT unit, it can easily be adapted to suite a wide range of subjects.

On completion of the project students should each have their own blog, in which they have collected and organised their work as well as a range of resources from around the Web. Ideally, students will have begun to understand what they can do online, and how this is constrained by copyright and educational fair use. Some of the following materials may be useful in the teaching of this unit:

  • Learning Online – general overview of the unit.
  • Assessment Rubric – a simple rubric to aid teachers and students in assessment.
  • Anatomy of a Blog – a visual guide to some key elements of a blog. Based on my demo blog.
  • Class Completion Record – a spreadsheet for tracking the progress of a number of classes.
  • Student Completion Record – a spreadsheet for use in one-on-one progress checks with students, which ideally will be carried out towards the end of the unit.
  • Unit Summary for Students – a summary document providing a recap of everything covered in the unit for students to use in their own time, to supplement their in-class learning.

I have just completed running this with 6 classes across Years 7, 8 and 9, and it has been generally successful. All students now have a blog with some content, and the majority have met most of the criteria. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I ran the unit over 6 weeks, and so some aspects receive less emphasis than they ideally would have. The students generally entered into the spirit of blogging, although some mistakenly linked the online nature of the work to informal writing. This lead to an emphasis being placed on writing in a style appropriate to the intended audience. There were only one or two instances of students writing inappropriately on their blogs, or those of their classmates. These actions generally seemed to be borne of naivety rather than malice. In order to moderate the blogs, I collected all the post and comment RSS feeds into a reader, and I periodically check to see what students have been writing.

Listed below are an exemplary piece of work from each of the year groups who participated in this project:

Please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in teaching this unit: I am more than happy to help where I can. If you have taught this unit, I would love to hear how you got on.

Too Big, Too Complex?

Modern living seems to be becoming more and more complex as time goes by. It often seems that, in the name of accountability, we are required to jump through more hoops, fill more forms and spend less time doing the good stuff.

A lot of this complexity seems to be due to scale: as organisations grow, communication networks become larger and more dense. After a certain point (150 people, according to Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point), it becomes impossible for effective, personal communication to occur. After this point, we come to rely on papertrails and computer systems: the left hand no longer automatically knows what the right hand is doing.

Once we have organisations nested within organisations (like a school within a system), things get exponentially worse. Each layer requires its own procedures, protocols and forms, and each layer needs to move things up and down to its parent and children levels. Things become complicated indeed.

I wonder, at what point does weight of communication, and its attendant bureaucracy, cancel out the advantages derived from scale? Perhaps, as E.F. Schumacher said, small really is beautiful.

Photo Game No. 01, 15/05/2009

This collection of 10 interesting photos can be used to stimulate students in a variety of ways. For instance, in small groups they can be asked to produce a story based around any 5 of the pictures, in any order, which can then be presented to the class (with the pictures in a multimedia presentation).

This is useful to get students working together as a group, using a short time to apply some pressure. This can also be use as an extension to an improv session based on PechaFlickr.

To get started, use the image gallery below, or download a ZIP file with all of the images.



Skype is a free (but not Open Source) desktop client that allows voices and video calls to be made over the web. In addition, it supports texts chat and screen sharing (very useful for technical support). By purchasing credit, it is possible to call from a computer to a land line or mobile phone number. Skype is a great tool for connecting classrooms and hosting video conferences.