30 May

Hakitzu – stretch your pupils with JavaScript

Looking for inventive ways of stretching your pupils to develop their coding skills?

Hakitzu is a great game from Kuato Studios  which puts you in control of robots during combat.  The studio have been running a brilliant 100 Hours of Code programme  – visiting schools and using their game to show pupils and teachers how fun coding can be. And it is fun!!

The game introduces JavaScript , which may be more advanced than Primary children would normally go, so teachers can develop their own confidence at the same time. In the classroom the pupils enjoy the developing sense of competition and can get involved really quickly as it follows different levels of difficulty. You begin with a tutorial which allows movement easily with little coding – as the difficulty ramps up you need to use more code.

As with any app in the classroom there are some practical constraints (though this may change as the app updates)

  • an email and username is needed for the competitive element of the game – if the children have one they wish to use then great – or you can provide with names and made-up email (do try this first though in case that changes!)
  • The tutorial and initial sections of the app are easily accessible – and you could easily let them play with this first and then bring them back to see what they are finding difficult
  • to play the competitive elements the wifi in the class needs to be good…

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Get it on ios here

On Android here

A great dropbox for Hakitzu resources here – lots of ideas here!

Read more from their blog here

29 May

Choosing and Using Skills.. a progression in school?

select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of
digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that
accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data
and information

This is from the Key Stage 2 computing curriculum – I think it’s worth considering how we well we do this.

Some key questions to ask…

  • What variety of software do we offer?
  • How often are the pupils allowed to choose?
  • What devices do they have available?
  • Do they then present their data and get the chance to reflect on the work?
  • How often do you, as class teacher, model using new tools?

These questions draw us to other considerations… our learning environment, for example. Are we able to offer the pupils the chance to choose what tool they want to? What availability of classroom computers and mobile devices do they have?

Of course if we don’t have that much access in the classroom then making use of the ICT suite time is crucial – how often do we tell the pupils which programme to use, and how to present their findings? Ideally by the latter end of KS2 we should be able to give them the task, audience and then prepare to be wowed by their creativity as they tailor their findings. There is lots of free software out there that can be used for these purposes (See 5 Free Ed tech tools here) – and giving staff time to play with these, and any others you have, should be a big part of CPD.

However, I am wondering if we need some sort of progression document for the tools that we do have in schools – much like a calculation methods document. Should we be stipulating at what age they are moved on from 2Simple and on to Haiku Deck? Or when they should stop using iMovie and take a look at Movie Maker? I would be interested to know if any schools do this sort of thing? I’m envisaging a grid type document… age group down one side, and skills across the top! (Maybe i’ll have a go myself!!)

Incidentally – I’ve been looking for blogs which showcase free tech tools for teachers – so if you know one please comment with it! (Or tweet)

Thanks!

 

27 May

Are we teaching the skills for ‘screen reading’?

Does reading on a screen require different skills to reading on paper?

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I have been thinking about this as part of our rethink of the curriculum, mainly because of recent news articles which suggested that iPads and other tech in the classroom might interfere with the concentration span of pupils (no conclusive evidence) – and a chat I heard on Radio 4 concerning how memory could be improved by the physical nature of handwriting your notes.

This led me to wonder if the skills we use when reading from a screen are different to reading from a book.

Of course, a discussion around Digital Literacy is not new – and teaching children to sift through information, search safely, reflect on what they read and identify what is useful is something that should be built into both e-safety lessons and research/literacy lessons.

But are we missing something by not teaching children that reading on a screen takes different skills?

Readathon.org – the site for the annual ‘Readathon’ cites their own research:

With reading via the internet (72%) now more likely to be listed than newspapers (70%), teachers recognise the positive attributes of digital media. Almost two thirds of respondents approved of digital reading devices and 72% are expecting digital books to become more important in the future.

Other companies now also offer an ‘online’ element to their reading schemes and resources – 2Simple’s Purple Mash now offers a ‘Serial Mash’  which aims to deliver books in chapter size chunks to get children reading.  The advantages of these types of online reading materials seem obvious; easy to access; easy to share; possible cheaper; and children seem to enjoy accessing them.

