20 Mar

Using Primary Aged Digital Leaders

Using Digital Leaders in school has been one of the easiest decisions I’ve made! Thanks to a really great showcase of blogs and community at the Digital Leader Network site it is really easy to get involved!

So what is the idea?
Digital leaders are, at the basic idea, pupil monitors for the tech that is used in schools. They are children who are interested, enthusiastic and thanks to training, knowledgeable! They spread good behaviour with technology, support teachers and are able to showcase what is possible. And, importantly, they develop their own skills and become a showcase for what is achievable!

Why Digital Leaders?
Giving the children, and indeed the teacher a high profile, with the title, badges and official roles will benefit all involved. Digital Leaders are trained to carry out specific jobs regularly (such as emptying the photo roll on iPads weekly…) and can support teachers when needed, (printing all of the presentations from DropBox). They will also support pupils when blogging, can have access to some passwords and get to try new technology. Promoting their role means that teachers and parents will take them seriously, and the experience they get from this will be very valuable!

What have digital leaders done?

Digital leaders can take part in staff meetings, parent meetings and can be on ‘duty’ – I use a rota to encourage the leaders to take responsibility for what they are doing each day. They can also be advocates and ‘champions’ of technology: demonstrating it’s use to the rest of the school.

Hints and Tips

– Encourage the children to ‘apply’ for their role. This will encourage a sense of ownership and excitement.
– Let parents know! Permissions for photos and things are a must anyway..
– Explain their role and the idea to staff, it’s nice to get the children to introduce themselves in an assembly as well.
– Enjoy them! Give them something fun to do…
– Do check out the great Digital Leader Network, the community is awesome – and get on twitter too!!

Guide to getting started!

Guide to getting started!

A beginning blog..

Where to start?
But don’t just take my word for it – take a look at how others are using Digital Leaders.

17 Feb

eBooks in the Classroom

Binary Books

It’s a common question. Is there a place for book apps alongside traditionally printed books? How should teachers make use of this new media?

Why should we use interactive books?

Always begin with this question, why are you considering buying eBooks? Do you have devices in school already that will make use of them? Have you considered purchasing costs? Are you buying copies of treasured books or working with new authors?

I think these questions are important because they will have an impact on the kinds of books you buy. How many iPads/devices do you have? Are you looking for textbooks for a 1:1 project? When will the books be accessed?

iBooks is easy to search and most books are dowloadable as samples first!

iBooks is easy to search and most books are dowloadable as samples.

Options are plentiful:
Web based services allow books to be accessed on screen, often compatible with many operating systems, but not always downloadable.
Britannica e-books is one such service.
Scholastic also run services where books can be accessed online, often through themes or authors focus.
More and more books now will come with digital copies, which are perfect for displaying on whiteboards.
Kindle runs as an app on iPads, online and within Kindle readers – great for regular access, though not as whizzy looking as ios apps. (This is changing as Kindle readers become full colour!) Kindle can be cheaper and as the app is android as well, very accessible to parents as well as teachers.

If you are looking for textbooks, use the iBookstore but also take a look at the DK range of apps. All very high quality.

I often get asked about book apps for iPads. My advice is to choose books that link well within unit teaching and make most of their interactivity. It is also a good idea to let the children choose themselves occasionally! Perhaps a project for school council or digital leaders? Here is a quick run through of some of the best book apps I’ve seen. Make use of creative apps for activites, see my guided reading apps for ideas.

Great for inference and problem solving!
Often find the children running through books or furiously swiping the screen? Try Bartleby’s Book of Buttons This book is one of the best I have seen. Each page poses a problem, with the solution hidden within the page. For example he may have a ticket with the time to leave on it, and the reader has to change the clock to that time before they can turn the page. Great illustrations and loads of options make this one you really should try. Perfect for inference and encouraging those higher level 3 readers to pay attention to the text!

Bartleby's Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons poses a problem, and solution within each page.

Great for character and dialogue.
Two things in book apps will really support young readers with character and dialogue. Firstly the quality of the voice acting, and secondly the ability to record the narrative themselves. Using book apps as a chance for drama, speaking and listening and creating characters is the perfect enhancement. For this, I found it tricky, many publishers are now warming to the idea of a record your own narrative feature. An example would be Ocean Media Houses’ Dr Seuss series. Some are put off because of the voice acting, (though what else would Dr Suess stories sound like?!) However the chance to record your own narrative changes that. Suddenly the possibilities are endless! A very special mention should also go to the Nosy Crow series. Their gorgeous looking apps are not only brilliantly narrated but tapping the characters in the story reveal more of their thoughts. Very useful for when you want to encourage discussion about dialogue, or encouraging children to sequence stories.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, brilliantly narrated and excellent for whole class storytelling.

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, brilliantly narrated and excellent for whole class storytelling.

Other stories which are great for dialogue include Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and Cosmo. These also include some great activities, such as sequencing stories which can be useful.

Reading for Pleasure.
The other great thing about eBooks, is that it can motivate some children to read where they otherwise may not do. Ofsted recently saw a guided reading session where a group was using iPads and commented that the children were incredibly engaged, especially the boys. Purchasing some key texts, whether from iBooks, or as an app, could really support reading in the classroom. Try some of the comic apps as well, Comics4Kids offers some great comics, which are very child friendly. Some iBooks, such as David Walliams’ Gangster Granny offer video from the author, and reading aloud of the text. Try searching for ‘enhanced’ books in the store.
Special mentions should also go to Atomic Antelope’s adaption of Carroll’s Alice, which comes in an abridged and full version and has amazing visuals.

Atomic Antelope's adaptation of Alice will be a hit with Yr 5/6 readers.

Atomic Antelope’s adaptation of Alice will be a hit with Yr 5/6 readers.

