Friday, November 30, 2012

Digital Literacy Project: The End

Today I worked with other inspirational teachers - Sarah, Niki and Adam  - at the UEA to show PGCE students our digital literacy work. The work was inspired by Kate Pullinger's 'Inanimate Alice' and I have blogged about the start of the project here.  When I started to put together a prezi for my presentation, I felt very proud of the work that my children did. It was lovely to spend time revisiting this work that we did at the end of the last school year. The whole project had a good feel to it and a great balance of drama, enquiry and ICT. We really explored our creativity in a great local environment.

When I looked back at posts on this blog I realised that I hadn't shown all of the work. My children's finished work was collated in a map so that parents could see some of their fabulous films, stories and poems all in one place. Of course there are more examples of my children's puppet pal movies, photostories and art work on their class blog. We did a lot and even got a comment from Michael Rosen! It is work that I will definitely repeat in some way!

                                                               View Digital stories by Badger Class in a larger map

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How we are using ipads at Roydon

Yesterday my digital leaders led a staff meeting to show off some new (and some not so new) apps. They started the staff meeting by showing what can be achieved with some of the apps with the offer of 1:1 support sessions with teachers straight after their demonstrations. They were marvellous! Our HT is relatively new to the school and will admit to not being particularly techy. She considered it to be a brave act on both parts, to let our digital leaders take control and teach the teachers. Eloise live-blogged about it on their digital leader site during the meeting and the whole thing was a great success.

Why was it successful? Well there are a few of us at school that get enjoyment from playing with tech and trying out new things. I'm not saying it's a hobby, it's more of a desire to create awe and wonder in the classroom and to ,learn new things so that we can teach children to try new things. There are more teachers at school who don't want to take (more than necessary) work home with them. So whilst some of us have used most apps in the classroom, others are sticking to a familiar few. They wanted time to explore apps with experts on hand, hence the digital leader workshop. Here are the apps that my digital leaders showed:

  • Comic life - a great app for comic creation, newspaper reports, posters etc
  • Notability - useful multimedia app
  • Smart office - for making and sharing microsoft office documents
  • iMovie - create movies in minutes. See my DL's Train of Doom!
  • Monster Physics - a great little problem solving app
  • Twinkl phonics suite - a really useful app for targetting specific phonemes as well as letter formation
  • Pocket phonics - as above
  • Book creator - Great multimedia app for creating your own e-books
  • Puppet pals - Animate cartoon characters or yourself! Multiple uses for this simple app.
  • Blogger - my year 2/1s are blogging, so it's time our Headteacher did too! She had a personal tutor called Eloise to help! 
  • Drawing Torch - a wonderfully creative new app from the Night Zookeeper people

So how am I using the ipads? Here is a quick reflection of how I use them in my practice.

Guided work

I have four ipads in my classroom at all times. Quite often I have more than this and occasionally I have a whole class set. We use them to research and answer questions and I use them every day for guided and extension activities, as folllows.

Maths - I mostly use the primary games apps, maths sumo, pop maths and puzzle maths as brain breaks, rewards or to compliment work in class. Occasionally I will use an app as an extension activity. I have also used the ipads as whiteboards for children whose M+O work I want to monitor more carefully. They take screen shots and can email these to me, or blog them. I have recently asked one of my TaG children to create a screenchomp explanation of how to do partitioning. I will get her to create a bank of these maths tutorials.

Guided reading/writing - I have 2 groups of children who use the ipads regularly for phonics/handwriting work. I have assessed where they are and so then can find the right sounds quickly that they need to practise. We use twinkl pop suite, Mr Thorn does phonics and pocket phonics for this.
For a small group of children who need support with their writing, I use the Collins Big Cat apps. They can read the story first, then there are enough visual cues in the way of scenery, characters and objects to scaffold their writing. We do have some good reading books on the ipads, but not nearly enough, so this is an area that I would like to expand next. 

Whole class work

You can see how I have used ipads for whole class work by looking at our class blog. It shows examples of using book creator, puppet pals, art apps and writing with Collins Big Cat apps amongst other things. The ipads are often used for TaG children to publish their written work in a different way, or create impromptu animations.

