You may not have realised that the Lego brick is 50 years old this year (Google themselves changed their logo for a day). Around here we think the only thing cooler than Lego is Moovl, so here is the Moovl logo rendered in the beautiful little bricks.
My friends at Best Science Lesson Ever have pointed me in the direction of this amazing physics simulator, from MIT. The science animations illustrated here are of more interest to Secondary schools, whereas Moovl takes a simpler approach more appropriate for Primary schools, but many of the underlying principles (the ability to quickly draw objects, assign physical properties and then make them interact) are the same.
The program is called “Assist Sketch Understanding System and Operation”. Unfortunately, according to the notes, you can’t buy or download the software. The demo, however is enticing!
The annual BETT Show is taking place in London Olympia this week – “the world’s largest educational technology event”. The show is now a massive event, with 700 exhibitors and nearly 30,000 visitors. There are also 100 seminars, with titles like:
Captivate students and enhance learning with a learning platform
Personalising learning – what’s in it for me?
ICT and the Primary Framework for literacy
Moovl will be available for demo on the Heinemann stand (B40). In addition here are a few other ‘picks’ that are worth a visit, some of them friends to Moovl:
Futurelab, Stand J6 – “Futurelab is a not-for-profit organisation, passionate about transforming the way people learn. Tapping into the huge potential offered by digital and other technologies, it is developing innovative learning resources and practices that support new approaches to education for the 21st century.” Futurelab helped in the early stages of Moovl development.
Ode, Little Bits of Learning, Stand N30 – Ode is a BETT first-timer with high ambitions. “Ode is a next generation digital content store for educators. In odeworld you will be able to buy or rent ‘little bits of learning’ from across the curriculum. The ode platform provides a flexible, personalised teaching space that you can use to buy, organise and display elearning objects.”
The school used Moovl during their regular weekly ICT club, and the pupils showed some great creativity to fit our theme of ‘Going Green’. The judges were particularly impressed with the range of drawings, and also the imaginative use of the Moovl tools (for example the text tool and the animation tool).
Thanks to all the other schools who also entered the competition.
A selection of the winning drawings is show-cased below.
I know it’s a bit early for most people, but I’ve created a Christmas Card page on this site with a free Moovl e-card.
To send your e-card, go to the Christmas Card page where there are full instructions.
You’ve no doubt seen the recent news about the discovery of a giant prehistoric claw, from a 2.5m sea scorpion (Jaekelopterus rhenaniae if you must know). BBC News has the full story, but suffice to say the creature evolved about 400 million years ago and probably lived in a river or swamp.
The find has led to speculation that ancient invertebrates were much larger than previously thought (something to do with elevated oxygen levels in the atmosphere). And there was me thinking that all those horrible insects in King Kong were just fantasy – watch this space for discoveries of giant ape jaw-bones.
In the meantime, here’s an animated version of the scorpion alongside a human – roughly to scale, though the human looks a bit confident for my liking.
Here’s a bit of fun for Hallowe’en… I’m not quite sure why the pumpkin is jumping on the skeleton, but it makes a nice noise.
The new site gives access to many of Soda’s cool creative drawing and construction tools, including Newtoon, Constructor and Moovl. In addition the site allows registered users to share their drawings and to play with each other’s creations.
This blog is about the educational version of Moovl, which has been designed specifically for schools and includes administration and pupil accounts, plus lesson plans and other support. However if you’re not from a school, or want to try some of Soda’s other applications, then Sodaplay is definitely for you.
I managed to catch-up with Ed Burton recently, the originator of Moovl and R&D Director at Soda Creative. Here, Ed talks about the inspiration for Moovl, the early development, and some insights into what he’s working on now.
What does Soda do that’s different from other e-learning companies. Do you think of yourselves as being in ‘e-learning’?
Soda isn’t so easy to label as e-learning, our practice is more hybrid. Typically we’re developing software tools and physical installations that enable communities to explore some combination of art, learning and play.
What are your own particular interests and specialities – how did those inform the development of Moovl?
