This article won the Chris Robson Memorial Prize in 1999 and first appeared in MAPE Focus on Art Summer 1998
The best way to check out any product is to use it for a real task and computer software is no exception to this. As the ICT coordinator at a junior school, well resourced in terms of computer hardware, I am always keen to discover new software which will enable pupils (and staff) to exploit the power of the available technology. It was with these points in mind that HyperStudio was put to the test. The following account describes a cross-year group project using the software and some of the learning outcomes achieved.
While there are always times that we can learn alongside children, with the number of features the program claimed to have, I wanted to have a relatively good understanding of what it could do and how to do it before using it in class. Initially time was spent reviewing the example projects and this was followed by time creating my own cards and placing backgrounds, clip-art, buttons, image and text boxes on them generally finding my way around the available tools. What was most surprising was just how easy it is to create complex cards with a high degree of multimedia content.
Generating a project
Time spent exploring the software also allowed me to consider how HyperStudio might be used for a project within the school. Although a good range of ICT activities takes place, these rarely involve work across year groups so I decided a project which could use input from more than one year group would be beneficial. This would not be an easy task with approximately 230 pupils on roll!
My class had been examining promotional leaflets from local businesses as part of the term's topic and had also looked at the latest copy of the school prospectus. The children had already suggested creating their own leaflets and their idea was adapted for the HyperStudio project Paulton Junior School's Computer Prospectus, written for children by the children.
With an impending end of year Open Evening, it would also be good if the project could be displayed for the children's parents to see something of the quality of ICT education that can take place in school today. The prospectus could prove to be the ideal vehicle for this and the forthcoming Open Evening provided a real purpose and timescale for the children to work towards.
Getting the ball rolling
One of the first hurdles to overcome was introducing the children to how the program worked as a series of cards which could be linked to each other The analogy between pages and chapters in a book was extremely useful for helping the children's understanding. This led into pre-computer work, where the children decided on the general areas of content to be included in their prospectus and also considered how this could be organised. Using a small group of children, cards labelled with content areas were shuffled around to reach an agreed layout for the information; eventually the cards were fixed to a large sheet of paper and lines drawn to show which cards would link to each other.
Another group of children then allocated titles for each card and the range of media that would be used to present the information on them. This provided a 2-dimensional view of the project in a flow diagram format and helped the children to develop an overview of what they were trying to achieve. The diagram proved useful later when the children were creating links between individual cards as they had something concrete to refer to.
The next stage involved distributing tasks, such as preparing a piece of writing or drawing a picture, to children throughout the school. This was again done by another group of children with class teachers helping to ensure a range of children were to be involved in generating the content for the prospectus.
To the studio
As the version of HyperStudio was a single licence copy and due to the time scale we were working to, other computers were also used to prepare text and images using Windows Write and Paint. The children saved their work to floppy discs so it could be transferred to the system where HyperStudio was installed. The range of files that HyperStudio recognises made it simple to import the text and images into the program when they were required. Only the Year 3 children entered their text directly into the HyperStudio program, but if more time had been available the whole project could have been created directly within the program. To enhance the prospectus and give it a more professional edge, some children used a Casio CV-l0 digital camera, on loan from The Consortium, to take photographs. Their only disappointment was that the photographs could not be directly imported into HyperStudio and had to be converted to bitmap format first! However, having done this, the photographs imported effortlessly.
Use of the HyperStudio program itself was therefore mainly undertaken by the editorial team, who worked in pairs to create one card per pair of children. The editors were responsible for creating text and image boxes and importing items into them. They also set out each card, added background colours, titles and buttons to link to other cards. Much of this work took place with very little adult support using a peer tutoring system to transfer skills between the editors. With little effort the children taught themselves how to add sounds to buttons and to use different transitions as the program moved between cards. While this work was being undertaken I discovered a useful feature the program checks whether updated stacks should be saved! A great failsafe ensuring the children's work was not lost at any stage.
Time for the show
The prospectus was finished in time for Open Evening. Children enthusiastically demonstrated it to their parents and governors, who made a number of favourable comments including 'not only does it show what our children's school is really like it also shows what our children can do.'
By the time the project was completed over fifty children had played some part in the process either as artists, authors, photographers or editors. To extend involvement further copies of the prospectus were installed on the rest of the school's multimedia computers along with the HyperStudio player. This allowed all children in school to have access to it.
Many children were eager to explore 'their' prospectus including those who had not played a direct role in its creation. The children were most impressed by the way hidden and timed buttons could be added to cards and how they could be 'made to do special tricks like making things hide and then come back again... because it makes it exciting to use.' They also liked the way sounds can be associated with buttons because, 'then you know if you clicked in the right place.'
In terms of relevance to the National Curriculum, using HyperStudio offered many opportunities for developing the children's ICT capability. Paraphrasing from the Key Stage 2 document, HyperStudio was an excellent platform for children to combine text, images and sound in one 'document' and therefore to communicate information and their ideas in different forms; editing their product allowed the children to organise and reorganise their work using ICT equipment and software. The discussions that resulted both during and after the project was completed provided opportunities for the children to consider experiences gained from using ICT.
Perhaps the most valuable outcome from the project is that the children have been inspired; even children who were not directly involved in the production of the prospectus have asked if they can be involved in other projects using HyperStudio. In turn, the children's enthusiasm has inspired me I have been 'bitten by the bug' and am looking for new projects to initiate with my class this year. Already there are a number of possibilities, including creating a time line for our history topic where dates link to cards with relevant historical information, and writing a multimedia book for a younger audience which can be distributed with the free HyperStudio player. Being aware of the classroom load on teachers like myself, these sorts of activities should be 'ideal' as they allow for some subject learning to take place at the same time as developing children's ICT capability.
Test drive complete
Without a doubt HyperStudio passed the test. It has been thoughtfully designed for use in school and is relatively easy to use with a wide age range of children. However, this does not mean that the software is simplistic; on the contrary HyperStudio is a very sophisticated and powerful program which will enable children (and adults) to create professional looking multimedia presentations. HyperStudio is one of those pieces of software that every school should have!
The Chris Robson Memorial Prize (£200) is awarded annually to the writer of the best article on classroom practice from the previous year's publications. It commemorates a former publications editor and MAPE stalwart, Chris Robson, who died of breast cancer in 1995.
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