I am using my ipads most lessons in class and it is my aim to get others to do the same. One way to encourage this is to have 20 minutes at the beginning of a staff meeting where all teachers share a way that they have used the ipads in class. Like a mini staffroom teachmeet!

Don't forget you can see all the apps we use at Roydon Primary on my ipad apps site.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Network failure ... DON'T PANIC!

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a twilight training session for SNITT students and was really looking forward to working with them. Although we have ipads at Roydon I was very aware that the students needed time to look at resources that many Norfolk schools have, like IWBs, textease, Espresso, visualisers,  beebots and free resources like photostory3 and movie-maker. I also thought it important to have a practical session, but point them in the direction of theory/paperwork. I wanted them to have a positive experience with ICT

Unfortunately, like one of my OfSTED observed lessons a few years ago, the network had a meltdown. Fortunately I didn't. I think that my defence mechanism of not feeling responsible for  out-of-my-control technical failures is one of my strengths. Still, it was a bit embarrassing and a bit disappointing - especially as I was wanting to give them a positive experience. 

Luckily, there is always a plan B. The beebots and probots just came out earlier than expected, easi-speak chatterboxes and microphones were modelled and played with and I recounted my digital literacy project. The ipads were used as an example of where schools can go next with their tech (and showed perfectly how versatile and practical these 'shiny things' are). I was very grateful that I had them and they filled a gap whilst the laptops were slowly logging on. 

So what have I learned from this? Well I will definitely check the network during the afternoon next time. I will also ask my digital leaders to be on hand, to accompany the students to other rooms to support them individually to use the IWBs and visualisers in case my room crashes again. 

I was very grateful for the loveliness of the students - and that their mentor Jayne said 'Beebots' when I was having a 'blank moment' of disbelief about the network fail! Maybe this experience has shown the reality of ICT in school? It will definitely be better next time!

Monday, November 26, 2012

What does effective planning look like?

I have been meaning to write about planning for a while, as it is something that I have strong opinions about. I read a post recently by David Didau (@learningspy) that articulates my feelings very well and I urge you to read it. I will not repeat what he says, but will summarise my own views here. They are based on my experiences from my own practice and from different schools I have supported. My opinions are not necessarily shared by the people I work with.

So what does effective planning look like?

Different for different teachers is my answer. So why do we all try to use the same forms? After 11 years of teaching in mainstream, I have finally created a maths plan that works well for me. I plan sparsely. Completing weekly maths plans to hand in the week before you teach is not efficient use of time.  Effective teaching happens when you reflect on prior learning and plan for progression. I know what I want to teach/cover for the week ahead , but may only have planned activities for Monday and Tuesday. I need to see how they go before I think about the rest of the week. This is how I approach a lot of my teaching. I can't plan too far ahead, it muddles me. I don't want to be thinking about next week, I want to be living the present time. That doesn't mean I don't have a long term plan, it means that my ideas beyond the week I am teaching are merely titles like 'collage work, non-fiction projects, multiplication'. It looks like this

I approach most of the rest of the curriculum through mantle of the expert or enquiry approach. This means that although I know where we are going in terms of the main objectives and outcomes (and some of the dramatic conventions we will use), I don't always know the learning route. Quite often the children will share ideas that inspire me to take a new direction - a better direction than I had come up with myself ! Instead of spending hours and hours writing plans that I will never read, let alone follow, I spend the time thinking about getting the best from my children, the resources I will need and reflecting on the lessons that have finished. This is what I enjoy doing, what motivates me and what I would rather spend my energy on. My plans are paper based, minamilist mind maps.

