Mr Finlayson

Education and Technology

Archive for June, 2009

Myst – Art

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 25, 2009

We are coming close to the end of our Myst unit and the guys are working hard on their interactive stories.
Over the course of the unit we have completed a number of art activities. One of them was the very simple, yet effective, creation of a Myst Landscape Silhouette.
The procedure is very simple,
1) I showed the students various landscape drawings and we discussed the colours of the sky at various times of the day.
2) We looked through a number of key landscapes throughout the Myst Ages and described what we saw.
3) Talked about mixing colours and using broad brush strokes to help with the ‘sky effect’
4) We looked at silhouettes and discussed the position of the sun, the way we ‘see’ light and how we can portray key landmarks with cut-out silhouettes.
5) Students made a written plan of what area of Myst they would portray as a silhouette – this included what colours they would need and what landscapes they would cut out.
6) We did it.

The criteria was simple, the landscape has to be recognisable as somewhere on Myst Island or one of the Ages.
Here are a few samples…

The Tower on Myst IslandMyst IslandThe Channelwood AgeThe Clock as seen from Myst IslandThe Clock TowerThe crystals on the Spaceship AgeThe rocks in Stoneship AgeThe rocks on the stoneship ageThe spaceship as seen from Myst Island


Posted in Education, Myst | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Myst – the interactive story – one – a question

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 18, 2009

More thorough blogs will follow but for now I have a question – I would love your input, thank you.

I gave the guys the format for the story (page 13 of the plan) and talked them through each section and what would be written.

I put them into pairs (with a great deal of thought on the mix and the plot) and they cracked on with it – we did first drafts, edits, second drafts, teacher mark, typed draft, edit – final draft.

Here’s my question – before we start to play around with the text and the hyperlinks to create the interactive story – how thoroughly would you mark / correct / change the work if it was your class? My gut tells me to leave it, I’ve already checked each one twice. However, I have spotted some glaring errors in their ‘final’ drafts. Would it be an accurate reflection of their work if I guided further corrections? How much is too much?

I’d like to ask the audience please…

Posted in Education | 2 Comments »

Webcams – more than meets the digital eye!

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 18, 2009

An easy solution to a common problem!

I love my webcam!

I bought a good one (Logitech Quickcam Pro) to keep in touch with family and friends back over in blighty but I’ve ended up using it more in and for school than anything else.


There are some great features that come with the software – digital imaging effects, filters and add-ons (which can all be downloaded with upgrades) all of which are great for lessons but if you don’t have the same software then it is pointless me writing about that.

Instead I’m going to comment on a way I regularly use my webcam in class.

A visiting ‘somebody’ (one of those random people principals always seem to be showing around schools) saw me doing this the other day and said how unusual and great they thought it was. So in the off-chance you’ve never considered this, here it is…

Live Video Art Lessons

This use of my webcam came about when I had a class of 35 a few years ago – I had a nightmare getting them all around one table to demonstrate artistic techniques.

I solved this problem by rigging up the webcam above my shoulder and aiming it at my art pad – the live video on the IWB allowed the students to see in real-time (and great detail) how to complete the work as  I demonstrated from the front of the class.

The quality of the webcam does have a large impact on the quaity of the image on the screen but you can get round this by substituting a black art pen for a pencil – the line becomes much more pronounced on screen. In fact, the inability to see fine detail in pencil-work is the only draw-back I’ve found with this.

Also, if you record as you go – you can create art videos using Windows Movie Maker (sorry, I love it) which can be looped on-screen as the students work and then uploaded onto a class website as tutorials.



My grade 5 class recently did an art unit on creating caricature self-portraits (we also played around with digital avatars) As you can see in the picture (a screen-shot from a FlipVideo recording) I’m sat at the front of the class with the webcam over my shoulder; displaying the image on my art pad as I draw.

I showed the guys the techniques in a session before lunch and created the following video during the break (it literally took 5 minutes- I left it running when I went for a coffee – I’m one of those teachers that does not like to miss his coffee!) When lunch was over, I looped the video and the guys created their *ahem* masterpieces! (excuse the AC/DC – we love it)




Posted in Education | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

The Myst Courtroom Drama

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 16, 2009

On Friday we had one of our culminating activities for the Myst unit – the long awaited Courtroom Drama. My guys had been looking forward to this for a long time and had completed a lot of work in preparation for the day.

The morning started with a simple question on the interactive whiteboard:

Which book will you choose?

Red / Blue / Green

I did not say anything to the class but let them come into the room and see the board – the discussions started immediately – and when they realised I wasn’t going to say anything – they really took the initiative. Before long there were three distinct groups in the room arguing over which book would be the best choice. Great fun.

I took the guys into an ajoining room with the labe/s Agree / Strongly Agree / Disagree / Strongly Disagree displayed in each corner – I then asked them a series of questions and got them to make a decision – quizzing them over their choices. I was surprised and pleased to find that this exercise achieved some very positive results – this is a weak group and my particularly reluctant writers thrived during this session – it was a fantastic experience.

I then got the guys together in the centre of the room and asked them to make a decision based on the brothers Sirrus and Achenar – which one did they trust? which one would they defend in court? Also, did anyone distrust both brothers enough to choose the mysterious green book? (all we know of the book at this stage is that it trapped Sirrus and Achenar – or so they say)

With a little ‘teachering’ we ended up with three roughly even groups and I gave the guys their resources for the session

  • A3 red cards with everything relating to Sirrus – transcripts of speeches, notes
  • A3 blue cards with everything relating to Achenar – transcripts of speeches, notes
  • A3 green cards with a transcript of Atrus’ speech from the digital imager

Each group also had 2 other sheets of card for their notes – they were to compose two arguments – one in defence of their choice and two, an accusation of the others.

Later in the day we had the courtroom set up – we rows of seats in a ‘U’ shape with myself behind a desk in the middle. Each team made an opening statement and then took turns to argue key points. During these turns other groups could raise an ‘objection’ which I would ‘overrule’ or ‘sustain’ (not sure who had more fun – me or the kids?)

I had a simple scoring system – everything was out of 5. I judged the quality of their statements, the effectiveness of the response and the accuracy of the counter-rebuttal.

In the end the blue team won – and it was thanks largely to one particular student who really struggles with written work but gave wonderfully concise, accurate arguments – he got my Student of the Week award solely for that.

It’s now Tuesday afternoon and the guys have just gone to Music, still talking about Friday, still asking for more of the same – you’ve got to love that!


Posted in Education, Myst | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Myst Literacy Unit Plan

Posted by alexfinlayson on June 15, 2009

When I started out on this little Myst adventure I wasted a long, long time trawling the internet searching for ready-made plans that I could *ahem* ‘liberate’ ideas from… I had no success so eventually I just sucked it up and wrote one from scratch…
Now, my plans (much to the delight of my boss) usually look like this…

Typical Plan

So in my search for nice teacher-karma (making up for everything I’ve *ahem* ‘liberated’) I decided to tidy the plan up – present it properly and upload it onto the web so anyone in a similar position has a good jumping off point.
It’s not perfect,  I deleted a lot that was specific to individuals (turned out that was a lot) and it probably won’t be thorough enough but there are a lot of teaching ideas to work with and a few assessment pieces.
You can find it in my Myst page or download directly from here:

Myst Literacy Unit Plan

Credit must go to Graham at Adventure Game Walkthroughs for his excellent guide to realMyst.

Posted in Education, Myst | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »