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Join Me
December 15, 2015
0

As mentioned in my previous post, I am one of our school’s digital leaders and super excited about all things technological, especially if they enhance the learning. Sadly, I have seen ICT being used one too many times in a way that seems like a ‘bolt on’ to the lesson, simply because it’s there or because it seems super modern and seems to add the WOW factor. But unfortunately, in my experience, when used in this way it is pointless and detracts from, or slows down the learning process. I’m a wholehearted believer that ICT should be engaged with and used, but only when it’s integrated into the learning and the opportunity calls for it.

The past few years, I have needed to use ICT increasingly during my time in my current school to support children who have visual impairment. ICT is the key for them to access their learning. Fonts can be increased to a suitable size at the flip of a button, spacing altered, background colour….the list goes on. I have had children who can take a snap shot of something on the board, using their ipad, and zoom in and out as they need to. I could provide them with endless ‘altered’ work – in fact, as a team we were – but the ICT has given them power to access learning for themselves. We of course, still adapt where needed.

One of the tools we have been looking into more is Apple TV, in order to connect what is happening on the board with the ipads. This is taking some time, with a variant of IT difficulties. In the meantime, we have found an amazing resource called Join Me.

Join Me is an online meeting space. It is free. It allows me, with a click of a button, to enable anybody to see what is on my board, via their smart device, laptop or computer. This has proved particularly useful for my children with additional needs! But it has supported the learning immensely in the classroom, by just making what is on the board more accessible for all children. It has allowed me to organise groups and the space better, so that when groups are off working, they still have all they need right in front of them.

Signing up, allows an icon to appear on your desktop. Double click on it and you will see this.

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I have selected my ‘handle’ above (which is what the children type into the address bar) and click play.

Then you will see this presentation page:

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The first button, allows you to instantly share what is on your screen. The second allows you see participants. The fourth button, allows you to record, annotate and erase what you can see on the screen before you, allowing your participants to ‘participate’!

It is brilliant – do check it out. This is a new resource for me and whilst it has been enormously supportive of learning so far, I know I have probably just scrapped the barrel.

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Blendspace

As one of our digital leaders at school, responsible for raising our digital prowess and use of technology to enhance learning (rather than just a bolt on), I am often asked what are my most recommended apps/tools to use in the classroom. I am by no means an expert – in fact, quite late to the technological game when it comes to it being integrated into the classroom. I have learnt a great deal from experts in the field, such as Mr P ICT and Rob Smith (founder of Literacy Shed). As an avid fan of all things technological, I spend my CPD time learning from them and gleaning whatever I can from the trail they, and others, have carved out. So, with all that in mind, I apologise now if anything I share might be ‘old news’ for you.

My favourite at the moment is ‘Blendspace’, which does exactly as it says on the tin – blend the ‘digital’ space with that of your classroom. I have found this tool invaluable with any children I teach (KS1 – KS2). It allows me to create a digital pinboard, for the children to access online content that I have chosen and selected beforehand. I have used QR codes for a while (another post to come) to allow children to quickly access a website, without having to enter in the inordinately long address. When I have needed them to access multiple websites, I have given them multiple QR codes, which in its essence, is fine. Except there is something better. Blendspace.

You can access this website (soon to be an app also, I hear) through your TES account. If you don’t have one of those….you’d be the first teacher I’ve met who doesn’t. Go get one! It’s free and is a whole remarkable resource all of its own. I don’t have time to unpack the genius of this place here and now. Alternatively, you can just sign up for Blendspace.

Blendspace allows me to compile any digital content that I want in one central place for the children to access. I can upload directly from TES, Google, Youtube, images….etc.

Here is a screen grab of a lesson I delivered a few weeks back to Year 6 on Charles Darwin. I wanted them to research, using the questions they had generated. By ‘googling’ Charles Darwin, they would have spent too much time sifting through to find relevant KS2 appropriate information. Here, I provided it for them.

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Here you can see that I found a PDF, links to websites and a video, through the search function on the right. I then just clicked and dragged into the available boxes on the left. Here, all the research resources they need are in one location. Now, for them to access this ‘digital lesson’ I have done one of two things. Either:

1 – Used the link above as a hyperlink on our class blog. I tend to do this if I want them to access this outside of school.

2 – Clicked on the green ‘share’ button at the top and then copied and pasted the QR code onto a document. I usually display this on the board, or print off for tables. All our children have access to ipads and so can scan the QR code, which will take them to what you can see above.

Saying that – it isn’t the longer address and they could type it into the address bar. Not my first choice, but not a problem either.

Once created, I named my lesson and it became forever in my library of lessons. Others can access it too, if they search for ‘Charles Darwin’. On that note, if you click on ‘blendspace’ at the top, it will take you back to your dashboard – your homepage, if you will. From here, you can search for lessons that already exist, that others have made. Super useful.

You could differentiate the ‘lesson’ by creating a different pinboard for each group. I have also used it in a carousel activity, when I needed multiple stations, each with different research. My students have also used this to create ‘lessons’ on a topic they researched for Home Learning, to make the websites/resources they used available to all. After we have finished, the QR codes are added to the display board, for anyone to continue to research in their own time. A number do.

I was using this before we purchased iPads. Whilst I believe they do make it smoother, they are not essential to using this excellent tool.

I used this weekly in some capacity or another, in a range of lessons throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, it has just been set up as a station for those who are ready for challenge/early morning work, with websites to SPAG revision, phonics games etc. We have even used it to upload the children’s actual work, be it writing, calculations or art work, so that it can be seen by others (parents, children, teacher) all in one place – a gallery of learning.

If you are already using it, I would love to hear about other ways you have used it, whatever your setting. If you haven’t, please let me know if you started using it and what you thought of it. My staff were really excited to discover this and have found it invaluable already. I hope it is for you too.  Happy blending!

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