May 11

Using Popplet

I’ve mentioned Popplet in lots of posts before – it is one of the most useful and versatile classroom tools I’ve come across. I thought a quick post dedicated to how we use it in the classroom might be useful!

Popplet

It is both an iPad app and a web based app 

Getting started:

You can get into it immediately via the web app – you don’t need an account (though it is helpful – see below) – and the iPad app is also free to try.

There is a super easy to understand tutorial which guides you through the basics – great for sharing with staff and pupils!

Make good use of the ability to insert pictures, colours and text – it can make your mind-maps look really professional and gives a real sense of pride!

popplet2

In the classroom:

Children can quickly create ideas for writing, which can then be displayed and added to as the lesson goes on.

Clever use of colour means you can easily model the different branches of mind mapping and get children to do the same.

With iPads children can create, and add to, their mind maps then use them as prompts for their writing.

The mind maps can be exported as images and added to class blogs.

But register an account:

Children can work on Popplets – and then share them across platforms to view each other’s work.

Quickly share a Popplet that was created on the whiteboard with individual computers/iPads

Share a class account and let the children access it at home.

Quick ideas:
  • Writing – mindmapping plot ideas and stories which can then be viewed by the children as they write. I have used this with the iPad Writing Project – and it allowed us to build up lots of different ideas for story plots and characters, and add to them as we worked. The children could even use this at home.
  • Vocabulary work – using as a topic web for key words, concepts, meanings etc.. Again, as it is so quick to do it can be added to as the topic builds up, and accessed whenever they need to.
  • Science – mapping out exploration questions, and linking these to answers as they go on. For example with a recent look at material properties we were able to collate pictures of materials alongside their properties as we went through the afternoon.
  • Research – especially for topic work / non-fiction writing – mindmapping can bring order to their thoughts when done properly and using Popplet means they will be able to access these again (and they will look good!!)

The Popplet Blog has some really great ideas for making use of all the features! 

September 6

Classroom Collaboration – what you can try straight away!

Classroom collaboration was cited as one of the key reasons to begin using technology in the classroom in a recent (and quick) question and answer session….

There are many, many ways to get your pupils to collaborate more, and obviously using tech is only one strand of this. From role play, drama, team games and problem solving; once you get your pupils used to the different roles and the collaborative techniques of listening and working together it all becomes so much easier. How then can digital technology help?

An incredibly effective way to get collaboration is through a classroom (or school) blog. If the school is reluctant to get involved with this there are plenty of ways that you, as a class teacher, could get involved. It is very simple to start a blog through a free service such as blogger – and then use it in class to get children to collaborate on ideas such as storytelling or problem solving. Children can add their contributions in the classroom.

Give a voice…

A side effect of collaboration is that there will always be some children that are not heard, or who dot get to contribute. Programmes which allow for pupils to get involved without standing up in front of their classmates, or even saying anything, can be useful.

images
This example from educationismylife.com .

A simple idea is Padlet – and I’ve mentioned this lots on the site already – Padlet allows you to create a very quick whiteboard space which can be added to by clicking. You could set up a Padlet during a lesson with a question -and leave it on the computer for them to contribute to. For example – different ways to start a story, or solutions to maths questions. Using that Padlet’s code they can also contribute from home or through a different device in the classroom. I have already shared several examples of this – this post here looks at the use of Padlet for questioning.  However it has many uses – and even more so if you have a classroom blog which can be accessed from home-  groups can work on Padlets for different concepts, science planning and questioning for example. You can even password protect the Padlet so only children from your class can contribute.  The use is limitless – and a great way to get contributions from your pupils.

Popplet is another collaborative tool – allowing the group discussions to be contributed to, and accessed by anyone with the code for that popplet. It is also an app, and a website -so again if you have more devices in class the children can contribute as they see fit. I have used this versatile tool when story planning, allowing children to take their story off in different branches whilst we watched on the whiteboard. Again – I have written about Popplet before – and their are many examples of it’s use to be found!

