Author Archives: Mr Feist

Book Creator – creating, sharing, learning⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

One of the most powerful apps in education is Book Creator.  It is a paid app, however, at £4.99 it is truly worth it.  From sharing learning, to creating books and comics, to making videos and supporting children with ASN/EAL; book creator truly is the tool for the job.

Here is a quick PowerPoint presentation about how to create, read and share books in Book Creator:

Read to Me

Since November 2016 the ‘Read to Me’ tool has been one of the most powerful features (in my opinion) of this fantastic app.  When it was launched, I had a new EAL learner with an ASD who was struggling to settle into the class.  Her language barrier was a huge issue, and her ASD caused great anxiety in the mornings and after break/lunch.  She didn’t want to have to try and speak to anyone as she became very anxious that she wouldn’t understand or be able to respond.

Until the launch of ‘read to me’ on book creator, she had a system where she would come in and read one of her bilingual books or try to use worksheets with pictures to learn new words.  Whilst this worked to an extent, she did find it tricky as she couldn’t ‘hear’/pronounce some of the words.  With the launch of ‘Read to Me’ in book creator, though, I knew that we were on to a winner.  She built her own dictionary on book creator by drawing (with the pen tool) a picture of the word that she was learning, and typed the word that she chose from her worksheets, class work or dictionary.  E.g. if she had the word ‘tree’ she would draw a tree, type the word tree and then move on.  This would have been the same as what she had already been doing on paper, however, she couldn’t easily pronounce the words previously without myself or a member of support staff sitting with her and reading the words, and this was something that made her feel uncomfortable as she didn’t like that the children could hear her learning new words.  With the ‘Read to Me’ function, she was able to put on headphones and listen to all of her words each morning and after break/lunch.

This then became her routine – come into class before the line, get her designated iPad, put on her headphones, listen to the previous words and add new ones.

It worked!

She soon started writing small sentences that she wanted to use in class, like, ‘please may I go to the toilet?’ I remember the class getting so excited the first time she put up her hand and asked a question, and she was so proud.

I know this is a very specific example of a child with many needs, but, there are so many times in learning environments that book creator can be a hugely powerful tool.  I wish that I had the ‘read to me’ function in the year that I taught a non-verbal child, as I imagine it would have transformed the way that he could communicate with me and the other children.

One of my colleagues is currently using book creator with her class and said that the children are very good at using the ‘read to me’ function to check their learning. She noted comments such as “no, that doesn’t make sense” when they hear it being read back to them.

Design and layout

Creativity is a huge aspect of learning, and applications that are fairly static and don’t allow much creativity really don’t engage our learners as much as those that do.  Book creator allows children to design every page as they want; from the background colour, to the positioning and size of text boxes, to adding their own drawings, or inserting media it really is powerful, and children want to create their own books using it – I’m yet to find a child that hasn’t engaged with it.

The design and layout options are really simple to use and navigate between, and are noted in the Presentation at the top of this post.

Sharing

Children can save their work to their iPad’s book store, as a PDF for printing, or even as a video file that could be put onto the school twitter feed, saved to their Glow OneDrive or even emailed home.

Let me know!

Book Creator genuinely does excite me, and I’m looking forward to sharing its potential with my colleagues in a CPD training this week.  If you already use Book Creator, or will be starting to use it, please send me a tweet and let me know how you use it with your learners, as I love being inspired by the Twitter community!

 

iOS 12 – an update for education!⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

It’s rare that I actually get excited about an iOS update.  Sure, performance is introduced, and new features are added – but it’s rare that those new features excite me.  iOS12 is the exception to that rule.  As an educator, it is a gift.  Of course, there is still so much more that can come – there always will be, but my lord this is a step in the right direction.  And not just for educators; for parents who want a little more control of their children’s use of tech and want to be able to monitor it more effectively, iOS12 really goes a long way in a very positive direction.

This post is a little different; but as a teacher in Glasgow, where children are receiving iPads on a 1-1 basis as part of our digital transformation, it is something that I really want to look at.  For parents of children with iPads, I think aspects of this blog will also be really helpful.

Let’s look at some of the features that have been introduced and can have a really positive impact in the classroom:

Screen time

This is mostly beneficial for parents, but for schools would be a great thing to share with parents and implement, especially if we are encouraging children to use devices at home.

This is a huge move in the battle to cut down on ‘screen time’ for our younger users – but to fully appreciate this, we need to think about what ‘screen time’ actually is.  Screen time can be both a positive and negative experience.  Negative screen time, is time where children are not interacting or engaging with cognitive benefits – for example, playing games that have no depth of learning behind them.  There are many games that can be beneficial – ones that encourage problem solving and critical thinking for example, but in excess even these can be addictive.  For younger children especially, excessive individual screen time should be discouraged, but time with parents using a screen for play, learning or reading (in my opinion) can be just as positive an experience as reading a book or playing a board game as it is the collaborative aspect in these scenarios that is the beneficial experience.

The ‘screen time’ controls that come as part of the iOS update monitor usage in this way, and can even be programmed to limit it.  Let’s look more closely at them:

 

‘Screen time’ can be found in the settings menu on your iOS 12 enabled device.  Once activated, it automatically tracks usage and categorises it into ‘types’ of screen time – e.g. productivity, creativity, games, social media etc.  In the image below, I had only just enabled screen time for the purpose of this blog, so it is showing my screen time in seconds and uncategorised, but you will find many examples of more active screen time online.  Frankly, I have mine turned off as I know that I spend far too much time on Twitter and don’t want to see just how much!

 

 

 

Below the daily usage bar, there are four controls that can be activated.  In setting up screen time, you are asked if this is your device or your child’s.  If you select that it’s your child’s you will be automatically taken through each of these controls by default.

Downtime is just what you would imagine.  You get to choose times that the user is away from the screen.  The only things that the user will be able to use during this time are apps that you have set as being ‘always allowed’ e.g. the phone (in case of emergency for example) or the alarm/clock.  All other apps would be disabled during this time.

App limits even during enabled screen time, you can set a limit to apps.  If there’s a category of apps, for example games or social media, that you feel your child uses far to much, you can limit it to a set amount of time per day.  For example, I might feel that as I use twitter and facebook too much, I need to set a limit of one hour per day on social media.  If there are apps within the category that you don’t feel should be included in the limit, or you’d like to add other apps, simply click ‘edit apps’ after choosing and adding the category.  Here you can select and deselect the apps that you want/don’t want to include in the time limit.  This is such a powerful way of restricting access to apps that you want to limit.

Always allowed as noted previously, there are some apps that you may wish to always allow.  For example, you might always want to allow your child to make a phone call if they need to, or to access the camera or clock.  You can select/deselect these apps within this menu.

Content and Privacy Restrictions previously called ‘restrictions’ this section allows you to determine which apps and settings the user can change and edit.  Maybe you don’t want them having the ability to purchase apps – you can block that on here.  You can add content restrictions, e.g. no films aged 15 or 18, no explicit books.  As with all web filters, it is not perfect and there may be occasions where your child will come across inappropriate material.  This will always be the case so we do need to teach children to be good digital citizens, and how to deal with that if it does occur (by reporting it).  Again though, this full tool is a very powerful way to restrict and monitor screen time, and make the iPad a versatile tool for learning and entertainment, but not one that ‘takes over’ a child’s life.

Additional features you do also have the option to add a screen time passcode to secure all of these settings so that your child can’t change them.  The passcode can also be used to extend time if, say, for a reward one day you want to allow your child an extra 15 minutes on their games.  You can also share all of these features across all devices (associated with the apple ID) to save having to input the same data on each of your child(ren)’s devices.  You can also set it up for your family if your children have different apple IDs.

