ICT – my vision statement

 

“ICT has power to make the world a better place, and understanding of ICT is the key to exercising that power.”

The above quote is from the initial draft ICT programme of study (PoS) which is available at the Naace website.  The draft PoS is a “working document” (Webb, 2012) and is about ‘what to teach’ so I’m going to write about my vision of how to teach ICT in primary schools.  The current draft PoS has three strands:

  • Digital Literacy (DL)
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Computer Science (CS)

Thinking about IT and CS, it seems relatively straightforward to me as to how we should teach children to use and apply digital systems to develop technological solutions in purposeful and creative ways (IT); and how computer systems work, are designed and programmed (CS).

For example, using ICT for planning, say, a school event provides a real-world context that is meaningful to children.  Have a look at Year 6 pupils at Howden Junior School near Goole raising funds by holding a school disco.  Using software such as Scratch can be an absorbing and fun way to introduce children to computer programming.  Hall (2009) lists many different ICT resources that can be found in schools, from audio CDs to word processing software.  There are so many creative opportunities, some of which have been the subject of earlier posts on this blog, and I would definitely want to include these in my ICT teaching strategies whenever possible, budget allowing of course for items such as iPads.

What may be a little less clear is how to approach Digital Literacy which is the focus of this post.

So, what is digital literacy?  The draft PoS states that it is “the ability to access, use and express oneself using digital technology, including a critical understanding of technology’s impact on the individual and society”.  Allen et al (2007) consider how it might make us think about our values and beliefs about the purpose of education and its impact on all of us as lifelong learners.  Here’s one aspect of my interpretation of what that will mean for my teaching of ICT.

Now, as most of you know, I have very few problems with expressing my thoughts and ideas via digital technology or any other mode of communication!  But, many people, especially children, may lack this confidence.  I used to worry about children spending too much time playing computer games, online social networking, texting etc., as, in addition to anxiety about e-safety, I was concerned that young people were forgetting the skills needed for face-to-face communication.  However, having now had a go at blogging and sharing my Scratch projects online (which received some positive comments from educators as far away as the USA and Australia which was very exciting!), it seems to me that ICT really is an influential tool for expression in today’s world as well as a brilliant way to network with other people.

Let’s take videoconferencing as one example.  This can give children and teachers access to distant people and places (great cross-curricular links with Geography), developing speaking, listening and questioning skills, and encouraging collaboration between schools locally and worldwide (Hall, 2009).  Wegerif and Dawes (2004) have a great idea for establishing mutual trust when developing videoconferencing links with other schools, especially for younger children.  Each school sends a ‘class rep’, a toy animal or mascot, to one another which provides a focus for their communications.  The ‘class reps’ can go on school trips, have their own ‘voice’ in emails, visit individual homes, etc.  At the end of the project, the mascots are returned home.  This is the type of activity I will definitely want to do with my class.

Finally, if you still have doubts about the power of ICT and the rationale for teaching digital literacy in schools, I’d like to share two recent news stories that really made an impact on me…

Martha Payne is the nine year old from Scotland who started blogging about her school lunch.  When the local council tried to ban it, Martha’s site NeverSeconds, took off and raised over £120,000 for the charity Mary’s Meals.  You can see here Martha visiting Malawi to see the school kitchen that was built with the money raised from donations to her blog.

Malala Yousafzai, a campaigner for girls’ education in Pakistan, was 11 when she began writing her blog in 2009 for BBC Urdu.  Last month she was shot in the head by the Taliban.  Thankfully, Malala survived, is recovering in hospital in Birmingham and plans to return to Pakistan to continue her schooling.  A couple of weeks’ ago I heard some of Malala’s blog being read out on Radio 4 by the girls of King Edward VI School, Handsworth, Birmingham.  It’s fascinating to hear Malala’s blog and the reaction of the girls in Birmingham who are very inspired by her and have a new appreciation of the education they receive and used to take for granted.  Malala was also the inspiration for a global day of action for girls’ education on 10 November 2012 and you can see some of the images of that day here.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one second that children should put themselves in danger through their online communications – I have very strong views on e-safety which you can read in an earlier post, but I have included Malala’s story, and Martha’s journey, to highlight that we often forget as teachers that we can learn from our pupils.  What amazing potential children have to make the world a better place.  I can’t wait to get started on helping future generations to understand ICT and how they can use its power to make the most of that potential.

“ICT has power to make the world a better place, and understanding of ICT is the key to exercising that power.”

References

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

Hall, D. (2009) The ICT handbook for primary teachers. A guide for students and professionals. Abingdon: Routledge.