Questions remain however about their usefulness as teaching tools, and the way in which children use them…

Bartleby's Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

What skills do I think we need to teach children to be able to read from a screen successfully? 

The art of sitting comfortably at a desk..sounds obvious right? But actually, we spend lots of time getting children to sit ‘properly’ – encourage them to be comfortable reading in book corners – at a computer desk? Not so straightforward.. Can they sit comfortably? Have you checked the screen distance?

Avoiding distraction... tricky this one. On tablets and laptops it is probably easy to ensure that they turn off any wifi connection (put it in do not disturb mode etc.) – but have we discussed with our pupils why you might want to do this?

Bookmarking – apps and schemes and online books all have quirky ways of saving where you are up to or ‘bookmarking’ a place.  Needed of course because they may not have traditional ‘pages’ which could be discouraging for children just beginning to read and to count progress in pages.

Saving for offline reading… Have you ever modelled to the class how you might save an article you find to read later? Or used a service such as Evernote to save and then share what you want to read? Important skills for those who regularly access information online. Even following hyperlinks can break concentration – are we modelling a ‘read then click’ habit?

Recognise symptoms of eye strain… interestingly time will tell if this will be a huge problem for us all, or if our eyes can adapt – but there is no doubt that we need to have a discussion about what eye strain feels like and how we can minimize it.. Is the screen too bright? Are you blinking enough? Is the room well lit? There are some great tips here for minimising eye strain. 

Making use of the technology.. can they enlarge text when they need to? Are they able to use functions such as ‘high contrast’ to support them if they need it? Have they used built in dictionaries to support their reading? Again, as we model using a thesaurus in writing, should we also model how to zoom in on text?

 

I would love to know if this has been discussed at your school… Have you modelled new skills to support children reading on a screen?

Further reading:

Bryan Goodwin – Research Says/ The Reading Skills Digital Brains Need 

How does electronic reading affect comprehension?

24 May

New Curriculum Update – Six tips!

This post follows on from this which charted the beginning if our new curriculum journey.

Since then we have spent several staff meetings reviewing and working on our curriculum map. Here I thought I’d share six points that have worked!

Remember – keep what makes your curriculum special! What are your drivers?

  • Create a working party!

It will be far easier to get all involved!


  • Link the literacy curriculum to books (and damn the genre recommendations!)

The literacy curriculum can look a little ‘bare’ – and there is plenty of grammar and punctuation to get in there. Spend some time assigning books to year groups and topics – something that will give a focus for the staff.

  • Give staff time to be creative!

Giving staff an overview of expectations for the new curriculun means that you can then sit down and decide how the map will look – e.g. An extended study in history could be a look at War or the Ancient Civilisation you study in depth could have some connections to an already established partnership country. Give them this and then let them discuss creative topics!

  • Share resources – little and often

There are lots of resources and ideas out there – share these:

The Historical Association are currently building unit plans and resources
The BBC are conntinuing to create and share great resources for history
The Geographical Association – lots of ideas and resources (membership)
Human Evolution (BBC)
Information from Geogspace about Geographical Enquiry
Computing and coding
  • Make expectations explicit for core subjects!
Many of the changes will require some thinking about the aims for the end of the year – maths / english especially. Share these and start the conversation over how we can fit all this in. For example will you have a ‘World Week’ with quizzes and competitions to share (and assess) geographical knowledge? Do staff know enough about the history they will be teaching? What challenges might there be with the new expectations for maths?
  • Start the conversation about assessment….

There is an excellent post here by Heather Leatt which sets out what we know. Talk to cluster schools and begin to think about the language the school will use for assessment. We can’t use NC levels, so what should we do? We’re working on end of year descriptions for foundation subjects, and looking into how we can pass that information up so it’s not lost in transition!

 

 

Other information and links you may find useful:
Headteacher Update Article
Michael Tidd is single handedly introducing the new curriculum here...

