EyePet – just good fun or more than that?

The concept of the digital pet is not a new one and they were all the rage in the mid to late 90s.  Now Sony have brought the digital pet back for the modern audience but is it really that different?  We purchased the EyePet to have a go with interesting findings including how a 2.5yr old child deals with it.
TamagotchiEarly Digital Pets

The Tamagotchi was launched in 1996 by Bandai and took the world by a storm.  This keychain sized pet needed regular care and attention and eventually got sick and died if the attention was not forthcoming.  Many Tamagotchi are now dearly departed but the virtual pet was a massive success as Bandai have released 44 versions and had sold 70 million units as of 2008.

Around the same time Ubisoft launched Dogz and Catz, which eventually became part of the Petz franchise of games.



NintendogsFast forward ten years and Nintendo capitalised on the success of the DS console and launched Nintendogs.  The user trained and cared for their dog using a combination of the touch screen and the microphone (to give voice commands). 

This was a successful move for Nintendo and helped push the DS to a wide audience with the bundled Nintendogs application.



EyePetAlmost five years later and SCEE and London Studios have released the EyePet for the PS3.  The EyePet uses a combination of augmented reality, audio input and motion detection to create an engaging and rich experience of having a pet in your living room without having to clean up the poop.

The EyePet is a fictional oviparous species (it hatches from an egg) but looks like a cross between a monkey and a mogwai (search for Gremlins released in1984 kids!)  So immediately the temptation is to name him/her Gizmo but we called ours Herbie.  So what do you go through to get your own happy little Herbie running round your living room floor.

You need the Sony PlayStation Eye which you set up according to instructions from the helpful scientist who talks you through the process of setting up your room, lighting and camera to create the optimum conditions.  You end up with an egg which you have to hatch by rocking it back and forth.  Eventually your EyePet will hatch and the fun starts.

Trampoline TimeI won’t ruin it by giving too much away but you have daily challenges and training exercises to get you used to caring for your pet.  When you complete these you earn gifts, toys and styling options to customise your EyePet and keep him/her happy! 

By launching the game you are entering into a commitment to look after the little fellow; you have to play with him, feed him, wash him and scan him to ensure he is medically fit and mentally stable. 

The level of user interaction is very good and there are a number of activities that are very clever including teaching your EyePet to draw by drawing a picture and showing it to the PlayStation Eye, singing into the microphone so he can learn to sing and using the “magic card” (augmented reality bit) that allows you to play games.  There are also some nice little touches like his memories and dreams that show actual footage of you playing with him.


Who’s it for?

I considered the uses of the EyePet and think there is potential for use in the classroom as part of a scheme of work as there are valid learning points with respect to caring for an animal, responsibility, commitment and health/wellbeing of an animal. 

I wondered what age groups would be able to deal with the concept of a virtual pet scampering around their carpet and how they would react with something that wasn’t really there but I was surprised to find that a 2.5 year old child was able to deal with this conceptually.



Here are a small sample of activities with the EyePet.

Stroking the EyePet

Teaching the EyePet to draw


Taking a shower

Scanning the EyePet to check health

Trampoline Fun

Using the Magic Pen

Styling the EyePet

Bowling with the EyePet

EyePet Dreams

Naughty EyePet

Google, give us a Wave!

Google WaveSo along with the world and his dog, I’m writing about my initial thoughts about Google’s new service, Google Wave.

It’s only Google Wave Day 2 at the moment so the main themes running around the Twitterverse is people bemoaning the service and saying it’s too disorganised and didn’t live up to the hype … but things rarely live up to the level of hype that Google Wave generated.

Like anything on the internet, etiquette will form which will help to shape good practice for Google Wave.  The problem is that at the moment people are ‘Waving’ with anyone and don’t have a purpose to their Wave so it degenrates into utter chaos.  For an example of this, see the image below which is a small sample of the “Wave to all the educators” conversation.

Google Wave example


So when does it become useful?

Remember that Wave is currently only a platform, there are some amazing extensions and bots being developed at the moment that will really showcase it to the best of its ability and change public perspective from a glorified chat client.

Google Wave VideoThere is a Google Wave intro video with Steph and Greg that showcases an outstanding example of taking a Wave and bringing a ‘bot’ in that publishes the Wave onto the Blogger platform.  The clever thing is that when someone comments on the blog, this is embedded into the original wave.  Unfortunately there are no such plugins for WordPress as yet but I can’t see it being too long before they turn up.

They also showcase a ‘bot’ that translates the Blip (a Wave is made up of multiple Blips) into another language ‘on-the-fly’ which also looks great.

Another clever little ‘bot’ is the Wolfram Alpha bot which performs calculations for you as you type them.