Webb, J. (2012) ICT Programme of Study Consultation [online]. Naace. Available from: http://www.naace.co.uk/naacecurriculum/programmeofstudyconsultation [Accessed 5 November 2012].

Wegerif, R. and Dawes, L. (2004) Thinking and learning with ICT. Raising achievement in primary classrooms. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

 

Creating a Simpsons avatar

Just discovered the Simpsons movie website via the Edublogs help where you can create and download your own avatar.  Yes, I know, I’ll do anything to put off practising for that pesky maths skills test …  Doh!

Just register and then you can create your own avatar, download it, print it, etc.  It’s really easy to do.  I think comments seem much friendlier with a picture but this is a great way to protect yourself online if you don’t want to use a photo of yourself, perfect for children to use and prompt them to think about e-safety.  I’m sure children would love doing this as it’s great fun.  I was cackling like Mr Burns signing redundancy notices as I made mine.  There are plenty of other options via the Edublogs help if you’re not keen on The Simpsons.  Let me know what you think but no psychoanalysis of my avatar please!  Now… where are those donuts?

MissH

Vert-iGo or how green screens can make you dizzy…

For those of you interested in the green screen technology that we looked at yesterday, thought you might be interested in this link.  Spookily (must be Halloween), there was an item on the BBC’s Breakfast show just this morning about a company who uses green screen technology to create special effects.  A great example of a ‘real-world’ (as well as imaginary ones!) use for this technology which might inspire and engage your class by putting it into a meaningful context.

ilove this iMovie app

This week we worked in small groups to take another look at mobile technologies.  Natasha, Chelsey and I opted to create an iMovie trailer.  We decided to demonstrate the type of resource that you might want to try with your Key Stage 2 class, probably Years 3-4.  It could be extended for older children by letting them produce their own stories in movie versions or support could be offered by giving children guidance on the key aspects that they have to include.

Thinking about the current English curriculum and looking at different story genres with children, we thought it might be fun to mix up genres so that the children would have to think carefully about the typical features of genres and how to develop ideas for character, action and narrative to convey a story.  We used puppets as these are a good conduit for children who lack confidence in drama and would not be engaged if they had to perform as themselves.  It also highlights how genres can overlap, although most authors are more subtle than us on this occasion!  So, we made a trailer for a movie based on the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears but in the style of an adventure story.

We found that we discussed as a group:

  • The camera shots we needed to record
  • How to make the best use of the app
  • The key elements of the story to include
  • How we could build up suspense

The last two points above are important components of planning, writing and evaluating stories.  By doing it as a group and with the iMovie app it freed us from having to write things down, we could review our story as we went along and, if necessary, change it.  The whole process was much more collaborative than it might have been if we had been sat in a classroom.  Best of all, it was loads of fun and I’m sure the people that spotted us running round campus with a bag of bears and a golden haired rag doll didn’t think we were at all strange!

Back in the classroom, we made a brief PowerPoint presentation to summarise our main thoughts on this activity, including some ideas for cross-curricular links.  We hope you find them useful.

PowerPoint – ideas for Goldilocks and the Three Bears iMovie

Bear in mind (bear … get it… sorry!) that we did produce this trailer in a very short timeframe so please forgive the occasional accidental appearance of our stunt performers and we hope the lack of post-production editing does not spoil your enjoyment of our high-adrenaline version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


Another code breaker from Bletchley

bletchleypark.org.uk/edu

I am very proud to live near Bletchley Park, home of the WWII codebreakers and a brilliant, inspiring place to visit for budding historians, maths wizards and computer geeks.  If you aren’t any of these before you go, you will be afterwards!

 

So this week in ICT, I was amazed to find out that I too could encrypt my own codes – QR (Quick Response) codes that is – and what’s more they are really simple to make and FREE, music to any teacher’s ears!  I’ve had a QR scanner app on my mobile phone for a while but, apart from watching the occasional advert or price checking books in a shop against Amazon online, I haven’t found much use for it up until now.

In the session I started to put together a tree safari, a ‘treasure hunt’ style quiz.  It’s not difficult to guess where the inspiration came from as we had just been squelching our way around the uni grounds in the drizzle and mist for our Science seminar just before ICT.  I have written the first question as an example and created a QR code to check the answer.  I’ve also added a QR code for an article that you might find of interest.  You should be able to scan the codes from a screen so you don’t have to print out the sheet and can avoid wasting paper.  This could be extended to include GPS codes.

Tree Safari with QR codes

Here’s a link to a fantastic idea by Jon Gill with Balmullo Primary School in Fife who created a QR safari, a resource that the whole community could use and enjoy.  This has some great cross-curricular links with Geography and History for studying a local area.  Let me know what you think.

