New eLearning Team Website

September 11, 2012




The new Sheffield ILS eLearning Team website is up and running now at – this will tell you a little more about who we are, what we do, and where to find us. This blog will no longer be regularly updated, instead I’m moving to an integrated blog on the website (Blogs > Special Schools Blog). Please come and visit us there!

Using iPads with SEN Learners

August 22, 2012

From April this year my main responsibility in the new eLearning Team for Sheffield City Council has been working with the Special Schools in Sheffield. We have 7 Special Schools signed up to our service for 2012-2013, which is great news. Across these schools, there has been a lot of interest in the use of touchscreen tablets with SEN learners, as they are very accessible and have a number of uses – for example as communication aids or tools for independent exploration of cause and effect. So far we have been concentrating on the iPad, as there are many excellent (and free) apps available. In future I hope to trial some LearnPads too, which use Android as their operating system, and are more affordable.

During the summer holidays I’ve been working on two documents for our schools, as it seems that iPads are often used without much structure and purpose. The first document maps iPad apps to P Levels in ICT, so for example at P1 a student may show a simple reflex response to a music app like Magic Piano when played loudly next to them. At P4 a student can use ChoiceBoard Creator to indicate a preference, whereas at P8 they may be able to use Pic Collage to create a collage of their images with some text to present information.

The second document looks at Motor Skill Development using iPad Apps. These range from gross targeting using Pocket Pond to letter formation in ABC Phonics Animal Writing, to complex pinch and rotate gestures with multiple digits to create patterns in Somantics.

Both documents are very much works in progress, and I’m looking forwards to working with teachers and students to see how they can aid learning and development.

TeachMeet SEN

February 29, 2012

Animation exampleSorry for the long hiatus in posts on the blog, but I have returned from maternity leave and have lots of exciting things to blog about already. On the 28th January I travelled down to Leicester for a TeachMeet with a SEN focus. A TeachMeet is essentially a load of teachers (and other educators) getting together to talk about great stuff they’ve done in the classroom, often with technology, but not always.

It was really nice to meet face-to-face some of the people I follow on Twitter, and whose blogs I read. Here are just some of the things I learnt:

  • Tony Shepherd (@grumbledook) showed a video about using iPads with visually impaired learners. The accessibility features are very useful, for example the screen reader with the Pages app; Documents to Go with a magnifier; voiceover on the scientific calculator.
  • Bev Evans (@bevevans22) mentioned which creates jigsaw puzzles from images uploaded to Flickr. She also showed a great video of a Beebot’s eye view – using a Flip camera, gorilla tripod and tape.
  • Mary Farmer (@ebd35) showed some great films made by a couple of boys in her class who really don’t like writing, but loved telling a story to accompany their drawings – using an iPhone to record the audio and take photos of the drawings, then putting them together in iMovie. These can be viewed here.
  • Marc Faulder uses Kinect games, like Kinectimals, to support physical literacy amongst his pupils. He also uses the Kinectimals app for the iPad in order to practise fine motor skills. His blog is at

I gave a presentation about using animation to support literacy, based on the work I’ve done with the Sheffield special schools. Here is a link to my presentation: Using animation to support literacy.

Thanks to Jo Badge (@jobadge) and Josie Fraser (@josiefraser) for organising. All of the resources and presentations will be posted on a mini-site soon. I’ll link to it as soon as it goes live.

Exciting Opportunity 14 – 19 Documentary Competition 2011

July 5, 2011

So, what’s this competition all about?

The Showroom Workstation, The Childrens University, Red Tape Central (SVC), Sheffield Theatres and Channel 4 are working together on this exciting competition which will give you the chance to make a documentary film with the experts!

The most successful entrants will see their entry screened at the Showroom before an audience of industry professionals on Monday 24th October.  You will also be offered a place on a four day Mobile Movie Workshop held at the Showroom and Red Tape Central from 25th – 28th October 2011 (during the half-term holiday) when you will work through from pre to post production to plan, film and edit your very own documentary!

