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Kar2ouche Secondary

  1. Published by Kar2ouche

  2. KS2 to post 16

  3. Cross Curricular - English Curriculum Evaluation

KS3 Content Evaluation by Paul Clayton

This title supports the teaching of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The Education Support Pack supplied with the software suggests that the program might be used with students from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 5, but perhaps since the play is now taught most commonly as part of preparation for Key Stage 3 English SATs in Year 9, or as a GCSE text at Key Stage 4, it is with Years 9-11 that the title would most appropriately be used. With this in mind, the most obvious teaching, learning and assessment objectives within the National Framework for Key Stage 3 English, GCSE curricula and the National Curriculum are those which relate to developing and comparing different interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare; commenting on interpretations of the same text in different media, or recognising how print sounds and still, or moving images combine to create meaning. The Support Pack, which provides a vast and varied range of useful and engaging activities - each linked to particular NLF, GCSE and GCE objectives - makes much broader claims than this.

However, whilst acknowledging that this is undoubtedly a most impressive piece of software, one that provides some genuinely exciting opportunities to interact with the play, it is perhaps also worth emphasising that it is best used to support study, there being some key objectives associated with the study of Shakespeare that the software does not address. The program will not for example, provide students with the cultural, social and historical background of the play, nor will it dispense with the need for glossaries to explain Shakespearean language. The software is unrivalled though in providing an opportunity for every student to experience 'directing' Shakespeare - at least virtually - and/or of creating a professional looking storyboard, comic, or graphic novel version of the play irrespective of their artistic talents. In utilising the graphic look of computer games and being extremely quick to learn how to use (no more than a lesson is needed to grasp the basics), the program proved to be both fun and addictive.

Additionally, the versatile nature of the program allows both students and teachers to explore new and more challenging ways of using it. Admittedly, one possible weakness within the classroom might be in accessing the audio features. The program includes a complete sound recording of the play and also the facility for students to record their own vocal performances and sound effects. To hear these, students will obviously need either speakers or headphones, both of which bring with them familiar practical and management problems (headphones are of little use if students are sharing computers and speakers tend to distract neighbouring students). But, even without sound, the program is a valuable asset to any study of the play.

The software installed without problems on the first installation and there were no apparent conflicts with any other programs. Similarly, it was possible to uninstall the software, again without any problems being encountered with machine configuration. The following process was used:

Firstly, a virtual CD-ROM image was created for the CD-ROM; then we created a clean workstation that only had DirectX, Quicktime and VCD-ROM installed and ran the RM application wizard on the new workstation, to make a new package using standard RM guidelines. We ran the VCD-ROM and mounted the image. Then we ran the set up from the mounted image, following the onscreen prompts, all the local hard disk. After this, we re-booted the system, logged on to test the software and re-ran the application wizard to finish the package. Finally, we allocated the appropriate workstations

Curriculum Relevance
The software supports wide sections of the National Curriculum for English and the Key Stage 3 Framework for Teaching English. In addition to the National Curriculum requirement that students at Key Stages 3 and 4 should study Shakespeare texts, perhaps the sections covered most directly are those relating to appreciating how structure and organisation of scenes and plays contribute to dramatic effect; learning how to analyse and discuss alternative interpretations of texts; considering how meanings are changed when texts are adapted to different media; reflecting on how the writer presents ideas and issues and explores the motivation and behaviour of characters, as well as the development of plot and the overall impact of the text; and appreciating how meaning is conveyed in texts that include print, images and sometimes sounds. This is by no means an exhaustive list and as stated elsewhere, the Support Pack supplies many ideas for covering dozens of Curriculum topics. Certainly the program would support students working across the full range of National Curriculum Attainment Levels, the emphasis being on improving understanding of Shakespeare's play rather than in showing that understanding in written form in the way required of the end of Key Stage 3 tests. The student requires very little by way of information handling skills, although some basic word processing is needed if certain functions are selected.
Design & Navigation
The design of the program is extremely easy for students to navigate. Admittedly, there is no introductory sequence, thereby necessitating an initial teacher-led session to show the students how to work with the software, but the program is supplied with examples of animated storyboards already saved, which might be used for demonstration. The students click on to various tabs to access the libraries of background, character and prop images. They then load these images into frames by simple mouse-click, or click-and-drag. Easily interpreted icons are used to guide the students around the screen and single-word explanatory text appears over the icon if the cursor is rested on it. Certain functions are accessible by clicking the right-button of the mouse; for instance, the useful manipulator tool which allows characters to be repositioned, rotated and re-sized. Once again, all these functions are conveyed through simple icons. Students' work can be easily saved and accessed later for further development. There is no onscreen help menu, but the Support Pack comes with some quick-start guides, which might be photocopied on to A4 size paper and given to the students, so that they need not rely solely on the teacher to show them how to progress.

