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31.7.07

Industrial Revelations

I was fascinated by this Discovery Channel series and its sister show, More Industrial Revelations, first time around, but watching omnibus runs over the weekend I was once again sucked in. Starting with the birth of the canals, series presenter Mark Williams, Harry Potter's Mr Weasley and star of the Fast Show, at a leisurely pace, begins the first series journeying through the early industrial landscapes of the Midlands and North of England by narrow boat. By the second series Steam has become king and the technologically determined nature of the industrial revolution takes over as the series plots how rapid scientific and technological developments of the 19th century turned cottage industries into factory and mill based entrepreneurial endeavours.

What fascinated me most I think was watching how the principles of Modern control technologies began to emerge, from this technologically determined and driven world. Factories functioning as machines where human elements acted as parts of a program, performing functions within a manufacturing process broken down into steps, or procedures, to be completed in the meticulously planned conversion of raw materials into finished products. The desire to improve efficiency and replication through mechanisation leading to the use of punch cards, and emergence of the first robots, not in late 20th century Italian car factories, but nineteenth Silk Weaving Mills. Machines programmed in simple binary "on or off" systems began to carry out the jobs of some factory employees based on the work of Joseph-Marie Jacquard , and enabled steam organs to play music in the fairground. HEY! a nineteenth century iPOD! This use of Binary Programming ultimately supported the birth of the electric telegraph using Morse Code another series of "on and off" patterns. Transmitted via the railway and transatlantic cable, time becomes relatively constant, and the world begins to shrink. It seems the more things change the more they stay the same, and only the medium really alters. A little something to ponder. If you get the chance these programs are well worth a watch, entertaining and thought provoking, and currently running on Discovery Civilizations.

30.7.07

Start The Day or End the Week with a Talking Point

IWBs take up a considerable amount of wall space, so how about turning yours into a dynamic display board during downtimes, or at the start and end of the day?

Windows XP and Vista come with a collection of preinstalled desk top themes, that can be customised and changed, as well as including in their desk top properties tool kit the "my pictures slideshow" or "photo" screensaver options.

In addition both also include their own slide show tool, which in combination with IWBs and projectors afford the opportunity in combination with selected images from the internet to provide a talking point or wow factor at the start of the day.

A while back I installed the National Geographic POD (Photo of the Day) and NASA Image of the day gadgets to iGoogle, which are updated daily with some really amazing images, and occasionally I am inspired to download them to use as wallpaper on my laptop, or for use in slideshows. Many of the images I have downloaded to support the making of Whiteboard notebooks, have also found their way either onto the desktop of my laptop, or into photo slideshows. I also take a lot of photographs while on school visits or to log our activities in class.

We have found digital photographs and the Windows Slideshow player, to be really useful in helping students recall their previous work or supporting discussion, and thinking together, around visits and events, and as a vehicle for younger students to share their previous days work with parents and carers on arrival in school.

With older students, regularly changing desktop wallpaper, to include theme based images or to celebrate and model expectations and quality outcome, have also been helpful in promoting the value I place on certain types of activity and behaviour, as well as promoting discussion at the start of the day. A couple of favourites among the students were a full windows theme I downloaded from the web at christmas, based on Dr Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," with sound effects and voiceovers from the movie that played when frequently performed tasks were carried out, and the amazing Simpson's Matrix and Bart Vader wallpapers.

Next term I return to full time class based teaching, and am interested in exploring the extension of a reading club idea begun with my current class and their partner class last year to extend home school partnerships. Using photographs of the week as a slideshow would be an interesting talking point to perhaps help students and their parents/carers engage in learning diary and review work as part of this on a Friday morning, with an open classroom start to the day, that will support and lead to pairs of students completing the class or year group Blog later in the day.

21.7.07

And the Fun Begins...

Have just logged in to Think to check out messages and stuff, and found this sticky on my home page. I am waiting to see what the student response will be? Get back later. Intriguing though!?*

20.7.07

Think.com Community Learning Activities (Thematic History)

I have been thinking this week about some of the things I want to use Think.com for in my first term in September to focus classroom and extended school activities.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week I worked with my new class, a group of year 2 students looking forward to beginning their career in Key Stage 2. As a shared task, I introduced the group to think.com for the first time through exploration of my own space, and I was interested to see, what they thought of the classroom environment, inviting them to help me write a to do list, using the interactive whiteboard. We set up a discussion board to do this, and children worked in talking twos to make suggestions and provide reminders for me about things I needed to do before we returned to school. It was interesting as an evaluation task, and a review of what they understand about what teachers do in preparation for a new term. The list they gave was pretty extensive, and ranged from my needing to get a dustpan and brush, to labelling lockers, from getting new coloured pencils, to setting up tool tables, and from setting up the ICT area, to taking down and preparing new display boards. Building on suggestions from the list, we developed a couple of table top activities. The students made their own locker and coat hook labels, learning key cards on which we can record weekly and termly learning targets and encouragement bubbles, speech bubbles where we recorded the "magic words" previous teachers had used to encourage us to try new things. These will be displayed and used as tokens to encourage group work involvement and discourage some of the more negative undertones associated with tale telling by looking for "good tales to tell." We also made Tudor Roses, and began asking theme based questions, recording them on leaves, to form part of our Tudor Learning Tree. So from our class shared to do list we have already achieved a great deal as a class, the children on arrival in class on the first day of term will already have some ownership of the learning space we are creating together.

Our topic area for next term is Life in Tudor Bristol, and as a focus for community activity, I have decided to use think.com for a number of purposes.

As a place to share and work together on group challenges

Initially in the Online classroom and our classroom ICT area students, focused on skills development the students will set up their personal home pages around the community builders presented in my previous post, which will support class discussions on the Internet 3 Bees. Drawing from this, gallery pages will also be established to model the process of download and upload of images to the space, and the importance of captions and titles. I will also begin to introduce the idea of referencing here, and begin discussion of the importance of recognising other's work when we create our own. Our encouragement bubbles from above will be used to help with the leaving of stickies, which give encouraging messages to each other about what we have done so far. As you can see I am concerned in establishing this community to create actively links between work we are doing in class and that we are engaging in online. The think space is intended to become an extension of classroom based learning, over the course of the year.

Introducing Theme based work and challenges Online

It would be easy to see this type of tool as another vehicle for delivering homework, seeing it as a means of distributing online worksheets. I have already been concerned by some of the voices I have heard from colleagues which see VLEs as serving this purpose, a repository for teacher materials to which students have access, or an online hard drive where uploaded materials from home are accessible in class for use in class teaching, but the potential power of these tools lie in the creation of an online community, where activities similar to those used to encourage speaking and listening are utilised and adapted to enable students and teachers to interact with each other remotely. This remote voice has enormous potential for the learner, and for us as adults to change our perceptions of student engagement.


