Tag Archives: technology

Lesson Study – School to school

We embraced lesson study wholeheartedly a couple of years ago.   The developmental approach to teaching and learning sits more comfortably than the judgemental.   It encourages research and innovation and enables staff to improve their practice in a supportive and collaborative environment.

The problem with the Lesson Study model we adopted is that to run it successfully there’s a lot of release time required.   We have worked in triads thus needing three teachers out of class to plan and review with two out of class for each research lesson (we work with a cycle of three research lessons).  To sustain this model of LS is a challenge and we have therefore thought carefully about how we can continue to reap the benefits  but without the financial costs and potential disruption to timetables.

Earlier this year we trialled a school to school Lesson Study with a partner school in Birmingham.   Two Y6 staff worked together on a small research project and this gave us the incentive to take the idea further.  We have decided this time around to work with two partner schools closer to home.   This means each of us releasing just one teacher for each round of Lesson Study rather than three.  In January we will begin a Y4 maths Lesson Study which we are all very excited about.  It will build on the successful approach we have employed in school but with the added benefit of insights and ideas from beyond our own community.  It further develops our school to school work and gives staff a great opportunity to learn and research with other practitioners.   We still aim to continue with the distance LS using technology as much as possible to enable us to successfully work beyond local confines.  Staff will still present their findings to their peers and the opportunity to deliver staff PD meetings with colleagues in other schools provides yet another opportunity to share research and learn from each other.

In this era of austerity with educational funding decreasing, it is important to continue to move forward as a profession and school to school Lesson Study provides a great opportunity for us to work together, share research and learn from each other.


Using technology to support basic skills

Technology continues to change many aspects of our lives and in school it is no different   Each new cohort of four year olds enters Foundation Stage more familiar with technology than their slightly older peers.   Picking up a tablet, a handheld device or sitting at a computer holds no fear for them.   They don’t look for the instructions before testing its capabilities, their approach to learning with technology is not a linear model more of an exploration fired by an inquisitive mind.   Using technology with young children presents educators with a great opportunity to develop basic skills.   A natural curiosity for learning can be further enhanced with an iPad or similar device.   Our reception children tend to use iPads as a social tool – they huddle in small groups to share, discuss and debate whichever app they might be using.   Such dialogue would seldom develop unassisted without technology to provide the stimulus.

@glynnlee and I have often discussed the power of blogging with primary children and, as Lee stated, if you replace the word ‘blogging’ with the word ‘writing’ it can give you some indication of the difference the use of technology can have on learning.  In the early years class blogs are mainly used to provide a window on the children’s learning for parents and families, but the junior classes tend to give more ownership to the children who use it as a vehicle for their writing.   Children enjoy blogging, it looks good, its appearance can be changed, it can be shared, has a potentially wide readership and is easily edited.   Regular contributions to a class blog also gives children their own digital portfolio.  Using technology to support writing in such a way is a positive application of the tools many children are increasingly familiar with out of school from an early age.

Making use of green screen technology is also a great way to develop basic skills.   Children respond readily to scripting, filming and re drafting and are often blissfully unaware that these steps are supporting them in their writing, speaking and listening.   The chance to write auto cues for their friends to speak often raises the  bar in terms of their expectations and listening carefully before re drafting is also a key skill that needs to be successfully employed to improve results.  Using the green screen gives children a strong stimulus for a whole range of basic skills.   If you suddenly have the chance to film your historical report about the beheading of Anne Boleyn from in front of the tower, it might just inspire you to greater achievements, to think more carefully about what you are writing.   If you are creating a micro tutorial on how to convert fractions into percentages, you will need to ensure you fully understand the process before sharing your learning with others.   You could argue that such approaches would work without technology but the opportunity for children to watch themselves, to share their learning, to get feedback from beyond the class makes the use of technology an attractive way of developing and enhancing their learning.   Embracing technology in the primary classroom  can provide practitioners with exciting ways of developing basic skills, many children already enter school familiar with a range of devices, we need to ensure we build on their early interest and curiosity to the benefit of their future learning.

iPads in the classroom

Tonight was our staff surgery meeting for this half term. At these meetings we share technology and how it is working in class. This evenings session focused on iPads in the classroom, we re located to 6S where Mr Smith took us through how he is using the iPad to support and enhance learning. We have iPads and apple TV in every class so staff are always keen to look at which apps their peers are getting the most out of. The iPads are used to ever increasing effect and the apps Barry shared with us tonight are the ones he and the children in his class are currently getting a lot from. The list of favourites changes regularly but below are the ones he shared tonight:

Socrative.com- Barry challenged us all with a quick quiz, he then showed us how easy it is to create quizzes which can be used to support learning and assessment across the curriculum. Results are then saved in google drive. Socrative can be used to creat polls, quick quizzes, to monitor progress, assess learning and much more.

