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Engaging pupils with iMovie trailers
June 7, 2016
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ipad-1126136_640

Following a challenging morning, we were bracing ourselves for the afternoon session in our nurture base. We support the most vulnerable children in the authority. We base our practice on the nurture principles and the Boxall profile and the children’s mental, social and emotional well-being is a priority for us. Or, as I’ve seen on social media, ‘the Maslow stuff needs to be done before the Bloom’s’. As a number of our pupils were at bump up days or transition to secondary visits, we were expecting only two pupils.

The first to arrive insisted on some outdoor learning (or absconded if you prefer) following various expletives and suggestions to the taxi escort regarding how she might like to spend her time. Two members of staff headed out to ensure his safety and encourage his return. This left me with one senior primary pupil (there were other staff with younger pupils next door). Let’s call him Jamie, for any Outlander fans.

A calm entry and exit is an important part of a session, so there were three activities available for Jamie to choose his soft start. He chose the Geomag magnetic toys and we chatted about his day as he built his characters. He was a little unsettled so I extended the activity to allow him to quietly focus on his construction. Jamie suddenly asked me about an iMovie trailer he’d seen me make with another pupil. This had been inspired by a session at Pedagoo Perth and had been very successful. With an animated face, he asked if we could make one with his Superheroes.

This led the afternoon away from the plan but was responsive to his needs. We began to plan the trailer. Never one to use twenty words when eighty will do, this took some time but we got there. As we filmed and took photos, Jamie kept saying, ‘awesome’ and ‘cool’. He was fully engaged and, in fact, was leading the project. He chose the text and insisted that his middle name was included in his name for the credits.

When he viewed the finished trailer, his face lit up and he beamed at his name on the credits. After watching it again, he turned to me and said, “This is the best experience of my life”. It was no exaggeration for him. He had been engaged, he experienced success and his day had been turned around. He shouted the other adults over, to share his success.

Jamie then naturally reviewed his project and decided that, next time, it would be better with a green screen so that his hands can’t be seen. I’m not sure if this is possible but requires some PL for me. I am very glad that I travelled to Perth that day – huge thanks to @ciaracreative for her session that day.
You can read about the conversation here. iMovie Trailers

 

Join Me
December 15, 2015
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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
blenspace

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!

Raising the profile of digital citizenship
September 5, 2015
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Year 13 students working onlineYear 13 students working online

We recently held our first Digital Citizenship Week at my school. Some colleagues and myself felt this was necessary given the amount of time our students now spend online. Ideally, of course, digital citizenship would be a routine part of all classes where technology is prevalent or widely used, and many teachers do incorporate it where possible. However, we thought that it was important to raise the profile of this topic, and so Digital Citizenship Week was born. The timing was ideal, since we had just produced an acceptable use policy for technology, which was distributed at a Parents’ Day shortly before digital citizenship week. This set out clearly what was expected of our students as they go about their daily use of technology in their learning. There were also digital citizenship posters prominently displayed in each classroom.

Throughout the week, a number of teachers volunteered to forego their usual subject classes in order to teach lessons around digital citizenship. In this way, each grade level received a lesson about a particular aspect of digital citizenship. For example, I delivered a lesson around over-sharing online, based in part on materials from a very helpful organisation, Common Sense Media. Other teachers discussed issues around ensuring good digital footprints, and the responsible use of social media. One colleague had the misfortune to have a great lesson planned, only to open the website he planned to use during the class and find that it was down for routine maintenance. The patience and good-humour required when these things happen is an often overlooked aspect of digital citizenship!

Although it seems self-evident that we should be educating our students in issues around digital citizenship, there are a few other aspects to consider. Digital citizenship means different things to different people. One definition, from Teachthought.com, is ‘the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on’. Others have suggested that when we talk about digital citizenship, in the main we are referring to digital responsibility, a slightly different set of competencies, and when speaking of digital citizenship we should be encouraging learners to champion debate, justice, and equality via their online interactions. There are also, however, some valid arguments made that digital citizenship is so fundamentally important that we should drop the ‘digital’ part entirely, and simply include it as part and parcel of citizenship education. How many of our learners don’t go online at least once a day? How many of them use social media regularly, or download music, or play online games? Do they even make a distinction between the ‘real world’ and the online world?

However we choose to term it, we have a responsibility to our learners to guide them and help them to negotiate cyberspace safely and responsibly. Although some people may refer to millennials as ‘digital natives’, can we really assume that they are instinctively digitally literate, equipped to deal with everything the connected world may throw at them? I’m not convinced that we can, and so for now at least I think that we need to continue raising the profile of digital citizenship until it does become part of the everyday classroom conversation. I would welcome others’ views or thoughts about Digital Citizenship Week!