I have been working to achieve an MSc for the past few years alongside students from a global community who have come together in Bristol to engage with ICTs and their potential for Education and their implications in Society. Many of these colleagues have English as a second language, and the benefits of using a VLE to engage in discussion has been highlighted by the contributions they make to discussion forums in the VLE, compared to their comfort to speak in seminars. I have also come to reflect on how the cultural backgrounds, from which some of my colleagues originate, and how power positions may restrict their comfort to contribute orally to sessions. However within the VLE with it's asynchronous nature, these student colleagues have time to form their contributions, and the most exciting aspect for me of engaging in this environment has been hearing, sometimes for the first time, the voice of reluctant contributors, and seeing how engagement in the VLE has supported the raising of confidence to speak later in seminars.

In term one we will also begin to develop a series of Tudor Pages, which will be focused around classroom tasks, and begin to enable out of school extension. I have set up a temporary teacher user, HRH Henry VIII, and it is in this space I want to begin thinking about how we can engage the students em pathetically with a character from the past. Using process skills to engage with our topic. This teacher user will be shared with my partner teacher, and enable us to hold court online, at particular times and in between sessions to answer questions asynchronously, as in the hot seat children have been told that King Henry is a very busy man. We will also be able to share responsibility for monitoring the community while also allowing "hotseating" type activities around the life of the monarch. Adding the need to address him as your majesty, or beginning questions with reverence through statements such as "if it pleases your majesty.." will add a role play element, as we can choose whether or not to answer questions on his behalf, if students forget, and work with them to discuss why such salutations might have been important, or how they can alter questions in order to get a response.

In terms of questions about the ordinary lives of people in Tudor Times, we might also be able to have an advisor to the king answer these in a suitably biased way, or use Espresso to support this, raising the idea that the monarchy was absolute, and it was unlikely he would have had any real contact with ordinary folk. The Remote nature of the voice, and a signature from the king on responses to questions also removes the teacher from the conversation, as well as providing a shared resource to be used for classroom based literacy and history based activities. Removing the teacher from the conversation may also support the use of after school times, when either myself or my colleague, can supervise students in the online classroom, who do not have access to the Internet at home, while the other works on another machine in school role playing the king? The asynchronous nature also means that think could be included in ICT area activities in the classroom, with students logging on to work on their own pages, based on work developed in a range of cross curricular table top tasks, while leaving questions for King Henry to answer, that they can come back to review later or in ICT sessions.

What is exciting about this is having discussed and shared this with a couple of colleagues, they are beginning to see the potential activities such as this to support their themes, We have a suggestion about setting up a user who could be an evacuee or member of the home guard to support work around WWII, and perhaps having I K Brunel hotseat with students while they explore life in Victorian Bristol, or prepare to write autobiographies.

What do you think?

16.7.07

My Blog is 100 posts old today.

Just sitting with a couple of coleagues adding the finishing touches to some materials for the year six leavers service.

We began the session scanning images of the students at different ages, that showed how they had changed as they progressed through school. The original intention had been to use PowerPoint and create a photo slideshow, but as the import process became laborious and I was asked about adding music, I have suggested they might consider using PhotoStory for their project instead.

As an environment PhotoStory is very easy to use. I have used it on several occasions this year to support multimodal text development. With Year Four Students to make short animated presentations (The Seasons ) , that morphed student created, and Monet like, digital landscapes through cycles of change. With year 6 students we created similar presentations using digital self portraits, and cascade saving to explore digital self portraits (Ready Steady Shoot ).

Getting back to my colleagues, I think they have been surprised at how simple and versatile the tool is. And how quickly, once they had their images everything has come together. They have also beguin to make suggestions about how they might use this to support work in the classroom, following up visits, logging learning, or as a means of developing narratives using images to support. I like the way it can potentially be adapted to support cyclical approaches to digital text development. Eg Having watched and explored trailers or perhaps TV ads, images or scenes could be captured or created, and imported to the environment. Based on table top work developed around the language forms and structures used, students could return to use this in the development of their own models and texts in these media based genre.

Returning home this evening, it was great to recieve Joe's comment, and to read his take on my post over the weekend about What students get from Podcasting. I have learned a great deal over the last month or so from my visits to his blog about a process and medium, which is still very new to me. Thanks, look forward to continuing to compare notes.

15.7.07

Is Nothing Sacred?

Now my students are reading my blog. Had an email from J this afternoon, thanking me for the post I placed yesterday about his amazing website. While he was here and I quote "I couldn't help noticing" great isn't it, "that you had a link to comic life." Wait for it here it comes,.... SO! I downloaded it and had great fun making a comic about our airbus challenge day. He has printed it to PDF and published this to his website, before inviting me along for a read. And just to prove it here is a snippet.



He must have spent quite a while here, as I noticed as well as the Comic Life Beta, he has managed to get himself rated as 51% addicted to blogging, as well as getting movie plugin from the simpson's movies site too.

This has opened up some interesting thoughts about extended learning, the place of personal webspaces and blogging within the process. It also suggests to me a need to really think about what we intend to do with our VLE when we eventually implement it next year. We have been discussing limited hours access, but weekend working practices such as this, suggest that perhaps we should consider having access available for students at the weekends, or we may need to think about how we will engage with personal webspaces such as his if students choose to develop them, and if we are to value the work and learning that ios going into them.

Think.com: Starting Up Your Community Part 1

Think.com is an online collablorative learning tool I have been using with Key Stage 2 Students this year. Sponsored by Oracle, the service is free. Reassuringly and in the interests of safety and security, the service has a lengthy registration process and acceptable use agreement, so the early stages of set up can take some time. This however is far outweighed by the eventual benefits for students.
Registering for the service requires a visit to the website in the first instance, and the submission of school specific details. Once initial processing has taken place the school will be emailed, and your headteacher will be required to confirm agreement with terms and conditions of use in order for the registration process to be completed.
Initial set up of users can be long winded, as there is no bulk processing facility, so student and teacher users must be entered by hand. This is not unusual in setting up new systems, and perhaps this could be handled by administrative staff within the school. Once users are entered as either teachers or students, logins are generated for you by the system. These can then be printed out. I found it useful to copy and paste these from the page and to make seperate files for them, as these cannot be saved or reaccessed inside think. I also created an excel file where the details could be stored and held centrally for reference.
Before giving out logins and allowing student's access it is part of the agreement with oracle that parents, staff and students have read and agreed to the acceptable use statement. It is also part of your agreement with oracle that signed agreements or contracts be maintined on file in school. This is good esaftey practice, and will support the establishment of a catologue of acceptable use statements and digital permissions inline with BECTA guidance. We are seeking to integrate this agreement within our school's acceptable ICT use agreement, and eventually hoping that acceptable use agreements will become part of the enrollment process when new students arrive in school. This will enable a central register to be maintained and updated, perhaps through SIMS, when teachers recieve new class lists each year they will also be able to have a list which shows at a glance, students for whom we have permissions to use cameras and access to the think.com community or our chosen VLE.