The films from the workshops will be showcased in the Mobile Movie Finals at Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema on at 11am on Saturday 5th November when each member of the team producing the winning film will receive a Toshiba Camileo S20 Full HD 1080p Camcorder!

The closing date for submissions is the 18th September 2011. The entries will the be judged by an industry panel and the winners notified by email and post by Friday 7th October.

So, if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a filmmaker or have ambitions to become the next David Fincher or Steven Spielberg, this could be just what you need to get noticed by the right people and start to make your dreams a reality!

CLICK HERE <>  to visit the Sheffield Mobile Movie website for more details!

Hold on, did someone mention Channel 4?

That’s right! The Sheffield Mobile Movie competition is part of Channel 4’s Inspiration Week. All entrants to the Sheffield Mobile Movie competition are invited to register for the Sheffield Channel 4 open day, taking place on Saturday 17th September. The Channel 4 Inspiration event will then take place on Monday 24th October. Details of this event can be found HERE.


OK, great! What do I have to do to enter?

All you have to do is make a documentary style movie on your mobile phone between 1 and 2 minutes in length and upload it at the Sheffield Mobile Movie website HERE. <>

The subject of your Mobile Movie can be anything that inspires you, from sport to music or anything in between. All they ask is that you are between 14-19 years old, are currently attending a Sheffield school and that your finished film complies to the BBFC ‘U’ certificate, details of which can be found HERE. <>

I want to get started, how long have I got?

You can upload your Mobile Movie right away! The closing date for submissions is the 18th September 2011. The entries will the be judged by our industry panel and the winners notified by email and post by Friday 7th October 2011. Please note that the judge’s decision is final.

I’m still not sure what I have to do, can I contact anyone?

No problem, just visit the website HERE

<; and use our contact form. The Sheffield Mobile Movie Team will get back to you as soon as they can.




All Change!

June 30, 2011

Well it’s all change here at the Sheffield South City Learning Centre.

We are now working as part of a city-wide eLearning Team, with the primary ICT consultants and colleagues from the other CLCs in the city. The South CLC based on the site of Newfield School will remain open, and we hope to continue working with our partnership schools, and those across the city, in the new academic year.

Meanwhile I’m off on maternity leave, starting tomorrow, but I’m hoping you will still be updated on our projectson the blog by the rest of the staff here. Thankyou to all our readers, I hope to be back in 2012!


CLC Staff Learning Makaton

April 6, 2011

Three CLC staff are learning Makaton over a 6 week period, alongside staff from Mundella Primary School and Talbot Specialist School, and taught by Talbot School’s  Makaton Regional Tutor, Janet Screaton. Makaton is a simple sign language used in the special schools, and some primary schools, that we work with. “Makaton uses signs, symbols and speech to help people with learning and/or communication difficulties to communicate.”

We decided to learn the basics in order to help us communicate with some of the pupils who use our centre on a regular basis, and we all have to admit we’re really enjoying the classes. If you’re lucky you may get the odd video on the blog with our ‘Word of the Week’, that is if anyone will vounteer to be filmed.

If you are interested in finding out more about Makaton, visit the Makaton Charity’s website at

TeachMeet NQT

October 21, 2010

Our CLC is hosting a TeachMeet on the 11th November, starting at 5.30pm. A TeachMeet is an informal conference for teachers, by teachers. Anyone who attends is welcome to give a presentation, relating to the use of technology in the classroom or for CPD. These presentations can be 2 minute nano presentations, or 7 minute micro presentations. This means that the evening moves at a good pace and planning a presentation isn’t too onerous. Above all the experience is supposed to be fun as well as informative.

