20 Feb

Tablets in the classroom… What I’ve noticed.

This is not an argument between iPad and Android or an examination of chromebooks against laptops..

If you read this blog regularly you will know that I started very much involved with iPads. Working with schools around implementation and use of iPads in the classroom. However working in different infrastructures has given me cause to consider the use of tablets in general – how do teachers and learners actually use tablets in the classroom?

It’s worth noting that many of the teachers are new to tablets, and whilst this is not a checklist, many teachers go through stages of use with the technology in the classroom.

Uses of tablets:

  • On the go research – children and teachers with tablets will literally leave no question unanswered. Of course any classroom computer can be used for this and the digital literacy skills gained from research are very valuable!
  • Photographs! I quickly find that a classroom with tablets gets used to having lots of photographs taken. Digital leaders can photograph school events, the tablets can be taken on trips and teachers can quickly use them in lessons. The key lesson here is to ensure that the photographs can be taken from the tablet easily, a networked printer or an automatic blog for example.
  • Support and stretch! A common use of tablets in the classroom seemed to be to support and to challenge. A teaching assistant, for example, would have an app to support. A higher ability group may be asked to produce a video detailing a different view point or publishing results. All tablets can be used for this, and apps such as Explain Everything or Book Creator are useful for this purpose.
  • E-safety conversations. By necessity the conversations around esafety need to take place more frequently once the technology is in place.
  • Collaboration : because most of the classrooms I’ve seen didn’t have 1:1 tablets. Collaboration happened naturally. For example reading a text in pairs, highlighting key points. Working together on a specific app. When creating content this becomes even more apparent.
  • Blogs. Updating blogs, responding to blog posts, looking at other pupil blogs becomes so much easier when the technolgy to do so is at your fingertips.

There will be more behaviours seen, and others that will be an indirct result of the technology. I’m convinced, for example, that the pupils become used to asking a wider variety of questions and become more independent. That’s another subject though!

 

Would love to hear what you’ve noticed with tablets in the classroom.

 

 

05 Jan

Don’t Forget… Padlet

As part of a review of the year it occurred to me that there were plenty of apps, programmes and ideas that shouldn't get lost over time, but are often overlooked. So I thought a 'don't forget series' might remind teachers of what is out there.

Number 2 – Padlet

I wrote about Padlet here.

 

Padlet is great because it is a quick, versatile tool that can be embedded and saved once created. Think electronic post-it notes. Padlet is growing, and in recent months has changed. It now includes an account which registers Padlets you have answered on as well as a multitude of options for privacy.

You can still just click 'create a padlet' and get going however!

And for a while Padlets were embedded 'everywhere'… Or at least in posts like this and this. For a few simple reasons:

  • Easy sharing – a link, an embed, or a code for the site. Anyone can contribute to your Padlet.
  • Protectable – embed one in your class blog and protect it with a password.
  • They can be anonymous, or invite only. In class you can insist everyone contributes, give a synonym, extend a story, write a question for a numerical answer. Whatever your focus, leave a Padlet on a computer and then let the pupils contribute.
  • They work on all systems. At least, i've not come across one it doesn't work on yet.

In the classroom:

  • Use it to assess knowledge prior to teaching, an open question about a topic, or a question that opens up more questions.
  • Great for PHSE – different answers to sensitive problems that can be anonymous (or not)
  • Quick fire vocabulary collecting – 'how is the wolf described?'
  • Embed pictures to showcase work.

 

Resources:

Ideas for history teachers.

Teachers guide here.

 

04 Jan

5 to avoid….

Those edtech mistakes you need to try to stamp out…

1. It worked for one, so lets buy thirty…

I've seen this over and over again. One teacher, usually keen and a bit tech savvy, found something that worked very well. Perhaps a new tablet, a specfic laptop or the next new classroom equipment. It worked for them, so we buy a class set, or one for each class. Then there is surprise when issues occur, when there is not as much use from other teachers (or no use) – connectivity issues as the school's creaking wifi struggles.

Always test put purchases in the 'least likely' class, link pilot studies with teachers who are looking for a specific outcome and, if possible use suppliers who will let you lend equipment first! (This worked a treat with our chromebooks).