Creating flipcharts with P5/6 pupils
June 21, 2012
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I am only occasionally these days in front of a class and feel very lucky when I am because  there’s technology involved and fun is instantly on the agenda.  This week I was working with a class of P5/6 pupils on the topic of Olympic athletes.  They had previously done some research on the internet and each had produced a word document with some facts and had added in a photo.  This had been printed out and put up on the wall. 

That made me a bit despondent.  Part of my remit as Education ICT Officer is to help teachers embed ICT into all areas of the curriculum, to raise awareness of online, educational tools and resources as well as ensuring existing software on the school build is used to full effect. Looking at the word documents brought it home to me….I am not getting the message out to enough teachers and the pupils are missing out on the chance to build up much needed ICT skills.

We used ActivInpsire to create some flipcharts on the Olympic athlete they had previously selected.  The first 20 minutes were spent practising using the tool box and discussing which tools would be useful when presenting their work to the class.  (spotlight, screen, ticker tape, transluceny slide)  I set them a  test task to check their understanding of object layering and each pupil had to move round the class adding in something to everyone else’s flipchart.  If someone was strugggling, the pupil who showed up to add to their flipchart could then help.  I was part of the rotating group and so one of the stations ended was doing it on the interactive whiteboard.

By the end of the 90 minutes they had created great flipcharts with photos – (using the freehand camera tool), facts, quiz questions with answers hidden behind shapes/flags, embedded You Tube videos of the athletes using a TV image as the backdrop so you had to click on the On button to play the clip.

I lost 3 children at one point. They disappeared out the class to go show the next class what they were doing.  I had forgotten how alert teachers have to be 100% of the time!

By saving to their own area of the server, I was able to use the teacher’s log in to bring up the flipcharts and share with the whole class from the teacher’s laptop.  This was not a known option. It was an important thing  for peer review, discussion and to practise presentation skills.

Summer rethink on sharing information with school staff especially those less confident with ICT…..

In Praise

In Praise of #PedagooFriday, pedagoo.org, Teachers Tweeting and TeachMeeting

My “remote Hebridean classroom”
Having tentatively posted a few 140-character descriptions of learning experiences (from my remote Hebridean secondary English classroom) on #pedagoofriday since its inception (courtesy of the innovative and media-sociable Kenny Pieper), when I was asked by Fearghal Kelly if I would like to write a blog post about one of my #pedagoofriday posts for pedagoo.org I went into a bit of a panic. What could I write that would be of any interest to other English teachers? Why would anyone who is already so multi-media literate and so far ahead of me in their use of ICT in their classrooms be interested?

But then it occurred to me: It’s just sharing; it’s not about ICT or being innovative, it’s just about being a reflective teacher and learner and giving a little while getting so much more back from other teachers and learners in the online education community.

This blog-post was originally to be on an S2 series of lessons regarding building effective persuasive arguments, in preparation for a class debate leading to a piece of discursive writing. I had posted on #pedagoofriday brief details about using a short film entitled ‘Dangle’, available from the fantastic new ‘Screen Shorts’ on Glow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzRD59r2j2A – apologies but this has to be a You Tube link as Glow won’t allow a direct link – not getting into that discussion!), to get pupils thinking about the use of metaphor in making an effective strong point in speech and/or writing. The film speaks for itself and the pupils enjoyed and did brilliantly with it. Their responses to the first question of what the film was about ranged from: ‘You should never pull a piece of string when you don’t know what’s at the other end’ (liked this, even if it missed the point a little!) to ‘We should not interfere with what God has created’ (this IS the Western Isles after all) to ‘We shouldn’t abuse the earth’s resources’ – fantastic! A lively, sometimes surprising and very switched on (!) discussion ensued and, at the end of the lesson, pupils were asked to bring other examples of the persuasive use of metaphor in advertising to the next lesson. We went on to look at the power of iconic images, emotional and sensory responses to images used to persuade, rhetoric, the power of language, etc…
twitter
However, what I actually feel more inclined to write about is the impact being on Twitter, sharing in #pedagoofriday and witnessing participation in Teachmeets has had on me personally; as well as its potential for encouraging engagement and discussion, reviewing (and revising) practice and inspiring all teachers. In April this year, I reluctantly joined Twitter when Bill Boyd (@literacyadviser) convinced a group of Western Isles teachers at a CPD session in Stornoway to try it and see its usefulness as a CPD resource. Many thanks, Bill – it’s been a revelation.

