Snapshotting understanding

A couple of weeks ago I was challenged to provide inset for one of my regular schools to help them get more use out of their iPads.  To be honest I didn’t get around to really thinking about it until the day before, and then it was a bit late to get apps sorted so I reflected back on how I thought I should be using iPads more.

Recently as a company we’ve been recommending Prowise interactive screens, as much for the software as the hardware.   There’s one excellent feature of the software that seems a real game-changer to me and as it’s web-based, device agnostic and also FREE.  It got me thinking on how I could use it more.

Prowise Presenter is fairly simple to use and quite feature-rich compared to many interactive whiteboard programs I have tried in the past BUT the clincher for me is ProConnect.  This feature links your whiteboard to a large number of internet connected devices (iPad, smart phone, android tablet, chrome book, laptop, PC) via a simple code.  Once the devices have joined you as teacher there is so much you can do.  There is a free Proconnect app for iOS, Andoid and I believe Windows too.

You can ask a quick question, vote, use and create quizzes.  You can also share your screen out to their devices and they can annotate or create content on the screen you have shared and then hand it back again for you to share on your board.  For instant class engagement it is really efficient and easy to do.

That then got me thinking about other cheap or FREE options for class engagement using iPads:

Plickers is possibly the least high-tech (and so least technically demanding for schools).  Each pupil is provided with a unique laminated QR code which they can hold up one of four ways.  This enables pupils to show one of four choices (A, B, C or D).  The teacher uses an iPad (or other smart tablet/phone) with the Plickers app to very quickly sweep the room and it records each person’s response.  Quick and easy.  Ask a multi-choice question and capture instant responses.  Plickers is currently free to use.

Socrative is an app I looked at years ago and then forgot about or ignored.  I think it has developed a lot since then, and I will be using it a lot more.  Pupils need internet connected devices BUT again these can be anything (phone, iPad, chrome book, pc…).  The teacher logs into their Socrative ‘room’ and the pupils use a unique code to join.  The teacher can ask questions, set quizzes, take votes etc all with ease and instant capture to spreadsheet or PDF file.  Socrative is free, though they now have a pro level you can purchase for a small annual fee.

Kahoot! is a fairly new app to me.  It’s a teacher-lead game show where pupils race each other against the clock to answer questions.  The quicker you answer the higher your score.  There is a large bank of ready-made Kahoots to use, or you can make your own online.  Again, at present, this is free to use.

There are lots of alternatives to the ones mentioned here, but these are the ones I ended up sharing with the staff at this particular school, and I will be using these more in the future!

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Micro:Bits in the Primary Classroom

I attended an excellent hands-on workshop with the BBC Micro:Bit at an RM Seminar at the back end of 2016.  I forget who it was that lead that session, (though it might have been Stuart Ball).

In the session we were told, anecdotally, that the Micro:Bits had originally been intended for Year 6 pupils and although I had dismissed them it became immediately apparent that they are eminently usable by all Key Stage 2 pupils using the blocks editor which is very like Scratch!

I had spent many years wandering in the wilderness (well around Bett) looking for that perfect storm of a computer-controllable device which didn’t break the bank and was suitable for Primary Schools – it suddenly looked as if I had found it!

At only £15 including VAT for a starter kit from Kitronik they really seem a no-brainer!  Combine that with the Inventors kit for less than £25 or the Line Following Buggy for less than only £27 they are truly flexible, adaptable and cheap!

I must mention here that I am not on commission (I wish I was) and that I don’t work for Kitronik but they have been really helpful and supportive and I enjoyed meeting them at Bett 2017.

Since investing in a class set of these I have really enjoyed introducing them to pupils from year 3-6 (aged 7-11) starting with the virtual experience programming the online emulator (free to do at http://microbit.org/code/) before watching their faces light up as they successfully transfer a program to the actual physical thing and it lights-up before their eyes!

We started simple, basic scrolling text controlled by a variety of inputs.  We moved on to the basic Dice program before exploring other dice options.  We then created our own compass and even moved into controlling an eco-house created from an old dolls house and using the Inventors Kit.

Light-Controlled_Lamp_MicroBit

Whether your computing platform is PC, Chromebook or iPad based (yes they work via bluetooth too) if you are looking for something to control on a budget then I would HIGHLY recommend the Micro:Bit!

