17 May

Computing in the Early Years (and beyond!)

Right from Key Stage 1 we are beginning to investigate simple algorithms and to investigate computer programs.  In reception and EYFS then,  giving children the chance to experience activities and objects which encourage the correct use of technology-  (experience the world around them) – is important. Think useful, colourful and fun!!

Bee Bots!

eyfs1

Often overlooked! Or tucked away in a cupboard somewhere without charge… For that reason I recommend this set of rechargeable and self contained Bee Bots!
Use with maps on the floor to link with topics – e.g Desert Island Treasure or Road.

  • Great for linking to topic maps and stories.
  • Versatile – link to instruction writing or leave as play

 

Remote Control Cars

Sounds simple, but these will encourage pupils to think in terms of instruction following, and develop direction, motor skills and control.

  • Can be linked to topics and stories in a similar way to Bee Bots.
  • Encourage group working and talking whilst play.

eyfs2

 

Make use of the whiteboard!

The 2 Simple City is a great environment for simulation and play. However it could be as simple as leaving your smart board software up there so they can play. However a quick search will find many online games aimed at this age group that can be linked to topics. Try Poisson Rouge or looking at the TES iBoard – some of which are free.

  • Use a rota for the children who are allowed on the whiteboard, maybe with a timer so that other children get the chance.
  • Many of these activities can also be left on the classroom computers.

 

EYFS5

 

Recordable Props!

I’ve really begun to like the wide variety of classroom props around that let you (or the pupils) record their own message. My favourite are the recordable pegs which let children record explanations and ideas linked to classroom work, or in storytelling corners. Gives a lovely personal touch to the classroom. You can also get little push buttons which allow you to leave oral instructions for activities, or children to practice their talk before writing.

eyfs6

 

Laptops / Tablet Computers

Discussions around ‘what’s best’ for younger hands / eyes / experiences aside try and think what would fit best within you school environment. I always recommend a mixture are available for the children to use – and for computers you can get some lovely smaller mice and colourful keyboards. On Android and ipad there are plenty of apps that can be used, and some very safe covers to protect from water / dropping etc. Plenty of the apps I’ve looked at here fit in well with early users, too.

Links – note there is a wide variety of shops / sites which sell this equipment! Recommended just to get started:

TTS 

Focus Educational

The WhiteBoard Blog (because it’s fab for all whiteboard use!)

TES iBoard

Please leave a comment if you can recommend any other equipment / programmes for the early years environment!

23 Nov

Speaking and Listening

The iPad can be used in many ways to develop and promote a wide variety of speaking and listening activites. Although having one in the classroom means the teacher can record conversations and share them – there are some great apps out there which can promote language and encourage listening.

Explain Everything

I have talked about this app extensively – it really is great for all kinds of activites. Take a photograph and ask the children to record their description. Use short videos and ask children to narrate what action is taking place. Children can create instruction video for activities such as cooking or art. The emphasis here is in not needing to get it right, they can re-record or try again on the next slide. You can then use the video within the lesson.

Casestudy : lesson objective was to develop a persuasive argument – children were asked to take part in a debate about bullying – they had to pitch their idea for an antibullying campaign. Using the app they could illustrate their idea, and explain it in detail orally. They had a model the teacher had created and created a wishlist (or success criteria) they were then able to give each other feedback on their ‘pitch’ for the campaign.

Story Building – Developing Writing

Interacting with books with My Story World.

I have discussed using the iPad for writing here – it is a great tool for collecting ideas, creating plans and collaborating on writing. However the oral sequencing of events, retelling a story and rehearsing sentences are all valubale skills that can be practised and made fun with the iPad. Especially for younger children. The app Puppet Pals can be used to act out scenes in a story. The app Story Builder is also great, especially as it encourages the formation of full and correct sentences by asking questions. There are many interactive books as well which encourage the retelling and sequencing of stories, sucb as Me Books, My Story World and the excellent Collins Big Cat series.

Puppet Pals – the fairy tale character set contains characters many children will be familiar with.

Case study : retelling stories – as a guided reading activity the children were asked to retell a fairy tale they had been reading. They had read this in class and could choose any way they wanted to do this. Using the app Puppet Pals HD they could retell the story and explore the character interaction.

Skill Building

Speaking and listening relies on children developing their confidence from an early age, developing the standard of use English so that they can make themselves understood and playing with language features such as rhetorical questions. The iPad can also be used for the children to produce their own video and to learn to give feedback to each other.