All in all, this change is very powerful and truly excellent.  I think it will help a lot of families control the ‘addiction’ that some people report their children as having.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has been with us for some time now, and can be experienced well through a whole host of applications such as Goggle Expeditions and Quiver.  I was actually using AR with P4 this week to let them look at aspects of Ancient Rome in more detail:

AR is continually getting better and better.  iOS 12 promises to integrate AR into many new apps and really build its profile.  It truly can be used well in education too.  Twinkl have recently released a free coding app for teaching basic coding skills.  The app is different to the many others as it uses AR for the game place – the game comes to life in front of you!  I have only just started using it and look forward to trying it out with the Tech Team to see what they think of it.

See my short clip about it in my tweet below:

 

AR ‘Measure’ app

I think that this application excited me more than any other part of the iOS12 update when I first saw it.  I had seen adverts for AR measuring apps on TV but hadn’t got round to purchasing one – fortunately, I now no longer need to as we have an AR measure app built in to our iOS12 devices!

Here’s a very quick clip of how it works:

In an educational context, measure is often something that can be tricky to teach, but this app can be very useful.  I would encourage a diversity of tools for teaching measure though and am not suggesting to ditch traditional measuring tools, such as rulers, as using and reading these is a skill.  The way I would see this tool being used would be for comparisons and gathering data quickly.  I also think it would be great to ‘test how good the app is’ by asking children to use the app to measure a surface, and then using a ruler to measure it and compare the results.

 

Voice memos

Voice memos have been around for a long time on iPhones, but until this update were clunky and you couldn’t really do anything with them.  That has all changed now.  Firstly, voice memos are no longer restricted to iPhones – you can access and create them on iPads and macs.  Secondly, it is so much easier to use and share your memos – even directly into apps such as notes.  Here’s a quick demonstration:

Whilst I used the app ‘notes’ in this tutorial, it works with loads of apps, including book creator!  Simply share your audio to book creator instead of notes, then, in book creator click on the + symbol within the book that you want to add the media, and select ‘shared’.  Choose the audio file that you want and then select whether you want it to appear as a button (clickable) or soundtrack (plays in the background).

I hope that this has been helpful and has given you an insight into some of the features within iOS12.  Please do also share with parents as I think it is vital that we equip parents with the tools to better protect their children online and monitor/limit non-beneficial screen time.

Have a great week!

 

 

National Coding Week Reflection⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

A slightly different post this week as I look back rather than forward.  I’m looking back on the fantastic National Coding Week that we’ve just had – 17th-21st September, 2018.  As you will know from my twitter feed and previous blogs, I love coding.  I love the skills that it can help learners to develop.  I love the fact that we are really starting to teach it properly, and we’re aiming to give our children the chance to build their digital futures.

I celebrated National Coding Week in three ways; first, I wrote a blog on ‘The Digital Revolution’ for the National Coding Week Website, which can be found here.  Second, I wrote a blog on ‘Using Technology to Visualise Learning and Tackle Misconceptions’ for Twinkl Scotland, which can be found here.  Finally I published a series of resources and teacher help-sheets on twitter for each day of National Coding Week.  You will be able to find the resources below.

I’m also putting some of the best examples that I’ve found on Twitter of coding in the classroom from #NationalCodingWeek.  Hopefully, this blog will inspire you not only to continue/start coding with your classes, but also will give you the opportunity to connect with other schools and practitioners that are starting coding with their classes.

Day 1 – A great way to start coding with Scratch

Monday’s challenge was an introduction to coding.  This lesson has been tried and tested hundreds of time, and even formed part of Dr Amanda Ford‘s thesis (my partner in crime for creating these resources).

You can find the full downloadable image and accompanying teacher cards here.

The idea of the maze game, is that it’s a fun and fairly simple game for children to create, and each game is very unique to the designer as ‘design’ and ‘creativity’ are probably the biggest parts of it.  It also teaches about ‘looping’ and ‘conditionals’ – two of the most common concepts in computer programming and thus skills that can be transferred into most other programs.

 

 

Day 2 – IDL: Learning music through code

Tuesday was my first example of how coding can be taught across the curriculum.  Digital skills are officially becoming ‘core skills’ in the next update, and so will be a responsibility for all.  I have long believed that computer science should not be taught as a discrete subject, as the skills developed are transferrable to almost every aspect of the curriculum and life.  This set of resources were aimed at giving ideas for ways to teach aspects of music through computer science.  The featured resource was ‘Code your own musical instrument in scratch’, but I also published a breakdown of composition in Scratch and a ‘name that tune’ challenge card.  You can find all of the resources from day 2 here.

 

 

Day 3 – IDL: learning probability with code

Day three was my maths day (although, I did post an additional maths resource for #MathsWeekScotland on Twitter prior to coding week – you can find that resource here.) Something that I love doing in teaching maths is to use coding skills as an introduction into teaching probability.  For this lesson, we are asking children to program their own random number generator by create a dice that ‘rolls’ to a random number.  After the children have ‘coded’ the dice they then test out the randomness of each number using their developing knowledge of data handling, and also test their peers’ games.  Sure, I could have given them each a dice to do it, but I’ve found that this has been much more stimulating in the past and has allowed children to really want to test games and use their creative skills rather than just rolling a dice.  The resources from day 3 can be found here.

 

Day 4 – IDL: coding dialogue and animations

Whilst lots of my learners like creating their own games, many just want to allow their creativity to shine as they bring their stories and scripts to life.  You can do that in Scratch!  I used to love, as part of the children’s learning in literacy, to have the children write their own stories, establishing characterisation, and then bring scenes from their stories to life in Scratch.  The power of Scratch in creating animations is only limited by the children’s own imagination and their understanding of code – you literally can make anything happen, from characters teleporting, to animated talking, to importing your own drawings and bringing them to life.  Whilst they could have filmed each other acting out scenes, this can be limiting and also isn’t always inclusive as there are children who find that situation intimidating.  With scratch, everyone has a chance to create fantastic animations.  Day 4’s resource is a quick guide to creating a simple animation that includes dialogue.  The full resource can be found here.

 

Day 5 – extending learning in the maze.

Variables are a tricky concept to get to grips with.  Scratch does make them fairly easy to work with, however, learners need a lot of exposure to them in order to fully grasp how and when to use them.  By taking the maze game – a game that the children are already familiar with (from lesson one) we can extend the game and add challenge to it by using the variable ‘time’.  This is a great way to introduce the concept of a variable as ‘time’ (in addition to score) are the most commonly used ‘visible’ variables in gaming, and the children will be used to seeing them in the games that they play.

The full resource can be found here.

 

 

 

Your examples

There was so much amazing work going on across Scotland that it was hard to choose only a few examples to feature in this blog post.  You can see all of the tweets posted during the week by using #NationalCodingWeek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do hope that you’ve all enjoyed #NationalCodingWeek as much as I have!

Have a great week everyone, see you next week!

Donald

How can we teach digital skills with a very limited number of devices?⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Even where schools have limited, or next to no access to ICT provisions, lots can still be achieved.  Whilst I would always recommend investing in additional technology it’s not always possible, so it’s good to make the most of what you already have.

 

Timetables

The best way to make full use of ICT provisions effectively, is to timetable it for good use.  Even for schools with masses of technology available to them, it’s not going to have any impact if it’s not used.