So how can this be used in the classroom

It currently seems like the etiquette isn’t there yet to allow loads of students to be in the classroom collaborating on a document in real time but it certainly could work for asynchronous (or semi-asynchronous if that could be) collaboration on documents or synchronous collaboration between schools in different locations.

I could see students getting together to collaborate on homework and the link to blogs will certainly bring a new dimension to those using Google’s Blogger platform.

I really don’t think we’ll see the big ideas emerging until the invite pool is much larger or Google Wave is enabled on Google Apps for Education domains as then we’ll be able to tell what is practical with large numbers of users who are connected in some way.

If you have any ideas for the classroom then email me at stuart.ridout [at] gmail.com
… or if you’re a Waver then ping stuart.ridout [at] googlewave.com

Access US content from the UK using SuperVPN

There are a whole wealth of great services on the internet to allow you to catch-up on TV shows you have missed.  In the UK we have iPlayer which is limited to the BBC but in the US they have Hulu.  One of the best features of Hulu is the number of shows available.

The only problem for us Brits is that it is not available to us.  I was using HotSpot Shield to access Hulu but like all good free virtual private networks (VPNs) it has now been blocked.

There is a new contender on the block that could be an answer to your international and private browsing needs and could be the saviour of international Hulu access.  SuperVPN provides anonymous access to the Internet on a whole range of platforms including:

  • Windows
  • Linux
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  • Android
  • Windows Mobile
  • iPhone
  • Blackberry
  • Symbian

So if you are after anonymous or international VPN access then click through to http://www.supervpn.net and get the following benefits.

Furthermore, if you have a blog you can get access to SuperVPN free of charge by writing a review of Super VPN on your blog, website or forum.

  • The text must be original written by you and not copied from other source.
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For more info about the free VPN access see http://www.supervpn.net/free-vpn.html

The great BIG netbook competition

lenovo_s10I’ve been absent for the last month … absent from twitter, facebook and my blog. All of my ‘gained time’ from the departure of Year 11 and Year 13 has been taken up with an exciting project for my school. The great BIG netbook competition!

We (like many other schools) don’t have enough provision for ICT and the pressure is increasing. A potential way forward for us is for students to have their own netbooks. We managed to secure funding to buy approximately 100 netbooks for a pilot to see how it works and to find whether it is worth a major financial investment a little further down the line.

We decided that we would give a class set of netbooks to a teacher to use all day every day with their classes but we were really interested in what would happen if we gave netbooks to students to use at school in all their lessons and take home at the end of the day.

So we decided we would give a set to a tutor group who are currently in Year 7 and another group in Year 8 in September 2009 (when they are in Year 8 and 9 respectively) but we have fourteen tutor groups in Year 7 and fourteen in Year 8 so how do we decide who gets them? This is where the great netbook competition comes into it.

We decided we would run a competition where groups would work together to demonstrate why they should get the netbooks. We put the idea to a panel of Year 10 students to help us decide how the competition would work. They came up with a points based competition which tested them as individuals and as a group. So the competition was as follows …

Individual Challenge
Register for Moodle and log in on five different days (5 points)
Post five different messages in the forums (10 points)
Have 95% attendance for the month of the competition (10 points)
* an average was calculated and then multiplied by 10 to get a maximum tutor group score of 250 points.

Group Challenge
Two equipment checks as a tutor group with a maximum score of 50 points for each check.
Maximum score – 100 points

The Pitch
Tutor groups to pitch to a panel of judges why their group should win the netbooks.
Maximum score – 200 points

Competition Handbook
Download the competition handbook

So the competition was launched at the start of June and the atmosphere was electric. The Moodle usage went up from 200 registered users to 1500 registered users. The forums went from 22 threads to ~1800 threads … and the conversations were fascinating! The Moodle effect spread from Year 7 and 8 students to their siblings higher up in the school.

It wasn’t without a struggle! To ensure equality, all of the equipment checks were carried out by one person. 56 equipment checks covering 850 students was extremely time consuming and the communication with 28 tutors was sometimes a bit of a struggle and the message didn’t always get through.

The positives

These students produced AMAZING pitches! They were innovative and we learned a great deal about what our students think about ICT at the school.

Moodle now kicks ass! Students love it and they see it as a valuable social networking tool for school. The educational content is growing on there and they see the educational ‘stuff’ as a bonus and actually use it and then discuss it in the forums.

So what now?

We ran the competition and two brilliant groups won the netbooks. They will receive them in September when they get back for the new academic year. We now need to train their teachers, generate ideas for how they will be used, look at access to Internet in lessons and how this can be controlled, deal with behaviour issues, deal with forgotten netbooks, deal with broken netbooks and see how the wireless network fares with a concentration of laptops in one place!

