Monthly Archives: January 2019

Have No Fear – Learning to love your blog⤴

from

Last week I taught the third run of our Blogging to Build your Professional Profile workshop and also had the pleasure of joining a lunchtime call with colleagues from ALT to talk about different approaches to team blogging.  Something that struck me is that whenever I talk about blogging there are a number of issues that come up repeatedly, regardless of whether the people I’m talking to are experienced bloggers or whether they’re dipping their toe in the water for the first time.  And all these issues relate broadly to anxiety.

All is vanity

Even among experienced bloggers there can be a lingering feeling that blogs are really just a bit of a vanity project, a space to show off and blow your own trumpet, and well, it’s all just a little bit undignified really. I find this a bit odd because as academics and professionals we are already expected to disseminate our work broadly, through scholarly publications, professional papers, and academic and industry conferences.  I think the difference with blogs is that they exist outwith the traditional academic sphere of acceptance and control.  By and large, we control our own blogs; we control what we post, when we post, and who we choose to share with.   I’d argue that far from being a vanity project, blogs are an invaluable way to facilitate reflective practice, and to empower colleagues to curate their own professional and academic portfolios and identities.   If you need to be convinced about the benefits of academic blogging have a look at some of the great blogs that are linked on our Academic Blogging SPLOT and hosted on the University of Edinburgh’s new blogs.ed.ac.uk service.

Have no fear

Once you get used to blogging it’s easy to forget just how terrifying it can be to hit that little blue Publish button if you’re not used to putting your words out there.   This is particularly true if you’re writing blog posts that are in any way personal or reflective.  Even experienced academic and professional writers can suffer from this kind of anxiety.  When we write academic papers or professional reports we generally abide by certain writing standards and conventions, which arguably place a degree of distance between ourselves and our words. When we write personal reflective posts, the buffer provided by these conventions disappears. Sharing a part of ourselves online can be a lot scarier than sharing our papers and reports.  I’ve blogged for years but I still feel a little anxious when I publish something that’s a bit more personal, a bit more political, a bit closer to the bone than usual.  In my experience it’s really worth it though, the response I’ve had on the odd occasions I have published more personal posts has been incredibly supportive and up-lifting.  Few pieces of writing have terrified me more than Shouting From The Heart, but the response to that piece from colleagues was overwhelming.

Perfection is the enemy of the good

Another issue that often comes up is what if my blog posts aren’t good enough?  What if my ideas aren’t fully formed?  What if I post something embarrassingly bad?  What if I regret it later? Perfectionism is one of the main stumbling blogs that often prevents people from taking up blogging, particularly in a domain like academia where imposter syndrome is rife.  When we all set such ridiculously high standards for ourselves, it can be really difficult to put anything out there that is less than perfect, and the result of course is that we end up posting nothing.   However the real beauty of blogs is that they are ideally suited to letting you develop your ideas and think aloud.  Blog posts don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be fully formed, and if there are one or two typos, well, it’s really not the end of the world, you can always go back and edit later.  Some of my favourite blogs are ones where I can see colleagues thinking through their ideas.  Maren Deepwell, Melissa Highton, Sheila MacNeill, Anne-Marie Scott and Martin Weller’s blogs are all great examples of this.  My advice if you’re struggling with perfectionism is to start out by blogging in private.  Lots of bloggers keep both public and private blogs and that’s just fine.  Blogging, like any form of writing, is 90% practice and hopefully as your confidence in your writing grows, you’ll find it’ll be easier to start sharing your posts in public.

Shouting into the void

So that happens once you’ve written your first blog post, taken a deep breath, hit the little blue button, and sent it off into the big world wide web?  Quite often what happens is…nothing.  Nada.  Crickets.  Tumbleweed. New bloggers are often anxious about getting lots of negative comments on their posts, but to be honest, it’s far more common to get no comments at all.  Seriously, have a look at my blog, the vast majority of posts don’t have a single comment. That doesn’t mean that no one is engaging with them though, whenever I write a blog post, I post a link on twitter and that’s where the conversation happens, if it’s going to happen at all, because that’s where my community of open education practitioners is.  Many of my posts still pass under the radar though, and there’s no denying that it can be discouraging to post a lovingly crafted piece of writing, particularly one you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into, and it receives no engagement at all.  This can be heightened by the odd sense of loss all writers sometimes feel when they let go of a piece of writing.