I read Tammy Worcester’s ideas for using QR codes and really like the idea of using them to record children’s book reviews – this is definitely something I will do.  For example, the QR codes could be printed onto labels and stuck into the books in the classroom.  On placement with a Year 3 class I observed the teacher hold a short session each week during carpet time for one or two children to tell the rest of the class why they had chosen a particular book (fiction and non-fiction) to recommend to their classmates and who they think would enjoy it.  This is a great way of encouraging children to read and provides an opportunity for them to practise their speaking and listening skills.  This type of activity could be recorded and a QR code created for display in the book corner with ‘this week’s recommended books’.   I couldn’t get www.recordmp3.org to work in the ICT classroom but had no problems with it on my laptop.  It was very easy to use and so here’s one I’ve since made at home:

My review of Even My Ears Are Smiling by Michael Rosen

Photograph of book cover taken by me

 I also love Tammy’s idea of children explaining their artwork on a display via a QR code that parents/carers can then scan and hear their child explain their work in their own voice.  Other children, especially those that may not be able to access written work, can also scan the code and listen to other children’s views and thoughts.  I also see this as a super way for children who may not have the writing skills to record how they developed their ideas and provides a tangible record for assessment.

Lost in (cyber) space?

This week we worked in groups to create a resource that we could use with children.  Laura, Aaron and I were working together.  Firstly we discussed the possibility of creating a cross-curricular resource but we decided to focus on an ICT objective: learning and progressing in computer programming skills.  We would use this activity with lower Key Stage 2 children but it could easily be extended for older children, or those who are accomplished programmers, or as they progress with the programming over a series of lessons.

As you can see from the above picture, we created a simple ‘bat and ball’ game (inspired by the video on one of the links on Helen’s post about this week’s lesson) and would give this to children to use as a basis for them to develop their own more sophisticated versions.  They could choose their themes, we’ve chosen aliens (try it out here), but it could be anything from cars to unicorns!  Depending on the children’s experience, we would ask them, for example, to change the sprites, add sounds, and add a background.

We would ask them to make their games for Key Stage 1 children so that they had an audience in mind and a real purpose for their creations.  The KS1 children could use the games as a stimulus for writing stories, poetry, drama, role-plays etc.

Itching to learn more about Scratch!

Let me start by confessing that when Helen said we would be learning about computer programming my heart sank as I had visions of reams of binary code floating before my eyes.  Fortunately, Scratch software is nothing like that!  Visual programming allows for even a novice like me to be creative.  After a demonstration of the key features we were let loose on the software.  Having had a quick look at the sprites and backgrounds available and feeling inspired by the Science seminar just before the ICT session, I decided to design a busy bee pollinating some flowers.  I also tried out the recording sound block and added a buzzing sound but, when it’s available via this blog, please excuse the giggling at the end (I blame Tasha for making me laugh!)

If your browser won’t allow you to view the embedded version, please try the link here

 As we didn’t have a lot of time in the session to play around with the software, I did start to feel a bit frustrated when I added other sprites that would not do what I thought I’d programmed them to do so I exercised ultimate control by deleting them!  However, I’ve now had a chance to read through the Scratch getting started and reference guides and they are really clear and easy to follow and so came up with this animated scene from Macbeth by William Shakespeare.

Learn more about this project

f your browser won’t allow you to view the embedded version, please try the link here.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Act 1 Scene 1

In my view, this type of activity would be a good way to involve children who may lack confidence in performing themselves in role-play and drama as they can create and record their own dialogue for scenes.  It’s also a way to animate storyboard ideas.

As I amended the sequence of blocks for my animation, I called excitedly to my partner: “This is really making me think!”.  I usually have a real problem with this type of activity, angles and direction that is, not thinking!  For example, I found the screen turtles we looked at in Year 1 really laborious and frustrating but the Scratch software was much easier to follow and work out solutions to make my sprites move how I wanted them to move.  The x-y grid as a background was particularly helpful in planning how I wanted my sprites to move.  I can see how Scratch could be really engaging and, as well as spark interest in computer programming, be used for all sorts of cross-curricular projects to make the programming purposeful and give it real meaning.  This instinctive view was supported when I read one of the BBC news articles and saw the comments of one teacher about how computer programming can improve children’s thinking skills due to the logical nature of programming.

Clearly, it would take several weeks of lessons to enable children to build up their understanding of how Scratch works and to progress with this software, but I was surprised how quickly it can be picked up and something be produced.  Overall, I am very impressed with Scratch.  I was surprised to read in another BBC news article that Scratch is used as an aid in computer lessons for children “aged 12 and above” as I’m sure many younger children would also be able to use it, for example, as our tutor suggested, you could give them a limited number of blocks to amend.  I do think most young children would find the reference guide difficult to follow but that’s what we’re there for.  The more simple ‘Scratch cards’ could be used by children who were more advanced or confident to ‘have a go’.

