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 Apr

From Padlet to Twitter – a Digital Classroom Journey!

I thought I would share a recent example of of the integrated way in which various digital/social platforms can be linked and used in the classroom.

Context first:

Y6 class, space topic.

The pupils have a blog, created on blogger, which the teacher updates.


Literacy unit (and linked work) was newspaper linked, journalistic writing and so on.


How we started:

A very simple lesson – aimed at questioning skills and linked to interviewing an astronaut – the children had to think of questions they would ask and build these into a report they were writing. These were collated on a Padlet, which was embedded in to their class blog.


The pupils are well versed in contributing to Padlet – and did so at home.


Next we linked to Twitter. The pupils are aware that there is a school Twitter account, it has been used before for contacting local businesses and sharing photographs of work. We discussed how we might limit the questions in order to keep to the restricted number of characters, and, more importantly how we could find someone to ask…

It's all about relevance…

Luckily for us the Channel 4 Space Season and been a hit – and that has hash tags and twitter handles all over it. So we started there… It's worth mentioning that I did do 'live' twitter search – but I used an iPad and Air Server and so was able to put Air Server on once search completed….

We then tweeted what looked like a willing volunteer, an Astronaut who had been on the Space Station itself – who – amazingly replied!! (Huge thanks to him!!) He was able to answer several questions, and used photographs and links to the Space Station live to get his messages across.


Every day that week I was able to show the children more photos, more answers and really keep the topic alive! – The links for their writing, and with the blog at home were really clear – genuinely exciting (for staff and pupils) – and produced some awesome, genuinelt motivated work! Enthusiasm was everywhere, and the whole school buzzed with the pictures and replies we were getting!


What we learnt:
  • It was great for e-safety, the other twitter users who got involved provided the perfect opportunity to discuss advertising and online 'stranger danger'.
  • Use of the blog both in and outside the classroom was also beneficial, those children who cannot access the blog were still a big part of the lesson.



05 Jan

Blogging – a useful learning tool?

Since I posted a page which had tips on how to get blogging started in school blogging seems to be increasing in popularity, certainly within the primary schools I work in we have teachers, and pupils, blogging for all sorts of reasons.

More and more research is available on the subject asking about the quality of learning. Researchers seem to be interested in the activities which takes place whilst blogging, and in the collaborative element.

Consider this, from a recent paper in the excellent International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning ( Alterman & Larusson 2012)

At one level, blogging is an activity composed of writing, reading, and commenting, and at a second level, the students share their thoughts in their own voices. At a third level, over the course of the semester, the student posts and commentary form a commons of information that can be mined later in the semester for other kinds of learning activities. Knowledge creation, distribution, and accumulation are analyzed in terms of student participation at both the level of individual events and from the perspective of an ongoing community

It's worth pointing out that the case study was looking at adult learners who were expected to blog twice a week – however elements can be applied to primary schools. For example comments, and how important it is for learners to give effective comments (feedback) – something we regualrly model to our pupils.

Then there is this article by Tse et al in 2010 – they were interested in how blogging can support children who were learning another language, and summarize why others have been very positive about the efffects of blogging:

Chen and Zhang (2003) found that encouraging blogging (a) allows teachers and student to share information and ideas and (b) lets others comment or respond to their postings. Such feedback encourages writers to think about how they are expressing themselves, and prompts bloggers to amend and update blogs. Such blog interactions not only encourage students to read and write, they also stimulate thinking. Wu and Chen (2006) found that blogging helps to boost the confidence of computer users to learn independently, to share experiences and ideas through blogs and to contribute, if only in tiny ways, to the construction of knowledge.

They point out several postive outcomes for the learning of Chinese and English in their paper, such as the pupils independently seeking out English language sites, the development of different language for different social situations and the manner in which pupils who accessed the English language blogs displayed superior English reading performance. The recommendations from the authors include the very relevant fact that pupils were accessing these sites whether or not we used them in school, so it made social and educational sense to use them, and to curate and identify useful material for the pupils.