I found that the conditions of use statement, was extremely wordy, and not easily accessible by our learning community, so the first term of our school year last year was spent working with students from Y6 to unpick, practically what this document meant. The result was our school's Internet 3 Bees, Internet Safety Charter. This fits snuggly and builds on our school's behaviour policy, The 3 Bees, "Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Safe.

At the beginning of each year, in school we revisit our school behaviour guidelines with students, through classroom based activities developed to unpick what good classroom behaviour means and looks like in practice, and from these we create our individualised classroom contracts. Online learning communities require not disimilar practices to be carried out. E safety practices are largely common sense and not that remote from what we expect in physical spaces, we have elements associated with

  • Stranger Danger.. eg Protecting our personal information,
  • Looking after people's property and things... eg Data Protection, digital permissions.. Respect for Hardware.. Not downloading without permission, Intellectual Property rights
  • Showing respect for others.. eg netiquette, good manners, think before you click and so on.
As with the classroom many of these issues overlap, as can be seen by the repetition of certain agreement statements in our acceptable use contract. As with all behaviour contracts their must be sanctions as well as rewards. Within our think community, it was made very clear, that without parental permissions, and student agreement with our contract, they would not be allowed access. As a school we need this year to begin pulling these elements together, and embedding them within our school's good behaviour policy, child protection and anti bullying statements. In order to get us started, I have decided that since we are working on class contracts and community building activities in the first term, and establishing classroom routines, all students in Key Stage 2 should in parallel do the same thing with their think communities. In this way we are starting to establish the links between how we learn and think together in the classroom with the processes of how we learn and think together online.

Think.com as a resource as well as a learning environment, has a collection of ready made lessons and resources to help with the establishment of and understanding of why we need community rules. But communities don't just establish themselves, they are diverse social structures, and so we need to engage with them and nurture them. As a teacher in Think, your role is like that in the classroom, to support the community, help them work together, monitor their activity, and to set up tasks and challenges you would like them to engage in.

I have described building a Think.com page with students as being like using LEGO, each element we want to include is like a brick. If we want to include text we add a text brick, if we want to add a picture gallery we are using media so we need to use a media/image brick, and so on. For basic guidance on using Think a starter comic strip guide is available from our website, or can be directly downloaded by right clicking and saving target as here.

Here are a couple of activities and strategies you might like to start off with.

On your home page:

Set up a welcome message to the students, and establish this as a starting off point on visits to their think spaces.

Underneath your welcome provide simple tasks/activities to do, which change once a week.
  • Based on something you are planning to develop over the week in class or in the Online Classroom eg a spelling challenge to find words with the xx sound picture in them, or to set up a page in preparation for the development of a report, Collecting images or maps around a topic they have located on the internet for a particular purpose.
  • Based on something you would like them to pursue in preparation for class, This could be a discussion board you set up where students submit story starts, or if you are doing persuasive writing perhaps a debate, where you make a statement, and the students have to respond, giving reasons why they think this, ready for a Big Write. Perhaps include a vote on an aspect of classroom activity from the previous week.
  • Something you might like them to do in their think spaces with each other. Perhaps they develop a poem in a writing frame, using a web based resource such as Instant Poetry Frames, which can then be copied and pasted for upload. Students are then required to add a discussion board for others to read and comment, or leave stickies in response.
Perhaps, as has been the case with some of my students, when they get used to this process and way of working, they will begin to suggest things that could be done as community activities in think. I haven't always used think as part of formal curriculum activities, so additional creative little side tasks can be included that encourage students to follow up points of interest.

Community Check In:

I have found it useful to have a community check in, a discussion board on my home page. In class we might do check in as a circle time activity, where we all greet each other, and let each other know how we are feeling, or share something exciting with our friends . In Think I have established a check in board, where students when they log in are encouraged to visit my page and leave a message. This performs a couple of functions.
  1. I know who has been on line recently and can visit their pages to see what they have been doing by following the link left behind
  2. I can monitor use, eg who is and who is not using the space, and begin to follow up on reasons why, perhaps offering opportunities in class if access to the internet is a problem.
  3. I can leave encouraging mesages or offer support and sudggestions about how work might be improved, or on my home page, keep a list of student pages where something exciting has happened and encourage students to visit, for a bit of creative copying.
A Few Starting Points For Students:

Log in and name your home page, choose an avatar or icon to represent you, from the list.

Home Page activities.

Introduce the environment, and how it works a step at a time, using the building brick analogy through focussed practical tasks. here is one example. I used with Y3 and 4

A few of my favourite things,

encourage students to search safely the internet for images of the things which interest them, or represent something special about them. favourite sports, hobbies, colours, foods etc. Save these to the computer,

Model how these are uploaded and labelled in think as a picture gallery.

Write about your favourite things,
Choose one and write an acrostic about how you feel when you touch, see, hear, smell, taste this thing or are doing an activity.
Make a list of your favourite things and rank them in order of preference.
Put up a vote showing your favourite things, and invite people from your class community to choose the things they like from your list.
Be an Expert Hotseat. Put up a question board and invite other students to come and ask questions about your favourite things or interests.
Leave a sticky which says something complementary about a friends page, (this could be progressively developed to encourage students to become involved in a nod and a wish. as they develop self assessment and review)

The possibilities for transferring classroom type collaborative tasks to Think are enormous and I think incredibly exciting. Some of the activities above may seem formal to some and not that disimilar to what we would do in the classroom, and this is intentionally so, as all communities have to start somewhere. many of our classrooms are more formal in September than they are in July, and this is because we work with our students to establish boundaries, expectations and routines. Working on line is no different, what we need to make a classroom community work is the same as we need to make an online community work. The only limiting factors in using think are our imaginations and creativity. Oh and persuading others that it does not need to mean extra work of course. I hope above that I have helped to allay some of these fears and concerns, by hopefully showing how the above activities have a less = more type of feel. I would very likely be doing something similar in class, but within these tasks I will seek to emphasise the e safety aspects, no where will we be using our names or personal details, only references to preferences, we will be asserting the positive initially, consolidating ownership and a sense of belonging, all of which will be familiar to colleagues from the early days of any classroom year.

As a school working together in Think for the first term, this I could be beneficial on a number of levels.
  • Firstly all students and all staff in Key Stage 2 will be working on similar things, which will ease access to provide support and guidance.
  • It gives me a chance to begin promoting the use of Think spaces as vehicles to embed classroom learning activities as integral to our curriculum, while acting as a whole school opportunity to begin thinking together and sharing ideas we have about how technologies like this might be used to begin changing views on ICT as learning tools.
  • It will also hopefully act as a catalyst to thinking about what we want from a VLE, and how we will integrate these into school life.
On a whole school level, we will be introducing revised esafety and acceptable use policies and agreements not only with students and carers, but also with staff. This will therefore mean the natural use of an assembly around esafety as part of a wider school community focus on why we have rules and routines.

