Some schools are fortunate enough to have lots of computing equipment, but many more agonise over which tech gadgets to spend their limited budgets on. It’s good to have a plan. Decide what you want to achieve with technology that you just couldn’t without it. Don’t settle for filling your lovely new tablets with apps for practice and drill activities, important though these are. Think big. Then have a look around and take advice on what devices will do the job you have identified.
Take maths for example. Every primary school teaches it every day. I can’t think of a school that doesn’t have an element of maths identified on its school improvement plan. How can technology help?
SkoolBo is a free to use online platform that alternates between maths and English questions. First, register as a teacher and enter your class list. Usernames and passwords will be generated for each individual pupil. KS1 teachers please note – your pupils can cope with these! Once the children have logged in they will be presented with alternating maths and English questions in an informal games environment. The system is intelligent, so it figures out where the child is up to, and generates reports for the class teacher. Of course, it is important that older siblings do not access SkoolBo on your pupils’ behalf, as it will quickly ramp up the level of difficulty of the questions they are given, and your assessment data will lose value.
There are many ready-made question sets (for example times tables) that are self-paced and self-marking for a wide variety of pupil response systems such as ActivExpression and Socrative. Assessment data is generated for the class teacher.
Primary Games Arena offers a wide selection of games in many primary subject areas, which can be filtered by strand and age. No login is required, and no assessment data is generated.
Have you seen Play Osmo? Try it out in the number, Tangram and Newton functions.
The games tab within Purple Mash (from 2Simple) contains many games that can be accessed by children independently to practise mathematical skill areas. These include times tables, factors, multiples, fractions, addition, number bonds and more.
Of course, there are many, many “practise and drill” apps available for tablets, such as Hungry Fish, King of Maths, Math Bingo, Maths Racer, Speed Maths, Matific…the list goes on…
Your interactive whiteboard is your friend, whether it’s Promethean, SMART, Epson, or something else, there are many ready-made resources available to you via their online communities.
For a small subscription you can access a wealth of online teaching resources via the TES iBoard. Also via subscription are the teaching and learning tools within Purple Mash, which include 2Count, 2Graph and 2Calculate. J2e also offers Pictogram and Chart tools via their new subscription service, j2data.
Remember that technology need not be, well, high tech. Use your visualiser. Essentially, this is simply a camera on a stick. Use it to demonstrate how to partition with Dienes apparatus…or how to use a protractor…or any other mathematical task…record a video and play it on loop at the IWB so children can watch as often as they need to. Remember that as well as investing in an actual visualiser, there are some good visualiser apps too. Try iVisualiser from Alan Peat.
So once you’ve done the teaching bit, how do you challenge children’s learning?
Remember the old Interactive Teaching Programmes (ITPs)? Not the world’s most whizzy graphics, but arguably, this means that children concentrate on the maths. They’re all here, and the instruction manual (if you need it) is here.
Search the Promethean and SMART online communities for ready-made learning activities. Remember that learning tasks can be set in Purple Mash too, via the “2Do” tools.
There are plenty of apps to support higher level independent learning tasks, including Long Multiplication, Short Multiplication, Grid Multiplication, Net that Solid, What’s the Time Mr Wolf, Numerosity, Mathsterious Mansion, Motion Maths, Cupcake, and oh, so many more.
Consider using tablets as calculators. Not the best return on investment if you use apps that simply gives you a standard 4 operation calculator, possibly with memory (and there are plenty of them). You can buy those in any supermarket for under £2. Try My Script Calculator. It’s free, and you just write your calculation directly on screen. It recognises many higher level mathematical functions, and suggests where errors may be present.
Again, user your visualiser, this time to allow children to demonstrate their learning to their peers. Assessment for Learning should of course be done all along the way, but think about using apps such as Plickers, Socrative, Explain Everything and Showbie to assess and submit work for marking and feedback. Hand-held pupil response systems such as ActivExpressions are useful here too, particularly in combination with Class Flow, the VLE from Promethean.
Purple Mash is a good place to start, with plenty to help develop all areas of maths writing, at all stages of the primary age-range. Tasks can be set, submitted and feedback given via “2Dos”.
Ask your pupils to spend some time on SkoolBo. They will get instant feedback, and you’ll get assessment data.
Many schools are already using systems like My Maths for homework. Still more are beginning to post instructional videos on their VLEs to facilitate “flipped learning”. Camera-shy teachers need not fear. These videos can be generated using apps such as Explain Everything, and do not require anyone to stand in front of a whiteboard talking to camera. In fact, the videos need not be created by teachers at all. Think about it. Children could create their own videos about the grid method of long multiplication and post them to the class blog. Everyone learns from watching them – as often as necessary in order to understand the method – and then the teacher challenges the pupils’ understanding in the next lesson with problem solving activities. Yes, all children need internet access, and yes, all children need to actually do the homework. Anecdotal research indicates that this kind of homework has a far higher return rate than traditional worksheets. Where children really, really do not have internet access at home (really?) then how about providing homework clubs at lunchtime or after school.
You will have noticed that the same few key technologies keep cropping up. That’s because it’s not actually about the technology at all. It’s about what you do with it.
Want to know more? Naace 1-day courses in ‘Impacting on Standards in Mathematics with Technology’ and ‘Technology for AfL’ are run regularly throughout the UK, both by Naace and by Naace Delivery Partners. Keep an eye on the website!
Dr Carol Porter (@CPorter18) is Technology Curriculum Support Centre Manager, supporting schools in Bury LA with the Computing Curriculum, Technology-Enabled Learning and eSafety. She is also a Naace Fellow, Naace Lead for Professional Development, Naace Lead for Standards in Computing, and Vice Chair of Naace Board of Management.