I can’t wait!

TeachMeet Gran Canaria

Although I unfortunately couldn’t be in Gran Canaria for Kevin’s TeachMeet GC, I did send a video for my presentation so he could show it.

I covered two things I use in the classroom and outside of the classroom in extra-curricular clubs.  The first one was Weebly which is a online website editor/creator and the second was Atmosphir, an amazing free games creator!

Check out my video below.  It’s hosted on YouTube so if that’s blocked at your school it won’t appear below and you’ll be left wondering what’s going on!  Sorry.

Moodle Training

steve_jobs_iphoneLast night I led some CPD for a small group of colleagues.  The topic was Moodle.  Previously when I have given one-to-one training on using Moodle the person has come away inspired and excited but it’s a little harder with a group as you have to sell harder.  In my planning I identified the need to sell the product and the lifestyle.

I thought about some of the big players and Steve Jobs came to mind.  I recently saw a post on Digg entitled ‘11 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Jobs‘ and one of those things were about his favourite words and catchphrases including …

– un-be-lievable
– mere mortals
– it’s huge
– wouldn’t it be great

So I planned to include some of the sales buzzwords in my training session.

“Wouldn’t it be great if students were able to access the lesson materials after school so they could go over something they didn’t understand?”

“I was working with a member of staff who started a simple Moodle course and taught a lesson on a Friday.  Over the weekend, half the class had visited the course again from home and viewed the resources again.  It was unbelievable!”

“Moodle isn’t just about our school.  The potential for sharing is huge!”

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year OldsIt’s funny how just using the words make you more enthusiastic about the product.  I then gave people time to play with the product and the enthusiasm rubbed off on them.   When I looked at the Moodle user logs later that evening I could see that some of those staff had gone home and played with the product.

We had set each of them up with a sandpit area and given each person Course Creator rights for their area, effectively making them king of their own castle. Already we can see that some people have created almost full courses.

Of course I shared the link to Mary Cooch’s excellent book “Moodle 1.9 for teaching 7-14 Year Olds” (although I don’t think the title does the book justice as it extends way beyond 14 year olds!) and gave them a sneak peek at my copy.  I highly recommend the book as it is suitable for all audiences.

I also included a link to Mark Clarkson’s equally brilliant ‘Super Moodle’ video tutorials for those who are not big on reading!

Finally, although a little cheesy I like these Steve Jobs quotes.  I didn’t work them into the presentation but I like them never the less.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
Steve Jobs

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Steve Jobs

I think we’re having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we’re always trying to do better.
Steve Jobs

Of course this last one is a little too customer focussed so I see it looking more like …

I think we’re having fun. I think our students really like using Moodle. And we’re always trying to do better.
Stuart Ridout

What makes them tick? Do you want to develop professionally?

One of the parts of my job that I really enjoy is working with other members of staff to increase their ICT knowledge and to help their professional development.  Today I worked with two members of staff with a contrasting experience for me in terms of their response.  One of these people bowled me over with her exuberant (and Tigger-like) attitude towards ICT and how it could improve access to her subject for students.  (You know who you are if you are reading this!)

tmm09-smallWe talked a little about Moodle and we spoke about my Moodle learning curve.  We look at where I started (just dumping resources) and how I got to where I am now with interactive and more interesting looking courses.  Her immediate response was how she could use it in the classroom for her A-Level History group.  It fills me with excitement when I see other teachers are so enthusiastic about the same things that I am.   During the course of the conversation we also spoke about the TeachMeet concept  and I shared some of the exciting things I had seen at TeachMeet Midlands.

I had been reflecting over the weekend about the TeachMeet and what makes people want to give up their Friday night to do more work!  I do it because I want to improve the experience in the classroom for my students.  When it is combined with some of the outstanding tweets from some of the people I follow on Twitter, I have found some of the tools shared are outstanding and get students going (my Year 10s loved Prezi!)

We are entering a time where students expect higher quality ICT in the classrooms and get frustrated when someone is getting them to do MORE POWERPOINTS.  There are a lot of great new tools out there and they can make a difference in the classroom.  Now I might not be able to get people out to a TeachMeet but would a TeachMeet work within a school context where people are sharing great stuff outside of their own faculty?

So here’s the plan …

  1.  Get a staff development day dedicated to ICT (already pencilled in for November)
  2. Create a staff delicious page where regular tools and tips are shared
  3. Share the excellent presentations such as 32 interesting uses of Wordle etc created by Tom Barrett
  4. Look at TeachMeet Stantonbury Campus – will that work?  … or at least TeachMeet Milton Keynes.