This works for me. My plans are for me, no-one else.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Edublog award nominations

Here are my nominations for the edublog awards this year:

  • Best individual blog - Anthony Evan's blog great ICT and ipad inspiration and reflection
  • Best group blog - the Digital Leader Network because it is collaborative
  • Best new blog - the literacy shed  a great store of films for learning
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - Simon Haughton's very helpful blog 
  • Best individual tweeter - @RossMannell because he looks at what is happening on class/individual blogs and leaves comments on them. Not just ordinary comments either, sometimes he leaves responses in the form of his own blog posts and these have supported and extended the work going on in my class. Marvellous!
  • Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast - Mark Anderson's blog a wealth of information
  • Best educational wiki -  ICT Magic's extremely helpful wiki does what it says on the tin!
  • Best mobile app - @nightzookeeper's Drawing Torch app is my favourite this month. Use your imagination and explore your creativity for free!
  • Lifetime achievement - I think that Julia Skinner deserves this because she has given so much to education and although I think she has a huge 'lifetime' left to go, her dedication (and the time she gives) to the 100wc, 5sc and getting children writing is admirable. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Digital leader kidsmeet at the Night Zookeeper offices

This morning two excited adults got on the Diss to London train at 7.19 with four excited digital leaders, to travel to the Night Zookeeper Kidsmeet. We were the first school to arrive, so Roydon DLs took the time to explore the offices and practise their presentations. When they realised that the prezi presentaion that Emily had created hadn't been saved to the net, they didn't panic, but problem solved ways around it. They very much enjoyed being interviewed about being a digital leader, then minecraft and tried out a few comfy chairs!

Throughout the day they blogged about what they were doing, on their own digital leader blog and the kidsmeet blog.

Digital leader presentations

The first presentation was Scratch, which was presented very well by Lauriston Primary School, who showed us how they have made games in their lunch time. Galliard digital leaders arrived at the offices just in time to present 'A minute of listening'.

Next up, confidently talking about blogging, 100wc, Skype and Night Zookeeper was Springwell Junior school.

The last presentation of the session was by Oakdale digital leaders, showing how gaming can help their learning. A very persuasive presentation.

We watched some presentations from some of the people who share the Wayra space about pollarize, makelight, mychoicepad and pixelpin.

I was very proud of Roydon digital leaders presenting about Sketchnation without the safety net of their prezi. Other presentations included Mersea Island's fantastic animating - led by the unforgettable Jack! - Morfo booth (which my digital leaders love) shown by Elm Park Primary and some great free online tools from Brunswick house.

There was no rest for our busy digital leaders at lunch time, but time for a bit of livewriting organised by Michelle.

The workshops

These can all be read about on the kidsmeet blog, but our digital leaders joined some great workshops.
Oliver Quinlan led a progressive RaspberryPi workshop and Jo Neale got them creating vegetable animals. They were able to play with the Drawing Torch and Mychoicepad apps, create an ocean without the colour blue, join in with a Makey Makey, play pingpong, learn with Nintendo DS, blog, interview others, lounge about on cushions and chairs and play with photobooth in a phone booth! Marvellous!

At the end of the day our digital leaders were given a choice about where they went. Mine all chose the vegetable making, which didn't really surprise me. In a technological world we must always remember that there is nothing quite the same as creating things with real objects.

Many of the digital leaders were flagging at the end of the day, but Roydon DLs seemed to get a second wind. They voted on a MaccyD tea, where Emily proved that small children can eat adult-sized meals, then a trip to Claire's accessories to browse shiny things. 

On the train on the way home they carried on with their creativity by creating a great little imovie called the Train of Doom! What a wonderful day!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

London Festival of Education

I am going to attempt to live blog from my iphone at the festival. I will be spending a great deal of my day in the DigitalMe makeroom having lots of fireside chats!

I was kindly invited down by Tim Riches (@triches) from DigitalMe to talk about student digital leaders and explore the way that badges can be used to recognise their skills. With Tony Parkin and Doug Belshaw joining discussions this was too good an opportunity to miss!

The DigitalMe make room had a lovely fire burning in the fireside chat area and other areas for hands on learning, video diaries and musical interludes.