Duffy (2008) identified uses of blogs in the classroom from their paper:

  • promote critical and analytical thinking;
  • ƒpromote creative, intuitive and associational thinking;
  • ƒpromote analogical thinking;
  • ƒpotential for increased access and exposure to quality information;
  • ƒcombination of solitary and social interaction

Within a personal academic perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • reflection on teaching experiences;
  • ƒresources and methodologies for teaching;
  • ƒramblings regarding professional challenges and teaching tips for other academics, and
  • ƒillustration of specific technology-related tips for other colleague.

Within an organizational perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • a common online presence for unit-related information such as calendars, events, assignments and resources, and an
  • ƒ online area for students to post contact details and queries relating to assessment

Within a pedagogical perspective a blog can support; ƒ

  • comments based on content, literature readings and student responses;
  • ƒ a collaborative space for students to act as reviewers for course-related materials;
  • ƒ images and reflections related to industry placement;
  • ƒ an online gallery space for review of works, writings, etc., in progress, making use especially of the commenting feature;
  • ƒ teachers encouraging reactions, reflections and ideas by commenting on their students' blogs, and
  • ƒ the development of a student portfolio of work

How many of these do you recognise. How many can we use within our schools? And how effective are they? As is mentioned by several authors, we are waiting for the longitundinal data, but the research is beginning to show the uses and the positive outcomes.

As usual I would love to hear of any brilliant examples – I will be updating my own advice to schools soon.



Duffy, P (2008) Engaging the YouTube Google-Eyed Generation: Strategies for Using Web 2.0 in Teaching and Learning – The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong – Electronic Journal of e-learning.


Richard, R & Larusson, J A (2013) Participation and common knowledge in a case study of student blogging International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning June 2013, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 149-187

Tse, S. K., Yuen, A. H. K., Loh, E. K. Y., Lam, J. W. I. & Ng, R. H. W. (2010). The impact of blogging on Hong Kong primary school students' bilingual reading literacy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 164-179. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/tse.html



03 Jan

Collaborative Learning

I am currently beginning my research for my dissertation and, in part thanks to my experience with the iPad in school, I have decided to focus on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Whilst the specifics of my research are yet to be worked out preliminary reading around the subject has proven very interesting and has already got me asking questions about my own teaching.

One of the first really interesting aspects of this is the historical one. Researchers were interested in this topic from the very early days, and many predicted the problems, and the freedoms we are experiencing now. This paper by Roschelle and Pea described how Wireless Internet Learning Devices (WILDs they termed them – catchy!) can be used to improve/augment the classroom for collaborative learning.

We have suggested five WILD application affordances already illustrated by early

handheld CSCL applications: (1) augmenting physical space; (2) leveraging topological

space, of two distinct kinds; (3) aggregating coherently across all students' individual

contributions; (4) conducting classroom performances; and (5) “act becomes artifact

Their work also talks about how teachers talked very favourably about such devices (which back then were items such as palm pilots) but were worried about children going off task, or not paying attention. Sounds familiar?!

Scott et al – in their 2003 paper demonstrate favourable activity such as engagment and participation chiefly when children can interact at the same time – and from their 2003 study they make the following useful recommendations:

  1. Support should be provided for concurrent interaction. The results of this work show that this can help to engage children in a collaborative activity and enable them to participate equally.
  2. Multiple interaction styles should be supported in both hardware and software. This will allow children to explore a variety of collaborative strategies and to choose the most suitable one(s) for the activity and their personalities.
  3. Consider designing collaborative applications for use on a shared display, especially those where the children would benefit from a shared understanding of the workspace (e.g. a spatial learning activity).
  4. The goal of the activity should be considered before choosing a collaborative setting. No collaborative setting is best suited for all situations. As shown above, children who found the collaborative math activity the easiest in the shared-display setting, did not necessarily find it the most enjoyable. Many enjoyed the challenge of communicating in the separated-displays setting. Conversely, if a teacher is trying to coach a child through an activity, sharing a display may help facilitate richer communication to allow them to concentrate on the activity, rather than on trying to understand each other.

These recommendations are very relevant now – designing the technology for the learning rather than the other way round is incredibly important. The talk of a shared display, whether it be interactive whiteboard or iPad screen is also interesting – do we get more talk / more collaboration when children are sharing screens and is it relevant to their learning?

