August 8

Ed Tech – What actually works in the classroom?

I asked a simple question on twitter and reddit – and was amazed at the number of responses!

I was interested in what people thought made the use of Ed Tech worthwhile, and any stories that came about from the use of technology in the classroom. I’ve put a list of any mentioned resources and devices at the bottom of the post!

I have organised this in five key areas – it’s worth mentioning though that this is quite loose! It is interesting though that whilst these areas were mentioned in a variety of ways, I didn’t hear much about ‘engagement’ or ‘motivation’ – areas which are traditionally signalled as reasons to get technology in the classroom. I’m actually pretty pleased about that!

Collaboration

Without a doubt the top outcome that was mentioned. Collaboration seems to be key. And with all interested parties. Collaboration with parents, with other schools, with ‘hard to reach’ parents (for whatever reason). Collaboration with an ‘end purpose’ and, of course, pupils collaborating to create. Blogging, using various platforms, was mentioned as was cloud services such as Google Drive. The technology varied, from online creation such as Book Creator to the use of ‘portable’ devices which would support collaboration. Teachers seemed to value the possibilities.

 

Access and Special Needs

I have talked about how great I found the iPad for Educational Needs so it came as no suprise to read all of the great stories about how we are using technology in the classroom to adapt it to the needs of our learners. The trusty Smart Interactive Whiteboard was mentioned here, both for the use as an interactive and accessible screen and also as a display mechanism for images and video. The use of images and games for areas such as Vocabulary, Social Stories and supporting specific needs. Capturing non written evidence and sharing achievements was also mentioned.

 

Feedback and Guidance

The feedback and ‘immediacy’ of using technology was also mentioned, cameras in the classroom for evidence, screencasting using apps such as Explain Everything. The classroom Visualiser was mentioned as an excellent way of sharing work and offering up feedback (including group work). Flip cameras were mentioned, as well as the use of photographs for evidence.

 

Accessing other resources

Technology as a gateway to a whole range of other resources was also mentioned by many – authentic foreign language resources for example, websites such as the science PHeT site which provides video and virtual experiments. Resources and ideas that just wouldn’t be available otherwise. It’s worth considering that the ‘internet’ as a gateway was mentioned – a decent bandwidth was mentioned by some – how often do you rely on the internet in your classroom?

What did people mention?

Edmodo

Google Drive – mentioned by many!

Book Creator (iPad)

Lucid Charts

Office 365

UberSense

PHeT Site

Explain Everything (iPad)

KidBlog Dot Org (blogging platform)

Padlet

Socrative

Scribblenauts (iPad game – used for vocab)

Skype

Mentioned devices: visualisers, smartboards, flip cameras, iPads, portable devices, Chromebooks

 

A huge thanks to all who answered my questions, retweeted by tweets and generally got invovled! Definitely for me one of the biggest reasons to get involved in technology for educational purposes!!

It will be interesting to redo this small survey next year and check out the changes!

Thanks for reading – feel free to leave your comment – I’m sure things have been missed!

 

May 10

Questioning in the Digital Classroom

Questions!
A huge part of our day – much has been written about how, why, when and who…

Questioning crops up as pupil targets for improvement, on school development plans and in teacher lesson observations. A recent focus for us was whether or not our increased use of technology actually supported questioning skills in the classroom. We moved away from looking purely at teacher questioning, and looked at how we could get pupils to ask more questions in class, and indeed, move away from the simple, 'lower order' questions.

Here are our five top tips for using technology to improve questioning in the classroom!
  1. Confidence! Use microphones/video/iPads to allow pupils to rehearse their questions.
  2. Improving – group mind mapping ideas such as Popplet, or online 'whiteboards' such as Padlet will encourage pupils to build on their ideas.
  3. Restrictions – use technology that children are familiar with to restrict words/characters and focus their questions to what they actually want to say!
  4. Sharing! Both in the classroom and out of the classroom – Blogs / video / even on the iPad through the whiteboard – children can quickly and easily share questions with a wider audience now. Use YouTube or other Social Media to 'ask experts' or a school blog to ask the community. Not only does it refine questioning skills but it also teaches the positive uses for Social Media. See an example here with Padlet and Twitter!
  5. Subject based apps and specific questioning practice. There are plenty of mobile apps out there that support specific objectives, such as Super Duper's range for literacy questioning skills.

More ideas?

This excellent blog from @Langwitches showcases much much more than is discussed here! Including an excellent look at Bloom's Taxonomy and iPad Apps.

ICTEvangelist's Blog here has more great ideas!

 

April 29

Using Comic Books in the Classroom

 

I have regularly used comic books in class, and have been known to buy in bulk from charity shops / ebay – then spend hours trawling them to find suitable and good-condition ones! Happily, it seems tablet computers have made that a thing of the past! The crisp and clear screens are perfect for displaying the comics and they don't suffer from wear and tear!

Comics are useful in a variety of situations – and the 'classic' universes – Batman/Superman/X-Men and so on are very popular and well known with the children.

There are others available though, classic stories in comic form, other characters and less well-known superheroes. This means that, given some ownership, children could find comics that they enjoy and that they may not normally have access to. Forming opinions, reading for pleasure and following long story arcs are all perfectly possible.


Why Comics?

Comics allow for the children to read independently as well as group focus for guided reading. The characters and narrative tend to be well suited to focused work and many of the children are familiar with the setting as they recognise them from movies or games.