  • In-class computers: In my previous school, we had been given advice not to have an ICT suite, and to instead have 2/3 computers per class. The thought behind this was that children would have constant access to computers and thus skills could be developed as part of daily learning.  In reality however, computers were often just left, and ICT skills couldn’t ever really be taught as that would mean teaching only 2-6 children while the rest of the class were doing something else.  Fortunately, we did have a good space available and were able to create an ICT suite with 16 desktop computers.
    Space is a huge issue in some schools though, and those schools have to rely on class computers.  Where this is the case, timetabling for the use of the computers is essential.  Children should be in the routine of turning them on first thing in the morning and should be timetabled on them.  In my recent coding blog, I noted how for a time my children accessed ‘hour of code’ in pairs as part of a timetable.  Computer coding teaches children not only computer science but instructional writing, logical thinking, problem solving, aspects of maths (including angles, measure, directional language, coordinates etc), and many other skills, and should never be seen as children missing out on other areas of the curriculum.  In a week, one hour of a lesson – be it language, maths, R.E. or anything – is not going to impact on a child’s learning of that subject when they are instead developing vast amounts of skills through a course such as an Hour of Code course (code.org/learn).
    Sumdog is another fantastic tool that can be timetabled for during maths time – 5 maths lessons a week at normally an hour each.  This time easily allows for your children to be timetabled on to the class computers for 20 minutes individually to complete Sumdog challenges (www.sumdog.com).
    Often the importance of touch typing is underrated.  In our day and age, typing quickly and efficiently is just as important as being able to write legibly and quickly.  The skills developed in typing are the same as those obtained through writing.  For dyslexic children, cursive handwriting is very beneficial to their retention of words due to muscle memory so should not be underestimated; this is also true for touch typing. Two great touch-typing websites are BBC dance mat typing (p2-4) and typing.com.
    Class computers are of course also great for research tasks and for interactive finisher tasks.
    For younger children, Microsoft paint is fantastic for developing Mouse Control and practicing drawing and writing letters.  There are also many interactive games that can be left on the computers for children to explore.
  • Small ICT suite: Used well, an ICT suite of only 8 computers can be just as effective as one of 30 computers, again, it is all about timetabling it to be so. With a smaller number of computers, I would recommend fewer scheduled sessions (none less than one hour long).  I would recommend three main uses of the ICT suite.
    –ICT suite for developing digital literacy.  org has the most fantastic code course that your children can work through at their own pace.  Teachers can create a free account and provide their children with a login where they can work through the course at their own pace.  This can be done in school or at home.  I’d suggest, in a small ICT suite to have children doing paired-programming (working with a partner).  This is something that code.org are really big on, and most of their videos are tailored to it – one child is the ‘driver’ and in charge of operating the computer, whilst the other is the ‘navigator’ and in charge of spotting errors or better routes.  In a smaller suite of say 8 computers, this would only be about half the class; however, with effective timetabling, the other half could be doing an unplugged coding activity (I will blog more ideas about this soon) or an instructional writing or other task.  After half the lesson (30-45 minutes) your two groups could swap.  This is a very effective way of delivering high quality digital literacy sessions, and with an instructional teaching input at the start and plenary at the end can really deepen the children’s understanding of coding as a problem solving and literacy experience rather than something separate from their other learning.
    –ICT suite for developing numeracy.  I’ve already mentioned Sumdog.  Sumdog should always be done as an individual activity.  In a similar manner to code above, I’d have three maths stations in a small ICT suite with Sumdog as one of them and two other stations, with children rotating after 20-30 minutes.  Sumdog has been proven to raise attainment in numeracy and is included in the Scottish attainment challenge.
    –Other.  There are many other ways to utilise a small ICT suite, but again timetabling is key.  An unused ICT suite is a wasted learning opportunity as in this digital age children should be preparing themselves for a digital world of work.  Unused times to prepare for that world are wasted opportunities.
  • iPads – Where there are limited numbers of iPads (say 5) they can either be used as part of a timetabled learning experience, as with the ICT suite, or be used to enhance learning experiences. I’d strongly suggest the latter.  For this section, I will assume that there is no WiFi with the iPads.
    –Peer assessment and evaluation.  Use of the ‘camera’ to record video and/or photos can be a valuable self/peer assessment for the children, especially when used with apps such as clips and iMovie.  Let’s take P.E. for example, and the ‘Evaluating and Appreciating’ Outcomes HWB 0-24a to HWB 4-24a, children could use the iPads to film their partner doing say a gymnastics routine.  The children could then look at the footage and use it as evidence during the ‘feedback’.  The children could import it into clips and add text and arrows to highlight aspects of their feedback.  Again, the learning experience could be achieved without the iPad, but the use of it truly enhances that learning experience as the children are much more quickly able to recognise how they can improve their own performance.  In literacy, children can use the camera to take photos of parts of other children’s work and highlight why they think it was good, by using ‘mark-up’ to write on and highlight parts of the work without actually damaging or changing the original.
    –EXA.  So many aspects of the EXA experiences and outcomes can be better realised with the assistance of the iPad.  Creating short films in iMovie can bring to life children’s dramas and ideas.  Garageband (although its interface can be intimidating at first, it’s actually very simple to use – especially ‘live loops’ – I’ve had P2 using it in the past) is a fantastic tool for letting children compose and create their own music without having to worry about first learning musical notation.
  • Logins – I’d strongly recommend a whole school login and saving work into a class folder in ‘my documents’ rather than class logins – as these eat into time. In Mosspark, our Tech Team are timetabled to log on to the computers every morning as part of their duties so that they are ready for the children to use as soon as they go to class.  Children don’t log out of the computers.

Digital leaders

I have published a blog article recently about the power and importance of a digital leaders team and I can’t recommend them enough.  Not only can they support children, they can support teachers.  Whereas in the past, teachers would all come to me for advice on something that they were doing, and then it was a case of finding time for me to come in to them when I wasn’t in class; now, they can ask for a member of the team to come in and support them at any point – be it, show them how to work something, or work with some children.  Where my team don’t know how to do something, I support and then train the team in that area so that we are always learning.   A digital leaders team is truly invaluable!

ASN support groups

In Mosspark, we are being followed by Education Scotland this year as part of their ‘live narrative’ in our use of digital tools to raise attainment across the curriculum.  As part of this, we have daily Sumdog groups where targeted children have a daily 30-minute Sumdog session with a member of support staff, either from 9am-9:30am or from 1pm-1:30pm, and the ICT suite is not timetabled to classes during this time.  This daily Sumdog input has had a very positive effect on our young learners, and you will soon be able to access this information on the Education Scotland website.

We have also had a fantastic input from the ASL Technology service, with an especial focus on Ivona Mini-Reader (available on all GCC computers and most authority ones – just search for it in your start menu.) This program will read any computer based word-processed text (if you can highlight it and copy it, it can be read).  This means that our children can highlight any word/sentence/paragraph and the computer will read it to them, allowing them to access the same content as their peers without a member of staff working individually with them.  All they need is headphones.  The self-confidence of our children that use this program has improved dramatically, as there is no stigma now of someone having to read everything to them.

I am still looking into more ways to raise attainment in literacy this year through tech as my main focus and look forward to blogging about my findings towards the end of the year.

 

PLNs or Professional Learning Networks

Often the thing that holds schools back the most in the deployment and effective use of digital technologies is staff confidence and knowledge about what is available.  Many schools, including ours, are now encouraging their staff to use twitter as a PLN as part of their CPD.  I couldn’t recommend it highly enough as since being on twitter my own practice has improved so much, as I am continually inspired by colleagues from across the world and get ideas every time I go online.  There are of course many other PLNs including Facebook groups, but Twitter is the one that I get the most out of.

 

 

Sharing Learning on Social Media

Most schools do use Twitter and other sites now to share learning which is fantastic.  One thing I think schools could do better to allow parents easier access to their children’s work is to use hashtags.  In Mosspark, each class has a class hashtag (e.g. #MossparkP1a or #MossparkP7) so that parents can simply search for their child’s class to see what they’ve been learning rather than having to search through the school feed continually.  Note though, if you’re doing this, special characters can’t be used in a hashtag, so composite classes, such as P3/2 have to be tweeted as #MossparkP32.

We have also built into our WTA that teachers send at least one example of learning and photo per week to be tweeted so that all classes are represented on a weekly basis.