The promise of Learning Platforms

My first introduction to a learning platform came way back in 2004/5 as far as I can remember. At that time I was a primary classroom teacher and we (all of the schools in the County) were presented with a Learning Platform and told that this was the future and we were expected to use it…

We were told it offered unparallelled opportunities for personalisation of learning, collaboration and anytime learning extending the learning well beyond the school day. We were presented with an empty box and some instructions…

Looking back

In hindsight (and isn’t that a great thing to have) I think they were ahead of their time, ahead of the technology and ahead of the connectivity. Looking back from here (more than ten years later) I wish I was being given that Learning Platform now…

In 2004 not all homes had a computer and certainly many didn’t have the internet. Now everyone has an online connected device, and in most cases children have their own. What could I do now with truly personalised learning and collaboration?

So the Learning Platform’s time has come but most have gone…

That could be blamed on the change of government and the sudden disappearance of the money for and obligation on schools to have a learning platform. It might have been the right decision for the majority then but some schools could see the Learning Platform benefit and stuck with it.

How could learning platforms work now?

At a time when children seem to be voraciously absorbing YouTube videos on anything and everything and play apps and are often left to entertain themselves it seems a shame that this ‘informal’ learning can’t be steered by something a little more formal.

Imagine a modern “Learning Platform where teachers ask children to blog about the things they find out about online? Why can’t teachers take the children’s interests and extrapolate these to help children to learn AROUND things that interest them? My girls (10 and 12) are interested in lots of things on YouTube, mainly around Minecraft currently but I know they have ‘learnt’ about hair care, hair styles, makeup and beauty tips and far more. Why can’t these ‘interests’ be harnessed to get them to reflect on their informal learning and to guide them towards learning other things through their own interests.

Today

We live in such a connected and accessible world why are most schools ignoring this and pressing on with teaching grammar!

Sometimes I wish I was back permanently at the ‘chalkface’, responsible and able to make decisions for my group of children. Would I be brave enough to grasp the nettle and truly personalise their learning?

Board games and Computational Thinking

Watching our children play board games collaboratively this afternoon I am struck by several things:

  • working with a partner collaberatively requires a high level of communication.  The children need to be able to have a vision of the algorithm they need to achieve their objective in the game and then they need to be able to effectively communicate this to their partner or team to persuade them that their solution and idea is the best one.
  • listening is difficult…
  • learning that other people might have a better idea than yours is something that everyone needs to be able to do!

Even playing simple board games in teams allows such levels of communication and persuasion that there seems to be greate value.

Linking back to computational thinking:

  • identifying patterns is a key to developing your strategy
  • creating an algorithm to achieve the progression you need in the game is key to winning the game
  • the aim of the game needs to be distilled through abstraction to get to win
  • to be successful you need to have an eye on the whole picture to develop a winning strategy BUT you will also need to decomose the whole aim into smaller achieveable parts to work towards a winning position…

Taking time…

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to take time.   Teaching is a time-pressured occupation where every second counts.  Particularly when it comes to Computing, or even embedding technology in every-day teaching and learning across the curriculum.  Too many schools and teachers rush into decisions and jump on to technologies without really understanding WHY they do or do not need them.

In bygone days there were Local Authority Advisors (I was one) who could take the time to step back from the technology and pressure, were not under any obligation to sell schools anything and who could take the time to summarise the pros and cons of the various technologies.  If schools were very lucky these advisors would also know the schools, staff and pupils well enough to make personalised recommendations based on their experience of the individual setting.  On the whole this has disappeared from most of the English education system.

The loss is felt beyond just the schools.  Companies used to know that if they had a product they belived in they could send it to the local authority who would review it impartially and who would then recommend it to schools which it fitted.  This gave a route to market for the companies, and also a buffer to the schools.

There are some independent advisors who can still be employed by schools to give them impartial advice.  Some who work with specific schools on a regular basis and know the schools and what will and what won’t work for that specific school.  Schools also rely more on their own social networks, recommendations from other schools, colleagues, Twitter…

Despite this we still regularly experience schools who have bought often very expensive technology without really knowing WHY they needed it and WHAT it would do to enhance their teaching and learning.