 

19 May

Looking into the future… 3 trends for edtech!

3 things to watch for Education Technology….

In an ever-changing technological world schools can often seem to be behind the curve, however pockets of innovation mean we can begin to see what the future of a connected classroom may look like… Here’s what i think we will see lots more of in the future!

 

Augmented Reality!

Augmented reality has been around for some time, though it’s only recently becoming educational news. It’s not all about Google Glass though. Plenty of apps make use of codes and pictures to bring models to life, or to overlay information on to ‘real life’. One of my favourites for art and writing is Colar Mix, I also really enjoyed using NASA’s Spacecraft 3D which can bring real models of the various crafts and rovers onto the school desk. Google’s Night Sky is another way augmented reality can be used in the classroom!

 
 

It’s a trend worth watching as more and more handheld devices turn up in classrooms…

 

 

Robots!

The new computing curriculum coupled with cheaper technology means that we are seeing an ever increasing choice of ‘programmable robots’ in the classroom.. Lego have always had a great range, and they’ve increased that recently with the brilliant Weedo’s. BeeBots seem to have been around for ever, but even they are becoming more sophisticated. And we’re only scratching the surface of what’s becoming available – take a look at the intorobotics.com site to see what could be heading our way..

Coupled with cheap and cheerful mini-computers robotics could be the way forward…

Skype!

I know, I talk about Skype lots… But that is because I haven’t found a more simple, yet truly innovative addition to the classroom. The fact remains that there really is no easier way to bring a world of experts, experiences and ideas to your pupils. Perhaps not Skype, but video calling – facetime or whatever the service will be, it means our schools will be connected. Professional development can be shared and teachers can hold staff training with experts from across the globe. Business has taken this on, and it’s a matter of time before schools do too…

 

 

19 May

Online Assessment by Fleet Tutors – Guest Post

Online Assessment by Fleet Tutors – Guest Post

The growth of online tutoring and learning beyond the classroom has meant that different ways of assessing pupils needs to be developed.

One way of assessing young learners online has been developed by Fleet Tutors, who offer an online assessment solution which evaluates precisely how children perform in terms of National Curriculum levels and in comparison with other pupils. Children complete an assessment before a tutor identifies precise areas of strengths and weakness in order to develop a tuition strategy which is tailored to each student’s academic needs. These types of assessments are increasingly used by schools and parents alike as they look to support their children’s education.

Which assessment system does Fleet Tutors use?  ‘GOAL’ – aimed at children between 5-14 years of age – accurately measures pupil performance and development across Mathematics, English, and Science subjects. It is carried out online, with no installation needed. A report is then produced which displays achievement levels and shows areas in which the child requires improvement in order to attain excellent academic performance. This is all closely linked in to the national curriculum levels, with the tool using fun, motivating and interactive assessments which are designed to engage the pupils’ with their learning. They have been written by experienced education experts and connect closely to the National Curriculum.

When are these tests designed to be used? They are usually carried out at either side of the tuition starting and finishing, and can then be used to show measure if progress has been made.   This means that they can monitor the effectiveness of tuition and also use this to ensure it is effective.  Pupils themselves can then use this to look for evidence in their own progress – which can help greatly with their confidence.

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How does it reach its results? Online assessments – called GOAL – are used to assess pupils against the National Curriculum. These means that Fleet Tutors can provide full feedback, identifying strengths and weaknesses in a pupil’s educational development. It can be used to target specific objectives and so ensure further teaching is targeted appropriately. Assessments are delivered in a variety of ways – either with the tutors or parents to encourage and support the pupil. Either way, they are carried out and marked online.  Plenty of support is available online or by phone.

Does it only assess academic performance? Moving away from academic performance, there is also the SEAL assessment – Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. This could support you if you feel that your child is finding school challenging for other reasons. Using this assessment to ascertain the nature of your child’s difficulties could support their learning in other areas and allow you to begin a conversation.

For further information check here where you can download an example of a Goal Report if interested