The first chat of the day was with Doug, talking about Mozilla Open Badges. It was an informative session and Doug did a great job of explaining the difference between digital badges and open badges. The part that I am most excited about is how you can create your own badges using which I will be trying later in the week. After the fireside chat people were invited to the 'make' area to use thimble to create their own web pages - and earn a badge.
I have my mozilla backpack and the two badges that you can earn from the Mozilla site, which I did at the Naace 3m hothouse. I earned my third badge with this thimble rant. It would appear that many badges are out there for the taking already, like kodu badges.  I am looking forward to exploring the ways in which we can make this work for our digital leaders and primary aged children.


After a couple of breathtaking musical interludes and a fireside chat about musical futures (which I will blog about later), it was time for a SAFE chat with Kate. This has come at a great time as we need to rethink our esafety at Roydon now that our children are blogging more freely and bringing their own devices to school. Some great ideas and resources were shown, which can be found here. Kate did a great job of reminding us about copyright as well as issues with blogging, Facebook and other social media. We talked about badges and how digital leaders can develop their own safe skills, then peer mentor others, earning badges as they do so.

Digital leader fireside chat

Our chat clashed with Hattie on the main stage, which was both a good and bad thing. Although it was disappointing not to see him it did leave us relatively audience-free, giving us time to discuss digital leaders and badges. During a previous session, Amir from Hamble College (possibly the first school in the UK to employ digital leaders, initiated by Kristian Still) had introduced himself. I had asked him if he could come back and join the discussions; it was great that he did. Carrie Philbin - a fellow #gtauk attendee - joined us and showed us the badges that she has created for her school. Carrie hosts  Geek Gurl Diaries which aims to inspire girls to get geeky in a male dominated workforce. With Tim Riches, Tony Parkin and others from the DigitalMe team it felt like there was a good mix of experience and enthusiasm in the group. One thing was clear, we are all hardworking and have a passion for student voice. I am very hopeful that the discussions will lead me to blogging in more detail about a future badges project.

The discussion about badges led to Cliff Manning telling us all about and showing us the badges he has made for his students. Cliff gave us a quick demo to show how it can work within a school. I have signed up and will be having a play as soon as I get confirmation.

When I left the DigitalMe room I went looking for twitter friends, but bumped into Michael Rosen! I have to say that he wasn't anywhere near as excited at meeting me as I was him ;-) I very much enjoyed seeing him on the main stage (and told him so later) with Anthony Horowitz, who was funny and inspirational. Michael was passionate and political as always.

For much less 'chatty' posts see, Oliver Quinlan, Tom Bennett and Doug Belshaw's work. For a broader view of the festival, check out Dawn Hallybone's post with links to lots of other worthwhile reading.

Friday, November 16, 2012

RiskIT for a biscuit?!

At the end of October we participated in Naace's two week RiskIT campaign at school, which encourages staff to try something new in ICT. The Key RiskIT Elements are:

  • Working in judgment-free environment
  • Trying new things
  • Experimenting
  • Taking the fear out of technology
  • Making teachers young again
  • Mind over matter
  • Taking control of the technology
  • Learning new things
  • Learning from students
  • Not afraid of failure, but learn from it

So how did we RiskIT? By doing lots of things that may not have been new to all teachers, but were a big leap for some. I put up a timetable in the staffroom to encourage teachers to sign up and 'RiskIt for a biscuit!' 

So here are some of the things that teachers did at Roydon Primary:

  • Use crazytalk to start an enquiry/drama lessonss
  • Give the digital leaders the opportunity to create their own blog
  • Year 2/1s used crazytalk on the ipad to create a news report about the great fire of London
  • Other year 2/1s used book creator to create fact sheets about the great fire
  • Create symmetrical pictures using textease paint
  • A skype session with a viking
  • Using Mr Thorne does phonics apps in class on the ipads with reception aged children

 I think they earned a biscuit or two! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hosting #ukedchat

I was a little anxious about hosting #ukedchat, but it went really well! You can read the summary and see some of the more memorable tweets here. I didn't keep up and missed loads of pertinent tweets, but was inspired when I read through the archives afterwards. Yes lots of the ideas have been discussed before, but there were also some creative suggestions - ones that we all need reminding of. Thanks to all who joined in! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The problem of fixed/borrowed ICT schemes

This post was inspired by a brief twitter conversation with @alexgingell about ICT schemes of work. We've probably all looked around for inspiration and ideas from others, but if you want a scheme that works, you really have to write your own. Why? You can't make someone else's mould fit right. How do I know? I've tried. It is an impossible task. I was inspired by the comprehensive schemes from Wokingham a few years ago and tried to adapt them for our school. I sat with colleagues in each year group and we looked at what they teach, which resources could be used and how skills can be embedded. It took over an hour with each year group until we finally came up with something we were all happy with. I felt happy that staff had ownership of their plans.

