Beautiful illustrations

Today I have been working on Activities and Puzzles to Improve Thinking Skills, which is the free mini-pack for June.  It’s a long time since I last worked on this pack, and I had quite forgotten how good it was.

It’s tempting to think that a freebie will have been produced on the cheap, but actually the team lavished love on this particular project. The ideas in it are fantastic, but what really stood out when I revisited it was the quality of the artwork. I’m not in the habit of writing knocking copy, but today I shall break my own rule. Take a look at these two illustrations, and compare them with what you find in photocopy masters from any other company. They’re just gorgeous. Click on either illustration to see a larger version.

This particular pack was illustrated by Liam Powell, and I am delighted to see that he still has several Chalkface examples featured on his website. If you have an educational project that needs real quality illustration, I just can’t recommend Liam highly enough.

Drugs education: science vs. orthodoxy


When Galileo challenged religious orthodoxy with science, he was shown the rack. When Prof. David Nutt did it, he was merely shown the door. So that’s progress then.

I don’t normally use this blog to promote Chalkface products, but I think I might be permitted a small boast on this occasion. We have by policy always produced drug-education materials that educate in a balanced way that respects your students’ intelligence and does not fall for the government’s Daily Mail-inspired hysteria. See for yourself.

We lost against Phorm

You probably already know that Phorm is a nasty, sneaky way for ISPs (including mine, Virgin) to voyeuristically peek into everything you do online. A while ago I (and 21,402 others) signed a petition to the Prime Minister asking him to prevent this gross invasion of privacy. Here is his full reply, but to save you reading it, here’s a precis: “Go stuff yourselves. Signed, Gordon.”

Update April 2015: it seems I spoke too soon. According to this site, the campaign against Phorm continued and was eventually successful in the UK. And here I read that Phorm has joined the living dead; still extant, but with a share price down from £35.00 to 10p.

Textbook Mode competition winner

Congratulations to Katharine Wright of Colonel Frank Seely School in Nottinghamshire on winning our Textbook Mode Authoring Competition with Au Café. Katharine, your bright red iPod is already on its way to you.

This is the introduction to the task: for best effect snap it to full-screen and play it on your whiteboard before setting the task itself.

Judges comments

I ranked the Au café task as number one because it provides student so many different ways to learn and have fun:  respond to a video, create a menu, create a logo, write a dialogue or comic strip, research jobs, and create a collage. Gale Sperry

The use of challenge questions to stretch those who are keen or who are more able is good to see because this is something it is easy to forget when using ICT. Hannah Mohon

Good use of a variety of media but this example, in my opinion, is best because it uses the additonal features to support the construction of interesting, relevant and student-centred tasks.  For example watching the Animoto montage and then noting down all the examples in French – this is a realistic and useful task, leading onto further learning.  An excellent illustration of how to combine rich-media with useful assessment tasks. Andrew Field

The judges were

  • Gale Sperry, Englewood High School, Colorado. Prolific Yacapaca author (e.g. American Literature).
  • Aidan McCanny, Assistant Advisory Officer for eLearning and ICT, Southern Education and Library Board (SELB).
  • Ralph Holmes, Langley School, Norfolk. Winner: Author of the Year 2008.
  • Hannah Mohon, Huntcliff School, Saltburn-by-Sea. Runner up: Author of the Year 2008.
  • Andrew Field, Neale-Wade Community College, Cambridgeshire and
  • Krystie Alleaume, Ultranet coach at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia.

My thanks to the hard-working judges, and to everyone who entered. I was really inspired by all the different techniques I saw tried around the basic theme of Textbook Mode. For me, it really validated the hard work the team (most particularly Sasha Kostin) put in to make this feature a success.

Data Protection Issues

Over on the TES R.E. Forum, user fpno asked

Are there any data protection issues with inserting the names of our students into [Yacapaca]?

It’s a question that (quite rightly) comes up regularly, so I thought it worthwhile to reflect here the answer I gave in the forum:

Under the Data Protection Act, you have a general responsibility to store and use your students’ data safely so, yes, there is an issue. You have to be sure that Yacapaca is at least as safe as the conventional alternative, and preferably safer. Here is what Yacapaca does to give you that reassurance:

  • Yacapaca’s digital site security is better than that of most banks’ online banking sites. See this report for details of how that is measured.
  • The site is hosted at Interxion London, one of the highest-security data centers in the UK. Here is their safety/security page.
  • And if somebody did get through all of that, there isn’t much they could do with the data. Yacapaca does not store students’ email addresses, so there is no way to contact your students other than through you.

Now let’s consider the alternative you are moving from. Most teachers are moving to Yacapaca from paper notebooks and worksheets. How secure are they? Do you ever leave a pile of notebooks in the back of the car whilst you pop into the shop? Probably. If you take them home, do keep them in a safe overnight? Of course not. I have never known students’ notebooks be treated as a security risk, but in fact they contain the exact same type of data that Yacapaca does.