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. 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  • Explain why this Fairy Tale is out of date.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.

How I Learn

Helen Bullock is a primary school teacher who loves Irish, Science and drama. Her main interests lie in how we learn and learning styles which prompted a guest post on her site and led to the How I Learn book! Helen is an executive member of CESI, loves ICT in Education and is a regular attendee of the ICTedu Conference! Helen writes her own blog on and tweets from @AnseoAMuinteoir and @HowILearn 

How I Learn

Learning styles vary from person to person and while I may be an expert at learning “by heart” you might find find that more difficult. It might be easier for you to learn by doing. For arguments sake and to back up my point lets say we’ve been set the task to learn all the bones in the human body.

More then likely I’d take the body section by section using a diagram and name each none so I know where they should be. I’d read through them a few times-ok a lot. I’d try to recall the leg bones first by repeating them over and over and over Again. I’d move up a bit and start the process all over again. Repeating and adding in more and more detail and bones each time. A bit like the game “I went on my holidays and I brought” where each player adds in a new item til the very last person has all the items to remember. I’d learn the bones of the body the same way. Sure it takes time but I like to think it works for me and I don’t generally forget. Of course I keep drawing out the skeleton and labeling it. Doodles help me and this would be a great doodle!

Meanwhile our other learner might find it easier to dismantle a skeleton name each bone as they reconstruct it. Repetition works here again, repeating the construction over and over adds to the learning experience and makes it fun! Like playing with Lego. Of course there are many apps available to do this with, skeletons aren’t in everyone’s closest after all! So games, apps or clever software would be an ideal alternative. The interaction is important to this learning style, doing it by yourself so you can learn it and understand it.

ICT is fast becoming a huge element of how we learn as a nation. So many of us are turning to apps, podcasts, online articles and even interactive games to update our skills or make our traditional learning styles easier for ourselves. While ICT is often seen as a stand alone subject to me it’s all about adding another layer to our individual subjects. It’s a tool to learn with and can enhance each of our individual learning styles. It’s a fun tool!

While I’m in no way disputing the need at times to teach ICT, the need in my opinion is less as ICT isn’t a subject you can learn the theory of and just work away. It’d be like having a surgeon who learnt the theory of surgery, but, after 10 years had never preformed a surgery. ICT is one of those areas where it’s best learnt by doing, practice makes perfect just like in Rugby! Practice Practice Practice! Play with the apps, explore Scratch, experiment with coding and new software, don’t be afraid of it, it doesn’t bite. Much.

These areas and more are explored in How I Learn, the book is out soon and all updates, news and stories can be found on twitter from @HowILearn or through the hash tag #HowILearn

If you want more details on the book, want to get involved or even to just talk to Helen about her work and teaching you can email or tweet @AnseoAMuinteoir or @HowILearn

Reflections on the ICT in Education Conference

In the aftermath of the ICT in Education Conference a number of people wrote blog posts giving their thoughts :

Geraldine Exton : #ICTEDU

Michael Ryan : Technology in Education Conference

Grainne Conole : The trip to Tipp

Catherine Cronin : Creating spaces for Student Voices and Student Voices at #ICTEdu

Mags Amond : CESI Meet Tipp 2013

Pam O’Brien : Reflections on the ICT in Education conference  and CESI Meet at #ictedu