This isn’t a local phenomenon, there are well publicised high-profile cases where whole school districts in the US have done exactly this and then been lambasted for it in the media.  Surely this is putting the horse before the cart?

Every schools NEEDS to have a regularly updated technology plan (for want of a better term).  This plan needs to consider HOW the school sees its teaching and learning developing over the coming few years.  They need to understand how their use of technology should  develop over the next 3-5 years.  This plan WILL be out of date after 12 months and will need revising every year.  The plan needs to START with the educational outcomes that the school desires and NOT with the latest, best kit or what the neighbouring school has just purchased.  With the clear vision schools will understand what they want to achieve to then find the best way of achieving it.

If a school can explain their vision for HOW the piece of technology they want to purchase will enhance teaching and learning, explain how they are going to train staff and impliment it and how they expect the technologies use to develop over the next 3 years then there is a fair chance that technology will be used.

Unfortunately schools don’t often take the time to do this.  They jump on some technology because someone else has it or someone recommended it.  They buy it, it’s put in cupboards, no training is given, it gathers dust…  because no-one takes the time to ask what do I want to achieve BEFORE asking how can I achieve it…

Technology is not the goal but a means to an end…

The Future of ICT in the UK National Curriculum – June 2012

Everyone with an interest in the future of ICT in UK schools has been waiting with bated breath to find out what will happen to ICT in the school Curriculum.

On 11th June Michael Gove sent a letter to the Curriculum Review panel (the full letter can be read on the DFE Website ) in which he explained his plan to continue the disapplication of the ICT SOW and related attainment targets, but he again stresses that ICT remains a COMPULSORY part of the curriculum. He also hinted at what is to come for ICT in the future including this paragraph;

…while it will be for schools to shape their own curricula, we will maintain a requirement for the teaching of art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music and physical education across all the primary years. Programmes of Study in these subjects will, however, be much shorter to allow for the maximum level of innovation at school level in the development of content in these areas.

where he again stressed the future of ICT, certainly in the Primary years. This letter prompted the following response from Naace (The ICT Association).

It is an exciting time for ICT in schools at the moment and Naace, the ICT Association, whose mission is to advance education through the use of technology, welcomes the announcement by the Secretary of State this morning that ICT is set to remain part of the National Curriculum for 2014 and the future. The value of ICT in our children’s education and as an integral part of their lives, society and industry has been recognised by maintaining its role as a compulsory part of the National Curriculum in all key stages. ICT remains a compulsory part of the curriculum until then, although, as expected, the current programmes of study and attainment targets are disapplied from September.

Miles Berry, Naace Board of Management Chair, said, “It’s not surprising that the Secretary of State has decided to proceed with his plans to ‘disapply’ the ICT programmes of study and attainment targets. We know many Naace members are eager to respond to the opportunities this provides to develop an up to date, creative and challenging curriculum tailored to the needs, interests and aspirations of their pupils. It’s interesting that today’s announcement comes alongside Gove’s rejection of the National Curriculum Expert Panel’s recommendation that ICT be relegated to the ‘basic curriculum’ in 2014, perhaps recognising that in the third millennium the right to a broad technological education isn’t something which can be just left for individual schools to determine. The plans for a statutory ICT programme of study in 2014 which will “be much shorter to allow for the maximum level of innovation at school level in the development of content”, seems a good balance between an entitlement for everyone and the space to innovate for all that can.”

Schools will now be looking to build on successful aspects of their current practice. As provision is reviewed and areas to develop are identified, Naace and its members and sponsors continue to support schools and teachers in the process with our ICT Curriculum Framework, which provides an outline of those areas of knowledge, skills and understanding which will enable a broad and balanced learning experience. It includes those aspects of computing and programming that many now see as vital.

In December 2011 the Department published The Framework for the National Curriculum, a report by the Expert Panel which advised the National Curriculum review. Since then Ministers have been considering the panel’s recommendations, informed by consultation with stakeholders. The Secretary of State has now written to Tim Oates, the Chair of the panel, with his response to the panel’s recommendations for the primary curriculum.

New draft Programmes of Study for primary English, mathematics and science have also been published today. These drafts are a starting point for discussion with key stakeholders at this stage, but there will be a full public consultation on revised drafts which will start towards the end of this year.