Google drive- all pupils in Y6 have google accounts so google drive is well used across the year group. In the words of Mr Smith, google drive acts like a giant pen drive in hyperspace! Children access their work via google drive both in class and at home, on any device. As children bring their smart phones, iPods and other mobile devices into school they can immediately get to their online work and save it back to google drive where Barry can then open it, mark it and share it as needed.

Explain Everything – this app is well used to share the children’s learning, it is a great tool to address misconceptions, create mini tutorials for key concepts and to present ideas and information. This screen casting app acts as a mini whiteboard. Pupils regularly use it to make tutorials to support learning, they then play these back to class and these screen casts then build up a bank of short videos to support in key areas for use in class. Show Me is another great app for this, once created the Show Me can then be added to class blogs for further sharing.

Book creator is another popular app used by children to make interactive books to support learning. The children have used this app to create their autobiographies adding images and film to the text they have written. The results look professional and inspire the children to achieve some great work. That fact the you can then save to iBooks is great for children as they can then see their own books alongside famous authors on the iBooks shelf!

Other tools worth a quick mention are listed below (we ran out of time as always!)
Puffin – this is popular with the apple users as it enables flash content to be played.
Wordpress – all make good use of this to enable quick posts to be added to class blogs.
Simple mind- pupils like using this as it enables them to create mind maps which can then be projected onto the class whiteboard via Apple TV
Kahn Academy- this is being used to support children who are having difficulties with key concepts. They can simply search and watch the short tutorials available through the Kahn Academy.
Google translate – used a lot in some classes where children have joined school from other countries with no English language skills. Google translate has been used to great effect recently with a little girl who arrived in school from Hungary with no English. She and her classmates have been able to communicate easily and the need for a mobile device to go everywhere around school with them is becoming less and less necessary as her English increases.

Within regular phase meetings staff share their app of the week and these are then shared across the school. If you have any that are proving popular with your staff and pupils at the moment, it would be great to hear from you.

Learning and Elearning

Last weekend I sat on a panel at the Sunday Times Festival of Education, Wellington College to discuss Elearning.   The panel was chaired by Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice) with David Mitchell (@deputymitchell), Christian Hilton (@shipstonhead) and myself engaging in conversation with each other and attendant delegates around this area of education.   Unlike Question Time our panel held a general consensus on our given subject.   Unlike the lively Thursday night TV show we failed to get each other’s hackles up.   None of us got angry, raised our voices or stormed off stage, we nodded genuine approval and encouragement, we shared our stories from school, our hopes and our concerns about the direction of education as it struggles to fully embrace the opportunities ICT presents across all schools.

We were united in our belief that it really isn’t about Elearning or learning, it is simply about learning in the 21st Century.   Learning today looks different to learning in the past.   Learning in its traditional sense was restricted by time and place.   There was an assumption that knowledge resided with one or two people and was fixed.  Today’s learning explodes this myth, learning is not restricted by time, space or place.   The lines between formal learning in school and the informal learning that occurs outside of it are blurred.   Knowledge is  immediate,  accessible to all and ever changing.  Learning today presents a range of  potential problems that educators need to address as pupils can be easily convinced of the authenticity of the information they read online.  Making full use of the oportunities technology provides us with means teaching a new set of skills.  Thinking critically about information, questioning facts, checking sources and reliability have never been more important than now.   There is so much we can do to further the learning experiences for our pupils but we must ensure we are equipping them with the right tools for the job.

Into tomorrow-getting geared up for the future

Anyone doubting the power and importance of technology over our lives doesn’t have to look too far to see how it is shaping the world. Recent political events have shown that social networking can’t be seen as a fad, it is affecting change on a huge, global scale.

