The Power of Blogging!

Last week I was running a course with the terrific Cherise Duxbury (@Cherise_Duxbury) and Casey Lynchey (@KCLynchey) about raising standards in English with Educational Technology. Amongst many of the things covered on the course is blogging, and its educational benefit!

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Audience:

If the work of the ‘typical’ child in the ‘typical’ classroom is good I do the usual great things, give them a merit, raffle prize, sing their praises to the class, tell their parents, maybe give them a classdojo point etc. If it’s really good I show another member at school or show the headteacher who will also celebrate the child but that’s about it. So at the most with class and other members of staff included the audience is 30-37. However, with a blog your audience can be the whole world! You may be doing a geography topic about Peru and be lucky enough for someone from that country to get in touch! Also with a blog parents could have the opportunity to see a daily, or weekly, record of their child’s writing; as opposed to the parent’s evening flick through.

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Flipped Learning:

My understanding of flipped learning is that school work can be done at home, challenges of learning are set to be completed; as opposed to homework worksheets. An example of flipped learning could be when the next area of maths is column addition the homework might be to watch a demonstration video of adding with the formal method, which can be repeatedly viewed until the child feels confident with this. The pupil could then progress to completing some maths questions maybe 3-6 which are set more to secure the knowledge rather than challenge it. This means when Monday arrives every pupil has been at home being the teacher and feels fairly secure with the new topic.

Portable Classroom

The final area I’ll mention is the idea that with a blog children can continue their learning at home, they can choose to write at home, to be an author in their spare time and to give the world a view of what it’s like to be Joe Blogs in Year? Class. Joe can write an extract of his choosing, or a set of maths questions for people to answer, or share a picture of an amazing film, or place and what he thinks of it.

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My final thoughts are simple, blogs are one of the most powerful tools for learning that a teacher can use! Surely any activity where a child is choosing to continue to practise what they have learnt is a good one. If you have a class or personal blog please post it as a comment so I can view and comment the excellent work you do with your children!

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Thanks for Reading!

STEM in Schools.

Maximising the potential:

“For our prosperity to continue, the government believes we need high levels of skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and citizens that value them.” (Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 2015).

STEM is a hot topic in primary schools and I will be discussing how to develop STEM in your class and a situation where it worked for me. Here’s six STEM principles for the classroom:

  1.    Make it real– the situation/problems should be believable and immerse the children
  2.    Guided by a design process– students define problems, conduct background research, develop ideas, and then test, evaluate, and redesign.
  3.    Hands-on inquiry – learning is open ended, within constraints. (Constraints usually are available materials).
  4.    Pupils should be a productive team
  5.    Apply maths and science skills– learners encouraged that science and maths are not standalone subjects but part of problem solving.
  6.    Not one answer– there should be multiple correct answers, this will develop creativity in your classroom.

Challenges:

When it comes to STEM, challenges arise in that: teachers might be unfamiliar teaching STEM related lessons; national tests focus more on English, Spelling, Grammar and Maths (only the “M” of STEM); it may not be prudent to create a project based lesson with various outcomes as the class are not ready for it at that point. This can be explained by following the STEM process. Within a STEM project learners should research a topic, develop a plan and draw conclusions from research results. Following that, pupils will then record data accurately. Throughout the whole process learners should have skills to troubleshoot a problem as well as the knowledge to fix it. With these skills in mind STEM lessons may lend themselves to end of unit/ topic lessons, rather than weekly lessons.

Old Hall Minecraft Mania

STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Basic STEM skills are:

  • Communication and cooperation skills to listen to customer needs or interact with project partners.
  • Creative abilities to solve problems and develop new ideas.
  • Leadership skills to lead projects or help customers.
  • Organization skills to keep track of lots of different information.

It was with all this in mind that I embarked on our Minecraft project.

Last year I did the unthinkable, I invited Minecraft into my lessons- and I haven’t looked back. Like many teachers I had often overheard the incessant whispering or ‘Steve’, ‘Creepers’, ‘Villagers’ and ‘Pigs’ and I had decided it was enough! I was going to sort out this Minecraft thing once and for all!

It was at this point that I looked into Minecraft on the Raspberry Pi, this comes with the ‘Noobs’ software (available at: https://www.raspberrypi.org/). After a few hours of getting used to the controls I could see the potential. So I thought I would test the waters a bit by exploiting the children’s love of this ‘sandbox game’ in explanation texts. They would explain to this novice (aka me) the different features of the game, controls, how to play, getting started and even what it is. Heck they might even make some progress! Win win!