This TeachMeet has an NQT focus, with the aim of inspiring newly qualified teachers (and trainee teachers) in the use of ICT and providing them with resources and ideas for use in their own practice. However all teachers and educationalists are welcome to attend, whether from the Primary, Secondary, Further of Special sector. The evening also provides the opportunity to network and socialise with other teachers, and consume free food and drink!

Currently there are presentations on the following subjects:

  • Joining a global staffroom for support and inspiration: Building your PLN
  • Putting the Interactive into IWBs
  • Using video in the music classroom
  • Multimedia Extravaganza in Y6
  • Using Microsoft Mouse Mischief to make PowerPoint presentations interactive – and fun
  • Organising your classroom for learning

If you are interested in attending/presenting you can sign up at (scroll down to find the Sheffield logo), or e-mail me, Catherine Elliott, at

There is also a Page for the TeachMeet, which will contain links to some of the presentations and videos from the night. It can be found here.

Summer School 2010

June 4, 2010

Here’s what the CLC has planned for Summer School this year:

  • Music Summer School, 2nd-6th August – aimed at musicians between 12 and 16, attendees will look at performing, recording and editing their music. We’re pleased to announce that Jon Windle, formally of Little Man Tate, will be joining us for guitar and song-writing masterclasses.
  • French Summer School, 23rd-25th August – for pupils between 9 and 11 years of age. Participants will learn some basic French using a variety of technologies, for example green screen filming, animation, comic strips etc.
  • Animation – Beyond Plasticine,  16th-20th August – for young people between 13 and 16 years old. We wanted to move away from animating using plasticine figures and use different media instead, for example photographs, real people, drawings etc. For inspiration see the animations here and here.

To apply for the summer schools, please fill in the form here, and return to the CLC with £10 (cheques payable to Sheffield South CLC) per person per summer school.

Digital Video Camera Comparison

April 16, 2010

It’s always quiet during the school holidays, and this Easter I finally got round to doing a comparison of the digital video cameras we currently have at the CLC. This isn’t so much about the best camera, rather about the most suitable camera for using with our school groups, in terms of video quality, compatability with video editing software, cost and ease of use.

I’m also aware that these may not be the most up to date versions of these cameras, but it’s what we have, and hopefully this post can still be of use to educators out there who are wondering what to buy. (Note all prices are rough guides and show the cheapest offer I found online).

The Cameras (Clockwise in image above)

  • Digital Bluemuch loved (!) by primary schools across the country.
  • Flip Mino – not the HD version, but better than the basic version.
  • Toshiba Camileo P30 – our newest acquisition.
  • Sony DCR-SR77 – a replacement camera for one that got stolen.
  • Canon MD101 – what we’ve been using for years.

The Test

Basically we filmed the same thing using each camera – me talking to camera, walking through different lighting in the CLC, filming outside using the zoom. I wanted to see the difference in quality of the video and audio. I also looked at file types, storage, ease of use and flexibility. Full copies of the video should be up on Vimeo soon, due to space issues, I’ve only included short sections below.

Digital Blue

I have to admit that I’ve never liked these or actually used one in anger, but thought it worth backing up my gut feeling with some actual footage. To transfer the video you install the software, then put the camera into the dock and plug into PC using USB. Sadly we couldn’t seem to get any video off at all, so I did a second recording whilst attached to the PC:

As you can see the quality is pretty poor. However it is the only device I tested that takes video, stills and can do animation, using a USB connection (rather than firewire, which is a problem in many schools if they have no firewire ports). It’s still not enough to make me want to use one though!

Video filetype = AVI, price = around £120, storage = internal memory (though newer versions seem to have SD card slot)

Flip Mino

These are ridiculously easy to use – point the device and press the red button to record, and they can fit into a pocket for taking on field trips. Not only that but the video quality is pretty good for the price, and audio is excellent. It picks up audio even from a distance and it’s very clear.

