17 May

Learning responsible use… edtech in the classroom

I often come across concerned parents who wonder if the use of technology in schools (or indeed anywhere) is such a good thing for their children. They ask me if 6 is too young, at what age should they get a tablet, when can they be left alone on the computers and so on

Research is patchy, and often subject to hysterical reporting (I have put a few links at the bottom of the article) – parents often find themselves with more questions than answers. It is unwise to give concrete answers, and indeed I always try not to. ‘Common sense’ advice: family devices that are shared, regular breaks etc are important. From a school perspective however we need to stress that we are trying to teach the responsible use of technology. Technology is not ‘going back in the box’ and we need to equip our children with the sense, the experience and the confidence to make technology work for them. The danger is that if families pretend it is not there, and children are not allowed to experiment they will be unable to monitor and recognise their own behaviour as they get older.

 

Naturally schools have a huge part to play in this, and the new curriculum has given us the scope to do this.

We are all role models

There can be no easy answers, and no easy way to teach responsibility but there can be no doubt that modelling the good use of technology is vital both at home and at school.

  • Teachers will model searching online for information
  • Model the tools we use to create using word processors, presentation tools and so on
  • Explain ways in which specific tools can solve specific problems
  • Parents can be encouraged to use technology alongside their children – work on homework projects together, read articles together, connect with family etc.

 

Making Mistakes

Mistakes will be made. Children may make inappropiate comments, or play games when they should be working. Thats why school blogs, school infrastructure, is so important. Far better something inappropiate is said on the school system than on the internet itself. VLE’s, private blogs, google apps all provide a safe environment so children can learn, and then practise, the skills needed to be a digital citizen.

We spend lots of time reinforcing friendship and learning behaviours – this is no different. Discussions around bullying, friendship groups, language, anger management; indeed anything that would be covered during ‘traditional circle time’ can also have an online element. Sharing our experience of technology use is important, to our children it will be a norm for them by the time they leave primary school.

 

Practical ideas for schools

  • Have a class ‘researcher’ whose job it is to research tricky questions and report back answers
  • Take part in collaborative projects which demonstrate the safe use of technology to both parents and children
  • Digital Leaders can be excellent pupil role models – demonstrating safe and sensible use of different technologies

 

Further reading:

Plowman L, McPake, J., Stephen C. (2010). The technologisation of childhood? Young children and technology in the home. Children and Society 24 (1) 63-74

Telegraph – Too young for technology?

Young Children and e-Reading, research to date and questions. (£)

 

16 May

Go Animate

I’m always on the lookout for tools that can support creativity, be practical for classroom use and use our Chromebooks.

Go Animate was shared with me via twitter and it has proven incredibly useful!

The online package provides all the tools needed to create simple animated video that can then be shared. You are given a variety of tools to add voice, customize your characters and to be as complex as you like.

We also have iPads, and whilst you can access some of the features on the iPad, it uses Flash and so you can’t really produce a finished product. However the online environment means that children can access it anywhere.

A quick look at their blog gives some great examples. You can get a feel for how the finished product will look.

 

Simple

The environment, once logged in, is easy to use and intuitive. For our first session I just let our Digital Leaders play with it and then give me their thoughts. They were enthusiastic and very keen to keep going. Digital Leaders are a standard way for us to introduce new software, the idea being that they get to grips with it and then can show the other children.

Needless to say they picked it up immediately, it was all very familiar to them and they really enjoyed the cartoon style. All of the controls, were available within a couple of clicks and the icons, instructions used were straightforward. It created a kind of stop motion type effect, which the children could easily improve uponwith practice. Dialogue could be typed in and then either recorded or voiced by the computer.

Whole Class Use

Moving into whole class use then was simple, I used it for our look at ‘bullying’ and the children had planned a simple storyboard. I stressed that they were to use a more simple approach to story telling and they created a plan to animate. They were then able to turn this into a simple movie.

The topics that we have looked at so far include the bullying movie and a look at the water cycle – and there were adequate resources on the site for this. No doubt there could be some improvements in characters available, but we haven’t fully investigated the whole customisation process yet.

 

 

Management

Management of the system is also easy – as a teacher I can change passwords, set up groups (for collaboration!) and then view all video that has been created. I set up the initial lot of passwords manually, but you can also input files. I also put the link on our Google Classroom Stream, which meant the pupils could also access from home. Which they have done!

 

I should point out that I took part in a free trial for this review – however I will be subscribing! If interested I will add some of the videos to this review later, alongside the children’s comments!

 

02 May

A day of Google Apps in a Primary Classroom

A few months in now, and I have been really pleased with how Google Apps fits in with what we are doing in school! This brief look at a typical day might explain:

AM – the day begins with the teacher putting a few links on the classroom stream. I put on a link to a video we are going to use for a computing lesson later, and a survey that the Y6 have been asked to take.

Meanwhile the strategic calendar is updated with the agenda for the staff meeting later that week.

Literacy – spellings are always on the classroom site. The children know this. The apps can also be used to ‘publish’ work – currently we are working on information sheets linked to our topic. Once the draft has been worked on they can choose to publish it in any way they seem fit.

Lunchtime – the digital leaders are planning their assembly. They share their presentation with me and I make some notes on it.

Teacher finds a document that may be useful, and uploads / shares.

Some of the children ask if they can write a playscript, and then do so collaboratively, on three chromebooks.

PM sessions – the Y6 take their link from the classroom stream. Whilst the rest of the class view the video ready for the work they are doing in class.

Hudls are used by some of the younger children to take photographs of the school garden, these are then picked off the drive by another class who are creating guides to it.

 

Some hints from our experience of using Google Apps:

  • The children log in with their username as soon as they can – it’s important they take control over their password, their space and begin to use the space appropiately.
  • Refresh the ideas and use of apps such as ‘sites’ in staff meetings regularly.
  • Pupil Digital Leaders can be used as ‘experts’ to support pupils and staff.