A year earlier – as PT of a department of ten, at a time of change (with little clear guidance) in the Scottish curriculum and during a state of flux with the school’s SMT – I felt that English Department Meetings had become a source of dread and anxiety, not just for me but for everyone in the department: they had become admin-heavy and tedious, with a sense of being over-burdened / inadequate in the face of so many changes – we all hated DMs. It was hard to get through all the admin, find time and energy to develop new CfE courses, while at the same time encourage innovation, motivation and enthusiasm! We had also experienced a significant change of staff (nearly 50%) whereby several longish serving staff had retired or moved on and been replaced by an exciting array of NQTs, probationers and other younger staff. I had noticed that the best DMs were those when we discussed texts and other learning resources and activities, as well as sharing feedback on CPD regarding learning and teaching – when we gave ourselves time for professional reflection. Although some staff were stoically anti email / anything electronic, I decided to shift as much of the admin to email and sold this approach on the basis that it would free DM time for more positive and enjoyable discussions. I try now to limit emails to one weekly list of reminders and deadlines, and one brief daily bulletin of news, notifications, etc. I changed the focus of the DM agenda to Learning and Teaching first and foremost, leaving Administrative Issues as a lesser element of the meetings. Occasionally we do still have to have a meeting that is almost all admin, but, by and large, we now spend DMs discussing what we find more enjoyable and stimulating: sharing practice about the learning and teaching in our classrooms.

Twice per term-ish, the DM is in the form of 2 minute micro-presentations from all staff on something they are doing, are looking at, would like to try, new texts and text forms (‘Inanimate Alice’, Samorost’, ‘Machinarium’, graphic novels, blogging, wikis, etc), and also on ‘bog-standard’ English classroom practice. Here is a sample of one such DM Agenda from May this year to show the range:

1 New Creative Digital Media (Skills for Work – SCQF Level 4) course – AJ.
2 S3 Magazine Project – NM.
3 Scholastic Book Club, Reading Week and Readathon – MMD.
4 Issues involved in having 3 supported pupils (with severe and complex needs) in a mainstream Standard Grade S3 class – ES.
5 Experiences of a probationer teacher – LC.
6 Twitter and blogging – CG.
7 Online journal – ‘Crazy Guy on a Bike’ – DM.
8 S5/6 Literacy for Life (development of new Skills for Work) course – JF.
9 S1 Creative Writing project – KK.
10 Discursive Writing Focus S1 to S3 – LS.

These DMs have enabled newer teachers to showcase their innovative ideas and approaches. But they have also given a voice to older staff, some of whom were feeling sidelined, tired of innovation, under-valued – and, in some cases, downright offended by CfE – a sense that the good stuff still matters and their expertise is still very valid and very important. They have a forum at these practice-sharing DMs to describe activities that are more ‘traditional’, but are still relevant and are the bedrock of learning and teaching; for some previously cynical staff, they have discovered that they now have a role in leading innovation. I’ve been really impressed with the sharing that takes place at these sessions – we all get so much from them. In a way, DMs have become like a close-range teachmeet / #pedagoofriday type exercise. The practice-sharing model is so important.

As well as this, two years ago I set up an English / Literacy network group consisting of English Secondary plus Primary 7 teachers across the authority. It was mainly aimed at improving transitions – in the Western Isles as well as P7 to S1 transition, we have a number of P1 to S2 schools where pupils transfer to us at the end of S2, so we also have S2 to S3 transitions – focusing on sharing standards of assessment and moderation of reading and writing. As well as face to face meetings, because of our location and the remoteness of some of our schools and isolation of some of the teachers, the group has a Glow meet page and a Glow wiki for discussion, moderation and sharing of resources. (I can’t share a link here because it is an authority wiki and membership is by invitation – however, if you are a Glow user and would like to see the wiki, email me a request to lsutherland1a@gnes.net.) This network group was used by the authority as a model to set up CfE network groups – numeracy, health and wellbeing, expressive arts, etc – and we meet once or twice per term. The main focus of the Literacy Network group meetings has become sharing practice, sharing resources and discussion of English and Literacy in our classrooms and across the curriculum. We are fortunate to have had Bill Boyd commissioned by the authority as the group’s Literacy Adviser. This means he participates – in person or online – in all the network meetings and now manages the group’s wiki. Like DMs, these network group meetings have become like Teachmeets or #pedagoofriday sessions and all participants say they enjoy and value them. Again, the practice-sharing model is key.

Where I feel the real value of Twitter, #pedagoofriday, websites like pedagoo.org (and other blog sites) and the sharing of Teachmeets lies is in their power to draw staff from across all sectors and subject areas together in a supportive e-community where we can share practice across the curriculum. It is CPD at its best.

Making Glow Groups Easier to Use
August 28, 2011
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Olivia explains how she has tidied up her class Glow Group by using wix.com at TeachMeet Lothians & Borders.

Thanks to the Scottish Book Trust for arranging and sharing the filming at TeachMeet Lothians & Borders.

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