28 Aug

Why you should use Digital Leaders in school….

Digital Leaders (pupils trained up in digital issues and given responsibilities) are a huge asset for schools.. Here's why you should start September with this excellent edtech project!
  • Aspire – children trained up and working with special responsibilties is a privilege and one which all children can be encouraged to work towards.
  • Connections – a project like this will automatically give the pupils and school reason to connect with the outside world – the world of work, visiting other schools, inviting guests into school.
  • Pupil Leadership pupils can demonstrate their leadership skills, organisational skills, initiative by genuinely leading the project. You can organise this in many different ways; older digital leaders organise rotas, a vote for a digital leader chair etc.
  • Demonstrate whole school impact – the fact is that leading a group of digital leaders can be a great way to demonstrate whole school impact from a project, this being something that teachers are often asked to so..
  • It's actually useful... You will find very quickly that once you have done some basic training with your Digital Leaders they will become a useful part of school life.
  • It's pretty easy to organise… A small slot each week, plus rotas to get children 'on duty'. They don't need too much time, and you can vary it wit the type of project you want to do!
  • It's a community! The site Digital Leader Network showcases plenty of ideas people are always very happy to offer advice. There is a weekly twitter chat as well, and if you search for the hashtag DLChat you will find plenty of people ready to help.

Piqued your interest? You can find out more here

 

 

22 Aug

My top edtech tools 2015

 

In all the fuss and fizz it’s easy to forget that some digital technology tools are actually both time saving and incredibly useful – this is the tools I’ve turned to this year..

 

 

Google Drive – this has been a perfect introduction to cloud computing for the whole school! A great way to share resources and information and easy to keep track of whole school documents such as Teaching and Learning Policy!

 

Skype – a fantastic resource, one which I have written about many times! This year we continued our exploration of #mysteryskype.

An online MIS – years back I remember thinking that having a fully integrated MIS that handles everything from bus lists to behaviour notes, lunch menu and assessment data was the stuff of dreams… Having one means staff can access it for their classroom, registers all online means no paperwork, all information is kept together and is up to date. We use scholarpack, others are, obviously, available!

WordPress – sounds obvious right? But WordPress continues to be a top tool for me – building new class blogs, my own blog and even the school website (with help!).

Scratch – still top on my list for coding, creativity and challenge! Other apps and programs are catching up, but the resources are there and the children really enjoy using it!

 

 

Haiku Deck – so useful, so easy to create on and fantastic for those ‘guess the news story’ picture assemblies!

Finally an honourable mention for an app (there are many apps that I make use of!) Pic Collage – a great app for combining pictures, sharing and printing quickly them and easily.

And next year?

We’ve just started a Kindle Project – time will tell if this proves useful!

Go Animate is proving very popular with the pupils, will that still be around next year?

The digital platform MakeWav.es with their Online badges are also incredibly useful for keeping track of what the digital leaders are doing. Can this be used in other ways across the school

Which tools have you found useful this year? Please share!
14 Aug

Reading with technology – an update!

This post is an update to the most popular post on this site – Guided Reading on the iPad. This post has been read thousands of times, and lots of the apps and ideas there are still relevant, but times are changing and I thought it would be interesting to revisit at why using a tablet like device can be beneficial for reading. I won’t go through the activities and ideas in detail, instead I’ll look at what else has been happening with technology and reading in the classroom.

Not just the iPad

Much of the two year old post was based on my work which was specific to iPads. My experiences have now been across chrome, android and kindle devices. Much of what I wrote about in my initial post still rings true and there is now a huge increase in apps available for all platforms, and indeed all devices can be seen in the classroom.

Group work:

if you are organised into groups, tablet devices work very well. Many of the apps detailed in the previous post are now available for android, including the fab Explain Everything (which as I write this is also coming to Chrome) and there are some really great apps out there for testing word skills, spelling, sentence structure etc. Obviously it depends what your focus is, but I know that with the increased focus on spelling and grammar many great apps are appearing that would work great as a paired activity.

 

Some of the new iPad apps i've bee using

 

  • Alan Peat’s apps include grammar references, word play games and references for the national curriculum. iPad and android. Works very well on small screens.
  • Puppet Pals on the iPad has had a complete overall with Puppet Pals 2 – and is jam packed with even more features.
  • Book Creator is now also available on Android, and remains a brilliant way to get children to create something quickly, or work as a group to repsond to something
  • Google apps have a wide variety of word processing, comic creating, animating etc. The collaborative nature of these, as well as the way in which teachers can be involved make them ideal for responding to text work (interviewing, imagining endings and so on).
  • Web sites such as Oxford Owls who have online books, with partners and tasks such as reviewing orquestioning each other children can get alot from these services.
Individual work

Putting aside the individual scope for production and creation eBooks with features such as dictionaries, links to other books and read along (or aloud) features are now mich more common. Kindles have worked very well in my experience alongside the traditional classroom library, can be seen as a reward (though not always!) and borrowed by children who may benefit. Alternatively a class reader on the kindle, then used with targeted readers has also worked very well. Motivation, easier to read text (often resulting in a feeling that they are reading more) and cheaper books. Kindles are also much cheaper than some tablets, and don’t have so much distraction (though they are online now) – turning parental controls on however is a very simple process. Other than that publishers are coming round to putting books out electronically, and they can be a huge space saver in the classroom.