In addition, the program is very intuitive and students seem to learn quickly how to access the less obvious features. For example, there is no index to the various library of images, which perhaps at first suggests that the user has to scroll endlessly through the images to find the one she/he wants. However, my students quickly discovered that multiple clicking on to the tab resulted in multiple images appearing on the screen at once. There are more advanced features to the program, which perhaps students do not automatically appreciate without more input from the teacher. For example, the layering tab not only allows the component elements of each slide to be layered in different orders, but also the degree of transparency, contrast, brightness and sharpness of the images can be adjusted. Clearly this can offer many more opportunities for imaginative visualisation of ideas and characters, but perhaps students will need some detailed guidance with this. The title is genuinely interactive: students can work with the background images, text and audio clips that come with program, or they can import their own.
Ease of Use
This is a title for pupil use. After an introductory session from the teacher, the students should be able to carry out a range of tasks with minimum assistance. As stated elsewhere, there is little onscreen help, but the program operates very intuitively and logically and is easy to navigate at a basic level. The Support Pack is itself a valuable resource, offering many ideas for classroom use and a number of information sheets, which might be photocopied to assist independent learning and progress. It might be argued that some of the task sheets and instructions might have been available, as electronic documents, but that would probably have spoilt the overall design and working of the program. As it is, the most text that the student can see on the screen at any one time is from the play, so that she/he can focus squarely on that. The lesson ideas are exemplars of good practice and if suitably differentiated could be used to support, or stretch any ability range.

Special Needs
Although I did not trial the software with any Special Educational Needs students, I believe that it could be used extremely effectively with such students. The text is fully available as audio files, which would assist the visually impaired (although the size and colour of the written text itself cannot be altered). Because the program works largely by clicking and moving the mouse, any student who is capable of this can access virtually the full range of what is offered. The individual screens of the storyboard can be played back at different speeds, so that if text is placed on the screen to be read out by the students during a presentation, the timing can be adjusted to take into account their own confidence in reading written text. The Support Pack contains many ideas for differentiating particular tasks in order to meet the students at their individual point of need and experience.

There are no onscreen exercises. The students' work to tasks determined and/or devised by the teacher and their results can be teacher, or peer assessed.

This is an excellent program to support the teaching of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It is versatile and exciting to work with and for these reasons alone, it is a resource, which would benefit all students, be they the most motivated, or the most reluctant to engage with Shakespeare. The intuitive nature of the program facilitates student independence, thereby allowing the teacher to target particular individuals, or groups of students for additional support. The Support Pack offers imaginative and detailed lesson plans, which should appeal to a wide range of teaching and learning styles.

KS3 Classroom Evaluation by Paul Clayton

I used the software as part of a unit of work included in the Support Pack. The overall objective of the unit was to enhance the textual study of Macbeth; and the program was used as a resource for some of the lessons. Sometimes Kar2ouche was used to produce animated storyboards, or single frames and work was variously saved as presentations, posters, printed comic strips, or graphic novel pages.

Teaching with this Product
Before we used Kar2ouche, the students had already got to know the story of the play by selectively reading the text and by watching Polanski's film version. I wanted the students to explore various aspects of the play and I particularly wanted to use the software to focus on a number of key scenes. Therefore, the series of lessons, which made the most direct use of the program, began with a teacher-led introductory session to instruct the children how to use the software. This session made use of an interactive whiteboard, with the students seated in pairs at fifteen or so computers. During this first session, the students took it in turn to create slides for a storyboard. I used the very first scene of the play to work on and the students produced a storyboard consisting of ten frames, one to fit each short speech of the scene. The students quickly learnt how to create frames: selecting backgrounds, characters and props as appropriate; adjusting the positions, poses and sizes of the images within the frame; and attaching the right audio clip.

As a plenary for that first session, a number of students played back their filmstrips to the rest of the group. Whilst working on these presentations, students were encouraged to refer back to the Polanski film version in order to consider the ways in which sound and image might be combined to create particular kinds of meaning and to consider aspects of mise-en-scene. For this and for similar work on other scenes later, Kar2ouche proved to be an extremely powerful tool to assist in establishing these learning points and the work was consolidated by looking at a number of other extracts from different film and television versions of the play. As we progressed, we used the program to add speech bubbles and thought clouds to the characters to explore subtext. Again, the students found it very easy to grasp the concept of subtext using this technology; and very quickly were using it to explore the different viewpoints of the characters towards the same events.