***

I hope that this has been helpful.

There are so many ways that technology can be used where there is limited provision, but I think the above is a good starting place for any school.

Donald

Save paper with digital exit tickets, assessments and more!⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

I love exit tickets and collecting feedback and data from plenaries.  What I didn’t love was the sheer volume of paper / photocopying that I used to use to do them.  Snap assessments to see how well my class had understood a topic, exit ticket post-its to give quick feedback about a lesson, plenaries to gauge understanding – SO MUCH PAPER!  Sure, there are ways to gather the same information without using loads of paper – thumbs for feedback for starters – but often I can’t track changes in understanding over a period of time for more than just a handful of children as it requires remembering who said what.

Fortunately, there are better ways to do these that require no paper (apart from initially printing plickers cards as you’ll see later), and better still, these methods save time as there is no marking involved – the computer collates the responses and data for you.

With such a win-win situation, I do wonder why more classes don’t use them.  Sure, for some of the ways suggested below you require multiple devices (sometimes one per child) and this can be tricky if not impossible to achieve; however, other ways require nothing more than one device which can be as simple as the teacher’s own phone!

Plickers

Despite being new to Plickers myself, it is definitely the app that I want to start with when looking at fantastic ways to go paperless when using exit tickets or giving plenaries.  It does even work for assessments.  Truthfully, their own description on their website goes a long way to explaining what Plickers is all about.  There is also a great video by EdTech Tidbits that explains about how to set up and use plickers (although, I do take exception to the ‘throwing away the cards’ comment after each use).

One of the things that I like most about Plickers, aside from the fact that you need only use a mobile phone to gather data, or a phone plus a device connected to a Smart Board if you are wanting the children to see a graph of responses, is the fact that it is a ‘safe’ learning environment.  Unless you specifically ask it to reveal student answers, the children can’t easily tell what their peers have answered.  This really minimises copying and allows the children to feel more ‘safe’ about showing an answer – they know that they won’t be judged.  Indeed, this is feedback that I have received from some of my current pupils.

I now use Plickers on an almost daily basis.  As I am currently covering Digital Literacy in NCCT, my set of Plickers cards live in the ICT suite, and all eleven of my classes have been set up to use plickers through my account.  This means that each child has a ‘number’ which is linked to one of the cards (all of the cards are the same for each class, so card 1 is the same as card 1 for any other class across the world).  My children have memorised their ‘number’ to make handing out the cards simple and quick when needed.  If I still had my own card though, I would definitely print and laminate the student cards at the beginning of the year and have the children keep them in their trays for quick access.

Normally I use plickers as a quick feedback tool – either for my own reflection on a lesson, or to very quickly gauge how well the children have understood concepts within their lesson.  More recently though, I have actually used Plickers in place of a PowerPoint when teaching about Internet Safety: the children were given questions to answer, after each of which we discussed all of the answers and worked together to come to an agreement about what the ‘correct answer’ was before revealing it.  I found this very powerful as it really engaged critical thinking and enabled children to argue their own responses.  I tweeted about this lesson here if you’d like to see more.

Data from your class’ responses is saved to your profile so that you can access it at any time, and after using the data for its purpose, or taking note of it, it is very simple to clear.

Kahoot

Truly one of my, and my class’, favourite tools.  Furthermore, with the iPad rollout across Glasgow City Council and similar initiatives for 1-1 device access within schools, this will almost certainly become a tool used on an almost daily basis by many classes.  Powerful and easy to use, this does require children to have their own devices in order to take part in quizzes / assessments etc, however, it can easily be done that children are timetabled to access a smaller number of devices and work their way through the assessment/quiz etc in a more flexible time period.

Kahoot offer a wide range of resources and videos to help you get started – their best page is here.  They also free development resources and a free Kahoot certification course, for staff to familiarise themselves better with the power of Kahoot.

To sign up (for free) and create your own resources, go to: create.kahoot.it
For students to play your quizzes / assessments, they can either go to kahoot.it on any device, or download the app, again for free, on any smartphone / tablet.

Microsoft/Google Forms

Microsoft Forms and Google Forms are exceptionally powerful and yet seldom used in the classrooms.  Many schools have started using forms as a quick way to gather results of surveys, for example the annual HGIOS survey for staff, parents and students mainly due to the fact that it saves time as no-one has to sit and sift through hundreds of forms in order to collate responses – the computer does it for you and gives you instantaneous feedback.  This is great as it does save vast amounts of paper, however, why have we not started looking at their potential for class assessments.  I won’t write much about this here, as I do plan on doing a blog about using Microsoft and Google forms in schools later this year; however, both tools are available through Glow and I would strongly urge you to look at them to see their full potential.

Other

There are many other applications, tools and websites out there that give you as much power and flexibility as the above, however not all of them are free.  Many educators will swear by Socrative, which is indeed a fantastic tool, however I have found that the above are just as powerful and what’s more, they’re completely free.  Socrative is free to use with one class, but as I have multiple classes it would cost me to use which is why I don’t – however, that’s not to say that it’s not worth it.

As with all tools, the important thing is to find one that works for you and in your setting.  I think the tool that will work in pretty much every setting is Plickers and if this blog has given you any inspiration this week, I hope that it is to use Plickers more.

Get in touch

As always, I welcome feedback on the blog and suggestions for future posts.  It would also be great to see what you’re doing in your classes, so do get in touch on twitter @mrfeistsclass and let me know what your class is up to.

Next week’s blog is all about using ICT in a setting where there is limited access to ICT.  Having taught in a setting with no ICT suite or device access, and only 1-2 computers per class – for a number of years at the start of my career, I know how frustrating it can be, so hopefully my blog will give you ideas about how to use the resources effectively in such a setting.

 

 

Have a great week,

Donald

Offline or ‘Unplugged’ Coding⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Images used in this week’s post are from the Weblify Pinterest ‘coding quotes‘ board. You can also visit their website for more information.

Background and Benchmarks

For years, teachers have been teaching ‘coding skills’ without even realising it.  Teaching coding is not tricky, and if you want proof, just look at the Technologies Benchmarks – most of the digital literacy outcomes can be achieved without even using a computer.  Of course, it is always best to apply the skills that have been learned to ‘online’ coding activities, such as creating games in Scratch and completing code courses on code.org. If however, you are new to coding and are still trying to up-skill yourself in using computers and iPads, unplugged coding is a great way to begin.  For teachers that have been doing coding activities with your children online, and are confident teaching coding skills, unplugged activities are a fantastic way to reinforce learning and apply skills in a different situation.

Let us first look at the Technologies Benchmarks (below) that are most relevant to the ‘computing science’ element of digital literacy.  I have highlighted all benchmarks that can be met through offline coding activities.  Please note that I have only highlighted the ‘primary school’ benchmarks as these are the ones that I am familiar with, however, they should give secondary teachers (especially maths and English) some ideas.

What strikes me the most about this – aside from how many outcomes can be met through offline coding opportunities – is just how many links there are to other areas of the curriculum: even suggestions for learning across the curriculum including problem solving in P.E.

I will do a future post about digital learning across the curriculum, but, if this is your first time looking at the benchmarks for computing science it will hopefully show you just how much scope there is for cross curricular digital learning.

**Please note that there are also Digital Literacy and Cyber Security benchmarks within the technologies benchmarks pages.**

Unplugged Coding Ideas

Early Years

Many people see ‘coding’ as something that only older children / adults can accomplish.  This is simply not true.  Teaching computational thinking can start as early as you like and a lot sooner than you realise.  Even sorting shapes – an activity my sister has been doing with her son since he was just over a year old – is a form of computational thinking.  Looking at the benchmarks for early years, teaching coding is truly a vast and rich way for children to learn.