There has been a huge increase in story telling apps. Many I discussed already elsewhere on this site – I always enjoy reviewing these as some of them are absolutely gorgeous. There have been some great new ones as well. Mr Glue is an iPad app which supports the retelling and creation of books. Me Books is a fabulously creative book app on both android and iPad. Story telling apps should all now include recording, breat voice acting, recording of your own, and some level of control over how the narrative paces. It’s worth asking the developer for a free trial before you commit the school!

Mr Glue Stories - easy and fun

 

I hope this update proves useful for those of you using digital technologies in the classroom. Please let me know what you’ve found useful in the classroom!


Resources:

What is guided reading? A guide from Scholastic!

Top Tips for using Kindles in the Classroom

 

06 Aug

Introduce your class to safe tech use: 8 things you should try!

Starting the new term with a new class is always exciting! Get them off to a good start with the tech in your classroom with a few simple activities designed to have them think about what they use tech for, and why! These activities are very easy to set up and might inspire you as well!

 

 

  1. Is everything they read on the internet real? Look at this Dihydrogen Monoxide site – it’s only water, but when will they figure that out? Read about saving the tree octopus here.. Take a look at Victorian Robots here.
  2. How safe are they online? Ask them to take part in challenges on Think U Know and find out!
  3. Create a paper computer! An intesting activity for the younger ones, naming computer parts.
  4. Take part in a collaborative blog challenge.Try the 100 Word Challenge here, or the Nrich Maths challenge here.
  5. Remind them about last years Hour of Code challenge, before the new one this year!
  6. Ask them… What do they use computers for? Create a joint class padlet on Padlet.com
  7. Build a paper cup robot, complete with instructions! Use the excellent lesson plan from csed.com here.
  8. Join in a #mysteryskype – set up a skype date with an unknown country! Find out more here

 

05 Aug

A Digital Divide in Schools?

Is there a divide with educational technology in schools?

 

Up and down the country the experiences of technology in schools are incredibly different. If you take part in regular twitter chats, or follow sites such as this one, it is easy to imagine that all schools have decent wifi, take on board new technology or allow teachers to experiment as they see fit. We are, however, sleep walking into a situation where pupils have radically different experiences depending on the school they attend. This is not about parental choice, it's not about a school that chooses to opt out of technology, it's about schools that cannot provide these experiences.

What divide?

Some of us take for granted cloud computing such as google in school, or work email use at home and school, reliable internet that works all over the school building, even computers that don't take a long time to turn on. The experiences of teachers up and down the country however vary widely.

However these are common examples:

  • Not replacing old computers / updating operating systems (renders their use pointless)
  • Pupils not experiencing a wide range of devices (the experience at home being completely different to school)
  • Staff email experience – no working email, not expected to use email
  • Concerns about security leading to a completely different internet experience (everything blocked)
  • No training for software, hardware and new expectations of curriculum (staff confidence and experience)

What is the impact of a widening digital gap?

It is much discussed and open to a certain level of argument, but the good use of digital technology can time save at work. Disseminating information via email (secure email) and then sharing updates with parents and the school community; electronic registers can then automatically record data, assessment data which can be picked apart and recorded, planning stored and shared on a platform that anyone can access, resources shared with all teachers. Websites which the school has control of, and can truly meet the needs of the schoo community. The list goes on, but a key point is the expectation that the professional can use technology in this way if they wish to. Sharing resources via the cloud, and then being able to collaborate on these resources has changed the way we work.

 

A growing digital divide manifests itself in other ways as well.

Internet connectivity is key to schools. To be clear I'm not talking about wireless and mobile digital devices. Instead, just basic high speed broadband. This has a huge impact on school life. Before we think about pupil resources and pedagogy think about the office. School management software, instant email communication, website management etc. Schools that can run the register completely electronically and downloading key documents from government.

Internet connectivity also impacts in the classroom – think of communication such as skype, streaming services and online resources which would not be available, or would be so slow that they are unuseable. Unreliable internet which means any online lessons could not be relied upon, or pupils rarely get the chance to experience the internet in any meaningful way. We have had days where the internet is not working and can quickly realise the impact this would have in the long term. A key aspect of online safety and curriculum experience has to mean that the internet, to some extent, can be relied upon.

Opportunity!

There is an expectation that school will offer computing and digital literacy as part of the curriuculum – this expectation has worked wonders for the provision in school – but many are completely reliant on outside advice and expertise. Not that this is always a bad thing, but any work with outside experts should be sustainable and supported by a school SLT. Staff who are able to experiment and who are secure with technology themselves can be a huge push on the provision in schools, sad to say but the attitude of the headteacher or governors can shut down potential projects instantly. Some schools still have access to all social media shutdown, without any conversation as to the learning opportunities, or put no budget towards updating computer systems which means that the technology is unuseable and off-putting before we begin.

What is your experience?

I would be very interested to hear of your experiences at school and whether or not the new curriculum has had an impact on wider technological provision in school.

 

Resources:

Prensky's 2001 paper: Digital Native, Digital Immigrants

BBC report – Sep 2014 – Digital Divide opening in UK schools