My Vision Statement…

The ever expanding use of ICT within the classroom has provided opportunities for learning and interactions “between teachers and learners in ways that have never been possible before” (Dawes, 2001. P61) and  because of the increasing technological advances, children are being brought up a lot more computer literate than their adult counterparts from even just ten years ago (Ager, 2003).

Thinking back to my experiences in ICT at school, they were very basic. One clear memory is that of using ‘Paint’ to create art work in the style of Kandinsky, alongside the use of a few other basic software programmes. The majority of the lessons involved sharing computers, due to the limited numbers and there were no laptops in the school, let alone any other more recent technological developments. Since this time, the 2000 curriculum for ICT in schools has focused on using the new technologies both in set ICT sessions and across the curriculum (Selwyn et al, 2010), but as always, a recent review and evaluation of the curriculum had to be undertaken by the NAACE. As a result of this and in order to provide children with a suitable ICT education in relation to these advances, a new draft framework has been proposed by the NAACE. This framework has seen a shift in the main focus of what children should  experience in schools, with the three stands being:

– Digital Literacy

– Information Technology

-Computer Science

Although this programme of study is still just a working document (Webb, 2012), the statement made by NAACE, “ICT has the power to make the world a better place, and understanding of ICT is the key to exercising that power”, resounds strongly throughout the academic and technological world. However, in order for the ‘power’ of ICT to be used in the most successful and beneficial way for children, I strongly agree with Allen et al’s (2007) statement that teachers require a sound understanding of how ICT can be used well. Without this knowledge, we would not be providing children with the opportunities to be the most successful learners that they can be.

So… how secure are we all on these three different strands of ICT? Personally, the Information Technology side of things, which involves using digital systems to create and develop technological solutions, purposefully and creatively, is pretty straight forward. As a teacher, it would be the other two strands that I will find more challenging. Computer Science focuses on how computer systems work, looking at the fundamental principles of information and computing.  Scratch is an excellent resource to begin looking at the computing side of the new curriculum, as children could use it in a range of different topics to develop their understanding of how these programmes and games work. In terms of digital literacy, children will be investigating and exploring how to express themselves using digital technology, including its impact upon both society and individuals. The first question that springs to mind is how do we ensure that this is done safely?

As mentioned in my first post, e-safety is very prominent in the primary school as it has been widely acknowledged that ICT can be both a benefit and a threat to children and young people (Cranmer et al, 2009). However, it is also important to remember that due to today’s  society, ICT will play a vital role in these children’s adult lives (Martin, 2006) and so setting good standards and enforcing the importance of internet safety at an early age will set the children in good stead for life. Kidsmart is an example of an excellent website that can be used with children to explain the importance of keeping safe on the internet, which uses the ‘SMART’ acronym to keep the main points clear and accessible for children (see the below poster).

It is important that children are taught about internet safety, but then this is also incorporated into their home lifestyle: there is no use in parents or carers not encouraging safety in the same way. There are many features of internet safety, including giving out personal information and cyberbullying to name but two problems in the vast field, but guidance from school and from home can reduce these problems from arising. For example, the Department for Education has suggested that children should be involved in the creation of the school internet policy/e-safety policy in order to embed the vital information and minimise the risks of these occurring. If children are aware of how to keep safe on the internet and follow the rules, they should be able to use the internet to express themselves and benefit from the extensive advantages that having the internet provides for their knowledge and development (as Gillespie (2006) shows, the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks).

Duffty (2006) highlights just how important it is for children to have access to a wide range of up to date, relevant and useful resources so that they can acquire first hand experiences in the different areas of ICT. This statement is further supported by Condie et al (2007) who state that in having these good resources, a positive effect on motivation and attainment can be seen. Have I seen any good resources whilst being on placement? My initial 1a placement was in, at the time, a very computer literate school. A computer suite of 30 computers, a laptop trolley, interactive whiteboards per classroom and in the hall… these were just some of the resources available. However, within the two years that have passed since I was placed here, technology has advanced so significantly that this school could almost be seen as out of date with what children have access to. One resource I viewed being used was that of the handheld digital recorders – in a drama lesson, year six children filmed their pieces based on the Tolpuddle Martyrs and then watched them back as a  form of self assessment, identifying good points about their work as well as areas for improvement. It is resources such as these that make ICT and technology so worthwhile in primary schools, as they give children so many more opportunities than were previously available. As teachers we must keep up to date with the latest gadgets and advances to ensure we provide our children with the best opportunities to experience ICT first hand.