Dillenbourg (1999) has written extensively on the subject and poses many questions that are relevant to teachers:

  • What evidence do we have that collaborative learning is an effective way of learning? How are we measuring this?
  • Do we measure the group as a learning community or the individuals learning? Why?
  • Are we interested in measuring activities such as engagement / participation / off task activity?
  • What will the role of the teacher become? In ten years can we say it has changed? (Probably not)


As an aside my next stop will be Gerry Stahl – and to refine my own research idea.

Thanks for reading!

References – apologies, not all of these are freely available.

Demb A, Erickson, D and Hawkins-Wilding, S (2004) The laptop alternative: Student reactions and strategic implications Computers & Education 43 (4) 383 – 401


Dillenbourg, P. (1999) What do you mean by Collaborative Learning? In P. Dillenbourg (ed) Collaborative Learning : Cognitive and Computational Approaches (PP 1 – 19) Oxford : Elsevier


Miyake, N Computer Supported Collaborative Learning in Andrews, R and Haythornthwaite, C (eds) The Sage Handbook of E-Learning (2007) Sage : London


Roschelle, J and Pea, R. (2002) A Walk on the WILD side: How Wireless handhelds may change computer-supported collaborative learning. International Journal of Cognition and Technology (2002) 1 (1) 145-168


Roschelle, J (2003) Unlocking the learning value of wireless mobile devices. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 19 (3) 260 – 272


Scott, S D, Mandryk, RL and Inkpen, K M (2003) Understanding children's collaborative interactions in shared environments. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2003) 19 220-228


Zurita, G and Nussbaum, M (2004) Computer supported collaborative learning using wirelessly interconnected handheld computers. Computers & Education (2004) 289-213



31 Dec

Introducing a New Curriculum – Literacy

In the new year my focus point will be the new curriculum.


Literacy: when I began training there was lots of support for the teaching of literacy, the national strategies were in their heydey and every school I trained at and worked at had several copies of government published documents. Really useful documents. Such as the National Strategies, The Spelling Programme for Key Stage 2 and my favourite – Grammar for Writing. These documents were vital for supporting the introduction of the Literacy Hour and drawing attention to what the teaching of English would look like for the then expected National Curriculum. All of these documents can be accessed through the National Archives

Personally I liked these documents, some hated them. I didn't like the forced 'Literacy Hour' but then I, like many, didn't really do it. But lots of resources, good teaching ideas and creative ways round misconceptions came from these documents. We didn't stick to the units particularly closely, but they were there if needed. Also there was the framework… The framework; the units; the order in which to teach things all came in handy for teachers who were not confident or schools who needed to ensure coverage.

However, we now have a new National Curriculum – all online – though handily sold by Scholastic (!) And we have several months to work with teachers. With the introduction of any school wide change key questions should be asked, and I can thoroughly recommend @michaelt1979's curriculum jigsaws.

This Haiku Deck is my plan for getting schools up to speed:


  • Staff meeting in January : Begin with the big aims and take these from staff – what are we trying to do? Is an integrated curriculum still the main aim? Will our current topic layout still work? What books and genres are we still covering? Shall we discuss with parents? Share resources with staff!
  • These key questions will form an idea gathering session, as well as allow staff to share pressing concerns for staff inset that may be needed. For some schools this is a golden opportunity to review your curriculum.
  • Then we will give teachers / subject coordinators time… Work out what is needed and what is missing. Let them find any training / conferences they might want. A blank staff meeting time will be good for this, and allow for SLT to meet to check the assessment changes. Give staff deadlines for renewed subject action plans.
  • We will plan a unit of work for summer, each year group looking at a particular subject or area.. This can be done together, and does not have to be literacy based.
  • Finally review the whole school curriculum map!

Literacy so far…..

For staff we have a focus on Grammar across the school with short sessions and sharing of grammar games. I have a page here looking at this.

Big focus on vocabulary and topic based literacy. Including the learning environment.

Huge focus on reading for pleasure -I do like Accelerated Reader and Daily Supported Reading – but more books / projects which link school tech with books. Phonics is also a high priority.

We are identifying books / poems which will form Key Texts for our year groups – these will be topic linked.


I would love to hear how other schools are coping with the change! Worth noting that assessment is not a factor in these plans…yet!



03 Feb

Why blog?

Are you blogging in the classroom already?


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.




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

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
Tríona Hourigan and Liam Murray University of Limerick