2Type or not 2 Type 3

In this post I want to direct readers to Anthony Evan's blog and a post entitled, Touch Typing . As a regular visitor and fan, I know from previous posts how committed Anthony is to the idea that Keyboarding as a key skill should be taught and taught well. This fantastic post, draws on an action research based pilot, recently carried out in Redbridge, where he works as a consultant. Thanks for this, there is much we can all learn from this project, and I have certainly been left with food for thought.


Addition and Subtraction: A Learning Story

A while back I engaged with an assignment involving review and evaluation of a multiple tool approach to the use of IWBs in the numeracy hour. The PowerPoint learning story below, was how I chose to collect, collate and present the empirical data I used when discussing this in the assignment. This was finally submitted in two forms. one on paper, and the other as a navigable web page based structure.

The context of the story is a teacher designed, two week numeracy unit on written calculation methods. Drawing on framework plans as a structure, it began with the exploration, discussion and collation of the mental strategies students brought to the session as "available designs" from their previous encounters (Cope and Kolantzis 2000, Editors for the New London Group). All data presented here was collected initially during lessons using the Smart Notebook and whiteboard. It was not only used for research purposes in charting of the current lesson, and setting of new problems as we worked, but also provided feedback and feedforward from session to session. Following the classroom activities each day, the content of the notebooks was transferred to PowerPoint for evaluation and review.

Our intended learning outcome as a class was to learn how to use the standard written algorithms required to be taught within school, as ways of adding and subtracting two and three digit numbers. As an iterative process the students and I evaluated together the strategies we already knew and used, how they worked and shared them with each other as a community. We examined and reviewed our choices through discussion of their effectiveness in the calculation process. The students tested and compared outcomes of their using each other's methods, in paired activities on small dry wipe whiteboards. As the students worked I also photographed student outcomes and engagements for inclusion in our learning story, and for classroom display. Within the story I hope you can see how we began to unpick the methods we used, and to identify how apparently different and diverse methods could be reduced to common aproaches, such as partitioning and decomposition. In week two we began to transform these into the standard written algorithms the students are required to use. In effect the story shows how I helped the group intgrate their informal mental methods and jottings into a standard written form they could use and practice by the end of the unit of work.

This process was not only useful for the students but as an action research process was incredibly revealing for me. Until carrying out this task I don't think I had really given much thought to the complexity of the process involved in making links between the elements that are required to calculate using the standard written methods we ask of our learners. We often make assumptions, that since a progression of work has lead to this point in a child's development, that they recognise the processes for themselves. Exploring how students engage in calculation in this way has really helped inform the way I approach the planning and development of lessons, not only where ICT is used to mediate, assess and review learning. I try to begin units of work with initial explorations through discussion, of the mathematical strategies students themselves are bringing to sessions as a starting point, evaluating perceptions and where possible to use the tools students bring to the session to link my planned content with what is already known.


2 Type or Not 2 Type 2

Thanks to Doug Dickinson for the recommendation of 2 "no Cost" resources for supporting keyboard skills.

In his comment left today he says

"There are a number of 'no cost' practice solutions to keyboarding. It is worth having a look at 'letter rain' in the set of software from Sebran ... many schools have been using this for a number of years now. Or you could go to the old BBC for their site Dancemat."

In the primary school variety is truly the spice of life, and am always glad to be able to increase the range of resources and tools I have to draw on.


Y 3 Podcasts fixed

My shortest ever post.

2 Type or not 2 Type?

Keyboard skills are to ICT what Handwriting is to the literacy hour. though it is arguable whether or not we should be making this type of subject based distinction, when planning the use of the word processor, email or any form of text editing tool in school. A personal argument would be that if in school we are not using word processors from the drafting stage of writing, and seeing them as cross curricular tools, then we are denying our students access to a valuable set of resources they can use to collaboratively engage with the writing process and removing a link between their work and how writing is used and developed in the real world. However the biggest problem in practical terms of a statement like this, when proposing the word processor as a writing tool is the length of time it can take, due to underdeveloped keyboard familiarity and skill, for students to input text in the first place, and this is where 2 type and the question above comes in.

