One Proud Teacher's Ode To An Inspirational Learner

I visited our space the other evening and while there and replying to a Y6 student's sticky I spotted a link, to "download my toolbar." Clicking on the link I was taken off to a page, where sure enough he had created a personalised toolbar for IE, that could be downloaded and installed, very enterprisingly to advertise his own Microsoft Office Live space. Revisiting his website after a month or so was a real revelation.

The website is an exciting exemplification of some of the things I had hoped to achieve over the past year, in promoting a "playful" approach to learning about and with ICT. However his independent engagement with ICT beyond school exceeds what many would expect of our students, and the potential dangers inherent in rigidly adhering to perspectives on "defined" curricular content, while ignoring the experiences our students bring to school ICT sessions from home use.
He has used think, our school website and the tools and resources available there as starting points to extend and support his personal learning about and with ICT, beyond the boundaries of the school day. He regularly seeks support and help through the tools provided and posts pieces of work, seeking comments, questions and support on think, while using email to seek support with more complex questions when trying something new. Using community tools he has been able to engage with me and other students as resources, while exploring some of the technologies available to him both in and outside of school to support his learning.

Having revisited his website the other night and talked with him yesterday it became evident how his experiences within think, and some of the offline resources we had developed such as navigable PowerPoints, had influenced his decision and supported him in taking the risks involved in trying to build his own website. It seems that the processes involved were more important than the products we had developed.
"Thanks for putting a link to my site on your page. I host my site with Microsoft, it is free to. I built it the way it is because I thought I would just have a play around. when I finaly liked my design, I saved it. I signed up for it at" (Editor's adendum, following an email today, I particularly liked this little chestnut thrown in at the end.) "even though you have to put in some strange details for idenity, I have not been charged a penny."
Thinking about the importance of navigation structures and how and why they are organised, having a basic understanding of how they work, experiencing and realising that we can embed and upload content for display and sharing, have all played a part in how his independent "playfulness," has enabled him to develop his current web space.

A large part of our work has been centred around keeping safe on the web, not only the usual stranger danger we tend to focus on in school internet safety policies, but also the notion of respect for others, including Intellectual Property Rights, and how we must ask permission to display images, music and video etc. This has been reflected in his webspace. through sharing and creating content of his own for upload or the use of royalty free images, providing back links to sites from where other images were borrowed. What was fascinating was how in a section of his site, where he invites interaction from friends in his year group he has made attempts at "legalise," in presenting his own version of a disclaimer, something which he has obviously encountered in other webspaces he has visited, but which also reflects a concern to comply with some of the ideas we have discussed in developing our think spaces. The level of literacy required for this is incredibly complex, and it was interesting to see how he had engaged with this, adapting elements to meet his requirements for the site.

Over the course of the year we have explored animation and multimodal authoring using a range of tools, freely available for download from the web. He has developed stick figure animations, photo stories, animated shorts, digital photo galleries, blog type entries and journals, as well as using to work collaboratively with friends and other peers to share photos and develop presentations. In developing his webspace he has exploited think as a social learning environment to help him, not only acquire the skills to develop this, and acquire transferable skills but also to create and acquire content. We do not allow use of portable storage media by students on our network so, he has uploaded work created in school for download at home and inclusion in his pages, and harvested content developed in school time to be copied and pasted into his site. In the case of stick figure animator, this tool was not used by his year group, so he has drawn on the experiences of others in the community, downloaded and experimented with it at home, and not only saved this in the form of animated gifs, but also sought ways to convert these to .avi or .wmv files, for inclusion in his webspace, allowing them to be played in embedded media players that run and can be controlled by the user within the pages he has developed. In addition within his pages he has picked up on discussions about the compression possibilities in Movie Maker, and why these options are available, offering different download possibilities in a range of formats, qualities and so file sizes for different users of his site.

The more I engage with what he has achieved the more sobering it becomes as a lesson to share about the assumptions we make around students learning with and about ICT. It is also a lesson in humility for others I hope regarding the assumptions many of us still make about what is required or acceptable as an ICT curriculum for primary age students. I wanted to share this and celebrate it here, as a reminder to me, afocal point for discussion with coleagues and as an example for other interested parties of what is possible, when ICTs are relevant and meaningful, and where clear purposes for using tools has been identified for, with or by the end user. There is much we can learn about what it means to learn with and about ICTs from this process. Thanks J... You have been an inspiration. :0)

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