Using Online Tools with our ‘Learning Portal’

Here is a guest post from Mark Warner of the Downs School in Kent. He tells us his experiences of using our Creative Online Tools.

Although we don’t have a VLE at my school, we have recently set up an ‘online learning portal’. The site is called TheDowns.ME and it’s intended to be a place for children to start their explorations online.

It has links to:

  • Four subscription sites that children can use with their individual usernames / passwords. These are Superclubs Plus,Online ToolsInteractive Resources and Education City.
  • Other free sites that are popular with the children.
  • A ‘safe’ search facility allowing children to search for information (using Primary Safe Search) and images (usingPicsearch).
  • Downloadable software that they can install on their home computers (with their parents’ permission).

I showed it to staff in my ICT staff meeting a few weeks ago and I’ve been able to go around different Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 classes to introduce it to the pupils. So far, the response has been fantastic.

In the first session, I’ve been showing the children how TheDowns.ME worked, giving them their MEcards (containing their usernames / passwords) and letting them use 2Simple’s Online Tools. All of our children are already familiar with Superclubs Plus, so I thought that it would be a good idea to show them how to use the exciting creative tools offered by the 2Simple subscription service.

The children have absolutely loved playing with the new tools… and that’s what I told them to do – play. I showed them how to log in and try a few of the tools, but I didn’t give them any specific instructions about what I expected them to achieve by the end of the lesson. By giving them the freedom to explore the tools, I wanted them to work together to find out what the programs were capable of. They were all familiar with the basic layout of the programs and were all confident to click on the buttons to see what happened. The children then shared their achievements at the end of the session, teaching each other how they did certain things with the tools and asking questions of each other.

The most popular tools so far seem to be:

  • 2Design & Make – Children are really enjoying the opportunity to design their own vehicles and buildings. The boys seem to particularly enjoy making sports cars, adjusting the shapes of the cars and adapting the spoilers to make them look more realistic!
  • 2Animate – This is an incredibly simple animation tool, but it is also incredibly popular. I have showed it to children of all ages and all of them have loved it. We have had animated cars driving around screen, mini wrestling matches involving stick men and horses running across the animation frames.
  • 2Publish – I’ve been pleased to see that lots of the children are also choosing to use 2Publish in their free time, completing additional Literacy work of their own free will. I have been impressed at the quality and quantity of what they have made… in some cases, it’s more than they produce in a lesson at school!

I have made a classroom display (shown above) using some of my Year 3 children’s creations in Online Tools. They were really pleased to see some of the creative things that they had made at home, on the walls of our classroom.

Setting up the children with the Online Tools was extremely easy using the provided 2Lasso system. I created a spreadsheet with the usernames and passwords that I wanted for each child and uploaded it to the site. We used the children’s existing Superclubs Plus usernames with Online Tools, so they didn’t have an additional username to remember. 2Lasso also allows you to look at the work that children are creating, which is a brilliant addition for teachers.

I have a few suggestions for the service (which I’ve submitted to 2Simple):

  • Change to the log in screen – Some pupils have been complaining that they can’t log in to the site using their home computers. It seems that their screen resolutions are set quite small and the log in fields get cut off their screen (and they can’t scroll down to get to them!).
  • Embedding of children’s work – It would be really nice to have a gallery of our children’s Online Tools work embedded on our school site.
  • Statistics – It would also be helpful to be able to see data showing who is using the tools and how regularly they are accessing it.
  • Additional templates for 2Design&Make – New templates are being added all the time, but a rocket one would be really handy for us right now as the whole school is learning about space.
  • 2Connect – This is one of my favourite 2Simple programs and I would love to see it added to the Online Tools one day.

2Simple seem to be expanding the service regularly. Quite often, children will show me something that I didn’t realise was available because it had been added since my last lesson using the tools!

If you haven’t signed up for Online Tools, ask for a trial. I highly recommend it, as do the pupils at my school!

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3 Responses to Using Online Tools with our ‘Learning Portal’

  1. Hi Mark

    Thanks for taking the time to post this, we are really glad that your children are having such a great time using our tools.

    It is good to know what they think of each one and to see actual examples of work is fantastic.

    We want to respond to the points you make and we thank you for raising these with us.

    Changes to the log in screen – as you mentioned this site is constantly changing, evolving and developing. A new log in screen is on the roadmap of our developments, look out for this in the coming weeks.

    Gallery of work –I am keen to know what this would look like and whether other users would like this feature. Currently each user has a gallery of their work when they log in, are you asking for a whole school gallery? If so, who would decide what goes in here? Tell me more about how this would look and feel.

    Statistics – We are refining our stats collection and we hope that in the future we could offer this functionality to subscribers.

    Additional templates for 2Design&Make – we have been adding more of these in the last few weeks. My colleague’s desk is surrounded with prototypes, but each of these take time to test and perfect, we are also slightly constrained by what can be fitted and folded using a sheet of A4. That said look out for further 2Design and Make goodies over the coming weeks.

    2Connect – This has always been a firm favorite of mine too. Others have also said it would be good to see this application in the tools. As you know we recently tested 2Investigate Online and therefore these collaborative web based apps are quite within our capabilities

    Mark just to add I think you will be pleased with the many new things that will be added to the tools very soon. You will be one of the first to know about these items

  2. markwarner30 says:

    Thanks for the detailed response. I can’t wait to see what new features you are bringing to Online Tools as it has already become an essential part of our ICT work, after only a few weeks of use at The Downs.

    With regards to the gallery of work, it’s great to see the ‘Children’s Work’ Gallery on the homepage of Online Tools. I was wondering if it would be possible to have an embeddable gallery of children’s work that we could show on our school sites / VLEs.

    Maybe another teacher tool could be created (when you have a bit of spare time?!) showing all of the children’s work. Staff could then indicate which of those they would like to show in the school’s public gallery by ticking / selecting them in some way.

    The gallery itself would then have small thumbnails on the left showing a selection of the chosen work, with a larger preview box on the right which shows the child’s work in more detail.

    I hope this makes sense – let me know if you would like more detail, and keep up the great work!

  3. Simon Haughton says:

    Just reading the suggestions and a couple of others things that I’ve just thought of which could be added to 2Lasso are a column detailing the date (and time?) when the user last saved a piece of work (since columns can be sorted this would allow you to see who has been online recently) and a column called ‘Notes’ (simply for the teacher to record extra information to help identify each user such as their class or their name if their username is a bit unusual)

    I must ditto Mark’s comments above as well by saying how great it is to have a company which actually listen and respond to feedback. 🙂

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