Building and designing 7

Now strictly speaking the writing in itself was not a STEM lesson but it did use it. This is because there was a real life situation for my children of explaining to their Neanderthal teacher what this was all about. Further, the children had to develop their ideas with each other to make sure each section achieved its purpose. Within a week, I had some excellent writing from the children in my Year 5 (age 9-10) class, which they were incredibly engaged with, as they were ‘the experts’.

Also, I then decided to continue with this thread of enthusiasm by using Minecraft in Topic as we needed to design an Anglo-Saxon village; I must say I was impressed. Within twenty minutes, every child in my class had created a house, with rooms inside and fashioned their own windows (no glass allowed). This is where Minecraft really aided me as yet again it was a real-life scenario, the children followed a process, hands on inquiry there were certain constraints but there should be in any project, they were a productive team, using perimeter and area skills, tenuous like but still there and there were multiple correct answers. So far, so good I managed to tick off all six of the STEM principles.

Teaching 1

I couldn’t wait to continue to use more Minecraft and technology in my lessons and I was sure the children agreed with me so I decided to exploit their weakness to Minecraft with a net creating activity. To brief was simple, create a net for a 3D shape for a Minecraft figurine, I gave the class some measurements and away they went. I allowed them to work in pairs but I wanted each child to have a completed net by the end of the 3 days. They were away! I couldn’t stop them, some of the time they wouldn’t accept help from me in case I ruined it. Also, as I counted it all six principles had again been achieved, and more importantly every child created a net that the figurine would fit inside; this really consolidated their learning on 3D shapes and nets in a more creative way than I could otherwise manage.  

To sum up, this digital building block game has been a gift to my lessons. I have enjoyed even more engagement from my class and this has led to a deeper understanding, which they can take home and practise whilst playing on their games. More importantly, the children really enjoyed this! Granted I may not do this for every lesson and yes Minecraft does have some pitfalls such as growing crops in saltwater? However, hopefully the children will go home and switch on the goggle box and make the connection that they explained to the ‘philistine’ of a teacher what Minecraft is and how it is played.

Mr C and Y5

Perhaps they will create a pyramid when we cover Ancient Egypt, or a rainforest when we learn about the Amazon, or even a replica of the Indus Valley! Who knows! What I do know for certain is without creating an opportunity for these connections it definitely won’t happen.

So what? What are the next steps? Well knowing how gifted my children at designing and building these digital models I could write a description of an area and see if the children could recreate it using inference and deductive skills. I could use Minecraft to inspire some writing. My pupils could create a scene from their favourite book, favourite monument around the world, or even build a perimeter and area problem for their friends to solve. I must be honest, and I know it sounds somewhat cheesy-pie but the possibilities are endless for the curriculum. The more I type the more I can think of ways this game of digital building blocks could be utilised in the classroom. Also, with the recent developments of Microsoft buying Minecraft and the educational version MincraftEdu I’m sure there will be developments over the next few months.

Building and designing 4

For more ideas of how Minecraft has been used in the classroom you can view:

@thecommonpeople – Adam Clarke has lots of great ideas on his Youtube channel, from getting started and controls to lesson ideas.

Mr Parkinson’s Blog:http://mrparkinsonict.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Minecraft

@MattPEducation ‘s Blog which shows English and Maths strands and how they can be achieved. http://5tanfieldlea.weebly.com/blog/minecraft-literacy-and-numeracy

How else can STEM skills be addressed?

An area of STEM that has not been discussed discretely is engineering, Minecraft obviously lends itself to engineering in a technological sense but not a practical one. As engineering isn’t a standalone subject in primary schools, how it is taught will vary. But engineering projects that are commonly used include:

  • Build a bridge out of drinking straws
  • Design a vehicle that could drive on land and sea
  • Make a simple electronics circuit including a bulb and a switch
  • Design and make a Christmas card with moving parts

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Ultimately engineering in primary schools could be the gift that continues to give as it allows children the opportunity to put maths, science and design technology theory into practice in a way that cements their learning. Other ways that engineering could be developed are:

  1. The FIRST LEGO League: an annual robotics challenge where teams of nine- to 16-year-olds, compete to design a solution to a problem using Lego Mindstorms. There’s a Junior League for six- to nine-year-olds.
  2. Young Engineers: a school-based engineering club that also runs national competitions, including Krazy Racers – using K’Nex to create a unique passenger vehicle.
  3. Imagineering: after-school clubs for eight- to 16-year-olds, where children use kits to make working engineering models.
  4. Leaders Award: a competition for children aged five plus, they interview a person working in STEM and then submit a report – which could be a video, podcast or drawing – about what they have discovered.

Thanks for Reading!