Meanwhile, for younger readers there are many options, Collins Big Cats have a range of apps which allow the reader to completely rebuild and then share their own story!

Searching for non-fiction and topic books will yield some gems, such as this Bobo and Light.

Searching for non-fiction and topic books will yield some gems, such as this Bobo and Light.

Finally, another great thing about eBooks is that they can make use of the whiteboard in the classroom. See the link here for linking iPads to the whiteboard. Books that the children have copies of in the class library that can also be displayed for more focussed literacy work. The Heart and a Bottle deserves a special mention here as it is an amazing story and the app is delightful, with brilliant voice acting. However do search the iBookstore for your favourite authors, many of them are adapting their stories for the big screen!!

I will continue to add great book apps as I find them. Do please add any gems you’ve found in the comments sections!

09 Feb

Guided Reading

Guided Reading is one way that many schools teach reading skills in Key Stage 2. (Year 3 onwards).

Guided reading follows some basic principles; put the children in similar levelled groups to complete reading tasks. The groups follow a timetable, and each day one group is with the teacher, whilst the other groups complete tasks related to the reading. No longer than 30 minutes.

When working with teachers, I often get asked how best to organise Guided Reading. I’ve put some ideas together below, I hope it’s useful.

Download (PDF, 103KB)

Some simple dos and don’ts:
Do make the best of the group which has an adult, plenty of questioning, language and modelling how to work out ‘tricky’ words.

Do plan exciting follow-up tasks. Exploring character and dialogue, looking at why the author chose specific vocabulary and so on.

Don’t ask the children to do lots of written work if it won’t get marked, it just gives the wrong impression.

Do use SAT style questions and booklets to get the children familiar with the work.

Do use text extracts from novels that the children have read with you, it’s great for confidence and can allow the children to work independently.

Got an iPad?
Guided reading is an excellent opportunity to use iPads, a group can quickly and easily produce some great looking work in a session. Some ideas:
Access books and great looking texts – Bobo Explores Light is an excellent, interactive look at light. If poetry app is also highly recommended!

Bobo Explores Light

Make use of specific apps to reinforce skills needed, Sentence Builder is great for tense and verb agreement. There are plenty of phonics apps on the market as well for any children who need the reinforcement. Strip Designer will allow you create story boards or retell a story.

03 Feb

Why blog?

Are you blogging in the classroom already?

image

Blogs are incredibly easy to set up, and there are plenty around to give you inspiration. You could begin here. The question is, why bother?

 

There seems to be plenty of examples about pupils who would not write, or were reluctant writers, who were inspired by blogs to write more and to write well. Not to mention teachers who were inspired by reading/writing blogs. One paper does attempt to answer the question of impact on pupil progress, however it does not seem to offer any statistically significant improvement, although it does offer evidence for motivation and engagement. Other research points to the impact blogging can have when it is channelled towards a learning objective such as second language learning, or critical thinking skills. See link for Hourigan, below. More ‘hard evidence’ is something we are waiting for, in the meantime all we can do is share our experiences.

Some evidence is anecdotal, a quick trawl through twitter gives you enthusiastic and inspired teachers who really believe that blogging is giving their pupils the motivation needed to write.

And there seems to be the point, motivation? A good, well managed blog does more than that:
– it supports audience awareness, great for fine tuning language skills
– develops digital literacy skills as pupils become responsible for their own blogs
– an awareness of cultural differences, geography, citizenship. Check out the brilliant Quad Blogging for details of how schools are linked together to ensure children are sharing experiences across the globe.
– develops communication skills and team building
– can address an aspect of school life, like parental engagement or school dinners.

What about for teachers? This excellent blog here details one school’s journey and describes how blogs were introduced to staff. There is no doubt that teachers benefit from the chance to share and reflect on their practice. Could blogging be the way to do this? This blog from a secondary school teacher encourages plenty of reflection and is a very worthwhile read!
Another excellent mixture of ideas and reflection comes here, KrisitanStill, would encouraging staff to keep a blog be a step in continuous professional development?
Blogs can also be used incredibly effectively for CPD, check out this a site set up to allow teachers to moderate piece of writing in line with National Curriculum levels. Very useful!

It’s well worth checking out the ‘impact’ section of the QuadBlogging site here. Lots of talk about community, collaboration and team-building, which is supported by reading some of the research. It seems pupils are enthused by having a sense of audience, control over content and the use of a medium that they are comfortable with.

Another great site is here Set up by a teacher to share resources and give tips!

If you have any success stories, please add them here!

So where can you start? My advice, is to begin with a teacher who is already interested. Start small and let other teachers see how it can be managed and what can be achieved. A free site, such as posterous or blogger can be used and initially teachers can post and students leave comments. Ensure any comments come to you to be moderated, and start with some very simple posts.

Do remember to think about your e safety policy at the same time as introducing class blogs. Will pupils be taught how to respond to comments? Will you encourage parental contributions? Perhaps a coffee morning for parents to discuss any fears or share any ideas?

Using a school-wide blog, such as The 100 Word Challenge can provide a focal point, and raise the profile of a subject.

Get started with blogging.

Get started with blogging.

 

 

 


References:
The Impact of Blogging and Scaffolding on Primary School Pupils’ Narrative Writing: A Case Study
Ruth Mei Fen Wong, National Institute of Education, Singapore Khe Foon Hew, National Institute of Education, Singapore

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG: HOW DOES IT IMPACT ON WRITING IN A JAPANESE CLASSROOM?
Sharon Henry Wellington High School Rosemary Erlam
The University of Auckland

Using blogs to help language students to develop reflective learning strategies: Towards a pedagogical framework
TrĂ­ona Hourigan and Liam Murray University of Limerick

mrandrewsonline.blogspot.co.uk