As Gillespie (2006) stated, “the world of education and schools is rapidly changing. This is due, in no  small part, to the fact that learning technology is ever-evolving.” (Gillespie, 2006. P8). This statements sums up my vision statement and the importance of ICT in the classroom.

 

References

Ager, R. (2003) Information and Communications Technology in Primary Schools Children or Computers in Control? 2nded. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd

Allen, J., Potter, J., Sharp, J. and Turvey, K. (2007) Achieving QTS Primary ICT. 3rd ed. Exeter: Learning Matters

Cranmer,S.,Selwyn,N. and Potter,J (2009). Exploring primary pupils’ experiences and understandings of ‘e-safety. Education and communication technologies. 14(2). Pp 127-142.

Dawes, L (2001) What stops teachers using new technology? In: Leask,M (ed)Issues in teaching using ICT. London: Routledge.

Duffty, J (2006) Extending Knowledge in Practice Primary ICT. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Gillespie, H (2006) Unlocking Learning and Teaching with ICT: Identifying and overcoming barriers. London: David Fulton.

Martin, A. (2006) Literacies for the digital age: preview of part 1. In: Martin, A. and Madigan, D. (eds.) Digital Literacies For Learning. London: Facet Publishing. pp. 3 – 25

Selwyn, N., Potter, J. and Cranmer, S. (2010) Primary Schools and ICT: Learning from Pupil Perspectives.London: Continuum International Publishing

Webb, J. (2012) ICT Programme of Study Consultation [online]. Naace. Available from: http://www.naace.co.uk/naacecurriculum/programmeofstudyconsultation [Accessed 20th November 2012]

 

iMovie Part Two…

Unfortunately I was ill and therefore absent for the production of the resource using mobile technologies. Therefore, I decided to think of several ideas of curricular links for which children could produce films using the software I investigated last week.

I’ve seen some of the example films that have been done in this week, some of which revolved around retelling traditional tales (such as Ben, Toni and Kirstie’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ film), which I think is a brilliant idea. Some children do not necessarily always get the highest levels in literacy due to finding it difficult to record their good ideas in a written format. Using iMovie, children can promote their ideas and show their understanding of genres, stories, storytelling, plots and more. When working on play scripts, using iMovie to record the play as well as the written script can allow all children to participate to the best of their abilities, without the limitations that are provided by writing things down. You might argue that not all children will fully benefit from this style of learning, due to being shy and not feeling comfortable ‘in front of the camera’, but in using iMovie, there are different roles for children: those who don’t feel comfortable being filmed can be behind the scenes, planning what is going to be filmed, sorting props and doing the actual filming. Therefore, for a small project to focus on a small area of a topic, children could benefit a lot more widely than anticipated.

So, some more specific ideas…

– English: How about retelling a traditional tale? Maybe you could use the software to dramatise a poem (for example, a section of the Highway Man, which is often studied in school). Furthermore, when doing independent/group creative writing, children could create the settings, costumes etc in DT and then film the story.

-Science: Why not use iMovie as a form of assessment at the end of a science topic? When children have learnt all about a topic within any of the strands, but for this purpose, food chains and webs (Life Processes and Living Things), they could record a film using what they have learnt. The children don’t need to physically be in the film, they could film an example of a food web and other such things, so it is a different way of recording how well children have accessed knowledge and learning in the topic.

– History: If you have been studying a specific aspect of history (for example the Home Front in World War Two), why not have a go at re-enacting the life of a person during these times, incorporating all the things that have been taught – rationing, black outs, air raid sirens etc. It is an easy, yet interesting way to sum up a topic and children’s understanding.

– PE: During a dance or gymnastics topic you could use the iPads to film a routine, which could then be used for self and/or peer assessments. Have a look at the success criteria for the routines and pick out two stars and a wish for ways to improve it – a different yet easy way of incorporating the use of ICT across the curriculum!

Although these ideas barely touch on the vast opportunities provided by iPads and mobile technology, hopefully it will inspire you to think creatively about how  they can be used and spend the worthy £2.99 on the app!

Anyhow, its not just me that sees the value of iPads! Have a quick read of this article promoting the use of them in the classroom!