14.7.07

Simpsons Avatar Maker

The Simpsons Movie was a talking point with some of my students last week and I couldn't resist dropping by the web site today when I discovered they had an avatar maker. I really enjoyed playing with this simple tool to create a downloadable representation of myself, sad to say it is more lifelike than you might think. I am just pondering on how I could use this tool to support year 6 students and colleagues in creating a gallery of caricatures, to form of a video montage for their leavers assembly.

Think.com: Student Voices Part 1

In many of my posts regarding think.com I have talked about students communicating with each other using stickies. The image to the left is an example sticky, a virtual post it note, left by one of my Y3 students. Stickies are in essence asynchronous communication tools, in that the user sending them, completes their message and posts it to a page to be picked up by the recipient, however in realtime in our think spaces, they are I have found used as the student's first voice and choice for "talking" to friends and peers within the spaces. To this end they are often used in real time to share a discussion between students, as they work on think space content. The bizarre thing is that where in traditional writing media, we can struggle to get some students to record, with the sticky, in think.com, I have found that students will work quickly to complete tasks, so they can "talk to their friends." I love this concept of "chat," many of our students its seems don't see the link between "talk" and "writing," (oral text) and yet here in this environment the two become interchangeable, and the students can't wait to do both. Engaging with students once they got started was a real challenge for me, as I am a non texter, and in order to join in I had to learn very quickly some of the terms I hadn't heard of. At one point durin the autumn term old fuddy that I am I had an open think space on one side of my monitor and an online SMS glossary I found to the other.

Motivating students to write who don't want to, or who find it difficult is one of our biggest challenges in raising achievement in "Literacy." The think space has been a real asset for increasing motivation this year among some of our lower attaining students. Firstly because students do not really have a choice other than to write, if they want to engage with others. The oral text based environment, although enabling the sharing of multimedia and images, requires engagement with others in the community if you want to share, or have them come have a "look see" at what you have been doing. Also if your peers don't understand what you have written they get back to you. This came as a bit of a shock to one of our Year 6 students, whose long over reliance on phonics to develop text, was greeted by a Year 5 student asking what he was trying to say, and requesting he get some help with the text he was developing, if she was going to be able to reply. From the mouths of babes. Trying to support him in his endeavours, myself and colleagues, had spent a great deal of time working to help him acquire spelling strategies, understand why he needed to learn spelling patterns, use word banks and so on, and in an instant, a real audience, was telling him why. Not overly delicately perhaps, but the student did understand what she was getting at after I had discussed it with him.

The sense of audience, creating purpose for writing, as a vehicle to share meaning, seems to have become increasingly lost recently in a writing process, more concerned with getting good levels in SATs as the reason why we write. If we don't understand that writing is for reading, and to express what we want to say, I guess we could quite rightly ask the question why am learning all of these WOW Words, being asked to insert full stops, capital letters commas, or use figurative language. (The use of punctuation has raised some interesting ideas during podcasting sessions too, so want to come back to this later) but Think.com as an oral text environment has enormous potential to support some of these questions, as we invite an audience to read what we are developing.
The idea of writing or authoring as a developmental process is an interesting idea to exploit in think.com, it has challenged some of our students ideas about copying, particualrly it not always being a bad thing, but perhaps can be seen as learning from each other, by borriowing and sharing. I prefer in think to refer to writing as co authoring, since we can invite others to collaborate in our endeavours. We have used discussion boards, and students have worked with me to think about for example story openers, either adding their own, or expanding and building on the ones that are already there. We have experimented with chain stories, opening a text, and asking students to contribute what happened next, adding a simple or increasingly complex set of sentences to develop the narrative as a group. These have at times become really bizarre texts not only because they are developed in the reverse direction to traditional texts, and must be read back to front as new sections are added to the discussion board, but because if not reread first or if more than one contribution is being made at the same time, at a particular point, then the text can become really abstract. Some students have found this activity to be a fun way of engaging with the development or structuring of a story. And I have become excited by the potential of using such activities as starting points or preparatory activities during literacy sessions with either an IWB downloading for onscreen discussion and review or as a potential table top polishing task for revision within a big write activity, having printed out the text to be cut up and reworked.

Just to close this section of the post, there is an increasing concern with how we can involve students in self and peer assessment, or evaluation and review. At Easter I asked the Y5 students to tell me what they thought of the ICT year so far, and as evidence for my ICT file I made this screen capture, from a year group vote in Think. It is clear that the authoring work I have developed with students in this year group, online and multimodally has been a big hit. Think.com is particualrly popular as an environment not only with these students, but all who have engaged with it, as the year 3 sticky suggests b it's coolness. How useful might this tool be in encouraging others to evaluate each others work, rating the material presented.... Many of the students have already voluntarily used this device, to encourage others to rate their pages, not only inserting a vote, but in some cases including debate tools, which require visitors not only to say what they think of their pages, but also asking for suggestions to be given as to why or how they might be improved. This has lead to reciept of suggestions as well as aclaim for the work they are doing, and most cases where this has happened, subsequent visits have identified iterative review and development of the space in response to comments.


Sorry I wasn't in today.

It is a bit of a ritual to pop by the think spaces, over the weekend, and some times you find some real nuggets. How about this, from one of my year 3 students, who missed our ICT session on Thursday.



Even though she was not at school and was feeling poorly, she still wanted to log in touch base and say hi. What does this say about VLEs and the social nature of online learning? Hope you get well soon E :o)

13.7.07

So what do you think the children get from Podcasting?

This interesting question was posed to me by a visitor to school the other day, as I played back some student recordings, and has given me pause for thought, as it is likely to be the first question from the lips of colleagues, when it is suggested they use podcasting as part of their work with students. It is a question which I think actually requires us to change our mindset regarding ICT, to shift from teaching ICT to learning with ICT, and I want to outline a few things before I engage with a relatively short reaction. I have been trying to write this stuff for weeks, but have really struggled with the how. And now I feel I have a context.


Obviously as an ICT subject leader my primary concern is that ICT is being taught consistently, and that there is progression and continuity in students learning oppportunities. This places high expectations on the standards and quality of "teaching and learning" in this core curricular area. But as with many colleagues I have a tapestry of tales regarding knowledge and understanding among my team about how ICTs work and how they might be used to develop and support learning. I have also encountered the syndrome discussed by Alan November the other week of "with everything else going on I don't have the time." We are very busy people, but as a local and national issue targetted support and directed CPD is the only solution to plugging this skills and knowledge gap. And this is where notions of vision, changes in pedagogy, and commitment to understanding the potentials of ICTs within the learning process and not just teaching/delivery is an essential prerequisite next step in school and local developments.