The very first benchmark makes this the most clear: “Identifies and sequences the main steps in an everyday task to create instructions/an algorithm for example, washing hands.”  We are continually using visual timetables with our infant children to reinforce learning and list a day’s activities.  We are using story boards to describe the sequence of a story.  All of these are computational thinking tasks.  All of these are coding.

Why not take it a step further and, using small diagrams, ask children to ‘program’ their friend to do something, or ‘code’ the teacher to perform a simple task.  It is a great fun learning experience that I have done with P1 many times in the past and plan to do with the nursery children this year in my establishment.

The ‘predicting’ benchmark is also very important, as this is the introduction of ‘debugging’.  Using floor spots is an excellent way to do this task.  Lay out the floor spots and put a teddy on one spot, and another object on a different spot.  Using arrows, the children have to get Teddy to the object.  Moreover, you could draw the arrows, and the children have to work out if teddy will get to the object using your arrows.

First Level

Whilst children in Early Years can achieve the majority of their benchmarks without touching a computer, it is important in first level that there is a good balance between on and offline coding activities.  Reinforcement of skills in different learning environments is vital in developing the logical thinking and problem solving elements required in computer programming.  Simply letting your children only do code courses online will not fully develop their thinking, in the same way that solely doing offline tasks will not let them experience the problem solving aspects of actually using a programming language to solve tasks and create games of their own.

Similar offline activities to the early years should be used, however, children should start to write their instructions down.  Writing instructions for ‘turning off a light’ for example, is a fantastic way of letting children understand how important it is for a computer to be told everything that it needs to know or it won’t operate.

Take the following example of a lesson I did with P4, for example.  In asking the children to code the teacher (me) to turn off the light.  They wrote “press it”.  I was sitting on my chair and read the instruction, so pressed my nose.  The child looked at me like I was insane!  Whilst funny, it was a good learning point for the class, as the next person told me to ‘stand up and walk across the room to the light switch and press it”.  You can then develop the task by placing obstacles in the way for the person to avoid.  You can introduce ‘if’ statements like “if table is in your way, move around table” to stop the teacher crashing into it.  The level of challenge is that which you set.  Differentiation is easy – even that some children may be using arrows / picture prompts, whilst others are writing theirs as a list of commands.

There are lots of offline resources (below) to use with all levels.  These are great for having physical evidence for tracking in addition to developing core skills.

Second Level

By second level, most of the coding experience should be ‘plugged in’, however, there is always time to develop offline coding alongside it.  Instructional writing is a big part of the literacy input in second level, and can be done well as a coding task.  Using printable scratch blocks to format writing in order that it starts to read as computer script is a great way to enable children to really think about what their programming language would look like on a computer.

The biggest problem that children have in second level, when creating their own games online, is debugging and problem solving.  Continually developing children’s problem solving skills and ability across the curriculum really does help with this.

Below are a wide array of resources for offline coding for all stages.  I would highly recommend checking them out.

Resources

  • I’ve put together some printable ScratchJr blocks / arrows for you to use with your children, as not only will they be useful for ‘coding activities’ such as the one above, but will help your children get familiar with ScratchJR itself.
  • Code.org has a fantastic course book that details both their online courses and also gives you a huge wealth of offline, unplugged lessons with full resources and lesson plans.  Available through this link.
  • CS Unplugged has a huge range of unplugged resources and information.  Available through this link.
  • There are some great resources and ideas available on Pinterest.
  • stem.org.uk also have some fantastic unplugged code resources.

Of course, there are many other places that you can go to for ideas and resources – a simple search into google for unplugged coding resources pulls up over 250’000 hits!  My favourites are the above, but mostly I love just letting the children program each other to do things – it’s fun, active and really gets them working together.

I hope that this post has been beneficial and has helped you to think of ways that you can get children to develop their computational thinking skills through every day tasks that benefit other areas of the curriculum.

See you next week!

Donald

 

 

 

Teaching Digital Skills: Collaboration and Communication⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Digital Literacy and ICT

In many respects, changing to the term ‘digital literacy’ has enabled a very swift movement to teaching core skills and embed digital learning across the curriculum; however, our drive is now so often focussed on these ‘core skills’ that we forget some of the fundamentals in becoming truly digitally literate.  We have moved so much into using the term ‘digital literacy’ that some people refuse to use the acronym ‘ICT’ anymore.  In fairness, many people neglected the core addition to its previous acronym, ‘IT’ anyway.  Let’s look at this more. ‘IT’, or Information Technology, was probably the first term we used to describe computer lessons or the ‘subject’ of computing.  It was later changed to ‘ICT’, Information and Communication Technology, thereby demonstrating the importance of communication as a staple part of technology.

Whilst helping your children to become digitally literate, it is vital that emphasis is put into developing communication skills.  Often, the use of technology is seen as an anti-social or isolated experience.  One accesses the internet to research, or play games, or write, or view media.  How often is this actually an individual experience though?  Very rarely these days do we play games online in which communication is not a key aspect.  Indeed, internet safety is a huge priority for this very reason (I have added two posts about internet safety in the ‘parents’ zone‘ section of this site, so will not go into that more here).  Moreover with social media, video calling and other means of interconnectivity, we are more connected and likely to communicate more frequently on a daily basis than ever before in our history – however, it is not always in the ‘conventional’ face-to-face manner.  Learning to send formal emails is now just as, if not more important than learning to write and send formal letters.  Poorly worded emails that depict an unintended tone can cause offence and often result in many in-work problems.  Learning to communicate effectively is vital in learning digital skills.

In my mind though, the ‘C’ in ICT should not only mean ‘communication’.  Now more than ever, ‘collaboration’ is the important driving force behind digital literacy and pedagogy.  Teachers are collaborating more effectively than ever before in online shared environments and professional learning networks.  Places of work are using online tools to work collaboratively and build documents, design projects and sculpt their future.  Collaboration has always been the most powerful way to learn and build; now with digital technologies, the potential is limitless.

Teaching our young people to be ‘Effective Contributors’

So what does digital collaboration look like?  How can we use the technology in our schools to enable our children to collaborate effectively in a digital environment?

Truthfully, when I reflect on my practice since I started teaching, I didn’t really provide children with opportunities to collaborate effectively online until a few years ago.  If my children were preparing a powerpoint or a digital document of any type, I would assign a computer and a few children would work together.  Sure, they were collaborating – they were working together and strategising and creating – but was that virtual collaboration?  No.  If I had removed the computer, and given them paper, they would have achieved a similar learning experience.  Yes, there were aspects of digital literacy being developed in the creation of their work; however, the activity was not teaching the children to be ‘digitally collaborative’.  To teach this you need to emulate the environment that the children will be working in post-school; although, this can be tricky to achieve as we don’t know what that environment will look like. The first thing we can do is remove all forms of verbal communication.  Sure, phones and video conferencing will exist, but people communicate, plan and strategise more commonly through written formats.

There are two ways to teach digital collaboration that I have found work well:

The closed learning environment

For this learning experience, I put my class into teams of 3-4 and I gave them a challenge: each team had to create a single document about a subject of their choice using only Microsoft Word.

The rules:

  • The children were only allowed one computer per team and only one child could use it at any one time.  The other members of the team had to sit away from the computer and away from each other.
  • No team member was allowed any physical / verbal contact or interaction within the learning environment with any other team member, so could not pass notes or chat.  The only means of communication that they had was the computer.
  • The teams could plan on paper / iPads at their individual tables, but could not let any of their team members see their plans.
  • Each child was allowed only 10 minutes on the computer before the next child would go on.
  • Children could not delete or edit another child’s work other than to add notes in a different colour

What I found was that the children would start working on the computer and putting their plans into action.  As they got into it, they stared writing notes on the computer about what they wanted to do.  If they didn’t like something that someone else did, they would leave notes about how they thought it should be corrected and changed.