Be creative…

More creative forms of collaboration were also mentioned by those advocates of technology in the classroom – a group working together to create something. iPads and tablet devices work brilliantly for this kind of thing – whether working together around one device or sharing and adding to their work. Obvious contendors for the iPad are Book Creator, Garage Band and Explain Everything. Garage Band is a particularly powerful tool – for example creating a radio advertisment with voice and music can be a powerful group task and the results using this app will sound impressive,

image

These apps are all incredibly easy to get started with and easily share the work within the tablet systems. But computers and laptops can be just as good for collaboration: Google Drive is another great way for pupils to contribute – registering your class as a user (either with a class email, or a temporary made up one) and when the pupils log in they can all share work and contribute to it. Of course, if the infrastructure is there you could register indiviuals in order to better control their work. This presentation has lots of ways to get you started!

Online apps such as Scratch also allow for collaboration – saving the class work, (or your example) on there lets the children take what you have created and then ‘tinker’ – indeed improving and debugging forms part of the KS2 computing curriculum anyway and Scratch is a perfect way of doing that.

General Tips

Just getting started with collaboraton can be tough in a primary classroom – it will only work if children are aware of the point of the collaboration and the behaviours expected!

  • Begin by giving roles – for example within a science lesson you might have a ‘recorder’ ‘analyst’ ‘equipment manager.
  • Demonstrate and be a role model for how you expect the groups to work -e.g. you might have to take part as a member of a group and then refer to the class for solutions when problems arise. An example might be a maths puzzle – one person may be the ‘accuracy checker’ – and then ask teh class what happens if you find a mistake? What should you do?
  • In the beginning have a tight hold on the technology – for example a blog where each group is to record their end result – model how you expect it to be used.
  • Then ‘loosen up’ – once the children are aware of the different tools at their disposal let them choose – for example how they present their art project is up to them – and the key is that they don’t have to make use of any digital technology at all!

 

I hope this helps – other common uses for technology came out of the twitter chat, and I’ll explore those later! Thanks for reading – feel free to comment!


 

May 10

Questioning in the Digital Classroom

Questions!
A huge part of our day – much has been written about how, why, when and who…

Questioning crops up as pupil targets for improvement, on school development plans and in teacher lesson observations. A recent focus for us was whether or not our increased use of technology actually supported questioning skills in the classroom. We moved away from looking purely at teacher questioning, and looked at how we could get pupils to ask more questions in class, and indeed, move away from the simple, 'lower order' questions.

Here are our five top tips for using technology to improve questioning in the classroom!
  1. Confidence! Use microphones/video/iPads to allow pupils to rehearse their questions.
  2. Improving – group mind mapping ideas such as Popplet, or online 'whiteboards' such as Padlet will encourage pupils to build on their ideas.
  3. Restrictions – use technology that children are familiar with to restrict words/characters and focus their questions to what they actually want to say!
  4. Sharing! Both in the classroom and out of the classroom – Blogs / video / even on the iPad through the whiteboard – children can quickly and easily share questions with a wider audience now. Use YouTube or other Social Media to 'ask experts' or a school blog to ask the community. Not only does it refine questioning skills but it also teaches the positive uses for Social Media. See an example here with Padlet and Twitter!
  5. Subject based apps and specific questioning practice. There are plenty of mobile apps out there that support specific objectives, such as Super Duper's range for literacy questioning skills.

More ideas?

This excellent blog from @Langwitches showcases much much more than is discussed here! Including an excellent look at Bloom's Taxonomy and iPad Apps.

ICTEvangelist's Blog here has more great ideas!

 

March 30

Social Media in the Primary Classroom?

Prompted by a recent twitter chat for #ukedchat which examined social media in the classroom, I began to think about just how relevant this is for our Primary schools.

It all starts with the curriculum…

Interestingly, in Key Stage 1, we are asked to cover this:

communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private, and recognise common uses of information technology beyond school

Let's consider:

Communicate safely and respectfully online

Seems straightforward, part of e-safety and online bullying. I have been developing a scheme of work for internet safety here – lots of this can be covered within schools PSHE curriculum.

Keeping personal information private

This is an area that will need some work, and the development of social media that children may access makes this all the more important. It can be taught, rote style, as in 'rules', but modelling this with a school account, and teaching them how to make comments can be much more powerful.

Recognise the use of information technology beyond school

A tough one. There is no doubt that any access to technology is modelling this, however we have little control over what they can access at home and beyond. Also, we need to have access to this in our classroom, which is often easier said than done!

The key Stage 2 curriculum involves a little more:

understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world-wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration

describe how internet search engines find and store data; use search engines effectively; be discerning in evaluating digital content; respect individuals and intellectual property; use technology responsibly, securely and safely

Here we have the notion of 'communication and collaboration' and the idea of 'using technology responsibly' – again modelling the use of social media seems to be key.

