21 May

Digital Expectations….

What does digital literacy look like in a Primary School?

It’s a funny situation in Primary Schools at the minute. Up and down the country we are focusing on maths, english and grammar and SATS and all of the new curriculum challenges. Meanwhile, in technology we are being told that tablets are no longer the way forward, and that coding and computing is the focus. ICT as a subject looks to be marginalised whilst the use of ‘standard’ office type programmes is seemingly non existant.

I was recently asked to write a quick summary about the differences at ks2 for ks3 teachers. This summary was tricky to do because there was just so much I wanted to say. The computing / ICT section was frightfully short, and purely out of space considerations. The fact is that we now expect more from our children with technology than ever before. Parents often ask me why schools introduce certain technologies, or certain skills. I hope this list will help.

Five things schools will introduce to children when using technology.

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One. Their own space.
Every child at school will, eventually, be responsible for their own email address and their own online space. How young this starts depends on the primary school. This online space should be open to teachers at any time of course, but parents need to get used to children being responsible for this. At primary something as simple as a custom virtual learning space, or as recognisable as Google Drive. Either way, accessing homework or saving school work with passwords and email addresses will be down to the child. Eventually.

Two. Opening the internet!
Schools will teach children to navigate websites and external online resources. I have had a few dealings over the years with parents, and teachers, who just cannot understand why you might need to go on to the ‘outside’ internet and are worried about what their child might see. Schools have to teach children to navigate websites safely, and keeping themselves safe online is part of the curriculum. The fact remains that if children don’t begin to deal with the internet early on they will find it particularly open (and scary) as they get older. Hiding away from online safety issues won’t make your child immune to them, I’m sorry to say.

Three. Games.
School will use online and electronic games. Some don’t like this but it is a great way to engage children. It’s not the only way of course. But, be prepared for children to enjoy said games and want to replicate this.

Four. Social Media.
Schools will model the use of technology that is not appropriate for children. The easiest example of this is schools with a Twitter or Facebook account. Parents have asked me why schools have these accounts if the children can’t have them, and of course I explain, schools are not operating in a vacuum and we need to use as many methods of communication as possible. In the same way teachers drive and pupils do not. Teachers also need to model sensible use of sites such as You Tube, which pupils may not be using by themselves but will still see.

Five. Authors of work.
Children will be encouraged to create and share online. In essence publishing their work and commenting on the work of authors. They will be collaborating with their classmates on work which others can see. This may be closed within a school intranet or cloud service, or it may be on an online and therefore much more open, blog. There are many, many educational upsides to this, and, properly monitored very few downsides.

These are the main areas that spring to mind when discussing technology with parents. I would love to hear of any concerns, or surprises, people have come across with school expectations of technology.

08 May

Why I’m a fan of the BBC Microbit!

We were lucky enough to get hold of a few Microbits last week (thanks Lancaster Uni!!) for our Primary pupils to play with.

If you’re unsure of what they are check out this info here. A credit card sized computer inclusive of various input methods such as buttons and accelerometer, output via LED and a micro usb slot.

I love the innovative use of the tech – it’s all in the detail. The way the ‘bits’ of the computer are labelled on the back – the a, b buttons, the micro usb. There is lots on there to keep the pupils busy. Perfect for an introduction to computing and coding.

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Their website is also high quality and very useful, easy to navigate with several options for teachers to get involved. Lots of videos – including great ones for the children to watch and links to ‘live’ lessons that the BBC has carried out.

In a coding section – the virtual Microbit gives a chance to test something before you save it to the microbit encourages risk (and allows the teacher the chance to put restrictions on it).

Here’s why I think they should be in every school:

Recognisable input:
There are a few ways to input code onto the Microbit, text based as well as block based. For Primary children the block based input is very similar to Scratch and therefore easy to pick up. Explaining the language used is super simple, and great for teachers to play about with as well.

We were quickly able to create names and pictures upon different button presses and movement – it was a great opportunity for us to learn alongside the children!

Immediate feedback:
The LEDs are incredibly motivating for the pupils – and it is so creative – within the first few minutes they children could be responsible for their picture or their name on the LEDs.

How far do you want to go…
For primary you can immediately introduce the idea of logic, variables and repetition. However it can get as inventive as you like, offering obvious progress with block based coding and text input leading to Python and Javascript.

A community

I would like to see these brilliant machines in every school – the community built up around them offers many, many options for the development of resources!

We have a fantastic resource here – let’s make the most of it!!