 

2. Don't ask around….

Someone, somewhere will have tried that new idea of yours! It is a mistake to try something without asking other schools, other teachers, or even twitter – #ukedchat. Locally there may be companies that others have tried with better services, deals (e.g. A 30 day trial on equipment), nationally there may be common pitfalls that can be avoided!

 

3. Forget about the teaching…

All too often we are given technology as an answer to a problem that didn't exist. Don't forget it is about the classroom, the children, the teaching! Is there an issue with connecting your schools to others? Do the teachers need to share what's happening in their classroom? Does the technology need replacing? Can the pupils easily access their work? What is it you actually want out of your technology?

 

4. Lock it down…

Schools, once invested in expensive technologies, can (understandably) be reluctant to let them loose on the whole school. Whilst it makes sense to emphasize how it can be used safely, and how to properly look after such equipment, it is a mistake to put people off of making use any new technology or services. With new online services educate pupils, parents and teachers on e-safety. With equipment build into the budget some loss and demonstrate proper use at every opportunity. Teachers who are confident can be good role models for this, and sharing 'what works' in staff meetings is a must!

 

5. Ignore the pupils…

The pupils in schools can be involved at every stage of technological investment – from consulting to training on the use of anything new. Consider starting with what they already use at home, if you are considering investing in new technology this is a great way to get ideas. New services can be reviewed by pupils, helping you to decide what might be useful in the classroom. This also applies to parents, who can be involved in similar phases.

 

 

27 Oct

Why we are teaching our pupils to code…

This question is asked with increasing frequency as more and more schools begin to get to grips with the new curriculum. The emphasis on understanding algorithms, creating and then debugging these creations, has opened up a whole new conversation about why we are asking all children to understand these concepts.

 

What is coding?

Communciation. Through an app, a programme and with a variety of devices.

This debate will rumble on – the catch all term ‘coding’ has definitely ruffled a few feathers – from a secondary (and therefore arguably more specialised) computer science perspective as well as those who work in the industry. However in it’s simplest form ‘coding’ lets you create a story using a language your device, programme and computer will understand. It’s about communicating ideas and manipulating language to create.

Why are we teaching our pupils to code?

There is a recognition that children will need to understand more fully the digital devices that they are growing up with. They will need to recognise that it is not some sort of ‘magic’ but a programmable device that people manipulate to get what they want.

However, when our pupils will leave school they will not be using the devices that we give them in primary school. The chances are they will never have to manipulate a dinosaur across a field using only directions, or come against a visual language such as Scratch – it is not about a specific language or a specific programme. It is about logic, about creativity and about problem solving. There is a place for some languages to be used so they can be recognised e.g. Java or Python, however the aim is for children to be resilient about searching for the answer and finding a way to manipulate the programme put in front of them.

 

Computer Science or Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy skills are still fundamental – these include the ability to find information; sift, sort and select what is useful; be safe online and to understand how the internet works.

They also include using and manipulating digital technology to create and store information e.g. Presentations, spreadsheets and cloud computing. These skills would be more about the old ‘ICT’ curriculum and, barring the odd area such as online safety, will be done through other areas of the curriculum. The key here is choice – can pupils choose what programmes to use? Can they choose how best to find information? Are they making good choices when communicating online?

Schools can do this because we can give our pupils a safe email address, we can give them cloud saving and give them responsibility over their work. We can show them how nothing is ever really deleted, so that silly comment you wrote from home can be shared with your teacher and parents. It’s probably the only chance they will get to make these mistakes and it be safe.

And the future?

The aims must be simple:

  • confident children who understand logic and approach problem solving in a logical fashion.
  • It must not be about specific devices, or specific programmes.
  • Schools need to take lead and give pupils choice, independence and the chance to make mistakes with a safe digital environment.