  • Use the iPad to record short video – it could be a book review or answering questions. Encourage the use of ‘correct’ language and model the standard you want.
  • The use of technical language within subjects such as science or maths can be encouraged by asking children to create video for a plenary which explains their findings or solutions to a problem

 

Using Garage Band

 

Garage Band has lots of uses! The recording function works well for podcasting and straightforward recording, however you can also change your voice, add sound effects and use percussion to tell a story. My tip? Get some headphones for the class!

 

Case study : using the podcast facility the children recorded a diary linked to the 2012 Olympics. This dairy, which was meant to be informal and context-specific was then developed into a written account, with each child choosing the section they wanted to develop further.

Have you had any success with a particular app or activity? Please add it to this Padlet!

 

16 Nov

Puppet Pals

Puppet Pals is the app that seems to inspire the most fun when I show it to teachers, the creativity appears to be endless and it is incredibly easy to pick up! A quick google search will quickly show hundreds of videos that have been created with this incredibly versatile app.

To get the most from it though you do need the Director’s Pass – as whilst the basic is free – paying £1.99 means you really open up the possibilities.

Puppet Pals Mobile App from Rain on Vimeo.

To explain briefly Puppet Pals HD allows you to set up a ‘puppet show’ using a background, and populating it with characters. The app will then record your actions, allowing you to tell a story. The backdrop and characters can either be chosen in-app or created from photo’s from the photo roll. That’s one of the key changes purchasing the directors pass will give you.
It is important to stress that this app is not complicated, and will not take long for either you, or the children to pick up. I have used this app to retell a fairy tale with reception age children, and they have all produced something within the lesson. It really does create lots of opportunities for speaking and listening.
However Puppet Pals has many other uses beyond retelling a story.
In Maths Puppet Pals can be used to give drama to a real life problem, created either by yourself or during the lesson. Because Puppet Pals is so easy to use you can create great looking animations which can be used to explain how the children solved a problem.
Telling stories is very natural to Puppet Pals and because the results are so quick it can be used within other subject areas, retelling dilemmas for PHSE – creating mini e-safety video’s for Anti-Bullying Week.
History you can bring together props and actors to create stories. As the app lets you photo characters, just take a photo of the prop as a character…

 


19 May

Skype – Reflecting on the Adventure!

We have now had four successful skype sessions in our school, and a couple of not so successful sessions. I thought it would be useful to share  our experiences and to reflect on the usefulness of the session in the classroom. 

The Background
I initially wanted to use Skype for a topic one class was doing about their local area – I thought the chance to discuss their local environment with peers from around the world would be very powerful. I was also looking for something with a bit of a ‘wow’ factor to get our children engaged in their learning. As many of the children I work with speak English as an additional language or are very new to the country I thought they would enjoy the chance to chat with their peers from around the world.

I began by looking at the excellent website – Skype in the Classroom – and created a post for a World Book Day event (which didn’t happen – I was being a optimistic about what I could achieve!) However that didn’t matter as it meant that I began to make contacts with other teachers from around the world who were interested in these sessions. I also put it to my contacts in Twitter, and got a few teachers interested that way! The first session I examined here…

Now we have children chatting about their Skype session at lunch time, Digital Leaders who blog about it and teachers building a session into their planning. It really has taken off!

Firstly the successful sessions:

They have been led with a purpose in mind, and one teacher will create the question, or a theme will be discussed. One class have now met twice, and there is no doubt that the second time the children were much calmer and knew what to expect. 

The theme of ‘getting to know you’ is much better if key questions have been shared and discussed first.  A big thank you to one teacher Ana for guiding us in this way

One of our groups shared a book over Skype – the perfect example of purpose, and a curriculum link. This has proven popular with the teachers who wish to talk again as soon as they have finished their current book. Thanks to @PEandMe for this brilliant idea.

Other children and teachers have been involved in the successful sessions, I have included our Digital Leaders as recorders of events, and asked teachers to choose if they wish to take part. Eventually the organising of sessions will be left to teachers. 

The unsuccessful sessions:

Are plagued by technical issues or bad timing – you do need to give the sessions some time, and due to the nature of the technology some leeway if things don’t work. No point planning a session for fifteen minutes with another lesson straight away.

Your internet connection, whilst important does not need to be perfect, camera and microphone are important. Try out your equipment, can you hear the children? Are the children used to seeing themselves? Valuable time can be lost with waving and giggling into the camera!!