Book Creator for iPad

Book creator is one of my go to apps. It is one that I definitely think every teacher should know about, partially because of it’s possible scope and also because of its brilliant user interface. Put simply Book Creator is a simple way to create your own beautiful ebooks, right on your tablet computer.

Book Creator has various options to choose from and is  ideal for making all kinds of books, including children’s picture books, comic books, photo books, journals, textbooks and more. This is another reasons that I am a fan as you can use the app again and again to suit your text type/ genre.

And when you’re done, easily share your book, or even publish to the iBooks Store!

On the app there are lots of features to choose from:

  • Add text, choosing from over 50 fonts
  • Add photos and images from your iPad’s photo library, from the web, or use the iPad’s Camera
  • Resize, rotate and position content as you like with guidelines and snap positioning
  • Add video and music, and even record your voice
  • Use the pen tool to draw and annotate your book
  • Choose from portrait, landscape or square book sizes

Overall, I would definitely encourage anyone reading this to get the app and try it for yourself. I currently have my digital leaders, self-titled ‘gadget geeks’ working on a how to eBook which they are making independently. As soon as that’s complete I will be publishing it on this blog and pushing it out on social media.

Thanks for reading!

For more check out:

 

Green screen and Animation for Learning.

So recently I ran a course in Bury which covered Green Screen and Animation techniques and how, as an educator, you can use these to enhance your lessons. I am a particular fan of both of these for a few reasons which I will cover below.

Green screen

The overall benefit of a green screen is that it puts children into their learning, whatever it is they can be immersed in it. This could be a virtual school trip, a revisit of a trip using pictures taken, children demonstrating a particular area of their learning or just entering an immersive world! Imagine speaking at the House of Commons at the age of 9! Or performing some performance poetry at Wembley! You could even explain about the Great Wall of China on location! This could be a very powerful tool in any class teachers arsenal. All that is needed is some green/dark blue material and a decent Green Screen app, I prefer Green screen by DoInk and Veescope but others are available.

Animation

For me animation is the other side of the coin, if Green Screen is immersing a child in their learning then Animation is the child manipulating it. This means that learners really need to think carefully about what they are explaining and what the content is. There are a couple of apps that I really enjoy using; stop motion studio and tellagami. Stop motion studio does what the name suggests, it collects pictures together as frames and then plays this through as a video. I’ve used this when children have demonstrated how to build an Anderson shelter with plasticine, or demonstrating how to be safe online. Tellagami is a much more digital app. Once you go into the app you choose a Gami (an avatar or character) using the Gami users can record their voice, once happy with this the Gami’s  mouth will move explaining whatever has been recorded.

The adults on the course thoroughly enjoyed using these skills in a small piece of project based learning. From this it’s hoped that they can go back to school and continue to use their creativity to continue applying green screen and animation to enhance learning in their lessons.

Greenscreen and Animation from Adam Chase on Vimeo.

For more about green screens and/or animation  you can always look up:

NAACE

Veescope

Do ink

Tellagami

Thanks for reading!

 

APPlying skills with AppsMe.Education

So recently I decided that as a class project we would start to create an app about the Ancient Egyptians. After looking around and some advice from @Animate2Educate I settled on AppsMe Education. I did this for a few reasons:
– To achieve criteria from the Computing strand of the national curriculum.
– Children got the opportunity to explain topic-based knowledge.
– Children had to think about competency, being able to make everything bold doesn’t mean you have to.
– Apps me education has a very user friendly interface.

When we first accessed the digital classroom the children were pleased to see that they could all make their own app rather than contributing to a class / group one. Also, despite being limited by a few pages and a gallery etc the class found this the right amount of content for a series of lessons.

When the children had finished, edit and reviewed their content they had the option to publish their app. I must say it definitely didn’t disappoint. In many ways the format of the published apps are similar to many around today such as the @Naace app or a PIOTA school app. As stated by John Murray using apps:
“ applying skills in a meaningful context…perfect way to embed them and allow children to engage with and explore their wider application.”

Afterwards I asked the children what they would like if they were to go on apps me education again. Which we will! The overarching answer was the option to add more pages, in my opinion this is no bad thing. When learners want to do more I consider that a bonus! On balance though the option to do 2 information pages means children need to focus on the layout, feel and aesthetics of each page, a push towards quality over quantity.

Year 5 loved creating our app.

As a class we will definitely be creating apps in the future and I will heading to AppsMe education first. It’s user interface was brilliant and the separate teacher/ children logins were a bonus. Finally, and most importantly, the children loved doing this. They were research extra nuisances, checking and rechecking spellings and constantly applying their learning.

 

Thanks for Reading!