One way to address this is to be strategic about how and when you post. There’s a lot of advice and guidance available online that will tell you when the optimal time to post is and how to use analytics to track the impact of your writing, however I’d caution against getting too caught up in tracking clicks and likes and comments.  Online engagement can be fickle and it’s often hard to predict which posts will get lots of attention and which will sink without a trace.  Don’t judge the value of your writing on the basis of social media likes; posts that get a lot of attention aren’t necessarily the “best” posts, and vice versa.

My approach to counteracting post-publication (post-posting?) blues is to try and write for myself first and foremost. That might sound trite, but it’s still good advice.  I’m a great believer in the benefits of writing as a personal reflective practice.  If other people engage with what I write, that’s a bonus, but if not, it doesn’t matter, because I’ve still benefited from the process of writing.

Don’t feel too dispirited if you don’t get much engagement on your blog, try to enjoy the process of thinking and writing for yourself.  But if you do want feedback and engagement, don’t be afraid to reach out; find out where your people are, share your posts with them there, ask colleagues for comments and input, most will be only too happy to oblige.

Maren wrote a brilliant post on the creative process of blogging after our talk last week and I can highly recommend it if you’re looking for inspiration:  Blogging is my sketchbook: reflecting on the creative process and open practice.

Gaelic version of e-Sgoil’s live narrative project now available⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Education Scotland has published the Gaelic version of e-Sgoil’s live narrative project here:

https://education.gov.scot/improvement/practice-exemplars/live-narrative-project

This project outlines e-Sgoil’s virtual learning approach to overcoming barriers to learning across a range of local authorities and aspects of pedagogy​. It is intended to assist senior leaders and teachers  with improving practice through the medium of Gaelic and English.

 

PicCollage for the Classroom⤴

from @ ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

Pic⏺Collage – much more than the name might suggest, Pic⏺Collage is a free app which works on multiple platforms including iPads, Android, Windows and Amazon devices. Yes of course it can create collages of multiple images but it can do much more! And it has uses to support across the curriculum in different ways.

Grids

At its most straightforward you can create a collage of multiple images in one single image to illustrate an aspect of learning in an overview.

And Pic⏺Collage provides a range of grid templates from which to choose. Simply open the app, choose “grids”, select your images from your device, select the outline shape/proportion from the size tab, then from Grid tab choose from the range of grid types – note that you can choose from overlapping freestyle or from different numbers of images and relative sizes.

In addition, for any selected grid template, you can click on any single image at a time and adjust the relative proportions/size of each image to reflect how you want the complete collage of images to appear.

The size of the gap between each image (the background), as well as the outline of the entire collage, can be adjusted by using the slider (you can adjust it so there is no background or gap between images). Click on the third tab, background, to choose the colour or pattern which will appear between images and around the outline of the collage.

The Tweet by @MPS_Primary6 used the app to select images to illustrate mood and diplay in a grid template and overlay with text

 

Stickers

For any collage you can add stickers, from speech/thought bubbles to smiley faces to thumbs-up  and more. These stickers can be handy if you have a need to obscure elements of an image, such as to hide faces or to blank out names or other text details. Once placed on a collage a sticker can be moved, rotated or resized.

Text

You can add text to any collage, choosing from a range of typefaces/fonts. You can choose the colour of the letters as well as the colour of the text box (or choose to have no background colour or text box visible). You can choose how to align text within a text box if you choose to show the text box, and choose whether or bot to display an outline in each letter.

See the Tweet below from @MrsOrrCPS for examples of how this app has been used by learners choosing an image or background, then overlaying their self-created poetry text which the image reflects.

Web image search facility

The inbuilt web image search provides the option to easily find images, including animated gifs, to add on top of your collage.

@P7PWPS chose images and backgrounds in the app, and then used the text tool to overlay descriptive words in French

 

Doodle

The doodle option lets you choose the size of the drawn line and the colour of drawing tool. Then you simply draw freehand on top of the collage. Once drawn this drawn image can then be moved, rotated or resized as required.

Animation

Selecting “animation” gives you the option to select from various animations, including moving from side to side or moving into the centre, wiggling or spreading and more. The animation applies to all of the elements of the collage. These animated collages can be shared online via website or social media where the animations will then be seen.

Teacher’s Corner

Pic⏺Collage has a Teacher’s Corner area of their blog full of ideas about how this app can be used in the classroom to support learning. Head over to https://blog.piccollage.com/category/teachers-corner/ to check it out.