It is interesting in the new primary framework that within literacy documentation the acquisition of good keyboard skills and familiarity by the end of Year 3 is given high status. Hopefully this will not be overlooked by those of us with a more standards driven agenda. And is a welcome affirmation of the links between and the valuable contribution that ICT tools have to offer the teaching of writing in the Curriculum. It also encourages us to place a similar level of value on the teaching of basic keyboarding skills to that we should place on the development of a comfortable and cursive hand for writing.

Last year I bought a site license for 2simple's 2type, Having seen a demo at the Bytes Conference, I was drawn to its simplicity and and on screen appearance, but also the range of activities and challenges it offered, that I knew would appeal to my students.

The screenshot above shows the colour coding scheme used within the software for keyboard fingering. The colours represent particular fingers to be used by the students, starting from red for the index finger and pink for the thumb, working outwards to blue for the pinkies aaah!

Within the game and activity environments, as letters appear in for example, bubbles to be popped or bricks to be prevented from landing, coloured spots are used to represent the area of the keyboard where the letter can be found, and also appear above the finger and hand to be used to depress the key.

The students catch onto this very quickly, and once shown how the process works which took about 10 minutes with a year 2 class on the IWB last term, they see it as a computer game, a competition and a challenge, as they monitor each other's play against the clock. It very quickly becomes self sustaining.

I organise most ICT activity in class as paired work, and in this context the students see it funnily as "cheating," for the person they are working with not to use the correct finger and hand to depress the keys. This has had two effects. The children first of all want to improve their keystrokes over time, because they want to "win" the game, but also they are caught up inadvertently in peer review and assessment, as they point out what needs to be done as they work.

When we returned to school last week I set up both computers in my ICT area to run 2 type, and it was great to see the children working with the environment again. It is worth pointing out that to some of the activities provided it is possible to add word lists. There is already a bank that comes with the package, but adding class based spelling and word lists based on themes or spelling patterns, perhaps in key stage one and early KS 2 linking these to sound pictures and rhyme, there is enormous potential for linking this amazing tool into the ongoing word level activities of the class. If you have not looked at or thought about how to develop a program of key board skills teaching and familiarity across your school, then I strongly recommend you check out this environment first of all.


We are currently experiencing Technical Problems!

Apologies to any readers who are currently trying to listen to our Y3 Podcasts. Unfortunately due to issues beyond our control, the files have temporarily gone missing from our host server. Full service will be resumed, when I get access to my laptop tomorrow.


Data handling with Excel in the Primary School

"Who's a Smartie?" This was the title of an article submitted to and published in Micromath during 2004. Originating in practice informed classroom research activity, it lead to the filming of an abridged version of a socalled "subject Design initiative" for Teachers TV.

At the time of publishing videos from these programs to the web, the learning story behind the series of tasks presented was not included. Today while working on my dissertation project I came across another example of my "formative assessment tool" of choice, the narrative of learning, from these programs. This narrative was used to record events, link sessions with the students, and intended to share the process behind the sessions filmed with colleagues watching the programs. I hope you find it useful or at least interesting, and that this use of PowerPoint, provides a different perspective on how the tool might be used to record and support learning progression through the cross curricular learning stories that unfold everyday in our classrooms.


Its a Classroom Swing Thing

Its been a hectic start to the term, but very exciting too. Have spent most of the last 8 days trying to get back into the swing of what it means to be a full time class teacher again, but it has been great to be able to start putting into practice and to begin establishing the routines and small changes that I have wanted to engage colleagues with over the past 12 months.