  • In guided reading, the visual aspect of comics means that children can practice many skills (inferring, predicting) without worrying too much about the actual text.
  • Use as you would a usual text – the same questioning and activities can still apply.
  • Remember as well that these texts may motivate the more reluctant reader to get involved.
  • Longer stories – Graphic Novels – or adapted stories can also be found on iBooks – searching for Graphic Novels will throw up many intriguing titles.
What apps can be used?


iPad:

Comics+Kids is a great app which has some brilliant free comics – including the Bone #1 – 'The Map

Comixology also contains many well known issues – but you will need to check the suitability!

Marvel's great app is here – again may not always be suitable for younger children.

The folks over at Me Books also have a great app – Me Comics! I wrote about Me Books here.



Android viewers can be found here

This is by no means an exhaustive list – but do give them a try – ask the children for their opinion! It's a great way to get them interested in their reading!

November 16

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…

 


July 7

Using Me Books in the Classroom

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Being asked to try apps and ideas in school is always fun, but it’s rare that it works so well in the classroom… Me Books, by developer Made in Me has fitted in beautifully!

First of all, as I have discussed on this site, a big focus this year has been on reading, and particularly Guided Reading – see here for more information. The focus for us has been on the response to texts, children creating content and demonstrating their understanding. The iPad is a brilliant tool for that, allowing the children to choose a number of ways to respond to a tasks in creative and collaborative ways.

However accessing quality texts (whole books) and reading for pleasure is not so easy. Teachers can be put off by the sheer choice (and rubbish) on the iBook store, and pupils are not impressed by badly written or dull looking books. Conversely some of the interactive book apps, which I’ve written about here can be too exciting for independent work during sessions – too distracting!

Enter MeBooks – and what looks like a standard shelf app becomes a very useful tool for exploring and creating. As a declaration of interest here, I should mention that I have been given several free accounts to use from Me Books, and have shared these with the teachers I work with.

The app lets you download a book to individual iPads with seperate accounts. For the purpose of this project we were allowed multiple downloads to each account, and I know the developers are currently looking at straightforward ‘paper based’ ways school can order books for their accounts, so you can order 20 copies of the same book for your iPads for example.

The beauty of the app though is within the narration – and the sound ‘buttons’ – take a look at this screenshot.

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Those red splodges are in fact sound bubbles, which means that when these areas are tapped an appropiate sound is played. Also allowing the children to have a go at creating their own sound effects. These ‘custom’ versions can then be saved, alongside the original book. The original narration is usually beautifully acted (often by a recogniseable actor!) and really brings the books to life. The illustrations are normally faithful to the book – and yes that is a Ladybird Classic you see on the header image!

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The ability to record your own words and to choose where to place sound effects has a few surprising effects in the classroom. As you would expect there is a lot of fun to be had – give the children a purpose and it becomes about voice and audience. Ask them to record a version for the younger years and you have them working in groups to entertain, listening back to the clarity and checking their expression!

Then take this screenshot – here there are a number of characters. What are they thinking? Well exactly, the pupils can quite literally give the characters a voice. They have plenty of fun putting themselves into the characters shoes. Thinking about what is happening in the story, demonstrating understanding, asking questions and characterisation.

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Me Books has fitted in very well with our guided reading session at our schools, but it has also been a hit at other times. The Digital Leaders for examples, have really enjoyed recording their own versions of stories and sharing them with the younger children. They even created a mini guide to the app – take a look at their work here. I have started a project with some parents, looking at how they could offer some narrative in a native language, again giving the children a voice.

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Follow @me_books on Twitter for more information!

June 8

Creating Games

This half term we are giving a trial run to some of the game creation apps that are beginning to hit the market. We designed a 4/5 week plan, looking for opportunities for the children to collaborate, experiment and develop their confidence when coding.

I chose a few programs that the teachers and pupils were already familiar with. There are also some great ideas in the Digital Leader Network site.

Thanks to an excellent Code Club, some of the pupils were already familiar with the programme Scratch (and indeed more and more teachers are becoming familiar with this). However in order to ensure that something could be created from all pupils we are also using 2Simple’s 2DIY and a really great app called SketchNation. Other programmes, such as Hopscotch and Game Salad are available, and we’re currently trying them out! My advice – have a play with these programmes first, but importantly learn with the children! Many have great tutorials, and examples you can play with.

The aims of this unit?

An engaging unit which will pull in work from many other subjects to create a genuine project based learning.

The literacy work is easily tied in, character creation, story telling, language of evaluation and opinion are all developed. In fact an excellent unit was planned for comic book creation anyway, so choosing a segment of the story and developing characters is all tied in!

Sketch Nation has a great in app designer for simple characters, or sprites!
Sketch Nation has a great in app designer for simple characters, or sprites!

Art and design also planned in easily, you could mimic an art style if you wished, or develop and play with whatever the chldren are interested in. Creating characters on the computer can be explored, and to facilitate this using squared paper to create would help.

Maths can also be used – a really interesting lesson is exploring how scoring works within games, both on their designs and finished games. For example, what does a ‘multiplier’ do? How can they tweak the scoring system in an already finished game within Scratch? Does it affect your enjoyment of the game?

A rough outline of the weekly overview is as follows: ( tap on the image for a larger view)

Overview of the Weeks

Week 1 – which involved looking at what a ‘game’ is was very interesting! The children tried various games then collated a table of key descriptions, thoughts and ideas as well as a rating system. They did this groups and we developed some interesting ideas!

What makes a good game? Ideas to get discussion started!
What makes a good game? Ideas to get discussion started!

I would love to hear any thoughts! And I’ll keep you informed as to how it’s going!