Look at the Tweets below shared by schools about the ways they have used this app:

So how have you used this app? Do share in the comments here how you have used the app in your classroom

You are getting older – combining history with numeracy in the classroom⤴

from @ ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

You’re getting old! This a an online tool where you enter a date, such as a birthdate, and the site presents a whole range of calculations related to that day by comparison to the current date and time.

The calculations presented include (if it’s for a birthdate) exactly how old at that moment in time that person would be in years, months and days, then presents that as a total number of days, as well as the total number since birth for that date of candles on a birthday cake, the approximate number of times that person’s heart would have beaten, total number of breaths, number of times the moon has orbited the earth in that time, and the number of people who were alive on earth on that birthdate compared to the number today.

As a bit of fun it has some entertainment value, but for a classroom it can also help introduce the concept of comparisons of time in history, or other curricular areas related to specific pieces of information (such as science when looking at heartbeats, breaths or moon orbits).

Another calculation included is in making a comparison to the length of time elapsed from the birthdate until today compared to something in history  from that same birthdate but going backwards in time by nearly as far back. Thus as an example for a child in a class whose birthdate might have been 29 January 2010, thus comparison calculation on that date in 2019 would be “When you were born was nearer to the 9/11 terror attacks than today.” This can highlight something that to people who have that earlier event in their own lifetime perhaps reflecting the passage of time between people of different ages and their perceptions of how long ago something happened.

There are links to social subjects when it comes to comparing, for the length of time which has elapsed since the birthdate selected, how far a single location on the planet has travelled as it rotates, the distance travelled as the Earth revolves around the Sun, and more.

Then the site picks out selected historical events from the birth year, from early childhood, later years as appropriate. And it notes the dates on which that child will reach certain milestones – in a classroom context when numbers start to get large when you can no longer actually picture them in your mind, this site can be used to get children to try to guess the number of days until certain landmark dates before revealing the site’s calculations.

For birthdates of adults (you can use those of celebrities known to pupils) there are additional comparison calculations (they won’t appear for children’s ages since it relies on information comparing the ages of two other well-known people) – such as taking an adult’s age and showing it as the sum of two younger people (so that could be an older named actor being the same age as two other named child-actors.

One last comparison displayed is a pie chart showing the number of people born on the same birthdate as that selected and highlighting the number who are still living. This, like many of the other calculations, can provide the starting point for discussions for social studies subjects.

Give it a go http://you.regettingold.com and please do share in the comments below how you’ve used this tool in the classroom,

Coding with Coordinates⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

An aspect of mathematics that I love teaching is coordinates.  There are incredible resources available that really engage the children – most notably the ‘plot and draw’ type activities in which the children are given a series of coordinates to plot and then join up in a dot-to-dot type exercise.  The resulting image gives great satisfaction to the children as it provides a very instant visual self-assessment for the children to reflect on how well they did: additionally, they often love colouring it in!

Recently, though, in teaching coordinates I have not started as I normally would using sheets and paper, I have started with the below PowerPoint and Scratch coding.  The Scratch interface uses coordinates as a means of locating/moving sprites.  By far, the simplest way to teach children to code sprites to move is for them to understand what it means to alter a sprite’s ‘x’ or ‘y’ position.

One of the first lessons that I do with children, and indeed the lesson that I have started P4 and P5 with this week has been to learn about a sprite’s position and alter it using coordinates.  This PowerPoint serves as my introduction to the lesson and then we learn to code our own sprites to move using what we have learned.  I find that teaching coordinates after doing this lesson is much easier, as children have a much deeper understanding of how the ‘x-axis’ and ‘y-axis’ function.

Let’s quickly look at the brand-new Scratch 3.0 interface so that you too can get your children coding sprites to move ‘when’ buttons are pressed.  I will be leading a CPD session in February in using Scratch 3.0 as part of the upcoming GameJam training – more info to come soon!

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Below is an image of the scratch interface as soon as you press the ‘create’ button.  On the left hand side you have three tabs:

  1. ‘code’, where you can locate all of the blocks with which you code your sprite.  You can drag these blocks into the blank space to the right of the blocks menu and link them together to create scripts.
  2. ‘costumes’, where you can edit the look of your sprite/backdrop depending on which you have selected.
  3. ‘sounds’ where you can add and edit sounds.

For this lesson, we will only be working with the code tab.

 

Left: Your children can change the size of their sprite and view its position on the x and y axis with the sprite editor section.  They can also select a sprite (by clicking on its icon), delete a sprite (by clicking on the (x) within the sprite icon box, or select a new sprite in the sprite selection menu.