The impact of a years specialist teaching is also beginning to show through student's holding of basic skills within this years, year 2 to year 6. Evidenced in the excitement to share today the work which some year 4 students had been doing using 2 create while beginning to make Victorian Websites. After a week back at school the basic hyperlink structures were in place on three slides, and some simple content had been included on the site that was shared. The work that year 6 have been doing this week using Fronter was also a talking point, as they are beginning to recognise and transfer skills acquired through making navigable slideshows in PowerPoint, and their engagement with to develp and share new content. Our year 3 classes were also quickly into the groove, when the use of Espresso and the internet, was included in a class based carousel task, independently logging on, locating and working with the material they were asked to explore and use, the only problem they encountered being a network set up issue, that currently disables activex components, but this was quickly over come. In the online classroom too consolidated routines from last year made the session run smoothly, students navigating the local network, locating template files, saving them as and beginning to edit and reformat the text presented. Last year at this time the same activity took two weeks to develop, and reflects the significant progress that has been made in the last 12 months the ICT capability of our students.

Moving beyond the classroom, I have begun to establish content on our year group community pages, and to set up frames for future work. I spent an evening with two colleagues exploring Podium on Monday, and this has lead us to initially set up an account for Y3 with podomatic, until we can resolve firewall issues and ftp, and the potential in through one of our amazing LSAs to develop small projects with Y5. Our students are also set up to write entries to the year group blog every Friday afternoon initially, and were very excited at having recieved comments about their work over last weekend. Thanks to Anthony, for his inspirations around geotagging earlier in the year, as I was further inspired to include a quikmap as a talking point, to begin tagging comments on a world map, so the students could get some kind of idea about where our visitors were coming from. It might be interesting to work with them in small groups to help me update this map. I have also begun to include material about our classroom routines and the topics and themes we will be working on. I know last year as Y2s several parents began visiting their community pages, and I hope that as the year goes on our parent partners will take an even greater interest as the children add content via their blog for themselves.


Getting Big Books On The Big Screen

We are exploring Shape Poems in class, and I wanted to place a few example that we could share into a Smartbook.

In the past I have scanned images showing similar texts that I want to share, dragging the resulting images into a smartbook to be worked on or annotated. This can be incredibly time consuming but the results are usually spectacular, even though the file sizes can be large. But how to get Big Books onto the big screen thats a different matter. No one I suspect has an A1 scanner. However many of us do have digital cameras.

heres a quick how to
  • Place the Big Book on a table, or the floor.
  • Frame the page you want to use in your viewfinder
  • Snap away. ( you might want to find a space with lots of light and turn off the flash!)

I have a card reader, so taking the memory card out of my camera the PC treats this like a flash drive. Using this tool the image folder on the camera's memory card can be opened like any other on the computer then opening the Smart Notebook, the photograph of the page can be dragged from the card directly into the smartbook.

The whole process of including four pages from a big book took about 5 minutes this morning, and created an instant resource I could share with my students. Locking the images to page, we highlighted nouns and adjectives in situ, discussed and added new openers for the poem, brainstormed and collected alternative WOW words we might use to replace some text elements, before going off in small groups to innovate on the starting point.

Another useful application for this process is in creating stories to share for assembly, instead of using smartbook or powerpoint another old chestnut however you might want to try the slideshow tool in Windows Picture and Fax viewer.

Here take photographs, or scan the pages you want to use as before, but inorder to force the slideshow tool to play the pages in order, rename them. I often use the alphabet, eg page 1 is "a.jpg," 2 is "b.jpg," or use 3 digit numbers beginning with for example 001.jpg, 002.jpg and so on. Place all the images in one folder on your PC or Laptop, as this will also speed up loading on screen.

When you are ready to use the story, open the folder with your images in and right click on "a.jpg," or "001.jpg," and then select open with from the menu, followed by Windows picture and Fax viewer. When the software opens, press the slideshow icon. With slideshow open you can control the turning of pages with the play and pause button. This could also be used in literacy hour on the SmartBoard, by using pens to annotate texts, and then using the screen capture tools to transfer your annotated pages to a smartbook for later use.


