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?

 

 

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

 

 

13 Dec

Digital Badges and Motivation

My brand new Digital Leaders have been trying the brilliance that is the makewav.es site.

For those not clear, makewav.es provides a safe environment for pupils to share blogs, video, stories and photos about subjects which can be linked to digital badges. This then allows you (the teacher/ administrator person) to set tasks, award badges and keep an eye on progress.

A great idea, but one I wasn't sure about for primary. Sure, the pupils enjoyed logging in, shared stories and quickly got the idea but would it work in the long term?

Answer – it does – but like anything else it is based on the preparation. Makewaves allows you to create 3 free badges as part of it's entry-level free package. However, it also allows you to use any other badge created. Enter the fantastic content-creator @gr8ict – who has an amazing site here explaining everything. He, along with @pederosa has created a whole framework of levelled activities linked to badges, meaning that I can award my digital leaders badges for safeguarding activities, presenting, teaching etc.

This is the gamechanger, as a small school we don't have the resources to create our own framework of badges and tasks and without them the site just becomes a blog. The free 'open' badges are perfect – and there are lots of them. My digital leaders have shared their advice, uploaded photos of themselves leading assemblies and, more recently, shared their experience of leading the Hour of Code. They then notify me and wait to gain their 'digital badges'. They have yet to ask me for a physical badge. It seems sharing the digital is enough, at the moment, and as it is an online platform they can share these badges with folks at home easily enough!

 

Of course you are not limited to Digital Leader work. I already put my Code Club members on there and used a free code club badge another school had created! (Code club should create their own open badges of course…)

It may a bit much for all busy class teachers, and to purchase the full premium license will be a bit out of the reach for schools like mine, but to focus clubs, or to generate a spark it is fab! It could be used to track progress of reflection and evaluation – as I type I'm already thinking of how it could be used for pupil transition reflection!

Check out the site – and the fantastic levelled Digital Leader resources. And let me know how you are using the resource!

12 Jan

Digital Strategy – Planning for Change

A discussion on the Computing At School website here prompted me to think about how I have gone about changing and introducing change to a digital strategy in school.

 

CPD

Even before I know exactly what I want to do I would always start with a staff meeting – even anonymously posting ideas on to a Padlet – but you can share an audit of skills or examine what they do now.. CPD the needs to be a huge part of your strategy, different staff to access different skills and to share across the school what they are doing.

Curriculum Needs

From there I would look at the curriculum, there is lots of information out there to help with this, and you will need a whole school decision about the curriculum before you commit. However you can begin with a look at what i've done here and also a general look here by @michaelt1979. Lots of support from NAACE here too.

Devices and Resources

Begin with what devices you already have, I think most aspects of the new curriculum can be reached on laptops / computers but the chances are, if you carry out an audit of what resources are in school, you will be able to begin to plan activities which fit with the new curriculum.

From there look for gaps. I'm a fan of a choice of tech in the classroom for group / individual use, but that won't work everywhere. Plot what's missing and begin to budget.

Technical Support

This brings me to one of the most overlooked part of the strategy – technical support and advice! When carrying out an audit of resources use your technical support! Ensure that the devices you do have work properly! Nothing will discourage staff from experimentation than faulty computers or dodgy WiFi. Budget for technical support, especially if you are planning to buy more equipment. Good technical support will also be able to advise on purchases, improving WiFi and to give ideas for curriculum use.

Teacher and Pupil Champions!

Teacher champions will be vital in getting the curriculum up and running, particularly if you are buying new equipment. The ICT coordinator can begin with a project, and then share any success with staff. Pupil Digital Leaders (wide community here) can be trained to use certain programmes then lead that with their class or troubleshoot to support staff. For example how the interactive whiteboards should be set up.

Again CPD will be needed at this stage – share the use of simple programming skills such as Scratch – or regsiter for a Code Club Volunteer here.

Software

My final advice for software s to think creatively! When lesson planning work with staff to find what they want to do and source tools that do that. There is lots and lots of help out there! For example using Google Sketch Up for 3D Design.

 

There is always plenty of providers ready to offer solutions:

do check with your Local Authority - some source group discounts for licenses. 

Espresso Coding – their answer to the coding elements of the new curriculum.

Purple Mash and their range of 2Simple Software offer solutions as well.

Use iPads – lots of apps support the new curriculum.

 

 

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.