I have been concerned for sometime that our overreliance on a give and go culture, has lulled many of us into a false sense of security regarding what it means to teach and learn with ICT. If we deliver what we have been given we can't go wrong. (eg QCA and Local SsOW). This has lead to an acceptance of their off the shelf use, as a script. Our colleagues feel they are being lead by the hand, step by step through activities, which represent best practice because they have been developed centrally. As subject leaders we are also largely happy, as we know colleagues are "teaching" ICT or at least a verion of ICT where we perceive the basic "Subject knowledge and skills" are represented, through documentation officially endorsed as a representations of the ICT Curriculum, and so boxes can be ticked. However the most important part of any of developing and working with any unit of work, is in thinking about learning and why the students are learning what they are, their integrated tasks usually hold the key to this, and are where the crosscurricular links are often most apparent, however how many of us look here first. Perhaps the problem with these documents is the headlong rush onto skills programs, with the project outcome being placed at the end, perhaps as a summary of learning and an overview or brief we should consider placing the outcomes at the beginning. OooooH! so thats what we are trying to do? I am teaching this because the students need to learn that, or how. Ultimately however I feel we need to own what we are teaching, and the students need to own what they are learning. Often when we work with ICT what the children are to achieve is actually six weeks away, for sure there are small steps on the way, but if we know where we are going, then doing bold has a purpose. Better still if we link this to literacy, and create a newspaper, or rework poetry mutlimodally then doing bold, changing fonts style and colour, not only make our text look pretty, but can also engage us in a thinking process about how we can use these effects for a wider purpose in supporting meaning making as reader and author, for our intended audience. So what?

I am reminded here of a picture book I once shared, I can't remember the title or the author, which is a shame, and if anyone knows the one I am thinking of, I would be grateful for a reminder. It told the story of a duck, who believed that all knowledge was held in books. He desparately wanted a book because then he would be wise. One day while out walking he found a book and picking it up, he tucked it under his arm feeling very pleased with himself, as he was now the posessor of wisdom. Wandering about the farmyard feeling important he set about giving advice to all the animals. His advice though didn't make him popular, it caused pain and arguments and squabbles broke out. But because he had the book, this could not be his fault, he had the knowledge and so he was wise. Then the wind caught him, he dropped the book and in the gust the pages blew open. He discovered to his horror, he couldn't understand the strange markings, he felt foolish realising that the wisdom he sought was not in the book but in the words he couldn't comprehend on the pages themselves.

The layers in this children's story and the depth of the moral says so much to me about what has happened to school based learning and teacher knowledge in recent times, it has become compartmentalised, shut away inside its seperate little books, while the duck as recieved wisdom tells us what we need to do and how we should do it, despite going against our better judgement, we have let learning about learning take a back seat to performance and accountability. Content has taken over from process, until eventually as now recieved wisdom challenges us to undo all that we have done in its name, to unpick the words for ourselves, to interpret them, to take ownership of our classrooms and personalise the curriculum to become creative with it and to focus on what classrooms were always for, or so we would hope, learning. What recieved wisdom chooses to forget however, is because he has told us what to do, and judged us on our ability to perform his tasks for so long, some of us are now reticent, unsure and reluctant to do so, fearful to risk opening the cover and finding we have forgotten what they mean, or worse still in going against what recieved wisdom said until yesterday, we may not trust ourselves, or indeed really be trusted; and looking over our shoulders we wait for recieved wisdom to catch us out and punish us for our failures.

I displayed recently at the UWE conference a photo montage, entitled putting the C in ICT, as I wanted to model how the work I had done with students this year was different to that which had gone before. In the first Instance the C represented creativity. Taking a multiple tool approach, I have focussed on learning ICT skills in context, across the curriculum, embedding where possible skills development in cross curricular activities. This has been possible through the ability to evaluate as I go, drawing on the affordances of particular pieces of kit and using them to develop skills teaching within the context of wider curricular activities and processes. As part of this process I wanted to demonstrate what a multi tool approach to teaching and learning with and about ICT looks like in practice, while reflecting on the learning processes which evolve as a result. To this end the process has been photographed, and monitored, students have been interviewed and observed, while the use of the cascade saving model I have promoted means we have a record on the network of tasks as they have evolved. The use of think.com has enabled review of children's thoughts and feelings about what they have been engaged in and the introduction of a new self assessment and peer review system through Help2Learn, has begun to enable myself and the students to identify gaps and set targets for new learning, or what still needs to be developed. The focus has been on the learner and what they are learning, not on entirely on my teaching and what they are doing, and this brings me to the initial question and another C in ICT, Communication.

So What Do You Think Children get From Podcasting?
Or should we reword this a little and ask
What are children learning when they engage in creating a podcast?

Most importantly Podcasting engages children in writing for a purpose

  • Student writing becomes a script and so we are engaging them with learning how writing is used, in this case their writing is for reading and performance?
  • As authors we seek to engage an audience, we are learning how language structures, word choice, influence what and how we say things, and how our audience might react,
  • In engaging as writer and audience through rehearsal and playback, we are gaining an understanding of how we phrase things in order to share meaning, we cannot say this is.. we must describe so we can create images in our listeners mind.
  • As performers our oral work must be interesting to listen to as we want them to come back, we need to read with expression, and the purpose of punctuation as indicators of how we will recieve our text.
  • Within a podcast each mode of representation used is embedded in the purpose of the other, and helps us think about the roles each play in meaning making.

Examples of learning from the students

A student who finds difficulty in prolonged engagement with tasks, does not work well with others, and is unwilling to accept suggestions on how to improve her work, takes 20 minutes to record one section of her episode, "lets delete it, it don't sound right," asks support of a friend, "what do you think? I still ain't sure, should I do it again?" corrects herself on playback, " I still sounds like a robot," before finally being happy with what she lays down, " yeah thats alright, it your turn now."

Another student working alone, makes several mistakes, as we engage in a scene from it'll be alright on the night, as I delete the track for her to have another go, I turn round to see her rehearsing the track in her head, lips moving to mouth her output.

Finally on the subject of punctuation, a discussion with a student who gets it that thats what they are for. "I think I need an exclamation mark there, cos we were surprised about Tizz," before delivering her seesaw script full of expression. It was a little too rocky for me, but it is interesting what the effect of hearing your own voice can have. "That was alright, but I think I could have done better!"

Maybe it is not a question of why should I do podcasting? I could ask the same question about wordprocessing or making a branching data base? And students no doubt ask similar questions still about algebra, or learning their tables, and a recent question from a student about why we have to write raised an eyebrow for me? Perhaps the questions we should be asking is not what am I do in ICT this term? What tools might I use in ICT to help me do this? This will lead to ownership of the curiculum, an identified need to engage with technologioes to support practice and learning; and a greater understanding of what learning means when it is ICT mediated or supported. Perhaps the question should be is there a tool that will help contextualise and provide purpose for writing scripts or performance poetry? Help me support children in developing expression while reading? Scaffold and enhance understanding of the purpose and use of punctuation? These shift the focus from teaching centred to learning centred ICT sessions, where skill development is an inherent part of the wider learning process, rather than the outcomes. So endeth today's sermon.