Further reading:

Made With Code

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10584617/Computing-curriculum-Digital-skills-versus-computer-science.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/10468460/Coding-for-kids-schoolchildren-learn-computer-programming.html

http://code.org

31 Aug

NQT Advice! Using that old computer in your classroom…

Maybe not only relevant for NQT’s – we’ve all been in the classroom that has the shockingly old computer tucked away in a corner… ‘It’s an oldie but a goodie’ ringing in our ear from the coordinator who seems to be getting on just fine with the brand new laptop perched on their desk..

The good news is there are ways you can use that old computer – just remember you might need to turn it on as soon as you get in on a morning! These ideas will keep the computer on one web page – or minimum internet access – but will allow the pupils to get something from the tech! If there is a memory card slot, saving web pages, images and resources to read can be useful too and mean it doesn’t have to be online.

  1. Leave a Padlet on there I wrote about using Padlet here – a great tool for collecting ideas. Simply leave it on the computer with a different focus and let the children use it whenever. You could begin with ‘one thing you didn’t know about me!
  2. Have a ‘researcher role’ – linking to the web is a wealth of information and helping children to navigate this is key. Choosing one or two pupils to be ‘researchers’ – the ones who get to go online to answer questions is a great way of doing that.
  3. Leave a great picture, or blog on it! Plenty of images can be found, or put on memory sticks (websites could even be downloaded and saved to display off line) – you could leave some questions or even a prompt for circle time.
  4. Install the whiteboard software on it – and display your lessons and let the children play with the material. Using simple word processing software such as Works or Notebook can also be helpful for some writers.

Other ideas (depending on how well it works) – ebooks (plenty of sites offer them free of charge) try Oxford Owl here, Magic Keys of Pearson’s Bug Club. Do find out if the school has any subscription based resources that you can put on the computer.

Make use of installed software! Take some time to see if there is anything on there that could be useful.

Other ideas : Tom Tolken’s site has some brilliant ideas for the ‘one computer’

 

Hope that’s useful! If you’ e found a creative use for that old computer please let us know!

 

29 Jul

A year in Ed Tech – a reflection

As a school year closes, I thought to take the opportunity to reflect on what I've learnt this year working in busy primary schools primarily and with Ed Tech! It has been an interesting year – everyone is talking about coding – the curriculum is changing – assessment has gone – and budgets are tighter than ever! But for my own 'ed tech' journey it is the second year of a two year project with the schools!

A few key items stand out:

Bring staff with you!

This was the second year I had worked with the schools and it was clear that the value of certain tools was increasing. Particular the sharing and communicating aspect. From parent questionnaires on google drive to staff meetings with a Padlet running in the background. Staff were able to suggest, use and even advocate these simple collaboration tools. Interestingly, last year was about the technology and the paper way – this year seemed to be more about the tech way. Why this was the case seems harder to answer. Perhaps staff were getting used to tools? Perhaps they were genuinely beginning to feel useful rather than something I had pushed on them?

 

It's not all about iPads…

A glance through this site and you would be forgiven for thinking I worked mainly with iPads. (Though I think that's improving!) It's true that I did, at one point, but now the tools are everywhere. From deciding to get laptops for the younger year groups to the many, many coding applications on PC it became clear that we didn't want to ditch Windows just yet. Interestingly my attention is now turning to the many android options around…

 

Things can go wrong ..

And they have! From failed projects, broken tech and curriculum plans that just didn't work. What I've realised is that as teachers we put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure. Sometimes there just is not time!

Projects can always be deferred, budgets should include some losses, and teachers should be cut some slack. After all, there is nothing wrong with high aspirations!

 

But children always love the effort…

Any extra projects, any additional work put in and the pupils always, always, love it! Teachers embrace the use of tech because it (should) make things easier – it should take something complex and simplify it. Some things which were not possible become possible and the 'wow' factor never gets dull! Highlights? Tweeting astronauts… Visiting Digital art galleries… Skype with other schools across the globe… But for teachers, realising the value a class blog can bring can make all the difference.

It's easier with friends…

I'm lucky, I have met and worked with amazing teachers over the years. They work so hard to make things work, and often with ed tech advocates, they work to make things work for others! But along this year i've worked with Apps4Good, Code Club, various design studios and some brilliant volunteers. After all, it should all be about collaboration….