The zoom isn’t up to much, but I always encourage students to use the zoom as little as possible anyway. To transfer the video simply plug in the integral USB connector. There is software that comes with the Flip for editing, but it is fairly basic – however you need to install the software in order to have the correct codec for the video to play on the computer. Once this is done you can open the Flip folder and drag and drop video files into your documents. The Flip records video as AVIs, which can be edited in Windows Movie Maker no problem (this is the editing program we tend to use with younger students, as it is free and most schools hav PCs with it on). The video is stored on internal memory and you can shoot 60 minutes worth. You can’t take stills or use it for animation.

Price = £80+

Toshiba Camileo P30

This is a small, lightweight HD video camera, at a very reasonable price, so I was interested to see the quality. We tested it on the HD 720p setting (the HD 1080p setting creates massive file sizes), and the video quality was  good as you might expect, though it didn’t deal well with dull light conditions, and the audio has a bit of ambient noise in it.

On the WVGA setting (standard definition) the video quality was reasonable too, but there seemed to be a bit more hiss on the audio.

It has an optical and digital zoom, and it is very easy to transfer video to the PC using the USB cable. It has a small built-in memory with SD card slot. However the whole unit feels a bit cheap and it records video as MOV files, so you need Quicktime installed to play them on the PC, plus it can’t be edited in Windows Movie Maker. You can take still images, but it can’t be used for animation.

Since writing this blog post we ordered a whole set of these cameras. After a number of issues with trying edit the footage in Adobe Premiere we’ve discovered that these newer ones record the video as AVIs – normally not a problem, but there’s an issue with codecs and we would need to convert the video before editing! This is not in any way desirable, and there was no indication when we bought them that the format had been changed.

Price = £100+

Sony DCR-SR77

This is the most expensive of the cameras I tested, although it only records in Standard Definition. It does have an 80Gg hard disk drive, onto which you can record 60 hours of video, and it is easy enough to transfer the video files (MPG format) via USB. The video quality was good (and was by far the best quality when zoomed in), but when I played it back using Windows Media Player there was no audio with it. Putting it into Adobe Premiere I could export an AVI with sound, but the quality of the video suffered (and it won’t edit in WMM). Here is the original MPG format (it should be widescreen but has been embedded as 4:3 ration for some reason):

You can take still photos on this camera, but again no way of using it for stop-motion animation work.

Price = £270+

Canon MD101

We use these for the majority of our work with schools, for video and animation projects. It records video onto a mini DV tape and to transfer it you have to connect to the computer using a firewire, and 30 minutes of video will take 30 minutes to upload, so not ideal for projects where filming and editing happens on the same day. The quality of the video isn’t great, and the audio is affected by a considerable amount of ambient noise.

This camera won’t take still photos, but can be used for animation.

Price = £145


My all round favourite is the Flip Mino* – you get something really easy to use, very portable for a reasonable price, and the video quality is fine for most of the projects we’d do here. The only real issue with them is that you have to install the codec first, which is problematic in schools where staff don’t have administrator rights on the computers. (We are also yet to see how long the rechargeable battery lasts, as it can’t be replaced).

I’ll recommend we buy some more of the Toshiba Camileo P30s too, or something similar, for older students to use who are editing in Adobe Premiere Pro. Having the SD cards makes transferring video a lot quicker than off a tape, and the quality is better than the Flips.* Note added comments above. I no longer recommend these.

The Canons will now be relegated to use for stop-motion animation only, and I’m putting the Digital Blue back in the box and hiding it in a back cupboard somewhere. The Sony SR77 is nice, but not worth the money for us.

The big issue still remains what to recommend to our partnership schools when they are looking for something for filming and animation. Anyone out there got a neat solution?

(*We do have some of the basic Flip Video cameras out on loan, as soon as they come back in, I’ll take some test footage and post up as a comparison with the Flip Mino).

Let it snow…

January 6, 2010

A cold and snowy start to the new year at the CLC, as you can see from the photos. We are open as normal, although we’d recommend people park on the road and walk up as our car park is covered in several inches of snow still.