10.7.07

One Proud Teacher's Ode To An Inspirational Learner

I visited our think.com 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 office.live.com." (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 think.com 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)

8.7.07

Comic Life For Windows: Loving it so far!

Welcome to Comic Life Beta 2 for Windows. So far it is great! Can't wait for the full thing. Have had a half hour or so, playing around in the environment, and it is very easy to use. I did an asssembly a while back on heroes, so had a few images from the Apollo 13 mission. The software defaulted to my, my pictures folder, as the Mac version does to iPhoto. It was then a simple matter of deciding on my page frame style, and then dragging images from the browser into the frames. There is a choice of bubble scripts, and styles which can be dragged into place and edited. I hope that we will be able to acces this with ELCs, what a fantastic tool, if not will definitely have to put aside some of the budget, and enter into negotiations with other subject leaders to cover it.
Here is the opening page of my first comic... The files can be exported as movies, html as well as images. So there is lots of scope for how the outcomes of a project might be used.

Comic Life for the PC

Have just discovered that Plasq are developing a version of Comic Life for Windows. The Beta 2 version is available for download from their website. I have downloaded a copy to have a play with and see how it compares with the Mac version. I have to say I am really excited about this the Mac version is a fabulously simple tool to use, and from the introduction in their forum the developers are also really up for it... It is important however to remember that Beta Software is still under development, it is not the finished article by any means, and as the company say
As it is a beta, you will no doubt come across bugs. Please report them to us... .
So if you too decide to download, there may still be problems to fix be prepared for this.

How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

During a recent visit to Joe Dale's Blog, in among the supportive material about the use of technology in the MFL classroom, I came across a link to this funbie, and thought I'd have a go to see just how addicted I had become to blogging since I took it up. Perhaps as a result of this online test I should reconsider some aspects of my life having discovered I am not the recreational user I thought I was, but instead according to this ...


Joe's blog is not only a valuable resource for teachers wanting to use ICT to enhance learning situations in the MFL classroom, but as a primary school teacher it is a recomended visit, as many of the materials, technologies and tools he uses are readily adaptable and usable in a variety of cross curricular contexts.

7.7.07

Narratives of Learning: Reflections on recent seminars presentations

I have experimented with a number of different digital tools to present data collected in my classroom, to support essay writing and help me review and investigate learning events in my classroom. The tool I have found most valuable and powerful, and which I want to develop more widely with colleagues as an assessment and recording tool is what I have come to refer to as a "narrative of learning." A narrative of learning is quite simply what it seems, a learning story, an extension into the digital world, of something which was quite common in the primary classroom when I began teaching, the floor book. A "narrative of learning" can be developed using a host of readily available digital tools. I was privileged a couple of years ago to present with a colleague at the National Teacher Research Conference, where I drew on one incarnation of the tool in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, to support and form part of another in the form of a simple "video paper."

Video Papers are interesting as they are a relatively new forms of digital publication, and a medium in which some researchers are beginning to combine data in the form of multimedia, supported by traditional text types to disseminate and share findings. Using hypertext, the reports and documents, are divided into chapters and sub sections, where the use of a hyperlinking enables the reader to engage with the document in a number of different ways. For example the "paper" might be a collaborative exercise, involving a classroom teacher and an academic colleague, so we might structure it purposely to be written from two different perspectives, the teacher view and the more theoretical academic view. This on the surface appears not to be that different from a paper based document, we would still include the methodological processes, references to literature etc, but using the hyperlinked navigation structure we are able to read the paper in a non linear fashion, dipping in and out of areas of interest, or backtracking, perhaps clicking on a hyperlink to view the full reference, for a paper or author mentioned, or a back reference to something mentioned earlier or later in the paper, or to compare the teachers view on a particular aspect of the data with that of the professional researchers. We are also able to compare different perspectives on the same data, by having the analysis and review appear alongside the video, audio or image being analysed, without needing to take our paper apart, or flick back and forward between pages. From the point of view using digital and multimodal data, this can be incredibly complex to share in paper form, with video papers following initial stages in analysis we can select and embed samples from our data files so the paper can be read alongside it on screen. We can therefore watch and see first hand what the authors are evaluating and then use the hyperlink structure to see and read perhaps two comparative views of what is perceived as going on. Within this format however the reader can also be seen as co author, as they bring to bare their experiences, perhaps they see things differently constructing on the viewpoints presented in line with the evidence their own unique perspective. As these structures develop perhaps web 2.0 environments will be used to extend the interactivity of research papers and programmes with multiple author environments enabling, commenting to contribute to ongoing research, where perhaps part of the researcher role is to moderate these papers, as a single activity or evidence based task undergoes cycles of iterative refinement and teachers and researchers work alongside each other to form deeper understandings of each other's perspectives on classrooms and what constitutes learning. From a teacher point of view these are potentially powerful tools. They could facilitate engagement with ongoing research activities, while encouraging new ways of seeing. But perhaps what excites me more is the way in which the focus of such activities changes the way we see, from what we are delivering, to thinking about what students are receiving, and how they are learning. Changing the view of research from something which is done by others, to a basis for reflection, which sees classroom activity as the basis for research, reflection, and informed practice. These are key elements to me, that form the difference between teaching as an occupation and teaching as a profession. They also underpin for me one of the principle whys about assessing student learning.

Assessment for learning must be an essential element of research informed practice as it represents how we, iteratively engage with the learning process as it emerges in our classrooms on a day to day basis, identifying where students are and what they need to do next, identifying gaps in student learning and thinking about and informing how we support next steps in their development and understanding. Anyone who has worked with younger students will know that what we see in terms of recorded evidence particularly is not always what we get in terms of knowledge and understanding. Having carried out a writing task with emergent writers we invariably need to go back and have the students read their text to us in order to understand what they have written, and to understand how they are developing in their understanding of text as a semiotic process of representation. This enables a window on what they actually know rather than what is recorded and what we think they should know. This notion of what they should know, worries me as a teacher, as it stems from an over reliance on summative assessment activities, as evidence of learning by outcome. Far from the personalised learning approach identified in Every Child Matters, it consolidates the importance of a cohort mentality, being more about input and output on demand, than recognising the importance of the cultural and social origins of learning as shared meaning making. Classrooms as communities of practice, are not just boxes, they are social and cognitive melting pots where our learning is embedded in not only the artifacts we produce as individuals, but also in the experiences we bring to them and the ways we create and manipulate spaces to facilitate thinking together or the rehearsal, sharing and connection of ideas. These "interspaces" do not always represent the whole class, but frequently change as the result of the way we engage with each other and how we organise, plan and manage the learning process in our classrooms as they emerge. They are important I believe as it is through engagement here that we as teachers inform our choices about the tools we will use to mediate and orchestrate the shared meaning making which constitutes the achievement of our aims. The tools we use may include the physical such as pens, paper or the computer, but also the more ethereal and transient such as spoken language, or gesture. Capturing the latter as evidence of learning is difficult, they are fleeting and momentary, but no less important than the symbolic representation we feel we must have, if we are to understand what our students are actually learning, rather than what we think they are taking away from the encounters we have shared. They support a process which sees not only assessment for learning but also assessment as learning.


