Today, I was privileged to attended a workshop organised by Stony Dean School, entitled:
Understanding and developing the use of digital games as a pedagogical tool in the classroom
The workshop featured presenters taking part in ‘The Games Project’. The Games Project is an action research, collaborative project between Sweden and the UK, funded by the Erasmus+ programme – more information is available from the website: http://www.gamesforlearning.se
The ethos of the project is centred around ‘Maker Culture’ (Maker Education Initiative – Every child a maker – http://makered.org), following the assertion that if pupils are makers they are more actively engaged. In this project, such making is facilitated by computer programming to create and play digital games (artefacts). Continue reading
Communication and collaboration are two key words at the heart of blogging. In schools where blogging is used well, achievements are celebrated, with the whole world having a ‘virtual window’ in to the life of the school. Imagine children going home at the end of the day with parents already knowing part of what has been learnt, having seen a photograph or video clip on the class blog; could this be the end of the eternal answer of ‘nothing’ to the question, ‘What have you done today?’. Not only can achievements be celebrated, but blogs can be used to share day-to-day things going on in school, keeping parents up to date with things like homework or key dates and information.
Pupil blogs can be a terrific tool for teaching our children to stay safe online, respecting privacy and developing an understanding of copyright. Pupil blogs can also be used as an ‘e-portfolio’ of work and achievements across the curriculum. Peer assessment via comments, and collaboration via shared blogs, can become integral parts of the learning process, and giving pupils an audience for their work is surely motivational.
Many school leaders make excellent use of blogs. A ‘Headteacher’s blog’, if used well, can be of great motivation for the whole school community, with the school’s vision and values permeating the posts.
E-Safety and School Policy
Before endeavouring on a journey with blogging, it is important that school leaders, including governors, staff, pupils and parents have an e-safety policy in place that all stakeholders adopt. This policy should include who is responsible for any blogs, and any ground-rules for posts and comments on posts. Questions to consider include who can write blog posts? Do the posts need checking by a line manager before they go public? Who can comment on posts? What rules, if any, are established for commenting? Comments on posts will undoubtedly need to be moderated before they are published live. The e-safety policy should also have a clear section about keeping children safe online, including whether or not images of children in school are used, and if any personal details such as first name are associated with images or other online content.
Examples of education blogs
So many educators around the globe are inspiring whole learning communities with the blogs they have created. A web search will soon reveal many examples of educators who blog regularly, whole school blogs serving a whole school community, and class blogs maintained by individual teachers, but here are a few useful links to explore:
Microblogging involves blog posts that have a restricted number of words and are, as such, straight to the point! Due to the shorter nature of messages, Smartphones are ideal devices for microblogging. Many schools make use of the popular (huge understatement their) microblogging website Twitter to communicate with the school community. School Twitter feeds can be useful to share up to the minute information such as sporting fixtures, useful weblinks, a quick photograph or similar. Twitter is also extremely popular in the education sector for sharing thoughts and ideas between practitioners, and many teachers, myself included, have built ‘learning communities’ over the years, collaborating with hundreds or even thousands of educators from around the world.
Edmodo has a similar feel in, some respects, to using Twitter, but it is designed for school use, and can be ‘locked down’ so only pupils with permission can access. Pupils can communicate with the teacher and each other using Edmodo, with key e-safety skills being considered during the process. Edmodo can also be used for work submission and online polls and quizzes.
I’ve only recently discovered Pinterest, and whilst not a blogging tool itself, it is a super way of creating your own collections (called ‘boards’) of related web content, or exploring the boards created by others.
Weebly is an online website creation tool that includes a powerful blogging facility. Whilst Weebly is free, an educational upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version isn’t too expensive and allows lots of extra features. Weebly is relatively simple to learn how to use for blogging or for creating websites. Additional users can be given access via email, allowing multiple editors. Other notable features include easy embedding of documents including audio, video and even MS Office, and a wide range of customisable themes for your site or blog.
Google Apps for Education is free for schools, and includes some excellent blogging features. Users can create their own ‘sites’ using Google Sites, with an ‘announcement’ feature that is equivalent to a blog. Google Apps for Education can be configured so that sites are only visible to users within the school’s domain, meaning that pupil e-portfolios can be private.
WordPress is a very powerful blogging platform and is hugely popular in schools around the world. There are a number of companies that provide hosted WordPress sites specifically for schools, often with additional features and content.
Parents may well wish to subscribe to a class or school blog to receive email updates whenever changes are made or new posts are added. Wordpress has many plugins to achieve this. If using Weebly, or most other blogging platforms, Feedburner (http://feedburner.google.com/) can be used to set up an email subscription list based on the RSS feed from the blog.
Content from a range of creative websites can be ’embedded’ in your blog posts. Below are some examples of content embedded from elsewhere.
Animoto – create amazing videos. Free for education. http://animoto.com/
Following the Google Teacher Academy (GTA), I was very excited to get going in deploying Google Apps for Education for our school (see post coming soon). Prior to GTA, I had already successfully applied to Google for Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for our school, and I had set up a domain via registering with Go Daddy. Continue reading
NAACE and Computing at School have produced a very useful document that has been sent to primary schools across the country this week. Entitled ‘Guidance for Primary Teachers on Computing’, the document contains information on how schools can meet the statutory requirements for computing, and extend beyond them. The document explores using a ‘pupil centred approach’ to learning, and encourages teachers to adapt rather than adopt any pre-written schemes of work. Continue reading
Written and adapted during my work in teaching computing across the primary age range, the scheme of work that I’ve put together is aimed at providing teachers with the resources, including lesson plans and tutorial video clips, to deliver the programming aspectsof the National Curriculum for Computing. Thanks go to the wonderful pupils and teachers of Great Horwood School, and the many colleagues (mostly via Twitter) who have kindly shared ideas online.
The scheme of work now consists of fourteen units of work, with more units being added as often as I get a chance.
Update – December 2014
In addition to the programming units, new units have now been added for word processing (year 1), creating pictures (year 2), email (year 3), creating and manipulating images (year 4), comics, (year 4), simulating the real world (Year 5) and movie making (year 6).
Please feel free to use or adapt this scheme of work for your school, respecting the Creative Commons Licence.
Due to a number of requests from schools, I am now offering the scheme of work on a DVD-ROM for £20 plus postage and packing. The DVD-ROM contains over 800mb of video clips and lesson plans, and purchasing a DVD-ROM includes a site licence, entitling the school to copy the contents of the DVD-ROM to the school’s network or individual teacher computers.
After three years at its own home, www.planetnumber.net, my MSc project has now been moved to be a sub-domain of PlanetPDA. Planet Number can now be found at: number.planetpda.net. The reasons for the move are purely down to cost. Planet Number has been running for 3 years now, at no cost to the schools that have used it. However, it has reached the point where I can’t afford the separate hosting. Continue reading
A school that I work closely with is very shortly going to be upgrading its ICT facilities, and what a difficult array of decisions it faces, especially with a limited budget! Currently, the school has a computer suite with seventeen PCs based around RM’s Community Connect network. Teachers all have a laptop which can be connected to a Smartboard and a visualiser. Teacher laptops can access the internet, but there is no facility to share resources via the network. In addition to the RM network, there is also an ‘admin’ network for the small number of office PCs which have SIMs installed. There are small number of PCs dotted around the school for pupil use, but the school was recently criticised for lack of use of ICT in lesson observations. Additionally, the school has a website and an as yet unused Moodle VLE. Continue reading