Over a series of weeks, Kar2ouche was used throughout the lesson, sometimes largely to illustrate a point, at other times to provide the main focal activity of the lesson. The students worked collaboratively towards producing animated storyboards, in some cases recording their own sound effects, or renditions of particular lines. Students also produced still images to identify and illustrate key moments of scenes, as well as pages of comic books complete with text in modern English.

Classroom Organisation
The students tended to work in pairs with one computer between two students. I had access to an interactive whiteboard, which I used to demonstrate particular points. The whiteboard was also used at times to show students' work to the whole class, although at other times the class moved around the computer room to view each other's work. Students would explain their compositions to the rest of the group and in that way it was possible to check that each participant had been engaged with the task. Similarly, because the program works very intuitively, it was possible for students to work independently, allowing me to monitor the work of particular students to ensure that everyone was on task. When the students were using the sound facilities of the program, it was necessary to use headphones so that distraction between groups was minimised. Although pairs of students were sharing headphones, this did not seem to present a problem. However, if students were showing their work to the class, speakers were needed. Students who chose to record sound effects and speeches tended to do so in their own time to get recordings with no superfluous classroom noise. Students who wished to explore the more advanced features of the program, also tended to work with me in their own time. In this way it was possible to use digital cameras to increase the choice of backdrops.

Use of ICT to Achieve Objectives
Once students had quickly grasped how to navigate the software, it was possible to really focus on exploring how the text might be interpreted visually. Students were encouraged to experiment with different backgrounds for the same scene and were asked to consider the impact their choices had on meaning. Similarly, students were asked to consider how varying the distance between characters, or changing their poses, expressed aspects of the relationships between characters. Sometimes this learning was made explicit through the use of text boxes, speech bubbles and thought clouds. A slightly more sophisticated level of symbolism was explored using some of the advanced features of the program. For example, some students chose to use degrees of transparency to reflect Lady Macbeth's waning confidence and Macbeth's disintegrating sanity. In these cases, it was noticeable that students had moved away from aiming simply to create series of naturalistic still images, towards finding a visual language to convey psychological states. Close teacher questioning tended to be used to facilitate this process and to develop the learning taking place. It was clear at these times, that the students had moved away from regarding the quality of the presentation as superior to the importance of the content, because the frames were often quite cluttered as if to reflect the sheer number of ideas that the students had come up with.

At one stage, the students were asked to consider an old Key Stage 3 SATs question, adapted for the scenes being studied. Students imagined themselves to be directors of the scenes and produced a set of frames showing how they would light the stage and position the actors. They described and explained their compositions to the class before writing their ideas up more formally. It was generally felt that the process of trying out their ideas onscreen had helped them to clearly visualise their own particular interpretations and to appreciate how the use of props, sets and lighting influenced meaning. These written outcomes supplemented the presentations and storyboards and perhaps demonstrated most clearly to the students that our work with this program had direct relevance to the skills that would be assessed in their end of Key Stage tests.

Using this Product
The program seemed to require very little ICT related knowledge, other than knowing how to operate a mouse. The students quickly learnt how to click on the various tabs to access particular options and had no problems in saving and printing their work.

Some students who had chosen to source their own background imagery, needed to be shown how to load images from a digital camera into the program, but the process certainly did not prove to be overly difficult for them. I felt that one of the great strengths of this software was its ease of use: lessons were focused clearly on interpreting Macbeth, rather than in training the students in various ICT skills.

Monitoring & Assessment
Monitoring tended to be through teacher intervention and questioning. From this, it was clear how far the students' understanding of the play, and of their more general appreciation of how images, sounds and text combine to create meaning was developing. Assessing reading through speaking was possible during the presentations that students made of their work and their final printed comic books and filmstrips, accompanied with written explanations and evaluations, made it possible to evaluate their reading and their written skills. Although my focus was not really on developing ICT skills, I did feel that working with the software had furthered the students' understanding of how sequences of images work on their audiences and that this understanding would assist them later in their school careers, should they undertake digital editing as part of a media studies course.

Special Needs
As I have written in my evaluation, I did not use the software with any Special Educational Needs students, but I felt that the program would work effectively with such students (see my evaluation for further comment on this).