Initially, it did take a long time for the children to get used to, but it was quite powerful as it demonstrated how one person can use digital communication (emails / internal shared areas etc) to collaborate on a document and provide feedback.  This environment also guaranteed effective peer and self assessment and effective feedback by its very nature.

The online learning environment – MS Teams

Whilst the closed learning environment was a fun learning experience, and a good problem solving challenge, the most powerful collaborative learning experience has been when I have used an online learning environment – more specifically, when I have used Microsoft Teams.  I have only used it once with a full class, as for the last four years I have been teaching NCCT.  I loved using it with my class, however now I use it very regularly with my groups including the ‘Mosspark Tech Team’ and the ‘house captains / vice captains group’.  Here is an example of the Tech Team using MS Teams on the school Twitter feed.  See also my blog post about ‘Starting your own digital leaders team‘ for more.

In truth, it does take a little while to set up a MS Team, and adding all of your children’s GLOW accounts to the team, and getting their usernames and passwords, and helping the children add the tile to their launchpad can take a lot of time and patience; but do it.  Once set up, you will not look back! Here is a helpful guide to setting up a MS Team

Whenever my Tech Team needs to present a lesson or assembly, we use MS Teams.  I add a PowerPoint to the teams tab, or upload it as a file, that has a ‘skeleton’ template of the topics that should be covered.  The children then access their own account (in the team meeting, and then at home) and use the ‘conversation’ tab to discuss and plan who is responsible for each part / aspect of the presentation.  They work collaboratively to a given deadline to create the lesson, at which point I view it and add my own notes and observations.  Other than during the first meeting, the children do the work in their own time – be it for home work, or a supervised lunch, or during class time.  Moreover, as the responsibility for creating the lesson by a given deadline lies solely with the children, and they are continually reminding each other to contribute, I have not yet had a team fail to complete the work in time.

Of course, I proof-read the work before it is presented, but the children take so much ownership for it, and truly understand the topic that they are presenting by the end of it due to the nature of the process.  I have not simply asked two children to sit in a corner and make a presentation.  I have asked children (without specifying it) to self and peer assess, provide feedback, research a subject, collaborate and communicate through writing, add media, deign and create, and more.  The whole process and learning experience is truly incredible.  Yes, you will be spammed by memes in the conversation tab for some time, but you will be truly amazed at how your children can work – and it is so similar to real-world digital collaboration happening in businesses across the country.

There are of course many other online learning environments where your children could gain similar skills, but I am yet to find one that rivals MS Teams.  As part of Office 365 within Glow, Teams is free to use and available to all of your children.  For any of your children without computer/tablet access at home, do remind them that their local library has free access to computers.  It is a great resource, and I often used to take groups to my previous school’s library to show them how good and convenient it was.

For a free interactive demo in how to use MS Teams, click on this link.  See also Malcolm Wilson’s guide (with resources) for setting up and using Microsoft teams with classes.

Conclusion

Communication and collaboration are core to teaching your children to become digitally literate, and they are skills that your children will need for life and work.

I hope that this blog post has been helpful and that it has given you some ideas about how you can teach digital collaboration effectively in your own learning environment.  There are many ways that it is possible for your children to access these skills, but the ones that I have sited are ones that truly have worked for me in the past.

Next week’s blog will be looking at digital exit tickets and plenaries.  As always, if you have any feedback or suggestions for future posts, please get in touch on twitter, @mrfeistsclass.

Have a good week!

Teaching Coding for the First Time⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Please note, feature image is from Learn 2 Code and has been used in this post with permission.  For more information about the Learn 2 Code website, please click here.

***

Truth

I get it, I really do.  Technology is progressing far more quickly than anything we have ever had to ‘keep up with’ historically, and, whilst our world is evolving, education is falling behind.  We are preparing our children for jobs that don’t even exist yet in a truly digital world.

Look at how far technology has come in the last decade and think, in a decade’s time when our current primary children are graduating into a world of opportunity; what will that opportunity look like?  Truthfully, we don’t really know.  What we do know is that computing will play a huge role in it and it’s our job to give them the skills and tools to work with it.

“But that’s okay for you; you can code!”  I’ve had that said to me on more than one occasion.  How wrong that statement is.  I’m not a programmer or even vaguely competent at coding – anyone who has seen me making my own games in Sratch will know that.  But, we aren’t teachers because we are professional coders.  We are teachers because we are professional learners.  I had to teach coding, so I learned the basics of coding with blocks.

Four years ago, I didn’t know anything about computer coding let alone how to teach it; however, as ICT coordinator at the time in my previous school, I was asked to teach it.  I was scared, I had to find training, I had to look into it and I had to learn quickly because I had no choice.  We are all at that stage now – we all have no choice.  Teaching coding is part of developing children’s digital literacy and we must begin to do it effectively.

Below, I will note the way that I have found through personal experience and in training others to be the best route into teaching coding.  It is very progressive, and allows you as a practitioner to learn and develop at the same time as your children.  It is not threatening and you really can just get started and have fun.  There are many, many other coding websites and resources out there, so please do look into as many different ways as you can to give your learners the best possible experience; this is simply the route into coding that I have found to be the easiest from a teaching and learning point of view.

I have indicated the appropriate class-stages for each subsection below in order to save you taking time to find resources appropriate for your class.

Code.org

code.org is fast becoming the ‘go-to’ website for getting started with coding.  It is really engaging and really progressive and I will always recommend starting here.  Better still, code.org can be accessed on any computer or tablet with internet connectivity.  I will outline all of the benefits of code.org below, but it is really important to note that anyone can start using code.org, and you could even try it with your children tomorrow without ever having looked at it first – it really is that straight forward.

Hour of Code (P4-7)

When I started teaching coding, after some research into it, I was in a school that did not (at the time) have a ICT suite / computer room.  It didn’t even have a laptop trolly.  What it did have was 2-3 desktop computers in each classroom.  Whilst there were some benefits to having continual computer access for children, there was no way in this setup to facilitate whole class computing lessons.  Having spent hours researching how to use Scratch (I’ll talk more about Scratch below) I realised that I’d need to find something that allowed children to learn much more independently.  Fortunately, that’s when I discovered code.org’s fantastic ‘Hour of Code’ page available at code.org/learn.  Thanks to the nature of the Hour of Code courses, I was able to assign slots in the timetable for children to get ‘their turn’ coding and working through the given course.

The hour of code is exactly what it sounds like: a one-hour coding course that children can work through on their own or with a partner.  I do find that coding works much better in pairs, as coding is quite a communicative task where children will naturally work together and troubleshoot with their partner, whereas when learning individually I do see more children ‘giving up’.  Moreover, the courses are all designed around games/films that the children know and love, and it really does engage them.  What’s more, for less able readers they can ‘play’ the instructions (I’d recommend headphones for this…) and for children with EAL, you can use code.org in any language; simply select the child’s language from the dropdown menu!

Since that time, I have used Hour of Code courses as a great introduction to coding for all of my classes in P4-7.  An able P3 class could possibly manage it too, but I’ve not tried it yet with any P3 classes.  There are some courses available on the code.org/learn page that take you to different browsers – I wouldn’t recommend these.

The most popular hour of code course with the children that I have taught are:

  • Angry Birds
  • Flappy Birds
  • Star Wars
  • Minecraft (all three Minecraft courses available under the Minecraft tile – although I’d recommend ‘adventurer’ as the best starting course)
  • Moana
  • Code with Anna and Elsa
  • Code Your own Sports Game

The developers do continually add new games and tiles, so it’s always current for the children and very engaging.

Code.org courses (P1-7)

studio.code.org/courses is the section of code.org that really provides the most personalised and tailored progressive coding experience.  As it is based on (I believe) the American education system, the ‘stages’ don’t exactly correlate to the Scottish classes, but I will provide an overview below of what has worked for me.

