11 Oct

Don’t forget! The power of Skype….

It has been a while since I posted about Skype, however moving schools has meant that I have introduced Skype to another set of pupils, and indeed another set of teachers as I am always amazed that teachers haven't tried any kind of video linking with their pupils.

Firstly let me remind you of the fantastic resource that is EducateSkype or Skype in the Classroom now. A health warning here as this is becoming increasingly linked with Microsoft's infrastructure, however if you keep a school skype account separate from a home one you should be fine.

The Skype in the Classroom site will allow you to connect with pre planned lessons, video and all sorts of content. Everytime I have gone there I have found something I am looking for – it really is amazing. However skype does not have to be so 'organised'.

In a nutshell:

  • It's cheap (or free) – just equipment is needed!
  • It literally brings the world to your classroom!
  • It's easy to find contacts…
  • The children remember the experience…

Mystery Skype

The hashtag 'mysteryskype' has really taken off – you can find schools on the website mentioned above, or search on twitter. Connecting with schools from across the globe where the children try to guess where they are never gets dull. My pupils always love it. Admittedly they can sometimes guess pretty quickly, but pinning down to city rather than country, or county in the UK will keep them busy!

Digital Leaders

I am currently collecting email addresses from those keen to skype with digital leaders – please let me know in the comments if you would like to be involved. It's brilliant. The children already have something in common, and can begin with shared questions about they do and how they do it.

School Council

This is going to be my next project – school council's chatting to one another. Our school council is very new, but think it will work wonders if they chat to a more established one!

 

Languages

Connecting with those who speak the language you are learning has obvious benefits! Skype can also offer three-way calling, which means you can get partner schools involved!

 

Career talks!

Particularly useful for schools 'off the beaten track' – chatting to those who are in specific careers is much easier via Skype – and is less hassle for those giving the talk…

 

Have you had any brilliant experiences with Skype you could share?

 

 

10 Oct

Can education technology ‘close the gap?’

There is a huge emphasis currently on ‘closing the gap’ for our pupils – that is to say ensuring that achievement is possible regardless of a background or deprivation.

Historically technology has been seen as an equaliser – a way to, for example, give the housewife time to work (washing machines, vacuum cleaners) or, more recently, a way to instantly share information, free of charge. Neil Postman, writing in 1996:

C.P Snow made what he regarded as a definitive answer to technology pessimists. He remarked that the industrial revolution made by possible advanced technology, was the only hope for the poor. Their lives were rescued from centuries old degradation by technology. Can anyone deny it?’

In fact, I wrote an essay on this very subject – which you can find here, if interested.

Download (PDF, 125KB)

However, the modern teacher has many, many problems with this – as many of you will know if you attempt to set homework via an online task. Or if you have been given a class set of laptops and then been asked to show impact, or bought iPads with Pupil Premium money… The fact is that some schools have huge expectations from technology yet  children (and families) have huge differences in what technology they actually access. And, to add to the confusion there are many different definitions of what ‘the gap’ is and what exactly the end result should be…

The question we should be asking, is what gap are we actually trying to close? What can teachers actually do?
Schools making good use of technology in education can:
  • offer cultural experiences that some children may miss out on via skype or virtual tours
  • connect children with other children that they may otherwise never meet, sharing experiences they may never hear (blogging / email / skype)
  • offer support for parents who may not know where to go, or may find it too difficult to access in person (websites / internet)
  • connect teachers who really are not sure where to go next… or whose school may be isoalted (social media / inernet)
  • offer specific support for pupils with SEND – supporting their education achievement (targeted apps / access programs / online resources)
  • offer cheaper and easier access to pupils and their families via school support and devices (kindles / internet access)

These are just some practical ideas that the use of technology can help with – it will help ‘close a gap’ – perhaps information, cultural or digital literacy – but it may not close the achievement gap. Here we are talking of cultural, digital, isolation and confidence. All of which are vital if we want our pupils to achieve.

 

If you are interested in this, the essay I wrote is at the top of this post!

Other resources of interest:

A recent report by Stanford into ‘closing the technology gap’ 

2014 look at how closing the technology gap can open a world of opportunities form Microsoft.. 

 

 

07 Oct

On replacing the interactive whiteboards…

Our generation of whiteboards at school… The interactive type no less… Are slowly coming to the end of their useful life. The projectors are becoming more and more problematic, bulbs replacing with increased frequency and the hardware looking increasingly like it’s not going to last the year.

Fact is some problems: constant calibration, bulb changes, lost remote controls can all be sorted out, but, they are becoming more and more time consuming and less out of our expertise. Replacements are needed.

Where to start?

Some key questions need to be answered :

  • Do they really need to be interactive?
  • Do we want to continue using a laptop alongside a projector?
  • What size screen do we need?
  • And – controversially – do we even need a screen?

 

Observing

I’ve been thinking very carefully about this over the last few weeks, and spoken to many of those who will be directly affected. Fact is our whiteboards, particularly lower down the school are used interactively. Children manipulate images, draw, create and play games. Higher up the school, not so much, but they are still used with an element of demonstration from the teacher.

We also have visualisers attached, and these need still to work as they are popular with staff.

It’s also worth considering that we a GAfE school – and google infrastructure is used very well by most of the key stage 2 pupils!

I’ve got an idea of where we need to go next – but I would be incredibly interested to find out what works for others in schools… Thanks!