Do you ask your pupils to contribute online? Do the classes have shared blogs that they use?

Do you model how you find information? Ask the pupils what they use?

 

So what, practically can we do in the classroom for these 'social' elements of the computing curriculum and should it include recognised Social Media? I think the key here is that the staff and school have to model how these technologies can be used. If the school team are reluctant, begin by trialling an open 'showcase' type blog (best work blog for example) – or investigate some of the 'education blog' services. Piloting a school twitter account, or a facebook account for linking with authors, for example, can also be useful.

Some sharing element can also be useful, for example a school Scratch account, where the children can view others' work and comment on it.

Technical support will be needed, particularly if you are finding sites blocked. See my Digital Strategy ideas for more.

 

There are some key questions we need to consider here:
  1. Is it okay to set homework which involved an online element?
  2. How much prior knowledge to parents have? How explicit should home/school agreements be?
  3. How much can we expect from teachers? Should updating a homework blog really be part of our PPA expectations?

Note, it is no longer about using a computer programme to complete work, but more about the 'connected' – can we expect our children to have internet access at home?

 

 

Ideas to get started…

The type of Social Media that we use can have an impact too, I recently used the school twitter account to ask Astronauts questions about the ISS. The children contributed these questions to a Padlet on their blog and I tweeted them. Undoubtedly a great use of social media, giving a learning experience they wouldn't otherwise have, and learning how it can be used responsibly.

I've used class blogs built on blogger, which the children can leave comments on. We teach them how to leave them, but stress the e-safety aspect continously. It's really important that any issues are dealt with immediately, a responsible adult needs to monitor the comments.

Programs which let you contribute and collaborate, sharing a link, can be used to great effect. I've used Popplet (for mapping ideas) and Padlet – but many more are out there.

There are plenty of services which offer a closed VLE type of experience, if privacy is a concern, consider trialling one of these. They have their downsides, but many schools still make use of them.

If you need some ideas to get started – this may help:

 

 

 

February 6

Using the iPad with the writing process

The iPad can be a brilliant motivational tool for children in the classroom. The ease-of-use, coupled with the speed that you can get results means that it can be the perfect tool for integrating into your literacy planning. And, as many schools don’t have 1:1 tablet computers it can also mean that the collaborative and group aspect of the technology can be harnessed.

Popplet

I’ve been working with teachers who are developing the writing process in an attempt to motivate their boy writers. We have been looking at the writing process and working out where the enthusiasm lags, or where skills need developing. This part of the process is important, reflecting on why the children are stalling, or on what the challenges might be really helps the planning process.

Finally we looked at what apps the schools have, what apps the teachers are confident with and, most importantly, what apps would support the different ‘stumbling blocks’ the children face.

The writing process with the apps we identified.
The writing process with the apps we identified.

A first look at the planning and the use of the iPads in the classroom is encouraging. As an example, the children found using Popplet very easy to share ideas, vocabulary and to create branching plans. It could be used for a quick ten minute burst, rather than being the point of the lesson. Explain Everything can also be used to develop ideas, or rehearse their writing, photographing and then reading their work into explain everything proved the perfect way to start a discussion about punctuation! It created lots of classroom talk and allowed for plenty of short writing opportunities. Teachers were able to use the iPads during ordinary classroom planning, allowing for some really quick and professional looking work created. Enthusiasm and engagement really were the key, with the children beginning to ask if they could create their work in a certain way, or if they were able to use an app to demonstrate their learning and their work.

Some of the apps required greater lesson time, but it paid off with their writing. For example, ‘PuppetPals HD’ would be planned in a standalone lesson, developing dialogue, or looking at character. But giving the children access to the iPad for the writing session meant that they were then able to refer back to their planning, or back to their dialogue show and then use the vocabulary in their writing.

Peer asses work in Explain Everything.
Peer asses work in Explain Everything.

It’s interesting to see the iPads being used as part of a ‘workflow’ – there is no doubt that the iPads are designed as a 1:1 device.

Many schools don’t have the capacity for 1:1 but have nevertheless invested and it’s encouraging to see them being used in such a productive manner. This short trial with writing has shown the capacity for teachers and pupils to use the technology.