22 Aug

Digital 5 a Day!

This is a response to a post by Cliff Manning (@cliffmanning) regarding the Children’s Commissioner’s recent Digital 5 A Day campaign.

This campaign, in their own words aims to:

The Digital 5 A Day provides a simple framework that reflects the concerns of parents/ carers as well as children’s behaviours and needs. It can also act as a base for family agreements about internet and digital device use throughout both the holidays and term time.

Based on the NHS’s evidence-based ‘Five steps to better mental wellbeing’, the 5 A Day campaign gives children and parents easy to follow, practical steps to achieve a healthy and balanced digital diet.

And it makes complete sense – there is a need to give parents, and children, a different dialogue about being online that is not all about esafety and ‘nots’. There are lots of great resources out there for Parents who are worried (I wrote about them here) – but my experience, as a teacher, is that this focus can make pupils fearful about speaking out and, at the same time, Parents don’t ask for help if they need it as they feel they will be labelled. To have a campaign which focuses on the good technology can bring – and then uses that to bring families together can only be a good thing. Articles like this represent how it has been received. However, as is pointed out by by @cliffmanning:

The press headlines inevitably focused on ‘regulating screen time’ and rules — however the intention was to help young people develop a balanced, creative, empowered relationship with digital and devices.

What then, would support the young people develop this relationship?

I’m torn between the #digital5aday being too prescriptive and then not prescriptive enough.  The five elements are useful to guide thinking and will, with some, promote conversation amongst families. Themes that many schools will recognise and in fact teacher’s will talk about technology in such ways.  However, as I outline at the end of this piece, I do think that there other problems with a campaign like this.

Connect

Here parents are prompted to see the value in connecting with people. Parents are reminded to ‘keep a dialogue open’ (nothing new there then!).

With the support of parents children could be prompted to check in with a family member they don’t see very often? To message a friend and make them smile? For older children – can they support an older family member online? Can they look up their favourite author? Or TV personality – write them a short note? Author’s website can be a great source of activities such as writing competitions, or book-linked ideas.

Be Active

This prompt feels like it has been included just to make sure ‘screen time’ isn’t the only focus. But, let’s face it, using the internet as directory enquiries really isn’t that inspiring – these days it is the default. Asking them to research a place or local activity without using the internet would be a bigger challenge!

But – older children can challenge themselves to do something new – and then share it. Join a local group for their chosen activity? Find  a video of an inspirational achievement in their chosen sport? Can they learn something to help them improve their favourite acitivity?

Get Creative

This one is easy – and where children excel online. The danger is in mentioning specific games (which dates your publication immediately) – and you tube tutorials which parents of younger children may not let them access. Writing fan fiction is a great idea – especially as that can link to film and TV – not just games. But also signposting some game creation tools they can use something like Scratch -which would be a great joint venture with parents. Trying the Hour of Code – or asking children to contribute to a  blog post or to a writing competition. Sharing any creations would be ideal – designs using something like TinkerCad for example.

Give to Others

This is a really lovely inclusion which again many schools will recognise. Researching and linking to chosen charities would be nice here -and in the link to activity why not challenge yourself to do something to raise money for charity and set up (with parental help) – your fundraising page complete with charting your success via a blog?

Be Mindful

Another inclusion that feels little connection to the Digital 5 a Day. Good advice, of course, to switch off. Being mindful however is also about taking your time to really ‘be somewhere’ – and to give yourself completely to the activity you are doing. Whatever that may be.

The right campaign? 

I think one of the issues with a campaign like this is that it tries to be too many things at once. I know what they are trying to achieve – but I think we need to pick our audience more carefully. Children / teenagers may find this advice patronising, and many will just be unaware of it completely. It is important to note that children and teenagers who are tech savvy enough to be aware and involved with these activites don’t need ‘digital’ 5 a day – the digital is superfluous and unnecessary. It would be better to just appeal to the ‘5 holiday habits’ or some such. Parents may welcome these kind of prompts – but I suspect that the parents who are aware of this, and reading it, will already be aware of the many uses of the digital world. The digital divide is very real for families and if you want to get to those children who are just left unsupervised with a tablet and TV for hours on end I don’t think this will do it.

A Platform

Finally with a campaign like this why not go the whole hog and develop a kind of ‘challenge’ – digital badges such as the like seen at Makewav.es. Being totally serious about it, they could develop a sharing platform? Using existing social media to put everything in once place for parents to see. Using existing networks already like faceboook for local sports groups would also help young people see what is out there.

12 Feb

Ed tech – all or nothing?

Does the Technology in Education have to be such a polarising debate?

Is it really a case of all tech or no tech?

The debate has continued in earnest this week – with Apple’s Tim Cook weighing in with the sound bite ‘Classroom Tech not a Substitute for Teaching‘. This secret teacher  also seems to suggest that once SLT has decided it wifi became ubiquitous along with access as and when the children needed it. Unhelpful headlines and typical of th debate (regardless of the measured context that the schools are working in) It seems that for some there are no half measures.

This type of situation is unhelpful and surely not that realistic? Beyond emails – and updating online spaces (or providing material to update) – what else can we gain from forcing teacher to use technology or arguing that technology will replace teachers.