 

Scratch Part Two…

The second session that focussed on computer programming involved using Scratch to make a teaching resource that we could use in the classroom. Nicola, Kirstie and I worked in a group to create something that could be used in different ways across the Key Stages: ‘Who lives under the sea?’ We decided to focus this activity on looking at different habitats, with the initial habitat being things under the sea, as this is what we had just looked at in our science session before.

Our activity involved identifying and selecting the animals that didn’t live in the given habitat (ie under the sea). We followed the instructions given by Scratch to make the following animals: lion, lobster, elephant, fish, duck, dog, starfish and crab. Our initial plan was to create a scoring procedure so that when an animal that didn’t belong in the sea habitat was selected, it added a point (as it was correct). However, we did struggle with making this happen, as it only worked for each individual script. Therefore, this is something we would change for the next time that we did this – time was a bit of a limitation for us!

However, our game, although it was challenging to make, did seem to work and we even added in sound effects (bubbles when a correct animal was selected). I think we worked well as a team, all working together and sharing ideas to create our game.

For using the game in Key Stage One, we thought that it could be used as a whole class resource to identify the different animals that should live under the sea. The interactive whiteboard could be used to make it much more interactive and fun for the children as they could tap the correct animals themselves. When progressing into Key Stage Two, we thought that children could work in small groups to create their own Scratch projects of a similar kind, but using a different habitat as their focus (e.g. woodland habitat). This could incorporate learning in ICT with other subjects, such as science (looking at Life Processes), maths (counting the number of animals that are in the right/wrong habitat), English, (telling a story from the game, or in fact creating a storyboard) and others.

 

Learn more about this project

 

 

Super Students!

In today’s session we had some of the best fun we’ve had at uni so far and Ben, Chelsey and I are on our way to being movie stars… We wish!

We looked at iMovie, using the new iPads. Even though this is an app that you have to pay for, I think that it could have very strong positive influences for children’s creativity and development in using mobile technologies. The app itself allows you to either create a trailor, involving a selection of different models that you can edit and adapt to suit every individual (using some very handy hints and helpful notes!) or a completely independent project. We looked at a trailor, which we got quite carried away with and ended up making a whole trailor (although we had a lot of fun whilst doing it), that we later uploaded to YouTube.

To begin with, we selected one of the trailor options and altered the wording of the script to suit our group. This was very self explanatory and took very little time, although it would take longer for those children who are not used to the iPad keyboard. We then began to film. To do this, we followed the instructions and copied the basic structure of the original trailor which we were using as a template. Initially, we struggled with getting our film clips of the correct length, but we soon realised that we could merely select a suitable section of what we had filmed, using the yellow box on the screen. This made things much easier, especially when I started laughing during being filmed! I think that this is such a good piece of technology to use with children, as films could be make for such a wide range of cross curricular topics – not always including themselves as actors.  Our main issue with using iMovie was uploading our video, as the file wouldn’t load to the computer. Because of this, I uploaded it to YouTube and then shared it on Facebook, currently with 105 views!

I think that iMovie is an excellent resource that could be used within schools, especially with the older age groups. The chance to be creative and imaginative, whilst progressing in learning in a specific curriculum area is sometimes limited in schools, but a lot of independence can be given to those able children with this software. Putting children into mixed ability groups can allow the development of team work, with the more able children providing support to the less able. Some of the children that are considered ‘less able’ may actually really excel in areas such as this, as it is not necessarily writing or mathematics – they could do better at using iMovie than the children that are normally considered as the more able. Next week we are looking at creating a resource that is specific to a curriculum area, so look out for lots of ideas and some more fun creations!

Starting from ‘Scratch’…

As many of us are now aware, the Government has a new campaign, looking to upgrade the IT provisions in school, by looking at computer programming and digital literacy. I think that a lot of us feel quite daunted by the prospect of having to teach programming in ICT as it all looks so complicated and out of our comfort zones. However, following our introduction to programming in our second ICT session, I feel a little more confident in the area.

 

Scratch is a very simple software that is free to download and enjoy at home or in school, where you can ‘create and share your own interactive stories, games, music and art’. Although the initial fear steps in when you open up the programme, a short spell of getting familiar with the software can allow you to produce quite an interesting piece of work!