The trouble is, things change. New technology appears, skills change (children and staff) and teachers move jobs. Then you end up with schemes that you spent too much time on, that don't fit. Who likes to follow someone else's plans anyway?

So our present solution is a very simple one. Each teacher needs to be mindful of the skills that should be taught to the children in their year group. They should then seek opportunities to embed them in other curriculum areas*. We have a very basic overview that shows what is taught in each year group and resources that are available. How teachers embed skills is up to them. Energy is spent on finding new opportunities to use ICT and supporting teachers rather than creating detailed overviews. I admit that at the moment more formal monitoring methods are needed, but we are a relatively small school and we talk to one another. I know what is being taught around the school. In the near future we will have a staff meeting using the Naace framework to monitor our progression in ICT more carefully. At the moment though we are concentrating on maintaining our good standards, whilst learning how to get the best from our ipads.

What @alexgingell pointed out was that maybe the children should be involved too. Of course they should! Digital leaders immediately came into my mind, but maybe it is a job for the school council? Maybe google docs should be used so that more people can adapt them? Whatever happens, I am always grateful for the food for thought that fellow tweeters provide. Two heads are always better than one!

If you are starting from scratch, I would recommend looking at the Naace frameworkSimon Haughton's blog and Chris Leach's rethinking ICT wiki. These guys work tirelessly to inspire others.

*It often happens the other way round - the skills are taught as and when they are being applied to a curriculum area. Then more opportunities are sought to rehearse the skills.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Technology - a different language in the classroom?

This post will provide a little background for  #ukedchat tonight, which I have been asked to host. I have a few anxieties about this because I am a reflective person who needs a lot of thinking time. I can also be reactionary - and this can get me into trouble. I would rather think before I speak, but obviously there is no time for that during online debates. 

So, the five themes I chose for #ukedchat were

I was hoping that the topic for debate would be drama based, but kinda knew that this one would get the most votes:

 How can we support teachers who struggle to engage with new technologies?

As an ICT consultant (one day each week) and ex-AST I have experience of supporting other teachers, leaders and schools with ICT developments. I am honest about my abilities and my weaknesses. I will happily support creative developments and the embedding of ICT; I do not do excel. 
I have met many people with different abilities and yes, have sometimes found it frustrating trying to teach things that I consider to be simple. Things that I naturally do (scrolling down the page, clicking the next button etc) do not always come naturally to others. Some people need a lot of time to play and learn - and some people have better things to do. It's like taking on a new language. It takes lots of practise and sometimes when you go back to something you've done before, you forget how to do it. So how can we support teachers who struggle with new tech?

To understand how the 'struggle' feels, I try to think of how I would feel if I had to embed another language across the curriculum. A language that kept changing. I also understand how frustrating it can be when the technology goes wrong. It did for me during an OfSTED lesson. It was all fine in the end (thank goodness) as we were used to technical failures in class and I always had a plan B. We were familiar with and happy to persevere with a system that wasn't working well. Not everyone has that stamina.

I hear the argument that there are plenty of us who take the time and work hard to learn new things and keep up to date with technology. What about the people who keep up to date with new music? I was in awe of my teacher at primary because he was Spanish, his name was Mr Casanova and he played the guitar and sang flamboyantly. In high school I did 'computer studies' and I made a program that helped decorators (!) It is not an overwhelming memory, not like the drama we did or the learning outside the classroom. I suspect that when our children leave school they will remember things like that - not who was good with the technology. 

So hopefully #ukedchat will be a great place to generate some ideas and useful support mechanisms for teachers who struggle with technology.