IKEA Man Meets the Primary Framework

Engaging formally with the New Primary Framework for Literacy and Numeracy this week, has proven a steep learning curve. Getting my head round what the documentation means has been challenging in places, I knew what I wanted to achieve in my planning from past experience, but finding and defining/refining the learning objectives to meet these within particular sessions within the new documentation sometimes proved problematic, since they had been moved, often appeared woolly and required unpicking, to find, identify and define specific aspects for particular sessions. In our planning process this week we have worked with the new framework alongside existing documentation to help this. Working in this way has proven really beneficial, using the new framework to define the progression while identifying aspects to support this from within the older more specific objective structure.

Being an IKEA man I see my classroom practice as linked to a planning process that involves designing for learning. The more open and flexible, structure of the new framework, provides a space to enable reflection and consideration of what I feel the students need to learn in order to achieve outcomes that draw on the wider curriculum as a source for support. I have my longer unit structure, enabling definition of outcome and identification of a more progressive approach to tool use and skill development through the Literacy curriculum as a cross curricular dimension. By taking a more global perspective I am able to use curricular forecasts to frame and consider the timescales necessary to embed the skills development process. This in turn enables me to identify and place development of these skills more readily within wider classroom activities I intend or am able to develop, allowing a window on progression towards the development of "quality" outcomes by students in relation to these by the end of a unit or beyond. This has also enabled me to bring to bare the wider view of what text and textuality mean to me within the context of the units I am planning within the themes we are working on.

Perhaps looking at the framework slightly differently will help me work with colleagues as subject leader for ICT, to progress the embedding process for ICTs as tools, if we see the documentation as a transformative device. A bridging tool between now and where we want to be.

In planning progression for our Poetry unit and beginning to organise the development of our classroom ICT areas for example, literacy tasks have been framed within a progression for ICT. In class we will be using desktop activities to develop vocabulary, engage with word play, presentation of words through for example calligrams, rebuses, shape poems, collecting and organising word lists, and shaping and reforming these in different ways. We have discussed using digital photography to capture other methods of representation, gesture and body shapes, presenting images to support "talking for writing" and collaborative engagement to develop group and paired poetry. The outcome for the unit of work overall is to create a class anthology. This alongside the development of handwriting for presentation, is the ICT focus for our outcome. Learning and revisiting in our ICT areas and online classroom initially how to format texts, using drag and drop, changing font style, colour, size, shape to bring new emphasis to textual elements that will engage our readers. Finding and importing images to support our meaning making. The aims of these activities to engage students in discussing use of words and exploring how we represent their meanings, while drawing on "available designs" from table top tasks to support this as the students engage with reconstructing the text.

The ICT skills tasks will have a focus on comprehension and meaning making, while introducing other poetic forms such as acrostics and list or shape poems. These will be used to consolidate the ICT skills base we need to develop, while preparing and extending classroom based experiences and tasks within use of the online classroom. As well as handwritten outcomes students will be using classroom based platforms to input drafts to screen based on desktop tasks, to be re-presented and edited later. Using the IWB the students will engage in modeling and familiarisation throughout the unit of text editing and formatting processes. As we work to complete the poetry unit in class, the works, developed through big writes, guided sessions and table top tasks, will enable extension of the literacy unit and word play, as they form tools and frames to be changed and re-presented using skills developed in focussed practical tasks towards the design outcome for the ICT unit. Our ICT unit outcome is to produce a desk top published class anthology.

I find thinking aloud really helpful, and thinking this through today has been really beneficial in beginning to clarify the links that I want to make. Thank you for listening.


Year 3 on Blog

What an exciting afternoon, we gave two of year 3 students independent access to the blog editing space for the first time today. In year 2 last year they worked with me using the blog for shared writing sessions, and were keen to give it a go for themselves, once offered the opportunity as a special writing and publishing task.