As you can see, without any guidance or prompts on how to use Scratch, it could take people like me a very long time to get to grips with it! However, the very useful Scratch website provides plenty of support to help us. In the session, I practised creating a Shark Attack game, which I was quite proud of! However, in typical Megan style the piece of work wouldn’t save, so I can’t prove my new found talent for game making!

Whilst using Scratch, children have the opportunities to progress at their own levels, with differentiation by outcome being the main use of differentiation here. Creativity is allowed to be used, as once the concept of dragging the instructions to create a new ‘script’ for each ‘sprite’, you can be as adventurous as you like to create an activity or game for yourself, your peers and anyone who wants a go! We’ll be looking at this in more detail next week… and hopefully I’ll be able to save my work!

Having investigated Scratch, I had a look at different iPad resources that can also be used for computer programming. The first one I looked at was ‘Daisy the Dinosaur’, which is aimed at Key Stage One. I really enjoyed investigating this resource and feel that it is an excellent way of introducing programming to the younger age group, which in turn can give them the basic skills and understanding to allow them to move on to more complex programming resources at a later date. The software came with very simple tutorials, which children can work through and then use the skills they have learnt to create their own programming in ‘free-play mode’.

Although Daisy the Dinosaur was very basic, it could still take children a couple of sessions to get used to the process and how to program Daisy, as it will be a completely new concept for them. Giving them the opportunities to make their own simple scripts using the free play mode allows them to be creative within constraints, practising what they have learnt independently.

Overall, despite still being a bit anxious about the new focus on programming, I think that the resources available for children could make it a successful initiative within schools. I do feel that the teacher would need to be quite secure on the programmes, as complete beginners do take a while to get used to it. However, I’m looking forward to another session on programming, to reinforce my new skills! 🙂

Thinking about internet safety…

So today, we were looking at internet safety and how we could protect the children in our class (and ourselves) against the negative implications that could be caused by the internet. We all know how fantastic the internet can be… How we have such a vast cavern of information at the tips of our fingers. How we can catch up on all of our favourite shows that we’re too busy planning and marking children’s books to have time to watch as they air. How we can communicate with all of our friends at the quick click of a button. But how often do we carefully think about keeping ourselves safe whilst online? I can openly admit that it is not my first thought every time I open up the browser. However, it is OUR responsibility to inform our pupils about the dangers and risks involved and how to keep themselves safe.

There are hundreds of issues relating to internet safety: copyright issues, viewing inappropriate material, problems with instant messaging and social networking sites and many more. Within our role as a teacher and role model, we need to model the correct way of using the internet, whilst giving the necessary information to keep children as protected as they possibly can be, whilst growing up in this technology rich culture. We discussed some ways of tackling the subject of cyberbullying and here are some of our thoughts…

We need to make sure that children understand the concept of cyberbullying. What is it? Who can it happen to? Where and how can it happen? What do I do about it if it happens to me? An important factor about cyberbullying is how it can happen over a vast range of mediums: instant messaging, chat rooms, social networking sites, email, text messages, even a combination of them (and many more). Children are often very afraid to talk about being bullied, so some form of exercises amongst peers they feel comfortable with could help them to open up if and when it is necessary. For example, drama could be used to show how to act when you are being bullied – put children in small groups with scenarios – how would they act? Drama is such a fantastic way to allow children to become different characters, using empathy to appreciate how they’d be feeling and allows them to see things from different perspectives. Maybe this will help them understand that there are people to talk to and asking for help doesn’t make them weak (as many children think).

Another activity could be to create an advice poster. Once all information has been discussed, ways to ask for help identified and children are secure, they could all make posters including all the information to display. Encouraging children to be creative with their learning may help them understand the importance of cyber bullying, whilst not making them afraid to speak up. Furthermore, diary entries could be written, from the perspective of either the bully or the victim, alongside many more ideas.

These are just a few short ideas that we came up with in a short space of time. We all need to appreciate the importance of cyberbullying and other aspects of internet safety, being prepared to investigate these with children. So why not think of some ideas about a topic of your own? Get prepared with your ideas now, ready for when you’re faced with that situation with your own class.

Just a thought! 🙂

Cyberbullying advice for parents

The start of something new…

So… I have a new blog. Not entirely sure what is going to be on here, but hopefully it will be up and running (successfully!) shortly.

 

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