Copies of both the letter and the draft Programmes of Study can be found at: Education.gov

The Secretary of State will make a further announcement on the future of the National Curriculum as it applies to secondary schools in due course.
The Government has also decided to proceed with the proposal to disapply the current Programmes of Study for ICT from September 2012, having carefully considered the responses to the recent public consultation. The consultation report is available on the Departments website . As part of this decision, Ministers have confirmed that ICT will continue to be a compulsory subject at all four key stages in the new National Curriculum

The Blogging Revolution Comes to Oxfordshire?

Following the really well received Blogging Keynote from David Mitchell at LWT2012 we felt it would be useful to share some of the information and links. What makes anything like Blogging or Podcasting really come alive is to give it a REAL audience and purpose. Blogging by publishing into a vacuum (ie onto a site with very few viewers) soon dies and is very unsatisfactory for all. To get around that, the biggest issue, David Mitchell founded a site to partner up groups of schools into clusters of four schools so that they could take it in turns to blog about focussed issues of things of interest as a major focus for a week, then spend three weeks as the audience for the other schools. The language work invovled in being an audience is still massive, and again with a real purpose and also with the abilty to write back well thought out comments, questions etc. Almost like pen pals but on a different scale! Since LWT2012 we have already heard from many Primary schools who are setting up blogs for children as young as Year 2. Many Oxfordshire schools have since started to create their own clusters to support each other with audience and purpose, many within school partnership or geographic areas. If you are struggling to set up a cluster of your own or if you need more schools to join you then please feel free to email the Oxfordshire CC Curriculum ICT Team and we will see if we can help schools find each other!

For a more global picture though we would highly recommend Quad Blogging!   Below you will find links to some other sites where you will find more information.

David Mitchell’s Blog can be found at http://asksir.co.uk/ His school blog can be found at http://heathfieldcps.net/

 

QuadBlogging – The defibrillator of the blogging world!

 A defibrillator: To deliver electrical energy to the heart to stun the heart momentarily and thus allow a normal sinus rhythm to kick in via the heart’s normal electricity centre.

QuadBlogging: To deliver electrical energy of a global audience to the heart of a blog to allow a rhythm of excitement to kick via the blog’s widening global audience.

Imagine four schools that had a partnership/agreement that would mean that for a four week cycle, each school’s blog would be the focus for one week out of four. Each school in the Quad would spend some time visiting the blog of the school for that week, leave comments etc. After that week, another one of the four schools would be the focus and this would be repeated for the four week cycle and then repeated. It wouldn’t take the pupils long to work out that during their week, they would get a boost in visitor numbers and comments. This would give a real focus to have posts online ready for this bulge in visits. During the other three weeks, pupils get to visit and comment on other blogs in their quad. Pupils being pupils, they would also venture out of the quads and visit other blogs that are linked.

Text taken from the Quadblogging Website at http://quadblogging.net/ where you can also find out more about how you can QuadBlog too!

Welcoming Personally Owned Devices into the Classroom?

This has long been heralded as the only option ahead for schools.  Certainly Secondary School Pupils carry around smart phone devices with computing power and applications to rival those available in their own schools, yet still most schools ban these devices from the classroom and will happily take them away and lock them up rather than allowing them into the classroom as a welcome tool.

Can schools afford to keep doing this?

Certainly educators such as Stephen and Juliette Heppell think not.  They have been running a study into the use of both Facebook and mobile phones in the classroom and it makes for interesting reading http://www.cloudlearn.net/

Other educators are also starting to prompt schools into again considering this as an option including Terry Freedman who blogged about it only recently at http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2012/3/8/bring-your-own-technology.html

As long ago as 2009 the Guardian ran an article about leaders of teaching unions urging schools to “reap the benefits of modern technology” by overturning mobile phone bans in schools (read more about that at http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/oct/11/schools-mobile-phone-ban )

Schools cannot afford to ignore the ipod touch, the DSi even, let alone the smartphone and the netbook that children already own.  Schools need to plan for the future.  They need to invest in a robust wireless infrastructure and be ready to have policies and teaching practices in place to welcome personally owned devices into the classroom with open arms!

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