For primary, you want to be using the Grades K-5 tab.

I have used code.org courses with all of my classes with little issue, including primary ones from their second term in school (I think it’s beneficial in term one to use Microsoft Paint for children to use mouse control to draw pictures)

The progression that I have followed is:

P1 – Course A (Lessons 1-7)
P2 – Course A (Whole course)
P3 – Course B
P4 – Course C
P5 – Course D
P6 – Course E
P7 – Course F

Please note though that you may wish to use more/less advanced courses for your class, however, I have never had any problems with the above progression and this allows all children to develop their skills yearly.  Whilst some courses start very simply, they all develop in a very progressive manner that is aimed at deepening core understanding of the concepts.

Within each course are ‘unplugged activities’.  These are lessons that you can print off and work on with no access to a device with your children, and generally explain a new concept in a practical manner.  In the past, I have skipped these and it really is optional to do them or not.

Assigning work (p1-7)

You will notice at the top of code.org that there is a ‘sign in’ option.  It is free to set up a code.org account, and you can add your students, generating usernames and passwords (picture passcodes for infant classes, where they select ‘their’ picture).  By doing this, you can track pupil progress and get analysis about their learning and next steps: as I said, it is the most progressive coding course out there!

Code.org – the role of the teacher

I use the term ‘teacher’ quite lightly in this section, as actually you are more a facilitator in code.org lessons.  My first rule is NEVER show a child how to solve a code problem.  The main learning, in addition to instructional writing and often maths concepts, that your children will access from coding is problem solving – known in this case as debugging.  When something goes wrong, the children must work it out themselves.  That’s not to say you can’t help, but instead of showing a child, ask things like “why do you have… block” or “what is the purpose of…” or “why is your character ending up there?”  By ‘solving’ a code problem for a child, you’re effectively saying, I can do it so ask me rather than asking the children to develop their resilience.  Coding should not be quick and easy, and code.org is very good at giving the children just the right level of challenge – heck, even I am sometimes challenged by the problems, but the smile that comes over their face when they solve the problem is so worth it.

The only time I do ‘show’ the children how to do something is when a new block is introduced.  I pick one level from the lesson and solve it in front of the children, modelling how the new block is used.  I normally deliberately make a mistake in front of the children and debug it with them to show them that it will happen, and that mistakes are very helpful in coding, as they indicate how to improve.

Scratch JR (P1-3)

Please note that this is an app, so you will need a tablet device for your children to access ScratchJR.

There are many great apps for coding out there, but few give younger children the power to design and create as well as ScratchJR.  ScratchJR is a free app, and very powerful.  I would recommend using the code.org course with your children before using ScratchJR, as it is essentially a ‘blank canvas’ app, where children create something from scratch.

You may want to familiarise yourself with ScratchJR before using it with your children.  There are many resources available for ScratchJR lessons.  Here are two of my personal favourites:

 

Scratch (P4-7)

Essentially the ‘big brother’ of all school coding platforms, Scratch is one of the most powerful programs out there.  As of August 2018, Scratch 3.0 (in Beta at the time of this post) works on computers and tablets with internet access.  Scratch is also however the reason that so many teachers fear coding as it’s a blank canvas with a lot of blocks and options.  Fortunately, if your children have worked their way through the code.org courses, they will be quite familiar with the blocks, as it is very similar, and will be able to use Scratch quite well.  The only limit is their creativity.

There are limitless resources available for teaching Scratch, but I would recommend familiarising yourself with Scratch, or attending CPD courses in your area before using it in the class.  Great teaching resources can be found the following places amongst many others:

 

Conclusion

Providing your children with weekly access to coding experiences, whether online or offline, will hugely boost their attainment in literacy and numeracy as well as in computer science.  Problem solving, instructional writing, using axis and coordinates, angles, measure, logic, communication and collaboration – these are just a few of the skills that children develop when coding.

I was sceptical before I started teaching coding; but is is one of these things that you will not see the benefits to your children until you start giving your children experience of coding.  Don’t be afraid to try it, and don’t be afraid to learn with your children.  We are all on a digital journey together – where our destination is, who knows? But it’s going to be a good one!

 

I will be creating additional future posts about coding, including unplugged coding and also coding with programmable toys and devices.

 

Additional CLPL opportunities can be found here:

*Barefoot – free resources and training to build confidence in teaching computer science

*Computing at School – free articles, resources and training in computer science

 

 

 

 

 

Starting Your own Digital Leaders Team⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

Starting your own ‘Digital Leaders’ Team

Pupil Council, Eco Committee, JRSO, etc. – schools have so many different forums now for children to be involved in their school community and have their voice. Each of these forums can be transformational to the life and running of the school whilst benefiting learners.  However, if used as an ‘add-on’ or a ‘box-ticking’ exercise, they can also be a monumental waste of time.

I have been fortunate to run a very successful team of digital leaders in Mosspark Primary, known as the Tech Team, and I hope that this article will let you see, not only the benefits of having a Tech Team, but how to set up a digital leaders’ team with a similar model and run it so that it has a measurable impact in raising attainment through digital learning.  Please note that there are so many examples of great digital leaders’ teams out there, and by accessing professional learning networks, such as Twitter, you will be continually inspired in the running of your own digital leaders.  I would also like to point out that there are official programs for children to be involved in, including childnet’s digital leader training program, that will not only train your children, but allow you access to a wealth of resources and a community of other digital leaders.

Getting Started

The main problem with getting started is identifying a member of staff who will take forward the digital leaders’ program within the school.  Ideally, that person will be you – the person reading this – as that person must have the passion to take it forward.  I mentioned other similar ‘committees’ that are held in schools: often are these run by a member of staff that has been ‘given’ it to run.  There are so many examples of great pupil councils and great eco committees that truly have an impact in their school, but similarly there are many examples of those that do not.  If your school is going to invest in a Tech Team, you must make sure that someone is willing and able to commit the time needed.

Interviews

Identifying children that are not only keen but dedicated is crucial.  We run on a ‘no opt-out’ basis: that is to say, once you’re in, you’re in it for the year.  When I’m pitching the Tech Team to the P5-7s, I make sure that I tell them about the ‘bad’ stuff and skim over the ‘good’ stuff.  Rather than saying ‘we’ll be going on trips to…’ I say you will be giving up a lunch time each week and sometimes class time too.  Rather than saying ‘we’ll be learning about really cool…’ I say ‘we’ll be presenting to classes and assemblies’.  I need to make sure that the children that put themselves forward really want to do it and won’t be put off after joining by the commitment involved.

After pitching the idea, the children complete an application form.  I always like children to be able to see what an application process for a ‘real world job’ would look like.  The application forms should be simple but give a good idea of what the learner thinks they will be able to ‘get out of’ being in the team.  I always set a deadline on applications, and never accept any after the date (no exceptions), again, mirroring the real-world application process and also making sure that the children applying are truly committed.

Finally, I interview all of the children that have completed the application process to try to determine who would benefit the most from being a member of the Tech Team.

I find that either 10 or 15 members in a Team is perfect, as you will see in the ‘duties’ section.

Meetings

‘Pupil voice’ and ‘children leading learning’ are the two biggest parts of a Tech Team.  The first meeting should be to identify roles within the team.  In the same way that a good pupil council will run with children chairing and leading meetings, a Tech Team should be no different.  In the first meeting, the children learn about the roles of a chair-person, vice-chairperson, secretary and vice-secretary and then vote on the person that they feel would be best to take each role.  This is of course entirely optional but does form a huge part of how my Tech Team runs, as, prior to a monthly meeting, the chairperson, secretary (and sometimes vices) meet with me to set the agenda for the coming main meeting and voice any concerns that have been raised.