Fashion and Fad

Of course this isn’t helped by rumour and random news stories. The most recent being that Year 1 will be subject to a PISA style test which will be online. A few years ago a discussed times table test was rumoured to be online only. These ideas are just that, headlines designed as clickbait, however they point to a key problem. Technology in the classroom is seen as divisive. It is seen as a have-all or have-nothing and it is very much subject to the other whims of education debate. Taken into context then it makes no sense to have such an absolute vision. We don’t talk about assessment in such terms, or behaviour policies. Both of these examples are subject to the ideas and beliefs of the school and so should technology use.

Losses and Gains

Let’s face it – the breathless predictions of what teaching can get from technology comes from the providers themselves. Nothing more than free advertising using their user base as a megaphone. Change, of any sort, takes time in huge institutitions such as education and yet we are seeing it anyhow.

We have seen how technology has made administrative tasks much easier;  how whole school communication is made easier and  staying in touch with other stakeholders easier. How pupils can create and publish their work with ease. Now we know that there are pros and cons for any tools – (let’s not start on the email inbox!) but nothing seem to raise the hackles quite like the use of technology. We talk about the debate in absolutes –  around schools who are ‘all ipad’ rather than those who use it as and when it can support their pupil. We talk of ‘paperless’ rather than looking at the savings made via the use of email. Replacing teachers rather than supporting teachers. Automating and boring rather than creative and engaging.

The Future

Then there is the talk about the future – how the promised change that technology was to bring hasn’t happened. Apart from the fact that many of these promises are nothing more than advertisements we need to remember that this is about context. Every school will have their own story – success or otherwise. For every school that has found technology to be nothing more than an expensive distraction there will be a school that has benefited greatly. Finding the good news stories can be a little tougher because they don’t generate the same kind of headlines – but they are there. We just need to think about the wider picture. Consider the online networks of teachers supporting one another – or the blogging community. Think about Skype and how that has welcomed experts into the classroom – shared experiences across the globe. Think about pupils sharing their writing with other schools, instantly, with other authors or with their friends and families.

None of these examples require the absolute and only use of technology, but they wouldn’t be possible without it.

21 Sep

Collaboration Inspiration..

Whilst pupils tend to be enthusiastic about the use of technology in the classroom particularly whilst it has that ‘brand new’ aspect – finding projects to keep involvement going is not always easy – not to mention stretching pupils who may have got the coding and computing curriculum covered.

QBL

This post then is nothing but a signpost to collaborative projects which can help take your pupils to the next level. Collaboration can develop all kinds of skills – including a reflective and evaluative approach to your own learning. For pupils, the chance to ‘debug’ programmes is a Key Stage 2 Objective – whilst the opportunity to share your work with the wider community can force a more detailed and critical approach.

Many of these projects are incredibly easy to get involved in – and most require a little work from both ends – if you need any help and advice just ask!

A word about e-safety : It goes without saying that anything that is part of the wider internet will contain links, comments and images you can’t always control. Best way to tackle this is to ensure your children are e-safety savvy. I talk about this here. 

Blogging Projects:

I talk about the value of blogs here.  A great way  to develop literacy skills and to develop and understand ‘digital etiquette’. Many schools will have web presences and blogs can either be a completely separate addition to this, or enhance this provision. It can be hard to develop a sense of audience though and that is where collaborative projects can work so well.

QuadBlogging – a more formal approach which puts groups of classes into and asks schools to ensure they not only post, but comment. It has been well received and I have seen it go from strength to strength!

Digital Leader Network – a shared blogging platform which, whilst giving your Digital Leaders a platform, could just as easily be used for a class project. Details regarding how to get started can be found on the site.

The Blog Exchange – a new site aimed at building mutual audiences. http://theblogexchange.wordpress.com

 

Filmclub

Creative Projects

Whilst I wasn’t sure if this was the same as blogging, I’ve included these as a separate category as they can be much more individual than blogs – in fact these could be used by targeted groups to support confidence and practice key skills!

100 Word Challenge  – a great idea with some really fantastic responses. A writing prompt is displayed weekly – which other pupils are then invited to comment on – it’s a good opportunity to give pupils an audience, create a competitive atmosphere if need be and teach digital etiquette skills!

DigitalTeacherLink.Com – this time linked to specific projects such as Scratch games – register at this site and your pupils can then request ‘testers’ for projects and then act on the feedback given. A really unique chance to put pupils in the seat of ‘game tester’ (or indeed developer)

Film Club  – I’m a huge fan of Film Club – if you’ve not come across it you can probably guess what it does! The great thing about the site though is that members of Film Club can post reviews of films, with ‘star’ reviews winning prizes. A real audience – and the chance to win things too!

 

Finding Partners

Of course sometimes you might want to set up a collaboration that is a bit more ‘permanent’ – The British Council Schools Site do an excellent job of forming partnerships – and I can recommend browsing through their ideas for activities once you have found a partner.

 

Further Ideas:

Sometimes you just want to be able to set something up that will get the whole school thinking! YOu could try a school ‘book review’ blog – browse Woodlands Junior for inspiration! Federations and Academies can easily create shared blogs – photo / short stories – anything really that will allow the pupils to share ideas!

Further Reading:

Using blogs to collaborate and share – reading.org

Igniting innovation in education through collaboration – Edutopia

Follow Digital Classrooms on WordPress.com

06 Sep

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!