I’m interested in creating software tools that contain a potential to provoke playful exploration and creativity. My goal is to create a space that is open enough for people to surprise themselves, each other and me with what they can discover and create. I’m also fascinated by the way children spontaneously learn to apprehend and represent the world around them. Moovl contains the potential to explore this process in microcosm by throwing together drawing and physics.
What other learning projects/technologies do you admire?
I’m nostalgic about the way the “home computers” of the 1980’s like the Sinclair Spectrum would typically when turned on greet the user with a programming command prompt. Children were immediately invited into the inner workings of the computer and I still remember typing “10 PRINT “Hello ;”, 20 GOTO 10″ and then “RUN” and enjoying seeing the screen flood with an infinitely repeating greeting. So now after decades of the principles of programming seeming to become more remote from the users of modern gaming consoles and PC’s I’m happy to see MIT’s Scratch endeavouring to make the building blocks of computing accessible to a new generation of children.
What was the original inspiration for Moovl – was it a flash of insight, or a slow-burning idea? Did it draw on other work you’d already done (eg SodaConstructor)?
While I continue to be happily surprised by the menagerie of creatures people create in the virtual spring-and-mass construction kit Sodaconstructor I was frustrated that it tended to be too hard for many children (and adults!) to get beyond the initial frustration of building things just fall over in a tangled heap. I wanted to create something that could reveal the surprisingly engaging emergent properties of a simple physics simulation and yet be as natural and spontaneous as drawing. Also, before joining Soda I used to do academic research into the way that young children draw. This made me very aware that children often construct compound shapes such as a human figure by starting with a core closed shape before attaching limbs to it. When thinking about combing the playfulness of Sodaconstructor with the directness of drawing it suddenly struck me that the intuitive sequence of sticking shapes together while drawing could give a computer just enough clues to construct a crude skeleton of springs to enliven a drawing with a bouncy Sodaconstructor-like simulation. It wasn’t exactly cause to jump out of a bath and run down the street naked, but it was about as close to a Eureka moment as one tends to get when writing software!
How did the creative process work – was it all your own work, or were you collaborating and testing as you went along?
I started by using a rather good programming sketchbook called processing to cobble together a the basic idea of sticking closed forms together in a simple springy simulation. Within a day I was able to program something that was enough fun to make me laugh out loud. That was enough of a hint that I was onto a good idea that I carried on programming and playing until I had something engaging enough to catch the attention of Futurelab.
What were you hoping to achieve (in a learning context) by creating Moovl?
I was trying to create something that could capture children’s natural ability to be simultaneously artists and scientists, inventing worlds in their play and learning about the world by experimenting in it.
How did Futurelab get involved with the development? What did they bring? How did they influence the development?
Moovl was a winning entry to a Futurelab call for ideas for innovative applications of technology to learning. Futurelab don’t just provide money to fund our development, they also bring a lot of expertise at testing technology in schools with teachers and students, as well as rigour in researching and writing up the results. Working with Futurelab helped us to steer Moovl towards the needs of teachers and students through a series of workshops and hands on testing of prototypes of the software while we still were busy designing and developing it.
What’s been your happiest moment on the project?
I think it would be when we were testing an early prototype of the software with a class of primary school children. At the end of the session when the school bell had rung for playtime instead of running outside to play outside the majority of the class jostled to form an eager queue in-front of the interactive whiteboard to carry on creating drawings with Moovl. Moovl made it cool to stay in school!
What are you working on now?
Right now I’m enjoying the exciting climax to another successful response to a Futurelab call for ideas with a project called Newtoon. Newtoon is targeted at KS3 science students and is an online game construction kit that uses Newton’s laws of motion to create small action packed games. These microgames can then be compiled into gamestacks that children download and play on their own mobile phones. After a science teacher introduced his class to Newtoon in a lesson we’ve been delighted to see the web-site we created for them continue to fill with the children’s physics-based games throughout the week (and weekend!). It’s so rewarding to see children creating their own motivation and engagement when they’re given a tool open enough for them to both explore and express themselves.