In terms of the ICT curriculum, I’m glad it’s been disapplied as I’ve seen very little ICT teaching on school placements to inspire me.  It’s exciting that schools are now free to investigate and implement frameworks that are relevant, that develop children’s learning in ICT with properly planned progression that will give them valuable knowledge and skills, such as computer programming, not just for use in school but in the digital world we now live in.  Having said that, I was unconvinced by Dan Rowinski’s comments about learning to code being as important as learning to read and write.  What’s your view?

I was persuaded by the ideas in this paper which puts forward a Collective Knowledge Construction Model based on four principles of Connecting, Communicating, Collaborating and Learning Collectively.  I was struck by its similarity to the reading I’ve been doing about talk for our core assignment, i.e. that collaborative talk is a tool for constructing knowledge.  I love it when a plan comes together and it all makes sense!

I also found some interesting ideas in an ICT framework by Naace (National Association of Advisors for Computers in Education) which focuses on five areas for KS1 and KS2:

  • digital literacy
  • skills
  • technology in the world
  • technical understanding
  • safe and responsible use

See what you think and let me know your views.

 

 

Internet safety

Welcome to my new blog.  I spent quite a lot of time (too much I expect!) choosing the theme and then customising the header and font colour.  I wanted something that was clear and easy to read as I hate squinting at a tiny, pale coloured font which becomes blurry and impossible to read if you zoom in to make it larger.  Besides, at the risk of sounding like Princess Mariposa in Philip Pullman’s Clockwork, squinting is bad for one’s skin! (English specialists will know where I’m coming from).

Anyhow, more importantly, in our first ICT session this year we discussed internet safety and the people in my group chose to focus on cyber-bullying.  In my view, cyber-bullying has all the hallmarks of ‘normal’ bullying but is even more insidious as there is no escape, not even in the child’s home.  When they switch on their computer or mobile phone, the bully is there waiting to make their life a misery.  It is so important to raise awareness in schools that bullying, in any shape or form, is completely unacceptable and must be dealt with, together with providing support for children, both bully and victim, who are affected by this issue.  I believe it’s imperative to teach children about bullying as this issue does not go away once you become an adult.  It is comforting, therefore, to find that there are so many resources available to support teachers and children in tackling cyber-bullying and internet safety in general.

I’ve checked out some of the bogus websites from Helen’s links and, looking at these, some of which appear convincing at first glance, it is understandable that many teachers and parents are nervous about children using the internet.  However, I believe the internet can be a powerful tool for enhancing research and learning.  It is clearly part of the modern world and to deny children access to such a valuable resource would be short-sighted and counter-productive.  Surely it is far better to teach them how to use the internet safely and responsibly?  There is a wealth of information, websites and strategies available for keeping children safe when using the internet and some of my favourites are:

On CEOP you will find the video of Lee and Kim’s Adventure – Animal Magic.  CEOP suggest this animated film is used in assemblies or for circle time and provide various ideas and resources such as how to introduce the subject, activity sheets and appropriate follow-ups.

Kidsmart offers a lesson plan and other resources based around the story of Smartie the Penguin and has some good cross-curricular links.  I particularly like the idea of using a song, as does CEOP’s Lee and Kim’s Adventure, as this makes the safety tips much more memorable.

Not forgetting of course the excellent CBBC resources.

Let me know what you think to my choices.

In addition, I don’t think we should underestimate how important it is to liaise with parents and encourage them to apply the same standards of e-safety for their children at home that we teach children in the classroom.  In school, I’ve seen parents’ leaflets available at reception, newsletters (online and actual) about this topic and questionnaires that enable the teacher to find out how children in their school are using technology at home.  Surveys are a great, subtle way to provide information to parents as to how they can protect their children at home.  What are your thoughts?

Finally, I notice that next year’s Safer Internet Day is 5 February 2013 so we’ll be on placement.  If my placement school hasn’t already signed up, I will definitely be asking my mentor if we can do something.  The school packs can be downloaded here.  The theme for the day will be ‘online rights and responsibilities’ and the activities suggested include:

  • challenging your school to create a class charter of internet wishes which is presented to the senior management team/school governors
  • discussing what children love about the internet and discover what sites they’ll be using
  • participating in a national survey to create a UK wide Charter of Online Rights and Responsibilities that will be presented to the Government

What a fantastic way to engage the children in our schools, not only in internet safety but how to be a responsible citizen.  I’d love to hear what you and your class do on Safer Internet Day 2013.