The innovative and creative use of technology can be a force for positive change in our schools and the way we learn. As educators we ignore this at our peril. In a world of such rapid growth and change standing still is not an option and indeed, is tantamount to moving backwards. We owe it to children to embrace new technologies as this is the closest we can get to the future world they’ll function in.

The pace of change in recent years has seen many schools develop their pedagogy to incorporate new thinking and learning tools. Interactive whiteboards, visualisers, laptops, handheld devices– some or all of these are now seen as the norm in classrooms as teachers look to blur the distinction between formal (school) and informal learning.

It isn’t easy to predict the future but it would be fair to guess we’ll see an advancement in some of the areas currently emerging in schools. As mobile devices grow in capability and connectivity it is going to be important for schools to ensure they can cater for the ‘increased traffic’ going through their servers. Schools won’t be in a position to meet the demands of pupils to get online with the systems originally built for an IT suite and a few class computers. It might not be the exciting, shiny end of the new technology revolution but it is the foundation we need to put in place if we are to accommodate the needs of learners.

What are your predictions for the future of new technologies in schools?   I’d love to hear your thoughts.

From a whisper to a scream – the rise of technology in school

A bit of a novelty!

I entered the primary teaching profession in the early 90s. I remember my first class having a computer. An Acorn computer! The school also had some BBC computers, one or two children used them for special programmes that could be purchased on floppy discs. I remember buying one such programme to help children with dyslexia. The computers were not part of the furniture yet, they were a bit of a novelty and their potential limited to a small number of children.

A few programmes, a few users

That pattern of use continued in my first few schools. One or two computers might be in a class (or on the corridor) with a small number of programmes being used by a small number of children. I remember buying my first computer to find out what they could do, my 3 year old son spent endless hours on James Pond – now there was a game! The situation seemed to change towards the end of the 90s and I can remember arriving at my new school as Deputy Head and seeing an IT suite being installed. This was the future!

‘Add on’ rather than ‘integrated’

At St Peter‘s we not only had an IT suite (with approximately 15 computers) but some classes also had a bank of four computers to support learning. The popular programmes of the time were starspell and maths wizard. We also used textease to develop children’s skills with simple cutting and pasting, changing font sizes etc…Heady times! I don’t recall anything too adventurous happening and if the programmes crashed we’d have to wait for the technician to make his weekly visit to school to put things right. We’re not talking about an indispensable tool here! Children would be timetabled to use the class computers and to use the IT suite (half the class would go and develop their ‘skills’ while the other half stayed in class) the whole experience was ‘add on’ rather than ‘integrated’.

The rise of the interactive whiteboard

My move into headship coincided with the epiphany that was the interactive whiteboard! Suddenly a new tool had arrived that everyone in the class could benefit from. Initially one or two classes had IWBs and we would timetable those classes out to everyone. Eventually we were able to fund IWBs in every class which made life much easier and timetabling less of a chore!

Down with IT Suites!

As I moved onto my second headship IT suites were just about to be demonised! ICT was now beginning to be seen as integral to the curriculum as a whole, as something to permeate learning across the board rather than as a discrete subject with its own equivalent to the science lab. Hawes Side had must have been one of the last schools to have an IT suite built before they went out of fashion!

Mobile solutions – from discrete to integrated learning

The move to mobile learning helped move IT into common parlance around the school. It isn’t a lesson taken twice a week in the IT suite, it is readily available at all times to support learning. The rise in the number of laptops around the school and lap trolleys to move class sets from one place to another has provided an further opportunity to support the children’s learning with technology.

The growing number of laptops and netbooks has recently been complimented by the introduction of handheld devices. Like many other schools, we have begun to use itouches with the children bringing the learning experience closer to home. The children are happy and excited to use the itouches, they quickly understand its capabilities and readily push their learning with them.

VC and the rise of Web 2.0

The use of video conferencing has also grown over the last few years with the children and staff now considering its possibilities to enhance the learning experience when planning a new topic.  The rise of web 2.0 has opened up more possibilities than you could shake a stick at, it has given schools the opportunity to move learning from the local to the global, to help develop learners for a changing world, to make a difference in a world of difference.   It is a challenge that the best teachers readily respond to.