The Summer of 90: Logging Change in Key Stage 1 and Foundation

While recently updating our school website, reorganising the student project section about the new school being built here, I suddenly found myself thinking about how much the place had changed since I first began working here. I have worked here since I graduated, taking time out occasionally as professional development opportunities became available, but always being drawn back. Exploring the photos, and trying to recall and visualise what used to be here when I first arrived, it dawned on me that I was engaged in the kind of activity I would expect from students, engaging with images generally but akin to analysing data collected during a logging activity. Looking at the material collected by the school documentation group, and the blog being developed by our year 1 students currently I have found myself as a result thinking about what emergent data logging and analysis might look like in practice.

Data Logging is usually identified with Scientific activity, and associated with the use of Data Loggers and sensing devices, but has a broader application it seems to me, on reflection, in plotting and recording change over time. With younger students, loggers and their outputs are very abstract, but there may be other tools we can use to introduce the process in the Key Stage 1 and Foundation Classrooms, where observation is based on first hand experience using all senses.

Data Logging part of an observational process. Within the ICT curriculum it relies on the use of digital means to remotely collect and store of information (data) about events as they unfold over time. This data when presented visually either in real time or in retrospect allows us to draw on the evidence presented (usually graphically) to tell stories, identify patterns, draw inferences based on what we have observed (or Logged), to this end multimodally speaking, it might also be considered a literacy based process. Science one at Key Stage 1 sets out to promote student's observational skills gradually encouraging them to relate these, drawing simple conclusions and making predictions based on their observations and growing body of experiences. I am reminded here of a something which happened during my NQT year.

My first class were a family grouped year 1 and 2 group, and outside our classroom we had a large asphault surface, with a concrete wall around it (all of this has now gone). That summer it was very hot, and the windows and doors were constantly open. Outside we usually had at least one activity set up, and one week I set up the painting easels, and water tray for exploratory play. During One session there was a desperatation by all to go outside. I thought to begin with that this was down to the heat, but it turned out they were fascinated by something they had discovered. That morning a pair of children had taken a container of water from the water tray, a brush from the easel, and had begun painting pictures using water on the wall. Their pictures had mysteriously begun to disappear. Beginning at the top of the wall and working down, by the time they reached the bottom of the picture it had almost vanished. Not to be beaten by this they would go back and begin all over again, only to have the drawing disappear again. I had watched this intrigued by what they would do next, and as the day went on the children as a class became increasingly drawn into the phenomenon, and eventually came to ask if I knew where their pictures had gone? This was too good an opportunity to miss.

We sat down as a class to discuss their problem... To many of the class it seemed like magic, but as we talked and drew on their experiences, children began to suggest that perhaps the water had dripped off, it had soaked into the wall or it had gone up into the sky... We recorded their thoughts, and when the following day I "accidentaly" spilt the contents of the water tray, I asked them to predict what they thought would happen next. I had a feeling that morning, the day was going to be a bit strange, and so I had brought my camera with me. We went outside together with chalk and drew around the puddle I had made, taking photographs of the marks and shape that resulted. Every 30 minutes or so, a group of children were sent outside to record the puddle again and a photograph taken to record what had happened since the last time, this was repeated throughout the day.

Unfortunately in 1990 I didn't have a digital camera, and IT work was limited to borrowing the school's solitary BBC B for any work I wanted to do with the computer, immediacy of output meant a 24 hour wait, and collecting my photos from Tescos on the way into work. In class we looked at the images and discussed what we thought had happened. The puddle hadn't gone all at once, it had taken a while to disappear so what might be happening. The suggestion that the puddle had soaked into the playground was not really likely, as we might expect the pavement to be damp, it took nearly all day for the puddle to disappear completely, and this left lots of time for discussion, speculation and conjecture, as we huddled and grouped, hummed and haahed! I still feel this is one of my best ever science lessons. The children were completely sucked in, we made a class book using the photographs we had taken, telling the story of the "Mysterious Vanishing Puddle," with a host of possible conclusions, all written in the back by the children themselves, and drawing on the related observations we had made and logged over the course of that strange day. The children loved their book and would sit in small groups talking about it in the book corner and share it with visitors who arrived.

With the emergence of Digital Photography, combined with multimedia authoring and Web 2 environments, this type of activity now has enormously powerful potentials, not only with younger students but across the primary school, in supporting the telling of "stories of change" and "logging" learning or observational data from process based activities. Recent examples of this process in school include our Year 1 student bean diaries, Year 2 using their digital camera to record the development of eggs and chicks in a clasroom based incubator, photographically supported recounts using 2 create a story and powerpoint, and the use of comic strips and story boards to support the telling of stories based around events and school visits. Key Stage 2 Blogging activities and Web Site projects about the new school and Airbus Challenge also represent learning stories, using images to log change and development.

The use of tools such as digi blues and tuff cams, if seen as data logging devices and observational tools, enable this process to be placed in the hands of the students, using community activity and discussion to select approriate data and evidence from the sequence of events for inclusion in the emerging stories. From a scientific point of view the Digital Microscope and also time lapse videos such as this, borrowed from You Tube, might also provide similar opportunities to observe changes, which would raise health and safety concerns in the primary school, but which support Science Work on Microbes at Yr 6.

while the use of webcams set to capture images over time, satelite images showing moving weather fronts from space, and the use of meteorological data from websites also enable comparison to be made of local weather conditions with those in a remote location .

1 comment:

Linda said...

An excellent post - your children are lucky to have you as their teacher!