Initially we we have decided to organise, the presentation of at least one entry to the space per week as a privilege or golden time task, for students who have shown themselves to be responsible members of our class communities. Essentially although a reward, the tool is not being offered for free time, and a focussed activity is being provided for the task they will be engaging in. The students who are writing our blog entry next week, will be logging the next steps in our learning journey. They already know who they are and that it will be their job next Friday afternoon to report on and perhaps upload and input some of their favourite experiences and perhaps even share images of their learning outcomes to the space. The long term aim is to enable the students share with a wider audience and their carers an essence of what it means to be a learner in our year group.

We are currently using a WordPress based blog, hosted at ethink, we logged them in and opened the editing tool, leaving them to enter their text as they would with a word processor. The students had no problems using the space at all. As we develop our ICT Unit on Poems and Calligrams the students' experience of word processing and desk top publishing will be broadened, and they will be encouraged to increase the complexity of the material they upload and input. For now we are very excited that the "whole world can really see what we have written," please feel free to to drop by our Year Group Blog, and check things out. It would be great if you wanted to leave some comments, as this will only add to the excitement we want this space to generate. If you wouldn't mind it would also be great if you could give us a general location, so we can add this to our class map. Look forward to hearing from you.


"The Box" A Stick Figure Animation

An animated short, made in Pivot Stick figure Animator by one of our Y 6 Students. In his words

"I downloaded pivot and made a funny vid! Hi mr.m ^_^ check out my pivot animation... its called 'the box' its about a guy who tries and tries to get out this box but he always fails."

This is an entirely independent piece. This movie is silent so in terms of textual and multimodal awareness, watch out for his canned laughter, and the stylised use of "fin" at the end. I really enjoyed it. A fantastic piece of emergent writing, while engaging with a new genre. Hope you enjoy it too. Well done C.

Excited To Be Back In The Classrrom

Am a wee bit tired right now but feel I have neglected my blog for too long. It has been a bit strange being in one place, but really exciting engaging with the apparent continuity in dialogue with students from around school over the past three days. It feels like I haven't been away, and today I visited for the first time since we returned to find stickies from students, and emails already awaiting reply. It seems last year's subject specialist role really did make an big impact.

Several students have asked when I will be teaching ICT. I don't think it has quite sunk in yet that I have a class of my own and won't be with them as I much as I was last year. However the continuity they seek is a cue to think about how we extend the engagement and obvious excitement that this opportunity began. We often encounter a holiday lag, the stuff that the students have forgotten over the break, but this was not evident in the mind of one of our new Y3 students whose first question on Wednesday was, "when are we going to finish our me pictures? " a reference before she had taken her coat off and said good morning to the digital photography work we had started, but were unable to complete by the end of last term.

Our year group blogs should be beginning anew this week, as some colleagues have begun developing rotas, and planning these into the weekly cycle of class based ICT. Can't wait to see what develops, as I will be introducing my class to this process for the first time tomorrow, as a learning log initially.

We have also begun timetabling regular use of 2 Type, to develop routines and use of the classroom ICT area, and promote keyboard skills. The students are loving this tool, and really trying to follow the colour coded fingering activities, that are challenging them within the games presented.

Since we are going to be using and learning about text formatting as a focus for our ICT unit this term, the first three weeks of our Literacy Program is being developed around Poetry and Calligrams, to promote the "available designs" the students will need during desktop tasks to enable engagement with the tasks to be developed on screen. We have also renamed the ICT Unit poems and calligrams, and are in the process of labelling and developing the ICT area as a Writing space, for this term, focusing purpose for tool through the curriculum context in which it will be used. Our intention is that next term it become an editing suite, as we try to link our writing unit on Chronological reports through a Tudor theme to creating scripts for a podcast or vodcast using Podium and/or photostory, whilst developing small group work on Garageband to create short music clips for use in the files we develop.