I have vivid memories of working with a year one student, as a probationary teacher. I had encouraged an emergent approach to writing, among a group students who were reluctant to write. She read her story to me, and I followed up by reading back, following the received writing direction. I began reading her story from left to right, top to bottom, pointing as I went, only to have her stop me to tell me I was reading it wrong, and beginning in the bottom right she began to read back, from bottom to top, right to left. I guess I should have been horrified that I had missed this earlier, but as a teacher still very much learning my craft, once I knew, I actually became even more excited than before, as I began to spot how she had represented words, using what she knew about how text is represented, the one to one correspondence of phonemes as well as her emergent narrative to construct her text. I had also identified one of the gaps in her meaning making process, and the next steps I needed to take in my work with her and the class as emergent writers, in order to ensure that she and they always followed the writing directionality convention. I booked the school's single BBCB and used the word processor to help develop and consolidate this, using this as a model among many, offering it as a place to draft on screen, and print out texts as well as using pencil and paper models and emphasising left to right directionality when reading. This process is a constant reminder to me of the dangers surrounding making assumptions about what our students receive, and has lead, even when working with older students to a reluctance to rely on what they have written or recorded as reliable evidence of what they have learned. Learning about learning is the academic challenge of what it means to be a teacher, and as research practice in the everyday, this is the primary purpose of assessment for (or should I say "as") learning.


So.... Returning to Narratives of Learning, how have they helped me, and why do I think they are so powerful. Working iteratively with colleagues at the University of Bristol, on "ways of seeing" I was encouraged to think about how I might adapt some of what I was learning to explore more closely what learning looks like in my classroom. Much of the work students do using ICT, is practical and may not always be transparent, or physically evident through the outcomes they produce in a session. As I introduced the Interactive Whiteboard to my Numeracy Hours, I began to find myself increasingly drawing on speaking and listening activities to encourage "thinking together," supported by informal jottings and small whiteboards to scaffold this. This began to conflict with wider expectation that something should be be recorded in books from every session. IWBs as learning tools, like other technologies are seen in publications as "transformative tools." But with students cleaning boards in between tasks, the "evidence" of outcome was gone, and an emphasis on student recording seemed to devalue talk and group interaction as tools for shared meaning making. Amid our concern about the elimination of this "data" or "evidence" once an activity was complete, I turned to digital means of representing this, and an engagement with the development of learning stories.

Combining the use of the digital camera, card reader, computer, IWB and notebook Software I began to work with the students capturing them and their work as they engaged, using the images downloaded to support discussion. Taking and recording notes about what the students were saying as we worked together as a class, I was increasingly able to use photographs captured there and then to help facilitate and support this, or to provide feed back from the previous day's activity. Including these in PowerPoint Shows, that represented a teaching sequence with some areas the students found difficult I was increasingly able to use these as starting points and focal points for review when we returned to an idea later. For the Video Paper above, I tracked a unit of work where we used student's informal jottings to develop a written method, building on mental strategies, and using the learning story which evolved to help them see the links between the strategies they commonly used and the formal method we were expecting them to use. This was at times arduous and time consuming, but as a process really helped me to understand what it was that I was expecting of my students, and some of the common misconceptions they were taking away from the tasks we were developing. This did not only transfrom the learning context, but has also changed the way I view the teaching and learning of calculation, enabling me to see links between strategies and methods I had not seen or thought about before. With the emergence of the visualiser as a tool I now have the potential for direct digital capture of student work, and on screen annotation for inclusion in these notebooks, or to support the development of learning stories in software environments such as PowerPoint, as well as to improve the pace of activities which draw on or that I want to digitally store or engage with. This will certainly improve pace and the amount of time lost in importing images by other digital means.


The idea of a narrative of learning has taken on a whole series of new dimensions for me this year. As a socially constructed journey towards understanding, classroom learning in context must have a back story about what we have achieved together. The technologies I have used with students have progressively lead to a feeling that I need to share responsibility for logging the learning journey with my students. Podcasting tools such as Podium combined with the use of recordable MP3 players could lead to captains log stardate.... type reflections from reluctant recorders or even challenge the traditional writer to construct texts in new and different ways, while collecting their thoughts, the use of digital cameras as integral to the recording process could help with the embedding of multimedia authoring platforms such as Photostory, 2 create a story and PowerPoint in enabling group and class texts to be developed from the digital media collected in the classroom and encourage representation of process as well as outcomes through stories of learning multimodally, while the use of the class blog acting as part of the school website will enable students to jointly author, celebrate and publish learning logs, creating a sense of ownership and authorship of learning, while encouraging feedback and involvement from others about what we have been doing. There is an inbuilt sense of purpose when their is an audience to share our learning with, the quality of text development in our think spaces and PowerPoint while preparing for the Airbus challenge presentation reflected this. Yesterday the perseverance, self reflection, acceptance of critical friendship, self correction, recognition of the temporary nature of data, and willingness to rerecord aspects of the podcast some of the year 3s were making until they agreed that it sounded right, and reflected what they were trying to say, reflects for me how this is one of the ways to go with my students over the coming year. Just as learning about learning is the research domain of the teacher, then learning how to learn must be the domain of the student. It is of real interest to me how as technologies evolve our practices with them have changed little. Having attended sessions lead by Stephen Heppel, David Puttnam and Alan November recently, it is even more apparent that we must radically alter our view of what teaching and learning means in contexts where ICTs are employed. Shifting from seeing them for example as part of a delivery system, to adopting a multiple tool approach which sees technologies as combining with the creativity of the teacher to offer support for learning, This position not only sees the students in our care as learners, but also places us in this position, one where we are frequently outside of our comfort zone. Transformation and change is never easy or certain but one thing that is increasingly sure is that in the rapidly developing technological world change is the one constant. One which we must learn to accept, and where teachers must learn to see students differently, as coauthors of each other's understanding.

6.7.07

Social Networking and Stuff In Plain English

What is or does RSS Mean? Why subscribe to a blog or a website using RSS? Why might I consider using a Wiki? How do they support collaborative working, and why are they more suitable for this than other technologies such as email? What is Social Networking? How does it relate to the real world? These quirky videos created by commoncraft.com and available both on their site and on You Tube, present in an accessible way, answers to some of these questions but may also be a starting point for thinking around too. I think they make great discussion points for the potential of these tools, in educational settings. Since they are "You Tube" Videos I will not be able to get them through the LA firewall, but downloading them to my hard drive through tools such as KeepVid, they can be embedded and played in smartbooks in their native .flv format. You can also download a free .flv player from the Applian website. If your file download format from keepvid is not recognised, as mine was this morning, then try right clicking it, and in the properties box, adding the extension .flv to the file name.