 

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Hopefully this mini-IDL link will come in handy over the coming weeks/terms.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future blogs, do not hesitate to get in touch via twitter: @mrfeistsclass

 

Have a great week,

Donald

A PIONEERING project in the Borders to help school pupils experience the workplace has hit the small screen⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Developing Young Workforce (DYW) Borders celebrated their second birthday by releasing a series of videos to showcase the impact they’ve made.

Business owners, teachers and pupils have all taken part in the filming.

Callum Weston, a sixth year pupil at Earlston High, discussed his experiences of the DYW programme.

He said: “One of the sessions I attended was welcoming and a really fun way to learn about career option from people other than teachers at school.”

The programme, which is a Scottish Government initiative that aims to bridge the gap between industry and education, has led to over 15,000 pupils attending one or more of the 130 events which DYW Borders have been involved in.

While the numbers are impressive, it is the response from the those involved that better demonstrates the positive impact of the programme.

Pauline Grigor is a parent of a pupil at Galashiels Academy. She said: “DYW Borders has been a huge help to me and my son, who has a rare medical condition.

“We worked together with the programme team to pull together a bespoke work experience plan for my son.

“This has had an amazing impact on his confidence. So much so that he has even started a part-time job. I don’t think he’d ever have managed this prior to the work experience arranged by DYW Borders.”

Educational professionals have also been quick to voice support for the programme.

Bruce Aitchison, Deputy Head Teacher at Hawick High School, said: “DYW Border is a great way for us to educate our young people on their future career options.”

The series of videos were released on January 9 – exactly two years after the initiative arrived in the Borders.

Reflecting on the success over the last two years, DYW manager Sara Ward added: “Year two for DYW Borders has been a remarkable success, really building on the solid foundations of year one.

“We have engaged with more young people, established strong working relations with more businesses and strengthened our links with those in education.

“The entire team of staff and volunteers are proud to have achieved so much across the region as part of this national programme, and we look forward to doing even more in 2019

The best app?⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Just short blog this week, as it’s been quite a hectic week and I’ve just not had the time I normally would.  I am writing on the iPad as I commute just now, and spell check is playing havoc, so apologies in advance if I miss a complete corker as I go.

This week, I want to look at my favourite all for ‘the digital plenary’ and arguably the best app of all time (in my opinion).  This is because I’ve been seeing quite a bit of debate on Twitter about the ‘good lesson’ structure and whether people still use a plenary at the end.  I personally love a plenary – even if it’s just a quick recap at the end about what the LI and SC were and what we have achieved – I find it a nice way round up a lesson, however, as we all know, a plenary can happen at any point in a lesson, or even at the start of a future lesson to recap something learned previously.  Enter the digital plenary.

There are two apps that I swear by for plenaries.  The first, Plickers, is an app that I have talked about previously so won’t really cover here. Currently, I use Plickers more than my favourite app, as it works better hen you don’t have many connected devices. Kahoot! however is what I want to focus on.  Now, I have actually written about Kahoot in the past also, but not extensively and certainly not since their recent updates and changes.  In my previous school, we had iPads that connected to WiFi – I really look forward to that being the case again this year in my current school, as I was able to use Kahoot a lot to review learning, track responses to questions and summatively assess understanding, but most of all, we were able to use it to have fun.  At its very heart, Kahoot is a Quiz app.  It is fun and engaging and can be used for a multitude of purposes.  It is free (although new paid premium services can now be added for as little as £1 pcm).  I genuinely love it.  You can create your own quizzes or search for ones that have already been made by teachers across the country.  In my last school, we created a ‘class’ account, where the children were able to sign in and create their own quizzes for peer assessment (and for fun) to review each other’s learning.

It works in browser and there are free apps also. Heck, I’ve even used it for a fundraising Harry Potter Quiz night with friends at my house.

If you do anything today, check out Kahoot.  They are also on Twitter | @getkahoot

Here’s a video clip of Kahoot being used in a medical science lecture.

Truly, I can’t recommend it enough, and hope that you enjoy using it as much as I do.

See you next week!

Donald

Not on your Cloud⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

This post has been brewing for over  three months now. I think I just need to post it.

More and more of our computer use involves networks and cloud storage. A while back I was joined on Radio Edutalk by Sarah Clark who spelt out the benefits of the cloud in the classroom.

This is great if you have the connection and bandwidth. Some folk do not. This was brought to the front of my mind by a tweet by Andrew Jewell:

Thankfully I am not in that position, but although my class are 1-2-1 iPads we don’t have the broadest band in the world. I do a few different things that mitigate against poor connectivity that I though worth sharing.