Following this initial meeting, we then have two types of meeting:

– Monthly ‘main’ meeting

This meeting is facilitated by the teacher but run by the chairperson and secretary, both of whom are assisted by their respective ‘vice’.  This meeting runs to the agenda set previously, and minutes are taken by the secretary.  The main purpose of the meeting is to outline the schedule for the coming month, decide on the skills to develop over the month, troubleshoot any issues, and look at timetabling of duties.

– Weekly skills development sessions

Weekly skills development sessions are always held at a specified lunch time each week and run for 45 minutes.  The children get a 15-minute early lunch so that they can be there as I feel that 30 minutes is too short.  It does however mean that either I take lunch to the meeting or miss it.

In the monthly meeting, children identify the skills that they want to develop over the month.  I feel that in order for children to truly lead their own learning and have their voice, they should choose what it is that they want to learn and get out of the Tech Team.  Each week, I then train the children in the skill(s) that they have identified – for example, last year, the children said that they wanted to learn about green screen and stop-motion animation for their first month.  This being the case, we learned how to create movies with green screen in one session, learned how to create a stop-motion animation in the second and then learned how to create a stop-motion animation that incorporated green screen in the third.

There will be times that you aren’t confident in teaching the area/skill that the children want to learn about.  In these cases, I would suggest trying to book a STEM ambassador to come out to work with the group, seeking advice on Twitter/other PLN, or using YouTube tutorials to either teach you or to do the teaching for you.  Remember to document any CPD that you do in this way.

The weekly skills development sessions are, in my opinion, the most powerful aspect of a school Tech Team, as they are the time that you will see the biggest difference in your learners.

Events and MS Teams

It is important to note that sometimes you will need to dictate a skills development session; however, try to restrict this to a maximum of one per month.  Say, for example, Safer Internet Day is coming up and your team has been asked to present lessons or an assembly, you may need to give up one session to prepare for it.  Do make sure that the preparation is done in one session only, otherwise your Team will be at risk of becoming a teacher-led experience which almost entirely defeats the purpose of it.  In Mosspark Primary School, our Tech Team have a Microsoft Group that uses Teams to communicate.  I upload a skeleton presentation with title pages, for the children to research and put in the information and any media necessary.  The children get control of the design and transitions of the presentation, and even organise who will say what.  By using Microsoft Teams, it enables the children to communicate via the ‘comments’ section, and in real time collaborate on the same document either in the meeting or after at home.  I set the children a deadline by which the presentation is to be finished and am on hand for the initial meeting and at a few other times that the children can use as a drop-in session.  Otherwise, the children are left to work on their own.  On the deadline, I then review the PowerPoint and feed back to the group on the group chat prior to the assembly or lesson.

I have scheduled a blog post in a fortnight for a more in-depth look at setting up teams, but it is well worth looking into activating your members’ Glow Logins as soon as you set up your own Digital Leaders’ team.

Duties

The first change I always make when assisting with an ICT program is ridding the school of class logins.  Frankly, they are a waste of time.  With infant classes and even older classes, why waste valuable lesson time logging out of a previous class’ session, sometimes even having to reboot computers and then logging in.  With younger classes it’s frankly absurd, and in the older classes is just a complete waste of time.  In place of class logins, I always switch to a single school login.  In our school, it is the responsibility of the Tech Team to log on to all of the computers in the ICT suite during registration time on their timetabled day (they let their teacher know that they’re in at 9am, and head straight to the ICT suite).  The reason that I like my team to consist of either 10 or 15 members is due to my being a little OCD about the duties timetable.  Having 10 or 15 members in your team means that you always have either 2 or 3 children timetabled on duties per day, and the duties are thus:

  • 9am: Log on to ICT suite computers and hand out class iPad to each class
  • 2:45pm: Collect in class iPad from each class for charging and secure storage and remind class in ICT suite to log off at the end of the day.

I have found that the children do take their duties very seriously, and it has given some of our children a real sense of responsibility.

Assisting

The main reason that digital leader teams are formed though is to help raise attainment in digital learning across the school, and for children to really lead learning.  In my mind, leading learning is not simply ‘presenting’ at an assembly or in a lesson – that’s an EXA outcome.  In our school, leading is taking forward learning.

Each term, our staff work with a GCC ‘Improving our Classrooms’ model of moderation, whereby they receive training in an area of digital learning.  Over the course of the term, they then use that aspect of digital learning (e.g. creating movies with iMovie, or coding with code.org) with their classes to feed back at the end of the term the impact that it has had.  Often though, after only one training session, all staff aren’t always confident to teach a lesson using a program that they’ve only seen once – which is understandable and will be the same in all establishments.  By having the Tech Team, it means that staff are able to request Tech Team support.

The process for this is threefold:

  • Two or three team members are identified to work with the staff member. These members are picked fairly in order that it’s not always the same children helping, and to ensure that members aren’t missing out on aspects of their other learning.  The members then meet quickly with the staff member to discuss how they can help and find out what the subject is, so that they can prepare.
  • If the Tech Team members are not sure about the area in question, they ask me for a skills development session in that area, otherwise they set a date to go into the class to either teach the lesson (I’d normally support with the planning / running of this), team teach with the class teacher, or support the children and troubleshoot once the teacher has introduced the concept. The choice is entirely what the teacher feels that his/her children would benefit the most from.
  • The Tech Team members feedback to me and the Team about what went well and what they would do differently next time.

The trickiest thing for this process to work is for staff to come onboard with asking children for support.  I’m very fortunate that my colleagues have been fantastic and have really embraced using Tech Team (even for areas that they are comfortable with, but rather as additional support for the children).  This has had such a positive impact on the team members and their confidence but has also really boosted the profile of the Tech Team, and digital learning, within the school.  However, in talking with colleagues from other establishments, often staff have been reluctant to engage with the tech team in this sense, and so they haven’t been getting used well.  It is important though, in setting up a team of digital leaders, that you do monitor how they are being used and encourage staff to invite them in to support with the use of iPads and computers.

Conclusion

I could write so much more about the digital leader teams, as they have truly transformed the way I view the topic of ‘children leading learning’ and have had such an impact in my current school; however, time is pressing for the publish time!

I’d strongly suggest looking at as many examples of good practice as you can to get ideas and inspiration for setting up your own team.  Check out Mosspark Primary and my own Twitter feed for regular digital literacy posts, but especially follow the #MPTechTeam hashtag to see the type of things that the Mosspark Primary School Tech Team have been doing.

I do hope that you’ve found this post helpful.  Please feel free to tweet me about any ideas/suggestions for future posts, and if you have any comments/questions about this one.

Thanks for reading,

Donald

 

N.b. all images used in this post have been of the 2017-18 Mosspark Tech Team.  You can find the original images and more information using #MPTechTeam on Twitter.

 

August Schedule⤴

from @ The Digital Revolution

I’ve finally decided on the final schedule for August blog posts, thanks to help from everyone on Twitter.  In order to help everyone get started in the new session, I am going to bring my posts forward by one week as follows:

Sunday 12th August, 8pm – “Starting your own Digital Leaders Team”

This post will focus on the practicalities, benefits and considerations for setting up your own team of Digital Leaders; a truly essential way to raise attainment in digital literacy and engage pupils in leading their own learning.

Sunday 19th August, 8pm – “Introducing Coding”

This post will be aimed at teachers who are either about to teach coding for the first time, or staff that have a class that have never experienced coding before.  It will also be aimed at providing training to staff in your school that are not confident in teaching coding or don’t realise the impact that it has on learners.

Sunday 26th August, 8pm – “Using Microsoft Teams for Collaboration”

Whether you are looking for a better way to collaborate with your own learning community / staff team, or want to see your class / club engage collaboratively on documents/presentations and work both in and out of school, ‘Teams’ is for you.  This post will look at how it has transformed the way that children in my clubs work with one another and will show the benefits of an online learning environment.