The least successful sessions are done at the last minute with little prep – the children are going to be curious and will want to get involved  – give them time to prepare with some questions, ideas about the country or the children or the topic to discuss. 

What we’ve learnt:

Try out your connection first – and think about what equipment you use. We find it works fine with iPads, but the Airserver link to the whiteboard created a delay that confused the children. 

Prep the pupils – point out the country discuss their experiences and make the links with the curriculum like any other subject.

Speaking and listening are important! As a result of this work we are going to begin September with a big push on these skills – ‘conversation’ if you like! Skype chats have shown that our younger children can struggle to formulate questions, and often don’t answer in full sentences, this can have a big impact in EAL learners, and the children we are chatting with!

Next steps

Now we are beginning to see smooth running sessions, I am investigating projects and ideas which would bring authors, experts or interested guests into the classroom. Such as discussed by Kate Messner in this article. Skype Splash

I am definitely getting more teachers involved as well, and as our class teachers get their own mobile device, connecting with Skype will be even easier!

Referenced from links in the article :

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ922983&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ922983 – Article

Awesome blog and experience from a very valued contact! http://cegarvirtualclassroom.weebly.com/15/post/2013/05/ii-3-meets-their-peers-from-turkey-and-uk.html

The School Digital Leaders Blog : http://debeauvoirdl.blogspot.co.uk/

20 Mar

Skype – One Big Adventure

 

I wanted to find a way that I could really start to connect our pupils with the world around them. Schools in London have a wealth of geographical experience in their classrooms and I thought a great way to harness that would be Skype… 

Our skype adventure began with me browsing the Skype in the Classroom site...

This really great site linked me immediately to lots of people all over the world.. I had some pretty big dreams, you know – the explorer going up Mount Everest, the Astronauts and so on. However, I began small….

I set up the school Skype account, and then tested it on locally. The school has iPads, and I used those. I made sure not to leave the app logged in on the pupil iPads however. In fact, I got the Digital Leaders to remove the app from some of the iPads.

Then we set up a Skype date – a school in Qatar, and a teacher who contacted me initially over twitter.

(Big thanks to Mr Allen – @peandme)

We decided to set a theme – and as World Book Day was looming we went for a Book theme. Our Year 4 class was primed to talk about their book, and the teacher in Abu Dhabi, UAE prepped their children for their talk.

Once connected the debate was quickly lead by the children. Their excitement could felt in the room! We had to rehearse some questions and the children could, some of the time, stick to a script! However, with a class of 30, it was tough for them to do. It was nice to let them lead the questions though – and this was helped by having the skype display on the interactive whiteboard through AirServer.

This led then to the Digital Leaders writing up the experience for the parents and teachers to see.  See our school website here.

Year4SkypeMarch

So what worked?

  • Well the chat certainly did, and both schools were impressed…
  • The children and teacher are now sufficiently motivated to read the book they were reading and report back at the next chat.
  • The one session has been enough to make other staff ‘think big’ – and I am busy setting up other skype meetings!

Warnings: (or what I would do differently!)

  • We have had some ‘dodgy’ connections with one of our other classrooms… Have a back up plan!
  • I have been inundated with schools – don’t bite off more than you can chew! I was amazed at how many schools want to give this a go.
  • Think about the time difference – sounds silly, but it has a real impact on what is possible.
  • For the main skype session I prefer a fixed webcam and microphone rather than an iPad – the connection feels so much more solid!

 Future ideas? 

  • The motivation for writing, speak and listening are obvious… the children are able to see a purpose to what they are doing.
  • Speaking and Listening – sharing ideas and crossing a language barrier!
  • Topic based work? Specific and shared learning intentions? Sharing teachers?

Resources

Skype in the Classroom – a good place to start!

Ways to use Skype – Teach Hub

Interesting article from Time magazine – What Teachers Are Using Skype For

An Author in Every Classroom – Messner, Kate (2010) School Library Journal  – abstract – This article discusses how Skype and other video-conferencing software have become a staple for teachers, librarians, and authors who want to get kids excited about reading. The past year has brought a huge increase in the number of schools and libraries using Skype to connect classrooms and bring in experts to talk with kids. And with cuts in school funding limiting traditional author visits, meetups via Skype have grown even more popular. All of the authors interviewed in this article agree on one point: it’s important for teachers and librarians to prepare students for a Skype visit in advance. Reading at least one of the author’s books, either together or as a read-aloud, is a must, and kids who prepare questions in advance are generally more comfortable speaking on the day of the visit.