I want to cut down as much network traffic as possible so that when we use the internet we get the best possible connections.

We Don’t do iCloud

Out of the box iPads want to use iCloud for storing files. For my personal and school devices I would not be without several ‘clouds’, my phone uses dropbox, iCloud and OneDrive. I use iCloud and OneDrive on my school iPad and desktop too. As I am lucky enough to have a mac in my classroom I sync somethings with iCloud so they are available on both devices, mac and iPad. This is very handy. I can write a note on my mac in the Notes app, it syncs to the iPad and I then can drop it to a group via the Classroom. I can edit pages and keynote files on both devices seamlessly. I keep a lot of materials in OneDrive and the app keeps my home computer and school one in sync.

However I get my pupils to turn off most of the iCloud features. Since they do not use multiple devices with the same account they don’t need all their photos and documents syncing. Opening documents with the native iOS apps such as pages and keynote is a lot faster if the documents are local.

A couple of years ago I centred our document Workflow around O365, OneDrive and OneNote. OneNote especially is marvellous for this, the Class Notebooks in particular give you a tremendous amount of organisation. Unfortunately we spent a fair bit of time waiting for things to open and lost a fair amount of pupils work in OneNote 1 so don’t use it anymore. I will keep an eye on the app and out network and return to it if conditions allow.

We do do AirDrop

The answer to my handing out and gathering in of digital assets is now AirDrop and Notes. Notes has really matured over the last few years and has managed to keep its simplicity and gain features. I send out a lot of ‘tasks’ or success criteria via notes. I use it to share audio files along side text and pupils can send me notes easily. My pupils send me finished work, for example, recording of their reading alongside their self assessment2. If I had to guess the most use apps in my class would be Notes and Photos.

AirDrop is a really good way to distribute large files. A bunch of pupils watching video on the network will really slow things down. I can drop the same video to my class or a group amazingly quickly.

AirDrop avoids the cloud sending from device to device directly.

Apple Classroom

Airdrop is much enhanced by using Apple Classroom, this allows you to set up classes and groups of pupils, you can Airdrop to the whole class or a group. More importantly the teacher’s iPad can receive files from pupils without intervention.

Of course classroom does some other things but I love AirDrop the most.

What I miss from this system is the organisation that is built into multi-user cloud solutions. Reviewing pupils work and giving feedback was easier in OneNote. I may get the class to turn on iCloud for Notes at some point and see if sharing notes is practical for me. I suspect that the amount of data used by notes will be a lot less than OneNote.

A Cache in Hand

Here we are entering geekier territory, and you need a mac (there might be other ways I don’t know about). You can buy, in the mac app store, the Server App. Or if you have a newer mac than mine you can use the built in Caching Service.

The Server app can cache content locally so that if more than one device is downloading the same content the later ones can get the data from the local cache rather than going out to the internet. This seems to help installing the same app across multiple iPads. You can see from the screenshot that a lot of the data reaching our iPads comes from the local cache rather than from the internet. In my experience this seems to speed up updating a bunch of iPads or installing a bunch of apps.

A Web of One’s Own

Hand in had with the caching the server app can do it can also serve webpages locally. This is a good alternative to AirDrop to share piles of photos. Rather than send them all to all of the iPads I can set up a web gallery on the mac and pupils can visit it via their browsers. This is probably beyond what most teacher are willing to do but if you can it is a good way to distribute files where pupils can choose form a range of images. Better than giving them all 100 images to choose from and fill up their iPads.

Once you have turned on web-serving it is just a case of building a website in the same ways as you would create an external site. It would be very useful do be able to do that automatically. The local urls will not be pretty or easy to type, but the pupils don’t need to as I will AirDrop the urls to them.

I’ve briefly tested the wiki server that comes with the Server app, but I am not sure it is happy with several folk adding content at once. I believe the wiki server has been dropped from later versions of the Server app.

None of this is ideal compared to a fast connection and a cloud solution but in the meantime it lets us get the job done with the minimum of waiting for the network. When we do need the internet, and we do, we get as much goodness as possible from it.

This is temporary and experimental

For all the reasons Sarah went over, the cloud is, long term, the way to go. I hope these things help make the technology less visible in my classroom in the short term. I’d also be interested in other and better ways to improve my classroom.

 

see: OneNote Help Wanted
Notes and Airdrop to the rescue