In working with colleagues particularly they beg questions such as how might readers and feeds be used within school to save time, enable collaboration, communication, celebration, professional development and improve access to new resources and tools? Perhaps as starters we could use them for

  • Keeping up to date with developments in other classes across the school, by accessing online newsletters or subscribing to their blogs and podcasts. This could become a regular feature of class community activity, as we develop a shared time to have a round up of news from across our school community. Perhaps by adding an offline reader to our laptops, this could also be integrated into whole school celebration assemblies. Lets see what has been going on in school this week!
  • Feeding our del.icio.us bookmarks, so colleagues get updates when new ones are added.
  • Subscribing to sites and specific feeds within those sites that support CPD processes, eg Teacher's TV, the SSAT site, Local Advisory Teams, BBC News etc.

The video on using Wiki spaces for collaborative work has potential for discussion around how VLEs and Learning platforms might support changes in our ways of working. Check them out and see. Thanks to colleagues at Wolverhampton CLC for this Link.

RSS in Plain English




Wikis in Plain English



Possible Futures, Plausible Pasts

What Is That? I don't look like that! I like the way you look your Liverpool kit. I'm going to be a superhero when I grow up, and fly around rescuing people. Year 2 had a cracking time today playing with the digi blues. We set them the challenge of thinking about what they would like to be when they grow up, and then miming or posing in action positions from their future jobs. The poses were then framed and captured by their friends, and after docking with the docking station were exported as jpeg files to personal folders on their home drive spaces.

Once we had saved the photos, the children were shown how to open them in photofiltre, and then the fun began. We discussed the tools we had been exploring over the last few weeks and which we might choose and use to help dress up our fantasy posed portraits, in the uniforms, costumes or work clothes we would be wearing in the jobs we had chosen to do in the future. Using the spray can tool and altering the nozzle size, the students were able to use the image of themselves to trace and place items of clothing, on their own body shapes. They were also able to think about how they would like to wear things like their hair, whether they thought they would have moustaches or beards and so on. Using cascade saving there is also the possibility of thinking about what they might look like with or without these features and so on. As you can probably imagine to a seven year old adding a moustache raised a few giggles. But one of things that really wowed them, was in posing for the shot, they were able to add things like paint brushes and easels to artists, Insert footballs under their arms or at their feet if they were footballers, or even add a cat to be treated in their arms if a vet.

Having dressed themselves up, they needed to touch up the backgrounds. My favourites today were one student who, having dressed himself as a footballer, painted in the grass, crowd, and a goal, framing himself in the structure, while a second, who said he would like to be a fighter pilot, painted in the cockpit of an aircraft around the lower part of his body, before adding his helmet and flight suit. Then there was our superhero, who having laid out on the ground arms outstretched in the classic flying position, for digital capture, spent a considerable time dressing himself in a suitable attire. It was not so much the image outcomes as the discussion that this task inspired, that I found exciting to be part of, and the thought process that went with imaginatively engaging with their possible futures, and what the tools provided allowed in enabling this process.

Having seen how the students engaged with this activity, I am also now quite excited about how they might react to future use of this process. Some of the students I worked with this morning will be in my class next year, and I am thinking about using a similar process to help them empathise with life in the past. Our first topic in the Autumn Term is on Life in Tudor Times. It might be interesting to use this as an outcome activity having explored some of the royal portraits, and try to recreate the images or scenes, placing themselves posed and central to photographs which can then be edited to include, contemporary dress and cosmetic touches, or having looked at and discussed tudor pastimes and other aspects of tudor life, having the chldren create pastiche type images, where they frame themselves acting out tudor activities, recreating background scenes around them, and using themselves as manikins to dress in traditional clothes. These images could then be used in digital learning stories, or uploaded to support blog entries photostories or podcasts, drawing on tasks developed in the literacy hour.

5.7.07

Playing our Podcasts on Line Hmm! the best laid plans!

I was really excited yesterday, about adding a player to the pages of our website. This was before arriving and logging on in school, only to find, that neither of the player widgets I had installed seemed to cut the mustard with our Firewall. One saying the provided feed could not be found, and the other simply appearing as a... well... not appearing. I have uninstalled the widgets and instead added these feeds to my feedburner account, downloading and installing a chicklet instead with the option to subscribe in a reader. I have had iTunes installed around the school to enable podcast subscription, so hopefully this will now work.

I have been working with year 3 today, the very proud, authors of the podcasts, which are now linked from here. Most of their sessions today were spent revising their visual scripts, in 2 create a story, and as they completed, students were asked to work in pairs to rehearse their performances. We had a few problems initially with over referal to images, and we discussed how this could not do this as our listeners wouldn't have the images in front of them. We couldn't for example say "This is the deck of the SS Great Britain and its huge masts." We had to think about how we might paint a picture in our reader's mind, by trying to describe what we did and could see, something like, "We stood on the deck of the SS Great Britain, and looked up at its enormous masts. We felt like ants..."

I think today's offerings are great, considering again this is a first attempt at this process by most of the students involved. The highpoint for me was the episode produced by two children one of whom has speech difficulties, and the other for whom english is a second language, and the sense of achievement when they had completed. What boosted this further when the other students recognising just what they had achieved clapped what they had done.. Both seemed to visibly grow a couple of inches. Anyway I will leave it up to you to see what you think about how successful the sessions were.

4.7.07

Playing our Podcasts On Line

Thanks Anthony I had a bit of a play with the Podomatic Player, and after a bit decided to subscribe in the hope that I can use this as a temporary solution to the ftp problems I have been facing, in publishing files developed by students. I have also embedded an RSS feed player, from Big Contact. into the podcast pages of the school website, to enable online playing of recent podcast experiments by year 3 students directly from the website. This widget, has a handy drop down window for syndication, which displays the feeds URL and gives some guidance about how to subscribe to the feed by copy and paste.

I still have a lot to learn about this technology, and having dropped into the apple site this evening will certainly be going back for a read, as well as dropping in on Joe Dale's blog for some pointers around the subject.

2.7.07

Tooled Up For UWE

The West of England ICT Conference is on at the University Of The West of England tomorrow. Have spent the last couple of hours huffing and puffing up this photomontage, representing a year in the life of our ICT Curriculum. So much has happened this year, I struggled to choose any one thing to talk about or share so have chosen to celebrate it all, by taking along the school's website on a disc and as many photographs of students engaged in the ICT projects we have developed together as possible. Here is a sneak peak. Hope to see you there.